“Alright, Peter, your turn,” Tom said slowly, distracted by the race car game the three boys were playing.
Peter looked away from the screen and thought for a moment. “Something different about myself, right?” he clarified.
The boy to his right, Bradly, added, “Unusual. Something unusual.”
An idea popped into his head, “Oh! I like to draw. You guys don’t know that about me,”
Tom seemed surprised. “Really?” he asked. “I should have known you were a softy.”
While Bradly snickered, Peter was offended. “I am not a softy!”
Bradly added on, “How come you forgot to mention your new girlfriend?”
Peter was offended before, but now he was just angry. “She’s not my girlfriend, Bradly,” he denied. “She’s a good friend!”
“Aw, we were just messing with you! You’re right, Tom, he really is a huge softy. Sensitive, too.” Bradly kept talking.
Peter couldn’t believe these were his friends saying these things. With power from his anger, he slammed down his controller and stormed off, calling, “I’m done! With everything! With you guys! Some friends you guys are!”
Tom stood up, the smile fading from his face, and said bluntly, “Where are you going? Dude, this is my house and it’s raining outside.”
Not caring whatever either of them said, Peter threw on his shoes, gathered his stuff, put on his raincoat, and heaved out the front door in a huff, not noticing the alert he triggered on his phone. His house was only a few blocks down, so he didn’t need anyone to pick him up.
Why am I friends with them? The boy thought to himself as he jogged home through the rain. They’ve always bullied me and I never stood up for myself until now.
He blushed when he thought of his new friend, Charlotte. Bradly had called her Peter’s girlfriend, but that wasn’t true. They were only in eighth grade and they had known each other since that summer.
She was such a good friend. Peter couldn’t believe how selfless, funny, friendly, and beautiful she was. Just the thought of her made him want to spin around in circles with delight. Even though the rain poured down on him like falling rocks and the clouds covered the sky like curtains, it seemed as though something bright and cheery was by his side.
Because there was.
“Are you in need of assistance?” a light, curious voice said behind him.
Peter turned around, only to be met by the bright green eyes of Charlotte Bailey.
“Char? What are you doing here?” he said in confusion.
The girl pointed to the outline of Peter’s phone in his right pocket. “I called you and you texted back, ‘I am in need of assistance’ and sent me your location.”
Peter’s head tilted to the side as he replied, “Huh? Oh, wait, I must have pressed that button after a missed call. Sorry you had to come all the way here for nothing,”
Char laughed, “It’s no biggie. My house isn’t super far away. Besides, I love running cluelessly in the rain, don’t you?”
“It’s the best,” Peter laughed.
Char looked at the ground and back at him. “So,” she said slowly, “you’re not in need of assistance?”
Peter thought for a moment. “Well, kinda, I guess…” he thought of how to word what had happened. “I might’ve just dumped two of my so-called good friends,” he said guiltily.
“You mean Terrible Tom and Bragging Brady?”
“I suppose that’s what you could call them.”
“I’ve told you before, Peter,” Char said casually. “Both of them use you and bully you and don’t give an owl’s hoot if they hurt you, inside or out.”
“Don’t tell me this is an, ‘I told you so’ moment.”
“Oh, yes it is! I told you so, Petey! I was so right!” Char laughed, bouncing around him.
Peter smiled and started to laugh. Before long, the two of them were bouncing around in the puddles and laughing and running. They splashed on the sidewalk, they laughed in the grass, they ran on the side of the road.
Char was getting a pig-back ride from Peter when she suddenly said, “You know it’s, like, ten o’clock, right?”
Peter knew it was late, but didn’t realize it was that late. “Jeez, my mom’s going to be so confused when I walk through the door drenched at practically midnight!”
“Come to my house. It’s only the next neighborhood and you can explain to your mom in the morning,” Char said sweetly.
“Really? Thanks,” Peter blushed a little. Luckily it was dark enough that Char couldn’t see his rosy cheeks—at least he hoped.
“C’mon!” Char grabbed his hand and started running back to her house through the rain.
“Charlotte? I’ve been worried sick! You disappeared and the front door was unlocked!” a worried mother in her pajamas came into the entryway. “Who is this?”
Char smiled guiltily, “Mom, this is my friend, Peter. Peter, this is my mom. I got an alert on my phone from him but it was only a simple misunderstanding.”
“I was with my friends, but I left early. It was a bad night,” Peter added in.
Char’s mom blinked a couple times before saying, “I adore your loyalty, Charlotte, but at least wake me up next time. Anyway, is he staying? I can get the blow-up mattress.” She hurried back to get it before either of them could answer.
“My room’s this way,” Char urged, holding Peter’s hand again and taking him to her bedroom.
The small room was cute and welcoming, with fairy lights and Polaroid photos and dance trophies.
“This is nice,” Peter complimented, not knowing what much else to say.
“Hm, I try,” Char shrugged.
Noises came from down the hallway and Mrs. Bailey came in with the mattress and an amount of blankets that Peter thought was unnecessary.
“Here you go, Peter. Make yourself at home, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like,” Char’s mom offered.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hall,” Peter replied as he sat on the cushiony surface. “It was very nice to meet you.”
The kind woman smiled. “Lovely to meet you as well.” She said her good-nights, turned the light off, closed the door, and went off down the hallway.
Snuggled in soft, fluffy, warm blankets, Peter’s stressed body finally felt relaxed. He was about to fall asleep when he heard, “Psst, Peter. What do you wanna do now?”
He sat up a little. “What do you mean? It’s practically midnight.”
“Have you never been to a sleepover? The ‘sleep’ part in that word means stay up late talking about stuff that’s on your mind and doing crazy stuff.”
“I’m...pretty sure that’s not what it means.”
Char completely ignored his last comment and asked, “How has school been? I heard you got all straight A’s on your report card last month. Great job!”
Peter was kind of awestruck by this. Neither Tom nor Brady had asked him how things were going in his life unless they were asking questions with embarrassing answers.
“Thanks. School’s been okay, I guess. What about you?”
Peter couldn’t exactly see Char, but he knew by the moment of silence that she was making a laughing guilty face.
“School was just fine until Mr. Cot gave me a B in math.”
“B’s aren’t all that bad. You’ll raise it in no time, I know it.”
He wasn’t sure how, but Peter was able to hear Char smile.
She laughed a little, her cute, cordial laugh. “This is going to happen again soon. I can feel it. We are bound to have many more hangouts.”
Peter smiled, “Really? That would be awesome!”
“I will teach you all the sleepover things and transitions,” Char continued, “and I will gladly die a hero.”
Peter could feel something amazing beginning. It was the feeling of an adventure—not just one, but many more to come.
Char had changed quite a bit over the past few months. Before she was timid and shy, but now...now she is letting herself go.
She had changed. And that meant Peter could too.
The feeling of adventure was surrounded by zephyrs of change, blowing around, sweeping people off their feet, and showing them just the possibilities of what’s to come.