Anabeth stared at Leo. Her mouth was hanging open and her eyes were wide.
“I’m moving to New York City.”
Anabeth gulped. “Funny. Ha ha,” she said tentatively.
“It’s not a joke. I’m moving.”
The words seemed to hang in the air. Anabeth stared at Leo across the basketball she held in her hands.
“M’dad got a new job.”
“But you’ll come and visit, right?”
Anabeth didn’t know what to do, so she threw the ball. It bounced off the rim of the hoop. Leo’s gaze followed the ball as it rolled towards the shed, but he did not follow it. Neither did Anabeth.
Later, Leo could not say how long they stood there silently. It seemed hours. Finally, Anabeth’s mom came out of the house and called, “Cookies!”
* * *
The next day at school Anabeth could not pay attention. Her eyes kept straying to Leo, who was sitting at the desk next to her. She kept replaying last night’s conversation in her mind. New York City. How could he live so far?
She bent over her textbook and tried to read. What did she care if Peter Stuyvesant had a peg leg?
She stole another glance at her best friend. He sat absorbed in his textbook, twirling one stray bang. She would miss that about him. No matter where he was, Leo was almost always twirling a bit of his jet-black hair.
* * *
Anabeth rode as fast as she could. Years of practice kept her from falling off her bike. The roads and houses and farms of Geneva, New York, flew past her.
Her mind raced, trying to find something positive about the situation.
At least we’re staying in the same state. He’s only going to be a day’s drive away.
* * *
Leo saw Anabeth coming five minutes before she arrived. When she got there she leapt off her bike and ran to him. Only when she was a few feet away did he realize she was crying. This was strange somehow.
They stood there quietly for a moment. Then all at once, Anabeth let out a sob and ran forward. She flung her arms around him and then just cried. Leo returned the hug without really thinking.
“Come on! We have to go!” Leo’s dad’s voice rang out through the silence.
Anabeth detached herself from Leo and reached into her basket. She pulled out a piece of paper.
“I thought you might want this.”
She handed it to him. He unfolded the paper and looked at the drawing of a girl with blond hair and a boy with jet-black hair, riding bikes by a lake. He recognized it as Seneca Lake.
He and Anabeth had often ridden their bikes there.
Leo raised his eyes to Anabeth’s.
She was crying again.
He climbed into the car and stared out of the window. As he stared at his best friend in front of his house, growing smaller and smaller, a single tear ran down his cheek.
* * *
“Leo! Wake up!” Leo opened his eyes. The car was no longer speeding past country fields, but driving over a great bridge. Leo had lived in the more country-like part of Geneva, so the sight of the city ahead made his eyes grow wide.
Leo shrugged. So far the Manhattan skyline was unimpressive. Just a jumble of buildings.
“See that one in the middle? The really tall one?”
“That’s the Empire State Building.”
They finally got to the other end of the bridge. The buildings here were much taller than the ones he normally saw.
“We’re going to take a detour. We’ll go to Times Square.”
His father took a bunch of turns and twists, following the streets that all looked the same to him. How could anybody find their way? Back in Geneva he and Anabeth had nicknamed all of the roads: Cherry Road (there was a Cherry tree), Farm Road (there was a bunch of farms). And then there was the best: Seneca Road. This road went all the way around Seneca Lake.
Lost in thought, Leo stared out of the window, not really seeing. The streets sped past, not really meaning anything.
“Leo, we’re here.”
Leo woke from his daydreams, and the busy streets and loud music of New York came back to him. They were entering a little area that was like a town. Every building was made of the same red bricks.
They stopped in front of a building. The building was on top of a hill, along with several other buildings. He climbed the stairs and peered around the corner of the building. Right next to the building that would soon be his home, was a little playground.
* * *
Several hours later, Leo stood in his room. It was fairly big. It had two windows, and pushed to one wall was his old loft bed and on another was a white shelf.
He walked over to the shelf and pulled out the drawing. Now that he looked at it, he could see that all Anabeth’s artistic skill was put into it. He could see each strand of hair, even a twinkle in the eyes. But the real beauty was not them, but the lake behind them. She had managed to make it shimmer, and make each current a different shade of blue-green. She had drawn the beautiful trees that held white flowers. One fell onto his shoulder, and his hand went up from the bike to brush it away. The hills behind the lake were a rich green, and somehow Anabeth had drawn the mist so that it looked real.
Leo took one last glance at it, and then tucked it away in a little box on the shelf. Then he lay on the bed and stared out of the window. He could see the city beyond. The city that would be the beginning… and the end.
* * *
It has been nine years. But still, even now, if you go to 530 East 20th Street, Apartment 7e, you will see a room. And in that room there is a shelf. And on that shelf there is a box. And in that box there is a paper. And on that paper there is a drawing.