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Authors: Stephanie Barden

The More the Merrier (4 page)

BOOK: The More the Merrier
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I
showed Aunt Flora where the pancake mix was way up high, and she reached it down. I measured out the water and only sloshed a little bit out on my way to the bowl.

“Do you want to stir?” I asked Tess.

“No, I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Go for it,” said Aunt Flora.

“I like company,” said Tess.

“Okay,” said my aunt. “Can you be in charge of the Pancake Surprise for a little while?”

“Sure!” I liked the idea of being in charge.

“Look through the fridge and the cupboards and add anything to the batter that you think would be good.” Aunt Flora headed out of the kitchen.

I opened up the fridge and pulled out two bananas and a carton of blueberries. Next I scooped in some peanut butter and added a whole bunch of spices. Last I dribbled in ten drops of red food coloring to make the Surprise even more surprising.

“How's it coming, Cinderella?” my aunt called from the bathroom.

“Good,” I said. “Except the Pancake Surprise is too thick to stir.”

“Add some liquid and use your hands to mix it together,” she said.

I put some milk into the bowl and started mashing the Pancake Surprise together with my hands. It turned a dark purple and so did I, all the way up to my elbows.

“Wow.” Aunt Flora and Tess came back into the kitchen. “That's the most interesting Pancake Surprise I've ever seen.”

“Should we eat it?” I stuck my nose down close and gave a big sniff. “It smells pretty good, even though it looks pretty weird.”

“Sure we should.” Aunt Flora put a pan on the stove and started heating some oil.

I went over to the sink and washed my hands. The batter came off, but the purple stayed on. I washed them again. “I think the Pancake Surprise turned me purple.”

“I guess it was a Purple Potion instead,” said Aunt Flora.

We sat down and ate the first batch of pancakes, which were actually pretty good.

“More!” said Tess.

“Okay.” Aunt Flora went back to the stove and heated more oil.

A weird
knock-bounce-knock-bounce
noise came from the front door.

“What in the world is that?” asked Aunt Flora.

“That's Charlie. He can't do anything without his basketball.” I did a big sigh and went to answer the door. Tess did a big sigh and followed me.

“Don't let Miss Purvis out!” called Aunt Flora.

I opened up the door a crack and kept it in place while we talked. “Hi, Charlie.”

“Hi, Tarlie!” Tess yelled through the crack in the door.

“Why aren't you opening the door?” he asked.

“Because my aunt's cat isn't supposed to go outside,” I said.

Miss Purvis came running and tried to push through the door with her nose. When it wouldn't budge, she started to yowl.

“That is one noisy cat,” said Charlie.

Miss Purvis yowled louder and stuck her paw through the crack in the door.

“I should probably close the door,” I said. “I don't want her to squeeze through.”

“Okay,” said Charlie. “My mom just told me to come over and tell Flora that if you need anything, we're right next door.”

“I'll tell her.” I reached my hand through the crack to scoop Miss Purvis's paw back in.

“Whoa!” said Charlie. “What happened to you?”

I'd forgotten I was purple. “I had a little problem in the kitchen.”

“A
little
problem?” said Charlie.

“Purple Potion!” yelled Tess.

“No kidding,” said Charlie.

I got Miss Purvis's paw through the crack and shut the door. “Bye, Charlie.”

“See ya, Tinder and Tess!” Charlie's bounces faded down the front walk.

Tess skipped back to the kitchen. “Tinder and Tess! Tinder and Tess!”

“What did Charlie want?” asked my aunt.

“His mom sent him over to say, if you need anything, they're right next door.”

“That was nice,” said my aunt.

We sat down and ate more pancakes. We stuck out our tongues to see if they were turning purple, but only my hands and arms had changed.

The phone rang, and Aunt Flora answered it. “It's for you, Cinderella. It's Erin.”

“Hi,” said Erin. “Are you ready to come over and practice spelling?”

“Yep,” I said. “We're just finishing up lunch.”

While I waited to be picked up, I washed my hands over and over again and told Aunt Flora all about the spelling bee. Starting in first grade, every class has one, and the three best spellers get a ribbon. Once you're in third grade, the three best spellers get a ribbon and get to be in the all-school spelling bee. That one is very big and fancy. It's at night, so all the parents can come after work. The spellers get to be up on the stage in the lunchroom and get to talk into a microphone, which is something I myself have never done.

“Do your parents know about all this?” asked Aunt Flora.

“Yep,” I said. “I'm supposed to call and tell them if I make it into the final, and they're going to try to change their flight and come home a day early. Do you think you can come?”

“Of course!” said Aunt Flora. “I was so sorry to have to miss your dance recital.”

“You don't have to be sorry,” I said. “You were doing something very, extremely important.”

And that was true. Aunt Flora had been helping fix people's teeth in some other country.

“Well, thank you for understanding,” said Aunt Flora, “but I wouldn't miss your spelling bee for the world.”

“If I make it, that is,” I said.

“True,” said Aunt Flora.

“There's something more too. Erin and I are planning on being the best spellers in our class. Whoever makes it the furthest in the all-school spelling bee gets to organize a party.”

“That sounds like fun,” said my aunt.

“Really, really fun,” I said. “So you have to keep it super top secret that we're practicing, because we don't want anyone else to practice harder.”

“My lips are sealed,” said Aunt Flora.

Erin's mom honked her car horn out front, and I ran for the door.

“Don't let the cat out!” called Aunt Flora.

W
hen I jumped in the car, Erin said, “You're part purple!
P-u-r-p-l-e
.”

“Yes, I am,” I said. “
Alas. A-l-a-s
.”

I told Erin and her mom all about the Pancake Surprise that turned into a Purple Potion.

Then I told them all about Miss Purvis.

“I can't wait to meet her,” said Erin.

“I can't wait for you to meet her either,” I said. “She's the kind of cat that's sort of picky, but I'm bound and determined to be her best friend by the end of the week.”

We got to Erin's house and went right upstairs to her room to study. The big book full of spelling words was waiting for us on her bed, and she jumped up and pulled it onto her lap. I kicked off my one white Skecher and my one pink Skecher and jumped up next to her.

“I like your shoes,” she said.

“I'm mix-matched today,” I said.

“That reminds me,” said Erin. “I found your sandal in my dress-up box.”

“Hurray! That will make my mom very happy.”

We opened up the spelling word book. There were four columns of words running down each page from the top to the bottom.

“It starts with first-grade words and goes all the way to fifth grade,” said Erin.

“Let's skip first and second,” I said. “We should know those by now.”

“Okay,” said Erin. “We'll learn third for sure and then fourth and fifth if we can.”

“Do you want to ask or spell first?” I asked.

“I'll ask,” said Erin. “You're first word is
kitten
.”

“That's a good one to start with,” I said. “
Kitten. K-i-t-t-e-n. Kitten
.”

“Yes,” said Erin. “You're next word is
fishing
.”

Erin asked me twenty-seven words and I got them all right, except the bonus word, which was
invention
. Then it was my turn to ask.

“You're first word is
jeans
,” I said.


Jeans
,” said Erin. “
J-e-a-n-s. Jeans
.”

“That's right,” I said. “But remember, there's also the other kind of genes, the ones inside us.”

“Oh yeah,” said Erin. “How do you know which kind they mean?”

“In the spelling bee you can ask for a definition or to have it put in a sentence,” I said. “I learned that last year because I spelled
knew
wrong, but I got another chance.”

“Okay,” said Erin. “Please put
jeans
in a sentence.”

“Certainly,” I said. “Erin is wearing a new pair of jeans today.”


Jeans
,” said Erin. “
J-e-a-n-s
.
Jeans
.”

She got all the rest of her words right, even her bonus one, which was
amazed
.

We spent all afternoon going back and forth with the columns; but when it was time for me to go home, we had only made it through third grade. We wanted to keep studying, so I called Aunt Flora to see if Erin could spend the night.

“We'd love to have Erin over,” said Aunt Flora. “The more the merrier!”

“Hey, that's what I say,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I learned it from you.”

When we got to my house, there were Chinese food cartons all over the dining-room table, and the house smelled de-licious with a capital
D
.

“Erin, Erin, Erin!” yelled Tess.

Erin picked her up and twirled her around.

Miss Purvis ran into the room to see what the commotion was.

“Hello.” Erin bent down to pet Miss Purvis, but she just looked Erin up and down and stalked out of the room.

“I see what you mean about her being picky,” said Erin.

“I'm so glad you could join us, Erin.” Aunt Flora walked out of the kitchen with a handful of chopsticks.

“Awesome,” I said. “I love those things, but I'm terrible with them.”

“Me too,” said Erin.

“Go wash your hands,” said Aunt Flora. “Maybe some more of the purple will come off before we eat.”

We raced to the bathroom, and I washed three times. “I think it's fading.” I showed Erin.

“Maybe a little,” she said.

We sat down, and Aunt Flora wrapped her fingers around her chopsticks and clacked them together. I tried to copy her, but the chopsticks felt wobbly in my fingers. She reached down to her plate, picked up a piece of chicken, and ate it. I reached down to my plate, picked up a piece of chicken, and spun it out of my chopsticks and onto the table.

Erin tried too, and chicken pieces kept plopping back down onto her plate. “When I was little, I did it this way.” She put down one of her chopsticks and waved the other one around. “I pretended it was a magic wand and . . .” She stabbed the chopstick through a piece of chicken and held it up. “Ta-da!”

We all clapped.

“Me! Me!” yelled Tess, and she stabbed down on a piece of chicken too. “Ta-da!” She waved it over her head.

“It doesn't work with rice and noodles, though,” said Erin.

“I'll go get us some forks.” Aunt Flora headed into the kitchen just as the phone rang.

Tess ran and picked it up. “Hi!” she said, and then she nodded.

“You have to talk out loud,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “Yes. No.” She hung up.

Erin and I burst out laughing as Aunt Flora came back into the room with a bunch of forks.

“Who was on the phone?”

“Rosemary T.” Tess climbed back up into her chair.

“Who's that?” asked Aunt Flora.

“She's a girl in our class. She lives down the block,” I said. “It's good you answered the phone, Tess, because I'm in the middle of giving her the silent treatment.”

“Why?” My aunt gave us all forks and sat down.

“Because she's being very, extremely mean lately,” I said.

“What has she done?”

“She says I'm childish and I embarrass her,” I said. “And she won't let me be in her Pierced Ears Club.”

“She won't let me be in her Dance Class Club either,” said Erin, “even though I start next week.”

“But we don't want to be mean right back to her,” I said, “so we're giving her the silent treatment instead.”

“Because if you can't say anything nice,” said Erin, “you shouldn't say anything at all.”

Aunt Flora was about to say something, but the phone rang.

“If that is Rosemary T. again,” I said, “remember, I'm giving her the silent treatment because I don't want to be not-nice.”

My aunt picked up the phone. “Hello? Oh hello, Rosemary T., Cinderella's busy at the moment. Can I take a message?”

Me and Erin looked at each other very surprised. Grown-ups don't usually do things like that for kids.

“I'm sorry, but Cinderella has plans for tomorrow. She and Erin are practicing spell . . .”

Erin and me started shaking our heads like mad because Aunt Flora was about to tell the super secret. My aunt's eyes got all big, and she covered her mouth with her hand. She had just realized what she'd almost done. “Spells,” she said. “They're practicing spells.”

Tess turned the bag that the Chinese food had come in upside down, and fortune cookies spilled all over the table.

“And now it's fortune time,” my aunt said, and she hung up.

We all burst out laughing.

“Sorry, I almost blew it,” said Aunt Flora.

Tess chose a fortune cookie, cracked it open, and handed the little white piece of paper to my aunt to read.

“‘You will take a chance—and win,'” read Aunt Flora.

“Mine says: ‘A pleasant surprise is waiting for you,'” said Erin.

“Mine is: ‘You have common sense and a lot of charm,'” I said.

“That's a nice one,” said my aunt.

“I'd rather get a surprise or win something,” I said.

“Common sense and charm will get you far.” My aunt got a serious look on her face. “You know, giving Rosemary T. the silent treatment might work for a while, but you'll have to talk to her eventually.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it will start to get too awkward,” she said. “Like the phone call tonight.”

I thought about what she was saying and knew she was right. If my mom had been here when Rosemary T. called, she would have made me talk to her for sure. “But I don't have anything good to say.”

“Don't you want to discuss what's going on with the two of you?” asked my aunt. “Don't you want to try to figure out what the problem is?”

“I'm not sure,” I said.

“You have to do what feels right to you,” said Aunt Flora. “But sometimes you get pushed too far, and you have to tell someone what's what.”

“What's that mean?” I asked.

“It means telling someone how you're really feeling,” said my aunt, “clearing the air.”

“I guess clear air would be good,” I said. “But I'm hoping it will clear up all on its own.”

“It might,” said my aunt.

“I mean, Rosemary T. used to be nice, and she could be nice again. Then I wouldn't have to have a what's what at all.”

“This is where your common sense is going to come in handy.” Aunt Flora broke open her fortune cookie. “‘All your hard work will pay off,'” she read.

“I wish I'd gotten that one,” I said.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because maybe it would be about the spelling bee. Maybe all our studying would pay off in us winning.”

“Well, in that case”—Aunt Flora handed me her fortune—“it's yours.”

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