What I saw was crazy. It was crowded with hundreds of people, all different types. There were French people talking to each other in a language I couldn't understand, Scottish people playing the bagpipes for money, and American teenage boys singing to their guitar music. I felt uncomfortable at first, but then it felt like my kind of hangout.
I walked over to the ticket station and nervously glanced at the prices. I pulled out my emergency wallet and took out a five dollar bill. I watched a woman in front of me in line work her magic at the machine. It was so complicated to my third grade self. When she finished, with her ticket in her hand and purse over her shoulder, she marched to the entrance to the rails. i saw her scan her ticket on a big metal box, heard a beep, and watched her march through the security scanner, and walk down more stairs the the subway.
I stepped up to the machine, worried that I wouldn't figure it out. There was a big line behind me. I could feel my palms sweating intensely. Slowly, I pressed start. Then a ton of ticket options popped up, and I didn't know which one to choose. Then, somebody tapped my shoulder. I turned and saw a girl with long, straight dirty blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a pretty tan. I recognized her as a girl in my class that I never spoke to. She was holding a fresh ticket from the machine next to mine.
"Need help?" she asked me, and I nodded, blushing profusely. "See, all you have to do is tap which ticket you want. I usually get the regular package, which is $2.25. It gets you anywhere you want for 24 hours, so you can get home with this ticket." She tapped the button on the screen that said "Regular Package". "Now you insert your dollar bill. Want me to show you?" I nodded, still blushing, embarrassed, but not as much. I hand her my dollar bill, which she inserts in a slot and change comes out of the bottom. I picked it up and slipped it in my emergency wallet. A fresh, exhilarant green ticket pops out at the bottom of the machine, and I take it. "Follow me," says the girl, leading me to the entrance. "You scan your ticket here," she says, showing me a scanner on one of the metal boxes, "put it facedown right... there." She demonstrates. "Then you walk through the security scanner, and, you can't see it now, but you talk to a guy in a booth for some security purposes or something. See you on the other end!" She skips through the security scanner and disappears. I'm sweating a lot now because I have know idea what to do after the security scanner. Is the guy in the booth going to interrogate me? Will he snoop through my backpack? Will he say I'm too young, and to go home even if I just paid for a ticket?
I take a deep breath and scan my ticket. It beeps and a light turns green for a split second, and I realize that I can go through. I gain more confidence as I go through the security scanner, but then it drains from me quicker than you can say "subway". There's a big guy in a booth with broad shoulders and a mean expression on his face. He's wearing a black jumper with a bright yellow vest over it that says across his chest: SECURITY. There's a silver name tag with his name, Butch, on it. I am terrified to walk another step, and so I freeze. Butch sees me standing there, and after ten seconds, he opens the window and shouts in his New Jersey accent, "Get ova' here or I'm gonna ask you to leave!" I'm mortified as I slowly slouch, scared as heck, to Butch the security guy. "Ticket," he says, and I hand him mine. "Regula' package. I see, I see." He types on an old PC and says, "Go through the gate, missy, straight ahead." He hands me back my ticket and I rush to the gate and see the girl in my class waiting.
"What took you so long?" she asks. "Was Butch rude to you? Ugh, he can be so rude sometimes! Did you do okay? Did you get shouted at? Did the scanning your ticket go well? And did the security scanner go off? That happened to me once because I was wearing a belt with metal on it. They thought I had a gun or something! And I was like, 'Um, excuse me? I'm in third grade, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't carry around a gun, like ever!' They were so rude, I just stalked off after that. Anyways, now we get on the subway on the right side because it goes the direction of our school and stops a block away from it."
I follow her onto the subway, and we find a seat in the back of our car. "I'm Lola, by the way. Lola Morgan. You're Alexa Falls, right? On the dance team?"
I was shocked that she even knew my name, and that I was on the dance team. I nod, and finally manage to get words out. "Um, yeah, I'm on the dance team, and... uh, yeah."
"You don't talk a lot," she says, and pauses. "That's cool. I like that."
"Wow, that was spectacular," Lola whispers to me. "I can't believe Carmen, Maya, and Willow actually made the cut!"
I nod, even though I have no idea who Carmen, Maya, and Willow are, but when three third grade girls come walking towards the third grade section, I hear, "WOW, Maya!" "Great job Carmen!" "That was so cool, Willow!" Two of them go towards the back, who I find out are Carmen and Maya, and Willow, I think it's her, sits down next to me. I'm utterly shocked that anyone besides Lola would sit with me, but unmistakably, she sits next to me.
"How'd you think we sounded?" she asks me, and I can see a tiny droplet of sweat dripping down her forehead. I stare at her for a moment, and then say, "Uh, n-nice." This sounds rude. "I mean, good... oh, sorry. I mean you sounded... um.... super!"
"Thank you," she says, tucking her light brown hair, which is curled, behind her ear. I see mascara on her eyelashes of her blue eyes, which I don't think a third grader should be wearing, but she probably borrowed it from Paisley just for the performance. I realize that staring is impolite.
"You're welcome..." I say, but it turns into a whisper as my palms begin to sweat. I wipe them on my jean shorts and force a smile on my face.
"It's Alexis, right?" she asks.
"Um, no. It's actually Alexa," I mutter.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she says. "My name is--"
"Willow!" I shout absentmindedly, and I see people staring at me from all directions. "Sorry... g-go back to your, uh, conversations."
I quickly glance at Lola, who is looking at me. I can't believe that she's not helping me with this awkward situation, but just sitting there doing nothing but watching me embarrass myself. But she gives me a look, and I see that in her eyes I know what I have to do.
"Um, Willow," I start nervously, the butterflies in my stomach beating their wings like crazy. "Would you-- I mean, you and, uh, Lola-- like to come over this weekend?" She smiles at me and says, "I'd love to."
"Let's go to the yogurt shop," says Lola. "I'm on a strict no-Starbucks week this week, ordered by my parents."
"Sounds good," I say. "Or we could take the ferry to another part of Manhattan, I know of a really good bakery." "Ooh, that'd be fun," says Willow. "Let's go, we can catch the 4:50 ride if we hurry, it's 4:45!"
We start running down the roads of Manhattan, constantly stopped by cars or other pedestrians. We race into the ferry terminal, quickly buy tickets, and board the 4:50 just in the nick of time. We slide into a booth upstairs and Lola pulls out her phone and starts typing. "Alexa, the bakery is fourteen blocks from the ferry terminal! We're going to have to walk for so long! We totally should've checked before we got on this ferry."
"Well, it'll all be worth it, right?" I ask.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right," sighs Lola. "I wish I had a granola bar or something with me."
TO BE CONTINUED