فصل 07

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7 When I got home I carried my package straight to my room. I took off my dress and put on the bra. I fastened it first around my waist, then wiggled it up to where it belonged. I threw my shoulders back and stood sideways. I didn’t look any different. I took out a pair of socks and stuffed one sock into each side of the bra, to see if it really grew with me. It was too tight that way, but I liked the way it looked. Like Laura Danker. I took the socks out and put them away.

My father congratulated me at dinner. “Well, you’re really growing up, Margaret. No more little girl.”

“Oh, Daddy!” was all I could think of to say.

On Monday I studied the boys in my class. I had to have some names for my Boy Book before three o’clock. I picked Philip Leroy because he was the best-looking one. Also Jay Hassler because he had nice brown eyes and clean fingernails. I decided to leave it at that and explain I didn’t know anybody else.

Right before the bell rang Mr. Benedict told us that he was going to ask us each to do a year-long individual project.

Everybody groaned.

Mr. Benedict held up his hands. “Now it’s not as bad as it sounds, class. For one thing, it’s personal- between each of you and me. I’m not going to ask what your topic is. I expect you to choose it yourself and work it up in your own way. The only thing I insist on is that it be something… uh… meaningful.”

More groans.

Mr. Benedict looked crushed. “I had hoped you would find this interesting.”

Poor Mr. Benedict. He was really disappointed. The way he talked to us I got the feeling we made him nervous. Nobody seemed scared of him at all and you should always be a little scared of your teacher. Sometimes he just sat at his desk and looked out at us like he couldn’t believe we were really there. Of course Nancy pointed out that he never ever called on Laura Danker. I hadn’t noticed.

As we were getting in line to go home he reminded us that on Thursday we’d have a test on the first two chapters in our social studies book. He asked us to please be prepared. Most teachers never say please.

After school we went straight to Nancy ‘s. Before we started our official meeting we talked about Mr. Benedict and his project. We all agreed it was crazy and none of us could think of a single idea.

Then Nancy called the role. “Veronica?”

“I’m here,” Gretchen said.

“Kimberly?”

“I’m here,” Janie said.

“Mavis?”

“I’m here,” I said.

“And so am I… Alexandra.” Nancy closed the roll book. “Well, let’s get to it. We all feel each other’s backs to make sure we’re wearing our bras.”

We all were.

“What size did you get, Janie?” Gretchen asked.

“I got a Gro-Bra,” Janie said.

“Me too,” I said.

“Me too!” Gretchen laughed.

“Not me,” Nancy said, proudly. “Mine’s a thirty-two double A.”

We were all impressed.

“If you ever want to get out of those baby bras you have to exercise,” she told us.

“What kind of exercise?” Gretchen asked.

“Like this,” Nancy said. She made fists, bent her arms at the elbow and moved them back and forth, sticking her chest way out. She said, “I must-I must-I must increase my bust.” She said it over and over. We copied her movements and chanted with her. “We must-we must-we must increase our bust!”

“Good,” Nancy told us. “Do it thirty-five times a day and I promise you’ll see the results.”

“Now, for our Boy Books,” Gretchen said. “Is everybody ready?”

We put our Boy Books on the floor and Nancy picked them up, one at a time. She read each one and passed it around for the rest of us to see. Janie’s was first. She had seven names listed. Number one was Philip Leroy. Gretchen had four names. Number one was Philip Leroy. Nancy listed eighteen boys. I didn’t even know eighteen boys! And number one was Philip Leroy. When Nancy got to my Boy Book she choked on an ice cube from her glass of coke. When she stopped choking she read, “Number one-Philip Leroy.” Everybody giggled. “Number two-Jay Hassler. How come you picked him?”

I was getting mad. I mean, she didn’t ask the others why they liked this one or that one, so why should I have to tell? I raised my eyebrow at Nancy, then looked away. She got the message.

When we were through, Nancy opened her bedroom door. There were Evan and Moose, eavesdropping. They followed us down the stairs and outside. When Nancy said, “Get lost, we’re busy,” Evan and Moose burst out laughing.

They shouted, “We must-we must-we must increase our bust!” Then they fell on the grass and rolled over and over laughing so hard I hoped they would both wet their pants.

On Wednesday, during an arithmetic review, I heard a bird go peep. Lots of other kids heard it too and so did Mr. Benedict. I know because he looked up. I went back to my problems but pretty soon I heard it again. Peep.

After the second peep, Mr. Benedict walked to the window and opened it wide. He stuck his head way out looking all around. While he was doing that three more peeps came from the room. Mr. Benedict walked to his desk and stood with his hands behind his back. Peep. I looked at Nancy. I was sure it came from her. But she didn’t look at me or say anything. Mr. Benedict sat down and tapped his fingers on the top of his desk. Pretty soon our room sounded like a pet store full of birds. Every second there was another peep. It was hard not to giggle. When Nancy kicked me under the table I knew it was my turn. I looked down and erased my answer to a problem. While I was blowing the eraser dust away I said it-peep. By the time Mr. Benedict looked my way another peep came from across the room. I think it was Philip Leroy. We kept waiting for Mr. Benedict to say something, but he didn’t.

When we came in the next morning our desks had been rearranged. Instead of four tables our desks formed one big U shape across the room. There were name cards taped onto each desk. On one side I was next to Freddy Barnett, who I didn’t like at all. I knew for a fact that he was a troublemaker because I saw him stand behind Jay Hassler on the first day of school and just as Jay was about to sit down, Freddy Barnett pulled his chair away. Jay wound up on the floor. I hate kids who do that! I’d have to be very careful not to fall into the trap of the Lobster. That’s what we call him because on the first day of school he was sunburned bright red.

But on the other side of me things were even worse. I was next to Laura Danker! I was afraid to even look her way. Nancy warned me that reputations were catching. Well, I didn’t have to worry because Laura didn’t look my way either. She looked straight ahead. Naturally, the Four PTS’s were all separated. But Nancy (that lucky!) got to sit next to Philip Leroy!

There wasn’t any more peeping. Mr. Benedict reminded us of our social studies test the next day. That afternoon we had gym. The boys got to play baseball with Mr. Benedict. The girls were left with the gym teacher, Miss Abbott, who told us to line up in order of size. I was third from the front end. Janie was first. Laura Danker was last. Gretchen and Nancy were in the middle. After we lined up Miss Abbott talked about posture and how important it is to stand up straight. “No matter how tall you are you must never slouch, because height is such a blessing. With that Miss Abbott stood up and took some deep breaths. She must have been at least six feet tall. Janie and I looked at each other and giggled. We were not blessed.

Then Miss Abbott told us since we were in sixth grade and very grown up, there were certain subjects we would cover during the school year. “Certain very private subjects just for girls.” That was all she said but I got the idea. Why do they wait until sixth grade when you already know everything!

That night I really worked hard. I read the first two chapters in my social studies book four times. Then I sat on my bedroom floor and did my exercise. “I must-I must-I must increase my bust!” I did it thirty-five times and climbed into bed.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I just did an exercise to help me grow. Have you thought about it God? About my growing, I mean. I’ve got a bra now. It would be nice if I had something to put in it. Of course, if you don’t think I’m ready I’ll understand. I’m having a test in school tomorrow. Please let me get a good grade on it God. I want you to be proud of me. Thank you.

The next morning Mr. Benedict passed out the test paper himself. The questions were already on the board. He said to begin as soon as we got our paper. Freddy the Lobster poked me and whispered, “No name.”

“What do you mean, no name?” I whispered back.

Freddy whispered, “Nobody signs his name. Benedict won’t know whose paper is whose. Get it?”

I got it all right but I didn’t like it. Especially since I’d read the chapters four times. But if nobody was going to put a name on the test paper, I wasn’t going to either. I felt cheated because Mr. Benedict would never know how hard I’d studied.

I answered all the questions in fifteen minutes. Mr. Benedict asked Janie to collect the papers for him. I couldn’t imagine what he would do to us when he found out nobody had put a name on the test. I figured he’d be plenty mad but you can’t do much to a whole class except keep them after school. We couldn’t all be expelled, could we?

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