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Authors: Mark Peter Hughes

I Am the Wallpaper

BOOK: I Am the Wallpaper
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ALSO BY MARK PETER HUGHES

Lemonade Mouth

Published by Delacorte Press
an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
a division of Random House, Inc.
New York

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2005 by Mark Peter Hughes

All rights reserved.

Delacorte Press and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

www.randomhouse.com/teens

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
www.randomhouse.com/teachers

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this work as follows:

Hughes, Mark Peter.
  I am the wallpaper / Mark Peter Hughes.
     p. cm.
  Summary: Thirteen-year-old Floey Packer, jealous of her attractive and popular older sister, shares her home with two younger cousins and experiences a summer vacation filled with embarrassing events, with herself as the star.
  eISBN: 978-0-307-79776-6
[1. Family life—Fiction. 2. Sibling rivalry—Fiction. 3. Cousins—Fiction. 4. Love—Fiction.] I. Title.
  PZ7.H8736113Iae 2005
  [Fic]—dc22
                                               2004010163

v3.1

To Karen,
mi media naranja

I’d like to thank Claudia Sorsby for her insights and suggestions, and Stephanie Lane, my editor, for sticking with me. I’m also indebted to the following people for their support: my parents, Suzanne Winnell Hughes and Peter Hughes; Carolyn Hughes Cuozzo; Jennifer Hughes; Luis Sasky; Mike Coco; Jennifer Fowler; Susan Green; Paul Griffiths; Dan Hillman; Mark Hurwitz; Janne Kaas; Thomas Gavin; Kevin McGurn; Paul Mullaney; Ann O’Rourke; Karen Rodgers; Sylvia Rogers; Jenny and Joel Silberman; Jane Williamson; and Ana and Leila Wons. Finally, special thanks go to my wife, Karen, for her love and encouragement, and to my wonderful children, Evan, Lucía, and Zoe.

Contents
chapter
one: in which i,
floey packer, bust size 36b,
receive a training bra
or
the cult of lillian

I shouldn’t have posed for the stupid photograph. True, Azra shouldn’t have mailed it to Aunt Sarah, but if I hadn’t stood there and let her take it in the first place my whole summer might have been completely different.

My thirteenth birthday, almost six months ago now, was the day everything really started: the spy club, what happened with Azra and Wen, the strange way I practically became famous. On that day back in March I had no clue what I was in for. How could I? At the time, the future looked perfect. This is what I wrote in my diary that morning:

Saturday, March 15, 10:00 a.m.

Finally, today I’m a teenager! I see the next year of my life waving me onward like Brad Pitt in a loincloth! Great things are about to happen. For example:

  1. I will say goodbye to tech ed with Mr. Byrd. (Yay!)
  2. I will say hello to eighth grade. (Hooray!)
  3. Wendel will at long last admit that he likes me.
    *
  4. Lillian will finally get a real job and move out of the house and I won’t have to share a bedroom anymore.
    **

On top of all the other excitement of the day, I would also finally find out what was inside the mystery package from Aunt Sarah. A week before my birthday, it had arrived in the mail. That was kind of strange because I barely knew Aunt Sarah. Sure, I was aware that she lived in Chicago and that she was a teacher like my mom, but I hadn’t seen her since my dad died, and that was when I was two. My mom was almost as curious as I was.

“So, are you going to open it now, Floey?”

“I can’t,” I said. “It says, ‘Do not unwrap until March fifteenth.’ ”

So it sat on top of the television and I could only wonder what might be inside. It was kind of a fun mystery.

When my birthday finally came, Aunt Sarah’s package sat at my feet along with a handful of other gift-wrapped boxes, waiting for me to reach down and open them. Five eager pairs of eyes looked on. Next to Azra, my best friend, sat Wen. He looked especially lovable in his new rectangular black-framed glasses. He still looked geeky, but in an artsy, hip kind of way. It was easy to see why Azra and I both had crushes on him. Near my mother sat Gary, my mother’s tennis partner, and Frank Sinatra, my sister’s crotchety old ferret. The only person missing was my sister, Lillian, who was already an hour late, typical for her. In fact, we’d just decided to go on without her.

But just as I was reaching for Aunt Sarah’s package, Lillian showed up. Everyone turned to see her burst through the door with two complete strangers.

“Everybody, I’d like to introduce you to my new friends, Frida and Digger!” she said in her big, loud voice. “They’re from Sweden!”

Frida and Digger were tall, smiling blond girls in giant parkas. They looked about the same age as Lillian, twenty-one. Lillian explained that she’d met them on the bus coming back from Providence, where she’d been walking some rich lady’s dog.

She spoke slowly to the blonder of the two. “It
is
Digger, right?”

The other one, who must have been Frida, nodded. From the uncertain way the two girls looked at each other, I felt sure their English was shaky at best. Frida took out an unwrapped box of scented soaps. They’d obviously picked it out only moments earlier at the dollar store where the bus dropped them off.

“Happy birthday, Floey,” Frida said to Azra, enunciating every syllable carefully and handing the box to my friend instead of me.

“Come on in,” my mother said, sounding pleased that they were here to take over my birthday. “Let me take your coats. We were just getting started. Anybody want soda?”

That’s when everybody, including Azra and Wen, stood up to say hello to my sister and her new friends, leaving me alone in my chair, the gift-wrapped boxes still unopened.

This was classic Lillian. My sister always had to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. She didn’t care what she did to attract attention. Once, she climbed onto the roof of the town hall, saying she wouldn’t come down until they stopped destroying the rain forests. Another time, when the school was thinking about starting a dress code, she showed up for her classes in a bikini. She was loud and rowdy and fun and everybody loved her for it. Of course, she was also thin and pretty, with thick dark hair and a perfect little nose, so boys practically burst their glands trying to get her to notice them.
She had about a zillion friends and all of them wanted to be just like her.

It was the Cult of Lillian.

Sometimes when my sister is around I feel almost invisible. I’m like the wallpaper, there but barely noticed. But this was especially frustrating because today was supposed to be
my
day, not hers.

Eventually, everyone settled back into the living room. Frida and Digger made themselves comfortable on the sofa between Azra and my mother while Lillian plopped down on the floor in front of Wen. Still, I was going to have to wait a little while longer to find out what was inside Aunt Sarah’s package because now Lillian was entertaining everybody.

“Baba ghanoush,” she said, dunking a celery stick into one of the dips my mother had laid out. “Don’t you just love to say that? It practically flops around in your mouth. Baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush.”

Gary, whose comb-over looked particularly bizarre today (Ma said he was “losing” his hair, but as far as I could see he must have misplaced it long ago and there was no hope he’d ever find it again), sat back in the armchair and repeated it thoughtfully. “Baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush.” Then he chuckled. “You know, when you’re right, you’re right. It’s a great word, Lil.”

Soon, everybody was doing it. “Baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush.”

And nobody was paying any attention to me.

I am the wallpaper.

“Here, Floey,” Wen said, finally breaking Lillian’s spell. He was smiling and holding out a small square package wrapped in birthday paper. “This is for you.”

Frida and Digger smiled politely.

As I unwrapped it, I had a feeling it might be the new Mudslide Crush CD. Happily, it was. “Thanks so much, Wen! I love it!”

Mudslide Crush is a cool local band. They record their own music and burn it to CD. Dean Eagler, the band’s bass player and leader, is a tenth grader in my town, and every girl I know including Azra lusts after him, but I like Mudslide Crush because their stuff is great—kind of like garage music from outer space. They’d played our school Peace-A-Thon a few months before. Anyway, Wen and I are both into music. He plays the trumpet, so he knows a lot more about it than I do, but we like the same stuff. It was one of the reasons I knew we were perfect for each other.

“Floey,” my mother said while I was still staring at the back cover, “why don’t you open the one from Aunt Sarah?”

I set down the CD, finally ready for the mystery package. To open it, I had to peel away several layers of wrapping and then a few sheets of white tissue-paper filler. When I found the actual gift, I just stared at it.

“Come on, Floey,” Lillian said. “What is it?”

Neatly folded at the bottom was a tiny pink bra.

By this time I’d been wearing real bras for almost a year, and I was much too big to fit into this one. I sprouted early, like Ma did. At school I hold my books in front of my chest
so kids don’t stare. It’s really embarrassing. If Aunt Sarah had known anything at all about me, she’d have known this.

BOOK: I Am the Wallpaper
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