Ben woke up feeling lightheaded, he was sure he must have had too much to drink last night because his head was in a miserable state. It took him a few minutes to carefully gather his thoughts and look around only to find himself in bunker beds with some other boys his age, still asleep.
Ben's head throbbed remembering last night but it took him no more than three minutes to recollect how he ended up in this unusual place.
Ben's parents had been sent to a boarding school since he had failed his grade 12 exams. Perhaps out of disappointment or because they wanted him to focus on himself, either way, Ben was stuck here now.
Ben looked around once more and quietly whispered, "Ah...fuck".
A few boys were up and changing into their uniforms while some of them still in their beds, heads in dreamland.
Ben quickly got up, there was no getting around this whole boarding school thing so all he could do was try not to fail again.
It was the first day of classes at Minhaut Boarding School as well as Ben's first day. He wasn't nervous but he missed his usual bickering with his mom over breakfast and his dad's loud TV noises, but now all of that was gone, and who knows for how long.
The first day of classes wasn’t bad except for the huge class sizes and a mandatory club that Ben had to join to graduate. Ben wasn’t sure if he had any interests in sports or anything artistic hence he chose the very quiet book club.
The club ran from every Thursday and Monday from 3pm to 6pm. It wasn't a big gathering, only a few other students had joined which was also the reason Ben decided to join it, he hated crowds.
An entire week had passed by and Ben was drowned in school homework, it is the least to say boarding schools assigned more work than traditional high schools. Ben had almost forgotten about the book club's first meeting, but thankfully he lived in an era where a single iPhone reminder was enough.
Ben quickly tidied up his small bed and ran towards the end of the school building where the book club was. It was somewhat far away but Ben didn't mind it, after all, he hated noise and big gatherings, which he could clearly hear as he passed by the gym.
Ben smelled something familiar to an apple pie as he entered the room and was a little surprised to see the inside of the club very organized and what resembled a smaller version of a library.
Ben knew a thing or two about clubs. In his old high school, he often passed by the book club but the door was always closed and the students inside ran their heads through a big pile of messy books. Nonetheless, Ben always wondered what was so good about books that someone would sacrifice experiencing real life for a bunch of words on a paper.
Ben didn't like chairs and he spotted a bean bag at the edge of the room which also had a window right next to it, so ultimately he chose to relax there.
No one else was in the room except Ben and he felt a little awkward and fiddled around with his phone until someone entered through the door.
It wasn't just someone but a small group of three students who giggled and held a few thick books in their hands. They stopped to look towards Ben and quickly quieted down.
Ben wasn't sure how this club worked and he was too tired from all the schoolwork to figure out more about books. Ben smiled and waved his hand from the corner of the room and the students smiled back.
"Are you going to sit there or would you like to join us here", a beautiful girl with thick glasses gently spoke as she plopped herself down in one of the chairs.
There were two other students, surprisingly all girls, who also had big glasses on their face, Ben wasn't sure how he felt about being in a club with only girls that definitely looked like nerds. Nonetheless, out of respect he left his comfortable spot and found himself a seat in the little chairs' circle that was created in the middle of the room.
The girls introduced themselves as Maya, Aya and Nicole and described how they had gotten to know each other through books.
Maya was the beautiful girl with long black hair who had talked to Ben earlier, she was even prettier without her glasses, Ben was instantly smitten. Nicole and Aya were average looking but Aya had a weird high pitched voice, it was very uncomfortable to hear and hurt Ben's ear but he paid it no attention.
For 3 hours, the three friends talked about their favourite novels and recommended Ben a bunch, of which he was sure he wasn't going to like any. Ben was just glad the club had finished because he was exhausted.
Maya and Nicole had left the room, and just as Ben was about to leave, he was stopped by an unusual voice that called his name. Ben looked around and saw Aya, smiling very vibrantly as she handed him a book and said, "I've read this book before and it gives me your vibe, I think you might like it".
Ben didn't understand what Aya meant so he asked, "What do you mean by my vibe?".
Aya didn't look like she was in a hurry and even offered to close the door as they both walked out of the room. "You haven't read any books, right? Maybe that's why you don't understand. Well, how do I explain this..."
Aya thought for a moment and answered, "The main character in this book doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, I think the way I interpret this character is just how you looked so lost earlier, maybe this will help you".
They had walked pretty far, the sun was already setting down and dinner time was almost around the corner, hence they bid each other a farewell and left for their dormitories.
Over the next few days, Ben carefully read the book, he was still unsure how the character resembled him but once he was given a task, he was sure to finish it. And surprisingly, he did finish the entire book right before the next book club meeting.
Ben wasn't impressed by the book, he didn't like how the character magically found his passion by a mere coincidence, Ben didn't believe in fate.
The book club meeting came around and Ben returned the book to Aya. He didn't hate the book, it just wasn't that amazing that he'd spent time reading it. Aya suggested that they could visit the school library the next day and find something he liked.
Ben didn't hate the idea, and he had already finished all his work.
The next morning rolled in, and Ben and Aya headed to the library. Ben was always weirded out by the libraries, he had actually developed his first crush in a library who also broke his heart and ultimately led him to fail grade 12.
Ben and Aya looked around a bunch of genres and some of them indeed interested Ben, he was a fan of movies and video games therefore fictional stories weren't that far. But that wasn't important here because every time Aya spoke, her high-pitched voice seemed to attract a bunch of people from their surroundings and made him feel uncomfortable.
Ben glanced at Aya but she was completely immersed in a sci-fi novel, too busy to notice the weird glances on her. Ben wondered how she felt every time she spoke and people stared at her.
Ben quickly chose a novel with a historical fiction setting and walked out of the library with Aya. He was curious about her voice too but decided not to question it.
Over the next following days, Ben read the book he chose with Aya and completely fell in love with it. He now understood what Aya had meant by the vibe of the book. It was a new feeling, he had never liked books but somehow this novel made him forget the real world and enter a world that was unknown to the rest. It was like getting VIP seats to a movie premiere but in his head.
Ben was confused but he wanted to feel those emotions again, he wanted to read more.
The club meeting was tomorrow but Ben couldn't contain his excitement so he texted Aya and they talked for hours and hours about the novel, and surprisingly she had already finished that novel.
Ben felt like he had been introduced to a new world, he felt like he was chosen to read this story, he felt as if he was born again as if he became a part of the story. It was magical.
In the next few months, Ben had read almost every novel available in the library with Aya, he had finally found his favourite genre of novel, he just could not get enough of these fictional stories. In his sleep, during school, while eating, all he thought about was novels, or more specifically stories, he wanted to tell stories too, he wanted to become an author.
Maybe this was fate, after all, Ben had felt like a failure when he was sent to this boarding school but now he had something, he had found a part of himself. He finally wasn't scared of the future but he was excited, to read, to learn and to write the stories that took over his mind.
He had finally found himself, not in this world but in another.