“I got to the big mall with its enormous glass doors and its brick building. When I got there I closed my eyes and prayed that I wouldn’t go crazy. But I did.”
New Year’s Day
January 1st, 2016
I’m pooped. Pooped, as in tired. Very tired. Last night, I got to stay up until 12:00, (because last night was New Year’s Eve), in Times Square, watching the ball drop. I’m Nola H. Anderson, citizen of Manhattan, New York. The troublemaker of the family. I’m twelve going on thirteen. I have a twin sister. An honest truth about her is that even though I was born after her, she got a bigger name: Grace Isabella Bella Hinder Anderson. She also has sweeping blond hair, perfect teeth, and the softest baby blue eyes I have ever seen. Someone once called her the class model. Me, no way. I have braces, frizzy brown hair, and murky green colored eyes. Someone in third grade called me an elephant mixed with a chicken.
In life, all I want is for people to treat me equally. That will be hard because I’m in middle school, specifically seventh grade. And I’m a trouble maker. Well, my best friends are basically the only friends I have at Homer Middle School: the one and only Ella, a girl I met in the second grade, Kone, a dude on my block, and Mia, my mom’s best friend’s daughter. Those guys stick by my side, although I’m sort of worried about our relationship. Maybe it’s just because we’re getting older, and people change. I’m going camping with them tomorrow night in a suburb of New York. I feel like I’ve known them forever, although it’s only been eight years. Gotta go, I have to pack. Wait, where are my boots?!
The annual camping trip
January 2nd, 2016
Dear awesome diary,
I’m so excited! Ella, Kone, Mia, Ella’s parents, and I will be at the campgrounds in fifteen minutes! I have out my camera, my card deck, and my travel puzzles to use on the ride there. I can’t believe that today is only the second day of 2016! I’m on winter break, so it makes sense. Ella is making earrings in the way back of the Jeep, Mia and Kone are giving each other massages, and I’m playing solitaire in the way back. My sister had to go to this Girl Scout Camp thingy (with all of her besties) that is supposedly a lot of fun. I’m in Girl Scouts too, but I didn’t want to go. I had plans. Take that, Girl Scout Camp! Anyway, the ride to the campgrounds is two hours, so we spent a third of the time playing “Create a Sentence,” a third of it looking out of the windows and telling jokes, and a third of the time doing what we’re doing now. We are already having tons of fun, and we’re not even there yet!
I had this really weird dream last night that really worried me. It was of a girl who got stuck in a convenience store. It scared me. A figure had just appeared when Mom woke me up. I hope that dream didn’t mean anything.
We get to the campground at 5:00. We unload all of the bags from the trunk. It’s beautiful here! There are grassy hills (perfect for rolling on), a lake, and snow everywhere! There is even a mini stove on the rocky ground where we’ll probably cook!
We pop open our big fold out tents (woof, it’s hard), and I have to bunk with Mia. Ella is bunking with her mom, and Kone is bunking with Ella’s dad. I love all the bugs here (they’re fun to play with), except for the mosquitos. I’m pretty sure I have sweet blood. Every time I go camping, or try to go camping, I get mosquito bites all over my body.
At night, we watch a basketball game. I sit next to Mia and she huddles under the blanket that we share. The Golden State Warriors crush the Houston Rockets. I wear my Stephen Curry jersey and sparkly black leggings. I don’t really care who wins, but I’m cheering for them because I’ve always wanted to tour California. Also, my family cheers for the Rockets, majorly, but I don’t want to be teased if I wear my jersey. Anyway, the game is fantabulous. Everyone is cheering for the Golden State Warriors, because one of the players on the team is Mia’s uncle. The game ends with a whopping score of 121 to 94. We all screamed and yelled when the Warriors won, but I secretly feel weird because my parents will think that I would be cheering for the other team.
We have a glow stick party in the dark while listening to music. We listen to dancing and neon stripes were flying around the grounds, people thinking that we were crazy, but do we care? NO. We fall fast asleep at ten o’clock, after brushing our teeth and putting on our pajamas, and a good pillow fight. My pillow bursts open and the feathers flew everywhere. They cover Ella’s parents, and I have to admit, it is funny. Thank goodness I have an extra pillow.
The next day
January 3rd, 2016
I’m tired! This morning, I wake up at 11:00. (I checked my watch.) Mia wakes me up by splashing freezing cold lake water on my face. Rude!
Anyway, the others are already making breakfast, which is pancakes, and they all say “Good morning, konnichiwa,” and Ella calls me bedhead.
We eat breakfast, play lots of board games, swing in the hammock that the McDonald’s has hung up in between two trees, and braided lots of hair. I’m a hair fanatic, so I end up braiding all the hair. As for Kone and Mr. McDonald, they play Uno. Kone wins. After that, we listen to Gwen Stefani and Bruno Mars.
My iPhone rings. Doo-woop! Doo-woop! I pick the phone up and looked at the number: (323) 921-1008. My sister! Doesn’t she know I’m camping?!! I pick it up anyway.
“Hello?” I ask. “I’m camping.”
“I know … ” she says. “I was just wondering how’re you doing. Cut me some slack. At camp, we have been doing crafts. I slept in ‘till 6 a.m. What time did you wake up?”
“Eleven. Oh. We’re making friendship bracelets. Gotta go. Bye.”
“Bye, oh, by the way, a girl secretly said she doesn’t like you. Toodle-oo,” she says, and hangs up disappointedly.
I frown and roll my eyes. I run to the friendship bracelet circle. Mia has saved me a spot behind her. As I’m making my bracelet, I totally forgot that I was still doing half of the stitches wrong. My design is the Chinese staircase, which is purple and blue, and the one Ella is making me a “friendship” special, which was the crow formation, which looks like a V, in red, white, and blue.
I end up getting pushed in the deep end of the lake after lunch. SO cold. I’m even shivering as I write this. Here’s how it happened, we were eating ham and cheese sandwiches, Kool Aid, and popsicles. The afternoon sun was shining on our sunburnt faces as we laughed and talked. I had mentioned that I was really warm, and that the Kool Aid was refreshing. That’s when Ella got the idea. Mia, Ella, and Kone started whispering. Then they laughed. When everyone finished lunch, they lured me to the deep end of the lake. I didn’t know what I was in for. Mia told me a fascinating story about a fish, I got distracted, and they pushed me in. When the cold water hit my face, I stopped daydreaming and screamed. I fell into the water and rushed back up for air. How could they do this to me?! I was so angry I felt like I could rip my head off. My clothes were soggy. I decided to get them back.
That night, at one in the morning, I ruffle through my duffle bag to get whipped cream, syrup, and crushed up toilet paper. (You never know what is in my bag.) I sneak up to Mia and swirl the whipped cream on her face as she slept, hoping that she doesn’t notice. I creep into Ella’s tent and secure a bucket of syrup to the zipper on the door of Ella’s tent. Then, stealthily, I tiptoe into Kone’s tent. He is fast asleep. I sprinkle the toilet paper into the mobile heater and aim the heater toward Kone’s face. I unzip the tent and fly back to my own tent, lay down, and fall straight asleep. I fall asleep knowing that the kids are the first people to get up, and to do the morning routines that my pranks were set up for. Told you I was a troublemaker.
The day when leaving the campgrounds
January 4th, 2016
Dear delightful diary,
I wake up at 6:00 (not normal for me), and I sit outside of the tents, on the benches next to the unlit fire. Mia is the first to come out of her tent, face splattered in whipped cream. She is cursing under her breath so that I won’t hear her. She is mad, but I don’t care. She knew she would get it anyway. Then Kone comes. His bedhead hair is in knots, with teeny-tiny bits of toilet paper in his hair. He is as mad as he will get, arms crossed and scowling at me. In his ducky pajamas. I laugh. Hysterically. Ella comes out, drenched in syrup, hair soaking and clothes stuck to her sticky body. Ella’s hair is dark, dark, brown, and it has little glittering spots on the tips. Her tiny bunny slippers have been syruped, and her stuffed bear, is mounted on her jutted-out hip, frowning.
“We get it, you got us back. I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to poke fun at you,” Kone said.
All of them frown. They go to the campground’s walk-in closet to get their stuff. Then they go to the restrooms to change. They all come out fresh and new. Ella appears. Ella’s beady brown eyes glitter in the morning sunlight like dew on a freshly mowed field. I am flipping through a Teen 13 magazine while waiting for the people to finish. When Kone comes out, his mohawk is perfectly gelled in place as is if the wave of his hair had never parted. When Mia comes out, she looks so pretty. She has a white dress with pink little flowers and sparkling show-toe sandals. She has on her little silver earring studs and a silver chain that has her initials on it.
We eat breakfast next to the lake, promising not to push each other in. We laugh like normal, not planning to gang up on each other any more. Then the McDonalds get up, tired and stretching from their sleep. They have sleep in their eyes, and are yawning like crazy. I think they don’t have an alarm clock. We check the time, and start to pack.
I load my light, purple duffle bag into the van. I climb into the way back of the blue van, buckle my seatbelt, and flopped back onto my blue pillow that I fluffed up seconds before. I start to doze off when Ella and Mia get into the car. They are talking loudly, but I can barely hear what they were saying. I open my eyes and yawned. That’s when they notice that I am trying to sleep. They quiet down, and I fall right back asleep. Until the motor starts. But after that, I am asleep for the rest of the ride.
When we get home, it’s starting to get dark out. It is dim and gloomy. I am the first to get dropped off. I look at my green one-story house, and to my bedroom window. It is shaded off with my pink curtains. Ella is walking me down my stone path and to my red front door. My mom opens the door and, with her curly brown hair on my shoulders, hugged me with all of her might. I gently pushed her off of me and she grabbed my bags.
I step into my house, in front of the cushioned couch and as soon as I peer into the kitchen, my dad yells, “Nola?!”
My sister hears this and she steps out of her neat, clean, room, and screams the same thing. She runs into my arms like I’m her long-lost twin. But only part of that is true. The twin part. Not the long-lost part. But she still runs into my arms. I push her off too, because she was just mean to me over the phone. I jog into my room hoping not to get hugged by my little brother, but it was hopeless.
He runs out of his room, and he screamed in his four-year-old high-pitched voice, “Nooolllaaa.”
He jumps on my back like he always does, because, in his own mind, he is a monster. I walk into my room and hold my pillow tight. I flop down on my twin-sized bed.
“Freedom. Please. Help me. I just need a little freedom for a day. I know I have already got a lot of it, but that’s not the same. Just a little, by myself. In the big world.”
My sister peeks her head into my room. “Whaddya say?”
“Nothing. Go away.”
She nods and went out. She shuts my door and goes out. I look at my pendant collection and cry. For no stupid reason. I look at the photos of me and her and cry some more. I fall asleep without dinner. I know right then that something creepy is going on.
The convenience store
January 5th, 2016
I wake up with a weird feeling in my stomach. It feels something like a stomachache. I eat breakfast slowly. Oatmeal and orange juice. My father is reading the newspaper when he tells me to go to a stupid mall for a few hours to pick out whatever I want. Weird. He gives me some money and off I go. The mall is right down the street from our house, so I take the sidewalks.
I get to the big mall with its enormous glass doors and its brick building. When I get there I close my eyes and pray that I won’t go crazy. But I do. I go into absolutely every store in the mall until I come up with a list of what I want to buy. And I buy all of the stuff on the list. After I spent hours in there, and when I have a little money left, I come across an old convenience store that is still in shape.
I don’t hear the warning over the loudspeaker that said, “Two minutes till closing. Two minutes till closing.”
I step into the old convenience store and the shopkeeper is nowhere to be found. He probably went to the restroom or is on break. The walls of the store are brick, like in many movies. On the walls there are pictures of comics. All of the stuff from movies. The store is filled with costumes and fantasy outfits that glamour queens like my sister would flip over.
I run through the aisles of costumes, slowly ruffling them. There are hats on top of the costumes, and stilettos, vans, converse, and different types of shoes, of all colors, shapes and sizes are piled under each costume neatly.
Nor do I hear the announcement that says “Closing. We are now closing.”
Busy going through the silver tiaras. Quiet footsteps tiptoe into the room. The shopkeeper’s quiet ding-a-ling of his keys was too quiet for me to hear, but I hear a faint ring. His keys are sticking out of his pocket, I can see it out of the corner of my eye. The footsteps stop and I hear a little slam of a metal door and a turning of keys in a lock.
Five minutes later I jump up from daydreaming and walk out to the front of the tiled shop. I try to open the door, but they look like they are super-glued together! But they aren’t. They were locked! I bang with all of my might but I can’t get out. I bang for five minutes and by the end my hands are throbbing and my ears are ringing. I walk into an aisle and sink down to the hard, concrete floor. I guess I am in here for now. I look at the friendship bracelet Ella made me and sigh. My friends pop into my head and I close my eyes. I think about the fun camping trip we had (other than the pranking part), and I smile.
“Hello.” A voice was heard that sounded like Ella’s. “I suppose you need help.”
I turn around and stare. There is a masked person in black staring at me. I know that Ella can scheme, but I can’t believe that this is happening. She can prank and everything. Planning too. She tricked me.