Chapter One: I Don’t Like Change
Chapter One I Don’t Like Change
My friend Sophia was looking at me like I was crazy. “But you have a job!” she said. “That’s so cool!”
I sighed and pushed my bangs off my face. They were really starting to annoy me, and I had to decide if I should just let them grow out or get them trimmed.
“Well, yes and no,” I said. “Yes because it’s cool to work at Donut Dreams, but no because it’s hard work, and I’d rather be doing a lot of other things, like going out for pizza tomorrow with you.”
I work at my family’s restaurant, the Park View Table, after school Fridays and one day on the weekends. This week I’m working on Sunday.
Inside the Park there’s a donut counter, Donut Dreams, that my grandmother started with her homemade donuts, which are kind of legendary around here. I work at the Donut Dreams counter with my cousin Lindsay.
Pretty much the rest of the family, from my sisters to my mom to my grandparents and everyone in between, also works at the Park. It’s definitely a family business, and everyone in the family is expected to help out at the restaurant. We are paid, of course, but it’s not like there’s some discussion about where you want to work.
When Grandpa and Nans, which is what we call our grandmother, think that you’re ready, you get offered a job, and then they figure out the best place for each of us in the restaurant. Saying something like, No thanks, I’d rather lifeguard at the pool than work in the restaurant, isn’t really an option. Or at least no one has really tried.
I don’t mind working with my family, but it’s hard when my free time is eaten up by work while my friends get to hang out and do things—like how Sophia, Michelle, and Riley were planning to go out for pizza after school the next day.
“Hey! Are you coming with us tomorrow?” asked Riley as she plunked herself down at the lunch table.
“She’s working,” said Sophia with her mouth full.
“What?” said Riley, and then without waiting for an answer, she called out, “Oh hey, Isabella, over here!” Sophia and I looked up to see Isabella walking toward us.
We live in a small town called Bellgrove, which is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else and always has. People rarely move here, so we’ve been in school with the same kids since kindergarten.
Poor Elizabeth Ellis is still known as “Wetsy Betsy” because she peed her pants in kindergarten. That’s awful, and maybe I’d feel differently if I were Elizabeth, but I think it’s still pretty nice to hang out with kids you’ve always known. So now that we’re in middle school, it’s not like there are suddenly any new kids around, but it seems like the groups of friends are changing.
Sophia, Michelle, Riley, and I have been what my dad calls “four peas in a pod” since we were toddlers. We have other friends too, but everyone knows we’ve always been a crew.
But when school started, Riley was suddenly really into hanging out with Isabella, who seems to be joining us at lunch on the regular.
Whenever I complain about having more people around instead of it just being the four of us, my mom always replies, “When it comes to friends, additions are always okay, but subtractions are not.”
So I’m trying to be okay with more friends, but sometimes I’d like to subtract Isabella and just make it Sophia, Michelle, Riley, and me, like it always has been.
Sophia wrinkled her brow a little bit when Isabella sat next to Riley. No one else noticed, but if you’ve known her for eleven years like I have, you’d have noticed.
Michelle uses a wheelchair, and she wheeled her way over to my side. “Scootch over,” she said, and I made room for her.
“Hey, Isabella,” Sophia said.
Isabella put her tray down and looked like she was going to cry.
“What’s wrong?” Sophia asked.
“You guys, I totally think I am going to fail my coding class,” Isabella said. “I just do not get it.”
“Bella, it’s only the second month of school!” said Riley. “You’ll get the hang of it.” I had never really heard anyone call Isabella “Bella” before.
“Yeah, chill out, Isabella,” Michelle said. “Take a deep breath. It’s going to be fine.”
“Ugh,” said Isabella. “It’s just so hard and there’s so much pressure. I mean, they all say that everything starts to matter in middle school if you want to go to college!” she complained.
“You still have a long way until college!” I said. “No need to worry about it now. Trust me, my sister Jenna is in high school. That’s when the pressure really starts.”
That wasn’t entirely accurate. Jenna had been talking about college for a good seven years. Jenna is the oldest of my siblings (she’s a junior in high school) and a little bossy. Actually she’s a lot bossy.
She and Lindsay, and even my adopted sister Molly, who is a few months older than me, are always talking about going away to college. My parents are okay with this, but I can tell they don’t want us to go too far. Jenna talks about how she wants to go to a school in California, which kind of scares me.
She is also always talking about “getting away” from our small town, like it’s some bad place to be. She loves reading about big cities or seeing movies that take place in big cities. One year for her birthday, Jenna asked for a bunch of travel guidebooks to all the big cities in the world, even though she’s only been to one of them: Chicago.
I don’t understand why you’d ever want to leave Bellgrove. This town is home to me. I mean, sure, it would be nice to go somewhere sometimes without being totally recognized, but then again, seeing familiar people is kind of nice.
I like that the person who cuts my hair has been cutting it since I was a baby; that the librarian, Ms. Castro, has known me since even before I could read; and that every year we do the same things, like go apple picking at Green Hills Orchards in September before we get the same hot apple cider at Corner Stop.
I like living within a few minutes of just about every single person in my extended family. All those things to me are not just dull things we’re stuck with—they’re traditions and familiar people and they make me feel safe.
I know I’ll have to go to college in another town because there isn’t a college here, but the closest state university, where my mom and dad and aunt and uncle went to school, is about two hours away. Mom keeps reassuring me that I can come home on the weekends if I want to.
When we have these conversations, Jenna just rolls her eyes and says, “Really, Kelsey? Stretch yourself! Open your eyes to new adventures! It’s only two hours away!”
But to be honest, two hours away from everything I know sounds like plenty of an adventure for me.
“So,” Sophia said, jolting me back to the table. “Are you going to try out for the field hockey team like we talked about?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it sounds fun, and Mom really wants me to do something active,” I said.
Mom and Dad are always taking us on walks or bike rides, even when it’s freezing cold outside. I wasn’t too sure how I’d like playing competitively, but I love to be outside, especially in fall when the air turns crisp and smells so good.
“As long as I can still keep my hours working at the restaurant,” I added.
“But your grandparents own the place where you work!” Riley said. “I’m guessing they can work with your schedule!”
“You’d think,” I said, “but Grandpa is a stickler for not giving us special consideration. We still have to clock in a certain amount of hours, unless our grades slip. School comes first.”
“So if you fail a few tests, you can get out of work,” snorted Isabella, or Bella.
“If I fail a few tests, I’d have a lot more to deal with than missing work,” I retorted, kind of snapping at her. I don’t know why, but Isabella gets under my skin sometimes.
“Well…,” said Riley. She paused, and Sophia and I looked up. “Bella and I were thinking about doing soccer instead of field hockey.”
I caught Sophia’s eyes, which looked as surprised as mine.
“That’s great!” Michelle said. “So now I’ll take photos of the soccer team as well as field hockey.” Michelle takes awesome photos and dreams of being a professional photographer someday.
Riley bit her lip. “The thing is, I’m not sure I’m great at field hockey, and I know I’m a pretty good soccer player, so I want to try out for the team.”
Isabella looked at her and smiled. I had a weird feeling they’d talked about this before. Sophia looked at me.
I shrugged. “Well, you should always do what makes you happy,” I said. “Soph and I will be a team of two on the field hockey team.”
Riley looked at me strangely. “Okay,” she said. “I just don’t want you guys to be disappointed that we all wouldn’t be playing field hockey together. But you’re right, you have each other on the field.”
“Yep, we have each other,” said Sophia.
It was quiet for a second, and then Michelle asked me, “So how is work going?”
I shrugged. “It’s okay. A lot of the time I’d rather be somewhere else, but everyone in the family works there, so it’s my turn to step up. Or at least that’s what Grandpa said.”
“Do you get to eat the extra donuts?” asked Isabella. “Because oh my goodness, I could eat, like, a dozen of those at a time.”
“No,” I said. “We donate the ones that haven’t sold at the end of the day.”
Sophia and I exchanged a smile, because everyone always asks me that question.
People think if you work at a donut shop you eat donuts all day, every day. In elementary school, Joshua Victor asked me if our house was made of donuts.
“Well, you’ve been known to show up with donuts,” teased Riley, and I laughed.
I do try to bring donuts to my friends’ houses when we have extra or when Mom brings them home.
“Work perk!” I said.
“Oh, I can almost taste those cider donuts,” moaned Isabella. “Shoot, now all I want is a cider donut. It’s definitely better than… whatever this lunch they’re serving is.”
“My favorites are the coffee-cake donuts,” Michelle said. “And the chocolate ones with rainbow sprinkles. Or the plain glazed ones. Or…”
“We get it. You like donuts!” Riley said with a laugh.
Just then the bell rang. We gathered up our stuff and hustled out to our next class.
As we were going into the hall, Sophia grabbed my arm and hissed, “What is going on with Riley?”
I sighed and shrugged. “She is really good at soccer,” I said.
“Well, Riley may be good at soccer, but she’d better be good at being our friend,” said Sophia, and before I could respond, she shot off down the hall.
Isabella, Riley, and Michelle turned in a different direction, heading toward language arts, where they were in a class with my sister Molly. Before they went into their class, I caught Molly’s eye as she walked by in the hallway.
It was obvious she could tell something was up. She was looking at me as if to ask, What’s going on?
But I just said, “You’d better catch up to your potential new soccer teammates,” and hurried off to my own class.
Middle school was different, that’s for sure, and I don’t think I like change.