I try to hit the snooze button on my alarm clock (who just won’t shut up), but I accidentally push it over the edge. I hear a crash, but at least that unbearable noise stops. With my head still attached to the pillow, I open my left eye to peek at my alarm clock on the floor. The battery has come out, but it doesn’t look broken. Whew.
I reluctantly stand up, trying to remember what I have to do. School, right.
I walk towards my closet, open the two doors and pick out simple clothes: skinny blue jeans and a sea-green t-shirt. I brush my hair and tie it back in a messy bun. Finally, I choose my book earrings to give that “cute nerd” look. I look myself in the mirror. Decent.
I pick up my school bag and go downstairs. I barely have time to eat breakfast, so I just take a banana from the fruit bowl and run out of the house.
I should probably stop for a second and explain.
It’s my first day of school. This normally wouldn’t bother me much, but I’m starting in a new school. My father had to move for work, so the whole family had to go with him. And by “the whole family”, I mean my mother and me.
Anyways, I go to the bus stop. I wait for only a few minutes, but other students slowly surround me. They’re talking in groups about their summer vacations and of how much they hate school. Some of the people around me give me weird looks, probably because I’m new. They’re trying to figure out what kind of girl I am.
Shortly after, the bus arrives, and I have to be careful not to fall over. Groups of people are pushing and shoving each other, trying to get in first to get the best seats. I don’t care about that, so I let everyone on before stepping on myself.
Bad mistake. This gives the chance to everyone to get a good look at me. I walk through the seats, hoping to find a spot, but they all look taken.
Fortunately, a girl stands up and waves at me. "There’s a seat here if you want."
She has long blonde hair tied up in a perfect ponytail. Her bright blue eyes sparkle as she smiles at me. She’s wearing a white tank top and some skinny jeans. Over her top is a cute leather jacket.
I silently thank her as I sit next to her. As the bus starts moving, the girl introduces herself. “Hi, I’m Karen. You’re new, right?” she asks. “I’ve never seen you before.”
"Yeah, I’m new," I answer, trying not too sound to shy.
"Oh, I figured," she says. "What’s your name?"
"Cool name," she notes.
I smile. "Thanks."
After a few seconds of silence, Karen speaks again. "First day of school, huh?"
"Yeah, it sucks," I answer. Then I force out another sentence. "I was kind of getting used to waking up at noon."
She laughs. "Me too."
"So, um…" I start to say. "Could you explain… how's your school? Is it normal or are there some weird things going on?"
Karen gives me a sideways look but still answers. "It’s pretty standard. You go in, have your daily classes, and go home. There are some clubs or manifestations, but they’re kind of boring."
"What kind of clubs?" I find myself asking.
"Like, drama club, chess club, reading club, sports club… and some others. I can’t remember which ones, but they’re as boring as the ones I do remember." she giggles as if what she said had been funny.
I realize that Karen and I are very different. For one, she thinks reading is boring. I don’t want to lose the one friend I seem to have acquired by telling her just how much I read.
"Oh," I say.
After another couple of seconds of silence, Karen speaks up. "Oh, hey. We’re here."
I peek out of the window to see my school-to-be. The building is three floors high, much bigger than my last school, but it definitely needs a renovation. The walls look all cracked and the peach-colored paint is peeling off. It has three different entrances: the biggest one in the middle, the other two, smaller ones, on the sides.
Karen and I get off the bus and walk towards the main entrance, where it looks like most of the students are headed.
"Where are we going?" I ask.
"Now we’re going to the great hall, where the principal will give a speech welcoming us to the school, blah, blah, blah. Then they’ll send us directly to class. Do you have your schedule?"
My stomach makes a flip. "What? Should I have it?" I ask.
"Uh... yeah. Everyone met up last week and we made up our individual schedule," she explains. "I didn’t get any of the good ones. I kind of slept in. Accidentally."
"But I just arrived two days ago! No one told me about it!" I protest.
"Hmm." Karen scratches her chin. "I guess they want to talk to you privately."
I gulp. I don’t like to be stuck in a room alone with someone. I feel small and embarrassed. I could literally crawl into my skin and live there, without having to confront anyone. I just don’t like to talk to people I don’t know.
I have social anxiety.
"Okay," I say, pushing down the fear.
In the meantime, we have walked into the school, which is even worse from the inside. The paint is basically all gone, and multiple walls are cracked, broken, or missing. I look up to see nets hung up on the ceilings.
Great. If a piece of the roof will break off and fall, at least I can count on a couple of tied up ropes to save me.
Karen guides me towards the great hall, where a lot of teenagers are already seated. We find some empty spaces and sit down. I look around to see the different faces of the people I will stay with for the rest of my high-school years. I don’t see anyone familiar, but a guy about my age walks in, sees me looking, winks at me, and then moves on to meet his friends.
I’m shocked for a while, not because he winked at me. But, because he probably thinks he has a chance with me. As soon as I saw him, I said to myself Stay away from that guy. It’s not that I knew him or anything, but I could tell he was one of those stereotypical playboys that bully freshmen, that disturb the lesson when you’re trying to listen and that prank the teacher with stupid practical jokes.
I keep looking at the people around me. At one point, a friendly-looking girl sits next to me with her friend. The girl looks about sixteen, a year younger than me, and has black hair and warm brown eyes. She looks at me and smiles brightly.
"Hi! I’m Sarah. This is Suzy." she points to her colored friend, who gives me a small wave. "I haven’t seen you before," Suzy says.
"Yeah, I’m new," I say.
"Cool! Are you a sophomore like us?" Sarah asked, a little too excitedly.
"Uh, no. Actually, I’m a junior." I answer.
"Aw, that’s too bad!" Sarah complains. "But we’ll get to see each other at lunch, right?"
"Um, yeah. I guess…"
"Sarah," Suzy says before Sarah can jump in the air, screaming happily. "Too many questions, too fast." Then she turned to me. "Sorry, she’s always a little… overexcited."
I laugh. "It’s fine. But it really would be nice to see you guys at lunch. I’ve just started and I don’t have a lot of friends except for Karen." I point behind me.
Karen had been listening to the whole conversation. She's leaning a bit on me, but I didn’t mind. She scrunches her eyebrows together as if trying to remember something. "You look familiar…" she finally says to Sarah. Suddenly her face lights up again. "Oh, yeah! Aren’t you the girl that-"
"Shhhhhh!" Suzy interrupts. "Don’t say it. She’s still a little shaken up about it."
Karen’s face goes slack. "Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I won’t mention it again."
"What?" I ask, filled with curiosity.
"I’ll tell you later," Suzy says. "It’s really not that important, but-"
"Everyone please quiet down!" one of the teachers yells. The chatting slowly subsides, until it’s deadly silent.
"Good morning, everyone!" the teacher says. "Welcome back! For those who don’t know me, I’m George Hummel. I’m a physics professor and I’m also the vice director of this school." he paused and looked into the crowd. "I was kind of expecting applause there, but let’s move on." Small laughter fills the room. "Here to give you the official welcome, your principal, Frank Albertson."
There was big applause as a middle-aged man walks up in front of us. "Hello, everyone! As my colleague, Hummel has already said, welcome back! Before sending you to your lessons, I would like to talk about some of the activities and information you might need to survive this year."
He starts explaining the different clubs that they have. I write down the few I find interesting, although I don’t know at how many I will actually go.
Half an hour later, the director finishes his speech. "Thank you for listening and watch out for falling bricks."
The hall explodes with applause and laughter, and then slowly the crown slips out of the doors. I turn to Karen. "Uh, what do I do now?"
"I’m not sure. Let’s go ask Mr. Albertson." she takes me by the hand and drags me towards the principal.
When we reach him, she doesn’t hesitate in speaking up to get his attention. "Excuse me, Mr. Albertson?" the man turns around to face us. "This is Emma Johnson. She’s a new student here and doesn’t really know what to do now."
"Oh, yes, of course. Sorry, Miss Johnson." he apologizes. "I’ll explain everything to you. We can talk in my office." he gestures towards a door I notice only now. "Thank you, Miss Graver, for bringing this to my attention. You may go to your morning classes."
"Yes, of course." she waves at me. "Bye Emma. See you later."
"Bye," I say, my heart thumping in my chest.
Jeez, girl. You’re just talking to the director. Just do it, for god’s sake! I think to myself.
"This way," Mr. Albertson points.
I walk through the doors and sit down in one of the chairs facing the desk. The director sits in his seat, opens a drawer and pulls out a sheet of paper. "This is your timetable. The classes aren’t the best, but it’s the best I could do."
"It’s okay, thank you," I say.
The principal nods before talking again. "These are the classrooms-" he points to a little number under the name of the different teachers. "And these are your teachers. The classrooms are pretty simple to find, but if you want I can give you a map." he proposes.
"Um, yes. I’ll take one just to be sure." I say.
"Okay.” he pulls out another piece of paper and hands it to me. "If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask."
"Okay, your first lesson is… pre-calculus. Ugh, sorry." he jokes. "The classroom is just down the hall. You should be able to find it easily."
"Thank you very much." I stand up and shake his hand. As I'm leaving, someone knocks onto the door forcefully.
"Come in!" Mr. Albertson calls.
The door opens and the same guy who had winked at me in the hall walks in. When he sees me, he smirks, then turns his attention to the director. "Happy to see me?"
"Oh, no. Mr. Polson, what have you done now? Dammit, the year has barely started!" Mr. Albertson complains.
"I didn’t do anything wrong! Mrs. Lambert asked for the homework and I said I forgot it at home. Then she accused me of being a liar! Can you believe that?" the guy explains.
"Yes, actually." the director answers, and then turns to me. "Miss Johnson, welcome to our school. Now, if you can excuse me, I have to deal with…" he nods towards the other teenager. "This."
I smile and nod. Then I walk out and close the door behind me. Curious, I try and eavesdrop on the conversation.
"Okay, explain to me exactly what happened." Mr. Albertson says.
"Yes." the boy answers. "She called me a liar! So I told her that she had no proof, right? Then she was all like, 'I don’t need proof, you’ve always been like this'." he explains.
"Then what happened?" the grown-up asks.
"I said that I didn’t need proof either to know that she was a pain in the ass."
"Oh, come on!" the director exclaims. "That’s not an adequate language when talking to a teacher. Tom, you know that!"
I’m almost cracking up, so I decide to walk away and head to my class. I walk down the hall and find my classroom. I knock on the door. I hear a faint, "Come in!", so I open the door and have a quick word with the teacher.
"Hi. I’m Emma Johnson, a new student here. I was told this was my first class?"
She checks her register. "Oh, yes. Here you are."
She turns to her class and introduces me. When she’s done, she points at a seat in the front row. I turn to see the seat she’s pointing at, and I smile as I see Karen. She smiles back and nods towards the empty seat next to her. I walk over and sit down, but I don’t like the feeling of everyone staring at me. Luckily, the teacher starts her lesson, so the attention rolls onto her.
"Happy to see me?" I ask Karen.
"Yes!" she says. "What's your schedule?"
I hand it to her. She pulls out her own from her bag as I start taking notes of the material we’ll need. Suddenly I hear a squeal. I look over and see Karen holding up two identical sheets of paper.
"Same classes!" she says.
"Awesome!" I say. I raise my hand, hoping for a high-five. Karen obliges.
We smile at each other, then start taking notes. I was hoping to make friends in every class but, for now, I think Karen will be enough.