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Lucy pushed the tent of covers aside so she could look at the clock. It was only 6:45 a.m.—plenty of time to make her list. She just wished it were still yesterday or maybe the day before. Any day but the first day of school.
She let the tent-cover fall back over her and Lollipop, the round black ball of a cat, and pressed the pen to the Book of Lists.
1. I have to start middle school. I just got the hang of elementary school, and that took me six years. Middle school is only two years long. I'm in trouble.
2. I won't have Mr. Auggy as my teacher. He's the only one I ever had that didn't think I was stupid. Now I have to start all over with SIX teachers, and everybody says middle school teachers are harder and meaner. I'm losing I.Q. points just thinking about that.
Lollipop gave a nervous meow, and Lucy stopped to scratch the top of her head.
"You don't have to freak out, too, Lolli," she said. "You get to stay home and sleep all day. Lucky."
Lucy gave her another behind-the-ear rub. Actually, she didn't want to sleep. She wanted to play soccer with her team, the Los Suenos Dreams. Or practice in the backyard for the Olympic Development Program tryouts. Or clean the entire house with a toothbrush. Anything but start seventh grade.
"Lucy?" said a sleep-thick voice outside her door. "You're up, aren't you?"
Aunt Karen sounded like she hadn't had her coffee yet. Maybe she'd go back to bed instead of supervising Lucy's wardrobe—
"Leave plenty of time for me to check your outfit," Aunt Karen said. "I don't want you starting middle school looking like a homeless person."
So much for that 'maybe.'
"I'm almost ready," Lucy told her. She'd been up for an hour, and she was dressed in what she intended to wear no matter what Aunt Karen said. Which was another thing to add to the list of reasons to cancel the whole day.
3. I want to wear my jeans and my Los Suenos Dreams t-shirt — which is the same as J.J. is gonna wear — and I bet Aunt Karen already has something pink and pleated picked out. One of the sixteen she bought me at the mall in Las Cruces after twenty hours of shopping. There's gonna be a fight.
4. And Dad isn't here to be on my side.
Lucy scooted further under her tent. That was the biggest reason of all for canceling the day. If her dad was here at home, instead of off in Albuquerque at the School for the Blind learning technological stuff so he could keep his job at the radio station—Lucy took a big breath from that thought. If he were here, he wouldn't let Aunt Karen make her be all girly when that was so not her. He would say, "Leave her alone, K. She looks beautiful to me." And Lucy would grin—because, of course, being blind, Dad couldn't see her at all. She liked being the kind of beautiful you can't see.
Lucy closed the Book of Lists and ran her fingers across the raised leaves on the green cover. It would be even better if her mom were here, instead of just the book she'd left behind. Her mom would wear jeans and t-shirts, too, and would go with her to meet all her teachers and let them know that Lucy would read or write anything they wanted her to as long as it had something to do with soccer. Her mom would show her how to be a girl in seventh grade.
But Mom wasn't here. Some days, it didn't hurt so much having a mom who had died. Today wasn't one of those days.
"I don't hear you moving around in there," Aunt Karen said out in the hall. The doorknob wiggled, but Lucy had it locked. Dad told Aunt Karen before he left that Lucy needed her privacy and was allowed to lock her door. That was only one of the reasons he was the coolest dad on the planet.
"I'm moving," Lucy said.
She threw back the covers and climbed out of bed and carefully tucked the Book of Lists under her pillow. The only people who knew about the Book were Dad and Inez and Mora and J.J.—and none of them had read it. Aunt Karen suspected Lucy had it—and if she ever found it, she'd take it away—she'd said that before. She said it had belonged to her sister, Lucy's mom, and she thought it ought to be put in a museum or something because Mom was a famous reporter who was killed in the war in Iraq.
"But it's mine, right, Lolli?" Lucy said to the kitty. "Keep it safe."
Lolli settled on top of the pillow and winked herself back to sleep. Lucy had to count on her. Without the Book she didn't know if she could figure out just how to be a girl. It was a very hard thing without a mom.
Lucy then straightened the red and blue letters on her white t-shirt so Aunt Karen wouldn't make her iron it, and rested her arms on her windowsill. Still no sign of her best friend J.J., peeking out of the sheet he used for a curtain over his window across the street. He always rode bikes to school with her, but she wasn't really surprised that he wasn't out yet. He was even less excited about starting middle school than she was. At least his mom wouldn't be inspecting his outfit. He only had about three to choose from anyway.
"I'm fixing your breakfast," Aunt Karen called from the kitchen.
Lucy forced herself not to roll her eyes when she opened the door. Dad had made her promise not to pull any "attitude" with Aunt Karen. That meant no eye-rolling, heavy sighing, get-out-my-face tone of voice, shrugging instead of answering, or slamming of doors.
"Think you can handle that, Champ?" Dad had said to her.
"As long as it's only for six weeks," Lucy told him.
So far she hadn't slammed or rolled or sighed. But, then, they were only a half a week into Aunt Karen's stay.
Lucy didn't ride the yellow Navajo rug down the tile hall to the kitchen the way she usually did. She wasn't, after all, that eager to get there. When she did, she found Aunt Karen in white sweats—who wore white hang-out clothes?—and her hair in a falling-down ponytail, staring into the refrigerator.
"I can fix my own breakfast," Lucy said.
"You're not going off with a Pop Tart," Aunt Karen said. "I'm making you scrambled eggs."
Lucy resisted the urge to push her aunt into the refrigerator and went for the pantry. "I always have cereal."
"Negative. I've seen the cereal collection in this house."
Lucy didn't like it when Aunt Karen referred to the home she and Dad shared as "this house"—as if it was some sort of shack without electricity. She pulled a box of Captain Crunch from the shelf and turned around to find Aunt Karen with her arms folded and an eleven pinched into the skin between her eyebrows. She was licking her lips the way she did at least a dozen times a day.
"I thought you said you were dressed," she said.
"I am," Lucy said.
"What about those cute clothes I bought you?"
"I have soccer practice right after school. I'd get them dirty." Lucy avoided her aunt's eyes as she pulled aside the red and white checked curtain that served as a cabinet door and slid out a bowl. It was a good thing she couldn't slam that. As Aunt Karen jerked a container of skim milk out of the refrigerator and smacked it onto the table, Lucy wished Dad had given her some attitude rules.
"Do you have any idea what kind of impression you're going to make on your new teachers wearing that get-up?" Aunt Karen said.
Lucy maneuvered around her to get the whole milk out of the refrigerator. "I'm clean and I don't have an attitude," she said. She moved Marmalade, the orange kitty who liked Dad best, off of the chair and sat down. "That's a good enough impression."
"Your clothes are your attitude." Aunt Karen's long-comma eyebrows went up as she watched Lucy dump Captain Crunch into the bowl and drown it in almost-cream. "Jeans and a t-shirt say you don't care about your appearance, which sends the message that you don't care what people think."
"I don't care what people think," Lucy said, mouth full. "Well, not all people."
"At least let me do your hair." Aunt Karen miraculously pulled a brush out of the pocket of her sweatshirt. "You always wear it in a French braid for soccer anyway."
Lucy couldn't argue with that, and it would be kind of hard for her to fight off Aunt Karen while she was trying to eat. Although it was also hard to chew when her temples were being pulled to the back of her head.
"I bet your girlfriends won't show up in last year's jeans," Aunt Karen said as she dragged the brush through Lucy's thick blonde hair. "Dusty and Vanessa—"
"Veronica," Lucy said. "I know. They like clothes."
"You don't want to be like them? They're such cool girls."
She didn't say, "And they could teach you how to be cool, too," but Lucy knew she was thinking it.
"My friends don't expect me to be like them," Lucy said. "They like me because I'm just who I am."
"Okay, listen to me." Aunt Karen produced a blue hair elastic. "That works in elementary school, but, trust me, it all changes in middle school. Right or wrong, the only thing that matters once you hit seventh grade is being part of the crowd. You can be all independent and march to the beat of a different drummer if you want to, but I'm here to tell you, you're only going to wind up by yourself if you do that."
"Are you done?"
"With my hair. Are you done?"
"Yes, and it's cute. Go look in the mirror."
Lucy escaped to the bathroom, leaving Marmalade and Artemis Hamm, their hunter cat, to fight over what was left in her bowl, and after an eye-rolling glance in the mirror she brushed her teeth until she was pretty sure the enamel was going to come off. How was she going to stand this for five and a half more weeks?
"J.J.'s outside waiting for you," Aunt Karen called to her. That was how she was going to stand it. Lucy did a final spit, snatched her backpack and net soccer ball bag from the hook by the back door, and gave Aunt Karen a quick wave.
"Let me just say this before you go, "Aunt Karen said.
But the phone rang and Lucy dove for the door.
Aunt Karen looked at the caller I.D. and put up a finger. "It's your father. Don't you want to talk to him?"
Lucy snatched the phone from her hand and slipped out the back door with it.
"Dad?" she said.
"Hey, Champ! Happy first day of school."
Dad laughed his sand-in-a-bucket laugh, and Lucy could almost imagine the light that poured out of him whenever he smiled, and smell his breath-mint-tweedy-jacket smell. It made her want to see him. Bad.
"Can you look at it as an adventure?" he said. "This is going to be a whole new experience for you."
I don't want a whole new experience, she almost said to him. I want things back the way they were.
But she didn't say it—because if Dad knew how scared she was, he might come home right now. And then he would lose his job. And that would be her fault.
"Yeah," she said instead. "Regular classes now and not the dumb group."
"That's one way to put it." Dad's voice went soft. "Luce—there's no need to be nervous. You worked with Mr. Auggy all summer. You passed the standardized reading test. You're way up into seventh grade reading level."
"I know," Lucy said. "How are your classes going?"
"Whew." Dad chuckled. "It's been a long time since I went to school. I'm way out of practice." He chuckled. "Maybe you could give me a few pointers after today, huh?"
"Sure," Lucy said.
And then she wished he was going to be there to talk about it at supper over Inez's enchiladas, with Marmalade the kitty in his lap and the sunlight smile on his face.
But she swallowed hard as she turned off the phone and went back inside to hang it up. She couldn't start bawling now. She didn't know that much about middle school, but she was pretty sure people didn't cry there.
Especially not Lucy Rooney.
It helped that J.J. was waiting outside the gate. Although he was glaring at Mudge, the Rooneys' fourth kitty, who was glaring back from under the century plant, he still made Lucy almost smile. With his Apache-black ponytail hanging from the nape of his neck and his lanky legs ready to be tripped over the minute he took a step, he looked the same as he always did. At least there was that.
"Where's Januarie?" Lucy said.
"Elementary starts later."
"The only thing good about middle school —"
"Is that Januarie's not there," Lucy finished for him.
Those were two more things that hadn't changed: J.J.'s nine year old sister was still at Los Suenos Elementary, and J.J. still thought she was a moron. Januarie bugged Lucy, too, but Lucy didn't have to put up with her Chihuahua voice twenty-four/seven like J.J. did. Even though she wasn't quite as whiny as she used to be, now that State Children's Ser vices wouldn't let J.J.'s father live with them anymore because he was in a lot of trouble with the law, Januarie continued to drive J.J. nuts whenever she got the chance.
J.J. already had one long leg flung over his bike and Lucy was climbing onto the new one she'd just gotten for her birthday when she heard a loud "Yo, Lucy Goosey," from the corner of First and Granada Streets. She knew it was Gabe Navarra before she even turned around. He hadn't stayed the same since they finished sixth grade. His voice had dipped into man-zone and he even had some dark fuzz on his chocolate-colored chin. Lucy figured since his dad was the sheriff, he had to skip right from boy to tough guy.
Gabe ambled up to them with tall Emanuel Ramos on one side and short, square Oscar Mozingo on the other, like bookends that didn't match. A giggle behind them meant Veronica DeMatteo was there, too, and if she was, so was Dusty Terricola. The whole Los Suenos Dreams team surrounded her, except for Carla Rosa, and Lucy broke into the first grin she'd managed that morning.
The two girls scurried, still giggling, around the guys, Dusty shoving Oscar before he could shove her and laughing into his face with a smile that crinkled her hot-chocolate-creamy skin. Veronica, however, was not amused. She stood with her mouth hanging slightly open, as usual, staring at Lucy and J.J. out of her caramel-colored face.
"What?" Lucy said.
"You aren't riding your bikes, are you?"
Lucy looked at J.J., who just looked back with his too-blue eyes.
"We always do," Lucy said.
Veronica put up both hands and waved them like she was erasing the very thought.
"What?" Lucy said again.
Dusty tossed back her Hispanic-black hair and put a hand on Lucy's arm. "Nobody rides their bikes to middle school, Bolillo."
Even though Dusty used the nickname Lucy liked — which meant she wasn't Hispanic or Native American but she was okay anyway — Lucy felt suddenly prickly.
"Why not?" she said.
"Because it ain't cool," Oscar said.
Gabe gave Oscar's head a push. "Like you'd know what cool was if it spit in your eye."
"I don't care about being cool," Lucy said. "I just care about getting to school."
They all turned to the roundish figure with its cloud of red hair chugging toward them. Carla Rosa's face was crimson, and it wasn't even that hot yet. That happened when she was jittery. That and the constant "guess whats."
"Guess what?" she said again.
"What?" they all said — because if they didn't, she'd keep on until somebody did.
"There aren't any bike racks at the middle school," she said.
"Are so," J.J. mumbled.
Carla Rosa shook the curls. "My dad said — guess what, he's the mayor —"
"We know," Veronica said. She twitched her thin, brown ponytail so hard it almost smacked Gabe in the face.
"They took them all down because nobody rides bikes to middle school."
Gabe leaned toward Lucy and said in a loud, deep whisper, " Because it ain't cool, Lucy Goosey."
"Just walk with us, 'lillo," Dusty said. "It'll be more fun anyway."
Lucy did not get it. At all. But she and J.J. left their bikes in her back yard and joined the walking group to amble across the street to the white adobe middle school, standing stark and stern against the Sacramento Mountains that always made Lucy think of protective uncles. Today they weren't doing such a good job, as far as she was concerned.
And the team's idea of 'fun' didn't match Lucy's right now, either. All anybody could talk about was how much harder and meaner the teachers were going to be and how impossible it would be to remember your locker combination and still get to class on time and how all the eighth graders were going to make their lives miserable. By the time they pushed through the big glass front doors, Lucy's entire stomach was like a bowl of knotted up spaghetti.
Excerpted from Lucy Finds Her Way by Nancy Rue Copyright © 2012 by Nancy Rue. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERKIDZ. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 27, 2012
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Posted February 28, 2012
Nacy rue i realy hope that your reading this because i would like for there to be another Lucy book like a nummber 5 that would be alsome i ask of this because i love your lucy books i just finished the series know imm reading your soffie books but any way i would realy like it if you could make a 5 Lucy book.
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Posted February 24, 2012
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