They walked into the classroom and Mr Bhattacharyya faced them all with a smile. The whole class called him by his first name, Arif, since his surname was difficult to pronounce for most of them. There were desks laid out in stereotypical fashion, two to a table. At the back of the room computers were lined up, behind them large windows which let in a good amount of warm sunshine. Or at least they would be if it weren't for the permanent clouds outside. It wasn't that close to autumn yet, Lucy figured she'd check the forecast when she and Beth met up after class. The last thing they needed was to be caught out by rain. Lucy took her usual seat and Kyle and Michael grabbed the one behind her. The moment Arif launched into a quick catch-up, Kyle leaned forward with a 'psst' sound. Lucy rolled her eyes at him and glanced over her shoulder.
“You should probably listen to this you know,” she murmured.
“Were you serious earlier?” Kyle asked. Lucy blinked at his question, trying to work out what he was talking about. “About being, you know,” he continued casually, “For the ladies,” he finished.
“Oh,” Lucy said, recalling her lie. She didn't want any attention of that kind from Kyle. “Yeah, I was.”
“Huh, explains why I've never seen you talking to guys,” Kyle said to himself. Kyle had been watching who she spoke to? Okay, maybe that was more a passing comment, she doubted the guy stalked her.
“I don't really talk to people, regardless of gender,” she shrugged.
“Playing the anti-social card, eh?” he laughed.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You mean the stuck-up bitch thing isn't an act?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow. Lucy cheeks burned and her hand clenched into a fist.
“What the hell?” she asked, raising her voice and pulling the eyes of the other students and Arif. “I'm sorry if I've said or done something to offend you, but it wasn't my intention,” Lucy finished, huffing a breath. Then she realised everyone was starring at her. She felt bile rise in her throat and stood up fast. She could feel her breathing speed up as she knocked over her chair in the process.
“I need the bathroom,” she said, her voice rushed as she left the room. She leaned her head against the wall outside, glad the door didn't have any windows on it for the others to look at her. Fuck. She had done so well in not attracting attention, in not acting out, but Kyle's words stung. Maybe she had overdone some of the comments, but did he really have to call her a stuck-up bitch? She never meant to come across that way. She glanced down and saw her hands were shaking. Her breathing was still playing up as well.
She went to the bathroom and splashed cold water on her hands and face. She hid in a stall and squeezed her eyes shut, attempting to calm her erratic nerves. Now people would be talking about her. All it would take is one person from her old school to recognise her name and she was done. The stories would spread like wildfire and nobody would talk to her. Not that she especially needed people, except she did. She could act all bravado around others, but she was lonely. She slumped on the toilet seat, pushing down the urge to throw up, as well as fending off hyperventilation. Eventually she felt her body calm, though she felt like she'd taken a punch or two from the process. Her jaw hurt from clenching and her body ached. Panic attacks sucked big time. She stayed in there, not daring to face the class full of curious eyes and questioning teacher. She waited til she knew the class was over. She hovered near the corridor, watching the students leave. Once she was sure it was empty she headed in, ready to apologise to the Arif. She should've realised Kyle would have been held back.
“-explain what happened?” She caught the end of Arif's sentence just as the door shut behind her with an audible bang. Any hope of not facing Arif and Kyle at the same time was gone.
“Lucy! Thank god, can you please explain to him that it was just a joke,” Kyle asked, looking mildly irritated and bored. Lucy opened her mouth to comply and paused. Wait, why should she?
“If it was a joke, it wasn't a very obvious one,” she said, crossing her arms.
“Of course it was a joke,” he sighed, making a 'tch' sound at the back of his throat.
“If you say so, but it wasn't very funny. I don't appreciate being insulted, as a joke or otherwise,” Lucy said, fighting her case. Dr Franklin had spent many years preparing her for this sort of situation. Making sure she had enough confidence to stand up for herself.