"So where did you come to LA from?" Trina asked as we were climbing the stairs. The stairs were freshly cleaned and almost looked like they would sparkle. The walls were decorated with posters promoting sports teams, concerts, dances, or the school in general.
"From Washington State," I replied, slightly on edge. I just had to hope that she wouldn't ask why I moved here.
"Oh Washington State, I've been there once before on summer break. It's a gorgeous place, with all the evergreen trees and ice capped mountains," Trina said.
"Yes it definitely is." The feelings of homesickness once again started to creep up on me. No matter how great Los Angeles and California was, it wasn't going to completely fill the void leaving Seattle gave me. "Which parts of Washington State did you visit?"
"Seattle and the Space Needle first and foremost. Then we went to Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. Finally we paid a visit to Olympic National Park. I'll never forget that trip, that state is an amazing place." She looked off dreamily into the distance.
"In my opinion, amazing is kind of an understatement." I said.
Trina chuckled as we reached the fourth floor and started walking towards our class. "I would have to agree with you. Washington State is definitely one of the more beautiful states I've been to in my life. So why did you move here to LA?"
This is it. Should I tell the truth or make something up? Trina seemed like such a nice and friendly girl that I just decided to let her know some of the truth.
"I lost my home in Seattle, so I had to move here to my grandparents' home and start over here."
"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that," Trina looked as if she felt guilty she asked. "Well, I moved here last year because my family was struggling financially and my dad got an offer for a job here, so I sort of know how you're feeling."
It was really nice how Trina tried to comfort me, even going as to telling me a part of her life I didn't think she told many people, especially not new kids.
"Well, I guess that makes two of us," I smiled.
She smiled back, but her smile faded as if she was remembering something unpleasant. But she quickly recovered and tried to force something other than a frown onto her face. "Yeah, hey we're here!"
We arrived at a large classroom. In the back was a laboratory, made up of tables and cabinets containing chemicals. At the front was the actual classroom, with a seemingly brand new SMART board displaying the words "Ionic and Covalent Bonds" in a Powerpoint Presentation. Five rows of tables and chairs were neatly arranged behind.
Me and Trina seemed to be early, as we were the only ones in the class other than the teacher, who looked up from a stack of papers he was grading when we walked in. He seemed to be in his mid sixties, with a balding head and a face that meant business.
"Oh, you must be James Cole, the new student," he said to me. "Have a seat over here." He gestured to a seat right next to his desk. I walked over and took a seat, and he spoke again. "Welcome to Chemistry, James. I'm Mr. Jones and I'll be teaching you this year. I hope we have a great class this year. Here's the course outline, which you need to get signed and returned to me by tomorrow." He handed me a thin booklet. "Now go pick any seat you want. Class will be starting in about seven minutes. The others better not be late again."
"Here, you can sit next to me if you want," Trina walked over to the seat furthest to the left in the second row.
"Sure, thanks for the offer." I walked over and sat in the seat to her right. It felt slightly weird sitting in a seat again in a classroom, even though it had been less than a week since I had sat at a desk in my old school at Seattle. It more or less felt like a year had past. Guess that's what a fire and moving to a new state can cause in you.
The next person walked into the classroom about ten seconds later. It was a boy wearing thick glasses, a striped button-up shirt, and poorly fitting pants. He was gasping for air, as if he had run a mile before coming to class.
"Whew, good morning Mr. Jones." he wiped sweat off his brow. "Am I late today?"
"No Walter you are not," Mr. Jones answered without looking up from the stack of papers he was marking.
The boy pumped his fist. "Yes! Perfect attendance everyday so far!" He then took a seat at the front row, right behind Mr. Jones desk.
About two minutes later, I heard the loud noise of heavy footsteps stampeding across the hall. Those would probably be the others I thought as about a dozen students almost ran over each other trying to get through the doorway. Mr. Jones still didn't look up from his work, he must have been used to this, I guess.
"We're not late are we?" They all spoke in unison just as the bell rang.
"No, you are all not." Mr. Jones sounded like this was something he said on a daily, even hourly basis. "Get into your seats students, class will start right after I get this last test done."
As everybody else was scrambling into their seats and getting out their notebooks and writing utensils, Trina turned to me.
"This happens nearly everyday. Mr. Jones punishes tardiness with detention, and with how big this school is, there's always a mad rush to get to Chemistry on time."
"Fortunately we were really early today," I said.
"Yeah, but that's mainly because we have Chem first period today. On other days, you really have to run."
"Thanks for the tip." I realized I hadn't took anything out of my bag yet, and brought out my pencil case. I suddenly realized I didn't have a textbook or a notebook that everyone else in the room had. I raised my hand.
"I don't have a textbook or a notebook."
"Well," Mr. Jones finally looked up from the test he was grading. "You have to go to the library after school and borrow the textbook. As for your notebook, you should be supplying your own. You haven't brought one, I presume?"
"Uh, no," I was starting to get a little uncomfortable about this teacher.
"Well that's your first warning. If you don't have a textbook by class tomorrow, you get detention. Understood?"
"Yes, Mr. Jones."
"Here, you can use this." Trina tore a sheet of paper from her notebook and handed it to me.
"Thanks." I couldn't believe it. Most teachers in my life gave the class notebooks to write on, and none gave me a detention warning for failing to bring my own on my first day at the school."
Mr. Jones finally finished grading the test. "Alright class, I have finished grading your tests for the topic The Periodic Table. The grades were extremely unbalanced; a few of you scored impressively, while others did not do as well." He began handing the tests out, starting with Walter, who pumped his fist again when he saw his score. Just as he was finishing handing out the tests to the first row, a girl walked into the class.
She had tight jeans and a jeans jacket on, with blonde hair and fierce sapphire eyes that burned with rebellion. There was something about the girl that I just didn't like and I felt it the moment she walked in. She was hot all right, but it felt so superficial, like deep inside she was something I didn't want to know.
"Hello Mr. Jones and everybody. Hope I'm not late today," the girl said in a voice deliberately mimicking Mr. Jones.
"You are very late Lindsay, as you always are," Mr. Jones sounded very upset, but there was something in his voice that sounded like he'd given up on the girl a long time ago. "I will have to notify your parents about this."
"Oh Mr. Jones, you do already know that my parents are still on their trip around the world don't you? You'll have to wait until they come back." Lindsay winked at the Chemistry teacher.
"Fine, but when they do, I guarantee you you are in hot water." Mr. Jones tried to sound stern, but it had nothing against Lindsay's confidence.
"Alright sure." She shrugged and took her place in her seat, which was just behind Trina, which put her very close to me.
"Hey Trina, what's up?" She leaned over. "Ew, your hair smells weird today. What did you put on it, vinegar?"
"It smells pretty good to me, Lindsay." Trina obviously looked hurt. "It's this new shampoo I'm trying out."
"Well, that new shampoo seems to be killing any chance of you finding a date for prom." Lindsay gave another sniff, and leaned back in disgust.
The whole class was silent, watching the exchange. Mr. Jones stood there, the test papers still in his hands, watching almost helplessly.
Do something! I wanted to scream at Mr. Jones. You're the teacher, you can't just let a student act like all she wants!
Mr. Jones did do something. "Lindsay and Trina, settle down. One more word and both of you get detention."
But this isn't fair. It was Lindsay that started it, what did Trina do? Yep, my gut instinct was right about Lindsay, she did have something very nasty inside of her.
Mr. Jones continued handing out the test papers. When he got to Lindsay, he sighed a little and gave her the paper. She took it, looked at the score, shrugged, and put it down on her table.
For the rest of Chemistry, we went over the test and then began on the topic Ionic and Covalent Bonds. Since I didn't take the test, I tried to learn something from the answers to the questions. And I furiously copied down the notes on the new topic while trying to ignore the sound of Lindsay loudly chewing gum a row back.
After second and third period, which was AP United States History and Spanish respectively, I walked down to the cafeteria for lunch. The entire room was peppered with the smell of fresh food and bustling students. On one end there was a long line waiting for hot dogs and pizza. On the other end they served noodles and sushi. Finally in the center was the sandwich bar, where students designed their own sandwiches. Limitless' cafeteria made my old school's lunch room look like a pathetic attempt. In my old school, there was only one line and they served more or less the same meals everyday. Limitless had variety, that was all I could say.
I got two hot dogs, a pizza slice, and a bottle of fruit punch and the question of where to sit struck me. The lunch room was huge, and almost all the tables seemed packed to the brim with people. I slowly walked around awkwardly for a while until I spotted Chris sitting at a table in the very center of the cafeteria. He spotted me at the exact same moment. He waved.
"Hey James! You wanna sit with us?"
"Sure thing." I walked over to the table, was just a little over halfway full. I noticed a few familiar faces at the table, Trina, a girl from my History class, a boy from my Spanish class, Lindsay and Kate. I suddenly felt something uncomfortable in the pit of my stomach, but I took a seat anyway next to Chris.
"Sup dude," he said to me before turning to everyone else in the table and getting their attention. "Hey everyone, this is James and he's new here at Limitless."
"Hi James." The whole table said in unison, except for Kate, who remained silent.
"Sup James." the boy from my Spanish class stuck out a hand. He was incredibly buff and his huge muscles bulged from under his tank top. He had sandy blonde hair and clear blue eyes that made him look like a stereotypical surfer. It definitely fit his look that we were in California now. "You're in my Spanish class. I'm Hunter."
I shook his hand and he almost crushed it in his vice like grip. "Nice to meet you."
"Yeah, likewise," he said. "Hey, I heard from Chris that you play basketball. Is that right?"
"Yep, I do," I replied. "I play small forward."
Hunter's eyes went wide as if he had found the answer to a problem he had been wondering for a long time. "That's exactly what we need!" He looked at another boy sitting at the table. "Tucker! I think we might have found a replacement!"
Tucker was tall and lean, with long shaggy brown hair and green eyes that made him look like an anime character. A pair of crutches rested by his seat. "Sup James, I'm Tucker, and I'm the small forward for the school team that got injured a week ago. This sprain still doesn't seem to be letting go, and we really need somebody to take my place. My backup Gordon, he's a decent player, but he's such a liability of defense that we lost our most recent game by twenty points. We really hope you can step in and fill my shoes James."
"Alright, I guess I'll see if I can do that at tryouts today," I said. "Who else here is in the team?"
"I am," Chris said. "I play point guard."
"I play Center," Hunter said. "That's about it, nobody else on this table is in the basketball team."
"Ok then." I started munching away at one of my hot dogs. The ketchup and mustard was sprayed evenly and mingled perfectly with the taste of the cooked sausage.
"Hey everyone, do you know that Kate here is a born dancer?" Trina said, trying to draw attention to the other new student at Limitless.
"Really?" The girl from my history class seemed interested. She was Asian, her (dyed) brown hair and soft brown eyes perfectly matching her golden skin.
"Yep, she showed me her moves in Drama class. You have to check them out, she could be a great cheerleader here." Trina turned to Kate. "Isn't that right Kate?"
Well I can tell you personally that Kate can definitely strut her stuff on the dance floor. In our old school, she wowed the whole crowd along with the other cheerleaders with amazing sports halftime performances and cheers in general.
"Well, I'm OK, I guess," Kate said prudently, typical of her modest personality.
"Don't try to be modest girl," Trina said. "You're much more than OK, more like incredible! You have to try out for cheerleading after school today. We practically need you!"
"Well, if she's as good as you claim she is," the Asian girl said. "Then I definitely want to see her. By the way, I'm Lily, great to meet you Kate."
"Great to meet you too Lily. And thanks for the support you all." Kate sounded really relieved that she was getting a big chance at Limitless as well.
"But remember Kate, competition for a spot on the cheerleading pyramid is pretty intense here." I had almost forget that Lindsay was at the lunch table. "You're gonna need all that you've got to make it in."
"But I really believe she can make it in," Trina encouraged Kate. "Her skill level is on par with the rest of the cheerleaders, maybe even better."
Lindsay seemed almost offended by Trina's last comment. "Better? I'd still stick with on par. But good luck anyways Kate."
After lunch I had Physical Education (which is a really bad idea right after lunch), Biology, and Mathematics. I saw a few people I recognized from lunch in those three classes. Hunter was in my PE class, and we were currently doing a weightlifting course. Naturally, Hunter loved it.
"You looked pretty well built man," he said to me just after finishing a set of the bench press. "Do you work out?"
I started working out two years ago when I started dating Kate, but that was more out of a desire to impress her rather than my concern with physical fitness. I didn't know whether I still had the motivation to continue working out now that we were broken up. Wait, did I just say broken up? I guessed that was what our relationship had become now, even though we never said the words to each other.
"Yep, I started two years ago."
"Nice, it really shows. If you keep this up, in due time you'll look just as good as me." Hunter gave me a huge grin and flexed an even more massive bicep.
"Whoa, those are some serious guns there," I marveled. I was starting to like Hunter, he was a tough guy all right, but he definitely could be a great friend as well.
When I walked into Biology class, I saw that Lily and Kate were also in there. I nearly almost walked out of the room when my eyes caught sight of the latter one. But somehow I fought the desire to and started walking to the front of the classroom to introduce myself to the teacher, as I had done with every class.
"Hey James!" Lily waved when she saw me. "You want to sit next to me and Kate?" She and my EX girlfriend were sitting at the very back row.
"Alright, sure I guess." I sneaked a quick glance at Kate, who looked very uncomfortable sharing the same Bio class with me.
I walked to the front of the class. The teacher looked young, in his mid thirties, with curly brown hair and an athletic body. To be honest he did not look like a science teacher at all, especially considering the fact that he was wearing a T-shirt that said "Limitless Basketball."
He noticed me walking towards him. "Hey, I suppose you are James Cole, am I right?"
"Yes I am."
"Well I'm Mr. Walker, and I'll be your Biology teacher for this year. Pleased to meet you." He stuck out a hand.
I shook it. "Nice to meet you too Mr. Walker."
"No doubt. Now here's your course outline, get it signed by tomorrow, and take a seat wherever you wish."
I went to the back of the classroom with the outline, and took the only free seat left, which was right next to Kate.
"Hey James," she said half-heartedly.
"Hey Kate." Guilt and pain started flowing through my veins again. The fact that I was going to be in the same class, sitting next to the girl I abandoned for the entire year was nearly unbearable.
"Hey, I heard that you two came to LA from Washington State, is that right?" Lily asked.
"Yep, we did." Kate bit her lip.
"Did you two go to the same school?" Lily, please don't go further than that. Please don't ask why we moved. I just don't know how to answer that when I'm right next to Kate.
"Yep, we did." Kate said, looking down at her desk.
Lily noticed the awkwardness between us. "Hey are you two okay? You two seem really...uneasy with each other."
"Ladies and gentlemen, class has begun. Please take out your textbooks and flip to page 110. We will be beginning studying the endocrine system today." Thank you Mr. Walker!
Math class went a lot better. Chris, Trina, and Tucker were in my class, with no sign of Kate. After an hour of intensely studying algebra, the bell finally rang.
"Students, your homework is to do questions 1 through 20 on page 130," the teacher, Mr. Murphy called out. "Have a good day everyone!"
"Whew, I thought this school day would never end." Trina breathed a sigh of relief as we headed out the class and started walking through the hallway. There was a large window through which I could see the entire school courtyard bathed in afternoon sunbeams.
"Tell me about it," Tucker agreed. "Believe me when I said I almost fell asleep in Physics with Mrs. Levine."
"Heh, it's not over yet," Chris pointed out. "James here still has to tryout for the basketball team."
"Oh right!" Tucker patted me on the shoulder. "Good luck man. Normally in the tryouts, the coach would put you through dribble courses, shooting drills, passing drills, etc, but now you just need to pass a shooting drill and a scrimmage game so we can gauge how good you are to replace me. Best of luck!"
"Wait, Kate needs to come to the gym too for cheerleader tryouts! I gotta go find her! Does anybody know what class she just had?" Trina asked.
"I had Bio with her in fifth period," I said, trying to ignore any painful memories of that time. "She said she had Chemistry for her last period." I recall her telling Lily that.
"Ok, thanks James. I gotta go find her and show her to the gym. I'll catch you later guys!" With that she ran off down the hall.
"Run, Trina, Run!" Chris called out before breaking down in laughter. The rest of us joined him.
Trina turned as she was rounding the corner. "Come on guys, grow up!" But she couldn't help but laugh too.
The gymnasium of Los Angeles Limitless High School was just as impressive as the rest of the school. Polished maple wood planks made up the floor, while the walls were covered with posters and banners. There were many banners that read "Los Angeles Limitless High School, State Champions" for a multitude of sports over the years. One had the school mascot, a confident golden eagle with wings outstretched. The bleachers stood on the sides of the basketball court and were painted golden and red. A formidable eagle head was depicted at the very center of the court with the word Limitless underneath.
"Wow, just wow," I marveled as me, Chris, and Tucker walked in.
"It still amazes me even after all these years," Chris said, admiring the gym.
"Chris, everything amazes you," Tucker said jokingly.
"You know what amazes me most? The fact that it took you this long to realize it," Chris shot back.
"Ok, that was a pretty sweet comeback, gimmie five bro." The two high fived, and then turned to me.
"Ok, so Coach isn't here now," Chris said, walking towards a large bucket containing basketballs. "But he put me and Tucker in charge of finding a solid replacement for the small forward position, so we'll walk you through this tryout. Don't worry, we've seen it enough to know how it works." He grabbed a ball from the bucket and tossed it to me."
"Like I said the first part of this tryout is the shooting drill," Tucker said. "Since you'll be spending quite some time outside the three point line, we need to see how good your shooting is from long range. Here, start from the left corner."
I walked over to the left corner with sweaty hands. I had a tendency to not be very good in pressure situations, and this was no exception. I looked at the rim, got ready, jumped into the air, and released the ball. Clang, it bounced off the edge of the rim.
"Hmm, try again," Chris caught the ball and threw it back to me. "Nice try though."
Get a grip on yourself man! I needed to make this one. Two misses would probably diminish my chances of making the team greatly. I concentrated, leaped into the air, and released the ball at the peak of my jump. Swish.
"Nice shot!" Chris said. "One more time!"
Confident now, I shot the ball again. It went through the hoop cleanly.
"Sweet stroke," Tucker remarked. "Now try from the middle of the arc." He pointed to the very center of the three point line.
I dribbled to there, elevated for the shot, and drilled it.
"Whew, really nice shot!" Chris seemed impressed. "One more from the right corner."
Another shot, another elevation, another swish.
"I've seen enough for the shooting drill," Tucker said. "You seem to be competent in that area. Now moving on to the scrimmage. Well since we only have three people here, and I obviously can't play in crutches, you'll have to play a game of one-on-one with Chris here."
"You don't necessarily have to beat me." Chris walked up until he was about seven feet away from me. "We just want to see how much you can do in a game. Here, you start. First to three." He got down into a fierce defensive stance.
I started to panic a little. I didn't know how good Chris was, but eventually the anxiety faded away as I started taking a few dribbles, sizing him up. This was a game, no time for fear, and my mind automatically switched into that gear. Chris seemed to be giving me some space. Not too much, but enough to pull up for a quick...
Shot. Chris tried to contest, but the ball had already left my fingertips and sailed through the hoop.
"Nice one." Chris was really impressed now. "One, zero."
I started dribbling towards Chris again. He was playing closer to me this time, not allowing an easy shot. I made a hesitation move with the ball in my left hand, and then crossed over to my right. Chris was expecting it. But I was one step ahead of him. I quickly crossed over to my left and left him in the dust while I sailed to the hoop for an easy layup. Two, nothing.
" For a non-guard, you have some pretty sweet handles." Chris seemed happy for me, but he was also a competitor. He was not going to be embarrassed again.
Just then, Trina, Lily, Lindsay, and Kate entered the gym. They were dressed in their cheerleading uniforms: Gold and red tank tops and skirts decorated with stars and eagles. I would have to say they looked like total knockouts, especially Kate, even though a cloud of sadness had replaced her usually cheerful face.
"Hey, James is trying out for the team right now right?" Trina said.
"Yep, he's playing one-on-one with Chris right now," Tucker answered.
"With Chris? This ought to be a show to watch," Lindsay commented. "Chris is like an all star."
"This all-star is now trailing two, zero," Chris said. "This kid James is really good. Come on James, show them your moves." He tossed the ball back to me.
No, too many people around. Too much pressure. Especially with Kate watching me.
I took a quick three pointer which clanged off the rim. Chris grabbed the rebound and took the ball out. I quickly rushed over to defend him. He sized me up and began to take a few hesitation dribbles. I backed off a little, and he pulled up for a quick shot that swished through the net. Two, one.
This time Chris made a jab step that caught me off balance. He then drived towards the hoop with blinding speed. I tried to stop him from going to the rim, but he absorbed the contact, and layed the ball off the glass into the bucket.
"Score's tied at two, two," Tucker stated.
I felt my body getting hot. I just got scored on by Chris twice in front of all the people here. I wasn't going to let it happen again.
He tried a jab step again, but I didn't budge. He began dribbling to me, and tried a hesitation crossover dribble, but I anticipated it and shifted my feet to cut him off. Chris dribbled back to outside the three point line and tried again.
"Great defense James!" Tucker cheered.
Chris made a between the legs dribble and then a killer crossover that sent him past me. But I recovered quickly, and rushed behind him for an emphatic block from behind on his layup attempt. That sent a ripple through the people in the gym.
"Whoa, way to go James!" Trina clapped her hands.
I took the ball out, and instantly shot a three pointer. This time, it went in. Three, two. I had won.
Chris walked over to give me a high five. "Good game James. To be honest I didn't expect you to be this good. You're definitely in the team."
Tucker hobbled over on his crutches to congratulate me. "Really nice job James, and I mean it. You're more than a good replacement for me. I don't like to admit this, but I think you're even better than me. But anyway, welcome to the team man!" He gave me a friendly slap on the back.
The rest of the people in the gym walked over as well to give me their congratulations.
"I still can't believe that you beat Chris one-on-one! That was amazing, even though I didn't see the full game!" Trina exclaimed.
"That was incredible," Lily agreed. "You'll definitely do us well in the game this Friday."
"And then we'll all go to my house to celebrate!" Lindsay chipped in. "I'll put together a great party for a great win!"
"Did somebody say party?" Hunter came bursting into the gym; he had obviously ran all the way here. "Did the tryouts start already?"
Chris walked up to him, trying not to laugh. "News flash Hunter. Tryouts are over. James is definitely in the team. He may even possibly be an MVP candidate by the end of the season."
"Wait, seriously?" Hunter walked over to me and gave me another of his crushing handshakes. "Well done man, I knew you had it in you! Now let's go out and celebrate!"
Tucker chuckled a little. "Hunter boy, it's Monday. We all have a stack of homework to finish."
"Oh yeah, sorry I got caught in the moment and forgot. My bad."
Every one of us laughed, Hunter included. The only one who didn't was Kate, who looked like she wanted to be happy for me, but couldn't do it for the young man that left her to nearly die in a fire. Slowly, the guilt and despair began creeping up on me, overshadowing the joy of making it onto the Limitless basketball team.