Chapter 1: Boring, Bland, and 'Blargh'

'The cross section of a five-meter trough is an isosceles trapezoid with a two-meter lower base, a three-meter upper base, and an altitude of 2 meters. Water is running into the trough at a rate of 1 cubic meter per minute. How fast is the water level rising when the water is 1 meter deep?'

Whaaaaaaat?

I must've reread the problem at least a dozen times. I don't know about any of you people, but I simply couldn't see the importance behind solving this problem. Yes, I understood that math was important and crucial to living and blah blah blah blah blah, but when exactly in my lifetime would I need to know the rate of water flooding into a trough? Now that I think about it . . . what in the world is a trough?

Sorry, I know, I know. I'm ranting now, aren't I?

With a sigh, I glanced back down at my textbook, despairing. Oh, forget it. As long as I show some work, Mr. Amijd can't complain.

Scribbling random nonsense into my notebook, the bell rang.

My fourth period free was over and fifth period lunch was now set to begin.

Cue the loud shouts of over two hundred rowdy students in 3 . . . . 2 . . . .

Action!

"-AY, YO! MARCOS SIT AT MAH TABLE!"

"EWW! THEY'RE SERVING PIZZA AGAIN?"

Fascinating, huh? Just your everyday teenage chatter.

I was sitting at my usual window seat all the way in the cafeteria's corner. Lowood Academy was nestled comfortably in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City.

And no, I know what you're thinking. I assure you, this isn't one of those glitzy, glamor schools where cliques dominated the hallways and made out with the football jocks by their lockers.

First of all, we don't even have a football team. We have other sports, and really kick ass with our soccer team, but Lowood kinda leans more towards the education and academics.

Secondly, just like every other school, we have drama from time to time, but cliques are basically nonexistent. Ms. Ritz, the school's disciplinarian, is like an army marshal. One time, a rather unfortunate sophomore, after rolling his eyes at her, was automatically given ten demerits and a week in detention. She may be quite harsh at times, but as long as you stay on her good side, you'll be all right.

And third, all five hundred and twenty-six students wore school uniforms. Lowood was a Catholic school. So, naturally, we had this general rule of you-pull-some-crazy-shit-and-we-WILL-expel-you. Students were generally nice here. They were smart. They knew better. End of story.

From the corner of my eye, I saw someone approaching my little corner. Out of instinct and natural routine, I shifted my books to one side of the table and waved hello - all done without looking up from my notebook.

"Hey, Jeanette."

How odd. Lila never called me by my first name, unless she was in a bad mood, that is.

Searching for my calculator, I asked in a knowing tone, "What happened?"

"Arghhhh!" was her response.

Yup, she was definitely angry. Throwing her bag with a heavy thump! to the floor, she flung her chair next to mine and dramatically plopped down upon it.

"Y'know how Joey Jenson's concert is tomorrow night?"

Oh Heavens, not that again.

I stifled a sigh, and simply nodded. "Yep. You've only been talking about it every day at lunch for the past two months."

Ignoring my slightly sarcastic tone, Lila proceeded to bury her head in her arms. She then began to mumble incoherently, balling her hands into fists.

I stared at her pathetic form by my side and felt a pang of guilt course through me. I can't remember the last time she's been this upset.

Slamming my notebook and AP Calculus textbook shut, I shoved both items aside. Mr. Amijd will just have to make do with what I've done.

"He didn't cancel his concert, did he?"

To my surprise, she jolted out of her still trance, nearly lurching to her feet. "HELL NO! I'd probly be dead by now if that happened! Don't you dare say that and jinx everything!"

Geez, so much for trying to care.

Lila was my closest buddy. To keep things short and sweet, let's just say that we've been friends since the beginning of time. The prehistoric age of dinosaurs and cavemen time. We were complete opposites of each other - her being the party girl and me being the bookworm - and have probably been through a thousand senseless arguments, but in the end, we always made peace. To tell you the truth, we were closer than sisters, and were practically attached at the hip.

Yeah, yeah. Corny, I know. No worries, I'll stop there.

After her little outburst, I merely shrugged and glanced down at my books once more. I was well accustomed to her mannerisms.

That my folks, had been her I'm-pissed-and-need-someone-to-yell-at phase. Next would be her OMG-forgive-me-I-didn't-mean-it phase.

Juuuust you wait and watch.

And, true to my word, Lila's eyes widened as she repeatedly apologized. "Jen, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you. I'm just really pissed off right now."

I inwardly congratulated myself. Boy, they should give me an award or something.

"What are you grinning at?" she snapped again.

You're just awfully predictable.

"Nothing, nothing. C'mon, just tell me what's wrong."

She shook her head, her hands helplessly flailing at her sides. "It's just . . . well, everything is ruined! Mary can't make it to the concert, so now I have to go by myself. ALONE."

That's why? Good grief.

I stared at her, completely indifferent. "Oookay. And?" It sounded like she was being sentenced to death by the guillotine or something.

She glared at me with much disapproval. "Jeanette. You know I hate going to concerts alone."

"Just forget about Mary. You can still go see your idol and have fun, nevertheless."

"Unless . . ."

Uh-oh. I knew that tone.

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, NO.

She gave me that mischievous look, and started to pout with large, pleading eyes. "Come with me, Jen-Jen, my dearest buddy-buddy!"

I winced at the nickname. Jen-Jen. Urgh, it was absolutely horrific. Lila only used it when she wanted me to do something for her very, very badly.

"No."

"Awwww, c'mon!"

"Nope."

"Pretty pweaseee with chicken grease and a cherry on top-"

"Nuh-uh."

"Gosh, you're such a meanie!"

"I sure am."

When it became eerily silent for a moment or two, I risked a quick glance at her face.

Her lower lip was trembling, eyebrows knit together.

Oh, great. Prepare, people. Hunker down. Go into fetal position! This was her I'm-gonna-make-a-scene-till-I-get-what-I-want phase. Yeah, she could really be a spoiled brat at times.

Tears started flowing down her face like water down Niagara Falls. "P-P-Please, Jen! You're my best friend! I know you hate going out and socializing and all that 'pointless nonsense,' but just come with me tonight. Joey Jenson's not like the rest of all those cheesy pop singers. His band is awesome, his songs are good, he's really-"

"I know his songs are good. I do listen to music, y'know?"

Her eyes lit up at this newest revelation. "SO? What's the big deal then?"

Sometimes, I really doubted whether Lila truly knew me for who I was.

It's not that I thought his songs were bad. Actually, I considered myself an avid fan of his music. Joey's singing range brought a unique twist to things. The man was genuinely gifted with a sublime voice. I wouldn't mind having to listen to him. It was just the thought of being at a concert that sickened me. The claustrophobic crowds. The fans screeching the songs (rather horrifically) into your ear. The long lines. The pulsating lights that practically blinded you. The alcohol. The drunk people. Oh, don't even get me started on them.

I sighed, avoiding her gaze. "I just don't like going to concerts, is all."

Lila patted my head gently. When she next spoke, her voice was soft like a cherubim's. "Well, I promise that I'll make it bearable. Just try it out. I'm sure we'll have loads of fun."

Ugh, I could feel myself losing the battle in ten . . .

"You won't regret it!" (Nine . . .)

"Lila, I don't know." (Eight . . .)

"Jen-Jen, c'mon! Just have fun for once!" (Seven . . .)

"But I, um, have to study for that test." (Six . . .)

"Oh, for crying out loud. Don't be so boring!" (Five . . .)

" . . . " (Four . . .)

"Don't be so bland, Jen!" (Three . . .)

" . . . . . " (Two . . .)

"Don't be so 'blargh!'" (One.)

"Fine. You win, Lila."

My 'frenemy' squealed with delight, squashing me into a hug. While I, on the other hand, moaned in despair, flipping my AP Calculus textbook open yet again.

Back to finding the water levels of that damned trough . . .