Author's Note:This is the story I mentioned the other day in my blog. I know I said it probably wouldn't be posted until the end of the month but I'm ahead of schedule right now. I have four chapters written and things are going pretty strong. This is the beginning of a new universe for me---a extraordinary one. It won't take people long to figure out what's going on with it. Its quite different than my previous universe too. Its also just for me---at least for now. Maybe when I get things established with it a bit more, I might open it up for others to play in :) Also I need to apologize for the opening line, I don't use words like that on a regular basis but it was done to establish the character speaking the line.
“Watch it fag!”
Robby Barnes slammed his shoulder into mine while he passed me in the hall. I staggered, almost falling flat on my face. Thankfully I caught myself in time. That didn’t stop the snickering though. There were half a dozen kids nearby when it happened. They always laughed. At least it was better than cheering or worse, joining in. Robby had this way about him. He was a bully pure and simple but unlike most bullies, he was popular too. Captain of the wrestling team and star of the track and field team, Robby inspired people. Not only at one of his meets either, everywhere he went he got praise. He got away with everything too. Bullying people was second nature to him because of it. If you were small and seemingly helpless, you were an easy target for him.
People were still snickering at me long after Robby was gone. I lowered my head and hoped that I could just disappear.
It wasn’t that hard to do. Johnson Cross middle school was a fairly big place. Between classes, there were a lot of students in the hall. Blending into the crowd and disappearing was an easy thing to do. At least most of the time anyway. Robby had this way of always finding me. He tried to pretend they were random encounters but I knew better. He deliberately went out of his way to find me. We only had two classes together but he always managed to find me. Whether it was in the lunch room or in the locker room or especially in the halls. He thrived at making my life a living hell.
All based on a stupid misunderstanding too.
I was new to Johnson Cross. Hell, I was new to the whole town actually. My family moved here four months ago from the Midwest. It was nothing new to me. Dad was in the Air Force and moving was pretty common for me and my siblings. We’d stay in one place for a few years then move onto the next. It was great if you were one of those people that liked to travel and see new places. I’d seen my fair share that’s for sure. In my short fourteen years of life, I’d lived in six different states. It used to be pretty horrible, making new friends and finally settling before we ended up getting shipped out again. After the last couple of moves though I made a decision not to bother anymore.
I made a habit out of being invisible.
I was pretty good at it.
At least I used to be. Things started to get a little different last year.
The summer between seventh and eighth grade, most of my male peers started to shoot up like weeds. They got taller, grew muscles and facial hair and started to notice me. Not in a good way either. Puberty was not kind to me. Whereas my father and older brothers were tall and manly men, I took after my mother and sister. I never got taller than five foot four and never got the muscles my brothers inherited. My features remained fairly soft and I was fairly thin. I generally hid most of my girliness behind hand me downs from my brothers---oversize shirts, baggy jeans and big hoodies. It helped with my whole “skater boy” edge thing I was trying to hide behind.
Two things happened at once that sealed my fate.
The first was my hair.
Dad usually lets us all do our own thing. Partially because he was never around to notice but mostly because his father used to ride him all the time about how he should look and act. Grandpa Joe had been a military man too but unlike Dad, he was a strict and stern man. The only thing that Dad inherited from him was his need to have his sons well groomed. That meant hair. He felt boys shouldn’t look like girls. Not that he had anything wrong with it of course but he told us he knew how cruel some guys could be. Dad usually kept a pretty close eye on this like that, unless he was deployed. Which he was, for five months. The very same five months leading up to our move. While gone, Mom generally let the rule slide. My brothers stuck to it no matter what but me, well I just hated the smell of barber shops.
So my usually trim and neatly coiffed auburn hair was a shaggy mess when we moved. Well past my shoulders. Of course, Dad complained but ultimately he told me he thought I was old enough to do with it what I wished. So I let it stay. It was long enough for a low ponytail anyway and I usually hid everything under a hoodie. Unfortunately, that’s where the second problem came: the hoodie. Johnson Cross had a fairly strict dress code apparently. One I didn’t know about until I got to homeroom that first day. Not only were hoodies not allowed, I was made to take it off immediately and return it to my locker. First, the teacher not only embarrassed the hell out of me because of it but when I returned to class she sealed my fate:
“Thank you, young lady.”
The hoodie did a few important things for me. One it hid my hair, two it made me look bulkier than I actually was and three, it kept people from mistaking my true gender. Because of my hair and my size, nine out of ten people since moving here thought I was a girl. I tried my best to correct them but they never seemed to pay attention or care. At first, it bothered me. Then I realized I was drawing unwanted attention to myself so I dropped it. There wasn’t anything I could do to change their minds and if they were stupid enough to think I was a girl then it was their own fault.
That, unfortunately, is where the misunderstanding comes into play.
Robby liked to think of himself as a ladies man. For good reason, most of the girls threw themselves at him. He was tall, blonde and looked like a Hemsworth. He walked around with this swagger too and a smile that most of the girls melted for. That’s kinda where the animosity for me came in. He tried to put on the charm when we first met, purely by accident. He almost ran me over going into Math class. He apologized then when he looked down at me, he made the same assumption as everyone else. He introduced himself, smiling all big but of course I didn’t fall for it because well I’m a guy. That didn’t stop him from trying though. After class he followed me into the hall, trying to chat me up. I flushed red out of embarrassment. I think he thought I was swooning over him because he kept pressing the issue. Robby didn’t discover the truth about me until a few classes later, in the gym locker room.
The bullying started as soon as we got onto the basketball court.
It hasn’t stopped.
It was stupid. His mistake was suddenly somehow my fault.
It was the dumbest thing ever.
Thankfully Robby was finally long gone. He only ever really bullied me for a moment. It was a Run By Bullying if you will. I think it was to show he was manlier or superior or some such nonsense. It made me feel like crap. It also for a moment, made people stop and look. In a way that was worse than bullying. I hated being stared at. My goal in life was to be invisible and before Robby, I was good at it. If someone noticed me---which was rare---they only lingered on me for a moment. As soon as that moment was over, I bled back into the crowd where I belonged.
I liked it that way.
Keeping my head down, as usual, I made my way to my locker. I dumped my morning books and grabbed the ones for the next couple of periods. I wasn’t very strong so I had to make at least four trips to my locker a day. Once in the morning, once right before lunch---like now---and once again to grab my books for the last two periods of the day. Oh yeah, one to go home too. Almost forgot that one. The important one. Schools made kids carry too many books. I mean I was only in the eighth grade and yet altogether I probably carried about forty pounds of books a day.
It was crazy.
Trying to keep my head down, I gathered what I needed and went back into the crowd. Being so short, I disappeared easily. I followed the flow toward the double doors leading into the cafeteria. The only person who even acknowledged my existence was the lunch lady who put today’s “slop” on my tray. I paid her, mumbled thanks and meandered toward my usual table. It was way in the back corner, near the garbage cans, away from everyone. I mean I was the only one stupid enough to want to sit there. Not even the tables around me were occupied. It was great because I liked my peace and quiet.
Out of all the classes of the day, lunch had to be my favorite. Not only could I use it to catch up on some light reading, it was also the only period of the day that I was allowed to wear my hoodie. I made sure the hood was pulled way over my head as I sat to eat. Ok, so it wasn’t really slop. There were a lot of rich, snotty kids at this school. I heard one of them refer to it as that and it sorta stuck with me. To be truthful, it wasn’t half bad: Ham and cheese on whole wheat today.
I ate in silence, keeping my head down.
“Do you need this seat?”
I looked up into the smiling face of Debbie Mason, her hands resting on the back of the chair directly in front of me. I shook my head, she smiled her thanks and carried it over to her table. I watched her walk away. Debbie was one of the cool kids, in that same crowded and overrated group as my tormentor. She wasn’t like him though. Not that I really knew her of course. I knew of her though. She was in Student Council and was on the girl’s swim team. Reputation wise she was supposed to be a nice person. She reminded me a bit of my sister, Charlotte. They both smiled all the time and when they walked into a room, everyone wanted to talk to them.
Debbie placed her chair next to Macy Clarke.
Her complete opposite.
Macy was just like Robby. The two of them were dating in fact. She was that superficial blonde girl, fake and bitchy. A cheerleader for the high school’s JV squad, she thought she was better than everyone else. It was easy to see how she and Robby got along so well. It helped that she was well developed. I overheard some girls talking about her the other day, they were pretty catty about it. Whereas most of the girls in my grade were just starting puberty, Macy had a huge jump start. Actually two of them, both located on her chest. She did everything she could to flaunt them too. Like today, wearing that tiny top of hers, exposing just the right amount of cleavage.
I looked away quickly.
The last thing I needed was Robby catching me staring at his girlfriend.
I quickly ate the rest of my sandwich without looking up again. With it finally out of the way, I could get to my science homework. I usually didn’t like doing my homework during lunch but I didn’t have a choice. My brother, Hunter, was playing one of his stupid games all night. It was so loud I couldn’t concentrate. Mom was no help either. She kept on yelling at him to turn it down but he ignored her as usual. I would have done it in study hall but today the teacher made us all watch some PSA video on bullying. It was pretty lame and worthless. Because even with it, there was still way more bullying at this school than ever before.
So that left me doing my work now.
Thankfully it was only an article I had to read.
Unlike most of my peers, I was in advanced placement science. There were only about thirty of us in the class. Our teacher---Mr. Bowman---was from the high school. He came three times a week to teach us. I always liked Earth Science. Mr. B. made it cool too. He was young so that helped. Fresh out of college, he knew ways to make the class hip and interesting. The article was on solar activity, which was pretty relevant considering tonight’s activities. Tonight and only tonight, there was going to be a pretty spectacular solar event. A series of solar flares large enough to see with the naked eye. NASA and the media were making a pretty big deal about them. After this summer’s solar eclipse, this was all pretty big stuff.
The government was even rerouting one of their satellites close to the action to take some great footage.
I was pretty stoked.
Sadly I was the only one.
I finished reading the article right before the bell rang.
Keeping my head down as always, I exited the cafeteria without drawing any attention.
Thank God for that.
“Did everyone read last night’s article?”
There were some grumbles but most of us had read it. Though taking a quick look around, it was clear that most of us that did read it weren’t really interested. It was strange really. The thirty of us were all in the same class and yet I seemed to be the only one really interested in tonight’s solar phenomena. We were all smart, dedicated science geniuses. Well, at least I liked to think of myself as such. I mean this was a high school level class after all. Ok so it was only freshman level but it was still better than eighth-grade science. We all earned our right to be here. Though looking around the room, half the kids here looked clueless most of the time.
At least Mr. Bowman was enjoying himself. No matter how unenthusiastic and bored everyone else appeared to be, Mr. B. always seemed to have a smile on his face. I couldn’t help but wonder though it was actual enthusiasm or plastered on for our benefit. I mean teachers were supposed to enjoy what they teach, right? Not that I was questioning his teaching methods---he was great. It's just sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder if he really wanted to be here. He was a high school teacher after all. Three days out of the week he had to come here and teach us. That couldn’t have been easy. He was young too, not much older than Charlotte. He was probably the low man on the totem pole so he got saddled with us.
I noticed something else too.
When he thought no one was looking, he kept glaring at all of us. It definitely told me he didn’t want to be here. Thankfully he didn’t let that dissatisfaction bled over into his teaching. Especially today. Even though his smile was fake, it was clear he was excited.
“C’mon guys, this is great stuff,” he said, pulling down the projector screen. “A once in a life time experience.”
He used his laptop to queue up CNN.
They were currently covering the solar storms. It had been big news for months. It was supposed to be the largest solar storm in a decade. Some of the flares were said to even get close to Earth but not close enough to do any serious damage. We’ve been lucky over the years though. A few years back we dodged a particularly nasty flare. NASA wasn’t going to miss this opportunity though. For months they’ve been developing a new satellite based technology, the first of its kind, capable of getting a more in-depth reading on flares than anything we’ve had in the past. It was all in the article. It was actually pretty compelling stuff. It was clear that most of my fellow science geeks didn’t seem to think so.
The CNN footage currently projected on the classroom’s white board was pretty interesting too. Anderson Cooper was interviewing one of the scientists responsible for building the satellite. I think I was the only one really paying attention though. Looking around, I locked eyes with Mr. B. He seemed to be the only other person actively watching too. He gave me a small smile. I looked away, lowering my head quickly.
The interview went on for a good ten minutes before the broadcast moved onto footage of the satellite. Then another scientist came on to discuss the storm. While that was going on, Mr. B. started talking about the article. He switched the broadcast onto one of the flat screens in the room and shut off the projector. He took over the whiteboard and started the class. Taking out my notebook, I made certain to take notes like usual. Like most of my classes, I threw myself into the note taking. I had a lot of free time on my hands at home, what with being new in town and not being all that social, I found myself absorbed in school. I was pretty proud of the fact that I was currently acing all my classes.
I took notes for the rest of the class, keeping my head down and trying to concentrate on the task. By the time the bell rang, I’d actually filled up three whole pages. Not a bad day at all. As I was starting to put my things into my backpack, Mr. B. beckoned me over to the desk. Confused at first, I slowly made my way over.
I had trouble interacting with adults.
I think it was because of my size.
Being short had never really been a problem until last year. When all the boys started to shoot up around me, I started to feel really small. I knew it was pretty stupid. I mean people came in all sizes after all. I guess I was more disappointed than anything. My father and brothers were so tall and I was a shrimp. Mom was concerned enough about it to take me a doctor. He didn’t seem overly concerned though. I had a slight frame and soft features, I would probably never grow into the kind of man that they were. He did take some blood though and ran a battery of tests just to be on the safe side. Everything came back on the up and up though. I did some of my own research on it too. It was clear the doctor thought I might have some hormonal imbalance or something. I guess the blood tests proved otherwise.
That didn’t stop me from feeling inferior though.
“Shiloh, you have a minute?”
I nodded, looking up at his tall frame.
Mr. B. was what a lot of the girls called handsome. I wouldn’t really know because I didn’t swing that way. Not that there was anything wrong with being gay, it just wasn’t me. Contrary to what a lot of the guys in this school thought. The girls swooned over this man though. I guess I could see it. He was tall, looked like he worked out and had movie star hair. He was the kind of guy that girls would definitely throw themselves at. The kind of guy that I would sadly never be.
I held my breath, wondering what he wanted. It was rare that anyone---including a teacher---wanted to talk to me one on one.
“I noticed you were pretty interested in the solar storms,” he said with a laugh. “A lot more than the rest of the class that’s for sure.”
“It's cool stuff,” I said in a voice barely above a whisper.
He nodded. “Indeed it is. That’s why I’m going to the observatory tonight to take a real good look at it. I was going to announce it to the rest of the class, maybe have an impromptu field trip but no one really seemed all that interested. Except for you, that is. I was wondering if you wanted to tag along tonight?”
I never expected that.
I mean no one wanted to hang out with me, not even my own family. My parents were always busy with work, Dad at the base and Mom at the office. Hunter was too cool to hang with me, being a Senior and all. Freddy was in the Marines now and Charlotte, well she was at college, studying to be a doctor. Even when everyone was all together and had free time, they always did things without me in them. I didn’t feel left out though. I was used to it. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure things out. Charlotte was twenty-three, Fred was just twenty and Hunter is eighteen. They were my half siblings, their mother died when Hunter was a baby. Dad didn’t meet Mom until almost a year later. I don’t think either of my parents were expecting me. I’d made peace with that little bit of my life a long time ago.
My parents loved me in their own way.
My siblings did too I think.
Everyone had their thing though. I learned early on what it was like to be invisible.
Now it was the only thing I knew.
“You want me to go with you?”
“Sure,” he said with a smile. “I mean if its ok with your parents. It is a school night after all and it will be pretty late too.”
Dad was pretty stingy about the whole curfew thing. He wouldn’t even let Hunter stay out past eleven. I knew for a fact that the peak of this solar event tonight would not kick off until at least midnight. Mr. B. was asking a lot. Though I’m sure if he made a convincing argument, one for academics, my father would cave.
“I’d like to go" I happily admitted. “You’re going to have to convince the Colonel though.”
I saw the color drain from Mr. B.’s face.
“That’s your father right?”
Dad liked us to refer to him as the “Colonel” when we spoke about him to other people. He said it showed him the respect he deserved. I think Dad liked to intimidate people too. He didn’t do it on purpose. He just liked to let people know who he was and what he was all about. It also helped us too. If there was a problem then people knew what they were dealing with when they dealt with my family. Good or bad, Dad liked to make his presence known.
“I’ll give him a call on my lunch break,” he said with a strained, uneasy chuckle.
I couldn’t help but smirk.
It would be real curious to see how Dad handled this.
The rest of the school day went by pretty normal.
As the last bell rang, I managed to slip out into the hall without any problems. Ever since this morning, I’d been doing my best trying to be unseen. It was working too. Though I almost had another run in with Robby on my way to my fifth-period class. Thankfully he got distracted or else, I probably would have had another sore shoulder. As it was, the one he slammed into earlier was still throbbing. It didn’t help that my back pack straps tore into it all day. Now that the day was finally over, I was able to dump all my heavy books at my locker.
I was getting my homework when I noticed someone standing next to me.
At first, I thought maybe it was my locker neighbor. I think her name was Claire something. I didn’t really know her all that well. We only saw each other a few times a day after all.
Turning though, I was surprised to find someone else.
Wow twice in one day.
I was a bit confused. Debbie and I definitely didn’t run in the same social circles. Hell, before earlier, I had never even spoken to her. Ok so I didn’t speak to her then but she spoke to me. Now here she was, standing next to me with that smile of hers. I was very confused. Girls like her didn’t talk to boys like me. They didn’t even breathe the same air as me. Yet here she was, again. Debbie was cute. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t find her attractive. She had long, raven black hair and a smattering of freckles.
“Hi,” I said softly, not sure what else I was supposed to say.
“I’m sorry to bother you like this but I saw you taking a lot of notes today...”
Oh, in class.
I never really paid much attention to the other kids in class with me. It's not that I’m a jerk or self-centered or anything. It's just that I try really hard not to be noticed. In doing so, I tend to not notice anyone else as a result. Now that I thought about it though, Debbie was in my science class. It suddenly occurred to me what notes she wanted too.
“My science notes?”
She smiled and laughed. “Yeah, I totally spaced today.”
I opened my locker back up and retrieved my notebook. I turned and handed it to her.
She opened it up and took a quick peek. “Wow, your handwriting is so neat and tiny.”
Usually, I hated it when people drew attention to something like that. When Debbie said it though, I didn’t really seem to mind. It was kind of nice to be complimented. At least I thought she was complimenting me. It was hard to tell. Especially because no one besides my mother or teachers ever really complimented me. In fact, not too many people talked to me besides those who wanted me to move out of their way. It was kind of nice for a change. Though I wouldn’t go out of my way to have this kind of interactions every day.
“I’ll give it back to you tonight.”
She nodded, brushing some hair behind her ear. “Didn’t Mr. B. tell you, I’m going to the observatory too. He asked me last period when he saw me in the hall. When he told me you were going as well, I was kinda surprised.”
I shrugged. “It seemed pretty cool.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait. I’ve been waiting for this storm for quite some time.”
Things fell into that awkward weird stage after that.
A moment or so passed.
“Well thanks for these, I’ll see you tonight.”
She did that thing with her hair again. I found myself matching her movements. She smiled and walked away, waving as she did so. I dumbly waved back, watching her go. I watched her disappear into the crowd with my notebook, a big goofy smile on my face.
After my momentary lapse of character, I became invisible again.
Blending into the crowd myself, I made my way to the exit.
Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF
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