Authors: Meg Cabot
I tried to turn to the right page of my math book, but I couldn’t remember what page Mrs. Hunter had said. I looked over to see what page Erica was on, but I saw she was having the same trouble I was—because she’d been too busy talking to pay attention, too.
Then I noticed that Sophie, in the row of desks in front of mine, was quietly holding her math book up. Why was she holding her math book up like that? Then I realized why! So that I could see what page she was on: 52! Oh, thank you, Sophie Abramowitz!
I turned to page 52 just as Mrs. Hunter asked, “Who knows the answer to problem number four?” and I saw that problem number four was,
Rashid has forty-nine cents in nineteen coins. How many pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters is that?
It took me a moment to figure it out.
“Oh,” I cried, raising my hand.
Mrs. Hunter, who’d been about to call on Caroline, who also had her hand raised, looked surprised. Then she said, “Yes, Allie?”
I put my hand down and said, “Two dimes, three nickels, and fourteen pennies.”
“That’s correct, Allie,” Mrs. Hunter said, smiling.
Relief washed over me. I’d gotten it right!
Okay, so my first day had gotten off to a totally terrible start. A mean girl who was much bigger than me thought my little brother was weird, and I’d gotten caught
chitchatting with my neighbor by the teacher I’d been hoping to impress.
But at least I’d gotten one answer right!
some of the fifth-grade girls thought my little brother was cute.
Maybe things would improve. They certainly couldn’t get much worse.
That was a rule. Wasn’t it?
One of the good things about living so close to where you go to school is that you get to go home for lunch.
So you don’t have to worry about whether or not your mom paid your milk money, or if they’re serving something gross for the hot lunch that might have tomatoes in it (which you can’t eat, because one of your rules is
Never eat anything red
), or who you’re going to sit by in the cafeteria, because you won’t even be eating lunch in the cafeteria.
Of course, I had to wait outside the kindergarten classroom for Kevin because I promised my mom and dad that I would walk Kevin home, even though Kevin said he wasn’t a baby and that he could walk himself home. But that’s a
lie, because anyone who would wear a pirate costume to school his first day, embarrassing me in front of the entire fourth grade,
Even if, as he was leaving the classroom, everyone was all, “Oh, good-bye, Kevin, I hope you’ll wear your pirate costume tomorrow, too, Kevin, it was so great to meet you, Kevin, you’re really special, Kevin,” blah-blah. This wasn’t the other kindergartners, it was the teacher and the teacher’s aides. But it was still pathetic and made me and Erica and Sophie and Caroline (who were waiting with me) want to throw up.
Well, I don’t really know if it made them want to throw up, actually, because when Kevin came out of the classroom in his pirate costume, they kind of fought a little over who got to hold his hand on the way home.
“No, you live next door to him,” Sophie said to Erica when she offered to hold hands with him. “You get to see him all the time!”
“Yeah,” Caroline said. “Let us have a turn. It’s only fair.”
“Oh, sorry,” Erica said, looking horrified. “Of course.”
I could see that Caroline was right about Erica. She did
seem to try to keep the peace.
I could also see that the whole world was starting to think Kevin was cute. Except me.
“It’s okay, girls,” Kevin said. “I’ve got two hands. Caroline and Sophie can each hold one of my hands until the first corner, and then Erica and Allie can each hold one of my hands until we get home.”
This kind of made me want to throw up some more. Also kick him. Not hard, but, like, a baby kick, for babies. Especially since I didn’t want to hold one of his stinking hands, and neither Sophie nor Caroline nor Erica saw how phony he was being. Kevin may not be the funniest Finkle, but he’s definitely the one who thinks he’s the cutest right now. And deserves to be kicked the most because of it.
Mark, who’d also been told to wait for Kevin, came around the corner, took one look at my friends fighting over who got to hold Kevin’s hands on the way home, rolled his eyes, and took off with his new buddies on one of their dirt bikes.
Mark can be surprisingly smart sometimes, for a second-grader.
Even though I was really hoping we wouldn’t, on the way out of school we walked right past the line of kids who were waiting to get their hot lunches. That’s because Pine Heights Elementary is very old-fashioned and the cafeteria is also the gym in addition to being the auditorium, and so the kids line up to get their food from this big window in the hallway, which is outside the gym.
So everyone in my whole class (who hadn’t brought lunch and was already inside the gym, eating, or had gone home for lunch) saw me, Caroline, Sophie, and Erica walk by with my little brother, Kevin the Cute Pirate.
Everybody was pretty nice about it…except Rosemary. She shook her head and said, “I see they
wore their Halloween costumes to school today,” looking pointedly at my skirt-and-jeans combo, causing all the boys standing in line with her to laugh.
Kevin puffed out his chest and said, “This isn’t a costume. I
a pirate,” getting even more laughs from the crowd, which, Kevin being Kevin, he enjoyed.
But I could feel myself turning even more red than I had in the classroom. I was super relieved when we got outside and I could feel the cool autumn air on my face and hear the leaves crunching beneath my feet.
Even though both Sophie and Caroline assured me, as Erica had, that my skirt looked totally cute with my jeans and not like a costume at all, all the way until we got to the corner where they both had to drop Kevin’s hands and make the turn to their own houses, I couldn’t get over the feeling that I had chosen the wrong thing to wear to my first day of school—and that, in fact, the whole morning of my first day of school had sort of been a disaster, starting with my breakfast of popcorn and going all the way through to right before lunch (Mrs. Hunter had warned me about the dangers of chitchatting two more times), until now.
Erica seemed to sense how I was feeling, because when we stopped outside my house, she said, “Do you want to come have lunch with me? My mom is making grilled cheese.”
“No, thanks,” I said, even though grilled cheese is one
of my favorites (so long as it’s on white bread and not whole wheat.
Grilled cheese on whole wheat bread is gross.
That’s a rule). “I’ll meet you outside to walk back to school together after lunch, though.”
Erica said okay and went on to her house. I followed Kevin inside and wasn’t too cheered up when Mom greeted us in the kitchen with a happy announcement: “I found the cereal bowls! No more popcorn for breakfast!”
“Did you find my leggings?” I wanted to know.
“Not yet,” she said, her head popping up from the box she was digging through. “But I made huge amounts of progress here in the kitchen while you kids were gone this morning. I found all the pots and pans. Now all we need is the stove, and we’ll be set!”
“What I really need is my leggings,” I said.
“I know, honey,” Mom said. “I’m sure they’re around here somewhere. I’ll probably stumble across them this afternoon. In the meantime, I’ve got your favorite for lunch—Hot Pockets! Now why don’t you sit down and eat before they get cold. Mark’s already finished half of his. I can’t wait to hear how your first day is going so far.”
But I could hardly get a word in about my day what with my brothers going on and on about their days. Neither of them had gotten in trouble (three times) for chitchatting with his neighbor. Neither of them had gotten made fun of for wearing a skirt with jeans. Neither of them had a girl like Rosemary in his class.
By the time Kevin finally got done going on and on about how cute everyone thought he was and how fantastic his macaroni-and-glue masterpiece had turned out, and Mark had finished gushing over how his new teacher, Mr. Manx, had let him feed the class newts, and his new friend, Jeff, had given him a ride on the handlebars of his dirt bike (which earned him a lecture from Mom since Mark hadn’t been wearing his helmet), I didn’t even feel like talking. I just wanted to go upstairs, take off my skirt, and go back to school to start my first day over.
“And how’s your day going so far, Allie?” Mom wanted to know.
“Fine,” I said.
“That’s it?” Mom asked. “Just fine? How do you like Mrs. Hunter? Who do you get to sit by? Is it as hard as
your old school, or is it easier? Have you made any new friends?”
“Fine, I told you; I get to sit by Erica; it’s the same; I’m friends with Caroline and Sophie. Can I go now?”
Mom stared at me. She had on her oldest clothes because she’d taken time off from her job and had been busy all morning unpacking. Her T-shirt said pearl jam, which is an old band that Dad likes.
go, after you finish your milk,” Mom said. “Allie, are you sure everything is all right? You seem upset about something.”
“Well, I’m not,” I said. “Except that
people should realize Halloween was last month.”
Kevin looked at me and smiled. “You know what? I’m going to help Mom look for your leggings while you’re at school this afternoon, Allie.”
“Oh,” Mom said, smiling at him. “Isn’t that nice of Kevin, Allie?”
I glared at him.
Little brothers can be such total phonies sometimes.
That’s a rule. No, that’s not even a rule. That’s a
During lunch recess, Erica and I met Caroline and Sophie back on the playground, and we went to the secret spot behind the bushes where, the first day I met them, we’d played a game called queens. That’s where all of us pretend to be queens doing battle with an evil warlord who wants to marry Sophie, only she doesn’t want to marry him because he’s evil, and also because she gave her heart to another. I asked Sophie who she gave her heart to, and she said she gave it to Peter Jacobs, and when I asked who that was, she showed me through the bushes. He was a fourth-grader in Mrs. Danielson’s class who happened to be playing kick ball with my brother. He was taller than all the other fourth-grade boys, and also taller than Rosemary. I noticed that he seemed to be kind to all the younger kids who were playing, not calling them names when they missed the ball (unlike Rosemary) and yelling to them encouragingly (also unlike Rosemary).
Also, he was wearing a very pretty blue sweater.
I could see why Sophie gave her heart to him, and I told her I approved.
So I decided to put Peter in our game (only not tell him, of course. It’s just pretend). I dubbed him Prince Peter and told Sophie that he was her betrothed (I don’t know if it’s okay for a prince to marry a queen but it’s just pretend, anyway, so who cares?).
We were defending pretend Prince Peter from the evil warlord when the bell rang and we had to go get in line for class. We were laughing because Peter had no idea he was a prince, when Rosemary came up to me and went, “Hey, where’d your skirt go?” only not in a nice way like she was genuinely concerned I might have lost it in a freak skirt accident or something.
Up until that moment none of the other girls had noticed I’d changed out of my skirt when I’d gone home for lunch, or at least they hadn’t mentioned it. Trust Rosemary to have pointed it out for them.
“Oh,” I said, feeling myself blushing, “I changed because, um, I—I was hot.”
I don’t know why I said I was hot. It was a stupid thing to say because it was actually pretty cold out.
But it was the only reason I could think of for why I had changed, other than the real reason, which was that I had changed because Rosemary had made fun of me. And I didn’t want her to know I’d changed because of
You can’t let a bully know she’s bothering you, otherwise the bully wins.
That’s a rule.
“Yeah,” Rosemary said with an unpleasant laugh. “Right!”
“Never mind her,” Erica said in a quiet voice.
“Yeah,” Sophie said. “She’s just plain mean.”
I knew Rosemary was mean. But that didn’t help me know why she was being so mean to
Or what I was going to do about it.
After lunch, we had music, and after music, we had English. For English, Mrs. Hunter asked us each to write a personal essay about a future goal. She told us to be sure to check our spelling, because next week we’d be having our big spelling bee against Mrs. Danielson’s fourth-grade class for
spelling champion of the entire fourth grade, so this would be good practice.
Right away, I got excited. This essay, I knew, was a way for me to impress Mrs. Hunter with my maturity and exceptional writing skills.
Actually, my writing and spelling skills aren’t all that exceptional (I’m better in math and science than I am in writing), but I figured at least I could write a really good essay that would make Mrs. Hunter forget about how many times she’d had to remind me not to chitchat with my neighbor (once since lunch).
So for my personal essay, I wrote:
My future goal is to be the best cat owner that I can possibly be when I adopt my kitten from the litter of Lady Serena Archibald, who is a purebred long-haired blue colorpoint Persian. I intend to name this kitten Mewsette (Mewsie for short
I am going to pick a girl kitten), and I will make sure that Mewsette is up-to-date on all of her vaccinations, has regular vet appointments, and when the time comes, I will make sure that Mewsette gets spayed so she doesn’t have unwanted
kittens herself. I will feed Mewsette only the best vet-recommended dry and wet food and make sure she always has fresh water (I already do this for our family dog, Marvin) and also clean out her litter box every single day.
I will also make sure that Mewsette gets her own bed, like the pink feathered canopy cat bed I saw in the pet store in the mall that is an almost exact copy of mine (only mine is for humans, not pets), and also that she gets the matching pink collar with genuine rhinestone trim I saw in the same store. The bed is only $49.99 and the collar is only $5.95, which I’m pretty sure my parents can afford. If not, I can do extra chores around the house such as clean the toilets, which is really my brother Mark’s job, but I don’t mind if it means my kitten can have the best, because she deserves it!
Actually, I went a little overboard on my essay, making it almost two pages, but I didn’t think Mrs. Hunter would mind, because I was pretty sure the details about how I would earn the extra money to pay for Mewsette’s bed and collar were important in describing my future goals.
I was reading over my essay and checking for spelling
errors when Mrs. Danielson, who teaches the fourth-grade class next door to ours (the one Prince Peter is in), opened the door to our classroom and said, “Mrs. Hunter, may I see you for a moment?” and Mrs. Hunter said, “Yes, of course.”
Then she turned to our class and said, “Time’s up, everyone. Would you please pass your essays to the left, and, Rosemary, would you please walk along the end of each row and gather everyone’s papers and put them on my desk?”
Mrs. Hunter left the classroom to go out into the hall to talk to Mrs. Danielson while we passed our essays to the left. Rosemary got up and waited at the end of each row until she’d gathered all the essays.
But instead of putting them all on Mrs. Hunter’s desk, like Mrs. Hunter had asked her to, Rosemary shuffled through the essays until she found one in particular. Then she began reading aloud from it in a babyish voice.