"Why didn’t you tell me?" my mother says.
When I was very young, I had a book called Stranger Danger. It told me not get in cars with adults I didn’t know, especially if they offered me candy. It told me to tell an adult I did know if such a person ever tried to get me in their car, or touched me "in any way that was uncomfortable." It had pictures of shadow-men in fedoras and trenchcoats.
I met no strangers, no shadows, no men. But I knew a girl.
The girl was in my daycare, maybe a couple years older than me, maybe not. I wanted to be friends with her, to like her. But I couldn’t.
She made me laugh sometimes. But other times she’d climb up into our treehouse and say,"Nobody can leave until they put on a strip show for the boys."
We try to leave; she blocks the entry. We drop our pants. "Oooh!" she says to me. "Your underwear is silky!" Why did I come into this treehouse? I know she always comes here. It’s my fault, like when you touch a stove and burn yourself, even though you know it’s hot. I have no words. Except one.
"Tattle," I think. "Tattle-tattle-tattle-tattle-tattle."
Someone hears what I couldn’t say. "…king kids take their clothes off again," says a voice far below us. And then a new voice: "___! Come down here RIGHT NOW." Something in that voice scares me. Not because it’s angry, but because it’s not. That voice is afraid. The adults who were supposed to help, who my books told me would fix everything, were as frightened of this girl as I was.
"I don’t like daycare," I tell my mother.
"You have to go," she says. "I have to work."
Now she says, "Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve raised holy hell!" I think back to my Stranger Danger book full of grown men who had no faces. No little girls. No sometimes-friends.