East Side Academy

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Chapter 17 - What Do You Want From Me?

“So what do you want from me? / What do you want from me now?” – What Do You Want From Me?, Take That

Arya

Really? She’s really going to do this? “I’ll sit next to Arya, thanks,” James says in the kindest way possible and then plants himself next to me, handing me a stick.

“I guess this leaves this spot for me!” Richard says enthusiastically, stepping over the log from behind with the open bag of marshmallows and his stick, sitting next to Lisa. “Marshmallow?” Richard offers Lisa the bag. Even if it’s clear that Lisa would rather have James beside her, it doesn’t faze Richard at all, who seems to be just happy with life. Malcolm opens the other bag of marshmallows with a lot more ease than Richard did and soon everyone is roasting marshmallows over the fire.

“It’s going to turn black if you hold it too close to the fire,” Bobbi says to Samson.

“Trust me, I know what I’m doing,” Samson says.

“I’m not eating charcoal, Samson!” Bobbi says.

“Would you please pass me the crackers and chocolate?” Malcolm says to Paulina, and Paulina obliges. The crackers and the chocolate make their way around as well.

“Perfectly golden.” James says, lifting his marshmallow out of the fire, “Cracker me, Arya!”

I pass him two crackers along with a piece of chocolate. He sandwiches it all together, pulling it off the stick, and then passes his creation to me. “That’s yours, James,” I say.

“Give me your stick,” James says, holding out his other hand. “You should experience at least one perfect s’more in your life.”

“Oh, you’re that good, are you?” I say.

“It’s something you have to born with; it can’t be taught, unfortunately. Now take it and give me your stick.” I oblige and bit into his s’more, agreeing that it is delicious. “I told you!” James says before turning his attention back to my marshmallow, “Now let’s see if I can salvage the damage you did with this marshmallow.”

“Hey!” I say, slapping him on the shoulder.

“I told you,” James says, “It’s a natural-born talent, don’t be upset if you don’t have it.”

“So, Arya,” Bobbi says, “How have you liked East Side so far?”

“Definitely a change from West Side.” I say, “But everyone has been great for the most part, teachers are great, although I will admit I do miss my uniform.”

“Really?” Bobbi says.

“Yeah,” I say, “It was nice not to have to think about what I was going to wear every day.”

“Fair enough,” Bobbi says.

“You West Siders always look so preppy in those uniforms,” Malcolm says.

“We do have the better academics,” I say.

“To make up for the fact that you are terrible at sports,” Richard comments.

“Hey!” I say, “We are not that bad. The girls’ soccer team has won for the past two years and the guys almost beat you last year in the championship game.”

“The only good thing about playing West Side is beating West Side,” Malcolm says, “There are some real jerks on your team.”

“I know.” I say, “But I don’t go there anymore, they’re not my team anymore.”

“So why did you switch to East Side?” Lisa asks, curious to find out why I came here.

“Just some issues at West Side,” I say, “Had to get away from it all.”

“What kind of issues?” Lisa pushes at my vague answer.

“Nothing that I feel like discussing here,” I say back.

“This is a safe space, Arya,” Lisa says. Yeah, I’m sure it is. “You can tell us anything.”

“Just drop it, Lisa,” James says, getting annoyed.

“I’m just trying to find out more about her, James.” Lisa says, “Isn’t anyone else curious why a girl would switch from West Side, the preppy, academic, rich school, to East Side, just a year before graduating?”

“It’s none of your business, Lisa,” I say, getting angry. The more she talks, the bigger deal she makes out of it, and the worse it looks on me for not answering.

“Must’ve been bad then,” Lisa says to no one in particular.

“Would you stop it, Lisa!” James screams at her in a loud voice that I’ve never experienced before. It catches me off guard as well as everyone else. We ask ourselves, ‘Did he really just do that?’. But it serves its purpose and shuts Lisa up, at least for a little while.

“I think we need to play a game,” Malcolm says, to break the silence.

“Never have I ever!” Richard says.

“Really, Richard?” Malcolm says.

“Yes!” Richard says excitedly, “It’s a great way to find out stuff about people indirectly. Or directly.”

“Everyone needs a drink then!” Malcolm says.

“I’m driving,” James says.

“Fine, princess here can drink water,” Malcolm says.

“I have two thermoses of apple cider.” Bobbi says, “Samson,” she places a hand on his knee, “It’s in the kitchen, would you please go get it?”

“Only because you asked so nicely,” Samson says getting up from his seat.

“Oh, and mugs!” Bobbi says.

“Sure, sure,” Samson says, “How many?” Everyone raises their hand. “Really guys?”

“I can’t say no to apple cider,” Malcolm says, shrugging his shoulders.

“I’ll help you out,” Bobbi says, following Samson up to the house.

When they return and everyone is given a mug of hot apple cider, the game begins. “Since this was your idea, you can start Richard,” Samson says.

“Okay, never have I ever…” Richard starts, “kissed a guy.” All of the girls drink and I can see James looking at me as I take a sip, but then we all watch as, slowly, both Malcolm and Samson look at each other and then take a sip.

“What?!” both James and Richard scream at the same time, standing up.

Malcolm and Samson both look at each other, debating who should explain. “It was a part of a dare back in Grade 10,” Malcolm says, “And you guys know I never back out of a dare.”

“Why is this the first we are hearing of this?” Richard says.

“It was at some girl’s party,” Samson says, “James was AWOL like normal and Richard, you were out of town. I said I would only help with the dare as long as it was promised that it was not filmed and never brought up again.”

“I told you this was a great way of getting to know people!” Richard says.

“Okay it’s my turn,” Samson says, “Never have I ever used another guys towel in the locker room.”

“That was one time!” Richard yells at Samson, throwing a handful of marshmallows at him. Everyone just laughs, mostly at Richard’s reaction, but Malcolm and James laugh even harder because they remember the actual scenario. “Our towels are the same colour and you left it right next to mine! How was I supposed to know the difference?”

“You still did it and I will never let you forget it,” Samson says. “Okay, your go, Bobbi.”

“Never have I ever…” Bobbi starts, “Stalked someone on social media.”

James, Richard, and Paulina drink, but then Paulina raises an eyebrow at Lisa, and she drinks as well.

“Well, we all know that Richard stalked Ada Lovelace in real life as well as on social media,” Samson says.

“I did not!” Richard exclaims.

“He was so upset when she transferred last year.” Malcolm jokes.

“Leave him alone guys,” James says, “Half of you are lying when you say you haven’t stalked someone on social media.”

“Well we all know who James was stalking this whole week,” Malcolm winks at James.

“I’m not afraid to admit I stalked Arya’s profile.” James says, “Helped me find out how incredible she is.” Lisa glares at me and I put a hand to James’ leg, hoping that will get him to stop talking.

“Okay,” Paulina says, bringing us back to the game. “Never have I ever… been electrocuted.”

“Electrocuted?” Richard asks, “Like on an electric chair?”

“No, dumbass,” Samson says, “Like were you ever the kid that stuck a fork in the electric socket. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have, Richard.”

“Hey!” Richard says. And then, just when it looks like no one is about to drink, James takes a sip of his. “Oh, see who’s the idiot now?”

“Really, James?” Samson says, “I wouldn’t have pegged you for that.”

“It was an electric fence.” James says in his defense, “I didn’t know and then I just grabbed on with both hands.”

“Okay, okay. Now for a good one,” Malcolm starts, “Never have I ever…been so sunburnt that I had to cancel a date.”

“I’m starting to think these are targeted,” Richard says as he takes a drink.

“Must’ve been a pretty bad sunburn,” I say.

“I couldn’t wear a shirt for a week, so it’s not like I could show up at this girl’s house shirtless,” Richard says.

“I’m sure her dad would have appreciated that,” Paulina says.

“I was doing us both a favour!” Richard says.

“How did she take it?” Bobbi asks.

“She was pissed. Even when I showed her picture proof.” Richard says, “Whatever. Her loss.”

“That was you!” Lisa exclaims, pointing at Richard, “My cousin told me about this guy that cancelled on her because of a sunburn.”

“What did you tell her?” Richard asks, curious.

“I told her it was the lamest excuse I had ever heard,” Lisa says.

“You’re the reason we never went out on a date!” Richard says, pointing at Lisa next to him.

“How was I supposed to know it was true?” Lisa says back.

“I can’t win if I lie, I can’t win if I tell the truth,” Richard says hopelessly.

“Alright, your turn Arya,” Malcolm says.

I knew exactly what I was going to say when Richard suggested the game. “Never have I ever…Flirted with someone in this group’s sibling.” And then I look straight at Malcolm.

“Ohhhhh…” all the guys go, two of them remembering that day in the hallway.

“Okay, I deserve that,” Malcolm says as he takes a drink. “Your go, James.”

“Okay,” James starts, clearly thinking about it.

“Just say that you have never hit a girl on her back and knocked her over,” Samson says, smiling.

“If you guys are just going to target me for this whole game,” Richards says, “I’m done playing!”

“This game was your suggestion!” Samson says, “You said it was a great way to get to know people.”

“You guys are just bringing up my most embarrassing moments!” Richard says, “How was I supposed to know that Rosalind just had ACL surgery and had only stopped wearing her brace that day? I hadn’t seen in her months!”

“It was pretty funny.” Paulina comments, “He slapped her on the back, and she lost her balance and fell into a puddle.”

“Was she okay?” I ask.

“Oh yeah, she was fine.” Paulina says, “She just start yelling and swearing at Richard, and then when he helped her up, she slapped him across the face.”

“Thank you, guys,” Richard says.

“Don’t worry about it, man.” Malcolm chimes in, “Could have happened to any of us.”

“Well now that that has been brought to light,” James says, “Never have I ever…kissed someone without knowing their name.”

“Both of you are targeting me!” Malcolm says, pointing at James and me, and then takes a sip of his drink, as well as Bobbi.

“Bobbi?” Samson says, shocked.

“It happens, man,” Malcolm says with a shrug of his shoulders.

“It was once, in Grade 9.” Bobbi says, “Before we even meet. Like Malcolm says, it happens.” And she shrugs her shoulders, but Samson still stares at her. “I only have eyes for you now, babe.” She says putting a hand to his knee.

“Who was it?” Samson asks.

“Well, it wasn’t Malcolm.” Bobbi assures him and Malcolm winks at Samson, “But I don’t know who it was, I never saw them again.”

“Enough of that!” Lisa calls out, “It’s my turn.” I stare at Lisa, interested to see what she will come up with. “Never have I ever…been sent to the principal’s office,” Lisa says as she looks at me, clearly seeing if I’ll take a drink, trying to find an answer, a missing puzzle piece, to why I left West Side.

“Lame!” Malcolm yells and takes a sip. And all the other guys follow, including James, and then I take a sip, confirming what Lisa thought.

“What happened to you guys?” Paulina asks.

“In elementary school, back in what? Grade 5, I think.” Malcolm starts, “Some kid was making fun of Samson and Richard for their cultures, so we may have tag teamed and beat him up at recess.”

“Which of course led to us all being sent to the principal’s office,” James says.

“Never regretted it,” Malcolm says.

“What ended up happening?” Paulina asks.

“Got a warning when we explained the situation to the principal. Violence isn’t the way apparently.” James says, “They called our parents and they were fine with it when we explained what happened. Malcolm’s dad even took us out for ice cream.”

“Oh yeah!” Malcolm says, remembering back that day, “And most importantly, that kid never said anything against us ever again.” All four of them look amongst each other, remembering that time. Malcolm was right, they truly are brothers, and they will stand by each other no matter what happens.

“So what did you do, Arya?” Lisa asks, turning the attention on me, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

“I was talking too much during class,” I say, which is the truth. “In Grade 10, I had a really strict religion teacher, and when I was trying to explain something, that was actually class-related, to the person beside me, she flipped on me and sent me to the principal’s office.”

“It’s always the religion teachers.” Samson says, “I’m glad we don’t have to take that.”

“Is that all you did, Arya?” Lisa asks because she suspects there is more, she suspects that I only shared the truth that I wanted people to know.

“What’s your problem, Lisa?” James says.

“It’s just a question, James.” Lisa says, “Is that all you did Arya, or is there something else that you’re not sharing with us?”

“I have nothing more to share,” I say, ready for this conversation to be over.

“Really?” Lisa asks.

“Lay off, Lisa.” James says, “She already shared her piece.”

“What about your sister? Did she love switching to East Side as well?” Lisa asks me, “Or did she do something bad too?”

“Do you know when to shut up, Lisa?!” James yells at her and it quiets her immediately. Even if she hates me, she likes James too much and doesn’t want to offend him. James is heated with anger. I can feel it radiating off him. I put a hand on his shoulder, and I can feel it calming him down. “We should go.” He says, looking at me.

“But it’s so early!” Richard says, “It’s only 10 o’clock!”

“Well I have to get Arya home by 10:30 pm and it’s a twenty-minute drive back to town from here,” James says and then grabs my hand, pulling me up from the log. “Thank you for having us, Samson.” James nods to him, “We’ll see you guys on Monday.” And James pulls me along, away from his friends, towards his car so that I don’t have to deal with Lisa’s constant prying into my life.

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