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“I hate you.”
“No you don’t”
“I do. Contrary to popular belief you can be hated.”
“Charlotte I know you don’t hate me.”
Cedric and Charlotte were loitering in their usual spot in the parking lot before class. It was a warm sunny day, just perfect to warm your skin after the winter months. Dirty mounds of snow still lingered in the lot like lumpy clouds of grime. Charlotte leaned against the Cabrio with her backpack hanging loosely from her shoulder and a small scowl on her face. She was glaring at Cedric through her thick lashes.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a gigantic boob?”
“I don’t think they have.” Cedric said laughing, “In almost 200 years I’ve never been called a boob.”
“Well you heard it here first.”
“So I’m a gigantic boob for switching into your gym class?”
A small flash of uncertainty colored his features for a moment “Am I being clingy?” Cedric asked.
“A little, I mean, it’s gym.” She sighed, “What could possibly go wrong?”
“Famous last words.”
Slow was an understatement to Cedric, who was a speed demon both literally and metaphorically. The students looked ridiculous in their grey and blue uniforms as they waited around the center of the track for Coach Carr. Cedric usually wasn’t allowed to participate in any form of physical activity in school, lest he kill someone. Being a vampire in a high school gym class was like being a brain surgeon working at Wendy’s. Of course there were rules when participating in gym. Cedric’s mother had insisted her sons try to appear as normal as possible; like no damaging physical contact or causing injuries when it came to baseball and the like. Stephen had to be extra careful not to attract the attention of college football coaches. They all had to make strategic stumbles to let the human athlete’s shine. His family needed to stay out of the limelight. He and Stephen were already in trouble for sneaking onto the set of Michael Jackson’s Thriller as zombie extras. Rule #4 of being a vampire: Keep a low profile.
All the rules just made Cedric’s head spin.
Like all rules, they were made for a reason. Cedric and his brother’s used to get a secret delight from watching their human counterparts try to beat them but that changed in 1987. They had been attending a fancy prep school in New York which prided itself on having the best athletes. Pietro, ever the show off, decided to join the track team. Everyone was fine with this until he qualified for the Summer Olympics. Ever since that shameful moment in history Dinah Salvator outlawed running sports for her sons and drew up the infamous rules.
Cedric hated the rules.
“Cedric? Ced are you listening to me?”
Charlotte was standing next to him with her hands on her hips. Phoebe was standing next to her looking petrified. Cedric had to laugh; Phoebe just didn’t look like gym material.
Cedric shook away from his daze, “Yes.”
“Liar.” Charlotte muttered under her breath knowing Cedric would catch it.
Before he could retort Coach blew his whistle, “Today we’ll be moving on in our fitness for life program. We’ll be running track today people so I hope you brought your water bottles!”
Everyone groaned, Cedric particularly loudly. If Coach only knew the irony.
“Track?” Charlotte said, “I hate track. What’s the point of running around in a circle?”
Cedric smirked, “Would you prefer a rabbit running before you?”
Charlotte gave him a growl and a punch in the arm, “I’m not a Greyhound you know.”
Coach was trying to corral everyone’s attention back to him. No one was listening. The mindless chatter continued until the exasperated teacher blew on his whistle.
“Silence!” he shouted. Everyone immediately shut their traps. Coach cleared his throat and continued, “Let’s warm-up first. Thirty push-ups and twenty sit-ups! Let’s move it people!”
Charlotte easily flattened her body into a plank and proceeded to count her push-ups with the class. It wasn’t as hard as it was annoying but after awhile she knew her arms would be burning. Phoebe on the other hand was suffering like someone shut her face in a car door.
“Why…do…they…make…intelle…ctuals…take…gym…?” she panted, shifting away from Charlotte precise form into her own flawed kneeling one.
“It builds character.” She heard Cedric say. He made push-ups look effortless.
Phoebe was slack jawed, “Are you even breaking a sweat?!”
Cedric pulled one arm behind his back and proceeded to do a few one armed push-ups. He gave Phoebe, who wanted to rip his lips off, a dimpled smile “I don’t sweat remember?”
“Miss Spencer!” Coach bellowed.
Phoebe instantly lowered her head and tried to do another push-up, “Yes…coach?”
Coach pinched the crease between his eyes, “Those are girl push-ups. Girl push-ups don’t count.”
“Who says?!” Phoebe said, “I’m a girl! Why don’t they count?!”
“Because,” Coach began, “in this dojo there is no ‘easy way out’. Gym is pain and suffering! Now flatten out and give me REAL push-ups!”
Phoebe swallowed her reply and tried to ignore the flaming in her lungs. She was so out of shape. You would think running from the monsters of the week she encountered she’d be in better shape. Who knew Mountain Dew and midnight Taco Bell runs could be detrimental to one’s athletic ability?
When the warm-ups had ceased most students were groaning on the Astroturf. Cedric was instantly reminded of a battlefield full of wounded soldiers. He had no idea how his brother played football with humans and enjoyed himself.
He was dying.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” Coach yelled, trying to get the remaining lollygaggers on their shaking feet. He sighed, almost like he was talking to a bunch of monkeys, “We’re running one mile today. Eight times around the track! Remember to pace yourselves people, I don’t need a lawsuit.”
Phoebe reluctantly raised her hand, “I have asthma, can I be excused?”
Coach glared at her, “What’s the school policy about being excused for gym class?”
“A doctor’s note!” Cami Mulligan piped in.
“Yes,” Coach said obviously annoyed, “and do you have one Miss Spencer?”
My dad’s a doctor; do I seriously need a note? Phoebe thought, “Um… no.”
“In that case, I think that you will be running today! Anyone else have an excuse?”
Cedric nudge Phoebe, “Don’t worry I have to be slow anyway. I’ll keep you company.”
“Why do I find that so unbelievable?” Phoebe groaned, “I don’t even like to walk, let alone run.”
Charlotte shrugged, “You ran pretty fast when that Incubus was trying to get you.”
“That was a onetime deal! And you promised not to speak of it again!”
“NO TALKING!” Coach Carr yelled. “Everyone at the start line. Keep track of how many laps you’ve done. Pace yourselves people! Breathe slowly and don’t push yourselves. I know some of you aren’t Olympic athletes,” he glanced at Phoebe, “but I want everyone to try. If you get winded take a one minute breather and keep going. The class will wait until everyone crosses the finish line. And I mean everyone!”
“We’ll be here for hours.” Cedric said, not realizing he’d let that slip out.
Phoebe sent him a nasty look, “Not all of us are blessed with the speed of a predator.”
“Oh please!” Charlotte said, “If we’re going to be nice children we have to learn how to behave. Shut up! The both of you!”
“Mouth breather.” Cedric mumbled.
“Ann Rice nightmare.” Phoebe countered
Charlotte yelled, “Shut it!”
Meanwhile the class was already lined up and ready to go. Coach stood on the sidelines.
“On your mark…get set…” he blew his whistle and the students took off.
Of course Cedric could’ve run a mile in seconds but that would defeat the purpose of “the rules”. Plus he had to keep his identity safe. So he had to resort to running at Charlotte’s moderate pace. She was pacing herself, as she could also out-sprint the class with her Lycanthropic abilities. Phoebe was running dreadfully slow, falling behind to dead last. Charlotte and Cedric were near the middle of the pack and jogged lightly as not to arouse suspicion.
“This is fun.” Charlotte said. Her thick dark hair was bouncing even though it was pinned to the back of her head.
Cedric quirked and eyebrow, “Fun isn’t the word I’d use.”
She smirked, “I’d like to see who’s really faster. You know, for real.”
“Definitely me.” Cedric said quickly.
“Because I’m built for speed.”
“Yeah right. Everyone knows wolves are more aerodynamic.”
“Please. I could run circles around you in a desert.”
“Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?”
“Maybe I will. What’re the stakes?”
Charlotte thought for a moment, “If you lose you have to be nice to Phoebe… oh and give her the Bugati.”
Cedric stifled a groan, “But I love the Bugati! It’s brand new!”
“Um like you care? It’s Pietro’s car.”
“True.” Cedric grinned, “But if I win I get to hypnotize you for a whole day.”
They both crossed the finish line with a decent time of 10 minutes.
“C’mon people!” Coach berated, “Get the anchors out of your pants and run!”
Phoebe chugged on behind them, eventually finishing at seventeen minutes. She stood with her hands on her knees panting like she might collapse at any moment. Cedric thought she was being a drama queen.
“Okay okay,” Coach said, “now that everyone’s finished we’ll be taking one another’s pulses. Find a partner and grab their hand.”
Cedric reached for Charlotte but was shocked to find she was already partners with Phoebe, who looked ready to pass out. He searched diligently for someone but Victoria Sanders had already snatched away his hand.
“Hope you don’t mind.” She said, “I needed a partner.”
“We’re going to practice taking each other’s heart rates. Palms up, elbows bent! Follow the line of your partner’s thumb down to the wrist and rest your index and middle fingers in the groove just inside the bone. Do not use your thumb. We’ll be counting for fifteen seconds. Multiply that number by four and you’ll have your number of heart beats per minute. Everyone ready?” Coach said.
Cedric froze. He didn’t have a pulse. How could he have been so stupid! Now the rules made sense! He mulled over different scenarios in his mind. Victoria played lacrosse and would know exactly where to take his pulse. She wouldn’t make a mistake and she would figure out Cedric wasn’t so…alive. He technically was a dead body.
“Crap.” He muttered, “Time to think on your feet Ced.”
A student could be fooled…maybe. But a teacher? Cedric didn’t want to find out. Suddenly he remembered Phoebe and her asthma. He grinned to himself and collapsed on the ground.
“Oh my God!” Victoria screamed.
Cedric clawed at his throat and began to pant and wheeze like someone was standing on his chest. He curled himself into a fetal position and tried to pull air into his lungs.
“Mr. Salvator!” Coach cried, lumbering over to him.
The rest of the class was gathered around in shock. Phoebe and Charlotte however looked downright giddy.
“He just collapsed!” Victoria shouted, almost in tears.
Most of the girls in the class were very concerned about the class eye candy. Some were already sobbing like he was dead or something.
“Asthma…can’t…breathe!” Cedric cried, gasping for effect.
“You have asthma?” Victoria said.
Charlotte rolled her eyes, “Oh please.”
Coach knelt down and placed his hand over Cedric’s forehead, “Sweet J***s you’re going cold!”
Charlotte nudged Phoebe foreword. Her reluctant friend was going to be a town hero now.
“Here,” She said, whipping out her small inhaler.
Cedric grabbed the inhaler, his hands shaking, and took two puffs for good measure. He gagged at the bitter taste but had to keep up his charade.
He looked up at the class, using his grey eyes to his advantage. Charlotte was reminded of a puppy and she didn’t know if Cedric could make his eyes any bigger.
“Phoebe… you saved my life.” He said.
“Yeah,” Phoebe said, playing the scene out, “I guess I did.”
Charlotte whispered to Phoebe, “And the Oscar goes to…”