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Surviving Silverlake: a brand-new school in a brand-new city has Margot feeling like a social outcast. Will she ever fit in again?

"I will survive. I will survive."

I can't help repeating this over and over in time to the speeding and honking cars as I walk to the end of our block, where I'll turn left and begin the first day of my new life at Silverlake High. It's a line from this old disco song Morn used to blast when she was feeling down.

But it's not picking my mood up. My head is spinning with worry. I wonder who I'll sit next to in homeroom, who I'll have a locker next to, who I'll be crushing on. Are guys different in Los Angeles? Josh's face flashes in my head, and I feel a pang. I shake it off.

Mom, Ian and I arrived in L.A. three months ago, right before what was supposed to be the best summer of my life because a) I finally had a boyfriend and b) my best friend Danielle and I landed our first jobs together at Vic's Ice Cream. When Mom told us she and Dad were splitting up, I was crushed. Who wouldn't be? On top of it all, she decides we're moving 600 miles away from everything I know and love. At first, I was really mad at Mom and vowed to stay with Dad. Only, it turns out Dad's moving in with a blonde named Heather, an associate at his law firm.

So my parents sold the house. Our house. The house I'd lived in for all of my 15 years. The house where I found my cat Sky, wet and shivering, in the backyard. The house where my Dani and I spent hours dancing on the hardwood floors, singing our guts out to No Doubt. The house where Dad introduced me to the Beatles and showed me how to Electric Slide. The house where Ian and I beat each other up over the last Oreo and made up by sharing it. The house where I had my first (and so far last) kiss with Josh.

The weirdest thing was Mom didn't seem as sad as I expected her to be. In fact, she seemed fine. Actually, she was better than fine. She said she'd seen it coming, that she and dad didn't get along like they used to.

That was news to me. I wish I had seen it coming. And this threw me the most: Mom got all New Age-y and said maybe this was some karmic message telling her to pursue her goals. Uh, what goals did Mom have?

A lot, it turns out. Among them? Being in a band, going to art school and moving back to L.A. Sounds cool, right? But we're talking about my mom--my part-time realtor, PTA-going, sedan-driving mom.

Mom went to college in L.A. It's where she met Dad. They married, Dad got hired by a law firm in Sacramento, they bought The House, and then had me and Ian.

Now Mom, Ian and I live in a duplex in a neighborhood called Silverlake. Mom says Silverlake is where artists and musicians live. To me, it looks like a lot of people who chain-smoke and don't comb their hair. If Mom starts smoking and looking like she just woke up, I'm bailing.

I push open the heavy front doors and step into Silverlake High. Chaos. Kids are scurrying to class, passing each other notes, laughing, singing, loud-loud-loud. Latino skater chicks with shaved heads and mohawks, Asian girls with pink hair and leg warmers, white guys with shaggy 'dos and band T-shirts. This is sooo different from how kids look at Sac High, where most wear jeans and polo shirts, or maybe a tank over a tee. Which is what I am wearing today, with a pair of flip-flops and my sandy hair in a ponytail. No one even glances at me. It's like I'm The Invisible Girl.

The bell rings. Classroom doors whisk closed, and the hallway is empty. I should have gotten here earlier.

Back home, I'd be sliding into my desk right now behind Dani in world civ and compare notes on who hooked up or broke up over summer. Then we'd brainstorm ideas for our Environmental Club project (last year, we launched a campus recycling program). My chest tightens--I can't believe how much I miss her.

I go into the office to get my schedule. A fake blonde with way too much eyeliner sits behind the counter, yelling something Spanish into the phone. She sees me and covers the receiver.

"What do you need, honey?" Then yells some more Spanish.

"My class schedule," I tell her.

"Name, honey?" she flips through some papers on her desk.

"Margot Keller."

She tosses my schedule to me.

"Here you go, Margot-honey." Then she goes back to her Espanol.

I look at my schedule. English is first. Ms. Bartok. Room 601. I have no idea where Room anything is. I feel like it's the first day of kindergarten, and I wish Mom were here to walk me to class.

I head down the hallway on a hunt for 601. Lockers line the walls, and I realize I hadn't asked about mine.

I go back to the office. Eyeliner Blonde is still on the phone.

"Hi, honey. What do you need?" She doesn't remember me.

"I need a locker."

"Oh, honey. We don't have any available. Can you share with a friend?"

Right. I don't have any friends.

"Just tell me where Room 601 is."

"Sure, honey. Go down the hallway and out the door. It's in the sixth bungalow behind this building."

Silverlake High School has so many students there are 10 bungalows in back of the main two-story campus. I find Room 601, take a deep breath and enter.

"And what do you think Holden meant when he described his idols as 'phonies'?" Ms. Bartok has fake boobs and wears black knee boots. My old English class had just read Catcher in the Rye and, according to Holden, Ms. Bartok and her breasts would definitely get a score of Seriously Phony. A few hands go up, then Ms. Bartok sees me.

"New?" she asks, and I nod. She points to an empty desk right in front.

"Sit here. Rocio is suspended." I'd rather sit in back so I can hide and check everyone out, but I take my seat in Rocio's chair. It seems like a bad omen to sit in the chair of someone who got suspended during summer school. I feel everyone's staring at me, but when I turn around no one's even paying attention.

By lunch, I'd been to English, U.S. history, home ec and math. I hadn't talked to anyone, and my teachers never introduced me or asked where I'm from.

I have a turkey sandwich and bag of Cheetos for lunch and go outside to sit in the sunshine. That's the other weird thing about L.A. It's sunny all the time. At home, it would be raining or foggy or at least a little chilly. It's unnatural for the weather to be this nice every second.

I spot a table of girls who look like they might be nice. There's an open seat.

"Do you mind if I sit here?" I ask.

"Whatever," one says and goes back to her conversation. "These crazy environmental policies are ruinous. Do you know how screwed we'll be once our generation is running the country?"

Politics. Dani, Josh and I used to go to the Pizza Palace on K Street and, between bites of pepperoni, debate about the environment, war and education until we'd figured out a plan to save the world. That's what made me and Dani want to start the Environmental Club. We felt we needed to do more than just talk about making the world a better place. We had to do something.

"Yeah, I can't believe it," I pipe in.

The girls look at me like I'm crazy. At least they're looking at me.

"I'm Margot Keller. I'm new." I smile. The bell rings, and they jump up to leave without even, "Nice to meet you. Where are you from?" Nothing.

What's wrong with me? I've never had a problem making friends. I wasn't one of the super-popular girls, but I always had friends. Well, actually, I'd always had Danielle. We've been friends since fourth grade.

I think about Ian and wonder how he's doing at his new elementary school. I'll bet he's having an even worse time. Ian's shy and has trouble meeting new kids. I feel a surge of protectiveness for my little bro and can't wait to catch up with him after school. Maybe I'll even play Digimon World 4 with him.

Biology, phys ed and photography.

When I get home, Ian is already playing PS2 with some kid from his class. Janson has tousled blond hair and wears puka shells around his neck. They're having a grand time.

To top it off, Mom is in the garage--yep, that's right, the garage--playing drums while her old college pal Maggie wails on guitar and sings. They're playing Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation," which I loved from Freaks and Geeks, but these two 40-year-old women rocking out is both freaky and geeky.

I go to my room and shut the door. I want to scream but, instead, I sit on the bed and look around. My new room is way smaller than my old room, but it's basically the same. I arranged the bed and desk just like it had been at home. I even put my dolphin poster on the ceiling. Mom says after we get our bearings we'll buy another house but, for now, we have to downsize.

I dial Dani up, but her mom tells me she went for ice cream. I wonder who she's with. I want to call Josh, but our breakup didn't go so well. We're still "friends," but he's mad at me for leaving, even though it's not my fault. I guess that's his way of dealing.

I kick off my flip-flops and slide into shorts and sneaks. I have to get out of here or I might polish off that pint of Ben and Jerry's in the freezer. I jet out the front door and head for the lake.

Silverlake got its name because there's this big lake--well, really it's a reservoir--in the center of the neighborhood. It's surrounded by an ugly chain-link fence, which is supposed to keep people from drowning. Too bad because it'd be a nice park if the fence came down. Still, no one seems to mind that much. Today, tons of people are out exercising--biking, walking dogs and running with babies in strollers.

The San Gabriel Mountains loom in the distance ahead of me. I see some snow on top of one of them. In Sacramento, you could only see the Sierras once you were on the freeway heading toward Reno or Tahoe.

A couple holding hands speed-walks past me. It's weird to see so many adults out during the day. What are they all doing out at 4:00 in the afternoon? Don't they have jobs? And what's up with Mom? I wish she were normal and had a regular 9-to-5 office job like she used to. Telling people my mom is a struggling musician or wannabe artist is weird. OK, it'd be cool if she were my sister, but she's my mom. It's so not cool.

I miss Dani. I miss Josh. I miss Dad. I even miss our streets, with the oak trees folding over the sidewalks. Palm trees don't cast shadow arms, they just point long accusing fingers.

I see our landlady Mrs. Willis, who lives in the other half of our duplex. I don't want her to see me because she'll probably ask how my day was, dearie. Ack! She's walking toward me.

She recognizes me right off.

"Oh, hello, Margot." Wow. She remembers my name.

"I was heading home, but maybe I'll turn around and keep going with you."

Oh, no! I think. But I'll be polite. She is our landlady, after all.

"I had an awful day!" Mrs. Willis exclaims. "Ever have days like that?"

I nod.

"Dreadful, awful, terrible. Usually, something sweet to eat knocks me out of my funk but, after two slices of peach pie, I didn't feel better and had a sugar headache to boot." She sighs but doesn't say another word, and it's the most perfect thing. We walk in silence, watching the sunset being drawn across the sky in pink, purple and orange swaths.

As we round the lake and near our house, I see a guy about my age with brown hair and a Ramones shirt. Cute.

"That's my grandson Nick. He lives around the corner and helps me with yard work on Mondays," Mrs. Willis whispers. "His mom feels sorry for me and makes him visit, but that's OK. We listen to music together. Do you like the White Stripes?"

It's hard for me not to laugh. "They're one of my favorite bands," I say.

As we get closer, I can hear Mom and Maggie playing a cover of that Blondie's "Dreaming." It doesn't sound half-bad. Still, I hope he doesn't notice.

"This is Margot," Mrs. Willis tells Nick. "Her family just moved in."

"She's in my English class," he says.

He smiles. I hadn't even noticed him in English! How is that possible?

"Is that Blondie I hear coming from your house?" he asks.

"Yeah. That's my morn," I say. "She's ... in a band."

"Cool." Nick says. "My room plays bass in the Hell Kittens."

Wow. Maybe Mom being in a band isn't so awful after all.

"Hey, my friend Sadie lives up the street," Nick points to a nearby house. "We walk to school together every day. How about if we meet up with you tomorrow on the way?"

"That'd be great," I nod, trying to keep my excitement from showing, even though I want to scream, "Yesssss!"

Mom and Maggie start another song, a punk version of"I Will Survive." Nick sings along. I join in.

I will totally survive.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:FiCTiON
Author:Lundsten, Apryl
Publication:Girls' Life
Article Type:Short Story
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Previous Article:Cut the clutter! We give this tidy, bright new bedroom an A+.
Next Article:Star signs.

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