Vanish, p.1

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  Karen Spafford-Fitz

  Copyright © 2013 Karen Spafford-Fitz

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Spafford-Fitz, Karen, 1963-

  Vanish [electronic resource] / Karen Spafford-Fitz.

  (Orca currents)

  Electronic Monograph

  Issued also in print format.

  ISBN 9781459803503(pdf) -- ISBN 9781459803510(epub)

  I. Title. II. Series: Orca currents (Online)

  PS8637.P33V35 2013 jC813’.6 C2012-907300-8

  First published in the United States, 2013

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2012952474

  Summary: Fourteen-year-old Simone is a key witness in a parental abduction investigation.

  Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

  Cover photography by Getty Images

  In Canada:

  Orca Book Publishers

  PO Box 5626, Station B

  Victoria, BC Canada

  V8R 6S4

  In the United States:

  Orca Book Publishers

  PO Box 468

  Custer, WA USA


  16 15 14 13 • 4 3 2 1


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  About the Author

  To those who look out for their buddies

  and especially to Ken, Anna and Shannon.

  Chapter One

  For the hundredth time, I wish I had never moved to this school. I especially wish I hadn’t moved here five minutes before the school year started. That’s how I ended up in this crappy class. Leadership studies was the only option class that had spaces left when I registered. Trust me, nothing else would make me take grade-eight leadership studies.

  At my last school, the leadership study kids had to deliver speeches about bullying or school spirit to classes of bored students. Usually one kid in a presentation group does most of the talking. I have a quiet voice and a major phobia about speaking in front of other people. I plan to become an expert at making posters this year.

  Right now, the leadership class is standing in the hall, waiting to start a Kinderbuddy program. We’re going to be working with the kindergarten class.

  “I’m stepping inside to help out,” says Ms. Boyd. She gives our class a deadly glare. “And in case anyone feels like talking, I’ve got a big stack of caution cards.” Her hand twitches toward her pocket.

  If you get a caution card, you have to write out what you did, why you did it and your plan for avoiding that behavior in the future. You also have to do volunteer work around the school. Apparently, scrubbing the goop from kids’ spaghetti lunches out of the school microwave is the best way to ponder your lapse of judgment.

  I glance through the window into the kindergarten classroom. Little girls with pigtails and little boys in superhero T-shirts scramble to put away storybooks.

  Ms. Boyd is directing traffic. This might take awhile. And, unfortunately, I’m standing right beside the richest, most spoiled teenagers in the history of forever. Their names are Stacy, Miranda and Tessa, but I think of them as the Runway Girls. As usual, they are working through their three favorite topics of discussion.

  The first topic is fashion. I buy all my clothes at the thrift store. These girls spend every weekend buying the latest styles at the mall. I bet even their underwear has designer labels. They were born with mascara wands and eyeliner pencils in their hands too.

  The second topic is all the trips their rich mommies and daddies take them on. Maui, Malibu Beach and Mexico are at the top of their lists. This is another sore point for me. My dad took off before I was born. We haven’t heard from him since. It’s always been just Mom and me. Her jobs never pay well, and we’re always struggling to make ends meet. Holidays are out of the question.

  Their third favorite topic is guys. Apparently, no guy here in Edmonton compares to the celebrity look-alikes they see on their spectacular holidays. That doesn’t stop the Runway Girls from constantly crushing on Aaron. As usual, they have squeezed in as close as possible to him.

  Stacy bumps into me as she spins around. “I hate this top. I’m gonna ditch it when I get home.”

  “But it’s totally cute on you,” Tessa says. “You’ve gotta wear it again. Please?”

  I roll my eyes. Why does it matter to Tessa if Stacy wears that shirt again?

  “It is seriously cute,” Miranda says. “Don’t you think so, Aaron?”

  I take in Aaron’s messy brown hair and the gray skulls on his black hoodie. He shrugs, then looks away. Strange. At my last school, the guys practically beat their chests with excitement when the popular girls talked to them. But Aaron seems baffled by the attention of the Runway Girls.

  “Ooh, look at Simone.” Stacy points a manicured finger at me. “She’s checking Aaron out.”

  My face burns and my throat clenches. It would be nice to have some friends to hide behind. But I haven’t made any friends here. Everyone at my old school seems to have forgotten about me too. None of my so-called friends from my last school has messaged me on Facebook for months. For all they care, I might as well vanish into thin air.

  Ms. Boyd steps into the hall and clears her throat. “We’re heading into the kindergarten class in one minute.”

  Fake squeals of glee drift forward. Ms. Boyd’s hand flits toward her overstuffed caution-card pocket.

  “Keep this up, and some of you will miss the pizza lunch on Friday.”

  Ms. Boyd delivers one more menacing glare before she disappears back into the kindergarten room.

  “She can’t do that.” Stacy pouts. “It’s none of her business what we eat for lunch.”

  Tessa pouts too. “Anyway, this Kinderbuddy project sucks.”

  “Yeah.” Miranda swishes her blond hair. “If Ms. Boyd is so desperate to work with little kids, she should teach kindergarten instead of grade eight.”

  “Can you imagine her teaching kindergarten?” Stacy laughs. “She’d terrorize them.”

  “Yeah,” Miranda says. “She’d have the little ankle-biters peeing themselves.”

  “Ahem.” Ms. Boyd thrusts three caution cards at the Runway Girls.

  Their mouths fall open in surprise. I duck my head so they won’t see the huge smile on my face.

  Chapter Two

  The kindergarten kids are sitting in the middle of the carpet. Ms. Boyd has a demented warning look in her eye as she arranges us around them. Then she signals to the kindergarten teacher to begin.

  “Welcome to the kindergarten classroom, grade eights. My name is Mrs.
Mankowski. I am delighted to have you here. We are going to work in buddies throughout the school year. We’ll be doing artwork and reading projects. We will also be planning a Halloween party together. After Christmas, the kindergarten students will need help with the Valentine’s Day party. Later, there’s the Mother’s Day brunch to organize.”

  Two wiggly little boys are bouncing on the carpet. Ms. Boyd takes the arm of the wiggliest boy. She points for him to move to the other side of the carpet.

  He drops down beside a little girl who looks like she just stepped out of a Barbie-doll box. Barbie Girl has a blond braid. She is wearing a pink fluffy sweater and pink tights. I wonder if this is how the Runway Girls looked when they were in kindergarten.

  Barbie Girl notices all the grade eights watching her. She looks down and fixes her eyes on her pink ballet slippers. She looks like she wants to disappear. In that shy moment, my heart lurches. I know exactly how that feels. I decide I like her despite the Barbie look.

  “I am going to start assigning you to your buddies,” Mrs. Mankowski continues. “And remember, one of the goals of the Kinderbuddy project is for you to learn to work with new people. That means there will be no switching partners.”

  Mrs. Mankowski starts calling out names of Big Buddies and Kinder-buddies. The buddies sit together on thecarpet or at a table. More than half the kids have been paired up.

  “Simone Marchant?”

  I raise my hand slightly.

  “Simone and Yuri.”

  I look around for my Kinderbuddy. Nobody answers. The little boy who got moved earlier is doing backflips on the carpet.

  “Yuri,” Mrs. Mankowski says, “no somersaults in the classroom.”

  This is my Kinderbuddy?

  I can feel the horrified look on my face. The leadership kids start laughing.

  Yuri is still not joining me, so I go to him. Barbie Girl shifts over for me to sit between them. Yuri nearly kicks me in the head as I sink down onto the carpet.

  Mrs. Mankowski continues. “Now for the last two students, Lily”—Barbie Girl looks up—“and Aaron McGavin.”

  “A boy buddy?” Lily’s lower lip quivers. “But I want a girl buddy.”

  Mrs. Mankowski shakes her head. “You have to work with the Big Buddy you were assigned. Just like everyone else.”

  Lily’s enormous brown eyes are filling with tears.

  “Lily,” Mrs. Mankowski says, “I taught Aaron when he was in kindergarten. He is a very nice boy.”

  The Runway Girls start nudging each other.

  “I think he’s a very nice boy too,” Tessa says.

  Stacy nods and smiles widely, her eyes fixed on Aaron. But Aaron is not having the same effect on Lily. Her eyes are darting between Aaron’s face and the skulls on his hoodie. Her lips tremble.

  “I want this girl Big Buddy.” Lily clutches me and starts to sob. “Not that boy.”

  I wait until Lily pauses. Then I turn toward Mrs. Mankowski.

  “How about a trade?” I ask. “I’d really like to be Kinderbuddies with Lily. That is, if Yuri doesn’t mind.”

  Yuri scampers across the room. He grabs the doorknob with two hands and walks his legs up the door. With a leg on either side of the doorknob and his head brushing the floor, he looks like a baby orangutan.

  “I don’t know.” Mrs. Mankowski’s eyes flit toward Ms. Boyd. “I can’t have students changing partners.”

  I think fast. I need to trade buddies without Mrs. Mankowski losing face in front of Ms. Boyd.

  “Someone shut that kid up,” Tessa mutters behind me.

  I can’t believe how mean she is! But at least I’m angry enough to speak louder than my usual whisper.

  “We don’t have to change partners for good,” I say. “But could the four of us—me and Lily, and Aaron and Yuri—work in a group today? That might help Lily get to know Aaron better.”

  Lily does not look sure about this. Clearly, she would rather not work with Aaron at all.

  Mrs. Mankowski nods her head.I turn to Lily.

  “I’m Simone,” I tell her. “We get to work together. But we need to work with Aaron and Yuri too. Right?”

  Lily gives me a teary smile and nods.

  With Lily glued to me, I step toward Aaron. Yuri stops his orangutan routine and bounces over. Then he grabs the bottom of Aaron’s hoodie and stuffs his head up underneath it.

  Aaron tries to pull away, but Yuri has a tight grip. Finally, Aaron unzips his hoodie and hands it to Yuri. “Here, you can wear it for now. But you have to give it back later.”

  Ms. Boyd can’t stand any more delays. “Mrs. Mankowski, please explain what the students will do today.”

  Mrs. Mankowski nods. “For the past few weeks, the kindergarten kids have been talking about what they might like to be when they grow up.

  “Today, I will give each Kinderbuddy a large sheet of paper to lie down on. The Big Buddies will trace around them. Then together you can draw in the special clothing and the special equipment required for the Kinderbuddy’s job. For example, if the Kinderbuddy wants to be a firefighter, you could draw a fire hose. If the Kinderbuddy wants to be a chef, you might draw a baker’s hat and apron. The Big Buddies will cut the pictures out. Then you can color them together.”

  The Kinderbuddies dash toward a stack of oversized paper. Seconds later, Yuri zips back to the carpet, his paper flapping around him. Lily hands me her paper and practically sits on my lap. She is making it clear that she is working with me instead of Aaron. It has been a long time since anyone chose me for anything. So even though Lily is just in kindergarten, it feels nice that she picked me to be her buddy.

  Aaron takes the paper from Yuri. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  “Two things.” Yuri is spinning in circles. “A police officer and a monster.”

  Aaron and I burst out laughing. The Runway Girls shoot jealous looks at me.

  “Think about it some more, Yuri, while I trace you.”

  As Aaron tries to coax Yuri to lie still, I turn to Lily. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  “A vet and a ballerina.”

  “Both at the same time?”

  “Yes.” Lily’s eyes grow even bigger.

  “Okay,” I say. “We can draw you wearing a ballerina’s skirt with a veterinarian’s jacket over top.”

  Lily nods. “But the ballerina skirt has to show through. And I need a kitty cat and a puppy too.”

  Lily lies down on the paper, and I trace around her.

  Aaron has way more trouble. “Yuri, you need to take my hoodie off so I can trace you.”

  Yuri pulls the hood tightly over his face. “Look! I’m an alien!”

  “Yeah, I believe you,” Aaron says. “Just take the hoodie off for now.”

  Yuri pulls off the hoodie and flings it onto the floor. Then he flings himself onto the paper.

  “Stop wiggling while I count to ten,” Aaron says, “or I’ll stuff you in my locker.”

  Yuri thinks this is a great idea. He pesters Aaron to stuff him in the locker right now.

  Aaron holds Yuri down while I trace around him. He is wiggling so much that I mostly draw him freehand.

  Aaron hands the hoodie back to Yuri. He’s great with little kids. It’s too bad he didn’t realize that a hoodie with skulls might terrify a little pink Kinderbuddy.

  When I finally look up again, I notice that the Runway Girls look miserable. Stacy is mopping up glue that her Kinderbuddy spilled across her expensive jeans. Miranda is shaking out the pencil shavings that her Kinderbuddy spilled into her fancy tote bag. Tessa looks bored.

  Lily is drawing puppies and kittens. She giggles as she glues them onto the pockets of her veterinary coat. A pink tutu shows through the open coat.

; I am cutting out a puppy when someone bangs into me.

  “Lily, honey! Are you all right today?” The woman drapes herself around Lily. “Mommy thought you might need to see her before home time.”

  Really? Lily was fine before her mom arrived. But now even the grade eights are watching. Lily shrinks like she did earlier.

  “Ms. Warnicke,” Mrs. Mankowski says, “can we chat over by my desk?”

  Lily’s mom hugs her daughter, then joins the teacher.

  “Do you need to leave early today?” I ask. “Is that why your mom is here?”

  Lily shakes her head. Then she speaks so softly, I can hardly hear her. “Sometimes Mommy checks on me. To see I’m okay.”

  Ms. Warnicke is still chatting with Lily’s teacher. Her eyes are on me the whole time. Jeez, does she think I’m going to take off with her daughter or something?

  Ms. Boyd steps to the front of the class a few minutes later. “Time to go, grade eights.”

  “Bye, Lily. I’ll see you next time.”

  Lily waves as I leave the kindergarten class with the leadership group. I smile and wave back. Her mom is still talking to Mrs. Mankowski. I don’t get what that was all about.

  Then I step into the hallway and I realize it’s happened. For the first time, I have actually enjoyed myself at Cherney Gates School.

  Chapter Three

  “Curriculum Night is coming up in a few weeks.” Those are the first words out of Ms. Boyd’s mouth at our next leadership class. I imagine all the presentations Ms. Boyd will make us do. That thought makes me cringe.

  “We have a lot to do before then, but I also need some volunteers to go back to the kindergarten class today. Some of you did not make much progress last class with the Kinderbuddy career pictures.” Ms. Boyd picks out a few kids, including the Runway Girls, with her killer glare. “I told Mrs. Mankowski I would send her some helpers this afternoon.”

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