Words may seem innocent enough, but I’m here to tell you that they’re a way bigger deal than most people know.
They are so powerful, in fact, that they can change you in a single, solitary second.
Words can propel you so high that you could fly straight up to the sky blue. Or can seem so heavy on your shoulders that you think you’ll never stand straight again. And there’s one reason for that.
Words make us feel.
And feelings are everything. They control who we are and how we live and every single choice we make.
My name is Adelaide Ru Fitzhugh.
Ada Ru for short.
Ru for even shorter.
I’ve been writing since I was born, so I know words real good. One day I plan to write words so important that lots of people are going to want to read the way I put them together. And they’ll feel something while they read them too.
I’m talking about a legit, big-time writer.
And by that, of course, I mean super famous. Like go-to-the-grocery-store-for-bananas-in-a-limo kind of famous. Just like J. K. Rowling probably does. I mean, if you’re as famous as her, you certainly don’t go shopping in a plain old white Prius named Patty that has a save the trees bumper sticker on it like we have.
In my Kreative Kids writing class in Denver, I learned another real important thing about words. If you want to write a really good story, I mean, a really super-good one, you should write what you know.
So I decided to think long and hard about what I know. Unfortunately, I got bubkes. And bubkes is a big problem for a serious writer. My life is actually pretty boring. Not that I’m complaining about that. I mean, I love my life on Tennyson Street just outside the city of Denver.
And that’s me.
But predictable isn’t exactly exciting or interesting and it certainly doesn’t make you feel. There’s no pop to predictable, and as a writer, if you don’t have pop, you’ve got zip. I mean, where does a girl like me find pop when I’ve never been kidnapped by pirates on the high seas or raised by wolves? I’ve never known one single animal that could talk and I’ve certainly never been abducted by aliens . . . at least as far as I know.
I just finished sixth grade at Skinner Middle School, I’m the president of the Tennyson Street Beyoncé Beyhive Fan Club, and I’m a champion cupcake eater. I refuse to swim in any public pool (because of the pee) and I have an award-winning collection of ceramic kittens.
See what I mean?
That’s bubkes big-time.
This year Mom even helped me start my very own podcast. It’s called Words with Ru. The problem is, it’s very hard to find something with pop in it to talk about on your very own podcast when nothing interesting has really happened to you yet. That’s probably why I only have two subscribers to date.
Nan and Granddad Fitzhugh.
But if I had pop, who knows how many people I’d get.
I’ve been waiting all this year for something cool to happen to me.
And now, the summer after sixth grade . . . it does.
Dun, dun . . . dun.
Spoiler alert: there may or may not be an actual real live lake monster involved, but that’s all I’m going to say about that.
For now, anyway.
And it all started with a Friday Family Fitzhugh Meeting.
What’s So Wrong with Disney World?
“Hear ye, hear ye,” I call out, banging my fist like a gavel on the kitchen table. “Let the Friday Fitzhugh Family Meeting come to order.”
It’s my job to bring the meeting to order every week. I don’t wear a judge’s robe or anything that official, but it’s still a pretty big deal.
“Mom.” I nod in her direction. “First order of business.”
Her job is agendas and refreshments. Tonight’s snack is a plastic bowl full of Jelly Belly jelly beans.
Side note: I only eat the Buttered Popcorn ones.
It’s because I totally love them. It’s like if I was forced to live on a desert island and could only bring two things with me for my survival, it would be Buttered Popcorn jelly beans and an endless supply of soda.
Which is the exact reason why I’m digging through the plastic bowl as Mom announces the first order of business.
“First up . . . chores and cleanliness.”
I sneak a covert eye roll and keep on digging through the beans.
Other than the hear ye part and an occasional order in the court, the meetings are pretty dullsville. They always start exactly the same.
Who’s been slacking on their chores? (Me)
Who isn’t keeping their room clean enough? (Me)
Who’s not making their bed in the mornings? (Yep, me again)
Who’s not mowing the lawn? (That one . . . has Dad’s name written all over it)
For the spring meetings we sometimes have an additional category on the agenda.
The Fitzhugh summer vacation destination.
That’s also when someone inevitably brings up the subject of Disney World and asks why we can’t ever go there (that’s me too if you didn’t already guess it).
Can someone please tell me what’s so wrong with Disney World?
My best friend, Britney B, went two summers ago and said it really is where dreams come true. It even said so on the Disney souvenir book she brought home with her.
Me and Britney B have been best friends since first grade when her family moved two doors down from us. We like all the same movies, we both agree that adding vegetables will ruin a perfectly good pizza every time and we look just alike, with plain brown hair and skinny bodies with ugly knobby knees that we both detest. Last month, in an extremely-bad-idea best-friend pact, we both chopped our hair in bobs at the chin. I hate mine, but she loves hers. Probably because she looks way better in it than I do.
I know everything there is to know about her and she knows the same about me. That’s the way real best friends are. For instance, I know that right this second, she’s waiting on me to come over so we can watch Taken Souls on the Syfy channel. We watch it together every single Friday after the Fitzhugh Family Meetings.
When Mom is finished with her chore slacking list, she nods to me.
I pound on the table three more times. “Next on the agenda,” I announce.
Mom looks at Dad. “Summer plans,” she announces.
Wait . . . what? This is way earlier than usual and I haven’t even planted all my Disney World hints yet.
I sit straight up and cross two sets of fingers on each hand. I close my eyes tight and wait for it.
Come on, Disney World.
Come on, Disney World.
Come on, Disney World.
“Dad’s going to talk about summer plans this year,” Mom says.
I peek one eye open.
Dad never leads any agenda item and he’s certainly never led the summer plans one. It’s unprecedented. Maybe that’s a good sign.
Or maybe not.
I close my eyes tight again and wait for it.
He clears his throat.
I hold my breath. Magic Kingdom, here I come!
And then . . . he says it.
He lays a bomb on me that changes my entire life. With just one line, and believe me, it’s got nothing to do with dreams coming true either.
“We are spending the entire summer in Scotland.”
No doomsday prep.
No You had better sit down for this one.
It has to be a joke. I give him a good long stare while I wait for the punch line.
Except there isn’t one.
“Order in the court. Order in the court.” I pound my fist gavel on the table, then stare at Dad. “Are you seriously kidding me right now?” I ask him. “Because it’s so not funny.”
He gives me his extra-wide grin. The one that shows all his straight white teeth and the getting-old crinkles right at the corners of his eyes, and he says, “Nope. We are going for the whole summer. We’ll get to see Uncle Clive and Aunt Isla and your cousin Briony. It’s been six years since we’ve gotten a chance to visit.”
Suddenly all the Buttered Popcorns aren’t sitting so well inside my belly.
“Adelaide Ru,” Mom says, grabbing my wrist and pulling my hand out of the bowl of beans.
Mom’s the only one who never calls me anything short. She uses my whole name every single time. She says it’s because it’s too beautiful a name to go short. Even though she goes short on hers all the time because her real name is Elizabeth and everyone calls her Libby.
Right this minute she’s frowning hard at me. “You know I don’t like it when you dig around in there with your licked-on fingers. It’s gross. One more time and I’m putting the jelly beans away.”
“Dad, do we really have to spend the entire summer there?” I ask him.
“We don’t have to, my little Rutabaga,” Dad says. “We get to.”
Dad never goes short on my name and he doesn’t go long either. Basically, he calls me anything with an r and u in it. Rutabaga is one of his favorites.
I sigh and lay my chin in my hand. This can’t be happening.
Tennyson Street is my life.
I can’t live somewhere else for an entire summer.
On our summer vacations, I’m usually homesick by Tuesday and already packed by Wednesday. I mean, unless we were to go to Disney World. That’s a whole different story.
It’s not that I don’t like seeing other places. I just love our Tennyson life and get homesick real easy. The small redbrick house just outside the city is ours and always has been. It’s the best house on the best street. The bright white shutters and a matching porch swing that I helped paint. Mom’s rosemary shrubs lining the front walk that I helped plant. Tennyson is even where we found our three-legged orange tabby cat, Mr. Mews. He was a stray in the back alley by the garage, snacking on old leftovers from Parisi out of our garbage can. He looked up from his gnarly ravioli and actually smiled at me.
That’s when I knew in my heart he was mine.
Side note: Parisi has the best spaghetti carbonara on the planet. And I’m not even exaggerating either.
“I’m sorry to inform you but I am unable to move to Scotland for an entire summer at this time,” I tell them.
Mom raises her eyebrows at that one. “Oh?” she says.
“What about my Sunday-afternoon Bookworm Club at the BookBar? Or . . . or our Italian Wednesdays at Parisi? Or Mexican Tuesdays at El Chingon when we order our cena y bebidas completely in Spanish? Not to mention we just painted my room cornflower blue and put up the new curtains too. Oh, and what about my podcast? I can’t let my audience down.”
“I’m sure Nan and Granddad Fitzhugh won’t mind missing a few episodes.”
“I have more subscribers than Nan and Granddad Fitzhugh,” I inform her.
“Who else?” she asks.
“This isn’t about subscribers,” I tell her.
“Ru Ru Bugaboo,” my dad says with that same wide smile. “We’ll be back in September.”
September? This is a nightmare.
“It’s good news,” he goes on.
“Ah, wrong,” I inform him. “Good news would be a week at the Magic Kingdom. This is the opposite of good news. This is . . . it’s . . . well, it’s bad news is what it is.”
The Buttered Popcorns are now sending a critical warning that they might want back out.
Mom chimes in. “Wait until you see where we’re staying this time. It’s called the Highland Club, and it’s inside a Benedictine abbey. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the town of Fort Augustus and was originally built in 1876 as an abbey, but they’ve renovated it into modern apartments. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
“Not especially,” I say.
She ignores me.
“What an adventure,” she goes on, popping in a green Jelly Belly.
Maybe a Sunkist Lime or Watermelon.
“I’m the number one reviewer in the Bookworm group. I need to keep up my quota because you just know that Emmanuelle Penney is champing at the bit to take my top spot. She’s only two away.” I hold up two fingers to show them both. “Two . . . away.”
“This is going to be wonderful,” Mom goes on. “Do you remember how much fun you and your cousin Briony had last time?”
“Remember? How could I forget? She shaved my Malibu Barbie doll.”
“Oh . . .” Mom waves a hand. “You’ve long outgrown Barbies, anyway.”
“Barbie was bald, Mom. Bald.”
“I’m sure Briony’s grown up just like you have,” Dad chimes in.
“Did I not mention that she also still sucked her thumb at six? And she smelled . . . shall we say questionable?”
Mom isn’t listening. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity to get to visit family we hardly ever see,” she goes on.
“Uh . . . try bizarro,” I mumble. “I mean, who spends an entire summer in a whole other country? People go for a week, maybe two. Not three months. That’s nuts.”
Dad cocks his head to the side the exact same way that Britney B’s beagle, Cheez Whiz, does when you talk to her because she only understands certain words, like park, ball and pizza delivery. For all the rest of the words she just turns her head sideways, trying real hard to figure out what you’re saying. Me and Britney B call that look a Cheez Whiz. And it’s Dad’s Cheez Whiz that makes my heart start beating even harder because I realize that this situation is just like with Disney World.
I don’t get a say.
“Dad got a position at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness,” Mom says. “To teach an advanced photography class for the summer term. We will be renting out our house at the end of the month to a lovely family. The Morgensterns. They have a five-year-old daughter named Delilah.”
Some random girl rolling down Tennyson on my Razor scooter with the pink trim?
Eating my raspberry-filled Funfetti cupcakes at Valhalla?
Sleeping under my poster of Beyoncé--the I Am . . . Sasha Fierce album.
It’s a complete and total nightmare is what it is.
“What about Mr. Mews?” I demand. “He’s not going to like this one bit.”
“The Morgensterns have graciously agreed to take care of him for the summer while they’re here,” Mom says. “They said their little Delilah loves cats.”