To Be a Different Someone: Chapter 7 "Today Is Your Day"

I took off for my morning run as the sun rose over the Lilac City. It was a brisk October morning.

I ran down the block and then back up the South Hill for two miles. I will admit, the air was different in Spokane and I was not used to the uphill climb.
I walked inside the house to see Aunt Lydia sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.
“Good morning, Aunt Lydia.”
“How was your run?”
“Breathless…not used to the air.” I replied as I took my shoes off and carried them across the wood floor.
“Was Krystal up?’
“No, but I’ll see if she’s up now.”
“Thank you.”

Forty-five minutes and four wardrobe changes later, I was ready for my first day at school. Krys wore a casual pair of jeans with a red blouse. I tried to match her with a skirt and a custom-made red top. I decided to not carry a purse but instead use the same backpack I had from Missoula.
We left the house and drove up the street to the high school.
“How did you get the car?” Krys asked as she lowered the passenger side sun visor.
“I bought it.”
“How?” She asked as she checked something in the mirror.
“I sold a few dresses.” I replied as we turned the corner onto East 37th Avenue.
“Enough to buy a car?”
“Well, it is used…not like I had Stella McCartney asking me to come design for her.” Although that would have been spectacular!
The wheels must have been turning in Krys’ head.
“But someone did. Are you thinking about expanding?”
Grans had taken a few samples of my work and showed them to friends of hers who had granddaughters and daughters and friends. Eventually, I had a few orders and I worked them the best I could. Grans took measurements and relayed them to me as I still couldn’t speak at that time. I delivered the final product after a few weeks and the ladies gushed—at least that’s how Grans described it. It was laid back work that I could do in my pajamas—and I never had to ask anyone if they wanted fries with anything.

I created a few new designs and there was one that I was really proud about; Grans showed it to a friend, of a friend, of a daughter or something. She gave me the paperwork for the design request and I went to work on it to deliver it in time for that year’s prom. The mother of the recipient came to the house to pick up the dress and I was just about ready to meet her when I saw the vehicle she came to the house in—a late model truck, now with a little damage to the side.

I let Grans know it wasn’t a good time for me and went back upstairs as she came to the door. I listened from the upstairs landing as the lady oohed and aahed about it right as her daughter walked in behind her to try it on. The girl: Monica Preston.

“I think it may be best to concentrate on school right now. Get back to a normal life,” I said with a sigh.
“Yeah, nothing says normal life like eight hours of regimented schedule.”
“Nine, if you count cheerleading.” I corrected her.
“Hah! Now you’re talking about a lifetime.”

We pulled into the parking lot and I found my assigned space.
“Ready for the moment of truth?” Krys asked.
“I was here yesterday,” I said as I turned the engine off.
“But today is your official first day...and since you’re making your grand entrance with me, well, everyone’s going to notice.”
“True,” I replied.

We got out of the car and dove into the sea of students. We passed by so many people who I was like being a part of A Christmas Carol and seeing ghosts from the past.
“Look over there. Remember him?” Krystal glanced at a freckle-faced guy as he walked up the sidewalk. “That’s Darrin Roberts, the guy who used to be thrown into the basketball hoop.”
“I remember. Better him than me.”

Yes, that was rude, now that I look back. I have to remember as bad as my days were, others had their own personal bullies too. Darren stood at about four feet, ten inches and he could be lifted into the basketball hoop without a lot of effort...not a lot of effort, of course, meant anyone over six feet, with multiple friends, and zero sympathy for freshman. However, Darren, even though
he still had his freckles, now stood at about six-foot five inches and weighed 290 pounds…of muscle. He was now either someone else’s bully or a guardian angel to a kindred spirit freshman.
“How about her?” Krys motioned to a girl walking in a group of others.
“Renee Alexander, right?” I asked. “Pregnant at fifteen, had twins.”
“Looks like a lot has changed,” I commented as I hoisted up my backpack.
“Did you really just say that?”
“It’s kind of like a time machine, I—”
I stopped dead in my tracks as I looked toward the door and saw him.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I whispered to no one.
“What?” Krys stopped short and looked back to me.
“Matt Tracker?” I asked as I looked at the front of the building. Matt stood at the door, holding it open for a few students as they came up.
Krystal shook her head. “Yeah, he still goes here too.”
“I thought he would’ve dropped out by now...or at least gotten hit by a truck.”
“Keep on dreaming,” Krys said as she led us on.

My brain raced back all the way to fourth grade and went through every single atrocity he launched toward me. Sparkler burns, punches, swirlies, not to mention a complete disregard for my life, liberty, and pursuit of
happiness. However, I couldn’t help but notice how good- looking he was, crazy as that sounds.
Matt looked straight at me as he held one of the double doors.
“Appointed yourself doorman today?” Krystal asked as she walked past him.
It was now or never. “Hello.”
“Hello. You’re new, right?” Matt asked as he stepped aside for me.
“Matt Tracker.” I looked at his face, but his gaze was not focused on mine...they were glancing a little lower. His eyes then darted up.
“Jennifer Monroe.”
“If you ever need help getting around, just let me know.”
“Thank you very much.”
I admit, I was caught in the moment. I never saw the color of Matt’s eyes before—not without them staring with spite—and here I was, doing just that...and kind of not wanting it to end.
“Come on, Jen,” Krystal grabbed my arm and dragged me into the building.
I looked back at Matt—and he was still looking at me.
“What was that about?” Krys asked as she pulled my attention back to reality.
“I just wanted to see his reaction,” I replied, then laughed a little. “I know it’s wasn’t my face he was trying to connect with.”
“I noticed.”
I turned to the side and saw Lindsey—with her trademark gap-tooth smile—skipping down the hallway. She ignored me at first and went straight to Krys.
“Where’s James?”
“He’s dead,” Krys flatly replied.
“What?” Lindsey screamed. “Are you serious? No.”
“Calm down,” Krys shushed, “I mean, he’s not dead, dead. Jen, you want to help me with this?”
“Hello, Lindsey.”
“Hi, are you new?” She turned back to Krys. “Is she new?”
“You still have those bright eyes.”
“Do I know—” Lindsey moved closer and stared into my eyes. “O. M. G.,” she squealed.
“I go by Jennifer now.”
Lindsey shrieked and jumped in place a few times before Krys took hold of her arms in an effort to calm her down.
“You’re alive!” Lindsey broke free of Krys’ hold and wrapped her arms around me.
“She won’t be for long,” Krys said as I gasped for air.
“I thought you died. I mean, Krys said you were in school somewhere and—”
“Decided to come back,” I replied as she let me go.
“Who colored your hair for you?”

The bell rang and Lindsey looked at a clock on the wall with a frightened expression on her face. One would think she was the White Rabbit as she took off down the hall and called back, “Gotta go! Great to see you’re back! See you two later!”
“She hasn’t changed,” I observed.

We casually walked into our World History class and sat in a set of desks near the front. I tried to avoid looking too unsure of myself. These people didn’t know me, they had no idea of my past, or what I had for breakfast. They wouldn’t, couldn’t give a damn if I just arrived off a boat from the old country or not…so why was I thinking about passing out?

A boy in the class kept looking back at me and then to the front and then back again. He looked familiar…like I knew him. I was about to ask for his name when the teacher filled up the classroom doorframe.
“Mrs. Myers still teaches? I thought she’d be dead by now,” I whispered to Krystal in a low hiss.
“It’s only been two years.”
Mrs. Myers shuffled to her desk, sat down, and peered at the class over her glasses. She scanned from the left to the right with a look that said I despise you aren’t the same as they used to be. She stopped tracking when she saw me.
“Miss Jennifer A. Monroe, I presume?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Are you aware of the dress code? What is acceptable and what is not acceptable here at Ferris, Miss Monroe?” Mrs. Myers opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a copy of World History.
“Not exactly.”
“Well, what you are wearing is not.” The tome landed on her desk with a dull thud.
“I can resolve that, ma’am,” I replied.
I set my backpack on my desk, opened it up, and pulled out a T-shirt. I put it on over my top and waited for her approval. She didn’t exactly say anything but instead picked up the book and held it out to me.
“Please take your text Miss Monroe.”
“Thank you,” I replied as I stepped forward and took it from her.

I turned back to face the class. I now had about twenty- seven faces looking at me. Well, twenty-one—a few appeared to be asleep still, and Krys didn’t count. The same guy from earlier continued his gaze.
I glanced back to him for a second before Mrs. Myers snapped, “Damon, if you’re going to stare at someone, stare at me. You might learn something.”
Damon, that was it. I didn’t recognize him without Matt, Chris, and Tyler. Damon was never the one with an idea… he was more of the silent one who would carry out orders and would be the lookout in case a coach or a teacher approached during their missions. Like Operation: Kick James’ Ass.

My first class of the day droned on as I expected it to. I also expected to think of countless reasons to walk out of the classroom out of sheer boredom but maybe my other morning classes—Trigonometry, Chemistry and English— would go by faster.
They didn’t, and by the time lunch came around I was ready to mentally pop.

“Did every teacher tell you to put something else on?” Krys asked as she sat down at a table in the lunchroom.
“Everyone, except for my Chemistry teacher.”
“Mr. Edwards?” Lindsey asked.
I nodded as I took off the T-shirt, nearly losing the top underneath it.
Lindsey inquired further, “Besides that, how has your first day been?”
“It’s okay. I keep running into—”
“Matt?” she asked.
“He was very nice and helped me find my English class.”
“Umm, this may be a stupid question,” Lindsey whispered, “but I thought you hated Matt, or at least he hated you.”
“I’m willing to be social with him,” I replied.
“He’s cute, isn’t he?”
“Lindsey,” Krys hissed.
“I noticed he had his braces removed,” I answered.
“He’s still good-looking. I’m going to compliment him,” I said.
“He’s a jerk,” Krys said and then took a bite of a carrot stick.
“Actually his jerk factor has gone down a few notches since last year,” Lindsey interjected.
“There you go. Lowered jerk factor,” I replied.
“Wait. A. Sec. You said still good-looking.” Krys pointed a carrot stick at me.
I pointed one right back at her. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
“So, you had it for him two years ago?” Lindsey asked.
Krys took a bite of her carrot.
“Five years,” I replied, causing Krys to spit out her food.

I left Lindsey and Krys after lunch for my next class,
which was PE. The class was held that day on the track. I stood on the starting line with the rest of the class with track pants and a “Ferris High School Phys. Ed” shirt on. We all took off running at the sound of the whistle.

My daily running, while paying off with my overall fitness, was also helping me in this class as I was able to keep a steady pace without tiring. A lot of the class either ran too hard at first or couldn’t care less and were simply
slogging—slow jogging, at least that’s what I’ve been told it means.

I worked my way up the track until I was side by side with Chris Carlson, one of Matt’s former minions.
“Hello,” I said as I read his face—a little strain and a lot of I don’t want to do this running shit right now.
“Jen, right?”
“Yes,” I replied as we rounded a turn.
“You in track?” he asked.
“No, but I run every morning. You?”
“Only if I’m late for class.”
I decided to let him off easy. If I stayed there with him he would have to keep up a pace he had no intention of doing for so long just to impress me.
“I’ll see you around,” I replied as I charged ahead.

Later on in the locker room, I took a colder than ever shower—not on purpose—and tried to clear my head of Matt and his former cohorts. Two years and a cinderblock wall stood between me and the days of old when Chris and Travis held my head above a toilet that had…well, let us say that it was not pristine spring water splashing on my face and shirt.

“James, James, James,” Matt said from the other side of the stall partition. “Just what the hell are we supposed to do about this attitude you have?”
Chris and Travis moved my face toward the mellow yellow whenever I attempted to say something.
“I don’t hear you, Jimmy boy. Don’t be a disrespectful little bastard. Tell us what we need to do to help you understand the problem.”
The two soldiers shoved my face into the water.
“Make sure you do a courtesy flush there. Okay, man?”

I left the locker room with the T-shirt on over my top and once again ran into Matt. I had no doubt Chris was the mole.
“Hello again. It appears we keep meeting up,” I stated as he walked with me.
“Heh, well, I know it’s your first day and all but what do you think of Ferris?” he asked.
“Quite nice, thank you.” I turned to face him, which was a huge mistake on my part as we once again made eye contact.
“Are you busy this Friday?” He spoke with a smoothness to his voice as he cut right to the chase.
“No, but aren’t you?” I pointed to the letter on his jacket with the football patch on it.
“Well, the game, yes, but, maybe you’d like to go somewhere afterward?”
I looked down the hall and saw Krys walking toward us.
“You don’t waste time, do you?” I asked.
“I feel it’s best to get to the point.”
“I like that. How long will you give me to think about it?”
“How long do you need?”
“I’ll let you know. I have to go now.”
“Okay,” he replied as he dragged behind and turned down an adjacent hallway.

Krys had a slight scowl on her face, but she tried to hide it with a false pretense of concern.
“Is he bothering you?” she asked.
“No, I’m actually finding it funny,” I replied as I looked back to where I last saw him, before he turned the corner.
“How is it funny?” Krys asked, a prominent scowl on her face.
“I’m a little confused about you and Matt.”
I sighed. “I am too.”
Krys took me by the arm and we walked down the hall. “Let me make it easy. Matt equals bad. We’re not even
going to think about talking about him. Matt is an asshole.”
“I will do my best to avoid him.”
“Good to hear,” Krys replied. “By the way, you’re on the varsity cheer team.”
“I’m what?”

* * *

“Can I do really do this?” I asked after school—in the locker room—as I changed back into my sweatpants from PE and a Ferris Saxon Cheerleaders T-shirt Krys has gotten from Lindsey.
“Yes, the moves are easy. The cheers are still simple. Fitting into the uniform may be a problem, they were made a little small this year. What size are you, anyway?” Krys replied as she tied her shoes.
“You’re not helping.”
“C’mon Jen, you can do it and you’ll find the splits to be a breeze.” Krys giggled.
“Oooh, aren’t we the funny one?”
A few minutes later, I stood in front of the sixteen- member squad with Lindsey and Krys at my side.
Krys made the formal introduction. “Okay, everyone, if you haven’t already seen her in the halls or heard of her dress code issues, then I’d like to introduce Jennifer Monroe.”
“Hello,” I replied to everyone.
“She’ll be practicing with us today because I’ve twisted her arm to do so.”
“Let’s line up!” Lindsey called out—which startled me for a moment. Lindsey barking orders like a drill sergeant?
I stood to the side as the squad went through a few cheers; all of them I already knew…but it was best to pretend to learn them.
“Lightning crashes, thunders roars!” “Power, Saxons, give ’em more!”

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