Fic exchange fic #2, ahoy. This one is for one mister ewisko. Your prompt was to surprise you, and while it's up to you whether I succeeded or not, I hope you like it either way, bro!
Exchanging schools was pretty difficult.
Exchanging schools in the middle of the school year was pretty freaking difficult.
Exchanging schools in the middle of the school year as a small, awkward, nerdy kid was borderline impossible, as Cody learned when a move forced him to attend a brand new high school, just as he had started to fit in at his old school. Sort of.
No matter how much progress he may or may not have made, he had to learn how to adjust to his new surroundings, but doing that depended on whether his surroundings were willing to learn how to adjust to him.
The day he started attending classes, he had many eyes on him, as everyone was trying to scope out this new kid and see if he was someone anyone wanted to interact with. The answer came quickly when he started trying to act far cooler than he actually was. Sensing a fresh start, Cody tried his best to put on his coolest air, walking through the halls with his chest puffed out, his head held high, and a cheesy grin on his face, all accompanied by the winks and finger guns he pointed at anyone he noticed looking at him.
It was a fast way for most people to learn that they didn't want to associate with him. Strangely enough, though, the first person to properly interact with him was the last person anyone expected to.
The clique of popular girls that was basically required for all high schools to have kept a particularly close eye on this boy, sensing an easy target on his back. His tough guy act only confirmed this fact, and the first attack was launched as early as the third time he had seen the halls. As he walked, pretending to be cool and casual with his backpack slung over one shoulder, an elbow "accidentally" found itself bumping into his pack, sending it plummeting from his arm and onto the floor, spilling large textbooks, one D&D manual, and a couple dice of definitely too many sides.
"Ack!" His squeal was met with muffled giggles from the girls as he scrambled to pick up his supplies, shoving them into his backpack and hoping no one had heard his cry. As soon as his bag was zipped back up, he shot to his feet and coughed into his hand, trying to regain his false composure.
Cody shot off, and once he was out of earshot, the girl that stray elbow belonged to doubled over in laughter. "Oh, geeze, what a dork! Was that a Dungeons and Dragons book? Oh my god, he is so not fooling anyone." She righted herself and brushed a strand of blonde hair out of her face, the laughter having passed for now.
"What even is Dungeons and Dragons?" The other blonde member of the clique asked.
The third member of the trio shook her head. "Oh, sweet, naive Lindsay. I truly envy that you don't know what that is. You should definitely keep it that way."
"How much of it do you know, Heather?" The first girl spat accusingly.
Heather rolled her eyes. "Oh shove it, Amy. My dork little brother is way into it, obviously. You know this. Besides, how do you know what it is?"
Amy crossed her arms indignantly. "Oh please, every boy who has ever tried to hit on me ever has brought up that dumb game at one point or another. It's not exactly a secret or anything."
"I'm still confused," Lindsay said in that trademark high-pitched voice that guys couldn't resist.
"It's better that way," Heather said reassuringly.
"Hey, who wants to make a bet?" Amy asked as the trio got moving. "Because I bet that boy is gonna make friends with the absolute grossest nerds in school, and they're gonna ruin his cool guy image before it can even be made."
Heather scoffed. "I'll take you up on that bet, because I bet nobody's even gonna talk to the little egghead all day."
Amy raised an eyebrow at the challenge. "Oh, you are so on. What are we betting?"
After a moment of thought, Lindsay's eyes widened with an idea. "Whoever loses has to be his friend!" After Amy and Heather both recoiled at the thought, her expression fell. "What...bad idea?"
"I think you're on the right track, though," Amy said, thinking of a far more humiliating idea. "Alright. Whoever loses has to give him a kiss!"
"Excuse me?" Heather shook her head at the proposal as if she had been hearing things.
Amy's smirk grew. "You heard me. Loser has to plant a smooch right on egghead. Loser never has to talk to him again, but lip contact must be made!"
Heather put on a smirk. "I can't wait to watch you kiss him right on his nerdy, chapped lips."
Amy stumbled over her words for a moment before finally forming a response. "Er, no! Loser can kiss his cheek or whatever. I'm not tainting my lips."
Heather barked a laugh and offered Amy her hand. "Alright then. You have a deal." After a handshake, the trio went back to watching Cody, this time watching closer because a bet was at stake.
Unfortunately, lunch that day brought the bet to an end that made the loser grimace in disgust.
Cody sat alone at lunch, poking at his food and taking the occasional look around to see if anybody would give him a passing glance. From their table, Amy snickered. "I can't believe that dork tried to chat up Gwen last period."
"Doesn't she have a boyfriend?" Lindsay asked.
Heather scoffed. "As if it matters. Either way, he has terrible taste in women to think Gwen's worth the effort to talk to."
Before Amy could respond, silence fell over the group as someone approached Cody's table. The strange boy hobbled over and waved a hand timidly in Cody's direction. "Oh, is Heather about lose the bet?" Amy asked with a teasing tone.
Heather scoffed once more and shook her head. "Oh, please, don't go jumping to conclusions yet. It's physically impossible for Homeschool to make friends and we all know it."
"Uh, hey dude," Cody said to his visitor. "What's up?"
The boy glanced to the ceiling before wincing at an earlier memory and shaking his head. "Er, nothin's up. I was wond'rin' if I could sit with the new kid, eh?"
Cody motioned at the empty seats around him. "Well, nobody else is gonna, so feel free."
The boy mumbled a thanks before sitting across from Cody and pulling food from the shabby brown paper bag he had with him. "By the way, my name's Ezekiel, but you can call me Zeke, eh?"
"Good to meetcha, Zeke," Cody greeted. "I'm Cody, but you can call me Codemei...er, Cody. Just call me Cody."
Ezekiel nodded and took a bite of his apple. Once he had swallowed his bite, he struck up a conversation that the girls couldn't be bothered to even try to listen in on, because it was probably some pointless, stupid nerd shit. The point was that lunch ended with Ezekiel and Cody nodding at each other with smiles and offers of seeing each other around, which elicited a cheer from Amy.
"Aw, yeah! Guess who just lost herself a bet?" Heather had to fight the urge to vomit, instead opting to rest her head on the table and mumble curses under her breath. Amy stood and stretched, saying her next singsong sentence as if it were a casual conversation. "You have to do it before he leaves the building for the day or else I'm ruining your life on Facebook later."
Heather groaned loudly, communicating that she heard loud and clear.
It took a number of class periods before Heather worked up the courage to fulfill her losing end of the bet. The hardest part was finding a time and a place to do it without attracting the attention of, well, everyone. Fortunately, that time came one passing period that found Cody wandering the less frequented halls of the school, which, coincidentally (or not), were right near the music and art rooms. Heather approached him and tapped his shoulder lightly, causing him to jump and whirl around. When he saw that he was being approached by a tall, hot, unfamiliar girl, his face flushed a bit as he put on a confused look. "Er, hey there?"
"You look lost, there," Heather said in the most gut-wrenchingly sweet voice she could muster.
"Er, I-I mean, I guess I am?" Cody stuttered, looking at a paper in his hands. "My schedule says I need to be in room 307, but I can't seem to, uh, find it anywhere. I was doing so well finding the rooms too, but I guess the last class of the day is gonna get me..." He seemed to have forgotten the cool guy charade was ever a thing in the presence of his beautiful new companion.
Heather snatched the paper from his hands and took a good look at it, making sure he didn't share any of her classes. She was relieved to see that no, he indeed did not, and on top of that, the last class of the day was one he couldn't talk much in, so he wouldn't be blathering about this to anybody. Perfect. She put on a false contemplative face and hummed. "Oh! I know what your problem is," she said, still putting on the sickly sweet voice. "Your room is just around the corner there!" She pointed him in the right direction and he nodded.
As she gave him his schedule back, he seemed to remember the stunt he'd been pulling all day. "So, uh," he started in his pseudo-suave voice. "Am I gonna see you there, or...?"
Fighting the urge to vomit a little bit, Heather giggled the fakest giggle she could imagine. Instead of answering his question, she leaned down and gave Cody a smooch right on his left cheek just as the bell was ringing telling everyone to get back into class. Without waiting for a reaction, Heather turned and bolted, leaving the nerd to stare into space with a beet-red face. As soon as she rounded the nearest corner, Amy joined her on their mad dash to class. "I'm glad you saw that, because I am not doing it again," Heather said.
Amy sighed in response. "Yeah yeah, I saw. I just couldn't get a picture because you did it so fast. Pansy."
"Of course you were gonna take a picture," Heather snapped, disgust in her voice.
That interaction was the last time Heather ever planned on interacting with Cody, but as fate would have it, different events were meant to unfold for those two.
For the next few days, Heather's plan seemed to be going fine. Her clique seemed to have lost interest in Cody, and he was keeping his distance from her and would blush wildly if he managed to catch sight of her. It wasn't until a week after the kiss (if one could even call it that) that Heather had to interact with Cody again, and it came during lunch on the one day that Amy and Sierra both missed school. Seeing she was at an empty table, Cody nervously approached Heather and coughed to get her attention. "What do you want?" Heather asked, only feeling slightly guilty about her tone, which caused Cody to shrink back a bit.
Cody cleared his throat once again and took a seat as far away from Heather as he could manage while still sitting at the same table. "I, uh, wanted to as you a question real quick. And then I'll be out of your hair. Promise." Heather rolled her eyes and prompted him to continue, which he did after a moment of looking nervously at his food.
Which, unfortunately, was another moment of them being at the same table, which was another moment that someone could get the wrong idea.
"I just wanted to ask you about that thing you did...you know," Cody said, face heating up at the memory.
Heather nodded along internally pleading for him not to actually say it. "Yeah, that. That was a one time deal, so don't be getting any ideas, alright? Don't worry about it, because it won't be happening again."
"Er, okay," Cody said, quickly picking up his things and scurrying from the table like a field mouse.
Heather didn't even have time to hope that nobody had seen before suddenly being joined by a second unwelcome visitor. "Hey! What were you and Cody talking about, hm?" The shrill voice asked.
"Ugh, go away Sierra," Heather groaned. "I don't feel like dealing with you today."
Sierra threw her head back and laughed, "oh, you're such a riot! Now come on, spill all the juicy deets. What were you talking to Cody about?"
If Heather told the truth to the biggest gossip monger in the school, she was never going live what she did down, but she couldn't very well be coy about it either, so she made something up. "He was asking me what we had for homework in...one of our classes."
Sierra put a finger to her chin, contemplating the answer that was delivered without a trace of doubt. "Huh, I didn't know you two shared any classes. And here I thought I knew of everyone he had a class with. Sloppy, Sierra, sloppy!"
Heather raised an eyebrow. "Why do you care what the egghead does?"
Sierra gasped, "how dare you! Cody is adorable and precious and I have to know everything about him before I ask him out! He'll be so impressed that I already know everything that he'll love me on the spot!"
Taking a deep breath, Heather decided not to comment, instead saying, "goodbye, Sierra."
Having distracted herself, Sierra left without another word (to Heather, anyway) and finally allowed Heather to have a peaceful lunch without interruptions and, with any luck, live the rest of her life without interacting with Cody again.
This was not going to be the case.
Through some stroke of luck (or creepy stalking), Cody managed to get a hold of one of Heather's social media accounts, as evidenced by the notification stating that he wished to be friends. This was exactly the type of request that Heather usually ignored, so she planned on doing exactly that. However, not long after the initial request was sent, she received a second notification. "How desperate is he?" She wondered to herself. Instead of a second friend request like she was expecting, it seemed that Cody had sent her a private message to go with the request. What she was expecting to be an explanation as to why she should accept his dumb request turned out to be a...cry for help? The surprises just kept coming, which intrigued her just enough to send a message in response asking what kind of help Cody could possibly need from her.
What she got in response was an incredibly detailed explanation of the situation. Apparently, Cody's family from out of state was visiting and, to save the onslaught of questions about why he was still single, he wanted Heather to pretend to be his girlfriend for the weekend. According to the egghead, Heather was the only girl in the entire school he'd spoken to before, so he didn't know who else to ask. "Why don't you ask Sierra?" was Heather's one question about the situation.
Cody replied, "who's Sierra?"
"Oh great, so that's the kind of stalking Sierra's doing," Heather muttered to herself before typing out a response. "But wait, wouldn't you have to suffer through a million questions either way?"
Cody's immediate response was, "Nah, because they'll be asking you all those questions instead."
"Well, when you put it that way, no! I'm not taking the bullet for you at your own family reunion." That sassy response rendered Cody silent, so Heather assume the conversation was over then.
Oh how much the world loved proving her wrong. After about an hour passed, her phone lit up with another notification, this one being a message from Cody saying simply, "I have an idea."
Her frustration was almost enough to lob her phone across the room, but since it was expensive, she resisted. "What is it? If it's not good I'm going to bed and you're fucked."
"...But it's only six thirty?"
"Out with it!"
Cody's reply came so fast it seemed like he had typed it out ahead of time and pasted it into the box. "Why don't you walk me out to my parent's car tomorrow (yeah yeah, don't have my permit yet, whatever) and only pretend while we're there? You don't have to do anything else all day, and I swear I'll make it up to you."
After considering the proposition and going through the logistics of doing that without getting seen by anyone, Heather finally sighed and typed some of the most painful words she'd ever have to type: "Alright, fine. But just this once! I don't know what I want in return but it'll be steep. I'll walk you to your car when as many people have left as possible."
The thank yous she got in response were the end of that conversation, and now the only thing left to do was make sure the one person she couldn't avoid getting spotted by wouldn't open her big mouth.
Lunch that day meant leaving a confused Amy and Lindsay to seek out one very special stalker.
When she had Sierra somewhere they wouldn't be overheard, Heather put on her most menacing voice. "Listen, nerdette, I'm doing Cody a favor later today, and I need you to keep your mouth shut about what you see, okay? Don't tell a soul you saw us together, and I'll make it worth your while."
After her attempts at asking for elaboration were silenced, Sierra crossed her arms. "Okay, what's in it for me?"
Heather's answer came without missing a beat. "Cody will do anything for me in return for doing this favor, so I'll put in a good word for you."
The last word fell on deaf ears, as Sierra squealed and agreed to Heather's terms before running off to do...whatever.
Now it was only a matter of actually doing the favor. It was a long while before enough people had cleared out that Heather felt confident even being in the same vicinity as Cody, so the time before then was spent in a spot nobody would find her. When she heard Cody's voice just outside the door of her hiding place calling her name, she bit her lips, cursed under her breath, and quickly pulled Cody into the room with her. It was a tight squeeze, but the two managed to fit in the room together despite Cody's large egghead. "What the...?"
Heather put a finger to her lips. "We're waiting until everyone's gone, got it?"
"In the janitor's closet?" Cody asked. "This doesn't seem like the best place to hide."
Heather scoffed and put on a knowing smirk. "The janitors in this school don't do their jobs. This is the perfect hiding place." Cody took her word for it and the two started patiently waiting for the perfect time to leave the school. A few attempts at awkward small talk were made, but the conversations always ended before they could get started. Once the time had come, the two came out of the supply closet, ventured out of the school walking much closer to each other than Heather felt comfortable with. Finally, they reached a small car with a woman and a man who looked at Heather with raised eyebrows. "Oh, hey, mom and...dad? Why're you both here?" Cody asked after a window had been rolled down.
"We're picking your aunt up from the airport right away, so we both came," his mother explained.
Cody bit his lip and started kicking the ground nervously. "Heh, so I guess it's not cool that I made you wait, huh?"
His dad laughed and shook his head. "No, this is fine! We've still got some time to kill." He then narrowed his eyes at Heather. "Speaking of killing time, who's this?"
Cody awkwardly gestured to his companion, who shrank back a bit, regretting this decision and everything about it. "Er, this is my, uh...girlfriend."
The gasp coming from inside the car was enough to drown out any continuation of the sentence (though there was none). After some awkward and bizarrely specific introductions were made (no, Heather did not want to know Cody's dad's middle name), Cody said it was time to stop dilly-dallying and climbed into the car. Heather bid him farewell in the cutest voice she could fake and watched them leave the mostly empty parking lot. Once they were gone, she bolted for her car, wishing to leave as soon as possible. "How did I get dragged into this," she grumbled to herself. "Amy should have done that dare and been asked to do this stupid charade, not me."
Later that night, Heather had nearly forgotten the entire situation until her phone lit up with another message from that social media account (that she still hadn't actually added Cody on). "Bad news, my aunt wants to meet you too, so do you think we could do the same thing again tomorrow?"
Heather groaned and buried her face in her hands. "What did I do to deserve this?"
The next day after school found Heather and Cody in the exact same room as the day before, waiting patiently for the halls to clear out. At one point, Cody cleared his throat and pulled his phone out. "So, er, they...might wanna take a picture."
Heather's eyes widened and she immediately said, "no."
Cody nodded. "I know you were gonna say that, so I had an idea. We can take a picture on my phone and I can show them that."
Heather crossed her arms, not pleased with this idea. "How do I know you're not going to just post it all over the internet anyway?"
Cody put the hand holding his phone over his heart and held his other hand in the air. "I swear on my life I'll delete it the moment this whole, multi-day family reunion is over."
Heather sighed and shook her head. "Fine. But only one picture! And you'll just have to deal with this closet's bad lighting."
Cody nodded. "Alright, I can do that. I'll find a good angle."
It was seconds before Heather forgot entirely that a good angle didn't matter in the dim lighting, because Cody immediately found the perfect angle and arranged both of them so perfectly that one couldn't even tell the selfie was taken under poor lighting in a shitty little closet. Heather could barely believe she was looking at a picture that was just taken and not photoshopped or anything. "Wow, that's...actually pretty good."
Cody shrugged and put his phone away after tapping to save the picture. "I'm pretty okay at taking pictures, I guess. No big deal."
Heather shrugged. "If you say so, I guess. You should definitely look into the yearbook planning...whatever it is. A club? Committee?"
Cody nodded. "Yeah, I get what you mean. But wow, do you mean it?"
Heather nodded. "Oh yeah, that's pretty good considering. It's almost sad it's going to get deleted very soon." Then her expression hardened. "...Almost."
Cody laughed and leaned against the door, trying to be cool again. "Well, thanks. Maybe I can look into that." In his endeavor to seem somewhat cool for once in his life, his shoulder turned the doorknob just enough to unlatch the door, which sent him sprawling to the ground in the hallway with a high-pitched squeal. Nobody was around to see, which was a relief for Cody, but Heather couldn't care less right that moment, as the blunder caused her to double over in laughter.
Strangely for her, the laughter wasn't malicious or ill-intended, like it usually was when she laughed at someone. In fact, when Cody joined in the laughter, it felt as if she was laughing with him instead, which was a bizarre feeling that she, of course, had to suppress as much as possible.
The trip to the car only made things worse. Cody's aunt was predictably losing her mind fawning over Cody's gorgeous new "girlfriend," so the two spent a good amount of time standing outside that car awkwardly listening to her rambling. Thankfully, Cody managed to convince her not to take any pictures.
But at what cost.
When Cody had had enough of his aunt's giddiness, he started climbing into the car, ushering his mom to take him home. Unfortunately, his aunt was not having that. "Aw, you should at least say bye to your girlfriend, can't you?"
"Er, bye Heather?"
"No, no, not like that! Say goodbye like a good boyfriend does."
Heather's stomach sank as Cody said, "How is that...?"
"Duh, plant a kiss on her, boy!" Heather felt like fainting, but she held it together. She did it once, so surely she could again, right? She leaned down, presenting her cheek for Cody to peck, but his obnoxious aunt opened her mouth again. "Go for the lips! What are you, ten?"
Heather could have thrown up right there, but she didn't want to make this a bigger deal than it was, so she had to do it. Surely one kiss wouldn't hurt, right?
Except that it was probably his first kiss and he would remember it for the rest of his life.
And it was her first kiss since middle school.
Damn it, this was gonna be a big deal.
Against the wishes of literally every muscle in her body, Heather leaned down and hesitantly locked lips with Cody. It was the quickest kiss imaginable, as she pulled back the second the sensation (and the sound of a distant scream) registered in her brain. "See ya, nice to meet you or whatever!" She called as she turned and ran for her car as fast as she could. She slammed the door and buried her face in her hands miserably. "I'm going to burn my lips off," she mumbled.
That night was spent doing everything she could to wash the experience from her brain, but making no progress.
Finally, she stared at that unanswered friend request on her phone, contemplating the actually enjoyable experience she had before the kiss happened. She was going to regret it, but (after making sure nobody she was friends with could see) she added him as a friend at last. She still had no intention of talking to him ever again, but it was the least she could do.
A few days later, she had one last message from Cody before he stopped bothering her. It was an edited picture of her, taken from the selfie they took in that closet together. He said he remembered how much she liked it, so he cropped himself out and sent her the non-incriminating version as thanks for taking that lip-shaped bullet for him.
That picture became Heather's picture on that site for the next few months.
When the end of the year came and the yearbook was released, Heather was not surprised at all to see Cody's name included in the section talking about who all went through the painstaking work of putting the book together. That was one of the few ways he kept showing up in her life despite not really being a part of it, and all those instances would lead to years of "what if" questions they both asked themselves, which in turn would eventually lead to a school reunion several years down the road in which long buried feelings would be awkwardly confessed through hysterical, confused tears.
But that's another story entirely.