I’m starting to think I should make a series of these called Things I Wish the Main Character Teenage Girl Would Say Instead of Whatever Insecure Thing Actually Comes Out of Her Mouth
So far, Kate’s first day at her new high school had been going…well enough. Math was a bummer, as always, and worse they had her repeating trigonometry even though she’d already done it back in Meadowville because ‘all juniors take trigonometry here.’ At least it was a guaranteed A. Okay, a guaranteed B. They were letting her take an art class and the band class at the same time, at least, which was a big step-up from Meadowville’s policy.
The girl they’d assigned to show her around, Nadia, was nice, too. Really nice. Actually, she might have made a friend. After leaving her whole life back in Meadowville, it would be nice to have someone to hang out with this weekend instead of sadly trolling her friends Instagrams and Tiktoks to see what they were up to. Like she had been. For the past three weeks.
“I usually sit over there, by the window,” Nadia said, pointing. The cafeteria, like the rest of East Carver High, was huge compared to what she was used. A cavern, rising to steel rafters that took every shout and laughter from the students below and amplified it so the students would have to shout even more, painted in bright school colors sometime late in the last millennium, the only light of any substance the sun coming in through the dirty windows on the west wall. Also, whatever was being served for lunch today smelled like farts. Thank God for her Thor lunchbox.
“Oh, hi, Nadia.”
Kate turned around to find a girl who completely did not fit with everything she had seen today or was currently surrounded by. Everyone else was a normal high school kid having a normal high school kid day. Lots of sweat pants. Lots of home-made t-shirts for whatever after school thing they did. Track and field. Marching band. Robotics club. Meanwhile, this girl who had come up behind them and the other girls behind her were dressed like they were late for a music video audition. The girl who had spoken was wearing what looked like designer clothes, a skirt and a blouse with such a deep cut between the breasts Kate was immediately embarrassed and worried for her, and carrying either an actual Louis Vuitton bag or a fake so good it really didn’t matter. Given the Gucci branded hair clip holding back her waves of blonde hair, Kate guessed it was the former.
The new girl didn’t give Nadia time to speak before looking Kate up and down.
“And who is this?”
Please, just give them a chance, her mother had said before she had left. Since the reason they had moved two towns over was because her mom had found out her dad had been screwing his coffee boy for the past eight years, Kate was willing to whatever made her mother happy.
Kate smiled. “I’m Kate, I just moved here from Meadowville.”
The smile on the girl’s face broadened. “What a shock, I’d never have guessed!” she said brightly. Too brightly. “Well, welcome to East Carver. I guess. I’m sure it’s all a bit of a shock for you, huh?”
“Not too bad,” Kate said with a shrug. “And you are?”
The two girls behind her giggled as the girl swung her purse so it was in full view. “Emily Reinstadt.”
Kate got the feeling she was supposed to recognize the name. Maybe at least the last name? But how was Kate supposed to know anyone here?
“Okay, nice to meet you,” Kate lied.
Emily shuffled her feet, trying to hide how upset she was that Kate hadn’t recognized her. Local politician’s daughter, maybe. Or a businessman.
Nadia tugged at her elbow. “Come on, Kate. We should eat.”
“Yes, don’t want to miss a meal,” Emily said. “I’m sure you’ll fun have on…that side of the cafeteria. Looks like you’ll fit right in.”
Kate glanced over her shoulder, and then at Nadia. She had been all smiles and jokes all day. Now she was staring at her feet, looking like she was waiting to be dismissed by the principal.
Instantly, Kate was exhausted.
“Oh, I get it,” she said, stopping Emily mid-hair toss. “You’re the class bitch.”
Emily’s mouth dropped open in surprise and hung there for at least two seconds. The other girls gasped and took a step back, like bad language might be catching. Finally, Emily’s brain caught up and her mouth snapped close.
“Or maybe not the class bitch. One of many, perhaps. I haven’t seen the whole school?” She turned it into a question, looking at Nadia. She was staring at her with eyes so wide they could have fallen out.
“I don’t know where you get off calling me that,” Emily said. “I have been nothing but nice to you.”
“No, no you haven’t. You’ve been pretending to be nice while insulting me. And Nadia. And that half of the cafeteria, come to think of it.”
“If you read into it, you-”
“There’s no reading into anything,” Kate said. “You’re negging me.”
“Wow. I’ve never been negged in daylight before. Usually it’s at some shitty club in the city. And it’s being done by some skinny guy named Skeeter with a lot of stupid tattoos and an ugly hat.”
Emily narrowed her eyes. “There’s no way in hell someone like you has been to clubs in the city.”
“Oh, why? Because I’m from Meadowville, and we’re all farm-fresh hicks out there? We’re just as far from downtown there as we are here in East Carver.”
Emily shuffled her bag again, but this time it was to hide it behind her back. Maybe it was a fake.
“You can’t be mean to me. My father-”
“Don’t care. Nadia, how much time do we have left before the bell rings?”
“Uh…twenty minutes. Give or take.”
“Let’s go eat then. I’m bored with this conversation.”
Kate walked off, bring Nadia with her, aware of the eyes on the back of her head.
“You let her talk to you that way?”
“I mean, she’s always like that. She’s always been like that. Even when we were friends-”
Kate reared back in horror. “You were friends with that thing?”
Behind her, she heard Emily scream.