Chapter 13:

The Daily Grind


Early morning, in an apartment room, a boy with messy red hair was slumbering on his bed sideways. His leg was left leaning up against the wall. He was abruptly awoken as he heard banging on his door.

A women's voice shouted from the other side of the door. "Ken, wake the hell up!"

Startled, Ken fell onto the floor and quickly picked himself up. He then grabbed his glasses that were tucked underneath a pillow on his bed.

"I'm up! I'm up!" Ken declared, hurriedly. 

"Are you dressed up and ready for school?"

"Of course I am!" Ken lied, as he was sleeping in before his sister had woken him up. 

"Then get your ass out here and eat breakfast before going to school!"

"Alright, I will. Calm down, Sis." Ken sniffed his shirt to see of it smelled bad. It smelt fine to him so he decided to just change his pants for school.

"Don’t tell me to calm down! You were late to school three times last week! So from now on, if you're not awake by the time I need to leave for work, I'll bang on your door until you come out!"

"We're going to get a noise complaint at this rate." Ken finished changing and then walked out of his room. He was then standing face to face with his sister.

Ken's sister, Miriam, stood cross armed in front of his door. Her dark red hair was tied up into a ponytail and her yellow eyes pierced back into Ken’s aloof expression, unsettling him. She was wearing a white T-shirt and black pants underneath a black apron. 

As Ken stood motionless in front of his sister, Miriam put a hand over his head and said, "You're hair is such a mess, Bro." She sighed in complaint. "Oh well, it's your choice to look the way you do. Just eat then leave right away. I'm going to work."

"Alright, "Ken said, half asleep still. "Bye, Miri." He said his farewell to her using the nickname he had always used for Miriam. 

As Miriam started to walk outside the door, she said one last thing to her littlebrother. "Don't get into trouble, Ken."

"I won't," he plainly assured. 

As Ken was finishing up a piece of toast, he sent Ari a text asking if she was already on her way to school.

As he got a response from her, it read, "I'm down the street from the apartments already. Why?"

"Wait for me by the first light. Omw."


Ken then let out a long stretch and then quickly made his way out of his apartment to meet up with Ari before school.

A few minutes later, Ken saw Ari standing a few feet away from a traffic light.

"Ari!" Ken called out.

Ari turned and said, "Morning. I'm surprised you woke up early today, Ken."

"Hey, I'm not always late," he retorted. The two of them shared a quick moment to laugh. "Also, your hair is sticking up from behind," he added.

"Oh," Ari reacted, not even slightly surprised. "I thought I brushed my hair thoroughly enough this morning. Oh well."

"I gotchu." Ken gently clawed his fingers down the back of her head until her hair straightened.

When they got to the school, they only had a few minutes to chat before the bell rang.

"Damn," whined Ken. "Class is starting already?"

"Well duh," stated Ari. "You wake up so late that we don't have that much time to relax before homeroom. But you're late to school all the time anyways, so why does it matter to you?"

"Fair enough," Ken accepted, reluctantly. "So what do you do when you get to school usually?"

"I hangout with some of my friends in class."

"Well aren't you popular?" Ken stated in a playful tone.

Ari chuckled. "Alright Ken, I'll see you second period."

"Yep." The two then went their separate ways for homeroom.

As Ken stepped into his homeroom class, he was greeted by a male student that was sitting improperly over a desk.

"Hey, it's Kenny," he said to Ken. "Decided to come on time today." This student was Winston Edwin, and a member of the basketball team like Will. Winston had messy black hair and had a tall and fit build. Although Rayner still had him beat when it came to height.

Without facing Winston, Ken passed by and simply said, "Don't call me that."

Now offended, Winston remarked with, "I'll call you whatever I want, nerd!"

Ken then walked over to his seat and saw two girls talking to each other. They were both students with reputations to their names. 

One of the girls was Paula Vinetree, who everyone regarded as either the most beautiful girl in school or as the spoiled rich girl because her parents had deep pockets. Paula was a girl with long black hair and darker tan skin. She wore a deep blue dress over a pair of shorts and heels for footwear. She flaunted her wealth as she had fancy bracelets upon her wrists and a lovely brooch around her neck.

Ken would never choose to associate with her any other day, but he had no other option as Paula was using the top of his desk as a throne.

"Hey, can you get off of my desk?" Ken asked her. It might have sounded a bit rude but he honestly didn't care at this point.

Paula turned to face Ken with a contorted face of displeasure. "Huh?" Paula groaned. She then looked down at the desk and quickly leapt off of it. Even at a quick pace, she made sure to land with elegant steps over the carpet floor. "Ew, this is your seat?" With disgust in her tone, she looked over at the other girl she was talking to previously. "Miranda, why didn't you tell me that this was that nerd's seat?"

Paula's friend then responded with, "I didn't think it was a problem," in a matter-of-factly kind of way. 

The girl that sat in the desk behind Ken's seat was named Miranda Mikael. She had light blonde hair that was tied down in the back. She also had a white hairband tucked underneath her hair at the top of her head. Her skin was a light pale complexion and brought out the vibrancy of her orange eyes. She was dressed in a black leather jacket, scuffed jeans, fingerless gloves, and expensive sneakers. It seemed that her family had some amount of wealth, but Ken was unsure of how much or if appearances were just deceiving. 

"Ugh," complained Paula. "I can't believe I sat on top of a nerdy desk! I'm going to have to burn this outfit when I get home and get a replacement!" She then wandered away, assumingly to her own seat.

Before Ken could make a subtle remark of his own, he overheard Miranda mutter under her breath.

"Stuck up and petty..." Miranda sighed.

Ken couldn't help but chuckle in response to hearing that.

Miranda said nothing but side eyed Ken with her chin raised up somewhat fiercely. 

Ken felt like he should say something, but waited until after taking a seat. "I thought you two were friends," Ken stated. "Hearing you call her names behind her back just caught me off guard."

Miranda looked taken aback by that comment. She let it go, however, and let her stance mellow. "Me and Paula? She's company, I suppose. I like her sometimes and wish that she was nowhere near me at other times. Only really thought of her as an acquaintance if I'm being honest."

"Ah, I see. So Miranda..." Ken paused. He wasn't entirely sure how to talk with Miranda. He's known about her throughout high school for her reputation of being a tough and scary girl that could beat up anyone that stood in her way, but never really talked with her all that much.

Miranda looked back at him, irritable. "Did you want something, Kenneth?" Her tone seemed more exasperated than curious. 

"No, not really." His eyes flickered back and forth before continuing. "But can you please call me Ken instead of using my full name?" He just said what was on his mind after hearing his full name said back to him. Other than that, he felt that he had nothing else to say to her so he decided to shut his mouth.

Miranda rolled her eyes. "Whatever." After a brief pause. "Ken." She then turned her head away from Ken's visage.

Ken smiled, thinking that his exchange of pleasantries went smoothly. He had hoped to be on Miranda’s good side as upsetting her was suicidal; or at least that's what he thought.

At the end of class, before Ken had the chance to pack his stuff away, Winston walked by his desk and knocked Ken's notebook onto the floor.

"My stuff," Ken said, trying to sound surprised. He was teased in a few select classes by Winston and other students quite often so this was mundane to him at this point.

"Suck it, loser," Winston insulted, as he walked over towards Paula and some other students.

Ken overheard Paula insult him as well. "That nerd should know his place," she stated. "He should grovel and fear everyone that's above him. Such as the jocks and me of course."

Ken ignored them as nothing anyone could say would affect him personally. He knew better than to let anyone offend him that easily. He picked up his notebook and voiced his thoughts. "He didn't stomp on it this time. Sweet, I don't need to get a new one."

As he stood up from his seat, he saw Miranda leering at him off to the side.

"Wah!" Ken reacted. He was genuinely startled by Miranda.

Miranda crossed her arms and looked down at Ken, which wasn't too difficult because she was actually taller than him. "Will you let them bully you for the rest of your life?"

"Of course not," Ken replied. "After high school, I likely won't have to deal with them anymore."

"So you're just going to let them do whatever they want until graduation?"

Ken could sense irritation in her voice. "Is something upsetting you?"

"Huh?" Her brow furrowed and she turned around towards the door. "Whatever. Your business is your own. Like I care..."

Ken blinked twice, wondering what just happened between him and Miranda.

Next period, Ken waved to Ari, who was in the back of the class, and sat down in his seat. He slumped back to try and get comfortable as he then noticed Rayner and Blake noisily enter the room.

"Please stop," cried Rayner.

Blake followed behind him with a smirk. "I didn't realize you were so ticklish, Raynie," she commented, playfully.

"I'm going to my seat now. I'll see you later, Blake."

"Running away are ya? Well we can continue this after class." She wriggled her fingers around to get a reaction out of Rayner. 

He shivered for a half second before hastily making his way to his seat.

As Rayner walked by his desk, Ken said, "Yo, Rayner."

"Good morning," Rayner replied.

"You and Blake came into class interestingly enough."

Rayner blushed. "Oh, you saw that?"

"Yep. Aren't you worried that people might be starting rumors about you guys?"

"I was at first," Rayner admitted. "Although now, I don't think that either me nor Blake care about what people say about us. Blake and I know that we're friends so it didn't matter what anyone else thinks."

Ken sensed something different about Rayner today. He sounded more confident and decisive than ever. Ken smiled and decided to end the conversation with a joke. "Hey, don't forget that you owe Ari and me a hangout at lunch today."

"Of course," Rayner said nervously. "I didn't forget, Ken."

Ken chuckled, getting the expected reaction that he wanted from Rayner. "Ease up, my dude. I'm just messing around. You don't owe anybody a damn thing."

"Right. Thanks Ken."

Ken said nothing more after that but wondered why Rayner had thanked him then.

Later that day, in fourth period, Ken went to his Government class. His class had to start the day with presentations that were meant to be completed last week but was unable to do so because of horseplay and lack of time.

The teacher of the class, Mrs. Washington, then told the students that the rest of the presentations will be done in pairs and told the students to pair up with someone who shares a project topic with them.

Ken looked around to see who hadn't found a partner yet and overheard Paula and Winston asking for people who had the same topic as them. Ken felt relieved as they called out different topics than the one that he had. He then saw Miranda spinning her project paper around in a circle with her pencil without a partner to present with. As he approached her, he saw that Miranda was staring blankly at her desk without much notice to anyone around her. He decided to cut the silence by asking her for her topic.

"Hey Miranda," Ken called out, not so subtly.

Miranda jumped up, seemingly startled in Ken's perspective. She ended up dropping her pencil which then fell to the floor. As she turned to face Ken, her face looked distressed. "Don't surprise me like that again!" Miranda warned.

"Urk... Sorry about that. I was just wondering what your topic was." Ken picked her pencil back up and placed it on her desk.

"The judicial system," she plainly stated.

"That was mine too," stated Ken. He didn't want to express his joy of not having to work with a student he wasn't fond of and tried to play it cool. "Want to partner up with me?"

"Why the hell would I want to do that?!" Miranda pointed her chin up and turned her head away from Ken.

"Um..." Ken had no idea what he said or did to offend her like that. "I'm sorry?" Man, she blew up like a landmine all of a sudden... he thought.

Miranda then let out a sigh and returned her gaze towards her classmate's perplexed expression. "Don't look so sad. I'll partner up with you if you really want."

"Oh, um... Cool." Ken was getting mixed signals but was content with the overall result.

When it became time for Ken and Miranda to do their presentation, they walked up to the front of the classroom. Ken saw Paula whisper something to Winston followed by the two of them laughing afterwards. He was curious to know what they were plotting, as he figured that it had to be related to him somehow.

Partway through the presentation, Winston interrupted Ken to ask if he could go use the restroom. Mrs. Washington granted him permission but told him not to interrupt again during a presentation. Winston gave a weak hearted apology as he stood up.

Winston passed by the teacher's desk and pointed to a cup of unfinished coffee. "Are you done with this, Teach?"

Mrs. Washington looked over puzzled at first, because she had forgotten about that coffee cup from early in the morning. "Ah, yes," she replied. "I forgot that I had left that there."

"I can throw it out for you."

"Thank you so much, Winston. If you please."

"Of course."

Ken felt uneasy as he saw Winston pick up the cup and then immediately smirk right after.

As he had paused, Mrs. Washington urged Ken to continue with the presentation.

"Yes ma'am," Ken replied. "As I was saying-"

He was interrupted yet again as in a matter of moments, he felt a lukewarm liquid stain his fingers and torso. As he looked back in front of him, he saw Winston pretending to stumble and trip.

"Oh geez," Winston said, mockingly. "Sorry about that, Kenny. I was a little too clumsy."

Ken looked back at his papers to see that the coffee had stained his papers to the point that they were left unreadable.

Gasps and laughter filled the room, as the students reacted to Winston's prank. Paula sat back in her seat with a smug expression as she listened to her peers in jubilee over Ken's misfortune.

Ken was frustrated at that moment. However, he chose not to let his anger get the best of him. He walked over to grab some paper towels and walked over to the spot where coffee had spilled onto the floors. "Let me clean this up right away, Mrs. Washington," Ken said, ignoring the class. At least the drink wasn't hot...

In a low hush, Miranda spoke to Ken while still standing by his side. "You're just gonna take that?"

"No point in causing a fuss right now," Ken declared.

"You're pathetic." Miranda then walked away over to her seat.

"I suppose that will have to suffice for your presentation," uttered Mrs. Washington. "Now settle down, class!" She tried to quiet everyone down but to no avail. 

As Winston then walked over to the door to leave for the restroom. His smirked remained until the moment he opened up the door to leave, as he then saw Rayner standing outside the door with a hand raised up.

Winston's face grew pale as he then muttered, "Kingsman?!" He subconsciously took a step back. "What are you doing here, Kingsman?"

At the mention of Rayner, the classroom slowly went quiet. Everyone's gaze shifted from Ken's miserable state onto Rayner’s sudden appearance. 

As the class fell silent, Mrs. Washington then asked the purpose of Rayner's visit. 

"Mr. Miller sent me," answered Rayner. "He asked me to pick up the stapler he sent you earlier today." Looking at his friend on the floor, he quickly asked, "But what happened to Ken?"

"Some coffee spilled is all," stated Ken himself. "I'm cleaning it up now."

Rayner looked at Ken and then at Mrs. Washington for confirmation. He then noticed Winston trying to hide the plastic cup he was holding behind his back.

Rayner understood the situation now through the context. He deduced everything for what it was not only by seeing the current scene but by also remembering hearing Ari talk about Ken's bullies.

Wanting to intimidate Winston, Rayner put a hand out towards him. "Can I have that cup you're holding?" Rayner asked, his eyes staring right at Winston with a look of pure disdain.

"O-of course!" Winston did as he was told.

As Rayner grabbed the mug out of Winston's hand, he kept his eyes glued to the bully while slowly raising the cup over the trash can and letting go. "It doesn't take a child to know how to throw things away properly," Rayner berated.

Ken then walked over at that moment to throw away the paper towels.

Rayner noticed Ken's stained clothes and asked, "Do you have a spare shirt with you?"

"Nope," Ken said simply. He passed a smile at his kind companion.

"Lets go to the gym. I can ask a teacher to get you a gym shirt to wear for today." He turned to Mrs. Washington for her approval and grabbed the stapler that his teacher had him to retrieve. 

During their walk, Ken started several random discussion topics to divert Rayner’s attention from what he had witnessed.

Rayner stuck to the topics that Ken presented at first, but decided to press what he thought was a more urgent matter after a while. "So," Rayner started, "want to talk about what happened back there?"

Ken paused and rolled his eyes. "Not in particular." He raised his hands up and rested his arms behind his head as they walked. His eyes were pointed up at the sky now. His face now void of energy.

"You wanted to talk to me about something last week. What was it about?"

"Did I? I don't remember what it was." Ken lied as he didn't feel like talking about bringing it up at that moment. "My memory sucks. I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night."

"Well I didn't forget," stated Rayner. "And it sounds like you're making excuses right now. Why are you avoiding the subject? Are you being blackmailed by those jerks that are messing with you?"

"No," retorted Ken. "That's ridiculous!"

Rayner looked back at him, wordlessly. He bobbed his head to convey that he would wait and listen for Ken to explain himself.

"Alright, I'll tell you. No point in ignoring it now after what you saw. I wanted to talk to you last week because of how pissed off I was at Winston and Paula one day."

"Is Winston the guy who spilled coffee on you?"


"And he's Paula's cohort, I take it."


Rayner's face went pale. "I heard some awful things about Paula having guys wrapped around her finger. I thought that it was just a silly rumor..."

"Wouldn't that have been nice?" Ken asked, sarcastically. 

"Is Winston acting under Paula's order every time he messes with you?"

"I'm not sure if it's every time. Although, I do see her whisper to him sometimes before he messes with me."

"Those two are awful... How can they be so cruel to their classmate?" Rayner grunted and made a dissatisfied expression.

Ken noticed the look of hatred in Rayner’s face as they discussed the topic. Curious, Ken shifted the topic slightly to ask about Rayner. "What's up with you today, Rayner?"

"Huh? Sorry. It's just that hearing about all of this stuff makes me a bit uncomfortable. Not that it should bother me more than you though."

"That's not what I meant. This is the most you've ever talked to me in a day. In fact, I think this is the first time that you've pressed me on a certain topic."

Rayner felt flustered now that Ken pointed it out. "I'm... sorry," Rayner blurted. "I thought that I'd try putting in more effort into being your friend. Was I being too pushy?"

Ken was grateful for Rayner’s honesty and explanation. Feeling bad, he let out a long sigh.

 As Rayner thought that he had upset Ken, he saw that a huge smile formed over Ken's face. An expression that Rayner had been used to seeing Ken make. Rayner had let out a smile of his own as he then said, "You feel better now," with a slight chuckle. "I'm glad."

"Never change, Rayner." Ken patted Rayner on the back, rough enough to catch his taller friend off guard. 

Rayner grunted in response but said nothing afterwards. Not because he was angry, but because he knew that there was nothing more that he needed to say at the time. The two friends continued on their way to the gym, now with Ken driving all of their conversation topics and Rayner responding openly as ever before.