In the City, despite best efforts, there would always be clear districts. Areas where the rich gathered, and areas where the unfortunate were stored. Though these areas were not clearly defined, they were understood, and often respected. For example, there was no reason for someone from Gladstone Preparatory Academy to be anywhere near City Central High School. And Devlin Cooper didn’t mean to be there. Didn’t want to be there. But he was Student Council President and Gladstone Prep was sending a student representative, him, to other high schools to deliver flyers for an all-expense paid college tour trip.
Gladstone Prep did this every year. The last year’s president had done it and survived. So Dev could do it. Besides, he got to skip Calculus, which was always a good thing.
Dev took a deep breath, his hand tightening on his bag. There wasn’t anything inherently intimidating about CCHS. It was a collection of brick buildings that had nice red roof tiles and ivy. It didn’t have the polish of Gladstone Prep, but it wasn’t shabby. No, looking at it wasn’t intimidating. It was the feeling of the school. Like Dev was stepping into a world he was not welcome, and he didn’t blame them in the slightest.
He was embarrassed. That’s what it was. He was embarrassed to be the representative of what amounted to tone deaf noblesse oblige. This college tour was a great opportunity for the students selected, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a slap in the face.
Dev trudged up the steps to the front office, his face burning. He pulled the door open, and got hit with the typical blast of AC that was characteristic of all front offices. Blinking at the sudden switch from sunlight to florescent, his eyes narrowed slightly as his gaze swept the room. The front desk was in front of him, the receptionist typing on the computer.
She looked up. “Hello? May I help you?” She asked, her voice sweet and polite.
Dev exhaled and went up to the desk. “I’m Devlin Cooper, from Gladstone Prep. My dean would have called?”
The receptionist’s gaze cleared with understanding. “Ah, yes. I was told to expect you. Fill in this form for a badge. You can go to the Student Council room. You know where it is?”
Dev looked up from the form he was filling out. “Yes, thank you.”
He handed the clipboard back and she handed him a clip-on Visitor’s badge. “Okay, then you’re all set. They should be on lunch soon so if you need anyone to sign for the paperwork, you can just wait in the Council Room. Remember to sign out when you leave.”
“Thank you,” Dev murmured, clipping the badge to his chest. He offered the receptionist a small smile before walking past the desk, following the Exit signs. He opened the door, his breath crisp on the autumn air. The giant concrete courtyard stretched out in front of him. To his left were the classroom buildings, arranged in an arc, numbered 100 to 900. Directly in front of him was a squat building that probably was the library. The gymnasium was pretty distinct to his far upper right, with the letters CCHS painted in big, bold, black and gold paint. Which made the building to his right the auditorium. The campus was outdoors, which already differed a lot from Gladstone Prep, which was self-contained indoors.
Dev checked his phone. The Student Council room was supposed to be in 805. He wasn’t sure exactly how the classroom buildings were set up, so he walked straight ahead towards the library. The library would have a campus map.
The campus was eerily quiet because everyone was in class. Almost everyone. Dev’s sharp ears picked up the sound of laughter and talking, just around the corner of the library. He glanced at the campus map that was in the bulletin board glass, then, curious, went to investigate.
A group of kids around his age sat at and on a set of tables. Everything about them, from the fact they were cutting class, to the smoke curling from the lips of one of the boys, indicated they were the school’s “cool kids.” There were four of them, three boys, one girl. She looked younger than the others, and her hair was thick and black and pulled into a ponytail. She was sitting at the table, her back against the legs of the smoking boy, his arm draped on her shoulders. His hair glinted gold and brown in the autumn light. His skin was sun warmed and he had the tough, hard edge of someone who lived for a fight. The boy next to him was almost his exact foil, with his pale, smooth skin, black hair, and fragility. He was beautiful, much like how a glass ornament was beautiful.
The final boy was the one that caught Dev’s interest the most. He was tall, his limbs held loosely. He was the one who laughed. His cherry red hair peeked out from the black beanie he wore, his hands encased in fingerless gloves. Now that he thought about it, they all wore fingerless gloves, except for the beautiful boy.
Dev suddenly shook himself out of his daze. He’d get caught staring and something told him that these kids would not be kind about it. He hesitated only a moment, then started forward, going towards them.
The beautiful boy noticed him first, quickly tapping the blond smoker’s arm. The blond glanced at the beautiful boy, then over where he was jerking his head. He blew a ring, his hazel gaze indifferent as he met Dev’s eyes. The girl and the tall boy both glanced at him. All four of them tensed up, a strange under current passing around.
Dev stopped in front of them. “Sorry to bother you, but I need to drop something off at the Council Room. Do you know where I could find it?”
The blond raised a brow. Dev now saw that his right brow had a fresh cut through it, tilting it up in a sardonic expression, so the combination of his lift left and his angled right brows, he looked very surprised. Dev bit back a laugh.
“Council Room? Are you a GPA?” He asked, his voice honey warm and hostile.
The girl at his legs reached back, knocking her hand on his knee. “Ross,” she chided. She smiled up at Dev. “Yeah, if you keep going, it’s in the double decker building. You go in the doors and it’ll be on your right. That college tour thing, right?”
Dev flushed, ducking his head. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I need some forms signed; will the President be in there?”
“Probably, if not you can just ask the VP to sign. She’s always in there,” the cherry haired guy offered. Dev looked down at him, and something flipped in his heart. He studied the boy’s face closely.
For as long as he could remember, he had had a face stuck in his head. A face he knew he knew, one that he had been unconsciously searching for. Something about this boy’s face was familiar, but not the same. Dev sighed. It was too much to hope for. Instead, he smiled at the four of them. “Thank you. Have a good day.” He waved, and made ready to leave.
“I’m shocked a GPA like you wouldn’t lecture us to go to class,” the blond, Ross, drawled.
Dev looked at him, his lips curling into a smile despite his best efforts. “I’m also not in class,” he pointed out.
This made them all laugh. The beautiful boy’s lips curved upwards, and even Ross’s gaze glimmered with amusement. But the ones who really laughed were the girl and the cherry boy. Dev really liked their laughs. Happy and carefree.
The girl grinned at him. “Touché. See ya, GPA,” and saluted him.
Dev smiled back, his gaze flickering back to the cherry boy. His gaze was warm and something about him made Dev feel like it wasn’t a bad day after all.