Short Story: When The Pennies Fall

When The Pennies Fall
(Inspired by Rest Haven, Monroe, NY)
Melissa R. Mendelson

The birds wake me up in the morning with their chirping and flapping.  I hear them inside the walls.  I always wondered how they got in there, but it was a familiar, comforting sound.  There was no sound today.  That bothered me.  Summer was not over yet, and they usually left right before winter.  Then, they would return, telling me that spring was on its way.  They should be chirping and flapping right about now, but they weren’t.  And the silence broke into a symphony of snores.
Becky had started to sneak into my room at night.  She didn’t want to startle me by crawling into the bed.  The bed was also small, so she slept on the arm chair to the left in the corner.  I didn’t know she was there until she started to snore.  Sometimes, she would even talk in her sleep.  At least, she would try to.  It was like she was chasing conversations with a ghost.
The breakfast call sounded from the kitchen and marched up the stairs.  Loud knocks thundered on the bedroom doors. My door was always left half open, and I heard the usual humph because Becky was supposed to be in her room and in her bed.  But the woman at the door said nothing.  She didn’t have to because Becky quickly followed her out into the hallway with her bare feet slapping against the floor, and I knew that she was returning to her room.  
There were eight girls in this house.  We all had our own rooms, but there was only one bathroom.  It was a large bathroom, but in the morning and at night, it was like a train station trying to get in there.  I always went last.  This way in the mornings, I could stay in bed a little while longer, and they would wait for me downstairs.  I heard the last girl go into the bathroom, and I knew that I had to get up.
My bedroom had smooth, wooden floors.  I liked how my feet felt against it.  It was only during the winter when the floor would be ice cold, and I would wear my slippers, which were always left at the edge of the bed.  I wondered, if I would be here for the winter, but I didn’t know.  I walked toward my dresser, which was up against the wall opposite the bed.  The first drawer had underclothes.  The second had nightgowns.  The third had my books.  The fourth had miscellaneous stuff like little art projects that Becky and I had made.
The closet was to the right of the dresser.  Short sleeve tops were hanging up first, followed by long sleeves.  Then, there were jogging pants and leggings, and I could tell them apart by the thickness of material.  I didn’t own any jeans, and my skirts were long and silky.  They were hung up last, and I only wore them during special occasions.  On the bottom of the closet were two pairs of sneakers and two pairs of shoes.  One pair of sneakers had velcro.  The other had laces.  One pair of shoes had straps.  The other pair were slip-on flat shoes.  I wore those a lot, but today, I chose the sneakers with the laces.  I used my fingers to guide the laces in and out and around, tying them perfectly.  It was a little talent of mine.
I moved down the hall, running my hand along the wall.  The bathroom door always felt bumpy, and its doorknob was different from the other doors.  The doorknob was a hook, reminding me of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.  That was one of my favorite stories, and the bathroom floor had all tiles.  I liked stepping on them, and the shower was a walk in.  No bath tub, but I never really took baths.  I stepped inside the shower stall, turning the large knob all the way to the left until I felt the heat and then turned the knob a little to the right until the water was just right.  I then pushed the knob upward, and water poured out from the top, striking my body.   
My showers were usually short.  I gingerly stepped out onto the tiled floor, reaching for a towel on a nearby rack.  I then quickly dried myself.  I ran my fingers through my hair, and as I did, there was a pounding on the front door.  I listened to the harsh knocks, and my stomach flipped.  They would be the reason why I would have to leave here, and that thought stung.  Then, I heard heavy footsteps hurrying to open the door.  It must have been Mr. Portum, the owner of this house. 
I quickly got dressed and dropped the towel into a basket underneath the rack. I picked up my nightgown from the floor. I had left it near the door, and I carried it back into my room, leaving it on the bed.  I think tomorrow was laundry day.  I wondered what we would do today.  It felt nice outside, but I could be wrong.  We used to go to the park a lot, but on the weekends, they would have the roads blocked, making it difficult to travel.  I don’t know why they had to do that, but they did.  And I imagined Mr. Portum arguing with them outside.
“Twelve,” I said out loud as I moved down the stairs, counting each step as I went.  Sometimes, Becky would take me by the hand and guide me down the stairs.  She didn’t do that today.  Instead, she was in the dining room with the other girls, waiting for me, and my stomach roared.  I was in the mood for pancakes, but I smelled eggs and bacon instead.  When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I sat down on the last step and put my socks and sneakers on.
“Good morning, Jasmine.”  Luv’s voice always sounded like honey.  “Your parents called while you were in the shower.”  She stood next to me.  “After breakfast, would you like to call them back?”
“Good morning, Luv,” I said, knowing it wasn’t her real name, but she insisted on being called that.  “Where’s Becky?”
“Waiting for you.”  Luv gently took my hand in hers.  Her skin felt so soft, and she reminded me of my grandmother, who had given me these giant bear hugs.  I missed her, and I would miss Luv too when I leave here.  “Mine, why do you look so sad?”
Luv and Becky were the only ones that called me, Mine.  “I don’t want to leave,” I cried, and Luv gave me a big bear hug.  “This is my home.  Why do I have to leave?”
“Nobody’s saying that you have to,” but I could hear it in her voice. 
“They were throwing rocks again at the house last night.”
“I know, Mine,” and she led me into the dining room.
A heavy wooden chair scraped against the floor.  A smell of flowers touched my nose.  It was Becky, and she placed her hand under my elbow.  Luv stepped away to get breakfast, and Becky guided me to my seat.  The cushion underneath me felt worn, but it was still comfortable.  I pushed my chair in before reaching to touch my place setting. The fork was to the left, and the knife and spoon were on the right.  The glass cup filled with water and ice was just touching the knife, and it felt wet and cold against my hand.
“Mine,” Becky said.  “Juice?”
“Please.”  I listened to Becky’s fingernails tap against the glass.  She always placed that cup next to the fork.  “Thank you.”
“Sorry,” Becky said.
“Why are you sorry,” I asked as I drank my juice.
“For sleeping in your room,” Becky said.
“Don’t be sorry.  It’s fine. I don’t mind.”  I knew that she was reading my lips.  “I really don’t, and I don’t think Luv does to.”
“Your parents called,” Becky said.
“I know.”  I smelled breakfast being carried into the dining room.  “Smells good,” and Becky squeezed my hand.
I wasn’t crazy about eating eggs.  They felt funny on my tongue being so thin and flimsy, and I could only eat scrambled eggs.  I couldn’t stand the rest of them especially omelettes.  Once I tasted the yolk, it was all over, and I could not bring myself to eat another bite.  But bacon was a different story.  It was so tantalizing, but we were only allowed two pieces.  And it went so fast, leaving me wanting more, but all I was left with were the eggs. 
The large plate filled with toast rotated around the table.  Becky lifted my left hand upward, so that I could feel the plate when it moved by.  I hated the feel of toast.  It reminded me of sand paper.  There were days, where I would ignore that feeling and then the drown the toast in butter. I wasn’t in the mood for it today, so I pulled my hand back.  “Thank you,” I said to Becky, knowing that she made a face at that.  “None for me,” and Becky patted my hand.
Breakfast soon came to an end, and Luv began to clear the table.  Some of the girls helped her, but Becky and I remained where we were seated.  I could feel Becky’s eyes on me.  She wanted to say something, but she was waiting.  I sensed it was important, but just then, Mr. Portum stormed into the house.
“Unbelievable,” Mr. Portum said, slamming the front door shut behind him, but then he fell quiet.  He must have seen us in the dining room, and his footsteps quickly hurried into the kitchen.
“Why don’t you girls watch some tv?”  Luv led the other girls into the adjoining living room.  She stopped by my chair and gave my shoulder a little squeeze.
“I can listen to the tv from here,” I said.
“Okay.  Becky?”
“I’m good,” Becky said.
“Alright, you two.  No mischief,” and I knew that Becky and I both grinned at that.  
Becky waited for Luv to walk away, and then she reached under her chair. She picked up a plastic bag full of pennies and placed it on the table.  I think it was one of those freezer bags, but I wasn’t sure.  There were always twenty pennies inside of it, and she shook the bag at me.  I raised my hand upward instead and turned toward the kitchen.  The television set was on, but it was low.  Maybe, the other girls wanted to hear what was being said, but we all knew where the conversation would lead.  I hoped that we were wrong.
“The parents have been calling all morning.”  Luv’s voice drifted from the kitchen.  “They’ve been asking about the situation.”
“The situation is that they’ve won,” Mr. Portum snapped.  “How are we supposed to take the girls out, if they keep blocking the roads?  On top of that, they’re blocking the driveway now.  It took forever to make them move their cars.”
“Their kids are throwing rocks at the house again,” Luv said.
“I know.  They cracked the family room window, which I’m going to have to fix, and they won’t pay for it.  I can call the police, but that won’t do anything.”
“What do they want?”  Luv’s voice struck a high pitch.  “Why can’t they just leave us alone?” 
“Because Luanna, they want us out, so they can live here.”
“They already live here.”
“It’s not good enough for them, Luanna, and it will never be enough for them.”
“I think they’re listening to us.  It’s Saturday.  It’s a nice day today.  Maybe, they could spend it outside in the yard?”
“No.  Not today. It’s better, if they stay inside. Maybe, read one of their books, or put a movie on.  Jackie will be over later to make them dinner, and she said that she’ll stay the night and do their hair and nails.  The girls will like that.”
“The girls are afraid, and so am I.”
“I know, but there’s nothing that we can do for them.  I’ll go and call their parents.”  Mr. Portum walked out of the kitchen.
“Damn it,” I said.  “Why can’t they just leave us alone?”
“They won’t.”  Becky shook her plastic bag full of pennies.
“Okay, girls.”  I could hear the tears in Luv’s voice, but she was holding them back.  “Movie or Book?”
“Movie,” the other girls chimed, but Becky and I did not answer her.
“You girls going to have one of your conversations,” Luv asked us.
“Yes,” I said.  “In the family room.”
“Okay.  I’ll come and get you later,” and Luv walked away.
Becky and I left the dining room and walked out into the hallway.  I rested one hand on the wooden bannister of the staircase.  I felt a cold breeze, but I knew the front door was closed.  The windows upstairs were open, and the air was traveling downward. It felt good, but I heard the rustle of the plastic bag.  Becky was getting impatient, and that was rare.  She must really want to say something, but I still paused by the fireplace. I thought of last winter and how Becky helped me roast marshmallows.  I loved the smell of burning marshmallows, and again, I wondered, if I would be here for the winter.
The family room was large with a wooden floor.  There were long, soft curtains over the open windows that drifted gently with the wind.  I sat near one of them, so the breeze could touch my back.  It reminded me of my mother.  She used to gently run her hand along my back.  I missed her, but I hated her in the beginning for bringing me here.  I now understood why she did it, and this place was my home.  I didn’t want to leave, but they were taking it away from me.
Twenty pennies struck the floor.  They scratched along the surface as they were divided equally into two piles.  One pile was pushed up against my right knee.  The other remained by Becky.  She was ready for our conversation.  I was the one dragging my feet.
“Mine,” Becky said, and she took one penny and taped it twice against the floor. My turn.  “The situation,” and Becky dropped four pennies to the floor. Bad.
I picked up two pennies and dropped them.  Yes.
Becky followed by dropping six pennies.  Afraid. 
I again dropped two pennies and then six pennies.  “We’re going home,” but Becky did not drop any pennies.  “Becky, we’re going home,” but she still did not answer me.
I missed my other home.  It wasn’t terrible there, but my brothers were mean to me.  My father did not understand me.  My mother was my only friend.  That was until I met Becky, and coming here opened my eyes.  I wanted more for myself.  If I went back, would that still happen, and what about Becky?  She rarely mentioned her home, and I knew that she didn’t want to go back.  She wanted to stay here, but Mr. Portum was right.  They won.  I reached outward, finding her hand resting along the floor, and I said, “Becky, maybe you could go back with me?”
Becky dropped one penny to the floor.  No.
 “I could talk to my mother, and we could work something out.”
Becky dropped one penny to the floor.  No.  “I don’t want to leave,” she said.
“I don’t want to leave either.”  I squeezed her hand.  I tapped a penny twice along the floor.  My turn. “It doesn’t matter what we want. They won’t stop until we go.”
Becky dropped three pennies to the floor.  Maybe.
“No.  They took over the whole neighborhood and forced everyone else out.  We’re the last ones, and they don’t like that.  They don’t like us.”
Becky dropped five pennies to the floor.  Hate.  “I hate them,” she said.
I flinched at the word, Hate.  I didn’t hate them.  I didn’t hate my parents.  It was my parents that bought Lady, a Doberman that was supposed to protect our family, and the dog loved my parents.  She just didn’t like children, and when I was ten-years-old, Lady attacked me, tearing into my face and blinding me.  Maybe, I did hate Lady, but I didn’t hate my parents.  And I didn’t hate them.
“I hate them.”  Becky jumped to her feet.  She hurried away from me, but her footsteps never left the room.  Instead, she stood in one of the corners, and I listened to her sobs echo into the air.  I wanted her to stay here with me.  I wanted her to go home with me, but I had no say over it.  And I hated that.
I listened to the world outside.  It was quiet, peaceful.  They were leaving us alone for now, and I pooled all the pennies together, pouring them back into the plastic bag.  Then, I stood up from the floor, holding the bag in one hand.  With my other hand, I reached out to find Becky, wrapping my fingers along her arm.  I guided her out into the hallway toward the front door.
“Where are we going,” Becky asked.  I knew that she was signing, and she tried to teach me how to do it.  But it was frustrating.  I couldn’t see what I was saying.  The penny conversations came later, and most here thought that it was a game that we created.  It wasn’t. It was what brought us together, and my friend needed me now more than ever.  “Mine,” Becky asked.  “Where?”
“Outside,” and I stepped away, feeling for the front door.
“We can’t,” Becky said.
“We’re not going far.  Just on the porch,” and to my surprise, Becky opened the door for me.  She then rested her hand along my shoulder.  “It’s nice outside,” and Becky squeezed my shoulder.
It was nice outside.  It was also still quiet.  Becky and I sat down on the large, wicker furniture on the porch.  I rested my feet on the bottom cushion, kicking off my sneakers, and I ran my fingers along the armrest.  I didn’t say anything.  Neither did Becky, but I imagined that she was looking around.  She was staring at the trees, the grass, the birds and squirrels. Then, her focus turned on their development nearby, but she still didn’t say anything.
The morning passed by.  I closed my eyes, feeling my lashes brush against skin, but the darkness never changed. My dreams still stirred, and I imagined soft, white clouds overhead.  The sun kissed my face, and the birds were singing.  I wondered why they weren’t inside my wall.  Did they know it was time to leave?
Suddenly, something hard landed on the porch.  Becky jumped to her feet, and I did the same.  Something struck the front door behind us, and Becky took off running, screaming at someone.  I remained where I was, and something small hit me in the face.  I touched my left cheek, and just then the front door flew open. Mr. Portum and Luv stormed outside. Luv took me in her arms, picking up my sneakers and the bag of pennies from the porch, and Mr. Portum started screaming louder than Becky.
“Get the girls inside.  Now,” Mr. Portum yelled.  “I’ll handle this.”
“Come on,” and Luv guided me into the house.  “We need to get some ice on your face.  Becky, let’s go,” and I smelled flowers, knowing that Becky had returned.
“I hate them,” Becky said to me before she stormed inside.
“Ow.”  I now sat in the kitchen, pushing a paper towel filled with ice cubes against my left cheek.  “Where’s Becky?”
“With the other girls,” Luv replied as she stood by the sink, filling a glass with water.  “They have a lot of nerve,” she muttered, but I heard that. 
“Is it bad,” I asked as she handed me the glass of water.  I took a sip as she held the paper towel with ice cubes against my face.  “It felt like a small rock.”
“It’ll bruise, but not terribly.  You girls were just sitting out there.”  Luv was quiet for a moment.  “What did Becky mean when she said that she hated them?”
“She doesn’t want to go home.”  Luv said nothing.  “That’s why the parents are calling.”  She still didn’t answer me.  “He’s giving up.  He can’t fight them anymore.”  I was referring to Mr. Portum, and Luv let out a sigh.
“You’re too smart,” Luv said as she carried the paper towel filled with ice cubes over to the sink.  “Do you want to lie down for awhile in your room?”
“No,” I said.
“Okay.  We’re going to have lunch soon.  You want to help me?”
“Sure,” I said.  “What’s for lunch?”
“Ham sandwiches.  I’ll set up the plates, the bread and the meat on the kitchen table.  You make the sandwiches, and I’ll make the cole slaw.”
“Can I help with the cole slaw?”
“It’s a little complicated, Mine, but I would appreciate it, if you made the sandwiches.”
“Okay,” and I got to work, making the sandwiches.  I didn’t mind touching the bread.  I liked when it was soft, but the ham was slimy.  It also had a faint bitter smell to it.  I liked the smells that were coming from nearby as Luv made the cole slaw.  I wondered what she put in it, and I wanted to ask her.  I sensed her mind was elsewhere, and I thought about Becky.  Was she okay?  I hoped that she was.  I’ve never heard her so angry before, so upset.  She was afraid, and so was I.  But did I already give up?  I finished making the sandwiches.
Lunch was quiet.  Halfway through, the phone in the kitchen rang.  I listened to Luv push her chair back away from the table.  Her footsteps danced to the ringing, and I heard her “Hello” float out into the dining room.  Then, silence as she listened to whoever was on the other end.  The sharp sound of her hanging up made me flinch, and her footsteps entered the room, moving closer to my chair.  I wondered if it was my parents that called again. Maybe, I should talk to them, but she did not stop next to me.  Instead, she stood beside Becky, and the smell of flowers filled my nose.  And then Becky was gone.
I finished my lunch, waiting for her return.  She never came back.  Luv did, finishing her lunch, and the other girls finished theirs in silence.  Then, they began to clear the table while I remained where I was, still waiting.  Where was Becky?  I jumped as Luv placed a hand on my shoulder.  It had a heavy, sad touch, and my heart dropped.  Who was on the phone?  
“Okay, girls.  I am going to read Charlotte’s Web to you, and then I’m going to put the movie on.” Luv’s voice sounded funny.  I didn’t like that, and why Charlotte’s Web?
When I was nine, my mother and I watched the 1973 version of Charlotte’s Web. At the end of the movie when Charlotte sang her last song before she died, I burst into tears.  I was crying so hard that my mother laughed.  She didn’t laugh to be mean.  It just broke her heart to see me so shaken, and she wrapped her arms tightly around me, kissing the top of my head.  It was the last time that I would ever see that movie, but I knew it by heart.  And even though I would hear it later, I never cried like that again.  That was until today.  I was okay when Luv read the book, signing while reading it, but when the movie reached that scene, my heart broke.  And I lost it, running blindly out of the room in tears.
Luv caught up to me.  She wrapped her arms around me as I cried harder, hugging her.  Then, she gently wiped my tears aside.  She took me by the hand and guided me up the stairs to my room. She sat me on the bed, and I heard my sneakers drop to the floor.  She kissed the top of my head.  I lied down, and she pulled the covers around me.  I didn’t think that I was tired, but I fell fast asleep, only to be awoken later by the dinner call.
  I loved the smell of meatloaf especially Jackie’s meatloaf.  The seasoning would ignite on my tongue and tingle down my throat.  Sometimes, I would still taste it later, wanting more, and she didn’t make her meatloaf too often.  I was surprised that she was making it tonight, and I wondered if this was her last night at the house.  I should protest, stay in bed, but they were calling me downstairs.  I couldn’t refuse, and I wanted to talk to Becky.  I needed to talk to her, so I hurried out of the bed. I didn’t bother putting my sneakers on, and my socks smacked against the floor, heading toward the twelve steps leading downstairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, I sensed a presence.  It wasn’t Luv.  It wasn’t Becky.  It was one of the other girls, and she gingerly guided me over to the dining room table.  She didn’t pull out my chair.  She just walked to the other end, where she sat down, and I pulled out my chair, sitting on the worn cushion.  I reached for Becky, but she wasn’t there.  My hand rested on the empty seat, and I didn’t even realize that the food was placed in front of me until it consumed my nostrils.  I started to eat, hoping that Becky would join us, but she never did. And no matter how much I loved Jackie’s meatloaf, the food barely went down.  I reached for my soda, but it wasn’t left by the fork.  The girl that had poured it for me placed the glass next to the water.  When I finally chose a glass, it was the water.
Dinner came to a bitter end.  I heard Jackie speak, and I loved her Russian accent.  She was asking the other girls to help her clear the table.  I suddenly realized that Luv was not with us.  Where was she?  Where was Becky?  I struggled out of my chair, catching a faint whiff of food that led out into the hallway and up the stairs.  Did Becky eat in her room, and was Luv eating dinner with her?
“Come on, Jasmine.”  Jackie surprised me by taking my hand and leading me into the living room.  “I would like to brush your hair and put it in a ponytail.  It’s getting long.”
“I didn’t notice,” I said, and she laughed at that.  “Where’s Becky?”  Her laughter cut short.  “Is Luv with her?”
“What color do you want your nails painted?”
“I don’t want my nails painted,” and I tried to pull my hand away.  
Jackie refused to let go.  “At least, let me do your hair.”
“Fine.”  I secretly loved having my hair brushed.  I liked how the bristles touched my scalp.  It gave me chills.  It was the opposite with the nail filer.  That was worse than sand paper or nails being scratched against a blackboard.  I almost gave in having my nails done, but I thought of Becky.  Why was she missing this?  She always giggled when her nails were being painted.  She said that it tickled, and I loved her giggle.  The room felt so empty without her, and my heart grew heavy, pushing me further into the couch.  I listened to the other girls nearby laugh and talk, blending beautifully with Jackie’s Russian accent, but nothing could quiet the fear that was rising inside of me.
The rest of the night was spent listening to Jackie’s stories.  She loved talking about her parents’ homeland and the ghost stories that came with it.  All of the girls gathered around me on the couch, and one of them even grabbed my arm when she got spooked.  She had a shaky laugh and tried to say, “I’m sorry.”  It sounded more like, “I sawy,” but I just nodded in her direction.  
Bedtime was usually between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.  Mr. Portum would walk into the family room and turn on the television set, and then I would hear the news.  It seemed like the media strived to be entertainment, but all they sold was death and despair.  It was rare for me to hear a good story on the news, and the world outside scared me. This house was my sanctuary, and I needed it.  Without its protection, I was left open to whatever waited for me out there, and I did not want to leave.  But it was just a matter of time, and Jackie was now telling us to get ready for bed. I didn’t want to call it a night.
I remained on the couch as the six girls gathered around me moved away.  I listened to their footsteps thunder across the floor and up the stairs.  Bedroom doors then opened and closed, and the bathroom became a train station.  I wondered, if Becky had already gone to bed. Would I get one last chance to talk to her before anything happened?
Jackie sat down on the couch beside me.  She took my hand in hers.  Her skin always felt rough, working hands as she called it.  She didn’t say anything.  Neither did I.  We just sat together, listening to the girls upstairs until the last bedroom door closed. Luv and Jackie would check on us later, leaving the bedroom doors half open, but right now, the girls were changing into their nightgowns.  And it was my turn to get ready for bed.
 Jackie pulled me to my feet and led me toward the stairs.  “I’m going to stay down here,” she said.  “Can you go upstairs on your own?”
“Yes,” and I started to move up the stairs.
“I’m sorry.”  I froze at her words.  “I shouldn’t have said anything.  Forget it,” and she hurried away from me.
“Jackie,” but she didn’t answer me. What did she mean by, “I’m sorry?”  I hurried up the stairs and slipped, falling forward.  I caught myself, and my hands slammed against the steps.  They pulsed with pain, and I struggled to my feet, trying to focus on which step I was standing on.  I then slowly moved upward until my feet found the hallway floor.
Becky’s room was two doors on the left from the bathroom.  Her door was closed.  I reached for the doorknob and turned it.  It was locked.  We were allowed to close our bedroom doors, but we were asked to never lock them. Why was her door locked?
The bedroom door suddenly opened.  A sharp breeze struck me in the face, and soft footsteps stepped out into the hallway.  It was Luv. “Mine, time for bed,” she said.
“Were you in there the whole night with Becky?”
“I was.”  The sadness in her voice nearly consumed me.  “Get ready for bed.”
“What’s going on?”
“No.  I’m not getting ready for bed until you tell me what is going on.”
“I can’t,” Luv replied.  “Becky will.”
“When?”  I didn’t mean to yell at her, but I was getting upset.  “What happened to Becky?  Who called her?  Is she going home?”
“Everything okay up there?”  Mr. Portum stood at the bottom of the stairs.
“It’s fine,” Luv said.  “Mine, it’s late.”
“Just tell me that she is okay, Luv.  Is Becky okay?”
“She’ll talk to you before…. She’ll talk to you tomorrow,” and Luv rested her hand along my arm.  “Okay?”
“No.  It’s not okay,” and I hurried away from her, heading toward the bathroom.
I walked into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.  I turned on the sink and started to cry.  I hoped that the sound of water drowned out my sobs, and Luv knocked on the door.  But I ignored her.  When I was done crying, I washed my face and brushed my teeth.  My toothbrush was inside the medicine cabinet on the third shelf to the left, and when I touched it, the toothbrush was dry.  The other girls knew that it was mine.  At least, something was still mine, and I exited the bathroom, heading for my room. 
I sensed Luv hovering nearby.  I didn’t want to talk to her.  I felt like a baby with all my crying today, but I had the right to be upset.  Things were not okay, and something was going on with Becky.  I didn’t want to think about it, but I already knew.  And I crawled under the covers, trying not to cry anymore, but the thought of losing Becky was like a knife twisting in my heart.
The night slowly crawled by.  I tossed and turned, imaging Becky standing outside, waiting for her parents.  I finally saw her, a teen-aged girl around my age with short hair and brown eyes.  She waved to me, but she could not hide the tears running down her face. Then, her parents arrived, and she got inside the car.  And as the car drove off, the house behind me caved in.  Its destruction thundered in my ears, and I wondered, if the sound were the rocks being thrown at the house again.  But the sound was familiar like pennies falling to the floor.  Ten pennies.  Ten pennies meant home, and I awoke as Becky dropped another ten to the floor.
“Mine.”  Becky sounded like she had been crying.  A lot. “You awake?”
I jumped out of the bed, moving toward her voice, but my arms surrounded air. “Where are you?”  
“Here,” and Becky wrapped her arms around me.  “I’m here,” and she started to cry.  And I cried with her.
We sat on the floor together and spent all our tears.  Neither one of us said anything.  We didn’t have to.  We already knew, and no one was going to be here for the winter.  After Becky leaves, the rest of us would follow.
“That was your parents that called during lunch.”
Becky dropped two pennies to the floor.  Yes.
“When,” I asked, but Becky did not respond.  She was lost without words, and so was I.  I reached for her hand, finding it nearby, and my mind desperately searched to say something.  Anything, and then I remembered Charlotte’s Web.  “Becky, you are my friend, and that in itself is a tremendous thing.” 
“You are my friend too, Mine.”  Becky hugged me.  “I will never forget you.”
“Maybe, we will find each other later.”
“I doubt it,” Becky said.
“We’ll find a way.”  I breathed in her flowery scent, trying to commit it to memory.  “We’ll find each other again.”
“I hope we do.  Mine, I leave tomorrow.”
“I know,” I said.  “I had a dream that you were leaving.”
“I wish I could stay.”
“Me too.”
“I will miss our conversations.”
“Me too.”  I listened to Becky gather the pennies from the floor.  She gently took my hand and placed the pennies on my palm.  There were seven of them.  Seven meant hope.  
“To remember me,” Becky said.
“I will never forget you,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady.  “When the pennies fall, I will think of you.”
Becky and I spent the rest of the night in silence.  We let our minds wander, thinking of the road ahead. Would we find each other again?  I hoped so, and my hand closed over the pennies that I was holding.  Maybe, when we found each other again, we would tell the other the most amazing stories, but this story was not one of them.  And it was coming to an end as we sat together, waiting for the sun to rise, setting the stage for our good-bye, and I didn’t want to say good-bye. Neither did Becky.  The birds said it for us as they sang outside my bedroom window.


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