We're Working On It

by Richard Norway

Chapter 8

It was now about 6:00 pm and Richard and Cory headed for home. As soon as they got in the house, Cory ran upstairs to his room carrying all of his shopping bags full of new clothes causing Richard to be a little curious as to what he was up to. Richard followed him upstairs and peeked around the door. Cory was taking his new clothes out of the plastic shopping bags and was putting them away in the empty dresser across from the bed.

As Richard walked in, he said, "Think it'll all fit in there?"

Cory looked at Richard and laughingly said, "We didn't buy that much."

Richard looked over at Cory and Cory seemed to be somewhere else. Cory's eyes were focused in the center of the room. As Cory's eyes began to play around the room, Richard knew that Cory was settling in – this was becoming his home.

Richard looked back to last Thursday night when he and Cory met on that rainy night. It seemed so long ago. In just a few short days, Cory had moved into Richard's house and by Tuesday afternoon, Cory was placed officially in Richard's care as a foster child, at least on an emergency basis. Something inside was telling him that he needed this boy in his home. It made his idea of family seem complete once again. He wondered if the word he was thinking of would ever become a reality. The word was son!

Richard loved his daughter, and she loved him. He had no doubt about that. She was just like any other teenager when she was growing up, needing and depending on Richard back then, but she had grown and was now on her own. He remembered the day she had left for the university. She was gone. His wife was gone. And his business was gone. He couldn't do anything more for them.

But this was a new chance that had come into his life.

On Wednesday, Cory was to start school, and he had to ride the bus that morning. That meant they had to get up early for Cory to be able to make it to the bus stop on time.

Richard was up before Cory, like most parents, to fix him a full breakfast. Well, that part wasn't like most parents. As Cory entered the kitchen, Richard could immediately tell that Cory was quite apprehensive that morning. Cory had put on some of his new clothes, and it was the uniform of high school boys; blue jeans, white tee shirt, dark blue canvas Vans and a Tigers ball cap turned backwards. Cory had his backpack slung over one shoulder. His clothes didn't say anything special about him, but Cory's face was the front page of a tabloid newspaper. He could be read it like a freeway billboard. The furrowed forehead on Cory told Richard that Cory was deep in thought and probably scared to death right now. Cory didn't know anyone at his new school yet, but Richard knew that he would make some new friends easily. Cory had that kid-like vulnerable personality that drew people to him. He wondered how much more had been there before his mother passed away, and how much was lost after his father started abusing him.

Richard fried bacon and eggs for breakfast and served them with orange juice and toast. He figured a hearty breakfast would be just what he needed for a good start at Cory's first day in a new school.

Cory plopped into his chair at the breakfast table and immediately placed his elbows down in front him and rested his chin on his knuckles. He looked straight ahead, hardly seeing the room around him.

Richard placed his breakfast on a plate and set it in front of Cory, but Cory, usually ready to engulf his food in one bite, just sat quietly without moving for a moment. Cory didn't eat much as he played with most of his breakfast. Richard put his own plate on his side of the table, sat down and had been studying Cory while he started to eat. He then decided it was time to get Cory out of his doldrums.

"They sure came through fast enough. Here it is Wednesday, and they were able to get you into school in just six days. That's just amazing," Richard opened the nonexistent conversation.

"Yeah, they did," Cory said while still watching his plate as he continued to swirl his fork through the egg yolks.

"Nervous, aren't you?" Richard asked.

"Yeah, a little," Cory replied as he slowly looked up at Richard across the table. "Maybe a lot."

"Don't worry. You'll be fine, Cory. Would you rather I drove you to school this morning?" Richard thought that Cory would like some company, any company, on his way to the new school.

"Would you mind?" Cory sheepishly asked. "I am just a little nervous. Actually, I'm scared shitless."

"That's really just because it's something new. Everyone's a little nervous facing something new. It's kind of the unknown in front of you. And don't swear."

"Okay. And, yeah, I know what school's like, but this is a new school and new people," Cory replied.

"Cory, think about this. Once you've gotten through the day, it won't be the 'unknown' anymore, right?"

"Hmmm, I guess you're right, but that doesn't mean that I'm not really nervous now. The day hasn't started yet."

"Well, hop to. Finish your breakfast and let's get this day going then."

Cory stared at Richard for a moment but wasn't willing to eat any more. "I'm not very hungry I guess," Cory replied.

"Okay. Suit yourself, but you'll be hungry by 10:00. Mark my words. I was a teenager once, you know?" Richard laughed.

Cory smiled, his spirits rising with the brief bit of humor.

They put the dishes in the dishwasher, Cory grabbed his backpack while Richard picked up his brief case and they left the house.

Cory was silent as they drove the two miles to the high school, and as they approached the school Cory was watching out the window at everything. He was trying to make it a familiar route, which it would be in a matter of days. Richard eventually pulled the car into the parking lot, stopped in the drop off area at the main entrance, and Cory sat there for a minute, his fears returning. Finally, he moved over to Richard, gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, turned away and opened the door to leave.

"Cory, it's just a school. Don't worry. You'll meet some kids you'll like," Richard said trying to give him a little encouragement.

"I hope so."

"Know where you're going first?"

"Yeah, I'm prepared. I've got Geometry first period." Cory turned away, but quickly turned back to Richard. "See you tonight, bye," and was off to face his destiny.

Cory walked into the building. He didn't look back and was soon inside and out of sight. For a moment it seemed to Richard that the school had swallowed him and was not going to give him back, like a shark, ravaging its meal. Richard started to feel pangs of remorse for being the one that gave him up to the school. But it had to be. Cory was growing up, just like Richard's business and needed to be let go of.

Cory walked down a hall with lockers filling both walls. The solid wall of lockers was broken only by a doorway leading to an occasional classroom or an occasional window. The hallway was packed with kids either talking to friends, rummaging through their own lockers for books and whatever else they kept in there or hurrying to somewhere that Cory assumed was a class.

He glanced down at the piece of paper he'd been holding to remind him of the room number of his first class. The room numbers were above each door and Cory continued looking at them as he passed each classroom, buffeted by the herd. By now everyone in the hallway knew he was the new kid. They all seemed to be staring at him. Cory felt the stares, and knew he was acting like a dorky new kid with his room number on a piece of paper in front of him. What else could he do?

He suddenly stopped as he saw the number he'd been looking for. Checking one more time to make sure he wouldn't walk into the wrong class, he put the piece of paper in his pocket and opened the door to his first class.

Inside, half of the students were still milling about, talking, while the other half was seated, waiting for the class to begin. All of a sudden, Cory realized that he didn't know where to sit. He looked around for an empty seat, but he knew the empty seats may have been already claimed by some of those not yet seated. If he sat in one of them, and it was the wrong one, he knew he would be in trouble.

Mr. Parks, the teacher, was seated on the edge of his desk talking to a female student. Looking the part of a geometry teacher in a white shirt and a plain dark colored tie, he looked up and saw Cory standing at the side of the room. "Excuse me a moment." he said to the student and then stood up looking at Cory.

"You must be Cory. They told me that you'd be coming to my class. Welcome to Geometry I."

The classroom noise quieted as the students turned to look at the new kid in the class. Cory became very self conscience and looked down at the floor.

Parks, sensing Cory's embarrassment, eased the awkward silence. Pointing toward an open seat he said, "You can have that seat over there by the window."

Cory walked over to Mr. Parks and handed him his admission slip. He was grateful that this new teacher seemed to understand the embarrassment he felt being in front of the class with all the kids looking at him. Mr. Parks didn't make an issue of him on his first day.

"Thank you, Cory. Just have a seat and we can begin shortly," the teacher said as he took the admission slip from Cory.

Cory nervously moved amongst the students toward his empty seat. He put his backpack on the floor and slid into the empty chair. As he looked up, he saw that the rest of the class had forgotten him as they rushed to take their seats. He was relieved at not being the center of attention anymore.

While looking around the classroom, Cory noticed a boy seated on the other side of the room many seats forward of his own. The boy was quiet, and no one was talking to him, which seemed to Cory to be highly unusual in this classroom, everyone was talking to someone.

As he continued to look around the room, he was startled to meet the green eyes of the boy seated across the aisle from him. The boy was intently staring at Cory, unnerving him. The boy smiled, and Cory wrestled up a smile in return.

"Hey! New here, aren't you?" the boy asked, startling Cory even more. He didn't think he'd be talking to anyone on his first day.

"Yeah, my first day," Cory replied.

"I'm Kevin."

Cory thought that this guy was bold, and he felt that boldness was pulling an answer out of him. He just wasn't sure how much to say. Kevin's voice was friendly enough so he thought he would answer in the same way that Kevin asked his question, friendly.

"My name's Cory."

Kevin leaned over, sticking out his hand, "Nice to meet you, Cory."

Looking at Kevin for a moment, Cory noticed his green eyes again. They were smiling at him. But then he saw something that startled him. It was a sparkle: that little bit of light that was the reflection from the sunlight through the window. The eyes were creeping him out, pulling him in. Cory had to shake off the feeling, but then decided that it's okay to at least be friendly. After all, this boy, Kevin, was being friendly to him. Cory returned the handshake.

"Where're you from?" asked Kevin.

"I was going to Plymouth High, but I've moved down here now."

"Well, I've spent my whole life here, so if there's anything you want to know, just yell, okay?"

Cory relaxed a little more and thought that maybe this new school won't be so bad after all.

"Thanks, man," Cory said with a defining smile.

"Not a problem," Kevin replied as the bell rang, signaling the start of class. Kevin looked forward as the teacher began to ramble about the lesson for the day, but soon turned back toward Cory. Under his breath, Kevin whispered, "He's not so bad. He's got a bark that can rattle you sometimes, but you'll get used to him."

Cory smiled at Kevin feeling comfortable for the first time today. This boy had spoken to him in confidence about the teacher, and Cory liked it. Cory was about to make his first friend at his new school. He smiled at Kevin and returned his gaze toward the front of the room to pay attention to the teacher.

After his first class, Cory went to his locker to drop off his books, and as he approached his locker, he noticed a boy putting his books into the locker next to his. He was slightly shorter than Cory's 5'-10", but much more muscular. As Cory opened his locker, he thought of the easy way that Kevin had said 'Hi' to him. Kevin made it sound so easy.

He turned to the boy, with a little of Kevin's boldness, and said it, "Hi." Immediately Cory felt his insides tighten, realizing that this boy maybe didn't want to be friendly at all. Not everyone would be like Kevin.

The boy glanced in Cory's direction. "Hi," was all he said back to Cory and then turned back to his own locker.

Cory thought that went well.

Cory turned back to his locker but stopped. He knew him. He'd seen him someplace before. And then it hit him. He was the boy who no one was talking to in his first class.

Cory looked at the boy next to him and said, "Didn't I see you in Park's Geometry class this morning?"

"Ah, yeah," was all Cory heard in reply.

Cory thought back at Kevin's boldness and wanted to try it on this new boy. It might work for him, he thought.

"My name's Cory. I'm new here."

The boy's face looked up quickly and then at Cory.

"Really? Me, too. Oh, sorry, my name's Matt."

It worked. Cory had just initiated his first conversation.

"Glad to meet you, Matt. Yeah, I just started today."

"I started at the beginning of the school year in September. My dad was transferred here, so we all packed up and moved here this past summer."

"Where did you go to school before?"

"California," Matt replied.

"Wow. I only came down from Plymouth. That's only like 20 or 25 miles away."

As the boys chatted, talking about their old schools, a very pretty girl of about 15 walked up to them. She had long brown hair that shined from the sunlight in the hallway. She was carrying an armful of books, the studious type, even down to the glasses. Her eyes were focused on Matt, and Cory noticed a gleam. He immediately recognized that look. She obviously had a crush on Matt.

"Hey, Matt," She whined to him.

"Oh. Hi, Kelly."

Looking at Cory, Matt introduced them. "Ah, this is Cory. He's new here to like me. Cory, this is Kelly. I met her my first day here."

Kelly turned toward Cory, thrusting out her hand as she fumbled with her books. She almost dropped one. Cory thought that she was even bolder than Kevin.

"Hey, Cory," she said as they shook hands, but Kelly had her eyes fixed on Matt. "Hey, I gotta run, Matt. It was nice to meet you, Cory," she said, not taking her eyes off Matt. "See you in History?" as she looked deep into Matt's eyes, searching for a positive answer.

"Yeah, I'll be there," Matt said reluctantly.

Kelly smiled, turned and waved. She was lost in the crowd within seconds.

Turning back toward Cory, Matt remarked, "I think she's after me. She'd already started asking to study together the day after I met her."

"You could do worse, you know?" Cory replied.

"Uh, she's just a friend. That's all." Quickly changing the subject, Matt said, "Hey! What's your next class?"

"I've got gym next. How about you?"

"Me too and we'd better get our asses in gear before we're late."

Both boys slammed their lockers shut, turned and began to run toward the gymnasium. The halls had cleared out by then as the next class period was about to begin.

The athletic complex was just outside of the hallway door, and as they approached the boy's locker room, other students were walking out of the gym dressed in their tee shirts, school shorts, and sneakers. Cory and Matt ran through the double doors barely missing a few kids. There was a concrete block wall shielding the locker room interior from the outside doors which Cory and Matt barely missed slamming into as they tried to make the turn. It was much darker than the sunlit outside. There were aisles of lockers leading away from the main aisle with wooden benches in front of the lockers.

Matt asked, "Where's your locker?"

"I haven't got one yet. They told me to check in with the gym office when I got here to have one assigned to me." Cory replied.

Matt, still walking toward his locker, pointed to the left.

"That's over there. I'll talk to you later Cory. I've got to get dressed out. You have an excuse for not being on time, I don't."

Matt turned and walked down one of the locker aisles toward his locker.

Cory was watching Matt walk away from him and noticed that Kevin was seated on the wood bench in his gym shorts in the middle of the aisle, the aisle that Matt had walked into. Kevin was bent over tying his gym shoes. Cory noticed immediately that he was shirtless. Kevin's not bad looking, he thought to himself.

Kevin looked up and saw Cory looking down at him and nodded his head at Cory. Kevin smiled.

Cory was a little embarrassed for being caught looking at another boy, but seeing the smile on Kevin's face, shrugged the feeling off. Looking directly at Kevin, and acknowledging that he had seen him, Cory smiled and waved. Turning to head for the office, Cory suddenly walked directly into someone and was knocked backwards a few steps.

"Watch where you're going," the other boy yelled.

Trying to regain his balance, Cory stared at him for a moment and then attempted to walk around him.

"Sorry, I didn't see you. Sorry," Cory said.

Another boy walked up and stood beside the first boy. They both stared at Cory as Cory walked around them and down the aisle toward the office. Cory did not like these two boys. He knew that they could be trouble.

Cory had second lunch period, but he didn't know anyone else who had second lunch, or anyone for that matter, except of course Kevin and Matt. As he walked to the service line, he kept looking around to see if Kevin or Matt would be there. As he moved through the line, he had to turn and focus his attention on what was being served. School food is universal, and it looked like the same uninviting food that he had at Plymouth High. Cory chose a green salad, a banana and a carton of milk.

Turning from the line after he had paid for his 'lunch', he looked around again for some place to sit and eat. He still didn't see anyone who he recognized but knew that each table was claimed by a particular group. Cory wasn't in any 'group' so he couldn't just sit with someone anywhere. He knew that he'd be eating alone. He finally saw a small empty table that only had two chairs next to it by the window. Cory headed in that direction, knowing that he should have brought a book to read or something because it was going to be a lonely lunch.

He took his lunch from the tray and placed it in front of one of the chairs. Putting the empty tray on the other side of the small table, he sat down to eat. He tried to scan the room again but still knew that he was alone.

Halfway through his salad, a shadow appeared over the table. Cory looked up and saw a face that he thought looked somewhat familiar, but it wasn't the face that he recognized, it was that fantastic sparkle again. Cory's heart took a vacation from beating for what seemed like two beats. Kevin was looking at him.

"Hey new guy, want some company?" Kevin asked, holding his tray in front of him.

It took Cory a few moments to recover. "Uh, yeah. Have a seat."

Kevin slid into the seat putting his tray on top of Cory's empty tray, but didn't take his lunch from his tray, rather planning to leave it there and eat from the tray.

"How's your first day going? I saw you in gym today. That makes two classes we have together."

"Yeah, I saw you too. I was with another new guy, and I didn't have much of a chance to get out and join you guys cuz I had to get a locker and then didn't have any gym clothes. So I just read for a while. Classes are going good so far. Most of the teachers are cool. I think I'm going to like it."

"I like it here too, but our PE coach is a nut cruncher. I think the term 'jock' came from his soul."

Cory and Kevin talked about classes that they were taking and school in general while they finished their lunch. Cory couldn't keep his eyes off of Kevin's eyes – that sparkle haunting him.

"See those guys over there?"

Kevin nodded his head to the left, interrupting Cory's innermost thoughts.

Cory glanced over to where Kevin was nodding and saw a table with about 6 guys eating their lunch.

"What about them?"

"Just don't get mixed up with them. The tall skinny one is Jeremy. He's mean as hell. I think his bed has two wrong sides for him to get up on in the morning. He's just fucking crazy. The guy to his right is Johnny. Now, that guy is weird. He's quiet, but his craziness puts Jeremy to shame. Johnny will do just about anything that Jeremy tells him to."

Cory stared at the other table for a while, recognizing the one that he had bumped into that morning in gym and the other that had followed the first. Cory recognized the first guy, Jeremy, as a typical bully. Every school has them after all. The other guy, Johnny, unsettled Cory, but he didn't know why.

Cory quickly put the two out of his mind, and turning his attention back to Kevin, Cory asked, "So why are you here? Where's your table?"

Kevin laughed.

Cory eyed Kevin. "What's so funny?"

"I don't have a table. I never got into that shit, so I just sit with whoever I want." Kevin continued smiling. "I guess I want to sit with you today."

The only thing Cory was thinking was that he'd take those eyes any day.

"Hey dude, I gotta run. If I don't see you in any more classes today, I'll see you in Geometry tomorrow morning," Kevin said as he got up from the table.

"Okay. See you tomorrow. Oh, and Kevin, thanks for having lunch with me today. I don't really know anyone here yet, so it was nice to have someone to talk to."

"What are friends for, man?" Kevin remarked, fluttering his eyebrows, just before he turned and brought his tray to the conveyor belt at the side of the room.

Cory watched Kevin walk away from the table. No, Cory's eyes were glued to Kevin as he walked away.

Cory trembled. He just realized that Kevin had used that word 'friend'. He was hoping that it was true that Kevin wanted him for a friend. And to Cory, Kevin being as cute as he was, had nothing to do with it either. Cory grinned.

Cory's first day of school had lasted forever in his mind. All was new to him, but he was glad that it was finally over as he headed for the bus. Getting through the first day was what Richard was talking about that morning, so he started to feel good about his first day. He had now gone through it, it was over. No, not quite. He still had to face 'the bus'.

He hated riding school busses. It seemed that all of the tensions of school exploded as soon as you walked on the bus. The bus drivers usually tried to maintain order, some better than others, but no matter what they said, kids just didn't listen. Cory found an empty seat on the aisle in the middle of the bus and sat quietly as pandemonium broke out around him.

He got a few looks from some of the kids but mostly they ignored him. No one actually tried to speak to him, and he was quite relieved. This wasn't like being in a classroom where there was a teacher keeping order. This was chaos. If he was going to be called names or hassled, this is where it was going to happen.

Finally, he breathed out a sigh as he reached his stop and nearly ran to get off the bus, relieved it was over. He was let off just three houses away from Richard's house which made for a welcomed short walk home. His mood began to change for the better.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead