Celeste Brighton had moved to Middlebrook from Kentucky. Blonde and willowy, she reminded Lora of a Barbie doll. 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 liked Celeste but was frustrated that her new companion was yet to say anything to indicate that they were best friends.
On a Tuesday morning in March, Lora made her way to Celeste’s house so that they could walk together. Celeste wasn’t waiting outside, so Lora sat in the Brighton’s porch swing and waited. Ten minutes later, Celeste’s mother opened to the door.
“Hi, Mrs. B. Is Celeste ready?”Mrs. Brighton’s eyes were red, her hair disheveled.
“Hon, Celeste won’t be going to school today. She’s feeling… a bit sick.””Oh. Well, is there anything I can do for her? Pick up her work?””That would be nice, dear. I’m sure she’d appreciate that. We both would.””No prob. Tell her I hope she feels better.”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 Mrs. Brighton crying? And why did she hesitate when she said Celeste was sick?
After 6th period, she hurried out of school, clutching Celeste’s work to her chest. She knocked on the Brighton’s front door. This time, Celeste opened the door. She was still in her pajamas and her eyes were red and swollen as Mrs. Brighton’s had been earlier.
“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. 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.””Oh.”
Both girls stood in awkward silence.
“Well, if you want you can come over later. I’ll fill you in on what you missed today. I can get mom to make us some cookies or something.”
“I may. I just don’t want to leave mom right now. That cool?””Yeah, cool. So, just let me know,” Lora said, handing Celeste the books and turning toward the steps.
“Thanks for the work.””It’s no problem,” Lora said without turning around.
“No, really, thank you. You’re such a great friend.”
As Lora walked down the front steps empty handed, the hint of smile spreading across her face.