Authors: Debra Moffitt
Valentine's Day should be outlawed. Really. I was just getting used to being Forrest's former fake girlfriend, when it popped up on the calendar like a dentist appointment. The Valentine's Day carnation sale at my school didn't help one bit. This annual fund-raiser, organized by the seventh-graders, helped pay for the eighth-grade spring trip. The flower sale involved buckets of white, pink, and red carnations that could be purchased and delivered to the person of your choice. With a note.
For just a dollar, you could remind your best friend that you adore her, tell your track coach that she's awesome, or toss a romantic volley at someone you think is super-cute, funny, and wonderful.
But don't worryâI did
send Forrest a red carnation. Or a pink one or a white one. I sent him nothing, did nothing of any sort to mark this day of chubby cherubs, candy hearts, and love.
But I did
a carnationâa pink oneâfrom someone who decided not to send any note. Or maybe the note fell off. But either way, at lunch on Valentine's Day, my biggest fear was relieved when I received my note-less carnation. You don't want people thinking no one cares enough to send you at least one.
That's kind of why I sent a pink carnation to Mimi Caritas, Clem's sixth-grade sister. Clem is a real-deal teen model and Mimi is just an ordinary girl who's a little afraid to grow up. She's actually an ordinary girl who until a few months ago hated the PLS and tried to put us out of business. But it's all been worked out and I feel like she needs a big sister who's a little nicer and a little less stunningly beautiful.
I held my breath when the vice president of the seventh-grade class approached our cafeteria table. For a long moment, the always friendly Shannon Andersen stood there, studying her order sheet, with that white plastic bucket of tall carnations sloshing in water.
Then she reached into her bucket and pulled out a small bunch for Kateâone from me, of course. Shannon reached back in and pulled out a whole bouquet for Piper. Seriously, a committee of boys seems to pursue her at all times. Then it was my turn. I received threeâa white one from my friend Bet, a white one from Kate and Piper, and the anonymous pink one.
“Where's the card?” I asked Shannon.
All the other carnations had small, pink construction paper cards attached to them by a loop of red yarn.
“No clue,” she said.
I stopped her before she moved on to the next table.
“But isn't there some kind of master list or something?” I asked.
Then I grabbed the edge of her bucket and peered in to see if there were any notes left floating in there.
“Um, we're not that organized,” Shannon said, smiling at me but also pulling back on her bucket. “You should see the Art room where we're putting all these deliveries together.”
I let her go and started to run through all the possible explanations for the pink carnation I was holding. More than likely it was Jake Austin, who I knew liked me. There's nothing wrong with Jake. I even danced with him at the Backward Dance. But there was also nothing particularly right about Jake. He was a just a nice guyâa friendâwho didn't give me butterflies in my stomach.
My stomach lurched, however, at the thought that Forrest's younger brother, Trevor, might have sent the carnation. After I left a note for Forrest that was accidentally intercepted by his sixth-grade brother, Trevor
winks at me in the hallway. When you're in eighth grade, on your way to high school, you do not want to be known as the girl who crushes on a sixth-grade boy. Trevor never quite got the message and gives me the winky-wink every time we cross paths.
For all my questions about this pink flower, one thing seemed sure: Forrest had nothing to do with it. We had remained “friends” following my decision to break off our fake relationship. For us, “friends” meant the occasional hi and not much else. Just the other day, I saw him and his old girlfriend, Taylor Mayweather, standing together at his locker. She looked like she was crying and he was leaning down, trying to get her to look at him. What do I make of that? Nothing good, I'm sure. If Forrest sent anyone a carnation this year, I bet it was her.
“I need to find a vase for these,” Piper said dramatically. She pronounced “vase” as
and I feared she would slip into French as she'd been doing lately. When Shannon gave her the flower, she exclaimed,
(Thank you, miss!)
Piper held her flowers upright, as if they were in an imaginary
Then she arranged them in a professional-looking way, as I'd seen her mother do.
Kate laughed as Piper hurried off, then she turned her attention to me. She knew what I was thinking about. Petal by petal, I was putting together the clues surrounding my mysterious pink flower.
By day's end, I could see that some people's carnations were already going limp. So I was careful to protect mine on the bus ride home. In my room, I put the two white flowers on my desk in a skinny vase. The single pink carnation went into a tall, blue plastic bottle I found in our recycling bin. I was careful to give it just the right amount of cold water. I set it on my nightstand. Then, silently, I said something that had become sort of a little prayer:
I will not waste time thinking about Forrest. I will focus on:
1. being a good friend
2. becoming a better runner
4. learning how to be a big sister (Mom's expecting!)
5. giving good advice on the Pink Locker Society Web site
Silly as it might have been, I had a personal mission statement now. We had a goal-setting class once, where the teacher said everyone should have one. It sounded weird to me at the time, but now it made more sense. I even made myself a soda tab bracelet to remind me of the five parts. It was five soda tabs threaded on a pink ribbon. I used four silver and one that I painted with pink nail polish in honor of the Pink Locker Society.
I also found a way to give myself credit for keeping on track with my five goals. I started out the day with my bracelet on my right wrist. If I made it through a whole day without thinking of Forrest, it remained on my right wrist. If I didn't, I moved the bracelet to the left wrist. At first, I had plenty of left-wristed days. But I was slowly learning how to forget him.
It was easy to be busy. Track team practices were starting, my mom was getting ready to have a baby (in June!), and the Pink Locker Society was moving in a new and exciting (and possibly terrifying) direction. First off, we were actually moving. Thanks to Mrs. Percy and our reunion with her sister, Edith, we were taking up residence again in the posh office behind our pink locker doors. No more basement meetings! We couldn't wait to once again gather around our glass conference table. We longed to update the Pink Locker Web site from our comfy office as we sipped iced tea from our fridge.
We answered tons of questions about girls' feelings about their bodies and everyone's fear of being embarrassed. There were so many ways to embarrass yourself. Maybe your mom won't let you shave your hairy legs. Or you don't have a bra and everyone else does. Or everyone is always talking about their periods, and you don't have yours yet.
That was meâthirteen and no period. But after answering hundreds of questions about periods, I knew that they come on their own schedule. A girl could be as young as nine or as old as me. So I felt better knowing I was normal but I really did hope that my period would happen soon. I mean, it seemed like something you should have over with before you go to high school, right? Well, high school would be starting for me in the fall.
So I was still waiting, but the whole experience of waiting had given me a brilliant idea. What if we could predict when someone was going to get her period? I mean, isn't that the question every middle-school girl wants to know? Yes, they're tricky, but periods don't just come like lightning bolts out of the blue. There are stages, you know, steps along the way. For instance, girls develop breasts first, then comes the period about two years or so later. And there were other signs, too, which I knew from talking to the school nurse and my own doctor. Why couldn't the Pink Locker Society create a kind of Magic 8 Ball for girls?
So my mind was whirring with plans for the PLS, but I was also a little worried. Here was the part that had my nerves jangling: Mrs. Percy, Edith, and even Ms. Russo wanted us to go public.
“Don't you believe in girl power?” Mrs. Percy had asked me.
Yes, of course. But also no. Here's why: We could get into big trouble here. The principal had
visited my house
and told all our parents about the Pink Locker Society. Then he said we needed to stop immediately. So by going public with the PLS, we'd be saying, “Hey, we ignored you and we're going to keep on ignoring you.” Not to mention my parents. I hadn't told them we had restarted PLS, either.
“It's ultimately your decision,” Ms. Russo had advised. “But I think it's the right path.”
Re-entry day was like going back in time. Sure, our original entry through the pink locker doors had been just six months before. But so much had happened, with all those basement meetings in between. I felt like a different person. But not so different that I didn't stress about whether I'd be able to open the weird combination lock that had letters instead of numbers. At least the new combination was easy: P-I-N-K.
The hour of study hall came and I fiddled in my locker for a bit, wasting time and waiting for everyone to clear out. I watched Forrest out of the corner of my eye as he dropped off his stuff and left for the gym. I had this weird feeling that he was doing the same thing, and sneaking a peek at me. But then I realized that was probably too good to be true.
With my right hand, I twisted my dial to the P, to the I, to the N, and to the K. The mechanical
told me I'd done it right on the first try. I opened the pink locker door just slightly. Then I closed my real locker door, with me inside it like a magician's assistant about to disappear. I opened the pink door and stepped down onto the plush carpeting. Inside, our office was well lit, cozy yet professional. A real-looking office, where real work would be done. No more sitting on jumbo packages of paper towels in the dingy school basement.
There was a huge arrangement of green ivy and baby pink roses in the center of our conference table. It was so big we had to move it in order to see each other as Kate, Piper, and I gathered around. Piper brought the pink laptop and it started to hum to life. Did you ever just feel like you were in the right place at exactly the right time? That's how I felt at that moment, at that table, with my two best friends. I wouldn't have been surprised if I had held out my hand and a warm cup of tea landed on it.