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Authors: P.J. Night

Is She for Real? (6 page)

BOOK: Is She for Real?
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It was Nate's turn. He and Lissa both thought the go-around-the-table thing was kind of corny, but they'd been doing it since they were little, and they secretly kind of liked it. “Mine was deciding I'm going to run for class president,” he said casually.

His parents put their forks down. “Wow!” they said in unison. “That's wonderful, Nate!”

This was news to Lissa and her friends, but it made sense. Nate was a natural leader, and all different groups of kids in school liked him. He also said he wanted to major in political science when he went to college. His parents always reminded him he didn't have to choose so soon, but he'd been insisting for a few years now.

“We can help you make signs,” Bethany said.

“Really? Thanks,” Nate said, smiling and suddenly looking very closely at his spaghetti.

“Okay, me!” Lissa said. “The spring dance was announced this week.” She added to the girls, “I can't wait till we all get our dresses together.”

“That was my favorite thing this week too,” Olivia said.

“Me too,” added Lily. “What about you, Bethany?”

“Um, that too, but also, it's my birthday week, so my parents give me one little present every day leading up to Sunday, and I got some cool stuff,” she said. “Also, well, I was really happy to be invited for another sleepover.” Her smile was, uncharacteristically, slightly shy.

After dinner, it was time for making cookie dough. On tonight's menu was peanut butter cookie dough. When they'd finished mixing it up, Lissa, Olivia, and Lily rolled a big gob of it into a perfect ball, put it on a plate, pressed a fork into it twice to make a crisscross pattern in the center, and presented it to Bethany with one lit candle stuck in. As they sang “Happy Birthday,” Bethany sang along happily, substituting “Happy birthday, dear me” for “Happy birthday, dear Bethany.”

“And that's not all,” Lissa told her. “Here. From the three of us.” She handed Bethany a little gift bag.

“Oh, you didn't have to get me a present!” Bethany cried. But they could all tell how happy she was about it.

“Oh, I love this color!” she said as she examined the tube of red lip gloss. She put some on right away and smiled widely, then blew each of her new friends a kiss. It made her lips bright, shiny red.

“I think I've found my new signature color!” she said,
looking in the mirror. “I actually love this red so much more than pink. Thanks, you guys!”

In Lissa's room, as the girls were getting ready for bed, Bethany pulled her pajamas out of her backpack and saw something shiny come flying out. “Wait, what was that?” she said. She felt around on the rug.

“It's a ring!” she exclaimed, pulling it out from where it had landed under the bed. “But it's not mine.” She sounded puzzled.

“It was definitely in your bag,” Lily said.

“I know, but it's not mine,” Bethany repeated.

Lily was grinning. “I bet Nate hid it in your bag.”

Olivia, Lily, and Lissa all exchanged looks.

“Oh yeah,” Lissa said, nodding. “It was definitely Nate. He loves hiding presents. He does it all the time for our birthdays!”

“Did you see him put it there?” Bethany asked her. She put the ring on her finger and stared at it, moving her hand very close to her eyes, then farther away.

“No, but trust me,” Lissa said, laughing. “It's totally from him. He knew it was your birthday!”

“You really think it came from him?” Bethany asked the girls, who were all giggling. Bethany really wanted the ring to be from Nate, but she needed to be sure.

“Duh, we thought you were pretty smart,” Olivia said. “Don't tell me you haven't noticed the way he stares at you. Or tries not to stare at you, to be more precise.”

Bethany couldn't help but blush. “I guess I have,” she admitted. “But where did he get it? It looks expensive and old.”

“Probably at one of his tag sales,” Lissa said. “He loves going to those with my mom.”

Bethany wiggled her finger and continued to admire the ring. She thought it looked perfect on her hand, like it belonged there.
I've never even owned a ring before
, she thought happily, almost transfixed by how pretty and sparkly the little ruby was.

It was, by far, the best present she'd ever been given.

The next morning at breakfast, Bethany was wearing both of her presents: her red lip gloss and her ruby ring. She explained to Mr. and Mrs. Carlson how she had mysteriously found the ring in her bag.

“It's beautiful!” Mrs. Carlson exclaimed, admiring it between sips of coffee. “It looks very old.”

Nate looked casually at the ring, as if he had never seen it before.

“You know,” he said thoughtfully, “Lady Warwick herself wore a ruby ring.” Everyone laughed, and Bethany laughed along.

“You know what else?” Nate said. “She had ruby-red lips, too.” Bethany stared at him as the other three girls exchanged knowing looks. Nate was definitely flirting.

“Another scone, milady?” he asked her, passing the scone basket to her.
My lady.
Bethany was still staring at him.

Lissa and Lily giggled, and Olivia rolled her eyes, as if this romantic, old-fashioned exchange was kind of grossing her out.

And Nate was nowhere near finished with this routine. “Now that you're Lady Warwick, I shall be Lord Warwick!” he proclaimed, holding his spoon straight up in the air as if in official announcement mode.

“This scone is delicious, milord.” Bethany smiled and made a gesture that looked like a curtsy, even though she was sitting down. She took a big bite of scone and laughed daintily.

“Okay, Lord Warwick,” Mrs. Carlson said to Nate. “Grab your things. We've got to get you to Your Lordship's soccer game.”

And then Nate did the most astonishing thing. He stood with a flourish, walked over to where Bethany sat, took her hand, and kissed the ring in a grand, fancy gesture, which made all four girls go completely silent. But then, moments later, they dissolved into giggles.

Bethany really liked history class. It was great timing that had her studying the history of the town as soon as she'd moved there, and she liked the research topic she had chosen, the role of women in colonial life.

Today was her turn to share her “top five” points about her research topic. She stood in front of the group and tried not to read directly from her paper. As she spoke, Nate noticed she was twirling the ring around her finger. She had it on her left ring finger, the finger a wedding ring is supposed to go on. Bethany was actually a little glad her parents were spending the whole week in Manhattan. She purposely hadn't worn the ring when they took her out to dinner for her birthday on Sunday night. It made her sad to take it off, but she didn't want to explain to her parents where it had come from. At least, not yet. She was pretty sure she'd be able to hide it from them until they got used to her having a boyfriend. In the meantime, she was sure Aunt Mimi wouldn't notice her wearing it.

But now she was happy to have it on her finger again, for all to see.

“My topic is the role of women in colonial life. Let me first say that women have it much better in today's
society. Early colonial life was hard for women. There were more men than women in the settlement of Old Warwick, so the women who were there had an extra burden to carry.” The rest of the class took notes.

“Second, here is what women did in Old Warwick: They raised children, sewed, cooked, took care of animals, made soap, made candles, made clothes, and did all the other housework while men fished, built, plowed, harvested, hunted, and protected the family from wild animals and Indians.”

“That's the way it should be!” one boy said, and a few kids laughed.

Mr. Parmalee stopped the joking before it got out of hand. “And I'm not sure any of you boys would be too keen on protecting your homes from wild animals, either. I apologize for the boorish behavior of these boys, Bethany. Please continue.”

Bethany smiled. “Third, the colonists brought with them very traditional attitudes about the status and roles of women. Women were considered to be ‘weaker vessels,' not as strong physically or mentally as men, and less emotionally stable,” she continued. After Mr. Parmalee's last warning, nobody was going to touch that one.

“Fourth, women could not vote or hold public office. And fifth, women were expected to be obedient to their husbands without question.”

She was done. She smiled and gave her ring another twist as she sat down.

“Thank you, Bethany. That was very illuminating,” Mr. Parmalee said.

After class, Nate approached Bethany on their way to lunch. “Nice job,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said. She got butterflies in her stomach when he talked to her now. She used to feel normal around him, but after Saturday's scone incident, she felt all tingly inside. She also couldn't stop staring at his dimples.

“So how do you like your ruby ring, milady?” he asked shyly.

“I love it, milord,” she responded just as shyly. She held her head low and looked up at him. Then she got brave.

“Thank you for giving it to me,” she said, looking right into his eyes.

“You're welcome,” he said. And there it was. She promised herself she would never take the ring off.

That night, in bed in her pajamas, Bethany wrote in her journal:


Well, the ring is definitely from none other than Nate, who shall from now on be referred to here as milord. Get it, my lord? Because I am his lady. (He calls me milady, how cute is that?) I can't believe this is happening.

I did my report on the role of women in Old Warwick yesterday. It went pretty well. It's funny, when I first started my research, I thought it sounded like the women of Old Warwick had it SO bad. But I've changed my mind. The idea of cooking and quilting all day actually seems kind of nice. I imagine me as Lady Warwick and Nate as Lord Warwick, and our little colonial house, with smoke coming from the chimney. I'd bake some corn bread for him to enjoy when he got home from fishing. And I'd fry up the fish he caught. Yum!

This has been such a weird day. I was so happy in school when Nate and I talked and I thanked him for the ring. I know he really likes me, but tonight I keep thinking he's going to change his mind about me and start liking someone else. I don't know what I would do if that happened. I would just be heartbroken.

But that is totally ridiculous. Why am I worrying so much? And this insecure feeling is so not me. I just need to keep looking at my beautiful ring and remind myself of that.


Then Bethany fell asleep. And a few hours later, she woke up suddenly to a loud
yowl. And something scratching at her feet.

She opened her eyes and couldn't believe it. She was standing up, first of all.

Second of all, she was standing in front of Nate and Lissa's house. In her pajamas.

Third of all, Howard had ambushed her feet again and was running away to hide in the bushes.

BOOK: Is She for Real?
11.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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