Brody sat on his porch steps, peeking around his spy novel, trying to catch a glimpse of the new girl next door. She looked to be about his age. He wondered if she was watching him, too. It had been over an hour since Emma walked out her front door and sat down on the wooden porch swing with her tiny treasure box.
She looked up, and he quickly retreated behind his book. Brody wanted to talk to her, but was afraid to speak first.
Emma slid off the swing and tiptoed down the narrow porch steps that met the thick grass in her yard. She slowly made her way toward the edge of the property.
“Talk to him. He’s just a boy,” Emma muttered quietly but still loud enough for Brody to overhear. He smiled to himself.
Emma took a deep breath when she was near the edge of her yard. “I’m Emma,” she said as she sat on the lawn and gave him a short wave. She placed the box beside her, tapping her fingers across the decorated wood. Brody peeked from behind his book and stared at her for a long minute.
He thought Emma looked different than most girls with her countless necklaces, bracelets, and barrettes covering her wrists, ankles and strands of long brown hair. She wore patchwork blue jean tights that were the same blue as her eyes under a green ruffled skirt with a pink and green short sleeve t-shirt that was covered in glittering peace signs. Brody never saw a girl dress like this before, except on television.
“What’s that?” Brody nodded at the box on the grass.
“Tell me your name and I might show you,” Emma replied with a smile.
“Brody,” he said with a quick eye roll. She might be cool, he thought. He had never met a girl with the confidence to come up and talk to him.
Emma smiled and let out the breath she was holding. She stood and picked up her box to show him. She made her way to his porch and plopped down two steps away. He would only look at Emma for a moment before turning away again toward his book.
“Are you shy? How old are you?” Emma asked as she stared at him.
“No. Thirteen. You?”
“Why did you move to Diamond Falls?”
“My dad grew up in West Virginia and wanted to move back from out west,” said Emma. “I heard that Diamond Falls was pretty cool.”
“What’s in the box?” Brody asked again. The top of the small, round box was decorated with a thin slab of rock. Brody knew rocks. He had been collecting them for years.
“It’s my rock collection,” said Emma, opening the lid. The box was crammed with smooth, shiny stones. “I collect rocks wherever I go and then use my rock tumbler to make them shiny. See?” Emma held up a handful of pink, green, and black stones.
“You tumble your rocks?” Brody made a gagging noise, dropped his book, and disappeared under the side of the porch.
“What’s wrong with tumbling?” Emma yelled after him. “It makes them pretty.”
A few moments later, Brody emerged with a large, white plastic bin, which he dragged across the ground. He couldn’t lift the heavy box. After he placed it in front of Emma, he pulled off the flimsy lid and leaned over the side of the box, smiling. Emma peered inside.
“Wow!” she exclaimed. Large rocks and small ones with dozens of different colors filled the bin. Many were still covered with dirt and had rough, sharp edges. “Where did you get all of these?”
“I used to go rocking hunting with Mr. M. He lives across the street.” Brody pointed to a small, brick house directly across from his own.
“I saw him staring out of the window when we were moving in,” said Emma. “I thought he was crazy or something.”
“No,” said Brody. “He’s actually a geologist. Pretty famous, I think. He’s written a bunch of articles about different rock formations and stuff. He frames them and hangs them all over the walls of his house.” Brody continued to take his rock collection out of the box for Emma to see. He’d never met anyone who liked rocks as much as he and Mr. M. Brody learned from Mr. M that tumbling a rock ruins some of its unique properties so he would have to teach Emma about that problem.
“Why do you call him Mr. M?” Emma asked.
“His name is really Heath Matthews, but he says that his students used to call him Mr. M. He fell off a rock outcrop on a field trip with one of his classes last year and can’t go rock hunting anymore. Now, he just works on his rock collection for the museum.”
“The museum?” asked Emma.
“Yeah, his rock and mineral collections are famous, and the state museum in Charleston asked him to put together an exhibit. He says there isn’t another collection in the world like his. The samples are from all over the world, and some are young rocks and some are super old,” explained Brody.
“How did he get them all?” Emma was still looking through Brody’s collection. His samples were much larger than hers and had interesting marks, colors and shapes. She picked up a huge purple amethyst crystal and held it up to the sun. The pointed crystal glittered as it soaked in the sunshine.
“He got some around here but he won’t tell me about all of them,” he replied. “Geologist’s secret, he claims.” Brody laughed a little, thinking of all the times he had begged Mr. M to tell him where he’d found his beautiful rocks.
“Emmaaaaaaaaaa,” hollered a distant voice.
“That’s my mom. I have to go,” she said. “Will you take me to meet Mr. M tomorrow? I want to show him my collection.”
“I’ll take you,” said Brody, “but he’s going to fuss at you for tumbling your rocks.”
“Why?” Emma placed Brody’s samples into the bin, picked up her small box, and turned toward her mother’s call.
“You’ll see.” Brody smiled at his new friend. “Come over tomorrow after lunch. Mrs. M usually has brownies ready then,” he hollered as Emma trotted home, carrying her treasure box.
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