similar outfits made up for Valentine's Day." I now remembered Claudia mentioning this plan to me. She hoped people would comment on her customized sweat outfit decorated with lace and satin hearts, and order some for Valentine's Day or other occasions. She figured she could make some easy and fun money that way.
I'd been so busy with the Cheplins it had completely slipped my mind. I was glad Mrs. Kishi had reminded me.
I said good-bye to her and gathered up my research books on Fitzgerald. There was a lot more to know about him than I realized. This paper counted for a fourth of my grade this term, too. It was supposed to be well-researched with footnotes and a bibliography- 1 threw myself into the project. I barely lifted my head until a few hours later when I sensed someone staring at me. I looked up into Robert's eyes. "Hi," I said, smiling. "How did you find me?" "Your mother told me you were here," he said as he took a seat beside me. "How's the work coming?" "Not good," I said with a frown. "I haven't even begun writing this thing yet. I'm hours away from starting to write and it's due Monday." I looked at him and sighed. "Robert, would you hate me forever if we don't go out tonight?" "Why not?" he asked unhappily.
"Because I'll never get this thing done otherwise." "Do it Sunday." "Can't," I told him. "I promised Claudia I'd go to this crafts fair with her." "Cancel that, then," said Robert.
"Robert, I made the plans with her weeks ago. I just can't cancel them now." "Then how come you can cancel your plans with me?" "Well . . ."I said in a quavery voice. "I made my plans with you after I made the plans with Claudia. At the time I thought I could do both, but I can't." "Stacey, I've hardly seen you at all in the last few weeks," Robert pointed out, getting to his feet.
I wanted to tell him that one of the reasons I was so busy was because I was earning money for his birthday present. That would have spoiled the surprise, though, so I kept quiet. "I promise we'll do something next weekend," I said.
"All right." He forced a smile. "I'll leave so you can finish your paper." He turned and left without looking back at me once. I felt terrible.
Once he was gone, I stared at the library door, thinking about Robert. Then I told myself to get back to work.
I read about Fitzgerald and took notes until the library closed at six o'clock. When I got home, Mom was making dinner. "Did you finish your paper?" she asked.
"Not yet," I reported as I gulped down my chicken. After dinner I hurried to my room to begin writing my paper from the notes I'd put on index cards at the library. The work went more slowly than I expected. Somehow the words just didn't flow out of me. I don't know, maybe I was too tired to think straight. Normally, I would have let the work go until Sunday, but I wouldn't be free on Sunday.
It was sometime in the middle of the night when I fell asleep on my bed with my research material spread out around me. Mom must have come in during the night because in the morning I awoke, still fully dressed, but under my covers with my index cards, books, and notebook neatly stacked on my night table.
I'd barely opened my eyes when Mom came into my room. " Claudia's waiting for you downstairs," she said. "Were you supposed to go to a crafts fair with her today?" "What time is it?" I cried, bolting out of bed. It was after noon. Still half asleep, I charged out of my room and down the stairs.
Claudia was at the bottom of the stairs. "What happened to you?" she gasped.
I realized I probably looked like a crazy person with my rumpled clothes, sleepy face, and tangled hair. "I overslept," I admitted. "Can you wait a few minutes?" Claudia glanced toward the door. "My father's waiting in the car, but I guess so. Hurry up, though." I staggered a few steps up the stairs, then stopped