Jessica Casetta, New Dorp High School, Staten Island
Second Place: Prose
Linda Rivers ran over to her desk and opened the top drawer. She was looking for the scissors that she always kept in the corner of the drawer. She had to hurry, there were people waiting for her downstairs and it was getting late. All she had to do was cut the annoying piece of thread that was hanging from her dress. It wasn't much of a big thing, but she wanted everything to be perfect today.
She opened the drawer and shuffled some papers around thinking to herself "I know it's in here." Since the drawer was full of papers, she had to take some of them out and place them on top of the dresser.
"There they are," Linda said to herself as she pulled the scissors out of the drawer.
She quickly reached under her arm and pulled the piece of thread as she brought the scissors over to cut it off. Something caught her eye that made her stop what she was doing. Underneath all the papers she had placed on the dresser was a rectangular piece of white paper. She stared at it for a second or two before she put the scissors down on the dresser.
"I can't believe it! I haven't seen this picture in years." Linda was almost crying.
The picture was the kind that you go into a booth and it takes five or six pictures as you make funny faces. Linda looked at each picture as tears welled up in her eyes. "I totally forgot about this. It has to mean something that I found it today of all days. That night at the carnival was one of the best days of my life."
That was the night she met a boy named Keith Owens.
Sitting down now, she looked straight ahead staring at her own eyes in the mirror that was attached to the back of the dresser. She glanced up and smiled at the pink teddy bear that she placed on top of the mirror. It was all coming back to her as if she was living that night all over again. She could almost smell the cotton candy and food at the carnival. She smiled as she remembered her mom dropping her and Tracey off at the carnival. Tracey Anderson was Linda's neighbor and best friend in the world.
"Wow, it looks like a big turnout this year. There should be a lot of boys. Maybe your Prince Charming is here ready to sweep you off your feet," Tracey said as she gave a little fake bow to her imaginary prince.
"There is no Prince Charming in this town. We're here to have a good time so let's go inside. Check out the new rides and attractions that they have this year." Linda smiled as she walked to the entrance.
"Well I'm going to find a nice boy for you tonight and one day you are going to owe me big time." Tracey chuckled as she followed Linda into the carnival.
Linda walked over to one of the stands selling cotton candy.
"It's not fair. The smell of the cotton candy is like a magnet to me, and I can't resist it," Linda mumbled as she dug her right hand into her pocket to take out her money.
"How many do you need?" asked the man inside the booth.
"We'll take two, please," Linda said as she put her money on the wooden counter.
"Thank you ladies, have a good time." The cotton candy man handed them their cotton candy cones and gave Linda her change.
The two best friends turned and walked away. As they walked, they pulled strings of cotton candy off and placed it in their mouths. Walking along the grassy field that the carnival was located on, the girls looked at all the rides. Most were the same as the year before. There were a couple of new rides that the smaller kids would love, but nothing for older kids to get too excited about.
Linda was enjoying her cotton candy when she felt a tug on her arm. It was Tracey pulling her to the left.
"What are you doing? You almost knocked me off my feet," Linda said as she pulled her arm back.
"You don't understand; look over at the Ferris wheel. Do you see who just got on line?"
Linda looked over and saw Billy Walters waiting his turn to go on. She knew Tracey had a crush on Billy and that she was about to be dragged over to him.
"Come on Linda; let's get on line with him before someone else gets behind him. He's all alone. I'll ask him if he wants some company." Tracey's voice was getting higher and higher with each word.
"Alright I'll go over with you, but when you get on, I'm walking away. I don't want to be a third wheel on a Ferris wheel." Linda let out a chuckle.
They walked over quickly and got on line right behind Billy. Tracey was smiling as she built up the nerve to talk to Billy. He had his back to them and didn't know they were there.
"Hey Billy," Tracey started. "You going on alone?"
Billy turned around and looked at Tracey. His eyes opened wide when he realized that it was Tracey talking to him, and then a big smile came to him. From the smile and his eyes, you could tell Billy had the same feelings for Tracey.
"Well, um, I'm not actually going on alone." He reached over to his right and grabbed a kid standing next to him. "This is my cousin Keith. He just moved here, and I invited him to hang out with me at the carnival. We were just going on the ride, so I could show him what the town looks like from up high."
Tracey's eyes followed Billy's finger up to the top of the Ferris wheel and she held them there for a couple of seconds as an idea popped into her head.
"I have an idea; why doesn't Keith go on with Linda, no one knows this town better than her, and she would be happy to show him. Wouldn't you, Linda?" Tracey gave Linda a nudge with her elbow.
"I don't know, Tracey. Why can't we just go on together?" Linda mumbled near Tracey's ear so the boys wouldn't hear her.
"OK, we're set. Keith, you go on one car with Linda, and I'll go on another with Billy." Linda smiled.
Linda saw the puppy dog eyes Tracey usually gives when she needed a favor and nodded her head. Tracey gave Linda a small shove towards Keith, so they were standing next to each other and then walked over to Billy and stood next to him as their turn came up to go on the ride. Linda let out a smile as she saw Tracey get on the ride, she felt good inside knowing she just helped her friend.
"We were never formally introduced." Billy said, as he reached his hand out to Linda. "My name is Billy Anderson."
Linda was still watching Tracey and Billy get settled in the car when she heard Keith speak. She turned to face him and their eyes met. She caught herself staring and had to shake her head slightly. She had to think of something clever to say.
"Oh, uh,, my name is Linda, and I'll be your tour guide on the Ferris wheel," She reached her hand out and it met Keith's hand. They shook hands.
"It's a pleasure to have such a beautiful tour guide." Keith smiled as they continued to look into each other's eyes.
"Come on. You're next," the ride operator called out to Linda and Keith.
Keith motioned with his arm for Linda to climb the steps to the waiting car. Linda felt his arm under hers as she took the first step. He was being a gentleman, something a girl didn't see much every day. As they got to the car, Keith lifted the metal safety device and dusted off the seat where Linda was going to sit.
"There's a lot of dust around here. I guess it comes from the field the carnival is on." Keith looked at Linda as he brushed off the last of the dust.
"Thank you," Linda said as she slid over to the end and watched Keith take the seat next to her.
They were now seated and the ride began to move. Linda looked up at the car over hers and saw that Tracey and Billy were calling down to people that were walking around the carnival. She was trying to find the right words to start a conversation with Keith. She began to feel nervous about being with Keith. It was a good nervous, not a bad one. She wanted to talk to him, but she was afraid she wouldn't be interesting enough and that he would think she was boring.
"Well, we're on the Ferris wheel, and I was told that a beautiful tour guide was going to tell me all about this town." Keith laughed.
Linda felt a little bit at ease. She forgot about the tour and now had something to talk about. She took her attention away from Tracey and looked in Keith's eyes again. He was staring back into her eyes as he waited for her to begin.
"OK, let's get the tour started," Linda said with a smile.
The Ferris wheel ride lasted only about ten minutes, but in that ten minutes Linda filled Keith in on everything she knew about the town he had just moved into. She told him about the park, the lake, the schools, and other things she thought he might find interesting. He asked questions as she went on. Keith thought Linda was very entertaining and made sure he gave Linda his full attention. It wasn't too hard to do because he thought she was very pretty.
Linda looked ahead and saw the ride operator lifting the safety device of Tracey and Billy's car, which meant their ride was over and that Linda and Keith's ride was going to be over. That was a problem for her. She was having a good time with Keith but didn't want to abandon her best friend.
"Linda, I need to ask you another favor. Billy and I want to go on another ride and I need you to babysit Keith for just a little longer. I'll owe you a really big favor." Tracey begged.
Linda thought for a moment, "She wants me to do a favor and stay with Keith? Well she doesn't know that I am the one that owes her a big favor. I can't let this opportunity slip by; I have to take full advantage of the situation."
"Please, please, please can you do me this big favor?" Tracey pleaded.
"Fine, I'll do it, and don't forget you owe me a very big favor." Linda said with a fake growl.
"Thank you Linda. That's why you are my best friend in the world." Tracey blew kisses to Linda as she walked backwards to Billy.
Billy and Keith smiled and waved as Tracey reached Billy. Then, they ran off together for the bumper cars.
"So I guess we're stuck with each other for the time being. We'll just have to make the best of it." Keith was trying to look serious but he couldn't help himself and let out a laugh.
"My best friend just left me stranded out here in the middle of a dry cornfield all by myself. Like they say let's make the best out of a bad situation." Linda tried to keep a straight face but the laughter escaped her the way it did for Keith.
The two of them began walking in the opposite direction that Billy and Tracey went. Linda continued from where she left off while they were on the Ferris wheel. She still had a few things to tell Keith about the town, and now she had more time to do it. They walked around the carnival not noticing the other people that were there have a good time on all the rides. Linda and Keith found that they were enjoying the carnival without going on any of the rides.
After a while, Linda noticed that she was telling Keith everything about herself and the history of the town. He was listening to her and asking questions but she wanted to hear about him.
"I have an idea," Linda began. "Instead of me talking on and on about everything that happens around here, why don't I let you talk for a while?"
"There's not much to talk about. My dad was offered a better paying job out here, and we all decided it was the right thing to do, so we moved about two weeks ago. I was lucky that my cousin Billy was living here to help me find friends and get to know the area. Before tonight, I was feeling down since I had to leave all my friends behind. That was until I came here tonight with Billy. Things are starting to look a little brighter for me." Billy turned his head to look in Linda's eyes.
Linda could feel the goose bumps running up and down her arms as she listened to Keith tell his story. She was worried that it was stupid for liking someone she just met for the first time, but what Keith said showed that maybe it wasn't so stupid of her. It seemed like he felt the same way she did.
As they walked, Linda saw a lemonade stand. The cotton candy she had before the Ferris wheel was making her thirsty, and a cup of lemonade was the right thing to cure that. She decided she was going to do something. She was going to grab Keith's hand and head over to the lemonade stand. If he pulled his hand away, he really didn't feel the same way she did.
"How about a nice cold cup of lemonade? They make the best lemonade in town." Linda reached down and held Keith's hand to steer him in the right direction as an excuse to hold his hand.
Keith glanced down at his hand and back up at Linda. "That sounds like a great idea. I could go for a cup of the best lemonade in town right about now."
As they got closer to the stand, Keith saw that there were picnic tables around the food stands.
"Why don't you sit here while I get us a couple of lemonades?" Keith pulled one of the wooden benches out for Linda and she sat down.
She watched as Keith walked over to the stands and ordered their drinks. While he waited, Keith glanced over to Linda and gave her a smile. She never took her eyes off of him. He took the drinks from the counter and took two straws from a tray and walked back over to Linda. He placed the drinks on the table and took the wrappers off the straws and placed them in the holes in the cover. They sat there talking some more while they drank the lemonade.
They talked until the cups were just holding ice and the lemonade was gone. They continued talking until the ice turned to water. Each minute that went by they got to know each other more and more.
"We're done with our drinks. Do you want to check out the rest of the carnival?" Linda asked.
"Sure. Why not? That's what we came here for in the first place," Keith said as he stood up and walked around to Linda's side of the table. He helped Linda to her feet from the bench and took her empty cup from her hand and placed it in a trash can.
The two of them turned and walked into the crowd of people that were enjoying the carnival in their own way. They walked side by side with their arms at their sides looking at all the people around them but not really paying much attention to them. There were a couple of times when they had to move separately so they could let someone pass between them. Keith came up with a solution to that problem. He reached down and put his hand into Linda's hand. That would solve two problems. One, it would stop people from coming between him and Linda. The other? He was now holding her hand.
With all the noise from the crowd and games of the carnival, Keith had to lean over and talk in Linda's ear. "Come over here, I want to show you something." He was pointing over to a stand with stuffed animals hanging all over it.
Linda nodded her head.
The man behind the stand was holding a baseball. Behind him were three milk bottles stacked like a pyramid. The object of the game is to knock all three milk bottles off the stand to win a prize.
Keith paid the man, and he was handed a baseball. Keith wanted to make a good impression and knock the bottles off on the first throw. It was a hard thing to do since Linda was watching, and he felt a little pressure. He reached back and then fired the ball at the targets. As the last bottle hung over the edge he thought, "If that bottle falls off it would be a perfect day."
He closed his eyes for a second thinking that the bottle was not going to fall. Then he heard Linda's voice.
"You did it!" Linda yelled.
He opened his eyes just in time to see the bottle bounce one more time before it settled on the floor. He realized he was holding his breath the whole time and let it out in a rush and threw his arms up in the air.
"Which one do you want to take home with you?" Keith asked Linda.
She had already decided which one she wanted. She had seen it as they walked over to the stand. It was a pink teddy bear with a bow on top.
"I'll take that one on top." Linda pointed to the pink teddy bear with the bow.
"Here you go, ma'am. Have a good time at the carnival," the man said as he began to turn and reset the bottles.
"Thank you, Keith. She's beautiful. I love her." Linda held her new teddy bear with one hand and Keith's hand with the other.
"Take good care of her," Keith answered.
As they celebrated the prize Keith just won for Linda, they didn't notice Tracey come up behind them.
"Hello, do you know what time it is? Your mom is going to be here in five minutes, and we're supposed to meet her by the entrance." Tracey looked at Linda and Keith and saw the teddy bear and gave a little smile. Then, her mouth dropped open when she saw the two of them holding hands. "You said I owe you a big favor, I think you are the one that will be paying back a favor."
"I don't want you to get in trouble with your mom. Let's go over to the entrance, and I'll wait with you until she gets there," Keith said as he began walking.
"Wait a second I have to get something." Linda walked back over to the stand and talked to the man that just gave her the teddy bear. She walked back to Keith. "I didn't have a pen and I wanted to give you my phone number. You can give me a call, and I can show you everything about the town that I told you about."
Linda wrote down her number and handed it to Keith. He took it from her hand and looked at it before he put it in his pocket.
Tracey was walking away with Billy when she yelled over her shoulder, "Hey guys, come on. We have to be going."
Holding hands, they walked behind Tracey and Billy.
"Hold on. This will only take a minute." Keith spotted a booth where you sit and take a picture. He pointed it out to Linda.
"Come on," Linda yelled as she ran for the booth.
They got to the booth and Keith started putting change in until the green light went on telling them that it was ready to start taking pictures. They both sat in the chair together and waited for the flash to start. The camera flashed six times and each time they made a silly faces. Then, they came out and waited for the pictures to come out. A bell ringing told them it was time for the pictures to come out.
Linda took it out of the tray and looked at it. "Do you want to keep it?" She asked.
"No, that's ok. You hold on to it," Keith answered.
They only had a short time to look them over and continued on their way to meet Linda's mom.
"Your mom is pulling up right now." Tracey let out a sigh of relief as they got to the entrance. They were on time to meet Linda's mother.
Linda walked to the passenger side of the car and opened the door. Before she got in the car, she turned and gave Keith one more look. He lifted his hand up and waved to her. She lifted her hand up and waved back, then sat down and put her seatbelt on for the ride home.
"So, did you girls have a good time tonight?" Linda's mother said as she drove away from the carnival.
"Yes, Mrs. Rivers. We had an excellent time." Tracey answered for the two of them because she knew where Linda's mind was.
"That's good. I'm glad you talked Linda into coming here tonight Tracey," Linda's mom replied.
That carnival started a wonderful summer for Linda. Keith called the next day and Linda showed him around town like she promised. Linda introduced Keith to her friends and then her family. Keith's family thought Linda was a wonderful girl from the first day they met her. From the first night at the carnival, nothing changed the way Keith and Linda felt about each other. In fact, their relationship grew stronger as they got older.
When Keith went away to college, Linda became worried that their relationship would change. She loved their relationship just the way it was, but he made her feel better the first week he was in college. One day, her doorbell rang and there was a man standing in front of her with a bouquet of roses from Keith. From then on, he made sure he spoke to her every week and came home to see her on every break from school he had. No matter how many times he called or visited, she still missed being with him and hoped he never changed.
From behind her, she heard a familiar voice that took her out of the trance she was in. She was having so much fun sitting there remembering that night at the carnival.
"What are you doing sitting there staring into space?" Tracey yelled as she came into the room.
"I found the picture from the carnival, and it just brought back a lot of memories." Linda spun slowly and faced Tracey.
"Yes, I know. We've talked about that a thousand times. We have to hurry. We're going to be late," Tracey nervously said as she straightened out Linda's dress. "Keith is probably at the church by now, and everyone is waiting for us."
"Ok Tracey, I'm all ready. Oh wait, I have one more thing to do." Linda went back to the dresser and snipped off the little piece of thread from her wedding dress and put down the scissors. She picked up the picture and tucked it in the arm of the pink teddy bear and joined Tracey as she walked out the door. They went down the stairs and left the house to go to the church where Linda and Keith were getting married.