First there was Terry.
Terry didn’t have any friends except the delinquent neighbor kids down the street until kindergarten, when she met Emily.
Back then, Emily’s favorite thing to do was sit on the playground and eat dirt. Terry tried it once, only because Emily told her to, but after that she decided she didn’t want to eat dirt with Emily. She wanted to see-saw with Emily, or swing with Emily, or jump-rope with Emily. And that’s the way it was from then on—whatever Terry did, it was with Emily.
Up until about fourth grade Terry was under the impression that boys were gross, and she avoided them most of the time. Emily never really cared—boys were just boys, that was all. Then fourth grade came and Terry decided boys were cute, not gross, and Emily decided to agree—but she still didn’t really care. Terry got a boyfriend who bought her pink teddy-bears and Emily made friends with a boy named Gill. Terry and the teddy-boy broke up after two weeks, but Gill and Emily stayed friends much longer than that. Terry was fond of Gill, too, and the three became as Neapolitan ice-cream.
After that Terry went through boys like paper napkins, one right after the other. It pretty much stayed that way, too. Emily never got a boyfriend, and from what she observed of the whole ordeal, she never really wanted one. Not really.
Terry and Gill and Emily, when they were in seventh grade, were told that in another year they would all be in high school, and while Gill and Terry were already slated to go to the old high school, Emily was told that she would be going to the new high school, with air conditioning and handicap-accessible elevators. Luckily for Emily, a massive unrest in the local government forced newly-elected county officials to re-draw the school districts, which, by the time the final draft had been voted on and accepted, put all three friends back in the old building (with no air-conditioning or elevators).
That was where Emily met Manuel. Manuel was a joke-loving Hispanic boy whose mom was from Maryland and whose dad was from Mexico. Emily got in a fist fight once in their second year of high school because Katie Flinger said that interracial marriages were dirty and then called Manuel a spic. But that happens later.