The drive down from the city had been long and tiring. Her sisters were whining and cranky and the "are we there yet" chorus had begun the second they cleared the tunnel and were pointed south toward the beach resorts. They arrived at the bungalow and found the key just where her grandmother said it would be.
It was, just before two in the afternoon by the time the car was unloaded and the family was settled into their rooms. She changed out of the shorts and tee-shirt she wore down from the city into her tankini from last year. It still fit, but that was not unusual. She did note that the fabric was worn in the seat of the briefs and the straps on the top were less elastic than she remembered from last year. She was still a girl size fourteen though; some things never changed in her life. The rest of her summer clothing, five pair of cotton panties, two pair of cheer shorts and tee-shirts she used both for sleep wear and tops, were dumped into the drawers of the dresser in the bedroom. Her ugly nylon pool suit went in with the underwear.
"Mom," she called into the back bedroom of the bungalow where her mother was tending to the seven year old twins, "I'm going to head up to the beach and check out the waves. Oh, and we need to go shopping for a new swim suit at G & G, maybe tomorrow."
"The twins are going down for a nap, Waif, so I won't be along for an hour or more. Be sure you have your beach badge and sunscreen. Have a good time," her mother gave the call from the room in the rear. "We'll see about a new suit, Waif, if they are on sale, maybe, but money is tight with all the bills coming in and if you can make do with what you have this year, it would help."
"Got it all in my beach bag," the girl called back to her mother, referring to sunscreen and badge as she slipped out the front door, thinking, "I don't know about the rest though."
Wendy Ann Ingrid Farrell, having recently celebrated her eighteenth birthday in the hospital [the sixth year out of seven she had been there on her birthday] was a happy teen-ager today. She was happy the doctors had again, for the third straight year declared her blood and bone marrow disease in remission. She was happy that when the only choice for her to be alive was for her parents to try for another child with compatible stem cell and marrow for a transfusion that both of the twins, Amy and Tammie, were matches. She was happy that the stem cell transfusion, from the cord blood and placentas, just after the twins were born had held her for three years and was happy that the bone marrow from each twin, three years later had proven successful and aside from yearly visits to the transplant team hospital for follow up studies, she was healthy.
One thing missing in the soon to be junior in high school's life, that one thing was puberty. She was eleven when her marrow and blood were cleansed to allow for the stem cell transfer from the twins. From that age to her now 18th year, Waif, as she had been known all her life due to her initials, had neither grown an inch nor put on a pound. She was an 18 year old woman living in an eleven year old girl's body, it was a girl's size fourteen body; a body that was all elbows and knees and flat butt and chest lacking even the hint of puffy nipple or breast development.
Her illness and hospitalizations had cost her a year and a half of school and although she excelled in the classroom, the best she had been able to do was catch up half a school year. The kids she had been with in grade school to level Five graduated this June and were off to college or the work place. Waif smiled and wished them well in their lives. She knew that she did not fit in with that crowd, nor did she really fit in with the teens with who she now was in school. She was never bullied. Everyone from the district superintendent to the classroom teachers had made an effort to explain to the students that due to a very severe medical condition, Waif was the size and shape she was but in every other aspect was a girl of the same maturity and ability as they. Sixteen year old cheerleaders with curvy bodies adopted Waif as one of their own. She had cheered at football and basketball games this past year as a junior varsity cheerleader. Next September she would get a costume in the reverse colors of the varsity [JV wore white with red piping and letters, varsity solid red outfits with white piping and lettering] and could only hope she would have a body to fill it out. Cheerleaders got dates and went places with boys [in some cases with girls] and were popular. Waif was never asked out on a date, her best friend, a boy named Walter, a neighbor since the pair shared a playpen as infants, explained to her that several boys liked her, for the smart and funny girl she was; however, none wished to date her as they feared being labeled 'cradle robbers' or child molesters.
Waif mostly interacted with her peers in group activities due to that and usually all girl groups. No one thought it odd when a group of girls had an eleven year old tag along 'little sister' with them, even if that sister was two years older and knew a lot more about life and it's fragility than they.
Waif spread the beach sheet out just to the left of the life guard stand and plopped her beach bag down on the edge to hold it in place while she looked for shells to weigh down the lower corners. All she wanted to do was stretch out and get some sun and then maybe do some body surfing until it was time to go back to the bungalow for dinner.
Walking back to her beach things, Waif spotted a khaki shorts and pith helmet clad beach inspector standing near her things.
"Little girl, where are your parents?" The woman stood with a note book in one hand and a radio in the other.
"My mother just put the twins down for a nap at our bungalow on Springpoint Road," Waif answered, "Why, ma'am is something wrong?"
"Minor children without a parent cannot be on this beach, you have to be in the roped off area two blocks down, child," the woman replied.
"But, I'm not a minor, I just turned eighteen and I have my beach badge on my bag here," Waif spoke in the pitch of a tween trying to be older.
"All that proves is you have your mom's beach bag, young lady, you will have to move to the children's beach or you will have to go home and come back with your parents to supervise you." The woman was now joined by a female life guard who was probably a year younger than Waif but certainly filled out her tight red one piece swim suit better than Waif filled out the two pieces from the tween department of the store where she bought it. Clothing cut for Juniors and young juniors simply did not fit the body she lived in so she regularly shopped the children's racks and into her brain came the dawn, she looked like a kid and was dressed in kid clothes, those who did not know her would presume she was eleven.
"But, honestly, I'm eighteen and I can prove it I have my driver license," as she rummaged through her bag, she realized her wallet and all her identification were not in this bag at all. They sat by the wall telephone in the kitchen of her parent's house, dropped there and forgotten when she went to the hospital. "Really," she sputtered as the lifeguard and beach officer closed rank on her and she rolled her eyes in exasperation.
As she meekly walked to the kiddies area debarked by heavy rope and buoy type floats that even at high tide allowed children to go no deeper in the water than four or five feet, Waif sighed heavily. Then she saw what might be the only redeeming thing about this section of the beach.
The sign read, "CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF TWELVE PERMITTED IN THIS AREA, WITHOUT PARENTAL ACCOMPANIMENT. POTTY TRAINED CHILDREN, SWIMSUITS OPTIONAL."
WAIF part 2
The Township of Shoreside Park had gone all out to assure the safety of the youngsters vacationing within it. Three city blocks of the mile long beach were set aside for small children. On each block a Gazebo for shelter out of the sun listed the activities that day for specific age groups. A lifeguard and two junior lifeguards acted as counselors for the Shoreside Park children's beach activity, while three guards patrolled each of the beaches, one with a rescue can walking the shore, another perched atop a guard stand chair and the last aboard a jet ski watercraft just outside the roped off swimming area.
"Little girl, can you swim?" The voice belonged to a junior life guard, about fifteen years old, blond green eyed and curvy enough that her one piece swim suit was nearly overflowing. "If you pass the swim test, you may want to try the skim boarding class that starts in half an hour."
The test was relatively simple. Run into the surf, duck under the waves and then swim out to the rope barrier and back again, nonstop. Waif was an excellent swimmer. The hospital where she spent many weeks had a physical therapy pool half Olympic size in which she was encouraged to do laps to keep her muscles loose.
.... There is more of this story ...