I, like many other seniors, was preoccupied in the beginning of the year. Study the correct techniques, conjure a presentable look, learn to emphasize positive attributes about myself. I had even asked for advice from my older sister, who had gone through a similar process when she was my age. It all built up to one fateful day, when I would finally get results. At a café date that I had organized a few days prior, I spoke up.
“Patty Bergstein, will you go out with me?”
She looked up from her book and tried to read my expression. Oh no. Did I dress too formally? Or come on too strong? I fumbled with my hands nervously, feeling more apprehensive by the second. Finally, after what seemed like a 3 month long waiting period, she blushed and smiled warmly.
“Sure. I’d love to have you.”
I could hardly breathe. Filled with adrenaline, I picked her up and spun her around like a Disney princess, ignoring the strange looks from the other patrons. She laughed and cheered with me. Even though our relationship had just begun, I couldn’t wait to spend my life with her!
I was putting my books in my locker when a friend approached me in the hallway.
“So… I heard that you’re going out with ol’ Bergstein?” he asked casually. “I saw the Facebook post and everything.”
I beamed. Every student awaits the day they can put the official ‘in a relationship’ update on their profile, knowing that the ‘congratulations’s would roll in. In just a couple of hours, I had been delighted to see hundreds of likes. My friend saw my elation and gave me sympathetic look.
“I thought you were interested in Nelly Korne. She’s super popular, did it just not work out?”
I glanced over in confusion. “I mean, I was. I’m not denying that, but I like Pats more. She’s funny, nice, and I’ve known her for a while.”
He rested his back on the locker next to mine while I rifled through my backpack.
“Isn’t she… y’know, a little too easy for you? You’re smart, good-looking, and you volunteer all the time! You could easily date one of the elites.” He stroked his chin and mused. “Like, have you seen Georgia Turnpike? She’s only dated a few choice people before, I’m sure you could beat the odds.”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think the queen of D.C. really has the same interests as me. She’s a business girl. Also, she’s into some weird politics.” I replied casually, stifling a twinge of irritation. “You know Pats studies engineering, like me? We work on our labs together and everything.” I tried to walk around him, but he swiftly manuevered back in my path.
“Even if you’ve committed, there’s still time to change your decision, homeslice. We’re seniors! What you do now is the fate of your future.” he said adamantly.
“My fate, my future, MY business.” I finessed to the left quickly enough to slip through. I was bothered by his less-than-subtle disapproval, but I didn’t think too much of it. Unfortunately, no matter how much I dodged my stubborn friend, I couldn’t avoid the rough day ahead of me.
[Interviewing High School Seniors, part 1]
Laura: Hello, my dear viewers, and welcome to another episode of interviews from your local reporter, Laura Fiatte. Today, we’re gonna hear from our seniors about the social life in Chadnor High.
Stuart Moore: Oh, you have to know about the senior relationship process. Anyone who’s anyone has a meticulous plan to get together with the popular kids. And if you’re popular already, the only direction you can go is up!
Laura: So you’re saying that, when you’re an upperclassman, you should date someone for popularity’s sake? Don’t people want to keep their love life to themselves?
Stuart Moore: Pfft. What’s the harm of telling? No judgement at all from this place.
Norman Easton: If you hide who your partner is, most likely that they’re not that impressive.
Stuart Moore: Bro, harsh. But true. That’s why being public and direct about it to everyone is the way to go. That way, we can give our vital input on your life choices.
Laura: An… interesting perspective. Dex?
Dexter Drell: I’m just happy that people get together at all. Like, hooray! You’re got accepted by your now-significant other. Appreciate what you have.
Norman Easton: You sound like such a mom, right now.
Laura: Hush, you! I think that Dexter’s view is a very wholesome and positive way to look at it. It must be difficult to think from the perspective of those poor losers who got rejected from their top picks, haha, right?
Dexter Drell: …
Laura: …Did your first choice not work o-
Dexter Drell: Well, I’m late for class. See you later, Laura!
“Are you sure about going out with Patty? She doesn’t live that far away from you, you won’t be able branch out.” Chester Westerburg inquired, sipping on his apple cup. Our lunch table was unusually silent, and I could tell that everyone was straining to hear our conversation.
I sighed. Chadnor High School was a boarding school, so teenagers came from all over the nation to attend classes here. I knew that Pats lived only a few hours away, since I had visited her house before. Although some students liked dating those from faraway states (Cal, one of the best artists here, came all the way from the West Coast), I preferred staying nearby. Besides, I liked Pats enough to put her personality over any nitpicks about her hometown.
“I told you. Hell, I’ve already confirmed it on Facebook.” Disgruntled, I took a bite of my sandwich. “It’s done, she said yes. Why are you guys so eager to break us up?”
Chester looked reluctant to reply. He gave the others a look, and the rest of the table drew closer.
“Because we care about you, dummy.” Norma Ville answered first. “Name-value is important in this dump, and you want to leave high school on a strong note. And, well, you can do better than Patty. She’s not bad, just… not ideal.” Beside her, jock Pence Teighton snickered. “Then why don’t you date them instead?” He elbowed Norma playfully. She rolled her eyes.
“Please. Like they could handle a ~basketball champion~ like me.” Norma flexed, knowing that her win boosted her popularity this year. Pence coughed something that vaguely sounded like ‘show-off’ and in a flash Norma had him pinned to the ground. I kicked my backpack closer to me as the two wrestled it out as always. She was a smart girl, but man was she ready to fight at all times.
“…Anyway, what the sports-for-brains nerds were /trying/ to say,” Temmie Pullmann spoke up over the shuffling below. “is that you have some serious potential. If you really tried, you could get a real catch. Someone who’ll do your reputation good. Hmm. Carmen G. Milan is really smart, but she might be too artsy for you. Mitch Taft, tech genius, he’s pretty popular. Ooh, Barbara Nardini is a good option, but I’m pretty sure she only dates within her elite girl squad.” Temmie scanned the cafeteria. “Or maybe, someone from…”
We followed her gaze over to the middle of the room. The most popular kids this side of the country sat neatly, carefully spaced around their circular table. An regal glow seemed to surround them, which nearby tables seemed simultaneously desperate for and jealous of.
“The Interbrook Vestige.” Temmie whispered, waving her hands for emphasis.
There were eight of them. Bri O’Rowan twirled her pencil as she studied for BC Calculus, while Collin Umbra flipped confidently through his flashcards. Nelly Korne and Danté Monthe appeared deep in conversation, probably about the latest Model Congress meeting. Tony Prince leaned over to Jan Hopeniks at an adjacent table, his thick Jersey accent punctuating his flirtatious remarks. Yoojin ‘Yoo’ Pentz fidgeted with his polo shirt button and debated politics with Yang Le, who adjusted her glasses before smugly throwing him a counterpoint.
And finally, Harvey. Perhaps the most well known of them all. Class president, national Model UN and FBLA champion, captain of half of the sports teams here. On the side, the Fjord family practically owns the school. I noticed that his auburn hair was styled impeccably today, as always.
Really, they only banded together because they were athletic all-stars, but eventually they became known for their stellar academics as well (I heard that Tony alone takes 10 AP classes). They’re nice enough to entertain small-talk for any awe-struck individual, but only the luck of the draw can achieve a romantic relationship. Dating a Vestige would be enough to elevate any random student to popularity.
I looked back indignantly at Temmie, who only raised her eyebrows. Everyone else was enraptured by the shining table like it was Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. I couldn’t handle this.
“You guys really don’t get it, do you? It’s not /always/ about ranking when it comes to this kind of stuff!” I hastily stuffed my sandwich back into my paper bag, grabbed my backpack from the ground, and stormed off. I avoided the eyes of the other tables and pulled out my phone, scrolling through my contacts. Bergstein, Patty. I needed her right now.
[Interviewing Chadnor High School Seniors, part 2]
Duchess Durham: The IVs? Yeah, I know them. I’m practically one of them, y’know.
Laura: But you don’t sit with them.
Duchess Durham: *huff* Duh! Have you seen how small their table is? It can only fit eight, Laura!
Laura: I dunno, they could’ve just asked for a bigger on-
Duchess Durham: Anyway, they’re incredible. Yang and I study physics together, and she can blow through labs like nobody’s business. Danté is a beast at German, and Collin has already published a book about his trip to Venezuela. Unlike some other losers, they’re definitely going places after high school.
Laura: You definitely know your way around. What about the valedictorian, Harvey?
Jan Hopeniks: If he stepped on me, I’d thank him.
Duchess Durham: Sure, Jan. We all know that you’ve got your eye on Prince.
Jan Hopeniks: Girl, I’ve got two eyes and I’m using them.
Laura: Wow, looks like you’re all great friends with one another. Isn’t it a little strange to put your fellow classmates, the IVs, on such a pedestal?
Georgia Turnpike: It’s perfectly normal. I’m pretty sure that all high schoolers do this. How else are you gonna make the talented ones feel good about themselves?
Jan Hopeniks: It’s all in good fun. We’re an accepting community. *grin* As long as you’re not dating some non-honors class weirdo.
Duchess Durham: You’re just saying that because you snagged an IV.
Jan Hopeniks: And you’re just jealous that you settled with someone who’s only in, what is it, the top 20%? You really went with a safety pick, hon.
Duchess Durham: You better watch your mouth, Hopeniks. And your tests, too. Your ACT score’s so low, it might hit someone in the foot.
Georgia Turnpike: *laugh* Woah.
Laura: Do they… do this regularly? Oof! Goodness, no need for violence!
Jan Hopeniks: Ooh, the Durham devil strikes. Careful, you might hurt your hand like you hurt your chances of a successful post-high school future!
Duchess Durham: Eloquent english for someone who got a 4 on the AP Lit exam!
Georgia Turnpike: Anyway, what were you asking about the IVs?
Laura: Uh, can we, cut to commercial? Lee, cut the ca-
[We’ll Be Right Back, Folks!]
I sat in the library, my eyes closed and my head rested on the table. Today, I was approached by dozens of students and mentioned by many more. Even some teachers dropped in on a nearby conversation more than once. Although I knew they were being superficial yet well-meaning, I couldn’t help but to doubt myself. Maybe I should’ve waited a little longer before deciding. Maybe I –
“Hey? You alright?”
I snapped out of my thoughts to meet Pats’ concerned gaze. I sighed.
“Yeah, it’s just… people keep bothering me about. Us.” I gestured to both of us.
She shrugged. It seemed like she wasn’t bothered by the drama like I had been.
“After you graduate, it’s not like that’s gonna matter. We’re all the same dumb kids going our different ways. So what if I don’t hold up to their standards?” She held my hand under the table. “Relationships are what you make of them. Just because you get with some shiny cool kid, that doesn’t mean it always works out.”
She grinned. “Also, that café proposal was mad cute. You know me too well.”
“Heeey, lovebirds!” Bree Mower and Frankie March materialized behind us, stealthy as usual.
“Oh, great.” I groaned. “Are you two here to invade our privacy, too?”
Bree looked hurt, making me regret my defensive tone.
“On the contrary, I came over to congratulate you two. Even though your choice is… unconventional, you still went through the work to get here. That’s commendable enough.” Bree replied. Frankie nodded sagely.
“Yo, Bree! You still coming over for that study sesh?” A voice came from across the library, followed by a reprimanding shush.
“Yoo! Good timing.” Bree waved. I turned in surprise to see Interbrook Vestige member Yoojin Pentz walk over to our table. I was cynical about Chadnor’s social statuses, but I couldn’t help but feel anxious.
“Y-You’re friends with Yoojin?” I whispered nervously. Bree giggled.
“We have classes together. Don’t act like he’s a professor or something.” She said. Yoojin approached our table casually, carrying his iPad with him.
As they talked, I slowly realized how… normal he was. Even though he was known for being exceptionally well-read and talented, he was still a senior like me. The way his reputation was, you’d think he was a genie who could grant all your wishes if you dated him. His popularity wasn’t the only appealing aspect of him.
“Sounds good. Well, I think Bri is calling for me. See you around, dudes.” Yoojin waved casually. The IV walked off, our eyes following his fading figure. I could hear nearby students swoon collectively.
“He’s so cute. And smart, too! What a package.” Frankie hummed. I looked back at Pats. She gave a reassuring smile, holding my hand a little tighter.
“Yeah, ” I said. “But I think that I’ve made the right choice.”
[Interviewing Chadnor High School Seniors, conclusion]
Laura: The school day is at a close, and so will our video come to a conclusion. I’d like to thank Lee Heights, my sound producer, for a job well done as a-
Laura: Oh, hold the mike, it seems like a lone student is still here, scrambling to get home on time! Excuse me, poor soul! The buses are that way.
Mystery Student: Uh, I drive here. Senior parking spot?
Laura: Oops, sorry! You look just as exhausted as a freshman on their first day, haha.
Mystery Student: *sigh* It definitely feels like it’s been a long day.
Laura: Hey, we’re ending off the podcast, but since you’re here… can you give our underclassmen listeners something to think about as they approach their final year? The mike’s all yours.
Mystery Student: My advice? …Go with your gut. Aim for someone who works for you, not someone just barely in your range, just so you can say you pulled it off. The whole ‘asking-someone-out’ process is gonna be a hassle, but you’ll be glad that you went through with it. When other people inevitably question your preferences, just remember – it’s your romantic future, not theirs.
Laura: Oh, wow… gonna need some context for that speech, Kennedy.
Mystery Student: And I’m gonna need a shirt displaying how much I love my girlfriend. Doesn’t matter what other people think anymore. Peace out.
Laura: I, what? Don’t leave on that note! (Lee, c’mon!)
Laura: Wait! Before you go, can you at least tell us which college you’re going to?
Mystery Student: …
Mystery Student: No.
Mystery Student: Have a good weekend, Chadnor.
Laura: … And there they go, a little more bounce in their step than when we found them. I guess some people want their privacy. Well, as they should! Seniors are people, too, and they deserve to escape judgment if they please.
Laura: And that’s a wrap! Equipment down, how’s it look?
Lee Heights: I’m not sure if ChadTV will accept this one. 50% is you making googly-eyes at the seniors. Funny, but not headline-worthy.
Laura: I bumped into Bri O’Rowan /once/!
Lee Heights: …
Laura: *sigh* Well, if not, we can always submit the transcript to the Chadnorite. C’mon, dude, the janitors are staring at us.