Celeste Brighton had moved to Middlebrook from Kentucky. She was blonde and willowy and fair complected. Everything about her was light and bright and beautiful. Lora was enchanted by this girl with the quick wit and slow manner of speaking.
After their initial meeting, the girls began spending time together each day: walking to and from school, eating lunch together, hanging out on Saturdays. Lora would walk out of her way between classes just to run into Celeste in the hallway. And though Celeste seemed to be genuinely excited about the budding friendship as well, Lora felt that they just weren't moving quickly enough toward being the best of friends. She needed more than passing a note in class, more than even a friendship bracelet. She needed matching Trapper Keepers.
|Painting by Heatherlee Chan|
How do I make myself more important to her than her other friends, thought Lora.
On a Tuesday morning in March, Lora made her way to Celeste’s house so that they could walk to school together. Celeste wasn’t waiting outside as she usually did, so Lora sat on the Brighton’s porch swing and waited. Ten minutes later, Celeste’s mother opened to the door. Mrs. Brighton’s eyes were red, her hair disheveled.
“Oh, hi, Hi, Mrs. B. Is Celeste ready?”
“Hon, Celeste won’t be going to school today. She’s feeling… a bit sick.”
Celeste had seemed fine when they had parted ways the previous afternoon. Lora wondered what was wrong with her.
”Sick? Like a fever or something?"
"No, dear, no, not a fever. Nothing catching."
"Oh," said Lora, "Like cramps or something?"
"She's just under the weather, Lora. She needs to rest."
"Well, is there anything I can do for her? Pick up her work or something?”
”That would be nice, hon. I’m sure she’d appreciate that. We both would actually. That's very thoughtful of you.”
”No prob. Tell her I hope she feels better, and I'll see her later.”
Mrs. Brighton began to close the door.
“And Mrs. B?”
Mrs. Brighton sighed. “Yes, dear?”
“I hope you feel better, too.”
Mrs. Brighton smiled weakly and gently closed the door.
All day long, Lora worried about Celeste. Why was her mom so weird about her being sick? And why was Mrs. Brighton crying?
After 6th period, she gathered her belongings and hurried from the school, clutching Celeste’s work to her chest. When she arrived at the Brighton’s front door and knocked, she was surprised to be greeted by Celeste. Her friend was still in pajamas and had very obviously been crying.
“Oh my God, what’s wrong?”
“Lora, is it okay if I just talk to you later. I’m…we’re having a bad day.”
”Um, yeah, sure. I mean, did something happen? Did someone die? Your mom said you’re sick, so I brought your work. I just thought…”
“I’m not sick. Just… upset.”
Both girls stood in awkward silence.
“Well, if you feel better later, come over to my house. I’ll fill you in on what you missed today. And I can get mom to make us some brownies or something.”
“I may. I just don’t want to leave mom right now. That cool?”
”Yeah. Yeah, it's cool. Sooo, just let me know,” Lora said, handing Celeste the books and turning toward the steps to leave.
“Thanks for the work, Celeste.”
”It’s no problem,” Lora said without turning around.
“No, really, thank you." Lora felt Celeste's hand on her shoulder. " It's so sweet of you. You’re such a great friend, Lora."
Lora turned and smiled at Celeste. "Thank you."
As she walked home, Lora's smile grew. And grew. Until Lora had all but forgotten about her friend's sickness or tears.
I'm a great friend.