The Fifth

We walk into the Left Wing, our right when coming out of the dorms. I still felt a rage towards Fallon, for not even telling me that I'd be competing with the person who "helped" me train.

"Vote For the Annual" a huge sign that's hung up on a metal door reads. In other words, "Vote for Whoever You Think Is the Most Popular". Because that's all elections are: a popularity contest. Whoever has the most friends to vote for them wins in the end.

The Annual Center is a room that takes up most of the Left Wing's first first floor. It's dark, mainly due to the grey floor and walls. It's separated into one side, which has four rows of five mats, and another, with bleachers that go up close to the ceiling. Leading to there is a glass bridge on the ceiling that goes down from the second floor. A booth is set up in there, and hanging down from there is a screen. Soon, that screen will show our twenty names and the names of who voted for us.

Slowly, the eighteen others come in. I look for Garnet, but I can't find her. That idiot! How dare she leave me alone!

She steps towards the edge, past a thirteenth year. Ah... I sigh in relief. Maybe she's not that stupid. I don't move, mainly in fear that Darren will kill me if I do. He signals for them to come over to where we are. Garnet runs over to me, but then stands beside me calmly, as if she weren't racing like a maniac a few seconds prior. "Hi."

"Hello," I mouth. I intended to say it, but something prevented sound from coming out of my mouth.

"Excuse me," Darren shouts. Only now, in the silence, do I notice that most people were talking. "Very good. Now, in five minutes, everyone will come in to vote for one of you."

No kidding. I thought we were going to just wait in here until the roof falls down. Are we stupid or something?

"You all have your own mat, which you will stand on for the next hour," he snaps his fingers.

Zzzzz... We all look at the other side of the center. Each of the mats has a surname, identification number, and random number lit up in orange. A few people start to step away to go to them. Darren doesn't say anything, so I go, also.

I look around for either Blaze or 6749 ought to show up... And it does in the third row, directly in the middle. Great; where everyone can notice me. I quickly step onto it, the lights turning blue as I step on. Fourteen is my number. Fourteen like in 8-M14. Fourteen like in 614. I look around. Most people are on theirs so that their lights are now the same shade of blue as mine. Garnet's two rows behind me, so I can't say anything to her about how I just want to leave.

And Eilian, the only other person in the Annual who I know... He's to my right. I wait for him to make eye contact with me. He's going to take a while, as he's observing the center around us.

Ok, now how to get his attention... I flick my wrist towards him. A bit of water lands on his pants, causing him to look down, then up to me. I nod to him as a hello. He does the same, hair turning with him, and then mouths, "You nervous?"

"A bit," I whisper. He nods again.

"Me too."

I'm lying when I say that I'm only a bit nervous. I'd rather drop dead right now than continue with this contest. Maybe I can faint or something. That ought to get me out, even if it's just for a while. It's how to that's the problem. I remember hearing that if one doesn't breathe enough, they could possibly pass out. But that wouldn't work; air would just come to me automatically. Too much air does the same, also, though. So maybe I'll get lucky and just past out for a bit.

But I can't. It's too late. First years are starting to appear at the entrance of the bridge. One would usually wonder, "Why the hell are five-year-olds voting if they won't know who's going to win or not?" Here, they and the second years know who's in the Annual before we know we're in. They're trained perfectly. Someone probably did question the school about brainwashing, but I can guarantee, they only use extreme amounts of punishments. And we were to grow up not saying anything about it or to our parents when we went home during breaks (if we went home, that is) because it wasn't abuse, according to the trainers. Besides, who would speak out against the best school in the Commonwealth of Wildesmead, if not all of 8-M14?

The trainers are between the eighth and ninth years. I wish Fallon and I had telepathy at this moment alone. I would ask her what I'm supposed to do. She'd probably have no response, though, besides for, "Really, I don't know. Good luck, I guess."

Our names are now on the screen. The first year girl will go up any second now to make her vote. I try to see if I can find Fallon, but she's nowhere. Oh, God... I feel as if I'm going to melt with fear. And... She's going. I know that there's the twenty buttons, and she has to pick one. She's going to decide how it'll go for us...

Ping! A name that I can barely read due to its small size appears under mine. I got the first vote. That first year decided to vote for me. The joy that fills up my heart is also joined by the fear of letting them down. What happens if I lose?

They're coming along quickly, most gathering in the first row of bleachers. I have five or six votes already. Eilian has six, mainly with girls' names underneath them. I'm not surprised; he probably does attract a few people.

I can see the tail end of the year eights... Conall comes into my view. Fallon has to be near him. Even Eilian said they're close. And... I see her! I should just take off my shoe and throw it or something, to get her attention, but it won't work.

I honestly wonder if my brain will just melt if I think too much. It's stupid, but I can't help but have a million thoughts racing through my head.

Eighth years are up. As the names of the voters come up, I focus in Eilian's and my categories. If I don't make it to the final round, which I probably won't, I expect him to go and win. He deserves it more than I do. The trainers are going up now. Fallon and Conall are in the middle, closer to the front. He keeps his signature straight face in while she whispers things that make her smile to him.

They move way too quickly, to the point where I blink and Conall's already placing his vote. I look at the board again, mainly under Eilian's name...

993. Leon Conall, the name comes up under mine. I'm in dead shock. Why didn't he choose Eilian? He's obviously the smarter one, he's more of a favorite student than I am.

Fallon steps up. I can only dream she picks me, but disappointment takes over. She even said that she only chooses the best. 994. Skylar Fallon, her name comes up right under Conall's.

My eyes don't move for a moment, but then they find their way to where she's walking. She simpers to me. I can't do anything back. She picked me. Out of everyone, Skylar Fallon picked me.

I look at Eilian, almost ready to apologize that they thought I was the best. Yeah, I know it doesn't make sense, but still. It's the least I can do. He's not annoyed or anything, though. He looks thrilled. "Nice," he mouths to me.

I feel my skin heat up, not in rage, but in pleasure with myself. I got two votes from the two who only chose the best. I don't care if I lose this election; those two proved that they have faith in me.

The tenth years are passing by. The "Vestals", who're at the back or the year, are waving. Athene mouths what looks like, "I scared them all into voting for you!" And that, reader, is why I can't be friends with those people.

It's all going by way too quickly for me. The final years are starting to go up. My numbers are still I'm the thousands, but still, I'm scared of loss. Eilian's catching up. Some twelfth year's only a few votes behind me.

It's nearly over. The door shuts behind the last one... He votes... Ping! He shows up under my name. I sigh in relief.

Darren stands in the direct middle, microphone in hand. "Good afternoon! I am pleased to announce that the winner of our election for this year's Annual is... Vesta Blaze!"

A standing ovation starts with the Vestals and spreads to all of the years. I really don't know what to do but grin. For once, I know what it's like to have everyone in a room love you... I think everyone.