Abby took a bite of the school lunch turkey special. “I should have gotten the pasta,” she said, making a face.
“Beware of the turkey special,” her friend Sophia said in a low voice. “Middle School Rule Number Twenty-three.”
“I wonder if they’ll let me exchange it?” Abby asked. She was only half joking.
“Exchange school lunch?” Sophia repeated. “Um, no, I don’t think so.”
The two girls were sitting at their favorite table near the window. They ate lunch together every day. Abby’s best friend, Hannah, had lunch at a different time.
As usual, Sophia had her sketchbook open in front of her. She picked at her tuna salad and sketched at the same time. Her long dark hair fell over her face.
“I wonder if the mashed potatoes are any better,” Abby said. She tasted then and sighed. “Whipped Styrofoam, anyone? My older sisters say the high school food is much better. Only three more years to go.”
Sophia drew a long curlicue on the page. “We could always bring our lunches in brown paper bags.”
“No way! You’ll never see me carrying a brown paper bag into this cafeteria!”
I’d decorate mine,” Sophia said shyly. “It’d be fun.”
“We’d never live it down,” Abby said. “No one brings their own lunch.”
“I guess that’s Middle School Rule Number Fifty-one,” Sophia said, with a sigh. “I wish I could memorize them all.”
Abby pushed her tray away. “Another nutritious but no-so-delicious meal brought to you by the Susan B. Anthony Middle School cafeteria.”
“I have a protein bar in my backpack,” Sophia offered.
“No, thanks,” Abby said. “I baked some cookies for The Daisy meeting today. If I’m hungry, I’ll have one. I mean, if they aren’t too salty or too sweet or too hard or too dry.”
“You haven’t tasted them yet?” Sophia said in astonishment.
“Ignorance is bliss. I’d rather not know how they turned out until the last minute. What can I do if they’re bad, expect feel bad?”
“I try one for you,” Sophia offered.
Abby thought for a moment. “Okay,” she said finally, “but don’t expect too much.”
She took the cookie tin out of her backpack, pried open the lid, and removed the plastic wrap that protected the cookies.
“They look fabulous,” Sophia breathed. “Like they came from some gourmet store.”
“Gourmet? Remember, they were made by me.”
Abby handed Sophia a cookie and closed the tin again.
Sophia held the cookie underneath her nose. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.
“Sophia?” Abby said. “What are you doing?”
Her friend blushed. “Nothing like the smell of home-baked cookies,” she mumbled. She took a bite of the cookie. Then she took another.
“How is it?” Abby said, frowning. Why wasn’t Sophia saying anything?
Sophia ate the cookie slowly without bothering to answer. Then she licked the chocolate from her fingers.
“These cookies are unbelievable,” she finally said.
“Unbelievably bad?” Abby asked.
“They’re the best thing I’ve ever eaten in this cafeteria,” Sophia pronounced.
“That’s because we have the world’s worst cafeteria food.”
“They’re great, Abby.”
Abby shrugged off the compliment. “So you’d say they’re edible at least? The Daisy staff won’t spit them out of their napkins.”
“If they do, save the rest of the cookies for me,” Sophia said. “They’re delicious.”
“Thanks,” Abby said doubtfully. She wondered if Sophia had something wrong with her taste buds.
A few hours later, Abby entered the room that served as headquarters of The Daisy editorial staff.
“Abby!” Lucas cried, waving a manuscript at her. His hair seemed to go off in several different directions at once and his glasses were grimy. “Did you bring the cookies?”
Abby nodded. “They’re in my backpack.”
“Hand them over. Starving mobs of editors are waiting.”
“Starving mobs are editors?” Katie repeated. The editor in chief of The Daisy was a serious girl with intense dark-brown eyes. She put down her blue pencil and pushed away the stack of papers in front of her. “Speak for yourself, Lucas.”
“I am,” Lucas said. “I’m dying for those cookies.”
“I hope you don’t die from them,” Abby mumbled.
They hadn’t seemed to harm Sophia, but still…
“Cookies? Did I hear cookies?” Matt came rambling over. He was the computer whiz of the group, a tall, lanky boy who wore sandals and shorts even in cold weather.
“Let’s have them,” Amandine, the art editor, said. She was graceful and calm, with a musical voice.
When Abby uncovered the tin, there was a moment of hushed silence. Then Matt, Lucas, Katie, and Amandine fell upon the cookies.
For a few moments, there was only the sound of chewing. Too nervous to eat a cookie herself, Abby anxiously watched her fellow staff members and waited for their reaction.
Katie was the first to speak. “Wow Abby.”
“Are they ok?”
“Fantashtic,” Lucas mumbled, his mouth full.
“These shouldn’t be eaten, they out to be worshipped.”
“Cookie heaven,” Amandine said, taking several at once.
Lucas pushed her out of the way. “Save some for me!”
“Don’t be greedy,” Katie scolded, stepping in front of Lucas to grab her share. “Remember your editor in chief.”
“These cookies ought to win an Oscar,” Matt said, snatching a huge handful. He leaned back in his chair and stretched out his long, skinny legs. “Or a Newberry and a Caldecott together. Or a Nobel Peace Prize.