Finally Read online





  Table of Contents


  Title Page


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  About the Author


  Chapter One

  I’m a big wisher. I’ll wish on anything. Shooting stars, stray eyelashes, dandelion tops, coins in fountains. Birthday candles (my own and other people’s). Even when my glasses fog up. When I was younger, the wishes used to vary. A pony. A best friend. A new bike with streamers on the handles. A baby brother or sister. Some of these even came true (not the pony). But over the past year, every wish has been spent wishing I was twelve already, a date I’ve waited for my whole life and one that is only six weeks away. Looking back, I wish I had saved one of those wishes because, if I had, I wouldn’t be stuck in this drainpipe right now. Yes, drainpipe.

  Here’s how it happened. My day started out pretty normal. My sixth grade class went on yet another field trip to the Willow Falls Reservoir. We were standing on the shoreline, listening to the guide go on about water tables and filtration systems as if they were the most fascinating things in the world. The air smelled swampy, and my orange sneakers were slowly sinking into the muddy banks. I kept glancing over at the forest on the other side of the shoreline. It reminded me of the setting of a fairy tale, like the ones my mom used to read me before bed. So peaceful and pretty, and sort of mysterious. At any minute Hansel or Gretel might dart out from between the trees. An opportunity to slip away came courtesy of Rex Bueford, who thought it would be funny to jump into the water. And it was funny, for about a second, until the tour guide told us that now our drinking water would taste like Rex’s sweat.

  While our teacher yelled at Rex, and then at his friends for laughing, I slowly backed away. I kept going until I couldn’t hear the group anymore and found myself among a cluster of sharply sweet-smelling evergreens. The needles cushioned the ground beneath my feet, and a blue jay twittered on a low branch. I breathed in deep, and held the sweet air in my lungs. If my parents let me out of their sight more, I probably wouldn’t have felt the need to escape from the group, but that’s not going to change until I turn twelve. I have a whole list of things I’ll finally get to do when that day arrives.

  As I stood alone in the woods, a delicious chill of anticipation ran through me, as it always did when I thought of my twelfth birthday. I leaned back against a large gray rock, intending on gazing at the puffy clouds and daydreaming about the Big Day.

  The only problem? That large gray rock? Not a rock. What I thought was solid igneous rock, here on earth since the creation of the planet and therefore more than sturdy enough to support my weight, was, in fact, a rubber flap covering the opening of a narrow gray drainpipe. When I realized this, my arms and legs flailed wildly. But I couldn’t catch my balance in time. I fell, butt-first, into the pipe and was instantly wedged in. I could still see out if I craned my neck up. My sneakers dangled mere inches from the ground, but it might as well have been a mile since I couldn’t move.

  “Can anyone hear me?” I called as loudly as I could. “I’m stuck! Anyone?” But my voice got carried away by the wind like it was no more than a whisper. My head filled with my grandmother’s voice. Well, this is a fine kettle of fish.

  So that’s how I wound up in this predicament. It’s been a full minute now, and I haven’t managed to get unstuck. I look around in a vain attempt to find something — anything — to wish on. I consider yanking out an eyelash, but that’s kinda gross and probably painful. Plus, I don’t think the wish would count if I did it that way.

  I’m able to move an arm just enough to adjust my glasses, which have fallen off one ear. Now I can assess my situation. The pipe doesn’t currently have any water running through it, so that’s one good thing. And I don’t appear to be hurt. No obvious blood or broken bones. I’m usually pretty coordinated. I can walk a straight line while patting my nose and rubbing my stomach, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. If I wasn’t stuck here, I could do it right now.

  If I had a cell phone, I could use the voice-activated feature to call for help. Mental Note: Remind parents (if I ever see them again) that I wouldn’t be in this situation if they’d gotten me a phone when I’d asked. Or any of the sixty-three other times I’ve asked, even though I swore each time I wouldn’t lose it no matter what they thought. When I turn twelve, getting a phone is at the top of my list.

  I watch through the gaps in the evergreens as the tour guide ushers my classmates back into the main building. The time must have come for the video portion of our visit. We’ve all been here so many times we know that old video by heart. If anyone ever quizzed us on how water makes its journey from clouds to our kitchen faucets, we’d all ace it. Still, coming here is a better field trip than the Willow Falls Historical Society, which, unless you’re a fan of musty old furniture that makes you sneeze, is deadly boring.

  The last people to disappear into the building are my teacher and Rex Bueford. No doubt she’s keeping an eye on him so he can’t cause further harm to our town’s water supply. Apparently no one, not even my best friend, Annabelle, has noticed I’m missing. This doesn’t surprise me. Except for my parents (who notice me too much), I sort of fade into whatever background I’m next to, like a chameleon. I’m familiar with the habits of the chameleon because my science teacher used to keep one in a cage on his desk along with a pregnant hamster. Then last month the hamster, who was supposed to teach us about the reproductive process or whatever, got extra hungry from growing baby hamsters inside it and ate the chameleon. Well, half of the chameleon. So maybe the chameleon isn’t a good example, but seriously, whenever I show up late to the lunch table, my friends seem surprised that I haven’t been there all along.

  I wish I had a book with me, since clearly I have a lot of time on my hands. I always carry around one or two, but we had to leave our backpacks on the bus. Not that I’d be able to turn the pages even if I did have a book. I wonder briefly if this drainpipe might lead somewhere as exciting as Alice’s rabbit hole or Lucy’s wardrobe, but Wonderland and Narnia have about as much in common with Willow Falls as a duck has with, well, something really different from a duck.

  I try to twist my shoulders in one more futile attempt to break free. Eventually I give up and close my eyes. My mind wanders to one of my favorite daydreams: me, blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. My hair is sleek and wavy, my lips a light glossy pink, skin glowing. In my daydreams I’m always much prettier (and smarter, funnier, and more popular). I also never fall into drainpipes.

  The sun warming my cheeks is soothing. And I admit, missing out on watching that old video isn’t exactly breaking me up. I’m sure my class wouldn’t board the bus without me. A few minutes later, my cheeks cool for a second, and I realize a shadow has passed across my face. I open my eyes and squint into the glare surrounding a short, plump old woman with very white hair. I hadn’t heard anyone approach. I recognize her as the old woman who had taken our tickets when we first arrived. She had welcomed us warmly, as though she was truly happy to have us visit. Now her expression is stern as she frowns down at me.

  “What do you think you’re doing?” she asks, hands on her