About the Author

Eileen Cook

Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. She is the author of The Almost Truth, Unraveling Isobel, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and What Would Emma Do? as well as the Fourth Grade Fairy series. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and dogs. Visit her at EileenCook.com.

Books by this Author
Fourth Grade Fairy Complete Collection

Fourth Grade Fairy Complete Collection

Fourth Grade Fairy; Wishes for Beginners; Gnome Invasion
tagged : anthologies
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Gnome Invasion

Gnome Invasion

also available: Paperback
tagged : adolescence
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chapter one

It’s not clear if Saint Thomas More had murder on his mind when he fell from his alcove in the north stairwell and onto my friend Win. It’s far more likely that over the years the vibration of hundreds of high school students thundering up and down the stairs finally shook him free. The statue did a huge swan dive that would have made an Olympian proud and clipped Win right over her eyebrow. She caught him, saving the statue from crashing to the floor. It can be hard to help someone see the bright side of things when they are nearly taken out by a religious icon.

“Sod it all, I’m bleeding.” Win looked at her face in the mirror above the nurse’s sink. When Win was really ticked, she sounded even more like her British-born mom.

I handed Win a wet paper towel. “Look on the bright side—saving a saint is going to earn you some valuable karma points.”

“Harper, I’m not Catholic.” Win winced as she pressed the towel to her forehead. “And it’s not like I had a choice; the stupid thing basically fell into my arms. If it had been up any higher, it probably would have killed me.”

“I can’t see Tom holding your lack of religion against you.” I leaned over and patted the plaster statue of the saint on the head as he sat innocently on the floor. Our school, Saint Francis, was one of the highest ranked in Washington State. This meant the student body was made up of people who wanted their kids to have a religious education and also those who didn’t mind forcing their kids to wear the most hideous mustard-yellow and navy-blue uniforms ever created as long as they went to a good school. “Having a saint who owes you one is nothing to sneer at. You could club a seal or something and it still wouldn’t be enough to land you eternal damnation.”

“Stop trying to find the silver lining in every situation.” Win squinted at her reflection. “Look at that: It’s going to leave a scar. That’s it. I’m disfigured.”

“You’re fine. The nurse doesn’t even think you need stitches.”

“She’s a school nurse. Do you really think I’m going to leave the destiny of this face in her hands?” Win continued her self-inspection. Only she could get clocked by a statue and still look great. It would be annoying if she weren’t my best friend.

“Fair enough. But we got out of going to chemistry; you have to admit that counts as good luck,” I pointed out.

“Seems to me you’re the lucky one. You weren’t nearly decapitated and you still got out of class.”

The nurse bustled back into the room. She handed Win an ice pack. “You’ll want to keep this on to reduce the swelling.”

Win blinked. “Ice. Don’t you think I should have a CT scan or something? I could have brain damage.”

“You’d want an MRI,” I said. “CT is more for orthopedic injuries.”

Win shot me a look.

“It basically grazed you. The only part of the statue that hit you was the hand.” The nurse pointed, and I saw that Saint Thomas More had lost a finger in the accident. It looked like his blessing days were over. I wondered if the finger would count as a holy relic if someone found it on the stairs. The nurse yanked a folder out of her desk. “You’ll be fine. Just keep the ice on there.” She scribbled something in the file and then glanced up at the clock. “You two are free to go. If you hustle, you won’t be late for Friday assembly.”

We were barely out of the door before Win said, in a voice loud enough to carry to the nurse, “If I die of a brain aneurysm, my dad will sue this place.”

“Getting hit on the head won’t give you an aneurysm,” I pointed out as we moved down the hall. “They’re usually caused by a weakness in the artery since birth. High blood pressure could cause one too.”

“Having you as a friend is like having my own personal WebMD. Handy and terrifying all at the same time,” Win said.

“You’re welcome.” Having a neuroscientist as a dad made me more knowledgeable on brain function than the average high school senior. It also meant that I was more likely to kick the bell curve’s ass in anatomy.

We were among the last people to get to the auditorium, but the assembly hadn’t started yet. My boyfriend, Josh, yelled out my name and waved us over.

I tugged on Win’s arm. “He saved us seats.” We moved down the row and plopped into our chairs. Josh squeezed my hand and I fought the urge to pull mine back. Josh was only happy when we were constantly touching.

“Heard God tried to take you down.” Josh motioned toward the Band-Aid on Win’s forehead.

“Ha-ha. Maybe as official class president you should figure out if any other parts of the building plan to crush a student. I’m no lawyer, but that seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Josh saluted. “I’ll get on that on at our next council meeting.”

“It could have been worse—what if it had been that statue of Saint Sebastian in the cafeteria, the one with all the arrows? You would have lost an eye,” I said.

“Thank you, Mary Poppins.” Win grabbed gum out of her bag and offered it to the both of us before jamming a piece in her mouth.

“It wouldn’t kill you to see the positive side,” Josh said.

“It might. Besides, that’s why I keep her around.” Win chomped on her gum with a smile.

We were unlikely friends. People called us yin and yang. She was half black; I was pasty white. I got nearly straight As, and she was happy with Cs. Win was the ultimate social butterfly, and I tended to be shy. Win vowed she wasn’t going to be bothered with a relationship until she was at least forty, and I’d dated Josh for two years already. I always looked for the positive, and she had honed being cynical to an art form. There was no reason for us to get along, but we did.

Our principal, Mr. Lee, was on the stage waiting for everyone to pay attention. He did this sort of Zen thing where he would stand in silence with his eyes closed until we all shut up. You wouldn’t think it would work, but it did.

“There’s your dad,” Josh whispered.

I followed his finger. My dad stood at the side of the stage, fussing with his tie. He almost never wore one. At work he got away with jeans, T-shirt, and lab coat. There are some benefits to owning your own company. Other than wealth and not having a boss, that is. I shifted in my seat. My dad liked to be goofy, which was bad enough at home, but I had no idea what he might pull at my school. I sent up a silent prayer that he didn’t do one of his impressions.

“What’s he doing here?” Win asked.

Saint Francis had a mandatory assembly every Friday with various speakers. The school promoted it as a chance for us to gather as a “community.” “Community” sounded better than what we suspected, which was that the teachers liked having the last hour of the week free.

“He agreed to do a talk on the importance of science,” I said.

Win pretended to snore.

“How can you say that? Science impacts everything,” Josh said.

Win held up a hand. “Spare me. I’m going to have to hear the talk from her dad; I don’t need to hear it from you, too.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Also, for the record, having a bromance with your girlfriend’s dad is creepy.”

Josh was ready to argue with her, but Mr. Lee was already introducing my dad, so we had to be quiet.

I’d heard Dad’s science talk before. It was fairly interesting. He managed to connect all these major scientists like Darwin and Einstein to random things like punk rock and winning World War II. My prayer must have worked, because so far he’d managed to avoid doing any of his lame Dad stand-up comedy routine.

“Now, some of you know that my company, Neurotech, recently received approval from the FDA to offer our revolutionary Memtex treatment to teens and children.” Dad stood with a Neurotech logo projected onto him and the screen behind him.

“Holy shit, we can go for a softening now?” someone hissed a few rows behind me.

I turned around to hear who had said that. My dad hated when people called it a softening. He thought it sounded too woo-woo. He was not a fan of anything that smacked of being new age.

“I thought you guys might like to be the first group to see our new commercial. Sort of like a movie screening, only without the hot movie stars—unless you count me.” A few people laughed. It’s a well-accepted truth that everyone else will find your parent’s feeble attempts at humor funnier than you will. My dad spotted me in the crowd and waved. I scrunched further down in my seat.

The auditorium lights dimmed, and my dad stepped out of the glare of the projector. The commercial was well done. It showed a bunch of perfectly airbrushed teens in what adults must think of as ideal moments: dancing at a prom, laughing with friends over a bonfire on the beach, crossing the finish line at a track meet. No one had acne or bad hair. I recognized the main actress from some cable show.

“Are bad memories holding you back from doing everything you want and enjoying the life you deserve?” she asked. Her eyes stared out of the screen as if she personally felt bad for us. “You don’t have to be bogged down anymore. Ask your doctor about Memtex today—and imagine what you could accomplish tomorrow!” Her face split into a wide smile and just a hint of a wink.

The lights went up, and people applauded as if it had been an Oscar-winning performance. I wondered if Mr. Lee was ticked that my dad had managed to sneak a commercial into his talk. I could have told him he should have known better; my dad never missed a chance to promote his business. Once he slipped our dentist a brochure in the middle of a root canal.

“Well, thanks for having me today and letting me share with you why I find science so important, and how I think it can impact your life. I’m excited to have Neurotech providing services to teens. To mark that evolution in our company, I’m pleased to announce we’ll be offering a part-time internship for a deserving high school student with a passion for the sciences. Applications are available on our website. At the end of the year the lucky recipient will also receive a grant to assist with college costs.”

Josh jolted straight up in the chair next to me, vibrating with excitement. I couldn’t believe my dad hadn’t said a thing about this to me. He winked at me from the stage. That made me wonder what other surprises he had up his sleeve.

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The Education of Hailey Kendrick


There was a matter of life and death to deal with, and instead we were wasting our time discussing Mandy Gallaway’s crotch. I kept a neutral smile plastered on my face, but my foot bobbed up and down impatiently. More people have seen Mandy Gallaway’s naked crotch than saw last year’s Super Bowl. The girl’s incapable of getting out of a car without flashing the sixty zillion paparazzi that follow her around. The concept of knees together and underwear on isn’t that complicated, which leaves me to believe she likes the sensation of flashbulbs lighting up where the sun isn’t supposed to shine.

Given that her crotch had been photographed more than most supermodels, I failed to see why one online leaked picture of her standing in her gym shorts and a sports bra was causing this much drama. The situation certainly didn’t call for the public flogging and stoning the student body was advocating. All the crowd was missing were some pitchforks and torches, and we could have stormed the town. On the upside, at least people had shown up for our student government meeting, for a change.

The Evesham student body usually had more important things to care about, like planning their next vacation to a private island near the Bahamas, or deciding between another Coach or Louis Vuitton bag. Most of the time the only people who came to our meetings were those of us on the board.

It wasn’t clear what had really happened, but the theory was that a female security guard had snapped the photo of the half-dressed Mandy in the locker room and had sold it to the tabloids. A few people had seen a guard doing her rounds of the gym, and she’d had her cell phone out. Given who attends Evesham, paparazzi is a common problem, but before this incident they’d tended to hang outside the school gates. No one had ever had a picture leaked from inside. This was officially big news on campus.

“We should send her to prison for violating Mandy’s privacy,” Garrett said. His dad is a U.S. Senator; you would think he would have a better idea of how the system works.

“We’re a student government association,” I pointed out. “We don’t actually have the power to sentence anyone to jail time.” I straightened the nameplate on the desk in front of me: HAILEY KENDRICK—VICE PRESIDENT. I managed to avoid pointing out that we barely had the authority to hold a bake sale.

“Whatever. I want her fired,” Mandy said. “Like, today.” She crossed her arms and stuck her chin up into the air.

“We can’t have her fired, either. The school employees all belong to a union. The whole thing is outside of the student government domain. It’s up to the administration.” I considered pulling the copy of the employee union agreement out of my file, but I was pretty sure no one was interested in the details of due process. It wasn’t exactly a big pro-union crowd. I didn’t know why we bothered to have this issue on the agenda at all, except for the fact that everyone wanted to talk about it.

“Really?” Mandy raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow. “If the administration isn’t interested in what students think, maybe I should have my parents give them a call.”

Mandy’s parents had more money than most countries. I was pretty sure they could buy up some small ones—Luxembourg or the Philippines, for example—without even breaking the monthly budget. Her great-grandparents had owned several oil and gas companies and hung out with people like the Vanderbilts. If her parents called the school administration and said jump, people there would start leaping around before even bothering to ask how high.

I looked at the clock. We were going to run out of time. In addition to tackling the safety issue I had hoped to discuss, the council meeting was supposed to be focused on choosing between the two possible themes for our spring formal dance. Any talk of Southern Nights or Old Hollywood had gone out the door when the news about the picture had spread across campus. It was standing room only in the classroom we used for our meetings. No one wanted to miss any hot dirt.

“It totally grosses me out that that dyke took my picture.” Mandy made a face like she had just bitten into month-old cottage cheese.

“Careful,” Joel said. As the president of the student council, he was always sure to enforce the “respect and dignity” clause in the student handbook. “Her sexual orientation isn’t an issue here.”

“God, it’s not a gay thing. I have tons of family friends who are gay,” Mandy said. “‘Dyke’ is just a description.”

It was classic Mandy to make a distinction between okay gay people (those who design houses or clothing, work in Hollywood, or write for the New Yorker) and not okay gay people (women who wear flannel shirts from Walmart.) The real issue wasn’t the fact that the security guard might be gay, it was that she had a cheap haircut and unshaven legs, and had made a few thousand dollars selling an unflattering photo of Mandy. Even the haircut, flannel, and legs might have been forgiven if the photo hadn’t made Mandy’s thighs look a bit chunky.

Joel clapped his hands together to get everyone’s attention. “Hailey is right. This issue doesn’t fall under student government business.” The crowd in the room started to grumble and protest, and Joel held up one hand. “That doesn’t mean we can’t make it our business.”

A cheer went up from the group. Joel was a natural politician. I was certain he would be president of the United States someday. He had written to every living former president and asked them for advice on leadership. He kept the letters he got back in a binder in his room. President Clinton had sent him at least four. Not many people can list a president of the United States as a pen pal.

Joel stood so the people at the back could see him. “Privacy and the ability of everyone to feel safe here at Evesham is critical, and is a value this government is willing to fight to uphold. This isn’t just a boarding school; it’s our home away from home. We go to school here. We live here. We need to feel safe here. I motion that the council write a formal letter to the school administration indicating our concerns and demanding that action be taken. All in favor?”

There was a chorus of cheers and whoops from the crowd. Joel looked at me, and I could see the corner of his mouth twitching as he fought off a smile. He knew we could write all the letters we wanted and the school administration would still do whatever they wanted. However, he’d convinced everyone that he was practically Superman standing up for truth, justice, and the American way. Saving the rich and privileged from unflattering photos. I rolled my eyes at him and pressed my mouth together to avoid smiling. If I gave him any encouragement, there was no telling what he would come up with next.

“We have to have someone second the motion and put it to a vote,” I said.

“Why? Is there some rule?” Garret said. I wanted to smack the smirk right off his face. As a matter of fact, there was a rule. If he wanted the Save the Crotch letter, then there was going to be an official vote. I stared at him with a smile on my face and said nothing.

“I’ll second the motion,” a sophomore girl sitting on the floor said. Joel gave her one of his thousand-watt smiles. Her face flushed bright red, and she let out a high-pitched giggle.

“Great. Now we just need to get a count of all those in favor,” Joel said, and called for a show of hands.

I heard a sound behind me, and I turned to see my boyfriend, Tristan, leaning in the doorway. I held up a finger to let him know it would only be a couple of minutes more. Not surprisingly, no one was opposed to the Save the Crotch letter, and it passed.

“We still need to decide on the theme for the dance,” I said before Joel had a chance to dismiss the meeting.

“What theme do you want?” Tristan called from the doorway.

“I don’t want to influence the vote,” I said.

“I’m thinking you’d go for the Hollywood glamour option,” Tristan said, cocking his head to the side as if he were picking up my brain waves.

“So, are you guessing or making a motion?” Joel asked.

Tristan flipped Joel off, and they both laughed. They’d been roommates since freshman year. As upperclassmen they’d qualified to each get their own room, but they still preferred to share. Tristan found it difficult to trust many people, and he always swore that Joel was more than his friend, that they were brothers. You could tell by looking at them they might be brothers of choice, but they weren’t remotely related. Joel was tall and lanky. He always had to be in motion. I didn’t have a single photo of Joel where his image wasn’t partially blurred. Tristan was the opposite. He seemed unmovable. He was tall too, but broad. One of the first things that had attracted me to him was how solid he appeared. Tristan looked like he could stand straight during a hurricane.

“It’s a motion, Mr. President,” Tristan said with a slight bow.

“Anyone care to second?” Joel called out, and the room filled with hands raised to support Tristan. Joel was the politician, but Tristan was the charmer. It was almost unfair to have that much male charisma in one dorm room. “Great. Now a quick vote. All in favor?” The sea of hands raised again. “Anyone opposed?” He looked around the room, but no one was interested in going against Tristan. Joel looked over at me. “Looks like we have a dance theme. With our business finished, I call this meeting officially to an end.”

Tristan stood next to me while everyone else streamed out of the room. Mandy paused long enough to lean into Joel, pressing her breasts against his chest (there was a running bet that they were fake, which is likely, because no one has breasts that size and that perky, unless they’re filled with a space-age material) and thanking him for standing up for her. Her voice was slightly breathless, as if she were nearly overcome with gratitude. She was acting like he had carried her down twenty-two flights of stairs in a burning building. Both Joel and Tristan turned to watch her stroll out, her hips going back and forth like she was walking across the deck of a listing ship.

“Careful. Your eyes might fall out,” I said.

Tristan looked away, then pulled me close to nuzzle my ear. “The girl can’t hold a candle to you. She’s all flash and glitter. It would be like dating a disco ball.” He looked up at Joel. “You should ask her to the dance. She looks pretty grateful.”

“Oh, so I can have the disco ball. Thanks, man. Your kindness knows no bounds.”

“You need something a little flashy to keep your attention. You get distracted pretty easy. It’s a good thing we’re seniors, because you’re running out of girls to date.”

Joel punched Tristan in the arm, and they jostled around laughing.

“You can do better than Mandy,” I said to Joel while I stuffed papers into my bag.

“I keep trying to convince you to run away with me, but you won’t leave this ape,” Joel said, ducking a headlock from Tristan. Joel darted across the room, hooting like a monkey. Very fourth grade.

“I’m glad we got the dance settled. I was afraid we weren’t going to get to it, ” I said.

“We can put the idea of securing the vending machines on next month’s agenda,” Joel said, raising his hand like he was taking a vow.

Tristan raised an eyebrow at Joel. “Vending machine safety?”

I rolled my eyes at both of them. I was used to being teased about my safety obsession. People could laugh all they wanted. The one thing I knew for sure was that the world was a dangerous and unpredictable place. Smart people do everything they can to eliminate risk. Did you know that more people are killed every year in falling vending machine accidents than in shark attacks? Our school had an entire wall of unsecured vending machines in the lobby of the gym. If someone were crushed to death trying to get a frosty can of Diet Coke, it wouldn’t be my fault. I’d tried to raise the issue.

“Today’s agenda sort of got hijacked. Nothing riles people up like a good scandal and a sense of righteous justice,” Joel said.

“Do you think they’ll fire the security guard?” I asked.

“They shouldn’t. There isn’t any real proof, and if she doesn’t have any other disciplinary notes in her employment file, I’m willing to bet the union rules say they can’t.”

“They should.” Tristan’s voice turned serious. I wasn’t surprised. Having parents with four Oscars between them meant you could have Steven Spielberg as your godfather, but never a moment of privacy. His ninth birthday had been ruined when a photographer had fallen out of a tree onto the pool deck while trying to get a picture of his parents. “You aren’t taking her side, are you?” Tristan asked Joel.

“I’m not taking anyone’s side. Just saying she doesn’t deserve to be burned at the stake until we know what really happened.” He looked over at Tristan. “You don’t have to worry, dude. No one wants a picture of your ugly half-dressed ass.”

“Except you,” Tristan shot back. “I’ve seen how you look at me.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll let you guys have some special alone time. I’m supposed to meet up with Kelsie to work on our history project.”

“Hang out with us. We’re going to the café to get some ice cream. What sounds like more fun, ice cream or the Revolutionary War?” Tristan held on to my hand. He rubbed his thumb against the inside of my palm, a move that always gave me
shivers. “Even George Washington would pick mint chocolate chip, and he had freedom on the line.”

“George didn’t have to worry about college applications,” I pointed out, pulling my hand away before how he made me feel distracted me from homework. I was dedicated to getting good grades, but time with Tristan was never a bad thing. I kissed his cheek.

“Fine. Abandon us,” Joel said, grabbing his stuff from the table. “I’m used to you snubbing me, but I’m not sure how he’s going to handle it.”

“I’m sure he can soldier on without me for a few hours.”

“Despite the fact that you’re breaking my heart, I still have amazing news for you,” Tristan said.


“I don’t know if I’m going to tell you,” he said, turning away. “I may be too devastated to talk now.”

I smacked him across the shoulder. “Tell me.”

“It’s going to cost you a kiss,” Tristan said.

I quickly kissed him.

“It’s a way better secret than that,” he said, leaning back against the table and crossing his arms.

I leaned in and he pulled me closer. He wound his hands into my hair and kissed me deeply, causing my heart to speed up.

“Still standing here,” Joel said, interrupting us. “In fact, I’m feeling a little pervy just watching.”

Tristan laughed. “Watch and learn, Grasshopper.” He turned to me. “I called my mom and told her the theme to the dance is going to be Old Hollywood. She says if you want, you can borrow one of her vintage dresses. She has a gown that used to belong to Bette Davis back in the forties. My mom wore it to some awards show.”

“Seriously?” I squeaked, bouncing up on my tiptoes. I hadn’t even seen the dress, but I knew I wanted it. “I could kiss your mom.”

“You can kiss me and I’ll pass it along,” Tristan promised. I planted a big smack on his lips.

“How did you know people would vote for Old Hollywood as the theme?” I asked.

“He also had his mom pick up Vivien Leigh’s costume from Gone with the Wind in case everyone went with the Southern idea instead,” Joel said. “It comes complete with a small black girl who follows you around to wave you with a fan.”

Tristan gave Joel another shove, before smiling at me. “I knew you wanted Old Hollywood, which meant that’s what I wanted.”

“Ah, popularity. What you two want, the whole world wants. But what about me? I’m left still wanting ice cream,” Joel said.

We headed out together. The guys offered to walk me back to my dorm in case any rogue security guards tried to get a photo of me, but I declined. I couldn’t wait to tell my best friend, Kelsie, about the Bette Davis dress. She was going to freak out. She wants to be an actress and loves anything vintage Hollywood.

Joel was right, popularity has its advantages.

© 2011 Eileen Cook

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Used to Be

Used to Be

The Education of Hailey Kendrick; Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood
also available: eBook
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Wishes for Beginners


The most exciting thing that could ever happen to my fourth-grade class would be:

  1. a. aliens from outer space come to suck us all up in their spaceship and take us to their planet where they make us their rulers.

  2. b. TV producers want to make a show about our class and we’re all going to become famous. We’ll wear giant sunglasses and carry our dogs around in handbags and everyone will want our autographs.

  3. c. the president has selected our class to be his official kid advisors. We’ll have fancy dinners at the White House while he asks us what we think needs to happen in the world. Personally, I plan to make sure he saves the polar bear.

  4. d. none of the above.

* * *

I knew something really exciting must have happened because there was a big circle of people on the playground. Someone squealed and a couple of the girls were jumping up and down. They were bouncing all around like popcorn.

I saw my best friend Katie Hillegonds sitting on top of the slide. She liked to sit up there where she could see everything. I ran over to her. “What’s going on?”

“I got a new book.” Katie held it out. “It’s all about NASA. My mom said it was for older kids, but I told her if I’m going to be an astronaut I couldn’t read little kid books. Did you know there’s no sound in space?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “The book is good, but I think it would be better with more pictures.” She flipped through the pages.

I didn’t always understand humans, or, as we call them in the fairy community, humdrums. I come from a long line of fairy godmothers, but I always wanted to be just a plain humdrum. Or at least that was what I wanted until I learned how much fun being magical could be. After all if I wasn’t magical I wouldn’t be able to talk to my dog and have him talk back. Also if I hadn’t been magical I also wouldn’t have been able to save my sister from being eaten by a lizard. It wasn’t a large lizard or anything, my sister was really small at the time, sort of firefly-size. Even though it wasn’t a giant, mutant lizard, the rescue plan still required me to be pretty clever. Not that I’m bragging or anything. I’d decided that I would stick with being magical and have a humdrum as a friend instead.

Until this school year I’d always attended the Cottingley Fairy Academy across town. I’d convinced my parents to let me study humdrums up close as long as no one figured out that I was a fairy. I’d only been going to Riverside Elementary for a couple of months. There were still a lot of things I didn’t understand, but I was sure about this. No one in our class was excited that Katie had a book about rockets.

“Neat. It looks like a cool book.” One tip for getting along with humdrums is that you should always act interested in things they’re interested in, even if you aren’t. For example, if your best friend has a pet bird you should pretend that you find it really fascinating that they clean themselves by having dust baths. (Even though taking a dust bath sounds like a stupid way to get clean.) “So, do you know why everyone else is so excited?” I asked trying to pull Katie’s attention back.

Katie looked down at the cluster of girls. “Oh. Miranda’s going to be in a wedding.”

I watched Miranda’s friend Bethany act like she was going to faint because she was so thrilled. Bethany has always been a drama queen, but even the other girls seemed excited. “Is it that big of a deal?”

Katie closed her book with a snap. “Exactly! Who cares that she gets to be a bridesmaid? If you ask me, a bunch of wedding cake doesn’t make up for having to wear a fancy dress that itches and uncomfortable shoes.”

My forehead wrinkled while I thought about it. I could think of a lot of things that sounded more fun than wearing uncomfortable shoes. However, my mom granted more wedding wishes than any other. Fairy godmothers spent a lot of time on romance, so there must be something to it.

“My dress is going to be light pink, and we’re going to carry bouquets of pink and white roses,” I overheard Miranda say. The cluster of girls all sighed together.

“Roses mean true love,” Bethany said. “Every flower has a meaning, you know.” A few of the girls nodded. Bethany always had to be an expert on everything. “You have to be really careful about what you put in a wedding bouquet or you could doom the entire marriage.”

I wasn’t sure about the meaning of roses, but I was pretty sure Bethany was wrong about the part about the wrong flowers ruining things.

“I wonder what dandelions mean?” Paula asked.

Bethany ignored Paula.

“I’m not just some regular junior bridesmaid. I’m responsible for holding my cousin’s bouquet during the wedding ceremony so she can concentrate on getting married.” Miranda shrugged. “It’s a pretty important job.”

Everyone was silent for a moment as if they were awed by what Miranda would have to do. They were acting like she would be diffusing a bomb instead of holding a bunch of flowers. Humdrums were very confusing sometimes.

The bell rang. Katie jumped up and surfed down the slide with her arms out to keep her balance. I went down the ladder. If I tried to go down standing, I would fall for sure, and if I sat down to slide, Bethany would make fun of me for acting like a kid. Fourth grade is really complicated. Sometimes it’s okay to be a kid and other times everyone acts grown up. The hard part is figuring out which time you’re supposed to act which way. It would be a lot easier if there were a rule book. And so part of my deal with my parents to attend humdrum school was that I had agreed to do presentations about humdrums to other sprites at the fairy academy. How was I supposed to help future fairy godmothers understand humdrums when I couldn’t make sense of what they did half the time?

“I think it’s cool you’re going to be a junior bridesmaid,” I said to Miranda as we lined up to go inside. “I’d love to see your dress sometime.” Katie was my best friend, but I still couldn’t help being fascinated by Miranda. It wasn’t just me. Everyone in our entire school liked Miranda, including the really cranky lunch lady who would give her extra applesauce. Even the fifth graders liked Miranda and they spent most of their time ignoring the rest of us. I couldn’t help thinking it would be really cool to have Miranda as a friend, too.

“Do you think she’s going to wear her bridesmaid dress to school?” Bethany asked. “Duh, Willow.” She rolled her eyes at Paula.

I ignored Bethany. “Maybe you could bring in a picture of it.”

“I should bring the picture of my cousin’s dress. It is the most beautiful dress you’ve ever seen. It was on the cover of Brides magazine. It’s strapless and the skirt has layers of lace and sort of swooshes down with all these beads and sequins on it.”

All the girls around us gave another sigh of pleasure. I pulled my small humdrum notebook out of my bag and scribbled in it. Dresses are better the more sparkle they have. You never knew how humdrum information could be useful. Someday I might have to grant a dress wish and now I would know to add a bit of extra glitter.

Nathan, who was behind Miranda in line, snatched the notebook out of my hand and held it above his head. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that he was the tallest person in our class. “Got your diary!” He yelled out.

“Give it back.” I jumped up, trying to take it back from him, but I couldn’t reach. He moved in a circle laughing.

“Who wants to hear Willow’s secrets?” His friends laughed, which just encouraged him. “Dresses are better with more sparkle,” he read out. “Aw, are you dreaming about your own wedding?”

My face was red hot. What if he flipped the pages and read the other things in there? I was pretty sure no one else in my class had to take notes on how to fit in. I jumped up, but unless I could fly like my sister, this was never going to work. “Please give it to me,” I begged him. I looked around, hoping that our teacher, Ms. Caul, would come out and make him hand it over, but she was still inside. There’s never a grown-up around when you want one.

Nathan cocked his head to the side. “Willow wants a wedding of her very own. Isn’t that romantic?” He fluttered his eyelashes and put a sappy smile on his face. “She’s in looooooove.”

“Who is she going to find to marry her?” Bethany asked, and Nathan laughed.

Nathan held my notebook in the hand above his head as he tried to flip the pages to read more. “Maybe she says in here who she loves.”

“Give it back,” Katie demanded. Nathan laughed. Katie was even shorter than me. There was no way she was going to be able to grab the notebook. Unless there was a miracle, my life was about to be ruined. Nathan would read out all of my notes and everyone would make fun of me for the rest of the year. If my dog Winston was around I would make him run over and chew Nathan’s lips off. He wouldn’t do so much talking if he didn’t have any lips.

Katie jabbed Nathan hard in the stomach. He gave a loud oomph and bent over. Katie grabbed the notebook out of his hand and gave it back to me.

“Hey, you aren’t supposed to hit people,” Bethany yelled out.

“Hey, you aren’t supposed to steal things,” Katie said with her hand on her hip, copying Bethany.

I clutched the notebook to my chest. I was never going to let it out of my hands again. I might ask my mom to enchant it so that if any humdrums ever got a hold of it again, all it would show was pages with nothing on them other than Nathan Filler is a big jerk.

Ms. Caul came out and clapped her hands. “Okay, everyone, we’re supposed to be in a line.”

I held my breath to see if Bethany would tell on Katie. Ms. Caul might want to look at my notebook to see what all the trouble was about. Even though I thought she was the best teacher in the whole world— and smelled like vanilla—I didn’t want her to read it either. No one said anything; they shuffled back into a line so we could follow Ms. Caul into school.

“Willow is in wuuuve,” Nathan whispered, making his voice sound like little kid. The entire line of fourth graders snickered.

I spun around and glared at him. He put his hand under his shirt and made his shirt pump in and out as if his heart was beating like crazy.

That was it. Nathan Filler was going to have to pay.

© 2011 Eileen Cook

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