Walking in the front door, Gibby was greeted by the delicious aroma of tangy tomato and cheese that filled the house. The smell tingled his nose bringing a loud growl from his teenage stomach. He wasn’t hungry until now. That sandwich had done little to keep his hunger at bay and the thought of his dad’s twice baked spaghetti had his mouth watering.
“Wow, you’re home early.” Gibby shouted towards the kitchen as he pulled out the small bundle of back-to-school paperwork that had to be completed before tomorrow, and carried it to the breakfast bar.
“I wanted to be here when you got home.” Jonathan glanced up from the vegetables he was chopping on the countertop. “Soooo…how was your first day?”
Gibby hid his frustration behind a fake smile, “It was fine.”
Jonathan watched him for a moment, “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” There was no fooling his father.
“No, Dad, it was fine, I promise. This place is going to take a little getting used to, that’s all.”
“Just give it a chance.” Jonathan’s tone suddenly softened. The move was harder on his son then him. The last thing Gibby needed was Jonathan making things more difficult. “What are the kids like?”
There was no way in hell that Gibby was going to tell his father about the kindergarten incident, so he shrugged his shoulders and picked a cucumber out of the salad bowl. “I met a girl at lunch. Her name’s Shelby and she was kind of cool.”
Jonathan’s eyebrows quickly shot up bringing a giggle from Gibby. “Don’t get your hopes up, old man. Just because Shepherd’s Crook doesn’t have a GLBT welcoming committee, I’m not changing teams that fast.”
“What about the other kids, did anyone feel like they were gay friendly?”
Gibby thought for a second. The boys had given him lots of curious glances during the day, but he wouldn’t call any of them hopeful. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’m not interested in dating anyone any time soon.”
Noticing the stack of papers, Jonathan nodded his head towards the pile, “Did they assign homework on the first day of school?”
Gibby let out a chuckle, “Oh, it’s homework alright, but it’s not for me.”
“That’s all for me?” Jonathan’s mouth dropped open as he stepped closer, reading the paper on top. “What kind of institution is Grady running?”
Shaking his head tumbled auburn locks around Gibby’s forehead and ears. “Welcome to public education 101. If it happens at school, there’s a form for it…and in color-coded triplicate too.” Gibby continued to laugh at his father’s reaction.
“Lockner didn’t have all that crap to complete each year--”
The smile disappeared from Gibby’s face, “Yes, they did! You just didn’t see it.” He stopped himself before adding that his mother had always filled out his paperwork, but letting the unsaid words hang in the air.
The rest of the week passed without any unexpected run-ins with Amanda. With the pep rally being scheduled for next Friday, the following week she had something else to focus her evil attention on other than trying to make Gibby’s life miserable. The first game of the season between Shepherd’s Crook and their biggest rival, Mt. Jackson, was the highlight of the entire season.
The game was important and, as the girlfriend of the captain of the football team, Amanda designated herself as the head organizer of the pep rally committee which left Gibby alone to settle into life in Shepherd’s Crook.
“Can anyone name a metal that remains liquid at room temperature?” Ms. Stein asked, perched from the corner of her big wooden desk in the front of her classroom. A hush fell over the room. Several students nervously flipped through their textbook, searching for the answers that they wouldn’t find. It wasn’t in the book.
With a mischievous glint in her eyes, she glanced around the room, waiting for someone to attempt to answer the question. Several students lowered their eyes, not wanting to meet her gaze.
“Come on…anyone?” She jumped up and walked between the aisles trying to engage her students, encouraging them to try.
“Mercury,” Tanner spoke without looking up from the notebook he was covering with doodles.
“Very good, Mr. Mitchell,” she praised her student, but continued to look at his other classmates, “but there’s more than just one. Does anyone else have any ideas?” Ms. Stein asked the silent classroom. She liked to challenge her students to think and waited to see if someone would attempt to answer.
Gibby watched them twisting uncomfortable in their seats, “Francium.” He answered while everyone else stayed quiet.
Ms. Stein’s face lit up. “Yes! Good job Gibby, and can you name the others?”
She was putting him on the spot. The few times she had spoken to Gibby, she quickly realized that he was a very intelligent boy. Now, in front of his new peers, she hoped her question didn’t backfire and embarrass him.
“Others? They might be liquid on a blazing hot July day, but I wouldn’t call it a comfortable room temperature,” Gibby snorted, trying to hide his grin. He really liked Ms. Stein and didn’t want to contradict her in front of her class.
Once she knew that Gibby had the answer, she went for broke. “Since you obviously know the answer, Mr. Robinson, why don’t you enlighten the rest of the class?”
Ms. Stein smiled, waiting for him to wow his classmates.
"Rubidium, Cesium, and Gallium.” The students started to buzz as soon as he answered. Tanner stopped drawing to glance over his shoulder at Gibby sitting the next row over and two desks back. "A lot of people think Bromine is one too, but technically, it's not a metal."
Tanner’s mouth was hidden behind his shoulder, but Gibby could tell by the crinkle of his bright blue eyes that he was smiling.
“Excellent, Mr. Robinson. Just for that, you get first pick at the lab tables in the back.” She beamed at him as if he had won the lottery, but Gibby continued to look confused. The big black tables in the back of the room displayed test-tube racks and glass beakers, but until now the students had sat at the individual desks at the front of the classroom.
“Today is lab partner day.” As soon as the words were in the air, Amanda’s face beamed as she glanced over to Ethan, making sure he understood that they would be each other’s partner.
Gibby’s heart started to race. There were twenty-two students in the class, but what if nobody wanted to be his partner. Looking around the room, all eyes were on him. They all stared at him, but there wasn’t a friendly smile among their faces.
“Go on, pick a table and take your things with you.” Ms. Stein encouraged him.
Slowly easing out of the comfort of his desk, Gibby slung his satchel over his shoulder and walked to the back and picked a table near the window with a view of the overgrown oak tree in front of the school.
“Who’s next?” Amanda demanded.
A coy smirk glided over their teacher’s face. “That would be Ms. Blackfeather.”
Sunshine glanced up and smiled.
“Why does Sunny get to choose next?” Amanda whined in a high nasally tone.
“Because,” Ms. Stein smirked as she walked back to her favorite spot on her desk, “Blackfeather is the first name in the alphabet.”
Gibby enjoyed watching the frustration wash over Amanda’s face as Ms. Stein called students according to their last names to pick a lab table. When Mark Butler tried to squeeze into the chair beside Sunshine, Ms. Stein shook her head and told him to pick an empty table. The teacher had a plan, one that Amanda wasn’t going to like.
Once all the tables held a single student, Ms. Stein pulled out a small blue box and walked around the room. Each of the remaining students drew a card labeled one through eleven. Glancing at the tables beside him, Gibby noticed they were all numbered and his was number eight.
“Number eight! Go have a seat, Tanner.”
Gibby’s head shot up in time to see Tanner walking right toward him. His blue eyes were kind and warm as he approached the table. For a moment, Gibby forgot to breathe.
As Tanner sat down, the warm scent of his designer cologne filled the space between them.
“Looks like we’re partners.” Tanner’s voice washed over Gibby, bringing a strange mixture of tingling chills and hot flush that peppered his skin. He wanted to answer him, yet Gibby had suddenly forgotten how to talk.
Just when Gibby thought the day couldn’t get any better, Tanner looked up from his book and smiled at him when he walked into the busy cafeteria. It wasn’t a masked grin, but a genuine smile. Tanner’s eyes gazed over Gibby, taking in his long denim covered legs and gray hoodie before the blond boy quickly returned his attention back to his book. Gibby tried to make out the title, but it was too far away to read the small print.
The usual tables were already filled, so Gibby made his way to the far corner where a few students appeared to be studying. Gibby hadn’t seen Shelby again since that first day. She looked younger than his other classmates, so she might be assigned to a different lunch schedule. That was too bad because Gibby had really wanted to talk to her. Nobody at the table looked up when he plopped down onto a chair warmed by the noon sunshine streaming into the cafeteria.
Gibby fought the urge to look over at Tanner, seated at the center table surrounded by his popular friends, but he didn’t want anyone to catch him ogling the gorgeous teen dream. Instead he dug out the sandwich and Cheetos from his satchel and started to eat his lunch to keep his mind off Tanner.
“Incoming!” The frantic shout was echoed by a squeal of laughter.
Trying to ignoring the chaos behind him, Gibby never saw the pudding missile until the plastic cup hit and exploded on the table in front of him, splattering butterscotch across his face and hair.
“What the fuck?” Gibby muttered as the other students sharing the table jumped up and away from him and the sticky mess. The sickening sweet stench made his stomach churn. He didn’t have to see it happen to know that Amanda Grady was behind the attack.
The drama at Shepherd's Crook continues. Let me know what you think about it, Like it? Hate it? Want Amanda to get bitch-slapped? I love to hear from the readers.