Will’s birthday party in August had confirmed one thing for the group when Joyce proudly showed him the new bike she’d scrapped up the funds for. The days of pulling up to Hawkins Elementary in separate cars and hopping out to hug their backpacks and wait for the rest of their friends to show up were over, and now they had the freedom to arrive altogether in one big parade of wheels and spokes and bells. They even could, as Lucas pointed out solemnly, bike straight past the school and keep going. Of course Lucas didn’t mean they would do that- skipping school was the biggest sin the boys could think of at the time, and it made even the most daring among them nauseous to think about- but now they could. And the thrill of possibility was more than enough for the boys as they loaded up their backpacks for the first day of third grade.
Will woke up early to be able to meet Lucas and Mike at the intersection between Maple and Cornwallis. They had planned the meeting place the night before, and although it meant a little extra biking on Will’s part, he was thrilled to be independent enough to make plans like this. Now they were only allowed to bike alone to school and the comic book shop on Saturday mornings, but Will knew that soon the rules would be relaxed and the whole of Hawkins would be laid out for them to explore.
And he couldn’t wait.
When Mike made the proposition of a race, the excitement shot towards Will’s legs and boosted him forward as he pumped at the pedals. Already multiple races had proved him the fastest of the three, but Mike had been vying for the title with a twinge of jealousy and the first day of school was not when Will planned on losing it. He flew over the asphalt, knowing he was in the lead, knowing that Lucas and Mike were probably pedaling frantically to catch up. Knowing that he would once again be the champion biker, the fastest of the three if he couldn’t be the loudest or the funniest or the most sensible. His front tire hit the gravel and he pulled at the brakes, confident that he could call the school property the finish line. Looping back around, Will waited for the yells of protest from the others and the sound of their own tires slapping into the gravel, but only the birds overhead and the calm chatter of older schoolmates met his ears. Further disconcerting was the view that met him when he turned around- an empty lot with no Mike or Lucas to be seen.
All sense of independence discarded, Will clutched tight to his handlebars. His knuckles went white as they popped forward, but he hardly noticed. His heart thudded against his chest. Other kids would be arriving soon, and what would they do if they saw him all alone? Kids…they could be mean, especially to him. Not that having Lucas and Mike there stopped them from being mean, but at least when they were there Will didn’t have to face it alone. And although Will hated it, he’d seen them take knocked shoulders and side punches that were meant for him. He knew that sticking up for him, the shy awkward kid that accidentally called the teacher ‘mom’ in first grade and got caught trying to use Cory Gilman’s eyelashes as an art reference, got them deeper into trouble with the meanest of the kids, but now that they weren’t here he didn’t know if he could stand it.
What could he do? He couldn’t bike home on his first day of school. He’d just have to wait- but the panic was rising in his throat, choking him even as he gripped tighter to the handlebars of his beloved bike, the bike he now knew he couldn’t take everywhere on his own-
And then just as soon as he’d realized their absence, there they were. Biking quickly alongside one another, loose backpack straps flapping as they went.
“You were going so fast!” Lucas practically shouted as they drew near. “We should’ve timed it. It would’ve been a new record,”
“Of course it doesn’t count,” Mike added. “You left before any of us were ready and we didn’t have time-”
“Doesn’t count?!” Lucas broke in. “Mike, you couldn’t have caught him if you had a million years to get ready and you know it!”
“It’s okay,” Will answered weakly. “It doesn’t have to count,” Relief swept over him and he loosened his grip. His friends were there. He was safe. “But next time, we’ll all start together and I know I’ll beat both of you fair and square.”
Not a huge fan seeing as I didn’t even have a plan for this fic 10 hours ago, and I know this is super late, but I’m optimistic for the next few September series. I’ve got some pretty good plans.