First Days

First days at school sucked.

Really sucked.

You didn't know where anything was, most of the teachers – three of the four she'd had that morning, in fact – wanted you to humiliate yourself by instructing yourself to a class full of people who could care less who you were, and you didn't know anybody.

Not that she was all that much of a people person, but considering how small the lunchroom was, she'd most likely have to sit with somebody.

Amarin sighed. I guess I'll just have to eat quick and then hole up in the library if I want to get in any quality time with my book.

After going through the lunch line, Amarin scanned the cafeteria for a place to sit. All the tables were pretty much full, but she did spy a few empty seats at the end of one table. She walked over and stopped at the end; when the group of four boys turned towards her, mild expressions of surprise, irritation and belligerence crossed the purported leader's face.

"May we help you?" Pietro asked haughtily.

"Yeah. Mind if I sit here?" she asked, gesturing at the four empty seats.

"As long as you don't expect us to talk to you…I suppose," Pietro said grudgingly.

Flashing a quick smile, she said, "Cool!" and plopped down into the seat next to Todd. I'll get to read my book after all, she thought happily. Placing her tray on the table, she popped open one of her two milk cartons and then unzipped her backpack. Pulling out a tattered and obviously much-read paperback, she took out the bookmark and proceeded to read. One hand picked up her plastic fork and dug into what the school passed off as spaghetti while her eyes scanned the pages of her book avidly.

By the time her lunch was half-gone, Todd had worked up the courage to talk to her. "So…uh…are you new here?" he blurted out.

Cutting her eyes away from her book and to him, she teased, "I thought you guys weren't talking to me?"

Todd shrugged uncomfortably. "Nah, that's just Pietro, man."

She nodded in understanding. "Don't worry, there's one in every family. Two in mine, actually."

He started and then stared at her, hard. "Uh…isn't that like, from the…"

"The Lion King?" she finished with a grin. "Yeah, the first one; Zazu says it to Mufasa. It's one of my goals in life to eventually be able to work a line from every Disney movie into casual conversation."

Lance chuckled and said, "I wish you luck with that," before delving back into his motorcycle magazine.

Pietro just scoffed. "Well, I suppose even the simplest minds need hobbies," he said, sneering at Todd.

Pointedly ignoring the white-haired idiot across from her, Amarin said, "I'm waiting until I find someone with a temporary stuttering problem so I can do Hercules."

After racking his brain for a moment, Todd offered, "Are you always this articulate?"


Noticing that he was being ignored – even if it was only by Todd and an ordinary-looking girl – Pietro glared at them, huffed and stalked off.

Amarin giggled. "He reminds me of my aunt's Persian cat. He used to get the same look on his face whenever he felt he was being ignored. His fur was the same color as that guy's hair, too."

Taking a minor leap of faith – and hoping his voice didn't sound like he had an – Ahem! – frog in his throat – Todd sang softly, "He's not Siamese if you please…"

A wide crossed Amarin's face as she punctuated the line with the appropriate, "Mrow."

Smiling back at her, Todd continued, "He's not Siamese, if you don't please."

"Mrow," Amarin purred, before bursting out into giggles, Todd following in her wake. When they finally calmed down, she asked, a mischievous glint in her eyes, "Is he in the running for Prom King, or something? Because he sure acts like he thinks he's royalty and he just can't wait…"

"…to be king," Todd finished for her. "Yeah, Pietro is…" He waved a hand in the air, unable to come up with a fitting word.

"Pietro," Lance finished for him. "And I'm Lance, by the way." He gave Amarin a charming smile, finally noticing that while she wasn't the most beautiful girl in the world, her long black hair and bright green eyes did give her a rather exotic look. "What's your name?"

Suave, pretty boy, suave – but way overdone, Amarin thought as she answered, "Amarin Marks."

"This is Freddie," Toad said, gesturing to the still silent – but much-eating – member of their group. Freddie gave her a nod before going back to his third submarine sandwich. "And I'm Todd, Todd Tolensky."

"Otherwise known as Toad," Lance put in, obviously trying to bring down his bud in pursuit of an interesting girl.

I don't think that's gonna work out like you'd hope, Lancelot. "Really?" Amarin asked him earnestly. "That's so cool! Everybody at my old school used to call me Frogger."

"Wha…?" Todd asked, before snapping his jaw shut. He might actually like eating flies, but no need to let them circle around his head when it was obvious there was a pretty girl who, wonder of wonders, was interested in him. "Ah, because you were good at the computer game?"

She shrugged. "Well, no. I did actually win that game – once." She grimaced, before shrugging it off and saying, "No, they called me that because of my hobby – gymnastics."

"Gymnastics?" Lance asked.

"Mm-hm. I have ligaments like rubber bands–" she demonstrated by bending her index finger backwards until it lay flush against the back of her hand, "–and one day a friend of mind commented – in front of our whole gym class, mind – that I couldn't jump higher if I was a frog," she said, rolling her eyes. "I think he was just jealous that I was better at bouncing a soccer ball on my head, but after that, the nickname stuck." Turning to Todd, she asked, "How'd you get yours?"

Todd floundered for a moment before coming up with, "Ah, pretty much the same way. I have this, ah…well, not exactly a problem, but my legs work kinda funny. I'm more comfortable hopping than walking, and since my name is Todd, people started calling me Toad."

"Not to mention the webbed fingers – and toes," Lance put in, still hoping to score.

"You do, really?" Amarin said, looking at him with even more interest. "My cousin has webbing between his thumbs and forefingers, and he says it's great for swimming. But I was never sure whether or not he was just joking with me."

By now, Todd wasn't just floundering, he was also gaping like a carp. Fine kettle of fish he was in, here… "Ah…well…I suppose it is a bit of a help. But when you need to hold a pencil, it's a pain in the ass."

"That I can see." Amarin laughed, her gaze falling to her wrist as she closed her book and tucked it into her pack. Grimacing, she said, "Drat! Class starts in ten minutes. And just when the conversation was getting good, too."

"Ah, where is your next class?" Todd asked, not wanting her to leave so soon.

"I have Miss Cain for History," she said. "Do you know where that is?"

"That's my next class to." Smiling, Todd said, "How 'bout I walk ya there?"

"Sounds good; let me get my things." Grabbing her backpack and empty tray, Amarin waited as Todd grabbed his own tray. She followed Todd out of the lunchroom, pausing momentarily so they could both deposit their trays in the return area.

As they left the lunchroom and Todd hopped ahead of her to show her the way to her next class, she thought, Maybe first days aren't always so bad.