"You can see the whole school from up here," I said as I gazed down from the top of the Ferris wheel. A carnival spread out below us, sprawling across the lush green Allington Academy campus. It was completely amazing. Loud music blared from a nearby stage, where bands were scheduled to appear all day. There were tons of cool rides and games—the school had even set up an enormous half-pipe for skateboarders. "Can you believe how many people showed up? It's so great that the school invites the whole neighborhood to this!"
"Just tell me when we’re back on the ground." My good friend Kiwi Adair had her eyes squeezed right.
"Okay," I said.
"Oh, phew," Kiwi said, opening her eyes. She let out a shriek when she saw that we were still practically scraping the sky. "That was so mean! I can't believe you did that to me!" She reached for the plastic water pistol on the seat beside her and gave me a playful squirt. "You're pure evil, Amy Flowers!"
I squirted her back. "I meant 'Okay, I'll let you know,' not 'Okay, ride's over.'"
Our car, which was stopped at the top of the wheel, rocked as we moved. Kiwi gave another shriek. "I can't believe you even got me to go on this ride in the first place! You know I'm afraid of heights!"
"What?" I spluttered as a series of short blasts of water hit me in the face. "You're the one who talked me into this!" Laughing, I landed a few squirts along her ear and in her long auburn hair. We’d won the squirt guns playing a ring-toss game, and I actually didn't mind getting wet. It was March and already hot in Houston. The water and the air at the top of the Ferris wheel were refreshing.
"You should have known I was talking crazy!" Kiwi insisted. She yelped as the wheel gave a lurch and began to glide toward Earth. Kiwi's long tie-dyed sundress fluttered in the breeze as she screamed all the way down.
As we floated down toward the waiting line, someone shouted, "That's why you shouldn't let girls go on a Ferris wheel!" Preston Harringford grinned up at me. He was standing beside the metal gate, next in line. "They'll break your eardrums!'
The wheel was still turning. Without thinking, I reached out and squirted him in the face with my water pistol just as we passed him.
The Ferris wheel pulled us up and into the sky, but not before I caught a glimpse of Preston's expression: He was shocked, amused, and—probably for the first time in history—speechless.
In the car beside me, Kiwi's screams had turned to laughter. "Omigosh," she said, giggling. 'Did you see his face? That was priceless!" She held up her hand and I gave her a high five.
The Ferris wheel stopped again. This time we were about halfway down. "This isn't so bad," Kiwi said slowly. "Look! Is that Mitchie on the half-pipe?"
"I think so," I said as a figure in a pink helmet hopped onto a skateboard and took the sickening plunge down the U-shaped ramp. Our good friend Michiko Ohara swooshed to the top and seemed to hang in the air as she twisted one and a half times before plummeting toward the wooden half-pipe.
The Ferris wheel started up again, and we coasted back toward the ground. "Oh, no!" I exclaimed.
"What?" Kiwi leaned forward so she could see what I was looking at. It was Preston. He was waiting for us in the same spot we'd left him.
And he had a bucket.
Kiwi and I shrieked as a tidal wave landed over our heads, completely drenching us.
"Gotcha!" Preston called after us as we soared back into the air.
Kiwi was laughing so hard that she could hardly catch her breath.
"I guess I should’ve thought about the fact that we'd have to go past him again," I said sheepishly as water dripped down my face. But I was giggling too. Preston had gotten me good that time. He drove me crazy, but he could also be funny.
"Oh, who cares?" Kiwi flicked her long, wet hair out of her face. "It feels good."
My brown-and-pink sundress was stuck to my body. I peeled it from my skin, and it ballooned outward as the Ferris wheel made its final descent.
Preston was long gone by the time we got out of the car. Oh, well. My squirt gun was out of ammo, anyway.
"What next?' Kiwi twisted her long hair into a knot and tied it at the nape of her neck. I wished I could do that. My hair was still wet, but half of it was already turning into a frizzball in the Houston sun. "Gravitron?" She pointed to a ride that spun you around at about a zillion miles per hour.
"If I go on that thing, I'll be wearing the cotton candy I just ate," I told her.
"Gross!" Kiwi replied just as a voice behind me said, "Hey, Amy."
Turning, I found myself looking directly into a familiar pair of deep-brown eyes. It was Scott Lawton, and he was smiling at me as he took a sip of the soda in his hand. "I like your hair," he said. He was teasing, of course, but his voice wasn’t mean.
"Oh yeah—the wet look is really in." Giggling nervously, I grabbed my hair into a ponytail and tried to twist it into something other than a cotton ball.
"So I see," Scott said, smiling at Kiwi. "What do you think of this year's carnival?"
"Oh, I think it's great," Kiwi gushed. "Step Out is the best."
Step Out is Allington Academy's community service project. All the seventh and eleventh graders spend half of the school day working for a local organization. The school always kicks off the two weeks of work with a carnival.