Back to School
Paivi was up before her alarm, both nervous and excited about the first day of high school. She got ready quickly and made her way down to grab a bowl of cereal before heading out to the bus stop. She stepped around bags and people in the aisle, finally finding a seat near the middle of the bus. Being the first day back, no one had found older kids to ride to school with just yet. There was no air conditioning on the bus, just a hot, humid rush of air through all of the open windows, which caused Paivi to rethink her wardrobe choice. Her new jeans were sticking to her legs. She just kept reminding herself that the school would be like a meat locker, so it would pay off in the end.
The bus joined the queue in the driveway in front of the school, pulling slowly forward, and opened the doors to allow their passengers to exit. Paivi took the steps slowly. It would be extremely embarrassing to fall down the stairs in front of the whole school. Not quite the impression she was going for. She stepped off the bus into a throng of students and was shuffled towards the courtyard, where everyone split off into their own groups. Some students continued on, filtering through the front doors and into the cafeteria.
Paivi decided to stay outside to see if she could find Michaela or any of the other girls. They had all come on different buses. She waved and greeted a few kids she remembered from junior high, but kept walking. She found a spot along the concrete wall and sat for a minute, taking in her surroundings.
St. Andrew High School was a very uninteresting looking building. The original school had been built in 1872 and was an imposing building of brick and stone that resembled a castle. As St. Andrew grew, the building became too small, and the new St. Andrew High School was built down the street. It opened in 1971, apparently when no one had any sort of creativity regarding architecture and design. The school was large and boxy, like someone had just gone and glued some rectangles together. The building was covered in red brick and the only good thing about it was the fact that it had large windows that looked out onto a forest preserve.
“Hey P!” Paivi heard a familiar voice behind her. She spun around and saw Michaela and Paulina walking towards her.
“Can you believe it’s our first day!” squealed Michaela rubbing her hands together. “Just think of all the new boys. And OLDER boys! Nice!”
The three of them turned to see a large group of boys looking in their direction. When they noticed they had been caught, they quickly looked away, shouting at each other and laughing. There was one boy that caught Paivi’s eye. He looked right at her, unblinking. His cold stare made her slightly uncomfortable. He held her gaze a moment longer and then broke it, turning back to his friends.
“Oooo!” said Michaela, teasing Paivi as she nudged her in the ribs with her elbow. “It looks like somebody’s got a thing for you, P! Nice job! The first bell hasn’t even rung yet!”
Paivi let out a nervous laugh as the bell rang and the throng of students moved in a giant wave, carrying them all towards the door.
The day was a mixture of feelings. It was exciting to see old friends after months apart, which resulted in large groups of screaming and hugging girls. There was also tension as they checked out the new students, possible friends and enemies that they hadn’t met yet. They attempted to size each other up without appearing obvious. The classes themselves were the dullest part of the day, more so for the fact that every teacher spent the period ‘getting to know’ their new students by playing cheesy ice-breaker games and going over never-ending lists of classroom rules. In each class they collected book after book until they were teetering precariously through the hallways, hoping to make it to their lockers before their backs gave out.
Paivi stumbled into her sixth period class balancing a pile of books and notebooks and collapsed into the nearest open seat. The desk was old and not quite level, and when she dropped her pile onto it, everything proceeded to slide onto the floor with a loud crash.
She looked at the heap of books and paper, put her hand to her head and sighed loudly. She bent down, stacking the items one by one on the desk.
“Looks like you might want to invest in a backpack, unless you happen to turn into the Incredible Hulk during passing periods,” said an unfamiliar voice dryly, as a hand reached down from the desk across the aisle and began picking up a few of her books.
“Uh, yeah, thanks. I left it in my locker. I just didn’t think we would get so much stuff already!” She slammed the last book onto the pile, and finally looked up. The owner of the voice across the aisle handed Paivi her things stacked neatly, which she set next to her sloppy pile, hoping to avoid a repeat performance.
“Thanks for your help,” Paivi said, smiling at him.
“No problem! Just try to keep those books under control!” He held out his hand. “I’m Jason, by the way.”
She took Jason’s hand and shook it strongly. His brown eyes sparkled in the fluorescent lights and she noticed how his dark hair complimented his smooth, cocoa skin.
“I’m Paivi.” She felt her heart flutter in her chest and hoped her face wasn’t turning a bright shade of pink.
“Paivi? Well that’s one I haven’t heard before. What does it mean?” He turned sideways in the desk to look at her.
“It means ‘day’ in Finnish,” she explained. “We still have some cousins that are like eight times removed that live there.”
“Finland? I heard Santa Claus lives there! Nice!” He laughed.
She groaned. “Yeah, it’s great.”
“So, why did you take this class?” he asked as he stuck a pencil behind his ear.
“Last spring when we were picking classes, I decided that I wanted to take Intro to Law, but when I went to my guidance counselor, the girl in front of me beat me to it and took the last seat. This class was open, and it sounded kind of interesting.”
At that moment, Paivi’s friend Crystal bounded through the classroom door and plopped herself into the seat behind Paivi.
“Hey, P, do you think they’ll let us keep these seats?” she asked, pulling out a tube of lip gloss.
“I doubt it— most teachers make you sit alphabetically. Oh, Crystal, this is Jason.”
The introduction was cut short as an explosion of bright fabrics, wild hair, and papers flew through the door.
“Hello, everyone, hello!” an older woman shouted, sounding a bit flustered as she dropped the pile of books and papers onto the desk at the front of the room. The woman took a deep breath and looked around the room as she attempted to straighten her hair and her blouse at the same time with very little success. Little wisps of blond permed hair continued to float around her head, making her look like she had been struck by lightning. It almost seemed like her hair was frantically trying to escape. Her navy and red suit was a bit disheveled and her shoes were black. Paivi wondered if the woman had bothered to look in the mirror before she left this morning.
It took her a few moments before she realized she had failed to introduce herself.
“Oh! My name is Dr. Hasenpfeffer. Welcome to Current Events.”
The students said nothing.
“There is no text for this class,” the students perked up a bit, “I will supply all of the necessary materials. In this class we will look at our current world and domestic problems such as terrorism and poverty. We will learn about the media and also about other countries that affect us daily, though you may not realize it.”
The students were all waiting anxiously for Dr. Hasenpfeffer to move them into new seats. She said nothing about it and they were afraid to mention it. No one wanted to be responsible for giving her the idea. She spent the rest of the period discussing the outsourcing of jobs, terrorist attacks in the United States since 2001, and her cat, Clarence. Apparently he was suffering from a chronic hairball condition.
The bell rang, and the students jumped up, quickly making their way out of the classroom. Crystal was shaking her head as they exited.
“Honestly, we aren’t supposed to remember any of that stuff, are we?” Crystal moaned.
“Well, I hope how many hairballs Clarence tosses in a normal week and how that effects global warming is not on the final,” quipped Jason, as they all laughed.
“I feel like my brain was just pulled in ten directions! I can’t possibly understand what she is a doctor of! Thank God it’s time for lunch. Anybody else have lunch this hour?” Paivi patted her stomach.
“Not me! Later!” Crystal waved as she made her way in the opposite direction.
Paivi and Jason wound their way through the crowded hallways down to the cafeteria, both being unfortunate enough to have the very last lunch hour of the day. But at least they could finally relax; it was nearly the end of the first day of classes.
“So, are you meeting any friends in lunch?” asked Jason.
“Yeah, luckily my best friend, Michaela, has it too. What about you?”
“I’ve got some friends in here too. Although I don’t know how easy it’ll be to find them.” He looked around the mayhem in the cafeteria. Hundreds of students wandered around aimlessly, looking for their friends. The smart ones headed straight for the lunch lines, deciding food was more important. Paivi saw Michaela out of the corner of her eye. She was standing on her seat in the far corner of the cafeteria, waving her arms wildly in the air in order to get Paivi’s attention. A lunch monitor ran up and began scolding her to get down.
Paivi laughed and pointed to Michaela. “I am sad to say I found my friend. I better get over there before she gets herself thrown out! See you tomorrow!”
“Later!” Jason headed off in the other direction.
Paivi made her way through the maze of tables where Michaela and Aimee had saved her a seat. Michaela was promising the lunch monitor that she would never misuse school property again in such a fashion. She sat back down out of breath.
“Getting in trouble already? It’s only the first day!” laughed Paivi.
“Just be glad you didn’t have to wander around like some idiot to find us in this mess!” She sounded mad, but Paivi knew better. Michaela suddenly brightened. “And who, may I ask, was the cute guy you were with?”
“I wasn’t WITH a guy—he’s just some guy from my Current Events class.”
“What’s his deal? Does he have a girlfriend or what? What grade is he in?” Michaela demanded.
“I just met him today. I’m sorry I didn’t manage to get his life story. But I’ll keep you posted. Better yet, I can introduce you and you can interrogate him yourself,” Paivi giggled. She scanned the room, looking to see where Jason was sitting. She hoped the others didn’t notice. No luck. She leaned back in her seat, contemplating whether she should attempt the lunch line, when she saw him. Unfortunately it was not Jason—instead it was the boy she had seen earlier that morning. And he was sitting just four tables away. She couldn’t help but look. He wasn’t so creepy when he wasn’t staring her down. He must have felt her eyes, however, and turned his head slowly, his eyes meeting hers. They were as cold and icy as before and she could feel the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She pulled her eyes away quickly, looking towards Michaela, hoping he would look away too. But he did not.
This is ridiculous! she thought to herself. How can I be afraid of someone I don’t even know? This is stupid.
She stood up, still avoiding his gaze. “Are you guys ready to get some food?”
The three girls headed to the front of the cafeteria and joined the line.