Christy sat in the snowbank where she’d fallen, her breath coming in slightly ragged gulps. The snow had ridden up into her coat and was now leaving wet down her bum. Mum would think she’d peed again and she’d have to wear the plastic panties. No fair! She was thirteen!
The three boys were digging at the snow on the stepping platform. If it wasn’t cleared in eleven minutes then her friends couldn’t come back from the other place. She’d never had friends before, and didn’t want to lose them.
The boy with the glowy spots on his sneakers stretched. “I gotta go; Mom’s gonna kill me for being out this long.” At that he ran off.
The boy with the funny hair that stuck up everywhere stopped and looked down at the stepping platform.
“What is this, some kind of solar panel?”
Funny hair boy looked over at Christy. The boys had seen her shoveling the snow that the blow-plow had thrown onto the platform. Funny hair boy had pushed her out of the way and started shoveling. Well, he hadn’t pushed her; he just walked by and she fell backward trying to avoid him. It was kind of like pushing.
Now he was talking to her. Christy whimpered.
The boy with pom-pom on his hat talked while he shoveled. “Why ask her, Mitch?’ She’s a retard.”
“Can it, Will. She’s autistic. My cousin Gil’s like that; they don’t talk much.”
“She’s a retard, Mitch. This whole thing is retarded. If you want to help Stupid Girl, go ahead. I got hot chocolate waiting at home.”
Pom-pom boy stomped away with his shovel.
Christy stared. Her mind calculated the rate of snow removal; he would take about three minutes too long to clear the platform. Her friends would be trapped. She started to cry.
The boy dropped his shovel and ran over.
“Chrissy, right?” He pulled her out of the snowbank and put his arms around her. “It’s okay, I can do it.”
Christy shook her head. How could she make this boy understand the problem? Finally she showed him the countdown timer on her watch.
“Is that how long you have?” He bit his lip. “Maybe we should work together.”
Of course! Christy hadn’t thought of that. She picked up her shovel and they both shoveled together. After a minute they had a rhythm going and the platform was cleared with almost two minutes to spare.
Afterward he stood beside her, leaning on his shovel. “So what is this thing, anyway?”
Christy opened her mouth but the words wouldn’t come out.
Finally there was a whoosh and her friends appeared out of thin air, back from the other planet.
Becky spoke, “We’re back, Christy. Who’s your new friend?”
A look of terror crossed Christy’s face, but the boy stuck out his hand. “I’m Mitch. I helped dig this thing out.”
Mitch. Mitch was her Friend. Christy concentrated on it so she would remember.