Piper Reed Forever Friend
By Kimberly Willis Holt, Christine Davenier
Henry Holt and Company Copyright © 2012 Kimberly Willis Holt
All rights reserved.
A Fish Tale
In December, Chief got his new orders from the U.S. Navy. We were moving to Norfolk, Virginia. I'd be saying good-bye to the Gypsy Club that I started here, but since Michael and his twin sister, Nicole, had moved to Norfolk last month, I already had two friends there. Enough for a new Gypsy Club. I couldn't wait for my new adventure to begin.
When we moved to Pensacola, Florida, fifteen months ago, there'd been five of us — Chief, Mom, my sisters Tori and Sam, and me. Now two more had joined our family — our dog, Bruna, and Sam's goldfish, Peaches the Second.
Bruna would be moving with us, but not Peaches the Second. Sam pitched a big fit when Chief broke the news. "That's not fair! Just because Peaches the Second is a fish?"
"Sam, just think about it," I said. "This is what it would be like for Peaches the Second trapped in a plastic bag on a long car ride." I sucked in my cheeks and crossed my eyes. Then I rocked side to side.
Even Tori glanced up from her poetry book and laughed. And she hardly ever cracked up at anything I did. I guess thirteen-year-olds don't have a sense of humor. At least I had three years to go before I lost mine.
Chief patted the spot next to him on the couch. "Come here, Sam."
Sam plopped near him, but crossed her arms over her chest. "But, Daddy, what's going to happen to Peaches the Second?"
I placed my hands over my heart, trying to look sad like someone at a funeral. "Most goldfish eventually experience the great flush in the sky," I said.
"The what?" Sam asked.
My fingers flushed an imaginary commode handle in the air, and I said, "Kerplunk!"
Sam burst into tears.
Tori slammed her book shut. "Piper Reed, you are mean!"
"Piper," Chief said, "you aren't helping matters." He wrapped his arm around Sam and said, "Sweetheart, the drive would be too long for Peaches."
"Peaches the Second," Sam corrected him.
Chief hit his forehead with a flat palm. "Of course, Peaches the Second." Then he winked at me. "Yes, she could ... uh ..."
I began to sing the only funeral song I could remember. "In the sweet by and by ..."
Chief lowered his eyebrows at me just as Mom walked into the room with a laundry basket.
"Why don't you give Peaches the Second to Brady?" I asked.
"That's a great idea, Piper," Mom said. "Brady loves Peaches."
"THE SECOND!" Sam yelled.
Mom sighed. She was sorting through the laundry, tossing the unmatched socks into a pile. Chief kept a sack of unmatched socks and tried to match them up each time he did laundry. He called it the Single Sock Looking for Love Sack. Mom ignored the sack and threw them into her art bag for sock puppets or some other art class project.
When Tori had found out, she'd said, "Mom's and Dad's sock systems totally contradict each other."
"Yep," I'd said, "and that's why the Reed family goes around sockless most of the time."
Then Mom pitched one of my favorite socks in her art project pile, the one with jets all over it.
"Wait!" I dashed across the room and rescued it. Once the sock was safe in my hands, I asked Sam, "So what do you think about giving her to Brady?"
"But I don't want to give Peaches the Second to him," Sam whined. "Then I won't have a fish." She puckered up her lips and started that pretend cry she used whenever she couldn't get the tears to come.
Chief stood up and headed toward the kitchen. "Sam, if you give your fish to Brady, we'll buy you a new one when we get to Norfolk."
Sam wiped her phony tears with her shirttail. "How about two?"
The pantry door squeaked open, and Chief pulled out a loaf of bread. "Okay, two goldfish."
Sam should be a lawyer. She knew how to get Chief to cave in. He was at his weakest when he was hungry.
"Everyone grab a plate," Chief called out. "I'm making tuna fish salad sandwiches for dinner tonight."
"What?" Sam squealed. "How could you?"
"Chief didn't say goldfish sandwiches." A picture of Peaches the Second flopping between two pieces of rye bread flashed in my mind, and I started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Sam asked.
"Nothing," I said. "It's kind of a private joke."
Tori chuckled. "That sounds fishy."
Even I cracked up. That was the first time in her entire life my big sister, Tori Reed, said anything funny.
Moving to Norfolk would be like no other move. Usually when Chief was assigned to a different place, I had to make all new friends. The best part about these orders was that Michael and Nicole were already there. Maybe they had started recruiting members to the Gypsy Club. Then it would be the biggest and best Gypsy Club in the world. My heart skipped beats just thinking about that.
Thursday was my last day at the Blue Angels Elementary School. We couldn't have a going-away party at school because most of the students were military kids. If we had a party every time someone moved, we'd be throwing a party every couple of weeks. Although in my opinion that would be a lot more fun than learning about history and fractions. My last day kind of felt like a party anyway because everyone was super nice to me. Even mean ole Kirby, who was never nice.
At recess, Stanley said, "I can give you my e-mail address again if you lost it. All of my friends in Norfolk must have lost mine when I moved here. I haven't heard a word from them."
"I still have your e-mail address, Stanley. You and Hailey will be the first ones that I write. Of course it might take me a while since I'll be unpacking, and I'll have to visit Michael and Nicole. We'll have a lot to catch up on."
Stanley's shoulders lifted. "Don't forget my grandfather lives in Virginia Beach, which happens to be very close to Norfolk."
How could I forget? Stanley had been telling us ever since Michael and Nicole learned they were moving there.
At the end of the school day, Ms. Gordon said, "Piper Reed, good luck in Norfolk. We'll miss you." When she said that, her eye didn't twitch one bit.
I didn't want Ms. Gordon to be sad. So even though she wasn't my favorite teacher, I said, "If you give me your e-mail address, I'll write to you."
Ms. Gordon stared at me a long second. Then she opened her desk drawer and she wrote her e-mail address on a tiny Post-it note.
I could hardly read her itsy-bitsy scribble. So I had to spell it out loud. "Does this say d-i-s-c-o-l-i-v-e-s at wired dot com?"
Ms. Gordon nodded, and this time I noticed her left eye twitching. She really ought to see a doctor about that. She might have some terrible eyeball affliction.
Earlier that day, my reading teacher, Ms. Mitchell (who was my favorite teacher), gave me her e-mail address and a book of short stories about dogs, the only kind of stories I think are worth reading. I would miss Ms. Mitchell, and when she said goodbye, she held out her hand and said, "Piper, it has been a pleasure to work with you. You're one of the smartest people I know."
"I am?" I really was surprised when she said that. Tori made straight A's, and Sam was practically a prodigy. But no one had ever said I was one of the smartest people they knew.
"Yes, Piper, you're very smart. Never forget that."
"Am I one of the smartest kids in the school?"
"Yes," she said.
Ms. Mitchell smiled. "No doubt."
I couldn't stop myself. I needed to get a handle on this smart thing. "How about Florida?"
She laughed. "Oh, Piper Reed, I'm going to miss you."
After school, Hailey and Stanley came over to my house to say good-bye. It would also be my last Gypsy Club meeting in Pensacola.
"Let's say the Gypsy Club Creed," I told them. "I want to make sure you get all the words right so that after I leave, you can still have club meetings."
"I know all the words," Hailey said.
Stanley, the newest member, scratched his head. "I think I do, but maybe we should say them just in case."
Hailey sighed real big, like she would rather be anywhere else but my bedroom reciting the creed.
I looked at her, waiting.
"Okay!" she said.
We stood, saluted, and began:
We are the Gypsies of land and sea.
We move from port to port.
We make friends everywhere we go.
And everywhere we go, we let people know
That we're the Gypsies of land and sea.
After we finished, Stanley said, "Maybe my family will move to Norfolk again."
"That would be awesome," I said.
"Ours won't." Hailey blew a big bubble, popped it with her finger, and chewed. "My dad's tour of duty ends in June. Then we're moving back to Wisconsin near my grandparents. I'll get to be with them every day."
"Lucky." My grandparents lived in Louisiana. We wouldn't get to see them again until they visited us in the summer.
"Maybe I'll get to see you at spring break," said Stanley. "We might go to my grandparents' in Virginia Beach. Until then I'll e-mail you."
"Great," I said, even though I knew that meant I'd be receiving an e-mail from Stanley every single day.
"I'll e-mail you, too," said Hailey. "Well, I better say good-bye. I have a lot of homework." She stepped forward and hugged me.
Before we parted, Stanley yelled, "Group hug!" Then he joined in, wrapping his arms around us, pressing his cheek against the back of my head.
Hailey and I shook loose, causing poor Stanley to stand there hugging the air.
"Come on, Stanley," Hailey said. "Piper probably needs to pack."
I watched them step away, and that silly lump I had in my throat when Michael and Nicole left for Norfolk came back. I hated good-byes. My life had been filled with them. If your dad or mom is in the Navy, saying good-bye is part of your life.
When Stanley's and Hailey's sneakers met the sidewalk, they swung around and faced me. Then they cupped their hands around their mouths and yelled, "One, two, three — GET OFF THE BUS, PIPER REED!"
That night, our next door neighbors Yolanda and Abe invited us over for a goodbye dinner. Brady showed Sam the spot where he planned to keep Peaches the Second's bowl. He pointed to a place on a table in front of the living room window.
"Peaches Two can look outside," he said.
Sam's hands flew to her hips. "Her name is Peaches the Second."
"Peaches Two is her nickname," said Brady.
Uh-oh. Too bad Brady didn't wait until Sam left to give that goldfish a nickname. Then he could have called her Rocky or Scarface or anything he wanted. But Brady was three, and he hadn't caught on to Sam's controlling ways.
Sam looked from the spot on the table to the window. "Peaches the Second will get too hot in front of the window. She'll fry."
"Is that what you call a fish fry?" I asked.
Yolanda giggled, and Abe shook his head, grinning. "Oh, mercy!" he said. "Piper, we're going to miss you."
"Yes, we are," Yolanda said.
Gosh, it seemed everyone in Pensacola was going to miss me.
Friday we left NAS Pensacola for NS Norfolk. Before we got in the car, Mom handed Abe our camera and asked him to take a picture of us all in front of our home.
"This makes number nine for Karl and me," Mom said. She wiped a tear from her left eye as she gave Yolanda another quick hug.
It was my sixth move and Tori's eighth. I studied our front yard, where my sisters and I had ran through the sprinkler system the day Chief left for ship duty over a year ago. That was just one of the memories I'd made here. Mom said our lives were like quilts. Each patch represented a place we'd called home, and each stitch was a memory that would always bind us there.
"We'll stay in touch," Yolanda said.
Dad shook hands with Abe, and my sisters and I gave Brady a big squeeze. He promised Sam he'd find a good spot for Peaches the Second. Then he ran over to Bruna and pointed his finger at her and said, "Woll over!"
And of course, Bruna did. She always listened to Brady.
Before we pulled out of the driveway, I said, "Don't forget to set the trip odometer, Chief."
Chief set it to zero, then he started the engine.
"And don't forget to say good-bye to the street," Sam said.
Without saying a word, Chief made a last round on our street and tapped the horn about a dozen times. It was our tradition. We did it every time we moved. Abe, Yolanda, and Brady waved at us from their front yard.
"I'll miss Brady," said Sam. "I'm glad I gave him Peaches the Second."
Just as we turned the corner, I saw Hailey and Stanley parked on their bikes. They waved their arms high, and Hailey honked the horn on her handlebars. Trring, trring, trring.
I waved back, and Chief sounded the horn one more time.
"I'll miss my friends," I said. "And the Blue Angels."
"I'll miss my students," Mom said.
"Who will you miss most, Tori?" I asked.
She didn't answer me, so I turned around to look at her. I was going to say, "Will anyone miss you?" But just as I opened my mouth, I stopped. She was staring down at her book, but I could tell she was crying. Probably over some boy. Probably over Stanley's brother Simon, who could do no wrong. Still, seeing my big sister with tears dropping on her book made my gut hurt. I turned and faced forward.
Chief glanced in the rearview mirror. "I'll miss McDonald's," he said.
Then we all laughed, even Tori, because, of course, no matter where we were, there was always a McDonald's.
As we drove past the front gate, I saluted the guard, even though he didn't see me. "I'll be back," I whispered, "when I'm a Blue Angel."
Bruna finally calmed down and curled up on the floorboard. For the first forty miles, she'd stared out the back window and barked at every passing car. She always did that, as if every car might be smuggling a cat.
Sam plugged her fingers into her ears. "Peaches the Second would never do this."
"Peaches the Second is a goldfish," I said. "Goldfish don't bark."
"I hope Brady remembers to feed her," Sam said.
I sighed. "I hope Brady remembers not to overfeed her like someone I know once did to a poor helpless goldfish."
Sam glared at me. Then she opened her book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, and began to read.
I turned toward Tori, waiting for her to snap at me, but her earbuds were stuffed inside her ears, and her head was bobbing to the music on her MP3 player. This was going to be a very long ride.
While Tori ignored the whole family, Sam insisted on reading every sign we passed. Thanks to her, I knew how far it was to every gas station and fast food restaurant. Even though my sisters drove me crazy, the thing I liked best about traveling with them was each night we squished together in a hotel bed like olives packed in a jar. Sometimes Tori told one of her stupid stories, which put me to sleep quicker than counting sheep. Her stories were so boring, I could hit dreamland in three minutes flat.
And the thing I liked next to the best about staying in hotels was waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. That was like having dessert for breakfast and a whole lot yummier than Mom's homemade healthy granola with flaxseeds.
Before we got back on the road the second morning, Tori and I went to the hotel's business office to check our e-mail. I was hoping to find one from Michael. He'd emailed me only once since I told him we were moving to Norfolk.
When we headed toward the office, Chief called out, "Make it fast, girls. We need to be on the road by o-eight hundred."
Tori took forever reading her e-mail from all her poetry club friends. I tapped my foot.
"Okay, okay," she said. "Just one second, and I'll be finished."
Finally it was my turn. I had only one e-mail. It was from Stanley. And it was surprisingly short.
I miss you and Bruna. Pensacola hasn't been the same since you left. Hailey doesn't want to be in the Gypsy Club anymore, and a club isn't a club unless there is more than one person.
Your Gypsy Club pal forever,
P.S. Tell Sam I went over to Brady's and checked on Peaches the Second. She (or is Peaches the Second a guy fish?) is still alive and swimming.
I was disappointed I didn't receive an e-mail from Michael, but now I was more down about there not being a Gypsy Club in Pensacola. I'd worked hard to start that club. I made invitations and recruited members like a good leader. How could Hailey drop out? Something had to be done. Stanley had to find more members, members that would be true to the Gypsy Club Creed.
When I got back to the van, I decided this wouldn't happen in Norfolk, Virginia. First of all, our club already had three members — Michael, Nicole, and me. Our mission would be to make this Gypsy Club the biggest and best ever. Knowing Michael, they probably already had twenty members. I couldn't wait to find out. I hoped Michael, Nicole, and I would be in the same class like fourth grade at the Blue Angels Elementary School. Even if we weren't, I'd get to see them every lunch and recess.
At NAS Pensacola, the officer housing, where they lived, was only a few streets away from the enlisted housing where we lived. I hoped it was that way in Norfolk.
I decided to write a list.
Things I Hope Happen in Norfolk, Virginia
1. I hope Michael and Nicole are in my class.
2. I hope Michael has started the Norfolk branch of the Gypsy Club.
3. I hope there are at least twenty people in the Gypsy Club.
4. I hope we can walk to the beach like we could in Pensacola.
5. I hope I have my own room.
6. I hope Tori's MP3 player earbuds get stuck inside her ears. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Piper Reed Forever Friend by Kimberly Willis Holt, Christine Davenier. Copyright © 2012 Kimberly Willis Holt. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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