Set the Record Straight! (2 page)

BOOK: Set the Record Straight!
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One of his friends was looking kind of thoughtful. “I would say yes. I
mean, why does it always have to be us doing the asking?” he asked.

Bingo, brother! My point exactly. I smiled at him in gratitude, but then
caught myself. I was supposed to be anonymous!

“I just think that it's a totally weird move if a girl does
that,” Jack said. “It's just not the way it's done.”

Uh-oh. I took a deep breath and kept walking, reminding myself that part of
being a journalist is provoking conversation. And anyway, why is that “the way
it's done”? Says who, I'd like to know.

“… really bad advice!” I heard someone say
as I passed another table. My stomach clenched. Were they talking about the Dear
Know-It-All column too? Ugh. Maybe I'd been too daring. But everyone sure was
talking about it!

I reached Hailey and dropped my tray onto the table with relief, and mostly
because it was so heavy from taking one of everything. As I did so, everything jostled
and mixed all together in a revolting fashion: apple juice spilled over iceberg, JELL-O
in the mac and cheese—just gross.

“Argh!” I cried. This was turning into a very bad lunch in all
ways.

“Finally!” said Hailey.

“Why ‘finally'?” I asked, pulling out my chair and
sitting down heavily.

“I have major news.”

“Okay, ladies,
bon appétit
!” said
Michael, placing his tray next to mine on the table and sitting down.

“What?” I asked Hailey.

She shook her head in annoyance. “Can't say now,” she
whispered, flicking her eyes toward Michael.

Double ugh! I'd never been annoyed to see Michael
before, but now I was.

I glanced down at my tray. It looked disgusting. I didn't know where to
begin.

“I meant two bites of each thing at a time, not mixed all together,
Pasty,” Michael said, shaking his head and laughing.

“Ha-ha,” I said. I took a deep breath and pulled my long, brown
hair into a ponytail while deciding what to tackle first.

Suddenly I felt a nudge. I looked down, and Michael had a granola bar in his
hand and he was poking me with it. I wanted to say no, just on principle, but I knew
I'd be starving before too long, so I reached out and took it.

“Thanks,” I muttered, feeling grumpy.

“I carry them for you,” said Michael, grinning.

“Yeah, right,” I said, annoyed that he was teasing me about my
appetite again.

“For real,” Michael insisted, serious now.

Oh. Was this a good thing or a bad thing? I'd need to dissect it with
Hailey later and decide. Either Michael worried that I was a liability when
hungry and needed to be appeased, or he was being considerate. Or
maybe both. Either way it was probably good that he was thinking about me. Right? Or
maybe what he was thinking was that I was a starving pig! Oh brother. Either way, I was
hungry.
Starving Journalist Goes on Eating Spree! Nothing Is
Safe!

I unwrapped the granola bar and glanced at Hailey's tray. “What
did you have?” I asked her, biting into the bar.

“Rice,” she said, shrugging.

“Just rice?”

Hailey nodded. “With some butter and salt on it.”

I chewed thoughtfully. “This is not a third-world country, you know. We
have more than just rice to eat.” That's something Hailey's mom always
said to her.

“The food is such a bummer. There's never anything I want.
I'm actually thrilled when they have rice,” said Hailey. “I keep
telling you to do an article on that! How bad the food is!”

I turned to her midbite, with half the granola bar hanging out of my mouth,
and then looked at
Michael with wide eyes. “Bingo!” I
said through the rolled oats.
Kids Tired of Terrible Food, Beg
for Mercy.

Michael nodded and then finished chewing before speaking. He wiped his mouth
with his napkin and then pushed his tray away. (Did I mention he has great manners?)

“Great idea, Hails,” he said. “‘Tuna Surprise Is a
Real Surprise!' ‘Booger Burgers Make us Barf!'”

Hails? That's
my
nickname for her. Grrr. Now
all of me was growling, not just my stomach.

Hailey smiled and fluffed her short blonde hair with her fingers. I squinted
at her to see if she was flirting, but she looked innocent. How could she really not
like Michael? He was so perfect. . . .

“I said it a couple of weeks ago. I would have thought you'd
remembered,” she said to him.

Phew. I was glad Michael hadn't. That meant he didn't pay
too
much attention to what she said. And he was too busy
remembering granola bars for me.

“It's a good idea,” I said. “We'll present it at
the meeting today and see what Trigger thinks.” I
reached into
my messenger bag for my trusty notebook. I made a note on my to-do list, snapped the
book shut, and placed it in the bag. Nothing gets remembered unless I write it down,
even though Michael teases me for it. He thinks I'm just a bad listener, but I
don't care. This is just how my brain works.

I finished my granola bar and then put the empty wrapper onto my tray. True to
his word, Michael had sampled everything on his tray exactly twice.

“I've gotta run,” he said. “I'm meeting Jeff to
go over the names in the team photos for the yearbook.”

Jeff Perry is in our grade, and he's one of Michael's best
friends. He's the photographer for the
Cherry Valley
Voice
and always has a big camera slung over his narrow shoulder or around
his skinny neck. He's pretty funny, but sometimes you wish he didn't take
quite so many photos. They don't always turn out so great, and he isn't shy
about posting them on Buddybook. My dream is that one day Hailey will decide she loves
him. I think they'd be great together. And then I really
wouldn't have to worry about Michael.

“See you at the meeting,” I said to Michael.

When Michael had left, Hailey turned to me. “I thought he'd never
leave,” she said.

Chapter 2

SPIES CAUGHT MIDTRANSFER, COVERS BLOWN!

“What is
up
?” I asked Hailey. “The suspense is killing me!”

Hailey's eyes shone brightly as she smiled at me. “I'm in love! And I'm going to ask him out! Just like they said in Dear Know-It-All!”

Huh?

My shock quickly turned to action. “Whoa, tiger! Slow down!
You
wrote that letter to Dear Know-It-All? You're Tired of Waiting?!”

Hailey waved her hand impatiently. “No, I didn't write it, but, I mean, the advice applies, right? Do you know Scott Parker? On the boys' varsity soccer team?”

Did I mention that Hailey is a soccer nut?
She's cocaptain of the girls' varsity team, and she's only in seventh grade. She's in sick shape, totally muscle, even though she's very petite.

I nodded. I did know who Scott Parker was. Actually, we'd been at nursery school together, but I didn't know him well, though.

“Yeah, he's really cute!” I said. I remembered him as being very quiet and shy, not like Hailey at all, but maybe he'd outgrown it.

Hailey nodded, grinning again. “Waaay cute!” She sighed and crossed her arms. “And I'm going to ask him out!”

Oh. This did not seem like a good idea. From what I knew, Scott was not the kind of guy who girls asked out; I thought he was way too shy. Plus, did he even know Hailey or had she even talked to him? I had to stop her. “Wait. Hailey. Why rush into this? You've only just decided that you like him, right? Slow down and take your time. Let him get to know you a little bit.” I gulped. I'd felt so breezy and confident writing that column, but now that it was in practice, I could see that maybe not
all
boys are the type who girls should ask out.
Anyway, it wasn't like Hailey was pining away for him like Tired of Waiting was for her guy.

I looked at Hailey, and she was kind of pouting. “Why? Do you think he'd say no if I asked?”

Poor Hailey. She finally likes someone legit (as in, someone who has not been my crush for the past seven years), and now I'm telling her not to go for it. Or, at least, not yet.

I scrambled to make her feel better. “No. I just think . . . he's not the type of guy that . . .”

Hailey narrowed her eyes at me. “Do you think he's a jerk?” she asked.

“No! I barely know the guy!” I protested. Oh boy. I was really getting myself in trouble here. “Look, Hails, just take it slow. Baby steps. You've just decided you like him. Live with it for a week and then we'll make a plan, okay?”

“We?” said Hailey.

“Yes, we.” I patted her on the arm, and smiled.

Hailey exhaled. “Okay. But I'm not as patient as you are.”

“I know. Seven years is a long time to wait. But he's worth it!”

Hailey laughed, and we began to collect our trays. “Do you need some help?” she asked, eyeing my pile.

“Thanks. That would be great.” I shifted the JELL-O and the little plate with a Rice Krispies treat on it onto Hailey's plate, then I turned to hoist my messenger bag from the floor. When I looked back at Hailey, she was eating the Rice Krispies Treat and had the JELL-O in her other hand.

“Hailey!” I cried.

She whipped her head around in surprise. “What?!”

“I thought you meant if I needed help carrying it, not eating it!”

Hailey blushed. “Sorry. I didn't see these when I was up there, though. And you know how I love—”

“High-fructose corn syrup. I know. But to eat all that stuff at once, that's just gross. Let's go.”

Reluctantly, Hailey stood, still chewing, and we deposited our trays and then left the cafeteria without mishap.

We still had a little time before the next period, so as we walked to our next class, I tried to boost
Hailey's confidence but warned her to still be cautious. I felt like I'd been too hasty at lunch, and I didn't want to make her feel badly (
Advice Columnist Retracts Advice!
). “Listen, Hails, that letter . . . the Dear Know-It-All thing. That girl . . . It sounded like she had liked that guy for a really long time. She was lovelorn and devoted, she was ‘tired of waiting.' But you've just
started
liking Scott. Like, hello—
new crush!
So I think you need to play it cool a little, you know? Get to know him, find out what you have in common besides soccer. Maybe first come up with a casual group plan with a bunch of friends, okay?” I turned to look at Hailey and found her walking very close to me, peering at me intently.

“What?” I said, pulling back in surprise.

Hailey wagged her finger at me. “Wait a second! I know who you are! Now it all makes sense!'

Oh my goodness. Panic coursed through my veins. What did I say that finally revealed I'm Dear Know-It-All? I gulped.

Hailey stopped dead in her tracks with an incredulous smile on her face. “You're
Tired of
Waiting
! Tired of Waiting for Michael Lawrence! I should have known!”

I laughed weakly. “Oh, yeah. Ha-ha.” Relief washed over me as I realized my cover was safe, for now anyway. “Right. That was me—Not.”

Hailey looked at me suspiciously. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Positive. Trust me. I'd have asked my best friend for advice first, obviously!” I gave her a soft punch on the upper arm.

Hailey gave me another look. “You actually
give
really good advice, you know. Maybe next year they'll ask
you
to be the Dear Know-It-All!” And she slapped me on the back and then turned into the science lab. “Ha-ha! As if!” she called over her shoulder, laughing.

“Thanks!” I called after her. “Great idea!” Sheesh! That was a really close call. But why ‘as if'? Sure, I didn't love being Dear Know-It-All, but did I stink at it? Why didn't she think I was qualified? Now I was annoyed again.

I walked to language arts thinking about Tired, the real Tired of Waiting. I wondered what had happened, if she had asked her guy out after all,
and if so, how it had turned out. I felt kind of sick about my pithy advice (“pithy” is Mr. Trigg's favorite word, by the way). It means you say something strongly and forcefully, like you're sure of it. But, really, what did I know about asking out boys?

For about the one millionth time, I thought about what a terrible choice I was to write this column. After all, I can barely lead my own life, let alone tell other people how to lead theirs! And, anyway, my expertise is facts. That's why I like journalism. It's all about what really happened, not about feelings or things that are hard to prove. So even though it's fun and a huge honor to write Dear Know-It-All, I do secretly kind of hate having to do it.

After school I hustled to the
Cherry Valley Voice
office for our staff meeting. I was hoping to get there early and quickly touch base with Mr. Trigg about the Dear Know-It-All reaction. Since he's the only person besides my mom who knows that I write it, I love chatting with him about it (except for when I'm late on my deadlines; then I avoid him like the plague!). I was really nervous to hear
what he'd heard or what he'd thought. My stomach had butterflies in it and I prayed no one was in the office to prevent us from talking.

I was lucky. I flew past the door and the newsroom was still empty. Mr. Trigg was at his desk in his little private office at the back of the room.

“Mr. T.!” I called.

“Ms. Martone!”

I crossed the room quickly and poked my head into his office, which is filled with World War II memorabilia. He is British and obsessed with journalism, World War II, and Winston Churchill—not necessarily in that order. A huge British government war poster hung over his desk. It said, “
Your
Courage,
Your
Cheerfulness,
Your
Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.” I gulped.

BOOK: Set the Record Straight!
10.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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