"Morning, sunshine!"

I'm startled awake by an annoyingly loud and cheerful voice. That voice unmistakably belongs to Sayori, my neighbor and good friend since we were little.

"Sayori, don't scare me like that!" I scold her through a rough morning voice. "What on Earth are you even doing here?"

"It's a snow day! And tomorrow's Saturday, so we have three whole days off! Come on! Let's go play!"

Sayori is usually cheerful, but she's never happier than she is on days when she doesn't have to go to school. That's especially true now that we've started middle school. She tends to get stressed out by the amount of work and even by how strict she thinks the dress code is. She spends a lot of time during class just staring out the windows. Sometimes, I wonder if she's contemplating jumping out so she can go to the hospital to get out of school. I wouldn't put it past her. Still, if this is the way she is at 12 years old, I worry about how she'll handle being an adult.

"Oh, jeez. I know that look," she says.

"You mean when I squint my eyes because somebody turned on the lights while I was trying to sleep?"

"No. That look you get when you start worrying about me," she says. I often forget that we can read each other like an open book.

"Just let me sleep," I say as I roll over and turn my back to her. "My alarm hasn't even gone off yet, so it must be way too early to get up."

My eyes open wide as I realize what I just said. I roll over to look at her again. "Wait a second. What are you doing up so early? You're the one who likes to sleep in!"

"I woke up because I felt my Sayori senses tingling! I can see a snow day coming a mile away," she says. "Also, I may or may not have gone to bed early last night due to boredom from the power going out."

That's right. The power went out last night. I take a look at my blinking alarm clock and realize I don't actually know what time it is. I let out a long sigh. Sayori isn't going to let me win, so just I stretch my arms and get out of bed.

"Yay! Come on! Let's go!" she beams as she skips out the door.

"At least let me get dressed first!" I yell after her.

After changing out of my pajamas, I scratch my head and try to straighten my messy hair with my fingers. I climb down the stairs and she stops me at the bottom.

"I almost forgot," she says. "You haven't eaten breakfast yet, have you?"

I glare at her. I obviously haven't eaten breakfast if I just got out of bed.

"That's no good. We can't go out and play if you haven't even eaten breakfast yet." She shakes her head. "Go turn on the Wii and I'll bring you some cereal. Then you can eat while you watch me play!"

As I sit down on the couch and turn on the TV in the living room, I can see Sayori pouring me a bowl of cereal in the kitchen. Even though she spills a bit of milk on the carpet as she clumsily carries the bowl over to me, I'm still thankful that she does nice things for me like this.

"Thanks, Sayori," I say as she puts the bowl on the coffee table and snatches the remote out of my hand.

"Any time!" she beams at me. Pointing the remote at the TV, she picks Rockman 3 from the main menu. She's way too clumsy to play any motion-controlled games, so we usually end up playing old Virtual Console games. She really likes retro stuff, so she and I are saving our allowance together to buy an old Famicom. We're lucky that old games are so cheap these days. Previous generations who grew up with these games probably had to pay a lot more.

"Are you getting lost in thought again?" she says, once again reading the look on my face. "Your cereal is going to get soggy."

"Sorry, sorry," I say as I lean over to eat my cereal. "I was just thinking about the system and all the games we're saving up to buy."

"Oh yeah!" she says as her eyes light up. "Some company's coming out with a system that can play both Famicom and Super Famicom games, as well as games imported from overseas!"

I swallow a mouthful of cereal. "I don't know. If it's a bootleg system, how can we be sure it works? Plus, if it's something that's just coming out, it might be expensive."

Sayori pouts as she already gets a game over. "Well, if it gets good reviews, it might be worth it. Just think of all the games we could play!"

I continue eating while I watch Sayori play. She's not very good, but it doesn't look easy. She gets another game over as I finish swallowing my last bite.

"Mind if I give it a try?" I ask.

She looks at my empty bowl and smiles. "OK! But after that, I want to go out and build a snowman!"

I take the remote from her and start playing. She rests her head on her hands and watches as I suck at the game as well. But I still do better, and I make sure to tease her for it, complete with sticking my tongue out at her.

"Yeah, yeah," she says. "You still lost. Anyway, come on! Let's go build a snowman!"

"Hold on, hold on. At least let me write down the password and clean up my bowl." I say that, but she's already merrily trotting to the front door.

I scribble down the password and put my bowl in the sink. Then I notice Sayori spilled milk on the counter and didn't clean it up, so I clean that up as well.

I make my way back to the living room, where I see Sayori back on the couch, sulking. "What's the matter?"

"I can't get out," she groans. "The snow was up to my waist when I made my way over here, but now it's up to my shoulders."

I open up the front door to see for myself. Sure enough, there's a wall of snow blocking my exit. I can barely see over the top, but the snow is still coming down pretty heavily. This is easily the most snow I've ever seen in my life. I quietly laugh at the image of Sayori dragging herself through waist-deep snow to get here, but I'm thankful that I don't have to be trapped in here by myself. I quickly shut the door before any snow gets inside.

Sayori falls over on her side, taking up the whole couch and burying her face in a cushion. "I was really counting on making a snowman. I was hoping we could even make two of them. You could put your scarf on one of them and I could put my bow on the other so they look like us." She makes a whining noise as she squeezes a cushion against her face like she wants to smother herself.

"Aww." I kneel down beside her and pat the side of her head. She's always so cheerful that it hurts when she loses her smile. "It could be worse, Sayori. Imagine if the wind blew the bow off its head and you lost it forever. I know how much you love that bow."

"That's true," she says with a sigh.

I pat her on the head again. Suddenly, I get an idea. I stealthily pull the bow out of her hair and stuff it in my pocket. "Wait a minute, Sayori! Your bow! It's missing!"

She gasps and sits up straight. She starts feeling her head. "Oh noooo! Where did it go?!"

"I definitely remember you wearing it when you woke me up," I assure her.

Sayori muffles a scream with the cushion. "How could this day get any worse?!"

"No, no! You're looking at it the wrong way!" I try to calm her down. "If you were wearing it when you woke me up, you must have lost it somewhere inside the house. You know what that means, right?"

Her eyes widen and her mood suddenly changes from sadness and frustration to jovial excitement in record time.

"Adventure!" She gets up and runs to the stairs. "Come on! We need to get your detective hat and magnifying glass!"

It doesn't take much to make her happy. I hope that never changes. She'll probably get a lot smarter when she's older and it won't be so easy to trick her like this anymore, but I always want to find a way to cheer her up when she's down.

I hope we stay together forever.