so not okay
Post on 21-May-2017
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It was a Monday. January 26, to be exact, and I like to be exact.
I remember the date because it needs to be circled on a calen-
dar. In red Sharpie.
Thats because it was the first time since the start of middle
school that Kylie Steppe actually looked at me and apparently saw
something besides , well . . . nothing. And it changed, well . . .
My best friend Ophelia Smith and I were leaning against the
wall across from the office at Gold Country Middle School wait-
ing for our other best friend Winnie George to pick up her slip to
get into classes after being absent. The line snaked out the door
and down the hall, like half the school had suffered from some
kind of epidemic , and Kylie was standing in it. I figured shed
probably been out having her nails done because she had been
standing there inspecting them for ten minutes like Sherlock
Holmes on a case.
But suddenly she looked up and stared right at me. She was so
still I wondered if she had a pulse.
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2 Nancy Rue
Ophelia noticed the look too. She hid half her face not hard
to do when your thick yellow hair is like a curtain all the way to
your waist and whispered, The Alpha Wolf is looking at you,
Tori. Thats weird.
It really was weird because Kylie hadnt shown any signs of
noticing me since the first day of sixth grade when she started
deciding who was cool and who wasnt. I wasnt. She couldnt
prove it. I just wasnt.
I was okay with that. Ophelia and Winnie and I werent even
on Kylie and her Packs radar. Okay, I know wolves dont use
radar. Mrs. Fickus, our English teacher, would say I was mixing
my metaphors. The point is: we were like Saran Wrap to the Pack
But Kylie couldnt seem to stop looking at me now. Her nose
wrinkled like she smelled something bad, which was totally pos-
sible in our school. Between the stinky sneakers and the kids
who hadnt been told about deodorant yet, you were better off
breathing through your mouth when a bunch of us sixth graders
were crammed together in the halls.
I was considering telling Kylie that I had looked it up and
found out the reason boys sweat could now gag you was because
puberty caused their sweat glands to become more active and
secrete odor-causing chemicals, when she said, Why dont you
get your eyebrows waxed?
I opened my mouth to say, Hello! Because its painful! but
Ophelia gave me a warning poke in the side. She was right. Kylie
wasnt going to listen, so I just shrugged. My mom didnt like it
when I did that but it usually ended conversations I didnt want
to be in to begin with.
But that didnt work on Kylie. Clearly, she wasnt done.
Theyre starting to grow together in the middle. She gave
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So Not Okay! 3
her splashy little dark brown haircut a toss. Youre gonna have a
unibrow. Thats so gross.
In front of Kylie in line her friend Heidi laughed out of her
puggy nose. It was only a matter of time before her other friend
Riannon would be throwing back her hair-just-like-Kylies-
except-mouse-coloredand howlingfollowed by Izzy and
Shelby. That was one of the dozen reasons I thought of them as a
pack of wolves closing in on their prey.
I was sure Kylie was going to pull hot wax out of her backpack
and come after me with it when our principal Mrs. Yeats parted
the kids in the doorway like she was coming through drapes and
clapped, so hard it made the skin on her upper arms jiggle inside
her sleeves. A hush settled over the mob because her chins were
wobbling too. That meant the detention slips were about to come
out of the pocket of the gold wool vest she always wore.
If you are not waiting to get a readmit slip, she said in her
voice like a French horn, please move out of the hallway.
What if were waiting for someone? Heidi said.
Wait for them someplace else.
Mrs. Yeats jiggled back into her office and Heidi and
Riannon stepped out of the line. But Kylie said to them, Its
okay if you stay.
That was the thing with the Pack. They thought the rules
didnt apply to them and most of the time they kind of didnt.
But they applied to us, so I nodded for Ophelia to follow me away
from the office. Besides, I still wasnt convinced Kylie wasnt at
least going to break out the tweezers.
What was that about? Ophelia said as we hurried up the
steps to our usual before-school meeting place at the end of the
sixth grade lockers by the window.
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4 Nancy Rue
What was what about?
That whole thing about your eyebrows.
I have no idea, I said. I guess Kylies into eyebrows now.
Ophelia lifted one of hers, which was so blonde you could
hardly see it. She waxes so she thinks everybody else has to.
To be cool. Which Im so not.
Ophelia dropped her backpack under the window and
looked over both shoulders. Kids were clanging their lockers and
yelling stuff at each other so nobody was paying any attention to
us, but Ophelia still talked with her teeth together. Why did she
decide to pick on you?
She wasnt really picking on me, Phee, I said. She was just
making an observation.
She said you were gross!
She said I was going to be gross.
Ophelia blinked her ginormous brown eyes at me. Id always
wanted to measure them to see if they really were bigger than
most peoples, or if they just looked that way because her face
She started to braid her hair so it wouldnt get caught in her
backpack zipper like it did about eighty percent of the time. I
just dont see why she all of a sudden noticed that about your
eyebrows. I mean, not that they are like a unibrow . . . Im just
sayin why you when she hasnt talked to you since
The last day of school in fifth grade, I said and did my
lets-change-the-subject shrug. Ophelia always had a new topic
at the ready.
You have to help me with that math homework. It was so
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So Not Okay! 5
I tried to call you last night. Where were you?
I was like starting to cry because I couldnt get it and you
know my mom is no help and my dad just gets all yelly with me
because Im such a loser in math
I am! You have to help me. Please?
I love you!
She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed a laugh out
I love it when you say that. Ophelia pulled her now-braided
hair up on top of her head and let it bounce down. Where did
you get that again?
When I had strep throat and Granna came over to stay with
me and she had TVLand on the whole day
And you watched all those episodes of that one show about
Chipmunk? It was Leave It To Beaver.
I knew it was some cute animal.
It was a kid! His nickname was Beaver and he said jeepers
all the time. I liked it.I love it!
So wheres your math homework?
Ophelia unzipped her backpack, which had so many stick-
ers on it you could hardly tell it was purple, and pawed through
what looked like a wastebasket full of papers.
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6 Nancy Rue
I hope Winnies gonna be okay, she said as she dug. Shes
having a really hard time at her grandmothers house.
Winnies dad had lost his job and then her family lost their
house. After a lot of listening in on grown-ups conversations I
figured out that losing their house meant they couldnt pay
for it and now the bank owned it. The Georges had moved in
with Winnies grandmother and lets just say, she wasnt like my
Granna, who rocked grandparenthood.
Her mom told my mom thats why they gave her a couple of
days off from school, I said. So she could adjust.
You guys? said a tiny voice.
I turned in time to see Winnie in a shaft of sunlight, sagging
against the end of the lockers.
I dont think it worked, Ophelia said.
She ran to Winnie and practically knocked her down hug-
ging her. That wasnt hard to do since Winnies head only came
up to both Phees and my shoulders and she was always so pale it
was like you could almost see through her.
She looked smaller than ever now and her light blue eyes
were all puffy and red around the rims. Her hair was still wet
from washing it so it laid against her round head like an almost-
white cap. The only thing that wasnt pale on Winnie was her
Again with the eyebrows.
Ophelia led her to me at the window. Winnie dropped her
backpack and burst into tears.
Its that bad at your grandmothers? I said.
Winnie shook her head about fifty times. Its those girls.
Kylie and them.
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So Not Okay! 7
What did they do to you? Ophelia said.
Did they say something evil?
I shook my head. So youre crying because . . .
When I came out of the office, they looked at me!
Winnies little shoulders went up and down the w