It’s raining outside, the sky is grey and the sun is hidden by a thick blanket of cloud. You silently curse the weather, you curse the rain and you curse the fact that it is the first day of your senior year.
You grip the edges of the seat with white knuckled fear. To say your mother is a bad driver is to say that lava is hot. It is an understatement. In the twenty minute drive to school, she has blown past one red light, two stop signs and one yield sign. She has also managed to almost run over two joggers and one squirrel. You have not said anything though, whenever you bring up your mother’s lack of ability to drive, she simply scoffs in retort and produces her well practiced line, the line that foreigners all over America use “I’m Used To Driving In My Country.”
The country in question was France and you have never been so scared for your life unless you have driven in France (or Italy for that matter). Not only do the French have terrible road rage in the car, pedestrians too have a long running tradition of walking into the middle of traffic and staring down cars in order to cross the road because waiting for the light to change is ‘Much Too Difficult.’ Not only can your mother not drive ‘FOR SHIT’ but it is also ‘SHIZNASTY’ embarrassing to be driven to school on the first day of your senior year by one of your parentals (not that you had two to begin with), unfortunately for you, bad driving is some sort of genetic shit in your family and you have scared and scarred most of the driving instructors in your town into giving up on you ever getting behind the wheel. Hence your current predicament-
Your mother slows down as you pull up to the school, she ignored the 15 miles per hour sign a while back and she comes to a stuttered stop right outside the school gate. The building is as grey as the sky, even the trees that normally bloom pink in the spring are dusty skeletons, it is possibly the most boring scenery that you have ever seen in your life. There are a few glances at the car from students loitering around the gate and you put your hood up, wishing that you had walked.
“Don’t forget to go to home economics.”
“Do you know where homeroom is?”
“Of course I do.”
“Alright, have fun, je t’aime.”
You look at your mother; she is smiling and not looking like she almost ran over some jogger’s golden Labrador and you smile back, even if it is just a little smile.
You get out of the car, pulling your hoodie further over your head as a lame excuse for protection against the rain and trudge through the gate for the beginning of another fun filled year of school.
That sounded sarcastic, you actually really like school. Education is important, you recognize this fact but you want to major in art and god knows half the classes you take in this school aren’t going to help you in life. Maths? Fuck that. Biology? Fuck that too. Really. But you’re going to try; you’re going to make this work.
There is one little thing that you haven’t mentioned yet, one little detail that has made your life infinitely more interesting in terms of school. You’ve been in this country since you were little, all of your education has taken place in this small town and there is a certain group of people who have gone through the exact same track as you. This group split in two at some point during middle school, not because you drifted apart- oh no. You planned this split because what you and your group of friends did was start your very own gang war. That sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is, when you say gang war you mean it more in the ‘occasional graffiti-offs’, ‘weekly fight rings’ and ‘constant territory battle’ which is more of a capture the flag game than anything else. You are actually the leader of one of these gangs –a position you gained by beating the crap out of your only opposition on the matter in seventh grade. As for the leader of the other gang well –you were about to walk into him.
You are not sure if the speech is slow because he is doped off his face or if he is trying to be intimidating. Either way, you look up at the leader of your opposition, and see the smiling, radiant face of Kayleb Makara. Okay, you lied about the smiling and radiant part. You are not sure what you are looking at exactly because the asshole’s eyes are covered by messy black hair. He is also wearing clown makeup, last year he got banned for it but you can bet your shit that teachers don’t bother Kayleb about it. The guy was well over six foot, covered in tattoos and had arms the size of your torso. You and your gang are pretty much the only people who give Kayleb any shit and you are rather surprised that you are still alive. Sure, you guys are really all friends and you’ve grown up together but Kayleb was one of those guys who didn’t actually know his own power.
“Get out of my fucking way, Makara.”
You snap in response. Short, curt and to the point, you attempt to stare down your opponent but really you are just glowering upwards. Students mill about the hallway giving both of you a wide berth and after a few seconds, Kayleb smiles –it’s a really creepy smile mind you- and steps to the side. You continue to glare at Kayleb as you walk by, not trusting the other student not to pull some shit behind your back but nothing happens. You turn to face the way you are going –to your locker- when Kayleb finally makes a move.
“I see you haven’t grown over the summer, what a shame.”
You freeze, turn around, flip Kayleb the finger and keep walking, the sound of laughter echoing down the corridor. You’re used to this joke by now; people have been calling you short since- well since you got out of France really.
You are not short. You’re not lying either, you looked it up online; your height is average for a male of your age in your country. The problem is not your height; it’s the height of everyone around you. It wasn’t fair, Perrin needed an inhaler to live, he was exempt from all physical activities and he was a head taller than you. And Marcos? You were fairly sure Mexicans were supposed to be short, nope, not Marcos. And let’s not even talk about the others…Kayleb was a hulking mass of a person as was Emmett. You were not sure who was more intimidating, the tank of a druggie or the tank of a quarterback on the football team. Even fucking Oswald was fucking taller than you, but he was a skinny bastard…just a ridiculously tall skinny bastard. You blame your parentage, French people are short arses. Look at Napoleon for god’s sake! It still doesn’t make it fair that you get called short when you are most certainly not…
Oh, who are all those people you just mentioned? You will get to them soon enough. You’ve had homeroom for them for the past four years and you are damn well sure that isn’t going to change soon though you are fairly sure your new homeroom teacher won’t be too pleased about it.
You slam your locker shut; once you got there you realized that you had no fucking books to put in the damned thing yet. You look around, half expecting some asshat to read your mind and laugh at your stupidity but no one does, instead you put on your headphones, head for classroom 102A and wait for the actual shitfest to start. The shitfest starts later than you anticipated. You walk into homeroom and find that you are the only person there –as to be expected- your mother would not have driven you to school without half an hour to spare before you actually fucking needed to be there now would she? You sit down in the back row, prop your legs up on the table and turn your music up. Zoning out is a bad idea, sleeping is an even worse idea you can’t fucking help it, you’re as tired as fuck and in a few minutes you are caught in the net of a tentative sleep.
“I’m gunna be the leader.”
There is a small boy with short black messy hair and he facing another boy, this boy is a little taller and certainly stouter that the scrawny raven haired kid.
“Not gunna happen, amigo. I’m the strongest.”
“Prove it, dumbass!”
The little black haired kid pushes the other one who stumbles backwards a little. There are two other kids, one of them is wearing glasses and she cheers heartily at the push, the other kid is a boy, also wearing glasses, and his attention is fixed o the gameboy in his hands. The black haired kid throws a punch at the other kid who raises his arm to block his face.
“Go on, Harkin! Hit him in the face!”
The girl watching yells at the fight-
“Harkin! Harkin! Damn, he’s out like a light…well fine-“
The last part had nothing to do with the dream, you wake up as your sense of vertigo kicks in and the ceiling seems to recede.
You land on the floor in a mess of headphones and chair. You take your headphones off and sit up on the floor, you did not seriously hurt yourself –it was more of a shock than anything else. Shaking your head you look around for your aggressors and find two of your favourite people. And by favourite you mean- not. Standing over you are the smiling faces of Cerila Peixes and fucking Oswald Ampora, two of the High bloods.
Right you never really got to that part of your gang discussion. In your seventh grade decision to make school life more interesting you came up with names, the High Bloods and the Low Bloods. You all argue about the origin of these names. Rhodes is convinced that she came up with Low Bloods and then Sashka stole the idea to come up with High Bloods but if you ask Sashka it’s a completely different story. Hell, whoever you ask comes up with a completely different story. But back to the charming faces of Cerila and fucking Oswald.
“Good morning, fucktards, what can I help you with today?”
You spit out sarcastically as you stand up, grabbing your chair as you go. You turn your music off and place your headphones around your neck. It is fucking Oswald who responds to you –and yes, that is his full name –fucking Oswald. You have been calling him that since ninth grade and it was not about to change.
“Oh, I don’t know, we were wondering how good your reflexes were, brave leader-“
Cerila snickers and walks away; she deposits her bag on a chair in the back row but on the other side from where you are. She is Kayleb’s sister; they don’t have the same last name because of daddy issues, their mother is a complete hippie who reads Tarot cards- and you know all of this because she used to be part of the same knitting club as your mother. But more about that knitting club later.
“Well at least I am a leader or –oh wait- still trying to tell yourself that, fucking Oswald?”
Unlike you and Marcos and your little seventh grade brawl, Kayleb announced himself as leader of the High Bloods and everyone else backed the fuck off right away because even seventh grade Kayleb was a scary ass mother fucker. Fucking Oswald glowers at you, the scars on his face crinkling weirdly. You don’t know why you notice that –maybe it’s because his scars are pretty fucking cool even if he got them falling off of a jungle gym in fourth grade. The thought makes you smile and fucking Oswald snaps at you.
“Shut the fuck up, Vantas and wipe that smile off of your face before I do.”
Oh you love challenges, they are your favourite. You take a step forward, a grin on your face.
“Please, I would love to see this.”
Across the room, Cerila is filing her nails. Fucking Oswald grabs the collar of your hoodie and pulls it up so you are face to face with him and you are on tip toes.
You don’t get to hear what fucking Oswald will do because his own hoodie gets a yank from behind that causes him to let go of you and stumble backwards. Standing behind fucking Oswald is a very pissed off girl with crazy hair and cat ears.
Alright, she didn’t actually have cat ears but to say that Marrah liked anime was like saying that your mother drove badly and that lava was hot –you got the idea. Your friend group had gone to a local convention; you had come back with some art books, a few comics and some art prints while Marrah had come back with car ears.
“Oh look, your backup, Vantas.”
“Oh look, you’re a fucking idiot, Dualscar.”
You didn’t explain that either, now was a good a time as ever. In keeping with the awesome tradition of being a gang and having a gang name, you also all came up with, what seventh grade versions of you thought, were awesome gang nick names and none of you were ever going to let fucking Oswald live it down for ‘Dualscar’.
Speaking of mister ‘I-fell-off-a-jungle-gym-look-at-my-face’, he had finally given up and went to sit next to Cirila who promptly moved her chair over the moment that fucking Oswald sat down. You smile at Marrah who bounced over to you while fucking Oswald went to sit down. You too return to your chair and Marrah sits down next to you.
“Did you watch the newest episode yet?”
“I told you, I’m not watching My Little Pony, nothing you can do can force me to watch that show-“
Marrah pouts and crosses his arm, you sigh. She does this every time you don’t read or watch something that she recommends. The thing is, normally she recommends decent stuff- you’re up for anime, and the drawing style is great fun but My Little Fucking Pony: Fucking Friendship is a Magical Asshat was not your type of show. You continue light conversation, Marrah occasionally adding in something about Rainbow Dash or Pinkie Pie to get you interested, you cleverly avoid these references and laugh when Marrah finally notices. You will end up watching the show if it makes her happy, at least one episode, that should be fine. You are not close minded, you don’t like disliking something before you even try but My Little Pony was pushing it. Really.
Other students have started filing in; most of them begrudgingly sit in the front, mostly because no one wants to be near your gangs. You notice more members of the High Bloods show up mostly because they are loud fuckers. Sashka Serket especially, she is not only loud but she breaks every rule of the dress code every fucking day, fucking Oswald also stands by the fact that she pushed him off of the jungle gym but no one believes him. The other hulking mass of the High Bloods is also seated next to fucking Oswald. He is the only one of your long time friend group to do anything athletic and as such, he is the quarterback of the football team, captain of the wrestling team and a member of crew as well. What the fuck he is still doing in this game of yours you don’t know but Emmett Zahak was never one for being a leader himself. Finally Kayleb walks in, he gives a sign of recognition, a two fingered salute and you return the gesture by flipping the bird in his direction. You are glad there are other students here because as it stands this was a five versus two fight in a building with lots of chairs. Marrah also seems to notice and looks around the room.
“We could take them.”
She puts her hand on top of yours and you smile.
“Fuck yeah we could.”
The thought never becomes a reality however because Rhodes opens the door a few minutes later, she pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose and jumps over a stray backpack lying on the group. Rhodes Pyrope is by far one of the smartest people you know; she is also captain of the debate team…the debate team of one person. You all tried joining to show support for your but debating was not like arguing. You could argue, you could even do the dramatic interpretation stuff but debating? Nope. No way in hell.
“Wow, this is tame for the first day of school.”
Rhodes sits in the chair in front of you, having ducked a stray flying pencil. The other students were finally waking up, being loud and throwing shit. Rhodes drops her backpack on the table kind of like a shield and lolls over the back of the chair, her chin resting on the top of it making her smile look even more crooked than normal. Rhodes really liked to smile, it creeped a lot of people out . You look to the other side of the room.
“We freaked out fucking Oswald already.”
You say with a shrug as you lean back in your chair, Marrah laughs lightly.
Marrah rolls her eyes.
“Late as usual. I swear, he lives next to me, I could throw a brick through his window from my living room but he never lets me give him a ride to school.”
You are pretty sure that Marrah Leijon would not throw a brick through his window; she might write a note and stick it to said window and this note might be very passive aggressive and potentially scarier than a brick but it would still be a note. You discuss the matter a little longer until deciding that Marcos is a goner stuck in a ditch on the side of the road because the school bus crashed when your homeroom teacher comes in. She is short and looks fairly young, her black hair is pulled up into a bun and her face is friendly. You silently pity her for the hell she is going to have to put up with this year.
“Hi guys. I’m your homeroom teacher, Ms. Medigo. I’m also taking over senior English and home economics which means I should have the pleasure of teaching you in at least one of those classes!”
She is eager to teacher and you wish that she had been given a different homeroom, but maybe your gang can keep it civil for the sake of this nice looking teacher –and your grades. Ms. Medigo is going to be teaching you two classes thanks to your mother pressuring you to sign up for Home Economics and you hope to all hope that there is a good effort grade for that course because cooking was not your fucking thing. Ms. Medigo looks around the classroom before taking roll; you can practically see her thought process going. Who are the students who seem like they will cause trouble, why is everyone sitting close to the front, why are there three separate groups? Oh, this was going to be a great year. She was studying every single student in acute detail and her eyes twinkled as if to say ‘try something, I dare you’.
“Sorry, sorry! Perdón, uh-“
You roll your eyes at the newest interruption, and there is the last person of your gang, not stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. Marcos makes his way over to your side of the room, tripping over a backpack on the way. Fucking Oswald snickers and Marcos glares daggers at him before carrying on. Ms. Medigo catches all of it.
“Thank you for joining us Mr. Nitram, now I’m going to take roll-“
Oh shit, she already knew all your names too? You raise an eyebrow and exchange a look with Rhodes and Marrah, though Rhodes is just sort of grinning lopsidedly at you so you assume that’s a look.
“Attention thudenth, your morning announthmenth will be over PA thythem becauthe the TV network theemth to be malfunctioning-“
You forgot to mention one person and that was your best friend, Perrin Captor. He was in charge of your school’s TV station- a station which did nothing but give you the morning news in a manner slightly more fascinating than a disembodied voice over the PA system. He tried, the poor kid really did, the problem was that aside from Perrin, the mighty IT crew and a couple of students – no one gave a fuck about the announcements; they were all about sports and who gave a fuck about sports? Today is a little special though, you see Ms. Medigo roll her eyes and start searching around the room.
“One of you must know how to turn this off- that’s got to be a prank you’ve pulled at some point- you are seniors after all, if there’s one thing I hate it’s PA systems-“
You smile, maybe this teacher can handle your homeroom, and she seems pretty fucking awesome right now. You feel bad smiling because your friend is on the PA and you know that he is trying his hardest but right now, you just wanna get out of here because fuck- it’s Thursday and you know what that means.