Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being “cool,” Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary’s obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.
Kallie’s room was the first on the left. Swinging open the door, she spread her arms out and said, “Ta-da!”
Although I was expecting something unusual, I wasn’t prepared for what greeted me. The walls and ceiling were black, and the ceiling had a pattern of white dots and lines that reminded me of the night sky. A huge hammock stretched like a crescent moon between two walls. Some sort of rope-and-wheel apparatus that looked like something we’d built in science class last year was attached to the wall and ceiling above the ends of the hammock. In front of the window was a telescope pointed outside. At least a hundred stuffed animals sat against the walls, and books and clothes lay scattered on the floor.
“What do you think?” asked Kallie proudly.
I didn’t know what to say. It was the strangest room I’d ever been in, but also the most interesting. I thought of my own room, with the shiny new Damian Sámos poster (the same one as Lynn’s) on one wall and the old wallpaper my dad still hadn’t taken down on the other. The wallpaper had faceless Victorian ladies holding flowered parasols, and I loved it — when I was six. Then there was the squeaky hinge on my closet door (another thing my dad hadn’t fixed). Even my new lavender chenille bedding, which I’d begged my mom to buy, looked so boring compared to Kallie’s room.
Finally I mumbled, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Really? Fantastic! I wanted to make it unique.”
“Is that the night sky?” I asked, looking at the ceiling.
“Yeah. Those are the constellations. Razi and I finished painting them last night.”
I stared at her. “You painted them? You mean it’s not wallpaper?”
“No, but if you thought it was, it must mean we did a good job.”
“You did an amazing job!” I exclaimed. I looked around the room in awe. How could Kallie have painted such a complicated pattern? I couldn’t imagine painting a wall so well, let alone a ceiling.
Kallie was beaming. “Thanks. We did it mostly at night because we could see the sky then. We had a big map to help us during the day, but you can’t really get the feel of the stars without looking at them, you know?”
Actually I didn’t. I’d never thought about that before.
“But the real reason I asked you to come over,” said Kallie, grinning, “was because I was wondering if you wanted to help me paint stuff on the walls.”
For the first time, I noticed that the walls had no patterns on them.
“You want me to help paint your room?” I was surprised and kind of honoured. After all, she barely knew me. “O.K.”
“Great! Stay there!” She dashed out. I looked around. That’s when I realized something was missing. When Kallie came back, pushing a wooden cart with jars of paint in dozens of colours, I asked, “Uh … Kallie, where’s the bed?”
“The bed you sleep on?”
“Who says I sleep on a bed?” She moved some stuffed animals to the hammock.
“Where do you sleep then?”
“In the hammock, of course.”
I was stunned. “You sleep in a hammock? Why?”
“Well … isn’t it uncomfortable?” I said, starting to feel impatient. Why did she always have to answer my questions with another question?
“No. It’s excellent, especially in the summer, when it’s so hot. And if I’m bored and can’t fall asleep, I can swing. You can’t do that on a regular bed.”
No. I had to admit she was right about that.
“What does that do?” I asked, pointing to a rope that dangled at one end of the hammock.
“Watch.” Kallie grabbed the rope and yanked so roughly I gasped. The hammock shot up to the ceiling.
Kallie was grinning. “Isn’t it platinum?” she asked, as she yanked the rope again. The hammock bounded back down.
This made me uncomfortable, and I became even more uncomfortable when Kallie put some orange paint on the wall and began circling it around with a small brush. I didn’t want to stand there doing nothing, but I didn’t want to start painting either. Kallie was obviously a great artist. I’d always thought I was pretty good, but I knew anything I painted would look like a two-year-old’s scribbles compared to her drawings. So I walked over to the window and looked out.
“There’s another hammock in the backyard,” I said.
“That’s Udu. This one’s Budu.”
“You named your hammocks?”
“Yes.” She rolled her eyes.
She turned to me, paintbrush held over the wooden floor. The orange circle now had green hair and pink eyes, which looked at me owlishly. Frowning, she asked impatiently, “Why do you ask so many questions? And are you going to help me paint or just stand there? Because if you’re just going to stand there, I’d like you to stop talking. It’s disturbing me.” A drop of green paint rolled off the end of the brush and hit the floor.
“Oh, bugaboo!” said Kallie, which I guessed was her way of swearing. “Hey, that looks good.” She squatted down and began making a circle on the floor.
I knew I had to either start painting or leave, and I didn’t want to run away. So I picked up a big paintbrush and dipped it in a jar of magenta paint. Then I started making circles on the wall, a few feet away from Kallie. Gradually the circles turned into fluffy shapes that looked like flowers from another planet.
“That’s neat!” said Kallie, leaning over. “What are those?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.” We painted in silence for a few minutes until I said, “Let’s call them Hambrushinas.”
Kallie’s head snapped up from the floor, where she’d been making the green circle into some sort of creature with many arms and eyes. “That’s the first sensible thing you’ve said since I met you.” Her wide smile assured me that this was a compliment. I smiled back.