High school: that odd little microcosm of drama, hormones and life building events that is a right of passage for so many. But for Jessica, life at Bradley Collins Central High School was just another step in her day.
Quickly finishing an “OMG” to Melissa, she stuffed her phone into her purse before pausing next to Lisa. Lisa was a bit of an outcast; hung around the wrong guys, smoked and drank. But she was also smart, pretty and a damn good setter for the volleyball team.
“Hey Lisa!” Jessica smiled, “So hey, I wanted to ask you something.”
At most schools, the most popular girl in school stopping to talk to someone outside her click would be considered a social faux pas. At Bradley Collins, if Jessi didn’t stop to talk to you, you were either dead or not there.
“What’s up Jessi?” Lisa asked, looking up from her phone.
“Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it,” Jessi smiled widely.
“You’re not going to come out are you?” Lisa laughed.
“No, but … wait, why would you think ..?” Jessica stopped and shook her head, casting off the confusion of why Lisa would think she was gay. “Anyway,” she blinked, “We need a good power forward. Tryouts are in two weeks. Wanna try out?”
Lisa shifted uncomfortably, “Well, about that. See, Mark and I …”
“Oh no!” Jessica covered her mouth with her hands in shock, “Is everything okay?”
As student after student filed into the school, Lisa’s lip trembled, “He … left.”
Jessica quickly grabbed Lisa in a hug, “We’ll have lunch and talk about this okay?”
The flow of students turned into a flood and Jessica looked up from her friend as Jay tapped her on the shoulder, “It’s Rabbit, Jessi! He put Reuben through the commons door!”
Even though Jessica lived her life with as little drama as possible, Bradley Collins refused to bend to her will. Her boyfriend, Harry “Rabbit” Updike, was the self-declared defender of any victim in the school. Reuben had been bullying Dao for weeks and evidently Rabbit had decided to step in.
“Dammit!” Jessica barked, “Lunch okay!?” she yelled to a nodding Lisa as she bolted through the halls.
She caught up to Rabbit in the Admin Offices. He was sitting in one of the chairs with a contented smile and red knuckled hands.
“What the hell Rabbit!?” she barked, stopping in front of him with both hands on her hips.
Harry looked up at her with his blue eyes and boyish grin, “Reuben again.”
Grabbing him by his Boston Celtics t-shirt, Jessica yanked her boyfriend to his feet, “Harry, you’re going to get suspended! You can’t police the world dammit!”
The secretaries snickered at the spectacle, one that had played out several times over the years. The school had even had to set up a hearing process because Rabbit’s “Defender of the Weak” heroics had spread like a plague with more and more fights breaking out over bullying.
The bell rang for first period and Jessica tossed her boyfriend back into his seat, “You and I are gonna talk after I get off work,” she ordered, pointing at him as she walked away. “Coach is gonna bench you this time.”
It was an empty threat. She and Harry both knew that his coach wasn’t going to bench his starting shooting guard.
The rest of Jessica’s day went smoothly as usual. She had a good lunch with Lisa and they both made a plan for telling Lisa’s parents, classes were boring except for Honors Senior English and she only had to diffuse three fights between her basketball teammates over who’s boyfriend was messing around with whom.
Satisfied with her day, Jessica said goodbye to her friends and climbed into her little blue Honda as her phone started working overtime. Pulling out of the student’s parking she texted with one hand while driving with the other. Thank goodness for automatic transmissions. How could people possibly stay in touch with a stick shift?
Two messages to Lisa, one to Rabbit and three to Carrie got her to the stop light. Why did everyone have so much trouble? Couldn’t they just stay out of bad situations?
Accidentally dropping her phone, she checked the light to be sure it was green. All good. Ducking down again, she quickly snatched up her lifeline to the world and sat back up.
The grill of the tractor trailer was only inches from her face.