School was a blur the next few days. No one really paid too much attention to my absence, and after a few 'Are you feeling better?'s Everything went back to normal. Well, all exempt Jax's piercing stares from across the courtyard at lunch. He hadn't come over, or spoken to me at all, since he'd turned up at my house. But I tried to push that to the back of my mind for now. We had our new timetables given out, and I had very similar classes to Isaac.
"Fancy being partners in weapons tomorrow?" He asked as we lay on the grass on one of the playing fields. It was customary that we took Defence skills, body combat classes, and other such lessons to 'prepare' us for the real world. Of course we had our own choices this year, which I was thrilled about. I instantly dropped languages, I would never be able to decipher ancient Skenth, the oldest language those of our kind used to speak; and I don't know why I'd want to anyhow. The teachers always went on about how important it was for us to be able to understand people of different cultures, but, as Isaac rightly pointed out, 'If I'm engaging in mortal combat with someone, I don't see the stunning advantage I have if I'm able to recite the Skenth alphabet to my opponent.'
We'd both chosen similar things this year. I'd gone for animal studies, weapon handling and after much hesitation and indecision, eventually opted for Black magic. The actual use of Black magic was strictly forbidden, but we learnt about it, how it was used, and occasionally tried one or two practicals; on a very minor scale.
"Sure" I said, unable to keep from smiling at how everything seemed to be so natural with him and me. We'd met for the first time when I was twelve, and he was thirteen. I'd been encouraged by some of my friends from my first school to do the 'drop off jump' for a dare. It basically entailed one person jumping off from a tree, catching hold of a rope, and managing to swing across to another thick branch. It didn't sound too dangerous, except that it happened about thirty one feet up in the air, over a steeply sloping rocky hill. I wasn't one to back out of a dare, so I climbed the rotting ladder to the top of the tree, braced my muscles, and jumped. I'd caught the rope alright, but when it came to planting my feet on the branch, I let go of the rope and slipped backwards. I would have broken my neck at least, or been killed if Isaac hadn't been up there. He had been in with a group of boys who also liked to hang about in the trees, jumping from one branch to another and sort of claiming the drop off jump as their own. Anyway, long story short, he grabbed my arm before I fell. My arm was dislocated, but he practically saved my life, so I didn't hold it against him.
"Hey, Isaac, can I ask you something?" I said, I wasn't sure who to talk to about this, but I knew Isaac had gone through a lot of struggle adapting to his Okan, so I though he was the best person to ask; besides, he was my best friend besides Annora, so I trusted him completely.
"Of course, what is it?" He turned his head, his piercing grey eyes staring into mine.
"When you... you know, change for the first time, what's it like? I mean, is it painful or anything?"
He was quiet for a minute, and I was beginning to wonder if I'd offended him when he said "Well, not painful exactly, but for me it was, very irritable. It took me several hours of just shifting back and forth on the floor until I could stand up and move around again." I shuddered slightly at this. "Why, are you nervous?"
"A little" I admitted. "Also... My body seems to.. hurt sometimes" I wasn't sure if I should tell anyone about this, but if anyone had to know, Isaac should. "Like I'm fighting the change. Could that be... well is it normal?"
"Well, I've heard of it happening before, but no ones body has ever rejected the change." He smiled reassuringly at my worried expression and touched my shoulder gently "You'll be fine, anyway, not long to wait now eh? Your birthday's in, what, three days?"
I gave a false grimace then grinned at him. "Yup, you got me anything good?" I nudged his shoulder to show I was joking.
"Actually, don't kill me, but no, not yet. I was planning on getting you something this weekend and giving it to you Sunday afternoon? We could meet at that cafe on the corner of Elsbrook street at, like, 2:30?"
I smiled in anticipation. "Sounds good, I'll have high expectations for my gift then" We lay there for another minute or two, before the bell went for afternoon lessons, and he rose and offered his hand to pull me up. We brushed the grass off and turned to sprint back up the field. But as we began to run, I caught sight of Jax, stood at the edge of the field, a little way back into the trees, and I for some reason had the feeling he had heard every word I had said to Isaac.