******Randi was prepared for the worst. She didn't expect the H-Bomb.****************
"Well I guess that's that, young Randi with an "I"; we're as prepared as we know how to be, and-"
Ms. Daniels broke in, "but I'm still worried to death about the possibility of you being abused."
Randi smiled as Principal Jeffington rolled his eyes and seeped out a barely audible sigh. He hated being interrupted. Hated it. And her math teacher Suzie Daniels was aware of that too; she just was one of those people that when they thought of something to say, had to say it right then. So, Randi surmised, let's deal quickly with Ms. D's concern.
"Ms. Suzie, it's not a possibility. It's guaranteed. I've already been ridiculed most of my school life for not being as macho, as athletic and gruff as boys are. I know I'm going to catch heck-"
"Thank you for not cursing," mumbled English Teacher Benson.
"-for the - you're welcome, Mr. Benson - uh, I'm going to catch a lot of flak for announcing this. I've been called names before. I've learned how to let them roll off of me. And as long as I've got the faculty's support, I think things will get better after tomorrow."
"You have the faculty's support - all but a few of us. And those few know to be quiet if they cannot be supportive," said Jeffington.
"Look, I obviously wasn't clear," Ms. Daniels fretted. She was furrowing her brow and had her open hands pressed together with her index fingertips touching her lips, like she was praying. "I'm not talking about verbal abuse. Your confidence has calmed me on that issue. I'm worried about you getting beaten up. This will all be for naught if you get the "shit kicked out" of you!" She said the last part drawing quotation marks with her fingers.
Mr. Benson sighed and grabbed a plastic jar off of the faculty bookcase, then tossed it to Ms. Daniels. She looked back at him with disdain. "Hey, I did the marks!", making the gesture again. "I was quoting Stu Pawelsky-"
"Yet the words came out of your mouth this time. Pay $2 into the curse jar," mumbled Benson.
"What? Since when was "shit" - she made the finger marks in the air again - "worth more than $1?"
"Now you put in $2 more!" said Benson, this time with crisp, clear enunciation. "Unless you'd like to try for six total?"
Stu Pawelsky. Now that name indeed troubled Randi. He was a bully and a bigot, but not the kind who would tease you in class or make you hand over the lunch money. No, Stu lived up to his name: he stewed. If something got him mad, then he would wait - wait until school was over, and bust somebody's nose. Or wait in the alley between buildings C and D and grab the object of his ire as they walked to gym period, and do a few wrestling pile-drivers into the dirt with the unlucky schmuck. He was calculating, discreet, premeditating. And he was one of the few bad boys that could make Randi's courage faint.
"Ms. D? You overheard Stu saying that he would kick the ... you-know-what out of me?"
"Not directly, honey," the math teacher answered. "But there's some talk on the grapevine, if you know what I mean. I have some good "sources" in the student body. I don't get the impression he knows about your plan to 'come out' tomorrow, but by school's end the whole class will. That may give him or one of his flunkies the last straw that they need to attack," she said, a frown of concern framing her face.
"What ... what can I do? I have no idea what to do with this. I mean, I can't live in fear of him - or anybody else out there who wants to hurt me. But I don't want to end up in the obituary section. What can I do? I'm open to suggestions."
Mr. Hoang cleared his throat. "I know you want to stay here because you have some friends here, child," he said in his thick Vietnamese accent, "but wouldn't it be much safer if you transferred to Churchill, on the west side of town? No one knows you as a boy named Randy there; you can start fresh as a girl. You already can pass so well-"
"Coward!" spat Ms. Daniels. "You just don't want Randi and her 'problem' here in Collins High School! You don't think there are murderous haters on west side? That they won't eventually hear of Randi's past? At least here, we are here and know her, and have some control."
English teacher Benson hung his head some. "Unfortunately, I agree with Minh. Every year since the housing market collapsed, our community and our students have become worse in their thuggishness and rebellion. Control? I feel we used to have it; now it is only the bare illusion of control. We teachers can barely manage our classrooms, much less the halls and outside."
Randi turned to Principal Jeffington. "Sir? What do you think? " - but the stocky man was no longer in the room. Wait, now he was re-entering; through the side door that led from the general administration cubicles. How had the big guy slipped out so unnoticed, Randi wondered. As he rejoined the student and her current (for this semester) teachers, he was plinking his mobile phone. Then looking up, he smiled. "Problem solved!"
The rest of the group sat, surprised, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The school boss then set his jaw as he turned to Randi. "Miss Toomey. I know you had your own outline for how tomorrow would happen. For your own good, I have altered that plan a bit. Please remain open minded as I explain."
Randi's stomach did The Twist as she walked in from the school parking lot. She was dressed less unisex than usual - she had on jeans, cowboy boots, and a checkered flannel lumberjack shirt with the sleeves halfway rolled up the arm. Her long hair was pulled back into a low tight bun so that from the front she appeared to have a close cropped boy's hairstyle. A schizophrenic ensemble, yet one that at least yelled "masculine". Which was her plan for today. She stopped at the flagpole in the courtyard and waited there as instructed by her Principal. Nine minutes to the bell, she thought. Whoever he is, better hurry. I still need to get to my locker.
A finger tapped her on the shoulder from behind. Well! That was a quick wish answer. She turned to see -
Randi's blood drained from her face. She felt as if she might pass out. He stood a good 3 inches over her small frame.
"Hey there, limp wrist. You finally look like a boy. A fifth grade boy. I figured for "opposite day" you'd be in a tutu. What kind of fag stunt are you trying' to pull?" He then spat on the ground, hitting Randi's left boot.
That act lit a little fire of anger in Randi - enough to force some words out. "I'm dressed for opposite day. Today you dress as the opposite of who you really are, so I dressed as a man. And starting tomorrow, Stu, I will be dressing as my real self - a woman. Why are you dressed as a man for today? Same reason?" Oh God. Shut up, shut up, that last part will get me killed for sure.
Stu's eyes narrowed. "Opposite day is for fags and hags, that's why I don't do it. So, you're a girl, eh? You f***ing freak, I'll be waiting for you today, some place and time that you least expect it," he growled / whispered. "Then if you haven't already cut your dick and nuts off, I'll stomp 'em into mushnnnNNNNNGG!"
Stu found it hard to talk with a huge ham hock of a hand wrapped around his throat. The hand was attached to the biggest boy in school - 6 foot 3 inch, 270 pound Bob Harris. "H-Bomb" was his gridiron nickname, due to all the carnage he left opposing teams in. His shadow completely covered Stu's. And he was wearing - a Muumuu?! And a wig! And a pretty amateur makeup job.
"Waaaall, hello theah, Stuart," Bob said in a fake southern accent and a falsetto that was still more baritone than soprano. "Are you bein' mean to mah boyfriend? Yew know, thaht makes me all flustered. I might have to throw a hissy fit and pound yoah face in. Don't that sound lovely?" He then released Stu with a shove that carried the thug 3 feet back before his feet touched ground.
The ruffian broke into a jog, away from Bob and Randi. "F-freaks!" he hissed as he turned the corner.
The boy-mountain watched Stu slink away, then turned his head towards the nonplussed person beside him. He now spoke in his normal bass voice. "Hey there," he smiled. "I'm -"
"I know who you are, H-Bomb. Bob. EVERYONE knows who you are. A-are you ... are you here to meet me?"
"You're Randi with an "I", right? You've been Randy with a "y" till now, and today is your official coming out?"
"Yes sir," Randi whispered.
"Well, I'm your protection. Bodyguard for the day."
Randi looked around; some of the kids were gawking at the tiny lumberjack with the 'big momma'. "Sorry you got roped into this. Even a dude like you has a reputation to keep; hanging around me might harm it."
"Aw, don't you worry about that. Happy to do it. Been looking for a reason to take Stu down a notch, anyway. The way he treats people really sticks in my craw." Bob took a big breath, as if to calm himself. "So, here's the plan. The teachers will handle their rooms for you and I'll take care of you in between periods. I'm to be allowed to leave early and arrive late for each of my classes today. I'll be waiting outside your door after the bell rings, for every class you have."
"Okay, okay ... you aren't ashamed to be seen with me?"
Bob smiled. "Naw. My oldest brother is gay, and most kids knew it and gave him hell for it. He hated high school. I was still in elementary then, so I couldn't do nothin' about it. Helping you, though, is like avenging him in a way."
"How much are they paying you to do this?"
Bob chuckled. "I'm not doing this for money ..."
Randi's head started to explode. He's doing this out of the kindness of his heart? This is unbelievable! I wonder if he's got a steady girl? I wonder what his kiss would be like? Would I feel an H-Bomb blow up in my heart? kraka-THHOOOOOOMMMM!
"... I'm getting extra credit in a few classes for this, as well as community service credits."
OH. Okay. Kindness of his heart. That was a silly thought. He's essentially still "getting paid" to do this.
The big boy's face started to fall, and he suddenly looked uncomfortable. "I - I'm doing pretty bad in a lot of courses, and it may affect my eligibility for the game next week. Not to mention maybe preventing me from getting a college scholarship for next year. I try hard and all, but learning seems to be hard for me. I'll take all the extra credit I can get."
Immediately Randi felt shame for her previous judgmental thoughts. Then she glanced at her watch.
"We'd better get in or we'll both be late for class. H-B ... er, Bob ... ah, what do I call you?"
"Honey child, to-day you all call me Lo-retta Peachfuzz. Ah'm from Hot-lanta, Gawgia and lookin' foah a ma-yun jest like you. Will you be my escort today, yew tiny lil' hunk?"
"I'll be happy to, Lo-retta. I'll be Randi. So we're going to play Opposite Day to the hilt, eh?"
"Shoah we are, mah lil' tree-cuttin' stud. Be a right gentleman and carry my backpack as we walk together, sugah. It has mah books an' lunch."
"OOF!" grunted Randi as she took the huge pack. What's for lunch, a couple of pot roasts??
The day went smoothly. As she'd told each of her teachers last night, Randi took 5 minutes at the start of all her freshman classes to announce herself. The questions were always the same, as were the answers: "I started Estrogen last week, but I've been on testosterone blockers for over a year. No surgery, not 'till way later. I like guys for romance - not that I've ever had one - and girls for just friends. No, Bob and I are just playing boyfriend/girlfriend for opposite day - it's an act, people."
Bob and Randi hit it off as friends, especially when she explained the Pythagorean theorem in a way that he finally understood it. So they made a deal: he would continue to let it be known that she was under his protection, and she would tutor him 3-4 times a week in the subjects he struggled with. He seemed so accepting of her, something that she never would have expected from a macho football player. He lost a few "friends" over Randi ... and she gained more and more friends as she was now no longer a pariah.
All of this occurred between "Opposite Day" Tuesday and Friday's football contest; now the big district championship with Churchill was on the line in just nine more hours.
Randi was ecstatic. She had always wanted to wear this ensemble to school: patchwork jeans covered by a V-neck blouse/dress with white shirt underneath, and pulled together with a wide leather belt and ankle boots. The compliments had been coming in, and she was floating on a cloud. Then, from behind her: "Come to the game tonight, Randi. Sit with us!" a blonde pretty girl said, her two attractive companions nodding their heads. There were still 4 minutes till the 3rd period bell rang.
"Wow, Britt. You don't mind me being with you and Steffi and Courtney? I mean, you guys are the girlfriends of the stars of the team!"
"And you're H-Bomb's girl!" Courtney tittered.
"Wait ... no, I'm not. We're just -"
"Girl, you so blind," clucked Steffi. "He's totally head over heels for you. We can all see it. He's kinda gun-shy, after the way that Tessa dumped him last year. So you may have to take the first step. Now, are you gonna sit with us or what?"
Saturday morning, Randi went to Bob's house. The team had defeated Churchill in a tough game. H-bomb was double and even triple-ganged by the opposing team's linemen; however, that left other Collins High players unguarded, and they were able to stymie the opposing quarterback enough to turn the game. Randi saw how beat up Bob was afterwards - like a walking bruise - and wished him well as he left for home. Now she knocked on his door. It opened, and a woman's head emerged. "Hello?"
"Hello, Mrs. Harris. I'm Randi Toomey. I was supposed to come by later and study with Bob. But I saw how hurt he was last night, and ... is he okay?"
The woman smiled. "Randi with an "i", right? Bobby's talked quite a bit about you. Yes, he's okay - stretched out on the couch with all of the ice packs I own packed around him. This is our Saturday post-game ritual. I hate it - he's good at football, but I'm afraid he's going to be frozen with arthritis by age 30 at this rate." She turned her head; then sniffed, and composed herself. "He's not in any shape to study yet, but would you like to come in and keep him company?"
Randi sat on an ottoman next to the couch that contained Bob. He was on his back, with swollen bruises on all but his face. She lightly rubbed his shoulders, stroked his hand. "I - I brought some organic green iced tea for you, H-Bomb. Lots of antioxidants; good for damaged tissue."
Mrs. Davis watched them from the kitchen, reporting the scene to her husband. She spoke low so the kids wouldn't hear. "Yes, dear. I've been worried too. But this person ... she's a girl. I don't care what she was born with between her legs - she's a girl if I ever saw one. And she's the only girl who's come to check on Bobby after a game. That makes her A-1 in my book."
The big boy on the couch moaned. "God, what a struggle. I'm hurting as bad as I ever have before. We won, though."
Randi held the straw to his mouth as he sipped the tea with gusto, then smacked his lips with satisfaction. "Aaah, that was good. Honey?"
"Yes!" she smiled. "I used Orange Blossom Honey from Florida. It has a unique-"
"No, Randi. Honey. I'm talk'n to you. When I say Honey, I mean you. I need you t' do sumthin', kay?"
Randi was flushed and silent for a second, not believing at first what she heard. Then - "Yes, darling. What do you need?"
"Pleez take th' ice pack on my forehead off. Way too cold."
She did so. Then she glanced towards the kitchen; Mrs. Harris' back was turned while cooking something on the stove. Taking advantage, Randi anointed Bob's forehead with a tender,warm kiss. "Does that feel better, baby?"
"Ummmmmm ... my lips are cold all uffa sudden."
"Okay," Randi whispered, again glancing at the kitchen. Ohmigod. Here goes ... !
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Thanks again for reading - Hugz! **Sigh**
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