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  • Excerpt Monday: Friends of Choice by Linda Nelson

    Friends of Choice by Linda Nelson

    The clatter of Saturday morning breakfast dishes woke Karla. Looking at her alarm clock, she saw it was already 9:00 in the morning. She never slept in that late.


    Her room was bright with the morning sun. Sitting up in bed, she took her remote and turned on the TV. Seeing there were only cartoons on, she settled for MTV.

    Her room looked almost the way she wanted it to look. Karla had stayed up late. She only had a couple of small boxes left to unpack, and these she had stuffed into the bottom of her closet. Most of her clothes which belonged on hangers, were hung neatly. But, she never bothered to close her closet door last night.

    Karla could smell blueberry muffins cooking. They made her stomach growl. She poked her head out her bedroom door. “ Are you making blueberry muffins for breakfast?” she asked her mom. She wandered out into the kitchen to have a better look.

    “Yup! Would you like some? They will be ready in another five minutes.” Her mom flipped on the oven light, showing Karla the big, puffy muffins browning in the oven.

    “Yeah! I will be out in a bit. I'm gonna go get dressed.” She hurried back to her room.

    The sound of a Green Day video was booming from her TV. She quickly moved to turn it down before her parents said something. She was surprised that her mom had not said anything about the loud music yet.

    She watched the video while she selected her outfit from her closet. Karla loved her new closet. It was huge, compared to the one she used to have. She could hang her shoes and purses on the door. There were even little wire shelves to stack her sweaters and things on.

    When the video ended, Karla shut off her TV. She began brushing her hair, humming the tune I Walk Alone while tipping her head from one side and then the other as she brushed. She slipped a clip into her hair to hold her hair back. Looking in her mirror which hung on her bedroom door, she was pleased with the results.

    “Muffins are ready!” her mom called from the kitchen.

    “'Kay!” Karla answered. She tossed her brush on top of her bureau next to her cell phone. The sight of the phone reminded her of how she had not been able to contact Carol yet. She shrugged it off, deciding to call after having her muffin.

    She had not made her bed yet, so she decided to close her bedroom door behind her. Her mother nagged her enough and she would get to it after having the warm muffin.

    She noticed a paper plate with a muffin was waiting for her in the kitchen on the breakfast nook. She slipped onto the stool and began to enjoy her favorite breakfast.

    “Muffins are good!” Karla complimented her mom. She could see her mom from where she sat. The breakfast nook was open below the cabinets. This allowed anyone sitting there to look out into the living room.

    She tossed the paper plate into the trash after eating two of the muffins.

    “You sure that was enough?” her mom asked. She returned to the kitchen to wrap up the remaining muffins.

    “Yeah! I'm gonna go sit outside on the steps for a while,” Karla announced. “I'm still waiting for Carol to call me.”

    “Alright...Did you finish unpacking?”

    “Yup! You can go check if you want.”

    “No, I believe you.”

    Karla went back to her room first before going outside. She needed her sneakers. The rocks always bothered her feet, so she never liked going barefoot.

    She decided her bed could wait, she would make it later.

    As soon as Karla stepped out onto the porch, she felt how warm the sun was. It was probably going to be in the 80's today, it wouldn't surprise her. She took a seat on the bottom step, and was surprised to see they had moved to such a busy street. The sound of the traffic from Main Street traveled to her ears.

    Karla watched the people walking and jogging up and down the street. There were a few kids from her school walking down the other side of the street. She wondered if there was a park or basketball court down the other end of the street somewhere.

    The day was beginning to warm up quickly. Karla was glad she had not worn her blue hooded sweater. She reached in her side pant pocket and felt her cell phone was still there. Taking it out of her pocket, she checked it to see if she had missed any calls. There was none. This made her feel frustrated. She put the phone back in her pocket.

    A girl broke free from a group of teens across the street. Karla watched as she crossed the street and began jogging up her driveway. As she got closer, Karla could see it was Carol.

    “Hey, Karla! My mom said you called me last night.” Carol sounded a bit out of breath.

    Karla stood up at the sight of Carol jogging up her short driveway. “Yeah! Hi! I called to let you know I could hang with you today. I just have to let my folks know where we are going to be.”

    “Oh! I'm going to the mall, and maybe stop at the town field for a bit.”

    “Alright. Hang on, I will be right back, better yet, come on inside. You can meet my folks.”

    Karla brought Carol into the house. She was happy to see her dad was reading his newspaper. Her mom was watching some DYI program on TV. Most of the boxes were gone from the living room. The bookcase was assembled and all the books were put neatly away.

    “Mom, Dad, this is Carol.”

    “Hi, Carol, it is nice to meet you.” Her dad looked up over the top of his newspaper.

    “Karla says you live just down the street?” her mom questioned.

    “Yeah, I live at 292 Kemper Street. It is just around the corner from the library.” Carol answered.

    “Have you lived there long?” her dad asked.

    “Yeah, well, we have moved around town a couple of times. But I have lived in Brantwood all my life.” Carol smiled.

    Karla began to feel uneasy while her parents began to throw twenty million questions at her new friend.

    “Oh, so you must know your way around here real well?” her mom asked.

    “Umm…yeah, pretty much.” Carol looked bewildered by the questions.

    Karla butted in “I'm gonna go with her to the mall, if it is alright, and then we are gonna stop at the town field for a while. Is that alright?”

    “Alright,” her dad stated. “Be home before dark.

    Her mom threw in, “And stay out of trouble!”

    “Thanks!” Karla hoped the question time was over for now. She began to move toward the door. Turning, she checked to see if Carol was following her.

    “Bye! It was nice meeting you!” Carol said politely.

    Karla caught Carol by her sleeve. She tried not to look too obvious to her parents in her eagerness to leave. She said quietly to Carol, “Come on, let's go before they change their minds.”

    “Why? Your folks seem pretty nice.” Carol smiled.

    Karla lead Carol out the door.“My mom can be a witch! My dad, yeah, he can be really nice at times. He can even be cool at times, too. But he does have his moments.”

    Karla saw there were more cars on the road now. They had to stop and wait before crossing the street. Walking silently, they made their way to the corner of Main Street.

    Carol stopped before the entrance to a small convenience store. “Karla, I'm gonna get a drink, you want one?”

    “I didn't bring any money with me.” Karla responded. She began to wish she had brought some with her. She would have really liked to have been able to get herself another outfit, or maybe a Cd or something.

    “That's okay. You stay here, I'll be right back!” Carol called over her shoulder.

    Karla watched while Carol entered the store and headed toward the back, out of sight. It was a small store and there were lot of customers inside, from what she could see from where she stood.

    Turning toward the traffic on the street, she began to watch the people and cars. She was amused by the sight of a dog trying to cross a crosswalk by itself. Its owner appeared to be nowhere in sight.

    Carol spooked Karla with her sudden appearance. She pulled a candy bar out of one pocket of her hoodie and handed it to Karla. “You can have half. Go ahead, open it.”

    Carol then produced a can of soda from the other pocket of her hoodie.

    “Wow…that was quick! It looked like there was a line in there. Did you cut in line or something?”

    “Na… I know the owner.” Carol popped the top on her soda and took her share of the candy bar.

    “Oh! Right, whatever works, I guess.” Karla took a bite of the candy bar and began following Carol along the sidewalk. She noticed many small shops lined the street, all facing a large town common with several park benches.

    Karla followed Carol for what seemed like a half an hour. “How far to the mall?”

    “We are almost there.” Carol drained the last of her soda. She flipped the can into a trash bin as they passed by.

    “Cool…” Karla wondered why they had to walk so fast. She found Carol could be a fast walker, and she was having trouble keeping up with her. They walked for another two blocks, and then Karla saw the sign. “I haven't been here in months.”

    Carol slowed up a bit. “Good! I can still plan on having some fun by showing you around.”

    The mall grew before Karla's eyes. She thought it must have been about a mile long. Her eyes scanned the signs of store names mounted above each of the individual stores. She felt thrilled to see her favorite store was still part of this mall.

    “Can we go in to Abercrombie? I want to check out their outfits.” she asked Carol as she spied the store sign.

    Karla followed Carol across the busy parking lot. Drivers appeared to fight over parking spots. She remembered what it was like when her Dad tried to park at this mall last Christmas.

    Carol led Karla straight to the main entrance of the mall. She was amazed by the flood of people. She never realized how busy this place was.

    “I know where the Abercrombie store is,” Carol stated.

    Carol picked up the pace again, making Karla wondered why she had to walk so fast. She had to quickly sidestep around people so she could keep up with Carol in the thick crowd. The task was proving to be difficult. She almost had to push her way through the crowd to keep up.

    Carol stopped quick, and Karla almost walked into her. “Here it is.”

    Karla followed Carol into the store. She heard the door chime when she stepped onto the store carpet. Carol immediately began checking out some tops neatly folded on a clothing table.

    “Hey, I like this one.” Carol held up the top in front of herself for Karla to see.

    “Ah, yeah…that one is really nice.” Karla agreed.

    “I have to try it on.” Carol took the top to the dressing room, along with a pair of pants and a couple of other outfits.

    Karla followed Carol. She grabbed a few outfits to try on too, even though she didn't bring any money to buy them. She could at least see how they would look on her. If she liked them, maybe she could come back later and buy them.

    She showed the outfits she wanted to try on in the dressing room to the store clerk. The lady at the dressing room gave them each a tag with a number of items they had with them.

    Karla took the booth next to Carol.

    She put the outfit on. The pants seemed to be a little tight around her waist. While the top was just a bit more low cut than she was use to. After checking it out in the mirror, she stepped out of the booth. “What do you think?” She wanted Carol's opinion.

    Carol stepped out of her booth after putting on the top she had wanted to try. “Oh, that does look nice on you. How 'bout mine? You like?” She turned around in front of the mirror, trying to see what it looked like in the back.

    “Yeah!” Karla approved. She held up the price tag for Carol to see. “Too bad it's so expensive.”

    “Eh…that never stops me,” Carol stated. She looked one more time at the mirror, admiring the top. Her fingers quickly found the price tag and snapped it off.

    “What are you doing?” Karla asked, surprised by Carol's actions.

    “Nothing.” Carol looked out the fitting room door and saw Heath and Gerry. She pointed Heath out to Karla. “Hey, look, there is Heath. Go let him know I will be right out.”

    “Kay.” Karla stepped back into her booth to change. A feeling of nervous jitters built up in the pit of her stomach. She stepped out of her booth and checked Carol's booth. It was empty. The feeling in her stomach grew stronger.

    She stopped to drop off the number tag and the outfits. Carol was no where to be seen. Karla spied Heath standing a few yards from the entrance of the store. Fearing she would be watched, she walked as calmly as she could out of the store.

    The door chime announced Karla's departure from the store, making her jump just a bit. She hoped no one saw how tense she felt. “Heath! Carol said she will be right out.”

    “Is she getting another outfit?” Heath asked.

    “Um…I'm not sure…She said she will be out in a minute.” Karla wasn't sure what Carol was really doing. She didn't see her standing in line and she was taking what seemed like a long time.

    “Here she comes.” Heath announced. He immediately turned away and started walking away from the store.

    “Hey, Heath!” Carol called as she quickly became in step with Heath. “Karla, keep walking until I say we can stop,” she said as she grabbed Karla by the sleeve and pulled her along with them.

    “Huh?” Carol's sudden appearance stunned Karla.

    “Just do as she says!” Heath interjected over his shoulder.
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