The Forming of the Gang

As the endless misfortune of homeroom droned on, Morgan Chonce sighed to himself. New year, new possibilities - the day he'd anticipated for two months. For what? To listen to a middle-aged teacher explain how homeroom was going to be a 'free period' ("That means getting your studying done - not just social hour!") and count down the minutes until lunch?

When the teacher had finished her little speech at the front, the class broke out into a more relaxed atmosphere. Morgan, who'd seated himself near the front, took the opportunity to casually glance back through the classroom. His eyes scanned to see if there were any old friends, prospective new crushes . . . speaking of which, his eyes caught a girl that he'd never seen before. She looked rather short to be an eighth grader, with long flowing blonde hair and bright blue eyes. To Morgan, this girl was absolutely stunning. She caught his gaze and smiled. Morgan quickly jerked back around, facing front.

"Well, well, well, Josh," a voice came suddenly from Morgan's right. He glanced over and shut his eyes. Dear lord, like that's what he needed now. "Look who's in our class, Joshy."

"Oh, I see him, Reed."

Approaching Morgan's desk were two guys, both dressed like wannabe gangsters. A red-headed goon named Reed Benson, and his loyal sidekick, the slightly quieter yet still obnoxious Josh Gray.

Reed leaned on Morgan's desk, his face peering in at Morgan with the clear intent of harassment. "So, if it isn't Big M, Little Organ, right here in homeroom. I'm gonna strike a deal with ya, Chonce, if you're interested in a bargain. No more telling the teacher you're plotting to blow up the school, no more scandalous attacks on your poor sweet mother - we'll even lay off the jokes and spreading the news about your small problem."

"Or lack thereof," inserted Josh, grinning.

Reed smiled - a somewhat evil little smile that implied 'the lights are on, but nobody's home'. "Right. Anyway, we'll lay off you, Chonce. Just on one small condition, of course. It'll cost ya a hundred bucks. Cash."

Morgan sighed, staring up at Reed. Morgan's was a very tired look, once which comes from years of torment. "Forget it, you two. You guys have been on my case since what, the fifth grade? We're almost in high school. When are you going to grow up?"

Josh sucked in his breath, offering a head shake. "That sounds like a poor choice, Morg."

Reed pointed to him as he walked off. "After school, your butt's mine."

Morgan watched them head off to the back corner - typical. "Great year this's gonna be," he muttered. He resumed his eye-search of the room, and snuck a glance back at the short blonde girl he'd noticed earlier. That's when his eyes caught onto a face, THE face, and he broke into a huge smile. "LeeAnne!" he called back.

A tall girl with thick, slightly waving brown hair turned towards the front. Her eyes shot open. "Morgan!" LeeAnne Wolfe came up to him quickly, wrapping her arms around him in the tight embrace of long-time friends.

Morgan hugged her back, thrilled. "When did you get back to town?" Lee had been absent all summer, staying with her father up in Kentucky.

"Just the other day. I'm sorry I didn't come over or anything, I just got myself so busy over at the old Keller place next door to you. A family moved in and I've kinda been helping them."

They were both grinning. Morgan and LeeAnne had lived across the street from each other since they were in diapers. The Keller place was next door to Morgan, and had been vacant for a year or so since the Keller family moved out to California.

Morgan's eyes brightened. He hadn't even realized that anyone had moved in next door. "That's cool; do they have kids or anything?"

LeeAnne laughed. "How dumb of me! Of course. Come back here." Lee took his hand and dragged him back to where she had been sitting, and pointed to the short blonde cute girl Morgan had spotted earlier. "Morgan, this is Paige Mitchell, she's our new neighbor. Paige, this is the Morgan I've been telling you about."

Morgan smiled, shaking her hand. His entire being felt a little bit lighter with the knowledge that this pretty neighbor-girl had befriended LeeAnne.

The three sat in light-hearted conversation trading facts for a few minutes - Morgan was an only child, Paige had a two year old brother named Toby, LeeAnne'd spent a summer with her father and had been bored out of her mind the whole time - until their teacher released them for lunch.

Morgan headed toward the cafeteria line, but tried to walk slowly to put some people between himself and Reed and Josh. They had run (as always) to get up in the line. Morgan ended up standing behind a lean boy with black-dark hair and pale, icy blue eyes.

The boy was leafing through a notebook slowly, and Morgan couldn't help but lay his eyes on the magnificent drawings spread out on the pages. "Wow, did you draw all those?" Morgan asked before he could stop himself.

The boy in front of him kind of jumped, and turned to see Morgan. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, I, uh, draw sometimes . . . " His pale eyes gave away that he was unsure as to how to continue.

"They're really good," Morgan replied. He glanced at the notebook. "Can I see more?"

"Sure." The two flipped through together. "I'm Sasha, by the way," the artist told him. "Sasha Blake - I moved in the summer from Atlanta."

"I'm Morgan." They shook hands formally, both smiling. "Lived here since birth," Morgan added. "You ought to come sit by my friends and I, since you can't really know anyone yet."

"I don't. Thanks, that would be great." Sasha smiled and followed Morgan out to LeeAnne and Paige once they were through the line.

LeeAnne was biting into a sandwich when her eyes fell on Morgan and Sasha. She straightened up promptly, smoothing her skirt and nudging Paige.

Morgan plopped himself next to Paige, motioning for Sasha to sit next to LeeAnne. "Lee, Paige, this is Sasha Blake. Sasha, the woman you are sitting beside is my best friend in the world, Lee Anna Wolfe, we call her LeeAnne. The radiant girl I am sitting beside has also just moved to town: the lovely Paige . . . I forget her last name." Morgan smiled, knowing that the memory lapse wouldn't matter.

"Paige Mitchell," she interjected with a bright smile. "Nice to meet you."

The four sat and began to catch and learn up on each other - LeeAnne and Morgan talking about their summers and learning as much as they could about their new friends. Everyone's personalities clicked very well together - from shy and sweet Morgan, to cool and confident LeeAnne; perky optimistic Paige, and the artistic, daydreaming Sasha.

Just then, a shrill cry came into the cafeteria. The four looked up to see a red-headed kid skateboarding into the room, zigging and zagging uncontrollably. He was having trouble stopping and regaining direction of the board.

"Um, Morgan," Sasha said calmly.

Morgan was distracted, staring at the skateboarder. "Huh? Yeah?"

"I think we've got trouble."

Paige, bouncing slightly in her seat, giggled. "Why do you say that?"

"Because that guy's heading exactly this way."

Within seconds of this statement, the skateboarder had reached their table. His board flew from underneath him, causing a great swan dive onto the table right in front of LeeAnne. She shrieked and threw her arms up as the red-head tried turning over. Finally he got on his back, groaning slightly from pain, and turned his green eyes up to meet LeeAnne.

He grinned cheerfully. "Hi!"

LeeAnne's eyebrows furrowed. "Uh . . . Hi there."

"I'm Garland," he said, offering a hand to shake.

"Great," Lee replied, not accepting Garland's hand. "Could you get off my lunch?"

Garland laughed, got up, and went to fetch his skateboard. Cafeteria mashed potatoes were plastered to his back. Then he came back, gesturing for Sasha to scoot down a space so he could sit by LeeAnne. Sasha obliged him, and Garland plopped down, happy to be interrupting the conversation of these strangers. "Hey, pal," he said, a general greeting to all four at the table. He reached into the pocket of his overshirt and pulled out an apple - bruised, but mostly intact.

Sasha folded his hands and stared at this newcomer. "Garland, you said it was?"

"Yeah, that's me." Garland shined the apple on his overshirt and bit in.

"How on earth did you get a name like that?"

Garland glanced at Sasha and replied easily, "I was born on Christmas." He took another bite out of the apple and offered it to LeeAnne. She shook her head, somewhat revolted.

"Well, I'm Sasha," Sash told him, patting lightly on Garland's back. "This is Morgan, LeeAnne, and Paige."

Garland nodded. He glanced over at LeeAnne and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

She looked at him silently a moment before saying, "Thanks but no thanks."

Garland grinned and looked around at everyone. "Well, it's been really nice meeting you guys, sorry to burst in on your little party, but I will be going now. Nature calls." He raised up, sticking the apple core back in his pocket. "Gotta cruise, children." Garland hopped back on his skateboard and was out the door.

Morgan blinked.

LeeAnne buried her face in her hands. "Why do the losers always hit on me?"

The others shrugged, and Sasha looked in the direction Garland had left. "I can't really answer that, Lee, but he sure was cocky, wasn't he?"

Paige offered LeeAnne a cookie to cheer her up, which she accepted with a chuckle. "I guess it's not all THAT bad." Her eyes suddenly became alert, looking off at another table. "Hey, Morgan, is that Connie?"

Morgan glanced in the direction Lee was staring. "Oh, yeah, Connie Williams. That's her all right."

Connie spotted them right as they were spotting her, and she came over with a smile on her face. Connie Williams was a stocky girl with short, curly blonde hair and gray eyes. She came to them, maneuvering so as to not knock into anyone with her ample hips. She sat down next to Morgan. "LeeAnne, where have you been all summer!"

"Oh, owed time to my dad. How are you?"

Connie shrugged, waving her hand in a so-so gesture. "Same old, you know how it goes. Racked myself all summer like crazy trying to lose weight and not an ounce of it budged. My metabolism is on hibernation." She hugged Morgan with one arm and nodded to Sasha and Paige. "Hi, I'm Connie," she told them. "So, Lee, what's the name of the little club you're making up THIS week?"

LeeAnne laughed out loud. "You do a few crazy things in elementary school and it haunts you for life." She turned to Sasha, explaining, "Connie and I used to make an art out of thinking of new organizations to start all the time. We formed gangs, such as Young Women Against High Heels and things like that. We were such dorks."

While everyone else was laughing, Sasha got a thoughtful look on his face. "We could make some kind of little club," he said, "just a little group of friends. Hang out at school, have meetings a couple times a week *after* school. My house is huge, we could probably do it there."

The others quieted, becoming reflective as well. "I'm game," Morgan voiced. "What do you say, we five and maybe a couple others do that, have our own little gang. It's not like we won't be hanging out a lot this year anyway."

The answer was a unanimous yes, and the five became very enthusiastic about the somewhat childlike idea. "Well, what's the name of our little Gang then?" asked Paige, giggling out loud.

"Why not just *call* it The Gang?" They all glanced up to see Garland, who was back at the end of their table. He'd been standing there a couple minutes without their notice.

Sasha shrugged. "That's cool with me." His face brightened then. "Hey, Garland, wanna be in our club?"

Garland nodded, lingering his gaze at LeeAnne. "Yeah, I do."

"Cool," said Connie, laughing. "The Gang it is."