Is there something in the water at SVJH?
Bethel walked into school one day and everyone was part of a couple. Now all anybody can talk about is who's going with whom and who passed somebody a note and giggle giggle giggle!
It makes her sick.
And happy that she'll never be that way!
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I nudged Jessica Wakefield's arm.
"There she is," I said. "Kennedy Middle School's star cross-country runner. She's the one to beat."
It took Jessica a second to figure out who I was talking about. She glanced-around, the ten neon butterfly clips in her blond hair flashing in the southern California sun. We were standing in the Sweet Valley Junior High grandstand, waiting for the Tuesday afternoon all-district home track meet to begin.
All around us in the stands kids were talking and yelling, waiting for their events, watching their teammates, or just horsing around.
Below us on the track they were setting up for the boys' two-hundred-meter sprint. Kids were tacking down their starting blocks in the staggered start ahead of the backstretch.
"Down there," I said. I pointed, and Jessica looked.
Karla Cassidy, the Kennedy Terror, in Kennedy Middle School red and white, was using the track to practice starts. Not only was she great at cross-country; she was good at middle distances. I wondered if she had a special training regimen.
Jessica saw who I was pointing to just as Karla dropped out of her sprint and started jogging. She looked so relaxed, you couldn't tell how great her form was.
"Her?" Jessica asked, frowning.
"You didn't see her before. She was flying." I glared at Karla, psyching myself up to beat her in the cross-country later, then noticed someone sprinting up behind her.
He wore the SVJH team colors--blue-and-silver shorts and a tank top with his number pinned to the front. His dark legs flashed up and down as he raced up the homestretch in perfect form--arms pumping close in, knees high.
He crossed the hundred-meter finish line and rounded the curve. Finally he slowed, shaking out his hands, and turned to run back toward the stands.
I recognized him. Jameel Davis, from the boys' team. He joined this year. Sometimes in the hall at SVJH, I'd turn around and he'd be staring at me. He'd said hi a couple of times. He had lots of friends, and he seemed nice. I hadn't paid much attention to him.
I'd never watched him run all alone like that before, though. I'd just seen him in the middle of a pack of other boys. I knew he was good--he had to be, to make the team--but I hadn't realized he was that good.
"Wow," I whispered.
"He's good," said Jessica.
"Better than good. That was fantastic."
She fluttered her eyelashes at me. "Fantastic, as in you like him?"
"Give me a break!"
Jessica leaned forward, slitted her eyes, and studied Jameel as he jogged toward us. Then she glanced at me. She was smiling a little too widely.
Uh-oh. Wheels were spinning in her head, I could tell. I looked for something to distract her.
Karla Cassidy had left the track. I couldn't see where she'd gone.
Jessica nudged me. "Check out that girl's nails," she hissed, nodding toward a girl dressed in a blue Jefferson Middle School sweatshirt. The girl's fingernails were bright green, with glow-in-the-dark, alien-head decals on them. "You never do your nails, but you should. You have great hands."
Jessica--queen of the short attention span! Sometimes I wonder how she can stay focused long enough to run a whole 3K race. "Spare me the Barbie brigade recruitment speech. I would never wear a color like that or put on those stupid stickers," I muttered.
"Yeah, and what a waste! A bright color would look great on you. I could do your nails for you. If I'd brought my polish today, I could do them now. I mean, how many hours do they need to set up for cross-country?"
On the track below, Jameel headed for the hundred-meter starting line again, knelt down, backed his feet into a set of starting blocks, put his hands right behind the line, leaned forward, lifted his butt, and took off as though he'd heard the starting pistol. Fast? Like lightning. I wanted to check my watch and see how fast he ran one hundred meters, but I couldn't take my eyes off him. He ran through the finish line and on around the curve again before he slowed.
"Wow," I whispered again before I could stop myself.
"Clear the track. Clear the track for the seventh-grade-boys, two-hundred-meter sprint," said a voice on the PA.
Jameel jogged back to the starting line and pulled his starting blocks off the track.
Jessica waved her hand in front of my face. "Earth to Bethel."
"Did you see that?"
"We have ribbons in the press box for sixth-grade girls, one hundred meters, for Tilton, Friesner, and Jens," said the announcer over the PA. "Seventh-grade boys, first call for the two-hundred-meter sprint."
"See what?" said Jessica. "I hope Krebsy put some juice in the cooler. I'm feeling weak with boredom."
"Jameel. It wasn't even a race, but he ran so fast!"
Jessica smiled at me, that sly smile she got when she was scheming. "Don't look now, but he's coming this way."
I whipped around to see Jameel running up the grandstand stairs toward us.
He paused at the end of our row, looking around the stands. Then he glanced down.
Straight into my eyes.
He smiled this slow smile.
My pulse sped up. My face felt hot. He was cute!
Then he kept on running up the stairs.
"Hmmm," Jessica said. "Yes, we have an interesting situation here. History being made. Bethel looks at a boy and blushes. Mmm-hmm."
"Oh, shut up."
"Come on. I saw your face. You know you like him."
"Maybe a little." I could feel my mouth smil-ing. I couldn't stop it.
"Wait a see," said Jessica. "What did you call him? Jameel?"
"Jameel Davis," I agreed.
"Oh no. This isn't going to work."
It was weird how her saying that made me feel. I didn't think: Work? What work? What are you talking about? I thought: Wait a sec--what do you mean, it's not going to work? How would you know?
"What are you talking about?" I said.
"I remember now. Jameel Davis. He's the seventh-grader who's so good, he's training with the eighth-grade boys, right?"
"Seventh grade, Bethel. Seventh. Grade. He's a little kid!"
"Yeah, sure, like we're so much older. Anyway, who cares how old he is? Doesn't stop him from being a talented runner."
Jessica shook her head slowly. "So sad."
"It's the first time I've seen you falling for somebody, and it's a little kid."
"Falling? What are you talking about? Can't I admire somebody without it being some kind of . . . something?"
She grinned, her blue-green eyes twinkling. "Nope," she said. "Actually, now that I think about it, it's kind of sweet." She poked around in her gym bag and pulled out a flyer. "Hey, remember this beach party Saturday after next?" she said, showing me the flyer. SVJH Annual Beach Blowout Saturday the 15th! Food, Dancing, Bonfire, and Fun! We'd all gotten flyers for it first period that morning.
"Sure," I said.
"I guess," I said. "Why not? I love to dance."
"Well, look. Why go alone? You could ask Jameel to go with you, and then you'd have a built-in dance partner," she said.
"What? Get out of here!"
"Come on. You know you want to."
"You're crazy," I laughed.
She fumed away, still smiling that mischievous smile. "Hey! Ginger! Mary!" She waved wildly at some of the other members of our cross-country team, who were trotting up the stairs, carrying bottles of water. "Guess who Bethel likes!"
"Bethel likes somebody?" asked Ginger. Mary stared at me with mild surprise. She's one of the calmest people I know. Her looking surprised is the equivalent of somebody else going into shock.
"Shut up." I poked Jessica in the ribs.
"You'll never guess," Jessica persisted, scooting along the bench to get away from me. "It's somebody here in the stadium."
Ginger and Mary looked around for likely candidates.
"Shut up," I said again, scooting along the bench to get within poking range of Jessica.
She scooted away again. "And they just had, like, a moment."
"I miss all the good stuff!" Ginger wailed.
"Shut up," I said between clenched teeth.
Jessica laughed. "My lips are sealed," she told Mary and Ginger. "I won't tell you, but it's someone with the initials--mmmph!"
I slapped my hand over her mouth. Ginger's eyes got wide. Mary smiled half a smile and nodded in that serious way she has. She took Ginger's arm and dragged her away.
Slowly I let Jessica go.
She sighed. "Seriously, though. Would you go out with Jameel? I mean, if he actually asked you?"
"I don't go out with anyone," I said. "I've got enough going on in my life. I don't need a boyfriend."
That was easy to say. It was a lot harder to get Jameel's smile out of my mind.
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Book Description Sweet Valley, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110553486705