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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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The Start of a Great Friendship

But I could not resist Rose, though Florence nearly wrecked it

     by asking why I wanted to be friends with “her,” not even

     using Rose’s name, just tipping her head, sliding her eyes

     sideways.

“Why not?” I said, feeling contrary.

She sniffed. “I’d have thought that was obvious.”

“Not to me,” I said.

Her eyebrows went up to her little

     helmet of hair, and off she marched.

Rose, it turned out, was watching

     from a doorway down the hall,

               when I passed by.

“Hey,” was all she said.

“Holy criminetly,” I said. “You just about

     scared my bones right out of my body.”

“You don’t have to defend me.”

I had to roll my eyes. “Oh, no. Not again.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. Just do me the favor of believing

     that if I’m nice to you, it’s because I like you, okay?”

“Okay,” she said. “I just meant, I can

     take care of myself.”

“I’m sure you can,” I said, looking at her.

She was little and wiry and tough. I asked,

“Does that mean you want me

to leave you alone?”

“Not exactly. I just don’t want you

     to feel obligated.”

“I don’t feel obligated,” I said. “I promise. In fact,

I swear to do nothing except of my

               own free will. Okay?”

“Sounds like we’re making a pact here,” she said.

“Good. How do we make it official?”

“Sign it at midnight,” she whispered, drawing out the last word

     as she looked up and down the corridor.

“In blood,” I agreed.

“Well,” she said, tipping her head, “there’s plenty of that

     around here.”

I put my hands over my mouth

to smother the laughter.

It was a long time before

I told Rose about Juanita, but when I did,

she sort of pulled air in between her teeth,

looking out on the world between narrowed eyes,

and pronounced, “Well, sounds like she

     must have really loved you.”

That wasn’t what I expected, but then,

     what Rose said, rarely was.

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