Best Friends

"Get in the car, Hun," Shanon Brucker told her daughter, pushing down the trunk of their old Chevy Malibu. "We're all packed!"

Kira whirled around to face her mother. She'd been staring up at their small apartment for quite a while; she was trying to etch every detail in her memory.

"Not yet!" she protested, clutching a worn teddy bear that had obviously seen a fair bit of the world. "I have to say goodbye to Spencer!"

Shanon sighed. "I told you to do that before it was time to leave!" she reproached. Regardless, she took Kira's hand and led her across the street. She knocked on the door and was greeted by Spencer's mother, Tanya Garner.

"Shanon and Kira!" she welcomed, smiling. "Come in!" The stepped inside and Kira set off upstairs to her friend's room.

"We're only here for a few minutes," Shanon said apologetically. "Kira wanted to see Spence before we left."

Tanya nodded. "Work calls...New York, right?"

"Yeah," Shanon smiled wryly. "It's a shame; we've really loved San Diego and Kira can't remember any other home, but I need this position. The pay is so much better than here, and it's been like hell trying to support the two of us on such a low salary."

"You'll be teaching at NYU, right?"

"European History. It's only a one-year contract, but the interview guy hinted that if they like me this year, they might ask me back!"

Meanwhile, Kira reached Spencer's room. She reached out and knocked on the door. Her friend opened it a crack and peered out.

"Kira!" He swung the door fully open. "I'm glad you came over! I got the bonus question on the homework and I want to show you. Miss Hanson said she'd give a Snickers to anybody who got it right, so I'll split it with you, okay?"

Spencer was the smartest kid in their class, or in the whole first grade for that matter. He pulled Kira inside and began to rummage through his backpack.

"Spen--" Kira choked out. She felt like she was going to cry for a minute, until she realized she already was. He half-turned, and seeing she was crying, rushed to her side.

"What's wrong Kira? Did you get hurt?" He was full of concern.

"Today's the day Mommy and me are going to New York," Kira sobbed. "We won't get to see each other anymore."

She'd told him her mom was changing jobs and that they'd be moving a week before, but Shanon had planned on staying for several weeks more to let Kira finish the school year. However, the college had called two days before telling Shanon they wanted her to come as soon as possible to review criteria for the class and such. She gave no hesitation, and gave notice at work and to the landlady. She pulled Kira out of school and they'd spent their remaining time packing their things and arranging for their flight to New York. In the hectic days, Kira had never found time to tell Spencer of the plans.

The two sat in silence for a minute while Spencer took it in.

"You said not till the end of school!" Spencer reminded her.

"I know," Kira apologized. "They changed the day we had to come." More tears rolled down her cheeks. She couldn't believe this was the last time they'd see each other; it didn't seem quite real.

"Don't cry!" Spencer comforted, sitting down next to her on the bed and hugging her around the shoulders. "We'll write to each other! We'll still be friends, Kira," he promised. "You'll be my best friend forever, even in New York."

"Really?" Kira asked. He nodded yes. She wiped her eyes and smiled back. "You'll be my best friend forever too!" she told him. "For always." The children hugged as Shanon called to Kira from the bottom of the stairs.

"We need to go now, Baby! We can't miss our plane!"

Kira turned at the door and waved to her friend one last time. "I'll write and send you our new address!" she promised, then paused. "Bye-bye Spence." Then she ran down the stairs to join her mother.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Spencer's been so down lately," Tanya sighed to her husband, Jon. "Ever since Shanon and Kira left, and that was almost a week ago! I try to get him to think about something else, but he misses her so much."

"Take him to the carnival," Jon suggested, peering over the newspaper he'd been reading. "It's over on the Del Mar fairgrounds and I heard it's a lot of fun."

"I will!" Tanya agreed. "It should take his mind of Kira, and it's been a while since I did something with him anyway."

"Go today," Jon urged. "No time like the present!"

So Tanya did. And was entirely successful. Spencer seemed to forget about missing his friend and enjoyed himself a great deal. But the remainder of the day passed faster than usual, and before long, it was almost closing time for the fair, and time for mother and son to go home. However, Spencer begged to go on one last ride before they left: the big roller coaster Tanya had avoided all day.

"But I hate rides like that," she told Spencer as she let herself be dragged toward it. "They make me sick."

"Can't I go on by myself?" he pleaded. "And you can watch me!"

"You're sure you'll be okay without me?" she asked, glancing nervously at the coaster.

"Yeah!!" Spencer cheered, and ran as fast as he could to get a spot on the ride.

He climbed into a seat and waved at his mother as the coaster slowly clacked into motion. Tanya nervously waved back. She'd always loathed fast and jolting rides, since the first time she'd been on one as a little girl. Even now, she could barely imagine how drunk she'd have to be to be convinced to step onto one.

The cars were now slowly making their way up the huge ascent. At last, they reached the top, gave a final effort to stay atop the arching runway, and then plunged forward into the steep drop. Spencer yelled with the rest of the riders as the coaster raced around curves and sped over the bumps. He was constantly hurled against the sides of the car and the protective bar across his lap, all slightly oversized for a child of his stature.

Suddenly, there was a particularly violent jerk, and before he knew it, and indeed too quickly for anyone watching to see clearly, a bolt shot away from his car, the bar holding him in the seat fell aside, and Spencer was thrown into the air. The train of cars passed like a flash, but left the little boy behind to fly into the forest of woodwork that supported the coaster tracks.

Immediately, there was an uproar, as onlookers gasped in shock and disbelief, workers yelled to stop the ride, the ride itself continued to thunder around the track, and the nearest rushed to search for the child that had fallen. But above all the noise, Tanya's hysterical screams were heard loudest.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I have to tell you that your son has been incredibly lucky," the doctor told Tanya. "He was lucky to have survived the fall, of course, but it would seem that the only damage besides the scratches is a broken arm and very minor trauma to the head."

It was late in the night, and Tanya was sitting in the waiting room of the ER. Someone had given her a blanket that she was now huddled up in, as if it gave her shelter from any bad news the doctor might have. But the news was infinitely better than whatever she'd been expecting. As he spoke, her eyes brightened and the worry lines that had formed on her face became less deep.

"There is one thing," the doctor added. "There's a specialist in physiology* working here, and she believes there's the possibility of lasting trauma from the impact. Nothing crippling, you understand, but perhaps a minimal amount of memory loss, a drop in IQ, or even some behavioral changes."

"Behavior?" Tanya echoed, fearfully.

"Likes, attitude, interests; things of that nature. It's impossible to tell now what effects the accident's had on Spencer's mind, if any, at least for now. I suggest taking him to a physiologist for study once he's had some time to recover. It will be far easier to guess if anything is wrong when he's conscious and calm."

Tanya mumbled her thanks and rose stiffly. He moved to help her up and then led her to the room Spencer was sleeping in.

"We set his arm in a cast, so be careful with it. Keep it as clean as possible, but don't get it wet!" He accompanied her to the door, then waved goodbye as she walked out to the car, carrying Spencer.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Finally home, Tanya told Jon about the event at the fair and everything the doctor had said. Once his worries were assuaged, he mentioned a letter from Kira coming while the two had been gone. They gave Spencer the letter the next morning, but he never read it.

Several weeks later, they received a call from Spencer's teacher asking if Spencer was all right: he wasn't his usual attentive self and wasn't doing as well as usual on homework or tests.

In fact, he seemed almost as if a different child had replaced Jon and Tanya's son. He was never again the star student they'd known. He was more aggressive and quicker to anger. His attention span was shorter and less focused.

And although Kira wrote hundreds of letters to him over the next two years, she never once heard back from him. Finally her letters stopped. It was a very long time before she ever saw him again.

(*)Physiologist- a doctor that studies mental states or behavior