Note: You can also find this piece here on ff.net.
Summary: Arthur and the gang are sophomores at Elwood City High. Watch as they go through the ups and downs that come with teenaged life. Rated K+/PG for some violence, some language, and some adult situations.
The bus arrived just as DW received her food. She made a fuss as Kate stood by the open door, waiting for the others. They would ride the same bus to Lakewood Elementary, but DW would travel to the middle school and Arthur the high school, if they ever got out the door.
“Just go, Dora Winifred!” their mother shrieked. Young Benji was starting to wake up in their master bedroom, causing their father to yell to her to get him so he could sleep later.
“But—!” DW cried, but Arthur dragged her outside as the bus driver honked her horn. “Stop! You’re hurting me!” she shrieked, pulling away and trying to run back towards the house.
“I’ll leave her behind if you want!” the driver called gruffly.
‘Great, another bad impression,’ Arthur thought as Kate boarded the bus. He followed with DW running up quickly. The front door was locked; her messy toast crumbled in her hand.
“No food,” the driver spat. Arthur sighed, continuing towards the back with the other high school students. None of them spoke to him as Kate sat near the front with a girl from her homeroom last year. DW was still arguing outside.
“Just get on, kid!” one of the high schoolers yelled out the window. He was a senior this year, Arthur assumed, and music blared from his headphones. “Damn these little kids get on my nerves,” he groaned, eying Arthur for the first time. “Not even going to help your little sister? You’re better than I thought, kid,” he said, extending a fist for a fist bump. Arthur obliged.
“She can fix her own problems,” Arthur murmured.
“You’ll have to speak up, kid. Can’t hear over these sweet tunes!” he called, holding up his MP3 player. Arthur shook his head; his comment wasn’t that important anyway.
Suddenly the speakers overhead crackled to life, the bus driver’s voice yelling out through the static, “Kevin, get those off now!” The boy grinned devilishly as he pulled off the headphones.
“I was getting tired of that anyway. So, kid, you’re in what grade now?” he asked.
“Tenth,” Arthur replied. He nodded, looking over the bland group of students.
“Not many of you in this neighborhood. You once had the largest class. You knew that right?” he asked. Arthur thought of Buster leaving, Sue Ellen leaving, and Muffy leaving. He nodded quietly. “Well, we’re the biggest now. First time in years that the number of seniors bypassed the other grades. It takes hard work. Do you study, kid?”
“When I can,” Arthur replied. The boy nodded, eying the others and pointing to a blonde in the very back. Her hair blocked most of her face, but Arthur recognized her as Beth Ann Gibson, a junior fluent in English and French. She was DW’s friend, Emily’s older cousin.
“Go to her for language and history,” the boy said, pointing to the next kid in front of her. He looked like a jock, but Arthur didn’t know much else about him. “Great at math. If you ever need geometry help, go to him. And me? I’m good in everything else.”
“I’ll remember that,” Arthur said, looking out the window to see who was boarding next. It looked like the last house before Lakewood, which meant the bus would lose its elementary kids and gain any middle schoolers or high schoolers heading elsewhere.
“We get off last, kid. What’s your name anyway? I know you just heard mine,” he chuckled, eying the overhead speakers.
“I’m Arthur Read,” he replied. The guy nodded, looking over the bus again.
“I’ll be happy to get out of here at the end of the year, but I wish you the best. High school isn’t easy, but I’m sure you already know that. What’s with the contacts? You’ve had glasses for years.”
“They’re cheaper according to my mom,” Arthur replied, which was the truth. His last glasses would’ve cost two hundred dollars, money they didn’t have. Forty for one box was a nice exchange. “I like these better anyway.”
“And you didn’t change because they said anything to you?” he asked. Arthur shook his head. “You’ve got more will than I do, Read. I don’t even have the same eye color anymore,” he said, pulling out a brown contact in his right eye to reveal it was really green. “They thought I was a freak with magic because my eyes were two different colors. Well, not anymore. Told them I had major surgery on it. Made it real easy to get some good treats for a while,” he winked, watching the young kids get off at the elementary school. When the last person, Kate, was off, more students poured inside, immediately filling the seats again.
“I hate to sound a little creepy, Arthur, but I noticed you don’t sit with many people. There’s that athletic girl who isn’t on any teams and that smart kid who ended up in my grade, but you all don’t seem that close. Seven other people sat at that table, and you never spoke to any of them,” Kevin explained. Arthur shrugged; so what? “I’ll be your friend, Arthur. You need one; you need plenty. I can give you that, if you don’t mind helping me with some things.”
“What kind of things?” Arthur asked. Kevin shrugged, smirking slightly.
“It’s nothing criminal so wipe that look off your face,” he smiled. “I want to be an officer of my class. I know I don’t look like the type, but I want to change my image. I like the black, but I want some popularity. I was thinking you could help me with posters, maybe some promotion between classes. Do you think you’re up for it?”
Arthur thought for a moment as they arrived at the middle school. Every one of the appropriate age left the bus except DW, who was called off over the speaker system. Kevin chuckled lightly, patting Arthur’s arm in a way that said, “Man, I feel for you.”
“I don’t mind helping out,” Arthur said as the bus began to move again. “Just help me with any supplies for posters.”
“Yeah, I bet those sisters of your leech every last cent out of your parents,” Kevin nodded, eying the others on the bus. No high schoolers got on at the middle school; they’d take another bus to the overcrowded Elwood City High. The seats were almost empty, aside from a few people lingering near the front, probably nervous freshmen. “Deal, Arthur,” he said, extending his hand. Arthur shook is as the bus finally arrived at the high school.
“Enjoy your first day,” the driver said gruffly, eying Arthur when he passed by with a look of pure evil. At least the faces outside the bus seemed kinder, Arthur thought, following Kevin into the school and towards the gym.
“I’ll introduce you to everyone, Arthur. You should have no problems if you stick with us,” he smiled, leading him to the top of the bleachers. Arthur was introduced to Ryan, Claire, and Michael, with Ryan being the only other senior.
“Welcome to the group,” Claire nodded, looking back down to a sketchpad covered with intricate drawings. Ryan had a book on mechanics and Michael talked with Kevin. Arthur remained quiet and empty-handed, taking it all in quietly.