Back to School
It was an early, crisp morning. The chill of Winter hung in the air, and frost still clung to the bare tree branches. A cold breeze breathed over the parking lot of Ambrose High School. The buses lined against the curb were opening to let students file out and begin their day. Puffs of white clouds drifted from their faces as they chatted among themselves. Some students were still waking up, yawning and moaning the whole walk to the doors. Plenty of smiles lined the students’ faces though, but one in particular, coming from the visitor parking lot, outshined them all…
Emerald orbs gaped at the two-story, brick building. Darting her sight around the landscaping, the girl’s grin beamed as bright as the Sun. Holding onto the arm of an elegant man in a white, dress suit, she looked ready to run about the grounds, like a bumblebee. Her evergreen peacoat covered most of her outfit, but the light-wash denim was just visible before tucking away inside a pair of brown, leather boots. Her white, skull cap clung to her sandy blond, wavy locks bobbing down her back. The man smiled down at her excitement as if he were just as happy for her.
“Someone is ready for their first day of school,” he said, teasingly.
“I can’t believe it!” The girl squealed as she tried to hold in her enthusiasm. “It’s finally here! Is this really happening?!”
“Well,” the man laughed lightly, “it will once you walk through the door.”
“Oh, right!” She giggled, knocking on her crown with a gloved fist. She let his arm go a moment to grasp his pale hand, pulling the elder closer to the entry. “Come on! Come on, Winter!”
As some of the students glanced at the scene the two were making, the man called Winter just laughed with a full heart as he sped up her pace. Neither of them seemed to mind the suspicious gazes. Today was a day long awaited, and they both appeared to share the same happiness about it. Let the world stare as they celebrated.
The chime of the bell announced the end of homeroom, releasing students to their first class of the day. As students stood to leave, idle chatter rose up: typical post-vacation conversation. It was the first day back from Winter Break, and there was always something buzzing after a break…
“Can you believe two weeks went by already?”
“I know! Vacation’s never long enough!”
One student opened her black eyes as the rest of the room emptied. She’d been resting her head on folded forearms. Yawning wide and loud, she finally sat upright to get ready to leave.
“Dude, did we have Geometry homework over break?”
“Man, I didn’t even take my books home last month.”
The girl reached to grab a satchel under her desk, resting against her shins. Pulling it over her black crown, she stood from the desk to walk out into the hall, sluggishly. Pausing, she stared at the lockers across from the doorway.
“Where am I going again?” She muttered to herself. Holding her breath, she glanced left and right, trying to regain her bearings. “First block. Take a left.”
Turning to her left, she started down the hall, passing chatting students at their lockers. For the most part, she didn’t seem to notice them, or perhaps she was drowning out the racket of their voices clashing together. Whichever the reason, a tap on her shoulder made her flinch in shock.
“Morning, Jay,” a tall, golden blonde young man spoke with a smile. She looked up at him with a frown of disapproval. He didn’t seem fazed by her glare. His sea-blue eyes shimmered with patience and grace.
“Why are you so awake, Leif?” The grouch asked with irritable defensiveness. “It’s not natural.”
“I know you don’t normally wake up till second block,” Leif replied pleasantly, reaching to pet the flat, black locks, “but some of us sleep at night. How much did you manage last night? You look pretty rough this morning.”
Rolling her head out from under his large hand, the girl made a fussy expression at the gesture before turning away. As disgruntled as she appeared, Leif just smiled as if he knew she really didn’t mind the contact. They continued down the hall together.
“What is this thing you call ‘sleep’, Viking?”
“You saw the sunrise again, huh?” Leif laughed at her last word. “Have you thought about going to bed early to combat that insomnia, Jaime? I’m sure your aunt has mentioned it could help.”
“Bed before ten? That’s a joke, right?”
“Ah yes,” a third student chimed up as Leif and Jaime passed a classroom, fluidly wrapping an arm across Jaime’s shoulders, “I remember staying up after midnight in middle school. Those were the days.”
“Chelsea…” Jaime hissed at the surprise appearance. She really was not awake enough for any of this. Closing her eyes, she tried to calm the racing heartbeat pulsing in her ears.
“What were you doing up after twelve?!” Leif gawked down at the new girl, seemingly appalled at the news. Chelsea glanced up at him from her similar height beside Jaime as they walked down the hall.
“Watching late-night anime,” she said flatly, as if he should have known. “I didn’t have the streaming service till last year, since we have to be up earlier now. How else did you watch those shows we talked about in middle school, Lei?”
“My brother programmed the VCR to record during the week, so we could watch them Saturday morning. Frey and I still watch together, but Ivory convinced Mom and Dad to get the box when Val moved out. He took the VCR with him to rewatch the old tapes though.”
“Did you say ‘VCR’?” Chelsea gawked up at Leif as if he were speaking a different language.
While the two continued their conversation, a boy pushed himself between Leif and Jaime. As he passed, he grabbed Jaime’s forearm, pulling her away from the others. She opened her tightly closed eyes to see her rescuer. Her chest lightened at the sight of the purple to blue ombre dye job in the shoulder-length hair.
“Chatty Cathys as ever,” a gruff voice grunted as the boy released Jaime’s arm. He glanced back with a groggy face of his own. “They are way too happy for 8:30.”
Jaime blinked back at him as he sped up to reach the end of the hallway. A door leading outside waited ahead, and he paused to open it for her. Leaning into the glass panel door, he held it open as she passed him.
“Yeah,” she whispered softly, “they really are.”
“Ready for Algebra, Jay?” The young rebel called after her.
“Am I ever?” She retorted, continuing on without him. He smirked after her with cynical satisfaction.
“I feel you there, pal.”
A row of portable classrooms sat at an angle that ran the whole side of the school building and out toward the sports fields. With so many options in the curriculum and students filling them, the school board had chosen this over renovation to the old school. While they eased the classroom size to manageable numbers, the thin walls made for poor insulation during extreme temperatures. Fortunately, the teachers had pooled their funds to bring in heaters and fans to compensate for the students’ discomfort. Winter was the worst though, wearing hats and gloves during class.
As students exited the main building to head for their respective portables, Leif and Chelsea finally hurried out before their friend closed the door in their faces. They smiled sheepishly at him in greeting, but he just waved to them as he followed after Jaime. The four were clearly familiar and friendly to some degree, and they seemed to share the same first class of the day.
Jaime entered a portable toward the back of the row. Walking toward the second column, she drug her feet to the second before the last desk. Dropping into the seat, she placed her satchel against her shins, folding her arms on the desk to lie down again. Her friends smiled at her when they reached the doorway.
“At least, she’s not late today,” Leif said with a positive grin. He extended one long leg at a time over the sidebar of a desk in the first row before sitting in one next to Jaime. He set his pioneer pack on the floor next to his seat.
“She almost blew her top with you two squawking over her head,” the new boy said flatly, walking for the desk behind Jaime. He tried to avoid disturbing her as he passed. Setting his backpack on the floor behind his desk, he slouched, as if readying for a nap himself.
“Oh gosh!” Chelsea paused at the desk in a row on the other side of Jaime, covering her mouth in shock. “She did take a while to bounce back last year! How could I have forgotten?! Oh, Jaime... I’m sorry...”
As she dropped her button-covered messenger bag in her seat, the two boys glanced at her saddened expression. Leif smiled back at her, sympathetically. Chelsea's sweet bubbly nature often clashed with Jaime's muted one, and she could be her own worst critic at times like these.
“Don’t let it eat you up, Chels,” he said softly. “You know she’s already let it go by now.”
“Totally,” the other said, waving a dismissive hand in the air. “Jaime hates grudges. You know that.”
Chelsea glanced back at her friends a moment. Her remorse morphed into relief. Smiling brightly again, she hummed with gratitude.
“You’re right. She’d be the first to tell me I was worrying too much.”
“Right,” the groggy youth said as he settled back into his napping position, “so take good notes cause I think Wolfe is almost here. I’m still recovering from break, too.”
“Jake…” Leif and Chelsea groaned back at him.
After Chelsea settled in her seat, at last, the portable door opened, and a tall, authoritative man walked into the room. His face was serious, and his posture was straight and disciplined. The briefcase in his hand was weathered, but it was well cared for. He wasn’t alone. Behind him was a bubbly, new student, hugging a textbook against her evergreen peacoat.
“Good morning, slackers. Time to wake up,” Mr. Wolfe spoke in a commanding yet familiar tone. Light blue eyes glanced toward Jake and Jaime as he strode toward the front of the class. “That would be you, Aarons and Johnson.”
Jake sighed heavily, sitting upright. Jaime didn’t sit up, but she did open her eyes to glance at the teacher. Her black eyes followed the path her teacher normally took to his desk. Noticing the new face behind him, she tried to recall if she had the person from around town.
The new student quickly noticed the eyes glued to her. Instead of shying away, her smile brightened further. Lifting her gloved hand from the book, she waved pleasantly to Jaime, mouthing a silent ‘hello’. The teen blinked in surprise at her joy, sitting upright out of curiosity.
“As you can see,” the teacher said as he set his briefcase on the desk, “we have a new student joining us today. She will be with our class for the remainder of the year, so I’ll give her a minute to introduce herself before we start back up.”
The girl curtsied to the teacher before turning to face the class. Glowing with excitement at the disinterested students, she seemed to be getting a feel for her peers. After the brief pause, she curtsied once more before speaking.
"Thank you ever so much, Mr. Wolfe," the girl practically sang her gratitude. "Hello, everyone! My name is Flora Nature, and I've just moved to Moonshine! I'm ever so glad to meet you all, so please don't be shy. I hope we all get along swimmingly!