I walked into the gymnasium, feeling tired and unhappy. I was greeted by the roar of conversation created by the entire school. Our school isn't that big, but when you get 'em all together for the spring barbecue, they can make some serious noise, especially when you're having a really bad day.
Look at me now. Chris and Mouse both got hurt because of me and I'm just standing here feeling sorry for myself.
I feel so bad. I blinked away tears and walked up through the sophomore section of the bleachers. I spotted my friends and watched them guiltily until Leo noticed me. I gave him a look, asking if I could join them, and he smiled, waving me over.
I smiled back quietly and made my way over to them, sitting down by Leo. Alice leaned over him and said, "Hi, Angie."
"Hey," I said softly. "How are you taking the pep fest?"
Alice has never liked pep fests. They're loud and hot and crowded, everything that Alice can't stand. She held up her hand and gave me the so-so sign.
"I'm okay." She said, smiling.
Chris and Mouse were sitting quietly on the other side of Alice, not speaking and staring at their feet. I smiled uneasily at them and said, "Hi, guys."
They glanced over at me and both muttered, looking away, "Hi, Angie..."
I nodded, leaning back. We sat in silence, slouching and dreading the wrath of the pep fest.
Pep fest: definition: noun: We have short classes all day just so there'll be a couple of extra hours at the end of the day for a stupid event where we all scream about how great school is. We all go to the gym and cram into the bleachers while the staff does stupid stuff and celebrates how amazing and elite our school's sports teams are. They make us scream and see who can scream the loudest, la la la. ("Class of 2011, lemme here ya scream!")
So, obviously, for those of us who are unathletic and don't give a damn about the sports teams (A.K.A. the jerks who lock my brother in lockers during passing time), pep fests suck.
On the bright side, this was our special "Springtime Beavers Barbecue Festival!" that the school throws every year, so at least we get to go to the big fundraiser thing after the pep fest. And yes, the name is horrible. The beaver is our school mascot. We are the Beavers. I kid you not.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and waited for the teachers to start running across the floor in their beaver gear.
That sounded weird.
"You know what, guys?" Leo said, breaking our silence. We all looked at him. He continued, "This is stupid."
Chris gave him a look and said quietly, "What are you talking about?"
"I agree with Leo." Alice spoke up, smiling at Leo, "I think that we need to-"
But whatever she was about to say was drowned out by the deafening screams of the crowd as our principle, Ms. Nelson, walked into the gym and stood in the center of the room. She was wearing an orange "Withrow Beavers 2010-2011" t-shirt and holding a microphone in her right hand. Her blonde hair was in a ponytail and she was smiling. She held the microphone up and she called into it, sending feedback blaring through the speaker all around, "Hey, what's up, Withrow high?"
More horribly loud cheering. Sometimes, I think that Ms. Nelson is the only remotely normal staff member at this school, and I'm just grateful that she spared us from being called "beavers" just this once.
The rest of the pep fest was way the hell to loud for us to hear each other, so we didn't talk. They introduced the football team, the boys basketball team, the girls basketball team, the volleyball team, the tennis team, the badminton team, the ping pong team... I think you get the point. They introduced all of the sports team, then all the clubs, and then the cheerleaders did one of their routines. They aren't bad performers, I just kind of hate their stupid guts.
"And now," Ms. Nelson said into the microphone, "What you've all been waiting for; the Springtime Beavers Barbecue Festival!"
The gymnasium shook as the students roared in excitement, or maybe they were just screaming to scream.
"Now!" Ms. Nelson said, holding up her hand, "There are a few things I would like to address." She held up one finger and said, "First, this is a special school event and I want to see school appropriate behavior. Yes, it is a special occasion, but you are still in school."
A couple of kids groaned loudly. I could've sworn that Ms. Nelson's eyes were on Geoffry for most of this speech, who was shaking his head a few steps below us.
"Second," Ms. Nelson said, putting up another finger, "Stay on school property. We don't want any of you getting lost. We don't want another incident like at last year's Spring Festival."
Two football players high-fived in the Junior section of the bleachers.
"And third," Ms. Nelson held up a third finger, looking seriously over the crowd. A smile spread across her face and she said, "Have fun!"
I clapped my hands over my ears as everybody shouted. The bleachers shuddered as Ms. Nelson yelled, "You may be dismissed!" and everyone got up and thundered down the bleachers to be first outside.
I think it's amazing that no one has ever been killed trying to get down the bleachers in a sea of a bajillion other students during a pep fest. I can see the news article in the paper now: PEP-LESS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT TRAMPLED TO DEATH AT PEP FEST. WHAT A DUMBASS.
My friends and I got up and awkwardly made our way down the bleachers and into the thick crowd of screaming teenagers leading out the gymnasium doors.
Chris, Mouse, Alice, Leo, and I stood outside in the football field, where numerous white tents and tables full of food were set up everywhere. We all held paper plates with assorted barbecue-esque food on them, not saying a word. Leo was, again, the first to break the silence.
"So, it's nice today, isn't it?" He said.
We all looked at him and Mouse said, "Yeah. Just like every other day of the year."
"Gorgeous." Chris said flatly.
I never said Leo broke the tension. He nodded and said quietly, "Right..."
Alice shifted from foot to foot, thinking. After another moment's silence, she said, "Hey."
We all looked at her expectantly and she said, "What are we doing? We've been friends for years and now we're wrecking something perfectly valuable by trying to stay mad at each other."
I didn't really think Alice was involved in the problem, but I saw her point.
We looked around at each other quietly.
"Something as perfectly valuable as the Springtime Beaver Barbecue?" Mouse said, cracking a grin.
Alice smiled and Leo started to laugh. I looked at my brother, who looked like he was trying not to laugh.
"Hey, guys," He said, "I'll be right back. I'm gonna go get something to drink."
Geoffry walked around the field by himself, on the outskirts of the gathering. He watched his classmates sadly. The whole school was poured out onto the field, but there was only one person on Geoffry's mind.
Where the hell is he? He thought, scanning the clusters of students.
Then, standing by a table, talking to some other students, he spotted Chris. A perfect profile; his light brown hair swept to the side, a vague smile on his freckled face...
Geoffry pressed his lips together and made his way over to Chris. People distractedly stepped in front of him and he weaved his way through the growing crowd. At last, Geoffry reached Chris. He put his hand on his shoulder, "Chris."
Chris turned to face him, his expression slightly troubled.
"Oh, Geoffry..." He said with a faint smile. "Hi."
"Hey." Geoffry said, smiling broadly. He felt like he hadn't seen Chris in ages. Not like this.
Geoffry studied Chris' face as he tried to find the words he wanted to say.
"Chris," He began, pausing.
But he didn't say anything. Chris nodded slightly, looking right at him. Geoffry's smile faded and he stared at Chris. Geoffry, what the hell is wrong with you?!
"Yes?" Chris said quietly.
Geoffry ducked his head down and patted Chris on the shoulder, "Have a sloppy joe. They're good."
Chris watched Geoffry walk past him, confused. Automatically, Chris' shoulders sagged.
Geoffry walked quickly away from Chris, shaking his head at himself.
Mm, mm, mm. Geoffry, what the hell was that? Geoffry looked back at Chris. He was watching him with a saddened look on his face. He quickly turned away when Geoffry saw him.
Crap, he's looking at me. Geoffry thought, also looking away, Chris. Little Chris Harper. I never meant to have anything with him. He's just another sensitive, clingy...
Geoffry realized that he was digging his fingernails hard into the side of his leg. He stopped and thought, I don't need him. I never needed him. He never meant anything.
Geoffry stormed away from the field without looking back. He passed a wispy pine tree at the edge of the field and failed to notice Mouse watching him. Sitting on the pine needle-covered dirt ground, she stared hatefully through the branches at Geoffry as he left the barbecue. Her scowling face was covered in tears.