Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chapter 10 - Milli

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?



It’s Saturday, December 23rd and Rachel and I are spread out on my carpet, reading magazines. School was let out long ago, and we’ve been hanging out more and more since then. We’ve done several other fundraisers and raised tons more money. Though we still have a long way to go, we’ve made great progress. Mom told us to take a well-needed break.

Suddenly, I hear the motor of a vehicle, strangely close to our house. I spring to my feet and go over to the front door to see a white van with the words AKWS News printed on the side parked in our driveway. People pile out of the van, carrying cameras. This is certainly strange. Why would the news station be coming to my family’s house?

I open the door for a middle-aged man with thinning brown hair and a mustache. I recognize him form the nightly local news – Eric Johnston, a reporter. "Good morning," he says in a friendly tone. "Are you Rachel or Mildred?"

"Uh...I’m Mildred," I respond, feeling slightly nervous. "But I prefer Milli."

"Excellent!" he says as more people spill into the house. "Is Rachel here as well?"

"Yep," I say. I turn and holler "Rraacchheell!" into the next room.

Rachel’s there in a split second. When she sees all the people and the flashing cameras, she looks downward shyly.

"Hey, Rachel," the original man says. "I’m Eric, and I’m here to interview you and Milli."

"Interview us? Why? How? When? Wh-"

Eric interrupts before Rachel’s string of questions go on too long. "It was Milli’s mom who set this up, actually. She called us and told you about the wonderful project you were doing. We were instantly interested and we think our viewers on AKWS News will be, too."

Oh. So it’s about our project. Of course – why didn’t I think of that?

Rachel’s still looking at the floor. "So if we do the interview, we’ll be seen on TV? By hundreds of people?"

I’m about to tell Rachel to get a grip – this is good news – but Eric just smiles encouragingly. "Are you a little nervous? That’s okay – why don’t we have Milli talk first? Is that fine with you, Milli?"

"Sure," I say, shrugging.

"Great. You just talk into the microphone, and Katrina here will film us."

Katrina, a pretty brunette in a blue sweater, turns the camera on us.

Eric begins. "We are here with two of this city’s most passionate young change-makers, Milli McTavish and Rachel Brown. These 13-year-old young ladies are working hard to raise money to rebuild the rundown homeless shelter on Oak Street. Their compassion and perseverance is an inspiration to all of us, and today we’re going to hear their stories. Milli, how did you and Rachel come up with the idea for this project?" Eric points the microphone at me.

I take a deep breath. "Well, I met Rachel in the homeless shelter earlier this month. My mom volunteers at it. I was appalled at the dingy state of everything in it. I discussed this issue with Rachel, and we came up with a plan to raise money to rebuild it. Our first attempt at fundraising – a bake sale – wasn’t so successful, but we kept going and have had more success." I pause and look away from the microphone to show Eric I’m done. My heart is thudding. Have I done a good job? Was it disrespectful to say the shelter was dingy? I carefully avoided saying Rachel was homeless – did that come across anyway? Oh no, I think I haven’t brushed my hair! Will I look like a slob on television?

If I do, Eric’s expression doesn’t show it. He smiles politely and beckons Rachel over. "Now, Rachel has a personal story to share that relates to this cause. Rachel?"

I give Rachel what I hope is an encouraging look, while secretly hoping that she doesn’t mess up. But Rachel comes through. "I lost my home about a year ago," she begins shyly. "It happened when my dad walked out on us and my mom lost her job. We were evicted from our house and forced to jump from shelter to shelter. At first I didn’t want to come to the Oak Street Shelter, but now I’m glad I did. I met Milli, the best friend I’ve had. She looked past my outer appearance and saw the true me. Working on this project with her has given me the strength to keep going even in tough times." Tears streak down her cheeks as she wraps up, but I figure that just makes our story more potent.

"Milli," Eric asks, "has this project benefitted you as it did for Rachel?"

"Yes, definitely," I say. "Before I met Rachel, I was honestly kind of shallow. I didn’t care much about important things like love and kindness. But Rachel taught me to look past outward appearances and see the wonderful, kind person inside. I started wanting to make a real difference in the world. This may be a small project, but it will make a huge difference in the lives of Rachel and many other people. You can make a difference, too." I’m satisfied as I finish my short speech. Sure, it may be cheesy, but it shows what’s really important in life.

Eric then comes to my mom and asks her about what she thinks of "her fantastic daughter." Mom’s speech is basically a bunch of gushing about how kind and generous and hardworking and intelligent Rachel and I are, but it makes me smile. My heart swells with love for her and Rachel and all my other family (including my late father) and the news people and the whole world.
Eric finishes the interview by saying, "Thank you for listening to this heartwarming story of two girls who, despite their differences, are using their friendship to help the world. We need more people like these two."

Katrina turns the camera off and starts toward the door, followed by all the other random people (who, to be honest, I don’t see why they’re there). Eric remains and shakes our hands heartily. "Thank you, girls. That was a pleasure."

"You’re welcome," Rachel and I say as he leaves with a final friendly wave to us.

Once the news truck disappears around the corner, me, Rachel, and my mom are left standing around in my living room. None of us is quite sure what to say. Rachel is the first to break the silence. "Well, that went well," she says without a trace of sarcasm.

I suddenly whirl around and envelope Rachel in a crushing hug. Rachel hugs me back. "Thank you, Milli," she says in a choked voice. "You saved my life."

"You saved my life, too," I reply, pushing myself more tightly around her. I realize we really did save each others’ lives. Maybe not literally, but emotionally. We gave each other happiness and helped each others’ characters grow. But there’s someone else who contributed to that, too.
I give my mom one of the same bear hugs. I’m so close I can smell her clean, fresh scent. It’s funny – just a month ago I would have resisted her hugs. But now I’m initiating them.

"I love you," I tell her.

"Oh, Milli," she says, stroking my hair gently. "I love you, too."

Full of happiness, I plop back down on the carpet and pick up the magazine again. Rachel flops beside me, and my mom goes back to her work. But I can’t focus on reading. I’m too busy reflecting on everything that’s happened to me recently.

That’s when I realize – it’s just two days to Christmas, the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. My eyes start to well up suddenly. Rachel puts her arm around me, and I feel better. It’s just something like that – a simple gesture from a true friend – that makes a big difference.

As I glance out the window, I see the snow falling, light and soft and magical. Christmas lights of many different colours sparkle on the fronts of houses and on our Christmas tree. It’s a perfect just-before-Christmas scene. It fits perfectly with the joy and love that’s spreading through our home right now – and that I hope will spread through the Oak Street Shelter when our project is finished.

In this last month, I have changed in ways I wouldn’t have believed possible. I have gone through setbacks and lost friends. But I also have made a new, truer friend, learned about the value of love, and made a difference in the world. I hope that all the days to come will bring more of the same. But for now, I’m content just sitting back and relaxing with my best friend on a perfect, joyous winter day.

The End

I hope you enjoyed my story, and I want to thank you all for reading it and commenting. I hope my story warms your heart and inspires you to create some change in the world. Remember, just a small effort can make a big difference.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chapter 9 - Rachel

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


After much debating and thinking, Milli and I finally come up with a plan. We will sell books at Milli’s school. Fortunately, Milli has plenty.

She digs out a huge, dusty box of books from a tight corner of her room. I gape at the piles of books – all my old favorites. Classics such as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, newer books like the Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events series, ten-year-old stories by Beverly Cleary and R.L. Stine – they’re all there. It reminds me of "the good old days" when I would hide beneath the covers late at night, weaving a flashlight across the pages of a dog-eared paperback. I reach into the box, like I’m plunging my hand into a treasure trove, and pull out Kristy’s Big Day by Ann M. Martin. Instantly I am lost in the pages.

Milli tugs on my shoulder playfully. "C’mon, Rachel. I want to be ready for the fundraiser before a week from Tuesday."

"Can’t I just finish this book first?" I mutter.

Milli rolls her eyes. "Is a book more important than our job?"

"Well, then, you try reading one then." I pick up a Nancy Drew and toss it at Milli. Within seconds she is lying on the floor, eyes glued to the pages like an invisible force is connecting them.

"Let’s get started, Milli," I tell her.

"Hey! I’m only on page three!" Milli protests. Then she realizes what’s just happened and bursts into laughter. "Sorry, Rachel. I guess we’ve both forgotten what it feels like to read."

"That’s okay," I grin. "But can I keep this book?"

"Sure – as long as I can keep my good ol’ Nancy Drew." Milli hugs the book tightly to herself.

We manage to pry ourselves away from the books long enough to sort through the books. We make two piles – one for sellable books and one for those with missing pages, stained pages or falling-off covers (and our keepsakes, or course). There are less damaged books than at first appear, and we have a good fifty books ready to be sold. That may not get us loaded with money, but if we sell them all, we’ll have improved our profits.

The next day, at noon, I climb up the steps of Milli’s school, hearing my footsteps reverberate off the stone. Milli’s school is a fancy private school in the rich end of town. Though I took care to put on my best clothes, I still feel out of place in this place with the high ceilings and polished floors.

Despite that, the school’s secretary welcomes me warmly. "Pleased to meet you, Rachel," she says, extending her perfectly manicured hand to shake mine. I nervously grab it, surprised that such a wealthy woman even acknowledges my existence. "It’s admirable that you and Milli are fundraising for such a good cause."

"Th-thank you," I stammer. Her friendliness almost makes me more self-conscious. I straighten out my blouse and hope that I look half-presentable, that she’s not secretly thinking, "That girl is dirty."

Then Milli rounds the corner, wearing a navy sweater and white pleated shirt. Probably a school uniform – all the kids streaming through the hallways are wearing navy and white. She hugs me, smiling. "Hey, Rach. Our stand’s just around the corner."

I follow her to a table next to the school’s back door. "I placed it here so everyone will see it as they head out for recess," she explains.

"That’s a good idea," I say. I glance around the table. "Do we have room for any more books?"

"Yeah, I think we can fit a few more," Milli replies. "Why?"

Grinning, I tip out the contents of my bag. Twenty books spill out onto the table.

Milli picks up one and inspects the cover. "Choose Your Own Adventure? Journey Under the Sea? Where’d you get those?"

"A neighbour lent them to me. They always were my favourite series. I loved them because instead of reading straight text, you got to choose what happened. When we lost our house, I couldn’t bear to part with them."

"But you’re parting with them now?" Milli says. "You’re really generous."

That was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make – those books were practically my life. After we became homeless, I’d spent hours poring over them, getting lost in their multiple storylines, imagining a world where I had more control over what happened than I did in real life. I didn’t know what I’d do without them. But I did it anyway – for our fundraiser, for my family, for all the people who had to face the same circumstances us and even worse ones.

And it pays off – our business is booming. Many of the kids haven’t even heard of the older books before, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. The girls love the Babysitters Club books, while the boys are interested in the exciting adventure books. One teacher buys half of the Choose Your Own Adventure books in one swoop, saying he remembers them from when he was a kid (the books are quite old).

The only ones who aren’t interested are Brianna and Jenna, who saunter by with a crowd of other pretty, well-dressed girls. They barely glance at us, except for Jenna, who loudly whispers to Brianna, "Is our ex-BFF hanging out with it again?"

Milli rolls her eyes. "I can’t believe I used to be friends with them."

I can’t believe it, either. That same girl who, apparently, used to sit on the steps and gossip about people who weren’t "cool enough" is now selling old books to raise funds to rebuild a homeless shelter.

By the time all the students have filed back in from recess, the table of books is completely empty, and the money bowl is full. Even the old grade 12 biology textbook that Milli’s dad kept around, which Milli swore would never sell, has sold to the school genius. It’s a job well done.

I’m smiling as I help Milli carry the table through the halls of the school and out the door. Sure, I know we’re not even close to raising the amount of money needed. But this is a start, and as that quote by Lao-tzu goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I’m sure that with lots of hard work and determination, and luck like we had today, we’ll be able to achieve our goal.

Keep checking in - my final wrap-up with Chapter 10 is on its way!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chapter 8 - Milli

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


After the whole disaster with the bake sale, I need some time to rest. But we still have to make money for the homeless shelter. We need a Plan B. My mind is whirring with ideas, but none of them seem to work. How can we make money in this cold weather? But first I have to meet with Jenna and Brianna (I’m back in their good books again).

When I hear a knock on the door I open it to find my friends standing on the doorstep with odd looks on their faces.

"What’s wrong?" I ask as I let them in.

"Who’s that?" Brianna says, gesturing toward Rachel, who is here again to help me with the fundraisers.

"Uh...," I stammer. "That’s my friend Rachel. She’s...come over to help me with a project of ours."

"A project ?" Jenna says snottily. "Well, if this project is so important to you, why didn’t you tell us about it?"

"I know, and I’m sorry," I say sheepishly. "Why don’t you guys help us?"

Jenna fixes me with her signature stony glance. "What’s gotten into you, Milli? You seem different all of a sudden. Since when are you into working on projects?"

I blush. "Um, this is f-for school."

Brianna and Jenna glance at each other and burst out laughing. "Great excuse, Milli," Brianna says, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. "We go to the same school, and we haven’t been given any assignments. Unless you’re part of an extracurricular group you haven’t told us about?"

Jenna laughs. "Don’t you know, Brianna? She is part of an extracurricular group. The Society for the Avoidance of Best Friends."

"I’m not avoiding you," I say, irritated. Why are they making such a big deal out of this?
"I was just busy. With my new friend."

"Hey, nice to meet you," Rachel pipes up from behind me. I’d forgotten she was there.

Jenna stares Rachel down. "What are you wearing? Why are your clothes so ripped?"

"I think she’s poor," Brianna loudly whispers.

"Uh...she’s not," I lie. "She’s just...the casual type."

I’m a really bad liar, and both Brianna and Jenna know it. Brianna stifles her giggles, but Jenna doesn’t even try.

"Nice to meet you," Rachel says again.

"Uh...hi," Jenna says, sneering. She instantly turns back to me. "Why are you hanging out with..."

Ashamed, I glance at the floor wishing it would swallow me up and get me away from all this confusion. I want to stand up for Rachel, say that she’s my friend and they have no right to pick on her just because she’s poor. But on the other hand, Jenna and Brianna are my friends, too. And I don’t want them to dump me over a stupid thing like this.

"I met her at the homeless shelter my mom dragged me to," I finally say. I cock my eyebrow at Jenna. "So, yes, I did go to the homeless shelter. Rachel can testify to that, can’t you, Rachel?"

Rachel looks confused, so I whisper the situation to her. Rachel nods and says, "Yeah, she definitely did."

"Whatevs," Jenna sighs. "Let’s get back to what we’re really here for." She reaches into her designer bag and pulls out a sleek black laptop. I don’t know where she got it – probably got it from her super-rich parents for her birthday. But just from its small size and stylish design I can tell it must have cost a lot.

Rachel can tell too, and her eyes widen to the size of dinner plates. "Whoa! That is so cool!"

"Well, of course you think so," Jenna giggles. Brianna whispers something in Jenna’s ear, which makes them giggle harder.

"Definitely," Jenna says, responding to Brianna’s comment. "Now, let’s get this baby started."

Jenna sets the laptop on a table, powers it up, and walks us through its various features. It really is awesome, and I pretend to "ooh" and "ahh" along with Brianna, but I can’t concentrate. Something about the way my friends are treating Rachel is increasingly bugging me. I wish I knew just what Brianna whispered to Jenna – or maybe I don’t want to know.

I glance around to see what Rachel is doing, and I find that’s she’s not hunched over the laptop with us. Instead, she’s standing a few paces behind us, her toes poised as if she’s deciding whether to take the leap. In this case, she’s probably deciding whether or not to move forward toward us.

"Come on, join us," I say to her, motioning her over.

"No, don’t," Jenna argues. "No offense, but I’d prefer to be away from that smell." She clamps her nose.

Rachel turns, a pained look on her face, and pretends to be very interested in our daisy-patterned curtains. But her curiosity in the laptop gets the better of her, and she soon approaches again.

"Hey!" Brianna says sharply, tossing her dark hair and wrinkling her nose. "I thought Jenna got the message to you about your smell."

For a second, tears glisten at the corners of Rachel’s eyes. But then she swiftly rubs her eyes and squares her shoulders, recomposing herself. "I don’t smell bad. Just because I’m poor doesn’t mean I smell bad."

"You don’t? Then why does this place suddenly feel like the inside of a sewer?" Brianna laughs meanly.

"You guys," Rachel says, her voice sounding slightly strained. "Stop being so rude. You never even bothered to introduce yourselves to me properly. Milli’s just as much my friend as yours, and you have no right to treat me like this." She stops to stare Brianna in the eye. "I know this is just because I’m poor. Well, imagine this – if one day your parents suddenly lost their jobs as doctors or lawyers or supermodels or whatever else, what would happen to your huge mansions then? What would you do?"

I’m silently cheering for Rachel. Brianna seems to be intimidated, but Jenna’s eyes are flashing furiously. She steps up to Rachel (not seeming to be bothered by Rachel’s supposed stench) and leans over her so that she towers frighteningly over her. Brianna hovers behind Rachel, preventing her from escaping.

"Well, imagine this," Jenna says mockingly. "What if you were stealing the best friend of the most popular girl in school? And she wanted you to leave and not bother her anymore? And you knew that your friend was only pretending to like you because she feels sorry for you ‘cause you’re such a stinky, dirty street-kid loser? What would you do?"

Rachel’s no longer even trying to hold her tears back. They pour freely down her face, staining her cheeks. "I can’t imagine how you ever got to be the most popular girl in school," she says, but her voice is weak, muffled by loud sobs and sniffles. All my so-called friends do is just stand there, grinning evilly. I can no longer hold in my rage at them.

"What is wrong with you guys?" I burst out. "Why can’t you just leave her alone? Rachel may not have a permanent home, but she is not a stinky, dirty street kid! She’s just the same as you! No, actually, she is much, much better than you! At least she’s loyal – which is more than I can say for you two, who dump me just because of what thought gets into your silly little minds! Rachel is my friend – my true-blue friend – and nothing you can say or do will change that!" Having run out of breath, I grab Rachel’s arm and glare at my ex-best friends.

"Okay, then," Jenna says, smiling. "So you’re choosing the poor girl over us, then? Well, fine. It’s not like we need you in our clique anyway – you can easily be replaced. ‘Bye." She and Brianna march out the door with a final disdaining sniff at us.

That leaves me and Rachel standing awkwardly in my living room. Rachel’s dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. All of a sudden, she wraps her arms around me tightly. "Thank you, Milli."

I hug her back, thinking how relieving it is to have that over and done with. It is unfortunate – after all, now I’ll have no friends at all at school tomorrow. But I’ve realized that these girls are not the kind of friends I want. And now I don’t have to hide the details of my friendship with Rachel from anyone. I can completely focus on what – and who – is really important.

"No problem," I say. "Now, want to keep brainstorming for our fundraiser?"

I'll be back with Chapter 9!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chapter 7 - Rachel

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


Excitement and nervousness are intertwining in my stomach like two oppositely coloured threads. I’m impatient to see how the sale will turn out, but on the other hand, I dread it. What if no one comes? What if we never make any money? What if the shelter remains in its old, crumbling, rundown state forever?

I try to block out the pessimistic thoughts creeping into my mind and eventually manage to convince myself that it’s all going to be fine. Our hot chocolate and our treats look delicious, and we’ve done a fairly good job of spreading the word. I’m still our business, if not booming, will be respectably good.

I stroll up to Milli’s house to see Milli standing by the door, perched on her toes as if waiting for me. She swings the door open, shivering in the rush of cold. "Come in!" she says pleasantly.

In Milli’s living room, the oak coffee table is filled corner to corner with treats. There are fluffy vanilla cupcakes with pink icing swirled perfectly around their tops. Giant cookies with rainbows of multicoloured Smarties arranged in pretty designs around them. Maria’s famous cream cheese brownies, jazzed up with thick chocolate frosting. And in the very centre, steaming hot chocolate piled high with fat marshmallows. It all looks so delicious. I can hardly believe just two teenage girls, one of them homeless, made them.

Milli rushes over and takes her place behind a smaller wooden desk with a colourful marker-drawn sign reading "Pay Here" hanging from it and two plastic bowls sitting on it. One holds various coins, the other is empty. "For change and the money we collect," she explains.

Oh, yes. I haven’t been involved in buying or selling anything in the longest time. I’ve almost forgotten how that stuff works.

Our first customer is a silver Nissan driven by a grandmother-like elderly lady. She bustles up to the coffee table and inspects the treats, smiling.

"My, my, my," she says. "Aren’t these treats delicious-looking? You girls did such a good job. I wonder which one I should try first. Hm, hm, hm." She wanders around the table, peering at the treats looking as proud as if she made them.

"Who’s that?" I whisper to Milli.

"Mrs. Johnson," Milli responds. "She goes to our church. Mom made a point of telling everyone at church about the bake sale on Sunday. And I mean everyone."

Sure enough, in minutes the driveway is flooded with cars. They fill it from corner to corner and pour out onto the street. Milli and I share a grin and I silently thank Maria for spreading the word so well.

People crowd into the house, talking and laughing. A young man buys a brownie, two little girls buy cupcakes and Mrs. Johnson takes one of almost everything. And everyone takes a piping hot cup of hot chocolate. Everyone says our food is awesome, and the second bowl is growing fuller and fuller. I feel happier than ever.

But then a chubby little boy enters, clutching his skinny mother’s hand. "Gimme chocolate!" he yells, breaking free of his mother’s grip and descending on the table of treats.

"Sam, no!" the woman yells, trying to restrain him. But Sam’s already grabbed a cookie and a cupcake and has stuffed them into his mouth, his fat cheeks bulging like a chipmunk’s. He leans over the table for more, his sweatshirt pooling in a cup of hot chocolate.

Milli dashes over to Sam’s side but not until after he’s already upturned the cup. Hot chocolate spills onto the table, soaking some of the treats. The cup lands in one of the cupcakes, forming a dent in its flawless icing swirl. Meanwhile, Sam’s snatching more and more treats from the side of the table untouched by the spilled hot chocolate. All me and Milli can do is stand and watch as all our hopes of a successful sale are dashed to pieces.

Sam’s mother eventually (amazingly, I think, considering his size) gets hold of Sam. Looking angry, she plunks a five-dollar bill down on the table ("I’m sorry, girls, that’s all I got") and marches out the door, holding her son by the collar.

When all of the other customers have left too, Milli and I are left to stand surveying the wreck. Hot chocolate is dripping from the table and half of our once beautiful treats are ruined.

"I guess we should see which treats we can salvage and throw out the rest," Milli says weakly.

I nod and grab a piece of paper towel from a dispenser to clean up the mess. It turns out that the only treats ruined are all of the cupcakes, some of the butter tarts and one cookie which Sam only ate half of. So it’s better than I thought it was. But we’re still going to be behind in profits.

I hear the sound of a car engine in the driveway and get excited for a second. But it’s not a customer, it’s just Maria returning from grocery shopping. She hoists the bags into the house and drops them on the kitchen table, then comes to us. "How’s it going, girls?"

Milli and I glance at each other and sigh. Milli sadly describes to Maria the situation with Sam.
"Oh, that’s unfortunate," Maria says sympathetically. She heads back into the kitchen and starts unloading groceries. I notice two packages of chocolate cupcakes topped with red and green sprinkles.

"That’s for my women’s group," Maria explains. "We’re having a special Christmas meeting on Thursday. We really only need one package, but I bought two just for a special treat. But now I’m wondering if I bought too many..."

Milli walks over to her mom, picks up the package and says something to her mom in a hushed tone. Maria taps her chin and finally hands the package to Milli, who struts into the living room proudly.

"She let us have the package!" Milli announces loudly. "Now we have cupcakes!"

I smile doubtfully. "But since this is a bake sale, shouldn’t we only sell baked goods?"

"Oh, they’ll never know," Milli says. "And besides, it’s for a good cause."

I’m still a little hesitant, but I go along. Milli takes the packaging off and places the cupcakes where the ruined cupcakes once were, and we sit back–me on a couch and Milli on a chair behind the desk–and wait for customers.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait–until both of us are twiddling our thumbs impatiently. It’s almost noon, and no one has come since the church people left at 10:00 or so.

"Are we going to have more business?" I moan.

"I think so. Our posters must’ve helped," Milli reassures me, but she doesn’t sound confident.
I lean back and prepare myself to wait some more, praying that Milli is right about us having more customers.

And we do–a woman in a slim black pantsuit. Her scarlet lips are pressed together. She looks grumpy.

"Somebody told me about a bake sale set up by a couple of little girls," she says disdainfully. "I doubted that they could do it all by themselves. Well, we’ll just see."

I glance at Milli, who has the same fearful look in her eyes.

She peers scornfully at the carpet, which has a hot chocolate stain on it. "You children certainly don’t win any points for cleanliness."

The lady grabs a cupcake from the table and cautiously nibbles at it. Milli and I wait, our breath held.

All of a sudden, she scowls and tosses the cupcake down on the floor.

"What’s wrong?" I say cautiously. "Is the cupcake not good?"

"It’s not that," she says, glaring at me. "They’re store bought! I saw these at the grocery store yesterday!" She storms up to us, her face purple. "Call this a bake sale? You girls are dishonest! You shouldn’t be allowed in charge of anything, let alone a whole bake sale!" She points a finger at me. "And you, miss: your appearance is absolutely atrocious! Geez, if you want to run a bake sale, you should take enough time to brush your hair and put on some nice clothes! I’m telling everyone I meet NOT to come here! And I’m NOT paying!" She storms out without looking back.

Milli and I shudder. "Whoa," Milli says, "she’s uptight. And rude! Why didn’t she take into account that you might not even be able to afford clean clothes?"

But I don’t care about that. I only care about whether or not that woman is true to her word. Will she really tell everyone about our bad service?

Apparently so, because no one comes the whole rest of the day. Not a single soul. By 3 pm, Milli is looking discouraged and I’m close to tears. I wonder if we should just start eating the treats ourselves.

Still, we keep waiting. Watching. Hoping. But the minutes stretch into hours, and still we sit there.

Maria, who’s been busy the whole day, finally comes in to check on us. "You should probably shut down now, girls," she says kindly.

"Good!" Milli snaps, gathering things from the table.

"Why, Milli!" Maria scolds. "Why are you so grouchy?"

Milli doesn’t say anything but just glares. I fill in for her: "We-we didn’t have much business."

"Oh no!" Maria gasps. "Just because of what that boy did?"

I shake my head sadly and tell her about the mean woman.

"Oh, that’s too bad," Maria says sympathetically, putting her hands on our shoulders. "How much did you make?"

I hadn’t even thought about that, I was too busy thinking about the negative side of things. (Yes, I can be a pessimist.) Milli’s already counting up the bills. "$9.55."

"Well, that’s good!" Maria says. "Congratulations."

That’s not my idea of "good", considering it’ll take us to rebuild the shelter.

Suddenly, I realize how stupid we’ve been. To think that people would actually go out of their way to come to our bake sale in the dead of winter. No wonder we didn’t make much money–if it weren’t for Maria, we wouldn’t have made any.

I say goodbye to Milli and her mom and trudge out the door, sadly. How are we ever going to achieve our goal?

Keep waiting for Chapter 8!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter 6 - Milli

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


It’s getting harder and harder to think of Rachel as a poor person. When I look at her, I no
longer see her pale face, her stringy hair, or her torn and tattered clothes. Instead, I see a kind and caring person who likes the same kind of music as me. I see my friend.

That’s why, after we’ve both devoured our scrumptious cream cheese brownies, I immediately tug Rachel’s hand and say, "Let’s go outside."

Rachel just stands there.

"What?" I say, slightly annoyed.

"I–I’d rather not," she mutters. "It’s cold."

"It’s not..." Then I remember that Rachel has no hat, no gloves, and only a thin, worn fall jacket. "You can borrow some of my winter clothes," I say, embarrassed.

"Sure," Rachel says, not looking mad. I run and get her a purple fuzzy hat, matching purple fuzzy gloves, and a purple-and-blue fuzzy coat. I outgrew them a year ago, but they should fit Rachel, who’s a little shorter.

Once we’re both bundled up, we run outside to the beautiful untouched field of snow that sparkles like diamonds. We flop down in it. Our arms and legs windmill back and forth, bumping into each other. We jump away at the same time and admire the perfect angel-shaped holes in the snow, their hands blending together, as if they’re clasping each other.

"Let’s make a fort," Rachel says, picking up a clump of snow and getting down on her hands and knees to roll it. When the one ball reaches a good size, she rolls another, and stacks it on top of the first one. "C’mon, Milli. Help me here."

I start rolling my own snowballs, two at once to move more quickly. Rachel copies me, and pretty soon we have a good-sized snow pillar. I place another snowball a couple of metres away from the first one to start a new pillar.

"Hey, hey, hey!" Rachel yells. "Don’t cover the snow angels! We want to preserve them as a token of our friendship!"

"Sorry," I say sheepishly, moving the ball.

"Now there’s a weird circle in the middle of my angel!" Rachel says, frantically (and jokingly) jabbing her finger at the snow angels. She picks up a lump of snow, shapes it into a ball
–and, instead of placing it on the fort, lobs it at me.

"Hey!" I shriek. "You cruel girl! You ruined my beautiful coat! Do you know how much that cost me? Prepare for sweet revenge!" Grinning, I throw a snowball back in her direction.

Rachel dodges, and the ball only grazes her side. "Sweet revenge, eh?" she teases. More snow explodes on my coat. Some of it slips down into my boots, wetting my socks. Ugh. I hate that feeling.

"Look! It’s Justin Bieber!" I yell, because one thing Rachel and I have in common is that we both have major celeb crushes on Justin Bieber. When Rachel’s turned around, frantically scanning the area and saying, "Where? Where?" I grab a handful of snow and pour it down Rachel’s coat.

Rachel whirls around instantly, glaring. "What, you dirty trickster!" She picks up bunches of snow and sprinkles it over herself, so she’s covered in it. "I am the Abominable Snowman! I will eat you alive!"

"Aieee!" I scream, pretending to be scared. I run away, knocking over the pillar we built, and stamping the snow angels into oblivion. (So much for a token of our friendship. Oh well, the snow would’ve melted soon anyway.) I finally trip and plunge headfirst into the fluffy white snow, my hat falling off and landing somewhere beside me. Rachel lands on top of me, giggling.

Mom’s voice calls from the porch. "Girls, I’m glad you’re having a good time, but I think it’s time to come in now."

"Aw, Mooom," I pretend-whine. Rachel’s already untangled herself from me and is tramping up the stairs. Snow flies everywhere.

"You girls!" Mom laughs. "What are you, snow monsters?"

"No, but close," Rachel says, smiling mysteriously.

I grin and head inside, shaking the snow from my clothes. It’s been a long time since I’ve made snow angels or had a snowball fight. Me and my friends usually spend winter recesses perched on the bleachers, looking cool and keeping dry. And I love acting crazy and immature and just having a good time like this. My friends’ favourite ways to have fun include laughing at that guy’s ugly sweater or how that girl’s wearing too much makeup.

"Want to go up to your room?" Rachel asks, once we’ve both taken off our winter clothes. "We can spill secrets."

Okay, that’s more the kind of activity I’m used to doing with my friends. I lead Rachel up the carpeted stairs to the upstairs storey. "Just be warned–my bedroom’s a bit of a disaster area. Mom usually makes me clean it up once a week, but lately she’s been slacking off."

Rachel doesn’t seem to mind the messiness of my room. Instead, she looks around, taking in everything–the fancy white canopy bed with its fluffy pillows, the celebrity posters on the walls, the magazines tossed on the floor, the rack of CD’s–with awe. Poor girl. She’s really lost track of what a normal life looks like.

"Who should spill their secret first?" Rachel asks.

"You go," I say.

"No, you go," Rachel urges.

"Oh, all right." After all, I already know what I’m going to say. It’s embarrassing, though. I’m chewing my lip–I really need to stop doing that.

"Spit it out," Rachel tells me.

"Uh–okay. But mine’s really embarrassing."

"Yay!" Rachel teases. "I love embarrassing. Go on."

"Well, my name..."


"It isn’t short for Millicent."

"Well then, what is it short for."

"Uh, Mildred."

Rachel stares at me for a second, then her face contorts and she bursts out laughing. "Mildred? I know old ladies named Mildred!"

I bury my head in my hands. "I know. I hate my name. I was named after my dead great-aunt. My friends have never let me live it down ever since they found out."

Rachel laughs some more. "Mildred. Ha, ha. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be talking, considering what my middle name is."

"Ooh, what is it?"

Rachel hangs her head. "Must I tell you."

"Well, I told you mine."

"Oh, okay. Gertrude."

"Gertrude?" I shriek. "That’s even worse than my name?"

"Yeah, but it’s my middle name, not my first name like yours."

"True, Gertrude."

"You know it, Mildred."

There is a stony silence. I decide this is the time to bring up an issue that’s been nagging at me all day.

"Gertrude?" I say hesitantly. Rachel nods me on, so I continue. "Have you ever noticed how rundown the Oak Street Shelter is?"

"Yeah," Rachel says frowning. "I mean, at this point I’m happy just to have a warm place to sleep. But it’s a little bit–I don’t know–depressing to see all that dirt and grime everywhere."

"So, I was thinking..."–I pause for effect–"that the city should rebuild it."

"Yeah, they should," Rachel agrees. "But they don’t. I think they have more important matters to deal with than helping people who don’t have a home." I detect a tinge of sarcasm in her voice, and I feel guilty as I realize that was how I used to act.

But that was then and this is now, and I’ve changed. "Well, I think we should get the message out," I say determinedly.

"Yeah, good idea," says Rachel. "Except...what if they don’t want to listen to a couple of kids?"

"They will," I say, hoping I sound more confident than I feel.

"I don’t know," Rachel says. "I think you should ask your mom first. She’s probably an expert on this kind of stuff."

I don’t really want to–must I ask my mom permission before every important decision?–but Rachel urges me downstairs, giving me little taps on the shoulder to keep me plodding down the steps. When we’ve reached the bottom, Rachel gestures toward Mom. I move a few steps closer to her and she turns around, smiling.

"Yes, girls? How can I help you?

I describe the plan to Mom, with Rachel guiding me, telling me what to say. (It’s a little annoying, actually.) When I’m finished (and can finally breathe again) Mom’s face breaks into the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a human being before. The corners are practically touching her face.

"I’m so glad that you’ve finally taken an interest in improving the life conditions of others," she says, still grinning. "You’ve changed so much–in a positive way–since you met Rachel."

But then her smile fades, to be replaced by a worried glance. "But, girls, while your cause is very admirable, it will cost thousands of dollars to implement. The city just doesn’t have that kind of money., considering that most of it goes into health care and education and environmental issues. And, of course, their own selfish purposes." For a second she sports the same bitter look that Rachel had. "I’m sorry, girls, but I’m just not sure..."

I glance at Rachel, whose eyebrows seem to insinuate "I told you so". But I won’t give up that easily.

"Then we’ll raise the money," I say confidently.

Rachel’s staring at me, like "Have you gone insane?"

"Don’t you see?" I persist. "If we raise the money, they’ll have to say yes. It’s perfect."

"Yeah, but..." Rachel tries to say, but Mom cuts her off.

"That’s a great idea! I love to see this kind of determination in a young person, especially in my own daughter! Go for it!"

Rachel still looks a little doubtful, but she goes along with my idea of holding a bake sale. In fact, she even looks excited. "I love baking!"

"Then you’ll love this!" I say enthusiastically. "We’ll make lots of scrumptious treats, and maybe some yummy hot chocolate, and make awesome posters, and charm everybody with our natural beauty, and make tons of money for the brand-new and improved homeless shelter! It’ll rock!" I spin my arms in the air and almost fall over.

"Okay, okay," Rachel says, grabbing my arm to steady me. "Calm down and let’s get to work."
We start sketching out the posters on a piece of poster board. As I work, I think about how I can’t wait for the day when we wrap up the hot chocolate sale and whatever else we’re doing to raise money, and the new homeless shelter finally starts getting built! It’ll help those people so much to have a clean, spacious place to stay. I’m finally starting to see why my mom takes so much pleasure in helping others.

Chapter 7 is coming!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter 5 - Rachel

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


It’s strange how quickly feelings can change. Just an hour ago, I was angry and jealous that Milli was having fun with my little sister. I was dreading spending an hour with her. But now I’m actually thinking about her in a friendly way.

I can’t believe I once thought Milli was a snob. She’s been going through kind of the same things as me. We can help each other through the tough times.

I hover by the front foyer, watching Milli and her mom zip up their coats. I don’t want Milli to go. But she’s turning and trudging down the snow-covered stairs (a fresh load of snow fell last night) with only a smile and a wave to me.

Just as she’s about to close the door that will separate me and my family from the rest of the world–just like in real life–she turns around in the doorframe, resting her elbows on either side of it. She doesn’t close the door, so a rush of cold air streams in, making me shiver in my T-shirt.
But the next words that come out of her mouth make me forget all about the cold. "D’ya want to come over to my house for a sleepover?" she says casually, like she asks this to homeless people all the time.

I, on the other hand, am having trouble keeping calm. "Really?" I stutter. "M-me? T-tonight?"

"Sure," Milli says, placing her hand lightly on my shoulder. "Why not? My mom won’t mind."

"I’ll go ask my mom," I say, still finding it hard to believe that rich, popular Milli wants to hang out with me, the poster child for poverty and invisibility. Maybe she really doesn’t. Maybe, when I get back from asking permission, Milli will laugh meanly and tell me that it was all a big joke. That, despite my comforting her in the games room, she doesn’t know why she’d ever want to be friends with a homeless freak.

Mom seems to share my worries. She is naturally suspicious of all "regular" people, even though we used to be some of them ourselves. She furrows her brows. "Do you know this Milli girl?"

"Yes, Mom," I sigh. "She came with her mom to volunteer a couple times, maybe you saw her? She’s really nice." At least, I hope so.

Mom glances at Allie, who’s trailing along after her. "She is," Allie insists. "We played together and she showed me her cell phone. It’s awesome!"

"Oh, all right," Mom says reluctantly. "Just be safe, okay? And we’re going to stay at the shelter, so keep the phone number with you." She produces a scrap of paper and a stub of a pencil from her pocket and hurriedly jots a number down.

I grab the piece of paper from her hand and stuff it in my own pocket, rushing down the hall. Though I’m filled with excitement, a tiny bit of nervousness is pushing against my ribs, threatening to grow bigger. What if it really is a joke?

But when I arrive back in the foyer and grab my jacket, Milli hustles me outside into the chilly air and then into the backseat of the sedan. Both Milli and her mom are smiling kindly. That’s when I know this is the real deal.

It feels so strange to back in a car again. To run my hand over the slightly ripped leather seats and feel the seatbelt straps pressing into my skin. I haven’t done it in almost a year.

And when Maria powers up the engine and we cruise onto the busy roads, I feel almost like a regular person again. When I point this out to Maria, she says, "Why, Rachel, you always were a regular person!" These people are nice.

"Turn on the radio," Milli says, slouching down in her seat. Maria hits a button, and instantly soft music fills the car. I recognize the song immediately.

"Yesterday," I say with a smile. "The Beatles."

"Yep," Milli says. Her face is red as a tomato and she’s chewing her lip (which seems to be her nervous habit for everything). "Please don’t make fun of me for liking old-time music. My whole family listens to this kind of stuff."

I reach over and pat Milli on the shoulder. "Don’t be embarrassed, Milli. I like the Beatles, too." Another thing I have in common with Milli. Maybe we’re more alike than we thought.

Milli and I chat about everything–the Beatles, our other favourite artists, whether or not we can sing (me yes, Milli no) and our hobbies–until the car suddenly swerves and pulls into a well-shoveled gravel driveway. A rush of nostalgia goes through me as I look at the two-story white-and-beige house with large, airy windows and bikes in the driveway. It’s just like the house me and my family used to own.

Going into the house does nothing to quench my feeling of sadness. Everything–the large, plushy couches, the TV, the computer, the attractive oak shelves–remind me of the way things used to be. Before the fighting, before the eviction, before the hopeless poverty. The worst thing of all is the seven-foot-tall pine tree strung with multicoloured lights and cutesy ornaments that are probably Milli’s old school crafts. Just like our old one. I have to scrunch up my eyes to keep from crying.

Milli sees me and squeezes my hand. "Don’t be upset, Rachel," she says gently. "Focus on what you have now instead of what you lost."

"What do I have now?" I ask, my eyes popping open.

"Why, me, of course," she laughs. "And one of my mom’s famous cream cheese brownies –I think." She puts her elbows on the counter and leans toward Maria, who is putting away dishes. "Mom, you wouldn’t happen to have saved any brownies, would you?"

"Hmm, let’s see." Maria opens a cupboard and produces a clear bin. "We have two left. I thought you and I could eat them together sometime."

Milli taps her chin. "Hmm. While under ordinary circumstances that would have been an excellent plan, you couldn’t possibly think of leaving out my very good friend Rachel, could you?"

Maria laughs kindly. "Of course, girls. While the brownies are delicious, if I do say so myself, I’m more than happy to make sacrifices. I’ll even go the extra distance and throw in some orange pop as well." She grabs two plates and two cups she was about to put back in the cupboard and gets to work.

I feel warmer and happier than I have in a very long while. It’s not just because of the brownies, though they are delicious–warm, chocolatey, and just a little cheesy. But more than that, Milli’s words are still doing joyful cartwheels in my mind. "Why, me, of course." "My very good friend." Also, our conversations, our laughter, the way we comfort each other when we’re feeling down. All of these things add up to this feeling of being loved and accepted–of friendship.

Don't go anywhere--Chapter 6 is coming not too late!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chapter 4 - Milli

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


I’m starting to think I made a mistake deciding to come back to the homeless shelter with Mom. I figured I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t text with my friends because Jenna had somehow gotten the impression that I skipped out on her party on purpose (even though I explained to her numerous times that my mom forced me to) and she’d turned everyone against me. Coming to the shelter would at least be more interesting than lazing around at home watching snoozeworthy news programs or kiddy cartoons (Mom refused to let us get cable, so there was never anything good on) or (horror of horrors) working on homework. Plus, it made Mom happy to see that her daughter was "finally taking an interest in sacrificing spare time for the good of those not as well off as us" (those were her exact words). So, it seemed to be a win-win situation. But I might have been wrong.

Sure, it was kind of fun at first. That little girl, Allie, is adorable. She seemed to think my iPhone was the greatest thing in existence. Poor thing.

But her sister, Rachel–I don’t know what her deal is, but she certainly isn’t very friendly. Maybe poverty has made her antisocial. Well, I have no tolerance for antisocial people, no matter what the situation.

And now Mom is making me spend a whole hour with her.

"This is a great chance for you," Mom says, a huge grin frozen on her face. Her teeth are slightly yellow and there’s something lodged between two of them, which makes me think she forgot to brush her teeth in her eagerness to get to the shelter. Or maybe she’s just trying to give off the false impression that she’s like the poor people to make them feel more comfortable around her.
"You can get to know a new friend just your age and get introduced to the way people in other social classes live." Mom studies my face, which a slight look of disgust must have sneaked onto. "Why are you looking at me like that? You’re not reluctant to meet these people just because they’re poor, are you?"

"No," I mutter. It’s true–I might have been reluctant once, but not anymore. I’ve learned that some poor people can actually be quite friendly and fun–Allie, for instance. It’s just this poor person I don’t want to meet. And I really wish Mom would stop bringing up the "just-your-age" thing. Yes, Rachel’s just my age, but that doesn’t mean we have anything in common or that we’re going to like each other.

Mom turns the doorknob to the games room, which we’re supposed to spend this hour of torture in. Like every other room in the shelter, the games room is small and cramped. There are no shelves, so sloppy piles of thousand-year-old board games lean against the walls, which pale yellow wallpaper is peeling off of. A black-and-white television stands on a worm-eaten table. Thinning beige mats are placed at random spots on the wood floor. The only thing in relatively good shape is the foosball table, which Rachel is now standing at, one hand controlling the red guys and one controlling the blue guys, making them kick the little rubber ball back and forth. When Rachel’s on the red guys, I grab a blue knob and twist, flicking the tiny soccer ball as far as I can.

"So that’s what you want to do, girls? Have fun," Mom says breezily, that stupid smile still plastered on her face. She backs out the door, giving us a tiny wave. When she shuts the door, I am left all alone, abandoned, with no one but Rachel to keep me company.

"Hi," Rachel says flatly, shooting the ball toward my side of the table.

"Hi," I repeat, shooting it back.

Awkward silence. Nothing can be heard except the sound of the ball being flicked back and forth. After stopping one of my kicks, Rachel stays still, clutching the knobs, a blank stare on her face.

"Go on," I urge.

Rachel does, and so quickly that it takes me by surprise. There’s no way to stop the shot as it whizzes effortlessly down the "field" and into the little hole at my end. She smiles slightly.


I just stare. What makes this girl so good?

"My dad used to play with me," she says, answering my unasked question. "He taught me lots of strategies."

"My dad used to play with me, too," I respond. "Until..."

Before I can finish my sentence, a lump grows in my throat, and I fall to the ground. Tears seep out of my eyes, soaking the mat beneath me. Loud sobs escape my throat, and my nose starts to run. I have never lost control like this–not when I first heard my dad died, not at the funeral, never. It’s a strange feeling. Only two thoughts run through my mind–"He’s dead he’s dead he’s dead" and "This is so embarrassing. A non-emotional type like myself, freaking out in front of a poor person?"

But Rachel doesn’t laugh. She just hovers over me, saying "Are you okay?"

I say nothing but keep sobbing uncontrollably. He’s dead he’s dead he’s dead...The cold reality of it is sinking in for the first time.

Rachel kneels beside me and places her hand on my shoulder. "Are you okay?" she repeats.

"M-m-m," I stutter. "M-my d-dad d-d-died." Even saying the words is painful.

Rachel gasps, then recomposes herself and puts her arms around me. I first resist, but then succumb to her comforting touch and sob on her shoulder.

When I feel all cried out, Rachel yanks me up to my full length. "Are you okay?" she says a third time.

"Yeah, I think so," I croak, wiping my eyes and nose on my sleeve. I know how gross that is, but Rachel doesn’t care.

"I lost my dad, too, you know," Rachel tells me, and there’s a sad tinge to her voice. "He walked out on us. And then my mom lost her job, and then...well, you know."

I put my arm around her and suddenly feel better. Here is someone who’s been through much the same troubles as me. Maybe we can lift each other out of these hard times.

"I don’t think I want to play foosball anymore," says Rachel weakly, sinking down onto a mat.

"Me neither," I say, sinking down beside her.

Once again there is silence for a few minutes. But this is a different kind of silence. The silence before was awkward, strange, unfriendly. This is melancholy but relaxing and comforting. It’s the kind of silence I think real friends share. (Not me and my friends–we’re almost never silent.) Before long, my tears have dried up, and I feel ready to speak again.

"Funny that our dads both played foosball with us," I remark.

"Yeah," Rachel says, a small, sad smile playing on her lips. "I mean, most dads play soccer or football–but foosball?"

"It’s kind of dorky," I say, giggling.

Rachel giggles too, with exactly the same pitch. "Yeah. My dad is a dork." She doesn’t say was.

"Mine is, too," I say, also not saying was. "I miss him."

And we dissolve into quiet laughter. The laughter has a little bit of sadness to it–after all, our dads leaving us (one on purpose, one not) isn’t funny. At all. But it’s oddly comforting to think about the good times we shared instead of the pain of losing him. Unlike the laughter with my current friends, which feels kind of forced and unreal to me, this is true laughter. And maybe–could it be?–the start of a budding friendship.

Come back tomorrow to read Chapter 5!