Now this is a sequel to Kings Ransom, so I recommend you go read that to understand why certain things are happening. I'm going to try and update on a regular basis.

Read on!


Looking at himself in the mirror, TJ tried to restore some of the confidence that he lost the previous night as the fact that the first day of school was less than an hour away. Only a small amount came back as her fussed over his clothes that Becky picked out for him to try and cheer him up before hopping on a plane and leaving for college in Germany. 'Clothes make the person,' she said.

Weathered jeans, a light gray shirt with a white exclamation point, and white shoes. Nothing that could draw unwanted attention, but enough to look clean and his actual age instead of like a kid who's puberty was taking a vacation.

"Guess I can't hold it off any longer," he mumbled. He grabbed his book bag sitting next to his desk and held it over his shoulder. Sasha, who sat near his bed, came up to him. "I'll be back later, Sasha. Wish me luck?"

He chuckled to himself before heading downstairs with his skateboard in hand.

With as much anxiety as the first day of school was giving him, if his racing heartbeat and sweaty palms were anything to go by, he knew he couldn't skip the first day of all things. No, he needed to safe those mental health days for when he really need them. His parents, advised by Dr. Sage, allowed him five days throughout the school year to take off of school, no questions asked. He appreciated having that on hand, and had a feeling that he was going to need them.

"Hey!"

He stopped skating down the sidewalk and turned to see CJ riding up to him on her bike.

"Ready for school?" She asked, grinding her bike to a halt.

"As ready as I can be, I guess," he said as they headed to school together. "Which look are you going for with this outfit?"

"A sort of light, farm girl-ish sort of look," she said with a chuckle. "It's still a little too hot to be wearing darker colors yet."

He nodded, agreeing. She stuck with light colors, wearing a faded denim skirt with short leggings, a white lace shirt, and sandals. Cute.

"You look nice," he said.

"You too! So, are you nervous?" She asked. "You know, about seeing your old friends?"

"Yeah. . .I'm hoping that they just ignore me. I don't want it to be like at the candy store," said TJ. "I'd rather they ignore me than make a scene and everyone's looking."

"Right. Even if they do though, we'll take care of them. People are a lot less brave about bullying when their target is in a group."

"Thanks."

The rest of the way to school was in a comfortable silence. TJ wondered if Robert was anywhere as nervous as he was, though if that were the case, it would be for different reasons entirely. But in a way, it made him feel a bit better knowing that an older person he looked up to was nervous on the first day. But CJ was right; he wasn't marching in there alone, like he feared he would the first few weeks of summer vacation.

The middle school was much bigger than the elementary school. No playground of blacktop in sight, or teachers to help them around, the building looked more clean and 'official'. It was nice, TJ could admit that much, even if it was a bit daunting.

Menlo and Randall soon joined the two of them when they were in sight, and soon enough, they blended in with the other groups of friends that were gathered outside of school, something that TJ was thankful for.

Once the bell rang, they headed inside, counting down the locker numbers until they reached there's. Randall and Menlo split off from TJ and CJ on the first turn. While they searched for their locker, TJ almost wanted to keep an eye out for his old friends, if only to know when to stay out of sight. So far, nothing, though he did spot other students. Swinger girl ditched her pilot helmet, Sam and Dave no longer dressed identical, and guru kid was actually wearing a shirt now.

It was only worth a shrug in all honesty.

"Here's our lockers, dude!" CJ said. They stopped in the middle of the hallway where their lockers stood in a row with the others. They were all yellow with a black trip, and mid height, instead of the top and bottoms ones the elementary school had. "Right next to each other.

"Bigger than the ones they had at third street," TJ said. He and CJ started to turn the combination that came on the paper with their class schedule.

"Those small lockers could barely hold anything," she said. "You think they stuff kids in these?"

"I hope not," he said. "I mean, I know I could probably fit in here with room to spare, but still."

Opening their lockers, they found that it did indeed have more space than their last lockers. Two shelves, one at the top, and another at the bottom, with a large space in the middle. Around them, he could hear how others were planning on decorating and personalizing theirs. He probably wasn't going to go through with the hassle.

Sitting on the bottom shelf was a brown paper bag, with nothing more than a few pencils with the schools name printed on them, erasers, sticky notes, as a way to welcome the students for the new school year. A nice thought. Probably wouldn't touch it after today.

With his book bag not being too heavy to carry to class, they decided on carrying it with them to their classes. They'll be filled with textbooks soon enough.

"So this is where we split off, huh?" CJ asked. "We don't have any classes together until second period."

"Yeah, I guess so," said TJ.

He looked at his schedule. First things first, remedial English. Due to both his grades and newly discovered dyslexia. At least it would get out of the way first thing in the morning.

"I'll see you in an hour, then."

##

The idea of having to take a remedial class came with the sort of stigma of being stupid, and idiot who didn't know how to read. TJ didn't need the class to have any of that on his mind; reading at all was always a bit of struggle in terms of keeping up with everyone, especially as the material got harder. But he wouldn't be the only one in this class.

Still, he sat closer to the edge of the rows of desks, as if to keep himself out the main line of sight.

As the teacher came in and introduced herself, Mrs. Patiel, and handed out the reading list and telling them what to expect, the coursework already started to look like too much, but still, her overall pleasant attitude made it look a lot less threatening.

"If you look at the paper I handed out, you'll see we'll be reading books that are quite popular. I hope some of these grab your attention. It's a lot easier to read a book if you're interested in it," Mrs. Patiel said. "We're going to take a month to get through one book. At the beginning of each class, I'll ask a few questions about the reading you're going to do the night before, like a mini test. These add up, so it's important that you read whats assigned each night. Then we'll do some reading in class.

"You're also expected to write a report on any three books on this list by the end of the school year. You can do two before Christmas break, and one when you get back, three now to get it out the way, wait until after Christmas break to do any of them, it's up to you. But these are big parts off your grade."

#

"How'd it go?"

He and CJ ended finding each other, somehow, in the crowded halls on the way to their next class, History. One of the classes TJ wasn't too worried about. Oddly enough he didn't have much of an issue remembering dates and events, making him a bit of a history buff, something he was told was strange for those with dyslexia. But he wasn't about to question.

"It went better than what I expected. We got a reading list. First thing we're reading is Harry Potter," he said, holding up the book.

"That's awesome. You don't have to read boring stories out of a textbook," she said.

"Yeah, but that's the only good part about it," said TJ. "We've gotta do three really big reports."

"We have to do a bunch of small ones," she said. "I dunno which is worse. Constantly writing them, or having bigger ones spread out."

They turned into their history class. Most of the students had already arrived and were either sitting or standing around the desk they picked out. But all that didn't matter, because the two students that stuck out the most were Vince in Spinelli.

TJ knew that, aside from his remedial classes, there was a fair chance he would have a class with a few of them, he just hoped that somehow, he beat the odds. But already that idea was smacked right into the ground. At least they were on the other side of the room, and so far, it didn't look like they noticed him. As for him and CJ, the two of them took two seats on the opposite side towards the front of the class.

"You okay?" She asked.

"I'm as okay as I can be," he said. "I hope this class goes by fast."

#

The history teacher was alright enough. The textbooks were handed out, and most of the class was spent explaining what they were going to do starting tomorrow, and for the rest of the school year, probably the same as what all classes were doing. A paper here, a project there, nothing too unexpected.

He, along with other students, flipped through their textbook. He hopped this was as heavy as his textbooks would get. He didn't think he could carry more than one this size without his arms getting tired.

More reading tonight, though. Yay.

Speaking of which, he should probably tell his English teacher about his dyslexia. Better get it out there now before he falls behind in reading and him telling her then sounds like an excuse. Hell, he might have to read during lunch to keep up.

But it went by without much of an issue, and it probably couldn't have gone any better.

#

Science.

Specifically science. TJ was pretty sure that was just biology. They didn't have to dumb it down that much.

The class was a bit different in appearance. Long black tables that sat two people instead of the usual individual desks in every other class, along with other tables in the back for projects that the teacher was explaining they were going to do. It sounded interesting enough. More reading. Plus there wasn't any hesitation, they were jumping right into the textbook day one, along with a list of vocabulary she wanted them to learn by the end of the week for a test. No hesitation at all.

Oh, and Gretchen was there. Sitting in the front row center, where else would she sit? While he sat in the second row, it was closer to the edge. He was starting to accept that because of his height, sitting in front was going to be the case in all of his classes. Part of him was thankful for the teacher jumping right into things, it kept his head in his notebook and mind off the fact that he is not particularly lucky today.

#

Lunch was a long time coming. The food was only slightly better than in elementary school. At least they tried to give them pizza for the first day. He, CJ, Randall, and Menlo ended up at one of the tables in the back of the lunchroom, away from the more crowded tables in the middle.

"How have things been going for you all?" Menlo asked.

"There's so much work already. We're in middle school, not college, geez," CJ said. "Homework on the first day in all my classes so far."

"What happened to going easy the first couple of days," Randall mumbled.

"Guess it's their way of telling us we aren't in elementary school anymore," TJ said. "They're doing a good job of that, if that's the case."

As they talked, the strange glances they got by some of the students, specifically him, and by the looks of some of them going up to where his old friends were sitting, because of him not being with them in favor of the local snitch and teachers pet. It had to be something weird to see from the outside.

Joy.

Well, as long as none of them were coming up to him, he'd be fine with their curiosity.

German class. Finally, something that he was able to not worry about

Honestly, when he walked into the classroom he was a little happy that it would at least be a little easier for him than for most in the class. TJ knew how to speak German before he could speak English, mostly due to his grandparents being adamant they learn the language, being German immigrants and all.

Writing it, however, could use some improvement. Would it hurt to be a bit of a show off? When he came in, he saw that his unfortunate string of luck continued with Spinelli, Vince, and Gretchen also was taking this class. This time however, there was not doubt about them seeing him, as they turned away from his as soon as he was in sight.

This school wasn't small. It looked large from the outside, so why?

"Guten Morgen Klasse!" The teacher greeted a when the bell rang.

Everyone settled in the seats they chose. By the expression on everyone's face, they were thrown off with the teacher starting out first thing, speaking a language they didn't understand. Still, she continued.

"Wie geht es Ihnen heute?" She asked.

". . .good. . . ?" One of the braver students answered.

"Das ist grossartig! Mein name is Frau Addams. Wie heissen Sie? Warum nehmen Sie diese Klasse?"

When Ms. Addams gestured to one of the students in the front row, horror was written all over his face, while relief was written on the faces of those around him.

"It's alright, I'm going to help you through this," said Ms. Addams. "'Ich heisse. . ?"

"I-ich heisse. . .? John. . ?" He said tenitively.

"Good! Now, why are you taking this class: 'Ich bin in dieser Klasse, weil. . .?'"

"I-ich bin in dieser. . Klasse weil. . . .how do you say it sounded easy. . .?"

"Es klang einfach."

"Es klang einfach."

"Alright. At least you're honest. Now."

She went through the rest of the rows, most of the kids having memorized what the first kid has said so that it would be less awkward. Only one was brave enough to offer a different answer because no one wanted to be that kid who slowed down this awkward process. There was a small part of TJ that was amused that his old friends were having as much trouble as everyone else. He deserved some bit of happiness with them in the class. Anything to make it bearable.

"Ich heisse TJ," TJ introduced himself. "Ich nehme diese Klasse, weil ich Schwierigkeiten haben, auf Deutsche zu schreiben."

"Oh, so sprechen Sie schon Deutsch?"

"Ja, da war ich wenig."

"Das ist sehr interessant! Bis zum Ende des Jahres, weren Sie in deuscher Sprache zu schreiben sein."

"Ich hoffe es."

As she moved on the next student, there was a mixture of angry and confused eyes burning into his school. TJ hoped they weren't hoping for a curved grading system because that would just be terrible. For them.

He glanced over, just for a split second, and saw two of his ex-friends glaring at him, and the other buried in the textbook that were already on their desks before class started.

This class might actually be fun.

#

The math textbook ended up being heavier than the history book.

He reasoned that since it was all remedial it would be smaller since they were all catching up, but no. No, that was not the case.

#

Last class. The one extra class that the students get to pick for their own interests and enjoyment. TJ didn't remember exactly what he was thinking when he opted for creative writing at the end of the last school year. Maybe nothing else was interesting enough to take, so he just wrote it in because it seemed the least boring. Either way, it might be an okay class. Practice for writing his comic.

All he had to do was ignore Mikey and things would be great.

The teacher was too bubbly for his own good, but at least there were no textbooks. Most of the class was writing stories and swapping them around for critique. Easy. It might actually be an alright class. He had no idea what he

#

By the end of the week, TJ was counting down the days until Christmas break.

Not because of the classes; he's been keeping up with them fine enough with the help of his parents forcing him to get to his homework as soon as he got home from kickboxing, as well as a planner. It was all great in that area, though his parents were pressing for him to get some reading done on the weekend. The weekend. (Either he was staying up late or getting up early to get it done, he hasn't decided) It wasn't even the hour of kickboxing, though that was leaving him sore every night. It made up for not having gym anymore.

No, it was because of this guy.

"What's a fuckin' fourth grader doing here?"

He almost made it through the whole week without much of an issue. It was even the end of the day, and he was ready to go home, but no. Asking for that was too much. TJ closed his locker, his bag filled with the book he'll need and turned. A group of four boys with one standing a bit ahead of the other. Tall, heavier set, messy hair, missing at least one tooth. The stereotypical bully with his lackeys. A bit of a crowd formed around

"I'm not a fourth grader," he said. "I'm 12 years old."

"Don't look it."

"I'm just short for my age," he sighed. "Are you done? I have to get to kickboxing if you don't mind."

"HA! You couldn't even kick someone's knees!"

"That. . .that was just terrible. It's okay, though. It's only the first week. You'll come up with better insults on Monday, I'm sure," said TJ. "I'm leaving now."

As he and CJ walked away from the small group of bullies and growing curious crowd, they didn't notice the angry stares that were thrown their way.

#

"How was your first week of school, TJ?"

Sitting at his desk sketching away at another page of his comic, though he wasn't sure if it could be called that at this point, TJ kept the phone up against his shoulder as he talked to Dr. Sage over the phone, rather than in his office as usual.

"It was fine. Nothing special," TJ said. "Got a lot of reading to do."

"Are you going to get a head start on it this weekend?"

"That's the plan," he said. "I'll wait until tomorrow to start, though. I need a break"

Their conversation hovered around school, his classes, about how hard they seemed to be so far. TJ didn't pay much attention in answering. There wasn't much to report in his opinion, but having gotten used to these conversation, he wasn't going to end it shorter than their usual sessions.

When it did end, however, he decided to call it an early night, opting out of desert for a very long nights sleep.


Oh, boy. Middle school's going to be journey. I hope TJ and the others can handle it. Sorry if this seems like a boring chapter. It's the first week of the school year, an stablishing shot, if you wish. Most chapters probably won't be this long, however.

I'm sorry this story took so long to get going. I was wrapped in school before I finally was able to outline this story. Updates may be slow, but I'm still on here folks, I'm not completely gone.