Friday, September 15
food from dining hall
sandwich, salad, baked stuffed shells
so many choices
“Ready to eat?” Sarah asked as I closed my writing journal.
I hefted my backpack onto my shoulders. “All set. I invited a few new friends.”
Sarah followed me into the hall, where Bella and Natalie were waiting at the top of the stairs. I pointed to each of them.
“Sarah, this is Bella and Natalie. They’re in dance with me. This is my roommate, Sarah.”
There were hellos and small talk as we headed out of the building. Once we were outside, Bella pointed to my backpack.
“Why did you bring that thing to dinner?”
I shrugged. “I like to study in the library. Less distracting.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Yeah. It has nothing to do with the fact that boys aren’t allowed in the dorms during study hours.”
“What boy?” Natalie looked between Sarah and me.
I could feel my face grow warm. Sarah was right. One of the reasons I studied in the library was because Walter couldn’t study in the dorm with me. I enjoyed working with him. But, it meant studying in the library during study hours.
Thankfully, Sarah began telling us about her field hockey practice and no one asked me any more questions about the library. When we got to the dining hall, I lost the girls in the servery. I toured the entire room, exploring my options before settling on the hot entrée of the night.
My mouth watered as I watched the server place two stuffed shells on a plate and drizzle it with warm marinara sauce. It smelled so delicious, I couldn’t wait to try it. I found Bella and Natalie hovering near the beverage island in the center of the room. I grabbed a soda and glass of water before leading them to my usual table. I placed my tray in front of an empty chair, gesturing to my new friends as I sat.
“Hey, everyone. This is Natalie and Bella. They’re in my dance classes. That’s Walter.” He was sitting beside Bella. They had a brief exchange before I introduced my next friend. Most of them recognized one of the girls from some class or another, interrupting my introductions.
By the time I was done, my throat was dry. I took a sip of my soda. The ice had melted and it was flat. With a sigh, I took a bite of my pasta. It was too cold to enjoy. I suffered through a few bites before giving up.
Over the past week, my friends and I had grown into a routine. There were too many of us to hold a single conversation. I felt more like I was eavesdropping on everyone else than actually participating. Most of my friends were playing interscholastic sports and had home games tomorrow. I didn’t really know what to say to them because I wasn’t a big sports fan. I wasn’t even sure what some of their sports even were.
After a quick trip to the salad bar, I let my mind wander. I wanted to be able to support my friends. My eyes landed on the lilac-colored sheet of paper sitting between the salt and pepper shakers in the center of the table. The Daily Docket magically appeared on the tables before breakfast each morning, a different color each day. It listed the daily schedule, as well as those for the next two days.
I quickly scanned it, pleased to see it had the full sports schedule, complete with the times and locations for each event. “I want to see your games.”
Bella turned to me. “Huh?”
I looked around the table. “All of you. I want to watch everyone’s games tomorrow. It sounds fun.”
Across from me, Jade nodded. “Me, too. I want to watch football. I’ve only seen it in movies and it doesn’t make sense.”
As everyone began talking at once, I stared at the schedule. It felt like a jigsaw puzzle. And I loved jigsaw puzzles. I could see all the pieces moving around in my mind until I had a schedule in place. It would allow those of us not on teams to visit everyone else. Except Forrest, whose soccer team had an away game. I pulled out my phone, texting my idea to everyone sitting around me.
It was funny to hear everyone’s phone beep at the same time. It was even funnier to see them all look at the message and send me nearly identical confused looks. Sarah was the first to ask me about it.
I shrugged. “Like I said, I want to see everyone’s games. That’s the times I plan on going to each game. I sent it to everyone so you can join me if you want.”
Larry pointed at me with his fork. “Hey. We should all go out for pizza after the last game.”
Walter nodded. “Sounds good to me.”
Sarah turned to me. “Didn’t you want to go to Ollie’s?”
Jade turned to her. “Who’s Ollie?”
“It’s a sporting goods store in town.”
I had forgotten. Before dance, I had realized I needed more leotards for my dance class. Since Sarah had spent the summer here, she knew about the stores in town and had suggested Ollie’s.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who needed to go shopping. Dre wiggled a little in her chair. “Ooh! I need to get a new bathing suit. Mr. Dawson was really annoyed that I showed up in my bikini, but I didn’t bring anything else to school.”
Andy pointed a fork at his twin. “Mom told you to.”
Dre rolled her eyes. “My other suits didn’t fit. And, it’s not like I knew I was going to do lifeguarding when I was packing.”
I tried not to laugh. The two of them had been arguing nearly every night this week.
When Natalie excused herself to meet her ride, we all realized it was nearly study hours. We all packed our plates back onto our trays and brought them to the dish room. While everyone else went out the side exit towards the dorms, Walter and I headed through the senior section of the dining hall.
A girl I didn’t recognize left her table, catching up with us in the common room. She swung an arm around Walter as we walked. When he greeted her, I could hear the annoyance in his voice.
“Hey, Chloe. What’s going on?”
“Just checking up on you.”
“I’m fine. Thanks.”
“Where you going?”
“The library. It’s almost study hours.”
Chloe let go of Walter near the main entrance. “You know? That’s a good idea. I should work on my college applications. Just need to grab my laptop.”
Walter nodded. “You do that. I’ll see you later.”
I followed Walter out a side door that connected the dining hall building to the library. I waited until we were through the quiet study area before speaking.
“Soooo. Who was that?”
I was surprised to see Walter turn the color of a tomato. “A friend of my sister’s.”
“Oh. Your sister goes here, too?”
Walter shook his head. “No. She graduated. Chloe’s a sixth-former. Hey. How’d you do on your vocabulary quiz?”
I didn’t miss the obvious attempt to change the subject. I figured Walter had his reasons, so I let it go, rolling my eyes as I followed him up the stairs to our usual study room on the second floor. I sent a longing look at the two comfy chairs before emptying the contents of my bag onto the study table.
Walter pointed a pencil at me as he sat opposite me. “You didn’t answer me. How was your quiz?”
“Horrible. I forgot like, half of the definitions. And then, completely blanked out on the sentences.”
Walter shook his head. “I’m sure you did better than you think.” He opened his math book, setting it between us. “I forgot my protractor. Can I borrow yours?”
I passed it to him with a sigh. There was no point in starting the math if I didn’t have it. I looked at everything I had written in my assignment pad. It was overwhelming.
I had been studying with Walter all week, so I knew that we would probably be able to get through math and Latin. If we were lucky, we might be able to finish physics as well. Thankfully, our English teacher had a Saturday free day, so I didn’t have to worry about any assignments tonight. But, I still had to complete my drawing for my art class. And I had left my portfolio in my room.
I wanted to cry. I was in way over my head. I glanced across the table.
He didn’t look up. “Hmm?”
“What happens if I fall all my classes? Do they kick me out at the end of the first term?”
Walter looked up with an exasperated sigh. “You’re not going to fail your classes.”
“Oh, I am. I just want to know how long I have before I’m kicked out.”
He returned my protractor. “Here. Do your math. I can finish without it.”
“I wasn’t asking for my protractor back.”
“I know you weren’t. I’m showing you that the math isn’t difficult and you’re not going to fail. Besides, a bunch of these don’t actually need it. Now, hurry up so I can check my answers.”
I frowned, reading the first problem. Walter was right. It wasn’t that hard. The second one was pretty easy, too. I finished the problem set in less than fifteen minutes.
As soon as I was done, Walter took my paper. He had been doing this every night, so I didn’t complain. He compared our pages, circling a couple of problems on each before returning it.
I glanced down. He had circled number fifteen. I pointed to it as I looked back at him. “I did that right.”
He shook his head. “What’s five minus three?”
I rolled my eyes. “Two.” I looked back at my page. I had written an eight. “Ugh! I told you. I’m going to fail.”
“You just need to be more careful.” He made a few more marks on his page. “Okay. Done. Latin or physics?”
Despite my frustration, I was actually able to get into a comfortable study mode. I was extremely annoyed when the library flicked its lights just after nine to indicate it would be closing shortly. Walter and I packed our bags and headed back to our dorms.
Most of my classmates seemed to believe that the field was the ideal location to spend the forty-five minute break between the two mandatory evening study hours. I couldn’t understand why.
Wednesday night, Sarah had convinced me to spend the break out on the field with our friends. That was the night I wasn’t able to finish my homework before lights out. While Sarah slept peacefully on the other side of the room, I was up past midnight drawing arrows for my physics class. I couldn’t get them to line up properly and had been extremely grateful that my teacher never collected the assignment.
When I reached my dorm tonight, I realized I had lost Walter. Had he gone to the field or did I lose him at Stanton? I shouldn’t have let my bad mood make me ignore my friend.
When I placed my bag on my desk chair, my eyes landed on my art portfolio. Maybe I could work on my project while at least pretending to be social.
I grabbed the large brown envelope that was nearly half my size and lugged it downstairs to the common room. Sarah and Bella were sitting in a corner, talking with Larry and Andy. Bella smiled at me as I plopped myself into a chair facing them all.
“Ooh! Are you an artist?”
I shook my head as I pulled my sketch pad and pencil out of the case. “Not in the slightest. I’m not sure how I ended up in this class. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.”
“Can I see?”
Shrugging, I passed her my book. While Bella flipped through the pages, I scanned the room for something to draw. There was an abandoned bottle of soda sitting on the table. That might just work.
Bella turned the sketch pad upside down, frowning at the image. “What’s this supposed to be?”
I rolled my eyes and took back my book. “There are these weird sculptures on the wall in the Art Center gallery. I was trying to draw one of those after class.”
Sarah pursed her lips at Bella. “I didn’t think it was that bad. I mean, that’s pretty much what the sculpture looks like. It’s not your fault. It’s the artist.”
I gave a small smile, even though I didn’t agree with Sarah in the slightest. I knew she was just trying to make me feel better. While everyone discussed their favorite music, I sketched a rough outline of the bottle, then lightly marked the logo and other key features.
I was just about to start darkening it using the shading scale I had made in class when, without warning, Larry grabbed the bottle, took a sip, and held it in his lap instead of returning it to the table.
I glared at him. “Hey!”
“What?” He sent me a confused look, bouncing the foot that was resting on his opposite knee. He took another swig from the bottle and looked at me expectantly.
I hadn’t meant to shout at him. It had been a little louder and a lot ruder than I had intended. I sighed, trying to soften my tone.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I was using that. I didn’t realize anyone was still drinking it.”
My apologetic smiled must have conveyed my sincerity, since Larry grinned brightly. “Oh! I saw you drawing, but it didn’t click. There you go!”
With a flourish, Larry returned the bottle to the table, turning it slightly until he thought it was in the same position it had been before. I waited until he turned back to Sarah before adjusting the bottle to its correct orientation.
When I finished my drawing, I was surprised that I still had a few minutes to just sit and chat with my friends before the prefects started kicking the boys out of the dorm.
Sarah and I made our way back upstairs. Although I appreciated the break, the sight of my overstuffed backpack reminded me of how much work I still had ahead of me that evening. As I slowly unpacked everything, I hoped I would be able to finish my physics problems before my prefect announced lights out.
Saturday, September 16
Field Hockey. Cross Country. Football. More football.
These are strange words to me. Sunday night, when my roommate told me she was trying out for the field hockey team, I considered asking her what the term meant. I had heard of ice hockey and street hockey and even air hockey. But field hockey was not a sport we played at my old school. I looked it up on the internet and I still don’t see how it is like hockey, except possibly that there are goals. But, they use a ball instead of a puck and they use these sticks with round little ends, not real hockey sticks. Maybe I will understand better after watching it.
When another friend told me he was running cross country, I thought he was about to run to California. I did not realize he meant he would be running around in the woods for a long time. I have never heard of this sport, but apparently it’s a thing.
Obviously, I have heard about football. I’m not that sheltered. But, I never followed it at my old school. I don’t think we even had a football team. There may have been one at the town rec center or something, but not an official school team. Despite knowing it exists, I understand very little about the game. An oval brown ball gets thrown from one person to another towards one end of the field while other people try to knock down the person with the ball.
Despite my limited sports knowledge, I arranged for me and my friends to visit a field hockey game, a cross country game and two football games within a two-hour stretch of time. Why?
Because my friends are important to me. And, I know that if I had a big dance recital, I would want my friends there to support me. So, I want to cheer for my friends. Besides, I’m at school to learn new things. Who says some of those new things can’t be sports?
I’m not about to join the pep squad. There’s another term I had never heard before. A fellow dancer explained that the members of the pep squad are cheerleaders in the true sense of the word: they try to get the fans to join them in cheering for the home team. There are no dance routines or cute outfits. I think they are wearing jeans and T-shirts. But, they are loud and enjoy getting the crowd riled up.
I am looking forward to learning new things today.
Pat’s story will begin in March