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Change had never done Belle Ravenna any favors. Moving from one coast to another last year had meant change: a new school, a new house, and no friends. But maybe this would be the year things would finally change for the better. The start of eighth grade would give Belle the chance to reinvent herself, finally become the person she wanted to be.
Someone knocked into Belle as she picked up a chocolate milk. Ashleigh. Belle’s corndog slid off her fries. The stick end landed in the ketchup.
“I hate it when the nobodies just stand there,” Ashleigh announced to the lunchroom in general. She paid for her salad, no dressing, and bottle of water.
“I hate it that you think you can just walk all over me,” Belle told her corndog.
So much for reinventing herself. All that had changed since last year was her grade.
“$2.60.” The lunch lady didn’t look up as she held out her hand.
Belle handed her three dollars. “Have you ever wondered if maybe life should be different from how it is?”
“Change.” The lunch lady handed the coins to Belle.
Belle stuffed them in her pocket, picked up the tray, and stepped into the lunchroom and its chaos. Students swirled around her, each one darting to a table filled with friends as Belle stood there. Alone. It was as if everyone else was flying while she slogged through water.
The lunchroom had been already divided by groups. Belle would gladly sit with any of them, if she just knew which group she belonged to. It’s not as if she had no friends, it’s just that she had no best friends. And while Belle could get along just fine without them, she had to admit that some would be nice. At least now. During lunch. During the lunch period where she had absolutely no one to sit with.
She took a deep breath. This is practice, she thought. Acting practice. She wanted to become a brilliant actress, like the film legends in black and white movies, and this was nothing more than a chance to act. Of course, acting like she fit in somewhere might be more than she could do, but-
Belle watched Ashleigh make a bee-line for the most crowded table in the lunchroom, the one where Matt Holland-‘gorgeous, perfect Matt Holland-‘reigned over the similarly perfect students of Olen Middle School. Well, there was no way she could sit there. But Veronica, a girl from Belle’s first period Spanish class, sat at the next table over with Rebecca and Esperanza. Esperanza glanced up as Belle approached and smiled in a gracious, inviting sort of way that made Belle feel a little better, even if Esperanza nibbled on a salad and was wearing a nicer skirt and top than Belle usually wore to church. A boy came over and snatched two of the empty chairs, dragging them over to Matt Holland’s table. His friend reached for the remaining chair. Belle grabbed it before he could take away the last place in the entire lunchroom for her to sit.
Esperanza turned back to Rebecca. “All I’m saying is that it’s weird.”