“The spaghetti last night was good,” Jack said while pulling on his jacket in the kitchen. Arty stood beside him, leaning against the counter and drinking a mug of coffee while the kids ate toast and scrambled eggs. The brunette smiled and pointed his mug at the table.
“The kids agreed on it, and Daniel picked the basil.”
Jack rose his eyebrows and nodded, patting his coat if wrinkles. “Sounds like a good trip," he said.
“We saw Uncle Henry,” Geil called through a mouth of eggs, and Daniel glanced away so that he wouldn’t see the mushed food in his mouth. Jack looked at Arty.
“Yeah, he just said hi," Arty spoke and finished his coffee, pushing off of the counter to walk to the sink and set it inside.
“Well, he’s always nice,” Jack said before looking down at his wristwatch. He clapped his hands together and turned to walk to Arty, where he grabbed the man around the waist and pulled him into a kiss. "I'm gonna be late to work," he said. Arty nodded before smiling.
"I can make you later," he said deviously. Jack smiled and kissed him again.
"You wish," he said. Arty scoffed and laughed.
Jack gave him a sideways glance. "See you later, babe." Arty smiled softly.
"...Have a good day at work," the brunette said. Jack rose an eyebrow.
"What's wrong?" he asked, resting his hands on Arty's slender hips. Arty looked him in the eye before looking away.
"...My necklace. I still haven't found it."
Jack clicked his tongue. "You'll find it, I'll even," he brought a hand up to grab Arty's chin, lifting his face up for another quick peck, "help you look when I'm back, okay?"
Arty looked skeptical, but he said, “Okay.”
Jack watched him for a moment before tapping his hip. "Don't mope."
Arty laughed some. "Fine, go away."
Jack smiled and kissed Arty's cheek before leaving him. He walked to the table and Pat Geil's head.
"I'm going to work," he said. Geil looked up at him while eating and reached back to hug him.
"Good luck," Daniel said. Jack gave a sound of humor.
"Good luck toyou, it's your first day."
"I'm ready," Daniel said arrogantly and looked back down at his food. Jack glances at his watch again.
"Good, because you'll be late if Arty doesn't take you now. Have fun, kids," the man said before leaving the kitchen.
Geil called something unintelligible after him, and Arty called a, "We'll see you tonight." Then the front door shut.
"Okay," Arty said to the boys, "coats and shoes, hurry hurry!"
Daniel stood up from his seat and helped Geil down from his. The child ran off to the stairs and Daniel followed after him.
In his own bedroom, Daniel pulled on his jacket and boots, and his backpack if supplies that Arty bought him last night with the groceries.
He knelt in front of his bed and reached underneath his mattress, where he grabbed the necklace and pulled it out. He looked it over briefly before putting it into his pocket.
“Come on, Danul,” Geil said as he passed by the teen's room, his bag bouncing on his back from the light load of books that it carried.
“Daniel,” Daniel muttered to himself and stood up. He glanced at his bedroom door.
When Geil cane downstairs, Arty helped him with his jacket. The man looked passed Geil at the stairs to see if Daniel was coming down yet, but he wasn’t.
“Come on, Daniel, you don’t want to be late!” he called and looked at Geil's again. "Does he?"
The blonde child shook his head and smiled. "Nope!"
“Daniel, I’m putting Geil in his car-seat! Come out when you’re ready!” Arty called, looking at the stairs again. He twisted his lips and picked up Geil to carry him outside.
The air was bitter and nipped their faces and noses immediately as they stepped outside. Arty brought Geil to the car and started strapping him in.
"Brrr, it'sreallycold today," he muttered and glanced at Geil's face, the child's nose red from the cold already.
"Freezing!" Geil complained and shuddered. Arty chuckled breathily.
"I know, Daniel's taking his time." He shut Geil inside and walked to the front, where he got into the driver's seat to start the car and turn on the heater. The car ran cold air for a minute before it blew out hot, reassuring breaths.
Arty was going to get out again and get Daniel, but the teen beat him, stepping outside of the house with a paper sack in his hand. He came over and got into the passenger's seat. Arty rose an eyebrow. "You made your lunch?" he asked, surprised. Daniel looked at him and nodded slowly.
“...Wow. Sorry- I thought you'd want to eat the school’s lunch.”
Daniel paused. "I thought I was supposed to," he said quizzically. Arty chuckled and started rolling the car out if the driveway.
"Um, you can, but, they do free lunches here. If you want." He cleared his throat. "But if you want to keep taking your own, I can start making them in advance," he said and glanced at Daniel. The teen thought for a moment before nodding.
"Alright, I'll bring my own."
"I want my own!" Geil called from the backseat. Arty smiled.
"Okay, but right now we have to focus on getting to school on time."
Since there was no one around, and Arty didn't want them to be late, he accelerated on the gas, which made Geil laugh in excitement. Daniel grabbed his seatbelt, making sure it was secure.
“How long a drive is it to the school?" Daniel asked.
“Well, it's forty minutes to the city, so maybe an hour? Because of morning traffic."
Daniel nodded, and then he looked back at Geil, who was watching out of the window. He looked at Arty. "Geil doesn't mind many things, does he?" he asked. Arty looked at him.
"Mm... No, not really. He has some attention difficulties, so he goes in and out when he wants. The doctor hasn't said what it is, yet," Arty said and looked at Geil through the rearview mirror. Daniel nodded.
“Yeah... Do you like the radio?”
Arty parked in front of the school and looked at Daniel. He offered a smile. "Ready for your first day?"
The teen looked outside at the students, who rushed to classes or shoved each other playfully. He looked back at Arty and pointed at Geil.
"Is he not coming?" he asked. Arty shook his head.
"No, he has a special school to go to. But hey, you'll be okay," the man reached out and pat Daniel's shoulder. The teen watched him.
“...Are you sure?” he asked. He hadn't been to school in two years- the foster home used a homeschooling method, and before that, the orphanage taught by itself. Daniel would be going into his freshman year here.
Arty scoffed and ruffled Daniel's hair reassuringly. “Of course, Daniel. I mean, who doesn't love accents? You're gonna be such a hit with the girls that I'm gonna need a water hose!" He smiled softly. "You'll be okay."
Daniel looked back outside, where a bigger kid grabbed another's shirt and pulled it over their head, blinding them. He sighed and looked back at Arty.
"Alright, Arty; where do I go, exactly?"
“Okay," Arty pointed at the front doors the school. "See them? When you go inside, turn right and go into the office. I've already asked the school about getting you a guide, so they'll help you out in there. Should I come with you? I can-"
“No, it's fine," Daniel said and opened his door, stepping outside of the car and holding his lunch at his side.
Arty smiled. "Okay, well, good luck. Say bye to Daniel, Geil,” he said to there child, looking back at him. Geil leaned forward in his seat to look at Daniel.
“Bye bye, Danul!”
Daniel didn't bother with the child, smiling at Arty and saying, "Bye", before shutting the door. He started walking up to the school.
Daniel entered the school building and looked to the right. There was a hallway, with a sign above that read MAIN OFFICE. The teen turned and started walking down it.
The school seemed to be under construction, the walls bare with dusty plastic on the floor beside them. There was an unattended ladder beside an open ceiling, surrounded by CAUTION tape that Daniel had to step around.
He turned down a slight curve of the hallway and found the office, the windows covered by closed window blinds. The door was closed, with some waiting chairs beside it. Daniel stepped to them and took a seat.
Inside the office, he could hear what sounded like a kid being scolded, begging for their parents not to be called. It went on for almost ten minutes, before the door finally opened. A man stepped out with a teen boy who wiped his eyes. He'd been crying. As he left down the hallway, Daniel looked up at the man who still stood in the doorway.
"Hello," he said, getting the man's attention. He looked at Daniel and pointed before snapping his fingers.
“Mason kid, right?” he asked.
Daniel nodded. “Yessir.”
“Come on in.”
The man looked like he went to the gym regularly, muscles bulging underneath his shirt like a lead coach, not a principle. He looked like an angry man, but his charismatic attitude told otherwise. He walked to his desk and sat, and then smiled welcomingly to Daniel. His bald head looked like a Rottweiler's; thick and muscly. Muscle head.
“Go on, take a seat,” he said through a naturals loud voice. He should be the gym coach.
Daniel took one of the seats that sat in front of the desk.
“So, what's your name?” Muscle Head asked, putting his hands on his desk and lacing his fingers together, the typical principle seating.
“Daniel. Mason. Daniel Mason.”
“Okay…” Muscle Head unlinked his fingers and reached to the corner of the desk, where he picked up some glasses to slip on. Then, he flipped open a folded in front of him, glancing at it. It wasn't the one he wanted, so he shut it and opened another. "Ah, Freshman," he said. He pointed a thick finger at the folder and read more. Daniel just watched the man, holding his lunch in his lap.
Looking up, Muscle Head squinted at Daniel like he couldn't see him with his glasses on.
“You know why they call them Freshman, freshman?”
“Because they're fresh meat. Freshmeat,” Muscle Head says and pointed at him. “That's why, if anyone says it does anything wrong, you come here and tell me. I don't like bullies more than they don't like snitches. Understand?”
No, Daniel didn't understand. Muscle Head spoke in riddles and Daniel didn't care to decipher them. He simply nodded.
“I will,” he replied. Then Muscle Head put a thick finger onto a button and he spoke into a speaker, his voice training to the intercoms.
“Laura Givens, come to the office,” he beckoned and let go of the button, interlacing his fingers again. He looked at Daniel.
“Miss Givens is gonna walk through that door in a few minutes, and she's gonna give you a tour of the high school. She's a top student, so you'll have a good time. Right?”
“Good. Now other than that, this is your list of classes- don't lose it, since it has your classroom numbers.” Uncrossing his fingers once again, Muscle Head grabbed a paper from the folder and held it out to the teen. He took it and looked at it.
It listed English, mathematics, science, foreign language, history, and… art.
“I understand you haven't been around long, so your parent picked your classes for you. School starts at eight; if you're late, you come here and get a late pass. Lunch is at noon, but I see you brought your own. And school ends at three forty. Any questions?”
“Good. Now, my principal always used to tell me: “Early is on time, and on time is-””
“Very good, Mason. You'll fit in just fine here.”
A minute later, Laura came into the room. She was blonde, but her hair wasn't as pale as Geil’s Norwegian. Looking at Daniel with brown eyes, she smiled.
“Hi, are you the new student?”
The tour went well. A few of Daniel's classes were all in hallway L, which was great, because it meant that he didn't have to travel far. The others, art and science, were in M, which was a building outside. History was in H, another single building outside.
The only thing annoying Daniel was Laura. She appeared to have grown to his hip. She walked close to him and giggled when she said something, like she were urging him to laugh. He didn't, and kept a straight face as he walked with her, memorizing the hallways.
“So, you're from the UK?” she asked and peered at Daniel. The brunette glanced at her.
“Yes,” he said simply.
“Where in Scotland?”
Laura gasped before laughing in amazement. “That's so cool! Can you say it again?”
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment to calm himself. He opened them again and looked at the hall before repeating it. “Edinburgh.”
“Wow, you have a really lovely voice.”
He knew it wasn't necessarily his voice, but his accent, rather. He had a relatively normal voice besides it's slightly lower pitch, his body already passing through puberty.
“So, why did you move here?" Laura asked, and then pointed off, "That's the student lounge, you can go there if you finish lunch early and don't have anything to do. I don't recommend it though, because Morrison and his friends hang out there,” the girl said. The lounge was empty at the moment, but it held nice looking chairs and some phone charging stations. Daniel quirked an eyebrow.
“Yeah," Laura said slowly, "He's a bully. I would just… stay away from there, if I was you.”
“Why? What does he do?” Daniel asked and looked at Laura. She flushed at his gaze, but ultimately shrugged.
“He just, beats kids up. I think it's because of his eye, he's probably really self conscious about it.”
Daniel furrowed his eyebrows. “What's wrong with his eye?”
“Well, it's still up for debate, but my aunt's a nurse and helped with the surgery. His uncle attacked his mom and he intervened- lost his eyeball from the head trauma,”the blonde answered and shook her head sadly. “He won't even tell his friends.”
“Do you like him?” Daniel asked, making the girl stop in her tracks and gawk at him.
Daniel stopped walking too, to look at the girl. “Do you like him,” he repeated.
“No, no, I heard you, but what? What gave you that idea?” she laughed, watching him curiously. He shrugged a shoulder.
“You just seem to know some about him. Like an investment.”
“An investment? Wow, you havesomevocabulary. Do you like someone?” she countered, crossing her arms while smiling at him.
“No,” he replied. She scoffed.
“You don't have any “investments”?”
“No. I invest in secrets.”
“You're… weird. What kind of secrets?”
“I imagine what sort of secrets people are hiding.”
“Hm. That actually sounds fun.What secrets do I have?”
“You won't be happy,” Daniel warned simply enough. Laura laughed and pushed him playfully.
“Come on, give me a guess.”
Daniel watched her for a moment before shrugging again. “Okay.” He looked her over, from head to toe.
Her hair was yellow, from how blonde it was, like a candle. She had some light freckles on her pale skin that she was probably born with, because the sun didn't come around these parts to wreck damage. Her nose had a slight crook in it, as if it had been broken before. And her lips were uneven, but still natural and pink. Her clothes looked nice, but they had their own niceness to them- probably from a thrift shop.
Looking into her eyes, Daniel watched the brown orbs that switched back and forth from both of his. Her eyes looked small, like there was something haunting her deep inside.
“I think you secretly want a nose job,” Daniel finally spoke, and it took quiet a moment before Laura laughed, like she had been holding her breath.
“You're a bullshitter, you know that?” she asked humorously.
Daniel shrugged. Of course he didn't tell her what he really thought, because then she wouldn't talk to him again; and he thought he could use her.
Once the tour was over, it was time for lunch. The reason it took so long, though, was because Laura extended the tour to the football field and the theater room. And, because she wanted to skip a few hours, so she used the tour as an excuse- and time to connect with Daniel, though he was relatively quiet in turn.
Now, in the lunchroom, Daniel sat at a table with her, who had a plate of the school's lunch.
“This is a sloppy joe,” she said to him, pointing at her sandwich. He gave her a judgmental expression.
The blonde rose her hands in defense with a smile. “Just making sure. So, what did you bring?” she asked and looked at Daniel's bag, the teen setting it in front of him so that he could open it. Before he did, a voice sounded from behind him that made him pause.
“Who's this, huh? New kid?” the sudden voice asked.
Laura frowned. “Leave him alone, Morrison. How did you even find us?” she asked, sincerely curiously and looked around the full cafeteria, truthfully amazed, because she had never sat at this table before. Morrison dropped down to sit beside Daniel, and two more boys followed pursuit. One of the boys had an oder like he didn't know proper hygiene, or he at least didn't care for it.
“What'd you bring, new kid?” Morrison asked and grabbed Daniel's lunch sack, tilting the bag upside down and shaking out the contents.
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, a banana, a bottle of water, some pretzels, a thermos of tea, and some butter crackers.
“What the hell’s in here?” Morrison asked and grabbed the thermos, shaking it. Daniel didn't answer him and just observed the cafeteria. Until he was smacked upside the head.
“I said what's in this!” Morrison yelled at him, and Laura reached out to try grabbing it from the teen.
“It's his, leave him alone!”
“Tea,” Daniel finally replied, looking at Morrison. Laura wasn't lying about his eye- its iris was smaller than his other, natural one, and it didn't exactly follow the other as it moved to look at Daniel.
Morrison grinned in excitement. “Say that again?”
“It. Is. Tea.”
“What's wrong with your voice? You got a stutter or some shit?”
“He's Scottish! From Scotland?” Laura scoffed in bitter annoyance at Morrison's lack of knowledge, because she actually prided herself in learning foreign countries. Morrison scoffed himself at the look she gave him, like he were an idiot.
“What the hell is he doing here? What are you doing here, huh?” he asked Daniel, looking at him again. The foreign teen moved to stand up, but one of the other boys put a hand on his shoulder and pulled him back down. Morrison grabbed the bottle of water and opened it to take a drink.
“That's good,” he commented, and Laura just looked at Daniel in apology. “And this is a nice thermos," he added and grabbed the thermos, twisting the cap off and tilting it so that the tea spilled out onto the floor. As the the liquid hit the floor, it splashed onto the boys' shoes.
Morrison stole Daniel's thermos and, adding to the teen's luck, turned out to be in his science class after lunch. That meant two hours with the bully.
Laura wasn't in any of Daniel's classes, but she vowed to sit with him for lunch and to come over to his house sometime.
Finally, though, school was over.
Daniel walked outside of the building, pushing the doors open, but he was shoved for the umpteenth time by a kid running late to the bus.
He was very, ultimately tired. This school day had been exhausting.
Stepping down the front steps, the teen glanced around for Arty's silver car, which he eventually found when Arty got out to wave to the teen. Daniel started walking over.
“Daniel!” the man greeted with a smile, “How was it?”
“Alright, like you said," Daniel replied, grabbing the passenger door's handle and pulling it open. Arty did the same to the driver's.
"That's good- did you make any friends?” he asked as they climbed inside of the car. In the backseat, Geil slept with a blanket over his lap.
Daniel nodded. “I did.”
Arty waited for Daniel to tell him more, but the teen didn't. The man motioned slowly. “A-nd what's their name?”
“Oh, Laura.” Daniel fastened his seat belt. Arty gave a sly smile and pat Daniel's shoulder.
“I told you I'd need the water hose," the man said happily.
Daniel just sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. He was tired.