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Maybe I didn't do such a good job of fitting in on my first day at Lincoln High School. There I was, walking into the cafeteria for the first time on March 2nd – I mean who starts a new school in March? – with shoulder length, dark hair falling on a Death in December t-shirt, my favorite rock band. And I had pierced ears.
It wasn't as if I was trying to be different. When I lived back in my home town, I didn't keep up with sports because I was kind of on the small side, and I had trouble mixing in with the popular kids. But I had my friend, Ace, and a few other people from my garage band and we hung out. I was OK with that but now it's all gone.
“Hey, new kid! That’s some outfit. It’s kind of late for Halloween!” One of the guys sitting at the baseball lunch table yelled in my direction as I passed by with my tray. “Are you going trick or treating after school?”
I cringed. I always seemed to have the biggest problem with the sports guys. One look at me and they knew I probably couldn’t play, so they gave me a hard time.
“Don’t let them bother you. They’re jerks who are bored because they don’t know what to do unless they’re throwing a ball around.”
I turned to face a small, blond girl holding a violin case. She smiled and held it up.
“They love to pick on the music kids. They’ll leave you alone after a day or so.”
“Yeah. Thanks. It doesn’t bother me that much,” I lied. “I’m Jake. Just got here today.”
“I noticed you were new. I’m Charlene – been here
We laughed and I saw that she had an easy smile and seemed to be comfortable with herself.
“So how come you’re starting here so late? I mean, the school year is almost over.”
No kidding, I thought. What kind of bad luck was this, having to move at this time of year? Was it my fault that my parents split up and my dad got a new job on the other side of the city?
“Uh, just bad timing, I guess,” I answered, trying not to let on about how stressed out I really was.
“Well,” said Charlene, “might as well make the best of it. How about joining me at our lunch table? Some of us from the band hang out in the back corner over there.”
She pointed to a table of kids who seemed to be pleasant enough. I don’t know why, but it didn’t seem like a good idea. Maybe I felt the baseball guys watching me.
“Thanks, but, uh, well, I was going to find my locker and…uh…some other stuff.”
I hoped I was being convincing because she was the first person who really bothered to talk to me and I didn’t want to brush her off.
“Sure,” she said. “Come by, any time!”