Chapter 1 chocolate ice cream
THE ULTIMATE COMFORT FOOD
I think there are two kinds of happiness.
There’s the real kind of happiness when you have to smile because you feel so good inside. It’s like you’ve just eaten the most delicious cupcake or cuddled with the most adorable kitten. When you look around, everything looks like it’s trimmed in gold. Beautiful. Joyful. Happy.
Then there’s the fake kind of happiness. Something is supposed to make you happy. Your brain keeps saying you should be happy about this and you want to be, but no matter how hard you try to feel the real happiness, for some reason you can’t. So you smile anyway and put on the best happy show you can because you don’t want to look like a bad person. Sometimes, though, if you’re lucky, the fake happiness eventually and magically turns into real happiness.
Today I’m supposed to feel happy and excited. Instead I feel sad and jealous. No one knows that, though. I made sure of it. All day at school I was the picture of happiness. I should get an Emmy for my performance today. Or an Oscar. Or, at the very least, a new tube of lip gloss, because my lips are really dry from all that smiling.
As I ride my yellow mountain bike home, my legs pumping hard and fast and my face all scrunched up and ugly because I don’t have to pretend to be happy anymore, I think of that horrible old woman, Miss Gulch, from The Wizard of Oz. The one who took Toto from Dorothy? I probably look like her. What a scary thought.
I take a deep breath, slow down my sad and jealous legs, and tell myself to relax. And then I turn my thoughts to the list of things I go to when I’m in serious need of cheering up. Well, not an actual list. That might be weird to have a piece of paper with Sophie’s List of Pick-Me-Ups written at the top and then a list of items that fill the page.
Usually I’m a pretty happy person. But there are some days, like today, when the world feels like a big, rotten tomato. (For the record, I hate tomatoes.)
I go over my mental pick-me-up list and realize that with the long, boring weekend stretching out ahead of me, I’m going to need almost every single thing on the list to help me through it.
First on the list is my dog. Daisy is a Havanese, which means she’s an adorable, white bundle of fluffiness. And before you think I’m really shallow and only love my dog because of how she looks, when I say she’s cute, I mean even her personality is cute! When she wags her tail, which is a lot of the time, her whole body wiggles. She has a small collection of stuffed animals (ones I used to play with) that she’s claimed as hers, and she loves it when I grab one and throw it so she can chase it and bring it back to me to play tug-of-war. And when I’ve worn her out from tossing a bear or a tiger down the hallway a hundred times, she’ll set the stuffed animal down, crawl into my lap, and paw at my hand as if to say, Pet me, pet me! See? So cute!
Next on the list is my best friend, Isabel. What can I say about Isabel? She’s the best friend a girl could have. She used to live in the duplex next to ours, but they moved last summer so her mom could open a cupcake shop. The shop is called It’s Raining Cupcakes, and Isabel and her parents live in an apartment above it. I think it’s pretty great, and I’m happy her mom is living out her dream, but I miss having Isabel right next door. We still see each other a lot, but won’t this weekend, which brings me to the actual reason the world feels like a big, rotten tomato.
Isabel is out of town, in New York City, so she can’t be a part of my cheer-myself-up plan. In fact, her being in New York City is the reason I’m not happy. She entered a baking contest through a magazine and her recipe was good enough to earn her a spot in the bake-off. The finalists all flew to New York this morning, where they’ll compete in the bake-off tomorrow.
I’m the one who told Isabel about the contest. I’m glad she got to go, but I wanted to go too! I wanted to compete for the grand prize of one thousand dollars. That’s a lot of money, and it would have paid for some singing and acting lessons, something I really want to do so I can be an actress someday.
When I woke up this morning, it hit me pretty hard that Isabel was in New York City while I was stuck here, in the small town of Willow, and my happiness quickly disappeared. It’ll be back one of these days—hopefully by the time Isabel gets home and tells me whether or not she won the contest.
In the meantime, back to my list. Musicals. I love, love, LOVE musicals. Movies like The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, Annie, Hairspray, Mamma Mia!, and High School Musical. I have a whole collection of musical movies I’ve gotten as gifts since I was six years old. When I’m feeling down, I pop one in and snuggle up with my favorite blanket and a good snack. Soon everything fades away. In fact, it fades away so much that halfway through the movie, I’m usually up and singing along. I can’t help it! It’s like I want to be in the movie singing those songs so bad, I just have to get up and do the closest thing to it—singing and dancing around in my bedroom (usually in my purple pajamas).
Fourth on the list is shopping. I don’t even have to buy anything, it’s just fun to look at all of the cool clothes, sparkly jewelry, and beautiful shoes. Sometimes I’ll try on shoes I know my mom would never approve of in a million years and pretend I’m a movie star with a red-carpet event I have to attend. You know, like it’s absolutely crucial that I have the right pair of shoes. Now that’s a type of pretending I don’t mind at all.
Finally, chocolate. There’s a little plaque that hangs in our kitchen. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. It says HAND OVER THE CHOCOLATE AND NO ONE GETS HURT. I can just imagine a bank robber going into a bank, strolling up to the counter, and saying those words. At first, the bank teller is terrified. But when the robber demands chocolate instead of money, the teller says, “Oh, honey, I sure do understand. It’s been one of those days, huh?”
I love chocolate. It’s definitely my snack of choice, when given an option. I know, I know. I should be eating apples, bananas, and carrots, and I do eat those things, I swear! But like my mom always says—everything in moderation.
Last summer, as I thought about a cupcake recipe for the Baker’s Best baking contest, I knew I wanted my recipe to include chocolate. I mean, if you have two flavors of cupcakes sitting side by side, one with chocolate and one without, I bet people choose the chocolate one most of the time. The recipe I finally ended up submitting for my entry was one for watermelon chocolate cupcakes—chocolate cake with a watermelon-flavored frosting. (See? I like fruit, too!) My whole family thought they were amazing. But I guess the judges didn’t agree. Stupid judges.
Stupid sadness and jealousy.
When I get home, I put my bike in the garage and go in the house. Daisy greets me at the door with her usual jumping, spinning, and pet me, pet me routine.
“Hello, adorable dog of mine and number one on my list,” I whisper, petting her as she rolls over, giving me her belly to scratch.
After a sufficient amount of scratching time, I stand up. “Come on, Daisy. You want a treat?”
She follows me into the kitchen, her tail wagging so hard it’s practically picking her up off the ground. I toss her a Milk-Bone, get a spoon from the silverware drawer, and then grab the chocolate ice cream from the freezer.
I don’t even get a bowl. I sit on a stool at the counter and dig in.
“Sophie, is that you?” Mom calls from the other room.
“No, it’s a stranger raiding your freezer.”
Mom appears, smiling. I have to say, my mom is so cute. No, not Daisy-cute, but girlie-cute, I guess. She wears her blond hair short but stylish, and she has a round face with big blue eyes. And she always wears the cutest clothes, not like she’s trying to be sixteen again, just fresh and fun. Today she’s wearing jeans and a pink T-shirt that says WAG MORE, BARK LESS.
“Hi, honey. How was school today?”
I shrug my shoulders, partly because I don’t want to tell her about my rotten tomato day and partly because my mouth is full of chocolatey, creamy goodness.
“I’ve been thinking about you,” she says. “Thinking about how you’re probably a little sad to be here and not in New York City like Isabel.”
The way she looks at me and the way her caring comes through in her voice, I feel tears rising up. I blink hard a few times, then I shrug again, scared that if I try to talk about it, I’ll have a full-blown tearfest going on. And I don’t want that. The whole point of the chocolate ice cream is to cheer myself up!
“I have a surprise for you,” she says, her face now literally beaming.
I swallow my mouthful of ice cream. Thoughts of a tearfest disappear at the mention of the word “surprise.” I totally forgot that’s another one on my list of pick-me-ups! Except, it’s sort of hard to make a surprise happen by myself.
I wait, my spoon frozen in midair.
She brings her hand around from behind her back, and she’s holding three tickets. I lean in, my eyes squinting, trying to read the small words.
My spoon makes a loud clanking noise as I drop it on to the counter and grab the tickets from her hand.
I can’t believe it.
Wicked, the musical.
We’re going to see Wicked!
Sprinkles and Secrets
Sophie has a tough choice to make: Follow her dreams or crush her best friend.
What's a girl to do?
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