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By second semester of the seventh grade, it had been five and a half years since
I'd started at St. Joseph Hall. My aunt had recommended it. Her kids, Evan and
Daniel, were in my year.
"Guess what?" asked my best friend, Catherine Banks, before breakfast.
Catherine, Tiffany Luoh, Lily Yao, and I had been living in the same dorm room
since the fifth grade.
"There's a new kid."
It was the middle of the year, so a new kid, of any grade or gender, was big
news at St. Joseph Hall.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"I heard Headmaster Fallows talking to Sister Elizabeth."
"Guy or girl?" asked Tiffany.
"Headmaster Fallows said he got expelled from his old school," Catherine
informed us. "They said he was coming today." She shrugged, looking around.
"Then he'd be here, though."
When class started at seven thirty, he was still nowhere to be seen, so I
thought Catherine had probably misheard.
"Take out your math books," commanded Sister Elizabeth. She had taught at St.
Joseph Hall for nearly thirty-five years, according to reliable sources.
We took out our math books, and started correcting the homework we had been
given the night before. There was a noise outside, and the door opened, and in
came this totally gorgeous guy, with a Jansport backpack hanging over one
shoulder. For those of you who have never been to St. Joseph Hall, let me tell
you, there are no hot guys. It had been about TWO YEARS since I'd SEEN one (in
person). I could hardly believe my eyes. He was, like, twice as hot as any of
the male models on the posters in my bedroom back home.
Tiffany raised her eyebrows at me to let me know she was thinking the same
thing. Catherine whispered something to Lily.
He was tall with blond hair and blue eyes. He had this look that said clearly,
"I don't want to be here." That was such a great look.
He muttered something under his breath.
"Name," Sister Elizabeth barked.
"Name," Sister Elizabeth barked again.
"Reason for being late."
The kid raised one eyebrow. "Well, I try to be late at least once a week," he
told her. "Some people say it sucks when you come in and everyone's staring at
you, but, you know, I like being the center of attention."
He smiled at me. I smiled back.
Sister Elizabeth was not as impressed by his good looks as the rest of us were.
"Where's your uniform?" she demanded.
"Did you receive one?"
"Why aren't you wearing it?"
Jordan raised an eyebrow again. "Come on. Sweater-vests?"
HE hated sweater-vests. I hated sweater-vests. It was a match made in heaven!
"Leave this classroom, and don't come back until you intend to have your uniform
on like a proper student of St. Joseph Hall."
Sister Elizabeth was one of the strictest teachers I had ever had. He was new!
He was cute! She should have cut him some slack!
J.T. shrugged. "No problem."
He left, and didn't come back for the rest of the day.
I will not wear a sweater-vest, I told myself. I was lying on my lower bunk,
listening to Def Leppard and reading TAMING THE STAR RUNNER, which I had found
at the bottom of my backpack. The rest of the kids were still in class. I, of
course, didn't have to go back, until I intended to wear my uniform like a
"proper student of St. Joseph Hall". And God knew that would be never. I wanted
to play the guitar, but my parents had made me leave all three of mine at home,
saying I wouldn't have anyplace to play them. I pressed the stop button on my CD
player and took off my headphones, remembering that I was supposed to call
Samantha. I took out my cell phone and dialed the number, which I had memorized.
It was almost three, so West Street School would be out already.
"Hey, can I talk to Samantha, please? Thanks...Hey. You told me to call when I
got here...Yeah, sorry...I couldn't, it was one in the morning. My plane got
"That sucks! So, how is it over there?"
"It's hell, kid."
"Worse. I haven't eaten all day."
"How are your roommates? How are the teachers? Did you miss us? Did you miss
me?" Samantha always spoke really quickly, like her head was bursting with a
million different things to say and the way she'd get to say the most was
talking as fast as possible.
"My roommates...I don't know. I haven't really talked to them. There's these
twins, Evan and Daniel, and then Insect Boy..."
"I can't remember his real name. He looks like a bug. And the teachers? I don't
know, I've only met one of them and she was a bitch."
"Yeah, well, you hate all teachers."
"Her espec'ly. Yeah, I miss you...I miss you guys like hell."
It wasn't true. I'd actually never missed anyone in my life. I didn't know why.
I didn't know why I lied about it, either. I lied a lot but usually I had a
great reason. If you were put into a situation where it was beneficial to lie,
you would lie. That was just the way it was. There didn't seem to be a point
that time, though. I think I just said it automatically. River Heights kids do
that a lot. I thought it was because River Heights was a boring rich town. Bored
rich kids often started talking and didn't realize they were completely
bullshitting until halfway through it. It was just something to say. You know.
"We all miss you, too," Samantha told me. "A lot. Have you talked to anyone
"No time," I sighed. "I got here at one, and I couldn't call then. I couldn't
call you guys early in the morning, either. Then you were all in school. Just
got out, right?"
"Yeah. Oh my gosh, J.T., I can't believe they sent you there!"
"Neither can I," I groaned. "I can't think of a worse place to be."
Of course I could think of a worse place to be. I could think of a million worse
things to be. I was just exaggerating. When you lived in a boring town like
River Heights, you ended up exaggerating a lot. I assumed that was how a lot of
really weird rumors got spread all the time. A lot of them were about me. They
made me sound like a hood or something. I thought it was because everybody there
was so square that they needed somebody not to be.
When nothing ever happened in a place people made stuff up to happen in it.
"Anyways, how was your day?" I asked.
"McDillan gave too much homework, again...we tried to get him back in the supply
closet, but he called Wood and she gave us all a lecture. We've got detention
"You've gotta catch him by surprise. McDillan, I mean."
"School's not the same with out you. It's never any fun."
"Like it was before?" I asked sarcastically.
"It was, sometimes. You know it was. You loved to hate it, didn't you?"
"I don't know. It certainly was better than this place."
"When did classes end for you?" she asked.
"They'll end in a minute."
"You cut the first day again?"
"I had permission."
"Seriously? I thought you said your teacher's a bitch."
"She is. She told me not to come back until I intended it wear my uniform."
"Ugh, you have uniforms there?"
Samantha made a gagging noise. I glanced at my watch. 3:01, which meant classes
had ended. There was a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Jordan, open this door immediately."
It was Fallows.
"Hang on, Sam...I've gotta go. I'll call you tomorrow, okay? Tell Rick and Luke
and Lisa hey for me. And everybody else. Dave and Carl, if you see them. Bye."
The door burst open as I was hanging up. No locks.
"No cell phones allowed," Fallows told me sternly. "Get up, Jordan. You're
coming with me."
I stuffed my cell into my backpack and followed him out the door, to his office.
He told me to sit down in the wooden chair in front of the desk. Mahogany.
"What's up?" I said.
He glared at me. "Jordan, what were you doing out of class?"
"Don't see how it's any of your fuckin' business," I shrugged.
"Don't talk to me like that."
He seemed too calm. He had been warned, I could tell. Someone had told him about
me. He had gone through my file or something. In that case, it amazed me that he
was still willing to take me on.
"Jordan, tell me why you weren't in class."
"Teacher told me to go," I grunted.
"I talked to Sister Elizabeth," he told me. I didn't know who Sister Elizabeth
was, but I was guessing she was the nun. "She sent you to put on your uniform. I
refuse to believe that it takes you seven hours to put on a uniform."
I folded my arms. "I'm not wearing a tie, and I'm sure as hell not wearing a
"It's not up to you, Jordan."
"What are you gonna do, force it on me?"
"If that's what it takes," he said, his expression totally serious.
J.T. showed up to school the next day in full uniform, late again. He hadn't
been at breakfast, and everyone said that he ate dinner the night before with
the headmaster, as some kind of punishment.
"Reason for being late," demanded Sister Elizabeth.
"I ran out of hair gel," said J.T. seriously.
"I'll see you after class," Sister Elizabeth said sternly.
"Sure," said J.T. He looked around. "Where do I sit?"
Sister Elizabeth gestured toward the desk beside me. Nathaniel's hand shot up.
"Catherine sits there. She's in the infirmary." Sister Elizabeth looked around
for another desk.
"Wait," I stopped her. "Catherine can sit over there when she gets back. J.T.
can sit next to me."
I knew it was pretty lame to move my best friend around the room so that I could
sit next to a hot guy, but TWO YEARS, okay?
Sister Elizabeth agreed. J.T. dropped his backpack beside the desk.
"No backpacks are allowed here," Sister Elizabeth told him, "unless they have
"Are you joking?"
He raised his eyebrows again.
"We don't want you to hurt your back, do we?"
"Sure we don't," J.T. grimaced, gritting his teeth. "I wish I could say the same
for you." Sister Elizabeth ignored him and went on with the lesson. J.T. turned
to me. "Hey."
Before I could say hi back, Sister Elizabeth started yelling at him for talking.
She had radar ears.
I just smiled, because I didn't want to risk saying anything.
"What's your name?" he mouthed.
"Madeline," I mouthed back.
He tore a piece of binder paper out of a notebook. It made a pretty loud noise,
and everyone turned around. He waved. Sister Elizabeth clapped once. That was
what she always did to get our attention.
J.T. started writing something in blue pen. He passed the paper to me.
HEY--I DON'T KNOW MY NEXT CLASS, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
WE DON'T SWITCH CLASSES HERE, I wrote, passing the paper back.
Hadn't he read the pamphlets?
I turned back to my math homework. He tapped on my desk to get my attention and
mouthed, "You serious?"
I nodded. He raised his eyebrows. He seemed to do that a lot.
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