By Jessica Staricka, first place
For three days after the last night of our performances, Ivan Thall walked around school with my hand print burnt into his face. I had resisted the urge to lash out at him up until the very last curtain call; I wasn't going to throw away all the work we'd put into that play by sending the lead role into the hospital. Some folks noticed that evening that Ivan didn't stick around for the reception—I just smiled, savoring my revenge, and shook hands with each praising audience member.
“Oh, your hand is warm!” said one woman, jerking back and then laughing nervously. “You must be overheating in that costume! Well, you did a good job, a good job...”
Ryan Staves turned to me suspiciously. “You're hand is warm, huh? Just how warm?”
“Warm enough to leave a mark,” I said through a big, forced grin.
“So that's where Ivan went. I thought maybe he'd made a break for the woods.”
“No. More like a break for the emergency room.”
When Ivan showed up for school the next morning, it was between classes, and the halls were buzzing and busy. But everyone fell silent when he marched slowly and proudly down the hall.
“Good performance last night, huh Ivan?” I said cheerfully, raising my voice above the whispers.
He turned to glare at me with dull eyes. “Quiet, freshman.”
I grinned at him and let the temperature of the hallway spiral downward for a moment before bringing it back up. “And a good morning to you, too.”
The judge says: I love the supernatural element and how you’ve woven it into a contemporary, relatable setting. I want to know more about the main character and why she is the way she is. Also, the conflict is great from the very beginning. Most readers can identify with the element of being angry with a classmate, but then you threw in the unexpected element of burning his face with her hand…it’s definitely enough to get my attention!