Here in Georgia, everyone has been in school for weeks, but if you live in the magical part of the world that starts mid-September, know I’ve always been jealous of you.
If you live in the extra-extra magical part of the world that the television keeps showing me that features kids waking up, getting ready, and eating a full-course breakfast while the sun is brightly shining….tell me where you live because I’d like to move before my daughter starts school.
Seriously, comment below.
Whether you are just now starting school (lucky1!) or if you’ve been in for weeks, I’ve got something special for you that I’ve been working on. It’s an excerpt from a middle grade project I’ve been working on with the working title “School.”
Excuse any typos, it’s early in drafting yet, and comment below with your thoughts to enter to win a copy of my young adult novel, Persephone.
“Are you nervous?” Mom asked as we approached the large brick structure that was to be my middle school for one year.
I turned in my seat to look at her, pulling on my seatbelt. “Are you kidding? Of course I’m nervous!”
She gave me a reassuring smile. “I’m proud of you for making this choice. It was a very mature decision.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. It hadn’t been much of a choice. Mom wanted me to get used to attending a larger, public institution before I started ninth grade at the magnet school. So she’d given me a choice. If I sacrificed private school for one year, she’d use the money she was saving in tuition to buy me a car when I turned sixteen.
Talk about delayed gratification. But I needed a car. And not in some spoiled teenage way. Columbus, Georgia is not a pedestrian-friendly town. The nearest grocery store to my house wasn’t within walking distance, much less any place interesting. And the only bus in town drove a one mile loop between the malls. Both of which were too far to walk to. And because Mom’s new job took her out of town for three and four days at a time, I couldn’t rely on her for a ride.
Mom was still giving her pep talk. I smiled and nodded in all the right places as I gathered my book bag and lunch box.
Mesh, so I couldn’t carry any concealed weapons. Lovely thought. But at least it came in pink.
“It’s not going to be as bad as you think it. You get to start over. You’ll be the new girl. It’ll be like that movie.”
“Mmm… Was that the one with the sparkly vampires?”
“Not even remotely. But you have a point. Being stalked by a reformed murderer would be a first.” Was she really going to pretend there was a chance I could be popular here? This was public school. I’d seen enough TV shows to know what to expect: bullies in the hallways, pervasive sexual harassment, drugs, smoking in bathrooms, and possibly even spontaneous musical numbers in the lunch room.
A horn honked, jolting me out of my reverie and cutting Mom’s pep talk short. “I guess we’re blocking the car pool lane,” she murmured. Her eyes flashed with irritation. “Honey, are you sure you’re–”
“I’m fine, Mom.” I opened the door and stepped out of the car, slinging my book bag over my shoulder and grabbing my lunch box from the floorboard. “Love you.”
“Love you, too!”
I closed the door and hopped onto the curb, waving as she drove away in our little red Saturn. I turned slowly towards the school and swallowed hard. These people don’t know you. I reminded myself. And after this year I’ll never see them again. I had no delusions of gaining popularity, but the knowledge that it didn’t matter what these people thought of me was kind of freeing. I didn’t have to worry about the social hierarchy. It didn’t apply to me whatsoever.
I lifted my chin and walked into the school. At least there weren’t security guards and metal detectors like I’d seen in some of the movies. Students flowed up and down the halls. Laughter bounced off the peeling paint on the burgundy lockers. I stopped, fishing for my schedule so I could find the room number for my home-room when a short boy with white hair bumped into me.
“Watch it, ginger!” He growled, shouldering past me.
I frowned, adjusted my book bag and tried to step out of the way, but the walls were crowded with kids. A quick look around confirmed I was not the only pale redhead clogging up the hallway. A first for me. There had been other redheads in other grades at my old school, but we were few and far between. I’d never seen so many kids together in one place. At my old school there were only twelve of us per class. The students in this hallway alone probably outnumbered the entire student body of my old school. I felt claustrophobic. Oddly enough, the center of the hall was free. I moved to the middle of the hallway, pulled my phone out of my pocket and switched it to silent mode. Now where was my home-room?
Someone plucked the phone from my hand.
“Hey! That’s mine!” I snapped, spinning on my heel in outrage. I’d been in the school for less than ten minutes and someone was already trying to steal from me!
A woman in a purple blouse and a black skirt raised an eyebrow at my tone. “Cell phones are not permitted on school grounds.”
“What? Why? I wasn’t going to use it. That’s why I put it on silent.”
“I didn’t say noisy cell phones weren’t allowed on school grounds. All cell phones. I’ll be taking this to the office. Your parent or guardian can pick it up on Friday.”
“Yes. If we find a cell phone we lock it up for the week.”
Oh hell no. I needed my cell phone. If I didn’t have my cell phone my Mom wouldn’t be able to reach me when she left town. I glanced around and noticed people watching me. Nothing obvious, it wasn’t like a crowd had gathered, but I could feel eyes on me, none-the-less.
“Could we speak privately, please?” I asked the woman in the purple blouse.
“We have nothing to discuss.” She waddled away, heels clacking on the white vinyl tiles.
I held back a sigh and followed her.
“Stay on the maroon tiles!” An authoritative voice bellowed.
What? I glanced down. The tiles were white. I lifted my head to ask what the hell that man had been talking about when a slash of pink caught my eye. A single row of pink tiles bordered the walls. They may have been ‘maroon’ once, but they’d long since faded to a color of pink I’d only ever seen in cat vomit.
“If you are walking in the hall you need to stay on the maroon tiles.” At least he wasn’t yelling anymore. But his voice was still deep. I stared at the balding man in a collared white shirt. He couldn’t be serious, could he?
“I see…” I took two steps to the left and stood on a pink tile, raising my eyebrows at him in question. “May I go now?”
He nodded his assent and I took off towards the office. This was going to be a long school year.