TITLE: The place you're supposed to laugh
GENRE: YA Contemporary
Chad Loudermilk was fourteen, and he was living in calamitous times.
Alone, he walked from the lab building to the gym. He was trailed by the sound of girls’ laughter. Not at you, he told himself, trying hard to believe it. He stared at his feet and kept moving. A few more steps of September sunlight before the cavernous gym.
Because the Palo Alto High School campus was composed of many small buildings, the walk between classes gave you a moment outdoors. The sun shone in its mellow northern Californian way: warm and temperate without being overbearing. For a moment you could soak up that easygoing sunshine, breathe the mentholated scent of eucalyptus on the air, and consider yielding to the palm trees beckoning toward the pool and fields. But you had seven minutes between classes; you had to grit your teeth and ignore those sweet lazy rays. You had to hump that backpack over to Brit Lit and not complain about it. Or in this case, trudge into the gym for the memorial assembly.
Inside, the bleachers were almost full. If this were an awards assembly or a rally for the football team, everyone would be talking and laughing. It would be easy for Chad to slip up the bleacher stairs, into a row near the top, without attracting attention. Even Chad himself would hardly notice his alone-ness, his lack of a clan to join.