Authors: Julia DeVillers
“Did you see her on VOGS fighting with her twin?” Sydney asked innocently.
I glared at her.
“Yeah, that's so cool you're identical twins,” Reilly said.
I changed my glare to a triumphant smile. Sydney frowned.
“I could tell you guys apart anytime,” he said to me. “Even today, when you're both wearing ponytails and old T-shirts. Well, she's got on a mathletes shirt and you've got on a camp shirt, but you're pretty much dressed the same.”
What? He knew all that? I started to get a stupid grin on my face. He knew what we both were wearing today? Was Reilly watching us from afar, like I was watching him? Oh my gosh! He had memorized our outfits??!!
“Erm, excuse me?” a very familiar voice said.
I looked up from the table. And saw a
MATH = EXCITEMENT SQUARED
Oh. It was Emma. My excitement plummeted. That's how Reilly knew. Emma was here in front of him.
“Hey, Emma.” Nick knew her from homeroom.
“Excuse me,” she said. “I need to borrow my sister.”
“Can it wait?” I forced a smile and tried to communicate through twin telepathy.
Not now, I'm talking to Reilly. Not nowâ
“Now,” she said to me.
Emma and I needed to practice our twin telepathy.
I was about to tell her, when I looked at her closely. She was chewing on her hair and breathing kind of gaspy. Uh-oh. Something was wrong.
And that's when I realized she wasn't alone.
And so did Sydney.
“Ooh! Goody!” Sydney interrupted, clapping her hands in mock delight. “The Munchkins have arrived! Do you boys represent The Lollipop Kids?”
Mason and Jason were walking up to us, wearing identical plaid button-down shirts and khaki shorts.
“No,” said Jason. “We represent the Case-Babbitt family.”
“Are you a model?” Mason asked, staring wide-eyed at Sydney.
Sydney gave a smug smile.
Yikes. Time for damage control.
“We'll be right back,” I said to everyone. I got up out of my
chair and followed Emma and the boys over to the magazine section.
“Payton!” Emma said, in a fake cheery voice. “Remember how we told Counselor Case we thought the twins would benefit from some individual attention? And how you could spend some time with Jason?”
“Um, yeah,” I said. “But not today.”
“It turns out it
today!” Emma said, continuing the fake cheerful voice. “Mathletes was cancelled today, so Counselor Case switched our tutoring days.”
I looked at Mason and Jason standing there. Mason was yawning. Jason was smiling at me.
“I'm in Drama,” I hissed at her.
“You promised,” Emma hissed back. “Plus, Jason threatened to have a tantrum if he was stuck watching âbaby math' and then Mason smacked him so Jason started hyperventilating and how would that look for us if my tutoring service project freaked out around your drama service project?”
Jason started sniffling.
I sneaked a peek over at the Drama table. A tantruming twin
be totally embarrassing.
“Payton!” Jason whined. “My mom said you're in Drama Club. Can you show me the tech stuff? The sound effects and the lighting? Pleasssse?”
“Pleasssse?” Emma asked at the same time.
“I told my mom you would today!” Jason announced. “I told her I'd behave as usual if you took me.”
I had no choice and Emma knew it.
“Bye, Jason! And ohâyou have the gecko, right?” Emma asked him.
“I got it.” Jason pulled back his sleeve to show the reptile clinging to him.
Oh, Emma was tricky. She got rid of one twin nightmare and her gecko nightmare at the same time.
“Okay, I'll be with Mason on the other side of the library as far away as possible,” Emma said, obviously trying not to panic at the sight of the gecko.
“Emma, text me when I need to meet you,” I said.
I heard Emma breathe a huge sigh of relief as she walked away with Mason.
I looked at Jason. I looked at the table of Drama people, rehearsing their lines. Great. Just great.
“Okay, Mason,” I said. “Today we're learning about fractions.” I took out a paper plate and a turquoise pen from my backpack.
“Imagine this plate is a pizza,” I said in my best tutor voice. “How many slices would you want to eat?”
“None.” Mason sneezed. “I'm lactose intolerant.”
Then he sneezed again, blowing the paper plate off the table.
“Mason!” I said. “Please cover your mouth with your arm when you sneeze.” I demonstrated, bending my arm and covering my nose and mouth.
“Oh, how sweet,” said a voice behind me. “Emma is playing peek-a-boo.”
I put my arm down and grimaced. Jazmine James. I swiveled around in my chair.
“Peek-a-boo, we see you!” Hector cackled. He was standing, as usual, a bit behind Jazmine.
“No,” I said, trying to maintain my dignity while picking up the paper plate from the floor. “We are learning fractions.”
“Oh.” Jazmine smiled patronizingly. “That's good. Knowing fractions will help you in honors math, Emma.”
“No,” Mason explained. “
already knows fractions. She's teaching them to
“Yeah, she knows that. She was trying to be funny,” I told him. “Obviously she failed.”
“Fractions,” Jazmine said. “Like you and your sister are one-half of a whole person? Or as in, âIf Emma gets a much, much smaller fraction of the math problems correct, then Jazmine will win the mathletes competition'?”
“Hey,” Mason said. “Nobody disses my tutor. You're going down at the competition. Down.”
“Down, boy.” Hector cracked up. “Sit, stay.”
“Jazmine, why don't you just ride your broomstick over to wherever it was you were going.” I sighed. “And take your Flying Monkey sidekick with you.”
But Jazmine was ignoring me. She'd grabbed the paper plate and blue pen and was writing something.
“Here are the odds of you beating me at mathletes, Emma,” Jazmine said, leaning over to push the plate at me. Her smug face was right at Mason's level.
And then he sneezed. A big, wet sneeze.
“Ahhh! Ewww!” Jazmine jumped back, wiping her face frantically.
“I told you to cover your mouth when you did that,” I told Mason mildly.
“Ooopsie, I forgot,” Mason said. “Sorry!”
He didn't look too sorry.
“Hector, get me some tissues,” Jazmine shrieked. “And stop laughing. Where's my hand sanitizer?”
“Excuse me, but you're disturbing the other students,” Mrs. Nicely, the library media specialist, said, hurrying over to Jazmine. “I'll have to ask you to leave.”
“But I have a book to get,” Jazmine protested as Mrs. Nicely led her away.
Hector followed Jazmine out of the library.
It was quiet for a moment.
It was time to be a good role model and stick to the program. Be serious, Emma, mature.
“Did you know that a sneeze can reach speeds of one hundred fifty-seven miles per hour?” I asked him.
Then Mason and I cracked up, hiding our laughter behind our hands so we wouldn't be too loud. After we'd calmed down, I picked up the paper plate to teach fractions. And I saw:
Ugh. Jazmine had written the “odds of Emma beating me” as one in a million. I turned the plate over and reached into my bag. Fortunately, I'd brought extras. So then I demonstrated different fractions and their equivalents to Mason,
who was comprehending the lesson remarkably well.
“So 4/8 equals 8/16,” he was saying, when my cell phone rang.
Oops. I'd neglected to turn it off. I peeked at it. A text from Ox!!!
Yes. Yup. Affirmative.
“Very, very good, Mason,” I said, reaching for my phone. Boy, I'm a good tutor, he's learning so quickly. “Now try equivalent fractions for one-third.”
Ox's text said:
f-ball done. Can I c u?
I texted back:
Ok. Come 2 library.
What was I doing? I was supposed to be concentrating on tutoring, not socializing! But oh well, Ox was on his way! I reached into the little zippered pocket inside my bag and pulled out a lip gloss and little mirror, carefully, so Mason couldn't see what I was doing. I put the lip gloss up to my mouth and peered in the mirror. In the reflection, beyond my face, I noticed Mason was not looking at the paper plate or his scrap paper. I angled the mirror and saw he had something on his lap. He was tapping on it.
“Mason!” I said.
“What do you have there?”
“Um,” he said. “One-third equals two-sixths, equals .333, repeating 3,” he said quickly.
“No,” I said, getting up and moving around to his side of the table. “What do you have
“A calculator?” Mason said.
I took it from him. “Wait,” I said. “This is a scientific calculator. Since when do you carry a scientific calculator? And wait a minute, since when do you know decimals? Point three repeating three . . . ?
Mason slouched in his seat.
“You're not Mason,” I groaned. “You're . . .”
“Emma!” Ox walked up to our table.
For a moment my mind went blank. Mason and Jason
“Hi, Ox,” I said. He looked good, as usual. A little rumpled from football and wearing his jersey over jeans.
“You're number 17,” the twin's voice piped up. “Did you know seventeen is a prime number and chlorine is number 17 in the periodic table in a group known as halogens?”
.” I sighed. Jason looked at me like,
“Ox, if you'll excuse us for just a moment?” I asked.
“Sure,” Ox said, and went over to the magazines and picked one up.
“I cannot believe you'd do this, after we talked about how wrong it was,” I said to Jason.
“I just wanted to do math with an intellectual person for
a change,” Jason whined. “You wouldn't believe the kids in elementary school. They have no passion for higher math.”
I couldn't help but be a bit flattered.
“Plus, Mason said he'd beat me up if I didn't do it,” Jason added.
“Okay, kid, this way.” I steered him in the direction of the Drama table, where I'd last seen Payton and the other twin heading. We passed Ox on the way.
“I'm sorry, Ox,” I said. “I have to go.”
“Uh. Um,” he said. He was kind of bouncing a little and clearing his throat. Was Ox nervous?
“Emma,” Ox said. “Some of us are going out for pizza after mathletes. Want to come with me? I mean, with us?”
Yes. Yup. Affirmative.
“That sounds great,” I said, trying to sound calm and cool. “I'll have to ask my parents and get back to you.”
“Great!” Ox smiled. “Great. Okay. See you.”
As he walked one way toward the exit, I gripped Jason's shoulder and walked the other way toward the Drama table.
“Emma and Ox sitting in aâ,” Jason began singing.
“Quiet,” I ordered. “You do not need to be in any more trouble than you already are.”
Jason stopped singing.
We approached the Drama Club table and I saw Tess and
Sydney, and Payton's crush . . . but, what? No Payton. And no Mason! I had one twin and one missing twin! Where could Payton have taken him? I had no idea.
“So, Jason,” I said. “I have an idea. Let's go hang out in a very quiet place in the library away from everyone and read books. I'm sure your gecko would like some peace and quiet.”
“No way,” Jason said. “My mom said I could hang out with the Drama Club. She said there's a boy who does special effects, like making sound effects.”
“Well,” I said, waving at my Drama friends who were rehearsing at the table. “The Drama Club is very busy right now.”
” Jason said, and took off toward the Drama table. Crud.
I ran after him.
“Hi, Drama Clubbers!” Jason was saying as I reached them. He pulled out my former chair and sat down.
Everyone looked confused.
“Sorry,” I said, trying to stay calm. “Um, this is Jason Case-Babbitt. His mom is Counselor Case. And his dad is Mr. Babbitt, the math teacher.”
“Your dad is the mathletes coach?” Tess asked. “That's neat.”
“Jason is great at math,” I said. “But he's also interested in drama, so his mom said he could join us today.”
“What are we, day care?” Sydney muttered.
“Sure, buddy.” Nick smiled at Jason. “We're doing
Wizard of Oz
“Cool!” Jason said. “I love when The Flying Monkeys carry Dorothy away. They're likeâ”
Jason pushed his chair back and jumped up. He started racing around the table flapping his arms.
“Hello, Payton?” Sydney said, annoyed. “We're trying to rehearse here.”
My face turned beet red. I couldn't even look at Reilly.
“Jason's usually the well-behaved twin,” I said. “So, Jason, if you're going to stay you have to sit down quietly.”
“Gotcha.” He saluted me and sat down at the table. “How 'bout if I play with my Gameguy?”
He pulled his sleeve up. I saw a green tail flick.
Sydney furrowed her brow and leaned closer.
“Oh, wrong arm!” Jason said, and pulled that sleeve down, covering the gecko. Phew. He reached into his other sleeve. “This is where I hide my Gameguy!”
I wasn't sure that playing his handheld game was what his
mother would want. But it would keep him quiet while we rehearsed, right? Emma told me Jason was really into schoolwork, so it was probably a math game or something. Jason plugged in earphones and zoned out.