The Cedarwood High cafeteria was like Reed High School’s. Almost. This one was a little smaller, and still managed to be less crowded. It was by the courtyard, behind the main building, and had long, tall windows, covering pretty much the whole wall, giving Jordyn a nice view out into the courtyard, where there were even more tables. Out there, Jordyn could see a group of punks playing hackeysack, with another group of kids gathered around a boy playing guitar and singing soulfully with his eyes closed.
Jordyn took a seat in one of the many white and black chairs—every table was white, with a mixture of black and white chairs—by the big window and underneath yet another “Go Cougars.” This one, though, didn’t come on a banner. Instead, it was a painted banner on the wall in big black and white letters, halfway between was the illusion of a Cougar running through andripping the banner in half.
Clever, Jordyn thought, studying the artwork. Whoever painted it was pretty talented.
Jordyn glanced down at her trey, at her school spaghetti-yuck-and her peach yogurt. At Reed High, they served Domino’s pizza, Subway, and even Chik-Fil-A. Here, well, it looked like your average every day high school lunch.
Jordyn picked up her fork and took one bite of her spaghetti, then she was done. “Ugh.”
“The spaghetti here’s really gross,” a voice said behind her. A familiar voice, actually. Jordyn whipped her head around and was pleasantly surprised to see Alice.
“Hi!” she said.
Alice beamed. “Hey, mind if I sit?”
“No, of course not!”
So Alice sat across from Jordyn with her trey. Alice had chosen the safer pizza. “This isn’t fantastic or anything,” she said, holding up her rectangular-shaped pizza. “But never, ever go with the spaghetti.”
“I see that now,” Jordyn laughed. “Hopefully the yogurt’s better.”
“Oh the yogurt’s delicious,” another voice said. Suddenly, they were joined by two other girls.
“Hey, you guys,” Alice said to the girls. “This is Jordyn Hamilton. The one who moved into the house on the cliff. Jordyn, this is Erin Lee, and Bethany Jennings.”
“Nice to meet you, Jordyn,” Erin said sweetly. Erin was pretty, small, and had silky, straight black hair. She was Asian. Maybe Chinese, or Korean, and wore a button-down, light blue collared shirt and a simple pair of jeans. She sat with excellent posture, and even wore a silver watch.
Bethany, who was taller, with wavy golden hair, had a sweet, wholesome looking face. She wore a t-shirt, tight-fitting, with Cougars Volleyball on the front.
“You live up on the cliff?” Bethany asked.
Jordyn nodded. “My grandfather’s house.”
“I told them the house wasn’t haunted, but they didn’t believe me,” Alice said simply.
“I don’t think it’s haunted,” Jordyn said with a shrug. “I haven’t seen Casper, yet, anyway.”
The girls chuckled. They talked about their classes, while Jordyn absently played her plastic spoon in her peach yogurt—which, by the way, was delicious. She let her gaze drift over the students, all in their little cliques at their table, talking and laughing loudly. Everyone had friends here.
Finally, Jordyn spotted what she instantly knew was the senior popular table. She knew, because at the table, which sat in the middle of the cafeteria, like, dead middle of the room, was her brother, along with Natalie, Lydia, Meredith and two boys with letterman jackets.
And Cole Anderson. Ty was sitting between Natalie and Cole. And Natalie was all over him.
“What are you looking at?”
Jordyn looked back and saw Alice watching her.
“Oh, uhm, nothing,” Jordyn said. “Hey, do you know anything about them?”
“Who, the kings and queens of Cedarwood High?” Alice asked, chuckling. “Yeah. Everyone loves them.”
“They’re football players and cheerleaders,” Erin commented. “Literally your most clichéd set up, ever.”
“In Cedarwood the football players are worshipped,” Bethany explained. “They win a lot of games, and the whole town practically shuts down on Friday nights to go to them.”
“Ever seen Friday Night Lights?” Erin asked.
Jordyn laughed and nodded. “Many times.”
“Cole’s the quarterback,”Erin said. “He’s fine, I mean, every girl drools over him.”
“Rumor has it he’s a player,” Alice said. “I’ve never really seen him with a girlfriend. But I heard he hooks up a lot.”
“The other two guys with the letterman jackets on are Davis Martin and Jenner Parks,” said Bethany. “Also football players.”
Erin nodded in that direction. “That other guy is—”
“Ty Hamilton,” Jordyn said with a chuckle. “I know. He’s my brother.”
“Oh, duh!” Alice laughed. “You’re both new and you both have the same last name. I can’t believe I didn’t make that connection.”
Bethany looked from Ty, to Jordyn . “You two kind of look alike.”
“Don’t put that on me.”
Erin snickered. “Don’t think I’m gross, but your brother’s hot.”
“I’ve lost a lot of respect for you, Erin,” Jordyn teased. “So, uh, what about the girls?”
“Natalie Bishop, Lydia Carter, and Meredith Turner,” Alice sighed. “Most beautiful, most popular girls in Cedarwood. Natalie’s head cheerleader, and will be homecoming queen.”
“Lydia’s the student council president,” Erin said, nodding toward Natalie’s friend with the straight, strawberry-blond hair. “And the smartest girl in school.”
“She’s going to be valedictorian,” said Bethany. “Her daddy’s the mayor of Cedarwood.”
Jordyn raised her eyebrows.
"She's also been accepted into Harvard, Dartmouth, and Columbia," Alice said.
"She's undecided," Erin added.
“And then there’s Meredith,” said Alice. “She’s the one with the red hair. She’s a cheerleader, like her friends, but she’s also a track star and soccer captain.”
“That’s how she manages to stay in great shape,” Erin said.
Jordyn glanced at the table again. This place really was like a movie. She had to finally look away when she saw Natalie reach up and touch Ty’s cheek. She cringed and looked back at her new friends just as she saw Ashley, Shari and Leah walk into the cafeteria.
“Oh, look,” Alice said when she herself saw the trio, her eyes looking past Jordyn. “There’s Ashley.” She said Ashley like a valley girl, and even added emphasis by flipping a long curl over her shoulder.
Ashley looked at them when she passed, narrowing her eyes at Jordyn and smirking.
“Whoa,” Erin said once they passed. “What did you do to her?”
“Nothing,” Jordyn said. “The girl’s been staring at me like that all day. I have homeroom and gym with her. What’s her problem.”
Alice nodded in Ashley’s direction and Jordyn saw her, Shari and Leah take seats at the senior popular table, with Ty and his new football and cheerleader friends.
What the hell?
“Her problem is that she thinks she’s the shit,” Alice said. “Meanwhile, she's just shit."
"Meredith is Leah’s sister, so they get to sit at their table,"Bethany said.
“Ashley is also up Natalie’s ass,” Erin said. “I mean, way up. She has a crush on Cole, but she would never act on it because she’s not stupid enough to go after someone who will definitely reject her.”
“How embarrassing would that be?” Alice snickered.
“Plus rumor has it he and Natalie had a thing back sophomore year,” Bethany said.
Jordyn nodded. She understood that. This was Movie High, after all. Quarterback dating homecoming queen/head cheerleader? She’d seen that scene about 100 times on screen.
“Well, she seemed pretty flirty with Blake Cormann this morning,” Jordyn said.
“You met Blake?” Bethany asked.
“He’s also in gym and homeroom with me,” said Jordyn.
“Yeah, since Cole’s off limits to Ashley, hot junior football player, Blake, is next up,” Alice said.
“But he doesn’t like her,” Erin chuckled. “She’s just the only one who doesn’t know it.”
“He’s not sitting at the ‘senior popular table?’” Jordyn asked. She said ‘senior popular table in a mocking tone, her fingers making a quoting gesture when she did.
“He’s not a senior,” Erin said. “And he doesn’t stay here for lunch.”
“He’s off making his rounds,” Alice said. “If you know what I mean.”
“He deals?” Jordyn asked. She guessed that was the case during gym today, anyway.
Alice nodded. “For his dad and older brother. His dad has a pot field like, in the woods somewhere in the county.”
Well, well, well. This school sure did have everything.
“Don’t look so surprised, either,” Bethany laughed. “We’re small-town, but not middle-of-nowhere small town.”
“Yeah, we’re not naive around here,” Alice said. “The parents are. Well, all the adults are. They think the football players are good boys, even though they like to party drink, the works.”
“They think the cheerleaders are virgins,” Erin laughed, as if she had said, “They think the sky is yellow;” pretty much like it was ridiculous to think otherwise.
“Yeah, they’re not,” Bethany said. “Funny thing is, Ashley is a virgin.”
“She’s a wannabe slut, though,” Erin said nodding.
“She wants to be just like Natalie,” Alice said preppily, flipping her hair again.
“Natalie’s a slut?” Jordyn asked. That made her a little overprotective over her brother. Not that she had a right to be. She and Ty didn’t talk about a lot of personal things, but she was fairly certain he wasn’t inexperienced. She just didn’t want him to get played.
“No, but she’s not a virgin, either,” Erin said. “And if Natalie does it—”
“Ashley wants to do it,” Alice finished.
Jordyn looked back at them, and saw Ashley sitting right next to Natalie, laughing at something someone had said. She looked like she was practically begging for her attention. It was interesting seeing her like that, looking so passive, so eager to please. Trying to get approval like a little puppy. Just earlier, she’d been acting like the queen bee, looking down on Jordyn for no reason.
Hmm. So Ashley wasn’t on top of the high school food chain, after all.
Jordyn sighed, defeated. Cedarwood wasn’t as simple as she’d thought it was. In fact, Jordyn had never been more confused in her life. She did know one thing, though. Cedarwood wasn’t that different from California after all. They just did what they did with innocent smiles on their faces the whole time, fooling everyone in the process.