Chapter 22:

Extracurricular Activity

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

The next morning, I skip the bus and walk the whole way to school. I like the fresh air and relative quiet. The only problem is that I can't help going over and over the metaphorical thrashing I got from Sabrina yesterday. As much as I tried to stand up for myself, in the end I just don't have any good argument against anything she said. Growing up in a small town, I learned early that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Staring at the ceiling last night, I'd tried and failed to think of anything in particular that I was trying to hide, and came up with nothing. But on the flip side, I couldn't come up with anything I really liked or was passionate about, whether it was something I'd want to hide or not.

I still can't come up with anything. I thought it was my sleepy little hometown driving me crazy, but now I live in a city and I'm not feeling any better. Sophie is the only adventure I've had so far, and I spend more time stressing out over her than anything else. Am I so used to being bored out of my mind that it's all I'm comfortable with? I catch my reflection in a storefront window, taking in my appearance. Do I like how I style my hair? Did I pick out this book bag because it looks like the kind of bag other guys carry? It's only shallow people who overthink little stuff like this. Right?

"Clark?" Sophie's image doesn't reflect in the windows. She might complain about how unruly her hair is, or how out of fashion the cut of her blouse must be. Maybe. She'd have some kind of opinion, which is more than I can say for myself.

I keep walking, and Sophie follows in my wake. For once, she doesn't pester me, instead giving me a little space. It could be that she's still talked out after being badgered with questions from Sabrina yesterday. Thanks to Sabrina, now I know a ton of trivia about Sophie that I'd never bothered to ask on my own. Her favorite singer (Helen Kane, who I've never heard of), flower (lily of the valley), animal (frogs), food (ice cream), and color (violet). Her birthday (July 27th), star sign (Leo), and birthstone (ruby). Whether she likes sports (she doesn't). Whether she likes rainy or sunny days (rainy). A whole interview of Sophie fun facts. By the time Sabrina went home, Sophie had looked exhausted. It's probably the longest she's had to talk at once in decades.

Before first period starts, Sabrina catches up to me in the hallway. "Good morning, Clark," she says, eyes darting around, searching for something. Or, rather, someone. "Is Sophie around?"

"She's resting," I say. That's what Sophie instructed me to tell Sabrina if she asked, but for now it's actually true. I think all that socializing yesterday wore Sophie out more than she let on. With any luck, she'll sleep all day and we can all have a little time to ourselves.

Sabrina wilts a bit. "Oh. that's too bad. I managed to find some Helen Kane songs online and burned them for her." She digs a CD-R out of her book bag. The words "For Sophie" are neatly written on the jewel case in purple sharpie. Sabrina even went to the trouble of doodling little cartoon frogs and flowers on the case. "I figured it must have been a long time since she got to listen to music."

It's a very thoughtful gesture, and I hate myself for feeling sick to my stomach. I'm as used to rejection as anyone my age, I guess, but I'm not into having to wingman for my own unrequited crush. "I can pass it along later." I hold my hand out for the CD, but Sabrina shakes her head.

"I really want to see her reaction myself," she says, shoving the jewel case back into her bag. "It's fine! I'll just wait."

First period passes quietly, and it's another rude shock to the system to find myself enjoying how peacefully the day is going. Sabrina's right. I really am a boring person. I grow self-conscious as I'm taking notes in class. Look at me! I'll make a great office drone someday. I can't wait to be another adult with nothing to talk about except work and whatever basketball game I last watched on TV. What a catch.

At the start of study hall, there's an announcement that the school's extracurriculars will be starting back up for the semester, with an after-school fair this afternoon to let students see what catches their interest and sign up. I've never been in a school club before. My old school was too small and poor to get anything like that off the ground. It couldn't hurt to see what's available, could it? After all, when I pictured a busier school life here, it involved a lot more socializing with other kids with a pulse and a lot less being haunted by a spirit.

Nothing against Sophie, of course.

I let the day pass me by while subtly dodging Sabrina's continued question of when Sophie would wake up, and wandered down to the school's main vestibule after classes let out. I'm expecting a handful of different clubs to choose from, but the space is lined with tables and booths. Every student must belong to at least one club for there to be so many. As I get my bearings and take stock of my options, I feel Sophie stir at the back of my mind.

"Hmm, is it over?" she asks, managing to yawn without a mouth. I yawn reflexively, echoing her.

"You slept through the whole day, yeah," I say silently, moving to check out the section where all the intramural sports teams have tables set up with their sign-up sheets.

Sophie sighs. "Gosh, I was just completely pooped! That Sabrina woman never stops talking!"

Having second thoughts about playing sports, I move on to the next section. With my dumb competitive streak, I don't want to risk an encore of the basketball hoop incident. "Sabrina was looking for you again this morning," I say, heading for the chess club's table since it doesn't have a line. "She made a present for you."

"Oh, gads!" Sophie exits my body, taking a second to do some stretches in midair. Not that she has any muscles or tendons to feel cramped, but I suppose it's the thought that counts. "What's this?" she says, spying the chessboard set up next to the sign-up sheet. "Chess? I didn't know you played."

I can't answer her like this, so I let her give me advice on moves while I play against one of the club members for a few minutes. I wish I could say we make a good team, but it turns out neither of us are any good at this game.

Sophie frowns down at the board, where we've apparently gotten into a "fool's mate," whatever that is. "I can't remember how the horsey is supposed to move," she says.

"I don't think I can do anything with the horsey..." I mutter, then realize I'm speaking aloud. "Er, the knight," I correct myself. At least I know what the pieces are called. Most of them, anyway.

"Yeah," the club member says, leaning back in her chair. "You can't do anything with your horsey. The game's over. Um," she goes on, as if trying to soften the blow. "We're trying to go to regionals this year, so if you're a beginner...?"

I stand up. "Yeah, I got it. I don't think this is for me, anyway." No wonder there's no one over here. Good luck at regionals, weird chess jocks.

Other clubs are more welcoming, but still don't feel like the right fit. There's the art club, but I can barely manage a stick figure. Sophie likes the look of the drama club, but I don't know about doing all that acting and running around in front of an audience. Too much pressure. Mathletes is out of the question. I already have enough math homework. Then, it's as if the clouds part and I see it, the perfect club. I can't believe this is a real thing that high school students can do, but then this is a nice, well-funded school.

I walk up to the robotics club table. "So, you guys are probably full already, huh?" No point walking out on a limb just to get even more disappointed.

To my surprise, the students manning the table all shake their heads. "Our meetings are on the weekend. That's a deal-breaker for a lot of people. You interested?"

I glance at the small robot they have on display next to the sign-up sheet. It looks like an oversized hockey puck, and it has what looks like a metal spatula bolted onto its front. "Is that what I think it is?"

The club reps nod enthusiastically. "There's a meet toward the end of the year between us and about five other schools where we show off our bots and have them fight. You know, like that reality show!"

FighterBot, yeah. That had been pretty popular for a while when I was in middle school. The fad passed, but I guess actual robotics nerds kept having fun with it anyway.

Sophie casts her vote, floating above the robot and gently petting it like it's a vaguely circular dog. "Look, Clark! A genuine robot! I want to see it fight!"

I kinda want to see it fight, too. And I did pretty well in metal shop at my old school. And my dad taught me a little about how to solder electronics and things like that. I sign my name and write my cell number on the sign-up sheet. Feeling more accomplished than I have all day, I head for the front doors so I can go home. Sabrina will just have to hang onto that CD for another day.

"Is that Sabrina?!" says a girl's voice near the bulletin board.

I look around, but Sabrina is nowhere to be seen. There's a small crowd at the bulletin board. I assume they must be looking at the posters for the various clubs, but one of them says. "Yeah, that's definitely her. Who's that guy with her? Does he even go to this school?"

"She's thinks she's too good for everyone here, so who knows?"

"Well, obviously she's not as perfect as she thinks!"

Curious, I move to stand at the edge of the crowd, trying to see what everyone's gawking at. My stomach flips when I catch sight of the photo pinned to the board. It's the outside of my apartment, seen from ground level. I can see half of my own face past the fringe of my hair. Sabrina is in full profile, and even with how grainy the photo is, taken with an older digital camera or a camera phone and then then printed on cheap paper, she's still clearly recognizable.

The girls in the crowd are carrying on a debate in scandalized and delighted whispers. The guys don't sound nearly as scandalized, but they for sure don't sound any kinder than the girls. "Who do you think that is with her?" one asks.

"How many guys at this school look like that?" someone else answers. "Could be anyone."

A third guy claps me on the back, startling me. "Could even be this dude!"

That gets a small ripple of doubtful laughter, which I nervously echo. I don't know what to say, so I don't say anything.

"Clark?" Sophie looks down at me from where she's hovering above the crowd. "You look paler than I am, shouldn't we head outside?" She moves to dodge a particularly tall girl. "We don't want to get in the middle of whatever this is."

Who's "we" here? That's a picture of me up there, even if no one seems to recognize me. Angry, I shove my way to the front of the crowd and rip the picture off the board to a mixture of laughter and amused booing.

"Hall monitor alert!"

"She's not gonna go out with you, dude!"

"Who even is that guy?"

I'm not quite dramatic enough to rip up the picture, but I do ball it up in my hands as I walk away. The crowd's gossip picks right back up without missing a beat as I leave through the front doors.

Just outside, I find Blaine leaning against the railing of the front steps leading down to the sidewalk. He shoots me a bright smile that makes me want to smack him.

"Stalking isn't funny," I snap. "Try that crap again and I'll call the cops."

Blaine gives me a look of hurt innocence. "Who? Man, I'm just literally standing here, and roll up to bite my head off. What happened to us, Clark?"

Wow, I really can't stand this guy. "You're a jackass, Blaine. Leave Sabrina alone."

"Oh, is this about Sabrina and her mystery man? Tough luck, Clark." Blaine shrugs. "But hey, at least now you know she digs blonds. Maybe you can take a number."

His reply throws me a little. I'd assumed Blaine had been the one to take that creepy photo. Who else would it be? Or was he bright enough to lie? "Who was spying if it wasn't you?"

Blaine leans back against the railing to pop his back, a soft crunch. "Gee, I can't think of anyone who'd have beef with Little Miss Ice Queen. Sabrina's such a nice lady, don't you think?"

Enough of this. Subtly catching Sophie's eye, I slightly incline my head toward Blaine. She picks up on my intentions and dives into Blaine. He shudders, clutching at his stomach briefly, but doesn't let on that anything weird's happened.

"For real, Blaine," I try again. "Did you put up that photo on the bulletin board?" I don't smooth out the crumpled photo in my hand. If he didn't take it and doesn't know it's me in the picture, I don't want to give him a second look.

"No," Blaine says, looking me straight in the eye. "I didn't." He's still smirking in a really punchable way, but Sophie leaving his body causes him enough discomfort to wipe it off his face.

Sophie crosses her arms and shakes her head. "He's not lying, Clark. It must have been someone else?"

That may be, but I still can't shake the feeling that Blaine has something to do with this. "You seem pretty happy about this."

"Why wouldn't I be?" Blaine shrugs. "About time someone took Sabrina down a peg, if you ask me. You think I'm the only person she pushes around?"

Funny, I've never seen Sabrina do any such thing to Blaine. I've seen her stand up to him, like when she helped me that first morning we met. To Blaine, maybe it amounts to the same thing. Without another word to him, I start off for home. If he wasn't outside my apartment and doesn't know who was, it's a waste of time and patience to keep talking to him.

"I can't believe someone followed us home," I say, once we're far enough down the street not to be overheard. "That's so creepy."

Sophie nods vigorously. "Do you think they'll do it again? Do you want me to stake out the front door?"

It's likely that whoever it was must have been focused on Sabrina, not me. That doesn't make me less unsettled, but I may not need to worry about someone camping my apartment.

"Depends," I say, watching Sophie turn a slow cartwheel through the air beside me. "If someone does show up, can you still do that giant bug trick?"

Sophie grins wide. "It's not a bug, it's a cockroach! See?"

Seeing a giant cockroach do a cartwheel makes it much less spooky. Doesn't make it any less appetite-killing, though. So much for ordering a pizza tonight.