Drew walked into the cafeteria at lunchtime on Friday with trepidation, his shoulder muscles coiled and tight. The tension in the air was palpable. It had been all day. Tomorrow was the first game of the season against one of Washingtonville’s biggest rivals, Johnstown High, and today was the first big pep rally of the year. Normally, the student body’s wardrobe was invariable—everyone would be sporting the red and white. The faces of the seriously dedicated would be painted to show their school spirit. Everyone would be psyching themselves up for the big game. But nothing about this day was right.
Drew himself wasn’t wearing school colors. Every other guy on the team was sporting his game jersey over jeans, but Drew had decided against it and gone with a plain T-shirt. He knew that his friends were saying highly pejorative things about him behind his back, but he also hoped they’d understand once his plan came to light. If, of course, he had the chance to tell them about it. At this point he was starting to doubt whether the school could make it to the eighth-period pep rally without a riot breaking out.
Drew walked over to his table and dropped his huge history tome at his seat. A few Corinth guys—in full gray and blue—shot him a scathing look from the next table, as if he’d just destroyed their tranquility. As if there were anything tranquil about the murmuring and back-talking that ran rampant through the room.
“What are you guys looking at?” Samson asked the Corinth kids, coming up behind Drew.
The two kids grumbled and went back to their lunches. Drew dropped into his chair, and Samson sat at the end of the table, catty-corner from him. That one move drew more disgusted stares than Drew could count.
“Am I paranoid, or does it seem like the entire school is about to blow?” Drew asked under his breath.
Clay, Dirk, and a few of Drew’s friends dropped their stuff at the table and headed for the lunch line, grunting their hellos.
“You’re not paranoid. You’ve just got serious perspicacity. The resentment in this place is ubiquitous. I think even the cafeteria workers are taking sides,” Samson replied, glancing around the room as if to surmise where and when the first fight of the period would break out. There had been a few tangential skirmishes in the halls during the first four periods of the day, but Drew had heard they’d been subjugated fast. “At least we can say we’ve got a preponderance of school spirit,” Samson added.
“Yeah. It’s just that no one can figure out who their spirit is supposed to be for,” Drew said as a group of Corinth girls cut off a group of Washingtonville girls on their way into the bathroom. As they finally jostled their way inside, Lily glided through the cafeteria door wearing a lavender sweater and a denim skirt. Drew was temporarily distracted by her pulchritude, and he couldn’t help wondering if she’d worn that sweater to support him. Then he caught Adam Lazarus, in his blue and gray Corinth jersey, glaring at him and Samson from across the senior section and was brought right back to earth. “Tell me again that we’re doing the right thing, keeping this on the down-low until just before the pep rally,” he said.