Her walk was that of a runway model: head held up, chin elevated, hips swinging seductively from side to side, and lengths of her bright red hair swirling around narrow shoulders. Even I had to look at the way she moved. Who wouldn’t when the most popular girl in school showed up in a bright green halter top that made her bright eyes pop, expensive jeans that showed off the tones muscles of her legs, and a designer handbag hanging on her arm that probably cost more than my parents’ monthly mortgage bill? You would be blind not to notice someone like Claire Romano. With the exaggerated grace of a Disney Princess, she slid into an empty chair by the school’s supposed ‘hunk’, Bryan Warwick, and immediately dove into a deeply animated conversation by the way her hands kept flying around in frantic circles.
Almost immediately, the rest of the cafeteria came to life and turned back around in their seats to resume their own pointless conversations with one another. Everyone but me of course. But did that bother me? Not in the least. What kind of person with a functioning brain wants to be segregated and classified into a petty high school caste like that one at this stupid school? I mean, we have the Emos sitting in dark corners cutting their wrists and talking about death like they actually know what it entails, the Skaters loitering in the parking lots because they think that pointless rebellion will get them somewhere in life. The Preppies think they are better than everybody because they score the highest in their classes so they hibernate in the library and the Popular Kids have claimed the tables by the windows—which are the best seats in the lunchroom—because they are a bunch of spoiled brats who have everything handed to them by their awful parents.
I shook my head disapprovingly. Sometimes, when you find yourself sitting alone at your favorite lunch table with a Harry Potter book and half-eaten carrot sticks in your lap watching your pathetic generation socialize among themselves over irrelevant topics, it really does make you wonder about the whole purpose of high school. Like, why people always get caught up in the stupid drama that plagued these halls? Don’t get me wrong; high school is important for lots of reasons—on the surface. Getting a useless diploma that you won’t even remember having after you graduate from this prison or acquiring a bunch of ‘practical skills’ you should have the common sense in using by the time you can count to ten without using your fingers.
So why, why, do these idiots still let themselves be swept up in this nonsense?
The Entitled Ones think they are so awesome because they are either A.) Hated and envied by those believed to be lesser than them or B.) Loved and worshiped by those that secretly—or outwardly—want to be them and live what they believe are their ‘picture perfect lives’. But is all that hype going to follow them into college or ten years down the road when unwillingly married and living in their new overpriced condos with an accidental baby on the way? Definitely not. Would they still flaunt their tiny waists and washboard six-packs after their fifth reunion? Chances are… they will not.
But what about the ‘Lowly Losers’? Do they honestly believe that life ends after high school? Why let the Blessed Brats make you feel inferior, like you’re some worthless worm, and make your life a living hell when you can end up being better than them? Like becoming a CEO of your own multi-million dollar company or the world famous, drop-dead gorgeous supermodel capable of dazzling everyone around you because of your unworldly outer beauty?
Why are these people so stupid sometimes? Am I the only one that doesn’t think with my ass around here? God help me.
“Hey, loser!” he shouted and pointed and freckled finger in my direction.
You see what I mean? I didn’t need to look up to feel the heads of the masses swivel around and fix their blank stares at me. I’m use to this since I’m the only one in this school who doesn’t worship the likes of Bryan Warwick. Mr.-I’m-So-Cool-Because-I-Can-Label-People-Anything-I-Want-And-Get-Away-With-It. But of course, since he’s good-looking—to them anyways—rich, and spoiled rotten, these idiots let him to get away with his ridiculousness. Again, everyone but me. Let’s save the applause for later, alright? I mean, why let people label you if you’re not a soup can or cereal box? So seventh grade. Ugh.
I watched him from the corner of my eye as he rose from his chair slowly, like a lifeguard emerging from the ocean in slow motion, and began to weave his way through the chuckling mash of morons towards me. I mentally groaned. It’s not that I’m afraid of this asshole and his childish antics, but the fact that I’m the one he always picks out as a target pisses me off. Sure, I’m not all about my looks like most girls here at Nobel High; I don’t show off my legs in miniskirts so short they could pass for belts or curl a lock of artificial hair around a manicured fingernail when I flirt with a guy—not that the guys here are even cute or anything. Ew. You will never see me on the beaches of Los Angeles in the bikini trying to get traffic cone orange or wandering around aimlessly in a sea of babbling mall shoppers with an armful of pricey Bloomingdale merchandise after maxing my card out. That’s not me. Nina Von Sternberg does not do that kind of thing.
He came to a stop in front of me and dropped into the nearest chair, the bastard taking his time the way a king would to sit on his throne. I rolled my eyes and crossed my ankles on the table. If the teachers decide to send me to detention for this, then so be it. They would be doing me a favor anyways. I peeked through the thick fringe of eyelashes at the ugly sucker sitting across from me and scowled. What exactly do these bimbos see in his guy anyway? He definitely isn’t even cute: short with a pug nose and a sprinkle of golden freckles dusted over his puffy cheeks. His hair, a mop of straw blond curls, framed his face and fell to his broad shoulders in messy, greasy ringlets.
His lopsided grin was thin-lipped and reminded me of a leprechaun.
“So…“He traced over the toe of my combat boot as he began his scripted monologue. I shot him a menacing glare and waited for him to spit out whatever dumb joke he has rolling on his tongue. The lunchroom was now silent. No laughter, no nonsense babble, no nothing. Instead, everyone seemed to be leaning forward in their seats with anticipation, anxiously waiting for whatever spectacle they were expecting to unfold before them.
Stupid morons. “What do you want, Warwick?” I forced a bored tone and casually turned a page in my novel as if I were reading it.
He leaned forward and played with my bootlaces. I stiffened in my chair. Okay… this is new. Bryan Warwick… actually touching me and notrecoiling like I’m a diseased vermin? Now that is a first. I cleared my throat loudly and flipped another page in my book. I swear if this were a cartoon than Claire would have set me on fire by the way she was death-glaring at me. Ugh. Why in the hell is wrong with people around here? Are you all sick or something?
“How was your weekend?” He asked offhandedly. “What did you do?”
“Better question.” I snapped my book shut. “Why do you even care? Mind your own damn business.”
Honestly, if he’s planning on humiliating me in front of the whole school like he always does, then can he just get it over with? Lunch is almost over and I haven’t even finished my damn carrots. Yes, people. Unlike my fellow peers, I do have better things to do than entertain more Bryan Warwick stupidity.
“I care because… I’m asking you out Tina,” he said smoothly and began to rub my shin up and down with his hand.
A collective gasp echoed through the stillness followed by whispers of disbelief. I shot a sideways look at Claire, who looked like she was ready to grab a chainsaw and slice me in half. Yikes. I turned my attention back to Bryan who was still giving me that stupid smile. What, no joke this time? Is this jerk actually hitting on me with his girlfriend a few feet away from us? I shivered and pulled my legs away from him. Thank God I decided to wear long pants today. I would have passed out if that…thing’s hand made contact with my beautiful skin.
“It’s Nina,” I corrected him and reached over to grab my stuff.
The silence was deafening. Ridiculous. Why do people pay so much attention to this jerk? Ugh. I rather shoot bamboo shoots up my nails than even be caught in public with this disgusting parasite. As if he even has the right to stand next to a girl like me. That’s Bryan Warwick for you. The more attention people feed him, the longer his reign of evil will continue. But… I’m not going to be an idiot and help him out with his own wicked agenda. Nope.
Sayonara asshole. I rolled my eyes and stepped around him. “Whatever, Warwick.” With an added ‘humph!’ I purposely bumped my shoulder against his since we’re practically the same height, and maneuvered my way to the door, ignoring the baffled stares and accusatory whispers. If only I could change schools or something. But fate has to be cruel and punish me with two more years of this abuse. I let the doors swing shut behind me before my mind started thinking again to Bryan’s obnoxious stupidity.
He can’t be serious right? Not that I ever would have said yes, but nobody burst out laughing like they normally do and Bryan didn’t do something like ‘accidentally’ drop his half-eaten salad on my head or ‘trip’ over my backpack and land with his face buried in between my boobs like the last time. The big punch to the face he got is my best one yet. And boys say that girls can’t hit? I call bullshit.
I spared a glance over my shoulder at the idiot through the windows of the doors. The lunchroom had once again resumed its usual calamity of teenage noise. With a satisfied sigh, I shrugged a shoulder and disappeared down the hall.
So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the oh-so-glamorous high school social life of Nina Von Sternberg.
Awesome…not. Okay, so my life is not what you would call fantastic. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and live in a boring, two-story house with my annoyingly controlling mother, a pretty cool dad, and trio of rotten, spoiled brats I’m forced to call my sisters who constantly try to get me in trouble. No, I’ve never had a boyfriend in my life to hold me at night and say the three big words and as for friends… let’s just say friends are like pennies: two-faced and worthless.
“Nina!” I don’t have to turn around to know who was calling me.
“What do you want, Meghan?” I said through gritted teeth as I slowly turned around to face her. If you haven’t already begun your sentence in high school then you should know one thing: every school has a Gossip Train. You know, that one kid that never knows how to mind their own business so they decide to spread other people’s to make up for the fact that they have no life of their own—or anyone caring to know what goes on in it. At Nobel High, Meghan Kennedy is that Gossip Train.
“Is it true that you’re now Bryan Warwick’s new girlfriend?” she squeaked in that annoyingly high voice of hers.
My nose wrinkled in disgust at the mention of his name.
This is another thing you will learn about Meghan Kennedy: she always asks you something in a way that makes you think that rumors about you are going around when they are actually not. It’s just her way of sucking information out of you and spreading it like wildfire if you’re stupid enough to actually fall for it.
“Ask Bryan,” I snapped and quickly shoved her aside as I stomped down the hall toward my sixth period class.
“Good morning class,” he said as he kicked the doorstopper aside and pulled the door closed. He had the walk of a military general: soldiers back, head high, and his narrow chest puffed out beneath his dull gray sweater. I’m not surprised to see that the classroom had immediately fallen silent. Mr. Calico is a no-bullshit kind of person. You utter a single word without raising a hand and you get detention. You show up late to class and you get kicked out and marked absent in the roll. If he says something to you, you listen whether you want to or not. Because nobody ever wants to be on Mr. Calico’s bad side.
Thank God I’m only stuck with him for one more semester.
“Good afternoon Mr. Calico,” we replied in unison and immediately opened our textbooks to the page indicated on the board, pens and papers at the ready in front of us.
Mr. Calico gave a curt nod and set his briefcase down on his desk before picking up his attendance clipboard. He handed it out to the first student sitting in the front to be passed around for us to sign our names on. The silence was tense and heavy and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who noticed it. There is just something about Mr. Calico that always made me wish that I was invisible. Maybe it’s the way his small, dark eyes seemed to stare right through you rather than at you or the way his sharp voice cuts into you like knives whenever he speaks to you in that unforgiving tone of his.
I grabbed the clipboard from behind me and quickly scribbled my name before handing it off to the person in front of me.
“Please pass yesterday’s English assignment to the front of the class in a neat orderly fashion,” he said sternly and paused to adjust the button on his ugly sweater.
That is another thing that scares me about Mr. Calico. You can tell just by the way he dresses that he is not the kind of teacher who liked to goof off and waste precious time telling knock-knock jokes. He wears the same thing every time I see him: dark slacks, dress shoes, black tie under a colorless vest or the same sweater he has on now. Huh. No wonder everyone at school is scared shitless of him. It’s hard not to be.
“Miss Von Sternberg!” Mr. Calico hissed and I nearly jumped ten feet in the air.
Heart pounding wildly in my ears, I quickly turned to face my teacher. Great. Now he’s glaring at me.
“Do you plan on sitting there daydreaming for the remainder of my class or will you comply with my request of passing the rest of the assignments to the front of the classroom like I’ve asked?” Mr. Calico narrowed his eyes at me.
“S-sorry,” I stammered and handed the rest of the pages to the waiting student in front of me.
I rubbed my hands up and down my arms, willing the goose bumps to go away. Phew. I got lucky this time.
Mr. Calico moved to the front of the class. “Now class, who will tell me what—”
“Sorry we’re late sir!” Bryan cried as he staggered into the classroom, textbook and backpack in his arms and Claire Romano not far behind him.
I shook my head back and forth. Leave it to Bryan to come in making a scene for attention. Why am I not surprised to see his personal cheerleader with him? Ugh. You would think that high school would have lots and semi-adults with common sense, but sadly it doesn’t. Well, expect for me of course.
“We had to go and get our stuff and then we got called to—”
“Out.” Mr. Calico turned sharply and stacked our homework assignments neatly on his desk.
“Out I said. You two, along with every one of my students should know my policies better than you know that backs of your own hands. You decide to show up late to my lectures and disturb my teaching without any proper documentation providing a valid excuse, then you can sit outside in the hall for the remainder of class. So get out.”
“B-but this isn’t fair!” Bryan shouted and threw his stuff on the ground.
I rolled my eyes at the ruckus he was making. Rules are rules, Mr. Warwick. I glanced over at Mr. Calico, who apparently didn’t even flinch at his tantrum. “It wasn’t our fault that we were late!”
“My rules remain the same, Mr. Warwick,” was Mr. Calico’s firm response.
“Ms. Reynolds would have let us!” Claire argued and shot our teacher a murderous glare. One of which Mr. Calico himself returned.
“What Ms. Reynolds does or does not do with her students is none of my concern. She can run her classroom and go about her policies the way she sees fit as this same principal also applies to myself within my classroom. If you are not willing to comply with the regulations I have set for my pupils, then you are more than welcome to pay a visit to your grade counselor to have yourself removed from my class. Otherwise, I can and will ask you to leave immediately so I can proceed with the lesson plan—”
“Argh!” Bryan roared and stormed out of the classroom moments later, Claire following behind after having scooped their things off the floor.
My mouth fell open in surprise. My eyes darted back to Mr. Calico, who was skimming through his planner as if nothing happened. My heart seemed to leap into my throat. Oh my God …what a heartless bastard. Why is he a teacher if he doesn’t even care about us?
“Okay class,” he said with a loud clap of his hand. We all jumped to attention in our chairs. “Who can tell me what we read about last time in The Secret Life of Bees?”