Chapter Two: First Day.
Ryan sat on the armchair beside the window in his bedroom. It was seven in the morning and his parents were nowhere to be found. That wasn’t surprising. He had heard them leave an hour earlier as they raced out the door of the apartment to go to work. Had they managed to forget about today and how important it was? There was no way they were going to be back on time. Ryan decided to get ready for school by himself.
He was already washed and dressed so all he had to do was drag his protesting body off the chair, pick up his school bag and head out the door. He entered the kitchen, opened a cupboard and the fridge and pulled out the ingredients he needed to make a southwest omelette: Eggs, some butter, ham, onions, peppers and parsley. A normal fourteen year old boy wouldn’t have to be able to exist completely independently of his parents. But Ryan’s situation in life was far from normal. He listened to some music as he prepared and ate his breakfast. Once he had finished, Ryan placed the dirty dishes and cutlery in the dishwasher and then placed a load of laundry in the rarely used washing machine. Ryan’s mother, Lisa, never had the patience to wait the eternity it took the washing machine to clean a load of clothes. She washed everything by hand. It was faster.
Once the chores were done, Ryan took the cookie jar down from the shelf and dipped his hand inside to take some money out. Ryan’s dad wouldn’t allow sweets in the house, instead the cookie jar held a few hundred dollars in cash, just in case it came in handy. Ryan took a roll of fifty dollar bills out and slipped one into his front pocket. He’d have to pay for lunch in school today. He didn’t have time to cook something decent.
He left the apartment and headed for the elevator in the hall. He needed to be at the bus stop in five minutes. The rest of the building was quiet. The other occupants had left at the same time as his parents had. He exited the building and walked to the bus stop. He didn’t have to wait long for a yellow and black school bus to turn the corner and pull up at the kerb. He got on board and nodded in greeting to the driver. The bus was mostly full. Ryan shuffled down the aisle as the bus started moving; several of the other kids were staring at him, wondering who the newcomer was. Ryan continued on down the aisle and spotted an empty seat about half way down the bus. As he approached the boy sitting beside the seat placed his hand to guard the empty space:
“Someone’s already sitting there. Find somewhere else.” The boy said.Ryan sat down on an empty seat near to the back of the bus, beside a girl who didn’t even look at him as he sat down. She was too busy staring out the window, trying not to catch his eye. The bus sauntered through the early morning traffic and reached its destination: Jimmy Carter Middle School. The doors opened and the bus disgorged its passengers. Ryan followed his new schoolmates out the door and into the school. The place was noisy and warm as friends who hadn’t seen each other in weeks laughed and talked together. Ryan took it all in as he moved slowly down the packed corridor. The School had the usual cliques, the pretty girls hung out with other pretty girls, the sports stars hung out with other sports stars and the quiet kids hung out in small closely knit groups or alone.
It was exactly like Ryan’s last school back in Chicago, except that most people here were much better sun tanned. Ryan followed the signs for the Vice-principal’s office and knocked on the open door.“Come in.” said a bespectacled woman seated behind a desk.
“Excuse me.” said Ryan. “I’m a new student here.”
“Name?” She responded.
“Ah, Yes.” She said as she ticked a box on a printed list that lay on her desk. She smiled at Ryan: “Are your parents with you?”
“No, they’re busy.”
“Well that’s understandable. I’m Angela Williams. Your home room is number fourteen. Take a right when you leave my office and then take a left. It’s the sixth door on your right. It’s numbered.”
“Thanks.” said Ryan.
“The Vice-principal asked to speak with you when you arrived. He’s in his office, go straight in. I hope you enjoy your time with us Ryan.”“I hope so too. See you again.”
Ryan rapped his knuckles on the open door and entered the Vice-principal’s office.The Vice-principal’s nameplate on his desk identified him as Mr Stack. He attempted to smile as Ryan walked in, at least, the sides of his mouth curled up slightly and he exposed some teeth.
“Ryan Curtis. It’s nice to meet you. Are your parents here?”
“No. They were called away on business.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, I was really hoping to meet them. Never mind, let’s have a quick chat before you start class. I like to get to know all my students. Connecting with people personally was a value espoused by the man who this institution of learning was named after: Our thirty-ninth and best President.” Mr Stack leaned back in his chair and pointed up at the portrait of President Carter which hung over his desk.
“That’s great.” said Ryan.
“Yes, He was great wasn’t he? I know it’s fashionable for people to mock the man as ineffective in office but he proved them wrong afterwards. Yes he did!”
“I suppose.” said a confused Ryan, this wasn’t how educators were supposed to talk.
“His approach to life informs everything this school strives for. Have you seen our motto? “Attempt to succeed.” Marvellous sentiments, I’m sure you’ll agree.”
“Yes, I definitely do.” Ryan said in an effort to bring the conversation to a close before it became even weirder. “I’d better go to class.”
“Yes.” responded Mr Stack as he stood up to shake Ryan’s hand. “Best of luck.”
Ryan left the office as quickly as was polite. A bell rang, signalling to everyone that they had better get to class instantly. Ryan picked up the pace and got to his new classroom just as the second bell sounded. A desk at the front was the only one still free. He sat down and tucked his bag underneath his desk. He probably had a locker somewhere. He’d ask someone later on. An adult waltzed into the room and stood at the top of the class.
“Good Morning class.” He said with a slight lisp.
“Good Morning sir.” The class chorused in unison.
“Many of you know who I am, I recognise a lot of you from last year. I’m Mr Ridge. English teacher and the nearest thing this school has to a poet. But enough about me; we’ll allow our new classmates introduce themselves. You there!” he said pointing at Ryan. “I don’t know who you are. Tell us about yourself.”
“What would you like to know?” Ryan asked.
“Your name for starters.”
“I’m Ryan Curtis, I moved here nearly a year ago but this is my first time at the school.”
“And what did you do for a year instead of coming to our palace of education?”
“I was…home schooled.”
“And why did you stop?”
“My parents thought it might be a good idea to meet people of my own age. We used to travel a lot because of my parents job but we’re settling down now.”
“Very good. What do your parents do?”
There it was: the question Ryan dreaded. The answer he gave would undoubtedly greatly affect the new few weeks and months of his life.
“They’re involved in law enforcement.”
“Excellent. Who’s next? You there, the blonde girl with the vacant expression!” said Mr Ridge.
Ryan sat back and relaxed. He’d dodged that bullet. He mentally gave himself a pat on the back, saying that his parents worked in law enforcement had been smart. It was partially true and also managed to skirt the issue of what it was they actually did. School life would be difficult enough without letting everyone know on the first day that his parents were Superheroes.