The light shines down on all our faces and I can feel mine start to turn red. It was a big night for us. We all had our own goals. For some, it was to prove their smartness. For others, it was to impress their parents, but for me, it was to make a name for myself. Being a nerd was better than being invisible. I scan the crowd of teachers, parents, and the cool kids with my scared beady eyes. It's not like I'm afraid of people I'm just afraid to talk to them.
One by one they get up to stand in front of the microphone. Taking turns either making a fool of themselves or inching closer to their goal. I wiggle nervously around in my chair. My face feels wet not from tears, but instead from sweat. They each get called depending on their last name. I smile as my last name pops into my head. It’s Velden. V is much closer to Z than A.
“Nick Colden! You're next!”
There are 18 letters between C and V. That’s enough time to prepare myself. Why does the alphabet only have 26 letters?
Everyone in the crowd goes wild. At first, I think there’s some things wrong, but then realize Nick is the class clown. Everyone knows him. I wonder what his goal is tonight.
“That is correct! Please head back to your seat”
He wobbles back to his seat. He flashes a smile at everyone on stage and some return it back. Most like me are even nervous to smile.
“Macy Goodwin! Please come up to the front.”
I take a couple of deep breaths and see a girl with ginger hair speed walk to the top of the stage. She looks as nervous as I am. Goodwin? G isn't that far from V. My fingers start to tingle, and I watch her as she stumbles nervously on her words. I start to wrap my fingers around the bottom of my shirt something my mom always told me not to do. I can just imagine her face right now. The face she makes before she scowls at me.
“I’m sorry. That is not correct.”
I watch as Goodwin’s face turns into a tomato and she hurries off the stage. She looks like she's on the edge of tears. Poor girl. I hope my night doesn’t end like that.
This is my only chance to prove myself. I close my eyes a picture myself winning first place. I can almost imagine the cool kids smiling at me. Not the making-fun-of-me kind of smile, but the hey-how-are-you kind of smile. As more names get called the more anxious, I get.
“Charlie Manzil! Your next!”
I match the name with a face in my mind. Charlie is one of the quiet kids. We’ve only talked once. It was in the morning while we walked to class. He had asked me if we had any homework due. I answered by shaking my head. If only the words I had stacked in my mind would magic flow out, then I might have made a friend. There're only eight letters between M and V.
“That’s correct! You may take your seat.”
Charlie walks back to his seat with a big grin on his face. I glance at him and he mouths something I can't quite understand, but from the thumbs up, he gives me I can assume it’s something nice. If I don’t win this, I would like him to.
I get so caught up in worrying about what's going to happen during my turn I'm caught off guard when they call up Luna Turner.
She struts up to the microphone and swings her brown ponytail from side to side. She’s never really liked me, and I've never really liked the death stares I get from her.
“Your word is volunteer Ms. Turner.”
“Can you please give me the definition?”
I cover my smile with my hands. Who doesn’t know what a volunteer is? I use the wasted time by making a mental note that there's only one more letter left, and it’s the letter U.
“I’m sorry. That is not correct.”
She walks off the stage with a smirk on her face and joins the group of cool kids. I'm starting to think her goal tonight was to make the kids who are trying to win look like losers. Anger rushes through my body and I swear I can hear her snicker from the crowd.
“Jaden Ubence! Please come up to the microphone!”
I hear a loud cheer from the audience and guess that it’s Jaden’s family. He’s one of the smart kids. The one who raises his hand during every question asked. He confidently walks to the front. The bright smile on his face looks brighter with the stage light glowing oh his face.
“That is correct. You may go back to your seat!”
I start to panic. Sweat starts to fill up everywhere, and my mouth feels dry. My fingers start to tingle once again. After U comes V.
“Anna Upton! You’re up!”
I start to get up but realize that’s not my name. Embarrassment floods through my cheeks. I look around to see if anyone noticed. Nobody's eyes are on me so I assume they didn’t. Someone in the audience might have seen and are laughing at me right now. My mouth starts to become dry and I stay incredibly still.
While Upton spells out her word, I wonder what word I'll get. I hope it’s the ones I studied extra hard. All the words they have asked so far have been easy, so mine will probably be too.
“That is correct! You can head on back!
I can feel all the goosebumps appear on my arm. In no way can I make a fool of myself tonight. My stomach starts to wrinkle together into a ball. I can already feel everyone's eyes glued onto me.
“Maria Velden! You’re next!”