Last week we announced that We’re Done by Judy Irwin is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category: over 250 free titles, over 500 quality 99-centers, and hundreds more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!
Now we’re back to offer a free Kids Corner excerpt, and if you aren’t among those who have downloaded this one already, you’re in for a treat!
by Judy Irwin
What if it turns out that YOU’RE the bully – and you didn’t know it?
Up until now, life has been good for 13-year-old Luke. He’s good at sports, attractive, and he’s a big wheel at Heyworth Academy, his private school. He likes to tease, and poke fun at the other kids, but that’s just because he likes having fun. But things start to fall apart, six weeks into eighth grade, when Luke commits an act of ‘goofing around’ that ends up costing him his best friend and his beloved private school.
After he’s expelled, Luke transfers to his local school, Carlyle. Now, he’s on the outside looking in. His looks, and background (not to mention his Heyworth hoodie), make him stand out, and the tough guys zero in on him right away.
The upside-down world that Luke finds himself in at Carlyle gives him a whole new way of looking at things. Can he recover from losing his school, and his best friend, and find new friends and a way to fit in at Carlyle?
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
We’re Done, by Judy Irwin (excerpt for Kindle Nation)
Luke Mitchell never thought of himself as a bully. Sure, he liked to tease, and poke fun at other kids, but that’s because he liked having fun. Most of the kids seemed to like the attention. And if some people didn’t like it, well, they were just too sensitive.
That’s how Luke saw it. That is, that’s how he saw it right up until everything fell apart, six weeks into eighth grade.
Luke had been at Heyworth Academy since kindergarten. His sister was a junior at Heyworth, in the 11th grade, and his parents were big supporters of the school. Luke always felt that Heyworth was ‘his’ school. He’d always felt comfortable there, and now that he was one of the strongest swimmers on the swim team, and captain of the school soccer team, he felt even more confident of his position at school.
His handsome looks didn’t hurt either. Luke had known he was good-looking since he’d been about five. That’s when his sister’s friends had started making a big deal of him, trying to comb his hair, always whispering about how cute he was. In every grade since kindergarten, the girls had always singled him out as ‘the’ guy to have a crush on. And Luke sure didn’t mind the attention.
In fact, in seventh grade, he’d grown his blond hair long, and that seemed to really ramp up the attention. Now, his sister’s friends looked at him in a different way, kind of like they were checking him out. Even the attitudes of the girls in his grade seemed to have changed. Now, instead of giggling at him in the class or the lunchroom, they’d started sending him texts, and even calling him on his cell phone after school.
“More fan mail,” said Luke, as he clicked his phone shut. He and Jon were kicking through the fall leaves piled up on the sidewalk, as they walked to Heyworth.
“You’re such a superstar,” said Jon. He smoothed down his straight black hair, and pushed his dark-rimmed glasses a little higher on his nose. ”Anything interesting?”
“Nope, just the usual,” said Luke. “Asking if I’m entering the Lip Synch Contest this afternoon.”
“Are you?” said Jon.
“Not a chance,” said Luke. “Isn’t it mostly for losers?”
“Well, my cousin Jillian is entering,” said Jon.
“Like I said — mostly for losers,” said Luke.
“Oh, don’t be so superior,” said Jon mildly. “Sports aren’t the only way to show your school spirit. Did you ever think that it’s only because you’re good at sports that you like playing them?”
“Huh?” said Luke, turning to look at Jon.
“Well, maybe if you were good at singing, or dancing, or something like that, you’d be doing it, instead of sneering,” said Jon. “Maybe you like sports, because you can do them well. I mean, have you ever tried to do something that you weren’t good at?”
“Nope,” said Luke. “If I can’t do something, then it’s all over. No point wasting time or effort.”
“Hmm. I guess you’re just lucky you’re good at something, then, otherwise you’d be doing a lot of sitting on your couch,” said Jon.
“What can I say? I guess you’re right,” said Luke, and he grinned at Jon.
Luke and Jon had known each other for years. They’d met at Heyworth, in the third grade, when Jon’s dad had been transferred to the city. That year, they’d bonded over a shared love of video games, soccer and the Bone series of graphic novels. In the fourth grade, Jon’s parents had split up, and he’d gone through a rough couple of months. He’d spent a lot of time at Luke’s, that year, and they’d been close friends ever since.
The boys were approaching Heyworth. The school was two stories high, covered in red brick. In front, there was a low brick wall, with a bronzed metal plaque attached on the front side, that said Heyworth Academy – the Home of Academic Excellence. A line of cars and SUVs moved slowly up the school driveway, dropping kids one-by-one at the front doors to the school.
Jon stepped off the sidewalk onto the road, where someone had pushed a big pile of leaves right next to the curb, and he kicked a shower of leaves toward Luke.
“Watch it, dude!” cried Luke. He stepped onto the road too, and kicked leaves back at Jon. “Right back at ya!”
A car turning into the school driveway honked at the boys, and they stepped back onto the sidewalk.
“Hey, how’s your mom?” said Jon, leaning down to brush leaves off his pants. “My dad said she’s kind of depressed, or something?’
Luke picked leaf fragments from his navy blue Heyworth blazer. “Yeah, that’s what my dad is saying. But she doesn’t seem sad, to me — just sort of out of it. She just sleeps all the time. I mean, she’s always kind of done her own thing. But now she’s kind of checked out. I don’t really know what to do — or if there’s anything I can do, to help her. Anyway, I – oh hey, there’s Artie!”
A short boy wearing a ball cap was getting out of a minivan pulled up in front of the school.
“Artie, my man!” called Luke. “Pizza for dinner last night?”
The short boy looked over at Luke. “Huh? What are you talking about?”
“Well, you got some on your chin,” said Luke, and laughed.
The boy frowned, and turned toward the school doors.
“Nice,” said Jon. “You’re just lucky you’ve got such a peaches and cream complexion. It’s not Artie’s fault that he’s got acne.”
“Of course it’s not his fault,” said Luke. “But since he does have it, we can have a little fun with it, can’t we?”
“I guess,” said Jon. The boys had reached the bottom of the steps leading to the main doors of the school. Hanging above the double wooden entrance doors was a large banner that read: Welcome to School Spirit Day! Go Heyworth!
“Yahoo, Spirit Day,” said Luke, as the boys walked up the steps.
“Oh come on, you know you enjoy it,” said Jon, as he pulled open the heavy wooden door. “Anyway, I’ll see you at the Lip Synch Contest. I’m going early to help Jill get set up. Save me a seat, and I’ll meet you once she’s ready.”
That day, classes stopped at noon, so that the school spirit activities could begin. The Lip Synch Contest was held at the end of the afternoon, after all the other activities (classroom decorating, tape-a-kid-to-the-wall contest, and staff against kids soccer game) were done. It was the grand finale of School Spirit Day.
Luke made sure to save a seat in the gym for Jon. The stands were crowded, with kids jostling to find seats to watch the show. “Hey, watch it!” said Luke, to a kid who’d lost his balance in the row behind, and leaned against him as he steadied himself. Just before the contest started, Jon rushed from backstage to join Luke.
“Wow, Jill’s really nervous,” said Jon. “This is her first time, and she’s practically crying.”
“Oh, she’ll be fine,” said Luke.
“Well, she’s only nine,” said Jon. “I hope she does OK. There’s Mr. Kennedy. I guess it’s time to start.”
Mr. Kennedy was the principal at Heyworth. He stood on the small stage, and spoke into a microphone.
“Welcome to the last, but most exciting, event at School Spirit Day at Heyworth!” he called out. The kids in the gym cheered back at him. “Go Heyworth! This is what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s been an awesome afternoon. Please put your hands together for the entrants in this year’s Heyworth Lip Synch Extravaganza!”
The audience cheered even more loudly, and the contest began. The first performers were kids from kindergarten, and Jon and Luke nudged each other and giggled as they watched three tiny girls dance their way through Baby by Justin Beiber.
When it was the fourth-graders turn, Jon turned to Luke. “OK, now it’s Jill,” he whispered. “I’m feeling nervous myself. She’s doing Born This Way, by Lady Gaga. I hope she does OK.”
Jill walked slowly onto the stage. She wore black jeans and a hoodie, zipped up tight. She moved to the center of the stage, and raised her hands high above her head, crossed at the wrists. She took a deep breath, stared straight ahead, and waited for the song to start. When it didn’t, she looked sideways at the kids operating the CD player, to the left of the stage. They were whispering to each other, and pushing buttons madly. A few kids in the audience giggled, but Jill held her hands high and waited.
As the pause lengthened, Luke nudged Jon with his shoulder, and grinned. “Watch this,” he whispered to Jon. He cupped his hands on either side of his mouth, and leaned forward. “Hey,” he called. “Hey, you suck!”
His voice boomed through the gym. The kids trying to get the CD to play stopped pushing buttons and stared. Jill’s mouth opened in a gasp, and her hands slowly dropped down to her sides. One hand rose up to cover her mouth. Even from the stands Luke could see her eyes fill with tears. She turned and walked off the stage. Jon rose from his seat and pushed past Luke to reach the aisle. “Totally offside,” he said, looking at Luke, and he walked quickly down the steps to reach the gym floor.
Luke looked around the waiting area in front of Mr. Kennedy’s office. The door to Mr. Kennedy’s office was shut, and he could hear a low murmur of voices from inside.
“Have a seat, Luke,” said Mrs. Enderby, the school secretary, sitting at her desk behind the counter.
Luke sat down in one of the three chairs facing the counter. He wasn’t sure what was going on. He’d been called down to the office in the middle of the morning, on the day after School Spirit Day. The day before, after Jill had left the stage, the kids working the CD player had finally figured it out, and the Lip Synch Contest had resumed. Neither Jill nor Jon had returned to the gym, though, and Luke hadn’t seen Jon yet that morning.
Luke leafed through an issue of National Geographic while he waited. He wasn’t feeling nervous, or anything — after all, he’d only been goofing around. And he’d been called to the principal’s office before. That time it had been about a kid in the sixth grade, called Eddie Tompkins. Eddie was a quiet kid, and he had a stammer. Luke had started calling him ‘T-t-t-ommykins’, just for fun. The other kids all thought it was funny, and Luke figured that Eddie did too — or else why did he kind of smile when Luke did it? But for some reason Eddie had told his parents, and they’d talked to Mr. Kennedy, who called Luke down to his office to talk.
After Luke had explained that he’d only called Eddie a name for fun, and that he’d thought Eddie himself thought it was funny, Mr. Kennedy had seemed to think it was OK. He told Luke to take it easy on the younger kids, talked a bit about the zero-tolerance policy against bullying, and sent him back to class with a pat on the back.
Oh, and there’d also been the time that Luke had tripped Abby Watson, and she’d needed stitches on her chin, but that had been an accident. “Could’ve happened to anyone,” Luke had told Mr. Kennedy. That time, Mr. Kennedy had been quite stern, and he’d invited Luke’s parents in for a meeting to discuss it. At the meeting, he talked again about the school policies, but in the end he’d seemed to accept Luke’s explanation.
So Luke didn’t feel worried as he waited outside the principal’s office. More like he was curious, to see what the fallout would be. School spirit was about having fun, he thought. How could anyone get into trouble for trying to make people laugh?
When Mr. Kennedy opened the door to his office Luke was surprised to see his mother sitting inside.
“Please come in, Luke,” said Mr. Kennedy, and he waved at the empty chair next to Luke’s mother. “Take a seat.”
“Mom, what are you doing here?” said Luke. He went into Mr. Kennedy’s office, and sat next to his mom. Luke reached out his hand and touched his mother’s arm. “What’s wrong? Are you OK? Should we call Dad?”
His mom looked upset. Her eyes were red, and she held a handkerchief rolled up into a ball. From time to time she dabbed the handkerchief at her eyes.
“Luke, this is serious,” she said, and looked at Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy cleared his throat. “Luke, what happened yesterday during the Lip Synch Contest was not appropriate. In fact — ”
Luke looked at his mother. “So it’s not — ” He turned to look at Mr. Kennedy. “OK, now I get it.” He pushed his hair behind his ears. “I was just trying to be funny,” he said. “How can that be wrong? I mean, I’m sorry that Jill was upset. If you want, I’ll apologize — ”
“Luke, please let me continue,” said Mr. Kennedy. “As you know, we introduced a new anti-bullying policy two years ago. We decided that, because we wanted Heyworth to be a safe, nurturing place for all students, that we’d have a zero-tolerance approach when it came to bullying.”
“I know,” said Luke. “You’d have to be a moron NOT to know about it. We hear about it all the time — zero tolerance, three strikes and you’re out, yada yada, yada. I know all that. But having fun isn’t the same thing as bullying — at least, not the last time I looked. I mean, we’re kids. We’re going to goof around. So I’m not sure what you’re saying.”
“Luke, this is what I’m saying,” said Mr. Kennedy. “This is your third strike. I’m very sorry to do this, but I am asking you to leave Heyworth.”
Luke’s mom raised her handkerchief to her mouth, and she let out a muffled sob. “Luke, you see this is serious,” she said.
“This is nuts,” said Luke. “I’m not going to leave Heyworth. This is my school. Mr. Kennedy, you can’t do this. I’m on the swim team. I’m captain of the soccer team. And you know my parents are really involved in this school. Mom, don’t you agree? This is not possible.”
“Luke, I am very sorry. But this is the school’s final decision. I have talked it out with your mother, and she understands our position,” said Mr. Kennedy.
“Where’s Dad?” said Luke. “Why isn’t he here? Mom, Dad would never let this happen.”
“Luke, I talked to your dad on the phone this morning. You know he’s in New York, and he won’t be back until Friday,” said Luke’s mom. “Mr. Kennedy has talked to your dad too. Dad’s upset, but he realizes that Mr. Kennedy is doing what he has to do. You remember when we came in and talked with Mr. Kennedy the first time, when the Watson girl cut her chin, and that issue with Ed Thompson.”
“Tompkins,” said Luke.
“Well, whoever,” said Luke’s mom. “Mr. Kennedy explained it to you then. ’Three strikes and you’re out’, he said. This is the third strike, and there’s nothing we can do. In fact, we all signed the anti-bullying agreement, at the beginning of the year. Don’t you remember?”
“But Mom, this isn’t bullying,” said Luke. “It was just goofing around! Don’t you get it? I was just teasing Jill. I didn’t mean to upset her. Do you think maybe she’s just a little too sensitive? I mean, there’s two sides to every story. I was just making a joke, and I think her nerves maybe got the best of her. Has anyone talked to Jon? Did he tell you how nervous she was? I think that’s what really upset her. Not what I said, it was her own nerves!”
“We did talk to Jon,” said Mr. Kennedy. “And, several others who witnessed what happened. Luke, I understand that this is upsetting for you, and a disappointment for your mother. Your family has been really supportive of the school, and that makes this even harder. But the decision has been made. You are leaving Heyworth, as of today. I’ll accompany you to your locker now, and you can take all of your belongings with you. Mrs. Mitchell, you are welcome to come with us to Luke’s locker, or you may wish to wait for him outside.”
“I’ll wait outside,” said Luke’s mom. “Luke, I’ll be in the parking lot. Mr. Kennedy, when my husband returns from his business trip, I’m sure he’ll also wish to speak with you further.” She stuck her hand toward Mr. Kennedy, and the two shook hands. Then she left the office and walked toward the main doors of the school.
“Well, Luke, let’s go,” said Mr. Kennedy. He got up from his desk and walked into the waiting area in front of his office. “Mrs. Enderby, do you have a bag that we might use?”
Luke stared at the wall behind Mr. Kennedy’s desk. “There’s no way,” he muttered. “This is impossible.”
“Come on, Luke, let’s get this over with,” said Mr. Kennedy. “Let’s walk.”
In a daze, Luke stood. He turned and followed Mr. Kennedy out of the office. His brain felt stunned, and empty. He took the plastic bag that Mrs. Enderby held out to him, and walked behind Mr. Kennedy down the hall.
After Luke and his mom drove home, Luke went upstairs to his room. He didn’t feel like chatting, and it didn’t seem as though his mom did, either. She’d quietly said, “Luke, let’s talk later,” and disappeared into her own bedroom, closing the door softly behind her.
Luke sat on his bed, and looked around his room. The pennant that he’d won last year, when the Heyworth relay team took first place at the regional swim meet, was pinned to the wall above his bed. Two other pennants, marking regional wins for the two years before, were pinned to the bulletin board above his desk.
On the bulletin board were a bunch of photos, their edges starting to curl. One showed a group of guys in swimsuits, fists in the air, big grins on all their faces. That one had been taken right after the regionals win. Luke was right in the middle of the group, with his arms around Jon on one side and Artie Smythe on the other. On the way home on the bus, they’d been so excited that they just couldn’t keep quiet. Mr. Aronson, the swim coach, had kept yelling for them to settle down, but they’d just ignored him, and in the end Mr. Aronson had just laughed and let them carry on.
Another was of group of kids, wearing navy blue Heyworth hoodies and matching hats and gloves, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. That one was taken during the seventh grade trip to Washington, D.C. Luke remembered how exciting it had been, to be away from home without his parents, and how much fun he and Jon and the other guys had had, roaming the city in their Heyworth uniforms. He and Jon had shared a room with Artie and Aiden North, and the four had talked and laughed almost all night long.
One of Luke’s favorites was of him and Jon, up at Green Mountain. They were holding their snowboards in front of them, making the devil’s horn sign with their hands, and grinning into the sun. Luke remembered that day — it was one of the best boarding days they’d had last year. Perfect temperature, lots of snow, and he and Jon had had a blast boarding. When the lifts had shut down, they’d even played in the hike-up park for another hour, reluctant to have to leave the hill at all. His dad had waited patiently for them in the clubhouse, saying they should take their time, that perfect days like that didn’t come along too often. On the way home they’d stopped for burgers, and all three had dissolved into laughter when Luke’s dad had got mustard all over his chin.
A pompom, from the top of a Heyworth winter hat, was also pinned to the bulletin board. Tommykins, Luke thought, and he smiled, remembering the day he’d snatched Eddie’s hat at lunch, and ripped the pompom from it. What a laugh that had generated – the kids had talked about Eddie, and the hat, all that afternoon, mostly because Luke had pinned the pompom to his blazer, like a carnation, and worn it to class for the rest of the day.
Another photo showed Luke and Jon, grinning into the camera. They were sitting on the low brick wall in front of Heyworth, arms about each other’s shoulders, squinting into the sun. This picture was older. In it, Luke and Jon looked about nine or 10. Luke couldn’t remember when it had been taken. Since Jon had come to Heyworth in the third grade, it seemed that he and Luke had always been together. Luke couldn’t recall who he’d spent time with before Jon. He and Jon had just clicked, in a way that he hadn’t with any of the boys up until then, and they’d been best friends ever since.
Luke stretched out on his bed, and kicked off his shoes. Heyworth had been part of his life since kindergarten, so that made it a little more than seven years that he’d been a part of the school. His friends were at Heyworth, his sports were at Heyworth, his sister was at Heyworth. His best friend was there. And his parents were huge supporters of the school. It just wasn’t possible, thought Luke. There’s no way he could be kicked out of the school.
Probably Mr. Kennedy just wanted to scare him. The more Luke thought about this possibility, the more it made sense to him. Mr. Kennedy had to show that he meant business when it came to bullying, because of the anti-bullying policies. So he had to be seen to be taking a firm stand. Luke bet that, after a few days, he’d quietly reverse his decision, and everything would be like it was before.
In fact, Mr. Kennedy was probably thinking he could change his mind, and be persuaded to let Luke come back to Heyworth when he met with Luke’s dad. That way, he could let it seem that he was influenced by talking to Luke’s dad, when really it had been his plan all along to let Luke back into Heyworth.
The more Luke thought about it, the more it made sense. Mr. Kennedy just couldn’t, in real life, take such a drastic step. It was one thing to have an anti-bullying policy, but it was another thing to kick a kid like him out of school. Well, he could see it if he’d committed a real crime, like murder, but for something that could be classified as just having fun? No way. Like he’d told Mr. Kennedy, he’d only been goofing around.
All he had to do was wait for his father to come home, have his meeting with Mr. Kennedy, and things would be right back on track. At most, he’d miss a few days of school.
Luke took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Now that he’d figured it out, he felt a lot better. Rolling onto his side, he closed his eyes, and soon he fell asleep.
When Luke woke up, he was confused. Why was he sleeping in his clothes, while it was still light outside? It took him a minute to remember what had happened — the meeting with Mr. Kennedy, and being asked to leave Heyworth. He felt a wave of unease, and his stomach tightened, but then he remembered that he’d figured things out. He glanced at the clock radio beside his bed. It was 3:17 in the afternoon.
“Perfect timing,” he said. He rolled off the bed, and grabbed his blazer and his shoes. Passing his mom’s bedroom door, he tapped softly. There was a pause, and then his mom spoke quietly from inside the room.
“What is it?”
“Mom, are you OK?” said Luke.
“Oh, I’m fine, just a bit tired,” said Luke’s mom, through the closed door.
“You don’t want to talk to me?”
“Let’s just talk later,” said his mom.
“You don’t want to yell at me, or anything?”
“Luke, I’m just tired today. I’ll see you at dinner.”
“OK.” Luke leaned against the bedroom door. He didn’t say anything for a minute. Then, he took a deep breath and straightened.
“I’m going over to Jon’s. I’ll see you later,” he said.
“OK, I’ll see you in a bit,” his mom said, so quietly that Luke could barely hear her.
Jon’s house was about 20 minutes away from Luke’s. On his way there, Luke kicked through the leaves that littered the sidewalk. It was starting to get cold, and he rubbed his hands together to warm them. The sun was shining, but it was already low in the sky, and Luke thought it wouldn’t be long now until the first snow fell. Yahoo — almost time for snowboarding, he thought. He reminded himself to ask Jon about snowboarding for this season — would they get season passes for Winter Valley like last year, or switch to Green Mountain, which was a better hill, but further away?
Of the two, Luke was the better snowboarder, but he’d been coaching Jon for the past couple of years, and he was really improving. This season, they’d be able to tackle all the runs together, even the steepest ones, for the first time.
Luke went up the steps quickly, and knocked on Jon’s front door. The house looked empty, but Luke knew that Jon mostly hung out in the family room at the back of the house. Sure enough, when Luke peered in through the beveled glass window set into the front door, he could see that the lights were on in the kitchen and family room, at the end of the hall leading from the front door.
No one seemed to be coming, though, so he knocked again, more loudly this time. After a minute he saw Jon appear in the doorway from the family room, and walk toward the front door. Jon gave a tiny wave when he saw that it was Luke.
“Hey, dude, what’s up?” said Luke, when Jon opened the door. He stepped into the hall, and kicked off his shoes. “Hey, did you miss me today? You’ll never guess what happened.”
“Hi, Luke,” said Jon. “Come on in.” He turned, and headed back down the hall. Luke followed him into the family room.
“What’s going on?” said Luke, grabbing the TV remote and throwing it from hand to hand. He made as if to throw it at Jon. Jon put up a hand to catch it, but lowered his hand when Luke started throwing it from hand to hand again.
“Did you hear about me and Kennedy?” said Luke. “Did you hear the big news?”
“Yeah,” said Jon. “I heard.” He rubbed his chin.
“So I’m kicked out. Can you believe it? Well, I don’t think I’m really kicked out. See, I think it’s just a strategy, to scare me. Like ‘scared straight’, you know?”
Luke sat on the sofa, and slouched down, with his legs stretched out in front of him.
“It’s part of the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ thing. But, there’s no way that Kennedy could really do it. My dad would kill him. I mean, my parents have practically run Heyworth for years. So there’s no way that I could be kicked out.”
He pulled over a footstool, and crossed his feet on top of it. “So what’s everybody saying at school? Are they saying how crazy it is, and how it really can’t be true?”
“Well, they were talking about it, for sure,” said Jon. “No one’s ever been kicked out of Heyworth before. No one even really knew that it was possible.” He sat down in an arm chair, and looked at Luke. “Mr. Kennedy sent a note to all the teachers, and it was announced right after lunch.”
“What did they say? Did they say I was kicked out, or just suspended?”
“They said you had been asked to leave, and that you wouldn’t be returning. It sounded pretty clear to me. Where did you get the idea that it wasn’t real?”
“Well, come on,” said Luke, knocking the footstool over on its side, and then rolling it back and forth with his feet. “We’re talking about me, here. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty important to the school. Think of the swim team, think of soccer, and think of my parents.”
“I guess,” said Jon. He stared at the floor, and rubbed his elbow.
“No guessing!” said Luke. “You know it, dude!” He grabbed one of the sofa cushions and lobbed it at Jon.
The cushion glanced off of Jon’s shoulder. He pushed it off the arm of the chair to the floor, and turned to look at Luke.
“I don’t know if it’s real, or fake,” he said. “I hope for your sake that you’re right. It’s not good for your record to get kicked out of a school.” He swallowed, and took a deep breath.
“Luke, what you did was really mean,” he said. “Jill’s still really upset. At first, she was so upset that she couldn’t eat, or stop crying. You know she was really scared about doing the Lip Synch. It was a big deal for her. Now she feels like she’s been humiliated.”
“Aw, come on. I was just teasing!” said Luke. “Look, why don’t we call her, and I’ll apologize. Don’t you think she’s being a bit too sensitive, though? You know she was feeling nervous. Don’t you think her nerves just got the better of her?”
Jon sighed again, and chewed on a thumbnail. “You know, all these years, we’ve been really good friends. But I haven’t always agreed with the things you’ve done. I guess I just went along with things, because I thought you bugged people just to have fun. I never thought you were intentionally being mean. Even with the things you say to me — that JonWong thing, or telling me I run funny — ”
“What are you saying?” said Luke. He sat up straighter, and he carefully set the footstool straight on the floor. “I’m not getting you. What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m not really saying it clearly,” said Jon. “I mean, all along I thought you really did mean well. Just to have fun. But now — I’m seeing it differently. I’m not sure how anyone could think that yelling ‘you suck’ at a nervous nine-year-old, in front of a gym full of people, could be anything but mean. This is a big deal. My uncle and aunt were here yesterday, they’re all upset, they had a big meeting with Mr. Kennedy. They just can’t understand it.”
“But I said, I’ll call Jillian, I’ll say I’m sorry,” said Luke. “Come on, you’re acting like someone died here. It’s me. It’s Luke here! If you don’t like the way I am, then why do you always laugh? We always have fun, don’t we? Aren’t you being a little two-faced here? I mean, most of the time you think I’m funny. Just because Jill is upset doesn’t mean that I’m the bad guy. It means that she’s hyper-sensitive. Come on Jon, don’t be a goof about it. I’ll phone, she’ll be OK. And then after my dad meets with Mr. Kennedy, it’ll all be over, I’ll be back at school, it’ll be you and me, having a blast as usual.”
He leaned over to pick up the remote.
“Come on, it’s getting all moody in here. Let’s turn on the TV.” He clicked the remote, and the boys stared at the screen. For a minute, they were silent, as they listened to Dr. Phil reprimand one of his guests for doing something wrong. Then Jon turned to face Luke.
“We’re done,” he said. He cleared his throat, and spoke louder, so he could be heard above Dr. Phil. “I’m really sorry, but we’re done. I just can’t be friends with you anymore.” He stared at Luke. “I’m sorry, man. I just — I feel — ”
Luke kept his eyes on the screen. “Now who’s being a loser,” he said. He clicked the remote to change the channel to MTV. He turned the volume up louder.
He sat for a minute, looking at the screen. Jon stared at Luke.
“Luke, I’m sorry,” Jon said again.
Luke threw the remote on the couch and got to his feet.
“You know, maybe it’s a family thing,” he said, not looking at Jon. “Maybe it’s because you’re related. Because you suck. You suck too, dude.” He turned and walked toward the front door. ”You know, I never really liked you,” he said loudly, so he could be heard above the noise of the TV. He put his feet into his sneakers without tying the laces. Then he opened the front door, and pulled it shut behind him. “Yeah, I never really liked you anyway,” he said, glancing back at the door, and then he walked slowly down the front steps.
“But — ”
“No ‘buts’,” said Luke’s dad. “This is real. You have been kicked out of Heyworth. There is no way to fix this. If I could fix it, I would, believe me. This is not what I had planned for your education. But now there’s nothing we can do.”
Luke and his dad were sitting in the kitchen, after supper. Luke’s dad had flown home from New York that afternoon, cutting his business trip short.
“But Dad, I’m telling you. This kid is being way too sensitive. It’s not fair that I’m being blamed for Jill’s nerves.”
“Luke, we’ve been over this. This is your third strike. Weren’t you paying attention when Mr. Kennedy explained all this to you? This doesn’t really come as a shock to me, so I’m not sure why it’s a surprise to you. I’m disappointed, that’s for sure, but I’m not surprised.” Luke’s dad took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes.
“Well, what am I supposed to do now?” said Luke. He picked up his glass of cola and took a swig. “Do I just take this year off, and go back to Heyworth next September?”
“Luke, I don’t think this is sinking in,” said his dad. “You’re not going back to Heyworth. Ever. Finito. Kaput. Whatever it is that you kids say. You’re finished with Heyworth. You’re going to have to enroll in a new school.”
“A new school? But where? What school? Heyworth is the only private school around here.”
“That’s right. And it’s no longer an option,” said Luke’s dad.
“OK, now I’m really not getting you,” said Luke. “Where do you expect me to go?”
“You’re going to go to Carlyle Middle School. I’ve already spoken to the principal. You’re going to start there on Monday.”
Luke stared at his dad. “You’re kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding. That school is full of criminals and delinquents. I’m not going there. I’d rather drop out than go there.”
Luke’s dad sighed, and rubbed his eyes again. “Luke, dropping out isn’t an option. Going to another private school isn’t an option. And going back to Heyworth is clearly not an option. Therefore — you’re going to Carlyle. You’re going to go on Monday. And you’re going to make a real effort there.”
“I won’t,” said Luke, pushing his hair behind his ears. He pushed back his chair and stood up. “I’m telling you, I won’t go. I’ll drop out and turn into some kind of homeless person before I’ll go there. This isn’t fair.” He walked to the door to the kitchen, and turned to face his dad.
“You know, I’m really disappointed in you. I thought you’d come in and talk to Mr. Kennedy, and make this go away. You’re supposed to be the guy who can fix anything. I was counting on you, and I think you let me down.”
His dad pushed back his chair, and looked at Luke. “Luke, it’s nice that you think of me in that way. But I’m not a superhero. I can’t change this. I’m not sure I would change it even if I could. This is real life. You’ve done something, something wrong, and as a result there is a major consequence. Maybe there haven’t been enough consequences for you, maybe your mother and I have been too easy.” He stretched his legs out in front of him, and crossed his arms over his chest.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the same with your sister. Mr. Kennedy wanted to speak to me about her behavior, too. Apparently she’s posting things on Facebook about some other girl. I’m not sure why that’s a problem, but according to Mr. Kennedy it is. I’ve never been on this Facebook, so I’m not sure how you post on it anyway. But I’ve got to speak to Monica too, when she gets home.”
“Well, I don’t know anything about that,” said Luke, standing in the doorway. “Look, I’m going to go up to my room.”
“OK, pal,” said his dad. “I’ll see you later.”
In his room, Luke sat down at his desk and opened his laptop. Carlyle, he thought. Unbelievable. Things were definitely going from bad to worse. He powered up his computer and typed ‘carlyle middle school’ into Google. He clicked to open the school’s home page. There was a photo of the school at the top of the page. It was a low, long building, just one story high and covered in yellowish brick. In front of its main doors was a driveway, and you could see a sidewalk that went off to the right, out of the picture.
There were white letters, attached to the front of the building, next to the main door, that read Carlyle Middl School. Luke guessed that the ‘e’ missing from ‘Middle’ was lying in the shrubbery beneath the school name. The ‘C’ on Carlyle was crooked, too, making the whole place look kind of run down. Luke looked closely at the shrubbery in front. It looked like it needed a good pruning.
His email program gave a ‘ping’, and Luke felt his heart lurch. Was it from Jon? He’d tried not to think about what Jon had said. Surely Jon would get over it, and things would be just the same as they’d been before – at least, the same except that Luke would no longer be at Heyworth. But Jon had never been this way to Luke before.
He’d never seemed to react at all to Luke’s jokes. He’d just smile, or sometimes tell Luke to knock it off, but never with any anger or emotion. He was always easygoing. This had been something different, that’s for sure. But maybe that’s what the email was? Luke clicked on his email program to see. Nope. It was a reminder that his subscription for computer protection was about to expire. Luke sighed. He pushed his chair back from his desk, and rubbed the back of his neck. He heard footsteps in the hall, and he opened his bedroom door and looked out.
“Hey, Monica,” he said. His sister Monica was 16, and looked a lot like Luke with long blond hair and greenish-blue eyes. She stopped outside of Luke’s door. “Way to go, bro,” she said. “Total fail. Like there’s going to be anything for you after Heyworth.”
“Nice,” said Luke. “Thanks for the support. I heard that you were in some kind of trouble, too. Dad told me.”
“What, that Facebook stuff?” said Monica. “It’s nothing. We were just fooling around, and Adelaide Simpson got all bent out of shape. She’s got to relax. It was just a joke! She should never have told Mr. Kennedy, anyway. Kim and I are going to make her life very unpleasant …. I’m afraid she’s made the mistake of waking the tiger …” Monica laughed, and walked toward her room. “Don’t worry, bro. You’ll have a great time at Carlyle. You’ll fit right in.” She laughed again, and closed her bedroom door behind her.
Luke backed into his room, and closed his door too. He looked at his computer again, to see if any emails had arrived, but there were none. He took his cell phone out of his pocket, and looked at its screen. Two texts from Charlotte Winston. He deleted them without reading either one. He typed a quick text to Artie:
Hey brother, what’s up? Miss me yet? – L
and clicked send.
Then, he closed his laptop, and sat back on his bed. He looked at his navy blue Heyworth blazer, hanging on the back of his desk chair. Then he looked down at his pants – tan dress pants, part of the Heyworth uniform. He’d worn these pants – or at least ones just like them – every day forever, it seemed. What would he wear to Carlyle?
He pulled open his bottom bureau drawer, and looked inside. Jeans would be best, he thought. Probably everyone wore jeans. He grabbed a pair and put them on his bed. He closed that drawer, and opened the one above. It was filled with Heyworth collared shirts. Nope, they weren’t going to work. He pulled out a white t-shirt from under the Heyworth shirts, and held it out in front of him. It said ‘Doncaster 5K’ on the front, but the size looked right. He set the t-shirt on top of the jeans. Next, he opened his closet, and rummaged through the clothes on hangers. He pulled out a dark blue hoodie, and placed it on the pile of clothes. OK, clothes all set, he thought.
What else would he need? He dumped the contents of his backpack onto his bed, swept them into his wastebasket, and put the empty backpack on top of the clothes. “Done,” he said, and sat down on the bed. He swung up his feet, put his hands behind his head, and thought about what might be waiting for him on Monday.