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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Stevie

BOOK: Stevie
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LET ME TELL YOU A STORY.…

“I’m very disappointed in these grades, Stephanie,” Miss Fenton said. “This time, though, I’m afraid you’re in deeper trouble. It’s nearly the end of the semester, and thanks to these grades several of your averages are slipping into D territory.”

That made me sit up fast, let me tell you. I may not be a straight-A student, but it didn’t take me long to catch on to the real problem here. All Pine Hollow riders have to maintain at least a C average, or no riding until their grades come up. Summer is just weeks away, and if I finish below the cutoff, Max’ll cut
me
off—and that means no riding ALL SUMMER!

Miss Fenton told me that she got all my teachers to agree to let me make up the worst of my bad grades. But there was more. “I’m adding a makeup assignment of my own as well, Stephanie.”

Then she hit me with it. I have to write a report for her, explaining exactly why the work didn’t get done right the first time.

“Don’t look so alarmed,” she said. “You’re a creative girl. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble completing this assignment. I’d like it on my desk first thing Monday morning. And I’ll expect something very interesting.”

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STEVIE: THE INSIDE STORY

A Bantam Skylark Book / February 1999

Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere.

“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller. The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books.

“USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of the United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8462.

All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1999 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books.

eISBN: 978-0-307-82591-9

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.

v3.1

Contents

Special thanks to Sir “B” Farms
and Laura and Vinnie Marino

I would like to express my special thanks
to Catherine Hapka for her help
in the writing of this book.

Dinah Slattery
124 Mountain View Lane
Sugarbush, Vermont

Dear Dinah,

Aren’t you surprised to get an actual letter from me—me, Stevie Lake, who once told a teacher I was allergic to pencils to try to get out of taking an essay test? Join the club. I can hardly believe it myself. But Dad wouldn’t let me call you on the phone. For one thing, he said Mom is waiting for some client to call; but of course he also started squawking about how much it costs to call Vermont from Virginia, and how when I get a job and pay the bills I can make long-distance phone calls whenever I want. Typical parent stuff.

Of course, that begs the question—why don’t I just e-mail you? Here’s the short answer: Brothers stink. And now the long answer. The Loser Posse, also known as my brothers, has been hogging the computer all week, ever since the three of them pooled their money and bought this idiotic new computer game called—get this—Awesome Jawsome. The hero is some stupid shark-headed mutant named Jawbone. I’m not sure what the point of the game is, but an awful lot of it seems to involve chomping on innocent bystanders and trying to rack up incisor points. You heard me. Incisor points. Don’t ask me what it means—I think: it has something to do with teeth. Leave it to Chad, Alex, and Michael to get hooked on the world’s most ridiculous game! Mom and Dad have already warned them about a million times that they’re not supposed to play more than two hours a week until school lets out for the summer, but they haven’t let that stop them (especially when Mom and Dad are too busy chasing me away from the phone to notice what the three dorkateers are doing).

Anyway, I guess that means I’m stuck with snail mail, because if I have to wait another second to tell someone about what happened to me today I’ll probably scream. And even if Mom would let me near the phone, I can’t call Carole or Lisa. Lisa’s at that ballet class her mom makes her take, and Carole’s out making the rounds with Judy Barker; the vet who takes care of the horses at Pine Hollow. (Oh, wait, scratch that last explanation—I just remembered that Judy started coming to Pine Hollow before you moved away, so you know who she is.) Remind me to tell you about Carole’s new job with Judy sometime. Anyway, I figured you were the best person to write to, since you’re sort of involved in what I need to talk about. Well, indirectly, anyway. Actually, in a way, you could say you started the whole thing.

It all began this morning in homeroom. I was just sitting there, minding my own business and hardly talking at all during morning announcements. Then, out of the blue, I heard my name blaring out over the PA system. It was Miss Fenton, of course.

“What was that?” I asked the girl next to me—it was Betsy Cavanaugh, you probably remember her from when you went to Fenton Hall. She’s that tall blond girl who’s always trying to suck up to the Snob Queen (Veronica diAngelo, in case you’ve forgotten—as if anyone could actually forget the girl who once refused to eat the cafeteria’s grilled cheese sandwiches because the cheese wasn’t imported!).

Betsy gave me a sort of snotty look and said, “It was Miss Fenton. You know, our headmistress.” And she stressed “headmistress.”

It was kind of a weird thing to say, even for Betsy, but after half a second I figured it out. I remembered that when Betsy first moved to Willow Creek and started going to Fenton Hall, you and I convinced her that a headmistress was sort of the same as a janitor. And so Betsy asked Miss Fenton to throw away her banana peel for her. Remember that? Miss Fenton looked as surprised as if one of the students had asked her to stand on her head and sing the national anthem. Anyway, then I remembered Betsy is mad at me because I convinced her last week in math class that a denominator is the name of a character from an action movie. So when Ms. Snyder wanted us to find the denominator in a fraction problem, Betsy started giggling really loudly and couldn’t stop. The whole class thought she was crazy—especially when she tried to explain. Naturally, I innocently pretended not to know what she was talking about. I guess that was why she looked kind of annoyed with me today, even though it happened three whole days ago. I mean,
she’d had the whole weekend to get over it. Some people have no sense of humor!

I didn’t have time to worry about that, though. “What did she want?” I asked Betsy with infinite patience. (Did you get that?
Infinite patience.
Pretty cool phrase, huh? Mom uses it all the time.)

“She wants you to come to her office right now,” Betsy said. She looked pretty happy about that, and I guess she thought I was going to get in trouble.

She was right. When I got to the office, I recognized the expression on Miss Fenton’s face right away.

“Sit down, Stephanie,” she said in her super-serious voice.

One good thing you can say for Miss Fenton—she doesn’t waste time beating around the bush. My rear had hardly touched the seat when she started telling me why I was there. It was my grades. Namely, my English test on
To Kill a Mockingbird
—remember, I brought the book along when I came to visit you over spring break?—and a big math test I took a couple of weeks ago, and my last history paper (it was about Paul Revere), and maybe one or two other assignments … The point is, I guess I hadn’t done very well on any of them. You know me. Grades don’t always sink in if I’m busy thinking about something more important, so I guess I hadn’t really noticed until I saw them all in front of me in black and white (well, red and white, mostly, except for the one from my English teacher; who writes all her grades in purple) just how many not-so-great ones I’d been getting lately. I mean, I hadn’t actually
failed
anything, except the math test. But you get the idea.

“I’m very disappointed in these grades, Stephanie,” Miss Fenton said. “I’m sure you are, too. You’re a much smarter girl than these marks indicate.” She kind of sighed then and took her
glasses off so she could rub her eyes, sort of like Mom does when she gets a headache (usually after my dopey brothers have been fighting). “I’ve never understood why a student who is perfectly capable of making straight As is satisfied to scrape by with a C-plus average most of the time.”

“I don’t understand it, either;” I said. I wasn’t sure what she was expecting me to say. It also didn’t seem like the ideal time to point out that my average for the first half of the year was a solid B. Anyway, she just gave me a look and continued.

“This time, though, I’m afraid you’re in deeper trouble,” she went on. “Its nearly the end of the semester; and thanks to these grades several of your averages are slipping into D territory.”

That made me sit up fast, let me tell you. I may not be a straight-A student (duh!), but it didn’t take me long to catch on to the real problem here. You know Max’s rule. All Pine Hollow riders have to maintain at least a C average, or no riding until their grades come up. That’s scary enough most of the time. But the timing right now really stinks. Summer is just weeks away, and if I finish below the cutoff; he’ll cut
me
off—and that means no riding ALL SUMMER! You know how tough Max can be about staff like that. So I was practically shaking in my boots. (Did I mention? My brothers poured molasses in my sneakers yesterday and Mom’s still trying to get them clean, so I actually did wear my low riding boots to school today. Let me tell you, those boots may be nice and comfy when I’m in the saddle, but just try walking around on those hard tile floors all day long and see how comfy they are by the final bell!)

I started to talk then, trying to explain what had happened. How I had been really busy with totally important stuff that I couldn’t possibly have missed, and how I had really, really meant to do a better job on those assignments.

She waved her hand to shut me up, looking sort of, I don’t know,
weary
or something. I kept trying to explain, but it was no use. She didn’t want to hear it.

But don’t worry. There’s some good news, too. Well, sort of. You see, Miss Fenton went on to tell me that she got all my teachers to agree to let me make up the worst of my bad grades. I thought that was pretty cool, even though it means I’ll have to waste even more gorgeous spring afternoons studying and writing boring papers about Paul Revere. Still, it seemed like a small price to pay for a relaxing summer of riding every day.

But there was more. “I’m adding a makeup assignment of my own as well, Stephanie,” Miss F said, looking at me over the tops of her glasses—you know, like she always does when she’s about to say something really serious and wants to make sure you’re hanging on every word.

Then she hit me with it. I have to write a report for her, explaining exactly why the work didn’t get done right the first time and “offering ideas for preventing such problems in the future.” That’s a direct quote, I think. Anyway, it sounds like her, doesn’t it? So I’m sure it was something like that.

I guess I must have gasped when she told me, because she smiled a little.

“Don’t look so alarmed, Stephanie,” she said. You’re a creative girl. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble completing this assignment. I’d like it on my desk first thing Monday morning, exactly two weeks from today And I’ll expect something very interesting.

Interesting?
That’s a joke. Teachers sometimes say they want you to be interesting, but what they really want is for you to be quiet and boring and obedient Definitely
not
interesting. So I know I’m not in for much of an
interesting
time with this report.

Still, I know I can’t afford to mess this up. You remember Miss Fenton—she looks kind of meek and nice, but underneath she’s tough. And I’m probably pretty lucky she’s giving me a chance to save my riding privileges at all. She didn’t have to do that. Of course, even if I’m grateful, that doesn’t mean I’m not still bummed about having to sit around writing some boring report when I could be out riding or whatever. Especially since I’ll probably have to spend hours and hours working on it to make sure it’s good enough—“interesting” enough—to satisfy Miss Fenton and save my grades. Lisa might not mind that kind of work, but hey, I’m not Lisa! For once I almost wish I were, though. Having a little of Lisa’s talent for schoolwork would make me feel a lot more confident about this report, and a lot more certain that I’m not going to mess it up—and mess up my whole summer along with it! If I can’t ride at Pine Hollow, there’s no way Mom and Dad will let me go to riding camp. So Carole and Lisa will go without me, and I’ll be stuck here at home with my Jawboneheaded brothers for three solid months without even being able to escape to the stable.… Ugh! It would be a total nightmare.

So I guess that means I’d better start figuring out what Miss F is expecting. I already have some ideas. You know—lots of boring junk about
responsibility
, her favorite word. With plenty of dull examples about how important it is to do the right thing, do your homework, blah blah blah.

She’ll probably also expect me to say it would have been better if I’d concentrated more on my schoolwork and less on whatever it was I was doing instead. If she only knew all the stuff I was doing instead! There’s no way I would have missed out on any of it, not for
To Kill a Mockingbird
or a bunch of stupid fractions or anything else. I mean, how could I have wasted even
one second of my Vermont trip thinking about Paul Revere when we were doing such interesting stuff? If my teachers cared more about sugaring-off season in Vermont and less about denominators and mockingbirds, I wouldn’t have to worry about my grades at all. Then when I got home there was all that excitement with Pepper and Dorothy DeSoto that I wrote you about, not to mention meeting a real live racehorse and watching her run! And of course, I’ve spent most of the past few weeks thinking about nothing but foxhunting.…

Speaking of the fox hunt, I almost forgot to tell you something. My hand is about to fall off from all this writing, but this is important—Veronica diAngelo is acting really weird.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. The Snob Queen always acts weird. But this goes beyond her usual blabbing about her rich family and expensive clothes and all that stuff. Her behavior is getting downright bizarre. At first all I noticed was that she was walking around with a strange expression on her face—sort of frowny and spaced out. I just assumed she was only looking at me that way because she was still mad about what happened at the fox hunt.

But there has to be more to it than that. She missed school twice last week, and not only did she not look sick, but she also didn’t brag about skipping to go to some fancy spa or anything like that. And here’s the really strange thing. As I was leaving Miss Fenton’s office today, I would have sworn I heard Miss F tell her secretary to call “Miss diAngelo” in next. Could Little Miss Perfect actually be getting herself in trouble? I have no idea, but you know me—I definitely plan to find out! And I promise to keep you updated.

Anyway, I’d better sign off and mail this letter before my hand cramps so much I can’t even pick up the reins (or type my report—ugh!).
I’ll be sure to let you know what happens, with my report and the rest of it.…

Your incredibly responsible friend,
Stevie

BOOK: Stevie
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