Ican’t be late.
If I’m late, they won’t let me in. I’ll be disqualified. This is the year I win. I can’t be disqualified.
I glance in the mirror and adjust my heather gray hood, slide on my black sunglasses, tug on my gloves, and step out of the car. According to my navigation system, this vacant house is my destination, and I have arrived. Eight cars are already here.
The white FOR SALE sign in the lawn gives me some comfort that we may be safe here, but this annual meeting is risky. Having all of us in one place tonight could mean revealing our identities to outsiders. Anonymity is our strongest weapon. We can never lose it.
I glance at the cars, trying to match them to possible members in my mind. One license plate reads QT PIE. How can we be a secret organization with our cars on display like this? How can we remain secret if members refuse to be discreet?
My phone says 9:59 p.m. I throw it in the back seat where it slides under my AP Physics book. I have to be inside this house by 10:01 p.m. Forget force, mass, or acceleration. I need to run.
Ten steps. I climb ten more giant steps, sliding into the room as the clock hand clicks into place.
A girl locks the door behind me.
An envelope with my pseudonym written on it is on my chair. I am the ninth girl to sit down. I resist the urge to sit at the head of the table, but inside I know this is where I deserve to sit.
One year of effort comes down to this moment. I did my best. Ten people dropped out of school because of me. No one at this table should be able to beat that stat.
Last year, tears fell because of me! Terror reigned because of me! Break ups, friendships lost, hearts broken….all due to me! But will it be enough to be Number One?
We open our envelopes simultaneously. Three years, I have ranked in the top five. This is my senior year. There’s no more time to compete. I want to win. I deserve this victory.
I slide the paper out, trying to avoid eye contact with the other members in the room knowing they will attack if they sense fear. Sadly, this envelope contains what I feared:
An envelope with a Picture that does not contain a dime means I have a new target for the school year. It also means someone in this room outranks me. It means I am not Number One. Last year’s Number One did not choose me. She had the final say. I should have had enough votes to win if everyone voted based on the evidence.
One at a time, we slide our Pictures toward the center of the table. Strangely, the eighth picture I see looks just like the picture from my envelope. Do we have twins in this year’s mix?
I look in my envelope once more thinking I might have overlooked my dime. Could Number One have made a mistake and forgotten to put the coin in my envelope?
I hear the sound of a dime hitting the glass table. The dime is reserved for Number One.
Number One rises from her seat and walks toward the head of the table. There are nine heather gray hoods around the table, but only she wears the bedazzled crown.
I watch her toss the dime on the table. When it lands flat on its side we are allowed to speak.
Silence is replaced with the sound of nervous chatter. I watch and listen trying to memorize each voice, height, weight, or any distinguishing feature like a tattoo or a signature scent. Nine heather gray jogging suits. No jewelry. No nail polish. Gray gym shoes. Gray socks.
I believe I may know the identity of everyone in this room, but I’d love to be one hundred percent certain. I have only worked directly with seven of them. Four years of battling with and against them, but I still don’t know every member.
“Enough of the whining!” Number One exclaims. “The results are final. This is a new year. This is a new battle. We don’t have time to fight one another.”
Chastened, the room quiets instantly. Hesitantly, another member points to the two pictures that seem to show the same caramel colored girl with almond eyes and asks, “Are we…changing the rules? I mean, are we putting two girls on the same target? Or are they identical twins?”
Number One adjusts her black sunglasses.
“No,” she replies with a fake British accent. “Actually, they are triplets.” She pulls out the Picture from her own envelope, showing the group a face with an X drawn across it. It’s the same face as the one in my picture, but the triplet in the picture has dimples.
Number One explains that the person who gets both their target and this triplet with the deep dimples to drop out of school will wear the crown. I know that person will be me. I don’t care which member will rank last, but I will rank first this year even if it is only for a semester.
If author Fenyx Blue actually had a tattoo, it would be a heart. Ms. Blue has written every book with love. Blue is a teacher, coach, mentor, and motivational speaker focused on women and youth empowerment. She has written a young adult novel about bullying entitled Who Failed Johnny?, a poetry book about purpose named The Blue Ink Movement, and a children’s book about the power of a solid father daughter relationship called Worth the Weight.
Fenyx believes in service to the community. After being chosen as teacher of the year for her school district, she continued to mentor teenagers and facilitate discussions about controversial topics like drugs, sex, violence, cyberbullying and mental health. She has been a guest poet for several women’s retreats and workshops and loves the energy she receives from a live audience.
Throughout her years as an educator and youth ministry leader, Blue created Team Bully-Free Forever, a poetry team for her school, and a mentoring group called D.I.V.A.S to address the needs of young people. She is dedicated to teaching the next generation to follow their dreams and feels it is her mission to equip them for the future. Ms. Fenyx Blue is a proud mother of three beautiful children who inspire her to write each day.
You can follow Ms. Fenyx Blue @FenyxBlueInk on Instagram and Youtube.