I actually wrote this is in middle school, and then revamped it when I was procrastinating on some moral theology essay.
A breeze galloped down the lane, shuddering the huge oak trees laden with flourishing green leaves. The rusty slam of a car door punctuated the mellow chatter of squirrels as a wide-eyed girl stepped out from the backseat of a quietly rumbling Honda Civic. For a moment, she was stiller than stone as she stared at the sky-blue house across the street.
Today was June 7th, 2007, and she was about to say goodbye to her best friend. For a girl who erred on the side of cynicism, for a girl who knew childhood friendships disintegrated a few years down the road anyways, in that place they called High School, and beyond, she could only wonder how the odd visit or two with her friend several states away would prolong the moment when they forgot their childhood friendship.
As thoughts of the future nattered away in her head, the rim of her sandals rolled into a crack in the sidewalk mid-step, almost sending her flying. Glancing down, she noticed that her misstep had loosened a dirt-covered mound of plastic embedded in a crack in the asphalt. She stooped to brush off the damp clumps of gravel and broken blades of grass. Underneath this protective layer, the purple and white mottle of a cheap bead emerged. Several identical beads were strung on a friendship bracelet around her wrist from the day, an eternity ago, when they had sat together out on the front lawn arguing over the coolest beads.
The ghosts of memory sent shivers down her skin and she suddenly felt cold in her thin blue tank-top and carrot-colored cargo shorts. Then the gas choked off and she saw her mother final emerge, familiar black purse draped over her arm. From a mother, a gentle hand on the shoulder and a cheek-creasing smile framed by wavy black Sicilian hair were more comforting than any words.
“Ready, Tara?” Tara nodded fiercely and hiked her black sleepover bag over her shoulder. The mottled bead was safely pocketed as she bounced up the green porch steps, slowing only on the third, which creaked ominously, just as it had for the past four years.
She jammed a finger into the rectangular ringer, sparking a chorus of furious barks and mechanical chimes. A moment later, the blinds on the parallel window nearby were drawn up and a familiar face appeared pressed up against the glass, grinning maniacally. It disappeared, and the lime green front door was subsequently swept open. Tara wrapped a clammy hand around the loose handle on the screen door, felt the shudder of the lock barrels sliding into place, and pulled aside the last hazy barrier.
Sonya stood in the doorway restraining Willy, a feisty terrier with an explosion of blonde curls for fur. Stepping into the lilac-patterned living room, Tara gasped. The wooden floors had been mopped extensively and now shone. The mocha-colored sofa had been brushed and meticulously tape-picked of dog hair. The large TV had been dusted, and the usual tangled mess of electronics and wires packed neatly into a cardboard box with “TV stuff” scrawled out in black sharpie. The typical clutter had disappeared and the kitchen counters just barely visible down the hall sparkled stainlessly. Aromatic freshener and cleaning products suffused the air, itching Tara’s eyes and tickling her nose.
“You finally came!” Sonya exclaimed, referring mockingly to Tara’s inability to arrive anywhere on time. Tara let a sheepish grin escape. Sonya’s mother appeared from the open archway leading into the kitchen, a smudged striped towel in hand.
“Good afternoon, Liz. Hey, Tara,” she greeted Tara and her mom brightly. Tara’s and Sonya’s moms were casual friends. Their conversation quickly dove into recipe exchanges and the like, specifically the apple crumble Tara’s mom had suggested for the welcoming party in Sonya’s new town.
Meanwhile, Tara and Sonya skipped lightly up the cream-colored stairs to her room on the second floor. Sonya, a short Asian girl with cropped black hair, was a year ahead of Tara in school. They’d met many years ago at a summer sports camp and had since forged a close friendship based on mutual love of Pokemon, stuffed animal kingdoms, and beating the boys in all the races.
At the top of the stairs, a stunned Tara halted in the middle of the doorway to Sonya’s room. Except for a stack of bulging brown boxes, a red nightstand, an open boom-box, and a bare bunk bed, it was vacant. All the cookie crumbs and dog hair had been expunged from the fuzzy yellow carpet — a first.
“Wow,” she whispered. “It looks so different.”
“Yeah, whatever. Come on, I’m bored.” That was nothing new, seeing as Tara’s hyperactive friend was always bored when she wasn’t cradling a DS or kicking someone. Tara propped a foot up on a box stranded on the floor, one hand resting on the lime-green walls.
“We still have the Wii system plugged in,” continued Sonya.
Tara shrugged. “Sounds good to me. What have you been doing all day, anyways?”
Sonya scowled, eyes narrowing. Packing, eating, sleeping, and cleaning. Did I forget packing? Cleaning? I was washing the kitchen window when you got here. Sweet relief from an arm-aching job. Those stickers I had up there left sticky patches everywhere.” They trampled down the stairs, bare feet thudding against the thick carpeting and grabbed a tube of Pringles in the kitchen before settling down on the sofa in front of the TV. Sonya tossed her a Wii remote.
“You pick!” She splayed out seven Wii games in her hands like a fan. Tara tapped Mario Kart, her shameless favorite because she always won.
“The wheels are in that one,” Sonya said when she noticed Tara peering into random cardboard boxes. Tara rifled through the mess of electronics, eventually producing two white Mario Kart wheels. She ripped off the silicon rubber of the remote’s skin, delighting in its squishiness. With practiced hands, they inserted the bare remotes into the slots in the wheel — not an easy task. Favorite characters, vehicles, and the race track were quickly chosen. In no time at all, they were waiting at the starting line, the 3 2 1 buzzing in their ears. Then they were off, remotes humming with the acceleration.
Three hours, five Wii games, and seven DS tournaments later, they watched with wide, hungry eyes as Sonya’s mom prepared dinner. Finally, after a scramble to set the table, the steaming spaghetti was spooned into the dishes, along with a deliciously chunky tomato sauce and a generous coating of parmesan cheese. Dinner passed rapidly, but was rather awkward, since Sonya’s mom persisted in asking Tara about expectations for entering sixth grade next year. Noticing Sonya wince at the mention of new friends, Tara answered as succinctly as possible, skipping over things she had no words or heart to speak of.
Spaghetti bowls were licked cleaned and abandoned on the table as they rushed outside to use the last rays of sunlight to play catch in the backyard. Soon, however, the shadows lengthened and stretched. Steeped in darkness and lightning bugs, they ended up getting whacked by the ball more often than not.
“And they call it a ‘soft’ –ball,” grumbled Sonya as she rubbed a bump on her forehead. Tara punched her lightly on the shoulder. Exaggerated injuries forgotten, Sonya growled, took up a fighting stance, and then launched into a little battle that drew them up the deck stairs and through the backdoor. Tara reached the carpeted stairs first, but Sonya grabbed her heels and yanked her down, bounding ahead on all fours. Eventually, both arrived, panting, to her room. Hollering goodnight to Sonya’s mom, they dragged themselves into pajamas and plopped down onto the bunk bed. The cool air on summer nights always comes as a surprise. As they shivered beneath the sheets, the day’s revelries caught up with them and, despite their enthusiastic promises to stay up the whole night, they drifted into unconsciousness mid-whisper.
Being the first up, Sonya had the honor of pinching her friend awake and duly received a pillow in the face for such cruel and usual methods. Tara tried to burrow back underneath the covers, but her nose had already discovered the warm, enticing aromas of sizzling bacon that wafted up from the kitchen. Morning at Sonya’s was always a festive event. First, the mandatory pinch. Next, it was time to trip over Willy, miss a step on the staircase, and land in his water dish in the confusion. Sonya, already munching her way through a fresh strip of bacon, snickered at Tara’s curious, but typical, display of morning clumsiness. Sticking out her tongue defiantly, Tara snatched some bacon from the plate and chewed viciously, ignoring Willy’s huge brown eyes as they gazed imploringly at the grease-stained napkin hosting the heavenly meat.
“Morning, girls,” Sonya’s mom sang out, obviously amused by their theatrics.
“Morning, Ms. Watson. What time is it?”
“9:17. You need to be at Sunday School in half an hour, right?”
“Yuh-huh. 9:45.” Tara glanced warily at the tongues of flame underneath the burner as she wiped her hands on a kitchen towel after being scolded to wash them before eating.
“We’ll finish the bacon and then wait for your mom. Sound good?”
“Sure!” As the bacon dwindled, the conversation moved towards the future. They chatted about calling each other every week, and maybe visiting over the summer. It seemed so simple. They could even battle in the Pokemon arena through the internet and mail each other portions of the comic strip they’d started a year ago.
After cleaning up, they sat on the porch to wait in silence. Tara leaned back, the edges of the steps digging into her back, and watched the white wisps of cloud migrate across the pale blue sky overhead.
“If I were in Avatar: the Last Airbender, I’d totally be an airbender,” she said without turning. Assigning magical talents to people based on TV shows was one of their favorite games and was usually followed by acting out the battles that would ensue.
“Just last week you said firebender!”
“Yeah, but,” Tara looked back up at the sky. “I feel more like one of those clouds than the fire on the kitchen stove. The fire’s actually doing something, cooking us up some bacon, but the clouds are just floating around to wherever the breeze takes them.” Tara swallowed dryly, her throat incredibly parched and swollen despite having just downed a glass of orange juice.
“Okay, then, Buddha. Middle school’s not that big of a deal, you know. There are still bullies and kids with cooler stuff, but that’s life so suck it up.”
“Thanks for the wisdom, oh elderly sage.”
“No prob!” Sonya flashed a peace sign, a habit she’d picked up during sixth grade.
The familiar Honda civic appeared at the end of the block and skidded to a stop in the middle of the street. Tara’s mom leaned out of the window and beckoned by windmilling her arm.
“Tara, we’re running late, get in!”
“Guess I’ll see you when you come visit?”
“Duh. Keep in touch,” Tara growled and ran off, sandals flopping loudly against the asphalt, to the car. Sonya’s smile grew until it covered half her face. Propping her head up on the head of the backseat, Tara watched as her friend stood on the lawn, one arm still waving, until they sped around around the corner and she was lost from sight.