By Samaara Navani
6th grade, Buzz Aldrin Middle School

I sat there on the floor staring at the picture frame. I miss him a lot. I look at his picture everyday, admiring his beautiful smile. Everyone misses him. Mom says he is in a better place now, but I refuse to believe her.

It has been two months since my dad died, and everyone was still depressed. Before, we had the perfect family because of Dad. He was such an amazing person; everything about him just made me happy. His energy, his kindness, and especially his smile, which lit up the room. I haven’t smiled since.

“Joe, Mom wants you downstairs!”

“Coming!” I say to my little brother, Levi.

When I came downstairs I saw the table filled with food.

“Good morning, Joelyne.”

“Mom, you know I hate when you call me that.”

“I know, sweetheart, but it’s such a beautiful name. You know why your dad named you that, right?”

“You’ve only told me like 100 times,” I say to her.

“He loved Dolly Parton at the time, and that was his favorite song,” she continued.

“Thanks for reminding me … again.”

“Hey Joe, are you going to go to the soccer field at Anderson Park today?” asked Levi.

“I don’t know, Levi,” I say. You see, soccer is my favorite sport and I used to play with my dad all the time, but I haven’t played since he left us.

“You should go today, Joe,” my mom said to me as I stuffed a pancake in my mouth.

“The weather is beautiful and it is a perfect summer day with the birds chirping, the warm sun shining and just the perfect amount of breeze,” she said with just a very small smile on her pink lips. I have not really seen Mom smile since Dad left us.

“And besides, you have not played in so long,” said Mom as she turned and walked away.

“I’ll think about, Mom,” I say.

Later that day I go to my closet to get my dusty soccer ball out and I decide that I was going to go to the field because, the truth was, I did miss soccer and I wanted to play again. When I arrive at the field it is empty, just the way I like it. I start shooting my ball into the goal, hitting every shot, and it feels really good to feel my foot kick the ball.

I continue to play until the sun goes down and I start walking toward the exit when I see someone enter the park. He is a boy, around my age, maybe 12 or 13. I watch him sit down under one of the many massive trees and start reading his book.

“Hey!” I say, calling out to him. He looks up.

“It’s really dark out right now.”

“I know,” he says with a smile. I decide to ignore him, shrugging my shoulders, and I start my walk home.

The next day I go to Anderson Park again to practice my soccer. I stay there till dark, and once again I see that same boy come in and sit under the same tree, reading his book.

“Hey! I say to the boy. “Excuse me!”

“Yes?” the boy says, looking up from his book.

“Do you always come to this park at night and sit under that tree?” I ask while my eyes get bigger, trying to see what this boy’s face looks like.

“As a matter a fact, yes. I liked to come to this tree at night because it makes me feel calm.”

“Oh,” I say.

“My name is Lucas, but you can call me Luke,” he says while getting up from the ground where he sits every night, under that tree, reading his book. He begins to walk toward me.

“My name is Joelyn, but you can call me Joe,” I say as I walk toward him. Luckily, it was a full moon that night so the sky was bright and I could start to see his eyes, his nose and his huge smile.

The next day I continue my daily ritual and go to Anderson Park again. I wait for Luke to come, and when he finally shows up, at the same time he always does, from the same entrance he always uses, making his way to sit under the same tree he always does. However, this time he comes with a bag of sushi from my favorite restaurant, Dai Kichi, just across the street.

Luke waved to me and I waved back. He motions me to come over and pulls out what looks like a million sushi rolls and two pairs of chopsticks. “Yummy in the tummy,” he says with a baby-style voice before opening his mouth really really really wide to put in a piece of sushi.

I look down and I see he has a new book with him.

“What’s this book?” I ask.

“It’s a mystery. A girl goes missing and it’s up to two detectives to use clues and find the girl. Mysteries are the best,” he says with a very naughty smile and some twinkle in his eyes.

“By the way, I love your name, Joelyn.” Luke continues without wasting a second to keep on talking.

“I hate it. However, apparently my dad was a huge fan of Dolly Parton at the time.”

“Your dad has good taste,” Luke says.

We stay and chit-chat for what feels like forever. We talk about our siblings, our schools, our friends, and we make each other laugh till we both get belly aches. Once we stop giggling I realize that it is the first time since my dad died that I laughed so hard.

We finally sit on our usual stoop and try to finish all the sushi. I told Luke how my dad died from cancer and it turned out his mom also died from the same thing. So it turned out we shared the same pain. I didn’t realize it, but it feels good to talk to someone that gets me.

A bit later I began to walk home, I felt happy, and there was nothing that could ruin my mood.

“There is a stranger in my house!” My eyes begin to get small.

“Who is this person?” I feel my face get red.

Well, here is how I find out. When I get home that night and I see a white car in front of my house. It is a BMW, and my mom does not have that posh of a car, so I just assume it is one of my neighbors’ cars.

“And why is he sitting next to my mom on our couch?” My heart starts to beat very quickly as I see them through the window.

When I stepped into the house I see a man I’ve never seen before. He and my mom are laughing and drinking from the fancy wine glasses.

“Mom?” I say with complete shock on my face.

“Joe! You’re back!”

“Mom, who is this?”

“Um, O.K., Joe. It’s time I tell you. This is Liam, my boyfriend,” she says as she gets up from the couch and walks slowly to me.

The room is silent now. I almost drop my soccer ball. My mom, WITH A BOYFRIEND?! I can feel my head starting to spin. O.K., I know that my mom can make her own decisions, but I didn’t expect her to start dating again!

“Listen, I was planning on telling you, but I knew you would freak out.” Now she is standing in front of me. Her eyes are looking at mine and her voice begins to go low.

Well, she was right, I was freaking out! “How long have you guys been dating?” I ask while I look down to the hardwood floor under my toes.

When Dad was alive he taught me many things about how to fix a house. I remember Dad teaching me what wood would be best, how to cut the plank and how to install it. We did this project together.

“Around two weeks. I haven’t told Levi yet, so please don’t tell him.” Levi left for a sleepover at his best friend’s house and is not home. I suddenly come back and can hear my mom speak. I manage to calm myself down. “But Mom, what about Dad?” I look up at her and my eyes fill with water.

Mom bends down now so she can look at me in my tear-filled face. “Honey, I miss Dad too, but I thought it was time to move on.”

“Move on from Dad so soon!?” I think. I was really angry now. “He was your husband, how could you move on?” I turn around and run upstairs to my room and slam the door shut. I know I am not supposed to do that, but I didn’t care. I was furious.

Right now I am in my room snuggling with my favorite stuffed animal, Jack the Penguin. He is the only one who can help during frustrating times, like right now. I hear a knock on my door. I was expecting to see my mom, but instead Luke comes in.

“Hi Joe,” he says.

“Hi Luke,” I mumble back. “Why are you here?”

Luke makes his way to my bed and sits down. “I followed you home from the park and noticed that you were upset when I looked through the window. I followed you because it was so late and I didn’t want you to get hurt. Listen, I understand your frustration. I mean, your mom just got a new boyfriend and you just found out. That would shock me, too.”

I don’t say anything and wonder how he knows what is going on.

“What I mean is, I know you’re still devastated from your dad’s death, but you love your mom, right?” He stares at me waiting for me to say something.

“Of course I do,” I say back.

“Well then, you should respect her decision, right?” Luke stands up now and leaves, closing the door behind him.
He had a point. But I don’t know anything about Liam, I think. So I get out of bed and begin to walk slowly down the stairs and see him and Mom whispering to each other.

I stand in front of Liam, and say with as much courage as I can, “Who are you?”

“Well then, allow me to formally introduce myself. Hi, my name is Liam Hethly. I am from Connecticut and I love golf.” He stands up and shakes my hand as he speaks.

He seemed like a normal guy. There was really no reason I should not trust him. “Nice to meet you,” I say with a smile. I sit next to him and we begin to talk.

The next day, as usual, I go to the park, kick a few balls into the net and wait to tell Luke the news that I was able to learn more about Liam. However, when the time comes I turn to see if Luke is making his way to his tree, but he is not there.

I wait and wait but he never shows. He is probably busy today, I thought. The next day the same thing happens. I go every day until finally, tonight, I see him at the tree.

“Luke!” I ran toward him. “Where have you been?”

He looks like he was crying before. “Joe, there is something I need to tell you.” He cannot look at me.

“What is it?” I ask.

“I….” He stops to take a breath. “I’m going to boarding school.”

I sit there with the most stunned look on my face, but then I started laughing. “Haha! Right! Boarding school! Good one, Luke!”

“Joe, I wish I was joking. I am leaving for Massachusetts next week.”

“Oh,” I say as my laughter now turns into fear.

“I am so sorry, Joe, but I have too. My dad leaves me no choice.”

I don’t believe this. Right when my life is actually getting better, I lose my best friend.

“But Massachusetts is like five hours away,” I say to him.

“I know, but I promise I will be home for the holidays.” I can see he is trying not to cry.

We sit there in silence for a while before Luke says, “I need to finish packing, so I am going home now.”

I go home that night feeling empty. I go to my room and flop on my bed. It’s crazy how someone could impact your life so much. After Dad died I thought I could never be happy again, but I ended up finding my best friend. We have only been friends for three months, but he is the one who helped me find a smile again.

A few days pass and now I am standing in front of Luke saying our last goodbyes. I grab him and hug him really tight. “Make sure to call me every day and night,” I tell him.

“I promise I will,” he says back. “Make sure to keep our tree safe,” Luke says with a shaky voice.

“I will,” I answer, looking up at our tree. Before he leaves he hands me one of his mystery books. “To remember me by,” he says. A tear rolls down my cheek as he gets into his car. I wave to him as his father drives away until I can’t see his car anymore. This was it. I stare at the book he gave me. I open up the first page: Chapter 1: My Partner in Crime.