I think I got on the wrong train when I joined the Jazz Tones.
But now I'm going to get off as soon as I can. Hooray!! I feel surprisingly light. Now all I have to do is tell David at rehearsal today. Will he be happy for me?
"Curly Red! Abby Hayes! There you are! Can you get someone to cut the lights in this place?"
David, the director of the Jazz Tones, looked harried. He ran his hand through his white hair and picked up a sheet of paper that had fallen on the floor.
The Jazz Tones were warming up in the auditorium. Abby glanced at Simon, who was blowing into the mouthpiece of his saxophone.
"Um, David…" Abby began.
"And then I need a soda from the machine," David continued. He rummaged in his pockets and pulled out some coins. "Diet ginger ale, you know which kind. If they don't have it, bring one of those lemon colas…or a bottle of water. But not the Sizzling Springs brand. There are trace metals in that water."
Abby took a deep breath. "David, I…"
"Rehearsal begins in five minutes sharp!" David announced to the band, then turned to Abby. "I'm glad you're here today. We have a lot to do."
"But I'm quitting," Abby blurted out, irritably. David didn't listen to anything unless it was a musical instrument. She was tired of trying to get his attention.
David raised his eyebrows. "Quitting?" he repeated.
I'm going to be an editor on the literary magazine," Abby explained quickly. "Even though I'm only a sixth-grader."
He didn't look impressed. "Is something wrong?" he asked. "Are you unhappy here?"
Abby shook her head.
"You can work fewer days," he offered. "Maybe just twice a week?"
"I don't think so," Abby said. She'd made up her mind.
David frowned at her. "You made a commitment," he reminded her.
"But I need to break it," Abby said. "Working for the Jazz Tones isn't really me."
"You? This isn't about you. It's about the band."
"I'm sorry," Abby said miserably. What if he was right?
"Sorry," David repeated in disbelief. "That's all you have to say?"
Abby gathered her courage. "I won't turn down the literary magazine. It's a golden opportunity."
There was a moment of silence, then David shrugged.
"All right then. Well. That's that." He turned toward the band again.
"Two minutes!" he called.
Tears filled Abby's eyes. Even if David wasn't happy with her decision, wasn't he at least going to thank her for what she had done for the Jazz Tones? Or wish her luck on the literary magazine?
For a moment, she wished she were back at Lancaster Elementary. It was a kinder place than middle school. Everyone cared about how you felt.
David hadn't even said good-bye. He hadn't said anything to the musicians. They were warming up their instruments as if nothing had changed. No one even glanced as her as she picked up her backpack and trudged out of the auditorium.
Not Simon, not Natalie.
Had she mattered that little?
Ten minutes later, Abby was in the schoolyard. She wasn't quite sure how she got there.
Tears blurred her eyes.
Everything was so confusing. She hadn't liked running around for sodas and sandwiches, but she still felt hurt by David's abrupt dismissal of her. Didn't she at least deserve a friendly goodbye?
"And then we went to the best club," said a familiar voice.
Abby sniffed and wiped her eyes. Brianna and Bethany were only a few feet away. Abby ducked behind a bush. She didn't want them to see that she had been crying. They had plunked down Brianna's white leather backpack on a bench and were searching through it.
Brianna was dressed in a turquoise miniskirt and a tiny lace top. She had a slim gold chain around one angle. Her toenails were polished gold.
"And we had the best seats for the best show," Brianna continued as she rummaged in the backpack.
"Where is that CD?"
"You didn't leave it at home?" Bethany asked. She was wearing jeans with daisies embroidered on the cuffs. Her blond hair was held back with daisy barrettes.
"I put it in the outside pocket right after I recited my poem in English today. Wasn't I brilliant? The 'Chanson of Myself,'" Brianna sighed. "Chanson means 'song' in French. Remember, say if like this: 'sha-sone,'" she pronounced. It sounded like she was pinching her nose.
Bethany clasped her hands. "Your chanson was so, so, so…neat," she told Brianna. She pronounced it "shan-sin."
"Neat?" Brianna snorted. "I'd call it extraordinary, spectacular, and astonishing."
"It was," Bethany breathed. She gazed at Brianna with shining eyes.
In fifth grade, the two of them had been best friends. Bethany had followed Brianna everywhere, a personal shadow. Then one day, she declared her independence. Bethany and Natalie became inseparable. She and Brianna weren't even friends anymore.
At least, that's what Abby had thought.
Now, as Bethany murmured encouragingly, Brianna began to empty her backpack onto the bench.
Abby watched as lipsticks, mirrors, face glitter, a hair dryer, a pink cell phone, the latest copy of Me magazine, a leather diary with BRIANNA'S MUSINGS stamped on the cover in gold letters, a pair of high heeled sandals, a bright-yellow electronic organizer, and an MP3 player all emerged from its depths.
But no CD.
"Maybe you lent it to someone?" Bethany suggested. "Or lost it?"
Brianna tossed her dark hair over her shoulder and stamped her foot impatiently. I'd never misplace or lose or lend out my Tiffany Crystal CD! I mean, it's signed by Tiffany herself. To me!"
"To you!" Bethany echoed.
Abby silently groaned. Was Bethany going to start chanting "Yay, Brianna," the way she used to?
Bethany began humming the tune to Tiffany's bestselling single, "Nasty Sugar Sweet."
"That's last year's hit," Brianna said irritably.
"Haven't you heard the CD Go, Girl, Gold, and Tiffany's best-selling, chart-topping single, 'Eeuuuw'?"
"There's Abby!" Bethany chirped, noticing her for the first time. "Hi, Abby!"
"Hi," Abby said. She stepped out from the bushes, hoping that her face didn't give her away.
"Brianna was finally going to let me touch Tiffany's actual signature," Bethany said. "And now the CD is lost!"
"That's too bad." Abby tried to sound sympathetic.
"I'm so disappointed!" Bethany said.
Brianna replaced her things in the white leather backpack and slowly straightened up.
"Did you leave it in school or in your locker?"
Abby asked her.
Brianna assumed her most tragic pose. "My Tiffany Crystal CD isn't lost, it be stolen!"