Charlotte in Paris

La Meilleure Nouvelle

The Best News Ever

Stars and books

To: Charlotte

From: Sophie

Subject: Orangina

i have seen Orangina!

it was him

i'm so sure ... he was wandering by the Seine

i call his name and he turn around

i took only 1 step in his direction and he ran away

you must come. he would come to you if you called him

i worry about him ... alone with no charming houseboat to return to at night

i have a few days off from school because of teacher meetings next week

i'll talk to maman. you talk to your father

you must come to Paris!

Orangina needs you

And you have been away much too long!

bisous,

Sophie

It took me hours to fall asleep that night. Too many visions of a sugar plum Orangina were dancing in my head. The next morning, I jumped out of bed as soon as my alarm went off, and I rushed to the kitchen to tell Dad about the email. When I got to the part about Sophie begging me to come to Paris, I began to talk faster and faster. It was like I was on fast forward.

I know—it's short notice, but Dad, it's such good timing. I don't have any tests next week, and I miss Sophie so much! It feels like forever since I've seen her! Can you believe she found Orangina? I looked online last night at flights, and they're actually really cheap right now, and we don't have school next Friday because it's a professional day, and I haven't missed a day of school yet this year and” I had to stop and take a deep breath. I was trying to stay calm, but it wasn't easy.

So?” I asked tentatively. My dad is pretty laid back as far as dads go, but still … I knew it was a real long shot. I mean, who sends their daughter to Paris to find a missing cat?

Are you really asking me if you can jet off to Paris next week … alone?” Dad looked amused.

Well … uhh … uhh … actually … yes.” I crossed my fingers behind my back and tapped my foot on the floor. It's what I do when I want something really, really badly.

Dad stirred his cinnamon oatmeal around and around and looked thoughtful. “I don't know, Charlotte. I'd love to be able to just say yes and send you off on a great adventure. I know Orangina means a lot to you, and how much you miss Sophie. But there are a lot of things to think about. It's a big deal to miss a week of school.” My dad teaches creative writing at Boston University, so school is very important to him. He continued, “I know I hate to see my students miss a class … it's hard to catch up. Even if tickets are cheap, it's still a significant amount of money. And to be honest, I don't know how I feel about sending you off on a plane all by yourself. We've always traveled together.

I took a deep breath and launched into the responses I had rehearsed before falling asleep the night before. “I can talk to my teachers before I leave, and I know the BSG will collect all of my assignments. I'm doing really well in school, and I'll work extra hard before I leave and even harder when I get back. Besides, I still have some money saved from my birthday last year that I could put toward the ticket. And I know I've never traveled by myself before, but plenty of kids my age do it. Avery's flown by herself to see her dad in Colorado a couple of times. And I'm sure the Morels would meet me as soon as I got off the plane. Besides,” I paused to catch my breath, “Traveling is very educational.

Dad laughed out loud. I knew that last comment would crack him up. It's something he was always telling me.

Well, Charlotte, you've presented a good case for yourself, that's for sure. Maybe you should think about becoming a lawyer. Did you memorize your speech, or was that a spur of the moment thing?” he asked with a smile.

A little bit of both,” I admitted.

Charlotte, I know how much a trip back to Paris would mean to you, but I need to think about this. This is not trivial. We can talk about it later tonight.

OK,” I agreed. Suddenly, I felt a little bit optimistic. At least it wasn't an outright “NO.

Just as I was pouring myself a glass of orange juice, the phone rang. Dad picked it up, and I froze in my tracks. “Oh, bonjour, Jacqueline.” It was Madame Morel—Sophie's mom. Dad motioned me out of the room. I sighed and took my orange juice and oatmeal into the hallway, but I lurked at the door. I just had to hear what my dad was saying.

Marty trotted down the hallway and sat on my foot, begging for oatmeal. I peered around the doorway and tried to get a sense of how the conversation was going. Dad mostly listened. I chuckled to myself. Madame Morel was a real talker. Marty's little doggie ears perked up every time Dad said anything, but Marty never took his eyes off the oatmeal. The little dude loves his snacks.

Oui, yes, I know … I agree … I hope so too … thanks for calling, it was nice to hear your voice again … I'm sure you understand what's going on here … Talk to you soon, Jacqueline. Au revoir.” My father hung up the phone.

Charlotte!

I waited a few seconds before walking back into the kitchen, even though I knew that Dad knew I had been listening. “Yes?

You need to give me time to think this whole thing over. As I said, I'm not making a decision right now. Not even a phone call from Paris will change that. OK?

OK.

And try not to get your hopes up either.

I'll try.

That would be easier said than done. It was hard not to hope. Madame Morel could be a very convincing woman. I had a feeling that whatever she had just said may have tipped the scales in my favor!

~

When I arrived that morning at Ms. Rodriguez' homeroom, Maeve was sitting on the edge of her desk, chatting a mile a minute with Katani and Isabel.

Char!” Maeve exclaimed as I dropped my bag on my desk. “There's a substitute in for Mr. Sherman today. Isn't that great?” Mr. Sherman, the math teacher nicknamed “the Crow,” was Maeve's least favorite teacher.

Maeve could make anyone excited about anything. She was dramatic and bubbly, and just an all around fun person to be around. Most importantly, she was one of my best friends. When I first moved to Brookline, Maeve, Katani, Avery, and I formed a club called the Beacon Street Girls. Then Isabel moved to Brookline a few weeks into the school year, and now the five of us are best friends.

Before I had a chance to answer Maeve, Avery came barreling through the door. She dropped her duffle bag and quickly gathered her hair up in her favorite soccer ball hair tie. “I thought I was going to be late! I couldn't find my math book—somehow it ended up next to Walter's tank in my closet.” Avery's pet snake, Walter, was actually kind of cute. A total pet lover, it's her dream to get a dog of her own someday, but her mom's allergy to furry pets makes that impossible. That's why Marty has lived with me ever since we found him in a garbage can. The BSG all love Marty, but Avery has a real soft spot for him.

Maeve shuddered. “Eeeew … I don't know which is worse … math or snakes.” Maeve's learning problems sometimes made school hard for her. Nothing could stop that girl's talent on stage, though. She was headed straight for Hollywood!

Snakes. Definitely snakes.” Katani shuddered as she smoothed her newly cut bangs over her forehead. She was looking stylish as usual that morning, wearing a knee-length skirt that she had designed and sewn herself.

I couldn't hold it in any longer. “I … I might be going to Paris,” I blurted out.

What?!” Maeve exclaimed.

Are you serious, Char?” Isabel asked.

I'm completely serious. But I'm not sure if it'll actually happen yet.” I filled the BSG in on the whole story, starting with the email from Sophie and ending with Dad's warning not to get my hopes up.

Parents always say that. I bet he'll let you go. He would've said no already if he was against it,” Avery speculated.

I hope you're right, Ave … but sometimes when my mom says don't get your hopes up, she still ends up saying no. It's the worst,” Katani concluded.

My Aunt Lourdes does that too. But I think it'll be impossible for you not to get your hopes up, Char. So let's just talk about Paris … you'll be thinking about it all day anyway.” Isabel's eyes sparkled as she listed the Paris museums and art galleries she wanted to visit someday. “Oh, and the Musée d'Orsay! I think that would be my absolute favorite. Cézanne's Apples and Oranges, Van Gogh's The Siesta … Did you guys know that the museum was built in an old train station?

As the bell rang and the last stragglers raced into homeroom, I listened to my friends' excited chatter about Paris and wondered what the day would bring. Isabel was right … it was impossible not to get my hopes up. I crossed my fingers … for Orangina, for Sophie, for Paris, and for a new adventure.