IF YOUR FATHER HAS BEEN PRESIDENT OF THE United States for a whole week, there are a few things you might want to know:
- You shouldn’t run through the first floor of the White House in pajamas. You might run into a press conference full of adults who will stare at you.
- You should ask your parents before you decide that it’s your mission to welcome kids to the White House and invite a whole tour group to play in your bedroom.
- You don’t automatically get a pony.
- You do get a Secret Service agent who will let you talk to his friends over his walkie-talkie.
- You don’t want to eat too many of the White House chef’s Porter Butter cookies. Especially the night before your first day of school.
Liberty Porter had only learned this last one this morning. She had sneaked an extra cookie after dinner last night. Okay, three. And now she was lying in bed with a sickish stomach. She was slightly nauseous and also slightly nervous. Because today was Liberty Porter’s first day at her new school!
She had woken up way before her alarm clock was set to ring. It was so early that it was dark outside, but she couldn’t go back to sleep. She thought about getting up and going out into the house. But she didn’t want to wake her parents up. The president of the United States had to get a good night’s sleep.
That’s what her mom had told her the first morning, after Liberty woke up before her parents and went to the White House movie theater. She hadn’t meant to turn the volume up that loud.
And what her mom had said the second morning, after Liberty had woken up before her parents and decided to play upstairs. She had planned to play the drums in the music room softly. But . . . well . . . they were drums.
So now she just lay quietly in her bed, thinking about the first day of school.
Liberty Porter was not the first kid who lived in the White House to go to school, of course. And some First Kids even went to school right inside the White House. President Lincoln’s and President Hayes’s children were homeschooled right down the hall from Liberty’s bedroom. President Kennedy had made a first-grade classroom for his daughter and ten students upstairs on the third floor.
Liberty would go to a fourth-grade classroom at a nearby school. Everyone else had started at that school in the fall. Liberty would be the only new kid. And the only First Kid. Everyone knew she was starting school. It was big news. It was such big news it was even on the news.
“First Daughter Liberty Porter heads off for her first day of school tomorrow!” the announcer had said on the television news yesterday.
Suddenly Liberty felt really, really nervous. She picked up her new beanie rottweiler, Alice.
“I’ve never been to a new school before,” she told Alice.
Liberty did not know what this new school would be like at all!
Liberty had gone to the same school her whole entire life. She knew everybody. Everybody knew her. She had known that Perfect Paige would be perfect. She had known that Max Mellon would be annoying.
Liberty thought about her last day at her school. Most people in her class had said they’d miss her. They even made a card for her that said “We’ll Miss You, Liberty!”
Liberty had felt sad when she’d gotten the card. She even started to cry a little bit. She had sniffled and then blew her nose. Unfortunately she blew her nose a little loud and Max Mellon heard her.
“Ha!” Max had laughed. “Liberty snorted!”
The rest of the day Max had called her by a new nickname:
Pig-gerty Porter, First Snorter.
Liberty had a very cheerful thought about her new school: Max Mellon would not be there.
Then Liberty heard something outside in the hallway. Footsteps! “Franklin,” she whispered. “Did you hear that?”
Franklin was sleeping in his dog bed in the corner. His ears perked up and he listened.
Who was walking down the hall? Liberty had an idea! Some people had said they heard footsteps in the middle of the night at the White House . . . and they thought it was Abraham Lincoln’s ghost.
Seriously! People thought they heard or saw Lincoln’s ghost. And not just any people, but presidents. Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Hoover all thought they heard the ghost knock on their bedroom doors.
Liberty had thought she wanted to meet Lincoln’s ghost. But now she wasn’t so sure.
And then there was a knock on Liberty’s door! Knock! Knock!
And then the door opened. Creeeaaaak!
“Eeps!” Liberty squeaked. She dived under the covers. Her heart was beating like crazy.
“Liberty?” a voice said. Was it the ghost?
Her bedroom light clicked on. No. It was not the ghost of President Lincoln. It was just her father, President Porter!
Whhhhhew! Liberty’s heart pounded a little bit slower.
“Good morning, Liberty Bell!” her dad said. He paused. “Liberty? Are you in there?”
Liberty crawled out from under the covers. She saw her father in the doorway. He was wearing his suit and tie already. Franklin got up and trotted over for his morning scratches.
“Hi, Daddy,” she said.
“Happy First Day of School!” he said. “I know why you woke up so early. You couldn’t wait for my Traditional First Day of School Porter Pancakes.
“You are one lucky girl,” her father said. “It’s your second time to get my traditional first day of school pancakes in one year.”
“Yup,” Liberty agreed. “Lucky me.”
“The best pancakes ever,” her father said. “Nobody makes pancakes as good as mine.”
Erm. Liberty didn’t quite answer that one. Her father was going to be a great leader of the most powerful country in the world. But his pancakes tasted like soap.
“Just because I’m president doesn’t mean I would give up making my famous pancakes,” her dad was saying. “In fact, now we can call them Porter Presidential Pancakes!”
Liberty was hoping they could call the chef downstairs for breakfast. But the pancake tradition made her father so happy.
Maybe the chefs could sneak her something later. Liberty still couldn’t believe she lived in a house that had chefs. They cooked in a huge kitchen downstairs. And not just a huge kitchen, but a pastry shop where they made cookies, cupcakes, brownies. . . . And not only a pastry shop, but a chocolate shop.
Yes, a whole room in her house where chefs made chocolate! Liberty zoned out for a minute thinking about the chocolate shop. Mmmmm. Chocolate shop.
Liberty jumped out of bed and followed her dad down to the kitchen. She sat at the table and watched him as he began to mix the pancake batter. He was wearing a long chef’s apron over his suit so he wouldn’t get dirty.
“What could be better than my special pancakes?” her dad was saying, peeking into the pancake maker. “Special pancakes for a special occasion.”
Special occasion! Those two words made Liberty remember something. Something very, very good.
Liberty had been asking to visit the chocolate shop for treats.
“We need to save that for special occasions,” her mother kept telling her. But now her dad said it was a special occasion!
“I need to go somewhere really quick,” Liberty said.
“Be back in five minutes for your pancakes!” he said cheerfully.
“I will!” Liberty said, getting up from the kitchen table. She waved to Franklin to follow her out of the kitchen and into the hall.
Liberty and Franklin headed to the door that led away from the president’s family’s part of the house.
The White House has 132 rooms on three floors. The second and third floors are where the president and his family live. Liberty had gotten lost a lot the first couple days. But now she knew where everything was. Especially the most important places like the movie theater and bowling alley. And the chocolate shop.
Liberty opened the door to go downstairs.
SAM was standing right outside the door, ready to go. SAM was one of Liberty’s Secret Service agents. SAM was very tall and had no hair. He always wore a dark secret agent suit and an earpiece in his ear and sometimes he wore very cool sunglasses.
“Good morning, Liberty,” SAM said. “Good morning, Franklin.”
SAM’s job was pretty much to follow her around everywhere. Liberty liked him a lot. Franklin did too, because SAM had discovered exactly the right way to scritch him.
Franklin saw SAM and immediately plopped down on the ground and rolled over.
“Are you excited about your first day of school?” SAM asked Liberty, scritching Franklin’s belly.
“Mostly,” Liberty said. And then she looked around, and lowered her voice. “But first, we have a top secret mission.”
“Proceed with instructions, Rottweiler,” he said quietly.
Rottweiler was Liberty’s Secret Code Name. Okay, her real official Secret Service Code name was Ruffles. Ugh. So Liberty had created her own Secret Secret Code Name: Rottweiler. Much better.
“Follow me,” Liberty said. She headed to the private elevator and pressed the button to take her downstairs.
“May I ask where we’re going?” SAM asked her.
“Oh, just, you know. Downstairs,” Liberty said as the elevator door opened.
“Hmm,” SAM said. “Go ahead, Rottweiler. Go ahead, SCRAPS.”
SCRAPS was Franklin’s secret secret code name. Secret Canine Rover Assistant to the President. SCRAPS got into the elevator.
The elevator bumped down to the bottom level and Liberty skipped out and down the hallway.
Rottweiler had arrived at her secret location.
The chocolate shop.
Liberty closed her eyes and breathed in deep. Ah. Sweet, sweet smell of yum.
“Ahem,” SAM said. “Before we step inside, do your parents know where you are?”
Liberty opened her eyes.
“Well,” Liberty said. “You know how I’ve asked to come to the chocolate shop every day since we moved in last week?”
“Yes,” SAM said. “Morning, noon, and night.”
“Well, my mom said that I can only come here on special occasions,” Liberty explained. “And my dad just said it himself. He said, ‘Liberty! Today is a special occasion.’”
“Hmm,” said SAM.
“Special occasion equals chocolate occasion,” Liberty said. “But sorry, Franklin, you have to wait outside. Chocolate isn’t safe for dogs. Poor you.”
And Liberty walked into the chocolate shop. It was a small room with a long counter and lots of shelves. There was a chef wearing a tall white chef’s hat and mixing up a big pot of chocolate.
The wonderful heaven that was the chocolate shop.
“Good morning, Chocolate Chef of Awesome,” Liberty said.
“And good morning to you, Miss Liberty.” The chef turned to her. “Would you like to peek at today’s creations?”
“Definitely!” Liberty said.
Liberty went over to the counter and saw a tray full of chocolates. There were chocolate-themed snowflakes and snowmen and snow women.
“Wow,” Liberty breathed. “Just wow.”
“Thank you,” said the chef. “Today we have a winter theme at our lunch for honored guests. And now we also have an early honored guest. The First Daughter. What may we do for you?”
Well, Liberty had been thinking that the perfect new First Day of School tradition would be . . . chocolate for breakfast! She could have chocolate snowflakes, pancakes with chocolate syrup, and chocolate snowmen and snow women for dessert.
Liberty was just about to share her great idea with the chef when her cell phone rang.
Liberty looked down and her cell to see who was calling her.
POTUS. That meant the President of the United States was calling.
Liberty loved her new shiny turquoise cell phone! Her dad had given it to her on Inauguration Day so he could stay connected to her. And usually that was a good thing. Except right now, when she was trying to get chocolate for breakfast.
“Hello, Mr. President,” Liberty answered.
“First, pancakes are ready!” he said. “And second, I had this funny feeling you’d made your way downstairs. Perhaps to your favorite place in the house?”
“Why, yes,” Liberty confessed cheerfully. “I’m in the chocolate shop.”
“Hmm,” her father said.
“But Dad! Remember how Mom said I could only come here on special occasions? You just said that today was a special occasion!”
“That is a somewhat convincing argument,” her father said. “What were you thinking of getting?”
Oh, great. Liberty knew chocolate for breakfast wasn’t the best idea. And then she had a brilliant idea.
“Hot chocolate!” she said. “Cocoa for breakfast!”
Yummy. And something to wash down the taste of soapy pancakes.
Score! Liberty’s father said yes, definitely, hot chocolate would be perfect with pancakes.
“Why don’t you bring me a cup too,” her dad said. “And—whoa!”
And . . . whoa?
“Whoa! I’m under attack!” Liberty’s dad made a very weird noise.
“Dad? Is everything okay?” Liberty asked him.
“The sugar gliders are dive-bombing me!” he yelped. “They smelled the syrup.”
Uh-oh! Liberty had two new pet sugar gliders. Sugar gliders are marsupials that have big blinky eyes and can glide through the air like flying squirrels.
She had named one Roosevelt, after President Roosevelt. The other one she had named Suzy. She had no reason except she liked the name Suzy.
They were cute. But they went a little crazy around sweet food. Like pancake syrup.
“Be right there,” Liberty said into the phone.
“Rottweiler needs to be on the move immediately,” she announced to SAM. “Mission: Rescue Rugged from Sugar Gliders.”
Well, almost immediately. She waited until the chef put whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on the hot chocolates. Yum.
© 2010 Julia DeVillers