Some of the local kids knew it as Waverly Place High School, and some of the kids knew it as the Home of the Tribeca Turkeys, and yet, there was a very small population of uneducated rejects who called it by names not permitted mentioned in decent society. Whatever it was called, it was known as Tribeca Prep, a three story structure with a faculty of fifty-three teachers and a staff of twenty-seven. Eight hundred and seventy-three local Manhattan teenagers from the Greenwich Village area were herded here to learn the lessons that would help them in life, and a few of them resisted those lessons tooth-and-nail up to the point they would later become society's problem. One such student was Hank Ketchum, who left his shop class to go to the restroom. Two school semesters later, no one knew what had happened to him. Frank "Barf-Bag" Tracey was known for sitting in the back of classrooms and making noises as if he was about to regurgitate. No one liked sitting next to him, not even his sister. He was in detention so often that he got his mail there. Rainn Flickinger faked contractions to get out of tests, and after her daughter was born, she was pregnant again less than a month later. Michael McFarland was no problem at all, but rumors that the school was haunted started the week after Cleve "Suicide" Solomon left Michael locked in his third floor locker for five days screaming and yelling. They were among the worst of the lot, but they were easier to tolerate since they never attended class and were often living off the grid to avoid their parents. The hardest students to deal with were the ones who showed up on purpose not to study or be the best they could be but to cause as much strife and chaos as possible by showing up. One such student was the vacuous brunette whose parents owned a local sandwich shop. Most of her teachers believed she was so blonde that she hadn't yet figured out how to bleach her hair.
"Miss Russo!" History teacher Joanna Moran slammed the girl's textbook against her desk with a loud thundering crash. The girl jumped up from sleeping, flailing her head back and widening her eyes open as large as dinner plates.
"Is it three o'clock yet?" She cried out blinking her eyes several times.
"I imagine it is somewhere in the world, but not here…." Mrs. Moran was the secret infatuation for half the males in the junior class. She had the figure of a Sports Illustrated super model bound up in the clothing style of a prim librarian. Her stunning blue eyes made every boy gasp, and her short dark hair bounced across her shoulders like dancing waves of darkened wheat. Even garbed in her tight-fitting pink sweater and blue jeans, the guys in her history classes imagined and whispered dark little fantasies about getting to stay after school for tutoring. Alex Russo didn't see her appeal. She saw the woman as another antagonizing twenty-something educator trying to force them to learn hours and hours of useless trivial facts.
"Now, before you start forgetting what have learned…" Moran sat backward on the edge of her desk and watched Alex yawn wide enough to pass for one of the stone lions before the New York Municipal Library. "Don't forget you have book reports due, and I'm still waiting for homework assignments from some of you…" She looked at Alex. "Going back almost seventeen weeks…."
Alex yawned again as if she was a big mouth bass about to be pulled into a boat. The last seconds on the last three minutes of class were winding down before her.
"Oh, and I wanted to mention I have good news…" Mrs. Moran alighted. "Principal Laritate juggled the school budget so that we can all make the field trip to Washington D.C."
"What made him change his mind?" Harper Finkle asked. "I though he said there was no chance in hell we were going."
"Maybe he was visited by three ghosts last night?" Aaron Danforth made a Dickensian comment.
"He said he thought about it and wanted to do the right thing." Their history teacher looked her twenty-two students over as they packed their book bags, turned to face the door and posed ready to run from this institute of learning and escape into the weekend rituals. "Oh, yes, and, Miss Russo, this field trip is mandatory if you want to pass my class."
"Why do you hate me so much?" Alex glared at her. "What did I ever do to you?"
"I don't know, Miss Russo…" The hot teacher responded. "I guess I just can't stand students who are throwing away the best years of their lives by sleeping and just sliding by doing nothing."
Alex rolled her eyes exasperatedly and looked to her best friend. She and Harper had known each other since kindergarten, but they couldn't be more different. Harper was a smart and mildly eccentric young lady who created her own clothes and lived a perpetually happy life of her own design while Alex was often sour, cynical and lazy, often bringing the worst out of others, but that was just the cover personality. Harper knew there was a decent person inside Alex, but she was buried so deep inside her.
The final school bed finally rang and the school corridors filled with numerous students charging in one direction. The lighter and quicker ones could navigate the stampede by darting in and out of the spaces in the halls and dodging the groups collecting at the lockers. Behind in the classrooms, teachers caught their breaths and headed straight to pour some coffee and relax. It took less than five minutes for the building to clear out except for the clubs and sports teams gathering around. Grabbing her purse to toss over her shoulder, Harper carried her books on her arm pulled up to her bosom and followed Alex heading toward her locker.
"Field trip?" Alex griped. "Field trip? What's so freaking important about Washington D.C.?"
"Uhhh…" Harper tried to explain it. "It's our nation's capital!"
Alex looked at Harper not getting it.
"It's where the President of the United States lives?"
Standing before her empty locker, Alex tried to remember who that was.
"The guy whose show pre-empts your TV shows!"
"Oh, that guy!" Alex finally got it. A few kids had dashed by saying good-bye to Harper. "Well, I've just got to tell him to stop doing that." Alex pulled out her purse, journal and sketchbook to take home.
"Good luck with that!" Harper rolled her eyes in disbelief and sometimes wondered why she and Alex stayed good friends. They had known each other since they were kids so they had an obvious bond. They knew each other's secrets. Alex knew Harper was a closet classical music geek, and Harper knew Alex was a sorceress. In fact, many of the Russos were practitioners of the mystical arts. Her father had given up his powers to get married, but Alex's brothers both knew spells and enchantments, her Uncle Kelbo was known in the family for mystically impersonating pop stars and their cousins used spells for enhancing their lifestyles. Admittedly, Harper was a bit scared of all the paranormal activity that occurred in the Russos's life, but after a while, she was slow to get used to it and realize that such things in the world like ghosts and witches actually existed.
"Thank god, it's Friday…" Alex slammed her locker shut. "I've got big plans for us on Saturday. Lafferty's is having a fifty-percent off sale on all clothes, shoes and accessories, and there's a killer jacket I want."
"Alex…" Harper turned to follow. "You know I like to design and create my own clothes."
"Yes, but they have stuff you can actually wear in public…"
Harper made a face.
"Sorry…" Alex apologized and headed down the back stairway of the school as the cafeteria was being closed up for the night. "Well, then… you can help me carry my stuff home."
"Now, wait a minute…." Harper thought again and stopped at the water fountain to drape her long hair behind her head to take a drink of water. A few fellow classmates rushed past to get out of the school while Alex stood and shifted her items to her other arm. "Maybe I can find a few things too…" Harper turned around after her drink. "My chalkboard dress could use a few accessories."
Alex turned her head to hide the fact that she was pretending to gag. Harper's chalkboard dress was a black dress with green sleeves that looked at if she'd peeled off it a grammar school wall and plastered it to herself. It was covered in math problems and had a real mini-chalk board attached to it, but it was still not as bad as Harper's magic marker dress that was quite literally covered in magic markers. A sound in her left ear made her look up, and she saw her principal coming out of the gymnasium. He was a huge fat figure of a man with a round neck covering a narrow collar and a smaller bespectacled had on top. He looked like the sort of man who lived at the local buffet. Worse yet, he thought he was accepted by the kids and tried to talk to them in their language and expressions, but no one had the guts to tell him that his references were about thirty years out of date.
"You two still here?" He looked them both over. "I hope you two aren't getting into mischief."
"No, sir, Principal Laritate." Harper spoke up.
"What are you going to do?" Alex quickly went on the offensive. "Give us detentions for not getting out of here fast enough?"
"No…" Their principal chuckled with a light grin. "I was just making a small observation." He pressed on past them to his office. "I hope you both have a nice weekend."
"Nice weekend?" Alex looked to Harper then looked again. "What kind of crack is that?"
"It's not a crack." Laritate checked the door to a classroom to make sure it was locked. "I just wanted to be nice to you girls."
"Nice?" Alex did not understand this new pleasant side of her principal. "Okay, who are you and what did you do to our principal?" He wasn't wearing his usual bolo tie. It was a regular black tie with a dark suit. His voice didn't have that usual Texas drawl he had. He looked like their regular school supervisor, but his voice was different. It wasn't just his voice; it was his demeanor… his personality. Maybe it was her mystical senses, but she felt as if someone else was in the man's body looking back at her. He grinned jovially with the presence of a fatherly relative; behind his glasses, his eyes twinkled with a bit of wry humor. He postured good-naturedly and beamed a huge jovial grin.
"See you Monday, girls…." He turned away heading down toward the offices and his side door from the junior classmen hallway. Alex watched him heading onward on his way.
"What's that all about?" Harper asked Alex.
"I don't know." Alex shuffled her purse and school books in her pack and hoisted them over her shoulder to head toward the front entryway of the school. At his office door, Herschel Laritate looked back at them curiously and hesitated. The two girls were getting further and further from him; their voices in the hall becoming subdued and gradually fading into distant echoes. Taking his hand off the door, he stepped back and watched Harper and Alex until they turned out of his line of sight into the front entry of the school. He exhaled a bit tiredly, closed his eyes and swooned slightly trying to catch his balance. His huge frame shuddered as if a large weight had been taken from him. When he looked up again, he clinked his eyes several times as if he was just waking up from a small nap. A deep breath came out of him in the form of a light yawn.
"What was I doing again?" He looked around distractedly and hurriedly trying to catch up with his memories. "Whoa, I never blocked out coming from the basement like that before!" His voice was different; his slight drawl was back. His feet ambled to hold him up on his feet. "Maybe I should have had a bigger lunch… Stupid diet…" He found an excuse for his brief lapse of memory. "Well, another Monday and another school week about to start…" He pushed forward into his office to start his day and check his schedule if but to discover he had somehow blacked out an entire week.
"Where in tarnation did this noose come from?" He started yanking off his tie with antagonized determination.