Here we go, Olivia Abbott thought as her mother’s car pulled away from the curb. Olivia stood on the sidewalk and smoothed the skirt of her new pink dress for the millionth time. She usually felt her best in pink, but for some reason it wasn’t helping at all this morning.
Olivia wished she didn’t feel so nervous . After all, it wasn’t like this was the cheerleading nationals or anything. It was just her first day of eighth grade at a new middle school. In an unfamiliar town. Where she didn’t know anybody.
She was totally freaking out.
If it wasn’t for her dad’s new job, she’d be skipping into her regular school with Mimi and Kara and the rest of the old squad, instead of being the friendless new girl who shows up out of nowhere five weeks into the school year.
But, whatever, Olivia was determined to make the best of the situation. This would be just like the first time she ate sushi. It would be weird for a second—unfamiliar and slightly funny smelling— but then she’d grow to love it. Besides, what was she going to do, cry until high school?
Olivia stood up straight and clapped her hands twice, like at the beginning of a cheer. Then, with her mouth set in a smile, she made her way bravely toward the front entrance.
Her old school had been a modern box, painted a combination of ugly beige and ugly brown, but Franklin Grove Middle School was different. It looked a thousand years old. Ivy dripped from the huge entryway columns, and beyond the enormous oak front doors was a hallway so big you could make a sixteen-person pyramid across it. Olivia’s old school was plastered with inspirational posters with sayings that made no sense, like LIVE EVERY DAY LIKE IT’STODAY! Here, black-and-white school photographs hung on the walls dating back to practically the ice age. She passed one picture with a plaque that said CONVOCATION 1912. It showed a bunch of serious looking students in black robes.
At least the sound of everyone rushing to their first class was familiar: lockers clanging, sneakers squeaking, people laughing. Olivia made her way through the bustle. There seemed to be a lot more Goths here than there had been at her old school. They were as black-and-white as the photographs on the walls: black clothes, pale skin, heavy black boots.
Olivia caught her own reflection in a display case. Her pretty dress floated, ghostlike, in front of tarnished trophies and a dark banner that said
GO, FRANKLIN GROVE DEVILS! She tried to keep smiling, but her heart fell. She looked like a lollipop in a graveyard. What if she never managed to fit in here?
“Rise and shine,” a voice interrupted. Startled, Olivia realized she was standing right in the way of a Goth girl. A prickly bun atop the girl’s head was held in place by a wooden spike—Cool, Olivia thought, a chopstick!—and she wore a black dress with a neat slanted hem that started just above one knee and ended at the opposite ankle.
Olivia stepped to the left, trying to get out of the way, but the girl had the same idea. They both stepped in the other direction. Then they both stepped back again. Olivia laughed apologetically, but the girl just looked at her in a weird way. It wasn’t mean or anything. She just looked curious, sort of like an inquisitive black cat.
“Do I . . .” the girl began, frowning. “Are you new here?”
“How can you tell?” Olivia asked jokingly.
“So you’re probably looking for the office, right?” the girl replied, with the faintest of smiles, as another Goth in a black T-shirt that said HOP, BUNNY, HOP! in pink letters pulled up, a digital camera hanging around her neck. The first girl nodded to her friend before pointing Olivia in the right direction. “To the end, around the corner, office is on the right.”
Olivia had been going the wrong way completely. “Thanks,” she said sheepishly. “I probably would have been wandering the halls looking for the principal’s office until I got sent to the principal’s office for wandering the halls!”
To her relief, both Goths cracked a smile. Then the one with the stick in her hair looked at Olivia like she was trying to remember something. Finally she shrugged. “Well, good luck.” And with that, she and her friend walked off down the hallway.
The office was exactly where the girl said it would be.
“Have a seat over there,” the gray-haired receptionist said. “Principal Whitehead will be with you in just a minute.”
Olivia turned around and saw a chair, next to where a girl with long, soft-looking, curly blond hair was sitting, reading a thick, battered paperback. The girl wore jeans and a yellow T-shirt, and on the floor at her feet was a canvas bag with a button on the strap that said ALIEN SPAWN ARE PEOPLE, TOO. Finally, Olivia thought, someone who isn’t wearing black! She walked over and held out her hand. “Hi. Olivia Abbott.”
The girl lifted her eyes from her book. She looked confused. “No, actually, my name’s Camilla. Camilla Edmunson.”
Olivia laughed. “No. I mean my name’s Olivia,” she explained. “Nice to meet you, Camilla.”
Camilla made an I’m-such-a-dork face and shook Olivia’s hand. “Sorry. I’m just really into this book.”
Olivia sat down. “Isn’t that the best? When you get so caught up in a book that you’re, like, in a different world?”
“I know!” said Camilla eagerly. She held up the cover of her paperback: Random Access by Coal Knightley, The Second Book in The Cyborg Trilogy. “Ever read it?”
“Nope. Is it any good?” Olivia asked.
“Are you kidding?” Camilla cried. “This is my third time through!”