Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Blast from the PastMeg Cabot
For friends everywhere, past and present!
Special thanks to all of you who’ve helped make Allie Finkle such a real friend to so many girls . . . including me!
Allie Finkle’s Rules
No Cellphones Until You’re in the Sixth Grade
Our across-the-street neighbours went on a cruise for a week, so they asked me to pick up their newspaper and mail every day while they were gone.
This was a job that required a lot of responsibility.
But I never missed a day. Not even when it rained so much one day that the wall in Mark’s closet started cracking, and then bubbling, and then finally burst open because of all the water that was trickling down inside it from a leak in the roof.
That day, I just put on my raincoat and boots and went and got the Aronoffs’ newspaper and mail in the rain like it was nothing.
So you can imagine my complete surprise when the Aronoffs got home from their cruise and gave me ten dollars because they were so impressed by the great job I had done neatly stacking their mail and newspapers in their front hallway while they were gone.
Honestly, I would have done it for free. It’s important to be nice to your neighbours, so that when you do something such as accidentally run over their azaleas while practising skidding to a sudden stop on your bike like a girl motocross racer, they won’t be as mad at you.
That’s a rule.
Anyway, that ten dollars plus the twenty-six dollars I’d already saved up from my allowance for doing chores around the house meant that I had thirty-six dollars.
And thirty-six dollars is enough to buy a lot of things.
Such as a cellphone.
‘I thought your parents said you couldn’t have a cellphone until you were in the sixth grade,’ my Uncle Jay said when I asked him to come over and take me to the mall so I could buy my new cellphone.
‘But it’s my own money,’ I explained. ‘I’m allowed to buy anything I want with my own money.’
That’s a rule. Or at least it should be.
I’d been wanting my own cellphone for as long as I could remember. I knew lots of kids in the fourth grade – like my friend Rosemary – who had their own cellphones.
My parents wouldn’t let me get one because they said that I was too young and hadn’t shown that I was responsible enough to own one (especially given what had happened with my Nintendo DS).
But it wasn’t like I had ever really liked my DS that much in the first place. I enjoy games that require a stretchy imagination more than games that require stretchy thumbs.
My parents say Losing electronic devices is irresponsible. That’s a rule. If we lose ours, we have to buy new ones with our own money
Both my brothers have been extremely careful not to lose their DSs ever since they found out about this rule.
But if you ask me, this rule isn’t fair. Mom and Dad didn’t even tell us this rule until after I’d lost my DS.
I said, ‘Telling someone that something is a rule after they’ve already broken that rule without knowing it was a rule in the first place isn’t fair.’
But my dad said, ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse.’
Whatever that means. But it’s a rule.
Anyway, I don’t believe I’m not responsible enough to own a cellphone. I nursed a tiny kitten – my cat Mewsie – practically from death into healthy young feline adulthood.
And OK, yes, I lost my DS.
But that is just a hand-held game-playing device! I wouldn’t lose something important like a cellphone. I actually need one of those (even though Mom says I don’t). I have a lot of important calls to make.
Like to my mom if, for instance, my little brother Kevin (whom I have to walk to and from school every day) ever happens to fall down an airshaft in a freak accident and break his leg or something.
This could totally happen.
And having enough money to buy the phone myself definitely shows that I’m responsible enough to own one!
‘I don’t even think you can get a cellphone for thirty-six dollars,’ Uncle Jay said.
‘Yes you can,’ I said. ‘I saw one in a store the other day for less than that.’
‘But that’s just the cost of the phone,’ Uncle Jay said. ‘You also have to pay for the calling plan.’
‘The what?’ I had no idea what he was talking about.
‘You have to pay for every call you make and every text you send, in addition to the cost of the phone. Look, I don’t mind taking you to the mall,’ Uncle Jay said, ‘but I want to make sure your parents are OK with this plan of yours before we go.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘They will be.’
The only problem was, my mom wasn’t.
‘What?’ She pushed some hair back behind one ear.
I’ll admit Mom was kind of distracted.
Because she was holding a flashlight for my dad as he lay with his head in a hole in my brother Mark’s closet, looking at the dry rot they had discovered inside the wall, which also turned out to be inside all the walls of the entire upstairs of our house.
‘I have thirty-six dollars of my own money,’ I explained again very quickly. ‘So now Uncle Jay is going to take me to the mall buy a cellphone. I’ll be home in time for dinner. Bye!’
‘Ouch!’ Dad said as he hit his head trying to crawl out of the hole.
‘Can I go inside the wall next?’ Kevin wanted to know. He was sitting with Mark on the bottom bed of the bunks the two of them used to share in our old house, but that had been split apart now that they both had separate rooms.
‘No,’ Mom said, switching off the flashlight.
‘But I’m the smallest,’ Kevin said.
‘He is,’ Mark agreed, who was sitting next to Kevin on the bed. ‘He could tell you how far back the dry rot goes.’
‘No one,’ Dad said, crawling out from the closet, ‘goes in the wall. That’s a rule.’
‘I saw snails when I looked in there before,’ Mark reported. ‘Also mushrooms.’
‘Good God,’ Mom said.
‘We could make a casserole,’ Uncle Jay suggested.
‘OK,’ I said. ‘Well, I’ll be seeing you.’
‘Wait,’ Mom asked. Her eyes focused on me, and not in a good way. ‘Where did you say you were going?’
‘I told you,’ I said. ‘To the mall, to buy a cellphone. And you can’t say no, because I’m doing it with my own money.’
‘Hey,’ Kevin said. ‘I want a cellphone too.’
‘Me too,’ Mark said. ‘Not fair.’
‘That’s enough,’ Mom snapped.
Moms don’t snap too often.
But when they do, you had better stop whatever you are doing wrong, if you know what’s good for you. That’s a rule.
All of you,’ Mom said, ‘just stop it.’ She pointed at me. ‘You know the rules. No cellphones until you’re in the sixth grade.’
‘But, Mom!’ I couldn’t believe it. Well, I guess I sort of could, under the circumstances. But still.
‘We agreed you wouldn’t be al
lowed to have a cellphone until you were in sixth grade,’ she said. ‘And then only if you can show you’re responsible enough.’
‘But, Mom,’ I said. ‘I did show I’m responsible enough! It’s my money. I earned it picking up the Aronoffs’ mail and newspaper and doing chores around the house. If you’ve earned the money, you. should he allowed to spend it on whatever you want. That’s the rule.’
Or at least, that should be the rule.
‘Not if you’re spending it on something which we already discussed you’re not allowed to have until you’re older,’ Mom said. ‘Trying to trick your uncle into taking you to the store just proves that fact. It’s hardly what I’d call responsible behaviour.’
Was this true? I wasn’t sure. I mean . . . it was my money.
And I did ask permission.
Uncle Jay looked down at me. I knew I couldn’t blame him for how all my dreams of being a cellphone owner were crashing and burning down around me. He’d been very supportive, offering to drive me to the store in his car – which doubled as his pizza-delivery vehicle, so it always smelt faintly of pepperoni – and everything. Even if he had said he’d only do it if Mom and Dad said it was OK.
‘Sorry, kid,’ he said. ‘Those are the rules.’
‘Yeah, well,’ I muttered. ‘Sometimes the rules are stupid.’
‘What was that, Allie?’ my mom asked in a dangerous voice.
‘Nothing,’ I said.
But it was true. If you have to walk your little brother to and from kindergarten every day, you should be considered responsible enough to have a cellphone. But apparently it wasn’t enough to walk a six-year-old brother back and forth to school, or to pick up a neighbour’s mail during a rainstorm, or to raise a kitten.
How was it that I was responsible enough to do all those things, but not responsible enough to spend my own money (that I had earned) on the things that I wanted . . . even needed?
When were my parents ever going to think I was responsible enough? Sixth grade?
But that was two whole years away.
They might as well have said never.
Cheyenne O’Malley Is the Most Popular Girl in Room 209, and Probably in the Whole World . . . at Least in Her Own Mind
I was still mad about the whole cellphone thing during the walk to school the next morning.
‘The worse part of it was,’ I said to my friends, ‘that last night at dinner nobody would even talk about it. All anybody could talk about was dry rot.’
My friend Sophie sucked in her breath.
‘You have dry rot in your house?’ she asked. ‘Allie, that’s super-serious! Your whole house could collapse in a pile of rubble with all of you inside it if you don’t get it fixed right away.’ Sophie loved disasters of any kind medical, man-made or natural – and especially liked reading about them, then describing them to us in graphic detail whenever she got the opportunity. ‘Didn’t you guys have an inspection before you moved in?’
‘How should I know?’ I shrugged. ‘When we moved in, I thought the stupid house was haunted. That’s what your brother told me anyway.’ I narrowed my eyes at my friend Erica, who lived next door.
‘I’m sorry,’ Erica said, looking apologetic. ‘You know John. He loves to tease people.’
I smiled to show I hadn’t intended to be mean. I was just in a bad mood about the cellphone.
‘Well,’ I said. ‘It turned out to be a leak, not a ghost. The roof people are coming today to see if they can fix it.’
‘And if I’m home when they come, Mom said I could help them with the inspection,’ Kevin declared.
‘Yeah,’ I said, rolling my eyes. ‘Right, Kevin.’
My walking Kevin to and from kindergarten every day leads to his listening in on all my conversations with my friends. Kevin thinks my friends actually like him, which is an incorrect assumption. Although they do sometimes fight over who gets to hold his hand on the way to school, so you could see why he might think this.
But this is only because none of them has little brothers, and so they have no idea what a pain they can be.
‘I’m sure you’ll be a big help to the roof inspectors, Kevin,’ Erica assured him kindly.
‘Oh, I know I will,’ Kevin said. ‘They’ll probably give me one of their hard hats.’
I sincerely hoped this was not true. Otherwise Kevin was going to insist on wearing that hard hat to kindergarten every day until school let out for summer, just like he’d insisted on wearing his pirate costume every day for almost the entire first semester, thus making the Finkle family the biggest laughing stock of the entire student body of Pine Heights Elementary.
‘Don’t feel bad, Allie,’ my friend Caroline said. ‘Having a cellphone isn’t that great, really.’
Only a person who has a cellphone, like Caroline, would say this.
‘My mom said I could have my sister Missy’s old cellphone,’ Erica admitted. When I looked at her with my eyes widened, she added hastily, ‘But now I’m going to tell her I don’t want it. What’s the point if I can’t text my best friend?’
She put an arm around my neck and hugged me. Erica always tries to make everyone around her feel better.
‘Well,’ Sophie said, ‘my dad says I can’t have a cellphone until I start remembering not to leave things in the pockets of my jeans when I put them in the wash. Like my iPod. So I know what you mean, Allie, about being responsible. It’s not fair. My mom was so distracted over her PhD the other day that she left her laptop on the roof of the car and drove all around town with it like that, until someone finally told her when she was stopped at a red light. But my dad didn’t say she couldn’t have a cellphone.’
I shook my head. Life was so unfair.
By the time we got to Pine Heights we were all thoroughly depressed. Except for Rosemary, who came running up to us in the playground (she lives in the suburbs, so she gets to take the bus to school instead of walking, like we do. The lucky duck. It’s always been my dream to ride on a school bus, since I’ve never ever gotten to, my parents always having made the poor decision of moving to within walking distance of every school I’ve ever gone to) to show us the new game she’d downloaded to her cellphone.
‘It’s so cool, you guys,’ Rosemary said excitedly
It was hard to get as pumped as she was, however, when I didn’t have a cellphone to be able to download games to.
It was right then that Cheyenne O’Malley sauntered up with her best friends Marianne and Dominique (or M and D, as she refers to them), texting away on her cellphone. Cheyenne O’Malley is the most popular girl in Room 209, and probably in the whole world . . . at least in her own mind.
This is pretty much a rule.
‘Oh,’ Cheyenne said, looking down her nose at Rosemary’s phone. ‘You girls still play video games? Aren’t those for babies? I would have thought you’d have outgrown those by now.’
Then she and M and D sauntered away, laughing and texting one another.
We had to hold Rosemary back to keep her from pounding Cheyenne’s delicate face into the grass.
‘I only want to hurt her a little,’ Rosemary begged.
We assured her it wasn’t worth it. Even though the truth is, I actually think it might have been.
Things started to look up a little though when we sat down at our desks, and Mrs Hunter, our teacher, walked up in front of Room 209 and said she had a very special announcement.
Mrs Hunter is not only the best teacher I’ve ever had – who once said that I acted like a mature professional and that I’m a joy to have around the classroom – she’s also the prettiest, even though she has short hair. Mrs Hunter wears eyeliner to match her green eyes, and sparkly lipgloss that she reapplies at her desk when she thinks no one is looking (but I’m always looking, because Mrs Hunter makes me sit in the last row next to her desk with all the worst boys in our entire class. This is because she says I’m a positive influence on them).
Plus Mrs Hunte
r wears stylish clothes, like high-heeled zip-up boots with skirts that are a length my mom said she gave up after college, but good for Mrs Hunter for hanging in there.
So even though I had thirty-six dollars of my very own, but I couldn’t spend it on what I wanted because my mom says I’m not very responsible, and the walls of my house were full of mushrooms and snails and according to Sophie were going to collapse on me without warning, and probably my little brother was going to start wearing a hard hat to school every day, continuing to humiliate me in the eyes of the entire student body for the rest of the school year, at least one good thing was going to happen.
Because When a teacher like Mrs Hunter says she has an announcement, you know it’s going to be something exciting.
That was a rule.
Today was no exception.
‘Class,’ Mrs Hunter said, tucking her short skirt beneath her as she settled on to her favourite stool in front of us. ‘I have something very exciting to announce: Room 209 is going on a field trip!’
Asking Teachers about Their Boyfriends Is Against the Rules
The minute Mrs Hunter said we were going on a field trip, everyone in Room 209 went bananas.
Because Room 209 had never been on a field trip before. At least, not while I had been there.
The girls all squealed with delight. The boys all fist-bumped one another. Patrick Day, who sits on the end of my row, jumped up on top of his desk and played air guitar until Rosemary pulled him down by the belt loops of his jeans. Stuart Maxwell, who sits on one side of me, started making farting noises with his armpit, and Joey Fields, who sits on my other side, began barking like a dog.
It took all my powers of being a positive influence to get them both to settle down.
The truth was, however, I was pretty excited myself . . . due to one simple but totally embarrassing fact:
I had never been on a field trip before.
I know. Amazing but true.
It wasn’t that my old school, Walnut Knolls Elementary, hadn’t taken us on any field trips.
It was just that every single time, something had happened on the day of the trip to prevent me from being able to go.