“Pop quiz!” The board read. I clutched my backpack by the strap and tried to calm myself. It was just a quiz. It’s not like my grade rested in its hands. I took a deep breath and walked to my desk. I put my backpack in the chair on my right and opened the first zipper and pulled out my pencil, earbuds, and mp3 player. The quiz wasn’t going to get to me, even though, admittedly, it already did. Math was not my best subject, but I would get through this quiz with flying colors… hopefully. I opened the middle pocket of my backpack and grabbed my notes and my sketch book. I set my the books on table then closed my backpack. I placed my sketch book off to the side, opened my notes and started studying. Hard.
It seemed like 5 minutes of studying until I heard a thunk on the desk next to mine. I jumped and looked up. Reda was standing next to me with her standard pleasant smile on her face. She was wearing a dreamcatcher shirt with a red flannel over it, with torn up jeans and black converse. Her hair was up in a curly blond and black pony tail that covered the head band.
“Hey Reda.” I said, smiling. She smiled back and said, “Sup, Locx?” She motioned at my backpack. I picked it up and placed it on the left of my seat.
“You see the board?” I said. Reda’s smile immediately dropped.
“Yeah.” She uttered angrily, “Why does she want to kill us?”
I laughed sarcastically and started studying again.
Sighing, I picked up the piece of paper. It’s weird that people can insult me and I’m okay with it, but a piece of paper can make me one of the most pessimistic human beings on this earth. I got up and walked to the teacher’s desk. On my way to the desk, I glanced at some people’s work. I got completely different answers. Crud. I walked up to my teacher, Ms. Alkulba. She looked up from her work and moaned with annoyance quietly, but to the point where I could still hear her. We didn’t really get along. She batted her abnormally long eyelashes, and as she did so, her badly applied neon blue eyeshadow sprinkled to the floor. I held out my test and she scanned the first page, snorted, and without a word, snatched the paper from my hands. Placing the paper on her desk, she withdrew a red marker from an open drawer. I shoved my hands in my pockets and rushed to my desk.
Once I sat down I rested my head on the table, knowing I had really screwed up that quiz. When I lifted my head and looked at Ms. Alkulba at her desk, she was looking at me too. Almost glaring. Once our eyes met, she smirked then looked back down at her work. I looked at my own desk. I felt a lump in my throat and I felt horrible and guilty for being so bad at math. The negative thoughts started taking hold of my mind like they usually do, but then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and saw Reda looking at me. She had obviously noticed my quivering lip and my brow full of worry.
“Hey girl, I had a hard time with that test too,” Reda whispered. She was already making me smile with the way she understood exactly what was wrong without having to ask. “But seriously, don’t let it get you down. You are an incredible person and a great friend and you don’t need, like, super powers for that because it comes so naturally to you! Don’t let this dumb test get you down, or that dumb teacher,” Reda continued. We both glanced at Ms. Alkulba and realized she was staring both of us down. It made me nervous, but Reda just waved at her and started snickering quietly. Ms. Alkulba breathed deeply through her nose, then looked back down at the tests she was grading. I giggled a little bit too, feeling warm inside after the nice things Reda had told me. My eyes shifted to my sketchbook that was on the corner of my desk, and I pulled it closer to me, gently opening it to my most recent project. It was a drawing of a cyborg hero that I had made.
She was a hero that dedicated her time to saving the world. She had blonde hair with black highlights. The highlights distracted people from the blonde hair so they didn't take advantage of her. She wore a long red overcoat with two leather buckles across the middle. The leather buckles were there to secure the overcoat to her when she had to run. She had a black shirt with a zipper down the middle for quick changes, even though she could just snap her fingers and she would be fully dressed and ready to go. She wore black yoga pants and brown combat boots for easy movement in the legs. She had a gun strapped to her right thigh and a knife tied to her ankle. She never left anywhere without a weapon at hand.
Her lips were full and always had a smile, whether it was genuine or sarcastic. One of her eyes had an iris that was a bright azure, the other eye was completely blue. That was the eye that could scan and distinguish people’s personalities.
She had super powers as well. She could focus energy in the palm of her hands and blast it, up to, five hundred kilometers away from her. She could push off the ground by focusing energy around her boots then collecting the air from beneath her and using that to excel her into the sky. She could also heal anyone by using that same energy to speed up the body’s process to heal. Those are just a few of her bionic powers. I loved coming up with new ones that made her seem invincible.
I didn’t have a name for her yet. I told myself that I would only give her a name if it hit me suddenly. There were some names like Rebound or Ricochet or Collision, but they didn’t really click with the character very well.
She was everything I wanted to be. She was courageous, funny, smart, kind, and compassionate and I felt like I was nothing. I was scared of the smallest of things, un-intelligent, and socially awkward. I was a nobody. Though Reda kept insisting that I was full of potential, I just couldn’t see it.
I picked up my pencil and started working on her expression. It was a snarky face that frustrated most villains. It was my favorite expression to draw.
Next to me, Reda reached in her backpack and pulled out a black and white composition notebook. The pages were yellow and worn. She obviously had used it a lot. Reda opened to the back of the book then flipped a couple pages and found a page that was nearly blank, twirled her pencil in her hand and started writing. Her hand movements were fluid as if she had been practicing that technique for a long time.
I looked away before I became too mesmerized. I put my pencil on my paper and tried to duplicate the same movements for my cyborg’s hair. The way I had previously drawn it, it looked like she had noodles for hair. I scraped the idea away and erased my mistake. I re-drew it like I normally would. It looked like someone had taken a blow dryer, set it at top speed and blew back her hair. Perfect.
The school bell rang and everyone started packing up their stuff. I threw my backpack over my shoulder and watched Reda as she put the composition notebook gingerly in her backpack before zipping the backpack closed. She lifted her straps over both of her shoulders and looked at me.
“Ready?” she asked. I nodded and turned towards the door. As I did so, something hit my chest and it knocked the wind out of me. I closed my eyes and stumbled backwards. I slumped over tried gathering the air that I had lost.
“Sorry!” a strong voice said. I looked up to see a very charming man standing over me. He had dirty blond hair with the tips frosted black and was wearing a green and black flannel shirt that was complemented with torn dark jeans and worn out tennis shoes. The sleeves were rolled up so his toned forearms were showing. His eyes were bright green and thick bushy eyebrows lingered over them. One of the brows had a slash of hair that was missing, like he was trying to be trendy.
He smiled sympathetically. The smile made me want to melt in my boots. I blushed and stood straight up. He was taller than me but not by much. I scratched the back of my head and smiled stupidly.
“It’s okay!” I said louder than I should’ve. Reda giggled. The boy smiled and looked around the room. He shoved his hands in his pockets and exhaled awkwardly.
“Are you new here?” Reda said, cocking her head like a dog. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”
“Yeah, actually!” He said, raising his eyebrows as if he was glad she asked. He reached into his pockets and pulled out a folded piece of paper. It looked kind of worn out, as if he had been constantly folding it. He didn’t have a backpack with him which seemed a bit out of the ordinary for a new student.
“I have no idea where I’m going.” He said trying to cover up his fear with a smile. “Is this Dr. Olk’s class?” I giggled at his uncertainty and reached out my hand for the paper. It was his class schedule. Skimming through the list, I noticed that his second period class was, in fact, Dr. Olk’s chemistry class.
“That’s Reda’s next class,” I said, still looking at the paper. “She can take you!” I glanced up from the paper and saw relief in his eyes. Reda held out her hand and the boy shook it.
“I am Reda Andromeda!” She stated, “And this is my best friend, Locx Bearhreak.” Reda released his hand and I immediately took it’s place.
“I’m Ro…” He started. Something seemed to bother him. His eyes were glazed.
“...um?” I muttered. “Are you…”
“Sorry!” He interrupted shaking his head. “Rick Gilroy.”
I smiled slightly and let go of his hand. His face flushed and he scratched the back of his head.
“So,” He murmured, “Are we going to go to class?” Reda nodded and gestured to the door.
I walked into my third period history class with my stomach rumbling. After this period was lunch, and I couldn’t wait to dig into my average peanut butter and apricot jelly sandwich. I sat down in my usual seat next to the window, and set my backpack on the table, pulling out my sketchbook and pencil, as usual. I looked out the window to the autumn afternoon.
A small breeze pulled the leaves of trees slightly. The skies were gray and cloudy. I loved this weather. It made me want to sit by my window with a blanket wrapped around me and a nice hot cup of apple cider on my lap. I closed my eyes and imagined my siamese cat, Scrumptious, curling up by my feet. She would purr slightly as I stroke the top of her silky head. I would calmly take a sip of my apple cider and continue to lovingly gaze out the window...
After a couple minutes of dreaming of my nice cup of apple cider I heard a loud kerthunk in the table next to me. I didn’t even have to look up to know who it was. I sighed. Kayla Marsonomy was standing over me with a large crooked smile.
She had on a band t-shirt and extremely short shorts on. Though she looked good with those clothes on, she couldn’t really pull of the whole “I am hip and cool” look. She had layers and layers of makeup on and, through she tried so hard, her uncontrollable zits still showed. Her hair was straight and black and was barely long enough to touch her shoulders. It looked like she needed to re-dye her hair because I could see her original chocolate brown hair in the roots on the top of her head.
Our relationship was… complicated. She thinks we are best friends, but I beg to differ. I didn’t really like her much, but I was the only one at the school who could tolerate her insanity. She was a tramp. She probably had dated all of the men in that school and they all broke up horribly. That never stopped her from dating the rest of the men there.
I slightly smiled back and was about to greet her when she interrupted me.
“Have you seen the new kid?”
“Yeah… His name is…”
“Isn’t he dreamy?”
“I mean, I guess.” I looked out the window.
“I have the biggest crush on him!”
Immediately, I turned back to her. “How?! He’s been here for, like, only three hours!”
“Love has no boundaries!”
“Jealous?!” I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Could she be any more shallow?
“I’m gonna ask him out.”
“Hold your horses! Already?! Have you had an actual conversation yet?”
“Well, no, but…”
“Do you know his last name?”
“Do you know his favorite color?”
I sighed and said, “Stop rushing into relationships like that! You're going to get hurt!” Kayla opened her mouth to say something but immediately closed it. She was ogling at the door. I looked towards the door and saw Rick standing there looking awkward with his hands in his pockets. He looked around the room and glimpsed at me, then suddenly stood up straighter, beaming at me. I smiled and waved. He started making his way to my desk and Kayla ran to sit in her seat. She pulled out a mirror from her backpack and observed her many layers of makeup. Even though her makeup was perfect, she still thought it necessary to apply another layer of lipstick. Rick was standing in front of my desk by the time Kayla had put away the lipstick and the mirror. He pulled up a chair to my desk and turned it so he was resting his chest against the back of it. He then straddled the chair and folded his arms on top of the chair.
“Hey Locx!” he chimed. “What's up?”
“Just waiting for class to start.” What a stupid answer. Obviously! I thought to myself, then cleared my throat. “How was Dr. Olk’s class?”
“Pretty good! He seems like a fun dude!”
Before I could reply, he leaned closer a little bit and gestured for me to do the same thing. Ignoring the feeling of blood rushing to my face, I leaned in and turned my head towards the window. Rick whispered, “What is her problem?” He tilted his head towards Kayla. I looked over at her and saw that she was resting on the palm of her hand and staring at Rick with wide eyes. A disturbing expression. I laughed, then turned to Rick who didn’t think it was very funny but still smiled as if it was. I whispered to him, “Wave to her.”
“Just do it! Trust me.”
Rick looked at me for a second, then sighed. He forced a smile and turned to Kayla and waved. Her face turned firetruck red. She tried to smile but couldn’t so she hid her face in her backpack and started giggling furiously. I laughed and turned to Rick who looked like he still had no idea what was going on. Smiling, I whispered, “She has a crush on you!” Rick looked taken aback. I would too if a girl like her were crushing on me.
“I’ve never had someone like me before… In that way, I mean. I don’t know if I should be flattered or afraid!” He said, an embarrassed blush creeping onto his cheeks. This time, I was taken aback. I laughed as I said, “No one has ever crushed on you? I think you have just been oblivious!” Realizing what I’d just said, I bit my lip. He laughed.
“I’ve actually been home-schooled most of my life. This is the first school I’ve been to! So, unless my mom had a crush on me, I am pretty sure I have never been crushed on.” He said with the cutest smile.
“So you’ve never been to a school?” I said leaning in to show interest and awe filling the tone of my voice. “This school is the first real school you’ve been to? Hopefully we haven’t disappointed you!”
He laughed and said, “Nope! My first school. My first teachers. My first friends. My first crush…” He breathed in sharply and looked away, as if surprised by what he’d just said. I gasped excitedly.
“Who?!” I said, possibly more forcefully than necessary. “Who’s your first crush?” Rick’s whole face turned red. He cleared his throat a couple of times and scratched the back of his head, flustered.
“W-well…” He stammered. I sat at the edge of my seat. I loved hearing about crushes. Especially from guys. It shows a more sympathetic side to them! Rick cleared his throat and stammered, “W-well… it’s…” An authoritative voice interrupted.
“Sit at your own desks students!” Rick exhaled in relief and stood up. The red was starting to fade from his cheeks. I suddenly felt bad. I didn’t mean to push him like that. As he put his hand on the back of his chair I placed my hand on his. Still appearing flustered, he avoided my gaze.
“I’m sorry if I pushed you,” I said softly. “I… can be that way sometimes. You can tell me anything. Your secret’s safe with me. Honest.” The red in Rick’s face slightly faded as he smiled at me. It was my turn to blush. I felt my cheeks heat up as I took my hand off of his. He moved his chair to a desk and was about to sit down but stopped for a second. He turned to me.
“Do you… uhh,” He started, scratching his head for the upteenth time. It seemed to be some weird quirk of his. “... Want to sit next to me? You’re my only friend… so far… in this class.” I nodded willfully and stood up. Kayla grabbed my arm from behind and pulled me back down into my chair.
“He’s mine.” She hissed. I rolled my eyes and yanked my arm from her grasp. Gathering my things, I carried them to the desk next to Rick and smiled at him. He smiled back as I put my belongings down on the table, pulled my chair out, and sat down. Rick did the same. I opened my sketchbook and continued the cyborg drawing.
It was nearing the end of class and I was adding shading around the cyborg’s head. A hand came across the table next to me and placed a sticky note next to my sketchbook. I finished shading the nose then glanced up at the note.
That’s really cool! It read. I smiled and looked over at Rick. He was looking at the teacher as she was lecturing about the civil war. He tried his best to look like he was paying attention but his eyes were unfocused and he had a smirk on his face. I wrote, Thanks! I’ve been working on it for a while. I peeled the sticky note off of my desk and placed it on Rick’s. He looked down and smiled. I continued drawing. A couple of seconds passed and the note re-appeared on my desk.
What’s it’s name? It read. I grimaced then wrote, I have no idea. I placed the note back on Rick’s desk. Rick immediately looked at the note as if he had been waiting for an extremely long time for it. He raised one of his bushy eyebrows then started writing something on the note. I turned away from him so I didn’t seem desperate for his reply. Once I put my pencil to the drawing, the note was back on my desk. I casually looked at the note, even though I was eager to read his reply.
You need help with that? I beamed. I was writing my reply when the school bell rang. Rick turned to me. He smiled. “So?”
“Yes please!” I said, still smiling. I started packing up my stuff when I heard Kayla’s voice.
“Hello bestie!” she said hugging my neck. I gagged and patted her arm so she would let go. She let go and I gasped for air. Rick stood up and put his hand on my shoulder for comfort. I smiled slightly and said, “Rick, this is Kayla.” I heard Kayla giggle from behind me. I turned around and saw she extended her hand for Rick to shake it. Rick hesitated for a moment then shook her hand. Kayla stared him in the eyes dreamily. Her face looked like a plump tomato. I looked up at Rick and saw that he looked uncomfortable. I grabbed my backpack and stood up, put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Whelp! We should get going. I have to show him around the school and I think there would be less pressure if I was the only one with him.” I flashed her a quick, nearly sarcastic smile. Rick looked at me and smiled gratefully.
“Aw!” Kayla whined, still holding Rick’s hand, “Are you sure?”
“Yes!” Rick spat before I could say anything. He pulled his hand away from hers. “It would be too much if more than one person showed me around. I’m not that special.” Kayla crossed her arms and pouted. I slid down my hand to Rick’s and pulled him towards the door. As I did so, I felt his hand grow hot. I cringed slightly and let go once we reached the door. I looked at his face and laughed. He had a large dopey smile. He looked at me and said, “Whelp, That was awkward…”
“Yes,“ I replied, still laughing. “Yes it was. Come on, our first stop is the cafeteria! I’m starving!”
Once we walked through the two large doors of the cafeteria, I immediately saw Reda waiting for me by our usual table. I smiled and waved. Reda smiled back and ushered me over. I looked over to Rick who was gawking at the room before him. I was so familiar with that cafeteria, so I wasn’t quite overwhelmed by how massive the room was. After all, I’d attended the school for two years. If I were Rick, the sight of the cafeteria would have probably been marvelous.
Each wall was painted a different color. One wall was a bright green; another wall was a bright baby blue; another wall was a bright red; and the last wall was a bright yellow. The yellow wall had the kitchen behind it and in front of it was the lunch lady serving some sort of meatball sandwich that smelled vaguely like puke. Tables with benches attached were spread throughout the room. All of them were gray, and most of them had some kind of strange stains on them.
Kayla was sitting with her own group of friends. She was pointing and giggling at Rick. He didn’t seem to notice. He was too distracted by the remarkable sight before him.
I tugged on his flannel and he whipped his head around to look at me. He smiled and said, “This place is amazing!”
“You haven’t even finished the day yet!” I said, giggling. I gestured to Reda and we started walking towards her. Rick grunted as he was suddenly pulled backwards. I whipped around to see Kayla gripping his arm as if he was the last man on Earth. I glared at Kayla. She playfully glared back.
“What are you doing?” Rick said trying his best not to shout. Kayla giggled.
“You should sit with me!” she said, “You don’t have to sit with these dweebs!”
“But I want to sit next to those ‘dweebs’,” Rick retorted.
“Come on! It is way too boring over there!” Kayla insisted. It was obviously beginning to annoy him.
“Not really. I get along with them pretty well! Can you please stop squeezing my arm? It’s falling asleep.”
“Wouldn’t you rather have fun with us?”
“No. Let go.”
“Let go!” Rick boomed with such an infuriated tone that the whole cafeteria went silent. Kayla stood there for a moment trying to fathom what just happened.
“You should let go,” Reda recommended, as she walked to stand next to me. Her arms were crossed and she looked amused. Kayla reluctantly let go of Rick’s arm. Rick walked towards Reda and I and smoothed out his sleeve. He stopped for a second and turned around to the rest of the cafeteria. Everyone was murmuring and whispering and giggling.
“Maybe we should eat outside.” Reda suggested.
We were sitting on a patch of cold grass under a tree by the front entrance of the school. I was leaning against the tree with my last piece of peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my hands, and my sketchbook lying closed in front of me. I finished the last bite of my sandwich and sighed. It was magnificent day outside even though the crisp autumn air sent goosebumps up my arms. I didn’t mind. I looked over at Reda who was lying on her back with her earbuds in and her music blasting. Her hands were above her and drumming on the air to the beat of her music. I looked over to Rick who was sitting right across from me. He was gazing at the busy street in front of him.
“So,” I said awkwardly, trying to break the silence, “How are-”
“Was I too much?” He suddenly whispered.
“Should I have held back? With Kayla, I mean.”
“No! You handled that like any smart person would’ve.” I casually waved my pencil around in the air.
Rick looked down at his hands. I looked at them too and saw him rubbing his left wrist. I tilted my head slightly. My first thought was that Kayla might have hurt him, but then I remembered that Kayla held him higher up on the arm. Why would he be rubbing his wrist?
“I just,” He began, making me snap back to reality and look up. “I have bad experiences with people grabbing me like that.”
I opened my mouth to ask him about the experiences but I immediately closed it again. I didn’t want to pester him again and lose his trust. How good of a friend would I have been if I did that?
While I was consumed in my thoughts, Rick looked back at the road and squinted. His eyebrows furrowed and he moved just his head forward. Then, he stood up. I shook my thoughts away and looked up at him.
“W-what’s wrong?” I asked quickly, turning my head in the direction he was looking. There was a dark green van parked by the side of the road and two middle aged people emerging from it. One was a man and the other was a woman. They both had dark brown hair and black clothes on. The man had his arm around her shoulder. She put her head on his shoulder and blew into what looked like a black handkerchief. Rick backed away slowly. He was pale and and his hands were shaking. I was beginning to get scared.
“Rick,” I said, a little more forcefully, “what’s going-”
“I have to go,” he uttered. He turned to me and smiled weakly, but the way he smiled sent shivers down my spine because his eyes were full of fear. Something wasn’t right.
“it was nice meeting both of you. I'll see you… later.” Rick said turning from us.
I reached out to stop him but he started running from us and away from the couple. Reda sat up and turned to see Rick disappear around the corner and disappear from our sight.
“What’s his deal?” Reda asked, turning to me and pointing her thumb to the direction where Rick went running. I sighed.
“I wish I knew,” I whispered.
“What?” Reda almost shouted. I rolled my eyes and pulled out one of her ear buds.
“I said, I wish I knew!” I yelled. Reda covered her ears and shouted back, “There’s no need to yell!” I laughed a little, but then heard some rustling from behind us. I turned and saw the middle aged couple approach the school. I eyed them curiously. They made their way to the front door of the school but the woman stopped and looked at me and Reda. I smiled awkwardly and slightly waved at her. She looked at the man longingly and started talking to him. He turned around to look at us and then turned back to his partner.
“I’m starting to get both confused and annoyed,” Reda muttered, pulling out her other ear bud. I nodded.
“I don't know what’s going on, man,” I whispered, shutting my sketchbook, “but I don’t think I trust them.”
I turned to look at Reda who was eyeing the couple. She slowly nodded. Her eyes suddenly became wide and she whispered harshly, “They’re coming over here! Act natural!” Reda threw herself against the tree and twisted her body into an obviously forced pose. She crossed her arms across her chest and pursed her lips dramatically and squinted her eyes. I laughed at her, but suddenly felt a small tap on my shoulder. I turned around, startled, I looked up to see the couple smiling down at me. Their eyes were bloodshot and the bags under them looked like they hadn't slept in weeks.
“Hello,” The woman said in a soft tone with a hint of underlying firmness. “My name is Melanie and this is my husband, Garrold.” Reda and I waved slightly and quietly said our hellos. I felt extremely suspicious. When I looked up at Garrold, he peered at me with a face that sent shivers down my spine. His eyes were hard and distant as if he was planning something evil. His mouth was curled into a demon like smile and his eyebrow was curled seductively. He looked like some dramatic character in a Renaissance painting. I felt my face grow hot, but not in the good way, and suddenly I felt scared of these people. I regarded the guy with more disgust than fear, even though I was terrified. His wife didn’t seem to notice. Though she seemed smart and dominant, she didn’t seem very observant.
“We are looking for a young man.” Melanie said in a slightly condescending tone of urgency. “He has blond hair, green eyes. Goes by the name Ronald Roberts.” Reda and I glanced at each other with befuddled faces. Then, Reda looked down at the ground beside her, trying to seem uninterested and cool- typical behavior for her.
“No,” Reda deadpanned, “We haven’t seen a Ronald.”
Melanie’s face fell. So did Garrold’s, but it didn’t look like he intended it to be as obvious as it was.
“Well,” Melanie said sounding disappointed, “Thanks, anyway.”
Melanie pulled her husband away from the scene. Garrold took one last longing look at the both of us, then let his wife pull him to the front entrance to the school. I stared at them for a little longer, then turned to Reda who was already looking at me. Her face was plastered with a look of concern and annoyance.
“Whelp,” I said, breaking the silence. “I have a few questions.”
“Yeah,” Reda replied. “Questions like, what the hell was Garrold's problem?”
“And why was he staring at me like that?”
“Who is Ronald?”
“Why are they looking for Ronald?”
“And why did Rick run from them?”“Well, we know one thing is certain,” I said, standing up. “Rick has a lot of explaining to do.”