I love this time of year. It's poetic to me. With the soft, romantic reds and butter yellows splashed over the foliage on every tree. Gray skies that threaten to snow. It's breathtaking really. And this was truly Fall. Not Florida Fall which, save for a few blustery winds, was hardly any change at all.

Leaves crackled and crunched loudly beneath my heavy winter boots as I walked towards the burnt brick building looming not too far off in the distance. I dawdled to say the least. I'd rather spend the next six hours sketching the homeless philosopher who lived on the bench on the corner of Maine Street and Hue Avenue, but I could already hear the shrill screech of the first bell reverberating throughout the campus. It was my first day and I was already late. My breath came out in moist, curling clouds of white condensation and I had to hold it for a moment to read the large brass sign in front of me.

St. George Christian Academy for Boys: Let Your Light Shine.

My light? Humph. As far as I was concerned my light had been extinguished long ago. I felt silly suddenly as a passing boy with ferocious slate grey eyes stared skeptically at the limp bag I had strapped across my chest. It was littered with every patch and sticker imaginable and the strap was skewered with pins. My lucky bag, it was frayed and falling apart beneath its façade of banners reading things like "I've been dying since the day I was born." Everything here seemed so upstanding and new. I felt like a lone dirty sock about to head into a spin cycle of whites. Wait. I need to write that one down.

Just as I was unhinging the lobster claw holding my scruffy bag together to fetch my quote book, grey-eyed boy passed again, this time with some sneering blonde guy at his side. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that there was about to be some confrontation, but thankfully they just walked past, whispering excitedly. I strained to hear what they were saying but couldn't over what I discerned to be the final warning bell. "Shit." I muttered, stuffing my quote book back inside and jogging towards the entryway, or rather the mouth of the washing machine.

Inside it was as rigid as a starched shirt. Perfectly symmetrical in everyway, about ten or twelve thick oak doors, all shut, on either side. I fished out my schedule from my pocket and read off my first class aloud. "B27 Cods Chem." Great, Chemistry right off the bat. I scanned the small black plaques above each doorway until I spotted B27. "Here I come Cods."

My footsteps bounced off the white walls loudly and I was sure everyone inside could hear. My hand wavered nervously above the cool steel handle to door 27. There was a small porthole higher up on the door that I was too short to look through. Suddenly a pair of stone gray eyes were peering down through the small circle, burning into mine. The handle curved downwards and the door swung open inwardly.

No wonder the man had been tall enough to look out the porthole, he was ghastly tall and stocky. "Mr. Tyus, I presume? St. George students aren't exactly renowned for their tardiness. Let this be the only blemish on what WILL be an otherwise impeccable attendance record. Now, go have a sit."

I didn't have a chance to cast some snide little remark of my own because the door shut heavily striking me on the backside. Cods stood by the blackboard looking impatient with a piece of chalk poised in his hand, ready to scribble down more gibberish.

"Please have a seat Mr. Tyus." His nostrils flared when he spoke. I glanced around the sterile room, trying to ignore the many pairs of eyes boring into me unscrupulously.

"Where exactly?" I asked, sounding meeker than I would have liked. Cods swiveled to face me again.

"At the back now stop wasting my time and have a seat!" I could see a vein throbbing at his temple. Cods, to me, resembled Lurch from the Adam's family. He was abnormally tall with squared shoulders and his skin had the color of curdled milk. His hair, close clipped and pale blonde, was matted with either an entire canister of pomade or it was just greasy from neglect. His nose was Roman and curved into a beak with very broad nostrils, which continually flared when he spoke. Everything about him was large from his boxy, square jaw to his enormous hands. Each time he glared at me his bulbous features seemed to "pop" just a little more. At the very back of the room was an empty desk. I sat down and stuffed my bag into the metal mesh holder beneath me. After about a good five minutes of unnerving silence, I realized everyone around me had a book open, reading. I searched but there wasn't a spare one around except for a small stack on top of Cod's desk.

I got up, walking quietly to the front. What had to be the eeriest thing by far about this school is how overly well behaved everyone was. Not so much as one snicker or eye roll was shot my way as I trudged up to Cod's desk. Cod's looked up, wearing the same disdainful sneer.

"Yes Tyus?" There was a faint trace of enjoyment in his expression. Loving every second that I squirmed like a gutted worm on a hook.

"You never gave me a book Sir." Emphasis on sir. Finally I sounded like my old smug bastard self.

"Well, forgive me if I'm mistaken, but it is a student's duty to collect their materials daily." He spat venomously.

"Oh you're forgiven sir. I mean, you're only human. It probably just slipped your mind that it's a TEACHERS duty to supply those materials in the first place." Touché'.

He eyed me coldly. Finally he picked up a copy of Chemistry: an Elemental Labyrinth and tossed it rudely towards me. "In your seat Tyus, and no more blunders."

"Good to hear sir. Gooooood to hear. It's unbecoming of a man of your caliber." I smiled innocently.

Before he had a chance to retort the bell sounded throughout the campus. I gave a little half wave before stuffing the book into my bag and sauntering over to the door. I should come late everyday.

Cod's was really my only problem at St. George. All my other teachers were too damn old to banter with. When lunchtime rolled around I was starving, renowned at my old school for having an insatiable void in place of my stomach, I walked briskly towards the cafeteria.

Now, disappointment comes in many forms. Today it just happened to show up as a vegetarian burger with soymilk. I believe something intended to be made from meat, should indeed be made from meat. I stood in line, with a light pink plastic tray, just staring sullenly at my meal.

"$7.38." Bellowed the bearded woman sitting on a hardly large enough stool at the cash register. She had a spherical body and with her head she resembled a very large, teetering egg.

I searched my pockets. I turned my bag over. I fondled inside my socks. Suddenly it occurred to me that lunch money was what my mom had been trying to call me back in to get this morning. Shit.

"$7.38" Droned the voice. She had one hand outstretched, her greasy palm opening and closing like a fish gasping for air.

"Uh..put it on my tab?" I gave a crooked grin.

"Son, either you have the money or you don't. Now, if you want to fill out some forms for a reduced or free lunch according to your parent's income, then they're over there next to the condiment trolley. Until then, move aside, you're holding up the line."

My stomach gave a pitiful growl. People were beginning to grumble and mutter behind me. I mustered the most convincing "please" face I could, making doleful eyes and a frowning pout.

"No. You'll survive. Now leave."

All right, my last defense. The lip quiver, paired with a perfectly timed tummy growl and grumble.

She heaved a heavy sigh. "Just for today. You here me? Just Today!" She motioned me on.

Some one from behind shouted "Finally!" and there was a murmur or agreement.

I glanced at her name tag, which was almost obscured by her sagging bosom. "Thanks Gretchen!" I called sweetly before walking over to the only vacant table in the room. I stared down at the greenish gray meat of my ham-less hamburger. After coating it with several packets of Heinz I decided to give it a go. My mistake since it tasted remarkably similar to deer moss. So instead I scarfed down my little plastic cup of organic peaches and sat quietly, waiting for lunch to end. That din of voices was indecipherable and I couldn't hone in on any one conversation.

This was a change. Back at home I had a perpetual ocean of friends constantly flooding the table I sat at. Now here I was, twiddling my thumbs and trying not to think about how painfully hungry I was getting.

Quite suddenly the same grey-eyed boy from earlier sat down abruptly next to me.

"Seat taken?" He tossed back his coal bangs away from his face. I noted his ears which were both pierced. One in the lobe and one at the top of his ear through the cartilage.

"Now it is." I took a sip of soymilk. Strike two. I nearly gagged.

"Hmm. Charming. I watched you in Chemistry this morning. Seems like you and Cods hit it off." His left brow arched as he shot me an inquisitive smirk.

I eyed him quizzically. "Yeah, he's the biggest dick on campus. And there are quite a few." I cracked a coy grin.

It seemed he forced a smile. "Yeah he is. So uh, I never caught your first name Mr. Tyus. I'm Gavin Cods."

Fuck me. First day and I already had an enemy. I guess he noted the helpless look on my face because he smiled at me.

"Don't worry about it. He's an ass to everyone, me included. It's cool, really."

I gave a nervous laugh and nodded. "Sorry. Well, if you don't mind me asking, why did you give me the evil-eye earlier this morning?"

His cheeks colored. "Oh...sorry about that. I guess I get that sneer from my father. Didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable or anything." He suddenly appeared a little self conscious.

I shrugged. "It's alright. You and your daddy sure know how to make a guy feel welcome though."

"Well, he gets it from his dad. Hopefully I'll break the cycle." He reached up and began to rotate the miniature black skull earring that speared his left earlobe.

"Hopefully." I leaned back and stretched. For some reason it seemed like it should be embarrassing for him to come over to this deserted table to talk to the new kid.

He ran his hand through his hair, pushing it back out of his face once again. "So I was wondering. There's this old rundown park downtown, kind of secluded. A few of my friends and I are gonna have a little get together this weekend. You can come if you like." He looked hopeful, tucking his hands into the pockets of his black hoodie, looking at me searchingly.

Hmm. I had two prospective options for my weekend. The first was to stay at home and veg in front of my computer. Stare at a glowing screen for so long that my vision became impaired. And let's not forget; consume enough carbonated canfuls of caffeine and sugar to make a sloth run a marathon. Or, go carousing with chemistry kid Cod and get into all sorts of tantalizing trouble. (Two points for alliteration!)

"I'll think about it." I turned my attention back to my tray. Gavin looked more or less defeated.

"Ok..well, nice meeting you..?" His mouth formed a phantom name and he cocked his head to the side in question.

"It's Collin."

He stood up. "Collin."

As he turned to scuttle back off towards whatever table he had so bravely abandoned for my piteous sake, I couldn't help but make his day. Hey, it's a flaw of mine.

"Gavin." I didn't even look up, had to play it smooth.

He turned and it was obvious he was tickled I called him. By name nonetheless! "I'll be there."

He suppressed a smile. "Sweet."

I rose and strode over to the nearest garbage can to dump the abominable burger and empty peach cup that still held some syrup. I tilted the cup up to my mouth and downed the last of it. "Sweet indeed."