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Cricket the Early Years Part 8

"Cricket opens her valentines and tries to find out who filled her locker."
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Cricket stood dumbfounded looking at her locker, as her new friends crowded around urging her to open it. They wanted to see if anything special was inside. Reluctantly Cricket pushed aside the pile of rose petals on the floor. The principal and some teachers stood behind the students in case something dangerous or harmful emerged from the locker. She handed her books and bag to Melissa who stood nearby shaking with unbridled anticipation.

Cricket squared her shoulders, shook her head and stood up straight, as she reached to open the door. She slowly opened the door, but nothing happened. A large white envelope blocked the locker and held everything inside. Scrawled on the envelope in elaborate calligraphy was the message, Welcome to our new hero. We love you Cricket. Gingerly, Cricket grabbed the envelope and yanked hard to pull it out. Suddenly, a cascade of rose petals, envelopes, candy hearts and shiny colored hearts flooded the floor at her feet.

A stern serious voice rose above the clamor, "Miss Shaw will you please follow me to my office, NOW?" the principal said.

Cricket turned slowly, shook the accumulated gifts off her feet and followed the principal to his office. Her heart pounded and sweat appeared on her forehead as she approached his office. Her thoughts raced through her head, "Why am I being punished? Who did this to me? I am innocent. It is starting over again and I just got here."

The principal unlocked his door and motioned for Cricket to enter. She entered the cold dark office, sat in the hard wood chair in front of the desk with her hands folded in her lap and eyes downcast at the floor. The principal flipped on the lights, walked behind his desk and sat stiffly in his chair facing Marcia. A few silent seconds passed as he examined the little girl sitting in front of him. To Marcia time dragged on and her dread increased with the deafening silence.

After a few more seconds, which seemed like minutes, the principal spoke, "Miss Shaw, I know you are new here and are not responsible for that display in your locker this morning. I also know that you and a certain other girl student who no longer attends here are not very friendly. In fact, you seem to be enemies. You have become a local hero for your exploits against her. This school does not tolerate this type of behavior. Consider this a warning. We are watching you and if you misbehave or attempt any pranks at this school, we will expel you and your accomplices. I am sorry for the display in the hall, but I have to warn you. Thank you for coming with me and not making a fuss. You may go back to your locker and clean it up with the janitor's help."

"Thank you, sir," Cricket squeaked in a soft scared voice.

She rose from her chair and left the principal's office quietly. As she slowly walked toward her locker, the fear, embarrassment and shame drained from her. Happiness, victory and pride replaced her earlier emotions. Her pace quickened and a wide smile appeared on her face. As she rounded the corner near her locker, she saw the crowd had grown and become more vocal.

She raised a fist in the air, as the crowd turned and watched her approach. Her friends made a path for her and a small cheer traveled through the crowd, which included several teachers. The janitor swept up the mess on the floor. Marcia pulled the decorations from inside her locker and threw them in his trash bin. She kept all the envelopes and some of the candy hearts. With her locker cleaned out, she put her bag and books inside and joined the throng as it headed to their respective classrooms. The day, which started with a prank, became her introduction to the world of her new school.

Rumors spread quickly through the school that the principal punished Cricket for the mess by and in her locker. The rumors made up pointed to her ability to play pranks on anyone and get away with them. As the morning went on, rumors spun out of control. Her reputation grew to that of almost a super hero.

Lunch came and Cricket assumed her place at the table in the lunchroom. Before she finished her lunch, a huge group of girls and a few boys gathered around her. They hung on every word she uttered meaningful or not.

Her fame spread through the whole school all the way up to the eighth grade. The rumors caught the attention of the boy who watched her closely every day. A sly smile spread slowly across his face. A sinister thought came into his mind, "She is mine now. I have her. It is time to turn up the attention on her."

He sat quietly at his table watching his quarry hold court over her ever-growing circle of followers. His friends drifted over to her table listened to the words uttered to her and about her. They stayed for a few minutes, but returned to him with a report of what took place. When she stood to leave, he slowly stood and followed her out of the lunchroom past her classroom.

After lunch, the rest of the day went smoothly without incident and Cricket felt better about the early morning adventure. She still wanted to know who played the beautiful prank on her. To her it seemed like a stupid gesture, but someone went to great expense and time to put it together. She had to meet this person. She wanted to know this person and get revenge on this person for the embarrassment inflicted on her.

After school, Naomi walked to Marcia's house to spend the weekend. They entered the house and quickly went to Marcia's room and closed the door. They tossed their books on the floor in the corner and flopped on the bed with all the envelopes from their lockers. Marcia ignored the large envelope, but Naomi pushed her to open it first. Naomi kept poking Marcia to open it first.

Reluctantly with a little flourish, Marcia took the big envelope and carefully lifted the flap teasing Naomi. Naomi sat there and watched Marcia slowly remove the card. It was a romantic card, but somewhat generic in nature. Naomi read the inside of the card over Marcia's shoulder. The printed quotation was cute, but the handwritten part was ominous if not outright threatening. Down at the bottom of the card in the same calligraphy was "Welcome. I will be watching you. R.W."

Naomi sat back with a thoughtful expression on her face. Marcia looked at her and shrugged. She put the card aside and started opening the others. Many of the cards expressed happiness to meet the Cricket Girl and have her at the school. She felt good about the cards. Naomi felt good about her cards too. It was a good day for the girls.

Naomi asked Marcia, "How are we going to find out who R.W. is? Do you have any ideas?"

"I haven't got any ideas. How do we find out, who has the initials R.W. in school? I would assume he is older, but how much older?" Marcia replied. "If he is in the eighth grade, I only have until he graduates to find him."

"Don't worry we will find him. Once we do, then what?" inquired Naomi.

The girls continued to open all the cards. The envelopes made a huge pile of trash on the floor. As they opened the cards, coupons for food at McDonald's fell out. When they finished, they had a stack of twenty-six coupons. They split the coupons equally and put them away for a party sometime with all their friends. Fast food was a new treat for these girls. They liked the French Fries, but the burgers were just OK.

Naomi hopped off the bed and walked to Marcia's desk. As she approached, she noticed the cricket cage and picked it up. The cricket inside, instead of running around moved closer to the edge of the cage against Naomi's hand. It rubbed its back legs and emitted several loud chirps. Naomi looked at it fascinated. Marcia laughed and joined her. The cricket kept chirping until Marcia fed the cricket and Naomi put the cage down.

Marcia's mom knocked on the door and entered the room. She carried a large wastebasket for all the envelopes. Marcia and Naomi moved quickly, picked up the envelopes and put them in the trash. He mom saw the big card and looked over at Marcia.

She wanted to ask, but decided that the embarrassment was not worth knowing about it.

"Dinner will be ready in ten minutes. Get washed up and join us in the kitchen when you are done," mom informed the girls. She left the room with the wastebasket in her hand.

The girls washed up and joined Marcia's parents at the table. Her mom and dad asked about school and the Valentine's Day special decorations and meal. Her parents did not ask about the big card on Marcia's bed. Marcia did not volunteer any information about it either.

"Tonight is movie night. Is there any movie you girls want to see on the VCR? We have a small list from which to choose," her dad asked.

"I like The Dark Crystal, The Secret of NIMH, Annie and E.T." said Naomi. "Do you have any of those?"

"Do we have Flashdance or The Fox and the Hound?" asked Marcia.

"We have them all, but you can't see Flashdance. What would you like?" answered her dad.

"I like Annie and The Fox and the Hound. Can we watch both of them tonight?" asked Naomi.

"I don't see why not. After dinner, help with the dishes and get ready for bed. Bring out a blanket and pillow and we will watch the movies," replied mom.

Marcia and Naomi ate their dinner in silence after that, cleaned off the table, wiped and put away the clean dishes. They went quickly to the bedroom and changed into their pajamas. They brushed their teeth and hair. When they finished, they grabbed their pillows and blankets and plunked down in front of the TV waiting for the movies. As they watched Annie, the girls sang along with all the music giggling and laughing. When they watched The Fox and the Hound, big yawns escaped their faces and they fell asleep on the floor. Rather than disturb the girls Marcia's parents covered them with another blanket and left the room.

The girls woke early in the morning and tiredly dragged their blankets and pillows into Marcia's room where they collapsed on her bed. They pushed the pillows against the wall and curled up in balls under their blankets. They slept soundly for three more hours. Marcia's mom checked on them and made sure they stayed covered and warm.

The smell of cooking bacon drifted through the house and tickled the girl's noses. They awoke hungry and walked out to the kitchen. The table was set waiting for their arrival. Mom put warm toast, pancakes with a pitcher of warm syrup and a bowl of jam, scrambled eggs and bacon and cold orange juice. The girl's eyes opened wide, as they surveyed the feast in front of them. They served themselves and slowly ate their breakfast.

After breakfast, they went back to the TV to watch cartoons and some movies on the local channel for kids. The girls lay on the floor watching TV for two hours, when Marcia's mom came in and had them get dressed. It was time to go food shopping. Marcia liked food shopping because she always made her mom try new kid's food.

Today as they roamed the aisles, Marcia and Naomi spied what they wanted. It was in the cereal aisle. It was a giant box of Sugar Smacks. The girls grabbed a box, ran back to mom's cart and covertly put it under some vegetables. Marcia's mom saw them hide the box and smiled. She knew they needed cereal and if the girls would eat it, so much the better. Marcia and Naomi felt they outsmarted her mother and got what they wanted.

The girls ran to Marcia's room after helping unload the car. They played a few games, but got bored and went to find Marcia's mom. They found her in the kitchen making lunch. She made the girls grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with side dishes of sliced carrots and apple wedges. The girls gobbled it down.

"Mom, can we go outside to the woods looking for wildflowers?" Marcia asked.

Mom replied, "Yes, but be very careful of poison ivy. We don't want to send Naomi home all itchy scratchy tomorrow."

Marcia and Naomi ran to her room, got their light jackets and put on their boots. They ran out the back door into the yard and cut across to the woods. They looked for wild flowers, wove them into tiny bracelets and put them on their wrists. As they looked around, they walked toward the large clearing. The large wolf lay sunning on the big slab. He rose up and growled in warning as the girls approached.

Marcia cautiously walked into the clearing as the wolf pup bounded out of the cave. The pup ran to the girls and jumped on them knocking them over. The girls laughed as they played with the pup. The big wolf sat on the rock ready to pounce and protect his pup. The mother wolf slowly came out of the cave and approached the girls. Marcia noticed something wrong with her.

Marcia got up from playing and went to the mother wolf. When she approached, the mother wolf growled, but lay motionless in the grass. Marcia knelt in order to comfort and pet the female wolf. She saw an open wound on the wolf's hindquarter. It appeared a gunshot caused the open wound. Marcia did not try to touch the wound, but examined it carefully. It was clean and dry. She remembered that wolves had protected status and whoever shot her was in violation of the law.

Marcia petted the mother wolf and walked to the rock to greet the big wolf. He lowered his head, as Marcia put out her hand. He sniffed her hand, put out his thick tongue and licked her softly. Her other hand scratched behind his ears and he sat on his haunches quietly. Naomi continued to play with the pup and rolled on the ground with him. After a half hour of play and petting, the girls stood, bid the wolves goodbye and headed back to Marcia's house.

When the girls got home, dinner was ready. They ate, helped with the dishes and went into Marcia's room to get ready for another movie night. While they got ready, they talked about finding out who was RW. They could not get into where the school records were and they did not want their moms involved. They knew at least that he was older than they are that he was in a family that gave him a big allowance and he was following Marcia. It narrowed the number of boys down, but they still had a large number.

The girls watched two movies and fell asleep on the floor again. They woke up and dragged their pillows and blankets back to Marcia's bed and flopped on top of the bed asleep. When mom came in the morning, the girls had wrapped themselves up and around in their blankets. They could not move without help from mom. Mom untwisted them and they fell back to sleep for the rest of the morning.

The girls spent the day hanging out around the house playing in the back yard and riding up and down the street on their Hot Wheels. The day was cold and cloudy with a threat of rain turning to sleet overnight. Naomi's parents called and she would be staying the night again. That made the girls bubble with joy because it meant they would go to school together again.

A grey sky greeted Monday morning with a messy slush covered ground. The girls dressed for a cold day and wore their rubber boots to school. Marcia's mom wanted to drive them to school, but the girls wanted to walk. They walked slowly to school being careful not to slip and fall. They had fun walking and splashing in all the slush-filled puddles. School loomed ahead and all her classmates would be there to greet her after a big Valentine's Day surprise.

Cricket kind of regretted being so popular, but it was also something to be proud of too. She thought all weekend about finding out who the person with the initials R W was. It seemed as if it would be an impossible task. She went into school and walked to her locker, which had the roses taped to it. She ripped one of the roses off and stuffed it inside her locker. She grabbed her books and went to class.

The morning flew by as the classes consisted of review material centered on the upcoming achievement tests. The material bored Marcia and her mind wandered to her quest for information. She mentally ran through the list of older boys at the school she knew. The list grew shorter as she remembered their names. By lunchtime, the list was six boys.

At lunch, there was a lot of chatter about the upcoming Spring Concert. The Spring Concert was the last big thing before Spring Break. The seventh and eighth grade choir sang for the whole school. Every class attended and had a special time. A long poster announcing the concert was on the wall in the lunchroom.

The boy who filled Cricket's locker with the card and flowers sat in the lunchroom watching her and her friends. He knew she wanted to find out who made her the center of attraction. He was not ready to reveal that information. He wanted to make her investigate first and he watched her actions closely. He was surprised that she did not see him watching or if she did, it was covert.

The plan was simple. He would watch her and give her subtle hints. If she guessed, he would congratulate her and move on, but if she did not, it was time for another prank. He was ready, but wanted her to succeed in her quest. If she did not succeed, she would learn his identity the day of the Spring Concert.

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