The Outcasts, Part 1: Pull Up a Chair at the Smoothie Bar and Let Me Tell You a Tale
School is about learning and growing as a person. You are to be molded into someone who can go out into the world and contribute to society with an understanding of how things work and why they work the way that they do. Every day, the teachers and the administrators are waiting for you to sit in your chair so that they can show you the important things that they feel that you need to know.
To the students, however, school is an entirely different concept. There is an understanding that school has a purpose. There is an actual reason that you go to school. There is a goal; a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. But most of that understanding comes in hindsight.
While you’re in school, many students see the institution as a social adventure. How are you perceived? What can you do to change the way people perceive you? Does it even matter if you’re perceived a certain way or not?
There are cliques. There are what seem to be factions. Social classes, sometimes, even seem to separate the students. Are you an artsy student, shunned from the sports enthusiasts while admired by the drama students? Maybe you’d rather work on fixing your car than worrying about whatever dance is coming up.
Meredith Hopewell certainly didn’t mind how people viewed her. Her thick black plastic glasses framed her freckled face, while her barely kept stringy red hair fell wherever it liked. She wasn’t skinny. She wasn’t fat. She was completely average. Worse, she might even be “cute,” which often meant “you’re pretty and inoffensive looking, but probably not anything more.”
She didn’t care. Being ignored by the “popular” students and not socializing with the less popular little cliques meant that she could coast along at her own speed with no expectations from anyone about anything. Just the way she liked it.
That’s not to say that she was a loner. She, luckily, had her sidekick Amelia. Amelia, who might’ve actually passed for “kind of hot,” by popular students’ standards, if she hadn’t died her hair jet black and adorned it with every hair clip and barrette she could find.
A typical afternoon for the two would be sitting outside the school, on the bench near the garden, watching the other students hustle out of the school and into their cars. Some would be going to work. Some were going home. Some were going to go wherever their friends were going.
“You know,” said Amelia snidely, “if all of those little sheep are following the other little sheep, you’d think they’d just go in circles all day.” She motioned with her hand towards the group of guys, standing around their cars while debating on where they should go.
“They do go in circles,” responded Meredith. “They’re big circles. From school, to their basements, and then back to school, where it starts all over again.”
“I bet it would be nice to hang out in a basement,” laughed Amelia.
“What? Do you like the smell of old chest freezers and unventilated closets?”
“Well, just the concept. Like, having a place in your own house that you can go that’s kind of removed from the rest of it. Underground, even…I like that as a metaphore.”
“I can’t believe you are actually talking like this,” said Meredith. “You sound like a Joy Division song.”
“Yeah, well getting underneath the same ground the rest of my shitty house is sitting on would be nice, right?”
Meredith could understand what she was saying. Amelia had the unfortunate discomfort of living in the product of a broken family. There was her crazy mother, her even crazier third husband and more kids than Meredith could even remember. There wasn’t a basement. But thinking about it could make her see why she’d wish for such a thing.
“Just one more month, though,” Amelia said.
“What are you going to do after you’re 18?”
“Move out. As quickly as possible. I know I don’t make a lot of money at the record store. But Geoff says he’ll give me a raise and take me on full time as soon as school is out. I’m hoping that I can afford some sort of apartment.”
“Oh…wait. Full time at the record store? Amelia, what about school? I thought you were going to go to college after we graduated.”
“I’d love to. But it’s all going to depend on the money. I’ve been saving for years, but it’s nowhere close to what I need. Working full time is the best I’m going to be able to do. I’ll have to stay working, too, until I can afford school.”
“At least you’re realistic about things. Anyways, we’ve got a few months yet. Its just the beginning of our senior year.”
“I know, I know. No need to worry about it now.”
Meredith was about to say something else when she was distracted by the person walking towards them. It was Will.
“Will,” said Meredith, as a greeting.
“Mere. Amelia.” Both of them nodded back to him. “I’m hungry.”
“Hmm?” responded Meredith, feigning disinterest.
“Anyone up for some smoothies?”
“No,” Amelia said bluntly. “You should peddle your health-nut shit somewhere else.”
He laughed and ran his hand through his messy hair. He was like them, caring about himself only and letting people think whatever they wanted of him. The only difference was that he had also broken up with Meredith during the summer, though you’d never know by the way he often tried to spend time with them.
Maybe, Meredith always thought, that was the problem. He was an excellent friend. But he was a very bad boyfriend; and a downright awful kisser. That might’ve just been because he needed more experience. Meredith never remembered having to practice though.
“Yeah, we’re a little busy right now, Will,” she said to her ex.
“Busy doing what, exactly?” he retorted. “Watching people and making comments about how predictable the world is?”
“If you’re good at something, you must do it often,” Meredith said with a nod.
“So, in essence, you’ve become predictable in your analyzing the world’s predictability.”
“We’re all part of it,” she said smugly.
“Shut up, Will,” Amelia interrupted.
“Well, if you want to do something a little different, I think you should come with me downtown to the smoothie bar. I’ve learned some interesting things today about a certain classmate of ours.”
Both girls’ eyes lit up, albeit slightly. They glanced to each other and then looked back up to Will, waiting for him to elaborate.
“It involves a certain new-girl.”
“You don’t mean Natasha, do you?”
“Indeed I do,” he said with a nod and a wink.
“Tell us!” demanded Amelia.
“Hell no,” he said. “If you want to know what I know, you’re going to have to come with me.”
“Is blackmail a new skill of yours?” asked Meredith.
“I’m working on it,” he said sarcastically.
“We’re all right here. Just tell us!”
“I’m craving a smoothie. So I’m going to go get a smoothie. And you two can either follow me or stay here.”
“I know what this is about,” said Amelia in her typical dry snarl, “you are just that desperate for friends; or even female companionship.”
Meredith burst into laughter, but mostly because she was thinking the same exact thing. Will, still smiling, nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders before turning and beginning to walk into the parking lot.
“Oh fine,” Meredith mumbled to Amelia. “Hey! Will! Wait up.”
“You’re going to go with him?”
“Yeah, why not. Come on, Emo Queen,” which was a name that Meredith only called Amelia because she knew how much it pissed her off.
“Calling me shit like that ain’t going to get me to go anywhere.” Yet, Amelia was still standing up and following Meredith, who was following Will.
They climbed into Will’s car, a car that Meredith knew all too well. For the five months they dated, this was their headquarters. Sometimes she suspected that she was in this car more than she was in her own bedroom. She certainly did enough sleeping in the back seat. Though, as she always clarified to Amelia, she was literally sleeping, and not partaking in any risqué behavior. Especially with someone who was as bad of a kisser as Will.
“Put the air conditioner on high,” demanded Amelia. “I want to feel it in the back seat. And please tell me you have some decent music to listen to.”
“I’ve got…uh…” he fumbled with his CD player for a second, “Tribe Called Quest in there now.”
“Tribe Called Quest? But…you’re the whitest guy in America.”
“Amelia!” scolded Meredith. “That was kind of…racist.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Hey, you should listen to them sometime,” Will said in defense. “They have a pretty broad appeal in comparison to most hip hop artists.”
“Thanks, Rolling Stone Magazine.”
Will shot an evil glance in the rear view mirror so that Amelia could see it, though it was in jest. Neither of them actually disliked the other. But from day one they’ve had a sort of mock-grudge against each other.
“I don’t want a smoothie, by the way,” Meredith said. “I’m coming only for the gossip.”
“I want a smoothie, Will. But I also want you to pay for it.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll get you a smoothie this once. My treat.”
Arriving in town, the three, led by Will, entered the smoothie bar, Fruity Fantasies. It was a popular destination for health-conscientious office workers on their lunch breaks and various runners and bikers, finishing up their routes through town. And, of course, Will, a frequent patron who probably saw drinking a fruit smoothie like a more refined adult would see a glass of fine wine.
They sat a table in the back corner, not that the place was very busy at the moment. With anticipation showing in their faces, Will got ready to tell them about what he had discovered.
“Natasha Bahsk. Nice girl, right?” he asked.
“She seems quiet,” said Amelia, “I like her.”
“Yeah, no complaints from me. I mean, I guess she doesn’t really know anybody. I feel bad for her. But she’s just not…I don’t know…the type of person I feel like talking to.”
“Well, I sit behind her in Economics, you know. I don’t talk to her or anything. Hell, I don’t even know if she notices me.”
“Probably not,” Amelia interrupted.
“Anyways…today I couldn’t help but notice the strangest little thing. She’s sitting there, as usual, but I see that a part of the back of her blouse seemed to have gotten stuck in the waist of her pants.”
“Please tell me that there is more to it than this,” interrupted Amelia again.
“Stay with me here, Amelia. So, anyways, class is boring, and I can’t help but continue to stare at the back of Natasha’s shirt, tucked into her pants. It sounds kind of perverted, I know, but that’s probably not a big shock to you. Well, I’m watching her backside for a while, and eventually she starts twisting around and moving in her seat, like she’s got an itch or something, right? Well, when she finishes and goes back to writing in her notebook, I’m looking at the bottom of her shirt again, but I’m surprised because there’s suddenly something else there.”
“What do you mean?” asked Meredith.
“Like an elf?” joked Amelia.
“No, it was not like an elf, smart-ass. At first I think it’s her panties. And I like what I see. They’re white, and thin, you know? But then, I realize that they definitely aren’t panties. They were plastic-like. And there wasn’t any sort of waist band either.”
“Does anyone else think this story has taken a turn for the creepy?” asked Meredith.
“Seriously, Will, I think you need to get yourself porn or something.”
“Say what you want, but I’m not done yet. Okay, so I’m trying to figure out what it could be, right? I can’t quite figure it out. But then I glance down to the floor where her book bag is. It’s opened, and the opening is facing me, so that I have a pretty good view inside of it, though I don’t think anyone else could see it. Well, of course, I’m sitting there, gawking inside of the bag, when I see some sort of white thing that’s folded up. Initially I think it’s a shirt or something. But then I see these two yellow stripes running through the middle of it. It looks so familiar, and I’m racking my brain to figure out what it is.”
“Wait a second,” said Meredith. “I think I know what you’re saying.”
“Hold on, Mere. Let me just finish telling you first. So, I suddenly realize where I’ve seen something like this before. It was when I was younger and we’d visit my great grandmother. She had stacks of these things in her bedroom. I remember not knowing what they were, but always seeing them. Well, suddenly it all clicked. The second I thought about them again, I knew what they were. It was the same thing in Natasha’s book bag and the same thing she was wearing. A diaper.”
“Get the fuck out,” said Amelia with a look of astonishment on her face.
“I figured,” replied Meredith, “but is it really that big of a deal? I mean, she probably needs them for some sort of medical reason.”
“Does it matter? She’s a senior in high school, and she wears diapers. She doesn’t just wear diapers…I mean, she has extras in her bag. She’s using them. She’s sitting there in class, pissing herself right in front of me.”
“Will…you’re a creepy bastard.”
“That’s just so funny,” giggled Amelia. “I want to see them.”
“Mere, it’s just not right. Medical condition or no medical condition, she’s a senior in high school who has to wear diapers. Doesn’t that make you curious?”
“Not at all,” Meredith replied.
“I want to know all about it. I want to know why she’s wearing them. I want to know where she changes them. I want to know what she does with the used ones!”
“That’s so gross, Amelia!”
“Okay,” Amelia said through her laughter, “I’m exaggerating a little bit. But, like Will, I’m curious.”
“I know, right?” said Will with a smile.
“Will, you’re still a creep,” said Meredith.
The three would go on to talk about other things, but the one thing that remained in their heads throughout the rest of the time at the smoothie bar was that Natasha Bahsk was, for whatever reason, wearing diapers.
As Will found himself slightly turned on by the notion, and Amelia found herself ridiculously curious about it, Meredith wanted to reach out to her and help her.
It was going to interesting to see in her school the next day.