S.A.U (Chapter One)

Her walk was that of a runway model; head held high with her chin elevated, hips swinging from side to side and lengths of her bright red hair swirling around narrow shoulders. Even I had to look at the way she moved. Who wouldn't when the most popular girl at school entered a room in a bright green halter top, skinny jeans that showed off the toned muscles of her legs due to the extensive hours she put into volleyball practice and a red leather handbag hanging on her arm? You would have to be blind not to look at someone like Claire Romano. She slid into an empty chair next to junior hunk Bryan Warwick and dove right into a deeply animated conversation with him by the way her hands kept frantically moving around in the air like that.

Almost instantaneously, everyone turned back around in their seats and resumed their own animated conversations with another. Everyone but me of course. But did that bother me? Not in the least. What kind of person with a functioning brain would want to be classified into the petty high school caste like the ones at this school? I mean, we had the Juggalos and the Emos, the Skaters and the Stoners. The Preppies would always spend their lunches elsewhere so you rarely saw them in an overcrowded lunchroom like this one and the popular people already claimed the tables by the windows.

I shook my head back and forth in disapproval. Sometimes when you found yourself sitting in a dingy corner of the cafeteria with a Harry Potter book in your hand and a half eaten carrot stick in the other as you watched your fellow peers socialize with another it really just made you ponder the purpose of high school and why people always got so caught up in the stupid drama that plagued the halls of this building like a virus did a computer. Don't get me wrong; high school was important for a lots of reasons such as getting a diploma so you could move on to college or to get the practical skills you needed to succeed in life.

So why did people always get so caught up in the whole teenaged drama portion of the four years you were forced to spend in this hell? The popular kids thought they were so cool because they were either hated and envied or worshipped and loved by their peers. But was all that popularity going to follow them into college or ten years into the future when you were married and living in your new condo with a baby on the way? Definitely not. Would they still flaunt their tiny waists and ultra ripped six packs after their fifth high school reunion? Chances were, they would not.

But what about the losers? Did they honestly believe that life ended after high school? Why let the popular crowd make you feel inferior, like you were worthless, and make your life a living hell when you could end up being the CEO of your own company or the billionaire fashion designer who caused everyone to faint upon seeing you enter a room? Why did teenagers have to be so stupid sometimes? Was I the only one who didn't think out of her ass around here?

"Hey, freak!" he shouted and pointed a slim, freckled finger in my direction.

I didn't need to look up to feel the heads of everybody in the room turn to fix their blank stares on me. I was use to it since I was the only in school who didn't have a label here. Why let people label you when you weren't a soup can or a cereal box? It was just so seventh grade to me. Ugh. I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he rose from his chair slowly, like a lifeguard emerging from the ocean in slow motion, and weave his way through the cluster of occupied lunch tables in my direction.

I mentally groaned. It wasn't that I was afraid of Bryan Warwick's childish antics, but just the fact that I seemed to be his only target pissed me off. Sure, I wasn't all about my looks like most girls at Nobel High; I didn't show off my legs in mini skirts or curl a lock of my glossy hair around my finger when I wanted to flirt with a guy. You'd never see me on the beach in a bikini trying to get as orange as a traffic cone or even wandering around aimlessly in a sea of jabbering mall shoppers with an arm full of expensive Bloomingdale merchandise. That wasn't me. Nina Van Bertenschmere wasn't into that kind of thing.

He paused abruptly and lowered himself into the chair right across from me dramatically, like a king taking his time to sit in his throne. I rolled my eyes and crossed my ankles on the table. What exactly did girls see in him anyway? He wasn't even cute; short with a pug nose and a sprinkle of golden freckles dusted over the cheeks of his face. His hair, a mop of straw blonde curls, framed his face and fell to his broad shoulders in tousled, greasy ringlets and his thin-lipped grin resembled that of a leprechauns.

"So." He traced over the toe of my combat boot as he spoke. I stared at him intently, waiting for him to utter whatever dumb joke he had rolling on his tongue. The cafeteria was silent: no normal animated jabber, no loud guffaws, no nothing. Everybody seemed to be leaning forward in their seats, anxiously awaiting whatever they were expecting to unfold before them.

"What do you want, Warwick?" I inquired jadedly and casually turned a page in my Harry Potter novel as if I were actually reading it. He leaned forward and played with my bootlaces, which struck me as odd because he normally didn't even touch let alone get near me. I swear that if this were a cartoon, then Claire would've been sweating buckets by the way she was dabbing at her forehead and neck with a napkin.

What the hell was wrong with people here anyway?

"How was your weekend?" Bryan asked offhandedly. "What did you do?"

"Why do you even care?" I retorted heedlessly and stared at him over the top of my book. Honestly, if he was planning on humiliating me in front of the whole school like he had the last time, then he should just get it over with already so I could get back to my novel in peace. I had better things to invest my time and energy in then more Bryan Warwick stupidity.

"I care because I'm asking you out, Tina," he said smoothly and began to rub my shin up and down with his hand. I glanced over at Claire, who looked just as confused as I felt. What, no joke this time? Was this jerk actually hitting on me? I shivered at the thought and pulled my legs back. Thank god I'd decided to wear jeans today. I wouldn't be conscious that this…thing's hand made contact with my skin.

"Nina," I corrected and reached over to retrieve my stuff. The silence here was just ridiculous. Why did everybody pay so much attention to this disgusting parasite? I'd rather shove bamboo shoots up my nails than even been seen in public with this creature of the black lagoon. The more attention he got from people, then the longer his childish pranks would continue and I wasn't going to be part of that.

"So what do you say?" Bryan asked and raked a large hand through his hair. "Saturday at seven?"

I rolled my eyes and stepped around him. "Whatever, Warwick," I grumbled and purposely bumped my shoulder into his as I maneuvered my way through the cafeteria toward the exit, ignoring the baffled gawks and jittery whispers as I went. Thank god I was halway through my sophomore year. I wouldn't be able to take three more years of this abuse. Ugh. I let the lunchroom doors shut behind me before pondering Bryan's antics yet again in my head.

Was he being serious? Not that I would've said yes, but no one had burst out laughing like they normally would've and Bryan hadn't done something like 'accidentally' drop his half eaten salad in my lap or 'tripped' over my backpack and landed in my lap with his face buried in between my boobs like last time. I smirked a little at the memory. The big punch in the face he received was my best one yet. I glanced over my shoulder once more at Bryan through the windows by the cafeteria. The lunchroom had resumed its usual tumult of teenage noise. I shrugged a shoulder and disappeared down the hall.

So ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the fantastic high school life of Nina Van Bertenschmere.

Okay, so my life wasn't exactly what you'd call glamorous. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and live in a boring two-story home with my controlling, overbearing mother, a laidback father, and a trio of spoiled, snot-nosed brats known to the world as my little sisters who constant tried to get me in trouble, and on top of that work at a low-paying smooth shop to save up enough money to someday buy myself a car. I'd never had a boyfriend and as for friends, let's just say that friends were like pennies: two-faced and worthless.

"Nina!" I didn't have to turn around to know who it was.

"What do you want, Megan?" I said through gritted teeth as I slowly turned around to face her. If you hadn't already served your time in high school then you should know one thing: every school had a gossip train, you know, one kid that didn't know how to mind their own business so they decide to spread other people's since they couldn't get a life of their own or had nothing special going on in it. Megan Kennedy was that gossip train.

"Is it true that you're going out with Bryan Warwick?" she squeaked in that irritating, shrill voice of hers. I immediately wrinkled my nose at the mention of his name. That was another thing you would learn about Megan Kennedy; she always asked you something in a way that made you think a rumor was actually going around when there wasn't. It was just her way of sucking information out of you and spreading it like a wild fire through the whole entire school.

"Ask Bryan," I snapped and hastily shoved her aside as I stomped my way down the hall and toward my sixth period class.

"Good afternoon, class," he replied as he kicked the doorstopper aside and pulled the door to a close. He had the walk of a military general; shoulders back, head held high and his narrow chest puffed out underneath his dull, grey sweater. I wasn't surprised that the class was silent. Mr. Calico was a no-bullshit kind of person; you uttered a single word and you got detention, you showed up late and you got kicked out of class and marked tardy in the roll. If he said something then you did it whether you knew what you were doing or not. Thank god I only had his class for one more semester.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Calico," the class moaned and immediately opened their text books to page seventy-three, paper and pencils at their disposal and ready to be used.

Mr. Calico nodded and set his briefcase down on the desk before picking up his attendance clipboard and handed it out to be passed around for everyone to sign their names on. The silence in the room was uncomfortable and I was sure that I wasn't the only one that noticed it. There was always something about Mr. Calico that automatically made you wish you were invisible. Maybe it was the way his small, black eyes seemed to stare right through you rather than right at you when he stared at you or the way his voice sliced at you like razor-sharp blades whenever he spoke to you in that deep, icy voice of his.

I grabbed the clipboard from behind me and quickly scribbled my name on it before handing it off to the person in front of me.

"Please pass yesterday's English assignment to the front of the class in a neat orderly fashion," Mr. Calico said sternly and paused to adjust the front button of his ugly sweater. There was another thing that made you fear Mr. Calico. You could tell just by looking at him that he wasn't the kind of teacher that liked to goof-off and waste precious class time telling jokes. No wonder everyone in school was so serious around him. It was hard not to be.

"Miss Van Bertenschmere?" Mr. Calico called and I jumped in my seat. "Do you plan on sitting there daydreaming all day or are you going to pass the rest of the assignments to the front of the classroom as I've asked?"

"S-sorry," I stammered and handed the rest of the papers to the kid in front of me.

"Now class, who can tell me what-"

"Sorry I'm late sir!" Bryan cried as he stumbled into the classroom, textbook and backpack in hand with Claire staggering in right behind him. I shook my head back and forth. Leave it to Bryan to come in making a scene for attention. Why wasn't I surprised to see his little personal cheerleader with him? Ugh. You'd think that high school would have lots of grown mature people, but sadly it didn't. Well, except for me of course.

"We had to go and get our stuff and then we got called to-"

"Out." Mr. Calico turned sharply and stacked the rest of yesterday's homework assignments on the desk.

The class looked just as stunned even though everyone who had Mr. Calico for English class knew that being late to his class was an automatic boot out the door. We all turned to gawk at Bryan and Claire, who looked stupefied.

"But sir-"

"Out I said. You two, along with every one of my students should know my rules better than you know the backs of your own hands. You decide to show up late and disrupt my teaching, then you can sit outside in the hall for the rest of class. So get out."

"B-b-but this isn't fair!" Bryan retorted and threw his stuff on the ground. I turned back to look at Mr. Calico, who apparently hadn't even flinched. "It wasn't our fault that we were late!"

"Rules are rules, Mr. Warwick," was Mr. Calico's firm response.

"Ms. Reynolds would've excused us!" Claire shouted and shot Mr. Calico a murderous glare. One of which Mr. Calico returned.

"What Ms. Reynolds does with her students is no business of my own. She can run her classroom the way she sees fit just like I can run mine. If you are not willing to comply with the rules of this class, then you know where you can locate your counselor to have yourself removed from my classroom. Otherwise, I will have to ask you to leave so I can proceed with the lesson plan-"

"Argh!" Bryan bellowed and stormed out of the room, Claire running off after him after scooping his things off the floor.

I blinked in surprised and turned back to Mr. Calico, who was skimming through his lesson plan on his desk like nothing had ever happened. It was like the guy was made out of stone or something. Like he simply didn't care about us and that really struck me as odd. Weren't your teachers supposed to care about you?

"Okay, class," Mr. Calico said with a clap of his hands. We all jumped in our seats in unison. "Who can tell me what we read about last time in The Secret Life of Bees?"