Chapter Title: 24 | The Cafeteria Conundrum
Prompt: #064 – Shy
Word Count: 1,115
Summary: On the first day of her freshman year, Janine dreads facing the long, lonely lunch hour in the SHS cafeteria.
Links: DW | LJ | AO3 | FF.net
The final fic written for this year's SMC, this was written for the “delay” prompt on my 2016 Summer Mini Challenge table.
I was on something of a Charlie/Janine roll, so I decided to go with it as long as I could. For this prompt, I was mostly thinking along the lines of "delaying the inevitable." What would cause something as calm and level-headed as Janine to utter that phrase, even if only to herself?
How about what every introvert dreads on the first day of school: trying to find something to eat with in the cafeteria.
It was always my biggest anxiety-inducer, even though I wasn't a loner. I had a small clutch of friends, but it was always a crapshoot as to whether we'd been in the cafeteria at the same time any given semester. That first day was always the worst - besides having a whole new schedule to figure out, and new teachers to endure, there was the ultimate social moment as well: how would we get through lunch?
Mercifully, I never ended up alone, but I always dreaded that first day. It was one more thing to figure out, you know? And I can only imagine that it'd be even worse for someone like Janine, who felt like an outcast. At least I had my fellow music nerds to cling onto.
Of course, I had to make things a little worse for Janine: extending the lunch hour to an entire hour (even through high school, our lunch periods were only 20 minutes, in the middle of our fourth period class) and making her face the entirety of her class as well as another. Even if SHS is the only public high school in Stoneybrook, I can't imagine it being *that* big - plus, Ann Martin was quite old fashioned, and there was a time, way long ago, when kids were allowed to leave the school campus for lunch. So, I tapped both of those veins for this scenario.
Just for a bit of added misery, I also decided the SHS school leaders were determined to make everyone
So Janine is sizing up the situation and trying to decide the best course of action when Charlie Thomas appears at her side, and offers to eat lunch with her, basically out of the goodness of his heart. I can totally see him seeing her and how uncomfortable she is and deciding to do something about it. They've known each other forever, after all, and he can sense how lonely she is. He considers her a friend, albeit not a close one, and doesn't want to see her suffer. He offers to let her join him and his friends, but when he sees her reticence, he suggests that they eat by themselves instead.
I wanted it to be easy and casual, and for Janine to realize that he does consider her a friend, even though they are complete opposites, even though he is older than her and has his own social circle. He's nice, and she appreciates that, and the offer of companionship instead of an excruciating hour caught in the horror that is a high school cafeteria alone.
This is a simple little piece of understated friendship, my favorite basis for a ship ♥