Hello, Mallory, p.1Ann M. Martin
This book is
Letter from Ann M. Martin
About the Author
Spectacles. Eyeglasses. Bifocals. Trifocals. No matter what you call them, glasses are glasses, and I have to wear them.
Hello. I’m Mallory Pike. I’m eleven. Apart from the glasses, this is the thing you need to know about me: I have seven younger brothers and sisters. That’s right, seven. And three of them are triplets, identical boys. If you think it’s easy to blend in when you come from an eight-kid family, wear glasses, and furthermore are the only one you know with a head of curly hair, you’re wrong.
The triplets are ten years old. Their names are Adam, Jordan, and Byron. Occasionally, they make me crazy, but mostly they’re all right. The good thing about triplets is that they always have each other. Built-in friends.
The next kid in my family is Vanessa. Vanessa is nine and hopes to become a poet. Sometimes she goes around for days on end speaking in rhyme. Talk about making me crazy. But Vanessa is all right, too, and in a lot of ways we’re very much alike.
My eight-year-old brother is Nicky. I feel kind of sorry for Nicky because he has trouble making a place for himself in our family. He wants to play with the triplets most of the time, since they’re boys, but the triplets think Nicky is a baby. That leaves Nicky with us girls, and Nicky is going through this phase where he hates girls.
Margo is seven. She’s going through a bossy phase, even though she’s almost the youngest in the family. She bosses everyone and everything, even my parents, her dolls, and Pow, this dog that lives down the street. It’s always “Do this,” and “Do that.” Mostly, we ignore her. I mean we ignore the bossiness, not Margo herself.
Last in our family is Claire. Claire is five. I guess being the baby in a big family isn’t always easy, but you’d think she wouldn’t exactly need to draw attention to herself. That’s just what Claire does, though, by being extremely silly. Over the summer, she started calling our parents Moozie and Daggles instead of Mommy and Daddy, and she attaches “silly-billy-goo-goo” to people’s names. Like, if she wants a drink, she’ll say, “Can I have some juice, Mallory-silly-billy-goo-goo?” Sometimes she’ll add, “Puh-lease, puh-lease, with a cherry on top?” It’s annoying, but at least she doesn’t do it as often as she used to. Besides, Claire is huggable and affectionate, so it’s easy to overlook the “silly-billy-goo-goo” stuff.
Then there are my parents. My mom doesn’t have a job. I mean, a job outside of the house, like being a doctor or an insurance salesperson or something. She says us kids are her job, and that with eight of us it’s a big job.
My dad is a lawyer, but not the kind you see on TV, making wild speeches in a crowded courtroom. He’s what’s called a corporate lawyer. He’s the lawyer for a big company in Stamford, Connecticut. (We live in Stoneybrook, Connecticut, which isn’t far away.) Mostly, he sits at a desk or attends meetings. Once in awhile, though, he does go to court, but I bet he doesn’t make speeches. I think he just stands up a lot and says, “Objection!” and things like that.
Every single one of us Pikes, even my parents, has dark brown hair (Mom calls it “chestnut brown” to make it seem less ordinary) and blue eyes. Nicky and Vanessa and I wear glasses (all the time — not just for reading, unfortunately), but as I mentioned earlier, I am the only one with curly hair. I’m also the only one with freckles across my nose. I really stick out. If only Mom would let me get contacts. But she won’t. Not until I’m fifteen. And she won’t let me get my ears pierced until I’m thirteen.
Being eleven is a real trial.
I will admit one thing, though: No matter what age you are, being the oldest of eight kids sure teaches you responsibility. And it taught me a lot about baby-sitting. I love sitting, even though I haven’t done much of it on my own yet. But guess what? These girls I know asked me if I’d be interested in joining their baby-sitting club! And they’re not just any girls, they’re older girls! No kidding. There are four of them and they live in my neighborhood. (Well, most of them do.) Their names are Kristy Thomas, Claudia Kishi, Mary Anne Spier, and Dawn Schafer. They used to have a fifth member, Stacey McGill, but she moved away. That’s why the girls need me — to take Stacey’s place. The way they know me is that they sit for our family all the time. Although lately, instead of being sat for, I’ve helped with the sitting. And as I said, I know a lot about kids.
I am so flattered that the girls want me to join their club. But I’m nervous, too. What if they decide I’m not good enough or not grown-up enough or something? Oh, well. I’ll know on Monday. That’s when I go to my first club meeting.
Right now it’s Saturday. Two days to wait. But I’ve got plenty to do. I’m reading three books — Dr. Dolittle, The Incredible Journey, and this really funny one called Freaky Friday. I love to read, and I don’t believe that you have to finish one book before you start another. I like to write, too. I keep journals, and I write stories, stories, stories. Sometimes I illustrate them.
Plus, this afternoon, I have to baby-sit. In fact, I better go downstairs now. Dad is taking the triplets to the barber for haircuts, and Mom is taking Margo and Vanessa shopping for sneakers. That leaves me in charge of Nicky and Claire. I guess I’m lucky that my parents pay me for taking care of my own brothers and sisters.
It was time to hide my journal (not easy, since I share a room with Vanessa). I put the book in its usual spot under my mattress. (I bet Vanessa knows where I keep it.) Then I ran down the stairs.
“Oh, there you are, honey,” said Mom. “Good. Your father and I are just about to leave. Nicky’s in the backyard with Buddy Barrett. You know where we’ll be, right?”
“At Mr. Gates’ and at Bellair’s,” I replied. (Mr. Gates is the barber; Bellair’s is a department store.)
“Right,” said Mom.
“Moozie-silly-billy-goo-goo, I want shoes, too,” whined an unhappy voice. It was Claire. She was slogging up the stairs from the rec room, looking dismal.
My mother turned around and took Claire’s chin in her hand. “You don’t need sneakers, sweetie,” she said. “When you’ve outgrown your red ones, then you can have a new pair.”
“Not fair,” grumbled Claire, heading back down the stairs. “Silly-billy-goo-goo.”
“Don’t worry, Mom,” I said. “I can handle her.”
And I could. Dad drove off with the triplets, Mom drove off with my sisters, and I took Claire into the backyard with a bottle of soap bubbles. Claire blew bubbles and forgot about shoes, and Nicky played volleyball with his friend Buddy (Buddy is Pow the dog’s owner) and forgot about us girls, which seemed to be a perfect arrangement for everyone.
“Foo, foo,” went Claire, making bubbles stream from the plastic wand. “Look, Mallory-silly-billy-goo-goo!”
Slam, slam went the volleyball as the boys pounded it back and forth over the net. They weren’t fooling around. Their game was serious.
The boys were still playing when my father came back with the triplets. The car pulled to a stop in the driveway. The doors opened slowly. Claire and I looked on with interest. My brothers hate getting their hair cut.<
“You look like a nerd,” said Adam, punching Jordan on the arm and laughing riotously.
“Me! You’re looking in a mirror,” retorted Jordan. “You look just the same … only worse.”
The boys tried to sneak into the house without being noticed, but Buddy caught sight of them and let out a howl of laughter. “Ha-ha! Ha-ha!” The volleyball game didn’t stop though.
“Pay attention, Buddy!” Nicky yelled. He slammed the ball over the net.
Since Buddy was laughing at the triplets, he wasn’t really ready. But he managed to return the ball. “Oof!” he groaned. “There you are, you show-off. I hit it anyw —”
“Ow! Ow, ow, ow!” Now Nicky wasn’t ready. He hadn’t expected Buddy to return his shot, and he’d caught sight of the triplets with their haircuts. The ball had sailed over the net fast and hard. It whammed into Nicky’s outstretched hand, and smashed his fingers.
“Ow!” he cried again. “My hand!”
Nicky sounded terrified. Dad, my brothers, Claire, and I all ran to him.
“Ow! Ow!” Nicky continued to shriek. He doubled over, clutching his hand to his stomach.
“Let me see, Nick-o,” said my father, easing Nicky’s hand toward him.
We all stared. Nicky’s pointer finger was sticking out from his hand at a strange angle.
“Oh, no,” I said with a gasp.
“Broken,” said Dad briskly.
Buddy burst into tears. “I’m sorry, Nicky. I’m sorry,” he kept saying.
Mom drove up just then. She saw the crowd in our yard, rushed over to us (along with Margo and Vanessa), took one look at Nicky’s finger, and said, “Emergency room. Mallory, you’re in charge.”
My brothers and sisters and I just stood in the yard with our mouths open while Mom and Dad carried Nicky to the station wagon and backed down the driveway. The only one making any noise was Buddy, who was still crying.
I remembered Mom’s words, “Mallory, you’re in charge,” and decided I’d better act like it. First, I calmed down Buddy and sent him home. Then I told the others to go inside and that I would fix them a snack.
When things were under control, I sank into a chair in the living room for a few minutes.
Wouldn’t the girls in the Baby-sitters Club be proud of me? I thought. I was taking care of six of my brothers and sisters all by myself. None of the other girls had ever done that, since Mom insists on two sitters if more than five kids need to be taken care of.
Two hours later, Nicky returned.
“Look!” he said, marching proudly into the kitchen, Mom and Dad at his heels.
“What’s that?” asked Claire, peering at his hand.
“A cast. My finger was broken in two places. They took X-rays.”
“He was very brave,” said Mom.
Nicky’s cast was a complicated thing covering most of his finger and hand, and positioning the finger in a way that looked pretty uncomfortable. But Nicky didn’t mind. He was waiting for Monday so he could show off his injury in school.
And I was waiting for Monday so I could brag to the girls in the Baby-sitters Club about my unexpected job.
Monday morning at last! Sunday had seemed like the longest day of my life. I had finished Freaky Friday, read three more chapters of The Incredible Journey, and written a story about a frog in a rainstorm called “Rainy Days and Froggy Nights.” I had entertained Nicky and baked cookies with Margo. When all that was done it was still only four o’clock in the afternoon.
But now Monday had arrived. I leaped out of bed and flung open my closet door. I wondered what a person was supposed to wear to a baby-sitting meeting with thirteen-year-olds. I decided I should look just a little dressed up. I thought about Claudia and the other girls in the club. I was pretty sure that when they got dressed up, they wore trendy clothes like big, bright sweater-dresses or sparkly tops and tight pants. I don’t have any clothes like that. Mom says I’m too young. Maybe when I’m twelve or thirteen.
Well, I could look nice anyway. After standing in front of the closet for so long that Vanessa made a pig face at me while she chose her clothes, I finally decided on my red jumper that said Mallory across the front, a short-sleeved white blouse, and white tights with little red hearts all over them.
“You look like a Valentine,” Vanessa told me, but I didn’t care.
I put on my penny loafers.
“Mallory!” said Mom as I sat down at the breakfast table a little while later. “You look lovely…. This isn’t school-picture day, is it?” she added, glancing suspiciously at my brothers and sisters. They certainly were not dressed in their best clothes.
“No, Mom. Don’t worry,” I told her. “I’m going to the Baby-sitters Club meeting, remember?”
“Oh, that’s right. Well, have fun.”
Have fun, I thought. Sure. I was as jumpy as a cat.
When I got to Stoneybrook Middle School that morning I looked around for Kristy, Dawn, Mary Anne, and Claudia. I thought that if I saw them, I could just walk up to them, as cool as anything, and say, “Hi, you guys. How is everything? Can’t wait for the meeting.” I could pretend I was a big eighth-grader instead of a twerpy sixth-grader.
But the sixth-grade wing is at the opposite end of the building from the eighth-grade wing. There was no chance I’d see them unless I took a little walk. I pretended I needed to go to the library, which is near the eighth-grade wing. As I wandered through the halls, I looked and looked for the girls, but I didn’t see them. Not in the library, not outside the cafeteria, not hanging around the gym. I was still only halfway back to my homeroom when the bell rang.
The bell! I’d been fooling around longer than I thought. I tore through the halls to my classroom and darted through the door just before Mrs. Frederickson closed it. I was the last to arrive and slid into my seat between bossy Benny Ott and Rachel Robinson. (Mrs. Frederickson seats us alphabetically.)
Wait a second. I wasn’t between Benny and Rachel. I was between Benny and some girl I’d never seen before. Rachel was one seat away from me. What was wrong? I checked my desk. Yup. It was the one I always sit at, with the big E.L. carved in an upper corner and the heart carved in a lower one.
I took another look at the girl sitting next to me. My eyes widened. For one thing, the girl was beautiful. She was long-legged and thin, and even sitting down she appeared graceful.
Also, she was black.
There were no black students in our entire grade. This new girl would be the only one. In fact, there are only about six black kids in the whole school. They’re in the seventh and eighth grades.
Wow. This was pretty interesting.
“Class,” Mrs. Frederickson said, rapping on her desk with a pencil. “Good morning. As you’ve probably noticed, we have a new student. Her name is Jessica Ramsey. Our seating has changed a bit to make room for her. Jessica is sitting at Rachel Robinson’s old desk, and Rachel and everyone after her have moved over one seat.”
I saw Rachel cross her eyes at Jessica, tilt her head to the side, and stick her tongue out. If Jessica noticed, she didn’t pay attention. She just kept looking straight ahead at Mrs. Frederickson.
Why, I wondered, did Rachel care about her desk so much? We only sit at these desks during homeroom. We don’t even keep stuff in them, since other classes use them the rest of the day.
“I hope,” Mrs. Frederickson went on, “that you will make Jessica feel welcome.” Mrs. Frederickson sounded sincere, but I noticed that she didn’t ask Jessica to stand up and introduce herself and tell us where she had come from. That was what she had done when Benny Ott was new. From day one, we’d known that Benny was from Detroit, and that his dad sold car parts and his mom was a secretary and Benny hoped to become a great actor.
Jessica Ramsey sat next to me, a mystery. I kept looking at her long legs. Maybe she was a dancer or a gymnast or something. Of course, I looked at her face, too. Jessica’s eyes were huge and dark. Her lashes were so long I wondered if they were fake. Pr
I wondered what being the only black student in your grade would feel like. I guessed it would feel no different from being the only anything in your grade. I was the only one in our grade with seven brothers and sisters, including ten-year-old triplets. But I knew that wasn’t quite the same. The kids couldn’t tell that just by looking at me. But Jessica’s coffee-colored skin was there for the world to see.
However, I didn’t think nearly as much about Jessica’s skin as I did about the fact that a new girl was finally in our class. I’d been waiting for this.
I needed a best friend.
I’m pretty friendly with most of the kids in our grade, but I don’t have a best friend. For one thing, all the other girls already have best friends. There aren’t any loose ones floating around. For another, I spend so much time with my brothers and sisters, and reading and writing, that I’d never needed a best friend. Lately, though, I’d decided it would be nice. However, my only shot was with a new kid, and the only new kid in our class had been yucky Benny Ott — until Jessica arrived.
Jessica caught me looking at her and gave me a shy smile. I smiled back, just as shyly. Was this the way things started between best friends? It wasn’t a bad start; it just seemed like such a small step….
The bell rang, and with clatters and crashes, my classmates tore out of the room. Benny went so fast he knocked his chair over and had to run back and stand it up again. By the time he had righted his chair, Jessica was gone. I’d been so busy watching Benny that I’d missed seeing Jessica leave. And I was disappointed. I’d been hoping I could help her find her next class. Someone else must have helped her.
Hello, Mallory by Ann M. Martin / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes