Call of Duty: Pre-Exam Warfare
Posted on Sun Jul 12th, 2015 @ 12:17pm by Unawakened Melissa Wilson
Location: Shady Side High
Timeline: June 25th, 2010
Melissa still hadn't made a decision about Jeff.
Somehow, making a decision made things harder, even after her conversation with Kyle. She wasn't sure she could really deal with harder right now. Exams were hard enough, and so was seeing people looking at her the way that they had since Jeff started the rumour about her sleeping with Tim on the beach.
Even studying for exams was harder when you knew everyone thought you were a slut, your brother and cousin were beating up your ex-boyfriend for starting that rumour, and you had to sleep in your sister's messy room and listen to her snore all night. Melissa sighed, stuffing her backpack in to her locker as she pulled out her pencil case and a bottle of water.
Her last exam started in twenty minutes. English. It was one of Melissa's favourite subjects, but it was also one of the exams she was most worried about. Lines of Shakespeare danced around her head, quotes memorized so she could put them down in essays. In depth analyses of theme, a list of character names from Fahrenheit 451 that she always managed to mix up, complicated definitions of exactly what a gerund was and how to identify it in a sentence... it seemed like English was the exam that required the best memory of all of her subjects. Math was simply application... Chemistry was mostly memorizing formulas... History, well, Worlds of Myth came in handy for that one... but English? English was just designed to be a challenge.
She'd do well, of course. She always did. That didn't make it any less of a challenge.
She caught a glimpse of herself in the magnetic mirror stuck to the inside of her locker. She frowned. Lines of worry and stress creased her forehead, and her thick, black-rimmed glasses seemed to make her eyes look buggier than normal. At least her hair wasn't looking quite as grey today, though it stuck out from her ponytail at odd angles that, despite spending far more time on than she should have this morning, she couldn't manage to smooth down. It felt dry and unmanageable, even for the bad-hair-day ponytail staple.
Even her hair was stressed out about the English exam.
With a sigh, she closed her locker, ducking out of the way of a couple that walked down the hall. They caught sight of her and snickered. She blushed, holding her pencil case tighter. One last exam, and then summer. One last exam, and she could let summer fade the memory of her ill-earned reputation. One last exam, and she could hide at home all summer, maybe pick up some money babysitting for the McArthurs, and lose herself in the new Worlds of Myth expansion.
One last exam, and then she'd be free.
She looked up, her breath catching slightly as she caught sight of Jeff and his friends. He gave her a weak smile, though Kat and Valerie glared hatefully at her. Behind Kat, Devon leered in a way that made her uncomfortable. She blinked worriedly, ducking her head and turning the other way. There was more than one route to the exam hall.
"As much as I'm in favour of you staying away from that guy," A familiar, rich voice said, just beside her ear. She stopped with surprise. "You shouldn't have to look so scared of him."
"Tim??" Melissa's eyes widened. She turned to look at him. He was smiling, standing with the aid of a cane and looking a little pale. Pale and weak or not, he looked amazing. His soft, grey eyes looked down at her affectionately, warmly and with none of the judgement she saw in everyone else's eyes when they looked at her. Of course, Tim knew the truth behind the rumours. Tim was Ankhramesses. Tim was also usually far too sick to come to school. "You're here!" She exclaimed.
He smiled. "I am."
"But... you're never here." She protested, unable to keep from mirroring his smile.
"I talked my parents and teachers in to letting me come in to write the English exam." He said softly, as though there were no one else in the hallway but them. "I've got a few... accommodations... but I'll be writing it with you today."
"Why?" She asked, still smiling happily.
He shrugged. "I've been feeling alright... wanted to get out of the house... and, well, given what my sister has been telling me about what you've been going through here, I wanted you to be able to see a friendly face and know you weren't alone. I figured you kind of needed that. So, I asked Dr. Cyparissus if it was alright to come in to write this exam, and she said it was alright."
Melissa's smile widened. Her heart felt like it was growing too large for her chest, threatening to burst out like some Alien parasite. "You... you came in here for me?"
His smile turned a little bit shyer. "Well... yeah."
She blushed, unable to stop grinning. His words made her feel amazing. "Thank you. It's... it's really good to see you."
"It's really good to see you, too. Do you want to review English a bit before the exam? Tara says that a lot of kids cram right before they go in."
Melissa nodded. "Okay. There's a... spot. Near the gym, where we're going to write it. There's a back entrance to the school, but it's usually locked. It's... quiet. Not a lot of people go there. I usually study there."
He made a sweeping gesture with one arm. "Lead the way, my lady Neferu. You know your way around a lot better than I do. I'm going to be a bit slow, though."
"Do you need a hand?"
He paused. "It's tempting to take you up on that, but I think your reputation is struggling enough without you helping to support me as I walked down the hallway. I'll be alright. I brought my cane, after all. Just walk with me. "
She nodded silently, pointing down the hall. "It's just down there. Then left, right after the pop machine, past the quad, and then right after the award plaque for Track."
Tim followed her lead silently, and somehow, with him walking beside her, she didn't feel so uncomfortable about the stares and awkward leers from the other students in the hall. They still happened, but they didn't mean quite as much. She blocked them out without a lot of effort. Tim's smile as he looked over at her made everyone else seem to disappear. He glanced over at her a fair bit, like it was hard for him to keep his eyes off of her. That made her smile, too.
"I've never actually sat an exam at school before." He admitted, shuffling along the corridor. He was slow, as he'd said he would be, but the cane made him look refined and stately. "What's it going to be like?"
"We all sit in the gym. They have desks set up. They'll tell you what row to sit in, and the exam paper is there. There's no talking at all, and if you need anything, make sure you put your hand up and wait for a teacher to come over before you move from your chair. You can leave as soon as you're done and a teacher takes your exam away, you don't have to stay for the full time" Melissa explained. "They make it seem really intimidating, but it's okay."
"Good." He smiled. "Thanks, it helps to know what it's like. I'm sure I'm the only one here right now who has never done this before."
"Don't worry about it." She smiled. "You can sit in front or behind me if you want, and then it won't be like everything is unfamiliar."
"If I sit behind you, you're likely to distract me the entire time." Tim chuckled. "But, sure. I'd like that."
The two continued walking silently, neither sure of what to say, though they frequently caught each other looking over and smiling. Melissa's heart leapt every time he smiled at her, and she felt like laughing, dancing, singing! She couldn't believe that Tim was actually here! More than that, she couldn't believe just how much his mere presence made her day. She felt like she could take on the world by his side, like nothing could destroy how amazing she felt in this moment! It was like she was a superhero, like Tim was X-Kryptonite and she had all the powers of Supergirl! She repressed a giggle at the thought of walking around in that outfit, but made a mental note in case she ever managed to talk her parents in to letting her go to ComicCon.
As distracted as they both were, neither one of them noticed when they walked past the corridor Jeff and his friends were in. They didn't notice him storm down the hall with his fists balled, his eyes blazing.
"Jeff, stop this now!" Valerie's voice cut through Tim and Melissa's reverie.
"Oh shit." Time exclaimed, turning around to see Jeff approach.
Melissa's eyes widened. Channelling Neferu, she fought her panic and stepped in front of Tim. "Stop."
"You have GOT to be kidding me, Melissa!" Jeff shouted. "Him? Here? With you? Really?"
"He came to take an exam, that's all!" Melissa protested. "He's allowed to do that."
"And that's why he's walking with you?" Jeff fumed.
"We're just walking!" Tim protested.
"You, stay out of this!" Jeff raged. A small crowd began to gather.
"Jeff, nothing is going on!" Melissa insisted.
He shook his head. "Right. Just like nothing was going on on the beach."
"We didn't..." Melissa began, blushing as she noticed the other students that had stopped to watch. She started feeling self-conscious again. Her hair felt itchy against her scalp, and she felt achy and tired, weak and helpless.
"I don't believe you. I go to your house to apologize, to tell you I still love you and want to be with you, and this is what I get? You're sneaking around at school with him, even after I pour my heart out?" A tear rolled down Jeff's cheek.
"Jeff, I..." Melissa began apologetically, but he cut her off.
"No. Y'know what? I should never have trusted you. I should never have believed you when you said you'd think about getting back together with me. If you were serious, you wouldn't be standing here with HIM. You really are a lying, cheating whore, you know that?"
"Hey! That's not what's going on, and that's not who she is." Tim flared. "Nothing is happening. We're friends, nothing more, and she was telling me what exams are like. If you want to overreact, fine, but don't talk to her like that."
"Oh yeah? You going to stop me?" Jeff stepped forward threateningly. "Forgotten the beach already, asshole?"
"Jeff, stop it!" Melissa cried, pushing him back.
"Lay one hand on her, dickwad, and I'll remove that hand for you." Tara Lafontaine materialized at her brother's side, stepping forward to stand beside Melissa. Her eyes flashed with fire. "Touch my brother again, and it will be the last thing you ever do."
Jeff stepped back. Anyone with an ounce of sense was afraid of Tara. Jeff had about that much sense. "This isn't over."
"Yes it is." Tara countered. "I know where you live."
"To be fair, everyone knows where everyone else lives in Shady Side." Kat pointed out from behind Jeff. "It's Shady Side. C'mon, Jeff... the little bookworm's not worth it. Hell, she didn't even know who Kestrel was."
Jeff stepped back, his eyes still wet and burning with anger and pain. He looked at Melissa for a long moment before shaking his head and letting his friends lead him away.
Tara spun on Tim. "For fuck's sake, I told you not to come here! But did you listen? No. No, you never listen."
"I'm fine, Tara." Tim frowned, leaning on his cane.
"You wouldn't be if that asshole had his way, or if I wasn't watching you." Tara shook her head. "Christ, you're an idiot!"
"Leave me alone, Tara." Tim scowled.
"Fine. Fine. Y'know what? Maybe I will." The goth girl threw her hands up, spun around and walked down the corridor. "Fight your own battles... wind up in the clinic again... see if I argue for you with Mom and Dad next time they don't want to let you outside!"
They watched her go for a few moments before Melissa turned back to Tim. Her eyes were wet with tears. "I... I'm sorr..."
"Was he telling the truth?" Tim asked quietly, cutting her off and staring at the floor.
"Truth?" Melissa repeated with confusion.
"Were you seriously thinking about getting back together with him?" Tim's eyes met hers, and she could see the pain mirrored there. "After everything he's done to you? To me?"
"I..." Melissa began. A tear rolled down her cheek. "I didn't say yes."
"But you were thinking about it." He clenched his eyes shut tightly, shaking his head.
"Tim, I..." Melissa began, but couldn't find the words to say. How could she explain the truth, that she was afraid that Jeff would be her only hope for love? For a future? Standing here, at school with Tim, it seemed so foolish. So stupid. The cane aside, Tim looked like something normal right now. Maybe Aunt Tina was wrong. Maybe everything she had thought was wrong.
"Don't." He shook his head. "I am such a fool."
"No, you're not!" She protested.
His eyes locked on hers again. "Tell me you don't love him."
"I don't love him." She said easily, and knew that she meant it.
"Do you love me?" Tim asked, still looking in to her eyes. "Neferu, when I look in to your eyes and I see... there's something. Am I imagining it? Do you feel anything for me?"
"I..." She began. "I'm not... maybe? I-I..."
He sighed, closing his eyes again.
"I can't do this right now!" She burst out in to tears. "I have to get ready for the English exam, and I don't remember what a gerund is anymore!"
Tim's expression softened. "It's a verb you turn in to a noun by adding -ing to the end. 'You are crying'." He said as an example as he wiped up her tear with one gentle finger. "'I am stressing you out.'. 'Writing the exam will be okay'." He paused again, his finger stroking her cheek some more, adding with a whisper, "You are beautiful."
"That wasn't a gerund." She sniffed softly, looking deeply in to his eyes.
"No less true, though." He countered. "Neferu... Melissa... we don't have to get in to this now. You're right. The exam is more important, but... I want you to know that I love you. I have loved you for months, and I think I always will. I think you love me too, and if you need time to figure things out, you can have all the time you need. Just... don't go for Jeff in the meantime, okay? Please? That guy scares me."
"I think he's done with me now anyway." Melissa said quietly, looking down the hallway he'd departed through.
"Probably. Are you okay?" Tim asked.
She sighed. "I... I don't know."
"Do you want to study a bit before the exam to get your head back in to English mode?" He asked.
Melissa nodded silently, and they headed down the corridor to study for their last exam, somewhere Jeff wouldn't find them.
As they walked, Melissa caught a glimpse of her reflection in a display case window. The black cardboard behind student artwork made the glass a makeshift mirror, and Melissa blinked as she saw herself within it. Her hair, so messy this morning, looked perfect - smooth and shiny and lustrous, without a hint of grey. Her skin was flawless, she looked rested and her eyes showed no hint of tears - to the contrary, her eyes looked large and liquid, her cheeks naturally pink as though she was an expert with a make-up brush. She wore none of that. She liked what she saw reflected there in that glass, and she smiled at the woman in the reflection.
She smiled at Neferu.