The Golden City

by Ella Gilbert, age 13
The Golden City Ella is thirteen years old. She writes realistic fiction and dreams of being a journalist. She enjoys reading historical fiction and baking desserts.

“Pictures swirled across my mind as I imagined bright billboards and flashing lights. The city would be nothing like the small Pennsylvania neighborhood onlooking the Susquehanna in my little corner of the world.”

Chapter One

“In San Francisco, you’re going to love San Francisco,” my mom said excitedly. “The city is so pretty at night. We’ll be surrounded by water on three sides and a mountain on the fourth. There won’t be snow there, though. I know you’ll miss the snowstorms we have here!”

Pictures swirled across my mind as I imagined bright billboards and flashing lights. The city would be nothing like the small Pennsylvania neighborhood onlooking the Susquehanna in my little corner of the world.

“We’ll make up for it with some of the things you love. Applecrest has a great drama program. And if I do recall, a science program as well! You’ll be thriving,” my mom added cheerfully while making dinner.

“But what about Dad?” I glanced up at her as I sat curled up on the couch. I bundled the edge of a blanket and tucked it close to my chin. I was going to miss my dad, who lived all the way in Lancaster. I’d been visiting him on the weekends since I was nine.

“We’ve already arranged things, Rosie. You’ll spend the fall and a bit of summer break down here with him. We can even schedule activities for you and Chrissie down here. Things will be so perfect.”

But things are already perfect as they are, I thought to myself, pondering everything that would never be the same.

“You know I’m never forgiving you for this, right?” Chrissie huffed, arms crossed as she stared at me sadly. “You’re basically my only friend, Rosie. It’s sad but true. I’ll miss you so much…” Chrissie grabbed my hand and walked sulkily along the sidewalk like a wilting flower. 

I couldn’t console my friend when I needed consoling myself. “I’ll email you. I promise. It’s not like I’ll be making any friends at Applecrest, anyways.”

“Maybe someday, I can come visit you there. The Golden City,” Chrissie exclaimed, saying the name of my new home with pizzazz. “You know what they say. There’s gold in the hills! And the sunsets are warm and golden. And people say that the hills shimmer golden in the summers, too!”

“That’s just a silly nickname. There’s more fog than sun in the city. The water might be pretty, but not prettier than the Susquehanna. There’s a drama program, but I don’t think anyone will like me…”

“Don’t be such a Debbie Downer. Think on the bright side. You’ll get away from this boring place. Wish I was in your shoes.” Chrissie flashed me a smile that seemed pained but hopeful.

I rolled my eyes. Chrissie, of all people, didn’t understand how I was feeling. 

“One of Pennsylvania’s nicknames is Oil State. How pathetic is that? Compare The Golden City to Oil State!”

“Whatever, Chrissie. Since obviously you don’t get it, I’ll go wallow in self-pity by myself.” I stormed off annoyedly in the direction of my house.

“Geez! Well, I’m sad too! I was just trying to make you feel better!” she yelled after me, and I could tell by the quivering of her voice that she was about to cry. 

I ignored her, although my inner conscience was telling me not to keep stalking away. I turned back after a few seconds and saw Chrissie walking home to her neighborhood in the other direction, hanging her head like a gloomy scarecrow.

Chapter Two

Chrissie seemed so miserable and upset that I knew I couldn’t just walk away. I was almost home now, under the canopy of the huge willow tree by the playground connecting our neighborhoods. Chrissie always knew the right thing to say in every situation — maybe I was the problem. Maybe I misinterpreted her because I was so busy feeling bad for myself.

I turned around, speeding up my pace a little to catch up with Chrissie. She was passing through the cul-de-sac leading to her house.

 “Chrissie! Wait up!” I called, running toward her and sliding into the spot on the sidewalk next to her.

Chrissie didn’t seem surprised by me; she just hugged her arms to her chest and continued walking. “What is it, Rosie? Do you want me to talk about how awful San Francisco is? Make you feel better by talking about how amazing Pennsylvania is?”

“Look, Chrissie. I was really mean… I’m sorry. I know you were just trying to help. I’m really going to miss you,” I said, and after a few seconds we both went in for a hug. 

“I’ll miss you too. Too bad you’re leaving tomorrow… I’ll have to cancel the party. I’m not even nearly done decorating quite yet.”

“What party?” I giggled.

“Your going away party, silly,” Chrissie laughed, shoving me playfully in the shoulder. “I’ve been planning it since you told me a week ago.”

I froze, jaw open like a cod fish. Chrissie had planned a party for me? She was the best friend I could ever ask for.

“No way we’re cancelling this party! Let’s get decorating!” I exclaimed as the two of us grinned and headed in the direction of Chrissie’s house.

It was moving day. We had packed up the entire house — all that was left were dust bunnies and yearly height marks on the walls. I had spent some of the morning jumping from box to box, which had resulted in some bent cardboard and my very angry mother.

I sat here at Chrissie’s house, admiring everything we had done — the golden confetti and streamers, the giant map of Pennsylvania, the ice cream cake that read Bon Voyage, Rosie! in shimmering golden letters covered in edible glitter.

Maya, Isabel, Carly, and a few other girls in our grade were here, gathered around the kitchen table as my mom, my dad, and Chrissie’s parents poured sparkling cider into our cups.

After my mom had poured cider into Chrissie’s, she grinned and held her plastic red cup high in the air. “I’d like to propose a toast in honor of my forever best friend, Rosie. Of course I’ll miss her, but I hope she likes San Francisco. And I can’t wait to see her in the fall and the summer.”

“Cheers to The Golden City!” she cheered, then knocked her cup against mine.

“Cheers to The Golden City!” we all shouted, laughing, as we raised our cups in happiness.


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