The two met the second semester of 7th grade. Timmie and her aunt had just moved from Wisconsin. Noelle, with her honey brown hair in an unfrazzled French braid, walked over to the new girl who wore pink polka-dot pants, and proclaimed, “I like your cheese curds.” Timmie didn’t respond verbally. Her facial expression clearly said, “You are strange.” The five other students surrounding Timmie as though she were a prize took the cue, steadied their eyes on the words stuck in the air and echoed the sentiment with their own unflattering looks. Inside, Timmie began to feel Noelle was a piece of home. “We used to live in Proctor,” Noelle continued when she saw Timmie in typing class. “My family would sneak over the Minnesota/Wisconsin border on Sunday afternoons to eat cheese curds. There was a bratwurst cart that sold them.”

Yes, a piece of home. “I like your frozen apple cider,” Timmie volleyed back. “I had it at the fair.”

“Have you ever been inside an ice castle? Have you ever gone ice fishing? Have you ever driven a truck over a frozen lake?”

“I slept inside an ice castle once, but I never went ice fishing. Have you ever been to an Iditarod?”

“No, but my great-grandpa and his sister were mushers. His sister beat him one year by 83 minutes.”