Sophie—hel-lo-o! I’m speaking to you!” I know, thought Sophie LaCroix, but could you please stop? I can hardly think what to do next! Here I am in a strange country—I can’t seem to find my trunk, and —
“Sophie! Answer me!”
And could you please not call me “Sophie”? I’m Antoinette—from France.
“Are you all right?”
Sophie felt hands clamp onto her elf-like shoulders, and she looked up into the frowning face of Ms. Quelling, her sixth-grade social studies teacher. Sophie blinked her M&M-shaped eyes behind her glasses and sent the imaginary Antoinette scurrying back into her mind-world.
“Are you all right?” Ms. Quelling said again.
“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie said.
“Then why didn’t you answer me? I thought you were going into a coma, child.” Ms. Quelling gave a too-big sigh. “Why do I even plan field trips?”
Sophie wasn’t sure whether to answer that or not. She had only been in Ms. Quelling’s class a month. In fact, she’d only been in Great Marsh Elementary School for a month.
“So answer my question,” Ms. Quelling said. “Do you or don’t you have a buddy in your group?”
“No, ma’am,” Sophie said. She wasn’t quite sure who was even in her field trip group.
“You’re in the Patriots’ Group.” Ms. Quelling frowned over her clipboard, the skin between her eyebrows twisting into a backwards S. “Everybody in that group has a buddy except Maggie LaQuita—so I guess that’s a no-brainer. Maggie, Sophie is your buddy. LaQuita and LaCroix, you two can be the La-La’s.”
Ms. Quelling rocked her head back and forth, sending her thick bronze hair bouncing off the sides of her face. She looked very pleased with her funny self.
But the stocky, black-haired girl who stepped up to them didn’t seem to think it was the least bit hilarious. Sophie recognized Maggie from language arts class. She drilled her deep brown eyes into Ms. Quelling and then into Sophie.
Don’t look at me, Sophie wanted to say out loud. I don’t want to be La-La either. I am Antoinette!
Although, Sophie thought, this Maggie person could fit right in. She looks like she’s from a faraway kingdom, maybe Spain or some other romantic land. She can’t be “Maggie” though, Sophie decided. She had to be Magdalena, a runaway princess.
Magdalena glanced over her shoulder as she knelt to retrieve the leather satchel, stuffed with her most precious possessions —
“So are you getting on the bus or what?”
Maggie’s voice dropped each word with a thud. She hiked her leather backpack over her shoulder and gave Sophie a push in the back that propelled tiny Sophie toward the steps.
“Sit here,” Maggie said.
She shoved Sophie into a seat three rows back from the driver and fell in beside her. In front of them, the other four Patriots fell into seats and stuffed their backpacks underneath. They twisted and turned to inspect the bus. Somebody’s mother stood in the aisle with Ms. Quelling and counted heads.
“I have my six Patriots!” she sang out, smiling at their teacher. “Two boys, four girls!”
“Eddie and Colton, settle down!” Ms. Quelling said to the boys seated between the two pairs of girls. Eddie burrowed his knuckles into Colton’s ball cap, and Colton grabbed the spike of sandy hair rising from Eddie’s forehead.
“Dude,” Maggie muttered. “I’m stuck in the loser group again.”
Sophie squinted at Maggie. “I thought we were the Patriots.”
“They just call us that so we won’t know we’re in the loser group.”
“Oh,” Sophie said.
She craned her neck to see over Colton and Eddie’s heads and get a look at the other two Patriots. The girl with butter-blonde hair squirmed around in her seat to gaze longingly toward the back of the