The diesel engine of the bus echoed to the south, and we saw it inching its way toward us. Travis adjusted his watch on his wrist. I could tell he was nervous, and it made me even more nervous just watching him twisting the black, plastic band.
“So we’ll have history together,” I assured him.
“Yeah, that’ll be cool.”
“Do you know who else will be in your other classes?” I pulled my long sleeves to my wrists.
“A couple of the guys from the track team will be in a few of them.”
Travis had tried out for the Pineapple Junior Track Team over the summer. As tall and muscular as he was, he was good at running. He took long strides as he walked so keeping up with him was hard when he was in a hurry.
“When is your first meet?” I asked.
He lowered his blue eyes in thought. “I'm not sure. I’ll let you know though.”
The bus pulled to a stop, and a lady with white hair opened the doors.
“Good morning,” she called out happily. She was about Nanna Rose’s age, and I vaguely wondered if the driver knew her.
There were only a handful of kids on the bus. I recognized most of them from Sunnytide, but it was no one I really hung out with a lot before to consider a friend. Travis noticed a boy from our class last year, Xavier Young. Xavier’s blonde hair was cut short, and it made him look more grown up. Travis ducked his head and sat next to him. I sat by myself across the aisle.
People had asked us before if Travis and I were boyfriend and girlfriend. I think my parents sort of assumed we were, but we weren’t. Travis had just always been my friend. He was the only person my age in the neighborhood. Actually he, Mindy, and I were the only kids in the trailer park. Everyone else was a retiree who stayed in their trailer off and on. Usually they lived there in the winter to avoid the harsh snow of Michigan, or Indiana, or wherever they were from originally.
The bus was full of chatter. Kids were talking to each other about what classes they were in and where they went for lunch. I sat in the seat alone and looked over my poetry book from the library. “Day approaches and newness is accomplished,” one of them said.
Seventh graders and eighth graders are different on the first day of school. Eighth graders have been through the halls for a whole year. They already knew the teachers, each other, and that they’ll be getting out soon and going to the high school. They laugh, talk, and feel at ease on the first day of school. Seventh graders, on the other hand, are timid and unsure.
When the bus pulled up in the bus loop, my stomach did a somersault. I looked over at Travis, who just smiled reassuringly and brushed his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes. The handful of us packed into a group of kids from other buses, and we marched into the double doors to the side of the school.
I dug through my pockets to find my schedule that the school sent in the mail to me a few days before. My locker number was 137, so I’d search for that first. It was weird going into a place and not knowing where you were going or what to expect. I glanced over at Travis, who was still walking and talking with Xavier and a couple of other boys. I walked on alone.
Pineapple Junior High was built as an empty square so all the classes were along the side, and the middle was open. That meant that the fresh, salty smell of the ocean was strong when you walked through the halls. There were lockers all around the perimeter so finding the 100s was easy. My locker was on the north side by the Math classes. Some other kids were hanging around, looking at combinations and having excited conversations with one another. It was more comforting to be together since the eighth graders were on the opposite side of The Square on the south side by the cafeteria. At the west was the school library, and the east was the gym with big double doors. Above the doors was a banner that looked like an old flag with a ship logo that said, “Home of the Pirates.”