Getting to be thirteen turned out to be an absolute and complete anticlimax. I mean it. What a letdown. You wouldn't believe the years I wasted dreaming about how sensational everything was going to be once I was a teenager. The way I pictured it the change was going to be fantastic. Overnight people would stop treating me like some silly little kid. Instead I'd be respected pretty much as a pre-adult, practically running my own life. Sure, I'll still have to live at home, but mostly I'd be making my own decisions. Oh, occasionally my parents would ask me to do something, but it wouldn't be an order -- it'd be more like a suggestion.
"Victoria, that room is a pigsty. I want it cleaned up immediately, or you can forget about sleepovers for a month." That's my mother suggesting. "And another thing," she says, adding three more little nuggets of friendly advice, "see that your laundry is put away before you empty the dishwasher and don't leave the house without walking Norman." That's our sheepdog. "And, Victoria?"
"Put on your jacket. It's only May."
Wow! I must have been some jerk. Truth is, nothing's changed except that maybe now I won't have to listen to that rubbish about waiting till I'm a teenager. Fact is, now they use it against me. "That certainly wasn't proper behavior for a teenager." And I'm still waiting. "A bike tour is a wonderful idea, but you'll have to wait until you're at least sixteen." Of course when I'm sixteen they'll have moved all the good things to eighteen, and when I get there, it'll be twenty-one. I'll always be waiting to be old enough for this or that until I'm ninety. Then they'll say, "That's something you should have done when you were seventeen or twenty." It seems like you're always the wrong age. What a relief to know that in just three weeks I'll have a birthday. Fourteen has got to be better.
Except, of course, if you have a mother like mine. You wouldn't believe how overprotective she is. Do you know that I'm the only kid in the whole eighth grade who can't go to the movies at night? And then she takes every little thing so seriously. Like what happened yesterday at school. I can understand her being a little upset, but in my opinion she overreacted. After all, it was the first time in my whole life that I ever got suspended. For practically nothing. And besides, I wasn't the only one involved. There were eight of us, and just because I was the only one suspended doesn't mean it was all my fault. Which, in fact, it wasn't.
Personally I think it was mostly Mrs. Serrada's fault. (In case you didn't know, she's the grossest English teacher in the Western Hemisphere.) But what can you expect at Brendon School? That's this really uptight private school I go to. The kind of yes-sir, no-sir place where they make you wear these horrendous uniforms every day. You should see them -- gray skirts with fat ugly box pleats and a vomity blue blazer with a scratchy gold emblem on the pocket that everybody always says looks like an eagle sitting on a toilet. It's all a terrible embarrassment, and of course I detest it like crazy. A lot of good that does. I've been going there since the third grade. Anyway, back to what happened yesterday. There probably wouldn't have been any trouble if dear old Serrada hadn't picked such a boring movie for our one and only class trip all term. Actually I've got nothing against Shakespeare; in fact I think he's pretty okay sometimes. He did a super job with Romeo and Juliet (the movie anyway), but Richard the Second? Spare me.r
Anyway, all we did was sneak up to the balcony, mess around a little, throw a couple of gum wrappers over the railing, and smoke one cigarette. That was the worst. The cigarette, I mean. I really inhaled it deep and it made me so nauseous and dizzy that I thought I was going to fall right into the orchestra. The thought scared me so much that I slid down to the floor and just sat there waiting for my head to clear. Unfortunately my friend Liza didn't see me, and when she tripped over my leg she grabbed Danielle and she fell too, and then everyone started fooling around and falling down. Well, everybody started laughing like crazy. And we got a little noisy because Mrs. Serrada turned around to see what was going on and spotted me holding the cigarette. And that's when Tina Osborne shot the rolled gum wrapper. Tina swears she wasn't aiming at Mrs. Serrada, but it hit her smack on the forehead just the same. Excellent! You should have seen old Fatso come charging up the stairs to the balcony. We all jumped up and started to scramble down the opposite staircase, but we were laughing so hard we kept stumbling into each other.
I guess the manager must have heard all the commotion because the next thing you know, the house lights go on, and we're caught. What a hassle Fatso made about the whole thing, especially the cigarette. Nickie Rostivo tried to lighten it a little by telling her that one cigarette for eight people wasn't too dangerous. I even pointed out that we were in the smoking section. That did it. That's when she exploded. Normally she's got a very soft voice, kind of sick-sweet, but when she loses her temper she sounds like a lumberjack. It's really weird to hear that big voice boom out of such a small fat muffin of a woman. "How dare you disgrace the school blah blah blah...How could you be so rude...untrustworthy" et cetera, et cetera and on and on. By now the rest of the class was jammed halfway up the steps dying to find out what was going on. Even the nosy movie manager squeezed his way through to get a better look. That's when I started to break up -- I mean, seeing his bald head sticking up from the middle of all those kids really cracked me up. I tried to cover the giggles by pretending to have a coughing fit, which probably made it sound even worse. Of course everyone turned to stare at me, and of course that really finished me off. "And what, may I ask, is so amusing?" says Mrs. Serrada in snake spit. "Tell us, Victoria, so that we all may enjoy the joke."
Naturally there's nothing funny, but I can't tell her that because I'm laughing too hard. It's so embarrassing. But I can't help it. These laughing fits happen to me at the worst possible times, and once I start I can't stop. Sometimes it happens to me at the dinner table, and it's really awful. Some stupid thing (it can even be really serious or sad) will strike me as funny, and I start to laugh. It doesn't last too long if nobody pays any attention, but if someone, like my dad, tells me to stop, I'm dead. I become hysterical, and of course he becomes furious because he thinks I'm laughing at him, and he'll invariably send me to my room until I can control myself. You'd think by now they'd understand that it doesn't mean anything and just leave me alone to get over it by myself.
Like with the trouble at school. Sure, I know it was a dumb thing to do, but mostly it was just silly and nobody got hurt and Fatso shouldn't have suspended me. Big deal, so I got hysterical. I would have apologized later. I mean, it wasn't so terrible that she had to suspend me. And naturally that brought the smoke rising from my mother's hair when they told her about it later.
Anyway, I wasn't too scared in the theater. In fact it was all pretty exciting -- you know, all of us in it together. Some of the other kids who weren't involved felt sort of left out, and everybody was coming up to us and wanting to know what happened and all that. By the time we got back to class, the story was all over the school, and what a story it turned into! One version had Nickie Rostivo dangling from the balcony by one hand and all the rest of us smoking, and not plain old cigarettes either, and making out like crazy. Since I was the only one who got suspended, naturally I was the star. Actually it was kind of fun being a celebrity.
Until I got home. You know, it's a funny thing, but I actually thought my mother might, just once, be on my side a little. After all I'm the one who really got it the worst and I didn't do anything that much different from the others. I don't think it was fair to take it all out on me and I told her so, really and truly expecting her to agree. Hah! What a pipe dream. She was furious with me. What does she care what's fair or unfair? All she wanted to know was whether I thought sneaking up to that balcony was right or wrong. I said of course I knew it was wrong. "Then," she said, "why did you do it?" How come she can't understand that it's not that simple? Doesn't she remember what it's like when all your friends are involved in something stupid, not really terrible, just a little nutty and a lot of fun? What does she want me to do -- say no like some goody-goody? I was dumb to expect any sympathy from her. Still, the worst I thought would happen was that I'd be grounded for a couple of days like everyone else. But not my mother. She had to treat me like some kind of silly five-year-old. First she tells me that I can't watch TV or have any sleepovers for the next month. I don't like that, but it's not the end of the world. Then she says, get this, I'm not allowed to talk on the phone for a whole week. Furthermore, when anyone calls she's going to tell them that I can't come to the phone because I'm being punished. Is that the most embarrassing thing you've ever heard? I'm never going to be able to face anyone ever again. But she doesn't care. She'd probably like it if I stayed right here in my bedroom, sitting on my stupid canopied bed, until it was time for college.
Wouldn't you know it, the phone's ringing right now. I'll bet it's for me. Naturally my mother has to answer on the hall extension right outside my room. She wants to make sure I hear her. Oh, God! It's Michael Langer, a really nice guy from high school, and she's telling him how I can't come to the phone because I'm being punished. How could she? I'm steaming mad, and as soon as I hear her hang up, I stamp my foot really hard and scream, "I hate you!"
The first time I told her that I was very little and she got terrifically upset. Her eyes were all watery and she took me on her lap and we talked for a long time until I finally told her that I really loved her. Since then she's read that all children feel like that sometimes and it's healthy to let them say it.
Now she comes stumping toward my room, saying, "You just listen to me!" She's angry and just pushes the door open without even knocking. "You're behaving like a four-year-old."
And we start our usual argument. "That's the way you treat me," I say, and she tells me that's because I act like one and I should realize I was wrong and accept my punishment, and it goes on that way with me saying one thing and her saying another but never really answering me. Like I say that I don't mind being punished, but it's embarrassing to have all my friends know about it, and she says, "Well, you should have thought of that first." That's what I mean. What kind of an answer is that? Oh, what's the use, she doesn't even try to understand me and there's nothing I can do about it.
I swear I'll never treat my daughter the way they treat me. I'll really be able to understand her because I'll remember how awful it was for me. I'll never do anything to embarrass her and I'll never make her cry. I'll be her best friend and never lose my temper with her even if she makes mistakes like forgetting a dentist appointment or being late for dinner or getting a bad mark on a science test. I'll just talk to her and try to understand why these things happened, and even if I can't, I'll never get angry with her no matter what, never yell at her and never punish her. Never. Not ever.
I can't believe my mother was ever my age. I think she was born a mother. Or if she was ever a kid, she must have been perfect. Unless maybe things were so completely different in the olden days that kids didn't do any thinking on their own, just did exactly what they were told. I picture my mother exactly like a girl in my class, Margie Sloan, a revolting goody-goody who wouldn't dream of ever sneaking up to a balcony or even handing in a paper a minute late. Everyone agrees that Margie is the most boring person in the entire school, and she's never invited to parties or even just for sleepovers. That's probably the way my mother was. No wonder we can't get along. We're just not the same type.
There's another thing that really bugs me about my mother. The way she talks. "If I have to raise my voice one more time I'm going to blah blah blah." Or, "How dare you?...Who do you think you are?" and "If I ever catch you doing that again blah blah blah," and so on. She has about ten of these beauties and they never change. She always sounds like a mother, an angry mother. God, I hope I don't grow up to be like her. And I really despise it when everybody compares me to her. "Oh, you're the perfect image of your mother." Naturally it's always one of my mother's friends who says it. If one of my friends said it I'd kick her in the shin.
The worst part about it is that it's sort of true. We do have the same kind of pushed-up nose and the same color eyes and supposedly we have the same smile though I really don't see that at all. Actually I guess it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if I looked like her when I grow up because she's pretty all right looking. But that's it. I mean, I absolutely don't want to be like her in any way.
Boy, did I get stuck when you consider some of the great mothers around. Like my friend Steffi's mother. Now she's absolutely brilliant. I feel like I can say anything at all to her because she's such an understanding person. And she's fun, too. When Steffi and I ice-skate at the Wollman Rink, I actually don't mind if her mother comes along. I wouldn't hate being her daughter at all. In fact, I'd love it. Beats me why Steffi says she can't stand her.
The phone's ringing again. More embarrassment. Then I hear my mother say, "Oh, hello Mr. Davis." It's going to be worse than embarrassing because there's only one Mr. Davis I know and that's the new principal at school. He's only been there six months but already nobody can stand him. I think the phone call's going to be a disaster.
"Uh-huh...uh-huh...uh-huh." That's my mother. He's probably saying a whole lot of vicious, awful things about me and she's agreeing. Even if they're not out-and-out lies, they're certainly horrendous exaggerations because he absolutely hates me. I mean a hundred people can be doing something wrong and he'll only pick me out. He really has it in for me. I'm not saying he's one hundred percent wrong or that I should get medals for them, but they're not that big a deal. Like that time when I got caught playing hooky, Marie and Betsy both said they were going to come with me. And the business with the paint on the blackboard. There were four of us in on that in the beginning and it was only because Tommy Agrasso was absent on that day that I had to be the one to steal the paint from the art class. I admit I thought up the idea of smearing glue on the keys of the auditorium piano, but that evened out because I was the one they made scrub it off. And as for always talking in the classrooms, everybody in the whole world does that and it's too trivial to even mention.
My mother's talking very low on the phone to Mr. Davis, but finally she hangs up and I can tell by the bang that I'm in big trouble. She charges into my room. Not only doesn't she knock, she practically takes the whole door down with her, she's in such a fury.
"Do you know who that was?"
"Yes," she hisses. In the middle of everything she has to correct my grammar.
"Yes," I repeat because things are bad enough already.
"That was the principal."
"How is he?"
"Don't be smart!"
You see how hopeless it is? I was only being polite.
"You aren't being suspended..."
"Oh, wow! Did I misjudge that nice old guy...."
"It's worse than that. They don't want you back at all. You make too much trouble for them. They feel you're -- how did he put it -- in the wrong learning environment."
Groan. Sickening thud as my stomach drops to my knees. Kicked out!
"They can't do that!" I blurt.
"Why not?" My mother's eyes are practically smouldering. "Tell me why not."
I'm afraid to look at her.
"You apparently think you can do anything in the world that you want. Why can't the school? Why shouldn't you get thrown out? You cause nothing but unhappiness and embarrassment and..."
Suddenly she kind of sinks down on the edge of the bed and buries her face in her hands for a couple of seconds. I hear a deep, long sigh. Finally she raises her head and stares right into my eyes. I never have the guts to look back, especially if I'm feeling guilty. Instead I get real busy brushing invisible things off my jeans or concentrating on nothing in the middle of my empty palm.
"Victoria," she says after a couple of seconds, "are you deliberately trying to hurt us, your father and me?"
"No." Very small voice.
"Then why do you keep doing all these awful things? Please, tell me."
I wish I could tell her, but all I can do is shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know." Because honestly, I don't. I mean, these things never seem so terrible when I'm doing them, it's only later, when they get so blown up that I know I shouldn't have done them, but then, of course, it's too late. But that's me. Always messing up. You should hear me with the boys. I say the dumbest things. Even the way I look is all wrong. I must have spent ninety million allowances on face gook and my complexion is still horrendous, my hair looks dirty two seconds after I wash it, and my knees are so bony that I'll probably have to wear jeans the rest of my life. Oh, what's the use? I could go on forever. The thing is, I'm a mess. Also, it's horrific the way I don't know where I'm supposed to be. I mean, I'm certainly not a little kid like my sister Nina, but nobody lets me be as grown-up as I feel inside. Of course there's no point trying to tell my mother these things. She'd just say I looked fine and probably blame it on adolescence, like it was some kind of disease. Maybe it is.
"I hate to keep punishing you," my mother says, shaking her head and looking just a little bit sad. "I wish there were some other way."
"Well, I don't know," I mumble. Why do I always grope like a jerk when I want to say something important? "I guess you could try to understand me a little better." I expect to hear her say, "I understand you perfectly," or something like that. But she surprises me.
"All right, Victoria, I'll try. What is it I don't understand?"
Oh, God, what a question. Doesn't she know there's no way to answer?
"Okay. What is it I don't understand about you? This is serious, Victoria, so let's talk about it. Tell me what I'm doing wrong."
Now she wants to talk -- when she's got me on the torture rack. That's just like her. How come she always gets to pick the time for these little chats? "You have to tell me what's on your mind, Victoria. I can't do it without your help."
See. It's hopeless. I mean how am I going to help her when I don't know what's going on either? I finally say, "Well, you don't ever let me live my own life. I'm not a baby, I can take care of myself. But all you do is keep treating me like a child. I'm not a child. I'm an...I feel I'm as adult as a real adult."
I really don't want to go on, but she doesn't interrupt and kind of forces me to keep talking. Maybe I'd do it anyway. Sometimes I'm a real motormouth.
"Like, I hear what you and Mrs. Weinstein and the Elliotts and all your other friends talk about when they come over," I blabber on. "The movies, television, why you don't like Mr. Bailey, where the good places are to eat, and things like that. What's so adult about that? Those are the same things I talk about with my friends. I mean, I don't see any difference." I take a deep breath so I can keep rattling on, but the fact is I can't think of anything else to say.
"All right," my mother says. "You have a point. A lot of things you and I do are pretty much alike. I'll even call them adult things. But how about this? Suppose I came home and you asked me what I did this afternoon and I said, oh, I was with the Weinsteins and the Elliotts and all my friends at the movies and we spent the whole time secretly smoking and giggling and running up the aisles and throwing spitballs. What would you think, Victoria? That I was behaving like an adult? Do adults do that? Do they?"
Naturally I'm not going to answer that one.
"So you're not an adult yet, Victoria. And if you think you are, then the misunderstanding's on your part. I'm not saying you're a child either. You're something in between. It's a difficult time and I'm sorry, but until you're a lot more mature than you are, you need supervision. And that includes punishment when you do very childish and very bad things."
"I don't do very bad things." I pout. "Or anyway I don't do them on purpose. That's another thing you don't understand. They're just normal nothings that go a little wrong."
"You mean to say that all those things that happen are...are what? Accidents?"
"Not exactly. I just mean that I don't cause all that trouble on purpose. Besides, mostly they're just little things and I don't know why everybody always gets so excited about them. Like today..."
"A perfect example. Because of your shenanigans today the entire movie was ruined for everyone. Are you going to tell me that was an accident?"
"But it was, sort of. I mean, nobody meant to ruin the movie. All we wanted to do was sit in the balcony. You know, Mom, it's really gross the way they treat us like such babies when we go on a class trip. It's positively horrendous when you're almost fourteen to have to march through the streets in pairs. And then in the movie they never let us sit next to our friends and you can't talk and you can't buy sweets. And if you do some little thing like changing your seat without asking, they practically freak."
"According to Mr. Davis, you weren't just out of your seat, you were smoking and creating a ruckus."
"So all Mrs. Serrada had to do was shush us and we would have been quiet. Instead she comes charging up the steps like some bull elephant..."
"Victoria!" She doesn't even let me finish. "You were breaking the rules. Can't you understand that?"
Rules. How come adults are always so hung up on rules? Even if I tell my mother that a lot of Mrs. Serrada's rules are really dumb, she'll still say, "That's no excuse for breaking them." Except I think it is. Boy, if they let kids make the rules things would be a lot better. I'd probably never get into trouble.
"Well? Can't you?"
"Can't you understand that you were breaking the rules?"
"I didn't exactly think of it that way. Anyway, it wasn't my fault."
"Of course not. It's never your fault, is it? It's always somebody else's. The teacher's. Or the principal's. All the complaints they've had about you in school, none of them are your fault, are they? Everybody's picking on you."
See, I told you, no matter how many kids are involved, I'm the one who always gets blamed the most, and it's not fair, and now they want to throw me out into the street, and my whole life is ruined, and maybe I should just run away and make them all feel sorry for what they did.
My mother says: "Mr. Davis is setting up an appointment for us at school. We will go and see him and you will be very humble and very sweet. I'll try to straighten this whole matter out. I don't know how successful I'll be. Mr. Davis sounded pretty final about not wanting you back. You're too disruptive. But we'll try because the only other alternative would be a boarding school."
"I won't go!" I blurt it out. I know all about boarding schools. My friend Monica's sister Laura had to go away to one called the Barley School someplace up in Maine, and I heard they beat you and make you go to bed at eight o'clock and scrub the floor every morning. I'd rather die. As it is I'm crying like crazy already.
"Come on now, Victoria," my mother says, pushing a couple of wet strands of hair back off my face. "Boarding schools aren't anything like those awful places you see in the movies."
"I'll run away. I will!" Which is what I thought about doing anyway except this time it's real.
"Calm down for a minute and listen to me. Actually Daddy and I have talked about it before all this, and it might be the best thing that could happen to you. These places are fabulous, like sleep-away camps, only they have classes. You'd probably end up loving it. There's a wonderful school called the Barley School up in New England. Laura Baer went there and she loved it." Of course I know better, but I'm too destroyed to argue.
"I'll hate it," I sob.
"There's no point in discussing it until after we've seen the principal. In the meantime I want you right here in the house where I can keep an eye on you all weekend. I'm sorry to have to punish you, but you have certainly earned it."
And, just like that, she walks out of the room. Can you believe that? My whole life is coming to an end and she won't even let me talk about it. That absolutely proves she doesn't care one iota about me. None of them do. I suppose my sister Nina does a little. But who wants an eleven-year-old pain in the butt on your side?
Oh my God! "Hey, Mom!" I cry dashing into the hall.
"The party down at Liz's!"
"I told you. I want you home all weekend. You can forget about going to Philadelphia."
"But, Mom! She's expecting me. My own cousin. That party's practically in my honor."
"Out of the question. Now go and wash your face and comb your hair -- Grandma's coming."
I know it's going to be futile, but I've got to try to convince her. I've been counting on going to that party for two months, and my heart would crack right in two if I couldn't make it. Still, for once in my life, I play it cool. I don't say another word. I just head straight for the bathroom like she said and do my best to wash the crying look off my face and even pull my hair tight back with an elastic band just the way she likes it. By the time I'm finished I hear my grandmother in the living room. What a bore!
Don't get me wrong. I'm crazy about my grandmother. She's absolutely the greatest. But you know how grandmothers are, they take everything so seriously. All she has to know is that I've been suspended from school and she'll probably be up all night worrying.
Wait a minute! I don't have to tell her. My mother certainly isn't going to bring it up, so how's she going to know?
"Victoria, darling," says my grandmother as soon as she sees me, "what's the matter? Your eyes are all red. Are you sick?" And she's up in a flash testing my forehead for fever. "I told you she looked a little green the other day, Felicia," she says to my mother, and there's just a hint of accusation in her voice like maybe they're not feeding me enough or something.
"No, Grandma, I'm fine."
"You don't look so fine to me. You look like you've been crying. What's wrong? Did you have trouble at school today?"
I must be the easiest person in the whole world to nail. Nothing left to do but tell the whole gruesome story again. Ugh. I can see that my mother is embarrassed but I wade right in, and just when I'm at the part where it's so unfair that I was the only one suspended, the phone rings. Naturally I jump up to answer it.
"Oh, no you don't young lady," says good old Mom. "When I say no phone calls, I mean no phone calls." And with the steam rising from the top of her head, my mother storms out of the room to answer the phone. I pray it's not for me.
"Boy, is she mean!" I say to my grandmother.
"Being suspended is a very serious matter, dear, I can see she's very upset." That's one of the beautiful things about my grandmother. She always sounds like she loves me. Like calling me dear and talking so sweetly even if she doesn't agree with me. And we don't agree all the time mostly because she's, you know, sort of proper and old-fashioned sometimes. But she never really loses her patience or gets angry with me.
"Every time I get caught in something the school makes such a big deal about it. They're always suspending me for nothing at all."
"You mean this isn't the first time?"
"Well, not exactly. But you can't really count that other time because it wasn't my fault. I just happened to be there when the trouble started."
"Maybe it wasn't, but you must admit, dear, you do seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time more often than just about anyone else."
"I guess I'm just unlucky. How come my mother can't look at things the way you do instead of always flying off the handle."
"I used to do some pretty fancy flying off the handle when your mother and Uncle Steve were children. They could be very irritating at times."
I can believe that about my mother. She irritates me all the time. But Uncle Steve? Grandma has to be kidding. He's the best uncle in the whole world. I can practically talk to him like a friend. He's in the advertising business and knows everybody and he's always getting tickets for us to shows and concerts and everything. Mom has him over to dinner a couple of times a month (he's divorced) and always cooks something special for him. I know she's his sister but I always think of him more as my friend than her brother, if that makes any sense. That's probably because he treats me practically like an adult. You know how most adults don't really listen to kids or take them seriously? Well, he's just the opposite. Boy, is my mother lucky to have him for a brother.
"Yes indeed," my grandmother is saying. "Being a mother can be a very hard job."
"Well, it doesn't look so tough to me."
"But it is. Imagine being solely responsible for another person."
"She doesn't have to be so responsible for me. I can take care of myself a lot better than she thinks."
"You seem to have slipped up a little today."
"And the other times?"
"Maybe it's like you said. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Maybe. And possibly when you get older that will happen less and less. But in the meantime somebody's got to take very good care of someone who's so unlucky, and that, my dear, is a full-time job, with a lot of close watching and plenty of worrying. Believe me, Victoria, that can make even the best mother a little mean sometimes."
"Still, I bet you wouldn't be if you were my mother."
My grandmother smiles and starts to say something, but then my mother comes back so she changes her mind.
"That was Mr. Davis calling," my mother says to me. "Our appointment is for nine o'clock Monday morning. I suggest you think very hard over the weekend about what you're going to say to him."
"Speaking of the weekend," Grandma says, "what train are you taking to Elizabeth's tomorrow, Victoria?" I guess my mother didn't tell her about me not going.
"Mommy says I can't go because of the school thing." I've got the feeling this may be my last chance so I play it big. You know those hound dogs that always look like they're going to cry? That's a giggle compared to my face right now.
"Well, that's a shame," my grandmother says to my mother.
"It certainly is, and I hope she learns something this time."
"Elizabeth will be so disappointed." Now I'm not saying my grandmother winked or smiled or did anything big like that, but I just got this vibe from her that is definitely good stuff.
"I know," says my mother, "and I feel terrible to have to disappoint her...."
"Especially on her birthday." God bless Grandma.
"I don't know what to do about that."
"Oh, why don't you let her go...for Elizabeth's sake?"
I've got to not smile. I've got to not smile. I've got to not smile.
"You're probably right. I certainly don't want this to be a punishment for Elizabeth." She looks at me and says, "Why should she suffer just because you don't know the difference between right and wrong?"
I almost leap at my mother and kiss her for letting me go. Instead I give my grandmother a huge kiss and shoot out of the room to start packing.
First Simon Pulse edition May 2003
Copyright © 1977 by Francine Pascal