From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Going Away

Plant a seed of friendship; reap a bouquet of happiness.

Lois L. Kaufman

I couldn’t believe Loni was leaving. Since she’d become friends with my sister Sara when I was in eighth grade, she’d been a part of my family. Her friendliness, laughter and jokes had quickly made her a favorite visitor, and soon she didn’t have to knock, anymore. The familiar honking of the Ford we teased her about always signaled her arrival. The dog would bark, and Laura, my youngest sister, would run to the door to wait for her, eager to grab her hand and lead her off to show her something new: a rare Pokemon card, a new Beanie Baby, a new species of plant growing only in our backyard, which would lead to an inevitable nature walk—Laura the tour guide, Loni the eager student.

Over the years, she’d become a friend of mine as well as Sara’s. And now, after countless bike rides, phone calls and nights spent talking she was leaving. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

I pulled into the familiar driveway with gravel crunching under my tires, a sound that meant home to me. I eased the car around the bend and parked up close to the garage, watching carefully for the kittens I knew were there somewhere. Sliding out of the car, I scanned the yard.

The large shed that held the farm equipment was farther back, its doors a dazzling new shade of white, a product of hours of work in the summer sun. Loni, the artist, still stood on a ladder, holding a paintbrush in her hand and squinting up at the doors, searching for spots she may have missed. She hadn’t noticed me yet.

“Hey,” I called, moving closer to the shed.

“Hey,” she called back, grinning at me from up high. She wiped her hands on her jean shorts, already flecked with paint. Climbing down from the ladder, she looked almost apologetic as she said, “I’m almost done.”

“It’s all right; I have until ten or so.” School was starting the next day and my curfew had been reinstated, a sure sign that summer was ending. In the bright sun of that day, it was hard to believe summer was really gone and school was about to start.

She finished up on the ladder, and I followed her into the garage, helping her put lids on cans of thick white paint, pounding them shut with the handles of screwdrivers. She spoke of things she needed to do, things she needed to buy and places she needed to go before she left for the University of Michigan on Wednesday.

“So after I get all that stuff at Meijer, I think I’ll be okay . . . do you think I need a wastebasket? Maybe I should call my roommate . . . I got the carpet, though. That’s okay, right? I mean, everyone likes blue. . . .”

We headed into the house, where it was air-conditioned and cool. The kitchen floor was smooth and clean under my bare feet, and I sat down at the table as Loni poured glasses of red cherry Kool-Aid. As she poured, her eyes widened, and she smacked herself on the forehead, a gesture of forgetfulness.

“I bought all this Kool-Aid for my room . . . but I forgot sugar! Don’t let me forget to write it down.”

We headed upstairs with the glasses, the too-bright red of the juice staining our lips as we drank, making us look like kids who’d been playing in our mothers’ makeup. I fidgeted as usual, tracing the rim of my glass with a finger. Her room had the mess of someone trying to decide what to take and what to leave. Piles of clothing, towels, books and CDs towered shakily, threatening to topple at any moment. There were crates and boxes and suitcases, some half-packed and some empty, some already taped shut. We stood in the middle of it all, looking around, unsure.

“I don’t know where to start,” she sighed, plopping down. “I mean, what to pack, where to put it all. . . .”

“Start with clothes,” I suggested, and she started pulling clothes from the closet, rolling them into bulky tubes and stacking them in a suitcase.

“I saw this on Oprah . . . they’re not supposed to wrinkle.”


“I wonder how many pairs of jeans I’ll need . . . it’ll be cold soon . . . do I need sweaters?”

We talked like that for a while, about things that didn’t really matter, until I looked up. She was standing, framed by the closet door, holding a pair of rolled-up jeans. I glanced at the suitcase and realized that we’d packed nearly every article of clothing she owned. One suitcase alone was packed almost entirely with just pants. She shrugged.

“I’m not going to have to do laundry for a while, right?”

I laughed. I think I was almost as surprised as she was when my laughter dissolved into tears. She came forward to hug me, and I choked out a muffled, “I can’t believe you’re leaving.”

“I know.” There were tears in her eyes, too, and we cried for a while, talking about things we’d done: about basketball games we’d played in the dark, the times we’d gone to the mall and walked around talking in the loudest, most obnoxious voices we could, the movies where we’d thrown popcorn at the screen.

Eventually our tears dried, and we gave up on packing for the night, reasoning that she did “have two more days left.” We went downstairs and got ourselves popcorn and more cherry Kool-Aid, and watched The Simpsons, laughing at Homer and Bart until I had to leave.

As I drove home that night, I listened to a tape she’d made me for my sixteenth birthday, still a little sad about the prospect of losing one of my best friends. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn’t really losing her. The person who had taught me so much about life and laughter, the person who had helped me grow to be myself, was just going away for a while, to do some growing and learning of her own.

Bethany Trombley

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