Chapter 1 - The Beginning
“That was then, this is now / Here we go, starting over / You decide, change your mind / Miracles happen every day” – The Beginning, RuPaul
“So, this is it then?”
“I’m sorry, Mia,” I reply, “I never meant for us to end up at East Side Academy.”
“Don’t apologize, Arya,” Mia says, “This is a fresh start for us.”
“A fresh start at our rival high school,” I joke.
“Are you worried?” Mia asks.
“I just don’t know how well they’re going to like us being here,” I say, “Two West Siders switching to East Side halfway through the year? It’s not normal.”
“You’re exaggerating, Arya,” Mia says, “We’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” I say, “but wait, I thought I was supposed to be the big sister? How come it’s you that’s calming me down?” I look at Mia. We look alike in a lot of ways. Tanned skin, long brown, wavy hair, green eyes. Her hair is on the darker brown side while mine is more golden and I am slightly taller than her, but I fear that she will soon grow taller than me, which isn’t saying much.
“You have a lot of emotions, Arya.” Mia says, “Sometimes you just need someone to keep you in check so that you don’t go completely crazy.”
“Completely crazy?” I ask.
“Well, we all know you’re a little crazy.” Mia smiles, “But it’s not a bad thing.”
“Thanks,” I say sarcastically. Deep breath. “I didn’t think I would be this nervous.”
“Remember what you said, Arya? This is a new beginning for us.” Mia says.
Transferring to East Side Academy was not what I had planned when I started my Grade 11 year at West Side Academy, but after only a week into the second semester, I didn’t have much of a choice. And unfortunately, my sister, younger by just two years, was caught in the crossfire as well and came with me. East Side is our rival school, it’s everything West Side is not. Where West Side is rich and prestigious, East Side is just making ends meet. Where West Side wears uniforms and has prefects, East Side can barely get their students to follow the dress code. Where West Side has the best teachers, offering high-level classes, East Side struggles to ensure all the required classes are offered. So why would someone send their child to East Side over West Side? Is it the money? Well yes, but West Side is not a private school, there is no fee for admission. The big difference between the two schools is that West Side is a Catholic School and East Side is a Public School. The schools are part of two different boards, and it is obvious that the Catholic School Board receives more funding than the Public.
Now there are plenty of students at West Side that are not Catholic. Actually, there are probably more non-Catholics than Catholics at the school. They just know that they can get a better education at West Side, and if that means taking one religious class a year, then it’s worth it. But not everyone feels that way. Not every parent wants their child to attend a Catholic School, not every student wants to attend a Catholic School. Not every student wants to surround themselves with the preppy snobs of West Side either. West Side Academy is as close as you can get to a fancy private school without actually being a private school. The Catholic School Board funding along with generous donations from the rich families of the school helps the school maintain its prestigious appearance. So if you don’t come from money or aren’t Catholic, West Side isn’t the most welcoming school. So it’s not surprising that West Side is dominated by rich families and less fortunate families end up at East Side, having to sacrifice a proper education, which isn’t fair but is unfortunately true.
My family is Catholic, and my dad is a dentist, so there was never really a question of which high school Mia and I would end up at. Mia’s experience of West Side was short-lived, just a semester of Grade 9, so I am confident she will be fine with the transition. She didn’t get enough time to make a name for herself at West Side, just exceptional grades that East Side was more than happy to accept. She didn’t get a chance to make close friends. But it’s different for me. I’m supposed to be graduating next year, and now I have switched to a school that will only know me as the West Side snob because of the school I attended for the past two and a half years.
As much as I’d like to think I’d go unnoticed, these East Siders will know me. You can’t be captain of the soccer team that has defended their title for the past two years and go in unnoticed. Even if they don’t know me, they know of me. This was supposed to be my third year leading my team to victory, a Grade 11 leading a senior team is unheard of, but a soccer player like me is unheard of. Oh, and one more important difference between West and East Side, while West Side dominates academics, East Side dominates athletics. So of course, East Side will know me from helping to take their title the past two years. Mia doesn’t get it. They are just going to see me as a West Sider, that I think I’m better than them, but it’s not true. I just don’t know how to make them believe that.
“Here are both of your class schedules and a map.” Mrs. Slughorn says, handing pieces of paper to both Mia and me. The pretty dark-haired secretary has a friendly face, all eyes and lips, but beautiful, nonetheless, and she is being very kind to two students starting the semester a week late. I was expecting annoyance at our arrival. Ms. Pince from West Side was annoyed any time she had to do any more work than simply looking at her screen, but Mrs. Slughorn is different. Although, I know that Ms. Pince had a personal dislike for me ever since I bumped into her and spilled her coffee all over her blouse when I was in Grade 9. Never have I heard a woman shriek that loud. After that, I forever feared asking her for anything. I used to call her a fire breathing dragon. I swear, she would glare at me any time I was in her peripheral vision. “Now I’ve written your locker numbers on the top of your schedules. You can drop off your bags and then head to your first class. Let me just write both of you a late slip so that you don’t get any trouble from your teachers, but they should already know that you are coming.”
“Locker 647,” I say in the hallway, “On the second floor in the science wing, where’s yours?”
“259,” Mia replies, “On the first floor it looks like. What courses do you have?”
“Let’s see. Physics, Chemistry, Ancient History and English,” I reply, “You?”
“French, Math, English, and Music,” Mia says.
“Okay, I’ll take you…” I start.
“No Arya,” Mia says, “I can manage this on my own.”
“It’s a new school, I just want to make sure you make it to your first class okay,” I say.
“You didn’t seem so concerned when we were at West Side?” Mia says.
I take a deep breath. “West Side and East Side are two very different schools. I don’t know the people at this school, and I don’t want to leave you on your own.”
“You do not need to worry, Arya,” Mia says, “Let this be our new start. I promise to come to you if anything goes wrong, but let’s just make the best of this while we are here. A fresh start, remember? Away from West Side.”
“I guess you are right,” I reply.
“And just think, no kilt, no Religion class, no Ms. Pince, no…”
“Princess barbies with their kilts so short that you could see their asses,” I interrupt.
Mia laughs. “Pretty sure your kilt was rolled up as well.”
“Okay sure, but not to the point where you could see the colour of my thong when walking up the stairs,” I say.
“Ha! You’ll never change Arya. You do realize there will probably be a version of the princess barbies here as well.” Mia says, and just then a girl with a very deep V-neck pink sweater and jeans at least two sizes too small walks by. Or struts, I can hear the click-clack of her heels down the hall.
“Do NOT dress like that, Mia,” I say when the girl is out of earshot.
“Yeah, like mom and dad would ever let that happen,” Mia says. “Anyway, I think we should at least try to make an appearance in our first class.”
“Okay, I guess I’ll just see you later then, good luck with the first day. Make friends with someone in French,” I say.
“Why is that so important?” Mia asks.
“Because the extent of my French is Bonjour, Aurevoir and ca la vie,” I say. Mia laughs, “Not kidding, Mia. I’m lucky I’m not taking Grade 9 French with you right now.”
“Happy first day Arya,” Mia says as she turns away. I just stare at her walking away from me. A new start. A new start for both of us.
“Now please turn to page 85 of your textbooks,” I hear as I close the door behind me. I turn and see everyone look at me. Great. “Are you the new student?” the teacher asks from the front. A middle-aged woman with straight brown hair past her shoulders. Her black dress pants and green dress shirt make her look smart, but her high brown boots make her look fashionable.
“Yes,” I reply.
“Secord. Arya Secord?” she says looking at a sheet in front of her. I nod. “Well, welcome Arya. I hope you had no issues finding the class.”
“No, Ms. McGonagall,” I reply, silently thanking myself for checking the teacher’s name on the schedule before walking in.
“Excellent,” Ms. McGonagall says, “Now everyone, please welcome Arya Secord to our class. I trust you will make her feel right at home. Arya just transferred here from…”
“We already know she’s from West Side,” I hear a male voice call out and then whispers filtrate throughout the class.
“Silence please, everyone,” Ms. McGonagall says. “Arya please find a textbook from upfront and an empty seat and then we can return to class.” Ms. McGonagall glances at me, a knowing glance, an apologetic glance. Whether it was for the call out from someone in the class or that a West Sider switched to East Side, I have no idea.