Lunch could not have come fast enough.
Orientation was stressful for Tawny. She tried to stay focused on her instructor, but all the while she could feel the daggers of eyes in the back of her head.
The murmurings and giggles from the other girls in the classroom. Were they directed at her? She felt paranoid to suspect, and yet…
“Everyone,” said the instructor at the front of the class, a petite woman with a short bob of black hair and a thick South Asian accent. “We have new transfer student to Ivoree Gates; a scholarship recipient. Please welcome Tawny Matthews.”
Tawny inwardly bristled at the introduction. They’re already treating me differently, she thought, why add salt to the wound by telling them I can’t afford it?
To her utter mortification, the instructor motioned for her to come to the front of the class.
Tawny stood from her desk; her chair scraped loudly across the floor, amplifying her embarrassment.
“Why don’t you say a few words to the class?” said the instructor.
“Um…hi,” croaked Tawny, her voice sounding weak and not her own. “I’m happy to be here with you all and…um, look forward to learning with…you all.”
Cue the snickers.
Tawny looked down at her feet during her introduction, but cautioned a glance at the rest of the students. Most looked bored and indifferent, as she expected.
However, some of the girls were smiling back. Tawny took this as an encouraging sign, until one of the girls, a pretty redhead sitting in the front row, raised her hand.
“Yes, Elizabeth?” said the instructor.
Elizabeth stood up with a flourish. “I just want to say that I, for one, think it very noble and altruistic of Ivoree Gates to lean in so heavily in their philanthropy.
If our institution doesn’t give opportunities to our abjectly destitute members of society, who will?”
“Very well said, Elizabeth,” the instructor, missing the thinly-veiled slight entirely. “Tawny, you may sit down.”
Tawny was all sorts of shades of red when went back to her seat; it didn’t help that as she passed the redhead,
Elizabeth flipped her hair in such a way as to hit Tawny right in the face.
Lunch would be better, Tawny convinced herself.
And how could it not? The cafeteria of Ivoree Gates was the largest in the country.
In fact, it looked more like a high-scale food court with its restaurant-style seating and five-star chefs on staff to serve up delicious, epicurean delicacies.
Tawny could only stare in awe as a server carved her a generous, rare piece of prime rib and laid it on her plate.
The only other time she ate this decadently was the reception after her friend’s grandfather’s funeral.
She quickly got over her uncertainty when she saw the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese, two of her favourite foods. She hurried over and piled her plate high with both offerings.
She was so engrossed with filling her craw (she had stuffed a bread roll in her mouth and held it there), she almost jumped out of her skin when someone tapped her on the shoulder.
Tawny turned to look and was face to face with an Asian student with long, straight black hair, held back by a bright red headband.
“Tawny, right?” said the girl. Her voice lilted with the music of an English accent. She extended her hand. “Violet St. Regis-Wright.”
“T-tawny. Yes. That’s me!” Tawny attempted to unsuccessfully balance her plate of food with one hand as she extended the other to grasp Violet’s hand and shook vigourosly.
She released the roll from her mouth, causing it to plop onto her massive pile of mashed potatoes and leak some onto the floor and her shoes.
Violet smiled tightly. “We can always tell the newcomers here. Most students are so bored of this spread we barely touch it.”
Tawny eyed Violet’s plate; sure enough, her plate was neat and tidy, with lots of white space save for a few peas and carrots and a tiny piece of plain, white chicken breast.
Immediately, Tawny felt self-conscious, but she didn’t show it, as she was still surprised someone finally had bothered to talk to her.
“Tell me, Tawny,” said Violet. “Where are you sitting?”
“Uh, well, I hadn’t thought about that…” she replied lamely.
“I’d love it if you sit with us,” said Violet. “And you should consider those type of things. Finding your place within Ivoree Gates is of utmost importance.”
She started walking, so Tawny followed close behind.
Violet continued talking. “Take myself, for instance. I’m the daughter of a powerful Singaporean diplomat. I know my way around this school like the back of my hand. Where did you say you were from?”
“Oh…out west,” said Tawny. “Nowhere really spectacular. And my mother doesn’t really do anything as fancy as politics.”
They stopped at a table, already occupied by several female students. Violet motioned for Tawny to sit.
“Well, my grooming and upbringing has served me well. I also hold the important title of Ambassador to New Students. I’d like to welcome you to Ivoree Gates with these gourmet chocolates and luxury root beer float.”
“Oh…okay,” Tawny said, beginning to soften. What a relief! And here I thought everyone at this school would be a nightmare.
Tawny sat down and selected one of the gourmet chocolates to sample. As she chewed and tried to place the flavour, she became aware of some of the other girls at the table.
Elizabeth was sitting across from her, and sitting next to her was Elaine, the girl from her dorm room. Both were staring at her expectantly.
Something didn’t feel right.
Something…didn’t taste right. A strong sensation of bleach filled her mouth and Tawny instantly spit the chocolate on the floor. She grabbed the foamy root beer float and downed it to rid her mouth of the horrible taste.
Elaine looked over at Elizabeth. “How fascinating. I suppose when you’re that poor your commoner tongue will lap up any old garbage. What do you think, Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth sighed, melodramatically. “Oh, I dunno, Elaine. I’d like to think she was smart enough to tell the difference. Then again, we all added a secret ingredient to her drink and she didn’t even notice? How sad is that?”
Secret ingredient? Tawny pulled her mouth away and inspected her float.
The foam of the float was gone, yet something remained floating at the top of the liquid. Tawny grabbed her utensil and fished out something viscous and slimy.
Her hand immediately went to her mouth in horror as she realized the gift from all of them was actually several loogies, concealed by the foam.
Tawny backed away from the table, knocking her plate onto the ground into a deafening shatter. Now all eyes in the cafeteria were on her.
Elizabeth and Elaine started to point and laugh and all the other students joined in.
Tawny felt her cheeks grow hot. The room was spinning and she prayed that the ground would just open up and swallow her whole, but when she wasn’t granted that mercy, she turned around and ran out of the cafeteria.
Eyes stinging with angry tears, Tawny bolted down a hallway blindly, not looking where she was going.
She collided head-on with a male student.
“Watch it!” he warned, steadying her so she wouldn’t fall.
“I’m sorry, I just–” she looked up at the male student. He was tall with wavy black hair, styled expertly with an ungodly amount of hair mousse.
He had boyish features, but was also growing a bit of stubble on his face. His left ear was pierced, and he had piercing blue eyes.
Eyes that looked at Tawny with a mixture of bewilderment and annoyance.
Tawny came back to her senses. “I-I have to go.” She pulled away from the boy and ran down the hall. As she turned the corner she could have sworn he was still staring at her…
It didn’t matter. She was horribly humiliated and didn’t want to see him or anyone else at the school ever again.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in