Jessica: Next Stop, Jr. High

Sunscreen alert! Jessica and the Unicorns are headed for the balmy, boy-filled beaches of Hawaii!

From the personal journal of soon-to-be eighth grader Jessica Wakefield:

Okay, you do the math: friends + summer - parents + Hawaii. What does that equal? Aloha? The answer should be obvious.

But it isn't. This Hawaiian vacation is kind of... freaky. And I'm not even sure why. All I know is that my friends aren't who I thought they were... not anymore. Have they changed? Or have I?


SUNDAY, 6:00 A.M.

Dear Jess,


By the time you read this, I'll be well on my way to Costa Rica. I ran back upstairs and put this on your pillow just before we all left to go to the airport this morning. I wanted to surprise you, but it's too bad I won't see your smile when you find this purple-fabric-covered notebook when you get home.

It's a diary.

I'm writing this note in the first few pages of your diary because I know how hard it is to face a blank page. I figured I'd sort of break it in for you. I guess you're wondering why I'm giving you a present when it's not your birthday. It's a "going-away present" even though I'm the one who's gone away.

Now don't start crying (again). I'm sure you've already depleted your tear ducts on the ride home from the airport.

Was Steven nice, or did he torture you by telling you how many people die of snakebites in the rain forest? I'm guessing he opted for torture. I'm also guessing that Mom and Dad spent the entire ride home from the airport telling him to stop teasing you. But since they were trying (unsuccessfully) not to laugh, it just encouraged him. (Do I have ESP or what?)

Don't listen to anything he says. I'm going to be just fine. And I'm going to have a great time. Building houses in the Costa Rican rain forest is right up my alley.

Still, I'll miss you. Try not to forget what I look like. (Hee, hee!) Of course, if you do forget, you could just look in the mirror. See that girl with blue-green eyes, long blond hair, and the dimple? That's you.

I look exactly the same.

Seriously, Jess, the only thing that's worrying me about going to Costa Rica is leaving you here in Sweet Valley. I know that you and Lila haven't been so tight lately and your summer's not working out the way you had hoped. I've been getting the feeling you're a little lonely. (See! I do have ESP.)

All I know is that when I'm feeling lonely, writing in my diary helps. So if you start to feel lonely or worried--remember the Elizabeth Wakefield motto: Scribble! It works.

I'll see you in a month, and I'll think about you every single day.

Love, Elizabeth

P.S. Please try not to murder Steven while I'm gone. P.P.S. Or Lila Fowler.

SUNDAY, 6:30 P.M.

Dear Diary,

I don't know if having an identical twin with ESP is good or bad. I did cry all the way home from the airport. Steven did tell me that the snakes in Costa Rica were a thousand feet long and could swallow an average-sized thirteen-year-old girl whole. Mom and Dad did tell him to keep quiet. They did laugh hysterically when he did his imitation of Elizabeth being swallowed by a giant snake. And yes, I did want to murder him.

"No, no," Steven screamed in this really high voice that was supposed to be Elizabeth's. "I haven't finished my homewooooooooork!" He trailed off and finished with a great big gulp and belch that was supposed to be the snake.

Even I had to laugh at that last part. Does that make me a horrible person?

I guess not. In fact, I know I'm a wonderful person. Because I love Elizabeth even though she is a straight-A student, five thousand times more responsible than I am, and always doing something to help other people or save the world. Only a very mature and incredibly fabulous sister could love a sister like that. (Ha-ha!)

I'm glad I had a little surprise present of my own for Elizabeth, which I gave her at the airport. It was a bag of CDs and movie magazines. I know Elizabeth is looking forward to going deep into the rain forest and leaving civilization behind. But who could spend a whole month with no rock and roll and no celebrity gossip?

Anyway, when I got home and found this diary, I thought it was a nice idea--a very Elizabeth idea. But I really couldn't see myself writing in it.

Elizabeth's been gone for twelve hours, though, and I've just got to talk to someone. These days there's no point at all in trying to talk to my so-called best friend, Lila Fowler.

If I talk to Lila, I'll have to hear all about what Wiley said. And what Wiley did. And what Wiley thinks. Blah, blah, blah. Wiley, Wiley, Whey. Brag, brag, brag.

If I hear one more word about Wiley Upjohn, I'm going to upchuck.

I can't believe how Lila is letting this I-have-a-boyfriend-and-you-don't thing go to her head. It's not even like he's that cute. He's definitely not that tall. Maybe half an inch taller than Lila. Maybe!

The only thing Wiley Upjohn has going for him is the fact that he's in high school--or he will be in September. This is something that Lila manages to work into our conversations about every two seconds.

Wiley Upjohn is ruining my whole summer.

And it was supposed to be the best summer of my life. The summer I would always remember. The summer before eighth grade.

The last summer of the Unicorns.

See, this might be the Unicorns' last summer together as a club. It's hard to believe, but I might not be going to Sweet Valley Middle School next year. Our school district has been rezoned. Nobody knows yet which school they will be going to in September.

Before we heard about the rezoning plan, all the Unicorns were psyched about going into the eighth grade. Being in eighth grade isn't like being in high school, but it's still a pretty big deal because you're finally at the top of the middle-school heap.

And let me tell you, I'd waited a long time for this.

When I joined the Unicorn Club two years ago, I was a sixth-grader. Janet Howell (she was president of the club then) was an eighth-grader. During that first year Janet and the seventh-graders really made me and the other sixth-graders jump through hoops. And boy, did we jump!

Why? Because the Unicorn Club was made up of the prettiest and most popular girls at Sweet Valley Middle School. Everyone wanted to be a Unicorn, and I was no different. I mean, no matter how bossy Janet Howell got and no matter how mean the other Unicorns acted, I hung in there because I wanted to be part of the club.

Then last year Janet Howell went on to high school (thank goodness--I mean, she was my friend and all, but let's face it--the girl could be a total nightmare sometimes) and some other members dropped out. The only people left were me, Ellen Riteman, Lila Fowler, Mandy Miller, Rachel Grant, and Kimberly Haver.

We elected Ellen Riteman president. Ellen was a way cooler leader than Janet. Ellen's nice even if she is a little ditzy. OK, make that a lot ditzy. But she did a good job of holding the club together and didn't let the power go to her head.

So all in all, everybody was happy last year. And everybody was the same age. Everybody except Kimberly, that is.

She's a year older than the rest of us, so she was an eighth-grader while we were seventh-graders. Even though she wasn't the president, Kimberly couldn't resist pulling rank on us now and then.

Don't get me wrong. I love Kimberly. She's one of my best friends, and I'm going to miss her next year when she's at high school. But before I heard about the rezoning thing, I had decided that I wasn't completely heartbroken that she was leaving Sweet Valley Middle School. Because once Kimberly was gone, that meant that all the remaining Unicorns would be eighth-graders. We'd all be equals. Nobody could make me do things I didn't want to do anymore.

But now if we split up and go to different schools, there won't even be a Unicorn Club next year. That's why this is the last summer of the Unicorns.

We all made a solemn vow to make the most of it and to spend as much time together as we could. I was psyched to have the best summer ever.

I was, like, so naive.

Everything started off great. But somewhere in the first week of July, Lila showed up at Casey's Ice Cream Parlor with Wiley Upjohn. That's when everything changed.

Janet Howell, our former president who is now a sophomore in high school, is Lila Fowler's cousin. Turns out it was Janet who set Lila up with Wiley.

Janet said that since Wiley was going to be in the ninth grade and Lila was going to be in the eighth grade, it was a perfect match. Lila would get to go to all the high-school dances, etc. Plus--she would have a cool date for all the eighth-grade parties no matter which school she ended up at.

That was the end of the "equality" dream. Let's face it, having a boyfriend gives you a lot of clout in a club like ours. Getting a high-school boyfriend was like taking a quantum prestige leap.

Within a week of dating Wiley, Lila was "unavailable to hang." Whenever I called her, she was on her way to meet Wiley somewhere.

When she is available to do stuff--with me and the rest of the Unicorns--she acts like a Janet Howell clone. Laying down "the rules according to Lila." Telling us how to act if we want high-school guys ...