It's hard to fit in when everybody hates you.
The aggressive sounds of Dance Mix '98 blared over the gymnasium's sound system and throbbed in Margot's ears. The music sang through her body with the adrenaline the exciting sport invoked. Dribbling the ball, Margot moved up the court, looking for someone on her team. Is she on my team? she wondered silently of a blonde girl in blue shorts. Margot really did not know, since it was only her second week in this new school and she did not yet know the girls in her class. She often wished her mother had not received the promotion that moved them to this new community in the middle of a school year.
There! Margot was certain the tall, shy-looking girl standing near the basket was her teammate, quite clearly remembering Ms. Strohmaier putting them on the same team. The other girl noticed Margot approaching, and Margot passed her the ball. Turning, the other girl made a shot for the basket, but it was blocked by the one girl whom Margot had learned the name of: Cassie. Cassie's long, black ponytail waved happily behind her as she grinned, and did a quick victory dance, and exchanged high-fives with two of her teammates. Margot wondered briefly if she could have made the shot herself had she not passed the ball to her teammate.
Just then, Ms. Strohmaier's whistle caught the grade nine girls' attention. "Ok! We're done. Go get changed."
Margot joined the herd of loudly talking young women heading downstairs to the change-rooms. She did not join in on any of the conversations, feeling unwanted by these girls who had friends already and were not extending any invitations to her to join their groups.
Entering the burgundy-tiled change room, the unwelcome but tolerated smell of sweat mingled with lemon floor-cleaner met Margot's nose. She headed straight for the change stall furthest to the right, the stall where she habitually changed her clothes in privacy. Many of the girls changed in the main area of the room, but others, like Margot, preferred the showers' change stalls.
Glad to finally be able to change out of her hot, sweaty gym clothes, she opened the door to the stall where she had changed into a tee-shirt and shorts an hour earlier and was stunned to find her jeans and blouse, not on the bench where she had left them, but on the floor of the shower stall, soaked. The showerhead above them dripped two large drops onto the already sopping heap as Margot watched. Margot sank to the bench, folding her arms protectively over her stomach. The hate that obviously perpetuated the cruel act made her feel like she was going to throw up. Why did everyone at this school hate her?
It was only the previous week when Margot had been writing in her diary between classes. She left it unattended with her books for no more than three minutes and it was stolen. She rememberd the ridicule and harassment she received from what seemed like every student in the school when they had read or heard some version of what she had written in it. She rememberd the school principal finally getting it back-that is, part of it back-for her. Half the pages had been torn out. She was hearing rumors someone had burned them.
It was only yesterday that she had found a tack on her chair in English class. Thankfully, her eyes were good enough that she saw it before she found it in the intended manner. Ever since she started attending this school, it was one thing like this after another.
Looking at the sodden heap of clothes, Margot did not know what to do. It was lunchtime. Since it was Tuesday, she had choir practice and no clean, dry clothes to wear. She felt like crying.
The lessening in the noise in the change room told Margot most, if not all, of the other girls had left. Still not knowing what to do, she stood and opened the door on the stall. The only other person left in the room was the girl whom Margot had passed the ball to earlier.
"Are you ok?" she asked Margot, a concerned look on her face. "You look upset."
Margot sighed. "I am upset." She opened the door completely and stepped aside to reveal the interior of the shower stall. "I found this when we came back from class."
The other girl looked shocked. She frowned. "Who would do such a horrible thing? And you don't have any dry clothes for the rest of today?"
"I don't know, and no, I don't."
"I'm sorry I can't help you more, but I do have a clean shirt in my locker that you can borrow. My name is Terah, by the way."
"Thanks." Margot smiled. "I'm Margot, but you've probably already heard of me."
Terah looked down. "Yes, it does seem the whole school has heard of you. You're so smart, beautiful, and generally good at everything, I guess a lot of people are jealous of you."
Margot stared, disbelieving. "I am none of those things." She laughed nervously. "I don't know what you mean."
Terah shrugged. "That's just what I've heard everyone complaining about." She gestured towards the door. "If you bring the wet clothes, I think we can get Mrs. Harrison's permission to dry them in the dryer in her room." (Mrs. Harrison was the Foods teacher, and thus had a washer and dryer in her room for dish clothes and tea towels.)
The two walked up the stairs together and towards the Foods room, discussing the choir practice Margot was already late for.
At the door of the Foods room Terah suggested, "Why don't you take my shirt and get changed and I'll go tell the choir teacher why you're late?"
"Thanks, that would be great if you'd do that for me."
It was no problem getting Mrs. Harrison's permission to use her dryer. She was shocked at the cruel prank.
As the two girls walked to Terah's locker to get the clean shirt, they talked.
"Do you like to sing?" Margot asked.
Terah looked embarrassed. "Yeah, kinda, but I'm not very good."
"You should come to choir anyway. None of us are very good when we sing by ourselves, but we really sound good together."
Terah smiled a small smile. "Maybe I will."
Terah's shirt in hand, Margot headed for the bathroom to change out of her sweat-infused shirt. She hoped Terah decided to come to choir and she hoped she enjoyed it. It would be nice to have a friend in choir besides the teacher.
Still in her gym shorts but now wearing the purple, long-sleeved shirt that fit surprisingly well, Margot walked briskly to the band room for choir. She opened the door and entered to see Miss Bogas had the group singing warm-ups. Heading for her place, she motioned to Terah-who was waiting uncertainly by the door-to join her. Terah shrugged and complied.
Margot smiled joyfully as she stood beside her friend and followed Miss Bogas' lead in the singing.