I felt all nervous, biking down to the theater with Duncan. He wasn’t real amused by all this but I think Mom and Dad made him take me, since they were excited at the thought that I’d have a friend besides my siblings and Ducky.
Henri was outside the theater when I got there. I locked up my bike then went over to him, hoping Duncan wouldn’t totally ruin this.
“Hey.” Of course he had to come over and ruin this. “You’re Henri, right?”
Henri looked at my brother and I felt him get kinda nervous. “Yes,” he gulped. “You’re, um, Duncan…?” Duncan folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. Oh Watcher no, don’t do this! I thought, pleadin’ with my brother through my eyes. It didn’t work.
“You do know my sister is only thirteen. Right?”
“OKAY! Well, Duncan, I think it’s time you go!” I tried to push him toward his bike but he wouldn’t budge.
“I know,” Henri replied. “I’m thirteen too.”
“What movie are you seeing?” Oh jeez, why did Duncan have to do this? Couldn’t he just let me be? Didn’t he realize how ‘portant this was for me, my first real friend? I glared at him to try to get my message across but of course he didn’t pay any attention to me, he was too focused on Henri and I could feel he was all suspicious.
“The new Pixar flick,” Henri answered, not even battin’ an eyelash. “A Gnome’s Life.”
“Hmmm…” Duncan rubbed his chin and I just knew he was going to do something totally humiliatin’. “I kinda wanted to see that too. Maybe I’ll watch it with you guys.”
“DUNCAN!” I shrieked. “You should go. Now.”
“What?” He feigned innocence. “I heard you saying to Kaylee last night it wasn’t a date. Actually I think her words were ‘it never would be a date in a million years’. So…”
Henri somehow managed to get even redder than I knew I was. “I–I’ll go get our tickets!” he stammered and took off into the lobby.
Duncan was smirkin’ now and looking all proud. I punched him in the arm as hard as I could. “Ow!” He rubbed the spot, scowlin’ at me. “What was that for? I know perfectly well you did say that to her last night!”
I stomped my foot. “It doesn’t matter if it is or not because I want to be friends with him!” I hissed out. “Why are you doing this to me? Do you not want me to have friends?”
“Friends? Sure, have all the friends you want,” he said with a smile and I could tell he was being honest. “But… just friends.”
“For Watcher’s sake, Duncan, I am only thirteen!” I wailed.
He reached over, puttin’ his hands on my shoulders and givin’ them a squeeze. “First off, don’t cuss. Second of all, I got my first kiss when I was twelve. Third off, I want it to be clear to him that kissing is not acceptable.”
I stomped on his foot and he hopped back, yelping in pain. “First off, I can cuss all I want. Second off, I don’t care when you got your first kiss, I am not gonna be doing any kissing! And third off–if you embarrass me like this again, I will do something totally embarrassing when you’re with your precious Kelly.”
Duncan went dark red. “You wouldn’t!”
I clasped my hands together and lowered my voice. I wasn’t any good at impersonatin’ people like Kaylee, but I knew the message would get across. “Oh Kelly, I wanna kiss you, I wanna hug you, I wanna smooch all night!”
“Come here you sexy hot babe you! MUA-MUA-MUA!” I made loud kissy noises and several people looked this way.
Duncan grabbed my arm and pulled me aside. “Okay, just stop it!!! But if he does anything, I will hurt him. Got it?”
“Fine, fine. I’ll see you later.” I shook my arm free and jogged into the lobby where Henri was waitin’ with our tickets. I tried to give him some money but he wouldn’t take anything and that didn’t sit well with me cause, well, that made it seem like a date; so I bought two popcorns and two drinks and refused his money right back, so it was all even.
As the days progressed, so did my friendship with Henri. It also was clear that my sister was right, cause I was always waitin’ for that other shoe to drop. Waiting for somethin’ to happen that would cut us apart, but nothing did and nothing did. It didn’t take long before Henri and I were pretty much best friends.
I even introduced him to Ducky. He was a bit afraid of her at first, but she won him over like I knew she would. I offered to teach him to ride but he just shook his head and said he’d rather just watch me ride.
Since we didn’t go to the same school (actually, I found out he was privately tutored which was totally awesome and made me jealous–it also explained the day I first met him in the park, since that had been a school day) our chances to see each other were on the weekend. As always, Duncan and I would bike down to the middle of town and then he and Kelly would go off and do whatever, while Henri and I hung out.
We often just hung out in the park, mostly talking and playing games like tag, but sometimes we’d go to a movie (and one time we were at the movies at the same time as my brother, and I saw him and Kelly swappin’ spit. EW!) or we’d go a store and look at the stuff for sale, or maybe head to the library.
Our favorite place, other than the park, was the consignment store. It was a couple blocks away so it was a few weeks before we went, but it was awesome they had all sorts of weird, old things for sale. We got to know the Saturday clerk fairly well and she always chatted with us when we came in, ‘cept one time she wasn’t there and this crotchety old lady was there instead who yelled at us when she realized we weren’t gonna buy or sell anything.
Before I knew it, it was six months after that first movie we saw together. I knew him real well by now, and was pretty comfortable around him–and I knew he was comfortable with me (I could feel it) so it really surprised me when he phoned me up one Saturday morning and said he couldn’t make it, he was going out of town.
I clutched the phone, feelin’ like I was gonna cry cause I could tell, I could tell, he was lying. Lies are so obvious, ‘specially from the ones who aren’t all arrogant about it. Henri was lyin’ the same way most my family did: there was a cloud of worry, rainin’ down a rain of guilt, and blowing the rain around was a sort of wind of hope–hope he wouldn’t be caught.
But he was caught. But what could I say? I couldn’t call him a liar, cause then he might find out about me and that was somethin’ he still didn’t know. “Maybe we can see each other tomorrow?” I asked, since if we didn’t get to hang out on Saturdays, we tried to get together on Sundays.
“Um, no I’ll be out of town,” he said, still lyin’ through his teeth. In the storm of lies ragin’ inside him was also that constant rainfall of sorrow from him missing his mother, and it was getting real strong now so I wondered if maybe they were going to visit her grave or somethin’ and he just didn’t wanna tell me. But if that was the case, why would he be lying about leaving town?? I was pretty sure his mom was buried in France.
“Okay,” I said. “Call me when you can.” I wanted to slam the phone down but managed not to. I felt real uneasy about all this, wishing he wasn’t lying to me. He probably had a good reason for it, but it really hurt nonetheless.
I wound up spending the day with Ducky. Since she belonged to me (well, to my parents) and not the stables, I was allowed to take her off the property. I usually didn’t but today I did, clipclopping down the street with my daddy walkin’ beside me. He had a pretty special bond with Ducky too.
“Let’s go this way,” I said suddenly, reachin’ a crossroads and seeing the street sign. Suddenly I knew where I wanted to go.
Dad stopped and looked up at the sign. “We probably should get back to the stables. It is getting pretty late, it will be dark soon…”
“The stables are right there,” I complained. “I want to have an adventure. Serenity’s Adventures With Ducky.” Dad rolled his eyes and I stuck out my tongue. “Come on, please? It’s not far.”
So we went down the street and once we reached another street, I turned down it and Dad, Ducky and I walked down several blocks before turnin’ again and now I was on Henri’s street. The richest neighborhood in town. Sort of. Technically the richest neighborhood in town was where the Goths lived, but they lived all by themselves kinda a coupla minutes out of town, so I wouldn’t call that a neighborhood.
“I’m just gonna go down this street and turn around,” I said, knowing it was just maybe ten minutes till the sun sank. “Why don’t you sit there?” I indicated a bench and Dad eyed me, and he was all suspicious of me, but he sat down, glad of the rest. Even though I couldn’t read minds, I knew what he was thinking. “You’re not old,” I said, and Dad looked up at me, eyebrows raised.
“Just stay in sight,” he replied.
I nodded and began trotting down the street. Ducky whinnied happily, glad to do a bit of a faster pace instead of the slow walk we had to do so Dad could keep up. I gripped the reigns, settling carefully in the saddle and then keepin’ my eyes out as I went past Henri’s house. The car was still there and when I pulled Ducky into a stop, I threw out my feelers.
Two people were inside that house. I recognized Dr. Laroche at once, there was a ring of arrogance but inside was all sadness and concern. I also felt Henri. He was just plain sad, no hint of anythin’ else. I frowned, lookin’ at the house. Had something happened?
Suddenly I felt very stupid and quickly wheeled Ducky around, practically galloping back to where my dad sat. I didn’t like people intrudin’ into my life and here I was intrudin’ into their lives. Someone in their family probably passed on or something like that. There was no doubt the amount of sadness inside that house, it was almost overbearing for me even for just a moment.
Whatever was goin’ on, Henri would probably tell me eventually. And if he didn’t… well, it wasn’t any of my business.