By Lauren Reynolds
I watched as the black Volvo XC90 pulled slowly out of the circle drive and out of the parking lot. I couldn’t hold them in any longer. Salty tears poured down my cheeks. They fell straight to the ground and stained the concrete. A permanent reminder of this moment. I rushed my hands to my face and rubbed my bright blue eyes with clenched fists. I felt like my world had fallen apart.
“Let’s go, Spud,” said my mom.
I forgot she was there. I looked at her, heartbroken, and she looked at me with tears in her eyes. She liked the Polls and hated to see me so sad. I ran into her arms and sobbed. She rubbed my head, kissed me, and steered me to our car. I stumbled along, senseless.
Within seconds, I was at home in my room. I had homework to do. I knew that. But to me, that was the least of my concerns. My friend had just left my life as quickly as she had entered it. Four short years together, and now she was gone. I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Massive sobs of grief tore me apart. No matter how much I told myself everything would work out, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that she had left. “My parents said I might come back for junior high,” she had said. I grasped onto that hope as if it were a ragdoll. But would I ever see her again? I couldn’t think about it. She had to come back.
I did my homework and got in bed. Did I change into my PJs or brush my teeth? I had no clue. I had lost track of time. Nothing really made sense anymore, other than our memories. I cried myself into a restless sleep. Everything faded to black but slowly came to light again.
I ran to the back of her house and placed the carrots on the patio. “They’re in place!” I yelled, and I ran back into the house. Annabella was sitting in the room, fiddling with a tripod. She looked up, and I looked at her, confused. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m setting up a camera…maybe we can catch the Easter Bunny on video! Imagine how famous we would be!” I grinned, and she smirked. “‘Two Young Girls Catch Easter Bunny on Camera!’ Imagine the headlines, Lauren!”
I laughed and ran over to her. I picked up the camera and twisted it around in my hands, scanning it for a button with the word “On.” I found it and clicked it. A small red light blinked. Annabella had walked over to the windowsill and set the tripod down, facing the carrots. I walked over and handed her the camera. She put it on the tripod and focused on the carrots. Then we went into the other room and played. Occasionally, we’d check back, but nothing happened.
I suddenly woke up to my mom rubbing my shoulder and saying softly, “Time to get ready for school.”
I rolled out of bed like normal and grabbed my clothes. Then I remembered Annabella was gone. I sank to the floor and crawled to the bathroom. I slowly got ready, not sure how I was going to make it through the day.
Eventually, I found myself getting out of the car and heading into school. I kept my head down, staring at my feet and the shiny tile floor the whole time. I dragged myself up the stairs and turned left. I entered Mrs. Kroeger’s classroom and set my stuff down in my cubby. Then I looked at Annabella’s. It still had her nametag on it. My eyes started to water as I tore my gaze away from her cubby. I walked over to my seat and slouched down, wanting to turn invisible. Annabella’s empty desk sat next to me. Every time someone entered the classroom, I expected it to be her cheerful face that I saw or her slight accent that called my name. But instead it was just another boy or girl. Some looked at me with genuine concern and heartfelt sorrow, but I just turned away, refusing to let them see my pain.
Class started, but school was the last thing on my mind. I took notes but didn’t really read them. Mrs. Kroeger was kind enough to leave me alone with my thoughts, but soon enough, something went wrong.
“All right, everyone, we are going to do some partner work! Please don’t leave your seats until I finish explaining,” Mrs. Kroeger said.
I knew Annabella wasn’t there. She was my go-to partner. We’d look at each other, nod, and turn away. We always knew the other would be willing to be our partner. But today was different. My go-to friend wasn’t there. So I had to find a partner I didn’t even know.
As Mrs. Kroeger explained what we were doing, I frantically looked around, trying to make eye contact with someone partner-less. But everyone ignored my helpless gaze. Everyone already had a partner. I was alone.
Mrs. Kroeger finished explaining the rules. All my classmates got up and grabbed their stuff. They each found a spot with their partner. I sat there, stunned. Hurt.
Mrs. Kroeger walked up to me and explained that since Annabella moved, we had an odd number of students in the class. She allowed me to join any group I’d like as long as I would work. I thanked her and stood up, disoriented. I looked around and saw two girls sitting in our favorite spot. Inside, I felt a mixture of pain and anger. But I figured I should team up with them, considering they looked the most accepting.
I grabbed my stuff and slowly edged towards them. They glanced up at me but ignored me since I didn’t say anything. Finally, I choked out a small sentence.
“Mrs. Kroeger said I could work with you guys,” I said softly.
They glanced up at me, looked at each other, and shrugged. They scooched backwards so that I had a place to sit. I gratefully sat down and started the assignment.
Soon it was lunch. I sat at a table full of girls but didn’t talk. Even if I did, it wasn’t like they would respond. I was a loner now. I didn’t have any friends. Annabella was my only friend. I felt tears starting to fill my eyes again.
Recess. I sat alone on a bench, huddled up into a ball. Someone asked if I wanted to play dodgeball. I looked up and quietly said, “No, thank you.” The person hesitantly walked away. On top of the morning, lunch, and recess, the afternoon was like everything all over again. I couldn’t get myself out of the fog. And I had no one to help me either. I left school and realized how badly I needed to make some friends. If I had friends, I could feel normal again. It was then I decided that I needed friends.
“Get back here!” I giggled as I chased after the kids I was with at recess.
“No! You’re going to have to catch us first!” they yelled back. They then separated and ran in different directions. I paused and then chased after Abby, gaining on her.
“Tag, you’re it!” I yelled, and I bolted off in the opposite direction. “Everyone, Abby’s it!”
I heard her footsteps thundering behind me, but I ducked underneath the playset and weaved through the poles, losing her. I ran up to the top of the playset and caught my breath. I looked under me and saw Abby tag someone else and dash off. I laughed and slid down the slide. Then I stopped and sat at the bottom of the slide.
I realized that since Annabella had moved three months ago, my life had crumbled. But somehow, I had rebuilt everything back up. Slowly, yes, but securely. I had made myself friends. I had kept being me, and I hadn’t let my sadness get the best of me. I had moved on from the sorrow, but not the memories. I had learned to make new friends. I had learned the importance of having multiple friends. The importance of not letting even the saddest and most upsetting moments hurt me. I had become stronger. Somewhere inside of me I realized I could handle much more than I thought on my own. I knew Annabella would have been proud. As cheesy as I thought it was, it was true. She was going back to where she already had friends waiting for her. I had to start from scratch. Well, basically. And I had done it. I had made something great for myself. I missed Annabella. I knew she missed me. But even though we were apart, I knew we’d always remember each other and our friendship.
Suddenly, a kid ran up to me, tapped me, and ran off yelling, “Lauren’s it!”
I shrugged and jumped off the slide. Then I called out, “You guys better watch out!”
I laughed and ran around the playset, trying to tag someone. My life had been changed. It had flipped upside down and upright again. But even with everything I went through, I knew I would be okay. No matter what I go through next, I will be fine.