“Mommy, can I go show my new toys to Bobby?” It was Kelly’s birthday, and she was excited to show off her gifts to her favourite playmate.
“All right, sweetie,” said Kelly’s mother. “But don’t be too long. Grandma and Grandpa will be here soon for your birthday dinner.”
“Why don’t you invite Bobby to join us?” said Kelly’s momma. She, like her wife, was slightly concerned that they had never met this boy before. Especially since Kelly spent so much time with him.
Kelly had never been very good at making friends. She didn’t like to do the things that other kids liked to do. She had no interest in dollies or dressing up and, for her birthday this year, she had asked for nothing but science toys. So, when she had come home from school one day and announced that she had made a new friend, her mothers had been overjoyed.
“His name is Bobby,” Kelly had told them. “Bobby Restin.”
“Oh? And is this a boy at your school?” her momma had asked.
“No. But I met him on the way home from school, and I talked to him, and I said I would talk to him again tomorrow.”
“And, how old is Bobby?” asked her mother, her parental instincts piqued.
“He’s eight, same as me.”
Both mothers breathed a sigh of relief.
From then on, asking after Bobby was a regular part of the after-school repertoire in Kelly’s house.
How was school?
Did you have a good day?
How is Bobby?
Most days, Kelly would go see Bobby on her way home. From this, her mothers gathered that he was homeschooled. Poor Bobby probably didn’t have many playmates, so they were tolerant when Kelly’s visits lasted a little longer. She was playing with a lonely child, after all.
“Bobby doesn’t really like to go places,” said Kelly, when her momma had suggested she invite Bobby to dinner.
“Well, we’d still love to meet him,” said Kelly’s mother. But Kelly barely heard her. She was gathering up her new rock tumbler, her microscope and her book of Fascinating Animal Facts to go show Bobby.
And, with a promise to be back before dinner, Kelly was gone.
“Maybe one of us should go with her next time,” suggested Kelly’s mother. “It would give us a chance to meet Bobby’s parents.”
“Good idea,” said Kelly’s momma. “What did she say the last name was? Robbins? Rollins?”
“Restin,” said Kelly’s mother. She had remembered the name because it struck her as sort of unusual. “I think I know someone called Restin. Isn’t the manager of the fruit market a Restin?”
“Maybe. Of course, if Bobby is homeschooled, it’s possible his parents don’t get out too often either.”
“That’s true.” The discussion was interrupted by the doorbell. “Oh boy! That’s my parents. Are you ready for this?”
For the most part, the kids at school were satisfied with ignoring Kelly and, now and then, saying something mean to her as they passed her in the halls. But on the day she had met Bobby, she had been victimized by a particularly cruel bully called Francis. Kelly had found a really cool rock, and she was going to take it home to see if she could look up what kind it was in one of her books. Francis had taken it, called her a freak for thinking it was cool and even flung it at the poor girl’s head when she tried to run away.
She ran further than she ever had before, her eyes streaming with tears. She ended up much further away from her school than she had ever been before. It was a very old part of town, where hardly anybody lived anymore. But Bobby was there. His whole family were there. And, after the worst bullying shed ever experienced, talking to Bobby had made Kelly feel better.
It hadn’t stopped the bullying, of course. But at least Kelly had someone to talk to about it. She couldn’t tell her mothers because they would just call the school and get Francis in trouble…which would just get Kelly in more trouble.
Besides which, sometimes grownups don’t have time for kid stuff. Sometimes, moms have big, important stuff to deal with, and they just can’t make time for the little, important stuff of childhood. Of course, when you’re little, all the stuff seems like big stuff, which is why it can be so difficult for kids to understand when grownups say they’re too busy.
But Bobby was always there. Bobby always listened. Bobby was a real friend.
So, on the day of her ninth birthday, her arms full of all her wonderful birthday presents, Kelly climbed the hill on the far side of town and dropped to her knees at the familiar site which told her she had reached her favourite friend.
“Hi, Bobby!” said Kelly to the broken stone sticking up out of the ground. She reached out and touched the stone, wondering if Bobby could feel it, and read the words which had almost totally eroded away:
The rest of Bobby’s family were buried on this hill, too, but their stones had long since withered away. Only grey, moss-covered lumps remained to mark the spots where Bobby’s relatives were resting.
Kelly showed Bobby all of her cool new stuff and read to him a little from her book of Fascinating Animal Facts. Like the fact that elephants are one of the few species besides humans to formally mourn and bury their dead (she thought he would like that one).
But, she couldn’t stay long. Soon, she was gathering up her things and saying goodbye.
It was always the hardest part of Kelly’s day. Saying goodbye to Bobby.- Total nr. of readings: 60 Copyright © The author  All Rights Reserved. This story may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the author except for personal use.
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