Chapter One: Orange You Glad You’re Not in Trouble
1 ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU’RE NOT IN TROUBLE
“Emelyn,” my teacher Miss Taylor said. “I need you to go to the office.”
I froze, the tip of my pencil dangling over the math problem I’d been working on.
Okay, maybe I hadn’t exactly been working on the math problems. I might have been doodling a picture of a cat, but that couldn’t get me sent to the principal’s office, right?
My classmates stopped what they were doing and turned toward me.
There was nothing worse than having the attention focused on you.
And right then everyone stared at me as if I were the most popular animal at the zoo.
I played with the cuff of my jean jacket and stared at the glittery nail polish I had put on the night before. What I didn’t look at was my classmates.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh, Emelyn is in trouble,” Nelson said in the most obnoxious voice in the world.
“Mind your own business!” my best friend Myka said. “She’s not in trouble.”
Myka was the most outspoken of the Invincible Girls, which was a club my three friends and I had started in order to make the world a better place. Right then I was grateful for Myka’s support. With three brothers, she was a pro at standing up for herself. Myka didn’t let anyone push her or her friends around.
I mouthed Thank you to her for silencing Nelson, because she was right. I wasn’t in trouble.
At least, I didn’t think I was.
Wouldn’t you know if you were in trouble?
My brain switched into overdrive as I tried to come up with a reason, any reason, as to why I would be sent to the principal’s office.
Sure, I was drawing during math, but I paid attention. I swear I did. Drawing helped me focus, and Miss Taylor had always been cool with that.
“Nelson, that’s enough,” Miss Taylor said, and she turned to me and held up an envelope. “I was hoping you’d run something to the office. It needs to get there now, and you’re one of the most responsible students in the class.”
She said that last part as she looked right at Nelson, who was nowhere close to the most responsible.
“So I’m not in trouble?” I asked.
Miss Taylor laughed. “Not at all. Quite the opposite.”
It was as if the gray storm clouds whooshed away and the clear blue sky filled with rainbows, unicorns, and birds who chirped happy songs.
I was not in trouble!
I repeat, I was not in trouble!
“Thank you,” Miss Taylor said as I took the envelope she held out to me. “I figured I could trust you.”
“You sure can,” I said, and heard someone snicker. I didn’t stick around to find out if it was Nelson and his big mouth. I zipped out the door as Miss Taylor told the class once more to focus on their work.
The hallway was empty, which was weird.
The classroom doors were closed, and while I could hear the sound of voices, I couldn’t make out any of the words.
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
The bottoms of my shoes rubbed against the shiny floor.
I glanced down at them and grinned.
It was silly to get excited about a pair of shoes, but I loved mine so much. Mom had let me paint a white pair of sneakers we had found at the discount store. I made one hot pink and the other purple. I had added sequins and glitter and neon-green laces. They were the coolest shoes ever, especially since no one else in the entire universe had them. I was all about wearing one-of-a-kind creations. Myka called my style the nacho style.
“It’s like the nachos my mom makes. She loads a little bit of this and a little bit of that and then a ton of cheese, and somehow they’re perfect!” Myka had said to explain the name.
She was right. Today, along with my shoes, I had on cute, flowy, white wide-legged pants, a tank top with polka dots, and Mom’s old jean jacket. My socks didn’t match, but then again, I hardly ever bothered to match my socks. Who had time for that?
I did a twirl down the hall and imagined myself about to make my grand entrance at a ball.
A royal ball.
Yep, I was a princess headed to the fanciest party of the year.
This was my kingdom, and behind each door, people prepared to celebrate.
I closed my eyes and imagined the scene I would draw. A giant room full of windows and mirrors. Bright pieces of silk fabric would stretch across the ceiling, banners would hang from the walls, and candles would flicker on tables.
Mom said I had the best imagination of anyone she knew, and that was why my art was so incredible. I don’t know about the incredible part, but I do love to draw. There is nothing more fun than picturing something in my head and then bringing it to life on paper.
Right then that picture was a far-off kingdom. I was so lost in this world that I didn’t notice the wet spot on the floor in the world right in front of me.
My foot slipped and I went flying.
I threw my arms up to catch my balance, which worked. But the envelope dropped and slid under the door to the janitor’s closet.
“Great,” I said to myself. “Now you really are going to get yourself in trouble.”
I was reaching out to see if the door was unlocked, when the envelope shot back out from the little space between the bottom of the door and the floor.
I rubbed at my eyes.
Had I really seen that?
What in the world had just happened?
My mind flashed back to the castle scene I had imagined. Maybe there was a dragon hiding behind the door. I couldn’t decide if that was cool or terrifying.
Or more likely there was a vent in the closet or some other boring explanation like that.
I inspected the envelope for dragon slime, but nothing looked out of the ordinary.
“Get your head back into reality, Emelyn,” I said. I needed to deliver this envelope, so there was no time to hang around and figure out who or what was in the closet.
Suddenly there was a noise.
A sniffle-hiccup kind of noise.
A noise like someone crying.
And it came from the closet.
What should I do?
Miss Taylor had picked me to deliver this envelope, and there was no way I was going to let her down.
But someone was upset. I couldn’t walk away, could I? What if something was wrong and the person needed help?
“You know what to do,” I whispered. “You’re an Invincible Girl.”
I knocked on the door.
Maybe it was silly to knock, but if there was a dragon or some other creature in there, I wasn’t about to upset them.
“Hello. I’m not here to cause trouble. I wanted to thank you for giving me back my envelope,” I said, but there was no response. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to open the door to make sure you’re okay.”
When I still didn’t get a reply, I put my hand on the knob and turned.
“Be brave, be brave, be brave,” I chanted as I mustered up the courage to find out who or… gulp… what was hiding in the closet.
The door swung open, and there, in the shadowy dark, two eyes blinked back at me!