1This is the ongoing chronicle of my first year in Red River.

My Mom and I moved here because she couldn't pay the mortgage on the old house anymore ever since she and my Dad split. I have to start a new school for the 9th grade and my Mom had to get a job. She actually needed money and had to get two jobs. Her day job is an aerobics instructor at the Y, and her night job is a cocktail waitress. My school is a real culture shock for me. You see, I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood and this "new" city school had graffiti on the walls and fights in the halls. I should introduce myself. My name is Louisa Mason and I am almost 14 years old. I arrived the night before school started and I did not even unpack when I collapsed for the night. When I got up, Mom was still asleep on a sofa ( we only have one bed! and I was using it ), and I inadvertently woke her up. She was pissed. She grabbed my leg and tripped me. I got up from the floor and got out of her way. You don't mess with my mom! After that, I took a shower and read a book. At about 6:30, my mom, having forgotten that I rudely awoke her, had my usual breakfast of three slices of toast with jam ready. I was feeling more than a bit apprehensive a half an hour later, when my mom dropped me off in front of the ancient huge brick building with the words "High school" carved in the stone facade. Not only was I starting high school, but I did not know a living sole in this city. All I had with me was my schedule. I had no idea where anything was. How was I going to make it through the day was my main thought. First period was PE, which is gym. I had no trouble finding that cavernous room at least. There were about 30 boys and girls hanging out at the far end, so I joined them. They were having conversions and goofing off in little groups. Since I knew no one, I stood by myself and looked around. I tried to look cool and aloof but inside I was holding back tears. Then I noticed the climbing rope. It reminded me of my old house and the tree house my Dad built. It made me sad to think about the past. I used to get up there by climbing a rope ladder. Some girl with incredible muscles on her arms began to climb it. She just zipped straight up, and she didn't even use her legs to hold on. Some boy pointed up at her and said, "Cool, look at her". Then the woman came in and said to her "You, on the ropes, get down now!" She was not nice about it. She got down really quick, by falling and catching the rope a few times to break the fall. Then, the woman lectured her about using the ropes without the proper supervision. Then the woman said, "follow me girls". And, all the girls stopped talking and fell into a line behind her. I joined the end of the line and followed single file to the other end of the gym. Once we turned the corner, the woman stopped, but we continued. She handed each of us a one piece stretchy bathing suit out of a wheel barrel. Some of the girls made faces or said "yuk". Then we went into the locker room. When I sat down on a bench, the other girls were already undressing. I did not want to be naked in front of strangers. I looked around, hoping for a way out. Of course, I was trapped. I had to do my best to hide my own modesty and do what had to be done. Oh shit, I guess this is high school, I said to myself. I took off all my clothes. Then I looked at the suit. It seemed so flimsy and even though I was sure it was washed I felt squeamish about who wore it last. How in the world was I going to bring myself to put it on? I wondered. This high school was turning into a nightmare. As I

agonized, I became aware of the girl on the same bench as me through the corner of my eye. She had the biggest breasts I have ever seen. They looked like they belonged on someone's else's body because she was otherwise a very thin girl. She seemed self conscious and she tried in vain to cover her chest with her arms. Then, she noticed me and said in an angry tone of voice, "what are you looking at?" I replied like an idiot by saying, "you're so big." I knew that I had no right to say that, and make her feel even worse. "Keep your eyes to yourself" she growled at me. It made me sad that I had made an enemy so quickly. Even so, why couldn't she be more understanding. This wasn't easy for me either. None of this place was. So, I turned away and just concentrated on getting on that damn suit. After a while, the woman came into the locker room. "What's the problem?" she said. It wasn't like she was concerned. It was like she was impatient with me. I wanted to crawl up and die. But I managed to say " I can't wear this." She looked at me and said " Just get the damn thing on". I stood there in a line with the other girls at the edge of the pool. We were expected to wait until our last name was called, then dive in, swim any way we wanted to to the other side, and swim back. I noticed that several of these girls were pitiful in the water. One girl made it halfway across, and started waving her hands and shouting. The woman dove in and saved her. Just like that - without a second thought. We all stood around her and watched her lying on the side and coughing. I felt sorry for her since she had to bear such a humiliation. The woman blew a whistle and we went back into line. I noticed that the girl with the boobs was having a really difficult time keeping her suit from slipping down. I tried not to stare at her. "Mason" was called. I did Ok. At least I can swim and I did not drown. Anyway, I was glad when we each had our chance and the woman let us go to the showers. I took a fast shower since I did not want to look at naked people. Actually, I felt unnerved by being naked in front of everyone else, and I felt like a baby because many other girls seemed so at ease with their bodies. Having survived swimming and showering, I was out in the hall trying to get a handle on getting to my English class. I was still wet from the shower and swimming and my shirt kind of clung to me. It was uncomfortable. Then I heard boys whistling at me. I do not need this, I thought. I turned around and gave three of them a nasty look. They backed off. I was the last one to class. I would have been truly tardy, but I was lucky and chose the correct wing, by chance. So, I sat in the only available seat, which was in the front row. All during that class, the teacher kept staring down at me. I could not understand why. It was unnerving, and in my view uncouth for a 13 year old girl to be eyed by a teacher like so much slut. It was so annoying that to make a point, I kept my eyes riveted on his, and when his gaze crossed mine, I ran my tongue slowly along my upper lip. When the bell rang, there was a mad rush for the door and a bottle neck developed. I felt a squeeze on my rear end. But when I turned around, I could not make out the culprit. But one boy hiding behind a bunch of girls looked suspicious. It really bothered me to get touched for no reason. Where was Math? The second bell rang and I seemed no closer to finding the room. I was frantic. "Will someone help me" I cried. But I had no help from any students. So, I backtracked to the office and they gave me a map and a pass, so I would not be marked tardy. Anyway, the Math teacher was a real jerk and locked the door, and when I knocked, he would not answer at first. I had to really bang. And he was furious when I came in. He gave the whole class a pop quiz, and this was the first day!, on account of me. What a way to get popular, huh? Between 6th and 7th period I was walking down the hallway and I saw the boy who I thought

had squeezed my rear end. I called to him "Hey". I wanted to find out why he did that to me. But, when he saw me, he walked up to me and punched me in my nose. Just like that. He did not say anything. He just did it. I put my hand to my nose and sure enough, I was bleeding. I burst into tears. I never expected to be punched. I never even thought a boy would punch a girl. Goddamn, should I punch him back? I thought. I never hit anyone in my life. I looked up at him, and fearing I'd be hit again, I ran crying to the girls room. I stood at a mirror and washed my face. It really stung like fire. Then a group of four girls came in. One of them said, "Get into a fight?" She seemed obnoxious, so I chose not to answer her. I walked to the door, but two of them stepped in my path. "Do you mind?" I said. "That's a nasty cut. Who did that to you?" One of them said. "Hey look, I have a class" I said. "High and mighty?" One of them said to me. They were very sarcastic. I pushed past them and left the girls room. This place really sucks, I thought. When my mom saw me at supper she asked " What happened to you?" She was mainly commenting on my nose, which was caked with some left over blood at the nostrils. Ashamed, I mumbled "nothing". "Did someone hit you?" she insisted. "Mom, I can handle it" I whined. "Like hell you can." she said. That did not make me feel good at all. "Mom, I hate it here." I said as she put ice in a washcloth and held it to my face. "Louisa. you have got to stand up for yourself." she said. That was when I told her about the boy. "Boys who hit girls. They are the scum of the earth. If he ever bothers you again, I want you to go at him like I told you." she said. "I can't do that mom" I said. The thought of just grabbing hold of a guy's private parts was disgusting to me. "Yes you can. And when you do, don't let go until you see his eyes roll up in his head." she said. "Oh mom", I whined. "just promise me you'll defend yourself." she said. " Ok" I said to get her off my case. I am not my mom, I thought to myself. "You are a strong girl." she said to me as I went upstairs to finish my math homework. The next day we got our locker assignments. I was cleaning out the mess that someone had left there - torn wrappings and a smelly undershirt, for god sakes, when a boy comes up to me and says "hi". It was my first normal contact with another human being in this city, I thought. I looked at him and said "hi" back. He smiled and I smiled. Then he said to me , "You are really awesome". "I am?" I replied, surprised at his comment and expression. "Are you kidding? Every guy in the school is talking about you." "They are? Why?" I was confused. Did I do something wrong? No one knows me and everyone is talking about me? I wondered. "You bet." He said in a upbeat tone. I was disappointed that he did not explain. "What's your name?" he asked me. "Louisa, and yours?" I replied. "Freddy." he said. "You wanna go out this weekend. To a movie or something?" he added. "I'll have to ask my mom" I said. "Your mom?" he questioned like it was the oddest thing. "I'm only going to be 14 in two weeks. My Dad had a rule that I had to be 15 before I can go out with a boy. But now that my folks are divorced maybe my mom won't be so strict." "Well I hope she says yes." he said. "See ya" he added and left. I suddenly felt sad. I was sure he would be asking out another girl. I really feel like I need a boy friend, or any friend, in this place. In English, I didn't want to sit in the front again. But I was not paying attention, and ended up in the very same seat I had had the day before. I hoped he wouldn't start staring at me again, but sure enough I felt his eyes on me like he was touching me and it made me feel ill. So, in retaliation, I continued my tease act with him. I leaned far forward resting my chin in my right hand with my right elbow on the desktop. And, whenever he looked at me, I puckered my lips at him. This was getting to him, because he was turning red in the face. Serves him right for staring

at me, I thought. After the bell rang, he motioned to me and I went up to his desk to see what he wanted. "What is you name, Miss ..."? he asked. "Louisa Mason" I answered. "You're a very attractive young woman", he said. The nerve of this man, I thought. "In more ways than one", I replied coyly. "Louisa. Perhaps you can come by 8th period and I'll give you a rundown of the year's work." he said. "I'll be here. Thanks a lot." I said cheerfully. My plan was to cut Math. I did not want to face a class full of angry students because of what happened with that test the day before. But at the last minute, I summoned up my courage and went into that class. The teacher lectured nonstop at an alarming pace. All but two of the kids were totally lost. These two kept up by taking notes. Someone looking at me might have thought I was lost as well. But in truth, I was bored. I had this same material in 8th grade in my old school and I got all 100's. Sure enough when the teacher passed out the pop quiz, most of the kids got scores like 0 or 20, and I got 100%. Having seemingly forgotten that it was me he was angry at, he called me to the front of the class to go over all of the problems on the quiz. I felt like a dufus. This teaching stuff was not for me. I gave an accurate, but lackluster performance. The fact that I was up there only served to damage any chance I had for popularity. That is, if I ever had a prayer to start with. "Thank you, miss Mason" he said in a nasal tone. When the bell rang and everyone rose up, he said "Hold it. Are we sheep? Chapters 1 to 3 by tomorrow. Now go". Everybody moaned. One boy said to me in a nasty tone as he passed, "Now look what you have done." As if I was the cause the onerous assignment! I too had better ways to spend the afternoon. I felt I had to honor my appointment with my sex crazed English teacher. I was planning to tell him off. So off I went to his class. And he was waiting for me with a smile. He closed the door behind me and said "Louisa, please sit down". I sat in that same chair again, and he asked " Have you ever been with a man?" At that point, I was ready to just get up and leave. My thought was to tell someone about this jerk. But who was I going to tell? He was the teacher and I was just some kid. He would just deny it, and who would believe me? So I made a decision to continue this act and maybe he would wake up and realize that I was just putting him on. So, I replied, "Of course I have." He smiled. Evidently this was the answer he had hopped for and expected. This led me to believe that I should have spoken the truth. This whole situation seemed so surreal to me that it was creepy. He then asked me, " Are you good?" I just laughed at him and said " wouldn't you like to know". That really got to him. I could tell. Just then, he became bolder and leaned against my desk. That kind of shook me up and out of the game I was playing. This was for real and I was scared! "So can we do it this afternoon?", he asked me. "Do what?" I asked. "Surely you know." he said. I knew, but I hoped I was wrong. "You want to have sex?" I said. "Not just ordinary sex. Passionate love making." he said, still leaning forward inches from my face. "Why me?" I asked. "Are you backing out?" he asked. I realized that he was trying to confuse me. I was not backing out of anything. I had not agreed to anything in the first place. "I think I should leave." I said and I stood up. Then he placed his hands firmly on my shoulders and pushed me back down into the seat. "Please" I stammered as I stood up again. As I was walking to the door, he took my arm really hard. "I'll scream." I said. Then he let me go and I zoomed out of there. I was frightened out of my wits. And when that passed, I was worried how I could go back to that class again. And if I started cutting class, I would flunk. So what happened with Freddy? About dating. My Mom said I could if she could check out the

boy first. I thought that was fair. Because, if the guy was decent, he'd submit to my mom's judgmental gaze. Freddy came up to me the next day, a Friday, and he said "You look great". "Thanks" I said, smiling really a lot. "So are we on for this weekend?" he asked. "It's cool, but you have to see my mom first." I said. I expected he would say 'fine'. But he blurted out "See your Mom? For what?" He looked at me like I was from Mars. I shook my head 'yes' and he said "You gotta be kidding." and he walked away. Just like that. I felt like such a fool. I had such hopes for this Freddy and he can't even stand in front of my mom for two seconds? Then what about the boy who punched me? Well, I tried to stay clear of him. But he kept grabbing my ass when ever he felt like it. And I did not like it one bit. I told my mom, hoping she'd give me advice, but she said that this one was for me to deal with. And what did I do? One day when he wasn't suspecting anything, I stood behind him at lunch. I was standing and he was seated. And I poured a pint container of cold milk over his head. As he was turning to see what was going on, I grabbed the back of his chair and leaned onto it and it toppled over. He fell down onto the floor with everyone watching! Then to keep him down so I could get away, I kicked him in the head. I never thought I would be capable of doing violence to another person. Back in my old school, if someone did what I did, they would be immediately stopped and disciplined by the principal. But here people just gathered around to watch. The boy got up and in a rage chased me all around the room. It was quite a sight. If it wasn't for all the tables and people, he would have gotten to me. Desperate, I picked up a fork and charged him with it. That was enough to stop him for the time being. At home my mom gave me a lecture. I told her what I did, hoping she would be proud of me. She said it was a dangerous stunt and that I was lucky I didn't get me face bashed in. "That boy will come after you until you take more drastic action", she said emphasizing 'you', meaning me. There was Freddie flirting with another girl. That made me sad. I wished some other boy would ask me out. There was that English teacher, who stared at me. I think he's waiting for me to have sex with him. And, the boy who hits me. His name is Bob. He pushes me in the halls and balls his fist whenever he thinks I am looking at him in class. I'm really scared of him and he knows it. On our first paper, my English teacher gave me an F when I really deserved at least a B. Risking being raped, I decided to go to his office after school. "What's the meaning of giving me an F?" I blurted out. "I think you know how to improve that grade." he said with a smile. "That's not fair." I said. "Who said all was fair in love and war?" he said. We just stared at each other. I was fuming at him. Then he said, "you know it is very easy for me to turn an F into a B. It's just a couple of curves. So, I'll make this one easy for you. Just show me a couple of your curves and I'll draw some of mine on your paper." "You are sick" I yelled. But I did not leave. "Your shirt and your bra. I just want to see you. Is that so difficult?" he asked. It made me nearly ill. But ironically it was no more difficult than that awful gym class. I did it. "There, are you happy now?" I exclaimed as I put them back on. "You really are a beauty. You should be proud of your body." he said calmly. "Shut your mouth and give me a B" I said as I shoved my paper at him. He did. I looked at it, then I stormed out of there. Only when I got home did I realize how dumb I was. The grade on this paper meant nothing. I could have changed the F to a B myself. It occurred to me that the grade in his book might have been a B all along. Or maybe it will stay an F until I go all the way with him. Damn! Today, Bob nearly tore my head off. I was at my locker putting away some books, when he came

from behind and wrapped his arm around my neck. Then he lifted me up till me toes were dangling against the floor. I was waving my arms and trying to hit him. Then he just let go of me and let me drop. I just leaned against my locker and cried. Not because he hurt me badly. I cried because his abuse of me was getting to me. Why me? Why do I have to come to this awful place? Today I saw Freddy and a girl in my gym class together. They had their hands in each other's back pockets. I envy her so much. She's no better looking than me, but I bet her mom doesn't need to see her boy friends. You know what? I've decided to go after a boy myself. But who? Today I picked a boy at random. I passed him in the hall and said 'hi' to him. He just smiled back at me. I think he's shy. I've said hi to the boy 9 times so far. I thought he would stop and ask me out. But, nothing has happened like that. Instead, Bob saw me flirting and he pushed the boy against the wall. That boy is now avoiding me. I am so mad at Bob. This is worse than just hurting my body. Now he's messing up my future love life. Today I brought in brass knuckles. I found them on the roof of our apartment building of all places. At lunch I put them on and walked up to Bob. "Hi Bob" I said in a sing song voice. This was the first time I spoke to him in a flirting way. Usually I just whine at him like a baby. He turned his head and I punched him right across his face as hard as I could. He was off his chair, face down on the floor, and screaming! I leaned forward, "Stay away from me from now on." I yelled down at him. "I'll kill you Louisa!" he groaned. I walked away. This was the first time in my life that I really hurt anyone. But he was the first person in my life who ever harassed me to the point of violence. Today, Bob suddenly grabbed me by my arms and pinned me back against the wall. I looked up at his face and saw the deep brown bruises for the first time. "You're gonna die" he shouted at me. I thrust my knee up right into his balls. He let go of me and bent over in pain. "No, you are!" I shouted back at him. Bob hasn't bothered me for three weeks now. I guess that he'll only pick on girls who won't hurt him back. That boy I was interested in. His name is Randy.

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