"Oh hey, Chance!" A short-haired black kid, probably about my age, was waving me over to come sit at a nearby cafeteria table. The words stopped me in my tracks.
First off, my name's not Chance. It's Luke.
Secondly, this is my first day at this school, and only my third day living in this city.
With a mixture of confusion and curiosity, I walk over and sit down nervously. "Um, hi?"
"Sup, man? He holds his hand up and out, ready to bring it in on a slap-and-tap kind of hand shake. "Hey, where's your uniform?" he adds.
"I'm sorry," I say awkwardly, "but, um, I don't think I know you." God, there's like 7 things wrong here, but that's the only one I can get out.
The boy wrinkles his brow. "You okay? You hit your head or somethin'? You knew me yesterday."
"Wh--? Yesterday? I was at home the whole day, unpacking! I mean, we stopped by the school to get me registered, but seriously, that's it."
"Bro, you been livin' here for years, and you were in class yester--are you trollin' me? You're trollin' me." He barks a laugh and pats my shoulder. "You got me good, man." Suddenly, a bell rings out from the loudspeakers, reverberating over the loud cafeteria. He says, "In case you 'forgot,' it's class time. Good to see you again, bud." He walks off, laughing, and merges with the crowd filtering into the halls.
What the heck just happened? I run a hand through my hair and puff out my cheeks, sighing out the stress and confusion. I'm sure he just made a mistake. A really bad mistake. One with some easy answer that I just don't know. I smooth out my green t-shirt and dark blue jeans, noticing that there are still plenty of people who don't yet have the standard black shirt with gold emblem on it yet, and focus back on getting to class.
I get out my schedule that we picked up yesterday and look at my classes. This 'block' scheduling thing is weird...I've never had different classes on different days. Since it's Tuesday, though, Life Sciences is first, so I head to the room, still bewildered from my first encounter. I mean, what the heck? It's not like I'm super common-looking. I kinda stand out: obnoxiously red hair, stand-out-in-a-crowd green eyes, enough freckles to hide a leopard, radar ears, shorter than everybody my age...nobody mistakes me for someone else.
That guy had to be trolling me. There's no other way. I reach Room 96, the Biology classroom, and walk in. Most of the desks are already filled, so I take a seat near the middle of the room (all the back rows are filled, of course) when a boy next to me, a brown-hair-and-eyes kid with a mop for a hairdo, says, "Hey. How was summer?"
"Pretty good. Kinda stressful, I guess." Is he just being friendly? Does he 'know' me, too?
"Good, good. Mine was boring." He nods and goes back to getting stuff out of his backpack.
That didn't help me figure anything out. Eh, here goes: "I'm Luke," I say, waiting for an answer.
I get one in the form of him pausing and staring at me like I'm an alien. "I don't get it," he says.
"What do you mean?" I ask, obviously missing something.
"Is there like a joke I'm missing here?"
"Um, no? I mean, people call me Lucky sometimes, but there's no joke. It's just Luke."
He stares at me a moment longer and glances left and right, pausing long enough for the bell to ring. "O...kay," he says, and faces forward for the teacher to begin class. God, this is weird. I feel like the world is playing a huge prank on me, and I just can't find the cameras yet.
The teacher, Mrs. Bachmann, doesn't waste time in getting textbooks passed out to us, the syllabus handed out, all that good stuff. Strangely, she then passes everyone a plastic baggie and asks us to write our name on it; when we do, she says that we have to turn in our phones and pick them up at the end of the day. We didn't do that at my last school, but then again, everyone was always on their phones in class, so I mean, I get it. After all that, she introduces herself and then does the old "everyone say something about yourself" icebreaker that nobody likes. All the students say their name, which school they came from, and their favorite school subject. That's not too bad, I guess, but I'm gonna stick out like a sore thumb. Er, a more sore thumb. Sorer. Whatever--it's gonna suck.
My turn comes up, and I say, "I'm Luke, um, Luke Chatham, and I'm from Dewey Middle School in New Lancashire, Connecticut. I guess I like English." As I sit down, there's a little bit of muttering around the room.
The next guy goes, and so on, and we finally get to do an activity with the Scientific Method, where we're broken up into groups and all start brainstorming ridiculous ideas that we could test using the method. The group I'm with seems pretty cool, two girls and a boy who sound like they've been friends a long time; they have a ton of inside jokes, but they seem interested in working together.
Time passes by quickly, and the bell rings before I realize it. On my way out, another kid walks up with Mop-head (whose name, by the way, turns out to be Lucas, weirdly enough). Lucas says, "Hey Chance."
There's that name again. "It's Luke," I say cautiously.
The other boy, also with longer hair, though swept to the side in traditional 'Emo' style (I think his name is Scott), says, "He is acting weird." Then he asks me, "What gives?"
Lucas adds, "Why are you trying to copy my name? Are you making fun of me?"
"Okay, I'm lost," I admit, throwing my hands in the air. "I don't know why everybody is acting all weird in this school. New town, new school, new everything, and now all the people in this school are being weird as heck to me. Is this some kind of initiation? Is that what this is?!" I realize I'm almost yelling by the end of it, so I breathe a few times, noting the stunned faces of the two boys I just practically screamed at. I manage to say, "Um, sorry, I'm just--just gonna go. See y'all," and I turn and power-walk away, face burning in embarrassment. Now they're going to start talking about me, and rumors are gonna go everywhere. Great way to fit in, Luke. Real smooth.
So my next class is--oh. Oh no. I have Science Lab right after this. I'm in the same class with all the same students, including the boys that now probably think I'm insane. I mean, everyone here is insane, but whatever. I sit in the very front and make it a point never to look back at them throughout the class. Thankfully, it's boring safety stuff, so there's no group work or anything to worry about, and I zip my happy butt out of there as soon as I can. I can feel them all staring at me as I leave, and it makes my neck burn.
Looks like my next class, Orchestra, is broken up by lunchtime in the middle. Good--I'm already hungry, and stressing out isn't making it any better. Please let me have just one class where people aren't freaking weird. I get to the class and have a seat in one of the chairs, which are all arranged in traditional Orchestral fashion. I usually play the cello (yeah yeah, short kid playing a big instrument), so hopefully I can get that at this school, too.
Surprisingly, the first half of class passes by without anybody even so much as looking at me funny. Lunch time comes, and I stare with dread at the cafeteria. That's a lot of people, and I don't really want to talk to anyone at all.
"Hey...Luke, is it?" a tall Asian boy with the typical spiked black hair thing going on, asks.
"YES!" I say excitedly, before realizing how stupid I sound. "I mean, sorry...people keep calling me the wrong name and looking at me like I'm a freak when I correct them. I don't get it. Um, sorry." I'm sure my cheeks are redder than my hair right now. Ugh.
He smiles shyly and says, "I'm Quoc." (He pronounces his name so it rhymes with "clock.") He continues, "Do you want to sit at lunch together? I'm new here, and don't really know anyone yet."
I shrug. "Sure. I brought my lunch, so I'll just wait for you?"
"I brought mine, too."
We go sit at a far corner table in the cafeteria, me facing away from everyone else. I already hate large crowds, and with how weird everyone is being, I might have a panic attack if they come and start talking to me.
He takes out a Tupperware tub of rice and veggies and starts chowing down on them with fine, shiny wooden chopsticks. I've never seen real ones; I was wondering if there was something against making them out of high quality wood. Anyway, I'm just sitting and eating my PB&J (real classy, I know) and he asks, "Where are you from?"
I pause. "Uh, what do you mean?"
"Your accent is different than others around here." He takes another bite, acting like he didn't just say something super important.
"I didn't realize I sounded different," I say. "Is it, like, really obvious or something?"
Quoc smiles. "No, not really. English is my second language, though, so I recognize the different accents when I hear them." Speaking of which, he has a light but noticeable accent, maybe Chinese? Thai? I have no idea how to tell, to be honest, so let's just say 'Asian.'
I nod and stuff a few Cheetos in my mouth, since I didn't have anything better to do with it. I'm decent at writing, but I'm awkward as heck in conversation.
Quoc starts up again. "So what did you mean that people were calling you the wrong name?"
"DUDE," I say, almost spitting out cheese puffs everywhere. "I get here two days ago, literally on Sunday, and we spend a few days unpacking and stuff, right? So when I get here today, people are calling me "Chance" for some reason. I'm beginning to think I have amnesia and everyone else is right, and it's freaking me out. Maybe I have multiple personalities."
"Well..." he says, "do they think this 'Chase' is a good person?"
"It was 'Chance,' and I mean, I guess so? This one guy was super happy to see me when I came in."
"Well, if you have multiple personalities, so far you're at least two halves good." He smiles a bit at his joke.
"Thanks," I say dryly. "So you're new here, too? Where you from?"
"Kansas," he replies, "but my family is Vietnamese, if that's what you are asking. My father took a job here."
"Same," I mention, "and it kinda sucks."
"Other than the freaking weird creepy stuff going on? It's hot and gross and I don't know anybody and I'm halfway across the country from what I'm used to and I hate it." I take a breath and a slurp of apple juice from a juice box.
Suddenly, a pair of hands are over my eyes. Speaking of things I hate, this is one of them. Trying not to freak out and go ballistic on this person, I say, "I'm not 'guessing who' because I don't know you. I'm Luke."
A falsely high voice answers, "You just want me to say my name."
"Please...get your hands...off my face."
The hands are removed, and I turn to see a rather hurt-looking boy with blond buzz-cut hair and a little upturned nose, and who is apparently way taller than I expected. He says, "Fine, jeez. Don't be any fun."
I squint my eyes shut, trying my very best not to be pissed off. I take a very deep breath, and as I'm sighing, I say, "Look, I don't know you, I'm new here, and I'm not this 'Chance' guy that everyone keeps calling me. Please, just leave me alone." My voice is a whisper by the end of it, just like my level of patience.
"Well, then, someone looks and sounds exactly like you," the boy says petulantly. "Whatever." He stalks off.
"See?!" I whisper loudly to Quoc. "This keeps happening!"
"It is very strange," he agrees, nodding. "If I see someone who looks exactly like you who calls himself 'Chance,' I will ask if he remembers this conversation."
"Why would he?" I ask, confused.
"Maybe he is the dominant personality, and you are the...well, you know."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm pretty sure I remember most of my life, and it wasn't here. I don't black out regularly, and I'm pretty sure I haven't been accused of killing anyone, so I'm not some freaking schizo psycho killer."
Quoc smiles again over another bite of rice. "I'm not saying you are. As I recall, 'Chance' seems like an okay guy. Maybe you are both okay."
I take the bait. "But I don't want to be someone else who is basically just me but a different name. That's weird, and kinda stupid. It'd be the worst TV show ever."
"I'd watch it," Quoc admits.
"Still a better love story than Twilight," I quip. We both laugh, even though the joke is old.
The rest of lunch is quiet--well, for a cafeteria, anyway--and we go back to Orchestra, where the only name I've been called is my real one, thank God. Time passes too quickly and it's on to the next class, Speech. Joy of joys. I'm awkward enough as it is, and now I get to be awkward in front of a class.
I admit that I drag my feet a bit on my way there, but I know that it's just the first day and things should be fine. Hopefully nobody will know me there, too. I'll just walk in, sit down in the back, be quiet, and nobody will notice me.
I couldn't be more wrong.
I walk into the doorway of the class, and immediately someone says, "Hey Chance! Welcome back!"
I open my mouth to let out a snappy retort, but my jaw just hangs open as another boy answers, "Oh, 'sup Joe?" in my voice. A boy with obnoxiously red hair, stand-out-in-a-crowd green eyes, enough freckles to hide a leopard, radar ears, and who is shorter than everybody his age--except me--walks over and gives the slap-and-tap to a chunky boy with slicked-back hair.
I get pushed out of the way by the last few people who are entering the room, but the conversation quickly dies down as someone loudly says, "Um, Chance?" while looking at him, but pointing at me.
The copycat of me looks at me and freezes. He slowly says, "What. The heck."
I move my mouth wordlessly for a moment, totally unable to form a sentence. So this is why I'm 'known' around here. I am here already. Am I? I have no idea what to do, so I stand there a while longer, frozen. I finally manage to choke out, "U-um. W...what?" as I look around for the hidden cameras, the 'SURPRISE!', or anything, anything to make this all make sense.
The me called 'Chance' starts walking over to me, but I embarrass the heck out of myself by panicking, zipping outside, and rushing to the restroom to hide. That, and I really had to go--I'm the guy that they invented "scared the piss out of him" to describe. So I rush in and duck into a stall, working my belt frantically as I feel my bladder muscles quivering.
I get the belt off and shove my pants down, accidentally peeing a little on the floor before I manage to plop down onto the toilet. I sit and shake, peeing out far more than I remember drinking, hyperventilating, and sitting on the verge of tears. Have I mentioned I have anxiety issues? I have anxiety issues. After I'm done, I can't seem to do anything but sit and breathe for a minute or two.
"Hello?" I hear in my own voice as Chance softly opens the bathroom door. Shit, no, please no, I don't have the strength to do this right now. I make double sure the stall door is locked.
I see his feet as he approaches the stall. "The teacher just took attendance. Are you Lucas Chatham?" he asks in a calm voice. My voice.
After a shuddering breath, all I can answer is, "...Luke."
"Okay. Do...you want me to tell her that you'll be back in a second?"
How the heck is he taking this so well? Actually, why am I freaking out so badly? Oh, 'cuz nothing makes sense, that's why! "I..." I begin, but am stopped by a sudden sob. I take a slow, deep breath, stand up, pull my jeans back up, and say, "I'll be ready in a moment."
He waits a moment before answering, "Can...I wait here for you? Is that okay?"
I answer, "That's okay. I...just give me a sec." I tuck my shirt back in and take one last deep breath, finally getting the courage to open the door and face myself.
I see me looking back at me, like I were staring into a mirror with different emotions. Well, almost: he is dressed in the uniform shirt and khakis, but other than that, we are identical. Not just 'uncanny resemblance,' mind you--completely, unmistakably identical. His hair is even more or less the same style (not as good as my dad's haircuts, but it's pretty close); I mean, it's kind of a popular look these days, but still. "Hi," I say with all my bravery. "I'm Luke." I extend a hand.
"...Chance," he says, taking my hand in a tentative handshake.
I decide to bite the bullet and say it: "I have to know: When's your birthday? Mine is August 3, 2004."
His eyes go a little wider. "I...me too. Who--who are your parents?"
This is the part where I get embarrassed. "I don't really, um, know. I was adopted." Not embarrassed about being adopted, but right now it just seems really awkward.
"Your parents told you that?" he asked, confused.
"They're both men, and not red-headed, so yeah, it wasn't a secret." My dads are both badass, and I'll fight anyone that says differently.
His eyebrows shoot up to the sky. "Oh. Um, then I don't know how to say this, but...I think you're my brother."
Nope. I thought I could handle this, but nope. My eyes fill with tears and I start crying like a little bitch (yeah, I said it). I never knew my biological parents, and really, I don't care to--if they didn't want me, I don't want them--but to know that I had a brother all this time, and I grew up as an only child, is too much for me. He puts his hands out to touch me, but I really can't, this is too much--too fast--can't be touched right now, just gonna back up and lean on the wall and cry for a moment. I put my hand up to tell him to wait, not right now, and manage to squeeze out, "I'm sorry, please, I'm sorry," before crying into my hands for a little bit longer while hyperventilating again.
When I finally regain control of myself, I open my eyes to see Chance standing there with paper towels. Fighting off the urge to start crying again, I take one and mop my face up, muttering, "Thank you," under my breath.
"It's okay," he coos comfortingly. "It's cool. This is freaking weird. I get it. So, I really wanna talk more, but we kinda...have to get back to class. Are you gonna be okay?"
"I think so. Just give me another minute."
The awkward silence that follows is broken by him asking, "So were you here yesterday?"
I shake my head. "I just moved here from Connecticut, like, literally just this Sunday. We rushed to get me in school as fast as possible, but after unpacking for two days, it was just easier to start today, so yeah."
"Oh. I was here yesterday, but then I had a doc appointment to get my shots today. They figured one of the earlier days would be best, but not the first day, so yeah." He even ends his sentences like me. I do notice that he speaks a little bit differently than me, a little more Louisianan, or Cajun, or whatever. Not much, though. Probably wouldn't have noticed unless Quoc pointed out that I sounded different.
I decide it's not the time to talk about all of his annoying friends mistaking me for him--we need to get back to class. I say as much, and we both head back to the classroom and are greeted by a ridiculously awkward silence. Twenty pairs of eyes stare us down and light my cheeks on fire as we both find seats, though not next to each other. I think that's for the best, anyway. The teacher lets us take our seats and continues where she left off explaining the syllabus, all the while handing us our materials. I notice that her eyes linger on me and Chance a little while longer than the others, but she basically ignores it otherwise. I skip ahead to where she's reading so I can follow along, but my eyes are really only scanning over the paper as my mind is racing, trying to find a way to make all this work in my head. I mean, it makes sense, but what are the chances?
I just realized how bad that pun was. I'm sorry.
So I'm sure that her lecture was really interesting, but I don't hear a word she says until we're told to get into groups and discuss an article that she hands out. We're seated at tables already as it is, so we just work in our groups.
The girl with the amazingly long, dark brown braid sitting next to me says, "So what the hell is going on? Who's the guy that looks like you? Is that your twin?"
"Well, he's Chance," I say, and she takes a moment to realize she's not talking to the right one. I mean, we're not even wearing the same clothes. Come on.
"Oh," she says. "Well, hi. I'm Brandi."
"Luke. And he and I don't actually know each other."
"What?!" the boy across from us shrieks. "No way!" Clearly either Indian or somewhere around there (but with a completely American accent), the boy continues, "How could you two not know?!"
The teacher, Mrs. Clemens, walks over by the table and says in a quiet voice, "Others are reading. Let's focus." She walks off and visits another table.
I look my Indian group-mate square in the eyes and say, "I'm adopted." He looks appropriately horrified once he realizes his insensitivity, and immediately goes back to reading the article. I whisper, "It's cool, but we literally don't know each other."
"Yeah," he says, "but that's so weird!"
"I know. Trust me." I go back to reading it, myself. It's an interesting article about how people fear public speaking more than even death itself, and I can understand why. At least when you're dead, you're not embarrassed in front of a classroom full of people. Then it goes on to mention some techniques you can use to get over it, blah blah. It's kinda interesting, but not worth repeating.
But, of course, repeating it is exactly what we're supposed to do. Well, summarize it. Aloud. To the class. Because of course we would have to do that in Speech class. At least it's a very small bit that each group has to do: so each group gets a chunk of the article, and each member gets a part of that chunk. Since we're apparently Table 1 (yay...), I take the first section talking about the fear thing, since it kinda, y'know, hits close to home.
I stand and look down at the paper, and say, "The first part talks about--"
"Could you speak up a little bit?" asks the teacher.
I clear my throat and try again, this time a little louder. "The first part is about fears, and how--"
"Now that you've read it and know what it's talking about, can you look at us when you speak? Eye contact is a very important part of public speaking."
I flush with embarrassment and anger, and briefly consider darting out the door to get my schedule changed. I try again, and manage to look at her once or twice, but then it messes me up and I lose my place multiple times. By the time I get through it, like three freaking sentences, I'm shaking as I sit down. I'm glad I peed--and cried--earlier, because I think I'm out of both.
When Chance's turn comes up, he confidently stands and summarizes his part, detailing the "eyes to the back of the room" approach, where you look almost at people but not quite, so that you can get more comfortable with the whole eye contact thing. When he's done, he sits and starts talking quietly to a friend like nothing ever happened. I swear, does anything get to him?
When class is over, I look at my schedule to see that it was actually the last class of the day. I'm so not used to only 4 classes per day, even though they're way longer. Wrapped in my own thoughts, I go to my first period class, pick up my phone, and start heading outside to where the buses are, when someone grabs at my backpack.
"Wait!" Chance calls out behind me. I turn around and see a sort of desperation in his eyes. He takes a moment to say anything else, but finally the words, "Do you want to come over?" come out of his mouth in a big rush.
The thought fills me with panic. I don't want to meet my real parents. I don't even know if I want to be here with him, but I don't think i can avoid it since we share classes, so that's out, but I don't--ARGH! All I say is, "N-not today. I can't."
He furrows his brow and squints his eyes a little, as if I just insulted his entire family. "Do I...are you scared of me?" he asks in a strained voice.
"I--no! It's just..." My God, can this be any more awkward? As people are streaming by us both, I yell over the noise, "It's just me. I have a hard time dealing with...all this."
He beckons me with a hand over to a spot in the foyer out of the way of the river of students. "Look..." he begins, and looks around the room, physically searching for the words to use. "I've never had a brother, and if you really are my brother, I don't want to lose it--you, I mean. I know that sounds ridiculous and cheesy and--and stupid, but I've always felt like I was missing something in my life. I think maybe you're what was missing."
He's right. That does sound pretty stupid and cheesy. But there's something in the way he says it, after showing all that confidence in class and earlier, that makes me think that maybe this is more important to him than, well, anything else. I mean, if anything, maybe I can get some answers from his...our parents. I take out my cellphone and offer it to him. "Put your number in."
He looks at it a moment and quickly fishes his out of his pocket. We trade phones (unfortunately, his is an iPhone--I have the new Google phone) and add ourselves in each other's contacts. I look at his name: Chance Lockhart. Nice ring to it. Luke Lockhart sounds kinda weird, though, so maybe that's okay that mine is different. Wait, I probably was named by my adoptive parents, not--you know what, I'm getting way off topic here. We hand phones back, and he gives this huge grin, saying, "Sweet. I'll text you later!" and dashes off to catch his bus. I do the same, as they're looking ready to go, and I'd hate to be the guy who misses the bus on his first day.