Franklin arrived home at around 5:30pm, just like he said, and picked up Tracy. The two spent the rest of the day together. Franklin showed Tracy some of Lakewood’s landmarks as well as the high school she’d be attending, Lakewood High.
It was a large school, with the name printed right on the ground as soon as you approach the front doors. The football field was also huge, surrounded by a nice black track and a fieldhouse right by it. Tracy couldn’t say it wasn’t impressive. She was actually pleasantly surprised by what she was seeing. The airport sure did give a bad first impression.
The two got out of the SUV and walked to the front doors of the school.
“How long has this place been here?” Tracy asked, tugging on the locked doors. “About 30 something years. They sure do know how to put a fresh coat of paint on something” said Franklin. Tracy cupped her hands over her eyes and looked in through the door windows.
She could faintly see a library and a...lunchroom?
The sudden voice took Tracy and Franklin by surprise, and they both turned around to see an elderly African American man looking at the two of them. The man had white slick backed hair, a white moustache, dark brown glasses, a light gray suit, and had an ebony cane in his left hand.
“Oh, Mr. Jophery, you gave us a fright” said Franklin, walking up to the man. “I was just showing my daughter around the school. She’s gonna be going here after fall break y’know.” “I’m well aware,” Mr. Jophery said, a bourgeois nature in his voice. He walked towards Tracy, who gave him a slight smile, before turning his back to her.
“Miss Evans, how do you feel about Lakewood High?” He asked her. “Uh...so far I think it’s good-” “Do you think that you’ll get a better education here than at your previous school?” Mr. Jophery asked. “I don’t think I can answer that yet-” “Thank you for your time Miss Evans, I look forward to seeing you at Lakewood High.”
Mr. Jophery walked away around the school, walking down to the large field.
“Well he was...weird to say the least” said Tracy. “Yeah, you know what they say here, the older you get, the stranger you get” Franklin said with a laugh. “Come on” - he walked to the car - “we got one more stop to make.”
The two got in the car and began driving off to the countryside of Lakewood. Llamas and cows were seen on the sides of roads while they drove down the dirt road, and a large red barnhouse with a large house next to it was soon their final destination.
“Well, here we are” said Franklin unbuckling his seat belt. “And where is here?” Tracy asked. “Do you remember when I told you about my friend, Adewale Kenway? The one who transferred here from Africa?” Franklin said as they got out and walked towards the house. “Oh yeah, the one who adopted that homeless girl, right?” asked Tracy. “Exactly. He really was looking forward to meeting you so I told him we would swing on by. Plus, his daughter is about your age, so y’all can talk while me and him go over some business.”
Franklin knocked on the door and waited along with Tracy.
“So you and him have the same job?” asked Tracy. Franklin nodded.
Tracy thought about asking what her father did again, but before she had the chance, the door opened.
Standing before them was a tall African man with a bright, white smile. He had a head full of curly black hair, a black moustache and goatee, and a bandage running vertically across his forehead.
He wore a white button-up shirt with his sleeves rolled up, baggy brown pants, and black flip-flops on his feet.
“Franklin my friend, it is good to see you” Adewale said, a distinct African accent on his voice. “And this, this must be the famous Tracy. Your father has been talking non-stop about you, he’s really happy you’re down here.” “Alright, calm down. Tracy, this is my good friend Adewale” Franklin said with a smile.
Adewale and Tracy shook hands, and Adewale motioned for them to enter.
His house was tidy and neat, and his walls were decorated with either pictures of him with military officials or medals of honor. Tracy was impressed with the amount of medals Adewale had won.
Adewale led them to the kitchen and he and Franklin sat down at the table.
“So Tracy, how old are you?” Adewale asked. “I’m sixteen, I’m a junior in high school” said Tracy. “Oh fantastic, will you be attending Lakewood High?” asked Adewale.
“Excellent, my daughter, Skylar, goes there too. She’s a junior too. She’s upstairs right now if you’d like to introduce yourself. Maybe get yourself a headstart on friend-making” Adewale smiled and Tracy looked to her father, who nodded.“Okay, I'll head up there now.” “It's the first door on your right” said Adewale.
Tracy walked over to the wooden staircase and, before going up the stairs, turned back to the kitchen to see Franklin and Adewale pulling out a large piece of parchment and spreading it out on the table.
Tracy shrugged her shoulders before beginning to walk up the staircase. She reached the closed door and heard music blaring from the other side.
She knocked on the door, and waited as the music turned down and footsteps came towards the door. It opened and Skylar, a sixteen year old girl, appeared in the doorway.
Skylar had dirty blonde hair with blue tips that went down to her mid-back, pale blue eyes, and a small nose, but the most surprising feature to Tracy was her olive skin. She wore a white tank top, jean shorts, and was barefoot.
Skylar looked a bit taken aback by Tracy, but then eased up as if she'd seen Tracy before.
“Hey, dad, this is Mr. Evans daughter right?” Skylar yelled downstairs. “Yes,” came Adewale’s voice. “I believe she could've told you that.”
Skylar widened her eyes and embarrassingly looked to Tracy, who was holding back a laugh.
“Sorry ‘bout that….” Skylar said with a chuckle. “I'm Skylar.” “Tracy,” Tracy said.
Skylar opened up her door and motioned for Tracy to come in.
The two entered the neat, clean room and Skylar picked up her phone off of her ebony nightstand, putting it to her ear.
“Hey Ollie, imma call you back later, I have company” Skylar said. After receiving a response, she hung up and threw her phone onto the bed. “Sorry,” said Skylar. “Boyfriends, y’know. So Tracy, you're from….California right?”
“Yeah, I lived there with my mom and stepdad for a while before I decided to come down here” said Tracy, taking a seat in a chair next to Skylar’s bed. “Interesting. You’ll be going to Lakewood High, right?” asked Skylar as she plopped down on her bed. Tracy nodded. “Oh you'll love it there, everyone is super nice, but some of the teachers can be a real pain in the butt,” said Skylar. “Warning in advance, if you get Ms. Wilbanks, make sure that you never ever ever ever talk. It may seem like an overreaction, but if you say so much as a peep, you're down to the office with a referral.”
Tracy couldn't help but laugh and Skylar laughed too.
“I'm laughing, but I'm serious” Skylar said through her laugh. “So what about the people here in Lakewood, what are they like, I mean so far, people here seem cool” said Tracy.
A grin came to Skylar’s face. “Oh, you mean the natives. That's what we call the weirdos here. Be warned Tracy, some of the natives here are coocoo for Coco Puffs.” Tracy laughed once more, but Skylar retained her straight face.
“I'm serious Tracy, be warned. There's a lot of creeps around these parts, don't go hanging around with the wrong crowds” Skylar said seriously. “I won't Skylar, don't worry about it” Tracy said reassuringly.
Skylar smiled again. “Good.”
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door as it opened slightly and Adewale appeared in the doorway.
“You two getting along?” Adewale asked with a slight smile. “Yes sir, real chipper” said Skylar. “That's great. Hey Tracy, your dad wanted me to tell you that yall are leaving” said Adewale. “Alright, well it was nice meeting the both of you, I hope to see you guys again soon” Tracy said.
She got up from her chair and she and Adewale walked back downstairs. There she saw Franklin rolling up the piece of paper on the table and wrapping a rubber band around it.
“You ready to go?” asked Franklin. Tracy nodded and the three walked to the door.
“Alright Adewale I’ll go over this tonight and tomorrow I'll give you a call” Franklin said. “That'll be fine, I'll see you again soon. Nice meeting you Tracy, I hope to see you again” said Adewale with a wave. “Nice meeting you too Mr. Kenway” Tracy said.
Tracy and Franklin walked outside and they got into the car, Franklin putting the paper in the backseat before getting behind the wheel.
“So, what do you think? Good people, right” Franklin said as they began to drive away. “Yeah, Skylar and Mr. Kenway seem nice. Hey dad, I've been meaning to ask, what do you and Mr. Kenway do?” asked Tracy. “Oh, you don't know? We're just architects Tracy, nothing big” said Franklin. “Oh….okay, for a moment I thought you weren't telling me on purpose” Tracy admitted, slightly embarrassed. “Come on Tracy, don't be so dramatic” said Franklin with a laugh. “Yeah….” muttered Tracy. “Dramatic.”
The pair returned home just as the sun was setting, and Franklin showed Tracy how to work the shower and the other utensils around the house. Once showers were out of the way, the two sat in the living room together and watched some TV shows.
Tracy then retired early, retreating up to her room with Baxter hot on her trail. She plopped down on her bed with Baxter at the edge, and pulled out her laptop, plugging in her headphones and typing up a quick email to her mother and stepdad.
Afterwards, she began going to blogs about her favorite shows and movies, staying up all night like she normally would. She fell asleep around 4:00am and had a nightmare about the FANG Research Facility and the suspect they showed on the TV. She was being chased over a large pit of snakes. She would run but would never get anywhere, the same for the suspect. Eventually, she somehow fell over the railing, spiraling down into the pit.
Then she jolted awake, nearly kicking Baxter off the bed in the process. Her cat looked up at her with an annoyed look before laying her head back down.
Tracy ran her fingers through her hair as the suspect once again filled her mind.
“What is with this guy?” Tracy thought to herself. But with all the uncertainties about the man, one thing was clearly present.
He was definitely the one who had started the fire at FANG, and someway somehow, she’d prove it.