By Haya Barakat
Phillipa walked home that day in a daze. She walked Chloe to her house as it was on the way to Phillipa's and after a long goodbye, Phillipa headed home. She kept recalling the past few hours in her head over and over again. She couldn't keep the same few scenarios out of her mind- asking the goth girl she always noticed in her classes but was too shy to talk to if Phillipa was like her, Chloe saying yes and Phillipa's life turning upside down in the best way possible, their last period, and getting coffee, talking about their powers. The one thing Phillipa has wanted more than anything since she was eight years old, and it finally happened.
Phillipa couldn't help but add a little skip to her step and a bright smile on her face as she arrived to the doorstep of her home. Knowing her family, she knew she wouldn't be able to get to her room with a snide remark towards her girly clothes, but as she unlocked the front door and stepped into her one-story, California bungalow, for once, she didn't care. She heard the ordinary after-school routine- her dad working in the kitchen and her mom working in the office, so she was able to slide into her room with a quick 'Hi' to her parents before closing and locking the door behind her.
With a long sigh as if releasing a breath she didn't know she was holding, Phillipa flopped onto her bed as her dog jumped onto it to lay down next to her.
"Hey, Maggles," she cooed, petting her small, light brown poodle's head. She was a gift to Phillipa's older sister Rosamund, but after she moved away for college, she let Phillipa have her, and though Phillipa thought it sucked that Rosa couldn't bring her companion with her to school, she definitely wasn't complaining about the new company she was given.
Stroking the soft fur of her dog, Phillipa stared at the white drywall ceiling, pondering her day. The fact that she finally found someone like her, whom she could relate and talk to about things she couldn't with anyone else- even her own family- still hadn't fully sunk in. And to top it off, that person was in Phillipa's grade, shared some classes with her, and was one of the coolest people in her school, in Phillipa's opinion at least. Phillipa always admired how Chloe did, said, and wore whatever she wanted without a care of what others thought. She admired her self-expression and bravery, something she could never muster. Maybe with Chloe's help, she finally could.
The next day came too slowly for Phillipa's liking. For the first time in years, she was itching to go back to school, to see the punk-goth shape-shifter on her mind for the past twenty-four hours. Plus, it was the last Tuesday before winter break that started that Thursday. They had a test in their AP US Government and Politics class, but Phillipa never had a problem with that course, and as far as Phillipa knew, she didn't have any assessments those last few days, so- in Phillipa's eyes- it was a great day, or at least seemed like it'd be.
The moment Phillipa stepped into the doors of San Marino High School, she scanned the area for a studded brunette and was slightly disappointed when she couldn't see her anywhere. She had something she spent the entirety of yesterday after the coffee shop doing, something she desperately wanted to tell Chloe, if she was free and if she agreed to it. Phillipa sensed she was being a little sudden with the idea, but she was a little impatient, and she wasn't afraid to say so.
After getting the books she needed for her first few classes from her locker, Phillipa headed down to her first class, English Honors III with her teacher Mrs. Grant, an older and nice woman. She didn't assign much homework and wasn't too strict with grading essays, which is why she's so loved by the students (and the fact that she's pretty lenient with the rules). Phillipa had that class and then the second one- French with Madame Naveen- before the first class she shared with Chloe out of the three, the gym class of all courses. She decided it'd be best to share her plan with Chloe during lunch.
Unfortunately, the time ticked by way too slowly. Phillipa kept glancing up at the clock what felt like every half hour only to find that it's been two minutes since the last she checked. In the one class that passed by, she was called out three times by her French teacher for 'dozing off' and 'not paying attention'. Phillipa bit back some sarcastic remarks that she thought a second later Chloe wouldn't hold back.
Phillipa was ecstatic when her gym class- Recreational Activities- finally arrived. She never passed Chloe on her way to any of her classes, so this would be the first time she would see her since the coffee shop, and she couldn't tell if she was nervous or excited. Probably both.
She entered the girls' locker room and immediately got dressed out of her outfit- a light orange tie-back halter top with 'Plants are friends' on it under a blue denim jacket, a black pleated skirt, black knee-highs, and black combat boots- into her school's gym uniform, a plain, light-gray t-shirt, black gym shorts, and white running shoes. As she tied her blonde hair up in a high ponytail, she could see Chloe dressing out of her punk clothes and into her gym uniform as well out of the corner of her eyes, but since one of the gym teachers was really strict about getting in and out of the locker rooms as quickly as possible, none of the girls had time to stop and talk, so Phillipa headed out the moment she was done and began walking around the perimeter of the gym as they do everyday. As normal, Chloe was the last one into the gym and once both gym teachers who watched over the kids in the locker rooms, the third teacher started up some upbeat, energetic music and the three classes began running around the gym, their usual 'beginning-of-the-class' routine. Phillipa ran at a medium-speed jog and glanced over at Chloe, who had her hair up in a low ponytail and had a deep, reflective look in her eyes. What was she thinking about? Was she as excited to see Phillipa as Phillipa was to see her?
Before she could think too deep into it, Phillipa quickly caught up to Chloe and began running beside her. The latter looked up to make eye contact with the blonde, who flashed Chloe her signature grin.
"Hi," Chloe chuckled as she turned the corner of the gym.
After those two words, the two girls jogged in silence, neither saying a word together. This time, it wasn't peaceful, serene silence, it was awkward silence. What are you supposed to say to someone the day after discovering they have the same superpower as you? Every smooth remark Phillipa thought of as she was walking to school that morning vanished from her mind.
"So, uh..." Phillipa started, unsure where to continue. Thankfully for her, Chloe was a lot more laid-back than the day before, more of the Chloe Phillipa always imagined her to be- cool and relaxed at all times.
"What's up? Tell anyone about your sorcery, Pip?" Chloe asked. Phillipa's eyes perked at the nickname. Pip. That's what Rosa always called her, even after she left for college. Phillipa's contentment that converted into nervousness and anxiety the moment she said 'Hi' to Chloe finally drifted back in.
Phillipa chuckled a little. "Not yet. But you never know, maybe I'll announce it on YouTube and get paid for what everyone will think is really good special effects."
Chloe laughed, a single guffaw with a smile that made the edges of her eyes crinkle a little. The slight twinkle in her dark eyes made Phillipa smile a little.
The rest of the class went by in a blur. They did a basic exercise routine before being sent back to the locker rooms a few minutes before the bell rang. Phillipa changed back into her regular clothes and sprayed on a little vanilla-scented perfume before heading out, but she lingered by the door to the locker room for a bit, building herself up, mustering as much courage as she thought she needed, and planning her exact words, even if she knew she was going to forget them the moment she saw her fellow shape-shifting buddy. After another minute or two, Chloe walked out and Phillipa fell into step beside her, clutching her backpack straps tightly.
"Okay, so, I have, like a-a thing, that I want to tell you, but, like, later. When we have time. Okay? Okay. Cool. Bye, see you later!" Without another word and a mental face-palm for her stammering and too-quick rambling, Phillipa fast-walked away from Chloe and to her next class, leaving Chloe dazed and wordless.
Phillipa breathed a little sigh of relief. That was easier than she thought, and she only had one class- Physics- before her lunch period with Chloe. There, she could tell Chloe about her little but kind of crazy plan, though Phillipa had the sneaking suspicion that it was nothing close to the crazy rebel Chloe underwent.
But lunch came, and Phillipa didn't see Chloe anywhere. She wasn't in her usual spot and Phillipa didn't have her number or any social media to message her on.
Crap, what if I scared her away? What if I made her think I was a little crazy? Phillipa wondered, sitting in the seat across from Chloe's like she did the day before, picking at her sandwich. She ate so slowly, waiting for Chloe to arrive, that by the time the bell rang, she was only halfway finished with it. The bell rang with disappointment as Phillipa packed her things and slumped to her study hall. If she really did drive Chloe away, she probably made the biggest mistake of her life. She couldn't lose something she just got, and something she had wanted for so long.
Phillipa only one and a half classes left- study hall then Algebra II- before her history class with Chloe, and those classes dragged just as much as the first two. Phillipa was dreading seeing Chloe a lot more than she was at the beginning of the day. What if Phillipa sat down next to Chloe and Chloe switched seats with someone else?
Phillipa shook those thoughts out of her head. She always taught herself to look on the bright side of things. Maybe Chloe was just getting tutored or something, getting into trouble, or vandalizing the school (it wouldn't be the first time).
When she finally sat down to the right of Chloe's regular seat in the back left corner, her foot was violently tapping against the floor so much her peers sitting around her gave her weird looks. And she was biting her nails, and when she reminded herself to not do that, she bit the insides of her cheeks. She continuously glanced at the doorway to the class as she twirled her pink mechanical pencil in her hand. Eventually, she gave up, leaning back in her chair and opening her notebook to get a few extra minutes of studying for the test while she could. Chloe wasn't a stranger to skipping classes, so Phillipa wouldn't be surprised if she skipped this one, especially if it was to avoid seeing her. She expected one of three things to happen- Chloe sat next to Phillipa and ignored her, Chloe sat in a different seat away from Phillipa, or Chloe didn't arrive to class at all.
As she tugged the split ends of her hair, skimming her history notes as some calming indie-pop music played through her earbuds, Phillipa almost jumped out of her seat when someone plopped down in the seat next to hers and started talking to her.
"'Sup, Pip," Chloe Navin spoke, sinking into her chair and resting her arm on the gray counter behind her. Phillipa paused her music and took out her earbuds, staring at Chloe for a bit. Chloe peered at Phillipa with a raised brow.
"Oh! Hi. Sorry," Phillipa giggled. Chloe chuckled and focused her attention on the whiteboard again, reading over the rules for the assessment- her lips lipping words- before rolling her eyes, which Phillipa could now see were painted with a thin line of black liquid eyeliner. "Where were you at lunch?" Phillipa asked, trying to sound as casual as possible, though she was sure she sounded a little higher than average. Thankfully, Chloe didn't seem to notice, instead fixated on pulling out her pencils.
"Outside, I usually eat at the bleachers to draw. You caught me on one of my very rare indoor days yesterday," Chloe explained in her normal blunt tone, her voice deep and raspy.
"Oh. Is that allowed?" Phillipa asked, scrunching her brows. Chloe glanced at her with a ghost of a smirk on her face. She pressed her index finger against her lip as if to say 'Shh' before the bell rang and their history teacher- Mr. Feldman- stood up and began passing out the test, explaining the basic rules of cheating and turning it into the bin.
"As if we haven't gone over this a million times," Chloe muttered, glancing at her test with her wide nose scrunched. Phillipa snickered a bit. "By the way-" Chloe whispered as Mr. Feldman continued discussing the assessment- "what was that thing you wanted to tell me?"
Phillipa bit back a smile. Her throat got a little tight. "Uh, well, I was thinking. Winter break is in two days."
"So...you doing anything?"
Chloe gazed at Phillipa with her eyes narrowed as if suspicious of the blonde. "No..." she trailed off, though her quirked lip was slowly melting into a smile as if thinking the same thing Phillipa was but in a more devious way.
Phillipa shrugged. "So, you wanna do something?" Phillipa glanced at Chloe with her eyes wide and her eyebrows raised.
Chloe paused to make sure Mr. Feldman wasn't looking at them then turned back to Phillipa with a smirk. "If you're suggesting ditching this hell-hole and going on a shape-shifters-only vacation, count me in."
Phillipa couldn't bite back the smile this time. "Good."
Chloe nodded. "Good."
The rest of the class time was quiet, the type of quiet that on one hand was commanded but on the other was blissful.