This story takes place in January 1998, when the Septuplets are in the tenth grade.

Snowed Out
A Carlson Septuplets Story

Every day, when Mr. Carlson got home from work, he turned on the local public radio station. The Septuplets never wanted to listen to it; usually, it was boring and distracted them from homework (or from the television, often in Melissa's case). One of the Septs would usually turn it off, and then Mr. Carlson would wonder why anyone would want to turn it off and switch it back on again. It would go on like this until someone got tired of fighting over it, or until the Septs finished their homework and didn't care anymore, whichever came first (usually the latter). One typical January night, Mr. Carlson turned on the radio. Monica, Molly, and Michelle were in the back room doing their homework, but the other four were in the living room. Mary was doing her math homework. Melissa had her science book out but was watching TV instead of reading it. Megan and Meredith were trying to read a very boring textbook on which it was hard to concentrate, so Megan got up to turn the radio off.

Right before she reached the radio, the weather report came on. "There is a winter weather advisory in effect tonight for all of our listening area. Expect possible accumulations of three to five inches overnight with a chance tomorrow of--" Then Megan turned it off.

"Wait!!" Mary cried, "Turn that back on! What were they saying about snow?" The Septuplets, like most kids, religiously followed the weather reports when there was a chance of lots of snow -- which meant a chance that schools would be closed.

Megan turned the radio back on again, but the weather report had already ended. "Turn on the Weather Channel," she suggested. Melissa reached for the remote and punched in the number for the Weather Channel. The screen showed a radar map of the United States with a huge mass of green spreading from eastern North Dakota to Wisconsin, and as far south as Nebraska. The mass of green, of course, indicated a storm. They all listened intently to the forecast, hoping to hear that the storm was coming to Michigan.

"The winter storm that dumped ten to twelve inches of snow on the central plains states continues to move east, towards the Great Lakes region," the meteorologist explained. Then the map changed to show the Midwest. It was color coded in shades of pink, indicating light or heavy snow. The Detroit area, where Westfield was located, was colored medium pink--that meant 3 to 6 inches of snow were expected. Then the local forecast came on, which confirmed that.

"Expect flurries this evening," Meredith read off the screen, "and snow showers overnight and tomorrow morning with a possible accumulation of six inches by midday. A winter storm watch is in effect tonight. Tomorrow, 100% chance of snow, high in the low twenties, with winds gusts of up to 30 miles per hour."

"Yay!!" Megan and Mary cried. "No school tomorrow!"

"Don't get so excited," said Molly, who had just appeared in the doorway. "We haven't got the snow yet. And you know what our superintendent is like. We never get snow days, unless there's about three feet of snow."

Megan and Mary frowned, and Melissa commented, "But we're supposed to get six inches of snow. They'll have to close school if we get that much. Some other places already got twelve inches from this storm. I'm not even going to worry about school tomorrow." She closed her science book (which she hadn't been reading) and put it in her backpack, then continued watching television.

"Well, I'm going to finish my homework," Megan said, "because we still might have school tomorrow. But if we do get six inches of snow, they'll have to close school!"

"I hope we do," Meredith said. Everyone nodded in agreement.


All the Septs did their homework except Melissa, but they remained hopeful that they'd get some snow and school would be canceled.

At 6:15 the next morning, Megan woke up. She remembered that it was supposed to snow overnight. Excited, she jumped out of bed and peered out through her blinds. There was not a flake of snow on the ground. Feeling very disappointed, she went back to bed for another ten minutes.

The Septs had to be up by 6:25 to get to school on time. At 6:25 exactly, Michelle's alarm clock went off. Monica, who was the other Sept with a room in the basement, could hear the clock through the thin wall between their rooms. Both of them got up quickly -- much less lazily than on days when they expected that they would have to go to school -- and ran out into the family room outside their bedrooms to the nearest window. Looking up out of it, they too were disappointed. Six inches of snow had not suddenly fallen since Megan looked out the window of her second-floor room. Michelle and Monica gloomily trudged up the stairs to eat breakfast and get ready for school, just like any other normal day.

"I can't believe it didn't snow," Melissa said, scowling, as she came downstairs for breakfast. "They said we'd get six inches!!"

"I told you, Mel," Molly said, joining the other three from her room at the back of the first floor. "You should've done your homework."

"Oh, be quiet, Molly," Melissa snapped, still scowling. She snatched the box of cereal that was sitting on the table away from Molly, who was about to grab it, and fixed herself a bowl.

"It'll probably snow while we're at school, then," Michelle noted. "And then they'll have time to clear the snow."

"Awwww," the others moaned disappointedly.

Megan, Mary, and Meredith joined the rest of the Septs for breakfast. Mr. and Mrs. Carlson, who didn't have to leave as early as their kids did, followed later, just as the Septs were heading out the door to school.

"It's not even that cold out," Melissa said. "I'm going to wear my new coat, then." Melissa had just bought a stylish new coat that she wanted to show off to her friends. Since she already had a winter coat, her parents wouldn't pay for it as they did with most of the Septs' clothes, but that didn't bother Melissa very much because she had got it on sale, which was why she could afford it. The reason it was on sale was that it was not very warm; more of a fall jacket than a winter coat, it was really too cold for such a coat now.

"Melissa, that coat isn't warm enough," Mrs. Carlson said. "It's supposed to get colder later today."

"It was supposed to snow last night, but did that happen? Noooo!" Melissa replied.

"Mel, take your warmer coat," Mr. Carlson insisted.

"I don't need it. I'm wearing this one."

"You can borrow my earmuffs if you want," Mary offered to Melissa. Mary had just got a new ski hat for Christmas which she was wearing instead. It was warmer than her earmuffs, and she expected that it would be much colder later, when they were walking home.

"No, thanks," Melissa said in a sarcastic tone. "I don't want to look like some sort of alien." Mary's old worn-out earmuffs did look a little funny, as even Mary herself would admit, and Melissa didn't want them to cancel out any extra style points she would earn with her new jacket.

Mary shrugged. "Suit yourself."

"Can I take 'em?" Molly asked. "I don't have a hat, or a headband or anything."

"Sure." Mary gave the earmuffs to Molly instead, who didn't mind wearing funny-looking earmuffs as long as her ears were nice and warm.

"Melissa, I want you to dress warmer than that. You'll freeze out there," Mrs. Carlson said sternly.

"I'm fine, Mom!" Melissa insisted, sounding annoyed. "Good bye." She stomped off out the door, still in a bad mood about not having a snow day. Her sisters followed her in a disappointed but less sulky manner.


Most of the Septuplets had their first-hour classes in windowless rooms, so they couldn't see what the weather was like outside. In fact, Meredith and Michelle were the only ones who had classes with windows first hour. They could see what was happening outside, but the others couldn't. So they just assumed that a few very tiny little snowflakes -- the kind that didn't even stay on the ground -- were still falling outside, just like when they were walking to school. At first that was true, but half way through their first class, Michelle and Meredith saw that the snow was falling much more heavily than it had been 40 minutes earlier. At Westfield High School that year, they had just introduced a new "block scheduling" system, where there were four classes per day, each 87 minutes long, and there were two alternating days with different classes. So the classes were pretty long. Long enough, at least, for the weather to change drastically. By the end of first hour (even though they were technically longer than an hour, everyone still called them hours) the snow was falling so thickly and in such big flakes that a thick layer of white powder already covered the ground!

The bell (which was actually more like a computer-generated tone) rang to signal the end of first hour, and the halls filled with students. Most of the halls were windowless as well, but when they got to the end of some of them, the students could see outside.

"Whoa, look at it out there," remarked Zoe Theeworth as she and Monica walked through the crowded halls together. "It's like a blizzard or something."

"Yeah," Monica agreed. "Too bad we didn't get this last night, or we'd have a snow day!"

"If it keeps snowing that hard, we probably will. They might close school."

"Are you kidding? They never close school in the middle of the day. I can only remember that happening once in my entire life time, when me and Mary went to the Montessori school."

"I think I remember that," Zoe recalled. "That was in first grade, I think. They closed the public schools too. Well, they did it then, they might do it again!"

"I really doubt it," Monica said. "The school board never closes school anymore, especially in the middle of the day. Maybe we'll get out ten minutes early, at least."

She and Zoe walked to their second hours, neither of which had windows. Almost half the rooms in the school had no windows. The rest of them -- the ones that were on the outer edges of the building -- had whole walls of glass. Melissa, Molly, and Megan were in classrooms like that, and they watched as the snow continued to pile up outside.


After second hour, the lunch hour started. There were three lunch hours at Westfield High School; students with 'A' lunch went straight to the cafeteria after second hour; students with 'B' lunch went to the first half of third hour, then to lunch, then to the second half of third hour; 'C' lunch followed third hour.

Megan, Meredith, and Melissa all had 'A' lunch. As they walked to the cafeteria, they passed the Senior Courtyard, which was a small courtyard where only seniors could eat. No one was eating out there that day, though. Looking out the windows, they could hardly see the picnic tables that sat only seven or eight feet from the doorway. The snow was falling so fast and in such big flakes that it was nearly impossible to see that far away. The wind didn't help either: snowflakes whirled around in the air violently before landing on the thick drifts of snow.

"Wow," Meredith said. "Look how much it snowed!"

"Great, we have to walk home through all that," Melissa griped. "I wonder if Tanya's got a ride today; maybe she'll let me come...."

"C'mon, I'm hungry," said Millie Roscher, Meredith's friend, dragging her into the cafeteria. The huge cafeteria was lined with windows on two sides, so they could still see the snow. In fact, they couldn't see anything but snow outside. It was snowing too hard.

The 'A' lunch kids ate their food and left in about half an hour. Then the 'B' lunch kids started trampling in. Among them were Mary and Molly and Molly's friend Ruby. The three of them sat together, eating lunch as usual and staring out the window at the snow. After about ten minutes, one of the two assistant principals, Ms. Riller, came into the cafeteria and picked up a microphone that was always plugged into the wall. No one expected anything unusual. The principal and assistant principals were always making announcements.

"Can I have your attention, everyone," Ms. Riller said. About half the kids gave her some attention; the rest just kept talking. "Due to the weather conditions...." she continued, and hearing those words everyone stopped talking and listened, guessing what she was going to say next, "...the school board has decided to close school." Here an enormous cheer erupted from the 350 kids in the cafeteria. "Quiet, please, everyone. What we're going to do is release school in a few minutes. The buses are running so those of you who usually ride them are okay. Everyone else, unless you live very close to the school, you shouldn't walk home today. Those of you who need rides should find someone who has a parent or sibling who can drive, and car pool together. We are allowing you to use the office phone instead of the pay phone to call and arrange rides...."

Ms. Riller continued explaining the procedure in the cafeteria. Meanwhile, the other assistant principal, Mr. Orrey, was saying the same thing over the PA system in the classrooms.

"See, I told ya they would close school," Zoe said with a huge grin to Monica, who just happened to have another class with her.

"That's great!" Monica said. "I don't mind admitting you were right!"

Mr. Orrey finished explaining the procedure about buses and car pools and then dismissed school. That was at 11:30 AM. After that, mass confusion broke out in the school. The Septuplets, who were scattered out in different classes and lunches, didn't know exactly what do. They didn't ride the bus since they lived close enough to walk., but none of them wanted to walk through the snow. Mr. Orrey had mentioned that it was probably not safe to walk home if you lived too far away because it was too cold, and the wind was blowing so hard that it would be hard to see, not to mention the extreme wind chill. The cafeteria, where Molly, Mary, and Ruby were, was the most confused place of all. On a normal day, it was hard to get out of there because it was so crowded, and it was even worse on that day when no one knew what they were doing. Some wanted to go back to their third hour classes and get the bags, some wanted to meet friends on the other side of the cafeteria, some wanted to find friends who weren't in the cafeteria, and some didn't know what they wanted to do.

"We need to find the others," Molly said.

"Yeah," Mary agreed. "I wonder if they've found a ride? I don't really want to walk home."

"My dad might be able to give you guys a ride," Ruby offered. "I'm going to go call him. He's at work now but he might be able to come, and bring his van."

"Our mom works at the library in town," Molly said. "She might be able to drive us. She's got the Sept Van."

"No, not today," Mary realized. "Remember, last night she was complaining about what the weather would be like, because said she had to go to a meeting and it was a long drive."

"Oh, yeah," Molly said disappointedly. "And Daddy's in Lansing, which is an hour's drive in good weather. He couldn't get here quick enough."

"Well, I'll call my dad and tell you what's going on," Ruby said.

"We'll come with you to the office. We really need to find everyone else," Molly said.

They pushed and shoved through the crowd to get to the one door of the cafeteria and went to the office. About half the school was already in line to use the phone. "Aww, I don't want to wait through this," Ruby complained.

"Well, we'll go look for our sisters and then come back and meet you right here," Molly said. "We'll only take about ten minutes."

"I won't even be half way through this line by then," Ruby grumbled.

"C'mon, Mary," Molly said, and the two of them went off to find the other Septs. They looked in a few of the classrooms. They found Monica and Zoe in their classroom, and then Megan and Meredith by their lockers, but they couldn't find Melissa and Michelle.

"Does anyone know what classes they have right now?" Mary asked.

"Melissa just had lunch with us," Megan replied. "She goes to Economics right after lunch."

"Okay, let's look in the Econ room then," Molly suggested. They trudged through the crowded hallways to the Economics classroom, but Melissa wasn't in there. "Of course," Molly said, "Why would Melissa wait around in Economics? She probably went and got a ride without even telling us. That little creep."

"C'mon, Molly, she probably just went to find us," Megan said. "Let's keep looking for her."

They didn't know it, but Molly was right after all. Michelle had found Melissa right away, because she knew Melissa had Economics and went straight to the classroom after they heard the announcement. So Michelle tagged along with Melissa. They had been unsuccessful in getting a ride with Tanya Kalis, who got a ride with some seniors who had a car but they said there was not enough room for Melissa or Michelle too. Actually, there was room if they squeezed in tightly, but the seniors didn't want to give a bunch of sophomores a ride, and they were only giving Tanya one because her sister was a senior who was riding with them. But Melissa had a back-up plan.

"Let's ride the bus home," she suggested.

"What do you mean, the bus?" Michelle wondered. "There's no bus that stops at our house. We live too close to the school."

"Yes, actually, there is a bus," Melissa said, looking at the map of the bus routes outside the office. "See, look at this. Bus 'Y' stops a little ways past our house, in the subdivision next to ours. If we rode that bus, we could get off at...lemme see...." She paused to look at the map, tracing the route wieh her finger. "The second stop. And that stop is actually closer to our house than the school is. Just look at the map and see."

"'re right, it does look closer," Michelle agreed.

"Then let's ride it."

"But..." Michelle hesitated. She wasn't sure about riding a bus, since they had never ridden the bus home since third grade, and especially on a bus that didn't even stop in their subdivision that they had never been on before. "What about everyone else?"

"You mean our sisters? Don't worry about them, I'm sure they'll find a ride." Melissa didn't want to bother looking for them in the crowded, chaotic school; that could make them miss the bus.

"We should at least try to find them, so they can get a ride too! They're probably looking for us right now."

"Oh, fine. Let's go look for them." They went to their lockers (which were all in a group thanks to the alphabetical order) but they had missed the others. They looked in a few classrooms but they couldn't find them.

"Forget it, Michelle," Melissa said. "I'm sure they found a ride. Let's hurry or we'll miss the bus."

Michelle shrugged and followed Melissa out to get on the bus. "This one?" she asked when they were standing in front of a bus with a tag that said 'Y' in the window.

"Yeah. Now come on, get on, it's freezing and windy and snowy and slushy out here." Michelle hesitated, but Melissa shoved past her and got on, so Michelle followed.

Meanwhile, the other Septs had given up looking for Michelle and Melissa. Zoe was still with them because she lived very close to the Carlsons and had to go the same way, so she was tagging along. They hadn't run into any of their other friends either, except the Roschers who were hurrying to catch their bus. They looked for Mindy Thorne because she also lived near them, but they couldn't find her anywhere. They also looked for Ruby in the line outside the office. She was nowhere to be found.

"I bet they got a ride with Tanya's sister," Molly assumed about her two sisters, sounding very annoyed. "And Ruby's probably long gone. We spent so much time looking for Melissa and Michelle that we missed her."

"What are we going to do, then?" Megan asked.

Mary shrugged. "Walk home, I guess."

"They said not to walk home unless you lived really, really close," Meredith pointed out.

"Well, what else are we going to do?" Mary questioned. "We don't live that far away, anyway."

"Yes we do," Molly noted.

"We still don't have a ride," Megan pointed out. "The only thing we can do is walk."

Monica, Meredith, Molly, and Zoe exchanged worried glances. Then Molly said, "You're right. There's not much we can do except walk home."

"Okay then," Mary said. "Let's go." She put her ski hat, mittens, and fuzzy neckband on and headed for the door. The others did the same thing and followed. Molly was extremely glad she had borrowed Mary's old earmuffs.

They marched out the door and were immediately blasted by a fierce gust of wind, complete with icy flakes of snow that stung their faces like frozen needles. The wind was very strong and almost toppled Megan over, who hadn't been expecting it. She tried to pull her exposed cheeks, which had already turned bright pink from the cold, inside her short collar, but it didn't help very much. "I wish I had a scarf," she said.

Mary, who had a very high collar and the fuzzy neckband, gave the neckband to Megan. "Here, take that," she said, "I don't really need it."

"Oh, you don't have to do that," Megan said, but Mary made her take it. She had, for some reason, far more winter accessories than she actually needed.

"I already have this collar. I just wish I had my ski goggles," Mary said. It would have helped them a lot to have goggles, because the snow was falling so quickly and the wind was stinging their eyes so much that they could hardly see where they were going. Meredith had extra long sleeves and insulated pockets on her coat, so she gave her thick mittens to Zoe, who only had a very thin pair of gloves and her hands were already like blocks of ice. Zoe put the mittens on over her first pair of gloves and felt much better, although no one felt very good.

The buses were just leaving as the five Septs and Zoe trudged past them. From inside the heated bus, Michelle and Melissa peered out the window. "Hey, look, Mel," Michelle said, "It's Monica and Zoe and the others. They're walking home. Maybe they want to ride the bus too?" Michelle started banging on the window, but the kids outside couldn't hear it through the sound of buses and wind blowing.

"They can't hear you," Melissa said. "Too bad for them. Oh well. They'll probably be home before us anyway." Melissa didn't realize how right she was.

Her first clue that something was wrong came when the bus turned the wrong way onto the main road. That's weird, she thought, our subdivision's the other way. They're probably just taking a different route; maybe the roads are blocked the other way....

"Hey Mel," Michelle said, "This isn't the way to our house." Melissa explained what she was just thinking so both of them were calm for a while. But when the bus went farther and farther in the wrong direction, both of them got a little nervous.

"This definitely is not the way to our house," Michelle said.

"I know!" Melissa explained. "What's going on?! They're going the wrong way!"

"No they're not," said a boy who was sitting behind them and had overheard Melissa shouting. "This is the way this bus is supposed to go."

"Which bus is this?" Melissa demanded.

"Bus 'Y'," the kid explained.

"Bus 'Y' is supposed to go to the subdivisions by Redcove Middle School!" Melissa shouted at him.

"No, it's not," the boy said in a condescending tone. He could see that he was making her miserable, and he found it rather amusing. He was a junior who thought it was funny to pick on freshmen and sophomores; plus, he knew that these were two of the Carlson Septuplets and he assumed that they thought they were really cool because they had a movie coming out later that year. He didn't like sophomores who thought they were cooler than himself, so he decided to make fun of them.

"Yes it is! The map said that bus 'Y' goes to the Redcove School area!" Melissa was becoming very frantic.

"Well, it doesn't," he said. "You probably read it wrong. Bus 'Y' goes to the other side of Westfield. By Marshall Middle School, not Redcove."


The boy shrugged and laughed. "Well, that's where this bus goes. You should've taken bus 'P', not 'Y'."

Melissa ignored the boy and turned to Michelle, who was equally frantic. "What are we going to do now?" she cried. "We're going to have to walk home all the way across town! It's like, six miles or something!"

"Holly Quest lives over there," Michelle said. "Maybe we could go to her house?"

"Okay. Let's try that." Melissa calmed down for a while, until Michelle noticed that Holly wasn't on the bus.

"I didn't see her at school today either," Michelle said. "I think she was sick or something."

"Oh NO!" Melissa said. Then she thought of a solution. "Well, if she's sick, she'll be at home, right? Let's still go to her house anyway, and get a ride from there when Mom or Dad are home." So they made that their plan.

They got off at the stop near Holly's house. They ran her doorbell, but no one answered. They couldn't see any lights on in any of the windows. "She's not here! No one's home!" Michelle cried.

"They HAVE TO BE HOME," Melissa wailed. She trudged through the snow (which was now almost a foot deep) to the nearest window and peered inside. She didn't see any signs of someone being there. "No one's home! No one!"

"What are we going to do now?" Michelle asked.

"I don't know!" Melissa cried.

"We'll have to walk from here," Michelle realized.

"NO! We can't walk! It's too cold and I can hardly see through this snow and it's too windy and we'll freeze to death before we can get home!"

"Well, what else are we going to do?!?" Michelle demanded. She was pretty annoyed with Melissa for ever suggesting that they take the bus. She knew it wouldn't help to get angry and yell at her about that now, though, and she didn't really want to make Melissa feel worse than she already did. Besides, Michelle had agreed with the plan. Now she just hoped Melissa could think of another plan, this time with better results. Or that she could think of one herself. "Isn't Marshall Middle School around here somewhere?" Michelle remembered.

"Yeah, I think...but Holly went to Redcove with us! If she lives here then it can't be that close to Marshall."

"But Holly moved last year. Now she lives closer to Marshall. C'mon, I know it's around here somewhere. Maybe we could use the phone there? It's the only place I know of in this area that's open. And heated. And has a phone. I think it's that way. Let's go."

"Are you sure?" This time is was Melissa's turn to ask that question.

"More sure than you were about the buses," Michelle said. Besides being extremely cold and lost, she was starving because she had 'C' lunch and school was canceled before 'C' lunch started. Since she was so miserable, she didn't care about hurting Melissa's feelings anymore. Melissa just glared at her. "Oh, come on," Michelle said, and they headed off through the blinding wind and snow.


Meanwhile, Zoe and the other Septs continued their journey through the snow. They had to go through a long passageway that was between the school's football and baseball fields. The walkway was enclosed by a chain link fence with barbed wire on top. Since there was a flat field on one side and a slant for bleachers sloping downward on the other side, there was no shelter and wind was even more intense. They couldn't go anywhere but through the narrow walkway with the fence around it. Inside the fence, the wind was blowing snow through one side but it was getting caught and not blowing through the other side of the fence. That made the snow inside the walkway much, much deeper. It was almost two feet deep in some places, instead of a little less than a foot outside the fence.

Mary still lead the way; with her head down out of the wind, she couldn't see at all, but it didn't matter because they couldn't see when they had their heads up either, thanks to the wind and snow. She couldn't go very fast at all because the snow was so deep. Meredith followed directly behind her, stepping in Mary's trail so it was easier to move, and the others followed in that pattern. Molly was third in line, and she was looking up despite the wind and snow. One moment she saw Meredith ahead of her, the next, she was gone.

"Hey, what gives?" Zoe called when Molly stopped. Her voice startled Monica and Molly because it was the only sound except the noise of the wind. Then Zoe noticed that Mary and Meredith weren't there. "What happened to Mary and Meredith? They were right here!"

Suddenly Mary's head popped out of the snow in front of them. "Sorry," she called. "I tripped on something and fell in the snow."

"And then I tripped on her and fell on top of her," Meredith added, also popping out of the snow.

"There's a drift here that's really deep," Mary said. "Maybe even four feet. I can't get through it."

"Great, what now?!" Monica cried. "We can't go around 'cause of these stupid fences, and we can't climb over thanks to the barbed wire!"

"Look, we're almost to the Redcove Middle School parking lot," Mary said, pointing. That was where the walkway ended. No one had noticed it before because they had all been looking down and they were blinded by the snow anyway. "It's only about six feet to the end of this walkway. If we can dig though the snow a little ways, it'll be really easy to get through once we get to Redcove."

"Okay," they all said, and started shoveling snow out of the way with their hands as the only tools. Zoe came up ahead and started doing most of the work. "I've got these huge thick gloves," she said, "so I can do it fastest without freezing my hands off." Everyone else's hands were already nearly frozen solid, but they all helped as Zoe lead the way out of the snow.

All of them were so cold and their faces stung so much that they were sure they had frostbite. They could still hardly see because of the blowing snow. "I think my nose is really frostbit," Meredith said exhaustedly.

"Don't be so dramatic, Meredith, you're not in a play right now," Molly said. "We all feel that way. Just keep shoveling snow and you'll warm up." So they did. Even though the cold was terribly painful, they kept going. There was nothing else they could do. Molly was right, they did warm up a little bit, but they were already so cold that it didn't make much of a difference.

After about five minutes of shoveling as fast as their freezing hands could manage, they were out.

"FINALLY!" Molly shouted.

"Hooray!" Meredith cried.

"Let's just hurry up and get home!" Monica exclaimed, and of course everyone agreed with that. They started jumping through the relatively shallow snow (it was only a foot instead of four feet) in Redcove's back parking lot. They quickly reached the school, where all the snow was already trodden down where the middle schoolers had plowed through it. They raced down the sidewalk.

"Yes! We're almost home!" Meredith cried, skipping through the snow.

"Only about two more blocks! Yay!" Mary cheered, clomping along in her snow-caked sneakers behind Meredith.

"You can come to our house, Zoe, since it's closer," Monica offered. Zoe just nodded, extremely cold and exhausted but very grateful that she wouldn't have to walk much farther.

They reached the road and bounded across without even looking both ways. Luckily, no one was insane or desperate enough to be driving in that weather, so they didn't get run over. The snow continued to blow harshly at their faces and they were all completely red and numb with cold, but they didn't care; they just ran right through the fierce wind until they reached the Carlson's house. Panting, freezing, and in pain, they plodded up through the deep snow to the Carlson's front door. Mary fumbled around in her backpack's pocket for the key. Her fingers were so numb that she could hardly handle the key, but she managed to shove it awkwardly into the key hole. She turned the lock, and they all burst in through the front door and fell onto the living room floor where they all lay for several minutes, enjoying the heated air. The cats came and stared at the heap of backpacks, coats, boots, hats, and kids lying on the floor. Then they decided to climb around and investigate.

"Hey, I wonder what happened to Melissa and Michelle?" Monica said after one of the cats pounced on her head.

"I haven't a clue," Meredith said. "We tried to find them, and that's all we could do, so don't worry about it."

"I'm sure they got a ride home," Mary said. They looked at the clock. "Wow, it's already 12:45! School got out an hour and fifteen minutes ago! I know we waited around at the school for a while, but still, it must have taken us a really long time to get home!" It usually only took them fifteen minutes. No one knew exactly when they had left so they didn't know how long it took this time, but they knew it was a lot longer (and a lot colder) than usual.

"If they're not already here, then they're probably at a friend's house," Zoe said.


At about the same time their sisters were breaking out of that deep drift of snow, Michelle and Melissa were still wandering around in that subdivision looking for Marshall Middle School. They had just about given up hope of ever finding it, but they had no other plan to escape the snowstorm, so they kept looking. Although they hadn't been outside for nearly as long as the others had been, they were already frozen stiff. Melissa had no hat or earmuffs, only a thin (but luckily wind-proof) jacket, and thin gloves. Now she wished that she had taken Mary's earmuffs, but she would never admit that. Michelle had a warmer coat and a ski headband, but she was freezing too in that weather.

Melissa was about ready to cry. "What are we going to do?" she cried in despair. "We're lost and we're going to freeze and die out here!"

Michelle wasn't too sure that Melissa wasn't right, but she said, "oh, don't worry, Melissa, I'm pretty sure we're almost there."

"That's what you said a long time ago," Melissa moaned.

"Well, if we can't find it, at least someone in one of these houses will let us in, I'm sure," Michelle suggested.

Melissa definitely did not want to go in some stranger's house. Besides, she was sure no one would be home. That wasn't really a very logical assumption, but Melissa wasn't in a very logical mood.

Just then a car drove up to them. It was only the second car they had seen since getting off the bus. It drove very slowly on the slippery roads, but when it came near Melissa and Michelle, it slowed down even more than the weather required.

The two girls looked at the car (which was hard to see like everything else thanks to the blowing snow). They could see that someone was rolling down the window and sticking their head out.

"Hey, you two! You're two of the Carlson kids, aren't you?"

"Yes!" Melissa cried. Right now she didn't want attention for being famous, she just wanted someone to help them get some place warm with no snow. She had no idea how the person in the car could tell who they were with all their winter clothes on and with their faces down and with the blinding snow, but she didn't really care about that right now.

"I'm sorry, I can't tell which ones you are," the person in the car called. "Well, I'm Mrs. Quest, Michelle's friend Holly's mom. I just wondered if you girls would like a ride? It doesn't look like a very pleasant day to be walking around anywhere!"

"YES!" Michelle and Melissa exclaimed, and they plodded to the car as fast as their cold, numb legs could carry them.

"Michelle!" Mrs. Quest exclaimed in a cheery voice when she saw who it was. She couldn't tell all the Septs apart, but since Michelle was her daughter's friend, she knew that Michelle was the only Sept with short hair and could tell her from the others. "And you are..."

"That's Melissa," Michelle said for her sister. Melissa wasn't in a talking mood. She was sitting there with her teeth chattering, her eyes nearly frozen shut, her hair caked with snow and ice, and her lips purple-blue with cold, with her face right in front of the vent which was blowing hot air.

"Hi, then, Michelle and Melissa," Mrs. Quest said. "I can't help but wonder why you two were all the way on this side of Westfield when your house and your school are miles away. What happened to you two?"

"Basically, we took the wrong bus and got lost over here," Michelle explained. "We tried to go to your house but no one was home."

"Sounds like fun!" Mrs. Quest said in a cheery yet sarcastic voice. She laughed. "I left work early today to pick up Holly's brother, I was just on my way to Marshall right now to get him. Holly's sick today, you know. Her dad took her to the doctor's office. That's where they are right now."

"Oh. That's pretty lucky for us, that you're picking Richard up," Michelle said.

"I'll take you girls home as soon as I get him from school, okay?"

"Sure. Thanks very much!" Michelle replied. Melissa would have said the same, but she was still silently numb.


"Bye, Mrs. Quest!" Michelle called as she and Melissa jumped out of the car in front of the Carlsons' house.

"Yeah, bye, and thanks again!" Melissa added. They ran up to the front door and barged in.

"WE'RE HOME!!" Michelle cried joyously. Melissa collapsed on the floor just as the others had done earlier.

"Hi, you two," Monica greeted them. "We thought you were at someone else's house. What took you so long?"

"It's a long story," Michelle said. "I'll tell ya later. But right now I'm starving!" She looked at the clock. "Whoa, it's already 1:30 and I still haven't eaten lunch yet! I think I'll have hot chocolate and hot soup!" She started boiling some water.

Mary and Meredith had the Weather Channel on again. "Hey, it's supposed to snow all the rest of the day and all night too! This is really weird, we never get this kind of snow in Westfield!"

"Let's take advantage of it while it's here!" Monica shouted. "Who wants to go sledding?"

"NOT ME!" Michelle and Melissa both cried.

" 'bout tomorrow, Monica?" Mary offered. "I've had enough snow for today!"

"Snowed Out" © 1998 by Jessie Mannisto.