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.The girls had just begun to pad towards the building when Gwen inserted herself between Audrey and Katy."I'm sorry Katy, but this is private, secret business.You can't come with us." Her voice held a note of true regret.Katy blinked."Why not?" "Yeah." Audrey began to bristle at the insult."Why can't she come?""Because she's not on the list," Gwen said between clenched teeth, glaring at Jacie as though she expected her to offer some sort of moral support for her decision."She can come if she wants," Jacie said pointedly."All we're doing is walking back to class and it's a free country.""Wh-what list?" Nina ventured tentatively, her heart pounding at her daring.All the other girls in the class had gone to the second grade together, and even if they hung out with different groups, they knew each other well.Only she and a handful of boys had been promoted from a different class.And now, even after several months, she still felt, and was usually treated, like an outsider.Gwen rolled her eyes and held out the paper as she explained that all of them except Katy had last names on the passenger list."This means we're special," she finally declared."We might be real Pilgrims! We're practically famous."Jacie snorted."I told you, I'm not a Pilgrim.""Is your name Priest?" Gwen asked curtly."If it is, then read it and weep.You are a Pilgrim." She turned to Katy."Sorry, Katy.Schaub isn't on the list.I looked twice." Katy looked as though she might cry."But I'm cousins with Audrey and her last name is on the list.If she's a Pilgrim, then I am, too.We're related." With a quick hand Katy scrubbed the green war paint from her cheeks, then plucked the white feather from her hair in a showing of Pilgrim solidarity.Gwen drew in a thoughtful breath, then tugged her purple, construction paper bonnet a little tighter on her head so it wouldn't blow off."I don't think that counts, Katy.I think we should make our own club since we're all on the list.Amy is moving to Toledo over Thanksgiving, so I'll have lots more time to play with you all at recess because I won't have a best friend.""You don't stop being best friends with someone just because you're apart," Audrey said, frowning.She tugged her skirt a little higher on her thick waist."True, but I won't be able to play with Amy ever again." Gwen turned to Nina, who was quietly watching the entire exchange with intelligent, interested eyes."You never play with anyone, Nina.You just sit and watch." Then she addressed Jacie."And all you do is swing, swing, swing.Even if there was a highest swinging record in The Guinness Book of World Records," which she doubted, "the people from the book are never going to come to Hazelwood, Missouri, Jacie." "If I break a world record, they'd have to," Jacie challenged hotly, kicking a rock that wasn't really bothering anyone."But wouldn't a club be way more fun than breaking a record?" Gwen glanced at the building nervously, sure the bell was about to ring any second."No," Jacie said flatly."I hate Mickey Mouse Club reruns.They sing too much and act stupid." Miffed, Katy crossed her arms over her chest."Talent Round-Up Day isn't so bad." "C'mon, Jacie, let's do a club," Audrey enticed, loving the idea of being in something special."It could be fun." Then she gave Gwen a poke in the chest, causing her to drop the pink passenger list."But only if Katy can be in it, too.""No way, Audrey." With a scowl, Gwen pinched Audrey's arm, earning a squeal.Then she picked up the list."Everyone can't be in the club or it will be too big.No boys and nobody off the list.That has to be the rule.And don't hit or poke me again or I'm telling Mrs.Applebee.""No fair!" Katy protested, with Jacie nodding her agreement."I want to be in the club.I would be a good member.Maybe they just forgot my name.""W-wait." A faint voice interrupted them and all eyes swung to Nina.The girl prayed that her stuttering would magically disappear.But, of course, it didn't."I th-think," she stopped and forced herself to slow down and think about every word as her mother had reminded her so many times."I think K-Katy should be able to j-j-join." She exhaled as though she'd just run a mile and smiled.Everyone was still paying attention."See?" She pointed to a name on the list at the very bottom.The last name wasn't Schaub, but the first name was Katherine."That's my name!" Katy crowed, nearly choking on her wad of Bazooka bubble gum."I'm Katherine Schaub.My name is on the list."Gwen's mouth dropped opened."But your last name isn't on list.There are lots of Katherines."Jacie and Audrey grinned."A rule is a rule, Gwen," Audrey reminded."Katy's name is right there."Gwen thrust her chin in the air."Fine.We should take a vote then.And since it's about Katy she can't vote.And since Audrey is her cousin, she can't vote.That leaves me and Jacie and Nina." "I vote that we let Katy in," Jacie said instantly, "and that we make her president."Gwen stuck her tongue out at Jacie, but she didn't protest.After all, the vote had been her idea."I solved the mystery of all of us being Pilgrims, so I vote for myself to be president.And for only people with last names from the list should be in the club.Sorry, Katy." She turned to Nina."Nina?"Nina gulped and ran a hand through her wind-tousled hair, feeling the pressure and sheer importance of the moment.It was truly up to her now.She looked at each girl in turn, unintentionally lingering long enough so that they all began to sweat.Jacie gave her the tiniest smile of encouragement and Nina felt her confidence pick up steam."K-Katy is in.I vote w-with Jacie.""Yes!" Katy and Audrey hugged and jumped up and down in each other's embrace, Audrey's mop of curly brown hair flopping up and down as they moved.Just then, the bell rang and a horde of 8-year-olds began stampeding for the door."Can I be president after Katy?" Gwen asked loudly, accepting defeat graciously and fighting the urge to step aside and lose her space near the head of the line, despite the risk of being trampled."Sure," the girls said, clustering near the door.Nina smiled.She'd never been anywhere near the front of the line before.Her smile grew.Because of her height, she'd never even seen the front of the line.It wasn't that she was short for her age; Nina had gone to only the first few days of first grade before being promoted directly into the second grade.Mrs.Applebee opened the door and then, waving the children in, disappeared back into the classroom."So what will we do in this club?" Jacie asked Gwen as they entered the coatroom, not even noticing the familiar scent of dust, must, and sweat.She wasn't sure she wanted to be in a club at all.And no way was she going to sing or be in a talent show.No way.Before Gwen could answer, Bucky Lee shouldered his way past Nina, elbowing her hard."Out of the way, N-N-Nina," he mocked with a cruel laugh.Several of his friends joined in the taunt, all stuttering "N-N-Nina."Nina grimaced, feeling a bruise bloom instantly on her ribs.She whirled around with her fists in the air, eyes blazing, but she didn't have to say a word.Audrey and Katy, each of whom had three older brothers, descended upon two of the teasing boys with the practiced ease of hyenas on the prowl, pushing them hard against the pegged wall and knocking several pair of old galoshes from the rack above the jackets onto their heads.Jacie launched all of her 75 pounds at Bucky Lee, pinning him to the ground and shaking the life out of him by the collar of his shirt before the boy could even blink.He'd recently teased her about her failed world record attempt and this was the last straw.He had this coming.Gwen stepped in front of Nina, ready to fend off any further attacks, even though she knew her mother would take a strap to her if she tore her last pair of tights.Her face turned the same shade of red as her flaming hair at the thought of having only panties to wear under her dress, but she stood her ground [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]