Claudia is daydreaming in English class and failing a spelling quiz when a new girl who’s dressed like a punk hippie walks into the classroom. Her name is Ashley Wyeth, she takes the desk next to Claudia, and Claudia is instantly fascinated by her. Ashley seems smart but shy – she’s already read the books they’re studying – but Claudia does manage to find out that Ashley is an artist like her, and wants to be a sculptress.
It turns out that Ashley is in Claudia’s art class, too, and Claud’s psyched. Ashley looks through Claudia’s portfolio and tells her she’s really talented – but Ashley’s portfolio is basically professional. Claudia near-craps herself when she finds out Ashley studied at a fancy Chicago art academy. The art teacher informs the class that the local gallery is having a contest that they can enter to have their work exhibited – and win a prize of $250. Claudia is stoked, but then realizes a month isn’t enough time to create something good enough and still keep up with homework, pottery class, and baby-sitting. But Ashley encourages her to change her mind, and even says she’ll help. I’m already suspicious as hell of Ashley but Claudia seems into it.
Claudia has a baby-sitting job for the Rodowskys, during which Jackie manages to spill Rice Krispies everywhere and get his hand stuck down the bathtub drain while the bathroom door is locked. God love ‘im! Claudia manages to get Jackie, Shea, and Archie outside to play Red Light, Green Light, when Ashley Wyeth pops up to say hello. Turns out she lives next door to the Rodowskys. She kind of turns her nose up at Claudia’s baby-sitting life and gives her a little grief for not devoting more time for her art. Feeling a little defensive, Claudia says that she devotes plenty of her time to art and has, in fact, decided to enter a sculpture in the art contest. Still, Ashley’s judgments gnaw at her – should Claudia be taking her art more seriously. And you know what gnaws at me? Ashley seems like a straight up bitch.
At lunch, Ashley convinces Claud to ditch the BSC and eat with her so they can discuss their sculptures. She also talks Claudia into going to an art show at the gallery, which makes Claudia really late for the BSC meeting (which is held at her own house). Ashley doesn’t really seem to care about Claudia’s other commitments; she just wants an “art friend” to do art things with and Claudia is the best artist at SMS. The other members of the BSC aren’t pleased when Claudia shows up late – especially Kristy “I LOVE RULES” Thomas and Stacey, who seems a little jealous of Claudia’s new friendship with Ashley. After all, Stacey is supposed to be Claudia’s best friend. Right?
Dawn is baby-sitting for Gabbie and Myriah Perkins, who are adorable angels, when she gets a phone call from her brother Jeff, who’s been having some issues lately – he’s been acting out and being sullen and moody and saying he hates living with Dawn and their mom and wants to go back to California. (Unfortunately, Dawn and Jeff’s dad does not seem open to having Jeff move back to California with him.) Turns out Jeff is in major trouble at school and can’t reach their mom, so Dawn has to take Gabbie and Myriah with her to go bail him out. She ends up getting back to the Perkins house with the girls after Mrs. Perkins gets home and freaks out because everyone’s gone. (Dawn didn’t leave a note.) That little shit Jeff could have gotten her into major trouble.
Claudia blows off another BSC lunch to sit with Ashley and talk about art, and then another BSC meeting to go art-walking around downtown Stoneybrook with Ashley. Ashley is dead set on the girls sculpting inanimate objects instead of the traditional people or animals. Claud is confused but so happy that Ashley respects her as an ~artist~ that she just goes along with everything. The rest of the BSC is not impressed:
I love this aggressively passive-aggressive entry in the BSC Notebook, especially Stacey’s dig at Ashley’s fashion. The girls get all riled up at the meeting and confront Claudia the next day at school, sniping at Ashley (who’s there too) and demanding to know if Claudia’s quitting the club. Claudia says she’s not but it definitely doesn’t repair the damage with Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Dawn. Ashley seems somewhat pleased with the altercation, saying to Claudia, “Who needs friends when you have art?” Ashley keeps pressuring Claudia to sculpt something “uncommon” for the art show, but Claudia’s not sure.
She is, however, sure that she loves the attention she gets from Ashley. She thinks Ashley is special and talented, so if Ashley likes her, then by the transitive property, she must be special and talented too, right? (But Claud – your BSC friends think you’re special and talented, and they don’t dress like Manson girls!) Claudia falls so deep into Ashley worship that she accidentally blows off plans with Stacey. Stacey is PISSED:
Really, the whole BSC is pissed. At the meeting they decide to raid Claudia’s junk food stash, eat what they can, and then put everything back in the wrong places. They also hide mean little notes around her room. They are seriously pissed. They are also a little worried – they wonder why Ashley seems to want no friends except Claudia, and they think Ashley only likes Claudia because she’s an artist, not because she’s Claudia.
Claudia is starting to figure this out, too. (Finally!) Ashley pops by the Rodowsky house again while Claudia’s sitting, and again is very dismissive of her baby-sitting. But this time Claudia’s like “ARTISTS NEED TO FEEL THINGS AND TO HAVE THINGS IN THEIR LIVES OTHER THAN ART” and tells Ashley off for demanding thanks and claiming debts for things she should have just done as a friend. Then Claudia realizes that she probably lost her other friends and she’s like “ohhhh, shit”. One good thing does come out of that afternoon, though: Claudia decides she’s going to sculpt Jackie Rodowsky for her contest entry.
She goes over to the Rodowskys’ to sketch Jackie, but it’s when Mary Anne is there baby-sitting. Awkwaaard. Not only that, but Ashley comes over again and criticizes Claudia’s choice of sculpture subject, and tells Claudia that she’s “ruining her career”. (Y’all… you’re thirteen.) Mary Anne is impressed that Claudia stands up to Ashley, but not impressed that Claudia has to skip another BSC meeting to go to the library and catch up on homework.
Later that night, Claudia makes three lists of things to do in the categories of Friends, School, and Sculpture Show. First she calls Ashley to explain her decisions.
“My life is very… big. I mean, there’s a lot to it. I have friends and my family and school and art and baby-sitting. Maybe someday I’ll decide I want to narrow things down, but not right now. I like to try new things. I like, what do you call it? Variety, I guess. I’m happiest when I’m busy, even if sometimes I’m too busy.” – Claudia
Ashley hangs up on Claudia, cementing in Claud’s mind the fact that Ashley is not a true friend. You know who is a real friend? Queen Stacey. She listens to Claud and says she still wants to be friends but that they need to talk and figure some things out. Claudia is relieved. Then she has to call Kristy, who doesn’t hang up on her, but who is really short with her. It’ll have to do, though. That’s just Kristin Amanda Thomas. At least Claudia has one fan – Jackie Rodowsky. Even after she tells him that she won’t have his sculpture ready for the show, he hugs her and tells her he loves her. Aww. Jackie’s the best.
Claudia finally attends a BSC meeting and smooths things over with Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Dawn, and explains to them that she hardly ever gets told she’s good at things because she sucks at school, so when a good artist told her she was good she felt important and got carried away. Stacey leads the forgiveness train and they all seem ready to move on and be BSCBFFs again.
Claudia’s art teacher calls her and confesses that she entered Claudia’s work-in-progress sculpture of Jackie in the art show after all. Claudia is terrified that she’s going to get laughed out of the gallery, but she invites her friends and family to come anyway. She sees that Ashley has won first prize (of course) but when she finally sees her own sculpture, she sees that she’s won an Honorable Mention as a work-in-progress. Claudia’s art teacher tells her the judges were very impressed and that she would have won if it had been finished. Claud is shocked and pleased. And everyone lived happily ever after, BYE!