Credit to Jesse James for hilarious suggestions.
I head to school the next day, both excited and super-nervous about seeing Chance again. On one hand, I keep thinking that I'm over-reacting and being stupid, but on the other hand, how often does something this crazy happen? I kinda have a right to freak out over this.
Nobody comes over and says anything to me in the cafeteria before class, which is totally cool with me. I also chose a spot in the far corner, out of the way, so that I could hide and go quickly to class. First period is Reading, so at least there's that. Of course, on the way there, someone has to call out, "Chance!" I roll my eyes and turn to see who it is. It's that black kid from yesterday morning. "You remember me yet?" he asks.
"I do from yesterday," I say, but I don't let him interrupt me. "So, I'm not Chance. I'm Luke. Chance is my brother. It's nice to meet you." I hold out a hand as confidently as I can.
"Man," the boy says, "Why you trollin' like this? You're freakin' weird this year, man." He starts to walk away.
"Hey, hold on!" I say quickly, stopping him. "Just...I know it's weird, but Chance and I are twins. I promise you I'm not lying to you." I look up at the digital clock in the hallway, and realize I don't have much time. "Can you just please tell me your name so I know it?"
He squints at me. "If you're his brother, why'd you act like you never heard of him?"
"Because I hadn't! Look, I have to go. I'm sure we'll talk later."
As I turn to leave, he gives me a skeptical glare, but finally says, "Jay. Call me Jay. I swear if you're just playin' me..." he doesn't finish his sentence before the bell rings.
"Crap. Gotta go. See you later, Jay!" I turn and jog to my class.
Jim N. Eisenhower Middle School is a pretty big school, so when I get to Reading class, I'm not surprised that my twin isn't in it. Even if he had Reading first period, there are probably like two or three Reading teachers for 8th grade alone, so the chances are pretty low.
Dang it, bad pun again.
I'm already a little late to class, so I don't have time to talk to anybody before the teacher gets started. It's the same boring first-day procedures and all that, still have to turn in our phones, but at least the teacher seems to be pretty cool. Surprisingly, nobody says anything to me during class, but as I'm walking to my next class, Lucas from my Science class of all people finds me in the hall. Great.
"Hey..." he says, but doesn't mention a name.
"Yeah?" I say impatiently.
"Are you...Luke?" he asks carefully. I nod and wait for what he has to say. "Hey, so, I saw you get on the bus yesterday and then I got on my bus, and, um, Chance was on it. So I believe you, and I feel like a total jerk for being so rude. I'm sorry."
I can't help but smile a little bit. "It's okay. Did Chance explain?"
"That you guys never met? Yeah. How freaky. But I'm really sorry. I felt so bad after I found out."
I hold out my hand. "It's cool. I didn't know, either. It's strange, but life is strange, right?"
He shakes my hand. "You're pretty cool," he says with a goofy smile. "Um, I have to go to class. Talk to you tomorrow, okay?"
"All right," I say. "Bye, Lucas!"
This is going to get really exhausting, I can already tell. So I head to US History, right, and guess what--three people mistake me for Chance. Dang, he's popular. So this time, I decide to have a little fun. The whole little group of them comes up to me: one short boy (still a little taller than me, though) with brown hair and glasses, one girl with blond wavy hair, and a boy with reddish brown hair--oh my God, I just realized that they totally look like they could cosplay Harry Potter. That's awesome. Anyway, so the glasses boy is like, "Yay, Chance is in our class!" They cheer a little bit as well.
"Well, yeah, but they might change my schedule," I lie. "Ask me later on, if I forget."
"Aww!" the boy says. "We could totally be the whole team again!"
"I know, I'm sorry," I say. I'm not a great actor, but I guess it's not hard to be someone who looks and sounds like you. "Um, talk later? Class time now."
That gets a weird look from the girl, who says, "Since when did you ever stop talking?" and sticks her tongue out at me.
"Roasted," I say, rolling my eyes and sitting down in my seat. Interestingly, the teacher passes around a sign-up sheet with our names on it, so that we can just sign that we're here. That seems...boring. How is he ever going to know our names?
The rest of the class passes by boringly (it IS History, after all): we talk syllabus, the teacher lectures a while about why US History is so important, and then it's on to the next class, P.E. Oh, wait, it looks like I go to lunch first and then to P.E. Good; I'm already hungry.
I stand in the line at lunch and look around. I don't really recognize anybody that knows Chance, and nobody comes up to talk to 'Chance,' either. I get a plate with an apple, a chocolate milk, a tray of...I guess vanilla pudding, and school pizza (you know, the weird square one? Apparently it's like that at all schools), and look around for a place to sit. I notice there's a lot less talking going on than yesterday, and lots of people are in little clumps around the lunch room. Then I realize that everyone here looks really young, so this is probably mostly 6th graders. I see one boy that is sitting at the edge of a table and staring at his tray silently, and decide to go sit next to him. There's not really anywhere left over that isn't going to be next to someone or another, so this is as good as anywhere.
I take my seat and say, "Hi." No response. Well, this is awkward. I take a bite of pizza, unsure of what to say. The boy, a very short kid with light blond buzzed hair and a couple of freckles, doesn't touch his food. Well, actually, he does touch his food, but only to pick at the pepperoni chunks and move them around on his pizza.
Well, I tried. I don't say anything else, but continue eating my pizza. After a few minutes, I look over, and the boy has arranged the pepperoni chunks in a perfect circle on the pizza. Then he picks it up slowly and bites off a piece of the outer pizza, chewing it slowly. Wait a minute...there was this boy I knew back in Connecticut who he reminds me of. We were kinda good friends--I say 'kinda' because, well, he was autistic and it was hard to tell if he thought about it the same way. Anyway, he would do things like this; I learned a lot about autism from him and his mom.
I wonder... "Do you like circles?" I ask.
He pauses mid-chew, almost perfectly frozen, and looks me straight in the eyes for just a quick moment before looking back down at his circle. "Yeth," he says with a full mouth, "Thircles are perfect, there are no cornerth anywhere on them, you can jutht go around them forever, and you can use pi to figure out their thircumferenth." He stops to swallow his food, and bites off another piece, being very careful not to mess with the circle of pepperoni in the middle.
It makes me smile watching him go. He really does remind me of my old friend. "My name is Luke. What is your name?" I ask it very carefully to make sure he understands my meaning, just in case.
"My name is Scott." He takes another bite. Suddenly, there is a loud bunch of laughter coming from a couple of tables over, and Scott jumps, sending the pepperoni pieces all over his tray. He starts to say, "Oh man. Oh man. Oh man," as he stares at the scattered pieces of meat.
"Quick, there's a circle inside that square on your tray," I say, pointing to the spot that holds either a canned drink or a boxed milk. "You should make a circle inside of that one. Can I help?" He starts putting the little pepperoni chunks carefully in a circle as I hand them to him to speed up the process. As soon as he places the last piece in the circle, he stops, looks at it a moment, and takes a bite of pizza.
"Do you feel better?" I ask. He nods after a moment. We both go back to eating quietly, until he stops to stare at the pepperoni pieces while holding his almost perfectly circular piece of pizza. After about 15 seconds of him locked in place, he starts to say "Oh man. Oh man," again. Oh, they're not on the pizza anymore. Hmm.
I get up and go around to his side of the table, sitting down in the seat next to him. "Here, try this," I say, and guide his hand with the pizza over to the pepperoni. I guide him to put it upside-down on the circle, and then push down slightly. When we pick his pizza slice back up, most of the pepperoni pieces stick to the cheese. "Quick, fix the circle!" I announce, picking up a stray piece and putting it in its rightful place. He quickly reassembles the circle, and without wasting any more time, shoves the whole piece in his mouth, not missing a single pepperoni.
"Does it taste like a perfect circle?" I ask with a smile. He nods, not smiling, but chewing very energetically. He's a good kid. I hope nobody messes with him.
"You are being nice to me," Scott states.
"I am," I confirm.
"Are you being nice so that we can be friends?" he asks bluntly.
"I am being nice because it makes me happy," I answer. "But if you want to be friends, we can be friends, too."
"I don't have any friends here yet," Scott says in the same tone that he has been using.
"Can I be your first friend, then?" I ask, smiling.
He looks right at my lips, leans in a little bit, and nods. "Yes, you can be my first friend, Luke."
"Thank you, Scott." I don't know what it is that makes me so happy about all this. I think maybe knowing that I can make someone else less anxious helps me feel not as bad about my own anxiety.
"How do you spell your name?" Scott asks. I tell him, and he notes, "Your name doesn't have any circles in it. If you spelled it L-o-o-k-e, then it would have two circles in it and it would still sound the same."
I giggle, thinking about it. "My teachers won't let me change it, but you can spell it that way. That way I can always have at least two circles."
"Yes. Two circles." He smiles at the thought; so he can smile.
Sadly, the bell is about to ring, so I say, "Scott, it is nice to meet you. I'm glad I can be your friend. Have a good day, Scott."
"Have a good day, Looke." He actually adds a little bit of stress on the vowel to let me know that he changed it. He stands up and goes to throw his trash away, and I follow suit. After that, he doesn't say another word to me or even look my way, but I don't expect him to, really. He's just being himself. I hope he'll be okay here.
I make my way to P.E. class after lunch and go have a seat in the bleachers where the other kids are gathering. Shortly after I sit down, I catch a glimpse of red hair coming in the door; it turns out I have at least one class today with Chance. I wave at him, and his face lights up as he runs over to the bleachers. "Hey! Luke!" he says with a hand out for the slap-and-tap. Our hands smack together and we fist bump before he sits down.
Funny enough, the kid with the glasses from US History walks in shortly afterward. Chance calls out, "Hey Paul!" Paul looks up to see him waving; I look over and smile stupidly because I'm made of awkward. The look on Paul's face is amazing, though: first he's all smiling because he has a friend here, and then he stops and his smile kinda fades as he squints at me, and then as he gets a little closer, he takes his glasses off and looks at them. Chance just starts cracking up laughing and calls out, "Nah, you're fine. Come here! I wanna introduce you to my brother."
He walks up the bleacher stairs and over to us. "Since when did you have a broth--are y'all twins?!"
"Since yesterday, if you'd believe it," Chance remarks with a side smile. "He's my brother from another mother...except I guess we had the same mother. It's a long story."
"Duuuuuuuuude!" Paul says, "That is so cool! Hi, I'm Paul!"
We shake hands. "Luke. Um, I'm actually the one in your History class."
Paul's jaw drops. "I--what? No."
I point out that I'm still not in school uniform yet (I'm picking it up after school, though), and that Chance is. Paul's eyes almost pop out of his head as he says, "How did I not see that?"
Chance shoots back, "Racist."
Paul just stands and stares, completely confused. I get it immediately, and snicker. "How do you 'Nazi' anything at all?" I ask; after another moment of blank stare, I put my arm up in the air in the Nazi 'Heil' gesture, and that finally does it.
"OH!" Paul exclaims, and then sits down next to Chance. "Nazi! Right, right. I just remembered that I hate you."
"But I'm not even Jewish!" Chance just has this ridiculous smile on his face right now, or at least he does until Paul slugs him in the leg.
I start laughing and squeaking, of course, and Paul says, "That's freaky--he even laughs like you. So what did you mean by 'another mother'?"
"I was adopted when I was still a baby," I explain. "Speaking of which, hey Chance--did, uh...have you talked to your parents about me yet?"
"Oh." Chance's face turns very serious. "Yeah." Before he can say anything else, though, a whistle blows loudly and we all turn our heads to see the coach, a tall bald man with a stern face.
"All right, boys," he says in a deep, booming voice, "welcome to Physical Education, P.E. I'm sorry I couldn't be here on Monday, but there's only so long you can delay court proceedings."
Well, that's comforting.
He does attendance, goes over the basic rules and all that, hands out stuff, the usual. He does point out that since we have 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in the same class, he's extra harsh on bullying or picking on people. Basically, no hitting people, throwing balls at them on purpose, all that.
Then we head to the locker room to get designations; while we have to provide the combination lock for our own locker (or trust everybody not to mess with our stuff, ha), they actually provide the gym clothes, which is pretty cool. My old school never did that. He shows us the restroom and the showers (ohhhh joy), and finally we get in line back in the gym to get our gym clothes. There are a few long tables set up in the middle of the gym with simple black basketball shorts and red shirts with a black-and-blue picture of a wolf (our mascot) and the school name on them. We basically help ourselves to a set of them, and he suggests that we go to the locker room to try them out. When we find what fits, we go tell him, and then just hang out while everyone finishes. He mentions that it will probably take the rest of the time, so he gets a few different beach balls and other sports' balls out for if we are done early.
I dressed out in my old school just fine, but now that I'm here in a new place with a bunch of new people, I get really anxious and kinda wait for the others to dress out first. Chance comes in and sees me waiting, and asks, "You okay, bro?"
"Heh. 'Bro.' I'll never hear that the same way now." I smile nervously. "Um, I'm just gonna wait for the others."
He stands and thinks a moment. "What size did you get?"
"Smalls on both," I admit.
"Good," he says. "I got this." Chance sits on the bench in the room, among all the other boys who are kinda murmuring to each other and such, ignoring everyone else, and he removes his shoes and shirt. I immediately feel my cheeks heat up, and I have no idea why--he's my brother and he's got the same body as me. Maybe it's just that I'm looking at a bunch of shirtless boys, some of them in their undies, some of them in briefs, too, no less. So much for it being a phase, right?
Chance then takes off his khaki pants and lets them drop to the floor, showing off his dark green boxer briefs and, well, his package. As I expected, it's physically the same as mine...except that his isn't getting hard like mine is right now--stop that go down, stop stop stop! Think about ugly people, and being scared, and History class...
Chance stands up and puts his arms out to his sides like a mannequin, showing how the Small-size gym clothes fit; they fit nicely, actually, just enough room not to be tight, but definitely not baggy. He says, "Perfect. And now you don't have to try yours on right now." He smiles proudly at his solution.
Well, now I'm blushing even harder. "Oh. Th-thanks." He winks. I'm sure I can't get any redder.
"Go ahead and wait for me outside--I'll be right there." Chance starts putting back on his other clothes, and I head out of the locker room for a breath of fresh air, hoping to calm down a bit. Chance comes up next to me and half-whispers, "Sorry. I noticed that you were getting embarrassed, so I figured this would be better."
"Oh God, is it that noticeable?" I slide down the wall I was leaning against and hide my face.
He slides down to me and whispers, "I get the same thing, dude. People used to call me 'Cherry Chance-stick.'"
I look over at him, and sure enough, even thinking about it makes his cheeks flare up, too. I push myself back up and take a deep breath; even though lots of other kids are walking back out after getting dressed again, none of them bother to look at us. Paul, though, walks by and asks, "Y'all okay?"
"We're fine," Chance says. "Just talking."
So there's like somewhere around forty kids in the class--much higher than in the regular subject classes--so it takes a while for the coach to record everyone's locker assignment and what size uniform they have. Chance and I get in line behind Paul and as the line slowly makes its way up, I mention, "So uh, you never told me what happened when you told your parents about me."
"Oh, right," he says in an annoyed voice. "So I was all like, 'Hey, I have a twin brother,' and they acted like they had no idea what I was talking about. I asked Mom why she never told me, and she and Dad got real quiet for a while, and then Mom said I'd have to wait until the weekend to find out the reason for it. She said that it's 'just too much to explain right now,' and that they wanted to meet you first, if that's okay with you and your parents." He sighs. "They're acting really weird about it, like there's something they're hiding. Like, why would they put you up for adoption?"
"Hm," I grunt. "Well, she wants to meet me, so I mean that's a good thing, right?"
"I guess. Something seems fishy, though."
"Well, funny thing is that my parents told me they wanted me to wait until your parents said I could come over, so that means I can, now!"
A huge smile takes over Chance's face. "Yeah! When do you want to?"
"Well, I mean, I guess I could after school today? I'll call after classes and ask Papa Chris." After he gives me a funny look, I add, "Two dads. It's to say who's who."
"Ahh, right, right." The conversation dies down after that; we move up a few more places in line, and he asks, "So what do you like to do? You know, like for fun."
I shrug. "You know, play around on my phone, talk to my friends back home--I mean, back in Connecticut, write..."
"What do you write?" he asks with interest.
I stammer, "Uhh, just, y'know, poetry sometimes, sometimes stories. It's not really all that good, though. I mean, it's okay, but I write way better than I talk, you know? I wish I could just talk to people the way you do."
"What?" he says incredulously. "Nah, it's nothing. I just have a lot of friends. I can't write at all, though...I kinda hate it, actually, heh."
At this point, Chance gets to the front of the line, so the conversation stops. By the time we both get through it, it's almost time to go anyway, so we go get our stuff and the coach gives us a brief run-down of what we're doing for the week, adding, "Assuming that Kate holds up her end of the bargain, which I doubt, I shouldn't have any more interruptions in attendance. Make sure you don't, either."
Shortly after, the bell rings, sending the kids out like a stampede.
As the stream rushes by, I ask, "So who the hell is Kate?"
Chance replies, No idea, don't wanna know. Hey, what's your next class?"
"Pre-Algebra," I respond, tagging onto the back end of the rushing river of students.
"Dang. I have Science next."
"Hey," I say quickly, "meet me at the office after school? I have to pick up my uniform."
"Sure!" he says as he turns and fades into the crowd. Well, as much as someone with our hair can 'fade,' anyway.
So Pre-Algebra is okay as a class; I recognize some classmates from other classes, but nobody who is part of Chance's fan club. We don't really do any talking to each other in the class, just a questionnaire and a pre-test to see what we know about math. It's pretty boring, really, I guess. Anyway, so then I go pick up my phone from my first period teacher and head over to the office, calling Papa Chris on the way.
"Hey Papa Chris? Hey, uh, so you know how I was gonna pick up my uniform after school and you were gonna pick me up? So, Chance's parents already said they wanna meet me. Is it okay if I just hop on the bus with him? ... Yeah, I mean I think so. If they don't let me on the bus, I can just call you back. ... I dunno, maybe through dinner? I wouldn't be spending the night. ... That's fine. I'll call you to let you know. ... Okay, love you too. Thanks! Bye!"
I rush over to the office and ask for a uniform. They actually even have the khaki pants here, but we have to pay for the uniforms either way--store or here--so it works. I'm not picky. I give them my measurements, which turns out to be a size 12 slim (though, as always, I'll need to get the stupid legs hemmed--being slim and short is annoying), and give them the cash I got from Papa Davy this morning to buy the uniform.
As I'm walking out of the office, Chance is jogging across the foyer to me. "Hey!" he says, half out of breath. "Did you call?"
I smile. "They said I can," I say with a growing grin.