The whirring window units did their best to stifle the heat and humidity permeating throughout the small chapel, though they did nothing more than drive up the A/C bill in a battle that couldn’t be won. Eighty six girls sat in the pews listening to the principal speak from the pulpit at the altar. Some were fighting sleep, others were buzzing with excitement, and everyone was fanning themselves with whatever objects they could find. It was only 8:30 in the morning, and Joanna’s hair was already growing damp around her temples, her baby hairs curling in reaction to the moisture.
She sat in a pew towards the back of the chapel between two girls she didn’t particularly like, but was forced to sit with during all assemblies the last four years because of the prophetic “alphabetical order” the school administrators seemed to hold so dear. Principal Higgins was droning on about the importance of senior year and cherishing every moment - the same canned speech she gave to every senior class of girls that passed through her hallowed halls.
Chloe was slumped down in the pew in front of Joanna, and her long, brown ponytail hung over the back of the bench, tickling her knee. Joanna resisted the temptation to play with her hair; not that Chloe would mind, but she had to act carefully around her.
It had been two years - almost to the day - since Joanna realized that her weird hatred of Mack was actually jealousy over how close she was with Chloe. Ever since that revelation, she was utterly hopeless around Chloe. She couldn’t give any indication of her feelings lest she risk destroying the closest friendships she’d ever known. So instead, she stuck herself so deep in the closet it was a wonder she hadn’t found Narnia yet.
Joanna made her hands busy with the frayed ribbon that stuck out of the hymnal in front of her and made an attempt to concentrate on what Principal Higgins was saying. Still, she looked for any excuse to get Chloe’s attention. Before she could talk herself out of it, she tapped on Chloe’s shoulder.
Chloe turned her head slightly, allowing Joanna only a glimpse of her big, brown eyes. “What?” Chloe whispered.
“Let’s all meet in the courtyard after this. I want to know y’all’s schedules,” Joanna whispered back.
“Yeah, definitely.” said Chloe, a little louder than she should have.
“Ladies please, settle down,” interrupted Principal Higgins, “We only have a few minutes left of assembly.”
Chloe rolled her eyes as she turned back around and Joanna sank into her seat. She grabbed a prayer card and started fanning herself to combat the heat rising in her cheeks - she always knew how to embarrass herself. Chloe turned back to Joanna for only a moment and shot her a wink, which Joanna returned with a pitiful smile.
“Ladies please rise for closing prayer, then you will be dismissed for period two,” said Principal Higgins.
Joanna put the prayer card away and stood up with the rest of her classmates. As she began to mumble along with the Lord’s Prayer, she added a silent request to whoever was listening to please help her keep her secret for one more year; just in case favor was on her side for once.