Last month, we met Milly, a rising fifth grader who is moving to a new town after a devastating loss.  If you missed the first installment you can find it here.

Let’s continue. . .“Hey, Dad,” Daryl called. “This room is the coolest.  This room is perfect for my baseball case.”

“That’s great, son,” Dad said. “Here, Milly. This one’s yours.”

Milly’s room was at the end of the top section of the house and had three windows.  There were two towards the back and one that opened onto the roof.

“We thought you would like all the light.  Your mom ordered you new curtains too. She thought since you were going to be in the fifth grade and growing up, we should get you something less frilly than the one’s your grandmother made you when you were born.  I think the new ones are purple with white trim.”

Milly nodded.  “Purple’s my favorite color.”

“You figure out where you want your stuff. I’ve got to help the movers.”  He kissed the top of her head.

Milly looked out one of the back windows.  The swing set had a slide and a swing. Plus there was a black horse swing with a red saddle and blue bridle.  Elton had horse swings in the park but she had never seen one in someone’s backyard.

“Hey, Dad,” she yelled, running down the steps. “I’m going out back.”

Outside she hopped on the horse swing and started rocking.  She pushed the swing higher and higher but soon realized it would only go half as high as a real swing.  She quit rocking and let the horse gradually stop.  She leaned her head on the bar connected to the top of the set and let tears run down her face.  “I wish you were here, Mom,” she whispered.

“Milly,” Daryl yelled. “Dad wants you to come unpack dishes.”

Milly shuffled to the house.  In the kitchen she started putting dishes in the cabinets like Mom used to have them.  She arranged the silverware in the drawer next to the sink.  She plugged the coffee maker in and remembered how Mom used the coffee maker to make her hot chocolate on cold school mornings.  The cup Mom had used was chipped on the rim, right in the middle of the green ribbon.  Every time Milly put another dish up she remembered what Mom would make in it.  The blue pottery casserole dish that held traditional lasagna.  The jello mold with the interchangeable lids that would make a different design on the top of the hill of orange or red jiggly dessert.  Lasagna was probably a thing of the past, but Dad might yet master Jell-O.

She quit working in the kitchen and wandered back to her room.  The movers had put her bed, bookcase, and desk in already.  Her dresser was still in the hallway. She pushed the bookcase between the two windows and went to the guest room where the movers were putting boxes.  She found the one marked “M’s Books” and dragged it to her room.  She started to pull the books out, turning each one over before setting it carefully on the shelf.  She had copies of almost all of Dr. Seuss’ books.  Mom had given her Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? when she’d been promoted to the blue bird reading group in the second grade.  Dad had given her I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew yesterday.  They both went on the top shelf with the rest of Dr. Seuss.  She also had Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows, The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Her pink keepsake box Dad gave her was also with her books.  She set it on the second shelf.  Then she saw the little diary Mom had given her when they told her about moving.  Inside Milly read what Mom had written: “Mildred Flora Ashton, a very special girl who will always do very special things.” Milly found a pen and dated the first page.

Today, we moved to Rollins. Our new house is OK.  Mom was right about seeing the whole backyard from my window. I guess things will be OK.  Dad is trying hard.  I’m scared.  A new school, a new house, and no Mom. I miss her.

Milly closed the diary and carefully put it on the shelf beside the box.  The purple background to white daisies was exactly what she loved most.

“Milly, you didn’t finish getting the dishes out, ” Dad said from the doorway.

“I wanted to find my diary.”

Dad nodded. “We’ll all do the downstairs later.  Daryl is going to walk to the drugstore and get some drinks.  You want to go with?”

“Dad, Daryl doesn’t like for me to hang around him.  He thinks he’s a big shot.”

Dad laughed and brushed sweat from his forehead. “Maybe so. But I bet if you offer to help carry stuff, he’ll let you go.  You need to get to know the neighborhood too.”

She shrugged, and pushed up from the floor taking the ten-dollar bill Dad held out.

“Why don’t you get a candy bar or something, too.”

“Milly, let’s go, slow poke.  I’m not waiting any longer.”

She ran down the steps and met him at the front door.

“All right, squirt.  Walk two steps behind me and make sure you look like I’m awesome,” Daryl commanded.

Milly rolled her eyes.  “I will not.”

She walked right beside Daryl all the way to the drugstore.  He glowered most of the way.  IN the drugstore bells were tied to the handle of the door, and they rang when Milly and Daryl went in.  At the counter there were two boys waiting for the clerk to get them fountain drinks.

“Go get some bottled drinks from the coolers, squirt.” Daryl sauntered over to the counter.  “Hey, guys.  Daryl Ashton, baseball legend from Elkton. Just moved here. Any good teams looking for someone new?”

Milly rolled her eyes as she went to the back.  She’d caught Daryl practicing that line a couple of times before they’d moved.  He was no baseball legend.  He’d hit a home run once.  But that was about as legendary as it got.  She pulled out three Cokes and then got a family pack of Snickers.  She really wanted a sucker.  Maybe she could convince Daryl it would be OK.  When she got to the front, Daryl was still talking to the two boys so she took the stuff to the register.  There were Tootsie Roll Pops in a canister beside the lighters.  She pulled out a chocolate one and put it with the rest.  The clerk rang up everything and gave her the change.

“Do you have a trash can?” she asked as she unwrapped the sucker.

“Sure,” the clerk said. “Here.” She took the wrapper from Milly and crumpled it up.  She aimed and shot the wrapper perfectly into the trash can four feet away.  “Nothing but net,” she grinned.  “Guys aren’t the only one’s around here who can be legends,” she winked. Milly laughed.

Daryl started out the door without even calling for Milly.  she had to skip a little to catch up with him.

“Gotta game tonight,” he said.  “Hope Dad doesn’t mind.” He turned to Milly. “You better stay with him tonight.  He’s been lonely since, well, you know.”

“Yeah, me, too.” Milly popped the chocolate in her mouth. “Do you ever miss her?”

“Of course, I do.  What kind of question is that?”

“Well, you never cry or say so.  I wasn’t sure.  I know you loved her, but you seem so much better than me.” Milly twirled the sucker with her tongue.  She could feel the chewy center coming through the hard candy, but she wasn’t ready to bite yet.

“I’m older,” was all Daryl said.

They walked in silence a while.  When they turned onto Oakridge Daryl stopped and put his hand on Milly’s shoulder.  He cautiously looked around and then knelt beside her.

“Listen, if I tell you something, promise not to laugh or tell?”

Shocked at the sharing of secret all Milly could do was nod.

“I do cry, but only at night.  One so Dad can’t see m, or you.  And because that’s when I miss her most. The way she would come to my room and tell me that I was a mess but she loved me.  And the way she’d laugh after that and then ruffle my hair.  You know that shampoo she would use? What was it? It was sweet.  Oh, green apple.  Her hair would brush my cheek and I’d get a whiff of it.  It was the last thing I’d remember before going to sleep and then I’d dream about going on picnics with her and . . . .  I miss her bad, Milly.” Daryl sucked in air hard.  “And I miss her cooking.”

Milly laughed then and Daryl looked at her strangely, eyebrows knitted together.  Then he laughed too.

“Nope, Dad’s not much of a cook, is he?” Milly said.

“Naw, but he has to get better, because there’s no way it’ll get worse.” Daryl brushed a damp spot away from under his eye.  “Come on, I’ve got to find my glove.  And if you ever tell, I’ll break your little toes.” Daryl started running down the block.

Milly ambled, making sure not to step on cracks in the sidewalk and sucked the hard candy completely off of the chewy center before chomping into it.

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