The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship (Val & Kit, Circa 1971)

“I’m waiting, Valerie.”

I didn’t dare to even look up at Miss Lovegrove. I could hear Cissy Reynolds in the desk behind me laughing, even though she must have had her hand over her mouth, covering her huge horse teeth. I kept my head down and yanked uselessly on the bangs my mother had taken the hedge trimmers to the night before.

There, my mother had declared with satisfaction. Now you’ll be the neatest girl in fifth grade.

“Answer the question. At once,” Miss Lovegrove said.

“I . . . er . . . I . . .”

“We can’t hear you, Valerie. It’s quite a simple question. Or would you prefer I check your homework—oh, wait. I just remembered, you didn’t turn in your homework assignment.” She did a good job of feigning surprise, making me think she’d be better suited to teach drama than geography.

“I’m sorry, Miss Lovegrove. I somehow lost my paper . . .” I kept my head bent.

“Did your dog eat it?” James Turner, two rows ahead, turned in my direction and smirked. Even without looking at him, I knew his nose was probably running and he’d soon wipe it with the sleeve of his sweater.

“Young lady, we will discuss your so-called missing homework after class,” Miss Lovegrove continued, “but right now I need you to tell me the capital of Greece.”

“That’s soooooo easy,” someone at a desk behind me whispered loudly.

“Everyone knows that,” another voice wafted in my direction.

“What an airhead,” floated from my right.

“Valerie Caldwell, come to the front of the class at once,” I heard Miss Lovegrove say.

But before I could move, another voice, from the very back row, filled the room. “Oh, for crying out loud. Athens. It’s Athens, you stupid woman.”  

I turned my head. Katherine Juckett was leaning back in her chair, tapping her desk with a pencil. I didn’t know her very well, but I did admire her bangs, which were long, past her eyebrows, and similar to Olivia Newton-John’s. I gave her a weak smile, and she in turn gave me a wink.


Later, after we left the principal’s office, and after Mr. Clemmings had doled out a suitable punishment (more for Kit than for me), we walked home together for the first time.

“I did know Athens was the capital,” I said.

“Of course you did. My mom was there last summer. She loves ouzo, ya know.”

“Ooo…?” I tried to repeat the word.

“It’s some kind of Greek booze. My mom can’t get enough.”

“Oh,” I said. I wanted to thank her for her outburst in class, but I wasn’t sure quite how to say it.

“Hey, have you seen Love Story? I’ve seen it already, but I’d go again in a heartbeat. I think I might marry Ryan O’Neal. Let’s go on Saturday. My mom will drive us.”

“I . . . er . . .”

But before I could finish my sentence, we were at the next street corner. She stopped and waved at me. “I live down here. See you tomorrow, Valerie.”