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one At the front of the classroom, the boy rapped a gavel on the desk. "I hereby call this meeting of the Parkside Middle School Student Council to order."
Immediately Amy could feel her eyelids begin to droop. She always had a hard time staying awake during these meetings. If she had only known how boring the student council would be, she would never have run in the election. But she had run, and she had won, and it was too late for regrets. She was now one of eighteen representatives, all of whom looked like they were about to fall asleep too.
Except maybe for Carrie Nolan, another rep from the seventh grade. There was a twitchy little smile on her face, as if she had some sort of secret. But Amy figured that if Carrie knew something special, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with student council. The most exciting news that month had been about someone dropping plastic bottles in the paper recycling bins. After calling the meeting to order, President Cliff Fields directed the secretary to read the minutes of the previous meeting. That took all of about thirty seconds. The minutes were approved, the vice-president called the roll, the treasurer gave the budget report, and the president called for old business. Since nothing had happened at the last meeting, there wasn't any old business.
"Is there any new business?" Cliff asked. There wasn't much hope in his voice.
But a hand actually went up. Surprised, Cliff said, "The president recognizes Carrie Nolan."
Carrie rose. "As chair of the student travel committee, I have been asked by Dr. Noble to meet with all seventh-grade student council representatives. We're supposed to decide where the seventh grade will go for the annual class trip."
"What's the big deal?" Cliff asked. "The seventh grade always goes to the state capital."
Amy could tell by the twinkle in Carrie's eyes that she was about to spill her secret. "Not this year," Carrie said. "We don't even have to stay in California. Dr. Noble said that Parkside got a special grant for student travel, and there's enough money for the seventh grade to go anywhere in the United States."
Cliff stared at her in disbelief. "No way."
"Yes way," Carrie replied. "All the seventh-grade reps should stay after this meeting so we can choose a place for our trip."
A ninth-grade representative exploded. "That's not fair! When I was in the seventh grade, we had to go to Sacramento."
"Yeah, so did we," echoed an eighth-grader. "What about the other grades? Are we getting special trips?"
"No, nothing else changes," Carrie replied. "Only the seventh grade goes on an annual class trip, just like always."
"That stinks!" someone yelled. "Why should this year's seventh grade get better treatment?"
Carrie grinned. "You want to go tell Dr. Noble this isn't fair?" There were more than a few snickers in the room. Nobody, not even the student council president, would have the gall to complain to their intimidating principal that this year's seventh grade was getting a special deal.
There was no more new business, so the meeting was adjourned. As the eighth- and ninth-grade representatives left, many of them shot envious looks at the six seventh-graders who stayed behind.
"Go to Hawaii," one of them advised before leaving. "Can we?" Justin Kelly asked Carrie. "Hawaii sounds great."
"What about Alaska?" Molly Cohn wanted to know. "I'm not sure," Carrie said. "Dr. Noble said anywhere in the U.S., but I think that means just the states that are attached."
"It would," Justin grumbled.
"Oh, shut up," Carrie replied. "Who's got a serious idea?"
"Orlando, Florida," Max Barstow declared. "Disney World."
"Yeah, super idea!" Larry Moore exclaimed. "We could go to Universal Studios and the beaches."
"That's crazy," Molly objected. "We've got Disneyland right in Anaheim. And movie studios, and plenty of beaches too."
"Yeah, but everyone's sick of the Pacific Ocean," Max argued. "In Florida, you've got the Atlantic."
"And the Gulf of Mexico," Larry added.
Carrie shook her head. "It's gotta be someplace educational, guys."
Amy visualized a map of the United States and considered the possibilities. "How about the Southwest?" she suggested. "The Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest. Indian reservations."
"Lots of kids have gone on vacations there," Molly pointed out.
"Then what about the Rocky Mountains?" Amy asked. "A hiking trip would be cool."
"Everyone's gone hiking in the Rocky Mountains," Justin said. "Okay, maybe not everyone, but I think most kids would rather go to a city."
"How about New York?" Larry asked.
Max yawned. "Been there, done that."
Carrie frowned. "We're not choosing a place just for you, Max."
Amy had a thought. "You guys ever been to Washington, D.C.?"
That got a buzz going. Everyone started talking at once, about the White House, and the Smithsonian, and all the sights of the nation's capital. "I've got a pen pal on the East Coast," Molly said, "and she says D.C. is the most popular place for East Coast kids to go on class trips."
"Have any of you been there before?" Carrie asked.
They all shook their heads--except Amy.
"You've been to Washington?" Carrie asked her.
"Yes, sort of. I was . . . I was born in D.C. But I left when I was a baby, so I don't remember anything."
Born . . . that was the best word she could come up with to describe what had happened in Washington, D.C., almost thirteen years ago. She couldn't very well tell her classmates that she had been created there.
Washington, D.C. A tingling began in her heart and spread throughout her body. The sensation wasn't simply a reaction to the idea of seeing the White House, or the Pentagon, or any of the capital's other major sights. It came from the notion of seeing where it had all begun. Where she had begun.
So when the seventh-grade reps took a vote, Amy joined the majority in enthusiastic support for Washington as the destination for the class trip. Of course, their decision was subject to the principal's approval, but Amy didn't think there would be any problem. Dr. Noble might have objected to Disney World, but there was no denying the educational value of the nation's capital.
That was why Amy felt pretty confident at lunchtime, when she told her best friend, Tasha Morgan, about the plans for the class trip.
"Washington!" Tasha squealed.
"Shhh," Amy hissed. "It's not official yet. But if Dr. Noble approves our suggestion, she'll announce it tomorrow."
Tasha obediently lowered her voice. "That is so cool. We're going to Washington!" Then, after a second, she said, "Well, at least I'm going to Washington."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Amy asked.
Tasha answered her with another question. "How do you think your mother's going to feel about this?"
Amy didn't respond right away. She knew what Tasha was implying. Other kids' mothers or fathers wouldn't have any problem agreeing to a school-sponsored trip. But Amy's mother was a little--actually, a lot--more cautious than other kids' parents.
She'd be particularly nervous about Amy's going to Washington, D.C.--for the same reason that Amy was so excited about going. The city where it had all begun could give Amy more understanding, more knowledge of herself. But it could also be one of the most dangerous places on earth for her to be.
Yes, there was definitely a possibility that her mother might object to the trip. She might even refuse to give Amy permission to go. But Amy suddenly had a bright idea, a way to get around any problems.
"What are you grinning about?" Tasha demanded.
"I was just thinking," Amy mused. "Don't they always ask parents to chaperone these trips?"