Week One, Monday
The first day of ninth grade. Ah, what a glorious rite of passage. To those who have never been through the hectic, multi-national version of a bar mitzvah known as freshman year, there are not words to describe its awe-inspiring chaos and its overwhelmingly lawless, deluded sense of grandeur.
Senior boys were never ones for pretty words, anyway.
"Scrub!" they screamed, pushing past poor ninth-grader Camille Hollander. Camille felt her brown hair press against her cheek and her shoulder bag slap against the back of her leg.
"Toilet washers!" Camille screamed back, angry and flustered. After dusting herself off quickly, she glanced back down at her schedule.
"Technical Foundations, room A-1802, with Mrs. Drysdale," Camille said to herself, wincing. She did not want to be in Technical Foundations – or, as it was more commonly called, Tech Found. Camille knew she was a good typist. All she did over the summer was instant message people. True, the things she wrote weren't really words (more like brain dump mixed with cute abbreviations), but she could do that pretty fast. And she'd had a computer in her room since age seven; she knew how to conduct herself around it.
But the district decreed that all incoming ninth-graders – unless they tested out of the class – must take Tech Found, lest they be (gasp) computer illiterate, so Camille found herself in what was sure to be a dead-end class.
Camille looked around. The tree she was standing by marked the center of the passageway by the X building. Next to that was the W building, and across the two-car-wide walkway were the Y and Z buildings. From the tree, she reasoned, she should move slightly downhill…
Camille walked away from the tree, seeing the Z building out of the corner of her right eye. According to her map, the A building was the first building to the left side of the quad. Camille glanced up just in time to see a volleyball hurtling towards her face. A stranger passing by smacked it out of the way with an outstretched arm. Camille peered through her fingers to see that said passerby was a girl who looked younger than her.
From the back, that is. Her gigantic red sweatshirt flopped around her waist, tied around blue jeans that were too long and a green-and-gray striped girl's polo. The girl turned towards Camille, a curtain of strawberry blonde hair flipping away from her pale white face.
Just as soon as the girl had come, she walked away, immersing herself in the crowd of high school goers. Camille tried to follow her for a few paces, but it was really no use. She was as good as gone.
"I wish I had thanked her," Camille murmured to herself as she trudged towards the gigantic A building – home of the Friedman High School computer lab.
As she walked, Camille looked down at her own clothing. Maybe the striped pullover hooded jacket was too much? And what of her completely ripped-up blue jeans, or her much maligned White Stripes concert tee? Camille lowered her vibrant hazel eyes. It wasn't worth thinking about. They were clothes. If someone didn't like the way she dressed, they weren't worth the time.
With such happy thoughts spurning her forward, Camille found herself in room A-1802 shortly. Boy, what a place. It was drab and dull – almost like a real-life office. Computers lined rows of desks, and the windows, although open, had views of the ongoing construction. At least the air conditioner was going. But even that was making groaning noises.
There were other kids huddled around computers, trying to grab ones that looked remotely functional. Camille, taking her cue, grabbed one next to an aisle seat. Looking up at her computer, she noticed that it had an extremely garish-looking background, with too-adorable kittens and bright daffodils. Camille stuck out her tongue, but the background on the next computer was even worse: shi tzu puppies in a wicker basket against a neon pink background.
The background disappeared with the opening of a word processor. Camille jumped and looked over. It was the girl from earlier, opening up a new Word document and sighing.
"It's you!" Camille stammered. The girl in the polo looked over. A look of recognition clouded her face, and she nodded with a smile before apparently noticing something and turning back to her computer, flushed.
Camille raised an eyebrow curiously. "Um… Thanks for saving my face earlier. I'm Camille."
The girl turned back to Camille, her left eye following something on the right side of the room. "I'm…"
The bell cut the girl off. She quickly shifted in her seat, clearly nervous. Camille couldn't believe it. She was sitting next to a freak, she was in Tech Found, and her computer had a background with a cat on it. It couldn't possibly have gotten any worse.
Oh, but fate is cruel sometimes. A girl stormed into the classroom, late and seemingly not caring. Her black boots clunked against the blue Berber carpet on the floor, alerting even Shifty Seat Girl of her presence. Her bright red hair trailed behind her as she slammed her backpack down next to Camille's chair. Camille stared at the girl in horror.
"You're late!" Camille hissed.
The redhead looked at her black fingernails. She put a foot on the desk, oblivious to the fact that she was wearing a pleated skirt. The poor boy in front of her nearly died. Camille was a little stronger than the typical pre-pubescent male.
"You do know that you're flashing that poor fellow," Camille spat.
The redhead snickered, taking her foot off the desk. "It's the last time anyone like him is going to get any action."
Camille frowned. This girl was trouble, and now she'd be grouped in with her.
"I'm Vanessa, by the way," the redhead cooed. Camille shook her head.
"Camille," Camille introduced herself. "But that's not really the issue. What is wrong with you?"
Vanessa looked to the clock, then Camille. "Are you kidding? Look, I was barely five seconds late."
"No, not that!" Camille gasped before a chalkboard eraser hit her upside the head.
"Miss Hollander! Miss Rodriguez! Would you like to join class, or would you prefer to get a Saturday School?"
Camille turned uneasily. Shifty Seat Girl was now completely shell-shocked – so much for being cool. Hovering over her was a black-haired maven with a ruler in her hands and a scowl on her heavily made-up face. It had to have been Mrs. Drysdale – there wasn't anyone else over thirty in the classroom. There wasn't anyone over sixteen in the classroom, either, by the looks of it.
Camille gulped. "No, I'm sorry, ma'am, I really –"
"Ho-hum. Why do all of you teachers threaten Saturday School?" Vanessa mused. "It gets so monotonous."
Camille blanched. Shifty Seat Girl turned to her computer and began to type. Behind Camille, a boy with stringy blonde hair began surfing the Internet.
Mrs. Drysdale seemed content that all attention was on her, and returned to what she was doing – which was droning on about the class syllabus. As she walked around to hand it out, she picked up her chalkboard eraser and reprimanded the blonde boy (who was apparently named Ian) for trying to go to an online profiling site. Shifty Seat Girl looked around and kept typing, paying almost no attention to the paper in front of her.
Camille looked down at the syllabus. It was painfully dull, as were most class outlines. But unlike other class outlines, it was written in very tiny font. Camille bit her lip. Her mom was fairly blind when it came to things up-close. How she would sign it, Camille had no idea.
Vanessa didn't seem to care. She had already crumpled the paper up into a ball. Camille looked behind her. Ian was halfway focused on the paper – his other half was following Mrs. Drysdale around the room, making sure she stayed at least five desks away from him.
"Technical Foundations will be one of the most important classes you take in your high school career," Mrs. Drysdale continued, "not because it is required, but because all businesses are looking for computer-savvy individuals with skill and the ability to fix problems with their computers…"
Savvy, Camille thought. Cool word.
"…Now, more than ever, you should be thinking about what to do once you get into the job world. It's not an easy place to be, you know. Do you think I teach here because I want to?"
Camille blanched. Shifty Seat Girl glanced at Mrs. Drysdale out of the corner of her eye quickly before turning back to whatever she was typing. Ian blinked. Vanessa laughed.
"Of course not!" she cried out.
"Exactly!" Mrs. Drysdale responded. "I wanted to be an actress! But my dream was squelched and, forced to find something to keep me fed, I took my degrees and showed them to the principal of this school – and look where I am. Teaching little freshmen how to work computers!"
Mrs. Drysdale cleared her throat. "And… if you learn how to work one, maybe you won't end up as pathetic as me."
Shifty Seat Girl hit the enter key – hard. Camille turned to her.
"What are you typing?" Camille asked curiously.
Shifty Seat Girl hesitated, but then sighed.
"Something important," Shifty Seat Girl answered. She returned to her work while Mrs. Drysdale diverted Camille's attention. Mrs. Drysdale wrote a document name on her chalkboard, revealing to the class that her writing was indecipherable and very messy. Camille squinted, trying to read what had been written.
"Open this document on your computers," Mrs. Drysdale ordered. Most of the class looked confusedly at each other; they didn't know what document to open.
Shifty Seat Girl was unfazed. She clicked open and found a document, clicking on it. Camille looked over at her computer monitor. "Monkey". She turned to the board.
"That is not 'Monkey'," Camille grumbled before opening up said document. On that thought, why was the document even called "Monkey"?
Camille opened it – and found out. There was a giant picture of a monkey eating a banana on the page. It wasn't a normal monkey, either – it was quite garish and very oddly drawn. Camille had to stifle her laughter.
Vanessa opened the document and smiled. "This picture is pretty bad, Mrs. Drysdale. Who did the district pay to draw it?"
Mrs. Drysdale frowned. "I drew it."
"So we can add that to her list of shortcomings," Vanessa murmured under her breath, a sly smile forming on her face. Shifty Seat Girl was already doing what the document told her to.
Camille looked down at the document.
Type these letters on the line below. Make sure your fingers are placed correctly on the keyboard.
Camille blinked. There was a correct typing position? She just pecked at the letters. Wasn't that what everyone did?
Camille looked over at Shifty Seat Girl. She had some weird typing thing going where her fingers crouched over the middle row of the keyboard. Sure, she was typing quite quickly, but Camille seriously doubted that it was the correct keyboard position. She turned to Vanessa. Vanessa wasn't doing anything; she was still laughing at the pitiful gorilla.
Camille sighed. Guess I'll have to peck it out…
And so it began. F. J. F. J. F. J. F. J. F. J. F…
Shifty Seat Girl stared at Camille in horror. Camille noticed this after about five minutes.
"What?" Camille hissed.
"That's not how you're supposed to type," Shifty Seat Girl whimpered.
"Well, then, how are you supposed to type?"
Shifty Seat Girl took Camille's right hand and curved it over the last four keys on the middle row of the keyboard. Camille's left hand went over the first four keys in the middle row. Camille blanched.
"This is impossible!" Camille frowned.
"You'll get used to it, I think," Shifty Seat Girl nodded before opening up her old document and typing random babble.
It was then that Shifty Seat Girl became Typing Girl.