Authors: Betsy Haynes
FABULOUS FIVE #6
THE PARENT GAME
NEW YORK • TORONTO •
LONDON • SYDNEY • AUCKLAND
RL 5, 009-012
THE PARENT GAME
A Bantam Skylark
/ March 1989
Skylark Books is a
registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell
Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and
Copyright © 1989
by Betsy Haynes and James Haynes.
© 1989 by Ralph Amatrudi.
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PRINTED IN THE UNITED
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CW 0 9 8 7 6
"Has anybody picked out their baby for the Family Living
project yet?" asked Jana Morgan. The Fabulous Five, which included Jana,
Christie Winchell, Beth Barry, Melanie Edwards, and Katie Shannon, were eating
lunch together at their usual table in the cafeteria. They had been best
friends for almost forever, and now they were in seventh grade at Wakeman
Junior High, or Wacko, as most kids called it.
"Oh, I have mine!" chirped Melanie. "Did I
tell you that Scott asked me to be a parent with him?"
"That's just so he can get you to change the diapers,
make the formula, and do all the other work," interjected Katie. "Boys
are all alike."
Melanie stuck out her tongue and made a disgusted face at
her redheaded friend.
Jana wished she could get as excited as the others about the
seventh-grade Family Living project. Mrs. Clark, her Family Living teacher, had
said it was supposed to teach them something about the responsibilities of
being a parent. Jana knew it had been tough for her own mother, who was
divorced and trying to support the two of them on a low-paying job. Now Mrs.
Morgan was getting married in two weeks, and Jana would be getting a
stepfather. "Parent" was a big word in her life right now, and she
definitely didn't feel like becoming one herself. In fact, she was wondering
why she had brought up the subject with her friends in the first place.
For the project each student was supposed to choose a
stuffed animal or toy and then treat it as if it were her or his own baby for
two whole weeks. Everyone had to bring in the animal or toy for the teacher's
approval on Wednesday, which was in two days. The make-believe child couldn't
be left alone at any time or stuffed into a locker or have anything else done
to it that wouldn't be done to a real baby. And when Mrs. Clark had explained
that the baby even had to have diapers made out of old washcloths, or some
other cloth, most of the boys had snickered and Richie Corrierro had held his
As Jana tuned back into her friends' conversation, Christie
was asking Melanie what her baby was going to be.
Jana stared dumbfounded at Melanie, and she could see that
her other friends were, too. Melanie was the most romantic girl in the world.
Jana had expected something a little different for Melanie's baby.
" the four of them said in
"Why in the world did you pick a
"Yeah, yuck," said Beth, scrunching up her nose. "It
has tusks and whiskers!"
"That's going to be some ugly baby," added Katie. "I'm
not sure if it will look more like its mother or its father."
Melanie stuck out her tongue in Katie's direction again. "It's
the idea that counts," she said huffily. "The walrus was Scott's when
he was a baby, and I think it's
Katie put her face in her hands in despair.
"Jon and I are going to be make-believe parents
together, too," said Christie. "We're going to use my bunny. You
remember. It's the one that's dressed in a tennis outfit."
Jana saw a dreamy look come into Christie's eyes. Christie
was the daughter of the principal of Mark Twain Elementary and was a whiz at
nearly everything, especially math. Ever since she had tutored Jon Smith in
math, and he had helped her in the seventh-grade elections for class president,
they had been seeing a lot of each other.
"I haven't decided what I'm going to use," admitted
Jana. "With the wedding so close, it's hard to keep my mind on school. I
keep thinking about how
it's going to be at home after Mom and
Pink are married."
"Well, I'm going to be a single parent," said
Katie, as if she hadn't heard a word Jana had said about her mother's wedding
or the worried sound in Jana's voice. "I'm not going to take care of a
baby while some guy can play sports or whatever. Let them learn what being a
parent is all about."
"Not all the boys are like that!" argued Melanie.
She, too, seemed more interested in the parent project than in Jana's problems.
leave me with
"You sound as if you're already married,"
Jana shook her head. Melanie and Katie were constantly
arguing over boys. Katie, the feminist of the group, was always accusing Melanie
of being boy crazy, and Melanie, the romantic, was totally amazed that Katie
had such low opinions of boys.
Jana listened to her friends talk. Normally she would be
just as excited as they were over something as special as the parent project,
but she had bigger worries now. Her mother was going to marry Pink, whose real
name was Wallace Pinkerton, and Jana's life would change forever. It had seemed
exciting at first. She had always wanted to be part of a real family. One with
both a mother and a father. But the closer it got to the time for the wedding,
the more doubts she had.
Pink was tall, blond, and nice looking and worked as a
typesetter at the newspaper where her mother was classified ad manager, and
they had been engaged for a long time. Mostly Pink came over on weekends, and
he and her mother went bowling. It wasn't that Jana didn't like Pink. She
really did. It was just that she and her mother had been alone together ever
since her mother had divorced Jana's alcoholic father when she was three. Now
with Pink's moving in, Jana felt as if she were being pushed into a little
corner of their apartment, and even worse, a smaller corner of her mother's
affection. All her mother could talk about lately was Pink, the wedding, and
Jana's needing a new dress for the ceremony.
Jana glanced at her friends again. They had been excited
when she first told them about the wedding, too. Especially Melanie, who always
said that weddings were the most romantic things in the world. They had wanted
to know every detail about her mother's dress, the wedding cake and the
reception, all the fun stuff, but none of them seemed to know quite what to say
when she tried to talk about how different things were going to be for her.
None of them had ever been through an experience like it.
Jana sighed and stuffed her sandwich wrapper into her brown
bag and got up. "See you guys later," she said halfheartedly.
Christie gave her a quick smile, and Beth waved with her fingers
as she turned back to listen to Katie and Melanie argue.
"Hi." Randy Kirwan's voice startled Jana. She had
been deep in thought when he caught up with her in the hall.
"Oh! Hi, back." His million-dollar smile seemed to
brighten the hallway around them, and her spirits suddenly lifted. She had had
a crush on Randy since fourth grade. He was the kindest and most sincere boy in
the world, and had also been the handsomest in Mark Twain Elementary. They had
kissed for the first time back in sixth grade, and now they were going
"I haven't seen you much lately. Been busy getting
ready for the wedding?" he asked.
"Yes. My mother is totally frazzled. I never knew that
there was so much work to getting married," she said with a laugh. "Besides
that, Funny Hawthorne and I are working on the seventh-grade section of the
yearbook. It's been taking lots of time. How about you?"
"Football practice and homework mostly."
"Have you chosen your baby yet for the Family Living
class?" she asked. Jana wished Randy and she were in the same class so
that they could be parents together, but unfortunately they weren't.
"Not yet, but I was thinking about asking Mrs.
Blankenship if I can use my football. At least I know how to hold it. I've got
no idea how to hold a baby." His blue eyes twinkled at her. "This is
one class project I could really use help on."
"Oh, have you thought about getting a partner?"
Jana was immediately sorry that she had asked. She didn't want to think about
Randy's being a parent with someone else. She had just assumed he would be a
single parent, and she would, too. It was sort of like showing everyone they
were being true to each other.
"Are you volunteering for the job?" he asked with
a sly grin.
"I can't, silly, but there are other girls in your
class." And then she added quickly, "Mona Vaughn is in your class,
isn't she?" Mona was nice, but she wasn't very pretty.
"Yes, she is. You know Taffy is in my class, too, and
she's been talking about you a lot lately."
"She has?" Jana asked with surprise. Taffy had
been her worst enemy at Mark Twain Elementary. Not too long ago they had even
had clubs against each other.
"Yeah. She says how much she likes you. You two are
really starting to be friends, aren't you?" Randy asked.
Jana remained silent, not knowing how to answer his puzzling
"I think that's great," Randy went on. "It
always bothered me that you didn't get along at Mark Twain."
Jana swallowed hard. Randy always thought the best of
people. "Yes, we are." What else could she say? Randy was such an
honest and sincere person that he never realized all the horrible things that
Taffy had done to her and The Fabulous Five back in Mark Twain. If Jana said
Taffy was faking being nice, he might think that Jana was just being mean.
Jana hadn't seen much of Taffy since they had gotten to
Wacko Junior High. In fact, The Fabulous Five were having a lot more trouble
with Laura McCall and her clique, The Fantastic Foursome. They were from
Riverfield Elementary and had become rivals of The Fabulous Five on the very
first day at Wakeman Junior High.
But why would Taffy be telling Randy that she liked Jana?
she thought as she called good-bye to Randy. Was it another one of Taffy's old
tricks to steal Randy away from her?
Jana stared with dismay at her reflection in the full-length
mirror in the dressing room at Tanninger's Department Store after school. The
dress just wasn't the right color for her. It didn't match her hair or her eyes
or anything. And it was too childish looking. It wasn't something a girl in
junior high school would wear. None of the dresses she had tried on in the
young miss department looked good on her. Why did her mother insist on picking
out such babyish things?
Behind her reflection she could see the hopeful look on her
mother's face. Jana felt a momentary twinge of regret at her own lack of
enthusiasm over finding a dress for the wadding. Her mother worked hard and
barely made enough to support them. Marrying Pink would probably make her
mother's life a lot easier, and Jana supposed that she was in love with him.
Jana knew that her dad hadn't been a great husband. He hadn't
been a very responsible father either. One summer he'd written to say that he
would come and take her on a fabulous two-week vacation out west. Her mother
had said she could go, and Jana had gotten all excited. She even wrote and told
him she could hardly wait. But he never came. He didn't even write her to say
why. She had thought it was her fault that he didn't want to see her until her
mother told her that he had a problem. He was an alcoholic. Even though Jana
hadn't seen him for a long time, she had never given up hope that someday she
would open their apartment door and find him standing there. But now that would
never happen because of Pink. He would be there instead.
It was going to feel really weird to have Pink coming home
with her mother after work. Jana and her mother wouldn't be able to talk about
things the way they did now, sharing secrets and giggling over silly things. It
would be totally different with him around. She would have to share her mother
with Pink all the time, not just on weekends.
Jana blinked away the tears from her eyes and gave her
mother's reflection a smile of encouragement.
"Well, honey, what do you think?"
"I don't know, Mom. It's just not right."
Jana saw her mother struggling to hide a look of
frustration. "We don't have a lot longer to find a dress and get it
altered. The wedding is a week from Saturday."
"I know, but it's just not right. Can't we look some
more?" she pleaded.
Her mother's shoulders sank slightly. "Sure."
Later in her room Jana sat cross-legged on her bed and went
through her stuffed animals, trying to decide which one to use for class. She
picked up Honeybear and held him to her face. He was a grubby-looking, brown-and-cream-colored
bear that her mother said was Jana's favorite when she was a baby. She couldn't
ever remember Honeybear's not being in the place of honor in front of the other
animals piled against her pillows.
She hugged him tightly. At least he would still be her
friend when Mom and Pink got married and her other friends were off doing their
own things. No, she thought, Honeybear was too important to use in the Family
What about Turtle? Randy had won him for her at a carnival
last summer, and she loved the dumb look on his face. He would make a
funny-looking baby—almost as funny looking as Melanie's walrus, she'd bet.
Still, with his fat middle and short legs he would be kind of hard to diaper.
She had better not use him either, she decided.
Then there was the pink rabbit. Her father had sent that to
her when she was four years old. She picked it up slowly from its place at the
back of the pile and looked at it. She remembered deciding not to name it until
her father came to visit and they could name it together. Since he hadn't come,
it still didn't have a name. She put it down quickly, deciding instead to call
one of her four best friends. That would lift her spirits.
Maybe she should call Beth first. The two of them had always
been the best of friends and could really talk to each other. Beth was the
dramatic one of The Fabulous Five. She was even in the Drama Club at school.
The only problem that Beth had was she said some pretty wild things sometimes,
and it always got her in trouble, such as the time she had tried to outbrag
Jana smiled to herself. The Fabulous Five were always fun to
be with. Back when they were in Mark Twain Elementary, they had meetings every
Saturday in Jana's bedroom, and they would laugh and play records and plan
things against Taffy Sinclair. Jana and her friends had even bought T-shirts
that said The Fabulous Five across the fronts. Her friends had looked up to
Jana as their leader, and she had to admit that it made her feel good.
Since they had been going to Wacko, they hadn't had enough
time for their meetings. It seemed as if everyone always had something else to
do. Just like Mom with Pink. Even though she had lots of new activities, too,
Jana couldn't help wishing sometimes that things could be the same as they used
She went into the living room and dialed Beth's number.
"Hello. TODD, STOP IT!" It sounded like Beth's
younger sister, Alicia, shouting on the other end of the line. Her brother Todd
must be trying to grab the phone away from her, Jana thought. In the background
she could hear the Barry's sheepdog, Agatha, barking.
"Hi. This is Jana. Is Beth there?" Jana couldn't
help shouting back.
"No, she's not. . . .
Can I take a
"Uh, no." Jana hesitated. "That's all right.
I'll call back later."
Melanie's line was busy. Jana waited five minutes and tried
again but got only the
of the busy signal. Melanie
could be talking to any one of several boys she currently had crushes on,
She dialed Christie's number next. Her mother told her that
Christie and Jon were studying, but if it was important, she'd interrupt them.
Jana told her not to.
Jana sighed. That left Katie. Or maybe she should call
Randy. Thinking about Randy made little shivers of excitement run through her.
Just the thought of his smiling face made her feel better.
The phone rang just as she reached for it. Her spirits
leapt. Maybe it was Randy calling her!
"Hello, Jana?" The voice on the phone stopped her
"Jana, this is Taffy Sinclair. Do you have a few
minutes to talk?"
Jana was immediately cautious. What was Taffy calling her
about? They had always been mortal enemies, and they never talked to each other
unless they absolutely had to.
"I've got something serious to talk to you about, and I
wondered if you could come over," Taffy continued.
"What is it?" Jana asked suspiciously.
"I'd really rather not talk about it over the phone."
Taffy paused and then added mysteriously, "It has something to do with
Jana's mind whirled. Why would Taffy want to talk to her
about Randy? Taffy had tried to steal Randy away from Jana several times in the
past, but since they started junior high, Taffy hadn't been up to her old
tricks. "What do you want to talk about Randy for?"
"Like I said, it's
important to talk about
over the phone.
. . .
"—she left the word hanging
dramatically for a moment—"if you don't really want to know . . ."
"When should I come over?"
"Right now would be a good time."
Jana hesitated before saying, "I'll be right there."
She looked at the receiver in her hand after Taffy had hung up. The steady
drone of the dial tone sounded ominous.