Nothing else about that day was even memorable.  It was after all just a day. A day like the girls had spent hundreds of together.  The two walked side by side through Jamie’s neighborhood engaged in the well rehearsed ritual of kicking a rock down the road as they went, breaking rhythm only long enough to find a new rock when one tumbled irretrievably into the gutter or behind a bush. The unspoken rules did not allow lengthy rock recovery time or backtracking. They had passed the nudist’s house already.  No one ever sold Girl Scout cookies or went trick-or-treating there.  All of the parents in the subdivision were just thankful that he had a four foot privacy fence around even the front of his yard.  It was certain though that every kid would attempt a peek through the slats in the fence by means of a carefully honed sideways glance as they walked passed the house, careful to appear uninterested.
Jamie and Gabby chatted and laughed as they walked, the rock having been left behind, traded for the more engaging activity of picking leaves from the tree branches that hung over the sidewalk.  Both girls mindlessly tearing the leaves to pieces as they talked.  For whatever reason, children of this age often seem more comfortable talking to one another while engaged in some sort of activity--no matter how trivial.  The girls, at eleven, were too old to play much together now, so kicking rocks and picking leaves served this purpose. Perhaps this need is never out grown. It may be why adults buffer many conversations with cups of coffee stirred needlessly and tea bags dipped to excess.  These are the safety nets that protect even good friends from the uncomfortable lulls in most conversations.  The girls did not really need the safeguard now however.  The nudist and haunted house ahead provided plenty of conversational fodder, it was just habit.
“Have you ever been in that creepy place?” Gabby asked stooping to pick a pebble from her shoe.
Jamie did not want to admit that she had.  The old house was one of the oldest in the area and had once been surrounded by farms, but now sat looking rather out of place amid the rows of new construction and neatly manicured yards.  It was the only house with trees of any real stature in the neighborhood. There was an old wooden swing that hung unpleasantly askew from one rope; only a short bit of frayed rope that once held the other side of the swing remained high in the tree. Having gone inside this house was hard enough to admit, but confessing even a casual acquaintance with the weird girl, Katrina, who lived there was unthinkable.  But before Jamie could answer, both girls heard the boys who were skateboarding in front of the house across the street holler something. 
Tar Baby. 
That is what Jamie thought she had heard. She did not know what it meant, but Gabby looked ashamed, as if she had done something wrong.  The discomfort turned to anger, and Gabby yelled something back at the boys, but Jamie did not did not really hear it. She had a pit in her stomach. She was a little frightened and confused.  She felt like crying, but could not figure out why.  The girls kept walking toward Jamie’s house. 
“What did those boys say?” she asked.
“Nothing. It is because I am black.” was the vague explanation. Jamie found her mother’s explanation equally unsatisfying when she asked her about it later that evening. She may not have understood the words exactly, but the feeling was clear.  Shame. She immediately felt the shame of being made fun of and then slowly the shame of feeling superior began to take shape.  Not superior to Gabby, or other blacks, but to the whites.  Those boys had turned her friend into a trophy. 

     It had been over a year since Jamie’s parents had divorced.  Things had changed.  The whole family’s life had changed.  Jamie, her mother and sister were living in a small apartment near their old home.  They used to call the complex the “red apartments” with some amount of disdain without really knowing why. They seemed shabby from the outside, and even shabbier on the inside; a significant difference from the new two-story that they had lived in as a family. When they had built the house, the girls had been allowed to choose wallpaper for their rooms.  Jamie had chosen a small blue flowered pattern. Her father had hung it in the room, perfectly matching the seams so that from even a short distance you could not find where one sheet of wallpaper ended and the next began.  He was a bit of a perfectionist.  Sometimes Jamie would play a little game with herself. Standing on one side of the room, she would try to pinpoint a seam in the paper and then walk closer to see if she had been right.  It was such a flawless match that sometimes she had to run her finger over the paper to find the seam. Why did things always have to be so perfect?  She was not perfect. She knew she was not, but no one else could know.  It was her secret. At least it had been her secret until just before her dad moved out. Until the night that she finally verbalized what she knew in her heart was coming.  She had lain awake in the room with the blue flowered wallpaper listening to her parents argue.  Her mother was trying to leave. She heard her throw her purse hard against the wall and the contents spill out on the tile floor. Jamie stayed in bed until she heard the front door slam directly below her bedroom window. Then the house was silent.  She wondered if Jeni was awake. Listening also. Jamie crept down the stairs not knowing for sure which of her parents she would find, and which one had gone.  She could not decide whether she preferred one outcome over the other. It was her mother.  She was sitting on the couch, in the dark, with only the light of the stereo in the corner illuminating her figure. Jamie walked hesitantly toward her mother, settling herself timidly on the sofa close to her.  She uncharacteristically laid her head on her mother’s lap.  She hated being there. Like this.  So weak and childish.  She was nearly eleven for goodness sake!  Not a blubbering little child!  Oh, how she hated what she was doing and what she was feeling, but she could not help herself.  She wanted someone to just fix it.  To make it perfect again. Or at least to make it what it had been. "I don't want you to get a divorce." she whispered. Her mother had no response.