Darius craned his neck as his father pulled into a parking spot outside James Morrison Elementary School. Kids in bright colours filled the space that had been empty the day before. They stood in groups and regaled each other with tales from their summer vacations.
“I can’t believe you expect me to go to school with six-year-olds, Daddy. I’m almost thirteen,” Davia pouted.
Darius’ lips twitched as he stifled a laugh. His sister was the only person he knew who would argue how mature she was while still using such a childish name for their father.
“Olympic Vista has an elementary school and a high school, Davia. You’ll be at the high school next year. It’s the way it is. And don’t make me wait after school,” Drew warned. “I have to get back to the office.”
“Fine, Daddy,” Davia said as she climbed out of the front seat.
“I won’t,” Darius added as he grabbed his backpack. He scanned the grounds as he closed the door. He grinned as he saw the trio of kids from the day before. The Asian boy—Darius thought maybe he was Japanese—snickered as Davia followed him onto the school grounds.
The girl turned and walked toward him. The boys followed. She was dressed in a denim skirt with a denim jacket over a pink shirt. Her brown hair hung long and loose, without any hair clips or hairspray. She wore a wide wrist cuff studded with black and white squares, which added an edge to her that he immediately liked.
The Asian boy wore a polo shirt tucked into a pair of beige slacks. His hair was cropped short, but it prickled out like a porcupine’s spines. Darius watched him strut in his dress shoes as he followed the girl. The smallest of the three wore a faded yellow and brown striped shirt and ill-fitting jeans that looked worn at the knees. Darius could see the boy’s off-white socks above his worn running shoes.
“Hello, I’m Adelaide. This is Kurt, and Tetsu,” the girl said, as she gestured to each of the boys. Her voice was even, almost monotone, but enchanting. She had a small chin, a pleasant nose, and deep brown eyes that looked wise beyond her years.
“Are you a robot?” Davia asked before Darius could open his mouth. He wanted to kick her.
“No,” Adelaide frowned. Her voice remained flat. Her brown eyes enchanted him. “That’s a stupid question. I’m a person. With a few exceptions, robots have some sort of metal or plastic visible on their body.”
“Are you calling me stupid?” Davia demanded.
Darius shifted uncomfortably. This was not how this had played out in his mind.
“No. I suggested your question was stupid,” Adelaide said.
“Hey, um, hi,” said Kurt. He was smaller than the others by far. His hair had a slight reddish hue and freckles dotted his fair complexion. He smiled at Darius, but turned to Davia. “I could introduce you to some of the younger kids if you want.”
Darius willed himself not to laugh. People often found it hard to believe the two of them were twins. It wasn’t just his light brown hair and her bright blond locks, or their very different demeanors. While Darius was about average height for his age, he stood six inches taller than his sister.
“Why would I want that?” Davia demanded.
“So that you can meet friends in your grade?” Kurt offered. His eyes shifted uncomfortably.
“I’m twelve,” Davia said as she pulled herself to her full height. “I’m not younger than my brother. And I’m not younger than you.”
“Right, then,” Adelaide said. She looked from Darius to Davia, and then back again. “Good luck this year.” And then she turned and was gone. Kurt and Tetsu followed.
“Thanks a lot.” Darius frowned. He decided not to remind Davia he was several minutes older than her.
“What? You don’t want to hang out with those losers anyway. Look at them! Losers with a capital L. I mean, did you see that one boy’s pants?”
Darius was grateful he and Davia had had to be placed in separate classes due to their late enrollment. When the bell rang, he navigated the halls to his classroom and away from his sister.
The cloakroom had a series of hooks, each with a small piece of laminated paper above it to denote whose it was. From the doorway he could see a message on the chalkboard: “Welcome, class!” Darius could just make out wooden shelves that ran underneath the windows down the length of the room, and an empty bulletin board ready to display students’ projects.
He grinned when he saw Adelaide. She hadn’t noticed him yet. The cloakroom was a flurry of activity as students found their hooks and hung up their backpacks. Shoes squeaked on the linoleum floor and dozens of backpacks were zipped and unzipped. Darius shoved his bag onto his labelled hook, draped his coat overtop, and beelined out of the cloakroom to an empty seat next to Adelaide. She glanced over and he thought he saw her eyes widen slightly.
“I’m Darius.” He smiled.
“Okay,” Adelaide said. She opened her mouth to say something else when Darius sensed someone come up behind him.
“You can’t sit there,” Tetsu said.
“You can’t sit there,” Tetsu repeated.
“It’s fine, Tetsu,” Adelaide said. “You can sit here.” She gestured at a seat on the other side of her. Tetsu grumbled as he sat down where she indicated. Kurt was just behind Tetsu, and he took a seat behind Adelaide. The room buzzed with chatter as students took their seats.
A girl with long blonde hair walked over and scowled at the desks. “Okay, I guess I’ll just sit here,” she said as she plunked into a seat next to Kurt. “I can’t believe I’m not in a class with Julie this year. It’s the worst!”
“I can see you’re in a pleasant mood, Sophie,” Tetsu teased.
Sophie turned and seemed to notice Darius for the first time. Her grimace turned to a smile as she ignored Tetsu and she batted her eyelashes at Darius. “You’re new. Hi!”
A tall man with close-cropped grey facial hair and warm eyes stood up from his desk.
“Welcome, and hello, class!” he called.
“Hello, Mr. McKenzie!” some of the class responded. Some sounded enthusiastic. Others mumbled their response. Adelaide had a soft smile on her lips.
“Let’s try that again,” Mr. McKenzie smiled. “Hello, class!”
“Hello, Mr. McKenzie!” Darius joined in this time. Mr. McKenzie was a far cry from the stern teachers at Wiltshire Preparatory Academy. Darius had a good feeling about Olympic Vista.
When the recess bell rang, he followed Adelaide and her friends outside.
“Hi,” he said with a grin.
“Hello.” Adelaide appraised him.
“Is your sister joinin’ us?” Tetsu eyed Darius with suspicion.
“Probably not.” Darius turned back to Adelaide. “I saw you guys at the corner store yesterday.”
“Yeah?” Tetsu scoffed.
“Yeah, you guys went in the back.”
Adelaide changed the subject. “So, what kind of stuff are you into?”
“Oh, um…” Darius was surprised by the question, but answered it anyway. “I like to ride my bike, I guess. My dad’s getting me a new bike today. And I like swimming. I like reading mystery novels, like the Hardy Boys. And I’m pretty into music—bunch of stuff you probably haven’t heard of.” Darius realized the words were falling out of his mouth faster than he wanted them to. Even worse, he sounded pretentious. He forced himself to take a breath. “We just moved out from Boston. My dad came here to expand the office.”
“What’s he do for work?” Tetsu interjected.
“I don’t know,” Darius answered truthfully. He hadn’t ever taken much interest in his father’s job. “He travels a bit. Lots of meetings. Sometimes he goes away suddenly. He doesn’t talk much about work.”
Tetsu appraised him. “Businessman. I get it.”
“And this music I probably haven’t heard of?” Adelaide asked. Darius wasn’t sure, but he thought she was amused.
“Oh, Fleetwood Mac and The Clash. I mean, I’m into other stuff too. I like Elvis Costello and Cyndi Lauper. I like pretty much all of it. Except country. I don’t like country music.”
“But polka is okay?” Tetsu asked with a smirk.
“At least you can dance to it,” Darius quipped. He was sure there was a hint of a smile on Adelaide’s lips now. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hey, hi,” the blond girl from class said as she walked up to the group. She nodded at the others and then smiled at him. “So, is your family rich?”
“Sophie,” Kurt hissed. “You can’t just ask that.”
“Sure she can.” Tetsu turned to Darius.
“I guess so,” Darius said as he looked at his clothes and then at theirs. He recalled their worn bikes at the lake and thought of the new one his father would bring home for him today. He’d never thought about it before—everyone he knew in Boston had seemed like his family.
“Well, it’s really nice to meet you, Darius. I’m Sophie. Sophie Katillion.” She smiled again and moved closer to him.
“Nice to meet you,” Darius offered. Sophie giggled.
Darius glanced over at Adelaide. She looked out toward the playground. “So, I heard this place is weird,” he said. “Because of The Link.”
Adelaide’s gaze was still on the playground. Tetsu shrugged. Sophie flicked her hair over her shoulder and smiled.
“They do a lot of experiments there, I guess,” Kurt said. “They say it doesn’t affect us and there’s a lot of safety protocols in place. Between you and me, though,” Kurt said, leaning in, “it’s full of commies. They are the real threat.”
“Come on, Kurt,” Sophie said as she rolled her eyes.
Kurt pursed his lips and looked at the ground. “That’s what my dad says.”
“No one believes that. And the other stuff is just rumours,” Tetsu said. “Got nothin’ to do with commies or Nazis. It’s just some stupid science building and observatory.”
“What about the haunted house?” Darius had thought about it nonstop since he’d heard about it yesterday. He wanted to ask Dillon or the twin boys more about it, but he hadn’t seen them at the school. “Have you guys ever gone there?”
“What haunted house?” Adelaide’s eyes flicked back to him.
“The one on Hyacinth Street. It isn’t far from where I live.” Darius liked her eyes on him.
“That’s a really nice area,” Sophie cooed.
Darius shuffled a step away from Sophie. Unlike with Adelaide, he didn’t like how she looked at him.
“I was going to check it out.” Darius ran his hand through his hair, and looked back at Adelaide. “Tonight.”
Adelaide cocked her head and looked at him. “I’m in.”
The rec room in the Katillions’ basement had faux wood panelling, orange shag carpet, and long narrow windows on opposite walls which let the smallest amount of light filter into the room. Two ceiling lights provided the room with a warm yellow glow. A brown- and cream-patterned couch sat along one wall, facing a long, low coffee table used for snacks, board games, homework, and a myriad of other purposes. Along another wall, a large backless wooden shelf, flanked by two large speakers, held a record player, a receiver and a cassette player. Assorted photos of the family were displayed in wooden picture frames next to the electronics.
Adelaide thumbed through the Katillions’ record collection. Out of Our Heads spun on the record player. It wasn’t her favourite Rolling Stones album, but she had put it on for Tetsu. She always enjoyed his rendition of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Adelaide wasn’t certain this year was off to a good start, but tonight’s excursion would be a welcome distraction. Her mother had lost her job. Again. And her mother’s current boyfriend, Rico, blinked too much. Almost no one noticed, but it made Adelaide uncomfortable.
Tetsu snatched a Rice Krispies treat off the white and gold Corelle plate on the coffee table. He flopped onto a beanbag chair and licked his lips in anticipation.
“I can’t believe we’re going to sneak out tonight,” Sophie whispered.
“Who do you think can hear you down here?” Tetsu asked as he looked up from his snack. “And what happened to the whole ‘I won’t have time for you this year’ thing?”
“Hush, you! What if there are rats and spiders?” Sophie asked.
“Probably are,” Tetsu replied. He took a big bite of the Rice Krispies treat. “Might crawl up your legs.” Bits of Rice Krispies fell from his mouth.
“You’re spitting,” Adelaide said, her eyes still on The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album.
“So?” Tetsu fired back.
“So, it’s kind of gross,” Sophie chimed in.
There was a knock at the door and it opened a second later.
“You can’t just barge in!” Sophie yelled.
“Mom asked me to bring these down.” Sophie’s older brother, Andy, held up a plate of vegetables.
Adelaide’s heart fluttered. She loved when Andy brought an extra snack down. She stole a glance at him. He was taller than most boys his age. His shaggy blond hair fell around his face like a worn halo. He had warm brown eyes and an even warmer smile.
“Just put them on the table, then,” Sophie sighed.
“Can I have a Rice Krispies treat?” Andy asked. He was going through puberty and his voice squeaked.
“’Can I have a Rice Krispies treat?’” Sophie mocked. “You are such a mutant.”
“How was school?” Adelaide looked up from The Beatles’ WhiteAlbum. It was her least favourite cover. “Your first day of high school, right?”
“Yeah, uh, yeah, it was.” Andy smiled. He picked up a Rice Krispies treat and sat down on the orange shag carpet near her. “It’s different.” His voice went up an octave.
“That makes sense.” Adelaide could smell Old Spice and soap. Most of the boys she spent time with smelled like sweat and farts. She smiled. She could listen to Andy talk for hours.
“Get out of here! You are such a loser!” Sophie yelled. “Find your own friends.”
Andy picked himself up off the floor. “See you guys.” Adelaide liked when Andy sat in the Hideout with them, but she worried if she spoke up, Sophie wouldn’t invite her over anymore. She didn’t want to go home. She glanced up to smile at Andy, but he’d already walked out the door.
Thanks for taking the time to read the third chapter of Legends of The Link!