|"School Hallway" by KFIU Public Radio|
"I can't believe he gave that to her."
"I can't believe she took it."
Penny wasn't deaf -- she could hear the whispers. It wasn't like they were exactly hard to hear: in the hallways, out on the grass, and even in the classrooms. She had heard them before, always about different people. Never once had she dreamed the whispers would be about her. But now they were and she had no idea what to do.
It wasn't like they were wrong. Yes, she had accepted Jake's gift. So what? Was it wrong to say thank you and accept a gift? Did middle schoolers really have to take every interaction between a male and a female as some sort of relationship?
Well, technically, Penny and Jake did have a relationship, but...
Someone stopped her in her thoughts. Penny blinked and flinched in surprise. "Who's there?"
Jake smiled sheepishly "Uh, hi?"
Penny stared at him before grabbing his arm and dragging him to the side of the hall. "What are you doing?" she hissed.
He seemed confused. "Saying hi?"
"We can't be seen together." Penny's face flushed.
"Haven't you heard the whispers?"
Jake nodded. "About me giving you the hockey book? Yeah, why?"
Penny took a shuddering breath in. "They think that one, I'm a weirdo for liking hockey, and two, that we're in some sort of relationship."
Jake shook his head. "Why can't you tell them the truth?"
Penny sighed and placed her hands to her head. "Come on, Jake. Who's really going to believe that we're cousins?"