Mr. Galloway's mood had improved considerably since the morning. The art class had gone very well, according to all reports. No major fighting, no mass rebellion, no children running off into the woods and getting eaten by wolves...
Okay, so things hadn't gone perfectly. Half the sketches that had been handed in to Ms. Philips were surprisingly detailed drawings of penises and a few of the boys had spent their time using pencils and rolled-up paper from their sketchbooks to make makeshift blow-darts, but that was pretty well-behaved for Bullworth. Besides, that pencil mark on Sheldon's head would fade with time.
Anyway, now it was time for the hike! This was exactly what the students needed: a brisk, energising hike to blow off some steam. It would be good for them, he decided. A real adventure. After all, what teenager these days didn't want to be part of a stalwart band of friends on a mission to conquer the very forces of nature?
Mr. Galloway sighed gloomily. Ugh. Who was he trying to kid?
His mood recovered slightly as Ms. Philips' arm curled around his waist and she gifted him with one of her brightest smiles. "Are you all set up and ready to go, Gally-bear?"
"Certainly," he replied, quickly opening his rucksack for a final check. "Compass, water, map... Yes. I think that's everything."
"You forgot one thing," Ms. Philips crooned, leaning over and planting a red-lipsticked kiss on his cheek. "For luck. Have fun! I'll see you when you get back. Don't be out too late."
Suddenly, Mr. Galloway was very aware of how beautifully bright the sunshine was. "Oh. Well, yes. Um. See you then, dear."
"Gather round, girls - look! Aren't these flowers pretty?"
Sighing despondently, Beatrice followed Mrs. Peabody's instructions and went to examine the flowers. She had to conclude that no, they were not pretty. They were tired, sad-looking, half-dead weeds. How appropriate.
Usually she was quite enthusiastic about botanical matters - that kind of thing was related to biology, after all, which was one of her favourite lessons - but today she was finding it hard to muster any interest at all. She was trying, really! She was just so tired...
Spending the night in a tent with Eunice had been even more dreadful than she could possibly have anticipated. Eunice didn't just snore, oh no. She made loud, obnoxious snorting noises that sounded like an elephant with a head-cold. Plus, she'd stayed up half the night wanting to talk. That would have been tolerable if she'd had any topics of conversation that weren't related to Jimmy Hopkins. Or chocolates. Or Jimmy covered in chocolate. Beatrice could understand Eunice's enthusiasm, obviously, but there were some things she simply didn't want to hear about!
...Not while Jimmy was sharing a tent with that Gord boy, anyway.
There was no escaping Eunice through the day, either. Beatrice had been looking forward to hiking through the forest with her fellow astronomy club members, but it wasn't to be. Mrs. Peabody had taken charge of the girls and announced that they would be going on their own walk. Zoe Taylor had kicked up a fuss - she claimed to be offended by how sexist it was for them to be separated from the boys, but Beatrice thought that the redhead just liked being argumentative.
Apart from that, none of the other girls seemed too bothered by the situation. Mainly, Beatrice thought guiltily, because they weren't stuck with Eunice. She sighed unhappily - how had she managed to spend so many years in school without making any female friends? Alright, Angie was usually passably civil to her when Christy wasn't around... But that was all. It was quite a depressing thing to realise. It wasn't as though she was like Lola, who steadily alienated the other girls with her promiscuity. Quite the opposite in fact, seeing as Beatrice only had eyes for Jimmy and Jimmy was, well...
Spending time with Gord. Best not to think about that too much.
With an angst-ridden sigh, Beatrice glanced down at her watch. Wonderful. They'd only been on the walk for fifteen minutes and she was already lonely and bored on a level she'd never been before. Gosh, she would simply die if she didn't have a decent conversation soon...
"Man." Zoe's voice snapped her out of her introspection. She was scowling at the flowers that Mrs. Peabody had pointed out - apparently feeling as unimpressed as Beatrice was. "Flowers? Ugh. This is so boring. What I wouldn't give for a decent conversation around here!" She turned towards Beatrice, who was now staring at her in considerable surprise. "Yeah? What're you looking at?"
Still mildly unnerved by how Zoe's words had echoed her own thoughts, Beatrice shook herself slightly. "Nothing."
Zoe raised an eyebrow. "Right. I get it."
Get what? "I don't know what you mean," Beatrice said coldly. "So I—"
"I know that look," Zoe interrupted. "You think you're better than me. Like I can't possibly know what a good conversation is, because no chat is worth having if it's not sprinkled with big words and obscure facts about the life cycle of insects. Right?"
"No!" protested Beatrice. Though now she was somewhat curious - what did girls like Zoe enjoy talking about? She couldn't quite imagine. Judging from the calculating look on Zoe's face, she was thinking similar things about her.
"Go on, then," Zoe said suddenly. "Converse with me. Unless you were busy talking to Eunice or something..."
Well. This was indeed a surprising development. Beatrice had a brief internal struggle in which her dislike of everything Zoe represented battled against her boredom. Curiosity and her aversion to dreary, lonesome walks quickly won out. But what to talk about?
"Well, er..." She cleared her throat nervously. "Um. Read any good books, lately?"
Hiking, Derby decided, was yet another activity that had now made it onto his List Of Things That Only Poor People Should Do, Ever, Under Any Circumstances. He was tired. He was frustrated. He was bored. He was sick of Tad's constant bloody whining.
"...And my shoes are ruined. Ruined. These are this season's Aquaberry loafers," Tad wailed, wiggling his foot in the air mournfully. "I had better be fully compensated for this!"
Derby briefly wondered if it would be worth the scandal if he just murdered Tad right there and then. Really, no court in the world would ever convict him. It would practically be self-defense; everyone knew that you could die from a protracted case of being whinged at.
Then again, killing him would take some level of effort. Screw it.
"You have money. Just buy a new pair," growled Derby. "Damn it, Spencer, you're acting like a poor person."
"Besides," Gord piped up, still displaying the same irritating level of peppiness that he'd shown that morning, "those are from last season. I recognise the stitching. This season's design has a darling little 'A' embroidered on the heel, and the laces are an ever-so-slightly different shade of periwinkle..." He trailed off nervously as he met Derby's eyes. "I, ah. Sorry, Derby."
Gord scurried off, presumably to join Hopkins' little crew. After a moment's pause, Tad resumed his complaining, now declaring that his shoes were vintage and impossible to replace. Perhaps murder was a viable solution... Clenching his teeth resolutely, Derby kept on walking.
Sometimes, being privileged didn't seem like that much of a privilege at all.
Gary was confused.
It was quite a novel experience for him, actually. Being a debatably-evil genius with a knack for knowing everything about everyone meant that there simply weren't many opportunities for him to feel confusion. That was Jimmy's thing. But right now, Gary had to admit that he was genuinely bewildered. Petey was being... well, weird. And not in his usual way, either.
In an attempt to test Petey's new-found weirdness, Gary picked up a pine-cone from the ground, took aim and threw it at the boy's head. "Oops - sorry, Pete," he said, adopting his patented I'm-Not-Actually-Sorry-At-All smirk. "My hand slipped!"
Petey smiled mildly and rubbed the spot where the pine-cone had struck him. "Oh, um, that's okay. Don't worry about it."
Weirdness: confirmed. Gary threw another one, this time in full view of Petey without even trying to hide his intent. "Sorry again! Man, I'm so clumsy today!"
"Haha, uh, right. Nice aim."
Hmm. Something was very, very wrong here. Further tests were definitely required. "Petey?"
"How does it feel?"
Petey's brow furrowed slightly. "How does what feel?"
Gary waved a hand airily. "You know. Being a girl trapped in a boy's body. A weedy little puny short-assed femme-boy's body, but a boy's nonetheless. Barely."
"It feels fine, I guess," Petey shrugged.
Jimmy took the opportunity to nudge Gary in the ribs as he walked past him. "Hey, Gary. So, do you do a lot of thinking about what it's like to be inside Petey's body? I knew it."
The ground seemed to shift beneath Gary's feet as a wave of dizzying nausea washed over him. He stopped dead in his tracks, no longer trusting in his own ability to move. This was all wrong. Petey wasn't reacting to his insults. Jimmy - the same Jimmy who'd been fucking the school's biggest manslut a mere matter of hours ago - had just made a 'hurr hurr, you're gay' joke at his expense.
What the hell was going on?
"—ou alright? Hello? Gary? Mr. Smith?"
The world snapped back into focus with a jolt. Gary was mildly surprised to see Mr. Galloway leaning down and looking into his face. "Huh?"
"I asked if you were alright," the teacher frowned, straightening up. "You, uh, look kind of pale. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea..."
"I'm fine." Gary meant to sound condescending, dismissive - instead his voice came out in a weak little whimper. Great. As if things weren't fucked up enough, he now had Galloway clucking over him like a fussy mother hen.
Mr. Galloway shook his head, clearly still concerned. "No, I think we've walked far enough. Everyone's pretty tired anyway, I don't know why I thought a hike was a good idea," he mumbled, half to himself. He raised his voice and turned towards the other students. "Okay, everyone, let's start heading back..."
A few half-hearted cheers answered him as the boys began making their way back to the camp. Gary followed along silently. It was okay. Fine. He was just tired, that's all. After a rest, he'd be back to torturing Petey and outwitting Jimmy in no time.
One of the things that Beatrice Trudeau prided herself on was something essential to all nerds: her almost superhuman ability to get things right. She was intelligent. She had well-developed reasoning skills. She could recite pi to one hundred decimal places, for goodness' sake!
Therefore, she couldn't have been wrong about Zoe Taylor. Definitely not. The fact that the two of them seemed to be getting along was clearly some kind of illusion brought on by... by... isolatory madness. Yes. The only reason that Beatrice was still willingly spending time with her was as a last resort because the boys hadn't got back to camp yet.
There was no other explanation.
"So then I was like, you wanna play ball, hotshot? Let's go, and I kicked him —" Zoe swung her leg forward, demonstrating, "— right there. It was awesome. He squealed like a little girl."
"I'm not surprised. With the velocity of your kick, combined with the sheer mass of your boots..." Beatrice swallowed. Ouch. "I'm astounded that he wasn't permanently disfigured."
Zoe let out a mischievous cackle. "Well, yeah. I don't wear these babies for fashion, y'know." She patted her boots with a grin. "I call 'em the Castratinators. Every girl should have a pair."
Beatrice tried to imagine herself clumping around the library in a pair of bulky black boots. Ms. Carvin would probably have a heart attack. "I don't think... I mean, they aren't really my style..."
"Style, schmyle." Zoe sat down on the ground in front of the girls' tents and patted the grass next to her in invitation. "Imagine being able to do whatever you wanted, safe in the knowledge that if anyone messes with you, BAM!" She pounded her fist into her hand gleefully. "Kick to the face!"
"Again," Beatrice said timidly as she sat down, "not really my style."
"I guess not," Zoe conceded, leaning back on her elbows. They spent a few moments in amicable silence before she spoke again. "Hey, I wonder where the boys have got to."
With a glance at her watch, Beatrice's face creased into a concerned little frown. "Their return was due over an hour ago. I hope they haven't got into any difficulties..."
"They're boys. Difficulties are a given," Zoe scoffed. "We should be hoping that they haven't been mauled by bears or stung to death by a swarm of angry bees or, y'know... something."
Beatrice glanced at Zoe nervously from the corner of her eye. "I'm surprised that you aren't wishing that did happen to them," she said. "Considering, um..."
"Huh?" Zoe shot her a glare. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing!" spluttered Beatrice. "Nothing, I just, um... You know..." She lowered her voice to a barely-audible whisper. "Because of... of James and Gord."
"Oh!" Zoe laughed, all traces of menace gone in an instant. "Nah, that doesn't bother me. Me and Jimmy have an understanding."
An understanding...? What could that possibly mean? Beatrice contemplated it for a moment then stared, open-mouthed. "You're swingers!"
"Oh, God." Zoe cringed. "No. We just don't mind if either of us, you know... has fun elsewhere."
"But... with boys?"
"He wouldn't mind if I was with a girl," Zoe said. She smiled fondly. "He'd probably ask to watch. Little perv."
"Wh-what?" By now, Beatrice's eyes were in serious danger of falling out of her head. "Do you go with girls?"
"Was that an offer?"
Beatrice shook her head wildly. "No! No no no, I just, oh dear, I don't — I mean, I don't have a problem or anything, but — I just —"
"Relax," Zoe laughed. "I was just messing with you. Geez. Don't you and your other friends ever tease each other like that?"
"Um, no." Beatrice looked over at Zoe warily. Other friends? Implying that Zoe counted herself as a friend?
There was a first time for everything, she supposed. Even if it meant that the infallible Beatrice Trudeau could get things wrong, after all.
Mr. Galloway looked at his compass for the fiftieth time within the last five minutes. Okay. The camp was outside the eastern edge of the woods, and east was... that way. He took a step forward, looked back at his compass, and wondered why east now seemed to be in completely the opposite direction.
Oh, God. He had to face facts - the compass was broken, he was lost, and the boys were probably going to kill him and eat his corpse.
"Sir." Earnest Jones tapped him on the arm. "Mr. Galloway, sir, we really must protest. This has gone on long enough. Several of my esteemed colleagues are suffering," he said, pointing at a collection of his friends from the astronomy club. "Observe poor Algie!"
"I can't feel my feet," Algernon whimpered pathetically. Mr. Galloway was pretty sure that was because someone had stolen the poor boy's own shoes and replaced them with a tattered pair of designer loafers that were three sizes too small. Children could be such animals...
... Animals that were definitely going to kill him and eat his corpse.
"I apologise if this seems to imply a lack of confidence in you," Earnest continued, his expression wavering somewhere between haughtiness and fear, "but I really must ask. Are we lost?"
"Lost? Haha, the very idea!" Mr. Galloway gulped. With an unconvincing attempt at a self-assured smile, he opened up his map. He just had to keep the boys' confidence in him, that was all. Appearances were everything. "Of course not, my boy! Look, we're here," he said, pointing at a random location on the map, "and the camp is, um, over there..."
Melvin peered over at the map, his face paling drastically. "M-Mr. Galloway? That's not a map of the campsite. That's the novelty map that comes with every collectors' edition copy of Doom Raider 3." He glanced back and forth nervously. "Um, a-apparently. So I hear."
"What?" A shudder of horror ran through the teacher. "But I don't... how... where did that come from?"
His words were lost as several of the astronomy club members descended into panic. "We're lost!" Bucky screeched, loudly enough for the rest of the students to hear. "Lost! Fated to wander aimlessly through this accursed forest for the rest of our lives!"
"Lost in the woods?" Wade Martin exchanged an excited look with Ethan. "Dude. This is just like that movie... The one where the dumb teenagers go looking for bigfoot and they're all, like, screaming and getting eaten and having their guts spread all over the place and stuff!"
"Yeah! The one where they all die at the end, right?" Ethan's eyes widened. "Cool!"
"I don't want to die!" Earnest wailed, his arms flailing madly as he turned and ran. Unfortunately for him, he ran directly into the immovable object that was Russell Northrop. Earnest tumbled to the ground with a thump, his glasses falling off and landing in the dirt.
"Huh?" Russell grunted. Earnest squinted up at him, gibbering slightly in terror.
"Bigfoot!" he screamed, leaping up and running away into the woods. His glasses lay forgotten on the ground as he disappeared amongst the trees. "Save meeeee! Bigfoot!"
"Russell knows he has big feet," Russell rumbled, watching Earnest's retreat with a look of mild confusion. "Russell has big everything."
"Go after him!" Mr. Galloway cried, addressing the students at large. This was it. He was never, ever chaperoning a field trip again. Never. At this rate, he'd be back in Happy Volts before he knew it! "The last thing we need is to get split up!"
"Yeah! 'Cause when people get split up in horror movies, they all die," Ethan supplied.
"Just... Just go after him," Mr. Galloway sighed. Lost in the woods. Fantastic. At least if he'd gotten lost in the mountains, he might have had a rescue party come after him with some medicinal brandy...
Hiking really wasn't so bad. The forest was kind of nice, not to mention that lovely piney smell it had. Unlike the majority of the guys from Bullworth, Kirby was actually having a pretty good time.
Of course, that was mainly because Trent had grabbed him five minutes into the hike and pulled him into a nearby clearing, where they'd been making out ever since. Kirby's only complaint about the afternoon's activities was that his lips were getting kind of sore.
"Chapstick?" Trent grinned, holding out a little fruit-flavoured waxy stick of heaven.
Scratch that, Kirby had no complaints whatsoever.
"Thanks," he said gruffly, quickly applying it in the most butch and masculine way that he possibly could. "Hey, you think we should be getting back to camp? It's getting kinda dark, yeah?"
"Hmmm..." Trent turned on the sleaziest of all sleazy grins before putting an arm around Kirby's shoulders. "Oh, I dunno. I think we could catch a few more min—"
He was cut off by the sound of something crashing through the trees nearby. A relatively large something, by the sound of it. Kirby and Trent stood frozen in place, their eyes trained on the edge of the clearing...
"People! I'm saved!" A rather bedraggled Earnest Jones burst from the trees and fell to his knees, practically sobbing. Kirby let out a horrified little squeak of dismay, shoved Trent's arm from its very incriminating position, and bolted in the direction of the camp.
Trent, on the other hand, simply stared. "What you doin' out here, nerd?"
"I... I was..." Earnest squinted at him, apparently unable to see a thing without his glasses. With any luck, he hadn't noticed Kirby's presence. He pointed a shaking finger back towards the forest. "Bigfoot! I can h-hear him, hear him chasing me and..."
"You just ruined my day," Trent snarled, cracking his knuckles. "Bigfoot's the least of your worries now, dill-weed!"
Before Trent could take the opportunity to exact his revenge, a small group of students burst into the clearing to join them. Davis, Ethan and Wade grinned at each other upon seeing Earnest lying in a fetal position on the ground.
"Hey! Mr. Galloway, we found him!" Wade bellowed. His expression changed to one of confusion upon seeing Trent. "Huh? What're you doing here?"
"I... got bored." Trent folded his arms and leaned against the nearest tree in what he assumed was a cool, nonchalant pose. This was the kind of situation that his awesome acting skills were made for. "Walking with the teacher is, like, for losers."
Wade digested this for a moment. "Awesome. You know the way back? Galloway got us lost."
"Sure," replied Trent. "The camp's back that way." He pointed in the direction that Kirby had run off in only minutes before. "It ain't far."
"We're saved," Earnest repeated from his little crumpled heap on the ground. "Saved."
Trent scowled petulantly. Stupid nerd. Stupid nerd and his stupid interrupting-awesome-things-ness. "Shut up, dill-weed."
By the time the boys finally arrived back at the camp, Gary was feeling much better. A slip, that's all it was. Just a momentary blip on his otherwise unblemished record of nefarious genius. Nobody was perfect, after all.
He came really fucking close, though. C'mon. He was Gary Smith.
Much as he hated to admit it, the events earlier had shaken him. He'd always known how to push Petey's buttons. Always. Picking on Petey was like a part of his identity - to have that taken away, Petey's whining replaced with smiling indifference? It was just wrong. He couldn't let it happen again.
Not that it was going to happen again. He felt all better.
Still, maybe he should test himself somehow...
He strolled through the camp, eyes peeled for a suitable target for him to pick on. It was pretty dark by now - the campfires had been lit once more and most of the students were huddled around them, talking amongst themselves or toasting marshmallows. Gary's eyes fell upon the younger kids, all grouped together.
"Hey, pipsqueaks," he grinned, looming over them in what had to be a very intimidating and impressive manner. "What's going on here? Nothing untoward, I hope."
"We're telling ghost stories," Karen said flatly. "Get lost."
That was... unexpected. Gary blinked. Kids these days. "I don't think so, friend. Hey, I'll tell you a story. A real scary one—"
"Jimmy says you fainted on that hike thingy," interrupted Sheldon. "Was the hike scary?"
"I did not faint," Gary hissed, his eye twitching slightly. "As I was sayi—"
"But Jimmy said you pussied out like a little bitch and everyone had to turn back because of you. I heard him." Melody beamed triumphantly, then stuck her tongue out. "Jimmy doesn't lie. You're the one who lies about things, liar."
Gary's legs wobbled unsteadily.
"Liar, liar, pants on fire!"
Shit. Gary quickly began walking away with as much dignity as he could muster. Shit. He'd lost it. Completely. He was broken, or something. What the fuck was going on?
He couldn't live like this. No way. But what could he do to get himself back? Aside from skipping his meds and going nuts again, of course.
The sound of annoying, child-like voices singing liar, liar at him floated over the campsite. Okay, maybe dumping the medication was an option after all. Drastic times called for drastic measures and all that. Gary dodged inside his tent and began rummaging through his things. Where were they...?
He pulled the little bottle of pills from his bag and looked at it silently. If he stopped taking them again and anyone found out, he'd be expelled in a heartbeat. But —
He froze. There were muffled voices coming from outside the tent, and one of them just mentioned his name. Was that Jimmy...?
"...any more trouble from Gary?"
And that was Petey. Those two were discussing him behind his back? Interesting. Gary stayed perfectly silent and still as he listened.
"Told you. It's all about the attention." Jimmy let out a short laugh. "How long before he cracks?"
Petey made an uncomfortable little noise of distress - the type of noise that was usually aimed at Gary. For a brief, irrational second, he actually felt jealous. "Mmph. I don't want him to crack. This feels kind of mean..."
"What? Pete. Seriously. Sticking up for yourself is mean?"
"No." There was a short pause. "It just feels mean."
The voices faded as the boys walked away from the tent. "See, now you're acting like a pushover again..."
As he digested the new information, Gary lowered the bottle of pills. So. Jimmy. Jimmy-fucking-Hopkins was behind Petey's new attitude, was he?
Those two were so dead.
"Gary?" Apparently, Petey had returned to the tent. "Gary, are you okay?"
"Fine." Gary kept his back to him. "Just fine."
"Oh, um, good." Shuffle, shuffle. Whimper, whimper. "It's just that, you know, earlier..."
"I said I'm fine."
"You don't look... I mean... Okay." Petey sat down somewhere behind him. "You seem kinda, you know... Tense. You should just try and relax. It's a field trip, right? Kinda like a vacation." He gave a faint, nervy little laugh. "So you should just relax. Like I said. Try and enjoy it."
"So, uh..." More shuffling noises came from the other side of the tent. "Goodnight, Gary."
Relax. For fuck's sake. Was Petey insane? Gary didn't relax!
Although, on that note... A smirk pulled at the edges of Gary's mouth. Two could play at the doing things drastically out of character game, couldn't they?
Yes. Tomorrow morning was going to be interesting.
As Derby eased himself into his sleeping bag, every muscle in his body aching, he was at least happy in the knowledge that the worst was over. One more day. That was all. One single day left, then he could go home. It was nothing. Then he'd win the bet and Johnny Vincent would be flitting around Harrington House with a feather-duster and one of those frilly little maid caps.
It was definitely going to be worth it.
Derby got as comfortable as he possibly could under the circumstances and closed his eyes. Bif was already asleep, which was definitely the right way to approach all this. The sooner they drifted into sweet unconsciousness, the sooner it would all be over. A blissful smile crossed Derby's features as he contemplated being able to sleep in his own soft bed once more...
The smile disappeared as he was rudely shocked into wakefulness by a little nudge in the small of his back. Okay, maybe Bif wasn't asleep after all. Scowling slightly, and with his eyes still determinedly shut tight, Derby decided to ignore him.
Then it happened again.
"Bif," he grumbled. "Stop it."
There was no response apart from a more insistent nudge, this time closer to his shoulders. Derby tolerated it for all of ten seconds before he snapped. "For God's sake! Go to sleep, Bif!"
Bif let out a small, groggy groan. "Mrph. I was asleep."
"Don't be asinine." Derby rolled over to face his friend. "And bloody well stop poking me."
"Then..." Derby fumbled around for a flashlight, turned it on, and shone it into the face of his tormentor.
The small, fuzzy, very rat-like face.
Elsewhere in camp, a certain pair of greasers were also settling into their sleeping bags. As horrified screeches rent the air, Johnny grinned at his friend.
"Nothin' like preppie screams to guarantee a good night's sleep. Right, Peanut?"
Johnny Vincent was going to have very sweet dreams tonight.
Author's note: Okay, so, uh, next time I go and say something stupid like "hopefully it won't take me as long to finish the next chapter as it did this one, teehee, this is in no way tempting fate" you guys have full permission to track me down and PUNCH ME IN THE FACE. TWICE. Because it is clearly an invitation for both my health issues and my computer to both explode in a gory mess.
Thank you for all the reviews and stuff while I was AWOL! The next chapter should be the last. And with any luck, it won't take too long to write i— [Insert ominously explosion-esque sounds here]