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BOOK: The Thing About Leftovers
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Chapter 15

Standing outside the
massive double front doors at Miyoko's house before my first sleepover in Lush Valley, I felt very small—and nervous—about everything, especially where I lived. I hoped Mr. and Mrs. Hoshi wouldn't ask which big Lush Valley house was mine, because somehow I knew the answer would disappoint them.

Naturally, as soon as Mrs. Hoshi opened the door, she said, “Hello, Fizzy! We're so glad you could come. Did you have to come far? Where do you live?”

Mrs. Hoshi was petite and pretty, like Miyoko, and very well dressed—except for the house shoes on her feet.

I turned and waved at Mom—who'd stayed in the car—and then stepped onto the fancy marble floor in the foyer. “Actually, my family has two houses,” I heard myself say.

“Oh, how nice!” Mrs. Hoshi said. “Where are they?”

“Um . . . well, my mom has a town house here in the valley,” I said as Miyoko took my suitcase and set it at the bottom of the staircase.

“I know just where that is,” Mrs. Hoshi said, helping me out of my coat.

Of course she did. They were the only town house complexes—the only
small
homes—in all of Lush Valley. “And my dad has a house outside the valley, on Candlelight Way.”

“Shoes go there,” Mrs. Hoshi said, pointing with a manicured hand to a black rubber traylike thing hidden under an ornately carved bench.

I didn't really want to take my shoes off because I hadn't expected to and therefore hadn't inspected my socks. But I did it anyway. My socks seemed okay: no holes and not too dingy.

Mrs. Hoshi hung my jacket in the coat closet and said, “Come on in the kitchen and I'll make you some spiced tea.”

Miyoko and I followed Mrs. Hoshi into the chef-quality, state-of-the-art kitchen, where she fixed each of us a cup of hot tea.

“So your parents don't live together?” Mrs. Hoshi said, looking concerned, as she handed me a steaming mug.

“No, ma'am,” I said. “But everything's okay.”

“Are they married?”

“Um . . . not to each other,” I said. Then I took a sip of tea, which tasted a lot like mulled apple cider, only not sweet.

Mrs. Hoshi looked at me like,
Then how could everything be okay?

Exactly,
I thought, but what I said was, “They still like each other and everything—they're still friends.”
It's best for everyone if you just say whatever the adults want to hear.

Mrs. Hoshi pursed her lips. I figured either she didn't believe me or she didn't think friendship was enough. Since I didn't know which, I didn't know what to say next.

Luckily, Miyoko did: “Mom, I'm going to take Fizzy upstairs and show her my room now.”

“Leave your tea here,” Mrs. Hoshi instructed.

Fine by me,
I thought, because what good is tea without sugar?

• • •

It turned out that Miyoko didn't have a “room.” What she did have was a “suite,” complete with sitting area, study area, bedroom, and full bathroom.

“Wow,” I said. “This is . . .
really
nice.”

“Thanks,” Miyoko said, quietly closing the door behind us. “Listen, I'm sorry about my nosy tiger mom.”

I shook my head. “That's okay. And anyway, I didn't think your mom was
vicious
or
tiger
like.”

Miyoko laughed. “‘Tiger mom' is an expression for a very controlling mom who demands perfection in all things.”

“Does yours demand perfection . . . in all things?”

“Pretty close.”

I plopped down on the bed. “Then it's a good thing I don't live here.”

“Yeah,” Miyoko said, perching on the edge of the bed beside me. “It's not much fun.”

“I'm sorry,” I said.

Miyoko nodded. “I'm sorry about your parents, too.”

I started to say no, to defend my parents. But then I realized I wasn't having much fun with them either lately. Instead, I just said, “Thanks.”

There was an awkward silence.

I broke it by confessing, “Um, I just have a regular room.” I wanted to get that straight right up front, because it was the truth.

“That's fine—that's great—I'm sure your room is great,” Miyoko said.

Since I was already confessing, I continued, “And I don't know why I said that—about my family having two houses—it was obnoxious.”

Miyoko shrugged. “My dad says that when people start talking about the things they have, or the things they're going to get, it means they're scared.”

I thought about this. “He's right,” I decided out loud. “I felt scared.”

Miyoko smiled. “That's okay. There are a lot of scared people in Lush Valley.”

I knew what she meant: There were a lot of obnoxious—scared—people in the valley. I didn't want to be one of them.
Note to self: When you're scared, don't talk.

• • •

At dinner, which seemed a little strange and a lot healthy—tofu, brown rice, and plain steamed vegetables—Mrs. Hoshi placed an egg timer on the table and set it for thirty minutes.

“Is your dessert still in the oven?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” Mrs. Hoshi said. “We don't eat sugar.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, that's . . . good.” I guessed it was good but I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for the Hoshis. They probably didn't have any butter either. What's a life without sugar? And butter?

“I'm a slow eater,” Miyoko explained. “Dinner is thirty minutes. When the timer goes off, it's over.”

“Oh, sure, okay,” I said, like timing a family dinner was the most natural thing in the world, even though I'd never heard of such a thing.

“It's important not to waste time,” Mrs. Hoshi said, “because time is what your life is made of, Fizzy.”

“Yes, ma'am,” I said.

Mrs. Hoshi lowered her eyes, to the little pile of broccoli on my plate—which I had planned to hide under some tofu. “There are children starving to death in Africa,” she informed me.

Please, feel free to ship my share of broccoli to them . . . for the rest of my life,
I thought, but I said only, “Yes, ma'am.” And then I ate some broccoli. It was pretty bland—it was
all
pretty bland—I don't think the Hoshis have salt either.

• • •

After dinner, Miyoko took me upstairs, where she apologized for both of her parents.

“It's okay,” I said easily. “They're parents.”

Miyoko just stared at me.

“All parents say dumb stuff,” I explained. “My mom says stuff like, ‘Close your mouth and eat your dinner.'”

Miyoko giggled. “Yeah, I fail to see how eating my broccoli helps starving children.”

“You're probably just too young to understand. Give it time.” I grinned.

Miyoko grinned back. “In the meantime, well . . . you're only young once!”

“Thank heaven,” I said, “because it's harder than it looks.”

“Just be yourself,” Miyoko said.

I rolled my eyes. “Do I have any other options?”

We laughed until we could barely breathe.

• • •

After that, Miyoko taught me some pretend-karate—some chop-choppy things and some kick-kicky things. “Have you seen
The Karate Kid
movie?” she asked.

“Yeah, a long time ago.”

“Okay, here's how you do the big kick at the end,” Miyoko said, lifting her arms high while effortlessly balancing on one foot.

I tried to mirror her, raising my arms and one leg—I was a little shaky.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said confidently. And then I promptly fell over on the carpet.
WHUMP!

“Oh! Are you okay?” Miyoko crouched beside me.

I couldn't answer her because I was laughing so hard. Miyoko laughed, too.

“What's going on up there?” Mrs. Hoshi hollered.

“Nothing!” Miyoko hollered back. Then she lowered her voice and said, “We should probably save that one for another day . . . but we could watch the movie—study the moves.”

I propped myself up on my elbows and nodded.

• • •

We started
The Karate Kid
. But we didn't finish it because Mrs. Hoshi came upstairs and announced that it was bedtime.

“It's not even ten o'clock,” I whispered as I watched Miyoko floss her teeth in the bathroom.

She removed her fingers from her mouth. “I know, but my dad says it's better for your body to stay on the same schedule all the time—he's a doctor.”

“Oh,” I said. “My dad's a dentist—he'll be thrilled to know you actually floss.”

Miyoko smiled. “Sorry we have to go to bed.”

“No, it's okay—really,” I said. “I've had a great time at my first sleepover in the valley.”

“Me too,” Miyoko said. “I've had a great time at my first sleepover. Ever.”


Ever?
” I repeated.

“Ever. My mom says school isn't for making friends; it's for learning.”

I shook my head sadly. “And here you've gone and made a friend when you were supposed to be learning,” I teased.

Miyoko smiled. “I know. I've gone wild.”

• • •

“Miyoko?” I whispered into the darkness, not sure if she was still awake.

“Hmmm?”

“Do you know Zach Mabry?”

Miyoko rolled onto her back and whispered to the ceiling, “The guy Buffy Lawson likes?”

I sighed. “Yeah.”

“Yeah—he's cute.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

Miyoko seemed to wait for me to say more.

“Do you think Zach will invite Buffy to the Valentine's dance at school?” I asked, because everybody knew about Buffy's crush on Zach. Plus, Buffy goes out of her way to be all . . .
pretty
right in front of Zach's eyes. I happen to know that after math, Buffy's next class is down the hall on the right, but she always walks left out of math because Zach does—then she has to race back before the second bell.

“I don't know,” Miyoko said. “Buffy's so . . . Buffy.”

“Yeah,” I said, “and I'm so . . .
not
Buffy.”

“I'm glad,” Miyoko said.

I smiled. “G'night, Miyoko.”

“Night,” she said, and then she rolled back onto her side.

I felt a little homesick lying in Miyoko's bed, but it didn't bother me—because you're
supposed
to feel homesick when you're away from home.

Chapter 16

On Friday night,
when I hauled my suitcase and myself downstairs, ready to leave for the Valentine's dance at school, Mom demanded, “Are you wearing lipstick?”

“No, ma'am,” I said, and it was true. I wasn't wearing lipstick; I was wearing strawberry Jell-O. (With just a little water and a packet of strawberry Jell-O powder, I'd created a natural-looking lip stain—at least,
I
thought it looked natural.)

Mom gave me a doubtful look as I put on my coat, but Keene was there waiting, so she didn't say anything else.

“All set?” Keene asked.

Mom and I nodded and followed him out the door. Mom and Keene were dropping me off at school on their way to see a movie; Dad would pick me up from the dance, since it was his weekend.

The car ride was silent. And tense. I began to regret offering Miyoko a ride to the dance—she would surely feel that something was wrong as soon as she got in the car—but the thought of walking into the dance alone . . . with a suitcase . . . had completely clouded my judgment.

As soon as we turned into the driveway, Miyoko appeared, hurrying through the cold night air toward our car. Mrs. Hoshi
waved, from just inside the front door—instead of coming out to inspect us, the car, and its safety features, which I thought was nice of her. It turned out that Aunt Liz had decorated the Hoshis' house. After Mrs. Hoshi had learned that I'm Liz Talbott's niece, she was a lot nicer.

We all waved back and even that small, unified gesture felt weird to me—like we were trying too hard to look like a normal family when we knew darn well that we weren't.

When Miyoko pulled the car door shut, I said, “Miyoko, this is my mom and her . . . um . . . Keene.”

“It's so nice to meet you,” Miyoko said. “Thank you for giving me a ride to the dance.”

“Our pleasure,” Mom said. “It certainly is cold outside, isn't it?”

I knew then that Mom was as uncomfortable as I was, because she only resorts to talking about the weather when she gets really nervous.

“Yes, ma'am,” Miyoko said.

“But spring will be here before we know it,” Mom said. “In six weeks, Lush Valley will be lush and green again, with blue skies and sunshine.”

“And wedding bells,” said Keene.

Mom reached over and sort of petted Keene on the back of his neck while he drove. “We're getting married in April,” she explained to Miyoko.

Miyoko gave me an uncertain look.

My stomach felt icky. I took a deep breath and held it.

Miyoko reached over and gave my hand a sympathetic little squeeze.

• • •

We could hear the music pounding outside the school before we even opened the door.

Zach was sitting on the stairs in the foyer when Miyoko and I entered. He stood and gave us a lopsided grin when he saw us.

Miyoko smiled back and gave me a little shoulder bump.

Zach trotted down the stairs and came to a stop in front of us.

“Zach, this is my friend Miyoko,” I said. “Miyoko, this is my friend Zach.”

“Hey,” Zach said.

“Hi,” Miyoko said.

“This way, ladies,” he said, extending his arm toward the gym.

A
HAPPY VALENTINE'S D
AY
banner hung over the door leading to the gym—even though Valentine's Day wasn't until tomorrow. The gym was dark except for little spots of light thrown out by two disco balls hanging from each basketball hoop. Because the gym also serves as an auditorium, there was a stage up front, cluttered with coats and purses piled one on top of another. Miyoko and I went to the stage and took off our coats. I pushed some others aside, hefted my suitcase onto the stage, and did my best to cover it with my coat. Then I looked around to see if anybody had noticed, but no one was paying attention.

Kids danced in little groups—of mostly girls. A lot of boys stood around, leaning against the walls. A few boys chased each other around the perimeter of the gym.

Zach tilted his head as if to say,
C'mon.
Miyoko and I followed him into the crowd, where we found a spot and began dancing together. The full skirt on Miyoko's red dress swished in a pretty way as she moved and made me rethink wearing my regular old jeans. But I preferred jeans over my church dresses, and I'd worn my favorite pale-pink thermal shirt, which I had reasoned was sorta Valentinesy. I remembered my Jell-O lips then and they boosted my confidence just a little.

When a slow song came on, I started to move off the floor, but Zach grabbed my hand.

I leaned into his ear—to be heard above the music—and said, “I don't know how to slow dance.”

“I'll show you—it's easy,” Zach said, his breath warm on my ear. Zach said something in Miyoko's ear, too, and she nodded. He stepped in front of her, giving Miyoko his back, as she placed her hands on his shoulders. Zach placed my hands on top of Miyoko's, on his shoulders, and then rested his hands—light as feathers—at my waist. I fought the urge to laugh—I'm very ticklish—plus, I felt nervous, which sometimes causes me to laugh inappropriately. Then we all three rocked from side to side in time with the music while rotating in a circle. My eyes went from Miyoko to Zach to my feet—to make sure they didn't step on Zach's feet—and back again.

Miyoko looked all around the gym, which I understood—it was weird if we stared at each other.

Zach kept on smiling, seemingly to himself more than anybody else, which finally caused me to lean forward and say into his ear, “What?”

The smile widened. “Man, I must look really cool right now—these other guys can't work up the nerve to ask even one girl to dance, and here I am dancing with two!”

I did laugh then.

But Buffy and Christine must've agreed with Zach, because when the next song came on—a fast one—they pushed their way into our little dancing threesome, on either side of Zach.

Zach took a step forward and said loudly, “I'm thirsty. Fizzy, Miyoko, y'all thirsty?”

Miyoko and I nodded and followed Zach out of the gym, leaving Buffy and Christine to dance with each other.

• • •

We filled paper cups with Valentine's punch from the table in the hallway, between the bathroom and the cafeteria, and we stood off to one side of the hall drinking it. I'm pretty sure the punch was just cherry Kool-Aid—I bet I could make lip stain with that, too.

“Thanks for teaching me to slow dance,” I said.

“Thanks for making me the coolest guy in the building.” Zach grinned.

Miyoko downed her punch and announced that she had to go to the bathroom.

“I'll come with you,” I said.

“Think I'll wait here,” Zach said, grinning again.

Miyoko stepped in front of the bathroom mirror and leaned
over the sink to inspect a pimple on her nose. “It's grown since I left the house,” she reported. “And it has an eyeball! A big white eyeball! Ugh!” She touched the blemish. “And it's throbbing! I think it has a heartbeat!” She turned from the mirror. “Fizzy, I think I'm growing another person on my nose!”

I laughed. “It's not so bad.” The truth is that it was pretty bad now that I was looking at it, but I hadn't really noticed the pimple until Miyoko pointed it out.

“I'm going to call him Ogle,” Miyoko announced. “Ogle, the nose pimple-person.” With that, Miyoko went into a stall and closed the door.

I was just about to unlock my stall and come out when Buffy and Christine came into the bathroom talking. “Did you see Fizzy's lipstick?” Buffy said, in a way that let me know she wasn't a fan of my Jell-O lips.

“How could I not?” Christine said. “People across the street can see it from here—and I'm sure they think it's tacky, too!”

I felt my face heat up. I took a deep breath, unlocked the door, and forced myself to walk calmly to the sink.

Buffy was reapplying lip gloss in the mirror while Christine fluffed her hair. When they saw me, they exchanged a smirky look.

I'd just turned off the faucet and was reaching for a paper towel when I heard the lock open on Miyoko's stall door. I looked up at the reflection of her door in the mirror. It remained closed.

Then,
BAM!
Miyoko kicked the door open and burst out of the stall into a lunge, her knees bent and her hands poised to
do the chop-choppy thing in the air. Buffy, Christine, and I all jumped.

“Say something else about my friend Fizzy,” Miyoko dared them. “Go ahead. I
want
you to.”

“Sorry,” Buffy mumbled as she scurried from the bathroom.

“Yeah,” Christine murmured, following close behind her.

Note to self: It's never smart to mess with a girl who has a pimple with an eyeball—or her friends.

When I was sure Buffy and Christine were gone, I turned from the mirror to face Miyoko. “That was
awesome
!” I gushed. “How did you do it?! If
I
kicked a door open, it would just bounce back, hit me in the face, and probably knock me out!”

“I didn't consider that,” was all Miyoko said, and then she washed her hands.

I looked at my Jell-O lips in the mirror and wondered if they were “tacky.”

“You look great,” Miyoko said, reading my mind. “You, me, Ogle—we all look great. Buffy's just mad because Zach's not dancing with her.”

Zach was still waiting for us in the hallway. When he smiled at us, Miyoko said, “Are you looking at my pimple?”

Zach took a step backward, showed Miyoko his palms, and said, “Not me.” Then he showed her his teeth.

Apparently Zach's I'm-not-a-violent-maniac smile also doubled as his I'm-not-looking-at-your-giant-zit smile, too.

“I've named him Ogle,” Miyoko announced, “because even if you're not watching him, he's watching you—he's like the
Mona Lisa
of pimples.” She looked around self-consciously.

“Well, nobody else is looking either,” Zach said, letting his hands fall to his sides. “We're all too worried about our own Ogles to notice yours.”

I thought about my suitcase then and realized that Zach was right. As we all walked back to the dance, I couldn't help wondering what Zach's Ogle was, but I decided it'd be rude to ask.

Later, when my dad arrived a few minutes early and I said good-bye to Miyoko, Zack seemed surprised. “Thought y'all were having a sleepover,” he said.

It took me a minute to realize that Zach had thought that because of my suitcase, and it made me feel much better.
Note to self: Suitcases don't have to say, “My family is a big, broken mess and so am I!” They can also say, “I am a totally normal person who has friends, and I'm sleeping over with one of them! Yay!”

• • •

Suzanne was sitting on the couch eating a box of Valentine's chocolates when we walked into the house.

“We have a Valentine's surprise for you,” she said in between bites of chocolate. She smiled at Dad.

He smiled back.

I smiled, too, thinking,
I could go for some chocolate.

“We're having a baby,” Dad just blurted out, the same way he might've said,
We're having blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

I felt my smile slip, but I hoisted it back up and said, “That's great.”

Suzanne smiled and nodded. “Of course, it'll be some
months before we actually get to meet the baby.” She patted her stomach.

“That's great,” I said again, staring at Suzanne's stomach, which I now noticed stuck out
almost
as far as her chest—how had I missed this? That baby must've been doing some serious growing lately!

Dad stared at me.

“Wow, um . . . well, I'm pretty tired,” I said, “and I still have to unpack, so . . . um . . . good night.” I waited a few more seconds—in case someone wanted to give me Valentine's candy—but no one did.

That night, I lay awake in bed wondering what it would be like to have a baby in the house.
It'll probably be like having a puppy,
I told myself.
Okay, a bald-ish puppy, but still. Who doesn't want a puppy?

BOOK: The Thing About Leftovers
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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