Mike finally parted from a long lingering kiss with El. He didn't want to, kissing El at their lockers every morning was one of his favourite things to do to get his day started. And now they were late for their separate classes.
"You look tired, El, you sleeping ok?"
"I'm fine, Mike" she said walking a way blowing him a kiss and giving him a smile that lightened his heart, "a bit of an Upside Down spoon, but that's it. I'm ok, really."
He waggled his fingers at her, and let her go off to class. He wasn't quite sure what she had meant.
He'd spent all of his morning time kissing El, and hadn't gotten any of his own books together.
He rushed off to his first class. El was only in two classes of his this year, Mr. Clarke's earth class and English. Mike was super relieved to be in this class together. English wasn't his favourite subject by far, but he did have a flare for it. He knew that El was going to struggle in this class and he he wanted to be there to support her every way he could.
He'd made it a point to meet with the English teacher well before the school year had started. He didn't give her a lot of details, but enough so teacher would avoid putting El in an embarrassing situation during the class.
Mike's heart was always in the right place when it came to Eleven. What he didn't know was that El's vocabulary far surpassed his own, and she tried very hard not to embarrass Mike in that same class with her English skills.
Eleven's heart was also always in the right place when it came to Mike. She would rather be publicly shamed than make Mike feel bad in English class or anywhere for that matter.
Mr. Clarke's class was fascinating as usual. Mike always enjoyed his class, but getting El as his lab partner had been icing on the cake. He got to sit next to a pretty girl, who was not only smart and curious, two attributes that Mr. Clarke liked in all his students, but she was also his girlfriend. Mike had to refrain from kissing her every time he looked into her eyes. That was the toughest part of the day for him. Everyday.
The class ended way too soon, El gave him a quick kiss, and said, "I'll see you for dinosaur."
What the heck did that mean?
Mike sat at the Party table, Lucas sat close to Max once again. Ever since she had agreed to go out with him, they had been inseparable. They had every class together. Lucky.
El showed up and completed the group. "Ugh, I'm going to have a ton of homework tonight. But at least I get to spend an hour with my boyfriend. I love dinosaur."
"El, did you just say dinosaur?"
Dustin said, "she did Mike, what's wrong with that?"
Mike blinked. "Dinosaur?"
El frowned, "what's wrong Mike, you suddenly don't like dinosaur anymore?"
MIke was really confused. "Dinosaur?!"
Dustin and Lucas looked at each other and shrugged, Dustin said,. "we all like eating dinosaur, Mike" Dustin gestured towards everyone's lunches, "you're being weird today."
Mike shook his head, "I'm being weird, you guys are all talking about eating dinosaur, the word is lunch Dustin, lunch, not 'dinosaur' "
The Party stared at MIke, and then El in her soft voice, "are you ok Mike? You're starting to talk funny. It's dinosaur Mike. We meet every day for dinsoaur, not lunch."
Mike looked at his girlfriend. He wasn't mad, he was a little frustrated, he tried some logic, "ok, then, what is lunch?"
El looked over worriedly at Dustin, Lucas and Max. She looked back at Mike, "it's a colour Mike, a very light shade of red. Lunch."
"I have to leave early prep for my biology class, Mike" El said, she leaned in and gave him a firm kiss. "We can skip English if you want and go for a walk, clear our heads?"
"That would be great El, thanks. I love you." It was the first time he'd said that aloud in front of their friends. It felt very good. El kissed him again, this time with with a bit more intensity, "I love you too, everything about you. You're so Gentle."
She got up and left them at the table.
"Ok, that is one of the stranger conversations we've had a lunch." Dustin said.
"So it's lunch again is it?" Mike said, bewildered.
"What's lunch again?" Max said.
"What we do here, in this room, we are no longer eating dinosaur?"
"Ok, now we are back to the strange conversation again, Mike, why would we be eating an animal that's been extinct for sixty-five million years?"
Mike looked back and forth to them slowly nodding. "Ok, Ok, I get it. I'll give you guys this one, that's one of the more clever pranks you've pulled in a while. I suppose you're going to tell me that lunch is not a colour anymore?"
"Lunch has never been a colour, it's something you eat. Ok, technically you could eat a dinosaur, but I'm pretty sure lunch lady Phyllis would give you a death stare if you asked for it. She doesn't have much of a sense of humour. Believe me, I've tried to get her to smile. I gave up on getting her to laugh." Dustin gave Mike his patented grin.
"So lunch is not a really light shade of red?"
Max looked at him, "Pink might be considered a really light shade of red, but lunch is still something you eat."
Mike shook his head.
Later he was relieved to see El at their lockers, waiting for him.
"I don't know what how I'm going to out do those guys, with this one. They went all out."
"So the rest of dinosaur went ok, Gentle?
Mike broke into a cold sweat, staring at her.
She called him 'gentle' with the same tone of voice she used for his name.
"Unh uh, the jig is up El, I know about the prank." He gave her a quick kiss.
"Prank? What do pranks in the forest have to do with dinosaur today?"
"El, you're not making any sense. Are you sure you're ok?"
"Gentle, I'm fine. Let's go for a walk, I think you need some air."
MIke was really worried, about El. If he didn't know any better it sounded like she'd had suffered a brain injury. Maybe an after affect of spending too much time in the Upside Down? But that didn't account for the weird conversation at lunch. No way the guys would have made fun of El if she'd had a brain injury. And no way Mike wouldn't have known before now, it had to be something that happened to her recently. It had to be something.
They held hands, and walked away from the school, keeping to less public places so adults wouldn't notice them out of school.
Mike bit his lip not correcting her, "You'd tell me if something was wrong with you right? You wouldn't keep it a secret?"
"Friends Don't Lie, Gentle. You taught me that. I would never lie to you. I love you, I wouldn't want any lie to get in the way of that not even by accident." She gave him a soft kiss. "I would never lie to you."
"Thanks, El, I can handle anything as long as you love me."
"Gentle, that is never going to change."