Liz read the directions once, and then again. It shouldn’t have been that hard, she told herself. Directions, she was good at. (One doesn’t reassemble and modify an internal combustion engine without being able to take things step by step, after all.)
But it turned out that some directions were easier to follow than others. For example, the cookbook clearly stated that the blueberries should be “folded in by hand” but when she pushed up her sleeves and stuck her hands in the bowl she had to realize that 1) you cannot fold things that are liquid, and 2) you really shouldn’t squeeze blueberries if you don’t want it to look like you’ve been murdering Smurfs.
So Liz looked down at the directions one more time and tried to make sense of them. It was just the latest in a long, long list of things that Elizabeth Sutton couldn’t do.
She couldn’t tell the CIA where Cammie might have gone.
She couldn’t call Cammie’s mom and get any tips on any clues they might have found.
She couldn’t do any homework (since, technically, Cammie’s absence was seen as a security breach by the school trustees, all classified materials were restricted to school grounds over the summer).
And, most of all, Elizabeth Sutton couldn’t stop thinking about her friend, wondering where she’d gone and when—and if—she’d ever see her again.
So Elizabeth Sutton baked.
Not that she was any good at it.
“You’re getting better,” her kid sister said when Liz pulled the muffins from the oven. “Only four out of the twelve are still smoking. Is sixty-seven percent a passing grade at the Gallagher Academy?”
“It’s sixty-six point six six six six—”
“I know,” her sister said. “I was rounding up. You looked like you could use the lift.”
Liz took the muffin pan to the trash, turned it over, and when the muffins didn’t fall out, she dumped the whole pan in. She’d just buy her mother another one, she told herself.
“Lizzie. Earth to Lizzie…”
“What is it, Ellie?” Liz said, turning to the petite girl leaning on the counter. Liz watched her sister run her finger through the leftover batter, taste it, and then make a terrible expression.
“What do you want?” Liz asked.
“Jeez,” Ellie said. “You could be nice to me, you know. These are the special moments of our lives.”
“Sorry,” Liz said. “I just can’t get this. Did you know that this recipe calls for a pinch of salt? Seriously. I’m really good at science—I mean really good. And nowhere anywhere can I find out how many grams a pinch is.”
“What’s wrong with you?” her sister said, jumping up on the counter. She was still so young. Was I ever that little? Liz wanted to know. By Gallagher Girl standards she was still tiny, but her sister seemed especially small, and Liz wanted to protect her from all the evil in the world. She consoled herself that there was at least one person she cared about who was for sure safe and sound that summer.
“Sorry. Do you want to help me make cookies?” Liz asked.
Her sister cringed. “You promised Mom you wouldn’t use the mixer.”
“It was only a little fire,” Liz said, but her sister wasn’t convinced.
“I want to tell you something,” Ellie said.
“Okay,” Liz said.
“I want to go to the Gallagher Academy.”
Liz heard the words, studied her sister’s face, and tried to find something—anything—that might indicate that she hadn’t understood correctly.
“It’s been really good for you,” her sister went on. “And Mom and Dad said that—“
“They don’t take sixth graders,” Liz blurted, cutting Ellie off.
“So? I can get on a waiting list for next year.”
Liz couldn’t argue. When Ellie turned and said, “I’m going to ask Mom and Dad to call the school,” Liz also couldn’t help but think that her sister might become a problem.
“No one is there,” Liz said. “It’s summer break.”
“Really?” Her sister crossed her arms. “No one is there? Not the headmistress?”
“No,” Liz said. She tried to keep her voice even. “The headmistress is…busy.”
“Then I’ll ask to speak to someone in admissions.”
“No,” Liz said, harder than she’d intended. “Look, it’s not that great. You aren’t missing anything.”
“I can go there if I want to,” her sister said. “I can—”
“You don’t want to go there, Ellie!”
“You don’t know that,” her sister said. “You just don’t want me there because then you wouldn’t be the special one.”
“That’s not it. I just don’t think you’d like it, that’s all.”
“Is too it. You don’t think I’m good enough.”
But her sister was good enough.
And it was the big sister’s job to make sure she stayed that way.
“You’re plenty good, Ellie,” Liz told her. “I just don’t want to see you…change.”
“Why?” Ellie said. “Going to private school didn’t change you.”
But it did, Liz thought. Going to the Gallagher Academy had changed everything. And suddenly Liz didn’t feel helpless anymore. There was something she could do that mattered—that meant something. She could save her sister’s life.
“Listen, Ellie, I know it sounds all glamorous and all—boarding school. But it’s…different…than it sounds. Harder.”
”It hasn’t been too hard for you.”
“No,” Liz said. “There comes a time at least once a day where I think I can’t do it. When I think it’s too dangerous and—”
“It’s just not what it seems, okay? It’s not something I’m sure I’d choose again if I had a choice. If I’d known then what I know now.”
“You’re not telling me something,” Ellie said, seeing through her. Her sister could always see through her.
“Just don’t worry about it now, okay? Just enjoy your time to be a girl.”
“Why?” her sister. “You’re still a girl.”
No, Liz thought. I’m a Gallagher Girl. And that made all the difference.
Source: Gallagher Academy