Read The New Girl Online

Authors: Meg Cabot

The New Girl (13 page)

Kevin shrugged and said, “Sure.” Then he took Caroline’s and Sophie’s hands and began to skip away. Rosemary, her head ducked, began to follow them. Erica took her thumb out of her mouth and grabbed my arm.

“Allie,” she whispered in my ear, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“Maybe,” I whispered back, “we’ve been wrong about Rosemary. Maybe she just wants a chance to act like a girl, like one of us.”

“Are you crazy?” Erica wanted to know. “She’s just going to wait until she has you alone in your room, then pound the life out of you!”

“I don’t think so,” I whispered back. “I think it’s going to be all right.”

I didn’t actually have any proof that this was true. I just had a feeling in my bones that it might be. Okay—I just
hoped
that it might. I was taking a risk, just like Mrs. Hauser had taken a risk, in letting me take Mewsette, that
everything was going to work out. I didn’t know for sure that it would.

But I didn’t know for sure that it wouldn’t, either.

But when, a half hour later, Rosemary was sitting in my room holding a bottle to Mewsette’s mouth and smiling as Mewsette greedily gobbled her formula down, I knew that I’d guessed right. I wasn’t sure Rosemary and I were going to be best friends or anything.

But I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to be pounding my face in anytime soon.

You really can’t pound the face in of someone you’ve shared a Hot Pocket with and whose kitten you’ve bottle-fed.

“I can’t believe your parents are letting you do this,” Rosemary said. “I mean, to have such a tiny kitten.”

“Well,” I explained, “I’m the oldest in my family, so I’m used to having a lot of responsibility.”

“I’m the youngest,” Rosemary said, looking around my room. “I only have brothers, too.”

“Gee,” I said, “I couldn’t tell.” This was a total lie.

“You sure do have a lot of dolls,” Rosemary said.

“You can come over sometime,” I said, “and play with them if you want. I usually play a game called detective, where one of the dolls gets brutally murdered and the rest of the dolls have to solve the crime.”

Rosemary laughed, and not in a very nice way. “Is that what you and those other girls play in the bushes every day at recess?” she asked.

“No,” I said, remembering what Mr. Elkhart had said about how he’d never seen any of us ask Rosemary to play with us. “We play a game called queens. We pretend that we’re queens, and we’re fighting an evil warlord who’s trying to kill us. You can come play it with us sometime, if you want to.”

“I don’t think so,” Rosemary said. “I mean, they’ve been playing in there for years, and they’ve never asked me to join them. Then you come along, and they asked you your first day. And you’re the
New Girl.
They obviously don’t want me.”

I could see right away, then, what the problem was. Rosemary’s problem with me, I mean. I was new, but I
already had more girlfriends than she had. Rosemary didn’t have any girlfriends, in fact.

Except me. And I was only pretending to be her friend so she wouldn’t kill me.

“They’ll let you play if I tell them you’re all right,” I said.

Rosemary shook her head. “They don’t like me,” she said, sticking her finger out for Mewsette to rub her head against. “Caroline and those guys. They’re such snobs. They always have been, since first grade, practically.”

I was surprised that Rosemary felt this way, because I thought Caroline and Sophie and Erica were the least snobby girls I had ever met.

“They just don’t know you,” I said. “Also…” I tried to think how to put this so Rosemary wouldn’t be offended.
It’s mean to invite someone over to your house and then insult them.
That’s a rule. “The thing is, Rosemary, you act kind of scary sometimes.”

Rosemary blinked at me, her eyes looking huge. But she didn’t appear insulted. I got the feeling she kind of liked
being thought of as mean, and that she took it as a compliment.

“If they got to know you better,” I went on, “I bet they’d like you. You should come home for lunch with me more often, and then they’ll get to like you.”

The truth was, I wasn’t really sure this was true. But having Rosemary come home for lunch with me sometimes seemed like a small price to pay for staying alive.

“Really?” Rosemary looked down at Mewsette, who was play-attacking her finger. “Can I feed Mewsette again?”

“Sure,” I said.

I felt kind of bad about how happy Rosemary looked about this. I mean, that it had taken me so long to realize that a part of why Rosemary had been so mad at me was that she’d wanted to be my friend all along, and that she just hadn’t known how to show it, except by trying to beat me up—which is kind of how boys show they like you. By punching you. Or kicking over your stick village.

It was probably natural for Rosemary, growing up in a house full of big brothers and sitting in the back row with
all those boys all day, to think this really was the right way to behave.

If anyone had ever needed a book of rules, it was Rosemary Dawkins.

But I decided not to show her mine. Friendships are like kittens…they need to be fed slowly and gently, and not all at once.

I figured there was lots of time to tell Rosemary about the rules.

Later.

Probably much later.

RULE #13
Cats Don’t Care What Color Their Collar Is

After lunch, Rosemary, Erica, Caroline, Sophie, and I walked back to school together. When we got close enough to the playground that we could hear the school lunch kids playing kick ball, Rosemary said suddenly, “Well, that was fun. Thanks for lunch. But I gotta run. See ya later.”

And she ran off to join the boys on the baseball diamond.

The four of us just stood there and stared at the spot on the ground where she’d been standing.

“What,” Caroline said, “was
that
all about?”

“It turns out,” I said, “that Rosemary just wants to be one of the girls.”

“Well,” Caroline said, “she has a funny way of showing it.”

“Right,” Sophie said. “She might want to start by not threatening to kill people.”

“Come on,” Erica said, “she’s not that bad, once you get to know her. And Kevin likes her.”

“Kevin does like her,” I said. “And, most important of all, she doesn’t want to beat me up anymore. We just have to try to include her sometimes so she doesn’t feel left out. I think she likes us and wants to be a part of our group. Okay?”

“Okay,” Caroline said with a shrug. “But it’s not like we’re some exclusive club. We’re just…us.”

“Really,” Sophie said, wrinkling her nose. “We’re just us.”

“But to outsiders,” I said, “looking in, we’re more than just us. Caroline is the best speller in school.”

“True,” Sophie said. “And Erica can do a flawless back handspring.”

“That’s right,” Erica said. “And Sophie is beautiful, and in love with a prince.”

“And Allie is mother to a tiny baby kitten,” Caroline pointed out.

“You guys,” I said. “We’re kind of awesome. We
are
queens, after all.”

“True,” Caroline said. “We should keep that in mind.”

“But we shouldn’t be braggy about it,” I added hastily. “Because no one likes a braggart.”

The other girls nodded. It was true, after all.

“Queens,” Erica said, reaching out to take my hand and Sophie’s, “and best friends, right?”

I was surprised. None of them had ever used the BF word before around me.
Best friend,
I mean.

“Of course,” Sophie said, taking Caroline’s hand, while Caroline grabbed Erica’s. “Best friends for life, right?”

“For
life
,” we all said, and shook on it.

Which pretty much settled the matter. I didn’t have just one best friend.

I had three.

No way was I the New Girl anymore.

Two weeks later, Mewsette was at her first checkup and getting her first series of shots with our family vet, Dr. DeLorenzo. I loved Dr. DeLorenzo, because she always looked so fit and pretty in her blue scrubs, with her short dark hair and big, wide smile. She usually complimented me on how nicely I brushed our dog, Marvin, which is no joke, because he has a
lot
of hair. When I grow up, I want to be exactly like Dr. DeLorenzo. Except I’ll have long hair, of course.

Dr. DeLorenzo had a lot of compliments for me about how well I’d taken care of Mewsette, too. She said she weighed the perfect amount for a kitten her age—especially a bottle-fed one. She said it would probably be all right to start her on regular kitten food because Mewsette was getting so big and strong and advanced for her age.

“So how are things going with the new house, Allie?” Dr. DeLorenzo wanted to know.

“Good,” I said. “We finally got a stove.”

“Oh?” Dr. DeLorenzo looked at my dad.

“We special ordered from Home Depot,” Dad said. “But it was worth the wait.”

“Guess what,” Kevin said. He was tired of not being the center of attention for a millisecond.

“What?” Dr. DeLorenzo asked him.

“My grandma got me a book on pirates before she went home,” he said. “And she got my brother a new bike helmet. He wanted a BMX dirt bike, but Mom said it was too expensive. He’s getting one at Christmas, though.”

“Well,” Dr. DeLorenzo said, “isn’t that nice?”

“But I don’t love my grandma just because she buys me things,” Kevin said.

“I should hope not,” Dr. DeLorenzo said, lifting up Mewsette’s tail. “Uh-oh.”

“What,
uh-oh
,” I said, gripping the side of the metal examination table.

“This is a little boy kitty,” Dr. DeLorenzo said, “not a little girl kitty.”

“Uh-oh,” Dad said.

It was a good thing I was holding on to the exam table. Otherwise I’m pretty sure the floor would have spun up and smacked me in the face.

“WHAT?” I said.

“I’m sorry,” Dr. DeLorenzo said, looking down at me in concern. “But surely your kitten’s sex doesn’t matter. You love him just the same whether he’s a boy or girl, right? He’s a beautiful, healthy kitten who completely adores you. Listen to the way he’s purring right now, just because you’re standing next to him.”

“But—”

I just stood there. The truth was, my eyes were filling up with tears. I couldn’t help it. Of course I still loved Mewsette, whether he was a boy or a girl.

But I’d made Grandma buy a
pink
feathered canopy bed. And a
pink
rhinestone collar.

“Are—are you sure?” I asked the vet, knowing even as the words came out of my mouth how stupid they must sound. Because of course she’d know. She’d been to eight years of veterinary school. “Mrs. Hauser…Mrs. Hauser said…”

“It’s often very hard to tell when kittens are as young as Mewsette was when you got him,” Dr. DeLorenzo said in a kind voice. “But I am quite sure. And, Allie, if you’re worried about his name, I can assure you, cats don’t know
the difference. If they have a boy’s name or a girl’s name, it doesn’t matter to them. All they know is that their owner loves them enough to give them a name, and feeds them and keeps them warm and safe, like you do.”

Before I could stop them, the tears were spilling out of my eyes. I hadn’t even thought of that. Mewsette! Mewsette was a
girl’s
name!

“There’s nothing wrong with being a boy,” I heard Kevin say. I couldn’t see him, because there were too many tears in my eyes for me to see. “Why is Allie crying? I
like
being a boy, and I bet Mewsie does, too.”

Oh, no! Now I had upset my little brother. It was a good thing Mark was at soccer practice, or I’d have upset him, too.

“It’s okay, Al,” Dad said. I could tell that he was laughing a little. “I mean, are you really that upset that your cat is a boy?”

“No!” I said. I pushed him away. I was embarrassed to be crying over something as silly as my cat turning out to be a boy. Especially since everything else in my life was going so well. Grandma, to everyone’s relief, had finally
gone home. Rosemary wasn’t trying to beat me up anymore, had played queens with us a few times, and had even spent the night once—and had invited me to do the same at her house, though I hadn’t been able to go, because of Mewsie. But I promised I would as soon as Mewsie was old enough. People at school were starting not to think of me as the New Girl anymore. I was just Allie.

So why did
this
have to happen?

“I’m not crying,” I said. “I—there’s just—there’s a piece of cat hair in my eye.”

I reached up to rub my eyes. This was so awful! I was crying right in front of Dr. DeLorenzo! She was going to think I’d make a terrible vet someday!

“That’s a nice name,” Dr. DeLorenzo said thoughtfully. “Mewsie. That sounds like a nice, strong name for a boy cat. I think he likes it. Hear how hard he’s purring?”

I opened my eyes and looked down at the examination table. Mewsie, whose fur had grown to be long and puffy in the past two weeks, all gray covered with black stripes where it wasn’t the purest white, looked up at me with his sapphire blue eyes and purred away, happy to have so many
people paying attention to him.
He
didn’t realize I was crying over the fact that he wasn’t a girl.
He
didn’t care that his collar (which was still too big to fit him, anyway) and bed were pink. All he cared about was being a cat.

And me.

“Mewsie,” I said.

Mewsie looked up at me with an inquisitive, “Mroaw?”

“I think he likes it,” Dr. DeLorenzo said with a laugh.

Oh, what did it matter if my boy cat slept in a pink feathered canopy bed and wore a pink collar? The Finkles were funny, anyway.

And he was the cutest cat ever.

“You know what?” I said, smiling. “I think you’re right.”

Books by Meg Cabot

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls #1:
Moving Day

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls #2:
The New Girl

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls #3:
Best Friends and Drama Queens

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls #4:
Stage Fright

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls #5:
Glitter Girls and the Great Fake Out

FOR TEENS

Airhead

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