I heard a chiming sound as we were heading down the mall toward the food court, and I looked to my left. The noise was coming from an entire store filled with clocks. My eyes lit up at all the shiny surfaces of brass, gold, and glass, and I strayed unconsciously toward it. Bailey looked at me warily as my path changed.
“Hey, where ya goin’?”
“Just a sec, Bailey. I want to look at the clocks.” I shrugged. “They’re neat.”
“You and your shiny things,” she said, like I was a baby. I felt ready to hit her. I couldn’t help it that my eyes were drawn to anything that glinted or glowed with bright colors.
“Clocks are really cool,” I informed her. “Look at all the different things they’ve got . . . all the different designs.” There was a grandfather clock, a real cuckoo clock, lots of mantelpiece clocks, some standups, some plain alarm clocks, some intricate clocks with fragile gears showing . . . I marveled at all the diversity in one kind of appliance.
One of the clocks struck eleven, and I laughed; that wasn’t the right time. It bonged eleven times, and I counted along. It sounded like a higher, clearer version of the bell tower at school. I told Bailey about it.
“Yeah, it’s like this big building-looking thing . . . but it’s really got chimes in the top or something, and it plays tunes and bongs on the hour the right number of times.” I grinned. “You should see it sometime.” She got a very mischievous look on her face, and I got butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t like that look a bit.
“I wonder if we could make that clock strike the wrong time.”
“I told you, Bailey, no pranks at my school.”
“Oh, come on! No one would know it was us.”
“No! No way in hell.”
“Oh, pleeease, Ivy? It’d be so much fun. . . . ”
“Bailey, we couldn’t even get up there. It’s a freaking building.”
“Do you really think that matters to us? Um, you can fly, and I can go anywhere I want!”
“I know that!” Like I needed reminding. “But I mean, there’ll be people there, and stuff. And I might get in trouble.”
“So what? Isn’t that what this is all about?”
“No, Bailey, it’s about not getting caught. I’d just as soon keep my school completely off-limits to pranks, all right?” I studied her face, trying to see if I was getting through at all. She shook her head.
“No, not all right. I wanna do this.”
“Why? Why are you so bent on it all of a sudden?” I wished I’d never come in the clock shop.
“Because . . . I wanna make the big clock bong thirteen o’clock. I just think it’d be cool.” She teased me with her eyes. Suddenly I realized that she was only pushing for this so hard because she knew how much I didn’t want to do it. Then she said the thing I’d been praying she wouldn’t say. “What, Ivy, are you chicken?”
“That isn’t going to work with me.” I shut my eyes so I wouldn’t have to challenge her with them.
“You’re chicken! Bawk, bawk, bawk!”
“I’m not chicken. I’m just concerned for my own welfare. What’s going to happen to my school career if I get caught in that bell tower? I’m almost sure it’s off-limits.”
“Think about it, Ivy, who’s gonna catch you?”
I blinked. She did have a point. “Um . . . I’m thinking. . . . ” I tried to find an excuse that would stop us from being able to carry it out . . . I realized as I did that I was arguing mostly on principle now.
“Oh, come on.” Bailey grabbed my hand and yanked me toward the food court.
“Hey! If you’re going to make the bell tower bong thirteen o’clock, what am I going to do? Doesn’t leave much room for a prank for me.”
“You could make it play a dirty song.”
“Well, you said they were chimes, right?”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I know which is which.”
“Well, go up there sometime and figure it out.”
“But I don’t even know any dirty songs.”
“It doesn’t have to be dirty, stupid. It can just be kinda dumb. Like ‘Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer On the Wall.’ No biggie.” Bailey tossed her hair in her usual way so that it flopped over her ears.
“How am I supposed to figure out ‘Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer On the Wall,’ huh?”
“Just go up there while it’s playing a song or something, and watch. There’s what, four notes in that song? Can’t be too hard.”
“Um . . . more like six notes,” I corrected, counting.
“Whatever.” We joined a fast-food line in the food court.
“Um . . . listen, Bailey, I’m not saying for sure I’ll do it . . . but I’ll think about it, all right?” The more I thought about it, the less likely I felt I was to possibly get caught. And it would be a somewhat interesting prank. However, I had my own betting chip. I was about to lay it on the table.
“I knew you wouldn’t be chicken, Ivy. Besides, the longest a chicken has ever flown is thirteen seconds.” She grinned.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, I’ve seen you fly a lot longer than thirteen seconds,” she explained, smirking.
“Where’d you get a weird factoid like that?”
“From Zeke, of course,” she replied. “He’s fulla useless information, and he always thinks I’m interested just ’cause I usually don’t got the energy to tell him to shut up.” I rolled my eyes.
“That’s not all, Bailey . . . I’m only agreeing to do this prank if you promise me you’ll do something for me.”
“I want you to try school.”
Bailey gave me a totally blank stare.
“What?” She dropped the word out of her mouth like a brick.
“Excuse me, are you ready to order?”
“Oh . . . I’d like a large fries, large soda, and . . . you want anything?” I turned to Bailey.
“Sundae,” she replied automatically.
“One hot fudge sundae.”
“For here or to go?”
“For here.” I paid the girl and waited.
“Ivy, are you serious? You actually want me to . . . go to school? Like a normal kid?”
I eyed her critically.
“Yes, Bailey. You think you’re exempt from learning anything just ’cause you got pointed ears and you can disappear at will?”
“Well, it means I’m not human, why should I hafta do things they hafta do?”
I was about to tell her that was the brattiest thing I’d ever heard when I realized it sounded remarkably like my initial comments regarding higher education. I winced.
“Listen, Bailey . . . I want to tell you why you need to go to school.”
“All right, why?”
“Because otherwise you’re going to be so goddamn bored in a couple years that all the pranks in the world won’t keep you entertained.”
“Oh, come on, Bailey, you know you only want to go pranking so much because you don’t got anything better to do.”
“I . . . I . . . that’s not true. Wait a minute. . . . ”
I wanted her to go to school for a number of reasons: To get her to quit bothering me about pranking so much when I had my own stuff to do, and to get her to understand what I was going through, and because a part of me really did care about her getting an education. I pulled out my clincher.
“If you weren’t chicken, you’d go to school.” I made sure my eyes absolutely tortured her.
“That’s not fair!” she burst. I thought she was going to cry in frustration.
“Maybe not, but you’re still chicken,” I replied. “And a sucky chicken at that, since I’ve never seen you fly for thirteen seconds.” I smirked without really meaning to.
“Ivy!” she howled.
I picked up our food and carried it to a table. “What?” I asked pleasantly.
“It’s . . . it’s just . . . I’ve been to school, ya know.”
“It hardly counts, Bailey.”
She stuck out her pointy chin and glared at me. “Does too.”
“Not really. That was pseudo-school, in a New York slum for homeless kids.”
“I still went.”
“Yeah, but to what? I’m sure you never learned anything there but how to spit farther’n the next person.” Bailey was silent for a moment. I chewed on my fries and watched her emotions show up on her face.
“I don’t wanna go to school,” she said finally, much more subdued than before.
“Well, I know how you feel . . . but I think you should give it a shot. I don’t really want to do this bell tower prank either, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it could be fun if I just approach it with the right attitude and make sure I’m careful. You could do the same thing with school. Know what I mean?”
“I still don’t wanna,” she whispered. “I’m scared to.” She looked down at her sundae as it melted under the musty skylight.
“Bailey? You’re actually scared of something?” I wasn’t as surprised that she was scared as I was that she admitted to it.
“I get scared sometimes,” she said defensively. “It’s not like I don’t got feelings.” She picked up her plastic spoon and started to make syrup out of her ice cream by stirring it around and around. “I mean . . . I went to school for a while . . . Ivy, they’ll mess with me. Just like they always did.” She speared the cherry with her blunt spoon.
“If they do, you’ll beat them up, just like you always did.”
She smiled a little bit.
“I really don’t think they will this time, though, Bailey.”
“Why wouldn’t they? I’m not like them, they can tell just by looking at me. Kids hate that.”
“You think I don’t know it?”
“Well, I guess you kinda must, but . . . well, ya know.”
“These kids aren’t going to be the children of slum-lords and crack addicts, you know. Where you would go, they’d be pretty much well-adjusted suburban kids. There’s a big difference. Some of ’em might still treat you like shit, but most of ’em won’t.”
She stopped stirring her ice cream. “You really think so?”
“I really think so.”
“Okay . . . if you can get me set up and stuff, I promise I’ll go to school for at least a week if you promise to do the bell tower prank with me.”
“Only a week, Bailey?”
“Well, if you’re right, I’ll stay longer. If the kids are assholes, I’m out of there. Pronto.” She started stirring the ice cream again.
“Are you gonna eat that or are you gonna play with it?”
She shrugged and kept on stirring.
I pulled the spoon out of her hand with my energy and made it scoop up a gloppy bit of what was left of the ice cream. “Do I have to feed you?” I frowned at the spoon and turned it toward her.
“Cut it out,” she said, looking away like she was embarrassed.
I shrugged and ate the spoonful myself. Then I ate the rest of her sundae. She didn’t seem to mind.
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