David feels nervous when he’s called out of homeroom. He’s fairly sure he hasn’t done anything wrong, he certainly hasn’t done anything wrong intentionally but it takes less than two minutes sitting on the hard plastic chairs outside the guidance counselor's office to get him wringing his hands and mentally running through everything he’s done in the three weeks since the start of junior year that might have caused this.
He’s still floundering when the door swings open and his name is called.
There is somebody already sitting in the chairs in front of the desk.
This was getting stranger and more unnerving by the minute.
Social cues are David’s forte but even he knows enough to figure out that he’s supposed to sit down in the empty seat, so he does so, stealing a glance at the other person facing down the guidance counsellor.
He’s a total stranger.
It’s a medium sized school, David couldn’t match the names to the faces of all his classmates but he’s fairly sure of his ability to recognise most of them in passing and he’s equally sure that he’s never seen this guy before. And he doesn’t look anything like a freshman.
The conversation that follows is quick and prefuntory and blessedly nothing to do with him being in any sort of trouble. The other guy in the office is a new senior, Ron, and the guidance counsellor had picked out David to help settle him in.
It doesn’t quite make sense, he can't help but think, though he'd never say anything of course. David isn't the type of person who questions authority. Still he can't help but wonder as they exit the office. Surely it ought to be another senior showing their new classmate around?
He’s grateful for the opportunity of course, it’s always nice to get recognition from teachers, but David still knows how things are done and this isn’t quite right.
Even with the bubble of pride in him for being recognised, after five minutes walking the halls David is tempted to rush the tour, Ron doesn’t seem interested in anything he has to say about the school and David has no clue where to start with casual conversation when Ron looks so much more grown-up than him (and sure David is one of the youngest in his year, cursed with a summer birthday, but even if Ron is one of the oldest of the seniors the gap is still less than two years, Ron just carries himself differently from how David’s classmates do) and has such dark look on his face and literal spikes on his jacket, but then David notices something that has him stumbling over nothing...
There’s a book under Ron’s arm. From this angle it’s impossible to make out the title but it’s thick, a hardback, and the cover looks too dark and old for it to be some trashy celebrity autobiography or cheap thriller.
There’s no reason for him to be carrying a book, but he is anyway, and that means that he and David have something in common after all.
He wants, suddenly, to know more about Ron. What is he reading and why did he chose it? Does he read a lot? Surely he must, to handle a thick book like that. It puts him in a whole new light and David decides his severe expression must just be a sign of deep thought, his indifference to the tour surely because Ron doesn’t need a guide to help him make sense of the layout of a small cluster of buildings.
With one revelation he goes from having no idea of what to say to Ron to having a million, but no idea where to start. And Ron certainly isn’t going to create an opening for him. Ron is wearing leather and scowling and has barely looked once at David since he walked into the counsellor's office and how can David blame him when he suddenly feels so small and bland and boring standing a sweater that he would have called brown before but it probably more like dark beige and completely unable to think of a single interesting thing to say. Even the books in his bag are all school books.
No, he can’t try and talk to Ron now, not like he wants to, he’d only make a fool of himself.
But whatever else he may be, David is not a quitter.
He might not be cool enough to start a conversation with Ron now, but there has to be some way he can learn to make himself cool enough.