I could hardly still my quivering stomach, as I tried to eat my breakfast. I wanted to go back to my bed; go back to the familiar.
“Are you all set for your first day, honey?” My mom, displaying her usual cheerful self, inquired, as she poured her coffee.
No, I’m not ‘all set’ and I never will be, but of course, I didn’t say that. Instead, I just said, “I guess so,” then I sulked, continuing to twirl my spoon in my cereal. Why couldn’t she and dad see that they were ruining my life? There was nothing wrong with Lavender Hill, my old school, or our old street. My parent’s business finally took off, so the first thing they did was uproot us to one of those picture-perfect neighborhoods with the equally picture-perfect lawns. The second thing was the worst- forcing me away from all my friends to shuffle me into the new world of private school.
Why couldn’t I have a say in it? After all, this was going to affect me, not them!
Princess Charlotte Academy. Even the name sounded uppity.
From the moment I stepped unto the beautifully tended to school grounds and noticed the mostly fancy cars in the parking lot, I knew I was in a different world from the one I knew.
Two weeks in, and I noticed her staring again. Katelyn Roberts. I recognized her from my Sociology class. I so much wanted to ask her what her problem was, but I’m not the confrontational type. But it wasn’t in a mean way. Just. Staring.
I figured my ‘New Girl’ status was what drew her attention since everyone seemed to know everyone else already. Her eyes were not the only ones sizing me up, but assessing whether one was worthy of Princess C. (which I learned is what everyone called the Academy for short), seemed to be part of everyone’s agenda here. I got the odd ‘hi’ or a smile here and there, but I hadn’t even made one friend - yet. One day, however, as I was eating my sandwich and enjoying my book in the cafeteria, someone actually dared to approach.
“Jayna right, from Sociology class? Mind if we sit here?” To my utter shock, the voice belonged to Katelyn, and beside her, silently waiting, was her friend Anna-Claire. I got the feeling she didn’t want to be here.
“Sure,” I said, but then wondered why my table, secretly not appreciating the intrusion at this moment. I placed my bookmark where I left off and focused on finishing my sandwich; the faster, the better.
“I saw you on Friendbook,” she tells me while pulling the lid off from a small container of what looked like some vegetable-bake-type thing after they sat down.
Was she a stalker? “You did?”
“You went to a school called Lavender. Where’s that?”
“Lavender Hill,” I corrected. “It’s far from here, in the North York district.”
“I never heard of it,” Anna-Claire stated, speaking for the first time. “Is that a private school too? I shook my head. “No, it’s a regular school, but--”
“Oh, one of those,” she retorted snootily, not caring that she rudely interrupted me. “My mom said that the Board of Education should be ashamed to call them schools.”
“Actually,” I countered, “my dad said what determines whether a school is good or bad comes down to funding.”
She took a spoonful of her yogurt before answering. “Funding or not, those kids are still losers, who don’t--”
“What?? You did not just say that!” Katelyn snapped, whipping around, her long hair flying like a long dark silk scarf, to face her friend.
“What? Everyone knows it’s true, just check the--”
“Drop it already!” Katelyn commanded, the serrated edge in her raised voice unmistakable.
Anna-Claire immediately went quiet, like a suddenly turned off blaring stereo.
“So, what made you switch if it wasn’t so bad?” Katelyn asked, calm again.
Note to self: never piss her off.
“My parents wanted me to go to a school close to our new house,” I provided, giving the short version. I wondered where this was leading to; I’m sure I wasn’t that fascinating. Then regarding my Friendbook page, she said I had good taste in music and that led to talking about other things, which at times caused her to squeal with excitement. Anna-Claire, who was clearly no longer part of the conversation, suddenly preoccupied herself with her phone. Even I felt sorry for her. About 15 minutes before the bell signaled the end of the lunch period, she picked up her bag and stood up.
“I think I’ll go now,” she announced.
“Where are you going?” Katelyn demanded.
“Away from here,” she retorted haughtily, and stalked off, leaving her tray on the table.
Relieved, I watched her go. She was one of those entitled, stuck-up girls who thought everyone was beneath them. I wondered how she and Katelyn ended up as friends. I thought wrong before when I believed Katelyn was just like her. Assuming she would follow her, I said I would see her in class, but she remained seated, not even phased by her leaving.
“She can go,” She said dismissively with a wave of her hand. “Sorry about earlier. She can be nice, but sometimes her inner snob comes out.”
After that, as the days morphed into weeks, Katelyn drifted further away from Anna-Claire and wanted to hang out with me more often. Sometimes, she even waited for me after class, and because I was much better in math than she was, I helped her with her homework. We had lunch together, where Anna-Claire would glare at us now and then, as she sat with a new equally stuck-up group. I think it’s safe to say I finally found a friend, a most unlikely one, but still a friend. But I never found out what made her talk to me in the first place.
We started visiting each other’s houses, and I marveled at the great size of hers, with its entrance hall and high ceilings. I thought how awesome it must have been to never have had to worry about money.
I learned a different story one evening at my house when she asked me if I missed Lavender Hill. “Sometimes,” I answered. “I was used to it, but I especially miss my friends,” then quickly added, “but I don’t mind making new ones,” when she went quiet.
“Remember that day in the caf,” she began, “when I got mad at Anna-Claire when she said what she did about kids from certain schools being losers?”
I remembered, and I’d say it was more than mad; more like explosive, but she deserved it.
“Well, she would consider me one of those losers, if she knew where I went to before coming to Princess C.”
Seeing the confusion on my face, she continued. “No one from school knows about me, not even Anna-Claire, that’s why I pretended like I didn’t know anything about Lavender Hill, and even asked you where it was. I really wanted to go there since most of my friends were going, but I couldn’t.”
“Really?!” is all I managed to say. My head was still trying to get around the shock of her revelation. I had a million questions and I threw them out at the same time: Where did you go? Why couldn’t you go? How did you end up at Charlotte?
Her chin dipped down. “I ended up at OakWest Collegiate.”
I heard of it. It was considered one of the worst schools. I thought I was a long way from where I was, but she was miles ahead.
“I couldn’t go to Lavender because we didn’t even have a car and it was a little too far to take the bus every day,” a trace of hurt in her voice as she said this.
“My mom was a waitress doing double shifts,” she continued, “until she and my step-dad got married. He’s nice; super-friendly like your mom, and he owns a couple of businesses. He’s the one who convinced my mom about private school, so here I am.”
I could relate to her story. “You probably guessed from where I had gone to school that I didn’t always live like this either. My parents worked on their business for years, until it took off.”
“That’s how I knew there was something different about you, and you didn’t have your nose in the air, like most everyone at Princess C.” She laughed.
“At first, I thought you didn’t like me because I was new,” I admitted.
“No way! That wasn’t it at all,” she strongly emphasized by shaking her head. “Ever since I saw Lavender Hill school on your Friendbook, I wanted to talk to you. I thought finally there was someone else who’d lived in the real world.” She then smiled. “That, and you like super-cool music (I would get used to her saying ‘super’ when she wanted to stress a point). I smiled back, grateful for our friendship.