My Best Friend is a Prince from Another Worldby
Pt. II, Ch. 4: “He’s one of the two reasons the team is going to be less fun than it used to be”
Upper school main building, cafeteria
It had been a good morning so far; only two classes before lunch because of the assembly, Kirill’s English literature class and then math. Of the people who had introduced themselves during homeroom, Amy had gone off to some track team thing, but Jack and Kai had joined us in the cafeteria.
Both were very skeptical of our choice to get the hot lunch, and I could see why; the stewed beef’s merits began and ended with being cheap and a generous serving. Even better, it was free for scholarship students. Joel had finished his, but I’d picked at just enough to keep from being hungry. Their boxed lunches looked better, and I said as much.
“You should learn to cook,” said Jack. “Kai’s mom is an amazing cook. I make lunch for myself and my sister. It’s not hard.”
Joel replied. “We just got here a few days ago and haven’t even figured out where it’s good to shop for food. Besides, this isn’t nearly as bad as the cafeteria food back home.”
It was true enough -- although it ignored that he’d turned down Dormer’s offer to have his housekeeper make boxed lunches for us. I’d figured that the food couldn’t possibly be as bad as NYC Board of Ed catering, and that much was true, but that was a very low bar.
“It can’t really have been that bad,” said Jack.
Joel gave an example I also remembered from elementary school - “Imagine a grilled cheese sandwich reheated in a plastic bag, where you can’t tell where the cheese ends and the bag begins.”
“That was typical?” asked Jack.
“It was one of the worse ones,” Joel said, “but they were usually pretty bad.”
“This is pretty typical here,” said Jack. “Not bad, just bland, and as the term gets busier and more people start forgetting to bring lunch the lines will get worse.”
Joel shrugged. “Makes sense. Back at home we were right in the city, so it was easy to just go out for a slice of pizza or a bagel.”
“So are the classes here like the ones at your school?” asked Kai.
“Pretty much,” said Joel. “We switch between classrooms instead of the teachers switching, and the furniture is different, but so far it seems pretty much the same.” He looked at me. I shrugged.
Joel went on, “That’s just based on two classes, though, and the first day is always kind of always setting expectations, right?”
“The rest of today will probably all be like that,” said Kai. “Which electives are you taking?”
It came out that all of us were in physics, and otherwise none of us were in the same electives. They were surprised by Joel’s choice of Obdresti literature -- when he said, “it sounded interesting” they were less than convinced. Kai was in advanced honors biology, which sounded like their equivalent of an AP class; Jack was taking computer programming. I was taking the advanced honors world history class, which would be mostly first years who had placed out of the regular world history class.
“Now that you mention it,” said Jack, “how did you do well enough on the history part of the exam to get a scholarship when you’d only heard of our world a few months ago?”
“That depends,” said Joel. “For me, they let me take a history exam from our world instead.”
Kai and Jack looked at me. After a moment, I shrugged. “I’m just good at taking tests.”
They looked at Joel. “He’s telling the truth,” said Joel, “and it’s annoying. Mark also read the world history textbook they gave me, for fun, before he’d even decided to take the exam.”
“So, history’s your favorite subject?” Kai asked me.
“I always liked it, but mainly I like reading science fiction and fantasy stories,” I said, “and this world’s history is straight out of one.”
Jack and Kai both laughed.
End of the first day of classes
Classes were over for the day, and everyone was starting to pack up. Amy came over to check on the four of us, including Jack and Kai. “I hope these two jokers didn’t fill your heads with bad ideas,” she said.
“Not at all,” said Joel.
“A better question is, which two are the jokers?” I asked.
Jack laughed, and I think I got a hint of a smile from both Kai and Amy.
“What is there to do after school here?” asked Joel.
“Most clubs won’t be doing anything today, but they usually meet after school,” said Jack. “Most people go at least two days a week to an athletic club to get out of taking PE. Most of the cultural and social clubs skip Tuesdays and Thursdays to let people do that.”
“Are all three of you in athletic clubs?” Joel asked.
“I run track,” said Amy. “Not competitively, but the girls in the team are a fun bunch.”
“I do kendo outside of school,” said Kai, “and since there’s no kendo team here, I’m in the fencing club for my PE credit.”
“I was on the soccer team last year,” said Jack. “I’m not sure if I’m going to stay on the team this year, but I’ll be doing it for PE at least.”
“Oh, nice!” said Joel, “I was going to try out. Why were you thinking of just doing PE?”
Jack shrugged. “Not sure it’s going to be that much fun, and I need to get serious about my studies if I am going to get into a good college.”
“This guy who gave us a tour on Saturday was on the team,” I said. “He said it was good for college applications. What was his name, Joel?”
“Neil… not Hayward, but something like that?”
“Oh, him,” said Jack, with something of a sour look. “Neil Mayhan. It’s different if you’re an officer or something, or a star player - not that our school has any of those right now. Neil got himself made Vice-Captain.”
“Not a fan of his?” Joel asked.
“He’s one of the two reasons the team is going to be less fun than it used to be,” said Jack. “You should still try out. Really, if you’re any good you should make the team; most people are just doing it for phys-ed, and at least last year it was hard to find people who would take it seriously.”
Joel nodded. “When are try-outs?”
Jack shrugged. “The first club meeting is on Thursday after school. I think we officially start try-outs after the open house this weekend, but I’ll introduce you to the captain. If you’re going to take it seriously, I think you’ll be in.”
“Thanks!” Joel said.
“How about you, Mark?” asked Jack.
“Not having to take PE sounds good, but I’m terrible at sports,” I said. “There isn’t a cycling club, is there?”
Jack shook his head, then looked at Amy. “Do you think the boys track club would let him follow along on a bike when they practice?”
Amy laughed. “I think a bike goes too fast. Plus, they have a lot of members, so they probably won’t make exceptions.”
“That gives me an idea,” said Kai. “What about fencing? We’re short on people after last year’s third years graduated.”
“Fencing? I could check it out at least. When would I have to join by to get out of PE?”
“Next week,” said Kai.
“Everybody has to go to PE this first week,” added Jack. “Fitness tests and stuff.”
I must have grimaced. “It’s not that bad,” said Amy.
“Does fencing have an open house, like soccer does?” I asked Kai.
“Sure do!” he said. “A couple of us are going to have a demonstration at the clubs assembly, too.”
“OK,” I said. “I’ll check out the demonstration, and I’ll probably come by the open house.”
- California, USA
Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.