And I don't know why I did what I did next, but I did.
And you know what is never a good idea? Laughing at someone when they tell you their name. I know this, from personal experience. When your name is Clementine, middle school teaches you pretty quickly that it isn't nice to laugh at people's names.
She shifted and placed her little hand on her hip and looked at me with wide eyes. I cut off my laugh with an awkward "harumph."
"Violet?" I cleared my throat, testing the sound of the name, "Like the flower?"
"No. Like the color."
She didn't sound mad at me for laughing.
"My name is Clementine." I offered.
"Like the song?" she asked.
"No. Like the fruit." I responded.
Suddenly, we were both grinning at each other.
"You said you live here--where is here, Violet?" She turned and pointed down the street, "We just moved into that nice, blue house. Down there." I got goosebumps down my spine, and resisted the urge to correct her. It wasn't a nice blue house. It was a double wide Clinton Homes Trailer, circa 1987. "Your family have an Astro van?" I blurted out. She raised one eyebrow at me as she continued to smile. I felt like I'd been caught spying. Again.
"Hey--what grade are you in?" I asked, changing the subject.
"What do you mean you dunno? How old are you?"
"You don't look ten."
"My birthday's July 4th. I'll be 11 this summer."
I studied her, trying to figure out if she was telling me a joke. She was the tiniest ten year old I'd ever seen, if she was telling me the truth. My sister Rose was already wearing a bra when she was ten, and Violet hardly looked ready to ride a bike without training wheels. As I thought about Rose I realized that we all had nouns for names--we were all things.
Thinking of Rose also made me realize that I was standing there in broad daylight in a dripping swimsuit and a soggy anorak and she wouldn't have claimed me as her sister at that moment if you'd bribed her with a shiny new car.
"I gotta get home, Violet. I live down there," I said, pointing, "In the gold trailer. You can come by sometime, if you want."
She nodded solemnly, "Thank you, Clementine."
I walked away, my wet sneakers squeaking all the way home.