The Picture This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   "Lois? I made you a picture."

Shyly, I handed her the silly crayoned drawing - my masterpiece. She took it in her grimy hand and solemnly looked at it. A smile broke across her careworn face.

"I love it, honey," she said warmly, and hugged me.

Now I laugh whenever I remember the picture. A large pink triangle passed for a dress, with stubby arms and legs sprouting off of it. A large beachball head bobbed on top of a skinny, toothpick neck, and the head was covered with silly corkscrew curls. It was so comical! And yet she praised me for it and hung it in the place of honor - the fridge.

Lois always managed to make me feel good. No matter what mood I was in when I climbed the hill to her house, I always came back down feeling better than before. Her home wasn't just a house - it was the flower garden, the dogs and cats and Lois herself.

She had slightly curly blondish brown hair, and twinkly gray-blue eyes. She smelled like soil, soap, coffee, and cigarettes. She once lent me a shirt which I wore for three days because it smelled like she did.

Nothing ever seemed to get her down. If the world went awry, she'd just shrug, grin, and give me a piece of forbidden gum. Then everything would be all right.

Whenever I reached the top of the hill, I was greeted enthusiastically by the dogs: Mikey, Alfie, Miss Goody, and Kimmie. They jumped all over me and barked wildly. And when I cautiously stroked Rebekah or Zack, the cats, they purred.

Sometimes, I simply dropped off my bag at home after school and rushed up to Lois', bursting with whatever fortune had brought me that day. She might be sitting at the kitchen table, grading term papers, her glasses perched precariously on her skinny nose, but I'd always get a hug and cup of lemonade.

I lived on one side of Lois' house, and Anna lived on the other. Anna was the same age as I was, and although we were usually good friends, we also got into the most outrageous fights. Many times we got into kicking, scratching fights on the ground over which one of us Lois liked better.

But Lois never showed any favoritism. She was, in fact, always careful never to hang more of my pictures than Anna's on the fridge, or viceversa. Through Lois, I think Anna and I both learned something about friendship.

Everything Lois touched, it seems flourished. She gave me a sunflower once, and later a few mint plants. The sunflower died, but the mint thrived, and Mom and I are still trying to keep it under control.

Lois moved away six years ago. Anna and I babysit for the family who now lives in her house, and sometimes when the kids are asleep, I tiptoe around the house and remember what it was like when Lois lived there. As much as I love the new family, there are many times I wish that Lois hadn't moved. She was, in a way, my first real friend, and I'll never forget her.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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