On the first day of school, Bo takes the seat next to Lexy in the cafeteria and introduces herself.
"Just Bo," she says, in response to Lexy's raised brow. "I'm not big on last names."
Lexy smiles, genuinely pleased just to be spoken to, at this point. Being a new girl anywhere has always sucked -- now it doesn't, or at least not as much. Bo puts a hand on her arm and she feels like she's not one of those high school girls everybody warns you about in the movies. "Lexy," she says, holding her hand out.
When Bo receives it, Lexy feels inordinately warm all over. (And kind of like she wants to kiss her. Whoa, Lexy goes in her head. Did I just think about that?)
Lexy gets her surname soon enough -- during gym, when the teacher starts the roll call. Bo comes in late and takes the only seat left by then: the one nearest the door on the first row. Their instructor is a stern-looking woman with a sharp jaw line and humorless eyes.
"Dennis?" she calls in a flat tone, turning to Bo. Bo seems like she's nodding. "Fifteen minutes grace period, that's it. After that, the gym door's closed. Three absences and you're dropped. Understood?" There's an audible round of heavy swallowing before Bo clears her throat.
"Yes, ma’am," Bo says, and from the top of the bleachers Lexy lets out her breath.
Jesus, that was hot. Lexy feels her heart sink a little -- barely four hours into this new school and already she's crushing on yet another gym teacher. Talk about having a type.
After class, Lexy catches up with Bo at the bleachers. She's toeing her sneakers off and dabbing at her forehead with a towel.
"Those would break in mid-run, definitely," she begins, tentatively. Does this girl even remember me from the cafeteria? "Remember me, though? Lexy, from this morning--"
"Of course," says Bo, smiling like she recognizes and Lexy feels relieved. "At the cafeteria. How could I forget?"
"Right," Lexy says, propping her feet up on a lower step, pretending to fix her shoelaces. Something to do with my hands. "Close call when you got in earlier, huh?"
Bo laughs, shaking her head as she shifts her eyes downward. "I got kinda lost," she admits. "Don't tell anyone though -- I'm dorky enough and my street cred's near to nil."
How someone who looks like Bo -- confident and absolutely beautiful -- could ever be concerned about street cred is baffling, at best. "You don't seem like you need help with your street cred. At all."
"You neither," Bo grins. "I loved your jacket this morning, by the way."
"That was why you sat next to me, no?"
"Not the entire reason, but a good chunk of it."
Lexy laughs. This is going to be a long year ahead.
Lexy also sits with Bo during English and History, but what's really interesting is Bio -- not the subject, per se, but the TA, in particular. If anyone asked, Lexy figures this is how her description ought to go: "Blonde, and stunning in white; puts that glint in Bo's eye when handing over photocopied handouts."
"I don't even know her name," Bo groans, that time Lexy finally manages to coax it out of her over lunch, several days later.
"Didn't the professor say something?" Lexy squints at her sandwich, trying to remember. "Louis? Lewis? Something."
"Louise?" Bo asks. "It's a nice sounding name."
Lexy shakes her head, pushing a copy of the syllabus toward Bo and pointing. "Lauren Lewis."
"Ah," Bo nods, before repeating to herself softly: "Lauren."
"Better sounding name, hm?" Lexy says, the sound muffled by bread. "She doesn't look old to me though -- possibly only in college?"
"And we are discussing her probable age because…?"
Lexy smirks, lowering the her sandwich for a moment. "You don't have standards? I mean, I won't date anyone older by more than 10 years--"
"Who said anything about dating, Jesus Lex--"
"Because you don't look so awfully pained just waiting for her to get to you with the handouts, really. Not at all."
Bo kicks at Lexy's shin playfully and Lexy lets out a small yelp. "Shut up," says Bo. "Like you don't look as pained during Coach Murray's gym class."
It is Lexy's turn to blush. "It's just a thing okay," she says, waving a hand dismissively. "I outgrow things after a few days."
"Whatever you say," Bo scoffs. "I've seen how you look at her arms. How easily can you outgrow your things with those kind of arms, hmm?"
"Shut up. I do not fancy Coach Murray's arms."
"You're a really bad liar."
"And you're really good at changing the subject, Miss Dennis. Now, now," Lexy breathes in, all smug. "Let me look into this Lauren business and see what I can dig up for you."
"You're actually suggesting we stalk these people, no?"
Truth be told, Lexy kind of likes the sound of that. She nods, before appending: "Harmlessly, of course."
"Are you kidding? Harmless is, like, my middle name," Bo just says.
Lexy hangs back purposefully the following week after Bio, deliberately slowing her process of packing up.
"Now?" Bo mouths to her, disbelieving as she pauses by the door way.
"Yes, now," Lexy mouths back, and Bo shoots her one more worried look before heading on out. Lexy can't help the smile that grazes her lips just then.
"Everything all right over there, Miss Price?" Lauren calls out from the platform. She's in the middle of pushing a far too thick pile of papers into a decidedly thin envelope.
"Just a question, actually," says Lexy, heading to the professor's desk, hugging a book to her chest for effect. "But before that -- I'm willing to bet that envelope's going to break."
Lauren pauses to look, before smiling goofily. "It's kind of impossible, no?" she says, sighing. Lexy feels her heart drop a little. She completely understands how someone can be smitten with just that. "Not so much for the Physics -- I'm into biology for a reason."
"Here, let me help," Lexy offers, fishing an old, empty envelope from her bag. "It's a bit used, but I'm pretty sure it still works."
Lauren flashes her a sheepish smile. No wonder Bo's crazy about her, she just thinks. "Thanks." And then, "You had a question."
I did? "Uh, yeah," Lexy's eyes dart around, looking for something. On the way, she spies something shiny on Lauren's hand. Shit, is that-- "You're married?"
Lauren laughs. "That was your question?"
Shit. "No, I -- it's a pretty ring." And it isn't entirely false either.
"Ah--this," Lauren says, fingers touching the metal out of reflex. "Not married -- but committed, yes."
"Committed as in engaged, or--"
Lauren shakes her head, keeping a tight smile on. "Is there anything else I can help you with, Miss Price?"
"Actually--about these telomere a while back--"
Something in Lauren's face shifts, and right then Lexy knows she's just somewhat salvaged the conversation. "Repetitive nucleotide sequences at the tips of chromosomes, yes," Lauren nods. "Walk with me?"
"Sure thing," says Lexy, picking one of the envelopes up. "After you."
Eventually, it turns out that Bo is even more horrible at stalking -- Lexy finds out soon enough, after gym class the following day, when Coach Murray invites her back to her office for a serious-sounding conversation that starts with, "Can I have a word with you, Miss Price?"
On the way over, Bo gives her a playful shove at the shoulder.
"What the fuck did you do, Bo?" whispers Lexy.
To which Bo just replies , "You can thank me later," plus an evil smirk to boot.
Lexy just thinks, Please let me live just long enough after this to kill her.
"Are you all right, Lexy?" asks Coach, stern voice now gone and replaced by a softer one as she closes the door. "Can I call you Lexy, hm?"
Lexy just nods. What the fuck did Bo do?
"You look kind of pale."
"I'm all right, Coach," Lexy manages. "Just -- a bit out of air."
"I was kind of hard on you girls today, hm?" she says thoughtfully, rearranging herself on the edge of her table. "And in here, you can call me Sam."
Sam. Well, there's progress. "As you wish," Lexy replies, relaxing a bit. "This means I'm not in so much trouble, am I?"
Sam nearly spits out the water she's been drinking as she tones down her laugh. "What? No, did I -- I scare you lot, don't I?" she says, shaking her head. "Bo told me you're interested in trying out for the track team."
"She told me you liked running. In your old school. No formal training -- which is unfortunate," Sam begins, and slowly, Lexy can feel the strength seep out of her knees. What the fuck.
"You do know however that we don't have a track and field team--"
"Yet -- I've been thinking of proposing one, and now I have you."
Sam continues -- it's obvious, how excited she is, and Lexy can feel her chest tightening a bit more. "We can schedule trainings -- I won't mind having a running partner, for once."
"A running partner?"
"Of course, once we have more recruits, we'll be running as a team, but for the meantime--"
Lexy shakes her head. No use resisting this -- might as well play into this one. Play first, kill Bo later. "Whatever you say, Coach -- Sam," says Lexy, clearing her throat. "I'm in."
Sam lets out a little laugh. It sounds strange and precious. "Great," she says, hovering near Lexy like she is unsure of how to celebrate their little plan falling into place. She settles for a pat on Lexy's shoulder, lingering for a bit.
She's touching me , Lexy thinks, and it almost feels worth it.
"So…" Bo says, leaning against the locker next to Lexy's. "How'd that go?"
Lexy looks at her, brow raised. "You said stalk, not volunteer a totally made up athletic ability," she says, shutting her locker forcefully to make a point. "Now I have to run. With Sam."
"Like you have anything better to do," Bo smirks. "Also -- Sam. Cute name."
"I wouldn't call her cute," says Lexy, trying to tame her own smile. In the short time they'd known each other, Lexy has come to somewhat understand how Bo can be so underhandedly charming in a way she cannot fully explain. "Also -- your Lauren is committed."
Lexy shrugs. "That's what she said. I asked about her ring."
Bo groans, visibly deflated. "Jesus, she's married?"
"Her term was committed," Lexy clarifies, shaking her head. "She was kind of, I don't know -- evasive."
"She's gay married?" Bo stops by an empty bench to sit. "Well. You learn something new every day, I guess."
Lexy shrugs, taking the space beside Bo. She is warm where they can touch, and there it goes again. That feeling Lexy gets when Bo is too close, and Lexy draws a sharp breath in.
This is ridiculous.
"You all right?" Bo asks, reaching out to feel Lexy's forehead, and Lexy pulls back suddenly, like she were just burnt. Bo looks on, confused. "Lex? You look flushed."
Lexy shakes her head. She needs water. Or to kiss her. "I need water," she blinks, moving to stand despite her wobbly knees. "I need -- I need to go."
"Wait." Bo wraps her hand around Lexy's wrist, and something inside Lexy feels like it's been set on fire.
The next thing Lexy knows, she's in Bo's dorm room, and she's being fanned to life.
"Jesus Christ." Bo breathes out as Lexy wakes. Lexy blinks at Bo until she comes into view clearer. "I thought -- what the hell just --"
Lexy tries to sit up, still nauseated. Bo hands her a glass of water. "You tell me," Lexy says after drinking. "You were -- did you feel that?"
"Feel what Lex?"
Lexy contemplates just coming out with it -- what were the chances it had been purely imaginary? -- but then Bo scoots over and tries to touch her again, and then-- "That," Lexy gasps. "Can you--Jesus, Bo."
"I'm not doing anything," Bo says, but her voice drops to a whisper anyway. "Promise." Lexy closes her eyes at the feel of Bo's hands moving up her arms, leaving an all-too-warm trail. "Are you doing something?" Bo asks.
"Apart from just lying here and enjoying this?" Lexy asks back, caving in. This is going to be awkward in the morning, but what the hell.
And just like that, Bo pulls away, as if snapping out of some trance, leaving Lexy feeling like her body had just been unplugged. The room is quiet, except for that small sound that Bo makes as she catches her breath.
"You don't know what it is, do you?" Lexy asks finally, staring at the ceiling.
"Nope," Bo just says. "But I'm going to find out."
Bo proposes an experiment, and that's how Lexy finds herself here: Accompanying Bo during their breaks, walking aimlessly around school halls and preying on random people. She feels more like a voyeur than a wingman-slash-lookout, and it is mostly unsettling.
"So that's -- Bryan from Math and Dianne from History," Lexy recaps, watching Bo with her hip against the girls' bathroom sink. This worries her, but she can't let Bo in on that -- it will only add to the confusion. Bo looks at Lexy on the mirror as she retouches her makeup. "Which brings our tally to six. Today."
"And our week's tally to… fourteen?" Bo asks.
"Fifteen," Lexy corrects. "You always don’t count me."
"Sorry," Bo grins. And then, "I think I can get the hang of this. Whatever this is."
Lexy shoves Bo lightly. "You're making a joke of it again," she says, rather seriously. Of course, it isn't normal, Lexy thinks -- and by that, she means the inexplicable skin-activated seduction, and not the sexual fluidity at all. "It could be -- god forbid, some yet to be identified disease."
"… That enables me to seduce anyone just by touch?" says Bo, turning to her. Lexy looks away; it started as a game, this. Now she's just… unclear. What is she feeling again?
"Relax, Lex," Bo tries soothing her, taking care not to touch her by accident. They've recently come to the conclusion that any sort of touch activates the whole phenomenon just the same. "Truth is -- I've never felt better."
"At some point, you have to start taking this seriously."
Bo gives her a look, and instantly, Lexy regrets what she's just said. "I am taking this seriously. And I am going to figure this out. Okay? And you can choose to be not around while I'm at it." Bo shakes her shoulders and smoothes her hair before getting out without another word.
The afternoon through Bio is quiet and uneventful. Sometime halfway through, Lexy sneaks a sideways glance at Bo, who looks flustered and somewhat upset; the whole thing just punches a hole deep in Lexy's gut.
Afterwards, and even before Lexy can say anything, Bo just skips last period altogether -- gym.
Great, Lexy thinks, untying her shoe laces for the nth time. Well, at least there is actual physical pain to distract myself with. But still, Lexy seems so out of it that at one point, Sam actually calls her attention and asks what is wrong.
"You better focus, or you're going to hurt someone."
Lexy just lowers her eyes and sighs, frustrated. "Sorry."
When the period ends and everyone's gone, Lexy comes up to Sam to ask about running. "Like, after here?" Sam clarifies, her towel-holding hand frozen in mid-air.
Lexy nods, trying to come off as enthusiastic. "Yeah, I'm, uh, so psyched. Or something."
Sam laughs, shaking her head as she rummages through her drawers for her keys. "Right," she says, eyeing Lexy suspiciously. "Talk to me on the way, hm?"
Talk to me. Lexy feels that tingle again and decides to quickly shake it out. "Like, about gym?"
"No, about math," Sam says, still that small laugh in her voice, and Lexy can almost feel her rolling her eyes as she closes the door after her. That would have been a sight. "About what's been gnawing at you today, of course."
Sam pauses to stretch as they get to the doorway leading to the track. Outside, dusk is slowly sweeping across the sky and the field is dark as it waits for the lights to come on.
"You and Bo having a fight or something?"
"What?" Sure, Lexy had somehow pegged Sam to be someone intuitive and perceptive -- but not when she's only been around her for this long. "This isn't--no."
Sam shrugs. "Whatever you say. Just that -- you've got 'Bo problem' written all over your face."
"'Bo problem'? You make it sound like we're dating."
"And aren't you?" The way Sam says it -- that playful lilt, and was that actually a shadow of a lip bite? And then, off the possibly aghast look on Lexy's face: "I was joking."
Lexy breathes out. "So I was hoping," she says. When they get to the track, the lights are so bright it feels like daylight. It is empty save for the two of them; quiet, save for the sound of their shoes against the ground.
"The answer is really no, by the way," Lexy says, observing Sam as she rotates her ankles.
"To the Bo problem, or to the dating?"
"To the dating."
"So you do have a Bo problem." Lexy sighs. This Sam is new and charming and she is totally unprepared for her. "You don't have to tell me anything," Sam continues. "I just have to remind you though -- focus is key." Without another word Sam launches into a sprint that takes Lexy totally off-guard.
"I'm timing you!" she yells moments later, looking back over her shoulder and seeing Lexy still standing there. "Don't just --"
"All right, all right!" Lexy cuts her off, lurching into a jerky run; when she inhales deeply, the night air burns her lungs.
Lexy gives up a round and halfway through, collapsing by the side of the tracks near the water station. "This clearly is a mistake," she says, heaving, as Sam runs to her with an amused smile on her face. She tugs off her earphones and picks her towel up.
"You weren't so bad," Sam says, reaching for her water bottle. "You're just -- new."
"I have lungs the size of a hamster's," Lexy says, frowning. Could Bo have chosen a worse completely made up reason to get me within a mile's radius of this person, she thinks. Her chest feels as if it has to come apart just to get enough air in.
"Practice makes perfect," says Sam. There's a glow about her that Lexy can't quite explain; how can anyone look so composed after a run like that? "Though I'm hoping you don't smoke."
Lexy cringes at that. "Guilty as charged, but."
"You're old enough to know better," Sam says, thrusting her water container into Lexy's hand, and Lexy drinks from it greedily, unthinking. After a second, she realizes one thing: Sam's lips were here, and promptly she starts choking. "You all right, Lex?"
"Fine," Lexy nods, coughing and wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand. "Just -- go easy on me, yeah? I'm not that--this isn't what you probably expect."
"What do you mean?"
Lexy shakes her head, handing the water bottle back. "Never mind."
Sam lets out a little laugh, shaking her head in kind. "Trust me," she says, wiping the back of her neck with her folded up towel. The way her damp hair falls to the side of her face -- Lexy has to look away, and bite into her cheek hard. "One look at you and I know -- you're exactly what I expect."
Lexy's half-open mouth is dry. Oh dear. The phrase that comes to Lexy's mind is, The mess this one's about to make eventually.
"So, day after tomorrow then, same time?"
Like Lexy could refuse an offer like that. "If I'm still alive then, why the hell not."
The next time she sees Bo, she's waiting under the street light on the corner of Lexy's street, hands in pockets.
"I may have overreacted," is what she says first thing, eyes on the ground. "Sorry."
"Sam thinks we're dating," Lexy replies, a hint of a laugh at the end of it. "I was so distracted during gym."
Bo tries to laugh along, though it comes off too weak. "You were right -- this is serious," she says, taking a hand out of a pocket and flexing it under the light. "Sorry, I don't--this arguing thing, it's something I can't do too well."
"It's all right -- dealing with arguments is kind of my forte."
"Lucky me, then."
Lexy nods, feeling something lift off her chest. "Lucky you, yeah." Bo finally turns to her, punching her shoulder lightly. "So."
"So I hope you didn't tell Sam we were dating," says Bo.
"And totally sabotage my ill-intentions on her? Absolutely not."
Bo grins. "Ill-intentions, hm."
"Supposing I could pull them off before I hurt myself," Lexy says, punching Bo's shoulder harder in response. "Couldn't you have chosen a different lie altogether?"
"It was either that, or you're a musician of some sort looking for someone to jam with," Bo shrugs. "She doesn't strike me as a music-type, so."
An image of Sam with a guitar flashes briefly in Lexy's head, and Lexy feels her breath hitch. "That would be rather hot."
"And unfair," Bo continues. "You can't be athletic and musical at the same time," she pauses to look at Lexy, who only raises her brow. "Or can you?"
"Can we just focus on one lie for the moment, Bo?" Lexy laughs, shaking the thought out of her head.
Later, when they've walked through all but the final stretch to Lexy's place, Lexy asks: "Any update on committed Lauren, hm?"
Bo shifts her eyes at that, like she was trying to hide something.
"I stayed behind after Bio," Bo admits. "I saw the ring."
"And?" The way Bo hesitates for a moment is not completely lost on Lexy. "Tell me you didn't--"
"I didn't mean to--I just--" Bo sighs, looking at her hands. "Okay, I wanted to touch her. It just happened. What is this? I feel like a monster or something."
"Don't say that." Lexy moves closer, contemplating a hug before deciding against it altogether. "Maybe it's a… heat transference thing? Surely there has to be a scientific explanation." Bo just looks at her, confused. "How did it go?"
Bo manages a weak grin. "Well, one thing's for sure -- the charm works on her."
"In case you missed the memo, we haven't exactly found anyone who's immune to you, Bo." There's an awkward pause and Lexy bites the tip of her tongue. "Too soon for jokes?"
"No, it's just--" Bo sighs, sitting on the gutter's edge. "When I touched her -- Lauren -- it felt different. From all the others I've tried to draw in, I mean."
Lexy studies her for a moment before sitting beside her. "You really like her, don't you?"
"In that embarrassingly girly, butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of way, yes," Bo says, breathing in at the end of it like she had to get it out fast. "Probably the same thing you feel for Sam, no?"
"It feels like we're teenagers." Lexy nudges Bo and Bo laughs into her ear. Lexy takes a moment to absorb that sound, and the feel of Bo's breath warm against the side of her face. No, not this again. It's just the heat-transference thing. Lexy breathes in and scoots an inch farther from Bo.
"Sorry," Bo mutters. "I'm doing it again, aren't I?"
Lexy nods. "It's fine," she says, gesturing to the small space between them. "We just have to be careful."
Careful. Lexy thinks about that word, turning it over in her head. We'll have time to figure it out. No use pressuring Bo about it. "You were saying something about Lauren," she says instead.
"It was just that -- different. Like it had a certain after taste. Something that lingers." Bo turns to her, and Lexy catches her eye. "You have no idea what I'm saying, do you?"
Lexy can't help but focus on the word, taste. The phrase that comes to her mind first is: Show me--she blinks and tries to shake it out. Still too close, she thinks, inching further away.
"I don't think--yeah, I could imagine--but not really," she stammers. "Anyway -- is that good or is that bad?" You're a horrible conversationalist, Lex.
"Lauren being different."
Bo pauses, dropping her eyes to the space beside them, now wider than a while ago. "Good, I guess?" Bo chews her lip, her fingers fiddling with the grassy spot behind her. "That she isn't like any of the girls -- or the boys, for that matter."
"Including me?" Lexy spits out, despite herself. Realizing her mistake a second too late, she just adds, "Shit."
Bo smiles at her, a bit uneasy. "You want an honest answer?"
"Forget I asked--"
"You're different, too," Bo says anyway, and in Lexy's head it is suddenly too quiet, except for the echo of Bo's words. You're different. "I've wanted to say that all afternoon."
Lexy is wordless for a moment too long. What is she supposed to say back, anyway? That she is flattered? That she is not weirded out? That nothing's supposed to change? Ah, but they have.
She wants to ask, What do we do now? Instead, what comes out is, "Show me."
Bo smiles at her like she was relieved. Lexy closes her eyes as Bo leans over and kisses her.