Later that day, after school, Laura came home before Mary, who was stopping to pick up additional paper tablets at the Mercantile. She had written so many different rough drafts of her story and wasn't pleased with a single one; to the point where she had wasted a whole paper tablet!
"Ma, what do you think about the writing contest?"
Ma, who had been checking on dough in the oven, spun around. "What do you mean?"
"Just, you know, what do you think of it?"
"I think it is a great opportunity for aspiring educators like your sister to get a nice start at such a young age. Why do you ask?"
"Oh," Laura smiled weakly, taken in surprise, "I was just wondering....Samantha wasn't sure if she should ask her Grandmary just in case writing contests weren't considered proper." Laura hoped she hadn't said everything too fast and made it seem like a lie, but she had already done it.
"Improper?" Ma asked, frowning, "Oh no - it's a wonderful thing." Laura could tell that Ma had her doubts about why Laura was really asking. However, not in Ma's wildest dreams would she imagine Laura entering.
Laura went up to her room sulking, Ma's words playing through her head; aspiring educators like your sister... Laura didn't want to be a teacher, but she still wanted Ma to realize that she too had an interest in learning and Mary couldn't take all the credit.
Laura mailed out her letter the next day. The mail was only in the next town over for the contest, so it would get there on time. After about a week of waiting, Ms. Beadle announced that the next day, she would be revealing who won.
That morning of the contest results, Laura said goodbye to Pa. "Just think, next contest time, you'll be entering - just like Mary." Pa smiled.
"Yes...yes sir." Laura was stunned. It was finally dawning on her that no one truly knew that she was entering. She began to feel a little sick to her stomach.
At school, Nellie was bragging about her entry and how she was so sure she was going to win.
"I don't think you're going to win," Laura smiled playfully.
"Well, with my sophisticated writing, I should win, but as my mother says, it would be nice for a poor unfortunate country child to win if there was to be any money for the contest prize. Then maybe she could get some nice clothes." Nellie eyed up Laura's dress while Laura focused on ignoring her.
"Okay, okay, let's settle down," Ms. Beadle smiled as she unfolded the envelope that incased the life changing results.
"First honorable mention," she read and then paused before continuing, "Nellie Olson."
"Are you sure?" Nellie asked desperately.
Ms. Beadle ignored her.
Laura, who was still fuming in the back of her mind about what Nellie had said earlier about the poor and unfortunate country kids, glanced back and stuck her tongue out and narrowed her eyes at Nellie who was still dumbstruck.
Mary quickly realized what was going on and smacked Laura on the knee to get her to turn around and mind the teacher.
Laura turned around - that smack had hurt and she didn't want another one.
The whole class was so silent waiting to hear the last three honorable mentions and then finally the official winner.
"Samantha Parkington," Ms. Beadle paused, "Rose Beacon, and......." Ms. Beadle paused and Laura and Mary - the whole class that wasn't in the honorable mentions before prayed.
Mary gasped. Laura gasped.
I knew that I wouldn't win," Laura sighed, staring down at her lap. She had made a fool of herself by sticking out her tongue at Nellie, because in the end, Mary, nor Samantha, not even Laura won. They were all just as bad off as Nellie.
"You still did a good job, Mary," Laura whispered. She really did feel bad for her - but she also felt bad for herself. She had wanted to win so bad, even if she had only expected to be in the honorable mentions. While Ms. Beadle still hadn't announced the real winner, Laura just knew that it wouldn't be her.
"Shhh," Mary frowned, but she smiled a weak but grateful smile.
"The official winner of the writing contest is............Laura Ingalls," Ms. Beadle didn't know Laura had planned on entering. She looked shocked, but quickly recovered herself and smiled. "Will our winner please come to the front of the room?"
Laura rose shakily - she still hadn't recovered. Had she really just won the whole contest - had she really beaten a private school that was known for their writing?
Ms. Beadle hugged Laura tightly, both of them were nearly in tears. "Well congratulations, Laura! The prize of $5 is all yours! Would you like to read to the class what you wrote?"
"Of - of course," Laura stuttered. She was getting even more surprised as time went on. She had won! WON! WON!
Laura cleared her throat, took her story from Ms. Beadle's hands and began to read like she never had before.
"In the crisp, clear woods a poor girl, Kirsten, had become lost in her efforts to exit the forest during a game of hide and seek........." Laura continued, making sure to project her words and make sure that everything was spoken clearly in a way that everyone could understand. Finally, she read the end of her story, "So Kirsten learned in the end that maybe the Indians weren't so evil or mean and they in no way reflected what she had been taught from such a young age. So Kirsten waved goodbye on the top of that hill and looked down at the temporary family sprawled out across the vast plains that she had had for weeks and waved goodbye. It wasn't a sad goodbye. It was a happy one, for she had realized her luck to ever be in the care of such fine people."
The story had been about a poor girl who had been playing hide and seek and got lost but was saved by Indians. The Indians ended up being wonderful people, but when her parents found her, she realized she had to leave, so she did. It was a simple story, but Laura's use of words had been so amazing that it had won.
Laura looked at Mary, who peered over her glasses and clapped. She wasn't really smiling, but she wasn't frowning either - she was emotionless.
"I suppose that with that, we can release class early," Ms. Beadle smiled. The group left. Mary didn't wait for Laura, and instead ran home. Laura fled after her.
"How did it go?" Ma asked Mary.
"It went....um, okay," Mary smiled shyly.
"Who won?" Ma saw the disappointment on Mary's face, which somehow signaled that Mary did not come out as the winner.
"Well, Laura," Mary looked at Ma's face to try and detect Ma's emotions.
"Laura?" Ma asked, "Did she really? I didn't know she entered!"
"I don't know how she managed to enter," Mary sighed, "She should be home soon."
Suddenly, Laura entered and closed the door. She stood in front of it with a sorry look on her face.
"Ma....I..." she began, her hands pulled behind her back in worry, "Oh Ma." Laura began to cry. She felt like she had somehow disobeyed her Ma and Pa by entering.
"Oh Laura," Ma smiled, running over to hug her. Mary awkwardly shifted from foot to foot staring down at her slate and paper tablets.
"Ma, I just....I just wanted to enter," Laura cried. "I wanted to prove everyone wrong!"
"What was there to prove wrong?" Ma asked.
"Samantha told me I couldn't, Nellie told me I couldn't, even Pa and you didn't expect me to enter - as though you figured I wasn't.....I wasn't good enough," Laura closed her eyes.
"Laura," Ma spoke firmly, "I'm proud of you - very proud of you. I do wish you would've told everyone you were entering, but Laura, I have to be proud of you - it is your first writing contest and you won!" Ma smiled. "Oh, but Laura, you never need to prove anything to Pa or me. We already know that you can do anything you set your mind to."
Laura smiled at Ma happily as her tears dried up and she began to realize that Ma and Pa had no reason to be upset about her winning a writing contest! Now Mary being proud was a different story.
Ma went outside to help Carrie who was trying to teach Jack a trick. Mary and Laura were left inside alone. Mary walked over to her.
"You did an amazing job," Mary told her shyly.
"Really?" Laura asked softly, "I wasn't sure if you would be upset or not."
"Honorable mentions are good enough - why should I be upset?" Mary smiled.
"I just...well, I just thought you would be upset because now you're no better off than Nellie Olson," Laura sighed.
"But Laura," Mary smiled, "I am."
"How?" Laura asked.
"Because I have a talented writer for a sister," Mary smiled and Laura smiled back widely.
"Why don't we go celebrate by wading in the creek?" Laura suggested.
"Race you!" Mary smiled back and with that, the girls were off. Mary the soon-to-be teacher and Laura.....the writer.