Monday, September 22, 2008

My New Outfit

After a very slow weekend on this front, I went back to school this morning. Vee bought me this new outfit to wear. She said it was a birthday present, but since my birthday was September 3, and we were all scattered all across the country, she decided to give it to me Saturday. It was a pink blouse with a vest sewn onto it, a pair of blue jeans, and some little ballet flats. Now, I have to admit, I'm not crazy about pink, but I kinda like this outfit.

So, I decided to wear it to school today. Harriet was all, oh, wow, that looks very nice on you, and then she led me to the wall right next to my homeroom. There was my sign, ripped up into tiny little pieces.

"Do you know who did it?" Harriet asked me. I told her I thought I had an idea. What I didn't tell her was who I thought did it -- either Meredith or someone working for her.
Harriet suggested that I go to the principal's office and tell her my sign was torn down and ripped up.
But that wasn't the end of the story. Some of Meredith's little followers came up to me with campaign pins that read "Hop To Hopkins," asking me to vote for her. I wouldn't vote for her even if I weren't running myself. Seriously, if you were in my shoes, would she be the kind of person you'd want for your homeroom rep?

Friday, September 19, 2008

About Nicki and Natasha

The phone rang last night. It was Nicki.
Nicki had enrolled in the sixth grade at my school, but she wasn't in my homeroom. Somehow, though, she'd heard about my decision to run for class rep.
"Well, all right!" she yelled into the receiver. She also told me her homeroom had already chosen its rep, a Heather someone she didn't like. The way she described Heather, she sounded a heckuva lot like Meredith. "At least you're making it a contest," she said.
She came over, then I introduced her to Harriet and the three of us grabbed a bunch of markers and made more signs.

Today was the first day that actually felt like fall. It was crisp and cool and I even wore my favorite hooded jacket. I walked over to the bus stop and waited for the bus.

When I got off to go to class, I met Harriet and Nicki in the hallway. They were already hanging up signs.
"Wow, you guys are quick," I said.
"Nicki and I said we wanted to get here before Meredith and her gang set up shop."
Hmm, I thought, couldn't blame them there.

We had barely finished when Natasha showed up. Natasha, you may remember, is Meredith's best friend, er, best lackey. She follows her around everywhere, and never does ANYTHING without Meredith knowing about it. That's why I was surprised to see her show up without her other half. And I have to admit, her hair is awesome, it's this lovely auburn shade and it falls in all these waves.
"What's that?" Natasha asked.
"A sign," I answered.
"I know it's a sign, dumbo," she shot back, "what's it doing there?"
"Haven't you heard?" Nicki said, "she's running for class rep."
Natasha burst in laughter. "You?" she asked herself as she shot a mean stare at me. "You mean -- you're -- running against Meredith?"
"Yeah," I said, straightening up.
"It's a free country," Nicki added. "If you're trying to stop her from running, forget it. She got in fair and square."
"You've got no chance. Meredith already has the votes she needs to get elected, and I suggest you either get with the program or get left behind." She tossed her auburn waves in our faces as she left.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kristy came home

Well, some (sorta) big news on this front -- Kristy came home.
"Kristy" is Kristina Van Dyke, a girl in my class. I don't know her that well, but Harriet does. Mrs. Baldwin asked me to tutor her.

Kristy spent two weeks in the hospital because she broke her hand in three different places from an accident. As part of her treatment she had to have surgery, and now she has to relearn how to do everything. Including stuff we tend to take for granted.

I'm really sick of Meredith. I wish she'd disappear. Being that she's popular, everybody's gonna crowd around her. I don't understand why she's popular though. Sometimes I think I wish I knew her secret.
Harriet told me she actually used to be friends with Meredith -- back in kindergarten. But she never said why they stopped being friends or what happened.
Katarina's nice. A little quiet, doesn't say much, but she's nice. Meredith rails into her, too, calls her "Fat Kat" because she's chubbier than the rest of us.
Nicki, of course, would rather be with her animals than with other people. I guess that's ok too. Sometimes I can't believe I'm actually related to her. I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of Nicki sticking around awhile. But it looks like she might. Her mother is pregnant with twins.
I complained about all this to Robyn, my new pen pal. She lives in New York -- but upstate. I want to go there someday. The idea of becoming a traveling AG excites me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Campaign '08 begins

And I'm not talking about McCain vs. Obama.
I'm talking about Hopkins vs. Hotchkiss. It's on like Donkey Kong.
Here's how it started.
So, our teacher walks up to the front of the class today and says the sixth grade needs a class representative on the school's student council, and our homeroom needs one representative to send to the main election. And you know Little Miss Thang rose up her hand, waved it in the air like she was waving hi to someone.
So far, she was running without any competition. She was going to waltz into office, just like that.
The thought of Meredith Hopkins being MY homeroom rep was enough to make me ralph. Then, suddenly, I thought about it. In my American history class I was reading about this girl named Felicity Merriman, and I learned that our founding fathers broke away from England so that we could have the right to free and fair elections.
A free and fair election huh? That gave me an idea.
I passed Harriet a note in class and told her I was thinking about running against Meredith. "What, are you kidding me?" she whispered.
"I know she's the most popular girl in the sixth grade," I told her. "But it's not an election if nobody's running against her."
Harriet shrugged. "I guess that's true," she said.
During recess we went to the principal's office and I dropped my name in the jar she had on her desk.

A few minutes later Meredith approached me. Her skirt was so short, any more and I could see her underwear. And boy, was she angry. "Who put you up to this?" she asked.
"Put me up to what?" I asked her.
"I heard you were running against me for homeroom representative."
There were no hangers on, no onlookers. It was just her and me, face to face. I straightened up my posture. I cleared my throat and looked her in the eye, American girl to American girl. "Yeah, why?"
She looked at me again, then she looked away. Then she did a strange thing. She extended her hand. "You're on, Hotchkiss."
After extending mine, I felt her heavy grip as she walked away, tossing her blond head smelling of strawberry shampoo in my face. What had I gotten myself into?
Still feeling woozy from that attack of strawberry shampoo, I took another look at Meredith and I realized what I was up against. She's basically an eleven year old Barbie doll come to life. And I, plain old Haley Hotchkiss, am her only challenger to sixth grade supremacy.

This evening Harriet and I got some Crayola markers and started making some signs. Word spread pretty fast because as soon as I got home, Megan from the paper called. She wanted to arrange interviews with all the candidates from different homerooms. "I can't interview myself, could I?" I said.
"No, Haley, of course not, someone else will interview you." She wouldn't tell me just who would interview me, but I was secretly hoping it wasn't Alison. That girl, honestly, gives me the creeps, even more than Meredith does. And that's saying something.
"You sure you want to go through with it?" Harriet said while writing 'Vote 4 Haley' on a poster board.
Sure there was a part of me that was afraid. But there was an even bigger part that didn't want Meredith Hopkins to get the better of me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

School Newspaper?

Today my English teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, asked to see me. "Haley, I've looked at your essays, and I was wondering -- have you considered writing for the school newspaper?"
I had to admit, I'd never thought about it.
"I just thought, you know, Haley, you're a good writer. You have talent. I just think it's time to put your talent to some good use."
Harriet was waiting for me outside the door when I came out. "Are you going to do it?" she asked.
"I don't know," I whispered.

Just then Meredith walked by in her cheerleaders uniform. I'd forgotten there was a pep rally this afternoon for the football team. And I was reminded once again of why she made me sick.
When I walked into the library where the newspaper staff was meeting, a girl with stick-straight red hair -- hair even straighter than mine, if that's possible -- and wearing a yellow dress approached me. "Hi, I'm Megan Ryder," she said in a cheery voice. "I'm the editor of the newspaper. You must be Haley. Mrs. Baldwin said you were coming."
She did? I wondered. I'd never told Mrs. Baldwin I would come.

Megan shook my hand hard. She then introduced me to some of the other staff members. "Keisha Vance is our music editor. Ask her anything and everything about music and she'll tell you. Alison McCann is our sports guru. She's memorized all kinds of cool stats and plays three sports herself. Katarina Engel speaks three different languages and was even born in Germany. Whatever you want her to research, she'll find."
Alison called me over to sit at the table with her, Keisha, and Katarina. She was a scruffy looking sort, with long messy blond hair that she kept running her hands through. It didn't look like she ever washed or combed it.
Just then Mrs. Baldwin came in. She introduced herself as the faculty adviser. She then said there needed to be a back-to-school edition of the paper.
"Well, what can we put in it?" I wondered.
"Anything you want, as long as it has to do with all of us coming back to start a new school year."

For the next few minutes, we talked about ideas for the issue. We finally settled on interviewing students on what they thought of the beginning of the year. Question was, who were we going to interview?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A New Friend?

So, I'm sitting at home going over my English homework (like I have anything better to do on a Saturday when the weather is dreary and it keeps looking like it's going to rain but doesn't) when the phone rings.
It's Harriet.
I'm a little surprised by it, but then she invited me over to her place to watch some movies and chill.
So I said, okay, I'm gonna go.
I get there, right, and Harriet's mom has put out the yummiest swiss roll cakes. I tried everything in my power to avoid them, but it was no use. I ate one anyway.
Turns out Harriet's rented a few DVDs, like The Babysitters Club and Harriet the Spy. I think I might have seen "Babysitters" once. It's this group of girls who run a babysitting service. I don't think I'd have the patience. Nicki might though.
Halfway through Harriet the Spy, I realized, the more I looked at it, the more it looked like my life. No, not the running around with a notebook watching people and stuff. I mean, the whole thing with Meredith. She's perfected the art of making people miserable while making herself look good.
You should see the way she looks at me when she walks by. Like she's better than me or something.
And then she's got her little followers watching her every move. Like Natasha. And these two other girls, Maggie Jones and Allyson Morgan. I mean, it's not like she's all that pretty. All she has is the blondest hair I've ever seen. What do they see in her -- besides the fact that she's rich?
Anyway, Harriet was halfway asleep through the FIRST movie. Wuss.
That left me up to clean up those swiss cakes. I forgot to bring my nightclothes so I'm sleeping in my shirt and planned to go back home to change. I'm also using the computer in Harriet's mom's room (shhh)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back to School

It hasn't gotten any better, either.
I returned to school after the week-long mini vacation forced by Hurricane Gustav. And, let's just say, not much has changed. Except now, I'm riding the school bus instead of going to school with Venus.
I have to say, the school bus was another adventure. All the rowdy boys and cool girls were sitting in the back, which left me to seek a quiet seat somewhere up front.
I buried my face in my hands. I didn't know how I was going to make it through this year.
But for the first sign of progress, I walked unassisted to my home room. I actually remembered where it was.

I saw the girl who sat in front of me again. "My name's Harriet Jones," she said. "I'm named after my grandmother."
I smiled. "I'm Haley Hotchkiss."
She extended her hand. "Guess we're gonna be seeing a lot of each other, huh?"
Just when Harriet and I were talking, in walked Meredith and her crowd. As usual, Meredith showed up in the front of the pack. She wore a shirt with the word 'princess' sprawled on the front. It kind of fits. That's pretty much what she is to the sixth grade.
Harriet ran through them one by one. "Meredith Hopkins, she's the ring leader. Her parents own the mall downtown, and her dad is the grandson of the man that used to be mayor." I had to admit to myself I was impressed.
"The redhead, that's Natasha Ivanova. Her parents are Russian."
Looking at Natasha, copying everything Meredith wore and did, I decided that the only thing worse than being Meredith WANTING to be Meredith Hopkins.
Harriet added tidbits about every girl and boy who made up Meredith's group, whether they were in our homeroom or not. How did she know all this stuff? I wondered.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My First Day of School

My new school seems so big compared to my old school.
The main hallway was littered with handwritten signs with arrows pointing to where we had to go. But I was clearly not ready to do this. Finally I ended up asking one of the teachers walking up and down the halls. "Sixth grade?" she asked in between chews of gum.
"Yes, m'aam," I replied in my politest voice.
"All the sixth graders are meeting in the auditorium."
"Where's that?"
"Down the hall and take a left. You can't miss it."After thanking her, I tramped my feet toward the mass of kids crammed in one room like sardines. I had never seen this many people in my life.

Suddenly I felt smaller and younger than ever. These girls were a bunch of perfect-looking Hannah Montana clones. How was I going to compete with them?
A slender teacher in a pant suit with a short brown hair walked up to the microphone that had been placed to the front of the auditorium. She began arranging us all in ABC order.
"If your last name begins with the letters A through G, go with Mrs. Banks. If your last name begins with H through M, go with Mrs. Martin..."
Since my last name is Hotchkiss, I would have to first, find Mrs. Martin and second, find the group that was going with her.
I heard a boy behind me whisper 'Four Eyes' as I walked past. I knew he was talking about me because he pointed his finger.
"Your homeroom teacher will have your locker assignments, your locker keys, and some other things you need to know about our school. Welcome to junior high."
Welcome to junior high, indeed.

I followed the line of students to my new classroom. I found myself sitting in the middle row of the classroom, behind a girl with long black hair and a purple sweater, half-listening to the teacher call roll and talk about class assignments and school supplies and locker assignments. Before I knew it she had passed some papers along to me that my dad would need to sign and that I would need to read carefully.

I heard the door open. Coming through it was the blondest girl I'd ever seen. Her long silky hair fell in soft waves past her shoulders. She must have been one of those rich girls in the big houses on the other side of town. She just oozed cool.
"Name?" asked Mrs. Martin, peering through her glasses.
"Meredith Hopkins."
"Don't make being late a habit, Meredith."
Meredith flipped her blond hair back as she took the empty seat next to me. The way she looked at me, she looked like she could crush me like a bug.
I felt smaller than ever.
The girl in the purple sweater turned around again, and I looked at her. Unlike most of the other girls in the class, she had dark skin and huge brown eyes. "Meredith gets away with murder," she confided. "She's the most popular girl in the entire sixth grade."
I stole another look at Meredith, who was applying makeup with a mirror and flipped open her cell phone. Three other copycat girls immediately crowded around her. I felt a small pang of jealousy. Was this what junior high was going to be like for me?

I had trouble finding somewhere to sit for lunch, too. At my old school I just sat anywhere I wanted, but here, everyone had a certain table. It was weird. Then I heard a group of girls yelling my name. "Haley!" they shouted.
I turned around, and there was Meredith in the middle of the pack.
"Hey, Haley, did you catch the wrong bus?" she asked.
Added another girl, "Yeah, isn't St. Thomas Aquinas on the other side of town?"
"What wrong bus?" I wondered.

"Well, with the plaid skirt and all," said Meredith, tossing her blond head around, "I thought, you know, maybe -- maybe you were supposed to catch the bus there."
All the kids at the table burst out in laughter. Meanwhile, all I wanted to do was disappear.
The rest of the day seemed like a blur. I don't remember what classes I was in, or who was in them, or even how many stacks of papers my teachers gave me. All I know was I was glad when three o'clock came.

Hurricane Gustav

So, not even a week into school, we had to evacuate for Hurricane Gustav. Now, being from Pennsylvania, I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. I mean, seriously, I have to think being told to pack up and leave is a scary thought. Even scarier is what could happen if you don't and the storm turns out to be as bad as the weather people are saying. My mind flashed back to all the pictures I saw on the TV three years ago.

So, after all the arrangements had been made, I was on a plane heading to Pennsylvania to see my father and new stepmother. I didn't want to be there but I didn't have a choice. Venus, on the other hand, went to Texas with her family. She didn't want to separate us but she didn't have a choice, either. There were eight people in her van and no room for me and my stuff... so we parted ways.

I spent most of the week arguing with my stepmother. Over silly stuff, too. She's all worried about hosting dinner parties and how she thinks her friends would think of me. I was glad to return to Louisiana.

When I got back to Louisiana, the power was STILL out! We only just got electricity here yesterday, so this is the only time I've been able to even say anything about this storm.