Upside down, Chapter 3

The bus ride continued with a hum of conversations, the engine’s steady drone, and the occasional bump in the road. Tory busied herself with her phone, texting friends back in California. Willow, on the other hand, seemed to be keeping a close eye on me and Nick.

“So, what’s the school like?” I asked, trying to break the tension.

“It’s alright,” Willow replied. “Pretty laid-back, but watch out for the cliques. Everyone’s in one, whether they like it or not.”

“Yeah, I figured,” I said, thinking of the schools in California. “So, what’s your thing?”

Willow shrugged, “I guess I’m in the artsy group. I like painting and stuff.”

Tory, always the quieter one, perked up at that. “Really? I paint too! Mostly landscapes.”

Willow’s face softened a bit. “Nice. Maybe you can show me sometime.”

Nick, who had been listening in on our conversation, chimed in. “There’s an art club at school. They meet on Thursdays.”

Tory’s eyes lit up. “That sounds great. I’ll check it out.”

We reached the school, a sprawling building that seemed to be a mix of old and new structures. As we got off the bus, Willow gave us a quick tour, pointing out the various buildings and hangout spots.

“Here’s the main entrance. Sixth graders hang out mostly near the courtyard. Eighth graders tend to take over the cafeteria.”

Nick fell in step beside me as we walked. “If you need any help finding your classes, let me know. I’m in seventh grade, so I know my way around.”

I smiled at him, feeling a strange mix of excitement and nervousness. “Thanks, Nick. I appreciate it.”

Willow’s eyes flickered towards us again, but she said nothing, leading us towards the main building. “Come on, let’s get you to the office. You need to pick up your schedules.”

As we walked through the hallways, I could feel the eyes of other students on us, curious about the new faces. The office was a small, cluttered room filled with the smell of paper and ink. A kind-looking woman behind the desk handed us our schedules and locker assignments.

“Welcome to Eastbrook Middle School,” she said with a warm smile. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Willow waited outside for us, leaning against the wall. “Got everything?”

“Yeah, looks like it,” I replied, glancing over my schedule. “First period is English.”

“Me too,” Nick said, peeking at my paper. “I’ll show you the way.”

Willow’s lips pressed into a thin line, but she nodded. “Alright. See you guys later.”

As Nick and I walked to our first class, he told me about the teachers, the best places to eat lunch, and the upcoming school dance. He seemed nice enough, and I found myself relaxing a bit more.

When we entered the classroom, a buzz of whispers filled the air. I could feel eyes on me, and I tried to ignore them as I found a seat. Nick sat next to me, giving a reassuring smile.

The teacher, a middle-aged man with a receding hairline, introduced himself as Mr. Thompson. “Alright, class, let’s get started. Today, we’re going to talk about Shakespeare.”

As the lesson began, I glanced around the room. Most of the students seemed engaged, but a few were sneaking glances at me. One girl in particular, with curly brown hair and a serious expression, seemed to be studying me intently.

When the bell rang, signaling the end of class, Nick turned to me. “You did great. If you need help with anything, just ask.”

“Thanks, Nick,” I said, gathering my things.

As we walked out of the classroom, I saw Willow waiting for us. “Ready for the next class?” she asked, her tone neutral.

“Yeah, let’s go,” I replied.

As we navigated the crowded hallways, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. Starting a new school was never easy, but I had a feeling that this was just the beginning of a very interesting year.

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Upside down, Chapter 3

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