In Love and War

Truths were bitter. Truth. Sophie was dead. Truth. I was not going to be happy for a long time.
Truth. I was going to be sent far far away.

After losing her best friend, Charlotte moves away to forget her, to forget that the drama and the tension. Of course, she could never expect that the things waiting for her at the place she ran away to, would be far more painful.

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5. First Day

Chapter Five

 

            Charlotte had been right. New York was distracting in the most wonderful way possible. If she got bored in the house, she went to the park. And if that got boring, she would get Margo and the twins and go somewhere else. There was always somewhere to be, something to do.

            She went shopping with Jenny, and regretted it immediately. Her closet, which had been mostly empty before, was now filled to the brim. Most of the things were pretty, fashionable dresses. But Charlie didn’t really do fashionable. She preferred her skinny jeans and her plain t-shirts. They attracted less attention.

            Jenny enrolled her in a public school, although it took some persuasion. She bought her supplies and waited anxiously for the first day. From what she’d seen of the school, it was about three times the size of the high school in their old town, and far more imposing. It was one of those blue-ribbon public schools.

            Margo packed her lunch and handed it to her, whispering ‘good luck’ into her ear with a hug. Jenny had wanted to come along, but she was off on a business trip. In the end, it was her father that ended up driving her to school.

            The principal was waiting for them in his office, large room with a lot of photo frames of previous graduating classes. Charlie didn’t like being called to the office on the first day of school. He was reviewing her file when they walked in, and smiled up at them. The principal was a tall man, with greying hair that was a bit long, and a gray suit that looked just the tiniest bit frayed.

            “Good morning, you must be the Greys,” he said. “I’m Patrick Schumacher, principal here.”

            “Yeah, I’m Sam Grey, and this is Charlotte,” her dad said. “Why did you ask to meet me? I already spoke to the school about admitting her here.”

            “Well, I try to know all of our students and their progress,” Mr. Schumacher said. “Charlotte’s grades are wonderful. I was wondering if you would like to enroll her as a sophomore rather than a freshman.”

            Charlotte looked up at the man in surprise. She liked the idea. Freshmen were, in Seth’s words, fresh bait. She could skip the whole awkward year of being the lowest on the food chain and go straight to the normal high school life.

            “I don’t know, Mr. Schumacher,” her father said. “I mean, she should interact with people her own-”

            “I’d love to,” Charlotte said, before her father could ruin it. “I’d love to be a sophomore.”

            Her father looked at her quizzically, “Are you sure, Charlie?”

            “Yeah, dad, it’s only one year,” Charlie said. “I’ll be fine.”

            The word ‘dad’ had come out of her mouth without hesitation. But she didn’t mind.

            “If you’re sure then,” he said. “Okay, Mr. Schumacher, so she’ll need a new schedule and everything, right?”

            “Yes, I’ve already had everything put together in case you guys were interested,” Mr. Schumacher replied. “Just pick up the file from the receptionist, Mrs. Collins.”

            Her dad followed her out of the principal’s room and into the main office. The receptionist, a small woman in her mid-forties, obviously a fake blonde, handed her file to her without a glance and went back to looking at her nails.

            Charlie emerged out of the office much brighter than she was when going in. So far the day was going better than she had anticipated. Her father hugged her lightly, and she almost squirmed.

            “Margo will be here to pick you up,” he said, and then left abruptly. Charlotte stared at his receding figure. So that was two things they had in common; they didn’t talk and they didn’t do goodbyes.

            Charlie walked through the halls following the map to her first class, English, after making a quick stop at her locker and dumping her stuff there. She mostly stuck to the sides of the halls, avoiding the giant jocks and the girls with perpetual stink-eyes. She made it into class successfully, and slumped down in the nearest seat. Already a few people were there, and she felt the first little threads of anxiety seeping in.

            It was good they avoided her, with her glasses and overall nerdy demeanor. She took out one of her favorites, Jane Eyre and proceeded to read until the door snapped shut, signaling that their teacher had arrived.

            The teacher was a small, podgy man with ruddy skin, balding red hair, and a disgustingly colorful choice in clothing. A cyan shirt, black dress pants, sneakers, and a polka-dotted tie completed his ensemble from hell. Charlotte tried not to flinch, as did most of the girls in the class.

            “Good morning class, I’m Mr. Stroebel,” he said with a smile. “I’ll be teaching A.P. English for you guys, and this year we’ll be doing some awesome stuff!”

            Most of the kids muttered their doubts about that, and Mr. Stroebel took out a thick book.

            “Okay, everyone, this year we’re covering all the works of Shakespeare,” he announced. “This will go hand-in-hand with the Drama Club who’s performing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.”

            Charlie grinned. So she would just breeze by through English this year then. Or so she thought. Mr. Stroebel had the unique gift of making the even the most fascinating things as interesting as paint drying. She was half-asleep when the first bell rang, and the entire class unanimously was jolted awake.

            She stumbled out of the class and to her next. No one had talked to her yet, but in her opinion it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. She passed through the doors of the Chemistry lab, where thankfully they weren’t doing any experiments.

            It continued that way until lunch. She trudged off outside where there was a small courtyard with benches, resigning herself to the loneliness. She got some strange looks as she sat down at an empty bench.

            “You look new here,” a sweet high-pitched voice said. Charlotte craned her neck around to answer.

            “Yeah, I’m a new student, Charlotte Grey,” she replied to the peppy redhead. The girl in front of her was… cute. She had the little button nose, and the red ringlets. She was one of those girls that was always cute, but not beautiful. She wore a cute floral top, matching her headband, and a frilly black skirt.

            “I’m Annabelle,” she said, setting her tray down and taking the seat next to Charlie. “I’m new too.”

            “Well, birds of a feather, I guess,” Charlie said. Then she regretted it. She used old expressions; that was the punishment for reading nothing but classics. Sophie had always said that they killed any chance she had at a social life.

            “Yeah,” the other girl agreed. “So, you were in my English class.”

            “I was asleep during that class,” Charlie admitted. “Mr. Stroebel could put a kid on a sugar rush to sleep.”

            “So, where next?”

            “Well, right now I have a study period, then Biology, then Physics, and finally, ugh, P.E.,” she spat out the word. Bookworms and basketball, or dodgeball, or whatever, did not mix well.

            “Yeah, so I have Physics with you, and P.E.,” Annabelle said.

            The day passed by uneventfully. The Physics teacher had looked at her weird several times, and she convinced herself it wasn’t in a creepy way. She was, after all, the only one that had been able to answer all of the questions he asked. Annabelle did most of the talking for both of them, and Charlotte confirmed to herself that although it was her first day, she had managed to make one friend.

            She finally went into P.E., exhausted and not looking forward to an hour of torture, what others called exercise. The gym was giant, with volleyball courts set up. Some of the girls had changed into gym outfits, but she didn’t bring anything along.

            With Annabelle by her side she walked over to the intimidating figure of their gym teacher. He definitely looked the part, probably in his early fifties, with a shiny dome where hair should have been, and enormous and muscled.

            “We’re both new, we didn’t know to bring gym clothes,” Annabelle explained.

            He looked over Charlotte’s skinny jeans, and Annabelle’s frilly skirt.

            “Well, you’re not playing in those,” he said. “I’ll let you sit out today. But… just today.”

            Charlotte felt like hugging the bald man. But she just meekly followed Annabelle to the bleachers where they took their seats and watched everyone else play. Four courts were set up in the gym. In two courts, people were actually taking the game seriously. In the other, the girls were dressed in nearly non-existent shorts, bending over even when they didn’t need to, pretending to be hit by the ball, and all other things they could think of to get attention from the boys.

            She sighed at the shallowness of it all. Looking at her watch, there was still fifty minutes left of this torture. She walked over her book bag which she’d brought along, and took out her Jane Eyre. She was at the part where Helen died, and not in her best mood, when a volleyball hit her in the head.

            Charlie looked up suddenly, and then found the ball, rolling around a little at her feet, as if it had done nothing wrong. A boy came running up to her while she stared at it, finally digesting what had happened.

            “Sorry about that,” the boy said. His voice was deep, rich, and his slight accent suggested that he wasn’t originally from New York.

            “It’s okay,” she replied, handing him the ball without bothering to look at him. She picked up her book again, which she’d accidentally dropped, and continued to read about Helen’s death.

            “Charlie?” Anna asked quietly.

            “Yes?” she enquired, getting irritated at how people kept disturbing her from her book.

            “Those girls look like they’re going to kill you,” she said. Charlie raised her eyebrow at that, and looked in the direction Anna was pointing. It was true. A couple of the scantily clad girls did have murderous looks on their faces.

            “They could be looking at you,” she said. She was used to hate. The looks those girls were giving her, nothing compared to her mother.

            “No way,” Anna said. “I didn’t do anything.”

            “And I did?” Charlie asked.

            Anna nodded feverishly. “Yeah, you talked to that guy.”

            “What guy?”

            “The guy that hit you on the head with a volleyball,” she answered. “I think one of them is his girlfriend or something.”

            “They’re not going to kill me, Anna,” Charlie said. Inside though, she really wondered. She had gone the entire day without any bad things happening. Maybe a murder attempt would make up for that. Maybe New York people were really possessive. Maybe…

            She snapped herself out of it. She hadn’t even looked at the guy. They were just normally possessive, not psychotic possessive. The group started walking towards her, leaving the volleyball game that they weren’t really contributing to.

            The one in the middle, a tall, toned girl with painfully platinum blonde hair was the one to speak.

            “Stay away from my boyfriend,” she said. Charlotte didn’t see the reason in that. She was the brunette nerd with about ninety percent of her body covered with clothing. The girl in front of her was one step away from a lingerie shoot. There was no way she was competition.

            She nodded though, trying to look scared. The girl, satisfied, walked off with a smirk, her posse behind her.

            “That was scary,” Anna said.

            “Sure it was,” Charlie replied. It wasn’t really. Strangers had frightened her before. But now, when she thought about it, the girls in front of her were idiots. Before, when Sophie had dealt with the bullies for her, she’d always felt vulnerable. She thought they were better, just because they acted better. Seeing them up close, it changed her perspective.

            She put her book down, wanting to take a break from the depression of Helen’s death. She would begin again that night, on a more positive note when new management would take over the Lowood School.

            The volleyball games were still on, and most people had stopped fooling around. One of them, a boy, in particular was taking it far too seriously. He spiked hard, ran to all corners of the court, yelled at his teammates, and was in general, a tyrant.

            “That’s the guy that hit you,” Anna whispered into her ear.

            His voice was different than when he apologized. It was harsher, filled with anger. He was handsome, and she could see why the girl was possessive. Their team ended up winning, and he wasn’t the most gracious winner about it.

            She passed him by as she left the school, heading directly for the parking lot. The girl from before was sucking his face off, and she made sure not to look their way.

            Margo was waiting for her in the parking lot.

            “How was your first day?” Margo asked.

            She thought over it for a moment. She was a sophomore, not a freshman, and she had made a friend, yet she had been hit on the head with a volleyball and threatened by an airheaded bimbo.

            It could’ve been worse, she thought.

            “Fine,” Charlie replied. “Just fine.”

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