My name is Rona Venally, I'm eight years old, and I live in Winchester, NV. My friends call me Ro and my family calls me Rio 'cause my dad is a blackjack dealer in the Rio Casino in Las Vegas and my mom grew up on the edge of the Rio Grande in Texas. I want to tell you a story about my summer. Particularly, one week. It includes two of my neighbors. They're brothers and they're names are Xavier and Zeke Suarez.

I know, my best friends are boys. Most of my friends are. I'm young; I'm not into that girly pink stuff yet. Xavier and Zeke live three doors down and I go visit at least every other day.

We've had crazy adventures. Those two are mischievous and fun. So, on with my story…

-xx

"Ro! Hey Ro! Ro! Ro!" Zeke called my name several times as I walked down the steep gravely road. He waved like an idiot and jumped up and down. I was surprised he knew I would be on my way; we always kind of met up randomly. After two summers together I guess I'm getting predictable.

"What is it? Where's Xavier?" I asked as I finally reached him at the bottom of the hill.

"He's inside. Sick. I'm bored. What do you want to do today?" He asked eagerly as we walked up his drive way and towards the garage. The sun was extra hot today, hot and muggy, which was unusual for the desert. We went through the car door and went straight to the freezer as usual. We grabbed two popsicles, like usual. Mine strawberry, his lime. Sitting on the front porch swing, he asked me again. "What do you want to do today?" He was a little more pushy than normal, I thought. I swung back and forth a few times, feeling the light breeze in my brown hair.

I hated my hair. I thought it was boring. But I didn't dare say that out loud 'cause last time I did, Zeke told me I shouldn't 'cause he thought it was beautiful.

"Maybe we could go on the tire swing…" I pondered. Licking my cold treat. They had a great play set in their backyard; we loved the tire swing especially. Zeke was excellent in spinning Xavier and me. "Or, maybe not." I said after thinking about it for a few moments.

"We could go into the forest." He suggested, smiling big. I smiled back. We didn't explore the forest that often. I nodded and we were off.

Running around the stone siding and down a little grass hill, we raced to the back. We skipped over the bark and rushed into the trees. Hopping over a few bushes we stopped at a little trail. It was small and super narrow, hardly keeping us from the blackberries and thorns.

I had to keep him from eating the berries a few times.

His hands on my shoulders, he pushed me forward and I made my way over a log, he jumped on it after me and rode it like a surfboard. I laughed and hopped on next to him. Too soon did the log roll out of place and we were forced to jump off.

The sun barely skimmed through the thick overhead trees and the air was fresh as a summer night. We ran, quicker this time, down the red dirt path until we reached a large decline that went so vertical that we had to stop. Down, down, down, the pebbles at our feet tumbled and landed in the small stream about three stories below. I clung to a mossy tree, Zeke next to me, and we stared into the abyss.

"Ro, look over there." He smiled and whispered in my ear. His tan finger pointed to something on the other side of the ravine. "It's a totem pole." He stated.

His mother would tell us stories about the Nevada Indians, she was quite the artist so she would also draw us pictures of their totem poles, and used paint to decorate our faces. Out in that forest, yes, I admit it did look like a man-made sculpture. But Zeke was one to exaggerate. I smiled back at his brown eyes but that quickly disappeared when he jerked his arm and pretended to push me off the ledge. I grabbed him tightly and shoved my fist into his chest. He winced but laughed as hard as usual. I pushed him into a nearby bush and he quickly sprang up. This ended the way every adventure ended; I chased him back towards his house.

-xx

We didn't stop at his backyard but continued into the neighbors, hopping the fence; I beat him to the swinging hammock. I've always been faster, I always will be. But when I looked next to me he wasn't there. I sat up and looked around the yard. I swung my legs over and walked to our favorite bench. It was two seats across from each other with a grapevine arch connecting them overhead. Ivy crawled from one side to the other. He sat in the left bench, his knees to his chest, twirling a leaf in his fingers. I sat down across from him with a steady thump. He hardly looked up at me.

"Rona…"

"Hm?"

"I love you."

"I love you too!" I laughed. Of course I loved him! I mean, I loved him, right? He was my best friend. He still didn't look up at me. Slowly I got as sad as he seemed to be. I looked down at the cobblestone ground. We sat like that for probably ten minutes before he stood up. My eyes rose to look at his face and he put a hand firmly on my head. I tried to look up a little more and the force of his palm pressed my bangs into my eyes. I blinked and suddenly his lips were on mine. I didn't know what to think. He's pecked me on the cheek a few other times, but not for long before I punched him and dared him to run.

And so ended that day…

-xx

Little did I know that I wouldn't hear from Xavier or Zeke for the next week.

Little did I know that they had had a for sale sign in their yard since May.

Little did I know I'd have nothing to do for the rest of the summer.

Little did I know that I wouldn't hear from Zeke for another year, then two years after that, then five years after that.

Little did I know that they had left me with no clue.

Little did I know that an eight-year-old could go through so much.

Little did I know that I would miss them so much, so bad.