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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

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BOOK: Team Play
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“International Arrivals,” Stevie said.

, the three girls and Max were looking over a railing onto the customs area, trying to spot the Italian equestrian team.

“Andre, Enrico, Gian, Marco,” Stevie mumbled, scanning the crowd.

“What are you saying?” Christine asked.

“Their names,” Stevie told her. “Don’t they sound wonderfully romantic—Andre, Enrico, Gian, and Marco?”

“Are these guys tall, dark, and handsome?” Christine asked.

“Yes,” Stevie said.

“Are they probably carrying bulky bags with things like riding boots and saddles in them?” Christine wanted to know.

“Yes,” Stevie said again.

“Well, then, I think those four handsome guys over there with all the bulky luggage are our guys,” Kate said. “Come on!”

Kate led Christine, Stevie, and Max to the lower level where the four boys would emerge as soon as they’d cleared customs. There was a crowd of people at the door and a crowd of people coming through the door. Stevie stood on her toes and strained her eyes, eager for the moment when Andre, Enrico, Gian, and Marco would appear.

And then, there they were. For three weeks, Stevie had been trying to imagine what it would be like to actually meet these boys. She’d been gazing at their pictures and practicing useful Italian phrases. Now, meeting them, she realized that every second of that time had been wasted. Stevie couldn’t even mutter a weak
buon giorno
, or hello. Instead, she reached out her hand and said, “
,” which was Italian for goodbye!

“So soon?” the first boy said, a grin crossing his face.
He shook Stevie’s hand. “We haven’t even been introduced yet, you know.”

Stevie almost gaped. “You speak English?” she asked.

“Sure, I do. So do we all. And from the sound of it, our English is better than your Italian, but maybe not as charming. My name is Marco, by the way.”

“I’m Stevie,” she said, once again offering him the hand he’d just shaken. This time he kissed it. Stevie blushed.

The next few minutes were a massive confusion of introductions and luggage hauling. Stevie tried to shake everybody’s hand and help with all of their luggage, but by the time she’d picked up three suitcases, she couldn’t take anybody’s hand. She also found herself in the middle of introducing Christine, Kate, and Max, and got so confused trying to remember which was Enrico and which was Andre, to say nothing of Gian and Marco, that she almost forgot Max’s name.

Finally, when everybody had grasped all the bags they could carry and all the names they could remember, Max led the way to the van. Stevie eyed the luggage and wondered if four saddles, four boot bags, four suitcases, and four good-looking Italian boys would fit in the van. She decided that somehow they’d find a way!

Stevie had spent a fair amount of time—more than she ever would have confessed to Veronica—worrying about what she was going to say to the Italian boys, how she would treat them, and how they all would get along.
She saw with relief that all of that time had been wasted. The four boys chattered easily with Stevie, Christine, and Kate. They were thrilled to learn that they were actually riding with
Kate Devine, former riding champion. And they’d never thought they would actually meet a real Native American.

“But where is your war paint?” Enrico teased.

“Back home with my bows and arrows and my scalp collection. And how have you packed your pizzas?” Christine joked.

Stevie laughed, too, recalling her own misconceptions when she’d first met Christine.

“First stop, Pine Hollow,” Max announced. “I’ll drop you all off there with your saddles, and I’ll take the luggage back to my house. Stevie, you’re the tour guide. Take everybody around. Have a good time!”

Stevie, Christine, and Kate helped the boys unload their saddles. Kate and Christine took out their luggage as well. Then they all waved goodbye to Max. The boys laughed when they saw that he was actually only driving about twenty extra feet to get to the driveway of his house.

” Stevie announced brightly, finally remembering a useful Italian phrase. What she’d said was, “Let’s go.”

“Very good. Your Italian has improved tremendously already!” Marco teased.

Stevie didn’t mind being teased. She had a feeling that everything was going to go just fine from here on out.

Stevie led the way through the stable, showing the boys the tack room first so they could put down their saddles. She was proud of Pine Hollow and pleased at the chance to show it off to her new friends. She walked down the main walkway with them and introduced them to some of her favorite horses, including Topside, who had had a distinguished career as a show horse. One of the boys would no doubt be riding him for the demonstration. She also showed them Starlight, Delilah, a pretty palomino, and her colt, Samson. They all admired Samson’s mane and his beautiful sleek black coat.

Stevie enjoyed showing Christine and the boys everything on the tour, but her very favorite part was when she got to show them Veronica diAngelo. It seemed that Veronica had found it necessary to groom Garnet that afternoon. Veronica had never done any work at all in her life if she could help it. Stevie knew perfectly well that she was just there to look at the boys and to show off. Veronica was decked out in her newest, most fashionable, and most expensive, riding outfit. Garnet was also groomed and gleaming.

“Oh, Veronica,” Stevie said sweetly. “I’m glad you’re here. I was so afraid I would miss the opportunity to introduce you to Enrico, Andre, Gian, and Marco.”

Veronica tried to look up at the boys as if she hadn’t
even known they were coming, but she gave herself away when her jaw dropped. The color rose in her face. Although it appeared to be red, Stevie was certain that underneath it all, it was green. Veronica was so jealous, she could hardly speak. Stevie just loved it!

Stevie waved casually to Veronica. “See you around,” she said sweetly. Veronica had still not managed to utter a syllable by the time Stevie and her troop rounded the corner to the indoor ring.

When they’d finished their tour of the stable, including the feed room, tack room, locker area, and schooling rings, Stevie knew it was time to get her plan back into action.

“Next stop?” Enrico asked.

“The hospital,” Stevie told them.

Six sets of eyes looked at her with concern, to say nothing of confusion.

“Well, there are a few things I need to tell you about,” she began.

Stevie?” a girl whom Carole didn’t know asked her.

“Not since this morning,” Carole said. She tried to keep the sharpness out of her voice, but she was getting a little annoyed. She had arrived at the fairground right after school. Stevie and her schoolmates had gotten the day off from school to help set up the fair, but as far as Carole could see, Stevie was nowhere in sight.

Carole stood in the open yard of the hospital grounds. A school fair was slowly growing before her eyes. All around her, wooden booths were being assembled, bolted together and decorated. An oval path had been laid out to one side for the pony cart rides for the hospital patients.

Lisa approached her. “Have you got a hammer?” she asked.

“I loaned it to somebody—I don’t know his name—about half an hour ago,” Carole replied. “That’s the trouble, you know. We don’t know anybody’s name here.”

“Well, we don’t go to this school,” Lisa reminded her.

“So why are we working so hard for it?” Carole asked a little grumpily.

Lisa shrugged good-naturedly. “Come on, Carole. You know why—” she broke off suddenly. “Hey, here comes somebody who can personally answer that question for us. Unless my eyes are playing tricks on me, I think Stevie has actually arrived.”

Lisa wasn’t the only person to see Stevie.

“Hey, there she is!” a voice cried. Then total confusion broke out.

Dozens of questions were thrown at Stevie before she was even close enough to hear them.

“Stevie, you’ve got to come over here!” someone yelled.

“Are we going to dress in costumes?” another voice asked.

Lisa and Carole ignored the uproar. They’d just spotted a couple of very familiar faces.

“Kate!” Carole cried. She ran to greet her friend.

“Christine!” Lisa shouted, waving furiously as she ran next to Carole.

“Italians!” Carole said, suddenly slowing.

“Wow!” Lisa said.

Stevie grinned proudly when she saw all that had been done to set up the fair while she’d been at the airport.

“You’re all fantastic!” she announced, trying to be heard over the shouts of her friends and schoolmates.

“We need more staples!” one girl said.

“And blue crepe paper,” a boy added.

“The booth I’m working on won’t stay level because the ground’s slanted,” somebody complained.

“What are we supposed to do with all the Nerf balls?” another boy asked.

Stevie looked blank for a moment. “Nerf balls?”

“Which is going to be my booth?” someone else wanted to know.

“Yeah, we got a whole case of Nerf balls,” the boy continued. “Are they prizes, or what?”

the hammer?” a girl wailed.

“Hold it, hold it,” Stevie said with the voice of authority. “I’m here and I will answer all your questions. I have also brought reinforcements. Everybody, I want you to meet six friends of mine. Enrico, Marco, Andre, Gian, Kate and Christine. Every one of them is a master craftsman and can help us.”

Stevie’s classmates appeared skeptical.

“Any of you guys know anything about how to make a level booth on unlevel ground?” Stevie asked her reinforcements.

“Shims,” Kate said promptly. “I’ll help.” She followed the person who was having trouble with the booth and tried to explain about props and shims as they walked.

Within a few minutes, Stevie had everybody assigned to a job. Enrico, it turned out, had been in charge of decorations for a horse fair in Italy and he had some ideas for what to do with the red and white crepe paper. He said blue wasn’t necessary. Andre wanted to see how the booths were constructed, so he joined a crew who were about to assemble the next one. Christine agreed to help the boy who was setting up the archery booth. Stevie was pretty sure Christine was trying to keep a straight face at the idea. Gian agreed to help Lisa find some extra staples so they could put up more posters about the fair on their way to the shopping center, where they planned to buy more staples. Carole returned to her job of setting up the mini-bowling alley in the center booth.

Everybody seemed to have something to do except Stevie and Marco.

“Let me show you around here,” Stevie said. She took him over to the oval course.

“And what’s this for?” he asked, puzzled.

“That’s where we’re having the pony cart rides for the
kids in the hospital,” Stevie explained. “Max has agreed to lend us the cart and ponies. Some of the kids may even be able to ride the ponies in a saddle. I don’t know. Maybe it’s crazy, but as far as I’m concerned, horseback riding has always been a way to make me forget my troubles. I just wanted to share that with these kids. Some of them have really big troubles—a lot bigger than mine ever were. Do you think I’m out of my mind?”

Marco smiled. “Maybe a little,” he said. “But it’s okay. You are a very generous person, Stevie. Everything you are doing here is for somebody else.”

“Yeah,” Stevie agreed, and without thinking, she added, “and her name is Veronica diAngelo.”


“Oh, nothing. I mean, nobody,” Stevie stammered.

Marco looked at her curiously, but he let it pass.

Fortunately, someone interrupted them right then. Somebody who looked very familiar was waving frantically to get Stevie’s attention.

“I think we’d better get back,” Stevie said. “Somebody seems to need me.”

“Who is it?” Marco asked.

“I can’t remember,” Stevie said. “I’ve just forgotten his name.” She squinted and tried hard to remember. “Oh, yes,” she said. “It’s Bobby Effingwell. He’s the guy running against me for Middle School President.”

Stevie waved back at Bobby and walked quickly to the
fairgrounds with Marco. When she got there, it turned out that Bobby wasn’t the only one who needed to talk to her. A dozen questions awaited her. She was very pleased to find that she could supply a dozen answers in return. She turned to Bobby.

“Listen, my parents are making a big thing about this. I’m sorry to bother you,” he said. Stevie decided right then and there that anyone as mousey as Bobby didn’t have a chance of succeeding as Middle School President, much less winning the election. She hoped her face didn’t betray her thoughts. “But my grandmother wants to hear my speech tomorrow and she can’t get here by noon when we’re supposed to go on,” Bobby continued. “Can we do it later?”

Stevie’s mind raced. Tomorrow was filled with activities and it all had to go like clockwork. Changing the time of something like that could cause problems. Still, maybe she could work something out.

“Let me think,” she said. “The pony rides will be over by three-thirty. We could do it after that, say, at four?”

BOOK: Team Play
9.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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