Tripitaka was incredibly nervous. He double and triple checked his bag to make sure he had everything he needed. He almost choked on his breakfast twice. As his mum drove him to school, he couldn't stop fiddleling with the buttons on his shirt.
Today was his first day at a new school. The first day of his sophomore year. Tripitaka was starting a month later than everyone else. He was going to stand out more than he hoped, and in his experience, that was a bad thing.
As they pulled up to the front of the school, his mum smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, sweetheart," she spoke, squeezing his shoulder. "This will be a lot better than your old school, I promise."
Tripitaka tried to smile back with as much reassurance. "I know," he said, opening the car door. "Ma's gonna pick me up, right?"
His mum nodded. As he got out of the car, she called out, "Remember to have fun! And make some friends!" Tripitaka nodded and closed the car door. He took a deep breath. You can do this.
Tripitaka started walking through front doors of the school. First, he needed to get his schedule. He walked into the office and to the front desk. The woman sitting there was typing something on a computer.
"H-hello?" Tripitaka called, grabbing her attention. "I'm a new student. I need to get my schedule."
"You'll need to see the guidance counselor, then." The woman pointed to a hallway behind her. "She's down that way. Third door on the left. Can't miss it."
Tripitaka thanked her and started walking down the hallway. Third door on the left. Third door on the left... He came to a door with the words MS. GUANYIN GUIDANCE COUNSELOR printed in large bold letters. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
The room was slightly smaller than his own room at home. There was a desk near the far end of the room. There were two chairs in front of the desk and another in the corner of the room. A watercolor painting of a chinese dragon was framed on the wall. Tripitaka noticed there were two people in the room.
A boy around his age was reading a book in the chair in the corner. He had tanned skin and messy, dark brown hair. He wore a black jacket and a crimson shirt. His jeans were faded with a single tear at the knee. The boy's emerald eyes only left his book for a few seconds when Tripitaka opened the door.
A woman was sitting behind the desk. She must have been Ms. Guanyin. She had a pale face and black hair pulled back in a bun. She wore a plain white blouse. When Tripitaka opened the door, she looked up and smiled kindly at him.
"Come in! Come in!" Ms. Guanyin gestured the the empty chairs in front of her. "Please have a seat. You are the new student, yes?"
"Y-yes, ma'am." Tripitaka carefully closed the door behind him. "I need my schedule. M-my name is Tripitaka Tang." He sat down in one of the chairs and set his bag down on the floor beside him.
"Of course!" She shuffled through a drawer behind her desk. "Your locker number and combination will be on there as well. You will need to stay after school sometime this week to get your textbooks." Ms. Guanyin handed him a piece of paper.
"Wukong?" The boy in the corner looked up from his book. "Please show Mr. Tang around a bit before his first class starts."
The boy -- Wukong -- wordlessly put his book in his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He started walking towards the door. Tripitaka quickly thanked the guidance counselor for her help, grabbed his things, and followed after him. Wukong turned to him. "Hand me your schedule."
"What? Oh," Tripitaka handed the boy the paper Ms. Guanyin had given him. Wukong looked over the paper for a few seconds.
"So...," he started, "you're a sophomore, too?"
"Y-yeah." Tripitaka remembered his mum's request for him to make friends. "I'm guessing you're a sophomore, then?"
Wukong began walking. Tripitaka followed. "You're actually in a few of my classes." Upon seeing Tripitaka's hopeful expression, he continued, "But unless you're looking to get alienated by every other social clique, I wouldn't try making friends with an outcast."
The pair passed by boy who shouted after them, "Hey, Miss Sunshine! Finally find a boyfriend?" Wukong casually displayed his middle figure to the boy until they rounded a corner.
"That could be your life," Wukong warned. "Or they might just completely ignore you. You never really know."
"I've dealt with worse," Tripitaka answered honestly. "Kinda always been an outcast."
Wukong laughed. He must have thought it was some kind of joke. "You've gotta be pretty tough, then. Like a badass." Wukong flashed him a smile. Tripitaka laughed.
"I'd hardly say that." Was this what making friends was like?
The bell rang, and Wukong grabbed onto his wrist. "C'mon, we have the same first period. I'll show you where the uncool kids sit."
Tripitaka knew he tended to trust people too easily. He knew people could and would take advantage of that when given the chance. He knew it could just take one thing, one simple thing about himself, and he could be left behind in the dust. But as Wukong pulled him through crowded hallways, Tripitaka smiled.