~*~For Kayla: This is, my dear, your story~*~

I remember the first time I cussed. Or rather, I can remember the first I remember cussing—if that makes any sense. Whether it does or not is really of no matter, as I am a teenager now and apt to be confusing. Science blames this on the hormones. Parents blame it on the age. The counselor my overwrought mother once sent me to could probably babble out some theory on the misguided Generation Y and it's spiraling to self-destruction. But the truth of the matter is teens just don't give a damn. There. I've said it. Can we move on?

Now the first time I remember spilling forth that dirty four-letter word, which my mother would mark as the beginning of my moral downfall, is not technically the first time I actually swore. However, the only proof I have to early foul language is the testimony of my uncle Bob. His name isn't really Bob, but he insists upon being called that because he is the sort of man who finds hilarity where there was none. Kind of like digging for gold in a sandbox. He is the brother of my father, and the two of them could put a ship of sailors to shame with the way they carry on. Lord knows they've embarrassed my poor mother enough times to turn her hair gray. But she is the bashful type, forever concerned with what the other neighborhood ladies think. I always thought it generous of my mother to assume that they did think. How hard is it really, to repeat the things others have told you in complete confidence?

It must be noted that my Uncle Bob can be loose-lipped whenever he has a few beers settled in his gut, and it is during these times when he loves to tell the story of my cussing toddler days. My mother hates it. Every time he begins the narrative, her face turns a lovely shade of eggplant and her nose scrunches up, which is all the proof I need to the legitimacy of the tale. And what a lengthy tale indeed, or at least it is when Uncle Bob tells it, as he's prone to rambling. I, however, am not and will thus give you the condensed version.

So it goes that my father, with his diluted Irish blood, was always quick to anger. My mother, in her strict ways, was most commonly the source of his frustration. He often would scream at her in those moments of pinnacled irritation, "Dammit Helen!" On one particular night, my mother put me to bed, squeaky clean, and bid me sweet dreams with a kiss on the forehead. Allegedly, I smiled up her with gapped teeth and replied softly, "Goodnight dammit Helen." The shriek that ensued sent me into tears, or so I'm told, and it took nearly an hour to calm both my mother and me down. Dad had to sleep on the couch for the week following, which is part of the reason why he has never told the tale. If he were to speak of the incident, he'd probably find himself there once again.

So I'm sure an intelligent person such as you can see the conflict in the pairing of a couple like my parents. Call it love. Believe opposites attract. She's the yin; he's the yang. Whatever the reason behind their attraction, all I can say is "what the hell were they thinking?" I suppose they have a love-hate relationship, but mainly you just feel the hate. My father is a say everything, do nothing, proverbial potty mouth, while my mother is as straightedge as they come. I am thus the byproduct of a Hawaiian girl tattoo and a yardstick, so it's only natural that, as a child, I found my path to self-discovery strewn with conflicting principles on life. Clarification was only found later when I realized that yes, parents do know what they're talking about, but no, I still don't care what they think.

But I digress. The status and irregularities of my parents' screwy relationship is not what I want to focus upon—ever. Instead I wish to orate for you my personal remembrance of the first time I cussed. I was about seven at the time and thought I owned the world. Or at least the desert behind my house, which resided upon unbroken land set aside for future suburban growth. I suppose every kid around had his or her claim to the desert—be it this dirt hill, that rock or maybe the abandoned box-spring mattress. Of course, treasures like the latter were commonly disputed. And it always came as a disappointment when the pre-teens, in their middle school glory, would come and steal away the smaller, defenseless kids' treasures. But that was the unspoken word of the desert, and no one really dared to question it. I suppose the reasoning behind this was that each child kindled a fire of hope that one day he too would have a double-digit age. No longer could he count how old he was on ten gritty fingers. No, some day he would have to use toes too.

And so life passed, among the neighborhood children, in a sort of pattern—go to school, come home, have a quick snack before dashing out into dirt paradise, and stay there, until playing innocent to a shrill mother's calling to return home was no longer an option. Life was good. Life was simple.

Life was hell with the addition of Nicholas Michael Adams.

During a particularly brutal heat wave, Nicholas pulled up with his family in a maroon minivan. They followed behind the intrusive Mayflower moving van parked carelessly in the middle of the street. The scalding weather prevented any child from running barefoot on the simmering cement, but curious eyes peaked behind laced curtains at the new neighbors. My sight was immediately drawn to the scrawny boy with a bowl shaped haircut who was maliciously twirling around a cat box. The boy's mother barked out some harsh words, and he dropped the pet taxi carelessly to the ground before hopping off to some new adventure. The woman knelt beside the cat box, only to reel back quickly when an enraged feline darted out a sharpened claw to meet soft flesh. Startled, the woman kicked the pet taxi in revenge, which led to a gasp of pain and then stalking away. Within a matter of seconds I formed a negative opinion of my new neighbors, and no screeching by my mother, nor spankings from my father could convince me otherwise. These punishments were received as a result of my constant scrabbles with the boy—who preferred to be called Nick and so I called him Nicholas.

It was not to my favor to despise these people so much, considering the wildfire way in which my parents befriended them. I suppose Nicholas's father was not so bad, with his deep belly laugh and lopsided grin. But the boy's mother was temperamental and baked stone hard cookies, which appealed neither to my affections nor stomach. Nicholas was by far the worse, as I was sure at the time that he was headed straight to becoming a serial killer. He fit the criteria perfectly—harms animals, plays with fire, and it wouldn't have surprised me any if he wet the bed too.

An antagonistic competition grew steadily between us, and sides clearly divided among the neighborhood kids as to which of us they supported. Though this story is no Romeo & Juliet, every once in awhile a child would return teary eyed to his mother with a fat lip or bleeding nose. The rift that formed amongst the once harmonious neighborhood was likely blamed upon me because I was an odd looking bird back then—with gangly limbs, mousy hair and towering five inches above most of the kids my age. This made me the prime suspect to any neighborhood crime. Whenever a child appeared with a mysterious bruise or bloody cut, an outraged parent usually ended up on my doorstep, demanding to speak with my parents. My mother was, of course, incensed that I would do such damage to the other children, and my alibi of innocence was never good enough. My father always put up a show of being furious, but secretly I could tell he was proud his young daughter could "kick some ass", as he'd be prone to put it.

The infamous Day of Explicative was nearly a year after the Adams family began to plague my life. And I do mean infamous, since my mother constantly holds the deed over my head like some dirty secret. If I had the chance to go back to that day and do it all over again, I'm not sure I would still cuss at Nicholas. Bravado following the incident was short lived. My mother's nagging, was not.

A midsummer day found me in the desert, after I had spent nearly an hour frying ants with my dad's never-touch-or-I'll-cut-your-fingers-off magnifying glass. During those languid summer afternoons, when the majority of parents were still at work and our babysitters were chatting obnoxiously on the phones, the neighborhood children would slip outside to find haven in the rugged dirt fields. Here, two forts had begun construction. The split was obviously between me and Nicholas.

On that particular day, I spent nearly three laborious hours digging holes, collecting abandoned items and adding a womanly touch that seemed inherent in my fingers, to the dirt fort. Satisfied with my work and noticing the way in which my stomach angrily grumbled, I headed home for a quick snack of gushers and maybe some potato chips before I likely returned to my first love—the desert. Upon my revisitation of the precious fort, an eerie feeling lingered in the stale air like the midnight cry of a coyote. Perceptive eyes took in the plundered state of my camp. Holes were slightly filled, tunnels caved in, and…oh my meticulous findings were gone! There could only be one culprit for such an act of piracy—Nicholas. My conclusion was rather obvious, considering the fact that he was standing not thirty feet away with a malicious grin upon his face. He let out the perfect evil-man laugh before bounding joyfully towards me. Now what kind of idiot approaches the person he just despoiled—a person who is most definitely out for blood? Well indubitably, Nicholas.

"Do you like the work I've done?" he asked in a superior tone—one he liked to take upon me simply because he was my elder by two years.

"Give me back my stuff you stupid head!" I cried with indignation. To emphasize my point I picked up a nearby dirt clot and threw it at him with poor aim. It missed by two feet.

"Oh, is the little girl upset?" he pouted in mock concern, all the while covering the distance that lay between us.

"Little girl?" I sniffed. "I'm not a little girl! Why, I'm taller than you by three whole inches…at least!" I added as an afterthought. That comment seemed to strike a cord with Nicholas, as he tensed considerably at my insult. His puny state was definitely a sore subject for the boy.

"Yeah, well…at least my fort isn't destroyed," he retorted poorly. Even though the affront lacked serious zing, it still agitated me to no end.

"I'm gonna destroy your fort if you don't give me back my stuff," I threatened with a quick glare. That declaration seemed to hit a real funny bone with Nicholas, as he doubled over laughing. But it didn't take long for me to notice how forced the sounds were.

With a sneer, he spat back at me, "You could never touch my fort."

I countered his remark with my own, "Oh yes I could!"

We squabbled back and forth in the ever common "could too", "could not" fashion until Nicholas, in an attempt to misdirect me, shouted, "you could too!"

"I could not," I barked out, clueless to the hole I had just dug for myself.

"Ha ha!" He pointed a grubby finger at me. "I knew it. You could not destroy my fort."

"Wha-what?" I sputtered, clearly confused by the direction our bickering had taken.

"You just said that you could not…meaning you could not destroy my fort." Here, he gave a horrible chuckle.

I took in his oily hair and crooked yellow teeth. His snickering grew more nasally, and his shrimp-like form seemed to become all the more pathetic right before my very eyes. It would take several years of reflecting to realize that the growing monstrosity I had seen was merely the grotesque distortion of my adverse sentiment towards the boy. However, at the time I could only think to act offensively in my instinctual she-lion behavior. Doing as such, I physically flew at the opposing form and only just took in his dilating pupils before colliding roughly with my enemy.

He omitted a high-pitched banshee shriek as we collapsed onto the dirt-padded earth. My arm scraped brutally against nearby tumbleweed—the desert's own fortress of thorns. I sat up quickly and cradled my arm while peering at the rake-like scratches marring the limb. Tiny beads of blood pooled along the multitude of cuts as delayed stinging finally set in. It was that kind of tingling ache that hurt so bad it made you want to bang your head against a rock, just to mask the agony with another sort of pain. I would have done that too, right then and there, had I not become suddenly aware of Nicholas's presence…or should I say lack of disappearance. Gazing at that horrible excuse of a person, a fire of disdain rekindled inside of me, and I clamored over to him, ready to do some damage. I was heedless of the injury he had already taken by our fall into bristle. Upon reaching his fetal positioned body, I began hurling open-fisted punches at his shoulders and chest. Several poorly aimed hits landed on his fearful face with a loud smack.

It must be remembered that I am more my father's daughter than will I ever be my mother's, so it is only natural that in moments of frustration and anger I should behave as he would.

"You stupid piece of shit!" I screamed violently at Nicholas. The words were mimicking the behavior of my father whenever he tried to start the family's ancient lawnmower.

Nicholas's eyes widened considerably, and he was momentarily distracted from my beatings. His reaction caused me to pause, as I began to grasp the full reality of what had just happened. Nicholas took advantage of my hesitation by shoving me roughly aside. With lightning speed he hastened towards his home, no doubt to tattle on me. I only pondered there a moment before also rushing back to my house, where perhaps I might find the illusion of safety.

The front door flew open as I stumbled into my house, pathetic tears already forming in woeful eyes. "Mom!" I wailed, ready to work her sympathy factor. It would come in handy later, should Nicholas's mother call mine.

I saw my mother's form bustling down the hall, her maternal instincts setting in at the desperate sound of my voice. "What's the matter dear?" she asked hurriedly.

"I-I fell," came my pitiful reply. My mother gave a small gasp at the sight of my tattered arm.

"Oh goodness," she remarked. Gently grabbing me by my hand, she led me into the half-bath and sat me purposefully on the closed toilet seat. "Now don't you worry," my mother cooed in a soothing tone. "I'll have you spick and span in no time." With that statement, she hastened down the hall towards the shelved closet. I winced when she returned with hydrogen peroxide in her grasp.

"Mom! I hate that stuff!" I whined in a futile attempt to prevent the onslaught of the cursed hydrogen peroxide.

"I know, honey. But we have to clean those scratches up or they will get infected," she explained calmly. I was, however, passed all reasoning with the thought of the stinging, bubbling liquid on my raw skin. A battle between mother and daughter quickly ensued as liquid spilled everywhere and cotton balls went flying. "We're…almost…done," she droned out as she assaulted me with disinfectant, and I did my best to parry her attacks. The very moment the cleaning of wounds was over, a new sense of dread filled my spirit at the shrill tone of the telephone.

"I don't think you should get it," I suggested in an entirely conspicuous tone. My mother regarded me with discerning eyes before heading towards the sounds of doom.

"Hello?" my mother said. "Oh Sharon, how nice to hear from you." Upon hearing the name that belonged to Nicholas's mother, my stomach pitched, fell and splattered on the floor. Their conversation continued, and my mother interjected several well placed "oh really?"s. I slipped out of the bathroom, trying my best to avoid squeaky floorboards, and hid away in my room. Feeling my only companion was a deep foreboding I began playing silently with my dolls. This was the sort of behavior that my mother loved and my father absolutely despised.

With a bang, my bedroom door swung open to reveal a very peeved woman. "How is it," she began sharply, "that you got hurt today?"

"I fell mommy," I whimpered in a desperate attempt to save my life.

Nostrils flaring, my mother said in her not-quite-yelling-voice, "Did you fall because you were fighting with Nick?"

"He started it!" I exclaimed, giving up all hope of innocence.

"That is no excuse for your poor behavior young lady. And neither is it an excuse for the foul words you said to him! I am appalled at your behavior." I had, at the time, no idea what appalled meant, but I knew it couldn't be good, so I ducked my head in shame.

"What is going on in here?" screamed my irritated father. He said his words in such a way that I knew he had little concern for the reason my mother was yelling at me, but instead wished for his wife to quick her screeching.

"Your daughter was in a fight with the Adams' boy, Nicholas, and she said a very bad word to him." My mother always liked to acclaim me as my father's daughter whenever I did anything wrong. This was, I suppose, because she could not fathom that my devil's work ever came as a direct result of her parenting. Never mind the fact that her antics could drive a monk up the wall. No, never mind that at all.

"Really?" my dad repeated, intrigued. "What did she say to him?"

Miffed by his sudden interest, my mother responded hotly, "She said the s-h-word." My father hooted in laughter, only to be quickly quieted by the death glare my mother sent him. "You're laughter shows approval of her disrespectful behavior," she admonished with a pointed finger waving.

"Ah hell," my father sighed. "If the child wants to say shit, let her." My chest swelled slightly in pride to hear my father defend the behavior he had instilled in me. However, this gloating was squelched when I saw him walk away, leaving me with wrath-woman. After two minutes getting acquitted with Dial soap, a stern talking to, and repeated threats to take away my playtime outside, I found myself waiting grudgingly on Nicholas's doorstep so that I might apologize to him for my 'unacceptable' behavior.

Nicholas came to the door, leaning against the bony frame of his mother. She was watching me with hawk-like eyes, ready to strike should I make the slightest slip up. I noted the puffy cheeks my punches had bestowed upon the boy, and the faint claw marks reddening his neck. Seeing this made me want to smile, and I felt my beaten pride lift slightly.

"I'm sorry for hurting you and saying a bad word to you," I mumbled as quickly as possible. My words were laced with bitterness, and any hinted regret was solely in regards to the fact that I had been caught.

"You're forgiven," he replied royally, like I was some subservient peasant who'd been caught gazing at his highness for too long.

I opened my mouth to give him a sharp retort when a nimble hand clasped strongly over my mouth, and my mother said lightly, "I'm terribly sorry about this Sharon."

Nicholas's mother nodded slightly before saying snottily, "I'd rather you keep your daughter away from my son in the future please. You really need to keep a better eye on her." My mother tensed considerably at the comment, and I knew a rift had formed, to my delight, in their relationship. Subtly sticking out my tongue at Nicholas, I strutted away from the Adams' house with new hope. My mother was grumbling under her breath about that "stupid woman". Perhaps something good had come of this ordeal, as now I was sure my mother would no longer cater dinners to that horrible family and vice-versa. That meant no more dealing with Nicholas's mother's petrified Betty Crocker cooking. I would've jumped for joy right then had I not already been in the doghouse.

As my mother and I continued our short walk back to our house, I was surprised to hear her mutter a word I had never heard before. Turning curiously towards her, I pulled forcefully on her hand. My mother looked at me with a questioning eyebrow raised, and I asked innocently, "Mommy, what's a bitch?" The answer I got in return was neither one I expected nor wanted.

Let's just say Mr. Dial and I became good friends in the ensuing years.