Looking for food is about that hardest thing ever but it’s my only chore and I do it every other day, so I was supposed to get today off but I decided I didn’t want to be next to my dad. Every time I look for food, I also look for my best friend Ace Walker. He sometimes has a piece of bread or some kind of food to give me. I don’t care how big the pieces of food are but it’s something and I like his kindness because I know that he needs it too. Ace got his name because when his parents were young, the dad got a Full House of aces and kings at every game of poker. Maybe it was because he cheated—okay it was because he cheated, but he decided, “Why not name my son Ace because that’s a cool name”. So that’s the story of how Ace got his name. Everyone usually thinks that “Ace” is just a nickname. The first time that happened, Ace argued for about three hours before giving up and even told how he got the name, but the dude didn’t believe him. So now he just let’s everyone think that’s his nickname and rolls his eyes when people ask him what his real name is.
I’ve known Ace since I first came to live in “The Desert” and when he first saw me—at age eleven—he took me under his wing. He was twelve at that time but still very dependable and just an all-around great guy. He gave me food and water when my dad couldn’t and I was very grateful even though I didn’t eat very much of it because I always handed it over to Jack. Jack has always been a skinny kid, but from all the time he spends running around outside, he’s even skinnier and sometimes it scares me. From the six years I’ve known Ace, we’ve always met at the pond in the park and hung out there as much as we can. So I scan for Ace and see him sitting by the pond under a tree and eating some bread. I walk up to him and sit on the short mowed grass next to his knee.
“Hey,” he says sweetly when he finally gets his eyes off the bread and notices me. I don’t ask for the bread because it’s rude so I wipe my drooling mouth on the bottom of my shirt and smile at him. “Don’t you want some?” he asks.
“Nah, that’s yours. I wouldn’t want to take your food,” I say.
“Oh come on, Stella. I always give you my food and you know that you can have my bread whenever you want, whether I’m starving or not. Take some.” He hands it over but I shake my head gently and push it back.
“You’ve given me so much over the past six years and shared your food and belongings. I feel bad and I don’t want to take anything else from you. I want you to just eat the food you have and live your life without dealing with me.” I sigh and look at the pond, watching two ducks fight over a weed and four ducklings trailing behind.
“Stella, great speech. Really. But take it before I shove it down your throat. You know I will and plus, I’m stronger than you.” He smirks and throws it in my lap.
I take a small bite, but then save the rest for Jack. Ace usually doesn’t know about my stashing for Jack or that I’m not big on food, but he’s seen me pocket the bread before. I see the look on his face that shows that he’s really curious why I save it for later and I wait for his question somehow knowing he’s going to ask it.
“So why do you save the bread and what for?” he asks and this time I smirk because I just knew he was going to say something. It shows me how close the two of us are. He sees me smirking and gives a hesitant smile, still waiting for my answer. I sit and wait a few moments, building up his curiosity and finally he playfully smacks my arm. “Come on, Stella, tell me already.”
“Alright, alright. I save it but I don’t eat it,” I start and wait a little too long.
“Okay,” Ace prompts.
“Basically I give it to my brother. Everything you give me. Every piece of bread or bottle of water. It all goes to my brother and he eats it. Not me.” After finally telling him, I feel better. I just hope he doesn’t get pissed.
“So you never eat anything I give you?” I can see he’s trying to stay calm, but he’s having trouble because his hands are shaking.
“Um, no, I don’t. My brother needs it more than I do and I can’t just take my fill of food and feel alright while my brother is starving. That’s not how I am.” I take a big breath and wait for his answer.
“How long have you been doing this?”
“For as long as I’ve known you. I mean, at first, I would eat it and go back home to my dad, but then I noticed that my little brother needed it so after a week of eating your food, I stopped and gave it to him.”
“Stand up, Stella,” he says fast, getting himself up. “I want to check something.”
“Okay,” I say skeptically, but stand up anyway because I trust him.
He dusts the grass off his jeans and throws a rock that’s been in his hand into the pond. I watch it skip twice before it sinks to the bottom. He shakes out his body because knowing him, he was probably sitting there for a while. He looks at me with kind eyes before he lifts my shirt up a little past my ribs.