Most of the girls knew her as Bella, but every time I needed her to help me I called her Isabelle. And right now I really, really needed her to help me. There was one problem, however. Isabelle wasn't here. I had searched the streets and checked the bathrooms. I'd combed every nook and cranny in the neighborhood and even peeked inside a sewer. I'd called her parents and asked over and over again, "have you found her?" And every time, the answer was a deflated no. Practically the whole neighborhood was searching. We checked the newly made pathway, clean and white after being reopened last week, but Isabelle was nowhere in sight.
It all started when I woke up to a gray, drippy sky, after a burning hot day. I had opened my narrow window, made a face, and smeared all the dust and cobwebs away. Then, satisfied, I fell back asleep again. When I woke up, the window ledge was covered in a puddle of gray water dripping onto my carpet. With a yelp, I closed my window and wiped the water away, although my green carpet still had an obvious dark stain. Grumbling, I dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. I snatched the cereal from the cupboard and realized we still had strawberries. I liked slicing them into tiny bits and eating them with my cereal, but my parents hardly ever bought strawberries. I yanked the milk and strawberries out and munched quietly on my cereal. My parents were both at work. I dialed Bella's phone number, but she didn't pick up. I dialed a second time, but her phone remained stubbornly unresponsive. I gave up and called her parents. Her dad, Mr. Yiper, picked up the call, and the first thing I heard was an enormous crash and a pattering of metal hitting the floor. "Hello?" I called, cautious that I was intruding on something. "Allison!" Mr. Yiper said, panicked. "Bella isn't here!"
My first instinct was to call Isabelle's phone number as fast as I could and scream, "Isabelle! I need your help I need your help I need your help-" until Isabelle interrupted and asked me what the problem was. Even though we have no actual blood relationship, Isabelle and I are like sisters. Isabelle is calm and practical, while I fling my head off at everything that goes wrong- like what I'm doing right now. But in this event, Isabelle was the problem. And Isabelle was always the solution.
"I saw her fifteen minutes ago," Mr. Yiper insisted, "when I went to wake her up. I went back downstairs, and when she didn't come down, I went back up to check on her, and she was gone!" Mr. Yiper looked as hyper as me, which was saying something. Mrs. Yiper always said that Isabelle inherited her level head from her dad, but right now, it certainly didn't seem so. "Is there any reason you think she might have disappeared?" The policeman drawled, looking bored. "I don't know," Mr. Yiper murmured distractedly, pulling at his gray hair. The policeman looked at the scattered tufts of hair from Mr. Yipers scalp and fought the urge to snort. "Well, then," the policeman said briskly, slamming his clipboard on a lemonade stand left out in the storm. “Name, signature, address, phone number..." I looked around, worried sick. I'd dialed her number thousands of times, half the time just self-consciously to ask her for help, but for the first time ever, she didn't pick up.
I sat down heavily and racked my brain for hiding spaces. The neighborhood bathroom? no. I checked in there. Outside of the neighborhood? Bella would never. She’s the type of girl that goes outside only for school. Where, where, where… I sat bolt upright. Something she said came rushing back into my mind… “... I might be gone tommorow… I have something to do.” I jump up and start pacing, trying to make my brain remember. I hadn’t been paying much attention, because I was snarfing down the best pasta ever. “Did you know there’s a …” I shake my head fiercely, trying to recall it. "...something out there?” I want to scream. I’m so close. “something...something...something…” I’m not sure, but now bits and pieces of Isabella’s rebel voice float back to me. “Did you know there’s something out there? All alone, in the forest. Dad will disapprove of it, but…” I can actually see Isabelle giving me that devilish look. “you know.” I, in fact, did not know, because I was looking mournfully at my licked clean bowl and wondering if there was any pasta that I didn’t chow down in the red pot. I want to race off into the forest, to scream at Isabelle and to hug her, but I know I should take an adult with me. Still...what if she’s not there? What if I disappointed all the adults, the girl who made a false call? the forest isn’t that bad. Lumberjacks have cut down most of the population. And Isabelle had said her dad wouldn't approve. Would she be mad at me? The parents would if I did. Isabelle would if I didn't.
I wished that Isabelle hadn't gone missing, that she wouldn't have put me in such a dilemma. Just walk to the forest, I told myself self-consciously. Just... Wait and see.. I guess. I smacked into another person, unaware of my surroundings. I reeled back, ready to form my mouth to say sorry- a guilty and ruffled looking Isabelle stood in front of me, an empty ziplock bag dropping from her hand.
"Sorr- WHERE WERE YOU?! DON'T YOU KNOW HOW WORRIED I WAS?" I screamed, clutching her sleeves and tugging them relentlessly. "DO YOU EVEN-" Isabelle smiled apologetically and said, "sorry." "SORRY IS ALL YOU SAY?!" I bellowed, emotion pouring out and spilling all over Isabelle. "THAT-IS-" "Isabelle Marie Yiper!" A voice snapped, so sharp It could have sliced copper in half like butter. "You stand right here and explain exactly where you were!" Mr. Yiper had apparently overheard me screaming my head off, and came running with half a dozen other neighbors, all clutching their hearts dramatically. "Bella!" They wheezed. "Thank goodness-" "NOW!" Mr. Yiper bellowed. I'd never seen him like this, and I was actually a little scared. Isabelle looked sheepish, and for a moment I thought she actually meant it- until she winked at me out of the corner of her eye and whispered under her breath, "don't tell him."
"ISABELLE MARIE!!" Mr. Yiper commanded again, and I was reminded of a military officer. Isabelle ducked her head and said in a false, meek voice: "yes?" I narrowed my eyes, and for a moment I was tempted to shout out to everyone, "she's been in the forest!" But no. Of course not. Isabelle was my best friend! Mr. Yiper looked furious, and even I shrank back from him. I didn't know how Isabelle could be so brave. Mr. Yiper swelled up like a tomato, his cheeks turning bright red and his eyes starting to bulge. One of the neighbors, Mrs. Felt, coughed lightly into her hand, then quickly muffled in with horror. Other spectators, feeling conscious of their presence, were slowly backing away. Mr. Yiper froze for a second, suddenly realizing that the whole neighborhood was watching and judging. Mr. Yiper reluctantly deflated a little bit, then said in a still dangerous voice, "Isabelle. Come. To the house." Isabelle stepped forward and stood warily next to her father, ready to bolt at any second. I saw a hint of actual nervousness in her eyes... Or was that fake? I had no idea. All I knew was that Mr. Yiper was probably leading Isabelle to her doom.
I covered my ears, trying not to imagine what was going on in the other house. Their argument echoed down the street and banged in my ears, even if it wasn't so loud. I just couldn't stop imagining what kind of punishments she would have, wishing that she would just stop arguing and settle down. Stop arguing and settle down? Then I know Isabelle would have gone crazy or something. That would not ever happen. I sighed and winced again as a resounding crash echoed from the slightly crooked brown house, shadows moving wildly behind the curtains. This was the craziest day ever.
I turned over my side and promptly fell asleep.
Suddenly, I jolt awake to blinding white light, harsh after the dim light of my house. A shadow passes my vision, and slowly I feel the leather chair behind my back, the stiffness of my mouth and all the medical instruments placed around me. I want to freak out, but when I scream, my throat feels really, really, sore. I start daydreaming about aliens, testing tables and abductions. Suddenly, the shadow falls again across me and a face smiles down on me. An alien? Her hair is pulled back in a bun so tight no human could have done that. "Hello, sweetie," she says, smiling again. "You might feel a little drowsy after the anesthesia. Now that we have removed your tonsils, you’ll feel much better in a day or two, okay?"
I could only stare in dumbfounded silence. But what about Bella, Mr. Yiper, the search - everything? The past came flooding back to me: reluctantly sitting in the car, the giant smiley lit-up sign: Dr. Smiles Hospital for Children! Coming here with much-anticipated dread, the anesthesia, then nothing. I got the reality mixed up with the dream, and the dream mixed up with reality, until all I wanted was for it all to go away. The orange lollipop in the nurse's hand seemed to waver for a second, then the rest of the room, then back to normal, razor-sharp. "...next time we see her it will be for her checkup," she says to my mom. “You're free to go after you get dressed!" The nurse with the orange lollipop turns from my mom and smiles, yet again, at me, handing me the lollipop. "Goodbye!" She says, stretching her mouth in a smile for the hundredth time at us. We wave and turn, exiting Dr. Smiles Hospital for Children. Once we are outside of the building, my mom stops briefly to study me. "Well," she said, breaking into a smile, "that wasn't too bad, was it?"