Nikki, Brittany, and the gang head for the nation's capital-- and a whole new world of possibilities!
"This is going to be the most fantastic class trip in the history of River Heights High!" Nikki Masters exclaimed to her friend Robin Fisher. Nikki's blue eyes sparkled with anticipation as she surveyed the school parking lot. It was five in the morning, and every where she looked kids were piling out of cars with duffel bags and suitcases and calling out to one another excitedly. "Just think, Robin," Nikki said, "tonight we'll be in Washington, D.C."
"I know!" Slender and long-legged, with short dark hair and brown eyes, Robin grinned and bounced up and down, partly because she was cold, but mostly because she was excited. "I can't believe we're finally going."
After weeks of preparation and anticipation, The Day had finally arrived -- the junior class trip to Washington, D.C., was finally on. By this time the next morning they'd be sound asleep in their hotel rooms. When they woke up, they'd be ready to enjoy the nation's capital -- the monuments, the White House, the Smithsonian museums. They even had tickets to a play at the Kennedy Center.
Nikki saw more and more kids being dropped off by their parents. There was Chris Martinez, just greeting her boyfriend, the center of the football team, Mark Giordano. There was Kevin Hoffman, his reddish hair blown straight back in the wind, laughing and talking to Martin Salko, the vice president of the junior class.
"I just wish Lacey was coming with us," Nikki said, sighing a little.
"Me, too," Robin agreed. "I told her we'd bring her a souvenir."
The girls' best friend, Lacey Dupree, had decided to stay home. Because her boyfriend, Rick Stratton, had been in the hospital and Lacey had spent every free minute with him, she had fallen behind in her schoolwork. She was afraid she'd never catch up and keep her part-time job if she went on the class trip.
"Let's each send her a postcard every day," Nikki suggested. "Funny ones. We'll tell her how awful the weather is and what a terrible time we're having."
"She'll never believe us," Robin said.
"I know. But it's better than telling her how much she's missing." Spotting a car that was just pulling into the parking lot, Nikki poked Robin in the side. "Look who's here."
Following Nikki's gaze, Robin saw her boyfriend, Calvin Roth, climbing out of his parents' car. They'd been going together almost since the beginning of the school year, and even though they had had their share of fights, they were still crazy about each other. Robin couldn't wait to take a nice romantic walk alone with him in Washington.
Catching sight of Robin, Calvin waved and gave her a big smile that showed off his dimples. Robin grinned and waved back.
"I think I'll go say hi to Cal and his mom," she said to Nikki. She hoisted her neon orange duffel bag onto her shoulder after combing her fingers through her short dark hair. "See you on the bus, Nikki. Let's all try to sit together, okay?"
Nikki nodded in agreement, then caught the eye of Ben Newhouse and waved at the tall, brown-haired junior class president. Ben grinned and waved back. "Are you ready for this?" he shouted excitedly over the heads of a tangle of kids.
"I can't wait!" Nikki called back.
Ben started toward her but changed direction when he saw his girlfriend, Karen Jacobs. He waved to Nikki again and pointed at Karen. Karen didn't seem to be having any trouble with her suitcase and backpack, but Ben insisted on taking the case from her. Karen, who was small, with wavy brown hair and hazel eyes, smiled up at him as if he were the only guy in the universe.
Nikki turned around. On the other side of the parking lot, Robin and Cal were laughing together, and a few feet from them Kevin Hoffman had joined Ellen Ming, beautiful in a bright red beret that contrasted nicely with her dark silky hair. Kevin was the class clown, always teasing and playing practical jokes. He was grinning at that very moment, probably joking about something, but Nikki knew that his feelings about Ellen were very serious. They were crazy about each other.
Washington would be a great place for couples, Nikki thought, picturing cherry blossoms, moonlit monuments, and rose gardens. Of course, it was still wintry, so there wouldn't be any flowers, but still, the sights would be romantic. And if a cold wind was blowing off the Potomac River, couples could always cuddle to get warm.
Nikki knew why she was thinking of romance, and it wasn't just because of the couples around her. The real reason was Tim Cooper, who had just arrived at the parking lot.
Watching him as he climbed out of his mother's car, Nikki felt her heart do a funny little flip-flop. Whenever she saw Tim the past week or so, her heart did that same crazy dance, and Nikki finally realized why. She still cared about Tim. They'd been a couple once, and no matter what had happened since -- Nikki's short romance with Niles Butler, a visiting student from England, and Tim's on-and-off flirtation with Lara Bennett -- Nikki wanted them to be a couple again. Maybe this trip would bring them together.
Thank goodness Lara was a sophomore, Nikki thought, so she couldn't be on the trip. Niles was staying in River Heights to spend as much time as possible with his real love from England, Gillian St. James, who would be returning home soon. The way was almost clear for Nikki to get back with Tim -- except she didn't know how Tim felt.
"Okay, honey, I've loaded your suitcase on the bus." Nikki's father stopped beside her, smiling. "Are you sure you have enough film?"
Reluctantly Nikki took her eyes off Tim and knelt down to check through her bulging camera bag. She was a photographer for the school paper, the Record, and DeeDee Smith, the editor, had asked her for a ton of photographs. "I've got enough film for a month," Nikki said to her father as she stood up. "Thanks for helping me with the suitcase, Dad."
"My pleasure." Mr. Masters unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn, and Nikki laughed.
"Why don't you go on home?" she suggested. "We're leaving pretty soon, and besides, I know you need a cup of coffee."
"You talked me into it." Mr. Masters laughed, too, and gave her a hug. "I promised your mother I'd tell you to be careful."
"She already told me this morning, when I got up," Nikki said.
"Have fun, too -- that's the most important thing." After giving her another hug, Mr. Masters headed back to his car.
Kneeling down again, Nikki took out her camera. DeeDee wanted a photographic record of the whole trip, so Nikki had to start taking shots now.
Pushing her hair back from her face, Nikki focused the camera and took some quick shots of Ms. Rose, one of the three teachers who were coming on the trip. Tall and serious, Ms. Rose didn't even notice; she was much too busy with her clipboard, checking off students' names.
Next, Nikki aimed her camera at Mr. Greene, history and social studies teacher and faculty adviser for the Record. He didn't notice, either. His eyes were on Ms. Marshall, another young and pretty history teacher. Nikki smiled to herself. Mr. Greene was obviously thinking about romance, too.
Nikki refocused on Ben and Karen, who laughed and held their thumbs out as if they were trying to hitch a ride. Ben pointed to Tim, urging Nikki to take a shot of him, too.
Tim had been laughing at Ben and Karen, but when Nikki focused on him, he stared right at the camera. His brown hair was blowing a little in the wind, and his silvery gray eyes were the color of the early-morning sky. He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket and smiled. But it was a smile only for the camera, Nikki knew, not for her.
As soon as she clicked the shutter and lowered the camera, Tim turned away. Nikki turned, too, focusing now on Brittany Tate, Samantha Daley, and Kim Bishop, who had their heads together -- as usual. They were hardly Nikki's favorite people, but she couldn't leave them out of her photos.
"Say cheese, everybody," Samantha drawled in her southern accent, fluffing out her curly, cinammon brown hair. "We're about to get our pictures taken."
Kim flicked back her blond hair, and Brittany tilted her head, her long, dark hair cascading to one side. All three of them smiled brilliantly for the camera.
As soon as Nikki was finished, Brittany reached into the pink canvas carryall at her feet. She pulled out a calculator-size tape recorder, cleared her throat, and spoke into the built-in microphone. "Five-fifteen A.M. In another fifteen minutes the junior class of River Heights High will be on its way to Washington, D.C. The weather here is cloudy. Let's hope it gets better as we head south and east."
"What on earth are you doing?" Samantha interrupted.
Brittany clicked the tape recorder off. "DeeDee wants me to write an article about the trip," she explained. "I figured this would be easier than taking notes."
Kim gave a short laugh. "It sounded like you were keeping a diary."
"That's the kind of article it's supposed to be," Brittany said. "Like a diary. DeeDee loved the idea."
"Speaking of love," Samantha said, "check out Mr. Greene."
The Record's adviser was helping Ms. Marshall load suitcases into the side of the bus, and he blushed bright pink every time their hands touched.
Brittany sighed. She'd set Mr. Greene up with Ms. Marshall ages ago so Mr. Greene would be grateful to her and back her as editor of the Record next year. But Mr. Greene was so shy and poky about making any moves that if he ever did get Ms. Mar shall to fall in love with him, he'd probably forget who'd been responsible for it in the first place. Well, maybe she could do some thing to hurry things along on the trip.
"Speaking of love again," Kim said, "does anyone feel strange not having a boyfriend on the trip?"
"I do, a little," Samantha admitted. Her boyfriend, Kyle Kirkwood, had to work on a major research paper. "But I'm mad at Kyle, too," she added. "Sometimes I think good grades are more important to him than a good time. I'm going to miss him, though."
"Well, I'm not going to miss Jeremy," Kim stated, referring to her boyfriend, Jeremy Pratt. "He said he'd much rather spend his time at his parents' vacation house in Bermuda." She sniffed. "Jeremy can be such a snob sometimes."
Brittany and Samantha exchanged a quick, knowing glance. When it came to snobbishness, Kim and Jeremy were equals.
"Well, I couldn't be happier that I'm not saddled with a boyfriend," Brittany said.
"Chip couldn't come, anyway," Kim reminded her. "He doesn't go to River Heights High."
"Well, as far as I'm concerned, Chip Worthington and I are finished," Brittany said. "It's time for someone new."
"Oh?" Samantha asked. "Got anyone in mind?"
Brittany shook her head. "I'm tired of all the River Heights guys," she declared. "I'm ready for somebody entirely new."
"Well, with all three of us on our own," Samantha said, her brown eyes sparkling, "this could be a very interesting trip."
"All right, everyone!" Ms. Rose shouted, her clipboard in hand. "It's almost time to board the bus. "
Everyone started moving at once.
"Hold it!" she called out. "Before you get on, I have something to discuss."
With a few groans of disappointment, the crowd of kids shuffled to a stop.
"Ms. Marshall, Mr. Greene, and I are going to need help keeping track of everyone in Washington," Ms. Rose said.
"Especially at night," Ms. Marshall added. "We'll want to make sure you're all safely in your rooms."
"Uh-oh," Kevin muttered to Ellen. "Room checks."
"I'm talking about room checks," Ms. Rose said.
"What did I tell you?" Kevin whispered.
"We've decided to appoint four monitors -- two for the girls and two for the boys," Ms. Rose went on. "They'll make sure every one is in their rooms and report to us for a final head count. Ben Newhouse and Tim Cooper, you'll be monitors for the boys. Brittany Tate and Nikki Masters, you'll be in charge of the girls."
Brittany frowned. The last person she wanted to work with was Nikki Masters, who'd be super serious and super responsible about the whole thing.
Robin nudged Nikki. "Too bad," she whispered.
"She's probably not any more thrilled about it than I am," Nikki whispered back.
Ms. Rose added, "I don't want to hear of anyone sneaking out after hours or switching rooms. Juvenile behavior like that will threaten future class trips."
Everyone nodded in agreement but turned their heads away to grin at one another. What was a class trip without some "juvenile" behavior?
"Well!" Mr. Greene clasped his hands together. "Now that that's taken care of, I say we get on board and get going!"
That brought the group to life again. Laughing and talking, everyone jostled into a ragged line.
Nikki dropped off to the side of the crowd to snap pictures. Just as she was stopping she saw Kevin Hoffman make a dash for the end of the bus. He was carrying what looked like a rolled-up poster in his hand. Curious, Nikki jogged back to see what he was up to.
What Kevin was up to was taping a large piece of paper to the back of the bus.
"Hey, Kevin," Nikki called, lifting her camera.
Kevin whirled around.
Grinning mischievously, Kevin struck a dramatic pose, pointing to his poster that read, "Call Out the National Guard! Notify the Pentagon! Warn the President! The Junior Class of River Heights High Is On Its Way to Washington!"
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