This is my ongoing online piece, a high school updated version of Pride and Prejudice.
It is universally acknowledged that high school is a form of medieval torture invented by embittered adults to retaliate against the inconvenience youth had caused them. This was never truer than for an outspoken, sharp-witted junior named Lizzi. Her unconventional dress, and various charity causes, including most recently, her “What are men compared to mountains: A weekend of Womanhood and Nature Retreat,” earned her much notability and scorn amongst the jocks and cheerleaders that roamed the halls of Pemberley High.
Today was the first day, of, what, her mother dubbed, “the search to find a homecoming date (and of course potential husband).” Her mother, who Lizzi thought worried entirely too much about the social lives of her five daughters, was convinced that if Lizzi could procure a reputable male to escort her to prom, it would vault her social status to that of head cheerleader. After a suitable courtship, aka the day after Lizzi graduated high school; she would be proposed to and taken care of for the rest of her life.
The idea made Lizzi want to vomit.
“Lizzi,” Her mother’s voice floated up the stairs of their two story farm house. “Did you see the outfit I laid out for you?”
Lizzi had indeed: a pink micro miniskirt and sea-foam green crop top.
She was currently trying not to vomit at her image in the mirror.
“It doesn’t look that bad.” Jane replied.
Jane, Lizzi’s older sister, a current senior in the same high school, had apparently escaped their mother’s fashion wrath. She was dressed in a mid-length blue dress with white accents. Of course, Lizzi thought, Jane could pull off wearing a paper bag.
Jane was in many ways was Lizzi’s opposite. Fair, blonde, cordial, and almost delicate, she was the head of the fashion club as well as the service club in her school. Well-liked and popular, she had, to their mother’s joy, throughout her three years in Pemberley High, dated the caption of the football, baseball, and basketball teams. Though, at times, the relationships looked as they would go the distance, each in eventually fizzled out, on good terms, of course, for Jane would have it no other way.
Lizzi personally was glad. Those shallow, meatheads had nothing of substance to offer her sister.
“Your outfit is so hot!” Lydia, Lizzi’s younger sister, who was a freshman this year, squealed as she popped her head in the doorway.
Lizzi wondered if Lydia would be able to sit down, or if the sheer movement would split apart her skin tight jeans. Still the outfit, their mother picked for her, a bubble-gum pink shirt which said, “Sexy and I know it,” and jeans managed to make Lizzi jealous.
“Now I know it’s awful.” Lizzi moaned.
“Mom,” Lydia screamed, “I wanna wear what Lizzi is wearing. This totally isn’t fair.”
With that, Lydia huffed down the stairs.
“I look like a hooker,” Lizzi said, “and a blind one at that.”
Lizzi flung her dresser open. It was empty! Her mother had struck again.
“Mom’s just trying to help you….. “Jane sweetly tried to say.
“I guess it’s kind of impressive, if you think about it,” Lizzi said, “she was able to sneak into our room in the middle of the night, steal all of my clothes, without waking either one of us. She’s like an evil Cupid.”
Sighing, Lizzi rummaged under her bed. She managed to find and slapped on a pair of ripped up tights and her white leather Guns n Roses jacket.
“Let’s go.” Lizzi said, “before mom notices how I altered her vision.”
Pemberley High was built, if Lizzi were to venture a guess, during the early 1900’s. The town like to claim it was much newer, circa 1970 but its dilapidated, crumbling gothic architecture made her rather suspicious. During her sophomore year, she had launched an investigation into the history, but the Principal quickly shut it down.
The school was small, almost dying. For years, the town council had argued that it should be shut down, and the kids shuttled off to other towns to attend schools. But, with most of the parents being rather wealthy (Lizzi’s parents were the notable exception), they were able to pull the political strings to keep the school open. As a consequence, Lizzi knew every one of her classmates and had been in the same class with all of them since Kindergarten.
Lizzi and Jane arrive at school on their matching blue bikes.
“Jane!” a gaggle of girls rang out.
As Jane smiled and greeted them, Lizzi slinked towards the door.
“Lizzi,” Charlotte, a slightly round mousy girl engulfed Lizzi. “ugh I missed you. I almost went insane at my Aunts. No TV. No WIFI. No internet….I was so bored, I learned to knit.”
“That sounds wonderful!” Lizzi said. “My mom had me in modeling sessions all summer.”
Lizzi contorted her face.
“I learned that ugly is beautiful,” Lizzi continued, “and unlike my nearly perfect sister, Jane, who as our coach said, was almost too beautiful to model, I had the perfect amount of flaws.”
Charlotte gasped. Lizzi couldn’t tell if it was shock or if she was a bit envious.
Charlotte and Lizzi had been friends for as long as Lizzi could remember. Their mothers, both stay at home mothers, who worried much too much about their daughters, had quickly bonded over the twos mutual social awkwardness during the great kindergarten Valentine’s day buddies debacle. Lizzi, who had decided by then that Valentine’s day was an over commercialized- consumer driven holiday had refused to participate and instead brought a homemade heart shaped protest sign which read “Love doesn’t come from a store,” to school while Charlotte, who because of a nasty paste-eating habit and cootie scare, had been labeled as “the weird kid,” sat crying over the lack of valentine’s in her un-decorated shoe box. What started out as a play date to socialize the girls and a chance for the mothers to drink some wine and lament, quickly turned into bff bracelets and secret handshakes.
Though recently, Lizzi worried they might be drifting apart. She had engrossed herself in every art and political outlet she could think of which seemed to bore Charlotte. While Charlotte had joined the school’s flag guard and was reveling in what little social status that seemed to bring her.
“I even had a few job offers.” Lizzi said, “Of course I immediately turned them down and told my mother that my coach said I was a hopeless case.”
“Lizzi, you’re awful.”
“ What mom doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” Lizzi said with a smile.
“Oh hey,” Charlotte said, she arched her body around Lizzi, “ I’ve got to go say hi to the other guard girls before class. You have first period Chemistry right?”
“Awesome.” Charlotte said bouncing away. “See you then.”