The Carter Quadruplets' lives are changing... how will they cope?
The Carter Quadruplets' lives have been subdivided by four for as long as they can remember. Always taken as a packaged deal, always treated as a unit. It never bugged them, and they actually enjoyed it for the most part. But now, the 16-year-old Quad Squad is moving to a new town and a new high school. What if no one at school knew they were quadruplets? What if for once they could be taken as individuals? Explore their own paths, instead of being forever bound to their siblings? |
As the teens make the transition, they decide that their diverging interests and the new school and town are the perfect opportunities for them to explore these options. What will happen to their relationships with each other? Will they be able to hold up the facade of being strangers? Will their individual personalities shine, or will their self-identity be lost?
This campfire has 1 open space right now.
Jake: Dr Matticakes Myra
Adelaide: Larkin Cole
Morgana: OPEN (we will be keeping the character in the mix, but currently do not have an author for her)
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The Carter Family Biographies:
*see above for author list*
Isaac Owen -- nickname Zac
Age: 16; the youngest of the quads
Appearance: Zac is almost 5'9 and has a smaller bone frame than most other kids his age. He has always been a little bit behind his siblings in growth and development and this still shows slightly in his small build. Even though he is smaller, it is a proportionate smaller. He doesn't look overly skinny or sickly, but is definitely trim and light. He has light brown hair that is on the longer side of short. In the summer, it lightens up to more of a dirty blond color. He has light blue eyes that have a certain little sparkle in them and are very expressive. His smile is adorable and boasts straight teeth, completing his cute face. He is most comfortable wearing jeans and simple T-shirts, polo shirts or button down shirts for his everyday attire. He also likes to wear sweatpants.
Personality: Zac is one of the quieter kids in the family (if not the quietest) and because of this, he is sometimes overshadowed by his more outspoken counterparts. Sometimes he is so quiet, people just meeting him wonder if he talks at all. Even in interacting with people, he will sometimes let a sibling speak his opinion for him. He is somewhat on the shy side, but also very open and friendly towards new people. He's very thoughtful, although easily distracted. For the most part, he is very laid-back attitude wise. He has a very sweet personality and a positive outlook on things. It's not unusual to see Zac with a smile on his face or to hear him laughing--sometimes just a happy thought across his mind or an inside joke with himself. He is a very clever and smart kid although he struggles in school, both socially and with most of his classes.
Likes/dislikes: Due to his struggles in school, Zac is definitely not a fan of the intellectual school life, homework, studying, reading, or anything along those lines. He really enjoys sports, but because he is on the smaller side, Zac never really got into the more physical of sports. Instead, he enjoys running and biking (mountain and road). He likes the way his sports define his muscles and make him stronger despite his slight build. Due to his body type, he also excels at dance. He really enjoys dancing (mostly contemporary, ballet and hip-hop) and the outlet to express himself, but he tends not to publicize this fact too widely because he's been picked on for it in the past. Other than sports and dance, Zac enjoys drawing/sketching and is a good artist. He also likes hanging out around his family and relaxing at home.
How they feel about being part of the Quad Squad: For the most part, it doesn't bother him. Sometimes it is overwhelming for him, though. He doesn't like getting lost in the shuffle of things. At the same time, he can't imagine his life being any different than it is (though he sometimes wonders). Overall, Zac would say that he doesn't love it, but he doesn't hate it. It's his life, it's all he's ever known, and he just kind of goes along with whatever happens in it.
Other: [I will come back and fill this part in if I think of anything else to add, but for now this is good.]
Appearance: Standing at 6'0, Jake is only slightly taller than his brother and it has always been that way: he's the taller, blonder, darker skinned, more outspoken of the boys with broad shoulders, a narrower waist and strong bone structure. His looks are much less cute than Zac's, looking generally older due to his thinner face and the defined cheekbones he shares with his sister. He has the same blue eyes as Zac, with a similar twinkle, though his is a more deceptive twinkle, covering up emotion rather than expressing it. His hair is a light blonde though it does go a little darker in the winter and he wears it deliberately ragged and long so he has a sort of beachy look to him. Usually found in jeans and a band logo t-shirts or dark shirts and vintage jackets.
Personality: Jake exudes confidence. He's a vibrant, witty soul with a penchant for jazz, rock, fashion and humour. Although he's not the brightest of the four, his IQ shows that he's lazier than he is stupid and merely directs his intelligence towards things he cares about instead of towards his studies. He's very guarded when it comes to making close friends, finding it difficult to really connect with people though many dont realise this because he seems so open and friendly. The fact is that his banter and conversation is usually very impersonal to him and though it's impossible not to laugh and have a good time with him, few realise that actually they couldn't tell you his middle name or his favourite food because he just doesnt share with them. He's very close to his siblings, relying on them for the emotional connection he struggles with around others. Those outside the family that are truly friends with him are few but they know who they are - three are in his band and he would do anything for them. It's important to realise he's rarely serious, is always up for a laugh: essentially he's a maniac with a taste for the dangerous, exciting and new and is passionate about his music. He's extreme. His emotions never level near normal - he's hyper or low, ecstatic or depressed, in love or devastingly alone, he adores or he hates. Can seem selfish and arrogant as well as sauve and charming.
Likes/dislikes: He loves music, he could live and breathe it. He loves the sea. He loves the rain and storms and hot weather when the world seems to spin so lethagically that it almost stills. He loves doing nothing. He loves his family. You couldn't seperate him from any of them for the world. He hates clowns. He hates people who tease or hurt his family. He hates people carriers. He hates philosophising without science. He hates his guitar strings breaking.
How they feel about being part of the Quad Squad: He isn't aware of how much he needs his quadlings (as he calls them), taking for granted that he's considered the loudest of the 4 and that he's able to go to them about most problems even if he doesn't notice that he's asking for her in the first place. He doesn't really notice it because, although sharing a birthday, he rarely feels he shares very much else.
Other: He's in a band called Let Go Romeo which three of his closest friends. They're perfectly matched though a strange mix of people. He sings and plays guitar.
Adelaide -- nickname Adel
Appearance: Adelaide is 5' 6", skinny, and nothing like the rest of her siblings. she has dyed her hair a dark black, and is slightly Gothic. she dresses in mostly black, except for her hat, a tan plaid patterned newsboy cap she got when she was thirteen. it always rests atop her wild, curly, waist length hair. she is almost always sick, and is allergic to about fifty things, but is used to it. one of her more serous sicknesses is that she is photo-phobic, meaning her eyes are allergic to light and she always has to wear sunglasses.
Personality: she loves working on robots, and cars, and all sorts of mechanical and electrical systems, but can't figure out friendship. usually she befriends boys, who she deems more mature than gossiping girls. mostly, she keeps herself to herself, but she wants to become close to somebody other than a sibling. some people might think she's creepy, but she is actually very nice. she doesn't show her emotions much, and that sometimes annoys other people, who want to get a reaction from her. in truth, though, she is scared to let people into her life, and only really trusts her siblings, especially Morgana. she looks up to Morgana, who is her hero.
Likes/Dislikes: in her previous school, the place you could find Adelaide most often was the machine shop. she loves working with tiny parts to an electrical system, but also the thrill of carving a certain piece of metal on a lathe. she loves reading, and you wouldn't catch her without a book (and a pair of pliers).
How they feel about being a part of the quad squad: She loves her siblings. she would do anything for them, and they are the only people she really trusts. she is very insecure, and feels safe when she is with them. the other three are slightly oblivous to this because of Adelaide's usual lack of emotion.
Other: she hasn't bothered to get her driver's license, yet, because she doesn't see why she should. she can't afford a car, and she much prefers to take a bus or get a ride with someone else (usually a sibling).
Age: 16; the oldest of the quads
Appearance: Whitney is 5’7”, just barely taller than her sister and visibly shorter than both her brothers. She has light brown-blonde hair that shares a similar curl with Adel’s locks although her curls are kept more in check and are much less “wild” than her sister’s. She shares the “Carter-blue” eyes with her siblings although has worn color-contacts in the past just to change her eye color, preferring green. Her build is closest to Adelaide’s but her figure is slightly more developed than that of her sister’s. She likes to wear shorts, skirts, jeans, cute tops and is all around pretty stylish.
Personality: Whitney cares a lot about how she looks and what other people think about her, but she is anything but shallow. While she wants people to like her and she wants to look good, there are more dimensions to Whitney than appear at first glance. She loves making friends and being close to people, she is very sociable and friendly. It’s hard not to like Whitney. She is a lot more down to earth than people might think. She cares immensely about her family and her siblings are people she would literally die for. As the oldest of the quads, she feels like a protector of the other kids, but tries not to let it show. She is smart, probably the smartest of the quads and she does the best in school. She is more laid back than Jake, but a close second in terms of outgoing-ness. Definitely the “girl” of the family.
Likes/dislikes: She is a competitive swimmer and she’s pretty good at it and enjoys It a lot. She also likes school, socializing, having friends, going to parties and dating boys. She does devote time to her studies and loves learning new things. She shares at least one thing with each of her siblings. Her athletic side enjoys doing sports or dance with Zac, her musical “talents” allows her to mess around with Jake and his band (although she more enjoys listening than doing seriously), and she shares her love of good books with Adel.
How they feel about being part of the Quad Squad: Although Whitney gets easily close to people outside the family, she has a very tight bond with her siblings that is unlike any other. She would do literally anything for them and loves how their lives intertwine with one another. She likes to be the one the others can always talk to or come to for advice or if they’re in need of a hug or some one-on-one time. Quads come first in her mind.
Other: She’s been told her amicable and trusting personality coupled with good looks will get her into trouble someday. She doesn’t know quite what to think of that.
Appearance: Morgana has chin length light brown hair that is currently dyed red. Her eyes are a strange sort of hazel, dark blue shot through with brown. She has fair skin and a fine dusting of freckles over her cheekbones and nose.
Personality: Like it or not, Morgana had to learn how to be a motherly figure young. With four siblings, all of which are the same age, her help was often needed at home. There was just too much work for her parents alone, especially with four infants. However, in the more recent years, she's had an easier time and has learned to be a young woman again, rather than having to be a mature adult before her years. College has allowed her to get a more wild side out than she previously was able to display. She is a responsible but fun loving young woman, deeply loyal to her family. Although she is protective of her younger siblings, she often has a slightly different way of showing it. She is willing to not only allow them to learn things the hard way, but to encourage them to learn things the hard way.
Likes/dislikes: Morgana likes children, with is not terribly surprising, considering her role in helping raise her younger siblings. She is also a musician, and enjoys singing, whether it be karaoke at bars, small time gigs with her garage band, or idly writing lyrics,when she should be paying attention to lectures in class. Whether or not she wants to admit it---and she usually does not say anything---she is happy to be away from her family at college, yet near enough that she can visit them whenever she wants. It is liberating to her.
How they feel about being part of the Quad Squad: N/A.
"Rise and shine boys!" Their mom said in a too-loud-for-this-hour voice as she flung open their curtains.
Zac lifted his blanket over his head and turned over in bed. Not too far off, he could still hear Jake snoring. Jake was always the heavier sleeper of the two so he knew their mom would go for him first in trying to get him out of bed. Ten more minutes sleep for me. Zac thought to himself.
It's been the same pattern for as long as Zac could remember. Sharing a room with Jake had it's downsides at times, but this was one of the benefits that he would not trade in. Ten more minutes.
"Come on, guys." Their mom said as she stood in the middle of their beds and pulled both of their covers off at the same time. Zac groaned. He had almost forgot that he wasn't back in his familiar room. This new room was still something he was getting used to.
Since they moved into this new house, things were changing. This was one of them. It was a little bit of a smaller house, but it was a better job for their dad. Family always came first for the Carters and so the kids had agreed to move here, as long as it wasn't in the middle of the school year. That was one stipulation.
Zac guessed that the whole waking up at a decent hour thing was also going to be something he had to adjust to as well.
Summer had come and gone and just like that the quads went from on the verge of being notoriously famous upperclassmen and enjoying the perks of Juniors, to being completely un-famous nobodys. Still Juniors, but unable to relish in the hierarchy. As far as they and anyone else was concerned, the Carter Kids were as good as freshmen. New-commers to their new big school were hardly noticed at all. Unless they had made a name for themselves early on as Freshman at this school, it would be hard to be anybody now.
Zac rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom as Mom tried to get Jake up and moving.
Of course the bathroom door was shut. Four teenagers and one bathroom. Another downside to the move. He pounded on the door.
"Hurry up Whit, I need to pee!" Of course it was Whitney in there blow drying her hair. As much as Adel was a girl, Whitney was about ten times a girl. At least in Zac's opinion, no one should care as much about their hair as Whitney seemed to. Most days Zac would just roll out of bed and not even bother to brush his hair before going to school, let alone "lather, rinse, repeat, condition, blow dry and straighten" the typical morning routine of his sister.
Mornings had always been hectic, but now with only one bathroom, things were a lot more hectic. Zac tried not to let it get to him. He went about his usual morning routine with only a few differences. He styled his hair a little bit and picked out clothes with more care than he usually did, after all. It was the first day of school at an entirely new place. First impressions mattered.
Zac was first downstairs followed by Adel. He was already eating his bowl of cereal when she came in and made hers.
"Hey Ad." He said.
"How's the morning?" She said.
He shrugged, "I'd be surprised if Jake was actually awake right now."
She smiled, "I'd be surprised if Whitney was out of the bathroom."
Zac laughed. "Me too."
They ate together in comfortable silence for the most part until Zac spoke again.
"Do you think everyone's gonna stick to the plan?" He asked, looking up at his sister.
"I don't know. I think so."
"I feel like we're gonna break it the first day. Like at lunch when I have no one to sit with, I'd want to sit with you or Whit or Jake. We'd probably all want to sit together. You know?"
"Yeah, but... as much as we want to, if we really want this to work we can't do it. Otherwise people will figure us out the first day."
"Yeah, you're right." Zac poured himself another bowl of cereal.
Jake wandered downstairs next and then Whitney not TOO far behind. They sat around the island in the kitchen together as Jake and Whitney ate a more hurried breakfast than Zac and Adel.
"Is Morgana already gone?" Whitney asked.
"Yeah," Adel said, "I missed her, too before she left for her school. She's got a longer drive now..."
"I wanted to ask her what she thought of this outfit."
"I think it looks good. Stunning really." Adel said.
"Thanks, Ad." Whitney smiled at her as she ate.
"Alright," Jake said, "So, we all remember the rules, right?" Everyone nodded, "No, I need to hear you say it."
"Get dropped off around the corner." Adel said.
"Don't notice each other in the hallways, not even eye contact." Zac said.
"No telling anyone you're a quad." Whitney said.
"Right, and after school meet up where we get dropped off. Separately." Jake said.
Zac sighed. This was going to be hard. He hadn't known anything else besides being a quad his whole life. And now... he was going to be just like most everyone else in school--alone. He worried a little bit about the day ahead and wondered if he would feel lonely, but thought that maybe it would be nice for a change, just to see how it was, to be someone new maybe. He smiled to himself just slightly.
Jeans. Jeans. Where were his jeans?
“Mooooom! Where are my Diesel jeans?”
“Probably where you left them. Try the floor.” She teased as she waltzed passed their door and down the stairs. He growled and rummaged through his drawers once more before realising she was right and they were in a heap by the side of his bed. They must have landed there last night at some point. Or, he didn’t know. So now for a t-shit. A t-shirt or a shirt... both? No. T-shirt it would have to be, perhaps the black one... that could give the wrong impression... White then, God save the Queen or The Strokes? Definitely the former this time, he was thinking, classic, bootleg-english look today.
He brushed his light blond fringe from his eyes and rubbed a little bit of modelling gel into his thick locks to tousle it into its usual surfer-type style. Finally his eyes were visible, bright blue and framed with the thick lashes that made the Carter sparkle seem all the more contagious. He grinned into the mirror. He was more than ready for this.
Independence. Freedom. That freedom that he had long ago decided was the right to choose, the right to create the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice and the exercise of choice no one was anything, not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing. And that had been all that he had been for far too long in the quadruplet world. He didn’t resent them, of course not, but he thought that now, in the last few years of high school, on the cusp of manhood – now was the time to strike out and forge independence out of the collective metal.
He straightened out and left the twin room that he shared with Zac. He would always be able to come home at the end of the day and be part of this – it was just the real world that he wanted to convince of his autonomy.
The others were already discussing the situation when he came into the kitchen, grabbing himself a peice of toast as he went and devouring it in three large bites much to the chagrin of his mother.
"Alright," Jake said, deciding to take charge as he so often did and determined to make sure that everyone remembered how important this was. "So, we all remember the rules, right?" He really wanted his independence. He hadn’t even been aware of how much he wanted it until now. It wasn’t that he didn’t love them, it was just so hard to remain yourself when everyone thought you were the same as the others.
He grinned as everyone nodded but his eyes narrowed on the worried frown on his sisters’ faces. He decided to press them on it.
"I need to hear you say it."
And he grinned widely again as Adel started with the little creases between her eyes smoothing out as she spoke, "Get dropped off around the corner."
"Don't notice each other in the hallways, not even eye contact." Zac added with a sigh that suggested he wasn’t as enthused as his brother.
Jake made a mental note of that as Whitney finished with an emphatic:"No telling anyone you're a quad."
And he nodded happily as he finished for them, "Right, and after school meet up where we get dropped off.”, He grabbed another slice of toast as he added, “Separately."
That was the most important thing. Seperately. Seperateness. Not
being one of a four part entity. God they had to do this right. They all had to pull this off for all their own sakes.
Munching on the toast and glugging some apple juice straight from the carton, he slung his bag over his shoulder, ran his hand through his hair and waited impatiently for the others to be ready. This was it. He was so excited it hurt his chest. Slowly the others all were catching up with him, Whitney looked determined and nervous all at the same time whereas Zac just seemed quieter than usual, more anxious he supposed.
“Yeah. Ready. Here we go.” The others all responded and he grinned again.
“On to school then!”
Together, and he was painfully aware of that togetherness, they all filled into the car. He felt ready but totally unprepared. What if they were caught out for some reason they hadn’t foreseen? What if teachers introduced them as one of four? What if... he stopped himself. Nothing could ruin this chance. He let his infectious laugh free just for a second, earning an odd look from his quadlings.
He shook his head.
“I just can’t believe this is happening.”
The others grinned back and he knew that they could do this.
Adelaide bit her lip as she twisted the dial on her locker. only second period, and she already had homework. depositing her algebra book and binder, she checked the schedule hastily scribbled on her palm. Study hall next. she sighed with relief. and even better- Robotics II after that! brushing a tangle of black hair out of her face, Adel grabbed one of her favorite Jim Butcher novels out of her bag, and headed to class.
Sliding into a desk in the back corner, Adel cracked open her book, settling down to a relaxing, solitary period of reading. Written words always made her feel better. "Who needs friends?" she whispered to herself. "I don't need people. I can do this on my own." as she gazed down at "Fool the Moon", though, she realized that she had never felt so alone. even when her best friend, Alex, hadn't been speaking to her (they were in an argument over who was the best Doctor Who), she had always been able to fall back on her siblings. even Whitney had helped, letting Adel sit at her lunch table, despite the raised eyebrows from her friends. This individuality experiment had seemed like a good idea that summer, but now? Adelaide wasn't so sure. Who was she without her family?
Deep in thought, Adelaide almost didn't hear it. Then she did. A strain of Jake's all to distinctive laughter grew louder and louder. Looking up quickly, she swept her hair aside just in time to see him walk into the classroom, surrounded by laughing guys. She ducked her head back down, hoping he didn't notice her. Watching him though the curtain of black curls, she willed him not to sit near her. She knew that if he did, she wouldn't be able to stop herself from talking to him. He was getting closer. Closer. Too close. She let out a breath she hadn't noticed she was holding as he veered sharply away, sitting down several rows away with his new friends. Typical charismatic Jake. Adelaide envied him his confidence. And she wished, ever so slightly, that she was the one surrounded by people, people who laughed at her jokes, people who wanted to get to know her. Even though just this morning, she had been optimistic about starting junior year here, she didn't think it was such a good idea anymore. She didn't think she could stand being alone.
Zac spent his morning at school trying to stay out of everyone's way, trying not to get lost, and trying not to look or seem new. He got off to an okay start and first period went by relatively uneventfully. His day got a little rough when he got lost on the way to second period and walked in late. Being late, he was forced to explain to the teacher why he was late and she had him introduce himself to the entire class (since he was new). A lot of the kids in second period seemed to know each other already. With it being math, he figured they had just gone along the same math track for the past few years. He sat down in the back of the class and felt his face hot with embarrassment. So much for not standing out or seeming new... He thought as he doodled in his notebook and tried to be invisible. In between doodles and trying to pay attention, he tried to memorize the map of the school he had been given so that he wouldn't get lost for the rest of the day.
The period couldn't pass quick enough for him and when the bell rang, Zac breathed a sigh of relief. One more class over with.
He walked through the hallways quickly, trying to be early to his third period class so he could seem like he knew what was going on. As he walked past a classroom that was emptying, he accidentally bumped into someone a little taller than him and more solid. He mumbled an apology without looking but when he did he was shocked to be met with the all too familiar Carter-blue eyes. Jake.
"Oh." Zac said. "Uh... sorry." He said again.
"Don't worry about it, kid." Jake answered back confidently as he strode away, laughing to some of his new friends. Not even halfway through the day and Jake already had a posse.
"Typical." Zac scoffed to himself as he watched Jake walk away for a second longer.
"Tell me about it." He heard Adel's familiar voice behind him. He whipped around and met her gaze. She tried to smile at him, but he knew it was forced.
"I'm gonna be late." Zac said simply as he shook his head and brushed past Adel's shoulder as he walked away. He knew it was rude to do it to her and he didn't want to, but this whole day was making him unhappy on multiple levels. He heard her sigh a little behind him as he left and she walked the other way.
He sat down near the back of his third period class a little less than a minute before the bell rang, but he was on time and that was what mattered. He took out his notebook and hung his head over it, doodling again.
When the bell rang, the teacher started talking and a minute after that the door swung open. Zac smiled a little to himself, happy that it wasn't him who was the late one this time. But when he looked up to see who was the late one to class, his heart sank a little. Whitney...
Why did we not compare schedules before the day started? Zac questioned in his head. He wasn't prepared to have a class with any of his siblings, he knew it would be way too hard to pretend he didn't know them. The teacher acknowledged Whitney and told her to take a seat anywhere and continued talking. No big horah like Zac had been subjected to in his last class.
He tried not to watch her too much as she took a seat on the other side of the classroom, but he couldn't help it. Someone familiar, someone he was close to... when he had been feeling so alone all day, all he wanted was to go over to her and give her a hug. Encouragement for both of them.
"Yeah, she's cute." The guy next to Zac tapped his arm and whispered to him. His glance had been misinterpreted. He looked at the guy with a questioning look and then turned back to his doodle. The other kid leaned back onto his desk.
Throughout the lesson, Zac kept stealing glances in Whitney's direction, hoping she might look at him too. Had she even seen him in the first place? Maybe she had no idea he was even here... There was just something comforting about the thought of seeing someone familiar, someone who would acknowledge him for who he was. He thought that maybe if she would look at him, he would have the strength to finish this school day. He felt cut off from his siblings, isolated... alone.
"Isaac?" The teacher said.
Zac glanced quickly away from Whitney and towards the teacher.
"Do we have an Isaac in here?" The teacher asked.
"Uh... that's me." Zac said, raising his hand a little.
"Great." The teacher said, "Can you answer the question?"
Zac froze, he hadn't been listening. "Can you repeat the question?" He tried to seem nonchalant about it, but hated being put on the spot.
"What year was the United States Constitution ratified?"
"Uh..." He rattled his brain, "Uh..."
"The US Constitution was created in September of 1787 but it wasn't fully ratified until June of 1788." Someone interrupted Zac's embarrassment.
The teacher turned his head, "That's correct..."
"Whitney." The girl answered.
"Thank you, Whitney. Next time please wait until you're called on." And the teacher went on with his point.
Zac breathed a sigh of relief and looked in the direction of his sister, who glanced back at him.
"Thank you." He silently mouthed the words to her. She gave him a little half smile and a subtle nod, then she broke eye contact.
It wasn't much. But it was enough to boost Zac's spirit a little. She knew he was there. She cared about him. She was still looking out for him.
"I think she likes you back." The kid next to Zac whispered to him again.
Zac just shook his head and turned back to the front of the class. He wanted to tell the kid to shut up, that she was his sister, but the worst part of this whole thing was that for all intents and purposes, she was no longer his sister at that moment, even when she had never been more his sister than in that moment.
The bell rang again and Zac glanced at his schedule: "LUNCH"
Finally. A break. He thought. Even if he had to spend it alone. At least he wasn't going to be put on the spot in front of other students. At least he could find somewhere on the campus to sit and not draw any attention.
He waited in the cafeteria line and when he was through, he stood at the end of the tables for a minute, trying to see if any were empty. Someone waved at him. He didn't know her, but he went over.
"Hey. You're the new kid from math class, right?" A girl asked him.
"Uh... yeah. I guess so."
"Sit with us." She said with a smile. "I'm Samantha, you can call me Sam. This is Peter, Cathy and Robin." She extended her hand. Zac set his tray down and shook her hand as he sat across from her.
"I'm Isaac, but I usually go by Zac."
"Nice." Sam smiled at him again and he smiled back.
"Thanks for letting me sit with you guys, I don't really know anyone here yet."
"Yeah, it's only halfway through the day, wouldn't expect you to know too many people yet, it's a big school."
The way she talked to him, Zac felt really at ease and comfortable. Maybe this day wouldn't be so bad after all.
Jake liked people.
He liked to meet them, to talk to them, to watch them and then talk about them, to laugh with them, to hang out with them. He was more than happy to start again here and he threw himself into the new school with absentminded fervour.
Standing in the corridor, looking into the throng of people and registering the different social strata within the school was a challenge that he relished. He could see almost immediately how the hierarchy worked outwards with those people who lurked and skulked creeping along the walls like shadows, trying to blend in; then those fearless, self-assured types sauntered down the inside, typically ignoring those in their peripheral vision. It was like any school in that sense. He grinned. This was a crowd he knew he could infiltrate and become part of; it was a safe new world. He’d already received the spiel about where and when and how and all the good lucks from the head of administration. It was nice that they cared but luck had nothing to do with it and he had figured that out. Life was about understanding people and about knowing them well enough to fit in and stand out at the same time.
Step One then: Presence. It was about making sure that people recognised you and your lead without words, about desirability and awe. Confidently, he took to the centre albeit slightly to the left and loped towards his first class. Books under one arm, pencil stuck behind and ear, he looked different, slightly quirky but secure.
He smiled at the girls that he passed if they caught his eye, nodded to the boys, but he didn’t move out of people’s way – he wasn’t going to let himself be shunted to one side. First impressions made you.
Finally he made it to the science department and then to the chemistry lab. Instead of explaining himself to the teacher he simply went to find a seat and did so, nearish the back and centre. He was on the same desk as a girl with rich, highlighted brown hair and large, hazel eyes.
“You’re new.” She said with a sharp, interested tone. The spark in her eye that had caught his attention in the first place was intelligent and bright and he grinned in response.
“I am. Well noticed.”
Step Two: Charisma. The appeal that oozed off your words and your actions, the way to draw people in, make them interested. The charm and subtle, platonic seduction that made life ease through like a buttered ring off a swollen knuckle.
She smiled in return but raised a well groomed eyebrow, “Aren’t you supposed to introduce yourself to the teacher?”
“And let them chose where I go?” Or notice that I’m one of four and declare it to the world, “No. I’d much rather sit next to a pretty girl and introduce myself to her than to the member of staff.” He winked to show he was teasing.
She laughed, “Well played. So where are you from?”
“Oh you know. The States.” He teased, “Nah. Just from further West.”
“I see.” Her eyes narrowed a little, “I’m Alana.”
“Jake.” He held out his hand which she took firmly and he knew he’d judged her right.
He had left that class with Alana, she was bright and good at science, though a boy called Max had commented that she was good at everything as they left. Max, it turned out, was one of her good friends and a part of a boys hockey team.
Step Three: Wit and Humour: letting your mind and your tongue flirt with the outrageous and spit it out together. Jake’s humour was quite British, something he’d caught from watching too many Monty Python films, illegally downloaded UK tv and more than his fair share of English films. He liked their characters more, their maverick heroes and unconventional heroines – and they weren’t all the impossibly beautiful, sassy caricatures of American dramas. As he wondered the corridors with his two new companions, swapping stories and discovering common ground, he found himself brimming with more energy than he’d felt in a while, their laughter fuelled him and he was comfortable.
He noticed Adel hiding behind a curtain of curls by a locker and he hoped she wasn’t skulking because of him passing through – he didn’t want to cause trouble for her or any of the others. More than that, he was surprised that she was one her own and not with a new group of friends, she was distinctive and guys usually gravitated towards her because she was so much more in tune with their way of thinking than many other girls. Hefrowned and kept walking.
“So you’re into music huh?” Max asked with a rueful grin, “I tried to learn the saxophone once but just ended up making a racket.”
He laughed, “Nice! Yah I’m into guitar and all that sort of stuff.”
Step Four: Humility: never isolate people by making yourself seem better. Never go into competition with other people to make yourself look better. And never, ever, act like you’re the best. There is always a way to be better.
“How long have you been playing?”
“Since I was about five. My dad got me one of those mini-kiddie guitars.”
“Wow that’s so cool. You must be pretty good.”
“I’m ok. You should have heard the guitarist in the band I had at my last school though. Bloody hell he was like John Butler crossed with Led Zeppelin.”
“You really have a funny way with words.”
“You give the most hilarious descriptions though! What was it you were describing earlier? The thing you called like a hoover sucking up a cat?”
“Oh!” She laughed, “My granny’s laugh. I’m just hoping I haven’t inherited!”
The thing about Jake though was that whilst he knew the stages, whilst he used them and analysed them – he wasn’t doing it to manipulate or to climb the hierarchy or to become the most envied, hated, loved and wanted. He just found it interesting. He found people interesting. He liked being surrounded by them and being one of a group as well as an individual. He liked that. And that was all he was doing.
When he crashed into his brother and dismissed him though and then found himself in class with Adel, he found himself realising that perhaps it wasn’t so easy as it first appeared. When he’d looked into Zac’s eyes – the hope and worry reflected in their all too similar blue, he’d felt a flair of want to introduce him, to give his brother a hug and let him into his slowly growing circle in the centre of the corridor. But he didn’t and he could see the hurt flash unwillingly across Zac’s face. This was their chance: they couldn’t screw it up.
Sitting down with Max this time with Alana across the gap with a fresh-faced Japanese boy called Yuto, he was introduced to a number of people from the hockey team and a girl called Eloise who apparently was Alana’s best friend from junior high and was passionate about skating. Jake was instantly interested. This group was so welcoming and diverse. He’d obviously found the right niche for a new guy.
In the corner, he saw Adel again and he tried his best not to look her way, focusing on El and Alana, Max and Yuto until the teachers called them all to attention.
That was when his attention wandered and his eyes flittered to the window, passed a blond girl who could have been pretty if she washed her hair and bought a new pair of glasses, and through to the grassy slope on the other side where the sports fields obviously lay. He focused on the distance, on the horizon, on the golden glow that tinged the skyline and the edges of the green trees.
He could hear a name in the background not his but Adel’s and he listened as she answered. It was English, which was his forte not hers. But he kept his attention far away and distant.
A hand slammed down on his desk. A face in his face. A face with large circular glasses like fish eyes and luminous green irises to match.
“Do you not have an answer?” said fish eyes with a thick lipped smile, “Because I have asked you twice.”
Jake frowned, “You did?”
“Seriously?” he looked up, eyebrow raised a little, “I’m sorry. What was the question?”
The class snickered a little bit but he could feel Adel’s glare in the back of his head.
“I’m going to say this once and if you get it wrong you’ll be in detention tonight.”
Jake grinned, “Try me.”
“The earliest publication of Henry James.”
He sat still for a moment, trying to think, going through his memory. What had he caught through the haze he’d put up around himself?
“The Tragedy of Error? In 1864.”
A raised eyebrow and a quirk of the thick mouth and fish eyes was beaming, “Yes indeed!”
“So class what can we tell me about A Tragedy of Error?”
Jake zoned out again. Boring. People were much more interesting than books.
|Why-oh-why did she have to have another class with Jake? And it didn't help that it was English Lit. |
For all that Adelaide loved books, she disliked the way books were picked apart and dissected by teachers. Who cared what Steinbeck meant by using music as a theme in "The Pearl"? His language flowed like poetry, and she loved that.
Fingering the edge of the assigned reading book on her desk, she sighed. her darkly tinted glasses slipped down the bridge of her nose. As she pushed them back up, she noticed someone staring at her. he looked normal enough, slightly pudgy with brown hair and glasses. He waved at her, then turned pink and looked away.
After class, she fumbled with her bag and stood quickly. outside the door, she saw the guy that had waved hurrying away, she caught his arm, and he turned around to look at her.
"Hey." he said, turning a little pink again.
"You waved at me." She stated. silently, she yelled at herself. She was being so stupid!
"Uh, yeah. you look like you're new." Was it that obvious? She bit her lip, a tic she had long tried and failed to kick.
Hastily, the boy backtracked "I mean, we're a pretty small school. i didn't recognize you. I'm Andrew, by the way."
After a small awkward silence, he suddenly said "hey- do you want to come to our FIRST meeting this afternoon?"
Confused, she looked at him. "Um, FIRST?"
"yeah," he said eagerly "it's the robotics team- I'm VP of Electrical."
Though still not quite understanding, Adelaide latched onto the word 'Robotics'. "There's a Robotics team?" she squealed, aware that she had just sounded like a little girl.
"I SO want to come!" Adel shared a grin with her new (she hoped) friend.
|Zac smiled his way through lunch, he even shared a few laughs with the new group of people he found himself suddenly immersed in. He was trying to be happy, but it was half an act. |
After sitting down with Sam and being introduced to Peter, Cathy and Robin they were joined by a few others. Mike, who was Sam's cousin, and his friends Nicole and Jared joined the five of them and their table was quickly full. Zac was carefully observant and didn't say much, trying to get a handle on who these people all were and if they were people he could see himself becoming friends with. Although relationships seemed strongest within the two smaller groups, as a big group they seemed equally comfortable and friendly. It was obvious to Zac the two sections of the group were distinct but when they came together the line was simply and easily blurred. There didn't seem to be any hostilities here and that was something Zac could get on board with.
They asked Zac about surface things like his class schedule, how he liked the school, did he do anything fun this summer, when had he moved into town and what part of town had he moved into. He answered with as few words as he could. It turned out that Mike lived just one street over from his new house. He was careful not to divulge too much information about his personal life to these new people, but it turned out to not be so hard. He asked them about similar things and then the conversation turned to the football game on Friday and how lame it was to have homework assignments already.
"You should come with us on Friday, Zac. It will be fun and we can have a good laugh if our football team turns out to suck this year." Sam offered with a smile.
"Yeah, I could pick you up if you wanted." Mike had added, "Since we are practically neighbors."
Zac had happily agreed and actually started to look forward to it.
Caught up in the excitement of this new group and the possibility of hanging out with them outside of a school setting, it was easy to feel happy. It was easy to forget the pain of the day and being cut off from his siblings.
There was a lull in the conversation and the small moment allowed time for reality to set in again. Zac's heart ached briefly for his old life. For lunch spent listening to Jake and his over-loud best friend laughing, sharing quiet inside jokes with Adel on the side, with Whitney's studious attitude trying to quiz him on test days and talking with her about swim team instead, Jake auctioning off pieces of his lunch so he could save up for that new guitar strap, Adel tinkering with some piece of metal and Zac trying to get a hold of it... They had other friends at their old school, but at this moment, he missed the siblings he still had the most. He missed the people who were probably in this same cafeteria right now. His smile dropped slightly.
Hurt and sadness were not feelings often felt for any serious amount of time with Zac. It was more common that he would be the one smiling when everyone else around him was frowning. But this feeling hurt more, and felt more permanent.
His gaze raised a little and he started scanning the cafeteria.
"Looking for someone?" Jared asked him.
"Huh?" Zac looked back to the kids around the table without having found the people he was hoping to catch glimpses of. "Oh, no." He laughed, "I get distracted sometimes."
He put on a happy face, not really feeling it but hoping it might fool his heart a little bit. He had to be determinedly positive. It usually came without thought, but he knew today would be different.
He thought maybe if he could see Jake, Adel or Whitney and see that they were adjusting with some ease, it might be simpler for him to do the same. But he had seen Jake, who had seemed already assimilated into the new network, and Whitney, who had seemed confident enough, and it still hadn't made him feel any better. His mind wandered to Adel. She hadn't seemed happy or confident when he had seen her in the hall. She seemed hurt and he saw his own worry reflected in her face. He felt bad for shrugging past her, but he didn't want to see his own emotions played back to him like that.
"Anyone want this apple?" Peter asked the table. Bringing Zac's attention to the group once again.
"I'll take it." Nicole said, reaching across the table. "I'll share it with you two if you want. Coach said we should be eating more fruits, remember?" She teased at Mike and Jared.
"No, he just said that to the girls." Jared teased back.
"Like I said," Nicole countered, "Coach said we should be eating more fruits."
She emphasized the ‘we’ in a way that made Jared shake his head and say, "Whatever."
"What sport do you guys do?" Zac asked eagerly, hoping he could connect with them on some level.
"Cross Country." Nicole said. "We're runners, couldn't you tell by our girlish figures?" She laughed and struck a pose. Mike and Jared made girly poses too and laughed. Zac laughed with them, but for a little bit different reason. Nicole was the obvious leader of the other two.
"That's really cool. I did swim at my old school..." Zac said. "I was alright at it but some of my friends did cross country. They always tried to get me to switch over. I've always liked running."
Zac's mind flashed briefly to a framed newspaper article their mom kept hanging in the study room at home--a picture of him and Whitney with their arms around each other and medals around their necks with the title that read "Carter Kids Lead Local Team to High School State Meet." That was just last year. He hoped no one here followed swimming too closely.
"You totally should." Jared chimed in.
"Yeah, you look like a runner." Mike said.
"I think you could easily be top seven for boys. Heck, you'd probably beat these two." Nicole motioned to Mike and Jared.
"Maybe. I don't know yet if I want to do any sports this year..."
"Just come to practice this afternoon, it’s the first day so there will be other new people, too."
"I'll think about it." Zac said, and he would.
The bell rang signaling the end of lunch and Zac's attitude soured again. More classes, more alone.
It turned out both Sam and Peter were in his next class, which made it a lot more bearable. He drew a picture of Nicole in a running uniform, stepping over Mike and Jared’s comically collapsed forms (also in uniform) as she crossed a finish line with her arms raised. He gave it to Sam at the end of class and she laughed.
Just two more classes and then he was free. His second to last class of the day went by slowly, but uneventfully. He didn't know anyone again but that was to be expected. He spent this class making a pro and con list on the subject of joining a school sport and when that one was done he made a pro and con list for cross country, and one for swimming. He briefly entertained the idea of joining the school dance program, and made a list for that, too. When the bell rang, he had five notebook pages filled with lists, two with doodles and still no idea what he wanted to do.
He got a little lost on the way to his last class but ran into Nicole and asked her where the room was. She pointed him towards an open door around the corner. She also reminded him about the cross country meeting after school in the cafeteria. He wasn't even late to class.
Maybe this day will end up okay. He thought to himself, but that was when he glanced up just in time to see Jake gliding through the door.
He took a deep breath and hung his head. The perfect ending to this day. He thought.
Well, at least Jake didn't seem to know anyone in here yet. Zac was seated near the back, with an empty chair in front of him and to his right. He wasn't sure if Jake just didn't see him, if he didn't think about what he was doing, or if he wanted to reach out, but Jake took the seat right next to Zac.
What are you doing?! Zac thought furiously in his head. Sure, they didn't look exactly alike, but they looked enough like brothers to get noticed for it if put close enough together. Actually, the same was true for all of quads. Any pair of them could be picked out of a lineup or if they were in a close proximity to each other. Like, sitting next to each other in class, for example.
"How's it goin'?" Jake said in Zac's direction when he sat down. Zac figured it could have just been a friendly gesture to any kid next to him, but the way Jake said it reminded Zac of when they would casually pass each other at school, when Jake would sit down to the lunch table, or when they would sit by each other in class.
"Sorry, do I know you?" Zac said, looking towards Jake. He hadn't meant for it to sound as bitter as it did when it left his mouth.
"Oh." Jake was momentarily startled. Either he was just realizing it was Zac, or he was just realizing it was a Zac he wasn't supposed to know. "Huh. Sorry, dude. Thought you were someone else…"
"Yeah, you kind of reminded me of someone, too. Only for a second though." He sounded bitter again. He shook his head and turned his attention to the front of the class as the teacher tried to get everyone's attention.
“Look, I’m sorry about earlier.” Jake said softly, but Zac knew it was aimed for him. Neither of them looked at each other.
Zac said nothing. He flipped his notebook to a blank page and began making a new list: “Reasons it sucks to be a Quad.”
|Adel hummed to herself as she pushed textbooks into her backpack, happy that the stressful first day was over. No more stuttered introductions. No more of having no clue about what teacher were talking about. Grabbing her book and pushing her sunglasses up farther on her nose, she zipped he bag and slung it over her shoulder. Making her way out to the buses, she looked cheerfully around, unconsciously searching for her siblings. Zac had the car for the day, so it was the bus for the other three. |
It wasn't until the bus had pulled away from the school that Adelaide remembered it. "Oh, no!" she gasped. Standing up quickly, she staggered from the movement of the bus. "Excuse me?" she called loudly to the driver, "You have to let me off!" The middle aged lady only glanced up at her.
"You got a note?" she asked.
"No. But it's an emergency. please-"
"No can do. No note, no getting off before your stop." The driver scowled, then turned her eyes back to the road. Sitting down as abruptly as she had stood up, Adel groaned inwardly. She didn't have Andrew's number. He was going to think she ditched. She was so close to making a friend.
But there was no way for her to get back to the school for the meeting. Zac had the car, and even if it was at home, she couldn't drive anyway. Mom and Dad weren't home, so they couldn't bring her. And by the time someone with a license was available, the meeting would be over anyway. Her good mood gone, she leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes. In her head, she started a list. That's what Zac always did. "Reasons it sucks to be alone."
|When Whitney agreed to the “plan” as the others called it, she thought her first day would be magical. You know, like the one of those kitschy teen movies. The magic would start when she walked through the double front doors. An unexpected gust of wind would blow her hair just right, and then she would start to strut down the hallway. Everyone would stare, yet she would just smile and wave at the passersby. Suddenly she’d stop in her tracks. A gorgeous, yet brooding, bad boy would spot her from across the way. Whit would flip her hair, and toss her things aside. Slowly the two would make their way towards each other and well, you can guess what would happen next.|
Today just wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She walked into school, with nobody even looking her way. She couldn’t find her locker and not to mention half her classes. It was just a typical first day, she kept to herself and quietly observed her surroundings. The most interesting thing that happened that day was in History. She couldn’t help not helping Zac. She didn’t like seeing any of her brothers or sisters struggle, not to mention at something she caused. She could feel Zac staring at her from the moment she walked in. Whitney wanted so much to break the silly rule and go sit by him. She didn’t, but she wanted some sort familiarity to make it through the day.
The rest of the day was uneventful. She spotted Adel in the hall, Jake of course was Mr. popular, and Zac even found himself some new friends. Whitney spent the rest of the day staring at the clock, hoping it would be over. Finally after what seemed like a eternity, it was. She was the first one out of her seat and flying down the hall towards the bus stop.
The quad smiled at the bus driver as she walked to the back seat of the bus. She took her seat and pulled out her phone. I guess she secretly hoped to she a text message from one of her siblings. She sighed and placed the phone back into the pocket of her skinny jeans. Whitney took one last look around the bus before thinking about the brooding bad boy again.
She hadn’t even realized they started moving, until she heard a familiar voice.
"No. But it's an emergency. please-"
Whitney peeked around the corner of her seat to see Adelaide trying to convince the bus driver to let her off. Maybe she forgot something? She did that a lot.
"No can do. No note, no getting off before your stop."
Whitney couldn’t help but feel bad after seeing the desperation on Adel’s face. She decided to break the rule. I mean the whole entire student body wasn’t here to witness it and neither were the boys.
The quad picked up her teal messenger bag and slowly made her way to the front of the bus. She quickly spotted Adel’s Tan hat and the empty seat next to her. Whitney swung her book bag onto her lap and sat down.
“I like being a quad.”
|Adelaide swiveled her head so fast her spine cracked. "Whitney?" she hissed, rubbing her neck gingerly. "What the hell are you doing?"|
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Whitney said. Adel started to protest, but was cut off.
"Okay, what's wrong?did you forget your homework or something?"
"No, I told Andrew I would come today, and there's no car, and he's going to think I ditched, and he'll hate me forever, and he's the only one who's nice to me, and-"
"Whoa, slow down. What are you talking about? Who's Andrew? What are you ditching?" asked Whitney, confused.
"The meeting! Andrew asked me to come. He was the only one who even talked to me today. And one of the boys has the car, and I don't have his number, and I don't know what to do! And you shouldn't even be talking to me, Whit." Adel added the last bit accusingly as she explained. Whitney waved a hand in dismissal.
"Who cares? You need me." She whipped out her cell phone once more. "Lucky for you, I think I know who you're talking about. Andrew Mason, right? He's my bio partner." Adel gasped in happiness.
"Yeah! That sounds right. I don't actually know his last name, but who cares! Call him!" She tugged on her sister's arm, trying to make her dial faster.
"Hello? Hi, Andrew! So yeah, do you know Adel Carter? Well, something came up. She can't come. No. She's on my bus, why? No, we're not! She asked me to call you. Yeah. I'll tell her. Bye." She clicked her phone and hung up. "Done! He knows."
"And he's okay with it?" Adel asked anxiously.
"And what else did he have to say?"
"Not much. Hopes to see you tomorrow." Whitney said innocently. Adelaide frowned.
"That seemed like a long conversation for such a short message."
|Whitney sniffed. "Well. he might have said something, he might not have. that's for me to know and you not to find out." Childishly, Adelaide stuck her tongue out. But a smile was creeping across her face again, as she slid down in her seat. |
"So... why were you so worried, anyway? You were like flipping out. Only ever seen you do that when you had overdue library books."
"I dunno. Andrew's nice. He asked me to come to the robotics team meeting. Figures I forget."
Adel started rambling on about her day, but Whitney wasn't listening anymore. Figures Adelaide would make friends faster than her. A total geek, and her (technically) younger sister had more friends than she did. She frowned, bobbing her head and pretending to listen to Adel rant on about English class. Whatever happened to popular, friendly, outgoing Whit?
|Being a quad was a comfort to Whitney. I guess it was something that made her unique. Something that would make her stand out in a crowd. Now she had to practically hide who she was. Now she was just a plain, normal, non-identifiable girl. She supposed she was happy for her sister. She deserved to be happy and make friends after all that she had been through in the past. Whit just didn’t know why she couldn’t find that same level of happiness for herself.|
Whitney came back to reality and tuned into her sister’s conversation. “…so of course Jake was Mr. Popular and was talking with a big group of people. Mr. Jorgenson had to practically yell to get their attention. And then the he started talking about Henry James…you know one of those long drawn out lectures….and then he asks Jake a question…..”
Whitney shifted toward Adelaide, now slumped down in her seat as well. Knowing English Literature wasn’t one of Jake’s best subjects she asked,” He bombed it huh?”
Adel smiled,” Well Mr. Jorgenson couldn’t get his attention. He asked it again before he had to literally go up to his desk and slam his hand on it to get his attention. Jake admitted he was zoning out.”
Whitney grinned, “That seems to happen a lot in our family.”
“Well being the charmer that he, Jake just smiled and apologized. Mr. Jorgenson threatened him with detention if he didn’t get it right. And amazingly enough, he did.”
Both of the girls started laughing, even though it technically wasn’t that funny. It sure felt good though.
“How was your day Whit?”
“Well,” Whitney started to play with her hair,” Couldn’t find my locker. I was late to most well all of my classes. I Showed up to History and found Zac there. He was “zoning” out too and was asked a question. He didn’t have the answer. I couldn’t stand seeing him struggle so I answered for him. He actually thanked me too, which was nice. I sat by myself at lunch. And then kept looking at the clock until my boring day was over. That’s pretty much my day in a nutshell.”
Adel glanced at her,” Whitney, it was only the first day. Didn’t Mom say it was going to take some time to get used to it?”
The bus slowly halted at their bus stop. They both rose from their seats and walked toward the front of the bus.
“I guess she did. But Adel, its hard to change everything and start over from scratch,” Whitney replied.
Both of the quads said a polite goodbye to the driver and stepped down onto the sidewalk. They had a couple of blocks walk to their home. Adel continued their conversation.
“True. If Jake and Zac can do it, then why can’t we? Besides, there’s always tomorrow?”
Whitney enjoyed her sister’s optimism. She was right. Tomorrow was a new day. Tomorrow was going to be different. Look out world her comes Whitney.
“Thanks Adel. Hey Since your plans fell through, want to do something today?”
|Zac was pulling out of the parking lot and driving down the street along the side of the school when Jake waved him down. He slowed and rolled down the side window, but Jake wasted no time in hoping in the car. |
“Drive.” He said, like they were the robbers of a bank heist or something.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Zac said. “Get out. I can’t give you a ride.”
“Please, come on. I missed the bus. If we go now, no one will even know.” Jake insisted.
“Fine.” Zac was reluctant, but he stepped on the gas and pulled out into traffic.
Today hadn’t been a great day, and he had been looking forward to the drive home where he could be alone and be himself and not have to pretend that he was anyone different. But here was Jake, trying to mess things up again? He wasn’t sure of his brother’s motives for anything today, but he let it go. Maybe it would be nice to have company and to not have to pretend like he didn’t know his own brother.
“How was your day?” Jake asked him, before Zac could ask the same thing. At least it was nice to know that maybe Jake was feeling the same way as Zac.
“It was alright. No highlights besides Whit saving my butt in class when I didn’t know an answer and you sitting next to me in another class. I met a few kids who seem cool… they want me to join the Cross Country team but, I dunno.”
“Why not? That could be cool. It’s like running and stuff, right?” Jake asked.
“Yeah, it’s just running and racing and stuff. I guess it could be alright but… I don’t know. I can’t decide if I want to do it or not.”
“Well what’s the other option?” Jake asked, “You gonna join the dance team?” He laughed a little, it was a teasing jest, and Zac didn’t like it.
“You know, you can get out of the car and walk the rest of the way if you want.”
“Ah, I was just kidding, come on.”
“I’m good at dancing, and we didn’t have a team at our old school. I thought it could be cool… but I know that how you’re acting is the exact reaction I’m going to get from everyone… what guy joins a dance team?” He shrugged. Jake shrugged too.
“Well… I would back you up. Whatever you pick. You should do what you want and I’ll watch your back.”
“Thanks for that offer, but it might be hard when we don’t even know each other.” His tone was bitter again. Today was just not going well for Zac’s temper. He didn’t even feel like himself at all today. What was going on? Whatever it was… he didn’t like it. And he needed to find some way to make it all better.
They rode the rest of the car ride in silence. Jake knew that Zac was right, and he didn’t push him anymore. As much as Zac hoped that Jake had had a good day at school, he didn’t want to hear about it and so he didn’t ask.
When they pulled into the driveway, the garage door was already up.
“Guess the girls are home already.” Jake said as he got out of the car, leaving Zac alone.
Zac took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to feel better. Then he put the car in reverse and sped off down the road.
Jake turned around in surprise, “Where are you going?” He yelled after him, but Zac was already gone.
|Adelaide watched Zac peel away from their driveway, rather faster than the speed limit. she paced aimlessly around the room she shared with Whitney. There were still boxes everywhere, mostly Whit's fault. Adel's desk was already set up, with her books on the shelves a her medicine in a plastic bin by the bed. She rolled her eyes at the mess of clothes and color that was her sister's junk.|
What was Whitney doing, anyway? As soon as the bus had turned the corner, Whitney had dragged her into the house and practically locked her in the bedroom, threatening death by non-black hair dye if she came downstairs. Adel bit her lip, debating if she dared turn the doorknob. Deciding finally that she could blame it on someone else if she got caught, she dashed into the hall. She ninja'd her way down the staircase, turned the corner, and-
"Ahh!" she yelped, finding herself face to face with Morgana. "Uh, Morgan. Um, hi! I didn't know you'd be home so soon!" She said, adjusting the position of her glasses on the bridge of her nose.
"I didn't either. What are you doing, sneaking around?" Her older sister asked suspiciously.
"Um, hiding from Whitney. You?"
"I'm not sneaking. I'm walking through my house like a normal person," She paused. "Why are you hiding from Whit?"
"She says she has a surprise for me," Adel said, edging away.
"Well, have fun with that," Morgana said, nodding her head as if she understood. Adelaide kept going, slightly spacing out now. Morgana had been rather self-absorbed lately, staying in her room a lot. She kind of missed hanging out with her sister, it always made her feel special and mature to be spending time with a college student. Wrapped up in her own thoughts (for what seemed to be the umpteenth time that day), she wandered towards the kitchen. As she crossed the threshold, she froze. Whitney as standing with her back facing Adel, mixing something in a bowl.
Her eyes wide, Adel said, "What is that?" loudly, making Whitney turn.
"Addie! I told you to stay in our room! This was supposed to be a surprise!"
"Are you trying to kill me?" she questioned in a higher-pitched voice than normal. Whitney's brow furrowed.
"I didn't think I used any peanuts. Are you allergic to oatmeal?" She tried to remember what ingredients Adel couldn’t have. She ticked them off with her fingers, but was interrupted by Adel throwing her arms around her.
"Whit, I love you! You are the absolute best!" Whitney threw her hands up in the air, trying not to get the gluten-free flour all over Adelaide's black t-shirt.
"Um, I know?" she squeaked, trying to get air. What was up with Addie? Usually she was so reserved. Freaking out over missing something, then hugging her? Whitney held Adel at arms length.
"Who are you and what have you done with my sister?" Adel simply giggled. Hang on. Adelaide Carter , giggling? "Really, I mean it. What happened to you?"
Adelaide simply shook her head mysteriously and grabbed the bowl to help.
|Zac sped off down the street. At first he didn't know exactly where he was going. He considered driving all the way back to his old town, maybe to meet up with some of his friends who he could vent to about his siblings' behaviors today at school and to get out some of his anger. He considered just driving until he was far away from the frustrations of this new town and new school. So when he turned the corner and saw his new school standing in front of him he was a little surprised in himself. |
He parked the car and got out, heading towards the office.
"Good afternoon." The secretary greeted him. "Can I help you?"
"I'm new to the school." Zac said. "I heard some kids talking today about Cross Country practice starting today. I wanted to know where I could sign up for that or whatever."
"Oh, glad to see you're trying to get involved!" She sounded more enthused than Zac felt. "They meet on the track in the back of the school, and usually go on various runs from there. Lots of trails and parks around this area, so great for the team." Her enthusiasm was exhausting. All Zac wanted to know was how to do it. "You can talk with the coach, and sign up that way. It's an after school program, but he'll let you know how it all works. They should be back there now."
"Great. Thank you." Zac said quickly, but politely. He went back to the car and drove it around to the back of the school where he found the track. He could see some kids running around and spotted Nicole. She saw him, too.
"Zac?" She called, jogging over. "It is you! I'm so glad you decided to come after all."
"Yeah, sorry I'm late." He said. She looked him over, and he realized he was still in his school clothes. "Oh and... not properly dressed." She laughed, which made him feel a little better.
"Is it too late to join? I want to run with you guys." He said.
"Of course it's not too late to join. Our coach is right over there." She turned and pointed. "He's a nice guy. Coach Joe."
"Great." Zac said.
"I can introduce you if you like." Nicole offered.
"Yeah, that'd be great."
Zac followed Nicole over to meet Coach Joe, who looked him over and shook his hand.
"This is Zac. He just moved here this year and wants to join the team." Nicole said.
"What makes you want to join, Zac?" Coach Joe asked him.
"I um... well, I just moved here and... I'd like to get involved in something." The secretary's voice echoed in his head briefly. "I used to swim at my old school but I met Nicole and Jared and Mike today and thought maybe I should try something new. Plus I... well... especially after today I realized I need some way to um... get out some frustrated energy." Zac thought of his long, tiring, frustrating day and dealing with his siblings.
"Those all sound like great reasons." Coach Joe said. "I'll get you some paperwork for your parents to sign and we'll get you a schedule and all the information, how's that sound?" Zac shook his head. It sounded easy enough. "So we meet every day after school, usually for an hour and a half. Will you be able to commit to that?"
"Yes sir." Zac said.
"Great." Coach Joe smiled. "Well for today, do you have any running clothes with you?"
Zac thought about it, he didn't bring any. "Hold on." He said, "I think I might have something in the car."
He ran back to the car and rummaged around a bit in the trunk. He found a pair of Jake's old basketball shorts and one of his own old T-shirts. He smelled both items, not clean, but not horrible smelling either and put them on. The shorts were too big for him, more fitted to Jake's tall body. He pulled the drawstring on them and hoped that they wouldn't fall down. He jogged back to Coach Joe.
"Okay," Zac said, "All set."
"Good." Coach Joe said, "Your shoes... they're okay for today, but we should work on getting you into some better ones for running."
"Sure." Zac said, looking down at his old sneakers.
Practice was easy for the day and Zac was quiet and observant of everyone. He jumped in and ran a bit with some of the other boys and was introduced to the team. It felt good just to run and get out his pent up energy and frustrations towards his siblings. He might not always have been the best at using his words to explain his feelings, but one thing was for sure, Zac didn't let those feelings bubble up and explode. He found ways to get them out.
After practice, Zac gave Mike a ride home. "Figured I'll drive you and then if we go to the Football game Friday you can return the favor." Zac shrugged. Mike was nice enough and seemed like someone he could get along with. Especially if he was now a part of the Cross Country team. The ride to Mike's house was quiet, but good. They talked about music and what Zac thought of the team so far.
From Mike's house, Zac found his way back to his house easily. He pulled into the driveway, sweaty and tired now. He walked into the house quietly, and found his mom in the study room working on something.
"Hey, kiddo." She said when he walked in.
"Hey." Zac said, "Sorry I'm home late."
"Oh. I thought you were just up in your room." She smiled, "What kept you?"
"I went to check out the cross country team, it's running and racing and stuff. It was cool. I think I want to join."
"That sounds like a great idea!" She said, "You know, you should see if Whit wants to join too. You'd both be good at it, I think. Even Jake, but he wasn't too interested in that stuff I guess." She shrugged and turned back to what she was working on.
"Well... actually I um... I was kind of just hoping to have this one thing to myself..." He said quietly. "You know like... just me..."
His mom turned to look at him again. "Hm." She said, "Well... I guess honey, if that's what you want." She tried to give him a smile, "You and Whit make a good team though. My athletic children." She gave him a wink. As she turned back to her desk, Zac caught the newspaper clipping of him and Whitney from Swim team last year and he sighed.
"Well, could you sign this for me? So I can be on the team?"
"Sure. Just leave it with me and I'll read it over and give it back to you for tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay, thanks mom."
He left the study.
"Dinner in 20 minutes!" His mom called after him.
He walked up the stairs to take a shower, stopping only briefly in his and Jake's room to put down his things, but not wanting to stay long. Even coming up the stairs he could hear Jake jamming away on his guitar. He was pretty sure Jake didn't even notice Zac come into the room. He wondered where the girls were and what they were doing as he got into the shower.
|The girls were in the basement. They had taken the still-warm plate of cookies down, and had managed to unpack a few more boxes in between munches. Whit spread an old floral rug across the cement floor, and was lying on her back, spread-eagled. Adelaide sat on a pile of cardboard boxes reading, ignoring the "fragile" warning. she swung her feet back and forth, her heavy boots forgotten in the corner. |
"Hey, Whit," Adelaide said out of the blue, "why are we doing this?"
"Doin' hat?" Whitney mumbled. She struggled to swallow her mouthful of cookie. "Doing what?"
"Not telling people we're related."
"Oh. I dunno. It's not as if we're hiding it. We all live together. We have the same last names. Someone's bound to work it out eventually."
"I just feel... guilty somehow. Like it's wrong to not be together."
"You make it sound like we're dating. That’s creepy." Whit giggled, sitting up. Adelaide slid down from her box to sit next to her sister.
"You know what I mean. I liked not being considered 'one of the Carter kids,' but I missed it too." She wrinkled her nose. Both girls fell silent for a minute.
"I hear the boys upstairs." Whitney commented. "Sounds like Jake's guitar, at least." Topic: Avoided, Adelaide thought.
"Yeah." Adel pulled her knees up to her chest and propped her head on them. She didn't want to go upstairs. There was homework and family and talking up there. It was nice, sitting here in the semi-darkness with her sister. She and Whit had never been close. Adel preferred staying home over the many parties and extracurricular activities her siblings did. Whitney dusted herself off and stood up. She held a hand out to help her up.
"In a minute."
"Whatever." Whitney rolled her eyes. And just like that, their 'moment' was over and Adelaide shivered.
She suddenly realized that it was dark and damp in the basement. She looked up the stairs, at the window of light and warmth, then heaved herself up, pulled her boots back on, and tucked her hair behind her ear. Back to the real world, then.