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Authors: Stephanie Barden

The More the Merrier (8 page)

BOOK: The More the Merrier

e and Erin were playing handball in the covered play court at recess when Hannah and Abby ran up to us all out of breath.

“Is your aunt really a witch?” asked Hannah.

“And does she really have a spooky, witch cat?” asked Abby.

“What are you talking about?” I said.

“Rosemary T. is telling everyone that your aunt is scary and weird,” said Hannah. “So scary and weird that she might go home sick after recess just so she doesn't have to be here when your aunt visits.”

I could not believe my ears at all.

“She says your aunt has a wart on her nose like a witch and does spells and fortunes,” said Abby.

Right then and there I saw red-red-red! I knew for positive certain that I was pushed too far. “Where is Rosemary T.?”

“She's over by the basketball courts,” said Hannah.

I marched out to find her, and Hannah ran ahead. Erin and Abby walked with me, but we didn't talk at all. I was too busy trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say in my what's what with Rosemary T.

A bunch of kids were standing together under a basketball hoop, and the Rosemarys were right in the middle.

“Rosemary T.!” I yelled. “I need to talk to you!”

I walked up close to Rosemary T., and the rest of the third grade crowded in around us.

“You need to stop telling lies about my aunt this very minute!” I yelled right to her face.

Rosemary T. stared at me with big, open eyes and a big, open mouth.

The end-of-recess bell rang, and kids started running from everywhere to get in their lines. Everyone except me and Rosemary T.

“You have pushed too far,” I said. “And I need—”

But Rosemary T. turned around and headed for our class line.

“I am not finished!” I yelled after her.

She ignored me and hurried to catch up with Rosemary W.

“Well, fine!” I yelled. “Then meet me here at lunch.”

I stomped over and got in at the end of the line and stomped right into class.

“Cinderella,” Mr. Harrison said when we got inside.

My heart went down to my stomach. I thought for sure I was about to get in trouble for yelling and stomping and not getting into line right away.

“Why don't you tell us a little bit about your aunt while we wait for her?” is all he said.

“Sure!” I jumped up out of my seat, I was so relieved. “My aunt's name is Flora McGee. She's my mom's sister, and she works in a dentist office. She's taking care of me and Tess while our parents are away, and her cat is staying with us too.” Then all of a sudden I had a huge

This was a vexylent chance to set the record straight.

“Her cat's name is Miss Purvis,” I said. “She's mostly all white and is not at all spooky.”

“Except she is pretty loud,” said Charlie.

“I guess so,” I said. “But it's just because she wants to go outside. Back to my aunt, she is not weird or scary at all. Everything about her is very, extremely regular and everyday.”

“Her car isn't regular and everyday!” said Mr. Harrison.

“I guess not.” I did a big sigh on account of all these interruptions. “But everything else about her is very normal. She's just a regular, old dental hygienist.”

And right then the classroom door flew open and in came Aunt Flora. She had a crown on her head and was holding a wand in one hand and a big sack with a picture of a tooth on it in the other. “Hello, everyone!”

My heart went down to my stomach all over again. Aunt Flora was not helping me convince everyone that she was regular and normal at all.

“Cinderella calls me a dental hygienist, but I prefer the title Tooth Fairy.” She did a little spin on her toes, and the golden strappy sandals she had on her feet sparkled a little bit.

I plunked down into my chair and put my head in my hands.

“Hey!” said Jack. “I know you. You clean my teeth.”

I looked up. Jack didn't look too surprised by my aunt.

“Do I do a good job?” asked Aunt Flora.

“I don't know,” said Jack.

“Do you have any cavities?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“Then I do,” she said. “And so do you. You get a prize!” She reached into the bag she'd brought and handed Jack a little tube of toothpaste.

“Awesome!” he said. “Thanks!”

“You clean my teeth too,” said Erin. “And you do a very good job.”

“Thank you, Erin.” Aunt Flora gave her a toothbrush.

“Mine too,” said Charlie.

“Here you go, Charlie.” Aunt Flora tossed him some floss.

“I wish you cleaned my teeth,” said Trevor.

Aunt Flora smiled and sent a little tube of toothpaste his way. She waved her magic wand around a few times, and her bracelets jangled. “How often should you brush?”

“After every meal,” the class called out.

Aunt Flora tossed out a handful of toothbrushes.

“Who here has lost a tooth?” she asked.

Hands went up everywhere, and little tubes of toothpastes and flosses went flying. Kids scrambled around picking them up like it was an egg hunt.

“I brush my dog's teeth,” said Abby. “And you aren't scary at all, by the way.”

Aunt Flora looked a little confused. “Thank you, I think.” She reached deep in her bag and threw a package of little pink pills to her. “Those are disclosing tablets. After you brush and floss, chew one of them up. The dye turns any plaque left on your teeth pink so you can see where you need to brush better.”

“Ooh,” said Hannah. “I want some of those.”

“Do you brush and floss?” Aunt Flora asked.

“Regularly,” said Hannah.

“Bravo!” Aunt Flora threw some disclosing tablets to her too.

I looked over at Abby and Hannah. They smiled big at me, and I smiled big right back.

Aunt Flora kept asking questions and giving out teeth stuff. She was very, extremely fair; and by the end everyone had at least one thing.

“What a vexylent visitor!” said Mr. Harrison. “Not only did we learn what a dentist does, we also learned about taking care of our teeth.”

“And it was fun too!” said Zachary, not so quiet after all.

A lot of kids agreed and I smiled, glad my aunt wasn't just plain regular and normal.

Aunt Flora got permission to stay for lunch, and she was popular like you wouldn't believe. Our lunch table was jam-packed with kids wanting to sit by us.

After we ate, Erin and I gave Aunt Flora a tour of the school and introduced her to important people like the school secretary and the librarian. The only awshucksible thing about Aunt Flora being there was that I couldn't have my what's what with Rosemary T. Now that I'd started, I sort of wanted to finish.

fter school we went home to clean up the house, because my mom and dad were coming home the next day. I mean, MY MOM AND DAD WERE COMING HOME THE NEXT DAY! All in capitals! Me and Tess were so excited, with a big, huge, humongous, capital

Aunt Flora started singing the song that Snow White sings when she's cleaning up the dwarfs' house. It's the one that goes: “Just whistle while you work and hum a merry tune.” It has a lot more words; but we didn't know what they were, so we just sang that over and over. We also did some tap dancing and some jumping on furniture, and it turned out that cleaning up can actually be sort of fun.

Tess was in charge of picking toys up off the floor, and I was in charge of putting them away. Aunt Flora was in charge of vacuuming and dishes and anything else she thought of. All of a sudden, between the singing and tap dancing and cleaning, I heard the doorbell ringing and ringing, so I ran and opened it a crack.

“Finally!” yelled Rosemary T.

“Just a second,” I said. “I'll go tell my aunt I'm going outside.”

I shut the door and started to run to Tess's bedroom, where Aunt Flora was vacuuming; but Rosemary T. pushed open the front door just like it was her own. “Quit slamming the door in my face!”

“Shut the—,” I started to say, but Miss Purvis was too fast. She dashed out the door. I ran outside, and Rosemary T. followed me.

For once in his life Charlie wasn't practicing basketball in his driveway, and it was the one time I really wished he was.

I watched Miss Purvis trot down the block. “See which way she goes,” I ordered. “I have to let my aunt know what happened.” I ran back inside and yelled, “Aunt Flora! Miss Purvis escaped!”

Aunt Flora turned off the vacuum and came into the living room.

“What?” she asked.

“Miss Purvis escaped, and Charlie's not around to help me catch her,” I said.

“I don't think you can really catch a cat,” said Aunt Flora.

“Oh no.” I crumbled down onto the floor and felt sick to my stomach. “There must be something I can do. Would food work?”

“You could try,” said Aunt Flora.

We went into the kitchen and got a can of cat food.

“Here,” said Aunt Flora, “these might help too.” She slipped four of her bracelets on my arm, and I ran out the door.

“Now, are you finally going to talk to me?” asked Rosemary T.

“Now,” I said, “I'm going to find Miss Purvis. Which way did she go?”

Rosemary T. pointed, and I headed down the block.

“Here, Miss Purvis! Here, kitty!” I waved the can of food around, and the bracelets jingled.

Rosemary T. followed after me. “Do you have to yell? It's so embarrassing.”

That stopped me in my tracks. “I'm doing this because you let Miss Purvis out!”

“I don't mean just now,” said Rosemary T. “I mean like today at recess.”

“I had to yell to get you to stop talking.” I started to walk again and jingled the bracelets.

“And now you're trying to be just like your aunt and wear tons of jewelry.”

I started to tell her again that I was doing all this yelling and jingling because of her, but instead I just said, “I will take that as a compliment.”

Rosemary T.'s mouth dropped open like I'd said something crazy. “Are you going to start wearing a crown and pretending to be the tooth fairy next?”

“Maybe,” I said.

That stopped Rosemary T. in her tracks, but I kept walking. I'd caught sight of Miss Purvis cleaning her paws a little ways down the block.

Rosemary T. caught up. “You're joking, right?”

“No,” I said.

“But you're not weird like her,” said Rosemary T. “You'll go back to normal when your mom and dad get home.”

“I don't know about that,” I said. “Weird people are interesting. I'd rather be weird than ordinary or boring any day.”

“That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.” Rosemary T. looked very shocked.

“Rosemary T.” I stopped and looked her right in the eyes. “I have been trying to ignore your meanness since the beginning of the year, but you have pushed me too far. Now it's time for me to tell you what's what.”

“Is that another one of your childish, made-up words?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “A what's what is a real, true thing.”

“Well, I've never heard of it.” She put her hands on her hips and looked right back at me. “Half of the time I can't understand a word you're saying.”

“Well, I will speak slow and clear so you can.” And right then I felt like I was giving a Table Book Talk at school and not looking for Miss Purvis or having a what's what at all. “I feel like your Main Theme this year has been to be mean. To give a few examples of this, you keep talking all about your clubs in front of kids who aren't in them, and their feelings are getting hurt. You even made Kristy cry about the class party.”

Something was tickling my ankles, but Rosemary T. just stood there and didn't say anything, so I kept talking. “You and Rosemary W. whisper all the time and make fun of people. You bug me about what I eat and some of the things I do too.”

The tickling was still going on, but Rosemary T. and I were in the middle of a stare down. “You called me names and said really mean things about my aunt and Miss Purvis too.” And then I realized the tickling was Miss Purvis, and I reached down and scooped her up. She rubbed her head under my chin and purred and purred. “And you can plainly see that this is not a spooky, black cat, just a very nice one.” I started walking home before Miss Purvis could get tired of being held and start to do a Halloween yowl.

“Well, I think your Main Theme this year is to be a baby.” Rosemary T. ran to catch up with me. “You don't have pierced ears and you always lose shoes and you hold your mom's hand! You even skip and sing with little kids.”

Miss Purvis squirmed a little in my arms, but I rubbed her side and kept walking.

“In fact,” said Rosemary T., “you're so weird and dumb and babyish that I don't want to be friends with you anymore!”

My feelings started hurting like the dickens, and I got tears in my eyes. There was no way I was going to let Rosemary T. see them, though. I buried my face in Miss Purvis's fur and walked faster.

“Did you hear me?” she said.

Of course I'd heard her, but I had a big lump of sad in my throat, and I could not get any words by it.

“I'm serious!” she said very loud.

And I believed her. We passed her house, but she kept walking with me.

“I am officially kicking you out of all my clubs! If we're not friends anymore, I don't want you in them!”

I thought about reminding her that I wasn't in all her clubs, but then I figured out that it didn't really matter. We made it to my front door, and Rosemary T. stood there with her hands on her hips waiting for me to say something.

The lump of sad in my throat was still there, but it was smaller and I could talk a little bit now. I couldn't think of anything to say, though, so I just said “Oh.”

“Oh!” she shouted. “That's all you're going to say?”

My front door opened, and Aunt Flora stuck her head out. “Is everything all right?”

“Everything's fine,” I said. “Our what's what got a little loud is all.” I handed her Miss Purvis, and she nodded and shut the door.

Rosemary T. kept her hands on her hips and made mean stink eyes at me.

“We've been friends since we were babies,” I said. “It would be weird to stop.”

“It would not be weird,” she said. “I'm never weird.”

“Well, it might be awkward then.”

“It will not. I just won't talk to you.”

“I thought not talking was babyish,” I said.

Rosemary's stink eyes got even stinkier. She made a big, huge, unicorn
noise and huffed off down the block.

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