Sam meets up with Gerard's best friend Ray.
My sleep that night was oddly troubled. I awoke this the distinct feeling that my dreams had been disturbing, but I couldn’t remember any of them. I dressed quickly in my usual all black clothes, another time saving method of my father’s, and ran to meet Gerard. He took me to the commissary where I was issued my electronics. A laptop, cell phone, and MP3 player all with tiny red and white logos in their corners, were handed to me. I was told a desktop would be set up in my room and all of my devices networked to the schools system. Gerard collected his and put them in his back pack, barely glancing at them. I was amazed at the amount of money these things had to have cost. These were not cheap mass produced knock offs like my sisters had saved their babysitting money for. These were state of the art, expensive pieces of tech. Gerard took my cell phone from my hand and with a few taps on the screen, programmed in his numbers, then called his phone to get my number.
“Now to the administrative office to set up your schedule. It shouldn’t take too long. I set up your appointment for six-thirty. That gives us just enough time to walk to the Ashford building. He left me outside a wooden door marked A. Wilson, Dean of Students.
“I’ll be back in about thirty minutes.” he called as he walked out the main doors. My meeting with Mr. Wesker went quickly. My schedule was heavy on science, biology, chemistry, genetics. I had a few Math classes, English, history, and a class called Everyday Life. I was signed up for track team try outs. The only thing out of the ordinary that happened was when he handed me a credit card and told me to buy new clothes, and shoes in town. My name was already on it. I was told it had five hundred dollars, the usual quarterly allotment for academy students. I thanked him and shut the door quietly behind me.
I was so dazed that it took me a while to notice that Gerard had not returned. The only person in the hall was way a tall boy with a magnificent crop of curly brown hair and soft brown eyes. I was about to head back to my dorm when he spoke.
“You Sam?” I nodded. “I’m Ray. Gerard sent me to get you.”
“Is he okay?” I asked really worried.
“Oh, yeah he’s fine. He just had his own school stuff to take handle and it took longer than he thought it would. So he sent me to make sure you got back okay.” Ray seemed really uneasy.
“I’m not an infant. I found King house all by myself last night. I can find it again.”
“Oh, yeah ummh Gerard wants you to check out the library first.”
“Right, okay. Well let’s go then.” I shrugged. If Gerard thought I needed to see the library, I’d go see the library.
“It’s right near the cafeteria. He’ll meet up with us there when he’s done.” Rays said as he held the door open for me. I exited into the bright sunlight feeling oddly giddy.
As we walked along, Ray seemed to grow agitated.
“Something the matter, Ray?”
“No.” He stopped so suddenly that I almost walked right into him. ‘Yes actually. I know Gerard’s your model, but I have to say something. You shouldn’t just go off with any person you meet. I’m a stranger, and you’re just following me like a lost puppy. You have no idea who I am or if I even know Gerard.”
“Are you saying I shouldn’t trust you?” I asked a little afraid now.
“No, I’m saying you have no reason to. You should have at least called Gerard to make sure he’d really sent me.” He leaned close to me and whispered in my ear. “The Umbrella Academy isn’t as safe as it seems.”
“I’ll do better next time?” I stammered, not sure what he expected me to say.
“Good. Now let’s go check out the library and we can meet Gerard and Mikey for Lunch.”
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Ray talked about his studies as an art major. He played guitar, classical, Spanish, and modern styles. He talked about music, his favorite bands and was shocked when I told him that my father had considered music a waste of time.
“I’m going to have to tell Gerard to add music immersion to his list of things he needs to expose you too, besides stranger danger lessons. You’ve missed out big time.”
The library was as impressive as the rest of the school, but for once I wasn’t really interested. I startled me to realize that I was more interested in returning to my dorm and looking up the bands Ray had mention and asking Mikey and Gerard what their favorites were than perusing the shelves.
“I’m starving. Let’s get something to eat.” I said quietly after only a few minutes.
Outside Ray asked me what I’d thought of the library.
“Impressive but books and learning have been my whole life. I think I’m ready for some fun too.”
“Just don’t have too much fun. Stay away from the party kids. Every school’s got their bad element, this one’s no exception.”
The cafeteria was unlike any other I’d been in before. It hardly even looked like one the cozy tables and ornate chairs reminded me of the sidewalk cafes I’d seen in pictures of Paris. Well decorated and beautifully lit, cafeteria was the last word I’d use to describe it. Ray led me to what he called, the usual table. We’d barely sat down when a waiter in a red polo shit and black dress pants came to the table and took our orders. I ordered for myself and Ray ordered for everyone else. Mike and Gerard arrived just as the waiter was setting the food down on the table. We ate quickly. When everyone had finished, I remembered what the Dean of Students had told me.
“Hey Gerard, Mr. Wilson told me to go shopping.”
“I ummh don’t know how to go about it.”
Ray frowned. Mikey laughed, but Gerard glared at him and he stopped.
“I’ll take you this afternoon. I’ll sign out one of the school vehicles, and we’ll head into town.”
We headed back to our dorms. Opening the door to my room and stepping inside gave me the weirdest feeling. It didn’t feel foreign anymore. It seemed like for the first time, I belonged somewhere. I was finally coming home.
I put my new laptop and mp3 player on the desk and left a note to myself with the list of bands I wanted to look up later tonight. I made sure the credit card and my new cell phone were in my pocket, then realized that I wasn’t sure when exactly I was supposed to be ready for. He’d never said exactly what time we were going. My phone rang and I laughed out loud. Of course, I should call him!
“Hey Sam, it’s Gerard. I was wondering when you wanted to leave.”
“I’m ready to go when you are”
“Meet me on the front steps of King house in thirty minutes.”
“Sure.” I looked around the room, searching for something to do. My laptop caught my eye, so I sat down at the desk and slid my head phones into my ears. I searched the Internet for all the bands Ray had mentioned. I made notes of the ones I like and the ones I didn’t. My favorites were highlighted. A little more searching and I found a program that I could use to buy the music I wanted. I quickly filled the new mp3 player I was given. I checked the clock, I still had a few minutes before I had to head downstairs. I flopped down on the couch intent on listening to the music I’d found.
Lost in the music, my eyes drifted shut. One song, two song, a strange feeling like being watched. Slowly I opened my eyes. A dark figure loomed over me and I screamed.
“Easy, Sam, it’s just me!”
I screamed again as the figure leaned over me. I yanked the headphones out of my ears.
“Sam, it’s Gerard, relax!”
“S-sorry. I was listening to music. I-I must have....What are you doing here?”
“You were supposed to meet me downstairs ten minutes ago. When you didn’t show, I got worried. I knocked. You didn’t answer. It wasn’t locked so I came in to check on you.”
“Sorry. I lost track of time.”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Sorry I scared you. I called out to you but you didn’t hear me. I was trying to get your attention with out scaring you. I guess I failed.”
“Do we still have time to go?” I asked sheepishly.
“Yeah. Let’s head out. We’ll get your shopping done and after we can have dinner in town.”
“Cool. Oh, is Mikey coming with us?” I’d assumed it’d always be the three of us, and I wasn’t really looking forward to being laughed at no matter how lacking in malice it was.
“I figured we’d do this just the two of us.”
“That works for me.”
We walked in silence to a large parking lot. A shiny black car pulled up in front of us and Gerard opened the back door for me. I slid across the leather seat, and Gerard slid in next to me.
“We need to do some shopping in town.” He told the uniformed driver. The driver nodded and pulled away from the school.
Once in town, Gerard told the driver to pick us back up at 9.
“I have orders to wait for you here.” The driver replied in a steely voice that gave me chills.
“Suit yourself.” Gerard shrugged and walked away.
I hurried to catch up to him.
“That guy is seriously creepy.” I told him.
“I’m not a big fan, myself. They’re all so quiet and efficient. They almost make me wish this was my last year here. The cleaning crew is even worse. I’ve never seen them. Never.”
“So, when do they clean? Like when we’re in classes?” I was really starting to scare myself.
“I guess, but you never see them coming or going. Last year, I got really sick. Food poisoning. My room was cleaned everyday, and I never heard anyone come or go. I actually sat in the hallway one of the last days before I returned to classes, just to see if I’d spot a maid with a cart, like in a hotel. I never saw a damned thing.”
“Okay, let’s talk about something else. It’s only my second day here and I already want to sleep with the lights on.” I laughed nervously.
“You’re right.” He shook his head and smiled at me. “So where do you like to shop?”
Tough question. I’d never actually been shopping before. Honesty is always the best policy.
“My mom always did all my shopping for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been.”
“You’ve never picked out your own clothes?” He seemed shocked.
“Nope. Not even the colors.” I looked down at my all black attire. “When I was about nine, my mother decided, as revenge against my father, no doubt, that since she had to work, we had to do our own laundry. That’s when my dad got the brilliant idea to save me time by getting me all black clothes. They don’t show dirt as quickly so I could wear them more than once and only have to do laundry once every two weeks.”
Gerard’s nose crinkled in distaste.
“Yeah, I know. It’s gross.” I sighed.
“Very. But here you won’t have to worry about that. So you can just pick whatever you want.”
“How will I know what looks good on me. I’m not good at that sort of thing. I had these black yoga pants, they were my favorites until one day my sister pointed out that they make my butt look huge. I don’t think of things like that usually, but now that it’s on my mind, nothing will look good.”
I knew I was fretting and being tiresome. I was sure that the last thing he wanted to do was take a girl shopping. It was his job though.
“Don’t worry about it. I promise to tell you if your butt looks huge.” He laughed and I laughed along with him. I was being so silly.
“Thanks. I just wanna....” I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted.
“I know. We all do.” He patted my shoulder and we headed off towards the rows of stores.
So many different colors and styles assaulted my brain. I had no idea what to choose. I didn’t even really know what I liked. I spent a long time wandering through the racks picking and choosing, and even longer in the changing rooms scrutinizing each outfit before showing it to Gerard. I left with bags full of ribbed tank tops, jeans, and hoodies. I also found a few band t-shirts that I liked.
We headed back to the car and put my stuff in the trunk.
“You ready to go back to the school?” The driver asked.
“No, we’re going to dinner.” Gerard answered shortly.
He led me away towards the opposite part of town. He knew exactly where he was going and soon we were seated at a booth in a tiny pizza house.
“What do you want on your pizza?” He asked.
“Ummh, I don’t know. Whatever you want is fine.”
“You don’t even know what kind of pizza you like. Do you?” His voice was the soft big brother voice again and it made me want to cry.
“No. Pizza isn’t brain food. I’ve never had it before.” I could feel my cheeks burning again, and I knew my voice was softer than I’d meant it to be.
He reached across the table and took my hand in his.
“That’s all over now. You don’t have to live like that anymore.”
“It’s just so hard.” I could feel hot tears course down my cheeks. “It’s all I’ve ever known. At first the changes were fun, like I was being rebellious or something. But looking at it now. It’s too much. I don’t think I can do it. I’m so far from normal, I don’t think I can even get close.”
“Normal’s overrated. I like you just the way you are. Don’t worry about it. I’ll teach you everything you need to know.”
I tried to thank him, but it was just too much to get pasted the lump in my throat. He moved around the table and sat next to me. He hugged me tight as I cried.
“We’ll do this together. Us against the world.” He whispered against my hair.