Wonder, p.3

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Wonder
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  “No,” I said. It wasn’t my favorite subject on account of the fact that I don’t really have ears. Well, I do, but they don’t exactly look like normal ears.

  “Well, you may enjoy seeing the music room anyway,” said Mr. Tushman. “We have a very nice selection of percussion instruments.”

  “August, you’ve been wanting to learn to play the drums,” Mom said, trying to get me to look at her. But my eyes were covered by my bangs as I stared at a piece of old gum that was stuck to the bottom of Mr. Tushman’s desk.

  “Great! Okay, so why don’t you guys get going?” said Mr. Tushman. “Just be back here in …” He looked at Mom. “Half an hour, okay?”

  I think Mom nodded.

  “So, is that okay with you, August?” he asked me.

  I didn’t answer.

  “Is that okay, August?” Mom repeated. I looked at her now. I wanted her to see how mad I was at her. But then I saw her face and just nodded. She seemed more scared than I was.

  The other kids had started out the door, so I followed them.

  “See you soon,” said Mom, her voice sounding a little higher than normal. I didn’t answer her.

  The Grand Tour

  Jack Will, Julian, Charlotte, and I went down a big hallway to some wide stairs. No one said a word as we walked up to the third floor.

  When we got to the top of the stairs, we went down a little hallway full of lots of doors. Julian opened the door marked 301.

  “This is our homeroom,” he said, standing in front of the half-opened door. “We have Ms. Petosa. They say she’s okay, at least for homeroom. I heard she’s really strict if you get her for math, though.”

  “That’s not true,” said Charlotte. “My sister had her last year and said she’s totally nice.”

  “Not what I heard,” answered Julian, “but whatever.” He closed the door and continued walking down the hallway.

  “This is the science lab,” he said when he got to the next door. And just like he did two seconds ago, he stood in front of the half-opened door and started talking. He didn’t look at me once while he talked, which was okay because I wasn’t looking at him, either. “You won’t know who you have for science until the first day of school, but you want to get Mr. Haller. He used to be in the lower school. He would play this giant tuba in class.”

  “It was a baritone horn,” said Charlotte.

  “It was a tuba!” answered Julian, closing the door.

  “Dude, let him go inside so he can check it out,” Jack Will told him, pushing past Julian and opening the door.

  “Go inside if you want,” Julian said. It was the first time he looked at me.

  I shrugged and walked over to the door. Julian moved out of the way quickly, like he was afraid I might accidentally touch him as I passed by him.

  “Nothing much to see,” Julian said, walking in after me. He started pointing to a bunch of stuff around the room. “That’s the incubator. That big black thing is the chalkboard. These are the desks. These are chairs. Those are the Bunsen burners. This is a gross science poster. This is chalk. This is the eraser.”

  “I’m sure he knows what an eraser is,” Charlotte said, sounding a little like Via.

  “How would I know what he knows?” Julian answered. “Mr. Tushman said he’s never been to a school before.”

  “You know what an eraser is, right?” Charlotte asked me.

  I admit I was feeling so nervous that I didn’t know what to say or do except look at the floor.

  “Hey, can you talk?” asked Jack Will.

  “Yeah.” I nodded. I still really hadn’t looked at any of them yet, not directly.

  “You know what an eraser is, right?” asked Jack Will.

  “Of course!” I mumbled.

  “I told you there was nothing to see in here,” said Julian, shrugging.

  “I have a question …,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady. “Um. What exactly is homeroom? Is that like a subject?”

  “No, that’s just your group,” explained Charlotte, ignoring Julian’s smirk. “It’s like where you go when you get to school in the morning and your homeroom teacher takes attendance and stuff like that. In a way, it’s your main class even though it’s not really a class. I mean, it’s a class, but—”

  “I think he gets it, Charlotte,” said Jack Will.

  “Do you get it?” Charlotte asked me.

  “Yeah.” I nodded at her.

  “Okay, let’s get out of here,” said Jack Will, walking away.

  “Wait, Jack, we’re supposed to be answering questions,” said Charlotte.

  Jack Will rolled his eyes a little as he turned around.

  “Do you have any more questions?” he asked.

  “Um, no,” I answered. “Oh, well, actually, yes. Is your name Jack or Jack Will?”

  “Jack is my first name. Will is my last name.”

  “Oh, because Mr. Tushman introduced you as Jack Will, so I thought …”

  “Ha! You thought his name was Jackwill!” laughed Julian.

  “Yeah, some people call me by my first and last name,” Jack said, shrugging. “I don’t know why. Anyway, can we go now?”

  “Let’s go to the performance space next,” said Charlotte, leading the way out of the science room. “It’s very cool. You’ll like it, August.”

  The Performance Space

  Charlotte basically didn’t stop talking as we headed down to the second floor. She was describing the play they had put on last year, which was Oliver! She played Oliver even though she’s a girl. As she said this, she pushed open the double doors to a huge auditorium. At the other end of the room was a stage.

  Charlotte started skipping toward the stage. Julian ran after her, and then turned around halfway down the aisle.

  “Come on!” he said loudly, waving for me to follow him, which I did.

  “There were like hundreds of people in the audience that night,” said Charlotte, and it took me a second to realize she was still talking about Oliver! “I was so, so nervous. I had so many lines, and I had all these songs to sing. It was so, so, so, so hard!” Although she was talking to me, she really didn’t look at me much. “On opening night, my parents were all the way in back of the auditorium, like where Jack is right now, but when the lights are off, you can’t really see that far back. So I was like, ‘Where are my parents? Where are my parents?’ And then Mr. Resnick, our theater-arts teacher last year—he said: ‘Charlotte, stop being such a diva!’ And I was like, ‘Okay!’ And then I spotted my parents and I was totally fine. I didn’t forget a single line.”

  While she was talking, I noticed Julian staring at me out of the corner of his eye. This is something I see people do a lot with me. They think I don’t know they’re staring, but I can tell from the way their heads are tilted. I turned around to see where Jack had gone to. He had stayed in the back of the auditorium, like he was bored.

  “We put on a play every year,” said Charlotte.

  “I don’t think he’s going to want to be in the school play, Charlotte,” said Julian sarcastically.

  “You can be in the play without actually being ‘in’ the play,” Charlotte answered, looking at me. “You can do the lighting. You can paint the backdrops.”

  “Oh yeah, whoopee,” said Julian, twirling his finger in the air.

  “But you don’t have to take the theater-arts elective if you don’t want to,” Charlotte said, shrugging. “There’s dance or chorus or band. There’s leadership.”

  “Only dorks take leadership,” Julian interrupted.

  “Julian, you’re being so obnoxious!” said Charlotte, which made Julian laugh.

  “I’m taking the science elective,” I said.

  “Cool!” said Charlotte.

  Julian looked directly at me. “The science elective is supposably the hardest elective of all,” he said. “No offense, but if you’ve never, ever been in a school before, why do you think you’re suddenly going to be smart enough to take the s
cience elective? I mean, have you ever even studied science before? Like real science, not like the kind you do in kits?”

  “Yeah.” I nodded.

  “He was homeschooled, Julian!” said Charlotte.

  “So teachers came to his house?” asked Julian, looking puzzled.

  “No, his mother taught him!” answered Charlotte.

  “Is she a teacher?” Julian said.

  “Is your mother a teacher?” Charlotte asked me.

  “No,” I said.

  “So she’s not a real teacher!” said Julian, as if that proved his point. “That’s what I mean. How can someone who’s not a real teacher actually teach science?”

  “I’m sure you’ll do fine,” said Charlotte, looking at me.

  “Let’s just go to the library now,” Jack called out, sounding really bored.

  “Why is your hair so long?” Julian said to me. He sounded like he was annoyed.

  I didn’t know what to say, so I just shrugged.

  “Can I ask you a question?” he said.

  I shrugged again. Didn’t he just ask me a question?

  “What’s the deal with your face? I mean, were you in a fire or something?”

  “Julian, that’s so rude!” said Charlotte.

  “I’m not being rude,” said Julian, “I’m just asking a question. Mr. Tushman said we could ask questions if we wanted to.”

  “Not rude questions like that,” said Charlotte. “Besides, he was born like that. That’s what Mr. Tushman said. You just weren’t listening.”

  “I was so listening!” said Julian. “I just thought maybe he was in a fire, too.”

  “Geez, Julian,” said Jack. “Just shut up.”

  “You shut up!” Julian yelled.

  “Come on, August,” said Jack. “Let’s just go to the library already.”

  I walked toward Jack and followed him out of the auditorium. He held the double doors open for me, and as I passed by, he looked at me right in the face, kind of daring me to look back at him, which I did. Then I actually smiled. I don’t know. Sometimes when I have the feeling like I’m almost crying, it can turn into an almost-laughing feeling. And that must have been the feeling I was having then, because I smiled, almost like I was going to giggle. The thing is, because of the way my face is, people who don’t know me very well don’t always get that I’m smiling. My mouth doesn’t go up at the corners the way other people’s mouths do. It just goes straight across my face. But somehow Jack Will got that I had smiled at him. And he smiled back.

  “Julian’s a jerk,” he whispered before Julian and Charlotte reached us. “But, dude, you’re gonna have to talk.” He said this seriously, like he was trying to help me. I nodded as Julian and Charlotte caught up to us. We were all quiet for a second, all of us just kind of nodding, looking at the floor. Then I looked up at Julian.

  “The word’s ‘supposedly,’ by the way,” I said.

  “What are you talking about?”

  “You said ‘supposably’ before,” I said.

  “I did not!”

  “Yeah you did,” Charlotte nodded. “You said the science elective is supposably really hard. I heard you.”

  “I absolutely did not,” he insisted.

  “Whatever,” said Jack. “Let’s just go.”

  “Yeah, let’s just go,” agreed Charlotte, following Jack down the stairs to the next floor. I started to follow her, but Julian cut right in front of me, which actually made me stumble backward.

  “Oops, sorry about that!” said Julian.

  But I could tell from the way he looked at me that he wasn’t really sorry at all.

  The Deal

  Mom and Mr. Tushman were talking when we got back to the office. Mrs. Garcia was the first to see us come back, and she started smiling her shiny smile as we walked in.

  “So, August, what did you think? Did you like what you saw?” she asked.

  “Yeah.” I nodded, looking over at Mom.

  Jack, Julian, and Charlotte were standing by the door, not sure where to go or if they were still needed. I wondered what else they’d been told about me before they’d met me.

  “Did you see the baby chick?” Mom asked me.

  As I shook my head, Julian said: “Are you talking about the baby chicks in science? Those get donated to a farm at the end of every school year.”

  “Oh,” said Mom, disappointed.

  “But they hatch new ones every year in science,” Julian added. “So August will be able to see them again in the spring.”

  “Oh, good,” said Mom, eyeing me. “They were so cute, August.”

  I wished she wouldn’t talk to me like I was a baby in front of other people.

  “So, August,” said Mr. Tushman, “did these guys show you around enough or do you want to see more? I realize I forgot to ask them to show you the gym.”

  “We did anyway, Mr. Tushman,” said Julian.

  “Excellent!” said Mr. Tushman.

  “And I told him about the school play and some of the electives,” said Charlotte. “Oh no!” she said suddenly. “We forgot to show him the art room!”

  “That’s okay,” said Mr. Tushman.

  “But we can show it to him now,” Charlotte offered.

  “Don’t we have to pick Via up soon?” I said to Mom.

  That was our signal for my telling Mom if I really wanted to leave.

  “Oh, you’re right,” said Mom, getting up. I could tell she was pretending to check the time on her watch. “I’m sorry, everybody. I lost track of the time. We have to go pick up my daughter at her new school. She’s taking an unofficial tour today.” This part wasn’t a lie: that Via was checking out her new school today. The part that was a lie was that we were picking her up at the school, which we weren’t. She was coming home with Dad later.

  “Where does she go to school?” asked Mr. Tushman, getting up.

  “She’s starting Faulkner High School this fall.”

  “Wow, that’s not an easy school to get into. Good for her!”

  “Thank you,” said Mom, nodding. “It’ll be a bit of a schlep, though. The A train down to Eighty-Sixth, then the crosstown bus all the way to the East Side. Takes an hour that way but it’s just a fifteen-minute drive.”

  “It’ll be worth it. I know a couple of kids who got into Faulkner and love it,” said Mr. Tushman.

  “We should really go, Mom,” I said, tugging at her pocketbook.

  We said goodbye kind of quickly after that. I think Mr. Tushman was a little surprised that we were leaving so suddenly, and then I wondered if he would blame Jack and Charlotte, even though it was really only Julian who made me feel kind of bad.

  “Everyone was really nice,” I made sure to tell Mr. Tushman before we left.

  “I look forward to having you as a student,” said Mr. Tushman, patting my back.

  “Bye,” I said to Jack, Charlotte, and Julian, but I didn’t look at them—or look up at all—until I left the building.

  Home

  As soon as we had walked at least half a block from the school, Mom said: “So … how’d it go? Did you like it?”

  “Not yet, Mom. When we get home,” I said.

  The moment we got inside the house, I ran to my room and threw myself onto my bed. I could tell Mom didn’t know what was up, and I guess I really didn’t, either. I felt very sad and a tiny bit happy at the exact same time, kind of like that laughing-crying feeling all over again.

  My dog, Daisy, followed me into the room, jumped on the bed, and started licking me all over my face.

  “Who’s a good girlie?” I said in my Dad voice. “Who’s a good girlie?”

  “Is everything okay, sweetness?” Mom said. She wanted to sit down beside me but Daisy was hogging the bed. “Excuse me, Daisy.” She sat down, nudging Daisy over. “Were those kids not nice to you, Auggie?”

  “Oh no,” I said, only half lying. “They were okay.”

  “But were they nice? Mr. Tushman went out of his way to te
ll me what sweet kids they are.”

  “Uh-huh.” I nodded, but I kept looking at Daisy, kissing her on the nose and rubbing her ear until her back leg did that little flea-scratch shake.

  “That boy Julian seemed especially nice,” Mom said.

  “Oh, no, he was the least nice. I liked Jack, though. He was nice. I thought his name was Jack Will but it’s just Jack.”

  “Wait, maybe I’m getting them confused. Which one was the one with the dark hair that was brushed forward?”

  “Julian.”

  “And he wasn’t nice?”

  “No, not nice.”

  “Oh.” She thought about this for a second. “Okay, so is he the kind of kid who’s one way in front of grown-ups and another way in front of kids?”

  “Yeah, I guess.”

  “Ah, hate those,” she answered, nodding.

  “He was like, ‘So, August, what’s the deal with your face?’ ” I said, looking at Daisy the whole time. “ ‘Were you in a fire or something?’ ”

  Mom didn’t say anything. When I looked up at her, I could tell she was completely shocked.

  “He didn’t say it in a mean way,” I said quickly. “He was just asking.”

  Mom nodded.

  “But I really liked Jack,” I said. “He was like, ‘Shut up, Julian!’ And Charlotte was like, ‘You’re so rude, Julian!’ ”

  Mom nodded again. She pressed her fingers on her forehead like she was pushing against a headache.

  “I’m so sorry, Auggie,” she said quietly. Her cheeks were bright red.

  “No, it’s okay, Mom, really.”

  “You don’t have to go to school if you don’t want, sweetie.”

  “I want to,” I said.

  “Auggie …”

  “Really, Mom. I want to.” And I wasn’t lying.

  First-Day Jitters

  Okay, so I admit that the first day of school I was so nervous that the butterflies in my stomach were more like pigeons flying around my insides. Mom and Dad were probably a little nervous, too, but they acted all excited for me, taking pictures of me and Via before we left the house since it was Via’s first day of school, too.

 
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