After the incident in the restaurant, Gibby didn’t leave his bedroom for two days. Loud alternative rock music shook the walls and rattled the window panes of the Robinsons’ rented home.
Worried that the noise would disturb their new neighbors, Jonathan ventured out onto the front lawn to make sure that the nearby homes couldn’t hear the music beyond the muffled thump of the bass. The last thing he wanted was for one of the residents of Shepherd’s Crook to call the cops on them.
If it weren’t for the occasional bang or thump coming from inside Gibby’s room, Jonathan would be beating down the locked door, but Gibby was upset and the boy needed to blow off steam, so Jonathan let him rage in his room alone.
Sunday afternoon the music suddenly shut off. As fast as it started, it stopped, leaving a dizzying throbbing to the silence that hung in the air. Jonathan held his breath, waiting for footsteps or any other sign that Gibby was coming downstairs; when he didn’t, Jonathan went up and tapped on his door.
“Hey kiddo, can I come in?” Jonathan spoke through the locked door.
When Gibby opened the door he looked tired. The deep purple creases under his bloodshot eyes worried his father. His paint splattered camouflage shorts hung off his narrow hips. Gibby’s tall, lean frame was a sharp contrast to the athletic swimmer’s body that he had before the fire.
“Hey Dad,” Gibby ran his fingers through his overgrown hair. “I’m sorry about the music.”
“Don’t worry about it. Are you feeling better now that you got it out of your system?” Entering the bedroom, Jonathan sat down on the edge of the unmade bed. “You know the people here have probably never seen someone with severe burn injuries before.”
“I know,” Gibby blew a long sigh through his lips.
“We’re new here and we’ve got to find a way to fit in. With school starting tomorrow, I want you to try to make some friends…please?”
It was an argument they’d had before.
“I’m making spaghetti for dinner,” Jonathan knew that would bring a smile to Gibby’s face. “Why don’t you jump in the shower and meet me downstairs.”
Gibby gave Jonathan a curious look bringing a deep chuckle from his father.
“Really,” Jonathan cocked an eyebrow, “you mean to tell me that you can’t smell that teenage funk coming off you? Boy, I’m surprised you don’t have stink swivels rising around you, it smells that bad; now go hit the shower and then you can help me with dinner.”
“Jeez, Dad, you really need to cut the cord already.” Gibby rolled his eyes at his father insisting on driving him to school on the first day. “I know where I’m going. I rode my bike past it on that first night we got here aaaaand” Gibby drew out the last word for emphasis, “It’s in the opposite direction of the hospital.”
“I’m taking you. End of discussion--”
“No buts, Gibby, we’ve talked about this already.”
“You talked,” Gibby grumbled under his breath.
“Well I’m your father--”
“And I’m eighteen,” Smirking at his attempt to irritate his dad.
Now, Jonathan’s eye narrowed in on his son. “Yes, you are…you’re an eighteen year-old kid!”
Gibby hated being treated like a child. “Mom would let me--”
Jonathan reeled back as if he’d been slapped, “Don’t say her name!” He paced around the room as anger flushed his face, bringing a burning sensation to his scars.
Since the fire, Jonathan never spoke about his wife, but he didn’t want to fight with his son.
“How about a compromise?” Jonathan suggested, “I drive you to school in the morning and you can ride your bike home.”
“Really?” Gibby jumped up, surprised that his father was giving in, even after he tried to piss him off by mentioning his mother.
“Really, now come set the plates while I finish up the garlic bread.”
The whirlwind of activity in front of the school was exquisitely choreographed. Yellow buses idled in a long line, patiently waiting to unload children of all different ages at the main entrance. Teachers were filling in the parking lot to the left of the school while parents were starting to drop off the walkers at the open space to the right.
Jonathan pulled his SUV among the other parents’ cars and observed their routine. Each car would pull up to the sidewalk, a bright faced child would jump out and the waving mom or dad would drive off as their child rushed to join their classmates.
It was a sight that was happening all across the country as children returned to school. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until Jonathan noticed a police car pulling up a few cars behind him.
“I wonder what this is about.” Jonathan mumbled keeping his eyes focused on the rearview mirror.
Nervously watching the officer behind him, Jonathan hadn’t noticed that it was his turn to pull up to the designated drop off spot. Not wanting to upset any of the other parents, Jonathan jumped out to help Gibby get his bike off the back of the SUV. The last thing he wanted was to make a bad impression on the first day.
Gibby loosened the straps while Jonathan lifted the bike to the ground. Before Jonathan let his son ride off to secure it in the school’s bike rack, he gave Gibby’s hand, still resting on the handlebar, he gave it a gentle squeeze. “Have a good day.”
Auburn locks fell into Gibby’s eyes as he nodded. “Thanks for letting me ride home.”
“Call me when you get home.”
“I will.” Gibby quickly hopped on and pedaled towards the large metal rack.
As Jonathan turned, he noticed the police officer’s passenger was a teenage girl. Their Native American features were the same. Both of them had long thin noses, piercing dark eyes and they had the same shiny black hair. His was cut very short, but her long locks were pulled back into a tight ponytail.
The officer frowned as his daughter quickly exited the car before their turn. Jonathan felt guilty for holding up the line and rushed back to move his vehicle. Just as he climbed in, he heard the distinct echo of a police siren followed by a megaphone buzz. “Have a great day at school, sweetie!” The officer’s voice boomed over the loud speaker for all of the students to hear.
The girl stopped in her tracks to glare at her father from across the sidewalk. Jonathan fought back his laughter at the cop’s twisted sense of humor. Before any other parents could honk their horn at the delay, Jonathan quickly pulled out onto the road heading north towards the hospital.
Principal Grady stood on the front steps, greeting every student returning for a new year of school. “Hello Kelly…hi Tim…wow, Tony, you really grew over the summer!” He knew each of his students by name. Watching Gibby approach the entrance with his eyes cast down toward the sidewalk, he stepped aside to avoid having the boy crash into him.
“Welcome to Shepherd’s Crook, Mr. Robinson,” Mr. Grady spoke with a kind, yet authoritative voice. Gibby’s head shot up at having someone address him by his last name.
“Thank you,” Gibby’s mumbled.
“The office is to the right, just past the double doors. Our secretary, Mrs. Bosley, is expecting you. She has your schedule all ready for you.” With that, he turned his attention back to the other students filing into the building.
Gibby watched kids of all different ages rush off in different directions as soon as they entered the main hallway. Shepherd’s Crook educational complex was unlike anything Gibby had ever seen.
Back home, kids were separated by grades and each school was independent, but here they had all ages in one huge complex. They were separated into their own grade sections, but all students used the common areas like the cafeteria and gymnasium.
The school office was a flurry of activity with students and teachers getting ready for the first day of school. The short round woman behind the counter had to be Mrs. Bosley. She rushed back and forth from the counter to the file cabinets or to the stacks of multi-colored papers in the bookcase against the far wall getting everyone the materials that they needed.
“Here you go, Kyle,” She cheerfully handed a student an armload of papers. “If Mr. Wilson needs anything else you just have him buzz the office.” The small blond child nodded his head before rushing back into the busy hallway.
Gibby waited while the secretary helped everyone else first. After the last student left, he stepped up to the counter.
“You must be Gibson,” her eyes almost disappeared when she smiled.
He cringed. Nobody called him Gibson. “Call me Gibby.”
Nodding furiously shook her gray curls like they were tiny silver slinkies attached to her head. “Okay, Gibby,” she tried out his name. “I’ve got your class schedule right here.”
“Hey Mrs. B,” the blond haired girl came bouncing into the office followed by a second girl that almost looked like her clone. Both girls had short pleated skirts, tight fitting polo tops and tiny slip-on shoes embellished with sparkly designs. If it wasn’t for the first girl having super blond hair and the second girl having darker strawberry locks, they could almost pass for twins.
“Hello Amanda and Bethany,” Mrs. Bosley looked up at them before returning her attention back to Gibby.
“This is your schedule,” She said as she handed him the computer printout, “let me grab you a map of the complex.” The little secretary suddenly disappeared into a back office.
“So…” Amanda looked Gibby up and down as if she was trying to decide if she liked him or not. “You’re the new guy?”
Gibby nervously picked at the edge of his schedule. “Yep, that would be me…new guy.”
Amanda let out a high pitched laugh that made Gibby cringe just as a bell rang through the building.
The red-haired girl, Bethany, started backing toward the door. “C’mon, Mandy, we’re gonna be late.”
Amanda turned to leave before stopping. “Hey, new boy, you had better get going, too.”
Gibby glanced at the door where Mrs. Bosley had disappeared. Without a school map he had no idea where he was going. Glancing down at the schedule, he figured asking the girls for directions was better than wandering the halls aimlessly.
“Who do you have for first period?” Amanda asked, almost into the deserted hallway where Bethany nervously danced around like she had to pee or something.
Gibby followed them, the now empty hallway echoed. “I have Ms. Stein for Earth Science. Do you know where room S3 is?”
“Yeah, that’s where--”
“Wow, Ms. Stein,” Amanda interrupted Bethany and continued to talk over top of her. “She’s a real hard ass and hates for anyone to be late. You really don’t want to piss her off right from the start.”
Gibby’s eyes widened with concern. The last thing he wanted was to be on some teacher’s shit-list from day one. The bell overhead rang again.
“We’re going to be late, too.” Bethany pleaded with Amanda.
“You better hurry,” Amanda looked scared for Gibby. “S3 is the last classroom in the North Wing. Make a left at the end of this hallway…it’s the last room on the right. You better hurry!”
Gibby rushed off in the direction that she was still pointing. When he reached the end and saw how long the next corridor was Gibby started to run.
“Run Forest Run!” Amanda giggled after Gibby disappeared in search of his classroom.
The place was huge. Pulling all of the town’s resources into one educational complex was actually pretty genius, but the size of the place made the maze of hallways was confusing. Reaching the end of the hallway, Gibby swung open the last door and rushed inside.
A class full of bright little faces looked up at Gibby. A plump little lady, presumably Mrs. O’Reilly since that was the name scrawled on the blackboard at the front of the classroom, noticed the confused expression on Gibby’s face and smiled.
“Honey, are you lost?” She asked.
“This isn’t Ms. Stein’s Earth Science class is it?” Gibby’s question was met with a round of laughter from the children.
“No dear,” Mrs. O’Reilly shook her head. “Ms. Stein is on the third floor of the East Wing.”
She noticed the bewilderment that flashed that crossed his face.
“Oh, honey, didn’t anyone tell you that the high school students are in the East Wing…”
Gibby’s expression didn’t show any recognition, so she explained exactly where his classes where. “The East Wing is the main entrance to the entire school. Ms. Stein’s room is the first class across from the top of the staircase.”
As Gibby slowly backed out of her classroom, the kids waved goodbye to him and one of them even shouted, ‘good luck,’ which brought another round of laughter from the class.
Making his way down the hallway and to the wide staircase that he had already rushed past once this morning, Gibby noticed the change in the decorations of the East Wing compared to the elementary designs outside of Mrs. O’Reilly’s classroom. He was in the right place.
Gibby climbed the stairs and noticed the little plaque hanging over the closed door. It said S3. He let out a sigh of relief. He had finally found the classroom, but he was already very late. If Ms. Stein really was the bitch that Amanda had warned him about, this was going to be a bad start to the new school year.
Well, Gibby's first day of school isn't going exactly like planned...a little detour through the kindergarten classroom. Let me know what you think. There is still lots more to come. Hope you liked the early chapter
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