I shimmy in-between the school's side gates, making sure nobody saw me. I run up to the door and find it already open. Slipping in, I almost forget about the hole right in front of door, nearly falling into it. I very carefully make around the hole, hearing the old creaks and moans from the school's dilapidated wooden floors. At one point, a spark of dust spirals down from in-between the discolored ceiling. Passing the hole, I start to make my way up the stairs. On the way, I pass a worn out banner saying, "Go MLK Tigers!". I continue making my way up the stairs until I reach the fourth floor library, home base. I push one of the heavy double doors open and make my way in,
"Alright everybody! Thank you for coming today on this lovely Sunday morning. How's everybody feeling?"
I look around and see only Brandon and Garfield, "...where is everyone?"
"This is everyone." Brandon breaks to me, "There's nobody left."
"What about Evelyn?" I ask.
"She's here, in the computer lab, but good luck talking to her." he tells me.
Garfield walks up to me and puts a hand on my shoulder, "Ryan honey, I know you're trying to be positive right now, believe me I am too. But...your Freshmen Welcome Committee isn't going to work."
"Just let me talk to Evelyn." I assure him, gently pushing past him.
I walk over to the door leading to the computer lab. I grab the door handle and twist...locked.
"Evelyn, come out. I know you're in there."
"Leave me alone." she groans from inside.
"These doors are almost one-hundred years old, don't think I can't it down."
No response. I sigh, so many other doors in the school are already busted, or non-existent, but the computer lab isn't even functional, so this one won't be missed.
I wrap my hand around the small crack separating the door from its hinges and make a good pull. The door snaps off easily, the hinges falling away into dust. Carefully, I place the door down on its side. I see Evelyn in a corner, on her laptop, which is plugged into one of the computer lab's outlets. I cross the small room and sit in front of her,
"I didn't know we got electricity."
"Heh, I know right? We do actually, it's just that nothing in here works." she says, not looking up from her laptop.
I look around the computer lab, probably the newest thing in this entire school. The cramped room is lined with Apple II computers, dust collecting on their computers, most of their screens smashed or destroyed beyond repair.
"...you do know that you're taking a big risk, bringing your computer to school, right?" I remind her.
She rolls her eyes, "You're not my dad, and besides, we got rid of Julio and his guys. We're safe now, right?"
"That might be the case now, but with the freshmen coming in tomorrow, we really don't know what to expect." I tell her, "That's why we need to be there for them from the start. We'll show them the ropes, so they won't slip into the gangs like so many of us did freshmen year."
She chuckles sarcastically, "Well, I know what they'll be expecting. They've been selected by the school system to perish within these halls. They'll go Battle Royale on each other, first week's always a bloodbath."
"Don't say that!" I raise my voice a little more than I should've, "Look...just...just trust me, okay? We can do this, we can make a difference."
She slams her laptop shut, "Fine. But that doesn't mean I think this'll work. Your stupid crusade is friggin insane."
Garfield leans in the doorway, "Hey Ryan, Evelyn, Patrick's here."
I exit the computer lab and walk out into the main library. There Brandon is assisting a hunched over Patrick,
"Hey Patrick, glad you could make it." I friendly greet him, shaking his hand.
He laughs, his soft but pale hand gracing mine, "I like freshmen."
"Great attitude to have, Pat." I tell him, "Although, you can't like the freshmen thatmuch. That would be creepy...and illegal."
"That's right Pat, you turned eighteen over the summer, didn't you Pat?" Brandon asks him, "Don't worry man, I'll be right behind you in a couple of months."
Patrick nods, his ever present smile illuminating his sickly pale complexion.
"Alright, now that the gang's all here, I have a list of arriving freshmen. I'll be assigning them to a pair of upperclassmen depending on school." I tell them, taking out a thin sheet of paper.
"We're not even upperclassmen, we're just sophomores! Patrick's the only real upperclassman here, and he can barely handle himself!" Evelyn points out.
Patrick giggles gleefully, "I'm a senior citizen."
"No Patrick, you're a high school senior. Big difference there. Now, we have Miranda, Kimberly, and Winnie from AP-"
"No way…I got kicked out of there." Brandon comments, nodding his head.
"Omg, is that the super smart school by the park?" Garfield asks.
Evelyn nods, "It's that big prison-looking school. Supposedly holds four thousand students and looks like Chinatown."
"Hey, don't diss my people!" Garfield defends, "Besides, Asians make up the biggest percentage in the city, it would make sense there would be so many Chinese people going there."
"Heh, who bets that all three kids from there are going to be Asian?" Brandon asks.
"I'll wager, only if you bet your Mountain Dew cap." Evelyn dares.
Brandon adjusts his cap, hiding his greasy dirty-blond hair, "No way, this is mycap, nobody touches it."
"Moving on…" I continue, "We have Ashley and Frank from SSS, which is a school in the private sector."
"Woah, private school kids? Haha, good luck to whoever gets those guys. Pain in the butt." Evelyn comments.
"All of these kids so far are going to Garfield." I tell her, "...you will be able to handle them, right Garfield? I specifically gave you these SSS kids because they'll need the most...uhm...acclimating."
He blows a raspberry, "Of course honey, no biggy."
"Alright, Evelyn, I got you some kids from your alma mater CC. Do you think you could handle them?" I ask her.
She ponders this for a moment, "...give me a hunting knife and a .48 handgun and maybe."
"No weapons!" I stomp my foot down, causing the entire floor to shake.
"Calm down dude, you're going to bring the entire building down." Brandon rushes over to me.
My breathing accelerates as I feel the thin floor under me begin to crumble. I calmly step away as the piece of floor I had just been standing on falls through into a classroom on the previous floor.
"Now let me say it again." I repeat in a calmer tone, "No weapons."
"Alright, alright, sheesh, calm down." she mumbles, looking down at her laptop.
"We want to give these kids a welcoming environment that we weren't able to experience." I remind them, "Now, Evelyn, your assigned freshmen will be Carlos, Gabriella, Angel, Jesus, and Diego."
"Sounds like typical CC kid names. I'll bet they're all related too." she scoffs.
"That really isn't the attitude I'm looking for right now." I warn her, my passive-aggressive anger rising.
She rolls her eyes, "Look Ryan, you need to be realistic about this. Half of these kids aren't even going to be alive after a week or two."
"Well maybe it's youwho needs a change in attitude!" I snap.
"Open your eyes!" she yells, standing up, "You've been nothing but freakin delusional since Lainey-"
"Don't you dare bring her up!" I scream, before storming out, shaking the entire room on my way.
I burst through the library doors, collapse onto the nearest wall, and whimper as I hold back the tears brimming in my eyes. I've always been good at keeping my composure, but more and more I've been finding it harder to stay in control of everything. Maybe Evelyn's right, maybe I am being delusional, but giving up hope is giving in...and Lainey never would have given up. I just, gotta keep pushing, pushing onward...