Girl in the Middle

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Girl in the Middle

by Christine Bailey

Chapter One

A simple, unfortunate misstep sparked a crazy chain of events. Why? Because I walked out of the house and left my lunch on the kitchen counter. Who knew ham and cheese on rye could have such dire consequences?

I even had gotten up early to make the stupid sandwich. I put it in my small red and white lunchbox and threw in some of Mom’s dark chocolate squares as an extra treat for the first day of my sophomore year. But when I headed back to the kitchen to get my lunch, I got sidetracked by my little sister Sophie who was in the middle of a rant. She and Mom were dueling about her outfit—one not at all appropriate for a seventh grader, but then nobody asked me.

Sophie twirled her strawberry blond locks. “Do you expect me to go to school looking like…Skye?”

“Thanks.” I glanced down at my oversized black T-shirt with a silver tiger on the front. I happened to like the way it looked with my jeans and Chuck Taylors. “Just because I’m not a pop princess doesn’t mean I don’t have style. Sophie, I can practically see your underwear, your skirt is so short.”

“Skye’s right,” said Mom, who was just as scantily clad as Sophie.

Sophie’s eyes, beneath glittery pink eyeshadow, widened and she stuck her tongue out at me. I turned on my heel and walked out of the kitchen, sans lunch.

“Mom, she has no clue,” screamed Sophie. “She has no idea what—”

Blah, blah, blah. I tried to tune her out. My sister is over-the-top dramatic. Last year, she decided to go by her first and middle name, Sophie Blue, because it was “posh.” I think it had to do with her weirdo friends from her special magnet school for the arts. She doesn’t have to go to the public school with me and our older sister, Sarah Elizabeth, who is super beautiful and popular—and a senior. Both of my sisters are walking magazine ads. They have glowing blondish locks (a stark contrast to my dark brown, frizzy hair), tall and thin physiques, flawless skin, outgoing personalities—the list keeps going. I’m trapped between two perfect sisters. The short and ugly troll.

Anyway, because Sophie has school downtown and not in the burbs with me and Sarah Elizabeth, she gets chauffeured around by my mom like a rock star. Dad is always out of town for work and Sarah Elizabeth has her own car and a schedule that starts way too early for me. This leaves me riding the bus.

So after my early morning run-in with Sophie, I headed straight to the wallpapered foyer where my backpack and dreaded French horn case sat waiting for me.

“I can still hear you, Sophie.” I grabbed my stuff and slammed the door on my sister’s whining, just as she said, “It’s Sophie Blue.“ I dragged my thousand-pound horn case across the front lawn to the bus stop where Marcella and Kyler Cross, the dorky freshman twins from down the street, stood. They’d recently moved to the suburban neighborhood with its mix of newly renovated and gently aging houses. The twins told me they were from Ohio or Nebraska or something. If Sophie thought my style was bad, she would have loved Marcella’s.

Tragic. She had on a white jumper accented with splashes of neon colors. Who wears jumpers after the age of four?

I stood there and made small talk with the twins. It was unseasonably warm for September, not to mention the humidity hanging in the air. A drop of sweat trickled down my back, and I cringed at the thought of wet armpit stains.

I glanced down the hill with high hopes of seeing the yellow bus, but the tree-lined street remained quiet except for the chipper singing of birds.

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