Ever since her parents got divorced, Pia has worked hard to make sure everything in her life is Perfect, with a capital P. But everything keeps going wrong. She and her sister get into a fight. Pia falls down the stairs and hurts her ankle. She spills chocolate milk all over her lucky outfit. She accidentally studied for the wrong test. And her best friend still isn’t speaking to her since she got mad at him for throwing her a surprise birthday party. Now Pia has a big race this afternoon and she’s pretending her ankle is fine. But she has to win the race. She has to!
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Copyright © Alice Kuipers 2020
Published in Canada and the United States in 2020 by Orca Book Publishers. orcabook.com
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Title: Pia's plans / Alice Kuipers. Names: Kuipers, Alice, 1979– author. Series: Orca currents. Description: Series statement: Orca currents Identifiers: Canadiana (print) 2020017598X I Canadiana (ebook) 20200175998 I ISBN 9781459823785 (softcover) I ISBN 9781459823792 (PDF) IISBN 9781459823808 (EPUB) Classification: LCC PS8621.U38 P53 2020 I DDC jC813/.6—dc23
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020930585
Summary: In this high-interest accessible novel for middle readers, Pia has been desperately trying to make sure everything is perfect ever since her parents separated.
Orca Book Publishers is committed to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in the making of our books. We make every effort to use materials that support a sustainable future.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Edited by Tanya Trafford Design by Ella Collier Cover photograph by Gettyimages.ca/skynesher Author photo by Emma Love
Printed and bound in Canada.
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To Jackie. I am so thankful for every writing minute.
I put my math workbook into my black bag. Dad bought it for me a year ago, but it looks brand-new. I clean it regularly. And I empty it as soon as I come home from school. I watched that show about tidying up. And how tidying up is magic. I think to myself, Tidy bag, tidy mind. I put two fingers on my wrist and count my heart rate. My heart seems to be beating normally.
Good. I slide my laptop into my bag and then close the silver clasp.
I call out to my sister, Nia. There’s no answer. Weird. I wonder where she is. I text Jay to let him know that I’m on my way.
I grab a protein bar from Dad’s pantry. I helped him organize things in here. Everything is labeled. All the dry goods are in glass jars. At least this space is tidy. The rest of his place is a complete mess. I glance over at the laundry basket. It’s overflowing. I will run a load later tonight. My dirty running gear is in there. I am not going to think about the race earlier today. I check my heart rate again. My heart has sped up. Of course it has.
I go out the front door, closing it behind me. Outside it’s warm. Fluffy, white clouds float in the sky. I check that I’ve locked the front door, then make my way to Jay’s house. I put in my earbuds to listen to a short podcast—Winning at Life.
My phone rings. It’s so loud that it hurts my eardrums.
“Hey, Pia, are you nearly here?” Jay asks.
“You know I am. I just told you I was on my way,” I say into my cell phone. “Why are you being weird?” Jay and I have been best friends since we were four and in preschool.
“I’m not being weird,” he says.
“Have you got everything ready? I don’t want to waste any time.”
“Everything’s ready.” He still sounds like he’s being weird. He says, “I’m your best friend, aren’t I? So, um, yeah. The books are out. Snacks are on the table.”
I smile into my phone. “Perfect.” We have a big math test every week for the next four weeks. I’m so stressed about it.
“But you’ve already studied loads for tomorrow,” says Jay.
“Not enough. I really need tonight’s study session. Thank you.”
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. But how are you doing?” he asks.
“I’m okay.” I sigh. I want to tell him that I’m not okay, not really. But saying it doesn’t change what happened today. There’s no point in telling him I feel terrible.
“I can’t believe Panda B. won your race,” he says.
Panda. That’s really her name! She’s the only Panda I know, but everyone calls her Panda B. Anyway, earlier today she won the Star track meet 400 meters. My race.
That’s not the worst part. In the history of our school, the person who wins the Star track meet always wins the Aces track meet. It’s destiny.
Except it’s supposed to be my destiny to win. Not Panda’s.
“I know,” I say. “But, as they say, ‘Aim to win next time.’ ” It’s something I just heard on the podcast.
“Who says that? It seems intense.”
“It is intense. But you do what you have to do. There’s no way Panda B. is going to win the Aces race.”
“I don’t know, Pia. You know how it always goes. Panda B. won the Stars today. So maybe the next race…” He trails off.
I grit my teeth. “I’m never going to let her win again,” I say.
“Okay, relax, Pia. You’ll rock the math test tomorrow. But, um, well, maybe I should tell you something.”
“You can tell me face-to-face,” I say as I turn toward his house. “I’m here.” I end the call.
Jay lives in a really cute house. It reminds me a bit of a box of chocolates. It has red wooden walls and white window trim. As I get closer I notice that the paint on the front door needs a touch-up. I should offer to help them get it all tidied.
Just as I knock I hear a strange noise coming from the backyard. Kind of a shushing sound. I frown. Then I hear a crash, also from the backyard. Then giggles. I knock again. No one answers.
So, I walk around back. “Hello,” I call as I go through the creaky gate. “Anyone here?”
And then it happens.
About ten people jump out of the bushes and from behind the old barbecue. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” everyone shouts. I see Nia with her friend Pippa. They’re smiling and clapping. “We got you so good! You had no idea!”
I see Jay’s mom. And several of our friends from school. I notice a table full of food. There are hot-dog buns, and there’s a huge salad. “Happy birthday, Pia,” Jay says. He jumps out at me from behind a garden chair.
“It’s not my birthday,” I say quietly.
“I know!” he cries. The excitement has clearly gotten to him. He’s smiling so much! “I thought this could be your own special day. You never get that.”
“We’re supposed to study today,” I say. My voice is trembling. I notice a cake. Happy Birthday, Pia! is scrawled across the top in loopy orange icing. Just my name on it. I’ve never had a cake with only my name on it before. It is a beautiful cake. White icing with little black musical notes all over it. Not many people know how much I love music.
I should feel happy.
But I don’t even need to check to know that my heart rate is much higher than normal.
I lost the race today. It has basically been the worst day ever. Tomorrow was going to be better. I was going to study for the test and kick its butt.
This surprise party is a nightmare.
Of course, I know that I’m overreacting, but it feels like the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Worse even than coming in second to Panda B.
I can’t be here. I have to leave.
I turn and march out of the yard.
“Where are you going?” I hear Nia yell.
Then Pippa’s voice floats after me. “She’s such a stress bomb.”
I march down the street, away from the house. Away from the surprise party. I hear feet thundering along the sidewalk behind me.
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