A/N: This and the next chapter are most likely going to more deteailed recaps of the first day. Sorry to cause confusion!
change. [chaynj] (verb)
become or make different
to become different or make something or somebody different
See also: Cameron Carter
Cameron wasn't at school the following day.
No doubt breaking a school record, he had been suspended. On his first day, within a few hours of the first day.
When I first walked into class and noticed the empty seat beside mine, I breathed a sigh of relief. Things looked as if they were back to normal. Maybe "Cameron" had been nothing more than a figment of my tortured imagination, a bad dream perhaps. More of a nightmare really.
But as the day wore on, there was no ignoring the teachers' ruffled expressions and snappish attitudes. Nor was I very successful at tuning out the snakelike hiss of freshman girls whispering about him behind their hands, clustered together in the hallway and blocking traffic. Several people still bore damage from yesterday's massive fist fight.
It wasn't likely anybody would forget the now infamous Cameron Carter's first day.
The day really had started off at its usual slow repetitive pace, and dragged along after that. I was jostled awake by my alarm clock ringing at an ungodly hour, urging me up out of bed to get a start on my chores.
For a few minutes I lay right where I was, listening to the loud jangling of the alarm clock. I really didn't want to get up. I would just do this day after day, until graduation came. Get up, get ready, do a couple chores, go to school, be ignored, go home, do my homework, eventually find my way back to bed and it would begin all over again.
This cycle had really lost its sheen, even if I had gotten my license and could start driving to school and going out to get coffee and a bagel a couple times a week.
Finally I couldn't ignore the alarm clock anymore, so I slapped the off button, pulled back my blankets and slid ruefully out of my warm comfortable bed. I really couldn't even feel excited that this was my senior year.
Just more of the same.
I extracted a turtle neck sweater out of my closet and a pair of dark jeans. My parents weren't very lenient with teenage trends—it took awhile before they let me even wear jeans!—and were both big advocates of modesty; they made me buy everything slightly oversized so it wouldn't hug my body. ("Dressing like a slut will make people think of you as a slut" was their simple reasoning).
I listlessly forced my head through the narrow hole of the turtle neck, realized I put it on backwards and began the process over again. My jeans seemed to have shrunk in the wash, so I returned them to the closet and retrieved a different pair.
There really wasn't wrong with any of it, I knew inside, I just wanted a way to procrastinate 'greeting the day'. I paused to watch a bluebird on my window sill…That was new…
Getting dressed managed to take so long this morning that in no time, I had killed over an hour and my mother was soon knocking on my door.
"Jennifer, what's taking you so long?" she asked. "You're being very slow this morning."
"Coming," I said tonelessly, giving up my search for matching socks. I was wasting time looking for socks. Socks! This was really a sign of my desperation. I hadn't even made any ground with my hair, so I pulled it back in a high ponytail and trudged after my mother.
Breakfast was eaten in stony silence, coffee for my parents, a bowl of Cheerios with strawberries for me. The click of heels as my mother bustled around the kitchen. The occasional rustle as my father turned the pages in the paper, muttering to himself about ridiculous gas prices or who got killed today. A clink as a coffee mug was returned to the counter.
My parents weren't exactly talkative, but instead of being able to sit in contented silence, I felt slightly uncomfortable, like an intruder in my own house. While it was awkward without conversation, it was usually twice as awkward with conversation.
We often talked about trivial things, such as the weather, and mercilessly beat the subject to death.
In spite of my cereal bowl being long empty, I stuck my spoon back in and swirled the spoon absently. Why had I never noticed just how loudly the kitchen clock was ticking?
"Jennifer, don't play with your food," my father said sternly, not even glancing at me over his paper.
"Sorry," I mumbled quietly, and after another agonizingly long pause followed, I pushed my chair back and walked over to the sink to rinse off my breakfast things. The water spilling from the faucet may have come from Niagara Falls.
I removed them from the sink, strongly deliberating dropping my saucer just to stir up some kind of reaction from my parents. More than likely a lecture would ensure.
How could I be so careless? Did I not understand the value of money? They couldn't go out and buy new dishes every time I broke something. (Well, technically if that ever happened, we could go out and buy ten new sets of dishes and silverware too, but you got the point).
Not worth it. I shoved my things in the dishwasher. Then I returned to the table and sat back down.
"Shouldn't you be getting to school?" asked my mother, glancing at the clock. I had about fifteen minutes, but why endure fifteen more minutes of this?
"I guess." Back went the chair, scraping on the floor like fingernails on a blackboard.
My father folded his newspaper and got to his feet, smoothing out any possible wrinkles from his crisp suit. "I'd better be off too."
There was bit of a traffic jam as we all marched robotically toward the door, briefcase in my father's hand, purse and instructor bag slung up over my mother's shoulder, my backpack dangled along the ground.
All three of us attempted to walk out, but we all got stuck. We were all so dead-set on our daily agenda that we didn't notice the other two members of the household trying to get out the door.
I almost found the situation amusing; my busybody neighbors certainly did. No matter what they were doing, picking up the paper, mowing the lawn, washing their cars, we always seemed to be their chief source of entertainment.
My father however, cleared his throat pointedly and stepped back, gesturing for us to go. My mother descended the front stairs first and then I followed along behind. Keeping his nose high in the air, and pretending as if that mishap had never happened, my father made a show of shutting and locking the front door.
He strode importantly down the driveway and settled himself in the expectant BMW parked there. Daring the neighbors to make a crack about him now. My mother looked equally as self-important as she slid daintily into her own car.
I just ducked into mine and pulled down my mirror down to avoid having to make eye contact with Mrs. Next Door. I felt genuinely ashamed of my parents' behavior.
Though they claimed money was immaterial, it didn't come across like that.
Anyone with eyes could see we were the perfect little family (not!) who had a nice house, complete with tasteful landscaping and lush green lawn, three shiny (expensive) cars parked in the driveway of said house.
Why did they have to rub it in though?
I couldn't help but notice as I followed my parents' cars down the driveway that the neighbors didn't look the slightest bit amused. Now they wore similar revolted expressions.
But to my surprise there was nobody glowering harder than the girl reflected in my mirror.
I hated my parents' superficiality, how I was sucked into it, how unjust stereotypes pegged me right and left. I hated that the only time my parents and I ever talked was through lecture or admonishing me for what I should be doing better, deplored the feeling that I was nothing more than a—a pet.
Furls of smoke were all but issuing from my ears by the time I reached the high school. I got stuck behind bus after bus chock-full of younger kids who all gawked at me like I was some terrific oddity. And then seeing the expansive brick building, it was like adding another log to the fire.
I drove past other cars, all filled with people, people walking together, all laughing and animatedly recalling their summers. I took my usual parking space, but didn't get out immediately.
I would feel so lame strolling up to the school building alone—on the first day nonetheless. And it wasn't as if I had anyone waiting for me inside the building or anything.
Finally as the crowds grew thinner, I figured that it was less people to see me in my miserable state and that I'd better get inside. I went to push my door open, but was instantly glad that I didn't: a black Hummer came rushing past, only a fraction of an inch away from my car, bounced way past where it should and the front tires landed on the curb.
It struck me that had I opened my door a moment sooner, it would have been torn clean off. Shocked and outraged, I slammed my hand down on the horn. Beeeee-eeeeee-eeeep!
A couple of seconds later, the Hummer's driver hopped out and strode over to my window. He knocked sharply on it with his knuckles. "What's your problem?" he asked contemptuously.
I detected a slight accent in his voice and could acknowledge him as a new student. New or not, he needed to learn some respect.
"As a matter of fact," I began sharply, but stopped deciding that I couldn't very well make my point clear if he was looking down at me. I squeezed out of my door and forced my way through the narrow gap between our cars. "As a matter of fact," I repeated, "you almost hit my car."
The new guy actually looked concerned, but his pale blue eyes flashed over his car. "Looks fine," he said decidedly.
"I said 'my car'," I snapped. It wasn't like that giant metal beast of his could even get hurt.
A haughty one-shouldered shrug. "So?" If it didn't relate to him, it clearly wasn't important.
"So?" I echoed incredulously.
Didn't he see what kind of car I was driving? Did he have any idea how much even a scratch would cost to fix? I repeated these interrogations along with some others aloud. I usually was good about keeping my mouth shut about such things, but he infuriated it out of me.
He listened, head tipped thoughtfully to one side, eyes wide as if this was the most fascinating thing he had ever heard. And then when I finished, his smoothly arrogant demeanor returned and he scoffed, "So?"
If he said that word one more time, I vowed to slap him. He was so darn infuriating, so darn arrogant.
The petty issue of my car seemed so beneath him. And I was clearly wasn't good enough for him to maintain eye contact with. He kept glancing around me at the stragglers running to beat the bell.
I wondered if threatening to sic my father on him with a lawsuit would stir up more of a reaction.
"If you're driving a car like that you can obviously afford another one," he sneered. "Besides, I didn't hit it. No need to be a bitch."
I opened my mouth to say something, but his nasty little slur left me at a loss for words. Bitch? Nobody had ever called me that. I could only gape stupidly at him. This was not a word that should come up in civilized conversation.
But then, again take one good hard look at the guy and you'd have enough sense to know he was trash.
It was almost like he had memorized the dress code section from our school handbook verbatim and went out of his way to deliberately violate it. Boxers peeked from the top of ripped jeans. He was wearing a torn t-shirt, with something both vulgar and alcohol-related printed on it; the sleeves had been ripped off so he could display his muscular, but tattoo-laden arms. In addition to having numerous tattoos, his eyebrow was pierced, though it was partially covered by an angled baseball cap and jet-black hair.
"I'm going inside," I said coldly, recovering at last, if not a little late.
I didn't say this because I expected him to care—judging by the smug look on his face, he was too hopelessly in love with himself to let anyone else in. I hoped I would be able to inform him that this sort of attitude wouldn't be tolerated.
"You do that," he said placidly to my receding back.
He wasn't sorry to see the last of me. I was equally glad to be rid of him, and at the same time relieved, knowing that I wouldn't be seeing him again. Honor students and Practical kids strictly did not mix.
Which was why I got the shock of my life come my first period.
Things started off in a deceptively average way.
The classroom was spacious, with posters of authors and motivational quotes taped or tacked to the walls, and very few snobs who hated me. I found my seat at once. It was one of those seats that everyone would prefer sitting on the floor than sitting at: up at the front of the room, only feet from the teacher's desk. Whoever sat here was condemned to answer the most questions, pass out the most papers, and in my case, grade them as well.
No doubt my new teacher had heard of me.
But there was the slightest hope that maybe my duties could be split with the elusive new Cameron Carter who sat beside me.
The other seats soon filled, however the one beside me remained empty.
The late bell rang, but the seat remained vacant. Cameron must have switched classes last minute.
Our teacher, a large, rather heavy blonde woman entered the room.
"Hello, everyone," she said pleasantly. "My name is Mrs. Doyle. Welcome to British Literature.
Throughout the school year we shall be doing an in-depth study of some literary masterpieces such as Macbeth, Beowulf, and Frankenstein. I must warn you, this will be a rigorous course, so there will be a lot of work, but if you do it, you will find it very rewarding. Now if you all could please get your text and vocabulary books off the shelf and write your names in them…"
A single uniform groan rose up from my classmates. Textbooks? Vocabulary? On the first day? Let the monotony begin!
But once all twenty-eight people had their books, that was the last they were mentioned. And then on we went to the cheesy little getting-to-know-you games everyone played on the first day.
She asked us all to stand up and state our names, something we did over the summer and an interesting fact about ourselves. So it went around the room.
"My name is Allison O'Connor. I went to Hawaii over the summer. And, um, my favorite color is purple."
"I'm Jared Blake. I stayed home and played video games all summer. I almost got hit by a car riding my skateboard."
And so on. Once all of the most eager people shared, Mrs. Doyle (who went to beach with her kids and had three siblings all of whom went here) began to pick people at random. I was terrified for my turn.
There was a slight chance of people throwing things when I stood, many had already (jokingly) booed others down, or yelled sardonic comments in response.
But finally there were only two people left; I was one of them. The last guy introduced himself as Evan White, and began to speak.
Mrs. Doyle made it very clear once Evan sat down that she hadn't ignored me, but decided to save me for last. "And you're Jennifer Hart," she said fondly, when I reluctantly rose from my seat. "Everyone knows who you are."
My lips twitched into a weak smile and I sat down again at once. While I tried not to look at anyone, they made it pretty hard to ignore them. Even without looking, I could tell people were leaning over to whisper in their neighbor's ear and I felt my face grow hot.
Sure everyone knew me, but what did they know me as? It wasn't even worth it.
That's when the door banged open—everyone jumped—and in sauntered the guy from the parking lot. Though his face was mostly obscured by unkempt-looking black hair, I recognized him at once.
Mrs. Doyle looked at her class list. "Cameron Carter?" she questioned.
I looked incredulously at him and then her, certain I had misheard her. She must've meant lost, instead of late.
But he didn't leave. Instead, he strode confidently over to her and thrust our student handbook, which served as a sort of hall pass, at her. "With the principal," he said carelessly. "Fixing my schedule."
I would be willing to bet that the signature in his handbook was forged. Mr. Green had stopped me in the hall to chat, so he couldn't be in his office. And you didn't even go to the principal's office to fix your schedule, you went to your guidance counselor.
His story didn't sit well with Mrs. Doyle either, but she simply said, "Take your seat, please." Automatically both my eyes and Cameron's went to the seat next to me. And we then looked directly into one another's faces.
A spark of recognition flashed across his face and his eyebrows knitted themselves together. I found myself dearly wishing I had something to put there.
Seeing as there was no where else to sit and he certainly wouldn't stoop to sitting on the floor, he dropped heavily into the chair. I shrank back and wrinkled my nose. He smelled like an ashtray.
"So, Cameron," Mrs. Doyle said tentatively, trying to break the awkward silence he had created, "you're a new student. Would you like to tell the class anything about yourself?"
He pretended to think for a moment before he spoke. "I'm Cameron Carter," he said, while his eyes swept the classroom contemptuously. "I moved here from New York City. I think this school sucks, I hate English, and I think you need to go on a diet," he finished.
He tipped the chair back on two legs, folded his arms, and propped a large foot up on the desk. "Need to know anything else?" he inquired politely. I looked at him in shock. Could he have been any more insolent? Who did he think he was?
Mrs. Doyle's attempt at a warm smile faded. Her lips were set in a thin foreboding line and she looked pissed off. "No, thank you. I think we've all heard enough," she snarled through gritted teeth. "Now get your foot off your desk and take your hat off."
Cameron acted like he hadn't heard her. Neither his foot nor the hat moved.
"I don't feel like it," he said coolly.
Mrs. Doyle was momentarily shocked by this comment—it wasn't likely she had too many Honor students mouth off—but she recovered quickly.
"I don't care what you feel like doing," she snapped. "I said take your hat off so you will do it. I am the teacher and I have authority over you."
"Yeah," he answered in a distracted voice. He had taken his cell phone out and was reading a text he received. "Teacher. Authority. Got it." He looked up at her. "I don't care."
"You will care once I give you detention."
"Is that the best you can do? Detention?" Cameron retorted in a voice dripping with sarcasm. His foot slipped from the desk and he rose to his full sitting height, ready for battle. "I thought for a moment, you might sit on me or something."
Mrs. Doyle, going very red in the face, couldn't even contemplate an argument. By now the whole class was staring at him in mute shock. None of us would be this disrespectful and many of us felt that as seniors, we had outgrown such behavior.
And it was that he thought he could get away with such behavior that annoyed me.
I had the slight suspicion Cameron was enjoying himself. He hadn't yet raised his voice, and the smooth arrogance never wavered. A smirk played with the corners of his mouth. He was enjoying himself and Mrs. Doyle was playing right into his game, doing exactly what he wanted her to.
"Mrs. Doyle," I said quietly, "just send him to the office and be done with it. You're not intimidating him, only entertaining him." She might think she was getting to him, but she wasn't. Why couldn't she see that herself?
Cameron snapped his fingers. "Damn," he said, pretending to sound disappointed, "the teacher's pet's got me all figured out."
After this comment, I found I had nothing more to add. Within the first hour, he had me all figured out. It was sad that I couldn't offer a little more intrigue, a little more mystery, especially to a nice-looking new guy who didn't know me..
But as painful as it was to say, that was me in a nutshell. The teacher's pet. That's all anyone would ever know me as.
"You're right, Jennifer," Mrs. Doyle agreed. "Cameron, office."
Cameron practically jumped to his feet.
"Fine," he said, "beats sitting in this hell hole." But he didn't leave immediately. He still needed one final person to disrespect. To me he simpered, "You're quite right, Jennifer. What a wonderful idea, Jennifer. Maybe it'll earn you some extra credit. Ugh. Fucking kiss-ass."
Now he left, taking care to bang the door shut as hard as he could.
Mrs. Doyle seemed somewhat diminished. "You all can talk among yourselves for the remainder of class," she said wearily. She dragged herself to her desk and sat down, closing her eyes and massaging her temple. "Oh, dear," I heard her say, "this is going to be a tough year."
I agreed wholeheartedly. Graduation already seemed an eternity away. And now, with someone like Cameron Carter on my case, it would take even longer.