Sixteen old Lana Edward took a deep breath as she peered across the crowded lunchroom. The small room was filled with the chatter of a dozen different conversations. The excitement of Halloween had just passed and now the attention of the student body was turning toward the much anticipated Fall Carnival, with its many money making attractions. Attractions that were the staple in Fall Carnival's across the nation, such as the always classic "Cake Walk" or the ever popular "Pick a Duck'' or the "Pitch Till you Win!" and of course the annual pie toss the cheerleaders would put on in order to raise money for new uniforms and such. And of course the queen attraction, the real money maker, the dunking booth. In years past the cheerleaders would staff both the dunking booth and the pie toss.
But this year, things were a little different.
The cheerleader's were still running to booths, all the money raised from the pie toss and dunking booth would still go into the coffers of the cheerleading squad. To cover new uniforms, gas and other miscellaneous expenses. No, the difference was that this year, the cheerleaders were asking the student body to step up and volunteer themselves to sit in either the dunking booth or stand behind the pie wall.
And there was the mental hangup. Lana was as shy as a church mouse, while other teenagers spent there Friday and Saturday nights hanging out at skating rink or necking at the end of the local's lover lane, Lana was content to spend hers sitting at home, either watching old Disney horror movies or maybe reviewing Sunday School lessons for that coming Sunday. All of those thoughts filled Lana's head as she collected her lunch of processed turkey, canned green beans seasoned with tiny, bite size cubes of bacon, and a small spoon full of mac an' cheese. The Benton Academy version of a holiday lunch. Even if the turkey was cold, the green beans were slightly warm and the mac and cheese was nothing more than a yellow pasta. Once more she wondered if she should transfer to the local Catholic Academy, at least they got fish on Fridays. But she was Protestant, not Catholic.. Did that even matter?
"Hello Lana." said a voice that interrupted her pondering. The voice belonged to an older girl, a senior named Alexa who considered herself the "Queen" of the school. She had also had the nasty habit of treating the underclassmen as her personal servants, demanding of them their loyalty and complete one hundred and ten percent devotion. "You're just the girl I was looking for," She said almost purring as she moved in and seated herself in front of Lana.
At first Lana was confused, Alexa was not the kind of girl who was descent from her lofty perch at the top of the food chain to visit with a wallflower like her. In fact it was quite the opposite normally a girl like Lana would be summoned by one of Alexa's underlings to meet with her. For a meeting of the mind if you will. Taking a deep breath, Lana reached down and took a swallow from her now warm carton of milk, she recoiled at the lackluster taste of the milk, the milk did not taste like milk, but tasted more like milk flavored water.
"Hey, Alexa." Lana said at last after she finished drinking her milk. "What up?" She quickly added. Lana then noticed that Alexa wore a sinister smile as she looked her up and down. Lana quickly became very self conscious as she started to compare how she looked with Alexa. While they both wore the basic uniform of Benton Academy. Lana's uniform looked dull and shaggy when compared to Alexe's. And there was a good reason for that too, most of Lana's clothing came from "Potter's Second Hand Boutique" A small scale boutique that sold second hand clothing. The shop was attached to "Potter's Mercantile" a small scale general store located in downtown Benton. While all of Alexa's uniforms looked brand spanking new, and most of her clothing came from the big name stores in Jackson.
"Listen sweetie," Alexa cooed, "I'll get right to the point. I need a favor and I think you'll be just perfect." Behind her honey soaked words there lurked a shadow of a monster. A monster that was just itching at the chance to come out and tear the girl to pieces. A monster that had its eyes training on Lana, waiting and judging her.
A deep blush colored Lana's high cheekbones as she looked down. She was feeling bold, maybe even adventures, and we wanted to roll the mental dice a little. So gathering up her courage, she took a deep breath and looked and peered Alexa straight in the eyes.
"Oh? What kind of favor and what do I get in return?" She said as she reached up and started to play with her pigtails. While most of the girls wore their hair either down or pulled back in a high ponytail. Lana for the most part wore her hair in two cute twin tails. As she stroked her pigtails, she quickly added, "I mean of course, I'll be more than happy to help you out. But what do I get in return?" She stammered out quickly as another heatwave colored her cheeks.
For a fraction of an instant, a very annoyed looked flashed across Alexa's face. She hadn't expected Lana to ask what was in it for her. But she quickly and skillfully hid her irritation behind a charming and disarming smile.
"We'll one of the girls we had lined up for the dunking booth got sick and we're going to need someone to replace her. And I thought you would be perfect for the job. If you help out, I can open some doors for you, get you invited to some exclusive parties, you know things like that."
After Alexa finished speaking, she then looked deep into Lana's eyes. She didn't bother telling the shy girl what would happen if she refused. Alexa was well known for being 'One of THOSE girls' if you happen to get on her bad side, she and her little cohort of friends would make your life a living hell.
A soft whimper escaped Lana's lips as she nodded her head. She had been hoping to avoid the dunking booth this year. But it seemed fate had once more decided things for her. Taking a deep breath, Lana peered into Alexa's eyes, there was something about those eyes, that made her blood run cold. She knew that Alexa also had power, she had friends in high places, her daddy was one of the richest men and often courted the chief of police over shots of whiskey at the country club. Rumors also said he was the editor of the local newspaper on a short lease. And nothing was printed without his personal approval.
In fact, Lana would go as far as to say that Alexa and her little cohort of friends ran the school like it was her own little playground. It was the worst kept secret in Benton Academy that she had the teachers in her pocket. She had ruled the school like her own personal fieldom since Lana had been a freshman and with at least two more years to go, she wanted to keep on Alexa's good side, no doubt the girl had already picked out her successor to keep her legacy alive when she graduated at the end of the year.
"Okay and cool." She said, it was a well known fact that Lana was really shy and reserved. It was also a well known fact that she had never, ever dated any of the boys much less ever kissed a boy. Though she often dreamed of scoring her first kiss. "So, what.. what should I wear?" She asked, hoping to change the subject.
"Just a bathing suit,: She replied, grinning confidently at the shy girl, "Don't worry about. I'll have one of my friends pick something out for you, something cute, special for you. Consider it a gift."
"You know," Lana said, blushing deeply as she peered toward Alexa's eyes "I don't even own a bathing suit," She said, sweat dropping a little. "Potter's sold out of them at the start of the season and Mrs. Potter said it would be a while before they got any back in stock. And even if I order from Amazon and have it shipped with Amazon Prime, it's still going to take a few days." Lana felt like she was graphing for straws now. She felt like a drowning man, reaching for any piece of passing piece of driftwood. But then Alexa mentioned she'll provide a swimsuit as a gift.. Lana knew she had been trapped. Submitting herself to defeat she bowed her head.
Alexa smiled in triumph, "Don't mention it sweetie, I'll take care of everything." Alexa stepped back, "We'll I've got to get to class. See you around Lana." And with that Alexa strode off. Leaving Lana to her thoughts.
To be continued~