"What are you doing?" Coach Kalvin bellowed. Instantly, heads turned to see who the coach's victim was today.
A girl bent on her knees looked flustered as she ran out of breath. Almost in unison, they shook their heads at her before resuming their business. Some gave looks of pity while others snickered.
After all, it wasn't unusual to see December Scarborough become the yelling target for Black Bridge Academy's tough and burly coach, since the girl doesn't seem to possess any stamina for her P.E class. Fortunately, this doesn't happen frequently, except when the sport involves running and chasing.
He rubbed his brow and sighed. "I've told you before and I'll tell you again," This time, he enunciated slowly like she was a child. "Your job is to stop anyone on the opposing team from getting the ball." With a tired look, he said gruffly, "Did you even eat today, girl?"
December could only nod. She was trying to block the laughter and snickers and even some pitying looks thrown her way. As if that wasn't horrible enough, she just spotted the boys' team playing on the other side of the gym. Zach was practicing with some of his friends and although he looked over a few times, December couldn't tell what kind of expression he wore.
She blinked her eyes a few times more, trying to keep the tears at bay and focus on what the coach was saying.
"There's no point to a game if you don't put your all in it, got it?" At another nod, he said, "Good. One more time."
December stood in her position among her teammates, trying to recognize the faces from the opposing team when a snide voice beside her said, "What a waste of time, really. I'd rather have those losers sitting over there to play on my team than a weakling like you."
December knew very well who that voice belonged to but she decided to ignore her.
The girls took their position and was in a ready stance. As soon as Coach Kalvin blew the whistle, everyone went into action. The opposing team were going for the ball while the defenders tried to stop it. December was one of them and was about to stop one of the opposing members from reaching the ball when like a flash, someone came from behind her and she immediately tripped over something, making her fall face down. She managed to defend herself using her elbows and covered her face so the fall was cushioned a little bit.
In an instant, Karen was beside her as she chuckled quietly and said in a whisper, "Can't even play right and you're always the target for coach's yelling. Aw, you poor baby."
To others, it seemed like Karen was concern about December by the way she sat beside the girl with a look of worry etched across her lovely features, which struck both disbelief and awe in everyone who saw it. December knew better, of course and she knew how ridiculous it would have looked especially when the blonde was spewing some evil things to her right now.
As if in a trance, everyone was quiet and it was like the earth went still for only a few seconds before Karen Joyce cried in mock concern with a, "She's hurt. Get the nurse!"
Not a second after, steps thundered towards them and voices broke out into murmurs.
December heard the sound of a shrill whistle before the coach bellowed, "Is she up?"
Someone must have answered him because the next thing she knew, he was telling everyone to make way before she was being pulled up from the floor by some students and away to the gym exit.
December didn't take notice of the students escorting her out for her mind had registered on one thing; her coach had looked really disappointed.
If it was anything that she hated, it was exactly that.
"Hmm, no broken bones or sprained limbs…" December heard the doctor said and exhaled in relief.
"How are you feeling now?" Ms. Olivia, a black middle aged woman with gentle brown eyes asked after she had inquired a series of questions following the examination.
Sitting on the hard but padded patient bed in the room that smelt of some disinfectant chemical made her feel unpleasant but she didn't feel any dizziness in her head. She told the doctor just that.
Ms. Olivia smiled. "I see. Well, just for precautions, I want you to take a break from school and classes for now and rest." She then took a medical pen light and aimed it to December's eyes like she did before, checking for any signs of abnormality.
Satisfied, she hummed to herself then said, "Your eyes looked fine, as I thought. And you don't seemed to have any bumps on your head but it can appear without you knowing it. If you feel nauseous, confusion or dizziness, go to a hospital immediately, alright? One can never be too sure."
"Okay. Thanks, Ms. Olivia."
After she was done, December walked out of the room only to find two guys waiting outside. One of them made her heart skipped a beat and she didn't reckon that had anything to do with her fall.
"Zach…Caleb, what are you doing here?" She prided herself for not stuttering.
Caleb, who had been leaning against the wall towards the room grinned. However, as he opened his mouth, Zach bounded from his seat and beat him to it. "Are you alright? What did the doc say?"
Zach's look of concern took her by surprise but it also made her happy. She repeated to them what the nurse had told her.
"That's good." Realizing that she might have thought he meant about her fall, he quickly amended, "I mean, it's good that you need to rest. After all that happened." He finished somewhat lamely. Zach gave her a small grin and rubbed the side of his neck a little which had tinged with red.
December almost gaped. She couldn't believe she was seeing a new side to her crush. To see the usually cool and collected captain being so flustered and unsure in front of her, it certainly felt refreshing. It was also endearing to see that and she couldn't help the small smile forming on her lips. A sudden cough made them both turned.
"Hate to break the conversation but we need to get going." At December's startled look, Caleb elaborated cheekily. "Zach needs to sort out the report for Coach Kalvin while I need to practice. Of course, the big dude had to coach the football team too." He muttered.
December nodded with an 'oh' while Zach kept on rubbing his neck. She didn't even think he was aware of doing it.
As if the thought suddenly occurred to him, he stopped with what he was doing and said, "Yeah, the report." Then, he added to December, "Well, I'm glad to see that you're fine. If you need anything, you can always count on me. Take care, alright?"
She nodded with a grateful smile. December didn't trust herself to speak lest she fumble with words. She could barely contain the giddiness and warm feeling within her. After all, he'd said he was glad she was alright and if she needed anything, she could count on him. It felt like a dream come true coming from her crush, December thought with bliss.
They were about to leave but a sudden realization dawned on her and she stopped them. "Um, you guys brought me here, right? Thanks." She flashed a beaming smile at them both.
Caleb laughed while Zach responded with a grin of his own. The former then said teasingly, "Now you're saying that?"
"It's not a problem. I mean, we were worried." Zach reassured.
She smiled sheepishly at them. "I guess I wasn't aware of my surroundings…but I'm really grateful for your help."
"It's no problem, really December." Zach patted her shoulder. The feel of his hand on her shoulder for just a second didn't help the red hues that was more becoming on her cheek. She hoped it wasn't too obvious to them.
Caleb grinned, "Now, if you're showing your gratitude, then you forgot another. The guy had to run off on some errand as soon as we brought you here, though."
December's interest was piqued. "Who?"
It was Zach who answered, "Pierre."
Excitement coursed through her, as she told herself to wait for a few more hours before her classes would end, and she could run to the nearest store and check out some novels. Now, as she lined for lunch, she scanned the day's menu and was thrilled to see some new addition. Thinking of what to buy, she barely noticed that someone had just about to cut in her line so when she moved forward, her foot tripped on another's.
Caught off guard, she flew forward out of the waiting line and landed on her rear. She winced a little but immediately tried to use her hands to stop the motion from propelling her in hitting her head on the floor.
Though she managed to save herself from further injures, her dignity unfortunately had suffered that fateful day.
The cafeteria went silent, saved from the shocking gasps by students. Then, one pointed out with a laugh, "Oh my God, is that…a granny underwear?"
She looked up and tried to find whomever said that and noticed that a finger was pointed at her. Sure enough, as she looked down, December felt her face grew hot with mortification as she wished she had been invisible. Hot tears pooled in her eyes and were now streaking down her face as she clumsily tried to cover herself. 'It's not a granny underwear!' she wanted to scream but she couldn't find her voice.
She heard catcalling and some hoots from the guys as the whole cafeteria were buzzing with murmurs and laughter. Some of them, including the girl who pointed at her started chanting 'Granny Pants', encouraging the others to start calling in too. She saw some of them pulling out their phones but before they were about to commemorate her humiliation, she picked herself up and ran fast from the scene, letting the first sob escaped her.
That was her first year at the academy, and her mortification didn't die down for at least a month before someone unfortunate became a new target and took the spotlight from her. Still, the remnants of that incident followed her throughout the year. It was also the beginning of her torment as she remembered the laughing face of Karen Joyce when the girl made that announcement.
December woke up with a start.
Her breath were uneven and came in gasps before she forced herself to breathe deeply, exhaling and repeating the same measure. It was just a dream. No, a bloody nightmare, she corrected grimly. Again.
After calming herself and wiping the sweat that formed on her temple, she took a ragged sigh. It had been quite a while since she had dreamt of incidents that involved her enemy. She hated how weak she felt and powerless she was for not getting revenge on the blonde bully. The desire to do something was strong yet she always back down before getting through with it. 'This is exhausting,' she thought with another sigh.
She glanced at the clock and saw that it was 10 A.M. Groaning, she burrowed herself deeper into the comforter.
Just as she was about to fall asleep again, her door was thrown open and she heard some feet shuffling before her bed sank and someone hugged her.
"Rise and shine, sleepyhead!"
Her voice were muffled as she said, "No."
Undeterred, Brooke rest her head on the lump that was her friend. "I'm not taking no today, sugar." Her Southern accent became apparent whenever she insisted on something, and December knew then she wouldn't be catching on the rest of the sleep she wanted.
She raised her head from underneath her cocoon and unwrapped herself. Looking at the other occupants in the room, she said in an almost whine. "I'm still sick, remember?"
Raven raised an eyebrow at her. "You had that fall three days ago and since we'd taken you to the hospital just for precaution, the doctor had confirmed later on that you were perfectly fine."
December pursed her lips. "The doctor also said I needed to clear my mind and rest. Even Ms. Olivia said that."
"Which is exactly what you need and why we're doing this. It's Saturday. We're going to hang out and it'll help clear your mind with the fresh air outside."
December rolled her eyes but not before registering the girl's smug look.
She then turned to the girl standing by her window. "Serena, I hope you're on my side with this."
Serena slide the curtains open, letting the morning sun shine through. December winced at the bright light and shield her face while she adjusted her eyes to it. She turned to look at the groggy looking girl with an apologetic smile. "Sorry, but I'm on board with them. Come on now, D. We're just going to go shopping and walk around in town."
"Look, you've been recovering since you took that fall but I'm afraid you've used up all the rest now. I think you're going to fall sick if you keep staying in bed. Besides, it's been a while since we all spend some time together." Brooke said, forming a pout on her lips.
Serena, having been studying December, noticed that something was off. "Is something bothering you? You look fatigued." December noted the worry expression on her face.
Raven, having just noticed it nodded. "I thought you slept well," she joked lightly, but her expression was also the same as Serena's.
December grin a little but held back a sigh. Should she just tell them that she had been having the same nightmare for two days now? Sure, Raven was her roommate but she tried not to let anything off lest it would only worry her. She wasn't sure, however, if she had been doing some sleep talking or not. 'If I had, Raven would have said something about it,' she thought before looking at the worried looks of her friends.
"It's just some nightmare." She said with a small smile before adding, "It's nothing important."
Brooke wasn't buying that façade. In a skeptical voice, she said, "Really now?"
Serena sighed but said gently, "I don't know why you try to hide things from us, D. Clearly something is troubling you. Why don't you tell us?" Serena had only known December since last year when she came to the academy, but even so she knew something was wrong when she looked at the pale girl's face. December only had nightmares when something or someone significant causes it. A trauma of sort, she thought.
She paused in thought, looking at her clammy hands, wiping them against her comforter to rid of the cool sensation - before deciding she'd enlighten them. They would only press on it no matter what. "It's about that time in freshman year." She said before mumbling, "The granny pants incident." Her cheeks still flushed even though it happened a while ago.
Serena looked baffled as she noted Raven and Brooke's incredulous expressions. The both of them had been friends with December before she had so this thing December mentioned must have been something important.
"You had that nightmare, huh?" Brooke grimaced. She wasn't friends with December at the time it happened, but had heard of it every now and then. Every time she thought of what December had to go through, anger coursed through her. She also remembered the time when she saw December getting bullied and had defended her.
Brooke had gotten out of the principal's office because her parents called in to express their dissatisfaction about her grades and wanted her to be counselled. "I got a freaking B and they're not satisfied with it! At least I passed, didn't I?" She grumbled. Her frown was etched on her face as she stormed into the crowd of students filling the hallway, wanting to just get some snacks at the vending machine.
As she walked closer towards the near end of the hall, she came across a group of students forming a tight circle. What made her stopped was the sound of whimpering and pleading from inside the circle as people chant 'Granny Pants' in a repeat. One of the perks of being tall was that she could see who was being victimized in the group. It was a girl being pushed around by some guys. Even the girls around them started calling names and taunting her.
"Missing your granny, is that it, freshman?" A girl with nasal voice jeered.
"Maybe she still wet herself." Some guys snickered.
"No, I heard she had her period or something. That's the only reason why she wore those, right?" Another girl crinkled her nose as she whispered obnoxiously to her friends. They promptly burst into laughter.
Brooke couldn't believe her eyes and ears. Doesn't the school condemn bullying? Why wasn't anyone doing anything? Brooke looked around and saw the rest of them either laughing or casting pitying looks before walking off. She even saw a teacher walking briskly past the lockers and disappear into a classroom even after glancing towards the scene. 'Unbelievable!' she thought astonishingly. The girl's teary eyes met her startled ones and she didn't have the heart to turn away. She didn't plan to. In fact, her previous anger had quickly refueled as she felt herself getting angry at the assholes. "Not on my watch," she muttered angrily.
Most freshmen would try not to bring attention to themselves, but Brooke wasn't one of them. With a determine glint in her eyes, she walked towards them the same time another girl did, almost bumping each other's shoulders as they both yelled out in unison, "HEY!"
Brooke wanted to grin at the memory. The other girl who had the same idea as hers was Raven and after telling them off, or more like threatening, the rest was history. After that, both she and Raven became heroines for sticking up to the upperclassmen. That was a feat for a freshman but the greater feat was that the miscreants really took their words on it and left December alone. A friendship soon had formed between them.
December smiled, having seen the faraway look on Brooke's face and she glanced at Raven to see the girl grinning. Serena noticed the change and said almost puzzlingly. "Okay, something is definitely going on and I feel left out here." She then tried to pout but stopped half way due to her friends' surprised expressions. Becoming more confused, her lips now looked like she was puckering them, though in an almost effortless way.
December was the first to break the trance and squealed. "What was that? I've never seen such expression from you before, Serena!"
"What expression is that exactly?" She asked, her confusion apparent. What is going on, really?
Raven laughed. "That pout you just did and the confused look you got was so cute, we kinda got caught off guard by it."
Brooke interjected with a cheeky grin. "Geez, if you do that often, I'll bet Weston won't want to keep his hands off of you."
Serena blushed and swatted her friends' prying hands at pinching her cheeks. "Stop it."
Her friends responded to that with a few 'awws' at her.
After a while, they sobered up and filled in Serena on what had happened.
"Wow," she said quietly before adding, "That's quite the thing to take in. I didn't know that happened to you." Serena looked apologetic.
"Yeah, well it's not exactly something I'd want everyone to know." came December's mumble. Those who were witnesses to it had either graduated or forgotten about it. Except Karen, although she had stopped calling December that name.
Serena and Raven sat on the brunette's bed while Brooke sat beside December. Their initial plan to bring December out and cheer her up were stalled as they discussed the girl's plight.
"So what do you plan to about this?" Serena asked.
December shrugged but said quietly, "I don't know yet. I really wish I could just brave up and deal with her but I don't think I have the courage to do so."
Brooke made a 'tsk' sound. "Sweetie, if you have the guts to stand up to Pierre, I'd say you have more courage than others have. The guy seem to have a sour disposition with how he's frowning a lot."
That made the rest of them laugh a little. Pierre always had the unapproachable look and it somewhat amused them when they saw the effect he had on their peers.
"That's not only it, though. Remember that one time last year when some guys bothered Serena?" At this, Serena nodded with a giggle as Raven continued, "You completely went crazy on them!"
December chuckled, remembering the time she jumped out from nowhere, practically sprinting towards some sophomores acting all crazy. That had weirded and chased the guys away and later they all shared a good laugh about it.
Tears were in Brooke's eyes as she shook with laughter. "You were randomly eating a piece of lettuce before breaking another piece and put it on Serena's neck and hair, complimenting how lovely she looked with it." Then, she paused between wheezes of laughter before adding as an afterthought, "Come to think of it, why did you have the lettuce in the first place?"
Soon after, they sobered up. Raven pulled a pillow closer to her and said, "Hey, if you wanna do something about it, you know you got us, right? She can't keep terrorizing you like this."
December looked at each of her friends and nodded gratefully with a smile. She was really glad to have made such wonderful friends.
She would have to stop being a spineless person, December knew that very well. But telling herself that while she wasn't mentally and emotionally prepared were two different things. Still, Brooke had been right, again. It was weird to not notice at first, that she could stand up to Pierre, a random guy, but she couldn't even confront Karen, her female nemesis. Does she have some sort of weird affliction where she could chase guys away like a scary warden but not when it comes to girls? The thought of that irritated her.
She knew she had to woman up eventually but for now, she cast her frustration and anger aside and figured she would cross that bridge when the time comes.
The four of them took the local bus to a mall in the city. They spent the morning and mid-afternoon between breakfast, looking into bookstores, trying the photo booths, getting lunch and then shopping.
"I forget how tiresome it is when I shop with you guys," December half groaned, half chuckle as they walked out of a department store. She was exhausted trying and finding new clothes only to be completely burned out. She was determined not to go through the place again because the whole floor was like a never ending maze.
In the end, both she and Raven had bought at least an item or two worth a paper bag, except Serena and Brooke, who had three bags with them.
Brooke adjusted her hold on the bags and rolled her eyes, "Hey now, it wasn't that bad of an experience. You were pretty into some of the clothes in there."
December nodded but said forlornly, "True but I wasn't so crazy about the price. I'll be honest, I could have bought a half dozen of doughnuts and a couple of vinyl records."
Serena laughed. "That sounds promising and yummy. What did you get anyway?"
December held up her bag and grinned. "A scarf."
"But it's not winter yet." said Raven, letting Serena and Brooke take a peek at her bag. She had bought a pretty black off shoulder blouse and a pair of sandals to match.
"I figured I'd just buy it while it's on my mind. I needed a new one anyway." She shrugged before smiling widely. "So, what do we do next?"
They ended up watching a newly released movie before going to a café at a corner to hang out, chattering mindlessly while enjoying their drinks and desserts. Raven was babbling excitedly about how amazing the whole cinematography was when they were interrupted by a snide voice, "Aw, what do we have here?"
In that moment, their chatter stopped as they each reacted to the intrusion in their own way. Serena put on a serene but also bored expression while Raven just gave Karen Joyce and her posse of wannabe followers an expectant but impatient look. Brooke didn't bother about subtlety as she rolled her eyes and snarled, "What do you want?"
Not accustomed to such a tone of voice, even from the girls since not one of them dared to offend her, she was taken aback when the glaring brunette insulted her. Stupefied, Karen quickly hid her surprise and composed herself into an aloof 'I'm-better-than-you' look. Narrowing her eyes at Brooke, she said in disgust, "I wasn't talking to you," She gave Brooke a look of dismissal before turning to her favourite target.
December, who had been forcing herself to calm down and breathe properly, gave Karen a blank stare, raising her eyebrow ever so slightly. 'Ugh, I didn't think I'd bump into her right now. Guess I did spoke too soon,' she thought remembering how she said she would cross the bridge when the time came to face the enemy. 'And how dare she treat Brooke like that?' she thought, her anger seeping through her veins.
December saw Brooke's murderous look and put a hand on her elbow to stop her. Even Serena and Raven looked tensed which was rare since they were some of the most easy-going people she'd known. She didn't want her friends making a scene right here. Karen was oblivious to that, however.
Standing in front of December like an alpha, she smirked, "I never would have imagine to see you out here in public…being social and stuff." Then, with a look of mock-pity she said, "Say, how does it feel to finally come out of your hide?"
As if it was the most hilarious thing in the world, Karen's posse that consisted the trio of idiots, Miranda, Laura and Harriet laughed gaily – which sounded more like hyenas. Due to that, a few people turned around towards them; some smiled in amusement while others narrowed their eyes in annoyance. Karen, who finally noticed that the attention was on them, but for the wrong reasons, paused to give them an insincere but embarrassed smile. She then turned to give the trio a look that shut them up almost immediately.
December's friends stared at her, gauging her reaction to that. She saw looks of amused from them especially from Brooke whose face clearly stated that she thought Karen was as much of an idiot as her 'friends' were. The slight twitch on the corner of December's lips indicated that she thought the same too.
Strangely, December didn't feel intimidated at the moment because her friends' presence sort of gave her some strength to be brave. Besides, Karen wouldn't do anything that would tarnish her reputation of being an angel in public where there's witnesses.
Still, she couldn't just keep quiet when the girl looked triumphant with her retort. December looked at the haughty blonde and gave her a satisfying look of sympathy and said, "Well, I guess you should widen your imagination then. Although, with your intelligence, I'm afraid you probably can't take as much."
Score! December's lips twitched as she noted the indifferent but confused look on Karen's face. She heard Serena gave a small snort but glanced to see Raven wide eyed as she put a few fingers on her smiling lips to prevent herself from laughing. Brooke coughed a little into her hand.
For someone who throws in sarcastic remarks, Karen didn't seem to understand that December had thrown the shade back at her.
She laughed, an airy but pretentious one before saying, "I was being sarcastic."
"So was I." December looked smug.
Karen realized then in that moment that her prey had had the upper hand over her.
Seething in anger, she said, "Don't get too full of yourself now," Then, she bent down to meet the defiant girl's stare and whispered, "What happened in the gym or back then will not compare to what I will have for you."
Pleased at what she saw in December's eyes, her smirk widened. She obviously had won this round.
But then the look of December's eyes changed, showing a renewed determination in them, a complete contrast with the fear and worry she had earlier. Looking at her opponent defiantly, her dark blue orbs meeting Karen's light green ones, she said in a hard voice, "Show me what you've got."
A surprise look washed over Karen's flawless features, her eyes widened slightly before she narrowed them at December. Then, a slow smile that looked more of an evil grin started to form on Karen's face. "Oh, you have no idea."
With a deadly glint in her eyes, she vowed, "I'll make you regret this. Just you wait, December." She spat the girl's name like poison.
They watched as Karen left with her group and drove away.
The air felt still, the noisy sounds of the surroundings and people talking seemed muted to December as all her senses were swimming in chaos.
Almost slowly, the reality of what just transpired sank in as she turned to her friends, her expression becoming paler. "Oh my God, oh God, what did I do? Did I just…did I-"
Brooke put a hand on her friend's shoulder, still trying to process what just happened herself, as were her friends. "I think….you have just declared war with the queen bitch." Brooke said calmly.
As they watched her becoming more distressed, they didn't think she could have gone any more paler. Serena tried to pinch December's cheeks to get the colour back as Raven took the laminated menu on the table and fanned her. "D, calm down. Just breathe."
When it appeared to them that December wasn't listening, Brooke had to remind herself to be patient and try again. They were, after all getting weird looks from the people around them and she had to do something before her friend embarrasses herself – which would certainly resulted in a self-hating December eating more potato chips. Especially her chips.
Praying for patience, she whispered quickly, "Oh my God, December would you please calm down before I'm forced to slap your face? I don't want to do any face slapping here."
Strange enough, that did the trick. December turned her horrified gaze to a relieved Brooke. She gasped, "You would slap me?"
"Anything it takes to bring you back from whatever planet you were on just now." She said grimly.
December stared at her before a small smile graced her lips. "I don't think I'd even blame you."
Brooke chuckled and glanced at both Raven and Serena, grinning.
Raven then said, "Okay. So what if you just started a war with her? You stood up for yourself!" She exclaimed with a proud grin.
Despite their friend's panic, the three of them were extremely pleased that December managed to fight back Karen. Since they'd known her, December seemed to be forcefully meek and powerless to defend herself from the blonde girl, which puzzled them somehow. After all, they had seen how she had defended those who some would call the outcasts and even others who were in trouble from bullies of different builds in the academy. She had even stood up to a teacher once for deliberately humiliating a student.
'But those were all males,' they thought silently, as they noticed that small bit. It was only when she dealt with Karen Joyce that she became timid.
December was unaware of her friends' train of thought as she was deep in hers. 'I guess the outcome of this wasn't bad. I did defend myself!' she grinned internally. 'Now knowing this didn't make me feel hopeless much. This could be the first step for me in order to be fearless.'
Raven pulled December from her thoughts as she asked the question that played in their minds. "D, now I just noticed this but, do you have some weird thing against girls, or something?" At December's nonplussed look, she elaborated. "What I mean is, you don't seem to have any problems standing up to guys but when it comes to Karen, it's like you have this switch that makes you feel like you can't do anything."
December looked at her friends, their expression worry but there was a kind of warmth too. She shook her head and looked away from them lest they see her expression. After a long pause, December murmured, "I wonder why, too."ns 126.96.36.199da2