Ep. 1: The Beginning of Society Struggles

(Originally published and revised on April 26, 2019)

In every teenager's life, high school can be a step of growing up and grasping a level of independence, proving to their families that they can handle increased responsibility. High school can also bring an area of obstacles for the same reasons. What about that struggle when you and a group of friends think and see the world a little differently?

17-year old Jacob Estersen sighed as he got dressed. As a young man of color, his attire, a sky blue hoodie with a green shirt underneath, blue jeans, and black tennis shoes was the often-worn outfit in high school.

As he looks at himself in the mirror, he began to wonder if anyone experienced anxiety because of the way he viewed the world.

"Another day, same old routine." He sighed.

Nonetheless, he's willing to take it with a grain of salt. As he made his way to the kitchen where his mother was making breakfast, he saw no reason to put energy into something that matters so little. Ms. Estersen was a reasonably middle-aged woman with the same skin tone and eye color as her son. The yellow bandanna over her long black hair, bright yellow blouse, dark gray jeans, and white tennis shoes were her weekday staples. Talk about routine; he got to be honest.

"Ah good morning, my dear," She smiled warmly. "I take it you slept well."

"Yes, mam," then he noticed someone is missing. "Dad left already?"

"Yep, insisted on leaving early, said he had too much stuff going on."

"Oh, I see." Jacob put his head down sadly.

Ms. Estersen placed a hand on his shoulder. "Oh, come now, Jacob. You know your father's a very busy man; I'm sure he'll call you when he gets the chance. He may not show it, but he loves you very much. It's just that his job is highly demanding and leaves little family time. Maybe when he's on vacation, he'll spend more time with you. Until then, try to be okay with your friends at school."

Jacob smiled a bit, remembering fondly of his friends. They were the main reason that school, despite all of its pressures, had some merit.

"You're right, Mom. Thanks."

"No problem. Now let's eat! This breakfast isn't going to eat itself, you know."

Jacob giggled at his mother's comment and began feasting on the plate of bacon and scrambled eggs, strawberry jam toast, and a glass of orange juice.

After breakfast, Jacob said his goodbyes to his mother and walked the few blocks towards the bus stop. Noticing the warm spring weather and the birds chirping, he felt a little optimistic about today. The feeling continued when he spotted a familiar face a short distance from the stop. Adan Murray had darker skin and a short, fresh haircut. He looks dapper in his brown shirt with black stripes, black jeans, and white tennis shoes.

"I was wondering when you were coming," Adan laughed. "Almost got impatience waiting for you."

"Sorry. I had a little encouragement from my mom."

"Oh, let me guess; you missed your dad before he left for work."

"Pretty much." There was a disappointed sound in his tone.

Adan also placed a supportive hand on his shoulder, sensing his friend's mood shift. "I'm sure he's got a good reason for leaving early. He wouldn't just go without saying goodbye to you."

"I know, but sometimes I wish he would at least find some time to say goodbye. Half of the time, his work schedule is so sporadic that my mom and I weren't able to keep track of it anymore."

"Ah." Adan murmured gently. "Well, let's hope he realizes how much he's been working and not enough of family time. In the meantime, our ride is here."

The duo turned to see the school bus arriving. They climbed aboard and found two seats close to the front. Once they were on board, they continued to chat as the bus soon took off.

Forty-five minutes later, the bus arrived at Westerford High School, an enormous building with a somewhat futuristic look, with a hooded glass roof at the entrance, copper bricks, dark brown roof, black doors, and a giant lettering sign marked "Westerford High School" on the side of the gate. Many teenagers sat down on the fields around the high school while others exited from buses and family cars, waving goodbye to their parents. Adan and Jacob joined the group that entered the school's entrance. Once inside, they took the time to survey the hallways filled with teenagers slowly packing up.

"Come on," Adan said. "We better get to class."

Jacob wasted no time following behind him as they maneuvered the crowd of students. Eventually, the duo made it out of the group and found their first-period class before the rest of their classmates did.

"Some things never change." chuckled Adan.

Jacob nodded. "But what can you do? It is school, after all. I may be nervous about it, but it's better than being apathetic about it."

The duo carefully picked out two seats that were side by side in the right-hand middle row as more and more students came in and sat down randomly. Once the teacher arrived, the lesson begins.

After a few more classes have ended, the duo stepped out to see another crowd of students heading in the direction of the auditorium. They stood back, avoiding getting caught in the wave.

"Geez!" exclaimed Adan. "What's with the hallways crowding up today?"

"Beats me. Probably something big if everyone's all going to the auditorium." Jacob mused.

"And yet you two are always late in the game with this, as always." Said a sarcastic voice.

The duo jumped and found the source of the voice belonging to a teenage girl. Her mid-length black hair ending in chops and hazel-green eyes were a contrast to her sporting a dark pink jacket, blue jeans, and blue high-tops. At least she had a somewhat mischievous smirk to match.

"Uh, hi, Kristi...uh h-how long were you there?" Jacob stuttered.

"Long enough to know you two still get anxious in hallway crowds. Honestly, I thought you would be over it by now." Kristi said, shaking her head.

"Hey! You wouldn't be laughing if you got trapped in a tidal wave of classmates. It's called being cautiously observant!" defended Adan.

Kristi rolled her eyes at the dramatic stance. "Rrriiiight; well, when you two get done playing 'Avoid the classmate tidal wave,' I'd suggest we'd head to the auditorium. I've heard the principal has a big announcement for us."

As Kristi walked away, Adan and Jacob looked at each other again. What was it about this announcement that it's drawing a huge crowd? The best thing to do is to find out why.

With that notion in mind, the duo followed Kristi into the auditorium, where they found three empty chairs that are slightly closer to the middle, but enough to see the stage. As the student body settled down, they found the school principal step forward onto the stage. His graying dull blond hair, fair aging skin, and fading green eyes show his old age, yet that didn't deter him from keeping the school in check. He wore a dark gray mandarin-collar suit with white pinstripe print fabrics. He set a microphone stand and a small microphone speaker onto the stage.

"Good morning, students of Westerford High!"

"Good morning, Mr. McNeil!" Most of the students responded, half with enthusiasm, while others hold a disinterested tone. Adan, Jacob, and Kristi didn't say anything, determined to see what this announcement is. They're about to get it as Principal McNeil raises his hand to silence everyone.

"All right, now that everyone is here, we can get started. Firstly, I want to acknowledge the Junior class for getting this far. For you are one step to achieve your dreams and in turn, take on the brightest future there are outside of high school."

The entire junior class cheered at that. Even the trio couldn't help joining in.

"So to make this year special," Principal McNeil continued. "We'll be assigning each class on a sponsored school trip, many of which will be outside of school. Even better, most will even be outside of Westerford!"

This news got the entire auditorium roared with excitement, the trio included! Now, this was all the hype needed for this announcement.

"Yes, I know it sounds exciting. However, there is one more thing that'll top this."

"Yeah right, what could top off going out on school trips that are beyond Westerford?" One freshman student scoffed.

The student body murmured in confusion and agreement.

"Glad you asked," the principal smirked knowingly. "Because we'll be planning an annual school contest in a couple of weeks, and you all are going to compete against each other!"

"WWWWHHHAAAATTTT?!" The entire auditorium nearly shook from the entire student body's reaction as well as the principal nearly tripping over from the impact. He quickly collected himself and cleared his throat.

"Told you this would top it," He laughed. "But yes, Westerford High will have a school contest that'll determine the teamwork of students from the different class hierarchy; freshmen vs. sophomores vs. juniors vs. seniors."

The student body cheered once again. But the same can't be said for the trio.

"A competition…" Adan started.

"Where students teamed up in classroom status against one another?" Jacob added with a gulp.

Even Kristi was speechless at the news.

This discovery leaves them with so many questions. The major one being;

"How could we go through this contest with students we barely know or care?"

After the assembly was over, it was time for lunch. The cafeteria was filling up with hungry students, many going to the line for school-based meals (much to their dismay) while the rest (the lucky ones) packed their lunches. As per usual, the students sat with their cliques at different tables, most of them assigned by them. Adan, Jacob, and Kristi gathered their lunches and sat at a distance table. They had spaced-out looks, still in a state of confusion and mild panic over the contest news. Finally, they made a double-take, shaking their hands back to reality.

"Ok, what are we going to do about this?" asked Adan.

"I-I don't know what to make of this," muttered Jacob timidly.

"I'll tell you what I can make of this." Kristi breathed heavily before calmly ranting, "Does this guy seriously think we want to waste our time teaming up with other students in a stupid contest to see which class could be superior? Honestly, no words can describe how upsetting this is!"

"What's upsetting?" asked another voice. The trio sees a medium-skinned teenage girl with chestnut hair, one thick strand going down the left side of her face, hazel-green eyes sparkling with curiosity. She wore a red sleeveless shirt, a maroon skirt, and violet strapped sandals.

"Oh nothing much, Natalie. Just our principal being overly ambitious with a competition. That's all."

Natalie sat down, still confused. "Uh, someone wants to translate sarcasm?"

"The principal announced that a school contest would be coming up. Moreover, the horrible twist is that it's pinning students in different classes against each other," explained Adan.

Natalie raised an eyebrow. "Seriously? We're going in a contest with other students that are completely out of our league. What does this so-called principal expect of us, let alone them?"

"Exactly what I've said!" Kristi yelled. "We can't go with this contest if it means showing more that our group is the odd ones out!"

"I agreed," Jacob added. "It was already complicated with just the four of us, being in different classes. What chance do we have at reaching out to other students? Most of them don't care about school while we care enough to put effort into our work."

"Not to mention the majority of students that I've seen are very immature, lazy, and just overall obnoxious." Adan shuddered with disdain. "You can't tell me this has disaster written all over it!"

"Oh yeah. It's got disaster written and everything. What's missing is an alarm going off as soon as the principal made the news clear to us."

Jacob sighed, remembering the intense reaction. "I think that would hurt our ears. Besides, the assembly already did a good job with their reaction."

"Ditto." Adan and Kristi nodded.

There was a moment of silence as the group eats their food.

Adan finished a sandwich when he spoke up. "Well, I suppose there is a brighter side to all of this madness. We've got a few weeks ahead, so that gives us plenty of time to think of a plan of survival. What do you guys think?"

"I suppose we do have a little bit of time," Jacob answered.

"I agree." smiled Natalie.

"Well, Kristi?"

They turned to the choppy-haired girl, who raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, no. You can't seriously go through with this!"

"Oh come on, Kristi," assured Natalie. "I admit, this seems like a stretch, but maybe it wouldn't be bad if it was a one-time thing."

"And um, w-we could think of this contest as an experiment. I mean, if we can make it, maybe the school trips could be fun," added Jacob.

"And between the four of us, those trips might be more than what Mr. McNeil leads on. That was partially the reason we attend this school in the first place." finished Adan.

Seeing those assured smiles and the ideas presented, Kristi released a heavy sigh.

"Oh, fine." She caved. "It's not like we're given much of choice anyway. But this has better be worth it in the end."

"Great!" grinned Adan as he raised his drink. "Let's take on the contest!"

Jacob, Natalie, and Kristi rolled their eyes, but join in the gesture. "We will take on the contest!"