Chapter 1: The Introduction of the Four
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
"Good morning! Good morning!" Mr. Baltimore cried out as the class filed into the room. As one could expect, the "better" students filled up the front seats as the slackers made their way to the back.
A young man in his final year of middle school, Kenton Hayes, found himself shuffling into a seat in one of the middle rows. While he was not the best in the class at solving equations and finding congruence between two objects, he never gave any less than his best. After all, he was the son of the former elementary school secretary and always had the burden of grand expectations laid upon him.
As the time for the tardy bell trickled closer, the remaining seats in the class started to fill up one-by-one. About thirty-seconds before the cutoff, a boy who typically sat front-row-center came in to find his usual seat occupied. The youth, a "prodigy" named Elias Connor, conceded to taking the closest seat in the row right behind Kenton.
Despite a slight difference in height between the two boys, there were no problems since poor Kenton found himself starting to doze off at his desk and beginning to slip into a sleep too deep for the loud bell to awaken him.
Mr. Baltimore, a teacher who after dealing with this group of children for almost three years, knew the routine all too well as he plucked his teacher's edition of the math book up from his desk and let it fall onto the lectern with a loud bang that could wake up anyone sleeping in the room. Sure enough, Kenton snapped awake and flopped his book open.
"Good morning! Good morning! Turn in your books to page 294." The teacher cried out as a chorus of flops of pages overtook the ambient noise. Mr. Baltimore glanced down at his book as he reached for a whiteboard marker before turning to the board.
"Yesterday, we left off with his equation: y = mx + b" He said as he wrote the expression on the board. "Think fast! What does m stand for? KENTON!"
The boy's eyes widened as he went from being asleep to being put on the spot in the span of ninety seconds. "Uh… Uh…" He fumbled as he heard a couple mumbles from his classmates.
"Time's up! Elias, help Kenton out here."
Kenton sighed in defeat as Elias gave the answer. Of course, Kenton couldn't hear the vital information being said out loud, instead finding himself focused on the snickering of several people around him.
"Good morning! Elias has saved the day! The m represents slope, or rather the rate of change in the equation!" Mr. Baltimore said as he wrote "slope" with an arrow pointing to the variable.
The rest of the day continued with Kenton feeling only three inches tall due to his embarrassment. When lunch time arrived, the mumbles and the snickers faded away, but the resentment that he felt towards his peers did not.
Being one of the first ones at the lunchroom, Kenton grabbed his tray and headed for the table that was mostly occupied by the seventh graders instead of his typical table of choice. As he started to eat, the table started to become occupied. A few of the younger kids wondered about his presence among themselves, but everybody kept to themselves until two girls approached the table.
The two girls, named Olivia and Mia, stopped their conversation as there wasn't enough room for the two of them to sit down comfortably. Kenton stopped eating and looked up at them.
"Oh, I'm sorry, this isn't my usual table. I'll move to another one…" Kenton said as he got ready to pick up his tray to move to another table.
"Don't worry about it. Just scoot over a bit and there'll be plenty of room for the two of us." Mia said as Kenton nodded. It only took a couple of inches before the two girls wedged themselves at the table with Olivia quietly squeezed between Kenton and Mia.
"So, we still on for this afternoon?" Mia asked her best friend.
"Yeah, I'll show you some pictures from my trip." Olivia replied as she took a drink.
"Okay… how did you not get in trouble for missing Friday and yesterday?"
"The school. You remember how we would get reamed and reamed by Mrs. Hayes when we would miss a day of school without a doctor's excuse?"
Kenton sighed and quietly looked down at his tray at Mia's remark about his mother’s "legacy".
"Nothing was really said. So, what did I miss?" Olivia asked, moving on from Mia's remark.
"Drama club might be going away." Mia nonchalantly said as she continued stuffing her face.
"Yeah, Mr. Baltimore said that we need more people. It's just you, me, two other guys from the sixth grade, and that blonde guy who's kind of a jerk."
"How many more people do we need?"
"At least two, preferably three."
"What can we do to help?"
"Recruit more people, I guess."
"Who in the world would we even ask? Anyone that would want to be involved is already in the club."
"I dunno. Random victim? I could ask someone who's a cool person and wouldn't want us to be without our precious drama club. Someone like good ol' Kenton!" Mia replied as she reached behind Olivia to pat the boy on his shoulder. Kenton turned around to see both girls looking at him.
"What?" He asked as he blushed at the attention.
"You should join our drama club. We need people otherwise we're out of a job!" Mia enthusiastically said. Kenton glared at her in annoyance.
"What job? You're like, twelve or something."
"Twelve and eleven months. Bite me."
"Mia, please. We would appreciate it if you would consider giving it a try." Olivia graciously asked.
Kenton thought about the offer and the fact that there were two (or at least one) person who would appreciate his presence and would accept him without his knowledge of slopes, points, or any of that other whatnot. Plus, it would allow Mr. Baltimore to get another impression of him that didn't involve screwing up complex math terminology.
"When does the club meet? I have basketball practice in the afternoons for the rest of the month." Kenton asked, trying to see if there was a possibility that he could work it into his busy schedule.
"Friday mornings before. However, we are having an extra meeting next Thursday as we're figuring out what play we're going to make the school suffer through."
Kenton thought about it. Math was the first class of the day, so at the very least he would be alert enough when first period rolled around.
"Yeah, I'm down for that."
"Oh, that's wonderful! Thank you so much!" Olivia exclaimed as Mia smiled and gave a thumbs-up. Kenton smiled back before taking his tray and leaving the table.
"Well, that's half of the problem solved right there." Mia said as Olivia moved over to occupy the freed room created by Kenton's absence.
"I'm kind of glad that we got Kenton. He seems nice enough and he's kind of cute." Olivia said as she rearranged her tray and drink. That remark was enough to make Mia almost drop her fork.
"Yeah, I've known him as far back as I can remember. I've never really noticed how cute he is, however." Mia mumbled as she fidgeted with her food.
The two girls ate their food in peace and continued with their day. When school got out, Mia found herself standing in the hallway waiting for Olivia to get down from her locker on another floor.
"Excuse me, can I get to that?" a voice said to Mia, snapping her out of her end-of-day brain haze.
"Oh, my bad." She said as she stepped to the side to let him get to the drinking fountain that she was blocking.
"Hey, uh… Elias, right?" she asked the boy as he got back up from getting a drink.
"We're looking for someone to join the drama club. They meet on Friday mornings; would you be interested?"
"Uh… well, you see..."
"Please? I can see from your binder that you're big on fantasy stuff. I think you'll have fun."
"Oh, you're not free on Friday mornings?"
Elias looked around and thought for a second before getting a look of determination.
"I'll do it."
"You're so awesome! Thank you!" She cried out in excitement as she grabbed his free hand and gave it a shake.
"Well… see you then." Elias awkwardly said as he took off down the hallway as Olivia approached.
"Problem solved." Mia boastfully said.
"Oh, the drama club problem?" Olivia asked as she turned around to see exactly who Mia was talking to. Mia confirmed with a smile and an enthusiastic nod.
"Good job. On to my house?" Olivia said as she patted her best friend on the back with a smile.
Forty minutes later, Mia couldn't help but yawn as she laid back on Olivia's bed as a slideshow concluded on the large television that Olivia was casting photos from her phone.
"And this is me at the bakery with my cousin Toby."
"Oh, this is interesting." Mia said as genuinely as she could fake. Olivia could pick up on this and wanted to "pester" her best friend to keep her sarcasm in line.
"You think so? Well, we could visit it with the power of the internet!" she said as she picked up her laptop and turned it on. A click on the remote caused the television to show the desktop of the computer. Olivia opened the web browser and typed into the address bar and a few clicks later they were on a virtual tour of the bakery in question. For some reason, this was enough to get Mia's upmost attention.
"Huh?!" she said as she excitedly sat up. Olivia smirked as she "walked" around the bakery and panned the camera on screen to look at the décor on the wall.
"Are you really walking through this place?!"
"Mia, do you see people walking around?"
"Uh… maybe they're closed?"
"It's a snapshot, Mia. Or rather, a series of snapshots."
"Can you go anywhere with that?"
"Well, almost anywhere. See, we can go to our town." Olivia replied as she typed into the search bar. Mia just about jumped off the bed when she saw the camera pan down to their hometown at the street level.
"This is amazing! We walked past there on our way here!" Mia cried out as she pointed to the screen.
"See, there's even the abandoned building that's next to the gas station."
"Oh, someone told me that Mrs. Hayes is going to open a restaurant there!"
"That's a new one."
"This is amazing, Olivia. We can go ANYWHERE! What's next? Niagara Falls? San Francisco? The Grand Canyon? WE COULD EVEN GO TO ALASKA!"
Olivia leaned back with concerned eyes and said, "How much sugar have you had today, Mia?"
In the meantime, an older looking “beater” car approached the only bank in the small Oregon town with the intent of parking…