Every Soul a Star Read online

  Ally’s notebook is filled with typical school assignment stuff, like vocabulary words and math problems. I flip to the last page, which is where I always write the list of guys I like in my school notebooks. I’m pleasantly surprised to see Ally has a list too! But a closer look tells me it isn’t a list of boys’ names at all. It’s a list of possible names for asteroids! This girl is hopeless! But at least she seems smart. And we’re going to need smart right now if our plans are going to work.

  My stomach growls again. I check to see where Ally is in the line. You’d think being the owners’ daughter she could cut. That busload of people she was talking about must have just arrived because all these old people are walking around the pavilion in kind of a daze, looking crumpled and tired but with a skip in their step. I bet that’s what Melanie will look like when she gets old. The thought of getting old sends a shiver down my spine, even in the heat. Ally is finally near the front of the line, but she’s stuck talking to her dad and is ignoring the guy holding out the hamburgers to her. I’m tempted to hurry her along, but they look like they’re in a heated debate.

  I’ll just have to start taking notes by myself. I open to a blank page and draw a line down the middle. On one side I write BREE’S PARENTS and on the other I write ALLY’S PARENTS. I can be a very organized person.

  I stare at the empty page, not sure where to begin. Thankfully Ally comes back with the food.

  “Sorry about that,” she says, her eyes red.

  I’m already biting into the burger. Normally I’d take the bun off, but I don’t want Ally to comment. I suddenly stop in mid-chew. “Hey, this is a regular hamburger, right? It’s not some weird animal like a moose or a buffalo?”

  “It’s not moose or a buffalo,” Ally says. “Why would you ask that? Does it taste bad? My dad hired a whole bunch of new people so we’ve never had anything like this before. If it tastes bad I’ll tell him.”

  I take another bite and shake my head. Ally doesn’t make a move to eat hers. “It’s fine,” I tell her. “I promise. I’ve just heard about people like you eating weird animals.”

  “People like me? You mean people who live in the country?”

  “Um, you don’t live in the country, Ally. You live in the WOODS. It’s very different.”

  She crosses her arms over her chest and pouts.

  I take another bite. It’s actually pretty good. “Aren’t you going to eat?”

  “I’m not hungry. You know in a few weeks, if the meals aren’t good, it will be YOU who’ll be the one to tell someone.”

  I stop mid-chew again. Suddenly I don’t feel hungry either. I pick up the pen. “Let’s get to work.” I show her the columns and ask what her family’s weaknesses are.


  “Yeah, you know, fears, dreams, things like that. Things we can prey on.”

  She sits back. “Well, Kenny is really into bugs. He likes studying them and hopes to discover a new breed. And you know my dream.”

  I write:

  Not many bugs in suburbia. Kenny’s dream will die.

  Then under my own parents’ column I write:

  Tons of bugs. Mom will freak. They are everywhere.

  Back in Ally’s column:

  Too much light near the city. Can’t see the stars. Ally’s dream will die.

  She makes a little squeak. “How did you know that? About the light and the stars?”

  “On the way up here my parents were ranting and raving about how amazing it’s going to be to see all the stars up here. How we’ll never believe it’s the same sky because there’s no light pollution.”

  Her eyes fill again.

  “Sorry, but we’ve gotta be ruthless here. We’re trying to make our parents feel guilty. Guilty and scared. And I’m thinking there are lots of things about your new life that we can scare them with.” I chew on the pen for a minute and then write:




  street crime

  bullies at school


  cell phones

  **whole new wardrobe**


  lots of money for lessons

  I turn the page toward Ally. “Anything else I should add?”

  Ally’s expression is frozen. She looks horrified. “Drugs? Street crime?”

  I put down the pen. It almost seems cruel to upset her, but she needs to know what she’s walking into. “Sorry, but that stuff is everywhere.”

  “Not here!”

  “Well, everywhere else. But don’t worry, Ally. You’ll be fine. My friend Claire’s dad once took a wrong turn and wound up in a really bad neighborhood. He thought these two guys were coming toward his car but it turned out they were just crossing the street. It was really scary. But he was fine.”

  No response. Just more staring. Some people are hard to get through to. After a minute she jabs at the list and asks, “What lessons are you talking about?”

  “Oh, you and Kenny will wind up taking lots of lessons and classes. Everyone does. Things like horseback riding, soccer, art, gymnastics, even Girl Scouts costs money. You’d make a great Girl Scout.”

  “Aren’t Girl Scouts for, well, girls, not teenagers?”

  “Oops. I keep forgetting you’re almost thirteen. Sorry!”

  She groans and rests her head on the table.

  “How about we move on to my parents?” I suggest. “What are some things that might scare them about living here?”

  Through her hair she says, “Tell me something about them.” Or at least I think that’s what she says.

  I’m so used to avoiding talking about my family that it takes a minute to gather my thoughts. “Well, you’ve met Melanie. She’s always happy and bouncy. Sometimes she’s more like a cartoon character than a kid. She gets really bad nightmares though, so that’s rough. She sleepwalks sometimes. And screams.”

  Ally lifts her head and pushes her hair out of her eyes. “Wow, that’s horrible. And it can be really dangerous out here if someone’s not paying attention to where they’re walking. I can’t smooth out EVERY root.”

  My eyes light up even though I have no idea what she means about roots. I write:

  Multiple nighttime hazards for Melanie. Will have to chain her to the bed.

  Ally rolls her eyes. “Okay, and what about your parents?”

  “They’re pretty much workaholics even though they don’t make much money. They’re both scientists. They got a grant to study something that’s supposed to take up a lot of space, you know, in outer space. Like almost all the universe is supposedly made out of it.”

  Ally’s head snaps up. “Dark energy?”

  I nod. I should have realized someone whose whole life revolves around waiting for the moon to cross paths with the sun might be familiar with it. “Something like that. Dark matter, not energy. Maybe it’s the same thing, I don’t know. I don’t really pay at-tention.”

  “Your parents study one of the biggest mysteries of the universe and you don’t pay attention?”

  “Hey, I have a life you know. I stay out of their way, and they stay out of mine.”

  “Not for long,” she mutters.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “Just that if our plan doesn’t work, you guys are going to be seeing an awful lot of each other. It’s pretty hard to stay out of anyone’s way here. There’s a lot to be done, and everyone has to work together to keep this place running.”

  My mouth suddenly feels very dry. I take a swig of the lemonade Ally had brought with the burgers and write:

  Must work very hard to run campground. Research will suffer.

  “That’s a good one,” Ally says, finally getting into the spirit. “And you can say the electricity goes out a lot.”

  Electricity not reliable. You will lose important computer data.

  “And homeschooling is expensive. You have to pay for the materials, not like public schools,