BSC123 - Claudia's Big Party - Martin, Ann M.
"Claudia! Why are you cleaning out your locker now? It's Friday. School's out for the weekend. And we're going S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G." Joanna Fried sang the letters of the last word as she, Shira Epstein, and Jeannie Kim swooped down on me.
S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G. Two P's? Joanna would know better than I, the world's biggest enemy of the spelled word. Although you'd think I'd know how to spell one of my favorite activities.
"Earrings," said Jeannie, "to go with this vest." She modeled her black velour vest, pointing out the red ribbon roses decorating the bottom edge. With her black jeans, black suede shoes, and long-sleeved white shirt, it made a very cool outfit.
"Dangly red roses?" I leaned forward to look at the vest a little more closely. If we found matching red ribbon, I might be able to make Jeannie some earrings. As I leaned over, I shrugged my overstaffed backpack to the ground. The sound of at least a hundred pounds of books hitting the floor made people turn around and look.
"It's not an earthquake," Joanna assured the crowd in the hallway, "only Claudia's backpack." Shira burst into giggles, which spread to the rest of us.
"What is in there?" Jeannie asked. "Explosives?" "Homework," I explained.
Shira stopped laughing, and her blue eyes grew to the size of small plates. "Eighth grade means that much homework?" "It does for me," I said to my seventh-grade friends. And they understood. They know me pretty well, even though we haven't been friends all that long. I'd been a year ahead of them in school until recently. And I'd always had to dog-paddle like crazy just to keep my head above water in all my subjects - except art, which happens to be my best subject and my favorite. My teachers, parents, and counselors came up with a plan that involved my going back to seventh grade to catch up. I did and found out that school wasn't as hard as I'd thought. And, it wasn't long before I did so well that I was offered the chance to move back to eighth grade. I took it. But not before I picked up an entire group of new friends, plus a boyfriend, Josh Rocker, who was walking toward us just then, as if my thoughts had summoned him.
Suddenly I realized I had made plans to hang out with Josh. Somehow that had slipped my mind. "Oh, wow," I exclaimed, "I totally forgot!" I knelt beside my bag and tried to stuff in one more book. No matter how I arranged and rearranged them, only four of the five I needed would fit.
"Totally forgot what?" Josh knelt beside me and tugged on the book I was still holding. I let go, and he ended up sitting down unexpectedly in the middle of the hall. All of us, including Josh, laughed again. "I was going to do that to you," he said, standing up and brushing off the seat of his jeans.
"I beat you to it." I smiled at him, glad to see him after a long day.
Josh flashed me a grin and tucked my book under his arm. "You ready?" I looked at Jeannie, Joanna, and Shira standing on one side of me and Josh standing on the other. Then I looked at my watch and calculated how much time was left before I had to be at my Baby-sitters Club meeting - and came up with, well, not enough to shop with my friends, and hang out with Josh. The BSC meets at my house every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon at five-thirty (more about this later). The club members are close friends of mine too. Sometimes I feel as though I need two or three more of me to be able to spend enough time with all my friends.
"Ready for what?" Joanna asked.
Josh looked from me to the girls, his smile fading. "Claudia? We have plans, right?" I nodded.
"But you said you were going shopping with us!" Shira said.
I nodded again.
"No problem," said Joanna. "You can come shopping with us, Josh." Joanna, who's super-organized (she's president of the seventh-grade class), always has an answer. She grabbed my math book out of my backpack and headed for the door.
I turned to Josh, not saying anything but trying to communicate with my eyes how much I wanted him to say he'd go. He looked at the floor for a second, then nodded, the grin back in place. I felt like giving him a hug. And I knew he wouldn't mind going shopping with us. He did it all the time before we were boyfriend and girlfriend. He likes Joanna, Shira, and Jeannie as much as I do.
My backpack with only three books in it was much easier to handle than my backpack with five books in it. I knew Mom, Dad, and my sister, Janine, had plans for working with me this weekend. Studying and my homework had been a pretty important part of our family life since I returned to the eighth grade. Academics really matter to my family. Dad is a partner in an investment firm in Stamford, Connecticut (a larger town than Stoneybrook, where we live). He can't wait until I study stocks and bonds, but for now he's a big help in social studies. Mom is the head librarian at the Stoneybrook Public Library and sometimes I think she knows about everything! Then there's Janine. She's sixteen and a junior at Stoneybrook High School, but she takes classes at Stoneybrook University. She lives for homework, her own as well as mine. It all seems to come pretty easily to her. She's a genius with the IQ to prove it.
Sometimes I look at them sitting around the table, talking about computers or astronomy or some book they've all read, and I wonder how I ended up in this family. We look like a family, though - a Japanese-American family. And they're incredibly supportive of me. I love art (creating it as well as appreciating it), fashion, junk food, and Nancy Drew mysteries. My family likes art too, but to look at only. As for the rest . . . it's an understatement to say that they don't approve. (That's why junk food and Nancy Drew books are hidden all over my room.) Josh walked behind the rest of us. I looked over my shoulder and found him staring at me. I slowed my pace to walk alongside him. 'Are you okay with this?" I asked. He shrugged, but he was smiling.
Shira turned around and, walking backward, asked me about eighth grade. "So how much homework is there regularly?" Shira's hair practically glittered in the bright sunlight. Tall and skinny, she towers over the rest of us. She worries a lot more than the rest of us too.
"It's not that bad," I assured her. "You won't have a bit of trouble." Shira executed a little skip-turn, satisfied with my answers. Jeannie and Joanna won't have any trouble either. They're both smart and do well in school. They have trouble believing that I have to work as hard as I do in eighth grade, since I used to help them when we studied together for our seventh-grade classes. It's a little easier the second time around.
On our way downtown, we had to stop at Shira's house, so she could get some money. Then we stopped at Joanna's house, so she could set her VCR for a show she needed to tape. By the time we were ready to shop, it was nearly four o'clock.
"Where do you want to go first?" Jeannie asked as we finally approached downtown Stoneybrook.
I knew she wanted to go to the Merry-Go-Round and shop for earrings. I wanted to stop by the thrift shop to see what they'd added recently. That's one of the differences between Jeannie and me, although we both like clothes. I like to put together different outfits from what I have, what I can make, and what I buy here and there. Consignment stores are places for me to treasure hunt. Some of the best outfits I've ever put together come from things I've picked up secondhand. I have a policy-of never wearing the same outfit twice - even if that means changing only a scarf or the earrings I'd worn before. Jeannie, who is also Asian-American, likes to wear the kinds of outfits you'd see on a mannequin or in Twist magazine.
Josh might want to go to the music store, but he wasn't saying much. Shira and Joanna were leaning toward the Merry-Go-Round.
"Is that okay?" I asked Josh. He shrugged again. "You aren't saying a whole lot. Is everything all right?" Josh is usually in the middle of any conversation, no matter what the topic.
"I'm fine," he said.
I wasn't convinced. We turned into the store and crowded around the earring counter.
"Look for red roses," Shira directed, walking around the counter slowly.
I let my backpack slip off my shoulders. It didn't make nearly as much noise this time, but we all giggled again when it hit the floor.
Except Josh. He wore a puzzled look. "What?" he asked.
"Earlier I dropped my backpack and it was so full, it made this huge noise," I tried to explain. It didn't sound very funny. It was one of those things that you had to have been there for to understand. Josh's mouth turned up at the corners for a quick moment, then his eyebrows collided as he frowned.
I decided to stay close to him. "What do you think about those?" I asked, pointing to a pair of earrings I'd just spotted. They were tiny paintbrushes made out of real bristles, with a different color of paint on the tip of each one. I like to make my own earrings, but I'm not above buying them if they're creative enough.
"Umm," Josh answered.
"Joanna!" I'd caught a glimpse of the perfect pair for Ms. President - a pair of gavels. They weren't a reserved presidential gold or silver, though. They were made of rainbow-striped plastic. I couldn't imagine anyone but Joanna wearing them. "These have your name written all over them." Joanna leaned across the counter. "That's not how you spell Joanna," she said, the glass case steaming up as her breath hit it.
"It's how you spell president," I said.
"May I see that pair, please?" Joanna asked the clerk, tapping on the glass above the gavels.
The salesclerk, a girl I thought I recognized as someone in Janine's class at SHS, opened the case and handed the card with the gavel earrings to Joanna.
"While you have that open, could I please see the paintbrushes?" I asked, pointing them out.
"I'd like to see the gold roses and the red roses, please," Jeannie said from her place at the counter.
'And the books and those big blue globes for me, please," Shira added.
The clerk sighed, pulling out all the earrings we'd asked to see. "How about you?" she said to Josh.
He backed away, shaking his head and holding his hand in front of him.
"Come on, Josh," said Jeannie. "Claudia will hold your hand while someone here pierces your ear." "Both of them, if you want," said Shira.
"Hold both his hands or pierce both his ears?" Joanna asked.
I turned toward Josh, smiling, ready to say I'd be glad to hold both his hands. But he wasn't smiling.
"No thanks," he said, turning his back and walking to a rack of key chains.
Shira frowned, as if she realized she'd gone a little too far.
I started to follow Josh, but before I'd taken two steps, Jeannie called me back. "What do you think, fashion guru? Are these roses too different from the ones on the vest?" I glanced back, thinking I'd be able to answer with a quick yes or no and join Josh, but I wanted to be sure, which meant I had to look closer. "Not the gold ones," I said. "Too bright. Hold the red roses up to your ears." Jeannie shook back her long hair and held one earring to each ear. They were exactly right for the outfit. The roses were a little smaller than the ones on the vest, but they were a close match in color and style. "Perfect!" I said.
"I can't believe how different roses can look," said Jeannie, pushing the earrings across the counter to the clerk and nodding that she wanted to buy them. "These are kind of flat and these are huge." She showed me at least a dozen pairs of rose earrings on display.
Shira was trying the blue globes. "You have to buy those," Joanna urged her. "They are the exact same color as your eyes!" I had to check that out too.
"Next time I have to conduct a class meeting, no one will be able to look away if I wear these," Joanna decided, admiring the gavel earrings.
"You might even be able to use them to call the meeting to order," Jeannie joked. "They're big enough." Shira asked me about a second pair of earrings, then Joanna called to me to see some hair clips.
When I finally looked around to find Josh, I caught a glimpse of the large Winnie-the-Pooh clock hanging on the wall. I couldn't believe how much time had passed. If I didn't leave soon, I was going to be late for the BSC meeting.
"You guys, I have to go! It's almost time for my meeting." I picked up my backpack and with a groan slung it over my shoulder.
"Don't forget this one." Joanna handed over the book she'd carried for me.
"Don't forget me," Josh mumbled, just loud enough for me to hear. He held out the book he'd carried.
"Josh, I'm really sorry. I thought we'd be finished here quickly and then you and I could - " "Have some quality time?" he interrupted.
"That's what I thought," I said in a low voice. 'Are you mad?" Josh shook his head. 'Ask me if I'm disappointed." 'Are you disappointed?" 'Are you?" I nodded. "What if I call you tonight, after dinner?" A big smile spread across Josh's face, the smile I like to think of as "my" smile. "I could live with that," he said.
"Okay, it's a date. And speaking of dates, don't forget about tomorrow night - you, me, Logan, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Ethan," I said, walking quickly toward the door.
"How could I forget?" Josh called after me.
Something in the way he said it made me think he wasn't excited. But maybe that was my imagination.
The front door was unlocked. We always leave it that way on days the BSC meets. I threw it open and ran up the steps.
Kristy Thomas looked up from the clipboard she was holding. "Hi. Where've you been?" she asked. She was sitting in the same place she always sits during our meetings - in my director's chair - and she had stuck a pencil behind her ear. Mary Anne Spier was already there too, sitting on my bed.