Charles was awakened by a loud knock on the door. He sprang out of bed, realizing he hadn't even changed his clothes the night before, and ran to open the door. Mr. Buckley stood behind the door, his fist raised to knock again. He lowered his hand when he saw Charles.
"I'm afraid I missed a couple of instructions yesterday. Breakfast is at eight o'clock every morning, except for on Saturdays. On Saturdays it's at nine o'clock and it's nine o'clock now. You and Mr. Durand need to be in the cafeteria within ten minutes if you want breakfast. We will resume testing at 9:30 in my classroom, the same room you tested in yesterday." Mr. Buckley said this, and not waiting for a response, walked away in the direction of the cafeteria.
Charles closed the door and looked over at Louis, who was showered, dressed, and sitting on his bed and tying his shoes.
"What did he say?" asked Louis. "Breakfast is starting right now and we have to be in the cafeteria within ten minutes if we want to eat. We're testing again in thirty minutes."
"Can you take a two minute shower?"
"Yeah," Charles said, grinning. "How long did you take?"
"I'm not answering that," said Louis. "Go get in the shower now or I won't wait for you."
Charles laughed and grabbed his duffle bag then went into the bathroom. He took a quick shower and got dressed. Since they were only testing, Charles decided he'd just wear a pair of sweat pants and a pair of sandals. He wasn't sure what the rules were regarding footwear, but he figured he would be safe. They wouldn't give him detention on his second day of school. He only knew two rules so far: don't make trouble and don't sympathize or associate with Team Brown. Both of these seemed more like suggestions that were treated like rules.
Breakfast was made up of fruit, milk, and bagels. It was quick, and by the time Charles and Louis got made it to the cafeteria most of the teams had already finished eating and left. There was only one teacher in the room and it was Mr. Buckley. He looked bored and Charles thought he must have just been hanging around, waiting for them. Team Brown was still eating. When Charles and Louis got their food, they went to sit at the same table they had the night before and once again found Lennon awaiting their arrival. They sat down next to her and she waved at them.
"Won't you get in trouble for sitting here again?" asked Charles.
She brushed his question aside with a careless response. "Mr. Buckley is the official supervisor of Team Brown. He doesn't care where we sit."
"I see," said Charles, frowning. "Are you doing anything interesting today?"
"No. Most of my team is volunteering to clean this place," she said, gesturing around the cafeteria. "They're still under the delusion that they can fix things, earn some respect as Team Brown members. I've accepted that nothing's going to change and I think Cory and Ross have too."
Charles didn't know who Ross and Cory were, but he thought it was likely he'd find out, if they were anything like Lennon. They'd attract enough attention for the Headmaster to know each of their names. That might just be a characteristic of Team Brown. Lennon was cool, but the only things she could be trying to accomplish were causing trouble or protesting, which were often pretty much the same thing.
"Why did you argue so much with Miss Perry last night if you didn't think it would change anything?" Louis asked.
"I don't care if people change. I just want to keep them informed that they should change and that they're wrong. People always try to justify their actions, especially when their actions have hurt someone else because they wanted to avoid responsibility and consequences. I don't think belligerence will change the rules, but it will make them squirm. Make them feel guilty for a minute. At least most of them. Guilt is one of the worst feelings you can have, even if it is fleeting."
"That's true," said Louis.
Lennon furrowed her brow. "Have you ever really felt guilty?"
"Yes," said Louis, taken aback.
"I lied to my mother the other day," said Louis, thinking hard.
Lennon laughed derisively. "Guilt can get a lot worse than that. Believe me, I know."
Out of the corner of his eye, Charles saw a woman entering the cafeteria. He heard Louis try to make a joke regarding Lennon and murder, but Charles only heard it vaguely. He recognized the woman as Miss Perry. She was stomping straight towards their table and she looked angry, like a hive of hornets that had just been kicked around. Really angry.
"Um, Lennon," said Charles, pointing to the teacher.
Lennon tuned and looked at her, then jumped out of her seat. "I'd better go," she said, running to the trash to dump her food, then darting agilely past Miss Perry into the hallway. Her original target gone, Miss Perry turned to the teachers table and stomped up to the only person seated there.
"Mr. Buckley," said she, startling a daydreaming teacher. "You really need to have better control over your students."
"Miss Perry," said Mr. Buckley, reciprocating her own cold address. "I have taught here for over fifteen years and you have taught here for little more than a month. You are the first person who has ever spoken to me like this and criticized my supervision of Team Brown. If it's good enough for the Headmaster it should be good enough for you. I will control my students when you finally learn to control yourself."
Miss Perry looked around the room furiously and saw no one to defend her. Charles and Louis were looking on in shock and a few boys from Team Brown who had decided to play with their breakfast instead of eating and were therefore still on the cafeteria, were sniggering. She snorted in disgust and stomped out of the cafeteria, turning back at the door to warn Mr. Buckley that "the Headmaster will hear about this." Mr. Buckley sighed and extracted himself from the table. The Team Brown boys stood too and dumped their mess in the trash can. They said goodbye to Mr. Buckley and high fived him, and then left the cafeteria.
"Are you boys ready?" Mr. Buckley asked Charles and Louis. They nodded and dumped their food, then followed Mr. Buckley back to his classroom.
The general English and general math tests seemed to fly by and Charles felt that he had done pretty well on both of them. Soon it was time for lunch and Charles once again sprang from his seat. Louis followed suit, though more calmly.
"Lunch is almost over," said Mr. Buckley. "When you're finished, change into gym clothes. You'll find them lying on your bed. Then meet me at the front door. Next up is the physical exam."
The boys shoveled down their lunch as quickly as possible. They were excited to go outside and play around. Lennon wasn't there to distract them either; probably because she had already eaten. That just meant they got to go out sooner.
They didn't do much playing around. They had to do a bunch of exercises, mostly the common ones. They did squats, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, weight lifting, bench pressing, wall sits, and several other similar exercises. They also had to run a mile. The physical training teacher, Mr. Ling, told them both they were healthy and in very good physical condition. That, apparently, was more than could be said for several of their fellow sixth graders. Charles and Louis had nothing to worry about.
"Four years of baseball prepared me for this," Charles said to Louis on their way back to the school.
"My parents have a workout room. I've spent some time in there, training with them. They wanted me to be prepared," Louis told him.
Mr. Buckley let them into the school and informed them that they had one last test, and then they could do what they wished for the two hours between finishing the test and dinner. They again followed him to his classroom and Charles grudgingly took the most boring test he had ever taken in his life. He hated science passionately. He knew it was important, but he'd rather be back outside running a 5K than taking a science test, all the same.
It was a painful ninety minutes, but finally they finished and raced off to their room to shower and decide what to do with their free time. Charles voted that they explore the school. An old house like that could be riddled with secret passages. But he didn't want to go alone. Louis wanted to stay in their room and read. They could easily get lost and Louis really wanted to finish reading his book before they started their classes. Besides, Charles could go by himself if he was that desperate to explore. In the end, Charles gave in and decided to take a nap instead. He could explore the school the next day, and he might even be able to convince Louis to come if Louis finished his book by then. Or maybe Lennon would show him around; she might have discovered some secret passages in the last month.
When Charles woke up from his nap Louis had disappeared. He sat up and looked around, expecting to see his new friend hanging around somewhere, or to at least see a closed bathroom door, but it was open and clearly empty. Louis was nowhere to be seen. Charles checked the clock and noticed it was almost five o’clock. Since Louis had gone, who knew where, Charles decided that he might as well head into the cafeteria. He comes his hair quickly and put on his slippers, then went out into the quiet hallway. As he got closer to the cafeteria he began to hear voices coming from there.
He walked into the room and the first thing he saw was Louis. He was sitting at the guest table holding a handful of playing cards and across from him sat Lennon, who was laughing at a card he’d just played. Charles shook his head. Any chance Louis gets to be with a girl, Charles thought. Team Brown or not.
He had only met Louis two days earlier, but he already felt like he knew him. He knew that they would soon be separated, but he hoped that they'd still be able to hang out after they got onto their teams.
“So this is where you went,” said Charles as he sat down next to Louis at the table.
“Yep,” said Louis innocently.
“Did you finish your book?”
“No,” said Louis, “but I have all day tomorrow to finish it.”
“So you’ll come play cards with a girl and leave me all alone in the room, but you won't explore the school with me? That's just about as low as it gets.”
“She's very persuasive and besides, you were sleeping. I considered waking you up, but you seemed to be enjoying your nap.”
Lennon laughed. “Actually, all I did was ask if you two wanted to play cards and he said yes. He didn't even consider waking you up until he was out the door and I asked him if you wanted to play too.”
Charles nodded. “ I expected nothing less. Anyone can persuade Louis to do anything as long as that person is a girl.”
“What can I say?” asked Louis. “The ladies love a man who submits to their will.”
“Do they?” said Lennon, raising her eyebrows. “Do you want me to deal you in to the next round, Charles?”
“No, it's fine. Dinner will be starting soon,” he said.
As if on cue, the bell rang. Within seconds they could already hear the sounds of students trickling down the hallway. Lennon gathered her cards and stood up.
“I'd better go,” she said. “I've already got my week’s worth of detention. Miss Perry complained to the Headmaster about me 'disrupting the tranquil environment of the cafeteria.’ I'm pretty sure they only keep that woman around because they can't find anyone else willing to babysit those brats in Maroon.”
“We'll see you later then,” said Louis.
“Most likely,” Lennon said. “If I survive kitchen duty. Germs can kill, you know.”
Lennon marched off to her table just as the floodgates opened. Since Miss Perry was one of the first who arrived, it was a good thing she did. Dinner proceeded in the same manner, with the guest table going first, the teachers going second, and Team Brown going last. They ate pork sandwiches for dinner with a small salad and fried potatoes. And just like the night before, the Headmaster stood at the end of the meal to give the announcements.
“I want to remind you all that the team announcement will be tomorrow. I also want to remind you that we separated the teams at meal times for a reason. Since it's been successful in keeping the fight rate down at this school, it has indeed become an unwritten rule. I would urge you all to remember that. That's all for tonight. Goodnight students, and may you all stay safe and honest.”
The students began to file out of the cafeteria. Charles caught up to Lennon before she left the room.
“Hey, Lennon,” he said.
"Hi," she said. "What do you want?"
"Well, I wanted to explore the school. I've only seen the cafeteria, the front hall, the guest room that Louis and I are staying in, and Mr. Buckley's classroom. I wanted to look around today, but Louis said he wanted to finish his book and he refused to come with me, so I just took a nap instead."
Lennon laughed. "So that's what all of that was about."
"Yep," said Charles. "I still want to look around and I probably should before Monday, so I don't miss any of my classes. I was thinking, since you know the school, maybe you could show me around."
"Oh, I would, but I can't. I'm sorry," she said, sadly. "I really would, but I have detention tomorrow. I have some friends who could show you around though."
"Okay," said Charles.
Lennon looked around. "Ross was just here. Oh, well. Knowing him, he could be anywhere by now. He found a secret passageway and he's been using it ever since. And Cory doesn't even come to dinner. I keep trying to talk him into it, but he's scared. Ross says I should just leave him alone. He probably wouldn't agree to show you around anyway."
"Wait. You have a friend who found a secret passageway? That's awesome! Do you know where it is?"
"No. He wouldn't tell me. I'll ask them if they'll show you around though. Maybe he'll tell you, but I wouldn't count on it," Lennon said.
Charles thanked her and said goodnight and she said goodnight too. Charles was excited for the next day. He would hopefully be making at least one new friend and exploring a century and a half old building. He might even get to see a secret passageway. He had been afraid that he wouldn't make any friends and now he had made two, within his first two days of school and would probably be making another the very next day. He hadn't even started classes yet or gotten on to a team. His confidence restored, Charles fell asleep that night with a smile on his face and excitement in his heart.