The Diary of Melanie Martin

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March 1

Dear Diary,

You will never in a million years guess where we're going.

Nope. Guess again.

Never mind, I'll tell you. Italy! We're going to

In Europe!

I even have a passport. It's really cool except I'm squinting my eyes in the photo, so I look like a dork.

At least that's what my brother said. I call him Matt the Brat. You would too.

Trust me.

He is so annoying it's not even funny. He copies me, hides my hairbrush, brags that he has no homework, and spies on me when I have friends over. When he's extra annoying, I'll hit him lightly, he'll cry, and then
I'll
get in trouble.

Or take tonight. We went out for Chinese food, and I ordered beef and broccoli. Sometimes I use chopsticks, sometimes I use a fork, but I always eat all the meat and only one broccoli–two if Mom is
watching. Anyway, after I drank up all my Sprite, Matt took his straw and started blowing bubbles into his. Really loudly. I said, “You are so disgusting!” He smiled and said, “I know.” And Mom beamed at him like he's so adorable.

He
used
to be adorable. Back when he was a newborn, six years ago. I guess he must still be kind of cute because everyone always makes a fuss over his blue eyes and long lashes and dinky freckles.

People used to call me cute too, but they don't anymore. No one notices me much.

I don't mind. Who wants to be called cute when you're already ten?

Okay, maybe I mind a little. I miss when people called me cute and I didn't have homework and no one expected me to set the table or put away dishes or make my bed or act my age.

Mom reminds me that now that I'm older, I get an allowance. Four dollars because I'm in fourth grade. Sounds good, right?

Well, half the time she forgets to give it to me and I forget to remind her. Then when I do say, “Mom, you
must owe me twenty dollars by now,” she'll hand me just four and tell me she's always buying me stuff.

Like this new diary, for instance.

Anyhow, Dad got a bunch of frequent-flier miles because he frequently flies for his job. He said we could all fly somewhere for free, and he let Mom pick where. She picked Italy because it's full of art and she loves art.

She even loves teaching it. She teaches in the middle school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It can be embarrassing having Mom in the same building as me. Like when she waves or wears something weird or talks to my teachers or puts her arm around me in the hall.

But I like knowing she's close by.

Right now we're both counting the days until spring break.

Uh-oh, it's already ten—like me! I better turn out the light.

Yours truly,

March 12

Dear Diary,

I told Miss Sands that my family was going to Italy for ten days and that since the planes were full on the weekend, we'd be leaving next Thursday afternoon, so I'd miss one and a half days of school. Big deal, right? One and a half puny days. I expected Miss Sands to say, “Italy! Lucky you!” or something.

But she didn't. She said that in Social Studies the class will be doing a chapter called “The Family,” so while we're away, she wants me to think about my “place in the family.” She also said I'll have to write a poem and bring in postcards to share with my classmates.

Miss Sands can be so strict. Family? Who does she think I'm taking the trip with? Friends? Strangers? It would be impossible
not
to think about my family! And postcards sound okay—but a poem? How will I know what to write?

I asked her if it could be short, and she said to make it at least thirty lines.

Thirty lines!

I wouldn't mind writing a haiku or a limerick—but thirty lines!

Miss Sands has been teaching us poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Langston Hughes and Shel Silverstein. Sometimes she makes us memorize poems. The one I memorized was by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has two lines:

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings
.

I
was
as happy as a king (or queen), except now I'm starting to worry about writing that stupid poem.

Mom says I worry too much.

I'm even a little worried about going away.

I mean, I've never flown over the ocean. And I've never spent ten days nonstop with just my family and nobody else. And I've never been to a faraway place where the food is different and the language is different and everything is different. And who am I supposed to play with for all that time? Matt? Usually I
spend half my vacation in my jammies hanging around the apartment
avoiding
Matt. The other half I spend at Cecily's.

Cecily is my best friend. She and I have been friends since kindergarten. She lives with her mom about ten blocks away. She has a bunny who bites and a cat who purrs. Cecily and I have the exact exact exact same taste in boys. Right now we both like a boy named Christopher.

It can be bad when two friends like the same boy. In our case it's not, though, because Christopher never says hi to either one of us.

Not only do we like the same boy (Christopher), but we hate the same boy (Norbert).

Norbert's new, and nobody really likes him. He just moved to New York over Christmas. (I forget where he's from. Cecily says Mars.) Even his name is weird. Norbert. He never talks much, and he has a little bit of an accent. One time he was talking about a magazine subscription and said, “Ten issues for fifteen dollars,” and everyone thought he said, “Tennis shoes for fifteen dollars.” We all laughed, but later
when I told Mom about it, she defended him saying that “ten issues” and “tennis shoes” do sound a lot alike. (Sometimes Mom just doesn't get it.)

Cecily calls him Nerdy Norbert. She said he once picked his nose in the library—and ate it—but I really don't know if that's true. Norbert is tall with brown eyes, and his hair always sticks up in the back. That
is
true. He has a bad hair day every day. Plus his shirts are purple and orange and green, which is too rainbow bright. And his backpack has a pair of fuzzy dice dangling from it. How out is that?

Anyway, I'm going to miss Cecily when we're in Italy. Ten days with nobody to hang out with except Matt the Brat! What if I die of utter boredom? What if Matt annoys me to death?

Worrying,

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