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Real Men Wear Tights

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The first day of school had always made John more nervous than it should have. It was therefore no surprise that when the blare of an alarm set an hour before necessary sounded throughout his bedroom, John shot out of his bed with a start. He figured he'd need the extra time to accomplish what had become an unfamiliar routine thanks to long summer months going without one.

His first stop was made in the bathroom. The person who greeted him in his mirror had a rather severe case of bedhead, black locks sweeping wildly in what he would soon discover to be unmanageable cowlicks. He washed his face, carefully checking for any sign that stubble was growing in, only to be slightly disappointed that his face still remained smooth. As he toweled off, he noticed that something was a bit odd about his appearance in the mirror. It took him a few moments, before he realized that he wasn't wearing his glasses.


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Leaving the bathroom only to retrieve them from his nightstand, John returned to examine his completed look. The glasses seemed to weigh heavily on the bridge of his nose, but they did help to cover the uncertainty clouding his eyes. The face that gazed back at him did seem to be in some semblance of order, so he spent the next few minutes staring at himself and trying on different smiles, insisting to his reflection that everything was going to be just fine, and that he didn't have anything to worry about. There was never reason to worry, really; he hadn't had any problems during any of the previous three years since he'd stopped home schooling and started attending public school, and he had no reason to believe that things would be any different this time around. All he had to do was follow his Dad’s advice and he would be fine.

Going back to his room and opening the topmost shelf of his dresser, John set about trying to pick out his first day ensemble, picking up and tossing rejected clothing onto his bed. After a few minutes of this, he was a bit frustrated; he couldn’t seem to get his clothes right regardless of how many shirts he pulled out from his dresser to try on. The pursuit to find something suitable ended as his eyes settled on a pile of discarded themed t-shirts and button-downs sitting on his mattress. Deciding he might as well go with comfort rather than an attempt at style, he started sifting through the pile. A plain shirt was nearly impossible to find amidst the mound of ones sporting heroes' emblems across their fronts, so, donning a shirt at semi-random and now showing his full support for Captain America, John made his way downstairs.

Breakfast was cooking when he got there, the smell of bacon and the sizzling of eggs immediately drawing him into the kitchen. He took a seat in front of a sizable stack of pancakes, a sight that he wasn’t exactly surprised to see; his dad had a tendency to go a bit overboard when it came to what he deemed special occasions, after all. After a quick greeting and an encouraging “dig in,” John set to work on tackling the first wave of food. It was an easy enough task for someone regarded as a bottomless pit to accomplish. Those pancakes fell in a matter of minutes. For his efforts, he earned a chuckle and a question of whether he had even bothered to chew.

His legs bounced under the table as he waited, restless to move with pent up energy. As much as he appreciated the break, his body wasn’t used to forgoing his normal routine. Tomorrow, he’d begin to fall back into the swing of things on his own and, before long, sports would be there to occupy his mornings. He looked forward to early practices at the pool before classes, having missed the feeling of gliding through the still waters and the sharp smell of chlorine during the summer. There had only been a handful of occasions where he made it out to a public pool, and that just really wasn’t the same.

A plate piled with eggs, hash browns, and bacon was placed before him, grabbing his attention immediately. Though considerably less hungry than before, his appetite once again proved to work in mysterious ways as he got to work devouring everything in sight, the eggs and hash browns disappearing in no time flat while the bacon was savored slowly. Once he was finished with his meal, the two Egbert men switched places in the kitchen, John going to work on cleaning his dishes while his dad performed his own rather impressive disappearing act on his own breakfast. And he wondered where John got it from.

When the kitchen was just about as spotless as he could make it, John returned upstairs to shrug on his backpack and make a last-ditch effort to convince his hair to behave itself. Defeated by the unruly cowlicks, he vowed to his reflection that though the battle may have been over, the war had only just begun. Aside from the hair, he was given a self pass to go to school and face his peers, so he hurried out of his bathroom. He jumped the stairs two at a time, not that there was any time strain, but he just didn’t like to keep his dad waiting for him. With keys already in hand and token white fedora fixed on top of his ever-neat head of hair, his dad stood by the open door, the mild, crisp air of a pre-Autumn Seattle morning wafting inside and tickling John's senses.

“Ready for your first day, son?” The question was somewhat nostalgic, since it was the exact same phrase that Charles Egbert had repeated every year that John had gone to school. This year, the question carried a little more meaning than it had the prior, as last year had been a bit hard on him and now his dad couldn’t hide the note of concern in his voice. John was sure he would be fine this time around, however, because no longer was he a freshman facing the unknown world of high school. He was a sophomore, with a year's experience under his belt. With that experience, a group of people he more or less felt comfortable being with, and more certainty of who he was, everything would be okay.

“Yep! It’s just so weird, as usual. You know, you don’t have to drive me, dad. I’m not a little kid.” The attempt to be spared a minor humiliation was half-hearted at best, the conversation being something of a tradition between father and son. If he was being honest, John really didn’t mind that his dad still wanted to drop him off at school in the morning, or at least not as much as he said he did. His dad would smile the same way he had when John had first complained, back when he was twelve years old. “You know, a lot of kids my age are learning to drive.”

“Hm.” As he held out the door for his son, a rather smug smile played on his lips. His dad was obviously taking far too much pleasure in contemplating his reply. That look was a clear indicator that John was not going to like the answer, mostly because it would probably be true. “Well, son, if you find the time to get a job, you might be able to get yourself a car.” As he walked past, John attempted a glare that he hoped was just as scalding as he imagined it was in his head.

“I can’t, at least not until next summer. You know that just as well as I do.” The comfortable temperature of the morning played along John’s skin as he stretched en route to the pristine white car parked in the driveway, his eyes affixed to the clouds above. It would be a shame to pass up what would undoubtedly be a beautiful day in the confines of a building. He wouldn’t mind taking up part-time work that kept him outdoors, even on blistering days. Getting certified so he could be a swimming instructor or a lifeguard had always been on his to-do list, except it was unlikely that he'd ever really have the time. The fact that summer was now officially over just stuck a nail in that particular coffin.

“Then you’ll just have to let your old man drive you to school.”

Not for the first time, John thought of opting to walk the dozen blocks or so to the high school, even as he slipped into the passenger’s seat. On any other day, it would be nice to have some downtime to chat with his dad, even if it was only for a few short minutes, but the first day of school just meant he'd be subjected to too many concerned questions about too many unimportant things, such was the man's concern for his child. As expected, once the car was en route, the interrogation began. “Do you have your lunch?”

“Yeah.” John sighed, rolling down the window and letting the breeze roll in. Had he actually managed to wrangle his hair into any sort of order, his efforts were now in vain as his locks were swept up and tousled by the wind. “You made it and stuck it in my bag. Well, unless the thing taking up half of my bag isn’t lunch. It smelled like lunch, but I didn’t actually look. Wouldn’t be the first time you pulled a fast one on me.” He saw his father's amused grin out of the corner of his eye, but chose not to dwell on whether or not the man was just entertained at past memories or if John had a surprise waiting for him. It had been a few weeks since he had gotten a surprise cake to the face, which didn't exactly bode well. Periods of peace were often just preludes to large-scale attacks, after all.

“Your lunch is actually lunch this time,” he was assured, though John was not exactly liking the chuckle that followed. That was a plotting chuckle if he had ever heard one. He would have to keep his guard up, lest he take an excess of frosting to the face. The amusement didn't last long before his father's face returned to something more concerned. “Did you pack enough supplies?” Dad-mode was evidently operating at full capacity.

“It’s the first day. They pretty much expect us to not bring anything, socialize all day, and be whiny teenagers.” Not that he really was the type to do any of those things, except maybe the latter if the stress caught up to him. Sometimes it was hard to keep it all going. His dad had always emphasized the importance of having an education and, even if it was a challenge to juggle his life around it sometimes, John had to agree. “I think I have enough pens for everyone in my classes to mooch off of and still have a handful for myself.” He gave his bag a quick shake for good measure, prompting the cacophonous rattling of his pencil case.

“It’s better to be prepared.” John nodded, before once again affixing his attention outside. They were a block away from the school, passing steadily by a handful of punctual students who likely were excited to see their friends again. Catching sight of a few familiar faces, he wondered idly if any of his lunch chums from the previous year would still share their lunch block with him. He never could make any time for them outside of school, even during months where he was supposedly free. Maybe they would have no room for him in the coming year.

The car turned, traveling slower than necessary as it moved towards the front entrance of W.V. High. They came to a stop in front of the school, and John noted several faculty still ambling their way into the building, looking as unenthused to be there as many of the students. When he turned to look at his father, his stomach clenched in unease. Judging from the look of serious concern on the man's face, he knew what was coming next.

“John, you need to be careful.” Just like most of everything else that his dad always said on the first day of school, this was scripted, routine. This point in particular was the most important, however, the rest of the conversation having been simple pleasantries leading up to this. The man always worried when his son was out of reach, beyond where he could protect him, even if he was just a kid going to school. “Try not to stand out too much, and keep your nose down.”

“I know, dad.” They were idling in a no idling zone, his father taking the time to inspect John’s face as if trying to determine if he was simply agreeing to appease him. Seeming to be satisfied with what he saw, he rewarded John with a pat on the head for his good behaviour. Or that’s what it felt like to him, at least, even though he knew that his dad was just looking out for him.

“You’re growing up too fast; sometimes I wonder where my little boy went. I am very proud of you, son.” He held out an arm in an offer, smiling honestly. John leaned forward, trying to find reassurance rather than concerning himself with how many people had noticed them hugging it out. The hugs were given much more sparingly once John had started to steadily grow after childhood. The timing of this one was appreciated, however,even if it did hurt his reputation a little to be seen willingly hugging his parent in broad daylight.

“Yeah, yeah, so proud,” John laughed, feeling some of the weight of his anxiety slipping off his shoulders, even in the one-armed, quick, manly kind of hug that this was. Once they parted, he opened the car door, stepping outside and stretching again before turning around with what his dad called his "trademark" grin. “I’ll see you at dinner. Bye, dad.”

John hefted his backpack onto one shoulder after closing the door, feeling the smile set naturally as he looked at the familiar building. He didn't look back as his dad continued to idle, his thoughts shifting to settle on the task ahead of him. Though his feelings were mixed on the whole ordeal, he really did like school, for the most part. As he walked towards the main doors, he could still feel his dad's eyes on his back, waiting for him to make it safely inside the building. He probably had some proud fatherly grin on his face, John imagined, excited to see his "little" boy setting foot on the path towards yet another milestone in his education.

As he stepped inside, an involuntary sigh escaped his mouth as he was greeted with the sight of a hallway full of lockers and tired-looking teenagers milling about talking with each other. Seeing the various states that others were in, his resolve reaffirmed itself. He could do this again. He had done it all before. Though he was playing a role, it was a role that didn’t stray far from what he wanted to be: well-regarded by teachers and peers alike, the star of the swim team, and, above all, a nice guy. He was just John Egbert, and this was the beginning of his Sophomore year.

///

The day had been going better than John had expected, though he had been imagining some pretty bleak scenarios for a while. His first three classes of the day went by with little more than a summarization of the course, name introductions, and textbook distribution. The rest of the class time was given to the students to chat amongst themselves about their summers, ask their teachers questions, or just flip through the course material. Less prompted by other students, John spent his time reviewing the course and the breakdown of the grade. If one of his classmates turned to ask what he did for summer, he answered with volunteering in the city before turning the focus back on them. No one asked for details because no one really knew him well enough. He really had nothing to worry about.

Soon enough, it was time for his midday break. John appreciated the new weight of his Biology, Alternian, and Physics books as he went to his locker. When he switched the texts for his lunch and headed downstairs, John wasn’t entirely sure what to do about the break. Throughout most of the previous year he had sort of just floated between groups of people before he settled with either some members of the swim team or a handful of students that shared many of his AP classes with him. He didn’t really feel like playing musical chairs today, coming part way through the same conversations about summer, how it sucked for it to be over, and listening to speculations on the school year. He didn’t even want to scan the cafeteria to discover who was and who wasn’t in his lunch period, so he decided to put it off until the next day.

When he got downstairs he headed for the nearest exit, making a beeline for a large ash tree off to the side of the school’s side field. He was lucky to find the shade underneath deserted, groups seeming to favour sprawling out in the sun. Often, when he didn’t feel up to socializing or if he just had homework to complete, John would eat lunch under the tree. Being alone gave him time to think, not that he didn’t have plenty of time to himself, usually.

John settled his backpack down before leaning against the trunk. He sighed as he tilted his head back up to the branches. The sun seemed to make the leaves glitter as they swayed in a light breeze, the hints of a blue sky between the flickering flashes of light relaxing in their beauty. Slowly, John slid himself down to sitting, fingers brushing through the long grass at the base of the tree. It was quiet outside, save for the occasional burst of laughter or shout from nearby groups of teenagers. He liked it when things were pleasantly quiet.

After unzipping his backpack, John pulled out a sizable container and a much smaller brown paper bag. Even though his lunch had outgrown the traditional method of lunch transport a few years ago, his dad insisted on being totally old-school. There was a note written out in neat capital letters over the front of the bag in black sharpie:

SON.
I’M SO PROUD THAT YOU ARE CONTINUING TO EAT HEALTHY. YOU HAVE GROWN INTO SUCH A RESPONSIBLE YOUNG MAN.


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John rolled his eyes, making sure to do so extra hard when he noticed the little happy face at the end of the praise. At least his dad had abandoned the heart. The heart was just obscene levels of lame.

It was easy to keep his diet to only what his body needed when his dad insisted on making most of his meals. Besides the more than occasional baked good, the kitchen was usually kept free from anything with excess fats, oils, or sugars. Breakfast had been a treat and he was sure tomorrow he’d be back to the mostly egg-white omelets, high fiber oatmeal, and a lot of oils and powders that were supposed to be good for him. It wasn’t bad—after so long of eating a certain way, you got really used to it—but he sort of wanted to have greasy bacon more than once a year. Or at least more than once a year that his dad actually knew about and endorsed.

John retrieved a sandwich from the tupperware container, chewing a mouthful of turkey, lettuce, and whole wheat bread as he looked straight ahead to a gathering of students. They all seemed so carefree, playfully careening into each other while their laughs carried across the field. John smiled wistfully, wondering how nice it would be to have only small expectations for one’s future instead of heaping piles of it. What would it have been like if he hadn’t had his life planned out for him? School might even be something fun for him, instead of an obligation that was often tediously boring. He might even have people who he could call his friends, and even allow them to come over to his house because there would be no reason not to let them get that close.

A warm gust of air seemed to reach out to him, brushing his cheek with a gentle caress. John smiled lightly, wondering what places the wind could lead him to if he just got up and followed it. How far would he venture from school, from his life, if he just let the breeze lead each step? It blew in his ears, whistled through the air, and fluttered the leaves above him, all subtle motions and familiar sounds. As the wind died down, John found that his mood didn’t feel quite as melancholy as before. The grin didn’t fall from his lips as he continued with his lunch.


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As John retrieved his books at the end of the day, he felt the last half of his school schedule would certainly prove to be full of ups and downs. With Math and English promising what would likely be a disgusting workload in the future, he knew he had his work cut out for him. He absently wondered if he would even have the time for the amount he had taken on. If everyday was a day off then the course load would be a piece of cake, but he knew that by tomorrow he’d be back to his regular routine. Maybe he shouldn’t have tried quite so hard, just to make it easier.

With a bit of stuffing and an unnerving ripping sound, John managed to zip up his backpack. He’d have to let his dad know that he needed a bigger one, as there were too many textbooks to lug around and not enough bag. John was glad he had decided to take something like Theater to break up what would be an otherwise nearly full workload. He didn’t know where he would cram another book if he had been in another academic class instead. It had taken a bit of persuasion to convince his dad of the benefits in having a class revolving around acting, however. Eventually the point had been made and John had been encouraged to have fun. Really, he was mostly looking forward to not having even more homework than he otherwise would.

John thought that probably the best part of his day was that it would be rounded off with Phys. Ed. By the time the day was drawing to a close and the bell signaled the final period, John may have been a bit too eager for it. He had packed his change of gym clothes and a lock, despite it being the first day. As he guessed, he was the only one to do so, which had prompted a couple of laughs from his classmates. John Egbert, ever eager to get to work and make the rest of them look bad. It kind of hurt that they took his readiness as a jab at them, but it couldn’t really be helped. So he laughed with them, stretching as they lazed around, insisting that he just really enjoyed Gym. He was also the only one who asked to run laps that day, while the rest of his peers were busy socializing. When the bell signaled the end of day, John returned from the track, his muscles happily stretched. Forgoing a shower in favour for heading home sooner, he quickly exchanged his clothes, retrieved his bag from his locker, and headed out of the school.

///

John set off on his trek home, following one road nearly the entire time. During summer, it was nice to walk or even jog the dozen blocks home. Under a vivid sky full of puffy white clouds, as the wind blew in a current to cool the almost too warm air, the world felt kind of perfect. He enjoyed it fully as he watched children play in the front yards of the houses he passed by. Breathing in the scent of flowers and freshly cut grass and with the heat of the sun on his back, John felt an overwhelming sense that everything was right. He tried to savour the feeling while he could, walking slowly in order to bottle memories of summer for a later day. Come the dead of winter, when it was bitterly cold and the snow had lost some of its charm, he would hop on one of the school’s buses and miserably dread his return outside.

The house was empty when he got back, not that he had expected otherwise. His dad worked in the city until five, so John wasn’t expecting to see him for another couple of hours. He set his bag down on the dining room table before getting down to important business: fixing himself a quick after-school snack to tide him over until dinner. On the menu was pita pizzas, which only took about five minutes to make and then another five minutes to cook in a toaster oven. When the timer beeped and the two small pita—loaded high with reduced-fat cheese and veggies—were pulled onto a plate, John headed back to the table.

Taking a bite out of the first pizza, John chewed slowly as he pulled out his Biology book. He fished out his pencil case to retrieve a pen, and then retrieved a lined notebook, opening it up and flipping to the first page. There was a lot to do that day, and he was once again appreciative of having the night off to work. It was tough re-acclimating to such a full schedule, and John knew he needed to take full advantage of the down time. After devouring his snack in half the time it took to make, John cracked his neck and got started.

///

It was easy to lose track of the time when focusing on homework. John just got so caught up in it, fixating so closely on questions until he forgot about anything besides finding an answer for them. The last time he had glanced at the clock it had been just past 3:30, but a rattle of keys and the opening of the front door prompted him to glance over to it again. It hadn’t felt like it, but he had been working for over two hours. John frowned, noting that he had just finished going through Alternian. There was plenty still left to cover.

His dad came walking through the door a moment later, greeting his child with a smile. “Hello, son, you look like you’re hard at work. How did your day go?” His dad looked almost as put together as he had in the morning: black tie perfectly straight, light suit still crisp, and not a hair out of place even though John knew he had been wearing his fedora. The only change was the five o’clock shadow, which didn’t even seem out of place on his face.

“It went pretty well.” John cracked open his Physics book and looked at the syllabus he had placed in there, almost surprised to see that the teacher had been telling the truth when he had said there would not be much assigned. Flipping a few pages to count the minimum number of questions, he continued to summarize his day. “My morning classes don’t look like they’re actually going to be too difficult. English is the shoo-in for sucking up most of my day-to-day homework time, but that’s not really anything new. On the plus side I’ve already read the material listed on the syllabus, so that will make it easier when those units come up. It’s also after lunch so I have more time to work on any projects assigned during the week. Math also looks like it’s going to have quite a bit, but if I keep ahead in it, it won’t be a problem.”

“You seem like you have a lot for your first day.” When John looked back up from his work, he found his dad leaning against the entry into the kitchen, thoughtfully holding an empty pipe to his lips. As the story went, he had quit smoking just after John was born, but couldn’t let go of the habit of pretending to when he wanted to relax.

“There was no work assigned. I’m just working from my syllabi about a week ahead for now, to get a jump start on some of the bigger assignments.” John copied down the questions out of the textbook, solving them with the simple formula used in the examples. He would miss how easy the beginning of term was when the school year had progressed . “On the weekend I’ll be able to get a lot further in Math and Physics, since they're both just assigned from the books.”

“You’re really working hard.” John’s pencil paused mid-answer as he glanced up at his smiling dad. Of course he would be working hard. On any other night, he wouldn’t have the luxury of free hours in the evening. He couldn’t always just wait until the weekend to complete assignments, which meant that this planning ahead was necessary. He wanted to list all the things he’d rather be doing than homework he hadn’t even been assigned, things that he actually thought were fun but couldn’t enjoy. It was pointless, though, because all he’d be accomplishing was repeating the obvious. Nothing would change except the appearance of a pity cake in his near future.

“Well, it’s a night off. I might as well use it,” John explained, turning back to the question he hadn’t quite finished. Once answered, he flicked his eyes back up only to see that his dad was full on beaming at him from across the room, grinning around his pipe. “I know that look. Don’t you say it.”

“What? That I'm proud of you?” John groaned, wondering if his dad ever got tired of saying that. “I am, though, John. You do so much for your future.” John snorted at that. There was never much choice in the matter of what his future would entail. What he worked for was assumed of him. It wasn’t as if he could just ignore a huge part of what made him who he was in favour of a lighter load. There was no way he would be able to just let go, because there was no way he could let down the people who depended on him. John didn’t know what his dad really wanted him to do once he graduated, but he was sure that, when the time came, he would be told what his plans were going to be.

Adopting a sarcastic tone, John stared at his father. “That's three times today. Are you trying to set a record?” He knew he wasn’t being fair. His dad had worked so hard to provide him with as good of a life as he possibly could. The sacrifice of down-time went both ways, all for the dedicated motive to raise John to be the best that he could be. The anger was misplaced, he knew that. His dad would listen to him if he complained, maybe even let him reduce his course load or bump down from his AP classes.

“Is anything wrong, son?” The opportunity to say something arose again, as it often did. Admitting that it was too difficult and saying that he had it too hard was what proved to be impossible time and time again.

“I think I’m just feeling kind of restless.” John told himself it wasn’t exactly lying; the quick laps at school had done nothing more than warm up and stretch out his body. His demanding muscles were just not the real root of the problem. “I think I’ll go for a jog when I’m done.” With a nod, his dad seemed to accept that reasoning, slipping into the kitchen to get started on dinner.

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After the brief interruption of dinner, John continued to work through his classes until he had finished the lengthy vocabulary list for English. After plowing through the first unit of his Math text, he had to nurse a rather severe hand cramp for a few minutes, but besides that distraction, he had worked straight into the night. He paused mid-yawn as he looked to the clock, finding that it was already past ten. The surprise that colored his face came more from the fact that it wasn’t later than from the fact that it was already past ten; he usually wasn’t tired this early into the night and there was a fair chunk of hours remaining before his usual bedtime.

John got up, stretching the kinks out of his neck and back before shaking out his limbs. He felt stiff from being stationary for so long; it was something else he was going to have to get used to again. Deciding to follow through with his plan to go for a late-night jog, John headed up to his room to change into something a bit more comfortable. On his way out, he stopped by his dad’s study, knocking lightly on the door. With permission to leave and appreciation for asking, John headed out into the night.

The sky was black, scattered with the shaded grey of clouds and pinpricks of stars. Street lights illuminated his path as he jogged down the sidewalk, each footfall loud compared to the still evening. In the confines of the suburbs, the nights were always a surprising contrast to the days. The bustling life of the small community withdrew inwards and John seemed to be entirely alone. It was the city that never rested; just a short drive away made for an entire world of difference.

As his feet hit the ground and his breath steadied into a comfortable rhythm, John thought of the ways that the coming year could be better than the last. His time as a freshman had been about trying to fit in, juggling a desire to be social with a need to remain distant. It had taken a good while to find the balance between who he wanted to be and who he needed to be. There were a few roles that fit him well enough, and he was sure he could fall back into them again. There was a place for someone as studious as him at the front of each of his classes, buried in books and extra credit. There was a spot on the swim team for someone with his stamina and drive. There were a handful of tables he could sit at during lunch solely because he seemed like a nice guy. It was enough. Everything would be easier once he settled back into his paces.


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A breeze picked up around him as he pumped his legs, pushing at his back in a way that encouraged him to let it steer him. Its guidance would come in simple gusts, mostly fixed in one direction with the occasional switch that cut John across roads quickly and down many different streets. Weaving through the neighbourhood with the wind charting out his nonsensical path relaxed him to the point that he was surprised he had even been wound up so tightly. To think that school and high expectations had gotten to him more than his average day was actually pretty funny, in a sad sort of way.

Turning down another street that would have been a few blocks from his house had he taken a direct route, John noticed a large moving van parked outside a cookie-cutter house, nearly identical to the one next to it. The garage door was open wide, stacks of brown boxes piled high haphazardly around the space. What caught John’s attention was the light catching off of the polished white exoskeleton of a crustacean-type lusus. The sight of the crab-like biped meant its ward was young enough to still need a custodian. There weren’t too many young trolls living in the immediate area, as they tended to center more closely around schools when they were of that age. John’s neighbourhood was considered far enough away that only a couple of homes were occupied with trolls that went to his school, and none that were in the same grade.


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The lusus made a sharp screeching noise towards the back of the garage, followed by a few short clicks. Maybe it was talking to its troll? John had never been inside of a troll’s home, but he had heard that lusii were pretty intelligent, despite what their appearances might suggest. John took this as his cue to head back, figuring that he didn’t exactly live in close enough proximity for this to be considered his new neighbour. It also wasn’t exactly the right time of day to waltz on over and introduce himself, even if he did reside nearby.

As he jogged back down the way he had come, John kept glancing back over his shoulder. The house faded out of sight before he ever caught a glimpse of the new troll on the block, but that was alright. Sooner or later, he’d find out. His dad always liked to know who lived in the area.