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Julie Marie Wade on The Only Child

Julie Marie Wade on The Only Child

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Wade remembers a childhood moment caught between make-believe and lying @ Hippocampus Magazine. 
A pretty, polka-dot envelope comes for me in the mail. My mother says I am too young for secret admirers, so we open the letter together. “It’s an invitation,” she smiles. “You’ve been invited to Lana Steeley’s birthday party.” Then, she wedges the cardstock square in the corner of my bedroom mirror and beams her approval at me. “See? And you thought you didn’t have any friends at school.”
When she is gone, I take the card down and inspect it more closely.

LANA STEELEY IS TURNING EIGHT, WON’T YOU HELP US CELEBRATE?
I scan the date and times to confirm it is not a slumber party. We will not stay up late watching scary movies and braiding each other’s hair. This is important since scary movies give me nightmares and my hair has never been long enough or smooth enough to braid. Also, I don’t know how to braid anyone else’s hair, though I have tried many times with my dolls. It’s a secret I carry with me, like the years before I could tie my shoes or balance on a bicycle without training wheels. My father says everyone learns at a different pace, that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Then, he reaches for a business word because he is a businessman—aptitude. We all have different aptitudes. I have a high reading aptitude but a low practical-skills aptitude. My father had trouble learning to read, but he could take apart an engine and put it back together again. Both of us are good at deciphering codes, though only I can win at word search. “But your mother,” he says—“she can do anything. Your mother has only high aptitudes.”
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