Never Wear Red Lipstick on Picture Day
MRS. SPANGLE IS GETTING ON MY NERVES.
Sometimes Mrs. Spangle is the best second-grade teacher in the universe, and other times she is not. Today she is not, because we do not agree about when I should be allowed to wear my fancy-dancy sunglasses. Grandmom gave me these sunglasses, and they are just amazing, if I am being honest. Only, Mrs. Spangle does not think they are as amazing as I do, because when I put them on while I am doing my seatwork, I hear her clear her throat, and she does not do so very quietly either. I look over at her through my sunglasses, and she is staring right at me.
“Mandy,” she begins, “you know the rule about no sunglasses inside the school.” She gestures for me to take them off and then looks down at her desktop.
I glance at the list of eight rules for our classroom, which hangs next to the board, then I shoot my hand in the air. When Mrs. Spangle does not call on me, I start to wave it, still wearing my sunglasses.
“Yes?” Mrs. Spangle finally sees me.
“There is no rule about sunglasses,” I say quietly, pointing to the list. “So I will just wear these, okay?”
“Not okay,” Mrs. Spangle says, and she begins rustling in her desk drawer. She pulls out a black marker, walks over to our CLASSROOM RULES sign, and takes the cap off. “Sorry to interrupt your work, boys and girls, but who can tell me some accessories we are not allowed to wear inside the school building?”
Hands shoot in the air all around me, but I just cross my arms and slouch down in my seat.
“Yes, Julia?” Mrs. Spangle calls.
“Hats,” Julia answers.
“Right.” Mrs. Spangle begins writing a new rule—number nine—on our list. “No hats. . . . What else? Natalie?”
“Sunglasses,” Natalie answers, and I give her a dirty look, which is a waste because she cannot even see it through my sunglasses.
“Ahem.” Mrs. Spangle clears her throat again at me, but I pretend not to hear her. She writes sunglasses next to hats on our new rule number nine. “What else?”
“Polka-dot underwear!” Dennis calls out super loudly, and I whip around in my seat real fast and stick my tongue out at him.
“No underwear talk in school, Dennis,” Mrs. Spangle says. “I’ll tell you what—I’m going to finish this rule with ‘No hats, sunglasses, or other outdoor accessories can be worn in the classroom.’ ” She dots the new rule with a period, even though I think it would be better with an exclamation mark, and she turns to face me. Mrs. Spangle and I stare at each other in silence.
“Mandy, sunglasses off. Now,” she finally says, so I pull the sunglasses off of my face and fold them on top of my desk.
“Inside your desk, please,” Mrs. Spangle continues, and I don’t know what she has against fancy-dancy sunglasses. “You can wear them when you’re outside at recess, but not one minute before.” I place my sunglasses inside my desk and cover them with a sheet of construction paper to protect them.
Anya leans over and whispers in my ear, “Sorry about your sunglasses,” and this is why Anya is my favorite person in the world, at least most of the time. Because she understands what a tragedy it is to not be able to wear your fancy-dancy sunglasses during seatwork.
I nod my head sadly at her, and then I feel a tap on my elbow. I turn, and Natalie is holding out her hand in a fist toward me, real low so Mrs. Spangle cannot see.
“What is it?” I whisper-yell at her.
Natalie shakes her fist up and down. “Take it,” she whispers.
I reach out my hand toward hers, and she drops a slip of paper in my palm. I open it carefully so that it doesn’t make any crinkling sounds. I have a surprise to show you at recess, I read.
I turn to her. “What is it?” I ask.
“It’s a surprise,” Natalie says.
“I would like to know now.”
“Mandy!” Mrs. Spangle yells from across the room. “Meet me at my desk, please.” I stand up slowly and walk across the classroom with my head down.
“Ooh, Polka Dot’s in trouble,” Dennis whispers from behind me, but I do not say anything back because I do not want Mrs. Spangle to yell my name again. Even if she is getting on my nerves right now, I still want her to like me more than she likes Dennis.
Mrs. Spangle sits in her chair when we both reach her desk so that she can look straight into my eyes. “What’s going on with you today?”
I shrug my shoulders because I do not know how to answer that.
“I’d like a reason for why you’re being so difficult.”
I look down at my shoes sadly and wiggle my toes inside of them. “I just really like my sunglasses,” I tell her softly. I look up quickly to see Mrs. Spangle’s face, and she is smiling at me then, just a little bit. So she cannot be too angry with me if she is smiling.
“You know, I like my sunglasses, too,” Mrs. Spangle tells me. “But that still doesn’t mean I wear them inside the school. Got it?”
I nod my head, because I think I am almost done being in trouble.
“But more importantly, when I ask you to do something, I need you to follow directions,” Mrs. Spangle continues. “The first time.”
“Okay, I will try,” I say, because that is the truth.
“I hope so,” Mrs. Spangle says. “You were being very ornery just now.”
“What’s that?” I ask her.
“Ornery? It means you’re being hard to get along with,” Mrs. Spangle explains.
“Like a crankypants?”
“Something like that.” Mrs. Spangle smiles at me again, and she reaches out her hand toward mine. “So do we have a deal? No more ornery behavior?”
“Deal!” I reach out my hand and shake hers firmly.
“Good. Now get back to your seatwork, please—the faster you get your work done, the sooner recess will seem to get here. And you know what that means?”
“Fancy-dancy sunglasses time,” I answer. “Wahoo!”
“Now get to it.” Mrs. Spangle points me back toward my desk, and I trot away and finish my seatwork in a lick and a split.
Natalie’s note is still resting on top of my desk, so I flip it over and write on the other side: What is the surprise? I glance at Mrs. Spangle’s desk to see if she is watching me, and I wonder if passing this note back to Natalie is something that she will consider “ornery.” I think as long as I am quiet about it, I will be okay, so when I am sure Mrs. Spangle isn’t watching, I reach over and tap Natalie on the elbow before dropping the paper in her lap. I watch Natalie read the note out of the corner of my eye, and in teeny-tiny letters, she writes one back to me. She drops the paper on the floor in between our chairs, and I reach down to grab it, again without making one sound.
You will love it, Natalie has written, but I am not sure how Natalie is so certain that she knows what I love. She is not Anya, after all.
“What is the surprise?” I ask Natalie the second the lunch aides open the doors leading to the playground. I pull my fancy-dancy sunglasses out of my lunch box and stick them on my nose, even though the sun is hiding behind the clouds.
“I’ll show you on the swings,” Natalie tells me, and she is grinning like she has a special secret.
“Do you know?” I ask Anya.
“Nope,” Anya answers, and she begins to skip ahead of us.
“Oh, come on,” I say to Natalie. “Stop holding your horses.”
“Okay,” Natalie answers, and she reaches into the pocket of her jacket. Slowly, she pulls out her hand and uncurls her fingers, revealing what she is holding.
“Aren’t they great?” Natalie asks. “Now I have my own pair of fancy-dancy sunglasses too!”
And this is just about the furthest thing from great news that I have ever heard in my life.
“Do you like them?” Natalie asks, putting them on her face. And they look kind of silly, to tell you the truth, because Natalie has to wear her sunglasses over her regular glasses, and that is not how fancy-dancy sunglasses are supposed to look. But her sunglasses are . . . well, they are glittery, and they are purple, which is almost periwinkle, and they sort of make Natalie look like a cat.
And I love them. Even more than I love my own fancy-dancy sunglasses.
And this makes me feel a little bit angry, because I liked my glasses the best before I saw how beautiful Natalie’s are.
Anya turns around and says. “I love them. I think they’re great.”
This comment makes Natalie grin wider than a jack-o’-lantern, and I scowl at Anya.
“Mandy? Don’t you like them?” Natalie asks me.
“I like my sunglasses,” I tell Natalie, because that is the truth. I run ahead of both Anya and Natalie and grab a swing on the far end of the set, one where neither of them can sit next to me.
“Hey, you didn’t save me a swing.” Anya runs up beside me.
“Do you like Natalie’s sunglasses better than mine?” I ask her.
“I like them both,” Anya tells me, which is not a great answer.
“But I had mine first,” I say. “Natalie copycatted me.”
“You still like yours, don’t you?” Anya asks.
“Yes.” I pause. “But I think I might like Natalie’s better now. And that makes me mad.”
“Don’t be mad about it,” Anya says. “I’m going to play on the monkey bars since you didn’t save me a swing.”
“Fine,” I call after her, and I push on the ground with my toes so I can swing myself high in the air, just me and my sunglasses flying through the sky.
“Remember, hats, sunglasses, and other outdoor accessories off,” Mrs. Spangle reminds us as we walk back into our classroom after recess. But I am already holding my sunglasses in my hand, because they do not seem nearly as fancy-dancy anymore.
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” Anya scoots up behind me by the cubbies.
“No,” I answer, because I do not really feel like being mad at Anya anyway.
But I might still feel like being mad at Natalie.
“Take your seats quickly so I can hand out your Picture Day reminders,” Mrs. Spangle calls to us. “Remember to tell your parents that if they haven’t submitted your order forms yet, we need them by next Wednesday.”
“Wahoo!” I call as I return to my seat. “I love Picture Day.”
“I hate Picture Day,” Dennis calls out, because Dennis is terrible. “You should hate it too, Polka Dot. No one wants a picture of your face.” He says this part in a whisper as he passes me.
“Quiet, Freckle Face,” I answer just as softly, so that Mrs. Spangle cannot hear. “The camera probably can’t even see your face through all the freckles.”
“Paper Passers, please come up to my desk to help me hand out the sheets,” Mrs. Spangle says. “Remember, class: Next Wednesday come dressed in your best Picture Day outfits. We all want to look nice for our class photo.”
“So don’t wear your polka-dot underwear, Polka Dot,” Dennis whispers to me again, and I see Anya kick him under their desks.
I decide then that I am going to come up with the best, fanciest-danciest Picture Day accessory in the whole world, and I am not going to make one peep about it to Natalie beforehand, or else she might try to copy it.
And then I will give one of my largest Picture Day photos to Mrs. Spangle to keep on her desk, and I will sign the back of it, To the best second-grade teacher in the universe. Love, Mandy—just to remind her that she should always like me more than she likes Dennis.
Even when we do get on each other’s nerves.