I found the note crumpled up in the back of my jeans pocket when I got home from the club meeting that night. I don’t know why I held onto it. I usually don’t hold onto things like that. I’m not really sentimental or anything, you know? But this note was different, I guess.
As you and I grow up, we’ll have a lot of friends — and lots of things will change. But one thing can never change: you were my very first best friend.
I love you. Mary Anne.
I smiled despite myself.
I should explain all of this to you. I just don’t know where to start. I’m happy for Mary Anne. She’s my best friend, right? I’ve known her since we were in diapers. She wasn’t kidding in that note. She was my first best friend, and she’s still my best friend, even though she’s got another best friend, Dawn, whose mom’s marriage to Mary Anne’s dad is pretty much the bane of my existence right now. Can someone be best friends with someone who’s best friends with someone else? Are you as confused as I am?
I resolved to ask Watson or maybe Mom or Nannie. Watson would give me the logical businessman perspective, the I’m-a-CEO-of-a-Big-Company-and-I’m-a-Millionaire perspective, but Mom or Nannie could give me advice on the softer side. But... I’m Kristin Amanda Thomas. Since when do I do soft? I heard Cokie Mason talking about how mean and ugly I was in the girls’ room the other day and I really wanted to say something that would probably just make her sure she was right, but I bit my tongue. Until it bled. I told you I don’t do soft. (Or, if I do, it takes effort, like that did.)
I hopped off my bed and ran downstairs.
“Watson? Do you have a minute?”
As it turned out, Watson did have a moment, which was amazing, given how busy he usually is. Watson’s answers were straightforward and to the point, which is why I like talking to him. He said that I should just wait it out.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, this is going to fade down considerably once they move in together, I’d be willing to bet, were I a betting man. Mr. Spier and Mrs. Schafer are really different, as are Mary Anne and Dawn, and I think that it’s going to be harder than they think it will be to blend a family.” He glanced out the window at the tree where David Michael’s “NO PARKING” sign hung above a stack of toys that Emily Michelle had taken from Karen’s toy box. “Does it look easy to you?”
“Oh, believe me, I know.”
“Then you know that it takes time for everyone to become a happily blended family, right?”
“I hate that term. Blended. What, do they put us in a blender and think we’re going to turn into an amazing milkshake? I think our family's more like a banana split, where all the ingredients are separate but go pretty well together.”
Watson studied me for a long second and then smiled, laugh lines creasing. “Kristy, you are one smart cookie.”
“What about meeeeeeee?” a small, plaintive voice cried from the doorway.
I grinned. “Well, if I’m the cookie crumbs, Karen, then you’re definitely nuts!”
“Hey!” she protested, arms crossed.
“On the banana split, riiiiight?”
She stuck her tongue out at me and I ran after her, giggling, until we collapsed into a heap on the floor of the playroom. Watson poked his head in as we struggled to catch our breath. “Kristy, just remember: be a friend to both of your friends, okay? I have a feeling it’s not going to be easy for either of them.”
“Will do, sir.” I mock-saluted and Karen giggled some more. Watson smiled and left.
As it happened, Watson was right. I expected to console Mary Anne, which is why I invited her over, and when she arrived, she was full of stories about how awful it was to live in Dawn’s house and in Dawn’s room and with Dawn’s mom and Dawn Dawn Dawn Dawn... A tiny, shameful, secret part of me wanted to gloat, but that part of me was horrible and awful. I tried to shove that part deep back down. “Mary Anne, have you thought about moving out of Dawn’s room?”
“Kristy! It’s not Dawn’s room! It’s our room. No. She has to move first!”
“Mary Anne, I really don’t think that’s going to happen. Are you sure you don’t want to move? Sisters don’t have to share rooms, you know.”
“How would you know?! You’ve never had a sister.”
It felt like she had slapped me. “Well, by that definition, you don’t have one either, do you?” I said, trying as hard as I could not to raise my voice.
“No, I guess I don’t,” she said, her voice a mixture of anger and... relief? Sadness? I couldn’t tell. I had to act quickly before she started crying. I could see her lip trembling.
“Hey, let’s get back to the movie, okay? Here’s some popcorn.”
“Okay,” Mary Anne said. We watched the rest of The Wizard of Oz in silence.
I told you I'm no good at soft.
I was at my locker the next morning and I saw Dawn coming up. Crap, I thought. I knew it. I knew she’d seek me out. How was I supposed to do this?
“Kristy?” Dawn asked tentatively, like I was going to bite her or something. (Maybe Cokie was right?)
“Yeah? Oh, hi, Dawn,” I said, desperately trying to play it cool.
“Hi. … I need to talk to you.” She twirled a long strand of cornsilk-blonde hair around her finger nervously. All of a sudden, I had a Great Idea. I figured out what Watson meant! Here was my chance to reconcile everything.
“I thought you might.”
“Yup. I know what happened between you and Mary Anne last night.” And you’re really surprised? Come on now. You might not have been living with her long, but you’ve met her. Mary Anne talks incessantly to her friends when she’s worried.
“Oh,” she said to me, looking down.
“Listen, it’s okay. I’ve been through just what you’re going through, except that I never had to share a room with anyone.” I mentally added an eyeroll at Mary Anne’s thoughtless comment from the night before.
So, I talked to her, and we talked all the way through study hall. Dawn seemed really surprised that I was willing to tell her about what was going on with my family. It made me a little sad—was I really that walled off? I guess I am. I don’t know. I’m just not that good at talking about things. I talk a lot about a lot of stuff, but there are some things I don’t like to talk about and I guess this is one of them.
“Thanks, Kristy,” she said as we packed up our stuff for our next class. “I really appreciate this.”
“No problem,” I shrugged casually.
She looked down. “I hope this doesn’t insult you, but I thought you might not want to talk to me about this. I mean, because you’re really, um, a little closer to Mary Anne than to me.”
“Maybe, but you guys are best friends, too. Or at least you were, and I’m sure you will be again someday. Anyway, I wouldn’t want to see a great friendship dissolve, especially when my two good friends are part of it.” I leaned over and hugged her, and we walked to English class together.
I guess I can be soft if I want. Whatever works, right? Like Watson says, you have to use the right tools for the job. Plus, that hug was really nice. We should maybe do more group hugs in there with the pizza toasts. Just not too many. I wouldn’t want to ruin my reputation.