Delaney slaps her hands down on the table and stares at those of us surrounding her. We have seven minutes until class begins, and she hasn't even begun to propose her master plan. I'd mentioned it to her a few times over breakfast, but she'd waved me away and told me we would discuss it later.
"Welcome to the first official meeting of the Wyckoff High Times." She smiles devilishly at all of us and pauses to stare at me. "I know that a lot of you are very shaken up about the recent gay bashing that took place here in Jersey a few days ago, and we'll get to that. I promise you, we'll do an entire article dedicated to that poor boy. But as some say, the show must go on.
"I'm sure all of you remember my sophomore Christmas dance. For those of you who don't, let's just say I got ditched, and now I'm out for revenge. I've received various reports from you over the summer-" she gives pointed looks to three boys and a girl I don't recognize "-and all of you have confirmed what I suspected all along. Tobey Sutton is gay."
A collective whisper spreads around the table, and my mind is suddenly made up. Delaney is fucking crazy.
A freshman girl scrunches up her face into a look of confusion. "Why are you worried about a guy who ditched you two years ago?"
Delaney gives her the death glare and continues on. "I know a lot of you are probably wondering, 'why does Tobey Sutton's sexuality have any relevance to the school newspaper?' Well, I'll tell you why. For the first time in Wyckoff High's history, the school newspaper is going under cover to dig up the dirt and out Tobey in the last newspaper article of the year."
Lindsay steps up next to her sister and flashes a mirror image of Delaney's grin. "Jeice Armstrong is our knight in shining tinfoil. For those of you who know him as that geeky emo kid with the fat clothes and the bad haircut, he is now sitting in the middle. Right there." She points at me and I sink lower into my seat. "Hot, right?"
Knight in shining tinfoil? Really?
Delaney begins to pace, giving a quick glance to the clock. "Jeice here is the master key to the lock that is Tobey Sutton. First period, I snuck into guidance and changed Tobey's schedule around to match Jeice's. Next period in English, Mrs. Trill will give her standard senior assignments. Tobey will probably take his time rerouting to English, so by the time he gets there, Jeice will be the only person left to partner up with. Every out-of-school encounter between the two will be carefully monitored. The rest will fall into place from there." The bell rings, cutting Delaney off.
I'm out of my chair and elbowing my way into the crowded hallway before either of the girls can begin to call my name. They're seriously plotting against Tobey Sutton, the self-proclaimed panty dropper of Wyckoff High? And they're peddling my ass to out him? Wanting an apology from him is one thing. Talking to him about it is reasonable, too. Scheming to completely destroy his reputation is another. I don't want to be a part of Delaney's crazy schemes. I didn't want to tie myself up to that stupid tree, and I definitely do not want to go near a guy who's seen more action than Batman. I know I'll go along though, if only for one reason.
When people love and accept you despite your flaws, sometimes it feels like you owe them something. That's how it is with Delaney, Lindsay, and me. They've loved and accepted me for so long that I could never say no to anything they might want to do. With a debt like that, I will never really feel like I've repaid them.
Second period English begins like any other class does on the first day of school. Mrs. Trill, a teacher who has been here for probably ten years, introduces herself with a little too much enthusiasm. I notice that her cheeks are a constant shade of pink and her chest is about a cupcake away from popping out of her bra and the exceptionally low-cut shirt she's wearing. I have a bad feeling about those puppies, so I pick a seat in the back and settle in for a nap. She prattles on about the importance of English literature and biographies before diving straight into an assignment.
She claps her hands together and beams at the class. Her huge chest swings ominously over Cally Barton's head. "To start out the year, we're going to be doing peer evaluation reports. You will have two weeks to learn enough about your partner to write an essay on them and then present it to the class. Not only will this broaden the knowledge you have of your peers, it will also give me a chance to get to know those of you I haven't met yet. At the end of the year, we'll get back with our partners and do another evaluation report to see just how much we've all changed over the course of your senior year in high school. Since you're all mature enough to handle a project like this, I'll let you pick your own partners."
As soon as the words "pick your own partners" are out of Mrs. Trill's mouth, the classroom goes into a frenzy. Girls begin squealing and dash across the room to clutch at their best friend's arm. (I've never understood girls like that. They see each other five times a week during the summer, but then they come back to school acting as though it's been years). Once all the girls are gone, the guys sort of glance around and get together based on cliques. Two stoners nod at each other in an assent to work together, a couple of jocks are doing this weird handshake where they bump chests and slap each others' backs. Naturally, I'm left alone in the corner.
As if Delaney had written a script, Tobey walks in with a confused look on his face and a pass in his hand. "Mrs. Trill?"
Heads turn to stare at Tobey. He's all legs and hard muscle as he strides up and places the pass on her desk. "My whole schedule got switched around, so it looks like I have you again this year. Lucky you, huh?" He does this stupid thing where he flips his already perfect curly hair and gives her the smolder.
Mrs. Trill flushes. "Try not to break too many hearts this year, Tobey." She peeks around his lean frame and scans the class. "Does anyone in here not have a partner?"
I sink into my chair, trying to ignore the flush creeping up my cheeks and the pairs of eyes turning on me.
A girl wearing a horse T-shirt jabs her finger in my direction. "What about that new kid?"
Mrs. Trill turns her attention to me. "I didn't even notice we had a new student. Come up here and introduce yourself!" I open my mouth to protest but she says, "don't be shy! We're all a part of this high school. We want to give you a warm welcome! Get up here!"
I get out of my chair and do the walk of shame up to the front of the classroom. I plant my feet next to Tobey's and look around at the familiar faces of the people I'd gone to school with for the past four years. I feel out of place and uncomfortable in the Hollister clothes my mother had bought me. I clear my throat and ignore the burn in my cheeks.
"My name is Jeice Armstrong, and I've went to this school since my freshman year."
The muted whispers come to a halt. The disinterested girls comparing nail polish shades ("I went for bubblegum pink instead of cotton candy pink this time") stop talking. The stoners glance up from their impromptu beds on the desks. I'm pretty sure the clock even stops ticking for a minute.
I return to my seat amid the open stares of the people around me. Someone actually yells, "when did he get hot?" I ignore the talking and the way the preppy girls are giving me once-overs, judging my appearance and the nude-colored Band-Aid plastered to my forehead.
Mrs. Trill's voice is tight when she speaks again. "Well, Jeice, do you have a partner?"
I stare down at my paperback copy of Ethan Frome and shake my head.
"Very well," she sighs. "Tobey, you'll be with Jeice for your peer evaluation project. I usually don't assign partners, but it's a first come first serve basis here. This can't be an individualized project, so there's nothing I can do about the arrangements." He shrugs and makes his way back to the seat next to mine; Mrs. Trill addresses the class. "Please use this time in class to learn a little about your partner. I expect five facts about him or her by the end of the period."
She doesn't speak for the rest of the period. Coincidentally enough, neither does Tobey.
Oh my God, an update on Assassination! Whaaat? Is the apocalypse coming?
It's not as long as I'd like, but it's an update. It gives you a general idea of Delaney's master plan, introduces Tobey, and there's some good ole' mortification in there.
Read, review, fave. Do something to inspire me to update on this sooner!