When I was elected junior class vice president of Edgemont High School, I wasn’t just surprised, I was in temporary shock. I had entered the race at the last minute for the experience. At least that’s what I had told myself. When I actually won, it seemed impossible, incredible! What seemed even more incredible was that I had apparently won by a landslide. At least that’s what Molly Pratt claimed.
“Boy, Mark, are you ever popular. You got almost every vote. I helped count them.”
I shook my head for the hundredth time. “I just can’t believe it. It’s incredible.”
“Not really,” Molly said smiling.
Although I couldn’t figure out how it had all happened, I did know one thing: I planned to do a good job—a great job. I didn’t want anyone to think he’d made a mistake by voting for Mark Bennion.
Just a few days after I’d talked to Molly, I was standing by my locker cleaning out some of the election handouts when I heard a soft voice behind me. I knew whose voice it was even before I turned around. Although she was in my history class, Rhonda Jackson had never spoken to me before, and I could feel my face getting warm. Up close she was even prettier than at a two-row distance. A sprinkle of small, delicate freckles peppered her nose, and her warm smile made me quiver.
“Oh, hi,” I said, trying to sound casual but sounding more as if I had just swallowed a baseball.
“We’re having a little get-together at my place tomorrow night,” she said. “We’re going to study for the history test. Well, just for a little while. Then we’ll have some fun. You know, talk a little, dance or something.” She touched my arm lightly with her forefinger. “Would you like to join our group?”
“I, uh, I can’t think of any reason why I couldn’t. Yes, sure.” I knew about her little group. Who didn’t? It was the elite group at Edgemont. The thought of being included seemed unreal. Just last week I had thought of myself as a Joe-average with just a few friends, like the guys I palled around with in the neighborhood. Now hundreds of students seemed to know me and find me important. And I had a chance, a real chance, to belong to the most exclusive group at school.
“Oh, by the way,” Rhonda smiled again and looked straight into my eyes. “We’ve got a copy of the test so you won’t need to bring your book. We’re just going to memorize the answers. We’ll probably be able to get copies of some of the other tests coming up, too.”
“Oh?” Her words hit me like a thud. “How did …”
“Don’t ask.” She put her hand over my mouth and giggled softly. “Let’s just say we have connections. See you tomorrow night.”
I watched her walk away. She turned and smiled, fully aware that I was staring after her. Wow, she was beautiful. I sighed. “Too bad.”
The next day I was prepared to tell Rhonda that I couldn’t make it to the get-together. I couldn’t afford to go and then make a fool of myself by being a goody-two-shoes and refusing to participate in the cheating. I wouldn’t say the word cheating or make any accusations. But when I saw her walking toward me with that appealing smile, the brave words began slipping from my mind. I wanted her to like me. Oh, how I wanted Rhonda Jackson to like me.
“You’re coming tonight, I hope,” she said, emphasizing the words “I hope.” There was a nice lilt to her voice.
“Well, I’d really like to, but …
“I’d really be disappointed if you didn’t come. You’ve just got to come. Everybody’s going to be there. Bill Spilker, Audrey Madsen, Nicki Simmons, and Frank, you know, Frank Lake. They’re all going to be there, and you really should get to know all of us better.” The names she had mentioned were familiar to me—familiar to everyone at Edgemont. They were the officers of the school, the “in-group” of in-groups.
“I have a little secret to tell you,” Rhonda began whispering in a confidential manner. “Frank said something about you.”
“What was that?” I asked, impressed that my name had even come up in conversation. Frank was the student-body vice president.
“He thinks if you play your cards right you could be president of the school.”
“Oh, sure.” I felt myself blushing in pleasure.
“You don’t know how popular you are, do you, Mark? You have a lot of power already. A little more, some friends in the right circles, for instance, could put the presidency right in your pocket.”
“You really think so?”
She looked down dramatically, then up into my eyes. “Believe me, I know so. See you tonight about eight or eight-thirty.”
As I watched her walk away I stood grinning. Again I sighed.
Come on, I thought. Me, president of the whole student body? Me, in Rhonda Jackson’s league? This is all too incredible. I shook my head. “Nah,” I said out loud. But then I began wondering. With some friends in the right circles, maybe—just maybe—it wasn’t so farfetched. I had won junior class vice president by a landslide. Maybe further miracles were also possible. I’ve been pretty naive, I thought. There are probably a lot of things going on in this school that I know nothing about. Everyone probably cheats once in a while to keep up the old grade-point average.
In my mind, I went over the people Rhonda had mentioned would be at her house. Slowly it began registering that everyone was matched up—except Rhonda. My face grew warm again. Could it be Rhonda had me in mind for herself? “Impossible!” My stomach did a backflip, and I walked to my locker to get rid of my history book. I wouldn’t need it tonight!
Later in the day, while I was on my way to study class, I passed my last year’s history classroom. Mr. Hancock was just closing the door to his room. As I nodded a hello, he motioned that he wanted to talk to me.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“I’m glad you walked by, Mark. An interesting thing happened that I wanted to tell you about. Can you come in for a minute?”
“Sure thing.” As I sat down by his desk, I looked around at the pictures of some of the presidents and other historical figures I could remember learning about in his class. My sophomore year in Mr. Hancock’s class had been quite the year for hero worship.
“I don’t know if this will mean anything to you,” he said. “But I thought you should know.”
“What’s up?” I asked. “What happened?” I was curious now.
“Well, a few days ago I gave a test, and my last question was ‘What great person, living or dead, would you most like to use as an example in your own life?’ I mostly got the kind of answers I was expecting: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin; but a most peculiar thing happened.”
“One of the boys put your name.”
“My name?” I was confused. “Why would he do that?”
“I guess he thinks you’re a ‘great man,’” he said, smiling. “Thought you might want to know.”
“That’s incredible,” I said, staring at him.
“Glad it makes a difference to you. You’ve been getting quite a bit of attention lately, and I wasn’t sure you’d care; but, well, I thought I’d tell you.”
I nodded and kept staring. Then I looked around the room and nodded again. There was a knot beginning to form in my stomach. “It makes a difference,” I said. “Thanks, Mr. Hancock.”
“Good to talk to you, Mark, and good luck to you.”
“Thanks again,” I said. I felt two feet taller as I headed toward the door. Without hesitation I turned down the hall in the direction of my locker. I had a history book to retrieve and some hard and fast studying to do. People were counting on me, wanted to be like me. There was no way I was going to let them down!