John Tidewell flashed a sly smirk, revealing the lone dimple in his right cheek amid freckle constellations, as he watched Mr. Maxton at the head of the class. Their teacher wore a long black-haired wig and star-shaped glasses and he swung his arm around and around riffing on the air guitar only he could see, while his mouth twisted in the exaggerated howls of Alice Cooper’s famous ode to the end of the year: “School’s Out.”
Thank goodness the end-of-school bell saved John and his classmates from more of their teacher’s terrible serenading. Yep, there it was. The end of fourth grade. The beginning of summer. Is there anything as wonderful as summer?
John’s stomach tingled with giddy bubbles as he thought of all the fun that comes with summer vacation: days at the lake, hikes, summer camp, trips with the family, pickup basketball games with his best friend, Roman—
John paused and looked down at his Nike basketball high-tops, a birthday gift from Roman.
“Come on, John!” Roman patted him on the shoulder before dashing over to the posts where the backpacks hung. Roman had a wide nose and deep-set eyes with a low forehead. Though built stocky, unlike the traditional basketball physique, Roman was light on his feet like all the greats and a valuable ally on the court.
But there’d be no basketball games with Roman this summer.
The Tidewells—John’s family—were moving in a week, away from Colorado and out to Maryland because of a job transfer for John’s dad.
John sighed. He hadn’t been sleeping much and he felt tired. But this was more than a regular kind of tired, this was a heavy, walk-slow kind of tired. A Do I really have to get out of bed? after ten hours of sleep kind of tired. John didn’t know anyone in Maryland. He could barely remember where it was on a map. They didn’t have any mountains. And, most important, his best friend, Roman, was here in Colorado. His fort was here, his favorite hikes were here, the bike loop where he’d clocked a record twenty-seven seconds was here. But in Maryland . . .
The rest of his classmates (old classmates, now) brushed past him, excited to get going, some hooting and hollering. Not looking where he was going, John smacked into a girl and dropped his backpack, startled, his hands up in alarm.
“Sorry!” he yelled. She scampered out the door not even noticing him.
Roman put his hand on John’s shoulder. “You okay?”
John opened his mouth but didn’t know how to answer the question, so he closed his jaw and shrugged, looking down again.
“Wanna shoot some hoops?” Roman asked.
John’s lips curled up in a smile. “Always.”
Sarah Tidewell couldn’t wait for the adventurous summer ahead. They were moving to Maryland! Close to Washington, DC, its free museums, the ocean, so many new places to see and people to meet. Walking down the hall of her middle school, she looked around with her head held high and an easy smile on her lips.
“Goodbye, sixth grade!” She’d worn her glittery sequined shirt for the last day of school, so it fit well when she gave her best princess wave with a cup of her hand to the block of stacked steel rectangles lining the hall. “Goodbye, funky green lockers. Goodbye, glass case of trophies. Goodbye, cafeteria. Goodbye—”
“Oh, come off it, Sarah,” said the girl on her left, Cynthia. The bright yellow bow in her hair bounced when she laughed.
Sarah flipped her long red hair in a mock dismissal toward her friend.
The girl on her right, Maxine, said, “Yeah, we’ll miss you too, Sarah.” She rolled her eyes. Maxine wore a button-up collared shirt that made her look like an older boy.
Sarah turned to her and with a curtsy said, “Goodbye, Maxine Johnson, princess of sarcasm.” Then she turned to Cynthia. “Goodbye, my dearest and bestest and only true friend, Cynthia Cummings. I’ll miss you most of all.”
“Oh, get a room, sheesh,” Maxine said, slapping Sarah on the back.
All three girls giggled and leaned into one another for a group hug. In the huddle, Sarah dropped the royal routine and added, “Seriously, you have to come out and visit me in Maryland. It’s going to be awesome.”
“Boys?” Cynthia asked.
“I hear they have some of those on the East Coast too,” Sarah said.
“Yeah,” Maxine scoffed. “The mysterious types with dark eyes.” She pushed up her black-rimmed glasses.
“Are you going to New York?” Cynthia asked, bubbling like a bath bomb, swaying in her dance stretch pants.
“Why not?” Sarah threw her hands into the air and flung her head out of the huddle. “I want to visit everywhere!”
“Everywhere?” Maxine asked. “Even the sandy desert of the Sahara?”
“Everywhere!” Sarah skipped off down the hall, leaving her friends behind. “Why not?”