Monday, January 23, 2012

Chapter 7 - Rachel

I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?


Excitement and nervousness are intertwining in my stomach like two oppositely coloured threads. I’m impatient to see how the sale will turn out, but on the other hand, I dread it. What if no one comes? What if we never make any money? What if the shelter remains in its old, crumbling, rundown state forever?

I try to block out the pessimistic thoughts creeping into my mind and eventually manage to convince myself that it’s all going to be fine. Our hot chocolate and our treats look delicious, and we’ve done a fairly good job of spreading the word. I’m still our business, if not booming, will be respectably good.

I stroll up to Milli’s house to see Milli standing by the door, perched on her toes as if waiting for me. She swings the door open, shivering in the rush of cold. "Come in!" she says pleasantly.

In Milli’s living room, the oak coffee table is filled corner to corner with treats. There are fluffy vanilla cupcakes with pink icing swirled perfectly around their tops. Giant cookies with rainbows of multicoloured Smarties arranged in pretty designs around them. Maria’s famous cream cheese brownies, jazzed up with thick chocolate frosting. And in the very centre, steaming hot chocolate piled high with fat marshmallows. It all looks so delicious. I can hardly believe just two teenage girls, one of them homeless, made them.

Milli rushes over and takes her place behind a smaller wooden desk with a colourful marker-drawn sign reading "Pay Here" hanging from it and two plastic bowls sitting on it. One holds various coins, the other is empty. "For change and the money we collect," she explains.

Oh, yes. I haven’t been involved in buying or selling anything in the longest time. I’ve almost forgotten how that stuff works.

Our first customer is a silver Nissan driven by a grandmother-like elderly lady. She bustles up to the coffee table and inspects the treats, smiling.

"My, my, my," she says. "Aren’t these treats delicious-looking? You girls did such a good job. I wonder which one I should try first. Hm, hm, hm." She wanders around the table, peering at the treats looking as proud as if she made them.

"Who’s that?" I whisper to Milli.

"Mrs. Johnson," Milli responds. "She goes to our church. Mom made a point of telling everyone at church about the bake sale on Sunday. And I mean everyone."

Sure enough, in minutes the driveway is flooded with cars. They fill it from corner to corner and pour out onto the street. Milli and I share a grin and I silently thank Maria for spreading the word so well.

People crowd into the house, talking and laughing. A young man buys a brownie, two little girls buy cupcakes and Mrs. Johnson takes one of almost everything. And everyone takes a piping hot cup of hot chocolate. Everyone says our food is awesome, and the second bowl is growing fuller and fuller. I feel happier than ever.

But then a chubby little boy enters, clutching his skinny mother’s hand. "Gimme chocolate!" he yells, breaking free of his mother’s grip and descending on the table of treats.

"Sam, no!" the woman yells, trying to restrain him. But Sam’s already grabbed a cookie and a cupcake and has stuffed them into his mouth, his fat cheeks bulging like a chipmunk’s. He leans over the table for more, his sweatshirt pooling in a cup of hot chocolate.

Milli dashes over to Sam’s side but not until after he’s already upturned the cup. Hot chocolate spills onto the table, soaking some of the treats. The cup lands in one of the cupcakes, forming a dent in its flawless icing swirl. Meanwhile, Sam’s snatching more and more treats from the side of the table untouched by the spilled hot chocolate. All me and Milli can do is stand and watch as all our hopes of a successful sale are dashed to pieces.

Sam’s mother eventually (amazingly, I think, considering his size) gets hold of Sam. Looking angry, she plunks a five-dollar bill down on the table ("I’m sorry, girls, that’s all I got") and marches out the door, holding her son by the collar.

When all of the other customers have left too, Milli and I are left to stand surveying the wreck. Hot chocolate is dripping from the table and half of our once beautiful treats are ruined.

"I guess we should see which treats we can salvage and throw out the rest," Milli says weakly.

I nod and grab a piece of paper towel from a dispenser to clean up the mess. It turns out that the only treats ruined are all of the cupcakes, some of the butter tarts and one cookie which Sam only ate half of. So it’s better than I thought it was. But we’re still going to be behind in profits.

I hear the sound of a car engine in the driveway and get excited for a second. But it’s not a customer, it’s just Maria returning from grocery shopping. She hoists the bags into the house and drops them on the kitchen table, then comes to us. "How’s it going, girls?"

Milli and I glance at each other and sigh. Milli sadly describes to Maria the situation with Sam.
"Oh, that’s unfortunate," Maria says sympathetically. She heads back into the kitchen and starts unloading groceries. I notice two packages of chocolate cupcakes topped with red and green sprinkles.

"That’s for my women’s group," Maria explains. "We’re having a special Christmas meeting on Thursday. We really only need one package, but I bought two just for a special treat. But now I’m wondering if I bought too many..."

Milli walks over to her mom, picks up the package and says something to her mom in a hushed tone. Maria taps her chin and finally hands the package to Milli, who struts into the living room proudly.

"She let us have the package!" Milli announces loudly. "Now we have cupcakes!"

I smile doubtfully. "But since this is a bake sale, shouldn’t we only sell baked goods?"

"Oh, they’ll never know," Milli says. "And besides, it’s for a good cause."

I’m still a little hesitant, but I go along. Milli takes the packaging off and places the cupcakes where the ruined cupcakes once were, and we sit back–me on a couch and Milli on a chair behind the desk–and wait for customers.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait–until both of us are twiddling our thumbs impatiently. It’s almost noon, and no one has come since the church people left at 10:00 or so.

"Are we going to have more business?" I moan.

"I think so. Our posters must’ve helped," Milli reassures me, but she doesn’t sound confident.
I lean back and prepare myself to wait some more, praying that Milli is right about us having more customers.

And we do–a woman in a slim black pantsuit. Her scarlet lips are pressed together. She looks grumpy.

"Somebody told me about a bake sale set up by a couple of little girls," she says disdainfully. "I doubted that they could do it all by themselves. Well, we’ll just see."

I glance at Milli, who has the same fearful look in her eyes.

She peers scornfully at the carpet, which has a hot chocolate stain on it. "You children certainly don’t win any points for cleanliness."

The lady grabs a cupcake from the table and cautiously nibbles at it. Milli and I wait, our breath held.

All of a sudden, she scowls and tosses the cupcake down on the floor.

"What’s wrong?" I say cautiously. "Is the cupcake not good?"

"It’s not that," she says, glaring at me. "They’re store bought! I saw these at the grocery store yesterday!" She storms up to us, her face purple. "Call this a bake sale? You girls are dishonest! You shouldn’t be allowed in charge of anything, let alone a whole bake sale!" She points a finger at me. "And you, miss: your appearance is absolutely atrocious! Geez, if you want to run a bake sale, you should take enough time to brush your hair and put on some nice clothes! I’m telling everyone I meet NOT to come here! And I’m NOT paying!" She storms out without looking back.

Milli and I shudder. "Whoa," Milli says, "she’s uptight. And rude! Why didn’t she take into account that you might not even be able to afford clean clothes?"

But I don’t care about that. I only care about whether or not that woman is true to her word. Will she really tell everyone about our bad service?

Apparently so, because no one comes the whole rest of the day. Not a single soul. By 3 pm, Milli is looking discouraged and I’m close to tears. I wonder if we should just start eating the treats ourselves.

Still, we keep waiting. Watching. Hoping. But the minutes stretch into hours, and still we sit there.

Maria, who’s been busy the whole day, finally comes in to check on us. "You should probably shut down now, girls," she says kindly.

"Good!" Milli snaps, gathering things from the table.

"Why, Milli!" Maria scolds. "Why are you so grouchy?"

Milli doesn’t say anything but just glares. I fill in for her: "We-we didn’t have much business."

"Oh no!" Maria gasps. "Just because of what that boy did?"

I shake my head sadly and tell her about the mean woman.

"Oh, that’s too bad," Maria says sympathetically, putting her hands on our shoulders. "How much did you make?"

I hadn’t even thought about that, I was too busy thinking about the negative side of things. (Yes, I can be a pessimist.) Milli’s already counting up the bills. "$9.55."

"Well, that’s good!" Maria says. "Congratulations."

That’s not my idea of "good", considering it’ll take us to rebuild the shelter.

Suddenly, I realize how stupid we’ve been. To think that people would actually go out of their way to come to our bake sale in the dead of winter. No wonder we didn’t make much money–if it weren’t for Maria, we wouldn’t have made any.

I say goodbye to Milli and her mom and trudge out the door, sadly. How are we ever going to achieve our goal?

Keep waiting for Chapter 8!

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