Hi there. It's me again. Finished supper, and now I'm in my special place. Our house sits on the edge of this long lost city that my mom and her team of archeologists are digging up. There are lots of old stone temples and palaces and other buildings. We've cleared away the worst of the jungle, but the ruins are still covered with moss and vines and wild flowers growing out of nooks and crannies. There is one ancient pyramid that is my favorite, and it is where I go when I want to be alone. Mom says it used to be an observatory, where the rulers of this city watched the stars ages and ages ago. It is just a short hike from where I live. There's a flat platform on top, where the ancient kings and astronomers held court. From it you can look out over the green rooftop of the jungle to the nearby mountains. I like to watch the sunsets. They are just breathtaking. The sky turns red and orange and gold, sliding into purple and indigo, before fading into darkness. Those nights the moon comes out early, it just hangs in the dark blue sky low over the ruined city, and everything gets very quiet and still.


It can feel very lonely at times, but I like it because it reminds me of the boarding house. Me and Gerald and Grandpa used to sit on the roof with my telescope and watch for comets and meteor showers and such. We actually didn't see too many stars because we were in the city, and the light pollution spoiled the view, but this place sure makes up for it. Some nights I come out here, climb to the summit, lie on my back and look straight up at the heavens. We are miles from any town, so you would not believe how black the sky can be, and how the thousands of stars light it up. There are so many of them. Sometimes, staring upwards, I forget I'm fixed to the ground and I feel like I'm floating in the Milky Way, with galaxies and constellations and solar systems swirling around me. It is beautiful beyond words. And I always think, "Wouldn't it be great to share this with someone." And sometimes I forget I'm alone, and I stretch out my hand, as if there is someone in the dark at my side, looking up at the stars with me. But there is no one. There never is.

Like I said, it is very lonely here at times.

All this is a round about way of telling you my big news. You see, my parents are worried about my education. They are great teachers and have made sure I've kept up my studies, but now it's almost time for me to go to university. I'll have to start in about a year, but my folks think we should go back a little early, so I can ease into the regular school routine. They want me to finish my education at a regular high school, as they think that the best preparation for university. Since I came here I've been though earthquakes, bandits, revolutions, floods, avalanches and epidemics. But they think I need to get used to regular schooling. Go figure. So I'm coming home to Hillwood. To the boarding house. And I'll be going to school for my final term with you and all the other kids from the old neighborhood.

Mom and Dad are worried I've missed out on a lot of the things that go with growing up. You know, things like school dances, and team sports and having friends, and going to the prom. They say I should have a chance for some fun with people my own age. I guess they are worried about my 'socialization.' We are far from any settlement, and the only people here are the archeology team and my dad's research assistants. Not a kid among them. There isn't a girl my own age within a hundred miles of here. I'm just a year from university and I've never had a date. Well, a proper date. Unless you count the times you and I went out when we were going to PS 118. Do you remember the time you took us to that French restaurant and you couldn't pay the bill? And we ended up washing dishes? That was about the most glamorous night out I've ever had. I think about it a lot. I laugh about it whenever I think about it. You know, washing the dishes wasn't so bad. I know you will laugh at this, but that's about as close to a real date as I've ever had. And you are the closest thing to a girl-friend I've ever had.

Eduardo, (that's my father's friend) says not to worry, I will make up for lost time once I get home. He likes to kid me. He says I'm just like my dad; a true romantic, always seeing clipper ships in the clouds as they float by. He teases me and says I must have left a lot of broken hearts behind me when I left Hillwood and came here. I always get embarrassed when he says that. I mean, come on. I was only nine years old when I left. How many hearts could I have broken?



So anyway, I'm starting to think of home, and seeing everyone again. I've written to everybody, telling them the news. I left your letter to last, because I wanted to get it right. Because I have a favor to ask. So. Here it is. Phoebe still writes me from time to time. She tells me all the news, pretty much the same stuff Gerald tells me. But I always look out for her letters because she always says something about you. Because you never write yourself, I don't know what's happening with you. And sometimes I worry about you. Phoebe says you never date and never go to parties or dances. I was surprised to hear that. You were always at the same parties and dances I went to at PS 118. Phoebe says you're a very different person now. She says you spend all your time studying, and working very hard. Phoebe also says you are much more quiet. She says you've been like that for quite a while. In fact, since about the time I went away. I guess maybe that illness took a lot out of you. It must have been serious.


Anyway, I know you don't like parties and that stuff, but I would like to see you once I get home. Maybe we could go to the movies or something? Dinner at a French restaurant? (I'll pay.) On second thought, maybe Italian or Chinese. Seems I've never had much luck with French restaurants. Or maybe just a walk in the park, with an ice cream sundae at Slausen's afterwards? And I know it is a little early, but if you need a date for the prom, I'm available. Though I'm a very bad dancer, I'm so out of practice. I'll probably step all over your feet. And you'll have to watch out for the slow dances. I gave my mom a hug the other day, and she says I almost crushed her in half. You see, I help out with the digging on the site, and all that hard work has given me very strong muscles. I feel very clumsy sometimes, and Mom always warns me to be careful because I'm always breaking things, as I don't know my own strength. But I know you're tough. You would never let me squeeze you too tight.

Oh, and another thing. I've had a growth spurt, and I'm much taller than when you last saw me. It's hard to judge from the photos the gang sends me, but I think I may even be a foot taller than you now, give or take an inch or so. It will be very strange looking down at you. Or will you feel strange looking up at me? Don't worry. I still remember what it was like to see you looming over me at PS 118. I'll try not to look intimidating. (What I am doing? I don't even know if you'll say yes!) But I hope you will. I hope you will at least think about it. Take your time. No rush. But please say yes.

You see, I really want a chance to make it up to you for the way I treated you that last day. Well, more than that. Now that I think about it, I really wasn't that good a friend to you when we were together. I guess I was always avoiding you when we were at PS 118. I mean, I cared about you, like I cared for all my friends, but I was also a little scared of you, because of all the teasing you gave me. And sometimes, when I tried to be nice to you, you would get so mad and push me away. So after a while I kind of gave up trying to understand why you acted like that, and mostly tried to avoid you. I used to think I could help almost anyone, but I guess I'm not as good at helping others as I thought. I never could make you happy, or solve your problems. I was never even sure what your problems were. Maybe I should have used that focusing exercise Mr. Simmons taught me. It just seems that I could never really do right by you. Instead, I always seemed to make things worse. I would try and help you and you would get even more angry and push me away. I'm sorry. It was all my fault. I guess I didn't try hard enough.

So that's why I hope you will give me a chance to make it up to you. I know I'm not perfect. I know I'm not good at helping you. Maybe Phoebe is right. Maybe I'm dense. Maybe I'm no good at solving people's problems. But at least I can be a friend. I can try to be the very best friend I can for you. If nothing else, I can listen. I'll just sit with you, and you can tell me anything you want. Anything. You talk. I'll listen. Like a good friend should. And I promise I will not laugh at you, or tell anybody else what you say, or make you feel bad afterwards. Maybe you can even tell me what it was you were going to say that day in the kitchen. I'll even supply the milk and cookies. Helga, won't you please give me a chance?


Sorry, got to go. I hear my mom calling. Eduardo has just returned with supplies, and he seems to have news. There is a great deal of excitement down at the house, and people are rushing around. So I will close for now. Please write soon.


Your friend,

Arnold


PS - My parents have just told me that we are leaving for home immediately. They got lucky and have made a great connection for the flight home, but we must leave at once. I have to pack. Arnold.




PPS - I'm writing this on the plane. I guess you've noticed this letter has no stamp or postmark on it. I didn't have time to mail it. Besides, we'll be home before it could arrive by mail. Much simpler to deliver it myself. Arnold.



PPPS - I am home! I am sitting on my bed in the boarding house, writing this just before I turn off the light and go to sleep. We arrived late in this evening. I will have to wait for tomorrow before I see anyone. I will drop this off as soon as I can, so you will be sure to get it right away. Until then. A.



PPPPS - I am sitting on a bench in the park near your house, writing this final postscript. I've been waiting for you to come home from school. I've thought about just calling to see you, but I'm afraid I will get tongue-tied. This letter says pretty much what I want to say. Most of it, anyway. So, as soon as I see you go into your house, I'm going to run up the steps and drop this letter through the mail slot, and ring the bell. Then I'll run off and wait at the boarding house. Please call me. As soon as you can. I'm really nervous about this.


PPPPPS - I've been sitting here waiting for some hours now. While waiting, I've reread this letter. And I've been thinking. I'm trying to read between the lines. There's something there I was not aware of. I can sense it. So I've been sitting here. Focusing. Concentrating. Making connections. I guess when I started writing this long rambling letter, I was trying to work something out. And it seems there must be a simpler, shorter way of saying what I'm trying to say. What I mean is... I ... Oh, I'm not sure. (Forget about it. Please ignore this postscript. Just nerves.)


PPPPPPS - You're home from school! You've just gone up the steps and in the door. I can see you through your living room window as I write this. (Looks like you had a bad day.) I can't believe it's been eight years. But it really is you! If I was nervous before, I'm really scared now. Change of plan. I'll give you a few minutes to read this letter. Then I'll come visit. Because I'm anxious to see you, and find out what you think. Listen for the doorbell. That will be me. Calling for you.


PPPPPPPS - Wow! You've - um - "grown."


PPPPPPPPS - By the time you read this (and if my timing is right) I should be walking up your front steps and about to ring your doorbell. Oh, and sorry about that last postscript. I'm afraid it was rather crude. This is what I really meant to say. I think you are very, very, very beautiful.



PPPPPPPPPS - I think I've finally figured out what I really wanted to say before.













PPPPPPPPPS - I love you.



(Ding-Dong!!!)





THE END