Jenny's Books
How I Survived Middle School Super Special: How the Pops Stole Christmas

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!"

I think it's impossible not to sing along when I hear Christmas carols playing, which is why I suddenly found myself singing "Jingle Bells" in the middle of our school gym on Monday afternoon. Talk about being totally out of character. I never sing in front of people. At least not usually. But it was Christmastime, and I couldn't help myself.

Of course, I wasn't the only person who was singing along with the holiday CD that was playing. Pretty much everyone in the gym was doing the same thing. That CD was definitely getting everyone in the holiday spirit, which was a good thing. We'd already spent two hours sorting the coat donations we'd received for the annual Joyce Kilmer Middle School charity coat drive, and it was hard work. We needed something to help keep up our energy level.

"Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh," I sang out joyfully. "O'er the fields we go, laughing all the way. . . Ha ha ha. . . "

"Hey, Jenny, quit howling," Dana Harrison said loudly. She turned to her friend Addie Wilson. "I didn't know they allowed dogs in school," she said.

Addie giggled. "Jenny does sound like a hound dog howling when she sings," she agreed. "She always has."

And that's why I don't sing in front of groups of people. Especially not groups of people that include Addie and Dana. I don't exactly have the world's greatest voice.

"It's better than have a face like a hound dog, Addie," my friend Chloe declared, leaping to my defense.

Talk about a major dis! Addie stared at Chloe for a minute. Then she opened her mouth to retaliate. But before she could say a word, Ms. Gold, the school principal, stopped her. Ordinarily Ms. Gold would have been pretty angry with Addie and Chloe for speaking the way they were, but I guess because we were all volunteering our after-school time for the coat drive, she was a little nicer about it. But just a little.

"That's enough, ladies," Ms. Gold said firmly.

"Joyce Kilmer Middle School students do not ever speak to one another that way. Now, let's get back to work. We have a lot of coats to sort, and a lot of cold, homeless families who are waiting for them."

"Yes, ma'am," Chloe murmured quietly.

"Yes, Ms. Gold," Addie said.

As I went back to work, I glanced over in Chloe's direction and mouthed the words, "Thank you."

Chloe shot me a wink and a smile, and then went back to sorting coats. As she separated the girls' coats from the boys', and the grown-ups' coats from the kids' coats, she began to sing along with the Christmas music.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, had a very shiny nose. . . "

Chloe wasn't afraid of anyone making fun of her as she sang. She happens to have an awesome voice. I shot Chloe another smile. She smiled back, and sang a little louder.

"Please hang any coats that have already been dry-cleaned on the rack," my English teacher, Ms. Jaffe, reminded us. "All other coats have to go into the laundry bags."

Dana held up a blue-and-white ski jacket, and made a face. "This thing is hideous," she announced. She glanced at the name tag inside. "I should have known. It's Jenny McAfee's old coat."

I could feel a familiar rush of heat heading up into my cheeks, which is what always happens when I start to feel embarrassed. When it comes to blushing, I'm the champion. It doesn't take much to turn me red. For instance, that little obnoxious comment from Dana was about all I needed for my face to turn into one large red tomato with eyes.

"I wonder if I should even bother throwing this thing into the laundry bag," Dana continued, still holding up my old ski jacket. "I mean, it's not like you can dry-clean away geekiness."

Dana's friends, Addie, Claire, Sabrina, and Maya, all began laughing hysterically. Personally, I didn't think it was a particularly funny joke, but then again, I'm not an expert on really mean humor. That's the Pops' territory.