Cheers, Chocolate and Other Disasters


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Disasters strike in many different forms. Thirteen year old AJ Devlin believes she has a great life with a good family, two BFFs, a love for cheerleading, and a Champion Quarter Horse mare. When a new girl arrives in town, AJ thinks nothing of it. It’s only when her best friends, Julie and Jaime, begin ignoring her that she wonders why Celine is insinuating herself into AJ’s life. As her life begins to fall apart in many different directions, she realizes that the “new girl” is intent upon destroying everything AJ holds dear. Yet, when her almost-boyfriend finds incriminating evidence against Celine, revealing that this girl is not who or what she claims to be, AJ refuses to allow him to disclose it. Before AJ can settle the score with Celine, she must confront the unexpected divorce of her parents and her now unstable relationship with her father; navigate a new and shaky friendship with one of her former BFFs, and learn to cope with a devastating tragedy that comes out of nowhere.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 juillet 2015
Nombre de visites sur la page 1
EAN13 9781771456531
Langue English

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Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters By Mikki Sadil
Digital ISBNs EPUB 9781771453479 Aindle 9781771456357 PDF 9781771456364 Print ISBN 9781771456371
Copyright 2015 by Mikki Sadil Cover Ārt by Michelle Lee Āll rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored into a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, record ing, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. Dedication To my husband, Richard. As always, you are my inspi ration.
Chapter One The Tryouts The new girl stood in front of me with a look of pu re hatred on her face, which had turned as white as an Arctic bunny. I had never see n her before in my life. It was exactly 8.37 a.m. on Monday, September sixth. Since my mom says I never tell a story straight thr ough from the beginning, I guess I’d better back up an hour or so. The power in our house went off last night, which m eant our alarm clocks didn’t ring. When Mom woke us all up by pounding on our doors, i t was already after seven a.m. Sheesh, tryouts for our eighth grade cheerleading s quad were in fifteen minutes. I leaped out of bed and threw on the first clothes I could find, which happened to be the shorts and T-shirt I’d had on yesterday to muck the stalls. They smelled suspiciously of horse poop. Plus, I realized I had a sore throat an d two new zits. Crap, three disasters so far, and I hadn’t even left my bedroom. I jumped around on one foot and then the other, try ing to get my mud-splattered sneakers tied and finally gave up. I raced down the stairs with laces flying, bounced into the kitchen, and croaked, “Mom, you’ve got to get m e to school,right now. You know I have tryouts this morning!” “AJ, what’s wrong with your voice? And what have yo u got on,smell like a you barnyard. I can’t leave now, everyone is late and I still have to make lunches.” She was slapping milk and cereal down on the table for my twin sisters, oblivious to my crisis. “Okay, forget it, I’ve gotta go.” I bolted out the kitchen door as Mom yelled, “Tie your shoelaces before you end up in the ER!” I ignored the warning and raced down the street, ho ping the morning breeze would blow some of the stink away. Halfway to school I re alized I’d forgotten my backpack. Things were definitely not looking up. The day was already getting hot when I ran onto the football field. The track shimmered in the distance, and the grass had a kind of musty smell to it, instead of its usual freshness. Girls were lined up in front of th e coach, who glared at me as I slipped into line. He thought there was no excuse for tardi ness, so before he could say anything, I tried some damage control. “Sorry, Coach, but we had a terrible family emergen cy this morning. I came as soon as I could.” He frowned. “Miss Devlin, nothing short of death ma kes tardiness excusable. Did someone in your family die?” “Uh, no sir. It wasn’t that kind of emergency.” Snickers trickled out behind me. He glared at me for a moment before going back to h is lecture. The girls on either side of me moved away, and one covered her mouth an d nose and gave an elaborate cough. Apparently, the breeze hadn’t worked. The coach finished talking and walked down the line of girls eagerly waiting to show him what they could do. He didn’t say much until he got to me.
“Miss Devlin, you are a disgrace. I trust you will not have another family emergency anytime soon.” He walked away, leaving behind a whi ff of shaving lotion that smelled like an old wet dog. At least, I hoped it was shaving lotion. Coach was dividing the girls into groups of three, and I was sure I would be with my two best friends, Julie and Jaime. Before I could c all to them, Coach came over and grasped my arm with his bony hand. “Miss Devlin, you are to team up with Miss Baker an d Miss Wilkins. Since you’ve never worked together before, you need to talk abou t what you’re going to do.” “But, Coach, I’ve been practicing with Jaime and Ju lie. We always…” “Miss Devlin, I am perfectly aware of what you ‘alw ays’ do, but this is not one of those times. You will team with Miss Baker and Miss Wilkins. Is that clear?” Aaghh! I couldn’t believe my bad luck. Amberley Bak er was a total klutz, always stumbling and dropping her books and papers all ove r the place. Lisa Wilkins was tall, thin as a popsicle stick, and had eyes the color of a glacier. Amberley’s clumsiness and Lisa’s forever talking about herEuropean experience of living in Italy for a couple of years made them two of the most unpopular girls on campus. Now I was stuck with them.But you really don’t even know them,said that little voice I try to ignore. “Miss Devlin, I am waiting.” Coach’s voice had gotten quiet, which was always a bad sign. I shrugged. “Sorry, Coach. Yes, it’s clear. I’m to partner with Amberley and Lisa.” Apparently, that satisfied him. He walked over to t he J’s, my term for Julie and Jaime, just as Amberley and Lisa walked up. Without even saying ‘hi’, Lisa took charge. “We are going to do some jumps and a pyramid. Coach said for the tryouts we could only d o basic tumbling. Can you do that?” She loomed over me by several inches. I usually had to look up at people, but this was ridiculous. “Of course I can,” I replied, drawing myself up to my full five feet.I’ve been a gymnast for years. I can do anything you want.” She looked at me and frowned. “You do not generally smell like this, do you? It is disgusting. And your voice sounds like a wounded bu ffalo.” Amberley gave me an embarrassed smile. “Lisa! That isn’t very nice. Maybe AJ fell down this morning, or something.” Aaagh! Now this klutz is trying to make excuses for me.“No, I didn’t fall down. I was late and just threw on some clothes that I had clea ned stalls in. I’m sorry I don’t smell like perfume.” She blushed, and I got a funny feeling in my stomac h.It isn’t her fault you were late, said that little voice. Coach yelled for everyone to be quiet and listen fo r their turn. In a few minutes, he pointed to the three of us. We started out with tumbling, and I was surprised t o see that both Amberley and Lisa were very good. At first, that is. It all fell apart when we did the basic jump, which was the spread eagle, and then the toe touch. They couldn’t land properly or even get their legs up at the proper angle.
It was awful. My face turned hot and I had to grit my teeth to keep from yelling at them. Coach walked over to us before we could begin the pyramid. He looked disgusted. “Do you ladies even understand what ‘tryout’ means? You’ve obviously not learned the most basic of jumps. Why are you here?” They both blushed, and Lisa started to speak up, bu t I glared at her, so she didn’t. Coach said, “Miss Devlin, you managed to be technic ally correct, but you have no grace about you at all. The three of you have many hours of work ahead if you expect to make the senior squad.” He was still frowning when he addressed the class. “I expected better from this group, but obviously, you all have a lot of practic ing to do. The next tryout session will be one week from today. I had better see improvemen t. If there is none, there will be no cheerleading squad. No questions, no comments. You are dismissed.” He left the field without another word. Some of the girls were looking at Amberley and Lisa and whispering. Lisa stuck her nose in the air and walked away without speaking to either of us. That was okay by me, because I had nothing to say to either of them. Amberley gave me what I thought was a sad look, but it could have been just those awful glasses she wore. She stumbled over her backp ack, pushed back her glasses, and shuffled off. The other girls snickered,, and I knew they were ma king fun of her. I rolled my eyes and turned up my hands to indicate that I felt the same way. I heard a familiar laugh and turned to see the J’s talking to a girl I hadn’t noticed before. She looked over at me with the darkest blue eyes I’d ever seen and one small dimple at the corner of her mouth. I wondered how a nyone our age could be that perfect. Jaime and Julie came over to introduce her. “Hey, A J, this is Celine Carroll. She just moved here from New York. She was senior captain of her cheerleading team back there, and she’s going to partner with us. Celine, this is AJ Devlin.” It was at that moment my world began to change. Her dark blue eyes seemed to turn black, and the dimple disappeared so fast I th ought I had imagined it. The curve of her lips became a tight straight line, and she sudd enly reminded me of that Greek goddess who could look at someone and turn them to stone. I hadn’t turned to stone yet, but this girl was so scary it took all my courage to keep from taking a step back. My heart thumped and my stomach jumped. She didn’t speak and with the knot in my throat, I couldn’t. For some reason I couldn’t explain, I looked down at my watch. It was eight-thirty-seven. We stood silently, sizing each other up. She was dr essed way too buff for our school, where dusty jeans and T-shirts were practic ally a uniform. She had on a blue button-down shirt and pressed white jeans tucked in to polished black ankle boots. White jeans? If I wore white anything, it would end up brown with dirt, green with grass stains, and purple or red, depending on what I dran k for lunch. With no words spoken, it was unanimous — we were no t going to be friends.
“How come you guys are going to partner withher?” Considering the look on her face, I should have kept my mouth shut, but I was s till mad about Lisa and Amberley. Jaime shrugged. “Don’t blame us, AJ. Coach told us Celine would be our partner right after he put you with the two weenies.” Celine smiled. “Oh, do I hear a note of unhappiness here? Oh my, AJ, I’m so sorry if I came between you and your friends.” Her sarcastic tone dripped icicles, and her expression said she was anything but sorry. What wa s up with this chick? She was talking to me like she’d been around forever. And h ated me forever. I turned away, wanting nothing more than to get awa y from her and that hateful look. I saw Jaime and Julie look uneasily at each o ther. Julie said, “Mrs. Gorman told us to show Celine aro und after the tryouts. Want to come with us?” “Aren’t you going to class? We’re already late.” “Oh, well, Mrs. Gorman said it would be okay to be late,” Jaime said with a grin. Mrs. Gorman was our homeroom teacher, and in her op inion, Julie and Jaime couldn’t do anything wrong. She had probably alread y told our history teacher the J’s would be showing the new girl around. I doubted tha t she had included me, so I knew I would be in trouble walking in to history ten minut es after class had started. Ms. Spellman was almost as bad as Coach about tardiness . I looked at Celine again. I got that funny feeling in my stomach when I know something is wrong but I’m not sure what. I shook m y head. “No, I’m going to class. See you later.” As I expected, Ms. Spellman was upset with me. “Wel come to class, AJ. Did you get lost this morning?” “Uh, no ma’am, I had cheerleading tryouts.” Someone laughed, and I could feel my face getting red again. “I see.” She looked at my clothes with raised eyebr ows. “Somehow, I don’t think being late is your only problem today. Perhaps you’ d better sit by an open window. Since you’re here, you may open your book and turn to page one-forty-five. I have just asked question number five, so you may answer that one, please.” Aaghh! Can she read my mind or something?was like she already knew I didn’t It have my books. “Ah, Ms. Spellman, I, uh, don’t have my book. I forgot my backpack this morning.” “I see. Well, class, will one of you please loan ou r forgetful friend a history book? And AJ, I suggest you do not forget your book tomorrow, and please be on time, also, or we’ll have a discussion after class..” I rolled my eyes. Ms. Spellman looked at me, but sh e didn’t say anything. When Julie and Jaime came in a few minutes later, she sm iled and let them take their seats without a word about being late. At least Celine wa sn’t with them. * * * *
fter the last bell rang, I was waiting outside my E nglish class for the J’s when the school principal, Mr. Fox, popped up out of nowhere and grabbed my arm. “AJ, what happened here? Have you been dressed like this all day? And whatisthat smell?” I started to give him a line, but stopped in time a nd told him exactly what happened. Mr. Fox was not somebody to mess with. Besides, he was a friend of my parents, so giving him a story would probably get back to them, and I’d be grounded forever. “I suggest you get a battery alarm clock so this do esn’t happen again.” He sniffed the air. “Oh, and AJ, please try to refrain from we aring such aromatic clothes to school.” He strolled off down the hall. When the J’s finally came by, they were with Celine . She must be in their science class. I wondered where she lived, but Jaime cleare d that up in a hurry without me even asking. “Guess what, AJ?” Jaime was practically dancing on tippy toes. “Celine has moved into the big new house at the end of our street. Is n’t that terrific? Now we can all walk to school together!” Uh oh, that’s not what I expected. ‘The big new hou se’ looked like it had come out of that old movie,Gone With the Wind. It hadn’t sold because it was expensive and looked out of place with all the ranch-style houses in our neighborhood. Her family must have lots and lots of money. “Aaghh!” Oops, I didn’t mean to do that, because no w all three of them were looking at me strangely. “AJ, you’ve been sucky all day. Are you coming with us or not?” Julie asked, frowning. I shrugged. “Sure, let’s go.” When we started walking home, Celine pushed in betw een Julie and me. The next thing I knew, I was walking in the dirt road. Besid e them, but not with them. I stopped abruptly and waited. The J’s and Celine walked on f or a bit, until Julie noticed I wasn’t with them. “AJ, what’s wrong? What did you stop for?” “Well, it would be nice if I could walkwith you,instead of out in the street.” I knew I was being snarky, but I really didn’t care. Celine turned around. “Oh, gee, AJ, have I usurped your place? I’mso sorry!Usurped?”Nobody I knew used words like that. Besides, I was n’t even sure I knew what it meant. I glared at her, but she just smiled . Funny, that smile only made her face look even more like an ice carving. Julie, the peacemaker of us three, intervened. “Oh, don’t worry, Celine. The sidewalk is pretty narrow. Come on, AJ, I’ll walk w ith you and Jaime can walk with Celine.” Right then, I felt really small. I was acting like a spoiled brat, and what’s worse, I knew it. I didn’t say anything, I just stepped back up on the sidewalk and began walking with Julie. After a few minutes, Celine looked over her shoulder at me, grinned, and winked. Her look was malevolent. My stomach twisted , and I felt a cold wave sweep
over me. Somehow, I knew at that moment the fourth disaster of the day had just entered my life.
ChapterTwo Celine When we stopped outside Jaime’s house, Celine said,Hey, let’s go to my house and have some chips and sodas.” “Cool! Let’s go.” Jaime was really jazzed. That was definitely not what I had in mind for the afternoon. The J’s and I had a history project to work on, I had barn chores to do , and I had already had enough of Celine for one day. “Well, AJ, are you coming or not?” Celine stood with her hands on her hips. “Yeah, sure, for a little while, anyway,” I said. We walked up a long curved drive that was concrete instead of the dirt ones the rest of us had. It led to front doors with oval stained glass windows. They looked like they came from a church. I wondered if her house had pew s. Celine glanced at my shoes. “AJ, please take your s hoes off. They’re muddy, and our housekeeper will have a fit if we get mud on th e white carpets.” OMG! She had a housekeeper and white carpets in a h orse town. I couldn’t believe it. The mud on my shoes was dry, so I didn’t know w hy she was making such a big deal out of it. I sighed loudly, just to let her know th is was so dumb, and took off my sneakers. The minute she opened the door, I knew why. My stoc king feet sank into the soft white pile of the carpet. Evenmymom would have had a fit if I’d walked on a carpet like that with dirty shoes. We looked around and our mou ths dropped open. The house was huge, with crystal chandeliers hanging everywhere, a curving staircase in front of us, and off to the left, a room withtwogrand pianos. It even smelled like the roses my mo m had in our front yard. The J’s and I looked at each other. Celine Carroll’s parents must be loaded. Celine led us into the open kitchen/family room. A large gold-framed painting of Celine sitting astride a Thoroughbred and holding a silver trophy hung over the fireplace. Other framed paintings of horses, some w ith Celine, hung all over the walls. Most of them had blue ribbons next to them. I looke d over at Julie, and she mouthed silently, “Wow!” None of my friends’ family rooms looked like this. Ours always looked lived in, with dust on the coffee table, a few books lying around, and one of the twins’ games left forgotten on the floor. We had pictures of the twin s and Andrew on their horses, and several of Sunni and me, but none of them were in g old frames. Ours was a real family room, not an art gallery like this. And it sure did n’t smell like fresh roses, either; more like…well, horses and whatever we had for dinner th e night before. Celine said, “Come on into the kitchen. You can sit at the bar, and I’ll get some snacks.” A few minutes later, Julie, Jaime, and Celine were laughing and talking like they’d been friends forever, while I nibbled on chips and sipped my soda. I licked my lips, savoring the salty rim the chips left. The soda was cold and crisp going down my sore
throat, but I almost choked on it when I heard some of the things Celine told the J’s. The way they ate up all the stuff she told them about h er very rich life in New York made them look as if they were hypnotized. I wasn’t buyi ng it. I felt neglected and angry. The J’s and I were best friends. Now this Celine chick popped up out of nowhere, and they were acting like I wasn’t even in the same room. I slipped off the stool and looked at the horse pic tures. Across the hall was an open door leading to another large room. Since no one ha d even noticed I wasn’t at the bar, I walked over and peered inside. There were two big d esks covered with computers, monitors, and more telephones than we had in our wh ole house. Suddenly a hand reached out and grabbed my shoulder . It hurt so bad I thought someone had put me in a vice. A rough voice said, “Who are you and what are you d oing snooping around? Answer me!” I struggled to turn around and wished I hadn’t. The woman holding me looked positively evil. She was tall and skinny, with blun t cut black hair that barely touched her shoulders, and the meanest eyes I’d ever seen. Her face was broad and covered by acne pits. A long scar ran from the corner of her l eft eye, across her nose, down her right cheek and disappeared somewhere under her sho ulder-length hair. For the first time in my life, I knew exactly what that old cliché meant about something ‘making your skin crawl’. She grabbed my other shoulder and shook me. Her han ds were big, almost like a man’s, and they felt like steel. I cleared my throat and tried not to sound as scare d as I felt. “Uh, my friends and I… we…uh…we’re here with Celine. I was just looking at all the horse pictures and saw this room. I’m sorry if I did anything wrong.” The woman looked me over from head to toe, then gav e me a hard push. “Go back to your friends, and don’t ever let me catch you an ywhere near this room again. You hear me?” I felt like saying, “Or what?” but figured that mig ht not be such a good idea. I nodded and backed away. Still scowling, she went into the room and slammed the door. I walked back to where the J’s and Celine were sitt ing. They were still laughing and talking. Obviously, they hadn’t even noticed I’d be en gone. “Hey,” I said abruptly, “it’s been fun, but I have homework and barn chores to do. Julie and Jaime, we still have more work to do on t he history project. What time do you want to come over tonight so we can work on it?” The J’s looked at each other. “Um, AJ, since Celine is new and doesn’t have a science partner, she’s going to work with us. We’re coming back here tonight. That way we can show her what we are doing, so she can catch up.” Julie didn’t look at me. It got real quiet all of a sudden. The J’s had funn y little half-smiles on their faces, but Celine definitely had a smirk on hers. Yeah, th eywerehypnotized all right. “Fine, do what you want. I have to go.” I strolled out of the kitchen, deliberately brushing some chip crumbs from my shirt on the snow y white carpet. I slammed the front door, pulled on my shoes, and ran down the driveway.