Chapter One: Best Friend Blues
For the first time ever, I overslept.
Usually I beat everyone downstairs on school mornings. But when I woke to the sun peeking through my blinds, I just shut my eyes again. I would have kept right on sleeping if Mom hadn’t come into my room.
“Jada,” she said. “It’s time to get up.”
I groaned and yanked the cover over my head. Thinking about school meant thinking about Mari. At recess, we used to take off hunting for rocks—inky black slivers, orange hunks perfect for writing on pavement, gray nuggets splashed with silver that shimmered in the light. Why did she have to move?
Mom sat next to me on my daybed and gently pulled my fuzzy blanket back. My eyes blurred as I sniffed and tried not to cry.
I turned to the wall.
“I know you miss Mari,” she said, pulling off my sleeping scarf and stroking my braids. “But you have lots of kids in your class who would love to be your friend. You’ll see.”
Mom kissed my head and left so I could get ready. I washed up and slid on my jeans with deep rock-stashing pockets and purple dragon T-shirt. I opened my jewelry box and picked up the heart-shaped pendant Mari gave me for my birthday. I clutched it in my hand. Her half said “best.” My half said “friend.” Even though Mari had just left Raleigh for Phoenix on Friday, I already felt like part of me was gone.
For breakfast, Daddy made his specialty—homemade banana pancakes with strawberry syrup.
“Can I get just a tiny smile from my favorite daughter?” he said, setting a flowered plate in front of me.
Daddy knew that would usually make me laugh. I’m his only
daughter. I tried to smile, but it felt more like a grimace. All teeth with no joy. While my little brother, Jackson, gobbled his pancakes, I poked at mine with my fork. Finally, I washed down a mouthful with a gulp of milk.
Daddy put his hand on my shoulder.
“Blues can feel like they’re here to stay,” he said softly. I knew what he meant. Daddy plays all kinds of music—hip-hop, jazz, reggae. But his blues songs made me think of an aching way down deep. I wondered if the hurt of losing Mari would ever go away.
“But you know what’s certain about the blues?” he asked.
I looked up at him and shook my head.
“They don’t last forever.”
I thought about what Daddy said on the way to school.
“Try to have a good day, honey,” Mom said as she dropped Jackson and me off at Brookside Elementary. I nodded before closing the car door behind me. Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. Maybe I could have an okay day without my best friend.
I walked Jackson to kindergarten and slowly climbed the stairs to the fourth-grade hallway. Miss Taylor had said we would be starting a new science unit. I couldn’t help but get a little excited about that. But when I walked into my class, the first thing I saw was Mari’s empty seat. I sat across from it and quickly hid my face behind my library book about different kinds of gems.
“Sorry Mari is gone,” Lena whispered to me as she slid into her chair. She and Carson sat at my table. We were the only group that now had three instead of four.
I put down my book and looked at her instead. Daddy said you could tell a lot by someone’s eyes. Her kind, brown ones said hope you’re okay
“Thanks,” I said.
Lena is cool. Her best friend is Simone. They are nuts about jump rope the way Mari and I are crazy for rocks. I thought about Mom saying I’d make new friends. Maybe I could show Lena and Simone how awesome rocks could be.
Copyright © 2017 by Kelly Starling Lyons. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.