Read The Littlest Bigfoot Online

Authors: Jennifer Weiner

The Littlest Bigfoot

BOOK: The Littlest Bigfoot
9.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

For Phoebe

The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves.



morning in September, a twelve-year-old girl named Alice Mayfair stood in the sunshine on the corner of Eighty-Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City and tried to disappear.

She was tall, so she slumped, curving her spine into the shape of a C and tucking her chin into her chest. She was wide, so she pulled her shoulders close together and hunched forward with her gaze focused on the ground. Her hands, big and thick as ham steaks, were jammed in her pockets as always. Her big feet were pressed so closely together that a casual observer might think she had a single large foot instead of two regular ones.

Her hair was the one thing that Alice couldn't subdue. Reddish blond, thick, and unruly, Alice's hair refused to behave, no matter how tightly she braided it or how many elastic bands she used to keep it in place. Living with the Mane, as she called it, was like having a three-year-old on top of her head, a little kid who refused to listen or be good, no matter what bribes she offered or what punishments she put in place.

“Behave,” she would whisper each morning, working expensive styling glop through the thicket before combing it carefully and plaiting it into thick braids that fell to the middle of her back. The Mane would look fine when she left for school, but by the time she arrived at her first class, there'd be stray curls sneaking out of the elastic bands and making their way to freedom at the back of her neck and the crown of her head. By lunchtime the elastic bands would have snapped and the Mane would be a frenzy of tangled curls, foaming and frothing its way down to her waist like it was trying to climb off her body and make a break for freedom. Sometimes, in desperation, she'd tuck her hair underneath her shirt, and she'd spend the rest of the day with its springy, ticklish weight against her back.

It always felt, somehow, like the Mane was laughing at
her, whispering that there were better things to do than sit in a classroom learning how to diagram sentences or do long division. There was a big world out there, and somewhere in that world Alice could be happy, or at least meet a girl who liked her, which was Alice's fondest wish. In seven different schools, over seven entire years, Alice had failed to make even a single friend.

Alice sighed and squinted, shading her eyes from the glare of the sun as she looked up the street, then down at her luggage. A brown leather trunk, monogrammed in gold, stood at her feet. Two brown leather duffels with the same golden monogram were behind her. A pair of wheeled brown leather suitcases—one small, one large—stood at her left and her right.

“This is Quality,” Alice's mother, Felicia, had said when they'd bought the luggage at Bergdorf Goodman. Alice could hear the capital
as Felicia pronounced the word. “It will last your whole life. You'll use this luggage to go on your honeymoon.” Right after she'd said the word “honeymoon,” Felicia had gone quiet, maybe thinking that her bulky, clumsy, wild-haired daughter might never have a honeymoon. When Alice had asked if she could buy a purple backpack, Felicia had nodded absently, handed Alice a credit card, and started poking at her phone.

The backpack had a rainbow key chain and a green glow stick clipped to its zipper, pockets full of spare hair elastics, a pouch that held a special detangling brush, and secret compartments with stashes of treats. Alice rummaged until she'd found a butterscotch candy. As she unwrapped it she felt the first curl, one at the nape of her neck, spring free.

She sighed. A yellow school bus was pulling up to the corner. Parents were taking pictures, hugging their kids, waving, and even crying as the bus pulled away. Alice wondered how that would feel, having parents who'd wait for the bus on the first day of school and maybe even be there when the bus came back.

Alice had started her education at the Atwater School, on New York City's Upper East Side, where Felicia had gone. At Atwater the girls wore blue-and-white plaid jumpers, white shirts, blue kneesocks, and brown shoes, and they sat in spindly antique wooden chairs in small, high-ceilinged classrooms with polished hardwood floors.

In her first week of kindergarten at Atwater, Alice had broken two chairs, torn three uniforms, and wandered away from her class during a trip to the American Museum of Natural History, necessitating emergency calls to her father, Mark, who was in Tokyo at the time,
and to Felicia, who was in the middle of a massage. Alice could still recall the startled look on the guard's face after he finally found her asleep around the corner from a diorama of Peking Man . . . that and the sound of her father whisper-yelling on the phone later that week, telling the headmaster that he was very lucky the Mayfairs had decided not to sue.

“Perhaps she's more of a hands-on learner,” said Miss Merriweather, the educational consultant her parents had hired after that disaster.

So first grade was at the Barton Academy in a downtown New York City neighborhood, where the classrooms were painted bright colors and were full of beanbags and pets, where the kids had recess three times a day, and where they learned to knit and cook in addition to read and spell and add. Alice remembered the squish, and the squeal, when she sat on the class guinea pig. The following week she accidentally freed the class turtle. The week after that she almost impaled her teacher on a knitting needle, and she had to be hunted down and dragged out of the climbing structure on the playground every time recess ended.

“A different language!” Miss Merriweather had suggested brightly. By then Felicia had worry lines in the skin
at the corners of her eyes, and Mark had gray strands at the temples of his black hair.

During second grade at École Français, Alice came home every day with her crisp white uniform blouse stained with egg yolk or paint or ink or blood. She had trouble sitting still during her lessons and trouble remembering to speak French instead of English, and mandatory ballet class was a disaster best not spoken of. (Alice's parents agreed not to sue the École for negligence after Alice fell off the stage during a recital; the École agreed not to sue them for the injuries the school music teacher, Mademoiselle Léonie, suffered when Alice landed on top of her, not to mention the loss of their piano.)

Third grade was in Brooklyn, at an “alternative school” for gifted students. At Horizons, Alice learned that “alternative” meant “no rules” and “gifted” meant “girls with parents who think their daughters are so special that breaking Felicia's antique Chinese export ware is an expression of individuality and not a cause for punishment.” Alice's parents pulled her out of Horizons after a sleepover party ended with a guest using Felicia's fancy scented candle to light Alice's bed on fire, and the culprit's mother refused to make her daughter apologize. “She was expressing herself via the medium of matches,” said the chagrined mother, a
performance artist who specialized in taking time-lapse videos of her underarm hair's growth.

“Boarding school!” said Miss Merriweather, who was beginning to sound a little frantic, and Alice's parents agreed with what Alice, had she been present, would have found insulting alacrity. For fourth grade, she was shipped off to Swifton, a private school in Vermont tucked into a picturesque green valley between two ski resorts. At breakfast on the first day of her second week, a girl named Muffin Van der Meer said, “Show of hands! Who likes the New Alice?” (Alice was called the New Alice because there was already an Alice in the class.) She could still picture Muffin's smirk after she'd seen that not a single hand had gone up. But Swifton wasn't a complete disaster. Alice loved skiing and sledding and racing through the snow with snowshoes or cross-country skis strapped to her feet. Her parents were angry but not entirely surprised when, in December, the headmistress called in a panic to say that they'd lost Alice during a trek through the woods. By the time Mark and Felicia had chartered a plane to Burlington, then rented an SUV for the drive to Swifton, Alice's teachers had found her, deep in the forest, in a small, crooked, but competently constructed igloo. “I'm not hurting anyone,” Alice said. She suspected that
her parents would have left her, had the school's insurance policy and the state's laws not forced them to bring her home.

Fifth grade was in New York City again, at the Lytton-King School, which tried, according to its website, to “celebrate the special spirit of every child.”

“They'll honor Alice's uniqueness!” Miss Merriweather had promised, as Alice's parents, looking unconvinced, held hands on the love seat. Felicia stared at her pointy-toed shoes. Mark pressed his lips together. Alice, listening from her spot in the hallway, was pretty sure that her uniqueness would, as usual, be more of a problem than a cause for celebration, but at least at Lytton-King she wouldn't have to wear a uniform. Miss Merriweather was enthusiastic—“I have high hopes, Alice!” was what she said—but even among the misfits and weirdos, in a class that included a boy named Hans, who picked his nose and ate it, and a girl named Sadie, who spoke only in Klingon, which she'd learned from
Star Trek
fan fiction, Alice was an outcast. She sat alone at every meal, she read by herself during Activity Choice Time, and whenever kids had to pick partners, she ended up working with the teacher, because nobody ever wanted to partner with her.

BOOK: The Littlest Bigfoot
9.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick
Maybe by John Locke
Her Dark Knight by Sharon Cullen
Home Fires by Elizabeth Day
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Echo Falls by McDougall, Jaime
Cuffed & Collared by Samantha Cayto
Cherringham--Final Cut by Neil Richards
Town in a Blueberrry Jam by B. B. Haywood