And somewhere behind us, I can hear Cynthia shouting at poor Heather, whose only goal in life so far has been to make Cynthia Harbison happy.
Good luck with that, as Cynthia herself would say.
In my opinion, Cynthia’s jealous that Heather has already won a prize, and she, Cynthia, has not. Cynthia doesn’t know a good friend when she has one!
But maybe Cynthia’s just shouting because she has never cooperated with anyone a day in her life.
Either way, they’re both doomed.
Sooner or later, we all cross the finish line.
“And it’s a two-way tie,” Ms. Sanchez shouts above all the cheering. “Kevin McKinley and Kry Rodriguez, and Fiona McNulty and EllRay Jakes!”
“Over here, everyone,” Ms. Sanchez calls out over by the picnic table that has been set up on the playground, and Mr. Timberlake helps round us up from wherever it is we are being photographed and congratulated—even the kids like Jared, Stanley, Cynthia, and Heather, who didn’t win anything but who are still grinning and posing like crazy.
EllRay’s mom has been photographing him again and again, and his cute little sister is almost glued to his side, she is so proud and happy. My mom takes a few pictures of me, then Mrs. Masterson takes Annie Pat’s picture while my mom holds a drooling Murphy Masterson to her chest.
Seeing my mom do this makes me feel a little funny, but it also makes me daydream again about what it would be like to have a baby brother or sister. If that ever happens, I just hope it’s Mom who has the baby, and not my dad and Annabelle!
I don’t know why, but that’s the way I feel about it.
“Gather around,” Ms. Sanchez says again, and she blows her whistle to get our attention. “There are snacks waiting, and it’s time to hand out the awards.”
gets our attention.
“As you remember,” Ms. Sanchez says, glancing down at her clipboard, “the winners of our jumping event were Kevin and EllRay in first and second places for the boys, and Emma and Kry in first and second places for the girls.”
There is clapping and cheering as she hands out gold stars with blue ribbons hanging from them for first place, and silver stars with red ribbons hanging from them for second place.
I try to look modest as I clutch my gold star, but it’s hard.
“And for event number two, running, we have Kry winning first place,” Ms. Sanchez says, “and Emma winning second place.”
There is more applause, and now I have a gold star
a silver star.
“And finally, as you recall,” Ms. Sanchez says, “for our three-legged race, we have a two-way tie for first place. Kry, Kevin, EllRay, and Fiona, please step forward to receive your awards.”
And we all clap like crazy as she hands out four more gold stars.
“So that means,” Ms. Sanchez calls out over the uproar, “that EllRay, Kevin, and Kry have each won two first-place awards this afternoon. And Fiona and Emma have each won one first-place award. And special recognition must also go to Kry Rodriguez, both for her total of three—
—awards and for her overall good sportsmanship today, and during the week leading up to this event. Kry, will you please step forward so we can all thank you?”
“I would have been nice, too, if I knew it was gonna
,” Annie Pat and I hear Cynthia tell Heather as Kry receives an extra-fancy gold-and-silver star from Ms. Sanchez and everyone takes her picture.
“Me, too,” Heather says. “Like that’s so
“But I guess I wasn’t a very good sport, either,” Annie Pat admits to me as we scoop up dip with our carrot sticks during the celebration following Winter Games Day.
“You were okay,” I say.
This is what’s known as “a little white lie,” but sometimes, that’s the way to go.
Also, I know that
was probably only a good sport because I was winning.
“No, it’s not okay,” Annie Pat says, grabbing some string cheese for the two of us before the boys hog it all. “I didn’t stick up for you when Cynthia and Heather called you a show-off and a tomboy, and I didn’t say ‘good luck’ before you ran, even after you said it to me. And by the time we got to the three-legged race demonstration, I actually wanted you to lose. So there! That’s how bad a sport I was.”
“You were probably just tired,” I say, trying to give her a good excuse. “I think Murphy is kind of messing you up lately, crying all night and everything.”
“It’s not his fault he yells so much and is using up my mom,” Annie Pat says with a sigh, peeling off a thready strip of cheese. “Teeth pop into a baby’s mouth whether he wants them to or not, and when that happens, he’s just gotta cry—even if his sister has a big race the next day. It’s just nature.”
“I guess,” I say, thinking about everything that happened this afternoon. “Do you really think I’m bossy?” I ask Annie Pat shyly. “Like, telling you what to do and when to do it all the time, like you said when we were demonstrating that race?”
Annie Pat laughs, sounding embarrassed. “You’re not as bad as Cynthia, that’s for sure,” she assures me, pointing toward the snack table.
Cynthia is over by the bowl of dip as we speak, guarding it against double-dippers. “That’s just
!” Cynthia shouts at Jared, who has just scooped his actual fingers through the bowl—and licked them.
,” Heather yells, backing Cynthia up.
Heather has a very full reservoir of forgiveness, when it comes to Cynthia.
“Well, that’s something, I guess, to be not as bad as Cynthia,” I say to Annie Pat. “Look,” I add, feeling sort of awkward, “I want to talk to you.”
“Okay,” Annie Pat says, listening.
“I want to say that I think being a good friend is just as important as winning an award for jumping or running,” I tell her shyly. “Maybe it’s
important. And you’re my really good friend, Annie Pat.”
“Even though I wanted you to lose the three-legged race?” she asks.
“That was only for a second,” I remind her. “I never said you were
Annie Pat giggles.
I take a deep breath. “So anyway,” I continue, “I want this gold star to be yours, in honor of us being such excellent friends.” And I give her one of my stars—a little slowly, but I do it.
And it’s my best star, too.
Annie Pat stares hard at the gold star that is now resting in my hand, as if picturing it practically glowing in her awards corner. “No-o-o,” she says slowly. “It’s got your name on it, see?
‘Emma McGraw, First Place, Jumping.’
And what about your dad?”
“Number one, I can change what’s on the award,” I assure her. “I have construction paper and a glue stick and glitter markers at home, don’t I? And number two, my dad’s not even here to see the award, so what difference does it make if I actually have it up on my wall or not?”
“Yeah. You still won,” Annie Pat says, thinking it over. “And you can still tell him about it when you guys e-mail each other,” she adds. “But—what about your mom? Won’t she be mad if you give away your best award?”
I look over at my mom. She still has baby Murphy in her arms, but he has fallen fast asleep on her shoulder. It looks like she’s holding a little sack of potatoes with red hair on top. Mom is laughing quietly, and talking to a bunch of the other moms, but then she glances over at me and waves.
“I love you,”
she tells me, silently mouthing the words.
I smile at her and wave back. “My mother won’t care,” I tell Annie Pat. “In fact, she’ll probably say it was the exact right thing to do.”
Almost Like a Daughter
“Why did you want to win so badly yesterday, sweetie?” Mom asks me the next night, Saturday, when she is tucking me in. It is raining again, but I feel nice and cozy.
“Because I couldn’t afford to lose,” I confess. “No one could. Not with all the parents there.”
?” my mom asks, obviously trying to get it.
“It’s true,” I tell her. “Annie Pat
wins something, no matter what she does, so how could she start losing all of a sudden? You should see all her prizes, Mom! And Cynthia Harbison couldn’t risk losing a contest in front of her mom, because her mom is always saying how perfect she is. And I don’t know why,” I add, “but Heather can’t stand to see Cynthia lose
. And I think Fiona was so freaked out about the
of not winning that she didn’t even want to try.”
“Hmm,” Mom says, frowning.
“And the boys were even more worried than the girls were about losing,” I continue eagerly, wanting her to understand. “I mean, it’s not right that Stanley has to be embarrassed in public, just because he’s too chunky to win a race. His parents think he’s good at everything! How much pressure is
? And Jared needs
to think he’s so great, for some reason, but only Kevin really thinks Jared is.
, I mean. And you can tell that EllRay hates being short. He shouldn’t have to be a loser, too, on top of that.”