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The New Girl

- 1992 -

"Welcome to Tates Creek High School Miss Bridges. Here's your schedule. There's only three weeks of school before summer vacation, but I'm sure you'll make fast friends and jump right in."

The secretary had an horrendous overbite and a giant mole right in the middle of her forehead, making her look slightly like a tricylops. I wasn't sure if tricylops was even a real thing, but at that moment, I knew I was facing one. At my previous high school we were all sure that the principal was boinking the school secretary. Unless this principal was part troll, I knew there wasn't a chance in the world that anything down and dirty was happening behind the scenes.

"Thank you," I said, my parents ingrained manners pushing past the mole-fixation. I took the schedule from her hand and scanned it. I was in all the same classes I had been attending in Michigan.

"Bell's going to ring in a few minutes. Do you need me to walk you to your class?"

The last thing I needed was to walk into a classroom with the tricylops, even as nice as she was being. I smiled and shook my head. "No ma'am, thank you." I hoisted my backpack higher on my shoulder for emphasis and after exhanging a nod (the mole bounced!), I turned and headed back into the hallway. Tates Creek High School was like any other high school in American with only three weeks left of school before summer vacation. People crowded the hallway, their voices loud, half the conversations complaining about impending finals and the other half discussing summer plans. The hallways themselves were dirty, filled with nine months worth of crumpled papers, pencil shavings, sweaty gym socks, shoe tracks and everything else that teens accumulated.

I put on my bravest face as I walked down the hall. The move had been hard on everyone, but especially on me. For my whole life, all sixteen years of it, I had lived in the same small town in Northern Michigan. Dad's announcement of job relocation had come out of the blue. I had cried for days, lamenting on how unfair the entire thing was. My mother was too busy packing to be sympathetic and my brother, a freshman in college, was ambivalent. After all, his life was now in a dorm in Illinois. He had already made the leap. But me? I was, in the words of Tom Petty, Free Falling.

The bell rang just as I yanked open the door to American History. I hovered by the door, my eyes taking in the site of all twenty-two desks occupied by bodies.

"You must be Jillian."

A rather dull-looking man in a brown button-down cardigan stopped writing on the chalkboard and walked towards me. He dusted his hands on his black pants leaving thick white chalk-streaks on the thighs. His eyes were small behind horn- rimmed glasses.

"Yes," I squeaked. Damnit.

"Well let's see..." the teacher trailed off. "I asked the custodian for another desk, but..." he trailed off a second time. "You can use my chair."

I felt everyone's eyes on me even as the teacher yanked his hideous orange swivel chair from his desk. He set it up by the heater at the start of the second row.

"You can use the heater to write on," he said. "I'm Mr. Reinhold."

"Thank you," I said. Holding my history book to my chest. I started to make a quick shuffle to the seat when Mr. Reinhold held up his hands. "Class, this is Jillian Bridges. She just moved here from Missouri."

"Michigan," I corrected.

"Michigan," he repeated. "I'm sure all of you will do your best welcoming her to our great state."

When he didn't say anything else, I finally made my way to the seat. I sat down quickly, prepared to open my book and just hop right in, but the minute my butt hit the seat it made a creaking sound as the old pneumatics settled. A couple girls across the room snickered. A boy in the back made a farting noise in his hand.

"Let's get started," Reinhold said, either ignoring the rudeness or so immune to it he didn't even realize it had happened. "Continuing Civil Rights..."

"Look at his pants when he turns back to the chalkboard."

At first, I didn't realize the voice was talking to me. "Look," the voice repeated.

I watched as Reinhold turned around. The desk blocked him momentarily as he began to scratch out a timeline on the board, but after he took two steps to the right I knew why I was being instructed to look. I clapped a hand to my mouth and turned to the voice."

A pair of bright blue eyes danced in the midst of the cutest face I had ever seen. His dark blonde hair was cut in a style that a lot of the guys were sporting, but on him it looked extremely good. He wore a dark blue Kentucky t-shirt and the pencil he held loosely in his fingers bounced against the desktop.

"Reinhold's the wedgie king. That thing goes so deep it would take excavatars a year to get it out."

The mental image was all I needed. I let out a barking laugh that made me freeze in horror. Mr. Reinhold turned around, chalk dust floating down his arm.

"Something you find enlightening Miss Bridges?"

"N--n-no," I stammered.

His eyes flicked over to the boy beside me. "Mr. Littrell?"

The boy tried but failed to look innocent. He did a head bob that couldn't be deciphered as a yes or a no.

"Please try to control your excitement," Reinhold droned on. "You might want to pay attention as what we discuss today might be on an upcoming, oh what do you call them...FINAL."

"Got it," the boy said. Even his voice was appealing. He wanted only a second after Reinhold turned back to the boy before he leaned back my way.

"I'm Brian," he said.


He flashed me a grin that suddenly had me loving everything about Kentucky."

"Well Jilly, let me know if you need any help catching up before finals. I happen to be a--"

"Mr. Littrell, I'm not going to ask you again."

Brian dropped his pencil and held up hands in mock surrender. He leaned back in his desk chair and subtly winked my way.

It was then that I knew I was in trouble. Whether it was good trouble or bad trouble I didn't know, but I knew I was willing to find out.