Unity Club, page 1
Copyright © 2018 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–, author
Unity club / Karen Spafford-Fitz.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 978-1-4598-1724-1 (SOFTCOVER).—ISBN 978-1-4598-1725-8 (PDF).—ISBN 978-1-4598-1726-5 (EPUB)
I. Title. II. Series: Orca currents
PS8637.P33U55 2018 jC813'.6 C2017-907668-X
First published in the United States, 2018
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018933727
Summary: In this high-interest novel for middle readers, trouble brews when a group home for at-risk youth opens in Brett’s community. A free teacher guide for this title is available at orcabook.com.
Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed this book on Forest Stewardship Council® certified paper.
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.
Edited by Tanya Trafford
Cover photography by iStock.com/Vincentguerault
Author photo by Photosmith Design
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
Printed and bound in Canada.
21 20 19 18 • 4 3 2 1
Orca Book Publishers is proud of the hard work our authors do and of the important stories they create. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it or did not check it out from a library provider, then the author has not received royalties for this book. The ebook you are reading is licensed for single use only and may not be copied, printed, resold or given away. If you are interested in using this book in a classroom setting, we have digital subscriptions that feature multi user, simultaneous access to our books that are easy for your students to read. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
To my parents, Rosemary and Jack Spafford, who are deeply committed to their family and to their community.
An Excerpt from “Dog Walker”
My phone vibrates on the kitchen counter. I glance at it as I bite into my bagel. As usual, my mom’s texts are a combination of French and English.
Brettenie, you haven’t texted me in a long time. Tu me manques.
She’s the only person who actually calls me “Brettenie.” Everyone else calls me Brett.
“Tu me manques,” I mutter. Yeah right, she misses me. Then how come she moved so far away?
Even though Papa left early this morning for a meeting, I look around to make sure nobody caught me talking to myself. But of course, I’m the only person here. Papa has thrown himself into his work ever since Maman left town. We’ve both kept extra busy. That way, we don’t have much time to think about how she abandoned us.
I spot my math assignment on the counter. I’m sure I drew the stupid graphs wrong. My mom used to help me with my math. When she moved to Winnipeg, she told me to phone her whenever I needed help. As if.
I’m jamming the papers into my backpack when my phone buzzes again.
How’s your new school? Dis-moi!
The chunk of bagel in my mouth suddenly feels even drier. Seriously? My school is hardly new anymore.
I’ve been going to Addison Junior High for four months now. But my mom’s mind has been on other things—namely, her new boyfriend. She’s right about one thing though. I haven’t texted her for a long time. And I’m not about to start.
I toss my phone into my backpack. I throw the rest of my bagel into the garbage. Then I duck out the back door.
I used to take the city bus to Willow Heights Junior High. It was my mom’s idea for me to go there. She was wowed by all the special programs. So for the sake of the school’s travel-studies option (I throw up on airplanes), academic enrichment (dream on) and a dance program (not a chance) that I never took, I spent hours traveling to school on crowded city buses that made me want to barf.
After my mom left town, the first thing I did was switch schools. Now it only takes me ten minutes to walk to school—or six minutes if I run. I check the time on my phone—8:55. I’d better run.
As I turn the corner at the end of our street, I avoid looking at the big blue house with the For Sale sign out front. That’s the house my mom bought three years ago, after she and my dad got a divorce. Their two houses were close enough together that I often visited both of them every day. It was totally working—until my mom met a guy on an online dating site.
The worst part is that this guy, Zoltan, lives in Winnipeg. That’s a thirteen-hour drive from Edmonton. The next thing I knew, Maman took off to go live there with the new love of her life and his three kids. I shake my head. And she wonders why I don’t return her texts?
“Brett! Hey, slow down!”
“Hey, Amira.” I glance over my shoulder. “Come on. We’re going to be late! Ms. Vickers said we had to hand in our math homework right at the beginning of class.”
“We don’t have to hurry,” she says. “I heard Ms. Vickers left yesterday with a bad migraine. She called in a sub for today.” Amira pauses to catch her breath. “The sub will be too busy sorting out attendance to notice if we’re a bit late.”
“Okay,” I say. “If you’re sure.”
I let my angry thoughts about my mom fade from my mind. I slow down to a walk.
“So what about after school?” Amira asks. “Are you ready for the meeting?”
“Yeah, I made some notes last night.”
“What will we be talking about today?”
“You’ll have to wait and see,” I tease.
Amira gives a pretend pout. The corners of my mouth tug upward into a smile as we walk the last few blocks to school.
When I transferred to Addison Junior High, the first thing I did was join the Unity Club. The Unity Club’s goal is to make a positive difference in the world. We mostly volunteer in our community, but sometimes we do fundraising for different causes around the world.
As it turned out, joining the Unity Club was the best decision I’ve ever made. It has helped take my mind off my mom. It’s also where I got to know the people who have become my new best friends. People like Amira. It isn’t as dazzling as a dance academy. And it’s maybe not as exciting as taking school trips to Spain. But I felt welcome right from the beginning. When Isabelle, the club president, moved away a couple of months ago, I was surprised to be nominated for the position. And then I got voted in as president. It’s a lot of work, but we have some great projects on the go. I’m totally up for the challenge.
My phone vibrates in my backpack. I ignore it. Probably my mom again. Why can’t s
After school, the Unity Club is meeting in the drama room. Some students are sprawled across the risers that the drama classes use for a stage. Other students are half lying and half propped against each other on the carpet beside the risers. A few of them are knitting.
“Hey, everyone. Let’s get started,” I say. “How about—”
Just then a tall boy with messy brown hair bursts through the door. Kaden has been a member of the club for two years now. When Isabelle moved away, Kaden was the only other person to run for president. I was brand-new to the school. I was as surprised as Kaden was when I got voted in. I suggested we share the job, but Kaden refused. I still remember what he said before he stormed out. If everyone wants the new kid instead of me, then fine. Whatever.
Today he’s wearing his usual scowl.
“Okay, let’s get started,” I repeat. I avoid looking directly at Kaden. Otherwise it’s too hard to keep my voice steady.
“First of all, our regular projects have been going great. I will be asking the leads on those to update us in a few minutes. But first I want to give a shout-out to our knitters. They’ve been working hard on our blanket project for the seniors’ residence.”
Other than Liam, Dionne and me, the other club members just recently learned how to knit. Eliza constantly drops stitches. Her knitted “squares” all have holes in them. And they are never even close to being square. It doesn’t really matter though. With all the bright colors we’re using, a few oddly shaped pieces will just add to the charm.
“Once we have enough squares, Mrs. Rashid says she’ll help us stitch them together,” I say. “Amira, can you give us an update? What else has the group been doing over at Fairview Court?”
“Last week,” Amira says, “Brett, Justine and I took a cake over to celebrate all the seniors who have birthdays in January. We turned it into a tea party. Then we played Bingo together. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Other than that,” she continues, “we’ve all been focusing on finishing our squares.”
“Don’t remind me,” Eliza sighs. “I just dropped another stitch!”
A groan goes up around the group.
“It’s okay,” I say. “I can fix it later. The seniors are going to love the blankets. We almost have enough now to give each of the new residents one for Valentine’s Day. Every square helps.”
“Ta-da!” Cohen holds up a navy-blue square he has just finished.
“I can think of a few squares that maybe won’t help.” Justine is trying to keep a tangle of green yarn from sliding off her needles.
I smile. “Are you guys still surprised that I can always tell who knit which square?”
“Let’s test that out.” Cohen reaches into the basket beside him. “Here’s sample number one.”
He holds up an orange square. It has way more stitches at the top than at the bottom.
“Easy,” I say. “Suresh knit that one.”
“Yep,” Suresh says. “That one’s mine.”
Cohen takes out a red square. “Sample number two,” he says.
The stitches on this one are pretty even. They aren’t quite as straight as mine though. Maman taught me to knit when I was five. I’ve been doing more complicated stitches than this for years. This one has to be either Dionne’s or Liam’s. And since it’s red—
“Dionne,” I say.
“Wow,” Dionne says. “We can’t trip her up.”
“Let’s give her one more,” Cohen says. “Just to be sure.” He pulls out a forest-green square. “Sample number three.”
“That’s the easiest one yet!” I say with a grin. “It’s mine!”
“How do you know I didn’t make that one?” Eliza says. “It looks a lot like this one.” She holds up her knitting. I can see the holes from where she’s dropped some stitches.
I smile at her. “Hmm, just a lucky guess,” I say. Everyone laughs. Except for Kaden, that is.
“Okay, next up is the Mini Gym Kids. Some of you have been taking the bus downtown to Lennox School.” I turn to Liam. “Can you tell us how it’s going?”
“Sure.” Liam sits up straighter on the riser. “So far there are eighteen kids in grades two and three. Last week we played dodgeball and kickball.”
“Wow,” Amira says. “There were only five kids when we first started.”
“I know,” Liam says. “It’s getting really popular. Some grade-one kids want to join in now too. That’s at least another ten students.”
“I’d like to include the grade ones if possible,” I say.
“Me too,” Liam says. “But we’ll need at least three more volunteers.”
“So far,” I say, “our regulars at Mini Gym Kids are Liam, Eliza, Cohen and Amira. Can anyone else help out on Tuesdays after school?”
Nobody speaks up at first.
“Badminton club finishes in two weeks,” Dionne says. “I can help after that.”
“I can probably move my piano lessons to Wednesday,” Justine says.
“Good,” I say. “Anyone else?”
Kaden hasn’t said anything since he arrived. Is he waiting for me to ask him?
I decide to go for it. “How about you, Kaden?” Was it just my imagination, or did he almost smile?
But then the usual dark cloud settles back over his face. “I can’t do it,” he says. “I think you might be on for it, Prez.”
My face flushes. “I’ll be super busy making the blankets for the seniors. Even with Mrs. Rashid’s help, it’s going to be a lot of work.” I hesitate. “But sure. I guess I can do Mini Gym Kids too.”
Kaden is at the back of the room. Still, I can see the smug look on his face. What a lousy attitude! Maybe it would be better if he just quit the club.
I feel guilty the moment that thought crosses my mind. The Unity Club is supposed to include everyone who wants to participate.
I take a deep breath. “Let’s hear from the last group.” I turn to the girl sitting nearest me. “Georgia, can you update us on our environmental projects?”
Georgia sets her knitting down. “We’re trying to get the whole school to think and act more responsibly when it comes to our environment. We’ve posted facts and figures on the school’s website. Tassie, Suresh and I also wrote some announcements. We’re going to read them over the PA system once a week.”
Tassie nods. “I think it’s going well,” she says. “We’ve also placed extra recycling bins around the school. Both the students and the teachers have been using them more.”
“Our next focus,” Suresh says, “will be on how to reduce the amount of water we use. We’ve also started planning Earth Day celebrations.”
“Good work, you guys,” I say as I glance over my notes. “I think that’s it for today. Once again, it would be great if we could get a couple more volunteers to come to Mini Gym Kids on Tuesday afternoon. Otherwise, see you next week.”
Kaden leaves without saying a word to anyone. The others drift out of the drama room, except for Amira. She waits for me while I stuff the new knit squares into a bag to give to Mrs. Rashid.
On our way home, I look around to make sure no one else can hear us. “You know,” I say, “I don’t know what to do about Kaden.”
“Don’t even worry about him.” Amira shakes her head. “You offered him the chance to be club president too. He said no. And he shouldn’t have put you on the spot about the Mini Gym Kids.”
“I think that was wrong too,” I say. “But still—”
I’ve been thinking so much about Kaden that I forget to look away when we get to the big blue house. Serious mistake. Because today the For Sale sign on the front lawn has a big red Sold sticker across it. I freeze.
“What is it?” Amira asks.
“Nothing really. It’s just—I used to know the person who lived here. But I don’t really know her anymore.” I’m fighting to keep my voice steady.
I tug Amira past the house. I’m glad she doesn’t know who u
On the days that I have Unity Club meetings after school, Papa usually gets home first. He is a French professor at the university. Because a new term just started, he has a lot of meetings. He’s been getting home later than usual most nights. I can tell he is also trying to keep extra busy since my mom left town.
There’s no sign of Papa when I get home, so I start making dinner. Neither of us is a very good cook. We mostly left it to Maman. She used to make the most awesome grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade pizzas. On special occasions, she would whip up fancier dishes. My favorite was tourtière. Just thinking about that delicious meat pie makes my mouth water. I wonder if she’s made it for Zoltan and his three screaming brats.
Okay, maybe they’re not screaming brats.
Still, I prefer to think of them that way. Better to stay angry. Then it doesn’t hurt quite so much that my mom is spending her days with them instead of with me.
I measure out some rice and add it to a pot of water on the stove. Then I pull out the usual three ingredients from the fridge—chicken, onions and red peppers. As I chop everything up, my mind circles back to the Sold sticker on the sign in front of my mom’s house. Maybe that’s what one of her texts was about.
With the chicken and vegetables now sizzling in the frypan, I grab my phone. I scroll through all my unopened texts. Sure enough, there it is.
J’ai vendu la maison.
I sold the house. So she did try to tell me before the sign went up. Still, I don’t feel any better.
I grab a jar of spicy Thai chili sauce from the cupboard. I dump it over the chicken and veggies. This is how my dad and I try to “vary our diet.” I’ve heard we’re supposed to do that. So we buy different sauces from the international aisle at the grocery store. Then we pour them over our chicken and vegetables. I’m stirring everything together when Papa comes into the kitchen.
“Bonjour, chérie,” he says. “You’ve made dinner already? Parfait!”