On the first day of my freshman year of high school when I went downstairs for breakfast, my mother was waiting in the kitchen for me and Noah with the keys to my older brother's pick-up truck dangling from her fingers.
"Aw, no way! Are you serious, Mom?" Noah greeted her with a huge smile. He acted surprised, but I'm sure he'd been expecting to get his truck back for weeks. Noah was an expert at flattering my mother into giving him whatever he wanted.
"Well," Mom said, "someone has to drive Ellie to school."
Saginaw High School was in the opposite direction of my mom's office, and it was far more practical for Noah to drive me. But I still resented that he was being un-grounded under the pretense of giving me a lift to school every morning. A week earlier at freshman orientation I'd learned that the big yellow school bus stopped three blocks away from our house over on Hillview Drive. I wondered how long it would take before Noah started ditching me in the morning and giving me no choice other than to ride the bus like all the other ninth grade dorks.
Noah pecked Mom on the cheek and snatched the keys away from her. "Thanks!"
"Don't make me and your father regret this, Noah. You can drive to and from school, and that's it. If you want to go anywhere else, you'd better ask for permission first."
In silence, I sat down at the table and filled a bowl with cereal. I wondered how my mother could still be so gullible about the kind of guy Noah was outside our house. He'd been grounded from driving all summer because he'd gotten wasted at one of the seniors' graduation parties back in June and had held another kid underwater for so long in a pool that someone called the paramedics. Noah had always been somewhat of a bully, but the rumors of attempted murder that floated around town all summer suggested he was capable of something worse than bullying. It was unbelievably lucky for Noah that the kid was revived without any brain damage because his parents had threatened legal action. My mother dismissed the incident as underage boys drinking and recklessly roughhousing. She blamed the parents of the kid who hosted the party for not being home to keep an eye on things, and for providing high school kids with access to an epic stockpile of booze.
Our father had a much different opinion of the situation.
"Ellie, you're not seriously wearing that on your first day of school," Mom said disappointedly. I didn't even acknowledge her passive aggressive criticism of the clothes I'd selected weeks ago for this milestone day. Throughout junior high I'd worn a steady uniform of pastel cardigans and skinny jeans, and hadn't given much consideration to the fashion statement (or lack of one) that I was making. Mom liked to order my clothes from the internet, except for those she picked out on rare trips we'd take together to the fancy Oakbrook mall. Over the summer, I'd spent a lot of time hanging out with Sophie Lewis, a girl my age who I'd met at a weekend photography class on which my mom had insisted. Part of why I was psyched for the start of freshman year was that our town was so small that kids from three separate surrounding communities-Lombard, Lockford, and Westville-attended Saginaw High School. I'd finally have an opportunity to meet some new people after eight long years of looking at the same hundred faces that had surrounded me since first grade. Sophie had gone to Catholic school, which was why our paths had never crossed until that summer. She'd introduced me to Black Veil Brides, Joy Division, and Bullet for My Valentine.
That morning, I was wearing a black t-shirt over denim shorts and striped tights. I hardly looked emo or goth at all compared to Sophie on an average day, but my outfit was a huge departure from anything I'd ever worn to school before. Freshman year was big my chance to redefine myself. Throughout middle school and junior high I'd always been kind of invisible. This year I wanted to make it clear that everyone's assumption that I was boring and unworthy of attention was wrong.
YOU ARE READING
On the first day of freshman year at Saginaw High School, 14-year-old Ellie Franklin is excited about starting high school, but there’s a dark local legend that surrounds the tradition of freshman initiation.