I ducked into the classroom for my first class of the day. My brain had shifted back from seeing Mir in the hallway to what Shannon and I had discussed at breakfast. I didn't want to believe that I was really losing my strength because of being a vampire. I hated the idea that it was even possible. I had worked so hard to be able to keep up with my brothers and prove that girls were just as capable as boys. The shifters were going to see me as another of their vulnerable shifter women who needed protecting if word got out about this before I could figure out how to get my strength back. I needed it back now. I would just have to do the work.
I sat by myself in class, as I usually did. I was surprised when my classmates actually sat around me instead of filling all of the other seats first, like I was some kind of plague. "So what was it like?" one boy asked me, acting like he had been my friend this whole time.
"Yeah, what happens when you reject the change?" a girl asked.
"How'd you survive?" another asked.
More students gathered around, all wanting answers. I contemplated selfishly not answering them, but that wasn't my way, even if they hadn't been nice to me previously. I also realized that despite their bravado and all of their pretending to be normal, they were just scared kids. None of us were ever really told what was happening to us, or what would happen if we failed to complete the change.
So I told them. I spent every moment until the teacher arrived telling them what happened when my body began to reject the change. I told them about losing strength and how vampires were weaker than normal humans. And I told them the thing I was supposed to keep secret above all else. I told them about the pills. Everything Shannon and I had found out I told them.
They thanked me over and over again and I knew I had finally gained respect in my classmates eyes. None of them paid attention in class that day as they were all consumed with the information I had given them. I did pay attention to the fact that Professor Rhodes still wasn't back. It had been over two weeks since she disappeared.
"Did they ever say what happened to Professor Rhodes?" I asked one of my classmates after class. She shook her head.
"All they said is that she's gone missing," she replied. She and the others who all had the same class as me walked me to my class, almost like an honor guard. I was used to such behavior from my brothers and the thought made me smile, remembering all the times we had walked like this. I wasn't used to it from my classmates, though. I guessed that Mir was right and they really were idolizing me. I was a hero to them, someone who had survived the thing they all feared. I lived to tell them about it, and I wasn't telling them just about that experience, but also about other things the school was hiding from us all. I also knew that none of them were stupid enough to tell the teachers what I had told them.
By lunch my strength was failing. I didn't want to do it, especially surrounded by my yearmates, but I knew I would have no choice. I wouldn't survive the rest of my classes without help. "I-I don't want to scare you all away..." I hesitated.
"What's wrong?" one of the girls asked. I was going to have to learn all of their names if they kept being nice to me...
"I told you all about the vampires are weaker than humans thing. I've only been out of the hospital a couple of days and I'm not going to make it through the day without help..." I still hesitated.
"What can we do to help?" one of the boys asked. Gods, I was going to have a lot of names to learn.
"Um...I can." I hesitated again. Why was this so hard? "I can do a partial shift, pull strength from my shifter side to make it through the day, but it can be disconcerting to humans," I threw out the words quickly before I lost my nerve. The group seemed to sigh in relief that that's all it was.
"Go ahead," the boy told me. "We'll bash in the skulls of anyone who tries to be mean to you about it." I was glad for the change of opinion from the class, but I still wished they had come up with it sooner, and before I nearly died. I nodded though and stood from my spot at the table. I didn't want them all watching me shift forms. I only had to take a few steps to be sheltered behind one of the plants in the cafeteria. I shifted forms quickly, pulling strength from my wolf. My ears had shifted and I had a tail. I worried again that my classmates were going to turn against me again, but when I returned to the table they didn't shun me. They welcomed me back with kind words. I took my seat again, still self conscious, but I felt so much better with the extra strength of my wolf. I might just make it through this day.