Where I Go
Author's note: Many kids don't read because they can't relate to the story so they get bored. However, with Zack... Show full author's note »
Chapter OneI hate Mondays. Why do we even have them? The calendar should just skip from Sunday to Tuesday. Honestly, nobody wants to get up on Mondays. It's just a sign the weekend's over, it's time to go back to work, back to school. School. Normally it's not so bad, I guess. Today's a different story though. My parents just got divorced, so my mom moved out. She took my brother and me with her. They say things will be better this way. Better for whom? I'm not so sure I agree.
Now I have to leave my friends, my old school, my home, and everything I know. They say they're not doing this because of me. It's not all about me. I know that. Just because it's not about me, though, doesn't mean it doesn't affect me. Why do I have to give everything up because they can't go one night without fighting? How am I supposed to live between two houses only seeing my parents one at a time only half the time only when I'm at home? How is this better?
Well, nothing is looking too good right now no matter what it is my parents are doing because it's Monday. It's not just any Monday, though. It's the Monday of my first day at my new school.
I suppose you’d like to know who’s talking to you. Truth is, so would I. I am nobody. My name is Zack and that’s all I am. Just Zack. I’m not Zack Allen, the superstar athlete. I’m not on the honor roll. I used to have some friends, but then I moved. My mom thinks I’m special, but she has to. She’s my mom.
I’m standing outside Southside Junior High School staring up at the third story window as the rain splashes down on my face. Kids with umbrellas rush past me like the wind. I’ve got to stand my ground or else that wind is going to carry me away because right now I just feel like a little speck of dust. I’m so small, so insignificant; nobody even knows I’m here.
I wish I was back at Meadowbrook Middle School right now, or better yet, back in bed. There it’s warm, it’s comfortable, and it’s safe. Alright, well, I guess Mom would’ve dragged me out of bed an hour ago anyway. I could at least be at Meadowbrook where there are 300 familiar faces I’ve known for eight years all smiling asking, “How was your weekend, Zack?” And now I’m here with 3,000 people. How many do I know? Big. Fat. Zero. And how many were smiling? I didn’t see a single grin. Not even a smirk. Not a glimpse of pearly whites for miles.
The crowd is long gone now. The bell rang ten minutes ago, and I'm still in that same spot. Frozen. My legs feel like lead as I climb the steps and push open the front door. I kind of hoped it would be locked, but it creaked open echoing through the empty hallway.
Mom told me I had to go to the main office to get my schedule and to have somebody show me where my classes are. Problem is there are three hallways to pick from, and I haven't got a clue which one leads to the main office. So I do what any kid in my situation would do. "Eeine Meenie Miney Moe!” To the left it is!
It wasn't to the left.
I've been wandering these halls for hours. My watch says it's been twenty minutes, but I swear it's been hours. When I'm finally ready to give up and call it quits, I see this kid walk by. He’s got some sort of pass in his hand, but he goes right past the bathroom. I figure he's got to be going somewhere, so I follow him. I really don't want him to know that I'm following him, though. That would be creepy. Instead I decide to do it James-Bond-style. I let him get a little bit in front of me and then start walking. I hide behind the walls waiting for him to turn the corner, and then I run after him. I really want to do that cool ninja rolling thing but decide that might draw too much attention.
Sure enough, the kid walks right into the office. I wait outside the door for a couple of minutes before going in.
That door creaks even louder than the one out front, so I shut it quickly behind me hoping that at least the sound would be shorter. The door kind of slammed, though, and the lady behind the desk jumped a good foot out of her seat.
"Who are you?" she said in a raspy voice.
I told her, “Zack Allen,” and she slid her glasses down her nose to glare at me over the top of them. Her eyes were dark and intimidating so I looked up at her hair instead. It was dyed what I'm guessing was supposed to be a reddish brown color, but it looked kind of purple. However, she seemed like the kind of lady you should tell that her hair looked nice, even if it was slightly purple. It might save your life.
She stared me down for a good two hours. My watch said it was about thirty seconds. It lies.
"You must be Zack," said the voice of an angel come to save me from this creepy purple-haired lady.
I turned around half expecting to see someone in a white gown with a little halo over his head. He was just a regular kid, but in that moment he was an angel to me. He wore a yellow striped polo shirt tucked in to baggy blue jeans that would've fallen off his four-foot-seven frame if he didn't have a belt holding them up. He brushed the curly mess of dark brown hair away from his eyes, adjusted his glasses, and smiled at me, his braces gleaming in the fluorescent light.
“Hi, I'm Milo. Welcome to Southside. Come on, I'll show you around."
I didn't need to be told twice. I couldn't wait to get out of that office. He grabbed a copy of my schedule from the purple-haired lady. He gave her a grin and as we walked out the door he said, "Have a nice day, Mrs. Bergmann!”
“You too,” she laughed.
"Goodbye, Mrs. Bergmann," I said in an attempt to be polite.
“Just get to class, Mr. Allen."
Geez, what did I do? I haven't even gone here an hour and I'm already on her bad side. Oh well, I guess there's not much I can do about it right now. I'm on my way to math in room 217.
We walk by Mr. Thomson’s class and I think I’ve gone deaf. I can’t hear a thing. There should be somebody teaching a class in there, people asking questions, writing problems on the board. I should have listened to my Mom when she said not to turn my iPod up so loud all the time. I know she warned me, but I didn’t think it could happen so fast. Please, just give me a second chance! I’ll do anything!
“Zack, are you okay?”
Okay, I’m not going deaf. “Oh… yeah, just a little confused, that’s all. It’s so quiet in there.”
“They’re doing algebra on a Monday morning. My guess is that they’re all at least half if not completely asleep. There’s only so much Mr. Thompson can do to try to make it interesting.”
Great. That’s my math class. I can already tell this is not going to go well. Seriously, math at 8:00 in the morning? That shouldn’t even be legal! It’s like cruel and unusual punishment or something. Well, maybe I’ll be able to catch up on some sleep anyway.
We pass Spanish in room 342 with Senora Igelsia. Milo can’t tell me much about her. He speaks French. However, he seems pretty sure that I am “absolutely going to love English” because “Mrs. Evans is just an incredible teacher.” I have to believe him. I’ve got nothing else to go by.
Next he shows me my study hall. That’s a pretty ironic name if you ask me. For one thing it's not in the hall; it's in the cafeteria. Since the first word of it is study you’d think that's probably what you do in there, but everyone I see is just sitting around and talking. One kid almost has “Uno” and another just went down the longest slide in “Chutes and Ladders”. There is one kid with his nose buried in a math book sitting in the corner all by himself. Even he is looking pretty restless though. He'll give up and join the Monopoly game any minute now.
We walk by Art class with Mrs. Bellaide in room 143, History with Mr. Grant in 238, and P.E. with Mr. Jacobs. By now I'm starving, so thank God it's lunchtime. Milo goes through the line with me and we get our mystery meat. As I sit down at a table, he tells me he has to pick up all the work he missed this morning, but he'll see me around.
I watch him walk out the double doors and then sit back and survey the empty chairs surrounding me. Just like that I'm a speck of dust in the wind again.
Soon I get to thinking about what got me into this mess. My parents getting divorced? No, that's not really it. It was time and money.
Time and money: there just never seems to be enough of either of them in my family. When my dad got promoted to the head of the public relations department of his company, Mom couldn't have been more excited for him. When the boss told him he had to travel the country to spread the word about antivirus software and that his office was being moved an hour away from our house, the smile faded from her eyes. That was five years ago.
Every couple of months there was always a new project Dad had to start. He started working really late every night, sometimes even on the weekends. He would promise to spend time with us, but work always came first.
He completely missed my eleventh birthday party. That's when the yelling really started. At first it was just once in awhile, in other words, when Dad really messed up. Over time, though, they kept arguing more and more often until eventually it was happening every night. All night long all I would hear would be, "Well, maybe if you spent a little bit more time with your family,” or “What could be more important than Zack’s first band concert? He practices that clarinet every day. You make plenty of time to watch Seinfeld and every single one of Bryan’s baseball games.” Bryan’s my older brother, the one Dad cares about.
He tried to make up for that one by getting me an Xbox. I liked it, but Mom wasn't too happy that she couldn't buy groceries for the week. “You go out buying useless things like these video games and big screen TVs so you can watch Monday night football, but you're leaving your family without food on the table. Zack is growing an inch a day it seems. He's going to need new clothes. I can’t keep using the credit card. We’re already in debt. What don't you understand?”
And then Dad would say something back, and then Mom would get mad, and then dad would get mad, and it would just go on like that for hours every night. They wondered why I was always tired when they would come to wake me up for school in the morning. Gee, I don't know.
That is the reason I have decided that when I grow up, I am going to be rich. That way I won't have to worry that if I buy an Xbox, my family won't eat for the next week. I can watch TV and not get yelled at for it. Best of all, there would be no arguing about it. There would just be peace and quiet.
My parents think they've given us peace and quiet. It is pretty quiet, I guess, without all the arguing. I wouldn't call it peaceful though. There’s still that tension in the air, the stress. There still isn't enough time or enough money.
I'm going to fix that. I don't know how I'm going to do it. I don't know when it will happen or how long it will take. I don't know what it's going to take to make it happen. All I know is that I'm going to be rich and give my family all they ever wanted: a roof that doesn't leak, a big-screen TV, our own backyard, an indoor swimming pool, just everything.
A bell is ringing and everyone around me is standing up, shoving chairs aside, and shuffling towards the door snapping me out of my daydream. It’s time to come back to Earth, time to go to history. I’m not ready for it to be over, though, so I sit back down in my chair. It would be good for me to let my imagination run wild for just another minute before I have to face my new world. I tilt my chin towards the ceiling tiles and close my eyes. Right now, it's alright that I'm all alone.