Author's note: This is my take on how the first season could have happened if Jo had been sent to Eastland a year sooner. Basically all of the inevitable events (the poem assignment, the sex-ed class, the appearance of Mr. Garrett, etc.) will still happen. The difference will be how Jo's presence affects everything—and it most definitely will. As time goes on, the dissimilarity will become more obvious. As the summary states, this will be mainly Jo/Blair with some Cindy/Sue Ann. All errors are mine.
There is no way of knowing, when something life-changing is happening to you, how much it will impact your life. The milk expires so you run out to buy some more. Will you be reunited with an old friend at the store or will you get in a car accident at the intersection and never see your loved ones again? The shady man living in the apartment next to yours asks if he can come in and use your phone. Will he rob you of everything or gratefully make that phone call and leave? Your mom tells you that due to your transgressions, you will be sent to Eastland School for Girls. Whether or not this will ruin your life has yet to be determined.
I love you but I'm also worried about you. You've got to clean up your act. You don't want to end up like your father, do you?
Those words echo in Jo's mind the entire drive to her new fancy pants prep school. She hears them loud and clear over the roar of her motorcycle.
I love you but I'm also worried about you. Rose Polniaczek was a hard-working single mother fighting to keep her head above water. Working double shifts as a waitress wasn't cutting it, and to make matters worse, Jo was changing. Rose feared that her inability to provide guidance in addition to Jo's toxic environment was proving disastrous for her daughter.
You've got to clean up your act. Breaking curfew. Cutting class. Vandalizing a park. Assaulting a police officer. Bullying. Her record was ever-growing, and it had to be stopped. Jo, a girl with a golden heart, was turning to stone right before her mother's eyes. With Rose's busy schedule, there was no one around to pull Jo from the wreckage she was creating for herself. Removing her from the equation entirely was the only way the woman knew how to stop the madness.
You don't want to end up like your father, do you? Jo's father. Charlie Polniaczek. He was the girl's hero—her very own Superman, she had once called him—from the day she was born until the age of 12 when she woke one morning to her crying mother and a goodbye letter. Things were never the same for the two. The Polniaczeks were not doing the greatest financially and ego-wounded Charlie made the decision to desert his family. This is what stuck out most to Jo when her mother was explaining why she had to leave home. At first she didn't understand the logic, and an intense argument followed the news of Jo being sent away. Why did she need to leave her mom in order to avoid becoming a person like the man who left her mom? But after she stormed out, rode her bike for hours, and cleared her head, it all made sense. She understood. Riding her bike always seemed to do that much for her. Never in her life would Jo spiral so far into delinquency that she would become her deadbeat dad. That was one promise to herself and to her mom that she would not break. If staying out of trouble and working hard in school would make things easier on her mother, Jo would try her hardest.
And so here Jo is, signed in at the gate and parking her bike on the walkway in front of the address she was given for Dorm A. She slides off, leans her motorcycle on its kickstand, and looks up at the large building.
"So this is Eastland," the girl says to herself, inspecting it and concluding that it's not so bad. Peekskill has trees and grass and little flowers, and Jo decides that maybe she likes that kind of stuff after all.
Just as she takes a step forward, ready to check out her new living situation, a squealing pig goes zooming by, right between her legs. Jo jumps out of the way just in time for some guy in a hat to come barreling after it.
"S'cuse me! Sorry!" comes from the capped individual. Her high-pitched voice comes as a surprise.
"Hey, watch it or I'll be having your stupid pig for breakfast!" hollers Jo.
After inspecting her bike and making sure it hasn't been harmed in the "stampede," Jo stomps her way through the door of what she was told is supposed to be the common room. The girl with the pig is already inside, talking to an older woman with red hair.
"Is this where I'm supposed to be? Is this Dorm A? Are you," she points to the woman who is now facing Jo, "Mrs. Garrett, the housemother?"
"You must be…Jo." She steps closer, a warm smile on her face. "It is and I am. It's nice to meet you."
"We already have a delivery boy," announces a girl with golden blonde hair, a button-up blouse with one too many buttons not buttoned, and heavy eye shadow. "Steve dropped off our groceries yesterday."
"Delivery boy?" Jo asks incredulously. "Give me a break!"
This isn't the first time the girl has been mistaken for a boy. It happens at least once a week back home. Yet, for some reason, having this prissy little Barbie Doll mistake her for a boy instead of it being some old lady at the 7-Eleven on the corner makes her angry.
Removing her motorcycle helmet and letting her ponytail fall out for everyone to see, Jo doesn't fight the look of disdain on her face towards the blonde.
The stranger laughs an airy laugh and says to no one in particular, "I don't believe this."
"Me neither," says a boy standing in the middle of the room near Mrs. Garrett. "Remind me not to look for girls at this school, Arnold. I guess they all look like boys."
The girl holding the pig gives the boy a dirty look, as does Jo. He puts his hands up in mock surrender before muttering, "I'm getting out of here."
A little boy, a girl Jo's age, and an older man mention something about a fair before walking out.
Mrs. Garrett turns to the girl and instructs, "Cindy, why don't you go give that pig a bath? He's got ring around the collar all over."
As Cindy heads to the bathroom, the stuck-up blonde says, "Aw, Cindy. Just your type."
"You probably go for taller pigs, Blair," retorts the other girl as she walks away.
Jo lets out a few ha-ha's, mostly to spite this Blair girl.
"What are you laughing at, Evel Knievel?"
"I still haven't figured that out," Jo grunts, stepping so close to the other girl that their noses are nearly touching. "We might need to send you off to a lab so they can tell us."
"Girls," warns Mrs. Garrett.
"The real mystery here is what that hideous thing on your face is."
"What?" Blair's hands immediately fly to her cheeks, then to her chin and forehead in a panic. "Is it a bug? Am I getting a pimple?" She rushes to the mirror and examines herself up close. "I don't see anything. Just the usual perfection." She winks to reflection.
Jo smirks, steps closer to Blair once more, and coolly replies, "Oh. I guess I was just lookin' at your face. My mistake."
The blonde growls, "Why you little…"
"Nancy! Sue Ann! Tootie! Molly! Natalie! A-ny-bo-dy!"
Five girls who had been standing in the back watching the display come rushing over to their housemother, alarmed by her sudden outburst.
"What is it, Mrs. Garrett?" asks a short red-headed girl.
"Why don't you girls introduce yourselves?"
"And interrupt those two?" A spunky little girl on roller skates gives Mrs. Garrett an unmoved look. "Why would we do that?"
"Yeah, looks like Blair has finally met her match," adds a girl with blonde curly hair. Her eyebrows bounce mischievously in Blair's direction, which Blair notices because by now both girls have stopped insulting one another to listen.
"I'll be the mature one," volunteers the tallest girl, "and make the introductions. I'm Nancy. That's Natalie." She pauses for Natalie.
"Hi," greets an angelic girl.
The short red-headed girl, Jo notes.
The blonde with curly hair.
"Nice to meet you."
The spunky one.
"The girl with the pig was Cindy. And that," Nancy points, "is the only girl at Eastland who has her own dorm room and who I can only assume is your new roommate…Blair Warner."
A scornful look etches its way into Jo's features as her eyes meet the eyes of her roommate.
"That's right, Nancy." Mrs. Garrett steps closer to the two instant rivals and rests her hands on their shoulders. "Come on now, girls. I'm sure you'll be buddies in no time. How about it, Jo? Blair?"
"Charmed," Jo bites out.
Blair mirrors her tone, "Pleased to meet you,"
Tootie elbows her best friend Natalie to get her attention and openly predicts, "This is going to be some semester."
After moving her motorcycle to a "more suitable place," as Mrs. Garrett put it when she was referring to the faculty parking garage, and taking her suitcase up to her new room, Jo trots down the stairs to see what all this Harvest Festival talk is about. There is no such thing in her hometown, and naturally, she's a little curious. Instead, she's met with Blair moving past festival talk and saying that, more importantly, there will be a dance afterward.
Jo shakes her head. That sounds like one event she will be skipping.
After Blair takes another dig at Cindy, which Jo can't help but find peculiar by this point, and Cindy threatens to beat her up, Mrs. Garrett calms the storm with a few words about being a lady. To Jo, "lady" is code for "phony, delicate, rich girl" and she snorts at the idea of Eastland trying to make her behave like one. That would never happen. She takes an arm seat on the couch and throws a foot up to rest on her knee as a way to prove it to herself.
"Don't worry," Blair smoothly replies. "I have more important things on my mind…like Greg Hockney."
"Greg Hockney!" Sue Ann jumps at the name. She elbows Cindy playfully, smiles ecstatically at Blair, and says, "Oh, he's a real hunk!"
Had Jo known who the guy was, she probably would have told Sue Ann to get a grip. Instead, she says, "Who's Greg Hockney?"
"Only the cutest boy in the eleventh grade," gushes the perkier blonde. "Isn't that right, Blair?"
"He isn't a boy. He's a man." For dramatic effect, she wraps her arms around herself and smiles dreamily with her eyes closed.
"Only because he was held back twice," says Molly, blind to her own insensitivity. That, or she simply doesn't care what the others think.
"Sounds like plenty of guys back at my old school," Jo shrugs. "What do you do for men around here? I'm talking real men, not flunkies."
"You have your license and you date men? How old are you?" Cindy asks curiously, walking into the room with water splashed all over the front of her shirt—from the pig bath, no doubt.
"Who said anything about a license?"
A look of understanding washes upon the girls' faces. They exchange glances with one another. It'll take some getting used to, living with someone so resilient.
"The only 'real man' that ever comes around here is…"
Cindy's answer is cut off by the appearances of Eastland's headmaster, Mr. Bradley, as well as a woman she would later come to know as biology teacher Ms. Mahoney.
"Ah, you must be the new student."
"Jo," the girl offers, standing to shake his hand.
"Good to finally meet you. Impressive score on your entrance exam."
"Thank you, sir," she responds but with a face that tells the other girls that Mr. Bradley is less than satisfactory and doesn't quite meet her standards. She might date guys outside of high school but even someone as rough and tough as Jo has to draw the line somewhere. She thinks that line is around twice her age.
Before a protesting Ms. Mahoney knows it, the girls are persuading their new headmaster into extending curfew. Jo wasn't a curfew-abider back home, but she made that promise to her mom and Polniaczeks never go back on their word. Ironically, her father taught her that. With that in mind and an 11:50 p.m. curfew tempting her, Jo concludes that she might show up to the Harvest Festival and dance after all. Sneaking out and coming back in time for the girls to come home couldn't be that hard, could it?
Bouncing from one topic to another, Mr. Bradley moves onto the subject of who will be running for Harvest Queen. That sure wasn't going to be Jo. Unsurprisingly, Blair volunteers with the automatic assumption that she's a shoo-in. Little Molly, who Jo is starting to like because of her strong moral standing and crudely blunt personality, refuses to be objectified. Then, out of the blue, Sue Ann nominates the tomboy, Cindy.
The poor girl's refusals fall on deaf ears. No one wants to hear her when she tells them to forget it. As soon as Mrs. Garrett enters the room, Nancy rushes to her side and informs the housemother of Peekskill Harvest Festival's newest Harvest Queen candidate.
"Suuuper! Now we're going to have an honest to goodness race."
"But really, I can't," Cindy shrugs. "I don't even own a party dress."
"You can wear the one my sister gave me!" Natalie offers. "I grew out of it before I grew into it."
One last pointless attempt to deny the proposal and Cindy is on Mr. Bradley's list of contenders.
She sits down next to her best friend and admits, "Sue Ann, I've got a problem. I don't know what to do at a dance."
"My guess would be dance," Jo flatly suggests, sitting on the other side of Sue Ann. She has never been to a dance but not knowing what to do would not be something the brunette would fret over. Jo always figured that if she ever went to one, the only thing she would be bothered by was keeping the freaks, geeks, and perverts away from her.
"Gee, thanks for the help," is Cindy's sarcastic reply.
Sue Ann shakes her head in amusement and places a hand on the other girl's shoulder. "Don't worry, Cindy. We can teach you how. Can't we, guys?"
Nancy hurries to the stairs and turns around.
"Right! Let's go upstairs and teach her some steps. I've got some great Donna Summer records."
"Sue Ann, thanks a lot for nominating me," Cindy says before wrapping her arms around her friend. "I love you!"
"Come on," Sue Ann laughs and follows the others upstairs.
Blair stands behind the couch, observing the two. Jo had been watching as well but knows that she must have missed something when Blair says, "Cindy, what's wrong with you?"
Jo's eyes narrow, watching the scene unfold.
"What do you mean?"
"All this touching and hugging girls and 'I love you.' Boy, are you strange."
"Well I didn't mean anything." Cindy's voice is frail, her eyes filled with panic at the accusation.
"I'll just bet. You better think about what you mean," Blair warns, walking away and leaving Cindy to watch her go.
A stern voice that isn't Cindy's leaves Blair frozen in her tracks. Had she forgotten Jo was in the room? Didn't she notice?
Blair turns around to face her menacing-looking roommate. With the jean jacket, the crossed arms, the rigid posture, and the sharp glint in her eye, the only thing keeping Jo from looking like a tough, bar-bouncing biker chick from some gang movie is a buzz cut or a bandana.
"What was that supposed to mean?"
"What?" she asks coyly.
"You know what I mean. What you just said to Cindy," Jo practically shouts, gesturing to the girl who currently looks like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs. "What were you insinuating?"
"Insinuating," Blair echoes. "That's a big word for a girl like you, isn't it?"
Jo doesn't say a word, only switches the way her arms are folded over her chest, waiting for Blair to realize that changing the subject won't work. Cindy shifts on her feet awkwardly, not used to being unable to defend herself or having someone else do it for her.
Blair sighs, looks at Cindy, and says, "Just don't be surprised if someone who doesn't know better gets the wrong idea. The way you look and the way you act… You're sending a message."
"And what is so wrong with the message you say she's sending?"
Jo never understood the unnecessary hate people have for people unlike themselves. Her friends back home rival anyone and everyone remotely different. Her best friend Jessie has always been the ring leader of it all. You can't be rich. You can't speak Spanish, be Spanish, or play Spanish music. You can't be gay. You can't be black. You can't do this or look like that. You can't be from here or go there. Jo went along with the rules because friendship and having Jessie's back was something she valued, but the fact still remained—she never understood it. Now that Jessie is out of the picture, Jo has no reason to let it continue.
Any answer Blair might have come up with is interrupted by Sue Ann hollering from the top of the stairs for Cindy to come up. The athlete looks at both girls one last time before bounding up the stairs two at a time, fleeing the scene as fast as her feet will carry her. Jo shakes her head furiously at the other girl and grabs her shiny red helmet from where it hangs off of the banister.
"Where are you going?"
"Anywhere that's away from you."
"Hey, where's the fire?"
Jo slips her helmet off and slides it under her arm. She had entered the common room, refreshed and levelheaded after her ride. Sue Ann and Tootie flew down the stairs and only stopped running to Mrs. Garrett's bedroom door when Jo called after them.
They turn around in unison and Tootie explains, "Cindy's dropped out of the Queens race."
"She's locked herself in our room, and she won't talk to anyone," adds Sue Ann. "We were just about to see if Mrs. Garrett could help."
"Hang on," Jo pacifies, gesturing with her hands like she's patting down the excitement. "You guys run to Mrs. Garrett with every little problem? What if I can help?"
"You hardly know her," Tootie says, hands on hips. "What could you possibly say to Cindy that Mrs. Garrett couldn't do ten times better?"
Jo glares at the prepubescent girl and replies, "Where I'm from, you depend on your friends when you're in a bind. You don't go crying to mommy. Give me ten minutes. If she isn't out by then, you can send for help."
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Cindy yells from the other side of the door, "Go away! I don't want to talk to anyone."
"Cindy, it's Jo," she shouts back with her face right next to the door. "The girl you almost ran over with your hog."
Natalie turns to Molly and whispers from behind Jo, "Cindy has a motorcycle too?"
Molly rolls her eyes."The Harvest Festival pig, dummy."
"The girl from downstairs," Cindy resolves from the other side of the door. She sounds closer now.
"Yeah. Hey, listen. Do you think we could maybe have this conversation in the same room? If you don't let me in, I'm just gonna go get some tools and pry the door off."
A quiet click of the door knob and Jo is on the other side watching as Cindy retreats to where she had previously been sitting on a small study desk. She begins punching the pocket of her baseball glove with vigor.
"What's this I hear about you dropping out of that race?" Jo cautiously prods. "Don't you want to see the look on Blair's face when you win?"
"Jo, look at me. I like football jerseys and pants. There's nothing about me that's feminine. I'm not Blair. I'd much rather have a baseball glove with a good pocket."
"Look at me," Jo laughs and plucks at her tee shirt. "I've never worn a pair of heels in my life, and my bike is the only thing I care about. What you wear doesn't make you who you are and neither do your interests. If that were true, I'd be Easy Rider and you'd be Willie Randolph. "
"Reggie Jackson," Cindy corrects, cracking a small smile. It fades as quickly as it appears, and shame takes over. "She was right about me."
"Hey, don't listen to what that know-nothing twit said downstairs. She's just worried about you crushing her at the festival. Getting inside your head was probably her way of knocking out the competition. If you want, I can go knock out your competition."
The sound of cracking knuckles resonates through the room.
"No, Jo. I… I mean it. What she said wasn't wrong. I'm not normal."
At first Jo thinks she hears Cindy wrong or that she's misinterpreting what the girl is telling her. The longer the silence lasts, the clearer things become. No words come to Jo's mind. She rubs her neck anxiously, looking up at the ceiling and internally cursing whoever is listening for putting her in a situation where her response could make or break an insecure girl. It isn't that Jo doesn't accept this part of Cindy. It's that she knows what the world is like and how nasty of a place it can be for...people like Cindy. She was part of the problem until today, after all.
"That's… Well… Uh, that's okay."
"It's funny," Cindy sighs in relief as she slides off of the surface of the desk and over to Jo. "If I were talking to anyone else, I never would have considered telling the truth. I barely know you, but I guess I just felt like…like you wouldn't tell me I was confused or hadn't found the right boy. What you did for me downstairs, defending me in front of Blair and all, meant a lot to me."
Jo smiles at the possibility of having someone here she can call a true friend. One that doesn't come with conditions the way Jessie does.
"No problem. So what if you're not normal? I bet you've got a killer right hook judging by the way you punch that glove," she says, pointing to it, "and as far as I'm concerned, that matters way more than who you wanna slow-dance with."
Cindy mirrors Jo's smile and says, "Thanks, Jo. Blair might not be over the moon about you being here, but I am. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't shown up today."
"I hope you don't plan on showing up to the dance in those."
"What's wrong with these?"
"Well they're jeans, for one." Blair's hands are planted firmly on her dress-clad hips. "I could understand if you were bringing a change of clothes like some girls do but it doesn't appear that you are. Secondly, they're just plain tacky. Look at them. They have oil stains!"
"I happen to like these jeans," Jo is quick to defend. "They have a history."
"That much is obvious." After giving Jo a once-over in full-on critique-mode, she adds, "And that hair. You don't really expect a boy to dance with you with your hair like that, do you? Nobody dons a ponytail to a dance." When Jo says nothing and for the most part doesn't respond with her features either aside from a cold stare, Blair adds, "I'm only trying to help."
Jo pretends to be moved, placing her hand on her heart, overcome with faux emotion. "Wow, I could have made a huge mistake showing up in clothes that I like and a hairstyle I feel comfortable with. Thanks for the heads up, Marcia."
One—two—three steps closer to Jo, Blair's face is unreadable.
"I know you don't like me, but I am trying to save you the misery of being a wallflower all night—not that I know from experience," she says, flipping her hair over her shoulder in trademark Blair Warner fashion.
"Thanks but I won't be going to the dance."
"Why not?" Blair's eyebrows are scrunched, this being one curveball she had not anticipated. "Everyone goes to the dance."
"Not me." Jo shrugs on her heavy leather jacket that she removed from her luggage minutes prior, knowing the October night weather will be less kind than it had been earlier today. "I plan on riding to the festival behind the bus on my bike and eventually sneaking away until it's time to be home."
"But you'll miss the crowning of the Harvest Queen!"
"Don't you want to see me win?" Jo blinks. Blair tries again. "Don't you want to see Cindy win second or third place? You two are such good friends now from what I hear."
Jo rubs her eye and sighs. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather do my own thing tonight. I just want to get away from here for a little while. There's no space, no freedom."
The blonde slumps slightly and shrugs in defeat. Truth be told, Blair doesn't know why she was pushing the subject so hard. It just isn't like an Eastland girl to not want to join in on the fun and games. But Jo isn't like everyone else, Blair is beginning to notice.
The Harvest Festival goes off without a hitch. Tug of war, bobbing for apples, hay rides, pie-eating contests, a few carnival rides… Everyone has a blast. Mrs. Garrett monitors the girls of Dorm A from afar but makes sure they all stay out of trouble. Nancy mostly walks around, occasionally stopping to gab with friends, her hand never leaving the hand of her boyfriend, Roger. Natalie sets the record for youngest pie-eating winner, and then she and Tootie run (or roll, in Tootie's case) around gossiping. Sue Ann, Jo, Tootie, Natalie, and Molly join Cindy in the Tug of War games, and their team achieves victory. Then the two blondes opt for a hay ride with a couple of boys from Bates Academy while Molly buddies up with Natalie and Tootie. Jo soaks up the atmosphere in solidarity after Tug of War and even stops to talk with Mrs. Garrett for a few minutes. Blair spends the evening with Greg Hockney. She talks about herself; he talks about how attractive she is. A match made in heaven. When Jo spots the two love birds sharing cotton candy on the Ferris wheel about an hour after the girls arrive, she thinks to herself that she disagrees with what she was told earlier that day. He is hardly "baby-turtle cute" like Shaun Cassidy or "Mr. Suave-and-Rugged" like Burt Reynolds. The sideburns are a definite point deduction. If Blair were within earshot, Jo would have made a joke just to fire the other girl up.
Once it hits eight o' clock, the crowd is led over to a big building where "MESS HALL" is stenciled in paint on the wall by the door. Jo decides to go in and check it out before she slips out for the night. Her way of thinking is that if she makes her rounds and lets people know she showed up, there's less chance of her getting caught. By now, most girls have already snuck off to change into their formal attire and reapply make-up, but she spies a handful of stragglers making a beeline for the restroom in their day clothes.
Some high-pitched guy singing about dancing the night away is the first record to be played. Jo hates disco. She shutters and keeps walking. Nancy is the first person she recognizes so she approaches her.
"Hey," Jo greets.
"This is Roger, my boyfriend. Roger, this is the new girl I was telling you about, Jo." The two strangers wave awkwardly. "That's, uh, some outfit you got on. I've never seen anyone wear jeans to a dance before." She laughs nervously, almost wishing she hadn't commented on Jo's attire in the first place.
"At least now you don't have to worry about me wearing the same dress as you," Jo tries to joke.
"Right. Good thinking." Nancy smiles genuinely, warming up to this wildcat. "Oh there's Annie!" With a little tug on Roger's hand, Nancy excuses herself and hurries away.
The next track is something by the Bee Gees and Jo hates it too. She wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this a week ago, and she can imagine what her friends would say if they saw her now. Jessie would call her a good-for-nothing sell-out. The sudden suffocating urge to leave overwhelms her. Finding an exit becomes Jo's only mission. Pushing past whoever comes into her path and ignoring the hey's and watch it's, Jo finds herself bumping chest to chest with none other than the girl she newly despises.
"Oomph. Excuse you!"
"Excuse you. Can't you see I'm trying to get past?"
Blair clicks her tongue and arches her brow. "The way a bulldozer tries to get past a building, I see."
Jo's eyes narrow. "Well you are a mighty, mighty Brick House."
"Ahem. Blair, are you going to introduce us?"
Jo and Blair both turn to face Blair's date. He has a vaguely predatory look in his eye as he shines his toothpaste commercial smile at the brunette. They both look at him in disgust.
"Greg, Jo. Jo, Greg." Blair lets out an audible hmph the moment he winks at the other girl. "Greg, you wouldn't mind getting me some punch would you?"
"Not at all." With a short glance at his date and then back to Jo, he offers, "Would you like some?"
Jo smiles at him uncomfortably so he'll leave. He nods and slips through the sea of people. Blair is fuming. She doesn't know why, but she is positively fuming. The nerve of Greg. The nerve of Jo for provoking him. What ever happened to guys without wandering eyes, and whatever happened to girls who didn't try to steal other girls' boyfriends?
"What was that?"
"What was what?"
"Back off, would you? He's mine. He might ask me out tonight, and I really can't have you or anyone else ruining my chances of Greg and I going together."
"Hey, you got it all wrong. I wasn't trying to invade your turf. I'm not that kind of girl." Blair purses her lips and diverts her eyes to Greg at the punch bowl, unsure if she can trust someone she doesn't know. If the tenderness in her voice is any indication, Jo seems to be telling the truth. "Besides, he's a Grade A creep and I was just trying to get through so I could get out of here."
"You're still doing that? I thought maybe you decided to stay until nine to watch me in all my glory. The ceremony is really something." If Jo didn't know any better, she would swear Blair actually wants her to be there for support and stuff. The blonde looks around briefly. "What if Mrs. Garrett finds out you aren't where she thinks you are? You could get in big trouble."
"Curfew isn't 'til 11:50. I'll be home by then. If Mrs. G asks where I am, just tell her you saw me earlier and know I'm around somewhere."
Blair crosses her arms. "Why should I cover for you?"
"Because if you don't," Jo moves so close to Blair that she can feel her breath on her skin, "I'll rat you out. All your friends will know how you treated Cindy earlier." The threat is hollow, of course. Jo follows street code, a set of unspoken social "rules" you have to learn in certain cities in order to survive and not make enemies. Street code forbids snitching, and if Blair knew anything at all about inner city life she would know that. But since she doesn't, a little bluff could go a long way.
Blair takes a step back, needing to put distance between them. "Point made," is her response.
Jo says nothing more, only looks at her a few more seconds before walking around Blair and heading toward the door.
Blair calls to her retreating figure, "Where are you going?"
Jo stops at the door, turns around to face her, and rests her hand on the door frame.
"You have to come with me to find out," she shouts over the music.
Blair laughs haughtily but saunters over. "Are you suggesting that I leave the dance, abandon Greg Hockney, and give up my crown less than an hour away from the announcement to ride on the back of your hopper?"
Jo smiles to herself, fighting off the laugh that is bubbling up inside of her, and thinks about how crazy this is. She is wasting precious time trying to convince someone she doesn't like to spend the night with her. Why can't she seem to back down when it comes to Blair? It's one thing to show someone you aren't afraid of them. It's another thing entirely to convince them to leave their would-be boyfriend behind and share an experience on her most prized—most intimately cherished possession.
"All I'm saying is you won't ever know where I'm going unless you come with me."
Unfortunately for Jo, her mouth moves before her brain thinks around Blair. Does she really want this stuck-up rich girl to come with her?
"Get real. You would probably leave me on the side of some dirt road or take me to one of your gang meetings in Brooklyn."
"I'm from the Bronx," Jo corrects.
"Like that's any better."
"Have it your way," she shrugs nonchalantly. "Stay here and do the same thing that you've done for—what was it, two years in a row? It's no skin off my back." She flips up the collar on her leather jacket, slips her hands in her pockets, and steps out into the chilly night air.