o2: Mean Girls
The first week went by fast.
To say I was drowning in catch up homework would be an understatement, but as a ‘genius’ student I was expected to do an entire semester and then some--since public school curriculum was nowhere near that of private school--to be on the same page as the rest of the student body. It was either that, or I start as a Freshman, and as much as I enjoyed the learning aspect of school, I didn’t want to do an entire year over.
There was little time for anything else. It was easy, and I already knew it, but it piled on like unwanted busy work. It felt like there was no tomorrow in sight for me, but I estimated I’d be caught up in at least a month. ...Friday had never looked so good.
I heaved a sigh, pulling at the broken strap of my bookbag to keep it on my shoulders, thinking how good Friday would look in eight hours.
Trudging up to the locker that ‘was the story of my life’--second hand, dented, difficult to open, but still good--I pounded on the bottom of it before giving two slaps in the middle of it, one hit closer to the lock than the other. It was the only way to open it. If it hadn’t been for some Junior guy, who’d had it the previous year, I’d have been stuck at it for a good twenty minutes struggling with the jammed lock I hadn’t known about.
A school full of rich folk and the one visible stain was a locker. That I got assigned to. The irony wasn’t lost on me, but really I almost felt my locker was a kindred spirit of mine. I’d probably make a request to keep in later years.
“End of your first week figured I’d check-in.”
I yelped, startled at the vaguely familiar girl’s voice behind me. I flipped around, scraping my arm on the rough corner--and possibly the very cause of the forever jammed lock--of my locker to see the willowy brunette from early this week.
“Hi Sarah,” I said, offering a genuine smile once my heart settled. I patted my chest. “Sorry, I get scared easily.”
With her books clutched to her chest she nodded, her smile wide enough to indicate she was seconds away from laughing. “I see that,” she said with a chuckle she attempted to cover up with a cough.
“It’s okay. You can laugh. My mom says I look like how a raccoon does when a metal garbage can lid falls next to it,” I paused, lifting an eyebrow in her direction, “I don’t get the raccoon resemblance, but the rest is accurate.”
Sarah couldn’t hold it in anymore and her shot of laughter let a deeper smile form on my face. “That’s pretty specific!” She managed around the guffaws of laughter.
I nodded. “We used to live in a trailer park and I would leave food out for the raccoons. This one time I wanted to get a closer look at them. It was always so dark and lights were unheard of at night there, so I tried to sneak closer with a crappy hand-me-down phone recording it and I knocked into a metal garbage can. The lid fell and ruined everything, but I guess I got it on video.”
Sarah was practically gasping now, tears streaming down her face as she tried to catch her breath. When people started to stare I got a little uncomfortable and noticed a few smirking faces and even more laughing ones.
Had they been listening?
Of course, they had been.
I gave the group a simple shrug and closed my locker door. “It’s not that funny.”
That only seemed to set Sarah and the students who had clearly heard my story laugh more. Sarah wiped at her face and cringed at the black streaks on her fingers. “Streak free mascara my ass.” She lifted her gaze to me and her chuckle started to morph into another bout of laughter before she finally seized. “Come to the bathroom with me so I can fix myself up.”
She didn’t give me the option to object. Instead, she looped her arm through mine and pulled me towards the bathroom. She quickly did her business in the mirror, while I settled my hip against the wall. We spoke about small things at first. My classes, how I liked them if I was catching up and other stuff, but five minutes later the late bell rang and Sarah cursed under her breath.
“I have to go. It was great talking to you. We should do something this weekend if you aren’t busy,” she said.
I nodded and we exchanged phone numbers before she darted out.
Deciding if I was going to be late, I might as well have a good excuse, I went into the bathroom stall closest to me. I put the top of the toilet seat down and sat on the stall, Indian style. Pseudo-meditating in the bathroom stall sounded like a loser to me, but it soothed the anxiety I felt at being in a place where I didn’t belong.
Aside from Sarah, no one had really spoken to me other than a few greetings of ‘hi’ or ‘you new?’ even though they knew very well that I was. It was the attempt that counted, but when I tried to initiate more conversation they got distracted.
Hearing the bathroom door open, I popped an eye open and stared down at the ground seeing expensive heels clomping over the floor to the bathroom next to me. Drowning out her business, I straightened my back, squared my shoulders, and started my calming breathing. I was almost in a trance--where I needed to be to shake off my nerves--but then the door opened again.
The chattering of four girls didn’t stop as they stood in front of the mirror. I held in a groan. Why couldn’t they primp another time? Then again, it wasn’t like I had time to be doing this anyway.
Heaving a sigh, I flush the toilet to pretend I was actually using it for the right purposes and lifted my bag up to my shoulder. I walked out and went to the automatic faucet next to the blonde in pink with baby blue eyes and a sneer so sharp it could cut through the skin.
“Hello,” I said in a warm greeting.
She nodded and the others followed, but it was clear they deemed me not important enough to do much more than that. They started talking again as if I wasn’t there. I didn’t need to listen long to know that I had finally encountered the mean girls of Oak Ridge. Being bothered with such ridiculous childishness wasn’t something I had time for so I started to walk away, until the blonde, who appeared to be the ring leader, spoke.
“I can’t believe Sarah is still here after what she did. She is such a whore! If I was her I’d just put myself out of my misery.”
I frowned, tilting my head.
Well, not ‘mine’ but she was the only one who’d actively sought me out. She’d been kind on my first day, she’d taken the time with me that no one else had, and that was something to me.
The idea that there were probably more Sarah’s in this school than one didn’t change what happened next. “It’s very easy, some would even say cowardly, to judge someone based on a situation you’re unfamiliar with.”
The response was immediate. All the chatter stopped. The girls turned to stare at me like I’d farted in their faces. “Excuse me?”
I took a step forward and repeated myself.
“Do you even know who we are?” Blonde said.
“No, I don’t believe I do.” I was calm but polite. It must have been too much for the four of them because they continued to stare at me like a grease stain that couldn’t be cleaned. How welcome they could make a person feel...
I didn’t wait for them to inform me who they were. I didn’t care, but it would be impolite to say that, so I didn’t and I walked out of the bathroom. I’d known girls like those four. Either they were truly cruel, vapid beasts or they’d been hurt by someone-something-deeply. Whatever it was, it was too toxic for me right now.