Rita just got a new doll. Her mom had given her one for Christmas. She named the doll Cindy. They were inseparable since. Cindy was her best friend. She would eat, sleep and bathe with Cindy around. Cindy was her world.
Life had not been easy for Rita, it never really is for a three year old. They had just moved into a new house. She did not know any of the other kids. She was shy and she felt afraid. But with Cindy by her side, she never felt alone. Her mom always told her that Cindy would always keep her warm.
Her new home had a beautiful playground. Kids from every corner came to play there. Rita’s mom took her there to play. Her mom promised her that she would find a friend or two there.
It was a fine morning. Rita was apprehensive about going but her mother convinced her. She promised to stay there with her. Rita agreed and they set out.
Her mom dropped her at the playground and joined the other mom’s sitting on the other side. Rita did not want her mom to go. And yet there they were, both her and Cindy alone in this strange new place. She went and sat by the sandbox. She propped up Cindy right by her side and started brushing her hair.
“Hey” came a voice and Rita turned. There was this little boy whose nose was running and whose shorts were too big for him. He smiled at Rita and said, “My name is Ryan. Do you want to play?”
Rita did not know what to say. She looked at Cindy. Cindy sat there with a painted smile on her face. Rita thought for a second, grabbed Cindy and turned to the new boy. She said, “Hi Ryan, I am Rita. Can Cindy come along?” and she pulled Cindy right in front of him.
“You mean the doll?”
“Yeah” muttered Rita, a little unsure and a little afraid. After all she had seen at school that none of the boys played with dolls.
“Sure, she seems okay!”
Rita felt elated. She made her first friend. And he liked Cindy as well. They played together all day long. So much so that by the end of the day they both had become the best of friends.
Ryan turned to Rita and said, “I had fun. You and Cindy are pretty cool”
Rita smiled and said, “I had fun too.”
Ryan asked, “Will you be coming tomorrow?”
Rita said, “Yes, sure I will. Will you?”
Ryan said, “Of course. We will play tomorrow. I will get my gun. It is the coolest gun in the world.”
Rita said, “No, Cindy is afraid of guns.”
Ryan replied, “Oh come on. I am sure if she starts using one she wont be afraid anymore. I will show both of you how to use a gun. It is easy and fun”
Rita agreed but before she could say goodbye she extended her hand and said, “Friends?”
He shook her hand, smiled and nodded. Then he ran off towards his mom.
That night Rita prayed thanking God for a new friend. Her mom always said to thank God for all the good things in life. And she thanked God for Cindy. Cindy had been the most wonderful doll a girl could ever have. Cindy was the coolest and tomorrow Cindy would learn how to use a gun.
The next day, Rita was excited. She could not wait to go and play in the playground. The first question she asked her mom was, “When can I go and play?”
Her mom smiled and said, “looks like someone made a friend?”
“Yes mom, we did, me and Cindy did. He is so much fun. He cant run very fast because his shorts keep slipping. But he knows some pretty cool games.”
“That is great honey, but you will have to wait till school gets over.”
“Cant I go now?”
“No honey, school first, play later. I promise I will drive you there as soon as I come back.”
And so she did, she waited. She sat through school waiting for the final bell to ring. On her bus ride home she planned all the games she would teach him. And once home she waited for her mom all the while she dressed and redressed Cindy. Cindy had to look like a girl who could use a gun.
Her mom was a little late. Rita had grown restless. The minute her mom entered she jumped right on her asking her to take her to the playground. Finally the tired mother relented and dropped her off at the playground. This time her mom did not stay back. Rita herself told her not to stay back. Her mom left saying she would pick her up in an hour. Rita was too excited to care. As her mother drove by Rita rushed into the playground eager to meet Ryan and play with his gun.
Rita looked about the playground but could not find Ryan. She went and sat at her spot next to the sandbox. She played a little with Cindy but could not find Ryan anywhere. And then she heard a scream. She turned and saw a group of boys playing and hitting each other with a big ball. She went closer and saw Ryan was playing with all of them. She was elated to see him. She ran towards him calling out his name.
Suddenly the boys stopped playing. They all turned to look at Rita. When they heard her call his name, they started sniggering and laughing. Ryan’s face turned red.
One of the bigger boys said, “Ohhh, Ryan has a girlfriend!”
Another sneered, “Ewww.. Ryan plays with girls. Ryan plays with dolls!”
And soon all the boys started singing, “Ryan is girl! Ryan is a girl!”
Rita could not understand what was going on. She went up to him and said, “Hey did you get your gun? See I dressed Cindy up in pants so that she could look like a girl who could use a gun!”
Ryan said nothing and the chants grew stronger.
One of the boys said, “Ryan how can you play with a girl. They are weird. We don’t play with boys who play with girls and their dolls.”
Another sneered, “Either you leave us or we will beat you up and throw you out.”
Ryan turned to that boy and pleaded, “No, no I don’t want to go. I want to play with you guys.”
“We aint playing with no girl and specially not with dolls. Dolls are for girls.”
“Yeah Ryan. Either you are friends with her or you are friends with us.”
Ryan’s face grew redder. He could not understand what to do. He said, “I don’t know her. I just talked to her for a few minutes yesterday because there was no body else here.”
“Why are you lying? We played the entire evening. You said we are friends!” said Rita
And all the boys started laughing.
Suddenly one of them turned and said, “He is not your friend, you stupid girl. We don’t become friends with girls. Girls are crazy.”
This time Ryan interjected and to Rita’s surprise said the same. He said, “Yeah she is a stupid girl with her stupid doll. Look at her. Stupid girl.”
Soon all the boys joined into the chant. They kept calling her “Stupid girl.”
Rita got angry and went up to Ryan and pushed him. She started screaming, “I am not stupid. You are such a liar. Yesterday you said you were my friend. You even said you would teach Cindy how to play with your gun”
“Liar. This girl is stupid. I never said that. I don’t even know her! And why would I ever let you touch my gun?” said Ryan.
One of the boys said, “Well Ryan if she is lying then we should punish her.”
And suddenly all the boys encircled her. They pushed her around. She started screaming. But they did not give up. They kept pushing her around in the circle. Even Ryan pushed her and he pushed her the hardest. She tried to fight back but she only had one hand. With the other she clutched on to Cindy for dear life. Ryan came towards her and snatched Cindy away from her. Rita pleaded him to let Cindy go but he did not listen. Soon the boys started kicking Cindy around. They stomped on her, broke her arm and tore out her hair. Rita saw this roll out right in front of her eyes. She kept screaming and shouting and crying. She even tried to save Cindy but every time one or the other guys would push her back.
After what seemed like an eternity, they left her alone and went off to play by the swings. Rita sat there teary eyed looking at her broken doll or whatever was left of her. She slowly crawled towards Cindy and held her in her arms. She tried to nurse her and comb her tangled and muddied hair. But Cindy was gone. She had been beaten down into pieces. Rita kept sitting there weeping. She could not believe she had lost her only friend. She hugged Cindy and kept crying. At first her cries were loud and echoed around the playground but gradually they turned into subdued sobs. She kept sitting there till her mother came.
As she sat there Ryan kept glancing back at her. And every time he looked at her he adjust the gun that hung around his shoulder in a sling, the gun he had bought to teach Cindy, the gun he had promised he would show Rita. But he never looked long enough. He never went there to say sorry. He kept playing with the boys and she kept crying and telling God, “he said he was my friend!”