BRYCE

I've been distracted lately all because of Juli Baker. I don't know what's got in to me. But I think I've changed. A lot. When I was seven, I've been trying to avoid Juli Baker everyday. I mean, she's crazy! Then we became 8, 9, 10…. Still annoying. There are a lot of things that happened with Juli and me. That's when she started to avoid me. I've been the bad guy all along.

There was this one time when the incident that happened with her eggs, man I feel guilty about it. And there's also the sycamore tree. Her favorite tree.

The sycamore tree was a big tree that looks creepy. At least to us but not for Juli. When I was a kid, I tried my kite out and see how high it would go. I didn't expect that high because the next thing I knew, it was stuck on the stupid tree. I didn't have any clue how to get it down since I don't really like to climb trees. Then came Juli. She climbed up just to get my kite. My kite! At first, my mind was telling me to shout after her and tell her to come down since it's no use getting it because it's high enough for her to reach.

And I was wrong. My mind was wrong. She got my kite and waved it to me! I didn't know what to do. I just stared at her.

I have no idea what came inside her mind because from then on, she used to climb up there. Up to the top. Maybe she saw a view. I have no idea.

Then one day, when I was ready for school, I came out. Guess what I just saw. Three men with chainsaws, ready to cut something down. I realized that the 'something' I'm talking about, was the sycamore tree Juli loves.

My eyes scanned the neighborhood trying to look for Juli. Unfortunately, she's nowhere to be seen. So I thought what would her reaction be if she goes out of her house and realize that her favorite tree wasn't there anymore? I guess she will be so shocked.

I don't mind it being cut down. I mean, the tree's not ours. I think the three men were told to cut it down for some purpose. I just walked away ready to wait for the bus until I heard Juli call after me.

"Bryce! Bryce! Come up here! They won't cut it down if we're all up here!"

People came out of their houses and looked at Juli. She called each one of my classmates to get up there. The bus came and we all stared at her first then ignored her and got in the bus.

I didn't see Juli at school or inside the bus for days. I didn't even see her even outside of her house. I felt my stomach lurch just thinking about what she said and that we all ignored her. My Granddad came in my room holding a newspaper. We weren't that close at first so we didn't talk much either. He told me to read the newspaper.

Guess what I just did. I put the newspaper inside of the drawer ignoring what he said.

I hate what I did back then. Oh! I forgot to tell you about her eggs and what happened to it. Nothing happened to the eggs but something happened between me and Juli and it made me feel like I'm the bad guy. Which, I admit, I kinda am.

She used to give me some of her eggs for free. And I have been throwing it for the past 3 years of my life. That's because my mom is scared of salmonella poisoning and such. So I threw it. Then one day, when I was about to throw it out, Juli caught me. Well, she didn't catch me throwing the eggs… At first! I didn't even notice her standing there like a statue! She asked me what was in the bag and I just said "Eggs."

She looked at me and asked if all the eggs were broken. Or at least, it's cracked. Man this I feel really guilty about lying. I answered her question with a "Yes Juli. They all fell and it just… cracked" then the next thing I knew, she was holding a carton of eggs all fine looking! We stared at each other for a minute and she asked me why I was going to throw them.

"Well, you know about salmonella poisoning?"

"What? What are you talking about?"

"We're afraid that we'll get salmonella poisoning…"

The air became silent then Juli said "Mrs. Stueby have been eating my eggs for the past three years and she didn't get salmonella! Do you know that Mrs. Stueby buys my eggs for two dollars a carton?"

Oh no. With this, I even feel worse already! I didn't know what to do so I just stared at her trying to keep a guilty face.

"Do you know I've lost a hundred dollars just giving these eggs for you? And that they're free?"

This was her last sentence and after that she walked away crying. Man, that made me feel so bad. I should've come and said sorry. But I couldn't do it. I was a coward back then. And today, I didn't feel like I'm a coward anymore.

Things flipped between me and Juli Baker. She was into me when we were kids and I have been trying to avoid her everyday… Every week… Every year. Then it flipped! She stopped getting crazy when she sees me… She stopped giggling and saying "Hi Bryce! How have you been?" to me… And she's been avoiding me. And I became into her. I already love her if you ask me.

My granddad was right. I will never be the same again.

My sister loves Mike and Matt Bakers' music. Even if it's too loud or too annoying or even if you don't understand a thing it's singing. I mean, are they even singing or just shouting? My sister, Lynetta, also changed. She's a more responsible adult now. No wearing too much makeup that makes you look like a clown already. No more wearing super mini skirts and tight tops. No more messy hair that makes her look like she's stopped combing her hair. And no more calling me "Baby brother" or annoying me. Thank goodness for that.

Matt or Mike have been going out with my sister. Yes, I said Matt OR Mike. They're not twins but if you look at them, you won't know which one is Matt or Mike. So I just call them, Matt or Mike if I don't have a clue which ones which. Matt or Mike and my sister's been together for the past 3 months. My dad doesn't know about it because he's going to freak out and get angry and such. He doesn't like the Bakers. To tell you the truth, nobody in our family did when we first moved here.

Again, things have changed. Mom, Granddad and Lynetta… even I, thinks the Bakers are cool. Mom has been trying to talk to Mrs. Baker like they're bestfriends. Well, they are now. Mr. Baker and Granddad's in good terms since the beginning when they first met. They've been talking about lawns and flowers and gardens and trees. Matt or Mike and Lynetta's a couple for the past 3 months now…. Even if Lynetta and Matt are a couple, it's actually okay for the other brother because he has a girlfriend of his own. And I was hoping me and Juli are going to be okay. After all the things I've said to her and done to her.

Anyway, lets get back to Lynetta and Matt or Mike being a couple were dad doesn't even know about them. Mom, Granddad, Mr. and Mrs. Baker, Juli, Matt or Mike and me knows it and we're all fine. If Juli was my girlfriend, then I would be grateful. So grateful.

The thing about dad is he doesn't see the Bakers in a cool way like we do. He thinks they're all poor because they don't have their own house and they spend their money with their kids and Mr. Bakers retarded brother. We hate dad for that.

That night, we were eating dinner. And it was peaceful until something happened between dad and Lynetta.

"The thing about the Bakers is that they should just move and find a house that can be theirs. Or they should rent a fine looking apartment. They shouldn't stay in that old house."

We all looked up at Dad stopping from eating. Mom and Lynetta's face were shocked. Lynetta was about to argue but shrugged and let it pass. Mom stared at Dad for several minutes before letting it pass. Granddad and I stared at each other.

Dad didn't let it pass and kept going. What's his problem?

"I mean, it's nice that the house looks all fine and stuff but I still suggest they go find a better one."

Lynetta stopped eating and slammed her hand on the table which caused it to shake. She looked angry at Dad. She glared at him and said "We don't need your insults, Dad! Why can't you just leave them alone?" Then we all stopped eating. Again.

We haven't eaten well for the past weeks because there are fights between Lynetta and Dad. And the only subject they've been fighting about… is the Bakers house or Mr. Bakers retarded brother or their kids. Buddy, if you ask me whether I'll get mad at my own father or not, I was about to punch him everytime he insults Juli's being a great daughter and fixing the house for themselves. What's wrong with that?

I guess Granddad knows I was about to do it because when I looked over at his direction, he shooked his head and mouthed the word "Don't do it"

"What is the matter with you? Why have you been insulting the Bakers?"

"Why are you trying to fight back and defend them?"

"Because I think it's the right thing to do and I think they're all cool! Yes! Even Matt and Mike!"

Dad stopped eating his soup and froze. He stood up and said "You're grounded" then walked away. Lynetta followed him and slammed her hand on the wall.

"You can't ground me just because I'm defending them!"

"I just did now go to your room!"

"I won't!"

"You are not to leave this house for four weeks unless you have to go to school!"

"What?"

"You heard me!"

Lynetta cried and punched the door. The only thing that didn't change is the punching of doors or walls… the slamming of her hand on the table when she gets angry. It's really noisy if you ask me.

So Lynetta ran to her room and slammed her door and locked it. She was like a seven-year-old girl. But still, I do not blame her for getting mad at Dad. Nobody does. If Granddad doesn't have the guts to stop me from punching Dad last week, I would have done it and like Lynetta, I'll get grounded. Maybe for a month. I couldn't stand my Dad insulting the Bakers. They're not that rich (What Dad? Are we rich?) and they are not that poor also. Yes, they don't own their own house but they have lived there for more than six years already! It's like the landlord doesn't even own the house.

Unlike my Dad, Mr. Baker is a cool dad. A really cool one. Everytime I see Mr. Baker trying to help Juli with something that has to do with flowers or their garden… Or trying to cheer Juli up or trying to cheer his wife up… Or painting those outstanding paintings that he gives to Juli afterwards… I realized that Mr. Baker isn't just a cool dad. He's awesome. I wish my Dad would be like that. And the thing I love about Mr. Baker? He doesn't pretend to be someone else. Unlike my own dad.

I know it's wrong to compare. I couldn't help it. My Dad seems nice on the outside. But on the inside? There's a part of him that's evil. Well, not really evil.

The night when Lynetta and him fought, we all feel full even if we didn't eat that much. So what we did, we separated ways. Mom gathered all the dishes and washed them, Granddad stood by the window and stared at the Bakers' house, and I went to my room. Like Granddad, I also stared at the Bakers' house wondering what would it be like living with them.

Not that I want to leave this house.

So there I was, staring at the Bakers' house. I could actually see the sycamore tree I've planted for Juli. It's already big now. I wanted to see it and see what Juli would do with it. I want to see a big smile spreading her face.

First thing in the morning tomorrow, I'll go out and see what Juli would do with it.

Nice plan, Bryce Loski.