When Belle Prater disappears, Belle's boy, Woodrow, comes to live with his grandparents in Coal Station, Virginia. Woodrow's cousin Gypsy lives next door and is as curious as the rest of the town about his mother's disappearance: Woodrow is cross-eyed and wears hand-me-downs, but Gypsy is impressed by his charm and witty stories. As they spend time together, the cousins find they have a lot in common, and they become best friends during their sixth-grade year. Gypsy is the town beauty, but she has hidden sorrows and secrets of her own. She wonders how Woodrow can accept his mother's disappearance when she's never gotten over her father's death. That's when Woodrow tells Gypsy, the secret about his mother. He's the only one who knows because he's Belle Prater's boy.