Chapter 1: Prologue to a Friendship

No matter how old you get, being the new kid never ceases to be a scary thing. It is especially so from the perspective of a just come second grader, watching from the outskirts of the playground while the rest of the old friends race by shrieking and laughing, as if you aren't even there. Too caught up in their blissful fantasy worlds and the sheer exhilaration of being outdoors, they don't pause to let the reality close in around them, let alone take notice of the new kid standing alone, utterly invisible.

I have never been a shy girl, nor, I regret to say, a very sympathetic one. Even by the time I had reached second grade, I had established myself as bold, spunky, and plenty tough—not to mention completely tactless. These traits combined lent themselves to a sense of ease and fearlessness with which I roamed the playground. The quieter, more reserved girls tended to shy away from me—I had a tendency to be rather rambunctious and I packed a pretty mean punch—but then, that's what growing up with two older brothers will do for you. Needless to say, I had never really been moved by the plight of any new girl to this point—mostly I schemed up new ways to make their lives miserable for a few days until I had established my status as a force to be reckoned with, by which point they learned to steer clear.

But there was something about this new girl that stopped me in my tracks. Her bright, expressive blue eyes were so eloquent in their confusion and despair, and yet the corners of her mouth continued to tug upward, ready to turn into a smile at any moment. I could tell she was accustomed to smiling, secure in the innocence of childhood and the knowledge that things would turn out for the best. She radiated with this optimism despite the timid expression in her eyes and her obvious uncertainty.

I raised my eyes to meet her in a smoldering challenge, and was startled by the pure sweetness of her gaze. I saw etched in her face, behind her astonishingly blue eyes, that she was a creature altogether gentle and vulnerable to hurt, as perfect as she was fragile, and a protective instinct stirred up inside of me. I then did something I had never done before—I softened my fiery gaze and walked up to the new girl, not with spite or intimidation on the brain, but instead with a friendly curiosity.

"I'm Sam," I told her without preamble, and then I waited for her response.

"Liana." I had expected her voice to be soft, a mere whisper of a sound as hesitant as her smile, but here I was surprised. She spoke in a tone of enormous volume, of which she was seemingly oblivious, and the coarse, grainy sound of it was out of keeping with her dainty and cautious appearance.

The tiny ghost of a smile which had before been present on her face melted away into a golden and genuine smile which rapidly engulfed her face and lit up her eyes. From that moment onward, our friendship was set. We laughed, played, and talked together, but most of all we stood by one another with unswerving loyalty. It was just one of those moments that cannot be conveyed in the telling, a moment of pure understanding between the two of us, in which a true friendship was born.

After Liana left my house for the first time, my mother shook her head wearily. "Something is not right with that child," she mused, half to herself. "It's just not natural to be that cheerful all the time," she warned me. She then proceeded to take several aspirin and went upstairs, complaining of an earsplitting headache.

I couldn't understand what my mother was getting at, and I attributed it to her being old and unreasonable, taking no heed of her comments which were soon put in the back of my head and forgotten. I was absolutely steadfast in my belief that Liana and I would be friends forever, that our friendship would always remain true.