First day of School
The smell of eggs and toast hung in the air is I opened my eyes. I sat up slowly, wondering if Mom cooked or went for fast food.
Let it be fast food.
I yawned and threw off the blanket. In Kansas, it’s still pretty cold, for being January. And the heat in our new house wasn’t working right. It didn’t quite reach my room in the attic.
The house was an old two story with an attic and basement. The outside was pale green, which when it got to be summer, Dad had vowed to paint it a different color.
Which also meant that it would stay green until the paint peeled off and the house turned white. Or whatever color it had been a few years ago.
The first floor had a nice dining room and kitchen with living room and a study for Dad. Upstairs were a couple bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Above that was the spacious attic I immediately claimed as home territory. I would have taken the basement, but it was full of the previous owners’ stuff. Rusty bikes, etcetera, etcetera.
The attic started out as dusty, nasty, and cockroach ridden. There was a window on the far wall that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since it had been put in. When it finally sank in for my Mom that I wanted it to be my room, she visited her extreme cleaning wrath upon it.
Many good roaches died that day.
Now it had a dresser, left behind by previous owners yet again, a nice fluffy bed, and a bookcase that was a quarter full of books. And to top it off, there was already a closet I could use to hang up my clothes. It was perfect.
I got up, my head not even close to brushing the sloped ceiling. I yelped when my feet touched the cold floor. I’d have to ask for some rugs to put up here.
My pajamas of choice, sweatpants and a long purple shirt with some college logo on it, hung a little loosely off of me as I pulled some clothes from the closet( a red plaid calf-length skirt and a white short sleeved shirt, with three little buttons at the top) and walked downstairs to get a shower.
The stairs creaked and complained at me. I ignored them. They always creak when somebody’s walking on them.
I hurried and took my shower and dressed myself, then took my brush and brushed it out, and getting the brush tangled in my hair when I started to stifle a yawn. It took me two minutes to untangle it.
When I was done, I walked downstairs, hand on the rail to stop me from falling in case I was still half asleep. Sometimes I can’t tell until it’s too late and I have a bruise on some part of me.
“Hey Mom.” I greeted as I walked into the kitchen and sat down. She put down a plate of eggs and toast in front of me. She always fixed eggs and toast my first day of school.
“Hey honey, you look so good this morning! Your father already left for work. Eat up, you need to have a nice strong brain for class this morning!”
Her brightness was starting to blind me. I dug my fork into the food, and put it into my mouth.
Drat, no fast food.
“I see you went with the skirt, that’s good. It pays to have a bit of sophistication.” She commented as she threw the rest of the eggs in the frying pan in the trash. Apparently she made too much, or realized what she had done and wasn’t going to inflict it on herself.
I finished a quarter plate and bit into the toast. The toast was good, mom can make toast.
“Is that all you want to eat, honey?”
“I don’t feel very hungry.” I said, chewing on my last bite of toast.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full. Oh, you don’t have to be nervous, honey, the kids will love you. I’m sure of it. After all, you are a wonderful person.” She said supportively.
I nodded, trying to hide a smile. “Thanks Mom.”
“Oh!” She caught sight of the clock we have on the counter until someone hangs it up. “We’re going to be late! Grab your bag, honey.”
I picked up my bag and an old baggy brown jacket from the living room on the way out, and got into the car with my mother. She drove me through the streets lined with some snow, to this two story, sprawling building that had groups of kids standing in the snow, some looking like they had frozen in place.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Mom put her hand on my shoulder. I flashed her a little smile and opened the door.
“I’ll be fine. Have a good day.”
“You too honey.” I slammed the door shut after myself.
I watched her leave in the little Oldsmobile Dad bought cheap, then turned to the school. I couldn’t she the name of it anywhere, so I looked around for a door. I saw one passed a bunch of guys with matching shirts. Football players, I think. I shrugged and walked towards it.
My old tennis shoes crunched the light layer of snow as I walked. It was way too cold for a skirt, I should have worn jeans.
I passed the group and tried the door. It was locked. I glared at the lock as if it would magically open, but didn’t have any such luck.
“That door’s locked.”
Great assumption, genius. I turned to look at a scarred elbow. I looked up, and a guy was looking down at me. He was cute, but I wasn’t feeling any need to get all buttery kneed.
“Yeah, I figured that out, for myself, is there one open around here?” I asked, not unkindly, because I learned if you come to schools with a huge attitude problem, it’s hard to get any help.
“The one by the Feller twins,” he pointed to a pair of brown haired boys joking with a couple of girls, who were obviously flirting, “is usually open. You new here?”
“Yeah. I just got here a week ago. I’m trying to find the office to pick up my schedule.”
“It’s just across the hall from the Counselor’s office just inside those doors,” He pointed to the doors again.
“Ok. Thank a lot.” I smiled at him and walked towards him. I heard his buddies joking around with him about the encounter, but I ignored it.
I passed some girls that stared at me openly, but I ignored them too. There are people like that in every school.
I went past the Feller Twins and tried the door, which was unlocked, and walked in.
I wiped my tennis shoes on the floor and started looking at the little plates on top of doors. I found the Counselor first. I followed the boy’s directions. The office was unlocked and I walked into a brightly lighted room. I had to blink a few times to adjust my eyes.
I found myself face to face with a friendly, wrinkled face.
“Ah, either a trouble maker or fresh meat.”
My eyes slightly widened at that. She gave me a toothy grin and laughed in my face. Her breath smelled like tobacco and raw fish and I felt my stomach churn.
“Mrs. James, stop messing with those kids.” Some man boomed from a desk. She rolled her eyes and lightly pushed me to the side so she could leave. I stared after her as she went down the hall.
“You’ll have to excuse her, she’s got an interesting sense of humor. It’s some sort English hippy thing, or so I’m told by a number of students. What can I do for you, Miss?”
I turned back and was very surprised to see a very large man sitting behind the desk. He looked like he could pick up the desk and spin it on one finger. He was wearing slacks and a long sleeved button up shirt. He was twirling a pen between his dark fingers and looked like he was laughing.
I walked towards the desk and handed him a form a dug out of my backpack.
“Helena Harrick. Sixteen years old, sophomore. Legal guardians Patricia and Edwin Harrick?” He looked at me to confirm. I nodded. He turned over to the filing cabinet and searched through the ‘H’ section, then pulled out a file that had nothing in it except a slip of paper.
“Since you came in late, we had to stick you in whatever classes were left. As it happens, you now have a Home Education class, the basic curriculum, Math, Science, English, History, a Reading class, sorry, it’s remedial, but there was no other place to put you, and Study Hall.” He read off the classes, then turned to the copier beside his desk and made a copy.
A remedial class? That stunk, but at least it was reading. It could have been worse, I could have been stuck in a black hole of remedial English or something.
“Here we go. You’d better hop over to the counselor, he’ll go over the rules with you. If you need anything else, my name is Mr. Rhodes, and I usually hang out here.” He held out my schedule and a hand. I shook the hand and took the schedule. He waved me out.
I left the office with the schedule in hand and walked across the hall. Inside the Counselor’s door, the office was deserted. I stood by the door and wondered if I shouldn’t go to my first class. If I could find it.
A loud ring went off, eerily reminding me of a week or so ago. I shook it off. The marble was back in Trabwick. No need to worry.
As suddenly as the ring stopped, the hall was packed with kids, all glad to be inside, but groaning the approach of classes. I had to stay against the wall as the kids jostled past. I felt a little nervous, but they weren’t doing it intentionally, so I let it pass.
As the crowd thinned out and found their classes, a small man hurried into the building and saw me.
“Hello? Can I help you?”
“I’m here to see the counselor.”
“Oh, I am he, come in.” He went into his office and sat behind the desk, tossing his briefcase on the floor in a haphazard way. “I suppose you’re here to learn the rules. Here’s a guidebook.”
He handed me a thirty page stack. “Ignorance is no excuse in this school. Please make sure to read that. I trust you have your schedule?”
“Good. Well, other than say ‘welcome to Lakegate High School.’ Hurry and get to your first class.” He dismissed me by turning to mess with papers.
I walked out of his office thinking about how many kids must avoid him. He wasn’t a very good counselor.
I looked at the schedule, and realized I didn’t know where the rooms were. Well, that was peachy.
I spied a girl in pigtails in blue jeans and one of those ripped tees, and wondered how she could wear that in this kind of weather.
“Excuse me!” I caught her before she went down a hall. “Can you tell me where Mr. Redder’s class is? His math class?”
“I know where his class is, I’m going there, alright? Geez, don’t be such a tardy police, I’m sorry I’m late, Okay?” She snapped and kept walking. I stopped for a minute and stared.
Well, that was the first time I was called a tardy police.
I started following her, but at a distance. She did, after all, say she knew where she was going.
“Why are you following me?” She turned and snarled. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Yes.” I said truthfully.
“Then why are you doing it?”
“I’m new and I can’t find Mr. Redder’s math class.” I said, stopping a few feet from her.
“Oh.” She deflated instantly. “Sorry.”
“That’s okay. Can you take me?”
“Sure, why not. Come on.” She waved me forward. I was getting a little annoyed at people waving at me.
“Um, do you know where these other classes are?” I handed her my schedule.
She quickly examined it and gave it back. “Yeah, I got friends in all these classes, I’ll pass you off to them.”
The rest of school passed pretty uneventfully. Get introduced to the class. Hi Helena. Tell a little about yourself Helena. I’m sixteen, was living out of the states before I came here. Does that make you foreign? No, no it does not.
Math was boring, I’m not good at it, and no one else seemed to be either. Mr. Redder kept trying though. Got to admire a man with that kind of determination, especially where high school kids are involved.
English came after Math, with a slightly annoyed young man that gave us all a copy of a Greek Mythologies book, and told us straight out that we were going to learn about greek myths whether we wanted to or not. Apparently they were just starting a new section.
History after that, with an energetic woman. I would say the sixties were kind to her, because she could be a little incoherent at time, and go off on rants that made no sense.
Biology, which was the only science class I could get into, was taught by a grey haired man who didn’t seem to want to make any physical contact with students, clapping his hand on a shoulder or guiding hands with his own. And he wore gloves to make sure he couldn’t touch.
Study Hall, as I understood it, was taught by several teachers, all taking turns. I was one of five kids, the others having problems finishing their work unless watched.
Then came lunch, and I ate a few chairs away from everyone else. I wasn’t all that friendly with anyone yet.
Home Economics was nothing short of a disaster, when a guy’s pet rat got into the flour at my station, and in the confusion that followed, the flour bag exploded and covered the room.
Remedial Reading was filled with kids poring over third grade books, and I felt seriously out of place, which I was. I stayed in the back and read my myths the entire time.
Now I was back home and going through the fridge in search of edible food. No such luck, we just got here, and there was nothing in the fridge.
I walked up the stairs to my room and left my bag against the wall behind the door.
“Honey, did you find my gift?” Mom called from her room downstairs.
“You got me a gift?” I called down.
“It’s on your bed! I figured the first day of school, you should have something to remember it! It’s really not new, though.” She yelled back up.
I walked over to my bed, and saw the little strip of braided cloth.
It was a necklace of some kind, the braided cloth making a choker.
I picked it up and realized it was much heavier than cloth should be. I held it up to look at the charm—
“You must have left it behind on your bed accidentally, and I knew you liked it, so I made a necklace out of it.” Mom said behind me, having managed to climb the stairs with little noise.
“It’s great.” I managed to get out. “Thank you very much Mom.”
“Your welcome sweety. Get your homework done!” She left the room and went back down the stairs.
I held the necklace out at arm’s length. The black marble seemed to suck in the light shining from the window.
I quickly put it down on the dresser. If it was hallucinogenic, it probably would have affected Mom, and she didn’t seem any different. But that didn’t mean I wanted to wear it.
And if it was just a marble, why did I keep getting the creepy feeling it was watching me?