Authors: Rachel Vail
a bunch of us went over to Brooke's house. Just “the girls”âBrooke (of course), Natasha, Evangeline, Lulu, and me. We went right to the kitchen because we were baking cookies for the eighth-grade bake sale tomorrow. Her parents were both home and they were so friendly and nice, just like Brooke. Happy to see a whole crew of us, but then they didn't hang around nervously helping get stuff out for us the way my parents do. They hadn't even prepared anything for us. Just, anything we wanted to get or do was fine. Then her mom went to drive Brooke's gorgeous older sister to ballet, and their dad and little brother went off somewhere on bikes. Everyone in Brooke's whole family has big happy smiles and dimples in their cheeks. They're all perfect.
After her parents left, we talked about science projects. We all complimented Lulu, whose presentation was today. She jumped around a little, she was so happy we all thought her bubbles went over well. She's very enthusiastic.
They all went
when I said my report was on dust mite feces. In a nice way, though. I sucked it up and dealt. I think it went pretty well. Might just take more practice, to be smooth and not feel lurchy in the face of their attention and joking. But I think I am improving. Instead of deciding to come up with a completely new science project tonight because mine is obviously too horrible, I said, “I know, gross, right? But sort of interesting? Maybe? I don't know. We'll see how many people puke when I give it tomorrow.”
“I might puke now!” Lulu said. “Seriously? There's bug crap in dust? Ew!”
“Yes,” I said.
“Okay, I fully have to stop eating dust as a snack,” Brooke said.
We all laughed.
“But seriously, Truly,” Lulu said. “I'm sure you'll do really good.” Lulu is almost as small as me but much sturdier, with her shiny black hair all yanked back tight in a ponytail. Every time she talks I have to smile because she sounds like she sucked helium from a balloon.
“Thanks, Lulu,” I said.
“You will,” Evangeline agreed. “You're really good at oral reports. You make anything interesting.”
“You're stressing me out!” I said.
They noticed me? Before?
They laughed some more. Phew. Though I wasn't actually kidding. When I first saw Evangeline in sixth grade, I thought she was a teacher. She just seems so grown-up and in charge. She never talked to me directly until I started sitting at the Popular Table except one time in gym, when she yelled, “Get out of the way.” Every time she talks to me now I flinch. But she only ever says super kind things to me. Still, she seems so sure of herself. And so tall.
“You'll do great,” Brooke said. “How can you miss with bug turds and dust?”
“You'll probably get an A,” Natasha said. “You always do.”
“Hair flip,” Evangeline said, and then demonstrated. Like a starlet deflecting compliments, she swished her braids off her face. I imitated her.
We all flipped our hair like humble superstars a couple of times, then moved on and I was like, hallelujah. We talked about each person's science topic, made fun of it a little but then complimented the person. Then we talked a bit about our History Day project. Everybody liked my idea of Benedict Arnold. “Maybe we could do like a skit about what he did,” I suggested.
“That could be really cool,” Lulu said.
“Definitely,” Brooke agreed. “Write a short play, and we'd all have parts?”
“That's sick!” Evangeline said.
“Oh,” I said, dying instantly on the spot. “I mean, no. Of course. I didn'tâ”
“No, I meant that sounds awesome,” Evangeline said. “Sick like great!”
“Oh,” I said. “Right. Of course.” I did a hair flip.
“A play could be really fun,” Lulu said.
“True,” Brooke said. “Practicing it and all that. Great. Lulu, hand me the cookie sheet?”
“Yeah!” Lulu said. “Here. So what exactly happened with Benedict Arnold? In history? Revolutionary War, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “The thing that I think is cool about the story is that Benedict was a great soldier, but he wasn't good at getting along with people. The only one who really liked him was George Washington. And then Benedict betrayed him.”
“Way to win friends,” Natasha said.
“Well, from what I've read, I meanÂ .Â .Â .” I didn't want to sound like a know-it-all, like Natasha used to accuse me of being. “I don't know.”
“No, what do you think?” Brooke asked, leaning forward.
I took a deep breath. “I think Benedict thought if he turned over West Point to the British, he could end the war. The war wasn't so popular right thenâso many soldiers who were basically only teenagers dying, you know. He could bring peace, and be a hero.”
“Huh,” Lulu said, banging flour through the sifter into the big metal bowl beneath. “I thought he was just a traitor.”
“That's whatÂ .Â .Â .”
Am I talking too much?
“I mean, most people think that, butÂ .Â .Â .”
“We could show the other side?” Brooke asked.
“I love it,” Brooke said.
I felt my face heating up.
“Plus it's Colonial,” said Evangeline. “So we can just wear sweats and hike the elastic part up to our knees, and do long socks. Right?”
“Yeah!” said Lulu.
“I have a dress,” Natasha said. “From my aunt's wedding in the spring. I was a bridesmaid.”
“It's really pretty,” I said.
“So you automatically get to be the girl?” Evangeline asked Natasha. Then she turned to me. “Is there even a girl? History sucks, leaving women out so much.”
“Peggy,” I said. “Peggy Shippen. Benedict Arnold's wife. Natasha could be Peggy. Shippen.”
Ugh. Too much!
I shrugged, like,
or maybe that's not her name! Just saying random names because why would I know that Benedict Arnold's wife's name is Peggy Shippen? That's weird! Hahaha! Oh help.
“I don't think you'd fit into the dress,” Natasha said to Evangeline. “You can try if you want butÂ .Â .Â .”
“Youch,” Lulu squeaked.
“I didn't mean anythingÂ .Â .Â .” Natasha said quickly.
“So waitâthere's George Washington, Benedict, Peggyâthat's only three,” Brooke said.
I considered telling her the other parts that could be possibilities but decided to hold back. “There have to be others,” I said. “I'll work on it.”
“We should split up the research,” Evangeline said.
“Definitely,” Lulu agreed.
“Cool,” Brooke said. “Evangeline, is that butter blended yet?”
“Yeah,” Evangeline said. “Here.”
“Dump in that flour stuff?” Brooke told Lulu. Then she turned back to me. “That sounds really good. The untold story. Friendship and betrayal. Awesome.”
“Yeah,” Natasha agreed, bumping me with her hip. “What could be better than friendship and betrayal, right?”
“Right,” I said. “Sure.”
“WHAT COULD BE
better than friendship and betrayal,” I joked. “Right?”
“Right,” Truly answered nervously. “Sure.”
“Yo, Brooke,” Evangeline said, giving up momentarily fighting me on who should get to wear
dress in the History Day play Truly was fully going to write for us, thanks to me. “How small are those cookies?”
“How small are
cookies?” Brooke answered without looking up.
Lulu laughed. “How small is your
“How face is your small?” I said. Lulu flashed me a smile. We love random disses. Poor Truly was looking a bit frantic. She wasn't used to us yet.
“Your face is small cookies,” Evangeline said.
“Your cookies are small faces,
!” Brooke said. “I was thinking we should make a lot of smallies for the bake sale, no?”
“Yeah, good idea,” Lulu said. “Maybe three in a bag for a buck?”
“Or four,” I said. “So they'll sell out first. We don't want to be the losers whose stuff doesn't sell.”
“That would be sad,” Lulu said.
“Like when I was in first grade?” I said. “My dad burned the cookies and he made me bring them in anyway. Remember that, Truly?”
“Vaguely,” Truly said. A lie. I know she remembered. She brought cupcakes. They were perfect.
“I'll never forget it,” I said, rolling my eyes. “We had to stand there in front of our stuff and mine were these hard lumps of coal, and nobody bought them.”
. This is what's so good about being older, and having good friends. The humiliating stories aren't shameful anymoreâthey're funny, and good for bonding. Also, sympathy.
I'm such a loser
is code for cool.
I pouted out my bottom lip. I have nice lips, Mom once said. “Ms. Berger bought five dollars' worth at the end.”
“She was so nice,” Truly agreed. “Ms. Berrrrgerrrrr.”
“I threw out the rest,” I said. “Of course my mom was sure I ate them all. As if.”
Brooke shook her head at that. “Ugh,” she said. She knows my mom is not the easiest person to deal with, and she's pretty supportive about it. I mean, I know it's way worse that Lulu's mom died, but we're not in some sort of pity competition. It's hard to have a difficult mom, too. But Evangeline flashed me that look like
shut up about mothers in front of Lulu.
As if suddenly I am such an insensitive clod I would forget that.
“These cookies?” Evangeline said, tasting some batter. “No way people will pass these babies up. Three in a bag's probably fine. Yum.”
“My dad's recipe,” said Brooke.
“The man's a genius,” Lulu squeaked. Everybody smiled at her.
Truly tasted a tiny bit, finally. “Yum,” she said. Her mom doesn't allow her to taste raw batter.
“But how about a couple of biggies for us, for now,” Lulu squealed.
“Nice!” Brooke said.
“Yes,” yelled Evangeline. “Biggies! I call I get to be Benedict Arnold.”
“I think Truly should decide who gets which part,” I said generously. “I mean, doing the play was her idea.”
“Oh, anything's fine with me,” Truly said.
“You are such a sweet person!” Lulu said.
“Me?” Truly and I both asked.
Everybody laughed at that.
“I meant Truly,” Lulu said, and giggled her high-pitched honking giggle.
I pouted again. They laughed a bit, but still it was like they were ganging up on me. I was the one trying to be nice, and they were just purposely ignoring me and making it like Truly was so great, and Lulu was so tragic, and Evangeline so boss, and of course Brooke is still and always on top. What about
you Truly was awesome, didn't I?” I was smiling but inside I was, like,
Why does nothing go my way for more than five-second stretches?
“She is,” Evangeline agreed. “Truly is the sweetest kid in the whole grade.” She took another lump of dough to eat. “So. I get to be Benedict. Right, Truly?”
Truly laughed. “Okay.”
“Hey, EvangelineÂ .Â .Â .” I said.
“Yeah?” Evangeline asked, with the big hunk of dough in her mouth, which made Brooke laugh.
“Maybe you should save a little dough for the cookies?”
Everybody all got quiet at that. Okay it came out way harsher than I meant it to. I was just trying to get back to joking around. She didn't have to look at me like I was threatening her puppy with a switchblade. Come on.
“Youch,” Brooke said, after a minute. “Chill, huh, Natasha?”
“What? I'm kidding,” I said, smiling at them all. “Right, Truly?”
Truly shrugged, imitating Brooke.
“Stop trying to be a mini-Brooke,” I told her.
She opened her pale eyes all innocent at me. “What?” Truly asked.
I opened my eyes super wide like her, and imitated her Brooke-like shrug.
Truly looked at the floor. Busted.
Lulu said, “Natasha, man, did you sit on a fan this morning or what? Why are you being such a pill?”
I smiled at Lulu. “I'm just joking around. Can't anybody here take a joke?”
“Tell one and we'll laugh,” Evangeline said. “Otherwise shut your trap.” She got up and went to the bathroom.
“Jeez, Louise, some people take everything personally,” I said.
“Preach,” Lulu said.
“Right?” I asked her.
“I was talking about you,” Lulu said, all stony faced.
“Truly knows I was joking around,” I said, trying not to panic.
“Of course,” Truly said. “I'm sure you were.”
“See?” I asked. But I am not at all sure they did see.