Becky Botsford, otherwise known as WordGirl, sat down on the front steps of the high school, looking out at the school grounds before her, where several other students were milling about, killing time before the official beginning of the school day and their first classes. She was glad on this day that her bus was one of the earlier ones to arrive, so that she would already be prepared to jump up and greet and assist her girlfriend when her own bus pulled up.
The past couple weeks had been some of the most trying, eventful, confused and emotional ones of Becky’s life. Mere days prior, she had been forced to fight one of her most nefarious foes ever, known by the moniker “Hacker” or “The Hacker,” in what had turned out to be a battle to the death. While most of the time she could handle her adversaries fine, with the only assistance coming from her monkey sidekick Captain Huggyface, this time she had been helped greatly by another group of crime fighters known as the Cybersquad, who were already quite familiar with this green-skinned menace and had much experience fighting him in a place called Cyberspace. He had escaped from this place by way of a portal he created and had intended to defeat WordGirl and take over the planet.
On top of that, helping them sneak onto Hacker’s ship, the Grim Wreaker, had been none other than one of his own henchmen who had switched to their side due to his morals being strongly tested. It had been hard for Delete knowing his former comrades had been killed in battle, but it wasn’t all bad for him. They now had little to no reason to believe he was insincere in wanting to change, and they had offered him a position on the Cybersquad, which he had accepted. He was assumedly at Control Central right now, with Digit showing him the ropes. They all had a lot to thank him for.
And yet, if Becky had been forced to pinpoint one person as the main reason for Hacker’s defeat, she didn’t believe she’d have picked any of them or herself, as essential as everyone had been to their success. If any one person shouldered the largest amount of credit, she didn’t believe it was herself or Delete or any other of the original Cybersquad members, but rather her own girlfriend, Fern Walters. Granted, she hadn’t been brought into the situation by her own choice. After arriving in their dimension, discovering WordGirl and her secret identity, and finding out she had a crush on Fern, Hacker had ordered his henchmen to kidnap her so they could use her to try and force WordGirl to surrender. But like a real trooper, after Delete helped her escape her captivity, she had offered to help in their efforts to defeat Hacker.
Becky had been hesitant to allow her to do this, of course. Unlike the rest of them, Fern had had absolutely no experience fighting bad guys. She was also generally shy and passive, and Becky didn’t want to see her get hurt. After a bit of persuasion though, she had caved in and allowed her to sneak back onto the Wreaker along with the Cybersquad and Delete. They all were unfortunately caught and locked in the boiler room, but Fern had been the first one to escape and had therefore been tasked with removing the ship’s power source while the rest made efforts to get out themselves. She had regretfully broken her arm in the process, but she accomplished it nonetheless, and she and the rest of the team managed to make their getaway before the ship went down. Due to her bravery and the resolve she had displayed, she was offered a spot on the Cybersquad alongside Delete, which she had also happily accepted.
Since then, the past couple days had been much better for the most part. Becky and Fern had officially gotten together, as well as Matt and Inez from the Cybersquad. Jackie, the final member, had encouraged her two friends to admit their feelings to each other for quite some time, and Matt had finally admitted his own to Inez after escaping the boiler room while on their way to find Fern. Fern had been forced to go to the hospital to have her arm tended to, but it had thankfully only been a small hairline fracture, and she had been allowed to go home the following morning. Matt, Jackie, Inez and Fern had quickly become overnight celebrities of sorts across town, and rightfully so. It wasn’t often that civilians were seen on the news helping WordGirl fight crime.
While Becky sat there on the cold stone steps, watching the morning sunrise and reflecting on the events of the past several days as she waited for Fern’s bus to arrive, she caught sight of two girls approaching the front doors as they talked with each other. They weren’t in the same grade as her, rather they shared the same one with Fern, but she recognized them and knew they were on the popular side. If her assumption was correct, these were Francine Frensky and Muffy Crosswire. Remembering the conversation she had had with Fern the previous week, the former name caused her to wince a bit. As their words became clearer to Becky, she soon realized what they were talking about.
“I just couldn’t believe it when I saw her there, hanging off the side of that spaceship thing!”
“I know! I never thought Fern had it in her to do anything like that!”
“Heh, me neither. It was definitely pretty cool though, I’ll admit.”
“I didn’t really see her much at school yesterday, did you?”
“No, but I saw a few groups of kids who seemed to be following someone around all day. She must have been in the middle of that. I could be wrong, though.”
As the two freshmen reached the front steps and got closer to Becky, they both spotted her and paused. “Hey, um, you know Fern Walters, don’t you?” Francine asked. “I’ve seen you with her around school and at lunch and stuff the past couple weeks.”
Becky looked up at them and replied, slightly confused. “Yeah… Why do you ask?”
“Well, we were just so shocked when we heard the news about her helping WordGirl along with those other kids, and when we saw the repeat coverage of it later that night on the news!” Muffy exclaimed.
“We both had her in our classes in elementary school, and she hardly ever said a word,” Francine explained. “She’s just about the last person I would have thought would do something like this!”
“Is that so?” Becky asked flatly.
Francine furrowed her brow, picking up on the negative vibe she was getting from Becky. “Did I do something to you… whatever your name is?”
“Becky,” Becky answered, frowning slightly, “and no, you didn’t. Fern and I went out to eat last week, and you two came up in conversation. She already mentioned to me that you both were in her classes with her back then. She’s fine with you,” she explained, looking briefly at Muffy before fixing her eyes back on Francine, “but she told me that YOU used to pick on her sometimes.”
Francine rolled her eyes. “Oh, so THAT’S what this is all about. Look, it only happened a couple times, alright? I may not have been the nicest kid, but she and I made up after that. I wouldn’t have thought she’d still be holding a grudge on me for that.”
This was certainly news to Muffy as well. She still talked with Fern now and again, even if it wasn’t an extremely common occurrence, due to having an already large circle of friends. She never got the impression that Fern still harbored negative feelings towards Francine. She supposed she could kind of see it, however, when she thought about it. “Well to be completely fair, Francine, you never ACTUALLY said you were sorry to her.”
Francine turned toward her best friend and said defensively, “What are you talking about?! After that whole fiasco with the comics and stuff, I realized I had made a mistake, and I told Mrs. MacGrady all about how bad I felt! And we made up afterwards, right?”
“I’m not saying you didn’t learn your lesson or anything,” Muffy assured. “It’s just that you never really gave an actual apology to her face. The words ‘I’m sorry, Fern’ never escaped your lips. And I could tell you still weren’t too fond of her after that. Remember the whole incident at Moose Mountain when you were her hiking buddy? You acted like a bit of a jerk towards her, and you being in a hurry got the both of you lost. All she wanted to do was use the bathroom.”
“Geez, Muffy. Way to take Fern’s side,” Francine snarled. “But I guess it makes sense you’d want to get more chummy with her, seeing how much more popular she’s getting…”
“I’m not taking sides!” Muffy protested. “I’m just saying what happened!
Becky watched the two other girls the entire time as they talked, barely knowing what they were talking about anymore, and feeling kind of bad for starting this whole thing. She made a mental note to herself to ask Fern about these things that they were talking about at a later date, though. “Guys, guys, wait! Fern doesn’t still hold a grudge against you, Francine. Don’t think she’s still mad at you or anything. She only brought it up in passing, and she said the same thing about how you made up... I just hate the idea of anyone picking on her is all.”
Francine and Muffy glanced at each other a moment before looking back down at where Becky sat, the former chuckling a bit. “Why, you have a crush on her or something?” she asked jokingly.
Becky frowned once more and said defensively, deciding she had nothing to hide, “Actually, yes, since you ask. She and I are going out.”
This made the two underclassmen do a double-take. “You’re kidding!” Muffy said in shock.
“No,” Becky denied. “We just became official the other day. Ask Fern when she gets here if you don’t believe me.”
“Ask me what?” another voice spoke up unexpectedly. The three girls turned their heads to see Fern at the bottom of the steps, making her way up while carrying a book and her notebook with her free arm.
“Fern, hi!” Becky greeted, going down a couple steps and grabbing her book before helping her up the stairs and stopping when they reached the spot she’d been in before. “I’m sorry I missed you! I was going to run over to your bus when I saw it pull up in case you needed help with anything.”
“It’s fine, Becky,” Fern assured. “I didn’t have much to carry today anyway.”
“Fern!” Muffy spoke up, stepping over to her. “I heard about what happened! I can hardly believe you did that! It was really brave of you to help WordGirl like that!”
“Oh! Well thanks, Muffy,” Fern replied. “It’s not a big deal, though.”
“Not a big deal?! Anything that gets your arm broken seems like a big deal to me!” Muffy countered, bending down and examining the sling and gauze encasing Fern’s arm. “You poor thing! If you need the help, I’d be happy to let you borrow Bailey for a little while. Not that you’d have to pay him or anything. Daddy would of course take care of that.”
“That’s nice of you to offer, Muffy, but I think I’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, I already offered to help her with everything anyway,” Becky agreed.
“Oh, okay. Well if you do need anything from me, don’t hesitate to ask,” Muffy insisted.
“Thanks, Muffy. I appreciate it,” Fern replied, even if she doubted she’d be taking the offer at any point, as she saw no real reason to.
“Come on, we’d better get going to give you enough time to get ready for class,” Becky pointed out, adjusting Fern’s things and holding them under her arm.
“Alright, sounds good. See you, Muffy,” Fern said, giving her a small wave. She and Becky then placed each of their free hands in each other’s grasp and held them as they walked inside, while Fern’s classmates watched with surprise.
“Wow… I never had any idea Fern liked girls,” Francine commented.
“I suppose it’s not too surprising, when you think about it,” Muffy said. “I never ONCE heard her talk about boys. And remember seeing her and George play detective sometimes, and how she would always wear that fake mustache with her outfit?”
“Hmm… good point,” Francine said with a shrug.
Muffy smirked amusedly. “You know, a few people have asked me if YOU like girls.”
“What?! You’ve got to be kidding me! Of all the nerve! A girl is good at sports and suddenly everyone thinks she’s a lesbian, huh?”
“Well, it’s not too surprising that they’d believe that, when you think about it,” Muffy repeated coyly.
“Oh shut it,” Francine scoffed, turning her head away annoyedly.
Muffy chuckled. It was so easy to agitate her best friend.
Inside the building, Fern turned towards Becky as they walked hand in hand down the hall. “So anyway, really, ask me about what?” she repeated, wondering what about her she could have been discussing with Francine and Muffy.
Becky reluctantly went on to explain what the conversation had consisted of, being periodically interrupted by people saying hello to Fern, which she politely returned each time. Upon finishing her explanation, Becky stressed that she didn’t let either of Fern’s classmates think she still held any negative feelings against them.
“Oh yeah, I remember the Moose Mountain thing,” Fern said, recalling the incident. “That wasn’t so bad. We managed to find our way to the top of the mountain, and a ranger found us there.”
“Sorry I confronted Francine about everything,” Becky apologized. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I just saw her and got irked and it slipped out. She’s not mad at you, I promise.”
“It’s okay, Becky, don’t worry. It honestly just feels good knowing you’re so willing to defend me, even over small things.”
Becky shrugged. “I guess it’s just my instinct to do that, especially for someone I really care about.”
Fern giggled. “Thanks, Becky. I’d do the same for you, but I’m not really the confrontational type.”
“That’s okay,” Becky assured. “If I’m ever in a pinch that a good poem will get me out of, I’ll know who to call.”