Authors: Alex Morgan
FOR MY MOM AND DAD,
WHO HAVE SACRIFICED AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT
SO I CAN FOLLOW MY DREAM
I was running as fast as I could, moving so quickly, the other players were a blur. My best friend, Kara, was streaking up the field not far behind me, the two of us connected by an invisible string. After dribbling around a defender, Kara lofted the ball way up high, incredibly high, a pass meant for one special person.
As the sold-out crowd rose to their feet, chanting my name, I leaped into the air. “Dev-in! Dev-in!” They knew what was coming.
Soaring over the other team's defenders, I closed my eyes as I flicked my head forward, aiming directly for the center of the ball. I headed it in, right past the goalie's outstretched hands.
My teammates were already racing over to congratulate me. They lifted me off the ground and bounced me up and down on their shoulders.
“Devin, Devin, wake up!”
My eyes popped open, focusing on my little sister, Maisie, who was jumping up and down on my bed.
Ugh, I was so not ready to wake up yet.
“First day of school!” she shouted. “Dad's gonna drive!” I tried to throw my pillow at her as she bounced out of my room, but it barely cleared the edge of the bed. I was exhausted.
I leaned back and sunk into my familiar mattress, wishing it would suck me in and transport me back home. I could be in Connecticut right now, getting ready to conquer the seventh grade as half of Kara-and-Devin. (I was okay with Kara's name being first because she was five weeks older.)
This was supposed to be the year my best friend, Kara, and I became seventh-grade co-captains of the Milford Middle School Cosmos and got to wear the yellow captain armbands with the big letter
on them. Instead that
now stood for “California,” where my family had moved to.
Seeing dream Kara made me miss real-life Kara, so I did what I do whenever I feel that wayâI reached for my phone in the hopes of having a message from her. The only thing I asked my parents for when we moved was unlimited texts so I could be in touch with Kara constantly.
Mom says it's 2 early to ring u. Striped polo, red skirt. Sent a pic. Bye!
I clicked open the picture Kara had texted me. In it Kara was holding the camera in front of her full-length
mirror, capturing a shot of her wearing the outfit she'd described. Her long, brown hair was swept into a high ponytail. She had a huge grin on her face, and her big blue eyes had that mischievous look they always did. I let out a big sigh. I missed her.
Kara and I had agreed that we'd still pick out our school outfits together, like we always used to do, but with the three-hour time difference, we couldn't exactly call each other up in the mornings. I may have just woken up, but Kara had already been at school for two hours by now. I would have to figure out what to wear without Kara's help. Not that I couldn't dress myself or anything. It was just a fun thing we'd done each morning. But everything was different now.
“Devin!” Mom's voice called from downstairs. “You'd better be getting dressed. We have to get to school early and get your enrollment paperwork done.”
“Okay, okay, I'm coming,” I groaned. I had been awake for only five minutesâand I wasn't exactly ready to go rushing off into my new life.
“Setting a course for Kentville Middle School,” Dad said as he pretended to push buttons on the console of our family car. He even made the accompanying beeping sounds as he prepared to pull out of the garage.
“Whoosh!” Maisie cried, throwing her head back as Dad pushed the car up to a whopping forty miles an hour. Maisie was eight and didn't mind playing along with my
dad's silly games. I, on the other hand, was far too nervous to even pretend to want to join in.
Meanwhile my mom turned around and handed me and Maisie each a bottle of water.
“I already packed water in your backpacks,” she said. “But take extra. It's important to keep hydrated!”
Maisie and I exchanged eye rolls. If we had a dollar for every time our mom told us to keep hydrated, we'd be rich. It was like she thought we were going to dry up or something. And now that we had moved to California, which is warmer all year than Connecticut, she had really gone water crazy, offering us a glass every time we turned around. But that's Mom. She's a big health-food nut too, so I'd rather have the water than her famous green smoothie. Blech.
“Can't I have fruit punch?” Maisie pleaded. Mom shook her head. It was an argument they had all the time. What Mom didn't know was that Maisie traded her snacks for fruit juice. I hoped she'd find some kids at her new school who liked kale chips; otherwise she'd be out of luck.
I squeezed my eyes shut so I couldn't see us driving closer and closer to school. The drive might feel longer that way, I hoped. Sensing my nerves, my mom reached back from the front seat and gave my hand a squeeze. I opened my eyes briefly to give her a small smile, and then closed them again.
The problem was, I was completely unprepared for a new school. Mom had given me a “Welcome to Kentville
Middle School” packetâbut that hadn't told me anything I really wanted to know. Like, for example, who would talk to me? That was not adequately covered. Where did the nice, normal seventh graders eat lunch, and would it be awkward if I sat with them? There was not one hint or spot marked out for me on the brochure's map. How would I fit in with the kids from Kentville? The pamphlet was useless there, too.
The only thing that gave me a glimmer of hope was the fall calendar tucked into the brochure. Soccer tryouts were being held todayâthe first day of school! I might not know if I'd fit in with the Kentville kids, but one thing I did know for sure was that I was pretty good at soccer. But that had been back in Connecticut. Half the US women's soccer team came from California. What if all the kids were superhuman soccer-playing robots? At the very least, competition for spots on the team would be fierce. But just the thought of playing soccer again made me happy,
I could make the team. It would be nice to play soccer in real life again, not just in my dreams. I hoped I didn't get totally creamed at the tryouts.
Soccer or not, I still didn't have the answer to the biggest question of all: How would I survive without Kara?
The one summer we'd spent apart, when Kara had gotten sick and couldn't leave for sleepaway camp with me, I hadn't managed to meet any new friends until she'd showed up three weeks later. It was the worst. What if I
didn't meet anyone here, either? Who would come save me now?
Lost in thought, and with my eyes still screwed shut, I didn't notice we'd arrived at my new school until Dad pulled up right in front of the entrance, and jerked the car to a stop. “Here we are at our first destination,” he announced. “Please disembark to the right.”
Kentville Middle School was a huge, plain-looking brown-and-yellow stucco building. It looked just like a normal schoolânot the glamorous California school I'd built up in my head. In front of the building was a big green gate, with the door swung wide open.
Students poured in through the gate, a sea of unfamiliar faces. A clump of kids was hanging out by the flagpole in front, with the US and California flags fluttering in the slight morning breeze.
Mom got out of the passenger seat, her papers scattering to the ground. “Devin, let's go,” she said, scrambling to pick everything up. I ran my hands through my long, stick-straight brown hair to make sure it was presentable before opening the door and stepping outside into the warm, dry California air.
I took a deep breath.
Kentville Middle School, here I come.
“Devin Burke?” my math teacher, Mrs. Johnson, called out.
“Here,” I said.
I was in my first periodâalgebra class. Algebra was usually just for eighth graders, but I had always been good
at math, and my placement test had landed me here.
“Ah,” Mrs. Johnson said, “I see you're our only seventh grader this year. And you're new to Kentville, I take it?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I moved here from Connecticut.”
“Well, welcome to the West Coast!” said Mrs. Johnson. “Our class is delighted to have you.”
But they didn't exactly look delighted. They weren't paying attention to me at all, as a matter of fact. I guess that's what it was like to be the only seventh grader in a classroom full of eighth graders.
But even in my homeroom of seventh graders, it had been clear that most people already had their friends and weren't necessarily on the market for a new one. I understood that. In Connecticut, because I'd had Kara, I hadn't really tried to meet new people. I hadn't been unfriendly or anything, but making new friends hadn't been a priority. I was sure it was the same way for people here. I was afraid making new friends was going to be impossible. It wasn't going to happen in algebra class, that was for sure. Here's who talks to the only seventh grader in algebra: no one, apparently.