Out of My League - Sarah Sutton

Chapter One

“Sophia, I know it’s the last day of school, but can you at least pretend you’re paying attention?”

I surrendered my gaze from my journal to focus on Mrs. Gao at the front of the room, whose dark eyes were trained on me. Two hands on her hips, two dark eyebrows raised. Totally busted.

My head bobbed. “I am listening.”

Ha, I really wasn’t. Who could blame me? Like Mrs. Gao said, last day of school and all. Who paid attention on the last day of school? But even though the year was almost over, my ears weren’t working for a whole other reason.

My last journalism assignment was due in four minutes. It was a pitch for the Back to School newsletter. Our school newspaper, the Bayview High Report, prints out a newsletter at the beginning of each school year with all sorts of inspiring or informative pieces to spur excitement amongst the grades. The student journalist whose idea gets chosen has the entire summer to work on it, so it’s ready for publication when school resumes.

Since come fall I’d be a senior, I was finally allowed to pitch my mind-blowing ideas.

Except that I had none. No ideas. Nothing.

With the pressure building up and time running out, I began to sweat. Figuratively, not literally. My brain knew how important coming up with an out-of-the-park idea was.

Winning the spot of Lead Editor would make me a shoo-in for the internship at the Bayview Blade, the biggest newspaper press in the county. Each fall, the press picked three seniors from the district to be their interns for the school year.

No doubt they would pick the senior who wrote Bayview’s fall newsletter, and that senior would be me.

Lots of pressure. Okay, maybe I was literally sweating, too.

Mrs. Gao caught my eye again. Right. Paying attention.

“We’re facing budget cuts for the next school year. I’m not supposed to say anything, but I trust this group.” She turned to smudge the eraser along the whiteboard, wiping away any traces of the black HAVE A GREAT SUMMER. “I’ve been trying to find a way to break this to you all, but it’s going to be a hard pill to swallow.”

My open notebook beckoned my focus with its blank lines, taunting my lack of inspiration. For weeks now, I’d been trying to come up with an epic editorial topic. Though the Back to School newsletter was only open to seniors, I’d been writing practice entries since I was a freshman. Last year, I’d written about the environmental dangers of plastic straws and submitted it to the school board. Effective that next calendar year, Bayview High switched to only offering paper straws.

Now, when my article actually mattered, the only freaking idea in my head was “Is Chicken Soup Better for You Than Tomato?”

“The school has decided to cut funding for some extracurricular activities, and they’ve decided to cancel the newspaper, effective next school year.”

Mrs. Gao’s words almost went in one ear and out the other, my focus so totally elsewhere. And then it registered like a slap to the face. “Wait, wait, what?”

Mrs. Gao let out a weary breath, setting the eraser down on the whiteboard sill. Her shoulders slouched forward as she reached a hand to brush her black hair. “Sales are down twenty percent, and if no one’s reading the paper—”

“A school paper is a necessity!” I objected, voice sounding loud and desperate to my own ears. “How else are students going to know about events, games, board meetings? How else are they going to get their information?”

A boy behind me piped up, “Uh…social media?”

I fought the urge to turn around and glare.

“Apparently, Sophia, the money for new baseball field bleachers is more of a necessity than information.”

Oh, no, no, no. Absolutely not. My newspaper funding went to baseball?

Waves of blood pounded in my ears, sending a shockwave of dizziness through my senses. I gripped onto my desk to keep myself upright. This could not be happening. “They can’t just cut an extracurricular to put more funding into a nonessential sports team.” Could they?

“They can if the class size is five students.”

“Nonessential, Sophia?” Tess, the main sports reporter, turned toward me. If looks could kill, hers would’ve struck me down. “The newspaper isn’t as important as the baseball team.”

Uh, I so disagreed.

Any retort I might’ve pitched back died on my lips as a different kind of panic seized me, another fact crossing my mind. “Does this mean the seniors aren’t qualified for the Blade internship?”

Mrs. Gao’s expression confirmed my