I got antsy thinking about the school over the few weeks after, between getting used to mouth guards at night, biting my face during the day, and flinching every time I thought a sudden rainstorm or lightning bolt was gonna go off.
I got dressed quickly the morning of the big move, hating how poundy my heart felt already. 3WMB said poundy heart could be a lot of things, especially for a new Cani. Maybe I could convince Stella to let me stay home and take the next train to school. But I knew I couldn’t miss this. When I was ready, she was still by her mirror touching up her blush.
Stella put on the same boring old pop song she put on every morning when she got up. I hoped I’d win the mental dice roll and not have it stuck in my head all morning.
“Pleaaase don’t be afraid, all the clouds in your head will fade awaaay, it’ll be a sunny daaaay…”
While Stella finished her makeup, I triple checked my bags and suitcases. I finally decided on the perfect lineup for things to bring in my luggage the night before. I made sure to keep a Raina Starlight book in my backpack. And the rest of my collection in my luggage. I felt hopeful as I said bye to my room, promising I’d be back soon.
“I thought we should have been out the door by now,” I said.
“Shut up.” Stella said.
I walked around the hallway stomping a bit, knowing I was being a brat.
“Alright, let’s go already,” Stella said once she finished. “Once you’re on the train I’ll have some peace and quiet around here…”
“You’ll miss me as soon as I leave,” I said.
Stella pulled me in for a hug.
“You know it,” Stella said. “No long goodbyes though, I don’t want you to see me bawling and then you’ll start crying…it’d just be a mess.”
I yawned as we stepped into the elevator.
“You know, when you’re at Rising Shards they won’t let you sleep in.” Stella said.
Stella called for a cab when we got outside and helped me get my suitcases in the back seat. As we sped along the LE streets, I looked out each time we passed between disks.
I couldn’t sit still by the time we got to the station. I looked at my ticket again. I was on the fourth train, the yellow line. It was already boarding, which meant I was spared awkward waiting time.
“Alright, like I said, no long goodbyes,” Stella said, grabbing me in another bear hug. “Love you, you’re gonna rock it there.”
“Thanks Stella,” I said, hugging her back. “I love you too and stuff.”
“And then you’ll be back before you know it for Safe Silver,” Stella’s voice trailed off. “OK, get on the train, I feel a cry coming on.”
“Alright, enjoy the peace and quiet!” I said.
I waved as I headed toward the train, then felt a little homesick so I ran back for one more hug, which made Stella start bawling so she told me I had to get on the train immediately. I fought back tears myself leaving her. She looked really proud of me as she watched me take the last few steps onto the train, so that was nice.
I felt floaty as I dashed for the nearest empty seat, planting myself by the window. The train was already full of other Cani that must have been from other towns farther away. I saw a lot of other kinds of Cani right away.
The train was taking students to both Rising and Falling Shards, as both the girls’ and boys’ schools had the same principal and a joint orientation. All of us had the fangs but some got their own little quirks (that I read about in the long-titled books). A guy in front of me was scratching up the back of his chair with a claw. A girl to my right was complaining that the seats weren’t made for tailed Cani. A boy was bragging about the difference between having the pointy up Cani ears versus the pointy side Cani ears but agreed with the girl he was debating with that both were better than having regular human looking ears.
To try and fight off my anxiousness, I relied on my trusty anxiety buster book series and started reading again. At the very least, reading about Raina Starlight gave me some calm time. I tried to force myself to not think of Jeans in regard to Raina Starlight books, but I couldn’t.
We were just leaving the city to a suburb, but it was the farthest I had been on my own. Rising Shards was in a town called Sky Clay. It didn’t take long for the train to arrive.
Sky Clay seemed like a cute little village in comparison to the LE. It even had a sign on the way in that said, “The Cutest Little Village in Exoun,” and I hadn’t seen any other cute little villages in the state so who was I to judge? I almost wasn’t used to how small the buildings were compared to home. Every single one looked like a little shop, until we were past the sign that read “The Cutest Little Shop District in Sky Clay, the Cutest Little Village in Exoun,” and once we were past that we were into a forested area. There was a gentle beauty to all of it that was never present back home. The train rolled to a stop in an out of place looking station just past the beach.
There were a bunch of students stretching out on the beach, so there was no rush to bring our luggage inside. After holding back my stronger emotions with a tactical clamping of my eyelids, I took a deep breath, and let myself lie back in the sand. For a while, I just listened to the gulls above me and the waves, gradually drowning out the chatter behind me.
A few notes played out from the speaker system in the school. A friendly voice came out after.
“Do I talk into this part? OK, sorry. Geez. Students! This is…and uh…oh! It’s time for the big opening ceremony for this bad boy. Faculty, if you’d do me a solid and lead the first-year kids to the seats, that’d be awesome.”
I figured the awkward man speaking was new like me, so I gave him a pass for his shaky delivery.
We all had to get into a line and hand off our luggage after scanning our wrist bands, which had been synced up with the school’s network so the movers would know which room to bring them to. I felt like such a burden making someone else bring my stuff up. I tried to offer bringing my stuff up on my own, but they wouldn’t let me. The staff led us into the first building I stepped into at Rising Shards, the auditorium. It felt like I had entered a ritzy theater as I walked through marble hallways with fancy fountains and statues. I passed under curtains to enter the seating area, which had absurdly comfortable seats. After the cramped train seats, I kicked back with the leg rest and wondered if they’d notice if I took a nap.
The school answered that question when the speakers blared out anticipatory music. It felt like a countdown for a band or a movie reveal or something.
“WELCOME TO…RISING SHARDS!” A deep voice said, loud enough to make me plug my ears. Some cheers followed. This felt like a band mixed with a roller coaster now. The anticipatory music kicked up, and it felt like it had to be building to something huge.
What I thought were curtains on stage was actually just video playing on a ginormous screen. A swirling image replaced them as the music reached its peak. I got giddy in my seat, ready to see what excitement Rising Shards was going to bring us. The screen went black and the lights went out and I held my breath in waiting to see what was next.
“We all live in the world, but all of us are different,” the narrator said as that video popped up on the screen. “Upon reaching puberty, some find themselves going through another changey change.”
I was a bit stunned. The same video. Once more, cheesy graphics swooped by and shots of people just going about their lives and the popsicles and the shopping and books. We had to watch the whole thing again. Even on a giant screen with blasting speakers, that video still sucked.
“Wow, what a movie am I right people?” The voice from before came out from the speakers. “Up next, please follow the instructions on your power blockers and go to the room they tell you. Oh, and, we will find you if you go to the wrong room.”