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The Natural Sequel

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BEGINNING OF PART ONE

 

*

 

It was simple enough, really. Volunteering at Orientation counted as service hours. Service hours were necessary for graduation. Graduation was only a year away. And then after graduation?

After. Well. God knew, and Annie didn’t, so what was the point in worrying about it? Annie pushed the thought away and doodled more leaves around the CLASS OF 2009 emblazoned on the front of her planner. 

Anyways, it wasn’t like volunteering was hard. Annie had been sitting at the registration table all morning, and after the initial influx of awed-looking freshmen and their harried parents, she hadn’t had to talk to anyone. It was almost 11am, and the new students would be done with the school tour soon. Orientation would end, and Annie would take her mom’s car to pick up Mary from the pool, and maybe they’d watch a movie or walk from their house across the flat top of Queen Anne hill to the library on 4th Ave. Annie could see blue sky through the office window. The morning clouds had burned off. Annie hummed to herself and decided definitively that a walk would be necessary. Summer in Seattle was too precious a thing to waste.

Annie was thinking about all this and diligently shading in another leaf when Mrs. Edwards, the third Assistant Principal, walked into the office, a girl wearing sunglasses trailing behind him.  

“Oh good, Annie, you’re still here,” Mrs. Edwards said.

“Here until noon!” Annie said cheerfully. The girl behind Mrs. Edwards looked a bit tall to be a freshman. 

“Wonderful. This is Freida; she’s just moved here from California. Freida, hold tight, I’m going to print off your schedule,” said Mrs. Edwards, distractedly, over her shoulder, going through the inner door to the hallway where all the admin offices were. 

“Hey,” said the girl, somewhat laconically. She took off her sunglasses, hooked them into the collar of her shirt, and shoved her hands into the pockets of her jean jacket.

“Hey. Uh, welcome!” 

“Thanks.” 

Annie could hear the noise of a printer echo down the hallway. 

“I’m Annie,” she offered. 

The girl grinned. “I’m Freida. Nice drawing.”

“Oh, gosh, thank you.” Annie suddenly felt self-conscious and put her pen down on the table. “I, uh, like your hair.” 

Freida’s grin turned into a wry grimace. She pushed a hand through her curly black hair. “It’s total bedhead, I forgot to set my alarm for this morning, I didn’t even have time to shower.” She shook her head. “I woke up like thirty minutes ago.” 

Mrs. Edwards came back into the office. She handed Freida a sheaf of papers, a school handbook, and a planner. 

“Here you are, Miss Wentworth. Welcome to SCS.” She turned to Annie. “Annie, would you be up to showing Freida where her classes are? I have a few more things to print off. You can just take off afterwards, it’ll be close enough to noon by then.” 

“Sure, I can do that,” said Annie. She grabbed her purse and her jacket. 

“Thank you so much, Annie. Did somebody sign off for your hours?”

Annie nodded. “Mr. Radcliffe did this morning.” 

“Good. Freida, if you have any questions after the tour, you can come back to the office. Ring the bell if no one is behind the desk.” 

“Copy that. Thanks,” said Freida. 

They left the office, strolled through the Student Activity Center, and their tour began in earnest in the 100’s hallway. 

By the time they got to the hallway with the 400’s classrooms, Annie was aware that Freida was looking at her and smiling faintly more than looking around at the hallowed halls of her new high school. She had a nice smile. It crinkled her eyes.

Annie paused for just a moment before asking, “Is there… something on my face?” 

Freida winced and said, “Sorry, I’m just spacing out. I stayed up super late last night watching a movie and I didn’t have time for coffee this morning.” 

“Oh!” said Annie. “We can go slower, sorry.”

“No, it’s cool, I swear.” 

“Okay. Um, let’s see, your English class is here at 412. Mrs. Bronson is supposed to be really nice, a bunch of my friends who just graduated had her last year.” 

They had walked into the 500’s, steering clear of one of the many groups of freshmen, before Annie ventured, “What did you stay up watching?” 

“This is so nerdy, but … this British miniseries about sailors in the 1800’s?” 

Annie stopped walking. “Oh my gosh, was it Hornblower? I love Hornblower!” 

“You’ve seen it? It’s so good, right? I read some of the books over the summer and now I’m trying to finish a rewatch of the whole thing before school starts next week.”

Annie’s eyes went wide. “That’s so cool! Do you have them on DVD? How many have you watched? Don’t you just feel so sad at the end of the sixth one, with what’s-his-name dying? Oh,” she said, as they passed a final row of lockers and slowed in front of a door at the end of the hall, “this is where your physics class is going to be. 523.” 

“Archie Kennedy breaks my heart. It’s like a Shakespearian tragedy, isn’t it? Duty and honor versus corruption! Sacrifice in the face of death! Your character becomes your fate!” 

Freida was flushed with enthusiasm.

“Yes! That’s exactly how it feels! Did you move here in time to see any Shakespeare In The Park this summer?” Annie asked. 

“Hey! You have that here? I saw an incredible staging of Hamlet in New York this summer in Central Park.” 

“Wait, is that where you’re from?” 

“No, my dad is in the Navy so, like, everywhere. That’s why we’re here. We were in Sacramento for the last couple of years. But my aunt and uncle live in New York and I spend a couple weeks with them every summer.”

“That’s so cool,” said Annie fervently. “My entire family just lives here. It’s, like, my dream to go see Wicked on Broadway someday.” 

“I saw that last year! It’s amazing.” A pause. “You were born here?”

“Yeah, I’ve never really been anywhere yet. Everyone I know is here. It’s boring, I know.”

“That’s cool though,” said Freida, leaning her shoulder against the row of lockers. “I’m kind of tired of moving around so much. Leaving all my friends every few years kind of sucks, you know?” 

Oh. Annie had a flash of empathy. “That sounds awful.” I’ll be your friend, Annie thought, looking up and meeting Freida’s eyes. If you want. Until you find someone cooler.

Another group of freshmen filed past them in the hallway, and Annie remembered why they were there. 

“Oh gosh,” she said, “Let’s keep going.”

Freida stuck her hands back in her jacket pockets as they walked. 

“So, Shakespeare. You have a favorite play?” Freida asked. 

“Oh, yes! Twelfth Night. I’m a sucker for, like, unrequited love. But I saw a cool version of Taming of The Shrew at Shakespeare In The Park two summers ago, so that’s my runner up. It was set in a trailer park, and it was hysterical.”

“Cool! Are the productions good here?”

“It’s always great. They did such a cool Macbeth this year, it made me think about the play in a whole different way. There was a whole thing at the beginning about Lady Macbeth losing a baby, and it threw her whole character into such a different light.” 

Annie glanced at Freida to make sure she wasn’t boring her, but Freida was looking at her, face open, nodding. Gosh, she was pretty. 

“You know,” Annie went on, “I’ve never seen them do Hamlet, but I know I’ll have to read it for English this year, and I just saw a DVD version of the Kenneth Branagh version at the library––”

“––oh my god, I’ve never seen that, do you want to watch it sometime?” Freida answered her unstated question. “Like, I mean, do you have any hot Friday night plans?” 

“Hotter than a four-hour Shakespeare adaptation? Heck no!” 

By the end of the hour, they’d exchanged phone numbers, email addresses, and had set a time to meet on Friday to watch the movie. 

En route to get Mary from the pool, Annie remembered belatedly that she hadn’t asked Freida about the all-important question of church. Well, they’d have time for that. Maybe she could bring Freida to youth group, if Freida didn’t have a church. Or whatever. Aleathia would like Freida, Annie thought. Everyone would like her, she thought. Freida was cool.

Annie found herself smiling without thinking about it. Someone honked at her for lingering too long at a green light, and she jumped in her seat, and kept driving.