FIRST PERIOD, STUDY HALL
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I stared at the poster hanging on the wall in the hallway near my homeroom. My first middle school dance! So exciting! So scary! Exciting! Scary! Yay! Eek! Yay!
I was excited because I mean, Yay! My very first dance! So yay! But also eek!
The eek part was that it was our first school dance and I was going with a date. Yes, Nick had asked me to the dance! My first dance! My first date! My mom said okay since we were going all together in a group with our other friends. But Nick would be my date.
My first dance! My first date! What would we talk about? Could Nick dance? Would we slow dance? What if we slow danced and my hands got sweaty?
“Miss Mills,” a voice called out, “will you be joining us?”
It was my homeroom teacher, Mrs. “Bad Breath” Galbreath.
Bad breath. I hadn’t even thought of that. Oh no! What if I was slow dancing with Nick and I had bad breath? What if—
I snapped out of it. I guess I should be focusing on What if Mrs. Galbreath gives me detention for being late? I had an iffy history of getting in trouble in middle school, so I raced to the classroom.
“Sorry!” I said weakly as I slid under Mrs. Galbreath’s arm while she was shutting the door.
Whew! Made it.
I slid into a seat near the back and set my tote bag down on the floor next to me. I scrounged around for my social studies homework. I felt my brush and mini-mirror. My papaya-flavored lip gloss (that I’d bought in Hollywood). Sunglasses (that I’d worn in Hollywood—I didn’t need them here). I really needed to clean out my tote bag.
And there it was: my social studies binder. I pulled it out and put it on my desk.
I’d promised my parents that missing school for HOLLYWOOD wouldn’t interfere with my schoolwork. Sigh. Hollywood was over. No more starring in commercials, being on TV game shows, taking glamorous convertible rides, or bumping into celebrities and having my name linked to them. No more being famous. But lots more social studies.
And if I didn’t keep my grades up, there would be “consequences.” My parents had already once “limited my after-school activities” because of my grades. They just started letting me participate in drama club and VOGS (our middle school’s video broadcast show) again. If I didn’t get my schoolwork caught up, they might take those away again.
Or the punishment could be worse! What if they grounded me? Oh no! They wouldn’t ground me from the dance, would they?
Don’t panic, Payton, I told myself. I would focus on my schoolwork and let nothing distract me. Question one: What are the three export products of the country of . . .
I struggled to remember the answer from the chapter I’d read last night. There were times I wished I had Emma’s brain. My twin sister, Emma, could read a textbook and remember practically all the answers not just the next day, but for the rest of her life. Emma would have no problem making up her schoolwork from the days we missed.
Emma would never get grounded because of her grades. She would never get grounded from her very first middle school dance.
Oh yes! Emma was going to the dance too! Emma had a date too. Ox had asked her to the dance. He’d asked me yesterday what color Emma’s dress was so he could get her a matching corsage. Emma’s dress was so pretty. Her fashion had definitely improved this year. She’d picked out a white dress that had purple flowers all over it. My dress was a jewel-toned sapphire blue. Even though blue was Emma’s signature color, I’d seen it and knew one of us would have to wear it. Emma didn’t like it, so it became mine, mine, mine.
Okay, enough thinking about the dance. No more distractions, Payton. What are the three export products of the country of . . .
The door to Study Hall opened, and a guy I’d never seen before walked in. He had straight black hair that flopped a little over his face. He was wearing an olive-colored shirt, skinny jeans, and skater shoes.
I wasn’t the only one distracted. Everyone turned to look at him.
“You must be our new student,” Mrs. Galbreath said. “Welcome. Take any empty seat.”
The guy didn’t seem bothered when everyone looked at him. He walked my way and sat down in the empty seat right behind me.
“Please return to your studies, students,” Mrs. Galbreath said so everyone would stop checking out the new guy. I returned my attention to my homework. Okay. Three export products of . . .
“Psst.” The new guy tapped my shoulder.
I turned around.
“It is you,” he said. “I thought so.”
Oh! I’d been recognized. He must have seen our TV commercial and knew who I was. I felt so famous!
“Hi,” I whispered, smiling a nice, friendly smile so he’d know I wasn’t a stuck-up celebrity and I hadn’t let fame go to my head. Then I stopped smiling when I saw Galbreath looking at me. I turned back around.
Three export products of . . .
Poke, poke. The guy was poking my back again.
“Hey,” the guy whispered. “Can you do me a favor?”
He slid a piece of paper toward me.
Oh! Oooh! He must want my autograph! Blush. You can take the girl out of Hollywood, but you can’t take the Hollywood out of the girl! Hee hee.
I took the paper from him and wrote my signature across the back of the paper:
I reached over and dropped the paper back on his desk. Then I turned around and faced my social studies homework. Such was the life of a tween star. Trying to balance Hollywood and homework.
“Psst.” The new guy tapped my shoulder again. Yeesh, how do Hollywood celebrities ever get their homework done? I checked to see if Galbreath was watching us. She was, but she nodded at me to help the new guy. I turned around.
“You didn’t do it,” he whispered.
Confused, I pointed to my signature. I was even more confused when the guy flipped over the paper to the other side.
“No, I need you to do the math problems.” He lowered his voice and looked around. “See? I’m new, and I have to take some placement test to see what math class I’ll be in.”
“Someone said you were a math genius,” he whispered. “So, can you just write the answers in there? You can miss a couple to make it more authentic.”
Ohhh. He thought I was my twin sister. And he thought I—meaning Emma—would help him cheat. Um, no.
“Sorry, I’m not a math genius,” I whispered back. “That’s my twin. She’s the math genius in the family.”
“Oh, you’ve got one of those too?” He nodded. “So do I. But wait, are you any good at math at all? Can you just do this anyway? I hate math.”
“Um, isn’t a placement test supposed to help you get into the right math class?” I asked.
“Whatever,” he said. “I have family pressure to get in advanced classes.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I know the feeling,” I said. “Although my family is used to it. My sister is four grades ahead of me in math. And we’re even identical twins! That’s why you mixed us up.”
Yes, sometimes even I almost mixed us up. Like one time in a clothes store I went over and started talking to her. But then I realized it was a full-length mirror.
But there are differences!
I’m PAYTON, the twin who
• is one inch taller.
• has slightly greener eyes.
• definitely, without a doubt, has shinier hair—today, at least.
Today Emma definitely was not shiny, shiny, double the shiny. This morning she’d put her unwashed hair in a scrunchie. A green scrunchie! Fortunately, I’d had an extra rubber band in my tote bag and convinced her to change it. Otherwise, she would have embarrassed us. Yes, us. When you’re an identical twin, there’s always the chance that people will think your twin is you.
And I didn’t want anyone thinking I’d wear a green scrunchie. Emma had to represent the Mills Twins better.
Sometimes being a twin could be annoying. Being Emma’s twin could be seriously annoying. Like sibling rivalry times two. She’s been cranky. And not very well dressed. I know she’s been feeling stressed, but we were just in a shampoo commercial, representing good hair, yet she had put her hair up in a scrunchie?
Like I told her before homeroom: Represent the Mills Twins, Emma. Represent.