Back Into the Routine – Konrad, Markus

Continuing the story, we’ll see how Konrad and then Markus settle into their classes.

**

Konrad couldn’t help but worry about his younger siblings.  Was Markus handling his first day back at school all right?  Was Frieda fitting in with her classmates?  Was Liesel paying attention and not acting out?  Most of all, was Johannes adjusting to his new environment?

At the same time, he had worries and concerns of his own.  He was not the most outgoing person under the best of circumstances.  These were hardly those.  He was at a new school, in a new town and his parents had barely been laid to rest two weeks before.  He was still reeling from the sudden loss himself.  However, he was meant to graduate in June and that gave him three more months.  Two weeks absence in a senior year was too much.

His classmates were pretty quiet, until the time came to transition from homeroom to their first class of the day.  Then, he felt like everyone was talking at the same time.

“You transferred in right at the end of our last year,” one boy said.  “Why?”

“What’s with that hair?” a girl asked.  “Do you bleach it?”

Konrad flushed and then frowned at her.  “I’m an albino,” he said, his voice faint.  “It’s albinism.”  The condition was surprisingly common at his old school.  Apparently, that wasn’t the case at this school.   In a softer voice, he said, “It’s the result of a founder’s effect in Haven, Maine.”

Then, he looked at the kid who’d asked about his transferring so late in the school year.  “My parents were killed and our legal guardian lives in Shepherdstown, so… we had to move.”  He hugged his books to his chest and added, “You’ll barely ever see me, so don’t worry about it.”

At that moment, he saw a small break in the crowd and slipped through it.  Then, he quickened his pace and headed off towards his first class.  He had no idea how many of the kids in his homeroom would also be in his literature class.  He just hoped it wasn’t that many.

“Hey, Konrad,” a voice called.  As he glanced back, he saw a girl with light brown curls just behind him.  She grimaced and said, “I’m sorry… about your parents.  That’s… really tough to have to go through.”

“Thank you,” Konrad said.  He felt tears sting his eyes and ducked his head.  Blinking them away, he took several steadying breaths.  He glanced up to find that she was walking beside him.  Not knowing what else to say, he said, “It was… pretty horrible.  They were murdered and… I just walked into the house and… found them.”  It must have been worse for Markus, though.  He’d been home when it happened.

“That’s messed up,” the girl said, her tone one of sympathy.  She heaved a sigh and added, “I’m Winifred Carmichael, but… most people call me Winnie.”

“Konrad Engel,” he said, mostly out of habit.  Of course, she already knew his name.  Giving her a weak smile, he added, “Some people call me Konsel.”

Winnie smile faintly.  “Cool,” she said, nodding.  Then, as they slipped into the classroom, she said, “You got any brothers or sisters, Konsel?”

“Oldest of five,” he said, giving her a wry smile.  “Markus is ten.  Frieda and Liesel are both eight – twins.  Hansel is only six years old.”

“Gotta be tough for him,” Winnie said, grimacing.  “Kids that age… don’t really get death yet.”

“I think he understands just enough to be upset by it,” Konrad said, grimacing.  He shook his head and added, “Normally, I cannot speak to girls… like, at all.  Has anyone ever told you that you’re easy to speak with?”

Winnie smiled.  “My elder brother says that all the time,” she said, nodding.  As she sat down, she waved at the chair beside her own.  “Do you need help with, like… notes or anything?  I mean, I’ve read a little about albinism and… sometimes albinos have trouble seeing, right?”

Nodding, Konrad said, “I have a really good auditory memory.  If I hear something, I don’t forget it.”  He grimaced.  “The only time I have trouble with notes in class is if the teacher just puts up an overhead and says, ‘Copy these’.”

“Mr. Spencer barely touches the chalk,” Winnie said, shaking her head.  “You’ll be fine, then.”  As other students began taking their seats, she said, “What’s your next class?”

“Physical education,” Konrad said, grimacing.  He hated physical education because he had a lot of trouble with most sports and, even at his old school, the teacher wasn’t always able to accommodate for his condition.

“Ms. Beare is really cool about adjusting things to the needs of the students,” one of the boys said.  “I’ll show you where the locker rooms are after class.  I’ve got gym next too.”

“Thanks,” Konrad said, blinking.  At least not all of his classmates were nosy.  Alternatively, these two were being nice to get to know him better.  Somehow, even if it was almost the same thing, it seemed kinder.

 

It was a pretty normal school day, actually.  Even though the teacher was new and he didn’t know his classmates, the class itself was very much like it would have been in his old school.  Markus focused on his lessons, taking notes and answering questions.

That changed when lunch hour came.  Mr. Goldblum escorted them down to the cafeteria.  Many of the kids joined the line to get the school lunch.  However, Markus joined the group in his class that went directly to the lunch tables.  He sat down and flipped open his lunchbox.

“Why do you spell your name with a k?” someone asked.

Markus looked up with a slight frown.  The first answer that came to his mind was that he spelled it that way because that was how his parents had spelled it.  He took a deep breath and then looked up at the kid.  “Sorry,” he said, his voice soft.  He shook his head and said, “I don’t think I caught your name.”

“He’s David,” another boy said.  When Markus blinked at him, he smiled.  “I’m Andy.”

“Nice to meet you,” Markus said.  Turning back to David, he said, “It’s nice to meet you as well.”  His brows furrowed.  “My father was from Alleman and… they don’t have the letter c in their language.  So, anytime a name or word has that sound in it, they use a letter k.”

He looked back down at his lunchbox and pulled out the grapes and the carrot sticks that Mr. Henry had given him.  There was also a thermos full of orange juice.  The sandwich was the last thing he pulled out.  He frowned as he lifted the bread to look at it.

“What kind of sandwich is that?” the girl beside him asked.  When he looked up at her, she grinned.  “I’m Kelly.”

“Hello, Kelly,” he said, nodding politely.  He shrugged and said, “It’s turkey with cabbage and mayo.”

Kelly pulled a face that told Markus she didn’t like the sound of that.  Shaking her head, she said, “I’ve got ham and cheese.”

Markus shrugged.  “I can’t eat a sandwich like that,” he said, shaking his head.  “My family follows the eastern rite.  That means we don’t eat pork and we don’t mix dairy with meat.”

Blinking, Kelly said, “So… even if you ate ham, you wouldn’t eat it with cheese on it.”  She shook her head and then began munching on her own sandwich.  “I don’t know what I’d do, if I couldn’t eat ham and cheese sandwiches.”

“I’ll do you one better,” Markus said, smirking.  He pointed at the little gap marking the edge of the table, just between them.  “If you were eating that sandwich at this table, I couldn’t eat my lunch.  Just being on the same table as ham would make my food ‘unclean’.”

“That’s harsh,” Andy said, shaking his head.  He began eating his lunch and, after a moment, he added, “I’ve got peanut butter and jelly.”

“My mom gave me cookies,” David said.  “She baked them herself.”

“Mr. Henry said that fruit and vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet,” Markus said, shrugging.  “We’ll be eating some cookies after dinner, probably.”  He knew that David was trying to make him feel bad about having grapes and carrots, rather than something fun – like cookies.

However, he didn’t care that he didn’t have cookies.  His mother wouldn’t have put cookies in his lunch either.  She would have agreed with Mr. Henry about the importance of eating fruit and vegetables.  She’d always given them both with each meal.

“Who’s Mr. Henry?” Kelly asked.

Markus took a deep breath and then looked over at her.  “He’s taking care of me and my brothers and sister now,” he said, his voice soft.  “Our parents… died.”

Kelly apologized immediately and might have said more, except that Markus heard a familiar voice calling his name.  He looked up at Liese appeared between David and another boy.  “Hello, Brother,” she said, grinning.  She held up a bag of green beans.  “Do you have carrots?”

Chuckling softly, Markus nodded.  “You want them?” he asked, arching his eyebrows.

Liese nodded and took the carrots.  Then, she scampered back over to where the other second graders in Ms. Weatherly’s class.  He waved at Frieda, who was sitting beside her.

“Are those your sisters?” Kelly asked, grinning.  “They are so cute!  I wish I had younger sisters.  I’ve got a brother instead.”

“I’ve got one of those too,” Markus said, chuckling.  He shrugged when she looked at him in surprise.  “He’s in kindergarten.”

“He’ll be with Miss Brighten, then,” Andy said, nodding.  He smiled.  “She’s a really nice teacher.  I had her for kindergarten.”

“That’s great,” Markus said.  Johannes had been really quiet and serious since their parents had died.  On one hand, that made sense.  On the other hand, it worried Markus.  Johannes was only six years old.  He was too young to be so serious all the time.

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