Can the bonds of FRIENDSHIP overcome all odds?
Breaking
The Code
CHAPTER
12
Denial
Bethany entered Mr. Hall’s fifth hour science class and took her seat in the corner. She was still a little tense about what had happened at lunch, but she was happy that she had a table to sit with now. Those girls seemed alright. Not exactly her bunch of roses but it definitely beat sitting alone.
Dylan entered class and took his seat in front of Travis, who smiled slightly and waved. Dylan waved back and bro fisted his best friend.
Class began and Mr. Hall told the class that today they would be studying in partners for the chapter seven test coming up. “You can choose your partners,” he said, “But make sure you pick someone who you can work with, not just someone you want to goof off with.”
When Mr. Hall dismissed the class to break off into partners, Travis looked forward, expecting to see Dylan turning around, science book in hand, begging for help. But Dylan wasn’t there. Confused, Travis searched the room. Maybe he went to the bathroom...
When Mr. Hall told the class it was time to break into partners, Bethany sighed. Who would she work with? She looked around. Everyone was slowly buddying up. The boy who sat next to her was working with the girl on his other side, leaving Bethany alone in the corner. She silently hoped that someone would come to her, so she wouldn’t have to go look for another student needing a partner. Another student that no one wanted to work with.
Suddenly, Bethany heard a noise to her right. She spun her head to face the wall and saw Dylan pulling a chair up to her table. “Hey,” he grinned, placing his science book and study guide down. “Now’s your chance to save me from failing.”
Bethany stared at Dylan. “Do I have to?” she pouted.
“Hey, you promised!” Dylan pointed out. “We have a deal, remember.”
Bethany thought for a second. “Yes, but we already know what the pendant says,” she began, her mind racing, “so if I don’t help you, there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
Dylan’s jaw drew tight. “I wouldn’t be too sure.”
Bethany cocked her head. “What could you possibly have to use against me?”
Dylan pulled his head closer to Bethany’s and dropped his voice down to a hushed whisper. “Remember, I know about Sapphire now.”
Bethany gasped. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Dylan smirked. “Try me.”
Bethany thought about the dragon shut up in her backpack in her locker. She knew what would happen to her if anyone found out. She huffed. “Fine,” she replied shortly. “I’ll help.”
Dylan was a little taken aback by Bethany’s tone. “Woah, easy,” he said, putting up his hands in surrender. “What’d I ever do to you?”
Bethany raised her eyebrows at Dylan.
He swallowed. “Oh, yeah.”
Bethany flipped open her science book and whipped out her study guide. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Dylan looked over at Bethany. Her face was tight and her eyes were narrowed. Her fingers were clenched into a fist around her pencil and her back was stiff against her chair. “Hey,” he said, in a tone that was quieter and softer than before. “Are you mad at me?”
Bethany didn’t answer right away. Instead she looked over to her science book and pretended to be reading the paragraphs.
Dylan reached over and shut her book.
“Hey!” Bethany cried out in protest, earning her a disapproving look from Mr. Hall. She lowered her voice a little bit and glared over at Dylan. “What was that for?”
Dylan blinked. “Are you mad at me?”
Bethany’s gaze reached Dylan’s and she nodded. “Yes.”
Dylan furrowed his eyebrows. “Why?”
Bethany shrugged. “Because.”
“Because why?”
Bethany didn’t answer that question. She just sat there, fuming. Eventually, she asked, “Why didn’t you wave at me today?”
Dylan wasn’t expecting this. “Wait, what?”
Bethany calmly repeated herself. “Why didn’t you wave at me today?”
Dylan thought back to the events of that day. “At lunch?”
Bethany nodded.
Dylan sighed. “I wanted to, I really did. I almost did. But Travis was sitting right next to me, so I... I didn’t.”
“Why does Travis being there make a difference?”
Dylan took a deep breath and looked at his feet. “It’s kinda hard to explain.”
“You just don’t want to explain,” Bethany growled.
And she was right. Dylan didn’t want to explain. He didn’t want to tell Bethany that he and Travis had code against girls, because that was almost the same thing as admitting he was breaking it.
“I’m sorry.” He smiled slightly. “I’ll wave next time, okay?”
Bethany shrugged. “Whatever.”
Dylan frowned. He didn’t like Bethany being mad at him. He wanted to make her happy again, but he didn’t know how. Suddenly, he had an idea. “Bethany!”
Bethany looked up from her paper, slightly irritated. “What?”
“We should walk home together today,” he suggested.
Bethany blinked. “W- why?”
“Well, we live on the same street, so we’re going in the same direction. And if we walk together, maybe those eighth graders won’t bother you again.”
Bethany’s mind drifted back to the events after school yesterday and shuddered. It would be nice to have someone to walk home with. And if Dylan was offering, than maybe Alice was wrong about him. Maybe he wasn’t all bad. Maybe they could be friends after all.
She smiled. “Walking home together sounds cool.”
Dylan grinned. “Awesome. Let’s meet by the main office, okay?”
Bethany nodded. “Alright, let’s do that.”
The two sat there in silence for a while, smiling at each other, happy that they were getting along again.
Dylan was the one to break the silence. “So, we should probably do some review before Mr. Hall has our heads...”
Dylan rushed out of his last hour, eager to walk home with Bethany. As he hurriedly approached his locker, he saw a vague figure by it. As Dylan got closer he recognized Travis. He smiled, then frowned. ‘Oh boy,’ he thought. ‘Here it comes.’
When Dylan reached his locker, he gave Travis a small wave but avoided eye contact. He knew what was coming. He knew exactly what was coming.
“Dylan.” Travis’ tone wasn’t just mad. It was furious. “We need to talk, right now.”
Dylan pulled open his locker and began to stuff his backpack with the stuff he needed for his homework. “Talk? What about?”
Travis gritted his teeth. “You know darn well what about. Don’t play dumb.”
Dylan took a deep breath and turned to face his friend. “So I’m talking to her. What’s the big deal?”
Travis stomped his foot and slammed his hand against the lockers. “What’s the big deal? Dylan, we had a code. The same code we’ve followed for six years. Six flippin’ years. And you dump the whole thing for this annoying, bubbly girl? What the heck happened? We didn’t like her. We told her to get lost. And now you’re befriending her?”
Dylan raised his hands. “Woah, slow down. She’s not my friend.”
Travis raised an eyebrow. “I saw you coming from her house last night.”
Dylan sighed. “It was for a project.” That wasn’t a complete lie. The pedant was sort of like a project.
Travis tossed both hands in the air. “A project? We’ve worked on projects before and it never required that you come to my house or that I go to yours!”
Dylan shrugged. “This was a weird project.”
Travis was shaking with anger and jealously. “Dylan, we have a code.”
“And that code was never my idea,” Dylan snapped. “Avoiding girls is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Travis stood back, obviously hurt. “What?”
Dylan stood his ground. “You heard me. It’s stupid. I only did it for you because at the time you were hurting. But Travis, that was six years ago. Don’t you think it’s time to let it go?”
Travis stood there, gaping at Dylan. “How can you say that? You know what she did.”
“Yes, I do. But that was six years ago. Just because your mom was a jerk doesn’t mean that every girl in existence is!” Dylan took a breath. “Maybe if you got your head out of your own little selfish world you would see that.”
Travis just stood there, his mouth hanging open. He had no words left.
Dylan stuffed the rest of his stuff in his backpack and slammed his locker shut. “Now, excuse me, I need to go.” He turned and walked away, leaving Travis alone in his dust.
Bethany glanced at the clock above then main office doors. It was almost 3:3o. Where was Dylan? School got out fifteen minutes ago. ‘It shouldn’t take that long to pack your backpack,’ she thought. She told herself that if five more minutes passed and he still didn’t show, then she was going to go upstairs and find him.
But after two more minutes, a very flushed Dylan appeared in front of the main office. “Hi,” he breathed, putting on a small smile. “Ready to go?”
Bethany nodded and they began on their way home. “What took you so long?” she asked once they hit the sidewalk.
Dylan sighed. “Travis stopped me by my locker. He just wanted to talk about some stuff.”
Bethany was silent for a moment. “About me?” she asked quietly.
Dylan blushed immensely. “What? N-no ,of course not.”
Bethany kicked a small pebble into the street. “Don’t lie to me.”
Dylan mentally punched himself for being so awkward. “We weren’t talking about you, honest.”
Bethany studied Dylan’s face. “Alright, I believe you,” she said finally.
Dylan took a small breath of relief. He didn’t want Bethany to find out about the code. Not yet.
Bethany put on a cheery smile and raised an eyebrow at Dylan. “So, you think you’ll be ready for the science test next week?”
Dylan grinned. “With your help I think I’ll pull through alright.”
Bethany laughed. “That’s only if I continue to help you.”
“You know you don’t really have a choice,” Dylan retorted, trying to mask his smile with a serious face.
Bethany adjusted her backpack straps and giggled. “Yeah, I know. But I don’t mind helping a friend.”
Dylan simply nodded.
He felt Bethany stop next to him. He looked over at her. “Why’d you stop?” He followed her frightened gaze to a few feet down the sidewalk.
And there he saw a group of seven eighth graders. In an instant, he knew that these were the ones that had picked on Bethany the day before.
He took a step closer to Bethany. “It’s alright, keep moving.”
She took a shaky step forward.
“You can’t let them know you’re afraid.” he kept on. He took a gentle hold of Bethany’s forearm and slowly pulled her forward. “We just have to get past them. It’ll be alright.”
Bethany swallowed hard and nodded. “Okay.”
They kept on walking down the sidewalk, each step bringing them closer to the group. When they were about four feet away, one of the boys looked up.
“Weeellll, if it isn’t little pathetic Bethany again,” he began, taking a step towards them. “Didn’t I tell you to get lost?” His eyes drifted over to Dylan and his gaze hardened. “And who is this? A pathetic friend of yours?”
Dylan took a deep breath. “If you’d excuse us, we’d just like to get through.”
The boy scowled and rolled up his sleeves. “What if I don’t want you to get through?”
Dylan stepped in front of Bethany. “Just let us through.”
One of the other boys in the group took a step over. “Will, it’s not worth it. You know if you get in one more fight this year you’ll be expelled.”
Will stood still for just a second, but then he let his fists fall. “You got lucky this time, but next time you won’t be so lucky.”
The group of eighth graders slowly parted and Dylan led Bethany through. “Thanks,” he mumbled as they worked their way to the other side.
Once they were out of earshot, Bethany glanced over at Dylan. “Um, thanks. For, you know, what you did back there.”
Dylan shrugged. “It’s no problem. I’m just glad that no one got hurt.”
Dylan thought about that line. Actually, that wasn’t quite true. Someone was hurt, and Dylan had hurt them. He sighed. He knew he’d have to apologize to Travis. It wasn’t going to be easy, he already knew that.
But all things worthwhile are never easy.
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