Sam makes a friend.
The red glare of the setting sun gave the grounds and eerie blood soaked look. I shivered slightly as I walked, headed down staring at the map I’d been given earlier. The most direct room to my dorm took me past seven different buildings and the football field. It didn’t make sense to me that the dormitories should be so very far from the classrooms and labs. I contemplated various reasons for this unorthodox set up as I walked through the deepening twilight. I was so lost in my own thoughts that when a hand grasped my shoulder, I shrieked in surprise.
“Easy, Sam it’s just me.”
“Jesus, Mikey. You scared the hell out of me.” My heart was still beating a mile a minute.
“Sorry, I called out to you but you didn’t hear me.” He shrugged.
“I was thinking, wondering really, why the dorms were so far away from all the classrooms. I tend to get lost in my thoughts a lot and not acknowledge the world around me. Sorry.”
“No worries. So what house are you in?” He asked, falling into step with me.
“King house. Room 1408.”
“I’m in King house too. Room 1122. Have you met your peer model yet?”
“I have actually. It’s ummh Gerard.” I stared down at my worn out sneakers.
“That’s cool. I know he was hoping we’d be put together but he nags me enough as is. I don’t think I’d want him to be assigned to nag me.”
“So you’re not upset about it?”
“No. Why would I be?”
“I don’t know. He was. Upset, I mean. We...” I paused, thinking of the best way to explain. “We had words at the end of the meeting.”
“You argued with Gerard already? Wow, I’ve heard it usually takes people a whole month before they get pissed at their models. What started it?”
I sighed. How does one delicately tell someone that their brother is a jerk?
“He accused me of....” I trailed off again. It seemed so stupid, almost like tattling to complain to Mikey about his brother.
“What did he accuse you of? You’ve only just met.”
“He accused me of having an issue with you and him because you guys are here on scholarship. I didn’t even know until he told me that this place gave scholarships. He said I was like all the other rich kids, that my parents had bought my place here.”
“That’s pretty harsh. Not like Gerard at all.”
Now came the part that I was dreading.
“It’s because I lied to you earlier. I think so at least. I don’t know anyone here. I went to sit by myself.” He looked a little hurt.
“When you touched my arm earlier, I don’t know, I’m just not used to being touched and it really freaked me out. It’s a long story but I wasn’t allowed to have friends when I was growing up and my family, they’re distant. We’re not close at all.” I paused to gauge his reaction. “Anyways that’s why I left. Gerard read the letter, and went looking for me. I apologized because he’s stuck with me, and he got really upset.”
“Gerard’s always been over protective of me. He was picked on a lot in our old school. Guess he jumped to conclusions. Don’t worry it’ll blow over.”
“I’m still pretty upset about it, Mikey.”
“All I’m saying is give him a chance. If he doesn’t apologize, I’ll punch him in the eye.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Alright. I’ll cut him a break this time.”
We’d reached King house. It loomed over us like a sleeping beast.
“Wow.” I murmured.
“Wow is right.”
The dark colored Victorian mansion looked like something out of one of the horror movies I used to sneak out of bed to watch late at night. I expected to see a colony of bats fly out of an attic window.
“Well, I guess we should find our rooms.” My voice sounded shaky.
“If you finish unpacking before 10, want to wander the campus or something?” Mikey asked me, still not taking his eyes off of our new home.
“Yeah ummh sure.”
“Just dial my room number 1122 from the phone in your room.” He said as he left.
My room was on the fourth floor. I don’t know what I had been expecting but this room wasn’t it. It was more of a suite than a room. The main door opened into a sitting room fully equipped with a TV, sofa, recliner, and desk. Off of the right side of living room was a large bath room with a claw footed tub and separate shower stall. Off to the left was a bedroom with a queen sized bed, dresser, nightstand and wardrobe. I sat down on the bed and quickly read through the packets they’d given us. Everything I could have wanted to know was answered inside.
The school history was rather boring. The only thing of interest was that the school wasn’t as old as I’d expected. It had been formed in 1968 by Ozwell E. Spencer. I read the school rules, pretty standard stuff, except no dress code. I’d expected there to be uniforms or at least a strict dress code. Instead there was a simple statement that that clothing should be weather appropriate. As I read on I was amazed to find that almost all aspects of daily life were handled for us, to maximize the learning experience. Our rooms were cleaned, our meals prepared, our laundry done by Umbrella Academy staff. We were expected to spend our time learning or socializing.
The last paper in the folder was a letter informing me that I was to meet my peer model at 6am the following morning to have my electronic issued to me and to have my class schedule drawn up. Classes would not begin until the day after schedules were issued. During that time we were to familiarize ourselves with the rules and procedures of the school, it’s grounds and our classmates. It was also noted that we were to have at least two free hours a day and that we may not use this time for anything academic. Too many schools, it stated, focused on study only and overlooked the importance of socialization, relaxation, and created adults that were maladjusted to the modern scientific and business communities.
I stared in awe at the folder in front of me. Two hours a day to do nothing, or maybe, just maybe something fun. I didn’t know how to handle that. I hadn’t done anything that wasn’t related to education since I was three. Even being on the track team was just my father’s way of ensuring that I was getting daily exercise.
The phone rang and I nearly fell off the bed in surprise.
“Hello?” I answered, wondering who would be calling me.
“Hey, Sam. It’s Mikey. I finished unpacking and wondered if you were done yet. Gerard and I are going to go for a walk. I thought you should come too.” he paused. I didn’t really know what to say, “If you want to that is.”
“I’d love to but I haven’t even started unpacking yet. I read all the stuff in the folder first.”
“That’s okay, we’ll come help you. See you in a minute.” He hung up and I stood there for a moment staring at the phone dumbfounded. The thought of near strangers touching my belongings terrified me and I sprang into action. I threw things into drawers as quickly as I could, not caring that they weren’t as neatly folded as I would have like. I threw my empty duffle bag in the bottom of the wardrobe just as I heard the knock on my door.
“Coming.” I ran to the door and skidded to a halt. I stopped for a second to compose myself. Slowly I opened the door, as expect there stood Mikey and his brother.
“Hey guys. I’m all set to go.” I tried to edge out the door, but Mikey stopped me. “I wanna see if your room is as cool as mine.”
I sighed and let him in. He wandered around looking at things and touching stuff while Gerard and I stood in the small entry way.
“Everything put away neatly and in its proper place?” He sounded like my father.
“In its place yes, neatly no. I was rushed.”
“Mikey offered to help.” He sounded annoyed.
“I don’t really like people touching my things.”
“Or you.” He sounded almost sarcastic.
“Or me, right. I’m weird. I know.”
He looked like he wanted to say something else but Mikey interrupted him.
“How come you don’t have anything personal in here?” Oh boy, how to answer that one. I guess truth is always the best policy.
“I don’t have anything personal to put up.” I could hear the softening in my voice that usually signaled tears. I hastily cleared my throat to cover it.
“No favorite band, movie star, pictures of family, a pet? Nothing?”
I shrugged to hide how truly weird I felt.
“Nope. TV, movies, music, pets not allowed. All pointless distractions. And like I said before, my family’s not close.”
The look in his eyes, was it pity?
“Well let’s get going. We’ve only got two hours until lights out.” Gerard said suddenly.
We walked over only about half the campus, Gerard pointing out what he thought were the most important sights along the way. On our way back we sat in the stands around running track and watched Mikey attempt to jump some hurdles that had been left out.His attempts were very sad, but he kept trying. Bored, I leaned back and watched the stars twinkling down on me. So eternal, and yet I knew that most stars we see burned out a long time ago, their light just now reaching us like a message from the afterlife. I sighed, contended somehow by that thought.
Gerard slid closer to me.
“Happy sigh or sad sigh.” It was the same soft voice I’d heard on the bus. The I’m going to take care of you, everything will always be fine when you’re with me voice. I smiled at him.
“Happy sigh. I was thinking about the stars. Most of the stars we see burned out a long time ago. What we see is their light just now reaching earth. It’s reassuring. If a ball of burning gas can have an afterlife of sorts, than people can too, or at least they can leave a mark that speaks to generations to come.”
We sat side by side touching from shoulder to elbow, and for once it didn’t scare me. It felt nice to have contact with another human being.
“Tell me about your father.” he said gently.”You said he died. What was he like/”
“He was, I don’t know how exactly to describe him, really. I didn’t really see him much. Not after the parade.”
“Parade?” he asked, interested or confused, I wasn’t sure.
“When I was five he took me into the city. To see this big parade. The Umbrella Academy marches in it every year. That’s when he told me that I’d be going here. He told me, not like it was his dream, but like it was solid fact. Some day I’d leave home and come to this school. He was obsessed. See, he’d seen a fortune teller the same day that they put me through a battery of tests, IQ, psychological, cognitive, motor skills, the whole deal. She told him that his daughter was gifted and that his job was to nurture that gift or that I’d wither and die. When the results came back that I was a certified genius at the age of three, he became obsessed with doing everything he could to save me. I don’t know how or when he found out about this school, but I remember he told me when I was five. He spent every waking moment working to afford this place. It killed him. He died of a heart attack on a construction site last year.”
I had no idea that I was crying until he reached up and wiped the tears from my cheeks.
I don’t know who I was crying for, him or myself.
“I’m sorry for what I said earlier. It was wrong of me to judge you like that.”
Our faces were mere inches apart.
“I forgive you. You were just being protective of Mikey.”
He leaned closer, I could feel his breath on my cheek. I turned to look him in the eyes.
“Not really. I-”
Mikey came bounding up the stands shouting his head off. We slid hastily away from each other. “Did you see me, Gerard? I finally did it!” He paused to look at his watch. “Oh crap! We have to go! It’s almost ten.”
We practically ran to King House. Whatever moment had passed between us, it was gone.