www.whyville.net Nov 4, 2012 Weekly Issue

Veteran Times Writer

We Were The Predators

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Laci and I have been best friends since seventh grade. She and I were new students that year, and in a way, needed each other. We met on the first day of school that year while struggling to open our lockers. The bell had already sounded, warning us that first period was starting in several minutes. She and I were among a sparse number of students who were having difficulty that first day, and the gradually emptying halls made the anticipation to survive around there even worse.

Class had been started for a good three minutes or so before Laci and I had fought our lockers open. Even then, a new challenge faced us as we peered down at our schedules and eyed frantically around the empty halls for an idea of where to go. I saw her look down at her books and curse in frustration.

"Do you need help?" I asked nervously. Talking to people I weren't familiar with was difficult for me, but I realized that being the new kid meant going out of my comfort zone in order to have any friends at all.

I watched Laci look me over and frowned tautly, as if contemplating whether I was worthy of her time. I didn't mind; I was used to people who chose to talk to me because of what I looked like or what clothes my parents bought me. People judged me for my physical appearance before they even got to know me; it was typical.

I thought Laci must have approved of me, because with a flip of her hair, she began responding. "Yeah, I'm new here," she paused and glanced at my floral print mini-dress and combat boots, "I'm taking it by the way you're dressed you're new too."

My cheeks flushed and I bit my lip, unsure of how to respond.

Laci smirked and shut her locker. "It's a compliment - no one else here seems to have a sense of fashion like us."

At first, I didn't know whether I should rule this girl off as a snob and leave her to help herself around the school, but something about her was intriguing. It could have been her silky black hair that seemed to be perfectly in place at all angles, or it could have been her sun-kissed tan with the exact shade of matching bronzer. Even then, it could have been her killer red heels and leather jacket no other middle-schooler would have dared to pull off - or had been able to. Either way, there was something about her that drew me in, and I wasn't willing to pass off anyone - even someone who seemed so snobby so soon - who struck interest in me within the first ten minutes of school.

I met up with Laci again when it was time for lunch. She and I walked to the cafeteria together and looked around at our peers. They all seemed so much younger than us, yelling and laughing and parading around as if they were a gang of hyenas who couldn't be tamed. They even looked younger than us.

"Jacquelyn, where do you want to sit?" Laci asked me while raising her eyebrows at our peers.

I studied each table, searching for a group of people I thought Laci would want to associate with. I found no such table, and I didn't want to suggest a group Laci would just scoff at. Even so, I didn't want to sit all alone at a table with her.

"Let's just go down there," she muttered while directing us to an empty table near the edge of the cafeteria.

"God, I feel like such a loser," she added as we sat down and examined the majority of the tables in the cafeteria, most of which were crowded with people on either side.

"We're new. This is what new kids do," I replied while unpacking my lunch and letting my eyelids flutter to a table of people that reminded me of my friends back at my old school. They weren't the prettiest or most popular, but they were nice and laughed and knew how to have a good time.

Laci raised a skeptical brow as she noticed my wandering eyes. "We won't be new for long."

And we weren't.

It didn't take long before everybody knew Laci O'Connor and Jacquelyn Olsen, or at least had seen us and put a face to a name. Girls at Meadow Valley Junior High weren't very friendly, as we soon noticed, and the majority of social interaction we had were with boys. While the guys seemed more than eager to meet us, the girls seemed to stay clear of us as if we had a disease.

"They're jealous of us," was Laci's response to their hostility. "Guys like us and they like guys, therefore they wish they were us."

Now that I look back, I suppose it was true that some girls were jealous, but I also realize some were just defending themselves. Laci wasn't very quiet when it came to her critiques of others, and I suppose it was a combination of her physical beauty and bold personality that intimidated people, especially those she made clear she wouldn't affiliate with.

I, on the other hand, didn't seem to intimidate anyone. I wasn't nearly as pretty as Laci, nor was I as social. I admit that I wasn't the nicest at times, but the feelings of a bunch of strangers didn't matter to me when I was with Laci. I didn't care what the other kids thought of me - that's what opinions were for. Laci reminded me that no one is nice all the time, some just fake it better than others. Another thing Laci made me realize was that it wasn't worth it to pretend being someone's friend. If they were weird, I didn't have to act like they weren't outcasts and be all buddy-buddy with them. If they looked different than everyone else, I didn't have to sit there and treat them like someone they weren't. If they had a weird personality that I didn't like, I didn't have to put up with it or be nice about it. Laci taught me that the world wasn't a place filled with sunshine and happy people frolicking around gleefully; the world was a place where the predators survived and the prey were eaten.

We were the predators. They were our prey.

But that all changed our junior year, when something so horrible happened neither of us could have seen it coming. Some call it a tragedy, some call it karma. Either way, our lives changed forever in more ways than one.

For better or for worse? That's for you to decide.


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