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Episode 14 Part 56

By:  Lenady

“That’s nice. Look at how supportive everyone’s being!” Sanrook said, eyes bright. “I didn’t expect that.”

 

Tilly smiled as genuinely as possible, trying to ignore the painful twist. She just nodded. Sanrook didn’t need to know more than what was necessary for the story. Anything more would just complicate things.

 

*          *          *

 

“What were you thinking?” Erin flipped through the papers as they sat on the bleachers. They were on the top row, the whole of the gym seemingly spread out before them. It was right after school, the bell having just rang a few minutes prior, and people were trickling in and out. “I mean,” he continued, as he separated finished papers from untouched ones and compared their relative size, “we’ve done pretty good, getting this much done already, but you’d never’ve got it done otherwise.”

 

“Gee thanks,” Tilly muttered, although she largely agreed with him. They’d been working on it for almost a week, and while they were definitely making progress there was a lot to still get done and it wasn’t coming easily. Mr. Burget was right, in one regard. She understood the work more as she went along, both in the stack of papers, and in the current lessons in class, a few of the missing pieces puzzle pieces finally falling into place. That didn’t make the process any less frustrating though.

 

“Hey,” Erin said defensively, “I didn’t mean anything by it, but you’ve said it yourself. You’re not so hot at this stuff, and I mean, I know I’d be okay with it, but this is kinda  my thing. I mean, to just try to tackle it all on your own… you’ve either got guts or a lot of stupid-" Tilly shot him a glare and he wilted a little before adding “-ly good luck.” She couldn’t tell if he’d meant to say that all along or if he was tacking it on to save his own hide.

 

“Okay, well,” Tilly picked at her nails, scraping a bit of stray fingernail polish away from her cuticles, “How fast would you have admitted it?”

 

“What? That you need help?” He asked incredulously, then pointed at himself, “tutoree, remember?”

 

“Okay, so yeah…” Tilly paused, things still not feeling quite on par, “But you now what I mean right? New kid and stuff. It’s different.”

 

Erin shook his head. “Maybe not. Never moved and I knew a bunch of people here from elementary school, so yeah, it may be a little different, but you know,” and he turned towards her then and looked her dead in the eyes, “You act like everyone’s gong to bite you if you come out of your shell at all.”

 

“I do no-"

 

“Uh, yeah,” Erin laughed, “You do. It’s just like this stuff here,” Erin patted the papers now once again combined and sitting on his knees. “And what good did It do you? All you got was a harder time out of it. More stress and a pissed off Lauren.”

 

Tilly winced. Lauren had been a little sharp with her since the incident in the cafeteria, when she was talking to her at all. It wasn’t as if she was blatantly ignoring Tilly, but things were definitely different. “That wasn’t what I’d intended to happen.”

 

“Yeah, maybe not. But it happened all the same. All you had to do was ask someone”

 

“It was a lot of work, I couldn-"

 

“All you had to do was ask someone and we could have helped.”

 

Tilly shook her head in disbelief. “That’s not how things work a lot of times. From my point of view I could have still had all this to do by myself in addition to people thinking I’m an idiot, and lazy to boot.”

 

“Yeah, well that might still happen, but this way you got a few people in your corner too.”

 

“Real encouraging,” Tilly muttered, “and you’re still not getting my point.”

 

Erin’s face tightened. “I get it. And I’m trying to tell you that this time there wasn’t a point to it. You can’t just jump to the conclusion that people are out to get you.”

 

“I don’t think anyone’s against me-" Tilly thought for a moment, before adding, “Okay, so maybe-"

 

“Nobody’s out to get you!” Erin nearly shouted, raising his hands in exasperation.

 

“I was going to say ambivalent,” Tilly hissed.

 

“Still too negative.”

 

“What are you, Bob Ross or something?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Bob Ross? Happy trees, beside a happy lake, sitting below a happy mountain. You’re trying to make me paint a bunch of happy trees.”

 

“Well, what’s so wrong with trying to see things in a good light.”

 

“Nothing,” Tilly sighed, suddenly feeling tired. “Never mind. Don’t you have practice to get to?”

 

Erin looked up at the clock on the walls of the gym. “Shit. Yeah, gotta run.” And he stood up quickly, grabbing his backpack and rushing down the stairs, taking a few at a time, before looking back up towards Tilly and calling, “Call me tonight?”

 

“Yeah. We can start back on this stuff when I get back from dance.”

 

“Right. Kay, see ya,” and he rushed the rest of the way down the bleachers, jumping the last few stairs and running towards the weight room. She didn’t notice Alison and Cindy coming up the bleachers until they were just a few feet away. Tilly smiled at them and cast a quick glance around the gym for Lauren. She was no where to be seen, and even if she’d been there she’d probably have just avoided Tilly’s glance. Actually, Tilly realized, several of the girls were missing, along with Mrs. Brown.

 

“Hey,” said Cindy, smiling, and Tilly blinked. Normally Cindy ignored her completely, to the point of acting as if she didn’t exist at the lunch table. She’d gotten a couple other people doing it as well, if she’d been reading the situation right.

 

“How’s it going?” Alison motioned towards the math book still in Tilly’s lap as she sat down beside her on the bleachers. She had an easy smile and a look of curiosity. Tilly couldn’t tell if that made her less or more nervous.

 

“Got a chunk done. Still working on it. At the current rate we shouldn’t have much trouble getting it done… given no hangups.” Tilly crossed her fingers.

 

Alison nodded. “We’d hate for you to have to quit before you even get started- with spirit and stuff. You’d be a real help.”

 

“I…” Tilly started, looking for a trick.

 

“Look,” Alison said, “I know with us things have been a little…” she shrugged, “But I care what happens to the squad and I think- we think,” she motioned towards Cindy, who nodded, “You’d be good for it.”

 

Tilly breathed in, smiling and willing herself to just relax a little. Maybe it was time to take a better foot forward, like Erin said. “Thanks Alison.”

 

Alison looked like she wanted to say more, but Eva called and the cheerleaders started grouping. The girls made their way down the stairs, Alison and Cindy moving to the basketball court and Tilly to a seat a couple rows up from the bottom.

 

Tilly was resituating her stuff when she heard Eva’s voice raise. She was staring Alison down.”

 

“Again? Honestly Alison, you’re worse than my grandma.”

 

“I must’ve set it down beside my locker.”

 

“Can’t it wait?”

 

“It’s my purse. No I can’t wait.”

 

“I swear Alison if you-" said another senior.

 

“I’ll get it,” Tilly called down from the bleachers. She was already making her way towards the cluster of girls. “Beside your locker, right?”

 

Alison shot her a grateful look, “Yeah. Tan leather.”

 

“Kay. Watch my bag?” Tilly said and rushed off towards the sophomore lockers.

 

Like the arts building, the gym was separate from the main school building, but it wasn’t that far of a walk and Alison’s purse was right where she said it would be. She couldn’t miss it, tan leather leaning against radioactive green. It hadn’t taken Tilly very long, she thought, but as she approached the gym she noticed the standard noises, sneakers on the gym floor and a chorus of cheers, were missing. The missing squad members were all back, but the group was clustered together and looked agitated. As Tilly walked through the double doors a few of them turned towards her, then shared a tense glance.

 

It was Lauren who met her halfway, eyes wide. “I swear we only looked away for a minute.”

 

“Huh?” Tilly asked, but she was already looking towards the bleachers. What she saw with her own eyes just made what Lauren said next feel like salt in the wound.

 

“Your bag’s gone.”

 

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