Authors: Ann M. Martin
The Ghost At Dawn's House
Ann M. Martin
"Oh, wow! Look at your tan! That's disgusting!"
"Your hair, Dawn! It's even blonder than before!"
It was the first meeting of the Baby-sitters Club since Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, and I (Dawn Schafer), had been separated. It had been our longest separation since the beginning of the club. Two whole weeks. And we'd been scattered from here, in Stoneybrook,
Claudia Kishi and her family had taken a trip to a resort in
had gone to
I was the one who went to
We got to fly by ourselves and everything. Since we were traveling alone, we were given all sorts of special attention. One stewardess slipped us free headphones. We saw European Vacation, starring Chevy Chase. Jeff laughed so hard he nearly got sick, but he recovered in time for dinner and managed to collect extra desserts from all the people around us who didn't want theirs — five in all. (Ordinarily, we're really into health food, but Jeff goes sort of crazy over chocolate cake.) Next, Jeff collected all the packets of salt, pepper, nondairy creamer, instant coffee, sugar, and Jiffee Tow-
elettes he could find. He saved them in a barf bag. The barf bag is now sitting on his bureau at home.
Anyway, you'd think the airplane was the highlight of our trip, but of course it wasn't. What came next was not just
As usual, we gathered for our meeting in Claudia's bedroom. Claudia is the vice-president of the club and the only one of us who has not just her own phone, but her own personal phone number. She's even listed separately in the Stoneybrook telephone directory as Kishi, C.
"Well, let's get down to business," said Kristy, our president. Kristy was the one who'd had the original idea to form the club.
The Baby-sitters Club is really more of a business than a club. The five of us meet three times a week at Claudia's. People call us when they need a sitter. They're willing to wait until our meetings to call, because they reach five of us at once, so they know they're practically guaranteed a sitter. No more calling all over town to track down someone available.
We're very official and responsible about running our club. This is mostly due to Kristy, even though she does get bossy about things every now and then. We keep a record book full of information — the phone numbers and addresses of our clients, an appointment calendar, and a list of our earnings. (We each get to keep whatever money we make, but Kristy always likes to know how the club is doing overall.) We also have a notebook, a sort of diary, in which we're supposed to write up every job we go on. Then we pass the book around so we can all read what's happening with our clients. It's very helpful. But sometimes it's a pain Writing about the jobs. Not all of them are that interesting. Of course, there was the time Kristy ended up dog-sitting in-
stead of baby-sitting. And the time Mary Anne was baby-sitting for a little kid-who got really sick, and found out just how helpful the 911 number can be in a real emergency.
Kristy opened the record book to the appointment pages in case a phone call should come in.
She leaned back in the director's chair and crossed her arms. "I move that we start this meeting by discussing the baby-sitting experiences we've had over the last two weeks."
(We'd all done some sitting, even Claudia and I, who'd technically been on vacation.)
Claudia grinned. "I move that before we start talking, we have a little snack," she said.
Claudia, the junk-food addict, pulled a book off her shelf, opened it, and removed a bag of chocolate kisses. It was a hollow book! Claudia has candy and stuff hidden all over her room, but she'd never gone so far as to use a hollow book before!
"Where'd you get that?" I asked.
"I bought it at a flea market. Isn't it neat? I got this, too." Claudia held out her hand and showed us a ring with a fierce, green dragon's head on it. Claudia, who is Japanese and exotic-looking, loves wild clothes and jewelry.
"Ahem," said Kristy impatiently.
Claudia hurriedly passed around the candy, which Stacey and I turned down. (Stacey's a diabetic — no sweets for her.) Then she replaced the kisses in the book and tossed a package of crackers to Stacey and me.
"Let's start with Mary Anne and Stacey," I suggested. "I bet they had the most interesting experiences."
Mary Anne and Stacey, by the way, are our secretary and treasurer. (In case you're wondering, I'm the official alternate officer. I take over the duties of anyone who has to miss a meeting.)
Mary Anne and Stacey looked at each other. They exchanged a grin.
"You start," they said at the same time. Then they laughed.
I couldn't help feeling just a teensy bit jealous. Mary Anne is my best friend in Sto-neybrook. She was the one who introduced me to Kristy and the others and got me into the club. Of course, Mary Anne already hadra best friend (Kristy), but she's kind of shy, and she's always been envious of Stacey, who's sophisticated and grown-up. Now it looked as if Mary Anne and Stacey shared something — something the rest of us weren't a part of.
"I'll start," Stacey said after a moment of
giggling. "First of all," she began, crossing her long legs, "we had a great time. I like the Pikes — all of them — a lot." (There are eight kids in the Pike family.) "We did the usual beach stuff — swimming, sunning, miniature golf. Claire is still going through that silly stage. She calls everybody a silly-billy-goo-goo. Vanessa has decided she wants to be a poet, so she speaks in rhyme."
"Really?" I said. I couldn't help laughing.
"Yup. It's true. And Byron can swim, but he's afraid of the water. It turns out he has a lot of fears."
"The most important thing about the Pike kids," added Mary Anne, "is something thaf s going on between Nicky and the triplets." (Nicky is eight. The triplets — Byron, Adam, and Jordan — are ten.) "Nicky wants to play with his brothers, but they don't like to have him around. They say he's babyish. But if they won't play with him, that only leaves the girls, and Nicky says he doesn't like girls. So . . ."
"Trouble," I said, nodding. This was important, since I sit for the Pikes a lot.
"Now tell us about you, Dawn," said Stacey. "I've never been to
So I told them about Jeff and the trip and my Disneyland Daddy. "I only did a little baby-
sitting," I added. "Twice I sat for the kids who'd been my favorites when I lived in
"What?" screeched the others.
"Yeah. My dad says their parents were hippies in the sixties. Flower children, he calls them. I'm not sure what that means."
"It must mean you have to name your children after flowers!" Kristy hooted.
We all began to laugh.
"Anyway," I went on, "they remembered me, and we were really glad to see each other. They cried when I left. They thought I'd come back to
"Oh, that's sad," said Mary Anne. Mary Anne is probably the most sensitive one of all of us.
"Yeah," I said. "But I'm sure I'll see them again. The next time I visit my dad."
"What about you, Claud?" asked Stacey. "Who'd you sit for?"
"Mostly this little kid named Skip," replied Claudia. "He and his parents were at the resort the whole time we were. It was no big deal. I
just took him wading and stuff. A couple of other kids, too."
"Well," said Kristy, "I had some interesting jobs while you guys were away."
"Oh, that's right!" I exclaimed, suddenly remembering. "You baby-sat for the Perkinses, didn't you?"
The Perkinses were special for two reasons. Not only were they new clients, but they had moved into Kristy's old house. Kristy lives across town now, which was part of the reason she'd stayed home the past two weeks while the rest of us were away.
You see, I'm not the only one with divorced parents. Kristy's parents are divorced, too, only they've been divorced a lot longer than mine have. Long enough for Kristy's mom to meet a new husband. And to get married again over the summer. Kristy was even in the wedding! And all the members of the Babysitters Club were guests. It was great.
But then Watson Brewer (that's Kristy's stepfather — he just happens to be a millionaire) moved Kristy, her mom, her big brothers Sam and Charlie, and her little brother David Michael, across town to live in his mansion with him. It seemed like a fairy tale to me, but it has caused some problems. For one thing, we
miss having Kristy nearby. For another, we have to pay Charlie to drive Kristy to and from our dub meetings. Plus, Kristy's mom wants Watson and his two kids and Kristy and her brothers to become a real family. So ... no vacation for any of them. Just plenty of togetherness at the mansion.
However, it was fun to have a new family in the neighborhood. And the Perkinses have little kids, which is even better. Kristy had been the first to baby-sit for them. A sitting job right in her old house!
"It was weird," Kristy said. "There was my bedroom and my living room — with this strange furniture. I mean, you know, different furniture. But the girls are great. And Mrs, Perkins is nice, too. I didn't meet Mr. Perkins. The older girl, Myriah, is really smart. And she takes all kinds of lessons — ballet, tap dancing, swimming. And she's only five and a half. Gabbie is the little one. She's two and a half. She says cute things like 'Toshe me up.' Thaf s something she invented. It means, 'Pick me up and give me a hug.' And she kept calling me by my whole name — Toshe me up, Kristy Thomas. . . . Want to see my room, Kristy Thomas?' I think you guys will like the Perkinses."
The phone rang then, and once it started, it kept on ringing. Everyone knew we were home from our vacations and back in business. Even Mrs. Perkins called. By the time our meeting was over, we all had jobs lined up.
I rode my bike back to my neighborhood, feeling great. There were new clients to meet, baby-sitting to do, and two weeks of summer left!
It's amazing how different two people in the very same family can be. Take Jeff and me. We're pretty much alike, except for the obvious differences, such as that I'm a girl and he's a boy, and I'm thirteen and he's only going on ten. But then take Mom and me. (Or Mom and Jeff, for that matter.) I love my mother and we get along great, but she's kind of like Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and I'm like Felix Unger. Mom's not a personal slob like Oscar is, but she's forgetful and absentminded, and our house is usually a mess — except for my room. My room is the calm eye in the center of a hurricane.
This is why I was not surprised to walk into my house after the Baby-sitters Club meeting and find a pair of hedgeclippers in the living room, a trail of popcorn from the front hall to
the kitchen (that was Jeff's — he's not a slob, but he is a nine-year-old boy), and a lot of other things that were in places where they didn't belong.
The mess has only grown worse since my mom got a job. Believe me, Jeff and I are happy that Mom is working — because she's happy she's working, and when she's happy, we're happy. But it does have its disadvantages. For instance, Jeff and I are now in charge of making dinner on weeknights. At first we tried taking turns, but that didn't work out, since Jeff's idea of making dinner is getting a loaf of pumpernickel out of the bread drawer.
Plus, Mom is so busy with her job that she doesn't have time for anything else. And I don't mean housecleaning. I mean dating. In particular, dating Mary Anne's father. See, Mary Anne's mom died a long time ago, and after we moved here, my mother starred seeing Mr. Spier. Mary Anne and I were so excited! We thought we were going to get to be stepsisters. But I don't think that will happen now.
"Hey, Jeff!" I yelled. "Help me with dinner! Mom'11 be home soon."