Elf-Boy and Dragon-Girl
“I can’t believe it’s been four months,” Jason Snider said.
Kat Myers brushed red hair from her eyes. “Four months and ten days, to be exact.”
A cool morning breeze blew as Jason peered across North Clifton Avenue at the red brick Hawthorne Scholastic Academy. They weren’t talking about the beginning of eighth grade. They were already into their third week of school. No, they were talking about the day the dragons had appeared on Earth and part of Chicago burned.
“Isn’t that precious! Elf-Boy and Dragon-Girl!” someone hooted.
Kat whirled toward the voice. “How ‘bout I rearrange your face so you look like an elf, Tommy!”
Fat Tommy stopped. With flushed cheeks and a red shirt, he looked like a huge beach ball wearing cargo pants. He sniggered and jiggled. “Oh, I’m scared. Gonna blow fire at me, Dragon-Girl?”
Kat lunged for him. Jason grabbed her and turned her around. “Leave him alone, Kat. You already broke Chad Richie’s nose last week for calling you the D-name.”
Kat’s green eyes burned. She clenched her hands so tight her knuckles turned white.
“Come on, you don’t want to get suspended again.”
Kat took a deep breath and shook her head.
The homeroom warning bell rang. “You’re lucky, Dragon-Girl,” Fat Tommy chirped.
Jason pulled Kat tight to his side before fists and blood could fly. “Do you have a death wish, Tommy?”
Fat Tommy snickered and wobbled across the street.
Kat relaxed in Jason’s embrace. “It’s days like this I wish Strum and Star never came from Eversong,” she whispered. “I wish the portal never opened.”
Her words stung Jason. His arm slipped from around her waist. “It’s my fault--”
Their eyes met. Kat’s were wide with concern. “I didn’t mean that. It’s not your fault.”
Jason tried to stop the stinging memories: the bicycle accident, being trapped in a coma, unable to move, unable to communicate. “My coma opened the pathway between Earth and Eversong. The dragons came and torched the buildings because of me.”
Kat intertwined her warm fingers with his. “Listen to me. The world blames both of us for the battle. We’re in this together.” She tilted her head. Her pained expression softened. “You’re my only friend. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“You’re my only friend, too,” Jason said. “I’ll never be mad at you.”
He glanced across the street. Fat Tommy had disappeared into the school. “Let’s go or we’ll be late for homeroom.” His body tingled when she let him slip his arm around her waist again.
Kat slowed as they approached the school. At the door she stopped. A dark look covered her face, anger and worry all rolled into one.
“Come on,” Jason said, offering his biggest smile. “We survived the first two weeks of school. We can make it through another day.”
He heard the E-name and D-name hurled at them immediately. He kept his arm around Kat, wanting to shield her from the words. He focused on reaching their lockers and homerooms without more confrontation.
Locker. Homeroom. Locker. Homeroom.
Turning a corner near their lockers, Jason felt it: cold air brushing his arm. A blur caught his eye. He spun but saw only other students staring back.
A sickening smell stung his nose. Apples? Honey? Kat tensed and sniffed. “You smell that?” he asked.
Kat nodded. “Smells like a huge rotting fruit salad.”
A shove knocked Jason against a locker. “Out of the way, Elf--”
Huge mistake. Kat’s elbow hit Fat Tommy’s side like a missile.
“Ow!” Fat Tommy groaned.
“Bug off, dork,” Jason growled.
A crowd of students gathered and Fat Tommy seemed to find more courage. “What are you gonna do, burn the school down like you did the rest of Chicago?”
Jason threw a shoulder against Fat Tommy’s fat chest, knocking him into the lockers.
“Stop, both of you!”
The smell of rotting fruit hit Jason again. A teacher he’d never seen before stepped between him and Fat Tommy. “Not on my watch, okay, gentlemen?”
Whoever the guy was, he must have dug his ugly blue-plaid shirt and green tie from the dumpster behind the school. He looked at Jason. “Jason Snider, right?”
“Ye . . . yes, sir,” Jason stammered. The dude knows my name! A faint shimmer seemed to hug the teacher, as though lava churned beneath his skin. Strands of gold glistened in his brown hair.
Jason blinked and the guy looked normal again. Well, he looked as normal as possible considering the sickening shirt and tie.
Didn’t Fat Tommy see that? No one else seemed to notice, either. What was going on?
“I don’t want any trouble on my first day, understood?” the teacher said. “Now shake hands and go to your homerooms.”
Neither boy moved. Jason’s skin crawled when the guy flashed a wide grin filled with fangs.
Fangs? Yes, long pointy fangs! Jason had to be losing his mind. The grin and fangs both vanished into a dark scowl. “I said shake!” the teacher growled.
Something cold shoved Jason’s right arm forward. It couldn’t have been Kat. She stood on his left. What was happening?
Fat Tommy shook Jason’s hand once. “Good,” Pointy-Teeth said. “Party’s over ladies and gentlemen. Move it, or you’ll all receive detention.”
Kat took Jason’s hand. “C’mon. Don’t worry about Tommy.”
Jason stood rooted, watching the teacher push through the crowd. He wanted to see a sparkle again, anything to show that he wasn’t losing his mind. “Who is that guy?”
“Never seen him before,” Kat said. She nudged him playfully. “We’re gonna be late.”
Jason shuffled forward, his mind struggling with the question he had to ask. “Didn’t you see anything, you know, strange about the teacher?”
“Yeah,” Kat replied. The late bell rang. “That tie was hideous.”