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Cassidy’s desk is empty today, and I look nervously at my watch. Arranging my pencils neatly along the serrated edge of my desk, I focus intently on my math, trying to calculate how much time there is until class starts. Around me, my classmates are huddled around each other, chatting away about yesterday’s American Idol show and laughing like a bunch of hyenas as they make fun of horrible auditions. I would normally join them, but today I can only force a slight smile. Cassidy is not here today, and I don’t feel like doing anything. I can only think about running to her house after school and finding out what happened.
I am ready to prepare myself for a horrible day when the door suddenly swings open, hitting the wall with a bang. I instantly look up in shock from the frightening noise but immediately perk up when I see who it is. Each step Cassidy takes makes a peculiar “clicking” sound against the tiled floors and she flashes me a bright smile, one that had been the result of hours practicing in front of the mirror for the day she goes up on the stage to win an Oscar.
“Hi!” Cassidy exclaims when she reaches my desk, glancing at my watch. “Yikes, I’m a little late today.” I nod, and she waves her hand. Being the spontaneous person she is, she quickly changes the subject to her shoes, pointing at her new boots.
“Look! Look at the heels! I’m one step closer to being a famous actress now!” I roll my eyes but I can’t help but break into a grin. Her personality is a magnet, sending out waves of giddiness to whoever she was with.
But in an instant, her face becomes more serious, and it seems like a bunch of gray clouds settles in around us, erasing the sunlight that had just prevailed. “Pick one: good news or bad news,” she says ominously, and I begin to feel uncomfortable. This is a first for Cassidy and I try to laugh to lighten the tone around us.
“Nice acting!” I exclaim. “What TV show is that from?”
Cassidy gives me a slight smile, but it doesn’t reach her eyes anymore. They don’t glimmer now, and it looks as if an opaque screen has hidden their shine. She shakes her head slowly, and when her eyes do begin to sparkle it is because tears begin to develop.
Unsure of what to do, I give some thought to her question. “Ummm…bad news first.”
Cassidy nods and takes a deep breath. I stare at her intently, wondering whether she is just trying to be dramatic or if she really is serious. She blows at the bangs that partly cover her head, but they flutter in the air a bit before flopping back down where they originally were. “My dad got transferred to work in Florida,” she blurts out.
I gasp, my eyes widening. “Does that-does-“
She nods. “I’m leaving this weekend.” She bites her lips as I try to process what she is saying. All I can focus on are the words “I’m leaving” that tumbled out of Cassidy’s mouth. They play over and over again like what happens when the DVD player jams and continues to replay a segment, and my vision becomes blurry from the tears that fill my eyes. I can’t see clearly but I know that Cassidy is also crying because of the way her shoulders are trembling.
“What?” I finally manage to ask, my emotions a swirl of fury and misery.
“I’m so sorry!” Cassidy cries. “But I promise we can still talk on the phone! And I’ll come back to visit!”
I sniffle as I look at my best friend. “Please Cassidy. Please tell me you’re just acting and you don’t really mean this.” I look at her and pray that she will beam at me and tell me that she is kidding and I’ll be so relieved I hug her to pieces.
But this is not what happens. She shakes her head and pulls me in for a hug. I stand there limply, my thoughts far from reality.
When she steps back, I wipe away my tears with my sleeve. As I calm myself, we are left in a heavy moment of silence. “Then what was the good news?” I get my hopes up, thinking that Cassidy might use this chance to tell me that she really wasn’t serious.
But all she does is reach into her shiny High School Musical backpack and takes out a sloppily wrapped present—it was obvious that she had wrapped it herself. “Here, I wanted you to take this,” she says, handing it to me.
I slowly unwrap the gift, carefully sliding my thumb under the edge of the wrap and wedging it up, pulling the wrap gently off the present. Cassidy laughs and says, “Ahh, Teresa—always a neat freak.”
I smile and pull out a small straw purse. I run my finger along it, feeling the rough fibers of the straw, and trailing my fingers along the velvety flowers that adorn the edge. “It’s beautiful!” I exclaim. I look at Cassidy, who studies me nervously, and I tell her thank you.
Cassidy beams. “I knew you’d like it. When I saw it, it reminded me of Florida. So whenever you use it, you’ll always have a piece of me with you—wherever you go.”
The tears threaten to spring up again and I hug her, my cheek brushing against her soft hazel locks. “I’m going to keep this forever,” I say, starting to put it away safely in my backpack.
But before I can, she stops me. “Wait! Look inside!”
Hesitantly, I zip open the purse and pull out the small box inside. I lift up the cover and spill the contents onto my desk: a thick pile of notes sent back and forth in class and various pictures. I flip through them, each picture bringing back a memory and before I know it, the pictures string together the story of a strong friendship between two girls.
I’m in the middle of flipping through the photos when our teacher, Ms. V, walks in. “Every to your seats!” she exclaims and I quickly try to stuff the pictures into the box. Meanwhile, Cassidy fingers one of them with a smile.
“I’d like to keep this one for myself if you don’t mind,” she says. I look over her arm at the picture, and I can see why she wants it. The picture captures us perfectly—and it brings back a strong memory of the first day we met.
“I still remember that day,” I say and Cassidy smiles. She takes the picture and tucks it carefully into her wallet, and as she turns to take her seat, a yellow post-it flutters to the floor like a fallen butterfly. I bend to pick it up, and read it. There, in Cassidy’s scrawled handwriting, is the address of her new home: Saint Petersburg, Florida. I place it into my box of memories as Cassidy walks away, the clicking of her heels gradually fading away.