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I am standing outside homeroom in yellow flannel monkey pajamas.
Everyone else is dressed normally: jeans, track pants, sweaters, whatever.
Apparently because today, Monday, February 23, is not Pajama Day at Crampton Middle School. Also apparently I am the only one who is celebrating Pajama Day, because I am the only one whose mother told her it was Pajama Day. After using the New Student Information Packet to line a dog crate for this one-eared beagle she’s babysitting.
“Hey, Marigold,” some girl across the hall is calling. “That’s your name, right? Um, no offense, but why are you in your pj’s?”
I don’t answer. That’s because my ears are burning and my eyebrows are sweating. It’s hard to say something casual and jokey like whoops, silly me with sweaty eyebrows. I dig my thumbnails into my palms, but I’m not waking up.
Now this buzz-cut–headed eighth-grade boy is starting to laugh. And point. “Yo, New Girl. Yeah, you. Did you forget something? Like getting dressed?”
That’s it; I’m done. I escape from homeroom. My poofy blue bedroom slippers skid on the waxy floor. “Excuse me, no running,” some office lady calls out from down the hallway. Which is when I start to run, seeing a mob of giggling girls turning the corner and coming toward me.
I bang open the door to the girls’ room and hide myself in a stall. Then I yank my cell phone out of my backpack and speed-dial Mom.
It rings five times. Six times means I’ll get her voice mail, which means she’ll never get my message, because she doesn’t ever check her voice mail. Pick up, I pray. Pick up, pickuppickuppickup.
“Hello?” she finally shouts. “Marigold?”
Then a truck honks. Right in my ear.
“Mom?” I say.
“Oh, sweetheart, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“No.” I wipe my sweaty face on my flannel arm. “I’m wearing pajamas.”
“I know. Those cute monkey ones.”
“Because you said it was Pajama Day.”
“Right, it is. I read it in the packet.”
“Except it isn’t.”
“It’s not Pajama Day? Are you sure? The first day of—what do they call it? Spirit Week?” I can hear dogs barking now. She must be downtown with her Morning Walkers.
“No, it’s not,” I say loudly. “I’m the only one in the entire school wearing pj’s. I look like a total dork.”
“I’m sure you don’t, baby.”
“I’m sure I do. I’m coming home.”
“Oh, Mari. You can’t.”
“Because you just got there five minutes ago.”
That’s so illogical I can’t even argue. “Okay, then can you please bring me some other clothes?”
“Yes, of course.” She shouts this over yapping and arfing dogs. “But you’re going to have to wait a few minutes.”
“Because I’m not home. I’m at least a mile away, with three of my Walkers. And I’m supposed to pick up two new greyhounds by eight o’clock.”
“But this is a major emergency.” I check my watch: three minutes until homeroom. “Can’t the greyhounds wait?”
“Oh, come on now, Mari,” she says in a voice meant to be soothing. Except you can’t soothe when you’re shouting; it kind of spoils the effect. “So you’re wearing pajamas. Have fun with it; improvise. Pretend you’re sleepwalking.”
“See where it takes you. Think of it as a costume.”
“I don’t wear costumes.”
“Oh, sure you do, baby. We all do. Every single day.”
“Mom,” I say. “Can we please not have a big philosophical discussion about this?”
“Sorry.” A truck honks. “Well, look at it this way. At least you’ll be comfortable.”
That’s when the door to the girls’ room creaks open. I can hear the sound of heels on the floor tiles, and then the sharp click of someone locking another stall door. “Just listen to me, okay?” I whisper desperately into my cell. “I won’t be comfortable. I’ll be the opposite of comfortable. I’ll be traumatized for the entire rest of my life. Just please, please bring me different clothes. Please. I’m begging you.”
She processes. A dog arfs. Finally she says, “All right, I’ll be there in a few minutes. BEEZER, SIT. I’m not fooling, buddy. SIT. Good dog.”
“Just try to hang in there, Mari, okay? First I need to get the greyhounds.”
The line goes dead, as if everything’s settled. Whatever; at least I got through to her. Mom usually does better in person, but even then, normal back-and-forth conversations are definitely not her strong point.
I leave my stall and check myself out in the mirror. Great. My cheeks are flushed, my eyes look huge and freaked-out, and my wavy brown hair is damp and limp.
Plus, of course, there’s the jammie issue. Can’t forget that.
I drown my face in freezing water, then crank out some paper towel. The other bathroom user shuffles her feet. Which, I suddenly notice, are in pointy-toe black leather boots. Scary boots. Get-out-of-my-face boots.
I cram the paper towel into the trash can. “Well, bye,” I call out, so that at least Pointy Boots knows that I realize she’s an earwitness.
“See you, Marigold,” Pointy Boots answers in a quiet, amused sort of voice.