The birthday storm, p.1

The Birthday Storm, page 1


The Birthday Storm
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The Birthday Storm


  Title Page


  CHAPTER ONE: Digging for Pink

  CHAPTER TWO: Hurry Up and Wait

  CHAPTER THREE: Crazy Security!

  CHAPTER FOUR: Up in the Air and Down Again

  CHAPTER FIVE: Warm Sand and Cool Water

  CHAPTER SIX: Beach Secrets and Surprises

  CHAPTER SEVEN: Getting Ready for the Storm

  CHAPTER EIGHT: Turtle Rescue Mission

  CHAPTER NINE: The Hurricane

  CHAPTER TEN: A Hurricane Birthday Party

  CHAPTER ELEVEN: After the Storm

  Here are some fun facts about hurricanes and sea turtles!

  About the Author


  “Mom! I can’t find my pink swimsuit!”

  A huge pile of clothes seems to live on the floor of my closet. I dig and find my favorite yellow shorts, one torn plastic sandal, two pairs of jeans, and a shiny silver belt.

  I also find several pairs of underwear and my lost gym clothes. But it seems my pink swimsuit has moved away.

  “You don’t need it. Take your green bathing suit instead,” my mother answers from down the hall.

  “I hate the green one!” I tell her. “It looks like an army uniform.”

  My sixteen-year-old sister, Sadora, sticks her head in my door. She has been packed and ready since yesterday.

  “Wear some big army boots and your green swimsuit will look great,” she teases.

  “We’re going to the beach!” I yell.

  “I know that. Maybe the beach people will think you’re starting a new fashion trend.”

  She comes into my room. I’m sitting on the floor with clothes on my head.

  Usually, Sadora can make me giggle, but today I don’t feel like laughing. “I just gotta have that pink suit,” I tell her.

  “Why?” she asks.

  “You won’t understand,” I tell her.

  “Try me,” she says. Sometimes my big sister can be really cool.

  I wrinkle my face and think. “Because when I wear that bathing suit, the sun is always warm and bright, no rain ever falls on the beach, and I find the perfect seashell for my collection.”

  “So it’s like your good-luck suit?” she asks.

  “Yeah, something like that,” I tell her. “And besides, it goes with my lucky pink ribbon.” I tie it carefully around my puffy ponytail.

  “I understand about matching,” Sadora says. “But what’s lucky about that ribbon?” Sadora asks.

  “Because it was at the bottom of my Sassy Sack when Grammy gave it to me!” I explain. “Good things happen when I wear it.”

  Sadora shakes her head. “Did you look in your dirty-clothes hamper?” she asks. She sits on my bed next to my overstuffed suitcase.

  “It’s not there,” I say.

  “What about your bottom drawer?” Sadora asks. “Isn’t that your pink drawer? Don’t you have a system where you arrange your clothes by color?”

  “I gave that up,” I tell her glumly. “It was too complicated.”

  But I pull out the bottom drawer and look anyway. I find a pair of rose-colored socks and a sparkly pink hair barrette but no pink swimsuit.

  My twelve-year-old brother, Sabin, bursts into the room. He’s wearing the new sunglasses he bought last night at the drugstore.

  “You don’t need the shades in the house,” I remind him.

  “I’m going to keep them on for the entire trip,” he says. “Maybe some Florida girls will think I’m a movie star!”

  He looks at himself in my mirror. He turns his baseball cap so the visor is in the back. He’s wearing a new red T-shirt, and his skinny arms look like thin tree branches sticking out.

  I giggle. “Which movie did you star in? The Toothpick Man?”

  Sadora cracks up.

  Sabin ignores both of us and grabs a candy bar from my bed.

  “Sabin! I was gonna eat that on the plane!” I tell him as I reach for the candy.

  “Not this one,” he says with a grin as he takes off the wrapper. “Maybe it will help me build muscles.” He gobbles it in two bites.

  I don’t tell Sabin, but I have three more candy bars in my Sassy Sack. They are hiding in a zipper pocket, far away from a big brother’s greedy fingers.

  My Sassy Sack is the coolest thing. It’s more than a purse. It’s like a part of me. Just touching it makes me feel happy. It’s pink and purple and shiny and made of lots of different fabrics, like lace and silk and velvet. It’s got buttons and sparkles and it closes with a satin ribbon.

  Sadora rubs her hands over my sack. “Grammy gave this to you for your seventh birthday, didn’t she?” she asks with a smile.

  “Yep. It’s one of a kind and I love it. I don’t go anyplace without it. You know that,” I tell her.

  “So what are you going to give Grammy for her birthday?” Sadora asks.

  “It’s a surprise,” I say. “You’ll see when we get there.”

  Sabin finishes the candy and burps. “Dad says to give me your suitcase so I can put it in the car. And he says hurry up. We’re gonna miss the plane!”

  “You can’t take it yet,” I cry out. “I’m still packing.”

  But he zips my bag shut, snatches it off my bed, and hurries out the door with it.

  “Sabin!” I yell. But he’s gone. I can hear him clumping down the stairs.

  “My swimsuit must be invisible,” I tell Sadora with a sigh.

  “Grammy never notices what we wear. She just loves it because we’re there,” Sadora says. She sounds wise, like a grown-up.

  “I know Grammy doesn’t care about my clothes,” I tell Sadora. “But do you think she’ll like my new outfit anyway?”

  Sadora laughs. “You’re impossible, Little Sister. Of course Grammy will like your new purple hookup. And Poppy won’t even notice! You look like a piece of grape candy.”

  “That’s my favorite!” I tell her with a grin.

  I look at myself in the mirror. I’m wearing a pale purple T-shirt with shiny silver writing on the front. It says BEACH BUM. My shorts and socks are a light shade of lavender. My shoes and shoelaces are purple. Only my hair ribbon is hot pink.

  Sadora is right. I look like a Popsicle!

  “You look super, Sassy,” Sadora tells me. “I would have worn that same outfit when I was nine and a half.”

  That makes me feel really good. “Thanks,” I tell her.

  “Why don’t you add a belt?” she suggests.

  “Great idea!” From my top drawer I pull a shiny purple belt. It has a huge silver buckle.

  “Perfect!” Sadora tells me as I put on the belt.

  “Sassy! Sadora! Let’s go!” Mom calls from the bottom of the stairs. “If we miss the plane, we miss Grammy’s birthday celebration. Hurry!”

  I take one last look around my room, grab my Sassy Sack, and turn off the light. I dig down into my sack to make sure I have a book to read on the plane. I feel something soft.

  I pull it out, and rolled into a ball is my shiny pink swimsuit. “I found it!” I yell with relief. “I forgot that I put it in my sack!”

  Sadora pats me on the shoulder. “I’m glad you found it, Little Sister. That’s the kind of thing that can spoil a trip.” We head down the stairs together.

  “This is going to be the best Florida trip ever!” I tell her as we rush out of the door and into the car.

  “Grammy’s birthday on the beach! I can’t wait,” Sadora says happily.

  “Is everybody ready for this beach vacation?” Daddy asks with a smile on his face. He’s wearing a blue shirt with red flowers on it.

  “Good grief!” Sadora whispers to me. “Look at what Daddy has on! I hope I don’t see anybody I kno
w at the airport.”

  “Ready!” we all shout. Everybody loves going to Grammy’s house. We live in Ohio, and Grammy and Poppy live in Florida in a really cool beach house.

  “I love getting up every morning seeing the ocean,” Sadora tells me.

  “Yep, and this year we’re going to be there in time for Grammy’s birthday. Even better,” I say.

  “You know, there’s a tropical depression swirling in the Atlantic,” Daddy warns as we load stuff into the car.

  “What’s depressing about the tropics?” Sabin asks. “Seems like everybody there ought to be happy all the time!”

  “A tropical depression is an organized system of clouds and winds and storms,” Daddy explains. “Sometimes it fizzles in the ocean, but sometimes it gets stronger and turns into what we call a tropical storm.” Daddy is a science teacher. He likes to answer scientific questions.

  “Is that bad?” Sadora asks.

  “Well, that would mean it might rain on our birthday celebration,” Mom replies. “But a tropical storm can get really strong sometimes, and it becomes a hurricane!”

  “Hurricane?” Sabin and Sadora and I all say the word at the same time.

  “Storms and hurricanes are very unpredictable,” Daddy reassures us. “We’ll probably be just fine.”

  “Probably?” I whisper. Nobody hears me as we climb into our car.

  As usual, I’m squeezed in the backseat between Sabin and Sadora. Sabin smells like his favorite Ocean Breeze aftershave lotion.

  “Did you use a whole bottle of that stuff, Sabin?” I ask, pretending to cough a little. “You don’t even shave!”

  He just leans closer to me and laughs.

  Sadora smells like roses. I hope I don’t choke on the smells before we get to the airport. I reach down into my sack and pull out a small portable minifan. But instead of making the smells go away, it just blows them around and mixes them. I give up and put the fan away.

  “Are you sorry your friend Jasmine is not able to be with us?” Sadora asks.

  Jasmine is my very best friend and she could be sitting here with me, giggling about Sadora’s bracelets, or Sabin’s big feet, or what we could buy in the airport gift shop.

  I explain to Sadora, “Too bad she has a music competition this week. I will have too much to tell her when I get home!”

  I sit back, cross my arms across my chest, and sigh. Sabin, shades on his eyes and earbuds in his ears, is bopping his head to the music on his iPod. He gazes out of the window on the right side.

  Sadora, who always looks like she’s ready to star in a movie, looks out of the window on the left side.

  All I have to look at is the back of the seat in front of me. And all I can think about is the storm that might be coming.

  “Daddy?” I ask quietly as he stops at a red light.

  “Yes, Sassy?” he answers without turning around.

  “Hurricanes are pretty terrible, aren’t they?”

  “Not necessarily, Little Sister,” Daddy says as the light turns green. “Hurricanes are divided into five categories. A Category One storm has the lowest wind speeds, while a Category Five hurricane has the strongest.”

  “Now we’ve got to listen to the Daddy Weather Channel all the way to the airport,” Sadora hisses at me.

  All of us know that Daddy sometimes doesn’t know when to stop answering the question.

  Daddy looks at me through the rearview mirror and winks. He explains, “A Category One has winds that are at least seventy-four miles per hour.”

  “Can that spoil a beach party?” I ask.

  “Absolutely,” Mom says.

  “There would be lots of rain and wind, and maybe some flooding,” Daddy continues. “A Category Two hurricane carries winds up to a hundred and ten miles per hour, while a Category Five, the most intense, would involve winds of well over a hundred and fifty miles per hour, and for sure there would be lots and lots of destruction.”

  “Wow,” I whisper. “That would be terrible.”

  “Hurricane Katrina was a Four or a Five, wasn’t it, Dad?” Sabin asks.

  “Yes, son, it was one of the worst,” Daddy replies with a sigh.

  The whole family is quiet for the rest of the drive to the airport.

  When we finally get there, Daddy has a hard time finding a parking place. I’m amazed that there are so many cars waiting in the dreary space for their owners to return.

  As we climb out of our car and start to unload our bags, I touch it to say good-bye. I know it’s silly, but I feel sorry that the car has to sit in that cold, gray, dingy garage for a whole week while we have fun on the beach.

  I don’t tell Sadora what I’m thinking, though. She’ll think I’m nuts!

  As we head to the check-in area of the airport, I look at my family and wonder what a stranger would think of us.

  Mom drags two small beige bags behind her. She walks tall and proud, even when she’s relaxed and on vacation. Mom is dressed all in green. She likes for her clothes to match. She is wearing green sandals, a pale green sundress, and plastic earrings that look like emeralds.

  Mom smiles at Daddy. “We didn’t forget anything, did we, Sam?”

  He’s dragging two huge black bags on wheels. “I think our whole house is with us!” he jokes. “Did you pack the living room sofa in this bag?” He wipes sweat from his forehead.

  “No, just the chair and the rugs,” Mom replies with a grin.

  Sabin wears his school book bag slung over one shoulder and pulls a blue backpack on wheels.

  “Turn off that music player for now, Sabin,” Daddy says to him.

  He doesn’t hear him and keeps on walking and bopping to the music.

  Mom touches Sabin’s arm. “Music off!” she says.

  “Huh?” He looks like he just came back to this planet.

  Sadora laughs and pulls the earbuds from his ears. “Mom says for you to chill for a minute,” she tells him.

  Sabin rolls his eyes, but he turns off the music player.

  “I hope Mom checked your suitcase before we left, Sabin,” I tell him.

  “How come?”

  “Because you always forget something important, like underwear or deodorant,” I remind him.

  “I’m cool,” he says. “I’ve got my candy and chips. I won’t need much more than that.”

  Sadora and I just shake our heads.

  Sadora is dressed in white shorts and an orange top. She looks really pretty, but I’d never tell her that.

  She wears a small, neat backpack and pulls her new blue-and-white suitcase. Sadora always gets new stuff and I get her leftovers. That’s so not fair!

  So I’m dragging my overstuffed pink suitcase that used to be my sister’s. It’s a little beat-up, and a little dirty, but I like it because it has sparkles and shiny flowers on it.

  And I carry my wonderful Sassy Sack. In it I have stuff I need like tissues and brushes and shiny new pencils, but also cool stuff like nail polish and lip gloss and lotion.

  When we get inside the airport, I can see why Daddy was in such a hurry to get here on time. There must be a zillion people ahead of us in line.

  We already have our tickets because Daddy printed them out from our computer. But we have to check our bags.

  “I hate waiting,” I whine to Mom. I shift from one foot to the other.

  “Be patient, Sassy,” Mom says.

  I take a big breath. I look at my watch. I sit on my suitcase. I stand. I sit again. I sigh.

  Sabin plays a video game. Sadora reads a teen magazine. I pick the polish off my nails.

  I reach into my sack and get some lip gloss for the fifth time. My lips are greasy with gloss.

  It takes twenty-seven minutes before it is our turn to go to the desk and check our bags. The lady at the counter is very nice, though. As she is putting the tags on our bags, she tells me my outfit is cute.

  “And that’s a lovely pink ribbon you’re wearing,” the woman adds. She doesn’t say anything to Sado
ra at all. That makes all the waiting worth it.

  We finally get our bags checked, our boarding passes in hand, and we head for still another long line. I’m tired, and we’re not even on the plane yet.

  The security line is crazy. First we have to take off our shoes and put them in little gray bins with our backpacks and jackets and purses.

  “Why do we have to take off our shoes?” Sabin asks Daddy. “My feet are cold!”

  “You always have to remove your shoes, Sabin,” Mom tells him, using her patient “mother” voice. “You know that.”

  Daddy looks at Sabin’s bare feet. “Where are your socks, Sabin?” he asks.

  “I forgot them.”

  “I knew you would forget something!” I tell Sabin with a laugh.

  His big, naked feet look really out of place on that cold cement floor. I almost feel sorry for him.

  Mom and Daddy laugh at him. I hold my nose and pretend his feet stink. Sadora tries to act like she doesn’t know him.

  Everybody in my family gets through the line with no trouble. Mom goes first, walking through the little doorway when a security guard motions to her. The green light says she’s safe.

  Sadora breezes through the line with no blips. The security guards smile at her and wish her a safe trip.

  Sabin, bare feet and all, clomps through the little doorway. The green light flashes for him. He hurries to find his shoes in the gray bin on the other side of the X-ray machine that takes pictures of the inside of our stuff.

  Daddy has to take off his belt and his cell phone, but he also goes through with no trouble.

  My family, on the other side of the security section, put on their shoes and jackets and jewelry.

  Mom says, “Come on, Sassy. It’s almost time for our flight!”

  Finally, it’s my turn. I walk through the little doorway and a bell rings.

  Bing! Bing! Bing!

  I look around in confusion.

  “What’s wrong?” I ask.

  “Excuse me, ma’am,” a security guard says. He’s wearing a uniform with a white shirt and blue pants. It looks a little like my school uniform except it has writing on the shirt.

  I can’t believe somebody is calling me ma’am! I’m in the fourth grade.

  “Excuse me, ma’am,” he says again. “Would you walk through once more, please?”

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