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By Colleen Messina
1 Stacy wished she could scream and throw herself on the floor in a magnificent tantrum when she heard the news, but that didn't seem suitable. She was tired of moving every couple of years because of her mother's army career, and their new rural town didn't seem exciting. Whereas her brother, Tom, loved new places, Stacy felt that moving often was enough to dishearten anyone. She was a pretty girl in a tomboy kind of way, with hair the color of coffee with cream, and somber, chocolate brown eyes. Stacy wanted to feel that she belonged, but it was always a challenge.
2 It was hard to move in junior high, but moving in high school to an agrarian community was even harder. Everyone had picked out a group of kids to hang out with by high school. Stacy tried to speculate about which group she could be in but found that she was never in one place long enough to be anything except an outsider. She wasn't an athlete, although she was a fast runner. She wasn't a brain, although she usually pulled Bs. She wasn't cool, she wasn't beautiful; she was just her own lonely self. Stacy, the new kid.
3 Moving so often had taught Stacy how to quickly set up a new bedroom so it seemed like home. She paid scrupulous attention to the placement of her bed, and then she hung up her favorite posters. Next, she set up her valuable souvenirs so they were out of reach of Humongo, the family's mastiff. With the precision of a drill sergeant and the artistic flair of an interior decorator, she tried to balance the placement of knick-knacks and books so that her shelves looked organized. She had collected Native American pottery from Arizona, an antler from Montana, and a conch shell from Florida. Stacy had handpicked each treasure from its native habitat.
4 After setting up her room, Stacy's next step in "project integration," was to go check out the school, and if possible, analyze the social scene. She especially studied whether the girls wore makeup and what kinds of jeans they had, because every detail was relevant. Stacy would itemize each observation on a list for shopping purposes. She even studied the student roster to see how many kids were in her grade. After checking things out, Stacy tried to shop within days of any move regardless of the inconvenience, and she always experienced a revival of self-confidence when she had new things to wear.
5 On the first morning of school, Stacy tried to feel optimistic, like Tom. She put on her new clothes and then took her engraved shark's tooth necklace from Hawaii and put it around her neck. It was supposed to bring good luck, and Stacy wore it everywhere, even if it looked clumsy. Stacy tucked it into her new wool sweater so it was not conspicuous.
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