I stumble into class just as the bell rings - narrowly avoiding an interrogation from Mr Barton, the Calculus teacher - and take my seat next to Sara. She immediately pulls me against her in a strong hug, making me laugh loudly.
"What?" I say through my fit of giggles at her assault.
"Oh my gosh! You and Scott! Yay!" She exclaims and claps her hands quickly, bouncing in her seat.
"Sara, it's no big de-"
"It so is a big deal!" She squeals "You have to introduce me!"
"Wasn't earlier introduction enough?" I ask mockingly.
"It was barely the most ideal situation." Sara rolls her eyes, something she picked up from me. "I spoke to Marcus. I told him if he ever hurts an innocent kid again I'm leaving him." She turns up her nose, trying to show her authority.
"Thank you, Sara." I place my hand on her shoulder and give her a small smile. "It means a lot."
"Meh," she shrugs "No biggy. Now, you and Scott, however, is a biggy! I need details!"
"What kind of details?" I laugh.
"Is he a good kisser?" She asks a little too seriously, making me laugh harder.
"Sara!" I exclaim, still laughing. "That is none of your business!"
"Awh." Her body sags slightly with disappointment.
"Yes, he is." I say casually.
"Ooooohh. Really? Do the glasses get in the way?" She raises an eyebrow in curiosity. I laugh louder, barely able to control myself. Sara has been the most normal thing about my life in the last couple of days. The same silly, gossip fuelled Sara.
"Got something you'd like to share with the class, girls?" Mr Barton booms.
"No, sir. Sorry." We both say through our giggles.
By lunch the news of me and Scott has already spread through the school. People must think I'm on a downward spiral, first bursting into flames at prom and now dating someone not on the football team. Walking through the halls, I feel the eyes locked on me and pull my books a little tighter to my chest. I don't care so much about what they think of me and Scott, but having their eyes on me gives me the creeps. We soon reach the lunch hall and Sara heads off towards 'our table', where Marcus and the other football players are already perched.
"You go ahead," I call to Sara. "I'm going to look for Scott."
"Okay. Give him a kiss from me!" She shouts back and winks at me. I roll my eyes and smile.
I walk the crowded corridors on my own. Without the company of Sara, I always feel slightly exposed, and today that feeling is emphasized.
"She's using him to get back at one of the football team!" I hear as I turn on corner.
"She's obviously just a nymphomaniac." Is another sentence I hear. This makes me smirk slightly. I'm a sex addict now?
"It's probably just a bet!"
"She's only doing it because she feels sorry for him!"
"He's paying her!"
"It's all for attention!"
"She's using him!" The words and sentences build up around me until I feel like I cannot breathe anymore. I have to get out of here! I speed up my walking pace gradually and by the time I push open the double doors to the sports field, I'm jogging. I run up to the bleachers and collapse onto one of the benches panting. I try to calm my heavy breathing and rapid heart rate but their words still surround me. Getting back at one of the football team. A bet. She feels sorry for him. Paying her. Attention seeking. She's using him.
Suddenly, I feel a strong pair of hands grasp my shoulders as I begin to fall back.
"Woah!" Scott's voice breaks through the haze of words. "What's wrong? What happened?"
I pull him into my arms gently, as not to harm his undoubtedly already painful chest, and bury my face in his shoulder. "Oh Scott." My words are muffled as I push my face against his body. Already, I feel my heartbeat begin to slow.
"Are you okay?" He asks, stroking my hair. I concentrate on my breathing for a few seconds before replying.
"Yeah. I just don't do well in crowds. Especially when that crowd is talking about me." I respond with slightly more sarcasm than I originally intend. It is only now that I notice that the football field is nearly completely empty, other than a small group of girls sat on the grass in the far corner.
"What are you doing here? It's dead out here!" I ask, my curiosity peaked.
"I always come out here. It's a nice place to think." Scott replies, looking out over the grass.
"You can always come sit with us in the lunch hall, you know?" I suggest.
"I don't think Marcus would be too keen." Scott mumbles, staring at his feet.
It's true. Marcus hates Scott. Which means the football team hates Scott. High school sucks.
"Marcus is an attention seeking douche." I roll my eyes, which makes Scott chuckle slightly. "But as long as you keep kissing me, you're pretty much untouchable. You can thank Sara for that."
"You mean like this?" He leans in and kisses me softly, resisting the smile that tugs at his lips.
"Exactly like that!" I wink at him.
"So, why does being with you make me untouchable?" He raises an eyebrow, the satisfied smirk still occupying his features.
"Because Sara dating Marcus!" I say, as if it should be obvious. "He'll do whatever she tells him to. After all, without a hot girlfriend, he's just another boring football player!"
He laughs. "I wouldn't call being the quarterback 'boring'."
I lean in closer to him until our cheeks brush, sending a shiver through my body.
"It is when you can shoot beams of energy from your eyes!" I whisper, kissing his cheek as I pull away.
"And when your girlfriend can set herself alight and live with not even a minor burn." He adds.
My giggle is cut off when suddenly, the words, the rumours, the stories from earlier... They all drift away. I realize that high school will end, having to hide my abilities from the world, however, may not. I look down as it dawns on me that my problem is embedded in me potentially for life.
"How could anyone want, or even except, me with my... Problem?" I suppress a sob.
"I see no problem. I see a beautiful girl, with an even more beautiful ability." He touches my cheek and directs my glance to his face.
"But I'm a danger to everyone I-"
"I'm willing to take the risk." He smiles.
"Plus," he starts, a cheeky smile consuming his face. "Fiery redheads are just my type!"