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"Molly Doogan, I'm talking to you!"


Molly jumped in her desk seat as if an ice-cube had been dropped down her back. Netty Parmet, stood hands on her hips, her blue-green eyes scowling at her.


"What is wrong with you lately? You've been acting weird ever since you came back to school. Didn't you hear the lunch bell ring? I asked you to eat lunch with me and you just sit there in a daze twirling your finger in your little brown locks."


Netty's thick red hair framed a freckled face that always reminded Molly of Pippi Longstocking, especially when she wore her hair in braids. A little taller than Molly, Netty was also a little more willing to take chances. And Molly liked her for that. She considered Netty her best friend, but she hadn't seen much of her because of that horrible pneumonia Molly had barely survived.


"The bell rang?" Molly couldn't believe she hadn't heard it, but she now noticed everybody was leaving the classroom.


"No, I'm kidding. Miss Turner is still standing in front of the class telling us about the story we have to write." Molly was used to Netty's sarcasm. It made Netty, Netty. She waved her brown lunch bag in Molly's face. "Well, do you want to eat lunch with me or not?"


"Yeah, sure. Sorry, I was thinking about something else."


Molly took her lunch from her desk and followed Netty outside. They found their favorite spot away from the playground area under an old oak tree and showed each other their lunches. Molly traded her egg salad sandwich for Netty's peanut butter and jelly. They munched in silence until Netty spoke.


"So what's wrong, Molly? You still sick or something? We're supposed to be friends, remember? Friends talk to each other. Talk."


Molly wanted more than anything to tell her everything but was afraid Netty wouldn't believe her.