[I strongly suggest that you go back and read the earlier parts if you haven't done that before.]
He jerked with surprise and looked around to find a tall, gangly kid looking over his shoulder. Gangly in the way that only too-tall white boys can be gangly, like their arms and legs are poorly attached with overly large joints. The boy was at least a foot taller than him, and he found himself looking up the kid’s nostrils rather than being able to see his face.
“Also, you don’t have enough money.” He said it matter-of-factly, in the same way you might say to someone, “This is my car.” Jeremiah wanted to say something sarcastic back, but his brain froze, and he just stared instead, though he did take a step away from the boy as he turned toward him, both so that he could actually see the kid’s face and because he was feeling crowded by the towering poles of arms and legs.
“Freshman, huh?” This, he said as a question, though it was clear he was stating a fact and not asking. The boys face was bony, too, as if he had over-sized joints in his cheeks, too -- not just his jawbones -- to match his elbows. The kid brushed his shaggy brown hair away from his brown eyes and added, “You’re very talkative.”
Jeremiah looked back down into his palm, which was still out with the three quarters in it, then looked back up and said, “I’m sorry. I just…” He trailed off as he shoved the quarters into his pocket.
The tall boy squinted at him, “Are you from out of state? What’s your name…?”
“Out of state?” The question confused Jeremiah. “No… Why would you think that?”
“You don’t really seem to know what you’re doing.”
“Well… I am a freshman.”
“Fair, but you seem a little more lost than most freshmen.” The kid gave him what felt like a piercing stare, “What did you say your name is?”
He suddenly felt uneasy, as if he were being interrogated, and felt like he shouldn’t tell the boy his name. In his head, he knew he was being paranoid and there was no good reason not to tell the kid, but his emotions were telling him to be paranoid. His experience told him that, mostly, you couldn’t trust people. “I didn’t say what my name is…”
The older boy gave his eyes a half roll and rattled his head slightly, just enough to convey exasperation without looking it. “Look, kid, I’m just trying to help you out. Most of us have been out of sorts at some point, and…,” he paused and dug around in his pocket, “…I just didn’t want you to feel like you didn’t have any friends. Or couldn’t have any friends.” He held out his clenched hand.
Jeremiah felt bad about being so suspicious, but he wasn’t used to people being nice to him, not without any reason, at any rate. Forcing himself to hold out his hand, the boy dropped two $1 bills into his hand. Jeremiah stared at the money a moment then said, “You don’t have to…”
“I know I don’t have to, but you seem like you need a friend or, at least, someone to help you out, and I’m just going to buy sodas with it, so I don’t really need it.”
The next bus pulled up, and the boy moved toward the door along with the new crowd of kids who had shown up while they were talking. Jeremiah hurried to catch up so as not to get left behind again. He fed the money into the machine at the top of the stairs and automatically looked to see where the tall kid had gone, which was toward the back of the bus, already joking and talking with some other guys, so Jeremiah dropped into the seat by the window behind the bus driver, usually the last seat anyone wanted to take, though he didn’t know that.
Staring vaguely out the window, he didn’t even glance over when someone sat down next to him, then the bus pulled away.