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Authors: Linda J Singleton

Kelsey the Spy (8 page)

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
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Tyla throws up her hands. “You expect me to do everything?”

“Kelsey and I will be there,” Becca points out.

“Like she'll be much help now that we've decided on a booth idea,” Tyla says with a scowl at me. “I bought the paints and will do most of the face painting. What are you going to contribute?”

I'd rather quit than answer her, but I'm not a quitter.

“I'll stay at the booth all day,” I say through gritted teeth.

“And do what?” Tyla presses her lips together.

“Greet customers, take money, and clean up.”

Tyla shrugs. “Anyone can do that.”

“I was
asked
to be a temporary Sparkler,” I retort. “If you don't want my help, you can—”

“But we do want your help, Kelsey, and I'm really glad you're here,” Becca says in a gentle tone like a crisis mediator. “I'll make a booth schedule.” She glances around the table. “Anyone got a pen and paper?”

“Use mine.” I unzip my backpack and push papers aside, feeling for my favorite pink pen.

“Kelsey, give her a piece of paper too,” Tyla says, pointing.

“What paper?” I don't know what she's talking about until she swoops down for my backpack.

Tyla grabs my notebook of secrets.

- Chapter 10 -

Keep Away


No!
” I shout and lunge for my notebook.

“Get over yourself already, Kelsey.” Tyla steps back with an exaggerated roll of her glitter-shadowed eyes. “Losing one sheet of paper from your notebook isn't going to kill you.”

Oh, I am so dead
.

I make another grab for my book, but Tyla jerks it away. Dangly star earrings jangle as she tilts her head toward me. “Why are you freaking out over a dumb notebook?”

“I'm not!”

“I don't believe you.” She reads the cover, then laughs. “Notebook of secrets?”

“That's private!” I growl like a lion protecting her cub and make another grab for my notebook.

But Tyla moves back, staring curiously at me. “As if any secret of yours could interest me.”

“You're right. I'm boring,” I say. “My notebook is boring too, so return it.”

“I will—when I'm ready.”

“It's mine.” I try to sound dangerous, but my fingers shake as I hold out my hand. “I gave Becca a pen so someone else can give her a piece of paper.”

“Actually I have my own paper.” Becca rips paper from a binder and slaps it on the table. “I don't need any from Kelsey so return the notebook, Tyla.”

“Not until I read a few pages,” Tyla says with a gleam in her dark eyes.

“No!” I lunge for her but she steps up on her chair, waving the notebook high over her head like it's a game of keep-away.

Safely out of my reach, Tyla flips through the pages. “So much writing—almost every page is filled! Are you writing a book?'

“Give it back,” I say with a desperate look at Becca for help.

But Becca glances uneasily back and forth between Tyla and me, saying nothing.

I ball my fists to show I'm serious. “Hand me the notebook, or I'll—”

“You'll what?” Tyla laughs. “I'm faster and taller than you, so you can't get it from me until I decide to give it to you. You're only a temporary Sparkler, so you may not understand that in a close group like ours, keeping secrets is rude.”

“So is stealing someone else's private property,” I say.

“Borrowing,” she corrects. “Here's a personality tip—if you act selfish, people won't like you.”

“I am
not
selfish! I bring extra desserts to lunch and share them with you. All you ever share is a bad attitude!” I glare at Tyla, hatred running lava hot through my body. “My notebook is personal. Return it
now
.”

“Why should I?” Tyla dodges when I grab for the book.

“Because it's mine! Give. It. Back.” My voice echoes around the room and the cafeteria quiets, heads turning toward us.

“Not before I find out what's inside. What are you hiding?” She flips it open and starts reading, “Secret 1—”


Stop!
” I shout. “Do not say another word! No one can read it.”

“Oh, really?” Tyla arches her brows. “Not even Becca? You're spending so much time with her that I assumed you'd tell her everything.” She turns to Becca, whose face blushes bright red. “Have you read it?”

Becca shakes her head no.

“Doesn't that make you wonder what she's hiding?” Tyla points at me.

“Um … no.” Becca squirms uneasily between us.

“You have no idea what's in here?” Tyla dramatically waves my notebook in the air. “What if she wrote mean stuff about you?”

I expect Becca to defend me, but she's looking down at her tray, stirring her fork in mushy mashed potatoes.

“She can't have enough secrets of her own to fill so many pages. I bet she wrote about all of us.” Tyla turns to each of the Sparklers, her words slithering suspicion around the table.

Chloe, who has always been friendly to me, narrows her eyes. “Kelsey, did you write about me?”

Only one secret,
I think.
And it's not that embarrassing.

“Look at her guilty expression!” Tyla pounces. “I'm so right about her. She wrote secrets about us.”

“Not me,” Chloe says confidently. “I don't have any secrets.”

But she does,
I think.
They all do.

In the short time I've been around the Sparklers, I've learned more than they realize by listening and lip-reading.

Spy strategy 14: When the truth won't work, create a believable lie.

“Tyla, I'm flattered you think my notebook is so interesting,” I say calmly and even manage a faint smile. “But it's not. I just wrote down my weird dreams. Haven't you ever heard of dream journaling?”

“This says ‘secrets,' not ‘dreams,'” she argues.

“The secrets are only about my dreams.”

“Like I believe that,” she snorts, still holding my notebook out of reach.

“Honestly.” I cross my heart with one hand and cross my fingers behind my back with the other.


Liar!
” Tyla accuses so loudly that now everyone in the cafeteria, even the lunch workers, stare at us. “You wrote lies about all of us.”

“I didn't!” I argue.
Everything I wrote is true
.

“Easy to prove,” Tyla says smugly, then opens my notebook.

Panic hurts worse than a punch to my gut. My notebook is like Pandora's box. If the secrets are released into the world, the knowledge will cause chaos. But Tyla is holding the book tightly as the other Sparklers, even Becca, lean closer to listen.

“Secret 1,” Tyla says loud enough for everyone in the cafeteria to hear. “
I wore my Scooby-Doo pajamas to my first sleepover
.” She giggles. “Not much of a secret, just pathetic fashion sense. Oh, but there's more!”

“Please stop.” I'm begging now.

“But this is so much fun.” Tyla dodges my grab again, then continues. “
It was after midnight and I woke up thirsty, so I went into the kitchen for a glass of water. That's when I overheard
—”

“Stop right there!” a sharp voice interrupts. “Give the notebook to Kelsey.”

A hand touches my shoulder, and I turn around to find Tori and Ann Marie standing protectively behind me. When we were young, our Turbo Trio always defended each other. Back then, we were scrawny and usually ended up scraped and bruised. Now my athletic friends are tall and fierce.

“Go back to the other jocks,” Tyla says with a dismissive hand flip.

“Kelsey is our friend,” Ann Marie says. “Mess with her and you have to mess with us.”

“Seriously? You're threatening me?” Tyla glares. “Butt out. This doesn't involve you.”

“It will if you don't return Kelsey's notebook,” Ann Marie warns. “
Now
.”

“No one tells me what to do,” Tyla scoffs. “I don't even know you.”

“And you don't want to.” When Tori puts her hands on her hips and juts out her chin, she seems even taller and tougher. “We don't like you upsetting our friend.”

“Kelsey's an honorary Sparkler and one of my closest friends,” Tyla says in such a phony voice I want to vomit. “Can't you see we were just joking around?”

“Kelsey isn't laughing.” Ann Marie's scowl deepens.

“Some people need to grow a sense of humor.” Tyla rolls her eyes. “I wasn't really going to read her notebook.”

Ann Marie glares. “So you won't mind giving it back.”

“Sure, sure.” Tyla flings the notebook at me.

I hug it to my chest and turn to Ann Marie and Tori. “Thanks.”

Ann Marie leans close to whisper in my ear. “Dump these glitter clones and sit with us.”

I glance at Becca, hurt that she didn't defend me. I don't want to stay where I'm not welcome. But if I leave, I may never come back—the ultimate win for Tyla. I shake my head at Ann Marie. “I'm okay here.”

“Really?” Tori scowls at the Sparklers.

“It's just temporary.” I touch the borrowed crescent moon necklace I'm wearing. “I'm only here to help out with the fund-raiser. Next week I'll go back to sitting at our table.”

I watch Becca, hoping she'll say I don't have to be “temporary,” that I can sit with the Sparklers whenever I want. But she's looking down at her lunch tray as if cafeteria food is fascinating.

Ann Marie pats my shoulder. “Stop by my house soon. It's been too long since you've been over. Mom was asking what's up with you.”

“I will,” I promise as I zip my notebook securely in my backpack.

After Tori and Ann Marie leave, there's an awkward silence at our table. Sparklers chew and sip drinks, their gazes sliding away from me as if I've turned into a Medusa and one look will turn them into stone.

Finally Becca looks up from her tray and gives a nervous laugh.

“Oookay. Let's get back to fund-raiser business.” She taps her pencil against her food tray and looks around the table. “I'll start by making the booth schedule.”

Conversation resumes like everything is fine, and the cafeteria noisily buzzes back to life too. But something has changed … me, I think. I'm an outsider among strangers. When lunch ends, I hurry away without saying good-bye to Becca.

To avoid a repeat of the notebook keep-away game, I lock my notebook securely inside my locker, burying it beneath books and a sweater, then slam the locker shut.

I'm still shaking like I'm suffering from PTSD: post-Tyla stress disorder. I can't concentrate in my classes and mentally replay the lunchroom drama. My old friends stuck up for me, not my new ones. Not Becca.

Why didn't she try to help me? Does Tyla intimidate her
that
much? Or is she more loyal to the other girls than to me? She said I could trust her with my secrets—but can I trust her with my friendship?

When my last class ends, Becca is waiting for me outside the door.

Anger and hurt steam inside me. I can't pretend that everything is okay.

But before I can speak, Becca says, “I'm really, really, really sorry.”

“You should be,” I say as I walk away from her.

“Let me explain.” She follows, hurrying beside me. “Please don't be mad.”

“Friends stick up for each other. You did nothing.” My backpack bounces on my back as I walk faster. “But it doesn't matter now because Ann Marie and Tori helped.”

“It matters,” Becca says miserably. “I hate myself for wimping out, and you probably hate me too.”

“No, I don't.” I stop in the middle of the hall, kids moving around us, and lower my voice. “But why didn't you stick up for me?”

“I tried to.” Her lower lip trembles. “When I got my own paper, I thought Tyla would return your notebook. But she didn't, and the more you both argued, the more nervous I got. I didn't want to choose between friends.”

“Sometimes you have to,” I say harshly. “I didn't expect Chloe or Sophia to defend me, but you and I are in the CCSC together.”

“I panic when people argue. I'm not used to it. Even when my parents were splitting up, they never argued—at least not in front of me. I want everyone to like each other.”

“You want everyone to like
you
,” I accuse.

“What's wrong with that? I try to find good in everyone. Even mean people have some reason why they act mean.”

“Like Skeet.” I remember the bully who had a crush on Becca until he moved away. “He was a total jerk.”

“Not to me because I tried to understand him. He had it rough at home and no adults to help him with his anger issues.”

“So what's Tyla's excuse?” I say.

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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