Isabella’s Spring Break Crush
ISABELLA CLARK POKED AT HER salad with a plastic fork. Normally she loved talking with her friends at lunchtime, but today it was just making her depressed.
“And our resort has its own private beach,” her friend Amanda was saying. She was practically jumping up and down in her seat as she talked. “So we can just walk out of the hotel and right onto the beach. And the temperature there right now is eighty degrees! Isn’t that awesome? I am so tired of the cold.”
“And the snow,” added Jasmine, glancing toward the nearby window. Mounds of winter snow were piled up in the middle school parking lot and along the walkway. Icicles dripped from the bare tree branches. Snowflake flurries swirled around in the freezing wind.
“It’s Chicago. It’s supposed to be cold in winter,” Isabella said, repeating something her dad said often. It
never really made her feel better to hear it, though. She loved the summer, when she didn’t have to bundle up every day. The summer sun just made everything feel happier.
“Well, I love the snow,” said Lilly. With her white-blond hair and blue eyes, Lilly always appeared to Isabella as some kind of snow princess from a fairy tale. “I can’t believe we’re finally going skiing in Colorado! It’s going to be awesome.”
Jasmine frowned. “We’re not going far at all. Mom’s taking us to the Buffalo Lodge. It’s kind of lame, but at least they have an indoor pool.”
Amanda turned to Isabella. “So, are you guys doing anything?”
Isabella sighed. “You know we never do. My dad says this year I can help out in his office and make some extra money.”
“That’s pretty lame too,” Lilly remarked, and Amanda shot her a look. “I don’t mean that Bella’s lame. I mean her dad is lame, you know, for making her work.”
“It’s okay,” Isabella replied glumly. “You’re right. It is lame.”
“It’s not all that bad,” Amanda said, trying to cheer
her up. “That way you can buy those great earrings we saw at Sparks.”
“Yeah,” Isabella said, and then she started poking at her salad again. Amanda was supersweet and a great best friend. But nothing she said could get Isabella out of her mood.
It just wasn’t fair! She was pretty sure that her family was the only one in the whole school who didn’t go anywhere during spring break. Things got complicated for the Clarks during this time of year.
For one thing, even though it was “spring break,” it still felt like winter in Chicago. Isabella’s mom was a pediatrician, and this time of year she was bombarded with kids coming down with the flu.
And it’s not like her dad could take them anywhere. Mr. Clark was an accountant, which meant he had to help dozens of people do their taxes before April fifteenth. So he couldn’t leave his job either.
“We’ll make it up to you in the summer,” her mom always said, and it was true—they always went on a nice vacation in the summer. But their last vacation was a distant memory now, and in two weeks all she had to look forward to was filing folders in her dad’s office as
she watched the snow fall outside.
“Well, the week goes by fast anyway,” said Amanda.
Jasmine was scrolling on her phone. “Hey, I forgot that Buffalo Lodge has horseback riding! Maybe it won’t be so bad after all.”
Lilly leaned in and lowered her voice. “Okay. If you could go on spring break with any boy in our class, who would it be?”
“That’s easy. Colin Hancock,” Jasmine replied. “He’s so cute.”
“No way!” Lilly squealed. “I was going to pick him!”
“Well, I think I would want to go with Brian Bender,” Amanda said a little shyly.
“Him? He’s so nerdy!” Jasmine said.
“That’s why I like him,” Amanda replied.
Lilly turned to Isabella. “What about you?”
Isabella shrugged. “I don’t really know.” Which was true. She had never had a real crush on a boy yet. Sure, there were some nice, cute boys in her class, but she would never think of, like, dating any of them. “Besides, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not going on spring break anyway.”
Finally, the lunch bell rang. Isabella was glad the
conversation was over, but she still couldn’t stop thinking about break.
I’ll keep working on Mom and Dad, she plotted as she gathered up her books for her afternoon classes. There has to be some way to save spring break!
She waited until dinner that night. It was a Thursday night, which meant that Mom got home late so Dad made spaghetti and heated up meatballs from the freezer. Isabella’s job was to make a salad. Her twin brother, Jake, was in charge of garlic bread, and they both had to set the table.
Isabella found a pot of water heating up on the stove when she came into the kitchen to make the salad. Her dad was infamous for starting things in the kitchen and then wandering off to make a phone call or check something on his computer. Isabella’s mom got so mad at him when he did it. She always said he was going to burn down the house. Usually everyone yelled at him when he did it, but tonight Isabella just took the big yellow salad bowl out of the cabinet and then got vegetables out of the refrigerator and put them on the counter. Next she got out the box grater so she could shred the carrots into the salad just the way her dad liked. Normally she just
chopped them up because she was always a little afraid of using the grater.
Jake came into the kitchen while she was grating the carrots. He stopped.
“So what are you asking Dad for?” he asked.
Isabella wasn’t surprised that Jake knew she had ulterior motives for grating the carrots. It was one of those twin things. It wasn’t like they could read each other’s minds or anything, but sometimes she knew what Jake was going to say before he said it, and vice versa—stuff like that. Or she could usually tell just by looking at Jake if he was worried about something, or keeping a secret, or coming down with a cold.
Isabella looked around. Parents had a way of popping up behind you when you least expected them.
“I really want us to go on spring break,” Isabella replied.
Jake nodded. “Me too. But you know we can’t go.”
“But there’s got to be some way,” Isabella pointed out. “Mom can’t be the only doctor in Chicago who treats the flu. She could find someone to fill in for her.”
“Yeah, well, what about Dad?” Jake asked.
“He could have a working vacation,” Isabella reasoned.
“He does half of his work here on his computer anyway.”
Jake picked up a carrot and bit into it. “Might work. Go for it.”
That’s Jake, Isabella thought, just happy to go with the flow. If she hadn’t brought up spring break, he wouldn’t have asked. That’s just the way he was.
Sometimes it was hard for her to believe that they were twins. Sure, they both had fair skin, hair that couldn’t decide if it was brown or blond, and green eyes. And they both had what their parents called “the Clark nose,” which turned up a little bit at the end and which every Clark was supposedly born with.
But Isabella was about a half an inch taller than Jake (although Dad pointed out that boys grow more slowly than girls). And Jake’s green eyes had a hint of blue in them while Isabella’s had a hint of brown, but only when it rained.
Anyway, lots of brothers and sisters looked alike, not just twins. But their personalities—that’s where they were really different, Isabella thought. Jake was always really . . . mellow. Things didn’t bug him. He took everything in stride. If his pillow was lumpy, he would sleep on it without complaining.
Isabella was the opposite. If something bugged her, she wanted—no, had—to fix it. If she had a lumpy pillow, she wouldn’t sleep a wink until she found a pillow without lumps.
“If life were an ocean, Jake would be riding the currents and Isabella would be on a Jet Ski, speeding past him,” their mom said once. And the funny thing was, Isabella was sure that Mom was complimenting her, but Jake was sure he was the one being complimented. Mom said that meant they were each happy with who they were, and that was good.
Isabella noticed steam pouring from under the lid of the pot on the stove, and she picked up the lid and peeked inside.
“Dad, you’re boiling!” she yelled.
Mr. Clark came rushing in, tucking his phone into his front shirt pocket. He picked up a box of spaghetti from the counter and dumped it into the boiling water.
“Thanks, Isabella,” he said. “Oh gosh! I forgot to do the meatballs. Guess I’ll microwave them. Mom will be home soon.”
Isabella finished the salad at the same time that Jake got done slathering butter on the bread and sprinkling it with garlic powder.
“Dad, can you turn on the broiler?” Jake asked.
“Sure thing,” Mr. Clark said.
Then Isabella took the utensils out of the drawer while Jake took plates out of the cabinet.
“That’s five,” Isabella corrected him. “We only need four, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” Jake said casually, taking away a plate, but Isabella saw a cloud briefly pass over his face. The fifth plate would have been for their older brother, David, who had gone away to college that fall. Isabella missed him, but she knew Jake missed him even more.
Fifteen minutes later, the table was set and topped with the salad, garlic bread, and spaghetti and meatballs right at the moment their mom walked into the door. Mr. Clark high-fived Isabella and Jake.
“We are a well-oiled machine,” he said.
“Smells great in here!” Dr. Clark said, peeling off her hat, coat, scarf, and gloves. Underneath it all was a tall woman with sandy blond hair like the twins and a perfectly fine nose (even though it wasn’t a “Clark nose”).
Isabella’s mom washed her hands at the sink (“Hand washing is the enemy of germs!” was her motto), and then they all sat down at the table. They chatted for a few
minutes about the usual stuff—what happened in school, the client who brought Mr. Clark chocolate chip cookies, the patient of Dr. Clark’s who stuck a marble up his nose. Then there was a break, and Isabella saw her chance.
“So, I’ve been thinking. It’s not too late for us to plan a trip for spring break,” she said. “In fact, I saw some great last-minute deals online.”
Dr. Clark sighed. “Oh, honey, I know how much you want a break, but you know that your dad and I have to work.”
“I was thinking about that,” Isabella said, and then she launched into the plan that she had told Jake. “So it’s definitely possible, right?” she finished.
“You know that you two have to be careful in the sun because of your fair skin,” Dr. Clark said.
“You know we’re always careful when we go out in the sun,” Isabella countered. “And anyway, I’d be happy just to get away. We don’t have to go to a beach. There’s lots we could do.”
Here Mom and Dad looked at each other. Isabella wished she could read their faces the same way she could read Jake’s, but her parents were a different story.
“We’ll think about it,” her mom said, and Isabella
didn’t push it. But her mind was racing as she finished her dinner.
After she and Jake cleared the table, Isabella headed up to her room, taking two steps at a time. She opened her laptop and started searching the Web.
Best spring break destinations, she typed, and pictures of palm trees and white beaches popped up on her screen. Everything looked amazing. She took notes about the ones that seemed the best, like a hiking trip out West and a scuba-diving vacation in the Caribbean. She even took down the info on Buffalo Lodge, just in case her parents didn’t want to go too far.
But she knew a great destination alone wouldn’t be enough to sway her parents.
Benefits of vacation, she typed, and she was excited to see links to tons of articles appear—and some of them were written by doctors. Her mom would love that.
She read a few of them, taking a lot of notes. One of them said that people who take vacations got sick less often and were less stressed out. Another one said that people who go on vacation were more productive at work. Her dad would love that one.
She started to work on a presentation on her computer
when her dad knocked on the door.
“You’re awfully quiet in here. Homework?” he asked.
“No, a special project,” Isabella answered.
“Well, good for you,” said Mr. Clark. “But you need to wrap it up and get ready for bed, okay, hon?”
“Sure, Dad,” Isabella said. She didn’t need the presentation anyway. She would slay them with her amazing facts!
That night, as Isabella slept, a wind howled outside the window, painting it with frost. But she didn’t hear it. She was deep inside a dream, sitting under an umbrella on a white sandy beach, listening to the sound of gentle waves lapping against the shore.