“As I look down the rugged terrain of the easy green, I wish I never came. As soon as I had turned 12, I should have given up hope of skiing. But no. I persisted and begged my parents to take me.”
I stare up at the mountain, my legs ready to give out beneath me.
My ski coach announces, “I know this is challenging, but we’re going to try to ski down this easy green.” So far, my beginner ski group has only skied down the Magic Carpet.
Glancing down at my feet, seemingly permanently stuck in a pizza shape, I tell my coach, “I think maybe I will be injured on that super steep trail.”
My coach laughs. “It’s basically flat. You’ll be fine.” The basically flat trail looks like it is 90 degrees steep. My coach calmly skis to the lift, completely parallel and with poles in his hands. I keep peeking up at the mountain as I slide over to him and my group. Distracted, I trip over my own skis and sprawl on the ice. My face burns, and I jump up as fast as I can and jump on the lift. Soon, I regret doing that. I just hurried up the process of getting to the steep trail. Under my new, soft, warm mittens my hands tremble, and I am glad I don’t have ski poles, for I would have dropped them. The wind stings my face like evil grains of sand. I lean back on the ski lift, my heart pounding. But I soon realize that in doing that, I am making the lift go a mile a minute. It seems like a couple seconds when we come off the lift.
As I look down the rugged terrain of the easy green, I wish I never came. As soon as I had turned 12, I should have given up hope of skiing. But no. I persisted and begged my parents to take me. My tired, busy parents. They had work, but they did bring me, and for what? I was in the little kids group, and I saw other kids my age, even younger, skiing down the mountain in a blur of color, their manageable skis skidding against the icy ground with a loud crunch. But…really, I’m still a kid, and it’s never too late to start stuff when you’re a kid.
I know I’m a kid, I think confidently. After all, I can still order from the kid’s menu at restaurants. So I can always improve! Even if I am three times the age of the other kids in my group and still not better than them, so what?
“We’re going down now.” My coach yells.
I blurt out, more to myself than him, “I’m not afraid!”
My coach gives me a weird look. “That’s – that’s great, Olivia!” Then he starts down the mountain. I clutch my legs, steadying them. I close my eyes and the pounding in my head stops.
“I will get good – great – at this sport,” I whisper. I force my skis to turn parallel, and I fly down the mountain. “Yeahhh!” I cry. “I’m so fast!” But after scanning my surroundings, I realize that I’m the slowest person on the trail. Before I know it, I fall head over heels. My skis are teared off and my poles are wrested from my hands. I scream, then I realize that I am still, for I am on a flat part of the trail, called a catwalk.
My coach bends down to help me. “Whoa, that was a big yard sale fall for a catwalk!” I’m so embarrassed. I will never get good at skiing. I trail behind as we ski to lunch.
A month ago
I hurried down our stairs, wriggling into my scratchy school sweater. I heard sounds of enthusiastic and loud talking in the dining room. “Mom, Dad-” They weren’t even at breakfast. Mom was in her office, writing, and Dad was probably at his lab in the middle of the city. The only people that were there were my younger brother and sister. They were six and twins, and had brown hair. Sadly, six is when kids start to annoy you and stop being quiet and obedient.
George whispered loudly to Lily, “Olib looks sad.”
I scowled at them. “Don’t call me Olib.” George and Lily giggled and threw stale cereal at me. I stomped into my mom’s office, wrenching the cold, silver door handle open and immediately I got hit by a stuffy smell. It seemed like my mom’s office didn’t have any oxygen in it. It looked like a common, messy office. Mom was sitting at her desk with her back to me, typing furiously on her laptop. Her trash bin was overflowing with crumpled pieces of paper, but random pieces floated through the room, and my mom was forced to look up and snatch at the air once in a while. “Mom, I really want to go skiing for spring break,” I say, choking on the musty air.
My mom turned around, bags under her eyes. “Olivia, for the last time, NO! How many times do I have to tell you?”
“But, we’ve never gone for my whole life! All my friends have gone since they were small, and everyone except for me knows how to ski. Besides, it would be good for me, don’t you think?”
“Your father and I have jobs. What about George and Lily? We can’t bring them. You never want them to come anywhere with you.”
“Ugh, don’t other people have families too? They take time off for trips. We’ll bring George and Lily. Mom, it’ll be good for you and Dad’s health too.”
My mom smiled and said, “Alright, we’ll go for a week and a half for spring break. Lucky for you, your dad’s boss is expecting a baby, and I just completed a piece of writing so I get a break. Your father or I will bring you tomorrow after school to buy ski gear for the whole family. Now get ready for school, the bus is coming soon.”
“Thank you, Mom!” I cried, hugging her. Then I hurried out of her office.
Back to the mountain.
I stomp into the crowded lunchroom with barely enough space to move, and the scent of french fries and chicken nuggets hit me. I am glad that we stopped skiing for now. I am also glad that George and Lily are not in my group. Imagine, my own siblings, in the same ski group as me. I sit down, yanking my ski helmet off. Suddenly, a group of kids come clamoring into the cafeteria. I hear an animated voice. “Nuh-uh, Scooby Doo! Barbie sucks!” I immediately recognize it as Lily. That meant George must be with her. I see his bright green ski helmet bobbing above the helmets of the four year olds in the group, and he seems to be ordering them around somehow. My siblings must be young enough to fit in, but old enough to have authority to be the leaders of this group. Lucky them. I scuttle to the lunch line, avoiding my siblings. But oh, I had to buy a neon rainbow ski helmet. George and Lily see me, and they cry out, “There’s our sister, Olib! She is on the same level as us!” The whole cafeteria looks at me, every person turning in their black metal chairs to see. The food on the round, ugly table is forgotten, and as my siblings’ group erupts in raucous laughter, I erupt in fury.
I turn away, not wanting to show my bad side in front of so many people. My eyes well up, so I widen them to keep tears from spilling out. I grab the nuggets and fries from the lunch lady and hurry back to my seat. When I pick up the food, I squeeze it forcefully in my rage. In a moment, my hand starts to throb painfully. I release the soggy, wretched, and deformed chicken nugget, and I see that it has burned my palm and left my hand oily and shiny. I pick the nugget up, and with no mercy, I shove it in my mouth. My favorite food has always been chicken nuggets, but it doesn’t taste so good anymore. The mood at lunch guarantees my mood for the rest of the day, and I decide to ask my parents to go home when I get back to the hotel.
“Can we go home?” I ask my parents at the hotel when my siblings are sleeping. They look at me in disbelief.
“But, didn’t you beg us to come here?” My dad asks, glancing at my mom to confirm.
“Yes, but it’s horrible. I came here too late, and now I’m so much older than all the other kids in my group. George and Lily are on the same level as me, and the kids my age are skiing like, double blacks and blacks!” I cry.
“Honey, you’ll improve,” my mom says. “If you try harder than everyone, you’ll improve faster. Soon, you’ll be rushing down the mountain like wind!” My mom pushes her hand in front of her as fast as it would go and makes a whoosh noise with her mouth. She thinks it sounds like the wind, but she is wrong.
“Sure,” I mutter. “But how much more of this do I have to endure? George and Lily taunting my every move?”
My parents look at each other, and my dad ruffles my hair. “You can do it, kiddo.” They climb into their bed, and sighing, I walk over to me and my brother and sister’s bed, shove them over, and climb in. I’m sure that I cannot sleep.
A year ago, at school
I walk into middle school. It is crowded by ugly and dented maroon lockers that are overflowing and people hurrying around to get to class. The lumpy gray walls are stained with who knows what, and the doors required full effort to be opened and the hallways smelled like rotten eggs. Hurrying to my locker, I open it and grab out my mini fluffy pink carpet. It feels so soft! I need it for school, because of the rotten egg smell. I press the carpet to my nose and inhale the smell of detergent. Without warning, I hear a crackling sound of the static of the speaker. The principal’s voice blares, “Class time,” and everyone rushes to their different rooms. I slam my locker closed and suddenly, a shadow falls over me.
Jessica, Britney, Hawke, and Ace stand over me. They are the Mean Machines. Ace and Hawke are famous for being loyal accomplices, Jessica is famous for being the heir to Britney, and Britney is famous for her hundred different expressions and being able to tell whether someone was lying or not. I tremble all over. Hawke and Ace block my route to safety and Jessica and Britney advance toward me. “You don’t have any fashion style, do you?” Britney asks with the first of her one hundred different expressions, and I looks down at my purple sweater, green pants, and yellow sneakers. It hits me that she was right. “And, uh, what level did you say you were at skiing?” she asks.
“I never said anything about that,” I answer defiantly, regretting that I had discussed that topic so loud, so close to the Mean Machines during homeroom. “Now why don’t you get to class, it’s getting late.” Britney rolls her eyes and acts like she didn’t hear me.
Jessica adds, “Britney and I go skiing every spring break. We’re skiing hard trails.” I didn’t say anything. She continues. “And I just can’t accept your fashion choices. Also, you’re not good at anything. You can’t play any sports, and skiing is easy. So why don’t you give it a try? I’d love to see you tumbling down an easy Magic Carpet trail.” The Mean Machines turn and walk away, Hawke and Ace flashing evil smiles at me.
I cry. There is nothing else to do but feel sticky tears run down my cheeks. When I walk into class, my nose is runny, my eyes puffy and red, tear streaks on my face, everybody stares at me. The teacher murmurs lazily, “Sit in your seat. You’re late.” He turns back to the chalkboard. I am staring at my desk the whole class.
Morning at the mountain
I wake up from the dream. The Mean Machines’ faces swim in front of my eyes, and I grit my teeth. But there is nothing I can do. They have continued tormenting me all the way up till now. I eat breakfast with my family, then I go to ski school.
Going there, I get a nasty surprise. Jessica and Britney are there with their parents, in matching pink skin tight ski suits. “Oh…hi, Olivia,” Jessica says. “Remember how Britney and I skied hard trails a long time ago? Well, now we’re racers, and very fast and good.” I look at her. She looks at me.
Without warning, Britney interrupts in her sickly sweet voice, “Olivia, are you going to be here next week Tuesday?”
I think about it, then I say, “Yes, that’s my last day before I go back.”
“Well,” Britney says, “There’s a skiing competition at the back of the mountain. We would love it if you’d join.” She smiled, and the real meaning was clear: We would love to watch you make a fool of yourself. But that wasn’t going to happen.
“Sure,” I said. “Do I need a skin tight suit?”
“No, you can wear that ski suit of yours. But be warned, you’ll be slowed down by the bulkiness.”
“Thanks for the tip!” I smile. Jessica and Britney walk past and their parents follow.
As Jessica walks past, she whispers, “It’ll cost money. You might want to rethink your choice, because it is pretty expensive.” She flips her hair and continues walking.
“Where’s Ace and Hawke?” I call after them.
Jessica glances at me and shrugs. “They’re back at home, gaming together. Why would you care anyways?” She doesn’t wait for an answer, but links arms with Britney and skips away, which is a feat I do not know how she manages with the awkward ski boots.
I practice as much as I can, and even after class ends I ski down trails by myself.
At night, I beg my parents for something again. But this time, it is the money to participate in the ski competition. But they say, “We don’t want to waste the money, there’s no point. It’s not even going to help you, and it’s not fun anyways. You’re probably not going to win anyways.”
“Please!” I implore. “Just this one competition.”
My parents look at each other, and my mom says, “I saw it on the ski map. It’s way back behind the mountain, and two hundred dollars. Olivia, do you really think we’re going to spend that money just so you can not even have fun?”
“I will have fun!” I cry out. “I have to beat Jessica and Britney!”
“What?” My parents ask, and I tell them what happened.
My mom grinds her teeth in anger, and she says, her brown eyes flaming, “Olivia. You’re entering that ski competition, and you’re winning it.”
I ski hard. Every day, I stay out late, practicing. I work harder than anyone in my group. I level up quickly. And finally, I’m ready for the ski competition.
Jessica and Britney stand close to each other as my parents grudgingly hand over the money that is crumpled from them clutching it so hard. Jessica and Britney see me, but I cannot see their expressions under their ski helmets, but I’m pretty sure it’s not pleasant. A man in a ski cap talks into a gold microphone that says SKI on it. “Welcome to the Annual Kids Ski Race! All participants get on the ski lift to the trail.” I look back at my parents, who give me encouraging nods and thumbs up. I follow the other participants. My legs tremble a little bit, and the butterflies in my stomach start fluttering again. I almost regret my choice of joining, but not quite.
After we’re on top of the icy trail, we get into a line. I’m nearly the last one because my last name starts with an X. I stop and inhale. I’ve come to love the cool and fresh smell of the mountain. When Jessica goes, it’s perfect. She’s like a bullet, whizzing around the obstacles. Britney isn’t so successful. She teeters for a moment in the middle, but regains her balance very fast. But one second in skiing is enough. It’s for sure, she can’t win. At the bottom, Britney screams and throws her poles on the ice, making a weird aaaaahhhh And boing sound. I smirk a little bit.
When it’s my turn, I crouch and lean forward. As soon as the buzzer sounds, I’m off, skiing like mad. I can’t believe how much I’ve improved since the first day I arrived at this ski resort. I forget everything when I ski, with the wind whipping around me. Jessica and Britney stare at me, and I can see Britney tremble in anger. I focus on turning my feet parallel. I’m skiing so fast that I can feel a shudder run through my legs as I ski over the bumpy ice. I stop at the bottom, and my mom and dad erupt in cheering. They aren’t the only ones. Most of the people there are clapping and nodding at me. I hardly notice the last couple of racers coming down the mountain.
The man in the ski cap talks into the microphone again. “It was very close, there were some ties. But third place goes to…Goyle Fredericks!” A burly boy takes the tiny trophy made of bronze and snorts in disgust as he walks away. “Second place goes to…Jessica Hall!” The Ski Cap man says. Jessica looks so happy when she takes the medium sized trophy made of silver. I cross my fingers. “And,” the Ski Cap man yells, “The winner is…Olivia Xu!!” He holds out the huge gold trophy to me. My parents are screaming. I feel like I’m in a trance as I walk over to the man and take the trophy. My mom snaps a few pictures, and we start to walk back to the hotel.
On the way back, Britney catches up with us. Her parents, Jessica, and Jessica’s parents are way behind talking. Britney looks nervously at my parents. “Cengrejulshins,” she mutters without moving her mouth.
“Sorry?” I ask.
“Oh. Would it be any easier for you to spell it out?”
“I just wanted to say congratulations, okay?” she says.
“Thank you, Britney. Remind me why you hate me again?” I ask. She frowns and stalks away, but my spirits are too high to be quelled by her annoying manner, so I skip in front of my parents to the hotel. I realize that if your spirits are soaring, they can lift up your feet in those clunky ski boots.
My mom opens the door with the room card and I run inside. I’m upset when my parents don’t look happy. “Why are you guys looking sad?” I demand.
My dad glances at my mom. He seems to need confirmation for every word he says. “Well, uh, there’s this, um, problem with our jobs, er, we left, so, ah-”
“That’s enough,” My mom says. “I will explain it without hesitation. Do you remember when, in my office, I told you your dad’s boss was expecting a baby and I just finished a piece of work? Those were all lies. Our bosses don’t let us off, for some reason. That is why we haven’t brang you and the twins on vacation, ever. But we did, because your dad and I decided that you guys deserved it.”
It takes a moment for me to realize. “YOU LOST YOUR JOBS?” I scream. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU DO THAT? THAT IS THE LEAST WORTHIEST SACRIFICE EVER!”
My dad winces. “Olivia, you waited so long to go skiing, and look, you got a gold trophy! We didn’t want to worry you.”
I glare. “THAT WAS NOT WORTH IT! YOU GUYS BOTH GAVE UP YOUR JOBS SO I COULD GO SKIING????!!!! AAAAAAAAAH! WE COULD’VE NOT GONE!” I remember when my mom and dad had locked eyes when they were paying at a ski shop, and how they so grudgingly handed over the money for the ski race. “THAT’S WHY YOU DIDN’T WANT TO PAY FOR ANYTHING! DID YOU GET A NEW JOB?”
The foolish humans peek at me and my dad says, “Uh, I got a job as a trash guy, because nobody else wanted it. Your mom, nah.” I groan and roll my eyes— in classic Britney-style. Britney! Britney’s family has billions of dollars and they live in a mansion. Now, they are residents in the most chic hotel in the mountain. How badly does Britney want this trophy? Would she pay money for it? But those thoughts would have to wait for later. I have to get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow I will be going back home.
I shove my backpack into the car and squish into the backseat with George and Lily. It is very early in the morning, so thank god, the twins had fallen asleep as soon as they got into the car. My dad drives a tall car rolling on huge wheels. He starts the monster, and I lean my head on the window and stare out. Suddenly, I see a crazily flat car, looking like it got bashed with a hammer but stayed sleek and cool. I recognize it as Britney’s family’s car, and it’s driving right next to us. She looks despondent, so I sit up tall in my seat to look at her phone. Britney is watching a replay of herself skiing. Their car rushes past us, and I stare after it, pondering, for a long time.
When we get home, I throw my bag on my bed and collapse. The trip had been so long! It is already evening, so I decide that I need to do some research on Britney and her family, and then I would sleep for 11 hours.
Morning, I jump out of my soft and warm bed. The air is alive with the yells of George and Lily – and my mom and dad! Then I remember why I am hearing them. Because they are not at their jobs! It is the last day of spring break, so I take the chance to wear my fluffy sweater and sweatpants. Grabbing a handful of Fruity Cheerios and my gold-plastic trophy, I hurry out the door. I don’t even bother yelling at my siblings when stale cereal hits me on the back of my head, but I do bother yelling a good morning to my parents.
I run all the way across town to Billionaire’s Row. The biggest house looms in front of me. It is similar to the White House, just smaller. Still, it is very intimidating, with its white walls and floor-to-ceiling windows. I stare up and I see a window decorated with pink window stickers. I can just see the ceiling, which is pink. I know it is Britney’s room. I ring the doorbell, with much coaxing from the brave half of me. A narrow face flashes in front of Britney’s window and disappears. A couple of seconds later, the huge door creaks open.
Britney is standing at the door. “What?” she snaps, then spots the trophy and her eyes narrow. She probably thinks that I’ve come to brag in her face. “Fine, you won. I don’t care,” she growls.
“Did you want to win or did you want the trophy?” I ask. Some people like to just have trophies shining on their shelf. I hope Britney is like that. Her eyes widen, and I know that she’s deciding whether to lie or tell the truth.
“Just the trophy.” She lowers her head, miserable, like she just revealed her life’s biggest secret.
“Would you like to buy it?” I ask.
Britney’s head jerks up and she stares at me suspiciously. “Why would you want to sell it? It’s first place, and plastic mixed with gold.”
“I know.” I say, nodding.
Now that it is confirmed, Britney’s eyes light up with greed. She reaches into her pocket and extracts a pink purse. Then she freezes, and says, narrowing her eyes, “Why? What is the reason you would want to sell it? I am not buying it until you tell me.”
I try to coax her. With difficulty and with both arms, I lift the trophy up and wave it in front of her face. Then I tilt the trophy so it catches the glare of the sun. Britney does not move a muscle. I groan and say, “I want money to buy my favorite thingamajig from a store, alright?”
“Lie,” Britney says simply. She waits. I wait. She waits. I wait.
“I’m sure there are plenty of other people who would want this trophy and don’t want the reason.” I snap, but I don’t walk away.
Britney smirks and starts to giggle. Then she starts to snort, then laughs full time. Suddenly her face becomes expressionless, and she looks at me and says, “Enough. Just tell me.”
So I do. It spills out of my mouth like a waterfall. It seems to me that I wanted to tell it before, but I didn’t want to at the same time. It is a relief to get it all out. Britney stands like a statue, her eyes fixed on me. When I’m done, Britney looks at me with a weird expression on her face. Then I realize that it is concern. I remember that her family used to be very poor. “Britney,” I say seriously. “I think you’ve just gotten your number one hundred and first expression.”
“Come with me,” Britney says. I’m pretty confused, but she leads me to an ATM machine and she inserts her credit card inside. Then Britney turns to me and frowns. “Don’t look, Olivia, I’m entering my passcode.” I turn away and look around. We appear to be inside a bank, and it is pretty empty. An old woman with white hair and glasses is slowly moving around behind a desk, doing stuff to papers from time to time.
She looks up at me, takes around thirty seconds to process that I’m there, and says, “Oh, hello, may I help you?” Without waiting for an answer she turns and walks to the other end of the desk.
Then Britney calls, “Okay, come here, Olivia.” I turn around and I see cash flowing out of the ATM machine as fast as words had flown out of my mouth. Then it jerks to a stop. “This is, I’m guessing, 500 dollars or so?”
“Oh my gosh, that’s so much, thank you!” I gasp.
She gives me a weird look. “That’s not enough! I’m giving you like, 200 million dollars. It’s just that the machine won’t give me anymore. ” I nearly DIED right then and there.
“NOOOOOOOOO! Just pay the amount the trophy is worth!” The fact that I can take SO MUCH of someone’s money without doing anything will be enough to to make me guilty for the rest of my life.
“Okay, okay, 100 million dollars!” she cries.Without waiting for an answer, Britney marches up to the old bank lady. “Helga. 99 million, 999 thousand, 500, please.” She holds out her ATM card.
Helga smiles. “Hellllooooo, Britney.”
“Hello, Helga. 99 million, 999 thousand, 500.”
“How may IIIIII help you?”
“I would like you to take 99 million, 999 thousand, 500 out of my bank account.”
“Sooooooo. We are taking money out of a bank account.”
“Yes. 99 million, 999 thousand, 500, please.”
“Nooooooo. IIIIIIII cannot. You are underaged, Britney.”
Britney sighs in exasperation. “Okay, fine then. My parents will let me anyway.” She calls her parents. She glares angrily at Helga for being difficult. Helga blinks back at her slowly. Something similar to a staring contest happens between them, except Helga blinks constantly while Britney does not.
There’s a whirring sound outside the bank door and the flat car pulls out. Britney’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tucker, walk arm in arm. “Yes, Britney? If you called us here for nothing, I shall be extremely upset,” Mrs. Tucker snaps.
I’m pretty sure Britney shrank a little. “Can Olivia get…100 million dollars?” She asks in a small voice.
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY?” Mrs. Tucker roars. The sudden movement nearly jerks Mr. Tucker off his feet. Mrs. Tucker is furious. A hundred daggers shoot out of her eyes, ten at Britney and ninety at me. “DON’T YOU DARE TAKE MONEY FROM US, YOU UNSCRUPULOUS RASCAL!” She yells at me. Now she turns to Helga. “WHY DID YOU LET THEM DO THIS?” Mrs. Tucker screams.
Helga blinks. “Wellllllll, Mrs. Tucker, what is your question?”
“WHY DID YOU LET THEM DO THIS?”
“TOO SLOW! WHATEVER!” Mrs. Tucker turns her angry gaze on everyone. This had never occured to me, but right now, Mrs. Tucker seemed 50 feet tall, while everyone else is as tall as an ant. At any second, she can stomp on us and crush us.
Britney says, “Your motto is, ‘No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted.’ So…?”
“BRITNEY! I NEVER SHOULD HAVE TOLD YOU MY MOTTO! I MEANT FOR THAT MOTTO TO MEAN THAT EVERYONE SHOULD BE NICE TO ME! I ONLY SAID THAT ON MOTHER’S DAY! AND YOU GUYS WERE LOUNGING AROUND, AND PROBABLY FORGOT THAT IT WAS MOTHER’S DAY!” Mrs. Tucker howls in frustration.
“Mother, you don’t want to be hypocritical, do you? And Dad and I did remember, it was SUPPOSED to be a surprise at night!”
Mrs. Tucker looks like a volcano, ready to explode. Her feet are shaking in their 7-inch thick heels. “Why didn’t you give me the surprise? Also, an act of kindness that I was referring to is like, giving a beggar a crumb!”
“No, your motto says any act of kindness, no matter how small. We didn’t want to because you were being mean to us.”
“YOU ARE BEING PLAIN HORRIBLE!” Mrs. Tucker stamps her foot, screeching like a howler monkey. She takes a deep breath. “Well then, isn’t it our choice how much to give?”
“Yes, OUR. Now I think we should give $100 million. Also, she is not taking money. I’m paying for this trophy.”
“Okay, pretend the trophy is an act of kindness from that human and let’s get out of here.”
“NO. I AM NOT DOING THAT.” Suddenly Britney stops, a smile on her face. “I’m sure that my followers on Instagram and Snapchat would love to hear about EVERYTHING my hypocrite of a mom did.”
Mrs. Tucker blanches. “You wouldn’t. I forbid you. Give me your phone RIGHT NOW.”
Britney takes out her phone, takes a few steps backwards, and says, “I can send it immediately, but I’m not. Are you giving Olivia money or not?”
Mrs. Tucker hesitates. “Fine. Just don’t send it.”
But I didn’t want the money! I racked my mind to think of an excuse. “Guys, NOPE. I can’t bring it home anyway.”
There is a triumphant look on Mrs. Tucker’s face as she looks smugly at Britney.
But Britney asks me, “What’s one of your parent’s phone numbers?”
“No it’s not.” Britney is using her crazy power again.
“Stop lying to me.”
“That’s better.” Britney dials the number and my mom picks it up. “This is Britney. Hi Mrs. Xu, you have to come to Bank of America. It’s an emergency. Bring Mr. Xu if possible. Olivia and I are on the third bank on Billionaire’s Row.” Then Britney hung up. “They’re coming,” she said, smiling widely.
I know that my parents will be here any minute, because our once-happy house is right next to Billionaire’s Row, so I plead for Helga to help me, to hide me behind her desk. Britney forces me away. I start hyperventilating. Britney grabs my shoulders. “Stop it, Olivia. $100 million dollars is only a small portion of Dad’s money. It will not make a dent in it. So stop hyperventilating and take it!”
Suddenly my mom and dad burst into the bank, panting. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?” they cry.
I glower at Britney, and she grins at my parents. “May I talk to you guys privately?” My parents shoot me worried looks as they follow Britney to the other side of the bank, glancing at the pile of cash at the feet of the ATM. I am in a trance as I watch them talk. I groan and cover my eyes.
“Mr. or Mrs. Xu, do one of you guys have PayPal? The money I have here is…” Britney checks the ATM. “$500, so you guys are going to get $99,999,500.”
My dad nods slowly, almost as slow as the woman behind the desk. He takes out his phone. My hands take over. I run over to him and snatch the phone from him, clutching it tightly. “We are NOT receiving 100 million dollars. This trophy is more plastic than gold. It is worth less than 100 million.”
“Oh. Kay. Fine. Then. One. Mil. Lee. Un. Dol. Ar. S,” Britney says in something close to a growl, and I know that she isn’t going to take no for an answer. “But…….that’s x200 less than what I was going to give you, so how about-”
My dad and I speak at the same time with me saying: “No no no no no, that’s okay” but with him saying with a shrug: “Um, sure.” There is a tiny gleam in his eye.
My mom just frowns. Finally she says, “Don’t pity us. We can get on fine.”
Britney turns to me and my dad. “So I’ll give you $1 million. And there’s an extra $500.” I regretfully hand my dad his phone and turn away. He’s going to take the money.
I decide I should constantly be giving Britney’s family stuff, but there probably isn’t anything I can give her that her dad can’t get or doesn’t have. “Britney,” I say, “What is your biggest desire, your need, your want?” I want to know so I can get her something.
But she shrugs and answers, “I don’t have one. I don’t need anything.”
“What is your biggest secret?”
“My secrets aren’t big, they’re barely even secrets.” Wow. This is getting to be way harder than I thought it would be.
“Well then, tell me your biggest.”
“The biggest…why do you want to know?”
“AAAAAAAAH, WE ARE NOT DOING THIS AGAIN!” I scream.
“Okay, okay, the biggest is Jessica does my reading homework for me.”
“Um, I kind of am bad at reading.”
“Oh my. Okay,” I say thoughtfully. “Do you have any books at home?”
“No. And don’t push it.” Britney’s face is as red as a tomato. I don’t. Mrs. Tucker grabs Britney and marches out the door, growling like a starved animal the whole time. Tomorrow, over to Britney’s I go.
When I wake up, I don’t want to get up because my bed is soft, but then I remember why I even woke up, and I jump out of bed. My dad has to leave now because of his job as a trash guy, so he is wearing his old and faded Snoopy T-shirt, cargo pants, and a cap. He waves as I grab some cereal from the box. We walk out together, but I turn right and he turns left at the crossroad. We did not speak for the whole time, not even a “bye” when we split. It was a good kind of silence though.
I go into Barnes & Nobles with some money and buy the best books I can think of, the Harry Potter series. The line is long, and the cashier is about as slow as the lady in the bank. Finally, carrying the bag of books, I step out of Barnes & Nobles and continue on to Billionaire’s Row.
Once again I knock on the tall wooden door, and once again the door is opened by Britney. “It’s so early….” she yawns. “Whaddya got in that bag?”
I hold it out to her. “It’s yours. I got it for you.”
“What’s in it?”
“Oh. That’s nice.”
“They’re Harry Potter.”
“Uh, the problem is, I can’t read Harry Potter.”
“Oh man. I’ll teach you!”
“Haha.” Britney smiles, then she gasps. “Wait. You’re not joking?”
“No, of course not.”
“This time every morning, on your doorstep?”
“You’ll try hard, right?”
“Yes. Duh! I am the queen of trying hard! Come to think of it, I am the queen of everything!”
I leave Britney, who is flipping through the first book with doubt. True to her word, Britney works crazy hard, as hard as I did on skiing. Every day we struggle through a chapter or so, and finally, one day, we finish Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.
“I’m going-to have a lot of fun…with Dudley this sum-mer.” Britney stutters through the last sentence. She flips the page, but the only thing there is the About the Author. Britney looks up at me in shock. “I finished the book?” she asks in disbelief. I nod, grinning a little bit, and she starts to laugh. It is crazy. She throws back her head and shrieks, which I assume is manic laughter. Then she stands up, still shaking with laughter, and says, “Thirty minutes are up. I’m getting back inside.”
We speed through the rest of the books and finish all seven. It is nearly summer already. When we finish Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Britney turns to me. “I will ask my repetitive question. Why?”
“It’s a long story…” I say.
“I have time. And tell everything, and what you thought of it, and how you processed it.” So I tell her. Fun fact: when she is interested, Britney is very good at listening. Once I finish, Britney is looking very, very sad. “I’m moving away this summer,” she says quietly.
I gasp. “On the first day?”
“That’s in a week!”
“I know.” We sit side by side. Britney’s head is lowered, the success of finishing all the books forgotten. I don’t know how long we sat there. Finally, Britney stands. “What are you doing?” she asks.
“Just thinking,” I answer.
I left Billionaire’s Row that summer. My dad decided that “we should move to somewhere richer and fancier”. I wanted to stay, but I couldn’t. So on the first day of summer, I stood in front of our fancy car, clutching a book and the plastic/gold trophy. Olivia and her family were there to wave us off. “In the car,” my dad said, and I did, waving to Olivia. My dad started the car, and I looked out the window, waving until the Xu family was out of sight. That was the last time I ever saw Olivia, but she had given me something my dad couldn’t, and I remembered her. I still have the trophy. It sits on my counter, higher and separate than the other trophies. I learned how to write better, in a class in the city, and I wrote down in a journal, my first entry, everything that Olivia told me on the day we finished Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, and I created this. The trophy is a souvenir of my old life in Billionaire’s Row.