Summary: Ororo’s first day leaves her with a bitter taste in her mouth. Despite having to deal with old problems again, she makes new friends…one of whom she could do without.
Author’s Note: There will be more racial themes in this, so again, if this isn’t your cup of tea, stick with stories like Getaway or Give Me the Night.
The first thing Ororo noticed when she reached Graymalkin Senior High School was the noise. The campus was large, and the building could have fit two of Ororo’s old schoolhouse in it. But the thing that struck her was the way students seemed to hover in clusters around benches and along the steps. These were kids who knew each other from kindergarten and who were already established comfortably in their own little enclaves and cliques.
Ororo hated it there already.
She drifted near the bushes and stood with her back to the wall of the left side of the main hall, furtively watching her peers. From what she could tell, most of them came from money, and so far, almost all of them were White. So far, not many of them spotted her, but to her dismay, they weren’t returning her tentative smile.
This was familiar territory for Ororo. Her abdomen cramped in protest at her brisk walk to school, but it twisted with new butterflies in her new surroundings. On the soccer field to her left, she noticed a handful of boys already kicking a ball in an impromptu game. They weren’t afraid to get their good school clothes dirty already, which puzzled her; but again, it must have been nice to have money. She noticed a lot of students wearing school sweaters and pins and contemplated whether she wanted to spend her stash of babysitting money on one for herself.
Her dress was just as nice as anyone else’s, which comforted her, but she sighed as she noticed that she was easily the tallest girl on the grounds. Standing just shy of six feet without shoes was a pain, in regard to finding shoes and clothes that fit properly, and also whenever boys noticed that she was as tall as they were and sniggered at her, calling her an Amazon.
A scuffle out of the corner of her eye snapped her from her reverie. A shrill cry from the courtyard made Ororo wince, unmistakably the sound of someone having a worse day than she was. Her eyes landed on a group of boys surrounding a petite brunette, wearing smug grins and showing her no pity. She looked younger than Ororo, most likely a freshman, and a precocious one at that.
“You’re at the wrong school, Pryde,” jeered the largest of the group, a portly boy with sandy brown hair and mean blue eyes. “The preschool’s down the street. You might make it in time for show and tell!” He blocked her attempts to snatch back a pocketbook that one of his peers was holding away from her, its strap wadded up around his fist as he waved it above her head.
“Give it back! Let GO!” Ororo watched the scene before her with a dark scowl.
No, no, this won’t do at all. They know better… She tutted to herself, deciding she had nothing to lose, and if anyone thought less of her stepping in where she wasn’t welcome, that was too bad. Ororo despised bullies.
The girl’s cheeks were flushed and she was growing more upset, balling up her fists and striking the boy with her purse in the chest. He feigned injury and sneered down at her while the heavy boy grabbed her arm.
“Who d’you think you are, Pryde? That’s not good manners. Rough little bitch!” he spat nastily.
“I shouldn’t have to waste good manners on a big, rude pig, Fred Dukes! Let go of me!” Two other boys in school sweaters sniggered at the girl’s efforts at defending herself. A slender boy about Ororo’s height, whose hair was surprisingly almost the same silver as hers, took the opportunity afforded by their victim’s focus on getting her purse back to play peek-a-boo. She yelped as he jerked up the back of her long skirt, exposing her shamefully. Ororo’s cheeks burned in remembered embarrassment and empathy.
Enough was enough.
“I see London, I see France, I see- OOOWWWWWW!” He dropped the skirt hem in surprise as his ear was practically twisted off his head. “Uncle! UNCLE! LEGGO!” His friends stared up in surprise at the sight of the tall Black girl easily staggering their mate with only her grip on his ear, looking pissed off as a school teacher.
“You’re nothing but a spoiled little boy,” Ororo hissed. “What’s the matter with you? Didn’t your mother ever teach you any manners? You don’t put your hands on females. I don’t care who you are.” He reached up and tried to slap her hands away, but she tweaked the tortured, makeshift handle in a different direction each time he tried to twist himself away. Fred Dukes’ cheeks turned red with surprise and amusement. His beady eyes widened in disbelief.
“Look at this,” he mused loudly, “who does this colored girl think she is? You sad you weren’t invited to our little party?” Ororo let go of her victim and shoved him aside; he yipped slightly as she threw him off balance, and he tripped over his own feet, landing in a shrub.
“If this is your idea of a party, then no, I’m not sorry. No, thank you,” she informed him crisply. “Give her back her pocketbook.” He huffed in amusement, and his other friends sniggered. Ororo stood beside the girl protectively but didn’t touch her, even though her first instinct was to pull her behind herself and away from snatching, pinching hands. She ignored the younger girl’s look of confusion and stood her ground.
“Who’s gonna take it from me, huh? You don’t scare me, unless you know some colored voodoo, sister.” She approached him smoothly, playing a game of psychological chicken, seeing who would look away or back off first.
“Who says I don’t know voodoo?” she prompted. “Hm? Does that scare you, Fred? That is your name, isn’t it? Fred Dukes?”
“Yeah. Ya wanna make somethin’ of it?” His pulse raced at how close she stood and he felt the hairs on his neck rise at the look in her cold blue eyes. Blue. A pure, clear shade that was at odds with her gleaming, dark brown skin, and the expression in them gave him chills. His bravado was slipping, easily maintained when he was dealing with the tiny slip of a Pryde girl, but making itself scarce with this older girl who could stare him in the eye, and appallingly, find him lacking.
Her breath was wintry, even arctic, as it blew from her lips, and her body…it seemed to give off a hint of static, making the air around her almost …hum.
“I want you to apologize to her.”
“What if I don’t wanna do what ya tell me to?”
“Then we will have a problem.”
“Sez YOU!” His hand flew up in an attempt to slap her; it served her right for poking her nose into other people’s business, didn’t it? But she was fast and cunning, catching his hand and grasping his two smallest fingers, wrenching them painfully back. He roared in pain and his friends’ grins and leers dissolved.
“Holy cow,” muttered the silver-haired one, “she’s got a hold of Fred! She’s a beast!”
“Attagirl, nigger! Make him say ‘uncle’!” crowed a shorter, homely boy in a school sweater named Mort. He felt little loyalty to Fred, and Mort spent most of his time on the fringes of their group, frequently victim to some of his pranks and bullying. He took delight in teasing Pryde, if only because that meant they weren’t teasing him. It was more fun to dish it out than to take it any day, in his book.
Fred was shouting and trying to shake off her grip, but she held fast to his fingers, twisting them dangerously in their sockets. “Get off! GET OFF! UNCLE!”
“Say ‘pretty please with sugar on top,’” she suggested smoothly, voice deeper with slight strain as she struggled to hold onto him. Ororo heard her mother’s voice in her head and mentally winced at the lecture she was likely to get if she got wind of what happened in school.
“In yer dreams!” he hissed.
Suddenly Fred felt his body temperature shift, lowering as though he’d just stepped into a meat locker like the ones at his dad’s butcher shop. The day itself was still warm enough; he’d even been sweating minutes ago, a drawback to his enormous bulk, but he realized in horror that she was the source of the chill. Her hands were freezing cold, fingers snatching at his and robbing them of their circulation in her hard grip.
“Drop the bag.” He obeyed, letting go of it like it was a hot potato. Its owner swooped down and plucked it up from the ground, dusting it off and peering inside the clasp to make sure nothing was missing. Ororo spared her little attention and smiled. “Thank you, Fred Dukes.” She released him, and he stumbled back indignantly, humiliated and enraged. His face was red and his eyes were narrow slits.
“Yer a mutie!” he hissed.
Ororo shrugged. “Prove it.” Their skirmish drew a small crowd.
“She sure looks like a mutie,” someone pointed out.
“So does Dukes,” jeered another.
“No chick can do that without bein’ a mutie,” chimed in another.
“Do what? Fred’s a big pussy, anyway,” murmured the white-haired boy under his breath to the medium-sized blond to his left.
“Sure yer right, ‘Tro,” St. John muttered back, amused. “Ain’t she a sight. That sheila’s got nice legs, eh?”
“I don’t see any mutants around here,” Ororo sniffed, flicking her eyes around the crowd. “I didn’t do anything to you. I didn’t harm a hair on your head.” Fred looked like he wanted to cry foul. But he sized up the situation and found little resolution that didn’t make him look like a fool.
They’ll never believe me if I tell them about her tryin’ t’freeze me. They didn’t see anything happen!
“She said she knows voodoo!” he insisted, not realizing that was a bigger mistake.
“Ha! VOODOO! Didja hear that? He said she knows voodoo! Hey, colored girl, show us some voodoo!” Ororo made a dismissive gesture with her hand. She retrieved her notebook from the ground and waited for the crowd to disperse. She never took her eyes off of Fred and his friends.
Nearby, a pretty redhead flanked by a cluster of blondes watched the scene in distaste.
“Who does she think she is?” muttered the tallest one, a curvy ash blonde in a tight white sweater. She took a long pull from a bottle of root beer before handing it off to the redhead.
“She’s nothing, that’s what. She’s a nobody. Anyone who’d show off like that just to protect that goody-goody Pryde doesn’t care about her reputation.”
“That was a neat trick, though.” The redhead scowled and she held up her hands defensively. “What?”
“Sticks and stones, Jean.”
“Only babies say that, Emma.”
Fifty years later, a friendship like that between Emma Frost and Jean Grey would have been described as two girls being “best frenemies.” They vacillated between being at each other’s throats or thick as thieves. It was their longtime habit to hate newcomers in common and break them in to how things were done at Graymalkin High. This new girl had some nerve.
“Tacky rag she has on,” mused Sophie Stepford, one of the freshmen triplets who dogged Emma’s footsteps. She eyed the polka dotted dress enviously, wondering how it would look on her instead, especially with the pumps.
“Look at her hair,” her sister Esme murmured. “D’you think it’s a wig?”
“Of course not,” Jean snapped. “It’s no more a wig than mine is.”
“So what d’you think, then?” Emma wondered under her breath. “Could she be special? Like us?”
“No,” Jean said after a pause. “Because no one’s special like us.” The early bell rang, and the students began reluctantly filing inside. The new girl stood her ground and watched the boys walk away before she took so much as one step toward the front doors.
“Hey…hey! Wait!” Ororo felt a slight tug on her sleeve and she turned to face a pair of dark brown eyes, large as saucers. “Are you nuts? Do you know what you just did?”
“I thought I was helping you,” she murmured, slightly confused. She nodded to her purse. “You’re welcome.” Ororo began to walk away again, but this time quick, light footsteps struggled to keep up with her, three of hers for each one of Ororo’s long strides.
“I know…but…how did you do that?”
“It wasn’t that hard. I had practice.” The younger girl looked surprised.
“Really? Wow. So…did you get picked on a lot?”
Ororo didn’t feel the need to lie. “Yes. I did. Frequently.”
“My name’s Kitty. It’s Katherine, but you can call me Kitty, if you want.”
“That’s a pretty name, Kitten. Be proud of it.” Kitty stifled a giggle at the further shift in her nickname, but she decided she didn’t dislike it.
“Wow. That’s different.”
“Thank you,” Ororo said, unsure if she meant it in a good way.
“It is. I like it.” Kitty kept up a running dialogue with her as they made their way through the crowd of students milling in the halls. “Do you have your schedule yet?”
“I have to go to the office first,” Ororo informed her. “I’m new.”
“No kidding,” Kitty chuckled. “Man, no one’s gonna know what to make of you here, Ororo.”
“Then they’ll just have to learn,” she shrugged.
Minutes later, Ororo slipped inside her homeroom, cheeks flushed as she realized that everyone else was already seated. It had taken a while for the school’s secretary, Moira, to figure out the spelling of her name long enough to find her schedule and student file. As Ororo gently pulled the door shut behind her, the man taking roll call at the desk looked up in irritation.
“Young lady, why are you late? Do you belong in this homeroom?”
“Yes, I do. Here.” Ororo humbly handed him her schedule. He squinted at it, then peered up at her curiously. His blue eyes were narrow and shrewd, topped with shaggy dark brows. She noticed at that moment that he wasn’t sitting in a regular chair behind his desk, but in a wheelchair that initially made it difficult to tell how tall he was. He was slick-bald and looked about her father’s age.
“Your name’s Ororo?”
“Yes, it is, sir.”
“You’re African.” It wasn’t a question. Ororo was slightly flustered.
“That’s not a common name around here. If you had to go to the office first, then I can’t mark you late,” her teacher informed her crisply. “But you will need to take a seat, Miss Munroe.”
“Yes, sir,” she told him carefully. She spied the only empty desk, unfortunately all the way in the back. All eyes were on her as she moved to claim it. Her cheeks heated up and she heard a few titters but tried to ignore them.
Roll call continued without any further interruptions. “St. John Allerdyce.”
“Here.” Ororo noticed with distaste that it was one of the boys who tormented Kitty earlier. She made a mental note to keep an eye on him, not looking forward to seeing him every morning.
“Here.” The owner of that voice was slightly mousy, certainly dressed as well as everyone else in class, but she seemed self-conscious. Ororo felt slightly irritated when she turned around and peered over her shoulder at her and gave her an odd little smirk.
Put your eyes back in your head, little girl, Ororo thought, narrowing her eyes with clear intent. Lorna shrank back and turned back to face the front of the class. Ororo smothered a sigh.
Ororo tested the sound of each name in her head as they were called off. “Ororo Munroe?” he called out unnecessarily.
“Present, sir.” He cocked his brow at her expression and made a small checkmark on his sheet. She thought she almost saw him crack a smile but decided she must have just imagined it.
He introduced himself. “Some of you returning students may remember me from my physics class, but if not, my name is Professor Charles Xavier. Welcome to my home room. I’m glad to see some familiar faces as well as several new ones.” He nodded to a small pile of booklets on his desk. “On your way out this morning, each of you will need to take a copy of the student handbook. It explains the guidelines you’ll be expected to follow in this school and how to observe the rules of good citizenship. Keep in mind that when you’re marked late for homeroom, it’s viewed as an absence for the day. When you fail to show for your assigned classes, it’s an automatic detention unless you can produce a doctor’s or parents’ note.” Ororo was relieved that she’d been given a reprieve.
The first period bell rang, and the professor’s words were drowned out by a scraping of chairs and shuffling of feet.
“I look forward to seeing you each day and learning more about you. Remember yourselves. You’re all being observed more closely than you think, and your performance and efforts as students at Graymalkin will me measured and rewarded accordingly.” He gave them all a pointed look, and they all briefly froze. “Behave.” Everyone in the class shivered slightly at the sound of his voice. It didn’t only come from his mouth.
Ororo shook herself. You too, Miss Munroe. She gazed at him in wonder as she took the copy of the handbook and tucked it into her bag.
“Th-thank you, Professor,” she stammered.
“Have a good day,” he said dismissively, nodding a goodbye as he went back to his paperwork. Ororo hurried off, wondering why she felt so…charged.
By third period, Ororo was already tired of hearing her name floating over the buzz of gossip around her, and people’s stares were giving her a headache. She headed to the water fountain and bent down for a sip, carefully holding back her ponytail from falling into the low trickle.
“You’re not allowed to drink from that,” a voice told her nastily. Ororo ignored it until she’d drank her fill. She looked up and wiped a stray drop from her lower lip, then stood to her full height.
“Why? I don’t see any sign.”
“You can’t because I said you can’t,” the girl with long red hair informed her.
Ororo felt her temper flare and her back was up, now. This was what she’d worried about and lost sleep over. Graymalkin wasn’t going to be any different from her school in Athen, then, after all.
“I’m not worried about that,” Ororo shot back. “You see, if there isn’t a sign, then anyone can drink from that fountain. It doesn’t matter what you say. And even if there was a sign, if I was thirsty, I’d still drink.”
“That’s funny. You’re new, and you don’t know who I am. I’ll be nice and explain it this time, and I’ll speak slow, so you don’t miss anything.”
“What? Did you…did you just tell me ‘no?’”
“No one tells me no.”
“I just did. You won’t ‘speak slow.’ You’ll ‘speak slowly.’ You need to use proper grammar if you’re going to tell me anything, if you want me to listen to you. And even then, if I don’t like what you have to say, I still might not listen to you.”
“Listen to her acting all hoity-toity,” Esme whispered, giggling and elbowing her sister.
“She told you, Jean,” Sophie remarked as she sucked on a string of red licorice.
“No one hangs out here unless I say so. This is our spot,” Jean said coolly, nodding to the wall beside a long bank of lockers. “That includes that water fountain. So you’re out of luck. Move along like a good little girl.”
Like a good little colored girl was what Ororo heard, and she stiffened.
“You don’t own the fountain. You don’t own that spot. And you definitely don’t own me.”
“Oooooooooo,” Emma huffed, impressed.
Uppity heifers, Ororo thought to herself. Jean made a sour face as though she heard her, and her knuckles tightened around her binder.
“You can put your little voodoo hex on Fred, but you don’t scare me,” Jean told her.
“Leave her alone, Jean,” Kitty snapped as she rounded the corner and saw her least favorite girls closing in on her savior. “Buzz off!”
“I don’t have to listen to you!” Jean snapped, wrinkling her nose in distaste, as though Kitty was a slithering worm. “Take your goody-goody cooties away from me!”
“Hebe,” Emma spat, glaring and looking Kitty up and down as though she were deficient.
“Snob,” Kitty retorted. “At least I didn’t caught under the bleachers with Pietro last season at the homecoming game, Emma, so you need to just shut your mouth.” Ororo’s eyebrow rose in surprise.
All right. This one could be useful. Emma flushed and pointed at Ororo.
“Don’t you dare laugh! You don’t have the right to laugh at me!” Ororo shrugged.
“Whatever.” Ororo went back to the water fountain and bent down to take another long gulp.
“Get away from there!” Jean hissed. Her earlier calm was gone, and Ororo could tell she struck a nerve, and she was glad for it.
“I’m not finished,” Ororo said simply, still staring Jean in the eye as she bent for more water. She lapped up exactly three more sips. “There. Now, I’m finished.”
“You think you’re so tough,” Jean mused. Her gaze was calculating. “You’re just a little mouse.
Ororo’s hackles went up. Jean looked pleased with herself.
Ororo’s a little mouse…Ororo’s a mouse… Her classmates had called her that because of her white hair and blue eyes, they said she resembled the small pet mice at the five and dime in the cage next to the goldfish.
“Meow,” Emma mocked, making little clawing motions in the air, as though Ororo was supposed to find that scary. “She looks pretty tasty, Jean.”
“You guys are just jealous,” Kitty accused.
“Go stuff your bra, Pryde,” Emma said scornfully, flicking her eyes over Kitty’s meager chest.
“At least I don’t have an empty head, Frost!”
“I’m not jealous of you,” Jean insisted, staring daggers at Ororo. “Let me make that clear.” Jean approached Ororo haughtily, peering up at her as though there was no height difference…no, as though she towered over Ororo, even though Jean was only five and a half feet tall. “You’re not welcome around here. Watch your back. This is our territory.”
“How nice for you,” Ororo shrugged. Jean headed for the water fountain and Ororo had a brief flash of inspiration.
She shouldn’t. She couldn’t. She suppressed a smile. Kitty eyed her oddly as Ororo concentrated on the air surrounding the fountain. The Stepford girls and Emma all shook off a faint, sudden draft as Jean approached the fountain and bent for a sip.
Jean turned the knob on the fountain, but nothing came out of the spout. “What the…?” She twisted and jerked it impatiently. “Why on earth is it doing this?” The spout seemed to be stopped up, ruining her show of superiority. Kitty bit back a giggle, and Esme, Sophie and Mindee looked confused.
“It worked fine a second ago…”
“You don’t think that girl did something…?”
“No. Pffft…like what? Put a hex on it?”
Something was holding back the water. Ororo tugged Kitty away.
“We’re in their territory, Kitten. Come along,” Ororo suggested.
“Wouldn’t want them to be uncomfortable,” she reminded her. Emma looked annoyed. Kitty stuck out her tongue.
The chip of ice lodged inside the spout broke loose as Ororo warmed the metal with a thought. A jet of water sprayed Jean in the nose, making her shriek in annoyed shock.
Kitty Pryde was a junior like Ororo, even though she was actually two years younger, and she gratefully pounced on her when it was time to pick a lab partner for their chemistry class.
“I’m gifted,” Kitty explained around a mouthful of her chicken sandwich. “I got bored at the elementary school, so they moved me to junior high, and then again to eighth grade when I tested high a couple of years ago. Now I’m accelerated.”
“Wow,” Ororo said, impressed. “Is that why they were picking on you before?”
“Kind of,” Kitty admitted. She reached into the collar of her white blouse and fished out a tiny silver chain. Ororo examined the Star of David pendant carefully. “I’m Jewish. That makes me a minority around here.”
“Join the club,” Ororo shrugged.
“We have a few Blacks in our school,” Kitty argued.
“Do they look like me?” Ororo challenged.
“Hm. Eh. Guess not.”
“You’re different. Like me.”
“That’s a good thing.”
“Yup. Are you afraid I’ll put a hex on you?”
“How did you do that to Fred? What’d you mean when you said you had practice?”
“The kids at my old school weren’t that nice. You learn to defend yourself fast.”
“That was masterful. Ororo?”
“I like you already. Can I be you when I grow up?” Ororo chuckled and offered her a cookie.