Chapter 1

The beginning

“Would you answer that, Mr. Novachez?” Mr. Flint asked peering at me through his small glasses, over his slightly pointed nose. 

I took my head up drearily and asked, “What’s the question, again?”

Mr. Flint sighed. “Dylan, you need to start focusing in class.” 

We were in math class, the worst part of school at Barnsthustle Middle. 

“Now answer. What is three to the power of six?” Mr. Flint said aggressively. I rolled my eyes and stared at him blankly. Then, I had an idea. I glanced over at my friend, Ernest, for help. His large thick rimmed glasses were nestled upon his nose, and his dark brown hair was shaggy and flailing all over the place. Yep, the usual Jefferson.

He didn’t see me because he was busy waving his hand around in the air. Clearly, he knew the answer.

“I—uh—well,” I stammered. 

“I think Ernest knows,” I finished. Mr. Flint ignored that statement. 

“Three to the power of six,” he growled. I didn’t know it. I just sat silently. 

“Mr. Novachez,” Mr. Flint hissed. “You already worked it out for homework, didn’t you?” I nodded. 

“Then, all you need to do is look at your paper from last night,” Mr. Flint continued. 

I pulled the paper from my book bag. The thing was that I hadn’t done it last night. I glanced at it and then looked up at Mr. Flint with his piercing eyes that seemed to look into my soul. I was about to say a random number, but the bell rang. 

“No homework for tonight,” Mr. Flint stated to the class.

“Except for Mr. Novachez,” he said frowning at me. He motioned for me to come to him. 

After everyone had left the class, Mr. Flint sat down and spoke, 

“Dylan, you have to do what you are supposed to do. This is school. You have to do your work. Stop daydreaming so you can learn.” 

“Sorry, Mr. Flint, but I had soccer practice until nine last night,” I explained. 

“Well tell your coach to let you leave early,” he suggested. 

“But, the tournament finals are this weekend, and I’m playing striker this season.” 

“Well, it’s your choice. What do you think is more important, education or soccer?” asked Mr. Flint.  

I sighed. “Education, I guess.”

“Ok, good. Now tell your coach to let you leave practice early,” Mr. Flint said. I nodded to him, and he handed me my homework. 

“Thanks,” I said gloomily. I was about to leave when Mr. Flint stopped me. 

“Ernest will be your tutor from now on,” Mr. Flint said. I frowned. 

“He will make sure you do your homework and do it right,” he continued. I sighed, rolled my eyes, and left.

I shoved my homework papers into my locker, and grabbed my other books, heading quickly to get to history class.

I sat down in class next to the class clown, Wyatt, with his usual blonde, spiky hair. 

He turned to me with his humongous grin. “Hey, Dylan!”

“Hi,” I frowned. 

“What’s wrong?” Wyatt asked, his smile not dispersing. 

“Mr. Flint gave me extra homework and said I had to leave soccer practice early. He even made that Jefferson nerd my tutor.” 

“But, the finals are this weekend and you’re the striker,” Wyatt said, his smile fading (a very unusual sight).

“Exactly,” I said.

“Quiet class,” Mrs. Jackson, the history teacher, snapped. “Now quick review! When did the second World War start?”

“September 1st, 1939,” everyone answered in groaning unison. 

“Great! When did it end?” Mrs. Jackson asked. “September 2nd, 1945.” 

History class went by slowly with the the words of Mr. Flint swirling in my head. Thankfully, fifty minutes later class ended. Lunch was always after my history class. I sat at a table with my friends. 

Ernest called them “The Cool Kids”. He had a good reason to call them “The Cool Kids”. Our lunch group was the most popular in the grade. Ernest sat at a different table with his fat physics books.

Finn, Ava, Mary, and I were at the “Cool Kids” table along with several other kids. Finn had long blond hair that hung over his forehead. His eyes were a bright blue that probably glowed in pitch black. He would always wear soccer jerseys to school. Ava had bright blonde hair and dark blue eyes. Mary had dark brown hair that was always in a ponytail. Her eyes were pretty much completely black.

When lunch was over, I headed to the school yard because of spare time. The school yard was a big grassy field. Normally, I would most often play soccer and Wyatt and Ernest always sat at a bench and played Dungeons and Dragons, whatever that was. 

Today, I had to do my homework, so I walked over to Ernest, my new tutor. I sighed at that, thinking of how dumb I must be to have a tutor that is still an elementary school. He skipped a grade. That’s why he is so short.

“Hey, Jefferson! Mr. Flint made you my tutor.” 

“Awesome!” he exclaimed, but when he saw my expression he quickly frowned. 

“I meant unawesome. Is it cool to use grammar improperly, or is that just a stereotype?”

I ignored that statement and handed him my homework. 

“This is easy,” he said. He explained how to do the problems. We went over everything.

 I went inside. I had one more class until school was over. It was a band, my favorite class. We had twenty minutes to get ready and leave for class. These twenty minutes were known as “Drama time”. Gossip was always shared at that time. Bullies would also start beating up the small kids. Everyday, bullies would take turns making fun of Ernest. Today, Ernest got cornered at his locker. The bullies started throwing insults at Ernest. They took his glasses and made fun of them. Ava and I got riled up and charged through the crowd. Ernest’s lip was bleeding. He was sitting on the ground holding his head, which seemed to have a big bruise on it.

He looked helpless. His glasses were smashed, laying on the ground. The gargantuan kid, Phil, the tallest (and plumpest) kid, in the school had stomped on them. 

I was scared of him. Well, so was everyone. However, picking up the scraps of courage inside, I stepped up. 

“Watch it! You don’t want any trouble and I don’t either,” I said. 

He was an eighth grader, and he towered over me, like King Kong over Blondie.

“Listen, Shorty, you maybe taller than that Jefferson nerd, but I’m still gonna shatter her bones to pieces!” Phil mocked. A big crowd of kids was surrounding us.

The kid started throwing fake punches to scare me. I flinched. I wasn’t the kind to fight, but I knew I had to make this up for Ernest. 

Suddenly, the 8th grader shot me with a real punch to the face. I fell down with my hands on my face. Ava helped me up and told me that my eye was turning purple. The bully started throwing more fake punches. 

“What’s wrong, Shorty! You scared to fight? You scared like Jefferson over there?” Phil pointed at Ernest. Ava shouted for him to stop. He didn’t and threw insults at me. 

“Why should I listen to you? You wanna get pummeled by me like your boyfriend, Shorty, here?” I got so mad that I punched him straight in the face. He rubbed his cheek where I had hit him, and I saw a trickle of blood appearing. He growled, and hit me in the stomach. I fell to the ground, my breath, knocked straight out. I stood, shaking, and with all my energy left, I charged full speed at him. Phil grinned, and quickly slammed me into a locker. When my head hit the cold, rigid metal, darkness overcame.

I woke up in the nurse’s office. She told me that I had a concussion.

“How long?” I asked.

“Was I unconscious? ” I nodded.

“You have been unconscious for about 30 minutes.” Thirty minutes meant I had missed half of band class. I quickly got my stuff and went to band. When I entered the room, everyone stared at me. Wyatt, when he noticed me, started clapping, and his usual big grin grew bigger. 

“Good job!” he said. Other kids looked happy, and nodded agreeing with Wyatt. Ava looked like she did not appreciate my choices. I sat down next to her across the room from Wyatt, so he wouldn’t “harass” me.

Class went by slowly. When I went to my locker to grab my stuff for leaving, I saw Phil in the hall. He glared at me with a look of this is not over. Eventually, it was time to go home. 

Ava was on my bus. I talked to her about what happened. She was still mad that I had chosen to fight back. I said I was sorry. But as she continued explaining what happened, her unappreciative mood stayed. 

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