Boarding School Blues
Cooper’s body felt like death as he tried to clumsily smack the off button to his alarm.
How had 6:30 come so early? It seemed like only seconds ago when he closed his eyes and drifted down into a blissful dream were he was biking down the neighborhood streets and jumping into the lake at the rock quarry. Man, he missed the summer.
Cooper covered his head with one of his pillows. The alarm could screech all it wanted as long as it meant more sleep. What did it matter if he made it to breakfast on time or not?
Across the room Anakin groaned out, “Cooper, turn it off!”
As Cooper slung the pillow from his face, forcing himself to roll over and turn off the alarm, he realized he had a problem. One he hadn’t considered when first thinking about how awesome it would be to have a roommate.
Cooper’s breath hitched as the tip of his boner dragged against his cloth pajamas. Why did these things always happen? No matter what he tried, every morning was a new, frustrating hard-on. Until he could find a way to escape to the bathroom and pee, his boner would refuse to back down. That’s how it always was. Worse still was that the more attention he gave it, the harder it felt. Cooper missed the easy days when random erections weren’t a part of daily life.
Outside the window, the sky was nothing more than a dim, pale light, and the room was still dark. If he moved quickly, then maybe Anakin wouldn’t see the bulge poking against his pajamas. It was that, or wait for his roommate to wake up and leave. But his bladder threatened to burst, and Cooper made up his mind. It was now or never.
As he pushed back his covers, Cooper’s ankle popped as he padded across the floor. He wasn’t sure what Anakin might see if his roommate’s eyes happened to be open, but he couldn’t stop now. Sticking his head out the door, Cooper double checked that no one was in their suite before sprinting into the bathroom’s toilet stall.
Like a jack in the box, Cooper’s fleshy pole sprang out the moment he lowered his pajamas. Peeing was so difficult this early in the morning. It was nearly painful to push his boner down and aim, and it wasn’t until a few seconds of conscious breathing and relaxing that a stream of steady pee finally gave way, splashing into the porcelain bowl with the force of a fire hose.
While he peed, his straining penis began to wilt, and by the time he finished, Cooper was able to tuck his drooping dick comfortably downward before walking back into his dorm room.
Anakin sat on the bed, fishing his leg into a new pair of pants as he shimmied them up his hips. There was an obvious bulge sticking up against Anakin’s briefs, and before his own little friend could betray him again, Cooper pivoted towards his half of the room in search of a new set of clothes.
When Anakin left for the shower, Cooper tried to shuck his pajamas, but his foot caught on the end as he hobbled around the room. With a jerk, the pajama leg snapped free, leaving him butt naked. Despite the warmth of the dorm room, chills crawled along his bare skin as he slipped into new underwear and dumped his old clothes in the hamper.
By the time Anakin returned, his hair was neatly styled with gel, and he was double checking the clothes on his body before asking, “I might come back and grab more later, but how does this look for now?”
“I think it’s fine,” Cooper said, doing his best to act like he hadn’t been hopping around naked moments before.
By the time they made it down to the banquet hall, Naveen and Julian were already seated. Cooper scratched his arm as a nauseous pit formed in his stomach. Would they say anything to him today or would he still be a total outcast?
Anakin placed a hand on Cooper’s shoulder. “It’s okay. Remember, who cares what they think?”
Cooper found it impossible to focus on much of anything as he grabbed his food. Unlike the night before, no servers came to their tables. Instead, a line of students waited their turn beside the row of steaming silver platters on the far table against the wall. Cooper let Anakin pass him so he wouldn’t have to be first to the table.
When they got back, Naveen said nothing, just ate through his plate of eggs as if Cooper wasn’t there. Julian, at least, gave him a quick glance and a meek smile, but that was all.
There was a quick jab from Anakin’s elbow as he pointed to Cooper’s plate of untouched food.
“Eat,” he mouthed.
Why bother? His appetite was hardly there.
“So, how’d everyone sleep last night?” Anakin asked in an attempt to start a conversation.
A couple of the girls at the table raised their eyebrows in lackluster responses, while Naveen gave a terse, “Fine.”
“Well, I slept great personally, but whoever decided breakfast was this early is a real cracked egg.”
Anakin slapped the table like he thought it was the funniest joke in the world, and Cooper jumped as Naveen’s chair scraped backwards against the floor.
“Come on, Julian.”
Taking his plate with him, Naveen marched towards the kitchen counter, dumped his food inside the trash bin, and left the banquet hall with a scowl on his face. The other Valentias at the table joined him until it was just Anakin and Cooper sitting alone.
“I think that could have gone worse,” Anakin offered with a shrug.
“How? They hate me,” Cooper moaned.
There was a clatter at the table as a plate was set down.
“They don’t hate you,” a familiar voice said. “You just have to give them some time.”
At the opposite end of the table, Jordy Diaz was slicing apart the sausage on his plate before popping a piece inside his mouth. His dreads were pulled back and secured under a crimson headband while he ate.
“What’re we supposed to do?” Anakin asked. “They think Cooper’s worse than a piece of crusty, moldy bread—no offense, Coop.”
“How is that not offensive?”
Jordy finished chewing before answering. “Having someone on your side is a good start. But you gotta be the one to show them, Cooper. Show them you belong here. That it’s about more than money. These people just want a reason to see that you’re like them.”
“But I don’t want to be like any of them—no offense, Anakin.”
“Still,” Jordy continued, “until you come up with a way to prove them wrong, they’ll keep seeing you as something you’re not. Trust me, I know better than most.”
“What does that mean?” Cooper asked.
Before Jordy could answer, a lean Asian boy with a rounded face plopped down with his food. His skin was like warm butter, and his smooth, jet-black hair was swooped to the side, nearly falling past one of his eyes. He and Jordy bumped fists before doing a complex handshake.
“Woah,” Anakin said.
“What he means,” the new boy said, “is that Jordy was our scholarship student back in 6th grade. The name’s Kai Feng.”
“Kai’s been my roommate ever since the beginning,” Jordy explained. “You won’t find a better guy around.”
“You were a scholarship student, Jordy?” Cooper asked. “But you’re on the student council! How did you do it?”
“Ah ah,” he wagged his finger. “Still am a scholarship student. And I’ll be one every year until I graduate, thank you very much.”
Kai coughed and muttered, “Unless you fail reading again.”
There was a hard knock against the table as Kai smacked his knee into the underside. Beside him, Jordy wore an angelic smile on his face. “Yes, unless I fail reading again.”
“But still, how did you do it? You have to tell me!”
“Sorry, buddyroo, no can do,” Jordy said. “If I tell you what I did, then that wouldn’t be true to you.”
Kai pointed his fork at Cooper. “Ignore his dumb rhymes. Listen, if this ugly block can win people over, then anything’s possible. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Something that was true to him? Cooper wasn’t sure Jordy’s advice would work like he thought, but it was worth giving a shot. After all, Cooper thought, peeking over at Anakin who was busy shoveling sausage in his mouth, he wasn’t alone anymore. With Anakin by his side, Cooper felt stronger, braver, like a bit of his roommate’s personality was rubbing off on him. Working together, the two of them could find a way to convince the other Valentias—no, convince everyone at Blue Ridge—that he belonged.
They had to.
Roman’s eyes snapped awake.
With a frantic jolt, he sprang up in bed and snatched the clock from his nightstand.
“Fielding, wake up! We slept in!”
Roman chucked one of his pillows at the pile of lumpy covers across the room.
“We’re gonna be late. We have to go!”
Neither of them had set the alarms on their clocks, trusting they’d wake up in time on their own, but he’d underestimated how exhausted he’d be. Not anymore. Roman was wired as he leapt from his bed, dashing to his drawer and searching for a new set of clothes to wear.
“Are you sure there’s not time to shower?”
Fielding was still lying in bed, wiping the sleep from his eyes.
“No, dude, come on!”
Roman tried to figure how long it might take them to dash down the steps of Fuerza’s rounded staircase and sprint across campus to the opening assembly. That was assuming they didn’t get lost along the way.
Roman dropped his shorts and underwear before turning back to see Fielding fumbling for the glasses on his nightstand. He rolled his eyes. There was no way he was going to let Fielding make them any later than they already were.
He slipped on new clothes. 8:17, the clock read now. Did he have enough time to brush his teeth? They’d missed breakfast already, so that was out. His parents liked to tell him first impressions were everything, but it seemed like no matter what choice he made, he was destined to mess up somehow.
Fielding ruffled his hands through his messy strawberry-blonde hair as he put on his shirt from the day before.
“I’ll just change later,” he said.
They left the room and glanced to their suitemates’ door. It was left open, and Ivan and Wyatt were nowhere to be seen.
“You would think they would have checked on us,” Roman muttered.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” Fielding said, attempting to wave away Roman’s worries.
“Come on,” Roman said, using the handrail as he thundered down the many stairs.
Roman remembered the map from last night showing how they needed to cross most of the castle to reach the assembly area. The girls had it easy, since their dorms were right close by. Roman had never wished himself a girl, but maybe this once it would have come in handy.
The warm, dewy air filled his nostrils as they dashed full speed into the courtyard, and Fielding screeched as a trio of robins pecking at the ground got spooked and flapped in his face. An upperclassmen girl with her nose buried in her book peered up at them as they passed by. She brushed a loose strand of brown hair from her face before stopping them.
“You two headed to the assembly?” she asked, and after a quick nod, she said, “Keep going, turn the corner, and look for Professor Bell.”
Professor Bell. Great. Why was the universe determined to trip him up every step of the way?
They kept at a jog as they rounded the corner until finally—finally!—spotting the main doors leading into the assembly area. Roman swore to himself when he saw Professor Bell standing with a clipboard in his hands as he greeted two girls coming inside.
“Ahh, look who it is,” Professor Bell said with a smile. He checked something off his clipboard. “Always in a rush, aren’t we?”
“Sorry,” Roman said, failing to stop his cheeks from burning with embarrassment. “We slept in.”
“And missed breakfast!” Fielding offered, working to catch his breath.
Professor Bell leaned over and gave them the okay sign. “Listen, it happens. I’d say don’t sweat it, but you,” he said, pointing to Fielding, “are already sweating it looks like.”
Fielding grinned while he fanned himself and tugged on his shirt collar.
“Really, don’t worry. You aren’t the last ones, and you have some time to spare. Come on in.”
The assembly room was a gymnasium, nicer than any Roman had been inside before. Perched along the backdrop of the sleek, stone gray walls were four large colored banners, each emblazoned with a golden letter for each of Blue Ridge’s Houses.
In the center of the room were several foldout tables draped in Blue Ridge’s navy cloths. Members of the student council stood around them chatting, while Headmaster Robinson sipped from the steaming mug in his hands.
It was obvious he and Fielding were one of the last to arrive, and Roman easily spotted Ivan’s tankish body out of the other 6th graders, sitting hunched beside Wyatt.
“Why didn’t you guys wake us up?” Roman whispered as he squeezed into an open seat. “We were nearly late.”
“I told him we were fine,” Fielding said, but Roman shot him daggers.
Ivan grunted, and Wyatt shrugged, which might have been the best response Roman could have expected.
As one final girl wandered inside the gymnasium, Roman’s stomach growled. How was he supposed to survive until lunch on an empty stomach?
When Professor Bell closed the gymnasium doors, everyone around Roman started cheering, and soon Headmaster Robinson was hailing them all for silence. He cleared his throat before leaning in to the podium microphone.
“Welcome, again, to your first day at Blue Ridge. Before the main assembly with the rest of your fellow students, our Blue Ridge Buddies would like to give you an orientation.”
He took another sip from his mug as one of his gray strands of hair curled over his tired face. Yesterday his headmaster reminded Roman of a tiger, but this early in the morning, maybe a skeleton was more like it.
“Thank you, Headmaster Robinson,” Professor Bell said while rubbing his hands together. “Encouraging as always. Alright, everybody! This is my favorite part of the year, meeting all the bright young faces. Before we get started, you should know that all of the students you’ll hear from today were elected by your other classmates. Your voices are important. They make a difference.”
Professor Bell had the students introduce themselves, although Roman didn’t see the point in memorizing everyone’s names. Who cared? Most of the student council were sophomores or older, including the class president. By the time Roman got to be their age, they’d be long gone. Instead, he wiped the sleep from his eyes and fought off a yawn.
Last to introduce himself was an eighth grader named Jordy Diaz. Unlike the other Blue Ridge Buddies, Jordy’s applause was loud enough to startle him awake. For some reason, the loudest cheers came from the Valentias sitting right behind him.
“Hey, everybody,” Jordy said, scratching through the thick tangle of dreads on his head. “Not much to know about me, really. I love having a good time, playing soccer, you know. Like everyone else here, you can always count on me for whatever you need! Go, Valentia!”
Oh, Valentia, that explained it. Why didn’t Fuerza have anyone cool like Jordy they could cheer for? After Jordy was done, Roman waited for the rest of the students to arrive. He and Fielding played finger wars until everyone showed up and Headmaster Robinson began again. Now it wasn’t just the 6th graders, but everyone in the school, teachers and students, and even that weird guard from the front gates, Roy Rochester.
Headmaster Robinson droned on, and between learning about the clubs and even getting a look ahead at some of the school wide festivities, Roman couldn’t keep his head straight. He was still so hungry, and honestly, he wouldn’t mind a little more sleep.
“All in the name of your Houses,” Headmaster Robinson explained. “Many of you know the long lineage of competition born from our school. Those who have proven themselves here have often found themselves accomplishing great things beyond these walls. Which brings me to our final announcement before we dismiss you to your classes.”
Brought to the center of the table was a large fishbowl with an assortment of ping pong balls matching their house colors inside. Standing not far from the fishbowl was Professor Gray, the professor whose oily strands of greasy black hair made Roman’s insides squirm. He half expected a swarm of flies to be partying over the man’s head. For the first time that morning, he was glad he didn’t eat breakfast.
“Blue Ridge’s annual fall competition,” Headmaster Robinson explained, “will be comprised of five events: the suite challenge and the solo events.”
Roman jerked his head up. The competitions! Now he was awake. This was what he’d been most excited for! His eyes flicked to the back of Xavier’s head a few rows down the bleachers. Back when they still talked, the House competitions were always some of Xavier’s favorite memories at Blue Ridge.
“Our suite challenge will be held at the end of the week. As always, we expect great effort from all our Houses, no matter the age group. That is the Blue Ridge way.” A hush fell over the students as Headmaster Robinson dug through the fishbowl. When he pulled out a blue ping pong ball, he held it close, building suspense as long as possible before announcing, “The Great Canoe Race!”
Just as Roman expected, the Fuerzas applauded loudest, stomping their feet on the bleachers over the cheering of the other students. Strength was what Fuerza was all about. Roman couldn’t have been happier as he pumped his fist. With someone like Ivan on their side, the other 6th grade Houses didn’t stand a chance.
Roman was buzzing by the time Headmaster Robinson dismissed them all to their first classes. Come Saturday, he was ready to show everyone how much the Fuerzas were about to dominate in the competition.
End Chapter 5
Copyright 2023 – Levi Holland
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