As he looked at his new school, the key to his future, Simon felt the uneasiness in his stomach. It was easy to not think about what lay ahead of him during the long hot months of summer. But now that he was approaching the large campus, it wasn't so easy.
He glanced next to him, where his best friend Nadine sat in excited anticipation. She gazed at the school through her window with a beaming smile, not a worry across her tan face. Simon smiled to himself. They had known each other since they were in preschool, but lately when he looked at her he felt strange. His heart started to beat faster, his stomach housed butterflies, and his palms got all sweaty. Could it be...? He shook his head and pushed those thoughts to the side. She was his best friend, he could never think of her like that.
"How are you guys doing back there? You two are never this quiet, I thought you would be talking my ear off by now." said Simon's older brother Marcus from the front seat. He had volunteered to drive them to school, to save them from an embarrassing scene of their mothers crying as they dropped them off in front of the entire student body.
"We're good! Just nervous I guess", Simon expressed with a little shake in his voice.
"You have nothing to be scared about, this place is amazing! Besides, you've got me to show you around. No one will mess with you when you're with me." Marcus stated as he looked at Simon through the rear view window with a smile.
That is the understatement of the year, thought Simon.
Marcus was, well...the king of Pride Rock High School, just as many generations of their family had been before him. Their great great grandfather Ezekiel King built the school in the 1930's to help the surrounding community during The Great Depression. And in the generations since, the King family has always made it their mission to give back to the community whenever they could. Through charitable donations, keeping their various businesses in town to bring jobs to their community, along with keeping the school up to date with modern advancements. So whether they meant to or not, people treated the King family like royalty at the school.
But Marcus probably would've been a big man on campus even if he wasn't a King. He was a junior and already the quarterback of the football team, forward for the basketball team, and the pitcher for the baseball team. He was also regularly volunteered as a tutor for underclassmen with his girlfriend Serena, the prettiest and nicest cheerleader that you will ever meet. As well as being on debate team and running for student body president. It also helped that he was what Nadine called 'a hunk'. Being over 6 feet tall with a skin the color of mahogany, a muscular build with wide shoulders and a small waist, and natural tight coils that fell to his shoulders.
If you had to be related to someone going into Pride Rock High School, there was no better guy for the job.
Marcus gave Simon a warm smile as he turned into the parking lot. The two freshman in the backseat looked up at the buildings that were to be their school for the next 4 years. The original building from the 30s was kept as the main administration building, but the Kings had expanded the campus in recent years. The school was actually made up of 6 two story buildings, each associated with a different area of learning. Such as math, history or world language.
Once they were in the parking lot, Marcus turned and parked near the back of the lot near a group of students. Clearly these were the cool kids, or at least the jocks that Matthew associated with. When he pulled up, a few members of the group recognized the car and called out to Simon's older brother with inviting words. One guy shouted "Hey, Mufasa! Hows the team looking this year?" Marcus turned back to Simon and Nadine and smiled, then opened the door and climbed out to greet the group.
"Pretty good, I think we can win back that State Trophy back from those damn Black Bears this year. Go Lions!" Marcus shouted as the group roared with him. The nickname 'Mufasa' was given to Marcus by Coach Rafiki. He immigrated to the United States in the 1970s from Kenya, and has been the varsity head coach of the football team ever since. As well as a good friend to the King family. He started the tradition of when someone joins the varsity football team, they get an African nickname. Since the school’s mascot, the lion, originates from Africa. As well as their school having a primarily African-American population. He gave Marcus the name Mufasa because it means "King" in Manazoto.
As Marcus roared with his teammates, Simon looked on with his anxiety heightened. How could he ever compare to that? For a moment, Simon compared himself to his brother. He was about 5'9" with some muscle, though he was more long and nimble, which is how he made it to state last year for cross country. He grew out his natural hair similar to Marcus. His grades were okay, his teachers complained that he often had his head in the clouds. Besides that, there wasn't anything special about him besides his family. Though the family legacy of success weighed heavily on his shoulders for as long as he could remember.
He wrung his hands together, thinking out the logistics of getting out of the car and just running home. When he suddenly felt a hand on top of his own, Simon looked over to find Nadine looking at him with light concern in her eyes. "Don't worry Simba, we're gonna get through this. We'll make our own mark on this place, I just know it". Nadine had been calling him Simba ever since they first met in preschool. He had been so nervous to meet people that when she asked his name, it came out 'Simba'. Though he quickly tried to remedy the mistake, she had laughed and declared she would only call him Simba from then on. He had tried to retort by calling her Nala, but it didn't have the desired effect because she actually liked the nickname. Grinning at the memory, he climbed out of the car throwing his backpack over his shoulder.
They walked over to where Marcus was standing with his friends, and the older boy quickly introduced the two to his friends. Though many of them already knew the two from visits to the King household over the years. After a brief conversations about the nerves of the first day of school, Marcus excused himself so that he could help Simon and Nadine find their first classes.
As they walked through the gates, the two younger members of the group were in absolute awe of the size of the campus they were about to join. In the middle of the courtyard was a statue of the school's mascot. Around five feet tall, four feet long and encased in bronze, the lion had its head thrown back and appeared to be letting out a mighty roar. The campus was oriented so that the buildings stood in a semi circle around the lion, with three on each side. It allowed the lion to face the famous 'Pride Rock' at the end of the campus. The rock was about 20 feet tall, 15 feet wide, and it pointed toward the school in a dull point. It was originally going to be removed but it went too deep into the ground so Ezekiel King had ordered the builders to leave it.
Marcus lead the two awe struck teens to the administration building to get their schedules printed off. Luckily they had arrived early enough so that there wasn't a line out of the building, as there was surely to be later that morning. This building also housed the cafeteria and the library. As they were walking through the cafeteria, they passed the school trophy case. Simon briefly glanced at it, but he stopped as something caught his eye. Marcus and Nadine only made it a few more steps before they noticed they had left Simon behind, and walked back to look at the case with him. What had caught Simon's eye was a picture of his and Marucs’s father, Solomon King, standing on Pride Rock. In this picture Solomon and his best friend, Manfred Beast, were holding up the trophy for the State Championship of 1980. It was a tradition at the school that after a major sport or club victory, the leaders go up on the rock and lead the team in the 'Lion's Roar'. On this day, it was pouring down rain. Coach Rafiki managed to snap the picture just before the two slipped and fell down the rock. Solomon sprained his wrist from the fall, and Manfred got a gash across his left eye. Which healed into a dark scar, earning him the nickname 'Scar'.
To this day Manfred is still Solomon's best friend, but now they are also business partners in their multi million dollar law firm "Beast and King". To which Simon, Matthew and Manfred's son Terrance, are the heirs.
Almost as if he was summoned from thoughts about his family, Terrance walked into the cafeteria with a slick smile on his face. "If you start comparing yourself to our fathers now Simon, the rest of high school is gonna be an uphill battle!" he exclaimed sarcastically.
Marcus strode over and enveloped their family friend in a hug. Terrance was a year younger and quite a bit shorter than Marcus, only reaching just below Simon's height. But was almost three times as muscular as Simon. He got this way by spending most of his spare time in the weight room. He had eyes so dark you could barely see his pupils, along with dark hair that was cut into a pompadour on his head. He was ¾ Native American so his skin was a light brown like fresh espresso. He also had a scar strikingly similar to his father's across his left eye, after a fall in his family home. This earned him the same nickname as his father.
"It's pretty daunting isn't it? That we have to live up to that?" said Scar with a slanted grin on his face. Simon looked over at Scar, he saw that his eyes were sad, as if this had been a problem for him for a long time.
"Let's not intimidate them to much Scar, its their first day. Let’s save the stories about our father's until they're at least through September." said Marcus as he clapped Scar on the shoulder with a smile.
"But before you guys go to class", Marcus noted with a small smirk "I need to show you guys something. Something that might just put all this into perspective." Matthew walked over to the door, motioning the group to follow. Scar seemed to understand what was happening and followed the older boy. Simon looked at Nadine to see her eyebrows furrowed in slight confusion.
Simon draped his arm around her shoulder, saying in a teasing tone "Oh come on Nala, it'll be an adventure."
She turned her head to face him, and smirked with a gleam of adventure in her eyes. With her braids falling over her mocha colored skin. All of a sudden those stubborn butterflies came back into Simon's stomach with a vengeance. He became hyper aware of just how close they were, and how much he wanted to close the short distance between them. But before he could process any of those thoughts, Nadine began to walk forward and follow the older boys out the door to the adventure that awaited them. Simon took a deep breath and followed her, making note to evict those butterflies from his stomach as soon as possible.
The two young teenagers followed Marcus across campus as he lead them towards Pride Rock. It didn't take them long to follow the beaten path up to the iconic natural structure. Since Marcus was leading the group he was the first to arrive, and he began to climb up as he had done many times before. It was about a 45 degree angle up the side of the rock, so it did require a bit of effort to climb up. Scar followed, but with not nearly as much grace as his predecessor. Simon and Nadine didn't fair much better, so they fell behind the upperclassmen. But after a short but difficult climb, they managed to make it to the top.
Simon and Nadine walked over to the tip of the Rock where Matthew and Scar were standing, and what they saw made them both stop in their tracks. From atop the rock, you were able to see the whole campus. The buildings were positioned so they were almost standing at attention to those standing on the rock. They could see all of the students arriving for the first day, although they may not have noticed the small group atop the Rock. It was a sight not many got to see, but one that you would always remember.
Marcus walked over to Simon and put his hand on his little brother's shoulders. "Take it all in little brother. Everything the light touches on this campus is the responsibility of the King family. A King's time here rises and falls like the sun. One day, I'll be graduated and the sun will set on my time here. And will rise on you as the new King on campus."
Simon stood in awe of the view and his brother's wise words. "It's all so much, do you really think I'll be ready for that?"
Marcus smiled. "I know you will be ready. But until that day comes, you've me by your side to help you along the way."
"Don't forget about me!", Nadine came over to stand with the brothers. "You'll have me every step of the way." She looked over at Simon and smiled, giving him a light punch on his shoulder. Simon glanced at Nadine out of the corner of his eye, she was stunning in the light reflecting off of the buildings. Her eyes sparkling more so than usual. He smiled, and for the first time today, was in complete peace about the future that lay ahead of him.