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Authors: Julia DeVillers

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BOOK: Trading Faces
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Two

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BEFORE HOMEROOM

Calculator! Did I forget my calculator? I opened my backpack and searched. I felt my planner, my bag lunch . . . ouch! Sharp compass . . . and there it was. My calculator.

Okay, I was prepared for the first day of school. The first day of seventh grade.

I was so, so nervous.

I wish it were last year.
I loved our small school: I knew everybody, and I knew what to expect. Everything was under control. In elementary school I knew who I was. Emma the Brain. Emma the Achiever. Emma with the near-photographic memory. But in middle school there
would be kids from all over. Smart, talented students. More competition. The pressure would be ON. This middle school was huge. It had three stories and four wings. I'd looked at the website and found out there were 655 seventh graders and 710 eighth graders.

1363 total strangers in this school!

I shuddered. How would I stand out in such a massive group? By studying. Preparing. Competing. And winning.

“Ugh,” I said out loud.

At that exact same moment I heard an excited squeal. I looked at my twin sister, Payton, walking next to me on our way into our new school.

“Are you thinking what I'm thinking?”

Payton started going on and on about how cool and exciting our new school was going to be. Sometimes I can't believe we're even related. Of course, everyone else can believe it. It's totally obvious, since we're identical twins.

“Don't you want to know what I was thinking?” I interrupted her. I'd never get a chance to speak otherwise.

“Oh, sure,” Payton said, obviously not really paying attention. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking about how many millions of times we're going to get the question,” I said. “You just know we're going to be getting the question.”

The question: Which one are you?

The answer: I'm Emma. I'm not Payton. I'm Emma. Emma. Emma. Emma. I am first in alphabetical order. I'm one-half inch shorter. And I have a freckle on my cheek near my left ear. It is my most obvious difference from my twin sister. Although my hair covers it up mostly, so everyone thinks we are 100 percent identical. Payton has been trying to convince me to cut my hair. I am NOT cutting my hair. No way. My hair is my best feature. It's easy to just brush straight and go. No fuss. No stress.

I wish the rest of my life were so stress-free.

“Stop making that noise,” Payton whispered. “Those girls are looking at you!”

What noise? I was just calling to my friend. Oh,
please, like people would really be looking at me. All I saw were girls we didn't know who were acting all huggy and cutesy. But oh, there was a girl who looked familiar.

“There's Margaret from the state spelling bee!” I said. “Hey, Margaret! Spell ‘corpuscle'!”

‘Corpuscle' was a word that Margaret had spelled correctly during the last round of the bee. But Margaret didn't hear me. There were too many people around.

“Margaret!” I called out. “Corpuscle!”

Ow again. Would Payton stop elbowing me?

“Why did you jab me?” I said.

“People are looking at you,” Payton whispered.

“What people?” Payton could be so paranoid. Rats, Margaret had disappeared into the squish of people. Hopefully I'd see her in one of my advanced classes. Anyone who could spell ‘pyrrhic' I'd like to get to know better.

The main entrance had led us into the front lobby. Lots of people were walking around. I looked up. The ceiling was two stories high. And bright green. A green ceiling? There were two sets of stairs—one to the left, one to the right. The railings were painted in green and white stripes.

“What's with all the green?” I said.

“Green and white are our school colors,” Payton told me impatiently. “Don't you know anything?”

Apparently not. I'd memorized an entire atlas, a dictionary, and the world almanac. But in middle school what you needed to know about was our middle school.

“And our rivals are the Red Raiders,” Payton said. “Boo, Raiders!”

Then she elbowed me . . .
again
.

“Emma,” Payton whispered. “Um, it's just . . . do you think my outfit's okay?”

Not THIS again.

“For the thousandth time, yes,” I told her. “Your outfit is fine.” Payton shifted around, looking uncomfortable in her outfit. She pulled on the neck of her hoodie, which must have been tight.
I bet she wishes she wore comfy track pants and her lucky T-shirt like I did
.

“Everyone's wearing jeans,” Payton said. “But Ashlynn said skirts were totally in for the first day of school.”

“Oh, no,” I groaned. “I thought after camp was over I'd never have to hear the name Ashlynn again.”

I called Payton's clothes Summer Slave clothes. She'd worked like a slave all summer, and for what? So she could look like some girl, Ashlynn. Ridiculous.

Payton hadn't always been so clothes clothes clothes.
But at camp she was put in a cabin with girls who called themselves ‘fash.' So here we are, out in the forest supposed to be bonding with nature, and Payton becomes obsessed with clothes instead. I was in the Purple Pandas. All the Pandas were into the real camp experience. Hiking, swimming, canoeing. Except one Panda: me.

I really don't like the outdoors. I couldn't care less who captured the flag or won camp spirit. So I told my counselor I had a pollengenic allergy. She said she knew I'd made that up. So I offered to write the camp newspaper. Since my counselor was supposed to write the newspaper, she cheerfully agreed that my allergy should keep me inside. I wrote; she spent time with her boyfriend at the boys' camp. The Purple Pandas (minus me) had their total camp experience. I gained journalism experience.

Anyway, I like to write. And I knew it would look good when I tried out for the school newspaper. I hope I make the school newspaper.
I hope I make the mathletics and the Scrabble-lympics teams.

Honestly, what I really hoped was to make it through the first day of school. I was putting on a brave face, but inside, my stomach was in knots.

Nervous? Yes. Nauseous? Check.

Oh. I'd just twisted and chewed my hair into a soggy
knot. I smoothed down my hair and smiled my “confident” smile. The smile I'd practiced and used to intimidate not only Margaret, but also Clark and Dimitri at the spelling bee. Hee hee. The smile had worked. I came in first.

“Emma, why are you baring your teeth like a mad cat?” Payton asked me.

I stopped with the smile. At least I was confident about where we were going. I had memorized the map of our school so we'd know where to go. We walked down the main hallway. There were signs and posters up on the walls. Good. They gave me something to look at besides all these people.

MAKE THIS YEAR THE BEST YEAR!

OUR SCHOOL ROCKS!

GECKOS RULE!

GECKOS ARE #1!

Some of the signs showed our school mascot.

“Our school mascot is a gecko?” I mused aloud. Interesting. Not.

SUPER SCIENTISTS CLUB! WEDNESDAYS AT 3. MEET IN LAB A.

Interesting, yes!

I'd be there! I made a mental note to write down the info in my planner.

Walking . . . bumping . . . jostling. Could there be any more people crushed into the hallway? Wasn't there a fire code about this? I kept hold of Payton's bag so I wouldn't lose her in the crowd. Another poster:

SOCCER TRYOUTS. BOYS: WEDNESDAY AT 3. GIRLS: THURSDAY AT 3.

Emma + any kind of ball = total humiliation. No soccer for
moi
. I sped past that one.

“Payton, keep up with me!” I turned and looked at her. She had slowed down. She was tugging at her hoodie again.
Hurry up!
Why was she wiggling and squirming and writhing and holding me up on our first day of school? Was Payton sick?

“Are you having a seizure?” I asked her.

Now I was concerned. My sister wouldn't risk making a scene in school unless there was an emergency.

“Don't make a scene, but there's an emergency,” Payton whispered. “My tank-top strap broke.”

Oh. I spotted a closet.

”Quick, Payton! Inside!”

She went in and pulled the door closed. I stood outside the door, blocking it so no one could try to go in.

No one was trying to go in. They were all going where they were supposed to. Except me, just standing there like a statue.

La la la
. I tried to look casual, like I was doing this on purpose. I opened up my backpack and looked inside. Ahhh, the scent of fresh school supplies. I'd alphabetized my folders: English, math, science . . . everything was perfect.

Tap, tap. Tap
. Payton was knocking on the closet door. She peeked out.

“What?” I stuck my head in.
Whew. Pungent
.

“I can't get my tank-top strap to stay tied!” Payton said.

Hmm . . . I could take care of that. I pushed the door closed and felt around in the “supplies” compartment of my backpack. There it was! Duct tape!

I opened the closet door and tossed it in. I began explaining the wonders of duct tape, but Payton yelled at me to shut the door. I shut the door. Fine. Some people didn't appreciate good trivia.

“Do you need some help finding your way?” A woman's voice boomed loudly through the halls.

I looked up into the face of a teacher. Like all the
adults in the building, she had a security ID tag dangling from her neck. I quickly scanned it:
MRS. BURKLE. FACULTY. ENGLISH DEPARTMENT.

“Um, er, no,” I stammered. “I'm okay.”
Please leave, please leave
, I thought. I leaned against the closet door so Payton wouldn't pop out unexpectedly.

“Do you need help with directions?” the teacher asked, so loudly that people turned around to look at us.

Need help with directions? Me? I was the one who'd memorized the map and had every hallway timed to the second. Payton was the one who needed help. Even getting dressed. What was taking her so long?

“No, thank you,” I said. “I'm, uh, just resting.”

“Resting!” Mrs. Burkle said. “You're already tired on the first day of school? This is why I think daily about retiring! Students today have no motivation! It's a disgrace! Young lady, I implore you to think about the importance of not being . . . what do you young people call it these days? A slacker!”

A slacker? She thinks
I'm
a slacker? Me? A teacher thinks Emma Mills, spelling-bee champion/mathlete/science-fair winner/straight-A student/teacher's pet, could possibly be a slacker?

She peered at me closely.

“If you're in my class this year, I hope you improve your attitude,” the teacher said.

Emergency! A teacher has a negative first impression of me!

“Hello! It's nice to meet you!” I said, in a desperate attempt to improve my image. “I'm—”

“Ew.” Mrs. Burkle wrinkled her nose.

What?

“Something smells horrible,” she said, backing away as if it were me. “I must get to my classroom.”

Augh! I slumped back against the closet door and—

Ew. Something did smell awful. The smell was coming from inside the closet. What was in there anyway? I stepped back and saw a sign I hadn't noticed before:
JANITOR
.

Uh-oh! Payton was in the janitor's closet? She wasn't going to be too happy about this. PU, that was some stench. I stepped away from the door to get some fresh air, and—
boom!
I stepped right into the path of a girl carrying a large musical-instrument case.

Oh. No. It was like slow motion. I watched as the contents of my unzipped backpack flew through the air. My folders! My mechanical pencils!
Oh, noooo!
I bent down and tried not to get stepped on as I scooped up my
supplies. There was no time to reorganize. I just had to stuff everything into my backpack.

Grr. This was
so
Payton's fault.

“Emma!” I heard Payton's muffled voice. “Let me out!”

I couldn't reach the doorknob from my crouching position on the floor.

“Not yet! People are going by!” I lied. I jumped up and zipped my backpack. “Okay, you're clear.”

She came out. I gave her a look.

“How ironic is it that the outfit you slaved for falls apart the first day of school?” I asked her. There. That would teach her a lesson to stop focusing on trivial stuff like clothes and fashion. And ruining my whole first-day-of-school organization plan. Gosh, I was so much more mature than Payton. No wonder I was six minutes older.

A boy walked past us and stopped.

“Whoa,” he said. The boy looked at both of us. “Are you two twins?”

“Yes!” Payton said, smiling a weird grin.

“Freakish,” he said. Then he was gone.

BOOK: Trading Faces
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