I didn’t know the team had lost to Ingol High School until Monday morning. I suppose I should have. The silence should have told me. When the team won, the streets were full of honking cars, flashing lights, cheering voices. But not on this most recent Friday night. Just silence. And on Monday, at school, I didn’t even have to ask anyone. The entire atmosphere of the school was black.
Here’s what I mean: In the morning, all the students had to gather in the huge commons area of the building before we were permitted back in the locker and classroom area at 7:52—precisely 7:52. Schools are weird about time. Everywhere else runs on normal intervals: half-hours, hours. But schools have classes that end at 8:53, and the next one starts at 8:58. And some teachers stand there staring at their clocks, just hoping you’ll be late so they can slam the door in your face and send you to the office to get a late pass. Stupid.
Anyway, that Monday after the homecoming game, the commons was deathly quiet the entire morning, kids sitting soberly in chairs, heads drooped as if their guppies had died—or their sneakers had gone out of style. When I discovered the reason—We lost the game!—I felt my own dark mood begin to lighten. But not much.
I tried on a small smile. But it didn’t make me feel any better, so I deleted it.
“Oh, it’s so awful!” I looked beside me. Harriet. Her face was red and swollen. She looked as if someone had been slapping her around, but I knew she’d just been crying all weekend.
“I know,” I said dryly. “I’ll never understand why they don’t let us back in the building before 7:52.”
“Vickie! I’m not talking about the clock!” And she started to blubber again.
“Aw, Harriet, don’t cry. I hate it when you do that.” And I did. I loved Harriet Eastbrook. Off and on, she was the best friend I’d ever had—and probably ever would have. I didn’t care for her current occupation—cheerleader—but I knew that she was still Harriet and was entitled to act crazy for a while.
“Then don’t make fun of me,” she sobbed.
“I wasn’t making fun of you,” I lied. “It’s just that, you know, I don’t really care about football, and—”
“It’s not about football!” Harriet cried. “It’s about school spirit!”
Fortunately, the bell rang—so loudly that I couldn’t hear her wailing any longer. And the slow, sad herd, mooing and moaning, moved on to home room.