Everybody knows school is boring.
It always has been.
Always will be.
But he was supposed to be in school with his friends.
Dustin. Lucas. Max. Mike, if he could separate himself from El for two seconds.
Or perhaps Hopper would’ve enrolled El into school with them.
Instead, here he is. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, stuck in a school with absolutely nobody that he knows.
His mom decided that El should be homeschooled for a while, so not even she is here to keep him company.
He’s tried to keep a positive outlook on things. This is a new school, in a new town, with new people. Of course he’s going to keep in contact with his friends back in Hawkins, but this is a chance for a new start. Nobody here knows what he’s been through.
At least that’s what he hopes.
All he needs to do is keep low, and hopefully, nobody will bother him.
As he runs his eyes over the dining room, he observes the people around him.
Everyone seems to have their group. Seated around the circular tables, talking about whatever it is that they have on their mind right now.
And then there’s him.
Sat all alone.
Second week into this new school, and he’s still all alone.
It’s not like he wasn’t expecting exactly that. This is him we’re talking about.
With a sigh, he looks back down to the table that he’s sat on. On top, his art book, full of all his memories, good and bad. Open is the piece he’s been working on recently: Him and his friends, all atop the mountain where Cerebro is now situated, all sporting their respective Dungeons and Dragons character’s outfits.
He misses DnD.
He misses Hawkins.
He misses home .
He misses his friends.
He knows why his mom decided to move them out. He gets it. He really does.
But that doesn’t take the pain away.
“Are you okay?”
The voice startles Will. So sudden and out of nowhere. His head spins around to look behind him, where he finds a girl standing there.
She’s got a concerned look on her face. Will stares for a moment, perhaps a moment too long, debating whether he should respond, or, perhaps just shrug and dismiss her.
He’ll never get the hang of this “communication” thing.
“What’re you working on, there?” she asks, perhaps to break the tension.
But instead, that just makes Will more tense. He remembers his book sat atop the table, open wide for anyone to see. He spins around, quickly closing it.
“Oh, it’s uh- it’s nothing. I mean-”
“Hey-” she interrupts.
“Sorry… I just… really liked what you had there.” she says. The look on her face, Will spends a moment judging, doesn’t seem to be one of mean pranks, or tricks. No – she looks… genuine.
“Really?” Will questions, feeling for a moment that maybe – just maybe – he can trust this person.
“Yeah!” she nods eagerly. “It looked really good!”
“Oh…” That takes Will by surprise. Never has his work been complimented by a stranger. Usually it’s met with chants of “fairy” or “fag”.
Does she genuinely mean this?
He can’t help but smile though, in the hope that she does mean it.
“Thanks.” he finally gets out. “I mean… its not even finished yet…”
“Yeah, I know.” she responds. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t see how good it’s going to be.”
Woah . Will’s eyes widen for a moment. Is this really happening?
“Can I take a look?”
Suddenly he’s tense again, for a moment.
This book. It contains a lot . A lot of things that he really shouldn’t let a stranger see.
But… he can’t say no.
No stranger has ever taken a curiosity into his work. He’s only ever shared his art with his friends. The closest he got to a stranger is El, perhaps, when he drew her a scene of her with Mike. She was, of course, ecstatic in response to that. She’d been seriously missing Mike ever since the move, and knowing that what she’s feeling must be much harder than what it is for himself, he felt a need to at least try to help.
This… this is completely new.
“Uh… sure…” Will slowly re-opens the book onto the page he’s been working on, before he watches as his hand – seemingly on auto-pilot – passes the book up to her.
But instead of taking it from his hand, the girl pulls the chair beside Will from underneath the table, taking a seat next to him. Will places the book back down, and she delicately takes hold of it, lightly holding it at an angle easier to look at.
His eyes watch hers dance over the page, and he can’t help but feel a little tense. This is so alien to him.
Firstly, a stranger showing concern about him. Then, showing an interest in his art, so much so to compliment it, and request a closer look. Now, you could argue, that she is voluntarily choosing to spend time with him.
This has to be some kind of setup.
This has to be an act.
He continues to watch her eyes dart across the page, as she takes in all there is to see.
And then suddenly, startling him just as much as she did earlier, her eyes break away from the page and catch him staring. Will can’t help but panic internally.
But- instead of calling him a creep, or weirdo, or fag, she smiles.
Looking back to the page again, she says:
“The amount of detail you’ve put into this…”
And then she’s looking back to him.
“It’s amazing. It’s not even finished yet, but you’ve paid attention to every small detail…”
Whether this is all just a plot to dig at him later on or not, Will can’t help but smile at her words. A compliment towards his work automatically makes him feel full of pride.
“You’re… really talented.”
What did she just say?
Did he… did he hear that right?
“How the hell do you even go about putting this much detail into something?”
She said it so quietly, but the words are so loud as they echo inside his mind.
“I… um… I just…”
How do people do this?
“I just… I picture a scene in my mind.” he finally manages to piece together.
“I imagine it, and then I trace it out, really lightly. Then I can go over it, adding the details.”
The girl smiles, nodding her head at his information.
“Maybe you should teach art class instead.”
Will can’t help it. His lips grow into a wide smile, and he feels his cheeks heat up slightly. He’s not used to compliments. Especially not from strangers. This is completely foreign territory for him.
“Do you really think so?”
“Yeah!” she responds enthusiastically, “We’d learn a lot more from you I bet.”
“Woah.” Will doesn’t quite know how to react other than smile wide.
“I’ve always had a love for art.” she tells him. “But... I’ve never really been good at it.”
“Hey, I’m sure you are!” Will says, surprising himself with his sudden change in confidence.
“We all have our own style that suits our personality. Just because your style is different doesn’t mean it’s any worse than someone else’s.”
She seems to take his words in for a moment. It seems that his words really sink in.
“And besides,” he continues, “we’re all our own worst critic.”
At that, she smiles once again. “You’re right about that.” she agrees.
“I’m Nicole.” she then eventually says.
“Oh, uh… Will.” he responds.
“Nice to meet you, Will.” she smiles, holding out her hand.
Will slowly raises his own hand, not used to this at all, but nonetheless takes his hand in hers.
“Nice to meet you too, Nicole.” he responds, shaking her hand softly.
“Hey… do you wanna meet up after school?” Nicole asks Will. “I’d love to keep talking about your art but lunch break is so short.” she explains.
Will, despite how pleasant this conversation has been, can’t help but tense up at the thought of social interaction. This was crazy enough.
But – despite his tensions, he does not want to turn her down on this. She seems like a nice person. She’s being kind to him. She’s offering her friendship - she’s the first person to do so over these two weeks – and he doesn’t want to throw that away.
“Sure.” Will agrees, nodding his head. “Shall we meet at the bike rack? We can decide where to go from there.”
“Yeah, that sounds like a plan.” she smiles.
And, as if on cue, the bell signaling the end of their lunch period rings then.
“I’ll meet you there.” she confirms. And then, he realizes suddenly that her hand just so happens to still be in his, as she shakes his once again.
“Y-yeah. I’ll meet you there.” he smiles softly.
And with that, he lets her hand free, and she’s off to whatever lesson she has next.
He can’t help but notice how… cold… his hand suddenly feels, as if it’s already grown accustom to being connected to hers.
Don’t be stupid, Will. You’ve only just met her. You can’t be feeling that way.