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The first time I got in trouble for using my fantabulous mind-reading Thursday power was when I was sitting in the middle of Mr. Salmon's sixth grade math class.
I almost missed the perfect mind reading opportunity because Mr. Salmon's giant toupee was bouncing on the top of his head as he walked across the front of the room, and this totally distracted me. I chuckled, thinking of its resemblance to a furry, gray squirrel just hanging out on his head.
"Psst," I heard from behind me. I turned around and saw Mark Masters. His index finger was jammed up his nose — it was a bad habit he hadn't been able to kick. I guess he has to be known for something since he is a powerless Saturday. Mark's other hand pointed to the toupee king who now stood in front of me.
"Miss Mayberry," Mr. Salmon droned.
"Yes," I responded, polite as ever.
"Can you tell the class the square root of forty-nine?"
Of course, I knew the answer was seven. When in doubt, I always answer seven. I just love that number. Seven days in a week, after all.
"Seven," I said.
He grimaced and took a step closer to me. Did he really have to pick on me? He was a mind-reading Thursday and totally read the toupee thought out of my head — I was sure that was why he was attempting to call me out in the middle of class.
"Alright. That was an easy one," he said, pushing the thick wire-rimmed glasses up his nose. "Now tell everyone the square root of 657." A huge smirk formed on his face.
I thought back to our homework from last night, but nothing came to me. Sometimes I wished that my Monday power could conjure up answers just as quickly as it allowed me to move things with my mind.
I glanced over at my former archenemy, Ellie Preston, and tried to read the answer from her head. She shook her head two times, meaning she had no idea what the answer was. Ellie had many strengths, but mathematics was definitely not one of them.
"That's what I thought, Miss Mayberry," Mr. Salmon said through a smile. The class giggled.
As he turned his back to me and walked down the aisle, I read his mind, that's what you get for making fun of my stylish hair.
"I wouldn't call it stylish," I said quietly, not knowing what compelled me to say it aloud when I could have just thought it right back at him. I hoped he hadn't heard me, but the look in Mr. Salmon's eyes told me otherwise.
"Excuse me, Poppy?" Mr. Salmon said, walking back toward my seat. His hair bounced with each step and I chuckled to myself. At this point, all eyes were on me.
I responded confidently, "I just said I wouldn't call your hair stylish." Giggles came from every direction. Did I seriously just make fun of my teacher in front of the class? This would so not be good.
"I need to speak with you in the hall, Miss Mayberry," Mr. Salmon said, his tone deadly serious. He slicked down the furry madness on his head while a slight pink color dabbled his cheeks. The other Nova Middle students made all the typical oohs and aahs they make when anyone is sent out of the classroom.
"I know exactly what you did in there," he said, nodding his head toward the classroom door, "and I know you're getting used to this newfound Thursday-ness, but you know the rules about power usage in school!" I could tell that Mr. Salmon was getting flustered, just like he did any time he had to yell at a student. He was so odd.
"It is one thing to read the thoughts from peoples' minds, but quite another to make those thoughts known!" he whisper-yelled, and his face began to turn an orangish-pink shade. "You don't want to spend another summer at Power Academy, do you?" he asked.
Of course I didn't want to go back there, but I couldn't stop staring at the color spreading across his face. "Mr. Salmon, you're turning salmon."
Mr. Salmon's hands shot up to his face. "I, umm, I ... just don't do it again," he stammered, whipping around quickly and slamming the classroom door behind him. I just stood there, not knowing what to do next. I smiled to myself, thanking my lucky stars I didn't get sent to Principal Wobble-Wible's office.
That's when I, Poppy Rose Mayberry, realized that being a telekinetic Monday and a telepathic Thursday could actually get me into trouble. But it could also be a lot of fun!
Six Months Later
Now here I stood at Power Academy yet again. I laughed to myself as I stepped under the giant arch at the entrance of the Academy. Just like he did at last year's welcoming ceremony, greasy Mr. Grimeley was handing out squishy stress ball thingies that read Embrace Your Day, Be Special. Totally weird. Couldn't they be a bit more creative this year?
Grimeley himself didn't change much. His pants were still in good need of hemming — the bottoms curled under his unpolished shoes and made a swishing sound with every step he took.
It had been exactly one year since I entered the Academy for the first time. One year since meeting crazy Clothes-too-tight Headmistress Larriby and her greasy sidekick Mr. Grimeley. One year since I made new friends in Logan, a disappearing Friday, and Sam, a light-manipulating Wednesday. One year since my arch-nemesis, the mind-reading Thursday Ellie Preston, became one of my all-time favorite people. And, exactly one year since I found out that I am not only a telekinetic Monday, but also a mind-reading Thursday — a "cusper."
But after all the drama of last summer — crazy Larriby and greasy Grimeley hid Pickle, my adorable and furry little Yorkie — I definitely needed a little bit of convincing to come back this summer as a newly appointed camp counselor. And Ellie was the one to do just that.
"Poppy — if you aren't going with me, I will, like, seriously die," Ellie exaggerated, yet again, while plopping down on the giant purple Papasan chair in the corner of my bedroom. Pickle jumped up on her lap and begged to have her ears rubbed.
I looked at Ellie and frowned, thinking of what an embarrassment I had been at first with my lack of skills in the whole power department.
"Just think, Poppy. It's only six weeks this summer!" Ellie smiled at me, her legs now curled under her on the oversized chair. She was right. I could do six weeks. On the bright side, it was much better than being there for an entire summer.
"And then we can be back to lounging by the pool, sipping on lemonade?" I asked, and she nodded her assurance.
So after a bit of deliberation, I decided, what the heck? A few weeks at Power Academy couldn't be that bad, right? At least this time, we were getting paid.
And so it began. Clothes-too-tight Headmistress Larriby wobbled her way down the center aisle of Power Academy's library. Today she looked like a rotting tomato. A giant rotting tomato, to be exact. The red dress hugged her curves in all the wrong places and was dotted with brown fluffy fabric. This was definitely not one of her best looks, although, from what I've seen of her, she's never had a good look at all.
I glanced around to see about thirty wannabe weekday students buzzing with anticipation. The Mondays were in a corner focusing, pointing fingers, squinting eyes, and attempting to make things move with their minds. To think I was one of them last year.
A group of Wednesdays stared at the light fixture in the middle of the room. I read their minds, but they were totally empty, putting every ounce of energy into their lack of power. All those poor Wednesdays wanted to do was flip the lights on and off a few times, but by the constipated looks on their faces, they were definitely struggling. Not even the slightest sparks flew from their fingertips.
"Psst." I turned around to see Logan suddenly appear behind me. My cheeks grew warm — they did that every time he showed up. He was just too cute. He nodded in Larriby's direction. I didn't have to be a mind-reading Thursday to know that he was thinking the same thing about her outfit as I was.
"Where have you been?" I whispered. I glanced at the clock to note it was 9:15, an hour later than when we were supposed to report.
"You know, got caught up at home with Gram and Pops," he said, smiling that crooked smile at me. Not only was he a disappearing Friday, but Logan also had the luxury of being one of the few teleporting Tuesdays at Power Academy. I'm happy that Logan had two powers to focus on. I mean, I kind of feel sorry for him; I can't imagine what I'd do if my parents were gone.
A piece of dirty blond bang fell into Logan's eye. With a simple flick of my wrist, I willed the hair to shoot straight back on his head. I chuckled at the Mr. Greasy Grimeley-esque comb over I just gave him.
"Thanks a lot, Poppy," he said through a smirk. His hand ruffled the hairs back into their original position. I remembered last summer when I could barely even move a feather with my mind. Now I'd practically perfected my power. Gone are the days of flying spaghetti sticking to my dad's bald head, out-of-control dog brushes hitting Pickle, and headbands violently shattering against chalkboards. Now when I use my powers and there's a disaster, it's on purpose.
"So has anyone talked to you about what we're actually doing here?" Logan asked.
"Nope, not at all," I said, pulling my out-of-control curly red hair into a messy bun, something Ellie had recently helped me perfect. Seriously, my hair was a disaster zone last year. "Mayor Masters said that we'd be helping the powerless and stuff, but she never mentioned the specifics," I said, looking over his shoulder. Clothes-too-tight Larriby and Mayor Masters (nose-picking Mark's mom and the Mayor of Nova) were having a heated discussion.
"Well, if it's anything like last year, I'm out," he said, leaning back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest.
His comment brought me back to those few awful weeks at the prison that was Power Academy. In order to help us come into our weekday powers last summer, Larriby and Grimeley had hidden our personal items from us. My precious dog Pickle had been locked up in a cage in the middle of a supposedly haunted forest. In the end, I guess we did master our powers, and learned that we were cuspers.
"Who's that?" Logan asked, taking me from my thoughts. Waltzing down the middle of the library aisle was a man that had the letters N.P.C. stitched into the upper right pocket of his jacket. A wide-brimmed black hat was pulled low over his eyes. He was not your typical-looking Power Academy instructor, especially with those tight black skinny jeans (yuck), but for some reason, he looked familiar to me. As he lifted his head to talk to Headmistress Larriby, I realized exactly where I'd seen him before — when I'd told my other best friend, Veronica White, about my summer plans last week at Novalicious.
"So, you're telling me that you're going to spend every single day of the next two months at Power Academy?" Veronica blinked hard. "With Ellie?"
Veronica and I had been best friends since ... well ... forever, and she was still getting used to the fact that my ex-enemy Ellie Preston and I were now seeing eye to eye. I wanted to be completely honest with Veronica about the whole cusp power thing — something else I had in common with Ellie but not with her — but we had all promised Mayor Masters that we would keep that to ourselves. Even though Veronica had no clue about the whole mind-reading thing, she had definitely sensed a stronger connection between Ellie and me over the last year. I guess I couldn't blame her for being a little jealous.
"It's actually only six weeks," I said as I threw the Power Academy brochure down on the table in front of her. The bright greens and blues on the pamphlet made the place look pretty appealing — I was happy they'd revamped it from last year's.
Using her Monday power, Veronica pushed the pamphlet back to my side of the table and took a lick of her cone, totally avoiding eye contact. Did she have to be so dramatic?
I glanced around Novalicious and saw all sorts of other people using their weekday powers. Neil Porter, a boy from my fifth period history class, used his telekinesis power to suspend three cones in mid-air as he reached for a fourth. After paying at the counter, Mr. Ellison and his son Trevor (both Tuesdays who frequented Novalicious) vanished into thin air. Obviously, they teleported back home.
I glanced back at Veronica just in time to see her smiling at me. She was back to her normal non-jealous self. "Look, Poppy. You are totally going to be fantabulous helping those other students," she stated in between bites of peanut butter, chocolate chip goodness. "I'm sorry I get a bit ..." She stopped mid-sentence. Her eyes widened at the sight of whoever just walked through the glass door. "Look! Look! It's one of them," she said, wiping her face with the back of her hand. She nodded toward the entrance of Novalicious.
I turned around to see a tall, skinny man in a long black jacket shuffling through the line. On the upper right corner of his coat was a shield emblem containing the initials N.P.C. His black baseball cap had the same exact lettering.
"Those Nova Power Corp. guys totally freak me out," I whispered, leaning forward in my chair and away from him as he passed behind me.
"What about your dad?" Veronica asked. "Does he freak you out too?"
"Very funny." I said, unenthusiastically. My dad does work at Nova Power Corporation, but he's a security guard, not whatever this guy was. I stole a glance over my shoulder. The man's dark eyes scanned across Novalicious from one person to the next. I'd seen that look enough times to know that he was a mind-reading Thursday. When his eyes met mine, they lingered for just long enough to make a shiver run down my spine. My default thought, dog poop, entered my head.
"He's obviously looking for something," Veronica said, leaning closer to me.
I swallowed. "Or someone. Dun.Dun.Dun."
The man got in line behind Mr. and Mrs. Ream, two poor, powerless weekends.
"Or maybe he's come to personally escort you to Power Academy," Veronica said with a giggle, lightening the mood even more.
"Yeah, right!" Over the last year, under the direction of Mayor Masters, Nova Power Corporation moved to the grounds of Power Academy due to some space issues. So while it wasn't entirely out of the question that he would venture outside of N.P.C. to pick up a measly Monday (and semi-Thursday), it was still laughable.
"What a weirdo!" Veronica said as we watched his head move mechanically from side to side, scoping out the scene. Suddenly, the little ol' creepster whipped his head around toward us. This time his eyes lingered on me even longer than they did earlier.
"Oh. Em. Gee ... do you think he heard us?" Veronica said.
"Nah. Just a coincidence," I said, but I wasn't entirely sure. Ever since he entered Novalicious, I had the strange feeling that he wasn't focusing on anyone but me.
Veronica pulled the hair tie from her ponytail and let a few black strands fall in front of her face. "Okay, for serious though. Now he is totally starting to creep me out," she whispered.
"Is he still looking in this direction?" I asked. The man had moved up in line, so now my back was to him.
Veronica's eyes slowly moved from my forehead and then up a bit farther. "Yep," she said without moving her lips. I really wanted to tell her about my new power.
"Let's finish up here," I said. Veronica and I licked our ice cream as fast as we could; my head started pounding from brain freeze.
I stood up and could now see the man sitting at a table near the only door in Novalicious with a glass of water. The odd man didn't even order a drink, let alone a cone, so there was no reason for him to be skulking around.
"Are you almost done?" I asked Veronica, grabbing the orange pendant suspended from my neck. My purple ballet flat tapped on the floor below. I wanted to get the out of here, and fast. With a quick twist at her hand, Veronica's trash lifted from her palm, gently flew across the room, and landed in the trash can directly to the strange guy's right.
We rushed out of Novalicious as quickly as our legs could carry us, but with each step, I could feel the man's eyes on me.
And then, it got even stranger. As we left, Mayor Masters flew past us without a hello or even a glance, which was odd considering we've been in school with her son for the past five years and she'd personally invited me to be a Power Academy counselor.
"Rude, much? Veronica said with an eye roll. "And how long have we been friends with Mark?"
I thought of the many times Veronica had not-so-subtly called Mark out on his, ahem, nose-picking habit.
"I didn't realize you considered him a friend," I said, not meaning for it to come out as harsh as it did.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" she said snarkily, stopping dead in her tracks.
Excerpted from "Poppy Mayberry, Return to Power Academy"
Copyright © 2017 Jennie K. Brown.
Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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