Monday, August 31, 2015
The morning of the thirty-first day of August saw a slightly different routine to the combined Gabriel household. Instead of the cheerful extended family gathering to eat, the breakfast room was instead occupied by two adults and two extremely nervous kids.
"Dear, where is your brother? Wouldn't they want to see their little boy off on his first day of middle school?" Olivia's mother said as she poured coffee for herself and her husband.
"He pissed off the old lady again. She's at the gym and he's already on the road to Boston." Mr. Gabriel replied with a mouth full of powdered donut.
"HARLOW! Watch your language." His wife replied as she playfully bopped him on the back of the head.
"Sorry, I meant to say that he urinated her off again."
"Really, Dad?" Olivia managed to say before looking over at her cousin. She sighed as she watched him stir his cereal around without taking any bites. It was obvious that the boy was uneasy about leaving the safe and stable world of elementary school.
Twenty minutes later, the two had their backpacks and were walking away from the house. The middle school was a few blocks away with the high school a couple more past that. The two walked in silence until they got to an intersection a block away from the house. It was there that Olivia noticed a boy that looked like Orson but could pass for Toby's age.
"You look like crap." The boy said to Toby as they approached them. Without breaking stride, he joined the two.
"Put a sock in it, Calvin." Toby said as he yawned.
"I couldn't sleep, either. I'm kinda… scared" Calvin said quietly, not quite sure who the girl that was walking with them was.
"Me too. Me too. Oh, this is my cousin Olivia." Toby quickly said as his nerves had overwritten his manners.
"Nice to meet you. I apologize for whatever Orson did to embarrass you!" Calvin said with a smile as he extended his hand. Shocked at the young kid's politeness, she smiled as she shook it.
"He didn't do anything to embarrass me. He was extremely helpful." Olivia replied. The small group approached the middle school and Olivia could swear that she could hear Toby gulp.
"This is our stop." Calvin said as he put a hand on his best friend's shoulder. Without another word from him, the two started to walk towards the front door.
"Have a good day, both of you!" Olivia cried out before walking on. She was just as nervous as her younger cousin, but there was no way that she was going to let it show.
After a couple minutes of a silent walk, she walked towards the same front door that she entered a week prior. She immediately saw a sign that said, "All new students to the auditorium!"
Taking a deep breath, Olivia tried to search the depths of her memory banks to remember exactly where the auditorium’s location. Remembering that it was somewhere towards the start of the tour, she took her chances and followed the flow of people down the first hallway. Her intuition paid off as she turned a corner and found herself at the entrance.
She wandered in and eventually found a spot marked off with a sign that said, "FRESHMEN ONLY!" in printed text with a small marker-written footnote tastefully stating that "SENIORS SUCK!" below. She wandered to the first open seat and plopped down.
After about ten minutes, the auditorium was filled to the brim and the principal walked out onto the stage.
"Good morning, my lovely new and returning students…" the gentle-looking older gentleman started before running into a long and winded speech about the importance of building decent work ethic and community values.
After a few hours that could've felt like a couple lifetimes of the universe, the long presentation ended with Mrs. Frasier taking a few minutes to talk about student services. When she took the lectern, Olivia was reminded of her new friend and looked over at the sophomore section to see if she could find him. She eventually found him sitting on the last row of the section in the seat closest to the wall two seats away from the nearest student.
"Please take a few minutes to find your locker and get familiar with the campus if you haven't already. Thank you and have an awesome year!" Mrs. Frasier cheerfully said as everyone started to rise from their seats.
Joining the crowd filing out into the space outside of the auditorium, Olivia decided to take up the secretary's advice to find her locker. Getting out her schedule, she noted that her locker was number 2415. Looking around, she noticed that all the lockers were in the lower hundreds.
"Excuse me! Can you help me?" Olivia asked to an older-looking girl walking by.
"Ugh. Get lost, priss."
"A-Alright then." Olivia said as she continued down the hallway. It was a good thing that class was dismissed for the day as this was going to be a long endeavor.
"Yo, babycakes. You look lost."
Olivia turned around to see a couple of guys propped up against the school's trophy case staring at her like she was a piece of meat. But an opportunity is an opportunity.
"Yeah… can one of you tell me where the lockers for the freshmen are?"
"Upstairs." One of them said as coolly as possible.
"Thank you!" she replied with a smile before taking off. As she was heading for the stairwell, she barely heard one tell the other "Yeah, she's pretty much in the bag." With a shudder, she opened the door and quickly made her way up the stairs.
To her delight, she found herself staring at the twenty-four hundred block of lockers and it was a short walk before she found number 2415. She opened it up and looked at what she expected to be the clean interior. To her disappointment, there were a few gum wrappers sprinkled on the bottom. With a sigh, she picked them up only to see a bit of dried nail polish below them. When she stood back up, the light shined on the bits in just the right way to make them sparkle. In an instant, she remembered the moment two years ago when a certain valentine card made a similar mess.
Another and a bit sadder sigh left her mouth as she closed the locker, locked it, and continued back down a different staircase towards the nearest exit.
Three hours earlier, the two younger boys found themselves just as cautiously walking through the front doors of the institution that would be their second home for the next three years.
"W-What's your locker number?" Calvin asked his nearly trembling friend.
"412… right next to yours."
"Oh… yeah… that's right."
It felt like time was moving in slow motion as the two walked down the hallway. Unlike his cousin, Toby found the pair of lockers quickly.
"Okay, this is it." Toby said as he dragged Calvin over.
"I see that..." Calvin said as Toby just stood there.
"Aren't you going to open it?"
"Why don't you go first?"
Toby had no response to that.
"You don't know how to work the lock, do you?" Calvin asked, a bit exasperated because he was in the same situation. Toby's only response was to look at the floor and shake his head. Without saying another word, Calvin turned around and tried to enter the combination to his locker to the best of his ability.
"I'm really sorry…" Toby quietly said as he felt that he let his best friend down.
"Three to the left… One to the right…. Two to the left…" Calvin mumbled as he tried to put the numbers into the lock. His stress level raised up a bit further when the fifteen-minute warning bell chimed. His mind was racing, but relief set in when he felt the lock open with a pop with his most recent tug.
"Yes! What did you do?" Toby asked with excitement.
"I… don't know. It just happened."
"Try it on mine. It's 30, 8, and 16." Toby said as he stepped to the side. Feeling nervous again, Calvin picked up the lock to his friend's locker and tried to repeat the magic. After three tries, Calvin dropped the lock and turned his back to Toby in frustration. Without a single word having to be said, Toby stepped in and tried to put the numbers in.
Getting nowhere, Toby found himself losing control and smacking his locker in frustration. Concerned at Toby's outburst, Calvin turned back around and was about to take the lock over again when an intervention of fate happened.
"Having trouble?" an older boy said as he put a hand on Toby's shoulder as an attempt to calm him down. Something about this caused him to relax and his dropped the lock and took a deep breath.
"He got it to work, but he can't remember." Toby said as he felt like he was about to cry in embarrassment. Meanwhile, Calvin had his locker open and was looking for a way to possibly stuff himself inside to avoid this situation.
"Hey, it's a bit tricky. Just follow what I say." The older boy said as Toby picked up the lock one more time.
"First, turn it to the right at least three or four times and stop at your first number."
As the hallway was starting to vacate, the sound of the frantic turn of the dial could be heard.
"Okay, what's next?"
"Go around to the left one full time and then stop on your second number. Then go right to your last number."
It felt like time had stopped even more as Toby turned the dial to the second and third numbers. He took a deep breath and his eyes lit up with joy when the lock opened with a tug.
"YES! Thank you!"
"Any time!" the older boy said as he walked off just before the three-minute warning bell sounded.
"We better get going." Calvin said as he put his backpack in the locker. Toby nodded and the two of them went off to their first class.
With it being the first day, the classes were only fifteen minutes long to get students acclimatized to all eight of the class periods. By the end of the eighth class period, both boys were overloaded with books as they went to their lockers. Toby was starting to feel a little anxious as he wasn't sure if he could remember what the older boy told him.
"Hey, there's something stuck on your locker." Calvin commented as Toby craned his head in close enough to read it.
Three ← 2. One → 3. ← Final Number. You can do this!
"Did that guy leave that?" Calvin asked as Toby tried to get the locker open with his one free hand. It felt so strange for Toby to have that kind of encouragement from a total stranger. The boy wanted to cry again as the lock popped open.
After the two boys left their books instead and grabbed their backpacks. They started to leave when Toby noticed the older boy walking by out of the corner of his eye. Without giving any indication of his intentions to Calvin, Toby turned around and ran off to thank the kind stranger.
"Hey!" Toby cried out trying to get his attention. To his relief, the older boy stopped and turned to face him.
"Did you get the note that I left on your locker?"
"Yes! Thank you so much!"
"You're quite welcome. I had a tough time with these lockers when I first started."
"So, you're not a sixth grader?"
"Nope. This year I'm in eighth grade."
"Wow, you're old!"
"Gee, thanks!" the older boy said with a giggle.
"Oh, my name's Toby. It's so nice to meet you!" Toby said with a smile as he extended his hand.
"Name's Lucas. Nice to meet you, too!" the older boy said as he shook his hand. Toby continued shaking his new friend's hand for what could be perceived as just a little too long before he realized what he was doing and awkwardly pulled it back.
"Well, I better be going now…" Toby said as he started to turn around.
"Hey, wait a second. Can I see that note that I left for you?" Lucas asked as he extended his hand with an open palm. Toby, thinking that his awkwardness cost him a friendship, quietly got the note out of his pocket and handed it back to Lucas.
The older boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen and scribbled something on the bottom before handing it back to him.
"That's my number. Text me any time you want. I know how scary this can be."
"Uh… wow, thanks!"
"Anytime!" Lucas said as he waved to the boy that was running off. The thought of anyone looking up to him warmed up a heart that many other people (including himself) thought was freezing cold.
Outside, Olivia found herself standing in front of the middle school as an ocean of young teenagers flooded out of the front doors. She sighed as she waited for her cousin to be among the group.
"Try not to get swept away!"
Olivia turned around to see Orson, presumably there to meet up with his brother, walking towards her.
"I know, right?" she replied with intent to make conversation.
"So, how'd you enjoy your first day?"
"Well… I was called a priss and then some guy wanted to date me."
"…Welcome to the city?"
Both teenagers found themselves laughing as Calvin found his way over to the two.
"Hey, Pup! How was your day?" Orson asked as he put a hand on his younger brother's shoulder.
"Nerve-wrecking." Calvin replied.
"Where's Toby?" Olivia asked as she noticed that her cousin was nowhere to be found as the ocean of children was slowly starting to dry up.
"He ran off. Dunno why."
"Oh, geez!" Olivia said as she put her hand to her forehead.
"This older kid helped us open our lockers and he walked by before Toby ran off."
"Older kid?" Orson said as he gave Olivia a concerned look.
"Yes, he left Toby a note encouraging him. Taller, brown hair with a hint of orange in it."
Olivia did a double take at that. This boy was sounding quite familiar to her.
"Hey!" a voice cried out from towards the front door of the school.
"About time!" Olivia said as her cousin ran up to her.
"Thanks for ditching me." Calvin said as he grumpily put his hands on his hips.
"Sorry, sorry. I was thanking Lucas."
"Who in the hell is Lucas?"
"CALVIN!" Orson quickly said to correct his little brother's behavior. The four of them started taking off down the road.
"He's that guy who helped us. Awesome fellow. Smells really good."
"Wait, what?" Olivia said as Calvin nodded in agreement.
"Okay." Orson quietly mouthed before continuing.
"Hey, wanna go to the park?" Toby asked in the hopes of cheering Calvin up.
"Can I?" Calvin inquired to his older brother.
"I don't know, can you?" Orson replied.
"May I go to the park?" Calvin replied as he rolled his eyes.
"Yes. Yes, you can. Give me your backpack." Orson said as he extended his arm. Without saying another word, Calvin took it off and put it on his brother's arm.
"Can you take this?" Toby asked as he took off his backpack and handed it to Olivia.
"You're kidding me." Olivia said as she crossed her arms and pouted.
"...I love you?"
With a sigh, she reached out and took her cousin's backpack.
"You're lucky you're cute." She grumbled as the two boys took off.
"Be home before dark!" Orson called out. Calvin gave him a thumbs-up acknowledging his brother's declaration.
"So, I guess it's just the two of us…" Olivia said.
"Yep." Orson replied, dropping the fierce fatherly attitude, and returning to his awkward teenager personality.
"Are you from here? Because I used to live here years ago, and I don't remember you." Olivia asked, nervous for a reason she couldn't identify.
"I was born in Pennsylvania and lived there until we moved to California just before Pup, I mean Calvin, was born. Then we moved here three years ago."
"That's so cute."
"What? Living in California?"
"No, your pet-name for your brother."
"Oh, he likes it and it's our little thing." Orson said as he looked down in embarrassment.
"Nothing wrong with that. It's so nice to see brothers getting along. I have a friend back in Oregon who was abused by his brother…"
"That’s terrible. If anyone laid a hand on my brother, I would freaking kill them."
Olivia raised her eyebrows a bit at Orson's response.
"So, you used to live in Maine when you were younger?" Orson said, attempting to detract the subject away from what he said.
"Correct. I lived here until I was ten before moving out west."
At the park, the two younger boys made their way to the swing set and sat down. The place was empty outside of an older man tending to some bushes.
"It feels weird being here as middle schoolers." Calvin said.
"Yeah, we're getting old. When we get out of that school, we're going to be practically adults."
"Yeah… what do you think it's going to be like when we're adults?"
"You know, I haven't really thought about it."
"Where do you think we're going to end up?"
Toby stopped his slight swinging to think about the question that his best friend just posed to him.
"Why not right here? Ten years later we're going to be swinging on these same swings."
"Toby, in ten years you're going to be twenty-one and probably wasted."
"Shut up!" Toby retorted as he playfully smacked his friend. The two found themselves laughing and roughhousing a bit before a playful shove sent Toby inches away from bumping into the groundskeeper.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, sir!" Toby said as he contemplated how close he became to getting a chest full of garden shears.
"It's okay. If you're okay, I mean." The groundskeeper said while he wiped some sweat off his eyebrows.
"Did you do that? It's so awesome!" Toby said with glee as he pointed to a bush that was shaped like a moose.
"Yep. One of my better works, if I do say so myself."
Calvin raised an eyebrow at the fact that his friend was clearly violating the golden "don't talk to strangers" rule.
"Is that easy? I bet you had to practice for a long time to get that good!"
"Just years and years of practice." The groundskeeper said with a chuckle. Something in Calvin's gut was telling him that something was not right. He reached into his pocket for his phone as he contemplated texting his brother.
"My name's Toby. What's yours?" Toby asked the gentleman as he politely extended his hand. The groundskeeper took off one of his filthy gloves and shook the boy's hand.
"Name's Butch. Butch Elliott."