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Abby and the mystery bab.., p.1
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       Abby and the Mystery Baby, p.1

           Ann M. Martin
 
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Abby and the Mystery Baby


  Contents

  Title Page

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Acknowledgment

  About the Author

  Also Available

  Copyright

  “Go, Abby!”

  “Move it, Stevenson!”

  “Looking good!”

  I didn’t even break my stride when I heard the yelling. I just grinned and stuck both thumbs up in the air. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the big yellow blur of a school bus trundling by me. The bus was full of kids, and some of them (the ones who’d pulled down their windows to shout at me) were friends. They were on their way home from school, and so was I. The difference was that I had chosen to run rather than ride.

  I knew my friends thought I was nuts. After all, it was wintertime and not exactly warm out. Why would anyone choose a sweaty, gasping run over a comfy ride on the bus?

  The thing is, even though they are my friends, none of those kids knows me very well. That’s because I moved here (“here” is Stoneybrook, Connecticut) only recently. Back at my old school, on Long Island, nobody would have been surprised to see me running at this time of year.

  “There goes Abby,” they’d say. “Training, as usual.”

  As my old friends know — and as my new friends are finding out — I’m always in training for something. Soccer, track, softball, you name it. Not that I think sports are everything. I have plenty of other interests. But being in good shape physically is important to me.

  Hold on. Here I am, babbling on, and we haven’t even been formally introduced. Well, let’s back up, then. My name’s Abby Stevenson. I’m thirteen years old and I’m in eighth grade at Stoneybrook Middle School. I have a twin sister named Anna, and we live with our mom in a house that’s really a bit too big for the three of us.

  There used to be four of us, but that was before we moved to Stoneybrook, back when Anna and I were kids, when my mom was a happy, relaxed kind of person who laughed a lot and cooked the most incredible food. (She was going to cooking school at the time, to learn how to be a chef.)

  That was before my dad died.

  I don’t talk about him much, so I’m only going to say this once: My dad was the best. He was the one who made my mom laugh. He was an environmental engineer with the heart of a hippie (he went to the original Woodstock!). He cared about the world and about making it a better place. He gave the best hugs. He played the harmonica — not well, but I’d give him an E for effort. He wore steel-rimmed glasses and plaid flannel shirts, and he always smelled good.

  And then one day he was gone. He died in a car accident when Anna and I were nine, and nothing has ever been the same.

  My mom changed her job and became a high-powered editor at a publishing house in New York City. Recently, she was promoted, and since we could afford it, we moved to a nicer, bigger house here in Connecticut. I like Stoneybrook just fine, and I’ve made some good friends here. I’ve even become a member of this terrific club called the BSC, or Baby-sitters Club (more about that later).

  But I’ll never stop missing my dad.

  Neither will Anna. She’s made friends here, too. They’re mostly music friends. Anna is an incredibly talented musician who spends nearly all of her free time practicing the violin. She’s in the orchestra at school, and she also takes private lessons and plays chamber music with other musicians.

  As you’ve probably guessed, Anna and I are pretty different as far as personality goes. We do look alike, though. We both have dark, dark brown eyes — they’re almost black, really — and terrible eyesight, which we correct with contacts and glasses (not at the same time, naturally). And we have the same thick, curly, dark hair.

  We recently discovered one other physical difference between us: Anna has scoliosis, which is curvature of the spine. Her curve is pretty minor, and she won’t need surgery. But she does have to wear a brace for a while.

  At first I was worried about Anna. I hovered around trying to take care of her and cheer her up, instead of letting her work through things on her own. I nearly drove her crazy. We even had a big fight about it. But once we sorted it all out, we ended up closer than ever.

  I love being a twin. Anna and I are connected forever in some very deep and mysterious ways. At times, when we’re separated, we’ll have these feelings about each other. And they’ll turn out to be true. For instance, one time, I was having this monster asthma attack and Anna knew it, even though she was miles away at an all-state orchestra competition.

  Asthma. The bane of my existence. Did you ever have the feeling that you needed air desperately, but no matter what you did you couldn’t seem to pull enough of it into your lungs? Probably not, unless you are a fellow asthmatic. All I can tell you is that it’s the pits. I don’t let it keep me from doing things, though. I carry inhalers with me at all times, and if I feel a little short of breath or a bit wheezy, they usually fix me right up. Usually. Not always. There have been a couple of trips to the emergency room, but I prefer not to think about those.

  I also have mondo allergies to dogs, kitty litter (but not cats, oddly enough), any kind of dust, pillows with feathers in them (ooh, just thinking about that can make me sneeze!), and a bunch of different foods, including shellfish and cheese. It’s a drag, but what can you do? I’ve learned to live with my allergies and asthma, though I keep hoping I’ll grow out of them sometime.

  Thump, thump, thump. My running shoes made a satisfying rhythm as they hit the sidewalk. My arms pumped easily, my breathing was deep and regular, and I felt relaxed and happy. Running always makes me feel good. I was glad I’d decided it was time to quit riding and start striding.

  I smiled as I ran, thinking about how I’d cracked up my table in the cafeteria during lunch hour. I’d been doing impressions of our teachers, and of Mr. Kingbridge, the assistant principal. I’m a pretty good mimic, if I do say so myself. I’m never mean about it; I don’t pick on people’s speech impediments or anything. I just try to copy their walks, their ways of gesturing, their particular speech patterns, and soon my audience is practically rolling on the floor.

  Back in my old school, I had a name as a class clown. It hasn’t taken long to build the same reputation here in Stoneybrook. I’m always the first to fire off a one-liner or perform a little bit of slapstick. And truthfully? I don’t think the teachers mind it. I notice they’re usually smiling, too. After all, who couldn’t use a little humor in the day?

  Anyway, it’s not as if I use comedy to avoid my schoolwork. I’m a decent student, and I usually make better-than-average grades, as long as I’m not stressed out. For instance, the way I was not long ago when Anna and I were studying for our Bat Mitzvah.

  “Bat what?” you might be asking. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. See, my family is Jewish, and when Jewish girls turn thirteen they take part in a special celebration called a Bat Mitzvah. (Boys have a celebration, too, called a Bar Mitzvah.) It’s a big deal, because it represents a person’s entry into adulthood.

  The thing is, it’s not just a party. It’s much more than that. When you become a Bat Mitzvah, you have to read (in public) from a scroll called the Torah. Which is written in Hebrew. Yikes. So, for about a year before the big day, Anna and I had to study Hebrew. Plus, we each had to write a speech, which we would give after our Torah readings. The speech was th
e part that pushed me over the edge in the days leading up to our Bat Mitzvah. It was a nightmare, but somehow it all worked out and I made it through the day with flying colors.

  Just thinking about our Bat Mitzvah made me grateful for having nothing bigger to worry about than what to eat for a snack when I arrived at home.

  Thump, thump, thump. I really had a great rhythm going now. I looked around at the patches of snow and the bare brown branches of the trees (soon to be covered with green) and thought about how nice it used to be back when Mom was going to cooking school. I’d arrive home after school to find her in the kitchen, doing “homework.”

  “What do you think of this puff pastry?” she’d ask, shoving a tray of gorgeous, chocolate-drizzled treats at me. “Try the one on the left and tell me if you think it’s flakier than the one on the right.”

  “Mmmpph,” I’d say, after I’d taken a few bites (just to be polite, of course). “They’re both awesome.”

  Those were the days. Now when I walk into the house, I’m more than likely to find a chilly, empty kitchen. I’m always the first one home, since Anna is either at orchestra or lessons or some other music-related activity. And Mom? Mom commutes by train to her job in New York City, where she almost always works late. If she makes it home before seven it’s an event. We rarely eat a home-cooked meal together on weekdays. The three of us subsist on frozen dinners, pizza, and take-out Chinese.

  So, as far as afternoon snacks go, let’s just say that the microwave and I have become very, very close pals. And I don’t even mind the empty house so much anymore. I’m used to it, I guess.

  I was feeling great as I turned into our U-shaped driveway. There’s nothing like a good, brisk run to make you feel pumped up and happy. I’d decided I was going to nuke a bean burrito for my snack, and I was looking forward to the quiet couple of hours I’d have before my BSC meeting later that afternoon.

  I trotted up the driveway, slowing my pace in order to cool down a little before my postrun stretching routine. I usually stretch on our front porch, which is humongous. As I approached, I saw a bulky, light-colored object near the front door. (It stood out because the door, which is beautifully carved, is made out of dark wood.) Was it a package? Maybe it was the bike helmet I’d ordered. That would be excellent. But as I drew closer, I saw that it wasn’t a package at all.

  It was a car seat. A small, gray one. The kind people use for babies. It was just sitting there on the porch, which I thought was weird. Why would someone leave a car seat on our front porch? Forgetting about my stretching routine, I stepped up onto the porch to take a look.

  The car seat wasn’t empty.

  There was a baby in it. A living, breathing, squirming baby — about four months old, to my expert baby-sitter’s eye.

  Someone had left a baby on our doorstep.

  Panic city.

  I took a deep breath. Then I took a couple more. I stared at the baby, and it stared calmly back at me with huge, slate-blue eyes that matched its little blue hat and also the blue cowboys and horses on the threadbare — but clean — red blanket that it was wrapped in.

  “Who are you?” I said out loud. “And why on earth would anyone leave you here?” The baby blinked, but other than that its serene expression didn’t change. And it certainly didn’t speak up with an answer to my questions.

  I shivered a little. I’d been plenty warm during my run, but now I realized that it wasn’t exactly balmy out. “Well, whoever you are, I think you’d better come inside with me,” I said. I opened the front door, gathered up the car seat, went inside, and kicked the door shut behind me.

  The house was empty. Big surprise, right? As I said, I’ve grown used to being the first one home. But that day, I felt more alone than ever. It was just me and the baby, and, more than anything, I wished someone else were there to help me figure out what to do.

  “Anna?” I called tentatively. Maybe, just maybe, she’d decided to skip orchestra for once.

  No such luck.

  “Mom?” I tried. My voice sounded a little shaky.

  The silence was broken only by a little sniff. I looked down and saw that the baby looked as if it were about to sneeze.

  “Okay, baby,” I said, heading toward the living room. My arms were tired from holding the car seat, and I needed to put it down. “It’s just you and me. Let’s make ourselves comfortable.” I settled the car seat onto the couch. The baby, still calm, gazed at me as I stripped off my warm-up jacket and kicked off my running shoes.

  I sat down on the couch to take a closer look at this tiny person who had appeared on my doorstep. One little arm had wiggled free of the blanket and was waving around. “You are adorable,” I said, picking up the tiny hand and looking at the even tinier, perfect fingernails that adorned it. The hand was warm. The baby couldn’t have been out on that porch for very long.

  The baby frowned.

  “And I bet you’d like to get out of that car seat, wouldn’t you?” I asked. Carefully, moving slowly so as not to startle the baby, I unfastened the strap that held it securely into the seat. Then I picked up the baby, blanket and all. “Ohhh.” I sighed as I pulled the baby close for a hug. Its warm weight filled my arms, and I could smell that delicious baby smell coming from the top of its head.

  There was another smell, too. It was faint but unmistakable. The baby needed its diaper changed. How was I supposed to deal with that? I felt the panic rise again. Then I took a deep breath and tried to calm down.

  I glanced back at the car seat and noticed a navy blue bag that must have been wedged in next to the baby. With any luck, it would hold clean diapers. I shifted the baby’s weight to one arm, reached over, and retrieved the bag. Sure enough, it was packed full of diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, and even a couple of clean sleepers. This baby came fully equipped. Obviously, someone cared about this child. But why had he (or she) abandoned the baby, and why on my porch?

  I went to work right there on the couch. I unwrapped the blanket to find that the baby was dressed in a yellow sleeper with ducklings embroidered on it. “Oh, how cute!” I said. Laying the baby down on the blanket, I unsnapped the legs of its sleeper and saw a pretty soggy disposable diaper. I pulled it off.

  Suddenly, I had an answer to something I’d been wondering about.

  “A boy!” I said. “He’s a liddle, iddle boy.” I knew I sounded ridiculous, but nobody was there to hear me. Except the baby. Who was now smiling up at me.

  He was too cute for words.

  I wiped him down, fastened on a clean, dry diaper, and snapped the legs of his suit up again. “There you go, sir!” I said. “All set.”

  He smiled again, and my heart melted. I bent down and rubbed noses with him. “You are the bestest, sweetest, oogiest little booger I ever saw,” I murmured to him. Something about babies just brings out those nonsense words, doesn’t it?

  The baby squirmed and gave a tiny hiccup. Then he smiled again.

  I was in love.

  I was also awfully curious. Who was this gorgeous little guy? Who had put him on my porch, and why? And why my porch? For one crazy second, I had this image of the stork getting lost and leaving this baby with us by mistake. Like in Dumbo.

  That was a nutty idea, but it was nicer than some of the other ideas that were popping into my head. Like, had the baby been kidnapped? Was his mom crying her eyes out, wondering where he was? Who was his mom, and how would I ever find her?

  Just then the phone rang and I crash-landed back into reality.

  I picked up the baby and ran for the phone. “Hello?” I said, hoping against hope that it would be my mother or some other responsible adult. I suddenly realized that I had no idea what to do next. I mean, a baby had landed on my doorstep, a baby I knew nothing about. What was I supposed to do?

  “Mrs. Stevenson?” asked a voice on the other end. A calm, female voice.

  “No, this is Ms. Stevenson,” I said. “Who is this?”

  “I’m calling from Benco Industries,
the woman said. “With a very special offer just for the Stevenson family.”

  Oh, brother. A sales call. My heart sank. But the woman sounded so nice and so capable. For a second, I had the urge to blurt out my problem. (“See, this baby just arrived on my doorstep and …”) but I realized how ridiculous that would be. This lady on the other end of the phone couldn’t help me, even if she did sound wise and comforting.

  “Thank you, but I’m really not interested,” I said. “Good-bye.” As I hung up the phone, something caught my eye. A piece of paper lay near the sugar bowl on the kitchen table. I picked it up. It was a note from my mom.

  “Came home from work early,” it said. “Heating system broke and it was freezing there. Out doing errands.”

  That meant Mom would be home soon. Yes! But there was no knowing exactly when. Boo!

  And I needed help now. Help figuring out what to do. I was so panicked I just couldn’t think straight. I shifted the baby from one arm to the other as I gazed at the phone. Who could I call?

  Kristy. That was it. Kristy Thomas knows what to do in any situation. Kristy’s a friend, a neighbor, and the president of the BSC. I knew she could help. I dialed her number.

  Kristy appeared at my front door approximately six seconds after we’d hung up. Behind her was her grandmother, Nannie.

  “Oh, look at the poor little guy,” cooed Nannie, holding out her arms for the baby. “What a tiny thing, to be away from his parents.” I handed him over, and she immediately started making those “oogie, boogie” noises to him. I guess it’s universal.

  Kristy, meanwhile, swung into action. “What time did you come home?” she asked. “And where was he, exactly? And was there any kind of note or ID?” The questions tumbled out of her so quickly I could barely keep up.

  “Um, I guess about half an hour ago. On the porch. No. Not that I saw.” I was a little dazed.

  “Okay, let’s make the call,” said Kristy, marching into the kitchen.

  “The call?” I asked, following her and feeling stupid.

  But Kristy wasn’t waiting for me to figure it out. She’d already dialed. “Sergeant Johnson, please,” she said crisply into the phone. Then she said a bunch of other stuff, but I missed most of it, because just then my mom came home.

 
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