FOOTBALL SEASON BEGINS; MARTONE FALLS FOR STAR QUARTERBACK
If you’re a fact-loving person like I am, you probably think superstitions are a little silly. So tell me, why does it seem like everyone believes in them? Take my mom, for instance. You would think that a freelance accountant, a person who works with numbers all day, would know that there’s nothing particularly special or spooky about the number thirteen. Except that every time the calendar shows a big black thirteen on a Friday, Mom gets an uneasy look in her eye. It’s like she’s waiting for something really bad to happen. Of course nothing does, just like nearly every other day of the year!
As a journalist, my instincts are to get to
the truth of the matter. So I started Googling, and I found some interesting information about “friggatriskaidekaphobia.” (That’s the actual term for the condition of the fear of Friday the thirteenth. And I dare you to say that three times fast!) Did you know that in Spanish-speaking countries, it’s Tuesday the thirteenth that’s considered unlucky? And in Italy, Friday the seventeenth is the day of doom. I figure that kind of info will come in handy when I’m traveling the world on assignment as an investigative reporter.
But the next step on my career path is to continue to build my reputation as star reporter of the Cherry Valley Voice, our school newspaper. Of course, I don’t usually fly solo. Mr. Trigg likes to give the best articles to his dream team, his “Woodward and Bernstein,” as he calls Michael Lawrence and me, after the Washington Post’s legendary reporting duo. I’m not sure we’ll ever get behind the scenes at the White House, but we did write the story that revealed the truth about our class president contenders.
Not that I’m complaining about sharing the
glory. Not one teensy bit. I won’t even mind if someday Michael and I get picked to be coeditors in chief. Then I’ll get to work side by side with him all the time. I’ve known Michael since kindergarten, and even though he sometimes annoyingly calls me Pasty (you eat paste one time when you’re five and you’re branded forever!), he’s still the only boy I’ve ever dreamed of calling my boyfriend.
How can I describe Michael Lawrence’s insane cuteness to you? Let’s just say that if you took the hottest member of every boy band, mixed up all of their best qualities in a pot, and then increased them to the tenth power, well, then you’d have Michael Lawrence. It’s actually shocking that he hasn’t been discovered yet, now that I think about it. Popular Athlete/Reporter Leaves Cherry Valley for World Tour. As if! Of course, I don’t really know if he sings. He definitely doesn’t dance (I’ve seen him!), and I’m not sure that he plays an instrument, so I don’t know what he’d actually do on tour. Probably just look cute. Luckily, Michael
has many other talents, including writing, sports, and making the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever tasted. Maybe someone on a cooking show could draft him. He’d make such a dreamy host. I know I’d watch him. Anyway, I’m surprised someone hasn’t offered something to him to make him a star.
One offer that I couldn’t turn down was continuing to write the Dear Know-It-All column for the Voice. Dear Know-It-All is the advice column that I write secretly. No one, not even my BFF, Hailey Jones, knows that I’m Know-It-All. It’s cool, but it’s kind of stressful, too. Mr. Trigg caught me off guard when he offered me a second year of the secret assignment. And considering all the drama from last year—like, “Hello, cyber stalker!”—I definitely have had some doubts about the job. Sometimes giving advice is really hard and I’m just not sure what to tell people to do. Like right now, I can’t even decide what to wear to Cherry Valley’s first game of the football season. And since Michael Lawrence is the all-star quarterback, this is a very crucial decision!
So back to superstitions: I don’t have many, being a believer in cold, hard facts, but I do have a lucky green T-shirt. (Its luck is based on the fact that it is the exact same shade of green as my eyes.) Maybe it’s not really lucky, but it does make me really happy. I put it on with a long hippy skirt and green UGGs. I wrapped a sparkly beaded scarf around my neck. Then I threw on an armful of bangle bracelets and some beaded hanging earrings for a little extra pizzazz. I looked in the mirror. Not bad, Martone, I thought to myself.
But the real proof waited across the hallway. I knocked on my sister Allie’s door. Allie can be a real pain because she’s always creeping around my stuff, but she does have much better fashion sense than I do.
“What do you think?” I asked as I warily entered her room.
Allie glanced up from her texting for exactly one one-hundredth of a second and rolled her eyes. “No,” she huffed, obviously revolted by my choice of apparel. “Just no.”
“But it’s my lucky shirt,” I explained.
“Lucky because you’re going to fold it up and put it back in your drawer,” Allie said bluntly. “And that scarf? That jewelry? You do realize you’re going to a football game, right?”
Allie took my hand and led me back into my room the way she used to drag me across the street when I was too little to cross by myself. She opened my closet door and started picking out items and throwing them onto my bed.
“Allie, I don’t have a lot of time to try on clothes,” I complained. “Hailey will be here any minute!”
Like I mentioned before, Hailey is my best friend forever—yin to my yang. But if you didn’t know us well, you might think we have absolutely nothing in common. She can juggle a soccer ball effortlessly. I have trouble making it down the stairs without falling flat on my face. I get my highest marks in language arts. Hailey’s dyslexia makes reading and writing challenging for her. Hailey’s happy in sweats and her soccer team jersey, and she always looks great in them too. I like to look a little more put together. At least, I try.
But as Allie was so kind to point out, I can just as easily fail, too.
“This won’t take long,” Allie said. “Just listen. You’re the starting QB’s girlfriend. You have to look great, but not like you’re trying too hard. Think casual chic.”
“I’m not Michael Lawrence’s girlfriend!” I said automatically. Well, I didn’t think I was. But I’d like to be.
“Whatever.” Allie snorted. “Just take my advice.”
I flopped onto my bed and put my hands over my face. Allie mumbled to herself as she threw different combinations of clothes together. I looked at the clock, and my stomach started to hurt. How could getting dressed for a football game be so incredibly painful?
“Try this,” Allie said as she tossed some clothes my way.
I quickly pulled on some black leggings and then a miniskirt. Next came a gray tank, followed by a silver sweater and a black blazer. A pair of old-school black high-top sneakers finished the
outfit. I looked in the mirror and smiled. I looked very casual and comfy but very stylish, too. Allie was amazing—the outfit worked like a lucky charm. Just in time, too.
“Saaaammmm!” I heard Hailey call from the front door.
“Commminnngggg!” I yelled back. “Thanks, Allie!” I called behind me, but she had already started texting again.
I raced down the stairs (without tripping!) and stopped to say good-bye to my mom. She was in her home office, intently focused on some confusing jumble of budget numbers.
“You look great,” she said, making me wonder if I should go back upstairs and change back into my lucky shirt.
“Thanks,” I answered. “Go, Cherry Valley!”
“Go, Cherry Valley?” Hailey said from behind my back. “More like Go, Sam! Supercute outfit!”
“Yeah, it was Allie’s creation,” I confessed reluctantly.
“She got her fashion sense from me,” Mom said, not even kidding.
“Right,” Hailey and I said at exactly the same time.
We raced out of the house and jumped into the backseat of Hailey’s car. Hailey’s dad turned around and pretended to tip his hat.
“Good evening, mademoiselles,” he said in a fake accent. “Where shall I be driving you this fine afternoon?”
Hailey and I just looked at each other and started to giggle uncontrollably. Parents. Did they even have a clue how embarrassing they could be?
“Football field, Dad,” Hailey answered as soon as she had regained her composure. “Pronto.”
It took only seven minutes to get from my house to the football field, but in that short period of time, Hailey bombarded me with at least ten thousand questions. Did Michael say anything about hanging out with you after the game? Do you think the guys from the team will go to Scoops? Should we go too? What if they have a bad game? Do you know if that cute guy from West Hills plays football? Do you think he has a girlfriend?
“Hailey, stop!” I said. “We’re just going to watch a football game. The rest we’ll improvise. Okay?”
“Okay.” Hailey laughed. “I have just one last question for you, Samantha Martone.” Hailey coughed and attempted to put on an I’m-being-incredibly-serious expression. Then she held up her hand to my face like she was holding a microphone. “Will . . . you . . . touch . . . ,” she asked, sounding like the most dramatic sports reporter ever, “. . . the cougar?”
We both started giggling uncontrollably.
“Yes, I guess I will,” I confessed. “I’ll bow to peer pressure and silly superstition.”
“It’s not silly,” Hailey said. “It’s tradition. And really, really bad luck if you don’t.”
Let me explain. There’s a statue of a cougar standing on its hind legs in front of Cherry Valley Middle School. All of our sports teams are named the Cougars, and like a million years ago, some class raised enough money to have the statue built and installed in front of the school. Hailey’s soccer team, Michael’s baseball and football teams,
bowling, tennis, they’re all Cougars. Even our robotics team.
Cherry Valley legend says that if you rub the cougar’s paw, you’ll have good luck. Everyone at Cherry Valley Middle School seems to believe this myth—students, parents, teachers, even Principal Pfeiffer. Kids rub Mr. Cougar’s paw before a big test, when they’re going to ask someone to a school dance, and of course, before every sporting event. The paw has been rubbed so many times over the years that it is as smooth and shiny as glass.
When we turned the last corner, I felt a little flutter in my stomach. Even though Michael Lawrence is definitely not my boyfriend—yet—it was going to be fun to cheer for him. And the weather was perfect for football. I looked out the window and started to daydream. The clear blue skies; the red, yellow, and brown leaves that swirled in the wind; the crisp chill in the air—it was the perfect setting for a girl reporter to walk home hand in hand with the triumphant quarterback after the
game. Ace Reporter Spotted with Handsome All-Star QB!
“Sam!” Hailey said, a little too loudly considering we were sitting right next to each other. “What do you think is going on?”
It took me a second to realize what Hailey was talking about. She pointed out her window at the front of our school. A large crowd was gathered.
“Wow, it looks like everyone is really into football this year,” Hailey’s dad noted.
It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. If they were coming to see the game, why weren’t they heading to the football field?
Then we spotted the police car. This was definitely not a pregame pep rally. I glanced at Hailey, and she looked as nervous as I felt. Why would the police be at a middle school football game?
“You two stay here while I make sure everything’s okay,” Hailey’s dad said.
Hailey and I held hands until her dad waved us over. As we made our way through the parking lot, it seemed like everyone from school was there. We had to weave our way through the crowd
that was circled around the front of the school, and it felt like we were never going to get there. But we did. And then we finally saw what all the commotion was about.
It was Mr. Cougar. His paw was on the ground, smashed into tiny pieces. His body was covered with a spray-painted message: CV—Your Luck Has Run Out. Police were wrapping yellow caution tape around the statue. Lots of people were taking pictures of the vandalized property. It seemed like a scene from a movie, not like something that would happen in our town.
Hailey gasped. “Cherry Valley Middle School is doomed.”