Our school was so small that Jen and I ended up having nearly identical class schedules. I learned that we shared a love of books, Law and Order SVU, One Tree Hill and hazelnut iced coffee (okay, maybe I made up my love for iced coffee just so she’d think I was cool).
The most boring class I had also happened to be my favorite class because Jen and I were seated close to each other. It was one of the only classes that didn’t also include at least one of my bullies. That meant a whole class without judgment, without comments, without snickers and taunts.
Jen sat in front of me, her brown hair dangling over the back of her blue plastic chair. I was bored by Mr. Mangini’s class, so I usually spent the time writing stories in my comp book. Jen would turn around and ask to see. I never hesitated to hand her my notebook, a gesture that took immense trust. When she was done, she would hand it back, usually with a handwritten note in the corner. They were words of encouragement, questions of “AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?”. But the one I will never forget is when she wrote “when ur book gets published, I get the first signed copy, k?”
Senior year, we finally received the coveted Senior Privileges that had been talked about for years. Senior Privileges were for seniors in good standing grade and behavior wise. If in good standing, we were given the privilege of leaving campus during our free period(s) to do whatever we wanted: food, coffee, shopping (there was a shopping center a few minutes away with stores like The Gap, J Crew, Anthropologie that everyone seemed to love).
The Universe conspired to arrange for Jen and I to have the same free period. That meant that most days we would get lunch together, driving down the picturesque Tices Road toward the many restaurants that lined the street. Jen would roll the windows down and we’d blast whatever song she was obsessing over that week, usually an Usher song made an appearance at least twice.
We’d stop for coffee at the Bagel Shop and then negotiate whether we should get General Tsao’s chicken from Marco Polo or something healthy like the body image obsessed teens that we were. Jen’s tiny frame could consume more than most would imagine. Back then, I didn’t have to worry about what I ate because I was so active, weight never seemed to stick to me. Jen was the same but had that typical high school female obsession where every calorie mattered.