CHAPTER TWO. SCHOOL DAZE.
Don’t look for Copperfield on any New
York City maps. During the depression our students received so many kidnapping threats that the powerful Copperfield Trustees,
which included the governor, petitioned the city not to be listed. The closer you got, the more the wind of the East River
swept up around the school, almost like something was trying to keep you away. Three doormen greeted a throng of us kids.
We entered the lobby and took a whiff of ambition. Copperfield was more fashion week than ever. Nobody could turn a uniform
out like we could. Everyone was ultra-fabulous, bright, shiny, eager and early. The bright, shiny and eager part would probably
last only until lunch or day two at the latest.
Copperfielders prided ourselves on being America’s Best and Brightest and so we eschew the traditional cliques that
plague American education as being cliché. That being said, we were just as Lord of the Flies as any high school USA.
Smart was not a four-letter word here. Harvard, Yale and Princeton had but only so many places and we were 50 students to
a grade. There were other factors to determine one’s geekdom or nerkle-factor. Where you lived was huge. Who
you’ve dated of course, and how many bases you’ve rounded was paramount. Number of Livejournal friends was key,
as well as how many other Ivy Leaguers you were on a first text basis with. Kids from the young Ivy League and Interschool
were the only Facebook or Livejournalers that even really counted. The Ivy Prep School League consisted of Dalton, Trinity,
Horace Mann, Fieldston, Poly Prep, Collegiate, Riverdale, Copperfield of course, and some school in Tarrytown. Interschool
incorporated Nightingale, Brearley, Chapin and Spence, the girls’ schools. Important ‘cause everyone wanted those
desperate, pathetic, man-hungry chicks at a party. Just to add a level of the unexpected.
I adjusted my tiara. The exquisite Great Lobby seemed smaller since June. “We
are really seniors,” I said to Krissy, plotting our next move.
“Yep.” Krissy rolled her eyes as a gaggle of popular freshman girls drifted by snickering.
I pulled Krissy to the Chandelier Clutch corner of the lobby.
“Ok, real quick, Krissy, let’s re-up on the pact. This year has to be different.”
“Why didn’t you think of this on the train when we were alone?”
she whispered, waving to her Advanced Placement crew.
“Do you want your research to go to waste,” I asked. Krissy shook her head. A couple of the teachers
really seemed happy to see everyone. Miss Duncan gave out apples. I thought of Snow White. “Good. Wait for Alexis?”
“Nah. She doesn’t need it.”
Krissy fingered the small gold hoops she sported for the occasion.
I waved to my Middle School art teacher. “Ok. Pop Pact rule one. It’s about the right people.
Rory Singh and Krissy Ferrer are no longer captains of the lost nerkles.”
“Amen,” Krissy continued. “Rule two. It’s about the right look.
That’s why the first thing a new country does is plan their military uniform.”
“Yeah,” I said. “We’re going to be hitting everyday.
And if we miss, we’ll act like we’re hitting.”
“Exactly. Three. The right ‘tude. Just like dictator Eva Peron. Attitude is everything.”
“And four, the right convo. Blab to impress. We’re
the ones with the look, the friends, the ‘tude and the scoop. Everyone else is a casualty of war.”
“Love it,” Krissy said.
“Live it,” I said. A new Copperfielder stood alone in the corner
taking it all in. Bet she wishes she had some rules. I was five years old when I entered the Ivy League. Copperfield Academy
Day School. Clutching my mother’s hand, we exited the back door of the East 86th street bus and hustled
across the windy avenue, winding through a sea of sleek black vehicles and funny looking foreign cars dropping off little
girls and boys like me. At least I was still young and dumb enough to think that they were like me. All I remember about
that Kindergarten day was that Emma Wilbourne handed me a brown crayon and said, you need the nanny mud color to draw your
face. I said, thank you, smiled and she burst out laughing. My mom was teaching the boys in the kindergarten right
next door, but somehow in that moment I remember realizing that I was profoundly alone. It was now twelve years later
and the Emma Wilbournes still wanted to make my life a living horror, but now I had back up.
Krissy joined my class in 7th grade, a graduate of the program Prep
for Prep. PfP prided itself on rescuing the best of gifted minority youth from the clutches of public school and depositing
them into “tony” hells, um, schools like Copperfield.
“Nice tiara, Rory.” It was Emma. She seemed genuine, but then I thought
of the brown crayon. You never knew with Emma. Her already blue eyes were accented with matching contacts and she might
have even had another nose job. “Nice tiara,” she repeated.
“I like it,” I said, and squinted over her head like I was looking for someone slightly
more interesting. Emma wore her over bleached hair in a messy ponytail that she probably worked on all morning. Her tanorexic
skin was a delightful shade of orange. “Nice tan,” I said. “Are we related?”
“I like it,” Emma said walking off.
“Nice one!” Krissy said.
“Invisible high five,” I sang as I saw my mom and Destiny entering. I turned
my head as if they magically wouldn’t know me but they were too busy getting into their own days going to notice.
We all herded ourselves into the Lady Astor Grand Concert
Hall, or as they might call it in your school, the auditorium. I saw our peeps near the front and we made our way
over. Hey! We’re not at the top of the food chain but we have our crew. Jessica Helman (of the mayonnaise people)
a red-headed senior, yearbook committee, and Daniella Kang, a junior, PfP grad, into theater, waved us over. Fat Boy, Krissy’s
unofficial man was there too. He was deep in convo with Bailey Simons, junior, head of the Biracial League. Krissy
picked up speed. She wasn’t feeling that. We hugged and kissed everyone, reunion style, over the top screaming and
gushing. They all were feeling the tiaras. I put my stuff on a couple of chairs to save seats for Aleksis.
“Charles!” Krissy greeted Fat Boy. He kissed her on the cheek and
held her hand. She was the only one who called Fat Boy by his government name. Fat Boy was blonde, German American, about
5’10”, semi-handsome and hadn’t been fat since 5th grade but the name stuck. Bailey sulked a
little at the loss of the conversation as we all launched into chatter and babble. Babble and chatter. OMG. Love the
haircut. Did you see Miss Ruby’s skirt? Who do you have for English? Did you go back to camp? I hear such and
such and so and so hooked up. Her parents were in East Hampton not South Hampton. A summer job? How fun! Did she really have
lipo? Was he really in rehab?
we needed to accomplish were simple. Look good. Get good grades. Kill the SAT’s. Be popular. Get into the best
of the best colleges. Look good. Rule the world. Look good. Hope that our livejournals don’t come back to bite us on
the ass when we run for the Senate one day- while looking good. In exactly that order.
“OMG.” I elbowed Krissy. “Walking onto that stage is my future.”
No, not the bloody teachers in the same tired grey and beige clothes from last year, but my man to be. Danté was
Co-President of the student council with his boy, the lewd, disgusting, dreaded…
“Ugh, Jeffrey Robbins,” Krissy said.
“The boy idiot. Himself,” Fat Boy laughed.
Jeffrey and Danté sat on the stage chatting it up with the principal and four of the
more involved faculty members. Danté looked absolutely as amazing as when I saw him last. His brown was a little
browner from the European sun and there was that crook I loved in his smile. He wore a crisp grown up navy suit jacket and
blue sweater. It was almost too much. I didn’t know if I should sit up taller so that he could see me or crawl under
“There’s your smiley
face,” whispered Krissy.
I said, barely able to contain myself.
Kang turned around. “Okayy, Rory. He’s just a boy.”
“Jealous much?” I could see in the envy in her eyes. My boy—yes! Then Danté’s
eyes met mine and he smiled. “I forgive you, Krissy,” I whispered.
“Is anyone sitting here?” It was Moira Allen. Lowwww on the pecking order. Nerkle
“Sure,” Krissy started to
say until I kicked her ankle. The Popularity Pact.
Moira. Saved,” I said, with punctuation.
you have three empty seats,” she said. “You have three people coming?”
“Sorry,” Krissy said, a pang of real guilt in her voice.
“Sorry,” Daniela, Bailey and Jessica repeated. They didn’t
know about the PP, but I guess something seemed new and bold about us and they wanted in. Behind us, Emma blocked off a
whole row. Moira looked at her and kept going. I smiled.
“Casualty of war,” Krissy and I said together.
“Good Morning,” Mr. Eisenhower, the headmaster leaned into the microphone with severe importance.
The man was three hundred pounds if he was an ounce and sweating already. “We as a community are used to boys and
girls attending classes in different buildings. But there’s been a change.” A murmur went around the room. “The
trustees have spoken, and for the first time in our three hundred year history, the Copperfield Academy Day School has decided
Everyone gasped. I know I
did. Integrate?! Oh. Don’t go getting all MLK on me. We were still only about two to four-ish “colored kids”
per grade. Copperfield Academy was established 300 years ago to educate young noblemen. It went co-ed when it was all the
rage to do so in the 1970s, but still kept girls and boys in separate buildings- separate but equal. Integration here meant
boys and girls would be sitting in classrooms together. Yikes.
“So today,” Eisenhower continued, “We are all in for something new.”
Everyone started speaking at once. Integrate?! I’ve never sat in a classroom
with boys ever. The only scheduled time we had with boys was joint lunch periods. And those brought out the catty, backstabbing
worst in everyone. This should be interesting. I guess. I touched my tiara for luck.
“Did you bring that gloss with you?” Krissy asked, suddenly extremely insecure.
“You look good, babes,” Fat Boy said. “True
dat.” Although his dad owned the biggest hedge fund in the country, he was an aspiring gangsta rapper.
As our “fearless leader” prattled on about schedules,
study halls, and obligations, the chapel door flew open and Aleksis flurried in, not with the humility of a student late
for the first day of classes while the Headmaster is speaking. No, not Aleksis. She worked the aisles like a Paris runway.
Most people would just sit down wherever they saw an empty seat. Not Aleksis. She walked to the center of the hall and scanned
the crowd until she spotted us. Then she continued her Tyra-nical runway prance over.
“If Ms. Davidson is ready for me to continue,” Eisenhower said. Aleksis waved
happily, giving him the go ahead. Everyone snickered. How did she get away with these things? “New school guidebooks
will be given out on how we can make this transition as smooth as possible.”
For some reason Aleksis sat behind us with Emma instead of in the seats that I fought to save
for her. “Did I miss something?” Aleksis asked.
“Boys and girls are merging,” I whispered.
“Yeah, totally.” Aleksis studied her manicure. “That’s why I’m late.” She was
wearing a green cashmere sweater and her uniform skirt was tailored into a micro mini. Her fried blonde hair hung
curly and fluffy around her shoulders with a giant purple orchid behind her left ear. Beyonce junior. People shouldn’t
be allowed to be that beautiful in high school. It throws the scale off for the rest of us. And even though as her bestie
I knew how much effort and time Aleksis invested in her looks, the kicker was that she didn’t really need to.
Danté and Jeffrey took the podium and I sat up.
“Prick,” Aleksis said. I turned around. “Jeffrey
of course.” She was right. The only reason that he got elected student body Co-Prez was because of Danté. If
Danté was Obama then Jeffrey was Dubya. You might wanna play squash with him but you didn’t want his finger
on the button.
“Gentleman and ladies,”
Jeffrey began. “Today we all embark together on the ride of a lifetime. Girls and boys together at Copperfield. I
only wish that this had happened earlier in my school career instead of now that I am a senior. I imagine if I had actual
women’s bodies in front of me instead of the ones in my daydreams I might have done even better in class. But then
again, the pseudo liberal Copperfield girls are not as hot as the ones in my Playboys and I couldn’t really
do better than a perfect average.”
I said under my breath. There was a weird, murky grey hazy aura around him. I rubbed my eyes. I needed a new eye exam ASAP.
Danté stepped in to rescue the fool. “What my
partner in crime is trying to say, Copperfielders, is that we are all in this together. We are pleased that the Board of
Trustees has taken this step to integrate. If the reasons for keeping young men and women separate were to enable us to
remain focused on our schoolwork and away from juvenile longings, then we look forward to proving that you made the right
decision in trusting us with due diligence. By truth, by toil, by justice, by Copperfield!” Danté thrust his
fist into the air.
“By truth, by toil,
by justice, by Copperfield!” Everyone repeated the chant and started madly applauding. It was like they were almost
sorry that Danté was already Co-President as they might love to vote for him again.
Jeffrey tried to speak again and Headmaster Eisenhower used his girth to make
sure that this didn’t happen. “Thank you, Copperfielders. From this day forward we will also swipe IDs as we
enter and exit school so that everyone is accounted for. Godspeed unto you, and as young Danté so aptly put
it, be focused. If there are no questions, begin your year!” Loud scratchy microphone feedback made his point. People
stood tentatively, looking slightly like displaced refugees. Signs.
“Well?” Aleksis said, exasperated.
“Oh my god,” both Krissy and I exclaimed simultaneously. We forgot that we hadn’t
actually seen Aleksis’ face since June. She was in the Hamptons all summer with her family, but with all the video
chatting it was like she’d never left. We embraced in a 3-way hug. I felt a small electrical shock.
“My sweater,” she said. I let go. Something
about Aleksis felt new and toxic. “OMG, look!” Aleksis gestured toward the stage. Girls from every grade were
lined with supposed student government questions. “Dantémania.”
I sucked my teeth. “Groupies.”
“It was just like this when he was in the Hamptons,” Emma said to Aleksis. I swiveled around
so fast that I almost lost my balance.
was Danté in the Hamptons?!” I looked at Aleksis.
“Midsummer,” Aleksis said. “I told you. You forgot. His fam took a weekend break from France,
had an amazing party in Southampton and headed back across the pond.”
Clearly she had told me no such thing. I looked at Krissy but she was comparing scheds with
Fat Boy. I didn’t want to discuss this in front of Emma so I just said “fine.”
“Anyway,” Aleksis said. “The head witch is back. Kiss kiss,
“Where’s your tiara?”
Krissy asked, joining the convo. “A critical part of the plan was dressing alike—with you, Aleksis—since
people already respect you on the fashion tip.”
“Oh yeah! And the purple,” I said.
“Last minute redress.”
why didn’t you tell us that we would be sitting in classrooms with guys,” Krissy asked. “Your mom is a
Aleksis laughed except nothing
was really funny. “Mother-daughter privilege?” She shrugged again. “Ok, black girls. Time for me
to hang with my Becky’s. Smell ya later?” Aleksis said, walking off.
“What are we doing for our b-days?” I asked, but she didn’t hear me. As
she joined Emma’s clique – all wearing emerald green and already over by the ID photo table- I realized that
Aleksis was matching. With them.
The school was
more quiet than usual as we all got used to the new integrated way of life. We dashed into the bathroom for a last minute
hair check before venturing into class.
luck,” Krissy said as we went opposite ways down the hall.
First up, physics for dummies. A class of about 17 juniors and seniors. Girls and boys all together. Unprompted,
the girls all sat on the left and the guys all sat on the right. I sat near the window. The tiara was a hot choice. It was
bringing me mad attention. We made awkward small talk until Madame Gottfried, the frail physics teacher, entered. She had
an accent of dubious European origin, walked like she was tiptoeing, and spoke in a low monotone to boot. “Isn’t
this nice,” she said. “Copperfield joins the real world.”
“When do you catch up?” Jeffrey Robbins said loudly under his breath, taking a
seat near the back.
I was surprised that we would
be in class together given that he was king of the world as we knew it. Students like Jeffrey had a weird love-hate relationship
with our faculty. Unlike at public schools where the teachers are clearly running things, here at Copperfield some
of the parents and students treated faculty members more like hired help. I guess not so weird when you considered the tuition.
Madame Gottfried launched into a dry recitation
of the rules of physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, blah, blah, blah etcetera while
I balanced my phone on my lap and web surfed. No, I wasn’t hitting up Danté. I did have other interests. I
checked out my favorite artist sites, like Sabrina Ward Harrison. I wanted to make my comic strip different this year.
I’m not sure how the drama started since I wasn’t
really paying attention, but all of a sudden I heard Jeffrey say, “But I pay your salary, Madame Gottfried.”
What? Now she may not be the most interesting person in the world but a little respect please! Maybe I took it so personally
because my mother was faculty because no one else seemed to be reacting.
Madame Gottfried twirled a piece of chalk between her fingers. “All I am saying, Jeffrey, is
that if you have a problem with my teaching style we can speak privately.”
“But you’re boring us publicly,” he said. A general “oooooh”
went around the room. I waited for someone to defend Madame G. I mean, come on. The woman is about 5’4”, 80
years old, and weighs a buck o’five at the most. No one snickered, so I guess that’s good. We were too old to
think that disrespecting a teacher was cool. Who did Jeffrey think he was? The Fonz? Eddie Haskel? Dylan McKay? This wasn’t
Nick at Night. Someone had to step up. Still, no one said anything.
I looked over at Moira, and she like the other girls in the class looked like she might never speak
in a classroom again now that we had male co-stars. The dudes in the class didn’t want to get on Jeffrey’s bad
side. Not that he could really do anything to hurt us that we were aware of. But between him heading student government
and his dad being on the board of trustees, better safe than sorry. I’m not sure what happened but unexpectedly I was
on my feet.
“Jeffrey, you need to apologize
to Madame Gottfried,” my mouth said. Anyone who was dozing woke up. Madame Gottfried didn’t know what to think
and Jeffrey seemed as shocked as I was. Although we’d been in the school together for thirteen years, I doubt that
we’d ever had a conversation.
an eyebrow. I walked over to his desk, put a hand on his Brooks Brothers shoulder and said, “Say It.”
Ok. Now my imagination has gotten me into trouble more than
once but I swear that this next part is the gospel truth.
As I touched Jeffrey I felt an electric spark and suddenly we were transported into a room alone together that
looked like a huge metal box. We were surrounded by tremendous pieces of ice. It was freezing. Like a stormy ice forest.
As I tried to place myself, Jeffrey took a cynical step toward me, a strange cloudy grey aura all around him. He picked
up a sword, bared fangs and I jumped. I mean, he was right in my face but I did not flinch. I was in shock.
“Next time,” he said, put both of his hands
on my shoulders and we were right back in the classroom. It was like a blip.
“Sorry Madame Gottfried,” Jeffrey Robbins said, never taking his eyes off of me.
Whoa. Ok. I still had Goosebumps from the cold
air. That was wild, but to be honest with you, stuff like that used to happen all the time when I was around 5, then it stopped
until the big episode last year. It was like my daydreams became real. Really real.
Weirdness aside, what was really important was that I amassed major cool points by standing
up to Jeffrey. With students and faculty. A twofer. That never happens. The rest of the morning was a breeze! Physics,
History, Latin. The teachers were extra nice. I was only surprised that by now Danté had made no effort to seek me
out. All Good. Fourth period Newsroom. It was coming. It was coming. It was here.
Fourth period. I felt like I was marching down the chapel aisle as I walked down the hall
to the designated spot. Technically this was my lunch hour, but who needed food? My butt could stand to lose a few anyway.
Finally. I entered the newspaper lab. In addition to my comic column, Danté and I together were responsible for the
layout and design of the school paper. He didn’t really need to do it with his whole Co-President thing, but I’d
like to think that he still signed up to do it just to spend time with me.
Ms. Macintosh, who was also the newspaper advisor wasn’t there yet. Already in the lab
were a few of Middle School kids working on their pages, and a couple of Upper School faces. They were all cracking
up over some joke. High Schoolers.
Everyone looked up kind of nervously,
unmoving, speechless. That’s right. Being a senior had its privileges, I thought. Finally, a freshman girl who I recognized
as Carter Astor spun her monitor around.
was a disconnect between my eyes and my brain, and when my head caught up I realized that I was staring at myself on the
screen. I looked down at the row of computers near the door. Every single one had my face on it. It was the clever Rorylicious
video that I sent to Danté. I stared for a minute hypnotized and confused by my own stupid image. Remain calm.
“Where did you get this, Carter!?”
“Was on all the screens when we got here. On everyone’s
phone too,” Carter said matter-of-factly.
How... “ I started to ask and then I realized that this was useless. Danté? It couldn’t be my Danté.
But the only people who had the video were Danté and Aleksis. Smiley face my behind! It had to be him. Oh my God!
But why? For Jeffrey?
“Restart the computers,
Carter,” I said in a low controlled voice. “And have your ideas ready by the time Ms. Macintosh arrives. She
likes to get started right away.”
nodded at the other students and they shut down their computers. I shuffled through the assignments folder trying not to
die inside. OMG. I was proud of the way that I was handling this meltdown-worthy situation. Cool. Collected. Calm. Then Danté
“Hey, hey,” he
said with the zest of a politician on a campaign stop. He grinned his million-dollar smile. He reached out a hand, “Rory…”
“You are lower than scum,” I said, looking him
right in the eye. Danté glanced around the room with a BS question mark on his face. “ We may not be your glitzy,
tacky Hollyweird crowd, but we do matter. ” By we of course I meant I. “And you know what Danté?”
His eyes searched mine as I continued. “I feel sorry for us as a student body that we have to put up with you. Jeffrey
by himself would have been better.”
I headed for the door Danté grabbed my arm. A bolt of energy shot up my spine and I saw a weird momentary vision
of us in a garden. “Don’t touch me,” I shouted, furious. He was not going to ruin my birthday. I was not
completely hysterical. I was not going to go to the bathroom to cry. This was lunchtime, and I was going to lunch!
News travels fast in high schools. School papers are just
to make the faculty happy because trust me, we stay informed. We twitter, text, email with up to the minute coverage. CNN
ain’t got nothing on us. By the time that I reached the cafeteria, I was a tornado. People were clearing out of my
way as I stormed in, and they knew exactly why.
the past, the Danté humiliation would have crippled me. But this was Rory 3.0. Armed and dangerous. Armed with the
knowledge that I only have 1 year left to do time at Copperfield and so no matter what, I am walking into the cafeteria and
owning it. Kind of. Actually, I stood just outside the caf waiting for my girls. As people passed me they gave
a double look. Yeah; look at me. See me. I exist.
heard,” Krissy said rounding the corner. “We play it like you’re totally above it.”
“Never happened.” I nodded, and we moved forward
to the line and casually filled our trays.
she said loudly. “AP Calculus is insane. And then the worst part is that after class my brain keeps working on it.
“So you’re solving
calculus probs right now?” I asked, just as loud. It was like we were doing a PSA for the hearing impaired. But strangely,
the whole shrug it off approach was working. The people who were mumbling about me and looking for a reaction now went on
about their business. That’s right, popularity pact, bitches. Screw Danté.
“Yup.” Krissy adjusted her suspenders. “Solving problems right now.”
“Dang. My brain is basically still just trying to get
from A to B.“ Aleksis was late as usual. “Let’s just go in,” I told Krissy.
Then we went for it. The truth is that Copperfield takes cliquishness to a new
high. Or low depending on where you rank. Because you’ve been to school you know that the caf map breaks down into
sub groups: athletes of brutish sports, athletes of brain sports, debaters, obsessors, mathletes, glad to be ho girls, pretending
they are not ho girls, pretending they are players boys, total players boys and girls, artsies, fartsies, drama kids, post-emos,
goths, preps, stoners, fakers, bridge and tunnelers, ethnic groups, chess club, tech geeks…
When I was younger, thoughts of the caf would send me into sweats. High
school cafeterias are hateration central. Appropriately, we nicknamed ours “Café Terror” although we
don’t have normal Grade D school food. We have an actual chef and the meals are scrumptious. And just like a
classy restaurant, the prime real estate was near the front, meaning that you had to walk past the high profile kids to
make it to your table. I saw that the UN had moved up the middle of the Caf. The UN was what we called my clique. You got
me, the Guyanese sensation, Krissy, the fake Dominican Cubano, Fat Boy and Jessica Hellman repping for rich white people,
Daniela Kang of the Asian Persuasion, Biracial Bailey and Thomas Hellman. And Aleksis, depending on which way the wind was
blowing. We were a mish mash but we all had each other’s back.
We sat down and everyone started talking at once and showing me their phones with the asinine video
sent from an anonymous school account.
it,” Krissy said.
Thomas Hopkins, football player and
also a senior sat down. There was enough food on his tray for 10 people. “Rory, do you want me to give that man a
pounding?” Thomas was 6’ 3” and 210 pound but cool your heels, ladies. Thomas was as gay as the day is
long, and smashed any stereotypes or gaydar you might have to smithereens.
“No Thomas, thank you,” I played with my salad.
“Rory is being the bigger person,” Jessica said, munching one of the chef’s
famous rolls. Jessica was forever trying to build up a booty because she couldn’t afford implants.
“Over it,” I said.
“What happened to your tiara,” Thomas asked Krissy.
“Oh yeah,” I realized. “Where is it?”
“Too much pressure.” Krissy fluffed her fro. “Too much to
live up to.” She looked at me and smiled, hand over braces. “Perfect for the birthday girl!”
“Guess you’re not feeling Rorylicious, Krissy?”
Daniela said. I contemplated tossing my grape juice in her face.
“Ha ha,” I said instead.
the situation was fabu. It was fun to hang with my peeps. We gossiped and caught up until lunchtime was almost over.
We’d made it through halfway though the first day of school with no real scars. Your girl felt good. People were
filing out of the cafeteria. Then Thomas pointed out Danté. He was looking my way. I rolled my eyes and turned to
“Pretend that what I am saying
is hilarious,” I said, and everyone left at the table howled.
“You know… You can gain more cred by scorning Danté than by being with him,”
Krissy said, and then threw her head back into fake fits of laughter.
It worked. Shite! Danté was coming over. Yeah. Grovel. And I was not going to give him the time
of day or satisfaction. Except that I was sure that everyone could see my heart beating outside of my sweater. Luckily the
caf was emptying out because everyone remaining, including Aleksis and Emma at the front table, were staring at the showdown.
I was moving in slow motion. I mean Danté was moving in slow motion. The whole thing was just confusing. Maybe he’ll
just go away, I thought. But I think that you know the flow of my life well enough to know that he bee-lined right for us.
Um, me. Gorg-e-us.
“Don’t fall for
it,” Daniela said as he approached.
I need to talk to you.” Dante folded his suit jacket over his arm.
“Hmph.“ I felt superbad. Like, yeah, throw yourself at my feet in apology.
Then… Ok. I am pretty sure that at that point I blacked
out. Here’s what I am able to piece together based on the statements of eyewitnesses, er, Krissy, Aleksis and the
We heard them before we saw them.
Singing. Someone was singing Happy Birthday. It seemed strange because no middle or lower schoolers shared our lunch period.
The people singing had some kind of accent. Caribbean. There were about twenty people still eating with most having left
already or near the exits. I looked over and started shaking my head no. Yup. It was my mom, dad, Destiny and Gran Gran
Chia. They were carrying a cake. With seventeen flaming candles and one for good luck. In the middle of the high school cafeteria.
On the first day of school, senior year. On the only second cool day of my entire life. Forget arguing in a frozen ice storm
with Jeffrey. This was the mother of all signs of the apocalypse.
And yes, they kept singing. “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Rory, Happy
Birthday to you.” Danté looked at them, chuckled, and then looked at me. I closed my eyes and tried to
will myself to drop dead on the spot. I’ve read that in moments of fear soldiers have done it. The mortification was
beyond. I was dying for sure.
Dad descended upon
me and pinched my cheeks back to life. “Oh my big girl,” he said. “You didn’t think we’d let
such a milestone pass with no cake. You love cake.” Dad patted my stomach.
Emma must have paid my family off. That’s what was happening. Daniela and Jessica grabbed
their books and moved for the exit as if my parents were contagious.
“Seventeen, girlie.” Gran Gran started repeating 17 for some reason as if she was
“special” and clapping. Destiny was offering to cut the cake. I think that Krissy or someone was gripping
“You thought that you would escape
us?” Mom said. “This is your big day, baby.”
Danté looked like he was stifling laughter. “I’ll leave you to your family,”
he said, backing away from the scene as if we were dangerous crazies. And we were.
“So what do you have to say, Rory? Do you have a wish?” Mom asked.
“Stay cool,” Krissy whispered. Easy for her to
“I hate you,” I screamed at my
mother. “What were you thinking?”
looked at my mother then father then back again. They started arguing with each other over whose idea it was. I grabbed
my stuff and ran out into the stairwell not knowing where else to go. The stupid card system wouldn’t allow me to exit
the school without tripping an alarm. I tunneled through and hid underneath the stairs and balled up into a knot. As I brought
my head to my knees, the stupid tiara hit the ground.