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Can't Think Straight

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Erik stared out of the filthy glass window of the bus as it approached the school. He was terrified. It was his first day, and already he had gotten a few strange looks from his new classmates. It made sense, seeing as he was going into Junior year at a new school. Who starts a new school in Junior year anyways? Erik thinks to himself. I do, apparently.

 

Over the summer, he had switched foster homes, due to the lack of responsible guardians in the first one. He really hadn’t minded not having the adults around, and he could take care of himself well enough. But the family had decided that he was a burden, and so he ended up with the Hendriks. They were nice enough people, but they had never had children before Erik. He wasn’t even sure if they were looking to adopt, rather than just use him as an extra help around the house, like most of the other families he had stayed with over the past few years. Mr. Hendrik owned an Auto Repair shop, and upon learning that Erik was handy with tools, insisted on giving him a part time job. Erik had accepted, knowing he would need to save as much money as he could before he turned eighteen and aged out of the foster care system.

 

The bus screeched to a halt in front of a tall brick building covered in vines. The words Talverton Academy hung in big silver letters across the front of the building, with a red and black banner reading “Go Badgers!” draped below it. A few students roamed the green around the front entrance, as they waited for classes to start. As Erik stepped off the bus and onto the concrete sidewalk leading to the front doors, he noticed a very fancy car pull up to the curb behind the bus. He watched as a small brunette boy stepped out of the passenger side and quickly closed the door, a panicked look on his face. The car sped away, just barely a second after his hand had left the handle. The boy took a breath and turned around, slinging his backpack over his shoulder, a small smile sliding onto his face, something that seemed like a well-polished lie. Erik realized that he had been staring, and quickly turned away and hurried towards the school’s main entrance.

 

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Erik’s first two classes had been filled with stares and whispers, and by the third period, he was sure that every possible rumor that could have spread had even reached some of the teachers. His math teacher had already asked him if he spoke English, and Erik had to explain that no, he was not an exchange student, but that yes, he was fluent in English and German, but not Japanese. He didn’t care, of course, about the silly talk going around. He knew that after a few weeks at the school, people would eventually come to realize that he was not a ballet dancer or a black belt in Taekwondo. Someone would eventually bring their fancy new car to his shop and see him working with spare parts, then spread that rumor. And someone else might ask about his family, and he would explain his parents’ death, only to have a slightly skewed version of it spread around the school again. But one thing he was not anticipating was the school’s club fair.

The tables in the cafeteria had all been pushed to the sides of the room, forming a ring along the perimeter. Each table had a poster or banner of some sort, along with clipboards for people to write their names on. Erik followed the swarm of students into the room, and began to look around at what the fair had to offer. There was everything from Model UN to the Equestrian Club to the Cupcake Baking Club. Erik slowly passed each table, before spotting a sign for the Chess Club. He walked over to the table, and was greeted by a tall teacher with an accent Erik couldn’t quite place. He smiled and nodded politely to the teacher as he picked up the pen to write his name on the clipboard. He paused a moment, before realizing he was the first person to sign up.

“Does nobody at this school play chess?” Erik asked incredulously.

“Very few.” The teacher sighed, adjusting his glasses and peering down at Erik. “It is nice to see a new face. I think my regular students will be excited as well.”

Erik smiled and nodded again, before continuing through the various club tables.

 

It wasn’t long before Erik came to a table decked out in every color of the rainbow (literally). The banner hanging on the front read GSA in big, sparkly gold letters. Erik paused to read the poster on the table, intrigued that a school like this would have a GSA. Suddenly, a voice behind him spoke.

"Ya queer?"

Erik whirled around to find two big blue eyes staring up at him.

"What? No! No absolutely not, why-"

"Yeahhh. You are."

One of the blue eyes closed in a wink, as a bright pink flyer was stuffed into Erik’s hand. The eyes became a face with shoulder length brown hair and a lilac sweater.

“Charles Xavier.” the boy said, sticking out his hand to shake Erik’s.

Erik just stood there for a moment, gawking as he realized that the boy standing before him was the same boy from earlier that morning, the one with the fancy car and fake smile. He turned and walked away, leaving the boy there, hand still stretched out in a friendly gesture.