Excerpt from Randi's Steps

I swing higher and think about how Randi’s bouncy ponytail forms a long spiral. She always looks cute. My straight brown hair resembles a pilgrim boy’s. She has baby-smooth skin the color of rich cream. Freckles splash across my nose, like splattered paint. I’ve tried erasing them, but they’re stuck. White-out almost worked, until Mom made me wash the “white blobs” off my face.

I tilt my head back and close my eyes. A sports car zooms by, revving and blasting music. It sounds like Mr. Picconi’s Corvette convertible, a car he named “Jenny” and keeps hidden in the garage.

I stop swinging and daydream. On sunny days, Randi’s father would open the garage, remove his treasure, and take us for a ride with the top down. I imagined we were on the Thunderbolt Rollercoaster as he sped down the hill at the end of our street. We giggled as our stomachs felt butterfly tickles. I loved riding in the sparkly turquoise Corvette, a hundred times nicer than our squash colored station wagon. All of the boys on our block stared as we drove around in a car cooler than any of their Hot Wheels. Randi and I pretended we were the queens of Hartwell Drive.

“Hello, hello people,” we called out as we waved royal-looking waves. “We’re taking a drive through our kingdom. See you later at the castle.” I could taste the air, like a mouthful of cotton candy melting on my tongue.

The sweet tasting air suddenly turns to wet snowflakes. I leap off and trudge toward warmth, fighting the bitter wind and snow that press against me. The flakes melt on my face, blending with my tears.

I turn the front door knob like a thief trying not to trip the alarm. I want to sneak down the hall and crawl under my covers without being seen or heard. It works until my bed creaks.

“Are you okay, Francie?”

I don’t answer. I try to muffle my crying in the pillow, but those muffled cries are the alarm to Mom. A gentle knock, Mom’s knock, and the door creaks open.

Mom sits down next to me. “You can talk to me when you need to. I’m proud of you for being such a good friend.” Mom’s voice is soft and she rubs my back.

I sit up and wipe my eyes. “She’s gonna be gone a whole month in the hospital.” I picture counting the days on a calendar. A month is so long. All I want to do is sleep, wake up tomorrow, and drive away, even on the stupid school bus. Anything to get away from this mess.


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