Chapter Description: You’re expected to go back to elementary school years after graduating, surrounded by kids your age. Would you be accepted as one of them, or be shunned just for being the new kid?
"Class, we have a new student joining us this year. Why don't you go to the front of the class and introduce yourself?" asked Miss Holbrook, my fifth-grade teacher. Even though Reed and all his siblings went to Stone Bridge at one point, none of them had her as a teacher at any point. At the time, she seemed kind. There I was, standing in front of my classmates as they were all staring at me.
"My name is Kevin, and I just moved here this past summer," I stated, with a slight stutter as I tried not to make an idiot of myself. "Welcome, Kevin," Miss Holbrook replied, "You can take your seat in the back next to Jared. He'll show you around the school later today." I was still incredibly nervous about socializing with the other kids, so I did not acknowledge Jared as I took my seat.
We didn't need to learn anything for the first day of school, but we did get one homework assignment; Miss Holbrook wanted us to write about what we did during summer vacation. This wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact that I used to be an adult until over a month prior. Miss Holbrook wanted us to be honest about our summer plans, but she would not have believed my claim about suddenly being turned into a kid.
I stood in a corner during recess, staring at the kids horsing around and sometimes misbehaving. I hadn't made any friends at that point, and the designated area for fifth graders was different from the area for third graders so spending that time with Jacob was also out. My outlook as an elementary school student never changed throughout the day, not even as Jared was showing me around the school.
"It's okay if you didn't make any friends today," Reed told me as I got inside the car after school that day, "You will eventually." I was mostly quiet for the rest of the day, and I didn't even talk about how my first day of school went. As Reed promised, things eventually got better.
As the days continued, I was surprised at how little I struggled with the work Miss Holbrook expected the class to do. Well, English wasn't my best subject as a kid and my messy writing left a lot to be desired. Math, however, was nothing for me. My chance to prove myself came when I was called to the board for a fractions related problem; 1/2 + 8/11 if I recall. I solved the problem within a few seconds, and even reduced the problem to its simplest form. I heard some whispers as I retreated to my seat.
"I didn't expect the new kid to be that smart!"
"I wonder if the new kid will do my homework for me!"
"Did he use a calculator?"
Gym was by far my worst subject. Even as a kid, I was far from athletic. If I had my glasses on instead of contacts, I would have passed for the class nerd. I had a hard time with the push-up and sit-up drills, I was the only kid in my class to fail the horizontal bar jump even at the lowest setting, and do not get me started on team sports. I don't know if it was because I'm not athletic or I was the new kid, I was pretty much always picked last. I was unreliable when it came to catching balls due to my low hand-eye coordination combined with a lifelong instinct to use my hands to block my face whenever a ball was headed towards me.
Meanwhile, Reed made me aware of the structure and rules that were in place. Take money for example. When I was an adult and working, I was on a forty-thousand-dollar annual salary while having to keep up on my rent and utilities for my apartment. I never had to pay my bills once since I got younger, and leaving that job meant saying goodbye to the salary. Nowadays, Denise gives me a ten-dollar weekly allowance if I keep my grades up, do my chores, and set an example for Jacob.
Denise and Rodney left some of the harder chores to Cameron while Jacob and I are expected to clean our rooms and make our beds. Jacob and I would often work together to clean our rooms faster. Working together was a must for my bed as it was one of the few things retained from my apartment and thus would have been too big for one kid by himself.
I have always made it a point to finish my homework after getting home from school. Whenever my workload wasn’t too heavy, I would even help Jacob with his homework. He never needed my help with English, but he was having a hard time with basic multiplication. I would sometimes joke about how Cameron should follow my example as Jacob told me about his procrastination habit.
Two weeks into the school year, and I still did not have any friends. It wasn’t like I was unwanted, but I was still anxious. Even if I had reached out, there was still a chance that no one would want to be my friend. I had always kept to myself growing up, and it looked like history was about to repeat itself.
My luck changed when one of the boys in my class, Graham, came up to me during recess as I was sitting on the pavement by the wall.
“You're the new kid, right? Kevin, was it?”
“I'm Graham. What are you doing sitting out here by yourself?”
“Well, it's two weeks in at this school and I don't have any friends.”
“Then why are you just sitting by yourself? You can hang out with us. You said you don't have any friends, but maybe you can start now.”
I wasn't sure if Graham was being honest or just messing with me. He offered to be friends with me, and I was in no position to pass up friends. I was quickly welcomed into his group, and they quickly made me feel as if I had always been a student at the school.
Unfortunately, not everything was perfect. Aside from Cameron still being a jerk to me and Jacob, Jacob had another problem. We were doing our homework together when he told me about his bullying problem. His name was Ricky Chambers, a third-grade student in Jacob's class, and he had been bullying him relentlessly since the school year started. Ricky often teased him for being the shortest kid in class, with names such as "Tiny Jacob" and "half pint". At one point, Jacob wet his pants in front of the whole class, which only made the bullying worse. Ricky labelled Jacob as the class baby and encouraged everyone in his class to not include Jacob in group projects or at recess. He tried telling the teacher, only for her to shrug it off as "boys will be boys". He was anxious about telling Denise or Rodney in case they do nothing about it, and he didn't bother telling any of his other siblings, with everyone either too busy with their own problems or, in Cameron's case, telling him it was his own damn fault. Before any of you ask, no; Jacob was not responsible for my regression into a fifth grader. That was only a coincidence.
The opportunity to stop the bullying came up the very next day as Jacob and I were waiting for our ride home. Graham and Jared were also waiting, but neither of them knew of the bullying yet. Just as Reed pulled up, Ricky stormed up to Jacob for one more insult. "Guess your big brother's here, baby Jakey," Ricky shouted, "Maybe it's his turn to change your diapers!" Jared, Graham, and I quickly surrounded the bully. "Back off of my brother now!" I shouted, not thinking about what I had said, "Bother him again and you'll be dealing with us, so get lost!" Feeling seemingly threatened by the fifth graders around him, Ricky quickly ran away.
Reed heard from his car, and had one question about the confrontation: "Did you just say Jacob was your brother?" My face turned beet red, realizing that I just acknowledged Jacob as my actual brother. Seeing my reaction, Jacob snickered while thanking me for standing up to Ricky. "Well, it's nice that you stood up for him and all," Reed replied, "But do any of your friends know that you were adopted, or that you used to be an adult?" My mind drew a complete blank as I realized that both Jared and Graham heard what I told Ricky. They might have passed it off as nothing. Given that I was a new student, they were not, and neither was Jacob, I started to worry that they would figure it out soon. I was also worried about telling them everything, since they may no longer treat me the same as before.