Late Saturday morning, Dad and I were doing the dishes from our yummy blueberry pancake breakfast when the phone rang.
“Hello? Yes, she is. Hold on just a second. … It's Maeve,” he motioned, handing the phone to me.
“It's all set,” she chirped. “A going-away party for you at Montoya's at 4 o'clock … BSG style fabulous!” Maeve, the self-pronounced social director of the Beacon Street Girls, announced breathlessly.
I covered the receiver and told Dad what Maeve had said. He raised an eyebrow doubtfully … I knew exactly what he was thinking. He wasn't crazy about the idea of a last-minute party. Ever since he gave me permission to go to Paris, Dad had been a nervous wreck, running around and making phone calls back and forth with the airlines and the Morels as he chaotically tried to help me get ready.
“But I still have to buy a present for the Morels. I bet they'd like something from a local place … like one of Montoya's gift baskets,” I suggested to Dad before he could veto the party. “I promise I'll only stay for an hour … just long enough to say good-bye to the BSG and buy the gift. Please, Dad? Please … ?”
Dad nodded reluctantly. “All right. I have to run some errands, so I'll drop you off and pick you up. Make sure you get all of your packing finished before you go … we're leaving for the airport at 5 o'clock sharp.”
I raced upstairs to my room to put all the clothes I'd laid out into my suitcase and double-check my list. I still couldn't believe it was happening. It was a dream come true … my very own adventure back to Paris!
From all my traveling with Dad, I've learned that the best way to pack is to make a list and check off each thing as you put it in the suitcase … that way you don't end up with sneakers and no socks, or socks and no sneakers, or one T-shirt and four pairs of jeans.
Just as I was about to zip up my suitcase, Marty hopped inside and poked his head over the rim.
“Sorry, little dude, I wish you could come to Paris, but you have to stay here and keep Dad company, OK? And that's a really important job, just so you know.”
“Ruuuuuffff!” Marty leapt onto the floor and pitter-pattered to the kitchen, where I could hear Dad talking to him. I think people talk to their dogs because dogs really seem to understand what they're saying … sometimes even better than other humans.
Dad dropped me off in front of Montoya's Bakery at precisely 4 o'clock. “I'll be back in an hour to pick you up,” he reminded me.
I waved as Dad pulled away from the curb. When I looked over my shoulder, I could see all four of them—Maeve, Avery, Katani, and Isabel—through the bakery window, waiting for me at a table. Avery waved.
I jogged to the door and pulled it open. The air was filled with the sweet aroma of freshly made cookies, hot chocolate, and cinnamon. Mmmm! I stopped at the counter first to order the gift basket for the Morels so I wouldn't forget.
“Are you all packed and ready?” Maeve asked when I made it to the table.
“I'm ready,” I declared with a smile.
“Paris. I've always wanted to go to Paris,” Maeve sighed. “The City of Light. The City of Love! So many of the great romantic movies were set there. It's where Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant felt the magic spell of love in Charade. And, oh, who could ever forget An American in Paris? It was so dreamy.”
Avery made a face. “What are you talking about, Maeve? You act like Charlotte is going to Paris for romance. She's going there to find Orangina and visit Sophie. Hey, Char, make sure you tell Miss Pierce I'll come over every day and take Marty for a run.”
“OK, but I think she's excited about playing with him, too,” I replied.
Even though Marty lived with me, he really belonged to all of us—after all, he was the official BSG mascot. We found the “little dude” abandoned in the park during the first week of school. We didn't know if we'd be able to keep him because Miss Pierce, my landlady, used to have a NO PETS rule. But it all worked out, and now Miss Pierce loved Marty like the rest of us. How could she not? He was irresistibly adorable! When she heard I was going to Paris, Miss Pierce said she would be glad to watch after the little guy whenever Dad's not around.
“You'll have time to do some shopping, won't you, Charlotte?” Katani asked.
“Shopping?” I was confused.
Katani was clearly horrified by my reaction. “Listen to me, Miss Charlotte Ramsey. Paris is one of the world's major fashion hotspots! I mean, as you're looking for Orangina, maybe you could check out the store windows on the Champs-Elysées for just a minute?” Of course, Katani, the fashion diva of our group, knew about the famous fashion streets of Paris. By what she was wearing—a rose-colored shirt with a drape neck, jeans, and tall black boots—it looked like she'd gone to Paris to pick out her outfit that very morning.
“Katani has a point. I mean, I know you're going to look for Orangina, but you'll have time to visit the museums, won't you?” Isabel asked. “Have you ever been to the Picasso Museum?”
“No,” I admitted, a little embarrassed that I had lived in Paris for so long and never visited one of its most famous museums. “But I did see some of Picasso's work at the Louvre. Maybe I'll have time to visit a museum or two, but I'm mostly excited to get Orangina back and see Sophie again.”
“Picasso has lots of art in the Louvre, but the Picasso Museum has even more,” Isabel said. “He spent a lot of time in Paris studying the works of other famous artists and working on his own pieces. His work is still influencing artists today.” Isabel was usually pretty quiet, but she always lit up when she talked about something she loved. And art was definitely that something. I had a feeling that someday we'd see one of her paintings hanging in a museum. It would be so wonderful to walk around with my family and say, “Yes, that famous, world-renowned artist Isabel Martinez is one of my best friends.”
“So you're really going to Paris?” Nick asked as he brought a tray of hot chocolate and muffins to the table. Nick Montoya was in our seventh-grade class. His parents owned Montoya's and Nick helped out. I really liked Nick, and he was always nice to me and the BSG. He was the only guy I knew who was really interested in all the places I had been in the world. Nick would be a great world traveler someday. Maybe he and I could hike the Himalayas together when we grew up!
I nodded. “Only for a week. I'm leaving tonight and I'll be back next Saturday afternoon. I'm going to visit Sophie and look for Orangina. Sophie said she saw him near our old houseboat. If I find Orangina, I'm going to bring him back home with me.” I knew Nick would understand how important this trip was … I'd told him all about Sophie and Orangina before.
“Do you think Marty likes cats?” Avery wondered.
“Even if he doesn't, he'll love Orangina,” I assured her. Although secretly I wasn't quite certain that Marty could love any cat, even one as cool as Orangina.
“Time for presents!” Maeve announced as soon as Nick left the table.
“Presents? Are you serious? You didn't have to do that!” I exclaimed.
“What would a bon voyage party be without bon voyage presents?” Maeve reasoned.
“We couldn't let you leave without something to remember us by,” Isabel said.
“But I'll only be gone a week,” I protested.
“Me first!” Maeve insisted, pushing a small pink bag overflowing with hot pink tissue paper toward me.
I reached in. It was a pen on a cord, decorated Maeve-style with tiny gold and silver stars. Maeve knew how much I loved stargazing.
“This is so cool!” I exclaimed.
“Writers should never go anywhere without a pen! You know, you are going to write on your barf bag, but you need something to write with,” Maeve said. “Besides, you might be inspired to start your first novel while walking along the Seine. You never know!”
“Thanks, Maeve,” I said. “That was really thoughtful of you. Maybe when I publish my first novel, Barf Bag Memories, I'll dedicate it to you.”
Maeve grimaced. Barf bags weren't exactly to her liking, but I liked to write a note on them every time I traveled on a plane.
“Me next,” Avery said impatiently, pushing a crumpled brown paper bag in my direction. “Sorry, I didn't have time to wrap it.” The presentation was so Avery.
I took a small notebook out of the bag.
“It'll fit in your back pocket. I didn't think you'd want to lug your journal through the streets of Paris. If you turn to the back pages, there's a little map of Paris there that I got off the Internet. I don't agree with Maeve … I think you'll need a pen AND something to write on.”
“Thanks, Avery I'm going to try to fill the whole thing up in one week.”
Katani pushed a lemon-colored bag forward. The top of the bag had been double-folded. Katani had punched two large holes in the double-fold, threaded a gauzy orange ribbon through the holes, tied the bag closed with a perfect bow, and included a card to match. I untied the ribbon, opened the bag, and found a knitted hat in a rich, royal purple … my favorite color.
“Oh, Katani. It's beautiful … and very stylish!” I exclaimed, pressing it to my cheek. It was the softest yarn I'd ever felt.
“Isn't it the coolest shade of purple? The bright color will make your eyes pop and seem even more green than usual,” she remarked.
“Did you make it?”
Katani nodded. “I'd already started it for you before I was sure about the Paris trip, but I worked faster these past couple of days and got it done just in time.”
“Wow—it's wonderful. Thank you so much, Katani!” I remembered back to how Katani and I first met, and how she didn't want to be my friend. And now we were such good friends. Life was just so surprising sometimes.
“Last but not least …” Isabel said, holding up the gift bag on her lap. She peeked inside. “It seems kind of silly now, but I thought it was perfect when I found it at the Book Nook. I really wanted to get you the book The Ultimate Picasso, but it was way too expensive. So I got you this instead. I hope you like it!”
“A Picasso coloring book?” Avery asked when I pulled the book from the bag. “Isabel, coloring books are for babies, not 12 year olds,” she blurted out in her typical abrupt manner.
Isabel blushed. “It is a coloring book, but it's for kids our age, Avery. I thought Charlotte would want something to do on the plane. There's a set of colored pencils in there. It has all sorts of cool facts about Picasso too.”
“I love it, Isabel. Thanks so much. I was looking for something to do on the plane, and this will be perfect.” I was not a great artist, but I still liked to color. It could be super relaxing.
We barely had time to finish our hot chocolate and one of Montoya's famous muffins before Avery announced that she had seen my dad drive by the window.
“I better go … my dad wants to head to the airport early in case there's traffic.”
I gave them each a hug and they stacked the bon voyage gifts in my arms.
“Email us!” Maeve called as I hurried out the door.
I turned back to wave at the girls and nearly crashed into a man walking down the sidewalk.
“Wait! Wait!” Katani called as she rushed out the door toward me. “I forgot to ask you something.”
“Sure, what is it?”
“OK, it's a big favor. I was wondering … if it's not too much trouble,” Katani started to say, suddenly seeming shy for a change. She thrust a small box into one of the gift bags in my arms. “It's a disposable camera. Would you take a few pictures of the clothes in Paris? I'm looking for some European inspiration for my Kgirl designs.”
I promised Katani that I would take as many pictures as I could. Then the man in the car behind Dad blew his horn impatiently for the second time, so I hopped into our car and waved out the window as we drove down Harvard Street. Just as Dad was turning the corner onto Beacon, I suddenly remembered something. “Oops! Dad, can you pull over?”
“What's the matter? Are you OK?” he asked as he pulled into a parking spot, looking concerned.
“Yeah … I just forgot the Morels' gift basket.” I jumped out onto the sidewalk and jogged back toward Montoya's Bakery.
Nick must have seen me coming, because he was waiting at the door of the bakery with the gift basket in his hands.
“Have a great trip, Charlotte. I want to hear all about Paris when you get back … especially the bakeries. Paris is supposed to be famous for its pastries, but are they any match for Montoya's?” Nick asked with grin.
“No, no of course not!” I laughed, taking the basket from him. “Thanks, Nick. There is no way I'm leaving Paris without at least one incredible story. I hope!”