Claudia makes up her min.., p.1
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       Claudia Makes Up Her Mind, p.1

           Ann M. Martin
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Claudia Makes Up Her Mind


  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

  Letter from Ann M. Martin

  Acknowledgment

  About the Author

  Scrapbook

  Also Available

  Copyright

  “ ‘So remember your litterquette: If you drop it, pick it up,’ ” read my homeroom teacher, Ms. Pilley, from a sheet of paper. “ ‘Together we can make Stoneybrook Middle School a trash-free zone in November.’ ”

  Litterquette? As in, litter-etiquette?

  Puh-leeze.

  I hate homeroom announcements. Especially dumb ones. Frankly, that early in the morning, I would much rather be at home, listening to the sound track of my dreams.

  “Now, let’s see, I have another message here somewhere,” Ms. Pilley said, searching the mess on her desk.

  My eyes were closing. My mind was going, going …

  “Eeeewwww! Brandon’s throwing spitballs!”

  Zing. Wide awake.

  Thank you, Bonnie Lasher, class alarm clock.

  “Am not!” Brandon Klein retorted.

  “Then what’s this disgusting thing in my hair with your bad breath on it?” Bonnie shot back.

  “You smelled a spitball?” asked Michael King.

  “How do you know what Brandon’s breath smells like?” taunted Nadine Luongo.

  “Ooooooohh …” a few voices murmured.

  “Class, please!” Ms. Pilley yelled.

  Welcome to seventh grade at Stoneybrook Middle School in Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Where spitball throwing is an art and every head is a target.

  Well, Brandon was not going to slime my hair. Not after I’d spent all morning braiding it.

  I gave him a hard Look. He blushed, shrugged sheepishly, and turned away.

  I, Claudia Kishi, have that power over my classmates.

  Don’t get the wrong impression. I am not a two-hundred-pound weight lifter and I do not have fangs. What I do have is, well, age.

  You see, I’m thirteen, which is approximately a year older than everyone in my class. Yes, I’m supposed to be in eighth grade. In fact, I was in eighth grade at the beginning of the year, but my teachers sent me back. Why? So they wouldn’t have to give me a “Clueless” on my report card.

  Okay, I’m exaggerating. According to my guidance counselor, Mrs. Amer, I’m “right-brain overdeveloped,” which is a polite way of saying I’m really good in art but I can’t spell or do math.

  My genius sister, Janine, just calls me “brain-dead.” She’s in high school but she takes college courses in subjects I’ve never heard of. My parents are smart too. Mom’s a librarian and Dad’s an investment banker. So what happened to me? Well, I have a theory. You see, my grandmother, Mimi, was sensitive and artistic. I think her genes skipped a generation and reached me. (Janine insists that can’t happen, but obviously this is the one time in her life when she is wrong.) Mimi was very Old World. She was born and raised in Japan. You might not think she and I would have much in common, but we were soul mates. I felt so lost when she died.

  Boy, did I want to cry on Mimi’s shoulder when I was sent back to seventh grade. I thought I’d ruined the Kishi name forever. I felt humiliated and stupid. And I was devastated about leaving my best friends.

  But I’ve changed. Now I’m glad it happened. First of all, my left brain is doing just fine. My grades are good and I’m understanding math for the first time in my life. (I really can’t spell, though. Some things are just hopeless.) Second of all, I still spend time with my eighth-grade friends, especially the ones who belong to the Baby-sitters Club (more about that later). Third, I’ve made some incredible new friends — Joanna Fried, Josh Rocker, Jeannie Kim, and Shira Epstein. And last but not least … ta-da! I have a steady boyfriend. His name is Mark Jaffe, and he sits next to me in homeroom.

  That morning, however, he wasn’t exactly sitting. Slumping, maybe. His head was on his desk, and he was using his forearms as a pillow.

  My first instinct was to nudge him awake. But I listened to my second instinct instead, which was to sit still. Ms. Pilley was approaching him with an icy stare, which meant he was dead meat no matter what I did.

  “AHEM!” she said.

  Mark opened his eyes with a start. “Oh. Sorry.”

  “You may be the King of the Seventh Grade,” said Ms. Pilley, “but in my classroom you are not entitled to a royal nap.”

  The class started tittering. Mark sat up obediently, a pencil at the ready. He looked very earnest and slightly ashamed. But I could tell by his expression that he was soaking up the attention.

  What a ham.

  A cute ham, though. Mark has the most gorgeous long, brown hair and about a hundred different smiles, each one devastating. Needless to say, he was elected King of the Seventh Grade by a landslide.

  The Queen? Moi.

  How did a seventh-grade newcomer like me become so popular so quickly? With a lot of help from my friends, especially Josh. They all campaigned for me. I was kind of embarrassed by the sudden fame, but being Queen was a great way to meet people.

  Including a great boyfriend.

  “Now, listen up,” Ms. Pilley said. “The annual SMS Color War will begin Friday, a week from today, and it will last through the following Friday. Here are the results of last week’s balloting …”

  This I wanted to hear. I love the SMS Color War. It’s a competition among the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades — sports contests, spelling bees, bake sales, weird games, anything goes. The winning class receives a check from the Stoneybrook Chamber of Commerce, to be donated to charity. Each class chooses two things: a color, which all members have to wear during the competitions, and a charity to donate the proceeds to.

  Ms. Pilley listed the three chosen charities (ours was the Stoneybrook Adult Literacy Program), and then continued, “ ‘The eighth grade chose the color blue; the sixth grade, white; and the seventh grade, orange.’ ”

  Clank went my jaw as it hit the desktop.

  Orange?

  The entire class was going to have to wear orange?

  Who on earth looks good in orange?

  Maybe a circus clown.

  “You must be joking,” I murmured.

  Ms. Pilley looked up. “Is something wrong?”

  “No,” I lied.

  RRRRRRIIING! went the homeroom bell.

  “ ‘Volunteers are still needed for all positions, including events coordinators for each grade’!” Ms. Pilley shouted frantically as we sprang up from our seats.

  I gathered my books and headed out the door toward my locker.

  I was in a daze. All I could see was a vision of myself in a carrot-colored jumpsuit.

  As you might have guessed, I’m very particular about what I wear. In my opinion, every outfit tells a story. That day, for instance, I was wearing a dark plaid skirt I’d picked up in a thrift shop; purple leggings; high, lace-up boots; a long-sleeved, white linen shirt with a solid black tie; and an oversized man’s vest. (My hair, in case you were wondering, was in one long braid down my back, with a solitary cornrow hanging off my temple on the left side.) One look and you’d know a lot of my qualities: fun loving, creative, many layered.

  I was not happy about having to impersonate a citrus fruit for a week.

  Mark was walking bes
ide me, chatting with a couple of other friends, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

  We rounded the corner to our lockers. Josh, Joanna, Jeannie, and Shira were there, gabbing away. They fell silent when they saw my gloomy expression.

  “Don’t tell me,” Josh said. “Let me guess. You flunked homeroom.”

  Joanna nudged him in the ribs. “Rocker, can’t you ever be serious?”

  “Uh-oh,” Josh murmured, looking from Mark to me. “You two aren’t breaking up, are you?”

  “Jo-o-osh!” Shira looked mortified.

  “Claudia?” Mark asked.

  “Orange,” I blurted out, violently spinning the dial of my lock. “For a whole week, we all have to look like … like …”

  “Pumpkins?” Josh suggested.

  “Exactly,” I said.

  “Very seventies,” Jeannie remarked with a grimace.

  “I like orange,” Joanna volunteered.

  “No way!” exclaimed Josh. “We should have chosen … uh, what did you vote for, Claudia?”

  “Black,” I said.

  “Black,” Josh declared.

  Shira and Joanna rolled their eyes. I could tell Josh was trying to cheer me up, but it wasn’t working.

  Mark put his arm around me. “I think you look great in any color, Claudia.”

  “True,” said Jeannie with a smile.

  “Awwwww,” said Shira and Joanna.

  Josh groaned. “So! How about those Mets?” (That’s Josh-ese for “I’m bored” or “Can we change the topic of conversation?”)

  “Mets?” Mark asked.

  “Just ignore Josh,” Shira suggested. “He overdosed on Cocoa Puffs this morning and it affected his brain.”

  “If you’re upset about the color, Claudia,” Josh said, “then change it.”

  “How?” I asked.

  Josh shrugged. “Hey, you’re the Queen of the Seventh Grade, right? What you say goes.”

  “The Queen’s in charge of the prom, not the Color War,” I informed him, taking the books out of my locker.

  “You could be in charge of it if you wanted to,” Joanna spoke up. “The announcement said the Color War needed events coordinators.”

  “Still? With only a week to go?” Jeannie asked. “I can’t believe no one volunteered.”

  “Too much work,” Shira said.

  Josh sighed dramatically. “School spirit ain’t what it used to be.”

  “Joanna, you’re a joiner,” Mark said. “You volunteer.”

  Joanna shook her head. “I’m already doing too much stuff — class president, yearbook, band …”

  Click, went my locker as I shut it.

  Click, went the lightbulb in my brain.

  Joanna’s idea made sense. Why shouldn’t I be in charge? I mean, the Queen should do something for her class. Besides, I wasn’t too involved in after-school activities. In fact, I had none. I’d planned it that way, so I could have plenty of time to study. But now that my grades were okay, I could probably handle this.

  And so could Mark, for that matter. He had no activities either.

  This would be a perfect Royal Project.

  “We’ll both do it,” I said, taking Mark’s hand.

  Mark looked horrified. “Whaaaat?”

  “The King and Queen leading the Color War!” Jeannie exclaimed. “What a cute idea.”

  “But I — I can’t,” Mark stammered. “I’m … busy.”

  Josh nodded understandingly. “All that extracurricular hanging out.”

  “She’s not asking you to go to war, Mark,” Shira said.

  “But — but —” Mark said.

  “Come on, it’ll be fun,” I urged him.

  “I’ll do it with you if Mark won’t,” Josh piped up.

  Mark silently dumped some books in his pack and closed his locker door. He took a deep breath and returned all our expectant looks. “Well, I’ll think about it, I guess.”

  “All riiiiight,” Joanna exclaimed.

  Mark raised an eyebrow and began walking toward class. “ ‘All right … Sire,’ ” he corrected Joanna.

  I bumped him with my hip. Josh and Shira groaned. Jeannie and Joanna exchanged a Look.

  I wanted to run to the office to volunteer right away, but the first-period bell clanged. We scattered to our classes.

  I vowed to go to the office as soon as I could.

  I’d never been in charge of a war before.

  How cool.

  “Candy corn!” I exclaimed, pulling a huge bag of it out of my desk drawer.

  “Feed me feed me feed me!” droned Abby Stevenson, who was sitting on my bedroom floor.

  I tossed the bag to her and started pulling more stuff from my backpack. “Marshmallow jack-o’-lanterns … orange lollipops … Doritos … orange soda … carrots …”

  “Carrots?”

  Six bewildered pairs of eyes stared at me. They belonged to my first group of best friends — the members of the Baby-sitters Club.

  Our Friday meeting was about to start, and I was doing my usual duty as vice-president: feeding everyone junk food. Junk food happens to be one of my great passions, right up there with art, cool clothes, and Nancy Drew mysteries. The worse the food is for your health, the more I love it. If my parents knew about all the cookies, pretzels, chips, and candy I hide in my room, they would pass out.

  Which is why the carrots took everyone by surprise.

  “Anyone recognize a pattern?” I said.

  Duh, said the faces of Abby, Kristy Thomas, Stacey McGill, Mary Anne Spier, Jessica Ramsey, and Mallory Pike.

  “They’re orange!” I blurted out. “The color of the seventh grade, which is going to whup everyone else in the Color War! And guess who is going to be the class events coordinator?”

  “Wait,” Kristy said. “Is this new business?”

  Leave it to Kristy. She’s the club president, and she’s a stickler for rules. “Well, yeah,” I said, “technically, but —”

  “Then save it for the meeting,” Kristy interrupted.

  “Kristyyyy,” Stacey said. “We can start. It’s time.”

  “It’s five twenty-nine,” Kristy corrected her.

  The moment she said that, my clock clicked to 5:30.

  “Now, this meeting will come to order!” shouted Kristy.

  “Picky, picky,” grumbled Stacey.

  “Anyway —” I began.

  “Any … new … business?” said Kristy pointedly.

  Abby threw a lollipop wrapper at her. “This is a club, not a dictatocracy.”

  “Dictatocracy?” Mary Anne repeated.

  “Ship,” said Mallory. “Dictatorship.”

  We were off and running. Chaos as usual. Sometimes I think the BSC is more of a loony bin than a club or a dictatorship.

  We meet three times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from five-thirty until six. Local parents phone us during those times to book baby-sitting jobs. Our clients love us. With one call, they reach seven reliable, experienced sitters (nine, if you count our associate members). And we sitters have a great excuse to get together and gab.

  I’m the only BSC member with a private phone line, so my bedroom is the official club headquarters, which is the main reason I’m club vice-president. What are my duties, besides being host and caterer? Nothing, really. Well, I guess I take over if Kristy is ever overthrown, but I’m not too worried about that.

  Just kidding.

  Kristy isn’t really a dictator. She’s actually a friendly and fun-loving person. No one minds her bossiness (much). Her brain functions on a different plane than everyone else’s. It spills over with ideas, twenty-four hours a day. No problem is too tough for her to solve.

  Kristy’s greatest solution to a problem? The Baby-sitters Club! Once upon a time, Mrs. Thomas was having trouble finding a sitter for Kristy’s younger brother, David Michael. Neither Kristy nor her two older brothers, Charlie and Sam, could sit that night. (Kristy’s dad was long gone. He abandoned the family whe
n David Michael was a baby.) Anyway, after watching her mom make one unsuccessful phone call after the other — bing! — Kristy had her brilliant idea. The BSC was born.

  Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and I were the original members, but the calls poured in and we had to expand fast. Kristy made sure we wouldn’t be overwhelmed. She set us up like a company, with officers, dues, and a scheduling system. We share jobs equally, and we keep each other up-to-date about our clients by writing up each sitting job in an official BSC notebook.

  Kristy is fantastic with kids. She’s constantly dreaming up cool kid-related ideas — holiday events, contests, theme parties. She even formed a softball team of BSC charges, called Kristy’s Krushers. (They compete against Bart’s Bashers, a team led by a guy who used to be Kristy’s sort-of boyfriend, Bart Taylor.)

  You can recognize Kristy instantly at a BSC meeting. She’s the short, fashion-challenged brunette with the big mouth. Okay, to be fair, her clothes look fine, but I believe I will die of shock if I ever see her wear anything besides jeans and turtlenecks. When Kristy’s mom got married again, to this rich guy named Watson Brewer, I thought Kristy might start to shop high-end, but no-o-o-o.

  Kristy used to live across the street from me but nowadays she lives in Watson’s mansion, way across town (her brother Charlie has to drive her to BSC meetings). You would not believe the size of the house. You would also not believe how crowded it is. Kristy has a two-and-a-half-year-old sister, Emily Michelle, who was adopted from Vietnam. Kristy’s grandmother, Nannie, moved in after Emily Michelle’s arrival to help with child care. And Watson’s two kids from a previous marriage, Andrew and Karen, live in the house during alternate months. Add one pet from just about every phylum known to science, and you have an idea of life with the Brewer/Thomases.

  I missed Kristy a lot when she moved. But the person who was really devastated was Mary Anne Spier. She and Kristy have been best friends since birth. They grew up next door to each other. People sometimes say they look like sisters, which is sort of true. Mary Anne’s hair is shorter, though, and she dresses in preppier clothes. As far as personality goes, they might as well come from different planets. Mary Anne is as quiet, sweet, and sensitive as Kristy is loud and domineering. If you have a personal problem, Kristy will try to solve it instantly, but Mary Anne will make you feel better, just by listening and sympathizing.

 
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