Achingly alice, p.1
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       Achingly Alice, p.1

           Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
 
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Achingly Alice


  All I could do was cry. I was thoroughly disgusted with myself. You’d never know I was in the eighth grade. I felt more like I was in kindergarten.

  HOW CAN SOMEONE BE IN LOVE WITH TWO people at the same time? It doesn’t make sense to Alice—until Sam, her friend from Camera Club, starts to pay attention to her. Sam is quiet and gentle, and a terrific dancer; Alice likes being with him. But Alice has been Patrick’s girlfriend for almost two years—so why is she interested in another guy?

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  COVER DESIGN BY JESSICA HANDELMAN

  COVER ILLUSTRATION COPYRIGHT © 2012 BY JULIA DENOS

  ATHENEUM BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS

  SIMON & SCHUSTER · NEW YORK

  AGES 10–14 · 0312

  Achingly Alice

  BOOKS BY PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR

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  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 www.SimonandSchuster.com This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 1998 by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. ATHENEUM BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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  Book design by Mike Rosamilia The text for this book is set in Berkeley Old Style Book. 0212 OFF First Atheneum Books for Young Readers paperback edition March 2012

  The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

  Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds

  Achingly Alice/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.—1st ed.

  p. cm.

  “A Jean Karl book.”

  Summary: Thirteen-year-old Alice sets long- and short-term priorities

  as she experiences the complexities of young love.

  ISBN 978-0-689-80355-0 (hc)

  [1. Love—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.N24Ac 1998

  [Fic]—dc21 97-12430

  ISBN 978-1-4424-3494-3 (pbk)

  eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-3237-1

  To Jeanie Menz Naylor

  and

  Julie Holtzman Naylor,

  with love and admiration

  Contents

  One: A Promising Start

  Two: Roommates

  Three: Give a Little Whistle

  Four: Making Things Happen

  Five: Feminine Products

  Six: Valentine

  Seven: Presuasion

  Eight: Decision

  Nine: Confession

  Ten: Something Hopeful

  1

  A PROMISING START

  ONE OF MY TEACHERS, MR. EVERETT, used to tell us, “Be a person who makes things happen; don’t just let life happen to you.”

  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately because I’m starting to plan my life—as much as any life can be planned, I guess—and I wrote down my list of priorities. What do I most want to happen first? That’s easy: I want my dad to marry Miss Summers—the gorgeous teacher with the blue eyes and light brown hair.

  They’ve been seeing each other for a whole year now, ever since seventh grade when I invited her to go to the Messiah Sing-Along with us. When Dad found out I’d invited my English teacher, he thought she’d be a little old woman he’d have to help down the steps, and was delighted to find that she’s intelligent, warm, talented, gracious, beautiful, and, in short, a real sweetheart. She’d make a wonderful wife for Dad and a mom for me, with only one little hitch: Someone else is in love with her, too: Jim Sorringer, our assistant principal.

  I’m pretty sure she loves my dad; I’ve seen the way they look at each other, and they enjoy the same things. It wa
s when Mr. Sorringer took a leave of absence to get his Ph.D. in California that Sylvia Summers and Dad first met, and now that Sorringer’s back in the picture, Miss Summers is torn between the two great loves of her life. That’s the way I see it, anyway.

  The other priorities on my list are:

  2. Decide on a career I’d really love, which I think is going to be psychiatry, but I’m not sure.

  3. Get to know some other guys, even though I really, really like Patrick Long.

  4. Do something about my body—hair, skin, waist, legs—everything.

  5. Be a better sister to Lester and a better friend to Elizabeth and Pamela.

  Those are my short-term goals. Marriage and kids and a house and stuff aren’t even in the picture yet, but I decided these are the things I should think about first. And since numbers two through five would be a whole lot easier if I had a mother to help me make decisions, I’ve committed myself to putting all my energy into getting Dad and Miss Summers married.

  I used to think I couldn’t stand it if they didn’t. The thought of having to go through high school, to dances, through breakups and disappointments, getting married, even, without a mom’s advice, somebody to talk to late at night about woman stuff, was just too awful. Now, though, I realize that even a mom can’t solve everything, but I still want Miss Summers to marry my dad, for his sake. Worse than not having a mother myself is seeing my dad unhappy.

  My own mom died when I was five. Lester remembers her better than I do because he’s seven years older than I am. I keep getting memories of her mixed up with memories of Aunt Sally, who took care of us for a while after Mom died.

  I’d already asked Miss Summers if she wanted to go to the Messiah Sing-Along with us again this year, and she’d said yes, if she was invited. So I made it official, and Dad was really pleased. Better yet, I found out that Miss Summers invited him, in turn, to the school band concert, the middle of December. But most wonderful of all, Dad announced at dinner one night that Miss Summers was spending Christmas with us.

  I gave a yelp of delight and dropped my fork, splattering spaghetti sauce on the front of my sweatshirt.

  “Here?” I gasped.

  “We could just take her caroling through the neighborhood, if you’d prefer,” said Lester.

  But I was still staring at Dad. “Christmas Eve and Christmas Day both?”

  “I think so,” said Dad, smiling.

  I leaned across the table and looked him right in the eye. “Where is she going to sleep?” I asked eagerly.

  “Al!” said Dad. (My full name is Alice Kathleen McKinley, but Dad and Lester call me “Al.”)

  “She can always sleep with me!” I begged, pleased that I had a new double bed. What I wanted to know, of course, was whether she would be sleeping with Dad.

  “Sylvia only lives in Kensington,” he said. “That’s about a twenty-minute drive from Silver Spring, as if you didn’t know.” And then he changed the subject.

  I couldn’t wait to tell Elizabeth and Pamela at the bus stop the next morning.

  “Where is she going to sleep?” they both asked together. I’m not the only one interested in details.

  “I don’t know yet,” I told them. “I’ll keep you posted.”

  For Elizabeth, of course, everyone else’s life seems more interesting than her own right now because, after being the only child in her family for thirteen years, her mom’s had another baby and, according to Elizabeth, conversations at her house revolve around formula and diaper rash. And Pamela’s parents have separated, so she’d rather talk about anything than that.

  “Well, I don’t think she should sleep over at your house,” said Elizabeth. “It just wouldn’t look right.”

  “You’re the only one who would be looking, Elizabeth, because you’re right across the street,” I told her.

  With the rush of Christmas events, the band concert came first, and I spent a half hour that day just thinking about what I was going to wear. I’d actually be sitting with Elizabeth and Pamela, but I wanted to be near enough to Dad and Miss Summers that I could see whether they were holding hands.

  Patrick, who plays the drums, had a huge drum solo in a jazz number the band was doing, so I wanted to get there early and find seats on the left side of the auditorium where I’d have a good view of the drums. I told Dad we’d save two seats for him and Miss Summers.

  I finally decided on black leggings and a long white sweater. Lester drove Elizabeth, Pamela, and me over early on his way to pick up Marilyn Rawley, his longtime girlfriend. Elizabeth and Pamela, who have had a crush on Lester since sixth grade and were wearing enough perfume to anesthetize a cat, climbed in back.

  “Hi, Lester,” said Elizabeth. Her voice was high and tight, while Pamela’s was just the opposite—low and husky. Lester says that whenever he drives my girlfriends anywhere, it’s like carrying Snow White and the Wicked Queen together in the backseat.

  I tried to make intelligent conversation.

  “Going to a movie?” I asked.

  “Yeah, something with Jack Nicholson in it, I forget what. Marilyn chose it,” he said.

  Marilyn Rawley works part-time for my dad in his music store, The Melody Inn, and she chooses great stuff for the store’s Gift Shoppe.

  “Marilyn has excellent taste,” I said, and it suddenly occurred to me that while I was working to get Dad and Miss Summers engaged, I might as well do the same for Les and Marilyn. I’d love to have Marilyn Rawley as a sister-in-law. So I added, probably sounding too much like Aunt Sally, “She could really make a house a home.”

  “Cut it out, Al,” said Lester.

  But Elizabeth picked right up on it. We love bugging Lester. “Are you against marriage, Lester?” she asked.

  “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If I get married, I’m signing on for the whole caboodle—house, furniture, lawn, crabgrass—the works. And I know that as soon as we’d have a house and furniture, we’d think about kids, and with my luck, every kid would be a girl, and every girl would be like Alice, and I would have contributed to overpopulation without providing any socially redeeming benefits whatsoever.”

  It’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation with my brother. I think the reason he dates Marilyn and no one else is that he’s too busy with college to make the effort. I mean, getting involved with someone new takes work! Lester knows that all he has to do is pick up the phone and Marilyn will go to a movie with him.

  He let us off at the school auditorium, and we were able to get seats about nine rows from the front. We put our coats on the two seats we were saving for Dad and Miss Summers.

  They came just before the concert started, and Miss Summers slid in right next to me, with her glorious scent and her glorious shoes and her blue knit dress and mauve-painted fingernails.

  I tried to use mental telepathy.

  Marry him, marry him, marry him, I thought, directing my vibes her way.

  “Almost a full house!” she said, glancing around the auditorium.

  Dad could make a house a home, I pleaded silently. We’d all help! Marry him! Marry him!

  Sylvia Summers focused on me. “How are you, Alice?”

  “Fine!” I chirped, and if Elizabeth sounded like Snow White and Pamela sounded like the Wicked Queen, I sounded like Tweety Bird. And then I added, “I just love Christmas! It’s such a … a family time!”

  “It’s certainly a time to be with people you love,” she said.

  Pamela bumped my arm, and I bumped back. All right! I thought.

  Dad was looking over the program. “I see there’s a little of everything—carols, Dixieland, classical, even Haydn. Sounds promising!”

  The lights dimmed. Everyone clapped when the band members came out, entering from both sides of the stage in precision formation, one row going one way, one the other. They were all dressed in dark jackets, white shirts, and red bow ties, even the girls. Then the director came out to even louder applause, and the performance began.
>
  I’m the only member of my family who is tone-deaf. I like music, and I hum along with it at home and sing when I’m in the shower and everything, but Dad says I’m singing the wrong notes. That’s really embarrassing, because I can’t even tell they’re wrong. In fact, when I’m running the vacuum cleaner and singing along with the radio, Lester says the vacuum is more melodic than I am.

  Elizabeth and Pamela kept whispering about which of the guys were the cutest, but I sat very still because I wanted Sylvia Summers to know that her future stepdaughter appreciates the finer things in life. It was when the band did the jazz number and the spotlight fell on Patrick that I went bananas, and I was the very last one to stop clapping when he was through.

  Patrick’s a really good drummer. Dad leaned over and whispered to me that he was improvising, which means that the band director just stands there with his arms at his sides and lets Patrick show off on the drums for as long as he wants to. I guess Patrick signaled somehow when he was going to stop, because he began to slow, and after he gave a long drumroll, the director lifted his baton again and the band took over.

  Afterward, Pamela, Elizabeth, and I pushed through the crowd to the stage door and went into the band room, where relatives were congratulating their kids.

  Patrick saw me and grinned, and I ran over and kissed him right in front of his parents. He’s tall, slim, red-haired, and a great kisser.

  “You were wonderful!” I told him. “It was really good, Patrick!”

  “He is good, isn’t he?” Mrs. Long said proudly, and Patrick’s dad beamed. Mr. Long’s a diplomat, and they’ve lived in several different countries. Both Pamela and Elizabeth hugged Patrick, too, and I noticed there were some other girls standing around, waiting to congratulate him. Patrick’s only thirteen, and already he has groupies? I felt pretty lucky to be the girlfriend of the star drummer in school, and wondered why I had even been thinking about getting to know other guys.

  We stayed in the band room for a while talking to the rest of the kids who came by—Mark Stedmeister and Brian and Karen and Jill. A new guy at our school, Justin Collier, who was in the band, too, I noticed, and plays the trombone, has been flirting with Elizabeth for the past month. She went over to talk with him.

 
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