Chapter 11:

Riveting Pre-Calculus Action

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

Lucky for us, our teacher is running late this morning, so when she does roll into the classroom with her sunglasses still on and a thermos of coffee in hand, we look like we’ve been patiently waiting the whole time.

I’m in a good mood now after the exhilaration of running over the rooftops, and being able to chat with Sabrina. Plus, the first class of the day is Pre-Calculus. Math has always been my best subject, so it’s nice to ease into the school day with it first thing.

...It’s not weird to like math! There’s lots of us!

There’s also lots of people who hate math. Too bad for me, one of them is Sophie.

“This is so boring!” she whines in my head. “This is what you wanted to be on time for?”

“Yes?” I say silently, trying to focus on the problem the teacher is demonstrating on the board. “You were the one arguing that you should come with me to school, remember?”

I can feel a second-hand pout inside my skull. “I’d forgotten how dull it could be. I should have convinced you to play hooky. Arithmetic is the absolute worst! It’s torture!”

“Well, this isn’t arithmetic, it’s pre-calc. And I’ll need calculus for college, so pipe down.”

“Adding letters into math is cruel to the letters,” Sophie grumbles, but she does as I ask and stays quiet.

About ten minutes pass where I can focus on taking notes. Then, I notice an odd sound ringing in my ears.

Well, it’s not really ringing. It’s more of a grumble? No one else seems to notice it, so it must be...

“Sophie?” I ask silently.

No answer. Just more of that grumbling sound. It’s sort of rhythmic.

...Is she snoring?

“Sophie,” I try again. No answer. She’s sawing logs in my head.

But I thought she said she couldn’t sleep? Well, maybe she’s playing a joke on me to keep herself entertained. Whatever. I’ll play along.

I turn my attention back to the blackboard. The teacher is about two steps ahead of my notes now, so I jot them down quickly in my notebook to catch up to her. Last time I thought I could leave some of the middle steps out of these problems, it made for a huge headache when I tried to do the homework later.

I’m looking back up from my notes when I feel something lightly smack into the back of my head. Huh? I put a hand up to my hair and don’t feel anything. Not a spit-ball, then. Glancing down, I see a wad of paper next to my shoe. Oh, okay. Someone sitting behind me must be as bored as Sophie if they’re resorting to throwing stuff like we’re in grade school.

At my old school, kids who reacted to dumb stuff like this wound up the butt of the joke all the time. Better to ignore it. I do wonder who it is, though.

It’s not Foley. He’s been staring out the window since class started. I think he’s trying not to look in my direction. Henderson sits at the back, but if he’s faking being asleep he should become an actor. And Blaine sits in the front row, so it wasn’t him.

Whatever. I’m getting behind on my notes again. Whoever it is probably moved on to drawing or playing games on their graphing calculator. I like the game where you’re running a black market, but since I actually like math class I don’t get much chance to play it.

Not even five minutes later, another paper ball smacks me in the back of the head. Okay, this is getting a little annoying. I turn around again, but don’t see anyone looking at me, or looking guilty.

It’s not a big deal, espeically compared with everything else on my plate, but still! Can’t a guy tune out and listen to a pre-calc lesson in peace?

“Sophie,” I try again in my head. Maybe if I pester her enough, she’ll wake up. “Sophie? Sophie. Sophie. Sophie! Sophie, Sophie, Sophie, Sophie-”

I feel a slight lurch as she snaps awake, and I flinch. It’s like when you’re just dozing off and a weird spasm wakes you up again. The other students sitting near me shoot me looks. I shrug and make a point of straightening my leg. Just a cramp, see?

“What, Clark?” Sophie grumbles, somehow managing to sound groggy the same way she managed to snore with no lungs. “I was having the nicest dream.”

“Yeah, what’s that about, anyway,” I ask. “You told me you couldn’t sleep.”

It takes a moment for the penny to drop, but then I feel a wave of confusion from Sophie. “Say, that’s right! How was I asleep just now?”

“That’s what I’m asking you. You really don’t know? But besides that,” I say, glancing back at the rows of desks behind me once more. Again, no obvious culprits to be seen. “Now that you’re awake, I need a favor.”

“Sure, Clark. It’s not like I have much on my dance card right now.”

Turning back around, I make an effort to catch up with my notes again. I’ll have to look them over carefully tonight, because this lecture isn’t sticking in my brain at all. “Someone keeps throwing paper at me, but I can’t see who it is. Would you mind keeping an eye out, in case they do it again?”

Sophie brightens. “Ooh, spying! I always wanted to try my hand at spycraft. You can leave it to me!”

I expect her to leave my body completely like she normally does. Instead, I feel a fraction of the usual stomach weirdness, and a cold spot covering the back of my head. It’s like a wad of ice-cold chewing gum stuck in my hair, and I fight the urge to scrub at my hair. Sophie might not appreciate me clawing through her face, after all.

Knowing Sophie’s playing lookout gives me enough peace of mind to focus on class again.

For a while, anyway.

“Eww,” Sophie whispers in my head. “That boy back by the windows is picking his nose!”

“Nasty,” I agree, and try to turn my attention back to taking notes.

“Now he’s...oh, gads, he’s wiping it off under the desktop! He’s a wild animal!”

I sigh. Homework is going to be rough tonight if I can’t absorb any of the lesson. “Is he throwing paper? I only need to know about that, Sophie.”

The cold spot moves around as Sophie shakes her head. “Right. Right. I’m keeping guard!”

Not two minutes later, she says, “Do you suppose that girl with the pigtails draws anything other than eyes? Her whole notebook page is just the same eye over and over.”

“Sophie. Is she throwing paper?”

“Well, she might later,” Sophie says, but lapses back into silence.

I start to wonder if it was worth waking her up. Getting hit with the paper balls wasn’t that bad.


“Sophie, I don’t need to know about anyone doodling, picking their nose, twirling their hair, or summoning a demon. Only if they’re throwing-”

“Clark, duck, you dummy!”

I duck, and the latest paper ball sails harmlessly past my ear. The motion also scoots my whole desk forward, since it’s attached to the chair, making a loud, crunchy squawking noise against the linoleum.

At the front of the class, the teacher winces and turns to see me still hunched over. “Something the matter, Clark?”

“No, ma’am. Just, uhhhh... Got a charlie-horse in my leg.” I straighten up in my seat. “Um, growing pains, and such.”

There’s some snickers from a few of my classmates. The teacher sighs and adjusts her sunglasses.

“Alright, everyone please settle down. Let’s get through the morning, yes? Clark,” she says, “if your cramps get worse, go to the nurse’s office.” With that, she takes a big swig of coffee and goes back to the lesson.

“Hey, Sophie,” I ask, once I settle back into taking my notes. “Who was it? With the paper?”

The cold spot shrinks and vanishes as Sophie stops looking behind me. “Oh, it was that Sabrina girl. You know, the rude one?”

Now, that I find hard to believe. “You’re not making that up, are you? Sabrina’s not the type to pull a childish prank like that.” To make sure, I turn around and look a couple rows back to where Sabrina sits. She doesn’t even notice me watching her, intently focused on the lecture and taking down highly organized notes. I can make out the bullet points and color-coding from here.

“I’m telling you, Clark,” Sophie insists, “she kept writing with one hand, and wadded up a sheet of paper under her desk with the other! I saw her throw it at you! She was waiting until no one was looking, and pretended she was fixing her hair.”

That’s a lot of trouble to go to just to throw a stupid ball of paper for no reason. Or was it a little bit of payback for ditching her yesterday?

The cold spot returns as Sophie turns around the double check. “Clark! She’s staring at you!”

I turn around again, only to find Sabrina looking straight ahead at the blackboard like she was before. She hasn’t moved.

“Sophie, don’t try to stir up stuff just because you’re bored,” I say in my head, and resolve to spend the rest of the morning ignoring everything but what’s left of pre-calc.

I can feel Sophie sulking. “I’m telling you, that girl has it out for you.”

For some reason, Sophie’s decided she doesn’t like Sabrina. I won’t pretend to understand why. Still, her insistence that Sabrina was doing all that gets under my skin.

The rest of the day passes without much incident. Unfortunately, between not getting a whole lot of sleep and literally everything else going on in my life currently, I can’t get myself to pay attention to class like I need to. School’s never been hard for me, maybe because I’ve never had that much competing with it until now. If I’m not worried about what to do about Sophie, I’m thinking about all the ways people could find out about her and cause huge problems or put both of us in danger.

On top of that, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched the whole day. I can’t catch anyone doing it, and I probably look like a freak by looking around so much. My whole life, I’ve naturally blended in. Sometimes I felt sort of bitter about that, about not standing out. It goes to show that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

Or until you think it’s gone. It’s totally possible that this is all in my head. Unlike Sophie, who left my body after hour two of me biting my nails and failing to concentrate. She spends the rest of the day snooping around the school without a care in the world, looking over people’s shoulders to see what they were writing in their notebooks, peeking into lunchboxes, and floating over the crowds in the halls during my passing periods. She has a great day. That makes one of us.

By the time school lets out, I’m so mentally exhausted I can’t do anything but throw my bag over my shoulder, trudge straight home, and fall into bed for a much-needed nap.