Cree must endure whispers and stares of fellow students.
The bell rang two seconds before Cree could make it to her first class. When she came walking in after the bell, all the other kids stared and snickered. She figured that they had heard about what happened in the day room. She took her seat in the second row as usual.
“Cree, you're late,” came the teacher's quiet but authoritative voice.
“Sorry, Ms. Faigon,” Cree said, a little embarrassed.
“I think I can guess why,” Sally O'Connor whispered over to her with a giggle.
“Hey, too busy suckin' face with Reese,” Willie Courtly snickered. Cree threw them a sour look. Jenny, who was sitting next to Cree, was equally as annoyed. She turned to the both of them, who were sitting in the fourth row and said, “Lay off her.”
“What's it to you, blue girl?” Willie said. “Denny told us all about it.”
“Oh, really,” Jenny whispered back. “Well, I wouldn't listen to anything that jerk said.”
Ms. Faigon looked back from the chalkboard and looked at the class. She always seemed to know what was going on. She threw a look that told them to behave, or things were going to get hairy.
“Would you all be quiet,” Jordon whispered from across the second row. He was sitting two seats down from Cree. “It is very rude to be talking during class.”
“Like you are now,” Jenny whispered back, giggling. “This is chemistry. Too bad Millie isn't here. She's knows a lot about chemistry.” Jordon just looked away, pretending to readjust his glasses in hopes that the girls didn't see him blush.
“Glad to see I'm not the only one embarrassed,” Cree said, laughing along with Jenny.
“So Cree, you never told me,” Jenny started. “Did Reese ask you out again?” She nodded.
“When?” Ms. Faigon looked back again. Jenny straightened up in her seat and didn't say another word. Cree quickly jotted down the word 'Friday' in her notebook and showed Jenny. She just smiled and gave her a wink.
Cree suffered through the rest of the class, faintly hearing the whispers of the other students. Jenny gave them all nasty looks, one by one, all the way through the period. Soon, the bell rang, and the two girls got up from their seats.
“So, where's he taking you?” Jenny asked.
“I don't know,” Cree said, picking up a book she dropped. “He won't tell me. You know how secretive Reese can get.”
“Yea,” Sally chimed in. “And how frisky with his hands... and his tongue.”
“Shut up, Sally,” Jenny said. “No one asked your opinion.”
Sally just laughed. “Better watch out, Cree. That boy's turnin' you into a whore. Next you'll be makin' out on the front lawn. Won't that be a sight.” Sally walked off, still laughing.
“Oh, god, what's wrong with me,” Cree moaned, letting the anxiety take over her again. “Why did I ever agree to this date?”
“Cree,” Jenny said. “Calm down.”
Cree ignored her friend’s statement and said, “And on top of all that, Denny had to...”
“Forget about it, Cree,” Jenny said, finally getting her friend’s attention. “They're just jealous.”
Cree shook her head in the negative. Jenny could see
the cynicism in her friend’s face and said, “Do you know how many girls have been after Reese, even before we came here? I heard it all from Millie. Just about every girl in this school has thrown herself at him.”
Cree looked a little worried. “I know.”
Jenny could see a little pang of jealousy in her friend's eyes.
“Hey, don't worry. I know for a fact that Reese Faigon,” Jenny began harmonizing, which made Cree laugh, “only has eyes for you.”
“Oh, god, Jenny, you're not going to start singing.” Both girls were laughing at this point, ready to leave the classroom. Halfway across the room, they heard Ms. Faigon's voice.
“Cree, may I speak with you?” Cree turned around, a little startled.
“Sure, Ms. Faigon.” She turned to Jenny. “I'll see you later.” Cree turned and walked towards the front of the
classroom again. She stopped when she reached Ms. Faigon's desk. “I'm sorry for being late. I just lost track of time.”
“That's not what I wanted to speak with you about,” she said, rising from her seat. She gave Cree an intense look.
“Oh…you must have heard about that.” She looked down at the floor, feeling quite embarrassed.
“I'm really sorry about this morning. Reese and I just got a little carried away and...”
“No, Cree, that's not it, although I did hear about that. You both do need to learn some self-control.” Cree looked into her teacher’s eyes, knowing now what she was referring to.
“What I want to ask you, is about last night.”
“Oh…that,” Cree said, looking away for a moment. Then she continued, “Mar, look, I'm sorry I got so upset, but the thought of being locked up again… it just made me a little crazy.”
“I can understand that, but if you need to talk, I'm here.” She took Cree’s hand and put her own on top of it. Cree nodded and made her way towards the hallway. She found Jenny waiting there for her.
“So, what did she want?” Jenny asked as they walked down the hall to their next class.
“Nothing much,” Cree said, fidgeting with the books in her hand. “She just wanted to talk about late night.”
“Oh, so she didn't say anything about this morning?” Jenny asked as they entered another classroom.
“Yea, she did mention it,” Cree said, her face blushing.
They sat down at the back of the classroom, in the two corner seats in the last row. Jenny looked anxious as she leaned over and tried to pry the information out of her friend.
“So, tell me. What did she say? You're not grounded or anything?”
“No, she just said practice some self-control. I guess she doesn't want to be a grandmother anytime soon.” Jenny giggled.
“Yea, Cree, I can see you with a kid.” Her giggles turned to a hardy laugh. At that moment, Millie walked in.
“Hey, how was phys-ed?” Jenny asked.
“Don't ask,” Millie said as she plopped down in her seat.
“That Dusk is a slave driver. We could have done some nice easy laps in the gym, but no. He's got to take us up the trail through the woods. It makes me miss Professor Underwood.”
Jenny giggled. “Yea, Millie, you just liked him because he was hot. Too bad he's married now.”
“What?” Millie fumed. “Brain Underwood is practically an old man. Why, he's almost twenty-five.”
“Oh, Millie, you think eighteen is old.”
At that moment Cree looked up to see Reese standing in the doorway. He signaled for her to come over to him. She got up from her seat and tried to make her way up the aisle towards him as more students came through pushing and shoving.
Soon the classroom was filled. Cree stood over by the door next to Reese. “Hey, what is it?” Cree asked. “Class is about to start.”
“We still on for lunch?”
“Sure,” she said. “A promise is a promise.”
He took her hand and gave her a quick kiss. “See you later?” She nodded and walked back over to her desk to a chorus of Oohing and Ahhing coming from the rest of the class. The embarrassment showed in her face.
“Doesn't anyone have anything better to talk about?”
“Hell no, your romance is the biggest thing going on right now!” Millie said as she leaned over and puckered her lips together, making some kissing sounds.
“Millie, stop it,” Jenny said, slapping her hand. “Don't you see Cree is embarrassed enough as it is?” At that moment their teacher, Max Morris, stepped forward to face the class.
“Alright, children, settle down now. Today we are going to cover the Battle of Gettysburg.” His bright-eyed enthusiasm was met by groans from almost the entire class.
“Boring,” Millie whispered. Then she looked over at Jordon Demsey, sitting in the first row. She looked over at Jenny who noticed her drooling over the smart guy.
“Well,” Millie said. “I guess I'll have to pay attention.”
“Oh, yea,” Jenny said, giggling. “That way you'll have something to talk about with Jordon.”
“God, you two are hopeless,” Cree chimed in as she opened her notebook and jotted down what Professor Morris was writing on the chalkboard.
Cree did little more than sleepwalk through the class, snickers and stares still coming from the other students. Oh, god, she thought, why'd Denny have to catch us. He's got an even bigger mouth than Millie.
For the life of her, she couldn't figure out why Millie didn't go after him. They were birds of a feather, but then she thought that she didn’t want one her best friends to hook up with a jerk like that.
Cree was grateful when class was over. She had a free period before lunch, so she decided to take a dip in the pool. She changed into a white one-piece swimsuit with a round front and spaghetti straps. Usually, no one else was around the pool at this time of day, so she was grateful for the solitude. She just wanted a little time alone. Too bad she didn't get her wish.
“Hey, Cree,” came the voice from a small-framed girl wearing a short plain white top and a long, flowing, multi-colored skirt.
“Hey, Dora,” she replied, a little disappointed by the girl’s presence. Cree had hoped to have some time alone, but now that wasn't going to happen.
“Have you seen Jordon?” Dora asked, sitting on one of the lawn chairs.
Dora wore her shoulder-length brown hair swept up on the sides by two butterfly clips. Her eyes were of a hazel color, with specks of brown. She walked over to the poolside as Cree finished her first lap.
Compared to Cree, Dora was a plain girl but she was the top student in the school. Cree didn't dislike her, they had just never been close. They had barely even talked, until Millie started chasing after Jordon. Cree stepped out of the pool and grabbed a towel to dry off.
“No, I haven't seen him since last period,” Cree said in a delayed response to her question. Then with a laugh, she added, “He's probably running from Millie. Thanks to him, she’s been excelling in history lately.”
“Really,” she said, looking a little annoyed. “Maybe I'll just give her a hypnotic suggestion to convince her that she doesn't really like my brother.”
“Dora,” Cree said, looking shocked. “That wouldn't be right. Besides, I don't think it would work anyway. Millie's mind is wild and uncontrollable. You might get lost up there.”
“True,” she said, “but you could also be biased because she's your friend.”
“I could be, but think about it, Dora. Do you really want Millie's thoughts running around in you head?” Dora smiled. It was the first time Cree saw her do that since she sat down.
“I guess you're right, but I can't fathom what my brother sees in her,” Dora said, picking up her water and taking a sip. “Maybe you could enlighten me.”
Cree's jaw dropped open. “Wait one minute. Jordon likes Millie?” Dora nodded the affirmative.
“But he barely speaks to her, and when he does, it's
only in polite greeting.”
“Well,” Dora said, hesitating for a moment. “He's shy.”
“Shy?” Cree looked surprised. “With all the time jumping he does just to prove our history teacher wrong, and the way he scolds the other kids about their rudeness in class, and his bad sportsmanship on the basketball court? He doesn't seem too shy to me.”
“Yea, when it comes to that stuff but I’ve never seen him like this over a girl, especially one like Millie. He just doesn't know what to say to her.”
“Well, what about 'Hey, Millie, how 'bout a date Saturday night?' It's as simple as that. Besides, she's the adventurous type. He could take her on one of his time trips. She'd love that.”
“And what if he did ask her out, and she said no?” Dora said, crossing her legs. “Poor Jordon would be devastated.”
Cree laughed out loud. “Millie, saying ‘no’? You've got to be kidding. You'll never believe what she did just to get his attention.” Dora looked confused and worried.
“She airbrushed little American flags on her nails.”
Now Dora was really confused. “She did what?”
“Yea,” Cree said, taking a sip of water. “She knows how much of a history buff he is.”
“But that's ridiculous,” Dora said, jumping up from her seat, her long skirt trailing behind her. “How can anyone do something so...”
“What, bizarre?” Cree said, placing her water down on the small round white table. “Well, it's Millie we're talking about. She's so unpredictable and fun. She makes life interesting. Maybe that's why he likes her.”
“If you say so,” Dora said, sounding unconvinced. Cree dug in her bag for her cell phone. She knew it was getting late, but she didn't know how late.
“Oh, god, ten after twelve.” She looked over at Dora. “Sorry, I gotta go. I promised Reese I would meet him for lunch.” Dora gave her a bit of a disapproving look that Cree noticed right away. So she had heard the rumors, too.
What did Denny do? Blab it to the whole school. Either that or she was getting paranoid. God, how she hated him. Cree hurried into the locker room to change out of her swimsuit and back into her regular clothes.
Cree entered the cafeteria a little out of sorts. She was already fifteen late for lunch, not that she was very hungry, but she would have liked to spend a little more time with Reese.
She wondered if he was experiencing all the same things she was, or were the whispers and stares all in her head.
She spotted Reese at their usual table. He already had a plate of food ready for her. “Hi, Reese, sorry I'm late.” She sat down still feeling a little embarrassed.
“Hey, what's wrong?” he asked, sliding the food tray closer to her.
“Nothing,” she said, looking down at her food.
“Something's wrong.” She looked back up at him, shocked at his insight. “I can tell, Cree.”
“Why do you have to know me so well?” she asked, taking a bite of her roast beef. He just smiled, which lightened her mood a little. “It's just that everybody's been talking. God, it's all Denny fault.”
“Yea, but he got what was coming to him. Just ask him where he got that black eye.” A look of shock came over Cree’s face.
“Reese Faigon, what did you do?”
“Nothin'. Just defending my lady's honor.” He took her hand from across the table.
“Reese, stop it,” she pleaded. “Everyone is staring.”
“So, let them. I don't care what they think, Cree. I only care about you.” Her cheeks turned a bright red.
Reese noticed this and said, “Why are you so shy about this?”
“I don't know, maybe because I never had a real boyfriend before, not anyone I really liked anyway.”
“I know. I never had a real girlfriend before either.”
“Reese, now you're lying,” she fired at him. “I know about all the girls throwing themselves at you. Don't tell me you never...”
She saw the hurt look in his eyes.
“Cree, I never wanted any of them. Sure, I kissed a few, but that was it. There was never anyone serious, not until you. You're the only one I want.”
Cree smiled once again. She felt bad that he had to reassure her so constantly about his intentions towards her and the other girls in school. Reese Faigon was a flirt, yes, but that was as far as it went.
“So, Reese, I have a question.”
“Yea,” he said, taking a sip of his soda.
“Where we going Friday night?” He shook his head in the
negative and gave her a slight smirk. “Reese, come on. How am I supposed to know what to wear?”
“Well, okay,” he said, swallowing another forkful of roast beef. “Wear something nice.”
“Reese,” Cree shouted, leaning forward and slapping him from across the table. “That's not an answer!”
At that moment, Millie and Jenny came over to the table.
“Hey, guys,” Millie said, her perkiness suddenly stomped on by the heaviness in the air. “So, what's going on?”
“Looks like a fight,” Jenny chuckled.
“We're not fighting,” Cree insisted. “We just had a disagreement, is all.”
“Over?” Millie inquired, leaning in towards Cree.
“He won't tell me where he’s taking me Friday night,” Cree crossed her arms, in an attempt to pout. “So I don't know what I'm supposed to wear...”
“So, this is about shopping?” Millie said with a giggle. “Dressy or casual?”
“Millie!” Cree shot up. “This has nothing to do with you. Besides, I have a whole closet full of clothes.” Then, shooting a look at Reese, “If I knew where we were going, then I could find something appropriate.”
“Okay, okay,” he said, throwing her a sly grin. “Wear something really nice. Okay?” Cree smiled at him, knowing this was the most she was going to get out of him.
At that moment, the bell rang once again. Cree got up from her chair and disposed of her food tray. She looked back at Reese.
“Hey,” he said. “See you later.” She nodded with a smile as her two friends whisked her away.
As they walked down the hall, Millie spoke first. “Well, it looks like we're going shopping. There's nothing like a day at the mall.”
“We don't need to go shopping,” Cree said, rounding the corner. “I probably have something in my closet that will do.”
“Yea, something Reese has seen you in a thousand times. You need something new. Tell her, Jenny.”
“This is between the two of you,” she said, waving up a hand like she was holding an imaginary white flag. “I'm staying out of it.”
“Oh, come on, Cree, when's the last time you been to the mall?”
She stopped walking as did her two friends and said, looking directly at Millie, “Not since the last time you dragged me there.”
“Yea, and that was months ago. You're due.” Cree groaned.
“Cheer up,” Millie added, putting an arm around her friend. “This is going to be so much fun.”