Cast of Thousands, Chapter 31
Still, as gym classes went it wasn't unduly annoying. She was actually quite strong for her age, but she was prevented from enjoying physical education by her general resentment of being made to run around in a series of different ways like a crowd of thirty hamsters, every one doing the same sport for the same length of time regardless of their enjoyment or physical abilities. She spent her locker room changing minutes thinking about what sports she might get to play when she was old enough to try out for school teams, and wondering if she could bear something like volleyball that was open to seventh graders.
Jess locked her stinky gym clothes back up and slung her backpack over one shoulder, on her way to Chorus. She had longed to sneak off during P. E., pretend she was going to the bathroom and get a book out of her backpack instead; but she knew that the minute the gym teacher saw her they would all have to spend their extra time jumping rope. Now she pulled The Secret Garden out of the special books-only pocket (where it currently rubbed covers with a Babysitters Club novel and Elizabeth Enright's Spiderweb for Two) and dove deeply into it, knowing that the roar of the choral room would not subside for at least the first chapter.
"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too," she read. "She had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another. Her father had held a position under the English Government and had always been busy and ill himself, and her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people."
She was rudely interrupted by a foot banging the back of her chair.
"Oops, excuse me!" one of the nasty girls behind her giggled.
Jessica sighed, but inwardly she was somewhat relieved. She could read through any amount of chair-kicking. If they were calling her name again, she would have a harder time ignoring it.
"Jessssssssie...." Kick! "Jessica..." Kick, kick!
Jessica snapped her head around catching them all off-guard with the look of sheer interrupted-reader fury on her face, and hissed, "What?"
"What are you reading?" the head brat said innocently, while her friends giggled away on either side of her.
Jessica reluctantly held her book up for them to see, and wondered why she was surprised that Nasty Sidekick No. Two grabbed it from her.
"The Secret Garden?" Number Two said incredulously. "That is such a a babies' book."
"Yeah, didn't Disney make a movie out of that or something?" the other sidekick said snottily, brushing her long blonde hair behind her shoulder.
"I don't know. Give it back." Jessica reached for it, but the girl held it out of her way.
"Aw, the liddle baby wants her baby book back," she sneered, and tossed it to a laughing boy who was watching the whole scene two rows above her.
Jessica leapt out of her chair and ran up to the boy, but he tossed it back to the girls just as she reached him. She looked at him with total disgust and ran back to the girls, only to realize they would just throw it back to the guy the moment she got near.
She saw red. Pivoting on one heel, she stormed down to the teacher, who was deep in a conversation about an order of sheet music. Ms. McFarland looked up as Jessica stampeded toward her.
"Those girls! Took! My book!" Jessica snapped.
"Which girls, dear?" Ms. McFarland looked dubiously at the rowdy classroom.
"The three girls sitting behind me. Right there. And then they tried to play 'keep away' with some boy in the back row!"
Ms. McFarland had no idea what "keep away" was, but it sounded distressing. "Oh, dear," she agreed.
Jessica clenched her teeth. "Oh, dear, what?" she inquired dangerously.
"I'm sorry, dear, that sounds very upsetting for you," Ms. McFarland fluttered.
Jessica lost her temper. "Can't you control your class at all?!" she yelled.
The entire class heard her. A few people gasped. Jessica was horrified herself, more at hearing that come out of her own mouth than anything else.
But she mustered the courage to stand her ground and look Ms. X in the eye coolly.
Ms. McFarland looked away first. "I think you'd better go to the counselor's office, dear," she said.
"Fine!" Jessica snapped. She marched up to her chair, picked up her backpack, slung it back over her shoulder, held out her hand to the brat girls, received her book, turned and walked out.
As she left the classroom, she heard one of the girls say, "We were just trying to have a little fun. She's such a lez."