“Quiet down class! Today we’ve got a new student joining us. His name is Levi Ackerman – please make him feel welcomed as we usually do at Sina Elementary.”
Levi looked out into the full classroom at all the different eyes glaring back at him. He scanned the room for an empty seat and was met by loads of different grins back at him. When you’re only a kid, there’s nothing more exciting than the prospect of a new friend – everyone wanted Levi to sit with them. Although, the tables were all taken or full, apart from one towards the back of the room where sat a blonde, a brunette, and a mousy brown-haired group of boys.
Noticing the spare seat, Levi wandered over and took the chair out from under the table, next to the tallest, mousy haired member of the group, who immediately leant over and started sniffing him. Levi glared up and pulled his body away, confused and disgusted at the action. He frowned, before pulling himself under the small table more.
“Don’t mind him, Levi. He likes to sniff people out. That’s all.” The blonde-haired boy spoke, with a proper accent considering his age, and a kind smile. “His name is Mike. I’m Erwin, and this is Nile.” He gestured at the other boy on the table with the dark hair who was scowling slightly.
“Where are you from, Levi?” Nile asked.
“Underground Park.” He answered, stiffly. Underground Park was notorious for violent crime, drugs, and fighting. Even though they were only children, it was often in the news on TV about crimes that had gone on there, and the criminals were usually missing, stating on the news they were from Underground Park.
Nile snorted. “My daddy says it’s dangerous there. My daddy is a police man and he deals with crime that’s mostly in that area and all the bad people.”
“Nile! Don’t be so rude to him.” Erwin said. “We’re colouring in things we like today. Miss said that we can draw whatever we want. As long as it makes us happy.” He smiled at the new boy, who was still looking pretty nervous. Frankly, Levi was struggling to note argue back at Nile at his distasteful words – but his mum told him to be nice and not fight today, so he was going to behave and just get him back another day. He’d remember.
“Look, Nile’s drawn a Gameboy and some chocolate.” Erwin announced, holding up the piece of work his friend had drawn. “Mike’s drawing dogs. They’re his favourite animal. Show him, Mike!” Erwin was practically jumping up and down in his seat with excitement over his friends art.
Mike moved his head away from sniffing the new boy and showed him his work, smiling proudly at it. “What are you going to draw Levi?”
He shrugged. It hadn’t been long since the accident, and he still was trying to find who he was again. He didn’t want to draw Isabel or Farlan, he didn’t like people knowing about his past, even though they were definitely his most favourite things. He didn’t have many toys or anything, other than a small rocket that Kenny had once stolen from a bag outside a charity shop. But Levi didn’t want to think about Kenny, so he wasn’t sure where to go from that. His eyes looked up and met shining, blue eyes – the only person who had been properly nice that day, and the only person who’d been kind to him for quite a while.
“What are you drawing, Erwin?” Levi mumbled.
Instantly the blondes face lit up with excitement, clearly wanting to talk about his work.
“I’m drawing loads of things! I’ve drawn my grandpa’s bolo tie he gave me. Mummy won’t let me wear it for school in case I lose it though. I’m drawing a bookshelf with my favourite type of books on it: history and medicine. And then I’m going to draw my favourite sweets and chocolates around it so it’s like a picture frame.” He grinned, showing literally all his teeth – minus one at the front, that had clearly fallen out and an adult tooth growing in its place.
Without answering, Levi looked down at the plain paper in front of him on the table. He frowned, confused how these kids had so many different things they liked so much. Why couldn’t he think? With a sigh, Levi reached into his bag and pulled out a shiny, new pencil case Kuchel had bought for him as a treat for his first day at a new school. Nile glared at him the entire time he was fishing in his bag for it.
As he unzipped it, he admired all his new pens and pencils, rubbers and rulers. Everything he thought he’d need for his first day at school: although, he didn’t have any colours. At his old school, they handed colours out to the kids.
Trying not to get jealous at the others’ shiny, rainbow pictures, Levi began to draw with his ordinary pencil, attempting to colour with that instead. When Nile was happy that Levi was following with the rest of the crowed, he stopped watching so eagerly and carried on with his own work. He always wanted to impress the teacher, wanting to get his work shown properly on the wall before the lunch bell was due to ring.
When Erwin looked up from his work, he glanced over to Levi’s and then looked upset.
“Do you not have any colours, Levi?” Erwin asked. Levi shook his head, cheeks reddening a bit because he hated being the one who didn’t fit in with everyone, and he was starting to feel like it. “Here, you can share mine.” The beaming grin was there again, as the blonde spun his pencil case open for the two of them.
“Thanks.” Levi muttered, as he reached out to get the green pencil. As he started to colour in again, he felt Nile staring at him with the disapproving look again, and definitely heard a small tut under his breath. Clearly, he was unhappy that Levi had gone to join their table, and even more unhappy that his supposed best friend was being so nice to the new kid.
“Oh, Erwin look! We have the same colours!” Nile shouted out, holding up a red pencil crayon. He wanted to draw the attention away from Levi, to show Erwin how alike they were. But the blonde-haired boy was unphased, and instead carried on with what he was doing.
Erwin sparked conversation again, asking Levi all about his favourite foods and animals. Who he lived with, what he liked to do in his free time. Eventually, after he felt a bit more comfortable, Levi slowly gave small answers to the questions. Mike chipped in too, adding what he thought. And Nile kept trying to have one up on him, trying to prove he was better or something.
“What’s your favourite game to play Levi?”
He thought hard about the question, thinking about the card games he’d taught Levi, Isabel and Farlan back at the old house. The card games that they’d learnt from watching Kenny with his friends, or from an old book that Isabel’s grandma had given to her to teach her how to use cards. “Go fish.”
“WELL I can play that. And my daddy is teaching me how to play poker. We play it with biscuits.”
Erwin gave Nile a funny look, then turned to smile at Levi. “I like go fish. Maybe we can play it together one day?”
“Yeah I remember playing it with my grandma. It’s fun.” Mike answered, wanting to get involved. Nile crossed his arm across the table, looking very frustrated at the new boy. His anger was getting worse by the minute, until the teacher called them all out.
“Okay class, it’s time to stop drawing. We’ll go around a table at a time and you can tell me what you’ve all drawn.” She smiled softly and started with a table of three girls at the front. They had drawn horses, and princesses, mainly. Levi snorted quietly to himself, thinking how if Isabel was there, she’d have drawn anything but those typical girly things.
It went around a few more tables, people loudly presenting their favourite things: cars, bikes, chocolate – a lot of chocolate – animals. A few tended to have the same things on. One boy had drawn his best friend on his.
Then it got to Levi’s table.
“Nile, you go first.”
He looked smugly at the other three on the table, before standing up and holding out his work, coughing to clear his voice before presenting. But Levi was certain he didn’t actually need to cough, but only did it to sound posh.. “So, I’ve drawn my Gameboy daddy bought me because it’s the best thing ever and better than any card game. I drew my favourite chocolate bar. I’ve drawn my daddy’s car because it goes really fast.”
“That’s lovely Nile, and nicely presented. Very confident. Mike, what have you drawn?”
Nile sat down with a firm smile on his face, making sure to look right at Levi and Erwin as he did so. But they paid him no attention, and directed their gaze onto their tallest friend and what he was going to show.
He stood up. “Dogs. A lot of dogs. All different breeds – but my favourite is this one here.” He pointed at a fluffy looking dog with big teeth. “It’s a husky. They’re fluffy and can keep really warm when it’s snowy.”
“Ah. I can see that they’re your most favourite animal, Mike. That’s really lovely. Levi, do you feel confident enough?” She asked, smiling softly. He nodded, then stood up slowly. Even though everyone was small because they were only eight, Levi was still smaller than the rest of his new class, especially on his table. Nile, who clearly noticed this, snorted. Erwin gave him a mucky look.
“What have you drawn, Levi?” The teacher smiled.
“A bird. And tea. And flowers.” Levi mumbled, so quietly the rest of the class could barely hear, but they could all see. Levi was good at drawing: really good. The bird looked almost real sat in the flowers, and the little cup of tea on the side looked as though you could lift it out of the paper and drink.
Erwin was looking up at Levi as he held his picture with a big smile. He was very taken by the new boy in his class, and new he wanted to make friends with him. Erwin thought he was the best person he’d ever met and was really impressed with his drawing. He was like a proud parent, the way he was watching him.
“That’s brilliant Levi. What a lovely drawing. Would you like it to go on the wall with the others?” the teacher then asked, smiling again. But Levi shook his head in a firm no. He wanted to give the picture to Kuchel. His first piece of work at his brand-new school – he knew she’d be super proud of him. Of course, the teacher understood this and smiled at the new boy.
“Not a problem. Your turn, Erwin. Best till last?” She joked, smiling as the blonde stood up proudly and started telling the classroom about his love of books and everything, he was interested in. Levi couldn’t take his eyes of him – he liked how brave and happy he was. He wished that one day he could be just like that.
Just as Erwin sat back down, the bell sounded for lunch, and the children around the room all stood up to grab their packed lunches and head out the door to the playground. The sun was shining, so everyone was allowed to eat on the grass today. Levi’s idea of hell. Despite being so young, he was very cleanly in his ways and refused to ever eat where there would be muck. Kuchel had made this clear to the school upon visiting, letting them know his quirks and things he had to do or where he had to go. They, of course, were very understanding and let Levi sit inside.
Nile, Mike, and Erwin had all stood up and wandered over to get their bags, the former too heading for the door before Erwin walked back to the table to get Levi. He wanted to make sure Levi was included with everything.
“Have you got lunch with you?” He smiled, asking.
“Yes.” Levi answered, reaching again into his bag and pulling out a sandwich his mum had made for him that morning. He then proceeded to pull out hand sanitizer and a napkin. Nile laughed at the sight.
“Erwin, are you coming outside?” Mike shouted across the classroom, louder than necessary. But Erwin’s gaze was still on Levi, who hadn’t moved from his spot on the table.
The teacher had walked over to Levi by this point, to come and check on him to make sure his first day was going okay. Once she crouched down at the table, Levi spoke, noticing the dark-haired boy was just looking at his sandwich with a confused face.
“Do I have to eat outside?” He asked, worried.
“Not if you wouldn’t like to. The other children are only going outside because of the nice weather. But the classroom is still available, your mum told me how you like to eat inside at a nice clean table. So, do I, I’m not a fan of eating in mud either.” She smiled kindly.
“Thank you, miss.” Levi smiled, and then began to wash his hands, clearly indicating what he wanted to do. He poured enough hand sanitizer on his hands to cover his whole arms, practically, but washed his fingers thoroughly – including behind his nails, and in the gaps between his fingers, scrubbing until it had evaporated. The other three boys were just watching on, before Nile’s tummy grumbled loudly.
“Erwin?” Nile called, voice agitated.
Erwin shook his head firmly. “No, I’m going to stay inside with Levi. Is that okay, Levi?”
His grey eyes looked up and he gave a very subtle, but genuine, smile at Erwin who then placed his lunch bag down and sat opposite his new friend and began to talk again. The teacher, realising how happy Levi seemed with Erwin, stood up and walked to the front of the class to eat her own lunch. Before he properly got his food out of the packet, Erwin gestured for some hand sanitizer and copied Levi: washing his hands and laying his food out in the same way.
Mike and Nile both strutted out of the classroom, Mike happy, but Nile extremely annoyed that Levi had taken Erwin away from him. And it was definitely to stay like that, judging by how much they got on only after one day.
They spent the entire lunch getting to know each other better, and once no one else was there, Levi spoke confidently in front of Erwin, and constantly kept grinning back at him. Erwin’s smiles were so warm and happy that he couldn’t help it.
By the end of the lunch hour, Erwin had moved and taken Mike’s seat next to Levi. And he spent the entire afternoon there, talking to no one but Levi as they coloured by numbers in the afternoon, and practiced their maths and writing.
Once the end of day bell rang, everyone stood up to pack their bags, as did Levi. He put his drawing neatly away in a folder Kuchel had got him and put his pencil case neatly down the side of his bag. He felt warm inside, so much better than he had felt all day about the prospect of starting a new school. And it felt amazing, to have someone he was excited to see tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that, too.
His thoughts were put on hold with the interruption of the boys’ voice, “Are you walking home, Levi?” Erwin asked.
“No, my mummy’s coming for me in the car.” He answered, “My house is a bit out of town.” He stood up behind his chair and tucked it neatly under the table, Erwin noticing his action and copying it too.
Nile snorted, “I bet you don’t live around here because our houses are so big and you’re from Underground Park.”
“Shut up.” Levi growled, his face setting into a stoic, unimpressed expression, causing Nile to do as he was told. Levi was already fed up of ths boy. His school would be perfect if he wasn’t a part of it, Levi thought, but he had a gut feeling that Nile would be involved in his life for quite a while. Least he had Erwin and Mike to even that out.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Levi?” Erwin asked again, grinning at his new best friend.
“Yes.” Levi said, smiling back at him. “I’d like that.”
Erwin gave Levi a hug, before the three friends walked out of school, meeting with Nile’s dad who was clearly planning on walking them all home together. Erwin stopped and waved to Levi as he waited in the classroom for Kuchel to get there to collect him. The teacher had asked her to come in at the end of the day, to talk about how her son was and give feedback. They were keeping a keen eye on Levi, considering everything that had happened, they wanted to make sure he’d be okay in such a busy environment. But it seemed like he was settling in just perfectly.
Kuchel appeared a few minutes later, and after checking no other kids were around, Levi ran up to her for a hug. He clung to her leg as the teacher spoke about how well he behaved, how good his drawings were, and how he got on so well with the new boys. Kuchel’s heart lifted and felt warm with happiness and proudness for her son.
“I think that calls for some sweeties on the way home, don’t you think, Levi?” Kuchel asked, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. She felt him nod into her leg.
“Thank you again, Miss, for today. Levi will be back here tomorrow morning.” She smiled, taking her sons bag from him so he could have free hands.
“Of course. We’ll see you tomorrow, Levi. We have music tomorrow which I think you’ll love!” The teacher exclaimed, standing up to walk the family to the classroom door and wave them off, as they both waved back enthusiastically. Levi decided he liked his new teacher, she was kind and had a soft voice. He liked people who were nice to him.
When they were out of the main school building, Kuchel saw it as the perfect time to ask about his day. “So tell me about your new friends, Levi.”
Levi was giddy, practically jumping with excitement to talk about his new friends, as Kuchel unlocked the car doors and the two began to climb inside the seats. “Mike sniffed me. Apparently, he likes dogs, so he likes to sniff people. Just like a dog.”
“He sounds fun! Dogs are great, so I don’t blame him. Who was the one that shared pencils with you?”
“Erwin. He’s my best friend. He sat with me on lunch and washed his hands because I did and everything.” He smiled, blushing slightly at the thought of a new friend.
“He sounds lovely, Levi.”
“And we were sat with Nile. I don’t like Nile.” Levi frowned just thinking about him, annoyed at the fact he brought him up.
“Oh no, sweetie, why not? Maybe it was because it’s your first day and he is protective of his friends. I know someone who was like that.” She smiled at him, clearly referring to Levi around Isabel and Farlan. Levi wouldn’t let other kids talk to them when they played together. He liked to have his best friends to himself.
“He kept teasing me about where I’m from.”
Kuchel frowned. “Well, that’s not very nice, is it? Do you need me to say anything to the teacher?”
“No!” Levi cried out. He didn’t want his mum to bring something like that up when he’d just started a new school. He didn’t want to get called a snitch, or a grass, or for everyone to fall out with him because he told on one of the most popular boys.
“Okay. Well, let’s get you out of the car and get some sweets.” She said, as they approached home. Kuchel tried to push her concern to the side as they walked into the shop underneath their flat and picked out the food they wanted. She knew what children were liked, after all, and assumed they’d be playing together: practically best friends, by the end of the term. That’s what always happens.
Levi ate the sweets quickly that night, and after brushing his teeth and washing, climbed into bed and fell asleep thinking about his new best friend Erwin, and all the fun they were going to have together at his new school. For the first time since the accident, Levi was falling asleep with a different face in his mind, and he felt so happy for it.