Not That I Care

Paperback | September 25, 2014

byRachel Vail

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Book three in bestselling author Rachel Vail's beloved Friendship Ring series!

"Fans of Judy Blume . . . and Rachel Robinson will enjoy Morgan's view of her world."--School Library Journal

4 rings, 1 promise: Best Friends Forever

Growing up is never easy. But when things get tough, you can always count on your best friends. CJ, Olivia, Morgan and Zoe know one thing’s for sure: they’ll always have each other!

Zoe isn’t like her three best friends. She enjoys playing sports outside, doesn’t really care about clothes, and is a little self conscious of her body. So when her best friend Tommy admits he likes her, Zoe is caught off guard and tells him to ask CJ out instead. But then she starts having doubts about her decision. Can she share her true feelings without risking her friendships?

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From the Publisher

Book three in bestselling author Rachel Vail's beloved Friendship Ring series!"Fans of Judy Blume . . . and Rachel Robinson will enjoy Morgan's view of her world."--School Library Journal4 rings, 1 promise: Best Friends ForeverGrowing up is never easy. But when things get tough, you can always count on your best friends. CJ, Olivia, Mo...

Rachel Vail is the critically acclaimed author of numerous books for kids and teens, including Lucky, Gorgeous, and Brilliant (the Avery sisters trilogy), Wonder, Daring to be Abigail, and the upcoming Unfriended. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.www.rachelvail.comTwitter: @rachelvailbooks.comFacebook: Rachel Va...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 7.5 × 5.1 × 0.45 inPublished:September 25, 2014Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0147511208

ISBN - 13:9780147511201

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Anyway.I’m lying low in my seat, now, clutching the bag and squeezing my eyes shut as Mrs. Shepard speaks. “I want to hear a clear, concise explanation of each item, why you chose it, and what, about your character, the item symbolizes.”We have to explain? I would’ve chosen all different things.I don’t know what I was thinking would happen with this Sack. Definitely NOT that I would have to unload my life from this brown paper bag like spreading my lunch on the cafeteria table for everybody to inspect and judge. No, no. Thanks anyway.oneNo way. I didn’t know we were going to have to stand up in front of the entire class. There’s no sound in the classroom except the click, click of Mrs. Shepard’s pointy pumps on the tile floor. She’s behind me now, so I can’t see her. She hasn’t even said hello. Creative writing and American history are too important, I guess, and we are too shockingly ignorant to waste a second. Mrs. Shepard seems insulted that our sixth-grade teacher thought we were ready for her class.“When I call your name,” she says, “please bring your Sack to the front of the room and stand beside my desk.”I don’t know what to look at. This is a new thing with me. Lately my face has trouble knowing what to do. I catch myself blinking too hard, or chewing my upper lip, or with my mouth hanging open. My face can’t relax, like it used to. It doesn’t quite fit me anymore.I blow my bangs off my eyelashes and try to sit still. Count to five without moving, my mother keeps telling me, I can’t stand how fidgety you are lately, Morgan. One, two, three, I can’t do it. I have to shift my shoulders around.“Bring Yourself in a Sack” Mrs. Shepard called this project when she assigned it last Friday as part of our unit on creative writing. There was a brown paper lunch bag on each desk when we got to class after lunch. Mrs. Shepard said, “Fill the bag with ten items that represent you in all your many aspects.” Maybe she said facets. Either way, I thought it sounded like a cool project.Lou Hochstetter, who sits behind me, had complained that we don’t usually get homework over the weekend. Mrs. Shepard raised one eyebrow and stared at poor Lou for a mini-eternity, until he sunk down so low his feet clanged my chair’s legs. “Welcome to the seventh grade, Mr. Hochstetter,” she said. That cracked me up.After school, my best friend, CJ Hurley, got asked out. She called me right away to tell me, of course, but I was out riding my bike around. Friday had been a stressful day, socially. CJ left me a message on the machine: “Hello, this is a message for Morgan—Morgan? Tommy Levit just asked me out. Call me.” All weekend I kept meaning to call her back, but I just didn’t get a chance. Not that I wasn’t happy for her. I don’t like Tommy anymore.I just really got into this project, searching for ten perfect things. I barely talked to anybody. “Bring Yourself in a Sack?” my brother asked. “I remember that project.” But I didn’t want his help.I was in a great mood when I got to school this morning, with my Sack full of ten complicated, meaningful symbols. The janitor was just unlocking the front doors, I got to school so early. I slid my bike into the rack and waited on the wall for CJ.When her mother dropped her off, CJ ran over and climbed up onto the wall beside me. She didn’t say anything about my not calling her back; she knows I’m really bad about that and she’s used to it. Or I thought so, anyway. We talked about Tommy. I told her not to worry that they didn’t talk all weekend, after the asking out; when I went out with him last year he never called me, either. Then we talked about whether Tommy’s twin brother, Jonas, would ask me out today, like he was supposed to, and how fun it would be if the four of us were a foursome, and whether or not Jonas’s curly hair is goofy. CJ used to like Jonas, but now she’s going out with Tommy, which is fine with me.Not that she cares.I guess actually, now that I think about it, I was doing all the chatting. CJ wasn’t saying anything about becoming a foursome. She was just sitting there all pale, her deep-set green eyes looking anywhere but at me, her tight, skinny body even tauter than usual. I didn’t notice she was acting weird until too late.Anyway.Mrs. Shepard is walking up toward the front of the class. I hold my breath while she passes me. When my brother, Ned, was in seventh grade, four years ago, he said Mrs. Shepard was “real” because she wouldn’t paste stars on every pretentious, childish poem full of clichés. I took my poem off the refrigerator. I vowed I’d make Mrs. Shepard like me when I got to seventh grade. So far she doesn’t, particularly, but it’s only the third week of school. I still have a shot.I’m lying low in my seat now, clutching the bag and squeezing my eyes shut as Mrs. Shepard speaks. “I want to hear a clear, concise explanation of each item, why you chose it, and what about your character the item symbolizes.”We have to explain? I would’ve chosen all different things.I don’t know what I was thinking would happen with this Sack. Definitely NOT that I would have to unload my life from this brown paper bag like spreading my lunch on the cafeteria table for everybody to inspect and judge. No, no. Thanks anyway.“Are there any questions?” Mrs. Shepard asks.Right. Nobody raises a hand with a question, of course. I can’t look around to see if everybody else seems relaxed and ready, if it’s just me who’s hiding under a desk.“Good,” Mrs. Shepard says, turning her helmet-head to look at each of us. Her white-blond hair is pasted into the kind of hairdo that never moves, the kind that only gets washed once a week, at the beauty parlor. She reminds me of an owl, with her round, piercing eyes and small hooked nose. Maybe it’s the way she rotates her big head that’s plunked deep between her shoulders. I did a report last year on owls. They’re birds of prey. I sink down lower, imagining myself a field mouse trying to camouflage with the fake wood and putty-colored metal of my desk.Please don’t call on me.“Olivia Pogostin,” Mrs. Shepard calls.Olivia Pogostin is my new best friend, as of today. I whispered with her all through lunch, which was a little awkward for both of us, but we managed. She was actually sort of witty, and she gets the pretzel sticks that come in an individually wrapped box in her lunch, definitely a plus. My mother would never waste the money on those. We buy economy-size everything, then take how much we need. We have one type of cookies for weeks at a time, until we finish and go back to Price Club. If there’s a big sale, she might let us get a sleeve of individual potato chip bags. I always feel good if I open my lunch and there’s a small sealed bag of chips in there. It looks so appropriate. CJ just gets a yogurt, every day, a yogurt, and that’s it. Not that they can’t afford more. She just has to worry, because of ballet.I sort of liked Olivia today at lunch. Not as deadly wonkish as I had always figured. She had some funny things to say about girls like CJ who forget their friends as soon as a boy calls her on the phone. And, of course, there’s the pretzels.Olivia walks up to the front of the class. Her coarse black pigtails don’t bounce, just jut adamantly out to the sides. She’s the smallest person in seventh grade by a lot, and also the smartest if you don’t count Ken Carpenter.Olivia places her brown paper bag on Mrs. Shepard’s desk, turns to face the class, and says in her calm, steady monotone, “So. This is me.”What am I going to do? I can’t present my items. My palms are starting to sweat on the brown paper of my Sack. This is me? No way I would ever get up and say This is me. Especially with this unexplainable stuff to explain.Olivia pulls a charcoal pencil out of her paper bag, holds it up in front of her serious face, and announces, “Charcoal pencils, because I like to draw.” She places it on Mrs. Shepard’s desk blotter. Mrs. Shepard is nodding, over by the door. Teachers love Olivia; she does everything right. I didn’t know it was supposed to be like hobbies.“A calculator,” Olivia says, lifting it. Her eyes focus above our heads on the back wall. “Because math is my favorite subject.” She sets it down.I catch myself twirling the bottom of my black polo shirt and force myself to stop. My eyes, betraying me, glance over to my left. Next to me, CJ is sitting straight as a two-by-four on the edge of her chair, her head balanced gracefully on her long neck.Olivia reaches into her Sack and pulls out a small box. I clamp my jaw shut and count. Sit up straight. My posture is just as good as CJ’s.Olivia pulls a pair of earrings out of the box. I can’t stop blinking.“These are soccer ball earrings, which represent me both because soccer is my favorite sport and also because I just got my ears pierced this summer.”Olivia glances at Mrs. Shepard, who hasn’t budged. Ned told me that one time Mrs. Shepard told him, “Well said,” and the whole class practically fainted.Olivia swallows hard. Poor Olivia. I wonder what she’s thinking. I don’t know her that well, yet, but I’m sure she’s off balance, not having the teacher nodding at her for once. If Olivia looks at me, I decide, I’ll smile encouragingly. It must be hard, sort of, to expect praise all the time. Not that I’d know; I’m just guessing.I prepare to be supportive. Olivia doesn’t look at me. Which is fine. Whatever. She doesn’t look at anybody else, either, at least. Staring at the back wall, she pulls a thick paperback book out of her bag. “A dictionary, because I’m interested in etymology,” she says.I have no idea what that means. Nothing in my bag can be explained in a sentence. I did the whole thing wrong. What am I going to do?“A pool ball, because I like to shoot pool.”Oh, shut up already, Olivia, I almost say out loud. I open my crumpled brown bag just enough to peek inside. Wrong, wrong, wrong; no pool balls, no charcoal pencils. I have a broken thermometer. A Barbie head. A twig. Nothing I could possibly explain to these nineteen other seventh graders who’ve known me my whole life but have no clue. Not even CJ has a clue what’s in here, and I am not at all interested in confessing. Not even to CJ who was my best friend from the beginning of fourth grade until today.I’m twirling the bottom of my shirt with my finger again. It shames me if my clothes are wrinkled, it looks like I’m poor. Stop it. Pay attention to Olivia. My best friend. I blow the long bangs out of my eyes. They drive me crazy, but at least they hide the pimples on my forehead, four of them and a fresh one coming. Don’t touch, the oil from fingers makes it worse. Think, think—what am I going to do? The backs of my thighs are sticking to the chair. Olivia is finishing, thank the Lord. I don’t know if we’re supposed to clap or what. I’m not going to be the first one. I wedge my hands under my thighs and blow at my bangs again.I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s not like I’m so close with Mrs. Shepard I want her to be in on all my private business; in fact, I don’t really like her at all, the owl. I just got so involved, all weekend, choosing my ten items, I didn’t think of how they’d be presented. I guess I thought we’d just hand our Sacks in.Olivia is heading back to her seat, the desk in front of mine. I make the mistake of glancing toward CJ again. She looks at me with a big sad apology all over her face.Save it, pal. It’s not like I care or anything. I’m just trying to get through the day, and please, you are totally free to do whatever you want. It makes no difference, I’ve dealt with more than you’ll ever know, you pampered little prima donna. It would take a lot more than you to hurt me.twoBefore my father left, we were a happy family. Or at least I think we were; I remember us always smiling and having lots of birthday parties. Actually, maybe I only remember what’s in the photo albums.Maybe we weren’t that happy. I don’t know. I guess we were normal.My parents were hoping for a girl when Mom was pregnant with me. On the way to the hospital, the day I was born, my mother saw a cherry tree in someone’s yard, all the cherries hanging down like ornaments, like jewelry, and she made my father promise that if she delivered a girl, he’d plant her a cherry tree like the one in that yard.Shockingly enough, my father did as he promised, and when Mom came home from the hospital with me all in pink, Dad yanked us out back to see. Four-year-old Ned was standing out there all covered in dirt, proudly showing me and Mom the little sapling cherry tree he and my dad had planted. Mom cried. She used to cry pretty easily.They took a picture of me lying on a baby blanket in front of the little tree. I was three days old, and I look like a wise but cranky little old man. They used the picture for my birth announcement. We proudly introduce our daughter, Morgan Amanda Miller . . .Every year on my birthday, Dad used to sit me in front of the cherry tree in jeans and a white shirt and take a picture. We have them arranged in a special book, like time-lapse photography: me holding my toes at one, me cute and spunky with bobbed hair when I was five, me with a missing-tooth-space in my mouth when I was turning eight, long, dark hair covering most of my face on my tenth, right before Mom chopped bangs on me. And behind me in each picture, the tree grew bigger and flowered, until there was a lacy spread of pinkish-white branches behind me by the time I was six—but no cherries, not a single cherry hung down off those branches like a piece of gaudy jewelry, even as the tree towered above me. It became sort of a family joke, the cherry tree that grew no cherries.