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Bewitching Birthday Excerpt

Shortly before three o’clock on a cool October Friday, the dismissal bell at Tom Cruise Junior High School rang, causing the glass front doors of the one-story silver and white building to burst open and a sea of students to surge out into the crisp autumn air where “Everyday Is A Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow was playing from a bright yellow convertible that was sitting down at the curb waiting to pick up a student or two.  As the crowd began to gravitate down the white marble stairs that led to the sidewalk and fire lane, where a line of limos and other expensive sports cars had pulled up behind the buses and yellow convertible, some of the students stopped and gathered in small groups to discuss the latest events that had occurred between lunch and the end of the day while others, who were more eager to abandon the campus for the next two days, hurried off to find their buses. 


But while the majority of the student body at Tom Cruise had raced out the door with almost the same level of anticipation and excitement that they had on the last day of school, inside the school building, thirteen-year-old Kaitlin Lawrence was in no hurry to step outside and navigate the throng of wealthy and snobbish students who made her eighth-grade existence miserable on almost a daily basis.  Instead, she stood at her brilliant gold locker delaying the moment when she would have to step outside and sadly walk to one of the five public school buses that carried middle-class students like her back down to their homes in Keystone, California’s valley by taking as much time as she could possibly waste to stuff the books she needed for her weekend homework into her green JanSport backpack.


As Kaitlin slowly reached up and pulled her social studies book from the top shelf of her locker, Suzanne Darski, a girl with bright green eyes and chin-length auburn hair that framed her angular face, hurried up to her.  “Hey, Kate,” she said as she stopped next to her best friend’s locker and took a moment to more firmly secure her backpack’s zipper around the tight bundle of books that she had shoved inside.  “Are you ready to go?”


Kaitlin nodded as she slowly shoved the social studies book into her bag.  “Almost,” she replied.  “I just need a couple more minutes.”


Suzanne understandingly nodded.  “Because it’s happening again,” she realized as she crossed her arms over her dark blue long-sleeve cable-knit turtleneck sweater, which had ribbed trim.  “Missy’s teasing you again, right?”


Kaitlin sighed as she pulled three spiral notebooks from her locker, stuffed them into her bag, and then slammed the locker shut.  “Not Missy,” she corrected Suzanne, pulling the zipper of her backpack closed as she began to make her way down the hall where a few students like herself and Suzanne still remained at their lockers.  “But her friends, Mayteana and Prudence.  They kept looking at me and laughing in math class today, which makes me think they’re up to something.”


Suzanne just shook her head in pity, her black boots thumping softly against the school’s red velvet hall carpeting as she fell into step beside Kaitlin.  “Jeez,” she said.  “And here I was naively thinking that telling Missy off at that boutique up in Beverly Hills last month would be enough to get those girls to shut up and leave us alone forever.”


Kaitlin just smirked as she slung her backpack onto her shoulder and then stuffed her hands into the pockets of her dark blue jeans.  “Well,” she said.  “At least it got them to stop for an entire month.  I think that’s longer than they’ve ever backed off before.”


Suzanne grinned.  “Yeah,” she agreed with a nod as they reached the front exit of the school, pushed their way out into the breezy afternoon, and began to walk toward the stairs.  “I guess we accomplished something with that, didn’t we?”  As

Kaitlin quietly nodded in agreement, she took a deep breath and asked, “So what were those two witches laughing about anyway?”


Kaitlin just shook her head as she stopped at the top of the stairs and began to look around for bus number 815.  “I don’t know,” she replied as a chilly breeze from nearby Water Brook Bay began to blow her loose shoulder-length brown hair back from her face.  “But if I had to guess, I’d say it has something to do with my birthday coming up in ten days.”   


Suzanne gave her a sympathetic look.  “Yeah,” she said.  “Your Halloween birthday.  They just can’t let you live that down, can they?”


Kaitlin sighed.  “It’s not even them making me out to be evil or whatever that bothers me so much about being born on Halloween,” she admitted as she spotted the bus and began to make her way down the stairs.  “It’s my family.” 


Suzanne frowned.  “Your family?” she repeated in confusion as she followed Kaitlin down the stairs.


Kaitlin nodded.  “Yeah,” she agreed, smoothing back her hair as the wind ruffled it again.  “Since my birthday’s on a holiday, everybody except Keri Ann always forgets because they’re too excited about getting costumes and going trick-or-treating to think about me.”  She shook her head.  “Usually, it’s November first by the time everyone else remembers.  They’re all apologetic and everything, and we still have a party and all, but I still wish they’d remember on the actual day, you know?”


“Hmm,” said Suzanne, stuffing her hands into the pockets of her jeans and thoughtfully nodding as they reached the sidewalk.  “Well, maybe there’s something we can do to make sure they don’t forget this year.”


Turning to her friend, Kaitlin gave her a doubtful look.  “Something like what?” she asked.


But before Suzanne had a chance to come up with any promising ideas, the telltale sound of expensive heels clicking against cement caught her and Kaitlin’s attention.  Slowly turning to the left, both girls found that Missy Featherspoon, Tom Cruise Junior High’s most popular eighth grader, was now headed toward them perfectly dressed in a dark blue denim knee-length skirt that had a frayed handkerchief hem, a tan suede long-sleeve button-down jacket, a red-orange merino wool V-neck long-sleeve sweater that was worn over a white silk short-sleeve top, and a pair of mahogany-brown knee-high boots.


Uh-oh, thought Kaitlin, nervously stuffing her hands into the yellow-green pouch pocket of her green three-quarter-sleeve hooded sweatshirt as Missy spotted her and flashed her a smug smile.  Here it comes.  The first round of birthday teasing.


But instead of unleashing the string of nasty comments and cackling that Kaitlin normally expected of her, Missy simply smiled and said, “Witch.”  Then she tossed her loose long blond waves over her shoulder and continued down the sidewalk to where her limousine sat parked at the curb waiting to take her home.


“Witch,” Suzanne repeated in disbelief as she watched Missy pull open the backdoor of her limo, un-shoulder her mahogany-brown shoulder bag, and climb inside.  “Boy, she’s original.  Because isn’t that the same thing she’s been trying to do for the last three years on your birthday?  Make everyone believe that you’re a witch just because you were born on Halloween?”


Kaitlin just shrugged.  “Hey,” she said as she watched Missy pull her door shut.  “At least she actually remembers my birthday.”  Turning back to her friend as Missy’s chauffeur started up the limo and began to drive toward the parking lot exit, she sighed and added, “And right now, that’s more then I can say for my family, who’s supposed to care about me.  So come on.  Let’s go before I have a chance to get even more depressed about how my enemy always remembers while they don’t.”


As Kaitlin began to make her way over to their bus, Suzanne let out a sympathetic sigh.  “There must be someway,” she muttered.  “Someway to make Kaitlin’s family realize how important it is to her that they remember her birthday and celebrate it on the real day instead of the day after.  But what?”  Shaking her head in frustration over her lack of ideas, she turned and began to head for the bus herself.

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