Nicolette hopped on the old big yellow for the first time once again. She didn’t bother taking a survey for possible seats to share with someone or even look for empty ones in the middle. Just sat herself down right behind the bus driver. She placed her side-saddle book bag on the empty space beside her. Of course, in 1973 no one thought to carry a bag for their books. Just wrapped them in paper bag book covers and a bungy cord. That’s if they even bothered with books at all. From her twelve-year old perspective, the only ambition that her peers had were playing spin the bottle in someone’s basement or smoking in the bathroom between periods. In fact, she could already smell someone’s morning high at the back of the bus.
She let out a heavy sigh. A new school away from the safety and innocence of her elementary years where her teachers encouraged her intellect and her small group of friends felt free to be themselves and not follow the crowd. But when Daddy lost his job, they were forced to sell their small house and move to the local trailer park on the other side of town. Momma said it would be temporary and as soon as Daddy landed on his feet, they would buy another house back in their old neighborhood. Yet Nicolette-a girl Daddy said was born with an old soul-knew the family had a long road ahead of them. Dixsville Junior High would be her school for the next few years. A place where they said the inmates ran the asylum. Where the rough kids went. The Dixsville Dump. Not like Janesville where class sizes were smaller and teachers were respected and rules were followed.
Without warning, her brief reverie was disrupted. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her bag being moved to the floor. In its place, sat a long-haired “greaser” wearing a thin black leather jacket, dungarees and black boots. Nicolette dared herself to look him in the eye. Surprisingly, he had a tender, sweet face and a welcoming smile. “Hey there, you must be the new girl. Name’s Joey. You look like one of those smart chicks. Don’t worry, Dixsville ain’t as bad as you think. We’ve got some great teachers who look out for kids like you and me.”
Nicolette looked at him in disbelief. What was talking about? Kids like him kept the teachers in line, didn’t they? And ate kids like her for lunch. As if to clear her confusion, Joey asked her, “So what do have first period?” All of Nicolette classes were Level 1-the courses for the geeks. “Geography with Mr. Fiske,” she replied. “Hey! Me too!” he answered. “In fact, all my classes are the Level 1’s this year. My dad said if I don’t get my act together and show some ‘potential’ (he said this word in a sneering tone) I would be shipped off to military school instead. No way I am giving up this (he tugged at his jacket) for those brass monkey suits.”
“HEY! MR. JOE SMARTY PANTS! COME BACK HERE AND HANG WITH US FOR THE REST OF THE RIDE! “Oh. Looks like my boys want me. What’s your name by way?” With a quick and still shy smile she answered, “Nicolette.”
When the ride ended, she stepped off the bus first. As she walked the long portico to the roughly worn brick building, Nicolette knew it was going to be a memorable year.
Kellie took us back to junior high with this one! I know I am dating myself…