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Authors: Linda J Singleton

Kelsey the Spy (7 page)

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
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How did my notebook of secrets get into my backpack?

- Chapter 9 -

Secret's Out

I think back to when I last saw my notebook. I was writing in it on my bed, and then I did homework. I couldn't find a pencil and dumped stuff out of my backpack until I finally found one. I finished my homework late and was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. When I tossed everything back into my backpack, I must have included the notebook.

“So it
is
that notebook!” Becca's eyes pop wide.

“Shhh!” I put my finger to my lips and glance around the hall. No one is in sight, but that doesn't stop my heart from thundering like a perfect storm.

“It's just a plain notebook,” she says, sounding disappointed. “I expected something glittery with a dramatic cover.”

“Keep your voice down.” I glance around nervously.

Becca swivels her head to look up, then down the hall. “No one's around to hear what we say.”

“And we should go too. I don't want to be tardy.”

“But I want to see your notebook. We still have a few minutes before the final bell,” she whispers. “Didn't you bring it to show me?”

“I didn't even know it was in my backpack.” I hang my head in misery. “It was a horrible mistake.”

Her smile fades. “I really want to read it. I've been curious about your notebook since you told me you collected secrets.”

“But I never show anyone.”

“Not even those sporty girls from your old neighborhood?”

“No.” I drop my voice to a whisper. “I wrote secrets about Ann Marie and Tori too.”

“Did they cheat in a game or blackmail a referee? I swear I won't tell anyone.” Becca's gaze sweeps longingly over my notebook.

I shake my head. “A secret wouldn't be a secret if I told.”

“But I already know some of them.” Her black, purple-streaked ponytail sways as she bobs her head. “You wrote about Reggie's grandfather clock, didn't you?”

“Well, yeah.”

“And you already told me about hiding so well that your parents reported you missing and you pretended you'd been kidnapped.”

“Don't talk about that!” I put my finger to my lips. “My parents would freak if they knew the truth.”

“You were only five.” Becca rolls her dark eyes. “Besides, they must have guessed what really happened or they'd never let you go anywhere. Parents are smart.”

“Still, I don't want anyone to know.” I push the notebook deep inside my backpack. “I only told you because, well, we're friends and this secret was about me. But other secrets I write down aren't mine to share. Sorry, I can't show you my notebook.”

“I won't tell anyone.” Becca lowers her voice. “I can't help being curious. You'd feel the same way.”

“You know me too well,” I admit with a wry smile.

“And you know me enough to know you can trust me.”

She's right—and I'm so tempted to show her my notebook. Some of the secrets would shock her; others would make her laugh; and a few might make her cry. But if I can't trust myself to keep a secret, how can I trust anyone else? I feel like a superhero on a sacred mission to protect my notebook:
Kelsey Case, Guardian of Secrets.

But there is one secret I should tell her …

“I found out something yesterday about your mo—” I'm interrupted by the school bell. “Tell you at lunch. Meet me outside the cafeteria, by the rosebushes.”

“Oh, I'll be there!” Becca jumps. “I can't wait!”

I can
, I think uneasily as we leave the locker.

During my next classes, I stare out the windows and mentally rehearse how to tell Becca that her parents won't be getting back together. But bad news still sounds like bad news, no matter how you rearrange the words.

When the lunch bell rings, I head for the cafeteria. I don't hurry, uneasy about spilling a secret to Becca. Everyone I see makes me think of secrets. I pass a girl in the hall, Samantha Keystone, and remember her secret: she lives outside the school district so she pretends to live with her grandmother. An eighth-grade guy playing in the hoop court, Erik Taylor, anonymously posts cartoons as the Corning Comic, mocking kids at school. I keep walking, past hordes of noisy kids flooding through cafeteria doors, and wave at Mr. Thompson, the groundskeeper (a secret reality-show winner), as he clips a hedge.

Finally I spot Becca's leopard-print blouse through the thorny branches of a rosebush.

She's bouncing from foot to foot, excited because she has no idea what I'm going to tell her. She thinks secrets are fun—like when Reggie told us about the grandfather clock. But this secret won't make her smile.

“So, spill!” Becca clasps my arm. “What's the secret?”

“Not here where people can see us.” I lead her around to the side of the cafeteria. The dumpster is nearby, and the air smells of dead, decaying things.

“Secrets aren't a matter of life or death,” Becca teases.

“They can be.” I shift my heavy backpack to the other shoulder.

She laughs like she thinks I'm joking.

Now is the time to spill what I know … but first, some procrastination.

“Did I ever tell you why I started collecting secrets?” I ask.

“No. I thought it was something you've always done.”

“I started my notebook in fifth grade,” I explain. “Before that I was just a snoopy kid. But that changed the night I went to a friend's slumber party.”

“What happened?” Becca leans in closer.

“I woke up thirsty so I went to the kitchen for some water. I was putting my glass in the sink when I heard my friend's parents arguing in the living room. I found out they were getting a divorce and were waiting to tell their kids after a few fun days at Disneyland. I was shocked and ran back to the bedroom. I was going to tell my friend—only I couldn't.”

“Why not? She would have wanted to know,” Becca says with such certainty that I know she's thinking of her own divorced parents.

“Her parents had to tell her—not me.” I shake my head. “It was hard to keep such a big secret to myself. So I wrote it down in a notebook, which made me feel better, like I was telling someone even if it was only me. After that, secrets seemed to find me—or sometimes I'd find them.” I flash a wicked grin. “Lip-reading is a useful tool for the curious.”

“You're the most curious person I know,” Becca says.

“Except you.” I smile.

“And Leo.” She lifts her hand, curving her fingers into a
C
. We knuckle-tap the CCSC secret hand bump and finish by air-shaping the letter
S
.

“But secrets can hurt people,” I add seriously. “I found out the hard way.”

Becca's eyes go wide. “What happened?”

“My aunt Missy was visiting from Oregon. I overheard Dad teasing Mom that her sister had dead-fish breath, and he called her ‘Fishy Missy.' I thought it was funny so I told my aunt what Dad called her.”

“Ouch.”

“Major ouch,” I say. “I thought my aunt would think it was funny too—but she started crying. She ran out of the room and packed her bags, then left, and wouldn't talk to my parents for a year. Telling what I overheard hurt my whole family. After that, I hid my secrets in my notebook and never showed anyone. Sorry, not even you.”

“I understand.” Becca twists her ponytail. “Keep your notebook in your backpack. I don't want to see it.”

“But I said I'd tell you a secret.”

“Is it about me?” she asks with raised brows.

“No … someone … um … you know really well.”

“Stop right there.” She gives a sassy snap of her fingers. “I don't want to know. I'd try to keep it a secret, but what if it accidentally slipped out the way you did with your aunt? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings—even if it's by mistake.” Becca puts her hands over her ears. “Do. Not. Tell. Me.”

So I don't, and I'm relieved. Her mother will tell her when she's ready.

Becca and I join the mass of kids in the cafeteria, slipping back into routine. She waits in line for her food, while I take my sack lunch to the Sparkler table. It still feels weird to wear a Sparkler necklace and sit with the school glitterati. It's fun but I'm glad it's only temporary. I'm not the glittery type and am more comfortable sitting with friends from my old neighborhood, Ann Marie and Tori.

As I wait for the Sparklers to get their hot lunches, I glance over at the next table where Ann Marie and Tori loudly debate a track meet. I'm not sports-obsessed like them, but we get along great because we've known each other since kindergarten. Our parents called us the “Turbo Triplets” since we did everything together until I moved into an apartment on the other side of town.

My gaze shifts to the back of the room where Leo always eats alone.

But wait a minute! Solitary Leo, who prefers to design robots on his electronic tablet rather than socialize, is
not
alone.

Frankie sits beside him, his lanky shoulders bent over so his green cap covers his face.

“What are you staring at?” Becca asks, slipping into the seat beside me.

“Not what—
who
.” I point and she draws in a sharp breath.

“Leo is talking to another human instead of his electronic tablet,” Becca says in disbelief. “The world must be ending.”

“Or we've slipped into a parallel universe.”

“But it's a nice universe because Leo looks happy. I'm glad he has another friend. He's breaking out of his shell and getting more social.”

I nod, realizing Leo's awkwardness with other kids isn't just because he's so smart. Knowing his real age explains a lot.

“Frankie is cool,” Becca adds. “He works hard for the drama club and doesn't seem to care what anyone thinks of him. You may not like Frankie but Leo does, and that's good enough for me. I think we should vote Frankie into the CCSC.”

“I don't dislike Frankie—it's all about trust. He lied to us when we were searching for the zorse's mask. He has to prove he's trustworthy.”

“And how is he supposed to do that if you don't give him a chance?” Becca frowns like I'm being unreasonable.

I can't think of an answer and am relieved to drop the subject when the Sparklers—Chloe, Sophia, and Tyla—join us.

Chloe sits across from me, blue-haired with big, jeweled glasses and an even bigger personality. She's the leader of the Sparklers. Spiked-hair Sophia slips beside her. Even though Sophia has a starring role in the drama club's
Lion King
, she's surprisingly shy. Last to arrive is tall, brown-eyed Tyla. She sits on the other side of Becca and ignores me as usual, as if pretending I'm not there will make it true.

“Wait till you see the new face paints—neon with glitter!” Tyla plops down a tray of hot food and turns to the other girls. “And Becca came up with some cute face-art designs, not the usual fairies and rainbows, but mythological creatures and anime characters.”

“Drawing comes easy to me,” Becca says with a modest shrug. “But the paints cost more than I expected. We shouldn't have bought so many.”

“Not to worry, Madame Treasurer.” Tyla cuts her off with an air swish of her hand. “We'll charge more and make so much money the other booths will be jealous.” She launches into details about her face-painting plans and I tune her out. We get along best when we ignore each other.

Opening my brown bag, I take out my lunch. I feel sorry for kids who suffer through boring cafeteria food while I have my own personal chef. Chef Dad doesn't just
make
lunch; he creates culinary art. Carved carrot sticks, salads with smiling tomato cherry faces, and themed sandwiches. Today's sandwich is sesame-seed bread with raspberry jelly, cream cheese, and cucumber slices. And my mouth is already watering for the homemade cookies.

When the Sparklers first tasted Dad's cookies, they oohed like they'd gone to cookie heaven. Now Dad packs extras for them.

I take caramel shortbread cookies out of my bag and conversation stops. Eager hands reach out, and abracadabra! Cookies disappear.

Ah, the magic of Dad's baking.

“Best cookie ever.” Chloe always says this.

“Deliciousness!” Becca smacks her lips.

Sophia gives me a thumbs-up.

And even Tyla murmurs, “Yum.”

But the spell ends too soon, and Tyla turns back into a snarky queen.

“I'll be in charge of our booth at the fund-raiser,” she says. “Becca will assist me in face painting. The rest of you will decorate the booth, collect money, wash paintbrushes, and clean up.”

Chloe taps her finger to her chin. “I have relatives visiting and can't get there until noon.”

“I'll help in the morning.” Sophia raises her hand like she's in a classroom. “But I have to leave before two for play rehearsals.”

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
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