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.
With the lifeguard standing on shore observing, Wait plunged into the surf. She almost timed her dive to get completely under the wave. Almost, as last year's JC Penny swim suit, an ugly blue tankini style covered in yellow ducks, was more than a bit worn from sun, chlorine and wear. The elastic at the leg openings and waist of the bottom had lost its stretch. As she dolphin kicked her way under the wave, she felt the tug of the tide against the waistband of her swim bottoms. Popping up from the water between waves in a set of five rolling in, she made a grab for the bottoms and was hit blindsided by the next incoming wave. She rolled back beneath the water and felt the increased tug of the undertow on her bottom. Popping up for breath Waif realized the battle of the bottom was a lost cause. The swim briefs were bunched around her ankle and the first kick of her foot would knock them off into the water, probably lost forever.
"Oh, hell, I am not going to sit on shore and make sand castles all summer because of this stupid swim suit and this stupid test," she thought to herself and began her strong over stroke and flutter kick toward the rope. Midway to the rope she knew the bottoms were lost.
She touched the rope and turned, swimming toward shore. As she reached the break line where the waves crested over a sand bar, she looked over her shoulder and timed herself perfectly to catch the next breaking swell into shore. Letting the water do its work she ram rod straightened herself in the wave extending her hands in front of her to act as a nose cone and steered herself toward the beach.
The worn tankini top ballooned in the water from the force of the wave and it soon popped over her head and was gone before she could think to catch it as the sand of the beach came up at the same precise moment as the loss of the suit top.
With a triumphant smile she emerged from the foam and smiled at the guard who graded her effort.
"I thought you were in trouble when you broached the wave on your way out," the teen age lifeguard grinned, "Glad to see the only casualty was your swim suit. Well, don't worry, plenty of kids your age run around all over town wearing the same outfit you are. Just always have a towel handy if you want to go someplace public and sit. In Shoreside Park our motto is 'no shirt no shoes, no pants, no problem!" The guard giggled again, "The town council is trying to extend the policy to kids under 18 for next summer. I sure hope they do, this suit is awful when you get sand stuck in the crack of your butt, I sure wish I could guard in the nude."
She turned to walk away, and then turned back, "Oh, by the way, I'm Loretta; I supervise the ten eleven and twelve activities Monday to Friday, along with Hank, the other junior guard and Molly our lifeguard supervisor. So, should you need any help just call my name. I see that look on your face, yes, you passed the swim test with flying colors. Hank has the skim boards to pass out; I'll be down to help in a moment, right now I kind of need the look."
"Well, what do I have to lose," she asked herself, "No one in this town is going to take a second look at a pre-teen walking around nude, so if I can girl up and face this guy Hank, maybe I'll have some fun today," Waif wandered over to where the male junior guard was demonstrating the skim board to two boys and a girl about eleven or twelve years old.
The boys wore board shorts drooping low over non-existing hips. The girl wore a multi-color swim brief without a top.
"HI, everyone, I'm Waif, and Loretta sent me over to learn how to skim board." Waif said by way of introduction. Hanks nodded and passed her a board, the boys Tad and Brad, were brothers one year apart in age, but looked like twins. The girl, Ronnie, looked at Waif in envy.
"I wanted to get naked, but my mom said I had to leave my bottoms on," she pouted while biting her lower lip.
Waif smiled and told Ronnie she was not naked by choice, explaining the rough waves and her old worn out swim suit. Her four listeners howled with laughter at the story. Brad said, "That happened to me last week, I fell off my body board and with the leash holding me the board went sideways in a wave and my suit got ripped off, hey it's no biggie."
Tad nodded, "If you wait until high tide, even the adults on the beach two blocks down have a tough time staying in their suits. Sometimes the rip current will take them right off while people are standing in the surf line. Other times the wave break does the job. But a lot of people run out of the water trying to cover their bits and pieces and looking for their textiles in the sand."
"Okay, then, let's get started," Hank called the four to order and began the talk about how to wait for the wave to break and toss the skim board into the receding surf run after it and catch a ride on it. He followed up with falling water side was always better than falling on sand and shells and added safety tips for duck diving waves if the kids went into the water in the middle of a set of big breakers.
Waif had to admit she had a very good time and got the hang of skimming very quickly. By the end of the two hour season, Tad had lost his board shorts and Ronnie had only recovered her bottoms when a breaker burped the briefs up into the sand. Everyone was laughing and tired as it neared five in the afternoon.
"Where are you saying," Ronnie asked Waif as they gathered their beach stuff and headed of the beach.
"My gramma, Ruth Andrews has a place on Springpoint, she's letting us use it for the summer," Waif replied.
"Kewl, we live here all year round, but except for Brad and Tad and three other kids our age, I don't have many friends, because there are not a lot of kids living here. Mostly kids come for a week or two then leave, so it's hard to make friends. But, if you want to hang with us," Ronnie almost pleaded with her voice.
Waif smiled, "You won't think I'm a "Bennie?"
"Nah, bennies are the week or day trippers, we call you guys 'summer here'. Some are here summer and some are here, period," Ronnie giggled at the play on words.
"Hey, this is me; want to come in for a while?" Ronnie asked as they approached a weathered cedar shake two story set up on pilings.
From inside the front door, "Ronnie, you and your friend shower off before you come in here I just swept the floors."
Ronnie rolled her eyes, "That's my mom, for a beach bum living shore side she hates sand, and of course sand is everywhere all of the time."
The two girls showered quickly in the outdoor stall beneath the house and wrapped towels around themselves to enter the house.
"Mom, this is Waif, her Gramma is Ruth Andrews and she and her mom and sisters are staying at the bungalow all summer." Then Ronnie paused to breath. "She lost her swim suit to the ocean today and boy can she skim board."
"Well, Waif, if you are the modest type Ronnie should be about your size, if not, nude is fine with us," the thirty something woman with the soft curves and bobbed haircut was wearing a short shift that told everything there was to know. Which simply put was that it was the only garment on her body.
The words were not out of her mouth before Ronnie shed her towel, and plopped onto a resin lawn chair naked. "Ronnie, towel," her mother instructed, then to Waif, "I am Brett Peters, Ronnie's mother; you may call me Ms. Brett. Sit, child and be comfortable. So you are Ruth Andrews' granddaughter. Are you the one she always speaks about?"
"Ma'am," Waif responded, the question implied in her tone of voice.
"Ruth talks about a sweet grandchild from up north who got very sick and almost died. One who was never healthy enough to come visit her for the summer? Last we spoke she said that the girl might be well enough to make the trip this year, is that you?" Brett asked.
Waif blushed, "Yes, ma'am, that's me. Finally this year the doctor's cleared me to have a real summer vacation instead of months of poking prodding and testing in the hospital. So, my mom, my twin sisters and I came straight down from the city and Gramma will be home early next week." Waif said, adding, "This was her annual trip to wine country, for the tastings."
Brett laughed, "I know, she is bringing me two bottles of merlot I won in a poker game over the winter."
Waif felt comfortable enough to un-wrap her towel from around her and sit it on a chair with her on top of it. Ronnie and Waif regaled Brett with the tales of the day including Ronnie having to run up and down the beach searching for her swim briefs after being stripped by a wave. All three were laughing so hard that it wasn't until the clock struck the hour that Waif realized she needed to get home to her mom and the twins.
WAIF PART 3
Waif walked in the unlocked door to the house with the burned letters on the driftwood plaque bearing the name, "IT'LL DO, TOO!" The original 'It'll Do' was lost in a nor'easter several years before. Granddad Andrews refused to be beaten by the wrath of weather and rebuilt on stilted piling, using screws and hurricane bolts to reinforce the new house against the weather. He also constructed a cement block bunker below the house that contained a small generator and the water heater for the home, as well as a washing machine. Outside the block shed on a cedar pallet with a draw curtain around it was the shower for the house. Strung between the pilings were clothes lines with pins to dry the laundry, rinsed swimsuits and bedding.
Waif called for the twins and her mom, but got no answer. On the table in the kitchen she found a note, "Waif, I took the twins to the pier to ride the kiddie's rides and get a slice of pizza. Johnson's is open down the block, take the ten dollars on the table and get yourself a burger or something. Love, Mom."
Waif ran up the stairs to the bedrooms. Her grandmother had the first on the left, as it was her all year round home. Waif loved the view as the room window looked out over the ocean. Next to her grandmother's room was the one her mother was using. Across from her on the right side of the small hall was the room the twins were using. Waif had taken the room just across from her grandmother. At the very end of the hall was the bathroom. An old fashioned claw foot tub and a pull chain toilet with the reserve water tank high on the wall along with a pedestal sink barely fit into the confines. Directly below on the first floor was a similar toilet and sink, but the tub space was a linen closet. This was the reason most guests used the outdoor shower during the summer.
Waif entered her room and opened the dresser drawer where she had placed her clothes when she unpacked. She had a yellow short set; actually a one piece zip front romper that she thought would be perfect to wear to the burger and malt place in town. Only one problem, the drawer was empty. So also were the two drawers beneath it and the small closet where she knew she had placed her light sweaters and suitcase.
Even her spare one piece pool style swimsuit was gone. She hated the nylon racer suit, but it was required for the hospital pool and had become a part of her routine. While unhappy it was missing as she still wanted for something to cover her bare body, she was not too upset it was gone.
She checked the twin's room; this was the type of prank they would pull, but no suitcase and no clothes except their own in the room. She checked her mom and grandmother's room also and found none of her clothing. So she was feeling like Goldilocks, there were clothes that were 'too large and clothes that were too small' but there were no clothes that were 'just right'.
Her search continued downstairs, checking every hidey hole and closet on that level and she found nothing. Her mom had the car, so she could not check the trunk. But, she had changed out of summer shorts, underwear and a t-shirt into her swim suit when she got to the bungalow, so she was not mad or suffering heat stroke, she HAD to have brought her suitcase inside.
Finally, she remembered Loretta's words, "In Shoreside Park our motto is 'no shirt no shoes, no pants, no problem!" Waif grabbed a towel and the ten and as hunger overrode modesty headed off to Johnson's Burgers and Malts.
The chill of the air conditioning in Johnson's caused her skin to develop goose bumps and her bladder to remind her she needed to pee. She put her order in and went to the ladies room. When she exited Loretta and Hank were sitting at a table not far from where she stood. The saw her and invited her to sit with them.
"Still naked, kid," Loretta stated the obvious. Hank just smiled, as Waif used the towel wrapped about her to sit upon.
"Loretta, it was weird, I visited with Ronnie and her mom for a while, went home to find my mom and the twins gone to the amusement pier for the evening, and every stitch of my clothing, along with my suitcase, missing from my room. Hey, I searched high and low and could not find them. Mom left me money to come here and eat, so I remembered you said it would be okay and here I am." Waif spilled out the events all the while blushing furiously and hunching over embarrassed at being both cold and bare while in the company of kids she knew.
""Well you are okay, although it is odd for you to be out so close to curfew, the nudity won't be noticed, but being out after nine at night without a parent or guardian can get you picked up." Hank pointed to the sign, "Curfew for minors less than twelve years old shall be nine p.m. from 15 June to 15 September unless accompanied by a parent or guardian."
The clock on the wall indicated it was twenty minutes to nine. "Can you two walk me home later?" Waif asked the question just as her food arrived at the table.
"No problems, kid, Springpoint is on our way, and there is a party for teenagers over on Kingston, in the park by the Back Bay. We'll drop you off and then keep on going." Hank told her.
The trio ate and joked and just after nine forty left Johnson's and headed to Springpoint to drop Waif off at home. Sure enough they passed two Shoreside Park police cruisers in the two blocks between Johnson's and It'll Do, Too! One car was cruising along the main boulevard where Johnson's was located; the second was cruising up and down the streets leading to the beach, one of which was Springpoint.
The trio made it to the bungalow without incident and her escorts left Waif just inside her front door. Her mother and the twins were still not home. Falling naked on her bed, Waif lay awake and confused. If she continued to pass as an eleven year old she could be naked in public without a worry, as it was legal for twelve and under in Shoreside Park. However, the downside was she could not be out and about after nine at night without her gramma or her mother. That part sucked and left her with only Ronnie Tad and Brad to hang out with in daylight. Any ideas of romance had just narrowed from unlikely to impossible.
WAIF PART 4
Waif woke early in the morning, having to use the bathroom. She flushed and feared the clatter of the pipes would wake not only the house but the neighborhood as well.
She smelled coffee brewing and headed downstairs, finding her mother with an early edition newspaper and a cup of coffee sitting in the kitchen. "Morning Mom, did the twins have a good time at the pier?"
"If a good time consists of eating cotton candy and ice cream, then riding the Wild Mouse roller coaster and puking up your stomach contents, then yes they did," her mother smiled, "oh, and where were you yesterday afternoon and why are you naked?"
Waif poured herself a cup of black coffee, put a bit of cold water into it and sat with the mug in front of her, "Mom, this town is weird. I went to the grown up beach and was told by an enforcement lady and lifeguard I had to go use the kiddie's beach because I could not prove I was eighteen. By the way, I left my wallet back home, we left straight from the hospital and I never take my wallet there, just my insurance card. So I get forced to go to the roped off area for kids, also get forced to take a swimming proficiency test, the surf tore off my two piece, the bottoms as a I swum out to the far rope and the top as I rode a wave back into shore. By the way I told you I needed a new suit, didn't I? Anyway, I'm naked now and find out from one of the lifeguards that if you are under twelve you are allowed to be naked on the beach and around town.
"Hey, I went from being upset at having to use the kids beach to being kind of okay with it, the situation was I could still hang out and have a good time, but had to pass for an eleven year old. I took skim board lessons, got pretty good at it and had a blast with a little eleven year old girl who lives here year round and two boys who also are all year resident's one twelve and the other eleven.
"I walked home from the beach with Ronnie, she is the girl, and spent a couple of hours with her and her mom, Brett Peters, her mom and gramma are friends in the year round community. Ms. Peters knows about me, mom, gramma has told everyone in town about her sickly granddaughter, but I am guessing no one really knows how old I am.
"I got home and went into my room and found every stitch of my clothing missing, mom. I swear if the twins are playing a rude mean joke they have won the prize big time with this one. None of my grandma has clothes or your clothing fit me, and I may be small but the twin's stuff well no way I can squeeze into that. I was hungry and remembered kids under the age of twelve are okay anywhere nude, so I walked to Johnson's and got dinner.
"Oh, the downside to all of this is while I was out getting my burger last night, the change is on the counter near the cookie jar, I found out if you are twelve or under you cannot be out without a parent after nine at night. Loretta and Hank, my lifeguard friends from yesterday, had to walk me home as 'adult supervision'.