Chapter One chapter one
Micah was, she reassured herself, faster than a garbage truck. She had to be, or she’d woken up early for nothing. Besides, she wanted that bookshelf. Sitting on the curb in front of a small white house, it was the most colorful thing on the snow-covered street—bright purple with yellow and pink flowers painted down its side. It matched the new bedspread her mom had bought her perfectly, which meant it would look great in her new room.
If she managed to outrun the garbage truck.
“Wait!” she yelled as it came to a stop.
The garbage woman, dressed in a bright yellow vest, making her the second most colorful thing on the street, frowned at Micah as she stopped too. It took all her balance to keep from toppling over into the nearest snow pile as she leaned over to catch her breath.
“Sorry.” She panted. “One sec. I just need…” She gestured into the air as if what she needed—breath, energy, more sleep—could be found in it.
“I don’t have all day, girl,” the garbage woman said. She looked more confused than annoyed, but Micah didn’t want to give her time to cross that line. She straightened up quickly, readjusting her coat.
“Right! So, um.”
She bit her lip. She didn’t know how to say “Don’t take the trash even though that’s your job because I want it.” This wasn’t usually how networking went for her and Poppop. Usually, they were up early enough to beat the garbage trucks, or they came the night before garbage day, when all the things on the curb were newly banished from whatever houses they’d been in.
But she’d begged him to bring her out this morning. Anything to avoid packing up the rest of her room. Anything to spend a little more time with him. She’d spent most of the eleven years she’d been alive living at his house: going networking, or “digging through other people’s trash,” as her mom liked to tease, on weekends and riding shotgun in his pickup truck after school.
And now she was moving a whole hour away.
But she couldn’t tell the garbage woman all that. Not when she looked ready to toss her in the back of the truck along with everything else.
Instead, she blurted out, “I like trash.”
The garbage woman nodded slowly. “So, do you want future career advice, or…?”
“No! I mean, no, thank you.” She pointed to the bookshelf. “I just want that particular bit of trash. For my room. Please.”
Laughing, the garbage woman walked around and hefted the bookshelf onto her shoulder. Micah’s heart sank. She’d run all the way down the street and made a fool of herself in front of a stranger for absolutely no—
“I gotta get back to work,” she said, “so tell me where you want this thing to go.”
Once the bookshelf was successfully in the bed of the truck and the garbage woman was back in her own, Micah leaned her seat as far back as it would go and squeezed her eyes shut. She waited for the truck to rumble to life beneath her. She peeked an eye open when it didn’t to find Poppop smiling down at her.
“It’s gonna get pretty cold if we just sit here, you know.”
He chuckled. “Didn’t think you’d mind, what with how eager you were to leave the house this mornin’. Up before the sun, even.”
She yawned at the reminder, and his smile widened. Out of anyone’s smile, Micah was pretty sure Poppop’s was her favorite. She liked the way it made his eyes crinkle at the edges and how his one gold tooth always seemed to catch the light.
Today, though. Today it made her sad. In just a week she’d only get to see that smile through the phone or after an hour in the car. She couldn’t even ride her bike back to see him because it was so far. She wouldn’t be able to tease him every morning about his growing bald patch or nag him to wear his reading glasses or remind him to take his meds. If she and her mom were gone, who would do those things?
Micah blinked back tears. Her hand drifted automatically to her wrist, twisting the silver bracelet that had belonged to Nana until she felt the heart-shaped charm rub against her skin. She hadn’t eaten breakfast, and her stomach ached with the reminder.
Poppop’s voice was soft. The kind of soft that meant they were going to talk about things, probably her feelings. But she didn’t want to talk. Not about the move, anyway.
“Do you think breakfast water ice is a thing? Because if Tina’s is open, we should go there next. I think they have that weird hot chocolate flavor I’ve been wanting to try and—”
“Phones exist, Turtle.”
“Phones.” He beeped the horn softly. “And cars. And your room at the house is always yours.”
He reached over to pull her seat up until they were sitting face-to-face. “It’s just time for you and your mom to have your own space now, is all. Change makes growth.”
She frowned. “Maybe I don’t wanna grow.”
He laughed. “It happens whether or not you want it to, Turtle. Embracing it usually makes it a little easier.”
When she kept quiet, he took her hand. “What’s the worst you think will happen if you move?”
“I won’t see you. Or spend time with you. And without us or Nana, you’ll be…” Tears filled her eyes faster than she could blink them back. She looked down at their clasped hands. “You’ll be alone.”
Poppop squeezed her hand. “Just more change. More growth. Besides.” He smiled. “Just gives me a reason to visit my favorite granddaughter often.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m your only granddaughter.”
“Exactly why you’re my favorite. Now, how about we go get some hot chocolate water ice and leave our worries for a later day?”
Micah grinned. “Okay,” she agreed. “But then I wanna see if I can catch up to any more garbage trucks. If I keep practicing, I think I can get pretty good at it.”