The following short story is based on characters created and/or copyrighted by Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis Lynn, and MTV. All other characters were created and copyrighted by Roland Lowery.
The author gives full permission to distribute this work freely, as long as no alterations are made and the exchange of monetary units is not involved. Any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints should be sent to esn1g(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thank you.
"A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic."
-George Bernard Shaw
The Latest Fashion
by Roland 'Jim' Lowery
Sandi Griffin frowned slightly as she tapped her foot and glanced at her watch.
"Tiffany," she pronounced, "is late."
"I know, the bell is gonna ring any second now!" Stacy Rowe said, fidgeting nervously.
Sandi rolled her eyes but didn't bother to turn around to face the other girl. "Once again, Stay-cee, you are totally missing the point," she said. "She is totally late for our fashion pre-pre-meeting. This is, like, the third time in a row. I am beginning to think that she may no longer be cut out to head the Accessories Committee."
"Oh, I'm sure she'll be along any second now, Sandi," said Quinn Morgendorffer. "In fact, I think that's her there! Hey, Tiff-"
The greeting died in Quinn's throat, coming out as something between a strangled gurgle and a startled screech. The three girls watched aghast as Tiffany Blum-Deckler, the fourth and final member of Lawndale High's Fashion Club, walked up the school's front steps and stopped right in front of them.
"Hiiiiii," Tiffany said in her typical drone. "Sorry I'm laaaaaaate."
"Um, that's quite alright," Sandi assured her, albeit with some hesitancy. "But, er, Tiffany dear . . . "
Quinn stepped in when Sandi looked back at her, speechless. "So, Tiffany, are you . . . okay? Anything bothering you today? Any . . . problems?"
"Noooooooo, not that I know oooooooof."
Quinn shrugged at Sandi, unsure of how to continue. They tried their best to keep their gaze level. They shuffled their feet. They wrung their hands behind their backs.
"Tiffany dear, are-"
"Oh my God, you're NAKED!" Stacy screamed at the top of her lungs, causing Sandi and Quinn to clamp their hands over their ears.
Tiffany, for her own part, merely looked over at her and blinked a few times before looking down at herself. Sure enough, she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing save for the tiny designer purse hanging from her shoulder.
"Oooooooh, I guess I aaaaaaaaam," she said simply. "I must have forgoooooteeeeeeen my clothes agaaaaaain."
"Forgotten?" Quinn asked, incredulously. "Again? Does this . . . happen often?"
Tiffany shrugged dismissively. "Oh, yaaaaaaah," she said. "Usually my moooooooom remiiiiiinds meeeeee, but she's at the beauty paaaarlooooor this moooooorning. Thaaaaat's why I had to waaaaaalk to school todaaaaaay."
The air was suddenly pierced by the tardy bell, calling all stragglers left in the halls to come in to class or regret it. Sandi rubbed the bridge of her nose and thanked goodness for small favors that they were the only ones left in front of the school. If anyone else had been around to witness Tiffany's state of non-dress . . .
"Tiffany dear, I'm afraid that this simply will not do," she said once the bell had finished making its point. "I must insist that you return home and stay there until you are suitably dressed to be seen by the general public."
The typically stoic features on the nude girl's face suddenly became almost heartbreakingly down-turned. "But I waaaaalked all this waaaaaay," she said pitifully. "It was really hard on my feeeeeeeeet."
"But guys will see all your . . . everything!" Stacy protested.
"There's probably some kind of anti-nakedness law," Quinn added.
"And it would not reflect well upon the Fashion Club for one of our members to be seen in the altogether!" Sandi finished off, then sighed and struck a thoughtful pose. "I suppose, however, that we might be able to find some alternative. Did anyone bring any extra clothing today?"
"Are we supposed to bring extra outfits to school?" Stacy squealed in panic. "I didn't know! Nobody told me!"
Quinn snapped her fingers. "Hey, don't they have a lost-and-found box in the office?" she asked. "Maybe we could find something for her in there!"
Sandi looked probingly into Tiffany's pleading almond eyes for several moments then nodded. "Very well. Stacy, I want you on lookout, making sure nobody stumbles across our little operation until it is finished. Quinn, you will go into the office and ask to borrow the box. I will remain with Tiffany in the meantime as protection and moral support. Fashion Club, forward march!"
The hall, unsurprisingly, was completely empty as everyone was already in their homerooms, hearing announcements and getting a few more minutes of sleep in before they actually had to start learning anything. Stacy walked past the office, stopped at the intersection on the other side, and looked both ways before giving the other girls a thumbs-up. Sandi and Tiffany stood to one side, well out of view from the office's windows as Quinn went inside.
The redhead returned a few minutes later dragging a large cardboard box by one of the flaps. As soon as she had it through the door, she let go and burst into an overly dramatic display of fatigue. "I can't believe people have lost this much clothing!" she panted. "There's gotta be at least ten other people walking around naked here!"
"Yes, yes," Sandi said dismissively. "Now come along, let us retire to the closest restroom so we can have a little privacy while we assemble Tiffany's new outfit."
Quinn and Sandi grabbed one side each of the box and lifted it between them. At Sandi's direction, Tiffany stood next to the box on the side opposite from the office windows. They then proceeded down to hall to where Stacy was waiting for them, confident that none of the secretaries milling about the office would notice anything out of the ordinary.
"Wow, that's a lot of clothes!" Stacy said when they finally reached her. "Is there anything cute in there?"
"If there is," Sandi told her sternly, "then we will be giving it to Tiffany, now won't we?"
"Oh! Right! Of course!" Stacy exclaimed as if the whole reason for getting the box in the first place had slipped her mind.
When the reached the bathroom, Stacy stepped inside and checked to make sure it was completely empty. No one was standing at the sinks, nor were they lurking in the stalls, so she opened the door and waved the rest of the Fashion Club in. Sandi and Quinn set the box on the sink counter while Stacy led Tiffany to one of the stalls so that even if they were interrupted, she would only need to close the door to protect her friend's dignity.
"Hmm," Sandi mused as she dug through the pile of clothing. "There doesn't seem to be much to choose from. Still, we should be able to make do. How about this?"
The green dress she held up was elegantly cut, almost certainly lost by a homecoming or prom queen of yesteryear after she and her king decided not to wait until after they'd left school grounds to consummate their victory. It was also completely sheer.
"Very nice," Quinn said, looking it over with a critical eye, "but not very good for covering up what needs to be covered up. But with the right underwear, maybe a slip . . . "
"Eeeeewwwww," Tiffany said, scrunching up her nose ever so slightly. "Wearing other people's underweeeeaaaar is grooooooss."
"Okay, sheer is out," Sandi said, tossing the dress over her shoulder before returning to the box.
"Ooooh, here we go!" Quinn said, proudly holding up a blue button-up blouse. "If we can find a matching skirt-"
"Thaaaaat would make me look like a teeeaaacheeeeer," Tiffany lamented.
Quinn's eyes bugged wide and she dropped the blouse as if it were a live thing. "Sorry! Ew! My bad, totally!"
"Blue jeans," Sandi said, holding up the item in question and looking at it with no small amount of distaste. "A bit low-class, but serviceable."
"Aren't those boy cut?" Stacy asked.
"Ah. So they are. The question is, are boy cut jeans in or out right now?"
"Out," Quinn said without looking up from the box.
Sandi frowned at the redhead, who pointedly ignored her. "Yes, as I had thought in the first place, of course," she said, throwing the jeans down.
The rest of homeroom period passed in much the same fashion, with even those few items that the other three girls could all agree on being shot down by Tiffany herself, usually for some Tiffany-logic reason.
Quinn tossed the last item from the box aside and glanced at her watch. Time was rapidly running out. "Well, we've gone through everything and obviously we can't find anything fashionable enough. But you have to wear something, right? Can't you just, like, pick something out and throw it on?"
Tiffany looked back and forth across the scattered pile of clothing on the floor, the super-sad face she'd had outside returning as she looked over her options. Seeing this as an opportunity, Sandi stepped forward and held her hand up to forestall any more comments from Quinn.
"I am not sure I should believe what my own ears are hearing at this very moment, Kuh-winn," she said disapprovingly. "Is the vice-president of the Fashion Club actually suggesting that another member of the club wear something unfashionable against her will? That is not what the club I started stood for! Have things changed since I started the club, perhaps?"
Quinn's eyes darted about the room, giving her the appearance of a trapped animal. "Oh, no, of course not, Sandi!" she quickly wheedled. "I was just trying to think outside the box is all, look for a practical solution, you know? But if you have a more artful solution, then by all means, let us know!"
Sandi tried to grind her teeth together in such a way that none of the other girls would notice. She hated it when Quinn did that, bouncing her own attacks back at her, mostly because the redhead was so damn good at it. Still, what was done was done, and it was up to her to figure a way to save Tiffany's dignity and - more importantly - the dignity of the Fashion Club.
She looked down at the lost-and-found clothing. She looked back at the empty box. She glanced around at the other girls. She stared hard at Tiffany . . . 's face. And she did her best not to jump out of her skin when the end of period bell suddenly rang.
Crunch time! her racing thoughts threw at her. Desperate times! Desperate measures!
"Ladies," she said, hoping that none of them could see the sweat beginning to pop out on her brow, "I believe I may have a somewhat . . . unusual solution."
Doors opened, students spilled out. Heavy noise carrying a current of constant conversation and shuffling feet filled the air, punctuated occasionally by the rumbling of books being switched out and the metal clangs of lockers being slammed shut. In the hallways of Lawndale High School, everything was proceeding as normal.
In all of the hallways save one.
In that singular corridor, a small bubble had opened up in the midst of the students congregated there. This bubble moved through the crowd slowly but steadily, leaving almost complete silence in its wake. Students moved out of the way, stopped, and then stared at the strange procession. The few that were shocked into keeping their distance were compelled by the very force of personality emanating from the four girls, an almost tangible field of charismatic energy that stated in no uncertain terms to look but don't touch.
When they reached the nearest intersection of hallways, the four Fashion Club divas stopped, turned, and struck poses that would have made any runway model turn green with envy. The crowd closed ranks around them, but refrained from closing in. Sandi, Quinn, Stacy, and Tiffany had commanded their undivided attention, and for obvious good reason.
Aside from their purses and backpacks, not a one of the four had any more clothing on them than Tiffany had started out with that morning. They were statuesque in their nudity, as if they had been carved directly from flesh-colored marble. They stood on the balls of their bare feet, appearing almost as if they were wearing invisible high heels. And as much of a sight as they were to behold as a whole, the differences between their body types and skin tones added a spice of variety to the display that took the breath away.
"Oh. My. Gawd."
Sandi opened one eyelid to half-mast to see Tori Jericho push her way out of the crowd and waltz brazenly up stand in front of her. "Tori," she said authoritatively, "may I ask just what it is you think you are doing?"
The blonde's jaw dropped as she gave a brief bark of laughter. "What am I doing?" she asked. "What do you think you are doing? You're all naked!"
"Actually, we are nude," Quinn chimed in without looking over. "There's, like, a world of difference."
"Not that we would expect you to know what the difference is," Sandi sneered at Tori.
"Ooooh, don't give me that!" Tori said, wagging her finger. "This is just some cheap grab for more popularity! Well it won't work!"
"It's not for popularity!" Stacy said, affecting as best she could the same aloof manner as her sisters-in-fashion. "Haven't you heard? Nudity is the latest style!"
The crowd finally broke its silence and started to buzz at this. Sandi was pleased to note that much of it sounded positive. From the boys, at least. Tori's stormy expression, however, plainly showed that she for one wasn't buying it.
"The latest style, huh?" she repeated. "Really? And who says?"
"Oh, everybody, of course," Sandi said, confidence filling her voice. "Like, think about it. Nude beaches. Nudist resorts. TV shows with nudity in them. Where are all these things popular, hmm?"
Tori scrunched her face up in confusion. "Uh . . . Europe, I guess?"
"Exactly! Europe! And who knows fashion better than anyone else?"
Tori's skin suddenly turned pale. "Europeans," she said weakly.
The battle had been fought and won. The boy's voices of approval were quickly joined by the girl's, and the Fashion Clubbers could even hear a few cheers sound out from the crowd. Without another word, the four girls swept past Tori and continued on their way to their first period class.
The normal pre-class hustle and bustle fell completely silent as the Fashion Club stepped into Mr. O'Neill's classroom and walked down the aisle to their seats in the back. All eyes followed them save for those of Mr. O'Neill himself, who was busy writing something Shakespearey on the whiteboard.
One of the boys on the other side of the room burst into laughter, but it died in his throat when he saw all four girls snap their heads in his direction and give him identical icy glares. They then returned to sorting out their books and writing utensils while the rest of the class collapsed into small knots of tersely whispered conversations.
"Well now, class," Mr. O'Neill said after the bell had run, "I have to say that this is the quietest I've ever had a period start! Kudos for you on being such well-behaved OH MY GOODNESS!"
O'Neill had turned away from his work at the board to scan the group of - in his mind - fresh faces eager to learn, but quickly stopped when he noticed that he could see more than just faces. He could see those, and hers, and gracious me, and oh my!
He quickly grabbed up a handful of papers from his desk and ran to the back of the room in what could only be described as a loping gait, stopping just short of the girls and holding the papers in front of his face so he wouldn't be looking directly at them.
"I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing you in front of the rest of the class," he said, strain cracking his syrupy voice, "but are you girls aware that you are . . . at this very moment . . . completely . . . and totally . . . unclothed?"
"We prefer the term 'nude'," Quinn replied.
"And yes," Sandi added, "we are quite aware. Thank you, Mr. O'Neill, that will be all." She then waved him away, as if she were shooing a servant or a small child.
"Ah, I see," he said, sweat popping out on his brow. "Well. Er. If I may ask . . . why are you all unclo- nude?"
"It's the latest faaaaashiiiooon," said Tiffany.
"All the rage!" Quinn said, nodding once emphatically.
"Well, erm, be that as it may," O'Neill told them, trying to inject his tone with a hint of authority, "I'm afraid you, uh, you just . . . can't!"
Sandi fought to keep a predatory grin from spreading across her face, instead affecting indignant anger. It was time to go in for the kill. "And why not?" she demanded. "Is not the female form a wonderful thing? Should we not be allowed to share it as such? Are we not to be allowed, like, our freedom of expression or whatever? Do you wish to keep us from our right to be seen as we want to be seen? Would you deny us our femininity? Our progressing fashion? Our freedom of self?"
"Well-! I-! I-! It's just-!" O'Neill stammered, looking out at the rest of the class for some kind of support but receiving none. In fact, a large portion of the students, to his horror, actually seemed to be mulling over Sandi's words. "But . . . but . . . you're underage!" he finally blurted out.
Sandi and Quinn glanced nervously at each other at this. Back in the restrooms, they had figured that would eventually come up but hadn't had enough time to come up with a proper response. Their minds raced, trying to figure out something, anything to say when suddenly-
Every head suddenly turned toward Stacy, who looked more shocked at her own outburst than anyone else in the room. Even O'Neill lowered the papers covering his face and stared at her with wide eyes.
"I'm- . . . what?" he asked, thoroughly confused.
Stacy's eyes darted back and forth as her jaw worked silently. Ever since the teacher had rushed over to them, she had been digging her fingernails into the faux-wood of her desk and hoping fervently that she wouldn't have to speak up, but obviously that was no longer an option. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them again, staring him down.
"I said 'bull', Mr. O'Neill," she told him. "What is 'underage', anyway? Just another tool used to suppress teenagers, isn't it? An arbitrarily assigned number based on societal desires based on unrelated issues. The general age of majority is eighteen, but it wasn't always that way! It was only raised after technology started becoming more and more advanced, requiring more and more time in school to teach people how to survive in a more technically sophisticated world.
"The moral guardians saw this and took it as a chance to stamp out what they had begun to see as 'youthful indiscretions' amongst those between the ages of ten and twenty. They used the necessity of longer schooling to force a sociological paradigm shift in which teenagers would be perceived as not only unable to function fully in the areas of technology and learning, but in the social, political, and sexual arenas as well!
"This suppression and oppression of the teenager continues well into this day and age, an era in which we are all supposedly oh so enlightened, but we are all really just mired in the poor moral morass created by forefathers who didn't give enough forethought to their decisions! And now here you are, trying to continue propagating that very same tyrannical bull when you're the one teacher in this entire school who claims to be sensitive to the students' needs, desires, and rights!
"Are you still going to be able to claim that after today, Mr. O'Neill? Are you?
The entire class suddenly erupted into applause, causing O'Neill to nearly jump through the roof. Amidst the jeers and calls of support for the girls that followed, he rushed back up to the front of the class and started shuffling his papers, looking as if he wished he could simply shrink away to nothing and disappear. Stacy, meanwhile, gaped back at her three friends as they turned to stare at her.
"Wow, Stacy, that was great!" Quinn said, sounding genuinely impressed. "But . . . was any of it, like, true? And where did you get all that from, anyway?"
The girl threw her hands up in the air. "I don't know! I stumbled across this teenager-empowerment website one day, and I guess some of it just kinda . . . sunk in!"
"Yes, very well done, Stacy dear," Sandi agreed, deigning to grace Stacy with one of her rare compliments. "Ladies, I do believe that we may just survive this day yet."
As the period progressed, it seemed that Sandi's optimism was well founded. O'Neill started on the day's lesson and tried his damndest to pretend that the earlier events hadn't even happened, but it wasn't easy by any means since every time he looked up he found more and more of his class sitting there, listening to him attentively, completely nude.
"Hey, Quinn, can I carry your . . . " Joey trailed off as he looked down, then he quickly covered his eyes with his hands.
"Hey, Quinn, can I carry your . . . " Jeffy clamped a hand over his mouth and stared in bug-eyed shock.
"Hey, Quinn, can I carry your . . . hey, you still have your books!" Jamie exclaimed, inordinately pleased at this fact. "Can I carry your books for you? Can I? Pleeeeeease?"
Jeffy lowered his hand just long enough to elbow his compatriot in the side. The slower boy blinked in confusion for several seconds before realization struck him and he put his hands over his burning ears to cover up the almost-glowing shade of red that they had become.
Quinn smiled gently at the three boys, the most ardent of her admirers and her general go-to guys for favors, gifts, and the like. Right after English class had ended, they had descended upon her in the hall to apologize for missing her earlier that morning and to launch into their usual fawning spiel. It had been almost amusing to her to see how long it would take them to notice that their redheaded goddess was standing before them completely in the buff.
Tapping her fingers on her books, she considered actually handing them over but finally figured that the almost catatonic shock the boys were experiencing would leave them fairly useless in the item management department.
Maybe I'll take it easy on the poor boys. Just for today.
"Thanks, guys, really," she said aloud, smiling brightly, "but I think I've got it handled. You're sweet for offering, though, so don't be afraid to, like, ask again tomorrow, 'kay?"
The three boys nodded numbly as she turned to rejoin the rest of the Fashion Club a little ways down the hall.
"Problems with your little harem?" Sandi asked, her voice carrying the hint of jealousy that was typical where they were involved.
"I decided to give them the day off," Quinn replied with a shrug. "Not having to carry around a bunch of clothing makes carrying everything else that much easier anyway, don't you think?"
"Hmm, yes," the club president said, mollified. "Shall we?"
The other three girls nodded in agreement and together they all walked down the hallway to their next class, heads held high and looking as if they owned the joint.
Which didn't seemed too far-fetched given how many other nude students they were starting to see as they went along. Most were still just those from Mr. O'Neill's class, but the effect seemed to be spreading further as those people started talking to other people with a bustling excitement usually reserved for the next big football game. Every once in a while, the girls would look over to see one or more other students stripping down and stuffing their doffed belongings in their lockers.
But despite these definite signs that their plan was going even better than they could have expected, one of their number still had some reservations. Quinn looked over to see Stacy glancing upward furtively from time to time, a look of hesitant panic threatening to overtake her features.
The braided girl jumped a little then said, "Oh! Yes! I mean, no! I mean, I don't know? I was just thinking . . . doesn't Ms. Li have this entire building covered with surveillance cameras or something? What if she's seen us? What if she knows what's going on? What if she comes down here and gives us detention, or carts us off to jail, or . . . or takes away our makeup privileges?"
"Stacy dear, please calm down," Sandi said over her shoulder, keeping her perfect poise the entire while. "Everyone knows that those cameras aren't even hooked up to anything. They're just, like, a scare tactic or something."
" . . . probably."
"Well, look," Quinn interjected when Stacy looked far less than reassured, "if they did work, that would mean Li already saw us earlier, right? We woulda been called out of class then, right? But we didn't, so they don't work! It's one of those logic thingies or whatever!"
"I love logiiiiiiic," Tiffany droned.
"Oooooh, okay," Stacy said, nodding and looking relieved. "That's a load off my mind! Whew!"
"And with that concluded," Sandi said as she opened the door to their second period class, "it's time to face Mr. DeMartino."
Most of the American History class was already inside and seated when the Fashion Club arrived. Mr. DeMartino was standing at his podium at the front of the room, staring impassively at the crowd of teenagers, around three-quarters of which still had their clothes on. As the girls entered, he turned his head and fixed them with his bulging right eye.
"Ah, LADIES," he said, stopping them in their tracks. "How nice to see you on this beautiful school day. I know that your usual SEATS are in the BACK, but I was hoping you would inDULGE me by sitting up FRONT." He waved his hand at the front row, which was empty. "As you can plainly see, I've been saving these seats just. For. YOU."
The bell rang, almost as if DeMartino had planned the timing himself. Glancing nervously at one another and swallowing down knots of tension, the four fashionistas took the indicated chairs and waited for the inevitable storm.
DeMartino closed the classroom door then returned to his podium. No emotion was betrayed upon his face save for the light scowl that seemed to be a permanent feature no matter how much he relaxed his facial muscles.
"So," he began, leaning forward and interlacing his fingers. "I had heard RUmors from my first period class that students were running around NAKED on CAMPUS. I can see now that these rumors are TRUE. I have been FURTHER informed that this sequence of events originated with the four individuals directly in front of me. Is THAT true?"
"Yes, Mr. DeMartino, and if you would-"
"I WOULD," he growled, cutting Sandi off mid-sentence, "but I don't particularly CARE, Miss Griffin. Your reasoning, should you actually happen to have had any, is inconsequential to me. What I DO care about is that I now have several young men and women sitting before me, ENTIRELY WITHOUT CLOTHING, and I am sure that there are many more now OUT and ABOUT in other classrooms across the SCHOOL. My question for YOU, Misses Griffin, Morgendorffer, Rowe, and Blum-Deckler, is THIS . . . did you think I would be aMUSEd by this? Did you think I would find it CLEVER? FUNNY? WITH ANY SORT OF MERIT WHATSOEVER?"
All of the planned arguments fled from the girls' minds as they stared up at the now-snarling visage of their history teacher, who was leaning over the podium and looking at each of them in turn. It gave him the appearance of a very menacing oscillating fan brought directly up from Hell itself.
Then, to their complete surprise, his corners of his mouth turned upward into a boxy grin and he began to chuckle.
"Because if you did, then you were RIGHT!" he said. "As I SAID, I don't know your reasons, nor do I care what they ARE. Regardless of your inTENtions, you have me ENTERTAINED. The status quo around this HELLHOLE we call a SCHOOL has long needed some shaking up, and you are doing just that!
"Just promise me one thing, please . . . get a picture of Ms. Li's FACE when she finally catches up with you! I may only make a teacher's salary still, but I will make it WELL worth your WHILE!"
"Um . . . sure thing, Mr. D!" Quinn said, giving him an impromptu thumbs-up.
And with that, suddenly all of the tension that had been building in the room let go in one huge flush. DeMartino barked laughter of delight and turned to the whiteboard as another handful of students started to remove their own garments.
"Of COURSE," DeMartino said as he erased the board, "as I am still a TEACHER and therefore have a responsiBILITY toward DISCIPLINE . . . your actions cannot go unPUNished by me. So instead of today's original lesson, which you've ALL been studying oh so hard for this past week, we will instead be focusing on a subject somewhat related to today's tomfoolery . . . the Vietnam War PROTESTS and the Free Love movement!"
He turned back around, his face a maliciously grinning skull. "Read chapters fifteen through eighteen of your textbooks, and there will be a QUIZ on them at the end of the class! HA! HA HA HA HA HA!"
The entire class groaned and pulled out their books as the members of the Fashion Club silently wondered if they could still call the situation a win.
Third period Biology class went well, just as Quinn and Sandi had expected it would. At least, it went well for the girls. Ms. Barch spent at least the first fifteen minutes singing the praises of her enlightened sisters, encouraging them in their fight against the suppression of the female form. Those few girls who hadn't already stripped did so in the face of the teacher's impassioned speech.
The boys of the class, of course, fared less well. Many of them who had been nude before hastily changed back into their clothes before going through the door. The only two that didn't got an equal but far less complimentary earful as the girls as Barch unleashed a gale of anger and poison regarding how just because men had those things, they thought it was okay to wave them about wherever they felt like it.
Still, once the class let out, everyone clothed peeled down the second they stepped out the door.
The Fashion Club and the rest of their classmates started filtering into the cafeteria, which had just opened up for the freshman/junior lunch period. The moment they stepped through the wide double doors, they were shocked by the sight before them.
What looked to be just over half of the entire crowd within was nude. It was mostly the club's fellow juniors, but a few cheeky freshmen could also be seen chillin' with their Briscos out. A small knot of teachers assigned to watch over the throng were standing in the corner looking as if they knew they should be doing something, but they weren't sure exactly what that something could possibly be since they were so completely outnumbered.
The lunch ladies didn't seem to give a flip and continued replacing food on the counter as if everything was completely normal.
"Woooooooow," Tiffany breathed.
"Yes, wow indeed," Sandi agreed, trying her best to keep her composure. "It would appear our plan has been something of a success."
"That's, like, an understatement," said Quinn. "I just wonder what-"
Whatever it was Quinn wondered, she never got a chance to let the others know. As soon as people in the cafeteria had realized that the Fashion Club had entered, they started to get up from their seats and crowd around the four girls in a rabid, naked display of fanatical glee.
"You guys rock!" one girl squealed.
"Fight the power! FIGHT THE POWER!" a green-haired punk yelled, pumping his fist in the air.
"How did you come up with such a great idea?"
"Teenage nudity for the win!"
"We love you, Sandi! EEEEEEE!"
"Do you have any other fashion tips?"
"Body glitter, in or out?"
"I love your freckles! Who's your designer?"
The constant stream of attention made the girls feel like rock stars, suffusing them with the energy that only intense attention could give. This feeling was short-lived, however, as things seemed to start boiling to a head.
Quinn waved her fingers nervously at the crowd and asked, "Does it seem a little . . . crowded in here to you?"
"Yes," the other girl said. "It does seem to be getting a little hard to breathe. Defensive mode beta and move to the nearest available raised surface!"
Moving as one, the four girls turned to put their backs against each other, forming a small defensive ring with their arms linked. Being paragons of popularity as it was, the club had long ago set up several plans to deal with various situations where that popularity could go wrong. Dealing with overeager crowds was, naturally, the second strategy on their list.
"'Scuse us, 'scuse me, please make way," Stacy said, running a constant litany as she pushed forward with the other girls being pulled along behind her. Having the strongest leg muscles in the group, she had been chosen to act as the spearhead in case she had to kick at anyone that didn't get out of the way. When that decision had been made during the strategy's original planning stages, she had thought it was a way of letting her know she had thunder thighs.
It had taken nearly a week to get her to calm down after that one.
As soon as they reached the nearest table, Stacy carefully led them all up, where they unlocked arms and stood shoulder to shoulder in a unified front. The crowd washed around the table like an ocean washing around an island. Sandi waited until they were pretty much settled, then banged the heel of her foot against the tabletop until everyone fell silent.
"Hello, students of Lawndale High," she called out, holding her hands high. "I'm sure that many of you have, like, heard many different reasons for why we - and by extension you - are now completely nude. We of the Fashion Club began by promoting it as the newest sense of style! A fashion that anyone could afford! An outfit that would fit all sizes! A little number that would always catch the eye and look good on anybody!
"It has grown beyond that, and we, like, totally understand! As a fashion, it is also a statement, and one that can mean whatever you want it to mean! But regardless of our philosophies, we must never forget our roots or whatever! So if everyone will calm down and take your seats, we are going to celebrate those roots by putting on a fashion show for you! Would you like that?"
A resoundingly positive cry erupted from the audience. Sandi smiled, snapped her fingers, and pointed at a few nearby tables. Some strapping young lads from the crowd responded immediately, pushing all of the tables together as other students removed the food trays from the tops. Within moments, a makeshift catwalk had been formed in the middle of the cafeteria.
As an enterprising young volunteer from the freshman class sat at the edge and MCed the event, Tiffany stalked across the tables like a graceful animal, showing off her every curve as if it were the hautest of couture from the very heart of Paris' fashion district.
"Great idea, Sandi!" Stacy gushed as they waited their turn.
"Yah, I have to admit, you seem to have the audience all calmed down," Quinn said, sounding as impressed as she was surprised.
"Yes, well, I am not the president of the Fashion Club for nothing," Sandi said with a haughty toss of her hair. The edges of her mouth curled up a bit, however, as she felt some actual, non-competition related pride at Quinn complimenting her work.
She began to wonder if the lack of clothing was turning her soft. She'd have to keep an eye on that.
After all four of them had taken their little turn on the catwalk, the Fashion Club stepped down and opened the runway to any and all takers while they escaped to get something to eat. Boys and girls alike of all shapes, sizes, and body types jumped up on the stage for their turn as the MC cheerfully described their varying styles with gusto.
The teachers, meanwhile, seemed to be cycling through bewilderment, annoyance at the table-walking, relief that the whole thing hadn't turned into a riot, and then back to bewilderment again.
Like all things, lunch period had to come to an end. The fashion show finally broke up when the bell rang and everyone moved to discard the contents of their trays as they went back out to face the drudgery of academia. They were slowly replaced in the room by the sophomores and seniors, the latter of which included Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane, who just happened to pass right by the Fashion Club on their way in.
"Hey, wasn't that your sister and her little friends showing off what their mama's gave 'em?" Jane asked.
"Ignoring it," Daria said tersely, keeping her focus forward.
"Yah, okay, but doesn't that-"
Jane shrugged in response and went back to scoping the crowd with a half-goofy grin on her face. Given the circumstances, she had more important things to look a- to do than start an argument with Daria.
The nudity was spreading like a virus, and its effects could be seen everywhere the Fashion Club turned.
Charles Ruttheimer III, more commonly known as "Upchuck", could be seen wandering the halls fully clothed. He seemed to be in a daze of sorts, shuffling forward with a zombie-like gait. He would snap out of it from time to time, however, and glance furtively around as if afraid that someone had caught him doing something wrong before slipping back into his haze of confusion.
Mrs. Diane Bennett, the Economics teacher, was standing in the middle of an intersection as the students milled around and generally tried to ignore her. She was giving a free lecture at the top of her lungs on how mass nudity could effect the economy via the textiles industry. The fact that no one was listening to her did not deter her in the least, and her histrionic voice could be heard halfway across the school.
Brittany Taylor, famous for her ditzy personality and tremendous . . . assets, had freed herself of the cheerleading outfit that she perpetually wore. In the process, she revealed that her assets weren't actually as tremendous as previously thought due to the extra padding that had come off with her bra. Her boyfriend football quarterback Kevin Thompson, meanwhile, had to keep explaining to people who he was since they didn't recognize the skinny dude without his shoulder pads.
"Oh my gawd, I am so sorry for not believing you before!" a nude Tori called as the girls passed by. She then went back to explaining in detail how the mass nude trend would effect the popularity ladder. Unlike Mrs. Bennett, she actually held the ear of a nice-sized group, made up mostly of boys but also a few girls.
Mr. O'Neill's loud weeping could be heard from a barricaded restroom and was only slightly beaten out for decibel level by Mr. DeMartino's raucous laughter coming from the teacher's lounge.
Overall, the ratio of nude versus non-nude had quickly tipped. In just the two periods since lunch, those with clothes still on had become the exception rather than the norm. It seemed that havoc should have reigned as a result, but surprisingly everyone seemed to be acclimating to the new situation quite well.
Not to say that some things weren't getting out of hand. For example, the impromptu nude limbo contests breaking out in the east side hallways were proving to be a bit disruptive to traffic flow.
"Just two more periods and we're home free," Sandi said as they were on their way to Gym class, which they assumed would prove to be very interesting.
"Do you think we might've taken things a little too far?" Stacy asked, looking around at the effects of their plan.
"No way, Stacy," Quinn assured her. "It's all under control. We just come back tomorrow, tell everyone that clothes are totally back in, and everyone will forget this ever happened. Easy!"
Stacy nodded but still looked a bit troubled. Her look of worry was then quickly replaced by one of complete panic when she looked up at Tiffany's ominous "Uh-oooooooooh . . . "
"Principal Angela Li, like, twelve o'clock!" Sandi moaned in despair, trying to get the rest of the girls in a protective spot behind her.
All attempts to make a plan to deal with Li had been abandoned when it had looked like she wasn't going to get involved. The plan to drop the planning seemed like a bad idea all of a sudden as the stout woman bore down on them like a bull bearing down on a waving cape.
"Rowe! Morgendorffer! Blum-Deckler!" Li yelled as the rest of the students in the hall parted before her like the Red Sea. "Stop cowering behind Miss Griffin immediately and face what's coming to you!"
Wincing at her tone, the three girls complied with her orders. She stopped directly in front of them and put her hands on her hips. "I bet you think you're pret-ty clever, don't you?" she said, scowling ominously. "Yes, pret-ty clever to break into my office."
The girls were completely stunned. "Um, break into your office, ma'am?" Quinn asked, perplexed.
"How else could you have known about my plans to turn Laaaaaaawndale High into a clothing-optional facility?" she snapped. "I've been working on that proposition for years! And every year, the school board has turned me down! Called me crazy! Hell, the only reason they let me stay on as principal is because I can fool them into thinking I run everything else so tightly! And now you girls, you get into my office . . . and you . . . and you look at my files . . . and then you do this . . . "
Ms. Li's eyes began to water as she bit her lower lip. "Oh God it's just so beautiful!" she exclaimed, gathering the girls up into a spontaneous hug. "I never thought I'd get any support, but here you are, and in just one day-"
"Er, Ms. Li?" Quinn said, tapping the principal on the shoulder.
Li jumped back as if zapped by a cattle prod. She coughed several times, straightened her glasses, and said, "Yes! Yes, of course, very inappropriate. Just got caught up in the moment. Won't happen again!
"But this!" she continued, sweeping her hand around to take in the nude students around her, "this is what I've been working for my entire life! A place where everyone can be free to be who they are! A place where teenagers can learn without the restriction of clothing! A place where it's easier to strip search for drugs, weapons, and assorted other contraband because the subjects are already stripped! A place where wait I'm sorry, forget I said that last one."
She clasped Sandi's hands in her own. "Thank you," she said, "for helping me make this possible."
"You're . . . welcome?"
The principal then stepped back, grasped the front of her suit, and tore it open, sending buttons everywhere. She held her hands high, giving everyone the double V for Victory, and yelled out, "NUDEDALE HIGH RULES! Oh, also, I'll start handing out towels immediately," she added, still holding her pose. "In thanks for your help, I would like you girls to have first pick of the best of the batch. Extra fluffy!"
"Towels?" Stacy asked. "What would we need towels for?"
"Oh. Well, see, there are certain parts of the anatomy that don't normally touch seats and the like when you're wearing clothes," Li explained, "but now . . . "
The girls glanced at each other in confusion until it finally settled in. "EEEEEEEWWWWWW!" they all cried out in unison.
"Yes, as president of the Fashion Club, I humbly accept your generous offer of seating towels on behalf of everyone here," Sandi managed professionally before cringing again at the thought.
"Can you believe all of this?" Daria asked as she and Jane leaned against Jane's locker.
"Seriously," Jane replied. "It's like some kind of insane asylum with invisible straight jackets."
"You'll never see me joining in."
"That'd just be crazy."
"Not a chance."
"No way, no how."
They fell into silence as they continued watching the crowd of students. One of their number was a slender but well-muscled boy who winked at Jane as he passed by.
"Here, hold this," Jane said as Daria's field of view was suddenly obstructed by red cloth. She quickly pulled Jane's overshirt off her head to see the artist stumbling down the corridor as she removed the rest of her clothing. Her shorts gave her the most trouble as she had left her boots on, but the black stocking came off in one swift riiiiiip!
Daria tossed the shirt on the floor and rolled her eyes.
Gym class turned out to be almost completely surreal.
Coach Morris was completely in favor of physical training in the nude as it hearkened back to the ancient days of training for the Olympics. This led to bouncing, flouncing, and various unusual displays of the nude human body in motion that eventually all sort of blurred together for the four girls.
At least showering afterward was made easier by not having to change out of or into anything, giving the entire class a few spare minutes to get to the last class of the day. The Fashion Club was chatting as they made they way down the hall when suddenly they heard a commotion coming their way.
Angela Li, completely nude by this time, was running down the hallway yelling "FREEEEEEDOOOOOOOM!" at the top of her lungs. She passed by the students, skidded around a corner, and disappeared just as Superintendent Cartwright came pelting along after her, his face a mask of apoplectic rage.
The old man came to a stop in the midst of the students and leaned on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. Eventually he lifted his head, took in a deep breath, and held a finger up as if he was about to say something. Whatever it was, he decided against it. Shaking his head ruefully, he gathered himself back up and continued his pursuit of the rapidly escaping principal.
"Does that mean the nude fashion is over?" Stacy asked nervously. "Should we-"
"Perhaps it is best not to jump too hastily to conclusions and stuff," Sandi interrupted, then whispered, "besides, Tiffany still doesn't have any clothing. Just stick to the plan."
The odd spectacle over, the students went back to finding their lockers and grabbing books. For the Fashion Club, seventh period was a study hall in the cafeteria, a time for rest and relaxation at the end of a hard day pretending to learn. A time for club meetings about accessories, makeup, and the latest cute tops at Cashman's. A time, it turned out, for mid-period announcements over the PA system.
"This is Superintendent Cartwright," the crackly voice said, "temporarily standing in for Ms. Li. I'm not sure what exactly precipitated this unusual behavior amongst the student bod- amongst the students, nor why it has been tolerated by the faculty. However, it is obvious that it has become too large of a problem to be handled through standard procedures.
"So I'm looking to cut a deal," he continued, his tone one of barely contained stress. "School is to be let out early - immediately - and this entire fiasco will be completely forgotten under three conditions. One, everyone puts their damn clothes back on. Two, everyone comes back tomorrow with their damn clothes still on. And three, no one ever mentions any of this to anyone else.
The PA fell silent as everyone glanced around at everyone else for several long moments. Then, almost as one, they all stood up and started heading for their lockers on the way to the exits. They chatted noisily as they went along with mixed currents of cheerfulness that they were getting to leave a little early and disappointment that they would have to go back to wearing clothes.
"Well," said Sandi as she and the other fashionistas stood, "I believe we can finally call this a win. Shall we?"
The response was a unanimous affirmative. They gathered up the fashion magazines they had been leafing through, dropped them off at their lockers while picking up their clothes, and headed out.
The entire trip back to Tiffany's house was made as quickly and as carefully as possible, with Quinn, Sandi, and Stacy standing in a circle around Tiffany to keep her safe from any prying eyes. Bamboozling the school had been one thing, but they weren't sure they would be able to do the same to all of Lawndale, and it was better to play it safe.
When they reached the front stoop of her home, Tiffany turned and smiled down at her friends. "Thanks, you guuuuuuys," she said, smiling broadly at them. "You roooooooooock."
"Think nothing of it, Tiffany dear," Sandi told her with a slight nod. "In a way, it was almost . . . fun."
"And we know you'd totally do the same for any of us!" Stacy added.
"Just, try not to forget your clothes tomorrow, okay?" said Quinn.
Tiffany nodded emphatically. "I'll try to get my moooooom to write a note to remiiiiiiiind meeeeee," she assured them.
Waving at them, she slipped inside. Then, after saying their goodbyes to each other, the three girls departed for their own homes, finally bringing the long school day to a close.
Looking both ways down the hall to make sure they were clear, Tiffany quietly opened the school's side door and stepped out onto the commons. Taking a right turn, she walked alongside the building, turning the corner when she reached it. The area beyond that corner was a popular spot for smokers since it was difficult to see from any of the school's windows and it was easy to set up lookouts in the main commons area itself.
Tiffany hadn't sneaked out for a smoke, however. She was there to meet someone. Someone who was already there, waiting for her.
"So, I suppose it's time to settle up," the other girl said in her usual monotone.
"Yes," Tiffany said, her own voice just as noninflected but much faster than her usual drone. "And a sweet victory it is."
Daria smirked as she rooted around in her jacket pocket before producing a crumpled hundred dollar bill. "I have to say, I'm pretty impressed."
Tiffany gave her own slight smile. "Don't be too impressed," she said. "I didn't even have to do that much. I was just about to suggest the whole 'all four of us should go nude' thing when Sandi came up with it all on her own."
"Still, you did set the whole chain of events into place, and intentional or not, you ended up getting almost the entire school naked as well. That was something else, and you definitely deserve this," Daria said, holding out the bill.
"Except," she continued, snatching the bill back from Tiffany's grasping hand, "I seem to remember we also had a little side-wager about whether or not Jane would get naked, too. Which she did. And I didn't even have to nudge her into it like I'd planned. So . . . push bet?"
Tiffany frowned deeply. "Push bet," she finally acquiesced with a nod. "And well played, Morgendorffer. So, should we move on to the next wager, then? What are we going to get our friends to do this time?"
"Oh, Tiffany," Daria said as she wrapped an arm around the other girl's shoulders. "We inadvertently got almost the entire school to get naked with our last little bet. The question now is, what aren't we going to get them to do?"
Grins flashed and laughter filled the little smoking nook. Tomorrow was definitely going to be a good day.
Roland 'Jim' Lowery
February 18, 2011