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Click Here to Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade
By Denise Vega
Little Brown For Young ReadersCopyright © 2005 Denise Vega
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAlphabet Day
Or should I say E-Day, as in Envelope Day. July and I stood on her front porch, fighting for the small amount of shade from the maple planted several feet from the house. The air was still and hot, and we fanned ourselves in quick bursts with the identical envelopes we clutched in our hands. In these envelopes were our futures. Molly Brown Middle School divided each seventh- and eighth-grade class into three "tracks" of about 150 kids. So rather than feeling like a small fish in a 450-student pond, we'd feel like a small fish in a 150-student pond, going to all our classes with a mix of these 150 kids.
We were about to find out if we'd be swimming in the same pond.
"Ready?" Jilly asked.
My heart bounced up and down in my chest. "I'm nervous," I said. "What if we're not on the same track?"
"Don't jinx it, Erin." Jilly stuck her finger in one corner of her envelope, ready to rip.
"One, two, three!"
We tore open the envelopes. "C," Jilly said at the same time that I said, "A."
"Ahhhhh," I wailed. "I jinxed it."
"This is terrible," July said, jumping off the porch and sinking into the grass. "Are you sure you read yours right?"
A and C don't exactly look the same, but Iheld my letter out to her anyway.
"A," she muttered. "This is the worst."
I flopped down next to her. It was worse than the worst. It was a disaster. We'd only been separated once in elementary school. We'd always been in class together. Always.
"I can't walk to classes by myself," July said.
"Oh, God," Jilly said, sitting up. "I can't go into the cafeteria by myself."
The cafeteria, aka the Humiliation Station. I hadn't even thought about that. All those eyes turning to stare as I walked in, seeing right away that I was BY MYSELF, which meant no one to whisper secrets to or laugh with as we looked for a table, which meant no way to look like I fit in, which meant LOSER.
I wrapped my arms around my knees, in spite of the heat. "What are we going to do?"
Jilly frowned. "I need to think about this." She stroked her legs, which were freshly shaved and unmarked. I admired that. I always had at least one cut and usually missed a whole area near my ankle so that I had a little clump of fur that I didn't notice until I was nowhere near a razor. But she always got every spot so her legs were smooth and unblemished.
Jilly slapped the grass on either side of her and jumped to her feet. "Let's go shopping."
"How can you think of shopping at a time like this?"
"It's just the thing to take our minds off of it," Jilly said. "The ideas will come if we're not thinking about it."
I hated to shop. Especially for clothes, which Jilly loved to do. Comfort before style. That was my motto. But I had to admit I wanted to look good for seventh grade. I was practically a teenager and almost-teens needed to have style and flare, even if they had feet the size of a small whaling ship. And Jilly was the queen of style and flare. If it wasn't for her, I'd look like a moron.
"I've got just the thing for you," Jilly said, as if reading my mind. "It'll knock the socks off the MBMS boys."
"I don't want to knock their socks off," I said. "What if their feet stink?"
Jilly laughed. "Well, then, let's knock their hats off. Boys always wear hats."
We both giggled. But then I felt a little twinge in my belly. Did I really want to knock socks, hats, or any other clothing off a boy's body? That would make them notice me, which would immediately reveal my boy/girl loser status.
"So, shopping?" Jilly's face lit up, as if she was asking me to go to Web Design World (the ultimate web design conference) or a WNBA game, not just the boring mall.
"Sure," I said reluctantly.
"I saw these really cute jeans at PacSun," Jilly said.
"All they have are low-waist jeans," I said. "We're not allowed to show our belly button at Molly Brown."
"That's what shirts are for, Erin," July said. "I put jeans and a cool T-shirt on hold for you."
I made a face.
"What?" Jilly asked. "It's jeans and a T-shirt. That's what you like to wear, right?"
I nodded. But not those kind of jeans. I liked regular jeans, not the ones that sat low on my nonexistent hips. And why did she have to put them on hold as if it were a done deal?
"So, what's the problem?"
"Well, I'd kind of like to try them on first."
Jilly laughed. "Duh. I just put them on hold so they'd be there if we wanted them."
Of course. It wasn't like I had to get the outfit if I didn't want it. "Thanks."
* * *
After we'd bought the PacSun outfit, Jilly grabbed my arm and squeezed. "You're going to look so cute in that."
I had to admit I liked what I'd seen in the dressing-room mirror. My hips were still nonexistent, but the jeans weren't too low and they made it seem like there was a little curve there. Last time July had me try on some that, if I bent too far over, made my butt crack show. I'd prefer not to share my crack with the rest of the world, thank you very much.
"If you wore bikini underwear, that wouldn't be a problem," she had told me.
"Bikini underwear feels like it's going to fall off," I said. And a thong was like purposely giving yourself a wedgie all day long. Why would you do that? I couldn't believe some girls wore them. Personally, I liked my underwear to have some substance. Especially because I played sports and didn't want to worry about butt cracks or wedgies during a layup.
"I'll be over to pick out your clothes on Sunday," Jilly said as we left the store.
I gave her the thumbs-up. She came over every Sunday, picked my outfits for the week, and made a list for me. It was great because I always looked good, even though sometimes I felt like an idiot for not being able to do it myself.
As we headed down the mall, Jilly stopped. "Oh, my God! Duh." She turned to me. "You'll switch tracks. I can't believe I didn't think of it before." She snapped her fingers the way she always does when she gets an idea. "Have your mom call the school in the morning and get you on C Track."
"Okay," I said. I kind of wanted to be on A Track because it was closer to the computer lab, a point I'd noticed when we visited the school last year. But that was okay.
"Good," Jilly said. She sighed as we headed to the main entrance where we were meeting her mother. "I can't imagine going through seventh grade without you."
I smiled. "Me neither."
* * *
ETM (Evil Torture Mom) refused to call the school. "They don't allow switching unless there are special circumstances," she said. "The policy hasn't changed since Chris went there."
"This is special," I protested. "It's beyond special. It's catastrophic."
"It's all about balance," Mom said. "They carefully select the students for each track based on several factors."
"One switch is not going to change the balance, Mom." My insides sank all the way down to my heels, settling in somewhere around my calluses.
My mom shook her head, and I called in a report to Jilly.
"What if you find someone who would switch to A?" she said. Brilliant.
I headed for the desk in the kitchen, opening the drawer where we kept the school directory. I knew which kids from Jordan Elementary were going to MBMS. I explained the plan to my mom, who was chopping potatoes at the counter.
"Erin." Mom stopped chopping and looked at me. I didn't meet her eyes.
"After I find someone, you can call the school." Confidence surged through me with this new plan. "I don't know if I can promise I'll find a girl with big feet who likes basketball and computers, but I'll try."
I could feel Mom smile and knew her eyes were full of compassion. "Erin."
"Would you stop saying my name?" I held my finger in mid-dial and looked at her. "Even if I find someone, you're not going to call for a switch, are you?"
My mom sighed. "Even if I thought they'd go for it, I don't think I would. This is an opportunity for you to spread your wings, Erin."
I gripped the phone. "I don't have any wings, Mom."
"You don't have any other friends, either," Chris said. He had shuffled in just then, treading his usual path to the refrigerator.
"Shut up." I dropped the phone back in its cradle.
"Honey," my mom said, coming to stand beside me.
"You're so mean!" I said. "You could call right now and keep Jilly and me together, but you won't do it. I hate you!" I ran out of the room and up the stairs. Slamming the door behind me, I flung myself on the bed, burying my face in my arms.
A few minutes later there was a knock at my door.
"Erin?" Mom spoke softly, as if I might be sleeping. "Erin, can I come in?"
"No!" I shouted, even though I realized in that instant that I did want her to. I waited. If she asked again, I'd say yes.
After what seemed like hours but was probably just a few seconds, Mom spoke. "If you want to talk, I'll be in my office."
I snorted. I wasn't going to go to her. Besides, what was there to talk about? She had deliberately decided to ruin my life and there was nothing I could do about it.
"We'll figure something out," Jilly said when she called that night to find out what had happened. "We're best friends. They can't keep us apart."
"Right," I said. But inside I had a feeling they could.
Excerpted from Click Here to Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade by Denise Vega Copyright © 2005 by Denise Vega . Excerpted by permission.
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