I grabbed the white milk carton and a tray containing pasta coated in tomato sauce, a packet of carrots, and asparagus. I hated asparagus. Just the thought of it made me feel sick. I decided that I would dump it in the nearest trash can as soon as possible. I thought that I should find a place to sit and set down my orange backpack before I threw out the dark green wilted stalks.
I hated just the smell of the soggy lump of asparagus on my lunch tray. I would have hated the taste too, but there was no way that I was going to eat it! I had tried asparagus once at a family Thanksgiving dinner when I was nine; I wouldn’t have eaten it again if somebody paid me. I wondered if it would be easier to throw out my asparagus first and then find a seat, rather than the other way around. I decided the other way around. That meant that I had to find somewhere to sit in this dismal grey and white school cafeteria.
I looked around the cafeteria, I noticed that about half the tables were taken up by groups of noisy 6th graders. The rest of the tables were either containing 7th graders that I vaguely recognized from my first day of school here at Duwart Middle School, or empty. I was not going to sit at one of the empty tables, which were coated in a thin layer of crumbs from the previous students who ate there. Especially not on my first day.
“Get a move on!” shouted a 6th grade boy wearing a black shirt that was just a tiny bit darker than his hair, standing behind me in the line. “You gonna stand there all day? The rest of us want to buy our lunch too!”
“Yeah!” agreed another 6th grader, his light honey colored hair nearly covering his green eyes. “You’re blocking the whole line!”
“Oh,” I muttered, “sorry.”
“Whatever,” said the first boy shoving in front of me to pay.
I turned and set my tray down on the edge of an empty table because I didn’t want people to think I had nowhere to sit, especially those awful 6th grade boys who were still watching me. They were whispering, and snickering. So I bent down to tie my shoes. Both of my laces were in perfect double knots, so I painstakingly untied one of them. Then I tied another perfect double knot as slowly as I could. As I tied my shoe I strained to hear what the 6th graders were saying. I just knew it was about me!
“She must be the new girl. I think her name is Lily or something,” I heard one of them whisper obnoxiously. “She’s from Maine.”
“All the way from Maine?” the other asked incredulously. “Why did she move here?”
“No idea,” the other boy replied as he grabbed his blue and white plastic packet of carrots and ripped it open.
“You have got to be kidding me!” groaned the first as he twisted open his milk and it splashed all over him, soaking the front of his black shirt.
“I hate when that happens,” said the other boy. “I spilled soda all over my tennis shirt last week, the yellow one, it never came out.”
Their voices faded into the constant background of conversations as they headed outside through the pea-green double doors that lead to the playground. I straightened up from my fake shoe-tying and picked up my lunch tray.
I looked at the nearest occupied table, and saw a group of 7th grade girls I vaguely recognized, with one empty seat in between two of the girls. I headed for the empty seat, but before I had taken more than five steps in that direction another 7th grade girl with curly reddish-brown hair and a sky blue backpack swooped in and sat down in that empty seat. Probably the only empty seat in the entire cafeteria next to people I knew. If you count sitting next to during math class as knowing. I stared at the now full table, at the girls sitting there, laughing and talking.
I quickly walked away from that grey circular table and headed towards the large trash can, already nearly overflowing with half eaten food. As I reached the trash, I picked up my white plastic fork and slowly scraped the drooping asparagus from my tray. The pungent aroma of cooked asparagus wafted from the trash can. I took one look at my fork, which now had bits of green plastered to it, and tossed it in the trash. Shuddering, I turned to look around the cafeteria again.
There were still some empty seats at tables occupied by other 7th graders, but I didn’t really know any of them. I didn’t want to sit with them because I had no idea what I would say if they asked who I was, or why I was sitting with them. I barely knew them, and they probably didn’t even know my name. I certainly didn’t know any of their names. I decided to sit down at one of the empty tables in the corner of the cafeteria, regardless of the gross remnants of previous meals.
I quickly walked over towards the tables, glancing around as I did so. I was searching for the eyes of other students following me. I evaded the occupied tables, and stared down at my grey sneakers with purple laces. I stepped quickly over the white tiles of the cafeteria floor. I arrived at the empty table in the corner, and sat down in a chair. I yanked on the red hair band that was keeping my hair up, finally with some painful tugging, my light brown hair came loose.
I swung my head so that the brown wavy mass swung to the side of my head, and hid my face. All the while my eyes were hurting, and beginning to fill with tears. It was my first day at a new school. My first impression on all the students here, on all the teachers, and there I was completely blowing it.
Then a tear slipped along my face, so I started crying harder. I tried to conceal it by staring at the wall, and holding my breath. Every time I came close to stopping the tears, my thoughts turned to how extremely pathetic it was to start bawling because I didn’t have anyone to sit with. Then I began to cry harder.
I peered through the strands of my hair. I saw a watery blur of 6th and 7th graders on the far side of the dreary cafeteria. I turned back to my food.
As I stared at the pasta I realized that I had thrown my fork away along with the asparagus. With my fork in the trash I couldn’t have eaten my lunch even if I wanted to. But I didn’t want to, I felt very far from being hungry. I slowly grasped the white milk carton and pulled at the edge of the flap on the top to open it. Once the carton of milk was opened, I set it back down on the table, and pushed it away.
I raised my hand to wipe away the tears on my face. Just as I finished smudging the tear tracks so that they were no longer visible, I heard the sound of somebody sitting down next to me. I turned to the girl, who was now setting down her tray in the spot next to mine. Her hair, worn in a braid, was the color of chocolate, and she had olive skin. Her dark brown eyes turned towards me.
“Hello!” she said cheerfully. “My name’s Grace.”