Friends 4 Ever!
character sketches for
Building the Potato Palace
by Ann Maria Bell
I pulled the yearbook out from under a stack of old notebooks and
started flipping through it from the back, that way I wouldn't have
to look at my picture until the end. It opened to the second to last
page, the page with Megan's picture. Her neat looping handwriting
filled the whole margin. "Friends 4 Ever!" it said at the bottom. Or
until you find new ones in a couple of months. I turned the page.
Julie Renatti. "Julie the Fattee" people called her behind her back
(but loud enough to for her to hear). She didn't look all that fat
in the picture, and she definitely lost weight over the summer, but
everyone still called her "Julie the Fattee." She had written "I
hope you have a really good summer and it'll be great to see you
again when you get back next fall!" and signed her name with a heart
over the "i." I hadn't wanted her to sign my yearbook at all but she
asked me to sign hers and I pretty much had no choice. At least she
had small handwriting.
Michael Sanborn. I remembered how surprised I was when he came up to
me on the last day of school.
"Will you sign my yearbook?"
I nodded and we exchanged books. I chewed on the end of my purple
pen. I didn't know what to write in a boy's yearbook.
"Thanks," he said when I handed it back. "Have a nice summer,
Michael," was all he had written. What had I written in his? I
couldn't remember. He didn't asked Megan to sign his yearbook, I
I turned the page. There was Vicki, at the bottom. "Stay cool this
summer! See you next year!" it said under her picture, what you
write when you know someone just well enough to sign their yearbook.
I examined her picture for clues, for some sign of future treachery.
Her nose was kind of big, if you looked at it carefully, and the
closed lip smile hiding her braces was unconvincing. I was as pretty
as her, at least when I wasn't trying to grow my hair out of or into
some catastrophic haircut.
But the black and white portrait didn't show how she tilted her head
down slightly and glared at you with her pale blue eyes. Or the
advanced development of her breasts --- even if breasts decided to
put in an appearance on my chest at some point in the future I would
never match Vicki there. Was Megan going to write "Friends 4 Ever!"
in Vicki's book this year? I turned the page.
I flipped through the rows of smiling frozen-faced students, their
hair combed and every zit carefully airbrushed out of existence, the
occasional "Good luck!" or "U R 2 good 2 B 4-gotten" written in
sloppy ink next to their faces, until I got to Susan DeMent.
Me. Megan and I spent hours picking which picture to use for the
yearbook, endlessly comparing the smile in this one versus the
perfect flip of hair in that one. It wasn't a bad picture after all,
I must have gotten lucky the day it was taken.
There was nothing written next to it because of course I didn't sign
my own yearbook. But if I could send a message back to myself at the
end of last year I'd write something like "Good luck next year!
You'll need it!" or "Have an ultra-boring summer! Just don't expect
to have any friends left when you get back to town." My smiling
seventh-grade self frozen on the black and white yearbook page had
no idea what was coming.