Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, wish I did. Especially Joe.
Author's Notes: Props to all the vastly underrepresented Cupcakes out there, yo. I'm a first time Evanovich writer, so be gentle with reviews.
And if you're here because you happen to read my Ranma stories and you just received an Author Alert and now you're wondering what the hell I'm playing at, all I can say is...omgplzdon'tkillmethnx.
Part One: Beginnings of a Lifelong Shoe Fetish, Among Other Things
"Steffie, Peter Pan doesn't wear rubber boots. You gotta take them off otherwise it won't be like the story. 'Sides, it's not even raining."
"No way, Mary Lou. Grandma Mazur got them for me for my birthday. She says I'm allowed to wear them whenever I want, even if it's sunny."
"Even when you're Peter Pan?" Mary Lou asked.
She was wearing her mommy's old blue dress over her clothes, and I was doing her pretty red hair into two braids with blue ribbons. She'd be the best Wendy ever when I was finished. Except braiding is harder than it looks and I kept getting my fingers tangled.
"Even when I'm Peter Pan. See, 'cause these are special boots."
Mary Lou turned around to look at me, and the ribbon and my fingers and her curls got all mixed up again. "Ow! Steffie! That hurts!"
"Sorry, sorry. Lemme try one more time."
"Let's just ask your mommy. She knows how to do this way better than you."
"No way, José! I'm not giving up until I get it right. Dumb old Joyce comes to school every day with French braids. If she can do it, I can too!"
Mary Lou's eyes got all wet and watery when I yanked the brush too hard. For a second I thought she might start crying. I hated when she cried, 'cause then it made me cry too. But then she picked up Malibu Beach Barbie off the lawn and started taking off her tennis shoes and putting some pretty pink high heels on her instead.
I loved my yellow rubber boots, but one day I was gonna wear pink high heels just like Barbie's. Except I'd wear them with a teeny weeny skirt like those grown-up high school girls I see when Mommy takes me shopping at the mall. And then I'd get myself a boyfriend like them too, and I'd make him hold my special Barbie clothing and accessory case while I practiced my flying. I wouldn't wanna drop it while I was in the air, after all. Imagine all those little outfits and shoes just raining outta the sky! What would people think?
"So what's so special about your boots, anyway?" Mary Lou asked.
Mary Lou stopped tugging off Barbie's bikini top. I couldn't wait until I had boobs, either. She looked at my boots and wrinkled her nose like she smelled Mr. Tudeski's old stinky rottweiler doing a number two.
"They don't look magic to me."
"'Course they don't. If you could tell which boots were magic, everybody'd want them and no one would buy the regular kind." Duh.
Mary Lou still looked like she smelled something funny. "Oh. Okay. What kind of magic stuff can they do?"
"Well," I said, "I think they can make me go invisible."
"Yeah-huh! Wanna bet?" I said. "When I put them on at my birthday party, and I sneaked into the kitchen to get some more birthday cake, Mommy walked right past me and she didn't mad or anything! She just said 'I better make sure rest of this cake goes to a special girl on her special day!' I bet she was saving it for after Valerie's dumb ballet recital. I didn't get in trouble for taking it 'cause she didn't even see me! I just know it!"
Mary Lou thinked it over and nodded. "Probably you're right. There's no other ex-pa-nation. Everybody knows you're not allowed two pieces of cake in one day. So what else can they do?"
I smiled big. This was the best part. "I think they can even make me fly."
"Holy moly! Really?"
"Yep. Yesterday when I was wearing them, I jumped all the way from my bed to Valerie's without landing on the floor. I could never do that before!"
Mary Lou looked at my yellow rubber boots. "Wow."
I nodded. "Yep. I'm gonna really test them tomorrow. I'll try jumping from somewhere really high. Like maybe the backyard fence. Or even the garage roof. Probably I could get really, really high up if I jump from there."
Mary Lou nodded hard. "Afterwards, can I try too?"
"Yep, but only 'cause you're my best friend in the whole universe."
She nodded again. "Ditto."
Since Mary Lou had a Ken doll and I didn't, we decided to have a wedding for him and Enchanted Mermaid Barbie before Mary Lou had to go home for dinner. Maybe he could marry a couple of my other Barbies too while he was here. It wasn't fair if one Barbie had a husband and the others didn't. Who would squish the spiders in the bathtub and carve the roast at dinner for them?
Mrs. Molnar came to pick up Mary Lou during Ken and Mexican Barbie's reception, which was inside the biggest room in my Playskool dollhouse. Everybody was there. Even a few boys, like G.I. Joe and Donatello from the Ninja Turtles. I helped Mary Lou pick out her toys from mine, traded her Valentine's Day Barbie for Gymnastics Barbie until tomorrow, and told her I'd met her by the hopscotch lines in the schoolyard tomorrow morning.
I decided to stay outside until Mommy called me in for dinner. Otherwise she might make me do something really boring, like set the table, or practice my ABC's, or help Daddy find his reading glasses. I dunno why he kept losing them, 'cause he always keeps them in the same place. On top of his head.
I sat on the grass all by myself until I heard a boy's voice.
I looked up. It was that boy who lived two blocks over. Joseph Morelli. He was in the third grade in Mrs. Chan's class, and I heard he got in trouble so much Mrs. Chan made him turn his desk to face the back of the classroom. Forever.
I waved at him. "Hi, Joseph Morelli. Guess what? My mommy says I'm not allowed to talk to you."
He scrunched up his eyebrows and stuck his hands in his pockets. "How come?"
"Cause she said you're bad news for good Catholic girls like me. And she said you're a...a...a little helium."
"Oh," he said. He scuffed his running shoe in the dirt. "What's that supposed to mean?"
I stuck my palms out and went back to practicing braids in Barbie's hair.
"Wanna play choo-choo again?" he asked after a minute.
I shook my head. "Sorry, Joseph Morelli. My mommy said I'm 'specially not allowed to play choo-choo with you anymore. I got in really big trouble last time. Besides, being the tunnel is boring."
"Girls have to be the tunnel. Girls can't be the train. Only boys can."
I dropped Barbie on the grass and gave him a mean look. "Hey! Girls can do everything boys can just as good!"
"Nuh-uh. Not train." He grinned at me and I saw that two of his bottom teeth were gone. Lucky duck! I licked my own teeth with my tongue. Nuts. I still had all my dumb baby ones.
Joseph Morelli sat down on the lawn next to me. He picked up Swan Princess Barbie and started pulling off her dress. I frowned at him.
"Who said you could play with my dolls?"
He left Swan Princess Barbie naked except for her high heels, and pulled Lamborghini Barbie out of her pink convertible and started doing the same thing to her.
Now I was really getting mad. "I'll tell on you if you don't stop it."
He put two more Barbies in the pile. All of them were naked except for their high heels. "Who're you gonna tell?" he asked.
"Your mommy, that's who!" I shouted. I took Disney Princess Cinderella Barbie away from Joseph Morelli before he could leave her lying naked in her glass slippers too.
"Go ahead," he said, grinning again. "Tell her. She won't get me in trouble. She never does." He gave up on my Barbies and took the pink convertible and started driving it backwards and forwards on the grass.
"Oooh! You...you...dumb boy!" I squeezed my hands into tight fists but then I remember Mommy's rule about no hitting. "Fine! I'll tell your daddy!"
Joseph Morelli froze and slowly took his hands off my car.
Good. That'll teach him. Last year, in kindergarten, Ms. Franklin said the most important rule to remember when you want to play with your friends' toys is always ask permission first. Joseph Morelli did kindergarten already, ages ago! Didn't he know that rule by now? Jeez. I slid Coca Cola Barbie's t-shirt back over her head before she caught a cold.
"Don't tell my dad on me, okay?"
I looked up at Joseph Morelli's face. He looked funny. Kinda...scared, actually. But that can't be right. Mary Lou said the Morelli boys weren't scared of anything. She said they were even brave enough to play Nicky Nicky Ninedoors on crazy old Mr. Freidman who lived in that house that everybody said was haunted.
"How come?" I asked. "He's just your dad."
Then again, Old Man Morelli was kinda scary. He was huge, way bigger than my dad. And he was always yelling, and swinging a gold-coloured bottle around, and his words always came out mushy-sounding.
"Just don't!" Joseph Morelli said loudly. He was rubbing his sides over his t-shirt but I don't think he knew he was doing it. His eyes and mouth were bunched up and he kinda looked like he was on another planet. Weird.
"Okay. I promise I won't tell your dad," I said. I put up two fingers like I'd seen Val do when she was dressed in her super-cool Girl Scouts uniform. I grinned with all my baby teeth showing. "Scout's honour!"
But I think Joseph Morelli didn't feel like playing with me anymore. He stood up and stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at his running shoes. The laces were hanging all over the place. He was gonna trip on them if he didn't look out.
I bet he knew how to tie his own laces. He was so cool. All my shoes had Velcro or buckles, or nothing at all, like my rubber boots.
"Thanks. I'm gonna go now. Maybe you can come over to my house some time. My sisters have tons of Barbie dolls too. I bet they'll let you play with them if you want," he said. "That is, if your mom lets you."
Holy crow! Everybody knew Mary and Cathy Morelli had the biggest, bestest Barbie doll collection in the whole Burg! I heard they even have those Christmas ones that costs tons of money, with the skates and the velvet dresses, the ones you can only buy once a year!
I grinned and wriggled on my bottom. I was gonna ask Mommy the second I got inside. She'd have to say yes.
Joseph Morelli waved at me and started walking down the street. Aww! I wanted to play with him some more.
"Joseph Morelli, wait!" I yelled, standing up. My mostly naked Barbies dropped all over the grass. I ran after him but I stopped at the end of the driveway. I wasn't allowed to go any farther without telling a grown-up.
"Where're you going?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe my cousin Mooch's house. His dad just got an air rifle."
I squinched up my face. Guns. Yuck!
I looked down at my magic rubber boots. Maybe...
"Joseph Morelli, would you like to fly?"
This time he squinched up his face. "People can't fly. Don't you know that?"
"They can if they have magic boots like me. I'll even let you try them out. Do you believe in magic?"
He thinked about it for a second. "Maybe. I think my Grandma Bella is magic. She can put curses on people. Once, my big brother Tony knocked her over when he was chasing my sister around, and she got real angry and started yelling in Italian. Said she was putting 'the eye' on him. The next day, he went to school and threw up on his desk in front of the whole class."
My eyes went big and round.
He nodded seriously. "Yep, it's true. And that's not all. Right after that, he started getting really red and itchy…"
"And then all these little red spots started popping up all over his body..."
I squeaked. "Then what?"
Joseph Morelli put his face really close to mine. My knees wiggled and I wanted to run away, but my magic boots were stuck to the sidewalk.
"And then," he whispered, "Tony's eyeballs…fell out of his head!"
Joseph Morelli stepped back and laughed. "Just kidding. His eyes didn't really fall out, but the rest of the stuff is true. My mom said Tony just caught chicken pox from my cousin Sue Ann, but I still think it was the eye. Now Tony runs out of the house every time Grandma Bella comes over."
My heart was beating a frillion miles an hour. I hoped I never, ever, ever met his Grandma Bella. She sounded like the Wicked Witch of the West!
"Anyway, I still know that people can't fly."
I stopped being scared, and got mad again. I'd show him. I grabbed Joseph Morelli's hand and pulled him across my front yard. He yanked his hand, but I didn't let go until we were next to the garage.
"I'll show you, you dumb boy. I can too fly!" I put one rubber boot on the ladder thingy on the side of the garage that my Mommy's roses grew on and started climbing.
I only just got my second boot up when Joseph Morelli put his hands under my armpits and lifted me off the wall. I screeched and kicked.
"You stupid girl! What the hell are you doing?"
"I have to jump from somewhere really high, otherwise I can't take off properly!" I yelled. Then I slapped my hand over my mouth. "Oooh, you just said the h-word!"
"Big deal," he said. He looked really mad. "You're crazy. You're the craziest girl I ever met."
"I am not crazy! You're just jealous that I have magic boots that can make me fly, but you're stuck here on the ground like a bug!"
Joseph Morelli opened his mouth to yell some more. Then he stopped and smiled at me funny. Like he knew a really good secret but he wasn't gonna tell me, no matter what. "Fine. You wanna fly, go ahead. But first you gotta start slow. You wouldn't try a two-wheeler without knowing how to ride a trike first, right?"
I nodded. I tried it once and I scraped my knees so bad I had to go the hospital and get them sewed up again.
"Right. So first try taking off from low places. Like your porch or the steps. And listen up, 'cause this part's important."
I opened my ears wide and listened close.
"Until you can fly off your front porch without falling, don't try it from anyplace higher than that, got it?"
Joseph Morelli was older, bigger, and smarter. Probably he knew tons of stuff I didn't. And probably he was right about important stuff like flying. I nodded hard.
"Okay. That's what I'll do. I'm gonna start practicing right now."
And then, just 'cause I felt like it, I jumped up and kissed Joseph Morelli on the cheek.
I heard someone make a big breathing noise behind me. "Stephanie Anne Plum! What do you think you're doing?"
Uh oh. It was Mommy. She was standing in the front door with a big wood spoon in her hand, and she looked mad.
"I think you better run, Joseph Morelli" I whispered.
He nodded. "Bye, Cupcake Girl," he said. He turned and ran down the street to where he lived.
"That's right, young man! And don't let me catch you near my daughter again, or you'll be sorry!"
Cupcake Girl? Huh? But that's not my name! I thinked about it for a second while Mommy pulled me into the house. Then I looked down at my front.
There was a picture of a big chocolate cupcake with a birthday candle on my t-shirt.
Mommy was yelling at me, but I grinned big and wide.
I'd practice flying tomorrow. Today, I would ask Mommy if we could have a special dessert.
Author's Notes: That's the only way I could think of to get a nine-year-old boy to call a seven-year-old girl 'Cupcake' that even remotely made any sense. Weak, I know.
Can you tell I work with kids? I teach kindergarten, and I just love listening to kids' conversations. The way they think is just phenomenal. If only grown-ups were that optimistic about everything.
And poor Joe. Little does he know he's going to be stopping Steph from flying off the garage for a very, very long time.
Hope you enjoyed that. Don't forget to review!
Up next: My take on the infamous incident behind the chocolate éclair case. :D