Sadie Mae Pepper and the Kiss and Kill Twins
The New Kid
I won’t say I remember it like yesterday because honestly, I don’t remember yesterday. But I do remember the day Sadie Mae Pepper moved to Gardner. It was fourth grade in Mrs. Hall’s homeroom when she stood awkwardly at the front of the class.
“This is Sadie Mae Pepper. She has just moved to Gardner from Grandville Michigan. Please say hello to Sadie and make her feel welcome here,” Mrs. Hall said. I wondered why the heck anyone would move to Hazleton from someplace glamorous-sounding as Grandville. How grand it would be to live in Grandville or really pretty much anywhere but Hazleton.
I looked her over pretty good: knit, sky blue, button-down shirt, light denim blue jeans rolled up at the bottom, white socks and sneakers that weren’t even tied. There were little knots in each of the laces to keep them from coming out of the holes (I was definitely going to try that with my sneakers!), and feet that turned in a little at the toes. My mom said that meant she was “pigeon –toed”. It didn’t matter, it seemed cool to me. She had a whole lot of thick, wild, curly, dark brown hair. It winged out to the sides a little at her forehead and the rest was all the same length about to the end of her neck. She didn’t smile at all, but just kept her head down. Then Mrs. Hall ordered “Say hello to Sadie” so the whole class piped up lacking enthusiasm, “Hello Sadie Mae.”
That made Sadie Mae Pepper’s face turn bright red and then she smiled. I could feel exactly what she felt and my face got hot and red and I felt a little sweaty. Sadie had a big sparkly silver smile. Then she quickly put her hand up to her mouth and went straight-faced. I knew she was embarrassed by those by those braces on her teeth, but she shouldn’t be! She didn’t realize how lucky she was! I had always wanted braces. They were so pretty in your mouth—like mouth jewelry! I felt the same way about glasses. The kids with glasses just didn’t know how lucky they were. Wearing shiny, sparkly things right on your face was just the sweetest thing ever. Man, if Sadie had glasses, she would’ve been just about the coolest chick I’d ever seen. It was then and there that I decided to be friends with Sadie Mae Pepper—if she played her cards right and managed to stick around for a while.
I’d lived in Gardner close enough to my whole life to know you don’t make friends with the new kids. They almost never stay very long. Gardner wasn’t just chock-full of jobs for the parents. They either worked in Gardner at one of a handful of businesses or farmed. There were some, like my mom, that worked in Lawrence, which was the closest metropolis to Gardner. That means my mom was up really early every day and drove the half hour to Lawrence, worked all day and then drove home. That means I was on my own to get to school in the morning and on my own until mom got home at night. Well, I had an older brother, but he was never around. Unlike me, he had friends. And when he was around, he’d generally just beat the crap out of me, so I was cool being on my own. There wasn’t much to do in Gardner without any friends but sit around and stare at stuff or go uptown to Main Street and count the cars going by. There weren’t even many cars to watch since the whole town only had 350 people and most of them were farmers that lived out in the country. The farm kids couldn’t even go uptown and watch the cars. They really just had to sit on the farm and watch the corn grow or get up early and feed the chickens or butcher the hogs or whatever it is that farm kids too. I was a city chick; small city, but still, a townie. I was at least able to walk uptown to Olafson’s grocery store and buy some hostess cupcakes and a grape soda pop once in a while. People even stood around the grocery store and talked about the corn growing, feeding chickens and butchering hogs. That’s how boring Gardner was. It was nice in the summer time, though. Mom and dad were always at work and my brother, Charlie was almost never home, so I used to ride my old blue Schwin 10-speed uptown to the park and the swimming pool. Sometimes, I’d go swimming alone and sometimes, I’d just sit on a swing and watch everyone. I hated it and I couldn’t wait to grow up and move to Hollywood, California or New York, New York or maybe even Grandville, Michigan. Sometimes, on a really good day, I’d stop at the repair shop where my dad worked and get some extra money from him so I could buy some ribbons at Olafson’s for my dolls. Then, I’d go home alone with my hostess, cupcakes, soda pop and ribbon alone and fix my dolls hair. Believe it or not, that was excitement.
The truth is, I made it all the way to the fourth grade in Gardner Elementary School and had yet to make one single friend. There were a couple kids, like RaeAnn Longfellow who’d occasionally come over, ring my door bell, and say, “I’m only here because I couldn’t
find anything better to do.” I’m not joking. She really said that. And it wasn’t like I had any other options, so off RaeAnn and I would go collecting rocks, or to the park, or the swimming pool. We didn’t really talk though. It was just someone to walk with so neither of us would be alone. RaeAnn was weird too, but not like I was weird. She was just—well, abnormally weird. Then, there was Shelby Jones. She was one of the “new kids” that didn’t last long. She was really loud and obnoxious and liked to get into fights. She was always nice to me, but when she’d run off and beat the heck out of someone, it made it kind of tough to be around her. Shelby was weird too, but she was more criminally weird. I always felt really weird compared to the other “normal” kids. Not abnormally weird like RaeAnne or criminal like Shelby, but just like my mind was often thinking differently. I just didn’t understand what a lot of the kids seemed to think was fun. I liked to read and write stories and draw pictures. I didn’t care of running, jumping, playing tag, dangling upside down with my skirt over my head on the monkey bars. I was just a quiet, sensitive, lonely kid. I didn’t want to talk about the corn growing or sit around and have staring contests or leg wrestle or whatever strange, boring, creepy thing the other kids were doing. I’d rather play inside my own head making up characters and stories. Now, I wasn’t strange enough to have an imaginary friend, but I was lonely enough to try that for a while, but it just didn’t work. I was too smart to think I could fool myself with an imaginary friend. I wish I could have though. It would have been a lot less lonely, but then I think I would have had to acknowledge that I may just be “abnormally weird”. I had my dolls and I could have them act out my stories for my own entertainment. Mom called it daydreaming, but that never made much sense to me. How can anyone have a dream during the day? Still, that’s what I did most days at recess because it didn’t seem like I fit with anyone enough to have a friend. Well, that, and there was the time I had the meltdown in Miss Surly’s first grade class because one of the kids knocked my little cup of aquarium rocks all over the floor. Why did I have a cup of aquarium rocks? Good question. I used to collect rocks. That’s just how cool of a chick I was. I found them once out by a dumpster on the ground. They were yellow and blue and pink and all kinds of pretty colors. Evil, red-haired, freckled Milton Walters knocked them off my desk all over the floor. I totally freaked out screaming and yelling and crying right in the middle of class in front of everyone. Miss Surly asked me what was wrong and I told her what Milton did. She asked why I was so upset. I said, “I don’t know. Just because I am!” Honestly, I don’t know why I was so upset. I just hated school. I hated having to be there. I hated having to take time away from my daydreams and pay attention to the teacher. I hated that some kids (like Milton) thought I was fun to torment. Milton had kind of soured me on the other kids. What a jerk knocking my prized aquarium rocks all over the floor. And well, the other kids pretty much wrote me off as a six-year-old psycho that year too. That’s one of the problems with living in a small town. You have one little meltdown over some multi-colored fish rocks and you’re labelled a nut-case for life. Nothing changed even after evil Milton moved to another school in second grade. I was already marked for life, but no worries for me. I had my daydreams and my stories and even if I wanted friends, it just didn’t seem worth the risk of dumping another cup of rocks all over and the meltdown that would follow. So, I just stayed to myself and played by myself and read books and wrote stories, and collected rocks. Yep. I was a regular social butterfly.
It really worked out just fine until nosy Mrs. Parker told me I had to go play with the other kids one day at recess. I told her no because I was reading a book, but she said I HAD to play at recess. I couldn’t just sit by myself and read. I HAD to play with the other kids and get some exercise and make friends. (BLECH) So, she called over the Kill and Kill Twins. They were a set of twins in my class that were the bee’s knees to just about everyone. They were pretty and wore clothes with words on them, like Calvin Klein or Gloria Vanderbilt. They also always had a comb in their back jeans pocket, had the same hair-cut, and wore make up every day. My mom had told me I was way too young to start wearing make-up, but every once and a while, I’d sneak into her make-up bag and try on a little blusher or mascara and go to school looking like a short, chubby, boy-haired nine-year old whore. Somehow, I could never get my make-up to look like the kiss and kill twins. They also had boyfriends and seemed a lot more grown up than me. Everyone wanted to be friends with them including me and Sadie Mae Pepper. How embarrassing. She called the two coolest, most popular girls in the whole school over to take pity on poor, socially-challenged Judy Roundtree. There were two girls in my class that were twins. They were the kind of twins that didn’t look exactly alike though. Some people couldn’t tell them apart, but I always could. One of them was a little chubbier than the other and one had a little smaller eyes than the other. That was enough to make them look totally different to me. They both had beautiful, long flowing blonde locks and sparkling blue eyes and perfect white teeth. They were the most popular girls in the whole school—even the older kids loved the Kiss and Kill twins. I wasn’t foolish enough to ever think I was cool enough to play with them so I just stayed away. Up until this, my only interaction with one of them had been when one of them asked me if I liked wearing my jeans so low on my butt. My mom bought my school clothes out of the Sears catalog. This particular pair of jeans was too big around the waist and slid down my butt. I was shocked and dumbfounded that she’d even talked to me and all I could manage to stutter was, “Um…I don’t know. My mom bought these.” And then they both laughed and laughed. The twins always played with the boys and the older kids at recess. They played kiss and kill with boys! I never really understood what it was, but it sounded like it either involved kissing people or killing people or both and neither sounded like fun to me. Kiss and kill was what all the cool kids played at recess. Alas, I was not a “cool kid.” I was the kid that wore clothes mom bought out of the Sears catalog.
“You girls play with Judy today,” Mrs. Parker yelled. She yelled! The whole gym heard her telling the Kiss and Kill twins to take pity on poor, socially-challenged Judy Roundtree. I was mortified. I don’t want to be kissed OR killed for Pete’s sakes! They didn’t look any too happy about it either. I knew they’d rather chew nails than play with me too. That didn’t help at all.
“That’s ok,” I said. I can find someone else to play with.”
“No, Judy. They will play with you today.” The old hag insisted.
“Fine, come on Judy. We’re playing tag,” the chubby one said.
So I went with them. Then, she tagged me and yelled, “You’re it!”
All the kids scattered and I was supposed to run and tag one of them so I didn’t have to be it any more. I wasn’t very good at running and I didn’t even like to run. So, I pretty much just stood there dumbfounded and had no idea where to start running or who to try and tag and wondering why these super-embarrassing things always happen to me. I felt my eyes starting to water and I said a quick prayer to keep myself from bursting into tears at the sheer humiliation of it all. There I was, the weirdo, the freak, the oddball, forced to play with the cool kids and standing in the middle of the gym like a moron not knowing what to do or who to chase or if I should even try. I’m not sure who was looking at me, but I felt like it was everyone. Before I could burst into tears or find the strength to try and tag anyone, the bell rang to go back to class. I’d never been so relieved to hear the back-to-class bell ring in my life. That was one of the most embarrassing experiences of my grade school career. It was also the last time I played with the Kill and Kill twins in fourth grade.
I remember how mad I was the day I saw Sadie Mae Pepper playing kiss and kill. What the heck? I’ve lived here my whole life and the only time I got to play with the Kiss and Kill twins was when Mrs. Parker made them. Besides, Sadie Mae was supposed to be my new friend. She wasn’t cool enough for the Kiss and Kill girls. She had braces. I was the one who liked braces. There were just so many things wrong with that. But, there they were, all playing together with the boys. The boys liked Sadie Mae too. She wasn’t really pretty like the pretty KK twin, but she was sort of cute and different looking and she could run really fast. The boys really liked to chase Sadie. Sadie didn’t freeze up playing with them like I did. She ran and laughed and seemed to be having a great time. That was the day that I realized that even the new kid, Sadie Mae Pepper was too cool to be my friend.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t actually want to play kiss and kill at all or play with the twins. But I wanted to be wanted. “She’s here less than a year and she’s already got more friends than me,” I thought.
After Mrs. Parker had a hissy fit that day, I usually tried to find someone to play with at recess lest the kiss and kill twins be forced to play with the social reject again. I could almost always find someone else that was playing all alone. I always thought they would want to play with me because they didn’t have anyone else. There were a couple of them I remember. There was Heloise Sparks. Heloise was actually pretty cool now that I think back on it, but she was also unusual. She always wore black jeans and a polo shirt and her hair was very short. She looked a lot like a boy. Heloise always played alone at recess and didn’t seem to have any problem with it. One day, she was on the top of the monkey bars alone, just sitting there looking at something. I shyly walked over and asked if I could play with her. “Sure,” she said, and I climbed up to see what was so very interesting. When I got there, I could see that she was holding a daddy long legs in the palm of her hand. I used to play with bugs when I was little, but now I thought they were pretty gross—especially spiders. I asked what she was doing and she started pulling off it’s legs. I was shocked, sad, and grossed out. “Why are you doing that?” I tried not to let her see my disgust. This was an opportunity for a friend after all. She ripped off the final leg and threw the daddy no-leg ball to the ground and shrugged her shoulders. She said very matter-of-factly, “It can’t feel anything.” Then, Heloise put her finger in her ear and rubbed it around and put it to her lips. Again, shock and disgust. “What? It’s just like chapstick,” she said. It was colder that day and my lips were getting a little chapped so, what the heck? I rubbed a little ear wax on my lips as well. That’s how I found out ear wax tastes really bad. I played with Heloise a few days, but we mostly talked than played. Heloise knew a lot of weird stuff. Her mom was from Scotland and her dad was in the army and they moved around a lot. Heloise had lived in Scotland and a lot of places I’d never heard of. Strange as she was, this meant that Heloise was also just too cool for me. She’d travelled the world and had a mom from Scotland. I’d never been anywhere and my mom was from Minnesota.
There was also Luretta Vine. Luretta was a different religion and she wasn’t allowed to wear pants or cut her hair. She always wore a flowery skirt and a knit top and white socks and sneakers. She never wore tights—even in the winter time and I remember walked over to her on the swings one day at recess. It was cold and windy and there was Lurretta on the swings in her skirt, no tights, and a butt-length pink winter coat unzipped. I sat down on the swing next to her and said hello. Luretta was kind of a new kid at the school too. She’d just moved there a little before Sadie Mae, but none of the kids ever talked to her or played with her and she also kept to herself. With Sadie Mae hip-deep in with the kiss and kill twins, I may as well see what Luretta had to offer. Luretta didn’t say much unless I asked her questions, so I asked about her mom (dead), her dad (drunk), and her brothers and sisters. She told me she had two little brothers and a baby sister that she took care of most of the time because her dad was drunk. I felt pretty bad for Luretta but I didn’t know what I could do. Everything seemed ok with Luretta until she told me about how her dad would sometimes stick his hand in her underpants and do stuff to her. That was about all I could handle from Luretta. I wished I would’ve been able to help her, but I was just a kid too and didn’t know how. After that one day, Luretta kept trying to find me to talk about the sex stuff with her dad, but I just couldn’t handle it, so I went from hanging out and reading alone to hiding in the bathroom or a classroom at gym time. That didn’t last too terribly long though because Luretta ended up moving away just a little while later. I never knew where she went or what happened to her. After Luretta moved away, I started going back out to recess and could almost always find Heloise Sparks right on the top of the monkey bars alone torturing small insects. From the top of the monkey bars, I could see Sadie Mae, the twins, and all the cool older kids running around the school playing tag and kiss and kill and laughing and telling each other secrets. I wasn’t exactly sure what their world was all about, but I knew I wanted to find out. I also knew that I probably never would.
The best part about fourth grade was that even though Sadie Mae and I weren’t friends yet. I had hope that she was someone I could be friends with. I also got straight A’s so I was doing really well in all my classes and my teachers liked me. Believe it or not, straight A’s and teachers liking you does not make you popular with other kids. No-siree, not one little bit. The kiss and kill twins were really pretty and popular, but they didn’t get very good grades. I accidentally saw one of their report cards on my teacher’s desk once and it was filled with C’s and D’s. I would have been devastated if I had C’s and D’s, but the twins really didn’t seem like it bothered them at all. They weren’t in school for grades. They were in school for the social life. They had something more fun than classes and grades. For a while, I tried to tell myself that the reason I didn’t fit was because I was smart, but then I found out Sadie Mae Pepper also got straight A’s and there she was hanging out at the same lunch table with the twins and all the older kids, laughing and talking and whispering secrets. Nope. My being smart had nothing to do with why I didn’t fit. Toward the end of the year, we had a spelling bee and I was in the lead. I was up again Derek Rider. He was the smartest boy in my class and he always beat everyone at everything in school. The word was cinnamon. I forgot an “n”. I knew there were two “N”’s. It was just a simple mistake. I KNEW how to spell cinnamon for Pete’s sakes, but when Mrs. Hall said I was wrong, I had elementary school meltdown in front of the whole class number two. I told her I KNEW how to spell it. I just FORGOT an “n” and that didn’t mean I should lose. I was mad! I was so mad I turned bright red and started yelling at Mrs. Hall right in front of the classroom. It wasn’t until I realized that everyone else (including Derek Rider, the kiss and kill twins AND Sadie Mae Pepper) were all laughing me, that I finally burst into tears and ran out of the room. When I finally got back to class, everyone (well, it seemed like everyone) was staring at me and whispering. I sat in my desk and Mrs. Hall asked if I was better. “Yes, ma’am, “ I said. Then, I beat myself up over another meltdown in 4 years. “Judy Roundtree, how can you expect to make friends when you’re such a freak?!?” Good question. The only thing I could do was work really, really hard on not being a freak anymore. But how?
I wish I could say that I was bullied or that I was the victim of some horrible injustice in grade school, but the truth is that I wasn’t bullied. I was more invisible than anything. I was happiest when I was invisible because that meant nobody was staring or laughing. It meant I could go through school unnoticed and get good grades and not be hated for having good grades. It meant I could get on the swings at recess or climb the monkey bars and make it look like I was playing so Mrs. Parker wouldn’t yell at me or force other kids to play with me. I’d still rather be reading a book or writing a story or just sitting and thinking making up the stories in my head. I may have sat alone a lot at recess, but in my mind, I’d be playing kiss and kill with the twins and Sadie Mae and even the boys and laughing and telling secrets and enjoying it. Even though I knew I wouldn’t actually like it, in my head I could be and do anything I wanted to and everyone accepted me. I’d also sometimes daydream that my parents were super rich and we had a huge swimming pool, playground, and trampoline and everyone wanted to be my friends. “Judy, can I get your lunch? Judy, can I sit next to you in class? Judy, can I carry your books for you?” In my mind, everyone wanted to be my friend. My crazy mind was a much happier place to be than at the top of those monkey bars with Heloise Sparks ripping the wings off of butterflies. At least I had Heloise in fourth grade. That summer, she moved away too. Fifth grade wasn’t looking so good for me.
I spent that summer being RaeAnn Longfellow’s occasional last choice again, but a lot of the time, I just went to the park or the pool by myself. When I wasn’t at the pool, I was home either sitting on the couch watching TV and stuffing my face or in my room listening to the Hot 100 radio station with my cassette player waiting to record the best songs as they came on the radio. I made soundtracks to my life in that room. That’s also when I started thinking about how Judy Roundtree would have to make some pretty serious changes if she ever wanted to have friends. The first thing I wanted to work on was my confidence. I looked at myself in the mirror way too much that summer. Even though I was only 10 years old, I already had boobs starting to grow and I hated them. I was also short and fat, but I seemed just a little bit taller this summer. My mom also hated brushing through my hair, so she always kept it cut really short. I looked like a short, fat, boy with boobs. No wonder I have no friends! That’s when I decided I had to try and make myself beautiful like the kiss and kill twins. I would need long, flowing blonde hair, designer clothes with names on them—Sassoon, Girbaud, Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt. I was also going to need a comb to carry around in my back pocket. All the coolest kids carried a comb around in their back pocket. I had my mom bring home Glamour, Teen, and Seventeen magazines to me from her job in Lawrence, so I could read and learn how to be awesomely beautiful and enormously popular. I knew I wasn’t going to make it by the start of fifth grade, but I knew what I had to do now and I had a plan. Judy Roundtree was going to go from freak to chic and fifth grade meant friends—or a friend; at least one friend that wouldn’t kill bugs like Heloise or tell me about sex with her dad like Luretta. Just. One. Friend. Please Jesus.
Freakish to Chic-ish
At the beginning of the fifth grade, Sadie was wearing Gloria Vanderbilt jeans! With a comb in her back pocket! It also looked like she maybe was wearing a bra. I didn’t have a bra yet and didn’t think I really needed one until I saw Sadie the first day of fifth grade. I need make up and a bra. Sadie’s mom wouldn’t let her wear make-up like the twins, but she did wear lip gloss. It was like this chick Sadie was reading my mind. I wondered if she’d spent the summer with her nose in Teen and Glamour and Seventeen too. Unfortunately, my mom did my school shopping in the Sear’s catalog again, but I was able to rip the labels off the backs of my non-name, dork jeans and find one of my dad’s old black, narrow tooth, Ace combs for my back pocket. Somehow, I still didn’t look like the other kids did. This was obviously going to require more thought, and work, and money.
This was also the year they began splitting up the twins in two differed classrooms. Chubby-big-eyes was in homeroom with Sadie Mae and me and scrawny-small-eyes was in the other fifth grade. They still passed notes back and forth from classroom to classroom and I remember wishing I could fit in with them. I really didn’t think Sadie fit, but she wore the jeans, carried the comb, played the games, so I guess she got it right and I still needed work. I didn’t quite make it from freak to chic. But I do think I made it from freak to geek. Fifth grade was the year we got to choose our instruments for band. I found out about an open house just before school started for kids and parents to go and try out the instruments and I knew one thing for sure. Being in band and being good at playing music was just one more step in my goal of becoming popular. Everyone loved music, right? Besides that, maybe I would meet some other kids in band that would want to be friends and hang out and maybe play music together. Common interests were something my mom was always telling me was a good way to find friends. And let’s face it: it sure couldn’t hurt to try. Mom took me to the music open house and there were tons of kids there. It seemed like nearly everyone in fifth grade wanted to be in band. This was it! My ticket to popularity and the kiss and kill twins seeing just how amazing Judy Roundtree was. All the girls seemed to be trying out the flutes and clarinets, so I wandered over to join them. The twins and Sadie Mae were both checking out the flutes and then scrawny-small-eyes went over to try the clarinets. I overheard her say, “I don’t wanna play the flute if that’s what everyone is doing.” She had a point. My mom whispered to me, “No one can hear the flutes. You should go check out the saxophones. That’s what I played in high school.” So I looked over at the saxophones and fell in love. It was beautiful! Big and gold with silver pearly keys. We went over to the saxophones. I picked one up and Mrs. Small, the fifth grade band teacher told me to suck on a reed for a while. I put it in my mouth and it tasted like a hard, wooden stamp. Mrs. Small and my mom told me it had to be really wet, so I sucked away. While I was sucking, I looked over at Sadie Mae and the twin at the flutes. They both had their heads tilted to the side blowing in the tiny hole. They looked pretty ridiculous. I was happy I wasn’t going to be a flute player. I looked over at scrawny-small-eyes at the clarinets and she had a reed too! I watched her pull the clarinet into her mouth and blow and it made a loud squeak. She put down the clarinet and looked a little embarrassed. She walked back over to the flutes. It looked like she was going to just play what everyone else was playing after all. “Not me”, I thought. I was going to give the sax a whirl. I finally attached the reed to the mouthpiece with Mrs. Small’s help and put it into my mouth and blew. It didn’t squeak, but it did make a really loud noise like a car horn. It made my belly fill with laughter and I had to stop and laugh. Mom and Mrs. Small laughed too. “If you want to be in band, Judy, you need an instrument people can hear,” my mom said. She was right. I looked up to see the kiss and kill twins watching me. When I met their eyes, they quickly looked away, but they noticed me! This was it! The sax was my ticket to a friendship with the coolest chicks in Gardner and maybe even Sadie Mae Pepper. I left the open house that night carrying a big old case of saxophone and high hopes.
When fifth grade finally started, band started too. Sadie Mae and the twins had all chosen the flute, along with about 10 other girls in my class. I sat on the opposite side of the practice room as them in band and used to watch them all sitting over there looking exactly alike with their heads tilted to the side and lips pursed blowing into the little hole making noise that nobody could hear, while I blared away on my saxophone imagining I was the star of the band and everyone loved me. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that there were a whole heckuva lot of keys on the sax and if I were going to be good at it, I’d have to really practice. Practicing would take time away from my little daydreams and stories, but I would just have to make the sacrifice. This was important. My mom had told me I should practice in front of the mirror so I’d know what I looked like when I played. I never much liked looking at myself. I rarely combed my hair in the morning. I usually just rolled out of bed and put on some clothes. Sometimes I put clothes on that had been lying on my floor or shoved in the laundry basket. Sometimes my clothes didn’t smell very good and sometimes I didn’t smell very good. I never worried much about how I looked or how I dressed until I wanted to be friends with the kiss and kill twins. A lot of girls in my class wanted to be just like them. Or maybe it was just Sadie and me. Or maybe it was just me. It just seemed like everyone wanted to look like them, talk like them, dress like them. They were two girls that looked a lot alike and seemed to have this whole friendship thing down. They seemed to have tons of friends and always had someone to talk to and someone to play with. It never occurred to me that they were twins and each of them had always had someone to talk to and someone to play with. They’d always had each other and they always would have. Why couldn’t they leave some friends for the rest of us that didn’t have twin sisters or even sisters? Why couldn’t they let me have Sadie Mae? It just seemed like a natural fit. Sadie and I were both smart, we both made it in band. The twins quit after about two weeks. After the twins quit, a lot of other people quit band too. It seemed that if the twins weren’t going to do it, it just wasn’t cool and everyone just wanted to be cool. Sadie and I both stayed in band and practiced. We fit because we both liked band more than being cool and being a kiss and kill girl. At least, that’s what I had hoped, but I was wrong. The twins still asked Sadie to play with them every recess. They asked to sit by her in every class they had with her. They always saved her a spot at their lunch table. They asked HER! It seemed like Sadie didn’t really even care if she was their friend or not. They WANTED her. I always found a seat next to Molly Johnson or Cindy Lionheart in class or at lunch. They were nice, but they weren’t cool like Sadie and the twins. They always let me sit by them in class or at lunch, but I never really talked to them much. They were friends and let me hang out with them, but they talked and I just kept to myself and listened. I wasn’t really a friend of theirs, but I was tolerated, I guess. One of the reasons I wanted Sadie to be my friend so much was because she was new. She hadn’t made lifelong friends yet like the twins had each other and Molly had Cindy and I hadn’t either. Even if I’d tried with Heloise and Luretta, they always ended up leaving. Sadie had made it through fourth grade and was still here. Her mom was a teacher at the elementary school and her dad ran a business in Lawrence. All signs pointed to Sadie hanging around Gardner for quite a while and I was going to make her my friend one way or another. I was jealous of the twins and wished I could be as cool as they were, but Sadie seemed a lot more like me than them. It drove me bananas that she always seemed to choose the twins over me to play with. And then one day, something crazy happened.
I was sitting at lunch with Molly and Cindy and Sadie walked over to our table. Her face was red and her eyes were wet like she was just about to cry. “Sure!” I said and there sat Sadie. I asked her if she was ok and she said she was, but I could tell something was wrong. I wanted her to be my friend, so I didn’t ask anymore. I just sat there next to her trying to think of something to say to make her feel better. “Hey Sadie, have you written your English paper yet?” She nodded. “Have you learned the concert songs in band? How many times a week do you practice? Do you like the flute? My mom says people can’t hear the flutes, but I hear you and I think the flute sounds really pretty. You’re good at band, Sadie. I mean, I think you’re really good.” I didn’t give her a chance to answer. Finally, I realized I was acting like a grade A geek and stopped talking. “Sorry. I’m kind of a dork.” Sadie made a loud snorting nose and laughed at me. I was so relieved she was laughing. I made her feel a little better. “You’re not a dork, Judy. I think you’re pretty cool.”
“But, I’m not nearly as cool as the twins and playing with the older kids and kiss and kill with the boys. Are you playing with them at recess?”
“No. Not today. Today, I’d like to play with you at recess if that’s ok.”
Was she kidding me? Was it ok? Of course it was ok. I had no idea what to play or really how to play, but it didn’t matter. Sadie Mae talked to me. Sadie Mae came to sit by me at lunch. Sadie Mae asked to play with me at recess! Sadie Mae Pepper had given up the glamour of kiss and kill to hang out with boring, dork, nerdy, old Judy Roundtree. Yes, I felt pretty gosh darn special. Then, we got outside for recess. I’d never done this. What do you play? What do you do at recess? I looked at Sadie, “What do you want to do?” I felt hopeless. I’d never really had a friend and truly had no idea what friends do except play tag and kiss and kill or rip pieces off of bugs or….swing! “Do you want to swing?” And off we went to the swings and we just sat next to each other smiling and laughing. It was heaven. Then, I noticed Sadie got quiet and seemed to be looking at someone. I looked over and saw the kiss and kill twins whispering to each other and looking over at Sadie and me. They told a secret and then the person they told ran to tell someone else the secret and so on. I noticed Sadie’s eyes tearing up again. “What’s going on?” She didn’t answer at first. She just shook her head. “No big deal”, she said. When the bell rang, Sadie and I went back to class and Sadie asked if she could sit by me! Of course she could, but the weirdest part was the pretty big-eyed twin also asked if she could sit by me. This was it. All my hard work in band was paying off. I was a talented force of nature and finally, all the best people wanted to be my friend. That was the day I got my very first note passed to me from the twin:
What’s your favorite color?
House, apartment or mansion?
What’s your favorite song?
Which boy do you want to marry?
I was supposed to answer the questions and pass it to Sadie. Of course I answered, pink, mansion, Delta Dawn, and Shaun Cassidy. I folded it back up and very sneakily (I thought) placed it on Sadie’s desk. That’s when Mr. Noodle piped up, “What’s that Judy? Do you and Sadie have something to share with the class? I slumped as far down in my desk as I possibly could.
“Go ahead, Sadie. Let’s hear what Ms. Roundtree thought was so important that it couldn’t wait until after class.”
Sadie looked at me like she was really sorry and I knew she was. I was so mad at the twin for passing the note—even more mad that she hadn’t even signed her name to it, so it looked like I had just done it and passed it to Sadie. I also knew if I wanted to have friends, I couldn’t be a snitch, so I just sat there ashamed and humiliated as Sadie read aloud to the whole class my deepest secrets. Well, the house, song and color weren’t so bad, but Shawn Cassidy? Oh my God. Then, Mr. Noodle sentenced me to one hour detention after school for passing notes. I looked at the twin that started it and she just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. As embarrassing as it was, it was still exhilarating. I felt like one of the cool kids. Let’s be honest, that one sentence of detention gave me more cool points than playing saxophone ever would. Now, I was a trouble-maker, a rebel. I skirted the rules and didn’t care who I hurt. Maybe that was the new Judy Roundtree. But that wasn’t true. I felt really bad that I had passed the note to Sadie and gotten her in trouble too. In a completely jerky move, Mr. Noodle also sentenced Sadie to detention. The school called both our parents and they had to leave their jobs and come get us from school. My mom was mad and Sadie’ was too. I told Sadie I was sorry and she said, “I know it’s not your fault. You didn’t start it.” She knew! She knew it was a twin. “She wanted us to get into trouble, you know. That’s not what they write notes about.” I’m sure I had no idea what Sadie was talking about, but I was very happy that she wasn’t mad at me. I was also happy we had detention together. Even though we weren’t allowed to talk in detention, we did have to sit there together and were able to make faces at each other a bit. We were also able to do homework together. I tried whispering to Sadie, but she gave me a stern look that let me know she didn’t want any more trouble and neither should I. I also started wondering about the kiss and kill twins. Had they really wanted to get us into trouble? And why? Sadie must have done something really bad for them to want to get her into trouble, but why me? I’d never done anything to them. I’d never even done anything at all! I didn’t know what Sadie had done wrong but it must have been pretty bad for them to not want anyone to be her friend any more. Maybe she called their mom a bad name or beat one of them up. Maybe she told them they were ugly or that their jeans were too tight (sometimes they really were).
The rest of that week, Sadie and I sat together at lunch and played on the swings together. It was just like she didn’t exist anymore to the twins and she didn’t really seem to care. Sadie and I were happy playing and hanging out together. We didn’t even sit with Molly and Cindy anymore. We sat together. We talked a lot about school and band and music. We didn’t talk at all about the twins and I never asked her about them. I actually didn’t care at all about them any more now that it seemed like Sadie and I were friends. The twins still sat with a group of older kids at lunch and played with the boys at recess. They didn’t seem to need any more friends, but Sadie and I both needed each other. That was the same week I saw something for the very first time that made me suspect I knew what Sadie had done to lose favor with the twins. We were in Science having a quiz when I noticed the twin trying to take a peek at Sadie’s paper. I also saw Sadie move her arm across her paper so she couldn’t see the answers. Then, I saw the twin throw a pencil at Sadie’s head and get up to go pick it up again trying to peek at her paper. Sadie shot that twin a look of death. The twin sat back down and we all finished and handed in out tests. “She was trying to cheat off you, wasn’t she?” Sadie confirmed my suspicions and said that as soon as she didn’t let them cheat, they didn’t want to be her friend any more. She told me that the other fifth grade class with the other twin always had the exact same tests as we did the following hour, so one twin would cheat off Sadie and write down all the answers for the other twin and they would both end up getting the A’s that Sadie had earned without learning anything. I knew cheating was wrong, but I also knew the twins weren’t very bright, but could provide a whole lifetime of popularity. I asked Sadie why she didn’t just let them cheat. It seemed to me that it would be a lot easier to just do what they wanted and be friends with the popular, cool crowd, but Sadie told me it just didn’t feel right. She said she had to study to get her grades and it didn’t seem fair that the twins didn’t have to do anything but copy Sadie’s paper. She made a lot of sense, I guess, but it still seemed like a small price to pay to get a ticket to the cool crowd. I soon learned, I’d get to make that choice myself.
It was the very next week and Sadie and I were having lunch together when one of the twins called to me from their table. “Judy! We want to play with you today!” I looked up at them in shock. I looked at Sadie in disbelief. Sadie shrugged her shoulders and told me to go. “Can Sadie play with us too?”
“That’s ok. I need to finish some homework quick”, Sadie said before the twins could answer.
“Come on Judy. We’re going to play kiss and kill.” I thought it was very strange, but I knew questioning why would be just stupid so I went to play kiss and kill. I still didn’t know what that meant. As it turned out, it meant I just stand there alone watching the boys chase the girls around the school and sometimes catch them behind the school and swap spit. Gross. None of the boys liked me though so none of them chased me. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that the twins came to play with me—with me! They knew I was alive. I was standing there alone watching when I saw one of the twins whispering to Jimmy Larsen and pretty soon he was chasing me. I ran as fast as I could and then he caught me. I was scared to death he was going to try and kiss me, but he just caught me and said, “We want to make sure you have some fun playing with us. The twins really like you and want to be your friend.” That was the day I finally felt popular. I knew I still didn’t fit in, but maybe that’s why everyone I thought was so awesome wanted to be my friend. Of course, it would be nice if they’d asked me what I wanted to do rather than just throw me into a game of kiss and kill, but no matter! I may not be totally chic, but that day I knew I was no longer totally geek either. Right after the bell rang to go back to class one of the twins (scrawny, small eyes) came over and whispered to me, “We’re not talking to Sadie today, ok?” But Sadie was my friend. Why wouldn’t I talk to her? “Well, it’s either her or us. She’s not our friend anymore but you can be. But you can’t talk to Sadie.” It turned out that the twins had told everyone not to talk to Sadie Mae because they weren’t friends anymore and if I talked to Sadie, I couldn’t be friends with them. It only took me a couple seconds to think, “It’s about time. I’ve been going to school here my whole life and if anyone deserved to be friends with the twins it was me.” I finally made it. I was one of the kiss and kill girls.
After that, the twin in my class always sat right next to me. She’d ask to borrow my notes and paper and pencils, but I didn’t mind. She was my friend and she was the cutest, most popular girl in school. Sadie still sat next to me too, but I didn’t talk to her because I knew I couldn’t if I wanted to stay with the popular girls. Sometimes Sadie would pass me notes about how the twins were just using me and that she would be a real friend to me and blah blah blah. Sadie was just jealous now because she was out and I was in. I was more than happy to let my new best friend copy my homework and my answers and share with her twin so they would all get the same grades as me and they’d have to stay my friends because I knew they were cheaters. If they tried the same stuff on me that they did to Sadie, I would have no problem telling on them. Of course, I knew I’d get in trouble for cheating too, but just them knowing I could blow the whistle on their whole cheat-o-rama should be enough to make them stay friends with me. It worked! I played with the twins every day at recess. Well, I was asked to play with them, but nobody ever chased me, so I mostly just stood there and every once in a while, one of the cool kids would say hello to me, but I was with them. I was one of them and that’s all that mattered to me. Sadie Mae was now playing with Molly and Cindy or sitting alone on the swings watching us like I used to do. Sometimes I felt a little bad for her, but mostly I was too busy feeling happy that I now had the best friends in the whole school.
But, it wasn’t just at school that the twins were my best friends. They also invited me to their birthday party with all the other most fabulous kids in school. I never really got to talk to them or play with them or anyone else at the party, but there I was. I remember being so nervous about the present we bought for them. My mom just went out and bought them each dolls without even asking me what to buy them. I guess she knew I liked dolls and just figured the twins would like them too. I knew it wasn’t a very good gift. I knew they wouldn’t like them. As it turned out, it didn’t really matter. When it came time to open their presents, they just tore through them all really fast and didn’t really even pay any attention to any of them. The dolls were each opened and thrown into a pile of all the other gifts that people brought. I didn’t really think much of it. I just imagined tat the best kids are really hard to impress with a gift. I was mostly just happy they didn’t say anything about my gift or hate the dumb dolls. I don’t even think they knew it was from me. They didn’t really seem to stop and look at who gave them gifts at all. The only thing I cared about was being there along with all the most popular kids at school. I did seem to be the only freak there that really didn’t belong, but who cares? I was there and I was one of them. They seemed to accept me as one of the group/.
Then, there was the one time they invited me over to their house for a sleepover. Just them and me! This was the first time I had ever been at a sleepover and I was really worried about it. I don’t know what to talk about or what to do. I had never slept away from home. What would I eat? What if I couldn’t sleep? What if I pee’ed the bed? Even though I was 10 years old and in fifth grade, I still had accidents once in a while. It was horribly embarrassing and my mom used to call me too lazy to get out of bed and go. I guess she really believed I enjoyed lying in a puddle of my own urine at night. It was a real fear! If I wet the bed and the twins’ house, I would be finished! I would no longer have anything on them that was bigger than my wetting the bed. It worried me so much that I almost said I couldn’t go, but that would be crazy too. If I sad no, they might never ask again. They might decide to tell everyone to stop talking to me too just like they did to Sadie. So, I packed a bag on Tuesday morning to go home with the twins for my very first sleepover. My mom called their mom because it was on a school night, but the twins mom said I’d just get dressed and ride the bus home with them on Tuesday night and ride the bus back to school with them on Wednesday morning. So, I brought along all my school books, pajamas, a change of clothes and a tooth brush. The twins were farmers and lived out in the country. Once we got to their house, we went straight to their bedroom. It was a beautiful room. There was wallpaper with little pink flowers on it, pink shiny, silky looking curtains on the windows and two perfectly made twin beds; one of each side of the room. They had shiny pink bedspreads with a ruffled pillow cover and they were perfectly made. I never made my bed. There were times when I slept on a bare mattress because my sheets were pulled out from my mattress. And their room was so clean! My room always had clothes and toys all over the floor. For a long time, I couldn’t even see the floor of my bedroom. Mom gave up trying to get me to clean my room and eventually just closed the door. When I went to my room, I’d sometimes just jump right from the door onto my bed to avoid stepping on any sharp toys or breaking anything. One time, I forgot an apple core under my bed and when I finally found it, there was a whole little ant colony living under my bed. It was ok because I found some Raid and sprayed under my bed really good. Every once in a while, I’d still see an ant in my room, but mostly I think the Raid killed them. So, there I was. Dirty, messy, smelly Judy Roundtree in the bedroom of the most popular girls in school. As nervous as I was, I was really excited. What would we do? What kind of games do the twins play in together? Did they have any dolls we could play? Did they ever find out if was me who gave them the dumb dolls for their birthday? Maybe they liked them! Maybe they’d say “Thanks, Judy. Those dolls were the best!” Would we play house? That all seemed like kid stuff. No, they were far too sophisticated for that type of thing. Maybe we would play truth or dare or tell ghost stories. I couldn’t wait to find out. Finally, I just looked around and looked at one twin and then the other as they each slumped down on their beds and asked, “So, what do we do now?”
“Nothing, Judy. We need to do our homework before we do anything else. But, you know, you’re way better at this stuff than we are. I bet if you did it, it would be done in no time and then we could play. Do you like dolls, Judy?” Did I? Did I like dolls? What a silly question. “Yes! Ok!” And they each handed me their worksheets. It wasn’t so bad. All we had that night was one math worksheet and a review packet for science. All I really had to do was mine and then I could copy all my answers onto theirs. It was tough getting their handwriting the same, but I did the best I could. It actually looked pretty good. I managed to get the handwriting to match and I also made sure they each got one wrong, so it wouldn’t look too obvious that someone else was doing their work. While I was working on the homework, the twins had left the room. I later found out they were sitting down to dinner with their mom and dad and little brother. I hadn’t eaten anything, but I figured I’d be able to eat when I finished everything. It only took me about an hour and a half to finish all three worksheets and science packets. I waited in their room for a little while for them to come back so we could play dolls, but when they didn’t come back, I finally left the room and wandered around the house., I couldn’t find anyone in the living room, so I went into the kitchen./ The twins mom was in the kitchen cleaning up the dirty dishes. “I’m sorry you weren’t hungry, Judy,” she said. “We had steak and baked potatoes tonight. I was pretty good. Do you want to help me with the dishes?” First of all, I have no idea where she got the idea that I wasn’t hungry. Just looking at me, you can tell I don’t miss many meals. Second of all, dishes? I didn’t come over to the house of the coolest chicks in school to do dishes! Where were the twins? Where were the dolls? “The girls are downstairs watching TV with their dad, Judy.” She pointed out the door to the basement and I walked over and went down the steps. Yep. There they were, one of the floor and one in a recliner curled up with blankets and watching Laverne & Shirley. “Oh, are you all done Judy?” I nodded.
“Come on and sit down and watch TV with us.” I was a little disappointed. I could watch TV by myself. I didn’t need friends to watch TV with. At my house, it was even better to watch TV alone because you didn’t have to fight with anyone over what channel to watch. So, there we sat quietly watching TV for about another hour and a half. Finally, the twins’ dad said, “bedtime.” And up the steps and back into their bedroom we went.
“Where should I sleep?” I asked looking at the two beds. The scrawny, small-eyed one said, “You can have my bed, Judy. I’ll sleep on the floor.” I’d been suspicious that they’d maybe only invited me over to do their homework, but when she gave up her bed for me, I knew they really liked me. This was just the first sleepover and there’d be many more. I’d have lots of chances to play dolls with the twins; or tell ghost stories; or play truth or dare. It would get better. We all put our pajamas on and I laid down on the bed. That’s when I started really getting homesick. And hungry! I hadn’t eaten a thing. “I’m hungry.” The twin on the floor asked me what I wanted to eat. I asked for a tuna salad sandwich and she left the room and came back with two pieces of white bread with mayonnaise on it and chunks of tuna in the middle. It wasn’t right, but it was their food and she had made it for me. I ate it and was happy that she liked me enough to make it and bring it to me. Then, finally I laid back down to go to sleep when we heard a very quiet knock at the door. It was the twins’ mother. “I’ll just be a second,” she said as she walked over to the bed I was in and quickly slid a big, black, plastic garbage bag under me. OH MY GOD! My mother had told her I might wet the bed. Any humiliation I had ever felt before was nothing. This was by far, the most degrading thing that had ever happened. “Its ok sweetie, your mom told me you still have accidents,” she whispered to me and left the room. I just laid there, paralyzed, hoping to God that the twins hadn’t been paying attention, but then the one on the floor got up and ran out of the room. I could hear her talking to her mom outside the room. “What if she pees in my bed, mom? Will you get me a new bed? That’s so gross.” I heard her mom tell her to be nice and to be quiet,. I didn’t really blame her. I wouldn’t want anyone else to pee in my bed either, but it was still humiliating. Finally, she came back into the room and said I had to sleep on the floor. I kind of knew that was coming, so I got up and pulled the pillow, blanket and the garbage bag with me so I wouldn’t pee all over the floor and laid down and tried to sleep. I held back tears as best as I could and tried to stay quiet. I don’t know if I slept at all that night. When the morning came, I was relieved that I hadn’t pee’ed, but it wasn’t too surprising since I didn’t really sleep. We got up, got dressed and made it to the bus, which was a lot earlier than I was used to getting ready, but we made it. There was no time for breakfast, so I went to school hungry too. I still didn’t really care about anything except that I was a friend of the twins and everyone knew it. Nothing else really mattered except that I was one of them. On the bus, they asked me to give them their homework. I told them to check the writing and make sure it was good enough. I also told them they got one wrong so it wouldn’t look too suspicious. “Oh, good thinking, Judy” said tone of the twins. It was all going to be ok. They needed me. I could do their homework and fake their handwriting and pass it off as their own work. Even if they were just using me, it was still better than being alone all the time or being a misfit. I was a little afraid they were going to tell everyone at school about the garbage bag incident, but they didn’t. Again, it just made me believe more and more that they really, truly liked me.
As long as I kept doing their homework and helping them cheat on tests, I had the world by the tail. They always invited me to play at recess and even started fixing my hair and helping me put on make-up. I couldn’t do it myself at home, so the twins would bring their make-up and barrettes to school and fix it for me in the morning. I always looked really funny to me, but they said I looked really pretty. My eyes had black gook around them and they poked the mascara brush in my eyes more than once. The lipstick they put on me was too dark and they put way too much blush on my cheeks, but they said I looked pretty and a lot of the other kids started telling me I looked pretty too, so I just went along with it. When I looked in the mirror at school, I still thought I looked like a 10 year old hooker, but sometimes, when one of the twins stood next to me in the mirror, I could see that I looked a little bit more like them. I could maybe pass for their fat cousin or something. It still didn’t feel right to me and I used to wash my face as soon as I got home. There was one time I didn’t wash my face and my brother asked me what I had all that “crap” on my face for. I told him that the twins had done it. He knew who they were and how popular they were. “Well, it looks good on them. You just look like a fat hooker.” For some reason, when I thought the same thing in my head, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as my own brother saying it. And saying that it was ok for the twins but not for me. I made sure to wash my face every day at school before I even came home after that. I also started experimenting a little bit on my own with my mom’s make up after school before she came home from work. I looked a lot better with just a little mascara and a little lip color. It just made me look a little brighter or something. Still, I wasn’t ready to commit to wearing make up every day, so I just let the twins do my face when they felt like it and went through a lot of fifth grade looking like a ten-year-old hooker.
After a little time went on, I remembered how I’d felt about Sadie Mae. Let’s face it, even though I seemed to be a part of the kiss and kill group, I really didn’t feel like I fit in with them. I remembered, Sadie was more like me. We had common interests! We both did well at school. We both played in band. And we both knew what it was like to be on the hook of the twins. One day, I managed to bring some hair combs, lip gloss, and mascara to school. In the morning, I showed them to Sadie and her eyes lit up. I was a little afraid she might have been mad at me for not talking to her for a little why after getting the other from the twins. I’d secretly hoped the twins would have forgotten about their beef with Sadie so we could all be friends together. I asked Sadie if I could fix her hair and make-up. Sadie’s mom was pretty strict and worked right there at our school, so it wasn’t often Sadie was able to get by with any make-up, but she let me do her hair and her face. I hoped the little bit of lip gloss and mascara wouldn’t get her into too much trouble with her mom. I also pulled her hair back above her ears on each side and fastened it with the combs. “You look beautiful!” I called over to the twin we shared a classroom with, “What do you think? Doesn’t it look good?” She rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders. “You look good,” I assured Sadie. It wasn’t quite enough for us to be friends again, but it did seem to open the door again and I cautiously started talking to Sadie again and she talked back to me. It was sometimes awkward at lunchtime when I wanted to sit with Sadie, but the twins expected me to sit with them now every day. Sadie was fine sitting with Cindy and Molly, but I missed her. I missed talking to her about school and band and I missed the way she made me feel like less of a dork. Still, I knew if I didn’t do what the twins wanted me to, they could be pretty cruel. It seemed to me that school was just a lot easier when I went along with them and did what they wanted rather than have them tell everyone to stop talking to me and being my friend. The only thing was that even though I seemed to be part of the group, I never really felt like one of them. They didn’t talk to me much except to do their homework or ask me questions about school. They asked me to play with them at recess and I could follow them around, but we never actually played much together. After the garbage bag incident at their house, there were never any more sleepovers and I never rode the bus with them again. I felt like maybe things would have been better if I had stood up to them and stayed friends with Sadie instead.
The good life being a part of the kiss and kill group lasted almost all the way until school got out for the summer. I’ll never forget the day. It was our annual track and field day at school and we were all in events. I wasn’t very good at running or hurdles or any of the other events, but I was always able to compete. I threw shot-put and ran a relay with some other kids in my class. The twins had decided to be good enough friends with Sadie by then to let her run with them in the relay. Sadie was one of the fastest runners in our class. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason they asked her to run on their relay team, but it didn’t matter. She was back in with them and my dreams about all of us being friends seemed just about to come true. Before the track and field event, we had a quiz in social studies. There was a weekly current events booklet called ”Blue Marble” we received that we had to learn and study because there was a quiz each Friday. The quizzes were taken right from the booklet and the answers were in them. Studying and learning is one thing for me, but the “Blue Marble” quizzes were pretty much straight from the booklet and I had to memorize the whole thing—or, I could just get the answer key out of the back of the book and use that. Since I hadn’t been doing very well on the “Blue Marble” quizzes, the twins weren’t very happy with me. We’d also all been getting the same questions wrong which was making our teacher a little suspicious. When the time came for the quiz, I had the crumpled tiny piece of paper in my hands and did my best to get all the answers right. But our teacher Mr. Larson was watching me pretty close, so I couldn’t let anyone look at my test. He was already suspicious about us cheating and I just couldn’t chance it. How much worse could she do than I had been, I wondered. I’d only ripped out the answer key to make sure the twins got the answers right. I didn’t realize how awful I would feel when I just used it on my own test and wasn’t able to let her copy me. The time came to turn in our quizzes and I felt sick to my stomach. I looked over at the twin and she wouldn’t even look at me. I could tell she was angry. I was sure they weren’t going to be my friend any more. After the quiz was lunch and then would be field day. They sat with Sadie Mae that day at lunch and didn’t even look at me. I went and sat with Molly and Cindy. I had a sinking feeling that the easy life in fifth grade was just about to end. I just didn’t know how bad it would be. After lunch, we went to recess. Molly and Cindy let me tag along with them. I followed them over to the swings and they were talking to each other about something, but my head was so full and my stomach was twisted wondering what my fate would be with the twins. I knew if they wanted to, they could make sure nobody ever talked to me again. I was remembering what happened to Sadie. Not only would they not be my friends any more, but they would tell everyone else not to be my friend too. I was about to go back to being lonely Judy with no friends. I was watching to see them come outside for recess, but they never did. The other popular kids were running around playing tag without them. I was a little relieved because I knew if they weren’t outside at recess, they weren’t telling all the other kids to stop talking to me. I started to relax and smile a little. Molly and Cindy were really nice to me and just let me swing right along with them. They never seemed to care about the kiss and kill twins or whether or not they were friends with other kids. They had each other and always seemed just fine with that. That was the first time I remember wishing my life could be as simple as Moly and Cindy’s. It was just a few minutes later scrawny-small-eyes came charging over to me with her hands on her hips and her nose in the air. “Judy, you need to go inside. Mr. Larsen wants to talk to you.” I was so happy that she talked to me I wasn’t even thinking about what Mr. Larson might want. I just remember sitting there on the swing with a stupid smile on my face thinking she’s still talking to me! Everything was going to be ok. “NOW Judy!” she said again. I jumped up to obey her order to go talk to Mr. Larsen. I walked into the school and to my classroom and there I saw the other twin with Mr. Larson. What a relief! She was still talking to me too. I was worrying over nothing. “What’s up?”
That’s when my whole little world was turned upside down when Mr. Larson said, “Did you cheat on the Blue Marble quiz, Judy?” My whole body turned red and I’m sure I was sweating. I didn’t want to lie, but I also knew I’d be in big trouble if I said I’d been cheating. I also didn’t know if he was still suspicious of the twins cheating. I just blurted out, “What? NO!” And that’s when it all started becoming clear.
“I know you cheated on the quiz,” the twin said, “and I thought Mr. Larson should know because it’s not fair to the rest of us. I saw you stick the answer key into your pocket after the quiz.”
By tthis time, I was really hoping I didn’t pee my pants. I felt my eyes welling up. Not only had I been accused of cheating, but my best friends were turning on me. And they were turning on me because I wasn’t able to help them cheat too this one time. It was just this ONE time! I’d always done what they wanted before, so I was having a hard time believing that this was it, but it was. “Empty your pockets, Judy,” Mr. Larson commanded. I did. And included in the contents of my pockets was a tiny, crumpled, blue and gray piece of newsprint straight from the back page of the Blue Marble booklet with the answers to every single question on the quiz we just took on it. Mr. Larson picked it out of my hand, un-crumpled it slowly and my heart pounded. I wondered how many 10-year olds had heart-attacks. Surely, I was going to be one of them. I could hear the headline, “Fifth grade Gardner girl dies in classroom after caught cheating” Then, my former friend skipped out of the classroom leaving me alone with him. Mr, Larson used to be a football player. He was tall and had big muscles you could see through his shirt. He also had really light blue eyes that got really big when he was mad. I was looking at those scary blue eyes right now. “You’re smarter than this, Judy. You don’t have to cheat. Why would you do this?” I knew the twins would probably kill me if I told the truth so I thought as fast as I could. I told him I was quizzing myself before and had ripped the answers out so I could see if I was right or not. They were on another page from the questions in the booklet and it was just easier than turning the pages back and forth. He bought it. He did lecture me for a while about how cheaters only cheat themselves and how it didn’t look very good and so on and so forth. It didn’t matter. I had gotten away with it and I didn’t tell on the twins. They would surely have to be my friends again. I felt really guilty for cheating and lying, but all that mattered was that the twins would still be friends with me. I was allowed to go outside for field day and my relay team took third place while Sadie and the twins won first. I took second in shot-put which I know should have made me feel proud, but I was one of only two girls that did shot-put and both of us were bigger girls and I was the only one that was friends with the cool girls. I just didn’t feel like shot-put was a very cool thing to do, but it was better than standing by and watching everyone else have fun. I also won second place in the long jump. Sadie won first—another common interest for us—the long jump. Friendships surely were forged on less than that. In fact, I knew they were. Just look at me and the twins. The twins didn’t talk to me the rest of that day. They didn’t talk to me the rest of that day.
The next day, chubby-big-eyes and Sadie Mae were talking and giggling in the morning. Ms. Twin whispered something to Sadie and Sadie smiled and looked at me. I really wanted to tell her that I didn’t tell Mr. Larson how we’d been cheating, but I couldn’t when she was so close to Sadie. Every time I tried to make eye contact with her, she looked away. I was going to tell her. She should have figured it out since Mr. Larsen never yelled at them, but either way, I really thought she should know that I was a true friend. I didn’t tattle and I would always keep their secrets. That’s what friends do. They keep each other’s secrets. I’d never had friends before the twins, but it just seemed right to me that friends protect each other. We don’t share our secrets—especially secrets about cheating. She still seemed really mad at me, so I decide to just give them space. I didn’t want them to know how horrible I felt or how scared I was of what they might do to me. I pretended like it didn’t bother me and walked right past them in the lunch room. I secretly hoped they’d call me over to sit with them or ask me to play at recess, but they never did. I followed Molly and Cindy around and sat with them at lunch and followed them at recess. I didn’t really talk much or play much, but somehow, walking with them and standing with them was better than walking and standing alone knowing that my whole world was about to come crashing down. I was holding a jump rope for Molly, when scrawny-small-eyes called me over to the side of the school. I was a little afraid to go over since it was just her. She was always the mean one. She always seemed to do most of the dirty work and the other just went along to make her happy. That was the first time I wondered if one of the twins was just as afraid of the other as I was of both of them. I also knew it didn’t matter. They were twins and had been stuck together their entire lives and even before their lives started. There was no way they’d ever stop being together. Part of me wondered if she was going to beat me up. I’d never been in a fight before and didn’t think I would be able to fight back. My brother beat me up a lot of the time and every time I tried to fight back, he just hit me harder, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight back. I thought for just a minute about letting her beat me bloody. That’s what I would do. I would just stand there while she beat my face in and then I would fall on the ground all bloody and bruised. The bell would ring and everyone would go running back into the school. When the teacher realized I wasn’t there, he’d come looking for me and find me bruised and bloody laying in the mud on the side of the school where the twin had hurt me. “It…was…the…twins…”I would mutter softly and dramatically before I closed my eyes and fainted. He would call the cops. He would call the cops and arrest the twins for cheating and beating up Judy Roundtree. They would end up in detention for the rest of the fifth grade. When I finally got over to her, she just squinted those little eyes at me with her arms folded in judgment across her chest, “What did you tell Mr. Larson Judy Roundbottom?” They hadn’t called me that name in a long time. It was actually a pretty stupid nickname because I certainly didn’t have a round bottom. If anything I had a flat bottom which caused my Sear’s catalog jeans to fall down my butt, but they thought it was incredibly funny to change Roundtree to Roundbottom. I hoped if she found out I didn’t tattle, this would all be over, so I let her know I got out of it. I told him I just used the answers to study. “You shouldn’t lie, Judy. Everyone knows you’re a cheater and that’s why no one wants to be your friend.” With that, she ran away and joined Sadie and her twin to play kiss and kill with the boys. After recess that day, I watched as a note was passed around the classroom. I didn’t see who started it. All I saw was it went from person to person to person and it was just one note. When it came time to pass it to me, Sadie stood up and walked it to the desk behind me. This note was for everyone but me. I never did find out what it said and I thought for a second about telling Mr. Larsen the class was passing notes, but I knew that would be fifth grade social suicide so I stayed quiet and waited for the worst to happen. After that note went around, even Molly and Cindy were too scared to let me tag along. I spent the rest of the fifth grade with no friends. Luckily, there were only a couple weeks left of fifth grade after my falling out with the twins, so I wouldn’t have to face the loneliness of school for very much longer. I still played in the band with Sadie and a couple of the older kids talked to me once in a while. A couple of the older girls even told me that it wasn’t fair what the twins did to me, but they were too scared to say anything to them too. I started to wonder if the twins were popular because everyone liked them or because everyone was afraid of them. I also realized it didn’t really matter. Either way, they were in charge and everyone best do what they want or suffer the consequences. But what if a person just couldn’t do what they wanted? I thought about that quiz over and over again. How could I have done it differently? If I’d let her copy my paper, surely, Mr. Larsen would have seen us and all of us would be in trouble. They wouldn’t talk to me though, so there was no way for me to explain it to them and there was certainly no way anything was going to change if they wouldn’t talk to me. Sadie was still nice to me, but not in front of the twins. That’s when I really started questioning whether or not having friends was a good thing. If friends are only there when you do what they want, maybe I was better off alone. For the rest of the year, I would go right back to making up stories and reading books at recess. It seemed as though even Mrs. Parker knew what was going on as she didn’t bother me to play with anyone at recess the rest of that year.
The Reinvention of Me
That summer I knew I needed to change. I had to be better than the KK twins. I had to try really hard to get pretty, to get clothes with people’s names on them, and to be good at everything I did. I had to be perfect. If I were perfect, everyone would want to be my friend and I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. My mom helped me out. She was excited that I was starting to care about things like hair and clothes and make up. She spent over $100.00 on new school clothes for me that year and I got the coolest haircut. My hair was feathered in the front and shorter on the sides and longer in the back. I also plucked my eyebrows and shaved my legs for the first time. I was so grown up, everyone would want to be my friend. I even told a neighbor, Libby Lincoln, who lived just down my street a bit. She was one year younger than me in school and even she wanted to be friends with the Kiss and Kill girls. I told her I was going to be better than them in sixth grade. She looked at me funny when I said that. I never really knew why.
The night before I started the sixth grade, I wrote in my diary:
“Tomorrow is the beginning of my new life. This is my year. It will be perfect.” It took me forever to get to sleep that night. I remember trying on just about every outfit I had. I styled my hair so I would be able to do it quickly in the morning. I also put my make up on and looked at myself in the mirror. I really was sort of pretty. The more I looked at myself, the prettier I thought I was. But that was just in my face. I was still pretty chubby—140 pounds at 5’2”. That didn’t matter. I was going to be so cool and fun that everyone would want to be my friend instead of those nasty KK girls.
The next morning on the bus Daniel Lutz sat in the seat in front of me. He had never talked to me before but today he said, “You got a hair cut, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You’re wearing make up, aren’t you?”
“I bet those are new clothes too, aren’t they?” He asked.
This was exciting! Already someone was noticing the new me. Then, out of nowhere he said,
”It doesn’t matter, you know. You’re still fat.”
That’s when I realized I didn’t care much for make-up. You blow your nose once and all the paint rubs off. I wiped my eyes and looked like someone punched me in the eyeballs. I wiped my face to clean it up a bit and tried to hold my head up high. I felt bad for a few minutes, but who the heck was Daniel Lutz to tell me I was fat? I was still pretty and dressed nice. Shoot! I can lose weight if I want to. He can’t get a personality transplant. I refused to let him ruin my perfect year. I also decided to stick with just blusher to make my cheeks rosy and lip gloss to make my lips shiny to avoid looking like a circus clown if I ever had to cry at school again.
I got to school and found out I had Mr. Larson…again. He moved from fifth grade to sixth grade. Once again in my class were Sadie Mae Pepper and KK1. This year, there was a new girl in my class named Elizabeth Elizondo. Elizabeth wasn’t new, but she had never been in my class before. I had seen her at recess sometimes and she played the flute with Sadie in band. I didn’t know her at all, but I thought she seemed really smart. Sometimes she would read a book at recess. She most certainly was not KK girl material. Still, she was really cute and small. I think I was twice her size. And she and Sadie seemed to know each other. The other kids called her BeBe. I didn’t know why and I didn’t fell like I knew her well enough to call her BeBe so I called her Elizabeth. Sometimes I would say her name over and over again to myself because a lot of the other kids couldn’t pronounce it:
It was easy for me. Maybe if I was the only one who could pronounce her name right, Elizabeth Elizondo would be my friend.
That first day was pretty normal. At recess, I played with Sadie and Elizabeth Elizondo. We just jumped rope together. We played Cinderella dressed in yellow. They could double dutch jump and I couldn’t., but they let me turn the rope for them and sign the song. The Kiss and Kill twins played with the older kids in seventh grade. I think it was kiss and kill again or maybe tag. Whatever it was, it involved girls and boys and chasing each other around. That looked scary to me. I wasn’t terribly interested in boys at all. They liked to wrestle around and fight each other. I didn’t like that at all. That day I felt happy, like I was really going to have some friends this year. It seemed everyone had forgotten that they weren’t supposed to be my friends because the Kiss and Kill girls told them so. Even the Kiss and Kill girls left us alone. They didn’t come and take Sadie and Elizabeth Elizondo to play with them. They didn’t tell them not to play with me. Maybe this would be a perfect year after all.
The first time we had a test though, I noticed KK1 looking at Sadie’s paper. Why was she looking at Sadie’s paper and not mine? Was it because of last year? Last year Sadie had been friends with the KK girls up until she wouldn’t cheat. It looks like she got over that. That’s ok. They can cheat off Sadie. Sadie and Elizabeth will still be my friends at recess and at lunch, right? Wrong! KK1 and KK2 sat at the lunch table and saved the whole section of table. Sadie got to sit with them and Elizabeth too. The rest of the spots were filled by seventh graders. This was so unfair. Even kids in another grade were better than me! I was in band with Sadie and Elizabeth. We jumped rope at recess together. Why would they choose KK over me? It didn’t matter. I knew I would have to either be one of the Kiss and Kill girls or I would just have to forget about having friends altogether. Even Heloise and Luretta had moved away over the summer. All the other girls in my class already had best friends. I didn’t understand why some of them didn’t seem to care that the KK girls didn’t want to be their friend. They sure acted like they didn’t care. I had a chance with Sadie and Elizabeth until the KK girls stepped in. Even so, they were just using her. Couldn’t she see that? They just wanted to cheat off of her.
The Anomaly Named BeBe Elizondo
A while into sixth grade, I started to notice Elizabeth Elizondo sitting by herself at lunch and recess. She was reading a book. She read really big books like nothing I had ever read. I didn’t like to read at all. I was pretty good at reading but I thought it was boring. Elizabeth was very good at reading.
Sometimes she read aloud to the class and she read so fast I could hardly understand what she was saying. I think she was probably just showing off. No one could read that fast and know what they read. I was surprised she would rather sit and read than sit by the KK girls at lunch or play with them at recess. I knew they would let her play because she and Sadie were friends. Sadie was now best friends with the KK girls again. It was just like nothing ever happened. She changed this year. Her hair was longer and more stylish. I think she started wearing mascara and lip gloss and she was now wearing only Sassoon jeans. Only the coolest girls had Sassoons. They weren’t really cool until they had that comb sticking out the back pocket and KK1, KK2, and Sadie all had that comb. I had a comb too, but somehow it just wasn’t as cool sticking out the too lowly placed pocket of my Sears brand jeans. I was in low rise before low rise was a thing. One day, KK2 even asked me “Judy, do you like wearing your jeans that far down on your butt?”
I did feel like something was wrong with me a lot of the time, but I just thought of Elizabeth Elizondo. She had a license to be friends with the coolest girls in school, but she’d rather just read. If she doesn’t care, I shouldn’t care. Why can’t I just find something I like to do like that? That way, I can spend my free time doing something I like and not worrying about who is playing with whom or who has a best friend and who doesn’t. The funniest thing about Elizabeth was that the KK girls (I’m including Sadie with them now) liked her just the same. They still invited her to sit with them and to play with them, but she just said “No. I want to finish this chapter.” and kept on reading. I respected that about her. I also thought she must be a little nuts, but I still respected her enough to find something of my own I like as much as Elizabeth Elizondo liked to read.
That year, I had to start writing themes for English class. The teacher would write two possible plots on the chalk board and allow us to pick one. We had to write a three page theme on the plot we chose. One time the plot I chose was a man high on a scaffolding and it was beginning to give out. I wrote about how that man had thought about jumping off of that scaffolding because he was having a hard time with his wife and his work. he didn’t feel like he was doing enough to deserve them. He thought about it so much that he even tore a piece of the brown paper bag from his lunch bag and wrote a note to his wife on it. After he wrote the note and was back to work, the scaffolding started to give out. He realized he may actually die and immediately regretted writing the note that was in his pocket. The scaffolding did give out and he fell to his death wife found the note and believed he had killed himself on purpose. It was very sad and really good even if I do say so myself. Our English teacher, Ms. Higgens shook my hand in front of the whole class and said “Bravo” to me about that one. I felt pretty good. Maybe writing was my thing like reading was BeBe’s. I started calling Elizabeth BeBe over the last summer. I was invited to her birthday party and found out that her brothers and sisters couldn’t pronounce Elizabeth, so they shortened it to Betsey. Then, they realized that Betsey just didn’t fit her so they put her initials together: B for Betsey and E. for Elizondo. BE. That was too short so they starting calling her BeBe. I thought that was pretty cool. My whole like I’d never been anything but Judy. I was always boring old Judy Roundtree. I mean boring FAT old Judy Roundbottom. That’s what some of the boys called me. I wished my family would have given me a cool nickname. Jude was a cool name. The Beatles wrote a song about that name. I would be Jude, the cool girl that wore the round wire rim glasses and always was writing in her notebook. The other silly girls played games with the boys at recess but the smart girls like BeBe and me read books and wrote stories.
I wrote a few more stories that year and Ms. Higgens made a pretty big deal out of a few of them. The KK girls began to notice me a little. They just thought I must be smart to be able to write so well when I was only 11. They didn’t like to write at all. I remember when they had to fill three whole pages, they could write really super big. I always knew Ms. Higgens was too smart to fall for that. Even so, I tried it a few times and still got A’s. The themes I wrote didn’t always need three whole pages, but I had to fill them. I wrote a little big to fill them, but I didn’t need them all to finish my story. Then, there were times that I had to write really small to fit everything into three pages. Ms. Higgens actually docked me points for that. She would say I don’t need to write a book, just tell the story.
One day, Pretty KK asked me to look at her theme. She got a C and I always got A’s and she thought it was just because Mrs. Higgens didn’t like her. She wrote her story about a girl and some dog. A lot of it was misspelled and the grammar was off, but all in all, it wasn’t a bad story. But it was most definitely a “C”. She asked me to write her next theme just to prove her theory that Mrs. Higgens didn’t like her. I thought it sounded like an interesting experiment. It also may tell me if my themes were really worth the “A’’s or if she wasn’t really reading them. I wrote about a mother and daughter that argued a lot. The daughter said horrible things to the mother and then the mother got sick and just felt terrible. My themes always had a bit of a moral. It wasn’t my best work, but I knew Mrs. Higgens would know something was wrong if it was too good. I misspelled some words on purpose and used us instead of we and there instead of their just to make it believable. Pretty KK read it and smiled.
“I love it. Thank you, but I bet she gives it a “C”.
I told her that I made it look more like she wrote it herself and that I thought it was worth at least a B. Our themes were graded more on content than spelling and grammar and the content of the theme was quite good. She wrote her name on the theme and turned it in to Mrs. Higgens as her own.
The next day in English class, pretty KK sat next to me again. We were anxiously awaiting the return of our themes. As suspected, pretty KK got a C and I got another A. She was so unhappy, she almost started crying. That was the first and last time I ever saw her sad. I told her I didn’t think it was fair, but we both knew she couldn’t say anything without admitting I had written the theme. She would have gotten both of us into trouble. That was one of a very few times I remember pretty KK being nice to me. It was also one of the only times I ever felt bad for one of the KK twins. This experiment also made me question my talent as a writer. I had thought I was pretty good, but the idea that Mrs. Higgens may just look at my name at the top and write an “A’ made me angry. She made us write this stuff so she had gosh darn well better be reading it! That day, I got to sit with the Kill and Kill twins and Sadie Mae Pepper at lunch. We showed Sadie Mae out themes too and she agreed there was something wrong. BeBe was there too, reading Moby Dick. She was way too smart.
I’m not sure what happened or why but after the switched theme incident, the KK twins hated my guts. They told people not to be my friend. They actually recruited other kids to not be friends with me. Many of the other girls were so thrilled to be friends with them and play kiss and kill with the boys at recess; that they just went along with them. There were the KK twins, Sadie Mae Pepper, Candy Huckle, Roberta Wilson, and Jeanie Wilson. Candy was cousins with the KK twins. Roberta and Jeanie were sisters that were new in seventh grade and just really happy to have made friends with the “popular” girls. Sadie Mae still didn’t seem to fit, but she had experienced what it was like to be on the outside like me, and she didn’t want to go there again. I didn’t blame her at all. I did sometimes wish she would stand up to them though. I knew she wasn’t really happy being a KK girl.
I spent every lunch break alone and hid in a classroom at recess. At lunch break, I could hear them say things like
“Look, Judy isn’t even eating her lunch.”
“She must eat plenty at home to be that fat.”
“She’s so fat, it almost looks like she needs a bra!”
They told the other kids I wasn’t really that smart and that I was just a teacher’s pet. They put nasty notes in my desk. They didn’t sign them, but I knew who they were from. I tried to keep my head held high and just threw them in the garbage when I got them, but sometimes they really hurt. I remember reading,
You are so disgusting. Your teeth are so yellow and corroded and we are all tires of looking at your butt crack. You stink so bad, no one can stand to be around you. Why don’t you just kill yourself so no one would have to look at you anymore? “
Some days at school, I was sick to my stomach. I felt sick in the mornings and didn’t want to go to school. I really tried not to cry, but sometimes, I had to go to the girls bathroom and just cry. It seemed like they knew I cried in there sometimes because they would come in when I was there.
One day after Home Economics class, the teacher followed me into the girls’ room. She said, “Judy, I know something is going on with the twins. Please tell me what it is.” All I could do was shake my head and cry. She hugged me and told me I shouldn’t feel bad. She said sometimes girls got jealous of each other and they could be really mean for no reason at all. She told me how smart and talented I was but I just cried harder. Was she nuts?
“I’m not any of those things. I’m fat and disgusting. Nobody likes me. I don’t even like myself.”
That’s the day I had to start seeing the school counselor.
I really hated the school counselor. I did talk about all the mean things that were going on, but mostly I just cried a lot. The counselor told me the same things the teacher had said. Stupid things like that I was smart, talented and pretty. Pretty? She really was nuts. She told me I had to love myself or no one else could love me and a bunch of that crap. I told her it was pretty hard to love myself when I’m told all day long how disgusting I am. What really bothered me though is that no one ever talked to the Kiss and Kill twins. Nobody ever told them it wasn’t ok to treat people the way they did. I really think the teachers and counselor were afraid of them too. That year was one of the only times I remember my mother hugging me. We were doing the dishes together and I was trying not to cry and she just reached over and hugged me and said,
”What can I do, Judy?”
I asked her if I could go to another school or if we could move. She said I would have to take the bus to school like Elsie Watts. Elsie is a girl that had gotten into a lot of trouble and had to be taken away from her mom. The kids were pretty mean to her too, so she took a bus to school 30 miles away. I really didn’t want to be like Elsie Watts. The fact that my mom offered to do anything made me feel better.
Seventh grade was really hard. I think it was the hardest year I ever had. I finally just started reading books at lunch just like Elizabeth Bebe Elizondo. There was something about having your nose in a book and blocking out the rest of the world that made seventh grade bearable again. It also made BeBe want to talk to me. She would often ask what I was reading and no matter what it was, she had already read it. She would ask me which part I was on or whether or not I had gotten to this part or that part and that I’d love it. What I loved about BeBe was that she talked to me even though the KK Twins could make her regret it. She seemed to me to be fearless. I wished I could be more like BeBe.
By the end of seventh grade, some of the older kids had caught on to what the KK twins were doing to me. They all were friends with them, but once in a while, one of the older girls would come and talk tome. They would say how it wasn’t right how I was treated and that I should tell someone. I really didn’t want any more trouble from them, so I said I wanted to let it be. I made the mistake of telling one of them that my mom and I talked about me going to a different school. Somehow, that got back to the KK twins and then ugly KK walked right up to me for the first time in about 2 months and said,
“Go ahead and move round-ass. No matter where you go, it will be the same. No one is ever going to like you. You may as well just give up.”
I was so very happy to be done with the seventh grade, but I knew the following year would be more of the same. I spent most of my time at the park by myself that summer. I got used to being alone and started to enjoy it. There were times that I wished for a friend to play with or to talk to, but when I wanted to talk, I just wrote down what I would say.
The Metamorphosis of Judy Roundbottom
Something very strange happened that summer. I grew about five inches taller, but stayed the same weight. Not only did I get thinner, but boys started looking at me. I was only 12, so I thought it was weird, but after feeling ugly and disgusting and like nobody liked me, it was nice to have them look at me and tell me I was pretty.
I still didn’t see it, but just like I felt ugly when I was told I was ugly, I started to feel like I was sort of pretty to other people. All I saw was fat Judy Roundbottom with the bushy eyebrows and big fat lips. Some of the boys used to make fun of my big lips too. I also thought my eyes were too small and too close together and my nose was too fat and bulbous at the tip. Even so, someone thought I was pretty and that was a nice change. There was one boy from school names Charlie Bartle that said I was beautiful and that I looked just like Marylin Monroe. Charlie really seemed like he like the girls. He used to say he wanted to be one of the Kiss and Kill twins. I don’t mean he wanted to be friends with them. He actually wanted to be one of them. Charlie was always really excited when someone wore a nice shirt or got a new hair cut. He was really kind of funny. When someone did do something, Charlie was the one would spread the word. So, it made sense that on the first day of eighth grade, Charlie was the one that ran around asking everyone
“Have you seen Judy Roundtree? She’s beautiful!”
“Have you seen Judy Roundtree? She’s so skinny!”
I was so embarrassed. I didn’t want him calling attention to me. I didn’t feel on the inside like I looked on the outside. I was still the fat girl with the deep set eyes and big lips. I already knew I’d have to face the KK girls at some point and I really didn’t want them to have any more ammunition against me. The last thing they got upset over was a teacher liking me. I couldn’t imagine how evil they could be if they found out the boys were starting to like me—even the older boys like the ones they had always played kiss and kill with.
When I finally did see them, I tried to keep my head down. I thought if I didn’t make eye contact, maybe they wouldn’t notice me. It was no use. Ugly KK ran right over to me and said “Hi Judy. Looks like you finally quit eating everything, huh?” I said nothing. She continued, ”It doesn’t matter how skinny you get, you know. You’re still ugly and stupid and nobody likes you. Just because you lost weight doesn’t mean you can be friends with us, you know.” It was really starting to seem a bit ridiculous and I just accepted the fact that I would never quite fit in. I wished to be a part of something, but I had grown so used t being an outcast that it started to become a part of my persona. The KK twins continued to tell the other kids not to be friends with me, but when they found that it didn’t bother me anymore, they stopped talking about me. That was a relief. At lunch time, I sat with the other kids that didn’t belong. There was Maggie Wallace. Her family was very religious and Maggie wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. She hardly talked to anyone at all. There was also Sara Longfellow. Her mom and dad were never married and she wore the same two outfits to school every day. She had cats and sometimes she smelled a little like cat pee. There was Gerald Rogers. He was tall and really skinny. He couldn’t walk very well. I had heard he had some sort of illness, like cerebral palsey or something like that. And then there was BeBe Elizondo. The girl that had a free ride to the KK girls and she still sat on her own reading her books. The KK girls were never mean to her. They never had been. It was almost as thought they wanted to be friends with BeBe, but she wasn’t interested. I truly admired BeBe. She became my role model.
About two months into eighth grade, I stared feeling really tired all the time. I didn’t feel much like eating and I never wanted to get out of bed in the morning. Not only wasn’t I gaining weight as I grew taller, but I started losing weight. .I didn’t feel sick otherwise. I just felt extremely sleepy—like I could sleep for days on end. My mom got worried and took me to the doctor to see what was wrong. The doctor had me lie on my back and asked me all about what I had to eat every day. I told her that I usually ate a lot. She went on and on about how young girls don’t all need to weight 110 pounds and that at my height, 140 was a perfect weight. I really had no idea why she was telling me all of this until my mom told me she was afraid I was anorexic. I read Teen Magazine and Seventeen magazine and I knew what anorexic meant. I also knew, without a doubt, that I most certainly was not anorexic. The whole thing was quite amusing especially when we found out the next day that I had mononucleosis. It was a virus in my blood that made me tired. It would last about 6-8 weeks and there wasn’t anything the doctor could do. I just had to rest and get plenty of fluids. I had no idea where I got mono and I didn’t know of anyone else that had it. And I didn’t find out until I finally went back to school that it was also called “the kissing disease”.
Rumors had been running rampant while I was at home sick. It turned out I had been dating all kinds of older boys and kissing them. That’s what caused me to get “the kissing disease.” Once boy walked right up to me and said,
”Only sluts get mono, you know.”
I never really knew who started the rumors but my best guess was ugly KK twin.
So, there I was in eighth grade and labeled a slut. I had never even kissed a real boy; only kisses on cheeks to uncles and grandpas. That was the end of my perfect year. I wasn’t even halfway through it and I had a bad reputation for getting mono nucleosis.
As it turned out, being called a slut had its good points. For one thing, a lot of the boys really started to like me after that. I got a lot of attention from them. My mom said it was the kind of attention I didn’t want, but when you don’t have a friend in the world, any attention is better than none. At least I could have a reputation from something I actually did instead of something that was just made up. That was also the year Sami Schroder moved to Gardner. She was tall like me and looked older than 12. The boys really seemed to like her too—especially the older boys. That was the year, Sami Schroder and I became best friends. Sami and I slept over at each other’s houses and spent a lot of time together. We weren’t in the same class at school and didn’t have the same lunch break, though, so I still spent a lot of time at school alone with the other outcasts. It didn’t matter now though because I was perfectly comfortable being an outcast and having one good friend. A lot of the time, Sami and I talked about boys and s-e-x. I don’t think either one of us really knew anything, but we had a lot of fun talking about it and laughing about it. Some sleepovers, I don’t think we slept at all. The most fun we ever had was when Sami came on a camping trip with my family to a lake. It rained the entire time and the grown ups all sat in a lake cottage playing cards and drinking booze while Sami and I just spent out time in the old musty camper talking about life, boys, the eighth grade, what we wanted to be when we grew up. We talked about our boobs and bras and laughed and laughed. There was an outhouse we had to use at the lake and it was very dark at night. We borrowed a large expensive flashlight from a neighbor to use to go to the outhouse. Once in there, we were still laughing so much that we accidentally knocked the flashlight into the poop hole in the outhouse. That just made us laugh harder, but we knew we’d probably get into trouble. Not only was the flashlight down the poop hole, but it was still on; shining up at any butt that sat down. We argue over who had to tell the grown ups and it was decided that we would tell them together. We walked into the cottage soaking wet and giggling. All the adults stopped what they were doing and looked at us. My mom knew something was up,
”Oh oh. You two look guilty about something.”
Sami started, “We took the flashlight to go to the bathroom and”…she started giggling really hard now.
“We sort of dropped it.” I finished
“What do you mean you dropped it? Pick it up,” the neighbor said.
“Well, it sort of fell down the hole.” Sami said.
“You’re shittin’ me,” the neighbor said
Now all the adults started laughing as well as Sami and me. I wasn’t used to any saying thes-word around me which made me laugh all the harder. We replied together,
“No, it’s in the hole shining up.”
“You mean it’s still on?” My mom asked. The adults were laughing even harder now.
“Well, piss on it then,” the neighbor said and took a drink of his beer.
We didn’t get in trouble after all. It turned out the whole situation was too funny for anyone to be angry about. Sami and I went back to the camper and talked and giggled some more before we fell asleep. The next morning, we saw that flashlight sitting on a concrete slab covered in poop with flies buzzing all around it.
“There it is,” she said, “you can hose it off.”
“Uh uh, not me, you hose it off.”
This started the giggling all over again. Sami and I had a lot of fun together.
She was my best friend right up until her mom found out I had a reputation as a slut. I’ll never forget the day I found out that Sami wasn’t allowed to be my friend any more. I still wondered what exactly I had ever done to deserve any of it, but I knew there was nothing I could do. Not as long as the Kiss and Kill twins and I all lived in Hazleton. So, I just continued being an outcast.
The Up Side of the Outside and the Chick code
There are a lot of positive things about being an outcast. First of all, no one expects you to fit in anywhere. This takes all the pressure off of having to wear the right clothes, have the right hairstyle, say the right things, and so on. I could dress however I wanted (like in my favorite ripped up jeans from Sears), do my hair however I wanted (with the entire can of Aqua Net if I wanted), and talk however I wanted. Teachers liked to call it “inappropriate.” That didn’t bother me either. I wasn’t interested in being appropriate. I knew the only person I had to impress was myself. Besides, I still got fairly good grades so it really didn’t matter how I looked any more. I did notice that because I was tall and thin, I could wear just about anything and not look really bad. For a long time, I wore sweats to school that I had worn to bed the night before. I still looked ok. Eighth grade was pretty uneventful after Sami couldn’t be my friend any more. That is until auditions for the school on-act play were announced. The One-act play was usually reserved just for the high school kids, but this year they didn’t have enough kids try out, so they opened it up to the junior high. I hadn’t been in a play since the third grade. I sort of liked it then and thought I may as well try out again. The other thing about being an outcast is that you really have nothing to lose when you try something new. So, I signed up for auditions that night.
When I got the auditions, I was a little intimidated. There were a lot of other girls from my class there including Candy Huckle, the cousin of the kiss and kill twins; BeBe Elizondo, and Sadie Mae Pepper. We all went in together, so everyone saw each other audition. That was very scary. I was shaking terribly, but I think it helped my audition. The play was about two little old ladies who lived together. They both had been rich at one point in their lives but weren’t any more. When one of them had a visitor, the other would pretend to be the maid so the visitor wouldn’t know the little old lady wasn’t rich any more. It wasn’t at all a part I could see myself playing, but for some reason I got the part of one of the two old ladies. The other old lady was a senior that was known as a very talented actor in Hazleton. Candy, BeBe, and Sadie all got smaller parts too. Being cast in that play was the beginning of a change in my life. The entire cast had to travel to tournaments to perform our one-act play so we ended up spending a lot of time together. Although we didn’t exactly become best friends, Sadie and Candy did treat me a lot better than they did when they were with the KK twins. BeBe had always been nice, but always did her own thing. When she was in the play, she became a part of the group—just like we all did. I finally fit in somewhere. We performed our play at regionals and won first place even though BeBe forgot her lines. Sadie and I both won acting awards. Then, we got to take our play to the state competition. We placed third at state, but more important than that, Sadie Mae Pepper and I had become very close. We had to stay at a hotel during the state tournament and Sadie and I stayed up late talking to each other. I was shocked when Sadie told me she had always thought I was cool. She told me I was different from everyone else. All the things I hated about myself and about school were things she had thought made me different. She had never believed any of the rumors about the “kissing disease.” When she told me that, I just about started to cry. I wished so much she would have said something sooner. Sadie told me that no one really believed any of it. They just went along with it because they were scared of the KK girls. Sadie thought that the KK girls were jealous of me because I was smarter and prettier than they were. Both the teacher and the counselor had told me the same thing, but I just couldn’t believe it. I just didn’t understand why anyone would be jealous of me. I told Sadie how I never seemed to fit in anywhere and she told me that it was so much better not to fit in. I thought she was nuts for a while, but she kept talking and I started to feel a little better about myself. Sadie thought it was cool to be weird. “The only thing worse than being weird, “ she said “is being just like everybody else.” That was it! I always thought BeBe was a little different. She definitely wasn’t like everybody else and BeBe was always cool. I started to see myself just a little bit through Sadie’s eyes and see that maybe I was just a little bit cool. I still needed to know why she had been or pretended to be such good friends with the Kiss and Kill girls.
Sadie told me how when she tried to stand up to them in fifth grade, they told everyone not to be her friend. They spread rumors about her and made her miserable at school just like they had done to me. She thought it was just easier to go along with them. I understood exactly what she meant. Neither of us wanted to be at the center of their wrath. She told me how she was just a kid then and didn’t know any better. We agreed that all we really needed was one best friend and together, we could live with anything. Sadie and I made a pact to be best friends forever. We even made up our own chick code. The way Sadie and I saw it, there were three kinds of chicks in the world:
1. There were chicks like Sadie and me who will take other chicks under our wing and help them out.
2. There were chicks like the Kiss and Kill twins and their minions who peck away at other chicks.
3. Then, there were the chicks who watch it all happen and do nothing. To Sadie and me, the third kind of chick was just as bad as the second. We understood that we were much stronger together than apart.
We made a pact to be the first kind of chick and help each other and the other chicks out. From that day on, it was just me and Sadie living by the chick code.
Sadie and Judy, the Big Butt Buddies
Sadie and I knew we’d have to contend with the Kiss and Kill Twins. We knew they couldn’t just let us be best friends without trying to cause trouble. They decided the best they could come up with was the Big Butt Buddies.
“Oh, look, here comes the Big Butt Buddies, Judy and Sadie. I can’t tell whose butt is bigger. Girls stand side by side so we can name the winner,” ugly twin said to pretty twin and anyone who wanted to listen.
Sadie and I just looked at each other and smiled. We could almost read each other’s minds. We each kissed our hand and turned around and planted the hand on our butts for the KK twins and then kept on walking and laughing. The look on their faces was almost as priceless as the way it felt to have a friend like Sadie. With Sadie by my side, the things the KK twins did started to seem silly. Take the Big butt buddies for example. Sadie and I were both perfectly normal sized. If anything, my butt was flat. Sadie had a normal 13 year old butt. I wished I had a butt like Sadie’s—still do. I started to feel a little sorry for the KK twins. What was it that was wrong with them that they felt like they needed to make other people feel bad? They were mostly definitely number 2 in the chick code—the peckers. The thing that people didn’t always realize when they had wanted to be a kill and kill girl was that they were twins. They had been best friends their whole lives and they always would be. They weren’t like Sadie and me who had to go out and find their friends. They had been together since they were in their mom’s belly. They would always be together and as much as someone else might think they are a friend of theirs, they would never be as close as those twins were.
Sadie and I didn’t have twin sisters. We had to find each other and spend a lot of time getting to know each other before we could feel close. We had also both been burned by the KK twins and me by Sami Schroder. We both knew what it was like to be told someone wasn’t your friend anymore because we had done something wrong, or not done something they wanted us too, or in the case of Sami, not done anything at all. It scared us enough to talk to each other about it. We had the chick code. We would always be number 1 chicks no matter what. We wouldn’t turn on each other. We wouldn’t spread rumors and talk about each other behind our backs. We would be good to each other and everyone else that was willing to put up with us. Compared to all the other kids in my class, Sadie and I were pretty crazy. When we knew we had each other’s backs, we weren’t afraid of much. We dressed crazy—I like white and she liked black. I wore all white and she all black. We even died our hair that way. Mine was super light blonde and hers was black. I remember when she told me how her mother had freaked out about her dying her hair at 13. I don’t even think my mom noticed. No on in our class had ever dyed their hair and it was pretty wild. Something strange started to happen after a while. It seemed as though all of the other girls in our class and even some of the girls in the class below us wanted to be friends with us. Some of them even died their hair. It was official, Sadie and me were the number one chicks and the Kiss and Kill girls were yesterday’s news. They didn’t like Sadie and I being popular. No sir, they didn’t like it one little bit. They still made fun of us and called us names. The difference now was that no one was listening.
Sadie and I stayed the same. We had our pact and the chick code. At lunch time, we sat with the other girls that seemed to need a friend. We sat with Maggie Wallace, Sara Longellow, and of course BeBe. We talked to everyone. We didn’t shut anyone out even though it was Sadie and I that were the closest. We really believed in our chick code and wanted to find other girls that were the same. We spent every lunch with Maggie, Sara, and Bebe. Charlie Bartle liked to sit with us too. He really was more like one of the girls. He was always complimenting our hair or our clothes. He also liked to talk about how wonderful the KK twins were. Sadie and I never agreed or disagreed. We were very careful not to become number two chicks. After a while, Roberta Wilson was sitting with us too. The only hold out for the KK twins was Candy Huckle, who also happened to be a cousin to them. Eighth grade really did end up being a perfect year after all. Still, it was almost over an I was a bit worried about what would happen to Sadie and me. She lived in the country and I lived in town and neither of us could drive. I didn’t know if we’d see each other at all. We talked about that too and agreed we would call each other on the telephone every day. There wasn’t’ just not seeing each other that I worried about. I also secretly worried that Sadie would find a new friend over the summer and forget all about me. I thought about it so much in fact, that I had all but accepted that was going to happen. Ninth grade would start and I would be alone once again.
Marty Pepper and the Amazing Yellow banana-mobile
In sixth grade we got another new kid Ashley Slat. She was the first girl I’d ever seen that was taller than me. She looked like she was in high school. She had beautiful big blue eyes and dark reddish curly hair. She was really pale with just a few freckleson her nose. Hell! She even had tits! I swear she had to have flunked about four grades. Now, she was cool. And you know what else? she had braces on her teeth. This was it! Ashley Slat was going to be my new best friend–if she played her cards right.
Unfortunately, for Ashley Slat, her last name was too easy for the kiss and kill twins to make fun of. You can probably imagine. Any girl who dared to be prettier, cooler, or get more guys attention, ended up a target. But that was ok, that meant more Ashley Slat for me.