Stranger in a Strange Land
After a few days, my feet had healed completely. That's when Bruce decided that I was ready to go to school. The next morning saw Bruce driving me to Solomon Wayne Memorial Academy. The sprawling complex reminded me a little bit of the League of Shadows. However, the buildings were of a neo-Gothic design. The manicured lawns were still green and the leaves were beginning to turn.
Children of all ages were running around. The boys were wearing dark trousers, a white button up shirt and a green and gold striped tie beneath a dark green jacket. All the girls were dressed like me; green and gold tartan skirts, a white blouse and the same tie and the dark jacket as the boys.
I immediately got nervous. I had never been around so many other children before. Every once in a while, an orphan would end up at the League but would be fostered out to a new home until they became old enough. But Father never let me around them, why, I don't know.
"This is school?" I asked nervously as Bruce helped me out of his car.
"Yes, I went here as did Harvey and Rachel a long time ago." Bruce took my hand and led me into one of the buildings. Some of the children stopped and began to stare at us. Others were taking out their phones and aiming them at us. They were taking our pictures. I moved closer to Bruce. He moved his hand to my shoulder.
Inside was a very nicely decorated office, reminding me more of Bruce's house than a real school. A woman was waiting for us, she looked slightly older than Bruce, her blonde hair twisted up into a bun and wide owl glasses were on her face. She was dressed in a nice blouse and knee-length skirt, a green scarf was knotted on her neck. She smiled at us. I liked her immediately.
"Mr. Wayne?" She held out her hand to Bruce. "My name is Jane Honey. I'm going to be Lydia's homeroom teacher."
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Honey." Bruce shook her hand. "This is Lydia."
She offered her hand to me. "It's nice to meet you, Lydia."
"It's nice to meet you too, Mrs. Honey." I took her hand.
"You don't need to worry about anything, Mr. Wayne. Mrs. Honey is one of our best teachers." The secretary said from her desk.
"I can tell." Bruce said with a smile before patting my shoulder. "I'll be back to pick you up after school at three. Have a good day."
"I'll try to." I mumbled, watching Bruce leave.
Mrs. Honey laughed. "It's not that bad." We left and she led me down the hallway. "You've been homeschooled?"
"Yes. My father was my teacher. He taught me a lot." That wasn't a lie. Bruce warned me the night before to not speak of the League of Shadows or what happened. Father took in Bruce and when he died, he asked Bruce to take care of me.
"Oh? What's your favorite subject?"
"Reading. I have trouble with Math and Science."
"That's no problem. Between you and me, I have trouble with that too. What's your favorite book?"
I tried to think. "Too hard for me to pick just one. But if I had to…I'd say…King Lear."
Mrs. Honey looked at me in surprise. "You mean Shakespeare's King Lear?"
"Yes, why is something wrong?" I asked as we stopped in front of a classroom.
"No! Nothing's wrong, it's just that you're the first third grader I've run into that's read Shakespeare. But that's ok. It's great you love to read. I wish more of your fellow classmates liked to read." We went inside.
Desks were lined up in rows facing the front which had a big chalkboard on it, an even larger desk and a bookcase. Students were gathered up in groups, talking and chatting. I was envious as I had never seen children together, laughing and talking as if they'd been friends forever.
"Students!" Mrs. Honey said in a louder voice. Everyone scrambled right to their seats. I felt eighteen pairs of eyes on me. It was very uncomfortable. I smiled nervously. "This is our new student, Lydia Ducard. She's been homeschooled and had never been to school before. I trust all of you will make her feel welcome." Some of the kids smiled at me and I felt much better. "Can you tell us a little about yourself Lydia?"
"Um, I've lived all of my life in Tibet with my father until a few weeks ago." I said. Some of the children gasped. I couldn't tell if it was out of amazement, awe, surprise or jealousy. "He wasn't able to take care of me so one of our friends offered to take me back to the States with him. I like reading and learning."
"That's a good thing because we have a lot to learn today. Brenda, while we take out our homework, why don't you show Lydia where her desk and cubby are?" Mrs. Honey asked. A girl in the front row stood up, her honey curls held back with hair bows.
"Come with me." She said and led me to the large closet. There were rows upon rows of little sections inside. All of them had coats and book-bags stashed in them and had labels on them. One of them was empty and had my name neatly written on a little sticker. "Here you go." She was a little cold to me.
This was fine because I was used to cold characteristics. Father was, showing affection by talking to me or a gentle hand on my shoulder. Bruce was more affectionate but could be distant at times.
Sensing that she didn't want to be standing there for too long, I quickly took off my backpack and hung it up on the little hook inside the cubby. Remembering the things Alfred had put inside that morning, I took out a couple of notebooks and a pink pencil case. Once I was ready, Brenda led me to the front desk on the row closest to the door. "This is your desk." She pointed to the desk. Like my cubby, it had my name neatly written on a sticker. "And here's mine." Brenda sat down at the desk on my left. Then she promptly looked away. It was if I didn't exist.
"Are you all settled in, Lydia?" Mrs. Honey asked.
"Yes, thank you Mrs. Honey." I said.
"You're welcome. Now let's begin with the pledge." Everyone stood up and turned to the United States flag hanging from the chalkboard.
I mimicked everyone by putting my right hand over my heart. But I didn't know the words. Nervously, I looked around and caught sight of the words neatly written on a poster by the flag. It wasn't too hard to follow along. But I had made up my mind to memorize the words as soon as I could.
Then we sat back down and the day began proper.
By the time recess rolled around, I had realized that I liked school. I knew most of the answers already and Mrs. Honey was encouraging. Even though I felt the others staring at me in disgust, I was hopeful that it was just my imagination.
The children ran outside, I kept up, wanting to feel some fresh air. There was a large playground outside, filled with equipment such as swings, slides, monkey bars, fireman's poles and others. I had seen them before, the League of Shadows used them for training. When everyone else was busy, Bruce would take me out and let me play on the equipment, watching to make sure that nobody else was coming and that nothing happened to me.
Of course, what did I do? I ran over there to play. It felt so nice using the slides and swings.
Best of all, Father wasn't there to get mad at me if he caught me playing.
As I was swinging, I noticed John Blake, dressed in a student uniform. He was sitting beneath a large tree, reading a book. Funny, I didn't know he went here. I thought as I stopped swinging and walked over, happy to at least see a familiar face.
"Hi, John." I said. He grunted, acknowledging my presence and not looking up. I felt more awkward. What can I talk about now? His book. I scolded myself. Ask him about his book. "So what's your book about?"
"It's about a man who has the power to bring people out of books into everyday life." John said, still not looking up.
"Is it good?" I asked.
"Yeah. It is." He said before looking into the distance. His face turned to anger and disappointment. "Lydia, get out of here."
"Why?" I asked as a group of three boys walked up to us. They were much bigger than John and myself. John took a deep breath and returned to his reading.
"Blake." The biggest of the boys asked. He had dark brown hair and greedy looking blue eyes. I assumed he was the leader of this group.
"Falcone." John said, still looking at his book.
"So, what do you have your nose in?" Falcone asked as he grabbed the book clean out of John's hands. "Reading again. You son of a bitch, your dad was a snitch…"
"Hey, give it back to him." I said, getting annoyed. "For that matter, why are you calling him a dog?"
"Well, well, well. Who is this? Your girlfriend?" Falcone said, looking at me. John clenched his fists before grabbing me by the collar of my coat and dragging me away.
"What are you doing?! Who was that?!" I shouted as he pulled me to a quiet corner.
"You're welcome. That was Stephen Falcone." John said with a groan. "He's a real bully just like his dad, Carmine."
"Why does he call you a dog though?" I asked, confused.
"Man, where did your dad bring you up in, a monastery?" John asked. I looked at him, still confused before he sighed. "That's a bad term. He's insulting both of my parents." He explained.
"Why don't you fight back?" I asked. "Where I come from, if you got insulted like that, you had to duel and save your honor." I said, remembering the fights that took place. Father made me watch and got a promise out of me every time to never allow my heart do my thinking.
"Then I'd get into trouble." John said, scoffing. "Nothing's going to stop him. His daddy gave tons of money to the school, which practically makes him untouchable. Uncle Harvey told me to ignore him and he'd go away. But it hasn't worked."
This didn't make sense to me. I thought as the bell rang. What kind of place was this where people could insult others yet can't fight back?
Bruce would have some insight. I decided to ask him when he picked me up from school.
Bruce left Applied Sciences feeling more hopeful about his mission as Batman. Meeting with his father's old friend Lucius Fox and learning about all of the military grade gear made this more plausible.
There was hope for Gotham. He thought as he drove down to pick up Lydia from school.
Lydia was waiting outside with the other students. Long lines of cars slowly drove past the front part of Solomon Wayne Memorial Academy. Bruce pulled up and let Lydia into the front seat. She seemed quieter than expected.
Something must've happened. Bruce thought. "How was your day?"
"Ok. I like my class and teacher. She's really nice." Lydia said, digging into her backpack and getting out her book. Something was really wrong. Bruce continued to look at her, silently prying as Ducard used to. "Ok, I saw somebody getting made fun of today." She said after a little while. She told the whole story with John and Stephen Falcone. "…when I asked John why he didn't fight back, he said that he'd get into trouble."
"Yes." Bruce said as he turned onto the road to Wayne Manor. "That school has a no fighting rule. If there is bullying, the teachers are supposed to take care of it."
"But they're not doing anything. John told me that Stephen Falcone's dad gave a bunch of money to the school and that they look the other way." Lydia said.
"That doesn't surprise me. I don't doubt you know it, but this is a very different world than the one we left behind. Here we live by civilized rules and orders."
"And yet it can't save Gotham, or rather that's what Father told me. So why do these rules and orders allow the strong to push down the weak?" Lydia asked.
Again, Bruce had no answer. "I don't know, Lydia. I really don't know." He said.
But the weak didn't need to be afraid anymore. Bruce silently promised as they rode through the gates of Wayne Manor.
Soon, Batman would give the ones who scare others a reason to be terrified.