“I know there would be problems with you using the girls’ bathrooms or showers,” Dad said, “but — after today, there might be just as bad problems showering with the other boys.”
A House Divided
Part 5 of 7
I was still thinking about that during Algebra and Biology and P.E. I talked to Will briefly before Biology, and he said he was going to the Saunders’ party with Arnie. That worried me, distracting me so much that I didn’t hear at first when Ms. Killian called on me to ask me what distinguished the corolla from the calyx. (She’d taught about the new discoveries being made about the Valentine’s Day changes for almost three weeks, but she finally had to get back to the unit on plant reproduction.)
I was still angsting about it during P.E. I told Tyrone and Latisha about it, and they commiserated with me, which made me feel a little better, but we didn’t have much time to talk before Coach Renfrew divided us into teams to play a new game he’d been working on; it was a modified version of volleyball, with particular positions on each team for people with particular body-forms and abilities — the two guys with tentacles were in the same position on different teams, for instance. He kept tweaking the rules often enough that I never did figure them out.
I was still worrying about it when we went to shower after the game. I’d just pulled my towels off the curtain rod and wrapped one around my waist, then pulled the shower curtain open, and started to step out —
The next thing I knew, I was laying on my back, my head in the shower stall and my feet sticking out, and several guys were standing around me talking.
“We need to get his head elevated,” one of them said.
“We shouldn’t move him; what if he broke something?”
“Elevating the head a little should be okay.”
“Has somebody already gone to get help?”
“Hey, Jeffrey, are you okay?”
“How do you feel?”
“Why is it nobody’s saying what we’re all thinking?”
“Yeah, does it seem odd to anybody else that Jeffrey’s a girl?”
I was feeling too dizzy to stand up, and too stunned to do anything else, but at that point I realized the towel around my waist had come loose when I fell. I feebly tried to cover my crotch — closing the barn door after the horses are gone, my grandpa would say.
Tyrone cut through the arguments and knelt beside me, lifting my head slightly and slipping a rolled-up towel under it. “How do you feel?” he asked.
“Dizzy,” I said.
“Don’t try to move,” he said. “Somebody should be here soon.”
Coach Renfrew barged in about then, asking what the hell was going on, and when he saw me, he yelled at the other guys to get out of the way, and knelt beside me.
“What happened?” He kept his face and voice calm, but his tail was twitching like mad.
“He slipped and fell coming out of the shower,” Tyrone said. “He says he’s dizzy.”
“I’m starting to feel a little better,” I said, which was true in a way, but even as my dizziness and confusion faded, I was panicking about my secret being out. I tried to sit up, and Coach Renfrew put a hand on my chest.
“Don’t try to move,” he said. “One of you boys run to the nurse’s office. The rest of you, get some clothes on before she gets here. And get me some more towels.” He took the towel that had slipped loose from my waist and covered my middle with it, then took some other towels the boys handed him, wrapped some around my legs and covered my chest and arms with another.
I was thinking frantically about what to say. What could I say? The coach had seen, all the guys in the locker room had seen — the school nurse was going to see in a couple of minutes...
“Could somebody get my clothes?” I asked. “Before the nurse gets here?”
“I don’t think you’d better move,” the coach said. “I’ll get you some more towels if you’re cold.”
“A little,” I said. He didn’t leave my side, but barked orders at some guys who were nearly finished getting dressed; they gathered more towels and brought them. I could hear them whispering as they approached, and though I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I could guess. Coach Renfrew took the towels and spread them over me, covering everything but my head.
“I’m not going to ask you —” he said in a low voice, and then looked around at the guys who’d brought the towels — Tyrone and a Kennesaw chameleon named Jack, whom I didn’t know well. “What are you looking at? Finish getting dressed and get to your next class. Except — Tyrone, wait for the nurse just outside the gym and direct her when she gets here.”
He said that pretty loud, and the rest of the guys still in the room, those who hadn’t already left, took the hint. When they were all out of earshot, Coach Renfrew continued quietly:
“I’m not going to ask you about your condition — where you were during the changes. Not until your head’s been looked after. But we need to talk about it later.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t want everybody to know.”
“Later,” he said. About that time the school nurse came in, flanked by Tyrone and another guy I didn’t know well, an Allatoona otter.
“I’m Nan Turner, the school nurse,” she said, kneeling beside me. “How do you feel?” She was a Smyrna wolf, with darker fur than most. I’d never met her before the changes or since, not having had any injury or sickness since I’d started high school.
“Still a little dizzy,” I said. “Not as bad as right after I fell. And my butt and back are sore, but I don’t think I broke anything.”
“Let me take a look,” she said, and started removing the towels.
“Tyrone, Sam, thanks for your help. You can go to lunch now,” Coach Renfrew said. They left.
Ms. Turner gasped when she removed the towels covering my crotch. “That’s normal,” I said in a small voice. “Been like that since Valentine’s Day.” Not exactly, because I’d lost the last of my pubic hair less than a week ago, but you know what I mean.
She examined me and poked me in various places, asking if I could feel anything — I could feel everywhere she touched, and nothing she poked at was horribly painful, so she decided I didn’t have a spinal injury or major broken bones. She asked me if I thought I could sit up, and I said yes.
She and Coach Renfrew supported my arms as I did so, then tentatively let go; I didn’t fall back or start screaming in pain.
“How do you feel now?” she asked.
“Still sore, but the dizziness is about gone.”
“Sit there for a minute or so more before you try to stand up.”
I did, covering my crotch again with a towel. None of us said anything for a few seconds, and then the nurse said:
“What were you doing in the boys’ showers?”
I stammered. Coach Renfrew came to my rescue, sort of:
“Jeffrey’s change was such as to be covered by normal clothing. I suppose he didn’t see any need to tell us about it.”
“So you’ve kept your sex change secret this whole time?”
“It’s not a sex change,” I said. “I — I’m not a girl, whatever it looks like. Making me use the girls’ showers would be wrong.”
“Oh,” she said, as though she’d figured it out. “So your penis is retracted most of the time...?”
I thought, for one crazy instant, of saying yes. But I didn’t know any specific place where people had that change and nothing else, not like I knew the Huntsville telepaths; and I was probably going to the hospital or at least the school clinic, where they’d soon figure out the truth if I didn’t tell them.
“No, I don’t have one. But I don’t have girl parts either — no womb or ovaries or whatever. Obviously no breasts either. I was in Athens; everybody lost all their reproductive organs.”
“Hm,” she said. “Well, let’s decide about that later, when you’re well enough to return to P.E. Can you try to stand up now?”
I could, and did; they supported my arms, but once I got standing I didn’t need the help. “I’d like to get dressed now,” I said.
“Sure,” she said. “Take your time. We’ll go to the clinic when you’re done.”
They walked on either side of me as I went over to my locker and sat down on the bench. I opened the locker and started getting dressed, then stood up to pull my pants on — and suddenly felt dizzy again; I grabbed the locker to steady myself, and Coach Renfrew took my other arm.
“Let’s get you to the clinic,” he said.
He and Ms. Turner escorted me to the clinic, where she had me lay down on a cot. “I’m fixing to call your parents or guardians,” she said. “What’s your full name?”
She looked me up on the computer, and then read out my home phone number, asking if that was the right emergency contact number.
“Yeah,” I said. “Mom’s at work, but Dad’s off today. If you can’t get him at home, I can give you his cell phone number.”
She didn’t, and I did; he didn’t answer his cell phone either. She left him another message.
She was in and out of the room checking on me for a while. She asked me if I was an omnivore, and I said yes, and a few minutes later someone me brought a tray from the cafeteria.
I had eaten about half of it when the nurse came in, saying my Dad had called her back and was on his way to the school to pick me up. Hearing that, since I wasn’t extremely hungry, I quit eating the school lunch, figuring I’d eat something better when I got home. I worked on algebra homework until Dad arrived.
I heard him talking with the nurse in the outer office before I saw him. At first I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but then I heard him raise his voice, and could make out something like, “— later, I want to see him now.” A moment after that the nurse showed him in.
“How are you feeling, Jeffrey?”
“Better,” I said. “My butt and back are still sore.”
“He doesn’t have any broken bones,” the nurse said. “Just bruises, as far as I can tell — but I’m afraid he may have a concussion. He’s not confused, but he’s had some intermittent dizziness.”
“Should I take him to the emergency room now, or schedule an appointment with our doctor for next week?”
“I would recommend taking him to the emergency room today. If his symptoms were any worse I would have called for an ambulance first, and called you second.”
“All right. We’ll talk about the other business next week.”
I was putting my algebra book and stuff into my backpack while they were talking. I waited until Dad and I were out of the building before I asked him, “What was the other business you said you’d talk to her about later?”
He sighed. “The coach and several of the boys in the locker room saw you today, right?”
“Well, she thinks you should be using the girls’ showers and bathrooms and so forth.”
“I can’t!” I said, panicking. But the idea of going back to the boys’ showers again, after they all knew — that wasn’t much better.
Dad was thinking the same thing. “I know there would be problems with you using the girls’ bathrooms or showers,” he said, “but — after today, there might be just as bad problems showering with the other boys.”
I was so glad he’d said “with the other boys” and not just “with the boys.” We walked the rest of the way to the car and got in without saying anything.
“I know,” I said finally. “Fifteen or twenty guys saw my — saw me naked. They’ll tell all their friends about it today, and their friends will tell their friends, and by the middle of next week everybody in school will know — something.” I suddenly realized that the story would get distorted into ten different rumors by the time the last person at school heard it; in some of them I would be an actual girl, with breasts and all, and in some I’d have a retractable penis like a lizard, and in most of them my name would get lost, it would just be “some freshman” or even “some guy.”
But certainly the guys I had P.E. with knew enough to be creeped out about showering with me, or worse, keen on showering with me, hoping for another glimpse of my crotch sooner or later...
“I think you should try to tell the truth to as many of your friends and acquaintances as you can before they hear the rumors. If we’re still at the hospital when school lets out, I’ll let you use my cellphone to call Will and Arnie and whoever else you want.”
“Will already knows,” I said. “But I’ll try to call Arnie.”
There were a bunch of other people waiting in the emergency room. Dad called Mom’s cell phone while we were waiting, but got her voice mail. A few minutes after we got there, a nurse asked me a few questions about what had happened to me and how I felt, and Dad gave her some paperwork the nurse at school had given him; then it was hours before I saw an actual doctor. I called Arnie’s house as soon as he might possibly have gotten home; he wasn’t there yet, so I asked his mom to have him call me as soon as he got home.
Then I dug through my backpack, found my biology notebook, where I’d written down Tyrone’s and Latisha’s contact information, and called Latisha. Someone I didn’t recognize answered; I couldn’t be sure if it was a man or a woman.
“May I speak to Latisha?” I said. “It’s Jeffrey, from her biology class — we’re working on a project...”
“She just got home; I’ll go fetch her,” the voice said. Then, in the background, a muted shout: “Tish! Phone!”
Moments later she said: “Hello?”
“Latisha, it’s Jeffrey. Did you hear...?”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
“I think so. I’m still waiting to see a doctor, but I guess they figure I don’t look too bad or they would have examined me sooner. Do you know what people are saying about me?”
“When we were coming out of the lockers to go to lunch, we met some of the guys, and they were talking about you. I asked them what happened — they said you fell and hit your head, and, um — they said you — they saw your privates.”
“Did you tell them anything?”
“No! Of course not.”
“Well, please do, next time you hear people talking about that. I figure at this point the truth is better than most of the guesses people are going to come up with.”
“Oh... Okay. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah. I should have seen it coming. Not falling and hitting my head, exactly, but I was stupid to think I could keep showering with other guys for four years of high school and not let anybody see me naked for a single second...”
“You’re not stupid,” she said fiercely.
“Thanks,” I said. “I’ve got to call some other people. I’ll talk to you again after I see the doctor.”
I called Will’s house; he answered the phone.
“Dude, what happened?” he asked. “Are you okay?”
I told him. “Who did you hear about it from?”
“Todd Mendoza has P.E. with you and fifth period algebra with me. He said you slipped and fell in the shower, and they were taking you to the hospital, and that everybody saw your junk, and you looked like a baby girl down there.”
“That’s pretty much it, except they took me to the school clinic and let my Dad take me to the hospital.”
“So what did the doctors say?”
“They haven’t seen me yet. I’ll let you know when I find out something.”
I was about to call Tyrone when a nurse called my name. Dad and I got up and followed her down a crowded hallway to a little room with just a curtain, no actual door. She gave me a hospital gown to change into and asked if I wanted help.
“We can manage,” Dad said. She walked out and closed the curtain. I undressed and put on the gown.
I’m not sure, but I think that was the first time Dad had seen my new crotch. He didn’t say anything about it; he was busy looking at my back and butt, which he said had several large bruises. He tied up the gown in back and helped me onto the stretcher — if I didn’t have so many sore places I could have done it by myself. I wasn’t feeling dizzy anymore.
A few minutes later the nurse came back, and checked my blood pressure and temperature and so forth, and asked me more questions. Then she left and said a doctor would see me soon.
A while later, the doctor came in. He was a Kennesaw chameleon, younger than Dad. He’d just started asking me questions — some of the same questions the nurses had asked me, and some new ones — when Dad’s cellphone rang. He gave Dad a severe look and said, “You’re not supposed to use those in here.”
“Sorry,” Dad said, and turned it off.
The doctor asked me a bunch more questions, and looked at the back of my head, and the bruises on my back and butt. “Hmm,” he said. “Your chart says you’re male...?”
“Does that have anything to do with the bruises or the possible concussion?” I asked.
“Maybe not,” he said. “Where were you on Valentine’s Day? In Athens?”
“Ah. Is this the first time you’ve seen a doctor since then?”
“Hmm. Well, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with your injuries today, but you should go see your primary care physician soon, to follow up on these injuries and to, ah, examine your new equipment.”
After that, he tested my senses and reflexes, and said if I had a concussion it was a very mild one. He told me some things to watch out for and said to take it easy for a few days and go to the emergency room again if I started getting dizzy or confused. He also gave me a prescription for some pain medicine.
As we left the emergency room, Dad turned his cell phone on again. “I’m going to try your mother again.”
He called, and got her voicemail, and left another message.
“Tell you what,” he said. “Let’s go find her.”
So we walked around the halls of the hospital, from the emergency room lobby through an unmarked door to a long twisty hallway that let out into the main hospital lobby, and then up an elevator to the third floor, where we went down some more hallways until we got to the unit where Mom usually worked.
“Is Darlene around?” Dad asked the receptionist.
“Yes,” she said. “Let me call her,” and she picked up a phone and dialed. “Darlene,” she said, “you’ve got company at the nurses’ station.”
That was one of the hospital’s own internal cell phones, not Mom’s personal cell. A few minutes later Mom came down the hall.
“Pavel? Jeffrey? What are you doing here?”
“We just got done in the emergency room,” Dad said. “Have you got your cell phone turned on?”
“I, um, I think I left it at home this morning,” Mom said. “Emergency room? Who...?”
“Dad picked me up at school and took me there,” I said. “I slipped and fell in the shower, but the doctor said I probably didn’t have a concussion, just a lot of bruises.”
“Oh!” she said. “I’m glad you’re all right,” and she hugged me, carefully so as not to squeeze where I was bruised. Then she said: “You fell in the shower?”
“Just as I was getting out,” I said.
“Did anyone see...?”
“Everyone saw. All the guys in my P.E. class, plus the coach and the school nurse.”
“I didn’t think you could keep it hidden for long,” she said. “But — I don’t want to say ‘I told you so.’ I’ll always love you, whether you do the smart thing or the right thing or neither.” She hugged me again, and said: “I’ve got to get back to work — I’ve already had my lunch break. Let’s talk more when I get home tonight.”
Dad and Mom hugged too, but not very hard, and they didn’t kiss. We said goodbye and left.
As we walked out toward the parking deck, Dad handed me his cell phone. “I think that was Arnie calling back when the doctor asked me to turn my cell phone off,” he said. He handed me the phone and I called Arnie.
“Hello?” his mom said.
“It’s Jeffrey. Is Arnie at home?”
“Just a moment...” We’d reached Dad’s car; we got in and he drove out of the parking deck.
Then: “Dude, what the — where are you?”
“On my way home from the hospital. The doctor said I probably don’t have a concussion, or maybe just a mild one — I haven’t had any dizziness since we left the school —”
“What happened to you? I heard a couple of different guys talking about it, one was in your P.E. class and another heard from somebody who was — they said —” He paused, and I figured his mom was probably nearby, listening in.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m sorry — I should have told you earlier. I wasn’t in Huntsville, like I said —”
“I figured that. I looked up the Huntsville telepaths, and there was nothing about them having, um —”
“A pseudo-vagina, is what the doctors in Athens are calling it.”
“Damn.” Then, quieter, probably with the phone away from his mouth: “Sorry, Mom.” And to me again: “You were in Athens? You’ve got an uncle there, right?”
“Yeah, I was spending the weekend with him. Same thing happened to him and all the other guys in Athens, and the girls lost their wombs and stuff. You can see why I didn’t want anybody to know.”
“Yeah, but you could have told me!”
“I’m sorry. I should have trusted you. But — I don’t know, it just seemed simpler not to tell anybody who didn’t already know.”
“Well, that business today was the worst possible way you could tell people.”
“Dude, how did you keep anybody from seeing before now? Even with the separate shower stalls... How long did you think you could keep it hidden?”
“It was stupid, I know,” I said. “Don’t keep rubbing it in, okay?”
“All right. Listen, I’m glad you didn’t get hurt too bad. And I’m mad at you for lying to me. I don’t know what to think.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again. “Can you please let it go?”
“All right,” he said. “Let’s talk later. We’re going out for my Dad’s birthday tonight, and I’ve got that party tomorrow, so I’ve got a lot of homework and not much time to do it in.”
After I hung up, Dad asked me if I wanted to stop to eat on the way home. I said yes.
We picked up my pain medicine at the pharmacy, and I took a dose right away; then we went to the Steak and Shake for supper. After we placed our orders, I called Latisha and Will back and told them what the doctor had said. Dad and I didn’t talk much more until after we’d eaten most of our food.
“Have you thought any more about what you want to do?” he said. “I mean, about the bathrooms and showers at school... If the school administration wants you to use the girls’ rooms — the nurse could be exceeding her authority, so maybe nothing will come of that, but if it does, you know your mother and I will back you up if you want to fight it.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I don’t know yet. It would be creepy and embarrassing either way. It might depend on how the guys, and the girls, in my P.E. class treat me when I see them again... but that might depend on which of them I’m changing with before class.”
“Have you —” he started to say, and then, looking around: “Let’s talk more later.”
In the car on the way home, he said: “Jeffrey... have you felt any sexual attraction since your change? For anybody, of either sex?”
I felt hot, and suspected I was probably blushing bright red enough to stop traffic. “No,” I said. “Not really. I still have a, I guess you’d call it a sense of beauty. I can tell pretty from ugly, and beautiful from pretty. But it’s not any more acute, or more visceral, looking at people than at animals or trees or abstract art.”
“Well,” he said, “think about how that affects your decision. I think you would be justified either way.”
When we got home, I went to my room and did homework and school reading until I was too tired to focus on it. I kept my IM client open, but nobody I knew well came online. I went to bed, lying on my stomach because of all the bruises on my back, and fell asleep pretty early, before Mom came home from work.
When I got up, Mom was already up, cooking whole-wheat pancakes. She’d been experimenting and talking to other centaurs at work and at church about stuff they could eat, and had figured out a recipe that tasted a little weird at first, but was tasty enough to suit me as well, at least with a lot of butter and syrup.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Pretty okay,” I said, “just sore.”
“You can take some of the pain medicine if you want. No more dizziness?”
“Yeah, I guess I will. No, I haven’t been dizzy since we left the hospital.”
“Good. I’ll make an appointment for you Monday with Dr. Borenstein. We should have done that sooner, really, as soon as you came home from Athens...”
Oh, no. Well, I guess it had to be done eventually.
“All right,” I said. “Where’s Dad?” I got out plates and silverware.
“He’s running some errands,” she said. “He should be back in an hour or two.”
We sat down to eat, and once we’d taken the edge off our hunger, she said: “Your father told me what the nurse said. About —”
“She wants me to use the girls’ locker room and bathrooms. Yeah. Dad said not to worry about it until somebody with more authority than her says so.”
“Not to worry about it, sure, but you should think about it. Do you think you should, now that your secret’s out?”
“No. Losing my penis didn’t make me a girl.”
“But the boys might think of you as a girl... I don’t know. We’ll support you, whatever you decide.”
I frowned. She’d said “the boys,” where Dad had said “the other boys.” Did that mean she really thought me as a girl now? Or was it just a slip of the tongue? She had been casual enough about me seeing her naked, the first few days when she needed help in the bathroom a lot, as though we were the same sex... I didn’t ask her what she meant; I was afraid of what she’d say.
“I’ve got a lot of homework to finish,” I said when I finished eating. I went to my room, but I didn’t start working on homework right away. I looked at my IM client. Nobody local I knew was online, but I chatted with a couple of guys I knew from DeviantART for a while, and scanned and uploaded a few of my best recent drawings, before I settled down to read some excruciatingly dull stuff by Ernest Hemingway for American Literature.
I didn’t leave the house that day, barely left my room except for meals. I was getting tired easily, my body using a lot of energy to heal from those bruises I guess, and I took a nap after lunch. Dad still wasn’t back from his errands when Mom and I ate lunch, and Mom didn’t seem very concerned about it. She asked me again if I’d decided about showering with the boys or the girls when I went back to school, and I said I was still thinking about it.
Later that evening Latisha was online, and we chatted for a little while.
obsidian14: feeling any better?
scribbler371: still really sore. no more dizziness thank god.
obsidian14: good. i guess.
scribbler371: did i tell you what the nurse said?
obsidian14: no. didn’t you see a doctor too?
scribbler371: yeah, at the hospital. i mean the school nurse,
ms. turner. she said i should use the girls’ showers and
obsidian14: oh. that’s going to be weird. it sort of makes sense,
but not really.
scribbler371: i’m glad you think it doesn’t make sense. anyway, i’m
going to fight it and my parents say they’ll back me up.
obsidian14: good luck
scribbler371: hey, what about your brother? does everybody know about
obsidian14: yeah... that’s weird. he hasn’t talked much since we
went back to school, he never talks as much as me, but it still
seems weird i haven’t heard him say anything about p.e.
scribbler371: do you know if they’re making him use the girls’ showers
and bathrooms and stuff?
obsidian14: no. i assumed not, because i thought i would have heard
if they had, but i don’t really know. i don’t see him much at
school and he doesn’t talk much at home. stays in his room most
of the time, the last month or so.
Our school’s classrooms were arranged so that junior and seniors generally had their classes at the far end of the building from the freshmen and sophomores.
obsidian14: i’ll go ask him
scribbler371: wait. if he hasn’t said anything about it he might have
a good reason...
But she didn’t reply for over fifteen minutes. I’d gone back to doing algebra homework when the IM client plinked again.
obsidian14: they did! he’s been showering with the girls and
using the girls bathrooms for three weeks and didn’t say anything
about it! i asked him if he protested and he said no, what
would be the point?
obsidian14: i told you he’d been depressed, i didn’t realize how bad.
before the changes he would have fought about that, like you’re
scribbler371: what did the girls say about it?
obsidian14: i couldn’t get a clear answer out of him. i think they
didn’t like it at first but they got used to it, or the teachers
told them to shut up about it, or something. so many weird things
are going on after the changes that a sort-of guy showering with
the girls maybe isn’t weird enough to fuss about.
scribbler371: well, i’m going to make a fuss about it.
Sunday, we went only to morning church, and only to the worship service, not Sunday School. Several of the kids my age had apparently heard about me from friends at school; I could see them staring at me all through the service, though only a couple of them talked to me after the service while Mom and Dad were chatting with friends.
“Hey,” Abraham Mitter said, “I heard some guys at school talking about you — they were saying weird things, like you changed into a girl on Valentine’s Day, and I said no way, I know Jeffrey from church, but —”
“It’s not true, but I know why people are saying it,” I said. “Did they say anything about me falling and hitting my head?”
“No... what does that have to do with...?”
“I slipped and fell in the shower after P.E. Several guys saw my crotch while I was knocked out for a few seconds, which I’d managed to keep them from seeing since V-Day; I look sort of like a girl, but I’m not really.”
“Were you in Athens?” Tom Porter asked. “I thought you said you were in Huntsville...”
“Yeah, I kind of lied about that.” Tom nodded understandingly; Abraham looked shocked.
“Why would you lie about it?”
“Dude, think about it. Have you ever lied to keep people from finding out something embarrassing? If not, go ahead and throw stones at me.” I turned around and walked over to where Dad was talking to Mr. Barnes.
Mr. Barnes said I should probably take a few days off from helping with the homebound ministry, to recover from my injuries. I said I was already a lot better, but I’d probably better rest after school for two or three days anyway, and maybe I could help out again toward the end of the week.
That afternoon, after lunch, I called Will’s house and asked his mom if it suited for me to come over. Mom heard me and asked if I felt recovered enough to go over there; she suggested I invite Will to come see me instead. I felt a lot less sore than I did Saturday, but I humored Mom and did as she suggested.
Will arrived about twenty minutes later. He chatted with my Mom for a minute, and then we went to my room.
“Dude, I’m sorry,” he said. “People were talking about you at the Saunders’ party — nobody’d seen you, but it seemed like everybody knew somebody who had.”
“Did you tell them about me like I asked?”
“Yeah, some people listened when I told them I knew you and what really happened. But they weren’t very interested in hearing about how you just had bruises and no concussion, they wanted to know about your junk. Sorry.”
“It was all centaurs, right?”
“Yeah. Keith and Tara wanted to dance, and they didn’t want any two-legs around making fun of us while we were figuring out what dance steps work for us now.”
“I guess that makes sense.” It was logical, but it didn’t make me feel any less left out. Of course, as bad as I was hurt I wouldn’t have enjoyed a party much anyway, but still.
He told me about the party, but it was an awkward subject; he asked me again how I was feeling, and I told him the bruises were better and I still hadn’t had any more concussion symptoms. Then we started playing Labyrinth of Knossos and were much more comfortable with each other as long as the game lasted.
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