Openings are my favorite part of a story to write. So, occasionally I may share one here. I’d really like to finish Rowena’s story someday, even though it’ll mean subjecting her to the hellscape of junior high.
Three periods into seventh grade, and I’m looking for an escape hatch. A quick glance around the cafeteria tells me there’s no hope. Kids are streaming in one door, waiting for their turn in the slop line. Lunch monitors stand guard at the other door.
I have two choices: a) continue to stand here with my tray on my hip, looking like a friendless loser, or b) find a place to sit. When Macey and I were BFFs, this was never a problem. I scan the room until I find her, which takes about a nanosecond. She’s sitting in the middle of the room with her new friends–the popular girls, the pretty girls, with their yardstick legs and flat stomachs. They whisper to each other behind purple fingernails, looking around the cafeteria with narrowed eyes, zeroing in on the zeroes.
The outfit I spent days putting together suddenly feels too bright, too tight, and much too in sight. I start walking, hoping to find a table far away from Macey. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to have had the same idea. All the tables in the back of the lunchroom are full.
I spin in a circle, frantic now. There has to be somewhere to sit. Somewhere I can blend in. I spot Macey again, laughing at something Chandra, her new best friend, has said. They’re looking in my direction.
“Rowena! Sit over here,” Macey calls. Chandra grins and waves me over.
I look around the room for someone to save me, but it’s clear everyone else is happy to feed me to the sharks. If I’m the victim, they won’t be.
Chandra moves over to make room for me, and pats the bench beside her. I sit down and quickly assess the group: Chandra, Paige, and Macey–the Holy Trinity of Junior High, looking as though they walked straight off the pages of Seventeen–and the cutest boy I’ve ever seen. I’m in the shark tank, with no cage to protect me.