13 Gifts Read online

  We split up. Rory and I go into the girls’ room, while the boys go across the hall to change. There’s only one stall, so I let Rory go in first. “How do I look?” she asks a minute later. She twirls around and the orange skirt poofs up around her.

  “It actually fits you really well,” I tell her.

  “Still waiting for that growth spurt, I guess,” she says. “Okay, your turn.”

  I go into the stall and try to get changed without my clothes falling all over the floor. I can barely pull the top down past my belly button. The skirt reaches almost to my knees, but won’t zip up no matter what I do. I guess this is what happens when your growth spurt comes in first grade.

  “So?” Rory asks from the other side of the door.

  “Not good,” I tell her. “It’s a little — well, a lot — too small.”

  “Okay,” Rory says. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

  So I wait, hoping no one comes in wanting to use the bathroom. She returns two minutes later and passes me a balled-up white and blue striped shirt under the stall door. “Just put that on over your uniform.”

  I unfurl it to discover a man’s button-down shirt. I slip it on, then take it right back off. It would only hide my belly if I buttoned it up, and if I did that, what would be the point of wearing the uniform in the first place? So I wrap it around my waist instead. That way it covers my bare belly in the front and the open zipper in the back.

  Rory nods in approval as I step out of the stall. I tighten the knot holding it in place. “Where did you get this?”

  “Lost and Found.”

  I sigh. I’m going to have to take a long shower when this day is over.

  As we gather up our clothes, I feel something crinkling in the back of my skirt. A piece of paper is stuck in the small pocket. I reach in to find a forty-percent-off coupon to Applebee’s restaurant. “Hey, look what I found.” I hand Rory the coupon. “The last kid to wear this must have left it there. Do you want it? I think Aunt Bethany is more of the ‘Order in’ type.”

  Rory pushes it back toward me. “No, thanks. Sawyer’s banned from there for three years.”

  “Banned? Why?”

  “Long story involving his bare butt and an elderly couple with very little sense of humor.”

  I look closer at the coupon before tossing it in the trash. “It expired two years ago anyway.” Which makes me realize how long these uniforms have been hanging in the store. My future shower just got longer.

  When we meet back up with the boys, I have to cover my mouth to keep from laughing. Rory doubles right over. David and Leo both look like they’re wearing their seven-year-old brother’s clothes. If they had seven-year-old brothers, which I’m pretty sure they don’t. David’s shirt is pulled so tight across the chest that the sun is utterly unrecognizable. Leo keeps reaching behind him to un-wedgify the back of his shorts. But the worst part might be the hats. With the pointy front and flipped-up sides, they would be at home on either a pirate or the ice cream man. With Leo’s curly black hair, the hat makes him looks like a hobbit. Or an elf. I was never very clear on the difference. Rory is now pointing at them and gasping for air. This makes me lose it.

  “Where are your hats?” David asks, crossing his arms in front of his chest. When I can catch my breath, I tell them that only the boys’ uniforms came with the hats.

  Leo scowls. “A likely story. Good thing Amanda isn’t here. I’d never live this down.”

  “If my phone took pictures, I’d send her one,” Rory gasps. Still shaking with laughter, she uses our regular clothes to wrap up the cane, which she tucks under the boxes.

  “C’mon,” David says, picking up the handle of the wagon. “Let’s get this over with.”

  As we walk back into the main room, I ask, “Did I mention there’s singing?”

  Chapter Twelve

  “Should we split up?” Leo asks, looking around the large room. “You know, divide and conquer?”

  The rest of us shake our heads. There’s comfort in numbers. Four people looking incredibly dorky is a lot better than one. We go over to Bucky Whitehead’s couch first, where he’s deep in conversation with two other old men.

  David clears his throat, glares at me, and starts singing.

  “We are the Sunshine Kids. We’ve come to brighten up your day, no matter how gray the sky, we are here to tell you why … why you want to buy our yummy cookies!”

  Stunned silence is how I would describe their reaction. I’m kind of surprised, too. David’s voice wasn’t anything like I’d heard either in the pool hole or at Apple Grove. This time he sang kind of off-key and halting. Was he intentionally trying to be bad? Still, I’m sure it’s better than I could do.

  I lean close and whisper, “How did you know the song?”

  He whispers back, “Connor’s little sister used to be a Sunshine Kid. Until she turned seven and realized how uncool it was.”

  “So …” Rory says loudly, “who wants to buy some cookies?” She holds up a box in each hand and waves them around.

  “They got nuts in ’em?” one of the old men asks. “Can’t eat nuts no more with these new chompers.”

  “Well, there are four different kinds,” Rory says. We each reach into the wagon and pick up a different type of cookie to check the list of ingredients.

  “Oatmeal Dream doesn’t have nuts,” Leo announces.

  I scan the side of mine. “Neither does Chocolate-Chip Delight.”

  David tosses his box of Nutty McNut Clusters back into the wagon without even checking the label.

  “Minty Melts are nut-free, too,” Rory says. “So would you like any of them?”

  The anti-nuts guy shakes his head. “Nah, I don’t like cookies.”

  Rory’s face falls.

  “I’ll take a box of Minty Melts,” Bucky Whitehead says, reaching into his pocket. He pulls out two quarters and hands them to Rory.

  She looks at the fifty cents sitting in her palm and turns to me helplessly. Guess I need to step in. “Um, I’m sorry,” I tell him, “but it’s actually four dollars a box.”

  “Really?” he asks. “Didn’t Girl Scout cookies used to be fifty cents?”

  “We’re Sunshine Girls,” Leo says. “I mean, Kids, we’re the Sunshine Kids.”

  “That might have been the price a long time ago,” I tell him. “But it’s four dollars now.”

  Rory adds, “We totally understand if you don’t want them anymore.” She reaches over to give him his change back, but he waves it away and digs into his pocket. He pulls out two more quarters, and a roll of dollar bills held together with a rubber band. He counts out three bills and gives them to Rory, who hands him the box in return.

  “Thanks, Bucky,” Leo says. “I’ll bet you won’t be able to keep the ladies away when you offer them a Minty Melt.”

  Mr. Whitehead winks. “That’s the plan.”

  This notion makes the other men guffaw.

  “C’mon,” David says. “Always best to leave ’em laughing.”

  So we wheel the wagon toward the next group, and all I can think is One box down, forty-four to go.

  Rory stops before we reach a group of women playing cards. “I feel kinda bad asking these old people for money,” she says. “I mean, they really don’t have a lot to begin with.”

  I look around the room at all the potential cookie buyers. It’s not like we’re forcing them to buy anything.

  But David nods in agreement with Rory. “Yeah,” he says, “some of these people probably haven’t had jobs in thirty years.”

  Leo nods too, and I feel like a jerk for being thoughtless. “What else is in the building?” I ask.

  “The dance studio is upstairs,” Rory says. “Those girls always look hungry.”

  Leo and David each take an end of the wagon, and we climb the stairs. Class is just letting out, so all the girls are busy untying their ballet slippers and finding their bags. A tall girl with black hair wrapped in a bun hurries over to us and gives