Thursday, November 6th, 2003 • No Comments on Plodding Along
Over 12,000 words. My wrists ache from carpal tunnel and I hate what I’m writing. Tell me again why I’m doing this?
Chapter Five below. It sucks.
Buckler’s was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. There were all sorts of medical supplies and equipment in the window and the inside was set up just like a regular pharmacy (but a lot older looking), but in the back along the wall was a counter and several booths. I’d never heard of a pharmacy having a restaurant in it before, but I didn’t want Kaitlin and the two obnoxious girls to think I was stupid, so I just followed along when they sat in one of the booths.
“Buckler’s has the best milkshakes in the world,” Kaitlin said. “Right, Mel?”
I finally figured out that Melanie was the blond when she nodded. “Yeah.”
“Their chili fries are pretty good, too,” Jenny said, almost reluctantly. “And the veggie burger. Just stay away from the hotdogs.” She made a face.
“I know what I want,” Melanie said, standing up. “Jen?”
“I’ll have the veggie burger and a shake,” Jenny said.
“We have to order at the counter when we’re ready,” Kaitlin explained. “Do you know what you want?”
I didn’t see a menu in sight and I wasn’t all that hungry. “Just a chocolate milkshake, I guess.”
“Cool. Me, too. I’ll order it.” Kaitlin followed Melanie to the counter, leaving me alone with Jenny.
“So, what grade are you going in?” I asked.
“Ninth.” Jenny took a napkin from the silver dispenser on the table and began to shred it. “Melanie will be in eleventh grade. I guess you know Kaitlin will be in ninth grade like me.”
I didn’t know that, but I’d figured she was younger than me. “I’ll be in tenth,” I said.
“Yeah, Kaitlin told us.” Jenny leaned forward. “Is it true your dad’s girlfriend is young enough to be your sister?”
“Where did you hear that?” I said, a little louder than I intended. Two little old ladies at the next table looked over at me.
Jenny shrugged. “Word gets around. Your grandmother doesn’t much like your father, does she?”
I had no idea whether Grandma did or didn’t like my father. And I sure as heck didn’t like the idea that everyone in Truhart knew more about me than I knew about them.
“It doesn’t really matter,” I said, trying for a breezy tone I didn’t feel. “I won’t be here forever. My mother plans to move us back to Miami just as soon as possible.”
I don’t know why I said that, because it wasn’t even close to the truth. I guess I just didn’t like the idea that people already knew stuff about me. Let them talk about something I wanted them to talk about� like how I couldn’t wait to move back to Florida.
Jenny pulled another napkin and started shredding. “Yeah? I’d love to live in Florida.”
“I miss it a lot,” I confessed. “Mostly, I miss my best friend and my boyfriend.”
Jenny’s eyes went wide. “You have a boyfriend?”
I smiled. I guess that was one thing Grandma didn’t know about me. “Yeah. His name is Josh and he’s going to be a junior.”
Kaitlin and Melanie came back to the table then, with a tray full of food and milkshakes. Kaitlin put the biggest, frothiest chocolate milkshake I’d ever seen in front of me.
“Try it, you’ll love it,” she said.
She was right. It was positively drool-worthy. There was no way I could drink the entire thing and still be able to fit into my bikini.
“Julia has a boyfriend,” Jenny said.
Melanie raised her eyebrows, but didn’t say anything. Kaitlin grinned.
“Ooooh, that’s so cool. My mother won’t let me date for at least another year. Does he drive?”
I nodded, clutching my forehead as an ice cream headache assaulted me. “Yeah, he’s got a great car, too. And old Mustang he helped his father restore.”
“That’s awesome. Melanie has a boyfriend, too.”
I looked at Melanie, who just shrugged. “It’s no big deal, we’ve been dating for a year.”
“He’s so cute, though,” Kaitlin said. “You met him, Julia.”
“Yeah, at your grandmother’s house. Remember Wade?”
Did I remember Wade? I couldn’t help but make a face. “Oh yes, I remember him. He got soda all over my new blouse.”
Melanie laughed, but it wasn’t a nice laugh. “He said you were staring at him and spilled it yourself.”
No wonder Melanie was being so rude. She thought I was after her boyfriend.
“Listen, Mel,” I said. “Josh is the only guy I’m interested in. Even if Wade is cute, and I’m not saying he is because I wasn’t really paying that much attention, I have no interest in dating a guy from TruHick, Virginia.”
“Then why don’t you go back to Florida and Mickey Mouse?” Melanie nudged Jenny. “I’ll meet you at Aunt Belva’s,” she said. “I can’t stand snobs.”
Melanie flounced out of Buckler’s and the three of us just sat there drinking our milkshakes.
Finally, Jenny said, “Melanie is just a little ticked because Wade was talking about you.”
I didn’t know which bothered me more, that some girl I didn’t know already didn’t like me or that the jerk who’d spilled my soda had been talking about me. “I’m really not interested in him,” I said.
“Don’t mind Melanie, she’s jealous of everyone,” Kaitlin said. “Up until last year she had braces and brown hair, so she’s still not used to being cute. Then you come along looking like some beach bunny and she doesn’t know whether to spit or go fishing.”
I had no idea what that meant, but I got the gist of it.
My cell phone chirped just then.
“That’s so cool,” Kaitlin said. “I’ve wanted a cell phone for ages and Mom won’t get me one.”
I checked the display, expecting my mother, and saw that it was Jeanette. “Hey chica!”
“Hey. I told you I’d call you today.” Somehow she didn’t sound so happy about it. “What’s up?”
“Not much, just having lunch at Buckler’s with a couple of the girls,” I said, as if I did it all the time. It hurt that I’d hardly heard from Jeanette since I left Florida. Let her think I wasn’t missing her too much. “What’s up with you?”
“Oh nothing, really. Josh and I are going to the mall to look for jeans. Express is having a sale.”
I couldn’t help it, jealousy kind of overwhelmed me. “You’ve been spending a lot of time with Josh lately.” I was annoyed with myself as soon as I said it. I tried to make it sound like I was joking. “I mean, people are going to start talking about you two.”
“You told me to keep an eye on him for you,” Jeanette said. “Well, anyway, he said to say hi. We’re on our way out now.”
“Yeah, I need to go, too.” Truth was, I hadn’t so much as looked at Kaitlin and Jenny since Jeanette called. “Call me later?”
“I’ll try. Mom is nagging me about my minutes, so I may not be able to.”
“Okay. Cool. I’ll call you,” I said, trying very hard not to get angry. “If that’s okay.”
“Sure,” Jeanette said. “Have fun!”
I hung up and smiled at Kaitlin. “That was my best friend Jeanette.”
Kaitlin and Jenny exchanged a look. “Are you guys fighting or something?”
“No, I just haven’t talked to her too much lately.”
Jenny had shredded napkins until she had a pile next to her milkshake glass. “So who’s Josh? Is that your boyfriend?”
“Sounds like your friend is keeping him company,” Kaitlin added.
I did not need two ninth grades questioning me. I tried for a cool, I-don’t-care attitude. “Oh, it’s not like that. I trust them both completely.”
They exchanged another one of those knowing looks I was starting to get tired of. I was just thankful Melanie had left. I couldn’t imagine what she would have said. Of course, Jenny was sure to run off and tell her all about it. Just what I needed, an eleventh grade snob gossiping about me and my boyfriend as soon as school started. So what if Josh wasn’t really my boyfriend? If I hadn’t moved, we’d definitely be boyfriend and girlfriend by now. Once again, I was reminded why I hated my parents so much.
“Well, that’s cool that you trust them,” Kaitlin said. She obviously thought I was lying, but I appreciated her support. It was nice having a sort-of friend in Truhart, even if she was a year younger.
“So, what do you guys do around here for fun?” I asked, hoping to distract them from Jeanette and Josh.
“This is pretty much it,” Kaitlin said. “Truhart is boring.”
Jenny nodded in agreement. “What’s Miami like?”
“Hot, I said. “And crowded, but there’s a ton of stuff to do. Malls, movies, the boardwalk, the beach. Stuff like that.”
“You swim in the winter?” Jenny asked, pushing all her shredded napkins to the end of the table.
“Sure. When it’s too cold to swim in the ocean, I swim in my pool at home. It’s heated.” I remembered then that my home had been sold, along with the pool. I didn’t have a pool anymore, just a ratty old house that smelled and probably was haunted.
“What’s it like to have your parents be divorced?” Kaitlin asked.
The divorce wasn’t final yet, but I wasn’t naive enough to think it wouldn’t be. After all, Dad was living with Rachel and Mom had moved to Virginia. I doubted very seriously there was any hope of them getting back together.
“It’s okay. Two houses to go to, two bedrooms of my own,” I said, though Dad and Rachel hadn’t yet turned the guest room into my room. “Plus, they feel guilty about the divorce, so I get more presents at birthdays and stuff.” That last part was just what my other friends told me. “Doesn’t anyone get divorced in Truhart?”
Jenny laughed. “No, but they should.”
“There’s the Smiths. They got divorced when I was a little kid,” Kaitlin said. He got remarried right away to a woman with three kids. Do you think your dad will have more kids?”
I hadn’t even thought about that. Rachel was definitely young enough to have kids. In fact, she was the same age my mother was when I was born. I’d done the math once. The thought that I might have a little brother or sister someday made me feel weird. I guess it would be cool, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a big sister.
“I doubt it,” I said.
Jenny smiled. “You never know. He might have three or four and then you won’t have a room anymore.”
“It doesn’t really matter. I’ll be going to college in two years and living in the dorm.”
“That’s cool. I’ll probably end up at Truhart Community College, still living with my dorky parents,” Kaitlin said. “Where are you going?”
“University of Miami,” I told her. “Pre-law.”
“So, you’re never going to leave Miami?” Jenny asked, blowing her shredded napkins across the table at me like some weird dandelion.
“Not once I get back there,” I said. “I’m never leaving again.”
Jenny and Kaitlin went off to meet Melanie at the hair salon, but I decided I’d had enough of Melanie for one day. I wandered around for a couple of hours, rummaging through the antique stores. Once I got past the smell of old stuff, I decided it was pretty cool purses I found a couple of cool vintage purses I wanted. Maybe I could talk my mother into buying me one for a back-to-school gift.
At the grocer, I found my favorite fruit juice and the dried pears my mother liked. I took both to the register and the man at the register smiled at me. He was around Mom’s age and reminded me a little bit of my Uncle Robert.
“You must be Julia Carmichael. Welcome to Truhart. I’m Sam Yolen.”
I tried not to roll my eyes. I was starting to feel like I was on one of those reality television shows where everyone knows what’s going on but me. It was worse than having a weblog. Which reminded me, I needed to update mine. It was going to be hard having exciting things to talk about in Truhart, but at least it was something to do.
“Yes. I feel like everyone knows me and I don’t know anyone,” I said, handing him my money.
He laughed. “I suppose that’s true. It’s hard to do anything in a small town without someone knowing. Also, your grandmother—” He trailed off, the tips of his ears turning bright red.
“Has a big mouth?” I finished for him.
He laughed again and I decided I liked him. “Something like that. But don’t tell her I said so. She was just so happy your mother and you moved here, she couldn’t help herself.”
My grandmother, happy about us moving to Truhart? It didn’t seem likely, judging by how she’d acted since we got there. I didn’t tell Sam that, though. “I’m not sure I’m going to like living in a small town where everyone knows stuff about me.”
Sam handed me my bag and gave me a little wave. “Truhart isn’t so bad,” he said. “You might even like it here, if you give it a chance.”
I didn’t respond to that because I didn’t think it was true. I waved as I left. “Thanks.”
I met my mother back in front of the town hall at five. She was already there, waiting for me as I walked up.
“Did you have fun?” she asked.
I shrugged. “It was okay. I ran into Kaitlin and a couple of her friends.”
“Oh, that’s nice. You’ll have some friends when you go back to school.”
I sincerely doubted Melanie was going to be my friend and I wasn’t too sure about Jenny, either. “None of them are in the same grade, so I’ll probably never see them.” I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was going to be so weird being the new kid in school. I’d had the same group of friends practically since kindergarten.
“I’m sure you’ll make friends. You’ve always been a popular girl.”
“I’m popular because I’ve known my friends forever. This is going to be different. Everyone already has their friends and I’m starting over.” I stared out the window, trying not to cry.
I had already memorized the drive from downtown Truhart (why they called it downtown, I didn’t know, since it was more like a couple of streets than the downtown I associated with Miami) to Grandma’s house. It wasn’t far and there wasn’t much to look at in between. A few houses, some farms with cows, some crops. I had no idea what they grew in Truhart, because the only thing I recognized was corn stalks.
“Everyone can use more friends and I know you’ll be one of the most popular girls in school before you know it,” Mom said, giving me the same speech she’d given me a thousand times since the day she announced we were moving to Virginia. I didn’t believe her then, and I didn’t believe her now. What did she know about having to move and make new friends?
“Whatever,” I said, wanting to end the conversation and just forget where I was for awhile.
For a change, my mother didn’t keep rattling on about getting to know people and facing new challenges. I wasn’t sure if it was because she knew I was sick of hearing it or because she didn’t really believe it herself. As far as I could see, she wasn’t any better off than I was.
Thursday, November 6th, 2003 • 1 Comment on C is for Cookie
I love autumn. Autumn makes me want to bake. Baking is good. Cookies are good. I baked some kickass oatmeal raisin cookies tonight. I mean, they’re not chocolate, but they’re still pretty good. Oatmeal cookies just seem like a good autumn cookie, you know?
If you want to make some truly excellent oatmeal cookies, here is the recipe:
Kristina’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (inspired by Mrs. Field’s Oatmeal Raisin Chews)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 white sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups raisins
Yield: Approx. 3 1/2 dozen cookies
Preheat oven to 300 F.
-In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt and oats. Mix well.
-In a large bowl, mix sugars with an electric mixer set at medium speed. Add butter and mix until sugar and butter are well blended. Scrape down sides of bowl, then add honey, vanilla and eggs. Mix at medium speed until light and fluffy.
-Add the flour mixture and raisins. Blend at a low speed until just combined. Do not overmix.
-Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet, 1 1/2 inches apart.
-Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cookies are light golden brown. Transfer cookies to a cool, flat surface immediately.
-You can use all dark or light brown sugar if you don’t have one or the other.
-I used fancy cinnamon-covered raisins from Dole. They add a nice cinnamon flavor to the cookies.
Wednesday, November 5th, 2003 • No Comments on NaNo Update
I broke 10,000 tonight on my NaNoWriMo book. Woooo. 40,000 to go.
Chapter Four is below. I think I’m starting to flouder. It’s too early to flounder. I can’t start floundering until I’m 3/4ths the way through. Oh well. Can you tell I’m not exactly thrilled with what I’m writing right now? I think it’s just a mood. Hopefully some good stuff will come to me soon. In the meantime, I’m just glad to make my daily word count.
After my desperate e-mail to Jeanette, I stripped off my blouse and hung it on the doorknob so I could rinse it out and threw on my robe until I could figure out what to wear. Of course, it wasn’t like I had a lot of clothing options. I didn’t care if Grandma yelled at me in front of the entire population of Truhart (and how many could that be, really?), I was not putting on that ugly pink dress.
I had come to the conclusion I was going to have to wear jeans and risk Grandma’s wrath when someone knocked at the door. I figured it was my mother, so I hollered, “Come in, if you dare.”
The door opened and the girl who had been with Wade and Darren came in. She was carrying a white plastic bag. “Um, hi. I’m Kaitlin.”
“Hey,” I said, wondering if this was some sort of country initiation thing. Was she going to douse me in red paint and then run back to tell her friends? “What’s up?”
She closed the door behind her and just stood there. “Well, I heard your grandmother yelling at you.”
I made a face. “I think everyone in the room heard her yelling at me.”
Kaitlin nodded. “Probably everyone in Truhart.”
She said it so seriously, I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah. That’s my Grandma. Leave it to her to embarrass me in front of thirty people I don’t know.”
“Well, so, your mom said something about how you didn’t really have many clothes and I felt bad.”
I held up my hand. I had to set this girl straight. “I’ve got clothes,” I said. “They’re just on a moving truck on the way from Florida.”
Kaitlin looked sort of flustered and being flustered seemed to make her talk a mile a minute. “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that you didn’t have clothes, of course you have clothes, it’s just that you don’t have any clothes with you and I thought maybe you might want to borrow this.” She thrust the bag at me, but I was standing across the room so I had to go take it from her.
I looked at the bag suspiciously. It was nice thought and all, but I was afraid of what might be in the bag. A church dress? A pair of overalls? Who knew? But I didn’t want to be rude when she’d been so nice, so I looked inside. “What is it?”
Kaitlin laughed. “It’s a dress. Mom took me shopping in Richmond today and I bought that. We haven’t been home, so it was still in the car.”
“Oh.” I pulled the dress out of the bag and was pleasantly surprised. The fabric was okay, some sort of rayon blend, and the bluish-green color was nice, if not something I’d pick out. I held it up to me and it looked like it would come right about my knees, which wasn’t too bad. I had been expecting some sort of floor length nightgown-ish thing. “Thanks.”
“It’s probably a little small for you,” she said, blushing, “because you’re bigger in the chest and all, but it should be okay for tonight, don’t you think?”
I looked at the frumpy yellow and white dress she was wearing and compared it to the soft, flowing ocean colored dress in my hands. “Um, yeah. But can I ask you something?”
Kaitlin seemed very happy that I’d agreed to wear her dress. “Sure. Anything!”
I wasn’t sure how to put it. “Well, this is an awesome dress and all, but why do you look like you’re going to church when you obviously have taste?”
That didn’t seem to hurt her feelings, which was good because I really didn’t want to hurt someone who’d been so nice. “Oh, this?” She made a face. “We visited my great aunt at the nursing home on our way to Richmond and she made this for me. I wanted to go home and change, but Mom said we didn’t have time.”
That made sense. “Thanks, Kaitlin. You saved me.”
“Well, Wade said” She stopped mid-sentence and turned beet red.
“What did Wade say?”
She shook her head. “Just that he didn’t think you’d borrow anything from me and that I’d be crazy to come up here.”
It was starting to make sense. “He dared you?”
“Yeah, sorta. But I wanted to loan you the dress. Honest.”
I believed her. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
She left me alone and I put the dress on. It didn’t go with my boots, but I had a pair of platforms that looked great with it. There was absolutely nothing wrong with how I looked, but I prepared myself for more of my grandmother’s screeching when I went downstairs.
My mother was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. “What a pretty dress. Kaitlin seems very nice.”
I’d been in Truhart for two days and my mother was already snooping in my life. “She is very nice and I’m glad she had something I could borrow. Maybe Grandma will stay off my back now.”
As if she’d been waiting for me to say her name, I saw Grandma come barreling up behind Mom, with a tray of some sort of tarts or pies or something. “Well, that’s better. Awful proud of them knockers though, aren’t you? Everything you wear is tight.”
I closed my eyes and pleaded for the ground to open up and swallow me. It didn’t happen. The only thing that kept me from stalking out of the house was the fact that the party had gotten a little louder and I was pretty sure no one but Mom had heard her.
“Can we just please get through this night without any more arguments or criticisms?” my mother asked.
Grandma looked at me and raised one eyebrow perfectly, just liked I’d been trying to learn. “I don’t have to argue,” she said. “I’m always right.”
She headed off to the pantry and I exchanged a look with my mother. We weren’t the closest mother and daughter I knew, but at that exact moment I could have sworn I knew what she was thinking.
“We need to get out of this house as soon as possible,” I said, taking a guess.
She just looked at me and nodded.
Thankfully, the party ended without anyone spilling anything on me, laughing at me or otherwise embarrassing me. Mostly because Grandma holed up in the kitchen with some of her cronies while the people Mom’s age stayed in the parlor. Everyone under twenty eventually ended up outside on the porch. I pretty much stayed quiet and listened to them talk about what they’d been doing over the summer and decided that Truhart was a million miles away from Miami. Which meant it was a million miles away from where I wanted to be.
“Honey, what are you still doing up?”
I had changed out of Kaitlin’s dress and was wearing a Miami Dolphins jersey my father had gotten for me on my last birthday. I shrugged. “Waiting for Jeanette to call. She promised she’d call me tonight.” That was a little fib, since I hadn’t heard from Jeanette since I left Miami. That was starting to bug me, but I wasn’t about to tell my mother that.
“Well, you need to get to bed. It’s been a long night.”
I didn’t respond and she closed the door. It was only a little after midnight, so I dialed Jeanette’s cell phone. I still hadn’t remembered to add the area code to my speed dial numbers.
Jeanette answered, finally. “Hey, girl,” she said. “I was just getting ready to call you.”
“That’s weird, because it sounds like you’re half asleep.” I was grumpy and taking it out on Jeanette, but it was her fault for not calling me. I needed her to help me get through this insanity. “Where have you been? Aren’t you checking your e-mail?”
“Whoa, Jules. Stop with the twenty questions, I’m tired.” Jeanette yawned loudly. “I was up early for that interview, which you knew about and didn’t bother to call me and wish me luck.”
I curled up on my bed and tucked the phone between my ear and my pillow. “I know and I’m sorry. You wouldn’t believe how awful it’s been since I got here. First my mother has gone psycho and this town is like something out of the 1950s and my grandmother, don’t even get me started about her”
“Geez, Jules, suck it up already. I mean, I had to listen to two months of this while you were here.” Jeanette took a deep breath. “I’m sorry it sucks lemons there, but things aren’t great here, either.”
She was making me feel like the worst friend in the world and the truth was, she was right. I had been obsessing about moving to Virginia from the moment my mother had gotten the hair-brained scheme into her head. But still, it felt like I needed Jeanette even more now.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t have anyone else to talk to,” I said, hating how pathetic that sounded. “I figured you’ve got a whole crew of people to whine to and I’ve got just you. And Josh, if he’d ever call me back.”
Another yawn from Jeanette. “Yeah, well, I’m sorry. I’m just really, really tired. Can I call you back tomorrow?”
“Yeah.” I felt like crying. I really needed to talk to her, but I wouldn’t ask again. “I’ll probably be out back plowing the field or something.”
Jeanette laughed. “Oh, Jules, you crack me up. I’ll call you tomorrow. Promise.”
I tossed my cell phone on the table and squeezed my pillow into a tiny little ball under my cheek, refusing to let myself cry. It didn’t work. I hadn’t been gone a week yet and I already felt like I was losing my best friend.
The weekend was a bust of wandering around looking for stuff to do and trying to avoid my grandmother. She seemed determined to make me into some little doll she could dress up and show off to her friends and I was having none of it.
My mother rescued me on Monday and said she’d drop me off in the downtown area of Truhart and let me walk around while she ran errands for Grandma. I’d begged her to take me to Richmond, but she said that would have to wait until next weekend. Walking around Truhart seemed like a slightly better option than staying home alone with my grandmother, so I grudgingly agreed. If nothing else, maybe I could find some decent conditioner.
As we drove into the downtown area of Truhart, I felt like I was in some old- fashioned movie, except everything was in color. There was a little grocery store called Minnie’s Grocer and a pharmacy called Buckler’s. A laundromat, a bakery, a farm and feed store (whatever that was), two antique stores, some sort of fabric store and, thankfully, one hair salon. Of course, with a name like Belva’s Hair Palace I wasn’t expecting much, but I was hoping they’d at least have some good conditioner.
Mom dropped me at the corner of Main Street and Tinwhistle Lane, right in front of the big brick town hall building. “Be careful and call me on your cell phone if you want me to come pick you up. Otherwise, I’ll meet you in front of the pharmacy at five. Be careful. Truhart is a nice little town, but you’re still a fifteen year old girl.”
“I hear you, Mom.” I looked around to make sure no one was hearing this little lecture. “See you at five.”
She drove off and I started walking. I didn’t know how in the world I was going to kill four hours in Truhart’s little metro-center, but it beat hanging out with my grandmother. I hit the hair salon first. The bell over the door jingled as I went in. There were two women under hair dryers with their hair up in big curlers and one woman in a chair, getting her long hair cut by another woman with really short hair. Not one of the women in there was younger than my mother.
“Hey sugar, have a seat and I’ll be with you in a minute,” the stylist said. “Gracie called in sick and it’s been just me all day.”
I didn’t know who Gracie was, but I was quickly learning that people in small towns really liked to tell you stuff. I sat down in one of the chairs by the window and leafed through an old copy of Self. I heard laughter and looked up to see a four girls walking by outside. Suddenly, I felt like an outcast. I hadn’t really wanted to accept the fact that I was actually living in a new state, but Mom had made it pretty clear we weren’t moving back to Florida. Which meant for the first time since kindergarten, I was going to start the school year without friends.
It was enough to make tears come to my eyes and I brushed them away angrily. I was funny, I was smart, I had lots of friends in Florida. Even if Truhart was the last place in the world I wanted to be, surely I’d make a couple of friends.
“Okay, sweetie, what can I do for you?” It figured that the stylist chose that moment to walk over. “You all right, darlin’?”
I blinked my eyes quickly and tried to smile. “Allergies.”
She didn’t look like she believed me, but shrugged. “I hear ya, mine are usually bad in the spring, but summer is nasty, too.”
I didn’t really want to discuss my non-existent allergies. “I was wondering if you carry Bed Head conditioners?”
She wrinkled her nose at me. “No, can’t say that I do.”
“How about Catwalk?”
She shook her head.
“Well, what do you have?” I asked, after she said no to my third, fourth and fifth favorite conditioners.
She led me to the back of the salon and showed me a shelf of hair care products. “Here you go.”
Other than Paul Mitchell, I didn’t recognize any of the names. I picked up one of the PM’s and handed it to her. “I guess I’ll take this one.”
“Oh, honey, you don’t want that. Not for that beautiful curly hair,” she said. “Try this.”
She thrust a bright yellow bottle at me. “You will love what this does for your hair.”
“Curl Magic,” I said, reading the label. “Guaranteed to give your curls the life and bounce you deserve.”
The stylist nodded. “It’s the best.”
Clearly, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I was starting to think my grandmother’s bossy behavior was a trait shared by a lot of the women in Truhart. “Okay.”
“Say, are you Tess Baker’s granddaughter?” she asked as she rung me up.
I nodded. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
“You’re the spittin’ image of your grandmother. Tell the old witch I said hello.”
I was still reeling from the idea that I looked like my grandmother and it took me a minute to respond. “What’s your name?”
“Oh, I’m Belva,” she said with a laugh. “I own the place. And since I do, you need to come back in a week for a cut, on the house. That mane of yours is a little unruly.”
I didn’t bother arguing with her. Joseph at Hair Asylum was the only one I ever let touch my hair. There was no way I was going to let anyone else cut my hair, even if I had to wait until Christmas break to get a trim.
“Thanks, ” I said, making a quick escape. I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran smack into someone. “Oops, sorry.”
“Julia! Hey!” It was Kaitlin, with two other girls.
“Oh, hi Kaitlin. Sorry about that.” I smiled at the two other girls, but they seemed to be doing their best to ignore me. “Hi, ” I said. “I’m Julia Carmichael.”
“This is Melanie and Jenny,” Kaitlin said when neither girl responded. “They’re sisters.”
They both kind of rolled their eyes. “C’mon, Kaitlin, I’m starving,” said Melanie. Or maybe it was Jenny. Hard to be sure when Kaitlin hadn’t made it clear which was which.
“We’re going to Buckler’s for milkshakes,” Kaitlin said. “Want to come?”
Maybe it was because I already knew Kaitlin, sort of, from my grandmother’s house. Or maybe it was because Melanie and Jenny were making it very obvious they didn’t want o me to go. Whatever the reason, I nodded and said, “Sure. Sounds great.”