I hate rainy days. Especially rainy Mondays. Waiting for the bus while the bottoms of your pants are getting all wet, your sneakers are becoming soggy, and your umbrella keeps blowing inside out is not the best way to start your week. But that’s what was happening to me that Monday morning. I sighed and added another rule to my growing list of very important things that they never tell you at sixth grade orientation.
MIDDLE SCHOOL RULE #11:
GET A LIFT TO SCHOOL ON RAINY DAYS
OR ELSE YOU’LL SPEND THE DAY WRINGING OUT YOUR JEANS.
To make matters worse, I had to stand at the bus stop with Addie Wilson. Of course, Addie wasn’t going to have to spend the school day in soggy jeans. She’d been smart enough to wear a skirt and waterproof boots to school. Addie was going to look perfect all day long – as usual.
At the moment, Addie was talking on her cell phone. Probably to one of the other Pops. That’s what my friends and I call Addie and her group of friends – the Pops. As in popular.
I think every school has its own crowd of Pops. You can spot them a mile away. They’re the ones who wear the coolest clothes, have the best makeup, and only hang out with each other. Basically, they’re at the top of the middle school food chain.
“No, I’m serious,” I heard Addie say into her phone. She paused for a moment as the person on the other end said something. “Well, I wouldn’t tell anyone but you, that’s for sure,” Addie said. “And we certainly can’t tell Claire. You know she can’t keep a secret.”
I giggled quietly. Obviously Addie was revealing a big secret to the person on the other end of the phone.
Addie glanced in my direction, rolled her eyes, and sighed. Then she turned her back to me and began whispering to the person on the other end. “I have to talk quieter,” she said. “Jenny McAfee is eavesdropping.”
I was about to say that I wasn’t eavesdropping, she was just talking loudly. But if I said that, Addie would know that I had been listening to her conversation. And technically, that was eavesdropping. So I just kept my mouth shut.
Watching Addie whisper into her cell really upset me. I used to be the person Addie told her secrets to – back when we’d been best friends.
But that was then. When we’d been in elementary school. Addie and I were middle-schoolers now. And ever since we’d walked through the doors of Joyce Kilmer Middle School on the first day, Addie had decided that she was too cool to be my friend.
I breathed a sigh of relief as the yellow bus finally turned the corner toward our stop. Any minute now I’d be out of the rain – and away from Addie. My friend Felicia would already be on the bus. And she always saved me a seat.
Now I would have someone to talk to, too.
“Over here, Jenny,” Felicia called from the back of the bus as I climbed on board.
I smiled and trudged my way toward her. I wrinkled my nose as I sat down. The bus stunk – like a mix of mildew and wet dog fur.
“What a yucky day,” I groaned as I sat down on the damp green plastic seat.
“Not if you’re a duck,” Felicia giggled. She looked down toward my feet. “Boy, your pants are really wet.”
“I know,” I said. I was wet from the cuffs of my pants all the way up to my calves. “I had to wait a long time for the bus.”
“That stinks,” Felicia said.
“It sure did,” I told her. “Especially because I had to listen to Addie talking on her cell phone the whole time.”
“What was she talking about?”
“Who knows?” I shrugged. “Some very important Pop secret, I guess.”
“I didn’t think their secrets could be important,” Felicia said with a shrug.
I had to agree with her. The Pops spent all their time either talking about makeup or saying bad things about everyone else in school. I wasn’t particularly interested in either of those kinds of conversations.
So how come I was dying to know what Addie had been whispering about?
That was the Pops’ best-kept secret: Somehow they’d figured out how to make everyone in the school hate them and want to be one of them, at the exact same time