The words fall with a dead thud on my ears. I can’t believe it’s happening. The possibility has been there for weeks, months even. But I never thought it would happen to me.
“Why?” I choke.
“You know how long your father has been searching for the right job,” Mom says apologetically. “We prayed that it would be near here, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
All I can do is nod numbly.
This house has been my home for all of my twelve years. All my friends are here, all the places I love are here, everything I’ve ever known is here. I stare out the window at night and can’t imagine being in a different place.
“You’re down in the mouth today, Lucy” my best friend Grace says cheerfully to me at school the next day. “What’s up?”
“We’re moving,” I reply in the somewhat deadened voice that has become mine since the announcement.
“You’re not serious!” Grace exclaims, but I can tell that when she looks into my eyes, she knows it’s true.
* * *
The yellow sign goes up in our yard the next week. Every time I walk past it on my way home from school, the bold words, FOR SALE, glare at me mockingly Mom and Dad fill the kitchen table with printouts of house descriptions near this new job of Dad’s.
Springfield. We’re moving to Springfield, Illinois, a place I know only vaguely as the capital of its state. It’s just a word on paper to me; how could I soon be living there? Rockville—now that’s home.
The new house is soon picked out. Dad has to fly to Springfield for some sort of interview; Mom jumps at the chance to look at the house she wants. I spend the entire plane ride praying that something will be wrong with the house.
It’s too fast, I plead silently. This is all happening too fast. Can’t I have a little more time?
No such luck, though. The house is perfect. Somewhere inside me, I knew it would be. Mom spent hours gushing over it back at home.
My home. Not this strange place that I have to go to.
She brings me to see the new place on the last day of our “vacation.” I am surprised to see that the people who own it have a daughter, just my age. An only child, just like me. We look shyly at each other, and I realize that the same daze of moving that I’ve seen in my eyes is in hers as well.
Silently, imperceptibly, we make a connection. But we’re both too shy to say a single word.
* * *
It’s back to Rockville then. For a few blessed weeks, I am able to forget about the whole business of moving. No one is interested in our house, and it takes a while to buy the new one.
Grace and I chat and laugh as if things aren’t different. Still, inside, we both know that it’s not the same.
I begin boxing up my things that week. The sale on the new house —I still don’t think of it as mine —went through, and the old family has already left. Mom wants to get everything ready for Moving Day, June 15.
Now I know it’s real—the awful day has a date. Finally, it has sunk in.
“I’ll write every day,” Grace promises as she helps me pack one afternoon. I look at her and nearly laugh at the absurd pledge. Everyone knows you can’t write every single day. Probably not even every single week.
“E-mail me instead,” I suggest. She laughs, and for a brief instant, I am happy.
* * *
It’s the night before. All day it was hot and muggy, and the night is no better. I am on a sleeping bag on the floor of my room—no, my old room. I have a new room now, I remind myself. One of those strange rooms in the Springfield house is mine.
Somehow, I thought that taking possession of something in the unfamiliar house would give me something to look forward to. It doesn’t really help. I know that the new room will be just as empty just as forbidding as my room is now. Only worse, because it’s not mine.
We’re back at the airport bright and early the next morning. I have only my backpack, like a brick, slung over one shoulder. Everything else is in the moving vans. They left before I even got up.
I always used to love flying in airplanes. Once a year, we would fly to Florida and visit my grandparents. To me, airplanes were fun, exciting, and exotic. But all of a sudden, I hate airplanes. This time, they’re taking me away from home and they’re not going to bring me back.
After an agonizing stretch of time in the air, we’re in the Springfield airport. Dad drove the car with the moving vans, so we don’t have a way to get to the house. Mom hails a cab; she doesn’t want a rental car because then she has to worry about driving it back. The cab works out because the drive to our new house isn’t far so the cab driver can’t charge very much.
Then I’m standing in the cavernous innards of the new house. I thought it was forbidding when there was furniture inside; now that it’s empty with only electrical outlets glaring at me from the bare walls, it almost scares me.
“Why don’t you pick a room, Lucy?” Mom suggests, seeing the look on my face. “We can move your things into it as soon as the moving van gets here.”
I nod and head for the second floor. Inside, I scream all the while, It’s too big! All of it is too big! We only had one floor at home. How will I ever get used to this?
Mom always says to be positive about things. I figure that’s the only way I’ll ever get through this awful day. I can make a new room exciting, I decide determinedly. It’s not every day that you get to choose a new room.
It’s fake optimism, though, and I still have a huge knot in my stomach as I stare at the yawning doorways. Every one looks the same. How can I ever pick one? Leaving it to chance, I close my eyes and spin around until I know I’ll be sick. I stop, and keep my eyes closed until the nausea goes away. When I open them, I am facing the only bedroom whose windows look out onto the street.
It seems right, somehow. My old room looked onto the street, too, and I always enjoyed watching the cars go by.
Springfield cars can’t be that much different from Rockville cars, I decide. This room will be mine.
I stride into the empty room with its bare walls and look around. The first thing I notice is that the walls aren’t bare—in-between the two windows, a folded sheet of notebook paper is taped to the wall. Curious, I go to it and peel it carefully off. Mom won’t be happy if I mess up the paint.
The paper is a letter, written in a girl’s neat cursive. On the front is a scribbled note, reading “To the New Girl.” I sling my backpack off my shoulder, and ease down onto the floor to read.
I put this here because this was my room and I hoped you’d pick it. Chances are you did. Did you notice how this room seems friendlier somehow? Maybe it didn’t to you; maybe it’s just because it’s my room.
When my parents told me we were moving, I yelled. I told them I wouldn’t go. I said that I’d lived in Springfield my whole life and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Did you feel that way? I don’t know; you might have moved before. But it hurts every time, I bet.
I wish we weren’t going, but I can hear the moving van backing up our driveway now. I’m going to tape this to the wall right before I leave the room. Mom hates me taping things to the wall, but I don’t think she’ll mind just this once.
I don’t even know why I’m writing you a note. I guess when we met—or really, saw each other— I could kind of tell that you were nice. Sometimes you can just tell that about people. I guess I thought that we might be kind of the same.
I was mostly writing to ask if you would send me a letter (took me long enough, huh?). I’m going to be lonely in our new city. We’re going to Seattle; can you imagine a place any farther away? I thought you might be lonely, too. My friends are great, but there’s the whole summer ahead of you with no school and you all might not run into each other for a long time.
Mom’s calling me; I guess I’d better go. I wrote my address below I’ll be waiting for the letter.
When I finish, I stare out the window, a flood of emotions washing over me. All this time I have been thinking that I was the only one who had ever felt this way. I have been so worried about friendships, both the ones I have to try to keep and the ones I will have to make.
And here is this girl, writing a letter to someone she’s never even spoken to, just because she wants a friend. I clutch the letter in my hands, realizing the ray of hope it has given me.
With a curious feeling of happiness, I rummage in my backpack for a pencil. After tearing a page out of my notebook, I lean against the wall again and write Anna a letter.
I know I will be waiting every day for the mailman until she writes back.