The end of lunch was punctuated by a hand descending on Stephanie’s shoulder.

She jumped, then glanced over her shoulder.  Ms. Delaney smiled at her.  “Stephanie, I’m sorry to startle you.  Principal Delaney would like to speak with you after class.”

“Yes, of course,” Stephanie said.  She watched, a little warily, as Ms. Delaney shifted her gaze to another student and began to walk away, saying, “David, a quick word. . . . ”

Why didn’t she wait until the end of the day? Stephanie wondered.  Ms. Delaney continued to circulate around the lunchroom, speaking to students.

“Does she always do that?” she asked Aurelia.  “Deliver messages at lunchtime, I mean.”  It seemed highly irregular; Ms. Delaney, and indeed the other teachers she had met, went out of their way to befriend and communicate with students.  At her old school, they would have just done the minimum–unless–

Ah, but this isn’t my old school.  She tried to relax and listen to Aurelia’s response.  It wasn’t her old school, and old suspicions weren’t necessary.

Right?

Stephanie: Strike Four

December 3, 2012

Stephanie blinked, staring at Aurelia over her lasagna.  “Lunch is. . . good,” she said, trying to remember all of the questions.  Except the school one.  That one she was trying to forget. “I can tell that it’s prepared by professionals.  And I’ve met the principal.  He. . . .”  Hates me, she finished in her mind.  Wants to believe the evidence, can’t because it’s untrue.  Wants to expel me, can’t because of the laws.

“He’s interesting,” she said, and bit her lip, partially because she was trying to keep the other words in and partially because she was confused.

Why was Aurelia asking all of these questions?  Was it just because she was her guide?  Well, if it was, it was totally unnecessary.

Completely.

Except for the fact that she’d take a pity vote right now.

Stephanie: Strike 1

May 8, 2012

Stephanie Blake put down her fork, feeling queasy.  This was it: The first day of her new school life.

The prospect wasn’t appealing.

She knew that thousands of other students transferred to a new school for their junior year–it wasn’t a groundbreaking procedure.  Still, she doubted that those other students transferred to a school halfway across the city, with enough baggage that even the librarians looked askance at them when they walked through the door.

Hence, her nerves.

“It will be fine, cherie,” her mother said.  “It’s just a new school, no?”

“Yes, Maman,” Stephanie said.  She picked up her fork again and poked at her pancakes, remembering the accusing stare of the principal, as if he couldn’t imagine why someone like her would dare to enroll in his school.

Stephanie sighed.  She didn’t think that it would be a very good day.