Royal Woods, Michigan. 7:30 AM
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
Today was the day.
Lincoln Loud's first day of middle school.
He pushed down the button on his alarm clock and let out rapid breaths of excitement as he scrambled to put on his clothes and gather his supplies. He grabbed his walkie-talkie from his desk and held down the button as hard as he could. "Alright, Cadet Clyde," he said into the microphone, "you ready for this?"
"I sure as heck am," Clyde McBride replied from his own house. "I've got my folders, my pencils, my erasers, my notebooks, my lunchbox, my barf bag, my inhaler, my secret photo of Lo--"
"OK, we're good," Lincoln said before Clyde could go any further. "I'll see you at the bus stop, dude!" He slid the walkie-talkie into his pocket and looked up to see her baby sister Lily standing at the door.
"Linky!!" she burst out with joy. She embraced Lincoln in a small hug, which he returned promptly. "Sissy!" Lily pointed downstairs. "Which one?" Lincoln asked, kind of puzzled by what she was saying. He did have nine other sisters, anyway. "All da sissy!" said Lily, pointing downstairs again.
"Come on down, Lincoln," called the eldest sister, Lori. "Mom and Dad have an announcement to make." Lincoln brought Lily downstairs to meet up with the rest of the family. The parents had prepared a mouthwatering breakfast with pancakes, waffles, bacon, and deviled/scrambled/sunny-side-up eggs. Usually, only the parents and the older kids ate in the dinimg room, but Lincoln noticed the youngsters all had stools at the table, so he guessed the announcement was really important.
"Alright, kids," Lynn Loud, Sr. began as everyone ate their breakfast. "We spent so much time together as a family over the summer that your mother and I haven't gotten enough time to ourselves." He glanced over to his wife Rita, who continued, "So, you kids are going to be home alone for a week while we visit Hawaii."
"But, Mom! Dad!" Leni, the second oldest child, exclaimed. "You're already in Hawaii! See? There's the hula girl!" She pointed to a solar-powered dancing hula girl toy in the windowsill. The other kids facepalmed; Leni was never exactly a smart one.
"But... who's gonna watch us?" Lola asked. She was all dressed up in her best princess-y outfit, for the sole purpose of showing off at school. Her dirtier, more tomboyish twin Lana added, "Lemme guess: Lori?"
"YA THINK?" Lori blurted out, to which everyone groaned with displeasure. As the oldest sibling, Lori was put in charge every time the parents were out -- and she was usually about as strict as a sergeant. Perhaps even more.
Lynn Sr. turned to Lori and declared, "This is your chance to prove that you can handle the pressures and responsibilities of being a parent for at least a week." "OK Dad, I know the rules," Lori responded. "No touchy-touchy your stuffy-stuffy."
"Lori, I'm serious. We spend hundreds of dollars you kids every month, and it takes time and dedication to make sure everyone is safe. So I don't want anything going wrong. No goof-ups, no explosions, no fires, no floods, no bats swarming the house at night..."
"I told you, the demonic spirits let them out last night," Lucy retorted. She was a goth girl, covered with black and white and quite solemn for the most part... and, of course, she owned pet bats.
Then Lynn Jr., the family's resident sports lover, butted in. "Dad, we'll be fine! I mean, what's the worst that could happen?" She seemed to be trying to reassure her father and the grumpier kids with her best smile, but it didn't seem to be working.
"Funny you should ask," said Lisa, the second-youngest yet smartest sister. "I made a pie chart that shows every possibility of anything that could possibly go wrong. You have an 86% chance of coming back to town and seeing a perfectly normal house." Lynn Sr. took the chart out of her hands and looked over it, obviously confused. "Happy travels!" Lisa finished. Leni suddenly cried out, "You made pie??" to which Lisa responded with a moan.
Luna, a self-proclaimed rock star and the third oldest sister, looked extremely excited, and this was shown through her speech. "I can't wait to start jammin' at night! I was born to be wild!"
The fourth oldest, Luan, looked like she was ready to crack a joke. And sure enough, she let it out. "Mind if I spread some peanut butter with that jam?" She laughed at the sound of her pun, with Luna slightly glaring at her as if to say, Seriously dude?
"Well," Lynn Sr. sighed with a finality to his voice, "I guess we need to catch our plane. And Lynn Jr., Lincoln... you need to catch your bus." "Oh man!" Lincoln yelled. "I can't miss the bus on my first day of sixth grade!" Lynn Jr. called, "I'll race ya!" as they ran out the door.
The race eventually ended with a tie, and Clyde was waiting at the bus stop for them. He and Lincoln gave each other their secret handshake, and sat down on the bench with Lynn.
"So... sixth grade, huh?" Lynn glanced at Lincoln, looking a little proud of how far her brother has come. "Yup," Lincoln replied, looking confident. "This day is gonna be a blast... at least, I hope so."
"Good luck, bro. The teachers are gonna be a liiittle more strict than you might be used to."
"Yeah, I know that. It's just the sheer excitement of it all... I'm gonna start going to a new school. And all my friends from fifth grade are going there."
Clyde gave Lynn a positive, reassuring look. "We'll get through this. Don't worry." The bus was rolling in right about now, and all three of them stepped up the stairs and over to their seats.
Then, Clyde spotted a boy with somewhat frizzy brown hair and a lime-green T-shirt chatting with his friends. He nudged Lincoln and pointed to the boy. "It's Chandler!"
Chandler looked up and saw them, giving them a harsh smirk. "Hey look, it's Jack Frost!" His friends laughed with him, pointing at Lincoln and mocking him in more ways than he could count.
Lincoln sighed and asked, "Why is it always me? Can't you pick on anyone else on this bus?" "Nah man," Chandler answered. "You're honestly the most fun to make fun of."
"I heard he's depressed about his girlfriend leaving town," one of his friends said. "What's her name? Ronnie Anne or somethin'?"
"Hey, she's not my girlfriend!" Lincoln yelled.
"You sure about that?" Chandler jeered with a sarcastic grin. "You have video chats with her every night before you go to bed... at least, that's what the rumor says."
"That doesn't make it true!" Lynn tried to defend Lincoln; she knew Chandler from all the football games she'd participated in.
"This coming from the girl who let down her whole football team!"
Lincoln looked like he was ready to burst. "That wasn't her fault, Chandler!" "Oh, right..." Chandler glared. "It was yours! Your bad luck messed it all up! This is why Ronnie Anne left. She didn't want to end up with the same bad luck you gave Lynn."
"SHUT UP!" Lincoln was turning red with rage, and it seemed that at any moment he could grab Chandler and throw him to the other side of the bus.
"I know what happened, Snow White."
"You wish, you little leprechaun."
A hush fell over the entire bus as everyone stared at the two boys. Clyde's mouth was gaping so wide he was almost drooling. Lynn sat there in total shock, as if she had been struck by lightning.
A giggle slipped out.
Then a chuckle.
And, like all laughter, it was contagious.
Chandler looked around at all the kids laughing at the roast Lincoln had just handed to him. Lincoln himself smirked -- he had never felt more confident around him before now.
"You... you..." Chandler was struggling for words, but all of his reputation had been sucked out of him. "You're gonna pay for that, Loud!"
The bus finally arrived at Royal Woods Middle School and pulled over to the drop-off station. All the kids got off, and Lincoln, Lynn, and Clyde looked out towards the three-story school building.
Lincoln was kind of revolted by how old the building looked -- most of the grass had been ripped out, and there was already litter all over the ground. The brick walls seemed to be falling apart a tiny bit, and looked like they hadn't been repainted in years. But it was only his first day here -- he had to give it a chance.
"Welcome to middle school, nerds," Lynn congratulated the boys.
Lincoln and Clyde arrived at their homeroom and sat down next to each other. Chandler came into the room with them, followed by a girl with curly brown hair and a purple blouse.
"...is that Cristina?" Lincoln asked Clyde. "Huh, sure is," he responded as she sat down in front of Chandler. Lincoln started to get flashbacks of his weird obsession with Cristina back in fifth grade. These days, it made him cringe just thinking about it -- and now that a new school year had started, he figured it was time for a fresh start.
But that could wait until after class. The bell had rang, and his homeroom teacher was now in the room. The teacher was male -- a departure from the female teachers he was used to in elementary school. He was well-built, with dark brown hair and a clean-shaven face. Lincoln guessed he was fairly young -- a bit younger than Ms. Johnson at least.
"Good morning, class," the teacher began. "Welcome to your first year of middle school. My name is Mr. Spruce, and I will be your homeroom teacher."
The whole class greeted him in return. They all looked excited and nervous at the same time, especially Lincoln.
Mr. Spruce called roll, and class began. "Homeroom period is only ten minutes long, so I only have one assignment for you today. This assignment will test your skills in analyzing art and literature, which will be important to classes you will take from now til your senior year. Now..." He turned on his projector, and the classic painting, American Gothic, was shown on screen. "Can anyone tell me what this painting represents?"
Lincoln raised his hand, and he was called on. "I think it's telling us that they lost something important to them, and they're not so happy about it."
"Hmm, not quite..." Mr. Spruce responded. "You're right about the 'loss' part, though. Good try. Anyone else?"
Chandler was the next to raise his hand. "The painting represents the losses American citizens faced during the Great Depression. Poverty was a major issue back then, and in some cases forced farmers out of business."
The class was amazed by this description -- even Lincoln. "....I'm a fan of art," Chandler explained.
"That was... pretty good!" Mr. Spruce praised Chandler's analysis. The bell rang to head to the next class, and everyone got out of their seats and walked out the door. "Have a good first day, class," the teacher called out.
Lincoln and Clyde had gotten their lockers at orientation, so they walked over to them and organized their textbooks. Lincoln started his trip to the next class, but accidentally bumped into Chandler.
"Hey, watch it!" he yelled. Lincoln was ticked off by his sudden harshness. "Well, sorry!" he said, and tried to walk away. But Chandler grabbed him by the collar and pushed into a nearby locker. He growled, still holding on to his collar. "The next time you get in my way... you're gonna be sorry."
"Chandler!" Cristina was behind him, giving him a dirty look. "Leave him alone. He had no intentions of hurting you."
"Just let me handle the situation, sis!" Chandler replied brashly.
"Now wait a minite," said Lincoln. "You're siblings?"
"Yeah, twins," Cristina answered. "He's pretty much my polar opposite. Gender and all."
Chandler let go of Lincoln and confronted his twin sister in a sort of staredown. "Listen up, Tina. I don't know why you chose to butt in like this, but I need you to let me do my own thing."
"You're not my boss, Chandler."
"Well, I'm six minutes older than you, so I kind of am."
"You're gonna be late, y'know..."
Chandler quickly glanced at the clock. "Ugh! This is your fault, Lincoln!" He dashed through the hall and took a turn, continuing his rush until he eventually went out of sight.
"Thanks, Cristina," Lincoln sighed with relief. "I almost got a black eye."
"Hey, any time, Lincoln," said Cristina. "Chandler can be a real jerk sometimes. I always have to be the angel to his devil... ugh."
They walked down the hall together, as Lincoln glanced at every corner of the building. "...you OK?" Cristina finally asked.
Lincoln turned his head back to face her. "Oh, I just... I just wanna say I'm sorry if I seemed creepy with my crush on you back in fifth grade."
"Oh, don't worry about it," Cristina gave him a reassuring smile. "I've always been the popular girl. Boys have crushes on me every year."
Lincoln smiled back and gave her a handshake, formally acknowledging her as a friend.
"So... hey!" Cristina quickly grabbed his attention just as he was turning around. "Wanna come to my party tonight? Chandler and I are twelve today."
"Oh sure, I'll come. Happy birthday!"
"Thanks! I've invited Clyde too. He seems... nice." She blushed a bit as she said the word. "I would have invited Ronnie Anne too, but... you know..."
Lincoln sighed, and his casual expression started to falter. "Yeah..." He didn't want to blurt it out, but he really missed her. She had moved in with her extended family miles away from Royal Woods, and even though he did chat with her online, he knew that middle school wouldn't be as fun without her.
Cristina put her arm on Lincoln's shoulder. "Hey, if you wanna talk about it, I'm here for you." Lincoln smiled again, but it seemed more weak this time. "Thanks, Cristina," he said. "I'll see you at the party."
"You too, bud!" Cristina waved goodbye and jogged to class.
Clyde finally caught up with Lincoln. "Dude, class starts in two minutes," he reminded him.
"Yeah, I know," Lincoln responded. "I'm just excited about that party Cristina invited me to. Maybe I'll get a fresh start after all..." Lincoln smiled, but didn't notice he was starting to walk backwards... into a trophy case.
"Lincoln... watch out!"
He bumped into the trophy case, and the trophy inside fell over and shattered. "Oh man oh man oh man..." Lincoln shuddered, looking down at the name on the trophy. "That was the only gold trophy the school's football team ever won... and Lynn got the final touchdown!"
A school security officer noticed the broken trophy. "YOU! Principal's office, now!"
Later that day, Lori picked up Lincoln from detention and drove all the kids home. "I can't believe you broke that trophy and made me wait an hour to pick you up," Lori ranted.
"Lori, it was an accident!" Lincoln tried to defend himself, worried what she might do to him. Lori was known to be ruthless when she got angry.
But she just kept on ranting. "For twelve years, I have tried to be the best sister I could be. Am I good at my job? No. Do I know anything about kids? No! Should I read a book on parenting? Probably!"
Lincoln looked down at his feet in shame. Much to his disbelief, Lynn didn't seem too angry.
"Look Lincoln, I'm not mad," she said. "I'm disappointed, but I ain't mad."
"I'm really sorry, Lynn," Lincoln stated openly.
Lori was finally starting to calm down. "Lincoln, I'm glad you apologized, but you really need to be more careful with your surroundings." She kept her eyes on the road with a solemn expression.
Back at the house, Lincoln drew his own comics, and was enjoying himself until he broke his pencil. The only room where he could find a lot of extra pencils was Lori and Leni's. He didn't want Lori to catch him in there without her permission, though -- she was really defensive about that.
He looked through the open door, and saw no one in there. He tip-toed into the room and opened the side table drawer between the girls' beds and found a pencil... but he also noticed a small photograph.
The photo showed a young Lori posing with an older boy on a cold winter day. They were bundled up in their coats, hats, and mittens, with their arms around each other's shoulders. Lori was holding up the two-finger "peace" sign, and the boy was giving the camera operator a big thumbs up.
Who is this guy? Lincoln wondered. And how come I've never seen him? Was he a friend of Lori's who moved away? Perhaps a cousin? Wait... maybe he's our lost br--
Lincoln yelped and quickly turned around. Fortunately, it wasn't Lori standing behind him, but Leni.
"Hey... is that Dad?" Leni noticed the photo in Lincoln's hands.
"No, it's not," Lincoln answered her. "Lori wouldn't have been born yet if he was that young. I am wondering who it is, though."
Suddenly, they heard footsteps coming towards the room. In s flash, Lincoln knew it was Lori. He grabbed the photo from Leni and scrambled to put it back in the drawer, but Lori caught him with it and rapidly snatched it out of his hands.
"Lincoln! You shouldn't be poking around in things you don't understand," she lectured as she closed the drawer.
"But Lori," Leni whined, "it was just a photo of you and Dad!"
Lincoln facepalmed and left the room with Leni.
Lori pulled the photo back out of the drawer and gazed at it, looking kind of sad as she looked at the boy.
"Oh, Linus... if only you were still here with us..."
To Be Continued