The New Friend

“Kiara, I just made some cookies for the new family next door. Could you take them while I get started on dinner?”

“Sure,” I replied, relieved to be free of my math homework, at least for five minutes. “Be right back.” I ran with the cookie tray in my hand. I wondered who the new family was. In our community of Avalon Lake, Ohio, there weren’t any kids who were 12, like I was, at least not in the summer of 1959. Avalon Lake was mainly a prosperous retirement community.

I hoped the new family wouldn’t mind that my family was black. The other residents of Avalon Lake did, and they drew fiery crosses on our doors and left threatening notes. We’d considered moving, but Dad was making good money here, working as an ob-gyn. I rang the doorbell and out stepped a girl with long black hair and a quetzal on her shoulder.

“Hi! I’m Kiara Washington. What’s your name?” I asked, trying not to stare.

“I’m Ilene Thrasher. Just came from Louisiana, from the Veilleux Circus.”

“What’s that?” I asked as I handed her the plate.

“Only Louisiana’s largest circus. Come on in. I’ll show you some pictures.”

Wow, is this girl different. I walked in the home to smell croissants. Ilene’s mother smiled. “Hello! I’m Hannah Grace Thrasher. What’s your name?”

“I’m Kiara Washington,” I replied. “I came by to give you some cookies. Courtesy of my mother.”

“Well, tell her thank you for me, all right? Ilene, what are you doing?” she asked, but not in a mean way. Rather, it was curious.

“Oh, I just wanted to show Kiara some pictures of our time in the circus,” she replied.

“Oh! Of course. The circus made up some of the best years of my life.”

I smiled and walked upstairs to Ilene’s room.

It was…exotic, a feast for the senses. The room was painted rose gold, with a canopy bed in the center. It smelled of lilacs. On the ceiling was a painting of the Amazon rainforest. There was a dog bed with a Yorkie inside, and a gold window seat with a drawer underneath. A window seat! I’d always wanted one.

“Wow,” I said. “Your room is fly.”

“Thanks. My scrapbooks are in the drawer of my window seat,” Ilene explained. I went to the window seat, removed the comfortable-looking pillows, and opened the drawer.

There were so many scrapbooks. I began pulling them out.

“Year One: Made by Mom,” a red, flowered one said. I looked inside. There were pictures of trapeze artists, contortionists, and what looked like fortune tellers.

“Year Seven: Ilene” said a purple one. This one seemed to be focused on Ilene and her tricks. She looked like she was an opera singer.

“I had no idea you could sing,” I said.

“Well, you just met me,” she replied matter-of-factly. “But yes, I can sing.” And she began to sing “Jailhouse Rock”!

I laughed. She really could sing.

“You can take those scrapbooks home with you if you like. And this is my dog, Bella,” she added, almost as an afterthought. “What do you say on Monday we go take her for a walk after school?”

“Sounds good. By the way, what’s the name of your quetzal?”

“Perry. It’s a girl,” she added.

“That’s nice. You’re real lucky,” I said genuinely. “Well, I guess I’ll see you Monday!”

“See you, Kiara.”

Mrs. Thrasher insisted I take some croissants home, so I did. I walked home, whistling “Jailhouse Rock” to myself and realizing something: I had a friend here. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen with us.

—By Deb O., 16, Ohio