I slam my hand down on the paper.
Sucking in a deep breath, I peek under my palm.
A fat red F shimmers before my eyes, its wide arms swaying, mocking me, calling me lame names.
"How'd you do, Sherry?" the always-gets-an-A nerd behind me asks.
Scrunching my paper into a ball, I say, "Just peachy." Then I stand and swing my backpack over my shoulder. "I know more about genetics than I could ever use in this lifetime." Even with an F, I figure this is true.
Nerd asks, "What'd you get on the essay question?"
There was an essay question? It's so time to blow this formaldehyde stink hole. I shuffle down the aisle, the backs of my flip-flops slap-slapping my heels. As I pass the wastepaper basket, I drop my test in.
Then I give a mighty shove to the heavy metal classroom door. With a groan, it swings open onto the breezeway and fresh Phoenix air.
"Ow!" a male voice says.
Uh-oh. That doesn't sound good.
I look behind the door.
Ack. Major tragedy. I just door-whacked Josh Morton, the coolest, cutest eighth grader at Saguaro Middle School. In Arizona. Quite possibly in the entire Southwest. I've only been nonstop crazy about Josh since September, when I spotted him in a very small Speedo at a water polo game.
Hunched over and leaning against the stucco wall, he's holding a hand against his nose and groaning.
"I'm sorry, really sorry, really," I babble. "I just flunked a test and was kind of taking out my frustration on the door."
"Yeah?" He gives me a slight smile--well, more like a big grimace. Then, with a gorgeous shoulder, he gestures toward the door. "Science?"
"Yeah." I shrug. "Like that's even useful."
"I hear you." Behind his hand, Josh sniffs.
"You okay? Can I do anything?" I can't believe I attacked Josh Morton with a door. I can't believe I, a seventh grader, am finally talking to him. Nervously twirling a few strands of hair around my index finger, I add, "I feel horrible."
"I'm okay." He straightens, nodding. "I'm okay."
I take a deep breath and inhale a chlorine + soap scent. I love, love, love it. I absolutely must have some of this Eau de Josh for my locker.
"Sherry, right?" He raises dark eyebrows over deep blue eyes.
"Yup, yup, yup." I sound like the flags at the front of the school, fwapping in the wind against the pole.
"I'm Josh Morton."
Believe me, I so know who you are. "Hi."
I can't come up with anything else to say, but at least I look good in my jeans and my new long-sleeved, open-neck T-shirt that perfectly matches my lavender eye shadow.
He removes his hand from his nose. Then he wrinkles it like an adorable little bunny sniffing the air for lettuce or carrots.
This is the closest I've ever stood to Josh and, therefore, the first time I notice the sprinkling of freckles across his nose. I squint. Yes, if connected carefully, they'd spell out my initials.
"Is something wrong?" He's staring at me.
"Not at all."
Last month's Seventeen listed twenty suggestions for memorable first meetings with a potential boyfriend. Nowhere did they mention a brutal door-whacking encounter, but it seems to be working. I'll write a letter to the editor so they can add it as method number twenty-one.
Suddenly Josh clamps a hand firmly over his nose. With his free hand, he hauls his backpack up from the sidewalk. "Gotta go." Without even a glance at me, he's off and running.
I watch his shaggy hair bounce against the collar of his black Death by Stereo T-shirt, which rides up to reveal the grooviest plaid boxers above sagging jeans. Sigh. There's something about a guy who sags.
Then I see a dotted trail of blood in Josh's wake. Oh no. I follow the spatters to the nurse's office and stop outside the entrance. My stomach sinks like the Titanic.
I crushed the nose of the guy I've been crushing on for six months.
In my living room later that afternoon, I'm nestled in a beanbag chair, scarfing down a Hot Pocket. It's a pretty peaceful moment, with my eight-year-old brother, Sam, gone for practice at the ball field and my dad still at work.
Then I hear the garage door open.
Seconds later, Dad strides in, shoulders back. He has a big smile on his face.
"Sherry, we need to talk."
Ack. What's he doing home early? What do we need to talk about? He couldn't know about the sucky science test. No way the online grades are already posted. And he wouldn't be smiling.
Dad pops CŽline Dion, his fave lame singer, in the CD player, then sits across from me in his La-Z-Boy.
Ack. Eek. "What is it?"
He doesn't answer right away, just keeps grinning wide like a frog.
"Dad! Dad! Are you okay?" Then it hits me. "You won the Powerball! You're giving me a no-limit Visa card and a Corvette with a DVD player for when I can drive in three years. And you'll finally pay for me to get highlights!"
"Sherry"--my name comes out all distorted because of his stretched-out froggy lips--"Paula and I are getting married. On Saturday."
It's like he dumped smelly swamp water over my head. And my Visa card, cool Corvette and foxy highlights.
"Saturday!" I screech. "As in the day after tomorrow? You said it would be this summer at the earliest." And I'd been counting on him coming to his senses by then.
"I know, pumpkin. But, well, there's an unbelievable Internet special for Hawaii," Dad says, "and, like you, Paula has next week off for spring break. So we decided to move things up a bit. I'll tell Sam tonight."
I bury my head in my hands.
Paula, aka The Ruler, is a math teacher at school who really lives up to her nickname. She looks like a ruler--tall and skinny with ramrod-straight posture. And she's a major control freak. I mean, she hands out detentions like candy, and don't even try taking a cell phone into her class. Not to mention her annoying habit of constantly contacting the parents of struggling students. Which is how she hooked up with my dad.
I shudder to think she'll actually be part of my family. She already has too much influence over my dad. Which means she already has too much influence over my life. Basically, The Ruler loves rules. Rules about how many minutes I should read each evening, which TV shows I can watch, how much screen time I get, how much phone time I get, who I can hang out with, when I can get a MySpace. It's frustrating and nauseating and wrong.
And now full-on stepmotherhood is only two days away.
Dad's droning on and on about wedding plans and Internet specials and Hawaii and San Diego and me.
Say what? I lift my head and tune back in to discover he wants to banish me to my great-aunt Margaret's in San Diego, while he and The Ruler hit Kauai's beaches.
I stand. "I'm not going to San Diego." I zap him with a don't-mess-with-me look. "I have plans for spring break, important plans, plans that were planned eons ago."
"You are not ruining my life. I"--and I jab my thumb into my chest--"can do that all on my own."
Excerpted from I So Don't Do Mysteries by Barrie Summy. Copyright © 2009 by Barrie Summy. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.