This was an alternate beginning to FM. It sort of reads like the beginning of Sofie skipping years to show the bond between Syd and Sarah. How they met, became close etc. However in the end I decided the REAL story of Forever Mine didn’t really start until she gets the call from her mother. So this was left on the cutting room floor. But now that so many have read the story I thought it might be fun to share this. Maybe you’ll get a better understanding of Sarah and Syd’s relationship. It’s not very long. Probably the length of one of my regular chapters.
Cromer Elementary School
Having friends is over rated. Sarah sighed. Two weeks at this school and she was still sitting alone. She didn’t bother trying to make friends anymore. For as long as she could remember she and her mother had been moving at least twice a year. Any friendships she’d made were over before they’d really begun. And so, while all the other kids rushed to finish their lunch to get out to the playground and socialize, she sat there as usual in no hurry.
She scanned her lunch tray. The only thing that appealed to her was the tangerine. Her mind drifted while she peeled it. A group of kids sat two tables across from her talking loudly. One of the boys stuck a straw in his nose and said something to a girl in braids who laughed so hard she spit out her milk.
“You gonna eat those?”
Jolted, Sarah quickly came back to reality. She hadn’t even noticed the boy that sat down diagonally across from her. He was pointing at her soggy fries. Without a thought, she pushed the tray of fries toward him. He smiled, sticking one in his mouth immediately.
Sarah watched his plump fingers grab for more. He was a chubby boy bordering on fat, with dark spiky hair. The hoody jacket he wore zipped only halfway up and looked a little snug. He turned to look at the kids Sarah had been watching, then back at her.
“So why don’t you sit with them?”
Sarah shrugged, feeling her cheeks warm.
The boy smiled. “You new here?”
“Do you talk?” He took a bite of his cheeseburger.
Sarah looked at him for a second. “Yeah, I talk.”
“I guess you do.” He grinned. “You have a name?”
“Sarah Lynn.” She always gave both her first and middle names. It’s how her mom had always introduced her.
He studied her for a moment while he continued to chew. Pushing his tray over so he was sitting right in front of her, he took a drink of his chocolate milk.
“You look more like a Lynn, than a Sarah,” he said. “I’m Sydney, by the way.”
Sarah looked at his loaded tray and fought back a smirk. “Are you new too?”
Sydney shook his head, shoving a few fries in his mouth. “Nah, I’ve been going here since Kindergarten.”
“Oh.” She felt bad for him.
He stopped chewing for a second and narrowed his eyes a bit. “What? You think I don’t have any friends?”
“No,… I didn’t … I mean…”
“Relax, I have friends. They’re all out there.” He laughed pointing to the playground. “You know, they eat real fast, and then go play basketball and stuff. That’s not for me. I’d rather take my time in here.”
Sarah nodded, slipping a slice of her tangerine in her mouth.
“So where you from?”
“Well, the last place we lived was in Tempe.”
“Oh yeah? Why’d you move?”
“My mom got a job out here.” She shrugged.
She looked back down at her tangerine. There was no need to tell him about her mom changing jobs every six or seven months, sometimes even more.
“Well, you’ll like Flagstaff. It snows up here in the winter.”
The kids she’d been watching all got up and started out the cafeteria. One of the girls, the one with the braids glanced in Sarah and Sydney’s direction. She said something to the other girls and they laughed loudly.
“Hey, Tina,” Sydney said.
The girl in the braids turned to look at him, making a face. “What?”
“Someone with your I.Q. should have a low voice too.” He put his finger to his lips. “I’m trying to eat here.”
Tina rolled her eyes and walked away with the rest of the girls.
“I don’t think she got it.” Sarah giggled.
“Oh, I’m sure she didn’t. That’s the beauty of it,” Sydney grinned. “I can say stuff like that to her all day long and she’d never know to be mad.”
“So she’s not the brightest?”
“Nope, neither is her sister,” He paused for a moment to finish chewing. “You have any sisters?”
“No.” Sarah shook her head. “No brothers either. It’s just me and my mom. What about you?”
“Nope, it’s just me. But I got a dog. He’s a big one too—Great Dane, more like a pony actually than a dog.”
“Really? That big?” Sarah’s eyes opened wide. “I’ve only seen them in pictures, never in person.”
“Oh you have to. They’re awesome. Diesel’s almost two and he’s taller than my dad when he stands. And my dad is six feet tall.”
“Wow, that’s hard to believe.”
“Believe it. Maybe you could come by one day and check him out. He’s really cool, big as he is, he’s real gentle.” He paused. “Where do you live?”
“Over on Elm and Kendrick.”
“No kidding? I’m a block over on Fine and Kendrick. You take the bus?”
“No, I walk,” she said.
She hated the bus, hated all those faces staring at her as she boarded like she was some kind of alien.
“I walk, too. You wanna come by after school?”
Normally Sarah would’ve felt funny about going over someone’s house she just met. But there was something about Sydney that made her feel comfortable.
“I have to check with my mom first,” she said. “Maybe tomorrow.”
“Sounds good.” He stared at her for a moment. “Are your eyes green or blue?”
Sarah looked down at her last piece of tangerine. “Green.”
“They’re cool. Not often you see a brunette with green eyes.” He popped another fry in his mouth.
The bell rang just as Sydney polished off what was left of his lunch, and they walked back to class.
Almost done with her homework, Sarah took a bite of her quesadilla. She got up to get more juice when she heard the front door open. It surprised her that her mom was home so early.
“Hi, sweetie. How was your day?” Her mom took off her coat and put her things down on the sofa.
“It was good, how was yours?”
“Oh, I’d say it was pretty darn good.” Her mom walked in the kitchen and took a bite of Sarah’s quesadilla.
“I can make more,” Sarah offered standing up.
“That’s okay. I’ll make more. You finish your homework.”
“So what’s up?” Sarah asked, sitting back down at the table.
Her mom pulled out the cheese from the refrigerator. “Well, the girl I’m covering for while she’s on pregnancy leave, called today and said she won’t be coming back. The position is open now. I’ve been doing a pretty good job, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t offer it to me.”
Sarah stared at her blankly. “Does that mean this would be permanent?”
“Yeah, hon.” Her mom beamed. “The pay is really good, too. Better than any other job I’ve had. If I get this, it means we won’t be moving again.”
“Really? When will you know?”
“Well, she just gave her notice today, so we’ll have to wait and see. But it really looks good.”
“Oh, mom!” She jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. “I hope you get it. I’d hate to move again. And I really want to be here when it snows. And –”
Her mom chuckled. “Don’t get too excited yet. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything so soon.”
“Okay, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
Her mom picked up the plate with the quesadilla and walked over to the table. Sarah followed.
“I made a friend today.”
“You did? That’s great honey. What’s her name?”
“She’s a he.”
“Yeah, and he’s really nice. His name’s Sydney. He invited me over his house tomorrow to see his dog.”
“Um hu,” Sarah nodded picking at her food, “A Great Dane, he says it’s taller than his dad when he stands. I can’t wait to see him.”
Sarah’s mom eyed her silently, for a moment. “How old is this Sydney?”
“My age I guess, we’re both in the sixth grade. He lives right on the other block, on Fine. Can I go?”
Her mom took a drink of her milk and raised an eyebrow. “Is Sydney cute?”
“What? Mom!” Sarah smiled crinkling her nose.
Her mom laughed softly. “I’m just asking.”
“He’s nice, that’s all that matters.”
“So he’s not.” Her mom giggled.
Sarah smiled. It was nice to see her mom in good mood for once.
The next day Sarah hung out with Sydney at school, and then later in the afternoon met Diesel and Sydney’s mom, Frances Maricopa. She reminded Sarah of one of those moms on TV from the old family shows that wore aprons and always had a smile on their face.
She was invited to stay to eat and Sarah had one of the best home cooked meals she’d ever had—the first of many to come. Sydney walked her home because it was getting dark by the time she left. They talked the whole way, much like they had all day. Unlike, a handful of the girlfriends she’d managed to make over the years, Sydney was so much easier to talk to.
Later that week, Sarah got the best news she’d had in years. Her mom had been offered the position at her office. They’d be staying in Flagstaff for good. Sarah was finally home.
Flagstaff Middle School
Sydney pulled a chocolate chip granola bar out of his lunch bag. He’d just finished eating a piece of chicken breast with no skin, a small bowl of cottage cheese, a diet soda and a tiny box of raisins.
Sarah frowned. “That’s not on your list of stuff you’re allowed to eat.”
“Can you cut me some slack? It’s a granola bar.”
“Yeah, but it has chocolate chips in it.”
Sydney rolled his eyes, and shoved it back in the paper bag.
“See?” She smiled. “And you said you had no willpower.”
“I don’t know how much longer I can do this, Lynni.” He tossed the bag in a nearby trashcan. “This food sucks and I’m still hungry.”
They got up and began walking out the cafeteria. Sarah tried being optimistic. In two years, her best friend had gone from being a chubby to dangerously overweight. She’d finally convinced him to join the Running Club at school with her. And they’d gone online to find a diet he could stick to.
“Sydney, you’ve lost almost twelve pounds in three weeks. Just think if you keep up this rate you’ll be down to your goal weight by the time we start high school next year.”
Sydney frowned. “Most of that was water weight, Lynni. The hard part starts now.”
“Well it’s a good thing we’re starting the Running Club now—just in time.” She grinned.
Hands at her hips, Sarah stood there catching her breath. As usual, Sydney was last to finish running the required laps before heading to the showers.
“You got it, Syd. Don’t stop!” she shouted.
She winced, seeing the pain in Sydney’s face. He shuffled his way slowly toward her, but didn’t stop. That alone was progress. The first few meetings they had with the Running club he’d given up halfway. He’d even talked about dropping out but with Sarah’s encouragement, hung in there.
A couple of girls walking by giggled. Sarah shot them an icy look.
Sydney and Sarah walked back toward the gym and when he finally caught his breath began to talk. “As hard as that was, I gotta admit it’s getting easier.”
When they reached the gym, he bent over at the faucet letting the water run all over his face.
“Have you weighed yourself lately?” Sarah asked.
“No, but I will right now when I go in.”
“I can’t wait. I’m sure you’ve lost more since last week.”
After Sarah had showered and dressed, she walked outside. Sydney was talking to Cheryl, one of the girls from his band class.
“It was so cool last year and they say it should be better this year,” Cheryl said, just as Sarah walked up. “Plus, it’s your last year here you have to go.”
Sydney read the flyer Cheryl handed him. He looked up at Sarah, then back at Cheryl.
“I’ll let you know,” he said.
He folded the flyer and put it in his pocket. But Sarah caught the words Christmas Festival.
“Yeah let me know soon, cause my mom needs a head count.” Cheryl said, walking away.
“Is that the Christmas thing you didn’t go to last year?” Sarah asked.
Syd nodded. “I lost four more pounds.”
Sarah smiled, but her thoughts went back to the Festival. It was something Cheryl’s busybody mom had put together for the band members to attend and perform, around the holidays. But it was in Phoenix, and the previous year had been a four day thing. Sydney opted out last year and Sarah got the feeling he didn’t go because he knew she’d be alone for the holidays.
“That’s great, Syd. I know you’re going drop all the weight. I have no doubt.” She walked along side of him. “So are you going?”
“To that Christmas thing?”
He made a face. “Nah.”
“Not my thing.”
“What do you mean it’s not your thing? You love playing the Sax.”
Sydney shrugged. “The holidays are about being with family.”
Sarah smiled feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. She leaned on him for a second. “I’m really proud of you for sticking to your diet, Syd.”
Flagstaff High School
The backpack clunked down every step, echoing throughout the empty hallway. Sarah frowned. Why did she always wait until the last day of school to clean out her locker? Her backpack weighed a ton. She made her way out the front entrance and lugged it down the sidewalk toward the parking lot.
Sydney was leaning against his car talking to Carina Santiago. They were in Jazz Band together. Carina played the Cello. Sarah smiled. She’d teased Sydney before about having a thing for Carina but so far he wouldn’t admit anything.
Sydney saw Sarah and hurried toward her, taking the backpack from her.
“Damn Lynn, wadda ya have in here? Bricks?”
Sarah flashed her metal smile. Her braces would be coming off in a few weeks. She was so glad she’d be rid of them and just in time for senior year.
She looked up at Carina who was still standing next to Sydney’s car. “Carina looks pretty today,” she smirked.
Sydney rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
She rifled through her backpack on the way home. Sarah wanted to show Sydney a picture she’d found buried in her locker. It was of the two of them in the eighth grade, before Sydney had lost all the weight.
“What are you looking for?”
“A picture I found. I almost forgot how heavy you were,” she giggled.
“Uuggh, I don’t wanna see that.”
“But it’s so inspiring,” she insisted. “Besides I don’t look so hot in it either—with my ridiculous bangs and my goofy snaggletooth smile!”
Sydney frowned. “I never thought you had a goofy smile.”
“Oh please, it was awful,” Sarah said. “Forget it. I can’ find it in this mess. I’ll show it to you another time. So what’s up with you and Carina?”
Sydney glanced at her for a second, then back at the road.
“Nothing, we’re just friends.”
“I don’t know,” Sarah teased. “I think she likes you.”
Sydney stared straight ahead but smiled.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Sarah glared at her mom. “So you don’t trust me?”
“No, I didn’t say that—”
“You don’t trust Sydney then, is that it?”
“No. Sarah, this has nothing to do with trust. It’s just that you two are getting older now and… well it doesn’t seem right for him to be here alone with you for hours at a time.
“But you’re never here so when is he supposed to come over?” She regretted it as soon as she said it. She knew her mom hated having to work such long hours and spending so little time with her.
“Sarah, you have to be reasonable. I know he’s your best friend but your both at a very dangerous age hormonally. Anything can happen.”
Sarah sunk in her seat. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. In all the years she’d been friends with Sydney not once had they ever talked about anything that might ruin their friendship.
“I know how fond you two are of each other.” Her mother continued. “It’s just not the smartest thing for me to allow my teenage daughter so much time alone with a boy, even if he is just a friend.”
“You can’t be serious.” Sarah rolled her eyes. “First of all he is not just a friend, he’s my best friend. You know him, mom. We’ve never looked at each other that way. I love him like a brother and he feels the same way.”
“I know this, but things change, honey.”
“They haven’t though.” Sarah picked up her plate and stood up. She’d hardly touched her food, losing her appetite as soon as she heard those words.
I don’t think Sydney should be spending so much time here when I’m not around anymore.
Sarah had been shocked. She could tell her mom was in a bad mood as soon as she walked in the door. Sarah and Sydney were both lying on the floor drawing up posters for Syd’s campaign. He was going to be running for Class President this year. Her mom took one look at them and slammed the door. But she was often in a bad mood when she got home from work lately so it didn’t seem that big a deal. The last thing Sarah had expected was this.
“I’m not done talking,” her mom said.
“Well, I am.” Sarah placed her plate in the sink.
“Sarah Lynn Fierro, you will stay here until I’m finished.”
Sarah stood there, facing the sink. She could feel her ears getting hot and she pressed her lips together.
“There’s something else I need to talk to you about,” her mom continued.
Sarah stood there, refusing to turn around. What now?
“Come sit down.”
There was an uneasiness about her mothers tone. She turned around and saw the grim look on her mothers face. In all the years since she was a little girl no matter what they’d been through she never saw what she thought she saw in her mothers eyes now. Fear.
She walked over and sat down across from her mother.
“I’ve done something I’m not proud of, and I’ve lost my job.”
Sarah searched her mom’s eyes, the words still echoing in her head. But before she could say anything her mom spoke again.
“I could be looking at jail time.”
Running up the front porch steps, Sarah waved at Sydney’s dad who was busy washing the family’s SUV in the driveway.
“Hi, Mr. Maricopa,” she said.
“Hey, Sarah,” he said. “Syd’s inside. Go on in.”
Sarah walked in straight into the kitchen where she saw Sydney leaning on the counter reading something.
“Ready for our run?”
Sydney glanced up for a second, barely acknowledging her. Then went back to what he was reading.
“Helloo?” she said, as she reached him. “What’s that?”
“Band camp.” His eyes still fixed on the paper.
“Again?” She frowned. “Seem’s like it was just a few months ago that you got back from it.”
Sydney finally looked at her. “That was last summer.”
“There’s no way it’s been a year.”
“Yep, it has.”
“And you have to go?” She jumped up and sat on the counter.
“It’s only a week, Lynni. You’ll be fine.”
“I know,” She sighed. “But that week always feels like a freakin month.”
Sydney bent his leg up behind him, holding it with his hand against his back side. “There’s more schools going this year and they’re adding individual contests. I might enter one.”
“Might? Why wouldn’t you? You so would win.”
Sydney dropped his leg down and bent the other one up. “I dunno, the competition’s really tough this year. Some of the new schools going are magnet schools for the arts. They focus just on the music—”
“Okay stop,” Sarah said. “You know I hate it when you do this. Magnet school or not, you’re brilliant Syd. Don’t ever question that.”
“Yeah, yeah, says you.” He made a face.
“No, says everyone. You definitely should to do it. When we get back we’ll go over your music so you can start practicing a piece today.” She jumped off the counter.
Sydney smiled watching Sarah as she pumped herself up jumping up and down.
“Any news about your mom’s thing?”
Sarah sighed. “No but she we did talk about the possibilities and…” she paused for a moment, then shook her head. “I don’t even want to think about it.”
Sydney stared at her. “That bad?”
Sarah nodded. “If she does go to jail she wants me to go live with my Aunt.”
“What? The one in California? You hardly know her.”
“I know. That’s what I said but there’s no arguing with my mother. She insists I be with family, even if I hardly know her. ”
Sarah bit her lip.
“Well, don’t worry about it yet,” Sydney said. “Anything can happen right? And worse case scenario—”
“Don’t even say it.” Sarah gasped.
“Lynni, it doesn’t have to be that bad. California is not that far and we’ll always be in touch.” He put his hands on her shoulders. “I promise. C’mon lets go, it may not even happen so why worry about it now?”
Sarah went numb. This couldn’t be happening. She gripped the phone, her knuckles going white. The knot in her throat was unbearable.
“Sarah, are you still there?”
In an almost inaudible whimper Sarah answered, “Ah huh.”
“I know this is hard, honey, but it’s not the end of the world. We talked about this already, and you knew it was a possibility. I tried, Sarah. I really did. But there’s no way around it. We’ve gone over all the other options, but anything else is too much of a risk. It’s for the best.”
“But, senior year …” Sarah felt the anger building, and the tears burning in her eyes. She felt ready to blow up—lash out. Then she heard her mom again. Her voice choked up as well.
“I know, honey. I’m so sorry. I really screwed things up this time.”
Her mom took a long, trembling deep breath and it broke Sarah’s heart. She wanted to be with her, to hug her, and comfort her.
“It’s okay, Mom. I’ll be fine.”
Her mom cleared her throat and lowered her voice. Sounding very determined, she spoke again, “I am going to make this up to you. I promise, okay?”
“I’ve already called Aunt Norma. She and Uncle Alfred will be here this weekend. They wanna help us pack so you and I will have time to spend together. Then I’ll have to be in court on Monday.”
Sarah gasped. “Monday?”
“Yeah, babe, Monday.”
Sarah covered half her face with her free hand and shook her head. Not wanting to make her mother feel any worse, she choked back a sob.
“Alright, mom,” she whispered.
“I’m gonna be here a while, honey, so don’t wait up for me. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.”
She hung up and looked at her best friend Sydney who’d been sitting on the bed next to her the whole time. Sydney stared at her anxiously.
“She’s pleading guilty and gonna do at least three years. I have to go live with my Aunt Norma in California.” Sydney kept a strong front but Sarah fell into his arms crying.