Epic Fail

By: Claire Lazebnik

“She scary?” I asked, scuttling to keep up.

“She just gets off on handing out EMDs.”

“EMDs?” I repeated.

“Early morning detentions. You have to come in at, like, seven in the morning and help clean up and stuff like that. Sucks. Most of the teachers here are pretty mellow if you’re a couple of minutes late, but not Phillips. She’s got major control issues.”

“What’s your name?” I asked, dodging a group of girls in cheerleader outfits.

“Gifford.” Really? Gifford? “And that was Chelsea you hit with the door. You really should be more careful.”

Too late for that advice—in my efforts to avoid bumping into a cheerleader, I had just whammed my shoulder on the edge of a locker. I yelped in pain. Gifford rolled her eyes and kept moving.

I caught up again. “I’m Elise,” I said, even though she hadn’t asked. “You guys in eleventh grade, too?”

“Yeah. So you’re new, huh? Where’re you from?”

“Amherst, Mass.”

She actually showed some interest. “That near Harvard?”

“No. But Amherst College is there. And UMass.”

She dismissed that with an uninterested wave. “You get snow there?”

“It’s Massachusetts,” I said. “Of course we do. Did.”

“So do you ski?”

“Not much.” My parents didn’t, and the one time they tried to take us it was so expensive that they never repeated the experiment.

“We go to Park City every Christmas break,” Gifford said. “But this year my mother thought maybe we should try Vail. Or maybe Austria. Just for a change, you know?”

I didn’t know. But I nodded like I did.

“You see the same people at Park City every year,” she said. “I get sick of it. It’s like Maui at Christmas, you know?”

I wished she’d stop saying “You know?”

Fortunately, we had reached room 23. “In here,” said Gifford. She opened the door and went in, successfully communicating that her mentoring ended at the room’s threshold.

Over the course of the next four hours, I discovered that:

1. Classes at Coral Tree Prep were really small. When we got to English, I was worried that half the class would get EMDs or whatever they were called because there were fewer than a dozen kids in the room. But when Ms. Phillips came in, she said, “Good—everyone’s here, let’s get started,” and I realized all the kids were there.

2. The campus grounds were unbelievably green and seemed to stretch on for acres. I kept gazing out the window, wishing I could escape and go rolling down the grassy hills that lined the fields.

3. Teachers at Coral Tree Prep didn’t like you to stare out the window and would tell you so in front of the entire class who would then all turn and stare at The New Girl Who Wasn’t Paying Attention.

4. Everyone at Coral Tree Prep was good-looking. Really. Everyone. I didn’t see a single fat or ugly kid all morning. Maybe they just locked them up at registration and didn’t let them out again until graduation.

5. Girls here wore every kind of footwear imaginable, from flip-flops to spike-heeled mules to UGG boots (despite the sunny, 80-degree weather), EXCEPT for sneakers. I guess those marked you as fashion-impaired.

6. I was wearing sneakers.

Chapter Two

There are all these clichés about what it’s like to be the new kid at school, like in movies, when you see people playing pranks on them or ostracizing them or publicly ridiculing them. I had no previous experience at being new: I had gone to only one public elementary school, which fed into my middle school, which fed into my old high school. So I don’t know what I had been expecting, but the reality was more boring than anything else.

People were all willing to acknowledge me, ask me if I was new and what my name was, welcome me to the school (literally, several kids said “Welcome to Coral Tree!”), and then they lost interest and went back to talking to their friends. I was isolated but not ostracized, ignored but not abused.

Still, it was stressful sitting alone and trying to look like I was fascinated by the posters on the various classroom walls whenever the other kids were chatting, so I was very happy to spot Juliana waiting in the cafeteria line when lunch break finally rolled around.

“Hey, you!” I ran over and just barely restrained myself from hugging her.

“Hey, yourself,” she said calmly.

“How’s it going? No one’s talking to me. Is anyone talking to you?”

“Actually,” she said, “people have been really nice.”

“That’s great.” I wanted to be happy for her, but I had been looking forward to sharing the misery. “So what are you going to eat?”

“I don’t know.” She gave a vague look around. “Salad maybe? I’m not that hungry.”

“You’re not? I’m starving.” It wasn’t until I had grabbed a huge turkey sub and Juliana was balancing a dainty little green salad on her tray that it occurred to me there was something weird about Juliana’s not being hungry. Usually she had a pretty healthy appetite. The only other time I could remember her not wanting to eat (when she wasn’t sick) was the year before, when she had a crush on a guy in her Health and Human Fitness class. That had not ended well—the guy turned out to be a total tool.