“Are you a boy, or a girl?” she asked, lip curled in a grin that implied she knew but just wanted to make me feel small. It worked.
“I won’t even dignify that with an answer!” I said…
…silently, in my head.
I felt the familiar rush of shame blush my cheeks a rosy pink, and stood, frozen, eyeing the group of kids standing behind the most popular girl in my new school.
My heart pounded in my chest so hard I feared it might explode through like a fist.
That image gave me some comfort: the blood would splatter all over Susie (Jenny? Brittany?) and crowd, so there’d at least be that.
Ruing the short haircut my Mom had talked me into just before we moved, my flat-chested, barrel-like bigger-than-most-girls-my-age body, and my fair, freckle-speckled skin, I tried to think of something to say that would get me out of this encounter with some teensy shred of my dignity in tact.
This was it. The way I handled this moment would set the tone for my future in this new environment, this new social strata. I searched the memory banks of my mind for some comeback that could get me out of this mess relatively unscathed. Perhaps even ahead in some way, having won them over with my wit under duress.
Nope. I got nothin’.
I felt a bead of sweat drip from under my left arm, causing a tickling sensation that, unfortunately, made me start to giggle. Hearing myself giggle made me feel a bit hysterical, which then caused me to actually start laughing hysterically.
And so what I actually did when faced with the elite of my new school was I stood there like a laughing hyena while they stood and stared in a mix of disgust and curiosity.
Eventually, the ringleader (Alyssa? Mandy? What was her name?) flipped her blond hair and said “Whatever!” as she turned and led the rest off.
Alone again, after the hysteria had crested and eventually receded, I took a deep breath in, and gave myself a silent “Welcome to your new school, Loser!”
The laughing jag had worn me out and left me with a hollow feeling that I knew all too well.
It was gonna be a bumpy year.