Before, I had always filled my mind with as much as I possibly could in order to stop my headaches and prevent myself from slipping into the minds of others. However, Mira showed me the procedure officers use to block unwanted mental invasion, and it worked like a charm for me. This led to private meditation lessons with Mira every week, and I soon found myself in total control of my powers and subsequently my headaches. I stopped having to preform strenuous physical exercise daily, and, more than anything, my muscles felt the effects of the exercises I'd already completed.
My father, an ex-military man, had shown me a variety of work-outs, which I preformed several times a week until Mira proclaimed that I was an expert in psychic meditation. Now, I rode my bicycle, carried heavy sacks of groceries, and preformed athletic activities with ease. Every day, I felt more of my strength returning. My muscles became hard, not exactly that of a body builder physique, but noticeably rounder.
With my father by my side, I continued to walk through the rays of sunshine, which filled the bleak gray hallways, toward the office of the Psy Academy's principle.
I was wearing my favorite outfit, a long sleeved pink shirt and a pair of electric blue wind pants covered with my favorite cartoon character. It had been quite popular when I was a child, and I thought other's would think he was still memorable, therein removing some of the social stigma surrounding my gender and race.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Dozens of girls lined the hallway, some stood to talk, while others walked to class. I was enrolling half-way through the year. My face blushed and my hands broke into sweat. I was scared. All the girls wore white and gray uniforms, my florescent ensemble stuck out like a businessman performing in a circus. I tried to go by my father's example, which was looking forward and walking with a calm steady pace. I instinctively did the same, but girls still giggled and pointed.
Eventually we got to the principle's office, which was noted by a small square break in the hallway where the secretary's desk sat. A few chairs where lined up adjacent to the office door. I was lucky to see they were empty. A trouble maker waiting to see the administration probably wouldn't have made for the best experience to start off my academic career here.
The secretary told me to sit in one of the chairs while Amman entered the principle's office. I caught the secretary's eyes as she peered over her desk with a disgusted facial expression. I crossed my arms, and turned my head the other way. I couldn't say if she noticed my contempt , but perhaps outrage wasn't the best response. I decided to switch to a cross-legged position with my hands in my lap. Having to wait patiently was my biggest pet-peeve.
"Hey there Pinky, are you lost?" one of the passing students spoke to me with pure malice. I should have just ignored her. I should have just sat silently.
"No, today's my first day." I responded, anger rising.
"How old are you?" Her voice was sly and mischievous.
"Twelve, I'll be thirteen in a month."
"I'll give you till your thirteenth birthday till you quit. Don't think you're the first guy who's tried to come here."
I wanted to respond, but she walked away with a swift step. A group of girls walked by, one pointing in my direction. Laughter immediately broke out between them. If the secretary noticed any of this, she certainly didn't show it. Then yet another group of girls came over to put in their two.
"Hey there little guy, are you a boy, or just a really ugly girl?"
"I'm Russian too."
"Yeah, no duh," the girl lowered her face until it was centimeters away from my own, "It's obvious enough that you're a god damned freak, you don't have to go singing about it."
"And it's obvious enough that you're clueless," I quickly responded this time so she couldn't run away, "Also, your mother would absolutely die if she heard you talk like that."
My anger had reached the level of blinding rage, leaving my powers free to run rampant. Images and memories filled my mind of this girl's mother. Her father died of radiation poisoning left over from the war when she was four years old. Her mother loved him, and would never begrudge someone simply because they were the opposite sex, that became immediately apparent whether I liked it or not.
"How the hell would you know?" The girl's response was faltering between white hot indignation and gale force fury.
"Think about everything your father did for you and your mother, would he stand hearing you proclaim such prejudice?"
I felt her mind trying to inject itself into mine. She was trying to break open my senses, my memories, my very morals and beliefs. Our eyes locked and her lips pursed in effort as her thoughts rammed against my mind like a bird trying to fly through a window.
The girl's face turned a bright scarlet. Her hand rose as if she meant to slap me, but instead she turned rapidly and walked away. Her friends close behind her, whispering and murmuring.
I should have just sat silently. I don't need to make things any harder than they already are.
The door opened and Amman gestured me inside. The principle's office was dimly lit. It had carpet, and the walls were lined with wooden shelves of books and mementos. It bore no resemblance whatsoever to the generic gray that overcast the rest of the school. It was homely and welcoming rather than uniform and ordered. The principle sat behind her desk, holding a few sheets of paper. Amman stood in the corner, learning against the wall.
"I'm sorry if any of my students have been antagonizing you," the principle apologized as I walked in.
"It's alright, it's not like they really caught me by surprise."
"He's had run-ins with prejudice before. Mostly on the Russian account, but I'm sure dealing with the gender issue will be just as easy to overcome." Amman said. I couldn't tell whether he was trying to defend me or dismiss me, maybe both.
"This instance might be a little more extreme, I fear. I wish I could stop the students from bearing such hatred, but I can only do so much." As she spoke, her face portrayed the deep disappointment she must have felt.
"It's not just your students, I slipped while I was waiting in the hall. Your secretary-"
"Isaac!" Amman stopped me, then shot a hot glance in my direction. I realized my mistake, but it was too late now.
"Yes," the principle ignored our inner dispute, "I've talked to my secretary about her beliefs, she promises me that she wouldn't indulge in any more prejudice while working for me, but I fear her hate runs deep.
"I apologize again, I'm Principle Anna Brix, but you can just call me Anna, or Brix. I'm honored to welcome you to my academy. I'd like you to know, that I'm behind you all the way. If any students, or goodness forbid, any teachers give you trouble, let me be the first to know. I'll do everything in my power to see you receive an equal opportunity under my administration."
"Thank you so much. I really do appreciate that." I responded with a smile.
"I assume you both have a heartfelt goodbye to tend to, I'll be sitting here in plain sight if either of you should need me." She carried a wise aura but spoke with a sarcastic tone.
"I guess this is goodbye." Amman walked towards me, his soft smile accentuated by the shadows of the dim lamps resting on Brix's desk.
"Yep, I'll see you during quarter break."
"Be sure to write to me," Amman bent down to his knees to hug me. He held on tight for several seconds before letting go and walking backwards, slowly, towards the door.
"I'll write everyday."
"I didn't raise any papa's boy. You'll write me when you have something to write about."
"I'll write everyday." I reiterated with a sarcastic tone.
We exchanged a few more goodbyes, then Amman was gone. A feeling of loneliness suddenly crept up my spine, but I fought back with a calm breath and a clear mind. I had just now realized how hard it will be without Amman with me. I was already homesick.
"I'll show you to your room, your baggage is already there. We really tried to get you a room by yourself, but it was difficult. The school's already overcrowded to it's brink. You'll only have to share with a few others, though most of them will be older. I've noticed that the older students are a bit less prejudice, but that doesn't guarantee anything. Two of the girls are actually in your grade. I would recommend trying not to attract their attention, you might have them in some of your classes. Speaking of, your schedule should be in an envelope on your bunk. If it's not, just come back to let me know, I'll get you a new one." Brix was like a nit-picky mother readying her child for school, but that might not be too far off. Regardless, I followed Brix's directions to my room, the school was easy enough to navigate. I was there in no time.
Space was abundant in the wide sky blue dorm. Brix said I'd have to share with 'a few' others, but I found myself standing in the doorway of a long room full of at least a few dozen other students, with bucks covering the walls in odd alternating patterns. Some were bunk beds, others slept only one. There didn't appear to be any set pattern governing bed organization, but in the middle of the room was a pile of bunk mattresses, some were stacked to make couches, others were bent and folded to make lawn-chair shapes, even more were left simply piled up in the center of it all. They had been removed from the bunks covering the right wall, which left only the bunks in the back and on the left left side of the room to sleep in. Rooms were obviously meant to hold twice, or even thrice as many students.
All because of my gender, how ridiculous.
Several girls sat on the mattresses doing homework, playing video games, or reading, but all eyes turned to me as I entered.
A deep breath and a prolonged blink, then my mind was once again cleared. I didn't want to seem threatening, so I bent my head down, let blush appear on my cheeks and said to the room with a soft shaky voice "Hello, my name's Isaac. I'm suppose to be sleeping here."
Around the room similes started popping up, curling the faces of my future roommates, now completely preoccupied with the figure standing in their doorway. I took a step forward and gently let the door close behind me.
"Brix already had a talk with us about prejudice." One of the girls from the middle pile said as her attention returned to her hand held video game.
"We've already talked you over. No one in here is prejudice, so you can desist that hellish act and grow some balls." Another girl added, from her bunk.
"Shut up, we don't care," another girl from the far back chimed in, "We're not those rich prissy bitches that think women are the ultimate life form, but that doesn't mean we're going to throw you any bones. To us, you're just another freshy hurting to get hazed."
"Well then," I began as I walked over to my bunk, my bag sat on the top of the bunk bed to the front left corner of the room. The majority of the girls' bunks were near the back of the room. I was perfectly fine with that. Laying before me were several pairs of uniform, and the envelope containing my schedule. "I thought this was going to be a cake walk, but I guess I might have to deal with conflict and, God forbid, opposition. What will I do to-"
"Shut up, no one thinks you're funny, pinky." The same voice from the back of the room interjected her thoughts.
"Oooh, I get it, because I'm wearing a pink shirt. Clever. That's honestly the first time I've-"
"Allow me to reiterate. You're not funny. Shut up."
I was lucky the corner I had been allocated was so dark compared to the rest of the room, I noticed some of the florescent lights were turned off. The girl I had been quarreling with lay on the bottom bunk of the bed in the opposite corner of my own, probably doing homework or something. I took off my clothes, as humiliating as it felt, and redressed in the gray uniform I had so longed for earlier that day. The other students' uniforms were once-pieces, and zipped in the back. Mine was a two piece, with a zipper in the front, like jeans. I could imagine why males would find the girl one-pieces uncomfortable. The uniform was all generic, save the yellow and navy 'all seeing eye' emblem adorning the shoulders and upper left chest. I personally liked it.
I didn't have to look around, I just let a little bit slip so I could feel the minds of the other girls. A few of them let smiles creep up the sides of their mouths as I changed. It was rather awkward and demoralizing, but I didn't let it get to me. I cleared my mind again and started unpacking, then I realized. There was no place to put any of my belongings. The room was completely bear except for the bunks, but the other girls obviously had possessions. My breath picked up rate slightly as I tried to think of where the storage might be.
Under the bunks? Nope, there was nothing under any of the other bunks. Lockers somewhere else? No, that would be too inconvenient. If that were the case the other girls would have more with them.
Smiles lit up the faces of several of my room-mates as they saw me franticly looking around. They all stayed silent. If they wanted to play nasty, so could I.
I mentally slipped and searched the room for a thought about clothes, nothing turned up. Then for a thought about homework, nothing. Then about me, everyone's minds lit up like Christmas trees. I slipped into the girl who had been ridiculing me earlier. There it was, in plain sight. She told me more than I ever could have asked for.
I knelt down. The floor was carpet covered with a small square pattern. Every few dozen centimeters there was a floor door. One per bunk. About half a meter on each side, there were three squares that you could press in, then lift the floor to reveal a spacious gap, perfect for books, clothes, etc. I hated all these wannabe futuristic stabs at "innovative" or "original" architecture, but I have to admit that this design really does save space, and I'm sure there are even more compartments throughout the middle of the room.
I felt the mouths of the room one more time. To my displeasure, only a few were open in shock or bewilderment. However I'm sure surprise was currently sweeping over the room.
I unpacked my belongings into the compartment, all the while doing a shallow slip into the girl from before. She had a mischievous plan to start hazing me once I left the room to grab my books, but I decided to shoot it down. I learned from her that there were keys to each compartment, mine had been placed between the mattresses in the pile composing the makeshift couch. Without skipping a beat, I finished unpacking my bag, put it under my bunk, pulled my schedule out of its envelope, and while looking it over walked to the couch, grabbed the key from between the the girls doing homework, walked back to lock my belongings in, and then left to grab my books.
The book room was just closing as I got there. I was lucky the school was so easy to figure out. The classrooms were all neatly designated, and large signs posted above every hallway intersection made it simple to get to anywhere, from anywhere, just by following the signs respectively.
"Oh! You're the new student Brix has been talking about. Welcome to Psy Aca." The way the book lady spoke made it seem as if I were entering a mystical foreign land. I kind of thought it endearing.
"Yeah," I handed her my schedule, "I'm just here to grab some books before tomorrow."
"Let's take a look. American Military History, Ancient History, Modern World History, Dif. Algebra I, English Writing & Grammar, Russian Military History, Dif. Science I.
"That's quite a load for your first year. I can pull up your file on the computer and drop some of these electives for you if you want?"
"No, I actually made sure that I got those. It'll be okay. I'm going to need something to divert myself with anyway, I think homework would be an excellent substitute."
"Oh. I see, you're right."
I wish I had Max's knack for making small talk, but it looks like I always end up bringing up whatever is on my mind. I should learn to keep my worries out of every one else's business, especially if I want to go far here. The book lady was obviously uncomfortable with the discrimination factor, but she hasn't done anything wrong. I should hold my tongue.
I returned to my room quickly after finally securing my mountain of books. I was lucky to be so athletic.
The only thing waiting for me back at the room was more melodrama.
I hate melodrama.
"Hey there Pink!"
All the girls were gleaming as I entered the room again. They all wore mischievous smiles and impish eyes.
"Come on in, Pink!" one of the girls in the back shouted.
I didn't have to slip into anyone's mind to know something was up.