"I want it," Mary-Kate Burke declared. "I want that snowboard more than I've ever wanted anything in my life."
"And you need it, too," Mary-Kate's friend Campbell Smith agreed. "You have to have your own snowboard if you want to be on the winter sports team."
"I know," Mary-Kate said. "And that's the one I want -- right there."
Campbell followed her friend's gaze. The two of them were standing in a crowded sporting goods store at the mall.
Mary-Kate's eyes were glued to a black snowboard. It had bright green-and-blue swirls on it. The name of the board -- POWDER POUNDER -- was printed in hot pink.
"It's a beauty," Campbell said, admiring it.
"Totally," Mary-Kate said. "And since I made the team, I think it's really unfair that my dad won't buy it for me!"
"Well, making the team wasn't all that hard," Campbell reminded her with a laugh. "All we had to do was sign up."
"True," Mary-Kate admitted.
But that's not the point, she thought. Now that she was on the team, she needed a snowboard. And she needed it before practice started in a few weeks.
Mary-Kate and her twin sister, Ashley, were both students at White Oak Academy for Girls in New Hampshire. Prime snowboarding country was only twenty minutes away by bus.
This year White Oak was starting a winter sports team. No one had to try out for it -- even beginners were allowed to join! The coach was going to teach everyone how to snowboard or ski if they didn't already know how.
"Besides," Mary-Kate went on, "I don't want to let the team down."
Campbell grinned. "So now you need a snowboard for the honor of the school," she teased her. "Nice try. And you've been snowboarding only twice in your life!"
"Hey -- whose side are you on?" Mary-Kate asked.
"Yours," Campbell said. "So I guess you're going to have to earn the money to buy it. At least it's on sale."
"It is?" Mary-Kate spotted the sign Campbell was looking at. "Wow! It's fifty percent off!"
Fifty percent off," Campbell muttered. "That makes it one hundred and twenty-five dollars."
Whoa. Mary-Kate didn't have close to that much. She only had fifteen dollars left from her allowance this month.
So what? she thought with a gulp. I can earn the money. Somehow.
"Wait here," Mary-Kate said.
She headed toward the young store clerk behind the cash register. He was an older teenage guy with dark curly hair and blue eyes. His name tag said Brad.
Mary-Kate had a quick talk with him and then joined Campbell. She walked out of the store smiling.
"It's all arranged," Mary-Kate explained. "The guy said it was against store policy to hold stuff that isn't paid for. So he's going to put the snowboard in the back room while the manager is away on vacation. But next Saturday it goes back on the floor."
"That's all? Just a week?" Campbell sounded surprised. "You mean you've got to earn all that money in the next six days?"
Mary-Kate nodded. A week. To raise one hundred and ten dollars.
How was she going to do that?
There was only one answer. She'd have to think up a moneymaking scheme of some sort. And fast!
"Let's go," Mary-Kate said. "I've got to talk to Ashley."
Mary-Kate and Campbell took the shuttle bus back to school. When they reached the dorm, a girl in the lounge told them that Ashley was in the Food Management Center.
"She's baking a batch of her famous jumble-crumble bars," the girl said.
Yum, Mary-Kate thought. Ashley's bars were like blond brownies jam-packed with chocolate chips. But she also added her own special homemade caramel corn, so they were really chewy.
"Great!" Campbell said, her eyes lighting up. "I'm starved."
The two of them hurried across the tree-lined campus. The last of the fall leaves had been raked away. The trees were bare and the sky was light gray. A feeling of snow was in the air.
Mary-Kate followed the smell of warm chocolate into the kitchen of the Food Management Center. She found Ashley and her friends gathered around the counter.
"Ashley, I really need your help," Mary-Kate announced, bursting into the kitchen. "I found the perfect snow-board!"
Ashley and her friends all whirled around to face Mary-Kate.
"Mary-Kate!" Wendy Linden called. "Good thing you're here. Maybe you can talk some sense into your sister. She's torturing us!"
"Torturing you?" Mary-Kate asked. "How?"
"She baked her famous jumble-crumble bars, and she won't even let us have one bite!" Wendy explained.
"Oh, man," Campbell moaned. "Why not?"'
"Yeah -- why not, Ashley?"' Mary-Kate asked.
Ashley pulled the pan of sweet-smelling treats out of the oven. She put them on the counter to cool.
"Because these are for the Head," she said. That's what everyone called Mrs. Pritchard, the headmistress of the school.
"She's having a surprise birthday party for Joan, her secretary," Ashley went on. "She asked me to bake for her."
"Okay, okay, so you have a good reason," Wendy admitted. "You're still torturing us! They smell so..."
"Wonderful," Samantha Kramer said, leaning closer to get a good sniff.
Ashley brushed flour off her hands, wiping them on her apron. Even when she was just cooking, she tried to be well dressed. She had on a pair of blue stretch pants and a blue boatneck sweater to match. Her long blond hair was tied up in twisty knots on top of her head.
"Oh, come on," Campbell moaned. "Mrs. Pritchard won't miss just one."
She reached for the pan...(Continues...)