The summer of 2004 was a hot one, I would know because I'd eaten at least ten popsicle sticks. My older brother Joey had said that we had new neighbors and that mom wanted us to go over and welcome them to the neighborhood, but being the shy one I didn't want to meet anyone new.
I was never a popular or outgoing child, I was more of the stay in my room and read some books. Joey was never that way though he was always more friendlier than I was, so he forced me out of my room and away from my latest Junie B. Jones book and out the door with a plate of Hershey chocolate brownies.
The new neighbors were right across the street from us and it didn't take too long to get to their front door, The Pink Palace as me and Anna called it. The light pink color of the walls and the hot pink color of the door, shutters, and doors.
"Smile Ruby." Joey nudged me, I sighed and put on a small smile as he rang the doorbell. It took a minute before the sound of screeching sneakers approached the door and the door swung open to reveal a pretty brunette woman with grey eyes and paint smears all over her black sweatpants. She smiled at us and gushed when she saw the plate of brownies.
"Aww now aren't you two just the sweetest things, are these for me?" She asked her voice soft and friendly.
I nodded, "Yes our mommy made them for you."
She took the plate and smelled them, "These smell just wonderful, hold on my daughter loves brownies. Arianna!! Come here sweetie!!"
A few seconds later a small girl appeared, she had on a purple and black summer dress, black flip flops, and long blonde curls cascading down her back, "Hey."
Her mom looked down at her and smiled toward us, "I'm Kelly Taylor and this is my daughter Arianna, honey this is...oh god I didn't get your names."
Joey smiled, "I'm Joey and this is my sister Ruby, we live right across the street in that yellow house."
She nodded and turned toward the brownies grabbing one, slowly she took a bite and her eyes lightened up, "These are awesome."
"Thanks my mom made them she likes to bake." I smiled and she smiled back.
"You know what goes great with brownies? Strawberry lemonade, I just helped my mom make some you wanna come inside for a glass? We have a trampoline too if you wanna play." She asked as if hoping I would say yes.
I looked at Joey and he nodded, "I'll go tell mom you're over here have fun." And with that she gripped my hand and led me into her house, there were pictures everywhere of Arianna and her mom and another boy.
"Who's that boy?"
She glanced at the picture, "That's my brother Caleb, he's my dad's son but he lives with us."
"Where's your dad?"
She didn't say anything as she walked away from me silently and into the kitchen, it was nice and homey I smiled at the Rugrats magnets that hung on her refrigerator.
"Have you ever had strawberry lemonade?"
"No I've only tried regular."
She giggled, "Well my grandma showed me her famous recipe and I'm really good at making it."
I watched the girl before me and her hazel eyes as the amusement and innocence brightened her eyes, my ten year old mind couldn't try to understand what went on in this interesting girl before me.
“You're staring." She smirked and I looked away embarrassed, “It's okay people stare at me all the time like that, they find me weird."
“Because I'm psychic."
I was taken back at the casual way she had said it but shook my head, “You're not psychic."
“Uh huh I can tell things about people, like you would rather sit in your room and read a book instead of coming over meet me and my mom."
“What!? How did you know that?"
She smiled and pointed to her temple, “Psychic."
Just as she handed me a glass the back door opened to reveal a boy, maybe 12 with dark brown hair and a dimple on his right cheek. His eyes went straight to Arianna and took the glass from her hands gulping down its contents.
“Sorry Anna but it's hot outside and I needed something to drink." He laughed making her roll her eyes and pour another glass, his eyes found me and I slowly shrunk in my chair, “Who's she?"
His eyes roamed over my body staring at little things here and there, my slightly pale face, my blue eyes, wavy dark curls, and then his eyes focused on the necklace that hung around my neck. It was a locket shaped into a heart.
"What's inside the locket?" He asked grabbing it and his hand brushed my collar bone making me flinch away, he smirked at the small blush that had developed on my cheeks.
"It holds pictures but I haven't found a good enough one to put in it."
His eyes watched me intensely before dropping the heart and looking to the plate of brownies next to Arianna. He grabbed three and ate them in five minutes, I watched him amazed but Arianna just rolled her eyes again and sipped her drink.
His eyes found mine again and inched closer to me, "Did she trick you into being her friend yet?"
"I didn't trick her."
He chuckled, "Did she tell you the 'I'm psychic act' or not yet?"
"It's not an act Caleb."
"Yes it is."
She started to fume making me finally speak up, "I wanted to be her friend."
They both looked up at me shocked and she smiled while Caleb held up his hands and ate another brownie, she walked over to a drawer but I couldn't see what was in it. She slowly closed it and looked at Caleb, he nodded and started to make a drumroll on the counter.
Confused my eyes found Arianna standing in front of me holding out her hand, there in her small little hand sat a red lollipop with a small bow on the stem. She held it out for me and I slowly took it examining it and she smiled.
"It's cherry, my mom always said that cherry showed love and friendship." She explained.
"She has about a hundred of them but only hands them out to people she likes, her family..." She cut him off.
"And my close friends."
"I think Ruby is your only friend." Caleb snickered and she punched his arm making him laugh harder.
"I have friends."
"Sure you do, welcome to the amazing world of Arianna Taylor." Taking one last brownie Caleb twirled a finger around one of my curls and left the room, finally I let out the breath I had been holding in since he walked in.
"Well it seems as though Caleb has been here," her mom walked in laughing "you girls let him eat all the brownies?"
"There's like five left and he just stole them without permission."
We giggled and her mom rolled her eyes before kissing Arianna's forehead, "I see she received a cherry lollipop, does this mean we'll be seeing a lot more of you around here?"
Her question was directed at me and I froze thinking about the question at hand, their smiling faces begging me to say yes. There was apart of me that wanted to run home and hide behind one of my books to afraid of friendship, but the other side of me just really wanted to just up screaming yes. There smiles started to falter but I knew what I wanted.
"Of course me and Arianna are gonna be really good friends."
They both smiled and pulled me into a hug, though not too long later me brother had come to take me home. Arianna was reluctant on letting me go but she promised she'd see me tomorrow.
And she was true to her word, when I had woken up the next morning on my pillow sat a small cherry lollipop. It was a promise, This is the start of our friendship.