I’ll just skip the apologizes for this series and get straight to the story.
Charlotte pulled me into a two person football huddle .
“OK, Lee,” she said in a gruff voice — or as gruff a voice as she could. “I’m the brains and the muscle in the operation, so you just, uh . . . be cute and cuddly.”
We broke up the huddle and I saluted Charlotte. “Yes sir, Coach.”
We walked confidently for the first time since we got to The BFF Wars out to where the Academics section was set up.
That’s when I spotted Ashley and Sianne. They looked HILARIOUS in their preppy ties, skirts, black shoes and white tops. Sianne’s outfit looked especially dated.
I doubled over in a helpless fit of laughter.
Through laughter-induced tears, I saw Jules lean back against the wall, giggling as well. Venus stared at her like she was crazy, and she demanded, “What are you laughing at?”
Charlotte looked from me to old-fashioned private school girls Sianne and Ashley. She started cracking up too.
“That’s enough, girls,” Teresa said, making a “settle down” motion with her hands. But I could see she was suppressing a smile.
When Teresa, Ashley and Sianne stood across from us, the latter two glaring at Charlotte, Jules, and I, I realized that the cameras had gotten it all — Charlotte’s football huddle, me making fun of Ashley and Sianne’s ensembles, all of it. I didn’t feel bad about that last one, though, because they really looked funny.
Then Ashley started explaining the rules. She tapped the see-through glass dividing a table. “This is a semi-sound proof piece of glass. It’ll make it much harder to overhear the other team.
“And this,” she continued, “is the button. The first team to press it after you get your question will answer first.”
Teresa picked up a piece of paper, reading aloud the question printed on it. “The first question is . . . how do you spell Arkansas?”
Venus and I hit our team’s button the instant Teresa finished talking. Beep! Beep!
Venus’s button glowed and started playing music, so she guessed, “A-r-k-a-n-s-a-w!”
Bah! her button exclaimed.
“Better luck next time.” Teresa gave Team Jules a sympathetic smile. She turned to Team Tori. “You guys get to guess now!”
“A-r-k-a-n-s-a-s,” Charlotte said slowly, thinking about each letter before she said it.
“That’s right! One point for Team Tori,” Teresa announced.
Numbers flickered onto screens above each team: 1 to 0.
Ashley set down a sheet of paper with the next question on it. “Who was the sixth president of the United States?”
Charlotte reached out and hit the orange button.
“You have five seconds to come up with an answer.”
“James Monroe . . .” Charlotte muttered to herself, “no, John Quincy Adams. Yeah, John Quincy Adams!”
“Correct!” Ashley exclaimed. The number on our screen changed to two.
Sianne, Teresa and Ashley continued to quiz us.
“2 X + 47 = 67. What is X?”
“What’s the top layer of skin called?”
“True or false: Humans have walked on the moon.”
“Uh . . .”
On and on we went, through all twenty of the questions.
We won sixteen to four! Charlotte and I did a little happy dance.
Grumbling, Venus pulled Jules away.
Jules glanced over her shoulder and waved, so slightly and quickly that if I had blinked, I would have missed it.
I turned back to Charlotte, wondering if Jules actually had waved at me, or it was just me wishing that she had.
Charlotte towed me over to a poster tacked up on a wall.
“It’s a list of the challenges,” she explained.
Charlotte moved her finger across the page, stopping at “Survival.”
“That’s our next challenge. Survival.”
“Survival?” I repeated. We can win that, I thought. Venus was such a city girl, and Jules had only been camping once.
Maybe all we had needed was one victory to spur us into action. We could do this.