Thomas yawned and rubbed his eyes. He tried desperately to look like he hadn’t been up until three in the morning stressing about today. What kind of message would that send? ‘Welcome to high school. Say goodbye to sleep.’
He sighed and pushed open the door to the classroom his group had been given.
Thomas wanted to go to university when he graduated. He wasn’t a bad student, but he also wasn’t attracting any attention for his intelligence. The guidance councillor had recommended he get involved in activities and events around school and in the community to make his applications more appealing.
One of the events he had signed up for was grade nine orientation. So, while his fellow seniors were enjoying their final day of summer break, he was at school meeting some of the incoming students.
They were all looking at him expectantly.
“Uh, good morning.” Thomas tried to smile as he dug out the list of their names. “Before we get started, let’s make sure everyone is here.”
He started reading off the names, names he was sure he would forget once the day was over. There were two Annas, a Richard, he managed to butcher Chloe’s last name, and had to try three times with Aaron’s. He was pretty sure he would never be asked to read a list of names again.
“Lauren Marks.” He called the final name on the list.
When nobody responded, he scanned the room. “Lauren Marks?” He repeated.
In the back of the room, the sixth ninth grader hesitantly raised their hand in a pitiful wave. Thomas met their eyes and his stomach clenched at the weak smile he got.
“I am so sorry.” He blurted out, looking back down at the list. He must have read it wrong, but even now it looked like it said Lauren. He must have been more tired than he thought. “Logan Marks.”
Logan chuckled and raised his hand higher. Thomas smiled back at him before turning his attention to the group as a whole.
He introduced himself and went over the obligatory school rules spiel. He explained that, yes, teachers did in fact enforce the dress code, and yes, they would be responsible for absences incurred as a result of being sent home for dressing inappropriately. It would be best to not risk it.
Then he asked if there was anything they were anxious about.
The Anna who wore glasses raised her hand. “Do jocks really push nerds into lockers?”
Thomas tried not to laugh. “I’ve never seen that particular flavour of bullying here.” He sat on the table at the front of the room. “Of course, bullying happens everywhere, but it’s rarely, if ever, like what you see on TV.”
The kids whispered to each other. Thomas saw the other Anna, who wore a plaid headband in her bleached hair, give the girl who shared her name a reassuring pat on the arm. He wondered if these kids would form friendships today that would last to graduation.
Logan raised his hand. “When and where does the GSA meet?”
The group turned in their seats to look at him. Logan shrunk back in his seat, but he kept his eyes locked on Thomas. Thomas could see the determination in his eyes. This was important to him.
“I’m not sure.” Thomas answered truthfully. He wasn’t even sure their school had a GSA. But then, Thomas had probably never noticed because it just wasn’t part of his school life. “I’ll try to find out for you.”
Logan smiled and nodded. “Thank you.” He seemed able to ignore the fact that the other students were still staring at him.