It’s the summer after seventh grade, and my best friend is Haley, a tall blonde full of moles. There are ten of them shaped like a soda bottle on her back. I wish my freckles could be as cool.
“Don’t be jealous,” she says. “You have so many. I bet we could find something there if we tried.”
Haley lives at the end of my street in a yellow Tudor. It’s massive compared to my parents’ bungalow. I walk to her house every day, and she teaches me to fit in.
“These jeans don’t fit me anymore. Want them?” She tosses a pair of Levis on the bed.
“Wow. Thanks!” I have never in my life owned a pair of brand name jeans.
We swim in her pool during the day and play Ouija board in her parents’ pop-up camper at night. Some nights, we summon so many spirits I make my step-dad pick me up in the rusted minivan instead of walking home. The single-wide trailer park on my street gives me the heebie-jeebies at night. Half the trailers have boarded-up windows, but others have foldable lawn chairs and little pots of annuals out front. It’s a strange addition to our otherwise bland street.
One day while waiting for Haley to get home from her boyfriend’s house, I meet a new girl in the neighborhood. She stops her bike in front of my house, anchors it between her legs and says, “Hey.”
I stop the porch swing. “Hey.”
“Wanna be my friend?” she asks, chucking a pop-it onto the ground. She tosses another, and it snaps as it connects with the pavement.
“Sure. Can I have a pop-it?” I hop off the swing and jog down my steps to her.
“Sure.” She hikes her leg over her bike and parks it on the sidewalk. Then in one graceful swoop, she flips her crimped blonde hair over her shoulder and dumps sawdust and pop-its into my hand. “I’m Kristin.” She flashes a big smile.
“I’m Danielle.” I smile back.
“You just move here?” I ask, throwing another onto the sidewalk. It doesn’t pop, so I stomp on it.
“My dad did. He lives in a trailer down there.” Kristin nods sideways toward the trailers. “I’m here for the summer.”
“Are those dangerous?”
“The pop-its or the trailers?” She jokes.
I laugh. “The trailers.”
“Nah.” She shrugs. “Mostly old folks.”
“Cool. Where you from?”
“Florida. With my mom.”
“I’ve never been there,” I say in awe. Kristin has a special magic, a glue that draws me toward her.
I find out she’s the same age as me, we both like to ride bikes, and we’re both poor. Or at least her dad is.
When Haley gets home, I invite her to come with us on our bike ride to the park.
“It’s too hot,” she says. “Go play with your new friend. We’ll catch up later.”
Haley invites us to come swimming that afternoon, and Kristin won’t go.
“I only swim in the ocean,” she says.
I have just a month with my new friend, so I don’t go either. I figure Haley has her boyfriend, and now I have Kristin. It’s even.
Two weeks fly while I spend every waking minute with Kristin. I don’t see Haley at all, and I miss her.
So, when she calls and says, “I need to talk to you … Alone,” I go.
My fingers graze the diamonds of the chain-link fence along the front of the last trailer in the trailer park making a soft clinking sound. I’m thinking about how my skin will smell dirty and metallic when Haley startles me by screaming “You’re a terrible friend!” She’s suddenly in front of me and so close to my face. I’m worried she may punch me for no reason.
“What?” I ask, freaked by the level of her voice. “What did I do?” I don’t know. I really don’t.
Her face is flushed and eyes are wet. She’s been crying. I wonder why she’s so sad. Haley pulls photos of us from her pocket and rips them.
“You picked that girl over me,” she says. She turns and stomps away, leaving me with shreds of our friendship at my feet. “One day you’ll get it.”
At the end of the summer, when Kristin goes home, I do.
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