“Who are you?”
“I’m no-one.” I answer. I’ve been raised to do one thing. But I’ve got nothing to fight for, anymore. Surely she knows this.
“No you’re not, Carly,” she says. “You’re a good girl and a smart girl, that’s the right answer. Now go upstairs and do your homework.”
“God!” I yell as I toss my hands in the air and march back to my bedroom. “You never let me do anything!”
I slam the door shut and jump on my bed, tears flowing from my eyes. It’s not fair. It’s never been fair. Mom wants me to focus on my homework, and school, but I don’t care about any of that. I just want to hang out with my friends, and I’ll never get to do it.
I look at my wall and see a photograph of me and my other friends. We were a cool group, just a bunch of really fun girls. We called ourselves the Hip Phriends, and we hung out all the time, like in that picture. But then my Mom embarrassed me in front of all of them and made me go home at 7 PM to get ready for bed. Seven at night? I’m not THAT much of a dork!
Why can’t she understand that there’s more important things in life than school? She didn’t used to care about me studying all the time. Why now? It makes no freaking sense! I slam my fist on my bed and it bounces up.
I look out my window and see the huge treehouse in my neighbor’s’ yard. It’s owned by those Bush boys. I heard they’re really rich, so their Dad put a TV and a mini-fridge in the treehouse, and they go up there to play Gamecube all the time. I wish I had something like that, but no, I have to do my homework.
At the dinner table, Mom is bringing out the corn and mashed potatoes, while my Dad, Joseph Tyree Sneed III, is already chowing down on his steak.
“Dad, is it fair to always have to do work all the time?” I ask.
“That’s what I do,” he answers in between bites. “Work all the time. Don’t have a choice, though.” He reaches out to rub my hair, and gets some grease on it. Egh. “Adults never stop working, especially when they have to raise little tykes like you.”
“Joseph!” My mom says, walking back into the dining room with a plate of cornbread. “I know Carly’s a little bit of a tomboy, but you can’t just go around calling her–”
“Mom, can I go play with the Bush boys later?” I interrupt. I hope to catch her off-guard and get her to say yes.
It doesn’t work. She puts her hands on her hips like she always does when she thinks I’m being sassy. “Did you finish your homework?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I lie.
“Then you can go read your book. You have a book report due next week, remember?”
“Mom!” I look over at Dad to plead for help. He just looks down at his steak, though. “It’s not fair. I haven’t played with George in forever.” Not that I care about playing with George much, I just want to get out of this dumb house. “They have a cool treehouse and a Gamecube and everything.”
“Oh, so that’s how it is,” Mom says. She finally sits down at the table with us. “You don’t think your Nintendo 64 is enough, is that it?”
“No, Mom,” I say. Though it’s pretty much true. Nintendo 64s are lame. All the games are so old. I’d sell it right now except it isn’t worth anything. It’s stupid and I hate it.
“Then I think you can go read your book. Then maybe we can talk about hanging out with friends.” At this, I pull out my chair and run upstairs, leaving my dishes on the table. Mom yells at me but I ignore it.
And I shut my bedroom door and lock it so nobody else can get in at all.
It’s nearly dark, and I’m still laying in my bed, wide awake and wide upset. The sun’s said its goodbyes, and the sky is turning from orange to dark blue. But the light to the Bush boys’ treehouse is still on. That means they’re still in there, even when it’s starting to get late. Wow, they must have so much fun in there.
But of course, I can’t go in there. Mom’ll kill me if I try…
Unless she doesn’t find out…
I open my window and feel the breeze. It’s two stories up, but I could totally climb down, easily… Yes…
Over the picket fence, I’m finally in the Bush boys’ yard and I’m right under the treehouse. I wave at the lit window and try to get their attention. I used to hang out with George and his friend Johnny McCain a bit, so hopefully they recognize me and let me in quickly.
After a second, though, a small, chubby boy climbs down the ladder and walks up to me. He’s wearing dorky glasses that he has to push up, and looks a couple years younger than me. He looks at me with incredulous eyes. “Who are you?”
“Can I come into your treehouse?” I ask the boy. “I’m one of George’s friends.”
The boy pushes up his glasses again. “George doesn’t play in the treehouse anymore. He’s too busy studying all the time. It’s just me and my friends.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m George’s brother,” he says. “Jeb!” he shouts.
“Jeb? What a weird name.”
“No,” he pouts. “It’s not Jeb. You have to shout it. Jeb! It’s special.”
I roll my eyes, but go along with it. “Okay, Jeb! Can I come into your treehouse? I will be your friend.”
Jeb! laughs. “No way! No girls allowed! The treehouse is a boys’ club, no girl has ever set foot in my treehouse.”
“Not even your mother?”
This is not a very good situation at all. All I want to do was have some fun with friends, and this jerkwad’s trying to kick me out just because I’m a girl? Why should that even matter? Seriously. “Well, I’m a cool girl, so it shouldn’t matter. All the other boys try to chase me, you know.” This isn’t true, but I hope he believes it anyway.
“Hey, I just met you,” Jeb! says. “And this is crazy; I don’t know why you want to get in, anyway.”
I don’t think he would understand if I said that I’m not sure why I want to get in either, so I just give a “Hmph!” and walk away.
Back in my bedroom, and I’ve gathered up all the material that I need. I’m going to show that little Jeb! boy who’s going to let who into their treehouse.
No boys allowed? Well you know what? Fine. If they hate girls so much, then I’ll be a boy, just to get into the treehouse.
I got some of my brother Joe’s old clothes out of his closet, a cool jacket and some baggy blue jeans. And from my arts and crafts drawer, I have out my sharpest pair of scissors, and a roll of tape.
Nothing will stand in my way. I’ll finish what I started.
This time, I’m rocking out to “Here Without You” on my MP3 player. It makes me feel confident and ready.
Jeb! comes down the treehouse and sees me once again. Except I’m a different me, this time. He doesn’t seem to suspect I am the same person at all, and judges me with curiosity rather than contempt.
“Hi,” I begin, making my voice go as manly as it will let me. “I heard you have a really cool treehouse. Can I join in?”
“Uhh…” Jeb! hesitated. “Who are you, again?”
“I’m… My name is Carl–” Oops. I forgot to come up with a boy name… I try to go along with it anyway. “Uh, yeah, it’s Carl…” I look down at my MP3 player, still blasting music. “Carl iFiorina. Yeah.”
“Oh. Hi, Carl. My name is Jeb!”
“Of course your name is Jeb! Who wouldn’t know that? You’re the coolest guy on the block.” I hope this excessive flattery works.
“You want to go in, too?” Jeb! asks. “Man, I didn’t know I was so popular today… I dunno.”
“You dunno?” Why is he saying “dunno” instead of “don’t know” and why doesn’t he know? “I mean, it’s all fine, and good, if that’s all it is. But–”
“Are you friends with Ben and Don?” Jeb! asks.
“They came over earlier this afternoon. Everyone wants to come over today! It used to be just me and John K and Lindsey, but everyone keeps coming over, even people I don’t know.”
“It’s because your treehouse is so cool,” I say.
“Well…” Jeb! starts back towards the ladder. “As long as your parents are fine with you being up so late. Come on, we’re playing Clone Wars.”
I gasp audibly. “Clone Wars? Does that mean… The stories about what’s up there…”
Jeb! looks back at me. “It’s true. All of it.” He continues on as we both climb the ladder. “This game has it all. The Dark Side, the Jedi… They’re real. It’s like the force… like it’s really calling to you.”
“No, not the game,” I say. “I mean that you have a TV and a Gamecube in your treehouse.”
“Oh yeah, of course. Who doesn’t?”
I can barely contain my excitement now. I’m about to see the coolest thing of all time, and hang out with all these really fun boys. I’m finally going to have new friends to hang out with.
I see the treehouse, and it is magnificent. Jeb! smiles with pride. “Just let it in,” he says.
I run over to the TV and take the controller from Lindsey, who’s in my class at school. He whines, but I immediately start blasting away in a droid tank and rack up the score, so he can’t comlain much. I’m finally playing playing Clone Wars, on the Gamecube, in the Bush boys’ treehouse… and realize I’ve finally made it. I’m in the boys’ club. I did it.