Finally Read online

  “I don’t know. I’m not sure.” I’m not sure about a lot of things anymore, but I don’t say that.

  “Your dad said you were getting contacts today. Did you get them?”

  I shift in my chair. “Not exactly.”

  “Why not?”

  I pause. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

  “If you quit the movie, then I’m quitting. It’s no fun without you.”

  “You can’t quit.”

  “Then you have to be there tomorrow.”

  I sigh. “Maybe.”

  “Great!” she squeals. “See you bright and early!”

  I rest my forehead on my desk as dramatically as I can, only to lift it right back up because the pressure hurts my eye. Might as well check my e-mail. The newest one is from Dad, of all people. I don’t think he’s ever e-mailed me before. He sent it only two minutes ago. I click to open it.

  Hi, Honey. I know you’re feeling blue, but I just wanted to share an old saying with you: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Or in your case, queen. Your mom and I love you very much and are very proud of you. Do you want to come down for dinner? Chocolate chip pancakes … Love always, Dad.

  Imagine! Bribing me with chocolate chip pancakes, as though it were that easy to cheer me up! And I’m not sure what they have to be proud of. I mess everything up.

  Although … eating chocolate chip pancakes is certainly better than not eating chocolate chip pancakes. I push back my desk chair. I guess it is that easy!

  Mom drops me off at school while the sun is only barely peeking over the horizon. She agrees to come back to pick me up after dropping Sawyer at preschool. We should be done shooting by then. Stepping very carefully, I make my way into the school and down the hall to the room number Brenda had left in her message. The hall outside is set up with the lights, too, which means a hallway scene as well as a classroom scene. Keeping my head down, I step around the equipment in the hall, take a deep breath, and enter the classroom. Of course the first person to notice me is the director.

  “What do you think we’re shooting here, Pirates of the Caribbean? Do you see Johnny Depp anywhere?”

  I lower my eyes and shake my head.

  “Then what’s with the patch?”

  The few other extras who have arrived so far stop what they’re doing and listen. I mutter something about a contact lens accident.

  “This I’ve got to see!” a voice from behind me says. I turn to face Jake, silently cursing Annabelle for making me come this morning. She’s not even here yet to rescue me.

  He takes one look at my face and bursts out laughing. He literally holds his stomach and bends forward. He’s laughing that hard.

  “Okay, okay,” I say, crossing my arms. “It’s not THAT funny!”

  “Yes,” he gasps. “It is!”

  “You’re sitting this one out,” the director barks.

  “Wait,” Brenda says, joining us. “I have an idea.”

  She leads the director away by the elbow, while Jake, bent over, continues to shake with laughter. This is how Annabelle finds us when she finally walks in.

  “It’s never boring being your best friend,” she says. “Just when I think I’ve seen it all, you outdo yourself.”

  Brenda comes back and asks, “Would you be able to take the patch off and walk a few feet?”

  Unsure where this is going, I say, “I guess so.”

  Ten minutes later, the camera rolling, we film our hall scene. The camera is focused on me (known in the scene as “girl with phone”) as I walk down the crowded hallway, pretending to text on my phone. The view is from my right side, so you can’t see that my left eye is red and leaky. Suddenly Jake flings open his locker, and since my character is not looking where she’s going, it hits me right in the face. (In reality, he’s supposed to stop the locker right before it hits me, but it kind of hits me anyway.) “Are you all right?” he asks in a voice skilled at squeezing a lot of emotion out of a few words. He bends over me in concern as I cover my eye with my hands as though it hadn’t already been injured. The director yells, “Cut!” and they move the cameras to the other side. After a few lighting adjustments, the PA hands me my patch, and the director yells, “Action!” I walk down the hallway again, this time with the patch over my eye. As I pass Jake at his locker, he exclaims, “There goes the latest victim of the worst epidemic in our schools today — Walking While Texting!”

  The crew and the other extras all clap when we’re done, and I know without looking that my face is bright red. The best part was how Madison had to stand on the side while we filmed it. The second-best part was getting paid fifty dollars. Fifty dollars! That’s more money than I’ve ever gotten at one time in my entire life.

  All the same, I still leave with Mom afterward. Being a “cautionary tale” for the movie was one thing, but I have no need to hear “Ahoy, matey!” and “Yo-ho-ho, shiver me timbers” from the kids at school all day. I could get that at home.

  Which, of course, I do.

  Chapter Sixteen

  Now that I’m allowed to pick out my own clothes and have fifty dollars from my big movie scene burning a hole in my pocket, Mom agrees to take me shopping after school on Friday. I suggest one of the small shops in the center of town. I’m taking a break from the mall. I’m afraid Bunny is sitting in his cage at the pet store, plotting his revenge.

  Mom is very well behaved, and sits patiently in the dressing room while I try on a zillion outfits, never admitting if she likes them or not. But since I’ve known her for twelve years, it’s pretty easy to tell by the eye rolls, tight mouth, raised brows, imperceptible nods, or slight upturn of lips.

  The day of the party is sunny and warm, just like I knew it would be when I imagined it. “You sure it looks okay?” I ask Mom for the tenth time, turning from side to side in front of her full-length mirror.

  “Yes!” she replies, also for the tenth time. I had finally left the store with a brown and white sundress and brown sandals, but now that it’s time to actually wear the outfit, I wonder if it was the right choice. Regular brown Band-Aids cover my still-pretty-scabby legs, and the patch was retired a few days ago, but I still feel like I’m not ready. And Annabelle’s mom is coming to pick me up any minute, which isn’t helping my anxiety level.

  “Here,” Mom says, handing me a tube of pink lip gloss. “This only contains artificial chemicals. None of that good, all-natural stuff like trees or berries.”

  “Cool, thanks!” I say, rolling it on.

  “And one more thing.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small silk pouch. She opens the drawstring and Grandma’s earrings spill out onto her palm.

  “But I can’t wear those,” I say, confused.

  “Yes, you can.” To my surprise, she leans over and clips one on each ear. They pinch a tiny bit, especially on the previously pierced ear, but I’ll get used to it. I can’t believe she had them made into clip-ons without telling me. “Check them out,” she says, facing me toward the mirror.

  “Wow. I look good!” I still look twelve, but now I look more like what I picture in my head a twelve-year-old should look like. Or maybe I look extra-good because nothing is currently swollen, bleeding, leaking pus, or covered with a patch.

  “You have your cell?” she asks, back to business.


  “And extra money?”


  “And your house key in case we’re not home when you get back?”


  “And Natalie’s gift?”

  “Yup.” It had taken me a while to figure out what to get her. But then I found that book I had bought at the mall the day of the unfortunate incident with the makeup, and remembered that Natalie had done a book report in fourth grade on the first book in the series and had loved it, too. So I wrapped up my copy of the sequel and added a really cool flashlight that I bought at the drugstore, because it’s really a flashlight-under-the-covers type of read.