"Beck Oliver!" roared a tall man, probably in his mid-sixties, who bore an eerie resemblance to Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, for those of you who are fortunate enough to not know such information.
Beck visibly jumped and stuffed his cell phone underneath his desk. "Mr. Lively, sir?" It was a voice of complete innocence. Phony innocence. Which, luckily, Mr. Lively was smart enough to notice.
His shiny black shoes paced across the hard wood floor, leaving hollow echoing noises in his wake. When he reached the small desk Beck was crammed into, he rested his large, wrinkles hands onto the top and leaned in close, examining Beck thoroughly. "Mr. Oliver, are we going to have to have another year of this nonsense? Where I attempt to teach you and you sit here and grope yourself?"
The students who had listened to the exchange burst into laughter at Mr. Lively's dry sense of humor. He was the kind of teacher you could either love or hate; there was nothing in between. He teased and he joked, but he had a habit of going too far sometimes, and had a reputation for reducing more than one student to tears. Normally, Beck would have found at least slight amusement in Mr. Lively's personality, but there was one main reason why he could not.
Mr. Lively taught World History. Beck hated history almost as much as he hated black olives, and that was a lot, seeing as to how he threw up violently for days on end after eating just one.
"I hate this class," was Beck's flat, predictable answer. He brushed his hair carelessly out of his deep brown eyes, looking so aloof that Jade, across the room, winced. Mr. Lively was going to rip him a new one, she knew it.
"And I hate you, but beggars can't be choosers." Mr. Lively sneered into Beck's face for a moment, before turning around and walking slowly back up towards the blackboard, unaware to Beck flipping off his back. "I've held this job thirty-two years, and I've never had a student who didn't, at least by graduation, admit to having some interest in something I've mentioned in this class, and Mr. Oliver, I will not let you be the first."
Beck grumbled something incoherent and undoubtedly rude as he fiddled angrily with the collar of his white polo tee, the required uniform for boys in the fall and summer. The girls wore a more feminine version of the same tee, but while the boys donned black slacks, the girls were stuck with skirts in a horrendous shade of gray, white, and navy plaid. More often than not, André's laughter could be heard ringing up and down the hallways on the first day of school as he once again remembered how stupid the girls looked.
Picking up a piece of chalk, Mr. Lively wrote down 1100 A.D. on the smooth black board. He prided himself on being the last, "old school," teacher at Fletcher-Gordon, and for having the last chalkboard whilst everyone else had switched to dry-erase boards long ago. "So." Folding his arms over his chest, Mr. Lively looked especially impressive, every bit the Vietnam veteran he was. "Someone tell me something that happened in 1100 A.D."
It was to no one's surprise that Jade's was the first—and only, for that matter—hand in the air. Mr. Lively smiled under his bushy white mustache. While most teachers disliked Jade quite strongly for her sharp tongue and offensive brashness, Mr. Lively found it entertaining, and she had quickly become one of his favorite pupils. That and because she was the only one who gave a damn about history, of course. "Yes, Miss West?"
"The Aztecs left their homeland in search of a new home," she recited quickly, pushing her bangs behind one ear. Scuffing a very classic, and very lame, patent leather Mary Jane shoe that was also part of the uniform across the floor, Jade quickly penciled it into her World History notebook in her loopy scrawl. She never did have the best handwriting, but when she got excited, as she often did when discussing history, she wrote even faster, and the result was often a big, smudged mess.
"Excellent," Mr. Lively praised, too copying the information onto the board. When he looked up, he sighed. Other than Jade, no one was taking notes. Beck had his cell back out, as did a massive number of other people, Robbie included. André was taking turns whispering sweet things with Delilah. Tori was filing her nails carefully. Cat's face was one that was screwed up into one of completely concentration, as she tried to braid her hair into two neat plaits. A few guys in the back were playing poker. A couple girls were gossiping as they touched up heir makeup. One girl even had the audacity to paint her nails right then and there. "Hey. Is this study hall or World History?" he demanded, dropping the chalk back into the bin.
"Study hall is more fun than this," Beck replied, eyes trained on his cell phone's tiny screen.
It was with speed and agility that were surprising for a man of his age that Mr. Lively stalked across the room and snatched Beck's phone. Before Beck could even protest, the teacher stuffed it into his pants pocket and returned to the front of the classroom. "Mr. Oliver, I don't understand why you hate history so much, but perhaps you could take a cue from your good friend Miss West here and actually pay attention so you can pass and not give me the immense pleasure of failing your sorry ass."
Jade smirked at Beck, who made a face before returning the smirk.
"Actually, Miss West, since you and Mr. Oliver are such good friends, perhaps you'd like the honor of tutoring him?"
Jade froze mid-sticking her tongue out at Beck. Her head snapped back towards Mr. Lively and her big blue eyes widened even more. "What?"
The old man shrugged. "Extra credit."
"I get an A in here anyway, thanks."
This seemed to stump him, but only momentarily. "I'll write that recommendation letter to Harvard you wanted, and be sure to include what a big helpyou are and how studious and how your giving up your free time to help some poor, mentally challenged boy with his homework."
That sounded good to Jade. An ace recommendation was vital to getting accepted into Harvard early, especially after nearly failing out of Chemistry the previous year. She had managed to pull her grade up to a C and had quite good SAT scores, but…a recommendation from Lively could only sweeten her chances.
That and seeing Beck, of course.
She turned to look at Beck again, who was staring at her in horror. She could only imagine the pleas and threats and promises that were going through his head right now, hoping, wishing, praying she'd say no. Instead, a smile curled over her face, and she tucked her hair behind her ears again. "I'd love to, Mr. Lively."
Throwing her petite body onto her bed, Cat heaved a long, exhausted sigh. It wasn't often that Caterina Valentine put her mind to something and actually followed through with it, because she had, as André often put it, the attention span of a bar of soap. However, after an excruciating day of classes, she had managed to return to the dorm room and unpack all her boxes. Naturally, Tori had already done hers over the weekend, and Jade was only half way through, but Cat was proud of herself. This was a big feat to have accomplished.
A loud, complaining meow sounded suddenly, and apologizing profusely, Cat jumped back up from her lime green and hot pink comforter that smelled warmly of her house back in New Jersey, rushing into the bathroom. On the clean white tiles sat a pet carrier, complete with a small blue litter box inside, and one angry, gray cat.
"I'm so sorry, Princess baby pudding pie," Cat cooed, undoing the latch and letting her cat out. Princess, a gray tabby, ran away, the bell on her pink collar that bore her name jingling. Cat watched out the door as Princess ran immediately under Jade's bed, her skinny tail disappearing right after her as she wedged herself into the tiny space.
On top of the pet carrier sat a note, written on a piece of ripped notebook paper and taped down by one of Tori's coveted smiley-face stickers. Cat snatched it up and read it quickly, a frown settling over her face as she adjusted her useless glasses.
It was either this or that cat was going to be my next scarf. I figured this was less messy. Keep that bitch away from my pillow, there's cat hair all over it. I'm in the gym.
Shaking her head, Cat crumpled the note up and dropped it into the waste can next to the toilet. She glanced uncaringly at her reflection, gave her still-damp red and blonde locks a tousle, and then walked back into the bedroom. On top of her dresser perched a large wire cage holding a ferret affectionate named Jackass. For the most part, Cat just called him plain Jack. She swore he was secretly married to Princess, her spoiled cat, but Tori informed her that if Jack were to get out of his cage, Princess would undoubtedly kill him and then possibly eat him. That and that alone was the only thing that stopped Cat from introducing husband to wife.
She watched Jack scurry around for a while, before growing restless and wandering over to the desktop computer curiously. Her own laptop had crashed the previous year, and her parents refused to buy her a new one, so she figured she'd be stuck being a loser and using the distributed computer, no matter how socially retarded that made her. She was pretty much a social leper anyway, and she liked it that way.
The desk was unofficially claimed as Tori's, with all Tori's stuff all over it. Cat was more apt to doing her homework on her bed, and Jade preferred the library, so it was natural that the desk was Tori's, as she was the only one who really cared about being organized anyway. Even her sock drawer was neat, all the way down to tights going in one place, knee socks in another, and ankle socks in yet another. And they were all color coordinated. Cat didn't even own enough pairs of socks to be able to do that! Pulling her glasses off the bridge of her nose, Cat shoved them into her hair instead, much like she would sunglasses, and began inspecting the computer closely, wondering just as to how you turned this beast on. She was just about give up when she spotted the keyboard, all alone underneath the desk, it's cord wrapped around it. Picking it up, she plugged it back into the computer and set it on her lap. A little button that looked suspiciously like the power button on her old laptop she had named Rico sat directly above the F10 button, so she pressed a bright orange nail onto it. A loud noise boomed out of the speakers, causing Cat to laugh more than anything and clap her hands over her ears, where one long, dangly feathered earring hung, and in the other ear a huge gold hoop.
Princess wiggled her way out from under Jade's way and padded over to Cat, rubbing her body against Cat's purple crown-pattered baggy sweatpants. Cat wrapped the matching jacket tighter around herself as she bent down to stroke Princess' head briefly, cursing Tori's insistence that the air conditioner run constantly to, "purify the air."
Once she finally got the computer up and running, she logged into her e-mail account quickly, and was shocked to see a little envelope with her mother's e-mail address next to it. Since when did her mother e-mail her?
Your father is still being investigated, and I have recently been questioned myself, though it is nothing serious. I am sure he will get off very soon and we will be able to purchase you whatever else you may need for school. Thank you for taking this so well.
Ah. So that was it. Cat swallowed hard; trying to dislodge the mighty lump that had suddenly found it's way into her throat. Blinking back tears, she nearly fell out of the chair as a loud knock sounded on the door. She quickly minimized the window and gave her eyes a hasty wipe before situating her clothes and moving towards the door. She swung it open forcefully, finding herself face-to-face with a beaming Robbie.
"Hey dude," she offered in her best surfer voice, disentangling her glasses from her hair and settling them back onto her nose. "How goes it?"
"Much better after I show you what's in my pocket of mystery," was his answer as he stepped past her and into the room. He dropped down onto her bed, and with a wicked grin, produced five plastic driver's licenses. "Despite the fact that you are still the meager age of seventeen, Caterina, I am still offering you a chance to get into The Rusty Rooster, that hot new club downtown. I'm sure you passed it on your way here. I called up my guy down at the DMV and for a small fee, he was able to produce five of these babies, seeing as how I'm already eighteen."
Cat snatched one of the licenses from him, staring down at the grinning face of Beck. "Even the pictures are flawless!" she declared, running a hand over the gleaming plastic. "How did you manage this, Robert? And don't call me that wretched name! This is incredible!"
Robbie just grinned, though it faltered a bit at hearing the name he hated. "Then don't call me Robert. It's just like every year, though a bit more expensive than usual, since these are so perfectly crafted they're almost better than legit licenses."
"You started it. Wow, Shapiro, you are a genius, I swear."
"You started it first by being a bitch. And thank you, Valentine, I appreciate hearing that."
Still in awe over Robbie's ingenious plan, Cat handed him back Beck's fake ID and twisted her hair back into a ponytail. She grabbed up one of Jade's ponytail holders that were strewn all over the place—undoubtedly the work of Princess—and secured her hair messily. "How big was this small fee?"
Robbie didn't miss the small frown that had furrowed its way between her blond eyebrows. "It's not like you have to worry about money anyway, Cat. But they're a gift to my underage friends." He shrugged his shoulder carelessly, stretching out his lanky body to cover her bed, his feet just hanging off the edge. "Use it well, okay?"
The bright smile that had previous just been on Cat's face reappeared in an instant. She curled her arms around Robbie's left leg in a quick hug, and then lifted his black t-shirt to kiss his stomach. As always, he cracked up when she did so, and asked his usual question.
"Cat, why don't you just hug people around the neck and kiss them on the cheek like most people do?"
Cat crossed her eyes at him and transformed her smile into the goofiest of her grins. "Because, Robert, this makes things interesting."
"Don't call me Robert!"
"Don't be an asshole!'
It was precisely around that time that Cat snatched up the first thing she could—strangely enough, it was her gold sequenced pencil pouch—and attacked Robbie. Jumping on top of him, she began thwacking him with it in every possible place—the head, the face, the chest, the arms, the ears, the legs, the torso, everywhere. Robbie was laughing too hard to do much at first, but eventually, he grabbed her by the wrists and easily overpowered her, outweighing her by a good seventy pounds. She struggled nonetheless though, in true Cat fashion, but finally, panting hard and laughing even harder, she gave in and collapsed next to him, her hair a disheveled mess and her glasses hanging crookedly from one ear.
"I hate you, Shapiro."
"I love you too, Valentine."
A contented silence settled over the chilly air, as the two of them lay in Cat's bed, cramped but not uncomfortable, close but not awkwardly so, able to retain perfect silence in a way only two very good friends can do, as they watched Princess scurry around the room uncertainly, still wary of her new surroundings. Finally, after what could have been any time between five minutes to an hour later (Jade possessed the wall clock, and she still hadn't unpacked it) Cat asked curiously, "Robbie, why don't you have a girlfriend? I mean, you're like the nicest guy ever, and every girl I know would date you. What's up?"
Robbie was too taken aback by the serious tone of Cat's voice to really register her question at first, but once he did, he immediately blushed and sat up. It was out of sheer luck and coincidence that his cell phone began ringing a moment later, and he gratefully tugged it out of his pocket. Cat sat up also, and got a glance at the tiny name flashing across the screen. Dr. Fredrickson. Why on earth was a doctor calling Robbie?
Obviously flustered, Robbie cut her off by tossing the fake ID's at her. "I-I have to take this. Give those to the others, okay? See ya, Cat." And then in a flash of black and blue, he was gone, out the door in what had to be two seconds flat.
Cat stared after him, confused, and then down at the fake ID's, before back at the door that he had just slammed shut. What the hell? But, as usual, she shrugged it off. Getting up off her bed, she cart wheeled across the room to Tori's desk and shut down the computer, her desire to check the rest of her e-mail completely depleted. Opening the right-hand drawer of the desk, she grinned as a thick black Sharpie caught her eye. She skipped back to her bed, plopped down, and uncapped the fuming marker hastily. Bending over, a heavy mass of blue hair fell down into her face as she carefully began work on giving André's picture a Hitler mustache.
The volleyball sailed through the air, over the high net, right towards the ground a few feet in front of Jade West. "Mine!" hollered said girl, diving for the hastily falling ball. She cupped her hands in perfect form and just in time, managed to fall on her knees and bump the ball into the air.
"Mine!" cried Cat in return, setting the ball up into the air towards a tall brunette junior named Sam Winters who was every bit as stuck-up as her pointed nose suggested. Cat's set was perfectly executed, and Sam was supposed to be their, "best," spiker, according to the coach, anyway, but it was with the clumsiness of an oaf that she completely missed her target and fell into the mesh net, doing a face plant that was so painful-looking and flawless that Jade would have cracked up. If that bitch hadn't been on her team.
"Winters!" Jade roared as the opposing practice team, or team B, as they were referred to, cheered loudly, the scoreboard adding another point to their side, equaling seven to four in team A's favor. "What the hell are you doing out here if you can't play worth shit?!"
Sam shot her a withering look that didn't even cause Jade to flinch. "Well sorr-ee for not being perfect, but we can't all be fat whores like you, West."
"Girls!" That was the strict, demanding voice of their coach. Though Coach Peterson was blond and slim, she had a severe face that rarely allowed her to smile, constantly cold blue eyes, and had a habit of barking out everything she said, regardless as to the situation. "That's enough! Winters, focus. West, focus too, on your own game."
Sam cast a satisfied smirk over her shoulder to Jade, who mouthed a few impolite words in return, but crouched down in ready position as she saw the opposing team ready for their serve.
The white volleyball contrasted strongly with the beige of the ceiling, as every eye in the gymnasium watched it soared towards team A. "I got it!" Jade called, darting to the left and bumping it towards Cat easily, who was without a doubt the only half-decent setter on the team.
"Mine!" Cat shouted, setting the ball in her truly perfect way, right towards where Sam stood, examining the way her white ankle socks looked with her black tennis shoes and wondering as to if she was making a faux pas.
It didn't take a genius to realize that she wasn't going to get the ball over her net if her life depended on it.
"Damn it, Winters!" Jade swore, shooting from her back position to the front and spiking the ball over the net with surprising strength and ease for a girl her height. Cat laughed out loud as it slammed down to the wooden floor, team B too taken aback to even make a go at returning it.
"Jay's kicking ass," Beck noted, shaking his wet hair out of his sparkling eyes as he stood in the doorway of the gym, leaning up against a gray-painted pole. He was sore from having just finished the first and probably toughest football practice of the season, but had showered at record speed so he could catch the end of the volleyball practice.
Anything that involved girls prancing around in tiny shorts and getting all sweaty definitely interested him.
He was doing better than Robbie, who was sprawled out on the gym floor near the door in sheer exhaustion, unable to move. "My entire body hurts," he groaned, rubbing the already forming purple-ish bruise on his forearm. "Ouch."
André was still standing, and was composing a sweet text message to Delilah, asking her to come to his dorm room after she got done with practice because he missed her. "Dude, shut up. You barely even did shit."
"Hey, I did just as much as you!" Robbie insisted defensively, looking mightily insulted. "What are you talking about?"
"You're offense. All you do is run the ball and bullshit like that while I'm out there trying to defend the line from assholes like you."
Perhaps Robbie was too fatigued to answer, or maybe he couldn't think up a plausible response for that, as he slumped his head back down to the hard floor and groaned again. "Ow."
"Winters, either get your head in the game or get your ass off the court!" Jade's voice, shrill with frustration, echoed throughout the gym, and that was enough for André and Beck both to focus again on the practice. Robbie didn't quite understand why the both of them enjoyed watching Jade cuss people out like they did, since, as he put it, she did it about fifty times a day, so it wasn't exactly a rarity. But it was just something the two of them did because it was so classically Jade. She could slim down and suddenly become the queen of seduction—which, according to the way some of the football guys had been talking, she was—but she would still always be good old Jumping Jade who ate people's egos for lunch.
"Coach!" Sam Winters wailed, clearly distressed. "Make her stop!"
Jade faced her squarely, hands on her hips, eyes narrowed, face set into a hard look of hatred. "Winters, you don't give a damn about the game. I suggest you get off my court before I personally see to it that the next time you enter it, it's in a wheelchair."
"Your court? Bitch, this isn't—"
It was Coach Peterson who interrupted her this time, a rare bit of a smile crossing her thin face. "Actually, Sam, I was going to announce it after practice, but I might as well say it now, as it seems fitting. West's the new senior captain. I just told her this morning."
The proud smirk on Jade's face was not one that could easily be ignored, as Cat gave a loud whoop and quickly double high-fived her friend. In doing so, her baggy red plaid shorts almost fell down, but she hitched them up quickly and retied the strings before pulling her green and blue tie-dyed shirt down. With the big white bow she had tied to her ponytail, she looked like a Christmas present gone wrong.
Sam's mouth dropped open, and for once, she appeared at a loss for words. "But—"
"I don't appreciate attitude, Winters. I think a few laps around the gym could help you out immensely." Jade's smirk widened as she tapped her chin thoughtfully with a short, square clipped nail. "I'm thinking…sixteen laps, one for each horrendous year you've been on this planet to fuck up people's lives."
"Coach!" was all Sam could get out before Coach Peterson did in fact frown at Jade.
"West…don't cuss at your players. And Winters, you heard the captain. Get running. Wells, you're in for Winters."
"You could fry an egg on that girl's face," André noted as Sam Winter's face reddened deeply at the injustice of it all. "Not that you'd want to eat it, mind you, because I'm sure she has mouth herpes after all the head she's been giving out."
"How would you know, André?" Beck wanted to know with a grin that could only be described as perverted.
André socked him in the arm, soft enough to be playful but hard enough to hurt. "Dude, everyone knows. Keep an eye on your third leg, I know you've hooked up with her at least once, and I'd hate for you to end up contracting STD's over a worthless piece of shit like that."
"I said get your skanky ass off my court!" Jade shrieked, tugging the white t-shirt she was wearing off her torso and after giving her sweaty forehead a quick sponging with it, tossing it into a pile of already discarded tees that belongs to some of the other girls. She tightened her ponytail severely as she and Sam had a stare down, but eventually, everyone drew a collective sigh as Sam's shoulders slumped, her head dropped down to her chest, and slowly began jogging around the edge of the court. "Faster!" Jade snapped, bending down to pick up the volleyball that team B rolled over to her, but keeping her eyes trained on Sam all the time.
André watched, interested, as Jade got ready to serve, dribbling the padded ball a few times, twirling it around in her hands, and then dribbling it more. She was clad in only a pair of tiny, skin-tight black Lycra shorts and a white sports bra, which was what prompted him to bring up possibly one of the most awkward conversations in history. "Uh…guys?"
Robbie merely grunted in response, but Beck, too transfixed at staring at Jade's ass, didn't make any movement at all.
"Dudes, did you hear what the guys were saying in the locker room about Jay? Her…improved figure…isn't going unnoticed." André shifted his long legs awkwardly, waiting for a reply, but when one didn't come, he continued, "They were getting pretty nasty about it until Colby finally ended up decking James right in the face."
Beck obviously got very little out of what André had said. Even saying he caught every third word was a stretch. "I hate Colby."
"We know. We all do, except for Jade, but…guys, James was being a real asshole about it. You aren't the least bit worried about her?"
It was with a stiff shrug, as it was near impossible to shrug while your shoulder blades were digging into wooden boards, that Robbie answered, "Her life."
"True," Beck agreed, pushing his hair away from his face. He tore his eyes away from Jade, who was darting around, trying to make up for her team's lacking vigor, and locked eyes with André. "I can't completely hate them for wanting her. Dude, she's hot this year. If she wasn't West, I'd want to hit that too."
An unwelcome shiver coursed through André's body. "Beck, never say that again. Ever."
It wasn't for the first time that Beck's charming, handsome grin saved him face, completely making it seem like he hadn't just admitted that he would like to screw the girl he had known since he was roughly three years old and had basically seen grow up. "Hey, you asked." He was about to add more, but at that moment, Tori appeared behind André's shoulder, and, as usual, Beck's mind immediately dropped the image of Jade and was quickly replaced of that of Tori. "Hey, Tor!"
She rolled her light blue eyes obviously, so not impressed with his sex appeal or charm or whatever it was everyone seemed to think he possessed. Instead of even bothering to reply, she placed her hand on André's shoulder and inquired sweetly, "André, you wouldn't happen to know where Ms. Makey is, would you? I saw you talking to her not too long ago, so I wondered if you knew where she went."
André grinned in return. "Said something about the office, Tor. Check there, but make sure that Chester doesn't see you, because he'll strike up a conversation and never let you leave. I had to finally end up yelling at that poor office attendee nerd before he'd leave me alone. He just won't—"
Cut off by shrill ring tones coming from Tori's Fendi purse, she flashed an apologetic smile towards him, then glared at the suggestive look Beck was giving her, before fishing her phone out. A wide, beautiful smile spread over her gorgeous face as she surveyed the caller ID. Pulling up the antenna, she flipped her phone open and crowed, "Hola, mi amor!"
It was undoubtedly lucky that none of the three guys remember their sophomore year of Spanish, or they would have realized that she had just said, "Hello, my love."
Without even so much as another glance at her friends, Tori walked away, presumably back towards her dorm, her lovely laugh trailing behind her as she chattered away fluently in Spanish. Her plans of finding Ms. Makey had apparently vanished.
Beck rubbed his temples in confusion, but didn't voice the clear expression that had settled over his face. Instead, he avoided André's gaze and turned to look back into the gym. Jade was still dominating her team, as always, and looked fantastic doing so. Cat was setting everything to Jade now, and the other members of team A had pretty much been reduced to standing there, picking at their hair or nails, not that they were complaining, of course.
"Excellent, West!" Coach Peterson barked as Jade served her second ace in a row. "Team A, great hustle today! Hit the showers!" She turned back towards the bleachers, narrowly avoiding running into Sam Winters, who was still jogging around the gym, huffing and puffing loudly by now and scowling at everything that moved or had a possibility of moving in the near future, especially Jade. "Team C! Get out here and show Team B how it's done!"
Jade and Cat gathered their things, laughing loudly all the while, as numerous high-gives were exchanged among the two, as well as several self-congratulations as to how great of a team they were together. "Jadey Joo and Kitty Koo forever!" Cat sang out in a high-pitched, off-key voice that echoed throughout the gym before the two girls, cackling, ducked into the locker rooms.