Epic Fail

By: Claire Lazebnik

“He was keeping his mom company,” Chase added, like that explained it.

“Oh.” Jules shot me a questioning look, and I shrugged to indicate that I had no more idea than she did who Derek’s mother was, and everyone else was acting like we should already know, which made it impossible to be normal and just ask.

Derek seemed to have caught our silent exchange. He was watching us curiously, like something about us was confusing to him.

“Oh God, look at her!” Chelsea exclaimed suddenly.

“Someone offend your fashion sense by wearing sandals with socks again, Chelsea?” Chase joked. “My sister takes these things very seriously,” he told Juliana.

“I didn’t realize she was your sister.” Jules looked at me again, and I shook my head—I hadn’t known that either.

I felt like we needed SparkNotes for this whole lunch.

“No, seriously,” Chelsea said. “It’s her. The new principal. The one everyone hates already.”

We all looked up at that and saw her, the new principal, charging around the picnic tables, stopping to pat one kid on the shoulder, exchange a word with another, admonish a third who had let a wrapper blow onto the ground without picking it up, and so on.

“She looks totally crazy,” Chelsea said. “Which I hear she is. They say they only hired her because the guy they really wanted took another job at the last second so they were stuck and she was the only candidate who was still, you know, available, because no one else would take her.”

The new principal did look a little nuts. She was wearing a reasonably businesslike dark red suit, but she had matched it with a bright chartreuse top with an enormous bow at the collar, navy tights, and brown pumps. Her graying brown hair had been pinned up in a bun at some earlier point in time, but it was the kind of kinky, wavy hair that plots its escape from the moment you try to capture it, and wisps were flying all over the place.

Her wire-rimmed glasses were slightly askew. My fingers itched with the urge to straighten them as she stopped at a table near us and asked the kids sitting there if they had any suggestions for improving the cafeteria.

“Serve Frappuccinos,” said one girl.

“And Pinkberry!” said another.

“Free booze,” shouted a boy at the far end of the table.

“Who said that?” asked the principal sharply, swiveling to look in the direction the voice had come from. A lot of boys were sitting there. They all grinned at her innocently. “That’s not funny.”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Chelsea said. “The woman can’t take a joke. Despite quite clearly being one.” She picked up her empty cup and climbed over the bench. “Anyone else need something from the caf?”

I was about to ask her to grab me a fork and napkin when the principal turned and called out, “Excuse me. You there! What’s your name?”

As Chelsea reluctantly told her, Juliana and I sank down lower in our seats.

“Well, Chelsea, it’s nice to meet you.” The principal held out her hand, and Chelsea shook it, with her lip curling so high, I thought it was going to enter her right nostril. “I’m Dr. Gardiner.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Dr. Gardiner tilted her head sideways, which made her glasses look almost straight. “Let’s talk about the dress code, Chelsea.”

“You mean like uniforms?” Chelsea said. “We don’t have uniforms here. Haven’t you noticed?”

“But we do have a dress code.” Dr. Gardiner gestured toward Chelsea’s legs. “And I’m afraid that skirt doesn’t conform to it.”

Chelsea put her hands on her hips. “This is a Dolce and Gabbana, and our tailor just hemmed it.”

“He hemmed it too much: skirts can’t be more than four inches above the knee.” The new principal reached into her pocket and pulled out a tape measure. “Let’s check.”

Chelsea took a step back. “No way.”

Dr. Gardiner shrugged. “Fine, but I’m going to have to ask you to change.”

“Change into what? It’s not like I keep an extra wardrobe in my locker.”

“You can wear your PE shorts.”

“You have got to be kidding me! Do you know how dorky those are?”

The principal slipped the measuring tape back into her pocket. “If I see you still wearing that skirt later today, I’ll have to notify your parents and send you home.”

Chelsea’s mouth opened so wide in horror that I could see the wisdom teeth budding in the back, but the principal’s attention had moved on. “How is everyone enjoying his or her lunch?” she asked, gazing along our table. That’s when she spotted Juliana. “Hello!” she said delightedly. “How’s your first day going, sweetie?”

Juliana managed a weak smile. “Fine?” she said.

“Good, good. Oh, there you are, Elise! Everything going well?”

“Yeah, fine,” I said. “Everything’s fine.” Please go away, I thought. Please, please go away.

Dr. Gardiner said, “Well, I’m happy to hear that.” She turned. My muscles relaxed: she was leaving. Wait, no—she was just picking up a protein bar wrapper that was lying on the ground. She carefully balled it up in her hand as she stood back up. Then she beamed at us like the proud mother she was and opened her mouth to effectively kill our short-lived anonymity. “Won’t you girls introduce me to your new friends?”

▶ Also By Claire Lazebnik

▶ Hot Read

▶ Last Updated

▶ Recommend

Top Books