Read The New Girl Online

Authors: Meg Cabot

The New Girl (4 page)

“‘My future goal is to be the best cat owner that I can possibly be…’” Rosemary read, trying not to laugh. She was doing a better job than most of the class, who started
laughing right away. They were laughing because Rosemary was making her voice all high and squeaky-sounding, like she was imitating someone. At first I couldn’t figure out who she was trying to imitate, but a second later it became clear. “‘…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—’”

Me! Rosemary was imitating
me
! Did she think I really sounded like that? I do not sound like that. My voice is NOT that high and squeaky.

I could feel my cheeks turning bright red. But I was more mad than embarrassed this time. Because I knew I didn’t really sound like that. Also, I knew my essay was good. I’d worked really hard on it. What was
her
essay about, anyway? Being mean to kids who were littler than she is while playing kick ball? Picking on the New Girl?

“Oh, ha-ha, Rosemary,” I said, in a loud voice.
Standing up for yourself when others are being mean to you is important, especially when it’s your first day of school.
That’s a rule. Otherwise, it will set the tone for the whole year. “I thought Mrs.
Hunter said to put the essays on her desk, not read them.”

“‘Mewsette’!” Rosemary snorted. “That’s the stupidest name for a cat!”

“I think it’s cute,” Erica said, trying, as always, to be the peacemaker.

“Yeah,” Sophie said. “I like it!”

“‘Mewsie for short’!” Rosemary said. She was still reading from my essay. She started using that funny voice again. “‘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…’”

All of the boys were laughing now, especially the ones in the last row where Rosemary sat. A lot of the girls were laughing, too, but not all of them. Caroline, Sophie, and Erica weren’t laughing, I noticed. Maybe they liked the name Mewsette. Or maybe they could see how red my face was, and maybe also that there were tears in my eyes.

Only I wasn’t crying because I was upset. I was crying because I was so mad. I just couldn’t believe how mean Rosemary was being! And that people thought she was
funny!
It’s never funny if someone’s feelings are being hurt.
That’s a rule.

Really, it’s the most important rule of all.

“‘…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…’”

“ROSEMARY DAWKINS!”

Everyone’s head, including Rosemary’s, whipped around to see Mrs. Hunter standing in the doorway. Only Mrs. Hunter didn’t look pretty and cool and fresh like she usually did. Mrs. Hunter looked as mad as I felt. Her cheeks were red, too, and her eyes were as bright as the silver stars she’d used to decorate her classroom with. She was staring at Rosemary so hard I wouldn’t have been surprised if Rosemary’s head exploded right in front of us and her brains splattered all around the classroom.

I wouldn’t have minded if that happened, actually.

“Rosemary, what, exactly, do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hunter demanded.

“Nothing,” Rosemary said in a very small voice, putting the essays behind her back really fast. It was kind of hard to believe, but Rosemary looked scared.

Actually, I would have been scared, too, if Mrs. Hunter had been looking at
me
like that.

“When I ask you a question,” Mrs. Hunter said, stepping toward Rosemary and holding out her hand for the essays, “I expect you to answer me honestly.”

Rosemary had no choice but to hand over the essays. Mine was the first on the pile. Mrs. Hunter looked down at my essay. Then she looked over at me.

I guess Mrs. Hunter must have seen how upset I looked, since the next thing she asked was, “Allie, was Rosemary making fun of your essay?”

The thing is, I could have lied. I could have lied and said,
No, Mrs. Hunter, Rosemary wasn’t making fun of my essay.

This might have made Rosemary like me. Or hate me a little less, anyway.

But
You aren’t supposed to lie to adults.
That’s a rule. Not unless lying to them will make them feel better, like saying,
Oh, no, Uncle Jay, this microwaved Hot Pocket isn’t frozen in the middle at all.

So I said, “Yes, Rosemary was making fun of my essay. I guess it’s not the best essay in the world. But…I still didn’t think it was very nice.”

Because
that
was the truth.

“Whether it is the best essay in the world or not,” Mrs. Hunter said, “in this classroom, we do not make fun of one another, and Rosemary knows that. That’s why she’s going to apologize to you. Aren’t you, Rosemary?”

Rosemary, glaring at the floor, muttered something. Mrs. Hunter said, “I’m sorry, Rosemary, I didn’t hear you.”

“I’m sorry, Allie,” Rosemary said in a louder voice.

“Thank you, Rosemary,” Mrs. Hunter said. “And now, Rosemary, you can sit inside with me during afternoon recess and write another essay explaining the true meaning of friendship. The rest of you may get your coats now and line up to go outside.”

We all went to the cloakroom to get our coats and lined
up for afternoon recess. All of us except Rosemary. Rosemary stayed exactly where she was, staring at the floor and looking very angry. I could tell she was angry and not sad because, even though her face was red, her eyebrows were hunched down, and she was frowning. It was pretty obvious Rosemary wanted to kill someone.

And you didn’t have to be a genius to guess that the person she wanted to kill was me.

That’s why I wasn’t too surprised when, even though I tried really hard to stay out of her way when I was getting into the line on our way out to recess, I accidentally brushed past her and heard Rosemary whisper, “Allie, I’m going to beat you up later.”

Because really, that was just pretty typical of the terrible day I was having.

RULE #4
When Someone Decides She’s Going to Beat You Up, the Best Thing to Do Is Hide

The thing is, I’ve had girls hate me before. I’ve had girls so mad at me, they haven’t spoken to me for
weeks.

But none of them has ever actually threatened to beat me up. Mostly they just ignored me or said mean things about me behind my back or called me Allie Stinkle and stuff.

But Rosemary meant business. Erica told me she once beat up a kid named Morgan Hayes because Morgan ruined Rosemary’s papier-mâché dragon in art class by accidentally sitting on it. So as revenge Rosemary sat on Morgan until Morgan cried.

And Morgan was a
boy.
And a
fifth-grader.

When someone is going to beat you up, of course you have to take evasive action, such as Watching Your Back, Developing Eyes in the Back of Your Head, and basically Running and/or Hiding.

Fortunately, Rosemary took the bus home from school, so it wasn’t like she could jump me from the bushes as I was walking home. If she tried this, she’d miss her ride and be stranded at Pine Heights Elementary overnight.

So the only place I really needed to worry about her was on the playground during morning, lunch, and afternoon recesses. The good thing was, as soon as Caroline, Sophie, and Erica heard what happened, they assured me they’d help me look out for her. Which was really, really nice of them.

And made me feel like, in spite of everything else that had happened, my first day at my new school hadn’t been
that
bad, really. Having friends is a nice feeling. Even if none of them is a
best
friend.

“But really,” Caroline said as we walked home from school, leaves crunching under our feet, “you should just tell Mrs. Hunter what Rosemary said.”

“No, you shouldn’t,” Sophie said, shaking her head until her dark, glossy curls bounced. “That will just enrage her further. Like a monkey.” Sophie, it turns out, is afraid of monkeys. Even though I assured her that monkeys rarely attack humans, as I know from the vast amount of reading I have done on the subject of mammals.

“Rosemary’s not that bad,” Erica the peacemaker said.

“I beg to differ,” Sophie said. “Remember what she did to Morgan?”

“That’s an urban myth,” Caroline scoffed. “I heard he broke those ribs skiing when he was visiting his dad.”

“Honestly,” Erica said. “I think Rosemary was just letting off some steam. In a day or two she won’t even remember she was mad. She doesn’t have a good memory, anyway. Remember how long it took her to memorize the multiplication tables?”

“I don’t know.” Caroline looked dubious. “But I do know Mrs. Hunter isn’t going to let someone in her own class get killed.”

“But Mrs. Hunter can’t be there all the time,” Sophie reminded us all.

This was, sadly, very true.

Still, for a little while, anyway, avoiding Rosemary seemed to work. I started to think maybe Erica was right and that Rosemary had forgotten she was so mad at me. I was trying to be on my best behavior at school, not chitchatting at
all
during class, not raising my hand to answer questions, being the last one in line to recess and to the music and art rooms, et cetera, so as not to draw attention to myself. In this way, I hoped that Rosemary would forget about my existence and, therefore, forget that she ever wanted to kill me.

And it seemed to be working. For a few days, she didn’t even look at me. It helped, too, that Kevin had gotten over his desire to dress as a pirate, due to his impressive, ravewinning performance that first day and Mom’s insistence that his costume was dirty and needed to be cleaned (and since it was Dry Clean Only, this meant it had to be taken to the cleaners). There was nothing to draw attention to me at school at all.

After what Mom called a rough start to my week (and I didn’t even tell her about Rosemary. She just meant the
thing with the popcorn for breakfast and wearing a skirt with jeans on my first day), things seemed to be going pretty well. Mom had even found the box with my leggings and tights in it, and Home Depot had called to say they’d located our stove. It wasn’t due to arrive for another month, but at least they knew where it was. Things were looking up. I even got invited to a slumber party at Caroline’s house! This was a very big deal, because it was the first slumber party I’d been to that wasn’t with my friends from my old school.

And okay, it wasn’t a huge slumber party. It was just me, Erica, Caroline, and Sophie.

But it was still super fun! We got to make dim sum, which are Chinese dumplings, with Caroline’s dad’s girlfriend, Wei-Lin.

Only it turns out you have to remember to wash your hands before you knead the dough, or it will turn out gray. But, like Wei-Lin said, oh, well, next time.

And despite what Sophie said, none of us got a stomach parasite from eating dirty dumpling dough, because if there
were
any parasites in it, they probably got baked.

So I was in a pretty good mood until I got home, and Mom greeted me at the door looking like she had some bad news.

“What?” I said. Because Mom only wore that expression when she had something to tell me and she didn’t know quite how to break the news, like that we were out of Honey Nut Cheerios and I was going to have to eat the plain kind.

“Mrs. Hauser called while you were gone, honey,” Mom said. Mrs. Hauser is the lady who owns Lady Serena Archibald.

“She did?” I threw down my sleeping bag and overnight case. I was pretty tired from my sleepover, even though it had been such a fun one. We’d stayed up most of the night watching DVDs and telling ghost stories. I don’t like to brag, because
No one likes a braggart
(that’s a rule), but my ghost stories, about a zombie hand, had been the scariest. Sophie told me she’d been so scared, she hadn’t been able to sleep all night, thinking a zombie hand was going to come out of the attic in the night and strangle her.
Even though I told her there’s no such thing as a zombie hand.

“They’re worried Lady Serena Archibald is going to have the kittens too soon,” Mom said. “Mrs. Hauser’s taken her to the vet, and they’re trying to see what they can do. But there’s a chance Lady Serena might lose all the kittens—or maybe even die herself. Even if she does have them, they might be too young to survive. If they do survive, they’ll need a lot of special care. Mrs. Hauser just wanted you to know. I’m so sorry, honey.”

My eyes filled up with tears. I couldn’t believe that while I’d been at Caroline’s house, making dirty dim sum and telling ghost stories, Lady Serena Archibald, the mother of Mewsette, my kitten-to-be, had been maybe almost dying! Or losing Mewsette!

“I don’t care how much special care Mewsette needs!” I yelled. “I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her alive! I’m going to be a veterinarian anyhow, so it’s never too early for me to start learning what I’ll need to do.”

“Allie, stop yelling,” Mom said, looking more worried
than ever. “How will you look after a sick kitten while you’re at school? A prematurely born kitten might need round-the-clock attention. You certainly can’t stay up all night caring for it and also go to school.”

“I can take Mewsette to school with me,” I said. “My desk is big enough to keep a kitten inside. Mrs. Hunter will let me. I know she will!”

Mom looked more worried than ever. But I knew I was right. Mrs. Hunter was the nicest, prettiest teacher in the whole world. I knew she’d let me keep Mewsette with me in my desk at school all day. Maybe even in the pink feathered canopy cat bed I’d seen at the mall. Although I wasn’t sure the bed would fit in my desk. In fact, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t.

But maybe I could make a temporary bed for Mewsette out of a shoe box. A shoe box would fit. Or almost fit. I would be the only girl in the whole school with a sick newborn kitten in her desk. Everyone would see what a caring, nice person I was as I fed Mewsette from a bottle every hour, nursing her back to health. Even Rosemary would
stop wanting to beat me up when she saw what a good nurse I was to a sick cat.

I ran over to Erica’s house to tell her about Mewsette and see if she had any shoe boxes, because all the boxes in our house were huge, since we’d just moved, and had recently contained not one pair of shoes, but, like, twenty. Or a coffeemaker or set of golf clubs. Fortunately, Erica’s sister, Melissa, had just bought a new pair of tap shoes (in addition to baton twirling, Missy is also an accomplished jazz and tap dancer), so we were able to spend the afternoon making a beautiful bed for Mewsette, even using a tiny velvet bag that used to hold a pair of Missy’s earrings for Mewsette to rest her sweet precious little head on.

Only it turned out Missy hadn’t really thrown out the velvet bag, and when she found out it was missing she came storming into Erica’s room and ripped it out of the bed we’d made and called us a couple of ingrates and laughed cruelly at the idea of us ever nursing a sick premature kitten to health when we tried to explain, then stomped out again.

But Erica said to ignore her and that Melissa was always like that right before a twirling competition and that there was one coming up next week. I said I understood, even though I didn’t. I knew Erica was just trying to keep the peace, like Caroline said she always does.

When we were done looking up the word “ingrate” in the dictionary and deciding that we aren’t actually ungrateful or self-seeking, we went down into Erica’s dining room and rang the secret bell under the dining table, which signals the maid in the kitchen (if Erica’s family had a maid, but they don’t. The bell is left over from olden times) until Erica’s mom came out and told me it was time to go home.

I took the shoe box and went home and asked Mom if there was any more news from Mrs. Hauser, but there wasn’t. By that time, we were all sitting down to a dinner of salad and microwaved macaroni and cheese, which we eat quite a lot, since we have no stove or oven. Also, Uncle Jay was visiting.

“Well,” he said when we had all gathered at the table. “I have some interesting news.”

“So do I,” I said. “I’ll go first. Lady Serena Archibald, the mother of my kitten-to-be, Mewsette, has gone into early labor and might die or have the kittens too soon, and they might be very sick, but that’s okay, because as a future veterinarian, I’m prepared to nurse a premature kitten.”

“No,” Mom said. “Allie, that is not going to happen without some discussion first. That is too much responsibility for a nine-year-old girl. Jay, please tell us your news.”

“Well,” Uncle Jay said, “it’s not quite as interesting as Allie’s news, I’m afraid. But I spoke to Mom today—my mom, that is—and…well, kids…Grandma’s coming!”

Mom laid down her fork with a bang.

Dad said, “Oh, yeah. I forgot. My mother is coming to visit next week.”

“Yay!” Kevin yelled. “Grandma’s coming! I hope she’ll buy me a book about pirates!”

“I hope she’ll buy me a dirt bike,” Mark said.

“You just got a new mountain bike for your birthday,” I reminded him.

“None of the kids in this neighborhood ride mountain bikes,” Mark said. “They all ride dirt bikes. So I need a new bike.”

“That’s stupid,” I said. “There’s no difference between a dirt bike and a mountain bike.”

“Uh,” Mark said. “Excuse me. But there’s a ton of difference.”

“Uh,” I said. “Excuse
me.
But you’re wrong. And even if that’s true, you don’t need a whole new bike just to fit in. If your new friends don’t like you the way you are, then they aren’t really your friends.”

“True,” Mark said. “But I do need a whole new bike so I can do freestyle BMX racing or tricks.”

Mom wasn’t listening to our conversation, so she wasn’t able to break in to say over her dead body was a son of hers going to become a freestyle BMX racer or trick performer.

“Your mother is coming to visit next week?” she asked Dad instead.

“She wants to see the new house,” Dad said. “And the kids, of course.”

“We don’t have an oven,” Mom said. “The bed in the guest room isn’t set up. There aren’t curtains in there.”

“I’d offer to let her stay with me,” Uncle Jay said, “but there’s a reptile living in my spare bathroom.”

“My mom’s not picky,” Dad said to Mom. “It’s about visiting with family, not the luxury of the accommodations. Besides, she likes microwaved macaroni and cheese. Or she’ll learn to like it, anyway.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you’d invited your mother to visit?” Mom asked Dad.

“I forgot,” Dad said with a shrug. “Come on, it won’t be that bad. It’ll just be for a week.”

“She can sleep in my bed,” I said. “I can sleep in my sleeping bag on the floor. It will be easier to get up to nurse Mewsette there.”

After dinner, Mom said she had a headache and had to go to bed early. Dad went upstairs to check on her. Uncle Jay helped me rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher while Mark and Kevin watched the half hour of family-friendly television we are allowed to view each night.

“So,” Uncle Jay said. “A premature kitten. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

“Yes,” I said. “And that’s only if Lady Serena Archibald doesn’t die. I sure hope she doesn’t.”

“If one life fails, another will take its place,” Uncle Jay said, handing me a bunch of dripping silverware to put in the dishwasher. “At least with death comes a cessation of suffering.”

“Whatever,” I said. I was used to Uncle Jay’s ramblings. “But I still really want a kitten.”

“You’ll still get a kitten,” Uncle Jay said. “If it’s meant to be. Lady Serena just may not be your kitten’s mother.”

But I really wanted Lady Serena to be my kitten’s mom. I loved Lady Serena Archibald’s long silky fur and the way she’d purr as she butted her head against your hand if you held it out to her. Surely her kittens would have the same sort of fur and do the same thing with their heads. I really, really hoped Lady Serena would be okay.

But Mrs. Hauser didn’t call. And I couldn’t ask Mom to call her, because Mom had gone to bed early.

It was hard to sleep that night because I kept thinking
about Lady Serena and praying that she would be okay. In the morning when I woke up, it was almost as if I hadn’t gotten any sleep whatsoever. I felt super draggy, and I didn’t feel like going to school at all. What did school matter when a cat was possibly dying?

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