The Popular Girl: A Short Story

My mother always told me there were two types of people in high school: those who were popular and stood out, like Josie Calloway, and those who did not, like me.  I think she forgot the ones who are in between, where the majority of the student population lies, but she probably just wanted to make me seem like I was actually part of something.  But enough about me, this story is about Josie Calloway.  She had been part of the first group of kids since she was young.  And when she was 11 or 12 years old, her mother died, and eventually everyone had heard of her, making her even more popular.  You see, her mother was killed in a robbery gone wrong, and the guys who did it had gotten shot down by the police; so almost everyone had heard the story.  While she was really upset about it at first, it’s as if her mother’s death made her stronger, she could stand the attention and didn’t let it faze her or go to her head.  Of course, she wasn’t those one of those mean girls you see on tv shows or in the movies, sure she hung out with them, but she gave you the impression that if you didn’t mess with her, she wasn’t going to bother you.

This day had started off typically for students at Barter High, an old converted convent from the early 20th century.  The people who turned it into a high school had decided to keep most of the original building intact, so there were a lot of narrow staircases compared to the wide ones you would typically see in modern schools.  There were two levels to the building, the bottom is where the nuns had had meetings and ceremonies, so those rooms were generally larger sized classrooms, along with a medium sized cafeteria.  And the upstairs is where their sleeping and washroom quarters were, which were smaller rooms and now the girl’s changing room.  There was also a dark basement for the furnace and storage areas, but it was closed off for the students.  They had to add on a gymnasium, boys changing room and some other washrooms, but most had been unchanged, even the dark tiles that seemed to darken the whole school.  There were a lot of small nooks and seating areas, so different groups of students each had their own preferred sections throughout the school.  And finally, because the school is built in the middle of the city, there is no space for an outdoor track or field area, so any students on sports teams had to take a bus 15 minutes to a public park for practice or games.

Josie had math and English classes in the morning, then a study period following lunch and finally gym class her last period.  During study break, Josie would usually finish up her homework from her two morning classes, or hang out with a few of the guys on the soccer team who also had the same break.  But this day was different.  It was a Friday so Josie decided to save her homework for the weekend, to give her an excuse to stay in her room and avoid her dad.  In the last few years he’s taken up golfing, and dating, two things that seemed to take up his time even more than his work.  It’s not like Josie didn’t like golfing, it’s that her dad refused to take her, said it was his “boy’s time”, and she definitively did not approve of the women his father took on dates.  Since she was 15 years old, they’ve started to grow apart and now really only talk if one needs something from the other.  Since she couldn’t find the soccer guys, and figured they’d be outside drinking or doing something she didn’t want to take part of, she decided to do something else.  Or rather, someone else.  She had starting talking to a guy in her class periodically whenever she saw him during her study break, and knew he was one of those loner kids and that he didn’t talk to anyone she knew.  Accepting her seemingly ridiculous idea, they had snuck off to the basement to pass time during their break, mutually agreeing to never speak of it again.

Even though gym was just a requirement in 9th and 10th grades, Josie had kept taking it throughout her four years to stay in shape and keep up her grades.  She didn’t belong to any particular sports team, but was a good all-around athlete and liked the competition of gym class.  At Barter High, there were separate gym classes for the male and female students, and this week the girl’s class had been doing circuit training; separating into different groups and going to stations around the gym doing activities like climbing ropes, punching and kicking foam punching bags, jogging through tires, etc.  Near the end of the period, Josie’s group had reached the punching station, and they all put on the sweaty gloves and took turns doing different punches.  However, Josie had overheard one of the girls she hangs out with, Marcie, at the rope climbing station talking badly about her, saying how she is only allowed to be popular because her mom died.  Becoming furious, and already wearing boxing gloves, Josie decided to go over and make her take back her words.  The other girls in the gym class all stood around them, until the teacher ran up and held Josie back.  “To the principal’s office!” she shouted, and sent the rest of the girls upstairs to get dressed.  Marcie’s parents came to pick her up, and she got off with only a warning and a note in her file for participating in a fight.

                “We called your father and he agrees that you should get detention every day after school for two weeks, and he also says he will be home late tonight to discuss it with you further”
“Well Marcie’s lucky I didn’t take the gloves off, or she would have more than bruise”, Josie retored.
“Do you want to make it three weeks, Ms. Calloway?”  The principal, Mr. Hooper, replied. 
“No thank you” Josie grumbled.
“Listen, I heard what she said and I understand how upset you must feel, but Marcie’s parents made a good case for her and she hasn’t ever been in trouble.  So I’m sorry that this is all we can do, considering it was pretty one-sided.”
“I understand”
“Now you’ve missed your bus so you will have to take the city bus home” Mr. Hooper concluded, as he handed Josie a bus ticket and ushered her out of his office.

Josie was still in her gym clothes and decided she would go take a shower and get dressed since she didn’t have to rush for the school bus anymore.  Being alone in the changing room allowed her to observe the changes they’ve made since the school was a convent.  While they had to upgrade a few pipes, they kept most of the original plumbing in place, and even put a glass insert in the wall so that the students could see how the water used to be heated before they had central water tanks.  Josie turned up the heat and watched the coils turn red as the water grew hotter.

The city bus stop was just a block or two away, but it was much quicker to go through the indoor market that was in between the two, rather than travel outside.  The market was a little empty for a Friday afternoon, but most of the stations were setting up still for the after work and weekend rush.  She approached a bakery stand in the centre with fresh breads and buns that a few customers were picked up, when suddenly the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls entered her nose.  Turning to the right, she noticed that a bagel stand was just setting up the rolls still warm and gooey from the oven.  She almost went and bought one; however a plump woman went up to the counter and bought a dozen.  Josie decided she’d rather not end up looking like this woman, and continued on her way.  A Turkish stand was also set up in the center of the market, selling meat, cheeses and some pastries.  She saw a child grab what looked like some sort of meat sandwich and take a huge bite, purple jelly oozing out the top.  She instantly lost her appetite and continued on to the bus station.

She hadn’t taken the city bus for a while, and noticed that they had constructed a new wooden waiting area in the center, with piles of dirt and sod still waiting to be set.  The bus stop was a square section in the middle of an intersection so the buses would come from all four sides, depending on which way you were travelling.  Standing near the new waiting area, someone came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.  Noah, the boy from the study break, had come up to talk to her for some reason, obviously forgetting their agreement.  He had such a strange look, wearing all black clothes and silver chains, he seemed like he would enjoy heavy metal; however his medium length light brown hair was in dread locks, which reminded Josie of a strange hippy.  Even though he did have a conflicting style, his tall and thin frame, and gorgeous face with light eyes, is the only thing that Josie ever really paid attention to.

“You dropped this when you were getting changed” said Noah, discreetly showing Josie a knife.
“Oh that, well I keep that tucked in my pants, but don’t let anyone see you carrying that now, where’s the sheath?” Josie scolded.

It was the knife her father had given her after her mom had died.  At this time she thought it was very strange, considering her mother was first beaten, then stabbed to death.  But in her father’s bizarre way, it was meant to protect her, the only one he had left now.  She had carried it with her ever since, and it had also been the last gift her father had ever given her, now she only receives money or a card if he even remembers her birthday. 

“Where’s the sheath? The cover?” Josie asked again.
“I don’t know, it must have separated, it was really dark and I couldn’t find it” Noah replied.
“Well I can’t take it now, besides, I can just get another knife anytime” Josie answered while taking it from Noah’s hands, knowing that she needed this one, but not wanting to show her attachment to the boy she hardly knew.

Quickly thinking, Josie hid the knife under an open section on the ground of the wooden waiting area.

“Someone will see it, you don’t want some kid taking it do you?” asked Noah “Why do you have it anyways?”
“It was a gift. So let’s make this something else we don’t talk about again, got it?” Josie whispered, while burying the knife with some of the fresh dirt.  Josie then saw that the soccer team boys were heading towards the bus station.
“Deal, so are you going to come back and get it, or is it going to be like a time capsule thing?” Noah asked.
“Sure, I’ll come get it in 20 years” Josie replied, as she headed off towards her friends, knowing she would be back during the weekend.

“Ohh man, we heard what happened with you and Marcie, heard you got her good” said Shane, one of the soccer guys.
“Ya ya, she had a black eye and broken nose or something!” said another.
“Don’t believe everything you hear.  I just gave her a few bruises, no blood or broken anything.”  Josie answered “what bus are you guys taking?”
“The 102, we’re going to Shane’s, what about you?” the other replied.
“Mind if I come, we can hang out and talk all about it” asked Josie
“No problem, I can’t wait to hear everything!” replied Shane “here it is!”

As Josie boarded the 102 bus heading east, she looked back and saw Noah walking to another bus heading north.

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