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The Beast in Me (completed)
Next day as was practically my old self again. The fever was completely gone and I felt fresh, especially, mentally. When I thought about saving Sheena now, I felt like patting myself on the back and I displaced my negative feelings. I felt somewhat like a hero. The dangers of being a werewolf faded from my conscience. I had it under control, hadn't I? I also got a good feeling about not giving away Mandy and the others but taking the blame on me. I hoped that Mandy would be thankful for that move. It never had been my motivation for my actions but, hey, now it seemed like a welcome side effect that I could take advantage of.
I walked up the lane to the bus stop, as motorbikes unfortunately weren't allowed to be taken to school. On my way, I gave a cool wink with my hand to Mr. Henderson who was on his way down the front yard with his frame, Dodger barking all over the place as usual. I hardly recognized me with my new attitude. My self-confidence was hanging all over the place. Arriving at the bus stop, I contemplated for a few seconds whether I just should run to school now that I had the power. Since the weakness I felt had subsided, I figured that I should be capable of the same feats as before. The muscles in my calves and thighs were already twitching when I saw the bus pull closer. Then it struck me that Mandy would also be on the bus and I wouldn't want to miss... well whatever that entailed. Right, Jim would also be expecting me.
I climbed aboard the bus and found Jim in the rear of the bus as usual. He greeted me enthusiastically. We got caught up in an animated conversation in which he wanted to hear all the details of what had happened at the dam last week. That made that I missed Mandy climbing aboard. I tried to avoid too many inconsistencies in my story but I decided to entrust Jim with a version that included Mandy and Frank and their gangs taking Sheena to the dam.
“Why did they take her there of all places?” Jim wondered out loud.
“I don't know... but I suspect that they were intending to play a prank on Sheena.” I speculated.
“Drowning her?!” Jim asked.
“Don't be ridiculous! They're no killers!” I flinched when I said the last word under my breath because the same didn't apply to my werewolf form. Jim didn't notice but nodded solemnly.
“Maybe it's got something to do with the activities of Frank's father's company in the vicinity of the dam...” He looked at me, expecting to get an objection. But I only looked at him, lost in my own thoughts. That was a not-so-remote possibility of course that I had ruminated on myself earlier.
We didn't have time to delve further into our speculations because we had arrived at school. We filed out and I saw Mandy ahead of us, separated by a handful of other students, among them Narnia and Dalia. I made up my mind to try my luck later today, wanting to take advantage of using the momentum of my newly-gained reputation. I was looking forward to classes, actually, wanting to show off my mental faculties that had paralleled my physical abilities, lately.
I held my head high when Mr. Branagan entered our class and he smiled at me and nodded my way. I felt like his new favorite student. I wouldn't be disappointed. A few minutes into class, he turned to me,
“Mr. Mansdale, I wonder if we may ask for your services again, today... In your absence, we have caught up a bit with your knowledge about vector calculus. I was thinking that it might be useful for the class to see an example be solved by one of their class mates instead of me. Would you be willing to come to the blackboard and...?”
I hopped out of my chair as if spring-loaded. With a broad smile I snatched the piece of chalk from his hands and bent over the book on his desk to read the text.
“It's a bit more advanced than the ones you explained so nicely last week but I suppose the solution will be obvious to you.”
He pointed at the printed solution beneath the question. I didn't even have to find it myself. Easy-peasy. I started reading. I choked. The words and terms were like a string of gibberish to me. I tried to understand just the first sentence by reading it over and over again but to no avail. I broke into a sweat and shifted my weight from one leg to the other.
“Take your time, Mr. Mansdale.” Branagan said brightly with absolute confidence in me, “You'll see it's quite trivial. You can fill in some of the bigger steps of the solution so that the others can follow the transformations of the equations more easily, if you wish.”
I grunted a hoarse confirmation. I started scratching my head. Last time everything just came as a natural flow of words from within me. Like talking about the weather. I recalled the feeling but I didn't recall the meaning. I was as ignorant as I had been before my werewolf transformation. I even considered that it all had only been a dream but then I wouldn't have been standing here now in the first place.
“Go ahead, take the book to the blackboard, Mr. Mansdale. Just start writing the first equation. You'll see it will all come naturally.”
I glanced at him. What was I to do? I would lose my face if I admitted my complete inability to even state the problem. So I started to read from the book with a shaky voice to make the time go. Out of the corners of my eyes, I saw how Dodo and Nada exchanged a few words behind their cupped hands and sniggered. I didn't dare look over to Mandy. I was mortified. Worst of all, I would have easily picked up the words with my enhanced hearing facilities just a couple of days ago but today I was as good as deaf - for being a werewolf.
I stuttered a few times while reading the first sentence and started hyperventilating. I even started to feel dizzy. I fumbled with the piece of chalk and almost dropped it when I was about to start writing on the blackboard. My hand was shaking. What was I supposed to write? I cleared my throat, preparing to excuse myself for Mr. Branagan,
“Mr. Branagan... I can't...”
While I had turned to my teacher, I had placed the chalk onto the surface of the blackboard and was pressing so hard that it suddenly broke off as I began speaking. The nail of my index finger scratched across the board making that horrible screeching sound that cuts right to the bone. With contorted faces, many in the class yelped in a collective mode of disgust. Many of the girls covered their ears and squealed. A few seconds later, some guys took the stirr as a sign to start chatting and guffawing in the stir that my unintended accident had caused. Mr. Branagan tried to calm his class down while I stood there still at a loss of words. Then my eyes met with Sheena's. It was the first time I created contact after seeing her at the hospital last week. I had been trying to avoid her because I didn't know how to handle the situation. I was afraid of how I might react. But now I just felt helpless and stupid.
In the fraction of a second that our eyes locked I sensed a strange air of strength and determination in her look. Yet in the next moment, she started groaning and moaning. All looks were drawn to her all of a sudden. Sheena bent over and held her stomach and continued to groan as if in pain. I stared over to her in worry. What had happened? Was this an aftereffect of her accident last week; perhaps an infection by the saliva of a werewolf? My innards squirmed with guilt and empathy. In the next second, I had dropped the book on the desk and had rushed over to her. Julia, one of the other girls in the class, was already by her side, asking what was going on.
“I'm fine!” Sheena fended her off but then groaned again. Julia shook her head and looked at Mr. Branagan who looked worried and disturbed.
“Perhaps... perhaps Sheena should see the school nurse.” Mr. Branagan mumbled, as if expecting someone else to take the responsibility. His look turned to Julia for help who seemed annoyed at the perspective of playing good samaritan for the new classmate.
“May I ask you, Ju...”
“I can take Sheena to the nurse, Mr. Branagan!” I quickly intervened, feeling my own responsibility and a good opportunity to skip the pending embarrassment. My teacher raised his eyebrows at my suggestion but as Julia had happily retreated again, he shrugged his shoulders and nodded,
“Very well then... We are running late now anyway, so I might as well do the exercise myself. - Just try and get back to class yourself as quickly as possible Mr. Mansdale...”
I nodded diligently and looked down on poor Sheena who seemed sweaty and pale to me. Geez, what had I done to her?
The rest of the class had become chatty and restless, now raising their voices above whispering level. I overheard Mandy making side remarks to Nada and Dodo but for that I didn't need super-audio reception capabilities.
“At least she seems useful for making physics classes more entertaining than usual...”
I squatted down to Sheena who was bent over and resting her head on her desk. I reached out for her hand but stopped myself when it flashed back to my mind that skin contact with me appeared to induce pain.
“Sheena!” I said in a hushed voice. I didn't want this to become a public show although it seemed to be hard to avoid the curious onlooking by most of the class, as Mr. Branagan was having a hard time to handle this out-of-the-ordinary situation. “What is the matter?”
“I think she's faking it.” Frank said dryly to his one of his droogs. Mandy, who had her seat on the other side of the classroom, sniggered at his remark. I would have liked to punch him in the face and almost regretted that I couldn't just turn into a werewolf on demand. “I can't blame her though... pretty lame performance by her savior today.” He didn't even try to keep his voice down.
“Is... is it your thigh again?” I asked, trying to keep my voice as low as possible.
“Right! Did you hear that guys? Weren't we all wondering WHAT exactly these two mushoogas had been up to in the forest all along!? Hehe.” Frank burst out.
“Now, now! Please Mr. Sawatski! Can we keep the conversations down and turn to our books. Mr. Mansdale, please try to speed up the process and take the gir... Miss de Veela to the nurse.”
I was a bit paralyzed because I was afraid to touch Sheena's skin and set off a reaction with her. I was fiddling about trying to find a way to avoid touching her sleeveless arms when I heard her whisper sharply,
“Just grab me under my armpit and lift me up a bit!”
I obeyed immediately and was surprised how easily she came to her feet. Then we quickly covered the space between us and the exit door, walking down the aisle like a weird couple. I tried to disregard the chuckling and whispering of our classmates. When we finally got out of the class room and could close the door behind us, Sheena stood up straight and grabbed me by the arm.
“OK, let's take this way. I know where we kind find an empty group study room down the hall.”
“But...” I stammered. What was going on? I followed, confused, half thinking that her behavior could be an effect of contaminating her with my werewolf disease. When we got there, she almost thrust me into the group study room and then shut the door. I looked at her with round eyes. She looked back at me with a piercing look. We stood there like this for an undefined amount of time. I was at a loss how to react properly and waited for her next move but the only thing that moved were her eyes that were jumping back and forth between mine. I almost started getting dizzy.
Then she suddenly started grinning,
“OK, no need to thank me.”
“What?!” I squealed. I had no idea what she was talking about. On the other hand, I loosened up a bit. There seemed to be nothing particularly werewolfish about her behavior.
“Look: I know it's none of my business but... you're acting a bit strangely lately... well... as a manner of speaking, as I don't really know you THAT long.” She giggled.
I swallowed. Did she know? But then I got defensive. Who does she think she is? I saved her life, didn't I?
“Hmmph, I suppose, I could've let you drown instead...” I began sorely.
“I don't mean that! I meant in Branagan's class! Last week you seemed to be Mr. Einstein, showing off your stuff and today... I thought you were going to faint in front of the class!”
My face heated up as if she had set it afire. Sheena smiled,
“Don't worry! I don't think the others noticed very much... thanks to my distraction maneuver...” she reminded. Then it hit me, how she had meant her initial statement.
“Oh!” I cleared my throat, “Yeah... uhhmmm, thanks. Thanks, I...” again, I felt a heat wave hit me. She was being a good friend and I had just acted arrogantly.
“Forget it! -- Remember, I told you I'd like us to be friends...” she said and it was her time to blush but she quickly brushed it aside. “So, don't you want to come clean? I don't know what you were up to last week... it doesn't matter, anyway. I just got to thinking that we might...” she stopped and inhaled deeply. “You seem to be interested in math and science and I... well I wasn't too bad at that stuff at my old school... so I just sorta thought... if you think it's a good idea... we could meet after school to do some homework together.” She only stole a glance at me and then seemed to find an eager interest in the tips of her shoes.
I was so relieved that she didn't seem to have suffered from my werewolf attack that I just grunted,
“Uhuh... why not?” I also thought, that way I also could keep an eye on any suspicious development that might occur in future. Her face lightened up,
“Great! It's a deal then? We could start this afternoon already! I'll text you my address!”
Her speed was intimidating me a bit. I hoped that she wasn't putting too much into my agreement. Although I was in objection to Mandy's conduct, my heart still longed to her. I was sure that all she needed was the right company. Meaning me.
“Okay... I'd better have an appointment with the school nurse now and you should get back to class. You don't want to get into trouble over me.”
“Yeah, you're right. See you later!” I opened the door of the study room into the hall. Then we left in different directions. But I had just made a few steps before she said,
“Oh! ...and just a friendship's advice: no more cheating...”
I raised my eyebrows but I played along,
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