Steven was nine, curly hair wild as anything and an attitude to match. He spent his days playing with sticks and stones and marbles, avoiding home whenever he could and trying to get along with everyone. He did well in school by all accounts, never enjoying it but naturally talented. His clothes were hardly something to be proud of: jeans torn where he had fallen over time and time again, shirts which never seemed to be clean. But he had a sparkle in his eyes which came out from time to time, especially when his friends were around. He knew his manners but rarely did he show them.
She was nine when she moved in to the bad part of town, immediately disliking its blandly coloured houses and untidy front yards with junk strewn all over them. The rusted bikes which all the children seemed to ride did not match their happy smiles, which unsettled her. She had been told her entire life that you needed to have money to be happy. Her different accent interested the neighbourhood children, and some fought for her attention. She was a new attraction, someone from a far off land that they would never get to see.
He would watch her ride her bike down to the stream by herself sometimes. The pink tassels were bright and blew in the breeze as she rode past his house, remnants of an easier past which she would probably never get to experience again. Though the children had offered her their friendship, she preferred to keep to herself. She was quiet and didn't say much. Likewise, he hadn't said a word to her. Sometimes he wanted to follow her down to the stream so that she wouldn't be so alone. He could tell her about the games he played and show her which trees were best to climb. But though she lived in his street, and though her clothes were no longer as clean or as neatly pressed as they once had been, she had an air of purity about her that made her seem so out of touch from him, so out of reach. He felt like he might dirty her if he talked to her.
Sitting down on the side of the road, throwing rocks, he watched her hair be blown about as she pedalled past him. It matched the pink tassels on her bike, they seemed to wave in time with one another. The hot July sun poured down on them, and he squinted watching her go. She looked at him as she passed, noticing his gaze, and smiled — timid and shy, yet kind. He smiled in return. And though no words had been said between them, Steven knew that there was something in that shared look. As he watched her pedal further down the road to the stream, he knew that he wouldn't be so scared to talk to her any more.
Her name was (Y/N). She had come from a town that he'd never heard of, in a place he'd heard of only once or twice. She had no siblings but had an older cousin that liked to pick on her. She lived with her father and her cousin and her aunt Narelle in the off-white house at the top of his street. She told him that she was fairly well-off once, but one look at her and he had already known that. Her mother was dead and had been for years. She didn't say much about her. Some days she had bruises on her arms and there were always bags under her eyes. Steven didn’t ask about it. She tended not to say much, but that was alright. When she did speak it always seemed to be worth the wait. She smiled a lot, especially when he tried to crack a joke. Her laugh made his heart warm and he tried to hear it as much as he could.
That summer he introduced her to his friends. She liked Donna, the only girl in their group, the best. They got along well, it was clear to see: making fun of the boys and talking about how 'icky' they were. Eric was nice to her, though at times snarky like he was to everyone. Steven noticed Eric didn't have the same spark in his eyes when he talked to (Y/N) that he did when he talked to Donna, and much to his confusion that made him a little pleased. Kelso made her laugh a lot, probably not meaning to, but he was a naturally charming boy and he could be very funny. Sometimes Steven felt jealous -- not that he'd ever admit it. He felt oddly possessive of (Y/N); he had found her and that meant he had rights over her.
(Y/N) spent her evenings with Steven in an old treehouse by the stream, listening to the water as it rushed on by. They created worlds in their heads and acted them out, often with hilarious consequences. They told ghost stories and read the comics Eric would lend Steven. While most of these meetings were happy and innocent, away from the stresses they had at home, sometimes something would be off with one of them. They would climb up to the treehouse and their mood would be different. Silence filled the air during these times, a wordless bond between them, one of shared experiences and trauma. They didn't need to talk about it, both understanding in some way what the other was going through. The bruises still showed up on her arms, the bags under her eyes ever-present. They never visited each other's houses, but that was understood as well. No one visited each other's houses in this neighbourhood.
Steven was twelve, his mischievous attitude continuing to get the better of him. Everyone called him Hyde now. He was beginning to notice the girls more, some of them were taller than him and their maturing faces made him stare. He sometimes whispered to his friends about which of the girls were the prettiest and about who they liked. Eric had his heart set on Donna (he had for years, after all). Hyde liked her too, her fire-red hair was striking and her personality reminded him of his own. Kelso liked everyone and no one in particular.
Hyde stared at (Y/N) the most. Though she wasn't the most matured of all the girls, she was who he knew best and who he felt closest to. Her humour had become more dry over the years, and strong opinions were beginning to blossom. Hyde liked those thoughts, inklings of agreement spreading across his mind. He was becoming more and more anti-establishment with each passing day… Not that it meant much when you were twelve, mostly consisting of thinking old people were stupid and politics didn't matter. But it was a start nevertheless.
They spent most of their days with their friends. He had saved up for a bike and now they were able to ride to Eric's house together; her bike still with the pink tassels on either side which had faded since those years when she would ride down to the stream by herself. She was still the quietest of the friends, but over the three years she had come so far out of her shell it was like she was born anew. She did well in school, one of the brightest pupils: her skills in writing were especially impressive. Teachers complimented her polite and reserved manner in class, but she always took their words rather awkwardly. She liked joking around but was fairly serious compared to the rest of them, perhaps even more so than Donna. The boys liked to say the girls could be no fun, and the girls said the boys were immature.
As your early teen years flew by, boys started to flirt with you. Of course, you were hardly the most glamorous of girls. Plain and fairly unsuspecting, you didn't stand out much from the crowd. But apparently it didn't matter to horny teenage boys whose testosterone levels were soaring through the roof. Girls were girls, and you were a girl, after all. Hyde tended not to flirt with you, and it made you feel a bit, well... excluded. Especially when he flirted with other girls, right in front of you. It made you feel like his little friend that he had moved on from.
And for much of your life in Point Place, Wisconsin, that was how you spent your days. You performed well in school, good grades littering every report. Your heart belonged in feminism and equality and a love of literature swept you up. College began to seem like more of a possibility with each passing day. New York felt like a world away, and yet you and Donna often dreamed of it. As you continued to mature, you and Hyde drifted apart. Becoming a woman and becoming a man were two very different things, and the differences grew and grew between you. Quite literally, one day you woke up and realised that you were closer with Donna than with Hyde. Hyde's attitude turned more and more anti-establishment each day, as did yours ― but in different ways. And he continued to grow fonder of Donna every time they hung out together.
Still, hanging out with the gang in Eric's basement everyday didn't feel like such a bad life to live. Even if it meant Hyde would never see you as more than his little friend and seemed determined to win over your best friend. Right?