I sat at the lunch table and picked at my food with disinterest. I heard laughter coming from two tables away. I tried not to stare. The noise came from the blue table. That was where the cool kids ate. I was stuck at the green table. The green table was where the rejects like me sat.
I hated it at the green table, but I had no friends at any of the other tables. I picked at my food and wished I was someone different. Not just anyone. I wanted to be someone in particular. I wanted her hairstyles, her clothes, and her friends. I wanted to be Ashley Moore.
I let out a sigh and bit into my fish sticks. I loathed the eighth grade. It was a time when my peers were blossoming and getting attention from boys, and I spent the majority of my time in the front of the class talking to the teacher. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be popular.
The bell rang and it was time for my next class. I headed to English class, but first I stopped by my locker to grab my book and a pen. As I walked down the hall, I observed the sets of friends that passed me. It seemed as if everyone had someone to walk the halls with. Everyone except me.
I closed my locker door and looked up as Ashley passed me. We made eye contact and I almost said hello but changed my mind. She had on a pair of sparkly pants and a V-next sweater that showed off her curves. I didn’t feel good enough to speak, so I shut my locker door and walked into class.
“Hello, Courtney,” Mrs. Kilis greeted me.
I forced a smile. “Hello, Mrs. Kilis.”
I took my seat at the first desk of the first row. The one right next to my teacher. The final bell rang, and a few people straggled in late. They were laughing and play fighting. I wanted to join in but felt out of place. Instead, I took out my trapper keeper and stared at the board.
We were given our assignment. Write definitions for our spelling test on Friday. I looked behind me. Johnny Bell was laughing and talking about a party at his house that coming this weekend. I wanted to go but I knew I would never be invited, so I grabbed a dictionary from the shelf across the room and began to write.
“Who’s all going John?” I heard someone say.
“Ashley will be there. Dana is coming and bringing her cousin. Man, everyone is going to be there,” Jonny replied.
Johnny stopped talking when he saw me staring. Quickly, I turned around and began to write. Wow, a party at Johnny’s house. I wish I could go. But I knew everyone meant everyone except me. I remained silent and did my work.
The school day went on as usual and as usual; I was ignored. I went home that day and tried to figure out how to become more popular. I craved attention, but no one knew who I was. I was a part of the wall.
I went on my school day and tried to ignore the shrieks of joy when Ashley told a joke in math class, or the oohs and aah when Kaleb showed off his new shoes in gym. By the end of the day, I had had enough of being an outsider.
I went home that day and headed straight to my room. I picked through my wardrobe with care and attention. I needed to put my outfit for tomorrow together with style and flair. I had a Roger Rabbit sweater I had only worn once. It was bright in color, and in 1994, loud colors were in.
Even though it was snowing outside I decided to wear my sneakers. They looked new and would pair with my sweater better than a clunky pair of boots. I held my seater up next to a pair of stonewashed pants and decided I looked perfect.
After dinner, I retreated to my room to get ready for bed. I grabbed my journal and jotted down my ideas for the day. As I wrote in my journal my mind began to spark with an idea. The more I thought about it, the more I knew it would work. All I had to do was play my cards right and by the end of school tomorrow, I would be more popular than Ashley.
The next morning, I got up and dressed for school. It was a Friday morning, and I was excited for the weekend. If my plans worked, I could have someone to go to the mall with, or maybe a party or two. I ran my fingers through my short curly hair and smiled. By the end of the day, everyone would know the name Courtney Duneberry.
When I got on the bus that morning, I felt confident enough to sit in the middle. I wasn’t ready for the back of the bus, where the cool kids in my neighborhood sat, but I had I felt courageous enough to try the middle seat.
“Hey Courtney, nice shoes,” I heard someone say. “What kind are those?”
I turned to face Robert Smith, a young boy with a frenzy of curls for hair. He had on a pair of Nike boots and a Boss coat. I looked down at my snow-covered rainbow shoes. I was ashamed to tell him the brand, he wouldn’t know it anyway. I turned back around in my seat and said nothing. Maybe I had made a mistake sitting so close to the popular students.
I pulled my backpack over my lap and sighed. My plan had to work.
We pulled up to the school and everyone got off the bus. Normally, I went to the cafeteria for breakfast, but today I stood outside with the rest of the students and waited for the main door to open. When I spotted Debbie Comer, my heart skipped a beat. She was who I was waiting for. I kept my eyes glued to her as I tried not to get caught staring.
Debbie Comer was popular, but she was also a gossiper. If there was a rumor floating around, she had heard about it first. When the final bell rang, and the students began filing in, I walked as close to Debbie as possible.
It was hard getting a free moment with her because she always had a friend with her. Once she walked away from her locker, I took my chance.
“Hey Debbie,” I said.
She turned and gave me a nonchalant look.
“You wouldn’t believe what I saw yesterday after gym class,” I said smiling.
“I saw Ashley and Johnny kissing. He said he was going to make her his girlfriend.”
Debbie’s eyes lit up. “You're joking me, right?”
“No way. I saw them.”
Debbie looked horrified. “Johnny has a girlfriend. Rebecca is going to go crazy.”
“Oh, I did know he had a girlfriend,” I lied.
“Well, he does. Just wait until Becca here’s about this.”
Before I could think of anything else to say I turned and walked away. I was a few minutes late for class and was given a tardy slip. I shoved the slip in my trapper keeper and smiled. It was worth the trouble.
I did know about Rebecca and Johnny. Everyone knew. That is what made my plan so extravagant. I had decided to spread a rumor about the most popular kids at school. When everyone found out it was me who had seen them, they would all be talking.
I finished the first hour and headed to second hour. As soon as I sat down in my seat, someone passed me a note. I stared at the folded piece of paper as if it was magic. I had never been passed a note before. I waited until the teacher wasn’t looking and opened it.
Say it isn’t true. Did you really see Ashley and Johnny kissing? The note said. There was no author, so I didn’t know who the note was from, but I wrote down "yes" and passed it behind me.
“Excuse me what is that?” Mr. Dunbar asked.
I was embarrassed. I had been caught passing a note and that was automatic detention. I felt hot in my seat.
“Bring that here,” Mr. Dunbar said.
Charles, a boy sitting behind me, got up from his seat and walked to the front of the class. Everyone was silent. Mr. Dunbar opened the note and read it.
“I’ll see you after class Courtney,” Mr. Dunbar said. Then he returned to teaching.
There was a lot of whispering in the back of the class, and I knew they were talking about me. I could feel eyes on the back of my head, but I was scared to turn around. A couple of times Charles tapped me on the shoulder, I refused to turn around. I was nervous and didn’t know what to say.
I stayed after class and talked to Mr. Dunbar. Because I had never been in trouble, he let me go with a warning. I was glad I had gotten away but even more excited because I had been passed a note.
I was a few minutes late to my next class, but I had a hall pass from Mr. Dunbar. I walked into class, and everyone was staring at me. It was the third hour and it seemed as if my rumor was all anyone was talking about. I took my seat and thought about who I was going to sit next to at lunch.
After third hour the lunch bell rang, and I nearly jumped from my seat. I rushed to my locker to put away my books and take out my sack lunch.
“So, you saw Johnny and Ashley kissing?” I turned and was staring face to face with Rebecca, Johnny’s girlfriend.
“Uh-huh. He said he loved her.”
“Why would he do that to me. I never even knew he had a crush on her. I feel so stupid.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know why he would do something like that to you. You are so much prettier,” I said.
Ashley was almost in tears, and I felt a closeness to her. I began matching her footsteps as we walked down the hall. I tried to think of something to say.
“Are you going to go to his party?” I questioned.
“I’m never going to talk to him again.”
“I don’t blame you. You can have anyone you want; you don’t need him.”
“Oh, my Lord,” I heard a voice say. “How dare he?”
I turned as Krissy Hartwell walked up to Rebecca.
“I can’t believe it either. Johnny said it isn’t true. But I don’t believe him.”
“Courtney are you sure you saw them?” Krissy asked.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“I’m going to kill Ashley. All this time she has been acting like my friend and she goes and do something like this…” Rebecca cried.
For a moment I was uneasy about my lie. But the fact that I was walking in the hall with Rebecca and Krissy made up for it. Now I had to test my plan. I followed the two into the cafeteria and tried to sit down at their table. No one said anything to me. I was used to being ignored, so I figured it would just take a little time for everyone to get used to seeing me. After all, I had started the most popular rumor in school. If anyone wanted details, they had to ask me.
“Why is she sitting here,” Demeyer asked.
I turned to face a dark-haired boy with thick glasses and a scowl on his face.
“I can sit anywhere I want,” I heard myself say.
“So, you saw Johnny and Ashley,” Kirk asked.
“Yeah, they were hugged up tight,” I said.
“Look, I don’t want to talk about it. When I see Ashley, I’m going to deal with it,” Rebecca said.
I shifted in my seat. I didn’t want anyone to get into a fight over me. I just wanted to sit at the blue table. I wanted to joke around and laugh with my friends that’s all.
“Here she comes now,” Krissy said.
I swallowed hard. Instead of getting in line, Ashley came over to our table with her hands on her hips.
“I can’t believe you’re standing there,” Rebecca said.
“I told you that was not true,” Ashley said defending herself.
Debbie walked into the cafeteria and rushed over to me. “Courtney told me she saw the two of you kissing yesterday after gym class.”
“Um yeah,” I said.
It was too late to change my story. I had made it to the blue table how could I give up my popularity on the first day. I was thinking about other rumors I could start when Rebecca and Ashley began shoving each other and yelling.
I stood up from the table horrified. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. The lunch lady came over and broke up the fight. I looked around. Everyone at our table was standing up. The crowd was excited. Some of the students were cheering for Rebecca.
The two girls were grabbed and escorted out of the cafeteria. I sat back down. Soon someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Why did you do this?” I heard a familiar voice say.
I turned to see Johnny glaring down at me.
“I…I… saw you…” I stammered.
“No, you didn’t. And now you are sitting over here with us as if you belong. You did this to make friends.” Johnny accused me.
I didn’t know what to say.
“You think this is the way to get friends,” Johnny questioned. “Get out of here.”
“No,” I said. “I’m staying.”
“But nobody wants you here,” Krissy said. “I don’t believe it. Debbie you should stop spreading every rumor you hear. Now, look what has happened.”
“Don’t blame this on me. I asked Courtney if it was true, and she swore on it.”
Everyone was looking at me. I cringed in my seat. Suddenly I wanted to be back at the green table. I looked over at the outcasts sitting a few tables away from me and wanted my spot back. I slowly got up from the table and walked out of the cafeteria.
“I’m glad she’s gone. We don’t just let anyone sit at our table,” Debbie said.
“Shut up Debbie, this is all your fault. You did this on purpose. You should have come to Ashley first,” Rebecca said.
I didn’t wait around for the rest of the conversation. I went into the bathroom and stayed there until the bell rang.
After lunch, I headed to my next class. I was called out of gym class early. The principal wanted to see me. I walked to his office with my head down. I passed a few people in the hallway but didn’t bother to look up.
“Sit down Courtney,” Mr. Steinberg said.
Ashley and Rebecca were in the office sitting in two chairs on the far side of the room. I sat down in the chair in front of Mr. Steinberg. His piercing eyes investigated my face. I knew he wanted the truth.
“What happened,” Mr. Steinberg asked.
I wanted to continue my lie, but it was already out of control. So, I told the truth. “Nothing happened. I made the whole thing up.”
“You made what up Courtney?” he said.
“I just wanted to make some friends, so I made up a lie that I say Johnny and Ashley kissing.”
Ashley let out a gasp. Rebecca slouched down in her seat. “How could you do that to me,” Rebecca asked.
I didn’t answer. Instead, I sat with my head down.
“I’m going to suspend the girls for three days for fighting. That is the school policy. And I’m going to suspend you for two days for lying and instigating a fight,” the principal said.
My heart sank. Now I was going to get suspended, and I still hadn’t made one new friend. I was told to wait in the office until my mom came to pick me up. That was all I needed. Now I was going to be on punishment.
I had learned my lesson about telling lies. It was better to tell the truth and accept being a nerd than to lie for a quick shot at popularity. As Mr. Steinberg called our parents, I stared at the two girls I had gotten in trouble. Neither wanted to look at me so I turned and looked out the window. I guess it was back at the green table for me.