By the time school let out, I was more than ready to go home. I swear, for a while there the clock was ticking backwards. Worse, I couldn’t risk bringing my hero notebook to school, in case one of the nosier girls took a peek.
Not that they cared, their gossip of choice was now about me and Domenic. Of course, if I had brought my notebook, someone would have assumed it contained love notes and taken it at some point. Like I said: I was so ready to get away from school.
I managed to avoid the more inquisitive girls on my way out, and made a bee-line (hah) straight for Beatrice’s car in the lot. She was already there, sitting on the spoiler and leaning back like she was in some sort of car commercial, complete with excessive display of skin. If her skirt rode up even a little more, everyone would get a look at her underwear.
And she wonders why no one wants to be seen associating with her around here. Not that it stopped the guys, or myself, from getting a look. For that matter, I wasn’t certain that she noticed or cared that people avoided her. It wasn’t an easy subject to broach in conversation.
She hopped off the back of her car, which lifted her barely-regulation skirt just enough to confirm her panties were white. “Why didn’t you tell me you and Dom finally got together?”
“Let’s just go home.” I usually loved school, but not after today. Now it existed only to get in the way of what was important. “It’s a long story that can wait.”
Bea smiled in her usual self satisfied way “I think it will be a minute ‘fore that happens.” She pointed behind me, so of course I turned to look. Domenic was headed straight for us, looking a little out of breath. It’s because of his injuries. That I inflicted.
Guess the rumor mill already got to him. I took a breath. “I’m sorry, Haley and Karen started asking questions and-” I though they might think I was seeing Bea and panicked. “It just sort of slipped out. You’re not mad, are you?”
“What the hell, bro?” Beatrice had moved up beside me, just enough that a simple motion would have us holding hands. “When you score the hottest babe in the school and she’s bragging to her friends, the appropriate response is high fives and thumbs up. Not making her apologize for it.”
“I didn’t say anything!”
And now his sister’s defending me even though it’s my fault. Wait, she thinks I’m hot? No, that’s not important right now. I stepped between the two and turned toward her. “Bea, it’s not his fault.”
“How ain’t it his fault?”
I ganced around, making sure none of the gossip mongers were too close. A few watched from the distance, but unless they had superpowers they wouldn’t be able to hear us. “Well, to start with, I’m not dating Domenic. I just… it’s complicated, okay? And totally my hangups, not his.”
“Why the fuck not?” Now the accusation was leveled on me, but I deserved it. “The two of you spent more time together this weekend than I did with my last three boyfriends combined. I could cut the sexual tension between you with a knife, spread it on crackers, and make millions selling it to fat chicks.”
That’s certainly a colorful way of putting it. I was torn between marveling at the analogy, and guilt over the fact that the tension was only there when she was around.
“Okay, Bea, that’s enough.” Domenic put a hand on my shoulder. “No one’s done anything wrong, and I’m not mad. I am, however, confused. Girls never so much at looked at me before, and now, well, a lot of them smiled at me today. Jennifer acted like she was going to jump me in the hallway. And I have no clue what’s going on.”
I felt my power starting to push to the surface. I forced it back down before there were any visual tells. That only happens when I’m upset, but why would I? Oh, I’m jealous. Why am I jealous?
“Oh, that’s easy.” For a second, I thought Bea read my mind, but she was talking to Domenic. I tried to concentrate on figuring out my own emotions while listening in on their conversation. “Jen’s a slut.”
“Beatrice!” I jumped to Jen’s defense, though out of principle than anything. In truth, I felt almost happy that Bea was talking bad about my pseudo-rival, while still confused that I cared. Part of me also wondered how Bea, of all people, thought she had the right to disparage anyone’s sexual history. Mostly, however, I was still jealous.
“What? She steals boyfriends like it’s a sport.” Bea brought her hands up and started counting on her fingers. “Remember when Amanda and John broke up?”
I thought they broke up because her parents hated his parents. Or maybe that was only their excuse for the last breakup. “That was her?”
“Beatrice, you should know better than to believe rumors.” Domenic moved closer to me. As silly as it was, I appreciated the gesture. “You know this school’s full of that sort bullshit. Look at the stuff we deal with all the time.”
“It’s true! All three times!” Bea counted a second finger. “Then there was that drama with Trevor and Isabelle.” I remembered that one; it was a miracle no one got arrested. “Oh, and she tried to get between Tina and Felicia, but…” Beatrice wobbled her hand.
“Yeah, I get it.” I tried not to sound too upset, but I had a personal reason to hate that pair. The pair were single-handedly setting the gay rights movement back to the seventies. They liked to pretend they were dating each other, including making out in public, just to get attention from guys and piss off their parents. Part of why I never came out; I didn’t want to look like I was doing it for attention like them.
Now that I had powers, I had a second reason; I could be an openly gay superhero. I wasn’t alone, in fact it seemed pretty common, but most of us gay Imbued were Gadgeteers, Gifters, or other ‘support’ type powers. I was one of the few with an iconic power set, and I could use that, even though I wanted a more versatile ability. That did mean I’d have to keep a tight lid on my civilian preferences, to avoid compromising my identity.
I was so deep in thought that I only caught the last part of Beatrice’s continuing list of Jen’s conquests. “-and she stole my boyfriend in freshman year!”
“Well, I at least owe her a thank you for that.” Domenic’s tone was dry to the point of sarcastic. “I guess I’ll believe exactly that one rumor about her, if only because I witnessed it myself. But what’s with all the other girls? I doubt they’re all out to steal boyfriends, if only because the school hasn’t gone Lord of the Flies on us.”
“That’s just natural girl behavior,” Bea said with a shrug. “Guys with girlfriends are, like, a thousand times hotter than guys without girlfriends.”
I stared at Bea, as if gazing hard enough would give me the power to read her mind and figure out how that made sense.
“That… What?” Domenic voiced the thoughts I was having. “How does that make sense?”
“Fuck if I know,” Bea said. “I ain’t into women so I don’t care how they think.” Ouch. I already knew it was true, but it stung to hear out loud. Domenic’s hand squeezed a little harder on my shoulder. “Girls like guys who already have girls. Maybe they’re just teases who want to flirt with dudes who won’t try and make somethin’ of it. Or maybe they’re whores like Jen.”
“Okay, Beatrice, enough with the name calling.” Domenic did an excellent impression of a stern father, almost like my father dealt with my brothers. He always let Mom deal with me. “I still don’t think it makes sense.”
“Hey, I don’t get it, either.” Beatrice didn’t so much as blink at the tone. “Chasing after a guy just because he has a girlfriend seems shallow as fuck. I’d never do it. All that matters to me is if he’s hot and has a nice, thick-”
“You can stop now.”
Beatrice smiled ever-so-sweetly. “What? I was only gonna say wallet.”
Holy shit. Next to me, Domenic sighed theatrically. I glanced at him, he was had moved a couple fingers under his glasses to rub his eyes.
This is putting a lot of stress on him, I owe him to fix it. “Does that mean if I say Domenic and I aren’t seeing each other, they’ll leave him alone?”
“Well, I bet Jen would still go for it. But she’d drop trou for a Doberman if he gave her a bit of kibble.”
What? This must be one of those things white people don’t get. I looked Domenic again. “Uh, is that one of your, umm, colloquialisms?”
“A colosto-whatnow?” Beatrice asked.
Domenic sighed again. “It’s the fancy word for slang. I’m kinda curious about this one, myself.”
“Well why didn’t you just say so?” But, I did. “No, it’s not slang. I literally mean you should keep an eye on your pets when she’s around.”
“Beatrice, could you please stop saying stuff like that about Jennifer.” I bristled a little that Domenic was defending the girl. “Okay, I get you don’t like her, but wouldn’t it be easier just to leave her alone? You do that, and I’ll promise not to hook up with her, how’s that sound?”
Good. No, wait, that’s the opposite of good. It’s utterly selfish and makes me a complete bitch. “No, you don’t have to do that.” I forced myself to smile, then made myself believe it. If he and Jen liked each other, I’d be happy for them. “You’re free to see anyone you want, I’ll make sure everyone knows I was making it up for a laugh or something.”
Bea cleared her throat. “Yeah, about that. I don’t think it’s gonna work.” Bea’s smile morphed to the smuggest thing that had ever existed in this or any other world. “You’ve been cuddling in the parking lot for the last ten minutes.”
Domenic’s arm pulled away like I set myself on fire. “We were not cuddling!” Try not to object too hard.
“Yeah, well, I don’t believe you. They don’t, either.” Bea gestured behind us. There were a few clusters of girls standing around, who had something else to look at now that I was looking at them.
A couple groups of guys who were watching as well. They didn’t flinch away like the girls did; in fact, they seemed content to stare right back at us. A couple smiled and nodded at Dom, some male code I wasn’t privy to and would no doubt find insulting. The other cluster had a whole different look, ones universal and hard to mistake for anything but what it was: disgust and anger.
Domenic stepped a little closer, to protect me. Not that we were in any danger; no one would dare start a fight on campus, and if anyone did I’d be the one doing the fighting. I looked up at him. “Sorry I got you into this mess.” I seem to trash everything I get my hands on.
“You’re apologizing for making me popular with girls?” Domenic couldn’t quite sound as confident as he was trying to act. “I’m used to being on the low end of the geek totem pole, the jocks will hate me no matter what. You’re the one with a reputation to care about.”
It took me a moment to realize he was talking in code, and even after I made that leap I couldn’t be sure I decoded it properly. I knew it wasn’t a matter of ‘geek’ and ‘jock’; it was about a black guy dating a white girl, or pretending to in our case. Reputation might have been something to do with my parents, or some kind of attack by some thugs or something.
I had enough of it to come up with a response. “Don’t worry, I can take anything they throw at me.” If I had to blow my identity to protect him, his secret, or Beatrice, then that’s what I’d do. “And dish it out twice as hard.” I hoped the message was clear. I stepped closer and leaned my head on his arm; I wasn’t tall enough to reach his shoulder.
“Try our new Sexual Tension brand cracker spread. Tastes so good, it’ll make you gag.”
“Bea, is there anything you enjoy in life that doesn’t involve driving me insane?” Bea started speaking, but Domenic cut her off. “No, that counts as driving me insane. Plus, I don’t want to know. Now let’s get out of here before security arrests us for loitering.”
“Okay, that I can agree on. We’ve already been at school eight hours too long.” A pair of hands grabbed my elbows and pulled me away from Dom. “But I’m taking your girlfriend with me. Can’t have you kids driving off somewhere and doing something I would do.”
I resisted, but was careful not to use inhuman strength against Beatrice. “But I-”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you, we can talk at home.” I looked at him for a second, but he didn’t seem worried so I let Bea drag me along. Really, I could have cooperated, but it was more fun to have her push me around.
“That’s right,” Beatrice said. “Listen to your little sister. She’s the responsible one.”
“I’m sure you’re responsible for a lot of things,” I couldn’t help but quip back. “None of them good.”
“Damn, girl, keep that up and people might think you have a sense of humor!”
I glanced over at Domenic, already headed for his truck. “Around you, it’s a survival reflex.”