Short Story: Amy’s Brother

dandelion

(this story is 5,301 words long. reading time is approx. 19 minutes)

Amy’s Brother

Two girls were walking through a grassy field. One of the girls stopped to pluck a dandelion from the ground. She held it up to the sunlight so as to better examine it’s beauty. The second girl joined her and they studied the flower together.

It was the first day of spring and there wasn’t a cloud to be found in the sea-blue sky.

“You have to blow on it and make a wish,” said the second girl.

“Well what should I wish for?” said the first.

“I dunno. Maybe a dog, or a new dress?”

“OK I’ll wish for a dog -“

“But you can’t tell me or it won’t come true! You have to wish for something else now.”

The first girl wrinkled her brow and racked her 9-year old brain for a wish to make.

As she did so, a football came whistling through air. It crashed into her forearm and sent her dandelion scattering to the wind.

“Holy smokes, nice shot!” came the voice of a laughing boy.

“Told you I’d hit it!” said another boy.

The two boys had approached, they were obviously a few years older than the girls.

“Hey, what did you do that for?” said the second girl, the one who hadn’t been hit.

“What are you gonna do about it Linda?” said the boy who threw the football.

Linda said, ”You should be nicer to your sister, you’re a real ass, Jake.”

“Ah, she’s alright,” said Jake, “right Amy? You’re not a wimp are you Amy?”

Amy looked at the ground instead of acknowledging her brother. She was biting her lip and trying to fight back tears.

Her friend Linda spoke for her. She said to the two boys, “I’m gonna tell my mom on you right now. You’re both in big trouble. I’m gonna tell on you so fast.”

“So what?” said Jake, “We’ll just say that you’re lying.”

Jake’s friend picked the football up off the ground in a hurry. The mention of getting “told on” had made him uneasy. “C’mon Jake,” he said, “Let’s get out of here.”

The boys turned and started walking away. Linda yelled after them, “Say you’re sorry at least!”

“Sorry not sorry.” Jake said over his shoulder as he walked away. The boys laughed and made their way across the grassy field. Jake’s friend ran on ahead and Jake threw him the football. They were conscious of being watched by the girls and did their best professional football player imitations.

“Ugh! What assholes,” said Linda, allowing herself to say the full word now that they were alone again. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Amy, “It didn’t hurt or nothin’.”

“We gotta go tell,” said Linda.

“Nah, it’s OK. It didn’t really hurt.”

“Well don’t you wanna get back at your brother?”

“I guess so, but I don’t -“

“Jake’s always bein’ a jerk to you and you don’t say anything about it.”

“I guess you’re right,” Amy conceded. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a brother. I wish you were my sister and that was all.”

Linda thought about it and said, “well maybe we could make Jake disappear somehow?”

Amy wondered, what would life be like without her brother Jake? She might get the bedroom all to herself, for one thing. Maybe Linda could sleep over more often. Dad always said she could have a pet dog if she could afford to feed it. Maybe the dog could eat Jake’s food, if Jake wasn’t around anymore. Wow, what a life that would be!

Amy looked up at Linda, who was quite tall for her age, and asked, “How do you think we can make him disappear? I mean, I don’t really want to hurt him or nothin’. I just want him to go away.”

“I know,” said Linda. Linda always knew what to do. “Let’s go ask my brother for help. He’s real smart – get’s A’s on all his tests. Dad says he might even graduate a year early.”

“Wow,” said Amy, “and you think he’ll help us?”

“Yeah cause he’s a nice brother, not like yours.”

“What’s his name again?”

“Lewis. But I call him Lou.”

“Can I call him Lou, too?”

“Sure,” said Linda, “I don’t see why not. He should be home now. Let’s go and see.”

***

Half an hour later the girls arrived at Linda’s house. Linda knocked on the front door but nobody answered. She rang the doorbell and yelled, “Mom, Dad, anybody home?”

“Don’t you have a key?” asked Amy.

“No, they won’t give me one till I’m 12. Anyway, there’s an extra one hidden in the backyard, we’ll have to go around and get it.”

She banged on the door one more time for good measure. Then they left the front porch and took the sidewalk around to the backyard. But as they passed by the garage, they heard noises coming from inside.

“What’s that?” asked Amy, “sounds like a gun or something.”

“Ah hah!” said Linda, “I should’ve known. Lou is working on his car.”

“Lou has a car? But he’s only 14.”

“Dad and Lou have been working on it all year. Dad says if Lou can fix it by the time he’s 16 then he can have it and drive it.”

“Wow,” said Amy. She had never heard of a boy so young having his own car. What would it be like to have her own car, and drive wherever she wanted? She had never thought about it before. Maybe when she turned 16, but that was a long ways away.

Linda banged her fist on the garage door. “Hey Lou you in there?”

The girls waited patiently, listening for sounds from inside. Some birds were chirping and hopping around on the rooftop. It was warmer than the day before. Amy noticed that Linda wasn’t even wearing a sweatshirt.

Now the garage door started to move and rumble. It sounded like it might fall to pieces at any moment, but the flexible panels retreated into the ceiling, one after another, until they came to a final crashing halt. The girls shielded their eyes, trying to adjust from the sunny afternoon to the dimly lit garage.

Amy saw Lou’s car. But it wasn’t even a car, it was a truck, powerful-looking, black, but covered in dust at the moment. It was resting like a dormant monster with it’s hood propped open and it’s front wheels chocked.

Out from behind the truck came Lou. He was tall and skinny and walked with long strides. He was wearing overalls with no t-shirt which exposed his bony shoulders. Also he was completely decked out in knee pads, elbow pads, and a grey apron streaked with grease and oil. On his head he wore an oversized welder’s mask.

In a muffled voice from behind the mask he said, “hey sis.”

“Can you take that thing off?” said Linda, “I can’t hear you. Why do you have to wear that scary thing anyway?”

“Working on cars is dangerous.” said Lou.

“This is my best friend Amy.” said Linda, “You’ve never met her before.”

Lou reached up with a gloved hand and pulled the face of his mask back like a visor. Amy saw a mess of brown hair inside, and two intelligent brown eyes peering back at her.

“Hello Amy,” said Lou.

“Nice to meet you,” said Amy.

Linda got straight to the point, “We need you to help us make Jake disappear. Jake is Amy’s brother and he’s real mean, so we want to make him disappear. I told Amy you’re smart and might know how to do it.”

“What’s so bad about your brother?” asked Lou.

“I don’t know, he’s just mean all the time,” said Amy, “he’s always been that way.”

“What does he do?” asked Lou.

“Well today I was making a wish on a dandelion and he threw a football and hit me and I didn’t even get to make any wish.”

“What else?”

Linda said, “tell him about that time in the pool, Amy.”

“Oh yeah,” said Amy, “one time we were swimming and Jake pushed me underwater. We were just playing a game you know, but he held me under and I couldn’t breathe. I almost died.”

“Did you need CPR?” asked Lou

“What’d’you mean?” said Amy.

“I mean, did a doctor have to resuscitate you to bring you back to life?”

“I don’t know about that,” said Amy, “I just sort of coughed a lot and then I was able to breathe again.”

“But she almost died!” said Linda, “He’s a real mean brother, Lou, you wouldn’t believe.”

“Yes,” said Lou seriously, “that’s no way for a brother to be. A good brother should protect his sister from bullies and help her with her homework.”

“That’s right,” said Linda, “Lou always helps me, with Math mostly, but also Science and English.”

“And Social Studies too,” Lou added.

“Is that right?” said Amy.

“That’s right,” said Lou and Linda together.

“Well,” said Amy, “like I told you, I don’t wanna hurt Jake or nothin’. I mean he is my brother. It’s just that, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a better one. It was Linda’s idea to make him disappear, not mine.” She looked up at Lou, his big brown eyes were sympathetic.

Suddenly he walked to the edge of the garage and looked outside, up and down the street. He was checking to see if any adults were nearby. Then he lowered his voice and said, “I think I have an idea. Of course I’m real busy with the car repairs and also I’ve got a history exam on Thursday… but, yes, I think there’s something I can do. It’s not right for a brother to act that way.”

“You can really help?” said Amy.

“What’s the plan?” said Linda.

Lou furrowed his brow and looked down at the ground. Finally he raised one of gloved hands in the air and said, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do…”

The three of them huddled in close and discussed Lou’s plan. Outside the neighborhood was unusually quiet. All of the adults were either at work or busy running springtime errands. An orange cat was prowling through the front yard. It perked up and listened for a moment when it noticed the three children talking in the garage, and then went back to stalking it’s prey.

***

A few days later, Jake was sitting in the back row of the classroom next to his buddy Marvin. Mrs. Mayberry had long ago forbidden the two boys from ever sitting next to each other, but that didn’t stop them from trying. Their approach was to suffer through roll call in their regular seats, and usually after first recess they’d change and sit next to each other. Today was a good day – they were halfway through Math and still she hadn’t noticed.

Jake was busy drawing action figures instead of doing his multiplication with decimals when Marvin handed him a small, folded up piece of notebook paper. The paper was folded tightly into a triangle shape, and in bold sharpie marker on both sides it read, ”To: Jake”.

Jake immediately stopped drawing and looked at the note with intrigue.

“Who’s it from?” he whispered to Marvin.

“I dunno.”

“Well who gave it to you?”

“Rob.”

“And who gave it to Rob?”

“He said Jenny gave it to him.”

Jake considered this. He said, “It can’t be from Jenny, she’s got a boyfriend remember?”

“Yeah, it’s not from Jenny,” Marvin agreed, “But she gave it to Rob, I swear.”

“Well who gave it to Jenny?”

“I dunno.”

Jake scoffed at his friend and proceeded to unfold the note. The message had been written neatly, in pencil, in a bubbly, cursive handwriting, it read:

Dear Jake: I think you are really handsome. Maybe we can hang out sometime? Meet me behind the library after school if you want to.

From: Anonymous

Marvin watched his friend with intense curiosity. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore and asked, “What’s it say?”

Jake took his sweet time, refolding the letter and stuffing it deep into his jeans pocket. “It’s from a girl,” he answered.

“Yeah but who?”

“I dunno yet.”

“What’d she say?”

“Said she wants to make out with me.”

“You swear?”

“Yup.”

“Say you swear!”

“I swear it on my grave.”

“I don’t believe you,” said Marvin, “let me read it.”

“No way, it’s mine.”

“I gave it to you in the first place,” said Marvin, “let me see-” He reached into Jake’s pocket and tried to grab the letter. Jake immediately began twisting out of his chair and pushing Marvin away.

“Hey knock it off, you’re going to get us in -“

“BOYS!” came a thundering voice from the front of the classroom, “WHAT PART OF ‘DON’T CHANGE SEATS’ DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?”

A dark cloud of silence settled over the classroom and all thirty children. Jake and Marvin sat up straight in their chairs. Anyway, it had been a good run while it lasted.

***

At 3:15pm that afternoon, the final school bell rang. Like a flash flood in a desert canyon, children spewed forth from the classrooms and into the hallways and out the doors. They ran and jumped and screamed free into the afternoon. And the school building that was just brimming with life was now deserted. Only a few teachers and administrators remained, each in their separate classroom or office, and together they breathed a collective sigh of relief.

If any of these teachers had been told that young Jake Ballenger was still hanging around, and what’s more, that he was hanging around near the library, they simply would not have believed it. Or at least they would have surmised that, “that boy is up to something,” which in this case was certainly correct.

Marvin had wanted to tag along, but Jake had talked him out of it, promising to offer his friend a full report later that evening.

Marvin had conceded, but inwardly he had every intention of following Jake without telling him. So when Marvin turned around from his locker to see that Jake had disappeared, he sprinted out of the school building, along with all of the other children, searching for his friend. Marvin visited all of their usual haunts, but he never thought to look on the pathway behind the library, which is where Jake now stood, looking cool and collected, standing with one of his feet propped up against the brick wall.

A row of tall shrubs separated the pathway from the parking lot, and provided more than enough privacy for children to conduct their secret business. Jake admired that his anonymous note-writing girlfriend had chosen such a good location.

Suddenly a group of boys rounded the corner and came walking towards him. At the head of the pack was a tall, gangly boy that Jake had seen before but never talked to. And behind him were three, much larger boys that weren’t from Jake’s school at all. To Jake’s annoyance, the group stopped right in front of him without continuing down the path.

“Sorry guys,” said Jake, “but I’ve got a meeting here. You’re gonna have to move.”

“Hello Jake,” said the tall, gangly boy who was apparently the leader of the pack, even though he was the youngest and least imposing.

“Who the hell are you?” Jake fired back.

“My name is Lewis,” said the boy, “but my friends call me Lou. You can call me Lewis.”

“OK whatever,” said Jake, “Listen, you guys need to -“

“I wrote the love letter,” said Lewis.

“Wha-” Jake stammered.

“Well actually I didn’t write it,” said Lou, “I had my sister Linda write it for me, so the feminine handwriting would be accurate. But it was my idea.”

“What are you talking about?” said Jake. “This is crazy.”

Lou answered calmly, “It was a fake note, Jake, you’ve been set up.”

As the shock wore off and the reality set in, Jake suddenly felt vulnerable. He didn’t like feeling vulnerable – not in the least – and so he grew defensive.

“What the hell man! You better explain real fast what’s going on here, before I clock you one?”

“I would advise against that,” said Lou. The three larger boys took a step closer. Two had their bare arms crossed. One was cracking his knuckles. Lou continued, “Here’s the deal Jake, you need to go away for a few days. Stay at a friend’s house, go camping, whatever you need to do, I don’t care. You’ve been a real bad guy, Jake, and some people are fed up with you. That’s why you need to go away for a while, go and think about how to be a better person.”

“What’s this all about?” asked Jake, “who’s angry at me?”

“Lot’s of people.”

“Well tell ’em to come talk to me and we’ll figure it out like real men.”

Lou sighed and said, “Today is Friday. If you go away for the weekend, then we’ll call it even. Come back on Monday and try to be a nicer person.”

“You’re crazy,” said Jake, “Don’t tell me what to do – “

One of the big boys stepped forward and looked down his nose at Jake.

Jake put his fists up, “what’re you lookin’ at punk? Why are you hanging out with this skinny weirdo anyway? What does he do your homework or somethin’?”

“You better shut up real quick.” said the boy.

“You gonna make me?” said Jake

“Everyone!” yelled Lou, “nobody has to get hurt. Listen Jake, I promise it’s for your own good-“

“Don’t tell me what to do!” yelled Jake. He pushed Lou in chest and sent him staggering backwards. Immediately the other three boys were on top of Jake, wrestling him to the ground. Jake kicked and punched back furiously. One of the boys got him in a headlock and Jake immediately sunk his teeth into the forearm that held him.

Lou had a horrified look on his face. “Stop it!” he yelled. “Stop it!”

Finally the three bigger boys, who had gained control of Jake despite his wild efforts, stepped back and dusted themselves off.

Once he was free, Jake scrambled to his feet. His hair was caked with dirt, and blood fan thick from his cracked lower lip. He wiped his face and snarled, “this isn’t over you pricks!” And with that he turned and ran away.

Lou tried to yell after him, but it was no use.

“C’mon,” said one of the older boys, “let’s get out of here before a teacher shows up or something.”

The three boys shuffled away, but Lou stood rooted to his spot. He was horrified by the violence he had just seen. He had never been in a real fight before. Why couldn’t Jake have just listened and spoken reasonably with him? They could have reached an agreement surely. And was jake going to tell Amy? Oh god, he thought, what is Amy going to think?”

***

Amy had been worried all afternoon. When she sat down to dinner with her parents, they hit her with a barrage of questions regarding her brother:

“Where in heaven’s name is Jake?”

“Did you see him today at school?”

“You didn’t talk to him afterward? He’s supposed to walk you home, you know.”

“Do you know something you aren’t telling us Amy? Is Jake seeing a girl or something? If he’s in detention again…”

Amy was so nervous that she was starting to sweat. She knew that Jake wasn’t coming home tonight. Lou had said that he could talk to Jake “man to man” and help him see the error of his ways, that he would convince Jake to go away for a few days and come back next week a better brother.

But now, in the heat of her parents’ questioning, Amy was beginning to second guess herself. Maybe she should just tell them. She wasn’t a good liar and she didn’t enjoy it one bit.

She was just about to break down and tell her parents everything when suddenly the front door swung open.

Her dad stood up immediately, “Jake, is that you?”

It was Jake. He was making a bee-line from the front door to his bedroom, intending to bypass the kitchen altogether. But his dad yelled after him, “Jake, you come here right now, you hear?”

“Be there in a sec,” Jake murmured.

“Jacob Ballenger,” his father’s voice was rising, “You come here this instant.”

Sheepishly, slowly, the boy came and stood in the doorway.

“Dear God,” his mother gasped, “what happened Jake?”

The blood on his lip had now dried, and he had wiped most of it clean. But he hadn’t been able to get all of the dirt out of his hair, or to disguise the giant rip in his t-shirt.

Dad spoke again: “Your mother asked you a question, son. What happened to you?”

“Nothin’ really,” said Jake, “just got in a fight with some jerks.”

“What have we told you about fighting, son? We told you one more time and-“

“I swear it wasn’t my fault,” cried Jake, “These guys jumped me, and-“

“OK, OK,” said his mother, sensing a yelling match about to boil over, “OK Jake, c’mon, let me have a look at you. We need to get you cleaned up.” She grabbed his arm and led him to the bathroom.

Amy sat at the dinner table with her father, neither of them saying anything. Her head was reeling. Finally she said, “Dad, can I go to Linda’s tonight? Her parents said it was OK.”

“Really? I never heard anything about that.”

“I told mom earlier,” she lied again.

“Well,” said her father, “it might actually be a good thing if you go. Your mother and I are going to have a long talk with your brother this evening.”

“Yes,” said Amy, “I can go to Linda’s. It’s perfect.”

“OK,” said her father, “Go ahead and get your things and I’ll drive you over there.”

“Can I walk?”

“No, it’s dark out. I’ll drive you.”

“OK,” she said. She hopped up from the table, dropped her dishes in the sink, and ran to her room to pack her bag. Her mother and Jake were still in the bathroom. She could hear her mother telling Jake to sit still.

She didn’t know what she was going to do once she got to Lou and Linda’s house. She didn’t know how much Jake knew. She didn’t want to face his anger either – not yet anyways. She needed to talk to Lou.

***

Her father dropped her off at the Rockhold house. She walked up the sidewalk all the way to the front door. Her father waited to drive away until he saw the front door open and Amy step inside. She was greeted by Mrs. Rockhold, Lou and Linda’s tall and friendly mother.

“Hello Mrs. Rockhold.” said Amy.

“Why, hello Amy. What a nice surprise!”

“Is Linda here?”

“Actually dear, she isn’t, I was just about to go and pick her up from practice.”

“Oh,” said Amy, “I thought she would be here.”

“Would you like to come with me to pick her up? I’m sure Linda would be thrilled.”

Amy looked around the house. Actually it wasn’t Linda that she had come to see. She said, “Maybe I could wait here, in Linda’s room? Then I can just be here when she gets back?”

Mrs. Rockhold couldn’t see why not. She poured Amy a glass of water and told her to make herself at home. She’d be back with Linda in less than 20 minutes. And did Amy need anything to eat while she waited?

“No thanks, I’m full.”

“Alright then,” said Mrs. Rockhold, “Don and Lou are in the garage if you need anything. They’re working on Lou’s truck – like always!” She chuckled to herself. She dug her keys out of her pocket and prepared to leave.

“Thanks,” said Amy. She went into Linda’s room and sat on the bed. A minute later she heard Mrs. Rockhold leave and the car pull out of the driveway. She had so many good memories of playing in this room with Linda. But as she sat there alone, looking around at the pink curtains and the dolls on the shelf, the notebooks in the corner, and the full-length mirror on the closet door- she couldn’t shake the feeling that some things were changing.

She had always trusted Linda and looked up to her for advice. But she wondered if maybe, just this once, Linda had possibly led her astray. Hadn’t it been Linda who’d hatched the idea to make Jake disappear in the first place? Amy had been worried about the plan from the beginning, but she had never said anything. She made a promise to herself, right then and there, that from now on she would say something if she really thought it.

Lou – she needed to talk to him soon before Linda and Mrs. Rockhold returned.  She needed to set things straight. But what would she say to him? He was so much older and smarter. But if Lou had punched Jake, well Amy just wouldn’t be able to be friends with him. It didn’t matter what Jake had done in the past…

Suddenly there was a knock on the bedroom door.

“Amy, is that you?”

Speak of the devil. Amy sat straight up, suddenly conscious of how she looked and how her arms were crossed.

Lou poked his shaggy head through the doorway. He wore the same oversized welder’s mask and the same overalls, but this time no gloves or knee pads or anything else. And this time he had wore a white t-shirt underneath his overalls..

“Hi,” said Amy, “I thought you were working on the car – I mean, truck.”

“Oh I still am,” said Lou, “I just came in to get some water.”

“I saw what you did to my brother,” said Amy, “he just got home.”

Lou’s face dropped.

“You beat him up real bad. He’s gonna be super mad at you I bet.”

Lou did not respond emotionally. He came and sat down on the far end of the bed. When he spoke it was slow and sincere, “Amy I’m so sorry. Things went all wrong. And it’s not what you think. I never wanted to hurt Jake. I just wanted to talk with him rationally, man to man, like grown-ups.”

“Well if you didn’t hurt him, who did?”

“Well I brought some other guys with me. You know, just in case.”

“But the whole thing was your idea, right? Not those other boys.”

“Yeah but it wasn’t supposed to go that way. I tried to talk to Jake and he got angry and pushed me. And then the other guys jumped in – it all happened real fast. Those three guys could barely handle him, he was insane, my chest still hurts from where he pushed me.”

Amy smiled and said, “My brother doesn’t run away from nobody. One time a 10th grader pushed me down and Jake chased him all the way out of the neighborhood. We never saw that guy again.”

“I’m sure he loves you a lot,” said Lou, “even if he doesn’t know how to show it.”

Amy looked quizzically at Lou without saying anything. This made him uneasy. Had he upset her? Should he apologize some more?

Finally Amy said, “Why do you wear that silly thing on your head anyway?”

“What this?” said Lou. He took off the welder’s mask and held it in his hands.

“Do you really need that to work on a car?”

“Well it’s very dangerous work,” said Lou, “my dad knew a guy who poked his eye out while dropping his transmission.”

“Oh,” said Amy, “I just wondered because it looks pretty uncomfortable to wear.”

“Listen,” said Lou, “I feel terrible. I wanted to help you and I wanted Jake to treat you better.”

“Well thanks,” she said, “it’s my fault too. But I’ll ever need anybody’s help anymore. I’m just gonna do things myself. That way nobody gets hurt.”

“Thanks for understanding,” said Lou, “I just really wanted to tell you what happened. I guess I should be going now, gotta work on the car.” He grabbed his mask and made to leave. When he was halfway through the door Amy spoke up, “Hey Lou?”

“Yes?” He stopped and turned.

“I think you’re a good person. Don’t worry about that.”

Lou took a deep breath. “You know Amy,” he said, “there’s something I wanted to tell you too…”

“Uh huh?”

“Well, I’m not sure how to say this, but -“

Just then the front door opened and Linda and her mother came spilling inside. “Hello!” came Mrs. Rockhold’s voice, followed quickly by Linda’s: “Amy! Amy are you here?”

“I’m in here,” said Amy. She looked at Lou, waiting for him to finish his sentence, but he was too distracted by the sudden appearance of his sister and mother.

Linda yelled and came running into the room, “Amy I can’t wait to tell you what happened to me at practice. You’re not gonna believe – Oh, Lou, what are you doing here?”

“Um, I was just going,” he said, still a bit distracted.

“Hey,” said Linda, “You’re not allowed in here, you know? Remember how you never let me come into your room ever?”

Lou straightened up and resumed his older brother persona. “Oh, don’t be silly,” he said, “I was only standing in the doorway. Besides, I’ve got to get back to the garage. Dad will be needing my help.”

Lou disappeared and Linda plopped down on the bed next to Amy.

“So, what’s up?” she said, “How’s it goin’?”

“Pretty good,” said Amy. “I’ve got a lot of things to tell you.”

“Me too.” said Linda, “I’ve got all kinds of things to tell you.”

“Maybe you go first and then I’ll go?” said Amy.

“I’ve got an idea, let’s go get ice cream and then we can sit on the porch and talk.”

“OK,” said Amy, “I’ve got to tell you all about Jake.”

Linda suddenly remembered, “Oh, what happened, did he go away?”

“No,” said Amy, “but it’s OK. I don’t want him to go away anymore.”

“Really, why?”

“Yeah, I guess I was just thinking that he’s not so bad. All brothers are good sometimes and bad sometimes, you know?”

“Yeah I guess you’re right,” said Linda. “Sometimes Lou can be bad even though usually he’s a good brother.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” said Amy.

Linda jumped up. It was Friday night and she had no shortage of energy or enthusiasm. “Let’s go,” she said, “I’m basically starving. We can take our snacks and eat on the porch. I’ll get the lawn chairs too. Oh shoot – they’re in the car – I’ll have to ask mom…”

The two friends left the bedroom and went looking for Linda’s mother. Amy was happy to be around Linda again and relieved to have some things to do. It had been a really stressful day, maybe the most stressful in all her life. But it was looking like everything was gong to be OK. She’d have to find Lou later and ask him what it was he was going to tell her before he got interrupted. But that could wait. She was pretty hungry after all, and her and Linda had a lot to talk about. They would probably still be talking long after Lou, and Jake, and all the parents and everyone had gone to bed. That’s usually what they did, because they were best friends, and best friends never can get it all said before bedtime.

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