Entry name: Cassandra Grace
Event: Horseback riding (jumping)
Animal name: Lola (best horse in the world!)
Fee enclosed: Um, almost . . .
See, the thing is, I almost have enough money, I have tons of riding students who pay me, but there's this guy, and every time he calls I have to see him, so I've kind of been skipping work lately . . . but I'll have the fee soon, I promise!
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May 23, 2006
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Excerpt from Tourist Trap by Emma Harrison
"Ladies and gentlemen! It is my privilege to present to you this year's graduating class of Lake Logan High School!"
As the entire auditorium echoed with cheers and applause, I sat back in my metal folding chair and grinned. He had said it. Old Mr. Baldetti had actually said the words I had been salivating to hear every single day since first stepping foot inside Lake Logan High. I, Cassandra Grace, was officially a graduate. My life was finally about to begin.
Of course, I had to get through the summer first, but that was all planned out. I had already signed up twice as many riding students as I normally did, hoping to earn the extra money I would need to enter the novice jumper competition at the county fair, which was held at the end of August. Then, when I won that, I would have the $20,000 grand prize in my bank account when I started the University of Vermont in the fall -- money that would be used for food, books, and fun. With all the work and training I was planning on doing, the summer would just fly by. Yes, I had a plan. Cassie Grace always had a plan.
"We did it!" my best friend, Donna Policastro, shouted as everyone shot their mortarboards in the air, then ducked and covered as they rained back down. She climbed over crouching bodies and wove around groups of hugging friends to throw her arms around my neck. She almost succeeded in tackling me to the floor. Luckily, all-state linebacker Michael Grossman broke our fall. "We did it! We graduated!"
"We are so outta here!" I exclaimed.
"Sayonara Lake Logan High!"
Donna's round face beamed and her blue eyes were wide with excitement. Her red curly hair stuck out in all directions, bobby pins hanging out at the oddest angles where she had torn off her cap.
"Adios, small town U.S.A.!" I returned.
Donna's twin brother, Derek, walked up behind her and smirked. His freckles glowed under the stage lights and his thick red hair had been flattened above the ears, then stuck straight out around the base of his neck. Total cap hair.
"Watch out world, the psychos are coming," he said dryly.
"Omigosh! You are so funny!" Donna replied sarcastically, turning to him. "Why don't you take that act on the road? Like, tonight. Really. It's time for you to go."
"Shut up, loser," he said, pulling her into a hug. "Congrats."
She hugged him back, closing her eyes and smiling. "You, too."
The Policastro twins may have talked a big game, but deep down they totally loved each other. And me. We had been an inseparable threesome ever since kindergarten when Rhonda Sickle, a horrible, buck-toothed first grader, had stolen my tricycle on the playground and the twins had thrown pinecones at her until she gave it back. Probably the most exhilarating moment of my life. Yeah, we don't get a lot of excitement around Lake Logan, New York. Tons of Canadian geese every spring and fall, but not much excitement.
That was why I was so stoked to be graduating. Don't get me wrong, I love my little town and (almost) all the people in it. I love being able to ride my horse, Lola, wherever I want and not have to worry about getting blindsided by a big rig. I love long evening strolls down by the lake in the summer. I love that almost everyone grows their own tomatoes and corn and that the older ladies in town are constantly bickering over who makes the best raspberry jam. But I knew there was a lot more to life than Lake Logan. And I was kind of dying to find out what was out there. That, and I couldn't wait to be living in a place where not every resident had witnessed my bikini top coming off in the lake at the July Fourth celebration when I was thirteen -- a humiliation that was brought up far too often by way too many people. Okay, so UVM wasn't in the middle of a bustling metropolis, but at least it was new. And they had stables, so I would be able to bring Lola. Donna was getting out, too -- heading for Rutgers University in New Jersey, while Derek would be sticking close to home at Binghamton.
The graduates around us started to break up, heading out into the seats in search of parents and grandparents, sisters, brothers, and cousins. Flashes popped and somewhere someone squealed with delight.
"Oh, no way Alison Thomas's parents just gave her a car," Derek said.
"You're kidding me."
I looked across the auditorium and sure enough, there was Alison, already having shed her shapeless black gown to expose the mini-dress underneath. She was waving a key of some kind in the air and gripping her father around the neck as her mom took pictures. Alison was the richest kid in our class. The only rich kid, actually. She was also the most . . . friendly, if you know what I mean.
"Here comes Dino," Derek said.
"Look away before the saliva starts spraying," Donna deadpanned.
But I couldn't. It was like watching a train wreck. Dino Anderson walked right up to Alison and stuck his tongue down her throat right there in front of her parents. Blech. She squealed with delight as he dipped her backward. Her parents actually laughed. Double blech.
"There is one sight I am not going to miss," I said.
Although inside, I actually felt a twinge of sorrow and maybe a smattering of jealousy. Here I was, eighteen years old and a high school graduate, and I had yet to be kissed. I guess that was what happened when you only had sixty boys in your class to choose from and you had endured their awkward phases right along with them. It was kind of hard to get all hot and bothered about someone . . .