Chapter Three – Plans for the Future
Bobby wandered into the backyard again the next day. For the third consecutive day, Frank left, this time without even a word to Bobby. Bobby headed straight for the fence.
"Alex?" he asked. "Alex, are you there?"
There was no response. He climbed onto the doghouse again, and saw that the yard was deserted. He stepped back down and sighed heavily. "I suppose she forgot about meeting me," he whispered to himself. "She's probably not coming," he added dejectedly.
He knelt down next to the hole they had begun digging under the fence and began absent-mindedly continuing to dig. He wasn't sure his friend would be coming, but he thought he'd continue widening the hole just in case.
Soon enough, he heard Alex come running out of her house. Shortly after, she had shoved her head down in the hole and was peering at him through it. "Hi Bobby!"
"Hi Alex," he replied, grinning widely.
"Come over the fence!" Alex instructed, pulling her head out from the hole. Bobby was quick to obey. A few moments later, he was crumpled at the other side of the fence with Alex eagerly pulling him to his feet. Her hair had soil from the ground in it and she had dirt smeared on her face, but she didn't seem to care.
The two of them played together happily for some time. "Hey Alex?" Bobby asked a while later.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"You're my best friend."
"You're my best friend too," she replied happily.
"Do you promise that we'll always be friends forever?"
"Pinkie promise!" Alex exclaimed, extending her hand. "Cross my heart and hope to die; stick a needle in my eye!"
They linked their fingers together, smiling happily at each other. They were too young then to really understand what they were promising, and to know that life's twists and turns could get in the way of a friendship formed on a hot summer day with a fence between them. They didn't think it was at all unreasonable for the next-door-neighbor to be a 'secret friend forever'.
But that day, they did believe it. They believed that they would always be friends.
It had been nearly a month since Bobby and Alex had first met. They had visited each other almost every day; either Alex crawled under the fence or Bobby climbed over it. They were also both still enjoying the idea of being 'secret friends'.
Since they both also loved books, it had been their habit for Bobby to bring his book outside, and for them to read together. Alex was still painstakingly slow when she read, but Bobby didn't mind. He was more patient than most children his own age. Sometimes they took turns reading out loud, and sometimes they both read silently (Bobby staring into space until Alex had finally made it to the bottom so he could turn the page).
At the moment, they were in Bobby's yard leaning against the fence with a book open. They had just reached the end.
"That was a good one," Alex commented. Bobby nodded in agreement. "I liked the part where they got to be in their aunt's wedding." Again, Bobby nodded.
"Hey Bobby, do you know what we should do when we grow up?" Alex asked.
"What?" Bobby replied.
"Get married," Alex said bluntly, in the way that only children can.
"Okay," Bobby agreed. "I'll buy you a ring when I grow up and get a job."
Alex giggled. "We can move to Hawaii!"
"Why Hawaii?" Bobby asked.
"I don't know, I just think it would be a fun place to live."
"Okay," Bobby agreed. "We'll go to Hawaii. I suppose you want to be a princess?"
"No," Alex corrected disdainfully. "I'm going to drive race cars for NASCAR."
"Oh," Bobby replied. "That sounds like fun."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," Bobby replied. "I like books; I suppose I could be a librarian like Ma."
"A librarian? Alex asked. "Can boys even be librarians?"
"Can girls even drive race cars?" Bobby shot back.
"Of course!" Alex replied. "And I'm sorry, I'm sure a librarian would be a good thing for you to be."
"No, you're probably right," Bobby sighed. "My dad sure wouldn't like it. He would say that it's not a man's job. A man needs to make a living working with his hands to support his family." Bobby examined his own small hands, as though preparing himself for the time they would be doing 'a man's work'.
"Well, I'll make enough money with NASCAR that you won't have to worry about making a living," Alex told him.
"My dad wouldn't like that."
"Your dad can take his opinion and stick it where the sun don't shine," Alex said hotly.
"What does that mean?" Bobby asked.
"I don't know," Alex replied, shrugging. "I heard Mom say it to Dad once though."
They stopped talking for a moment, lost in thought. Then Alex broke the silence, saying, "Can we have a tree house?"
"I'll build you a tree house in a palm tree," Bobby promised solemnly.
"And we have to have lots of books!" Alex exclaimed. "A whole huge library."
Bobby nodded in agreement. "It's a perfect idea!"
"Yeah, but we can't tell anyone," Alex reminded him. "Because we're secret friends."
"They'll find out when we get married," Bobby informed her.
"I wonder what my parents will think of that…"