Gibby stood in the hallway like a doof, wondering if he should knock on the closed door or just go inside. He heard a female voice coming from the classroom. She didn’t sound mean or upset, in fact she sounded kind of pleasant. Opening the door far enough to peek inside, his fears were met with a warm smiling face.
“You must be Gibson,” Ms. Stein was very petite and looked like Tinkerbelle. Her short blond hair framed her pretty face.
Every head in the classroom turned to stare at him standing in the doorway. Amanda was among his new classmates, as she sat in her seat smirking at him. “How was kindergarten?”
She asked, bringing a wave of laughter from the rest of the students.
Determined not to let her know that she had gotten to him, Gibby returned her icy grin. “Kindergarten was fabulous! I had so much fun that I’m going to join them later for story time.”
The class laughed even louder. When Amanda realized that her plan had backfired, she was furious. “Have fun with your milk and cookies, freak.”
“That’s enough,” Ms. Stein tried to regain control of her classroom. Her foot tapped loudly on the floor. “Everyone settle down. Gibson, why don’t you have a seat over there beside Mike?”
Mike nodded his dark head at the mention of his name. He was sitting in the far row with two other guys. All three of them were good looking. Gibby’s heart skipped a beat as he wove his way to the empty desks beside them. The morning sun streaming through the windows washed over the three guys sitting one in front of the other. Mike, the guy Ms. Stein had pointed out, his dark skin shimmered in the sunlight where his two friends’ sitting with him, their summer tans looked pale in comparison to his caramel skin.
The beach boys’ similarities ended with their golden tanned skin. The guy sitting behind Mike had sharp features, buzzed black hair and kept shooting nervous glances over at Amanda, but the other guy, sitting in front of Mike, turned his blond head back to the open book sitting on his desk.
“Ms. Grady, I’ll talk with you later.” Ms. Stein warned the teenager, but Amanda didn’t look worried.
“Whatever,” Amanda mumbled as she rolled her eyes at her teacher.
Gibby’s jaw tightened. “Great!” He mumbled under his breath. He couldn’t believe that evil bitch could be related to Principal Grady. The man was so nice. He and his daughter were nothing alike. Maybe the girl had been dropped on her head as a baby, Gibby grinned at the thought.
“Well now, where were we?” Trying to focus her students’ attention back on the syllabus sitting on everyone’s desk, “Make sure you actually read each chapter before you complete the study guide questions. The tests will be compiled from the class lecture as well as experiments conducted in class.”
The bell rang.
Students rushed towards the door. “Does anyone have any questions?” Ms. Stein shouted over the crowd disappearing into the hallway. As Amanda pushed her way through, Gibby glared at her bouncing ponytail as she retreated as fast as she could.
Ms. Stein caught Gibby’s arm when he passed by. He flinched at the touch. It didn’t hurt him, but the unexpected contact made him uncomfortable. “Mr. Robinson, do you have a second?”
Gibby nodded as the last student left. “You can call me Gibby.”
She smiled, “Let me see your schedule and I’ll jot down some notes to help you find your way around the school.” Gibby handed her the paper and waited as she sketched out a quick diagram on the back and made points beside all the important places.
“I’m sorry about Amanda. She can be…” the teacher searched for a polite way to say ‘heinous bitch,’ but students for her next class had already started to file into the room.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve dealt with worse than her.”
Ms. Stein frowned at the thought of someone so young going through such an awful trauma like Gibby had already survived. The staff had been informed of the fire when Jonathan registered him for class.
“Well, hopefully this helps. Your next class is just two doors down so hurry up before you’re late.”
The rest of the morning was mostly a blur. Gibby saw several of the same kids in his other classes. Mike was one of the kids in his next class. Still too nervous to talk to him, Gibby made a line to one of the vacant seats near him, but when he smiled at the guy, Mike’s thick eyebrows furrowed like he’d never seen Gibby before in his life.
“Talk about hot and cold,” Gibby murmured under his breath as he walked past him and the same two guys from Ms. Stein’s science class and he quickly claimed an empty desk in the back of the room. If everyone here at Shepherd’s Crook was this welcoming, Gibby thought, he’d just keep his head down and try to fly below the radar.
Gibby was so preoccupied with finding all of his classes that he never looked for his locker, so when lunch time rolled around, he hoped the sandwich that he’d been carrying in his heavy backpack all day was still good and hadn’t been squished under the weight of the new books.
Walking into the cafeteria was nerve wracking. Gibby wasn’t the most popular kid back home, but he had always had friends and never once had to sit alone. It was not like today where everyone stopped and whispered about him after he walked by. He got it. He knew that he was the new guy and as far as these kids were concerned, he was the odd man out.
There weren’t any empty tables. It was unavoidable; Gibby was going to have to ask someone if he could join them if he wanted to sit down. Searching for a friendly face in the crowd, he noticed a table in the back with only one girl sitting alone. It looked good enough.
“Do you mind if I join you?” He asked, holding his breath, waiting for her answer.
The girl looked up and smiled. Her chin length, sandy blond hair bounced around her face as she nodded her head and told him to sit. “Hi,” she said as her eyes skimmed over him as she looked him up and down, “you must be Gibson, and I’m Shelby.”
He groaned as he dropped his backpack onto the chair beside him. “God, did Mrs. Bosley stamp ‘New Kid’ on my forehead when I wasn’t looking?”
When Shelby giggled she looked like a little fairy. “No, it’s just that we don’t get many new students around here.”
As Gibby processed what she was saying, a loud feminine laugher drew his eyes to the table in the center of the room. It was Amanda Grady. Gibby rolled his eyes and swore under his breath. She wasn’t alone. Two girls sat on either side of her. One of them was Bethany Miller, the girl from the office and the other was the cop’s daughter from the student drop-off outside the school.
Shelby followed his gaze. “Ah, I see that you’ve noticed Amanda. That, dear boy, is high school royalty at its finest, and by finest…I mean worst!” Shelby spoke in a fake British accent before bursting into a fit of laughter.
“What?” Gibby suddenly realized that Shelby was talking to him, but he hadn’t been paying attention.
“Amanda Grady,” Shelby tilted her head in the girls’ direction. “She’s Principal Grady’s daughter.”
“So I heard. He seems so nice, but she’s…” Gibby bit at his bottom lip before letting loose a string of profanities describing the terrible teenage girl.
Shelby snorted as she laughed. “Yeah, Amanda thinks that because her daddy’s the head honcho, that she owns this school and everyone in it. I don’t know if Bethany and Sunshine hang out with her because they like her or because they’re afraid of her.”
Gibby’s eyes shot back to the group of girls, “No freaking way! That Indian girl’s name is Sunshine?”
Now, Shelby lowered her voice to a whisper, “Native American,” she quickly corrected him. “We don’t have a lot of Native Americans living in Shepherd’s Crook. There’s a large reservation north of here, but there’s a few of them, like officer Blackfeather, who chose to live in town instead of on the rez.”
Amanda glanced over and smirked at Gibby and Shelby as if she knew they were talking about her. The girl obviously loved to be the center of attention. Before Gibby could glance away, pretending that he hadn’t been watching her and her friends, the guys joined them.
Four male bodies approached the table and stopped right in front of the girls. Tight round butts blocked the view of the Amanda and her hags. Gibby smiled. He would rather look at the new scenery than Amanda’s vile face anyways.
Gibby was fighting to keep from sighing over the sexy, young bodies just out of his reach, when the four guys suddenly turned around. Blinking to clear his eyes, Gibby noticed that there were two Mike’s standing there.
Shelby read the look of confusion that flashed over Gibby’s face at seeing identical brown eyes, the same full lips, short black hair and smooth dark skin. “Twins, Mike and Mark Butler. I guess you’ve meet them already.”
“Yeah,” Gibby chuckled, “that explains the weird reaction in English class. “So, who are the other two guys? Let me guess. Are they the Crown Prince and Duke of Shepherd’s Crook?”
Gibby kept his eyes focused on the group of popular kids gawking at him. It they wanted a staring contest, well, Gibby wasn’t going to back down. He fought the urge to smirk when the smallest guy out of the bunch, the blond guy from class looked away before turning his back to Gibby and plopping down into an empty chair near the table, but the last guy kept staring with his cold hard gaze.
“They’re just as curious about you as you are about us.” Shelby tried to relieve the tension that was building in the cafeteria.
The last guy standing held Gibby’s eyes for a few more seconds before pivoting on his heels and kissing Amanda on the mouth.
“Yuck!” Gibby tried to hold back a gag, but Shelby just giggled.
“That’s Ethan Conroy. He might be incredibly cute, but he’s not the brightest star in the night sky. I swear, the only reason Amanda is even dating tall, dark and handsome is because his dad is the Mayor. She needs a Prince Charming to fulfill her delusional Princess fantasy.”
While Shelby watched Amanda and Ethan continue to kiss, Gibby’s eyes searched for the fourth guy who sat with the group, yet he’d slightly distanced himself from the others as he buried his blond head in a same book he had been reading this morning in Science class. His pale locks fell over his forehead and curled around the tops of his ears.
“Hello, blond, brooding, and beautiful.” Just as Gibby murmured the words too low for anyone, even Shelby, to hear, the bell rang signaling the end of lunch. People started filing out of the cafeteria.
“Hey Shelby, what’s his story--” Gibby turned in time to see the back of her blond head disappearing into the crowd.
Ms. Stein’s map made it easy for Gibby to find the rest of his classes. After the last bell, he even found his locker and stowed away his books before venturing out of the school. For having such a wide range of students at the complex, the school ran like an efficient machine. Principal Grady was standing on the front steps again, saying goodbyes to his students.
Gibby tried to slip past him by pulling his hood over his head and moving faster than the last students making their way out of the building.
“Mr. Robinson,” Mr. Grady called out to Gibby, “How was your first day?”
Not wanting to be rude, Gibby glanced over his shoulder and smiled. “Fine, see ya tomorrow.” He almost ran to get away from the man that spawned Satan in a mini-skirt.
The bike rack beside the school secured the last two bikes. Gibby’s sleek silver road bike was a sharp contrast to the thick BMX chained across from it. The red paint was muddy and rock chipped. Gibby didn’t care about the guy who would ride such a testosterone filled piece of machinery; he wanted to get as far away from school as possible. As quick as he could, Gibby dropped down on one knee and started twisting the numbers on his bike lock. Yanking at the lock, he blew out a frustrated sigh when it wouldn’t release.
“Nah, the tumblers always stick a little bit,” Gibby glanced up from the ground to find himself gazing into the face of an angel. The golden boy was in four of Gibby’s classes and he’d overheard the other students calling him, ‘Tanner.’ The book he had been reading earlier today was tucked under his arm as he stood there staring at Gibby. Fighting the flush of embarrassment threatening to creep up his cheeks, Gibby quickly twisted the lock to clear it so he could start over.
Forcing his eyes to focus on the numbers of the lock, Gibby couldn’t help but notice that Tanner’s jeans and t-shirt had been replaced by dark gray shorts and a matching school jersey. A large gold number fifteen blazed the front of Tanner’s chest. The guy casually leaned his weight against the bike rack as he continued to watch Gibby.
Gibby wanted to ask Tanner what he was waiting for, but instead he tried to keep his mind on unlocking the chain.
“Do you need some help?” Tanner asked just as the lock released, popping the chain loose from the metal rack.
“Thanks anyways, but I’ve got it.” Gibby jumped to his feet. He wanted to climb on his bike and pedal away as fast as he could, but instead, he couldn’t stop himself from looking Tanner in his brilliant blue eyes. “I’m Gibby Robinson.”
Tanner smiled, “I know. I’m Tan--”
“Tanner!” The twins’ voices harmonized as they shouted his name.
“Dude,” one of the Butlers came jogging up to him, tossing him a helmet. Each twin cradled his own helmet under his arm. “Coach is ready to start practice. You better move your ass or we’ll all be riding the bench this season.”
Worry flashed across Tanner’s face as he backed away from the bike rack. “Well then, let’s not keep Coach waiting.”
“So, are you making friends with the new meat?” One of them asked Tanner when they were almost out of earshot.
“More like burnt meat!” The other twin responded as they both laughed while they made their way towards the football field, but Tanner stopped and glanced over his shoulder in time to see Gibby disappear down the street.