Ice Cream Sandwiched, page 1
A REALLY BIG DEAL
I put the finishing touches on my book review as the school bus pulled into Vista Green School.
“Perfect Pairing,” I typed into my tablet. “Eat a scoop of banana ice cream sprinkled with toasted coconut to taste the flavors of Barbados. Although, I’m pretty sure that the Puritans did not approve of ice cream!”
Puritans, ice cream, and Barbados. Okay, that sounded a little weird. But I’d selected The Witch of Blackbird Pond as my first book to review for the school newspaper, the Green Gazette. I’d chosen it because I’d thought it would be good to start with a classic, and this book had won an award (a Newbery Medal, which was a big deal for books). The Witch of Blackbird Pond was about a girl from Barbados who, in the 1600s, moved to New England and had to adapt to a Puritan lifestyle. I’d checked to make sure the school library had a copy of it, in case my review inspired anyone to read it.
My new friend Colin was the paper’s assistant editor, and it had been his idea for me to add an ice cream pairing to each review. I knew that book reviews didn’t usually include food pairings, let alone ice cream suggestions, but my mom just happened to run the newest ice cream parlor in Bayville. Colin knew that I liked to suggest ice cream flavors to customers by asking them about what books they liked. So he’d thought it would be fun to do that as a newspaper column.
I hadn’t waited until the last minute on the bus to write the review; I’d tweaked the piece at least seven times already, wanting to make sure it would be perfect before I submitted it to Colin. But today was my deadline, which meant now or never, so I took a deep breath and uploaded it to the shared drive just as the bus came to a stop.
I was still fairly new to Vista Green, and I didn’t have any real bus friends yet except for Amanda. Amanda, her mom, and her sister lived in the same apartment building as my dad. But I got to sit on the bus with her only when I was staying with my dad, and today I was coming from my mom’s house.
If that all sounded confusing, that’s because it was! My parents had gotten divorced right before I’d started seventh grade, and even though they were being very cool about it all and didn’t scream at each other or anything like that, I still hadn’t quite adjusted. They had sold our old house in the town we used to live in, and so most days I lived with Mom in a beach bungalow near the ice cream shop, while the other days I lived with Dad in a high-rise apartment with a pool on the roof. It might sound cool to have two houses and two rooms, but I didn’t quite feel at home in either place yet.
My new address at the beach house in Bayville also meant that I was going to a different school from my friends, who all went to Martin Luther King Middle School, which was one town away. In my heart, I still felt like I was a student at MLK.
Luckily, I’d managed to make a few friends at Vista Green: Colin, Amanda, and Eloise, who sort of came as a package, I guess. I wouldn’t exactly call them nerdy or geeky, but they were definitely not part of the cool club at Vista Green. And by that, I mean that they didn’t dress the same and have the same opinions as everyone else, something I’d seen a lot of at my new school.
At least, that was what I’d thought. But that morning, I would learn that the Vista Green Fall Frolic was one event that had just about everybody at the school falling in line.
After I got off the bus, I headed to my locker. For the first time I noticed the Fall Frolic posters plastered on every sage-colored wall I walked past. And everyone was talking about the dance too.
“I have been waiting for this since last year!”
“Did you get your dress yet?”
“I still haven’t found the right shoes!”
A few feet away from my locker, I saw Amanda getting her books out of hers.
“Hey, Amanda,” I greeted her.
She looked up and smiled, her brown eyes friendly through her black-framed eyeglasses.
“Oh, hey, Allie,” she said. “What’s up?”
“It seems like everybody is talking about the dance,” I said. “Is it a really big deal here?”
I had the bad luck of asking the question just as two girls were passing by: Blair and Palmer. Colin liked to call them the “Witches,” but I was starting to think that doing that was insulting to female practitioners of the magical arts. Because there was nothing magical about Blair and Palmer and their other friend, Maria. They were usually just mean—although Blair was by far the worst offender. That was why I had nicknamed the group the “Mean Team.”
The girls both stopped in their tracks.
“Is it a big deal?” Palmer repeated, with a flip of her long, straight, brown hair. “It’s only the biggest event of the year!” She turned to Blair and asked, “How could she not know that?”
Blair responded with a flip of her own long, straight, sandy-brown hair. “Maybe she’s too busy dishing out ice cream at Mommy’s store,” she said, and then she and Palmer walked away laughing. It actually did kind of sound like cackling, so maybe Colin’s assessment was correct.
I was steaming. MLK wasn’t perfect, but there I’d had the safe little bubble of friendship with my best friends, Tamiko and Sierra. MLK had a lot of different groups of kids and not one big Cool Club. You could kind of do your own thing, and I’d never had to worry about being a mean-girl victim.
“Well, that was lovely,” Amanda said dryly, and then the bell rang.
I headed off to my first class, science with Ms. Conyers. She wasn’t my favorite teacher at Vista Green—that would be Ms. Healy, my English teacher. Ms. Conyers was supersmart and kind of reminded me of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice, with her small frame, pulled-back hair, and big eyeglasses. But Ms. Conyers could be a little boring sometimes, even though we were studying Earth’s geological history, which should have been really interesting.
It turns out, though, even Ms. Conyers was excited about the Fall Frolic.
“Is anyone in this class on the music committee of the dance?” she asked, and a boy named Logan raised his hand. “Please make sure there aren’t too many slow songs this year. I could not get my groove on last fall.”
She mimicked a funky dance move, and everyone laughed. Maybe she wasn’t as boring as she seemed. As the morning went on, I realized that the Mean Team was right—the dance was a big deal. In my next class, Italian with Signore Bianchi, we all learned how to say, “Are you going to the dance?” (Stai andando al ballo?) And in art class a small group of kids from the dance committee worked on decorations while the rest of us had our regular lesson.
When it came time for lunch in the cafeteria, I was anxious to get the scoop from my Vista Green friends. Amanda, Colin, Eloise, and I sat at a table with Preston and Haruo, two boys Colin had been friends with since kindergarten. The three of them were, like, best friends, so they usually spent the whole lunch period talking with one another and ignoring us.
“So, the Mean Team set me straight this morning,” I began as I unpacked my lunch. Then I filled Colin and Eloise in on what had happened. “I guess this dance really is a big deal.”
“Well, first of all, ignore Blair and Palmer, as always,” Colin said. “But yeah, I guess it is kind of a big deal here.”
Eloise nodded in agreement, her blond curly hair bouncing on her shoulders. “It’s a really big deal,” she said. “Everyone dresses up, and they hire a professional photographer and DJ. It’s pretty cool.”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “I guess. If you like that kind of thing.”
Eloise nudged her. “Oh, come on, Amanda. You like it just as much as everybody else.”
Amanda frowned and ate a bite of her sandwich.
“You said everyone dresses up,” I said. “Just exactly how dressed up do you mean?”
I was thinking of the sixth-grade dance at MLK, which was pretty casual. A lot of kids just wore jeans and nice shirts. I’d worn a dress and regular flats, but not a fancy dress.
“Well, all the girls shop at that boutique in Upper Springfield,” Eloise said, and Amanda rolled her eyes again.
“What boutique?” I asked.
Eloise started tapping on her phone. “It’s called Glimmer,” she said. “Everyone gets a short dress, not a long one. And everyone gets thin straps.”
She showed me a photo on her phone of a model wearing a slinky silver above-the-knee dress with very thin straps. It didn’t look like a dress I would ever wear—unless I was going to be walking the Hollywood red carpet. And it definitely didn’t look like a dress Mom and Dad were going to let me wear.
“Does everyone dress like that?” I asked.
Eloise shrugged. “Most girls. You look out of place if you don’t.”
“Even you guys?” I asked.
Eloise nodded, and Amanda bit her lower lip.
“It’s just . . . I like dancing,” Amanda replied. “And this way I don’t have to stress about what to wear. I just go to Glimmer and pick something out. It’s easy.”
“And then we fit in,” Eloise added. “Which is not a bad thing, because we don’t normally fit in around here.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “That kind of dress is just not . . . my style.”
I looked over at Colin, to see if he had an opinion, but he had inserted himself into the conversation between Preston and Haruo. I guessed that the topic of girls’ fashion wasn’t his favorite.
“You should get over to Glimmer soon,” Eloise suggested. “All of the good dresses go early.”
“Thanks,” I said, and I thoughtfully dug into my salad. Once again I wondered what my life would have been like if my parents hadn’t divorced and I were still going to MLK. I knew that the MLK seventh graders got more dressed up for dances than the sixth graders, but I was pretty sure that short, grown-up dresses weren’t mandatory.
I sighed. Even if the dresses hadn’t been an issue, I knew I was going to miss being at the dance with Sierra and Tamiko. I was glad that I’d met Colin, Amanda, and Eloise. But Amanda and Eloise were best friends already, so I usually felt like a third wheel when just the three of us were together. And Colin was great, but he was a guy—and hanging with Colin was not the same as hanging with my two best girlfriends, whom I could share anything with.
I was so happy that Sierra and Tamiko had agreed to work at my mom’s ice cream shop every Sunday. I was guaranteed to spend time with them at least one day a week. But one day a week still didn’t feel like enough.
I missed having my Sprinkle Squad around me every day!
MY DRESS DILEMMA
After school I took the bus back to Mom’s house, but I didn’t go inside. Instead I made the short walk to Molly’s Ice Cream shop, which was pretty much around the corner.
An ocean breeze gave me a slight chill, and I buttoned up my blue cardigan sweater. People had warned me Bayville could get pretty hot in the spring and summer, but fall could get brisk. We’d even had a few days of snow.
Winter still seemed far away on this sunny fall afternoon, and as I walked, I saw some people coming toward me carrying ice cream cones. I smiled, knowing that they had come from my mom’s shop. Business could sometimes be slow early in the week, so the cones were a good sign. The business was still new, and I knew Mom was worried about getting things off the ground. It was like the divorce had been only a blip on her radar, and all her energy had been going into Molly’s for the past few months.
The reason I was heading to the shop was because we were still figuring out the whole divorced-family thing. Before she’d opened the shop, Mom had been chief financial officer of my dad’s company. One of the perks of her working with my dad had been the flexible hours, so she had worked at home in the afternoons and had been there for me and my eight-year-old brother, Tanner, when we’d gotten out of school. Since Dad owned his company, he had to be there for a full day.
Now that Mom ran a business, any hours that she spent away from the shop cost her money, so she had to be at work for a full day too. So for now, the bus dropped Tanner off at the shop after school, and I walked there from my bus stop. Mom said that I was old enough to stay home by myself if I wanted to, but I didn’t mind going to the shop when I didn’t have any after-school activities. The house was kind of quiet and lonely when I was there by myself. Instead Tanner and I sat at a table in the corner of the shop, and I help him with his homework, and then I worked on mine. I mean, it sounds pretty cool to be able to hang out in an ice cream store every day, but really it was just like being at home, and Mom was unfortunately pretty strict about how much ice cream we could have on a daily basis. Besides, we’d just be eating all her profits.
Some days we stayed at the shop with Mom until she closed, and we just got falafel from Harry’s or ordered pizza from Pino’s. Other days, Mom left the shop at six and let two college students, Rashid and Daphne, close the shop for her, and she made us dinner. And sometimes, when he could get out early, Dad showed up, took me and Tanner to dinner, and then dropped us off at Mom’s house. On the weekends, we stayed at Dad’s house, but during the week we usually slept at Mom’s. Tanner and I pretty much never knew which kind of day it was going to be until we got to the shop.
“It’s a Raphne day,” Mom announced when I walked through the door. That meant Rashid and Daphne were closing up the shop. She liked to combine the names “Rashid” and “Daphne” the way some people combined the names of celebrity couples. I didn’t think Rashid and Daphne were dating, but it was possible. Sierra had said that there were clearly sparks flying between them, but Sierra loved romantic comedies and tended to see romance when there wasn’t any.
“I put a stew in the Crock-Pot this morning,” Mom went on.
“Great!” I said, and I walked behind the counter so that she could give me an after-school kiss.
“How was your day?” she asked.
I thought about telling her about the Fall Frolic, but at that moment a gaggle of high school girls came through the door. So I just shrugged and went to my usual corner table. As soon as I sat down, my phone jingled with the sound of an incoming video chat.
I took out my phone to see Sierra and Tamiko pop up on the screen. Sierra had her curly brown hair pulled back into a messy bun, and Tamiko had a pink headband in her sleek black hair. It looked like they were in Tamiko’s bedroom.
“Ali Bali!” Tamiko yelled, because she hardly ever called anyone by their real name.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“We were just chilling and missing our bestie,” Tamiko replied.
“Yeah, MLK stinks without you!” Sierra said.
I sighed. “Sometimes I wish I still went to MLK,” I said in a half whisper, so that Mom wouldn’t hear me. “Everyone at Vista Green is making a big deal out of the fall dance, and I just don’t get it.”
“Speaking of dances, we have some news for you,” Sierra said. “We asked the teachers in charge of the MLK dance, and they said you could come with us, even if you aren’t a student there.”
“Seriously?” I replied. “This afternoon I was wishing I could go. You guys know me so well! Thanks for asking.”
“We are your psychic sisters,” Tamiko said. “It’s on Friday night, two weeks from now. Does that work for you?”
“Of course! The Vista Green dance is on that Saturday,” I said, and then I thought of something. “Is there some rule that everyone has to buy their dresses from Glimmer?”
Tamiko snorted. “That fancy-pants place? No way. Why? And what do you mean ‘everyone has to’? Says who?”
At that moment Tanner came through the door of the shop.
“I’ll tell you later,” I said. “Gotta go.”
“Bye-eeeeeee!” Tamiko and Sierra sang, and the chat ended.
“Can’t I have a chocolate cone?” Tanner asked.
“It’s nice to see you too, Tanner,” Mom teased. “And no ice cream today. We’ve all been overdoing it with the ice cream.”
Tanner frowned. “But I’m huuuuungry.”
Some more customers came in, and I knew Mom didn’t have the time to deal with a cranky Tanner.
“Let’s eat some apples,” I said. “And then I’ll help you with your homework.”
Mom smiled gratefully.
Tanner frowned, but he sat down and started shoving apple slices into his mouth. I opened his backpack, looked in his homework folder, and was happy to see that he only had a vocabulary quiz coming up in a few days. Helping Tanner with vocab was a lot more fun for me than helping him with other subjects.
After we settled in, I started quizzing him. I wrote out his list of vocab words on a sheet of paper and handed it to him. I kept the paper with the definitions on it.
“All right, Tanner,” I began, “which of your vocabulary words means ‘thinking or listening carefully’?”
“ ‘Attention’!” Tanner replied quickly.
“Right!” I said. “Can you use it in a sentence?”
“If I pay attention in class, Mom might give me some ice cream,” Tanner said with a grin, and then he stuck his tongue out at me. I shook my head, but I didn’t criticize him, because at least he’d used the word correctly.
Tanner, I was proud to notice, whizzed through the rest of his vocab words pretty smoothly, even if he did manage to work the words “ice cream” into just about every sample sentence he gave me. Then he did his math worksheet while I did some of my homework. He of course finished before I did and started playing a game on the tablet that Mom kept at the shop for him. By the time I’d finished my Italian worksheet, Rashid and Daphne had arrived and it was time for us to go.
“Call me if you need anything,” Mom told them, “and thanks!”
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