Summary: After ten years in eighth grade, will Claudia finally graduate?

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. But, I doubt Ann M. cares if I borrow them, as her empire was built on the backs of faceless ghostwriters.

Chapter 1: BCS Meating

Ring, ring.

"Hello, Baby-Sitters Club," I say into the receiver. "Oh, hi, Mrs. Rodowsky! All the grandkids are coming this weekend? Okay, I'll see who's free and get back to you." My friends look at me expectantly. The Rodowsky's are one crazy family, so everyone's always interested in what's new at their house.

"Mrs. Rodowsky needs two sitters on Saturday. Shea and the kids are coming for the weekend. Shea and Archie will be going with Mr. and Mrs. Rodowsky to visit Jackie in juvie,"

"Let me check the record book," says Nina Marshall.

"Will it be all five kids?" asks Eleanor Marshall.

"Yep. That's why Mrs. Rodowsky wants two sitters," I explain.

"That Shea Rodowsky has been a busy little bee since dropping out of high school,"smirks Claire Pike.

I cover my mouth to suppress a giggle.

"What do you mean?" asks Lucy Newton, who's only eleven.

Claire and I exchange a Look. Sometimes Lucy seems so young.

"Gabbie's the only one free," Nina tells us. "Let me call Sari." That's Sari Papadakis, our associate member.

Wait, before I go any further, I should introduce myself. My name's Claudia Kishi. I'm twenty-three years old and an eighth grader at Stoneybrook Middle School. Most important, I'm the Vice President of the Baby-Sitters Club. The club was the idea of Kristy Thomas, our first president. We founded the club with two of our best friends. That was almost twelve years ago. We've been through many club members since then, but I'm still here!

See, I've been in eighth grade for ten years. You may assume I'm dumb, but that's not true. I've been tested and have an above average IQ. My parents and teachers call me an underachiever. I just don't like school. I plan to be a famous artist someday, so why do I need to learn about the Russian Revolution and obtuse angles?

But, I'm going to stick it out and graduate. I want my parents to be proud of me like they are of my older sister, Janine. Janine has a genius IQ (honest), half a dozen degrees from Big Name universities, and a fancy job in Texas. I don't know exactly what she does, but it has something to do with spaceships!

You may think I'm self-conscious about being held back so many times. I'm not. I know that some people (like me!) just learn at a slower pace. I'm a regular eighth grader and baby-sitter. Plus, it's not like I'm the only person who's repeated a grade. Claire Pike was held back in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. And, she's club president! At least, I only had to repeat a single grade.

The other girls in the club are awesome. They are: Nina Marshall (secretary), Gabbie Perkins (treasurer), Eleanor Marshall (junior officer), and Lucy Newton (junior officer). (We axed the position of alternate officer when Vanessa Pike, a former president, pointed out that a Vice President is an alternate officer). We also have an associate member, Sari Papadakis. We call her when we're in a jam.

Ring, ring! Another call! I love it when we're busy!

Eleanor grabs the phone. "Good afternoon, Baby-Sitters Club." Eleanor listens a moment, then giggles. "Of course, we're still offering the Baby-Sitters Alumni discount!" she exclaims. Eleanor covers the mouthpiece and whispers, "Mary Anne." The rest of us squeal and clap our hands in delight. Mary Anne is a favorite client and her kids are extra special charges. Sometimes we argue over who gets to sit for them.

Actually, Mary Anne's the reason the BSC created the Alumni discount. You see, Mary Anne's had a rough time the last few years. In tenth grade, Mary Anne and Pete Black went All The Way in the backseat of Pete's Grandma's Lincoln Continental. Poor Mary Anne, her dad threw her out of the house before the baby was even born. She lived with Pete's family until the end of high school, then Pete got a baseball scholarship to Arizona State. He just abandoned Mary Anne! What a creep! In desperation, Mary Anne turned to Charlie Thomas...and ended up with twins. Luckily, there's a happy ending to Mary Anne's story. Recently, she found True Luv with Rick Chow. Unfortunately, not everyone approves of their relationship. Rick's chinese, Mary Anne's caucasian. Ignorant people object to interracial dating. Last month, their landlord evicted them for no good reason! Now, they're living with Rick's older brother. But guess what?! Mary Anne's pregnant again! I already have some name ideas - Zeffyrr for a boy and Bolivia for a girl. Cute, huh?

"Claudia, are you listening?"

Whoops! I zoned out while Nina was talking!

"Come again?"

Nina sighs. "I was saying, you and Lucy are the only ones free."

"For when?"

"Next Tuesday. Four to five-thirty. Mary Anne's taking Cam and Geary to the dentist, so it's just Lincoln,"

"Lucy can have it. Mom and Dad want me to focus on the eighth grade exit exam. It's next Thursday,"

Everyone falls silent. Eleanor shifts uncomfortably. Gabbie stares at her fingernails. They're always nervous when the exit exam comes around. But, they never make rude comments about my repeating eighth grade. Just like no one makes comments about Lucy's brother Jamie taking special education classes. We're sensitive to each other's problems.

I decide to break the silence. A BSC meeting is no time to worry about school! However, it's the perfect time for gossip!

"So, Claire, is Margo still waiting for Jackie?"

Claire snorts. "Are you kidding? She's been locking lips with Norman Hill for the past week!"

We laugh so hard Eleanor falls off the bed, which only causes us to laugh more. Eleanor clutches her stomach, rolling on the floor. The phone rings, but no one can stop laughing long enough to answer. Finally, on the fifth ring, Gabbie is composed enough to answer and set up a sitting job for Claire. The BSC can get so wild sometimes!

The phone rings twice more. We set up another job for Claire and one for Nina.

"I almost forgot," Claire says between calls. "I have to cancel the sleepover on Friday."

"Oh, no!" Lucy and Gabbie cry in unison. They quickly hook pinkies and say "jinx".

"I know, guys, but my dad caught Nicky spying on Margo in the shower. Again,"

"We'll work something out," I assure her. Maybe Mom and Dad will let me have it here if I get a "B" on tomorrow's science test.

"Hey, Claudie, do you have anymore wheat crackers?" Gabbie asks. She's trying to lose five pounds before graduation. I dive under the bed and retrieve the crackers from a box marked PASTYLES. Then, I get some Red Vines from the KULERD PINSILS box. My parents don't approve of junk food. Or Nancy Drew books. I hide those, too.

I pass out the Red Vines, while Gabbie nibbles on a wheat cracker. It always makes me sad to see anyone eat health food. I'm reminded of a dear friend, our original alternate officer - a real individual and free thinker. I really miss Dawn Schafer. Even though I hadn't seen her for several years before the mass suicide. After high school, Dawn and her best friend, Sunny Winslow, sold all their earthly possessions and moved to Montana to join a special club called Eye of the Beholder. They lived off the land, made their own clothes, and worshipped a chicken deity. It sounds weird, I know, but Dawn was super happy. I just wish she hadn't drank that Kool-Aid.

"Okay, guys, it's six," Claire announces. No gavel or formal speech for her. Claire's a very laid-back president.

"Call me if you need any help on the math homework," Gabbie tells me.

"And call me with any questions on the book report," adds Nina.

"Thanks. You girls are the best!" I reply.

"No, the Baby-Sitters Club is the best!" exclaims Lucy.

She's right. The BSC is the greatest thing in my life. I know that with the help of the BSC, I'll finally pass eighth grade!