I took a deep breath as I peered toward the wooden door that would lead into the office of our school's Guidance Counselor. Releasing my deep breath, I raised up my hand and knocked upon the wooden door. A second or two later, the door opened and in the threshold there stood a tall women, with flaming red hair worn in a high ponytail. She wore a cream colored blouse with mother of pear buttons the blouse was paired with a coal black pencil skirt. White stocking and black, low heel dress shoes rounded out her outfit. A small smile played across her face as she leaned in the doorway and folded her arms across her chest and shifted her eyes toward me.
"Good afternoon. And what do I owe this pleasure Ms. Whitethorn?" She said as she peered toward me.
"I was hopping," I took a deep breath as I ran my hands down the side of my skirt to smooth it out. "I could talk to you about something." I said feeling the blood all the blood in my body rushing into my high cheek-bones.
"Oh?" She said said in a playful tone of voice. "Sure, I have a few minutes." And with that, she stole a glance down at her watch. "Hey, since its almost lunch time. Why don't we talk while we walk." She said as she nodded with her head toward the direction of the lunch room. "We can talk over lunch. My treat?"
I nodded my head. The palms of my head where starting to sweat and my courage was starting to slip through my fingers. It had been a test of courage in itself to work up the guts to even knock upon her door. I took another deep breath and as I released it, I decided that maybe it was best to talk over lunch. After all, sharing a meal would be a nice, and teachers and staff got far better food than us rank and file students.
"Cool." She said as she closed the door and turned the handle. "Just gotta lock up the old office here." She said reaching into her skirt pocket. After a few seconds of digging around, she pulled out a tiny sliver key, she placed the key into the keyhole and then turned the key.
"Okay and now were all set." She said slipping the key back into her pocket.
"Cool." I said again, my mind it seemed was on auto-pilot.
"So, Ms. Whitethorn, how are you finding Benton Academy? Everything going okay for you? I mean, given the fact that you're just transferring in. I mean, I know your mom home schooled you for like most of your life. So the transaction from home school to well, I can't call it public school but to school in general must be a total culture shock to you. That and forgive me for being blunt here. The fact that your also a transgender student, must also be hard on you."
"Please," I said blushing deeply. "Call me, Cerridwen. I mean, when you call me Ms. Whitethorn, it makes me feel old, and like I'm totally still fourteen. But to answer your question, school's going okay I guess. I mean, people are friendly enough.. I just don't have any real friends."
"Okay, Cerridwen it is then." She said "I guess, it must be hard. I mean your different in a good way. Okay for one, your a pagan. And I'm sure that kind of a culture shock to some of the students too, who for the most part have never been exposed to well anything like that. And again, I'll say that fact that your transgender also spices things up. Also consider Benton Academy was founded on Christian values."
"Right, I noticed that. You guys always pray before any sporting event. Like, the local Baptist preacher guy gets up and does his thing. And I mean its cool, but like, it feels weird. Like I was taught to keep my beliefs within the circle if you will." I said toward the women.
"Right, I totally understand that. And yes, our former headmaster was something of a hard boiled Baptist preacher till, the board of trustees voted to remove him. That was before I started working here, so I only know bits and pieces of it. I do know, that he had a falling out with a student, who like you was also Transgender. And come to think of it, its pretty rare for a school this size too have two students with that same condition." She said smiling toward me. "Not that I mind, I like having special students around."
"Right, I heard about that. Last year a student attacked another student. The headmaster instead of trying smooth thing over, only ended up dumping a whole can of gasoline on thing. And the whole thing flamed up like a bonfire." We had moved into the crowed lunchroom now. The air was scented with the smells of savory sauces and fiery spices that give southern cooking its trademark kick. The noise level too was high as it seemed the whole school had been crowed into the lunchroom. Each table seemed to holding its own lively conversation. At one table, I noticed a girl with golden blonde hair, baby blue eyes, chatting lively with a dozen or so cheerleaders and football players. She caught sight of me out of the corner of her eye and offered a small, friendly wave.
"So, you've meet our school princess?" The women said as she wrapped her arms around my slender shoulders as she guided me into the lunch line. "She pretty cool, and pretty friendly too. I think she a part timer down at 'Sweet Magnolia' you know that bakery slash cafe that opened up last year in one of those vacant building downtown. Its suppose to be modeled after like the 'Maid Cafes' that are quickly becoming popular in Japan. I know the two young ladies who own the business. Lily and Robin, there like best friends. Jamie is Lily's younger sister. If you wish, I could ask if there looking for help. Beside earning you a little pocket money, it would help with the friends issue. Plus, there two helpers, Jamie and Madeline are both like you. Birds of a feather and all that good jazz."
I nodded my head and slowly I started to smile a little.
"Sure, please and thank you." I said as I moved along with the line. Poking out my lip, I decided to roll the mental dice again. "So, while were talking about Jamie. I heard like, last year she played a part in homecoming, like she played the role of 'Hostage' I think. I was wondering if you could maybe explain that. And how one volunteers to play that role?"
"Oh." The women said as she turned to face me, the lunch line was moving at a snails pace so we had some time to talk.
"We'll, each year around homecoming, one student is either volunteered or volunteers to be given up. Okay for example, if you where to volunteer to be our school's hostage, the cheerleaders will take you in. There suppose to be 'Guarding' you till the game that night. You'll kind of be treated like a honoree member of the squad I guess. Okay a hour or two before the game, you'll be given a make-over. Its expected that all hostages at least wear a nice skirt and blouse, though most have worn dresses. And I mean like a causal short of dress. Like the dress you wear to church or say out to eat at Red Lobster or Olivia Garden."
I nodded my head. We where edging nearer to the counter now, a wry smile formed upon my lips as I reached down and picked up one of gray aluminum lunch trays that had been stacked nice and neat by the edge of the counter. Already I could see steam boiling up from the line, causing the glass panels at the top to fog up. Today's menu seem to included fried catfish, crinkle cut french fries, collard greens seasoned with tiny strips of bacon. Butter beans, again seasoned with tiny strips of bacon or maybe that was tiny bits of cubed ham. Finally for desert and square brownie that had been topped with a swirl of some kind of creamy whipped topping and for your bread. A square piece of yellow corn bread. Classic Southern if there ever was. As I moved down the line, I noticed a blue Coleman ice chest sitting on the ground. The white top was open reveling a mountain of crushed ice. Peeking out from the mounds of ice where white plastic bottle caps and colorful soda. A yellow piece of construction paper was taped onto the front of the chest, there written with what I take a sharpie marker was the following.
'Milk: Free with every meal – Whole (Red top) or Two percent (Blue top) only! Bottle Water: Fifty cents a bottle. Varies Feygo soda's: Seventy five cents each' Again I was amused, another one of the perks of attending a private academy. They where allow to peddle goods to students. Extra large chocolate candy bars, a single slice of pizza from the newly opened Pizza Hut, a bottle of ice cold spring water and finally a cheap, knock off soda could all be you're if you had ready money. No credit here, only cold hard cash, United States dollar, the oil greased the gears and kept the world turning.
Shrugging my shoulders, I reached down and picked up a bottle of water. I then paid for my meal and followed the GC toward one of the tables. She sat down first and I sat down across from her. I noticed once she was seated, she closed her eyes and folded her hands in her lap. She then muttered a little prayer. After saying grace, she then rolled out her napkin.
"So," She said picking up the plastic fork and knife that was the basic issue here. "What can I do you for?" She said smiling softy.
A deep blush colored my cheeks as I peered down at the tray. It was now or never I guess. Slowly I reached into the pocket of my skirt and then gathering up my courage, I pulled out the folded flier that I had been caring around in my pocket all day. The flier showed a cute anime girl with golden blonde hair that had been styled up in two high pigtails. She wore a skirted swimsuit. Sounds like something you'll find if you typed in the words 'Anime' followed by 'Girl' on google right? And you would correct, only the girl was seated in a dunking booth. Under the image was the following message. 'The Benton Academy Club is looking for a few brave students to sit in our dunking booth this Halloween. If you're interested in becoming a volunteer. Please go see Mrs. Baylock our new Guidance Counselor.'
With trembling fingers, I handed the folded piece of paper toward Mrs. Baylock, who reached out and took it. She gave me a puzzling look before unfolding it and looking down. Slowly a understanding look appeared on her face. She then folded the piece of paper up and handed it back to me.
"Oh? You want to volunteer for the dunking booth right?" She asked.
I nodded my head. A few years ago, they had a dunking booth at the annual 'Discover Benton' festival, a weekend long celebration of the history of Benton and the surrounding area. I was too young to volunteer at the time, but I remember a lovely brunette girl named Madeline volunteered though. I remember seeing her picture in the local paper. She seemed to be having the time of her life, the pose the struck in front of the dunking booth was both playful and alluring, that image is still seared into my head.
"Okay then." Mrs. Baylock with a smile. "After lunch, if you'll follow me back to my office. I'll give you the needed form to fill out. And once its filled out, just return the forum to me and I'll pass it on through the proper channels."
And with that, our little meeting came to a end.