The lunchroom was loud, noisy and smelled of hot lunches and sour milk. Kat stood at the entrance with her tray, looking about herself uncertainly. Would anyone let her sit with them?
She walked slowly down the aisle of tables, the other junior high kids laughing and joking. She jumped as a skinny boy with a face covered in pimples was fell from the edge of his seat and fell sprawling on the ground, laughing his head off. She stepped around him.
There were no empty seats with friendly faces.
It was the first Monday after the Halloween party. All that weekend, Kat had hung out with her Dad and Casper. He showed her how to play chess, and took her to a secret cave he knew of in the cliffs. She had fun, glad to have at least one friend in Friendship, Maine. Even if he was a ghost.
Of course, he spent the better half of the time just staring goo-goo eyes at her. She was going to talk to him about that. Eventually...
For now, she just wanted to get herself settled in her new school. She made Casper promise that he wouldn't follow her.
She spotted an empty bench on the far side of the caf. She sat down meekly by herself.
"Well if it isn't Miss Necrophelia. How's the dead boyfriend?" Amber stood behind her, tray in hand. Four girls whispered and giggled behind her.
"These seats are taken. Sorry." Amber flipped her golden hair.
"I was just..." Kat began.
"Leaving?" said a girl named Ashley.
"Don't you have a séance to go to or something?" chirped Courtney.
"Sure she does. It's the only way she can get a date," giggled Brittany. The girls all laughed.
Kat picked up her tray and left, her face burning with embarrassment. She ate her lunch alone outside in the school steps. At that moment, she wished she hadn't made Casper promise to stay home. At least she would have someone to talk to.
Miss Necrophelia. That's so creative, Amber.
The rest of the day was torture. When she walked down the hall, people seemed to be whispering and staring at her everywhere. Someone was made kissing sounds at her, but when she turned around she couldn't tell who it was. She made her way toward her locker.
"Miss Kissy Kissy Dead Lips!" someone cat-called. People laughed and stared. Pointed and whispered.
Tears began to fall down her cheeks despite herself, as she struggled to open the stupid locker. She felt everyone's eyes on her.
Suddenly a fist pounded the locker and it popped open. It was Vic. He smiled hesitantly.
"Oh hi Vic," she muttered, trying to hide her tears. "I forgot about that...uh, thanks." Sniffling, she hurried to get her books and escape.
"You know, you shouldn't let them see you crying. It'll only make them meaner," he said softly.
"Gee, thanks for the advice, Dear Abby." She hastily shut her locker door and fumbled for the lock.
"Kat, wait..." he said, placing a hand on her lock. "Can...Can I talk to you for a second?"
She hugged her books, staring up at him defiantly. "What do you want?"
The boy looked anguished, struggling for the right words.
"Look...I just...I just wanted to say I'm sorry about what happened at your party. It was a stupid joke, and we were jerks. Amber...has this way of talking me into doing dumb stuff and...I feel real bad about what we did.
"See, the thing is Amber is supposed to be my girlfriend. But she gets so crazy sometimes. I don't think I really want to go steady with her anymore, because she can be really mean and stupid, you know? And I hate it...I guess what I'm trying to say is, I think you're really cool and...I actually thought it would be fun to go with you to the Halloween party for real and... I want to be friends. I get it if you don't want to be, though. But I just thought I should tell you that I'm really sorry."
Kat lowered her eyes and said nothing.
"Well...I guess that's all I was gonna say. Bye," he said sadly, turning to go.
"It's ok," she said finally. "It really wasn't that big a deal I guess. And..." she swallowed hard, color mounting her cheeks, " I-I think you're really cool, too."
He beamed at her. "Really?"
They stood, smiling at each other for a long moment.
"Ok, well, I guess I'll see you in class."
"Ok. Later, Kat."
Kat floated to science lab on cloud nine.
After the last bell rang, Kat strolled across the school lawn thinking about her conversation with Vic. She was so busy daydreaming, she didn't realize that she was walking right into someone until it was too late.
The girl's books and papers went flying everywhere.
"Omigosh, I'm so sorry," Kat stammered, struggling to pick them up. When she looked she recognized it was Emily, red-haired girl from home room.
"Oh hi, Emily."
"Kat! Oh I wanted to tell you I loved your party! It was sooooo much better than having it at Amber's," said Emily. She wrinkled her freckled nose. "Amber's party's are so boring."
"Thanks," Kat smiled, handing her the last of her books.
"Everyone's talking about that cool projection special effect thingy you did at the end. It was so awesome! That ghost looked so real!"
Kat twittered uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah. Pretty convincing, huh?"
"Yeah, I'll say. Hey, listen. My birthday party's this weekend, and I'm going to have a slumber party, girls only. Amy and Letty are going. You should come."
"Sure! That sounds like fun," said Kat.
"Cool! See you tomorrow!"
As Kat made her way back to Whipstaff, she thought that maybe things would be all right after all.