Some people say Noah Colfer committed suicide. Others say he fell off a bridge while tripped up on a concoction of drugs. A few mused that he was murdered. I even heard once that he got a life sentence in jail. Even less of the crowd whispered to each other that he faked it all. But we all agreed on one thing: Noah Colfer was the self-proclaimed weirdo of our high school.
Every school has that one odd kid. You know, the one who sat in the back of the classroom scratching vulgarities on the desk? The kid who always kicked the ball way too hard when playing kickball for recess—if he was lucky enough to even get picked on a team. Yeah, that was Noah…
So why was I thinking about him in my college junior BIO 103 class, bored as can be? Maybe it was because the kid in front of me reminded me of him. Maybe it’s because two rows across from me some jerkoff is playing his iPod too loud and is playing Noah’s favorite genre: scream-o music. Ugh. Or maybe it’s because—probably it’s because—it was a day like this, in high school biology, that I first laid eyes upon Noah Colfer.
It was sophomore year and Noah was one of the new kids coming to Tucker Lee High, along with Jess Whatever and Freddy Something. He used to go to Thornton Heights, a beaten down, public school not too far from there in one of the more dangerous parts of town. I only had to take one look at him and I knew exactly who he’d be sitting with at lunch that day: the druggies and the lame kids who always tried to form a band but usually sucked at gigs. Let’s throw in a black-lipstick wearing chick in there too, just for fun.
Anyway, that day we were dissecting frogs.
I was at the same table as he was, unfortunately, sitting across from him. I was assigned to Mary Shrouder, a smart, nerdy girl, and he was assigned to Lucas Wright, one of my guy friends. Me and Lucas were talking about our plans for homecoming when suddenly Noah interrupted our conversation, jabbing his knife into the frog’s stomach loudly so that we both looked at him.
“You know, the French people eat frog legs. They call it a delicacy.” He said, lifting his knife out of the amphibian. Everyone around him gave him a weird ‘who gives two shits’ look and rolling their eyes, went back to work. Some were still staring, noticing that they hadn’t seen him around before since he was new and all. I looked at him too, wondering what the hell he was doing here and not in his graffiti, inner city high school.
His eyes took on a mischievous glint to them, and he drove the paring knife into the frog’s leg. He cut off that frog’s leg. He held it up in front of him and stuck out his tongue like he thought he was some lame rock star.
Now that got the other kids attention, and everyone, plus some other tables, were looking at him. That was definitely not on the instructions. I looked back at the teacher, wondering how much trouble he would get into if she noticed. How many points would she dock off for a mutilated frog?
She wasn’t looking, instead she was preoccupied, bending over two student’s experiment and helping them with their analysis. I looked back at Noah and couldn’t hide my look of surprise. He held the leg dangling above his grinning, open mouth. Everyone around us looked horrified, whispering to each other. Then the leg disappeared in his mouth, and I shrieked in disgust, as everyone around us did too. The boys went crazy, laughing and punching each other’s shoulders, pointing at Noah in sick amazement. The girls just gagged and turned around, whispering to each other how disgusting that kid was, how weird he was.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I just watched as he chewed on the leg, and halfway through he started to choke on it and he spit it out. I gagged, about ready to hurl. He looked like he would too for a second, then he smirked and took a swing of his water bottle. He must have noticed me staring at him, with my mouth agape, because then he looked directly at me and cocked an eyebrow. I bristled at the fact that he was even looking at me, he was so bizarre that I wanted nothing to do with him. The word “Freak” slipped past my lips before I even knew it, and his eyes darkened. People around us heard my comment and laughed, agreeing with me.
“He is a freak.” Joey said loudly. “I mean, that is so nasty. Who the hell would do something like that?” he asked, snickering.
It didn’t take long for the teacher to notice the commotion going on in the other side of the classroom, and when she saw the half-masticated frog leg on the table, her eyes narrowed and she sent Noah to the principal’s office. We were left to clean up the mess. From that day on, Noah was labeled the class freak. He did make friends with those druggies and emo kids, the hoodlums and the badasses. But he was the weirdest of them all. Even his friends didn’t understand the way his brain worked. I guessed he had taken drugs long before they did, and that’s what made him so crazy. He even smiled weird, always getting this creepy glint in his eye like he was imagining killing you or something…
From that day, Noah always did freakish things. He said strange, out of place things in class; he always pulled pranks on students and teachers, and often spray painted the walls with his friends. He went to the principal’s office more than he went to his own classes. And somehow, every year, I had the bad luck of having him in at least one of my classes. Even though I actually prayed I’d get senior year free of him, just one year, my last year, it didn’t work.
See, Noah had a problem with popular people. In fact, he had a problem with people in general, but he especially had problems with us socially adept individuals. So, he bothered us. Bothered us to no end, whispering snide things in every cheerleader’s ears and pissing off the jocks in any way he could. He got into more fistfights than drunken marine at a late night bar.
He seemed to particularly hate me, and I always suspected it was because I was the one who labeled him. I called him ‘freak’ and since then, the label stuck. It wasn’t my fault that people always seemed to agree with me.
I used to think the teachers punished me every semester for every time I didn’t turn in papers on time and get out of it with some dance excuse or having my parents come in complaining their ear off until they agree to extend my deadline. I knew they hated me. So naturally, I believed they were out to get me and therefore found a way to get Noah in one of my classes every semester without fail. Noah never ceased to torment me every semester—without fail. Even in the summer! There was this one unforgettable summer where every time he skateboarded past my house he’d yell “ditzes!” whenever he noticed me outside surrounded by my friends at my backyard pool. And that was the nicest phrase he’d use. If he noticed no neighbors or adults were around, he used more vulgar words. But it never really bothered me. I was living the life, and back then I didn’t care for the little, seemingly unimportant thorn in my side. I really did think senior year would be no different. Actually, scratch that. I thought it would be different, but in a good way. College was still a bright and exciting future for me, and even with Noah's daily annoyances, I felt happy as a bee—a queen bee. But senior year was different…and not the way I imagined it to be. That entire year, every day, he wanted to break me. But that was a long time ago. I've graduated from high school since then...doing the regular thing. Sometimes I miss those high school days. Sometimes, I even miss him.
Chapter One: Three Years Ago
That is how I’ve always been told I moved.
So, “effortlessly” I flew across the wooden, glossed floor, my arms spinning around delicately. Every movement was precise, graceful and elegant, I made sure of it. I bent into a plié and sprung up smoothly into a chassé.
As the violins started to play allegro—faster and more fervently, likewise my movements became quicker, stronger, and even.
When I did my adage, I did so with balance, my ability to hold those beautiful positions while disguising any pain in doing so was due to years of ballet practices and recitals.
My arabesque was often deemed perfect, my assemblé was crisp. I transitioned into quick chaîné turns to dazzle the viewer as I built up speed and jumped into an entrechat.
I turned my arms in and bent down, as if I were cradling a child in my arms. Then I thrust my arms in the air, as if the child had transformed into a dove and flew into the air. I too, was in flight—my every movement mimicked the fluttering of wings at dawn, I smiled as I caught myself in the mirror, aware that I had yet to make a single mistake in my routine—as usual.
I loved it in the dance room, with its wide mirrors and smooth, pristine floors—how everything had to be clean and gorgeously simple, from the room to my laced toes, to my golden-tan curls which were gathered in a tight French twist. Curls that unfortunately, were starting to untangle…
I tried to ignore the curl that flew past my eyes as I gave my final turns, but the damage was done. My hair tie snapped; my hair had fallen.
“Stop! Stop, stop, stop!” a curt voice rang out.
I immediately stopped turning, breathing quickly. The sound of the light flutes, romantic violins, deep clarinets and oboes all playing in unison from the stereo ceased as well, the energy in the air vanished.
I watched as my instructor approached me: Mr. Chateaux. He had been my private ballet teacher for three years now, and he never ceased to criticize me. I used to find him unfeeling, always wearing solid, neutral colors, always holding himself so uprightly. I had gotten used to his nature—after all; my mother paid him to teach me to be the best.
“While the sight of your hair in combination to the chaîné turns is quite unique and adds extra…unexpected fervor to your movements,” Mr. Chateaux began, “ballet is never done professionally with the hair down.”
“This is not jazz—the watered down version of the beauty of ballet—or that rancid hip hop that constitutes solely of hair whipping to distract the viewer from the fact that the dancer lacks any skill whatsoever—this is ballet. And in ballet,” Chateaux continued, picking up my broken hair tie from the wooden floor—“We always make sure our hair is secured properly.”
He handed the hair tie back to me.
If only he knew how we dance at school…I thought, thinking about the routine I would be doing in approximately forty-five minutes with my dance team at school: The Tuckerettes.
Yes, their routine was not as crisp or elegant as ballet, and they did do a fair amount of hair whipping and hip thrusting that Chateaux usually found disgusting, but they did not entirely lack the skills of a dancer. But I remained silent, giving my teacher a toothless smile.
“Of course Mr. Chateaux.”
I went over to where my bag was and shuffled around the stuff in there until I found another hair tie, securing my hair more tightly this time.
As soon as ballet practice was over I practically ran over to my car and sped all the way to Tucker Lee, grateful that no policemen were around. Not that I cared about having tickets, I’ve had ten since I first got my license as a sophomore two years ago, and I never paid for them. It’s the fact that if I got stopped that dinky officer would be eating up my time!
Thankfully, I made it to the school okay and quickly changed in my car into my dance clothes—basically tight black yoga pants and cropped black tank top with my school name in sparkly letters across my bust. Classy, I know.
I pushed open the door to my 2011 BMW with a little too much force as I booked it to the gym, hoping Ms. Perryman wouldn’t notice I was 20 minutes late.
Trey Songz’s voice boomed through the speakers in the gym as the girls, freshman to senior, strutted their stuff across the basketball court of Tucker Lee High School, lining up in preparation for their routine. Coming in through the backdoor so no one would catch me, I stealthily merged myself into the lineup.
At the first beat, the twenty-two girls each struck a different, beguiling pose. I knew this routine by heart. At the second beat, the twenty-two girls split in the middle, forming a V formation, while a twenty-third girl—me—confidently walked to the middle of the V, completing it. I gave a triple pirouette, and the rest of the girls followed in a “wave” pattern. When the last two girls finished their turns, in synch we dived into more complex dance moves to match the beat of the rowdy rap music. At the end of the routine, our coach, Ms. Perryman, was clapping loudly.
“Good work girls. Practice is done for today, and remember, no practice tomorrow because the first day of school is in three days, and I want to give you girls a bit of a break.” Ms. Perryman gave a wide smile as she high-fived some of the girls on the way out of the gym to the locker room.
“Because,” she called out after the girls, “starting the Friday of the first week of school, we will be having practice every day until the pep rally!”
Some of the girls groaned, but I fully expected this. Every time Ms. Perryman announced some break for us, it was only because she was about to go even harder on us the next time she saw us. I smiled. I was ready for whatever Ms. Perryman had planned for us.
I turned to the direction of my name and saw Ms. Perryman signaling me to come to her. The look on her face told me she was not about to compliment me on my flawless moves. I ran over to her.
“I noticed you were late to practice today. That’s the third time this month.” Ms. Perryman said in a slightly concerned voice.
Ballet practice. Mr. Chateaux just wouldn’t let me go. Of course, I didn’t want to tell her this. If she knew I was doing another routine on the side, she’d flip and give me a speech on how I need to take some stuff off my plate or else I’ll start slacking in either my school work, or sleep, or something that has to do with balance and high school.
“I’m sorry; it took me a while to find my car keys. They were in the foyer.” I lied, plastering a good-natured smile on my face.
Ms. Perryman gave me a long look and gave into my explanation.
“Okay.” She said curtly. “But don’t do it again. You are the captain of this team, which means you set the example. You being late will not look good to these girls. You realize how important that is right? I know that being punctual doesn’t seem like much. But it makes a difference. Okay?”
I nodded my head and attempted to give her an assuring smile. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the last few girls trickle out of the gym.
“Can I go change now?” I asked.
Mr. Perryman nodded and I grabbed my backpack and rushed over to the stall to change, Mika and Brooke suddenly appearing behind me. Those two girls follow me like puppy dogs. I was so sure they left already!
“Mika, Brooke?” I said, smiling officiously as I turned to face them. They both looked alert and smiled at me.
“Could you guys get me a water bottle and some chips from the vending machine? I’m famished.”
Mika and Brooke looked at each other and at me again while I smiled demurely, waiting, knowing that if they wanted access to me and my huge house that I always threw parties at, they’d do what I asked, and left. My smile disappeared and I relaxed. Jeez, not even two seconds of peace. For a second, a slight feeling of sadness gripped at me. Sometimes, I just wished that when I asked someone for something, they’d say no. They’d smirk and say: How ‘bout you get it yourself?
After all, when they obeyed me, it was proof that I wasn’t really using them, they were using me. A real friend wouldn’t be a slave, and they wouldn’t be scared that I wouldn’t invite them out anywhere because they’d know I would. They’d be friends with me because actually they liked me. It almost felt as if I had real friends when I was younger. Immediately I stopped myself. No. I wasn’t going to go there. Stop Naomi, I ordered myself. I wasn’t going to take another walk down memory lane; that was not going to get me anywhere. I brushed off my feelings, like I so often did, convincing myself that this was better.
Two minutes later, I was changed back into too tight skinny jeans, UGGS, and white V-neck victoria’s secret shirt while my “friends” had come back with my water bottle and chips. I cocked her head to the side and smiled, flashing my pearly whites, as I accepted the snacks. Just for the hell of it, I threw the chips across the room and threw a little tantrum about how I didn’t want Doritos, I wanted Baked Lays.
They looked like they were about to take a crap in their pants. I thought it was so funny I started to laugh and found it hard to stop.
“Oh…my…gosh…” I said between gasps of laughter. “Your… faces!” I collapsed into a fit of giggles.
Mika and Brooke looked at each other as if they were debating whether or not to take me to the school psychologist or not. I immediately composed myself and every stitch of laughter was wiped from my face. “I was just kidding guys. Doritos are fine.”
Giving a peppy grin and a wink, I walked over to where they threw the Doritos and opened the bag, taking a crunchy bite out of one of the chips. Mm.
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to dance.
Dancing had been my favorite way to express myself, and I made friends quickly in the class. I was outspoken, I was cute, and I was never afraid. When I entered school, I was immediately popular. From first grade to eighth grade, my life was filled with recitals, friendship bracelets, slumber parties, nail polish, talking about boys, and eventually, dating boys. Then came the drama. You know, the typical stuff. My life was fun, but in high school it got complicated. Other popular girls from other middle schools came. The hierarchies were mushed together and we had to fight to get to the top again. But I was relentless. I liked the image of prettiest girl, hottest girl, the one you didn’t want to mess with.
In all the years from first grade ballerina princess to high school homecoming queen, I became… a bitch. At least, that’s what all the girls said about me.
I sighed and got up from my huge flouncy bed, tousling my golden locks and looked at myself in the mirror. It felt a little weird, as I realized that this was to be the first day of my last year in high school. And then I’ll be in college: a whole new life, a whole new social structure. Who would I be there? Would I be on top like I am now? Or will I be a small fish in a vast sea? I shivered at the thought of it. I was used to being a big fish in a small pond. My high school wasn’t too large. I couldn’t imagine a life where people didn’t know my name.
“Naomi Belle Price, you get your tush down here!”
I looked out the window to see my friend, Nina, smacking her freshly lip-glossed lips in her baby blue convertible punch buggy, waiting for me to come outside so we could go to school.
I hastily pulled on a white denim miniskirt and floral top, and grabbed my knee high brown suede boots, running down the stairs.
“Naomi your friend is waiting outside for you. Why do you always have to make other people wait for you?” My mother said, taking two pieces of toast out of the toaster.
I grabbed piece from her plate, I was in a hurry and needed something to eat. My mother sighed and started buttering the other slice of bread.
“I know that Mom.” I said between bites, pulling on my boots.
“Okay, okay.” She said, putting the bread on the toaster. “I just want you to try to think of other people for once, okay?”
I ignored her and grabbed my backpack, mumbling an “okay fine.” and bolting out of the door. I jumped into the side seat of Nina’s car.
“Wow girl, you got tan!” Nina said, starting up the car.
“I know, I know.” I said, smirking a bit. “I just got back from Aruba two days ago.” I said, admiring my skin. It was a perfect golden tan. Nina revved up her car and we made our way to school.
Unfortunately, during the car ride all Nina could talk about was Brian. Apparently they hung out together all summer. No wonder she wasn’t ever free to go out with me. She usually wasn’t this talkative about boys. Usually she was the friend that I could always joke around with about other people. But now she suddenly turned into some hopeless romantic. It sucked, she used to be hilarious.
I tuned her out as we got outta the car and walked into the school, saying hey to some of the football players who were all surrounding Johnny Gerheart. Every morning last year, all the guys on the varsity team would meet at Johnny’s car in the junior parking lot. Now in the senior parking lot, it was no different. Johnny was the quarterback on the team, and he also had the nicest car.
Well, except for mine of course. But mine is super girly.
Usually I’d go up to the suckers and talk to them for a bit before homeroom, but right now the only thing I wanted to do was strut my stuff directly to 212 so I could get away from Nina already. Valerie usually was always in homeroom before me too, so she might even be there right now.
As I walked faster than usual throughout the hallway, half-listening to Nina and giving some “yeahs” when she paused, I bumped rather hard into someone. I turned slightly to see who I bumped into, frowning when I saw who it was.
“Oh hello your highness!” Noah Colfer—class freak—said in a lame pompous voice. “I am so, so sorry to have bumped into you. Please, permit me to cut off my own arm and eat it in front of you in repentance.”
I screwed my face up in horror and disgust. I swear, the things that came out of this kid’s mouth…I didn’t even know why I got surprised anymore. I had heard the same crap almost every day from him for the past three years.
He raised his fist and I narrowed my eyes, cocking my head to the side, giving him a look that said: don’t even try it, pursing my lips slightly like the queen he pretended I was. He punched an unsuspecting freshman nearby and walked away, laughing at me like a rabid dog. I turned back to Nina and we shared a look.
“He will always be a creep.” I said, sighing. Nina nodded her head, agreeing with me, and they parted ways as I walked into 212 and Nina went to her locker.
As I walked into homeroom I noticed most of the desks were empty. For once, I’m early.
I turned to the teacher and saw that it was Mrs. Cox. She was shuffling through her papers and looked up when I opened the door. I smiled at her….and she rolled her eyes. The teacher just rolled her eyes at her! Well, not completely, it was one of those quarter rolls, if it was a complete roll that would be totally weird. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion and pulled out my small makeup mirror. Was my smile really that fake? I smiled at the mirror. Hmm…it doesn’t look that fake. Well, I had her last year and I was always late to class…I guess I’m not one of her favorite students. I heard a laugh and turned around, grinning like the Chesire cat when I saw who it was.
“Hey Val baby.” I said in a minx voice.
“Yo. What the hell are you doing?” Val said, taking off her backpack.
“Checking out my smile.” I said suavely, winking at her.
“Yeah…” she said, grinning. “Well, you look like a retard. Let’s sit.” She said, nodding at our desks.
“So…how was your summer?” Val asked slyly.
“Oh, just the usual.” I said casually. “Summer pool party bashes, weekends at the beach house with all the girls and guys, lots of hooking up, breaking up, gossip, shopping, that stupid yearly trip with the fam, blah blah blah…” I said.
She made a face.
“Where’d she take you this time?” she asked.
“Aruba.” I said straightly. “It wasn’t that bad though, since she let me be alone most of the time. But I don’t care to talk about that. How was your summer?” I asked, throwing it back at her and raising my eyebrows. Her blushing grin when I asked her gave it all away.
“Well…” she started, dragging the well out, “as you know, I toured Europe for summer. And well, I met a guy.”
Her eyes sparkled as she spoke of Fabian and Italy. It sounded really romantic, but nothing out of the ordinary. It was a nice, short, clean romance. She said he was going to come over and visit next week, and he’s bringing a friend. She winked at me.
“Maybe you can distract his friend away so I can have some alone time with him…?” she said, grinning mischievously.
I laughed. “Maybe.”
I looked at my schedule again to review all my classes.
001 – Spanish 3 Rm 203
002 – Physical Education Gym
003 – Calculus Rm 131
004 – Creative Writing Rm 322
005 – Lunch Cafeteria
006- Physics Rm 224
007 – Study Hall Cafeteria
008 - European History Rm 108
I already texted my friends the week before when we were all mailed our letters, and I had friends in every class except for Creative Writing. Little did I know I'd be making a friend in that class....
“Ready for Espanol?” Val asked me, watching me look over my classes.