The Desk Nearby
Cody Prewitt really didn't know what to expect when he started high school. More girls; different girls; cuter girls, maybe? Hopefully, there'd be a better selection than his small, Catholic K-through-8 primary school outside of Piedmont, California. So, he hadn't given much thought to the fact that people in general – not just the girls – were not the same as those at his previous school.
But this kid that sat next to him in half his classes – because it was the first seating chart of the academic year, and of course the teachers were too lazy to do something more original than alphabetical order – he took the cake when it came to weird.
This kid would spend his class periods gazing out the window, mumbling to himself, and occasionally scribbling notes in a spiral notebook. But the utter nonsense he recorded definitely didn't have anything to do with the class, Cody would know. Most of the time, Cody tried not to let the kid's weird antics distract him so he could take his own notes, and theirs never matched.
For the first two weeks, Cody wondered if the kid had ADHD or some other condition. He always looked distracted; his eyes never stayed stuck on one thing for more than a minute unless it was a book that had no connection to the curriculum. Or it could possibly be that he had issues with insomnia. Most of the time he came to school with heavy bags under his eyes; Cody could count the high school guys that drank coffee on one hand, and this dude was one. Asperger's was also a possibility. Cody wasn't seriously observing the kid or anything, but he hadn't seen him talking to anyone besides a pretty brown-haired girl with way too much energy.
It was possible Cody was hyping this up just a smidge too much. But his life did not boast of many excitements, so he had to make do with what he had.
The bell rang, jarring Cody from his musings. The kid in the desk nearby packed the superfluous books that he'd brought into his satchel and slung it over his should, careful not to disturb his curly brown hair. Maybe he had a phobia about things touching his head? Another possibility for the reason behind his constantly odd behavior; but it wasn't Cody's strongest theory yet.
The odd boy struck out, following the back of the pack of students but not getting close enough to get roughed up by the mass of bodies that was making its way to the cafeteria. Cody threw his stuff into his backpack and turned just in time to see the kid hang a left out the classroom door instead of right, towards the gym for lunch period. Strange, as per usual.
The accumulation of mystery upon mystery for the past two weeks prompted him to action. Slinging his book bag over his shoulder, Cody speed walked out of the classroom and turned left. The kid was half a hall in front of him, but Cody didn't feel like taking chances when he was already so far out of line. He ducked into the boys' bathroom and peeked through a crack in the door to see which way the boy would turn next. His parents had taught him better than this; spying on people was downright rude. His mom could probably think of some sort of appropriate punishment for him if she ever found out.
Cody ran – as quietly as he could – with his heart hammering inside of his ribcage. Oh gosh, it was so loud. The kid would probably hear him from half a mile away.
But that was unrealistic.
When Cody reached the corner where the kid had turned right, the swinging motion of the library doors caught his eye. So maybe he wasn't up to anything shady. But who would want to miss lunch for a book? Well, considering Cody was missing lunch due to this kid that was missing lunch for a book, he was technically missing lunch for a book via the transitive property. Cody let out a raspy sigh. This was dumb. But he had already come so far, may as well see what this kid was after in the library.
Cody eased his way into the library: a big quiet room with dusty shelves from floor to ceiling, providing perfect cover. The front desk was empty, with a sign indicating that the librarian had left for lunch break. So why would the kid choose now to come? He couldn't even check anything out! Moving slowly, eyes roving anxiously, Cody dove deeper into the mass of books. It was so much bigger than the library at his old school; it was kind of hard to believe that his class size had quadrupled despite the fact that this school was only ten miles from previous one.
The dry sound of flipping pages drew his attention once again. The kid was staring intently at a thick volume, just standing in the middle of an aisle. He made no move to sit and read or to go to the desk and try to check it out. Cody moved so that the kid wouldn't be able to see him in his peripheral vision and settled down to watch. If something interesting happened, Cody wasn't going to miss it.
A few minutes passed. The boy continued to read, stone still apart from his brown eyes flitting back and forth along the text and the occasional turn of a page. Cody's stomach growled. The muted sound of the library door opening filtered back to him through the mesh of books.
That girl: the cheerful, brown haired, weird one. Yeah, she wore really colorful sweaters and seemed to have some obsession with being the loudest individual in whatever class she was in. Cody didn't have any subjects with both of those strange students, but he had the odd coincidence of being the one to sit next to them in the ones they shared.
What was she doing here? How did she know that they'd be here?
"Dipper," She called, "Are you hiding out in here again."
"I'm not hiding out, Mabel." The statue kid mumbled in reply as the girl approached him.
"That's not what it looks like to all the other students, dum-dum." The girl – Mabel – chirped, "When I told my new friends that I had a twin, they all asked where you were."
Oh, that made sense. Cody probably should have seen the resemblance sooner. But, hey, he was a guy: not the most detail oriented of human beings. This conversation was sure to be enlightening.
"Hmmm, that's nice. Mabel, does this symbol look familiar to you."
Ignoring the sudden change of topic and taking the proffered volume, the girl tilted it up and squinted at the page. In that position, Cody was able to catch a glimpse of the binging. The title read: Cryptology in the Classics.
"I… guess. But Dipper, you're much better at these code things than me." She shot a look at her brother.
Distractedly, the kid flattened his hair on his forehead, "Yeah, usually. But my notes got messed up this morning when I fell asleep in my cereal and spilled milk everywhere."
"Now that's a reason to cry over spilled milk!" the girl gave a glittery, brace-face smile, consoling, "Not everything is as durable as your journal. That thing is laced with a buttload of magic."
"I didn't think it would be necessary to do the same thing with my notes," the boy wrung his hands, "And I'm still nervous about messing up an incantation to protect and spontaneously combusting them, or something equally as bazar."
The girl snapped the book shut and slapped the boy roughly on the back so that his breath wheezed out, "It was the symbol on the two o' clock of Bill's inter-dimensional circle. Does that help?"
"Yes." The kid rasped, hand on his chest, "Mabel, ugh, you were strong before, but karate seems to be doing you lots of favors."
The girl crossed her arms, giving off an air of pride, "I do one hundred kihones a day outside of regular practice. Next summer, I'll be able to single-handedly beat down as many zombies as you can summon."
A grin crept its way onto the boy's face, "You wanna bet, Mabel? Magic grows stronger too, and the more I understand it, the more refined and efficient I can make the spells."
"We don't need a bet," the girl got right in the kid's face, "Grunkle Stan can hold a competition at the Mystery Shack. Winner gets seventy-five percent of the revenue and the rest goes to the shop. I'm gonna get my dream hamster ball by next June."
"You're on." The kid took the tome back and slid it into the place on the shelves, "Too bad summer's so far away though." He sighed, "Mom and dad don't like me practicing in the house."
"They don't mind me, though!" The girl cheered, mock-punching the air, only shades from the boy's face. He didn't even flinch.
"I don't think you're any less destructive than I am." His tone had taken a long-suffering quality.
"So, Dip," the girl chirped, throwing an arm around his shoulder as they started to walk, "Do you want to sit with me and my friends or are you gonna sit with some of your own?"
"Mabel, please don't forget who you're talking to here."
"That's right," her loud voice carried through the library, but nonetheless, it was fading, "'I'm talking to Mr. McGrumpy-pants, who's had two weeks of glorious high school life and hasn't managed to even make so much as an acquaintance."
"Well, if it's any consolation, I do have a stalker." The boy's steady voice was matter-of-fact.
"Hah! Now that was a funny joke, bro-bro! C'mon, let's go tell my buds about some mystery twins' adventures!"
The library doors swung shut, muting the final sounds of the boy's complaining, leaving Cody to his thoughts. The foremost of them being: What the heck was that?
Out of context, it was a jumble of nonsense.
Though, as far as Cody knew, that Dipper kid didn't have a stalker.
A few days later, when their class received their first test beck, Cody glanced at Dipper's to compare scores. The lanky, brown-haired boy caught him staring and gave him a conspiratorial wink. At that instant, Cody realized that Dipper was a lot smarter than Cody had originally given him credit for. And just to play it safe, he stayed out of the kid's business in case hexes were a thing.