I walked into the large auditorium with a sad sense that my participation was inevitable. I realized the room had been filled with thousands of chairs in even rows for the big debate. Not only were all of the final debate teams of Southern California in the room but the rest of our entire school sat impatiently waiting for the debate to begin. I searched the rows and found mine in the back. “Olivia James” it read and below it, “Oliv, the team’s not-so-secret secret weapon.”
I smiled, knowing who had insisted on writing my nickname and “team status,” as he called it. Suddenly, something crashed into the ground behind me. I screamed and turned around, punching whatever it was square in the chest. I hadn’t realized what I had done until the body flew backward and I felt a sharp pain in my fist. I looked down at the young man with dirty blond hair and bronze colored eyes. He wore a science t-shirt similar to mine and plain blue jeans. It was Peter! I gasped and quickly pulled him off the floor.
“I’m so sorry,” I gushed once he was on his feet.
He chuckled breathlessly. “It’s okay. I knew the risk. I should have learned from last Halloween what happens when people sneak up on you,” he said cheerfully, referring to the time one of his idiotic friends had tried to steal the last cupcake from behind me and had ended up on his back before even I had realized what had happened. I laughed at the memory. “You like what I did to your chair?” he asked.
I sighed, not knowing how to explain that I didn’t want to be the team’s “secret weapon” and hoped I could simply be a team member. “Yeah,” I said quietly, arranging my face to create a superficial smile. “It’s great.”
He smiled proudly and sat down in the seat beside me. I attempted to calm the butterflies which swarmed in my stomach as the voice of our principle, Mrs. Hunter came over the loudspeakers and the house lights were dimmed. The room quieted with anticipation. “Today we are here for the annual Southern California Debate,” she said with faked enthusiasm. “Let me remind you that two teams face off and depending on who wins, your team will either be eliminated or move on to state finals, the top three winners will proceed there!” she practically yelled into the microphone. I reminded my numb brain how to think by recalling what “S.C.A.G.S.D” stood for. I laughed at how inconvenient the acronym was. It meant “Southern California Annual Gifted Student Debate.” I hated being referred to as a “gifted student.” I found it provocative as if simply because we were intelligent, we were something parents could show-off to their friends or teachers could brag about years from now, when we inevitably do something important with our lives despite the overwhelming possibility that because of how much pride we are shown with, we forget that we still have to work for our goals and end up living at home forever. I was torn from my thoughts when Mrs. Hunter continued to speak, “I’m Mrs. Hunter, your host, let’s get onto the debate,” she said. “Welcome the Broncos from Einstein Academy to the stage,” she said as a team dressed all in yellow ran out from behind the curtains and moved swiftly to their seats. Applause erupted from the seats around me as I realized what she had meant by “welcome them.” I clapped for my possible competitors until I was silenced by Mrs. Hunter’s voice. “And now welcome the Dolphins from Webster Innovations School,” she said. At this, I joined my fellow mindless peers and clapped absentmindedly. I don’t recall anything from their debate. I seem to have “zoned-out." All I knew was that it lasted an hour and that there were two more to come. I groaned and prepared myself for the intense boredom which was to arrive.