Chapter 2: The Girl in the Blue Scarf
14-year-old Mary Joanne Downing, who preferred to be called Moira, was hiding in the back room of the school library. Once again, she called the class bully, a boy named Michael Robinson, out on his bad behavior in the middle of math class. The boy in question grew angry with Moira and swore to make her pay for her tattling.
Moira hid in the back of the library, hoping no one who worked there would see her. Only a few people were there, which made it easier for her to hide. Even the librarian didn’t see her, for she was busy reorganizing the books on the bookshelves and didn’t have time to apprehend any student who was cutting class by hiding in the library.
Moira sat in her “safety spot”, wondering how she got to this point. Two years earlier, she was a self-respecting girl who always made straight A’s, wore nice clothes, and was respected by her classmates. How on Earth did she become the girl who wore bad clothing, fought against class bullies, and hide in the library while she was supposed to be in class?
Little did she know that the answer to her questions was in front of her.
Josie Tremlett-Kahn and Seth Burke were walking towards the library. Josie was cutting art class again, as she didn’t want to be in a room where the teacher refused to teach and the students were too dumb to learn anything. It was a wonder the class never advanced; especially when Mrs. Bean’s other classes were studying portraits, landscapes, and still life.
At any rate, Josie was so done with this particular art class, as it sapped away any enthusiasm she had for art. She had contemplated dropping Spanish in favor of switching to Mrs. Bean’s morning class.
Seth said, “You know I was just kidding, right?”
“What are you talking about?” said Josie.
“That teacher was so lying about you,” said Seth. Josie glared at him. “You didn’t hear how she was talking about you, like you were some sort of goody two-shoes student? God, that was so pathetic!”
“Well, I had my Walkman on, so I didn’t hear her,” said Josie. “Also, I’m so done with false praises that make me look dumb to the other kids. It’s like I’m not even real.”
“But you are,” said Seth.
“It’s like the teachers want us to be a part the system,” said Josie. “Like we’re too dumb to even think for ourselves.”
“No we’re not,” said Seth. “We’re not stupid; we know what’s going on in the world. Don’t think we don’t know about what’s happening in the Middle East, because we do. We know about AIDS, drug abuse, and even a school shooting that took place in Dionesville, Illinois not too long ago. You think they care about us?”
“Well, I just happen to be a product of a 60′s girl,” said Josie, “but we’ll leave that for later. Right now, we have to get to the library before they see us.”
There were several other people in the hall besides the duo. The janitors were cleaning the halls, not taking any notice of two kids who were cutting classes. So far, they weren’t caught.
“I don’t see how ditching class is going to help us with our education,” said Seth as Josie opened the door to the library.
“For your information, would you rather be in a place where you could learn something by yourself or a classroom and not learn anything?” said Josie as they walked into the library. “Either way, no one is going to be taking away my right to an education because they don’t want to learn anything. I’m getting my education whether they want me to get an education or not. There’s nothing else for it.”
“Indeed,” said Seth as they slipped behind the library counter and went towards the back room. Little did they know that someone else had beaten them there. The person standing before them was a 14-year-old girl. She had an olive skin tone, short curly dark blond hair, and brown eyes. She was short, thin, and wore a white polo shirt and a navy skirt, both of which were old and tattered clothing. She also had a tattered blue scarf around her neck.
“What are you doing here?” said Josie to the girl. The girl quivered nervously as she stared at Josie and Seth. She never spoke to anyone unless that person was a teacher or the school librarian; even those moments were rare. For her, talking to the other students in the school wasn’t allowed unless it was necessary. So, Josie and Seth were breaking a school taboo when they decided to talk to her.
Seth tried a different tactic. “What is your name?” he asked.
“My name is Mary Joanne Downing, but I would prefer if you would call me Moira,” said Moira. Josie and Seth stared at her. “My friends call me Moira,” she added. “Well, I wish they would if I had any friends. Anyway, who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I’m Josie Tremlett-Kahn and this is Seth Burke,” said Josie. Moira stared at her for a while before saying, “Josie? Isn’t that short for something?”
“No,” said Josie. “I’m just Josie. Which means, you can’t call me Joey, Jo, even Josefina. Especially not Josefina, because I’m not Hispanic. Anyway, why are you hiding in the library? Isn’t that where the nerds go?”
“Well, I’m hiding here because no one else is allowed back here,” said Moira. “Even if they wanted to, no bully can sneak back here without the librarian or her assistants knowing. I’m safe here.”
“But you won’t be safe for long,” said Seth as he stared out the window in the back of the library. Moira and Josie followed him to the window; they saw Michael snooping around the library looking for Moira. He had an angry look on his face, as if he wanted to murder someone. Namely, the person who humiliated him during math class by telling him to shut up. That person also said he was acting retarded, which made the other students in the class feel dumber than they already were.
“What did you do to that kid?” Seth said as they continued to stare at Michael as he prowled the area in front of the library, in search of Moira.
“I told him to shut up,” said Moira as they looked away from the window and sat at a nearby table. “Nobody in the school really likes him because he acts like a retard.”
“To imply that the boy in question behaves like a retard is to insult parents of disabled children everywhere,” said Josie cautiously. “With that, I don’t know how or why you people keep getting yourselves into these situations when you should keep your mouth shut and allow the bullies to wallow in their own filth. That isn’t right. I, however, am in a class where no White are people allowed, so I don’t have to deal with situations like yours.”
“It’ll be a problem for you once we make it to high school and people like Michael start coming after us,” said Seth. “I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this.”
“So, what do you do whenever you can’t deal with being in the classroom?” said Moira curiously.
“We do what I do whenever I’m sick and tired of school,” said Josie. The others stared at her. “I ditch. Now, let’s sneak out the back door and run behind the school. There’s a few blind spots in the back of the building where no one can see us.”
“Is this a good idea?” said Moira. “Ditching school, that is?”
“Sure it is, as long as no one sees you leaving,” said Josie. “In fact, I know a place where we can hide. It’s called The Purple Peddler Tavern and it’s right across the street from Cannery Row. Now let’s go!”
Moira led the way to the back of the library. Only the librarian used the door, but Moira had already been in and out of the library though that way, so no one bothered to take issue with her or the other two kids who followed her.
The back of the library led to the teachers’ parking lot, where no student was allowed to go. Josie led Moira and Seth through the parking lot with ease until they came to the end of the bus lane that led to the school. After looking around to make sure that no one was following them, Josie led Moira and Seth to the tavern.
The tavern was large, with rooms that were fit for a king (if a king were to stay in the tavern, that was). The drinks were bad, but the food was excellent. The tavern was usually crowded; on some days, the place would be packed. The main attraction was the active dice game, which was played with three 8-sided purple dice. The main drink served was pearl with small pieces of fruit and a shot of another drink mixed in. The drink smelled fruity and tasted like dragon breath. It was served over frozen water.
Josie walked to the counter and requested a round of Eastern Punch. This drink was violet with silver sparkles and served over ice. The drink smelled somewhat like whiskey and tasted like caramel. She also ordered a meal, which consisted of baked buckwheat noodles with lima beans, komatsuna, and beef on a bed of cooked arracacha and elderberries. The meal was served with hard-boiled eggs, durian and ensete soup, brandy, and kola nut pie.
As the trio sat at a table on a corner and enjoyed their meal, Josie said, “You do know that no one is going to like this, right? The three of us aren’t really supposed to be hanging out with each other.”
“Why not?” said Seth. “Why don’t they want us to be friends?”
“Who knows?” said Moira. “Anyway, I’m tired of us feeling suppressed, as if we’re going to start a riot if we banded together. I feel like I’m living in the world before 1954. Come on now.”
“I say that now is the time for us to rebel against the status quo of not only our school, but our society in general,” said Josie. “I’ve wasted two years of my life under the thumb of Sheila Baines; she needs to be stopped before she ruins another generation of sixth graders. My little sister will be sent to Montagne Beach Middle School in a few years, and I will be dead before I see her being pushed around by Sheila Baines!”
“I can’t believe she won’t let us be friends,” said Moira. “That’s so mean. No student has the right to tell us what to do. Let’s break some rules!”
“Indeed,” said Seth as he raised his glass. “To friendship!”
“To friendship!” Josie and Moira cheered as they raised their glasses.
Little did they know that someone was in the tavern, watching the children as they enjoyed their meal. That person nodded, thinking of a way to use the trio to his advantage…