Read an Excerpt
'Dad-dy!' 'So-phie!' Sophie LaCroix closed her brown eyes behind her glasses so she
wouldn't narrow them at her father or, worse, roll them at him. Daddy
didn't like eye-rolling.
'Look, Soph,' Daddy said. 'I can't break it down for you any
further. The answer is no. End of discussion.'
Sophie wailed anyway, pipsqueak voice rising to the kitchen ceiling.
'I'll be the only one in the whole entire school
who doesn't get to see the movie.'
Daddy squinted at her as he shrugged
into his black NASA jacket. He didn't
like whining either. 'I'm sure there are
other parents who don't want their
twelve-year-olds seeing a PG--13 movie
'It's a documentary!' Sophie said.
'It's about real life.'
Daddy's dark eyebrows shot up. 'That makes it okay?' He picked
up his laptop case and ran his other hand down the back of his spiky
hair. 'Drive-by shootings and foul language are not a part of your
real life, and I'd like to keep it that way.'
'What do I tell Mrs. Clayton and Ms. Hess?'
'Tell them I'll be calling your principal with a full explanation.'
When Sophie opened her mouth, Daddy closed it with a black
look. He didn't like arguing more than he didn't like anything.
He's calling Mr. Bentley? Sophie thought as she hoisted her
backpack over her shoulder. That is the most humiliating thing
I can think of.
It was probably worse than humiliating. She'd have to ask
her best friend Fiona Bunting, the walking dictionary, for a
word to describe feeling like a kindergartner in a seventh-grade
'Don't forget, it's your day to watch Zeke after school,' Daddy
said from the doorway. 'Walk you to the bus stop, Baby Girl?'
How about NO! Sophie wanted to shriek. But she didn't even
want to find out how much Daddy didn't like shrieking.
As she trudged to the corner, Sophie felt as if she had a chain attached
to her ankle, and for somebody as small twelve-year-old as she was, that
was not a good thing. She could almost imagine it clanking on the sidewalk.
But, then, she could imagine almost anything.
But I don't have to imagine how heinous this situation is! she told
herself. It wasn't just having to babysit her six-year-old brother while
her mom, who was going to have LaCroix Kid Number Four in a few
months, cooked dinner. Zeke wasn't even that bad since he'd figured
out New Baby Girl wasn't going to wipe out life as he knew it. And
it wasn't just that Daddy wouldn't let her go to the movie that
everybody in the entire school was seeing that day---except her.
It's just all of it, Sophie thought.
She climbed aboard the bus and slumped into her usual seat behind
Harley and Gill, the two soccer-playing girls Sophie and her friends
(the Corn Flakes) referred to as the Wheaties.
'Hi, you guys,' she said.
But they only nodded at her vaguely. Their eyes were glued to
the other side of the bus, a few rows back.
'Dude,' Gill said, her green eyes wide. 'Cell phones?' She
shook her head so that two lanky tendrils of reddish hair fell out
from under her wool billed cap.
As usual, husky Harley just grunted.
Sophie swiveled around to catch sight of two girls sitting on
the reserved-for-eighth-graders-only side. The very blonde one
with even blonder highlights had a phone pressed to her ear, and
her striking blue eyes were dancing a reply to the person on the
other end. She pulled her hair up in a handful and let it fall like a
fountain of blondeness to her shoulders as she laughed.
'It's only eight o'clock in the morning,' Sophie whispered. 'Who
could she be talking to?'
'Probably the girl next to her,' Gill said.
The talker's seatmate was a slender girl with a wispy cut to her
honey brown hair that made her look like a stylish elf. Her lips were
moving, but she seemed to be chatting to nobody.
'Where's her phone?' Sophie said to Gill.
'In her ear,' Gill said. 'See the wire coming down?'
Just then the girl glanced their way, and Gill and Harley turned in
their seats like they were about to be shot. But although there was an
unspoken rule that seventh graders didn't stare at eighth graders, just
like they didn't even venture into the eighth-grade halls, Sophie
couldn't pull her eyes from the girl's golden brown ones as she
raised her teen-magazine eyebrows at Sophie. Even though they'd
been riding the same bus for three months, it was the first time
she seemed to notice Sophie. Being seen by a girl who looked so
together was like being under a spell.
The girl spread out her palms as if to say, 'Well?'
'Sorry,' Sophie said. She shriveled back into her seventh-grade
'I can't believe they're taking cell phones to school,' Gill
whispered over the back of the seat.
'I'll never even own one 'til I'm out of college or something,'
Sophie whispered back. Even her fourteen-year-old sister, Lacie,
didn't have one, and she was in high school.
Sophie scooted closer to the bus window and gazed out through
her glasses as Poquoson, Virginia, went by in a November mist.
I'll never even get a phone in my room, she thought. My conversations
with my friends might as well be on the six o'clock news.
Not to mention the whole rest of her life. In less than an hour,
everybody in her section at school would know that her parents
didn't think she could handle a PG--13 movie.
They're way overprotective, Sophie thought. And then she
squirmed a little. Back in October, when Mama and Daddy had come
to the school to stand up for her, she had liked them being her guardian
angels. But this was way different, she decided. And way confusing.
She ran her hand over the top of her very-short-but-shiny light
brown hair like she always did when she was confused, and she closed
her eyes. Time to imagine Jesus. And of course, there he was, with his
kind eyes, waiting for her questions.
Okay, so what is WITH Mama and Daddy lately? she murmured
to him in her mind. The baby that hasn't even been born yet has more
privacy than I do!
Sophie opened her eyes and squirmed some more. It didn't feel
exactly right to be complaining to Jesus about her parents. There
was that whole 'honor your father and mother' thing to consider.
She was still pondering it when she got to her locker. Most of the
other Corn Flakes were waiting for her. That was the name they'd
given themselves when the Corn Pops, the wickedly popular girls,
had said they were 'flakes.' To the Corn Flakes, that meant they
were free to be themselves and never put down other people the
way the Corn Pops did.
'How come you weren't online last night?' Fiona tucked back
the wayward strand of golden-brown hair that was always
creeping over one magic-gray eye. 'I wanted to IM you. I tried
emailing, but you didn't answer.'
'Guess,' Sophie said. She dropped her backpack and went
after her combination lock.
'Lacie had another paper to write,' said Darbie O'Grady. She
swept both sides of her reddish bob behind her ears. 'I bet you
were up to ninety.'
In Darbie's Irish slang, that meant Sophie was ready to explode.
Sophie nodded and yanked her locker open.
'You're so lucky you're an only child, Darbie,' she said. 'You