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Authors: Janette Rallison

Just One Wish

BOOK: Just One Wish
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Table of Contents
 
Also by
JANETTE RALLISON
My Fair Godmother
 
How to Take the Ex out of Ex-Boyfriend
 
Revenge of the Cheerleaders
 
It’s a Mall World After All
 
Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To-Do List
 
Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws
 
All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School
 
Playing the Field
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Published by The Penguin Group.
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.).
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
(a division of Penguin Books Ltd.).
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,
Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd).
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India.
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd).
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank,
Johannesburg 2196, South Africa.
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
 
Copyright © 2009 by Janette Rallison.
 
eISBN : 978-1-440-69904-7

http://us.penguingroup.com

To my husband, Guy,
who got the children off to school every day
so I could stay up late writing. That is true love.
 
Also to my editor, Tim, who pushes me to reach further
and dig deeper where my writing is concerned. Of course,
he has also been known to expect me to walk into the street
in front of oncoming traffic . . . so, you know,
his judgment can’t always be trusted. . . .
 
Special thanks to Eric Murdock for answering my mechanic
questions and to Bill Gardner, who knows way too much
about driving cars over medians and other places that they
don’t belong—and who probably knows too much about me as well.
 
Also thanks to Linda Ballard and Richard Hatch for
answering my questions about what happens on a studio set.
Hollywood insiders are harder to catch than leprechauns.
 
Thanks to Steve Crawley for being the best flyer/poster/bookmark
man in the world. I owe you way more than brownies.
 
And lastly to Spencer Cowgill and BJ Abney,
children cancer took too soon.
Chapter
1
I would have expected to see this sort of line if, say, Elvis had returned from the dead to give a concert. Or if some eccentric yet ultra-cool billionaire was blessing the lives of deserving teens by handing out free sports cars. But I hadn’t expected to see this many people lined up in the dark waiting for the Day-After-Thanksgiving sale at Toys “R” Us. Really, whatever happened to good old-fashioned procrastination? Apparently every resident of Henderson, Nevada, had come out, and it was still only 4:50 A.M. The store didn’t even open for another ten minutes.
Madison zipped her jacket up higher as we climbed out of my minivan. “This is a prime example of commercialism run amok.”
I didn’t answer, because I was too busy rushing across the parking lot to the end of the line. Besides, Madison really shouldn’t talk—every year she gets so many gifts you have to listen to her complain until New Year’s about how she has to reorganize her room to fit them all in.
Madison is not only my best friend, but probably the only friend I could convince to get up this early to track down a Talking Teen Robin Hood action figure for my six-year-old brother. I myself wouldn’t have woken up at four-thirty if it weren’t so important.
Madison folded her arms around herself for warmth. We’d only worn light jackets because we hadn’t expected to wait outside very long, but even the Nevada desert is cold at ten to five in the morning. Madison’s usually tidy shoulder-length hair—she calls it strawberry blond, but it is way more strawberry than blond—looked as though she hadn’t even combed it. I’d thrown on sweats and shoved my hair into a ponytail. Now I wished I’d thought to bring a hat.
Madison peered at the line in front of us. “You know, Annika, if you can’t find a Teen Robin Hood, I’m sure Jeremy would be fine with a different gift. Maybe you could get him a real bow and arrow set like yours.”
I thought about my compound bow, but I couldn’t imagine Jeremy with something like that. It was nearly as big as he was, and he might not have the strength to pull it back all the way. The thought made my throat feel tight.
I shook my head. “It has to be Teen Robin Hood.”
Jeremy had said he wanted the Teen Robin Hood action figure, and kept saying it every time he watched the TV show, so that was the toy I had to get him.
The husband and wife in front of us were busy planning their buying strategy. “I’ll call you as soon as I have the PlayStation in my hands. You grab one of those bikes that’s on sale. Throw yourself over it if you have to.”
I pulled my sleeves over my hands to keep out the chill. Why did Jeremy have to love Robin Hood? Why couldn’t he still want to be Hercules? I bet you no one was throwing themselves over the Hercules toys.
At five o’clock the doors opened, but it took us another twenty minutes to get in. By that time the aisles buzzed with people grabbing toys from shelves, and lines had already formed at the registers.
I told Madison, “Why don’t you go stand in line while I look for action figures. It will take less time that way.”
I didn’t wait for her answer, just weaved my way down an aisle. I wanted to hurry past people but continually found myself trapped behind carts with mammoth toys that blocked the way.
I cut across the Barbie doll aisle and momentarily considered picking up a girlfriend for Teen Robin Hood, one who was a little more suitable for him than Maid Marion. I’m sorry, but the actress who plays her is a total flake. All she does is flutter, cry, and wait for rescue. She never would have made it two days in the real Middle Ages, which is why I started rooting for Robin Hood to dump her after the third episode. I bet even Barbie could have taken her on in a serious smack down.
Finally I found the action figure row. I walked up and down, scanning the shelves for the green boxes of the Nottingham characters. The four-inch set Jeremy already owned sat prominently on the shelf, but I didn’t see the new, larger twelve-inch version, which was supposed to be available starting today.
Where were they?
The store couldn’t be sold out on the first day at five-twenty-five in the morning, could they? Shouldn’t they have a large shipment sitting around? I went to the next aisle. Nothing. And then I saw the endcap and the shelves of Nottingham green boxes.
A man with a dozen boxes in his shopping cart stood sifting through them. He wore a fake leather jacket that stretched over his stomach and an opal ring so large you could have used it as a serving tray.
I jogged over to the display, my eyes scanning the boxes for a Robin Hood. Maid Marion, Maid Marion, Little John, the Sheriff. . . .
“Are there any Robin Hoods left?” I asked.
He didn’t glance at me, just kept picking up boxes and checking them.
“I think I got them all.”
“What? I need one for my little brother.”
Now he glanced at me, his gaze sizing me up. “Then you’re in luck. I’ll sell you one for a hundred and fifty dollars.”
“A hundred and fifty? They cost thirty-nine.”
“Not once they go in my shopping cart. Then they’re a hundred and fifty.” He sent an oily smile in my direction. “That’s the free market, kid.”
I could see the boxes in his cart. They were so close.
I turned to the man, finally giving him my full attention. My mother claims I have a sixth sense about people. I know right after meeting someone what they’re like, how perceptive they are, and what makes them tick.
When I was little, I used to wish I had some sort of superpower. I wanted to fly like Superman or climb up buildings like Spider-Man. But when you come right down to it, there aren’t a lot of practical applications for superpowers. Being able to read people, however, comes in handy. It helps me deal with teachers and navigate through high school. I pretty much know what I can get away with.
Looking at this man now, I flipped through the possibilities in my mind. He wasn’t the type—even if I had been wearing makeup—that I could swish my long blond hair around and he’d relent on his price because a pretty girl asked him. Money motivated him, and nothing but. I didn’t detect even an ounce of sympathy circulating through his heart, but still I tried. I would tell him about Jeremy and hope for once I was wrong.
With my hands out pleading, I said, “Look, my brother is sick; he has cancer, and he really wants a Teen Robin Hood. Can’t you let me have just one?”
“For a hundred and fifty dollars, I can.”
I took out my wallet, and pulled out four twenties. “This is all I have, and I’m going to need forty dollars to buy it at the register.”
He snorted and went back to the boxes. “Then maybe your parents can find one on eBay. Of course they might be more than a hundred and fifty there. Robin Hood is the hot toy this season.”
I shoved my wallet back into my coat pocket and turned to the shelf. If he was still looking through the boxes, then so would I. There might be one left.
There had to be one left.
I flipped through King John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marion—even her plastic figurine looked like it was about to faint momentarily—the Sheriff, another Friar Tuck, and Robin Hood. Robin Hood! I gasped and grabbed the box.
Unfortunately the man reached for it at the same time and yanked it out of my hands.
“Hey!” I yelled. “That was mine.”
“Sorry, kid. I was here first. Besides,” he smiled as he grasped the box, “possession is nine tenths of the law.”
BOOK: Just One Wish
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