It was the week before homecoming. All of Benton Academy was in full swing, the school was bustling with activity. It seemed every club, no matter there social ranking was doing something to contribute to the festive air filling the hallways. The football players were kings of the school, having just handed St. Katherine's Episcopal Academy a crushing defeat. If the football players were the kings of the school, then the cheerleader's where princess. If the cheerleader were princesses that made my sister chief-princess because she was the captain of the varsity cheerleaders.
Not that any of that concerned me of course. Heck as far as anybody knew I was a ghost. See I'm that kind of guy that normally stands in the back of the room, drumming his cup of spiked fruit punch, shifting his weight from one foot to the next while everybody else is talking and joking. But before I go any further, please allow me to explain myself in greater detail.
See in Benton, there really two types of guys. The first one is the all-sports kind of guy, the ones that played every sport known under the sun. The kind of macho man who is always seeing sporting a crew cut. Ask them about the weather or the events going on in the wider world, and they will just stare at you. You can almost hear the gears inside their heads going into overdrive. The next kind of guy is the outdoors type. Normally there retired or active members of the Benton Boy Scout Troop, Troop 543. These types are often either hunters or fisherman or both. There normally slender, have let there hair grow out a bit, and often remain silent, the strong silent type if you will. Ask them about the weather, and nine times out of ten they will put their thumbs in there mouth, remove said thumb and hold it up and depending on the direction of the wind you'll get.
"Wind from the West, fish bite the best. Wind from the East, fish bite the least. Wind from the North, do not go forth. Wind from the South blows bait in their mouth." A sounder piece of weather lore was never penned in the annals of history if you ask me.
And since sports required physical contact. And owning to crimping asthma, a slender body and a general lack of understanding of a lot of 'X's' and 'O's' drawn on a blackboard. Sports where, and I doubt shall be ever my thing. Fishing on the other hand I can relate too. Since finishing the varies ponds, streams, and brooks and even the river itself allowed me to think and in a way almost meditated. It was by that grace along I was allowed to join or sit at the 'Hunting and Fishing' table during lunch hour.
So besides fishing, I do have one other hobby. You see I love tabletop gaming and anything dealing with anime and manga., I was also an avid reader. So I spent a good bit of my time in the library. Either the one at my school or the one in town. I liked the one in town because that was kind of common ground. And a cool girl called Madeline was often spotted there. I knew from official sources she was dating somebody, so are conversations where always causal. She struck me as kind of a nice girl, she really seemed to dig the supernatural stuff too.
But putting all that aside, let me return to the story. It was my self-study period, and I was spending that time plowing through The Eye of the Word by Robert Jordan. And I was halfway chapter three when out of the corner of my eye I spotted my sister walking into the room. She noticed me and offered a little wave. At first, I thought she was lost since normally she'll spend the break period being a social butterfly. Instead, she was here, where only the books and voices of long-dead authors dwelled.
Slowly she walked over to the table where I sat. She then pulled out the chair and reached over and lowered my book.
"Hey, little bro, I have a huge favor to ask of you, like big. Like new video game big or I'll drive you to Jackson to see that new anime movie big.. That includes me buying the popcorn and snacks." She said in a low, whispery tone of voice.
I blinked and blinked again as I peered toward her. I lowered my book and peered at her. She seemed bothered by something and she kept looking around the room. In a way, it seemed she was ashamed to be here or maybe she was on the lookout for somebody or someone. Maybe one of the ultra-cool kids.
"Sure.." I said at last. Whatever she was wanting, she seemed willing to pay out the big bucks.
"Okay, you know next week is homecoming, right? And where playing like are big rival Manchester Academy right? And that like every year... We host a 'hostage exchange' like a member from our school is handed over to Manchester and in return, they offer up one of theirs? And... Like if we win, are hostage is returned safe right? And we kind of mess up there hostage. But if we lost are hostage gets messed up and we release the other... It's like something totally stupid yes, but its tradition."
I took a deep breath and leaned my chair back. I folded my hands behind my head and closed my eyes as I chewed over each word. I know of the rivalry between Manchester Academy and Benton Academy. It was one as old as the hills. We've been at each other's throats for the better part of fifty or so years. See both schools were founded in the seventies. Both started off as "Segregation Academies" private all-white schools that sprung up like toadstools after thunderstorm following the fallout of desegregation. And exchange thing. That was another tradition too. There at least a dozen or so stories telling the origins of the wacky tradition. None of which will be mentioned here of course.
Anyway, take a minute, a very long minute to turn everything over in my head. I opened my eyes and peered toward my sister.
"One question, why do you need me? One, I'm a nerd. Two the hostage is always a little sister of a cheerleader and three. I'm not one of the cool kids." I said in a flat tone of voice.
My sister did not skip a beat.
"This year's hostage... For Manchester at least happens to be the little sister of the captain's varsity cheerleading squad. So we gotta match that, and since I'm the captain.."
"Lily.." I said finally putting two and two together. "I'm a boy.."
"But you can pass as a girl! Plus with your hair, your body. Your Manners. And I'll help you. Trust me. Please, little brother.." She reached over and wrapped her hands around mine and peered into my eyes. Her baby blue eyes seemed to almost sparkle. "Please. Jamie for me.."
I blinked and blinked again. Gathering up my courage, I nodded my head.
A smile grew on Lily face.
"Pinkie swear," Lily said holding out her Pink.
I had to raise an eyebrow. A pinkie swear was like. That was big. That was making a promise that could not be broken, no matter what.. It was the stuff of legends and schoolyard myths. I've even heard rumors of people returning from the dead to complete a pinky swear promise.
"Pink swear, that I will do everything in my power to help my sister," I said as I wrapped my tiny pink finger around hers. And she in return said.
"I swear, by all powers known and unknown, that no matter the outcome of the game. I'll treat my brother to a movie in Jackson. And that I, Lily Potter will buy all the drinks and snacks." Lily said as she peered into my eyes. And with that, it was done. A binding contract that could not be broken, a contact that even death could not break had been formed. And as I watched my sister leave. I swear I felt a chill pass over me.
"And remember, we need to talk this afternoon. And don't worry. I'll handle all the paperwork and legal mumbo-jumbo. See you in a bit baby sister." She called over her shoulder as she passed into the hallway.
I blinked and blinked again. Had Lily, just called me 'baby sister' that was. That was strange, not strange in a bad way, but strange in a good way. See Lily being one of the ultra-cool kids, and a cheerleader nonetheless, tried to distance herself from me as much as possible. She was the super perky, athletic cheerleader who overall pulled in average grades. No doubt in a year or so she'll graduate with honors and be award a cheerleading scholarship to attend college on. Me on the other hand, I'm sure I'll graduate with honors. And I'm sure I'll attend college, maybe majoring in history or something.
"See you, sis.." I called after her. I paused and quickly added. "Love you!" I added. It felt right to add the last part. A few seconds later my phone started to buzz and icon on the front showed I had a new text. The text was from Lily. As I opened it the text read.
"I love you too! Your such a dork though!- Big Sis."
End of Chapter One