On the morning of June 9, 2021, Shelby Bell walked through the doors of Green Valley High School: an extensive, geometrically mundane, and most certainly not green slab of brick. She frequently introduced herself with the fact that despite being a fire sign, she was a water person: at this particular moment, she was still feeling the effects of the previous day’s swim practice. Even prior to a certain social media trend, she could often be seen wearing scrunchies, drinking excessively from a pastel pink hydro flask “to better connect with her element”, and staring obsessively at pictures of turtles. She was of the averagely eccentric type.
After a tedious march up the stairs, she noted with pleasure the relative ease with which she made such a move. She readjusted her coat with a bit more pompousness than needed so as to better communicate the contrast between her superior agility and youthfulness and the pathetic panting of her peers. During the entire journey to her seat in Room 319, she made sure to take commanding and purposeful steps. This feeling would not last long, so it was best to experience it to its fullest.
At her seat, she attacked with unusual ferocity the essay she was writing. Her seat was far enough from the front to be imperceptible to the teacher and far enough from the back to not be considered one of the cool kids. Right in between her adoring friends, who would undoubtedly peer over her shoulder and praise her powerful prose once they perceived her focused posture.
“Yellow chicks drawn with circular highlighters are infinitely better than similarly drawn green chicks,” she wrote. “However, this is not to say that yellow is a better colour than green. Green is the colour of turtles, and therefore, green is in fact better than yellow.”
She toiled for several minutes on this sentence, and was rather proud of herself for it. While thinking of her next literary masterpiece, she absentmindedly finger-drummed a complicated beat her class played on some buckets back in middle school. Work Location or something, it was called.
It was in the middle of these serious ponderings that a nasally voice rang in her ears, indicating that the class was to be herded outside and triggering a deep irritation in her.
I suppose it is necessary to interrupt this account with some context: Once upon a time, Green Valley teachers, having lost the ability to keep track of the whereabouts of their jittery sheep, made it a rule that all students were free to travel around anywhere on school property during breaks, so long as they returned to their classrooms on time. This quelled the teachers’ worries about being reprimanded for a stray student, satisfied said students’ wanderlust, and overall worked excellently. For a while.
It is also necessary to perhaps give a mention to the hodgepodge of characters that made up her friends. Perhaps, you might be scrolling through your dictionary of humans, trying to imagine what they’re like. For your information, none of them would have ever talked to each other at all, were it not for their shared admiration for Shelby. All were very colourful—in fact, they made Shelby seem like muddy water—and it would be fun to paint a picture of such an unlikely mosaic, but for the sake of conciseness and keeping Shelby in the spotlight, we’ll stick with just one acquaintance, who Shelby mostly knew as Livette’s brother.
Unlike Livette, who at least had an attention-grabbing obsession with lobotomies, her brother had done nothing noteworthy since he killed a wasp hovering in midair by hitting it very hard with a textbook back in the sixth grade. That is, until French that afternoon.
And no, Shelby Bell did not get breaks banned that morning. She finished all five sentences of her essay and printed it out, signed with an undeleted “ping” like the obedient student she was. Lunch was also uneventful, save for a small incident where she freaked out over an ant crawling over her shoe, thus spilling her green bean soup that was really red and not green at all.
The penultimate pandemonium occurred early in the period, no more than three minutes after the teacher left the classroom to gossip with a friend. Some moments earlier, Livette’s brother requested permission to trek from the portables to the main building, where the washrooms were all located. However, this request was denied because of the 20 minute absence of one of the school’s many perm-flaunters. Therefore, encouraged by hoots and laughter, Livette’s brother, like any logical being, began the process of climbing out the window.
It was with two limbs fully out the window that the teacher would have found this student. However, a bottle of cologne sitting on a desk proved much more scandalous, and while the outraged teacher launched a most aggressive investigation of to whom this illicit object belonged to, Livette’s brother slipped out the window and merrily made his way to his destination and back without soliciting any unwanted attention.
This had the potential to become a school legend passed from bored seniors to wide-eyed freshmen. Livette’s brother would become iconic, a local celebrity, the school star. And Shelby felt her supreme status slipping away from beneath her feet. This was not ok.
She needed something that was more than just a ripple in the ocean. Something unforgettable.
Here, things get blurry, but it is certain that a 15 minute break was granted at 13:30. It is certain that at some point, a girl with scrunchies on her wrists was seen chasing after a confused and distressed butterfly. It is also collectively agreed upon that a lock of hair was set on fire using a monocle that was really more of a very pretty looking magnifying glass, although there is much debate as to whether it was Shelby or future trustee Dorothea who did it. Some claim to have witnessed Shelby napping on a bench, holding a pillow with turtles on it. Others claim that what she really did during this time was run 10 km around the adjacent neighbourhood. Currently, the prevailing opinion is that she tried to use a measly pencil to draw runes on the floor, but when she failed to summon any spirits, she scrubbed away the marks in frustration.
Anyways, of course, we all know the end of the story. Feet were put down and no one ever left the classroom during a break mid-period (save for washroom trips) ever again. And our protagonist slept well every night for the rest of her life knowing that no one would ever forget Shelby Bell.
Photo: Ricardo Viana on Unsplash.com