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Second Best

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Jeannie had always been jealous of Haley.
Haley, who was always calm and collected. Haley, who always had a smile on her face. Haley, the girl who everybody liked. Most of all, Haley, the girl who got everything.
Awards, prizes, recognition, leadership positions, respect, admiration; you name it, Haley always got it. She was just perfect. There was no other word to describe it.
Worst off, Jeanie knew she was jealous of this perfect girl in her perfect life in her prefect world. Jeanie was joyful, sure, but she wasn’t always that happy. Really, who could be that happy all the time? Jeanie was kind, but Haley managed to outshine her yet again. She was typically collected, but stress could get the best of her. As for awards, she knew that she would have received more, but Haley and Jeanie always competed against each other, and guess who won?
Jeanie sighed and looked in her journal. Aimless doodles outlined the page and surrounded the text she had previously written. She smiled, pleased with her work. She did not mind the silence of the tuned out classroom, especially when she was able to just write.
Part of her mind recognized that her reasons for finding Haley annoying were rather selfish. The two girls were acquaintances, but never friends. They may have been, if it had not been for the silent war of competition that existed, at least for Jeanie. After all, what bothered Jeanie most of all, the two girls –though very different in their unique ways- were very similar.
The rustle of the desk next to her snapped her out of her trance. Jeanie looked up quickly, very self consciously. Haley smiled back and Jeanie felt obligated to return it. They greeted each other quickly before turning back to their own activities. Jeanie continued to write in her notebook while the other girl took her seat.
Haley sat down quietly and pulled out her book. Sneaking a glance, Jeanie saw it was Catcher in the Rye. Haley always had a classic American novel to read, never US Weekly or People magazines. She sat in the desk, looking comfortable in dark skinny jeans and a pink top.
Jeanie fidgeted slightly in her trendy skirt. She loved being fashion forward, but school was not always the best place to start. Jeanie took a deep breathe before turning back her journal. Being self conscious would accomplish absolutely nothing. Instead she focused back on her writing that brought her happiness beyond compare.
The class bell rang and the remaining students shuffled into class. Mrs. Goagh stepped forward dramatically, standing behind her podium.
“Good Morning, to all. I hope we have all prepared for our audition speeches for the awards banquet.”
Jeanie looked up at these words. It was the speech competition –er, auditions- to see who would be the presenter for the awards banquet. It was a coveted role by the seniors, and it was idolized by all the school’s resident public speakers.
For all that Jeanie was slightly shy, it was her favorite thing to do. Nothing could beat the rush that passed through her when she stood in front of all the people. She had been preparing of the competition –er, audition- for weeks. Many other girls had, too. This was most definitely a competition for the fittest. That included Haley.
“Are you exited?” Haley asked.
“Of course!” The excitement was not feigned. Jeanie really was. However, she also knew Haley had been practicing just as much as she had. “You?”
“Absolutely!”
Even as Jeanie knew Haley was the competition to beat, she couldn’t help but be excited for her. Haley, though extremely competitive was genuine. She really meant what she said and was still true.
The girls smiled reassuringly at each other.
“Who is up first?” Mrs. Gough asked, flipping through some papers. “I know! We’ll do alphabetical order. Becca Alline, you are up first.”
A girl with short black hair stood up and walked to the podium first. Her speech was all right, but the quality was not completely there.
The next few speeches varied. Some were good, with great qualities balanced with mediocre quality or delivery. Others were just bad; where it was apparent no effort had been made at all.
Finally it was Haley’s turn. Every one watched expectantly. After all, she was the one to beat. Haley did not let any body down, either. She was poised and confident. Her tone was warm and inviting, and you could not help but listen to her. When she finished, you could tell every one was impressed. There was no doubt Haley had been the best so far.
She pranced back to her seat confident.
Now it was Jeanie’s turn. Of course she would have to follow the perfect act. The girl forced confidence to echo in her steps and protrude forms her stance. Body language was actually 80% of language, right? She stood behind the podium and looked at the classroom full of students. Then came the rush, the adrenaline passing through her veins.
When she opened her mouth, Jeanie knew she owned it. Her words were strong, her tenure flowing. It was like everything was falling into place.
When she finished, every one stared at her. Then someone broke out into a small clap which was on followed by other students. Mrs. Gough smiled proudly, and Haley looked surprised. Jeanie giggled nervously at the crowd’s reaction and moved back to her seat. Haley congratulated her on a job well done, but there was still surprise and shock in her eyes.
The remaining auditions passed quickly. Mrs. Gough, along with other members of administration who had watched the performances whispered and reviewed their notes before the woman took the center of the classroom again.
“After discussion, the administration and I would like to congratulate Miss Jeanie Kline as our new host and Haley Klein as the alternate. Great job to all!”
Jeanie gasped. Had she done it? Had she really done it?
She looked and saw a surprised Haley looking awestruck and disappointed. It was a look of defeat that Jeanie was familiar with upon her face, but she had never seen it on Haley.
She had. She really had. Jeanie had taken the courage and finally out performed the “it” girl of the school. She smiled.
Hidden no longer, she was not second best.





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