Stars and books have always been my best friends. My books go with me wherever we move. And the stars, they are always there when we get there. The first stars I look for are the three in Orion's belt because they're the brightest. Close friends are harder to find. Well, actually, keeping them is the hard part. Every time I find a best friend, we move.
The night before starting Abigail Adams Junior High, I pulled my fleece blanket around me and snuggled deep into the beanbag chair I had dragged out on the balcony of my new bedroom. I missed Sophie and Paris, but I was excited, too. This year was going to be different. Dad's a writer and likes to live wherever his book in progress is based. We've moved every two or three years since I was four. For the first time ever, I was the one who had chosen where Dad and I would live: Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.A. I was born here, and even though I could barely remember it, this was where we were a family before my mother died. I hoped we'd be here for a long, long time ...
“Charlotte? Why is your light out?”
“It's easier to see the stars. I'm outside, Dad.”
“Of course. How could I forget!” he said. “Isn't that a great balcony?”
“It's just perfect! Come see!”
Dad came through my bedroom and the outside door to kneel beside me, as he had many times over the years. “Remember the first time I showed you Orion?”
“Sure, Dad ... Africa.”
“Little different here, isn't it?” he said, putting his arm around me.
“Yeah ... in the southern hemisphere, Orion's upside down. But you can still see him from here. I like that.”
“How are you feeling about school tomorrow?”
“You mean, like in Africa, surrounded by laughing hyenas? Don't worry, Dad. The kids will not be laughing at me tomorrow. No more first-day disasters.”
“I'm almost sorry to hear that,” said Dad. “It's become kind of a first-night tradition to hear how you shake things up.” He smiled. “Which story is my favorite? Port Douglas? No—Paris! Sure I won't be getting a phone call about my daughter spying in the boys' bathroom?”
“Dad, they speak English in this country. How was I supposed to know that `Garçon' meant boy? I couldn't escape once all those garçons were in there. Tomorrow will be different, you'll see. What about you? How are you feeling about your first day of school tomorrow, Professor Ramsey?”
“Well, it's been awhile, but I dragged out the old lesson plans, and they're not looking too shabby.”
“Lesson plans? Come on, Dad. What are you wearing? That's what they're going to notice.” I dragged him inside. “I've been studying kids for a week here to figure out how to fit in. I've got the Brookline camouflage look all figured out … hooded sweatshirt, jeans, and flip-flops.”
“Charlotte, do you honestly think they're going to care about my clothes after I enchant them with my fascinating thoughts on creative writing? I have gems to share about character development that ...”
“Dad, I hate to tell you this, but kids notice teachers' clothes much more than what they say, especially the first day. I think you should wear jeans. Are you riding your bike?”
“Sure.” He nodded.
“Then, whatever you do, don't leave your pants tucked into your socks.”
“My daughter, the nerd police,” he laughed.
He leaned against the doorway and checked out my room.
“This looks great, Charlotte. That photo you took from the top of the Eiffel Tower is one of my favorites.”
He walked over to the desk, which was perfectly arranged with my pens, journals, laptop, and picture of me and Mom on the swan boats in Boston when I was a baby.
“I'm glad you like the desk,” he said. “Your mother spent a lot of hours at it, grading papers.”
“It's the best!” I said, giving him a hug. “I've always wanted a writing desk with a cool view.”
“Are you about ready for bed?”
“I want to send Sophie an email.”
“Well, don't stay up too late. Goodnight, sweetheart.”
“Night, Dad,” I said, giving him a kiss.
Hey sophie. 2morrow's the 1st day of school and i'm starting all over again.
i miss you so much. Sooooo glad you got the pics of our house. i knew you would love the room on top with all the windows. fantastique, magnifique, merveilleux, n'est-ce pas? i call it the Tower. dad says it's just a decoration. I'm hoping there's a passageway to a real room. glad you approve of my new bedroom with the balcony. a little different than swinging from a hammock in the houseboat. speaking of the houseboat, will you check if Orangina by any chance came home?
Au revoir, charlotte
I didn't want to think anymore about school, so I began to write an idea for my best-seller book file. If I write fast enough, I can usually chase away the butterflies zooming around in my stomach.