Will You Be My Friend?
“Mom, where does this go?” shouted twelve-year-old Beth Picard. She gripped a large cardboard box in her arms and stood inside the empty hallway of her new house.
“What’s it say on the top?” Beth’s mom called back from the living room.
Beth glanced down at the box. “?‘Kitchen,’?” she replied.
“I’ll give you three guesses as to which room it belongs in,” Beth’s mom replied. “And the first two don’t count!”
“Very funny, Mom,” Beth said as she headed to the kitchen and placed the box on top of two other boxes, forming yet another cardboard tower growing out of the kitchen floor.
Beth and her mom were excited about moving into their new house. It had been built a few years ago and had only one set of previous owners. Even the paint on the walls still looked spotless. It felt like a fresh start for both of them.
Beth’s mom had just started a new job. Beth was looking to make new friends and move on with her life, following . . . well, following whatever had come before—something she was not too clear about.
Beth hurried back out to the moving truck they had rented, climbed up the metal ramp, and grabbed another box. As she headed down the long front walkway, past hedges and flowering trees, she was about to call to her mom again. Instead she stopped just outside the front door and glanced down at the label on the top of the box. It said BETH’S BEDROOM.
Beth smiled as she walked into the house and headed up the stairs, proud of herself that she didn’t have to ask her mom about every box she carried in.
Beth knew that her mom was a very organized person. At least that’s what her mom liked to say about herself. She had told Beth that when she packed up their stuff at their old house, she made sure to group every box according to room. Then she made a label for each box to take the guesswork out of the unpacking process.
Beth took her mother’s word for the fact that she was organized. In fact, Beth took her mom’s word for just about everything. For reasons she didn’t understand, Beth had trouble recalling the past. She searched her mind, trying to remember helping her mom pack up their old house, but could conjure no images of that or anything else from before. Beth couldn’t even recall what their old house looked like.
More to wonder about, I guess, she thought as she stepped into her new bedroom and placed the box onto her bed.
Turning around, Beth caught a glimpse of herself in a full-length mirror leaning against a bedroom wall. Sunlight streaming through the window highlighted the spattering of freckles on her face. She shook her head, sending her shoulder-length auburn hair whipping back and forth.
As Beth was about to turn away and head back downstairs to grab another box, she caught another glimpse of herself in the mirror. In the glass she saw her reflection looking into another mirror, in which she saw herself looking into yet another mirror, and on and on, as if she were in a carnival fun house.
What? she thought, peering into the mirror at the multiple versions of herself. She leaned in closer and saw all the images of herself in the many mirrors lean in as well. She shook her hair again, and strands of copper-colored waves flowed back and forth in each mirror image.
Beth turned away and glanced back quickly, as if she was trying to catch herself, or trying to trick the mirror into going back to normal. Her mirror was still filled with multiple, endless images of herself, extending off into infinity.
Deep into the strange mirror, way off in the reflected distance, Beth could see the tiniest image. But it wasn’t an image of Beth, and it wasn’t moving as Beth moved. It was of someone in a long white coat. The woman appeared nervous, looking back over her shoulder again and again. Beth leaned in even closer to the mirror, so that her nose was touching the glass. And that’s when the woman vanished from the reflection.
Beth had had enough. She didn’t know if she was hallucinating or what, but it was time to get more boxes. When she turned away from the mirror, all of the other Beths turned with her—all except one who stood still, staring straight out. Beth squeezed her eyes shut tightly, then threw them open quickly. The multiple images were finally gone. The single reflection of Beth, staring wide-eyed at herself in her bedroom, was all that remained.
She drew a deep breath and sighed.
“Beth!” her mother called up from the bottom of the stairs. “There’s someone here to see you, honey.”
I need some sleep, Beth thought, turning away and heading out of her room. Before she stepped out into the hallway, she whipped around quickly to make sure again that just one image filled the mirror. It did.
A few moments later Beth came face-to-face with a girl her age, standing on the front steps.
“Hi, I’m Chrissy Walters,” said the girl. “I’m your neighbor. I just stopped by to welcome you to the neighborhood.”
Beth smiled and said hi back.
Chrissy had short blond hair and two different-colored eyes—one blue and one hazel. Beth thought that was totally cool.
“I’m Beth Picard,” said Beth. “And this is my mom.”
“Nice to meet you,” said Chrissy. “I’ve lived in the house next door for about six months. Your place has been empty all that time. I’m so glad you moved in, especially because we’re the same age, I think.”
“I just turned twelve yesterday,” said Beth.
“Happy birthday!” said Chrissy. “I turned twelve a few weeks ago.”
“Come into the kitchen, Chrissy,” said Beth’s mom. “We can’t offer you anything but a glass of water, but you’re welcome to sit on a packing crate.”
Beth, her mom, and Chrissy all headed down the hall and into the large kitchen, where they found stacks of boxes, a few packing crates, and two glasses sitting on the counter.
“We haven’t started unpacking the kitchen yet,” explained Beth’s mom. “Just a glass for Beth and a glass for me. Here, let me get you one.” She popped open a cardboard box and unwrapped a water glass, then she filled all three glasses with water from the faucet.
“So you only moved into your house a few months ago?” Beth asked Chrissy.
“Yeah, I know a few kids from school, but it’s nice to meet someone who lives just next door,” said Chrissy.
“Where did you live before this?” Beth asked.
“California,” replied Chrissy. “My mom’s job moves us around a lot. How about you? Where did you live before this?”
“We lived . . . uh, we lived . . .” Beth stammered and then stopped short. She hit another brick wall in her memory. Try as she might, she could not come up with the name of the town she and her mom had just moved from.
“Rockport.” Beth’s mom jumped in. “About an hour from here. On the other side of the city.”
“Oh, yeah, Rockport,” Beth agreed, although the name of the town meant nothing to her.
“Did you forget where you’re from?” Chrissy asked, tilting her head curiously.
“Beth was in an accident a few months ago, Chrissy,” her mom explained. “Sometimes her memory is a bit fuzzy. But the doctors assured us that it will clear up with time. Right, honey?”
“Right,” agreed Beth. “That’s it. My accident.” Though, in truth, Beth had no memory of having had an accident or seeing a doctor.
Beth’s mom smiled at her and got up.
“Well, I’ll leave you two girls to get to know each other better,” she said. “I’ve got about a million boxes still to unpack. Nice to meet you, Chrissy.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Ms. Picard,” said Chrissy.
“So maybe we’ll be in the same class at school,” said Chrissy when Beth’s mom had left the kitchen. “That would be fun.”
“Actually, my mom is going to homeschool me,” Beth explained. “She works the night shift doing medical research at the lab a few blocks from here four nights a week, but she teaches me before she leaves every evening.”
“Oh,” said Chrissy, unable to disguise the disappointment in her voice.
“But we could hang out together every day when you get home from school and on weekends,” Beth added quickly.
Chrissy smiled. “That’s great! So what kinda stuff do you like to do? I love reading, playing soccer, and watching movies.”
“I like, um, all that stuff too!” Beth replied, not quite sure what she liked to do.
“But you must spend a lot of time alone,” Chrissy added. “Especially at night, with your mom working and all. Is she okay leaving you alone?”
“Actually, there’s going to be a babysitter who stays here every night,” Beth explained.
“Is she cool?” Chrissy asked.
“I don’t know yet,” said Beth. “My mom has to find someone now that we’ve moved. It’s a little immature, I know, to have a babysitter at our age, but since my mom works overnight, she doesn’t want me home alone all the time.”
“That makes total sense,” said Chrissy. “I just hope your babysitter is cool, for your sake.”
“I’m sure she will be,” said Beth. “My mom said I can help her choose the right babysitter. Anyway, I’m really glad you want to be my friend, Chrissy.”
“Me too,” said Chrissy. “I gotta get home now. But maybe we can hang out tomorrow.”
“Great,” said Beth.
Both girls headed outside.
“Bye!” said Beth, waving as Chrissy headed to her house.
Beth’s mom stuck her head out the front door.
“She seems like a very nice girl,” she said. “And it makes me happy that you’ll have a friend close to home. Now, young lady, back to the boxes!”
Beth climbed into the moving truck and picked up another box. She was starting not to mind so much that she had trouble remembering the past. Here she was in a nice new house, with her mom, and she’d already made a new friend.
Beth Picard was determined not to dwell on the past. From now on she would set her sights squarely on the future.