Finally, Derek and his silent friend got up to go talk with some of their buddies from last year.
“He’s worse than I anticipated,” I said to Cami and Iz, who had just walked in.
“That was nothing. Trust me,” Cami promised, and told Iz about what happened with Derek.
I was about to ask who the other boy was when the principal was handed a microphone and she cleared her throat into it.
“Why hello, everyone!” she exclaimed, her nasally voice echoing around the room. “For those of you who don’t know me, I am Mrs. Black. Like some of you here, I am new to Our Mother of Mercy. I am the new principal!”
There were some groans near me. I learned later that the previous principal was very nice and tolerated almost everything. Nobody ever got in trouble or ‘sent to the principal’s office’. But I thought this new lady looked very nice. She looked sort of odd, with her entirely brown outfit that matched her brown shoes, makeup, and hair. She even was wearing a similar shade on her jewelry. I had met Mrs. Black at a private meeting between her and me, my mom, and sister. She was so welcoming and I knew I wanted to go to Our Mother of Mercy.
“Can those of you who are new here please stand?” she asked.
The girls around me smiled as I shyly stood up. I spotted my little sister across the room standing up too, her new friends poking her and giggling. She was in 2nd grade now. Life was so easy then.
“Everyone give these kids a round of applause!”
The crowd hollered and clapped loudly. My heart was beating very hard in my chest as I sat down quickly, feeling like everyone was looking at me. Some of them were, of course. And even though I was a musical theater performer, I hated to be the center of attention. Sometimes. This was definitely one of those times. I mean, I would be cool with singing a solo from a tower or doing a monologue by myself on stage, but when I stood up with a couple other people in a crowded gym I felt like everyone was analyzing me, like how I looked decided whether I would be a good friend or not.
“So let’s all welcome them kindly and make them feel at home.”
Iz and Cami patted my shoulders. I laughed.
After she gave a whole speech about serving the Lord and treating each other with respect and trying our best and nice stuff like that, Mrs. Black dismissed us to our teachers. As we walked through the hallway, one girl with Ombre hair started to talk to me. She had a very fast voice, and she seemed a bit hyper. But the girl, whose name was Erin, I learned, was very nice and we were good friends by the time we got to homeroom.
“Hi everyone!” a tall, blond lady exclaimed. “I am Miss Taurasta. You will be in this classroom with me every morning and for science class.”
We were all standing along the back of the room, Erin on one side of me, Cami on the other, and I was admiring the lockers that lined the wall. I had never had an actual locker before, and I felt so grown up having one in 5th grade.
“And here is a special treat: you all can pick your seats for the first week!”
We all cheered and formed groups to sit with. I was going to sit with Cami, Iz, Bailey, Rebecca, and a girl named Ophelia. It was kind of an awkward silence when I told them that I wanted to sit with Erin, too. But then Cami spoke up.
“Of course she can join us!”
The others nodded but whispered to each other. Cami elbowed a girl who rolled her eyes.
“Ok…” I replied slowly, and motioned for Erin to come over.
She ran to me carrying a black notebook.
“What’s that?” I asked.
We went over to a table of eight and sat down.
“There’s one space left,” Iz announced.
“Oh, can we add Kaylee? Please?” Erin begged.
Ophelia and Bailey, best friends, exchanged looks.
“Sure!” Cami blurted, shrugging apologetically to the other girls.
What is their problem with Erin? And what about Kaylee? I don’t know Kaylee, but it’s obvious the two are best friends- what’s wrong with Erin inviting her?
I decided to deal with it later. It wasn’t worth making enemies over.
“Alright everyone! Let’s get started!” Miss Taurasta said cheerily, when everyone was seated and ready to go.
Science was pretty fun, even though all we did was pass out books and read class guidelines the whole time. Before I knew it, it was time to go to language arts.
My teacher, Mrs. Renzodi, was a younger looking woman with long, dark, curly hair and big eyes. She did this fun activity with us where we had to answer these questions to see how much we knew her. Everyone else did well, but I, of course, did terribly. When we had initially got into the classroom she had let us choose our seats, but after the mini quiz she assigned them.
“Arthur sits here…then Nolan…then Ariel…then Ophelia…”
I took my seat and set my backpack on the back of my chair. That was another thing I loved about Our Mother of Mercy- instead of having to lug around all your books in your arms all day, you could just put them in your backpack and go.
“So now that everyone is seated, let’s pass out your spelling, grammar, reading, and literature books,” Mrs. Renzodi said.
As the paper books were being passed out, I thought about where I had seen the kid next to me, Nolan, before.
Oh yeah! He was the one with Derek. Ugh…if he’s friends with Derek he might be bad news.
Suddenly, Nolan stuck his hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Nolan. You’re Ariel, right?”
“Yep, that’s me,” I replied, shaking his hand.
“That’s a really pretty name,” he told me timidly.
But deep down I appreciated how kind he was being to me. At least he took the time to check to make sure he knew my name.
“No Damien? Has anyone seen Damien today?” Mrs. Renzodi had been saying.
A couple kids shrugged.
The teacher threw her hands up in the air.
“Alright, why don’t we just call role first? Those of you who are seated already can stay where you are.”
She proceeded in calling everyone’s name.
“What? Oh! I’m here.”
Cami rolled her eyes and there was some giggling.
One thing caught me as she said Nolan and Derek’s last names. They were the same. Maybe they were brothers…
“And Izza Meyertom?”
“Alright, so Damien is the only one absent? Good. Let’s finish up the seating…”
I toned out everything else and started thinking about recess, which was coming soon.
Who will I hang out with? Do they even play games here?
At my old school, we made up stories about adventures and monsters. I remembered one game we played out in the parking lot. Each of the storm drains was an ‘elevator to the underground’, and if you jumped on one, you were transported up or down. We ran around, hiding from each other behind telephone poles and other people.
Sometimes, when I was in the middle of lots of girl drama, I would play football with the boys, right there on the hard pavement and in my plaid dress and little flats.
But what if that was unheard of at this new school? Could I survive just sitting on the benches, crossing my ankles and gossiping and talking about boys? This is what I meant when I said I was wild and crazy and feared I would scare the others off.
I was so lost in thought and memories that I hadn’t heard a word from Mrs. Renzodi until she said, “Time for lunch! See you afterward!”