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Holy crap, this is really happening, Karen thought as she folded her hands neatly across the front of her laurel green cable-knit sweater.  Three damn years of Drama Club, Anchor Club, Tennis Team, National Honor Society, Drill Team and Latin Club. Three damn years of smiling at everyone I pass in the hallways, staying up past midnight primping the homecoming float, showing up to school 20 minutes early every single morning to prepare the intercom announcements. Three damn years of designated driving, “passing on grass,” and never letting any boy get his hands past second base (not even during those epic make-out sessions with Danny Cruse over the summer at Myrtle Beach). Three years, and I have finally made it. I am one of 20 promising young men and women chosen for Senior Spotlight in the 1989 edition of the Platte Springs High School Lancer yearbook.

It had been hard work but, as she told her best friend Cami over the phone the night before, it was totally worth it. Karen knew she wanted to be in the Senior Spotlight since she was an 11-year-old sneaking into her big sister Beth’s room and leafing through her 1982 volume of the Lancer. These guys, Karen thought as she stared at the glossy grins of 20 good-looking, well-scrubbed high schoolers, really are the best.

Beth had been Spotlighted. So had Karen’s other two sisters, Jennifer and Amy. Now it was her turn. Being part of Senior Spotlight wasn’t just an honor for Karen Cupperman. It was sort of a birthright.

She clasped her hands in front of her, tilted her head and smiled wide for the photographer. This really is happening, Karen told herself. She wanted to be excited. She was excited. But not the way she expected. She expected a wave of ecstasy to wash over and perhaps carry her a few feet above the soggy practice field where they’d decided to take these photos. Instead, she felt little more than a dull pride, then nervousness. Is this all there is to it? she thought. Nobody’s going to give a crap about Senior Spotlight next year at the University of Alabama. What am I going to do then?

Her smile faded a bit. Her mother would describe Karen’s look as “winsome,” when the two of them flipped through the yearbook several months later. Her mom was always dropping these little words and phrases that seemed to come straight out of a Jane Austen novel.

“What exactly does winsome mean?” Karen asked.

“Oh, you know. Fetching,” her mom said. “Winning.”

Karen looked down at the picture and clucked her tongue. Winning? No, that wasn’t it.

 

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