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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

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BOOK: Team Play
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Stevie, on the other hand, was the kind of person who would bring in cans of food for the homeless—two weeks
after the drive was over. She could never tell anybody how to get along with a teacher, but she could tell them how to spread a thin layer of rubber cement under the teacher’s desk so the teacher’s shoes would stick in it. She never wanted to play basketball after lunch, but she had figured out how to rig the electronic scoreboard so that no matter who scored, the number always showed up in the “Fouls” column.

The person who was President of the Middle School was a person so unlike Stevie Lake that Stevie didn’t even know who the last one was!

Suddenly, Stevie was filled with determination. She had to get to the bottom of this. She adjusted her book bag on her shoulder and practically marched the rest of the way to school. She hardly saw the boys and girls who greeted her as she neared the building. She barely heard their congratulations or felt their pats of encouragement. She was rapidly getting used to people clapping her on the back. She made a beeline for Miss Fenton’s office and stopped at Miss Ward’s desk.

“I’m not running for Middle School President,” Stevie said.

The gray-haired lady peered at Stevie over her pale pink glasses. “Oh yes, you are,” she said. “I saw the posters. They’re all over the place.”

“I know they are, but I’m not running,” Stevie said patiently.

Miss Ward chuckled. “You’re right about that. You’ll win walking. Only one other person is running and that’s Robert Effingwell. Nobody knows him.”

Stevie had the funny feeling she and Miss Ward were talking at cross-purposes. “I mean, I didn’t get a lot of signatures on any petitions,” she tried to explain.

“You got enough,” Miss Ward said.

“I did?”

“Let me see,” Miss Ward said. She disappeared suddenly under the counter, crouching to pull something from a file. A moment later, her head popped up. “Here it is,” she said, producing some crumpled papers. “The student government rules state that you must have twenty-five signatures to place your name in nomination. You have over a hundred. There’s no problem at all. You’re running all right.”

“I am?”

“You are.” Miss Ward handed the petition to Stevie as if it proved something. Stevie gazed at the papers in front of her. Miss Ward was right. There were more than a hundred signatures on them. Somehow, she was running for President of the Middle School.

“Thanks,” Stevie managed to say.

“You’re welcome,” Miss Ward told her. Then the first bell rang. All the extra time Stevie had given herself by leaving home early had disappeared when she’d discovered
she was running for office. Now, she had to dash just to get to her homeroom on time.

She turned and began running. Then she stopped herself. A girl who expected people to vote for her wouldn’t ever do anything as undignified as racing along the hallway. She decided to walk fast instead.

P
EPPER WAS ACTING
up a little as Lisa tried to saddle him that afternoon before riding class. Every time she tried to pull the buckle on his girth one hole tighter, he’d take a deep breath, expanding his belly so much that she couldn’t tighten it.

“What do I do, Stevie?” Lisa called over the stall divider to where Stevie was finishing tacking up her horse, Topside.

“Put on the bridle and then try again,” Stevie replied. “Try to catch him off guard. If that doesn’t work, you’ll just have to adjust it when you’re in the saddle.”

Lisa reached for the bridle and began to put it on Pepper. She straightened out all the leathers and then slipped the bit into his mouth.

“I’m running for Middle School President,” Stevie called casually over the divider.

“What?” Lisa let the bit drop back out of Pepper’s mouth because she was laughing so hard. “Funny thing,” she said between giggles. “I thought I just heard you say you were running for Middle School President.”

“I did,” Stevie told her.

“What?” Lisa asked.

“I said, and I quote, ‘I’m running for Middle School President.’ ”


You?

“Is somebody else here?” Stevie asked.

“I’m here, what’s up?” Carole said breezily, walking Starlight along the hallway between the stalls where Lisa and Stevie were tacking up.

“Stevie’s running for Middle School President,” Lisa told Carole.

“At Fenton Hall?” Carole asked, stunned. She knew she’d heard Lisa right. She just didn’t believe it.

“That’s the Middle School I go to,” Stevie said. A little bit of irritation had crept into her voice.

Carole grinned. “Fenton Hall will never be the same.”

“Hey, guys, give me a break, will you?” Stevie asked. “Maybe I’m the one who’s going to change. After all, I’m the one who’s going to be escorting the Italian riders around and I’m the one who’s in charge of the Children’s Hospital Festival.” Stevie made a final adjustment on Topside’s girth and then slid open his stall door. She led him into the hall, next to where Carole stood. “And look at this,” Stevie said. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out one of her campaign posters. Dozens of them had been taped up in the school hallways. She didn’t think one less would make much difference. “I
took it down for my scrapbook,” she explained rather sheepishly. “Anyway, look at this. I’ve got lots of qualifications for the presidency.”

“Sure. Biggest troublemaker in the school,” Lisa suggested. “Where does it say that?”

Stevie looked annoyed. “It doesn’t say that. It says that I’m the Voluntary Chairman of the Children’s Hospital Festival. Now that’s a person who cares about others and who cares about her school. That’s a person who can really give her all to representing her schoolmates’ best interests. Even if it’s my first elected office—”

“Spare me the speech,” Carole interrupted, “and tell me what this Spring Fair is that you got elected to.”

“Spring Fair? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it. What’s a Spring Fair?” Stevie asked.

“Sounds like some sort of fund-raiser for the school,” Lisa suggested. “When was it?”


Was?
Spring has just started. Anything called a Spring Fair ought to be coming up soon,” Carole said.

“Must be some kind of mistake,” Stevie said, dismissing her friends’ concern. “Maybe it was something I did last year that I’ve just forgotten about. What interests me now are the things I’m
going
to be doing. You see, I seem to be a person other people like to count on to help them. Like you, for instance, Lisa. Let’s check on Pepper’s girth now, okay?”

Lisa and Carole were used to Stevie’s willingness to
help them whenever they needed it. They weren’t used to her being so expansive about it.

“Everything she’s said since she got here sounds like a campaign speech,” Lisa said to Carole.

“And we can’t even vote for her,” Carole added.

“I’m just trying to turn over a new leaf,” Stevie said defensively, a little surprised by her friends’ response.

“We like the old leaf just fine,” Lisa said.

“Come on. Let’s get to class,” Carole reminded them. She had the feeling that this conversation wasn’t getting them anywhere but into trouble.

The three girls led their horses to the outdoor ring, brushed the stable’s traditional good luck horseshoe, and mounted. Veronica and Garnet were right behind them.

“Say, Veronica,” Lisa said. “When’s the Fenton Hall Spring Fair?”

“Um, let me think,” Veronica said, making a show of putting her index finger to her chin. “The Spring Fair, hmmmmm. Oh, yes, that’s always the last Saturday of this month. Are you planning to come?” Lisa thought she saw a slight smirk cross Veronica’s face, but there was nothing new about that. Slight smirks were always crossing Veronica’s face.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lisa replied.

“Me neither,” Veronica said. This time her smirk was unmistakable, and something about it made Lisa very nervous.

“S
O TELL US
about your bright idea for the Children’s Hospital Festival,” Lisa said to Stevie on Friday night. “You said it had something to do with horses, didn’t you?”

The three girls were having a sleep-over party at Carole’s house, and for them, sleep-overs always turned into long Saddle Club meetings. Carole was lying face down on her bed, with her chin resting on her hands. Lisa was sitting on an upholstered chair by the closet door, and Stevie was sitting cross-legged on the floor. Carole’s coal-black cat, Snowball—so named because she always did the exact opposite of what anybody told her to do—was curled up and sleeping soundly on Stevie’s lap. Stevie continued to pat the cat gently as she spoke.

“Okay, but I haven’t gotten very far. What I want to do is have some kind of riding demonstration. Then I want to get Max to let us use his pony cart to give the kids rides. Maybe we could even saddle one of the ponies and give rides to anyone who could sit up in one. What do you think?”

“Put the patients on horses?” Carole asked.

Stevie nodded. “Think it’s a bad idea?”

“No. I think it’s a fabulous idea,” Carole told her. She thought about the sad and bad times in her life. No matter what was going on, she’d always had riding to comfort her. “It’s a great activity to share with other kids, even—or maybe especially—if they’ve got troubles.”

“Will Max go along with it?” Lisa asked.

“I don’t know,” Stevie said. “I know he’s pretty happy with the stuff I’m doing for him with the Italian boys—not that that’s any trouble. So he really ought to be nice about this.”

“Sure, and you could always get Miss Fenton to call him, if necessary,” Carole suggested. She smiled. She’d never met Miss Fenton, but she’d heard a lot about her from Stevie. The image of laid-back Max and uptight Miss Fenton talking was very funny.

“What a pair they would make,” Stevie mused, obviously thinking along the same lines as Carole. “On second thought, I think I’ll take care of it myself.”

“You’re taking care of a lot of stuff yourself,” Lisa reminded
her. “Speaking of which, what happened with the Spring Fair?”

Stevie shrugged. “I’m helpless on that one. I guess I
did
run for chairman, though I thought I was sick the day they had the nominations. Anyway, that’s something we pretty much do the same way every year. Everything is stored away. I just have to get people to set up the booths. And, of course, I’ve got to find people to do stuff like bake cookies.”

“That reminds me,” Lisa interrupted. “Didn’t I see some brownie mix in your kitchen when we were eating supper? It looked like it was just sitting on the counter, dying for somebody to come along and crack an egg, add water and oil, maybe some walnuts, and chocolate chips. What do you think?” she asked Carole.

“Okay,” Carole agreed, “but you know what my father’s like when we bake something.”

They did know what Carole’s father was like. He was one of their favorite people. Sometimes Carole teased Stevie that she was only her friend so she could spend time with Colonel Hanson.

“Yeah, we know,” Lisa said, pretending that it was a grave problem.

“He’s going to want to lick the bowl,” Carole warned.

Stevie grinned. “That’s fine, as long as I get dibs on the spoon! Come on, Snowball, stay asleep,” she commanded.
Snowball woke up immediately and bounded out of Stevie’s lap.

The three girls headed for the kitchen. As Carole had predicted, Colonel Hanson, who had been watching television, soon joined them there.

“I love it when you three beautiful ladies get together,” he said.

“Don’t worry, Dad,” Carole told him. “You can lay off the flattery. We’ve already decided you can lick the bowl.”

“I’ve raised a mind reader!” He laughed.

“Now there’s an idea,” Stevie said, putting a bowl on the counter.

“For what?” the colonel asked.

“For my school fair,” Stevie said. “See, I’m chairman of it, and we’ve got all these booths and stuff, but I get to decide if there are going to be any new things to do. I like the idea of having a mind reader. We could get a crystal ball or something and set up a mind reader, fortune-teller type thing. Like it?”

“I
love
it,” Lisa said, cracking an egg. “And even if nobody goes to it, you can still make a fortune. Get it? A
fortune
?”

Stevie and Carole groaned. Colonel Hanson chuckled. “That’s so bad it’s funny.” He loved corny old jokes and often swapped especially awful ones with Stevie.

Carole measured the water and oil, added them to the mix in the bowl, and handed Stevie a wooden spoon. Stevie began stirring carefully. “Carole, why don’t you chop the walnuts. And Lisa, see if you can find some chocolate chips. Then grease the bottom of the baking dish.”

“Aye aye, ma’am,” Carole said. She and Lisa saluted and then followed instructions.

Colonel Hanson raised his eyebrows. “She’s gotten a promotion to boss these days?” he asked Carole and Lisa.

Carole looked up from the pile of walnuts she was about to chop. “Of the whole wide world,” she said.

“It’s a new leaf,” Lisa explained solemnly.

“Come on, guys. Give me a break, will you?” Stevie asked.

“Sure, but why don’t you tell Dad all the things you’re doing these days?” Carole said. “You’re going to be so busy we’ll never even see you at Pine Hollow any more.”

BOOK: Team Play
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