Monday, August 13, 2012

Chapter One

Hey guys!  I wanted to give you a taste of what you can expect from The Young Adult Book Club, so here's the first chapter!  Enjoy!!

Chapter One

            Dustin sat in his car for a moment, psyching himself up for the task ahead of him.  He felt slightly nauseous, anticipation building in his chest as he thought of the daunting year he was about to commence.  He glanced up at the clean white building across the sea of asphalt, marveling at how just yesterday he’d still been at the end of that blissful stretch of summer vacation, and now he had months upon months of tedious obligation in store.

            It looks like a tomb, he decided.  How appropriate.

            “Are you coming?” his best friend Heather asked, looking back in through the open passenger side door, eyes searching his.

            He nodded and climbed out of the car amid a loud sigh, slamming the door shut resolutely behind him.  Delaying the inevitable was only making him feel worse, he decided, pocketing his keys and hefting his backpack over one of his shoulders.

            “Here we go,” Heather said cheerfully, pulling out a compact to look over her reflection one more time, as if daring a hair to fall out of place.  She closed it with a single hand and tossed it into her bag with a flourish.  She began walking across the parking lot, checking her dress to make sure it fell perfectly as it should.  When she noticed that Dustin was still standing in the same place, she scowled.  “Jesus Christ, Dustin.  It’s only high school.”

            Dustin raised an eyebrow.  Only high school? he thought, bewildered.  That was like saying a diamond was only a stone or losing a wallet was merely an inconvenience.  High school spoke volumes.  It could make or break a person during their teenage years and psychologically affect them for the rest of their lives.  It’s what prepared impressionable young minds for the world, for the future.  He was about to ramble on about the importance of high school out loud when he noticed that Heather had started to walk toward the building again.

            Shrugging, Dustin trotted after her, watching her long blonde hair sway across her back in unison with her sashaying size four body.

            Heather glanced back to make sure he was following her and slowed to let him catch up, peeking into her bookbag that doubled for her purse during school.

            “You’re not nervous?” Dustin asked. Running a hand back through his short dark brown hair.  “Not even a little?”

            Heather shook her head.  “It’s going to be just like last year.  The only thing that’s changed is we’re graduating when we’re done this time.”

            “I guess.  But it’s new classes and stuff, you know?”

            “New classes, same faces.”

            “Yeah, I suppose.”

            Heather elbowed him playfully.  “Cheer up.  No one’s going to treat you differently or anything.”

            “So you say.”

            “So I know.”

            “Well, I hope you’re right.”

            They stepped onto the sidewalk leading up to the main doors of the school, the billowing flags sending shadows over them momentarily as they flapped in the light breeze the warm day provided.

            Dustin smiled to himself as a couple of the guys that were also making their way toward the school looked at Heather with open admiration.  Heather had blossomed from their awkward grade school days into something quite extraordinary over the last few years.  She could have been a model if she’d wanted to, but Heather was a smart girl and she wanted to put her mind to use.  She was considering work in the sciences, maybe psychology.  She would rather feel like she was being useful to society than trot down a runway somewhere in France for socialites with too much money.  She was a very intelligent person, as well as a great friend, one of those popular girls at the top of her class, tutoring people and helping people understand math problems after class ended.  She had brains and wasn’t as insecure as a lot of girls in high school were who felt the need to hide it.  She was comfortable being viewed as smart and it hadn’t hurt her popularity.  Not even hanging out with a loner like Dustin had hurt her popularity.  She was too nice, too charming and definitely far too pretty to be ignored, easily the prettiest girl in school.  Dustin would have assumed he’d be dropped halfway though middle school by the emerging beauty, but Heather had stood by him as a true friend, even though she was embraced by the popular crowds.  Dustin didn’t expect anyone to understand how they could be best friends when they were so different socially at school, but they’d grown up together and were close to each other in a way that few people were. 

            Some people had probably questioned how a guy and a girl could remain friends throughout adolescence, but they’d managed.  The changes in their bodies and behaviors hadn’t come between them in the least.  No sexual tension had really developed, as their friendship grew to rival sibling relationships.  And that was really what they felt like to one another - siblings.  They couldn’t have been any closer if they’d come from the same household.    However, when Dustin had come out of the closet, their relationship had probably made more sense to most people.  But they liked to believe that they would have had the same closeness even if Dustin were straight.

            “Hey, you two!” a slightly shrill voice stopped Dustin and Heather in their tracks.

            Dustin looked over reluctantly, having recognized the voice, as a short chubby girl strode purposefully toward them.

            “Oh, great,” Heather mumbled.  “This again.”

            “Settle down.  She must have matured a little bit over the summer.”

            Heather snorted at that, but didn’t reply.

            Dustin smiled politely.  “Lucy, how was your summer?”

            “Great, great,” Lucy said with too much enthusiasm.  “I went out to Colorado to see some family.  You?”

            “Well, we went to Chicago for a week like we always do, but other than that, it was pretty eventless.”

            “Oh, I love Chicago.  Haven’t been there in years though.”

            “That’s too bad.”

            “Yeah.  Yeah, it is.  But I’m glad to be back in school.  Senior year!  I’m having fun already!”

            “At least one of us is,” Heather muttered under her breath.

            “What’s that?”

            “Do anything fun with the family in Colorado?” Dustin asked Lucy with a forced smile.

            “Yeah, we went skiing.  Turns out that I’m pretty good at it,” she beamed.

            Heather sent Dustin a look that told him to get rid of her and he groaned internally.  Lucy was kind of a pest.  No one particularly liked her, but Dustin and Heather rather tolerated her most of the time to be nice, going out of their way to make a little conversation with her over the years.  And like a dog given scraps, she kept coming back and back and back.  Heather couldn’t stand her anymore.  No one really could.  The only reason people really tolerated her presence was because she talked to everybody, whether they liked it or not, and had all the gossip.  In high school, gossip was power.  Toward the end of junior year, however, it had become apparent that Lucy would sacrifice any friendship for a bit of conversation with the popular crowd.  She just didn’t care who got hurt as long as she got noticed.  She took their patronizing pats on the head and looked everywhere for something juicy to spread around.

            “Yeah,” Dustin said, “so, we’re heading off to find our classes, so…”

            “Oh!  Where are you headed?”

            “To math class.”

            “Oh, me t-”

            “Our lockers,” Heather cut her off.  “We actually need to find our lockers first.”

            “Oh, okay,” Lucy nodded, as if she approved.  “Well, I’ll see you guys around!”

            “Maybe,” Dustin mumbled as she wandered off.

            Heather let out a deep breath.  “God, I can’t stand her.”

            “Maybe she’ll be a little tamer this year,” Dustin suggested.  “Maybe it was just a phase or something.”

            “Didn’t your mom think that what you were feeling was some sort of phase?” Heather retorted with a wink. 

            Heather shoved open the doors of the school and it seemed like people actually stopped what they were doing to watch her entrance.  But if there was anyone they could learn from on how to be on top of their game, it was her.  Dustin had to wipe his damp hands on his jeans and ignore the butterflies that were threatening to rip a new exit out of his stomach, but Heather was calm and in control.  She probably wouldn’t perspire at all during the day.  Dustin was in awe of her confidence, and in truth, it was probably her out-going manner that had pushed him into coming out so soon.  If Heather wasn’t in his life, he wasn’t sure that he would ever have really had the courage to come out.  He would probably be one of those guys in their late forties leaving his family behind for a life he shouldn’t have rejected in the first place.  Not that he could blame those people.  It was scary to come out, and at that particular moment, Dustin was scared to death about how he was going to be received by his classmates.

            People had suspected over the past few years, although Dustin couldn’t figure out how.  He wasn’t flamboyant.  He didn’t act feminine.  He acted like every other guy.  Except he was bad at (and hated) sports.  Maybe they just watched his eyes, saw that they weren’t drawn to a woman’s chest, saw that they watched a cute guy from out of the corners, not risking to turn his head with them.  Or perhaps it was because he was so close to Heather and had never made a move on her.  What straight guy wouldn’t in his shoes?  But it had never occurred to Dustin to date her, and not just for the obvious reasons - he was sure the thought had never crossed her mind either.

            What had bothered him most over the past few years were the little things that people had done to him: call him a girl in gym class, whispering “queer” to his back…he took it all in stride and denied the rumors, living in denial himself for awhile.  He’d planned to stifle his homosexuality like other gay men before him, marrying a nice girl, pretending to be what he wasn’t.  He’d even gone so far as to date a few girls.  Dating Sherrie Denison for three months without making a move wasn’t exactly normal hormones-raging adolescent behavior however, and had gone a long way toward tipping the scales to accepting who he was.  During those three months, he’d paid more attention to the guys shooting baskets in gym class than Sherrie, imagining what it would be like to kiss their lips.  There were days that he never even thought about Sherrie.  Definitely not straight boy behavior.

            If Lucy was on top of her game, the whole school knew all about him already.  He was the first openly-gay student in the school.  Probably in the history of the school.  And he was sure he wasn’t going to go unnoticed and unharrassed when he was obviously different from everybody else, in a way that some people probably wouldn’t like.

            Heather pulled her organizer out of her bookbag and opened it up to the first page.  “Locker twenty-one B.  Where’s that?”

            Dustin thought for a minute.  “B….B….I think that’s down the art hallway.”

            “Perfect.  The opposite side of the school from all of my classes.”  She scowled.

            Dustin smirked as he dug through his backpack for his class schedule, which would have his locker number on it.  “I have an art class.  I’ll trade if it helps.”  He located the sheet of paper between his math book and a plastic shopping bag with his gym clothes in it.  “Ugh.  Sorry.  Thirty-eight B.”

            “Oh, well.  At least our lockers are close.”

            “Yeah.  Say, what class do we have together again?  Science?”


            “Oh yeah.  Right.”

            “And hey - we got lucky and have lunch together this year too.”

            “Perfect,” Dustin said with a smile.  Lunch was always a time of anxiety for him.  The first lunch period of his freshman year, he had purchased his lunch and had walked around the lunchroom three times before some stranger had taken pity on him and asked him to join him and his friends at their table.  He would never forget how embarrassed he’d felt, like everyone was watching him to see what would happen.  At least this year, that small worry was put to rest at the get-go.

            Heather’s heels clicked on the beige tiles of the hallway as they made their way toward their lockers, smiling with fondness at the familiar surroundings.  The cream walls were in need of a fresh coat of paint, but the cabinets of sports trophies gleamed with care.  The Andersville Rhinos were the pride of the town.  The football games often attracted more people than they had seats for.  Andersville was a small town that didn’t have much else to hold people’s interests, and the community was very supportive of its sports.

            Andersville had a main street close to the freeway, with banks, gas stations and restaurants, but no real attractions except for the County Fair that was held there each summer.  Most of the town made the ten-mile trek to Forest Lake, which had a large in-door mall, a Barnes & Noble, and half a dozen quaint little cafes.  It was a suburb that had thrived from the urban sprawl that had grown like an infection from Minneapolis, which was about a forty-five minute drive from Andersville.  Dustin and Heather rarely made the journey to Minneapolis themselves, but knew a lot of students who went down there each weekend with fake IDs to get into the clubs that sounded like paradise over the local radio stations.  They’d been to a few of them, but had found them dreadfully disappointing, with bad music and no one interested in dancing so much as loitering.  They planned to go down there soon to check out some of the gay clubs, but hadn’t really had much of a chance since Dustin’s announcement a few weeks earlier.

            Heather stopped in front of a picture of a brunette guy in a football jersey with sparkling blue eyes, his hair carelessly spiked as if he’d run a hand through it quickly after a shower and that’s all that he’d needed to style it.  “Travis,” she murmured.  “He is so damn hot.”

            “He is hot,” Dustin admitted, considering the photograph.  “I had him in gym class a few years ago.  A god.  No doubt about it.”

            Heather smiled.  “Hey, yeah.  I forgot I could talk to you about these kinds of things now.”

            “You’ll get used to it.”

            “I’m sure,” Heather laughed.  She looked at him sideways.  “So, did you think that Jake was cute?”

            Dustin bit his lip.  Jake.  Heather and Jake had been together for two years, the envy of the class.  Everyone assumed they would stay together throughout high school and get married after that.  Perhaps it was that assumption that had made up Heather’s mind to call it off just a few weeks before summer vacation had come to an end.  Heather did not want to settle down anytime soon.  She had big plans, wanted to go places.  Nothing was going to get in her way, not even the boy she’d shared her most intimate moments with over the past few years.  Besides, next year they were going to college and Heather planned to go ivy league, while Jake would be lucky to get out of Andersville period.  It would be easier now, a clean break going into their final year of high school.  She really cared for Jake, and it was still hard for her to think that she was no longer with him, but she was glad for the opportunity to date a little more.  She was barely seventeen after all, and she didn’t want him to get the wrong impression of where their relationship was headed.

            Heather rarely brought him up.  Whenever he was introduced into a conversation, she grew quiet and sullen.  Dustin wasn’t sure if it was regret, guilt or something else altogether.  But he did believe that she still harbored romantic feelings for the big lug.  And while he was an adorable blonde-haired, blue-eyed all-American football-wielding hunk, Dustin would pass on him.  Too much muscle for his tastes.  A little dopey too.  He could empathize with Heather’s plight though.  Jake had been all she’d known for a long time.  Those types of feelings didn’t evaporate overnight.  Dustin wouldn’t be surprised if she even changed her mind by the end of the year.  One never knew.

            “Jake is a great guy,” Dustin replied carefully, not sure of how to answer her question.

            Heather smirked, seeing right through him.  “I wasn’t asking if he was Mr. Congeniality.”

            “I know - I…well…yeah, he’s pretty cute,” Dustin lied with a grin.  He certainly didn’t want to make her feel any worse.

            Heather giggled.  “I thought so.  You know, I thought I noticed you checking him out a few times.”

            “I so did not!”

            “Whatever you say.”

            Dustin made a face as a guy on a skateboard skidded to a halt just in front of them.

            “Hey, Heather,” the guy said, scratching his short blond hair.  “How was your summer?”

            “Trying to get into trouble already, Chance?” Heather asked, ignoring his question.  She stepped on his skateboard.  “Aren’t you close to being expelled yet?”

            Chance grinned.  “Working on it.”  If Heather was the most beautiful girl in the school, then Chance was easily her counterpart.  He was classically handsome.  Chiseled features, big shoulders, lean swimmer’s build, blonde hair, gray eyes.  He was a naughty boy, however.  Always getting sent to the principal’s office, cutting class, missing paper deadlines.  Of course it made him quite appealing.  But Dustin wasn’t so sure he was all that.  Maybe he was just lazy.  Maybe he just preferred skateboarding to school dances and study sessions.  And maybe he locked himself in his bedroom to play Dungeons & Dragons or something.  Who knew?  But it seemed unlikely that he would somehow forge a bright future between expulsions.  Even so, it seemed that all of the females in the school had a thing for him, probably even Heather, but he was seeing Amanda, the queen bitch of the school.  Heather was way prettier.

            Chance grabbed his skateboard in hand and bowed.  “I’ll carry my board if it suits you all the better, Ma’am.”

            Heather rolled her eyes.  “Please.  Your charm doesn’t work on teachers, do you really think it will work on me?”

            “Doesn’t hurt to try.”

            “Hi, Amanda,” Heather greeted, looking behind him. 

            Chance immediately straightened and looked back over his shoulder.

            Heather laughed as he sent her a look of annoyance when he realized his girlfriend wasn’t really behind him.  “Later, Chance,” she said, blowing him a kiss.

Dustin followed her as she led the way off of the main tiled hallway and onto the red carpet of the side hallways.  Brown stains marred the carpet every few feet, probably from spilled soda out of a nearby Pepsi machine. 

“Nice to see the token bad boy is still up to his scheme to breathe life into the school,” Dustin muttered, when they were out of Chance’s hearing range.  “What a screw-up.”

Heather glanced over at him with a surprised look.  “Don’t tell me you don’t think he’s cute.”

“Great body,” Dustin offered.  “But I like brunettes.”

“You mean Travis?”

“I mean Travis.”

Heather smiled.  “You know, I have a huge thing for Chance.  And don’t you dare say a word to Lucy about it.”

“Chance?  Really?  Why?”

Heather shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I guess…I guess every girl kind of wants that wild bad boy.  I mean Travis is nice enough, but he’s so boring and studious.  Chance is…spontaneous.  I bet he’s romantic and…God, great in bed.  You have to wonder, a guy like that…what he’s like intimately.  Not just with sex, but having a private conversation, when something bad happens, those vulnerable moments.”

“Too bad Amanda’s got her claws in him.”

“Yeah.”  Dustin took in Heather’s profile for a second before clearing his throat.  “Well, since you shared, I’ll spill.  I think Travis is some A-grade merchandise.”

Heather smirked.  “You and every female within a hundred-mile radius.”

“Seriously though.  He’s so sensitive and beautiful and…I don’t know.  I just have a wicked crush on him.”

“Well, good luck with that one.”

            Dustin glanced down at his class schedule again and noted that his art class was right across from the soda machine in room 106.  That was his last “real” class of the day since he had study hall during the last hour. 

            “Twenty-one B,” Heather announced.  “We have a winner.”  She stopped in front of an unimpressive gray metal locker and fiddled with the combination of the lock until it opened.  “I love accessorizing my new locker every year.”

            “How could you not?” Dustin answered in a sarcastic tone.

            Heather glared at him as she pulled a mirror out of her bag and hung it up on the inside of the door along with a calendar.  Usually Jake’s picture was put up between the two items, but was noticeably absent this time.  It made the calendar look so much bigger somehow.  Photographs of flowers plastered each month, this month being a field of poppies that made it look like the hillside was ablaze.

            After plopping all of her books and folders on the bottom shelf, Heather put make-up and a brush on the top shelf, for easy access, along with a couple of small bottles that were tinted brown.

            “What scents are those?” Dustin asked, gesturing to the essential oil bottles that were part of her new aromatherapy obsession.

            Heather pulled a bottle with a green label off the shelf and unscrewed the top, taking a deep whiff.  She held it out to Dustin, who grimaced at the soapy, woodsy smell.  He thought that all of the essential oils were way too potent, even diluted like hers were, but they grew more subtle after a couple of minutes on the skin.

            After letting a few drops out of the eye dropper that was connected to the lid of the tiny bottle, Heather placed the bottle back on the shelf and rubbed her wrists together, before running each of her wrists over her neck.  “Eucalyptus,” she replied, taking a deep breath again.  “It’s supposed to calm you, make you less stressed.  You look like you could use some.”

            Dustin sneered.  “I’m good.”

            Heather laughed.  “And I have orange to wake me up after math class and frankincense in case someone pisses me off.”

            “Well, you’re all set then.”

            “I am,” Heather agreed, slamming her locker door shut.  “Shall we move on then?”

            Dustin led them to his locker, a little further down the hallway, and he dumped his backpack inside, picking out the book he needed for his first class, as well as a paperback in case he had some free time during class.

            “What’s first for you?” Heather asked, trying to read the title of Dustin’s book.  She snatched it from his hand and nodded thoughtfully.  “I didn’t realize L.J. Smith had a new book out.  Can I borrow it when you’re done?”

            “Sure,” Dustin nodded.  “You know, if it weren’t for The Vampire Diaries, I probably wouldn’t read in my spare time at all.  First book I fell in love with.”

            “I prefer Night World, but I know what you mean.  It was the Twilight books that sucked me in.  Me and probably a ton of people.”  She cocked her head.  “If it weren’t for your library of books at home, I’d probably never read a thing.  But I’m glad you like young adult books.  They’re so damn addictive.  And…it’s nice to escape sometimes.”

            “That it is,” Dustin agreed.  “I wish I could escape right now.”

            “Oh, stop it,” Heather slapped his shoulder playfully.  “You’ll be fine.”

            He shrugged.

            “So, what’s your first class?” she asked, handing him back his book.

            “Math,” he sighed dramatically, holding up his calculus book.  “You?”

            “Science, then math after that.”

            “I’m not ready for this.  Summer went by way too quick.”

            “It always does.”

            They walked back down the hallway and parted when they reached the tiles again.

            “Save a spot for me in English if you get there first,” Dustin called after her.

            “I will.  Same goes for you!”

            Dustin watched her disappear around the corner, then headed toward the stairway a few feet away.  He stared down at his L.J. Smith book as he climbed the stairs and wondered if he could slip it inside his calculus book and read during class.  He’d hated pre-calculus the year before.  He somehow caught on to math faster than his classmates, so he was often impatient in class.  It would be nice to slip a little reading in if that were the case in this class, especially on a first day, when it was bound to be mostly going over the syllabus and other mind-numbing exercises.

The butterflies in his stomach were stirring up again as he wondered if the aromatherapy stuff in Heather’s locker really worked.  If so many people used it, there must be something to it, he reasoned.  Or it could just be a placebo thing.  Tell the masses anything and they seemed to believe it.

He let out a deep breath as he stepped off on the second floor and headed toward room 202.  He was always worried that he’d be stuck in a class with no one he knew or liked.  It was an irrational fear, especially in a class like Calculus, where there wouldn’t be any time to talk to anybody else during a lecture anyway.  It just made it more comfortable for him to have a friendly face with him.  And it pushed thoughts of that horrid lunch hour to the recesses of his mind.  He shook his head as he recalled some people he’d hung out with in classes the year before and wondered if he’d see them in his new classes.  He wondered if they would treat him the same.

Dustin was so lost in his thoughts that he almost didn’t hear the “fag” that was muttered by a boy in a group of guys he walked past.  He pretended not to notice, but he felt his face grow warm with embarrassment.  Lucy had definitely made her rounds.

Nearing room 202, Dustin ducked into a restroom and slowly closed the door behind him.  He’d been hoping for a trouble-free first day, that maybe people would be more mature about sexuality than he thought they would be.  Obviously he was wrong.  He just hoped the whole year wouldn’t consist of taunting and name-calling.  He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to handle it.

He sauntered over to the sink and stared at his reflection for a moment.  He was a good-looking guy.  He had short dark brown hair and thoughtful brown eyes.  He had great bone structure and little ears that Heather always bugged him about being “so cute.”  He never really understood why he hadn’t been taken in by the popular crowd, but he didn’t really mind.  He was fine with having a few close friends instead of a lot of casual ones.  With guys, it just seemed to be the jocks that were really noticed, and being the total opposite of a jock, he rather blended in with the background.  And if anything, he hoped to be ignored after coming out as opposed to sticking out as some kind of freak.

Turning on the faucet in front of him, Dustin wet a stubborn hair that had begun to stick up and forced it down with the rest of his hair.  He then pulled out a tube of chapstick and ran it lightly over his lips, smiling at his reflection when he’d finished, deciding that he was as ready for school as he was ever going to be.  He stepped back out into the hall and walked the rest of the way to his class, a little on edge every time he passed a group of guys.  What was it about guys that made them feel the need to lash out at gays, he wondered.  They didn’t do it to gay women; they were “into” that.  Did they feel threatened by another man’s sexuality because they thought he’d be into them?  Or did they just want to show other guys that they were manly to reaffirm their own status as heterosexuals?  It was probably too close to Dustin for him to ever really figure it out from another person’s point-of-view.

Dustin ducked into room 202 and was met with stony silence.  A room full of students stared up at him as he walked in.  He had the impression that they’d been talking about him, but had stopped as soon as they saw him pass through the door.  But that was a silly notion, of course.  The beginning of the school year was always awkward like this.  Classrooms were always quiet, with uncomfortable glances shot around the room, people imploring others with their eyes to make friends, to strike up a conversation.  Everybody was a little self-conscious and worried about how people were going to perceive them.  Except for Heather, he reminded himself.  Or so she said.

About half of the seats were already taken, by nobody he really talked to, so he took a seat in the back row by the window.  If the class got too boring, it would at least be nice to peak out at the courtyard as a reminder that he wouldn’t be there forever.  Plus in the back row, nobody could really look at him during class without being obvious, so he wouldn’t feel like someone was staring at him or talking behind his back.  And if he had a bad skin day, he could just fade out of people’s view and bask in the idea of being invisible for awhile.  Not to mention that he would probably be free to read whatever he felt like, unnoticed.  He was really itching to dive into his L.J. Smith book since starting it the previous night.

A couple minutes went by and a handful of people trickled in.  Dustin frowned when the bell rang and none of his friends walked in.  Travis, the football star himself, walked in just ahead of Ms. Freeman.  He scanned the class and nodded to a few people who waved at him.  He took the desk one seat ahead of Dustin and to the right.  As he stared at Travis’ back, Dustin was reminded once more how much he admired his body.  He was wearing an orange t-shirt that stretched taut across his perfect back, with sleeves that gave a teasing glimpse of his tanned biceps.  If there was ever a reason to attend a football game in Andersville, he was looking at it.

            “Okay, class,” Ms. Freeman began, turning on an overhead projector and slipping a transparent sheet onto the top of the machine.  She pulled down a screen behind her, revealing a chart with names on it.  “This is the seating chart for the first half of the semester.  Find your spot quickly and remember where it is.  If you are not there tomorrow, you will be marked absent.”

            A collective groan echoed across the classroom as Dustin scanned the list for his name, hoping he wouldn’t be moved up front.  Thankfully, he was still in the back row, just on the opposite side of the room.  He gave one last wistful look out the window and headed toward his new seat.  No sitting in the sunshine in this class.

            He tossed his books on the desk and sat with his back against the wall, very aware of Travis making his way toward him.  He smiled to himself when Travis sat directly in front of him.  As he sat down, he nodded to Dustin and said “hey.” 

            “Hey,” Dustin echoed him.  This was one class he wasn’t going to mind attending.

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