The next few weeks I was in Illinois, Jake and Toby came back several times to visit our street. Their mother was due to have her baby in about two weeks time, and so their grandmother offered to take care of her other kids while she was resting and her husband was off at work. Apparently, the boys liked coming here, for before school started we were their only friends. So usually when they were at their grandma's, Ruth would come over to visit my grandma so that the boys could play with us Palmer kids.

The next year, I ended up spending my third grade school year living in Illinois with my grandparents. However, I went to a small private school and therefore didn't go to school with any of the other Palmer kids. I saw Jake once a week at church. He was in my Sunday School class. We acknowledged each other, but he was usually with the boys while I usually was with the girls. He did tell me that he had a sister now. Her name was Abigail. Toby actually talked to me more when I saw him at church than his brother did.

Jake never came to visit the Palmer kids the year I lived there. This was probably due to the fact that after being in town for a year, he had made his own friends. It was also slightly inconvenient for him to come here now. Although in a year we found out that he actually lived fairly close to Palmer Road all along. All he needed to do was to cross one busy street that his parents would never have allowed when he was eight or nine. Toby did come to play with us, though. It turned out that he and Avery were classmates and became good friends, so his mother would drive him over here to play.

Oddly, I didn't really miss Jake. It wasn't as though we were good friends before. Perhaps we were just temporally playmates. I only knew him for a month anyways. Chelsea and I, however, had become very good friends during the year I lived in America.

By the end of my third grade year, a new family moved into the house between Hannah's house and Lucas' house. That family had two boys. One was the same age as me and his brother was two years younger. The boys' names were Kevin and Kent. They were a nice addition to our street, especially since Josh and Russell rarely came now, and Ben had officially stopped playing with us. But because they arrived close to the time I was leaving, I didn't get to know them very well until next year.

My visit to America after my fourth grade year was too short for my taste. Only three weeks. As soon as I arrived back at my grandparent's house, Chelsea came over to ask if I could play. I was dead tired, but very happy to go.

We ran to her backyard and went straight to her swing set. I occupied the blue swing and she the red swing. Just like it was all the time last year. We twisted and turned and swung high. Then I asked her how things had been going since I left last year.

"Nice," she said. "We had a girl that lived on Rainbow street (the street behind us) come play with us for a while."


"Uh huh," Chelsea said, turning her head and pointing to a house that was behind the house next to hers.

"What's she like?" I asked.

"I liked her," Chelsea said. "Bailey Shipley loved her. She's gone now, though."


Chelsea shrugged. "I don't know. Oh, and Kevin and Kent play with us all the time now."

"Official Palmer kids?"

Chelsea nodded. "They are kind of rowdy. But they're still lots of fun. " She looked at me, "and Kent is kind of cute."

"Hmmmm," I said.

"I think you guys will get along fine. Jake and Toby come to play with us now a lot too."

"Really?" I asked surprised.

"Yup. Their mother lets them bike over here now. Jake and Kevin are in the same class, and Avery, Kent, and Toby are in the same class so…."

"They are allowed to come here by themselves?" I asked in awe. My parents never let me ride away from the neighborhood. If it were up to my grandparents I would never leave the street. "Do they live far?"

"I heard they live by the elementary school on Vale Street. They said it doesn't take long. They just have to cross Monroe Avenue which I think is kind of scary."

"Wow," I said under my breath.

"Wanna play something?"

"Sure!" I said. "But I think I'm going to have to go in soon to help unpack." And so we did. We played together making the time pass between us very quickly, just as it always had. And later when my mom called me from over the fence to come home to help out a bit, Chelsea came with me.

After dinner on the same day, I was sitting on the front yard under one of my favorite trees that I had missed when I was away. There was something about the air in America that you couldn't quite get in Japan. A scent I couldn't really describe. I also missed the sound of Palmer Road. I'm not really sure what it is but I guess it's the sound of many trees and their leaves blowing in the background. These little details I could never truly explain, but were the things I missed most. I missed the whole atmosphere. In the distance, I heard the familiar whistle of the Amtrak train. I missed that too. I remembered just two hours ago my dad and I took a quick trip to Jewel Osco. When I walked in and heard the sound of the automatic doors bursting open, and felt the cool air of the grocery store surrounding me. For some reason, at that moment I knew I was back in Illinois. "I'm back," I said to no one in particular. It was going to be a fun three weeks. This was, after all, my second home.

I was observing the cracks in the pavement when I heard someone call my name. I looked up to see a tan colored boy on the other side of the street looking at me. "Lucas!" I cried jumping up and rushing over to him in delight. I gave him a quick hug.

"You're back," he said.

"Yup! I know. It's good to be here. So how have you been?"

"Good like always. How long are you here for?"

"Three weeks."

"That's not very long," Lucas said, sounding a tad disappointed.

I nodded. Before I left Japan, three weeks seemed like plenty of time. I realized, however, that as I soon as I got here, that it really wasn't. "Don't worry, though. I'll come back next year, and the next year and so on. Like I always do. I love it here."

Lucas nodded. "You want to play with us?"

"Us?" I asked wondering who all he was referring to.

"Yeah," he said. We heard another door slam and looked across the street to see Chelsea emerging from her house, rushing over to us holding three Popsicle sticks.

"I already bit into one of the red ones," she said.

"I get the other red one," I said quickly.

"I wanted the red one," Lucas said not taking the blue Popsicle Chelsea was offering to him.

"Tough," I said. "Ladies first."

"That's not enough of a reason considering you both are ladies here," I heard a somewhat familiar voice say.

"Hey Kent," Chelsea and Lucas said.

"Leah right?" Kent asked, looking at me. "You were here for a while last year. The others have been eager to see you again." I smiled. "Chelsea, do you have any more Popsicles?" Chelsea nodded, shoved the blue Popsicle into Lucas' hand, and ran back to her house.

I turned to Kent and addressed his original statement. "What do you mean by that?"

"Well Luc screams like a girl," was Kent's reply. I shrugged my shoulders and stared at him with a look that said, 'That's not enough of an explanation.' "And also," Kent added, "he whines a lot." Lucas shook his head.

"Girls do not whine!" I declared, defending my gender, and Lucas to an extent. "Whoa," I added when I realized Chelsea standing next to me. "You scared me Chels."

"Sorry," she said handing Kent the whole box of Popsicles. Kent chose the green one and handed it back to Chelsea. "Nobody's told you about Lucia yet?"

"Lucia?" I echoed. I shook my head but I thought I already knew. I turned to Lucas, "Let me guess, your female version?"

Lucas didn't seem to mind being called a girl at all, and was nodding his head and laughing. "It's not that funny," I said. Lucas laughed some more and I couldn't help but laugh as well. I didn't know why. If I was in Lucas's position, I think I would have been rather hurt. But I wasn't so sensible when I was ten, and therefore didn't think much of it at the time. "So what were you asking me to play?" I asked.

"Water balloon fight."

"I was filling up some water balloons with my brother Kevin just now," Kent said.

"We need to get more people, though," Lucas said. "Hannah's not here because she and her siblings are out with their dad…."

"We can get Bailey and Avery," Chelsea said. "I'll go give Kevin a Popsicle," she said running to the brothers' house with us slowly following her.

"Jake called and said that he and Toby are coming over soon," Kent told us. When we arrived at their house, I found a huge blue bucket filled with water balloons. "Took a long time," Kent said, reading my look of amazement.

"Oh, this will be fun!" I said, slightly jumping up and down. That was a habit that I never really could get over, even after I grew up. I am an easily excitable person.

"Hey Kevin," Kent called to his brother who was over by the hose. "How many more water balloons have we got?" I saw a taller boy that didn't look too much like his brother, the only similarities I saw in them were the shape of their face and their dirty blonde hair. Kevin was a little bit stockier.

"Not too many more than the ones we've got," he replied, sucking on his Popsicle.

"I guess this is enough though. This is Leah," Kent introduced me to his brother, almost as an after thought.

Kevin nodded his head toward me. "Hey."


"Guys, what are we doing," Avery came over on his bike. He skidded on his bike and jumped off. He looked over at Chelsea. "Do you have anymore Popsicles?"

"Not very many," Chelsea replied sounding slightly aggravated, but giveing him a Popsicle nonetheless.

"So what are we going to do?" Kent picked up a balloon.

"Are we going to use them now or use them against the April Shower kids?" Kevin asked. April Showers was the street one over from ours. Palmer was sandwiched between Rainbow and April Showers.

"What's with the April Shower kids?" I asked, immediately feeling left out. Life here didn't pause just because I wasn't here, obviously, but impractically, I resented that.

"You don't want to know," was all Kent told me. "Just that they got on our case a lot in May."

"But what did they do," I insisted.

"Never mind that. We just had some water balloon wars with them for a while. A lot of the times they took our stuff. They don't bother us much anymore." I was slightly disappointed. How I wish I could have taken part in that war!

Not long after, all of us had congregated by Kevin and Kent's driveway and Chelsea had officially run out of Popsicle sticks, due to her own kindness. To our dismay, we still had not figured out what the plan was. We had to plan for whatever reason and not act upon our own spontaneity. That's just the way it worked. After all, water balloons were involved.

"I think I filled up 100 of those so…" Kevin said looking down at the bucket.

"You mean we," Kent interjected.

"So since there are nine of us," Kevin continued ignoring his brother, "I guess that's about ten each. The leftovers go to Kent and me, because we bought them." Of course.

"Is Hannah at her dad's?" questioned Bailey.

"Yeah," I answered. "But doesn't she usually come back around eight?"

"I think so," Chelsea put her finger to her lips.

"Yeah she does," Kent concurred.

"How about girls against guys," Kevin suggested.

"Uh uh, no way," I was quick to disagree. "We are way too out numbered. There's six of you and only the three of us. Chelsea, Bailey and me."

"You missed one person," Kent said jokingly. I guess he was making a reference to Lucia. I put my hands on my waist in an authoritative manner and glared. I can be good at that sometimes. I actually got him to put his head down apologetically!

"I can join the girls," Jake offered as he threw his White Sox cap up into the air. Chelsea looked happy; none of us had any real problems with Jake. And it was nice of him to offer when no other guy in the ten-year-old-world would have, in that given situation. Jake wasn't ordinary, anyways. Kevin didn't seem too happy, though. He probably wanted Jake on his side.

"Well…" Kevin trailed. "We don't have to split by boy/girl I guess. But how else should we do it?"

"Captains?" Tobias suggested. "But who will be the captains?"

"No," I cut in before the topic could go on any further. I hated the way of captains. It was hurtful and mean and prejudiced…well I didn't think it was a good way to choose, though for a water balloon fight it really didn't matter whether you were athletic or not. I just never liked the whole captain idea. Compared to selecting by captains, the first idea was better. "We can handle boy/girl, right girls?" I turned toward the two. They nodded their heads.

"Girls rule!" Bailey punched the air.

"Boys drool," Chelsea finished.

"Yeah right," Avery sneered. "We are going to bring the girls down!"

I turned to Jake who looked a little taken aback. He raised his eyebrow. "Thank you, Jake," I said cordially. "But we won't be needing your assistance. We girls can take care of ourselves."

"Okay then."

"And," I added, turning to the crowd. "When Andrea comes back, we get her and she gets her ten balloons as well."
"Oh, alright," Kevin agreed. I really hoped Andrea would come. She would handle our situation better. She was the toughest and the bravest out of all the girls. Tough towards the boys too. We were kind of in trouble if she didn't come back. I saw the clock through the side doors of Kevin's house. It was about ten minutes to eight.

Andrea, please don't let the girls down.

"Where will we play?" Avery asked. "Can we go off Palmer?"

"Anywhere on Palmer and Clearway," Kevin said in a way that he seemed to think that what he said was definite. "Anywhere is fine as long as we aren't trespassing. So I guess all our backyards?"

"Sounds good," Jake agreed.

"I can't go off the street," Bailey said, the words of her mother echoing through her mind.

"Well you don't have to go to Clearway," Avery simply stated. Bailey grunted.

"Any other rules?" I asked.

"No, it's just a water balloon fight," Kevin bent over to retrieve the water balloons. He started to sort out sets of ten.

"So really it's no big deal. No need to have to go through trouble figuring out exactly what we are doing…." I was only stating it for the sake of saying it. I was cut off when I water balloon hit me right in the stomach and splattered all over my shirt. I screamed.

"That's what we're doing," Kevin's voice triumphantly said. The other boys snickered.

"Well, that was one of your ten water balloons you already used," I said as calmly as I could. His smiled faded. Jake and Kent started to distribute the water balloons. Most of us stretched out our shirts so to put the water balloons in, but Kevin and Kent were shirtless. They had the bucket though.

"Here," Jake handed more than ten water balloons to us girls. "Take Andrea's too. Just don't use them yet."

"We can't carry all these," Chelsea complained as she tried to balance all the balloons on her shirt.

"All this too much for you?" Kent teased. Chelsea huffed, turned around and started to walk off the driveway. Bailey and I followed. My grandmother's house was in between Bailey's and Chelsea's.

Once we were out of earshot from the boys, Bailey asked where we should hide our balloons. "In our bush, of course," I promptly replied. There was a bush in my backyard that was like our secret hideout. None of the boys knew of it except for Hannah's younger brother, but he was currently not our concern. If we could crawl under a large branch on the side of the bush, it opened up to an alcove. Four girls had a sleepover underneath this bush. It was large enough to sit comfortably and play under without being seen by anybody outside.

We ran into my backyard before the boys could see where we were headed, and hid into the bush. "I guess we should carry about three each," I suggested.

"Do we have a plan?" Chelsea asked.

"Spot. Throw. It's a water balloon fight. We need no plan."

"Okay." Chelsea started to crawl out. We ran out into the street and didn't see any of the boys.

"We should be on the lookout," I said, walking slowly. I was so certain that one of them would jump out at us and give us a scare, which would make me drop my precious weapons.

Our hearts were thumping.

We did not want to be taken by surprise. Or hit by a water balloon. In reality water would have been welcomed relief for our bodies, for it was still rather hot, despite the time of day. It's just the idea of being hit was what we wanted to avoid.

We girls were the ones to hit.

They were to be the ones to miss us.

Those boys needed to learn their place!

I was still a little sexist at times…I was ten!

"Hannah," Bailey cried, spotting a car pull up our friend's driveway. Hannah jumped out of her dad's car with her siblings. We all ran up to her, cradling our water balloons.

"Hey guys," she acknowledged us. "I'll try to be right out."

We walked back to the bush together as we filled her in on the details. "How come none of them are coming out to get us?" she wondered as she choose her first balloons. "They're usually more forward and reckless in these situations. It's not like them to hide for so long."

"But probably they are waiting for us to find them," Chelsea said.

"It's just unlike them is all," Hannah crawled out. "They're probably hiding out at Avery's because I really can't hear them at all. They aren't really quite so they must probably not on the street."

"I'll have to wait at the corner," Bailey said despondently. "I'm not allowed off the street."

"You won't be off long," Hannah said, trying to convince Bailey to come with us. "You'll be back on Palmer in no time. Your parents will never know."



"I don't think so," Bailey remained adamant. "I'll be there waiting for you."

Hannah sighed. "Fine!" We approached the corner where Palmer and Clearway met. "Let's take one water balloon each and leave the rest with Bailey here."

"Okay," Chelsea agreed. She set the balloons down at Baileys feet on the grass. We were on the Simmers' front lawn. They were a nice old couple that let us play with their cute dog, liked to talk to us often, and watched us play.

"Let's go," I took off. We slowly made our way over to the side of Avery's house where we could clearly see some of the backyard. "Is that where they're keeping their water balloons?" In front of us were about 50 water balloons in a little pool, like a kiddie pool. It was just sitting there in front of us.

"Let's go steal some," Hannah suggested. "You know the April Shower kids stole so many of our water balloons when things were tense between us."

"So what exactly happened with the April Shower kids?" I asked.

"You don't want to know," Hannah echoed Kent's words. Now I was really upset for not being around in May.

"You guys go take them," Chelsea whispered. "I'll stay in the front yard with the three water balloons we have now."

"Okay," we whispered back as we crept up to the pool. Once we got there safely I couldn't help but giggle.

"This is almost too easy." I spoke too soon. A water balloon splattered near me. Hannah and I whirled around just to be bombarded by more water balloons from the six boys. Many missed their target, but in the end, when the boys ran out, I had very wet legs and Hannah had a water balloon splatter all over her thigh. We hastily grabbed as many water balloons as we could, and threw them at the boys but we missed, miserably.

"Gotcha," Lucas cried triumphantly.

"Didn't think we'd sneak up on you, did you?" Avery grinned.

"You do realize that you guys just wasted so many of your water balloons and we attacked you guys with your own water balloon," I used my you-guys-are-so-stupid voice.

"Well we had more to start with," Kent countered. "Besides, you haven't really gotten us wet." Just then he let out a small howl. Kevin did the same soon after.

"Now you are," Chelsea leered. She had snuck up on them and successfully hit them from behind. Go Chelsea! Hannah and I grabbed some more water balloons and took off. As we ran, I couldn't stop giggling I was so wound up. Hannah and I continually chanted, "Girls rule! Boys drool!"

When we got back on the corner, we found Bailey playing with the Simmers' dog, Shadow. "Bailey, what are you doing?" Hannah asked vehemently.

"Well, you guys were taking so long, and the Simmers came out," she rubbed the dog's belly.

"Hello girls," Mrs. Simmers waved pleasantly toward us.

"Hello," we replied simultaneously.

"What are you all up to?" her voice was kind.

"We're having a water balloon fight," Hannah lifted up the balloons. "Against the boys, and here they come!" The boys charged us with their water balloons, Kevin in the lead. His face looked like he could kill, which was quite frightful.

"Hello boys," Mrs. Simmers called in the same pleasant voice. Shadow ran up to greet them. It stopped the boys from chasing us.

"Hello, Mrs. Simmers."

"Hey Shadow," Lucas fell to the ground to rub Shadow's belly.

"Are you having fun chasing the girls," she asked, her tone continually pleasant.



"Oh, you mean water balloon fight? Well I guess."

"It's a war so…."

"They think they're better than us," Avery accused.

"Oh really," Mrs. Simmers' eyes twinkled. Her manners and primness made her the grandmother of all grandmothers.


"Well that wasn't very nice of them was it?"


"But boys drool," Bailey protested.

"And girls rule," Chelsea finished.

"No," Toby countered. "Girls drool and boys rule."

"In your dreams," I said.

"Did you know," Mrs. Simmers altered the subject. "That my granddaughter had a baby boy just an hour ago?"


"Your granddaughter?" Jake asked. "So you're a great-grandma."

Mrs. Simmers laughed. "Yes, I guess I am."

"Congratulations," Toby beamed.

"Why thank you."

"What's his name?" Kent attempted politeness.


"That's a nice name," I commented, deep in thought.

"Shadow should have kids," Bailey said. Mrs. Simmers laughed.

I thought back over the past hour. An hour ago I was talking with Lucas, Chelsea and Kent, eating Popsicles. We were talking about Lucia and about having a water balloon fight. It was just another day in a life of a kid. It was kind of strange to think a life was born then. But I guess it's very real.

It could also be the opposite. Instead of new life being born, somebody could have died. While we were all gathered here playing with a dog or passing the time in a water balloon fight, somebody could have died. There could be heartbreak. Probably more than one death while we were talking. Probably more life was being born too.

Weird…but there was no other way. People were dying and being born all the time. I wonder what Mrs. Simmers was doing the precise moment I was born.

At this moment something tragic could have happened to one person, an event that will lead that person to make a hard decision. Or a kidnapping, or an accident, the list goes on.

At this moment something wonderful could have happened to one person. Like making a good deal or a proposal. I'll never know and I shouldn't ponder on it too much. The only result was a headache.

The truth is, all sorts of things occur while we are completely oblivious, leading our mediocre lives. I suppose mediocre is not the right word.

And that's how far my ten-year-old mind went right at the moment.

I think I had blanked out.

"Bye Mrs. Simmers," I heard my friends call as the lady went inside her home, followed by Shadow.

"Come on Leah," Hannah pulled my arm. "Let's go." So we took off towards Bailey's yard, to get a head start. I felt a water balloon hit my heel.

"Here," I handed Chelsea two water balloons. Hannah did the same for Bailey. "Girls rule!" we ceaselessly chanted. We jumped up on Bailey's trampoline, jumping high enough to look out onto the street to see if the boys were coming. As we jumped, we made the water balloons go up in the air as they bounced with us on the trampoline.

"This whole things is pointless," I said through giggles.

"It's fun," Chelsea bounced high.

"You should have seen the look on Kevin and Kent's faces when you hit them," Hannah was proud.

"I wish I could've."

"What happened?" Bailey asked.

"Chelsea attacked the cocky boys by surprise is all," I simply stated. I took another high bounce. "There're coming," I warned when I came down.

"Well they can only get in through the gate on the other side," Bailey said.

"Let's hide and attack," Hannah suggested.

"If you hide on the side of the house they can't see you when they come in," Bailey observed. "Hannah, let's hide there. Leah and Chelsea can hide behind that big tree and the bushes."

We split. I tried to contain my uncontrollable giggles. We heard the boys fiddle with the lock on the gate. I crouched down with my hand over my mouth.

"Where are they?" I heard Luc ask. A "shhh" followed.

"I see Chelsea," Toby called as he threw a water balloon at her.

Kent ran up to her and grabbed her arm to take her out of her hiding place. "Let's take her prisoner. This is payback for getting my butt wet."

"Whatever," Chelsea said calmly. Thankfully I was still safe in my hiding place behind the tree. I could see Hannah and Bailey watching from the side of the house.

"Careful when you search. I'm sure they are armed," Jake warned.

"So are we," Avery had his water balloon ready.

I saw Hannah and Bailey conversing with each other. I watched them patiently looking for a signal. Finally, Hannah looked toward me. She gesticulated to me something I could not understand. She mouthed to me "get out" and pointed toward the boys. I understood that. Were they using me for bait? Either way, I went out and successfully hit Avery and Toby. "Hey guys," I said cheerfully.

"We got Chelsea," Lucas said definitely.

"No, not really," Chelsea said.

"I see that," I said at the same time. I was really putting my full trust on Hannah at the moment because I really had no idea what she had in mind.

Kevin threw a water balloon at me. He missed, barely half-an-inch away. "Where's Hannah and Bailey?" he asked.

"No way am I going to tell you." Two more water balloons came my way.

"Well then," Kevin called as his brother and Avery came up to me. "You'll come with us."

"For what reason?"

"As bait."

"Fat chance!" I declared, but I really had no defense at the moment. I felt a hand grab my arm.

"Hey Kevin," Hannah came out of hiding with both of her hands held up. "I'm here."

Kevin looked at her warily. I got a feeling right then that those two probably didn't get along too well. "Where are your balloons?"

"Right here," and she took a balloon from Bailey and threw it right at Kevin. It hit him flat in his face. I never knew you could get a nosebleed from a water balloon but Kevin did. Hannah was a future softball player after all. Yet she wasn't a White Sox fan like Jake and me.

Kevin fell to the ground, cradling his face. He looked up at Hannah, anger in his eyes along with some tears. "I'm gonna, get…you for…that," he said in between sobs.

Kevin was crying…like a baby. Nobody really said anything. Hannah was trying to stifle her giggles. I just stood and stared.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

"I guess we better get going anyways," Kent said quietly. "It's getting late."

I repeat: Are. You. Kidding. Me!

Tough boy crying because a girl gave him a nosebleed.

Hannah seemed to have had enough, she burst, enraging Kevin even more. He got up on his feet and stared at her defiantly and quickly turned around to run out of the yard to head home. I heard him scream.

"Yeah that's right," Hannah teased. "Go to mommy!"

The rest of us remained silent.

"Well," Jake said tentatively. "Toby and I better go home." We nodded and mumbled good-bye.

"We'll have another water balloon fight later," Kent said.

"Should we give back your water balloons?" I asked.

"No, keep them for now," and he headed toward the same direction as his older brother had. Avery and Lucas also went home leaving us girls alone.

"What a party pooper," Hannah scoffed.

"Do you still want to play?" Bailey asked us.

"No," I sighed. "Grandma will probably call me home soon anyways."

"Me too," said Chelsea.

"Okay," Bailey headed toward her back door. "I'll see you guys later." She went in.

I looked over at Hannah unsurely. "What?" she asked. "It was funny."

I had to laugh a little bit. "I was surprised how he acted."

"He's a wuss. He acts tough, but he still is."

We said our good byes and went into our own homes.

A/N: Please review! And if its worth recommending, please recommend this too. Sorry it was a bit long