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Stories by Laura Lagana
My Best Friend

Grandma’s shout startled me from slumber. I almost fell out of bed, but caught myself before hitting the floor. Too bad I was too sleepy to notice the blanket tangled around my legs. I tripped; bounced off my sister’s bed, landing face first onto the floor. Lucky for me, the carpet cushioned my fall.

Grandma stood in the doorway, trying to hold back her muffled laughter. “Are you hurt?”

“Naw. I’m okay,” I said, struggling to my feet.

“Good. Now wake your sister, and get dressed. I want to be on the road by 5:00 A.M. sharp.”

“It’s five in the morning?” I grumbled while nudging Mary. “Is any normal person even awake this early?”

“What--?” Mary rolled onto her side, ignoring my prodding.

“Get up,” I said. “Grandma wants us to hurry.”

“Can’t. Too tired.” Mary’s eyelids closed, a faint snore came from her mouth.

“Get…up…now!” I shouted into her ear.

She jerked awake and accidentally kicked my stomach. “Ouch. You hurt my foot,” said Mary.

I clutched my middle. “You hurt me too. Now get up. Grandma’s waiting.”

We raced for the bathroom. Being older by three years, my legs were longer, so I reached the bathroom first. In record time I brushed my teeth and combed my hair before opening the bathroom door. Startled by Mary, who held her doll, I jerked back.

"Sorry," I mumbled as I left the bedroom to join Grandma in the kitchen to enjoy a plate of bacon and eggs waited for me at the kitchen table. Several minutes later, Mary joined us. She set her doll, Miss Beasley, on the chair next to her while we ate breakfast in silence. Since I wasn't a morning person, the silence was fine by me. Once finished, Mary and I washed our plates and headed out to the car.

Grandma joined us after locking the front door behind her.

"I get the front seat," I called before Mary could.

"No! That's not fair. What about me?"

"Neither of you are riding in the front seat. We’re going to pick up my friend Elizabeth who is keeping me company during the long drive," said Grandma.

I glared long and hard at Mary as I buckled my seat belt. "You ruin everything," I whispered.

"What did I do?"

“You had to whine about not sitting in the front seat. I would have shared... eventually."  Mary buckled her seatbelt. "I'm sorry." She clutched Miss Beasley to her chest and stared through the passenger window, into the darkness.

After picking up Grandma’s friend Elizabeth, we were finally on the road. My dad was in the military and had received Orders to move to Louisiana. My sister and I spent the summer with Grandma while my parents moved earlier to set up the house. I was angry about moving, about leaving my friends, leaving my school. Hours passed in misery, one by one. The sun rose in the sky, heating the inside of the air-conditioned car, while sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Farmlands gave way to the flatlands of Kansas and eventually the lush green hills of Missouri.

It was late afternoon when Grandma drove the station wagon through the Ozark Mountains. By now, Mary and I were hot, tired, and sweating on the vinyl seat. I cringed as I lifted my leg off the seat, but my skin stuck to the plastic.

I glanced at Mary, who shared my mystery. She held her doll while I reached for my Barbie.

Mary, bored by many long, dull hours with nothing to do, grabbed my Barbie from my bag before I could. "Looking for this?"

I narrowed my gaze on Mary’s evil grin. "You know it is. Now give her to me."

"But I want to play with her."

"You got Miss Beasley, so give…me…my…doll!"



"Think you can take it from me?"

I launched across the seat as Mary held my Barbie doll out of the car window.

“Look Caitlin, Barbie can do gymnastics." Mary tossed my doll into the air and tried to catch it, but she did not count on the fact that we were barreling down the side of a mountain with 60 mph winds. Barbie didn't stand a chance.

A shriek of outrage burst from my lips and before I knew what I was doing, I yanked Miss Beasley away from Mary.

She yelled.  "Give her back!"


"What are you going to do with her?"

"She's joining Barbie!"

Tears ran down Mary’s rosy cheeks as she grabbed for her doll. “Please don’t kill Miss Beasley.”

Grandma’s shout from the front seat, broke into my haze of anger. "Caitlin! Get that doll from the window and give it back to your sister."

"But --"

"You heard me. Now give her back."

"But, Mary threw my doll out the window."

Mary’s voice croaked. "I didn't mean to. I'm pretty sure it just flew into the back of the station wagon with the luggage."

"Barbie can't fly! Besides, I saw her hair blowing past the window and her body rolling on the road behind us."

"You're wrong. She's in the back of the station wagon."

I turned in my seat and climb to the back, shoving aside the suitcases. "She's not here.  Your doll’s going out the window!"

"Sit back down Caitlin and stop threatening your sister," Grandma narrowed her gaze at me through the rear view mirror.

I choked on my tears. "Can we go back and find her?"

Grandma sighed. "No. I don't know where she fell."

"But I can look for her."

"We’re driving next to the edge of the mountain. I can't turn the car around."

"But why?" I wailed.

"Because…that's why."

"That's not good enough."

Grandma arched her eyebrow at me. "It's going to have to be, because we're not turning this car around."

I crossed my arms over my chest. "This move is the worst thing ever," I mumbled.

Elizabeth tried to console me. “We’ll get you another Barbie.”

“But it won’t be the same. That was my favorite Barbie.”

Elizabeth shrugged and turned back around in her seat while Mary turned away to avoid my accusing stare.

For the next hour I kept still while anger radiated from my body. Eventually the quiet wore down my resolve to give Mary the silent treatment. As I opened my mouth to speak, Grandma cut in.

"Hope you're hungry because were pulling over he eat."

"Cool," said Mary. "I'm starving and Miss Beasley’s hungry too."

I snorted. "She's a doll. She can't eat."

"Yes she can. Grandma! Caitlin said Miss Beasley can't eat real food."

Grandma grumbled as she opened my door and took me aside. "I know you're upset about your Barbie, but don't be mean to your sister. Believe it or not, she's the best friend you have and when you get older, you will be very happy to have her in your life." She put her arm around me, leading me into the restaurant to join Elizabeth and my pest of a sister. "Besides, I know she feels awful about losing your Barbie doll."

"Yeah, but she still has her doll. It's not fair."

"Life's not fair, but you'll learn that soon enough. Come on. Let's go eat.”

With a heavy heart, I joined the others at the table. The burger tasted like cardboard and stuck to the roof of my mouth. I washed it down with several sips of soda, but this did nothing to relieve the knot that formed in my stomach.

"Where are you going? Elizabeth looked up from her french-fries.

"The bathroom," I said as I headed toward the back of the restaurant. The smell of hot fries and burgers cooking on the grill, filled every corner of the room and normally I'd love that, but not today. I open the door; not paying much attention to my surroundings, when out of nowhere flew a giant grasshopper at my face. A bloodcurdling scream pierced the air and I frantically scrambled for the door.

Elizabeth and Grandma came running to my rescue, but too late, the grasshopper had touched me. Black spots appeared before my eyes.

Elizabeth caught the offending bug and tossed it through the window, much to my relief. She patted my arm. "Are you okay?"

I gasped for air to fill my oxygen starved lungs. "Yeah…I think so."

Grandma grunted. "We're going back to the table. Try not to scare us to death again."

I nodded and clutched my heart with my fist. Once Elizabeth and Grandma left, I tentatively opened the bathroom stall door. I finished and was about to button my shorts when the all familiar buzzing of the enemy made me stiffened with fear. The grasshopper had returned, but this time I was prepared. Another scream and frantic flailing of my arms distracted the bug for a moment, but only a moment. I ran from the bathroom with the evil creature hot on my trail, but I forgot one thing. In my haste to escape, I didn’t finish buttoning in my shorts, and they tripped me as the cloth wrapped around my legs. I crashed to the ground with a stream of toilet paper clinging to my shoe. Could this be any worse? Apparently so, because the other people in the restaurant laughed at my tangled body and the grasshopper landed on me anyway. I fainted.

Several minutes later, I felt a gentle shove on my shoulder.

"Are you okay?" Mary stared at me with her frightened blue eyes.

"Yeah," I said as I struggled to my feet, "but I just realized how much I hate bugs."

A smile spread across my sister's face. "That was pretty funny the way you ran out of there screaming."

I chuckled. "It was, wasn't it?" Grabbing her shoulder for support, I whispered into her ear. "Can we keep this between us?"

She stared at Miss Beasley and then at me. "Sure."

As we finished the drive to Louisiana, I watched my sister holding her doll while she slept in the car. It dawned on me how nervous Mary was about moving to a new home too, but I only thought about my own misery. Dried ketchup clung to Miss Beasley's hair and I wiped away the clumps. Faint snores whispered from between Mary’s lips. I gently pulled her to my lap and placed a pillow under her head. I may not have Barbie anymore, but I had something even better... my sister.

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