Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama QueensMeg Cabot
Allie Finkle’s Rules
It’s the Thought That Counts
The best part about the holidays is showing all the cool stuff you got for Christmas to your friends.
This is a rule.
But when your friends all leave for Winter Vacation to go visit the beaches in Hawaii or their grandparents or their mom in Maine or whatever, it’s really hard to show them that your grandma got your family the new PlayStation with Dance Party America, which you have played so many times (by yourself) that you are already up to level eleven.
It’s especially hard when your parents and your brothers and your uncle are quite tired of playing Dance Party America and of hearing about it too. They wish that your friends would come home from Winter Vacation to play it with you almost as much as you do.
I did have one friend who was home from Winter Vacation: Sophie. But she broke her toe when we when we were playing Olympic figure skater on her hardwood floor in our socks. So she couldn’t do Dance Party America with me. Plus she was kind of crabby about her sore toe and not having seen her true love, Prince Peter, in so long.
So by the time Winter Vacation was over I was so excited for school to be starting again to see everyone, such as Erica and Caroline, and also my friend Rosemary, whose family had gone to Hawaii for the break, that I could barely fall asleep the night before. Even Mewsie’s gentle purring on the pillow beside my head couldn’t make me doze off, and usually that does the trick. I had called Erica three times before bed, knowing her plane had gotten in, even though Erica lives right next door and Mom kept telling me to leave the Harringtons alone and let them Settle In From Their Vacation.
But Erica told me she’d seen Caroline at the baggage carousel at the airport, and that she had some big news, but that Caroline’s dad had dragged her away before she could tell Erica what it was.
Big news! What could it be?
I hoped it wasn’t anything bad. What if Caroline was moving permanently to Maine, where her mom lived? This would be terrible! Pine Heights Elementary would be losing its champion speller!
I was really surprised when I woke up on Monday morning. Surprised that I ever fell asleep at all, I mean, because I was so excited to get to school and find out Caroline’s big news.
As usual when I woke up though, Mewsie was massaging my hair. This is a morning ritual he performs daily. No one is quite sure why, and though I’d consulted all my cat-care books, there’d been nothing in them about kittens kneading their owner’s hair every morning. Mewsie takes his hair kneading very seriously, and if I try to get up before he’s done, he cries. But sometimes his tiny claws sink into my scalp and it really hurts. Also, his hair combing can make me late.
‘Ow ow ow ow ow,’ I said to Mewsie.
‘Mew?’ he said sleepily back to me. Seriously, he is the cutest kitten in the whole wide world. But he is also the weirdest. The hair combing is the least of it. When I try to make the bed, he gets mad, and jumps around with his back arched, making hissing noises.
I said he was weird. Although if you think about it in this way he fits perfectly into my family.
I untangled my hair from Mewsie’s claws and hurried to get my face washed and my teeth brushed and undo the mess Mewsie had made of my hair. I am not the kind of person who cares a whole lot about how she looks.
I mean, I care, in that I do not want to smell or go to school with sleep in my eyes like Joey Fields.
But at the same time, I am not going to wear blue eyeshadow to school like Leanne Perkins does, even though she is only in the fifth grade. Because that would just be insane.
Still, I tried to Make An Effort since it was the first day of the new semester. I put on all the new hairclips that my brother Mark had gotten me, and some of the cherry ChapStick Kevin gave me, and I even wore my new wrap-around ballet sweater (even though I didn’t have ballet lessons until Saturday and I was wearing jeans with my snow boots since it was snowing, so it didn’t exactly match). I also packed up my new fringed suede tote bag with some of the Boxcar Children books I got, which happens to be a very old-timey series I started reading because my teacher, Mrs Hunter, keeps her old copies from when she was a girl in our classroom. But I can never read them in order, because someone else in our class keeps taking them out and reading them. Only I don’t know who it is, so I can’t ask her to please return them so I can read them too.
Now I won’t have that problem, because I have my own.
Then, after a nutritious breakfast of hot oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar that Dad made for us kids, because Dad is in charge of breakfast, I rushed outside to meet Erica when she knocked on the front door.
‘Let’s go find out Caroline’s Big News,’ I yelled as I hugged her hello.
‘How are you?’ Erica yelled back. ‘I missed you so much! Did you have a good vacation? Oooooh, I like your new bag. We had the best time at my grandma’s house, I saw a dolphin—’
‘That’s great,’ I said. ‘Let’s go find out Caroline’s Big News!’
I grabbed Erica by the front of her puffa jacket and pulled her from the porch and towards the street so we could hurry up and meet Caroline and Sophie by the stop sign, from where we always walked to school together.
‘Hold on,’ Erica said. ‘Shouldn’t we wait for your little brother?’
‘Wait for me,’ yelled Kevin, who is only in kindergarten and has to be walked by us to and from school every day because he’s too young to walk by himself. He was still being put into his snowsuit by Mom.
‘He’ll catch up,’ I said.
I couldn’t understand why Erica wasn’t as excited as I was to find out what Caroline’s Big News was. It could be anything. It could be that she had found out her family had won the lottery and that they were moving to a castle in Switzerland.
It could be that it turned out she was adopted and her real parents were famous movie stars and that she was going to be starring in her own reality television show about what it was like to be adopted and then find out that your real parents were movie stars.
It could be that she’d gotten a horse for Christmas.
It could be anything.
‘Come on!’ I said.
It was kind of hard to run on the icy sidewalk all the way to the stop sign, but I managed to do it somehow, dragging Erica behind me and having to listen to Kevin yell, ‘Hey, wait! Allie, wait for me!’ the whole way.
And of course when we got to the stop sign we had to wait because I’d forgotten about Sophie’s broken toe and that Caroline and Sophie always walked the whole way to school together and of course that meant Caroline would be walking slow because Sophie could only walk slow and Caroline would be polite and wait for her to catch up.
So we had to wait for them for what seemed like a really long time with our toes and noses freezing. Kevin finally caught up with us, and Mark had had to walk him, so Mark was mad because that meant he couldn’t ride his new BMX dirt bike to school on the first day back, in order to show it off to all his friends. He’d had to walk with it.
Apparently I was supposed to feel sorry for him about this, even though it was the only day in like a million days where Mark had had to walk Kevin to school, instead of me.
But even so, w
hen he got to the stop sign, where Erica and I were waiting, Mark went straight up to me and punched me in the arm.
It didn’t hurt, because I was wearing my winter coat, my ballet sweater, a turtleneck, a T-shirt, and an undershirt under that.
But of course I had to punch him back, only harder. Because I’m older, and I had to teach him that violence is never the answer.
This made Erica yell, ‘You guys! Stop it! Can’t we all just get along?’ because she’s a peacemaker and is always trying to make everyone in her own family, like her big sister, Missy, and big brother, John, stop fighting (not that this ever works).
It didn’t work in my family either. My hitting Mark back made him drop his bike in the snow and then it got wet and so he started crying, because he was so mad.
And of course right then some of his friends rode by and saw him crying, which just made him even angrier.
So then he yanked his bike out of the snow and rode away with his face all red and teary.
This made me feel a little guilty, because As a big sister, it’s your job to take care of your brothers and not punch them in the arm and make them drop their new bikes in the snow and get them all wet (this is a rule).
But, seriously, I have to walk Kevin to school every day. You would think Mark could do it once.
Finally, after what seemed like hours of waiting around with Erica telling me I shouldn’t have punched Mark back and Kevin complaining he was hot in his snowsuit and couldn’t we just get to school, Caroline and Sophie showed up, Sophie hobbling with her broken toe (there is nothing you can do for a broken toe. You just have to tape it to the toe next to it. We found this out after we waited three hours in the emergency room with Sophie’s dad).
I ran to hug Caroline hello (not Sophie because I’d seen her every single day of Winter Break) and yelled, ‘What’s the Big News?’
‘News?’ Caroline looked confused. ‘Sophie broke her toe. She said you were there when it happened.’
‘She was there,’ Sophie said. ‘And she said it was only dislocated, and she tried to put it back in the socket. She said she knows about these things because she wants to be a vet. But it wasn’t dislocated. It was broken, and it really hurt, and now there’s a giant purple and green bruise, and my dad says—’
‘No,’ I interrupted. Sometimes Sophie exaggerates a little. But it’s OK because she’s the most beautiful girl in our class, so it’s pretty easy to forgive her. ‘I mean the news that you were going to tell Erica last night at the airport before your dad dragged you away.’
‘Oh.’ Caroline looked confused. ‘Right. That. My dad said he saw Mrs Hunter in the grocery store over Winter Break and that she said we’re getting a new student in our class this semester.’
It’s OK to Lie If the Lie Makes Someone Else Feel Better
It was really hard not to let my disappointment show. While I was glad that Caroline wasn’t moving away or anything, I was sad that Caroline wasn’t getting her own reality show, or that her family hadn’t won the lottery.
Also, a new student wasn’t all that exciting.
‘Is that all?’ I asked as Erica and I each took one of Sophie’s arms and helped her down the sidewalk towards school, while Kevin waddled like a penguin in his snowsuit towards the jungle gym, where the other snowsuited kindergarteners were gathered.
‘Yeah,’ Caroline said. ‘Well, except that the new student is a girl.’
‘Hey, this is good news,’ Erica said. ‘Now you won’t be the New Girl any more, Allie.’
This was good news and it cheered me up a little. At least now someone else would have the curse of being new.
‘That’s true,’ I said. Except this was still pretty boring news, compared to getting a horse for Christmas.
‘And she’s from Canada,’ Caroline added.
I brightened up when I heard this. The new girl was from Canada! This was VERY exciting! I had never met anyone from Canada before. Canada was a whole different country. Canada was almost as far away as France, except that France was across the ocean. Well, maybe parts of Canada were too. Maybe the new girl could show us where us she was from on the big pull-down map that hung over the chalkboard in front of the classroom, which Mrs Hunter sometimes used to show us where we were in relation to other parts of America. Only this time we could see where we were in relation to where the new girl was from.
Just thinking about this made me so excited that I started walking too fast and Sophie complained. So I had to slow right down.
Even though a fresh layer of snow had fallen over Winter Break and should have made the playground white and wintry, enough kids had already gotten to school so that the snow was already dirty and messed up. This was pretty disappointing . . .
. . . but not as disappointing as the fact that even though I looked everywhere, I couldn’t see the new girl anywhere!
Not that I know everyone in the whole school (I don’t).
But I didn’t see anyone who seemed as if she might be from Canada.
While I was standing there looking around, Mrs Hunter came hurrying past us from the teachers’ parking lot.
‘Oh, hello, girls,’ she said. ‘Happy New Year!’
‘Hello, Mrs Hunter,’ we said. I don’t know about Caroline, Sophie or Erica, but I was feeling kind of shy from not having seen Mrs Hunter in so long. Plus, she was looking especially pretty in her dark green winter coat with the belt tightly waisted, with her hair curling all around her big imitation fur-trimmed collar.
‘Oh, Allie,’ Mrs Hunter said, looking right at me. Me! ‘I’m glad I caught you before school. There’s something important I need to ask you. Could you stop by my desk after you hang up your coat this morning?’
‘Yes, of course,’ I said. I was so completely shocked by this request, it didn’t occur to me to say anything else. Besides, what else are you going to say when your favourite teacher of all time asks you to do something? No way? I don’t think so.
‘Oh my gosh,’ Erica said when Mrs Hunter had hurried away, her high-heeled boots crunching on the salt Mr Elkhart had sprinkled on the path. She headed towards the flagpole, where a group of teachers were standing, and hurried to join them. ‘What do you think she wants?’
It was possible that Mrs Hunter had noticed my new fringed suede tote, and was going to ask where I got it. You never knew.
‘I don’t know,’ I said. I didn’t want to say anything in front of the other girls in case it made them jealous or something, but on reflection I was pretty sure Mrs Hunter was probably going to tell me how much she’d missed me over the holiday. I had overheard her mentioning to my grandmother once that I am a joy to have in the classroom. Who wouldn’t miss having a joy like me around?
Well, except maybe the people in my family who were sick of listening to Dance Party America. But Mrs Hunter had never even been to my house.
‘I hope it’s nothing bad,’ Erica said worriedly.
But what could it be that was bad?
As soon as Erica said that though, I started thinking about all the bad things Mrs Hunter might want to say to me in private at her desk. Like, what if before Winter Break I’d suddenly started getting bad grades or something? I was pretty sure I hadn’t.
But what if I had?
Or – and this thought was even worse – what if Mrs Hunter was kicking me out of her class to make way for the new girl from Canada?
She couldn’t do that. Could she?
‘Of course it’s nothing bad,’ Sophie said. ‘It’s probably something great, like you’re so smart they’re bumping you up to the fifth grade!’
Except that this wouldn’t be great. This would be the same as them kicking me out of class to make way for the new girl from Canada. Because I wouldn’t be in the same class as my best friends forever, Sophie, Caroline and Erica.
‘You probably won something,’ Caroline said. Caroline is the smartest girl in both fourth-grade classes at Pine Heights Elementary combined, so
she would know. She’s always winning things. ‘The last time Mrs Hunter had me stop by her desk before class started, it turned out she’d submitted an essay I’d written to a contest, and she’d wanted to let me know I’d won.’
‘Oh, wow,’ Erica said. ‘Really? That would be great, Allie, if Mrs Hunter was letting you know you’d won something!’
I perked up. If it was something like that, it would be great. Except I wasn’t the greatest essay writer in the world. Math and science, maybe. Because math and science have rules, and I’m very good at following rules. But writing essays? Not so much.
‘Ooooh,’ Sophie said, clapping her mittened hands, her sore toe forgotten in her excitement, ‘I know why she wants to see you! She wants you to be the person to officially show the new girl from Canada around!’
Erica sucked in her breath. ‘I bet that’s it! Oh, Sophie, you’re so smart!’
‘I know,’ Sophie said modestly.
I thought about what Sophie said. It actually made sense. I mean, why not? I was the second newest person in the fourth grade at Pine Heights Elementary, after all. Who better to show the first newest person around the school?
Also, I knew Mrs Hunter liked me. I was a joy, anyway. Not to be a braggart or anything.
Sophie had to be right: I was going to be Mrs Hunter’s helper for the new girl from Canada!
It was right after this that Sophie started pouting. ‘How come Mrs Hunter didn’t say anything about my foot?’
Even though the hospital had only taped Sophie’s broken toe to the healthy toe next to it, instead of putting it in a cast, they’d given her a giant bootee to wear over it, as a sort of consolation prize. Sophie had been hoping everyone would notice her giant bootee and ask what had happened. Especially Mrs Hunter.
‘I’m sure she’ll notice when you have trouble getting up the stairs,’ Caroline said sympathetically.
I wasn’t worried about Mrs Hunter not having noticed Sophie’s broken toe though. I was too excited about my new job as official show-arounder of the new girl from Canada.