I loved Horseshoe Bay, sure, but sometimes it still made me laugh, watching people get so invested in small-town hijinks that they'd practically shiv a classmate to grab the first look at a cast list. The thing about a small town? It is, by definition, 'small'. I could tell you my classmates' full names and who they were named after, and who had a nut allergy, and who was faking some unnamed physical condition to get out of gym class. I personally had my sights set on bigger things, broader horizons, greener pastures. The stuff of motivational posters in guidance counselors' offices everywhere.
"Yes, yes, we all know you've got one foot out the door, Nancy Drew," Lena teased. "But I'll remind you of this moment next year, when we're both fully tripping each other, sprinting, trying to be the first one to the cast list. It's easy to be low-key about it when we're both still juniors. But you and I both know that down deep, you're as much of a sucker for Horseshoe Bay and all its kitschy, nostalgia-soaked glory as anyone else."
I opened my mouth to reply—mostly just to agree with her—but before I could say a word, I was tackled by a giant mass of soda-fizz glee and blond hair.
"I got it!" Daisy shrieked. "I got the part! Abigail Dewitt, the settler who fed the town through the coldest winter on record, even after she was partially blinded from scarlet fever."
"Are you sure that was Abigail Dewitt, and not a scene from the Little House on the Prairie books?" I teased as I hugged her back. "Congratulations, though, really."
"Abigail Dewitt, huh?" Lena joked. "Feels a little bit like typecasting, TBH."
Daisy waved her off. "It's not the biggest part in the reenactment, but it's definitely the best. It's a whole new scene they added—"
"—in honor of the jubilee celebration," Lena and I chimed in, laughing.
"And Coop got Jebediah Dewitt, so..." She trailed off, one eyebrow perfectly arched. Cooper Smith was captain of the football team, which, according to the unflinching rules of adolescent clichés, meant that he was one of the most sought-after guys on campus. But unfortunately for the rest of the school, he only had eyes for Daisy. We knew better than to ask how she'd gotten her parents to let her date. To love Daisy—like we did—was to accept her curious—and curiously secretive—family.
"You guys must be psyched," Lena said. "Does he get to apply cold compresses to your fevered forehead onstage? Or bandage your gangrene-infected leg?"
"Ew." Daisy's tiny mouth puckered in distaste. "I'm ignoring you. Anyway, you don't need to be jealous. It's going to be you two next year!"
"The anticipation is killing me," Lena said, but she was smiling anyway. Even this year, there was plenty for us to get involved in. We were already knee-deep in every volunteer committee. It was just what you did in our town.
Case in point: The throngs of students swarming, clawing their way toward the cast list, had begun to disperse, evolving into triumphant cries as people found their own names. Amanda Reeser, who I'd helped in middle school when she suspected someone was sabotaging her science fair project (they were), was doing a little happy dance that left no room for misinterpretation. Competitive as it was, since the reenactment spots were reserved for seniors, almost everyone who auditioned was given some role, so the energy on the quad was happy and bright. It was infectious; Daisy's Naming Day was my Naming Day, our Naming Day, and yes, Lena would have rolled her eyes so hard they'd pop out of their sockets if she heard me going all mushy. But regardless: Mushy was how I felt. My friends were happy. I was happy. All was unusually peaceful and well.
Daisy led us back across the quad, now that people were clustering up, exchanging teary, excited hugs and high fives with friends, and chattering about lines, costumes, rehearsals, and other let's all get ready kinds of things. It was like a minefield, but of shining, grinning teenagers, instead of anything dangerous.
Well, instead of anything truly dangerous, that is. We were an energy drink commercial just waiting to happen.
"I can't believe this!"
I stopped in my tracks, just a moment before Daisy and Lena caught on to what was going down.
There it was: the land mine.