As they left the drive that morning Rydell’s stomach was a mass of knots. She was worried about fitting in. She was worried if she was dressed right. She was worried that she would be behind in her classes, or worse she would be ahead and then be horribly bored for the rest of the semester. Every minute of the drive to school a new worry crashed down around her like the battering of waves against one tinny little boat in the middle of a vast ocean.
She’d thought she’d be used to this by now (it was her second new school… of the year). But the first day in a new school never got any easier.
As her and her mother drove down the dusty roads Rydell realized she was not growing used to how long it took to get everywhere when you lived in the country. Speed limits were slower, roads were more perilous, and destinations were always further away. Everything ALWAYS took longer than she thought it would.
When they finally pulled up she thought her mom had surely driven to the wrong place. This couldn’t be the school. It looked more like a penitentiary. Solid grey brick walls stood less than perpendicular to the ground. Rydell couldn’t decide if they were bowed out or bowed in, either way it was a revelation to learn that brick had the ability to bow. Chips and chunks of the crumbling façade lay in small piles around the building. How was this thing still standing? One tiny push, perhaps the puff of the big bad wolf and it would have blown over into a giant heap of rubble.
The interior wasn’t much better. The linoleum floor was in a very sad state. Rydell and Mrs. Firr followed signs that directed them to the office (finally discovered in a very odd corner of a bustling atrium). As they traveled they took very deliberate steps. One false move and they would have tripped over mounds and into divots scattered across the ancient floor.
They now stood under a large banner hung from the popcorn ceiling tiles announcing, “ Wait! Stop! Don’t forget to sign up for the Sock-hop! March 30th ; 6-8 P.M. … We’ll see you then!” Rydell couldn’t help but wonder what in the world a sock-hop was and if it was just as corny as the banner.
They stepped up to the entrance and each pressed a hand on one of the two arched forest green doors. Nothing. They didn’t budge at all. They looked at each other and smiled. “Harder?” whispered her mother.
Rydell nodded in agreement. Each repositioned their hand to the center of a single door as they both put their whole weight into a synchronized shove. Still nothing.
“Well howdy!” A slow male drawl sounded from behind them. Elam.
As Rydell lifted her eyes up to his smile she couldn’t seem to keep her own from spreading wide across her face. One of many knots of worry in the base of her stomach came undone. How did he manage that? He was practically a stranger. Regardless, two small words from him and so much of the stress that kept the muscles in her frame taught evaporated. A portion of her felt so loose she feared her body would collapse into a puddle.
“Hey Elam!” She announced a tad too enthusiastically.
“Mind if I give ya ladies a hand?”
“Please do!” Mrs. Firr replied with relief coloring her tone.
Both of the Firr women stepped aside to allow the tall boy to pass.
“I’ve found sometimes the gentle approach just wont cut it.” He looked down and gave Rydell and impish smile. Then with no further warning he slung his shoulder into the door. The ancient oak moaned in protest to the force. Despite that, it finally pressed forward with a loud crack.
Chuckling as he went, Elam stumbled forward with the momentum of his thrust. “Some things just need a little tough love.” He explained as he rubbed his battering shoulder. Walking forwarded he held the door open for them, mocking his own cavalry with a grand sweeping gesture to usher them in.
Rydell followed behind her mother as they passed over the office threshold. Once inside she looked back to see Elam tipping an invisible hat in their direction.
“Well, it’s five till first bell so I suppose I otta be headin’ in that direction. Mrs. Firr, I do hope ya’ have’a wonderful afternoon. I look forward to meetin’ the mister later this evenin’. Rydell, I’ma sure I’ll be seein’ ya after ya’ll wrap up here.” He paused to throw a quick grin just to her.
He began to back out of the doorway but paused to add, “And Lettie,” he called in a voice a bit louder than he had been using. The secretary, stationed behind the tall linoleum planked counter, looked up in his direction. “In hopes this’ll be the last time I see ya today, not for personal reasons ya understand but educational ‘en’s, may I just say before I go that ya look more than lovely today. The new haircut is’a winner.” He playfully winked at waved at the secretary as he took a deeper step backward and let the heavy door fall into place with another uneasy groan.
A sharp exhalation sounded from behind the counter, “Charm personified, that boy is. I feel sorry for the girl who falls prey to it. Pour thing ‘ill be so wrapped up in it she won’t have a clue as ta which ways up.” She laughed to herself while staring at the space Elam had been, until finally turning her attention to Rydell and Mrs. Firr.
It had taken over an hour to make their way through what seemed to be endless paperwork. But, after much work they found light at the end of the tunnel. After dotting the last “i” Mrs. Firr had double-checked with the secretary, for the fourth time, that she was of no more use before she planted a quick peck on Rydell’s brow and shuffled off to fill out even more paperwork at the courthouse and DMV.
Mrs. Scope (Lettie) had assured Rydell that Principal Morose would be along in no time to give her a tour of the building and escort her to class. Rydell did her best to convince the sweet and slightly rotund woman behind the counter to simply give her a map so she could find her own way around. Mrs. Scope wouldn’t hear of it and ushered her into a chair in the “waiting room” area, usually reserved for those destined for penal-hued futures.
Whelp, it happened. Writers block hit and I didn’t finish a chapter… I got a little stuck today. I think I’m going to have to forge ahead to the next chapter and come back to this a later date.