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Switching Tracks

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The sky was a deep orange. I quickly stepped out of my mom’s white mini-van, looking at the red gladiolus that lined the cobblestone driveway. When I reached out to knock on the door, I heard a gleeful cry.

“Gracie Anne!” Micah continued without taking a breathe. “I’m so excited you found our house. My directions were a little confusing, but…”

As she continued rambling and touring me around her house,  I wasn’t paying attention to the nicely furnished living room, fancy silk curtain, or brown wooden deck. I was watching this new friend and realizing that there was more to her than any other friend I had ever had. As I looked at Micah, I felt like a new adventure was about to commence. Our friendship began at a holiday party where we ate lots of food and giggled as we saw the cute eighth grade boys across the room. As we began to talk more, it was apparent that Micah and I were one-in-the-same. We shopped at the same stores, enjoyed having late night dance parties, and looked forward to long bike rides in the summer. Everything about her complimented me and I complicated her. Our personalities fit so well together. We knew that we were meant to be friends.

***
Following the signs on the gray-speckled ceiling, we hurried past airport security. Our destination was North Carolina and our departure gate was B-14. Walking past a large group of incoming passengers, we exchanged nervous glances. Bustling crowds, interrupting intercoms, and beeps for the luggage cart echoed throughout the hall. It was Micah’s first time traveling without parents and the overwhelming sounds paralyzed her communication skills. Her face was blank.

“Micah Rae, let’s go get some coffee. We can look for our gate after.” I said softly.

Looking lost, she replied, “Umm, good idea.”

Looking past the array of bookstores and souvenir shops, we spotted a Starbucks. Slowly, we walked to the coffee shop, ordered our drinks, and sat down. My wooden chair creaked while I shifted around, stretching my neck so that I could look for a sign. That is when I saw it; B-14. Catching Micah’s glance, I nodded toward the green and charcoal sign.

“Thanks, Gracie.” she sighed in relief.

Smiling, I picked up our empty drinks and threw them in the garbage, “Let’s go, we’ve gotta vacation to go on and cute boys to meet.”

***
The first day of high school. That is when the whirlwind of life all began. Nervously tapping my fingernails on the armrest of my mom’s mini van, I looked out the window. Micah and I decided to ride together on our first day. We were about to enter an ocean of sharks and strange looking fish, we needed each other. Side by side, Micah and I entered the school. She was my life vest.

“Hey, watch out!” A tall boy said as we accidentally stepped in his path of travel.

We sped up and walked quickly to our new lockers. We were scared to death and clueless about what was about to happen in our next four years of life. We would have never known some of the lessons that we would learn or the people we would meet. All we knew is that we were in it together. The warning bell rang and we walked into class.

***
“Oh my gosh, what am I even supposed to wear?” I muttered as I threw my charcoal cardigan onto the mound of clothes that had somehow found their way to the floor of my closet. My face turned the color of a fresh tomato and my eyes began to fill up with tears.

Micah giggled, “It’s your first date, not your wedding.” Glancing at the pile of unfolded clothes, she pulled out a few garments and gently handed them to me. “Here, try this.”

Slowly, I stood. My heart began to rise as I slipped into my ripped skinny jeans, pulled my cream sweater over my head, and grabbed my favorite gray booties from the closet shelf. We stepped over to the beautiful antique mirror in the corner of my yellow-walled room. Looking up and down, Micah smiled.

“Perfect! You’re ready.”, she commented “First date is about to be in the books.”

***
After our senior homecoming, we decided to go to a party at our new friend’s house. Boys and girls paired off into couples sat around the fire. It was about three in the morning and the bitter air made bumps appear on my skin. All of the couples were sitting together and cuddling under blankets. The only thing that met our ears was the crackles of the fire. Every couple seemed to be off in there own world, secluded from the rest. Micah and I looked at each other a little uncomfortably and decided to share a blanket since both of us were without dates.

“Do you want a s’more, Gracie?” Micah asked. Her voice rang loudly against the quiet group.

“Sure, I will help you make them.” I responded as I stood up from the metal patio furniture.

For the next thirty minutes, we stood side by side enduring the uncomfortable silence. As I was about to try to start a conversation, Micah stood up and went inside. I tried to hide my disappointment by pulling out my phone. Reaching into my back pocket, I grabbed the sparkly-cased phone. There was a new message from Micah. I was confused until I read the message.

“Let’s get out of here. This is so uncomfortable.” She texted.

“Okay, follow my lead.”

Micah returned and we exchanged glances. I got up to get a drink of water and sat back down next to her.

“I don’t feel so good. Do you think you could drive me home?” I said loud enough so the whole group could hear. That was all it took. Our mission was successfully accomplished. We gathered our backpacks and sleeping bags. As we shut the trunk door, we giggled to each other.

“I have popcorn and Netflix ready to go if you want to spend the night at my house.” Micah offered.

“Let’s go.” I said enthusiastically. We were back in our zone and enjoying every moment because we were together. Just me and my very best friend.

***
As we followed the peppy, red-shirted tour guide out of the nursing building, a cold gust of air caught us by surprise. The fading leaves scattered the long stretch of dull-colored grass. Hurrying to escape the chilliness, we crossed the gray, stone walk-way and entered the first brick building we saw.

“Welcome to one of our many women’s dorm halls!” the student spilled out.

The shaggy carpet rustled as Micah, her mom, and I followed along a long corridor, lined on either side by doors. The doors were decorated with an array of Pinterest-projects that made the otherwise bland hallway taste warm and inviting. Looking left and right, the rooms were filled with fluffy blankets, orange boxes filled with Ramen Noodle packages, and large piles of homework that made me cringe. At the end of the hallway, an empty dorm room waited. The welcome sign ushered the group into the room. As everyone went in, I stayed in the hall waiting for my turn. The thought of cramming into the ten by ten room made me feel uneasy. A moment later, Micah called me into the room. The brown furniture stood out against the plain white walls. I took a few steps around the room, looking at the sink and out the window into the commons area. I sat down on the bed.

“Wow.” I muttered.

My best friend sat down next to me. Leaning against the cold white wall, we remained silent. Our breaths went in and out. I looked at Micah and she looked back at me. An overwhelming rush of emotions hurried through our bodies and out of our eyes as we began to cry. We cried not because we were sad, not because we were happy, but because we knew that our life was a fast moving train that was about to shift tracks. It was time for us to grow up. Her and I had been running side by side for many years; soon we would be traveling solo. The ineluctable future was fast approaching.

“Do you ladies want to grab some lunch or coffee?” Micah’s mom interrupted.

Quickly wiping away our tears, we got up followed Micah’s mom, Miss Konni. We exited the room with a different perspective. We were not just stepping out of the little white room. We were stepping out of our childhood and into the rest of our lives. We had switched tracks. 


 






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