Authors: Wendelin Van Draanen
But what if T.J.
called our number? What if he was… but that didn't make any sense, either. Why would he pick up the phone if he'd just placed a threatening call. He'd stay
from it. I mean, he had to know about *69.
Besides, T.J. didn't have anything to do with bulldogs or cat dudes or missing kitties.
Then all of a sudden I remembered how protective he'd been of his garbage. At the time I'd just thought it was T.J. being T.J., but now I started wondering.
I mean, had there been
in his trash?
Grams' voice about shot me through the window. “I thought we agreed you wouldn't do that anymore.”
I spun around. “I was… I was just looking down at Maynard's.” I tried to relax. “T.J. was out front having a smoke.”
I put the binoculars back under her bed. I wanted to tell her what had happened, but all of a sudden I was just too tired. There's nothing more exhausting than having your grandmother cross-examine you about things you don't really understand yourself.
“So,” she said, “I've been meaning to ask—what's that on your shoe?”
“Uh… it's a lucky horseshoe,” I said, making my voice all perky. “And guess what? It works.”
“Seriously! I aced my math test and got a homework pass from Mr. Tiller, Heather got caught copying homework, and I found five bucks.”
“Yup!” I scooted out of her bedroom, hoping she wouldn't ask me where I'd gotten it. “Marissa says I am now a lucky charm.”
“Well! So much for thirteen being bad luck, huh?”
“I don't know about
I eyed her over my shoulder. “I've got three hundred sixty-two days to go!”
* * *
The next day wasn't exactly lucky, but it still wasn't bad. Actually, I have to admit—it was really good. And believe it or not, it was good because of Heather.
She was totally and ridiculously tweaked over my horseshoe.
Now, if it had been a ring or a necklace or, you know, something
, then yeah—I could see why she'd be a little spun up. Given how rational she is and all. But a bent piece of holey metal strapped to a worn-out sneaker? She was worried that what? This was a
And I couldn't help thinking it was funny I mean, Heather's not on the honor roll or anything, but she probably could be if she'd study even half as hard as she schemes.
, though, is clever.
And I don't know if she just happened to be clean out of cleverness or what, but when it came to the horseshoe, she couldn't seem to act anything but lame.
It started in homeroom, where she scowled at my foot and said, “What's up with that stupid horseshoe anyway, loser?”
I wiggled my high-top at her and smiled. “It protects me from evil.”
She sneered at me. “Oh
“Heath-errr,” Mrs. Ambler warned, because by now teachers know—they're supposed to keep her
“See?” I whispered. “It's working.”
Now, instead of just acting cool or like she didn't care, Heather had a mini spaz right there on the spot. Her nose wrinkled, her eyes sizzled, and from her neck up everything quivered. Her ears, her
, her hair, her cheeks—everything sputtered and spattered. Like her head had been dipped into a deep fryer.
“Sammy?” Mrs. Ambler asked, and she was starting to look worried.
I put my hands up and said, “
seat, Mrs. Ambler.”
“Heather!” she snapped. “Sit down.”
So that was homeroom. Then later in the day Holly spotted Heather and her friends Tenille and Monet following us. Seriously, they were lurking in the shadows, hiding around the corner, spying on us between classes. Heather by herself might have been able to get away with it, but with Monet, and especially
? What a joke. We ducked into the media center, zipped out a side door, and looped around. And while Heather and her friends were looking in the media-center door whispering frantically about where we'd gone, we were standing right behind them.
Finally I said, “Looking for someone?”
Heather spazzed out again.
I just laughed.
Then at lunch Marissa, Dot, Holly, and I found a nice shady spot on the front lawn and ate there. Everyone's supposed to be at the lunch tables or in the cafeteria, but it was so…
out that we didn't want to eat in the
cafeteria or be surrounded by cement. The grass was soft and cool, and smelled so good, plus there were other kids there, too. And since we were quiet and picked up our trash and all, nobody came and shooed us away. For thirty whole minutes the four of us caught each other up and totally forgot that we were in the middle of a school day.
It was nice.
Then on my way to science Casey ran up to me all out of breath, saying, “Hey, I thought maybe you were absent.” He checked my foot, and when he saw the horseshoe was still there, he grinned and said, “So? Is it working?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. “Is this some voodoo magic horseshoe?”
He laughed. “Should I take that as a yes?”
We started walking again, and I said, “I don't believe in good luck charms or any superstitious stuff like that, but man, I had the best day yesterday.” So I told him about the quiz and the homework pass and the money and the CD player, and I had to give him the super-speedy version because we were already in front of Mr. Pence's room, and Heather was lurking around.
“See?” he said, laughing. “What'd I tell you?”
“Yeah, yeah, right. If you ask me it's all a coincidence, but—”
He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked right into my eyes. “Sammy, you are lucky. L-U-C-K-Y. Believe!”
Now, in all the times I'd talked to Casey, I don't think—no, scratch that—I
I'd never been that, uh, face to face with him. And in all the times I'd talked to
him, I'd never noticed that his eyes were brown. They could've been purple for all I knew.
But they're not purple. They're brown. A milk-chocolate brown, with maybe a little bittersweet mixed in. And they're clear. No specks at all. No yellow ring. Just a real smooth chocolaty brown.
And now I was definitely noticing them. There wasn't much room
to notice them—they were, like, six inches away from mine.
And you better believe, my brain was screaming, RUN, but as usual, the rest of me wasn't listening—I couldn't seem to blink, I couldn't seem to move, I couldn't seem to breathe. Then my mouth went dry, my lips pruned up, and my heart started duking it out with my chest.
I finally managed to say, “Lucky. Right. I'll remember that.” Then I pulled away from him and beat it into the classroom.
So okay. I was a little spaced-out during science. My stomach was all, you know, fluttery. Not in a good way, either. More in an on-deck way, when the other team's pitcher is throwing a hundred miles an hour. You're afraid to swing ‘cause you'll probably miss and totally embarrass yourself. And if you do actually connect, well, the force of the ball is going to send shock waves down the bat straight to your hands and arms.
Translation: it's going to hurt.
And then there's always the possibility that the ball will go wild and hit you in the head. Helmet or not, it'll probably kill you.
So no, I wasn't really focusing on the worksheet Mr.
Pence had passed out. And no, I wasn't paying attention to what was going on around me. I was too busy ducking wild pitches in my head. But then I crossed my legs, and
I kicked something that slammed into the metal table.
I looked underneath the table, and there, holding her head with a pained look on her face, was Heather.
“What are you
?” I whispered, and Mr. Pence heard, because he came around from behind his desk, looked at the floor, and said, “Heather?”
She held her jaw and gave me a real lethal look as she backed out from under the table.
“Heather, what were you doing down there?” Mr. Pence asked.
“Uh…” She held her head with one hand as she slipped something into her back pocket with the other. “I… I dropped something—”
?” he asked.
She checked her hand for blood. “It was a… pearl…”
“It rolled and I… “ She was feeling her head again, keeping her back turned away from me so I couldn't see her pocket. Then all of a sudden she turns on the doe eyes and says, “Oh, Mr. Pence, I feel like I'm going to…,” and crumples into his arms.
He holds her for a second as she pretends to be all limp. “Heather?” He looks around, not knowing what to do, then eases her to the floor.
“Ooooh,” she goes, all drama-queen-like. “What happened?”
“You fainted, Heather, now just stay put. Where did you hurt your head?”
“Right… here,” she says, taking his hand and putting it on her head. “Ooooh, that hurts.” Then she gives him the total damsel-in-distress routine, batting her lashes and looking at him like she's oh-so-grateful that he's saved her.
Now, I don't know if anyone in the class bought her act, but I can tell you this—Mr. Pence did. His scientific brain turned to mush. And yeah, I believe Heather hurt her head, but there's no chance her act was for real. The only reason Heather was being swoony was because she was trying to get out of having to explain what she was doing crawling around on the floor.
she doing, crawling around under my table? And what had she hidden in her jeans?
When Mr. Pence finally helped her to her feet, she acted all wobbly and hung on him for support, but in the middle of all that she forgot to keep her backside turned away from me. And that's when I saw two little purple arcs peeking out the pocket of her designer jeans.
What was she doing with scissors?
Then it hit me. My horseshoe! She was planning to cut my laces and steal my horseshoe!
I looked down quick and let out a sigh of relief. It was still there. Good thing, too, ‘cause I'd have tackled her sorry backside and shown her just how
stealing someone's lucky charm can make you.
But I didn't have to tackle her. I just had to watch the
Swoon Show with the rest of the class until finally Mr. Pence decided to have Vanessa Pylor escort her to the office for medical attention.
Medical attention. Right.
But she was gone and that was fine with me. And the more I thought about Heather crawling around in her pricey jeans on the science room floor, the more I had to laugh. Do you know what gets spilled on the science room floor? Frog guts. Owl pellets.
Talk about stooping low to get what you want!
But hey. All that got my mind off Casey's Easter-egg eyes. And gave me lots to laugh about with Holly and Marissa on the way home from school.
“She was seriously going to cut your laces to get it?” Marissa asked when we stopped at the intersection of Broadway and Cook.
“That's my theory.”
Holly laughed. “Heather Scissorhands!” Then when the light changed, she looked at me and said, “You're coming with me to pick up the pictures, right?”
“Are they at the mall?” Marissa asked.
“No. They're at Speedy Photo.”
“That place up on Main? Clear past Miller?”
Marissa sighed. “Well, I can't go. I've got to get home. I promised Mom that—oh!” She looked at me all wide-eyed, then started digging through her backpack.
“I can't believe I forgot to give you these….” She
popped up with three CDs in her hand. “These two are from me…. “
I checked them over—boy bands. “Uh, thanks,” I said, as cheerfully as I could.
She scowled. “Give them a chance, would you?” Then she handed over the other CD and said, “And this one's from my mom.”
I asked. Then I looked at the CD and it made sense.
Darren Cole—Mr. Las Vegas.
“She bought, like,
of them.” She tapped on the jewel case. “It's autographed, see?” Then she dropped her voice and grinned. “I think my dad wants them out of the house.”
“Well, tell her I can't wait to hear what makes her go tick tock.”
Marissa laughed and took off for home, and Holly and I headed up to Speedy Photo.
We were totally unaware that we were being followed.