Luke

I'm not proud to admit that my shaking palms are slick with sweat, and I can feel a distant drumbeat in the back of my skull. That can't be healthy, right?

A wrinkled photo of the sunrise above my hometown, a beat up copy of I Am the Cheese, some limp pages of my second-rate fiction and poetry—at this point, the story of my life fits in a cardboard box. Some vestiges of my existence simply couldn't survive the journey of fifteen years and counting, across state boarders and varying American cultures. A few years ago, I never thought that I would call the East Coast my home. But then I turned thirteen and everything changed.

I take a deep breath, try to silence the death march I hear in my delusional mind, and open the door to my room.

"Luke right? Welcome to the Academy."

My new roommate, a tall wiry guy with mild green eyes, holds out his hand to me. I take it, with some reluctance. At my old school, people simply didn't do handshakes.

"I'm Tommy," he adds. "It's nice to meet you."

"Same," I mutter. Not quite sure what to say next, I glance around and admire the breathtaking mountain views from our window. You know, one day I'll be the first person in my family to attend college. That's a promise I make to myself, right now, because all my life I've been a dreamer.

"Where should I put my stuff?" I ask. It already feels like he owns the room more than I do, even though this space is ours to share. Most of Tommy's luggage remains unpacked, but I spot a picture frame on the desk and a blue backpack on the floor next to it. The bookshelf by the door is already lined with both the latest and the oldest of novels, plays, and poetry.

"Wherever you want," Tommy says quickly. "You can choose which side of the room you'd like, I really don't mind."

My eyes linger on the bookshelf, scanning the spines for titles I recognize and taking mental notes of the ones I don't. I've never owned that many books in my life. It occurs to me that not only am I a foreigner in this new school and unfamiliar town; I'm also a stranger to people like Tommy and their privileged lives. How the hell are the two of us supposed to live with each other for the rest of the school year?