Sam meets Mikey and Gerard.
I dropped into the first empty seat I came to, and slid all the way over to the window. Panic gripped me as my brain finally grasped the enormity of what I had done. I was fulfilling my father’s greatest dream, but I was also leaving behind everything I’d ever known. Stepping out completely alone.
“It’s going to be okay.” A soft masculine voice murmured. “I promise.”
The voice soothed me.
“Mikey, I’ll be right there with you. Like always. Way brothers forever. Remember?:”
I shook my head. Of course he wasn’t talking to me. I didn’t know anyone on this bus, but we always want to believe what gives us the most comfort.
I would be fine. I belonged here, at least my father thought I did. He worked so hard to get me into this school. I owed it to him, whether this place was my dream or not, to succeed in all I did. Fear and anxiety would not serve me. Reassured, I slid my ear buds into my ears and resumed my lessons in Mandarin Chinese.
The bus came slowly to a stop in front of a giant fenced in compound. It was not the simple grouping of school building and dormitories I’d expected. It was a sprawling mass of very high tech looking buildings surrounded by athletic fields, and carefully tended though austere swaths of green. A tingle of excitement ran through me. Suddenly I could almost understand all the sacrifices made in the name of education we’d endured. Gazing upon those buildings, I finally felt for the first time that I wasn’t a freak but someone important with something to contribute to the greater good of the world.
My revelry and most of my good feelings were shattered when I was suddenly shoved forward.
“Oops, sorry.” I turned to glare at a tall scrawny boy with thick Buddy Holly glasses. “No, really, I didn’t mean it. I-I tripped.” He extended his hand to me. “I’m Mikey Way.” He nodded towards a boy with stringy fake black hair standing next to him. “This is my brother Gerard.” I took his hand in mine and shook it politely.
“I’m Samara Winters. Most people call me Sam.” Panic gripped me again. I’d run out of things to say already.
“I’m a first year, my brother’s a second. You’re a first year too right?” All I could do was nod dumbly. “Great, have you decided if you’re going to be a science, math, business, art, or general studies major?” I hadn’t thought of any of this. I didn’t actually know anything about the school other than it was the best of the very best.
“I haven’t, but I’d have to say science. I’ve always been extremely interested in all things science, especially anything to do with medicine or biological engineering.” I could feel my cheeks burning. In the year since my father died, this was the most I’d said to any living thing.
“Gerard’s a science major too. I’m leaning more towards art. I think I’ll do a year of general studies first, get a good feel for what my strengths are.” He continued to talk a purple cloud around us as we walked towards the entrance to a building marked Auditorium. I took the time to carefully observe his brother. Something about him made me feel deeply uneasy but in a terrifyingly good way. My stomach squirmed when he caught my eye and smiled at me. I looked away blushing furiously.
We entered the largest auditorium I’d ever seen. It could easily have seated a few thousand people. I stopped in my tracks, awestruck. Mikey laughed and grabbed my arm. “Come on, Sam. Lets grab seats near the front.” With out thinking, I jerked my arm from his grasp.
“Sorry, I’m ummh not used to being touched. Don’t like it much.” I stammered. “I see someone over there that I know I should go talk to them.” I rushed off into the crowd.
I stayed to the edges of the crowd until we were called to order then I took a seat in the back row. Alone in the darkened room, I could handle the future before me. I sank into the plush seat and listened to the administrator speak. Maps,handbooks, and housing assignments handed out. An odd tingling ran up my spine. I turned slightly and spotted Gerard sitting a few seats from me in the same row. He stood and slid into the seat next to me.
“I’m not stalking you.” He smirked, “I’m your peer model.” He handed me a letter on school letterhead.
We thank you for your interest in being a peer model. You have been assigned the following student:
Name: Samara Winters
Dormitory: King House
You will be reminded of the seriousness of this responsibility. You are expect to make at least bi-weekly meetings with your charge. Their academic standing, disciplinary failures, and accolades will all reflect on you and your future here at the academy.
I stared up at him stunned.
“What exactly does this all mean?” I whispered.
“It means that, I’m your new best friend.” He laughed. “Actually it’s more of a big brother kind of thing. It’s my job to make sure you settle in quickly, adjust well to your new surroundings, and that you don’t slack off on any of your school work.”
Big brother. “You signed up hoping you’d have Mikey assigned to you.” He nodded. “Sorry you got stuck with me.”
His face darkened. His smile disappeared. “Do you have some kind of problem with me and my brother?”
“What? No, how could I?”
“A lot of people here do. Scholarships and all that. But you know what, out of thousands of applicants, we both won scholarships.” His face was stormy.
“No way I could have known that.”
“You sat behind us on the bus. I saw your reflection in the window. You were listening to us the whole time.” Fear rushed through me as his glare swept my face. “All you rich kids are the same. You think because mommy and daddy bought your way in that you’re better than kids like my brother and I.”
“I was listening to language lessons on my IPod.” I turned to leave, glancing only once over my shoulder as I walked away. “And just so you know, my father worked himself to death, literally, to pay my tuition. If he’d known they gave out scholarships, maybe he’d still be alive today.”
I blended quickly into the crowd lost among a sea of strangers. I thought I heard him call out but even if I’d been sure, I wouldn’t have turned around. That secret thrill I’d experienced upon meeting him had only gotten stronger despite the insults he’d hurled at me.