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Authors: Ann M. Martin

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BOOK: Claudia and the New Girl
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Chapter 8.

Kristy's notebook entry went on for so long that I got a pretty complete idea of what happened at the second club meeting that I couldn't attend. Plus, later — when we were friends again — Stacey filled me in on every little thing I'd missed.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What made me miss another meeting was that Ashley convinced me to take a second inspirational walk in "the field" with her, looking for something to sculpt, since I couldn't bring myself to sculpt the traffic light. We ran late again, I had to call Dawn to ask her to take over my duties, and another meeting was held in my room without me.

The meeting started out with Dawn running into my room, arriving just after Kristy had, and announcing, "Well, I'm the vice-president again today."

"You are?" Kristy said. "How come?"

"Claudia just called. She and Ashley are doing something."

"What?" demanded Kristy.

"I don't know. It has to do with that sculpture show."

Kristy, mumbling and grumbling, began pawing around my bed, lifting up my pillow

and comforter, and finally sliding off the bed headfirst and peering underneath it.

"What are you doing?" asked Dawn.

"Looking for Claudia's Bazooka bubblegum. I know she's got some stashed somewhere."

Mary Anne entered my r6om then, followed by Stacey. "What are you doing?" she asked Kristy. (Everyone seemed to want to know.)

"Looking for Claudia's bubblegum."

"It's in her hollow book," said Stacey, pointing to the bookshelf. "Where's Claudia?"

"Three guesses," replied Kristy, biting off the words angrily. She pulled the hollow book from my shelf. (It's my best, most clever hiding place ever.) Then she reached in, pulled out two pieces of gum (one for her, one for Mary Anne — Dawn and Stacey won't touch the stuff), and began chewing.

"I only need one guess," said Stacey, "and it isn't a guess. It's a 'know.' She's with Ashley again."

"Right."

"Ha." Stacey flumped onto my bed. "Ashley was wearing bell-bottoms today. Everyone was talking about her."

"She is so weird," said Mary Anne. "She doesn't talk to anyone but Claudia. I think she's stuck-up."

Ring, ring.

My friends were slower than usual in answering the phone. Stacey picked it up after three rings and arranged a job sitting for Jamie and Lucy Newton. Then Dawn's mother called needing a sitter for Jeff one evening.

"How are things going with Jeff?" Mary Anne asked Dawn after she'd finished talking with Mrs. Schafer.

Dawn shrugged. "Okay, I guess. Mom had a conference with his teacher and told her what's going on with Jeff at home. Then Ms. Besser told her what Jeff was doing in school. Like, not working, not bothering to raise his hand. All these nots. They've decided that they're just going to try being very firm with him and not letting him get away with a thing. And really praise him for the good stuff he does. That doesn't sound like much to me. I thought they were going to talk about bigger things, like whether Jeff should move back to California to be with Dad. But I guess you start with something small and hope it will do the trick."

"Sure," said Mary Anne. "It's like giving a sick person a pill instead of going ahead and doing a whole huge operation."

The girls had to laugh at Mary Anne's comparison. The idea of Jeff on an operating table

having his bad humor removed was pretty funny.

"But," Dawn went on thoughtfully a few moments later, "Mom and Dad have been talking a lot lately."

"About Jeff?" asked Stacey.

"Probably. The only reason I know is because I was in Mom's desk the other day looking for Scotch tape, and the phone bill was right on top of a pile of stuff. I didn't even have to snoop to see all the calls that have been made to Dad's number. It was a whole long list of them. All from the last few weeks, and most of them late at night. I guess they're talking at night because they don't want Jeff and me to know what they're discussing. Which means the subject must be Jeff. What else could be so important to both of them? They're sure not going to get remarried or anything."

"What do you think they're saying?" asked Mary Anne in a small voice.

Dawn shook her head. "I ... I don't know. ..."

The phone rang and Dawn leapt for it, as if she were glad for the chance to avoid Mary Anne's question. "Hello, Baby-sitters Club," she said. "Yes? . . . Yes. . . . Okay. . . . Okay. . . . Until eleven? Well, I'll check and get back to you. . . . Right. . . . 'Bye."

Mary Anne, always organized and ready, was waiting with the record book in her lap by the time Dawn hung up the phone. It was open to the appointment pages. "A night job?" she asked, her eyes shining. We all love babysitting late at night, even though sometimes we get scared.

"Yup," replied Dawn.
 
"At the Papadak-

ises'."

"When?" asked Mary Anne.

Dawn told her.

"Well, let's see. Kristy, you're free, and so's Claudia," said Mary Anne.

"Oh, give the job to Kristy," said Dawn and Stacey together. The two of them were so busy being smug about the thought of not giving the job to me, that they didn't even bother to hook pinkies and say "jinx."

The thing is, the Papadakises live over in Kristy's neighborhood, and we usually let Kristy take jobs that are near to her because it's so much more convenient for both her and our clients if nobody has to drive anywhere. But at that meeting, it was plain that my friends didn't want me to get the job. They were punishing me for not being at the meeting.

Mary Anne wrote Kristy's job on the appointment calendar, while Dawn called Mrs. Papadakis back and told her that Kristy would

be sitting. When she hung up, Mary Anne said, sounding guilty, "Do you think we should have offered that job to Claudia, too? We could have called Mrs. Papadakis tomorrow."

"No way," said Stacey. "Why make a good client wait? Besides, Kristy usually sits for the people in her neighborhood. We do that on purpose. Right, Kristy?"

"Right," she agreed.

For a moment, nobody spoke.

Then Stacey said, "Claudia probably wouldn't even have time to sit. She's so busy with Ashley."

"She hasn't eaten lunch with us in days," added Dawn.

"I don't think she likes me anymore," said Stacey softly.

Mary Anne was looking sympathetically at Stacey. As Stacey's eyes filled with tears, so did Mary Anne's.

"Darn it," cried Stacey, mashing her fist into my pillow and smushing a package of cookies that was hidden underneath. "I hate crying."

"It's okay," whimpered Mary Anne, edging closer to Stacey. "We don't mind if you cry. We know Claudia's your best friend. You must feel. . . terrible. . . ." Mary Anne's tears spilled down her cheeks before Stacey's did.

"Oh,
 
this is just fine," exclaimed Kristy.

"Claudia's not even here, and look what she's turned this meeting into. A cry-fest. Where are Claudia's Twinkies? I know they're here somewhere. I need a Twinkie. I'm having a Twinkie attack." Kristy was practically destroying my room in her search for junk food. It was so silly. Anyone with half a brain would know I keep the Twinkies in my sock drawer.

"Mary Anne, get a grip on yourself," said Stacey, who'd already stopped crying. "Think of pleasant things. Think of Tigger." (Tigger is Mary Anne's kitten.)

"Think of Shannon," said Kristy. (Shannon is the Thomas kids' new puppy.)

"Think of Logan," said Dawn. (Logan is Mary Anne's boyfriend. Believe it or not, she's the only club member who has a boyfriend.)

"I'm trying," said Mary Anne, sniffling.

"Oh, brother," said Kristy. "Listen to us. 'Think lovely thoughts.' Do you know who we sound like? We sound like Peter Pan, that's who. Peter Pan. We are baby-sitters, not magical, flying boys. Now, you guys."

"Yes?" said Dawn, Stacey, and Mary Anne.

"Dry your eyes, sit up straight, wait for the phone to ring, quit thinking like Peter Pan, and — behave like baby-sitters."

Chapter 9.

I slammed my locker closed, heard a rustling sound inside, and immediately wrenched my locker open again. I knew what had happened. My poster of Max Morrison, the most gorgeous star in the history of television, had fallen off the inside of the door. This happens about once a day. At Stoneybrook Middle School you're not allowed to put things up in the lockers with tape, so us kids get around this by using bits of chewed-up gum. The only problem is, the gum loses its stickiness after awhile.

I smacked the poster back onto the gum bits, reminding myself to chew up some new gum soon, and closed my locker again. Then I turned around and nearly ran into Ashley. She was wearing a long, all-the-way-to-her-ankles dress with three rows of ruffles at the bottom. A strip of black cloth was tied around her head. I couldn't see her earrings, but she looked

, . . well, all right, I'll admit it. She looked a little bizarre.

"I'm glad I found you," said Ashley. "I had a great idea this morning — for your sculpture — and I wanted to tell you about it right away."

"Thank goodness," I said, "because I'm not too sure about an, um, inanimate object."

"I know — " Ashley began.

"Hi, Claudia."

"Hi, Claudia."

"Hi, Claudia."

"Hi, Claudia."

I turned around. There were the other members of the Baby-sitters Club. I was really glad they'd come to talk. They hardly ever do that when Ashley's around.

"Hi, you guys!" I replied. I waited for my friends to say hi to Ashley or for Ashley to say hi to my friends, but none of them spoke.

"Well . . ."I said nervously.

"We missed you at the meeting yesterday," said Kristy pointedly.

"I'm sorry. I had to think about — "

"We know, we know. Your sculpture," said Dawn.

Stacey eyed Ashley critically. "Nice dress," she commented.

Ashley flushed with embarrassment, but she didn't reply. We all knew Stacey was being sarcastic.

"Do you suppose you'll be able to clear time in your busy schedule to get to the next meeting?" Dawn asked me.

I looked at her in surprise. What kind of question was that from our even-tempered alternate officer?

"I plan to," was all I replied.

"I hope you approve of that," said Kristy to Ashley.

Ashley, still looked awfully uncomfortable. "Claudia," she began uncertainly, and then seemed to gain some confidence. "Claudia is an artist — "

"Don't remind us," interrupted Kristy.

"She's an artist," Ashley went on, "and she needs to spend time on her work."

"What are you? Her tutor or something?" asked Stacey.

"I'm her mentor," replied Ashley, as serious as always.

Well, that put a stop to things for a moment or two because only Ashley knew what a mentor was. (I looked it up in the dictionary later. It means a wise and trusted teacher. I guess that's better than a plain old tutor.)

"If Claudia is going to develop her talents

to the fullest — and I do think she can go a long way in the world of art — "

(I beamed again. I couldn't help it. You just don't shrug off compliments like that one.)

" — she has to devote as much time as possible to her art," Ashley finished.

"But she does," insisted Mary Anne. "Plenty of time." And I thought, my friends really don't understand, do they?

Ashley shook her head. "Spending time on anything else, especially baby-sitting, is just a waste."

"Hey," said Kristy, turning angrily to me, "does this mean you're quitting the club? It would be nice if you'd let us know. We'd like to hold the meetings somewhere other than in your room, if you are. And of course we'll have to give our clients our new phone number, make up new fliers, all sorts of things."

"I'm not quitting the club!" I exclaimed.

"Could have fooled us," said Stacey.

"Yeah," spoke up Mary Anne, sounding unusually fierce.

"We could use a little warning if you are," said Kristy.

"I AM NOT QUITTING!" I cried.

"Good," said Kristy and Stacey.

"Good," I said.

"Good-bye," added Dawn and Mary Anne.

"Good-bye," I replied.

My four friends turned and walked off down the hall. I was left standing with Ashley. "Oh, who needs them anyway?" I said grumpily.

"Right," agreed Ashley. "Who needs friends when you have art?"

I tried to smile at Ashley, but it was difficult.

"Ew, ew! Get away from me! Get away!" shrieked Fiona McRae.

"Oooo-eeee-oooo. You'll never escape the Mud Monster from the deep." John Steiner, his hands dripping with watered-down clay, chased Fiona around the room.

This is the sort of thing that usually goes on at our art class if Ms. Baehr arrives a few minutes late. John and Fiona weren't the only kids acting up. Seth Turbin was making fake eyeballs out of his clay, and Mari Drabek was trying to fashion a pair of glasses for the eyeballs.

I kept looking around and giggling — especially at the eyeballs and glasses — but Ashley sat stiffly in front of her fire hydrant sculpture. She worked busily, not even .aware of the other kids. I wished I could be as focused as Ashley was.

"Good afternoon, class!" called Ms. Baehr's voice.

We snapped to attention. John ran to the sink — as if that's where he'd been headed all along — to clean up his hands. Seth and Mari smashed their eyeballs and glasses flat. And everyone else flew into their seats. (Except for Ashley, who was already in her seat.)

"While you're working today," Ms. Baehr said, ignoring all the confusion, "I want to find out how each of you is doing with your piece for the show. I'll walk around and talk to you privately. Feel free to interrupt me if you need help with anything."

Since Ashley and I were at the worktable in the front of the room, Ms. Baehr approached us first. "Ashley?" she said. "You've definitely decided to go ahead with the fire hydrant?"

"Yes," replied Ashley. "And this is it. I mean, the beginning of it." She indicated the lumpy clay that was slowly gaining form in front of her.

Ms. Baehr looked at it for several seconds. Her face was expressionless. At last she said, "You do realize that this is an odd choice for a sculpture, don't you?"

BOOK: Claudia and the New Girl
8.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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