Jeremiah had always hated the first day of school, but it was particularly worse when it was at a new school. He should be used to it by now. As a child of a military parent he’d never stayed more than two years at any one place.
But what do students wear in Vallejo? At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, his last home, everyone wore t-shirts with crazy sayings or movie references. Granted, he was in eighth grade then, a time when kids could still be silly, so things might have changed if he’d stayed there for high school. He’ll never know, though.
But he’s got to be prepared. He has to have the right clothes before orientation, which is tomorrow. If he walks on campus wearing out-of-fashion clothes, his entire academic career will be shot.
“Mom? Can you take me shopping?” he asked when he spotted his mom cleaning the bathroom.
She sat up, brushed hair out of her eyes and said, “What do you need?”
“You’ve got plenty of clothes. Why do you need more?”
“I don’t know what kids wear here and the only way to find out before the orientation is to go to the mall. Whatever’s in the stores is what kids will be wearing.”
She sighed. “Let me finish here and then I’ll take you.”
Jeremiah went into the kitchen and fixed himself a peanut butter sandwich. He poured himself some water and took an apple from the bowl. He carried it all to the front room where he turned on the television, shuffled through stations, eventually landing on a baseball game.
“Let’s go,” his mom said several minutes later as she picked up her purse and keys. “We’ve got about an hour before I need to begin dinner.”
Within minutes they were at the outlet mall, one of those that sold discounted designer labels. Jeremiah found two awesome shirts and a pair of shoes at the Nike store, two shirts at Under Armour and one at Adidas.
“Thanks, Mom,” he said. “I didn’t want to look like a dork.”
She smiled as she drove toward their military housing. “You’re not a dork.”
“Anyone can be one if they don’t wear the right clothes.”
At home Jeremiah removed the tags from his new clothes and put them in his drawers. Then he got out his bike and rode around his neighborhood looking for kids his age. He was sure there would be some since this was the family housing section. For the longest time he saw no one, but on a third trip around the block he spotted a couple of teenagers standing in front of one of the units.
Jeremiah stopped next to them. “Hi.”
They stared at him like he was crazy.
They snickered. “Yeah, we figured that out as soon as we saw the bike.”
Jeremiah looked from side to side and saw no bikes. Okay. So he’s already discovered one rule here: nobody rides bikes. “Do you go to Fairfield High?”
“Yeah.” The blond haired boy said, “I’m Josh. I’m a sophomore.”
The black haired one said he was called Trevor and he was a freshman.
“So am I,” Jeremiah said. “Are you going to orientation tomorrow?”
“Yeah. It’s required,” Trevor said. “Besides, I’m new here, like you.”
“Do you walk to school?” Jeremiah asked.
“Nah. Our moms are friends now, so they’ll take turns driving us.”
Jeremiah wanted to ask for a ride, but that would be dorky. “Well, I’d better go. Maybe I’ll see you.”
When he got home, he told his mom about meeting the boys. She was happy for him. “The best part?” Jeremiah said, “They were both wearing shirts like my new ones. Now I know I won’t stand out.”
The next day Jeremiah was ready early. He was wearing his new shoes and the Adidas shirt. He felt pretty confident that he would fit in.
They arrived about twenty minutes before the orientation began. In the office she filled out some forms and picked up an information packet. Jeremiah was given his class schedule. Using a map they walked around campus, following his schedule, so that he’d know where to go. Jeremiah knew he could have figured this out on his own, so se was glad when his mom left.
He went into the gym where the first session was being held. Trevor waved to him, so he climbed up the bleachers and sat next to him.
“So,” Trevor said, “let’s compare schedules.”
It turned out that they had PE and English together. Considering that there were eight hundred or so freshman, that was pretty good. “Maybe we can study together,” Trevor said. “I struggle in English but I’m awesome in Algebra.”
“Sure,” Jeremiah said. “That will make it a lot more fun.”
“I’ll ask Josh, but maybe you can join our carpool.”
Jeremiah nodded. “That would be great.”
They stayed together for the rest of orientation, even getting into the same small group led by a senior. When there were breaks they talked about their interests. Trevor played baseball while Jeremiah wanted to be on the football team. Jeremiah liked horror movies but read fantasy. Trevor also liked horror movies and played video games.
By the time the morning was over, Jeremiah knew he had a new best friend. He smiled as he climbed in his mom’s car. “Guess what? I’m going to fit in here just fine.”