High School: Junior Year (Chapter 4)
The Year That Solidifies Your Place in the High School Food Chain
The rest of the first month of school went by faster than usual, it seemed. There were a few times I walked to school without Ralfie. He would send me a text either the night before or the morning of saying that he had to be at the school early to get some practice in with the guys before first period. It felt weird walking up to the front lawn of the school by myself. The first couple of weeks Ralfie would usually meet us under tree, but lately his pre-practice practice would run all to the first bell that I didn’t see him until lunch. It was a good thing that the tree we all hung out under was close by. It minimized the amount of time people saw me walking alone.
Jeanette started sitting with us in the mornings. She acclimated really well with our friend group. She even started to bring a blanket big enough for her and Emma to sit on; rather than sitting on the grass. Surprisingly, Emma took to her really well. Emma wasn’t used to having to get to know new people, in fact, she hated it. But Jeanette seemed to have won her over. One day when Wes tried to sit on the blanket, cozying up next to Jeanette, Emma told him that the blanket was a penis-less spot. Wes hitting on Jeanette was starting to become routine for our group in the morning. We all knew that it was harmless fun. Jeanette was a great sport about it. She had told him that nothing was ever going to happen, but of course, Wes being Wes, he was determined to change her mind.
When the first bell rang I would help Jeanette fold the blanket and we’d walk and talk for the first two classes of the day. After Biology, I was left thinking about her afterward until we met for lunch. I found it really easy to talk to her. It was like I didn’t have to force conversation topics just to keep the momentum going. We talked about everything. I found out that she moved to Fabiola because her mom got a job at the same law firm that mine and Ralfie's dads work at. I remembered my dad mentioning a new coworker a few months ago, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Throughout our talks, she’s revealed quite a bit of personal information. I know that she’s a milk chocolate lover, but when she gets stressed out or nervous she eats dark chocolate. Her favorite color is the same as mine, grass green. I thought the color just looked cool but explained that she likes it because just like grass, we portray different colors throughout our lives. Green is the healthiest, white is a deficiency of something in our lives, and brown is the decaying of our souls. It made sense when she explained it.
I’ve asked to keep an ear out for Jeanette, Wes hadn’t heard anything about when the Cheers were going to talk to her. I didn’t know what I would do but I just found myself worried for her. It wasn’t until the third week of school when Wes ran up to me in the lunch, “I heard the Cheers are going to talk to Jeanette today during lunch.” What? Why would the Cheers want to do it out in public? Could it be because they found out that she had been taking fighting classes since she was nine and they had to strategize? I didn’t know what to think, so I started thinking of ways on how I could get Jeanette out of the cafeteria but the longer I kept her away the worse the situation would get with the Cheers and then I’d be directly involved. It would be like poking a beast while it’s in its cage.
I was waiting in line for food with Ralfie when Wes told us what he heard. We all looked over to where Jeanette sat at our table conversing with Eric. “What should I do, man?” I asked Ralfie.
“I don’t know, bro. You don’t want to make the Cheers go after you too. People are starting to talk about how you claimed the new girl. A few days ago Jax even asked me if y’all were together or not so he could make his move. Chelsea even said that she didn’t think you were cute until she saw you with Jeanette. The whole school could possibly be thinking the same thing!” he said. “Do you know what that means?!” he added.
“What?” I asked.
“Dude! If things go bad for Jeanette, she could end up bringing you down with her,” he said.
“Ralfie you’re a jock, can’t you tell them to leave Jeanette alone?”
“I may be on varsity and I may be on talking terms with the jocks but I can’t even get the Cheers to look at me. According to John, just because I’m on the team doesn’t mean that I’ve acquired the ‘jock’ status. I have to do something on the field to earn it and since our first game isn’t until Friday, I’m powerless. Keith pulled a hammy the other day and I’m subbing for him, so I’ll see what I can do after I prove myself,” he said.
“Dude! You’re actually gonna be in the game? That’s awesome! When did this happen?” I asked.
“I found out yesterday at practice,” he said with a beaming smile.
“Why didn’t you text me?” It wasn’t like Ralfie to not tell me these sort of things.
“Honestly I thought I dreamt it until James, on defense, came to congratulate me.” His excitement was unmeasurable. We had reached our usual table when Jeanette congratulated Ralfie before he could even sit down. “Thanks Jean,” he said. Jean had started to circulate as a nickname for Jeanette. I assume she didn’t mind since she didn’t correct anyone when we called her that. Wes started calling her that because the nickname reminded him of his favorite X-Men character, Jean Grey.
“So tell me, how bad is it?” she asked.
“What are you talking about?” I tried to pretend like I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I wasn’t doing a good job of it.
“I know you know. Three people came and wished me luck before I even stepped foot inside the cafeteria. Whats up with these chicks? Why are people so afraid of them?” The sound in the cafeteria lowered to a slow murmur. Elena, the head cheerleader, was standing right behind Jean. Jean turned around and there she was with her arms crossed and her black hair pulled back into her usual peppy pony-tail style. She used to have hair so long that it reached pasted her butt. I heard, from Wes, that when she cut it she donated it to a little girl from some third world country. I don’t know how true that was but she looked amazing either way.
“We ‘chicks’ run this school, if you hadn’t noticed,” Elena said her pony-tail swaying left and right although her head didn’t even move. Maybe it was the pep and cheer in her that oozed out so much it moved her hair? I don’t know, but it was definitely something scientists should take a great interest in. Selena and Alana were standing behind her, the backup girls as we all know them. The three always went everywhere together. Well more like Selena and Alana followed Elena around. Wes said that they spoke to the school counselor every year to make sure that they all had the same classes. But that some of the teachers wished they didn’t have them in their class. Elena's mom was on the school board so they were afraid that if she complained to her mom about anything in their class they’d get sacked. Rumor was that that was why Mrs. Gray the English teacher didn’t return this year all because Mrs. Gray wouldn’t accept essays on pink paper. Elena had power over people and she knew how to use it.
She turned to look at Erik, who was sitting next to Jean and staring with his mouth wide open at Elena.
“If you don’t mind?” She gestured to Erik to move. I don’t think that he heard her right away because he continued to stare at her for a few more seconds. Emma had to kick him under the table for him to move.
Elena sat down on the seat in the most posh way, it could have made any high-class British woman jealous. “Jean is it?” she asked.
“Its Jeanette, actually.” Jean’s response wasn’t that of fear like everyone else usually talked to Elena with. The altercation was happening right in front of me and I could see that Jean’s face was unchanging. She was new to the school so I would say that her lack of Cheer conversational etiquette should be excused, but that was just me.
When Jean corrected Elena you could see Selena and Alana’s eyes slightly widen. My guess they were both wondering what Elena was going to say or do next. The only change to Elena's face was that she pursed her lips, which made her look like she was smiling but venomous at the same time.
“I know you’re new to the school and I would like to personally welcome you to Luis David High. I hope your…” she took a look Emma, Ralfie, and I before she continued talking, “these people have gotten you up to speed with how things work around here. I would be more than happy to assist. I would hate for you to get lost in the translation of it all. We wouldn’t want what happened on the first day of school to be repeated now do we?”
Scuff. That was the sound that came out Jean! A scuff was all she mustered to what Elena said. Murmurs ran throughout the cafeteria. I didn’t think it was possible but Selena and Alana’s eyes got even wider. I saw more white than their actual eye. Elena's face went back to pursing her lips but her eyes were fire. They looked like if they had the power of laser beams, they would have ignited right then and there. I wasn’t aware that I had started to hold my breath in until my head started hurting.
“I’m sorry, did I say something funny?” Elena asked with a little hint of poison.
Jean grabbed her milk and took a sip out of the straw while staring at her. Since she had corrected Elena about her name, she had yet to say anything during throughout the encounter.
“Since you look like one to waste time, why don’t I just get straight to the point. You’re just the new girl so I can’t hold you to the same standards as the rest of these people because I understand that it takes some time to get used to how things work around here. This is just an example of how humble I can be.” What happened next was nothing I, or anyone else, had ever thought of.
“How arrogant can you be?” Jean asked. Elena's pursed lips turned into a smile. This was it. This was the moment that Elena was going to pounce and attack Jeanette. This was the moment that students would hand write in the school history books as the moment that the leader of the Cheers was insulted for the first time ever.
“What she means is that she understands and she’ll make sure to catch up,” I reactively respond. I couldn’t help but interject. I couldn’t tell if Jean was scared, but I sure was. Both Elena and Jean turned to look at me. I couldn’t believe that I had said something. I swear it wasn’t something that I was thinking of doing, it just happened. I could feel my heart literally beating against my rib cage. My heartbeat drowned out most of my hearing, my palms were starting to sweat badly, and I think I sort of just peed a little.
“I’ll assume that you’ll brief her on how all of this works?” Elena said to me. This was not how I pictured my first conversation, as little as it may be, with Elena to go. Her stare struck fear into my very core.
“He isn’t my keeper and that isn’t what I meant. You and the sports players have got this school wrapped around your little fingers. It's unjust.” Elena stood up and refilled her place back in the middle of Selena and Alana. She extended her hand and Alana gave her a folder. A folder that Elena then gave to Jean.
Jean opened the folder. It was too far away I wasn’t able to read what was in it. All I could tell was that it was a newspaper clipping. Jean shut the folder grabbed her backpack and walked straight out of the cafeteria. I looked at Elena as she watched Jean leave the cafeteria with a cold and poisonous smirk displayed. Without turning to look at me, “Go after her. Poor thing is gonna need you.” I just assumed that she was talking to me since no one else moved.