“So, Barbie,” Harry says as we walk outside. I have completely forgotten about my rush to the bathroom, and is now only aware of his body half a meter from mine. The school grounds are still occupied by students, and by our lunch table, Kathleen, Anna and Jennifer are sitting. They are caught up on conversation and do not notice us.
“Your friends,” He continues and looks down at me. I meet his eyes. “Do they always sit there?”
I nod, “That table has been ours since freshmen year.”
“Nice.” He states in a low voice. His eyes wander over the school, resting on every clique of students for a short while. Some are cliques more closed than others, and those are easily spotted. It is like there is this unwritten rule in high school, that in order to survive you must be in a some sort of group or clique. It might have something to do with our animalistic instincts that go way back. In some ways we act like lions - we need a pack. We rely on our pack and if our pack is strong, it makes us more powerful as individuals.
“So how does this whole hierarchy thing work here?” Harry asks, taking me slightly by surprise.
“Whole hierarchy thing?” I ask.
He nods, “Who is on top and who is at the bottom, or is everyone just minding their own business?”
I did not expect Harry to ask such a question. He has gone to school just like the rest of us, the only difference is that his old school was a private catholic school.
“Oh,” I breathe and reach down for my ring. “There are of course some more… Popular people than others.”
Harry is watching me and I understand that he wants me to explain.
“Like for example, Juliane Summers,” I start out and Harry lets out a low chuckle.
“What?” I am afraid that I have said something wrong.
“Nothing,” he smiles and shakes his head. “Anything else?”
“Well Juliane is hanging with most of the basketball players and she is a cheerleader wi-“
“I know. So they are considered the most popular?”
Well of course they are. Isn’t it always like that?
Harry is asking as if he has never been on a high school before.
“Yeah, in some way. I mean… I guess you are popular in your own way.”
Harry raises his eyebrows.
“Like for example Bailey,” I say and watch Harry, waiting for some sort of reaction but it never comes. “Bailey and Jonathan Morgan are in their own group with some of the other students, and they are popular in their own way. They are not sport starts or anything, but they have a strong group and that is their force.”
“Interesting.” Harry mumbles and I breathe in deeply, glancing up at him. His forehead is slightly wrinkled. He is not looking at me.
The bell rings and only within minutes, the entire outdoor area is emptied.
We have been walking around on the school grounds for about half an hour, when we get to theparking lot. I do not want to show him how it looks inside - he will quickly figure that out himself, and if my teacher notices me in the hall, or if any teacher does, then I will probably get scolded at. I do not wish for that to happen.
Harry has been surprisingly quiet and has only spoken a few times on my little Tour de East Haven High. I have been forced to do all the talking, which mainly includes me talking about the school and avoiding the grouping subject.
Once we step onto the asphalt, Harry stops and breathes in. His hands are dug down in the pockets of his jeans. I watch him for a moment. He looks calm and I am desperate to find out what is going on inside the head of his. But I am also afraid of disturbing him. He looks like the kind of guy who likes to have the upper hand.
I am fighting against everything in me that wants to break the silence. It feels awkward, but Harry looks like it is the most natural thing. Maybe it is my nervousness that makes me feel this awkward, maybe I should try to relax a little, be more zen. He seems zen all the time - in touch with his inner and outer self.
“What time is it?” He suddenly asks and turns to look at me.
I dig down in the back pocket of my jeans, and slip up my phone.
“12:37.” I say and he smiles with a little nod. What is he thinking? It drives me crazy that I can not tell. The silence barely creeps over us, before an all too familiar voice breaks through the air. “Harry!”
I quickly throw a glance over my shoulder and see (to my big surprise) Juliane Summers hurrying towards us. She is carrying her bag over her shoulder, and her blonde hair falls nicely around her shoulders. It does not take her long to reach us with her slender legs. Jealousy is an ugly thing, but when I see the way Harry’s smile grows, I can not help but feel a sting of it. The thought of them knowing each other before East Haven High occurs to me, but then I remember her asking what he got kicked out for, and it hits me that they have only known each other for a day and a half.
When Juliane gets close, she slows down a little - still with a wide smile dancing across her face. “Shall we go?” She asks, and does not bother to glance at me. I press my lips together, and look away from them - trying to find something else to focus on. Anything else. I can feel Harry glancing at me, but he soon returns back to Juliane.
“We shall.” He simply says.
Juliane seems satisfied with his answer and then turns around to face me. “Barbara.” She states. Juliane does not dislike me and neither do I dislike her, but we have never exactly been the closest of friends.
“Juliane,” I say politely.
“Shouldn’t you be in class?” She then asks and looks expectingly at me. I am not one to miss class on the second day, but her question makes me sound like a fanatic - and we both know that is not true.
“I suppose I should.” I mumble with a nod.
“Well thanks for the tour,” Harry then says. “I will see you tomorrow?”
I swallow and force a smile, “Sure.” My glance wanders to Juliane, “Have fun.”
Juliane’s face falls in confusion, but I take a step back fast and turn my back to both of them - hurrying away from the parking lot.
Why did I say that?