The Most Popular Girl [Anna Jones]

"Give the people what they want, right? Right. I know what people want, and it's me. They want something to look up to, to aspire after. I say everyone should have a goal, and I give them that. See? I do so much, and all I ask is a little bit in return. " - Anna Jones, The Most Popular Girl


3. Chapter 2

Mrs. Patton might be the biggest wet blanket this Earth has ever experienced, and it's my pleasure to interview her this morning. She stands up when I walk into her quiet office, the click of the door oddly conspicuous in the silence, and all the rolls of fat on her body cascade down and settle like a dress made of Jell-O, only less revealing, and hopefully less tasty. 

"Ms. Camington, welcome," she says, extending a wobbly hand. She has a therapist voice, all mush, like her handshake. Not me. A good reporter has a strong voice and a strong handshake.

"Mrs. Patton. Do you mind if I film?" I pull my tripod and camera out of my backpack. 

She smiles pleasantly. "No, no, do whatever you need to do."

I nod. "Okay, then. If I could have you scoot just a few inches to your left..." I set up my shot, with her in front of her window overlooking the campus and parking lot.  "Perfect, and...we're recording." 

I sit down, out of view of the camera. She sits stiffly, glancing uncertainly from the camera to me and I give my best reassuring smile. "Don't think about the camera, Mrs. Patton. It's just a conversation where I'm going to ask you a few questions, and you're going to look at me and answer them, rephrasing my question in your answer, okay?"

"Alright," she says. She straightens her back and folds her hands on the table in front of her.

"Okay. First, what is your name and job?" 

"My name is Elizabeth Patton, and I work as a student counselor here at Kingston Academy."

I nod approvingly. "And what does that entail?"

"I work with students to overcome any personal, familial, or social issues that interfere with their performance or behavior in the learning environment."

Now on to the meat. "Would you consider bullying to be a problem here at Kingston Academy?"

"Here at Kingston we have a largely accepting student body," Mrs. Patton says, nodding her head. Her fingers tighten slightly in their interlocking fold. I smile. I can work with this.

"Do you ever work with any students who are involved in bullying situations?" I ask, leaning forward slightly in my chair.

"Theoretically, problems with bullying would be one of the one of the things I'd help students address, yes."

I tilt my head. "And about how many students do you see for issues regarding bullying a month?" 

Mrs. Patton shifts uncomfortably. "Ms. Camington, all information regarding my students is strictly confidential." 

I smile and slip a packet of paper out of my bag and slide it across the wooden table to her. "Can you please tell me what this document is?"

"This is the contract of confidentiality I have with anyone who comes to me. It's hanging on my wall right here behind me, and is free to pick up at the desk outside the office." She points, and I make a mental note to get a camera shot of it later. 

"Mrs. Patton, would you please read the highlighted section on page three aloud for me?"

She looks at me uncertainly, but turns the pages and clears her throat. "Counseling officials retain the right to provide the public and press with unspecific, anonymous, statistical data based on gender, sexuality, age, religion, learning inhibitions, social situations and other circumstances concerning the reason, frequency, and professional opinions surrounding visitation and discussion between Kingston Academy students and certified Kingston Academy counseling staff." Her eyes have the look of a deer staring down the barrel of a gun. She knows she's cornered. 

"I'd appreciate it if you'd answer my questions, Mrs. Patton, as you are contractually free to do so." I sit back and pose my question again. "About how many students would you say you see for issues regarding bulling every month?"

"Perhaps ten to fifteen," she says curtly. 

"Does that number stay about steady or increase?"

"I gain maybe one or two new regulars a month due to harmful social situations." She glances at the door. Planning escape routes. How mature and adult.

"Would you say 'harmful social situations' are a common reason for students to come to you with problems that affect them at school?"

Mrs. Patton pauses, then admits, "One of the most common, yes."

"In your professional and objective opinion, would you say that students coming to you because of these social situations is increasingly common, or no?"

"I'd say more students coming to me because of social qualms is certainly not becoming more uncommon," she says.

Now she really looks like she wants to leave. This will be a great segment. 

I stand up. "Thank you for your time, Mrs. Patton. If you don't mind, I'd like to take a bit of footage of the office, and then I'll be out of your hair."

She sighs in relief. "Whatever you need, Ms. Camington."




I have not visited the school cafeteria for any food-related purpose since the seventh grade, which has lead to some interesting lunch locales. My go-to spot was the soft corners of the antique library until the old, friendly librarian retired and was replaced by some middle-aged ass who insists that food is the bane of a library's existence and the presence of any food-like product within fifty feet of a single page will inevitably result in eternal damnation for both the transgressor and the librarian who did not stop the deadly sin. I would choose a nice, shady tree near the building for wireless internet access, but those are always snapped up right away by the more social members of the tech-geek subsect. So, I've been going off-campus lately, to coffee shops and cafes in the wannabe rustic part of this particular suburb. 

But not today. No, today is EP Day, and due to the cancellation of open campus privileges to all students, the librarian despot, the lockdown of the computer labs after an unfortunate incident with the science department's rats and their teeth, and my personal aversion to eating in the same room as human waste, I am relegated to the cafeteria. 

I buy a sandwich, a water, and some chips and occupy a two person table near one of the tall windows in the airy hall, apparently stealing the usual table of one of those couples incapable of not being constantly joined at the hip, but whatever. They can find a different table to violate for a day.

"Enthusiastic Participation Day" is a long standing tradition of Kingston Academy, and it's almost as archaic and sexualized as the traditional end of the year dance around the Kingston flag emblazoned with our crest and coat of arms. Because we have, need, and abide by the medieval values of both as functioning members of this century. Originally, it was an event where all the segregated kids got to play together to the disdain of everyone else, but these days it's mostly just a day dedicated to school pride and the showing off of multiple school-sanctioned groups and activities.

As I eat, I watch the festivities. From one corner, the jazz band plays something boppy as the dance team writhes around. According to the promotional posters that have been up for weeks, at some point throughout the day, the cheerleaders will debut a new cheer written especially for this event called "Shake Them Poms". And, inevitably, some show choir kids will start a surprise flash mob and piss off all the teachers later. Some years I film and do a segment for it on Sam's Show, my weekly online video broadcast, but this year I did a story behind the scenes ("Dance Moms: Are they Participating too Enthusiastically in EP Day Preparations?") so I don't feel the need. Plus, I really need to focus my energy on finding a topic for the documentary I need to make and submit to apply for the International Film Association's scholarship, which I need to win this year.  This scholarship will get me into any art school in the world, and there's no way I'm putting off winning until I'm a senior next year. The earlier you win, the more impressive you look, and I will not risk my only chance being my last one. 

Of course, for any of that to be relevant, I need a subject. And unfortunately, all my subject ideas seem to have conveniently hopped off my train of thought somewhere too close to the confines of my skill and fallen out my nose, or maybe my ear. 

Suddenly, I'm jerked from my thoughts by a loud slam, courtesy one of the tall doors leading into the cafeteria. It's Anna Jones, the reigning hell hornet herself, and she looks angry. You can tell when she's angry because she starts gliding around like a ghost from a hell dimension, reigning silent, seething judgement on humanity and doing freaky stuff like slamming doors unexpectedly. 

Realizing it's Anna and probably doesn't concern me, I look away and go back to my food. This is a mistake, because in the split second that I let my guard down, she struts her twiggy little self over and hovers next to the dark wood table, cold and domineering. I try not to look taken aback. 

"Hi, Sam!" she chirps. "Mind if I sit down?" She doesn't wait for an answer, and perches herself on the other chair, her hair falling around her shoulders. She flicks it back. 

I eye her warily. "Did you need something?"

Anna leans forward onto the table. "I need you to do something for me," she says earnestly. 

I laugh. Like hell I'm doing anything to involve myself with that girl again. "Can't help," I say.

She pouts. "You don't even know what it is yet!"

"I don't need to," I say, chewing a chip, which, much to my pleasure, makes her dainty little artificial nose wrinkle in disgust.

She straightens up like she's offended. "God, Sam. First you ditch me in seventh grade, then you ignore me for four years, and now when your old friend who you've put through a lot of pain shows up asking for help, you won't even hear her out?" She gives a little huff of indignance. 

I've never heard a more twisted version of the story, and I've heard quite a few over the years. But hey, she can still act, I'll give her that. There's no point in arguing. "Fine, I'll listen to what you want, but I'm not agreeing to anything."

Anna gives a triumphant little hum. "Someone who is interfering with my life needs to be knocked down. I heard you're the one to talk to."

"I don't think you understand what I do," I say carefully. 

She giggles. "Sure I do! You take people and you destroy their public image and reputation and everyone loves you for it. If you do this for me, I'll love you for it and that will look very good for you."

I laugh again. "I obviously don't need your approval for my reputation, thanks."

"Don't'cha at least want to know who the person is?"

I look up at her and raise my eyebrows. What can I say? I'm naturally inquisitive.

"Kimi Ayers."

I snort. "You really don't understand what I do." I put down my food and dust off my hands. She starts to say something, but I cut her off. "See, Anna, there are three kinds of people in the world. The bullies, the victims, and the people awake enough to do something about it."

"-And I'm a victim!" she insists, and I almost believe her. Almost, but I know too many of her tricks to fall for them again.

"No, Anna Jones, you are a bully. Have a nice day." I start eating again.

She stands up and pulls something out of her pocket and tosses it in front of me. In my ear, she says, "I have a lot to offer. Let me know when you change your mind." It's a pink sticky note, shaped like an A, with a phone number printed in perfectly aligned, boxy letters right across the center. And with that, she leaves, the air still infected with her spicy-sweet perfume.

As she's walking away, it hits me. The perfect plan. I swivel around in my seat. "Anna!" I call. She turns around, a perfectly defined eyebrow arched. I stand up and beckon her over. "One condition," I say. "You have to be the star of a documentary I'm filming for an internationally acclaimed film association, and you have to let me work on my terms."

"You'll destroy Kimi for me if I let you make a movie about me?" She cocks her head.

I nod. "Exactly."

She holds her manicured hand out for a shake. "Deal."

I take it.

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