It started way back in third grade
I used to sit beside Emmylou Hayes
A pink dress, a matching bow and her ponytail
She kissed me on the schoolbus, but told me not to tell
Next day I chased her ‘round the playground
Across the monkey bars, to the merry-go-round
And Emmylou got caught passing me a note
Before the teacher took it, I read what she wrote
Do you love me? Do you wanna be my friend?
And if you do
Well then don’t be afraid to take me by the hand
If you want to
I think this is how love goes
Check yes or no
Beca was doodling in her notebook when an excited girl plopped down beside her. She felt the girl staring, so she looked over to see a pair of bright blue eyes boring into her. The girl doesn’t seem to be embarrassed that Beca caught her - in fact, her small smile turns into an earsplitting grin.
“Um...hi,” Beca mumbled shyly. Her attention was suddenly captured by the flaming red hair framing the girl’s face.
“Hi!” Beca’s eyes snapped back to the girl’s face. “I’m Chloe! I’m new; Mrs. Brown told me to sit here.” That explains why I didn’t recognize her.
She felt a pang of disappointment. The redhead hadn’t sat there because she wanted to be next to Beca. She didn’t have a choice. That’s what you get for being such a weird nine-year-old, Beca.
Her face must have reflected her thoughts, because Chloe continued talking animatedly. “What’s your name?”
Why is she so excited? “...Uh, I’m Beca.”
Chloe was positively beaming at this point. “Well, Beca, I think we’re gonna be really fast friends.”
Beca was thrown completely offguard at that. It wasn’t that Beca didn’t want friends, it’s just, no one wanted to be her friend. She was pretty lonely for a third grader.
Before she could respond, the teacher began class. Instead, she gave the redhead a small smile of approval and turned to listen to Mrs. Brown, who was introducing Chloe to the class. Chloe stood and everyone greeted her. When she sat back down, she immediately rested her head on Beca’s shoulder, hugging Beca’s arm, and Beca felt a pleasant warmth spread through her body. Friends.
A few weeks passed, and Chloe had proven herself right. She had become Beca’s only friend, and although she got along well with everyone, she stuck to Beca like glue.
They were riding home on the schoolbus, sitting together in a seat near the front. Chloe was abnormally quiet, and Beca was slightly terrified. Is she getting tired of my awkwardness already?
“What’s wrong, Chloe?” She asked her friend softly.
Chloe turned to look at her for the first time in the entire bus ride. The usually bright and bubbly redhead looked...scared? Nervous? Anxious? “Beca...if I do something weird, do you promise you won’t freak out?” Beca nodded. “Or tell anyone?” Beca nodded again, and she looked relieved. “Good. Pinky swear.”
The second their pinkies locked, the ginger swooped in and pecked Beca on the lips, like Beca’s dad did to her mom before leaving for work every morning.
Beca’s was totally shell-shocked, but Chloe seemed happier, leaning on Beca’s shoulder and rambling on about their new science project.
The next day at recess, Chloe decided to see how well her new pout would work on Beca.
“Hey, Becs?” She asked, smoothing out her pink dress.
“Yeah, Chlo?” Beca asked, standing from her position at the bottom of the slide.
Chloe looked into Beca’s eyes, jutting out her bottom lip and making her eyes water. “Can we play tag?”
Beca sighed, looking uncomfortable. “Come on, Chloe, you know I hate tag.”
The redhead put everything she had into the pout and watched as Beca caved in front of her.
Eventually, Beca rolled her eyes before grinning mischievously. “You better run.”
Eyes widening in surprise, Chloe took off, dashing for the monkey bars. She climbed the ladder and crossed them effortlessly, looking behind her to make sure Beca had followed before sprinting as fast as her ten-year-old legs could carry her to the merry-go-round.
She knew the pout would work.
I won’t be on the bus today. Mom’s picking me up. She wants to talk to me about something.
Beca carefully slid the note to Chloe while Mrs. Brown was writing on the board. The redhead frowned but nodded subtly. She pulled out another piece of paper, scribbling out a long message, folding it up and preparing to pass it.
Chloe jumped in surprise. “Yes, Mrs. Brown?”
Mrs. Brown walked over. “Is that a note?”
Chloe looked down, ashamed. “Um, yes.”
“Hm.” With that, Mrs. Brown took the note and tossed it in the trash can next to her desk. Beca waited for Chloe to try again, but the girl seemed to have given up.
When the bell rang signaling the end of the school day, Chloe hugged Beca before leaving to get on the bus. Once all the bussers had left, Beca snuck to Mrs. Brown’s desk. Making sure Mrs. Brown was still helping one of the kids tie his shoe (Really? Who can’t tie their shoe in third grade?), she slipped her hand into the trash and pulled out the note the teacher had intercepted earlier. She slid it into her pocket, figuring she would read it when she got home.
Of course it wasn't that easy.
The moment she got in the car, she could sense that her mom was sad. Therefore, she didn't question the fact that they were going the wrong way - she figured they were visiting her aunt Allyson, who lived a mile in the opposite direction of Beca's home. It wasn't until they passed her aunt's street that she realized the car was full of boxes.
"Uh, mama? Where are we going?"
Her mother clenched her hands on the steering wheel and pulled into a parking lot, turning to Beca with a forced smile. "Sweetie...your father and I...we're getting divorced. Grandma's letting us stay with her until I can find us an apartment. I can't afford to keep the house on just my income."
Beca's heart shattered. Not for herself - her dad never had time for her, anyway. No, her heart broke for her mother. Her mother, who had gotten a job at Barnes and Noble just to make things easier for her dad, even though she wanted to stay at home and take care of Beca. Her mother, who was so loving and kind that she never had the heart to ground Beca, not even that time when Beca punched Joey Moore in the gut on the playground. Her mother, who didn't deserve to be put through this kind of pain.
She reached over and hugged her mom tight, whispering, "I love you, mommy," into the woman's shoulder.
Her mother returned the sentiment and got back on the road. Suddenly, Beca was hit with another thought. Her grandma lived in the next town over. She'd have to switch schools.
She pulled Chloe's note from her pocket and gasped, a tear rolling down her cheek.
She'd have to leave Chloe.