one The most exciting thing that could ever happen to my fourth-grade class would be:
a. aliens from outer space come to suck us all up in their spaceship and take us to their planet where they make us their rulers.
b. TV producers want to make a show about our class and we’re all going to become famous. We’ll wear giant sunglasses and carry our dogs around in handbags and everyone will want our autographs.
c. the president has selected our class to be his official kid advisors. We’ll have fancy dinners at the White House while he asks us what we think needs to happen in the world. Personally, I plan to make sure he saves the polar bear.
d. none of the above.
* * *
I knew something really exciting must
have happened because there was a big circle of people on the playground. Someone squealed and a couple of the girls were jumping up and down. They were bouncing all around like popcorn.
I saw my best friend Katie Hillegonds sitting on top of the slide. She liked to sit up there where she could see everything. I ran over to her. “What’s going on?”
“I got a new book.” Katie held it out. “It’s all about NASA. My mom said it was for older kids, but I told her if I’m going to be an astronaut I couldn’t read little kid books. Did you know there’s no sound in space?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “The book is good, but I think it would be better with more pictures.” She flipped through the pages.
I didn’t always understand humans, or, as we call them in the fairy community, humdrums. I come from a long line of fairy godmothers, but I always wanted to be just a plain humdrum. Or at least that was what I wanted until I learned how much fun being magical could be. After all if I wasn’t magical I wouldn’t be able to talk to my dog and have him talk back. Also if I hadn’t been magical I also wouldn’t have been able to save my sister from being eaten by a lizard. It wasn’t a large lizard or anything, my sister was really small at the time, sort of firefly-size. Even though it wasn’t a giant, mutant lizard, the rescue plan still required me to be pretty clever. Not that I’m bragging or anything. I’d decided that I would stick with being magical and have a humdrum as a friend instead.
Until this school year I’d always attended the Cottingley Fairy Academy across town. I’d convinced my parents to let me study humdrums up close as long as no one figured out that I was a fairy. I’d only been going to Riverside Elementary for a couple of months. There were still a lot of things I didn’t understand, but I was sure about this. No one in our class was excited that Katie had a book about rockets.
“Neat. It looks like a cool book.” One tip for getting along with humdrums is that you should always act interested in things they’re interested in, even if you aren’t. For example, if your best friend has a pet bird you should pretend that you find it really fascinating that they clean themselves by having dust baths. (Even though taking a dust bath sounds like a stupid way to get clean.) “So, do you know why everyone else is so excited?” I asked trying to pull Katie’s attention back.
Katie looked down at the cluster of girls. “Oh. Miranda’s going to be in a wedding.”
I watched Miranda’s friend Bethany act like she was going to faint because she was so thrilled. Bethany has always been a drama queen, but even the other girls seemed excited. “Is it that big of a deal?”
Katie closed her book with a snap. “Exactly! Who cares that she gets to be a bridesmaid? If you ask me, a bunch of wedding cake doesn’t make up for having to wear a fancy dress that itches and uncomfortable shoes.”
My forehead wrinkled while I thought about it. I could think of a lot of things that sounded more fun than wearing uncomfortable shoes. However, my mom granted more wedding wishes than any other. Fairy godmothers spent a lot of time on romance, so there must be something to it.
“My dress is going to be light pink, and we’re going to carry bouquets of pink and white roses,” I overheard Miranda say. The cluster of girls all sighed together.
“Roses mean true love,” Bethany said. “Every flower has a meaning, you know.” A few of the girls nodded. Bethany always had to be an expert on everything. “You have to be really careful about what you put in a wedding bouquet or you could doom the entire marriage.”
I wasn’t sure about the meaning of roses, but I was pretty sure Bethany was wrong about the part about the wrong flowers ruining things.
“I wonder what dandelions mean?” Paula asked.
Bethany ignored Paula.
“I’m not just some regular junior bridesmaid. I’m responsible for holding my cousin’s bouquet during the wedding ceremony so she can concentrate on getting married.” Miranda shrugged. “It’s a pretty important job.”
Everyone was silent for a moment as if they were awed by what Miranda would have to do. They were acting like she would be diffusing a bomb instead of holding a bunch of flowers. Humdrums were very confusing sometimes.
The bell rang. Katie jumped up and surfed down the slide with her arms out to keep her balance. I went down the ladder. If I tried to go down standing, I would fall for sure, and if I sat down to slide, Bethany would make fun of me for acting like a kid. Fourth grade is really complicated. Sometimes it’s okay to be a kid and other times everyone acts grown up. The hard part is figuring out which time you’re supposed to act which way. It would be a lot easier if there were a rule book. And so part of my deal with my parents to attend humdrum school was that I had agreed to do presentations about humdrums to other sprites at the fairy academy. How was I supposed to help future fairy godmothers understand humdrums when I couldn’t make sense of what they did half the time?
“I think it’s cool you’re going to be a junior bridesmaid,” I said to Miranda as we lined up to go inside. “I’d love to see your dress sometime.” Katie was my best friend, but I still couldn’t help being fascinated by Miranda. It wasn’t just me. Everyone in our entire school liked Miranda, including the really cranky lunch lady who would give her extra applesauce. Even the fifth graders liked Miranda and they spent most of their time ignoring the rest of us. I couldn’t help thinking it would be really cool to have Miranda as a friend, too.
“Do you think she’s going to wear her bridesmaid dress to school?” Bethany asked. “Duh, Willow.” She rolled her eyes at Paula.
I ignored Bethany. “Maybe you could bring in a picture of it.”
“I should bring the picture of my cousin’s dress. It is the most beautiful dress you’ve ever seen. It was on the cover of Brides
magazine. It’s strapless and the skirt has layers of lace and sort of swooshes down with all these beads and sequins on it.”
All the girls around us gave another sigh of pleasure. I pulled my small humdrum notebook out of my bag and scribbled in it. Dresses are better the more sparkle they have.
You never knew how humdrum information could be useful. Someday I might have to grant a dress wish and now I would know to add a bit of extra glitter.
Nathan, who was behind Miranda in line, snatched the notebook out of my hand and held it above his head. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that he was the tallest person in our class. “Got your diary!” He yelled out.
“Give it back.” I jumped up, trying to take it back from him, but I couldn’t reach. He moved in a circle laughing.
“Who wants to hear Willow’s secrets?” His friends laughed, which just encouraged him. “Dresses are better with more sparkle,” he read out. “Aw, are you dreaming about your own wedding?”
My face was red hot. What if he flipped the pages and read the other things in there? I was pretty sure no one else in my class had to take notes on how to fit in. I jumped up, but unless I could fly like my sister, this was never going to work. “Please give it to me,” I begged him. I looked around, hoping that our teacher, Ms. Caul, would come out and make him hand it over, but she was still inside. There’s never a grown-up around when you want one.
Nathan cocked his head to the side. “Willow wants a wedding of her very own. Isn’t that romantic?” He fluttered his eyelashes and put a sappy smile on his face. “She’s in looooooove.”
“Who is she going to find to marry her
?” Bethany asked, and Nathan laughed.
Nathan held my notebook in the hand above his head as he tried to flip the pages to read more. “Maybe she says in here who she loves.”
“Give it back,” Katie demanded. Nathan laughed. Katie was even shorter than me. There was no way she was going to be able to grab the notebook. Unless there was a miracle, my life was about to be ruined. Nathan would read out all of my notes and everyone would make fun of me for the rest of the year. If my dog Winston was around I would make him run over and chew Nathan’s lips off. He wouldn’t do so much talking if he didn’t have any lips.
Katie jabbed Nathan hard in the stomach. He gave a loud oomph
and bent over. Katie grabbed the notebook out of his hand and gave it back to me.
“Hey, you aren’t supposed to hit people,” Bethany yelled out.
“Hey, you aren’t supposed to steal things,” Katie said with her hand on her hip, copying Bethany.
I clutched the notebook to my chest. I was never going to let it out of my hands again. I might ask my mom to enchant it so that if any humdrums ever got a hold of it again, all it would show was pages with nothing on them other than Nathan Filler is a big jerk.
Ms. Caul came out and clapped her hands. “Okay, everyone, we’re supposed to be in a line.”
I held my breath to see if Bethany would tell on Katie. Ms. Caul might want to look at my notebook to see what all the trouble was about. Even though I thought she was the best teacher in the whole world— and smelled like vanilla—I didn’t want her to read it either. No one said anything; they shuffled back into a line so we could follow Ms. Caul into school.
“Willow is in wuuuve,” Nathan whispered, making his voice sound like little kid. The entire line of fourth graders snickered.
I spun around and glared at him. He put his hand under his shirt and made his shirt pump in and out as if his heart was beating like crazy.
That was it. Nathan Filler was going to have to pay.
© 2011 Eileen Cook