VIOLET AND THE MISSING LAPTOP by R.A.P. Smolen
Chapter One: The Odd Occurrence
Violet awoke to her sister’s petrifying squeal. “Where is my laptop?” Her little sister, Olivia, was deaf and didn’t always realize how loud her voice was, especially first thing on Monday morning.
Violet untangled her arms from her comfy comforter and signed, “I don’t know where your laptop is.”
“If you’re lying, you’re dying,” she screeched and ran from the room.
Violet sat up and put on her glasses. How odd, she thought. Olivia never misplaced her laptop. It was a special computer with video lessons on it so she could be homeschooled. Violet often complained about how unfair it was that her younger sibling got her own laptop when she didn’t. To that, she was always told that she wasn’t homeschooled.
She got out of bed and dressed in her school uniform, topping it with her safety squad belt. She ran a comb through her always-messy hair and hurried toward the smell of bacon and hot cinnamon rolls.
Olivia was already in the kitchen. Her eyes were red with crying, and Grandma was patting her head, trying to comfort her.
“Morning,” Violet said. “Can I frost the cinnamon rolls?”
“Are you certain you haven’t seen The Little One’s laptop?” Grandma asked.
Violet hated it when she called Olivia that. Olivia was seven years old, not a baby. She raised her hand. “On my honor.”
“That’s odd.” Grandma popped the rolls onto a plate.
Violet spread the icing evenly with a butter knife. “Have you heard from Mom and Dad? Are they coming to my birthday party on Saturday?” Her parents were in the military. She hadn’t seen them since Christmas.
Grandma divided scrambled eggs between three plates. “Even if they can’t, you’ll turn eleven all the same.”
“Yes, but—” Violet swallowed her words. It was no one’s fault, she reminded herself. It was just the way it was.
They sat to a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and cinnamon rolls.
Olivia sniffled the whole time. When they finished eating, she bawled, “No one cares about my laptop. I had my homework on it and everything.”
Grandma patted her hand, and then signed, “I’m sure it will turn up.”
But it didn’t. They went from room to room, looking under beds and between the sofa cushions. Olivia’s laptop wasn’t anywhere.
“When was the last time you saw it?” Violet asked her.
“Yesterday. When your friends were here.”
Violet nodded. Her best friends, Alice and Samantha, slept over on Saturday and went home after lunch on Sunday. She signed, “That must be when you were trying to get our attention by reading real loud.”
“I just wanted to be part of your play date.”
“It wasn’t a play date, it was a hang date.” Violet rolled her eyes. “And you’re too young to hang with us.”
“Now, now,” Grandma signed. “I wish you girls would get along.”
“I have to go,” Violet told them. “I’ll be late.”
Grandma kissed her forehead. “Have a good day.”
Violet picked up her backpack and went out through the porch, letting the door slam behind her. The day was warm; it was always warm in Florida, even in winter. She crossed the parking lot of her grandmother’s condo and saw Alice waiting for her at the corner. Alice’s hair was like straw sticking straight out from her head in two pigtails. She also wore a safety patrol belt.
“Hurry up,” Alice called. “I can’t wait all day.”
Violet laughed and ran to catch up. “Sorry. My sister lost her laptop. I was helping look for it.”
“That’s odd,” Alice said. “Olivia never goes anywhere without her laptop. But why do you care? I thought you hated it.”
“I don’t hate it. Not exactly. I just don’t think it’s fair, that’s all.”
“Oh.” She shrugged. “Did you watch Anubis last night?”
“Yes. Wasn’t it amazing?”
“I wonder what will happen next.”
“I have no idea,” Violet said.
They acted out the television show, changing their voices to match those of their favorite characters. Before long, they arrived at Forest Ridge Elementary School. Usually they got there before anyone else, but they were late. Kids ran everywhere, and a long line of cars snaked through the parking lot. They hurried into the building and joined the rest of the safety patrol.
“Wow,” said Newton, flipping pages on his clipboard. “I was just about to mark you two as absent.”
“No, we’re here,” Alice told him.
Mrs. Spitz clapped her hands for attention. “Patrollers to your posts.”
The squad scattered like a bag full of tennis balls. Violet’s position was at the playground door. She passed the cafeteria, holding her breath so she wouldn’t catch the warm-milk smell. A group of kids stood by the drinking fountain. Violet nearly groaned when she saw it was Red Harry and his friends.
Red Harry had red hair that clashed with anything he wore. He stood a head taller than all the other kids in school. Some people thought he was fat. Maybe that was true in kindergarten, but Violet knew he went to martial arts class three times a week. He wasn’t fat anymore. He was just plain big.
“Don’t you want a drink of water?” Red Harry said, not noticing her. “Come on. I’ll help you.”
He pressed his thumb against the fountain, causing a stream to spray onto the floor. His friends laughed at a boy who dodged the water. Petey Underwood. He was always getting teased.
Violet stepped forward. “That’s enough, Red Harry.”
He pretended to be afraid. “Cheese it! The cops!” He’d been saying that to her ever since he saw an old gangster movie.
“Go back to the cafeteria or I will report you.”
“I’m allowed to get a drink of water.”
“You’re not allowed to pick on younger students. Now get moving.”
“What a grouch,” Red Harry said, making his audience laugh again. They followed him into the cafeteria like a row of ducks.
She looked at Petey. “Are you all right?”
“Just wet.” He showed her where the water splashed his pants.
“You might as well go to class.” She went into the girls’ bathroom, grabbed a handful of paper towels, and returned. Petey still stood there. She dropped the sheets of paper towel one by one over the puddles on the floor. “You know, Petey, you’ve got to start standing up for yourself.”
“What do you want me to do, fight him?”
“Of course not.” Violet remembered something her father told her. “Bullies want to make people afraid. If you show them that you aren’t afraid, they stop. Find someone else.” She picked up the wet paper towels then faced him. “You should have walked away like he didn’t matter to you at all, gotten your drink at the fountain by the office.”
“Oh,” Petey said, looking thoughtful.
“I have to go.” She tossed the towels in the wastebasket in the Girls Room and hurried to the playground door. Nothing interesting ever happened there, but she waited patiently until the bell rang. Then she went to class.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
I wrote this middle-grade book with the help of my granddaughters, aged seven and ten. They created the characters and plotted the entire book during our brainstorming sessions. I wrote the actual words, but they were changed many times over by the girls’ edits. It’s truly their book. When the story was right, they illustrated it, and we published with Create Space under the pen name R.A.P. Smolen (Roxanne, Aurora, and Persephone Smolen.) It was quite a learning experience for all of us. I hope you’ll buy the book for the kid in your life.