"You're all registered now," Anne said. "Miss Jordan will show you to your first class, and I'll pick you up at four. Okay, Jess?"
"Um, sure," Nasty said. She adjusted her backpack.
"And if you need me during the day, call me on my cell phone."
"Take care, Jess." Anne kissed Nasty lightly on the cheek.
"I'll show her to her first class," Jordan said. "Don't worry about your daughter, Mrs. Hathaway. I'm sure, in no time, she'll fit right in."
"Bye, Mom," Nasty said. She watched as Anne left.
"Jessica, if you'll follow me, I'll show you where your locker is," Jordan said.
"Thanks." Nasty followed Jordan upstairs. She saw several girls standing around, talking to each other. All wore the same uniform, a white blouse with a red tie, a plaid skirt ending mid-thigh, and black shoes. Some wore a tan jacket with the school's emblem. Several of the girls looked over at Nasty. Great. They know I don't belong. I told Anne this wasn't going to work. She forced herself to smile back at the girls.
"Here we are," Jordan said. "Put your coat in here. We don't allow any outerwear in our classrooms during class. Right now, most of our students are either involved with a club or practicing a sport. We expect everyone to join at least one club and one team. You don't have to join one right away, but let me know by the end of the week what interests you."
Nasty reluctantly took off her overcoat. She pulled on the hem of her skirt, trying to stretch it. Damn it!' she cursed silently. I hate this fucking outfit. She slung her backpack over her shoulder. "Alright." Not going to worry about a club. I'm gone at the end of the week.
"Your first class is Physics, right?" Jordan said.
Nasty fished her schedule out of her backpack. "It is," she answered, glancing at the paper.
"It's down on the first floor," Jordan said. She led Nasty through the halls and downstairs. "Your locker is near your homeroom, which is every Tuesday morning. You're expected to keep your locker presentable, but we don't make formal inspections. Ah, here we are." Jordan motioned for Nasty to enter the room. "Jane, you're here early," Jordan said, seeing a girl reading at a lab bench. "Jane, this is Jessica. Can you show her around today?"
Jane looked up and adjusted her glasses. "Hi, Jessica. Sure, Miss Jordan, I'll show her around."
"Thanks, Jane. Jessica, if you have any questions, you can always stop by my office."
"Thanks," Nasty said. She watched Jordan walk out of the room, then sat down beside the girl. "So, Jane, right?"
"Call me Rusty," the girl said. She waved one of her reddish-brown pigtails with her hand. "New in town?"
"Your parents moved in the middle of the semester?"
"Yeah." I told Anne that someone would ask.
"Where are you from? New York?"
"Yeah." C'mon, girl. You're supposed to be friendly here.'
"Not that talkative, are you?"
"Ye--" Nasty cut herself off. "First day nerves."
"Don't worry about it," Rusty said. "And don't mind Jordan. She's nosy, but manageable. There's others that you have to watch out for." She looked up and waved at a girl with short blonde hair entering the classroom. "Hey, Sylvie!"
"Hi, Rusty." Sylvie waved back.
"Syl, this is Jessica."
Sylvie offered her hand. "I'm Sylvia Delaney."
"Hi." Nasty shook Sylvie's hand.
"Rusty, have you warned her about certain people yet?"
"Just getting to that," Rusty answered. "I just didn't know who to start with."
"The school is full of cliques," Sylvie explained. "There's a few people, like Rusty, who don't care, but some can make your life hell here."
"Would you move already!" a voice roared in the hallway.
"Case in point," Rusty said. "Stormie Michaels. As long as you don't get on her bad side, you're safe."
"She's not as bad as others," Sylvie said. "At least Stormie lets you know if she doesn't like you, and she'll eventually let go of a grudge."
Wonderful, Nasty thought. Sounds just like Sewer. She forced a smile. "It's not going to be easy for a new girl here, is it?"
"You'll get used to it," Rusty said. "You must have run into the same thing at your old school."
"I did. I just didn't get it."
"Good thing you met us first." Sylvie brushed back a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. "We'll help you get through everything."
A new girl burst into the room, her light brown hair trailing behind her. Nasty, Rusty, and Sylvie all looked over to the newcomer. The girl glared back as she strode briskly to her seat. She dropped her books on her lab bench, never taking her eyes off her audience.
"Do you mind?" the girl asked. "Who's the newbie?"
"Stormie, this is Jessica," Rusty introduced. "Jess, this is Mary-Elizabeth Michaels."
Nasty stood up. She walked around the lab bench into the aisle. Stormie watched carefully. If this was Rohatyn, I'd have to beat her up at lunch, Nasty thought. I could take her. She walked up to Stormie, holding out her hand. With a firm grip, Stormie shook Nasty's hand. The two girls locked gazes. Trying to intimidate me, huh? I've had an entire fucking football team try it. You're nothing. Nasty fought the urge to grip Stormie's hand tighter. Back off, Natasha. Anne wants you to make friends here. She won't understand beating up this bitch. She loosened her grip slightly.
Stormie's eyes narrowed. "Jessica," she snorted.
"Mary-Elizabeth," Nasty returned.
Stormie returned to her seat and pulled out her books. Nasty tried to hear the other girl's muttering, but couldn't pick out any words. She sat back down beside Rusty. "Anyone else I should be warned about?"
"Cynthia and Emily," Rusty answered. "They should be here with their entourage soon."
Other students filed into the room over the next few minutes. Nasty paid attention to a set of twins who entered. Both twins had light blonde hair, though one kept her hair short. They separated, going to seats on opposite sides of the classroom. Nasty returned to watching the door. More girls entered, singly and in pairs. A small commotion outside the door grabbed Nasty's attention. A large group of girls walked into the room. In the centre was another set of twins, this time with bright red hair. Two of the girls in the group dashed to one of the lab benches and pulled out the stools. The twins sat down, allowing the girls to push the stools closer to the lab bench.
"Cynthia and Emily," Rusty explained, seeing Nasty's expression.
"Does this happen every day?"
"Oh, no. Sometimes their flunkies fight to see who gets to suck up to them."
"I'm not. It's been like this since Cynthia and Emily started in September."
"They're new here, too?" It can't be this easy. I think I've found them. Great! I can blow this popsicle stand.
"New enough, I suppose. Just try to avoid them for now." Rusty noticed the teacher entering the room. "I'll fill you in on all the groups to watch out for when we have lunch."
"Thanks." I really hate high school.
Nasty wrung out the the last droplets of water in her hair before starting to comb it out. At least this class I understood, she thought. I really need Eric's help with the homework from this morning. There's no way I'm ever going to understand all those equations. She adjusted her skirt. I hate this fucking uniform! Nasty checked the time. I better get going. Rusty's expecting me.
Grabbing her backpack, Nasty dashed out of the change room. She hurried through the halls, avoiding the clusters of girls gathered around lockers. Several girls she recognized from her morning classes waved at her. Nasty waved back, trying to smile. Finally, she reached the cafeteria. She saw Rusty at a seat near the front window. "Have you been waiting long?"
"Nah," Rusty said.
Nasty noticed a notebook in front of her new friend. Oh, great. She had enough time to do homework. I am late. "I didn't mean to stay in the shower for so long."
"That's fine, Jess."
"But if you had time to do homework --"
"This?" Rusty pointed at her notebook. "This isn't homework. It's just something I work on from time to time."
Nasty glanced again at the book. Rusty's casual scrawl covered the open pages. "Are you sure?"
"Jess, I had a spare this period. I don't like the idea of getting hot and sweaty with a bunch of girls. Now will you relax?"
"Alright." Careful, Nasty. She's getting upset with you. You can't afford to lose her - she knows everything about this place. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. How has your day been?"
"Okay, I guess. I hope this afternoon's classes are easier."
"You'll get caught up. Why don't I help you after school today? We can meet in the library."
"Tonight? Mom's supposed to be picking me up." Don't push her away. "Can I call you after I find out what Mom wants?"
"Sure." Rusty tore a page from her notebook and scribbled her phone number. "Here. Call me after four-thirty."
Nasty slipped the paper into a textbook. "Thanks." She sat down across from Rusty.
"So, tell me about Jessica Hathaway."
"Huh?" She can't be serious.
"What does Jessica think about Rochester; does she have a boyfriend or a girlfriend; does she drive; what sports is she interested in; what do her parents do for a living? I told you about everyone here. Your turn."
"Um, well, I'm from New York."
"I could tell from your accent."
"Rochester is . . . different. Not as busy."
"And what about a significant other?"
"I just moved here."
"What about back in New York?"
"Well . . .." I shouldn't tell her.
"Well? You do have a boyfriend?"
"Not exactly." Rusty won't know anyone I mention. Maybe I should tell her.
"A girlfriend then?"
"You can't leave me hanging like this, Jess. Do you or don't you have a boyfriend?"
"I don't, not really, but there was this one guy in my last school I kinda liked."
"'Kinda liked,' huh?"
"Yes, 'kinda liked'." Nasty glared at Rusty.
"Touchy. Jess, you're not going to be teased about it if that's what you're afraid of."
"It's not. It's just that I've never even told Er-- told him how I feel. I'm not even sure what I'm feeling." Nasty sighed. I miss him.
"Go get your lunch and have a seat," Rusty said.
Nasty sat down across from her guide and pulled two wrapped sandwiches out of her backpack. She noticed that Rusty didn't have anything in front of her other than her books. "Not eating?" Nasty asked.
"I was waiting for you so we could get something. I didn't know you were going to brown-bag it." Rusty stood up. "I'll go get something now. You go ahead and start. Want anything?"
"You sure? Won't those sandwiches be dry without anything to drink?"
Nasty hesitated before answering. "Sure. Coke, if they have it."
"All they've got is milk and juice."
"Chocolate milk, then. They do have that, right?"
"They do. Back in a bit!"
Nasty watched Rusty get in the line up at the counter. I don't fit here. Rusty's going to realize that soon. Look at me. I made my lunch. I'll bet none of the other girls here did. I have no idea what I'm doing in any of my classes except Gym. When I meet Anne tonight, I'll tell her I found the bitches and she can take care of the rest. That way, I can leave here and no one will remember me. Nasty unwrapped one of her sandwiches. I really miss home. I'm beginning to miss Sewer, for fuck's sake. I miss Eric and, God help me, Mom. She felt her eyes tearing up. Get with the program, girl. Don't let anyone see you cry. They'll only think you're weak. Nasty blinked away her tears.
Rusty returned to the table with another girl in tow. "Jess, do you mind if Sylvie joins us?"
"No, not at all." Nasty heard her voice break. She bit off a large chunk of her sandwich to avoid having to say anything more.
[End Issue 22]
Next: On the trail of Cinder and Ember