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When I was three years old, my family moved from our home in Lochearn to a house in Glen Burnie. I hated that house. It had taken me away from my best friend, Megan Fitzgerald. It was the first time I had ever been separated from one of my friends. Now, years later, all that remains of that friendship is a name and a picture of two smiling little girls holding hands in front of a tree. I may not remember Megan anymore, but I remember the pain of losing that friendship. Years have come and gone since then, and so have many more friends. Despite the pain of losing them, I have never regretted giving my love and time to them, because each friend touched my life and helped me grow.

Heather Bauer moved away when I was ten years old. I met Heather at my church, and we became good friends. She was the inspiration for my second book, which I gave to her for her ninth birthday. She loved it! Soon after, her family was transferred to West Virginia, leaving me with memories of fun at their house. She was a great friend, but I wish I had been better to her. My family does not have cable, but the Bauers did. Because of that, whenever I went to Heather’s house, I was drawn to their television. Even when we’d play outside, I’d be yearning to go back to the couch to watch Scooby-Doo. One day I had my way. Heather wanted to play outside, and begged me to join her. I refused; Scooby-Doo: and the Alien Invaders was on! Heather went to play by herself while I watched TV instead of spending what I knew was limited time with my flesh-and-blood friend.

Ayla Neal didn’t move away; our paths just went different ways. This mainly happened because of our differences in schooling. I was homeschooled while Ayla went to private school and public school. I wouldn’t have even met her if it wasn’t for her grandparents living across from me. Weekdays after homework were our time! Ayla was adventurous, and she showed me how to be daring as well. She’d encourage and help me climb trees and onto the roof of her grandfather’s shed only to jump back down again. She led me on many adventures that stimulated my imagination, and together we’d battle the forces of evil! Occasionally I go by her house, wanting to rekindle our friendship, but that enemy we had faced then still comes between us. School was always evil like that.

Immanuel Gillispic, fondly known and loved by all as Manny, introduced me to a new feeling: being beautiful. He was one of my closest friends at our homeschool band. We had a lot of free time while the ensembles practiced, and it was rare that we had a moment void of laughter. I came to one of the practices dressed all in black because I was reciting “The Spider and the Fly” at a Fine Arts performance with my homeschool group. Manny thought I had been to a funeral. His voice was somber when he asked, “Who died?” I laughed, and told him about the recital. From then on, it was our little joke. Any time I wore black boots he’d ask, “Who died?” I’d come up with some kind of witty answer, and we’d laugh. It wasn’t long after that he asked me out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to date yet, or I would have accepted. The concert at the end of that year was the last time I saw him. His family went on a mission trip to Guatemala. That last night together—though I didn’t know it at the time—I dragged him and another friend outside for a group picture. It is the lone artifact of that “age.” Now if someone were to ask me what one object I would save in a fire, my answer would be that picture.

Another close guy friend was Shaun Lancaster. Shaun was a really smart guy, but he was lazy as well. I only knew him for a year or two, but they were good years. The first year I knew him he came to the teen camp hosted by my home church. The final night at the camp we had a firework show. We sat in a hay cart on a pair of overturned buckets to watch the explosions, and we got into a serious debate over who would win in a fight: a gryphon or a dragon. Naturally, I knew a gryphon wouldn’t stand a chance against a dragon, but he argued in favor of it. In the two years that I knew him, we never came to a peaceful conclusion on the subject. After Shaun left, my brother told me that Shaun had only argued with me to get me riled. I didn’t mind. It was the same reason I had argued with him.

I gave the title ‘best friend’ to a spunky half-Korean girl named Samantha Harris. She taught me so much in my life – more than I could name or count. She gave me a passion for drawing, for fantasy and for freedom. Since her father was in the army, she kept moving away, coming back only to move away again. It killed me every time she left, but it was the best day in my life when she came back. It seems like she was the one friend that always remembered me; she was the one friend that kept coming back. Even today, though we don’t have the intimate connection we used to have, I’ll get a random call from Samantha, and we’ll talk for hours about yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I’ll never forget her for not forgetting me.

Friendships can shatter suddenly, painfully, sadly, or they may just fade to a shadow of a memory, but they never truly end. Everyone you meet leaves a little fingerprint on your heart, but your friends leave handprints that stay with you even after they leave.