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[dedicated to]:  Happiee because her stories are amazing.  Like seriously.

Chapter Two

The day Amber Arlington moved to town was not a good day.

We were both seven, and she came in a whirlwind of designer luggage and princess pouts.  I didn’t understand what a whirlwind was, and designer was foreign too, but the minute I saw Amber, I knew she was nothing but trouble.

It was late August when she arrived with her parents.  Fall hadn’t come yet, and I was relishing the last days of the hot summer sun-- bare feet, muddy knees, sticky popsicles and all.  I had just returned from the beach with my family.  There was sand lodged everywhere and my hair was drying into salt and the minute I got home, I collapsed on the couch and counted my seashells.

“Avery,” my dad called.  “Come here for a sec?”

“ ’Kay, dad,”  I wriggled onto the floor and followed his voice to the front porch.  “Yeah?”

He smiled.  “These are the Arlingtons,”  he said, gesturing to the family across the street.  “I work in Mr. Arlington's company and they’ve just moved across the street.”

I looked at them.  Mother, Father, and Daughter were standing to the side of the U-Haul truck, their heads tilted high as they watched the movers carting their boxes into the house.  

“Her name is Amber,” he followed my line of vision.  “She’s your age, so maybe you two could play together sometime.”

“Play together?”  Amber didn’t seem like any fun.  Her dark-gold hair was in perfectly curled ringlets, held together by carefully spritzed hairspray.  She was clad in white, with a dress that boasted lace and frills and ribbon and shining pearl-encrusted shoes that glimmered in the afternoon sun.  Lace looked like toilet paper that had gone through a war zone.  I wrinkled my nose.  “Do I have to?”

My dad smiled gently.  “How about we just say hello?  If Amber likes you, maybe her father will give me a raise sometime.”

And so we walked.  Hesitantly, I held tightly to his hand as we crossed the street, and I saw him wave a hand in greeting.  I hid behind his pants, but his legs were shaking slightly and his voice trembled as he spoke.  “Hello, Mr. Arlington!  This is my daughter, Avery.  She’s the same age as Amber.”

Mr. Arlington sniffed and adjusted his tie.  Even in the August heat, he was decked out in a full suit, leather shoes, jacket, and all.  He towered well over six feet, gray wafts of hair flattened on top of his head.  With dark, calculating eyes, Mr. Arlington looked down at me.  He sniffed again, and his mouth curled distastefully at my sandy swimsuit and salty hair.  “Yes.”  His voice was a bored and scornful monotone.  

My dad looked confused, his mouth pursed like a fish’s before he choked out a response.  “Well, uh, maybe they could be friends?  Amber seems like a-uh, very nice girl.”

“My daughter is busy.  She does not have time to partake in such-”  His nose twitched as he swept another glance at me.  “-frivolity.”

I itched with excitement at this word.  A week ago, my mother entered me into the town spelling bee.  Frivolity was the final word, and I had spelled it with utmost precision.  “F-R-I-V-I-L-I-T-Y,”  I chanted, wriggling with pride.  My previous fear of our new neighbors was temporarily forgotten.

“F-R-I-V-O-L-I-T-Y,”  Amber spoke up, a saccharine smile plastered over a mocking sneer.  “You spelled it wrong.”

Flaming with embarrassment, I ducked my head, retreating behind my dad yet again.  But to my surprise, my loyal and kind-hearted father betrayed me and nudged me forward.  “Avery is quite intelligent, as Amber appears to be.  They could study together, perhaps?”  

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