"Wait, so how many of us can join?" Lucas asked, obviously messing with her. "Could we all do it?"
"I'm so glad you asked!" Vi chirped. "We're short one person since Addison Schuler moved, and only four of us can compete at once, so technically we only 'need' one more teammate, but we can always use extra players. We'd simply have to determine who's best suited to perform at Regionals. But others could provide assistance as swing teammates in case of illness and whatnot, and if there are enough who join, we could even add B and C teams! Honestly, whoever joins has big shoes to fill. Addison was ... incomparable."
Marianne saw something flit across Vi's face, maybe worry or sadness, but she couldn't tell what exactly.
"The point is, it's really worth the time commitment," Vi went on. "You'll see your grades improve."
"It just sounds 'soooo fun'!" Ava squealed. "It really is!" Vi beamed.
Marianne didn't think she'd ever seen Vi Cross smile before. She had two dimples in each cheek.
"I don't know if you've ever been to Ann Arbor, but it's a pretty neat place. And, of course, if we win Regionals and make it to the Championship in Lansing ... Well, that'll be 'really' exciting," Vi went on, still oblivious to the fact that she was an object of mockery. "Have you visited the state capital before?"
"What?" Lucas fake-gasped. "The 'state capital'? Is the 'governor' there?"
Ava and her friends snickered. Lucas and Ava were both super good- looking. Other kids flocked to them. They laughed with wide-open mouths and their pretty eyes twinkled at any opportunity to tease.
"But!" Vi held up a finger to make another point, which caused a few other kids in the crowd to stifle even more giggles. "I know some of you here don't quite have the grades to cut it. I'm sorry, but it's just the truth. So I don't want you to get the wrong idea and think you can easily make it to Ann Arbor. Or Lansing."
The kids couldn't hold it in any longer. They let out whoops of laughter.
Vi grew quiet. She appeared to finally understand what was happening but didn't know how to stop it.
She jumped in. "Wait, no, for real, guys, this sounds like fun."
Lucas and Ava howled. "Ohmygod. Please, 'please' join Quiz Quest, Blume," Lucas said. "Do it."
"Seriously, I would buy a ticket to see that. I'd bring my whole family," Ava deadpanned. "Yeah, they'll ask for the value of X and you'll say 'It's M!'" Lucas's friend Niko joked.
Niko had shaggy hair that nearly covered his eyes and a broad grin that took up the rest of his face.
Jalilah Jacobs—always glamorous, always unbothered—jumped in, too. "'Yeees!' Horse in Nerdland! Love it!"
'Horse'. Marianne could never quite shake the nickname that had started early on in sixth grade. Sometimes, when people called her that, she performed a little "'Neigh!'"
"Hardy har har. I'm serious, guys! I could be awesome at it! Vi, test me!" Marianne turned to Vi and hoped Vi would see that if she would just jump in and participate in this little performance, then she wouldn't be the target anymore.
"Ha! Yes! Show us what you got, Blume!" To Vi, Lucas said, "What are some of the questions? Easy ones." He winked at Marianne.
Like a robot, Vi answered immediately: "Easy. Right. Okay." She cleared her throat. "He was the second president of the United States, hailing from Massachusetts. Who was he?"
"Teddy Roosevelt!" Marianne shouted with a confidence she knew would make it funnier.
She unwrapped a piece of gum and threw it in her smiling mouth.
Ava shrieked. "Girl, we learned this in like third grade! It's John freaking Adams! Are you for real?"
"Please, please, tell me you know the first president. Please." Lucas clasped his hands in a prayer position.