Rosie overhears shocking conversations in the teachers' lounge at her middle school.
Spy in the Teachersâ Lounge â Copyright 2015 by BÃ©a Tomaselli Tiritilli
Spy in the Teachersâ Lounge
Story copyright 2015 by Bea Tomaselli Tiritilli
Illustrations copyright 2015 by Jessica OâHandley
To the many students who inspired me, especially the seventh graders at Magnolia Science Academy; and to Nikolai and Lisanna, my favorite adolescents of all time. â Bea Tomaselli Tiritilli
To Roddy and Toria, Congratulations! You know why. â Jessica OâHandley
Authorâs note: Spy in the Teachersâ Lounge, along with its upcoming sequel Spies in the Counselorâs Office, are works of fiction. All characters and events are imaginary.
Between the naked-butt incident, snoring grandma, stinky armpits, losing our house and car, move to the new school with the heartless kids and angry teachers, and a whole lotta other rotten junk Iâd rather forgetâyep, Iâd say it was a miserable time. On top of it all (lucky me!) it all started on my birthday.
Turning twelve was my worst birthday ever, and the beginning of the most wretched, humiliating, horriblist month of my life. Life had been getting worser and more depressing for the longest time before that, so Iâd hoped maybe things would start to perk up on my birthday.
I was wrong.
Life got worse.
A whole lot worse.
And during that time between late September and Halloween, I found out it could be easier to make enemies than friends, even when I meant to do the opposite. And me, Rosie--friendly, happy, always the good girl in school--I would even have my teachers hating me.
Fifth grade. Sixth grade. Those were pretty decent years, looking back. Sure, life wasnât always giggles and flowers and balloons and unicorns, but everything was A-OK back then. Like my mom says, the grass is always greener on the neighborâs lawn. I think that means you always want something better, what other people have, like I always wish I had straight hair, but my old best school friend, Maria, said she loves my bushy black practically afro, even though itâs hard to brush and Mom is always saying Iâd best comb it out while itâs still wet or Iâll get a ratâs nest. (I dunno why rodents would want to live in someoneâs hair, but whatever.) Anyhoo, we had a big, green lawn back thenâboth literally and figuratively, as my English teachers would say. I just didnât appreciate it.
When I turned ten, I wanted a new bicycle for my birthday, a purple one with a glitter seat and a matching basket and bell on the handle bars, like Emily had in my old neighborhood. Instead, I got a scooter my dad bought from Emilyâs big brother, but hey, I learned to like it, and scooted all over the sidewalks as far as my parents would let me goâwhich was about a block, but I had a blast scooting circles around that block. Then when I turned eleven, I wanted an iPod. My parents got me some new clothes instead. Mom said thatâs what I really needed, and besides, we couldnât afford an iPod plus clothes, but heyâ¦ at least I got something.
But twelve? I wanted a cell phone. Instead? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Well, unless you count tears, disappointment and sad memories.
See, right before I turned eleven, thatâs when everything started to change for us Fernandezes. Before that (fifth grade, when I was ten) me and my brothers and my parents and my big brotherâs pet iguana all lived together in a roomy three-bedroom house with two whole bathrooms. It wasnât a mansion or nothing, but I had my very own bedroom all to myself, and we had a big backyard and smooth sidewalks out front for scootering, and my best neighbor friend, Emily, was just two doors down. (I had gone to the same school since kindergarten, a public school where me and Maria were tight BSFFâsâBest School Friends Forever. Emily went to a school at her church, so we were best after-school friends.) Sure, I fought a lot with my brothers, especially Jorge, my teenage brother. But Dad worked full time at the factory back then, Mom worked part time at a department store, we had two decent cars, I had lotsa friends, and mostly, I was happy. I think we were all happy, but we Fernandezes would not appreciate our nearly perfect lives till our happiness rainbow faded to shades of gray.
Summer before sixth grade, my dadâs company cut his hours at work. At first I thought, good, more time to do fun stuff with Dad, maybe go to lots of amusement parks and movies and vacations over the summer. But he said, no Mija, we canât do that kinda stuff no more, we have to cut back. Mom said sheâd try to get more hours at the store, but then the store got sold and changed names and everyone lost their jobs. Halfway through sixth grade, Dad lost his job too, and thatâs when our lives went the way of gravity. First, someone came in the middle of the night and took our newest car. Dad explained it wasnât really stolen, it was repossessed, which I guess means he couldnât finish paying the money he owed on it, so the car dealer took it. Then the nightmare got even creepier. I think Mom said the word is foreclosure, which is basically like having your house repossessed.
A few days after seventh grade started that August, I was walking home with Mom and my little brother, and there was this yellow Eviction Notice on our front door, and Mom, she just started sobbing crying. Dad got home from a job interview, and after he calmed Mom down, he explained to me that eviction means we had thirty days to move out of our house. And he said, Donât worry, Mija, hopefully Iâll get this job, and everything will be OK.
But he didnât. And it wasnât.
Mija is not my name, of course. Thatâs just what some Spanish-speaking parents call their daughters. My real name is Rosalba Eileen Fernandez, but I go by Rosa or Rosie or sometimes Rosalie. Rosalba is my fatherâs mother, and Eileen is my motherâs mother, so my name is a double grandma name, which is not so bad, âcause my grandmas spoil me. But I was gonna get real tired of my Abuelita Rosalba real quick, and she was gonna have enough of spoiling me, âcauseâ¦ guess what? We had to move in with her. And guess what else? I had to share a bedroom with her. And my parents. And my brothers. âCauseâ¦ guess what else else? There just werenât enough bedrooms at Abuelita Rosalbaâs house for me to have my own.
So, itâs like this: the day before my twelfth birthday, we had to pack up everything from our home in Anaheim and move to Abuelitaâs house two cities away, in Santa Ana.
This is long overdue, Dad told us the morning we moved. Your Abuelita has needed someone to move in with her. Her arthritis is getting worse, her eyes are so bad she canât drive anymore, and she shouldnât be living alone.
Abuelo Carlos, my fatherâs father, had been dead so many years I barely remembered him. And Abuelita had been alone most of the time since then, except for a couple years when one of my tios stayed with her before he moved to Texas. Anyhoo, her house was older than the one we left behind, and smaller, cramped. Sure, there were three bedrooms, but they were tiny. Abuelita would keep the biggest room she used to share with her husband, my parents took the second biggest room (which really isnât very big), and my brothers took the tiniest room. It had space for my dresser, my brothersâ beds, the iguana cage and all their stuff, but no room for my bed. And then my parents argued about where I should sleep.
A young girl going through puberty needs her privacy, my mom told my dad. Yeah, but the best we can do is put a screen up in the living room, my dad said. Whereâs the privacy in that? my mom said, And how is Rosa supposed to get enough sleep?
Finally, they decided I would sleep on Abuelitaâs roll-up mattress, and I could try different rooms in the house till I found one that worked. Oh joy.
Donât worry, Rosalie, my room is your room, Abuelita told me. So I was exhausted from a long, hot, sweaty day of moving, and I all I wanted to do was curl up on my mattress next to Abuelitaâs bed and hope the nightmare would end. But thenâ¦ guess what I learned that night?
My Abuelita snores.
So after a long night of no sleep, guess what else? After going to school with the same comfortable friends my whole entire life, guess what I got to do the next day? My birthday. I got to start at a new school where I didnât know nobody.
Not. A. Soul.
No one to sing me a Happy Birthday song. No one to giggle with at lunch. Getting dressed in the locker room with a buncha strange girls Iâd never seen in my lifeâpretending not to look at me and my underclothes. Kids Iâd never met laughing when I woke up in math class after someone threw a paper wad at my head. Kids staring at me each period as I walked into another unfamiliar classroom, tardy, âcause I didnât know my way around. Yeah, a few kids tried to be friendly, but Iâd had absolutely no sleep, the whole situation had me mad and sad, and I just was not in the mood to talk to nobody. On my b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y.
Oh yeah. And guess what else?
It gets worser. But maybe you already guessed that.
After my super tired, rotten, miserable day, my mom had said sheâd pick me up at the front curb a few minutes after school got out. Well those few minutes came and went, and then a half hour, and then like an hour. Finally, some rude grown up with an annoyed expression yells at me, Hey young lady, you know the rules, anyone waiting for parents more than fifteen minutes needs to walk home or wait in the homework club.
Well, walking home was not an option, âcause I had no idea how to get from Point A to Point B. And homework club? I hadnât really been paying much attention in my classes, I had no clue what the homework was, and besides, I had no idea where the club was anyhow.
So I asked the lady where the homework club was, and she looks at me kinda puzzled, like Iâm stupid, like why wouldnât I know that more than a month into the school year. And she points and says, you know, next to the library. But like, I have no clue where that was either, except the general direction where she pointed, so I walked and walked and got all kinda lost around that school, and after maybe fifteen more minutes, Iâm back near the front of the school again, where I hear my momâfinally!âyelling, There you are!
And then I learned how to walk home, âcause it turns out our only car had broke down.
Nearly two miles, when all I really wanted at that point was a nap.
And of course, weâd always gone out to restaurants on my birthdays before, but of course, we couldnât afford it this time.
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot the best-worst part.
Once my parents told me that, all I really wanted to do was go to my bedroom and cry, but of course, there was no bedroom. So I put my head down on the dining room table and tried to stifle my tears.
Abuelita and my parents were all apologies, saying it had been such a rough and horrible day, after the car broke down with Dad stranded in it and all, and they would buy me something special another day.
But Mija, I didnât forget, I made your favorite tamales, Abuelita told me. And she made flan for dessert. No cake or candles, because she was low on ingredients and didnât have time to get to the store, but at least she thought about me.
But you know what? By that point, I was too tired to care.
I have to admit, though: Abuelita did seem to try real hard to cheer me up. Since she didnât have any birthday candles, she took an incense stick from a shelf under her living-room crucifix, lit it and stuck it in in the flan while she and my dad sang a version of a Spanish birthday song Iâve only heard the two of them sing:
Ya viene amaneciÃ©ndo ya la luz del dÃa
Salio hoy por ser dÃa de tu cumpleaÃ±os
Te deseamos felicidad que la virgen te
Bendiga que tambien vino a cantar con su
Coro de Ã¡ngeles te venimos a felicitar
I donât understand Spanish so good, but I think the song means something about all the angels and their buddies in heaven wishing me birthday happinessâwhich is a much sweeter thought than that boring old American Happy Birthday song. I think I may have almost halfway smiled when Abuelita and Dad sang that. Then I made a wish (I wished that we could move back to our old house, of course), blew out the incense and got ashes all over my flan.
After dessert, I fell asleep on Abuelitaâs couch, even though the TV was blaring and my brothers were fighting.
I woke up the next morning groggy and depressed, hoping the day before had just been a nightmare. Then I noticed I was still on Abuelitaâs couch, and someone had put a blanket on me overnight. But somewhere deep inside, I felt a little bit of hope, âcause I thought, new day, at least Iâve had some sleep, maybe I can make new friends and start fresh. Things were so bad, they could only get better, right?
Before I tell you about the next day, I guess I should take a breath and explain a little more about my family. We have a strange, mixed up family tree. When my parents filled out the paperwork for me and my brothers to start our new schools, my mom said the Ethnicity section should have an All of the Above box, and Dad said, Or a box for Mutts, and they both laughed. At least someone was laughing in our family once in a while.
On my fatherâs side, both his parents immigrated to California with their families while they were still kids. My Abuelo and Abuelita were both born in Mexico, but their parents were a mix of native Mexican, Spanish, and Chinese, or so Iâm told. My dad was born here in Southern California. His parents spoke mostly Spanish at home, but Dad learned English in school, and eventually, Abuelita took English classes so she could become a U.S. citizen. She tries to speak Spanish to me sometimes, but I donât understand much of it. Thatâs because my momâs Spanish isnât that great. Grandma Eileen is Irish descent, and she doesnât speak nothing but English. Grandpa Luis was born in New York, but his parents came from Puerto Rico. He speaks Spanish, but not with Grandma Eileen and only rarely with Mom, who learned most of her Spanish in high school. My mom mostly only speaks Spanish with Dad when they need to do the Secret Language thing, like when one of us kids has gotten in trouble and they need to decide on a punishment. Abuelita has tried to teach me a little Spanish over the years, but I canât keep up when people talk fast.
Then thereâs my brothers. Jorge is in tenth grade, so heâs in high school. He is a total punk brat meanie jerk. I mostly hate him. He always picks fights with me. No matter what I say or what opinion I have, he says the opposite, just to get me mad. If I like a song on the radio, heâll call the singer a dork. If Iâm watching TV, he grabs the remote and changes the channel, âcause that showâs lame. When I was little, I would play with baby dolls and Barbies, and he had his G.I. Joes, and he thought it was funny to play War Time Execution Squad on my dolls. They would get shot or hung by a nooseâfor war crimes, heâd say, like a newborn baby doll or Barbie in her pink tutu could be guilty of somethingâand my brother would laugh.
Some people pronounce my botherâs name HOR-hay, by the way, which is the Spanish way, even though my parents say it like George. He hates being called Hor-hay, so I call him that sometimes just to get him mad.
My little brother, Angel, is no angel, but heâs OK. He can be bratty and annoying, but thatâs usually when he wants to play and Iâm not in the mood. Heâs six years old and kinda cute when heâs not busy being an annoying brat.
People say me and Angel look alike, even though I hate being compared to a little boy. His skin is lighter than mine. Mine is milk-chocolate brown, like my dadâs, and Angel has golden-brown skin, like my mom. I have my momâs thick, black, curly, usually frizzy hair, and so does Angel, although his is pretty short, of course, and mine grows halfway down my back. We both have brown eyes, like my parents. But Jorgeâ¦ I think heâs adopted. He doesnât look like any of us. His skin is lighter than both my parents, his hair is curly but brown, his eyes are hazel, and heâs tall for his age, whereas the rest of us are short to medium. My fifth-grade teacher said kids usually resemble their parents because of inheritance, butâ¦ If Jorgeâs not adopted, maybe heâs some kinda space alien, or he was switched at birth at the hospital. I hope this last one is true and we can find the real Jorge someday, âcause Iâd love to trade him in for a new brother.
So, after my night on the couch, Mom says, Hurry up, Rosa, youâll have to walk to school. I say, I donât even know the way yet, and she says, Donât worry, itâs not far from your brotherâs school, heâll walk you this morning.
So I splash water on my face, down a quick bowl of cereal, spill some milk on my navy-blue polo shirtâbut no time to changeâbrushed my teeth, and weâre out the door.
Jorge walks real fast, and I was still groggy and could barely keep up. Hurry up, Snaily, he called to me, which is a stupid nickname heâd just made up for me.
I donât know what Mom was thinking having my brother lead the way, but apparently, he didnât know the neighborhood either. He kept saying, I think itâs this street, and then weâd reach another unfamiliar street or even a dead end. Those nearly two miles turned into at least three by the time we asked for directions. Once he got us back on track, he pointed down a street, said, Your schoolâs down there, Snaily, and I said, Whatever, Hor-hay, and he said, Donât get lost on the way home, and I said, Isnât Mom picking me up? but he just kept walking.
So I get to school late and dripping with sweat. Yeah, it was late-ish September, but fall can mean 80+ degrees in Southern California, and this was feeling more like 90. Maybe even 100. Early fall means Santa Ana wind season, those winds are hot and dry, and one was revving up that morning.
My first period was P.E.âlike I needed physical education after walking probably four miles. Because I was late, the locker room was locked, which at first I thought would be a good thing, because I wouldnât have to get dressed in front of all those strange girls. But then I get out to the field, and Mr. Mulroney, my P.E. teacher, starts yelling at me. I donât know what kinda school you came from before this, Fernandez, but here at Lassen Intermediate, we got standards, and I expect you on time and in uniform!
Yes sir, I mumbled, but inside I thought, Whatever, you big ogre, you have no idea what Iâm going through.
After running the track and helping my team lose at volleyballâmy worst sportâwe were released back into the locker room, where I looked in the mirror and realized I had never brushed my hair that morning, and between bedhead and the windy day, it was a big, frizzy mess. I didnât have a hairbrush with me, but I tried to make it better by running my fingers through the tangles. No luck making it look normal, but thatâs when I got a whiff of my pits and remembered it had been at least two days since my last shower, and I had not put on deodorant that morning.
A girl with long, dark brown, beautifully straight hair nudged beside me at the mirror, brushing her satin-like locks. I asked, in my most politest voice, Hey, could I please borrow your brush when youâre done? And she sniffed and sneered and said, You know, you reek. I donât want to risk getting lice from someone with your kind of hygiene. And then some girls behind her started snickering, and they all walked away together.
I just wanted to hide, but of course there was nowhere to go.
The locker room had a small room inside with showerheads and a dusty, ceramic floorâlike my old middle school. Andâlike my old middle schoolâno one used it for showering, and instead, it was a storage area for P.E. equipment. My mom says, when she was a girl, they were forced to take showers after P.E. in middle school. To me, the only thing more mortifying than being stinky in a room full of strangers changing clothes would be to have to get completely naked in front of them in a shower. So, yeah, I felt humiliated, but at least I could be thankful for not being born back in the day.
Of course, my day got worse. That had been my general pattern for months. Why should it change now?
For my Period 2-Period 4 block, I had Ms. Hahn for English Language Arts, Composition and Social Studies. Her room was not far from the gym, and for once I was on time to class, but I couldnât remember where I sat, so I waited for everyone else to sit down before quietly moving into an empty desk. After the bell rang, some big guy walked in late and told me, Youâre in my seat, and Ms. Hahn said, Rosalba, your seat is over here, next to Dominique, pointing to an empty spot on the far side of the room. At least this teacher had a kind voice and didnât yell.
Dominique had a pretty smile, Chinese or maybe Asian features, big glasses, and that beautiful long, black, straight hair Iâd always wished I had. I think she was one of the people whoâd tried to be friendly to me the day before, but that day was mostly a foggy blur. Most of the kids at Lassen were Latino, and Dominique stood out a little, so yeah, I sorta kinda remembered her from the day before.
Ms. Hahn told us she wanted us to get into groups of three or four and create Mind Maps for the characters in the book The Midwifeâs Apprentice. She would assign each group a character, she said.
Dominique asked me to join her, and I said sure, and I turned to the girl in front of us to ask her if she wanted to be in our group, but she was already scooting her desk over with a small group to our left.
Whatâs a Mind Map? I asked Dominique, and she explained that we would have to draw a picture of a character from the book and draw little cartoon cloud thingies around it and fill the clouds with thoughts that character would have reflected on. Except I had never read The Midwifeâs Apprentice and didnât know the first thing about the story. Thatâs OK, Dominique told me, Iâve been reading it with the class.
Just then Ms. Hahn approached our desks and said to Dominique, Thanks for making our new student feel at home, but is there anyone else who can join your group? Then she looked around and saw everyone else near us was already clumped into little desk groups of three or four each, so she says to us, OK, ladies, this time itâs all right, but next time, join a bigger group, please. And Rosalba, I know youâre new to the class, but Dominique will fill you in on our novelâs plot, OK? So Iâm assigning the two of you to make a Mind Map of Brat.
As Ms. Hahn walked to the next group, I asked Dominique about the character named Brat, but she just shook her head and told me, I donât remember who that one is. Then Dominique turned to the boy behind her and asked him to describe the character, and he tells her, Brat is the main character, you moron.
Hey, you canât talk to her like that! I said to the boy, and a girl who was sitting with him turned to Dominique, grinned and said, Well, youâre not exactly the class brainiac, Dominique, and then the whole group burst out laughing.
Theyâre big fat jerks, just ignore them, I said to Dominique. Then another girl from the group behind us says, Hey, isnât your name Rosalba? And I told her, Yeah, but I go by Rosie. After that a girl in the group to our left turns to us, and I froze âcause I recognized her as the perfectly straight-haired girl who had said I stunk during P.E. Rosie, huh? Thatâs a strange name for someone who smells like you, and then everyone around us started to laugh. The boy behind us leaned over to take a whiff of me, and then he crunched up his face and plugged his nose like a dog had just dumped a big pile of poop in the room. He turned to his friends and said, Glad the roses at my momâs house donât smell like that, and everyone burst out laughing again.
Now, my dad has always told me, when bullies are rude, just laugh it off, âcause they want to see you lose your cool, and you donât want to give them the pleasure. But I just couldnât laugh with them. I just couldnât. I sort of froze there, not knowing what to say, when Dominique whispered to me, Theyâre always mean, just ignore them, and she started drawing what I imagined was our character.
So I tried to ignore them, tried to just focus on the page in front of us, but I kept thinkingâand maybe it was my imagination, maybe it wasnâtâthat they were all staring at me or making P.U. faces at me. I didnât dare look at them, though.
That class dragged on for one l-o-n-g hour and a half, before our nutrition break and one last period with Ms. Hahn. Thankfully the meanies backed off, but it would hurt all day after that. All I wanted to do during nutrition break was scrub my pits in the bathroom, but the line went on forever, and besides, it would have been just as embarrassing to have everyone watch me take a sponge bath in the sink, so that idea was nixed pretty quick.
Fortunately, I didnât have the bullies in my other classes for the day. But that didnât mean they werenât around at lunch, which was right after my Period 5 computer class.
Lunch was free for me at that school, on account of my parentsâ money situation. All the kids who wanted a school lunch lined up at a window to get their cardboard lunch trays, then we could take our grub to a patio nearby with a buncha tables and a shade awning overhead. The meanies were all sitting at tables right in the middle, and I figured anywhere I sat was too close. So I carried my tray far away from there, behind a building, where I plunked my butt on the ground under a shady window, all by lonesome.
But then, as I munched on a corn dog, I started hearing voices, adult voices. I looked aroundâno one. Then I listened carefully, and I realized the voices were coming from the window. Then I listened more carefully, and I realized I recognized three of those voicesâMr. Mulroney, Ms. Hahn, and Mr. Perez, my computer teacher. Then I listened more carefully, and I realizedâ¦
â¦ they were talking about me!
So howâs the new student working out? Mr. Perez asked. His voice stood out from the rest on account of his Spanish accent.
Well, she seems like a good kid, but I canât believe they raised my class size again, Ms. Hahn answered. Her voice was calm and smooth. My last seat left was next to Dominique. Poor girl, no one wants to work with her on group assignments. Sheâs a sweet kid, but sheâs new this year and a little shy, and she seems to struggle with the material. Hopefully this Rosalba pulls her out of her shell.
It sounded like Ms. Hahn liked me. I was happy to hear that, âcause she seemed like a nice teacher.
Dominique Nguyen? Oh yeah, sheâs a little quiet, but she knows how to kick a soccer ball, so she does all right in my class, Mr. Mulroney said, sounding more relaxed than the usual booming loud drill-sergeant tone he used on the P.E. field.
My classes are too full, Mr. Perez said. I donât have enough decent computers. Iâm going to have to have the kids trade off on the good ones. And when it gets crowded in thereâ¦ boy, these kids going through puberty, I wish their parents would make sure they had better hygiene. Is the new girl homeless or living in a barn or something? She came into my room looking like something the cat dragged in, and I tell you, that girl probably hasnât had a bath all week.
Homeless!? My mouth dropped. I mean, I actually dropped a bite of corn dog into my lap. It had only been two or three days since my last shower! Did I really smell that bad? I sniffed my pits again. Yep, pretty bad. Between the dusty, sweaty move, the long walk home yesterday, the super long, sweaty walk this morning, P.E.â¦ man, I thought, Iâd better not raise my hand for anything the rest of the day.
No, I havenât heard anything about her being homeless, but Iâll look into it, a fourth voice said that I didnât recognize.
Then they started to talk about mundane teachery stuff, like standardized testing changes and was the copy machine working yet and when could they expect a raise, and at that point, I really couldnât focus on anything they were saying, becauseâ¦ OMG, I just couldnât believe my computer teacher thought I was living on the streets! True, if it hadnât been for Abuelita, maybe we would be. But still.
I finished eating and got up to find a trash can just as the two-minute warning bell rang. The two-minute warning bill is a warning that the five-minute warning bell is about to ring. I know, weird, right? So I walked around to the front of the building Iâd been sitting behind, and read the sign on the door: Teachersâ Lounge.
Well, I figured then and there that Iâd found my lunch spot for the rest of the year. I was way curious to learn what else the teachers had to say behind closed doors, even if they were speaking rudely about me. I had no use for those stuck-up bullies under the lunch awning, and I still had plenty of friends just two cities away, so who needed the stupid anti-friends of Lassen Intermediate?
My last two periods of the day were my math-science block. Lassen has this really odd schedule compared to my old middle school where each period you have a different teacher. Whatever. Anyhoo, Mrs. Aguilar, my teacher for that block, seemed kinda strict but kept the class fast-paced and interesting. In the science portion, the class was learning about cellsâyou know, those tiny little things that make up every part of your body. Weâd been learning about cells at my old middle school too, but here, Mrs. Aguilar had microscopes with pond water samples on the them, and we got to see all kindsa weird little microscopic wiggly one-celled things swimming around in there. That was cool.
No bullies in that classânot then, anyhow, but Iâll get to that part of the story later. And no one bugged me in that class, so the rest of the day went OK. OK wasnât awesome, it wasnât fabulous, it wasnât even particularly remarkable. But OK was a lot better than Iâd felt in days.
And things would stay OK. For about an hour.
I didnât know how I was getting home at the end of that day at Lassen Intermediate, but to my pleasant surprise, Momâs car was waiting in the parent pick-up driveway when school ended. My dad had fixed it, she said, and I had figured he could, because that man can fix anything.
I got home and took the longest shower of my life: scrubbed myself head to toe, washed and conditioned my hair, you name it. After I dried off, I was starting to get dressed, when I realized Iâd forgotten something very important. So I wrapped myself in a towel and went out to Abuelitaâs little living room to rummage through the many moving boxes.
Mom, have you seen my deodorant? I yelled, not sure what part of the house she was in.
Thereâs more boxes on the front porch, she called back from the kitchen. I took them out to sort through them a few minutes ago. Itâs too crowded to do sorting inside.
Well, I was butt naked, other than that towel, but there was no way I was getting dressed without putting deodorant on first. So I walked to the front door, peeked out, didnât see anyone, and, with the coast clear, bent over to rummage through boxes.
Maybe because my head was buried deep in a big box I didnât hear the kids kicking the ball down the street near Abuelitaâs house. It was hard to see anything in that box, but I felt around tillâ¦ ah yes, I thought, that feels like my deodorant. Just at that moment, a strong breeze kicked up.
And I felt it.
On my bare
I quickly stood up to pull my towel back over my behind. And thatâs when I heard them.
A group of kidsâsome maybe a little older than me, some definitely youngerâwere staring at me, giggling. And Jorge was walking toward the house, right behind them.
As I ran into the house, mortified, Jorge leapt up the porch steps, laughing, Thatâs some show you put on for the neighbors, Rosie! Then he ran passed me into the still-steamy bathroomâwhere Iâd already left my neat pile of clean clothesâand slammed and locked the door.
I pounded on that door. Open up, Hor-hay, my clothes are in there!
Sorry, Rosie, I gotta take a dump. And my stupid brother started chuckling, as if this were actually funny.
Mom! I yelled. Hor-hay wonât open the door, and my clothes are in there!
You have more clothes we havenât unpacked yet, my mom called back from the kitchen. Go check the boxes on the front porch.
I sorta slept on the floor of my parentâs room that night. By sorta, I mean a nightmare about walking around naked at my new school woke me up at around 2 a.m., and it took me a good long while to get back to sleep.
Before I left for schoolâsince the car was fixed, Mom piled all three of us in and took turns dropping us off at our various destinationsâI paused to sniff my pits. Everything smelled all right, but just to be sure, I stopped at Abuelitaâs big dresser, where she kept all sorts of perfume, and sprayed a buncha different fragrances all over me. Just to be sure.
Ainât no way anyoneâs gonna call me stinky now, I thought.
I was wrong.
It started when I was changing into P.E. clothes a few lockers away from Perfect Hair Bully Girl.
Whatâs that smell? Perfect Hair Bully Girl said to another girl.
Smells like one of those cheap air fresheners you hang in your car, her friend replied.
They both started sniffing around. Perfect Hair Bully Girl sniffed her way over to me. I was pulling shorts over my underwear when she sniffed me like a dog.
Hey Rosie. She smiled all fake. Smells like you took a bath finally.
Yeah, Perfect Hair Bully Girlâs friend said to her. She took a bath at the car wash.
They both laughed, slammed their lockers shut, locked up and strolled out to the blacktop.
Everyone in our row of the locker room heard it, of course. But no one took my side, of course.
Iâd seen this kinda thing before. There were mean jerks at my old middle school too, only no one picked on me there. They picked on the new kids and the shy kids. I knew better than to get involved, which generally meant youâd be their next target. It was easier just to ignore their attacks on others or even laugh along with them. I never bullied other kids, exactly. I just didnât stick up for them. Maybe thatâs why I had stood up for Dominique the day before. I had been a target earlier that morning, and I knew how it felt.
It was good to see Dominiqueâs smile in my next class. I remembered what the P.E. teacher said about her soccer playing in the teachersâ lounge. Not that she was playing soccer in the teachersâ lounge, but you know what I mean. I hoped she lived near me, so Iâd have someone to kick a soccer ball with in my new neighborhood. I love soccer.
Perfect Hair Bully Girl and friends sitting near her were pointing at me, whispering and giggling. Dominique knew what was going on. Theyâre just being meanies again, Dominique whispered to me. Try not to let it get to you. They pick on everyone except each other.
Perfect Hair Bully Girl was pretty except for her fat little nose. I pushed my nose up into a pig-snout shape and pointed to her. Me and Dominique both giggled. Bully Girl saw. She looked mad. I figured she was plotting her revenge.
But she and her bratty friends mostly left us alone after that, and the class was pretty uneventful.
That would change during computer class, when two boys recognized me.
Hey, arenât you our new neighbor? one boy said to me. Yeah, itâs Booty Shake Girl! the other boy said, and then they both laughed so hard, I thought they were about to pee their pants.
Thatâs when it hit me: these were two of the boys who had been kicking a ball in front of Abuelitaâs house the afternoon before.
No. Way. They were in my class?
I would never live this down.
I tried to focus on Mr. Perezâs instructions for what assignment to work on, but I couldnât help but notice the two boys were whispering and giggling with everyone sitting near them. And pointing my way.
Lunch was a welcome break from all the taunting. I got my food and practically ran to the teachersâ lounge window. I wondered what theyâd be talking about today. Hopefully, not tests and copy machines.
I was in luck.
But the teachers werenât gossiping about other students.
They were gossiping about each other.
And starting that day, I would begin to learn all the private, personal-life details teachers never want you to know about.
I hope you enjoyed reading the first three chapters of Spy in the Teachersâ Lounge. More information about this novel can be found at www.spyintheteacherslounge.wordpress.com.