Valentine’s Day should be outlawed. Really. I was just getting used to being Forrest’s former fake girlfriend, when it popped up on the calendar like a dentist appointment. The Valentine’s Day carnation sale at my school didn’t help one bit. This annual fund-raiser, organized by the seventh-graders, helped pay for the eighth-grade spring trip. The flower sale involved buckets of white, pink, and red carnations that could be purchased and delivered to the person of your choice. With a note.
For just a dollar, you could remind your best friend that you adore her, tell your track coach that she’s awesome, or toss a romantic volley at someone you think is super-cute, funny, and wonderful.
But don’t worry—I did not send Forrest a red carnation. Or a pink one or a white one. I sent him nothing, did nothing of any sort to mark this day of chubby cherubs, candy hearts, and love.
But I did receive a carnation—a pink one—from someone who decided not to send any note. Or maybe the note fell off. But either way, at lunch on Valentine’s Day, my biggest fear was relieved when I received my note-less carnation. You don’t want people thinking no one cares enough to send you at least one.
That’s kind of why I sent a pink carnation to Mimi Caritas, Clem’s sixth-grade sister. Clem is a real-deal teen model and Mimi is just an ordinary girl who’s a little afraid to grow up. She’s actually an ordinary girl who until a few months ago hated the PLS and tried to put us out of business. But it’s all been worked out and I feel like she needs a big sister who’s a little nicer and a little less stunningly beautiful.
I held my breath when the vice president of the seventh-grade class approached our cafeteria table. For a long moment, the always friendly Shannon Andersen stood there, studying her order sheet, with that white plastic bucket of tall carnations sloshing in water.
Then she reached into her bucket and pulled out a small bunch for Kate—one from me, of course. Shannon reached back in and pulled out a whole bouquet for Piper. Seriously, a committee of boys seems to pursue her at all times. Then it was my turn. I received three—a white one from my friend Bet, a white one from Kate and Piper, and the anonymous pink one.
“Where’s the card?” I asked Shannon.
All the other carnations had small, pink construction paper cards attached to them by a loop of red yarn.
“No clue,” she said.
I stopped her before she moved on to the next table.
“But isn’t there some kind of master list or something?” I asked.
Then I grabbed the edge of her bucket and peered in to see if there were any notes left floating in there.
“Um, we’re not that organized,” Shannon said, smiling at me but also pulling back on her bucket. “You should see the Art room where we’re putting all these deliveries together.”
I let her go and started to run through all the possible explanations for the pink carnation I was holding. More than likely it was Jake Austin, who I knew liked me. There’s nothing wrong with Jake. I even danced with him at the Backward Dance. But there was also nothing particularly right about Jake. He was a just a nice guy—a friend—who didn’t give me butterflies in my stomach.
My stomach lurched, however, at the thought that Forrest’s younger brother, Trevor, might have sent the carnation. After I left a note for Forrest that was accidentally intercepted by his sixth-grade brother, Trevor still winks at me in the hallway. When you’re in eighth grade, on your way to high school, you do not want to be known as the girl who crushes on a sixth-grade boy. Trevor never quite got the message and gives me the winky-wink every time we cross paths.
For all my questions about this pink flower, one thing seemed sure: Forrest had nothing to do with it. We had remained “friends” following my decision to break off our fake relationship. For us, “friends” meant the occasional hi and not much else. Just the other day, I saw him and his old girlfriend, Taylor Mayweather, standing together at his locker. She looked like she was crying and he was leaning down, trying to get her to look at him. What do I make of that? Nothing good, I’m sure. If Forrest sent anyone a carnation this year, I bet it was her.
“I need to find a vase for these,” Piper said dramatically. She pronounced “vase” as vahz, and I feared she would slip into French as she’d been doing lately. When Shannon gave her the flower, she exclaimed, “Merci, mademoiselle!” (Thank you, miss!)
Piper held her flowers upright, as if they were in an imaginary vahz. Then she arranged them in a professional-looking way, as I’d seen her mother do.
Kate laughed as Piper hurried off, then she turned her attention to me. She knew what I was thinking about. Petal by petal, I was putting together the clues surrounding my mysterious pink flower.
Copyright © 2011 by Debra Moffitt