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Episode 14 Part 54

By:  Lenady

Tilly stared at the papers in Erin’s hands, embarrassment and residual anger battling for dominance. Her mouth felt dried out as she said, “It’s nothing.” She felt flushed, and didn’t want to even imagine what her face looked like at that moment. “I need to get cleaned up,” she continued, and pushed herself up off the floor, grabbing the papers and stepping around the streak of vanilla pudding to make her way towards the bathroom. There was a hand on her shoulder, one on her arm, and accompanying voices, that tried to stop her, but she brushed them off.

 

Or tried to at least.

 

They ended up following her. Well, at least Erin did. She could hear him behind her as she ducked between students in the lunch line to get to the girls restroom, “Tilly you don’t have to be so upset over… so what if you suck at math it’s not that big-" and that was all he managed to say before she stepped through the bathroom door and swung it back into his face. She felt a little guilty when she heard the loud thump and resulting curse, but also a small hint of satisfaction, which she used to help propel herself forward through the group of girls standing in front of the mirrors. She tried to ignore the glances she got as she walked towards the paper towels, instead trying to decide what to use them on first, her burning eyes or her jeans.

 

“You know, that stuff would be awful on your face.”

 

Tilly didn’t look up, just shrugged at Taylor’s comment. A packet of tissues was pushed against her hand, and she nodded her thanks, pulling one out and dabbing at her face.

 

“You know Erin’s a jerk right? I mean, all the guys are here… a lot of the girls too. But that’s beside the point. I don’t think this is about him or the pudding either.” Tilly just shrugged again, and the whole nonverbal thing felt really silly, but she couldn’t do much more than that. She was too focused on trying to stifle the hiccupping noise she was making with practically every other breath. When did that start happening?

 

“Hey, breathe,” Taylor continued. “Don’t try to hold your breath. It’ll just make it worse.”

 

“I’m no- no-t,” she took a stuttering breath and swallowed. “I’m not ho- olding my breath.” She cleared her throat, but just ended up coughing at the end and sucking in a lung full of air. Okay, so maybe she hadn’t been breathing as much as she should have, but Taylor didn’t say anything, and just stood there, a quiet presence at Tilly’s shoulder for several minutes. Tilly wasn’t certain if the presence was helping or just making her feel more awkward, but she was thankful for it all the same. Finally, her restrained sobs began to ease off.

 

“Okay,” Taylor finally said, while Tilly wiped at her eyes and blew her nose, and just generally tried to cover up her flaming hot embarrassment by staring down at the sink. “So you ready to talk about all that? Cause we can stay in here a bit, but Erin’s probably still standing out there by the door if no one’s pulled him away yet.”

 

The thought made Tilly blush even harder, if that was even possible.

 

Taylor rushed on, waving a hand, “Hey, don’t freak out so much. We’re going to have two matching bookends at the table. He’s gonna look just as much like a tomato as you.” Tilly shot her a confused glance over the fresh tissue she’d just pulled out of the pack and Taylor continued, leaning up against the wall, “Imagine Erin standing outside the girls bathroom. Embarrassed cause he upset- don’t give me that look, he’s not that big an ass- cause he upset you and meanwhile having to fight off the stink eye from probably a quarter of the girls in the school. Trust me he’s probably just as red as you are. Now,” she picked up the wad of paper towels from where it had fallen on the counter and handed it back to Tilly, “Let’s get that junk off.”

 

After several minutes they’d managed to get most of the pudding off of her jeans and t-shirt, although she had to admit that the large wet spots which now covered her clothes instead were about as unpleasant as the pudding, although thankfully not as conspicuous. Only a few people stared at her when she left the restroom, she noticed gratefully.

 

Taylor held onto her arm lightly as they walked towards the table. Tilly wished she could shake her off, but was all too aware of the shielding effect the presence was having.

 

True to Taylor’s word Erin was sitting at the table, his head tilted downwards and his cheeks a flustered pink. Trevor was sitting beside him, covering a mound of french fries in ketchup. “That’s what you get man,” he said to Erin. “It did look kind of creepy.”

 

Alison was sitting on Erin’s other side, her hand resting on his forearm. She leaned over towards him, tilting her head in sympathy. “Don’t pay attention to Tilly. She can be so-"

 

Trevor made a not so subtle slashing motion and Taylor cleared her throat. Alison looked up, with just a little surprise on her face.

 

“Hey Spilly, want some?” said a couple of guys she’d never even seen before as they walked past, waving a pudding cup.

 

“Oh yeah, real clever one. Bet it took the whole lunch break to come up with that,” Andrea said.

 

“Don’t listen to them,” said Lauren as she scooted her seat over, making room for the chair Taylor had pulled up for Tilly. “They’re just a bunch of idiots.”

 

Tilly clutched the stack of math papers to her chest as she sat down and shrugged. “Whatever. At least they’re making fun of the right name.”

 

Erin had been looking off to the side, avoiding Tilly’s glances, but his frown tightened at that.

 

“There you go. They can’t hurt you if you don’t give them the ammo first.” Trevor was grinning, and putting a matching amount of ketchup onto his hamburger.

 

Taylor sighed, pulling up another chair beside Tilly. “Okay, so, Erin was being an ass. Nothing out of the ordinary there.”

 

“It really wasn’t” Tilly started to say just as Erin glared at Taylor and said, “Like you’ve got anything to-" They glanced at each other, arguments turning into sheepishness, then looked away. They sat in silence for a moment before Erin waved his hand dismissively. “Yeah, I’m an ass. All you did was let me know.”

 

Tilly shook her head. “Yeah, well I wasn’t the nicest about it.”

 

“Yeah, but it took you like an hour to blow up.”

 

“You were just trying to be nice. I shouldn’t have gotten so mad.”

 

“Should have just said something was up. That was more than just standard pissiness there.”

 

“I don’t have a standard pissiness,” Tilly said, curling in on herself a little.

 

“Yeah, you do,” replied Erin, but there wasn’t any bite to it, just soft teasing. “It’s a step above Lauren and two below Andrea.”

 

“Do you always gage people off their pissiness levels?”

 

“Yeah, right along with how much they’ll let me grab from their plate.”

 

“Okay,” Taylor interrupted, rolling her eyes. “So that’s cleared up I guess. What’s was all this stuff.” She pointed at the papers Tilly had finally sat on the table.

 

Tilly’s smile tightened. “Just an assignment. Some makeup work.”

 

“Makeup from what? You’ve been here every day.”

 

Tilly shrugged. “Extra credit.”

 

Trevor reached over and grabbed the stack before Tilly could even move. He shuffled through them and whistled. “That’s a buttload of extra credit. Must be a heck of a grade boost. A?”

 

Tilly flinched. “Not so much.”

 

“Okay, then how much,” Trevor asked, passing the papers over to Andrea.

 

“C if I’m lucky,” Tilly muttered under her breath. And there it was, out in the open, the embarrassing truth out for the whole group to see.

 

“That’s barely passing,” said Alison with a sneer.

 

Tilly gritted her teeth. “A D’s barely passing. C is average.”

 

“Just cause it’s in the middle.”

 

Taylor and Andrea nodded.

 

“You know what, I’ve got some work I gotta get done so if you’ll just hand me that.” And Tilly reached for the papers just to have them pulled away by Erin.

 

“Just give it already.”

 

Erin leaned back in his chair, staring at the tome. “So this is the reason you looked about ready to fall over earlier? Who assigned it?”

 

“You’ve got Burget, right?” Andrea asked.

 

Trevor groaned. “Yeah, I can see it.”

 

“What do you mean?” Erin asked, “He’s cool.”

 

“Yeah,” Trevor said, “He’s okay if you’re one of his favorites. And you’re in the robotics club so you’re opinion doesn’t count.”

 

“That doesn’t-"

 

“Yeah, it does. If you’re good in math then he’s a great guy. But if you’re not… watch out. He just doesn’t have the time for you. You’re a waste of time and you might as well just not be there at all. But that” he said, pointing at the papers, “that’s bad even for him.”

 

“It’s really not th-" Tilly began to argue, even though she wasn’t exactly certain why.

 

“When’s it due?” Lauren interrupted.

 

“Nine days.” She reached over and grabbed the papers out of Erin’s hands. “He gave them to me last Thursday.”

 

“That’s not enough time to finish all that."

 

Tilly shrugged. “We had to get my grade up somehow. I’m not doing so good in the class and I’m already on academic probation,” she paused, then looked over at Lauren. “That’s the reason I’m not technically in cheer… spirit, whatever.”

 

“But you…” And Lauren, sweet cheerful Lauren, looked pissed. “Why did you lie?”

 

Tilly felt herself shrink back again, before she shook her head. “I never said that.”

 

“You-"

 

“You did it again didn’t you? Plowing through a conversation.” Taylor looked at Lauren, amused.

 

Tilly shrugged. “Not a big deal,” she said to Lauren. “And I’m really sorry. I know I didn’t do a lot to stop you. But strict parents feels a lot less embarrassing than sucky grades. I was kind of hoping to get this taken care of myself, and then it wouldn’t have been an issue.”

 

Lauren relaxed after a second. “I do tend to run away with conversations, typically without the other person.”

 

“So what does all that mean. About the academic probation?” asked Andrea.

 

“If I can’t get this done, and make a decent score on the next test, Mr. Burget reports me to the principal. It goes from there, but I’m probably out.”

 

And the table went silent at that, the sound of the lunch room invading their small bubble.

 

“I’ll help,” Erin said.

 

“You really don’t have to…”

 

“Look, you’re having a hard time getting it done on your own right?”

 

Tilly nodded.

 

“So let me help. You lost some work time cause of me, and besides you saw it yourself, I notice mistakes really quick, and I think this stuff’s easy. So let me help.”

 

Tilly still looked uncertain and Erin sighed.

 

“Okay, so you’re good in other stuff right? Like English or social studies or something?”

 

Tilly nodded. “I’m kinda spotty sometimes, but yeah I’m pretty good with those.”

 

“Well then, there you go, I help you out with math, science if you need it, and you help me with something else. There’s plenty I suck at, believe me.”

 

Tilly glanced around the table. Lauren nodded. “His essays are horrifying.”

 

“As is his grasp of government,” said Trevor.

 

“Not my fault the constitution’s boring as hell,” Erin grumbled, then turned back to Tilly. “So, we got a deal?”

 

Tilly looked down at the papers, now lying between them on the table. “Okay”

 

“Yeah?” he said, looking genuinely excited.

 

“Yeah.”

 

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