The year is 1986.
Jeremy Heere steps through the halls of Middleborough High, mid-neck length hair slicked back neatly. Not exactly psyched for another day, he picks at his plain blue t-shirt- old, small and worn from years of use from both him and previously his dad.
The brightly coloured crowds of students squeeze by him, chatting about the latest history project and betting on the newest couples. “Like” and “Totally” fill his ears and swirl around in his head.
A pair of students slammed against the lockers, making out fiercely, are shoved aside by the radical Queen Bee Chloe Valentine.
Her high ponytail swishes as she forces them away, thin lips curled in annoyance. The couple scuttle away like crabs, probably off to the privacy of a bathroom stall.
The tall brunette rolls her eyes as she turns to her best friend, Brooke Lohst. The petite girl, long blond hair tied up diner waitress-style, widens her eyes as she senses new gossip.
Jeremy tilts his head and watches from his place against the wall.
“So, Jenna Rolan said Madeline told Jake, ‘I’ll only have sex with you if you beat me at pool.”
She takes out her lipstick and redoes it, probably to drag out the suspense.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jeremy notices a dark skinned, heavy set girl creep up to the pair.
“And then she lost at pool. Deliberately!”
Brooke grins maniacally. “That is so awesome!”
“Brooke!” Chloe practically shrieks with disgust as she snaps her head around. The smaller girl cowers in her yellow crop top and blue bell bottoms.
“uh-I mean slutty-”
Jeremy shakes his head and is nudged to the side by the girl he saw earlier, identifying her as Jenna Rolan, gossip gloria. She wedges herself between the two girls, facing the blonde.
“And then, Madeline was all like-”
Valntine slams her locker door loudly. Jenna flinches, her pigtails flying backwards. Brooke blinks, nonplussed, as if this happened to her all the time. Jeremy drops his bag, and he kneels down to pick it up, watching the drama happening over his head.
“I’m telling the story, Jenna!” Her feral scream echoes through the now quiet halls as gaping students watch, enthralled.
A clatter at her feet causes her to look down, straight into the staring eyes of a thin, kneeling weirdo.
Heere scrambles up and steps away from the trio of beautiful, glaring students, feeling eyes on his back from all around.
The leader of the little group smirks and curls her lip.
“Oh. My. God. He is, like, totally getting off on that.”
Chloe puts her arms around the girls and steers them away.
The remaining teens around him titter as he slumps his shoulders and walks away.
Jeremy walks up the stairs to his locker, fiddling with his shirt as he strode.
Distracted, he bumps shoulders with Rich Goranski, the short yet buff and totally righteous school bully. The jumpsuit he was wearing looked way too big on him.
“Yo, don’t touch me, tall ass!”
His spiky hair doesn’t budge as he jumps around, trying to get them face to face.
“S-sorry,” stammers out Jeremy. “I was just trying to get to my lo--”
Rich grabs him by the shirt and shoves him, backpack and all, face-first against a locker.
This is, like, gay…? Jeremy thought, hearing the scritch-scratch of a marker against the fabric.
After what seemed like forever, the smaller guy pulled him off the cool metal and brought them face to face.
Yeah. This is totally gay. No, wait, Rich makes fun of homos, he’d never be one.
“You wash that off?” Spittle was flying out of Goranski’s mouth now. “You’re DEAD!”
Rich’s eyes flew past him and he grins, shoving Jeremy aside.
“YO, Jakey D!”
Jeremy turns around to see the tall, mullet-headed Jake Dillinger stroll through the halls, a cigarette lolling in his mouth. The tubular dude totally rocked his leather jacket, Air Jordans, and baggy jeans.
He greets the smaller boy with a smile and a handshake Jeremy wouldn’t even attempt to duplicate.
Rich slings an arm around Jake (or at least tried to- they had too large of a height difference).
“So, what’s the story with Madeline?”
He replies with that easy going, side smirk that everyone seemed to love. It made him look intelligent, yet hot, yet kind at the same time; making him popular with both the teachers and the students, which shouldn’t be allowed.
“Oh, man, I shouldn’t say.”
Jake takes the cig out of his mouth and blows out a hot breath.
“But it’s a good thing I rock at pool.”
Jeremy shakes his head, grabs his books, and swings his locker door shut to drown out the laughs from behind him.
After a bit of walking around aimlessly, he notices a poster on the wall. The neon green and pink drowns out the small text on the bottom of the paper.
Hunching down his shoulders to make himself smaller, he makes his way towards it.
When he’s a few steps away, he stops and takes it in.
THEATER CLUB SIGN UPS
Meet after school in the theater on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Scoffing, he walks away. Signing up for the play wouldn’t get him anywhere except for lower on the popularity scale.
He turns the corner and stops short.
There she was.
Christine Canigula. The adorable ball of energy with large hazel eyes and tightly curled black hair. The girl, with her overalls and ribbons, who dressed like she didn’t have a care in the world.
Jeremy smiles and goes up to her to chat, turning on a dime when he realizes he has nothing to talk to her about.
Her musical voice stops him in his tracks like a deer in headlights. He turns around, grinning nervously. I am so totally dead.
She furrowed her brow, looking cuter than usual. “I think someone wrote… Boyf… on your backpack?”
His grin disappears as he fumbles off the straps of his bag. Sure enough, Rich had written the letters B-O-Y-F on the back of the bag.
“I… uh…. Guh-” he stammers out as he scrambles away to his next class.
Finally, it was lunch.
Jeremy drops off his books and goes straight to the cafeteria, grabbing a tray and heading for the table that he often shared with his best friend.
Sure enough, the red-sweatered boy was sitting there, outfit dull and head bobbing along to his Walkman, like always.
Heere grins and sets his tray in his right hand, waving with his right. “Michael!”
Michael Mell looks up from his gaze at nowhere, a similar beam spreading across his face.
He gets up and brings his left ear headphone down around his neck, throwing his arm around his best friend.
“Jeremy, my buddy, how’s it hangin? Lunch is bangin! Had my sushi, got my slushie and more!”
He takes a sip from the cup in his left hand.
“The roll was negimaki, and I’m feelin kinda cocky, ‘cause the girl at Sev Elev gave me a generous pour!”
Jeremy cocks his head. The slightly smaller boy had a laid-back rhythm to his words, which probably meant he was listening to Reggae again.
“You’re listening to Bob Marley again, aren’t yo-”
He flinches slightly as Michael interrupts him with a yell.
“OH, I’m listening to Marley, and the groove is hella gnarly! And we’re almost at the end of the song!”
He pauses and slips the right one off as well.
“Now, that was the end. Now, tell me friend- how was class? You look like ass. What’s wrong?”
Jeremy slips off his bag and gestures at the offending marker stain.
“Boyf? I mean, what does that even mean?”
Michael’s face clouds as he brings them over to the table, lifting his bag from the seat.
On it, in similar handwriting, reads R-I-E-N-D-S.
Jeremy groans and shakes his head as if to dismiss the bad feelings. A light brightens his face up suddenly.
“Oh, hey! I wrote Christine a letter telling her how I feel!”
“That’s progress!” says Michael, nodding empathetically.
The brunette grimaces. “Yeah, I tore it up and flushed it!” He sticks his tongue out at the “oh” that emerges from his sweatered friend. “It’s still progress!”
“It’s all good.’ The Filipino ran a hand through his tousled black hair and took another sip. They sat together, content, as they watched the kids run by.
This was going to be the last time they were all at peace for a long time.