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It’s hot. Right now as I sit on my front steps waiting for my BFF, Hailey Jones, and her mom to take us to the air-conditioned mall on the third day of an awful heat wave, it’s the kind of hot that makes me wonder if I could actually dissolve into a unrecognizable blob of goo by the time Hailey gets here. Breaking News: Young Girl Melts on Sidewalk During Record Heat is what I’m thinking.
It’s also the kind of hot that makes me wish for a chill in the air and sweaters and, believe it or not, school. School just goes with fall. School also goes with seeing my forever and ever crush, Michael Lawrence, every day. I haven’t seen him since the town’s Fourth of July fireworks display, which was awesome. Hailey, Michael and his friend Frank, and I all went together. I couldn’t really call it a double date since Hailey says she doesn’t have a crush on Frank, but he definitely has a crush on her and maybe one of these days Hailey will like him back. Hailey says he’s a really nice guy, but his hair is too dark and his ears are too big for her taste. I think she’s actually afraid to like someone she knows has a big crush on her. But that secret’s just between me and me.
Anyway, the way we decided to go together is because we ran into each other at the movies the night before and all decided to go together to the fireworks, so it was a group decision. I don’t think that officially counts as a double date. Still, Michael and I shared a cotton candy and sat pretty close while the fireworks were happening. I couldn’t tell what was making my heart beat faster—the fireworks or sitting on a picnic blanket in the dark with Michael Lawrence!
Since then though, I haven’t seen him, like, at all. It’s been more than six weeks. He went to baseball camp, Hailey went to soccer camp, and I went to journalism camp. Hailey couldn’t understand why I’d want to spend any part of my summer writing. But journalism is my passion, just like soccer and sports in general are hers. I got to brush up on my reporting skills and learned lots of cool stuff about being a reporter. One thing I learned is that I should finish the story before I think of the headline, which is hard for me. I love headlines. Martone Believes Life Is a Series of Headlines. So I guess I need to have a little more patience when it comes to putting my stamp on the story.
The only thing that bums me out about the start of school is that I’ve finished my tenure as Dear Know-It-All, the anonymous (I think!) advice columnist. It was a year-long gig, and since I did it all last year, my time is up. I can’t imagine not doing it, but I guess I’ll have more time to focus on the other writing I do for the paper. I also did NOT get to be editor in chief this year. I was hoping I would, but instead Jessica Kelly won the crown. Mr. Trigg said that I would make a great editor in chief and was one of the best reporters the Voice had ever had, but I still needed a little more experience under my belt. Jessica has been on the paper a year longer than I have, is super-organized, and a little bossy, which is maybe kind of how you need to be as editor in chief. So I get why Mr. Trigg chose her. It is an all-consuming job. I have to admit I was a little nervous about having that much responsibility, but I’m also disappointed because I was really up for the challenge. But Mr. Trigg said, “Ms. Martone, there’s still plenty of time to see great things from you,” so I guess I just need to wait.
I’ve been obsessing about who the new Know-It-All will be all summer, but I guess I’ll never know since it’s top secret. I managed never to blow my cover, as far as I know. That wasn’t an easy job, but I really grew to love it and found that every time I had to give advice to someone else, I learned something new about myself. Still, it was a lot of stress. Maybe it will be good to focus on other things now. Like not melting.
Finally, just in the nick of time, Hailey’s white car pulled up. The sun glared on it so brightly, I had to shield my eyes just to look at it. I was sweating after walking the twenty feet to the car.
“Ugh, I’m surprised I didn’t melt!” I said, slumping down into the backseat. The AC was blasting in the car. “It feels so good in here.”
“I know,” Hailey said from the front. “You have AC in your house, though, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but my mom is always turning it off when we’re not in the house.”
“Us too,” Hailey’s mom said. “It costs a fortune!”
“Well, at least walking around the ice-cold mall is free,” Hailey said. “Unless you buy stuff.”
“And speaking of buying stuff, my mom gave me some money for a back-to-school outfit,” I said, holding up my shoulder bag as if Hailey could see the money inside.
“I did the same for Hailey,” Mrs. Jones said. “I used to love getting together the perfect back-to-school outfit. It would take me weeks,” she added dreamily.
“Yeah, well, I just want to be cool and comfortable,” Hailey said, rolling her eyes, ever practical. She wasn’t one to fuss over her clothes unless a boy was involved.
I just nodded, but secretly I wanted to get the cutest outfit I could possibly find for Michael. Since he hadn’t seen me in a while, it was a chance to wow him a little bit. It’s not that I wanted to look different, just a little new, I guess. I should have asked my older sister, Allie, for some advice. She always looks great.
For the first half hour at the mall, Hailey and I walked around sipping slushies and letting the frozen air sink into our bones. Once we felt refreshed, we headed over to our favorite store to check out the latest trends.
“I don’t know,” Hailey said as I tried on a red tank top with ruffles down the front. “It’s not really you.”
“Yeah, but what if I wanted to try out a new look?” I said, looking past her in the mirror and flipping my hair from side to side. I knew it was a little much, but I felt like taking a risk.
“I think what you’re looking for is the You-Only-Better top, not the Who-Are-You? top, which is what that is,” she said, pointing at me. Then she held up a blousy white cotton shirt.
“Nah, kind of boring,” I said, waving the white shirt away. I already had a few blouses like it.
“What about this one?” Hailey said, and held up a purple tunic-style tee with a really cool green design embroidered on the front.
“Hmmm,” I said. “It would look nice with those leggings.” I pointed to a simple black pair. I grabbed it from Hailey and tried it on. It was supercute, and the green embroidery highlighted my eyes.
“Perfect! You only better,” Hailey said.
“Why not just me? Why the better part?” I asked.
“I’m just kidding with you, beauty queen,” Hailey said, grinning. She went and tried on a white T-shirt, the kind that she had a million of.
“It looks good,” I said, but didn’t she want to punch it up? “But maybe go for something a little different.”
“Come on. It’s comfortable,” Hailey whined.
I looked around quickly and grabbed a plain turquoise tank top. The color would look fantastic on her, and it wasn’t frilly or anything.
“At least another color. White’s a little boring.”
“Okay, okay,” she said, and disappeared into the dressing room with the tank top. She came out looking amazing. That was the thing with Hailey. It didn’t take much for her to look great.
“See, it makes you look even tanner! And those white capris look perfect with it.”
Hailey was looking in the mirror, a big smile spreading across her face.
“Okay, you win,” she said.
We also bought new earrings—dangly silver and green beaded ones for me, turquoise studs for her—and clear lip gloss. Mom was really strict about wearing makeup or anything, but clear lip gloss was okay with her. We were ready for the first day of school, which was now one week away!
When I came home, the house felt nice and cool since my mother and Allie were home and the AC had been blasting for a while. I went into the kitchen and got a peach and sat at the counter. One of my favorite things about summer was peaches. I ate at least one a day. I took a big bite, and the juice dribbled down my chin.
My mom came into the kitchen and handed me a napkin.
“Thanks,” I said, and wiped my mouth.
“Did you see my note that Mr. Trigg called?” Mom said.
I looked at the phone. There was a pink sticky note on it. I squinted my eyes. Sam! Mr. Trigg called. Call him back. 555-1873.
“Now I do,” I said. “Huh. I wonder why he called.” My mind started to race. Could there be an issue with Jessica Kelly? Maybe she bailed on the editor in chief post. A flippy feeling started to take over my stomach. Would that be a good thing? Was I really ready for that kind of responsibility?
“Sam?” my mom said in a worried tone. “Are you okay?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said, snapping back into reality. “I should call him back.” I got up, threw my peach pit away, and took the phone into the den. I paused for a moment before dialing. Then I took a deep breath and went for it.
“Hello?” said Mr. Trigg’s peppy British-accented voice. I have to admit I missed it.
“Hi, Mr. Trigg. This is Sam. . . .” I paused. “Martone?” I said a little unsteadily.
“Ms. Martone! How has your summer been? Brilliant, I hope?” he chirped at me.
“Yes, um, brilliant,” I said back cautiously.
“Well, I have a little business to discuss with you,” he said. I could tell there was an edge of excitement in his voice, but then again, there was always an edge of excitement in his voice.
“I would like you to have another go at the column,” he said.
Did he mean what I think he meant? “The Dear Know-It-All column?” I asked tentatively.
“No, the lunch menu column. Of course the Know-It-All column!”
“Oh,” I said, my head spinning with confusion.
“You don’t sound happy.” Mr. Trigg sounded a bit disappointed.
“No, I’m . . .” I paused. I couldn’t believe it, actually. “I’m thrilled! And surprised. Isn’t it just a one-year thing?” I asked.
“Ms. Martone, the great thing about being the newspaper advisor is that I get to make the rules. You got the best responses last year that any Know-It-All has ever had. The position is yours again, if you’ll have it.”
My face flushed. “Wow, I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’ll do it!” Mr. Trigg cleared his throat. “I mean, if you feel you’re up for it. Same deal as last year—top secret. And if for some reason you say yes now and change your mind, I need to know in the next day or two.”
It did mean the stress again and adding more to my workload, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my short career as a writer. How could I not do it? I just hoped I could keep it a secret from Hailey, Michael, and Allie for one more year.
“Of course I’ll do it!” I declared.
“Excellent!” Mr. Trigg said. “We have a staff meeting on the first day of school. Three p.m. sharp. I’ll see you then.”
I said good-bye and hung up. My face still felt warm. It was a really nice ego boost to be asked again. I had to tell someone the good news. I was bursting! Luckily, my mom was allowed to know my secret . . . again.
“Mom,” I called. She didn’t answer, and I didn’t want Allie to wonder why I was yelling. I found her in the kitchen where I’d left her. She was standing up eating a peach and reading the paper. I glanced around to make sure Allie wasn’t anywhere.
“I’m doing it again,” I whispered in a low conspiratorial voice.
My mom lowered the paper and put her peach down on a napkin in front of her. “Doing what?” she whispered back.
“I’m going to be Dear Know-It-All again. Mr. Trigg said I got the best responses from any other Know-It-All and he wants me to do another year.” This time I wasn’t so quiet.
“That’s great!” Mom said. “You must be proud of yourself.”
I nodded, beaming. Then I heard another voice in the kitchen.
“Why should she be proud of herself?” Allie called from the hallway.
“Because . . . ,” Mom said, and looked at me helplessly.
“Because Mr. Trigg called and said he wants me to do even more stories for the paper this year!” I blurted out. I saw my mom let out a breath.
Allie came padding barefoot in the kitchen. She had her hair up in a towel and a green facial mask covering her face. “Oh, big deal,” she said, and then turned on her heel and walked out. Phew.
One more year of being Dear Know-It-All—I hoped I could do it!
Posted August 20, 2013