There is No Cost to Friendship: Part Nine
The next day at lunchtime, Brooke sat alone. She dug into her egg salad, trying to think of positives. At least Corrine, Lauren and Alyssa didn’t put a Rotten Omelette into her bag. At least she wasn’t sitting with anybody who was secretly gossiping about her.
Her eyes filled with tears. No positives could make her feel better.
Suddenly, out of the corner of her watery eyelids, she saw a tray slide in the table next to hers. A miraculously familiar scent of perfume wafted in her nose.
“Sam,” Brooke whispered, and she whipped around. A red Ogrin was staring right back at her with a purple skateboard tucked under her armpit and a small smile on her face.
“Hey,” Sam said. She was silent for a moment. “Do you mind if I sit here?”
Brooke shook her head, too dumbfounded to speak. The last time she checked, Sam was furious at her, and now she was asking to sit next to her. “Is this a trick?” Brooke asked.
“No, I promise,” said Sam. “I really want to talk to you. Please.”
Brooke scooted over onto the bench. “I really want to talk to you, too. I’ve been denying it for the last week, but I really miss you, Sam.”
“I know,” Sam replied. “I miss you, too, and I had no reason to be mad at you. I found out a couple of things the past couple of days. And I just want to apologize for jumping to the wrong conclusions about you spilling my secret to everybody. It wasn’t you.”
“I’m sorry, too,” Brooke said. “For ignoring you.”
“You had every right to,” Sam said. “I was totally in the wrong here and I apologize completely. It wasn’t you who told my secret.”
“Well, I’m glad you apologize,” Brooke said, biting into her egg salad.
Sam smiled brightly and Brooke realized how much she missed that smile. “Don’t you want to know who was the one who told?”
Without giving Brooke a chance to answer, Sam said, “It was Alyssa.”
“Alyssa?” Brooke repeated, her mouth hanging wide open. “As in Corrine’s minion?”
“That’s the one,” Sam giggled. “Well, it turns out that Alyssa volunteers at the Soup Kitchen four times a week. Do you remember a lot of times when we were together the Soup Faerie said that she was ‘waiting for Al’ to come?”
“Kind of,” Brooke admitted. “Not really.”
“That was the Soup Faerie’s little nickname for Alyssa. She found out that I was homeless even before you did. She kept her knowledge a secret from everybody, including me, for a week and a half, which was a big deal for her gossipy mouth.”
“Then she was actually at the Soup Kitchen the day you found out I was living there. And neither of us noticed her there. This was her big chance to tell my secret to everybody. She just told Corrine that she found out I was homeless from you and Corrine basically told the entire school. Corrine didn’t even know that Alyssa was actually the one who wanted my secret out in public. So she basically told my secret to hurt me and hurt you by framing you. She and Corrine and Lauren continued being your friend just to make you even more miserable, which they succeeded in doing. The rest of the school hated me because I was poor and hated you because they believed you told my secret.”
“What do you mean by hated?” Brooke asked.
“As soon as I found about Alyssa’s little game, I exposed her to the entire school and now they hate her and love me for standing up to her,” Sam replied.
“And Lauren and Corrine?” Brooke questioned.
“They’re still queens of the school, pretending they never had anything to do with Alyssa.”
Brooke rolled her eyes. “They’re all so shallow and snobby. I hate it!”
“I know,” Sam empathized. “But you don’t have to worry about them for a while.”
The two girls were silent for a while until Brooke got the courage to ask Sam what was on her mind. “So, Sam, um... are we cool, you and I?”
“What do you mean?” asked Sam.
“Are we friends again?”
“Only if you want to be,” Sam said. “I wouldn’t forgive myself if I were you, but I would definitely love to be your friend again.”
Brooke smiled. “I’ll be your friend on one condition. If you come over my house on Friday and sleep over. And we forget that this ever happened.”
Sam didn’t reply for a moment. Brooke started to get a little scared. What if she didn’t want to do it? Finally, Sam smiled a toothy grin and said, “That’s two conditions. And I’ll definitely stick to both of them.”
It was Saturday and Sam had just left from Brooke’s house. Nothing about Sam’s poorness or the three once-popular girls came about. All the two girls did was have a blast. Brooke was still smiling as she thought of all of the good times they had.
“Brooke, are you going to just sit there and smile or are you going to help me?” her father said. “We’re doing this for your friend, you know.”
“Oh, be easy on her,” Brooke’s mother said. “We’re doing a good thing here.”
The blue Xweetok looked down at the boxes they were packing. One was for unopened food like soups and tinned fruit and packages of NeoCrackers. The other was full of old clothes that Brooke did not fit anymore but were perfect for Sam’s petite stature.
She added a purple T-shirt into the mix. “Sam loves gauzy T-shirts and tank tops,” she murmured. Brooke was not sure who she was talking to.
“Are we done with the boxes?” her father asked.
Her mother patted her on the shoulder. “This is a great thing you’re doing for your friend, sweetie.”
“I know,” Brooke said, taping the sides of the clothes box. “Are we delivering to the Soup Kitchen right now?”
“If you want,” said her mother.
“Okay,” said Brooke. “I want to see Sam. I haven’t seen her in over twenty minutes!”
The three Pets entered the Soup Kitchen with the Soup Faerie in full view. The Soup Faerie smiled brightly when she saw Brooke.
“We have some donations for Sam,” Brooke said. She looked around the room for her best friend. “Do you know where she is?”
The smile quickly faded from the Soup Faerie’s face. “Oh, Brooke...”
Brooke’s stomach did a flip-flop, expecting the worst. Then she calmed her stomach down, remembering that normally when she expected the worst the best happened.
“Sam left just a few minutes ago, Brooke,” said the Soup Faerie. “I put up a notice for her mother and her mother came in this morning to take her. They’re traveling to the Lost Desert right now.”
“No,” Brooke whispered. Never in her life had she expected that blow to the heart. “No.”
“I can’t control what her mother wants,” the Soup Faerie explained calmly, placing a hand on Brooke’s trembling shoulder. “I was only expecting to take custody of Sam for just a few weeks and I’ve long overpaid my due. But just think, Brooke, at least she’s happy now.”
“She was happy here!” Brooke wailed. “She was happy with me! I can’t just not see her ever again!” Warm tears escaped from her eyes and she let them fall without wiping them from her eyelids. She was right about friendships; they never last. All friendships last in heartbreak, including the one she had just patched up.
The Soup Faerie noticed Brooke’s tears and said, “There is one thing, though.” She turned her back and walked over to the back of her hut and rummaged through a pile of random items. She picked up the item she wanted and hid it behind her back. “When Sam left this morning, she was just as upset as you were. She tried to convince her mother to move to Meridell or Brightvale so she could stay close to you, but her mother wouldn’t give up her house.”
Brooke felt a tear slide down her nose. She couldn’t think of anything but the night before, her last night with Sam and probably the most amazing night of her life.
“Sam knew that you would be back here to volunteer and she wanted me to tell you something,” said the Soup Faerie. She leaned in closer to Brooke and stared deeply into Brooke’s eyes. “She wanted me to tell you that you were the best, best friend she had ever had and no friend she would make in the Lost Desert would compare to you. And she wanted me to give you this.”
The Soup Faerie brought the item from her behind her back out into the open and Brooke found herself staring at a bright purple skateboard, the skateboard that had brought Brooke and Sam together in the first place.
Without a word, Brooke took the skateboard from the Soup Faerie’s hands, left the two boxes of donations on the floor of the hut, exited the Soup Kitchen , and, without even waiting for her parents, she boarded the first Eyrie cab she saw to Meridell.
She did not know how she was going to survive school without Sam by her side, but she decided that she was going to. She flipped the skateboard over so the wheels were balanced on her lap. This was her last piece of Sam but the memories were going to last her a lifetime.
Brooke leaned over the edge of the Eyrie cab and saw all of Neopia laid out below her. There was no stopping her from taking a cab to the Lost Desert and giving a certain red Ogrin a visit every now and again. She dried her eyes.
Not all friendships ended in heartbreak, even if the two friends were separated for a little while.
Thanks for reading my second series! Any comments are appreciated!