Ness and I turned up a matter of seconds late to Geography, but the young red-haired teacher didn't seem to mind too much. She smiled broadly at everyone as we took our seats.
"Who the heck is she?" Ness whispered.
I shrugged. The rest of the class whispered amongst themselves.
The young woman cleared her throat.
"Hi there, I'm Mrs Samuels." She introduced, "as you probably guessed, I'm a new teacher in this school." She looked at me.
"And by the looks of it, you must be our new student. Zoe Hooper, right?"
I nodded. "Yeah, how did you know?"
She smiled to herself. "I was a new student once too…right here in North Shore. You have the nervous, kinda lost look about you that I once had."
Mrs Samuels started handing out pieces of paper around the class. "I want you to write down somewhere you've been on vacation this Summer, or even another state, and tell me all about it. Anything about it that you like…But be clean please, guys, okay?"
Erin was sitting in the front row. She raised her hand. "Uhh, Mrs Samuels? This isn't really much of a Geography lesson for sixteen to seventeen year olds. This is Kindergarten stuff!"
Mrs Samuels walked slowly to Erin's desk.
"You must be Erin Auditore?" She smiled sweetly. "Well don't worry Erin, there's more to the lesson than this. The first half an hour you will be writing these, yes. The last half an hour will be a little different. But I'll explain that later. Now, do as you're told. Okay?"
"Yes Ma'am." Erin put her head down and got to work. I exchanged glances with Ness who was biting back a smile of amusement.
I started writing about the holiday my parents took me on just before we'd moved; we'd used some leftover money from selling our house in Florida, and gone to Turkey in Eastern Europe, to a place called Altinkum. I described the beaches, the shops selling fake designer clothing and the vast varieties of bright jewellery. I described how hot it was, and the hotel we stayed in.
Eventually Mrs Samuels spoke: "Half an hour's up everyone. Who'd like to share their work with the class?"
Nobody put their hand up.
"Fine. How about you, Zoe? New girl first." She smiled at me.
I suddenly felt vulnerable again. Why was she picking on me?
Nevertheless, I stood up but stayed at my table, reading out what I'd written.
"Good. Very good; Sounds nice out there…Any idea what the temperature was?" Mrs Samuels asked.
I exhaled, thinking. "Umm…Forty degrees?" I guessed.
"And would that be celcius or farenheit?" The young teacher asked me.
"Celcius." I confirmed.
"Okay…now if we were to convert that into farenheit, what would it be?"
I fell silent, thinking for a while. I couldn't remember the equation to convert temperatures. I looked desperately at Ness who bit her lip and looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling.
"No?" Mrs Samuels pushed, "Okay, don't panic. I'll write it on the board." She picked up a red board marker and wrote out the equation: '40°C X 9/5 +32 = '
"Can you figure that out if we break it down?"
"Okay, so 40 multiplied by 9 is…?" She began.
"360," I answered,
"Good, then divide that by 5 and you get…?"
"Great! Lastly, add on 32 and your answer is…?"
"104!" I grinned.
"Excellent! So you were sat out in Turkey in 104 degrees farenheit, while I was sat here finishing my teacher training in boring old Illinois!" Mrs Samuels chuckled.
A ripple of laughter erupted from the class.
"So if you add that somewhere to your worksheet, then you can get started on researching some more about Turkey on Wikipedia for your work today, as can everyone else when they've finished their temperature equation." Mrs Samuels pointed to the Apple computers at the back of class. "But shh, don't tell the other teachers!" She winked.
The bell rang at the end of class, and we all filed out.
"You did very well today, Miss Hooper." Mrs Samuels collared me on the way out, "Mrs Duvall will be pleased with your mathematics!"
I turned to Ness. "Who's Mrs Duvall?"
"Oh, she's the headmaster's wife. She used to be called Ms Norbury years ago. My cousin Chelsie had her as a calculus teacher in her senior year." Ness replied, taking a swig of water from her bottle.
I followed suit; it was boiling that day. We walked into the last lesson before lunch, groaning with fatigue.
"Wake me when the day is over!" Ness joked, flopping down onto a bench in the girls' locker room.
It was lunchtime.
Also, it turns out I'm very good at soccer, which I never knew. We had to endure an hour of it with our gym teacher, Ms Allen, who was bright, friendly and understanding, but also very competitive!
"I am beat!" I yawned, picking up a lunch tray and selecting my food.
The food at North Shore was great, as I discovered, and there was something for everyone, as I noticed when my eyes did a quick scan of the tables.
It was at this point that I realised the cliques were made very apparent in the cafeteria.
I spotted Courtney and her friends picking at pasta salad and reading the backs of smoothie cartons for calorific content…I also spotted the jocks tucking into meaty lunches and drinking energy drinks.
Ness and I had selected cheesy fries and some other snacks, and took a seat at a spare table. Courtney got to her feet and glided over.
"Hey," she said with a fake Barbie grin, looking at me and ignoring Ness. "You're the new girl…Zoe Hooper right? I'm Courtney, welcome to North Shore!" She covered her hand in sanitizing gel and held her hand out for me to shake.
I frowned and looked down at her hand wondering why she felt the need to sanitise herself before shaking my hand. I accepted however, to be polite.
Ness snorted. "Hand gel?" She rolled her eyes. "And what are you, the Welcoming Committee? Since when have you cared about a new student?"
Courtney glared at her. "For your information, Vanessa, I'm being polite."
"That's a first." Ness muttered, putting a French fry in her mouth.
"You may want to reconsider your friendship groups, Zoe. There are people here who are, well, let's just say, not worth your time. You're really pretty and can do so much better." Courtney looked pointedly at Ness.
"Are you done?" Ness looked up at her, "And you say she's pretty, is that the only reason you came over here? Half the girls in this school are pretty but you don't care. You just can't stand the fact she's hanging out with me, can you?"
Courtney looked expectantly at me, hands on her hips.
I swallowed hard.
"I think I can figure out who my real friends are. Thanks though." I went back to my fries and looked up ahead of me.
Courtney hovered for a few seconds before huffing and storming back to her table, animatedly discussing what had just happened with her little 'following'.
I rolled my eyes, and Ness just scoffed.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen," she said, "Is a perfect example of a high maintenance witch!"