After Donni and Trisha’s parents split up, Donni goes to live with their dad and Trisha goes with their mom. Donni is nothing like her older sister, Trisha the Perfect, who gets good grades and never does anything wrong. All Donni is interested in is art. Since the divorce, she’s been in trouble practically every day. But after she smears paint on another girl’s shirt and an adult asks her about the divorce, all hell breaks loose.
Since Donni is always in trouble, no one seems to notice that Trisha is also having a hard time with things at home. With no one to confide in, Trisha pours her heart out about everything—her parents, her sister, her hopes for the future—in her journal. What she wants more than anything is for Donni to talk to her about how she’s feeling. But after Donni does something terrible, maybe unforgivable, the two sisters might never be friends again.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
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|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Nancy Springer is the award-winning author of more than fifty books, including the Enola Holmes and Rowan Hood series and a plethora of novels for all ages, spanning fantasy, mystery, magic realism, and more. She received the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for Larque on the Wing and the Edgar Award for her juvenile mysteries Toughing It and Looking for Jamie Bridger, and she has been nominated for numerous other honors. Springer currently lives in the Florida Panhandle, where she rescues feral cats and enjoys the vibrant wildlife of the wetlands.
Read an Excerpt
By Nancy Springer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 Nancy Springer
All rights reserved.
So I had what I wanted. Living with Dad. Mom not on my case anymore.
I had to be happy, right?
So I was in art class painting an attack heart. I was supposed to be painting the three gourds and an eggplant Mrs. Antonio had arranged up front, but it was Valentine's Day and I know girls are supposed to love Valentine's Day, but I hate it, I hate holidays and birthdays and all mushy occasions, so I was painting an attack heart, a long, messy, bright red, spear-shaped heart flying through the air with its sharp point about to kill—something, it needed something to attack, so I quick painted somebody with lots of red hair, and with the red still dripping on the brush I dipped into the black and painted big black letters I LOVE YOU TO DEATH.
There was this really annoying girl with too many pink plastic hair clips in front of me, and there was still a lot of paint on my brush, so I painted a big black attack heart on her back, right on her itty bitty, skinny-mini top from some French shop at the mall. She squealed like a guinea pig, and it was washable paint, for God's sake, like they use any other kind in school? So Mrs. Antonio came running. When she got there I was slapping black paint all over my painting, like the black letters I LOVE YOU TO DEATH had rained down on it, because I had suddenly realized that the person with a lot of red hair was my sister, Trisha.
"What is going on?" Mrs. Antonio wanted to know, and to cooperate and demonstrate I reached out and put some more black paint on the annoying girl.
A little while later I was sitting in the office waiting to talk with the vice-principal when my sister, Trisha the Perfect, walked past.
She saw me, and her mouth formed a soft O shape, and she came in. "Donni, what happened?"
That's the nine thousandth thing I can't stand about my sister, she's such a pet. She can walk into the office and they act like she's faculty, like she belongs there. They don't even ask her for a pass.
"Go away," I said.
She didn't go away. She sat down beside me. She was wearing dark slacks, just like the ladies who worked in the office, and a heather green scrunchie, and a heather green sweater that belonged to Mom. She and Mom swapped clothes a lot. But Mom wouldn't have touched my clothes without rubber gloves. I was wearing my favorite old, ripped high-topped All Stars, my favorite old, ripped baggy jeans, and my favorite old, ripped Texaco shirt, and I sure didn't need any doodad to hold my hair back because I keep it cut short.
All that, and people still say me and Trisha look alike because we both have red hair, though Trisha helps hers along with hair coloring, which is what she insists on saying instead of hair dye, and perm. We both have the same sort of boxy faces with jaw angles and cheekbone angles and short noses and freckles and green eyes. And I guess we both have two arms and two legs. So we look alike, big deal.
Trisha is only ten months older than I am. People say we look like twins, not just sisters. I say we should have been twins separated at birth.
Trisha asked, "Are you in trouble again?"
"Nooooo, I'm helping out the administration by holding this chair down. Leave me alone."
Even though Trisha is only ten months older, she is in eighth grade in all honors classes. I am in sixth grade because I got held back in kindergarten for being immature. Since then that's kind of become my middle name. Donni Immature Ross. I only see Trisha in school now because she lives with Mom and I have moved in with Dad. Next year, assuming she doesn't fail, which is not likely as she is an advanced-placement gifted-class genius and gets straight A's except in phys ed, she will be in the high school and I will hardly see her at all.
Good. Great. I can't wait.
Trisha got a look like an orphan calf, which she does really good, her eyes huge and pathetic under her curly bangs. She said, "Donni, why don't you tell me things anymore?"
Now she was trying to make me feel bad, and okay, I admit I don't understand me, I kind of wanted to talk to her. But then a tornado of emotions lifted me right out of my chair. I landed on my feet and stamped my Chucks and screamed at her, "Get out of my FACE just leave me ALONE!"
"Young lady!" a secretary barked at me. Trisha got up and backed out the door, her face white and taut.
I sat down feeling like an eggbeater was working on me, like I was a cake mix. I hated her, she was so tame, tame, TAME.
"Donni." Mr. Billet poked his head out of his door, probably hoping he'd kept me waiting long enough to make me sweat.
I went in and sat in the vinyl chair. Mr. Billet's office was utterly boring. Tan fake-leather chair, tan fake-wood desk, tan fake-something shelves. The only picture on the walls was Washington Crossing the Delaware.
Mr. Billet's face wasn't boring. Kind of like Mr. Potato Head. It might have been fun to rearrange his large features. But he looked bored to see me in his boring office. I'd been there often enough to make him tired of me. "Do you have anything to say, Donni?"
I shrugged. "I was fooling around in art class."
"Is that all? Any reason?"
I shrugged again.
"I see." I didn't see how he could see anything, but he leaned back and put his fingers together like a tepee and stared at me. "Mrs. Antonio says you could be quite good in art if you would just focus on the assignments."
I felt the eggbeater going again. I hated his flabby mouth. He should keep his flabby mouth off my art. Could be, schmudbe, I was an artist, which was exactly why I wouldn't do Mrs. Antonio's assignments. She should keep away from my art, too. But he'd never understand that.
"I had a talk with your elementary school principal, Donni," Mr. Billet said. "She says you never used to be a troublemaker. Obviously something has changed. Would you tell me what it is?"
I shrugged some more.
Mr. Billet picked up a fat manila folder and fake-looked at the papers inside it. "You can't afford to fool around in art, Donni. You are failing art. You are failing math. You are just barely passing music, health, science, and social studies. You have a C minus in English. Your only strong grade at this point is in phys ed."
I don't know why teachers and principals and people like that always inform kids of these things like the kids don't already know them.
"And these discipline problems don't help any," Mr. Billet droned on. "Mrs. Antonio says you painted on a girl's blouse in art. Why did you do that?"
"I don't know."
"That is not appropriate, Donni. It shows very poor judgment."
Not appropriate? Poor judgment? Why couldn't he be honest and scream at me and say I was bad, rotten, nasty, and mean?
Mr. Billet talked at me for another ten minutes before he gave me detention and let me go.
Just detention, like the other times. It was kind of disappointing. Detention is nothing. Just another study hall. I was in detention so much, it was like ninth period.
But Trisha knew I was in some kind of trouble, so she would tell Mom, so Mom would call Dad, so they would talk about me even before Dad got the detention slip in the mail. Mom would probably call Dad tonight. They would talk. Which meant I served a useful purpose.
Hello there. This is Trisha, your owner, beginning a new project, a journal. According to my English text, Chekhov kept a journal, and so did Virginia Woolf and just about all of the great writers. I wonder whether they were trying to feel less lonely when they started their journals. The text says Dostoyevsky believed one must suffer to be a true artist. It would seem I am off to a good start. Computer, I am fourteen years old and I feel as if you are my only friend.
Such being the case, I suppose I had better give you a name. For some reason, I believe you are a female computer, and your name is Amelia, after Amelia Earhart.
So let me try this again: Hello, Amelia. This is Trisha, and I am going to keep a journal on you.
I suppose what prompts me to begin is that I very much need a friend right now. Usually, the fact that I am considered a brain does not bother me unduly. Granted, some of my classmates choose to dislike me because I am gifted, but most days I just deal with it. Fact: I am intelligent. Fact: I am studious. Fact: I will be somebody. I will win a scholarship to a good college and perhaps I will someday write something important. I like to exercise my mind, and I am not going to pretend to be stupid just to be popular, and I don't care if kids call me a nerd. That is, on most days I don't care.
But today was Valentine's Day. Naturally, no one gave me a valentine. And to make the day even worse, Donni got in trouble again today, and when I tried to help, she screamed at me. We used to be very close. When we were little, we were always together, playing and sharing secrets. Back then, we were best friends. But ever since Mom and Dad split, Donni acts as if she's divorced me. I can understand why she took sides, and I can understand why she hates Mom, but why does she have to hate me?
As I write this, I can hear Mom on the phone downstairs talking with Dad about Donni. All Donni has to do is get detention and Mom runs to the phone. Now, according to Donni, I'm the pet? I beg to differ. Nobody pays that kind of attention to me, least of all Mom and Dad. Just because I get good grades and I don't do weird things like painting on people's shirts, do they think I don't have any problems?
I went to see Mrs. Antonio after school to apologize for Donni, and she showed me what Donni was painting at the time when she got kicked out. It was a picture of me. Donni has an astounding talent: just a few quick lines or brushstrokes and she's caught a person or thing on paper like a butterfly pinned there, as if she captured a soul. That picture was cartoonish and sketchy but it was me, Amelia. Alongside me, Donni had sketched a large tilted heart, and overhead, words in black, I LOVE YOU TO DEATH, with black raindrops falling down from them. Or perhaps they were black tears. But I'm not sure.
Still, it was the closest thing to a valentine that I received today. Mrs. Antonio gave it to me to take home, and I've hidden it behind my dresser.
Mom is finally off the phone. I can hear her heading up here, so I'd better start my homework. Bye, Amelia. Nice talking to you.CHAPTER 2
I watched Dad while he was on the phone with Mom. I watched his face get quiet, which means he's kind of concerned, but he didn't say anything much. He never does. Dad is just a big, sweet, sleepy teddy bear.
He got done listening to Mom, hung up the phone, and looked at me as mellow as ever. "What's the story, Donni?"
"This girl was annoying me in art class."
"Oh." He nodded almost as if he approved, like I had stood up to a bully. "You get detention?"
He nodded. "Try to behave yourself a little bit," he suggested, and that was all, as if he figured the school had taken care of punishing me. He sat down with his ergonomics journal—he was a mechanical engineer for a place that made shovels and ice scrapers and things—and kept reading.
All of which goes to show why I wanted to live with Dad. Mom, now—Mom would have been telling me I was grounded, no television for a week, straighten up and change my attitude, she was going to throw away my baggy jeans and sneakers and flannel shirts, sloppy clothing sloppy mind, I had to learn to live in the real world, I'd never get anywhere if I didn't learn self-control, discipline, and good study habits, look at the mess my room was, go clean it up right away and don't come out until it was shining, wasn't I ashamed wasting my potential, stop slouching, pay attention, she was trying to help me.
Mom is what she calls assertive and I call bossy. She is what she calls well-organized and I call neurotic. She is also pretty, with dark hair, dark eyes, a pointed face, and I cannot believe I came out of her; did somebody switch babies in the hospital? But then there's Trisha, who looks just like me but is just as retentive as Mom, minus all the yelling. Naturally Mom likes Trisha the Perfect a whole lot better than she does me.
Dad didn't say another word to me till bedtime, when he said, "Sleep tight, Donni." But that's normal. We don't need a lot of talk. We're comfortable together.
In the morning I got up, looked at how gray it was outside in the middle of February, thought about detention, and decided to keep myself home from school.
This was easy. Dad had already left for work—he had a long commute. He didn't get home until three hours after I did in the afternoon. He would never know I stayed home unless I told him. Sometimes I did tell him, especially if I had a stuffy nose or a cough. He didn't keep track, so he was really surprised when midyear reports came out to find that I'd missed twenty-nine days so far.
I felt so good about deciding to stay home that I wanted to tell somebody. Stupid me, I picked up the phone and called my sister.
"Donni!" She sounded glad to hear from me. "What's up?"
"Won't see you in school today." I didn't usually see her much, anyway. Not even at lunch. We had different schedules. "I'm siiiiick."
"You are?" Now she sounded worried. Trish has no sense of humor. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing. I'm skipping out."
"Donni, you can't." Now she sounded upset. "You already missed, how many days?"
"I've decided I'm going for fifty."
"Donni, c'mon, be serious."
Now she was making me annoyed and spoiling my mood. Why couldn't she lighten up? This was supposed to be fun. "You're worse than Mom," I said, and hung up on her.
At least she wouldn't tattle to Mom. Probably not. She'd have to call Mom at work if she wanted to drag me to school. Mom used to work part-time as a med tech in a doctor's office, but since the divorce she'd gone full-time. She was already on her way.
Siiiiick, I was so siiiiick. I went back to bed and slept in till eleven.
Then I ate a bologna sandwich in front of the TV. Daytime TV is pretty bad. I got tired of it after an hour and went for my art supplies. The apartment is small and there's no place for me to set up my stuff; that's the only thing I don't like about living with Dad. Someday I want a real studio. Meanwhile all I've got is a lapboard. I got it and my pad of drawing paper and the Prismacolors Dad bought me for Christmas, real expensive colored pencils, and I sat and drew out of my head. After three sheets what I was sketching turned into kind of an Eden scene with a wild landscape and lots of animals, bears, deer, wild horses, eagles, and other birds. I sketched in a woman and a man on the mountainside in hiking clothes, then a couple of little kids.
The whole thing gave me such a good feeling I just kept going. I added wild geese, alpine lilies, a waterfall, wolves, a big-eared fox, ground squirrels, and rabbits. I figured the sun at a nice low angle and colored and shaded everything. It didn't take long because I work really fast, but it was good. I'd hide it behind my dresser with my other good pieces. Usually what I did with my art, when I was being serious about it, was either throw it out or hide it. I hardly ever showed anything to anybody. If I showed something to somebody and they made fun of it or criticized, it would have been like they had taken it away from me.
When my Eden picture was finished, I set it up and looked at it with my heart toasty warm until I realized what I had done.
The man and woman were Dad and Mom. The kids were Trisha and me.
I grabbed the picture and ripped it up and threw the pieces on the floor.
I couldn't stay in that apartment with the shreds of my family lying around. I found my jacket and my key and headed out the door.
Down the fire escape. The apartment was part of a big old house in town, one of those monster Victorian places with bay windows and balconies and turrets. The expensive front apartments got all that stuff. Dad and I had a cheap back apartment.
I went out to the alley and started walking.
It was cold out there. Usually when I skipped school, if I went out it was just to walk to the Kwik-Mart on the corner and buy a pack of Twinkies or something. It was fun the way the people behind the counter looked at me and didn't do anything. This time, though, I found myself walking along the main road past the fire hall and the Lutheran church and the bra factory and the cigar factory that made the whole town smell like cider apples. And past row houses and a Dairy Queen to where the sidewalks ended and stubbly fields began, and I kept walking.
Okay, so I was heading—not home. Going to visit, that was all. Going to see the house where I grew up, the house in the country, where Trisha and Mom lived. Going to see—Trisha?
Excerpted from Separate Sisters by Nancy Springer. Copyright © 2001 Nancy Springer. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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