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Twenty-three

Marilee Haynes Pauline Books and Media ePub

Twenty-three

My mom drops us off in front of the Central Carolina College science building. There’s a big sign that says “Welcome Olympians” on the lawn. Being called an Olympian makes me feel like I should have a javelin in my hand or be lacing up my speed skates, but I guess the sign means we’re in the right place.

My mom has some cookie deliveries to make, but she’ll be back later. I don’t know if my dad is coming. I didn’t ask, and my mom didn’t say. I know Maya’s parents definitely will be here later, and Linc’s probably won’t be. He said he thought they both had to work.

The competition starts in an hour. I’m nervous. The kind of nervous that if I was a girl I might say I have butterflies. But guys don’t say they have butterflies, so I won’t say that. Ever. It’s also the kind of nervous that usually makes my stomach churn and clench. But that’s not happening. Not today. I touch my grandpa’s medal through my shirt to remind myself. I’ve got this.

“Wow. Look at all these people. I guess this is a big deal, huh?” Linc stands just inside the door of the enormous auditorium with his mouth open.

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Chapter Twenty-Eight “Exceptional”

Carol A. Grund Pauline Books and Media ePub

Okay, now she needed to sit down. This was by far the most personal thing Kai had ever said to her.

“Well, I guess I can see that,” she admitted, dropping her backpack on the floor and sinking into a chair across from him. “I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I first moved here, either. In fact, I was pretty upset about the whole thing.”

He nodded. “For me there was great disappointment in coming here. This is my father’s first assignment in the United States. Naturally I was excited. I wanted to live in one of the big cities I had read about—Los Angeles or New York or maybe Washington, D.C.”

“So what did he say when you told him that?”

Told him? Where we live is my father’s choice,” he said. “My duty is to respect his wishes, not question them.”

Of course Anna Mei knew that the Chens were pretty traditional, but this sounded extreme.

“You mean, you don’t get any say in where you live? Ever?”

“A Chinese father is the head of his family,” he explained. “My father makes decisions that are best for my mother and me. Wherever he says we must go, we go.”

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Chapter Twenty-Three Telling the Truth

Carol A. Grund Pauline Books and Media ePub

It was almost as if her thoughts had conjured him up.

“I was on my way to your house,” he said, “but I thought I should check here first, just in case. Guess I know you pretty well, Cartoon Girl.”

His smile was a pale ghost of the one she was used to seeing, the one that lit up his whole face. She turned away from it, away from him.

Don’t,” she said, in a voice that almost hissed. “Don’t ever call me that again.”

She heard rather than saw him lay his bike down and sit on the grass next to it.

“I’m sorry, Anna Mei,” he said, leaving out the forced humor he’d tried before. “I mean, that’s what I came to tell you. I’m really sorry about the way I acted at my house. I was just so surprised to see you there.”

There was no way to leave without walking past him, and she didn’t feel ready to stand up yet anyway. The best she could do was keep her eyes fixed straight ahead and hope he would go away soon.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said.

“Of course it matters,” he said. “You’re my friend.”

That made her turn toward him, eyes wide. She was sure he’d be smiling, since that had to be another joke. But he was looking down at the ground, not at her.

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Chapter Twenty-Five A Big Eraser

Carol A. Grund Pauline Books and Media ePub

The weekend seemed to drag on endlessly. Anna Mei felt restless and bored, searching for ways to fill up her time. It didn’t help that Zandra was out of town at a family reunion, and Lauren was away at swim camp. Even Dad was busy with work he’d brought home, still trying to catch up from the Seattle trip.

On Saturday, Aunt Karen came over to help Mom make bread, pies, and cookies for a church bake sale. Anna Mei joined them for a while. Doing ordinary things like measuring flour and cracking eggs in a bowl helped to take her mind off things. But when the kitchen got too hot and the work got too boring, she bailed out.

Besides, every once in a while she caught her mother looking at her with that expression Anna Mei recognized—the one that meant I’m worried about you.

“How did it go?” Mom had asked on Friday, when Anna Mei came home from the nature center. “Did you two get things straightened out?”

Anna Mei had intended to tell her the whole story—all about how Danny had only been pretending that everything was fine, when all the time he’d been keeping this big secret. Worse than that, he’d been coming over to their house to get away from the problems at his own.

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35 TREINTA Y CINCO

Lizette M. Lantigua Pauline Books and Media ePub

Sonia, Tommy, and Luisito rushed to the car before anyone could have a change of mind.

“Why do you all have to go?” José asked. “Tommy, you stay, and let’s help Abuelo with the lawn.”

“I want to go with them,” Tommy said. “I’ll help when I come back.”

“Yeah, right,” José said. “Those kids will probably end up at the mall. They won’t be back right away.”

“Oh, let them have fun!” Maricusa said. “They’ll only be young once.”

Sonia backed the car out and drove two blocks to the nearest stop sign. She pulled over and opened the paper her mother had given them. The paper was folded like a greeting card. It had directions to the grocery store on the front, and on the inside it had instructions on how to get to the shrine.

“This is easy,” Sonia said. “I’ve never driven to the shrine, but I’ve come every time we visit. It’s right by Mercy Hospital. There are signs pointing to the hospital all over the main road. Super easy!”

“Okay, well, let’s get it done,” Tommy said.

Luisito couldn’t feel completely calm until he had delivered his message. He hoped it would benefit Abuela or Cuba somehow.

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