Kindred Spirits Chapter Twenty-Four– “Headed to High School”
Anne: “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”
Marilla: “I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”
— from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The morning of the last day 8th Grade was mainly a time to goof off and watch movies in Mr. Porter’s class. I remember watching Field of Dreams. I’ve never understood the allure of that movie.
It was also the day we each individually met with the High School counsellor and developed our Freshman class schedule. That didn’t turn out to be as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. Most of the classes I would be taking were uninspiring to me.
And then at noon the “Top Honor Roll” folks got to walk down on Main Street and have a pizza party at the town’s small pizza joint. I found myself seated at a table with Jenny to my right, Amber directly across from me, Laura to Amber’s left, and Misty at the far end of the table.
“Jackson’s at football practice,” Amber states, as if we were all wondering.
Great, that’s starting already, I think grouchily, Four years of this is going to be a killer.
“He might be the starting varsity quarterback this year,” she adds.
You’re a smart girl, Amber… Have you ever stopped and thought it might not be that Jackson’s so dang good, but that the High School Football Team is so dang bad? How many years has it been since they’ve had a winning season? Twenty?
After awhile, the king himself decides to saunter in. And suddenly the very helpful, if not pushy, waitress is pulling up a chair for Mr. Royalty himself– at the end of the narrow table…
Right between Amber and me.
I catch his hesitation– but the waitress is practically pushing him into the chair and placing a plate in front of him.
Jackson recovers and sits down, leaning back in the chair, as if to say, I’m cool!
Oh, no, you don’t! I know you too well to go for that act!
Remember when our slightly loopy 5th Grade teacher came back from a convention where she was learning all kinds of crazy new teaching techniques? And she decided to chose you and me to come up in front of the class so she could tie our wrists together? I don’t recall just what the woman thought she was trying to prove or teach us, but what I do recall is you acted like it was awful...
Girls make you nervous…
I remember in the 6th Grade when that wild-eyed 8th Grader was chasing you around the hall between classes and you kept diving into the boy’s bathroom. It was your only refuge…
Girls make you nervous…
And I know something else that makes you nervous– the football expectations this entire school is putting on you…
I remember when we were in 6th Grade at the High School Football Homecoming game… While all your classmates were wondering around doing normal eleven and twelve year old kid stuff, you were sitting in the grass all by yourself, staring at the game like you were trying to memorize it…
You don’t know if you can live up to all the hype of being Mr. Football in this town, now do you?
Such were my stormy thoughts at this moment in time, on our last day of grade school. I decided I wasn’t about to let this faker, who had cheated me out of my D.A.R. award just three days ago, sit there and posture. Not without a fight.
Girls and football make him nervous… Girls and football make him nervous…
A devious… genius plan comes to me on the fly…
And I suddenly launch full-on into “football groupie” mode…
“Jackson, you must be hungry after all that football practice,” I say ever so sweetly. I reach for the pizza dipper. “Here, let me dip you up some pepperoni. You do like pepperoni, don’t you?”
I smile at him, waiting for his response.
I dip him a slice of pepperoni, smiling at him all the while. Then I say, “What about supreme? I mean, you must be starving after all that football you’ve been playing.”
I don’t wait for the befuddled boy’s response. Instead, I call down to the foot of the table, “Misty, will you please pass the supreme pizza on down here for Jackson? He’s starved after all the football practicing he’s been doing. He needs his nourishment.”
The pizza is passed to Jenny then on to me. I don’t even take time to notice how hard Jenny shoves the pan at me. I’m on a roll now.
I expertly dip a piece of supreme pizza on top of the pepperoni on his plate. I’m really piling on now. “There you go,” I say sweetly, smiling at him again.
He’s now looking at me like I might have a bomb strapped to my waist. And figuratively, I might. This is nothing short of a kamikazes attack. I might as well have been sending out another valentine that said, “I think you’re– GUESS?”
But I was committed now… And going for it…
The pushy waitress was coming up from behind his left shoulder with a very full, tall glass of soda.
Amber was glaring daggers at me between glancing at Jackson as if to see if he was okay.
Jackson was twitching in his chair.
What could possibly go wrong?
The waitress places the very full, tall glass of soda on the table in front of Jackson. It’s too close to him.
“Oh good, I’m sure you’re really thirsty,” I say in a sing-songy voice, “Drink up, Jackson. You need to stay hydrated.”
I meet his eyes. It’s a dare.
Game on, Jackson. DON’T BLOW IT.
Oh, dear! Watch it– your arm is snaking out much too hard and fast for as close the glass is…
The boy’s hand slaps the side of the glass, and soda spills everywhere.
Heavens to Murgatroyd, what just happened?
Amber, and I immediately have to jump up and back out of the way. Jackson also rises, chasing the cup across the table and nearly running into me. He jumps back, realizing our proximity, as if he still suspicions I have a bomb.
Jenny and Laura have to stand and step back as well, to escape the cola disaster. Only Misty remains sitting. She seems to appear in a world her own, as usual.
I’m biting my lip to hide a smile. Amber is fit to be tied. She’s glaring at me with a mixture of superiority and reprimand.
Hey, he’s the one who spilled his soda everywhere!
She continues to glare as if to say, You are so juvenile and uncouth.
Yeah, this is The Breakfast Club and you get to be Molly Ringwald and I’m the whack job kleptomaniac dark-haired chick… What was her name?
Since there is a huge mess to clean up on the table and the floor and we girls were all but done eating, we decide to leave. Amber thanks the waitress in her most sophisticated voice then sends me one last look of haughty reproof before walking out with Laura.
Hey, HE’S the one who spilled his soda everywhere!
Jenny and I walk out, lagging behind Amber and Laura. Misty stays. She’s not finished eating, and she’s the only one unscathed at her end of the table.
I honestly am so enjoying this moment that I have no idea that Jenny is upset, until–
“YOU WERE FLIRTING WITH HIM!” she seethes through gritted teeth.
What? Oh, Jenny, that wasn’t flirting–
“No, I wasn’t. I was just teasing him.”
She’s literally stomping her feet as we walk down the sidewalk along Main Street. “YOU WERE TOO FLIRTING!” she insists in a heated whisper.
No, you don’t understand… We’ve been doing this since 4th Grade… Before that, in fact… I think it started about the Kindergarten Track Meet…
Jenny glares at me. She’s putting at least two feet of space between us as we walk. “You can’t do that! You’re supposed to like Tyler–”
“I do like Tyler,” I interrupt in a hasty whisper, “This doesn’t have anything to do with him.”
Or you, I add silently.
“You know I like him!”
Yes, and I’ve done everything I can to try to help that along… Can’t you give me a little credit for once?… And don’t you see the beauty in what just happened? For a brief moment in time, Jackson became human! JUST LIKE ALL THE REST OF US!
Jenny sets her jaw. “I’m telling Heather!”
“Fine, do what you have to. But I was not flirting.”
Kindred Spirits Chapter Twenty-Five– “Complications of Growing Up”
“Mrs. Spencer said it was wicked of me to talk like that, but I didn’t mean to be wicked. It’s so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn’t it?”
― Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
For my final year of Junior High, I was somehow assigned a locker way down a side hallway. So, I found myself alone that last day of school, cleaning my stuff out of the locker.
I didn’t realize I had so much junk in here… I should probably just throw some of this stuff away… There’s a bunch of notes and things… No, I’ll take them home and go through them...
The plan for after school was to walk over to Heather’s and decompress about the end of our Junior High experience. But I was finding myself not looking forward to lugging all my stuff over to Heather’s only to have to lug it back to my house on the other side of town.
But Heather invited me, so…
Amanda and Magon stop by to say, “Goodbye” before catching their buses home.
“See you Thursday,” I tell them. We are all excited about the big trip to Chicago. We’re going on a greyhound bus, and we will see the Hancock Building and the White Sox’s new stadium. And we are going to eat lunch at the Hard Rock Café.
Slightly after Amanda and Magon go their own way, Kim comes by to see me before catching her own bus.
She grins. “I heard you were flirting at lunch today,” she says cheerfully.
“I was teasing him,” I reply a bit warily. But the dark-haired girl’s smile is infectious. “And he spilled his soda all over the place,” I add.
Kim’s grin widens. “I think that’s great!”
We share a laugh. And I’m thinking, Thank God for the new kids. It’s like they don’t know about the “social order” of things around here… And neither do Kim and Tyler seem to really care.
“See you later– I don’t want to miss my bus.”
I finish packing up my stuff in my book bag and another sack. I glance around the empty hall, feeling a little nostalgic about leaving this old building. My entire school experience had been in this building. Starting in the basement with kindergarten. And working my way up through the grades. Junior High was on the top floor. It was hot at the beginning of the year and end of the year. No air conditioning. They did put ceiling fans in after my sixth grade year. That helped a little.
I pack my things down the winding back steps. The three flights of stairs had been good exercise through the years. Some of the boys liked to take them two at a time. I was a one at a time kind of girl, both going up and down. But sometimes when I wanted to get my heart rate up or was in a hurry, I’d go up two at a time.
I emerge from the building and find myself at the place where I’d met Heather for our “fight” a couple of years before.
That was so silly, I think to myself.
I lay my things down and sit in a swing to wait for Heather and Jenny to emerge. I haven’t seen them since Jenny threatened to tell Heather about my great misdeed at lunch.
Surely Heather will put it into a proper perspective… For heaven’s sake, just about anything could be called “flirting,” if we really want to go down that muddied path… Smiles could be “flirting.” Basic conversation could be “flirting.” Teasing could be “flirting.” It would never end…
Eventually, the two girls emerge. The look on Heather’s face makes me stiffen.
Oh great, she’s mad…
“You were flirting with Jackson.”
“I was not flirting,” I respond calmly yet firmly, staying seated in the swing, “I was teasing him– you know, giving him a rough time.”
Heather’s shoulders are raised and her back straight. She’s a woman on a mission. A woman of principle.
A severely misguided woman, in my opinion.
“Amber says you were flirting,” Heather states tersely.
Amber? Really? Miss Lollipop is a credible witness against me in your court of law? Since when?
“That’s stupid,” I scoff, “Amber knows that making a boy spill his drink is no way to flirt with him.”
I look at them as if to say, Do you know that?
Apparently not, because Heather insists, “You can’t flirt with the boy your friend likes.”
Looking back on the scene, I think of the first two rules of Fight Club:
First rule: You do not talk about Fight Club.
Second rule: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club.
Well, Heather was doing her best Brad Pitt alter ego routine for the first two rules of the Kindred Spirits:
First rule: You do not talk to a boy your friend likes.
Second rule: You DO NOT talk to a boy your friend likes.
It was totally impractical and utterly unenforceable.
Do they really not trust me that much? comes the sad question to my mind.
And then I have to wonder, Is this what I have to look forward to from them in High School?
I stand from the swing now. “I wasn’t flirting, Heather. Amber’s lying.”
She stares hard at me. “I don’t understand you anymore.”
The feeling’s kind of mutual… It’s sad, isn’t it?
Heather takes Jenny by the arm, as if she’s leading a smaller child, and they walk past me. “We’re going to my home,” she says over her shoulder.
And I’ve been uninvited…
“Okay, I have a lot of stuff to carry home anyway,” I call after them. I’m actually kind of relieved… but depressed too. This didn’t have to be the way our Junior High experience ended.
“See you Thursday,” I call after them. Surely they will be over it by the field trip.
I gather my things and walk on home. My siblings, along with my two younger cousins and two other daycare kids, are playing in the yard on a slip-n-slide. They seem it being having fun on the very warm afternoon.
My mom is surprised to see me. “I thought you were going over to Heather’s for awhile.”
“I decided just to come on home with my stuff.”
I make my way up the stairs to my room and unpack my things. It had been a strange day. I hoped it wasn’t a foreshadowing of High School. That would be totally depressing.
I look at my class schedule for my first year of High School and sigh.
Then I go back down the stairs and tell my mom, “I think I’ll go play with the kids on the slip-n-slide.”
Kindred Spirits Chapter Twenty-Six– “The Shunning”
“Iam well in body although considerably rumpled up in spirit, thank you, ma’am,’ said Anne gravely. Then aside to Marilla in an audible whisper, ‘There wasn’t anything startling in that, was there, Marilla?”
― Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
Even at fourteen, I was barely coherent at five a.m. in the morning. So, when my dad dropped me off in the dark at the school, my mind was still fuzzy from sleep.
Other classmates are getting on the bus, and I follow them up the steps. I’ve never ridden on a charter bus before, nor have I ever been in downtown Chicago, for that matter.
We Kindred Spirits had a loose plan to sit together, of course. So, once on the bus, I searched out their familiar faces. There were more kids already on the bus than I had expected. Finally, two-thirds of the way back, I spot them. The four of them are in a row.
My eyes meet Heather’s, and she just shrugs a little.
Great… I guess we should have planned for rows of four… So, I’m going to have to find a seat elsewhere… That’s a bummer…
I turn and make my way back toward the front and finally find a couple empty seats next to Laura and Abby.
“Can I sit here?”
Laura smiles a little. “Sure.”
So, I’m in Lollipop land for the four hour trip up to Chicago. It could have been worse. I just wished I had something to talk to my old pre-school friend about. But I didn’t. The only thing we had in common through the past several years were some scholastic events and Honor Roll parties.
The trip up to Chicago is really mundane. I wished I had made a better plan to sit together with my friends.
But, honestly, I didn’t think anymore about it than that.
Until we finally arrived at the Hancock Building. I see that my group is exiting at the side door midway back, but the front door is closer for me. So, I exit through that one. Once outside, I expect to be able to catch up with my friends, but they are nowhere to be seen.
What’s going on? I wonder, finally getting suspicious. I walk with other classmates up to the entrance of the tall building. It feels weird and overwhelming to be in such a big city… And where were my friends?
Inside, I breath a sigh of relief when I see Amanda. She had hung back and was waiting for me.
“Amanda, thanks for waiting,” I say gratefully. “What’s going on?”
She gives me a sympathetic look. “Heather and Jenny are still mad at you,” she says in that quiet voice of hers. “I didn’t know what they were doing with the seats until it was too late.”
So it was on purpose that there wasn’t a seat for me…
“I’ll walk around with you,” Amanda assures me.
I give her a look of pure gratitude. “Thank you, Amanda. Thank you so much.”
Amanda, my old friend. If she hadn’t lived so far out in the country and had three younger sisters and a full-time working mother, we would have been able to spend a lot more time together. And unfortunately she was placed in the other section of our class in Junior High… But at least we were able to be “underachiever” study hall buddies…
She nods. “I guess Jenny’s been spending a lot of time at Heather’s house this week,” she explains to me.
Heather’s taking care of Jenny’s poor distraught soul, I think sarcastically, And I’m being shunned… And really, I suspicion a lot of this is about Heather’s asserting herself as the supreme leader in our little clique…
We continue to walk along together through the big building.
“I’m going to eat lunch with you,” Amanda tells me.
I had forgotten all about lunch. “Great– thanks!”
“And Magon says she will sit with us,” Amanda adds, “And Kim too.”
I shoot her a look of surprise– and admiration. Amanda stepping up as a leader… And doing it for me…
“You’re a good friend Amanda,” I say softly.
You should be the leader of we Kindred Spirits… We need a new one…
So, the view from the top of the Hancock Building was amazing. I had never seen Lake Michigan before. I didn’t like heights, however, so I was more than ready to go back down when the time came.
Next stop was the Hard Rock Café.
They had a section of tables roped off for our group. Magon, Kim, Amanda, and I sat at a high top table. Heather, Brett, Jenny, and a classmate named Alex sat at a regular table nearby. Heather refused to even look over at me.
You all don’t look like you’re having the greatest of times, I think to myself, glancing over at them.
And I was actually enjoying myself. It was a pretty neat place. And Magon, Amanda, and Kim were a fun, easy to get along with group.
Of course, there was the high-top table for four over across the way where Billy, Melanie, Jackson, and Amber sat. Jackson was facing my way, and I swear, every time he reached for his glass of soda, he shot me a meaningful look of triumph.
Yeah, yeah, all you’re proving is that it takes the close presence of a special kind of whack job to make you spill your soda…
Then I think more seriously, Jenny should be angry with Amber, not me. This whole thing is so stupid.
After awhile, followed by a couple of the boys, Tyler struts on by, acting like he owns the place. Silly boy doesn’t even glance at me.
I watch the boys wander over to the empty stage and hang out around there awhile.
Hey, Tyler, why don’t you get up on that stage and do your best Elvis impersonation? I have a song request– do “A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.” But I have one caveat, change the word “shakin’” to “fakin’”… It will be perfect for this scene…
I smile to myself, thinking, We’re all faking it quite a bit these days, especially sitting here at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, just a bunch of fourteen-year-old kids from the sticks…
Despite my snarky thoughts, I find myself laughing with the girls. I’m genuinely glad I’m not sitting with Jenny and Brett– and even Heather is on my nerves. This silent treatment manipulation stuff gets old fast.
Magon and I finish eating first, so we make our way over toward the gift shop area to pay for our food. It feels really grown up to be carrying around our purses and paying for our own food, especially at a place like The Hard Rock Café.
Tyler’s browsing around the gift shop with his two cohorts. He’s telling the boys that he’s got both birthday and graduation money to spend, especially from his dad.
So, he’s pretty much the same age as Heather then… I figured he was one of the younger ones in our class… It’s amazing how much a few months in age can matter right now… Jenny’s fourteenth birthday isn’t until August. She’s nearly a year younger than Jackson– the oldest kid in our class who hasn’t been held back. And kids like Billy, Amber, and I have fall birthdays, making us quite a bit older too… That will even out, I guess… But somehow, in these early teen years, it seems to make a lot of difference…
Tyler decides to buy himself a shirt. I watch him pull out a wad of bills from his pocket and pay for it.
I’m happy for you, Tyler– that you got birthday and graduation money, especially from your dad…
And now it was on to the rest of the day…
Kindred Spirits Chapter Twenty-Seven– “Chicago”
“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
― Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
We had arrived at the Chicago White Sox’s Comiskey Park. At the time, I thought it was a brand new ball park, but it was two years old when we toured it. This was the main event of the trip.
First, we walked through something of a museum part. It was during this time, that Heather sent Magon as an envoy to me with the message that she and Jenny would begin talking to me at 2 o’clock.
I sent Magon back across the room with the response that I might not want to talk to them at 2 o’clock. I might prefer 4 o’clock… or some later time even than that…
Yes, this was the maturity level we were stooping to, less than a week after our 8th Grade Graduation. For me, the immaturity was born out of frustration.
Looking back on the situation, it is almost surreal. I honestly was totally blind-sighted by the animosity from Heather and Jenny, and to this day, I really don’t understand it.
But that entire trip to Chicago was a strange day. We had three school officials with us– Mr. Porter, Mrs. McKeown and our Principal. Mr. Porter was in a sarcastic mood most of the day. Mrs. McKeown was even more unlikeable than usual. And the tour guide at Comiskey Park out of nowhere decided to get snarky with our Principal, right in front of all of we students.
I didn’t like Chicago… I still don’t like Chicago… There are cities I do like. Chicago is not one of them…
The tour of Comiskey Park was pretty boring, especially with the unlikable tour guide, until we actually got down to the field. It’s weird being at a completely empty stadium. But seeing the field was interesting.
Now, the tour guide informed us that on no uncertain terms could we go on the grass– or we would all be thrown out. She really did say that!
We all just looked at each other in bewilderment, teachers included. I think most of us were thinking something like, What a warm friendly place this is…
Speaking of warm and friendly, I guess it must have been 2 o’clock because Heather comes over to me and declares cheerfully, “Let’s go sit in the dugout.”
I don’t respond to her but go along with her and the rest of the class to check out the dugouts.
The dugouts were actually pretty cool… You know, something you see on television… And sitting where actual MLB players sit… And the dugout phones were neat to see… LOL
The boys were more excited than the girls for the most part, but it was a fun experience for us all as a class. It was probably the most enjoyable time of the whole trip.
In the dugout, I even managed to catch my graduation walking partner’s eye once and got a brief smile… Right before he decided to head over to the other dugout and check it out…
It’s strange, I think to myself, Being so far from home with my classmates. We’re all out of our element…
All our other field trips had been much shorter distances on regular buses. But this one was bigger… And our last one…
And High School was next for us… If this day was any indication, I knew there were some big changes coming for my “Kindred Spirits.”
It wasn’t that I was unwilling to move forward with Heather and Jenny as my friends. I wasn’t going to “shun” them as they had me… But there was a level of trust that had been broken for me with this whole ordeal.
They had plotted to leave me abandoned, totally out of my element, on an intimidating trip to the city. And I had no reason to believe they wouldn’t do that again in another situation.
While I knew I wasn’t a perfect friend by any means, I wouldn’t have done that to any of them, Jenny included. It was the plotting and scheming to leave me hurt and abandoned that got me. They hadn’t just shunned me, they had schemed to separate me from my other friends too.
If it hadn’t have been for the loyalty to our friendship of Amanda, Magon, and Kim, I would have been scrambling for a friend to experience the day with… to eat with… to talk with… That’s a big, big fear for any fourteen-year-old.
Honestly, isn’t it a normal fear for everyone on some level? Isn’t it something that makes us human?
Heather and Jenny were still my friends… But the trust level was very much damaged…
If I had to rate the authenticity of my Kindred Spirits, Heather and then Jenny would make up the bottom, I decided to myself, And Amanda and Magon would be at the top with Kim at the middle, since I haven’t known her that long…
Maybe that’s the way it should have always been… But I’m living and learning…
And now just one more event before Summer Vacation… Surely our 8th Grade Graduation Party would have less drama than the class field trip…
I certainly hoped so.