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Authors: Matt Christopher

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BOOK: Windmill Windup
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“I love you, too, sweetie,” her mom replied. Freeing herself from her daughter’s grip, Mrs. Conroy went into the house and
took off her trench coat. “Oh, I had such a fantastic day today!” she cooed. “Do you want to hear all about it?”

“Um …sure,” Kelly said. She needed to ask her mom about calling the commissioner, but she figured it was better to wait for
the right moment to ask for the favor.

“Well, I got to my desk, and there were two dozen long-stemmed roses on it, guess from who!”

“Uh …Ken?”

“Yes! Isn’t that so romantic?”

Kelly suddenly felt the need to blow chunks. This was totally gross. Her mom was all gooey over this corny guy Ken, and all
because he made goo-goo eyes at her and gave her flowers!

“Well, that was just the beginning,” her mom went on, breezing into the kitchen and beginning to prepare food for dinner.
“There were half a dozen e-mails from him on my computer. I did tell you he works in the office with me, right?”

“Uh, yeah….”

“And the most amazing thing is that he’s been there over a year, and we’ve barely looked at each other all that time. And
now all of a sudden, wham! Isn’t that amazing?”

“Amazing,” Kelly repeated wanly.
Eeuw
— her mom was actually
in love!
She was acting like one of Kelly’s middle school buddies. Kelly felt embarrassed for her.

“Well, then he came by my cubicle and whisked me off to lunch at this cute little bistro, and he told me — get this — he told
me last night was the most wonderful time he’d had in years! Years! Oh, Kelly, I
don’t know when I’ve been this happy. Not since you were a very little girl, I can tell you. Oh, I hope you like him!” she
said, suddenly worried.

Kelly tried to paste a smile on her face. “I guess he’s okay,” she said. What she wanted to say, but couldn’t, was, “He’s
not as nice as Dad. How could you even look at another guy, when Dad’s so fun, and handsome, and …and…”

But Kelly knew why her dad wasn’t around anymore.

No wonder her mother liked Ken, with all the attention he was showering on her. Still, it was pathetic, Kelly thought. Who
was this guy, anyway? Mom didn’t even know him that well, and here she was, all gaga.

Kelly was so angry she could barely contain herself. She wanted to tell her mom to wake up and smell the coffee. She wasn’t
a girl anymore, so it was time to stop acting like one, for Pete’s sake!

But she couldn’t really say that. She didn’t want to get on her mom’s bad side — not tonight, at least. Not until her mom
called the commissioner and got this awful mistake straightened out.

Kelly excused herself to go wash up for dinner. She needed to chill, no doubt about it. She went to
the bathroom and doused her face and hands with cold water, taking deep breaths and looking at herself in the mirror. She
had the same strawberry-blonde hair and blue eyes as her mom, but with the frown on her face and the redness in her eyes from
all the crying she’d been doing, she looked like the older of the two.

Kelly stayed there, working on looking neutral, until she was satisfied she didn’t seem upset. Then she went down to dinner.
She sat opposite her mom at the table as always, but just pushed her food around with her fork, not eating anything.

“What’s the matter, honey?” her mom finally said; noticing for the first time that all might not be well with Kelly. “Is something
bothering you?”

“I got put on the wrong softball team,” Kelly told her.

“Oh, no!” her mom gasped. “You mean, you’re not with Karen, or Sue?”

“Nope. None of them.”

“But that’s terrible! Oh, honey, I feel so bad for you. No wonder you aren’t hungry!”

Looking down at her plate, Kelly pushed it slowly away from her.

“Oh, sweetie, I know how you must feel,” her
mom said, reaching out and taking Kelly’s hand. “Life is full of little disappointments like this —”

“Little disappointments?” Kelly repeated, aghast. She jerked her hand free. “Don’t you understand? My life is over!”

“Now, now,” her mom said reassuringly. “Don’t be like that. You’ll make new friends on your new team —”

“I don’t want new friends!” Kelly shouted, bolting to her feet. “I don’t want a new team! I want my old friends, on my old
team!”

“Well, honey, sometimes we can’t have things the way we want them —”

“Why not?” Kelly demanded, stamping her foot angrily. This was not coming out the way she’d intended it to, but it was too
late now. “You could do something about it if you wanted to!” she insisted.

“What? What can I do, baby?” her mom asked.

“Call the commissioner and tell him you want me on the Devil Rays,” Kelly said.

“I — well, I …I suppose I could call him, if it will make you happy. But I doubt —”

“Just call him, okay?” Kelly interrupted her. “I have to get back on my team! I have to!”

“All right,” her mom sighed. “What’s the number?”
Pushing her chair back, she got up and went to the phone.

Kelly ran to her school student directory and looked up Lacey’s number. She read it off to her mom, who punched it in. Kelly
stood leaning against the kitchen island, not taking her eyes off her mom.

“Hello?” her mom said into the phone. “I’m the mother of a girl in your softball league…. Thirteen…. Yes, her name is Kelly
Conroy.”

There was a long pause while her mom listened, her brow furrowing. Kelly wondered if the commissioner knew who she was from
Lacey. She even wondered if he’d taken her off the Devil Rays just to get back at her for his daughter’s sake. It would have
been the meanest move ever, but Kelly wouldn’t have put it past Lacey to ask.

“Yes, well, it seems she’s been put on a new team this season, and she’s very unhappy. Yes, and so I was wondering if —”

There was another long pause. Then, “Yes…. I see…. Well, of course…. I understand….”

Kelly was growing frantic. She gestured wildly to her mom, trying to get her to be more forceful. But being forceful wasn’t
in her mom’s nature, and obviously she was being thoroughly intimidated by
Lacey’s dad. Kelly could hear his loud, gruff voice coming through the phone speaker.

“Well, thank you, anyway. Yes…. Yes, I’ll tell her.” Her mom hung up the phone, then turned to Kelly with limpid eyes just
brimming over with pity.

“Don’t even say it!” Kelly screamed. “Don’t talk to me! Don’t talk to me ever again!” She grabbed a chair and shook it, then
slammed it down on the floor.

“Kelly!” her mom said sharply. “Don’t you even want to hear his reasons why?”

“What’s the difference?” Kelly shot back. “He gave you a load of baloney, and you just stood there and took it! You didn’t
even try to convince him!”

“Of course I did!” her mom said weakly. “But the way he put it — he said they wanted more parity in the league — more equality
between the teams, and that some of the teams, including yours, were too good, so they had to break them up to make things
fairer. He said if he made an exception for you, he’d have to do it for everybody. So you see, it was hard to argue with him.”

“Why? Why was it hard?” Kelly pressed her. “Aren’t you my mother? Whose side are you on, anyway?”

“Yours, of course,” her mom said.

“Yeah, right,” Kelly said bitterly, turning away. “You’re on nobody’s side but your own.” After throwing another chair to
the floor, she ran up the stairs to her room and slammed the door behind her. Then she flung herself on her bed and wept bitterly,
knowing that she’d never be a Devil Ray again.

The next day, Kelly sleepwalked through school. Math was a blur of numbers and symbols, and in science lab she nearly caused
an explosion when she dropped her test tube and it shattered over the Bunsen burner. But the lowest point in her day came
during gym, when she was approached by a girl she’d noticed around but never spoken to before.

The girl was pretty, with dark, shiny hair and dancing almond eyes. She was really good in gym, too. Kelly had noticed her
doing the Project Adventure course. The girl seemed to have no fear of the rope apparatus and did the climbs faster than anyone
else, pulling herself up and across the ceiling with powerful, athletic swings of her arms.

“Hi,” the girl said. Kelly was sitting on the bleachers, trying to avoid being spotted by the gym teacher
and forced to do the rope course. “I’m Allison Warheit. Everyone calls me Allie.”

“Allie, huh? I’m Kelly,” Kelly said, shaking the girl’s outstretched hand.

“You’re in seventh grade, right?” Allie asked.

“Yeah. You?”

“Sixth.”

That explained why Kelly had never run across her. “So how come you’re in gym this period?” Kelly asked.

“I got advanced P.E.,” Allie said.

Kelly frowned. She’d never even heard of advanced P.E., never mind been asked to be in it. How had this sixth-grader managed
to get it? “Oh,” she said, trying to act unimpressed.

“Hey, I heard you’re on the Diamondbacks,” Allie said, flashing a brilliant smile. “Me too!”

“Huh?” Kelly replied.

“You led the league in homers last year.”

“Uh, yeah, I did,” Kelly acknowledged.

“Cool. That’s awesome that we’re teammates, huh?” Allie said, clearly delighted.

“Yeah. Way cool,” Kelly said unenthusiastically. Not that Allie noticed. She jogged away, waving over her shoulder to Kelly.
“See ya!”

“Not if I see you first,” Kelly muttered under her breath.

Great
. It wasn’t bad enough that she wasn’t going to be on the mighty Devil Rays. Lacey Jenkins had gotten Kelly dumped onto a
team full of sixth-graders!

They’d probably lose every game they played. She could see it now — Devil Rays 36, Diamondbacks 0. Football scores.

Why should she be in the softball league if it was no fun? After being so close to a championship, being on a loser team would
be too painful to bear. Watching her friends hoist the trophy at season’s end…

For the first time since she’d put on a mitt, Kelly Conroy began thinking about quitting altogether. Maybe just for this year.
Maybe forever.

4

W
hen she got home, Ken’s car was in the driveway. Kelly could hear laughter coming from the kitchen. She opened and shut the
door as loudly as she could, but she still caught them breaking away from each other.
Jeez
, Kelly thought with a shudder. They were probably
kissing!

Her mom had a stirring spoon in her hand and was wearing an apron. Ken held the lid of a pot in his right hand and a fistful
of spinach in his left. “Hi!” he greeted Kelly cheerfully. “We were just cooking up something yummy for dinner.”

Kelly hated it when people said
yummy
. She didn’t know why; she just did. “Oh, goodie,” she responded in a lackluster voice. She crossed straight in front of him
and threw open the fridge door.

“Honey, what are you looking for?” her mom
asked. “We’re going to be eating in half an hour or so.”

“I’m hungry now,” Kelly said, rummaging in the fridge.

“Well, take some carrots and celery,” her mom instructed her. “I don’t want you to spoil your appetite.”

“I don’t feel like carrots and celery,” Kelly said, grabbing a box of chocolate donuts, cold just the way she liked them.
“I feel like a snack.”

“Kelly,” her mom said, her voice rising a bit. “You’re not to eat that now.”

Kelly ignored her, knowing that her mom usually gave up if Kelly paid no attention to her. She grabbed a donut from the box
and was about to pop it into her mouth when she felt a strong hand grab her wrist tight.

“Your mother said you weren’t to eat that now,” Ken said sternly, pulling her hand away from her mouth. “Didn’t you hear her?”

Kelly froze, anger rising in her like hot lava. She yanked her hand free of Ken’s grip and spun around on him. “Who do you
think you are?” she growled. “You’re not my father. This is no business of yours!”

“Ken…,” her mom said, putting out a restraining hand.

“I’m sorry, Nora, but, I can’t stand to see you get disrespected like that,” Ken said, shooting Kelly a reproving look.

“I don’t even know you,” Kelly said, staring daggers at him.

“Ken, she’s had a tough week,” her mom started to explain.

“You know, Nora, when I was a kid, my mother and father never let me talk to them like that, or ignore them. It sets a very
poor precedent.”

“Who cares what your parents did?” Kelly yelled. “Mom, tell him to stay out of this — it’s not his business!”

“Ken…,” her mom began weakly.

“Nora, she’s just manipulating you, and you’re letting her.”

“I know …you’re right …it’s just —”

“You know, you’ve got to set limits and lay down consequences.” He turned to Kelly. “Do you know my son, Ryan? Ryan Randall?”

“Huh? Oh …yeah, I know who he is. He’s an eighth-grader?”

“That’s right. And you know, he hasn’t given me
lip like that since he was a little boy. You know why? Because I wouldn’t stand for it, that’s why. I set strict limits for
him, and it helped him mature. My kid knows not to treat his parents like that.”

“Your kid doesn’t even live with you anymore!” Kelly screeched. “That’s how good a job you did!”

“Kelly!” her mom gasped, horrified. “You apologize right this instant!”

“I will not!” Kelly said. Spinning on her heels, she grabbed her donut off the countertop and ran up to her room before either
of them could stop her. She slammed the door behind her and locked it, just in case they tried to barge in. She wasn’t going
to speak with her mother until Ken was out of the house. And as for Ken, she was never going to speak with him again!

She’d told him off, all right — but
good
. Who did he think he was, anyway? Next thing you knew, he’d be moving in with them and thinking he was her father and had
a right to boss her around. Well, not if she could help it! Kelly decided then and there that she would do what she could
to sabotage her mother’s budding romance, for her mom’s sake as well as her own.

She picked up the phone extension and punched
in her father’s number. Lo and behold, he actually picked up the phone!

BOOK: Windmill Windup
10.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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