The carnival seemed to stop in dead silence as if time stood still. Jessie was frozen in fear to the ground. Her father stared down at her, stunned. He didn’t know what to say when he left the house of mirrors to find his eldest ‘son’ wearing a skirt and blazer. They stared in silence for a moment before it was broken by an absent-minded woman nomming on a caramel apple.
“I love it when the put walnuts on them… Oh, Justin, you’re finally out! What are you star– oooh.” She stopped in her tracks when she saw Ashley standing next to an auburn-haired girl whose eyes were locked with her husband’s. “Oh, my…”
Jessie turned to see her mother staring with a look of surprise in her face. “I-I…” she stammered, but she loosed nothing more than a squeak, her voice lost in fear.
“Jessie… you look ADORABLE!!” Her mother ran at her and swung her arms around her, being careful not to get the sticky apple in her hair. “Where’d you get this outfit?! It’s just so cute!” she cooed.
“My friends and I bought it for her! Suits her perfectly, huh?” Ashley said with a smile.
“It sure does! Justin, say something dear! Doesn’t our ‘daughter‘ look adorable in her little uniform?” She looked up at her husband who was still struck with awe. Jessie blushed in embarrassment.
“Mooom~! Stop!” she pleaded. Ashley giggled at her struggle.
“Jessie… this…” her father said, stepping down from the platform without so much as blinking. Jessie gulped. “Is this what you’ve been moping about lately? Because you wanted to go to school as a girl?” His expression let loose no indication of what he was feeling, but Jessie feared it nonetheless.
“No!! I… I don’t really know how to say this, but… Mom, Dad… I am a girl. I don’t know how or why, but I am. It just… happened.” Jessie’s voice quivered in fear of the reaction she might get, but she didn’t know what else to do. They were going to find out eventually, and now that she was cornered, there wasn’t exactly any way to hide it.
“So.. you don’t hate me?” her father replied.
“What?” Jessie blinked in surprise, dumbfounded by the response. “Of course not. What does that have to do with anything?”
“All this time I thought you hated me and were distancing yourself from me when really you were just trying to drum up the courage to tell us that you’re transgender! It’s ok, honestly. We’ve kind of known for a while, but your mother and I wanted you to come out to us on your own terms.” He threw his arms around Jessie as well with a huge smile on his face and a tear of joy in his eye.
“It’s true, dear. We still love you and respect you for who you are, no matter what!” her mother said.
“Stooop~! Get off me!” She yelled, her parents following suit. “I’m NOT transgender! I’m a girl! I have a female body!!” Jessie was fuming in frustration.
“You mean… down there?” her mother asked.
“YES DOWN THERE!! How can I be any more clear?! Do you want to SEE it?” Jessie yelled. Her parents just stared at her and then at each other.
“Did you know about this?” Her father asked.
“No, did you?” she replied.
“No, but now that you mention it, didn’t the doctors say when she was born that she was different somehow?”
“Yeah, something about ‘ambiguous genitalia’? I’m not sure…” They both reflected on their memories trying to put things together. “That’s why we gave her an androgynous name, right?”
“JEEZ Mom, no!! You saw that in a documentary last week! I don’t have ambiguous genitalia!!” Jessie’s face was bright red with embarrassment to be having such a discussion so publicly, but it seemed like nobody was paying attention besides Ash, who was just as lost as ever.
“Well that WOULD explain why they thought you were a boy, though. Why didn’t you say anything sooner?” Ash asked.
“Yes dear, why wait until now?” her mother asked.
“Because I’ve been a BOY until now! I’ve only been a girl for two hours!!” Jessie couldn’t believe how dense her parents were. Did they really think she’d been a girl all along? Do they not remember changing her diapers? Did she really have that ‘ambiguous’ thing as a baby?
“Well Jessie, I’m glad you’ve finally come to terms with your body. I’m so sorry I tried to force you to do all of those manly things… that must have hurt you in ways I can’t even imagine. I promise, from now on, you’re going to be daddy’s little girl! I’ll buy you any clothes you want and we’ll be sure to let the academy know to put you in the girls’ school.” Her father went in for another forced hug.
“I don’t WANT to be enrolled on the girls’ side! I like my class how it is!!” Jessie cried.
“We’re so sorry dear, you must have been so shocked to go through your first period all alone,” her mother added.
“Oh dear, that can’t be right! You’re almost fifteen! We should go to a doctor right away!” she immediately began to fumble through her purse digging for her cell phone but stopped partway through. “Oh but it’ll have to wait for the morning, the clinic’s closed by now… and watch your language, it’s not befitting of a young lady.”
“She’s always been a late bloomer, dear. I’m sure she’s perfectly healthy. It might even have to due with her ambiguous genitalia, remember?” her father reminded.
“Oh I’m sure you’re right… we should start shopping for clothes right away! Oh I’m so glad I have a daughter now, this is going to be so much fun. I can’t wait to tell all of the women in the office~.”
“Oh kill me now…” Jessie collapsed, succumbing to the embarrassment. First she’s turned into a girl and now her parents think she’s always been a girl! What is wrong with everyone?! Why is she the only one whose upset by the change? How is she the only one whose noticed that anything’s different?!
“Heehee, look, your parents love you afterall, Jess~” Ash teased.
Jessie’s parents finally let off her, walking away and speaking animatedly about how amazing it is to suddenly have a daughter and what they can do to raise her right. Jason, who’d been watching from aside the whole time, finally decided to step forward but he couldn’t look Jessie in the eye.
“Jessie… I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were actually a girl this whole time.” Jessie was taken aback. Her little troll of a brother was actually apologizing? It may not be for the right thing, but if this means he’ll stop teasing her at every chance he gets, she’ll take it.
“Whatever. Get lost, twerp,” she sighed.
“…Can I still have the twenty bucks, though?” He asked, looking up at her with a grin.
“Beat it, brat! Before I beat YOU!” she said, raising her fist in an empty threat. The boy ran off to catch up with his parents.
“See, they really do care about you. You don’t need to stress yourself out over nothing.” Ashley threw her arm around her friend.
“That just took ten years off my life, I swear… I need to lie down or something…” Just as the girls were about to walk away though, another voice called out to her.
“H-hey, uh, Jessie?” Jessie and Ash turned to find that the voice belonged to Eric who was fidgeting nervously. He also couldn’t seem to look her in the eye. “I-I’m sorry, but I kind of overheard everything. Ashley told me to follow your parents to keep an eye out for them, and, well… yeah…”
Jessie’s jaw dropped and her cheeks flushed again. It was one thing to have Ash know, but for a guy from class to find out? Let alone the only guy who treated Jessie like a normal person. Her heart sunk thinking that she’d lost her only real male friend. Well, since the one she had in elementary school, anyway. The only person here, at least, who saw her for her and treated her normally.
“Eric, I can explain… Please, don’t tell anyone in class…” Jessie pleaded.
“Of course not! I wouldn’t do something like that to you. Just… are you really a girl? I need to know. Is it true?”
“…yes. It’s true. I’m sorry you had to hear all of that. My parents can be a little… unaware of their surroundings. No sense of shame.” Jessie let out a small laugh.
“Yeah, heh… my folks can be like that too sometimes. I feel ya.” He let out a sigh and finally managed to look her in the eye. “So.. will you be going to the girls’ school from now on?”
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen to me,” she replied.
“Do you want to? What about the guys? And your carwash?”
Jessie didn’t need to think about it for long. She didn’t particularly like her class at first, but they’d really started to grow on her.
“I couldn’t abandon you guys, not after coming this far.”
“That’s a relief. I’d really miss you if you left us…” Eric’s cheeks tinged red. “I mean, WE’D really miss you! The whole class would! Hell, I’m sure even Mr. Schroeder would miss you!” He forced an awkward cough to defuse the awkward tension. “We uh… We shouldn’t waste any more time. We’re way late getting back to the carwash…”
Eric turned and began walking back down the path, clearly trying to hide his face. Jessie was confused by the way he was behaving, but Ash had a sly look on her face like a cat with a secret.
“Eric, wait! Can I ask a favor?” Jessie called.
“S-sure, what is it?” Eric asked, turning back.
“Well, I can’t exactly go back to class looking like this, can I?” Jessie asked, pulling at the hem of her skirt on either side.
Together, the three made their way to the locker rooms and, with Ash waiting outside, Jessie changed into Eric’s gym clothes.
“You promise to come back and get your uniform, right? I can’t be caught with that in my locker.” Eric was sure to look away as Jessie threw on the shorts and shirt as quick as she could. She made sure to throw on a hoody as well to cover her chest.
“Don’t worry about it.” In a moment she was done and the two were out of the locker room and back on the stretch to the parking lot.
Along the way, Ash decided she’d shirked her duties long enough and ran back to her own class, which was putting on the cliché Romeo and Juliet play in the auditorium.
The rest of the night went smooth as could be, with the ‘boys’ returning to the carwash. The carwash seemed to have gone very well, and nobody seemed to question why Jessie was wearing a hoody with shorts.
The night ended without Jessie’s parents causing another scene, but the ride home was accompanied by a never-ending conversation about underwear and dayclothes. Jason giggled the entire way home while Jessie flushed with embarrassment just hoping the conversation would end. As soon as the car pulled up to their two-story home, Jessie ran upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom she shared with Jason.
‘I could really use a bath after a night like tonight. I feel like I haven’t had one in years.‘ she thought to herself. She started the water and plugged the tub before stepping out of her shoes and getting undressed. It was then that she realized that she hadn’t actually seen much of her new body. When she discovered something missing in the nurse’s office earlier, she was in such a panic and a hurry to find answers that she hadn’t taken a good look at what she was now stuck with.
With a sigh, she brought up the courage to look herself in the mirror as it steamed. ‘I don’t really look any different, aside from the chest…‘ She cautiously reached up and felt herself, recoiling slightly at the new sensations coming from what used to be a dull flat boy-chest. ‘At least I’m not giant here, otherwise I’d never be able to stay with the boys’ school.‘
Turning her attention away from her modest endowment, she focused on the pièce de résistance, or rather, lack thereof. She could only bear to look at it for a brief moment before turning away at her own embarrassment. She’d never seen one before, and never thought in her wildest dreams that her first would be her own. ‘I’m going to have to get used to that, especially when I have to pee… I hope I can find a way to turn back soon before my life gets even more flipped on its ass.‘
Jessie gently set herself down in the tub and shut off the water, losing herself in her thoughts as she relaxed. Her mind recalled the events of the day and the sense of panic and fear that went unfulfilled. She was so exhausted from the long day that she nearly fell asleep in the tub, but catching herself at the last moment, she finished up and retired to her bed like a stone. Sleep was just a brief respite that night, but a welcome one nonetheless.
“Will Jessie Oliver and Ashley Jones please report to Dean Winters’ Office Immediately. Jessie Oliver and Ashley Jones to the dean’s office.”
Jessie shuddered at the announcement blaring from the speakers all around. She hadn’t been at school for more than a minute before being called in. ‘What is this about?‘ she thought. It could be any number of things, from going to the off-limits area of the woods to finding out about her ‘updated’ medical file… or worse, what if her mom called in early in the morning to ask the dean to put her in the girls’ school?! Jessie took solace in the fact that Ash was there waiting when she opened the door. If she was here, it was probably just detention.
Ash glanced at Jessie and their eyes met for only a moment before the tall woman in the chair stood to greet her. “…You’re Jessie Oliver?”
Jessie stood next to Ash, who was too scared to move. Realizing that Ashley must be fearing expulsion, the gravity of the situation finally set it. “Y-yes.” she meekly replied.
“I’m Dean Winters. From what I understand from the groundskeeper, you two decided to go on a little field trip during the festival on Saturday. And YOU, Miss Oliver, fell in the old well.”
Jessie’s heart sank. ‘Great, she knows. Now what will happen to me…‘
“As I’m aware, you weren’t seriously hurt, but your parents have been informed, and they’ve decided not to sue. Are you aware of how dangerous that well is? And the cottage, too. It’s forbidden for a reason, and that reason is your own safety. Do you understand?”
Jessie and Ash both nodded in silence.
“Good. You’re both to report with the groundskeeper for your punishment this afternoon, right after class.” Dean Winters adjusted her thick-rimmed glasses and picked up a file from her desk. “Now, the curious case of Miss Oliver. The nurse has informed me that your records were mixed up, and on behalf of the school, we deeply apologize for the confusion. I’ve gone ahead and corrected all of your other records as well.”
“Greeeat…” Jessie said, but the sarcasm was lost on her audience.
“Your friend here has informed me that you’ve already been provided a proper uniform, and as you’re on the dorm waiting list, we’d like to enroll you in the girls’ school and have you moved into the dorms as soon as possible.”
“W-wait! Can’t I stay as I am? I like my class, and we just worked so hard together at the festival!” Jessie pleaded.
“…you don’t mind continuing on as a boy here?” She was astonished that Jessie’d actually want such a thing.
“Not at all! I’m perfectly happy with it.” Jessie wasn’t being entirely truthful, but if she played her cards right, at least she wouldn’t have to move into the girls’ dorms.
“Well, it’s highly unorthodox, but if you’ve got no problem with it, I suppose we can continue as-is. And it’s just your luck that due to recent transfers, you’ll have a room in the dorm if you’d like. But I’ll only allow this under one condition,” she said sternly.
“What’s that?” Jessie asked, relieved she wouldn’t have to move.
“If ANYONE finds out, you will have to move to the girls’ side. Is that clear?”
“And no hanky-panky in the dorms, either! If I hear one word of illicit goings-on there, you risk expulsion. This is highly irregular and I’m only allowing you to do this because of your unique situation. I will have my eye on you.”
Jessie’s cheeks tinged with a slight flush at the insinuation that she might be fooling around with a boy. A boy! “Understood,” she said through grit teeth.
“Very well, you’re both dismissed. Remember, meet with the groundskeeper at the gym after school.”
In a moment the girls were off, headed down the stairs of the office building and out to the walkway outside where the path split to the two schools.
“I can’t believe it! She’s actually letting you stay there, and in the dorms!” Ash shouted in disbelief. “Why do you want to pretend to be a boy so badly, anyway? This is going really far with it.”
“I just do, ok?!” Jessie nearly shouted. She may be a girl now, but she had to keep some idea of her identity intact.
“It’s pretty dangerous, too. Are you sure you’ll be ok?” Ash asked.
“I’ll be fine. Eric’s the only one who knows about me, and he’s got my back. It’s all good. Besides, the school knows about me now, there’s no way they’d room me with someone.” Jessie assured.
Ash turned with a sigh, caving to Jessie’s confidence. “Well, at least you’ll be around all the nice eye-candy~” she said with a wink.
Jessie scowled at her. “As if! Why would I think that’s eye-candy?!” she nearly shouted. “I’m going to be late for class. I’ll see you at detention.”
As Jessie stalked off, Ash got a sly look on her face. ‘Methinks Jessie doth protest too much… maybe she’s taking the ‘boy’ thing so far that she thinks she’s gay or something. We’ll see how that goes,’ she thought to herself before turning and heading to her own class.
‘I can’t believe her, thinking I’d be ogling guys! It’s like she’s learned nothing about me!‘ Jessie stalked in a huff, lost in her thoughts. So caught up, in fact, that once again on the stairwell she bumped into a familiar face.
“OOF!! Watch where you’re going!” the boy yelled, turning to see his attacker, but the split second their eyes met, the assailant turned away.
“S-sorry, man! Won’t happen again!” Jessie said, hiding her face and shuffling away before Daniel could recognize her. The last thing she needed was for him to see her. Afterall, he only knows her as a girl! How would he react to seeing her in the boys’ school like that? She decided to put it out of her mind as she shuffled away as fast as she could.
“Hey, wasn’t that the same brat that crashed into me a while ago? He looked so familiar…” Daniel thought aloud.
When the lunch bell rang, the classes from the boys’ school began pouring down to the shared quad and cafeteria. Sadly, the girls were on an opposite lunch hour, so many of the boys regretted the squandered opportunity to mingle with the opposite sex. Just a few more minutes and everyone would be together, but alas, the dream wasn’t meant to be.
Jessie quickly found her lunch partner Eric before the two took a seat together on a bench under the open sky. At first Eric was reluctant to make eye contact, surely letting his mind wander over the weekend with all of the new discoveries about his cute little buddy, but Jessie quickly broke the ice by bringing up the class news of the day.
“So… hey! We actually got the money for the school trip! Can you believe it?” Jessie said, taking a moment away from her home-made sandwich.
Eric jumped at the opportunity to talk about anything other than the elephant in the room, or in this case, the cute pink-faced pachyderm enjoying her sandwich mere inches away from him. The way her pouty lips softly came together as she spoke… the way he imagined her eyes lit up whenever she said his name… oh, to talk about anything other than that mysterious cute girl…
“Oh, uh, YEAH! School trip!! I bet that carnival really helped out, too. There’s no way we could have made enough to cover that sort of cost from the carwash.” He nearly shouted over his stagefright.
“Yeah, I have a feeling that the school just split the profits from the carnival part between the classes to make sure everyone could go. The money we got from the carwash is probably just spending money for us. Where are we going, anyway?”
“No idea. I think Schroeder’s waiting until the last minute. But hey… do you think the girls will be coming with us?” he said with a sly gleam.
“I guess they would. It’s cheaper on the school to rent out one hotel and one bus or flight or whatever. How does this whole thing work, anyway? Private schools are so foreign to me.” Jessie took another bite.
“I don’t really know either, it’s my first time going on a trip like this. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Yeah, guess so. By the way, I’ll be moving into the dorms today, apparently. Anything I should know to prepare myself?” Jessie was oblivious to the panic Eric showed at the news.
“What, seriously?! Do you know how dangerous that is?! What if your roommate finds out that–” Eric looked around, making sure nobody could overhear as he leaned in and whispered, “What if he finds out that you’re a girl? You could be attacked!”
“Relax, relax!” Jessie said with a smile, waving his worries away. “You sound like Ash! Nothing’s going to happen to me. Apparently the dean knows about my little situation now and she’d never do something as stupid as making me room with someone. I’m going to have a room to myself, just you watch.”
Jessie went back to her sandwich without a care in the world, taking comfort in her idea that she’d be rooming alone. The privacy was more enticing to her than anything else. She wouldn’t have to worry about her little ‘secret’ getting out and would be able to read in peace without being bothered. Eric, worried at his friend’s seemingly carefree attitude despite the obvious dangers, let out a sigh.
“Well, I guess if you’re seriously ok with it, I’ll just have to keep an eye out for you. If you ever need anything, just find me, ok?”
“No problemo. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
The awkward tension between them was gone and replaced by Eric’s lingering worry. After pondering about it a few more moments, he decided nothing could be done to change her mind, so he gave up and joined Jessie in enjoying the rest of their lunch in silence. That is, until a certain blond prick made his presence known to the entire quad.
“The fuck you lookin’ at, David Bowie?” his voice yelled so everyone could hear.
Jessie and Eric looked over to see Duncan screaming at the poor emo kid from their class.
“Oh no, now that jerk’s harassing Moody? He really needs to be put in his place.” Eric was not amused. He clenched his fist on the table watching alongside everyone else in the area as Duncan pushed the poor emo boy to the ground.
The boy simply sighed and took it with a monotone “ow”.
“Get up, cutter! Don’t just lay there feeling sorry for yourself, get up and apologize to my face for bumping into me!”
Moody sat for a moment with half-lidded eyes, hoping to sigh his way out of the situation. ‘What would my emo idols do?’ he thought. ‘Probably just whine and talk about killing themselves again…‘ He sighed again and slowly got to his feet, just to get pushed right down again.
“Come on, GET UP!” Duncan yelled.
“This is ridiculous, why isn’t anyone helping the poor kid? His eyeliner’s going to run again. We don’t need a repeat of that incident last week. He looked like a melting panda when Duncan was done.” Jessie shot a worried look at Eric, wondering what they could do to help. Everyone else in the quad just looked away or whispered amongst themselves.
“It’s just how people are. When they see something wrong going down, they turn the other way because they’re afraid to get involved or get hurt. They’re too focused in their own little worlds,” Eric replied.
Jessie was furious.
“Well I can’t just sit here and take it anymore. You helped me out the other day when he was bothering me, and I need to pay it forward. He can’t keep going on like this. Somebody has to stop him.” Jessie scowled, leg twitching in anticipation.
“Yeah, but you? Why? You can’t take him!” Eric pleaded.
“I don’t have to fight. Someone just needs to tell him to back off. Worked last time, right?” Jessie asked.
“Well, yeah, but we just got lucky…”
“You have my back if something goes wrong?” Jessie asked with a look of stern determination.
“…Of course I do. This is so unlike you, though. What’s gotten into you today?”
“I don’t know. It’s been a long weekend and I could use to vent some frustration right now.” Suddenly her memories were flooded with the embarrassing scene at the carnival with her parents and the awkward Sunday she had shopping for clothes with her mother. Right now she felt like she needed something. Anything. She didn’t care if she got beaten up, she needed to vent and felt a strong urge to step in and stand up to that asshole. “Here goes nothing.”
Jessie got up from her bench and stalked over to where the emo boy was being pummeled by the thick textbooks dumping out of his backpack and onto his head. Tears were threatening to bleed his perfect waterline.
“Knock it off, asshole! What’d he ever do to you, huh?!” Jessie said, throwing her hands on her hips, lips quivering from fear and adrenaline. She never thought she’d stand up to a bully in a million years, but today felt like the perfect day.
“Well well, if it isn’t little Mulan! Still playing dress-up, are we?” Duncan said, ignoring the emo kid and focusing his attention on his newer, cuter prey.
Jessie grit her teeth in frustration. “I’m not a damn girl already! You need to stop this crap! Why do you pick on everyone, huh? What’s wrong in your head? Are you deranged to be picking on me and the emo kid? Or are you so insecure that you just pick the easiest targets?”
The whispers from the students all around began to get louder and louder until one random kid shouted, “You tell him, princess! Stand up for yourself!” and another joined in with, “Yeah, fuck that guy!” The whole area arose in cheers.
Jessie arched a brow. He was cornered. “See? You don’t have any power over us anymore. You should apologize to Moody right now. Be a better person for it.”
Duncan was furious and red in the face, not knowing what to do, so he did the first thing that came to mind and pushed Jessie to the ground, flat on her ass, and grabbed the nearest backpack.
“Watch your mouth you little bitch!” He shouted, raising the heavy book-filled backpack over his head ready to strike. Jessie was caught in a wide-eyed panic, her heart caught in her throat beating a million miles a minute. As Duncan raised the bag over his head, she squeezed her eyes shut and raised her arms over her head to brace for the impact, but the impact never came. She cautiously opened her eyes to find Eric holding the backpack and glaring directly into Duncan’s eyes.
“You lay one hand on him and I swear you’ll never be able to write again.” Eric said through grit teeth, never breaking his gaze.
A moment of tense silence filled the entire quad until finally, Duncan turned away and let go of the backpack.
“Look at you, protecting your little girlfriend. I bet you’re just her knight in shining armor, aren’t you?” Both Jessie and Eric blushed at the taunt, with Jessie turning to hide her face from the crowd and Eric staying perfectly resolute and silent in his death glare. “Knew it. Faggot. Whatever, I’m out of here.”
And with that, Duncan made his way back to the class building. The audience erupted in cheer and applause for their princess as Eric leaned down his hand to help her up.
“Are you ok?” he asked. Jessie’s heart thumped at the gesture and the concerned look in his eyes, but after instinctively reaching her hand out to his, she smacked it out of the way, afraid of what this scene must look like to others.
“I-I’m fine, I can do it myself,” she said, clutching her hand to her heart and hoping it’d stop beating so fast. She was afraid her face must have been beet red right now.
“A-alright, yeah,” Eric awkwardly said, realizing the situation himself and turning his gaze away. “That was really risky of you but hey, I guess it paid off.”
“Yeah, guess so. At least he might calm down and stop bothering people for a while.” Jessie said, dusting off her rump.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I’d watch your back if I were you. You just made a powerful enemy.”
“I’m not scared of him. He’s all talk. He’d have choked at the last second and just threw the bag down and walked away spouting insults.”
“Says you. He didn’t dump books on you. They’re probably gonna bruise,” the emo kid said, still on the ground collecting his books and things. He was glad his favorite Stabbi Stabbi McStab Stab CD wasn’t scratched, at least.
Jessie was struck with guilt at Moody’s words. “I’m sorry, I was so scared I guess I was only thinking of myself. Here, let me help you up.”
Jessie leaned down with one dainty hand outstretched to the boy and the other resting on her drawn-together knees. The boy was enamored by her warm smile and glowing eyes. He seemed almost trance-like as he grabbed her small hand, noting how soft her skin was, and got to his feet. Eric didn’t like the look on the boy’s face at all. Jessie was completely oblivious to the thoughts going on in their heads.
“You should think about getting some waterproof eyeliner. Don’t want to have those embarrassing streaks next time, do you?” Eric said with a frown, knocking the emo kid out of his trance and back to his usually mopey expression.
“Eric, that’s not very nice. You don’t need to bully him too.” Jessie said, noting his tone, but then quietly added, “It is true though, and you do cry a lot in class…”
She glanced up at the emo kid and noted his defeated expression. “…sorry.”
“It’s ok. It’s a good idea I guess. Thanks for your help, I owe you one.”
The emo kid promised himself that after today, he’d never let anyone see black rivers running down his face again. He leaned down to pick up his backpack and without so much as another glance at his heroic saviors, he sighed again and turned to walk away.
“Y’know… what if you get roomed with Duncan at the dorms? That’d be pretty scary, huh?” Eric wondered as they both watched the black and red haired boy walk away.
“Don’t be ridiculous, I already told you, I’m going to go solo. Just you watch.”
They both made it back to their table and continued their lunch.
“It would be kind of funny, though.” She let out a small laugh at the idea, much to Eric’s horror. Jessie was high on adrenaline and happy as a clam for having saved the emo kid and stood up to Duncan. Nothing could bring her down from cloud nine now. Not even detention.
“So then I stood up to him and told him to shove it and everyone cheered me on! It was amazing! Then he was standing over me, getting ready to beat me to a bloody pulp with a backpack full of heavy books, when Eric reached over and grabbed the bag just as Duncan was swinging down…” Jessie swooshed her trash poker down like a sword with a loud WHOOSH! “and Duncan got scared and took off! We showed HIM what-for!”
Jessie stood proudly holding her poker in the air and guffawing in triumph. Ashley simply rolled her eyes at the tall tale and poked a few more bits of rubbish before pushing them off her poked and into her bag.
“Sounds like you’ve had quite the day, Jess. Who is this Eric guy, anyway? You two sure have been hanging out together a lot lately.”
Jessie looked over to her, caught unaware by the sudden change of topic. “He’s a friend, I guess. I don’t know, we just eat lunch together and talk once in a while. He’s got my back.”
“According to your story, he’s also your white knight, coming to save his princess in her moment of need~” Ashley teased. Jessie turned to her in a huff.
“Oh please, he is NOT my knight! You and Duncan are crazy! He’s just a friend!!”
“We’ll see about that…” Ash said under her breath.
“C’mon girls, knock it off. This is supposed to be a punishment, not gossip hour. Stay focused.” The groundskeeper didn’t mean for that to sound as that came out, so to lessen the impact when the girls shuddered at his bark, he calmly added, “I just want to go home as much as you do. The faster you finish, the faster we can all go about our day.” He was a middle-aged man, probably somewhere in his early forties, Jessie thought. He didn’t seem like a mean guy, though. Just someone trying to do his job.
“Sorry,” Jessie and Ash said in unison. Together they upped their trash intake and before long, had made their way around the entire perimeter of the well.
“So…” Jessie started quietly to Ash as she poked one of the last chip bags, “do you know anything about that well? Has anyone ever seen any ghosts here before?”
“Not that I know of,” she said, dumping her bag into the trash cart for the last time, followed by Jessie. “It’s supposed to be an old wishing well, and couples who sneak back here to make out tend to throw money in to wish for their relationships to go somewhere.”
“A wishing well, huh? I guess that makes sense… has anyone ever had their wish granted?”
“I’d say it’s about a fifty-fifty chance that the people stay together, but the same odds can apply to any relationship I suppose, wish or not.”
They both turned in their pokers to the groundskeeper who couldn’t help but overhear the topic of conversation.
“The old well, huh? I don’t know when it was dug here, but people say there’s a series of caves below thanks to what’s now a dried-up river.”
“I can vouch for that,” Jessie said with a smile. Ashley giggled but the groundskeeper didn’t find it too amusing, remembering how she’d earned her punishment to begin with.
“There IS an old legend that’s supposed to go with it, but I probably shouldn’t be talking about this with you. You two need to head off now that you’re done.”
“Tell us!” Ash said.
“Yeah, c’mon! If anything, I’ve earned an explanation of… things.” The groundskeeper gave Jessie an odd look but she turned away, remembering that she’s the only one who knows what happened down the well.
“It’s not my place…” he replied.
“PLEEEEEASE!!” the girls said, giving their best pouty faces to the man.
“Alright, alright, fine. Y’know this used to be a Catholic school, right? Well before the current school was built, there was just a few small buildings here. There was a schoolhouse, the teacher’s house, and that there,” he said, pointing to the dilapidated old building behind the well covered in ivy and moss, “is the chapel. It’s the only building that’s left.”
The girls both turned and looked at the crumbling building. It looked like it was about to fall any moment, but Jessie couldn’t help but be curious what it looked like inside.
“Legend has it that during that time, a boy fell in the well, but when someone used a rope to climb down and rescue him, he was nowhere to be found. People say he drowned and his body was washed downriver through the series of underground caves.”
“Yikes…” Ash gulped. She couldn’t imagine anything like that happening to her.
“Yikes indeed, kid. Your friend’s lucky the river’s all dried up now or she’d be gone for sure.”
Jessie couldn’t do anything but nod in agreement. ‘That explains the apparition I saw,’ she thought.
“So the people, afraid to use the well for water anymore, began throwing things like flowers and money down there to pay their respects to the lost boy. Some people claimed that they could hear a voice coming from the well, and other claim the spirit of the boy haunts it. Still, people made their offerings and some even started making wishes. A lot of people claimed to have their wishes fulfilled by the spirit. Sick people who wished for health became better; things like that. It’s all BS though, just coincidence or people making things up. It only happened once in a blue moon, but people swore up and down that they had their wishes granted.
“Eventually, when the school was built, students started coming back here and making wishes in the well. That’s really when rumors of the wishing well began. Kids wished for everything from love to riches, and some claimed they came true. This went on until the old chapel building was deemed unsafe. Services stopped once the new chapel was build on school grounds, and this place was marked as off-limits to students.”
“What new chapel? The school doesn’t have one,” Ash pointed out.
“It was there in my time, but it’s gone now. It was where the track is now.”
The trio had been walking together towards the gym building where the supply sheds were and happened to walk past the track when he said that.
“Y’see that weird mark, in the center? The spot where the grass doesn’t grow? That’s where it used to be.”
“What happened to it?” Ashley asked.
“Well, it burned down one day. They never found out who did it. People started rumors saying it was the spirit of the well, jealous that everyone abandoned his chapel in the woods, but of course there had to be some other explanation. The rumor spread like wildfire, though.”
“Did that happen when you went here?” Jessie asked him.
“Yeah. The chaplain was furious. They did a thorough investigation and went through every students belongings searching for lighters or anything that could have started it, but nothing turned up. That’s when things started getting weird, though.”
“What do you mean?” Jessie asked.
“Well, even back then, the school was having talks about going secular, so they decided not to replace the chapel just in case the plan went through. Nobody guessed it’d take twenty years, though. Anyway, weird things started happening to students. Kids would sneak back to the old well and throw change in and wish for things as they had for a couple generations, but people said strange things started happening to them. Things like having insanely bad luck, or suddenly failing all of their exams despite studying their best. Couples who wished on the well for happiness broke up soon after, and one kid, poor Jeremy, he… well, he died. After that, people stopped going back there.”
“What?! How?” the girls screamed.
“Nobody knows. I didn’t know him that well. He said he made a wish but then fell in the well, just like you did, and when he came out he claimed to have seen a ghost. After that, he was never the same. He used to be all about video games and new technology like home computers, but he lost interest completely. He said he heard voices coming from the screens. The voices of dead people. He was going crazy. Hadn’t slept in weeks.”
Ash and Jessie looked at each other with pale faces as the groundskeeper began putting away the tools in his shed, casually carrying on his story.
“He said he just wished to hear his mother’s voice one more time, but he instead heard the constant screaming and wailing of spirits from beyond the grave. One morning, he didn’t show up for class and so a friend of his went to check up on him at his dorm room and found him dead in his bed. There wasn’t any sign of foul play and the autopsy never figured out the cause of death, but he had a look of sheer terror on his face, frozen forever in rigor mortis.”
“D-did he room alone?” Jessie gulped, shaking where she stood.
“Yeah. He insisted on it.”
“You’d better be careful, Jess. The spirit of the well might come and…” Ashley darted her hand to Jessie’s shoulder. “…GETCHYA!”
Jessie yelped in fright.
“Ashley!! That’s NOT funny!!” she screamed back at her friend, who only stood there and laughed back at her.
“Don’t read too much into it, it’s just a legend. Rumors and tall tales spread through the students to scare each other. That went on for almost the entirety of senior year, but when I came back as groundskeeper several years later, the rumor was gone. Nobody knew about what happened to Jeremy aside from the older staff and those of us who went here with him, and kids stopped wishing on the well. That’s the end of storytime, you two should get going.”
“Yeah Jessie, you need to go get your room assignment,” Ash reminded.
“Oh, you’re moving into the dorms today? Grats.” The groundskeeper turned to lock his shed and the three of them made their way to the office.
“…Yeah. I was really looking forward to it until that story.” Jessie’s face was awash with dread.
“But you’re on the girls’ side, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” the groundskeeper said with a smile, hoping to cheer her up, but his plan failed when she turned and replied.
“I’m a boy, though. I’m going to the boys’ side. And I’m rooming alone.” Ashley, concerned with her friend’s tone, put her arm around her shoulder.
“Oh, really? Sorry about that, I didn’t know. I didn’t meant to insult you or anything,” the groundskeeper said.
“It’s cool, it happens a lot I guess.” Jessie didn’t have the emotional capacity to feel embarrassed or upset with him right now. She was too busy dreading her first night alone.
“Well, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m sure whatever he died of, it was natural causes. There’s no spirits going to get you or anything, it’s just how the legend goes,” he said, holding the door open for the distraught teen and her friend. “Well, your detention’s over. I’m going to go report that to the dean. I shouldn’t have to remind you, but just to be sure, promise me you’ll never go back to the well again, alright?”
“We promise,” they said in unison.
The man took off down a hall of the office building and Jessie went to the counter to ask the secretary for her room assignment. With her room assignment slip in hand, she and Ashley left to go sit at the fountain and wait for Jessie’s parents to arrive.
“What’s wrong, Jessie? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Ash asked, concerned about the pale look of dread on her friend’s face.
“I, well…” Jessie stuttered. Should she tell Ash about the spirit she met in the well? Would she believe her? It’s not like she believed her before about being a boy. Jessie sighed at the realization that Ash had already seen her at her worst and most embarrassed moment, so she had nothing to hide anymore. No more secrets. She may not believe her about being a boy, but at least she could talk about basically anything else with her.
“When I fell in the well, I saw the spirit. Really, I did. I went back when I was running from my parents and saw it again,” she told her friend.
“What, really? No way, ghosts aren’t real. You hit your head when you fell in, remember?” Ashley wasn’t buying it.
“Seriously, I saw it. Twice.”
“Alright, fine. I’ll bite. What happened when you encountered the ghost?” The tone of skepticism was thick in her voice as she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at Jessie.
“Well, the first time, when I fell in, the ghost asked me to make a wish so I asked to make my life less complicated, but it seems like it’s backfired. Ever since then, my life’s been flipped; turned upside down.”
“IIIIIIIIIII’d like to take a minute–” Ash interjected, raising to her feet, but Jessie cut her off.
“Just sit right there and I’ll tell you all about how I met the misty ghost down there.”
“…so the ghost showed up and granted your wish and things got crazy for you. Why did you go back? Weren’t you scared? What happened the second time?” Ash asked.
“I was a bit scared, yeah, but I felt like I had to try. I wanted things back to normal.”
“I guess it’s one of those ‘be careful what you wish for’ type of things. Whatever you ask for, you get something bad, too. I guess I’ll hold off going down there until I decide for sure what I want to wish for.” Ashley said, nodding to herself at her decision as if she’d been planning to make her own wish from the start.
Somehow Jessie wasn’t surprised that the spooky scary ‘totally-not-real’ ghost didn’t deter Ash. Her skepticism seemed to vanish as she plotted how to use the ghost to her advantage. Ash seemed to be treating it like a carefully-planned business proposal, and wanted to make sure to cover all bases before signing the contract. Jessie couldn’t help her look of bemused admiration of Ashley’s attitude and approach. She knew what she wanted and knew how to get it. Jessie wasn’t about to smash that dream.
“…that might be for the best. When I went back, the ghost told me that everyone only gets one wish. No takebacks, no second chances. Make it count.”
“Will do, for sure,” Ash replied. Jessie wondered what Ashley could want to wish for but the moment she opened her mouth to ask, a horn blared from the parking lot in front of them and an unremarkable family sedan wheeled around to the curb.
No longer than two seconds had it been parked before Jessie’s mother fought her way through the door and ran up to throw her arms around her daughter in a sob of either panic or joy.
“M-mom! Let go! What’s wrong?!” Jessie asked, trying to fight out of her mother’s grip to no avail.
“Oh sweety, are you sure you want to move into the boys’ dorms? It’s so dangerous for a girl your age to be living around boys like that, what with their hormones and pubescent urges…”
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, really!” Jessie pleaded, wriggling free from her mother’s grip and massaging her sore shoulder. “I’ve got friends who’ll look out for me. Besides, the doors lock and I’m going to be rooming alone.”
A moment later her dad arrived carrying a couple of small suitcases. He was leaning to one side however under the weight of one of the bags that Jessie deduced must have been full of her books.
“Well… if you insist. But at the FIRST sign of trouble, don’t hesitate to call us, ok?”
“Alright, alright, I got it. Thanks for bringing my stuff by.” Jessie said.
“And I packed plenty of underwear and plenty of pads for when your flow starts. At your age, it really should be any day now!” Jessie flushed red at the reminder of what she’d been trying her best to ignore all day.
“Heehee, don’t worry Mrs. Oliver, if she has any problems or questions in regards to, ahem, ‘natural happenings‘, I’m here for her,” Ashley said, taking this opportunity to step up alongside her thoroughly embarrassed and hopeless friend. “I was a pretty late bloomer too, so to speak.”
“It’s good to know you have your girlfriends looking out for you, Jessie,” her mother smiled. Jessie ducked her face in her hands trying to get away. It was like all of the women in her life were mocking her.
“Well uh…” her father chimed in, awkwardly clearing his throat to throw off his own embarrassment at the topic of conversation. “Stay safe, and like your mother said, call if you need anything. Be careful.”
“Don’t worry already! I’m fine!! Just… I have to go. I have to check in with the dorm head before it gets too late.” Jessie was hoping to end this as soon as she could.
“Alright, take care honey,” her mother said as she and her father gave her a hug goodbye. “And it was nice seeing you again, Ashley!”
“Likewise, Mrs. Oliver! And don’t worry about the ghost the haunts the dorms, either! I’ll be sure to protect Jess from any unwanted specters!” she shouted with a wave as Jessie’s parents waved goodbye.
In a moment they were off and Jessie was free to shakily turn her head to Ash, pale as ever.
“W-why did you have to remind me about the ghost?! I had forgotten all about it for a minute there!”
“Oh please, there’s really nothing to worry about. That guy was just yanking your chain. Jeez, what do you keep in this bag?! It weighs a ton!” Ash said, grabbing one of the bags to help.
“Oh, that’s probably my books. I’m glad they thought to pack some for me. Here, let me take that.”
Jessie took the bag from Ashley but was immediately knocked off balance under the weight and nearly falling face-forward before Ash caught her. With a sigh of defeat, Jessie let Ash take the bag from her and grabbing the lighter of the two, they began walking the path to the dorms behind the boys’ class building.
“So uh… oh, my class hit the goal to go on the school trip in a couple of months. How about yours?” Jessie asked, desperate for a topic other than maxi pads, ghosts, or her physical shortcomings.
“You did? That’s awesome! So did we! I don’t know where we’re going yet but the grades tend to go to different places. It’s co-ed though, so we’ll be going together somewhere. Even sharing a hotel! It’s going to be prime dating time for sure, and YOU can give us all the inside scoop on the hottest guys there,” she said with a wink.
Jessie blushed again at the insinuation. “F-for the last time, I’m not checking them out or anything! We just have class together, that’s it!”
“Uh huh, sure. What about Eric then?” she asked with a smirk. She loved watching Jessie squirm, it was just too adorable to watch.
“I already told you, he’s just a frie–!” Jessie protested but was quickly cut off by Ash as she swiftly ignored her and changed the subject.
“Looks like we’re here. This is as far as I can go with you. If I cross that threshold I’m dead meat. I’ll see you later, k? Wednesday’s a mixed gym day so I’ll definitely see ya then.”
“Alright, see ya. Thanks for helping with the bag.”
“No problem, it’s what friends do. Take care in there.” With a quick hug, Ash was off, leaving Jessie alone at the doorstep.
She took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
“I can do this.”
Jessie mustered all of her strength into lifting her book bag and carefully waddled into the entranceway and stopped at the desk. An older boy, probably a senior, Jessie thought, took off his headphones at the sight of the timidly blushing little ‘boy’.
“…Can I help you?” he asked, arching a brow.
“M-my name’s Jessie Oliver. I’m moving in today.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out the slip she got from the office and handed it to him.
The boy glanced over a the slip and cross-checked it on his clipboard before flipping the page and marking something on it.
“Oh, right. Here’s your key…” he said, digging through a drawer and handing her a key tagged with ‘204’. “It’s upstairs, second room on the right. Lights out at ten, and no loud noise past nine. There’s no wake-up call so you’re responsible for getting to class on time. There’s a mini-fridge in your room for whatever drinks you want, obviously no alcohol, and small snacks. We ask that you keep any other food like subs or whatever in the main kitchen over there.” The boy pointed around to the other side of the stairway descending in the center of the room to a modest kitchen with a few long tables laid out.
“There’s free breakfast stuff like bagels and cereal available in there from six to seven-thirty. If you want a cooked meal, there’s a microwave, but anything else and you’ll need to buy your food at the main cafeteria.”
“Alright. Anything else– wait, what about laundry? How’s that work?” Jessie asked.
“Oh yeah, down this hall you’ll find some washers and dryers. Make sure to time it so it’s done by ten. Everyone’s responsible for their own laundry. There’s some extra pillows and blankets and fresh sheets in the walk-in closet right by the laundry room, and it’s got vacuums too. You’re responsible for keeping your own room clean. It’s not inspected very often though, so a lot of the guys just let it go.”
“I like to keep things nice so it shouldn’t be a problem.” Jessie said.
“Cool. Make sure to vacuum in the early afternoon or you’ll piss off your neighbors. There’s also free internet. Last but not least, no porn, and no girls. Got it?”
“Not a problem. Thanks.” ‘Too late for that last rule,’ Jessie thought to herself.
“With all that out of the way, enjoy your stay at Château Dortoir.” The boy pulled his headphones back on and leaned back in his chair like before, lost in his world of music.
Jessie took her key in hand and headed up the flight of stairs, leaving at the first landing and hesitantly opened the door to room 204. The room was rather barren aside from two dressers, a TV, the mini-fridge, a double facing desk for two, and a bunk-bed. It reminded her of a hotel or a furnished apartment. Much to her relief, she found there to be no signs of a roommate. The beds were perfectly made, there were no clothes thrown about, and the dressers were nice and empty.
She gave up on lifting her bookbag and decided to drag it instead. She decided to set the books up along with their bookends (‘Thanks mom!‘) next to the TV on the dresser, and then quickly began sorting her clothes into drawers. She made very sure to hide her more feminine undergarments and supplies under her shirts just in case, and with her essentials set in the bathroom, she was done.
‘After handling all of that trash earlier, I could really go for a shower.‘ Jessie thought to herself, but remembering the trash also reminded her once again of the ghost that killed a lone boy in the dorms years ago. In an instant she worked herself into a panic, eyes darting around the room. ‘I-it’s ok, it’s ok. Ghosts aren’t real, like Ash said. Even though I spoke to one twice. But he lives in the well! He wouldn’t come out here… and he doesn’t seem like an evil spirit. It’ll be fine. Worry about it later. Shower now, worry later.‘
Jessie grabbed a fresh set of clothes and made her way to the bathroom, chanting softly to herself, “Shower now, worry later. Shower now, worry later.”
As she set her fresh clothes on the lid of the toilet seat and turned around to close the door, she hesitated and began checking the ceiling for a fan. No such luck. ‘Guess I’ll leave it open a crack then. I’m rooming alone, anyway. Should be fine. Shower now, worry later…‘ And with that, she stripped down and stepped into a steaming, refreshing shower.
Little did Jessie know, a certain blond bully had just entered the dorms and slammed a paper down on the senior boy’s desk, snapping him out of his music trance.
“What do you want?” the boy asked curtly, lowering his headphones.
“Duncan Moore. Room 204. I’m checking in.”
The older boy took his slip and checked it on his clipboard, same as before. After giving him the full spiel he just gave Jessie mere minutes before, he stopped Duncan before he could walk away.
“Hey, one last thing. There’s a three strike rule here, so don’t go picking any fights. And if you beat up your roommate, you’ll probably get expelled. I have a feeling that’d be a hate crime or something.”
Duncan gave him an inquisitive look but it was quickly replaced with a frown.
“I guess my reputation precedes me.” Duncan made his way for the stairs with nothing more than a backpack and a dufflebag.
The older boy behind the desk put his headphones back on and muttered to himself, “If I get one more room assignment today, I swear…”
Duncan arrived at his room and unlocked the door to find a set of books on the dresser and two empty bags in the corner. ‘Guess I have a roommate,‘ he thought to himself, closing the door behind him.
The sudden slam startled Jessie, who was busy massaging conditioner into her scalp. She nearly jumped in fright, slipping on the tub and barely finding her balance. ‘It’s the ghost!!‘ she panicked. ‘No, no, ghosts aren’t real. At least bad ghosts aren’t real. Are they?! Poltergeists are totally a thing, right?! OGAWD…‘ She took a deep breath and with the calming steam filling her lungs, she got ahold of herself. ‘Someone must have come in. I guess I do have a roommate afterall. I need to go close the door before he sees me…‘
Duncan noticed the door to the bathroom open slightly and the sound of water pouring down. ‘I should probably close that for him…‘ Duncan thought to himself. He may not have liked most of the guys in school, but the last thing he wanted to see was a naked one in the mirror. Just as he approached with his hand reached out towards the handle, he heard a feminine voice calling out from inside.
“Aw crap, I hate when it gets in my eyes!” Jessie couldn’t help but say aloud. She stood there in front of the sink, trying her best to rub the conditioner out of her tightly shut eyes with one hand while reaching out blindly with another to find the doorhandle.
Duncan didn’t expect such a voice from inside and despite his best intuition, glanced up through the crack to see the reflection of a stark naked girl squinting in pain and desperately reaching out for the doorhandle in the slightly-foggy mirror. His heart thumped with a sense of panic and excitement at the sight before him, but before this mysterious wet girl could see he was there, he gently pushed the door towards her flailing hand. It found its target and pulled the door closed, leaving Duncan with a blush and a smile. ‘Heh, guess my roomy snuck a girl in. I can probably use this against him if he tries to screw with me. He’d be expelled for this! Nice view, though.‘
Jessie hunched over the sink running water through her eyes after closing the door and after that was over, she hopped back in the shower and finished up as soon as she could.
Meanwhile, Duncan was pondering just what to do about the girl in the bathroom. ‘Maybe I can ask for another free view to keep my mouth shut, heh heh…‘ he thought to himself as he unloaded his clothes and threw his notebook on the unclaimed side of the desk.
‘I sure hope I shut the door in time,‘ Jessie thought while getting dressed. ‘And I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for tight sports bras. That really keeps everything in check. Without it, I’d be poking through my shirt for sure.‘ Fully dressed and confident that nothing dangerous was visible, Jessie cautiously opened the door to greet her new roommate. Needless to say, her heart stopped when she saw Duncan laying on the lower bunk and flipping through channels. ‘Oh gawd, anyone but him…‘
Duncan froze too the moment he laid eyes on Jessie and recognized her. His mind immediately set to rage-mode when he saw he was rooming with the brat who humiliated him at lunch, but then he put two and two together and his face became blank. Was he the girl in the bathroom? Is this kid actually a girl?! A thousand thoughts raced through his head before finally finding the courage to offer a simple “hey”.
The awkward silence was broken.
“H-hey… What are you doing here? Are you staying in this room too?” Jessie asked, hoping against hope that there must be some mistake.
“Yeah” was all he could bring himself to say.
“I-I don’t want any t-trouble…” Jessie stuttered, drawing a blank. She had no idea how to respond to him. He’d probably kill her in her sleep after what happened at lunch time. She needed to get away and form a plan, and fast.
Duncan got to his feet and started trying to say something, but Jessie flinched when he got up. ‘Here it comes…!‘ Jessie thought. Glancing around for anything she could use to protect herself, she noticed her wallet sitting atop the dresser next to her. Immediately she grabbed it and ran outside, leaving Duncan completely bewildered and lost.
‘What the hell was that? He… she… I have to be sure.‘ Duncan cautiously looked behind the open bathroom door to find that it was completely empty. ‘She IS a girl, holy crap. And she’s pretending to be a boy to go here? She really is Mulan. Why, though? Why go through the trouble?‘
As he tried to figure out Jessie’s possible motives for crossdressing to school, it occurred to him that this was the kid he harassed outside the storage shed two days ago. The same kid he damn near beat to a pulp several hours ago just for telling him to back off. ‘I almost beat up a girl… I came this close to putting her in the hospital…‘ The guilt was setting in, and setting in hard.
Duncan wasn’t sure what to do. ‘Apologize? That’d just hurt my reputation, and fear’s the best leverage I have around here. Why should I apologize anyway? She doesn’t know I saw her naked, and she’s the one who started it at lunch… but I started it before at the school festival. And why did Eric step in both times? Wait a second… he must know her secret too. That’s why he protected her. Are they actually together or something? If the school finds out about this, she’s sure to be expelled. What should I do?‘
Duncan sat there for a solid thirty minutes contemplating every possibility in his head. ‘I need to stop thinking about this and just deal with her when she comes back. She’s probably already complained to the dorm head, but we both know there’s no other free rooms.‘ Flopping back down on his bunk, he picked up the remote and continued his mission of finding something to watch, but for the life of him he couldn’t focus on anything. He cycled through all of the channels several times before deciding what he really needed was to go for a walk and clear his head. Surely that’d get his mind off of her.
He threw on a hoody and made his way downstairs. In a minute, he was walking down the street towards a convenience store, taking in the dusk scenery and early Autumn air. He took his time walking down the street, trying his best to forget about the mysterious girl and failing fantastically at it.
“Leave me alone!!” a voice called out from an alley as Duncan walked past. Curious, he took a detour down the alley to see what was going on. Behind the building he found Jessie pinned to a wall at knifepoint by a man with two more thugs standing around, all with lewd expressions on their faces. Jessie was wide-eyed and trembling but unable to move. “I-I told you, all I have’s the credit card! My parents will cancel it if they see anything suspicious on it!”
“Well maybe we’ll have to take our payment another way. Been a while since I tasted a high school girl…” The gruff man slid his knife gingerly from her neck up to her chin, scraping just slightly as he pulled the knife away. His friends simply laughed.
“I-I’m not a- a–” Jessie began, but the words were caught on the lump in her throat.
“A virgin? I’ll be the judge of that…” the man said, sliding his hand down her thigh, but before he could make his move he was pulled away by the sharp cries of his partners.
The man whipped around to see what had happened to find a blond-haired, green-eyed, 6-foot-2 boy standing over the whimpering lumps of his friends, one clutching his leg and screaming in pain and the other with the fingers on his right hand bent in wholly unnatural ways. His death glare locked with the man’s eyes and didn’t so much as blink.
“Leave her alone.”
The man took in the scene around him, unsure of how one kid could take out two of his best thugs.
“You wanna play little boy? Let’s play.”
The man lunged forward with his knife extended, ready to jab right into Duncan’s heart, but Duncan was prepared. In a flash, he ducked and turned, grabbing the man’s arm from underneath and using the leverage of the man’s own momentum, flipped him over on his back. Duncan didn’t hesitate to slam his boot firmly down on the man’s wrist, causing him to drop the knife and squeal in pain, clutching Duncan’s unmoving ankle.
“What… what the hell are you, kid?!” the man screamed. Duncan didn’t respond. He just knelt down and picked up the knife and pressed it to the man’s throat, putting even more of his weight on the broken wrist.
“I bet this isn’t the first time you guys have harassed Academy kids going to the store. I’ve heard the stories. Believe me, I’ve been looking forward to meeting your lot for a long time.”
The man’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head.
“Give me your wallet,” Duncan said evenly.
“W-what?!” the man revolted, but Duncan pressed the blade into his skin, causing a small trickle of blood to trickle to the ground. Without a word, the man reached his free hand to his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.
Duncan took it with his own free hand and with only a split-second glance away from the man’s face, he pulled out his driver’s license and threw the wallet away.
“You too, unless you want your friend to die here,” he called to the other two who, without hesitation, did the same. All three ID’s in hand, Duncan finally let off the man’s ankle but kept the knife poised and ready as he stood up. The man immediately clutched his broken wrist.
“Now here’s the deal. You stop harassing people around here, and I won’t have to go to your houses and kill you in your sleep. Sound good?”
The three looked at each other and after a moment of mental deliberation, they nodded in agreement.
“Good. And I swear to you, if you harm one hair on her head again, it won’t just be you. It’ll be your families too. Your wives. Your kids. And I know not to leave any evidence behind. Now get out of here and don’t you ever come back.”
The two men with broken hands and wrists carefully got up, and helped carry the one with the broken leg. With one last glare of defiance, the man who had pinned Jessie to the wall spat on the ground at Duncan’s feet and together, the three made their way out of the alley. Another moment had passed before Duncan carefully pocketed the knife and ID’s and turned to find Jessie collapsed on the ground, but her face still frozen in fear. He approached her, her gaze seemingly locked and her mind seemingly lost somewhere else.
“Hey. Brat. Snap out of it.” With no reaction, Duncan knelt down and put his hand on her shoulder. Jessie jumped with a yelp at the contact. “You alright, kid?”
Jessie finally started looking around, brought back to reality, to find her savior looking into her eyes with concern. “I-I’m fine,” she coughed, her weak voice still caught in her throat. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“You need to be more careful. You may be a guy but looking like that, this was bound to happen.” Jessie was startled at first when Duncan referred to her as a guy, but then remembered what he had said when the thieves were about to have their way with her.
“Y-yeah, I’ll try. I was just going for some drinks and they dragged me in here and… I was so scared. I never imagined something like that would happen to me.” Jessie collected herself and with Duncan’s hand for support, managed to stand up.
“It’s fine, these things happen. I have a feeling they won’t be coming back.” Duncan flashed a smile when he said this, making Jessie wonder what he was up to.
“What are you planning to do with their licenses? You’re not actually going to sneak into their houses and.. and…” Jessie was caught on the last word from the off chance Duncan wasn’t bluffing. She wasn’t so sure what was going on in his head.
“What do you think? We’re going to walk to the convenience store and wait in the safety of the parking lot for the police to show up. I already called when I got here. They should be here any minute.”
“So.. so that’s why you took them. So they’d be easy to find.”
“Yup. The knife’s good evidence, too. Best of all, I’m sure I snapped that one guy’s leg so they won’t get very far. They’ll be caught within the hour, just you watch.”
Jessie was amazed that Duncan had kept his cool and thought ahead so thoroughly. Of all the things she thought of him, hero and savior were the furthest from the list.
“What was that move you did when you flipped that guy over?” Jessie asked, picking up her bag of sodas.
“It’s just a simple judo throw. You use the guy’s inertia against him, anyone can do it. I’ll teach you. You could use some self defense techniques.” Duncan motioned to carry the bag for Jessie, but she politely declined the help. “Are you good to walk? We should get going, the police will be waiting for us.”
“Yeah, sorry. Thank you for saving me. Really. If you hadn’t have come when you did, I don’t know what would have happened. I might even be dead.”
“Well let’s just be glad I happened to walk by. I just wish I’d left the room sooner.”
Jessie suddenly remembered what her reason for leaving was to begin with. She couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed at the way she freaked out and ran, but she honestly didn’t know how to deal with his presence.
“So… are we good now? You’re not going to kill me in my sleep for what happened at lunch, are you?” Jessie asked with a nervous laugh, afraid of the answer.
“Yeah, we’re good, Mulan. Don’t go telling anyone at school about this, though. I have a reputation to keep.”
“Ok. And my name’s Jessie by the way. Jessie Oliver.”
“I like Mulan better. The name’s Duncan, but you knew that already.”
“Nice to meet you, Duncan. Y’know, you’re not such a bad guy afterall. I bet deep down you’re a big ol’ softie!” Jessie teased with a laugh, trying her best to overcome the trauma of what just happened.
“Watch it, Mulan. I might just feed ya to the wolves next time,” he said with a smile.
With a pout from Jessie earning a hearty laugh in return, the two went off towards the parking lot closer than either of them ever expected to be. Maybe, just maybe, having a roommate in the dorms would be ok. At least Jessie was left with the ease of mind that Duncan wouldn’t hurt her. Before she knew it, she’d already made a friend out of the biggest jerk on campus and, with any luck, she hoped that she could help him become a nicer person. One day at a time.