The girls are busy preparing for a big science test coming up later in the week, as well as the much anticipated science fair at end of the month. Everyone must test out a real life science question and demonstrate it in front of the class. The best project in the class will go on to compete with other top projects at the school and may win a prize. Miss Martinez’s class is excited about both the test and the science fair. All that is, except for Aneesa, who is sitting quietly at her desk, trying to make sense of today’s lesson on the periodic table.
Out on the tennis court, Yajna offers Avery a few pointers on their upcoming doubles match, “Remember to lift your elbow when you play a backhand” she says. They have won four of their last five tennis matches and seem to be on a winning streak. Avery suggests that they spend the afternoon working on their serves and drop shots. The two are very amped and looking forward to another victory.
“Want to go watch Avery’s and Yajna’s tennis match?” Lindi asks Aneesa during lunch time.
“I wish I could but I’m a little behind on my science studying,” Aneesa tells her.
Lindi understands, but she doesn’t notice Aneesa’s worried look as she leaves to meet up with Yajna and Avery. She catches up with the duo just as they’re going through their game plan for the big match. They are a little nervous because the team they’re playing against today is very good, but Avery is certain they will win.
Later, at the height of the match, the score is even. Yajna and Avery are about to play their last ball, which will decide the fate of the game. In a bold and daring move, Yajna serves a volley. For a moment it looks like the ball is going skew. All of the spectators gasp in suspense. Yajna closes her eyes, ready to accept defeat. Then the ball curves inward and bounces neatly inside the line: score! The spectators go wild as Lindi runs down to the court to congratulate her friends with an excited embrace.
Miss Martinez’s class is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Aneesa stares at the test in front of her and hesitates as she digests the first question. She starts writing down her answer, wavers slightly and then erases it. Ready to tackle the first question again, she catches a glimpse of Lindi writing furiously. She’s smiling confidently and blissfully unaware of Aneesa’s growing panic. Aneesa takes a deep breath and decides to move on to the next question. She gets a little frazzled as she re-reads it in an attempt to make sense of what’s being asked. Aneesa wades her way through the test, feeling very insecure and fearful of the outcome.
The next morning, Avery approaches her friends and they immediately sense that something is wrong by the look on her face. “Are you okay?” they all ask.
Avery bursts into tears. “We’re moving,”she tells the girls through weeps and sobs. “My dad’s work is sending him to South Africa.” Avery’s family has lived all over the world. Before coming to Avondale, they lived in Kenya and Mali and now it looks like she will have to move again.
Unable to accept this awful news, the girls continue to question if this is really happening. “Do you have to move to South Africa too?” they ask. Avery nods quietly, miserable at the thought of having to leave behind her best friends.
Just as the reality of Avery’s announcement sinks in, Miss Martinez enters the classroom and begins handing out the results of yesterday’s science test. Lindi, Avery and Yajna all did well on their tests, but they are too pre-occupied by Avery’s sad announcement to feel any excitement. They certainly do not pick up on Aneesa’s anguish at having failed the test.
The girls spend the afternoon at Avery’s house throwing a pity party since Avery is leaving. They each take turns letting out a little steam, but eventually begin to accept their fate.
“Well, South Africa is a wonderful place,” Lindi says with some authority. She’s watched travel shows about the country. “There are so many things to do and they have a big mountain that looks like a table. Not to mention the Big Five…”
Avery is too upset to ask about the Big Five and the mountain. She bursts into a fit of tears again. “I don’t want to go… I don’t want to live anywhere else… I want to be here, with you guys – my best friends.”
The girls cling to each other, unsure of how they will get through this disaster.
Aneesa, Lindi and Avery throw around ideas for their science fair projects. They think it’s funny that Avery still has to finish her project even though she’s leaving at the end of the month. Avery doesn’t mind that part at all. Science is her favorite subject in school – if you don’t count gym.
“I’m going to make ice sculptures with salt watercolors to show how salt lowers the freezing point of water” Lindi explains. “First you have to freeze water in plastic bowls so you can take them out afterwards. Then you cover the frozen ice domes in salt and watch how the salt melts the ice to create lines and shapes. Then you drizzle some watercolor onto the domes and watch how they flow into the lines and shapes!”
Aneesa listens half-heartedly while trying to think of her own idea for the project.
Yajna runs up to Avery at school the next day. “You don’t have to move to South Africa anymore!” she says, panting.
“What do you mean?” Avery asks, baffled.
After catching her breath, Yajna explains that if she can convince her parents to let Avery move in with them, she won’t have to move across the ocean. Of course her parents will say yes because Avery is one of her very best friends in the world. They wouldn’t want Yajna to lose such a great friend, would they? Plus, there’s a spare bedroom that nobody uses and Yajna could prepare it for Avery. It would be a win-win situation.
Avery can’t believe her luck. She is over the moon about the great news. “Wow! That would be amazing! I can’t wait to tell my mom and dad.”
Yajna and Avery immediately start planning Avery’s move into Yajna’s house. Neither of them considers that their parents might not agree with their plans.
Visions of how the two will decorate Avery’s room are swimming in Yajna’s head when she sees Avery the next afternoon. “I went to the shops with my mom yesterday and we got this big poster of your favorite tennis partners – it would go perfectly on top of the dresser next to your bed.” Avery tries to interrupt, but Yajna is in overdrive. “We also have some leftover blue paint, so we can start painting your room today… ”
Avery finally manages to get a word in. “My parents said that I have to go with them, so I won’t be able to live with you.”
Yajna doesn’t understand. “But my parents would want you to stay…”
Avery struggles to explain. She’s grateful that Yajna would go to all this trouble for her to stay (even if Yajna’s parents haven’t agreed yet), but her parents’ decision is final. Nothing can be done about it. She is definitely going to South Africa. “My dad is meeting with his South African workmate next week. He’s coming to Avondale to help my dad with the move.”
There are tears when Yajna finally loses hope. “Now I won’t have a partner to play tennis with… And we’re losing one of our best friends.” Both girls are sad, but they try to be brave.
Avery’s dad’s workmate came over for dinner along with his family. They are visiting from Johannesburg and will be in Avondale for a couple of weeks. Avery is completely charmed by the two little kids she meets. Energetic Michael is two years old and loves to run. His older sister Mikaela is three and a half. She’s quite the mature little lady who keeps a watchful eye on her baby brother to make sure he doesn’t misbehave.
“Do you like to play any sports?” Avery asks Mikaela, who is shy at first, but very quickly warms to her.
“I don’t play sports, but I like to dance!” Mikaela says, with a big smile on her face. Seeing her giddy reaction makes Avery want to keep talking, so she peppers her with questions about what it’s like to live in South Africa. Mikaela tries to answer as best as she can. “It’s very beautiful. We have a nice school where we get to play outside a lot.”
Avery nods, intrigued. “What about the Big Five animals? Have you seen any up close? I know there’s the lion and the elephant… do you know the others?”
“Hmm… oh I know!” Mikaela shouts excitedly when she remembers. “There are buffalos, leopards, and rhinos!” She lists the animals so quickly both girls giggle. “My daddy took us to see lions and giraffes. We were in the car and couldn’t touch the lions, but we got to pet the giraffes.” Mikaela makes South Africa sound so fascinating that for a moment Avery thinks she might just like the idea of moving there.
“This is Mikaela,” Avery introduces little Mikaela to the rest of the gang. “She lives with her family in Johannesburg and our parents will be working together.” The other girls immediately take a liking to Mikaela and give her a warm welcome. Everyone is slowly getting used to the idea that Avery will be leaving soon.
“We have to plan a farewell party for you! We can’t let you move to another country without a proper goodbye” Yajna says.
Lindi agrees. “Let’s do it at my house. Mikaela can come too!” She immediately starts making a list of everything they need for the party. It’s a bittersweet moment for the girls as they prepare to say goodbye to their best friend.
After school, Lindi and Aneesa visit the dog shelter to take the dogs for a walk. They invited Mikaela along to help her get over her fear of large dogs and it seems to be working. Mikaela is getting along swimmingly with a Golden Labrador, which makes Lindi smile.
When Lindi notices that Aneesa isn’t her usual chatty self, she asks if it’s about Avery leaving. Aneesa doesn’t budge. She explains that it’s something else but she doesn’t feel like talking about it. This makes Lindi grow even more worried and she insists that Aneesa tell her what’s wrong.
“I failed my science test and I don’t have an idea for my project yet – I feel like I’m letting my parents down” Aneesa finally admits. Lindi, shocked and worried, offers to help her with her science project, but Aneesa changes the topic to something else. She still feels very down.
That night, Lindi discusses Aneesa’s science problem with her mom. “I don’t understand. She studied very hard for that test. She even said no to coming to Yajna’s and Avery’s tennis match so she could study… And the test wasn’t even that hard.”
“Everyone is different,” Lindi’s mom explains. “We all have our unique and special talents. Some people are better at singing and playing instruments, like Aneesa, and other people are better at science, like you. But everyone can become better at the things they find to be difficult if they practice enough.” Lindi understands and thinks she knows exactly what to do to help Aneesa.
Lindi and Aneesa study their science notes by inventing various songs to make it easier to remember the periodic table. The two are having a whale of a time making up silly lyrics.
“A plus U is goooold, A plus G is sil-ver, sil-ver… B plus R is brrrrronze!” Aneesa trails off, singing the song she made up. Lindi giggles, causing Aneesa to ask sheepishly, “did I get it wrong?”
“No, not quite,” Lindi explains cheerfully, “you got the symbols right for gold and silver, but bronze doesn’t have a symbol…”
Lindi is suddenly not sure either. “We’ll have to ask Miss Martinez tomorrow.” The girls laugh while packing up. Lindi is thrilled that her friend is having so much fun with science.
Lindi’s room is covered in hand-made African-themed decorations, balloons, and a farewell banner. Everyone chatters merrily about Avery’s exciting new adventure as they devour Malva pudding, a delicious South African dessert Lindi learned to make. They all get a chance to say their final goodbyes to Avery by giving her handmade cards with special notes in them. Avery promises to write them all letters about her South African adventure.
Mikaela tells the girls about a beach where there are lots of penguins. Lindi immediately recognizes it as Boulders Beach because she’s seen it on her favorite travel show. She puts in a special request for Avery to send a postcard with a penguin on it should she ever go to Cape Town.
“Did you know that South Africa is the only country in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners lived on the same street? Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived on Vilakazi Street in Soweto.” Yajna made a point of reading several books about the country so she could offer interesting factoids just for this occasion. Suddenly, Avery becomes overwhelmed and the tears start to swell. The others also feel her pain and sadness. Without a word they all step in to give each other a group hug, relishing the last moments with their friend in Avondale.
Aneesa wonders if she should make a volcano with real fire lava coming out of it.
“That could be a little dangerous because we haven’t covered THAT chemical reaction in class yet…” Lindi says teasingly.
“Hmm. What if we make invisible ink?”Aneesa asks.
“That’s a great idea! I know exactly what we need.”
The two get to work by cutting up some lemons and squeezing the juice out into a bowl. Aneesa gets a piece of paper and a paintbrush, starts drawing a silly picture on the page. “Now what? What do we need to do to see the ink?”
Lindi smiles. “Switch off your light…” She giggles and adds, “trust me” when Aneesa looks skeptical. Moments later, the room is pitch black as Lindi searches for the lamp switch. “Aha! Here it is…” She switches it on and places the paper behind the light bulb. Lindi bursts out laughing when she sees what Aneesa has drawn: a rough-around-the-edges volcano with lava coming out of it.
“Brilliant! It works!” Aneesa is very excited about her science project and can’t wait to present it to the whole class.
Aneesa is super excited to present her science experiment to the class. “I can’t tell you what it is yet because it’s a secret, but you’re going to love it!” She and Lindi exchange knowing smiles.
Before Yajna can push Aneesa for clues about her project, Avery runs up to the girls and tells them eagerly, “Hey! You’ll never guess what happened! We’re not moving anymore.”
“What, why?” everyone asks.
Avery explains, “My dad is taking a different role at his company and he gets to stay in Avondale!” The girls stare at Avery, not sure if she is being serious or pulling their leg. “Guys! I’m staying. For real! It’s not a joke!!” Finally it sinks in as everyone realizes that their best friend is not going anywhere. At once they all jump on her for another group hug, overjoyed at the fantastic news that they get to stay together.