"We're going to a par-tee."
"We're going to a par-tee."
The twins chanted all the way to Tia's Neoschool.
Tia said nothing. She didn't trust herself to
speak. She thought that if she did, she would surely explode.
Many fellow students stared at Tia. She had to
admit that she did look fairly strange with her paws weighted down with two
vivacious, lively Baby pets.
When at last they arrived, the twins hurtled
to the snack table. The gym looked magnificent with all its decorations, but
Tia barely had time to see them -- Tommy and Tamara were dragging her to the
Tia skidded to a halt but bumped into someone-and
that someone's head fell face-first into the bowl of tropical punch.
Tia gasped, and everyone surrounding them stared
as a Lupe lifted his drenched head from the punch bowl and shook as droplets
of punch sprayed all the surrounding pets.
Horrified, Tia scrambled for a napkin and thrust
it to him. "I-I'm so sorry," she stuttered pathetically. "I r-really didn't
m-m-mean to. Are you okay, N-Nick?"
He nodded, and some nearby pets snickered at
Tia with identical smirks.
Meanwhile, the twins continued to devour the
food. Deciding that they would be fine, Tia turned back to Nick.
Half-expecting him to refuse, she stammered awkwardly,
"D-do you want to d-dance with me?"
Nick shook his head one more time, sending another
spray of juice flying. But he did nod, and Tia basically bounced onto the dance
"Hi," she said bashfully as they started to
dance side-by-side to the upbeat song. "How're things?"
"Things are great," he replied with a charming
smile. Tia knew then that he had forgiven her. Then he asked stupidly, "what
"Well, all things."
"Oh. Well, I wouldn't say all things are great.
I mean, look at Meridell. It's not so hopeless looking anymore now that the
rubble is cleaned up, but-"
Tia interrupted, "I meant, how are you?"
"Oh, I'm fine."
Holly, dancing by Louis nearby, caught Tia's
eye and smirked slightly. Tia could read Holly's look like an open book: Hello.
Nice Baby pets. I see it's your fault Nick went for a swim. Did he hit his head
on the bottom of the punch bowl or is he always that slow?
Tia ignored Holly and turned her attention back
"I see you brought a few guests," Nick observed,
gesturing to the twins by the snack table, who were now consuming an enormous
plate of chocolate brownies.
"Oh, yeah…" Tia answered, grinning an embarrassed
smile. "Well, see, I was asked to babysit tonight, but I wanted to come here
too, so I sort of… combined the two."
"Good thinking. Hey, aren't those the pets that
you babysat before? The ones that became Chias?"
Tia felt her face turn scarlet. "Y-yes," she
stammered, "b-but I'm a better babysitter now." Or at least I hope so,
Nick and Tia were now engaged in a conversation
about their Neoschool. When Tia told Nick about all her detentions from Mrs.
Owens and about her and Holly's airmail system, Nick laughed.
But suddenly, Tia heard a thud, a crash, breaking
glass, and several splats on the wall. Then a babyish shout broke the stunned
It was pandemonium. Instantly, a raging hurricane
of cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, and doughnuts spread around the room, hitting
everyone in sight. Those with any common sense ducked under tables or into the
bathrooms. Tia got hit full in the face with a banana cream pie, and seconds
later, Nick was dripping under another overturned bowl of punch. Tia yelled
herself hoarse trying to catch the twins attention, but they didn't hear her
over the chaos.
When finally the only food left on the snack
table was a few crumbs and empty plates, the food fight died down, and there
was a rush for the bathrooms to clean up.
Tia stomped angrily over to the twins and shrieked,
"What were you thinking? You know better than to do that! Everyone's a mess,
and it's entirely YOUR FAULT!"
As the twins started to sniffle, Tia felt a tiny
twinge of guilt.
"Look, I'm sorry for yelling at you," she said
softly, battling the urge to screech at them some more. "But you must be good!
All right? Now, I want you two to just stay by the snack table here, and be
good. Because if you're not… I'll tell your mother."
Tia had struck gold. Jackpot! she thought.
Tommy stood up straight like he had just joined the army but Tamara wailed,
"Oh, peeze, Tia, peeze don't tell Mommy! She'd get so mad at us!"
Tia, of course, would do no such thing. Telling
Christine would mean revealing that she had gone to the dance.
"If you are good," Tia said, bargaining, "then
I won't tell your mother."
They saluted her, and as Tia walked away, she
called over her shoulder, "Remember, stay by the snack table!"
After much of the mess on the walls and pets
had been cleaned up, the music resumed and the dance floor became full again.
Tia couldn't help thinking about what Christine
would say if someone at the dance told her that two Baby pets had started a
food fight. But Tia resolved to not think about that, and she banished the thought
to the back of her mind.
Rejoining Nick, they found an empty space on
the dance floor and began to boogie again to the song. Nick kept laughing about
the food fight and saying that Tommy and Tamara were such cuties. Tia forced
a few laughs too, but she didn't think any of it was truly funny. She turned
the conversation instead to Nick and asked about his friends, and she was spared
from talking about the twins anymore. All she had to do was glance at Nick's
friends when he pointed them out, and nod occasionally. Finally, she felt at
ease with him again, and they chatted energetically together once more.
But suddenly, the crowd was clapping. Tia and
Nick looked toward the karaoke stage and Tia's jaw dropped.
Tommy and Tamara had somehow managed to find
some disco outfits, and they were dancing to a disco-like song. Tommy stood
on a big box and was shouting the ABC song into the microphone. The crowd laughed
hysterically when Tommy forgot what came after the "L-M-N-O-P" and had to start
all over again, but Tommy was enjoying the attention, just the same. Meanwhile,
Tamara was doing the robot dance.
If Tia had not been their babysitter tonight,
she would've laughed too. But instead, she marched up to the stage and scolded
them, "What are you doing? You two are supposed to stay by the snack table!"
The twins hung their heads. Tommy paused after
the letter H and whimpered. He whispered, "B-but you said this was a par-tee!"
The group chortled again, though Tia didn't know
She whispered in response, "This IS a party.
And if you behave, I'll let you meet Nick. He's the Lupe that I have posters
of all over my room, the Lupe that I like so much. He's really nice, and if
you are good, I will introduce you to him. Okay?"
The twins nodded in perfect unison, but the crowd
was laughing again. Many of the pets were pointing at Nick, then at Tia, and
Tia was confused. She said, "What-?"
And her magnified voice echoed around the room.
The microphone was on!
Nick had heard every word. He was gazing at Tia
with his mouth slightly open. Tia's face was so red and hot that an egg could
fry on it. Holly was looking at Tia sympathetically from where she was standing
next to Louis, while the crowd still tittered.
I wish I could melt into the floor! Tia
thought desperately. I wish I could camouflage, or be painted Invisible!
I wish I could be anywhere but here!
But her wishes did not come true.
Finally, the D.J. put on another jazzy song,
and the onlookers dispersed.
Tia knew she'd have to face Nick sooner or later,
so she took both of the twins' paws and walked toward him.
He was still smiling. "I didn't know you had
posters of me, Tia," he said, and Tia had another wish to be able to blend into
the wall behind her.
Nick continued, "You know, if you want more pictures,
I'd be happy to give you some."
Tia gave him a half-surprised, half-disgusted
look. And she said briskly, "Thank you for your offer, but I think it's time
for us to leave."
And with that, she pulled the twins toward the
door and out of the Neoschool.
Holly came trotting behind Tia. "Tia, wait!"
Tia stopped at turned around. "Oh, hello."
"I'm so sorry, Tia!" Holly wailed. "Now everyone
knows about you and Nick, and the twins-ooh, they caused a lot of trouble, hopefully
Christine won't find out-and-"
"Holly," Tia interrupted, "it's okay. I don't
mind about the Nick thing. You know, I think you were right about him. He's
dimmer than a burned out light bulb, too stupid to tell up from down, and he
isn't at all what I thought he was like. I don't think he is for me."
"Now, how many times have I tried to tell you
that?" Holly demanded matter-of-factly.
"A few," replied Tia, giggling. "So," she said
conversationally, "how did your night go? With Louis, I mean."
"Oh, Louis is great!" Holly answered fervently.
"He's really nice. He's actually a lot like me. But-oh, Tia, LOOK!"
They had reached Tia's NeoHome. The twins had
been silent for the whole walk, but now they were chorusing, "Mommy's here!
For Christine was sitting on the bench outside
Tia's NeoHome, and judging by the look on her face, Tia knew that she had heard
the whole story-and wasn't the least bit pleased about it.
To be continued…