I was in love once when I was nine. It was a neighbor boy who used to chase me down the street whenever I passed his house. One day, he wasn't there to chase me. I went into my own house and found my mother, who was sitting in a chair beside the window.

"Mama, where is Jack?" I asked.

"The neighbor boy? They moved away," she said.

"But I loved him," I told her.

"You're too young to know what that word means," she told the window.

"Oh," I said, because when you're nine, you think you can know anything, and you become accustomed to being told you can’t. "What does it mean?"

My mother looked at me then, sharply, the way she did when I was being insolent. After a moment, she told me, “Go and play,” so I did.

That night, my father left for good. Or maybe I'm remembering it wrong; perhaps by then, he'd already gone.

Rachel Bondurant
Prodigal Summer
Barbara Kingsolver