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Authors: Lauren Barnholdt

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BOOK: Rules for Secret Keeping
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“In fact,” Daphne's saying now, “I haven't really seen
from our school yet.”

Our locker and homeroom numbers were sent to us over the summer, in an effort to “limit confusion on the first day of school,” and so all around us, kids are running up and down the halls, looking for their lockers. All the elementary schools in the district feed into Millboro Middle School, but so far, except for Daphne, I haven't seen one familiar face. Daphne and I survey the chaos in front of us, searching for people we know.

“Oh, look!” I say. “There's Ronald Hughes!” We watch as Ronald Hughes, a kid from our elementary school, runs down the hall, screaming, “Welcome to middle school!” and making ape noises. Hmm. Not exactly the best representation of our elementary school, but whatever.

“Wow,” Daphne says. “He really does sound like an ape.” Ronald adds a stomp to his routine, and now people are actually moving out of his way and staring. I can't help but feel a little bit of pride. I do know him, after all.

“Oh!” Daphne says as Ronald disappears around the corner at the end of the hall. “I almost forgot. Look what I made you.” She opens her binder and pulls out a piece of shiny pink paper. “It's an advertisement for your secret-passing business.”

I look down at the flyer.


Save yourself the embarrassment and pass your secret through me, Samantha Carmichael. Drop your secret along with a dollar into locker number 321, and it will be delivered to the recipient of your choice. **YOUR SECRET WILL NOT BE READ.**

Please do not forget to specify a name, as it is impossible to deliver secrets without knowing who they are for.

To ensure confidentiality, you may want to consider disguising your handwriting or printing your secret from a computer.

“These are awesome!” I squeal, running my finger over the navy blue letters.

“I figured we could hang these up around school, since a lot of the kids from the other schools won't have heard
of you.”

Last year, in sixth grade, I started my own secret-passing business. Basically, kids would leave a note in my locker along with a dollar, and I'd pass the note to whomever they wanted. I never read the secrets, and it was totally anonymous. By the end of the year I'd made enough money to buy myself an iPod and pretty much a whole new wardrobe.

The bell rings then, and Daphne carefully places the sheet back into her binder. “Do you wanna hang out tonight?” she asks, as the throng of kids around us starts moving in an effort to get to homeroom. “We could discuss the day.”

“Can't,” I say. “I'm going into the city for my photo shoot.” Recently I found out that I'm going to be featured in an upcoming issue of
You Girl
magazine (motto: America's number one tween magazine) as one of the finalists for its Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. My dad entered me in the competition a few months ago, and last week we got the call that I made it through to the next round. It's supposedly this really big deal, with a big banquet in a few weeks to pick the winner. I'm excited, but it's also a little nerve-racking. Last year's winner sold cloth bracelets or something to help the situation in Darfur. All I do is pass scandals and gossip. So not the same thing.

“I'll call you later, then,” Daphne says. Then she grabs
my arm, looks me in the eyes, and says, “Good luck” very dramatically before turning on her heel and heading in the direction of her homeroom. I take a deep breath and turn toward my own homeroom, room 167. Here goes nothing.

room, halfway back, next to a friendly-looking girl who's doodling flowers in her notebook. I decide it's time to make new friends, since I still haven't seen anyone from my old elementary school.

“Hi,” I say, sliding into my seat and giving her a friendly smile. I read in
You Girl
that if you want to make new friends, you have to step out of your comfort zone and be proactive and smiley. “I'm Samantha.”

“Hi,” she says, smiling back. “I'm Charlie.” Wow. Charlie. For a girl. What a cool name. “It's short for Charlea,” she says, as if she's reading my mind. “But everyone calls me Charlie.”

Wow. Even cooler. I wonder if I should change my name
to Sam? Sammi? Samara? My mom doesn't like shortened names. “I named you Samantha,” she says. “And if I wanted people to call you ‘Sam,' that's what I would have named you. Or I would have had a boy.”

“I like your shoes, Samantha,” Charlie says, glancing down at my pink Skechers.

“Thanks.” I pull a light blue spiral notebook out of my bag and open it to the first page, getting set to write down any important information about middle school that might be given to us in homeroom. My schedule is taped to the inside of the notebook so I don't lose it. I'm not so good at hanging on to important things, so I figured I'd better tape it down. But then my older sister, Taylor, pointed out that I would probably just lose the notebook, which wasn't very nice of her, but then she let me borrow her Skechers, so I kind of halfway forgave her.

“Hi!” Charlie suddenly squeals next to me. I'm so surprised I almost jump out of my seat.

“Hi!” I say back, confused since we already said that. Then I realize she's not talking to me. She's talking to another girl who's just walked into the room. The girl has crazy curly red hair that reaches all the way down her back, a short nose, and large green eyes. She's wearing a pair of jeans and a soft gray and pink sweater that dips down over one shoulder. On her head is a pink beret. A PINK BERET.
As in, those weird hats they wear in France. You'd think she'd look silly, but somehow, she's able to pull it off. It looks cool and trendy, as if she's about to walk into a café and order a cappuccino or something. Most of the boys in the room turn to stare, and most of the girls do too.

Pink Beret rushes over to Charlie. “Charlie!” she says. “I tried IMing you last night, but my mom was being a total nightmare, she just—” And then she catches sight of me, and she stops talking.

“Hi,” I say, giving her my we-should-be-friends smile. “I'm Samantha.” How cool is this? First day of school, homeroom even, and I already have two new friends! Two cool new friends, who wear berets and have moms that are total nightmares. Not that I'll forget my old friends of course, that would be very mean of me. I'll have to plan a joint sleepover or something.

“Oh.” Pink Beret ignores my introduction and puts a hand on her hip. She doesn't seem to be carrying any school supplies. What if she needs to take notes and write down important information pertaining to middle school? Hmm. I wonder if I have an extra pen. “You're in my seat.”

“What?” How can I be in her seat? Has the teacher already assigned seats? Did I miss some sort of before-school mailing that alerted everyone to where they would be sitting in homeroom for the year?

“Oh,” I say. “I didn't know we had assigned seats.” Next to me, Charlie shifts uncomfortably.

“We don't,” Pink Beret says. “But that's my seat.”

I'm confused. “Hi,” I try again. “My name's Samantha.”

“I heard you the first time. And you, Samantha. Are. In. My. Seat.” What can I do? I get up and move over. I mean, wow. I didn't know middle school was going to have a seat dictator. The worst part is that since everyone watched Pink Beret walk into the room, they all saw the horrible exchange in which she kicked me out of my own seat! Honestly, kind of a lot of people were watching. But that's okay. I'm regrouping. I'm calm. No need to panic. In fact, I'll just—

And at that moment, Jake walks into the classroom, plops down next to me, smiles, and says, “Hey.” I'm so shocked that for a second, I can't answer. Jake is not supposed to be in my homeroom. He's supposed to be in room 241. I know because Daphne and I ran into his mom over the summer at the grocery store and she told us (after a little bit of prodding and a slight stalker mission in which we followed her down the cookie aisle and ended up having to spend all our allowance on five bags of Oreos).

“I didn't know you were going to be in my homeroom,” I blurt.

“I didn't either,” he says, “but there was some sort of
mix-up with my schedule.” He's wearing long board shorts and a long-sleeved blue T-shirt and his brown hair is all mopsy and cute and his eyes look the same as when he looked at me during The Scandalous Skateboard Incident.

“Oh, well,” I say, trying to sound coy. “Their mix-up is our gain.” I give him a look with my eyebrows, but he just looks a little confused. Maybe because my eyebrows aren't completely grown in from when I tried to pluck them myself over the summer. They're
grown in—honestly, you really can't even tell—but maybe I shouldn't be using them to convey meaningful looks. “How was camp?” I had figured I might get all tongue-tied when I saw Jake, and the first thing I would say is, “Hey, did you know I like you now?” because it would be on my brain. But honestly I'm pretty much fine. Not freaking out even a little bit.

Well, except for when Jake smoothes his hair away from his face and says, “It was all right. But I missed you guys.” I missed you guys! Obviously by “you guys” he means me and Daphne, of course, but he probably only means ME, since, hello, I'm the one who wrote him a few postcards over the summer (just a few, no need to seem needy), and Daphne only sent him one very short note for his birthday.

“Cool,” I say. “We missed you, too.”
We missed you, too!
How cool is that to say? Am I flirting? I read an article about flirting in Taylor's
magazine (America's
number one teen magazine), and it seemed horribly complicated. But maybe I'm a natural.

“How was your summer?” he asks.

“Not bad,” I say. “I found out I'm a finalist for the
You Girl
Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.”

“That's awesome,” he says.

“Yeah, I have to go to New York after school today to get my picture taken for the magazine.”

He laughs. “You're going to be in
You Girl

“Yeah. Well, not just me. All the other finalists too.” I try to raise my voice a little so that Pink Beret might overhear and be all,
Wow, you're going to be a famous model in America's number one tween magazine?
but she just keeps talking to Charlie, oblivious.

“That should be interesting.”


“Yeah. Since you hate getting your picture taken.”

This is true. I do hate getting my picture taken. “Well, I don't
it exactly, I just—”

“Remember in third grade when you had to get your school picture retaken, like, ten times?” He laughs. I
have to get my picture retaken a bunch of times, but it wasn't my fault. The photographer kept telling me to look at this one spot above the camera, and every time I did, the flash would blind me. Plus they kept giving out these little plastic
combs before taking your picture, and they'd encourage you to comb your hair, and for some reason, my hair always ended up sticking up.

“Ten times?” Pink Beret pipes up from her seat next to us. Oh,
she's listening. Of course. “That's crazy.” She leans over the back of her chair, and her sweater dips down, revealing more of her shoulder, which is very tan. How is her shoulder tan? I thought redheads only burned. I'll bet it's fake.

“It wasn't
I say, feeling my face go red.

“It wasn't,” Jake agrees, flashing his perfect smile at Pink Beret. She leans over farther, and now her stupid fake tan shoulder is almost right in Jake's face.

“Thank you,” I say, shooting her a triumphant look.

“It was more like five.” Jake winks at me. Pink Beret and Charlie giggle.

And they keep giggling when our homeroom teacher, Mr. Levin, comes in and welcomes us to Somerville Middle School. They giggle all during the morning announcements, and all during the pledge of allegiance. And when the bell rings, and Jake squeezes my arm and says, “See you later, Samantha,” they don't even notice because they're already gone.

By the end of the day, I'm beginning to think that maybe
middle school isn't all it's cracked up to be. In gym class we have to change. Which is fine, except that all the girls are wearing bras. I don't need a bra. Usually I just wear a sports bra under my clothes, but apparently even the girls who don't need bras are wearing real bras and then changing into sports bras. No one alerted me to this system (it really should have been revealed to us in our back-to-school mailing—locker number, homeroom, and bra situation).

BOOK: Rules for Secret Keeping
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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