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 NINE – THE LOCKER
By the middle of September, I was in a comfortable routine. Every morning I walked to school with Amy and Rena. The three of us, side by side, descended the hill of our neighborhood to school and the three of us surrounded each other with the comfortable laughter and chatter that comes from an easy friendship.
One Monday in September, I left the house and headed up the street as usual and, like clockwork, there were Amy and Rena.
“Hi Emily!” Rena called over to me. “Look what I got!” I couldn’t see anything from the distance and, as I got closer I asked her “What?”
Rena flipped her hair back behind her shoulders and lifted up her chin, sort of pushing it out to me. As she did this she smiled and turned her head back and forth and pointed to the gold posts in her ears.
“Rena!” I said. “You got your ears pierced! Wow! They look great!”
Rena beamed. “Do you like them?”
“Yeah, of course. Did it hurt?” I asked.
“Well, a little, but not for long. My mom took me up to The Jewel Box in Morristown and the jeweler took us in the back and he pierced them there. He used this thing that looked like a stapler. It was cool.”
“I’m still working on my mom to let me get mine pierced. She says when I’m thirteen, but I’m hoping she’ll let me get it done before then.”
Amy looked at us. “You guys are crazy. Why do you want to put holes in your ears? Seriously! I’m not getting that done, no way. You couldn’t pay me to do that.”
Rena laughed, “Amy, you will cave. I know you. Once you see the cool earrings that Emily and I start to wear, you’re going to be begging your mom to take you up to The Jewel Box.”
I looked at my two friends and smiled. Maybe Rena knew Amy better than I did but I didn’t think Amy would cave. I didn’t think she cared much about pierced ears or wearing earrings, not the way Rena and I did. She didn’t join in what I was sure had been countless hours that Rena and I had spent talking about getting our ears pierced. She had made it clear she was sure she had no interest. I liked Amy because she had her own ideas and wasn’t afraid to be different from everyone else. For the way Amy stood tall with her convictions, though, Amy was the shortest of our trio. She had thick, wavy shoulder-length blond hair that was parted in the middle like mine and today she had it pulled into a pony tail that whished from side to side as she walked. Her hooded sweatshirt jacket was several sizes too big and hung down low over her shoulders. Probably her older brother’s sweatshirt, I thought. She looked comfortable in her clothes and I thought it would be nice to have an older brother who let you wear his sweatshirt, kind of like a shield of protection when he wasn’t around. Amy liked being comfortable more than anything else and I thought it would be good not to think too much about what I was wearing.
Rena was taller than Amy and me. Her long brown hair was shiny and straight and today she had pulled two strands from either side and tied them in the back with a small red ribbon. I thought she had probably thought about how she was going to wear her hair that day to be sure that everyone would notice her newly pierced ears. Rena’s bell-bottom jeans were a good match with her blue and white striped shirt and I thought she looked a little bit like a sailor in her outfit. She loved clothes and was proud of the way she dressed. I laughed to myself and I thought about how different my two friends were and how much I liked both of them.
I was somewhere in the middle of my two friends when it came to style. I was wearing my favorite jeans, also bell-bottoms with studs down the sides. Unlike Rena, though, I had not thought about my outfit and had grabbed the first top I found in my drawer, light blue and non-descript.
“When do you get to change earrings, Rena” I asked.
“Eight weeks. I have to turn the posts and put rubbing alcohol on them every night until then. I already have two other pairs of earrings to wear.
We separated at the front entrance and I headed to my locker. As I got closer, I noticed that something didn’t look right. When I got to my locker I saw that there was a dent in it and the handle was bent. I tried to work the key but it would not turn. I looked at the lockers on either side of me and my locker was the only one that was damaged. Then I looked up and I froze. I saw something scratched into the metal. “Bitch.” The word wasn’t big. But there it was, right at eye level, meant for me to notice. I stood there and stared. Who would do this? I thought. I was shocked that someone put this word here for me to see. A moment before, my only problem was how I was going to finish my math homework before class. Now I had two more problems. First, I couldn’t get into my locker and second, someone was calling me Bitch. I stood there, staring at my locker, that word, written to me, about me and for everyone to see.
I could hear other kids walking behind me and some people were stopping at their own lockers, lockers that were not jammed and didn’t have Bitch scratched into them. I didn’t want to look at anyone because, even though the word was small, I was sure everyone could see that I was the one who had been singled out.
I went to homeroom and told my teacher, Mrs. Holmes, only that my locker key didn’t work. She said that Mr. Matthews, the Janitor would help me open it. Mr. Matthews was in charge of all lockers and keys. Some of the kids at school had already lost their keys and had to get new keys from him. Kids said he always got mad when someone lost a key and I wasn’t looking forward to talking to him. I also knew he would see what was written on my locker.
Mrs. Holmes sent me down to the Janitor’s Room and Mr. Matthews walked with me to my damaged locker. He wore a big ring of keys that dangled from his belt. When we got there he said nothing and went to work on the lock. He tried my key first then one of his spare keys and when that one didn’t work he sighed and said, “Wait here.” Mr. Matthews went back down to his room and came back with a crow bar and forced open the door. It flipped open with a loud bang and I was glad homeroom had already started and the halls were empty. I didn’t want to explain to anyone why my locker was being forced open.
“Go ahead and pull out all your things. I’ll give you a new locker,” he said. Then we walked down the hall to a different set of lockers and he pulled off the matching key from his key ring and handed it to me. “Check to see if it works,” he said and I put in the key and it opened fine.
Then Mr. Matthews looked at me and said, “I’m going to pull off the door to your old locker and replace it with a different one. This is your locker from now on. You have any more problems with your new locker, you let me know and I’ll take care of it, okay?”
I said okay and thanks and Mr. Matthews said, “And don’t lose that key, kiddo.” He smiled when he said “kiddo.”
Mr. Matthews said nothing about the word on my locker and I was grateful. Maybe it was random, I thought. Just as I got to homeroom, the bell rang for first period. I had lost my chance to do my math homework, but my bigger problem was solved.
I told no one at school about my locker. I figured that was the end of it and I filed that thought far back in my head.
Jackie called me after school and I didn’t even tell her about my locker. But I decided I might tell her sometime if I needed advice. Jackie was tougher than me.
The next day I got to school and there was nothing wrong with my new locker. On the way to homeroom, I saw Mr. Matthews in the hall and he called over to me, “Hey Kiddo.”
I had gym the following day and when I got into the locker room and went to my gym locker, it wasn’t jammed like my hall locker but the same word was scratched into the door. I got a horrible feeling in my stomach because this time the other girls definitely noticed. I looked over at Amy and I could tell she had seen it. When she saw me looking at her, she looked down and only said, “Hey Emily.”
I changed into my gym uniform and I did my best to forget about my locker and instead figure out how to get that word off it. I didn’t have the excuse that the locker wouldn’t open and I definitely didn’t want to tell my gym teacher about the scratched in word. I decided that when I got home I would think of a way to erase the word so no one would notice.
At home that day I tried as hard as I could to figure out how to erase a scratched-in word off my locker but I couldn’t think of anything I could do so I looked in my room for a sticker that was big enough to cover it. The next day I didn’t have gym, but during lunch I went into the locker room and put a big flower sticker over the word and hoped that whoever was doing this to me would stop.
I started to wonder if not telling Mom or Dad certain things that were going on with me was just lying or was it just being private. Back when I was really little, I used to talk non-stop and tell Mom and Dad everything that flew through my head. They got used to that and I wasn’t sure if they could tell that I wasn’t like that as much these days. I spent a lot more time up in my room or with Jackie at her place, but that’s where I felt the most comfortable about stuff. I didn’t want to have to explain everything and I also didn’t think my parents would even understand what it was like to be me.
One day not too long after my lockers got scratched I was getting on the bus after school and as I walked through the aisle to find a seat my foot got caught on someone else’s foot and I tripped. I heard a lot of kids laughing and when I looked up all I saw was a lot of faces looking at me. They all seemed to think my fall was funny. I got up as fast as I could and found a seat that was empty and sat down. I stared out the window and hoped that everyone would forget about my fall in the aisle.
Falling down in front of your classmates is probably one of the most embarrassing things to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it once it happens except move on and hope that something else happens to someone else fast so you’re not the only embarrassing thing that everyone remembers. I tried to think about how I fell and why I hadn’t seen the foot that was sticking out in the aisle. I even tried to think about whose foot it was that made me trip, but my mind was too flustered to remember. I talked myself into thinking it was just one of those clumsy accidents, but I was very glad to get to my bus stop and get off and go home. None of the kids who were my friends who got off at my stop said anything about it and we just kind of talked around the fall as we walked up our street.
A couple days after that I was eating lunch at school. I was sitting at a table with Amy and Rena. We were having a good time and were almost finished eating. I had mostly forgotten about my lockers and falling on the bus, so my guard was down. The three of us were laughing pretty hard about something stupid one of our teachers had said that day and I remember sitting there with my mouth wide open in the middle of a laugh when suddenly I felt something wet and gloppy hit me right in the face with some of it landing in my mouth. I sat there in shock and automatically put my hand up to my face and discovered that someone had thrown a big batch of mashed potatoes right at me. Kids started to notice and a lot of them were turned around in their seats, pointing and laughing at me. The roar of their laughter grew as more people saw what had happened.
At first I thought that this was the beginning of one of those massive cafeteria food fights and that I just happened to get in the crossfire of the first strike. But no more food flew through the air and I realized that I had been the one and only target.
I don’t know why people think it’s so funny when someone gets hit in the face with something. I like my share of jokes, but I never laugh when I see a pie-in-the-face kind of thing. So when these mashed potatoes hit me in the face, well I was horrified and mad and embarrassed out of my mind. And again, as with the lockers and tripping on the bus, I didn’t know what to do. This time, I grabbed my books and purse, leaving my tray at the table and just ran out of the cafeteria, with a face full of mashed potatoes.
I ran into the Girls Room and grabbed a paper towel and started wiping the food from my face. The thought occurred to me that it was a good thing I didn’t wear make-up, because anything I had put on that morning would have been wiped away while I cleaned off my face, making me look worse in the end. The potatoes smelled terrible to me and I went to the sink. As I was bending over to wash my face in the sink, all the things that had been happening to me at school flooded through my brain and I started to feel terribly sorry for myself. And the tears started to well up in my eyes and my throat felt tight and sore. I was glad my face was in the sink in case anyone came in because then they wouldn’t have seen how I let the tears come out full force, just for a minute.
No one came into the Girls Room and I was lucky because when I lifted my head out of the sink and took a look at myself in the mirror, I didn’t look very good. My face looked kind of like how my Mom’s face had looked the night she and Dad had their fight. It was very blotchy and unnatural and some of my hair had gotten wet from the sink. And my eyes looked red and sad. The paper towels felt terrible on my skin, all rough and did little to dry me off. I remember thinking that I would have done just as well with a plain piece of paper because the towels were so bad.
When I finally finished cleaning up I took another look in the mirror and, although I didn’t look great, I knew it was now or never that I had to go back out in the hall. I couldn’t figure out how long I had been in there, but I didn’t hear any bells ring, so I walked out into the hall. As I walked down the hall I poked my head into one of the classrooms to see the clock and saw that I had about one minute before lunch was over. That was good, so I just went down the hall and over to my new locker to get the book I needed for my Math class and headed a little farther down to my classroom.
No one said a thing when they saw me in class and I hoped as hard as I could that not everyone had seen me get hit in the face with the mashed potatoes. Amy was in my Math class and when I sat down next to her she said, “Are you okay Emily?” I had pulled myself together so I knew I could answer her without crying and said, “Yeah, I guess so.” And she said, “I don’t know who threw those potatoes, but I’m sorry they did it.” “I know,” I said. “I’m okay.”
When I got home from school that day Mom, as always, asked me how my day had been. By then, my face didn’t look like I had been crying at all, so I said “Fine.” On the way home on the bus, though, I started to think that all these things that were happening to me were definitely related and that there was someone at school who had it in for me. I had no idea how to deal with it, so that day on my way home I decided I would tell Jackie about it and see what she thought.
I thought Jackie might have some good advice because, as I said, she seemed a lot more worldly than me, plus nothing seemed to bother her. I wasn’t sure whether she had a lot of friends at her new school because she didn’t talk much about it, but I got the feeling she was a bit of a loner there. After all, she and I spent most of our free time together so there wasn’t a lot of other time for her to hang out with her school friends.
When I got to my room, I called Jackie from my Princess phone. “Hey,” she said. “What’s up?” I told her, “Nothing really…someone threw a blob of mashed potatoes in my face today and I think it was on purpose.”
“What? Was there a food fight after that?”
“No food fight. The potatoes were the only thing that were in the air.” And I went on and told her about the lockers and tripping on the bus.
“Emily, someone’s trying to mess with you. Do you have anyone there who doesn’t like you?”
It never occurred to me that someone wouldn’t like me. I told her I didn’t know because I didn’t know everyone at school. I didn’t think it was any of my old friends behind it either. Jackie told me I should keep my eye out for anyone I might think didn’t like me and then to pay attention to that person and get an idea of what he or she was like. She told me the best thing to do would not to do anything right away, but to go along as if nothing were wrong, all the while thinking of some kind of revenge and then striking when this person wouldn’t know what was coming.
Jackie seemed to get pretty excited about my problem and was making suggestions that I wasn’t so sure about. But since I did ask for her advice, I listened carefully and tried to imagine myself getting revenge against whomever it was who was trying to “mess with me,” as she put it.
Thank you for reading.
Just jumping in? Click below to read previous chapters:
Chapter 1 – “Meeting Jackie”
Chapter 2 – “Mrs. Conroy”
Chapter 3 – “Downtown”
Chapter 4 – “Capture the Flag”
Chapter 5 – “The Fight”
Chapter 6 – “Lemonade”
Chapter 7 – “The Fort”
Chapter 8 – “School Starts”
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