Welcome to Twelve, a new book of Friday Fiction! This story begins the summer Emily Kingston turns twelve and is about a friendship that changed everything.
I hope you enjoy it!
CHAPTER EIGHT – SCHOOL STARTS
Summer slipped by and the new school year came fast. I woke up early on the first day, ready for the change. As I set out to walk down the hill I smelled the September air, warm and thick with the green smell of cut grass.
My new purse swung from my left shoulder and I carried my paper bag lunch in my left hand. I cradled my new binder in my right arm. I met Amy and Rena as they came up the street towards my house and they too carried shoulder bags, brown paper bags and binders.
“Hey Emily!” they called.
“Hi Amy. Hi Rena.”
The three of us fell into step.
“Good-bye summer,” moaned Rena. “I’m not ready to start school again.”
“Who is?” agreed Amy. “I had a great summer and now it’s over, just like that,” and she snapped her fingers in the air.
“I know what you mean,” I agreed, but actually, I was ready for the summer to be over. It had been a good summer, but in recent weeks I had grown tired of going to the pool and hanging out all the time with Jackie. I was still mad at Jackie for kissing Tommy down at the fort and embarrassing him. That day had been perfect until then and I didn’t understand why she had to ruin it. After that, Tommy wanted nothing to do with Jackie and, for me, the spirit of the summer was broken along with the connection between Tommy and Jackie and me.
Jackie couldn’t understand why Tommy was still mad and, although she tried to make it up to him, he barely said a word to her in the two weeks that followed. He spent his time with his buddies instead of us and for me the days passed as if we were just biding our time until school started.
“I really don’t get why you’re friends with her,” Tommy said to me a few days later.
I looked at him blankly and had no real answer. Somehow that summer, Jackie had quickly become my best friend as if we had always known each other and I had liked that. I liked that she liked me, that she thought I was cool when I was clearly not as cool as she was, that she had so many ideas. I liked all the fun she created, all the excitement. I felt sorry for her too and that made me want to be her friend. Sorry that it was just Jackie and her mom most of the time.
As the days went on and Tommy stayed away, I think Jackie was sorry for kissing him, and maybe for the other tricks she had played on him over the summer. But I don’t think she knew how to tell him that, so she just left him alone.
Jackie was not happy about going to an all-girls school. “I have to wear a stupid uniform to school!” she complained. “I have 3 revolting plaid jumpers and five ugly white blouses to go underneath. I have to wear matching knee socks and rubber soled shoes. We can’t even wear the earrings we want to wear. They have to be small post earrings. No hoops or anything.”
“Cheer up, Jackie,” I answered. I thought about the mishmash of unmatched clothes in my closet and wondered if being fashionable was going to be important in junior high. “At least everyone will look the same and you won’t have to worry about what you’re going to wear to school.”
“Yeah, we’ll all look like a bunch of dorks! Well, I refuse to look like everyone else. I’ll find some way.”
Jackie was not going to be consoled and so I gave up. I didn’t see why wearing a uniform would be such a problem. I thought the plaid dresses looked cute, but I didn’t dare admit that to Jackie.
I felt a little bit sorry for Jackie because she didn’t know anyone else who was going to St. Mary’s. A lot of the girls had gone up through the grades there and Jackie would be the new one. But I also thought about how in charge she had been this summer, over me and Tommy and the kids at the pool. And she was the new kid there too. Jackie knew how to get a group together and how to turn things her way. I pictured Jackie with a group of girls around her at St. Mary’s. I imagined how she would set the latest trend, just to look different. Maybe she would hike up her jumper an inch or two or roll her knee socks down around her ankles to look like doughnuts and all the other girls would mimic her new style, to be just like her.
I remembered how one day at the pool Jackie arrived in a pair of cut-offs and a t-shirt over her bathing suit. As she walked over to us, I noticed she had ripped open the outside seams of her shorts so the sides flared out and part of her bathing suit showed from underneath. It was a small change, but soon other girls started doing the same thing, me included, and before long, almost no girl wore a normal pair of shorts to the pool. Mom saw what I had done to my shorts and her eyebrows went up. She told me I could only wear them over a bathing suit from then on. I imagined other mothers telling their daughters the same thing, except, maybe Mrs. Conroy who would have thought they were cool. I wondered if Mrs. Conroy had a pair of shorts like Jackie’s.
And then, as soon as every girl at the pool had adopted Jackie’s look, Jackie stopped wearing those cut-offs. Not everyone noticed but I did and I wondered if Jackie had planned the whole thing just to see what people would do. When I asked Jackie where her ripped cut-offs were, she said, “Oh, those. I’m done with those.” I never saw those cut-offs again. I wore mine a few more times, just so it would look like I wasn’t copying Jackie’s every move and then I threw them out.
It felt good to see Amy and Rena that first day of school. I hadn’t seen them much during the summer. Amy had spent all of August in Maine with her family and Rena had helped her mom at a day-camp all summer. Neither of them told me, but I got the feeling they didn’t like Jackie. They were cautious around her ever since we played Capture the Flag together and Jackie buried the flag. They didn’t play that way and neither did I until Jackie came around. Amy, Rena and I had been an easy trio in sixth grade and, as we walked down the hill and chatted on the first day of seventh grade, I thought how effortless it was to be with my old friends.
The next few weeks were busy. I liked the junior school and knew enough kids in my classes to be comfortable. Amy and Rena were in a couple of my classes and we sat together at lunch. We all played field hockey after school and walked home in the afternoons together. I had not seen Jackie since the day before school started.
Jackie called me one day after school and Tommy answered.
“It’s for you,” he said and put the receiver down on the kitchen table and left the room.
I was in a good mood and when I heard Jackie’s voice I was happy to hear from her. I had nearly forgotten about the fort. It was hard for me to stay mad at someone for long.
“Hey Jackie! How’s school going?” I asked.
“Okay. Ugly uniforms. Nuns and teachers telling you what to do all day. Homework at night and then it starts all over again.”
I couldn’t think of a way to respond so I waited.
“How’s your new school, Emily?” she asked.
“It’s good,” I told her. “I like most of my teachers and, so far, the homework’s not too bad. Plus, Amy, Rena and I are playing field hockey after school. We’re not really a team, so we don’t play other schools. We just play each other.”
“Sounds great, Emily,” she said flatly. Then she paused. “What are you doing right now?” she asked.
“Well I just got home and I’m going to eat something and then do some homework before dinner.”
“Oh,” she answered. “Hey, want to come over here and do your homework? Denny’s not coming home until about 6:30 tonight, and I’m here by myself.”
I hadn’t seen Jackie since summer ended, but I didn’t want to go over there and I didn’t think Mom would let me anyway, especially with Jackie’s mom still at work. I had only been over to Jackie’s a couple times during the summer when her mother wasn’t home and each time it was only for a little while.
“I don’t think I can today, Jackie,” I told her. I didn’t even want to bother asking Mom.
“Oh, okay. Do you want to go to the movies together on Saturday? The Godfather is still playing in Chatham.”
“Uh, Jackie. We can’t see that. It’s rated R isn’t it?”
“Well, Denny said she’d get us in. She’s already seen it and said there wasn’t anything too bad in it.”
“I don’t think my parents would let me see it, even if your mom went with us, Jackie.” I knew about the movie. Mom and Dad had seen it. The book was somewhere in our house and I had heard rumors that page 32 was the page to read. I didn’t know what that meant but I was sure it was not a movie they’d let me see.
“Why don’t you ask, just in case,” she suggested. “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
I thought about that. In this case, it probably would hurt to ask. Mom and Dad liked Jackie, but they thought she had too much freedom. They were careful about what they let me do and I think they were glad Jackie was at another school.
“Maybe, but why don’t we see what other movies are playing, just in case?” I suggested.
“Like what?” she asked. Jackie sounded impatient.
“What about The Poseidon Adventure?” Have you seen that yet? Maybe we can find a theater where it’s still playing.”
“Already saw it, but we could pretend we’re going to see The Poseidon Adventure and see The Godfather instead.”
I was getting frustrated. I had broken some of Mom and Dad’s rules, but I wasn’t going to lie to them about the movies. “Listen, Jackie. I’m telling you now, my parents won’t let me see The Godfather so if you really want to go to the movies, why don’t we look in the paper and find out what else is playing? Then we can pick a movie my parents would let me see.”
“Well, okay,” Jackie conceded. “We don’t have a paper here, so look in yours and call me back, okay?”
I agreed and we made plans to talk on Friday. We hung up and I sat at the kitchen table thinking. Jackie sounded different to me. Almost too pushy. I decided maybe she was just lonely at her new school and I let the thought leave my head.
We didn’t see The Godfather or The Poseidon Adventure that Saturday. Instead, Mom and Dad took Jackie, Tommy and me to see Snowball Express. Tommy didn’t want to go with us. He refused to talk to Jackie and sat as far away from her as he could. I was glad we all went together, though, because I thought it was about time Tommy forgave Jackie.
Thank you for reading.
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