I stared up at the huge school in front of me, Claire sitting next to me in the middle seat of the car, gaping just like I was. The front doors were huge, glass, and right under a sign that proclaimed “Robert S. Corneldo High School” in a blindingly pure white. The title lay in the center of a large gray circle with a blue rectangle behind it, making it pop out. The school gave me an instant worry about being able to find and get to my classes in time. The brick building was about the same size as our other school, but I have never been good with directions.
Students started towards the entrance, scattered in their own pairs as they went to go find more of their friends. I looked around the small sedan as we parked, another small car holding the rest of the group pulling in next to us. I unclicked my seatbelt and climbed out of the car, standing to get a closer view.
“Big, ha? Don’t worry, we’ll help ya out,” Hyene proclaimed as she stepped out and handed me my new backpack I got.
Hyene took us to the mall, where we got more ‘girly stuff’ and new supplies for the school year. That included my cell phone. It seems like, on the drive up, Nathan took my old one and ran it over when he got the old truck. He said someone would track it. To be honest, though, I didn’t even notice, and the smart phone was way too much for me to figure out and use.
I wasn’t crazy about the whole going back to school ordeal. When I moved, that was the last High School I ever wanted to be in—the hallways are lonely, lunch consisting of eating by myself, and different material that I may or may not have already learned.
Hyene would be accompanying us, along with Blake, Jules, and Trysten. That is, when Jules got back from her “mission”. They said our story was that Claire and I were sisters (she was adopted), our parents knew Hyene’s, and we are neighbors. At least that’s what we’re saying so nobody constantly asks us why we always carpool together.
Claire jumped to my side. “Here,” Hyene held out two plastic cards. “Your new school ID’s.”
I grabbed the one she had outstretched towards me, reading ‘Elana Berret’. I looked over at Claire’s, hers saying ‘Claire Woodward’. “We had to change your last names, I hope that’s okay?” Hyene asked, her British accent making ‘your’ sound like ‘yo’.
“Oh, yeah, that’s fine. I just never pined myself up as a Woodward,” Claire said, sensing Hyene’s uneasiness.
She smiled and turned to walk into the school. The few kids that were filing into the building seemed not to notice the new people at their school; just waltzing in after another weekend.
“The office is that way, through the double doors. Just ask for your schedule. Sorry none of us are in your classes,” Hyene apologized again, pity showing on her face. Herself, Trysten, and Jules were all Seniors, and Blake was a Sophmore. Claire and I were the only Juniors.
“It’s fine, really. Go have fun,” I reassured her as Claire and I turned toward the glass office door, the principle’s name under the title of ‘Main Office’. Pushing open the door, we walked up to a large, round counter with an older lady behind it, speaking on the phone. She held up a single finger and ended her call.
“Good morning, ladies, how may I help you?” She asked with a friendly smile.
“My . . . sister and I just moved from Nevada and were wondering if maybe you have our schedules?” I asked, pausing for a moment to remember we are biological sisters here.
“Alright . . . names?” She asked as she rolled her chair to the other side of the counter and logged into her computer.
I checked my ID then Claire’s before answering, making sure I had our names right. “Elana Berret and Claire Woodward?”
The receptionist stopped in mid-type. “You have different last names and you’re sisters?”
I could see why everyone who ever looked at us would think we are biologically related, having the same face shape, nose, and hair color. Except when Claire died hers black. “Yeah, I’m adopted,” Claire offered from next to me.
The receptionist resumed typing before reaching over to her mouse and clicking a few times as the printer started running. Reaching over, she picked up two pieces of paper and slid them in front of us. “Here you are, your schedules and locker information. All of the one hundreds are on the main floor and the two hundreds on the second floor. Here’s a map of the school,” she said as she reached down and grabbed two blue papers and set them in front of us. “If you need any directions, feel free to ask anyone in the hallway, I’m sure they will help you. Have a great first day, ladies.”
I gave her a small smile and grabbed the papers, stepping back into the hallway. Claire came next to me and I handed her a schedule and blue map.
We compared schedules and found we had three classes together—English, Government, and Chemistry—but our lockers on opposite sides of the school. I inwardly growled as we headed off to different paths to find our lockers.
The map wasn’t too hard to read; I’m just the worst directionally challenged person on the face of the earth. I kept my face glued to the map as I tried to figure out the different hallways leading to new rooms. Approaching some stairs I thought headed to my locker, I dropped my schedule that was barely hanging onto my finger.
As I bent over to pick it up, someone rammed into me and I lost my balance. Flailing my arms, I tried to keep from tumbling down the stairs, but gravity won and took me down the staircase instead.
“Oh, shoot! I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” A polite, male voice asked me as I sat on my aching butt at the bottom of the stairs. “Here, let me help,” he said as his hand shot into view. I grabbed it and he literally lifted me to my feet.
I looked up from our hands to find a young man with blonde hair, spiked in the front. His blue eyes were soft and he had high cheek bones to compliment them. “Hi, I’m Ryan.”
“Huh,” he pondered as he let go of my hand. “I don’t know if I’ve even seen you around here before.”
“My sister and I just moved here,” I offered, trying to remember my new story in my head before he asked anymore questions.
“Oh, well in that case, welcome to Corneldo High. Where are you headed?”
I glanced back down at my paper. “Locker D47. I think it’s in this hallway up here?” I pointed to the top of the stairs.
“Well, kinda. Do you need some help finding it?”
Making new friends here was probably a mistake, seeing as Claire and I will only be staying for a little while. I didn’t want to get attached to anybody here. He’s only showing you where your locker is, not asking you to prom. And you know that is something you desperately need. Directions. “Sure.”
A broad smile appeared on Ryan’s lips, revealing perfect straight, white teeth. “Awesome. Right this way. And I promise I won’t push you down the stairs this time.”
We weaved between hallways before Ryan led me under an arch marked ‘Gym Wing’ in bright white letters against the dark blue paint. We fought through the crowded hallway for only a second before he pointed to one of the lockers lining the wall. “Here you are.”
I nodded and looked at my paper again for the combination. I spun the dial to watch the three numbers and yanked on the lock, but nothing happened. I tried it again, but to no avail.
“Here, let me get that for ya,” Ryan offered, but I swatted his hand away and tried one last time, finally opening the tall locker. I felt Ryan’s eyes on me as I placed some unneeded binders and folders on the shelf. It made me really uncomfortable. I quickly finished placing my binders and checked my schedule again. English—Conde—Room 245.
“What class do you have first?” Ryan asked and snatched my schedule from my hands. “English. Conde’s a pretty good teacher. Here, I’ll take you.”
I didn’t reply, just followed him, backtracking most of the hallways we just came through. We went under another arch that was labeled ‘English Wing’ with the same style as the gym wing. Claire was leaning up next to one of the doors and tapping her foot impatiently. When she saw me, she started to move my way, but then stopped when she realized I was walking with someone.
Ryan handed my schedule back to me. “I have AP Calculus next hour, too, so I will come to your room and walk you there. That is, if you want me to?”
I thought about it. Either risk getting lost and looking like a moron on my first day, or let him walk me to class. “Yeah, sure. That’d be great.”
Ryan gave me a small smile and turned on his heel, walking out of the English wing.
“Who was that?” Claire demanded when I reached her.
“His name is Ryan. He helped me find my locker and stuff.”
Claire looked over my shoulder as he rounded the corner and out of sight. “He’s cute.”
I rolled my eyes. “He’s all yours.”
Claire looked at me in amazement. “Really? Are you sure? I mean,” she checked the last place he occupied again. “You sure?”
“Go ahead, have fun. I don’t want that right now,” I stated right as who I assumed was the substitute teacher came out and propped the door open with a small wood wedge.
He had long hair tied at the nape of his neck, gray streaks shooting down the light brown. His beard resembled the same color as his hair, and almost as long. His face was flat and eyes a dull gray as he gave us a small sad smile. A teacher ID hung from around his neck, a picture of him looking just as bored as he looked now with the name ‘Richard Abbot’ underneath it.
I nodded to him as Claire and I introduced ourselves and entered the empty class just as the warning bell rang.
“Right,” he replied to our introductions, “Please take your seats and get ready for a pop quiz on The Great Gastby chapter seven.”
I looked at Claire for a second, “Um, we’re new students,” I tried to tell him, shocked that attendance didn’t say something about it. Or he hasn’t really checked it. I wouldn’t really be surprised, though. He sounded like the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“Good for you. Please take a seat in the back and get ready for the quiz.” Mr. Abbot turned back around and started writing ‘Pop Quiz’ on the board as more students trickled in and took their seats.
“Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, how are we going to take a quiz over something we’ve never read before?” Claire asked from next to me, asking the same question I had.
I looked at Claire in disbelief and turned around to head to the back of the room to take a seat. If all my classes will be like this, it’s gonna be a long day.
English was painfully long. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the class had to get into small Socratic groups and talk about our least favorite character in the book and what we think will happen to them. I got a zero on participation, and probably on that quiz I took as well. First class of the day and I already had my first ‘F’.
When the bell finally rang, it seemed like everybody was as eager to leave as I was. I decided I wasn’t going to wait for Ryan. All that doing nothing gave me time to really study the map I was given and figure out where my next class was. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and followed the line out the door and started down the hall I thought led to my next class.
“Hey, Elana! Wait up!” A voice echoed down the hall and I turned to see Ryan running through the crowd of students as they parted like the red sea for him. I wondered for the first time exactly who he was in this school.
“I thought you were going to wait for me,” he said as he neared me and slowed to a walk.
“Yeah, but I thought I might be able to make it on my own. I didn’t realize your class was so close,” I observed.
“I had English too, just another teacher,” he explained. “So, are you a senior?”
“Junior,” I corrected.
He looked over at me with a quizzical glance. “Are you sure you’re in the right math class, then? You do realize this is AP Calculus?”
“Yeah, I just love math and have always been good at it,” I explained, realizing I was probably the nerd hanging out with a jock.
“Cool, maybe you can tutor me sometime? I’m not very good at math.”
Surprised by his answer, I slowly nodded. “Uh, sure.”
Ryan turned a corner and stuffed his hands in his front pockets. “So, what made you move here in the middle of the first quarter?”
Caught off-guard by his question, I scraped my brain for the story that was made up for me. “My mother passed away, and it was too hard on us, so my sister, father and I moved here to escape the reminder. My dad’s best friend lives here and we thought we should come stay with him for a while.”
Ryan’s look softened with pity. I don’t need your pity. “I’m sorry, what did she die from?”
“She died of cancer.” If only that were the case. That would be better than what actually happened.
“Wow, leave it to me to pick the wrong topic. Well, I hope you enjoy it here. This school is pretty cool. Nice people.”
We entered another arch that had a ‘Math Wing’ title above it. “Thanks, Ryan.”
Ryan opened a heavy wood door with a small window off to the side and stepped into the math room. I followed suit and found the teacher at the front desk sitting to the left of the room. “You must be Elana.”
“Ms.” I checked my schedule again to make sure I had the right name. “Brewer.”
Ms. Brewer was a short lady, probably only five one, but she looked at me with kind eyes as a broad smile spread across her lips. “Ms. Berret, it’s nice to meet you,” she welcomed and reached for a file on her desk, pulling out a single piece of paper. “I have a test here to make sure you’re in the right class. I don’t know what you have learned, so I’ll just give you this worksheet,” she said as the handed me the paper she pulled out. “And ask you to finish this worksheet by the end of class. Do you need a calculator?”
I shook my head and she continued. “Good, now, take a seat behind Jacob. Jacob, can you raise your hand?” She asked as a boy with bad acne on the left side of the room raised his hand slowly and I walked in his direction to take the seat behind him. Pulling out a pencil and my calculator, I got to work on the two-sided paper loaded with questions.
I worked through every problem with ease, some were easy, others more challenging. I knew every answer, taking joy in the easiness of the questions and finished with barely using my calculator.
I looked up at Ms. Brewer as she flipped the slide of the power-point and the students started scribbling down the examples she was showing. They were doing a section I completed a few weeks ago, but it was one of my favorite subjects. Ms. Brewer seemed to be a good teacher, explaining everything, but not taking too long to go through the explanations. And yet, she kept the attention of most of her students. The few that didn’t really care about the class just slept in the back.
Before I knew it, the bell rang again and I jumped up and approached the large desk at the front of the room. “Thank you, Ms. Berret. I will make sure I get this graded and to you by tomorrow.” I nodded and headed towards the door, eyes glued to my schedule for the next class.
“You have Psychology—Blackish, right?” Ryan asked, leaning on the doorway just outside the classroom. I nodded again and he continued. “Down these back stairs and to the left. Then, find your room number.”
I thanked Ryan again as I headed down the hall to find the back staircase he was describing. I followed it down a hallway and into a class marked, ‘Room 122—Mr. Blackish’. Entering the room, I did the same routine as I had with my previous teachers and sat while painfully listening to the lesson.
The lunch bell rang after an excruciatingly long time, making me jump from my chair and follow everybody else out to the busy hallways. Students rushed and bumped into each other trying to get lunch at the cafeteria or off-campus. All I was trying to do was get to my locker so I could get ready for my next three classes.
After getting lost and asking for directions, I found my locker and opened it with three tries again. Stuffing more binders and papers into my backpack, I closed my locker and followed the flow of students still making their way to the cafeteria.
“Elana, over here!” I heard someone shout and saw Blake sitting at a table by himself. I weaved my way to the end of the table by him, dodging hungry students and teachers. With a loud thunk, I set my backpack on the chair across from him.
“Where is everybody else?”
“They’re getting lunch. Claire said she would get yours for ya.”
I moved all my stuff to the floor and occupied the chair my backpack had just been in. My head nodded and we fell into awkward silence. What do Shape Shifters talk about?
Blake noticed my silence and started conversation. “So, how’s your first day going? Make any new friends?”
“I guess its fine. I’m so directionally challenged though, so this guy helped me find my classes. Hopefully you guys can help me now, though. I have—”
“Who?” Blake said, leaning onto his arms to lean on the table, interested in my next response.
“Um, his name is Ryan? Yeah, he’s really nice. Do you know him?”
Blake scoffed and leaned back from the table. “Ryan Jacobson? Yeah, I know him. So does everybody else in the school. He’s student council president and the basketball star. Full-ride scholarship offers and everything.”
I knew he was a jock! “Oh, well, he’s nice,” I offered, not knowing if that was the right thing to say.
“Who is?” Hyene said as she grabbed the seat next to Blake and sat. Claire pulled up the chair next to me. Silently, Trysten occupied the chair next to Claire.
“Ooh, are you talking about hottie lemottie?” Claire bounced as she slid my lunch in front of me. The meals here actually looked decent—at least edible.
“You did not just call him that,” I shot her in disbelief. Who says that anymore?
“It is him! Did you see him again?” Claire asked, scooting to the edge of the chair in anticipation.
“Who?” Hyene demanded again.
“Ryan Jacobson,” Blake said and bit into a granola bar he pulled from his lunch bag.
“Elana, you can’t . . .” Hyene started a warning. When nobody else started explaining, she lowered her voice and continued. “We are not the only Mountain Pack in this area. Ryan Jacobson isn’t part of any pack, but the other pack, the South Shade Pack. They have certain rules and treaties that we are not allowed to violate. If we do, we are breaking the rules. It’s almost like saying we want to start a war. He’s on that list of things we can’t mess with.”
“Why?” I asked, more in curiosity than disappointment.
Hyene shrugged and grabbed the apple on her plate. “Luck of the draw? Location? Friends? Don’t know, and don’t care. Just, stay away from him, okay? I don’t want to start a war,” Hyene looked at me, nearly pleading.
“Don’t worry, he was just showing me my classes.”
Hyene nodded and bit into the apple in her hand. The rest of the table resumed their lunches as I wondered what was so special about Ryan Jacobson that had him protected by a whole pack of wolves.