It's what she called herself as she walked away from the group of boys that had just shown up. Mark punched her in the jaw for effect this time, but it didn't bother her. Philbert was in from the service and was the meanest bastard she knew. He was a Marine, and at nine years old all that meant to her was "asshole". Every time he came home, the temperature of the neighborhood changed.
She climbed her tree as high as she could get, and felt the summer breeze sway her gently. She listened. The boys all played war games and Philbert told wonderful and horrific stories that those boys believed. She didn't. But that didn't matter. None of it did, really. This wasn't new.
She closed her eyes and made impossible wishes, just like she always did when she was told to go away. Not once was she asked to stay but she wasn't bitter. She just accepted it as life. Unhappiness never occurred to her, not even as she rubbed her jaw.
It would pass. Philbert would go away. The rest of the boys would go home and she would be a part again. It wasn't that she didn't fit in, or that she wasn't the toughest kid around, or that she could throw and hit a baseball farther than the rest, or that her hair was just as short. It's that she was a girl. And she turned that hatred inwards, at her gender.
She could cut her hair, she could wear her bother's hand-me-downs, and would never correct anyone who called her a boy, or son. Sonny. It felt good. Like she belonged somewhere. But she could never change what God gave her.
Regardless, the boys were her best friends. Singly and sometimes in groups, but there were always hidden places she was never allowed. Not ever. Go away, girl. Boy stuff happening.
Understanding and acceptance would come much later (long after her body betrayed her and did what girls' bodies do), but in that tree with a sore jaw, she knew she had to wait til it was safe to come back again. Eddie would come looking for her, and they'd dig in the dirt and have rock fights, and play cars and blow up Barbie dolls with firecrackers again. Eddie was her favorite; he knew when to defend her and when to back off. And that nothing would buy him a rain of her fists like protecting her.
Besides, she knew when it was time to go away.