The morning went well. Thomas was proud of himself for not losing anyone on the tour of the school. In fact, their group had grown. They picked up a girl who had been forgotten by her orientation leader when she went to the bathroom.
They finished the tour with the cafeteria, and then the lawn through the cafeteria doors where the staff had set up a barbeque. Everyone excitedly got in line to get their burgers. They mingled with kids from other groups, probably friends from middle school.
Thomas got in line after them, pleased that he had succeeded in his job for the day. After lunch all the ninth graders were going to the gym to be led in activities by faculty members, and he could go home and get ready for tomorrow.
Someone fell into step beside Thomas. “Hey.” He looked over to see Logan.
“Hey.” Thomas was surprised that Logan wasn’t chatting with his friends, but he didn’t say anything about it in case that gave off the impression that he wanted him to go away. “You think you’re ready for tomorrow?” He asked instead.
Logan shrugged. “Yeah. I was scared I’d get lost on the tour, so Briar showed me around two days ago, when the building was open for administrative stuff.” He grinned. “But it looks like I had nothing to worry about.”
“Thanks.” Thomas glanced over at the girl they had picked up, Jen. She and the Annas were laying claim to a picnic table in the shade.
“Oh, uh…” He turned back to Logan. “I’m sorry about that attendance thing.”
Logan shrugged. “Don’t worry.” He turned his attention to the hamburger that had just been put on his plate. “It actually happens a lot.” He chuckled.
Somehow, that didn’t make Thomas feel any better.
A wolf’s howl split the air between them and Thomas jumped. Logan laughed as he balanced his plate in the palm of his hand and dug out a cell phone. Apparently, Logan shared Briar’s interest in animal cry ringtones.
“Can you hold this for a moment?” Logan passed his plate to Thomas. Then he started texting. He was grinning while he stared at the phone screen.
Then he was suddenly grabbing Thomas’s arm and pulling him down slightly. “It’s for Briar.” He laughed, holding out the phone to take a picture. Thomas had time to stick out his tongue before the picture was taken.
Logan looked at it and laughed. “Nice face.” He showed the picture to Thomas. He had made a cross eyed face himself. They both laughed as he sent the picture to Briar.
“Thanks.” Logan put his phone away and accepted his plate back. “She was worried I’d have a rough day.”
“You’re her little brother.” Thomas said with a shrug. He resisted the urge to ruffle Logan’s hair playfully. “It’s kind of expected for her to worry.”
“Did you worry about her?”
Thomas’s laugh came out as a snort. Briar had started high school the year before, and she had gone in with the same pride and self assuredness that she always exhibited. She had stood up for, and quickly became the defender of the ninth grade girls against the senior boys.
“No.” Thomas admitted to Logan. “Or rather, in a round about way.” He sighed fondly as he dressed his burger with ketchup and mustard. “I wasn’t worried she’d get hurt. I was more worried she’d get herself into trouble being a social justice warrior.”
Logan nodded. “That sounds like Briar.” He finished dressing his own burger and looked across the lawn when Jen called to him.
“You’ll do fine here.” Thomas patted his shoulder. “Just be yourself, make real friends, and don’t--”
“Do drugs?” Logan finished, making a silly face.
“I was going to say don’t procrastinate on assignments, but yeah, don’t do drugs either.”