Somehow I manage to find the front office, where I am given a hearty welcome by the principal, Mrs. Beets, and a copy of my schedule. Then I am escorted to my first class, english, by a grumpy-looking ninth-grade office aid, and that's it.

I take a deep breath before entering the classroom.

Since it is already October and classes have been in session for over a month, the students have already fallen into their routines.  When I walk in the teacher, a male teacher (I'd never had one before) is in the middle of explaining about indirect articles. I'd already learned that back in Chicago. Good. That means that here, at least, I can keep up my class.

Everybody stares as I walked in. Darn. I hated being stared at.

The teacher, who had been buisily writing sentances on the chalkboard turns suddenly  extends his hand towards me. "You must be Belle," he says. "I'm Mr. Patterson. We have an empty desk for you over here next to Katherine. I know you're a little late into starting the year, but I hope you'll be able to just jump right in. Your classmates will help you if you have any trouble, won't you all?"

They nod.

"All right then," he finishes, and goes back to writing sentances.

I sit down gingerly in the only empty desk, and set my pile of notebooks on top of it.  Then I take a good look at the girl next to me. She is thin and knobby, with long stringy brown curls and huge owlish glasses. Instead of the clean T-shirts and jeans that almost everyone else in the class wears, she has on a ragged old sweater covered with stains and plaid pants. Her nails are painted emerald green.

"Hi," she says as she catches my gaze. "You're Belle, right?"

"Billie," I correct her. "Nobody calls me Belle."

She nods like she understands. "Nobody calls me Katherine. It's Kathy. But don't expect Mr. Patterson to remember. He calls everyone by their full names."

I nod.

"Where did you used to live?" She asks.

"Um..." I shake my head, realizing I sounded stupid. "In Chicago. My Dad's job transfered him."

Kathy smiles at me. "I hope we can get to be friends," she chirruped. "I don't have many friends. Do you think--"

"Belle and Katherine!" Mr. Patterson is standing over us. "I appreciate your getting to know eachother, but I am trying to explain the assignment. Perhaps it would be helpful if you listened instead of chit-chatting."

"Yes, Mr. Patterson," we chourus in unison, then have to struggle to keep from laughing. I don't say anything else to Kathy until the bell rings, and then she saiy, "What's your next class?"

I glance down at my scedule. "Science with Mrs. Andrews," I reply. "Room 202."

Kathy smiles. "I have geography. That's right next door. I'll walk you down there, if you want."

I smile back. "That would be great."

She leads me down the hall and up a flight of stairs. Suddenly I hear my name, and I turn around. Justice is waving at me from the other end of the hallway.

"Ugh," Kathy says. "That girl is such a snob. I can't stand her."

"I walked to school with her today," I reply. "She seems nice."

Kathy makes a face. "Stay clear of her. We've been enemies for years, and for good reason."

And then she leaves me in front of my second class.

The End

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