It’s good to be back.
Galiana’s teasing mask cracked; her eyes widened, and she went from smiling to her lips forming an o. Our group was silent for a short spell–only to be broken by Axel, who sniffed.
“If it makes you feel any better, Gal’s also a virgin,” he offered.
Gal was too busy sputtering with embarrassment to manage a better insult than, “W-W-Well, we can’t all be fuckboys!”
“Please don’t sniff out people’s blood anymore, you’ll land yourself a harassment charge,” Sage muttered sternly to Axel. Then they set their mint-green eyes on the sophomore. “Gal, you brought that on yourself. Quit assuming things about others.”
Axel and Gal muttered their apologies as Max broke away from the group to head for the only other door in sight, an amused smirk contrasting his pink-tinged cheeks.
“It’s cool, you guys,” he insisted. “Here, this way to E wing.”
Axel groaned. “Shit, I just remembered that I have Jude for homeroom.”
“Sucks to suck,” I grumbled. Teagan and Angel snickered–Helena and Lilly hadn’t heard me.
We emerged from the dim storage room and into the brighter–and busier–corridor. “Wait–are we all in this wing?” Jett asked.
“I’m upstairs–” answered Teagan and Angel at the same time. The unicorn and vampire both gasped and squealed, “Jinx!”
“I can walk you both to your classes,” Max offered. “I’ve got Cromwell.”
“I’ll join you for part of the way,” Axel vowed. “I’m at the end of this corridor.”
We waved goodbye to my brothers and my two new friends at the heart of the hallway before we watched them disappear into the crowd. Jett gestured behind him with a thumb pointing over his shoulder.
“I’ve got Katsaros, so I guess I’ll see you guys on the way to the portals.”
Gal and Sage agreed, while us freshmen nodded and smiled. Jett seemed nice enough, but there was something about him that rubbed me the wrong way. He kept throwing me weird looks while we walked, and when he was turning to go into his homeroom he shot me another look, as if he had something he wanted to say.
Is it about this morning? I thought to myself. I bet he saw what happened and now he’s weirded out by me. Great, just what I needed–awkwardness.
Then I walked into our homeroom and remembered who our professor was, and it took every ounce of energy I had left not to cringe. How the hell could I forget that my own sibling came out to the entire school?
I’m not sure what my problem was. You could say that part of it was the fact that I was blind-sided by their new identity, and that I would have appreciated it if Val had come out to me beforehand–but that was a selfish way to look at it. Val’s coming out was about Val, not me.
So what’s my issue? I wondered as I passed Val’s desk and attempted a smile. They beamed back at me with a smile that burned brighter than the afternoon sun, and their eyes twinkled as they mouthed a wordless, “Welcome back.” They look so happy, and it’s not like they’re the only transgender person I know. Nanny and Gunnar are trans, and Sage is nonbinary–I’m not opposed to trans people in the slightest… So why am I acting so weird around them–?
Her, I reminded myself firmly. Her preferred pronouns are she-her. She said so earlier tonight.
I took my seat–behind Lilly, in front of Gal, and between Helena and Elyse–and peeked up at my sibling. My sister. She was seated at her desk, smiling absentmindedly as she worked. Her slender fingers typed away at her laptop, click-clacking as the last of our class trickled into the room and found their seats.
“So? Did you guys have a good first night?” she asked, standing from her desk. Val made her way to the classroom door that was held open by a wedge, and I watched as she lazily kicked the wedge out of place and shut the door. She then slid the wedge off to the side with her foot and returned to her desk.
There was a chorus of yeses as most of the class answered. “That’s great! Anyone have any interesting stories to share?”
Hands shot up. “Let’s see… Omari?”
“I saw Aspen nearly burn down the school trying to make a quesadilla.”
“Oh goddess, I hope he didn’t ruin the panini press we lent him,” Val muttered. “Well, it made for an interesting tidbit. Anyone else?”
Lilly raised her hand just as a few other hands lowered. “Yes, Lilly?”
“I learned that this school has a messed up tradition of torturing freshmen.”
Val grinned. “Yes, it does. The worst of it is over, I think. Wednesdays events are always easier since you’ll be working as a team.”
I had nearly forgotten that I was assigned to a team not fifteen minutes before. Coach Nemo had essentially divided the class in half; Lilly and Helena were on the opposite team, while Elyse, Teagan, and I were on Storm’s team. I wonder what the event will be. Considering they only split us into two teams, they might have us play some sort of sport…
“Well, whatever the event is, I already know that our team will be the victors,” Lilly boasted, spinning around in her seat to have a better view of Helena and I. “Right, Helena?”
Helena’s cheeks burned a bright red at having the attention of the entire class on her. “I-I–uh–”
Seeing how uncomfortable she was, I chimed in. “Or, you know, we could keep the competition to a friendly level.”
Lilly scoffed. “That’s what losers say.”
Spurred on, I couldn’t help clap back, “We’ll see you losers say on Wednesday.”
Lilly’s eyes sparkled as the class broke out in oohs. “How about a friendly wager, De Ardo?”
I cocked an eyebrow. “What are your terms?”
“If my team wins, then you have to swallow your shyness and ask out Teagan.”
It was my turn for my cheeks to burn. “Fine. If my team wins, then I reserve the right to give you one order in the future. It can be anything so long as no one gets hurt.”
Lilly’s eyes widened for only a brief moment before her expression returned to its usual cockiness. “Deal.”