When we get back to Childress, we stop by Chad’s and Jared’s house.

“You shaved the beard!” Jared says. “Does that mean we’re going to Friendly’s?”


When I nod, the Brothers Fox smile and Jared carries Chad into the backseat.

We pick up Ricky just as Donna is getting home from work.

In the kitchen, Ricky says, “Ty Hendrix does not have a beard. Yes. Where did his beard go?”

“You’re going back to Friendly’s, eh?” Donna asks as BBB runs around our legs and licks my boys’ hands when they bend down to pet B Thrice.

“You wanna come with, Donna?” I ask.

“You kids go and have your fun,” she says.

“You haven’t ridden in my Volvo yet, Donna,” Ty says. “It’s a sweet ride.”

“You really want me to come?” Donna asks.

“Come on, sugar,” Chad-in-a-backpack says. “You know you want to sit next to me in the backseat. I’ll keep my hands to myself. Promise.”

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We all laugh, and Donna says, “I’m paying then.”

I put BBB in his room, put on the classical music station, and it’s playing Chopin’s “Minute Waltz,” which makes BBB start jumping and dancing, so I watch him for a while—my best buddy, BBB—and then I lock B Thrice’s bedroom door and we all pile into Ty’s Volvo station wagon, and someone suggests that we ring and run Franks’ house, so we drive there, and Jared runs up to the door, rings the doorbell, and then runs back into the car. When Franks’ redheaded wife steps outside and looks around clueless, we all laugh, and Ty hits the gas.

At Friendly’s Donna orders one of every sundae and some fries too. We all sword fight with the long dessert spoons, getting whipped cream and cherries and caramel and chocolate sauce and nuts all over the place. We laugh our heads off. Donna takes it all in with a wise smile. And in my head I say a little prayer to JC.

I don’t get it, JC. I don’t understand the plan. I miss my mom. To take her like that when I’m not yet even a woman—it’s not really fair, is it? But I’m glad there are times like this. I’m glad there are friends like this. I am glad there are Friendly’s sundaes. That’s all for right now.

Donna is smiling. All my boys are eating ice cream. I have a whole booth full of good friends. And I think to myself, you cannot give up, Amber. No matter what happens.

I won’t. I will.

Suddenly, as I think about my mom, I feel like I might start crying.

Before I burst into tears, in my mind, I start pumping myself up with accolades to stop the waterworks, and I’m using a super-mega sports announcer voice:

The indomitably hopeful one!

The girl of unyielding optimism!

The teen of merriment!

The fan favorite!

Your undisputed champion!

“Amber—Rock Star of Hope—Apple-TOOOOOOOOOON!” I yell across the Friendly’s, and everyone in the joint turns and looks at me like my head is on fire.

“You are such a freak,” Jared whispers to me, and all of my boys smile and laugh.

I smile right back at them and fill my mouth with a spoonful of delicious coffee ice cream.

Maybe I am a freak—but I’m one hopeful misfit, and you could be worse things in this world. True? True.

I spread hope.

I’m a hope spreader.

I guess that’s what I do—licentiously—that’s why I’m still circling the big flaming ball in the sky. (That’s the sun—sucka!)

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