It was a warm spring day in Pawling, New York. The sky was relatively clear compared to the past week, and a breeze blew through the air, carrying brightly colored petals from one area to the next. The chirping of blue jays and the loud call of the chipmunks gave a beautiful feeling to the day. That was, unless, you were walking down east Main Street, where a loud group of seven teenagers known throughout town had taken over the outdoor seating at Pawling's Tacos and Cones.
"This Monster flavor is GOOD!!!" Bella exclaimed loudly. The people across the street gave her an odd glance. Instead of shutting up, however, Bella waved cheerfully to them and yelled, "HOW ARE YOU?" at the top of her lungs. A women carrying a pink purse gave her a weak thumbs up before hurrying across the street to get away.
"Geez, Bella, what's wrong with whispering?" Karron muttered, annoyed. He wiped some vanilla ice cream off his dark skin with a crumbled up napkin. "You blew my ice cream half off the cone and into my face!"
Bella shrugged, returning to licking her blue ice cream. Her thin rimmed glasses slipped to the end of her nose as she peered down at the dessert. "It doesn't look like this thing has a fudge center," she exclaimed.
Jin squinted down at the ice cream. "That one doesn't have a fudge center," she said. "Angelica's does."
"But it said this had a fudge center!" Bella shot.
"Bella..," Angelica began, pushing her dark hair out of her face. "The Monster ice cream was right next to the Death by Chocolate. You probably read incorrectly."
Bella opened her mouth to speak, but quickly shut it. She stared at her ice cream and pouted silently as Katie, Angelica's twin sister, spoke.
"C'mon, guys, we need to pick up the coffees for Aunt Helen. Besides, if she see's us here, we may get in trouble!!" Katie announced, speaking the last word in a sing-song voice.
Angelica rolled her eyes. "It's almost noon. We should be fine."
"Yeah, we-KALEB, WILL YOU STOP THAT AWFUL SLURPING?!?" Leigha Wicker added loudly, jerking her head toward Kaleb Matney.
Kaleb was hunched down and mid-lick into the dessert. He froze, staring at his companions, his black gelled hair moving slightly in the breeze. Kaleb smiled, laughing nervously, and sat up, trying to avoid all the eyes around the table staring daggers at him. He folded his arms behind his back, acting like the whole thing was no big deal.
"Sorry, guys, I-"
"Kaleb, watch out for you ice cream!"
Kaleb suddenly glanced back after hearing Jin's comment and shrieked. His black leather jacket was now stained a banana-and-strawberry color, and sticky with chocolate sauce. the rest of his ice cream had fallen from the cone and lay on the dusty ground. Kaleb moaned. "You've got to me kidding me!"
Katie licked her mint chocolate chip ice cream, chuckling with the others, and suddenly froze, staring at the sidewalk. Bella glanced up and her eyes widened. Angelica, Karron and Leigha turned and silently gasped. Bella grinned nervously. "H-hi, Principal Callan!"
Principal Callan was a tall woman, with short brown hair in a layered pixie cut and brown eyes. She had on a plaid sweater and jeans, and was holding a CVS bag in her hand. The principal of Pawling High School tilted her sunglasses at the freshman's and half grinned, half scowled.
"Hi, Aunt Helen?" Angelica asked nervously.
The whole gang was surprised to see a tall girl they had never seen before step out from behind the principal. She had short, curly brown hair and freckles dotted her face. The girl's blue eyes matched her denim jacket, and she wore tie-dye sneakers, ripped white jeans and a pink T-shirt that had swirly lettering concealed by her jacket. "Hello!" the girl repeated, waving shyly. The gang of teenagers at the picnic table awkwardly smiled and waved back. Karron was gawking at the girl, mesmerized by how tall she was.
"Um, Aunt Helen-uh, how? That is, well, we can e-"
"How did you know we were here, Ms. Callan?" Leigha asked, cutting Katie off.
Principal Callan scoffed, smiling. "I heard Bella. Her voice is almost as loud as mine."
Bella turned red and shrunk and inch into her sweater. Kaleb snickered from beside her, and Bella made a mental note to torture him when the principal was out of sight.
"Anyway, girls, boys, I wanted to introduce you to Marwaldia Johnson. She's starting school at the high school next week," Ms. Callan explained, gesturing to the new student. Marwaldia nodded, shifting her weight on each foot. Jin discreetly gazed at Marwaldia's tie-dye sneakers suspiciously, sniffing in disgust.
"I was hoping you could show her around town, get to know each other," the principal continued. Everyone-with the exception of Marwaldia and Ms Callan- nodded quickly, afraid of what would happen if they objected.
Angelica smiled brightly at the new girl. "Well, Marwaldia, welcome! Don't let our small town fool you- there is always a lot going on!"
Principal Callan nodded, pleased. "Well, then, I'll leave you guys! See you Monday!! Enjoy the day off!" the principal said, and walked away, leaving the teenagers behind her.
Marwaldia glanced around uncomfortably. Bella nodded cheerfully. "I guess you're stuck with us now!We're the Gang, if you didn't know."
Marwaldia looked at the students alarmingly. "NO-nothing bad," Leigha exclaimed quickly. "It's just what we-"
"-with the exception of Katie-," Angelica put.
"-call ourselves," Leigha finished, smiling. Marwaldia nodded, processing it.
Karron was still staring at the new girl. "Are you going out for the basketball team?" he asked.
Marwaldia shrugged. "I don't think so. Cricket's more my thing."
Kaleb wrinkled his nose. "Is it even possible to train crickets?" he questioned. "I tried teaching one to jump into Bella's hair once, but it just messed up mine. Stupid creature!!!!"
Marwaldia was taken aback by his comment. "Uhhhh.....no. Cricket is a sport," she explained.
"WHAT?!?" Karron laughed. "You're kidding! That must exist in CHINA!"
"England," Leigha muttered, annoyed. "Look, guys-"
"Why, I do't even think such a sport exists in NEW YORK!!! You know what, we should march down to the school office and demand a cricket team!!" Bella announced.
"YES!!" Karron suddenly shouted, jumping up from his seat. "AND to thank us for the idea, you can try out for the BASKETBALL TEAM!!!"
Everyone stared at Karron, who was smiling proudly to himself.
A girl with short hair wearing a blue Tacos and Cones apron stepped out of the shop. "KARRON, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP!!!" Amanda yelled, frowning. "You guys are not the only people and/or CUSTOMERS in Pawling!"
"Sis, go away! Scat!" Angelica called, shooing her sister away. Amanda rolled her eyes and reluctantly went back inside.
Marwaldia took a step forward, her eyes darting from person to person. "Ummm...what you said before.....that doesn't even make sense!"
"Yeah, then Marwaldia wouldn't be able to go out for the cricket team!" Jin exclaimed, rolling her eyes.
Marwaldia smiled. "Thanks. And you guys can just call me May."
Everyone grinned and was silent for a few moments. Katie awkwardly broke the silence. "Sooooo.....," she started. "Um, I'm Katie. There's Karron and Kaleb. Bella, Angelica (my twin) Leigha and Jin. ...Do you want some ice cream?"
May shook her head. "I can't, but thanks, Katie. I'm on a diet."
Leigha jerked her head toward the others. "She's on a DIET?!?" she hissed to the others.
"She's thin as a pencil!" Angelica whispered.
"I'm not sure what to think of her," Jin said.
"Dang it, why doesn't she just try out for the basketball team?!?"
Everyone rolled their eyes at Karron, and turned their attention back to May, fake smiles plastered on their faces.
"Well, May," Angelica said again,"Welcome to Pawling!"