The Ridgeway School cafeteria is a large room with beige linoleum tiles, blue painted cinder block walls, and rows and rows of long, rectangular white tables. Some of the tables have scrawls of pen, and gouges by smuggled pocket knives, in doodles and initials along the edges. Most of them have been scrubbed and washed so often that in places the white thins to reveal the underlying composite-wood brown.
The tables are filled with a patchwork of cliques. The popular kids get to sit near the windows, a view of the springtime trees a pleasant perk. Sandwiched between two tables of jocks and bullies is one of non-violent band geeks, getting pelted by french fries from both directions. The rich kids and the student government officers mingle by the front exit while the drama clubbers and goth kids talk about Hamlet by the water fountains.
One table is nearly empty. By the exit to the back courtyard, behind the AV club and kids who play chess, across the aisle from the chattering girls and guys who are like, so totally into fashion design, sits Sam Puckett, Carly Shay, and Freddie Benson. Although there is room for at least fifteen more students at the table, it is kept clear every time Sam eats, which is second lunch period. Dug deeply into the end of the table to Sam's left are the initials "SP" and what, if you squint and pretend, could very likely be a skull and crossbones. There is also a small heart to their right, although this is in permanent red marker.
There are many reasons why this table is kept clear. First and foremost, every kid in school knows that Sam will eat your lunch, right in front of your face, if you don't have permission from her to sit at her table. This is a widely understood fact, even if nobody has tried to sit with Sam uninvited since second grade. The only person to ever keep her sandwich was Carly Shay, who hadn't known any better, what with being new and all.
Secondly, rumor has it that once in sixth grade, Sam stepped on a guy's face in her effort to make a quick getaway through the courtyard doors. Her shoe left a permanent imprint, and he had to leave school forever. Nobody had heard from him again, although some kids heard that his family had to go into the Witness Protection Program. Nobody gets in the way of a running Sam and her exit now.
And third, Sam Puckett likes to stretch out. Right now, her pink chucks are propped comfortably onto a chair next to her, her legs crossed in a relaxed posture. Her right arm is draped over the back of a chair behind her, fingers tapping discontentedly on the orange plastic of the seat. Across from her sit Freddie and Carly, and between the three is a spread of all their lunches.
Carly eyes her lunch's constituent parts. She knows that her thermos is full of fruit kebabs, the cherries and pineapple chunks sticking invitingly out of its open plaid top. There is lettuce, tomato, and chick peas in an old biscuit tin, with a cleaned film canister of salad dressing sitting on top. A plastic bag of crackers is next to two baggies of swiss cheese and turkey slices. For a drink, she has bought a Peppy Cola from the vending machine.
Freddie has everything in neat, carefully packed Tupperware containers. There are two ham and cucumber sandwiches on wheat with the crusts cut off, a bottle of orange juice, exactly one suggested serving size of pretzels, a bright green granny smith apple, and three carob-dipped maple-sweetened cookies. Besides the food is a note written on a scalloped paper napkin. It reads "I love you! Wash your hands before you eat! ~Mom."
Sam's lunch appears to have been assembled in the dark. It lies in and next to her open Drake Parker lunch box. Left over cold chicken fingers are wrapped in a paper towel. There's a red apple, what might be a jonathan, lying on top of a partially squashed tunafish salad sandwich. Half a roll of Oreo cookies spills out towards a plastic cup of iced tea. A plastic container of what can only be pickled beets is nestled in the corner of the blue lunchbox. Oddly, real silverware is wrapped in a green fabric napkin.
It's a standoff. They exchange glances, eying each other's lunches and each other's faces for about twenty seconds, and then they burst into a flurry of movement. The trading begins.
It takes a solid three minutes to get it all sorted out. Hands shoot out and flit away. Offers are suggested and rejected. Sandwiches are disassembled, containers opened, vegetables smelled. Finally, everyone appears mostly satisfied. Carly has cucumber on her salad now, Sam somehow ended up with a chicken, ham and swiss sandwich, Freddie is scraping tunafish onto some crackers, and everyone has pretzels, Oreos, and a fruit kebab.
There's something wrong, though. Carly is shaking her biscuit tin to evenly distribute the salad dressing, humming contentedly, but Sam and Freddie are still staring at each other's lunches.
"Do you want the carob cookies?" Freddie asks, reaching out towards a chicken finger.
Sam slaps his hand away. "Carob should be banned in all fifty states."
"Since when do you know how many states there are?" Freddie rubs his slapped hand.
They resume staring. Carly sets down her salad, and looks between the two of them. She sighs.
"Peppy Cola for the jonathan," Carly says to Sam, trading red can for red apple. She turns to Freddie. "Chicken for the granny smith" and the waxy green apple ends up in front of Carly as she hands off a chicken finger to Freddie's wiggly fingers. Then, simultaneously, the chicken finger and soda are back in front of Carly as the apples are snatched back. Except, this time, Freddie has the red apple and Sam has the green one.
They smile at Carly, and everyone tucks in. Some friends walk by to say hello, but nobody ever sits down. Carly waves over a girl from math and they exchange homework notes. Sam bites into her crisp, tart, green apple, puckering and then smiling as she licks her lips. Freddie steals her silverware to cut slices out of his sweet, juicy, red apple and pops them one at a time into his mouth, grinning for no good reason at all.
A/N I'm trying to write some fanfic every week for the next two months. This is a short scene I wrote from a prompt given to me by my brother. I took "comparing apples to apples" kind of literally. Please, if you like this or any of my other stories, take a moment to leave a review. I'd really appreciate anything you have to say. Thanks!