There’s a bit of intimacy at the end of this story. If you don’t care for that, just skip this one. Continue reading
When Charlotte signed the petition, she figured that was the end of it. Students were forever seeking signatures to change school policies, most of which would never see the light of day. The principal was fond of issuing a “Thank you very much” and sealing the offending document in the bottom drawer of his file cabinet. It was a mere seven weeks into tenth grade, and Charlotte had already signed half a dozen petitions on everything from improved cafeteria food to allowing students to roam the halls without passes (after all, what student would bother staying out in the open when cutting class?). It didn’t matter whether or not she believed in the cause; she was doing her duty to her fellow students.
Of course, in this case, she actually did support the petition. Which was why it came as a complete shock that Mr. Vanderburgh planned to hold a forum for the students to present their arguments.
Morton Ponds wasn’t known for its high-quality health education. In the previous ten years, there had been six different teachers. Students had complained, parents had complained (not usually about the same things), and even Mr. Vanderburgh had grown weary of the debates. The student petition was merely the last straw. Everyone needed to actually talk to each other about the problem rather than calling him once a year to complain about the new hire. It helped that both Regina Crossly, the latest health teacher, and Nan Molomo, the assistant principal, were on board with making a few changes. Mr. Vanderburgh knew an opportunity when he saw one.
That, of course, was how Charlotte became involved. Mr. Vanderburgh had the good sense to see a local minister’s daughter’s name on the petition and take advantage of that. After all, if a man of the cloth was endorsing improvements in the “health” (read: sex) education curriculum, surely others would follow. No one had ever accused Mr. Vanderburgh of being courageous; he wasn’t above pressing any and all advantages.
The problem with that reasoning was that Charlotte’s father had no idea she’d signed the petition, nor did he have any investment in the cause.
Meanwhile, word was spreading rapidly through the school. The students who had fronted the whole operation were advocating for not only an improved curriculum but the availability of certain services within the school—chiefly pregnancy tests and free condoms. Naturally, Charlotte somehow became associated with all of it, guaranteeing herself a spot at the center of the upcoming presentation. She took a good amount of teasing for that; her classmates sensed the irony in the pastor’s kid advocating free birth control for teenagers. Unfortunately, that extended to unwanted suggestions regarding her vagina. When the third person made a rude comment to her, Charlotte returned it with her best right hook.
Ten minutes later, she was sitting in Ms Molomo’s office with the offending boy. Charlotte didn’t even know his name. He had an ice pack over his eye.
“I’m surprised at your behavior, Charlotte. What would possess you to punch someone?”
“He offered to let me give him a blow job behind the field house and told me he’d bring the condoms.” Charlotte glared at him. “Said they come in cherry flavor now.”
Ms Molomo raised an eyebrow at him. The boy scowled and slouched in his seat. “It was just a joke.”
“It wasn’t funny!” Charlotte snapped.
Ms Molomo massaged her forehead. “Charlotte, I really can’t condone violence—”
Ms Molomo put up her hand. “I understand why you felt threatened, but there are consequences for your actions. In place of suspension, you are on probation for the foreseeable future. As for you,” she addressed the boy, “you will be enjoying a week of in-school suspension, during which you will be spending a lot of time researching misogyny and sexualized violence against women.”
Charlotte stalked out of Ms Molomo’s office. The probation meant very little; Charlotte wasn’t much for making trouble, and she was an excellent student. All of her extracurricular activities were outside of school, so there was nothing to be suspended from. The only problem was that Ms Molomo would be calling her parents. Charlotte dreaded the end of the school day.
There was no one home when Charlotte entered the house. Tyler was probably at practice, and Colby had classes; she didn’t know—and didn’t care—where Helen was. She dropped her bag and headed to the bathroom. It had been just her luck that she’d also started her period that afternoon because there was nothing better to add to a lousy day than cramps.
And a distinct lack of pads in the bathroom.
Remembering that her mother kept some in the bedroom for emergencies, Charlotte went upstairs. She rummaged in her mother’s dresser, searching. She didn’t come up with so much as a lone tampon, but right underneath the neatly folded nightgowns were a variety of. . .objects, all labeled with a company name. The only thing Charlotte could identify were the vibrators. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
She heard a noise behind her and turned around, shoving the drawer with her foot. “I was just looking for pads,” she said before her mother could speak.
Joy sighed and shook her head. “Just don’t tell your father, okay?”
“Uh. . .okay. What is all that stuff for, anyway?”
Flushing, Joy muttered, “I sell it.”
“Mom!” Then, “To whom?”
Joy shrugged. “Women at church.”
Charlotte giggled. “I promise not to tell Dad about the vibrators if you promise not to tell him I decked a boy for asking me to suck him off.”
“Fair enough.” Joy extended her hand, and they shook on it.
She snagged a package of pads from a shelf in the closet and handed it to Charlotte. “Want to help me make dinner? We need to eat early because of that meeting at the school tonight.”
“Sure.” Charlotte decided not to mention that Mr. Vanderburgh thought her father endorsed the sex ed campaign; she decided it would be better just to let her parents handle that one themselves.
Author’s Note: This story takes place in roughly the same “world” as several other ones on this blog. They’re not entirely related (that is, the same characters don’t necessarily appear in every story), but in my head, they all live in the same general location. Just thought you’d like to know.
It all started with a bet.
Tyler could never remember later whose idea it really was. It might have been Matty’s because he’d had a ginormous crush on Justine starting in fourth grade. Or it might have been Justine’s; she liked to see Tyler and Matty squirm. It might even have been Tyler’s—a stupid reaction to stupid Matty’s stupid teasing.
It didn’t really matter anyway.
The only important thing was that six days into the school year, Tyler was sitting in the top row of the bleachers in the Old Gym (which hadn’t been “old” since 1962) waiting his turn to try out for the seventh grade cheerleading squad. Matty was on his right and Justine was on his left. Somehow, it didn’t make him feel any better.
If he went through with it, he got eight dollars and Matty’s copy of Super Mario Zombies, and Justine would find out if Carly Dunbar liked him, liked him. If he didn’t, he had to make copies of his social studies notes for a week—for both Matty and Justine, neither of whom appreciated Mr. Connolly’s habit of outlining the whole text book.
Tyler sighed. There was nothing for it. He had no intention of losing this bet; he cared far less about the winnings than his pride. Anyway, it wasn’t as though he couldn’t do it. Tyler was pretty sure he stood a better chance than half the girls. He’d taken several years of gymnastics until his parents decided it was too expensive. At that point, he switched to hip-hop. That was considered respectable, though Tyler always secretly wished he’d been allowed to take some of the other dance classes. That was the fun part about being a preacher’s kid in a not-so-big town; there was pressure on his dad to make sure he grew up right. There was no way he was going to tell his father that he’d tried out for cheerleading—especially if he didn’t make it.
After suffering through several out-of-sync routines, the coach finally called Tyler’s name. There were a lot of poorly-concealed snickers. Even the coach looked like she thought Tyler wasn’t serious. He performed the skills she asked for and watched her make checks on her clipboard, her eyebrows slowly climbing her forehead. She dismissed him with an “I’ll let you know” and moved on to the next person.
“You so owe me,” Tyler said when they were out of the gym.
“Whatever.” Matty was scowling. “I didn’t think you’d actually do it. I was looking forward to sleeping through Connolly’s class.”
“You wish. Just think, now you can play Super Mario Zombies at my house.”
Two weeks later, Tyler was standing in Coach Pepper’s office, fiddling with his backpack while she talked.
“…just don’t see how it’s possible,” she was saying. “I mean, we don’t have a uniform for you or anything. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Tyler, but this isn’t going to work out. I’m sorry.”
Wait just a minute. Was Coach Pepper really saying Tyler couldn’t be on the squad because he was a boy? “Coach, that’s not fair! It’s discrimination.”
She glared at him. “Boys can’t have everything. Some things just naturally belong to the girls.”
He let his mouth hang open for ten seconds before he turned and marched out. No way was he going to stand for this. People staged protests all the time, right? Why not for keeping boys off the cheer squad? Time to take some action.
Without telling his parents.
That turned out to be easier said than done. By the time Tyler had organized a protest at the first soccer home game, put on one of the mini-skirt uniforms, passed out fliers at every lunch period (earning two detentions for cutting class), and called the local paper, his parents were well and truly informed.
Tyler was unprepared for the media circus that ensued. Apparently, the tiny town of Morton Ponds hadn’t seen this much excitement since the high school baseball team won the state championship back in the early eighties. Everyone took sides, including most of the teachers—and Tyler’s own family.
It didn’t help that every single one of them had an opinion. Helen thought he was attention-seeking. Charlotte said she was proud of him for sticking The Patriarchy in the eye, whatever that meant. His parents said they would support him, but it didn’t sound entirely sincere. Only Colby said he was staying out of it.
When all was said and done, Coach Pepper was forced to accept boys on the cheer squad, provided they could demonstrate the skill level she expected. There was a big press conference, and Tyler had to make a speech about how wrong it was to keep kids from doing what they wanted just because they were the “wrong” gender. He didn’t know how to answer the question about whether girls should play football; Morton Ponds didn’t even have a football team.
Afterward, Colby took Tyler out for ice cream. Colby was pretty cool, for a college guy. They sat outside the Dairy Queen eating Dilly Bars and not actually talking. That was okay with Tyler; he didn’t have anything else to say. Eventually, they tossed their sticks and got back in Colby’s car.
“Well, at least you made the team,” Colby finally said.
Colby glanced at Tyler. “What?”
“I didn’t actually want to be a cheerleader. I just wanted Matty’s copy of Super Mario Zombies.”
For six heartbeats, Colby said nothing. Then he roared with laughter, buckled his seat belt, and drove them both home.
For those of you heading to SS in a couple of weeks (you know who you are), I’m auctioning a collection of stories that includes Betting on It and several others from this blog as well as a few new ones.