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I sit and watch the clock, hood over my head, hands gently resting on the coolness of my desk. Epistemophobia. Fear of knowledge.
I am not saying I'm epistemophobic. I am simply stating that I am not in the mood to be in school right now. Is that such a crime?
Mr. Patterson started class with a boring lecture and then left. He must be ephebiphobic. That's pretty much saying that he's afraid of teenagers. I guess I can understand why. I mean, considering that most of the girls have a crush on him and half the boys try to light his room on fire once a week, I'd be pretty ephebiphobic myself if I were in his shoes. The thing is, he's always making excuses to leave. A coffee stain on his shirt. A paper cut. It never ends.
I peel my eyes from the clock as Mr. Patterson walks in. Apparently today's excuse is a new student. Mr. Patterson doesn't even bother to introduce him to us. The boy simply saunters in with a peculiar confidence in his stride, walks to the back of the room, and sits next to me. I notice he doesn't make a sound. He is so very silent.
The new boy is dark – his vibe, I mean. His long, pale fingers curl into a folded position, and the room suddenly feels thick, dense. Nobody watches him like I do. They're either asleep or plotting another way to light Mr. Patterson's room on fire. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the new boy staring.
Ophthalmophobia. Fear of being stared at.
I feel the color rise in my cheeks.
Ereuthrophobia. Fear of blushing.
“What?” New Boy asks, as if wondering what I said.
Shoot. I must have said it out loud.
“Nothing,” I mutter, hiding my face. It's going to be a long class.
I am lying across the bench that connects to the lunch table. It's raining, so we are not allowed to eat at our regular tree. I wouldn't mind sitting in the rain, but apparently the principal doesn't agree. Tara looks at me with her unusually bright green eyes.
“What is wrong with you?” She pokes my stomach with a plastic spork. I think there should be a word for the fear of sporks. Sporkiophobia. Yes. I quite like that.
“You're lying on the bench. Are you sick or something? Protesting the cafeteria tables? You could at least sit on the floor.”
“Kathisophobia,” I say. “Fear of sitting down.” I close my eyes and don't need to open them to know that she is sniffing her purple Jell-O, debating whether or not the lunch lady's latest experiment is edible.
“Will you just shut up with all these stupid phobias?” she asks, accidentally knocking over her tiny cup of raisins in the process. I know this, because I hear them. It happens almost every day, only the ants usually get to them before she can scoop them up. Because we're inside, I hear her drop each one back into the container. “Ms. Rickle really needs to stop the phobia lessons, or you need to switch to a different class.”
“I think it's cool,” says a warm, honey-like voice from above me. I open my eyes and see the new kid. I turn my head and see Tara's eyes go wide as she brushes a strand of purple hair behind her ear.
Androphobia. Fear of men. I know she isn't androphobic, but it fits. It almost makes me laugh.
“Desiree, right?” New Boy asks, looking at me. I hate my name, so I have people call me Des. New boy doesn't seem fazed by my name, though. He grins a perfect, pearly grin. Gosh, even upside-down he's gorgeous. I sit up and turn to him, well aware that gravity has made my frizzy brown hair a tangled mess. I try not to look directly at him. He is too distracting.
“Yes,” I say. “I never caught your-”
“Ash.” He grins. “Call me Ash.” That smile … My legs go numb as he runs his thin fingers – Tara would call them piano fingers – through his dark hair.
“Right.” I swallow as he moves forward.
“Can I sit here?” he asks.
“Umm …” I look at Tara. Will she be upset if somebody – a boy – sits with us?
“I need to go to the library. See ya!” She winks at me and hurriedly exits the lunchroom.
“Well, I guess you can now.” I smile at Ash.
He sits across from me. “No lunch?” he asks, gesturing to the bare table.
I want to shoot back, “Okay, hypocrite. Where's your lunch?” But instead I shrug and say, “Sitophobia.”
He laughs. It's such a genuine sound. “Fear of eating?”
“Nah,” I said. “I'm just not very hungry.”
A period of silence follows before he says, “So I have English next period, and I heard that you do too. Would you mind if I borrowed your poetry book to see what I missed?”
I pull the old, torn poetry book out of my bag. I've written “metrophobia” all over it – fear of poetry.
“Wow,” he says.
“What?” I ask, suddenly nervous. Does he think it's weird that I wrote all over my book?
He doesn't answer at first.
Macrophobia. Fear of long waits.
“There must be a lot of poetry in there.” He whistles.
I sigh. Right. “Yeah, the book really is huge.”
“Well,” he says, standing up and stretching. “I'll give it back in English. Thanks.”
He walks away, and I wonder why he didn't just stay and walk to class with me.
We work in pairs in English, and Ash is my partner. He hands me my poetry book, takes a look at the test paper and says, “Testophobia,” showing me his famous grin.
I smile. I'm beginning to like this guy.
We are the first to finish the test, so we talk quietly. “Why'd you transfer?” I ask, and immediately regret it.
His face clouds over and his eyes go dark. Those full lips form a thin, white line. “Things happened.”
“Oh,” I say. I am grateful when the bell rings, and I move to leave, but Ash takes my arm.
Haphephobia, I think, my heart pounding.
“Fear of being touched,” Ash says quietly, as if reading my mind. I shudder. “Look,” he says, “I'm sorry I stoned up on you like that.”
I shake. I will not be tremophobic. I will not be tremophobic.
“If you were tremophobic, you wouldn't be shaking like this,” Ash says, brushing a piece of hair from my face.
“It's like you know me – like you can read my mind,” I whisper.
“Come with me. I have something to show you,” he says as the next class files in.
The clearing in the woods is soggy with rain. I am grateful for my old rainboots and jacket.
Nyctohylophobia and ombrophobia drift through my mind. Fear of dark wooded areas and fear of rain.
“Why did you bring me here?” My body tenses. My voice comes out raspy. “How did you know?”
“Des,” he says, his voice thick and tired as he looks into my eyes. I look at him. God, he is so familiar. I'd know that face anywhere. Why didn't I see it before?
“Ash … as in Ashton.” My eyes widen.
Mnemophobia. This is a fear I have had for the past year and a half. Fear of memories.
It all comes back: the fire, the accident, the death ….
Arsonphobia, dystychiphobia, thanatophobia. Fear of fire, accidents, death.
“Ashton.” I take his face in my hands. His long fingers move to cradle my face as well. “Oh,” I whisper. “How?”
He kisses me. My boyfriend, my love, the one I thought I had lost. They said he was gone. How could he be back?
Philophobia. I've been philophobic ever since the accident – afraid to fall in love.
I open my eyes while my hands curl in his hair. The pressure of him – of the kiss – is still there, but he is not. I pull away and gasp.
“Phasmophobia,” I whisper, my lips quivering. Fear of ghosts.