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Authors: Kristina Springer

Just Your Average Princess (9 page)

BOOK: Just Your Average Princess
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“Jamie, where've you been?” Mom says, cranking her head around to look at me. She's sitting at the dining room table, holding an almost empty dish of her Pumpkin Surprise. She invented this concoction when Milan moved in. It's only pumpkin puree and fat-free Cool Whip. That's it. No sugar or spice or anything. The surprise is that anyone actually eats it. “You missed dinner,” she adds, stating the obvious. Dad doesn't even look up from his dessert. He keeps spooning in bite after bite. He's eating so fast I doubt he's even tasting it. Which is probably a good thing.

I don't answer Mom though. My eyes are glued to Milan's. “Is it true?” I finally ask.

Milan gives me her extremely annoying smug smile. “Is what true?”

“You know what I'm talking about,” I answer, my voice steady.

“Can't say I do,” she quips. “You really outdid yourself, Aunt Julie. This is absolutely delicious,” Milan tells Mom, ignoring me.

“Pumpkin Princess. Are you running for Pumpkin Princess?” I press on.

Mom clasps her hands together. “Oh, what a lovely idea.”

I break my stare with Milan to scowl at my mom. Traitor.

I grasp the back of my empty chair tightly with both hands to keep steady. I can feel anger welling up inside me. “Are you or aren't you? It's a simple question.”

Milan puts a bite of Pumpkin Surprise in her mouth, chews, and swallows. “That little contest you guys have going on around here?” she says, waving her spoon in the air. “In two weeks, right? Yeah, I think I did agree to do that.”

“Little contest?
Little contest?
That you call it a little contest is exactly why you shouldn't be in it!” I practically spit at her.

“Jamie…” Mom says warningly. She slams her spoon down on the table for emphasis.

“What?” I yell at Mom. “She doesn't even know what it is.”

“Yeah, but it's sounding more and more interesting every moment,” Milan says, smirking at me.

“And why is that? Huh? What is the real reason you're running for Pumpkin Princess? Go on, tell everyone.”

“That's enough, Jamie,” Mom interjects. “You're being very rude. I think it's a wonderful idea for Milan to participate in the town festivities.”

I glare at my mom. Who is this woman and why has she turned on me? I try to steady my voice, realizing Milan is only enjoying my hysterics. “But Mom, she's not even from Average. She can't represent our town, our pumpkin patch…”

“Well, actually,” Dad says, and we all look at him, startled that he's getting involved in this conversation. “Milan has been a great help at the Patch since she arrived. I think she has as good a chance as anyone to be Pumpkin Princess.”

I feel like I've been slapped in the face. I can't believe my dad is defending her too. They're both on her side. It's like, erase one daughter, insert a new one. I can't take it. I run from the dining room straight into my bedroom and slam the door as hard as I can. I press my back against the door and slide down to the floor. And I cry long and hard, like I haven't cried since I was seven years old and got lost at the tractor show. Then, like now, I was completely and totally alone.

*   *   *

I wake up half an hour later than usual this morning and my eyes are raw and puffy from last night. I jump in the shower and get ready for school and though I should be feeling really crappy from last night, I'm actually feeling slightly better. Not great—I mean, my family basically ditched me on the side of the road like an unwanted barn cat. But I'm feeling better about Pumpkin Princess. Who cares if Milan runs? It's not like she'll ever win. It isn't Mom or Dad or Sno-Cone Sammy or Kettle Corn Girl who gets to choose Pumpkin Princess. It's the town. Milan is only a visitor here—she doesn't have the long-standing following that I do in the community. No one with any sense would vote for her over me. It would be absurd.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to be nice to her. Oh no, not one bit. Nice Jamie is taking a vacation where Milan is concerned. I open the refrigerator door and grab a couple of apples to take with me for breakfast. I spot Milan's quart of soy milk on the top shelf and accidentally pour the entire thing down the sink. Whoops. Hope that doesn't wreck her high-fiber cereal this morning.

Okay, so maybe ruining her breakfast is minor league, but being mean doesn't come to me as naturally as it does to Milan. But I'm learning. I grab my stuff and leave for school.

I make it through the day without calling Sara for one single update on Milan and Danny, and I'm quite proud of myself. Of course, I don't know how long I'll be able to hold out. It's like sitting next to a giant bowl of raw cookie dough and not dipping your finger into it for a taste. In other words, practically impossible. But I try hard to distract myself whenever thoughts of Danny and Milan together creep into my mind.

When I get home from school, I park my car at the side of the house and run in to get changed. The house is quiet so I assume that everyone is still out at the Patch working. There is a cinnamon-apple smell in the air, but I'm thinking it's more the air-freshener type of smell than the yummy dessert kind. I'm antsy to get out on the Patch and get to work. I want to remind people how necessary I am to the Patch, and how hard I work around here. I want people to automatically think Pumpkin Princess when they see me.

I walk briskly toward the field where we grow the squash and gourds. I pass Sara on the way, but don't stop to chat, only wave and smile. I need to put in extra effort while I'm working today. And that means I have no time for snacks and chatting.

I arrive at the stand set up at the front of the field and relieve Jake from his post.

“Hey, Jamie,” Jake says. “Do you need to borrow my gloves?” he asks, looking at my gloveless hands.

Shoot. I was so anxious to get out here that I forgot to grab my work gloves. I eye the small group of patrons waiting for me to take them through the field to pick squash and gourds. Jake's gloves are enormous and my hands would swim in them. But it's not like I can run all the way back to the house to get mine either. “No thanks, Jake,” I say with a smile.

He shrugs as if to say suit yourself and begins walking back toward the front of the Patch.

“Ready to go?” I ask the waiting group, and get several head bobs in return. “Let's do it, then,” I say cheerily. I grab the large wagon full of cardboard boxes waiting to be filled and lead the group out into the squash field. People love picking out their own squash and we grow just about every type of squash imaginable: spaghetti, acorn, butternut, banana, carnival, buttercup, delicata, Hubbard, and, well, the list goes on and on. The thing people don't love so much? Actually
the squash. These buggers have got to be the most prickliest vegetables ever. Customers tend to just point at which squash they want and I do the picking. And on any normal work-glove-wearing day I can't say that I mind.

I load box after box of squashes and gourds for the customers and even carry them out to their cars and set them carefully in their trunks, never letting on for a second that my arms are on fire. I'm dying to run back to the house and run my arms under cold water and then dip them into a vat of cortisone. But not until I've finished my shift. I've got to be at my best.

I'm loading a box of gourds into the back of an old Cadillac when I see Milan sashay by me, chatting with a couple of cute guys, probably in their early twenties. Milan's shorts are hiked so far up today that they look like underwear that's a size or two too small. I ignore her though, and ask Mrs. Mackinski, the Cadillac owner, if there is anything else I can do for her.

“No, no, thank you, dear,” she says. “But you should do something for your poor arms, sweetie.” She points at my red bumpy skin.

“Thanks, I will,” I reply, trying not to scratch at my arms. Her mentioning them alone makes me want to itch them even more. I rub them together for a second to relieve the itching, but then stop right away. I know if I get started scratching I won't be able to stop.

Milan doubles back and flings her head at me. “Ew, Jamie. What did you do to your arms? They're so gross!”

“Why, thank you, Milan,” I reply in a voice as icy as the Arctic. At least I hope it is. “But
working. What are you doing?”

Milan's eyebrows shoot up in an innocent look. “I'm working too,” she claims. She flicks her head to the right so that her hair swooshes behind her. The guys seem to appreciate this.

“Doing what?” I return.

She juts both of her palms toward me, each one filled with a tiny orange miniature pumpkin. “I'm carrying these guys' pumpkins to their car.” She glances back at the guys, who are both staring at her butt.

I roll my eyes and turn away from Milan. How ridiculous. Those pumpkins can't be more than two pounds apiece. Max. That girl …

I feel myself start to rage inside but I stop. No, I'm not going to let her get at me. That's exactly what she wants.

I face her again. “Wow, Milan, impressive! I didn't know you'd moved up to carrying two miniature pumpkins. Soon you'll be able to do three. Keep up the good work!” The snarkiness flies from my mouth before I can stop it. Shoot. That was harsh. Not that I think anything I could ever say or do could hurt Milan's feelings, but I don't want to look like a horrible person in front of people in our community.

I tell Mrs. Mackinski to have a good day and then head back to the squashes.

*   *   *

“Ahhh, yes! Oh my God, that feels
good!” I cry.

“Dude, I don't know why you did this to yourself,” Sara says, shaking her head. She pulls the plastic cover off a second tube of cortisone and squirts a giant glob on my right arm. She spreads the cream down my forearm and I thunk my forehead on the kitchen table, finally feeling relief from my crazy-itchy skin. “You know you're supposed to wear gloves.”

“I know, I know,” I say, sitting up. “I was being stupid.” Stupidly trying to prove myself, I should say. I don't know why. Nowhere in the Pumpkin Princess description does it say one needs to torture oneself picking squash with bare skin. It's only that I didn't want to make all those people wait for me to walk to the house and back. People hate waiting. Next time I'll have to remember my gloves.

I lean back in my chair, examining my white gooey arms. They are feeling much better, but I hope they'll look better soon too. I've never gotten such a bad rash from picking squash.

“Where is everyone tonight anyway?” Sara asks. She leans out of the kitchen and peeks down the hall. Sara would never admit it but I think she's a little scared of my dad. She doesn't like to be at my house when he's home. It doesn't help that he's always scowling at everyone I bring here.

“Mom and Dad went to some meeting in town and Milan is out with Kettle Corn Girl and Sno-Cone Sammy,” I reply.

Sara giggles. “Oh yeah, her ‘entourage.'” Sara leans back on a stool and absentmindedly flips through a
magazine on the kitchen counter.

“Her entrée-what?” Leave it to Milan to go and get one of whatever Sara is talking about.

“You know, entourage. Her people. Her caretakers. Like Britney Spears has—or, what's her name? You know, that chick who's famous just for being famous? Anyway, they're the people that go everywhere with her and remind her that she
as cool and as pretty as she thinks she is. And of course in Milan's case anyway, it means they're going to do her hair and makeup for the Pumpkin Princess competition. You know, entourage,” Sara concludes. She pulls a low-fat whole-wheat pretzel out of a bag on the counter and stares at it skeptically for a moment before taking a bite.

I instantly feel annoyed but I'm not sure why. “Whatever,” I say. “It's not like you need an entourage to win Pumpkin Princess. I can do that stuff myself.”

“Hey,” Sara says, like she just got a great idea. “I can be your entourage! It'll be fun. And maybe Dilly can help too. We can do your hair and makeup and help you get dressed backstage.”

A tiny smile escapes me. Well, even though it's completely unnecessary it might be kind of fun to have my own entourage. “Okay,” I say to Sara.

She smiles and I feel a tiny pang. I'm going to miss her when she goes away to school.

“Ooh, and I know exactly where to start,” Sara says. “Did you see that great-looking new pumpkin facial stuff in the gift shop? I can pick up some and—”

“Don't you dare,” I interrupt. “That stuff doesn't come near my skin,” I add.

Sara gives me a funny look and shrugs. “Okay. No facials. Noted.”



“I love shopping on Saturday afternoons,” Dilly announces.

I close my eyes and give the earring spinner I'm looking at a whirl, kinda like a roulette wheel. Maybe I'll land on something good. I grab a plastic earring holder off a hook and look at it. Hmm. Giant neon-pink hoops. Nope, not a winner this time.

“Why?” Sara asks.

Dilly picks up a loud purple plaid golf hat and pulls it on her head. She examines herself in the mirror on the sunglasses spinner. “Because the moms and their little boogers are off at soccer games and birthday parties. There are usually only teens in the stores.”

I glance around the Megastore. It's surprisingly bare of kids.

“Yeah, you're right. So, what are we looking for today?” Sara asks me.

“Do you still need a dress?” Dilly adds.

I shake my head. “I have a dress already.” Actually, I've had it for almost a year. I found it on sale online late last fall after season and I couldn't resist buying it early. It's been hanging in a garment bag in the back of my closet all this time.

“What? Why haven't you shown me?” Sara asks.

BOOK: Just Your Average Princess
4.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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