Zoe came out of her apartment, zipping up her hoodie as she tried to locate her car keys in her large purse at the same time. She moved down the hallway to the stairs and quickly ran down to the lobby. She stopped to check their mailbox on the way through, and she squealed in excitement when she found the envelope she’d been waiting for. She kissed it for luck and tore it open.
A moment later, she dashed out the lobby doors and ran through the park, heading for the apartment building opposite hers. She was in mid-run when she screeched to a halt, seeing the very person she was running towards, working in the park gardens.
“Annelise!” she cried, waving the envelope, “Annelise, it came!”
The teenaged girl, working in the garden at the base of a fast-growing young tree, turned to stand up as she approached at a run.
“Well?” Annelise grinned, “Did you get in?”
“Yesssssss!!!!” Zoe cried, and the two young women hugged each other as they hopped up and down. “Now we’ll still be together! Four years of High School and soon two years of College!”
“This is wonderful!” Annelise laughed, “The dynamic duo rides again! Did you tell your Mom?”
“Not yet,” Zoe said,”I just grabbed the mail on my way out the door. I wanted to tell you first!”
“I’m glad you did,” Annelise said, “I was getting worried I’d have to attend State College by myself. I wasn’t looking forward to making new friends.”
“Aw, you’d have done great,” Zoe told her, “You’re a stellar student, you’re pretty, and you make friends easily. I would have had a harder time starting somewhere new.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Annelise said, wiping the sweat off of her brow with her forearm. She crouched back down to continue weeding the forget-me-nots at the base of the tree.
“Hey, why don’t we go out for a burger and a malted to celebrate?” Zoe asked.
“That sounds great,” Annelise said, “Let me finish up here. I wanted to weed and plant this pack of impatiens.”
“That tree has grown so much,” Zoe said, “The flowers look so pretty around it, too.”
“Yes, thanks,” Annelise said, “I think he’d like it, don’t you?”
“He sure would,” Zoe told her, “But you told me he liked everything you did. How long has he been gone now, Annelise?”
“Six years, “Annelise said, “We planted this tree in his honor the spring after he died. I wish he was still here to sit in its shade. He’d have liked that, too.”
“I wish I’d met him,” Zoe said, “It sounds like he was a great guy.”
“Barney was a sweet and wonderful old man,” Annelise said, “He liked the park, his store, the kids, the sunshine, the flowers and trees and chocolate ice cream cones.”
“He liked you, too, Annelise, and he would be proud of how you’ve grown, too,” Zoe said, patting her shoulder.
“Thanks, Zoe,” Annelise sniffed, “Go tell your Mom about your acceptance letter. I’ll finish here and go wash up and meet you in about a half an hour.”
“You got it,” Zoe said, turning to run back towards her apartment.
Zoe dashed back inside the building and didn’t see Annelise wipe away a tear as she continued planting flowers at the base of Barney’s tree.
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