Authors: Kristina Springer
“Not true,” Dilly says. “Depends on how he said it. Did he say, âNice hair, yo'? ” Dilly juts both of her hands out in a crisscross motion in front of her, like she might start rapping or something. She looks ridiculous.
I giggle. “Uh, no.”
“Did he lean in really close to your face,” she says, getting way too close to me herself, “his hot breath all over your cheek, and say in a low sultry voice, âYour hair is like fine silk, Jamie'? ”
A laugh erupts from me and I slap a hand over my mouth. “Dilly, you're so crazy,” I say.
“Well, what did he say then?” she asks.
“I think he said my hair looked nice that day. Something like that.”
“Huh.” Dilly sits back and thinks about this. She looks back over to me. “Yeah, you're right. Could mean nothing.”
I nod and turn to the front of the room as our math teacher walks in. That's what I thought. His compliment probably means nothing at all. But I wish it did mean something.
The last bell rings and I race home and change into my work clothes. I want to get out to the Patch as soon as possible and see what kind of mood Milan is in. I've been having the same glorious daydream all day today and I want to see if it came true. It goes like this: Milan is at the concession stand making lattes and showing off in front of Danny. He's there to get a water because he's so hot and tired from working hard, and not at all there to flirt with her. Not in my fantasy. Milan is batting her eyelashes and giggling at something Danny said when Mayor Hudson charges up to the stand, waving her Pumpkin Princess application over his head. “Never!” he shouts, his voice a thundering boom. “You will never be Pumpkin Princess of this town!” Milan gasps and dramatically clutches her chest with her hand. “I don't understand,” she whimpers. But Mayor Hudson ignores her. He holds the paper in front of Milan and slowly rips it in half, letting both pieces fall to the ground. “Young lady, I strongly suggest you pack your things and leave Average. We are a town of moral people and you don't belong here.” Milan gasps. “Y-you know?” The mayor nods slowly, his eyes narrow and full of anger. Even though the mayor doesn't say anything further he doesn't have to. Danny shoots Milan a disgusted look, sets the water down on the concession stand with a loud thud, and turns to leave. “Danny,” she cries out. “Wait, I can explain!” But he keeps walking and never looks back.
Yeah. It's a good dream.
I reach the concession stand, half expecting Milan to be gone and Christy or Dana to be covering for her. But nope, she's standing there, full makeup, hair blown out, wearing a skimpy denim jumper. She's talking animatedly as she sets pumpkin spice lattes down before two girls.
Darn. Realistically I know it's only been maybe seventeen or eighteen hours since I sent the e-mail to the town board, but that should have been plenty of time for them to throw Milan out of the contest.
“So obviously I left that club,” Milan is telling the girls. “Like I'm going to stay and dance at your club when you won't let in one of my closest friends, you know, Donna and Darnell Holtspring's daughter, Dara. Please.”
The girls exchange glances, drop a few bills on the counter, and turn and walk away without saying a word to Milan.
I bite my bottom lip to keep from giggling. What's this? Are Milan's braggy brag braggerson stories finally starting to bore people? Or do they know about Milan's sex scandal? Ooh, I hope they know!
“Hmph,” Milan says, twisting up her lips as she watches the girls walk away. She looks at me. “What do you want?”
“Lattes,” I say. “You're supposed to teach me how to make them this afternoon.”
“Oh. Yeah. All right, well, don't stand there. Come back here and I'll show you how to use the espresso machine.”
Ah, yes, I can sense this will be a fun afternoon.
Milan shows me three times how to fill the water chamber, grind the espresso beans, tamp them into the basket, and pull one or two shots. It's not quite as hard as I'd imagined. Steaming the milk, on the other hand, is a bit ridiculous. You have to hold this metal pitcher under the steaming wand and move it around and stuff just right to get the thing to steam the milk. Move it too far one way and it doesn't steam. Move it too far another way and you've got foam shooting out all over the place.
A group of girls approach the concession stand and Milan looks at me. “You make their drinks this time, okay?”
I nod and stand ready behind the machine.
“Hello, ladies,” Milan calls out. “Lattes again?” Milan rests both hands on the counter, waiting.
I don't hear anyone speak so I lean back to get a good look at the girls. There are three of them, each one pretty, wearing matching soccer uniforms. They look older than me and I don't recognize them so I'm guessing they are from the community college. They're staring at Milan.
Milan lets out a nervous giggle. “Well? Something else then?”
The tall girl with the blond ponytail looks at her friends and then they suddenly burst out laughing and walk away.
Milan gives me an annoyed look. “What is wrong with people today?” she demands.
She sighs. “Make another practice one, I guess,” she says. She walks over and hovers next to me, watching. I pick up the steaming pitcher, fill it halfway with milk, and start foaming. Milk shoots out of the pitcher and hits Milan square in the face.
“Argh! Jamie! How many times are you going to do that?”
“Sorry,” I say. “I told you I wasn't good at this.”
I spray Milan so many times trying to steam milk that afternoon that she finally asks me to not be her assistant any longer. Which is a fantastic idea to me. As far as I'm concerned I don't want to see her at all. Unless it's for her to tell me she's dropping out of the Pumpkin Princess contest.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
I help Mom put the animals in the petting zoo to bed for the night and then stop at the corn maze to chat with Molly for a few minutes before I head home.
“How are the little ones doing today?” I ask.
She smiles. She loves talking about her brothers and sisters. “Good. They keep saying they want to come to the Patch to pick their pumpkins,” Molly says.
“You should bring them,” I urge.
Molly shakes her head. “Oh, I know you guys have the best pumpkins here but they're too expensive. We'll probably pick up some at the supermarket.”
“Nonsense! You're not paying a thing. Bring the kids by,” I say.
She looks surprised. “Really? That's so sweet of you, Jamie.”
“Sure, it's no big deal,” I insist.
“Kailey will be so excited. She's been cranky this week. Another ear infection,” Molly explains.
“Is Kailey the three-year-old?” Danny asks, joining us at the corn-maze entrance.
I smile at him.
“Yeah, that's right,” Molly says.
“My sister used to get a lot of ear infections at that age,” Danny says. “Did you ever try lemon juice? I know it sounds weird but squeeze a bit of lemon juice in her ear and let it sit there for a few seconds and then let it leak out onto a napkin or something. I swear, it used to work on my sister all the time.”
“Wow, no. We'll have to try that,” Molly says.
“Ahhhhhh!” I scream, as I'm suddenly hit in the face with a large Styrofoam cup of ice-cold soda. “Wh-whatâ¦” I stutter.
“Whoops. Sorry,” Milan says, not sounding sorry at all. “Guess I tripped or something.”
I wipe the soda out of my eyes and glare at Milan. “You did that on purpose!” I yell.
“No I didn't. Get a grip, Jamie, you're embarrassing yourself. Besides, I think you look better covered in cola,” she sneers. Molly and Danny are looking back and forth between the two of us, shocked.
The sticky liquid is seeping through my shirt and traveling down my chest
my back. It feels completely disgusting. “Excuse us,” I say to Molly and Danny, and grab Milan by the elbow, dragging her away from them and behind the nearest barn.
“Ouch! Let go, you're hurting me,” she whines.
Once we're safely out of earshot I turn her toward me and start yelling. “What's your freaking problem, Milan? Why are you so dang nasty to me all the time?”
“Oh please,” she says, wiping at the spot on her arm where I had just been holding it. “Don't you have a big head.”
“Me? You just threw a soda at me. On purpose!” I shout.
“That was an accident. Why don't you settle down?” she says.
“That was no accident. I'm not stupid! You don't even drink soda!”
This makes her pause for a moment. I got her. “Well, so what.”
“So what? So what? So why have you been such an absolutely horrible person to me since the moment you got here? I've tried and tried to be nice to you, but you're awful!”
Milan scowls, not backing down. “You want to know what my problem is?” she asks. “
are my problem.” She points her index finger right into my sticky chest. “You and your pumpkin patch and your friends and your family dinners with your parents and your pigtails and your town. Grow up!” And then she stomps off toward the pumpkin field.
I stare at her back. What the heck was that?
Tuesday passed by quietly and so far there have been no problems today. Milan and I haven't said two words to each other since the soda incident and fight on Monday. I've been careful to avoid her as much as I can. And I've managed, luckily, to pretty much block out the new Milan merchandise all over the Patch. I know if I look at it too much my head will explode so I avoid it as much as I avoid Milan. It'll be gone soon anyway. If my plan works, that is.
After school, I head for the Patch. I'm supposed to be helping in the petting zoo today. I stop at Sara's booth first, my stomach growling.
“Jamie Special?” she asks with a grin.
I widen my eyes as she sets my favorite caramel apple in front of me. “Naturally,” I reply, and take a giant bite. “Yum. Your store is going to rock when you open it. Of course, I'll go broke and gain twenty pounds from eating so many of the goodies you'll make.”
I don't mean them to but my eyes wander to the dozen or so caramel apples sitting on display in the center of Sara's counter. The Milan.
I take another bite of my apple and chew. I swallow and nod at the apples. “You sure make a lot of those Milan apples, huh?”
Sara looks at the apples and rolls her eyes. “Dude, they are not selling! Never mind that they suck sticks. People don't seem to care that her name is on them. I would have thought those kids hanging all over her at the espresso machine would be lining up to eat âMilan's favorite caramel apple.'”
“Yeah, really,” I agree. I strain my eyes, trying to spot Milan at the concession stand. There are no people waiting for her to make a drink. She's leaning on her elbows with a blank stare, alone. I think this is the first time I've seen her doing anything alone here at the Patch. “Where are the kids though? The latte lovers? I don't see anyone hanging around Milan today.”
Sara leans over the counter and strains to see Milan too. Milan looks up at us looking at her and sticks her tongue out. Sara pulls back off the counter and looks at me. “Wow, that was mature. Let's not make her any madder or she might give us cooties, and I'm all out of my anti-cootie spray today.”
I grin. “It's weird though, right?” I say.
“Definitely,” Sara agrees, sneaking a peek at Milan again anyway. “I wonder what's going on.”
I stare at Sara for a moment, waiting. “Oh come on,” I finally say. “You don't know?” I've been
to tell Sara, but I wanted to see how long it took the news to reach her. Sara hears everything so I know when something reaches her it's a safe bet the town knows.
Sara gives me a quizzical look. “What?”
I can't hold out any longer. I reach into my front pocket, pull out the folded article, and smooth it on the counter for Sara to see. I ripped it out of the
magazine I bought at the gas station this morning.
Sara lets out a low whistle and nods. The article is titled “Another One of Hollywood's Kids Goes Bad” and there's a blurry photo of a naked Milan and Brandon Days on what looks to be a plaid blanket, and there are black boxes covering up their private bits.
Sara glances back at Milan. “That's nasty.”
“Totally,” I say. “Oh well, it's not my problem. I better get to work.” I wave my caramel apple at Sara and head for the petting zoo.
There are toddlers swarming the goats when I get there. Kids love to feed the goats and these guys will eat all dang day if you let them. I watch the parents stick their quarters into the bubblegum-looking machine and the children catch handfuls of goat feed as it falls out of the silver tunnel. They hold their offerings out to the goats and squeal as their palms get licked clean. I grab a bucket and walk around the pen, picking up dropped brushes. We keep a bucket of brushes at the front, by the gate, so the kids can brush the goats. They never remember to put the brushes back, however, and instead drop them all over the place. I walk to the back of the pen and kneel down to swipe some brushes into my bucket. I hear some girls talking about Milan on the other side of the fence, and I look up in alarm. But I don't move. I sit quietly, straining to hear what they're saying.
“She's so gross!” the first girl says.
“Total skank,” the second girl agrees.
I tilt my head toward them to try to hear better.
“They need to fire her before they lose business,” the first one says.
“Oh, definitely,” the second one replies. “I'm so not going to buy anything that