Izzy spends his first day at Jefferson High School.
The summer of 1975 found me as a young teenager getting ready to attend my first day at Jefferson High School. I live in Lafayette, Indiana. My parents are divorced and although I spend time with each of them, I find that I am mostly living with my mother. She is more laid back than my father and is easier to get along with. Mother works for a phone company and father is an engraver. Lafayette is an extremely small town. Although I don't dislike it here, sometimes I wish there were more things to do.
Brushing my dark hair out of my eyes, I start towards the door with my school bag slung over my shoulder. I'm not particularly sure what to expect from Jefferson High School. I've been a fairly good student my whole life. Hopefully, Jefferson won't try my knowledge too much.
"Jeffery! Wait a minute," my mother calls to me from the kitchen. I come to a halt in the doorway and wait to see what she wants. Mother comes flying around the corner and hands me a paper bag, saying, "Here's your lunch. Be good and have a nice first day of school. I should be here when you get home."
I nod and trudge out of the door with my lunch and my school bag. My mother is a nice woman. She doesn't look much like me with her light brown hair and brown eyes though. I look much more like my father. Regardless, I prefer to spend time with my mother. She doesn't pry into my life like my father does. He likes to know how I'm doing in school and seems to enjoy quizzing me on all my subjects.
Since Jefferson High School is only a few minutes from the small house I live in, mother has decided to let me walk there. Taking a deep breath, I start out across the street and glance in both directions for traffic. It seems like there's never any traffic in this deserted, so I don't even know why I bother checking for it anymore.
Although it's still September, it's a very chilly day. The wind pushes my hair into my eyes and bites at my skin. I pull my jacket closer to me and try to walk a little faster. I have no idea what Jefferson High School is going to be like and that's really starting to bother me. I didn't have many close friends in middle school, so there's no one I'm looking forwards to seeing at Jefferson High. Although others might consider me a friend, I tend to keep to myself for the most part. I'm shy, I follow the rules, and I'm quiet unless you ask me a question.
You're probably wondering why my mother calls me Jeffery. Well, I was born Jeffery Dean Isbell. It wasn't until later that I got the name Izzy. So for now, everyone calls me Jeffery. I don't particularly like the name, but I don't complain. As usual, I keep my quiet.
As I approach Jefferson High School, the first thing I notice is that it's gigantic. Well, it's gigantic compared to all the other buildings in our little town anyways. Teenagers crowd around the entrance of the school. Some are laughing and cracking jokes amongst each other, some are chitchatting, and I even see couples making out.
I keep my head down and approach the stairs that lead to the school. It's apparent that nobody enters the school until the bell rings. So for now, I just stand by the stairs and wait. Still a bit shy, I glance out from under my dark bangs and observe the people around me. A familiar looking boy catches my eye and waves.
"Hey Jeff!" the boy says. I remember him as Brian from middle school. "How was your summer?"
"Good. Yours?" I ask him, shaking my hair out of my eyes to devote my full attention to Brian.
"Pretty good!" Brian replies. He looks like he might want to talk to me further, but a boy next to him taps him on the shoulder and starts engaging him in what appears to be a very enthusiastic conversation by the way the boy is waving his hands around in the air.
Still waiting for the bell to ring, I return my eyes to the ground so it doesn't look like I'm staring at anyone. The concrete of the stairs leading up to the school appears boring at first glance, but if you look at it closer, it appears to be more interesting. There are flecks of color in the concrete. I stare at them more closely and suddenly notice a wad of chewed up gum by my foot.
After shifting slightly to my left to avoid stepping in the gum, I feel someone staring at me. Do you ever get that feeling where you can just sense someone is looking at you even though you don't actually see them? Well, that's what it is like for me. I know without looking that someone's eyes are boring right into the side of my head.
Feeling a little unnerved, I glance to my left and try to pick out who in the crowd would bother to stare at a gangly, dark-haired teenager. That's when I first see him. Fiery brown eyes are staring straight at me. The boy with these piercing eyes appears to be my same age. He has pale skin, a few freckles on his nose, and flaming red hair. I don't know what to make of this boy. I'm still feeling a little weird with the way he's staring at me.
Ding, ding, ding! The bell finally rings and I quickly turn and try to slip through the doors of the school. I get squished and shoved around as everyone tries to be the first to enter the building. I give up on trying to find my way through crowded hallways and just stand to the side while the multitudes of people disperse throughout the school. My first class is art. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? I like art. It seems like it could be enjoyable.
As I wait for the hallways to empty out a bit, I notice the red-haired boy again. He makes his way through the masses of people and passes by me in the hallway. His deep brown eyes fix upon me once more and he scrunches his nose up and twists his lips to the side. I can't tell if he's trying to smile at me or not. Feeling shy, I offer him a half-smile just so I don't look rude. A moment later, the boy is swallowed up in the crowd.
Forgetting about the red-headed kid for the moment, I start through the hallways and try to find Mrs. Anderson's classroom. Apparently, she's the art teacher. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where in this enormous building her classroom is though. I could be wandering the halls for hours, but thankfully, I don't have to.
Five minutes later, I approach a door with a big sign attached to it. The sign reads "Art" and is surrounded by a bright green border in an attempt to appear cheery I suppose. Apparently, the teachers haven't learned that bright colors don't make kids our age any more excited about learning.
Figuring it's now or never, I push the door open and step quietly inside. The classroom already appears to be full. All eyes in the room turn to focus on me as I stand awkwardly just inside the classroom. Mrs. Anderson, the teacher, turns and stares at me with bespectacled eyes. I wish I can just disappear. Why does everyone want to stare at me? I'm not that interesting.
"You're late," Mrs. Anderson snaps in a tight voice. Everything about her is prim and proper from her neatly ironed dress to the tight bun on top of her head.
"Yes, I know," I say quietly, having already figured this out. "I'm sorry."
"Well, go sit down in the back there. Let's not waste any more time," Mrs. Anderson says, looking a bit annoyed.
Seeing that she is not at all a patient teacher, I quickly step to the back of the classroom and take a seat in the far back. I hope that nobody can see me back here. On my desk is a piece of paper and a pencil. I pick up the pencil and inspect it curiously until I see Mrs. Anderson glaring at me. Gulping, I quickly set the pencil back down and sit up straighter in my chair.
"Now that everyone has found their way to class, I will call attendance. When I say your name, you will say 'here'. Do you all understand?" Mrs. Anderson asks us stiffly. Everyone nods and waits for her to start calling attendance. I don't pay any attention to any of the other students as Mrs. Anderson calls names. I'm busy thinking about what we're going to learn today.
"Jeffery Isbell?" Mrs. Anderson calls out a minute later, regaining my attention once more.
I quickly jerk my head up and say quietly, "Here."
"Please speak up, Mr. Isbell. No one can hear you when you're whispering," Mrs. Anderson tells me with a frown before she goes back to calling names. I blush and nod, my head still raised as Mrs. Anderson calls out the next name, "William Bailey?"
I turn my head slightly as I notice the red-haired kid from earlier glance up at Mrs. Anderson. He grumbles something that sounds like, "Here."
Mrs. Anderson gives him the glare as well. Apparently, Mrs. Anderson doesn't like many of her students. After calling out attendance, she starts explaining what we will be doing in art today, saying, "I would like to teach you about shading. Shading is a very important thing in art. If you cannot shade properly, you will not be able to succeed in your art."
I hear a snicker from under my breath and notice that William, the red-head, is folding the paper on his desk into a paper airplane. When Mrs. Anderson isn't looking, William takes aim and sends the paper airplane flying directly at her. My eyes grow as wide as saucers. Never before have I seen anyone act so disrespectful towards a teacher. In this small town, everyone is quite well behaved besides for the few exceptions. William, apparently, is one of the exceptions.
The paper airplane goes soaring into the air and seems to fall in slow motion. Everyone holds their breath as the paper airplane smacks Mrs. Anderson right on the forehead. She jerks her head up and her cheeks immediately turn tomato red. Giving the class her famous glower, Mrs. Anderson asks, "Who is responsible for disturbing the classroom?"
Not surprisingly, the whole class is silent. William blinks up innocently at Mrs. Anderson as does everyone else.
Mrs. Anderson's glare suddenly turns into a smile and she says, "Well, I suppose I will figure out who is responsible at the end of class. After all, whoever wasted their paper on this wretched thing will not be able to complete their homework. That person will stay after class and have a talk with me. Now then, I want the rest of you to practice your shading. Shade the top third of your paper very lightly. Shade the middle portion of your paper a little darker and then shade the last part of your paper very darkly."
Everyone nods and gets started on their shading. William no longer looks so happy about his joke. He has no paper in front of him to complete his work with. However, there is an empty desk to my left with a spare piece of paper on it. Usually, I mind my own business, but for some reason, I don't want William to get into trouble. Nobody should have to endure a lecture from Mrs. Anderson.
As soon as the teacher turns her back to me, I snag the piece of paper from the spare desk and clear my throat to get William's attention. He seems to be very alert and almost immediately whips his head around in my direction. Nobody else turns to look at me. They all seem to be invested in their shading. Meeting the boy's gaze a bit shyly, I lean down and slide the piece of paper across the floor to him.
Seeing what I am doing, William gets an almost confused look on his face as he reaches down and picks up the piece of paper. His expressions seems to say "Why would you want to help me?" Regardless, he picks up the paper and gives me one last glance before he starts shading. He doesn't smile at me, but I don't care. At least I did one good deed for the day.
We all work hard on our shading. When class is up, Mrs. Anderson stands at the door and collects our papers as we file out of the doorway. She seems very surprised that everyone, including William, has a paper to turn in. Nobody will have to endure her lecture after all.
As soon as William has exited the art classroom, he grins wickedly and slips through the mass of people to his next class. I can already tell that he's going to be a troublemaker. He's probably the exact opposite of me in every way. Still though, there is something we have in common. We're both new to this school and neither of us have a single friend.