(A/n): Morning readers! :) Update went much faster, because I had soo... much time during Christmas doing this along with the alt. Ch. 1. Next chapter's going to take a while though, so I reaalllyy hope that doesn't bother you guys much.
To Chapter 2!
DISCLAIMER: THE BOOK AND ITS CHARACTERS BELONG TO KATHERINE PATERSON. THE 2007 FILM BELONGS TO WALT DISNEY PICTURES AND WALDEN MEDIA.
Prelude Chapter 2: Annual School Olympics
Leslie sat near the windows, so she wouldn't hear any sounds of boasts and laughter coming from most of her classmates. Everyday, since first grade, she would rather hear the morning chimes of the school bell. She would time them in her head, often stare at its dangling tongue and use that to guide her in timing them while chanting "to" and "fro" just to keep the little hobby interesting. If her timings were correct she'd address herself as bell-ringer and even imagine herself as one, although the likeliness of falling at a high distance would slightly frighten her.
"Excuse me… Leslie?" a male voice interrupted her daydreaming.
"Yeah?" Leslie turned around; it was Jonathan's, her seatmate.
"You rarely hang out with anyone. You should see my awesome math awards sometime; they shine like brilliant gold." He ended in a musical tone.
"No, thank you. I think I've seen them already," Leslie lied.
Jonathan fell for it, but didn't care, "C'mon. Not even one more time?" he insisted.
"No, not even one more time. Thank you, again," Leslie refused again in an irritating manner.
Jonathan scoffed, "Your loss, lady," he turned around and left to hound another girl.
Leslie shook her head as she watched him; it was much better if he or anyone in the class was anywhere but his assigned seat. What exactly am I losing here? She discreetly mocked his sneering. Idiot…
One forty-five. Dismissal drew close quicker than Leslie expected; most of her belongings were still on her study table. Mr. Thomas, in his glittering blazer and silky-smooth dress pants, tapped the chalk into his desk and asked heartily, "So, you kids ready for the weekend?" The class threw out different responses, but they all meant, "Yes".
"Are you now?" He stood from his ornamented chair and paced forth and back across the center of the classroom, "Because the three of you will be participating in a certain event that will benefit all of us as well as the school itself…"
"What event, Mr. Thomas," Michaela on the front row asked.
"Why, the Annual School Olympics, my dear," then there it was again, that reputable smile of his, "This school's district has invited us- well, both fourth and fifth grade classes, to compete against other schools at the same district in three contests: academics, athletics, and, my favorite, fashion."
"Fashion?" Leslie slightly tilted her head to the right.
"Yes, Ms. Burke. Dressing best is also key to success," Mr. Thomas replied cheerfully. "If this class wins all three competitions, then we'll be rewarded generously…" He paused for a while, "…with money. A hundred for each of the class, to be specific," he added while gazing at each of his students carefully.
"And," he continued, back to his chair, "A two-week trip to Anaheim, California, where we'll check-in at one of the most prestigious theme parks in the whole… United States," he drew out colorful brochures from his coat pocket onto his desk and proudly raised his hand towards the heavens above as he cried, "DISNEYLAND!"
From their widening eyes, that certainly caught the attention of the whole class. Even the once-uninterested Leslie was immediately drawn to it; She has heard Bill's stories of California before, about the gray and white seagulls, the jumping seals, and the cable cars in San Francisco, to be exact, but not of- DISNEYLAND!
"So, any volunteers?" Mr. Thomas then slammed his hairy hands onto the sleek wood.
Leslie excitedly raised her right hand… and so did everyone else.
"I see…" Mr. Thomas smirked as he gently rested his left, rosy cheek on his hand, "hmm… then how 'bout this? Write your names in a slip of paper and place them in an empty jar…" He searched under the table, "…or any kind of container since I don't have any… aha!"
He revealed himself with an empty fish bowl, "Here we go… this fish bowl would do. Any three of the names that I pick here will participate in the event. You can take a brochure afterwards." He stood up and leaned against the door. "Oh, and keep a single-file line, please… this isn't a race."
The class hastily inked their names on their slips of paper and lined up to drop them on the bowl while muttering that theirs would be picked.
Leslie, on the other hand, waited. Bill once mentioned to her when Judy used to frequently show card tricks before bedtime that luck, or coincidence, was but an illusion, concealing tricks behind it, so she devised a plan to guarantee her name would be picked from the fish bowl discreetly.
She waited until the last student before her went in line. Next, she carefully tore her college-ruled paper "borrowed" from her parents' room for her own stories and slowly traced each letter.
"…L-I-E. B-U-R-K-E," she chanted in her head.
After folding the paper by half, she stood up and precisely dropped hers at the center of the bowl, on top of the other slips. She bit her lip as she turned around, and, along with the brochure, walked back to her seat.
"Thank you, Ms. Burke," Mr. Thomas said, moving back to his spot, "Now, after I shake this bowl, like… so," he faintly grunted as he respectively swirled and shook up and down the bowl twice, "the first three names that I pick will enter the Olympics…" He carefully placed his hand out of the bowl and back to name the first competitor. "First up is…"
He unfolded a paper, "Davis, James!"
James shrieked, "YES!"
Huh? Leslie didn't expect this to happen, but kept her hopes high.
"Second," Mr. Thomas snappily took another slip, "Adams, Bridget!"
"Woo-hoo!" Bridget cried.
Now Leslie was scared. She couldn't afford to miss the chance of competing, she just couldn't. She made it her mission to win this trip to Anaheim and Disneyland for herself and her class, even perhaps her destiny, like O'Sullivan's manifest destiny. She pleaded she wouldn't have to wait for this school year to end boringly, like the previous ones.
"And last…" Mr. Thomas wiggled his picking fingers to bring tension for the class. After removing the papers sticking to his hand, he unfolded the one in his grasp. He held a deep breath, "The last one is…"
Please be my name. Please, please be my name. Leslie shut her eyes tightly.
"Why, this slip says…"
She popped an eye open, seeing Mr. Thomas' agape mouth which spoke thunderously.
Leslie's whole body melted inside her in despair even after already the last name. She almost felt like crying, but she held her breath. Not now. At least not here…
Then Hayes said in a whisper, "Umm… uh…"
"I'm sorry, what was that?" Mr. Thomas moved closer to him.
"I… don't think I'm… ready for it. I'm sorry, but no- I'm sorry." Hayes spoke slightly louder.
"Huh… that's a shame-" but Leslie couldn't restrain herself the moment Hayes declined.
"I'll take his place!" her words flew fast. The whole class responded by staring at her with widened eyes.
Pure, awkward silence. Darn my stupid mouth… she scolded herself. You know better than to interrupt a teacher.
"You would now…" Mr. Thomas crossed his arms giving her that… smile again.
Leslie assumed he was talking about her rudeness and shook her head, "Mr. Thomas, I apologize. What I did was unacceptable."
"Unacceptable!?" Mr. Thomas unexpectedly laughed. Loud. The confused Leslie looked up and saw her teacher's clownish expression that lasted for a short time.
"Ah, Leslie…" he let out a few more, "You're one hilarious kid, you know that?"
"Uh… I suppose… I am," she stuttered the way Hayes did.
"C'mon!" he tapped her right shoulder before turning to Hayes, "See, Hayes, this is the kind of person you look up to: full of confidence and determination. The lot of you!.. In fact." He marched elegantly back to the front, "What I truly wanted to find out of doing this little lottery nonsense is the will to do whatever it takes to get a position in the Olympics."
"But…" he slammed his desk again, "the true test shows itself after jumping through that large barrier. You'll only succeed if you possess remarkable, unmatchable talents. And," another slam; Boy does he love slamming that poor desk, "let me tell you: A lot of fierce competitors aim to show those to the whole audience, possibly the world, if they must."
"For now," he dramatically lowered his voice, "let's give a round of applause to Ms. Burke here," he took a bow, "Thank you for that outstanding demonstration today."
The class did so in a joyful manner; hand-clapping came along with cheering voices; even Hayes, whom she barely saw in class, was applauding her. This was Leslie's first time in her entire school life to have been noticed or glorified without the need for inexcusable boasting. She smiled; it felt wonderful, and she preferred to have it no other way.