The Contest

Maila Eliss

I was in Ms. Letterman’s classroom for double english (blah) “trying” to learn about the use of pronouns in speech, whatever that means. Honestly, I was more focused on the classrooms big, open windows and high ceilings with big lights. I was completely zoned out when I heard Ms. Letterman say briskly, “Maila, Sara Ann, and Emilia please come up to my desk after class. The rest of you are dismissed.”

Wait, what! Class was over already!? I must have done a better job zoning out than usual. Anyway, I headed up to her desk, along with Sara and Emilia. I thought they were afraid they were going to get in trouble, but not nearly as much as I was.

“Girls, first things first, you are not in trouble. You have been chosen for the district speech writing contest.” Oh great. More English class. Wait a second, this could make people at school respect me. “I have chosen you for a variety of reasons, that I will not get into right now. The team is not only composed of you girls, but of-”

“Well, who are they?” cut in Sara. Sara could be a little sharp around the edges, and really competitive. She’s really tall and blonde, but I might just think that because I’m one of the shortest kids in the grade.

“Sara. I was getting to that.” Ms. Letterman sighed. “The other two are Kalliope Howard, and Emilia’s sister Katlin, but I believe she goes by Katie.”

I had to admit, I was a little surprised by the addition of Kalliope and Katie, but Emilia seemed both highly surprised and completely livid.

“So you too now!” she cried, “Oh, look at the little twins. Let’s put them together for everything.”

Clearly this was not why Ms. Letterman put them both into the project because she sighed and softly replied, “No Emilia. That’s not why I put you together. I put you together because you have gifts that complement each other. My five choices will meet in my room at lunch.”

Katlin “Katie” McQuinn

People say I’m hyper, but I just try to have a positive attitude about life. Like the speech writing contest. Even people’s attitude about the first meeting. We all arrived early, though when Emilia arrived and saw me she started crying, then ran out and didn’t come back until just in time. When she got back she started being Little Miss Teach.

“Does anyone have any topic ideas?” she simpered.

“Basketball!” crowed Sara.

“Cheerleading or gymnastics!” I exclaimed, my thick, curly hair bouncing as I hopped from side to side. Emilia and I looked almost identical, except for one thing; my hair was curly and hers was straight. Okay, fine, I did curl mine and she did straighten hers when we stopped hanging out, but who really cares. Oh, yeah, she was a half inch taller than I was.

Maila was really quiet the whole time. All she said was, “Interactions with nature.” Sara and Kalliope said it was real smart. Maila blushed like crazy. Not to be rude, but it was really unlike Maila to make a suggestion that really hit off. But it was Kalliope who shocked us the most.

“Love and Loss,” was all she said. This was a very sweet statement for a girl who looked like Kalliope. She was fairly tall. But her hair, which pointed straight up, added a couple of inches. So I was like whaaa?? Then she gave a little cough and returned to her usual icy tones, and informed us that she was going to get lunch, so good-bye.

Meanwhile, Miss Teach was saying, “If we alter that a bit, we could use it. I like that theme!”

“Yeah it also applies to a bunch of stuff.” Sara said. Sara also said that she was going to go eat.

“Not yet,” Miss Teach said. “To work together requires some group cooperation. We should talk a little about ourselves.”

“‘Kay” Maila said sweetly, “What’s up with Kalliope?”

The response she got wasn’t pretty.

Kalliope Howard

If you’re wondering about that meeting, don’t. All I can say is my dad is dead. That’s why I was icy towards people, and why my topic idea was love and loss. A couple days later I got a text from Sara. I liked Sara. Sara was cool. Anyway, Sara asked if I wanted to come over to work on the speech because everyone else was already there. I said ok, where. I got her address and went over.

“We are electing officials and positions,” Emilia said. I was like ok.

“Sara’s the writer because she writes the fastest and Maila’s doing format and I’m the captain.”

“Excuse me,” said Katie, “I’m delivering the speech.” Emilia completely ignored Katie. There was something going on between those two. They were twins, but before that project, I had never seen them together.

“You want to be the typist?” Emilia asked.

“Sure, why not” I replied softly. I really hated the way they didn’t know that every moment you don’t spend with someone is a moment wasted. I know that oh-too-well. After the meeting Maila held me back.

“Do you want some chocolate?” How does she know chocolate is my weak spot? “I know where Sara hides it from her parents. I also know you’ve got something hidden.” She said. “Whats wrong?” I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t know why.

Don’t tell her.

She’s a good person.

I barely know her.

She seems to care.

I don’t know what she’ll do.

I wanted to trust her.  

I told her most of it. I still kept a little bit to myself.  Maila just seemed easy to open up to. I didn’t really know why. Maybe it was the way that she didn’t confront you. Or maybe the way that she seemed to care. Or maybe I just needed someone to talk to. Then she took her turn.

It felt good to tell someone.

Sara Ann Jones

Our next meeting was at Maila’s house. I got there early, and guess what! She had an older brother in college who played basketball, and they had a hoop! I asked if I could play. She rolled her eyes and said, “Be my guest.”

So I shot hoops for a bit. I could use all the practice time I could get, with the championships coming up in March, just a month away. Eventually, Maila stuck her head out and called to me, “Emilia just texted me and told me that she and Katie are on their way. You should probably come in now.”

“Okay, fine,” I grumbled. “Where does the ball go?”

“Eh, I don’t care. Just dump it somewhere,” came Maila’s soft response. I couldn’t believe it! Maila, who treats every plant like a like a living thing (yeah, plants are living things, but who’s counting) didn’t care about where a precious basketball went! Apparently I was saying this aloud, because Maila hollered, “You know, not everyone cares about basketball. You’re kind of biased. I already told you. Emilia and Katie are on their way, and Kalliope probably is too.”

Maybe I am biased. Maybe I care too much about a sport.

Emilia McQuinn

I walked over to the meeting at Maila’s place, trailing ten steps behind Katie, because she refused to walk next to me. It was really annoying. I remembered the day she stopped talking to me.

It was the first day of junior high. Katie and I were headed to our new school. Katie started doing cartwheels and backflips. One of the superficial girls on Katie’s gymnastics team, named Cassidy, came over and started animatedly chatting and giggling. Then, the girl looked at me with disdain in her eyes.

“Why are you hanging out with the nerd?” That was what did it. Katie looked really uncomfortable.

“Well it’s be- she’s my sist- I don’t know,” Katie grumbled.

“You’ve come to the right place, girl. We’ll help you out,” Cassidy said. And with that they walked off.

I really miss having her as a sister. I don’t know why. We reached Maila’s house, and just as I turned onto Maila’s driveway, I heard Kalliope yelling.

“Hey, Emilia and Katie! Wait up!” I looked up and saw Kalliope sprinting towards us as fast as she could.

“Let’s go in, I’m frozen.” Katie whined. We all raced in and walked in on Maila and Sara having a little scream fest which they abruptly stopped when they saw us walk in.

“Just because you love something doesn’t mean that everyone does,” said Kalliope in a voice like ice. “I’ve learned that the hard way.” Wow. There was certainly more to Kalliope Howard than met the eye.

We didn’t do much that meeting. Sara jotted down what we said. Partway through, I got an email from Ms. Letterman. Talk about awkward! I read it aloud.

“She says, ‘I received word that the contest is being held at the town hall-’”

“WHAT!” yelled Maila and Sara.

“-at 3 p.m on Sunday, March 3rd. However the rough draft should be ready in about a week.’ Guys, we really need to bust a move.”

It was now a race against time.

Maila Eliss

The next five days were a flurry of activity. We had two hour meetings practically every day. But it still felt as though we wouldn’t be done in time. Sara and Katie both reassured us that no matter what activity you did, you always felt really rushed.

Finally, on the day of Ms. Letterman’s deadline, we finished. Emilia was freaking out. She thought that we didn’t do our best because we kept disagreeing on fairly important topics, but everyone else told her we were fine. Sara insisted throwing a party to celebrate. Emilia and Katie volunteered their house. No one objected. We heard a knock, and the door swung open.

Katie’s friends were here, and not for the party.

Katlin “Katie” McQuinn

I had never been more ashamed of myself. They were my friends. At least the people I called my friends. It was Cassidy and her group. The group that until this project, I hung out with every day. Let me back up a little bit.

In  5th grade gymnastics class, Cassidy was a little snarky, but she was always nice to me. Well, fairly nice. Then in 6th, when she tried to pull me away from Emilia, I let her. It wasn’t all her. Emilia and I had a huge fall-out that day, but we had been slipping for a little while. I had been waiting for a chance to break the chain holding us together. Just because I had a sister didn’t mean I had to spend all my time with her. In fact, Emilia and I had complained together about how people associate us together. So I guess I understood why she was upset. But she never made an effort to talk to me. I regretted it now.

Anyway, Cassidy was here now.

I don’t know what to do.

Sara Ann Jones

We all exchanged glances and nodded towards Katie.

“What are you doing with them?” Cassidy asked Katie snarkily.

“What do you mean, them?” countered Katie. At those words, Emilia stood up and stood with her sister.

“No matter how we’ve been acting towards each other, we are still sisters, and sisters stick together.” she said, softly to Katie. I glanced at Kalliope who had tears running down her cheeks and Maila who was sitting next to Kalliope in silence. I looked at her in surprise, but she didn’t seem to notice. Maila made eye contact and mouthed,

“Let them be.” I nodded. As we walked out of the room, We overheard Katie tell Cassidy off.

“None of my friends talk to me and my sister that way.” Cassidy responded, in mock surprise.

“But Katie, I thought that you were our friend?”

“Maybe you were. This is our house. Go,” Emilia said. And, as surprising as it seems, they did.

We all were hiding something. And I wanted to know why.

Kalliope Howard

We all assembled in Emilia and Katie’s bedroom.

“We’re all hiding something” Sara said sternly, “even me. Somebody, talk.” When nobody responded, Sara drew in a sharp breath.

“Fine. then I’ll start. Maila might know this, but not because I told her. Basketball is my life. With two older brothers, sports are just what you do. The basketball tournament is really important to me.” she finished.

“These past two years all I’ve wanted is to have my sister back. That’s why I joined student government and became active in school. I don’t know how you only children stand it. But now that I have her, I don’t have anything bothering me. Except the fact that the contest is next week and I’m so freaking nervous!” Emilia said the last bit quickly, and we all laughed until Maila took a turn.

“When you’re small like me -I’m 5’1”- you get looked over a lot. Athletically, and uhh… other ways.” she said quietly. “Kalliope, it’s your turn.” I really didn’t want to talk about it but it warmed my heart to see the rest of them open up to each other and me. So I did.

“My father died right before the start of 6th grade,” I began. “That’s why I ice people out sometimes, and act like a snob. Emilia- I admire your ability to cope with something that bothers you without turning on other people. That’s what I’ve been hiding.” Katie was the first to speak.

“And we all thought you were a self-centered brat!” she exclaimed.

“Katieeee,” Sara groaned, softly punching Katie in the shoulder.

For once since dad passed away, I felt good. Like I belonged. It felt good.

The feeling you belong is one of the best feelings ever.

Emilia McQuinn

I had a sister again, and it was more wonderful than I remembered. I told the gang about us, as did Sara, Malia and Kalliope. Kalliope’s story was so sad. We all were sitting there quietly when Sara called,

“Guys, do any of you remember why we were here to begin with!? Let’s party!” We all laughed. Leave it to Sara to think about partying at a time like this. Our party was great. We all hung out and had the time of our lives.

But in the back of my mind I had the constant reminder that in just ten more days until the contest began.

Maila Eliss

The next seven days were like the calm before the storm. Kalliope went back to her group. Sara and I went back to our friends at tables right next to each other. The only change was Katie. She sat with Emilia and the other student government kids.

On the eighth day, the storm hit.

Katlin “Katie” McQuinn

Two days before the contest Ms. Letterman called us in during yard. She told us a lot of stuff about the contest. It pretty much all went over my head, but Emilia claimed that she knew I wouldn’t be paying attention, and took notes for me. Here they were:

  • We all will go out and bow, but only the performer (you/Katie) will deliver the speech.




  • The actual contest is at 3 p.m., but we should get there at 11:30 a.m.
  • There are going to be hundreds of people there

The next day, we got called up to rehearse.

Throughout rehearsal I thought about how I fear tomorrow.

Sara Ann Jones

Kalliope and I arrived first. Her usually colorful hair was black as night. She was wearing tall brown boots and a black dress. Dangling from her ears were long silver chains. She looked even more fearless and intimidating than usual. How could that be?! Me, you ask? I was wearing a denim dress with tiny white polka dots. I actually brushed my hair that morning. Can you believe it! Maila came in next.

“Oh my God! You look amazing, Maila” Kalliope gushed. Maila blushed a little. I completely agreed with Kalliope. Maila looked stunning, and nothing like the shy little girl we began the project with.

“Thank you. You guys look great as well,” Maila replied sweetly. Then Emilia and Katie entered the auditorium. They didn’t dress the same, or do their hair the same, but that was what made them look so at ease. Just as they reached us, Ms. Letterman bustled out of one of the doors.

“Ready, girls?” she said. We all nodded.

“Well then, let’s go.”

I was more terrified that I had ever been, and more thrilled than I had ever been.

Kalliope Howard

We walked into a huge room filled with other teams. I was so scared! Ms. Letterman told us that teams would be called out one at a time to rehearse, and then perform. It all happened so quickly. We sat around for a bit, then until they called Katie. She went in and out quickly. We sat for a little while longer.

“The Stoneybrook Superstars,” called the announcer. This was it. We stood up.

I was so afraid.

Emilia McQuinn

It was our turn. Katie walked to the mic nervously. Her shoulders were hunched and her fists were clenched. She began to read and recite. I hadn’t heard the speech before; only Kalliope and Katie had seen the complete and published thing.

It was beautiful.

Katlin “Katie” McQuinn

“Good afternoon, all. When I was a really little kid, I had a gerbil. I really loved that gerbil. But it being a rodent and all, it died, and I lost it. I was really upset, but life went on and I stopped mourning the loss. But it was hard anyway. My friend Kalliope lost her father and had a hard time with it. I don’t blame her. She was close to her father. She adjusted, and while it was hard, she has done it. She dealt with it bravely. This is something that I hadn’t learned to do then, when I was a little. I wish I had. Thank you.” I said.

We went back to the waiting room after giving our bow. As soon as we got there, Sara took of her shoes, and groaned softly, “These things are medival torture devices” she grumbled.

We sat there for what seemed like hours, but it probably was like 20 minutes. During that time, we all did one of the following;

  • Bit our nails
  • Talked A TON
  • Sat and ignored everyone
  • etc..

Then someone said,

“All teams report to the stage. We are announcing the winner.

What if we weren’t the champions?

Emilia McQuinn

I couldn’t breathe. I was petrified onstage. I wanted to be chosen so badly. I wasn’t listening to the announcers. Until I heard the words, “In third place, the Fairfield Falcons!” There was a loud whoop from the back of the stage. The Falcons went up for their medal.

“In second place, the Hartford Heroes!” More cheering. Why couldn’t they just get to first place. The auditorium felt strangely claustrophobic.

“And in first place, for the gold is……… the Stoneybrook Superstars!” Oh my God. I couldn’t believe it. That was us! We all turned towards each other. Only Sara could speak. She let out an ear-splitting whistle. The rest of us regained ourselves, and started cheering.

“And that’s all for today, folks! Superstars, Heroes, Falcons, see you in Boston!” the announcer hollered into his microphone over the noise.

We were going to Boston for round two!


After the contest, things mostly got back to normal, but the experience changed them all a bit. Obviously, Emilia and Katie were together a lot, but Maila could be found playing basketball with Sara, and not against Maila’s will! Kalliope was a little more relaxed around people, and got rid of her dumb haircut. She was able to recognize that her dad would never come back, and accept it. Sara’s team made it to the championships, but didn’t win them. She took it surprisingly well, at least after cursing at the opposing team loudly for five minutes. After the contest, Maila got the recognition she anticipated. All was well. Until the Boston contest…

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