This story takes place on April Fools' Day of 1997.

Look-Alike Chaos
A Carlson Septuplets Story

"Tomorrow's April first," Meredith pointed out one afternoon while all seven of the girls were doing their homework, except for Melissa who was procrastinating and had decided to go channel surfing.

"Yeah. So?" Molly replied.

"So, are we going to do our big April Fools' Day switch this year?" Meredith asked.

"Every year you ask us that, and every year we say no," Molly said. Several years ago, Meredith had come up with the idea that it would be really fun to switch places and fool everyone for an April Fools' Day joke. Most of the other Septs didn't like the idea: they thought it was something only stereotypical identical twins/supertwins did on TV, or they thought no one would fall for it. Meredith brought it up every year, however, in case they had changed their minds.

It looked like this year might be Meredith's lucky year. "I think that's a good idea," Melissa said. "I didn't want to do it last year because Tanya, Louise, and I were doing something together that day and I didn't want to confuse things. But this year I don't have any plans. If you recall, I've always thought it would be fun."

"Yeah, me too," Monica said. "I wanted to do it last year. I guess you guys didn't want to, so we didn't do it. I forget, why didn't you want to?"

The most significant reason they had always decided against switching places was because they thought they'd get in trouble. Not just a little bit of trouble—serious, suspended-from-school type of trouble. At Redcove Middle School, where they had gone for the last three years, the principal reminded them all of something that had happened a few years before: someone had played an April Fools' Day joke that started out as a little prank but somehow turned into a catastrophe. The principal never bothered to tell them what the prank was; he was probably afraid someone would try to do it again. All they knew was that it was something really bad that had come out of an small, innocent trick. After that incident, anyone caught playing any tricks at school got in serious trouble.

"Remember, that speech the principal gave every year about the infamous Redcove Middle School April Fools' Day Disaster?" Mary pointed out. "I think that's why we always decided not to do it."

"But we're at the high school this year," Meredith said. "There's no rules like that there, I don't think."

"She's got a point," Megan said. "But do we even want to do it?"

"Yes!" Melissa said enthusiastically.

Meredith agreed, and Monica nodded, and Mary shrugged. "Why not?" she said.

"I'll tell you why not," Molly said. "Because we're not stereotypical idiots. Do you want everyone to think you are?"

"No one will think that," Melissa said. "You're just saying that because you think you'll end up on television."

"I am not," Molly insisted. "I just don't want to do it. But if that's what you guys want to do, I don't care that much." Molly always wanted to avoid anything that could cause them to end up on the TV news. Her friend's dad was in charge of a local news crew and he thought he had the right to film them whenever he wanted because they were his daughter's friends. It was true that Mr. Sanders liked to film the famous Septuplets sometimes, but he did not do it as much as Molly said he did. Television was Molly's usual reason not to do something so all the other Septs assumed that was the reason now.

"Okay, then," Monica said. "Let's do it. Don't worry, Molly. We are not going to end up on the news just because we switch places in school. It's not a big deal. Even a really famous movie star wouldn't be on the news for something little like that."

"I said, that's not the reason," Molly said. But everyone ignored her.

Later that evening, Meredith had all her sisters meet in the big room in their basement where there were lots of old couches and chairs. "So, we're definitely going to switch places tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah," Melissa, Monica, Mary, and Megan replied. Molly said, "I guess so, " and Michelle complained, "I can't."

"Why not?" Molly asked.

"Think about it," Michelle said in a tone implying that all her sisters were stupid. "You all have long hair. My hair is short. So obviously, I can't switch with anyone unless we all cut our hair and I really doubt if you want to carry this little trick that far."

"She's got a point," Monica noted. "I guess you just won't be able to switch places with anyone then. But what about the rest of us? All our hair is pretty close to the same length, right?"

"Yeah," Meredith agreed. "And we'll have to wear it like whoever we're switching with usually wears hers. And we'll have to wear each other's clothes, too. So who's going to trade places with who?"

Most of the Carlsons' friends and relatives thought that although all the Septs looked alike, Mary and Molly were almost indistinguishable from each other to people who didn't know them well. (Actually, people who didn't know them well couldn't usually thought all of them looked exactly the same, but Mary and Molly even looked the same to many people who did know them.) So the Septs decided that Molly and Mary should switch with each other. Megan wanted to switch with Monica because she wanted to go to Monica's ceramics class, so those two switched. Melissa was somewhat disappointed that Michelle couldn't switch with her, because Michelle was the only one she thought wouldn't do anything stupid and "uncool" that would make her look bad. This was not true, but it's what Melissa though. Meredith, however, said that since she wanted to be an actress, she should get to play Melissa because Melissa seemed like she would be the most difficult of her sisters to switch with: Melissa was the least like her and hung around with a totally different group of kids than the rest of the Septs did. Therefore, Meredith switched with Melissa (after assuring Melissa that she wouldn't do anything dumb and make her look like an idiot in front of her friends).

The next morning, all the Septs (except Michelle) got up early to trade clothes with each other. They were careful to pick clothes that only the sister they were trading with would normally wear, and that everyone would associate with that Septuplet. Mary took Molly's sweatshirt that had a logo on it from a chemistry day camp she had gone to last summer, and one of Molly's favorite hats. Molly always wore a hat, which was the only way most people could tell them apart. Mary put it on backwards, just like Molly always did. Molly took one of Mary's Animaniacs shirts, and wore her hair with nothing in it, the way Mary usually did. Megan wore a pair of Monica's overalls, since Monica wore overalls often, and did her hair in Monica-style pig-tails. Monica took Megan's shirt with a picture of kittens and puppies on the front, and put a headband in her hair. Melissa chose Meredith's favorite outfit that she wore very often, and clipped one of Meredith's barrettes in her hair. To make sure that Meredith didn't embarrass her, Melissa picked out a very fashionable outfit with a white baby-tee, black vest, black jeans, her favorite necklace with a peace sign charm, a black and white scrunchy to do her hair in a high ponytail, and high-heeled black suede boots. Meredith hated baby-tees, and the boots drove her crazy, but she was determined to carry out her "role" as Melissa and kept telling herself that actors didn't get to pick their costumes, and if she wore the boots she'd have a better chance at getting an Academy Award someday.

When the Septs came down to eat breakfast, their mom and dad were already downstairs getting ready to go to work. "Okay, what are you kids up to?" their dad asked when he saw them. "You're not fooling us, in case that what you were trying to do."

"Of course we're not trying to fool you," Meredith said. "It's April Fools' Day. We're going to trick the people at school."

"You won't get in trouble for this, I hope?" their mom questioned.

"No," they all replied.

"Michelle, are you taking any part in this?" Mr. Carlson asked. "You're the only one who's dressed like herself."

"Her haircut, Peter," Mrs. Carlson replied. "She wouldn't be able to because her hair is shorter than the others'."

Michelle just sat there silently and shrugged, eating her cereal. She was a little bit angry that she couldn't take part in the trick. She thought it would be fun to switch places, and she was mad that they were going to switch without her. Usually she didn't mind being left out of things the other Septs did; however, that didn't happen very often -- or at least, not because she couldn't take part. When she wasn't included, it was because she chose not to be: most of the time, she would rather spend time with her own friends than with her sisters. The fact that she couldn't even be included if she wanted to made her somewhat sad. It was not like Michelle, however, to pout and be sad so she pretended she didn't care.

"Uh-oh," Mary said, "It's after seven! We're going to be late if we don't go soon: we want to save time to figure out who's going to what classes. Let's go!"

Mr. Carlson dropped them off at school on his way to work. The Septs all had lockers near each other, since it was done in semi-alphabetical order (9th graders got lockers left over from last year's 12th graders, but they were still done in alphabetical order so all the C's were near each other) and so they traded backpacks, textbooks, and binders before school started at 7:30. Then each pair traded schedules and went off to their first hour classes.

For most of the Septs, things started off smoothly. Melissa, however, had a problem: Meredith was taking French and Melissa was taking Spanish. Fortunately for Meredith, Melissa's Spanish class (which was not until last hour) was making greeting cards that day, and she wouldn't be required to actually speak to anyone in Spanish. Melissa, however, was not so lucky. The teacher was calling on students to tell her what various objects were in French.

"Meredith," the teacher said, holding up a pen. "Qu'est-ce que c'est?"

Although Melissa was not the first student to be called on, she still wasn't exactly sure what the teacher was asking. "Um..." she started. Then she had a not-so-bright idea. She started coughing hysterically. "Can I go get a drink, please?"

"Certainly, as soon as you answer the question," the teacher replied.

"Um..." Melissa repeated. Mrs. Carlson had been a French teacher so even Michelle and Melissa, who were not taking French, knew a little bit, but not enough to answer the question.

"It's a stylo," the girl sitting behind her whispered.

"Thank you, Teresa, but I'm sure Meredith could have figured it out," the teacher said, overhearing the girl. "You may get a drink now, Meredith."

Melissa took her time getting to the nearest drinking fountain. She wanted to waste as much time as possible so she wouldn't be embarrassed again by having to answer any more questions.

Second hour went well for all the Septuplets. Then, in third hour, the incident that started all the confusion began. Mary, Molly, and Monica (who was, remember, pretending to be Megan; Molly and Mary were pretending to be each other) all had math class the same hour. No one noticed Molly and Mary had switched because they both would have been in the class anyway. But Monica's friend Elizabeth could tell the Septs apart even when they were dressed like each other. She immediately noticed something was wrong even before the bell rang to start class. "Hey, Monica!" she said loudly to be heard above the talking. "What are you doing here? Where's Megan?"

Molly (the real Molly, not Mary pretending to be Molly) was sitting next to Elizabeth's desk. "Sshhh!" she hissed at Elizabeth. "We switched places for April Fools'. Don't tell anyone.  Pretend that's Megan, and I'm supposed to be Mary and Mary's me. Everyone's switched except for Michelle, because she has short hair," she whispered.

"Oh, okay," Elizabeth said. "Sorry, I didn't know. I hope I didn't spoil it by calling out across the room!"

"I don't think anyone was paying attention," Molly said.

Unfortunately, someone was paying attention. Diantha Wolpee, who hated the Septs for some strange reason, had been sitting at her desk near Molly and Elizabeth when Elizabeth had shouted out. Diantha had heard her and decided to find out what was going on, so she eavesdropped on Elizabeth and Molly's conversation. Because she disliked the Septuplets so much, she decided to spoil their fun and tell everyone she knew about the switch. She whispered to a few people in math class about it, but didn't say much in that class because three of the Septs were right there. After math class, however, the lunch hour started. There is no better time to spread news to a lot of kids than during lunch!

In fourth hour, right after lunch, all the Septs noticed an increase in the number of people whispering and glancing suspiciously at them. They suspected that someone might have told, but they didn't say anything about it because that would let everyone know if they didn't already.

No one said anything about the trick to the six Septs who were switched, but in Michelle's class (Megan was in the class too, pretending to be Monica), there was a very annoying kid who said things very loudly on purpose when it could possibly embarrass, hurt, or spoil someone's secret. "Hey, Michelle!" he said in his loud manner, "Is it true that all your sisters are pretending to be each other and are going to each others classes and stuff?"

Michelle didn't know whether to deny it or admit it. At first she was going to deny, but then the angry and left out feeling she had had that morning returned and she decided to spoil the other Septs' fun. "Yeah," she said. "They're all wearing each other's favorite outfits and going to each other's classes."

It just so happened that Diantha was in that class too. She was pleased at how she had ruined the Septs' trick. Her success made her even more bold so she went up to the teacher and pointed to Megan and announced, "Hey, did you know that's not Monica Carlson?! You don't have the right students in your classroom!"

The teacher, who hadn't been paying attention to the previous conversation between Michelle and the loud kid, looked surprised. "What do you mean, that's not Monica? Who is it, then?"

"It's one of her sisters. They all switched places! Didn't you hear all the rumors?" Diantha demanded.

The teacher didn't seem to know what to do. He didn't think it was against the rules to switch places on April Fools' Day if you had an identical sibling, but maybe it was one of those rules that are so obvious no one even thinks to write them down. "Monica Carlson—or whoever you are—please come to my desk."

Megan had heard what was going on and was extremely angry at Michelle for telling. She was also worried that they would be in a lot of trouble. She went meekly up to the teacher's desk.

"Exactly what is going on here, Miss Carlson?" the teacher didn't usually call students by their last names but that was the only name he was sure of in this case.

"Well," Megan hesitated. She didn't want to spoil the secret, but she figured it was spoiled already so she said, "We decided to go to each others' classes for an April Fools' Day trick. We didn't mean for anything bad to happen! We're not in trouble, are we?"

The teacher, now over his initial shock, seemed to find the situation amusing. "No, I don't think so. But I think—"

Megan never got to find out what the teacher thought because at that moment the P.A. system came on and a voice said, "Teachers, please excuse the interruption. Mary, Megan, Melissa, Meredith, Michelle, Molly, and Monica Carlson, please report to the office at this time."

"Oh, no," Megan groaned. She and Michelle ran down to the office.

"Thanks, Michelle," Megan said sarcastically as they ran. "I suppose you told everyone else, didn't you? That's why we're getting called to the office, isn't it?"

"I didn't tell anyone else except that one kid in class! And...." Michelle tried to think of a good comeback. "And I never said I wouldn't tell, did I?"

Megan just glared at her.

The other Septs and a girl named Ruth Toblet were already in the office when they arrived. Ruth Toblet was Diantha's best friend. Ruth had a malicious grin on her face. One of the school's two assistant principals, Ms. Riller, came out and said, "Okay, girls, what's going on? Ruth tells us that you've tricked everyone and are going to each other's classes."

The Septs glanced at each other. "Yeah," Meredith admitted. "But what's wrong with that? There's no rule against it, not even in that huge school rule book they send home ever September!"

"You're right, there is no rule, so you're not in trouble," Ms. Riller said. The Septs looked relieved and Ruth looked disappointed. "But we're still going to ask that you go back to your normal classes and stop this switching-around thing."

"I don't think that would work," Mary said. "See, we have mostly the same classes, just in different orders. Only a few of our electives are really different courses. So if we went back to our normal classes, we'd end up taking classes we already took this morning! Wouldn't it be better if we just finished the schedule we're on so we don't miss any classes and take some twice?"

"What about their electives? They'll miss something in those if they don't go back to their normal schedules!" Ruth noted.

"Most of us have already had our electives," Monica pointed out.

"You have a point," Ms. Riller agreed. "But the reason we think it would be best if you went back to your normal classes is that your trick has become a disruption to the learning process." She quoted the last line right out of the school rule book. "People are paying more attention to you than to their school work."

"What if we pretended we switched back to our normal schedules, but didn't really?" Meredith suggested.

"But everyone would just figure it out again!" Ruth cried, desperately trying to wreck the Septs' fun.

"Not if you don't tell them," Melissa glared at Ruth.

"I think you can go back to your class now, Ruth," Ms. Riller said. "You've missed enough class already."

Ruth turned to leave. Just as she was walking out the office door, Ruby Sanders and someone they didn't know who was holding a camera burst in to the office.

"Great! You guys are still in here!" Ruby exclaimed. "Someone told us we'd find you here. So, did you really switch places?"

"Yeah," Monica said.

"Why do you care?" Melissa demanded rudely.

"I'm on the school paper, you know," Ruby explained, "and I wanted to do an article about how you switched places!"

"But it didn't work," Mary pointed out.

"Who cares?" Ruby said. "It worked for long enough! No one found out until more than two-thirds of the way through the day!"

"They weren't supposed to find out at all," Molly said. "And anyway, you always find some way to exploit us. Usually you help your dad put us on TV. Now, you're trying to put us in the school paper!" Although Ruby was Molly's best friend, they were always arguing about this issue.

"Oh, come on, Molly," Meredith pleaded. Unlike Molly, she was always trying to be in the spotlight. "It's just the school paper. No one even reads it. Nothing usually happens around here that is worth putting in the paper, so they need a story like this to put in it!"

"Yeah, Molly," Melissa said. "Lighten up. Okay, Ruby, go ahead and write your article."

"Well, I need to know what happened before I can write it! So tell me, what did happen?"

Mary, Monica, and Melissa explained how Meredith persuaded the others to switch places for April Fools' Day, and how everything went smoothly until Ruth Toblet told everyone. They didn't know for sure how she knew, but they guessed that Diantha had somehow found out and told her because Ruth did everything Diantha told her to do. Of course, Ruby didn't put that in the article because they didn't have proof Diantha had told. Then Megan explained how Michelle had told in their class and the Diantha had made a big deal of it and told the teacher.

"You told?" Melissa cried. "Michelle, you idiot! Why did you do that?"

"Well, it didn't matter anyway," Michelle tried to defend herself, "because that's when we got called to the office. By that time, Ruth had already told everyone!"

"Oh, so you didn't switch?" Ruby asked Michelle.

"How could she? She's got short hair!" Mary said.

Ruby finished writing down her notes on the story and then the kid with the camera took a group picture of the Septs for the paper. "Thanks," Ruby said as she was leaving, "this'll really help the newspaper get some attention!"

"So, can we go back to classes now?" Mary asked the assistant principal.

"Yes, go ahead," she replied.

The Septs were walking back to their classes when Mary remembered. "Hey, are we supposed to go back to our real classes or finish the schedule we were on? I don't think Ms. Riller ever said where we were supposed to go, did she?"

"She said we were supposed to go to our normal classes," Molly replied.

"Yeah, at first, but then we pointed out that we would be missing some classes and stuff like that, so she reconsidered it, and then she never told us where we were supposed to go!" Meredith noted.

"Well, I don't know about you guys, but I'm going back to Meredith's schedule. All my stuff is in her class anyways!" Melissa turned and ran down a hallway, leaving the other Septs.

"If she went to my class, I guess I'm going to hers!" Meredith said, and ran off the other way.

"Hey, if they're staying switched than I want to, too!" Monica said. She headed for Megan's class.

"I guess it's decided," Mary laughed. "We pretend we've switched back, but we really haven't!"

"This is getting so crazy that I can't even remember who's who," Molly said. But she agreed, and all the rest of the Septs went back to their switched-around schedules. And for the rest of the day, no one suspected a thing!

"Look-Alike Chaos" © 1997 by Jessie Mannisto.