|The Art of High School
Author: FeliciaGray PM
I'm the new girl, but no, I do not have a crush on the most popular guy in school. No one asks me out, and no one bothers me. So where's the story? Well, when someone I love gets trampled by high school politics, I decide to fight back. You mess with the bull, you get the horns. (I'm disliking my summary- a virtual cookie to whoever can write me a better one? Pretty please?)Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Friendship - Chapters: 9 - Words: 50,895 - Reviews: 38 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 18 - Updated: 03-26-13 - Published: 10-03-12 - id: 3062805
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The Art of High School
Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated
"You bitch! You have no right! You think you can just waltz in here and everyone will just start kissing your ass."
"Um…No I think everyone should fall to their knees when I walk past on the red carpet they've rolled out for me, screaming their praises." A scattering of laughter followed my sardonic drawl. She was losing the crowd.
"He was mine, you whore! Go back to that craphole of a country you come from!"
I examine my nails; she's making this too easy. "You know, the currency over there is now around twice what it's worth here."
She laughs derisively. "So now I guess you're going to make some lame-ass joke about how that means you're worth twice what I am or something?"
"No." A pause. "I just thought it would be prudent to point out that if you're going to sell yourself to the highest bidder for a living you'd make more money doing it over there."
Want to know how I got myself into this derogatory mud-slinging competition? Back in the motherland I most definitely would not have been standing in the middle of a hallway with one of the most popular girls from my high school hurling insults at me. Back home I would have been one of the spectators walking by, not really stopping to watch the fight but avoiding eye-contact with the quarrellers to give them some privacy. Things are so different here in the good old US of A.
I miss London.
They say your whole life flashes before your eyes when you're about to die. Luckily I'm not dying so at this point in time I only have to relive a bit of mine.
Stepping off the plane and onto Seattle soil, or rather tarmac was kind of disconcerting. It had been a long flight and I had gotten used to the motion of the plane and the comfortable temperature of the cabin. The sudden bite of winter nipping at my bare shoulders did not immediately endear my new home country to me. I had to remind myself to reserve judgement; approach this with an open mind. I hadn't exactly come from sun-land after all.
As it was night I didn't get a very good look at the city on the drive over to the new house and with my parents' enthused ramblings about how I was going to love it here and all the tourist destinations they planned on taking me before school started up again I wouldn't have noticed much anyway. I sighed as I was finally able to collapse into my newly-made bed. The house that they'd bought was big, far huger than anything we'd have been able to afford in London. Nonetheless, there was a cosy ambience. It had a lived-in feeling that I liked. Unlike most modern buildings it was fully carpeted, and there was even wall-paper as opposed to the more fashionable schemes nowadays.
I knew my mother well enough to know that she had already noted all this and made plans for redecorating but I allowed myself to bask in the simple pleasures, not wanting to feel sorry for myself. That would be too clichéd and I hate clichés. I'm not someone usually prone to drama; I steer clear of it as often as possible. I'd spent my early years living in a small village where everything was everybody's business. If my dad lost his job, everyone knew and gossiped. If my mum and dad were having problems our neighbour with a psychology MA would be on our doorstep offering counselling the next day. Luckily we'd moved into London when I was thirteen and I relished in the anonymity of it. I preferred to keep things simple. Less complication meant less opportunity to get hurt.
Concordantly, when my dad told me that he was quitting his steady banking job that he'd maintained for all my life so that he could start a business with his brother Pete in America I didn't so much as bat an eyelash.
OK, I admit it, when it sunk in that the above would entail him selling our house and moving the three of us to Seattle I was somewhat perturbed. I had used every excuse I could think of, ranging from the fact that I was still in Sixth form and a few months away from my A-Levels to my friends and Saturday job at Currys. My parents are not usually the didactic type but they had batted away my protests with unfeigned patience and ease.
I would be going to University soon anyway, they'd reminded me, and so if I really wanted I could go back to London for that. I would only have to spend two semesters in a High School in Seattle. My friends would be busy with their own revision and I could keep in touch with them through Skype and they could visit as soon as the house was ready and I had always complained about my minimum wage Saturday job.
I might still have argued but then my father had pulled out his trump card. The whole, "Sweetheart we've never asked you for anything before this. And you know I wouldn't ask you for this if it weren't in the family's best interests."
It really wasn't fair that they had to be logical about it, I reflected. They'd followed that stellar speech with a reminder that I'd be in the same high school as my favourite cousin, Dani, and I was gone, hook line and sinker. Dani was adorable, two years my junior but she was just as intelligent if not more so than I was. With the exception of that year she'd visited London every summer consecutively since I was ten and we'd kept in touch through email and sporadic phone conversations. The next day as I awaited her visit I spent the time helping my mother unpack.
Dani and Uncle Peter showed up an hour late as usual but we'd prepared for that, leaving the lasagne my mum had whipped up in the oven at a low temperature. The minute they stepped through the door I was bowled over, "Felicia!" I'm generally not a touchy-feely sort of person but I accepted Dani's exuberance with a smile because I hadn't seen her for over a year. Uncle Peter followed her in and hugged my dad, slapping him on the back.
"Good to see you stateside Ben. Sorry we couldn't make it to the airport."
My dad shook his head grinning, "No you're not. You hate airports; that meeting at the bank was subterfuge. Man up and admit it!"
Uncle Peter feigned astonishment. "I have no idea what you're talking about and will you stop talking shop for one moment? I don't think I've been introduced to this lovely young lady." He placed a palm on my head in an avuncular fashion and beamed at me.
"Yeah Felicia. You look hot." Dani declared. Then snidely, "What happened?"
She was being silly. I hadn't really changed since she'd last seen me. If anything my dark brown hair, boring brown eyes, button nose and full lips were still the same as ever. I didn't have much in the way of curves and I was 5'5 with heels on. I was just me. Nothing to write home about.
I chuckled and shook my head. "It's great to see you guys. Mum's been driving me up the wall; she's already written down a list of jobs for me to do to make our new abode 'presentable'."
Dani frowned. "Don't be badmouthing my favourite aunt. Where is she anyways?"
"Right here," My mum made her appearance, sporting an apron over her smart pinstriped trousers and fitted top. "And I heard that complaint Felicia, don't push your luck. As it is I'm going easy on you because you're jetlagged."
I sighed at this but didn't make any response as I knew she was right. My mum is a cleaning Nazi and a workaholic. Despite having retired from her job as a teacher several years ago she is still in a perpetual state of motion, between tutoring kids and running the house. The upshot is that she's the complete antithesis of my lazy self. Surprisingly, and perhaps despite our extremely different personalities we generally get on well.
Dani grabbed my hand and forcibly dragged me upstairs as the adults chatted. Having viewed my house before me she already knew which room was my bedroom so she plopped down on the bed and surveyed the scattered boxes that I hadn't gotten around to unpacking yet. "You know, you've been here a total of sixteen hours and you've already messed up your room." What can I say? I'm not known for my neatness.
"Don't start." I muttered. "You know mum's gonna be on my back in a few hours. Love the hair by the way."
She ran a hand through her fashionably cut and newly blonde tresses. "Thanks. I wanted a change, so I thought; why the hell not?"
"Blondes have more fun,"
"Yeah but at least brunettes can remember it in the morning. Do you realise how much ammunition you're giving me?" I teased.
Her eyes widened until they were doe-like, "Like, Ohmigawd, I totally didn't think of that." She stuck her tongue out as I laughed. Dani is the exact opposite of a dumb blonde. Don't get me wrong, she often displays ditz-like tendencies, but there is a difference between having a genuinely cheery, if somewhat oblivious attitude and being dumb. But she's not the type to flaunt her intelligence either. She's too easy-going for that. "I picked up your timetable."
"Thanks. What courses am I taking?"
"Classes Felicia. Here we call them classes. Courses are the things that you fancy Brits have three of for dinner."
"And here I thought America had the highest obesity rate." I stated dryly.
She grinned. "I'm just trying to help you out cuz. Your senior year won't be fun if no one can understand a damn thing you say."
"That's OK. You can translate for me."
"Don't be silly. You can't hang out with a sophomore student."
"'Don't tell me what I can't do'."
She rolled her eyes. "You're obsessed with Lost."
"Matthew Fox is fit."
"Hot." She corrected, "And Josh Holloway is hotter."
"I know you are but he's too smooth, too typically charming. I like the hero who's a little rough around the edges."
"I meant that I'm serious about the making friends thing. You're going to be the new girl; everyone's going to want to know who you are and what your story is. If you're seen always hanging around with sophomores it'll be social suicide."
I stared at her. "You've got to be kidding. I'm not going to ignore you at school. The whole point of me going to your school is so that I'm not completely alone."
She rolled her eyes. "You're not going to be. Like I said, you'll be the hot new foreign student; you'll make friends in no time. And I didn't mean you had to ignore me, just…branch out."
I immediately felt a sense of trepidation. "You make it seem like it's going to be a complete mission. I've been to new schools before."
"Not like this you haven't…"
I wish I'd paid attention to that somewhat ominous statement. I probably should have re-packed my things, booked a flight straight back to Heathrow and told my parents I'd spend the rest of the year at my grandparents' house. Unfortunately for me, and the student populace of Ballard High School, I didn't.
OK, that was probably a tad dramatic. But suffice to say I never saw the events which followed coming.
Dani drove me to school slightly early the next morning. Mr Koontz, the Vice Principal had requested it so that I would be able to receive the customary tour of the school and be assigned a locker before registration started. Entering his office at quarter to eight I was fully expecting a stern looking teacher who would lecture me on the etiquette the new school expected of me before escorting me on a brief walk around the building.
I was however, pleasantly surprised to see a portly balding man looking up at me through small watery eyes. Between his ruddy complexion and long lashes which made his eyes virtually indiscernible he was definitely not the curt educator I was used to. He looked like a cross between a panda bear and Santa Claus. As I sat down he leaned out of his chair and shook my hand, smiling in a fatherly manner. Aw.
"Miss Gray, welcome to Ballard High."
"Thank you sir,"
"I've been going over your transcripts and I must say I have high hopes that you will be a valued member of our senior year, and that you'll find your time here an enjoyable experience." He seemed to be working up to something so I allowed the silence to hang for a moment. "A facet of our school which separates us from a lot of the other schools in Seattle is that we strongly encourage participation in all extra-curricular activities here rather than merely pressurising our students in academics alone. Now, if you were at all interested I could have a word with the drama department for you."
I shook my head. "Thanks sir but I don't think I'll have time for any after-school clubs. As I'm only here for a semester I think most of my time will be taken up trying to adjust to the new syllabus and I'll be looking for a part-time job too." I know, I know, how High School Musical of me, right? The truth was I loved acting back in London, but it just wouldn't be the same without my friends there to cheer me on. I'm not an egomaniac but it was the one area of my life where I got attention but I thought since I was only going to be in the States for a semester there would be no point and no time. I might as well fly under the radar for a bit.
He looked slightly disappointed. "I understand. That's a mature attitude; putting your studies first. Should you change your mind however…?"
"You'll be the first to know."
"In that case if you'll follow me I'll show you your locker and we can also take a quick tour." The latter was more what I'd expected; refectory, English block, humanities, sports, assembly hall, lockers. I called Dani's mobile, ahem sorry, "cell" phone after Mr Koontz had left me. She said she'd meet me at my locker after school as unfortunately we did not share our lunch period.
Armed with my timetable and the map of the grounds Koontz had provided me with I made my way to registration. Naturally I was the first one there so I took a sear near the back. This was about the time I felt the first belt of apprehension fasten itself around my stomach. This was ridiculous, yes it was my first day but it's not like the kids here could be any worse than the second secondary school I'd been to in London. The one where half the girls ended up pregnant at the end of year nine and half the guys did some time.
If I survived that I can survive my first day at an American High school, I told myself. My fingers itched to pull out a novel from the bag which was currently by my feet but I resisted the temptation. I didn't want to look like a complete recluse and sabotage my chances of making any friends straight away.
As the first kids filed in I realised that registration was perhaps not the place to be overly sociable. Most of the faces which passed my line of sight looked irritated or else still half-asleep. Not morning people then. One extremely tall and lanky black guy actually seemed to be sleep-walking towards his chair, people jumping out of the way as he went.
Eventually he stopped in front of a pretty red-haired girl who had been talking on her phone, leaned down and stage-whispered, "Hey baby, you smell so good today I don't think I'll be needing any of my other five senses." I barely repressed a snort. The girl let out a small giggle and closed her cell with a tiny click.
She spoke quietly but I still heard her coy reply. "I used herbal essences today."
"Damn girl, you have no idea what kind of imagery just went shooting through my brain."
"Oh, I think I have some idea." She tilted her head slightly, "Aren't you going to open your eyes?"
"And risk being blinded by your luscious locks?"
Another giggle. At this point a couple of other students were watching the pair and their shameless flirting. I couldn't believe how vapid the girl had to be to fall for such cheesy lines. I rolled my eyes and reached down to grab that book out of my bag but the guy to my left nudged me. I'd heard someone else say his name earlier, Jake I think it was.
"Keep watching," He murmured, not taking his eyes off the pair.
I frowned and looked at them again. The girl was whining, "Tyrooone. Open them."
"When you say my name like that how could I not?" Tyrone opened his eyes; they were a cute hazel colour and were glazed over.
"Oh," The girl seemed disappointed.
He blinked, "What's wrong?"
"My horoscope today said I'd sleep with someone tall, dark and…brown-eyed. Sorry, you fall just short of the mark there." She patted his shoulder consolingly, "Better luck next time."
He looked shocked, "Wha-?"
"What's the matter?" She asked doe-eyed. "Did I hit a sore spot? Do you come up short a lot of the time?" Her eyes trailed downwards leaving her audience no doubt as to what she was implying. Scattered laughter ensued- mostly the girls. Although her method was indelicate my respect for the girl grew in leaps and bounds.
Tyrone looked about ready to break something. Jake (the guy next to me) took that moment to jump out of his seat and grab Tyrone's arm, "Come on man, you don't need to dignify that with an answer."
"That's right!" Tyrone said loudly, "I don't know what she be so mad about anyways." He took the seat on the other side of Jake to me, muttering "Lesbian." Another round of laughter followed, mostly the guys in the room.
Our form tutor entered the room and started attendance. I was thankful that she was mostly apathetic and didn't seem to have any intention of doing the whole embarrassing "and class we have a new student today" speech. When she called my name a few people turned around but mostly everyone carried on with their conversations.
"New girl-Felicia." Jake said as if the suffix were part of my name, "it's different, I like it."
His dark brown hair falling onto his forehead and dimples gave him boyish look. I smiled in response, "So do my parents. I've heard some weird pronunciations of it though."
His eyebrows shot up. "You're British."
"No shit Sherlock." I clapped a hand over my mouth, but the sarcastic comment had already slipped out. He was laughing. "Sorry…I don't think my verbal mode is set on 'polite' today." Idiot. You're just lucky this guy seems to have that natural unflappable attitude Americans cultivate.
"It's cool. I'm Jake." He nodded to his buddy, "This fool is Tyrone."
"Interesting show you just put on, Tyrone."
His hazel eyes had been watching our exchange but now that I addressed him directly they took the opportunity to scan my body as if taking inventory. "You're pretty fine. Want a repeat performance?"
"You mean minus the whole you-getting-rejected thing? No thanks." I said dryly. Then I remembered I was trying not to alienate people on my first day, even if this guy was a sleaze. I smiled in what I hoped was a placating way. "What you just did, that was a masterpiece. And works of art should only be painted once. Would you copy the Mona Lisa?"
This seemed to be the right thing to say because Tyrone grinned, showing white pearly teeth and his eyes finally meeting mine. He wore a more innocent expression than I would have thought possible. "I like this girl Jake, she's cultured and shit."
"Felicia, you ever considered going into politics?" Jake asked.
"You got the whole diplomatic answer bit down." He grinned, eyes dancing.
I laughed, foreseeing that Jake and I would be good friends. An almost intangible weight lifted from my shoulders at the thought. "I think I lack the killer instinct that's a pre-requisite."
"You could take lessons from Ashley." He nodded at the girl that had rejected Tyrone so masterfully. That incident was definitely something I'd be telling my friends about when I called them. Never underestimate red-heads.
"Is she normally this chipper in the mornings?"
"No, it looks like she's in a good mood today. She works on the school newspaper; her speciality is angry diatribes about men. She has a rep' for this kind of thing. I think I'm one of the only guys she speaks to without biting my head off. Seriously, Ashley Gibson, what were you thinking Ty?"
Tyrone pouted. "Maybe I was thinking she'd loosen up if I talked to her. I mean, the least she could do is appreciate the effort I took."
Jake sent me a pleading look, and I took my cue. "It sounds like she goes to some trouble to convince guys not to approach her in that way. I mean, don't get me wrong, you put in…effort. Not a lot of guys back home would approach a girl so publicly." The last bit was true at least.
The bell went then, signalling that we had five minutes to get to our first class. I stood up and surprisingly it was Tyrone that stopped me before we parted, "See you at lunch?"
I grinned and nodded even though it was more of a command. I couldn't believe how easy that was. Class clown and all-round nice guy and first period hadn't even started yet. Not bad.
My first two classes passed by without incident, the content was heavy and the teachers were stern so I didn't really have the opportunity to talk to anyone for more than a minute. I was feeling a little more relaxed now that I had Jake and Tyrone to sit with at lunch though. Third period was Chemistry and the first thing I noticed was that Ashley Gibson was sitting in the front row.
I gave her a wide berth. She had probably seen me talking to Tyrone so I doubted she would be willing to extend a hand of friendship anyway.
I sat near the back again and a few minutes later a hulk-like middle-eastern guy took the chair next to me. Seriously, did America even make short guys anymore? Wasn't this the home country of Danny Devito and Gary Coleman? It was only after the class started that I clocked on that we were meant to sit next to the lab-partners we were going to be with for the rest of the semester. As everyone seemed happy to work in the pairs they were in I just shrugged and started on the practical we were meant to be doing. For a while, my new partner didn't say anything. That was fine, I figured he was the strong silent type so I followed suit.
Then, "You're new here." He had a trace of an accent.
It was a statement, not a question. "Yes."
He looked surprised, like he had expected me to say more. The silence hung for a few more minutes as I began measuring out the solution we were going to titrate. "I need to keep my GPA up to get into the college I want. Last semester I did well without a lab partner."
Suddenly I understood. "I'm not a slacker." I met his almond-shaped eyes, trying to be as direct as possible. "I can't say Chemistry is my forte but I take it seriously."
He only nodded and we did the rest of the experiment in silence. I began to wonder if I should ask to be moved to another table if he resented me so much. Ten minutes before the end of class he looked up at me from where he'd been jotting down our results. "Yassir." He said.
He had caught me off-guard and he smiled, knowing it. "Yassir is my name. What is yours?"
"Oh, Felicia. Kaif al hal, Yassir?"
"Alhamdulillah, shukhrun." Now he was regarding me with interest. "You know Arabic?"
I grinned. "No, I'm a charlatan. My best friend back in London was from Saudi Arabia, she taught me a few phrases. I recognised your accent." It was nice hearing him speak, like a little piece of home.
"It's hard to miss." He stated dryly.
"What are you talking about? Our voices blend right into the bloody crowd."
"Do you miss London?"
"I'm trying not to think about it." The bell rang so we packed up our equipment and walked out of class. He must have had the same lunch period as me because he was walking with me to the refectory.
"What was your best friend's name?"
"Beautiful name, Mash Allah."
I rolled my eyes. "I know. She kept saying that Outlandish song was about her."
"You listen to Outlandish?"
"Who doesn't? I loved pretty much that whole album." I caught sight of Jake and Tyrone at the entrance to the refectory and Yassir's eyes had fallen on a dark-haired girl across the quad.
"Do you have somewhere to sit, Felicia?"
I wasn't sure whether it was an offer or merely a question but I nodded, "Thanks, I'm fine."
"I'll see you later then. It was nice meeting you."
Tyrone took that opportunity to sidle up to me and grab my elbow. "I'm hungry girl, hurry the hell up!"
Jake shook his head. "Ty, you ass. Stop manhandling her. How's it goin' Felicia?"
My answer died on my lips as we entered the refectory and I took in the sight before me. "You've got to be kidding me."
And I thought the concept of apartheid was bad. This was ridiculous. It was like every clichéd Hollywood teenage movie I'd ever seen; the sheer segregation was almost tangible. There was a table for girls in cheerleading outfits, guys in letterman jackets and generally the most gorgeous or well-dressed people around. There was one occupied only by people with their faces buried in textbooks and a few oriental kids, another for people with dyed hair, piercings and gothic make-up and the list went on and on. Granted there were a few tables that didn't seem to fit under the broader categories but for the most part it was as if someone had put labels on each table so that they'd go- geeks, jocks, cheerleaders, punks, stoners, outcasts, wannabes etc.
I wondered if they had a table for confused Brits who were out of their element.
After grabbing our food from the lunch line, Jake and Tyrone towed me along to a table near the middle, right next to the "popular" table. A petite mixed race girl, who bore a slight resemblance to Freema Argyeman, wrapped her arm around Tyrone as he sat down. "Don't worry Ty, most people here think Ashley's an uptight bitch anyway. You could do a lot better."
His eyes roved over her tank top that was riding a little low and rested shamelessly on her chest. "Are you volunteering Simone?"
"Not that much better." She patted his head and turned to me. "You OK Felicia? You look a little overwhelmed."
I stared at her, "Have we met?"
"No but you're the new girl from England. Expect everyone to know who you are already. The gossip mill in this place runs faster than the track team."
I examined what was on my tray and bit into the apple I'd picked up. "Truthfully I can't tell whether I'm in 10 Things I hate about you or The Hills."
"Run that by me again?" Simone's eyebrows were raised, "Maybe it's the accent but I don't think I understand what you're trying to say."
"Like, would it help if I talked like this?" I asked, mimicking her accent. I hadn't spent all those years talking to Dani and picked up nothing. I did an awesome American accent, just like Dani could do a great London one.
She laughed. "Touché. OK, I'm sorry, no more cracks at your Britishness."
"I'm not sure that's a word, Simone." Jake pointed out.
"Whatever. For real Felicia, what were you trying to say?"
I eyed her sceptically. "You sure you got the jokes out of your system?" I had heard them all before of course.
"What am I, twelve? I'm not about to ask you if you dine with the queen. Tell me!"
"Well only tea and crumpets, on weekends when she's not busy knighting people." Stereotypes. Gotta love 'em. Yes, I'm British and I hate tea. Live with it.
"Very funny. Tell me what were you saying about feeling like you're in one of those movies?"
I gestured around the crowded refectory. "Doesn't this strike any of you as odd? I mean, I know I'm new to this country and all but I really didn't think real life was like this."
Jake seemed to be the first one to catch my drift. "You didn't have cliques back home?"
"Well…I guess we did but not to this extent. People generally just milled about and mixed up more. Athletes didn't really have an elevated status either."
"My college…that's what we call high school…didn't have any."
"Where do I sign up?" Simone chuckled.
"It wasn't always like this." Tyrone pointed out. "Lately it's been a lot worse because of the war going on."
I frowned, "The war on terror? Afghanistan? Palestine and Israel?" None of them were really new issues but had so many ramifications that I could understand if some of the global unease had managed to transpose itself on the youth here.
Jake watched me sympathetically. "It's a shame high school students here aren't as…uh…"
"…aware of shit," Tyrone supplied.
"World-conscientious." Simone put in.
"Yeah what Tyrone said." Jake agreed, ignoring Simone's indignant look. "Ty meant the war between Brittany and Heather." He pointed out two blonde haired cheerleaders at the popular table. They sat on opposite ends, surrounded by their own group of sycophants, shooting menacing glances at each other.
Bring it on it was then. Oh joy.