I walked with Naomi through the school. I didn't know how to feel as we strolled down the hallways and passed by the lockers and countless doors. On the one hand, I was with the girl of my dreams, and she was talking to me! I'd had a crush on Naomi for as long as I could remember and now she was actually noticing me. But on the other hand, she didn't even realize who I was...and I wasn't even a boy. Was it wrong that I was still crushing on her? Personally, I was emotionally confused and conflicted. Naomi didn't seem to notice this though as she kept walking down the halls.
"I sure hope your cousin gets better soon, Cheryl." Naomi said calmly. I looked up and adjusted my hat.
"What do you mean?" Naomi stopped and turned to face me, a dark look in her eyes.
"I know you don't go to this school, Cheryl...but you should know that Travis isn't the only bully we have to deal with around here." I narrowed my eyes at this. She was right...Travis was not the only issue that I'd had to deal with as Chase. There were plenty more...and some were even worse. "Chase was the only person that could keep them under control." I blushed at this, but then I remembered how people used to look at me when I would fight.
"Well, I....um....Chase used to tell me that people didn't like it when he helped people." I spoke up, careful not to give away who I was. Naomi frowned and gave a downcast look.
"To be honest, some people didn't like Chase," Naomi said sadly. I sighed and looked down; my fears confirmed. "but that shouldn't stop him from helping people anyway, should it?"
"Sometimes it's hard to help those who don't want it." I said darkly, more to myself than her.
"Well, maybe people will appreciate him more when he comes back." She said with a smile. "You tell him to hurry up and get better so he'll come back." She then continued walking down to class. I grumbled under my breath.
"If he comes back." I still wasn't sure how or if I would ever return to being a male again. Would I ever really be Chase again? Though Naomi said Chase was needed, did they REALLY need me back? I just didn't know for sure. I shook off my negative feelings and followed after Naomi. I followed silently for a moment, when I suddenly realized that I had to pretend I knew nothing about my own school.
"So, where are we going?" I asked.
"Chase and I have the same biology class together." Naomi said. "We're going there so you can go get his stuff." I nodded. I quickly felt my nerves start to take over. I would have to walk in and see all my classmates...and they would see me like this. What if one of them caught on? What if they found me out? I knew everyone else was fooled...but still, I couldn't shake my own fears. When we came to the door and Naomi pushed it open, I was careful to stay close to her side, as I could feel my heart pumping out of my chest. The teacher, Mrs. Madden looked up to see us walk in and smiled.
"Naomi, you're late...and who is this?" Mrs. Madden said kindly. I started to speak up but found myself stumbling over my own words.
"I...I um...you see, I'm..."
"What's that honey?" She asked.
"She's Cheryl Thames, Chase's cousin." Naomi spoke up. "See, Chase is sick and she's come to pick up his materials so that he can work on any assignments he might miss." I breathed a sigh of relief. Naomi had saved me twice today...I owed her big time. The rest of the class simply stared at me, not quite sure what to say. Mrs. Madden, as sweet and friendly as ever, just beamed at me.
"So you're Chase's cousin?" She asked. "I'm glad to see he takes his studies so seriously. I'll run and go get his assignments for the next few days. Wait here." She bustled out of the room to go to her office down the hall, leaving me and Naomi standing in front of a class of curious students. I flushed and knew what was about to happen.
"So when's Chase coming back?"
"Do you know what he's sick with?"
"Where are you from?"
"Where'd you get that hat?"
I was too flustered and nervous to speak up. I could only stand and awkwardly stare at everyone. Naomi once again moved to my defense.
"She's not up for a Q and A right now, okay? Lay off!" Naomi barked.
"Thanks." I muttered. Naomi just grinned and turned to face me.
"It's no trouble...but I am curious to know where you're from. Chase never mentioned you before." I looked down and began fiddling with my hair.
"Well, I'm from...up town a ways....and I was down here to work with my aunt for some....school work." As I was speaking, I couldn't help but notice one of the students in the class staring at me more intently than the rest. I felt a wave of unease wash over me. His name was Aaron, and he always sort of kept to himself...he made me uncomfortable, even when I was Chase, but now he was just glaring at me...did he know something? Could he tell who I really was? I tried not to think about it, but his eyes just kept boring into me, it was hard to ignore him.
"Here we are." When Mrs. Madden walked back in, I was more then thankful. She held out a few sheets of paper and a booklet, which I took. "Tell Chase that he's to do these worksheets for next week. I hope he comes back before then."
"Thank you, Mrs. Madden." I said kindly with a small nod. She suddenly gave me an odd look and arched her eyebrow.
"How did you know my name?" She asked. "I don't think I introduced myself." I suddenly stiffened as I realized she never had...and I was supposed to be clueless.
"Um...I read your name outside the door." I said quickly, praying she'd buy it. She shrugged with a smile.
"Oh well then, you have a good day. Naomi would you mind walking Cheryl to Chases locker so she can get anything else he needs?" Naomi smiled took my hand, walking with me to the door.
"Thanks for your help in there." I whispered. Naomi laughed and brushed it aside.
"You're nervous about being in a new place. It's the least I can do." She then winked. "But ya know, that shy girl routine is a sure fire way to attract boys." I blushed furiously and looked away, sickened by the suggestion.
"No, that's not what I..."
"Sure it was! The way you blush and constantly look down, stumbling over your words...guys go nuts over that. Don't ask me why, but they do. I mean, did you see the way Aaron kept gawking at you?" I suddenly whirled to face her. She had noticed Aaron staring at me too?
"What are you talking about?"
"Girl, that boy was looking at you the way a cat looks at a mouse. You had him hook, line, and sinker." I blushed hard and looked away from her. I remembered the way he had looked at me, and I thought it was just because he knew something about me...or that he had found me out...but could it really be that he was....attracted to me!? I shivered.
"It's unnerving!" I whimpered. Naomi nodded.
"Yeah, it really is. Guys just have no idea how uncomfortable that is...the way they stare like that? It's enough to make you shake in your boots." I didn't answer her. I was processing what she was saying. I had never known how girls must feel when guys stare at them...how uncomfortable and how weird it felt. Now I knew...and I was quite freaked out.
"I don't like it." I grumbled.
"Well, you aren't going to be here that long anyway. You're just gonna pick up Chases stuff and go right?" She asked. I nodded.
"Yeah...maybe I should tell Chase about the way he looked at me?" Naomi suddenly looked at me coldly.
"And what would Chase do if he knew?" I paused and stared at her face. She was angry...or was it frustrated? I became much more careful with my words.
"I dunno...maybe talk to him?" Naomi sighed and looked at her feet.
"I admire Chase...because he fights for a reason, not just to look cool or make a point." She said. "That's the way a man should be, right? They shouldn't just flash their muscles and throw their weight around for the sake of it. If Chase beat up Aaron just for looking at you funny...then...I don't know how I'd feel about that. It'd be really disappointing, I guess." I didn't know what to say. In my mind, I had every intention of beating the crap out of Aaron...but I failed to consider how this would appear to others. If I beat up Aaron for just looking at "Cheryl" funny...how would that make me any different from the bullies I fought constantly? I would merely be sinking to their level.
"Chase...wouldn't do that." I said calmly and carefully.
"I didn't think he would, but...yeah..." She trailed off and then smiled. "Enough about all that, we have to go to Chases locker." Just as she said this, the bell rang and students began to file out of their classes. Naomi took me by the hand and walked me through the crowd.
"Try not to get lost, I'll stay with you." I nodded and stumbled along after her as she dragged me through the pushing and shoving students. We finally came to stop at my locker and Naomi looked at me. "I hope that he gave you the combination...because I don't know it." Naomi said sheepishly. I smiled.
"Yeah, I have it." I began turning the combination and reached out to get my books from inside.
I felt a sudden jolt shoot up from my body through my spine. Something had grabbed my butt cheek from behind and squeezed. I let out a shriek as a very alien and shocked feeling rushed over me. I spun to see the hand and the body it belonged to. Standing behind me with a grin on his face was Aaron...who was smiling triumphantly.
"Ya like that?" He asked. What happened next stunned both me and Naomi. I reached around behind me and grabbed his wrist, yanking it away from my butt. I jerked it up, over his head angrily and bent his elbow back, causing his body to arch backwards. I then pulled down on his bent elbow forcing his upper torso to bend over as if bowing. I side stepped him and shot my knee into the side of his bowed head, sending him sprawling across the hallway. The crowd of students jumped out of the way as he fell and I could only stare in amazement at what I had done. I had never fought anyone as a girl before...but that rush of adrenaline and anger felt so familiar to me.
I suddenly felt extremely embarrassed as a wave of emotions washed over me at once. I was humiliated by the fact that he had touched me. I was scared by the fact that I was so vulnerable. I was furious that he would actually smile as he did it. And I was embarrassed that now there was no question as to who I really was. Naomi would figure me out...everyone would know who I was. I had blown it! I dropped my covered my face with my hands and felt the tears build up. Before I even had time to cry, Naomi's hand grabbed mine and pulled me along.
"Come with me, right now!" she barked. She dragged me across the hallway and to a janitors closet. I groaned knowing what would come next. First she'd declare me for who I was, and then shun me. It was over between me and her. Any chance I had was gone. She shoved me into the closet and slammed the door shut, turning on the light.
"Naomi, I can explain." I whimpered.
"Cheryl," she hissed, "that was so unbelievable!" I suddenly stopped shivering and stared at her.
"What you did back there...the way you stood up for yourself like that and pummeled Aaron for touching you like that?! It was awesome!" She said with a laugh.
"But...I thought you didn't like it when people just beat up other people." I said. Naomi shook her head.
"Not when you feel threatened or hurt. He touched you in an inappropriate way and you responded accordingly. There's nothing wrong with that! I guess Chase taught you how to pull off that move?" I was still trembling a little, but I was too relieved by the fact that she didn't hate me, to answer. I nodded my head slowly. "Well, it was really cool, but I suggest we go back and get your books now so you can take them to Chase."
"Won't I get in trouble though?" I asked. Naomi giggled as she opened the door.
"Do you really think any guy would admit to getting his ass kicked by the shy, new girl? Trust me...you're in the clear."