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Authors: Annie Bryant

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BOOK: Just Kidding
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Jazz It Up

hen Charlotte arrived at music class, she headed straight for the center row, where the BSG usually sat. Maeve, Katani, and Isabel were already there, and all of them noticed that Charlotte looked upset.

“How was the
meeting?” Katani asked.

“Tell you later,” Charlotte mumbled, unable to speak. Quickly she reached into her backpack for her music text and opened it to a random page. She just couldn't look at anyone, even her best friends.

A minute later, a frenetic Avery came tearing in and plopped down in the seat right next to Charlotte. “Hey, Char! Didn't you hear me after the meeting, calling you? Why'd you take off so fast?”

Charlotte couldn't think of a thing to say. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She didn't want to lie, but there was also no way she could tell Avery how much her comments had hurt. It wasn't just the comments either, it was
that she had said them in front of Jennifer. Charlotte turned away. She could feel Katani's eyes on her, but she was afraid she might actually cry. That would be too humiliating.

Luckily, just then Ms. Ciara called the class to order. “Today we have a special presentation,” she said, beaming. “In honor of Spirit Week, I'm going to share with you my very favorite music, because it's the music that gets
spirit going.”

She waited for comments, but no one said anything. They were all waiting curiously. “It's
music,” Ms. Ciara announced dramatically.

“You mean ‘The Chicken Dance'?” called out Chase Finley, and he smirked as some of the boys snickered and flapped their arms like chickens.

Ms. Ciara gave Chase a tolerant smile. “No. I mean great jazz music that began to appear around the end of World War II—can anyone give me that year?”

Betsy Fitzgerald's hand shot up immediately. Most likely, Betsy had memorized the dates of every big moment in history. She was always writing her reports ahead of time and doing elaborate research at the library, and she was a walking encyclopedia on almost any subject. On every test she took, Betsy would make up her own extra credit questions and answers to impress the teacher.
Poor Betsy, at least she's a nice girl
, thought Maeve as she looked over at Betsy's annoying, smug face.

Avery whispered to the BSG, “I bet Betsy already memorized all the Birdland songs, too…and wrote one of her own.”

When Ms. Ciara called on her, Betsy declared, “World
War II ended in 1945.”

“That's right. And it was just around that time that Birdland music began to influence America. We're talking about great jazz players here—Charlie ‘Bird' Parker, for whom Birdland was named; Count Basie, who had a great swing orchestra; and Thelonious Monk. These were gifted musicians who all had their own style, and each of them influenced Birdland in their own way. Look.”

Ms. Ciara whisked down the blinds and turned off the lights. Then she pressed a button and started a slide show.

In fifteen minutes, Ms. Ciara covered all the highlights of Birdland music and the era in which it began. She showed photos of the major players, explained their specialties, and talked about the great music they'd created.

To everyone's surprise, it was actually pretty interesting. The slide show was exciting and alive, which was not always the case with school presentations. Dillon Johnson leaned over to Maeve and commented, “This sure beats that Beethoven guy.” Maeve burst into giggles.

As Ms. Ciara flicked on the lights, she said, “Now I have an extra special surprise for you.” She walked over to the door, peeked out, and gave a wave to someone in the hall. “Students, I'd like to introduce Michael Young and Sarah Finnegan from Brookline High's award-winning high school dance club. They're going to demonstrate the music of Birdland.” Ms. Ciara held open the door and two older students entered.

The class turned to look at the dancers. Both of them looked like real professionals, dressed in 1940s-style dance
outfits. Michael wore a pair of black trousers and a long-sleeved silk shirt. Sarah wore a bright red knee-length flared skirt, ankle-strapped high-heeled shoes, and a ruffled blouse. Maeve nearly fell out of her seat. She hoped that she could one day be on this dance team. The group was incredible, and Michael and Sarah were two of the best dancers on the team. She had to contain herself from rushing to the front of the room to join them.

“All right, class. Clear a space so our guests have enough room to dance,” Ms. Ciara said.

The students jumped up and pushed their desks into a semicircle, creating a makeshift dance floor. Then Ms. Ciara moved to her stereo and spoke to the dancers. “Michael and Sarah, are you ready?” When they nodded, she pushed the button and the most amazing, toe-tapping music began to pour out. “This is Count Basie and his swing orchestra. Watch and listen.” She presented the dancers with a dramatic swoosh of her hand. As bad as she felt, even Charlotte was a little excited.

After just a few bars, Michael and Sarah were dancing. No, not dancing—flying! They were spinning and swirling, first close to the ground and then stretching as high as they could. They danced close together, facing each other, and then far away, backs to each other, kicking and leaping and doing the most amazing moves.

Maeve sat entranced, her eyes wide. She was almost shaking. This was the most exciting dancing she'd ever seen…even better than hip hop, which was one of her favorites. Even the great Gene Kelly had never done anything this thrilling in any of his movies! Michael picked
Sarah right up off the ground, and then she was spinning in his arms, her own arms extended to the ceiling, her head thrown back, legs high in the air. Michael dipped her, and Sarah's long blond hair was almost touching the ground.
! Maeve thought.
I wonder what it feels like to be able to dance like that

Katani was hypnotized too, not by the dancers' moves, but by their clothes.
Those shoes are vintage, but totally back in style
, she thought.
They are too cool…. I need to find out where she got them! Are those PURPLE rhinestones sewn on the ankle straps? And who cut that blouse so Sarah could stretch in all different directions without pulling out the pleats?

Riley had also been staring unblinkingly at the dance exhibition. Suddenly, he started to tap rhythmically on his desk. Then he jumped up. There was a drum set in the far corner of the room, and as the music pulsed cheerily, Riley began to lightly tap out the rhythms of the orchestra on the drums.

Maeve thought Riley's drumming made the whole thing even cooler, but she couldn't take her eyes off Michael and Sarah until the music finally ended and they stood together to take a bow.
That's it
, Maeve thought.
I just
to learn how to dance like that
. She looked around at the rest of the class. They were clapping enthusiastically for the dancers.

And then Maeve's blue eyes began to glow.
I've got it! The most fabulous idea for the Spirit Week dance!
A jillion little shivers ran up her back.

When the applause had ended, Ms. Ciara called, “Who'd like to come up and learn a few of the steps?
Michael and Sarah would be glad to teach you.”

A few students got to their feet, but the first one at the front of the room was Henry Yurt. In a broad exaggeration of an elegant gentleman, he bowed deeply to Ms. Ciara and held out his hand. “Madam, may I have the honor of this dance?”

Ms. Ciara, who usually shushed Henry, was definitely in the mood of Spirit Week. With a cool smile, she simply dropped into an old-fashioned curtsy, took Henry's hand, and faced him. Michael and Sarah showed them a few steps, and soon the goofy Yurtmeister was dancing with the tall, slender Ms. Ciara.

“Only the Yurtmeister could pull off something like this,” whispered Maeve to Katani.

Henry caught on to the steps at once, but his face barely reached Ms. Ciara's shoulder. Watching him try to lead her was so funny that most kids in the class burst out laughing. It was good-natured laughter, though. Henry himself was grinning as he whirled Ms. Ciara around the floor. Chelsea Briggs couldn't help laughing too. She paused as the dancers got close to her, and then she snapped a photo of their happy expressions. She nodded at Avery. This was going to be a total A+ for the

Charlotte sat with her eyes turned toward the dancers, but she hardly saw them. She had shifted so her back was to Avery.

Avery kept staring at Charlotte trying to get her attention. Avery's usually lively dark eyes were quiet and bewildered. Finally, she got out her pen and scribbled a note, which she passed to Charlotte.
What's up–are you mad at

Charlotte couldn't believe Avery even had to ask!
How can she not know what's bothering me? Can Avery be that clueless?
Charlotte fumed to herself.

She considered not answering at all. But then she thought,
This whole thing is getting weird, and talking about it might make things better
. Maybe Avery really didn't have a clue. So she turned over Avery's note and started writing.

Avery read the note and her cheeks turned pink. She wrote back,
I guess I blew it, huh? I'm really sorry. I just don't think sometimes

She started to hand the note to Charlotte, but her hand was unsteady as she held it out. To her horror, the slip of paper fell to the floor.

In a flash, Anna, Queen of Mean no. 1, had grabbed the note and tossed it to Joline, Queen of Mean no. 2, who started to read it out loud. Luckily, the music was still going, and most of the class was too focused on learning the dance steps to pay any attention. But Avery saw the stricken look on Charlotte's face. Charlotte clearly wished the floor would just swallow her up and take her far, far away. Being embarrassed in front of a whole class was one of Charlotte's worst nightmares.

Furious, Avery came to her friend's rescue. She tried to snatch the note from Joline. “That's not yours!” she snapped.

“Come on, Avery,” Joline sneered. “I was just kidding. Since when did you get so sensitive?”

Avery opened her mouth to put Joline in her place—she
had no problem standing up to the Queens of Mean—but just then she realized the room was too quiet. The music had stopped and Ms. Ciara was standing in their row, sternly looking at Avery and Joline. “I'll take that,” she said crisply. When Joline silently handed her the note, the teacher glanced at it and then ripped it to shreds. “Girls, you know better than to pass notes in my class. Or in any class. It's disrespectful and only tells me that you weren't paying attention. Nothing you write in a note is so important that it can't wait until after the bell rings.”

She walked to the front of the room and dropped the pieces of paper into her wastebasket. Charlotte, relieved, took a deep breath.
Thank goodness Ms. Ciara isn't one of those teachers who made students read notes out loud
, she thought.
That would have been completely humiliating
. She would have had to beg her father to pack up and move back to the Serengeti in Africa where no one could find her, especially the Queens of Mean.

What did Charlotte's father always say? “Never put anything down on paper that you wouldn't want made public.” Now she knew just what he meant. It's easy to write something down, but it's not as easy to erase it if you change your mind.

Avery mouthed a genuine
I'm sorry
to Charlotte, and when Charlotte smiled at her, they both knew that whatever weirdness had been between them was gone. “I'm kind of glad Ms. Ciara caught Joline with that note,” Avery whispered. “I bet Ms. C knew it wasn't really my fault. She's cool like that. Are you okay now?”

Charlotte gave her a thumbs-up. “I'm fine,” she assured
Avery. Charlotte was not one to hold a grudge.

Crossing the Line

The bell rang, and the class swept out into the hall, still raving about the dance demonstration. The girls were enthralled with Sarah's swishy skirt, her rhinestone ankle strap shoes, and those fantastic lifts, while Riley kept talking about the great rhythms of Count Basie's orchestra.

Dillon Johnson dismissed the dance talk as unimportant. “Hey, people, you're missing the whole point. The best thing about Spirit Week is these short classes. You hear me? S-h-o-r-t. As in, we have more time to do other things, more important things, like planning the sports events and doing stuff outdoors. Do you realize how much time we spend being cooped up inside at school day after day? We have to cram it all into this one week when we're actually
to have fun.”

Dillon's cranky tirade was starting to get on his classmates' nerves. “Chill, Dillon,” the always chill Nick Montoya advised him. “Spirit Week is great, but you gotta relax, man.”

BOOK: Just Kidding
9.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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