Niah was waiting for Neil and Joe on her way to the school's cafeteria for lunch that day. She was anxious to know her best friends' schedules so they could have at least one class together junior year in Commead Irons High School since she knew for sure their last year in school would be just them and whoever else decided to join. As she passed through the bustling crowd of students to get in one of the lines for lunch, a tall, muscular goth-looking kid jostled his way through the hungry prowlers also. Following behind him was a cute black girl who was hanging onto the kid's leather jacket as they passed through. They made an interesting couple at first glance; total opposites in every way! They were also the only students wearing regular clothes. Everyone else wore their uniforms.
Niah continued to watch the couple shuffle through the kids until they found their clique. Other students who were just as good-looking as the two opposites were greeting them and they were all wearing regular clothes. Under her breath, Niah kind of thought the goth kid was hot, and she usually wasn't in to that kind of character. The kid was really good-looking and a rugged biker boy, but he was dating someone who seemed generally sweet and helpless behind his strength. However, you should never judge any book by its cover.
"Hey, don't space out, Mosley!" someone called.
Niah looked in front of her and noticed the line was completely cleared up and it was obviously her turn. Man, those kids were quick to order! She ran up to the cafeteria server and got her plate of food.
That was embarrassing, Niah thought as she hustled out of the way to a table.
"Hey, Niah!" a familiar voice called.
Niah turned to the general direction of the voice and saw Joe sitting down and chomping on a slice of pepperoni pizza. He was waving his hand to beckon her closer to him and pointed to an empty seat in front of him. She walked to the table, smiling, then sat down in front of him. She had a steaming burger wrapped in aluminum foil that she decided to eat last as she placed a fry between her lips and took her phone out. She sent a text to Neil's phone then put the device away.
"So, what's your schedule looking like?" Niah asked, chewing the fry.
"I got a driver's elective for third period. If I pass, this summer I'll be able to test for a license," Joe said, fist pumping.
"Right on," Niah responded, arching her eyebrows in surprise. "Hey, did you see this really tall goth kid walking around with a girl on his back?"
"Who, Royce?" Joe clarified.
"You know who he is?" Niah questioned, no longer eating her fries.
"Yeah, Royce Steel. He used to go to night school here," Joe answered, drinking his soda. "I had him in my geometry and music class freshman year. He stopped taking daytime classes once he started sophomore year. I don't know what his schedule is looking like this year. Was he in uniform?"
"Nope, just denim and leather," Niah answered, nodding and somewhat grinning.
"Chances are he might have night classes this year," Joe answers, taking a bite out of his pizza.
"Was he always - uh...you know..."
"Scary?" Joe finished, eyes widening a bit in his own fear. He nodded rapidly then said, "Hell yeah. He ain't scary for show neither. Some guys tried to fight him in geometry and he got suspended for beating them up even though the guys started it. When he came back, he never forgave 'em."
A group of sophomore bullies bump into Royce after backing up from their own jostling. They turn around, noticing Nietzche and some other cute girls, and start to tease and play around. One of the bullies is wearing a thinly-chained shirt and pants with a light Avenged Sevenfold jacket. He crept closer to Nietzche as she ignored him.
"Hey, don't try to score with that wi - " the bully starts, slowly silencing himself as Royce stood several inches above him with a daunting presence. The bully shivers then backs away from Royce in shuffling steps saying, "Oh, i-i-i-i-i-it's Royce. S-s-ss-s-sorry, man, we were just on our way to lunch. Right, guys?"
"Uh-huh," the other boys agree, running from Royce in an impressive speed.
"Nice job, man," Nietzche congratulates, smiling brightly.
"He's the bullies' bully in this school," Joe finishes, watching Royce sit next to his supporter. "The perfect anti-hero. He protects weaker kids but scares them off in the process. I don't think he has any friends in this school because of that. If he does, he has very few."
"What about the girl that was clinging to him?" Niah asked, turning to the table Royce was sitting in. The girl was still next to him, and they were talking to each other like normal friends would. Royce had to be friendly underneath all that black and creepiness. He said something to one of the shy, cute girls that made everyone at the table laugh. Niah furrowed her eyebrows, wanting to know what they were all talking about and said, "He doesn't seem scary to them."
"Actually, that's the first time I've ever seen that table period. Especially the girl next to him," Joe said, standing up to look at Royce and this pretty black girl. "She's pretty cute, though. I think that whole table takes night classes. They're the only ones in regular clothes. Wait a minute!" Niah looked back at Joe with a wondering glance until he pointed at her accusingly with a raised eyebrow and said, "Why do you wanna know about Royce?"
"He seems like a nice guy," Niah responded. "Tall, dark, and scary, but he's been watching that girl's back like they were besties stranded on a savage island. I was just curious."
"Sure that's the whole truth?" Joe accuses, narrowing his gaze at the blue-eyed brunette. "I know you, Shaniah Roberta Olsen-Mosely. You're falling for him, aren't you?"
"Wha - ? No! I just saw him today!" Niah countered.
"Saw who?" Neil asked, scaring the friends from his sudden appearance. "What?"
"You scared the shit outta me!" Niah argued, punching Neil's arm harshly.
"Fine, I'm leaving you then," Neil said, about to stand up and walk elsewhere. He then felt the pain of Niah's hits on his arm and touched it tenderly before saying, "Ow."
Joe chuckled then said, "Weak."
"No! No, it's okay," Niah said, rubbing Neil's arm. "I was just surprised."
"And admitting she fell in love with Royce," Joe added, earning a shocked gasp from Neil. Apparently, everyone knew Royce except her. He said, "At first glance, too."
"I did not!" Niah snapped. "I just saw him walking around with a girl clinging to his jacket. I wanted to know who he was. He seemed nice."
"Nice?" Neil questioned. "That thing broke someone's jaw in half and had battery charges dropped out of self-defense during his first year here and you think that he's nice?"
"He was defending himself from those insecure bastards who pick on people for no reason," Niah defended. "He was brave enough to put them in their place at the very least. And if he's the bully of the bullies, he should be thanked rather than feared. I mean," Niah started, turning around to nod at Royce and his table, "that girl over there invited him to her table."
"Tch," Neil scoffed quietly, turning back to his plate of food. "That's because she's really sweet and doesn't care about what others think."
"You know her?" Joe asked, staring into her friend's face. He was different than before. This wasn't the same vibe he got from Neil when he had a crush on Monet. Monet was the sweetest girl in school and lovable, but Neil sounded like he was saying she wasn't anymore. In fact, he was oddly quiet. Joe said, "Who is she?"
"Nietzche Wormheimer," Neil answered, turning to the table with Nietzche and Royce. "I met her in homeroom. She's Goodenhall's night school student. Some guys were hitting on her before we left, and she flat-out rejected them. Called 'em fuckers and walked off. Goodenhall got a nice laugh from that."
"Wait, did you say Wormheimer?" Joe questioned, earning a nod from Neil. "My dad went to Albert Wormheimer's funeral over the summer. I think it was right after your mom's."
"Right after? How long after?" Neil asked, beginning to remember the name.
"About two weeks after hers. No, I lied. It was a week after. I remember dad saying he didn't want to tell Uncle Ned because it'd be too much for him. Albert was my dad's co-worker at the computer plant, and him and his wife went to middle school with Uncle Ned, Tee Mose, and my daddy."
"That's where I heard that name from!" Neil said, shaking his finger at Joe. "Nietzche's dad and my mom were on the same plane when it crashed during the summer. She told me in homeroom!"
"That's weird," Niah commented. "I'd of never thought I'd meet someone who lost their dad in the same plane crash my mom was in. Did she give you her number to stay in touch?"
"No, she just said her name and that she remembered my name from somewhere," Neil said, drinking his juice. "She might've come across my dad's name when someone wrote the funeral invites and when she met me the name clicked."
"Dude, you should totally get her number," Niah said. "You have Monet's."
Neil sighed, fantasizing about his crush, Monet Loomer. He looked to the ceiling and said, "Yeah, and we have Theatre together after lunch. We've only got one more year until this crush becomes extinct forever in college because there's more women, more opportunities, and hopefully no more bullies that follow you after high school because that would suck and so could your future. But this year... This year I'm gonna talk to her and we're gonna go on at least one date or…"
"Or?" Niah prompted.
"…I haven't thought that far," Neil said, banging a fist against the table.
"Well, let's see your schedule instead," Joe suggests, rummaging through Niah's book bag and reading her schedule. "Wow, we get to suffer Algebra II together for seventh period. Let's see yours, dude."
"Ah, I really don't think that's a good idea," Neil stalls, suddenly being choked by Niah and having his schedule found by Joe.
"We don't have any classes together!" Joe declared in an almost questioning tone.
Niah gasped, snatched the paper, and then turned to Neil, "Wha – you promised we'd have one class together this year! What, got cold feet?"
"No, I just wanted to make new friends and get closer to Monet at the same time. It's like the rule of the new year in the guide," Neil explained. "Besides, we've got lunch together."
"We agreed to be together for a period other than lunch!" Niah hissed, pulling Neil's ear.
"Alright, ya sadistic looney tune!" Neil shouted, prying his ear out of Niah's abusive grasp. "If I had any doubt in my mind about not having a class together, I've got enough sense to know now. I'm keeping my schedule the way it is and if either one of you follow me I am going to strip you both naked and leave you in the mall until closing time!"
With that, Neil took his lunch, dumped the remains, and stormed out of the cafeteria. Joe and Niah looked at each other, nodded, and ate whatever was left of their lunch savagely before rushing to Joe's locker. Inside of Joe's locker was an iPAD touch screen, applicable keyboard, and several circuits donated by his father, Cookie. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree.
"Okay, you know what to do," Niah said, slapping Joe's back.
Joe turned to the brunette and said, "Actually, I was hoping you'd tell me."
Niah rolled her eyes then said, "Look up Monet's schedule and compare hers with Neil's. If we find out what classes they have together and switch it up a bit, Neil will be with us rather than that heartbreaking prom queen."
"Right," Joe agreed, swiftly typing to enter the school's main server. He found the two schedules in a few seconds and compared them. Once he found the classes where Neil and Monet, he furrowed his eyebrows and said, "They only have one class together and that's Theatre I."
"Try comparing mine with hers," Niah suggested. Joe compared the two and showed her the results. She skimmed through them and said, "I have four classes with her!"
"Calm down, calm down. I'm sure you can reschedule some of them and let Neil take the ones you don't want."
"That's what we're trying to prevent!" Niah snapped.
"Okay, okay, calm down!" Joe shouted, looking through the list for available classes. "Well, there's not much to actually change. Neil likes acting and is really good at it, and Monet's not even - uh-oh..."
"What do you mean 'uh-oh'? I don't like that 'uh-oh.' That's the sound of last-minute changes 'uh-oh.' What's happening?"
"Monet's switching two of the classes she has with you and exchanging them for classes with Neil," Joe warned.
"Well, stop her! You're the techno-genius," Niah reminded, slapping Joe's arm. The muscles in his arms were hardening quite well since he started working out again.
"Alright, already, will you just chill?" Joe suggested, waving a calm hand. "All I have to do is get into the system for ten seconds and then - "
"Hey, look out!" a jock called, after throwing a football in the hallway. The ball hit Joe in the back of the neck, making him drop his iPAD into a passing janitor's mop bucket, and bounced away. The principal practically towered over the foolish jock and pulled him into his office by the ear with a scowl.
"Ooo, that doesn't look too good," the janitor commented, watching Joe kneel over the mop bucket. Joe, not remembering what happens with electronics and water when the two forces mix, reached into the bucket and was immediately shocked into temporary unconsciousness. Niah screamed then shook Joe a couple of times. The janitor rolled the mop bucket away from everyone and tried to help Niah wake Joe from his injury.