"Would the following students please report to the Principal's Office?"
Like every other student in the room, I tensed up and listened carefully. This was The Program. The students summoned would spend the next week attending school completely naked. That's right. Completely, totally, utterly naked. Not only naked but getting groped and felt up by every idiot in the school.
The Program was some moron's brain-spasm of an idea about getting people to be more comfortable with themselves. Apparently going around school utterly naked and being groped and forcefully masturbated by people who either hated you or who didn't know you was supposed to teach you important life skills. You aren't even allowed to complain, or stop them or defend yourself or anything. You're stripped naked and left completely vulnerable – both physically and emotionally. Then, while you're vulnerable, you are subjected to a week of sexual humiliation and torture. The entire thing is a week of state-sanctioned rape covered over with a thin veneer of social engineering.
It's bad enough if you're an extraverted type of person but if you're like me and prefer not to be at the centre of attention then being in The Program is a week of sheer hell.
Even the blatant exhibitionists find being in The Program daunting and challenging. And they're people who enjoy being naked or having people watch them doing some sort of sexual act. Some people argue that the sex that happens is like a reward for being put through all of that. And some people do end up gaining a bit of self-confidence or whatever. But do the ends justify the means? That's what I want to know.
Now maybe you understand why everybody was nervously waiting to hear if their name would be called.
"Jeremy Stanners, Lily Li, Margot Delaccio, Alistair Lister, Estella Dunn, Jacob Neeker"
The list of six names rolled out. I gasped when the last name was called – Jacob Neeker.
"No way!" I muttered.
I rocketed out of my chair and ran to the door. "I've got to go!" I told the Mr Mahoney, not quite yelling in my urgency.
I think he was surprised by my reaction. I'm normally such a quiet little mouse of a person.
"Naomi Neeker, sit down!" Mr Mahoney said in a severe voice. "Your name was not called."
"Yes, but didn't you hear? They called my brother. I have to go."
I darted out the door, ignoring Mr Mahoney's increasingly strident orders to return.
You know how I said I was a bit introverted. Well my brother Jacob is the definition of introverted. He's made being invisible an art form. Part of that is survival – he's the smallest kid in the school and an obvious target for bullying. Not that he's a wimp or anything. They push him and he pushes back. Plus he looks at them with contempt instead of fear. The bullies end up leaving him alone and go looking for somebody who is afraid of them. Mind you, this is a pretty good school so the bullying isn't that bad. Just pushing and name-calling and whatever.
The main point is that Jacob just doesn't want to be noticed. He doesn't like people making a fuss about him. Being stuck in The Program is going to blow that out of the water. Jacob's not going to be happy. And like I said, Jacob isn't a wimp. This was going to be bad for Jacob and I would do anything I could to protect him.
Frantically, I ran down the hallways and hurtled down the stairs as I made my way to the Principal's Office. Fortunately, everyone was in homeroom so the hallways were mostly empty. I overtook Jeremy and Lily on the stairs. Jeremy looked unhappy, Lily not so much. I never took Lily for an exhibitionist, but there you go.
The door to Mr Macleith's office was open and I could see Jacob and a couple of others were already in there. Jacob was looking pale and frightened. Even in that small group he was somehow behind the others where he wouldn't be noticed.
Remember I said I was a bit introverted? What I did next was totally out of character for me.
I charged into the room and started talking as soon as I was through the door.
"Mr Macleith, I need to talk to you. You can't do this. You can't put Jacob in The Program."
Mr Macleith glared at me from under his thick eyebrows. "Naomi Neeker, your name was not called. Return to your class."
Mr Macleith was used to being obeyed by everyone in the school. Mr Macleith was particularly used to me meekly saying "yes sir" or "no sir" every time he spoke to me. I think he was more surprised than I was that I ignored him and kept talking.
"But Mr Macleith, you have to listen to me. Please don't do this to Jacob. He doesn't deserve this. Why can't you leave him alone? I beg you. Don't do it."
"Why not? Jacob is an ideal candidate. He is quiet and withdrawn. He has few friends. A week in The Program will help bring him out of his shell. It will help him gain the confidence to make friends. It will get him noticed so that others will be interested in being his friend. We've seen it happen before. Quite a few students like Jacob have been through The Program and benefited greatly."
"You'll get him noticed all right, but not the way you mean. Has it occurred to you that he doesn't want to be noticed. Not like that, anyway. You get so hot under the collar about bullying in this school but this is worse than any type of bullying the kids do to each other."
"If you're concerned about his safety, I assure you we have that covered," said Mr Macleith. "We are issuing whistles to all of our Program students." He held up a bunch of lanyards, each with a whistle attached. "Jacob will be able to call for help using the whistle if there is any problem. We are also giving him two wrist bands to wear. The right one says YES and the left one says NO. Jacob will be able to clearly give or deny permission to any requests made of him." He handed the wrist bands to Jacob who looked at them doubtfully.
"Just because Jacob cannot speak should not prevent him from gaining the benefits of The Program."
I glanced over at Jacob. He shrugged.
I could see I wasn't getting anywhere with Mr Macleith. It was like arguing with a brick wall. But I wasn't ready to give up.
"Mr Macleith, that isn't the only problem. He has some scarring down his front. It's not..." I stopped and tried again. "He wears full-cover clothing for a reason."
I looked back at Jacob. He looked upset, scared and a tiny bit angry but all he had done was shrug. Maybe he was accepting this better than I was.
"If he's embarrassed about a few scars, then this is a chance for him to get over that embarrassment," said Mr Macleith. "Now, you have gallantly defended your brother but it is time for you to return to class, I need to get this started."
I looked around the room, all six of the named Program participants were now in the room and were watching our exchange in silence.
Jacob signed to me: <Thanks for trying. I guess I have to do this. Can you stay with me?>
"I think I better stay," I said to Mr Macleith. "You might need me to translate."
Mr Macleith considered that for a moment but then shrugged and gestured for me to step back so he could address the other six students. "You have all been selected to participate in The Program for one week. That means for the next seven days, you will be naked at any time you are in school or attending any school event. Covering up in any way is not permitted. The only exception is that you may don protective clothing if it is required for safety reasons. Sport bras are considered safety equipment for girls during sporting activities. Jacob may, of course, wear his artificial leg."
The others all started and looked at Jacob in surprise. Very few people knew about his leg. Since it was only from the knee down, he was able to move around quite normally. He was even able to participate in most PhysEd classes, though his PE teacher knew to excuse him from some activities. Since he didn't get changed with the others, his leg had been a well-kept secret – until now.
Jacob blushed at the attention and looked down.
I didn't like the casual way that Mr Macleith had exposed that secret, but then again, forcing Jacob to undress would have exposed his leg anyway so maybe I would have to let that one slide.
"Most students," continued Mr Macleith. Then he paused to make sure that he had regained everyone's attention. "Most students find it beneficial to engage in what we call Program Outreach. This means continuing your nudity at home with your family and in other places where you can safely do so. During your time in The Program, other students may make a request. If the request is reasonable, you are required to comply. The other student must allow you the opportunity to accept or refuse. If you refuse, you need to have a persuasive reason for refusing. The consequences for refusing a reasonable request without good reason are severe. On the other hand, mistreatment of a Program Participant is treated even more severely. Reasonable requests may include asking you to pose and some external touching. They may not include any contact intended to cause pain. You may refuse a request for any form of penetration. You may refuse a request if complying would cause you to break some other school rule, such as attending classes on time, staying away from out-of-bounds areas, and so on.
"For hygiene reasons, there are small towels in each classroom which you are to use to sit on and for cleaning up any sweat or other bodily fluids. At the end of each lesson, deposit the towel in the basket provided. Miss Taylor, the student councillor, will be available in her office if anybody has issues arising from their participation in The Program. Does anyone have any questions?"
His question was met with silence. Everyone knew the rules.
"Very well then, please disrobe and place your clothing in these baskets. They will be kept here at the office until the end of the day. We do not expect any trouble but take a whistle each and hang it around your neck. One long clear blast on the whistle will bring staff members running wherever you are. Once you are ready, head off to your first class. I wish you all the best and hope you all gain full benefit from your time in The Program."
Mr Macleith sat down at his desk and ostentatiously began reading some papers on his desk. He was clearly giving the students an opportunity to undress without him staring at them.
The others nervously began to remove their clothes and place them in the row of labelled baskets.
Jacob looked over at me and shrugged. I smiled at him and nodded, trying to give him courage. He seemed resigned to what was about to happen.
Carefully he removed the football top he had been wearing, folded it and placed it in his basket. That revealed the long sleeved, high necked shirt he always wore. Then he carefully removed both shoes and lowered his loose-fit jeans. He was wearing a pair of close-fitting under-shorts that came down to his mid-thigh. The harness around his left knee became visible and the other students stopped what they were doing to look as his lower legs were revealed.
The pink plastic covering his lower left leg contrasted strongly with the dusky tones of his normal skin colour. Below the knee and down the calf was shaped like a normal leg but the section from there down to the ankle left the mechanics visible. The exposed mechanism included some screws that had allowed us to adjust the length of the leg as he grew. Unfortunately it was now at full extension. He would need a new leg soon or he would develop a limp as his good leg grew longer than his fake leg. The leg was old and looked a bit battered in places. There was some scaring visible on his bad leg between the knee and the mid-thigh until it became hidden by his shorts.
The others all murmured to each other as they saw his leg for the first time. I guess if you've never seen someone wearing an artificial leg it could be a bit disturbing or whatever. Alistair asked a couple of questions about the leg – was it uncomfortable, had it been hard to learn how to walk on it, and so on. Jacob answered in sign and I translated for him.
Once they'd all had a good look at his leg, the others turned back and finished undressing.
Jacob sighed and turned his back on the others. He peeled the shirt off, revealing a back with clear, smooth, unmarked skin. Then he seemed to come to a stop. He didn't move at all. I stepped over to him and nudged his elbow. That started him moving again. He glanced at me and then carefully folded the shirt and handed it to me. I reached over and deposited it in his basket. Then, still keeping his back to everybody, he slid down his under-shorts, folded them and handed them to me. I got rid of them in the same way.
The others were all naked by now and were standing around, waiting for Jacob to finish. I have to admit, I didn't take the slightest bit of notice of the others in the room. Their nakedness was much less important to me than Jacob's wellbeing.
Jacob was now naked apart from his shoes. He can use the foot without a shoe but it gets a bit slippery and he's more liable to fall over. He stood there with his back to the others as he composed himself. He took a deep breath and reached out for my hand. I grasped his hand with mine and gave it a quick squeeze. Then together, holding hands, we turned to face the others.
The reaction was immediate. The room became filled with gasps and swearing and cries of horror. Estella went pale and looked on the verge of fainting. Alistair stepped back and then turned and bolted out of the room. Lily made some gagging noises, covered her mouth and raced to the rubbish bin in the corner. She vomited and the smell of vomit spread through the room. That started Jeremy, who didn't get to a suitable receptacle in time and made a mess on the carpet. Margot just stood and stared. Then she blinked a couple of times and looked away. Even Mr Macleith turned white, staring in shock and horror.
Jacob and I just stood there and watched the chaos. Jacob seemed to be standing taller as if the reaction had given him confidence. Or perhaps the end of hiding his scars had given him confidence.
He signed: <Nothing is secret any more. I may as well get this over with. Will you walk with me? >
I nodded and took his hand again. Together we walked out of the office and into the hallway. Homeroom had finished and the hallways were crowded as students and teachers made their way to their first class. Jacob led me down the middle of the hallway. Nobody touched him. Everywhere we went, the crowds backed off and separated to make a path for us. Everyone stared. There were some gasps and some swear words and a few cries of shock and horror. A few ran away or vomited. After several years of The Program, students were mostly used to the nudity. But nothing had prepared them for the sight of Jacob.
Jacob seemed to be taking a perverse pleasure from the reaction he was getting. I told you he wasn't a wimp. I think he was angry that he'd been forced to reveal what he'd so carefully kept hidden for all of this time. And he obviously figured that if he was forced to do this then everyone else should suffer the consequences as well. He steered me around the hallways and up and down stairs, effectively doing a lap of the school so that as many students as possible could see him. Only the occasional trembling I could feel in his hand told me that his calm face and confident stride were masking more complicated emotions.
Mr Macleith finally caught up to us. "Please, come back to the office. We need to talk."
Mr Macleith was carrying a white lab coat from the science rooms. He draped that around Jacob's shoulders in effort to cover him up.
Jacob slipped the coat off and handed it to me.
He signed: <I am in The Program. I am not allowed to cover up. >
I translated for Mr Macleith and folded the lab coat over my arm.
Mr Macleith sighed and shook his head. He led us back toward his office, but then he remembered that it stank of vomit so he steered us into the conference room. We took our seats, with Jacob dutifully sitting on a towel. A moment later, Miss Taylor, the school councillor, joined us. She glanced at Jacob's front and went pale but then carried on as if nothing was wrong. She was carrying Jacob's school file, which she handed to Mr Macleith.
He took a moment to look through the file – it wasn't very thick, Jacob doesn't get into trouble much and he gets reasonable marks in class.
Mr Macleith cleared his throat and held up a document. "I have here a doctor's letter informing us about Jacob's leg and his inability to speak due to scarring on his larynx. It says there is also some scarring on his torso. I would say that is something of an understatement, wouldn't you?"
Both Jacob and I shrugged. Okay, so there was a lot of scarring on his torso.
"It goes on to recommend that Jacob be permitted to avoid some types of physical activity and that arrangements should be made for him to shower apart from the other students so that he can cater for his special needs. Well, I believe we followed these instructions."
He raised his eyebrow at us as he said that, as if seeking confirmation that Jacob had been allowed to shower separately. Jacob nodded and Mr Macleith seemed satisfied.
"There is no mention here of what caused the injuries, nor of what special needs you would need to cater for. I suppose we now have some idea of why the doctor suggested separate shower facilities."
He sighed and put the document down.
"Now that we have some idea of the extent of the scarring, perhaps you will be willing to tell us the whole story."
"Jacob didn't want anybody to know," I grumbled. "It's your fault we're in this position. If you hadn't decided to 'fix' his social issues..."
I stopped because Jacob had tugged on my arm. I looked at Jacob. He looked back at me for a moment. I could see him thinking so I waited. Eventually, he flicked his fingers at me: <Tell them. >
I sighed and turned to the two adults. I chewed on my lip as I tried to work out how to begin.
"This happened before we immigrated. There was a landmine."
Miss Taylor gasped. "Are you telling us that Jacob stepped on a landmine?"
"No, Jacob didn't step on a landmine," I replied in a sombre voice. "Another boy from our village did. His name was Dal. He died..."
I stopped for a moment to compose myself.
Miss Taylor looked pale and shook her head. She didn't say anything.
Dal had been a sweet kid. And he wasn't the only casualty in our village. There had been many others killed. And those of us who weren't killed were all still victims of the war in one way or another. I shivered at my own memories of that time, but I pushed them away because this was about Jacob and not about me.
After a moment, I started again. "Dal died instantly. Jacob was caught in the blast. We threw him in the back of a truck and took him to the next town where there was a hospital. The doctors worked very hard. It was a miracle that they kept him alive. They saved his leg down to just below his knee but they couldn't save all of it. His entire front was a mess and now he has scar tissue from his knees up to his neck. His larynx was ruined to the point where he lost the ability to speak. Somehow, that's where the damage stops. For some reason, his face didn't get touched."
I hesitated and looked at Jacob. He gestured for me to continue. I flicked a question at him. He hesitated and then signed: <Tell it all. >
I took a deep breath and launched into the most difficult bit.
"His genitals were completely obliterated. There was literally nothing left. They just grafted a flap of skin over his groin and made an outlet for his urethra. They didn't have the time or expertise to do any sort of reconstruction. As you saw, apart from the scar tissue, he looks pretty much like a doll down there – a doll that's been really battered around. It all looks a bit ghastly. As you experienced, the overall effect takes a bit of getting used to."
"What about plastic surgery?" asked Miss Taylor, finally finding her voice.
Both Jacob and I shrugged. "We can't afford it," I explained. "Dad is working two jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and to keep us in school. We're still paying off the medical bills from when we first arrived. His leg was donated but he had to get his stump shaved off so it would fit. Then he had to have physio to learn how to use it. I couldn't believe how much that all cost."
"I suppose this explains why Jacob is smaller and less physically mature than other boys his age," said Mr Macleith.
I glanced sideways at Jacob and nodded. "Jacob is fifteen. He should have started puberty two years ago. Without testicles, his body can't produce the right hormones. He was already small to begin with because of not getting enough food when he was younger. Without testosterone he isn't growing as much as he should. He isn't putting on the muscle mass that the other boys of his age are getting. Not only that but, because he has no testosterone, his body is reacting to the small amounts of oestrogen in his system. His skin and hair is soft. His hips are wider. A doctor told us that if it weren't for the scarring on his chest, he would probably have little boobs by now. But even that isn't happening. Physically, Jacob is about as sexually neutral as it is possible to get. He has no genitalia at all and his body is stuck about half-way between male and female."
Jacob dropped his head and looked down at the table. I reached out and rubbed my hand up and down his arm.
"He should be taking replacement hormones," said Mr Macleith.
I shrugged. "Hormones are expensive."
"Surely something can be done," exclaimed Miss Taylor.
Jacob signed: <I am happy to have regular meals and to have a safe place to sleep. I am happy to be able to come to school every day without having to dodge bullets or avoid stepping on bombs. That is why we came here to live. Maybe one day we will have enough money for the fancy medicines and things like that but for now it is enough just to be here. >
I translated that for the two school officials.
The room was quiet for a moment while Mr Macleith and Miss Taylor absorbed what they had heard.
Finally, Mr Macleith stirred. "In the circumstances, Jacob, I will exempt you from participation in The Program on medical grounds. I also have to consider the wellbeing of the rest of the student body. Your injuries are obviously quite distressing to the other students. If you wait here, I will get your basket so you can get dressed."
Jacob started signing and I translated.
"Jacob is saying there is no point. Everyone has seen me now. You said yourself that I need to get over being embarrassed about my scars. You were right. I am someone who needs to come out of my shell. Maybe The Program can help me do that. As for the others, what is the point of The Program if they only see the bodies of the beautiful people? My scars might be extreme but they are a part of the real world. They were shocked today, but they will get over that. Maybe they will learn something about what reality is like away from their fashion magazines and their video games."
"He has a point," said Miss Taylor. "One of the goals of The Program is for the rest of the students to learn how to look beyond the superficial surface details. We certainly don't want to start exempting people who don't match our ideal of what someone should look like."
Mr Macleith sighed and sat down again. "Very well, Jacob. If you are willing to continue I will accept your decision. What can we do to help you now?"
I blinked at Mr Macleith in surprise. The gruff dominating Principal was gone. In his place was a man who wanted to help. I never expected that.
Jacob glanced at me and started signing. I immediately translated for the others.
"My classmates will have a lot of questions. May Naomi come with me to my first class to answer their questions? It would be quicker than me typing the answers into my synthesiser."
The school had obtained a wallet-sized synthesiser for Jacob so that he could take part in class discussions. It was basically a silver case that opened out into a keyboard. He could type in what he wanted to say and the synthesiser would say it out loud in a little electronic voice.
I looked at Mr Macleith. I suspected Jacob simply wanted me there to support him as he faced his classmates, but this was a good excuse.
Mr Macleith nodded. "Good idea."
That was pretty much the end of the meeting. Mr Macleith wrote a pass for both of us and added a short note to Jacob's teacher, suggesting a short question and answer session.
Together we left the conference room and headed out into the school. The Program is supposed to make a difference. That remains to be seen.
But there was one difference I could see already. Jacob usually worked hard at being invisible, but now he was walking forward with more confidence than I would have predicted, ready to face his class. He was prepared to stand in front of them, to be exposed both physically and emotionally. I think he knew his days of hiding were over and he was trying to stand tall and face the challenge.
I was so proud of him.
The session with Jacob's class went pretty well, I thought. They were mostly quiet. Like Jacob suggested, they were being smacked in the face by a reality that was outside of their comfortable middle-class experience. They'd known we were immigrants – our skin colour was a clue if nothing else, but it hadn't occurred to them that we had escaped from what was essentially a war-zone to get here. It wasn't even a war they'd heard of. Just a minor civil uprising in a country they couldn't find on a map. And to discover the evidence right in front of them of what wars can do to innocent bystanders was pretty confronting. Mind you, the land mine could have been from the previous war, or the one before that. Land mines are like that; once they've been put in place, they hang around forever until someone sets them off.
Of course, they were all focussed on Jacob's physical scars. Neither of us felt like mentioning those other scars – the ones people don't get to see, even when you're naked. We both have those.
There weren't many questions to start with so I basically told the same story as I'd told Mr Macleith. I even mentioned that his body wasn't producing testosterone but I didn't go into the other effects of that.
Margot was sitting on her towel in the front row. I saw a few tears drip down off her cheeks and onto her naked chest. But at least she was looking right at Jacob and not trying to look away like others in the class were doing. I guess she'd had a bit more time than the rest of them to get used to what Jacob looked like.
After that there were a couple of questions. Like – did he have any feeling in his groin? The answer to that is no, by the way. Not more than anywhere else on his front. As Jacob explained, his scar tissue doesn't have any surface nerves like skin does, but he can feel pressure if someone touches him.
One moron in the back row asked if because he didn't have his dick and balls anymore, did that make him a girl. He said it with a sneer and then grinned at his mates as if he'd just scored points or something.
I saw a glint of anger in Jacob's eyes and I was just about to jump up and yell at the moron when Margot beat me too it.
"Listen, you miserable arsehole, there's more to being a girl than just not having a dick. Which is just as well for you, Maxwell Lyndhurst, because we all saw what you laughingly call a dick two weeks ago."
Then she started spelling things out for him like she was giving a sex education lesson to an eight year old.
She used both hands to point at her boobs. "These are called breasts. Girls have breasts. Jacob doesn't have breasts because HE is not a girl."
Then she spread the thumb and first finger of both hands and used them to frame her groin. "This is called a vulva. Girls have a vulva. Jacob doesn't have a vulva because HE is not a girl."
She then repeated this with her clitoris, her labia and her vagina. She even went so far as to demonstrate that she could push her finger inside her vagina which she could do because she was a girl but that Jacob couldn't do it because he didn't have a vagina because HE was not a girl."
At that point she stopped and stood there gasping for breath. The whole class were stunned and the moron in the back row looked like he wanted to crawl away and hide.
Then Margot seemed to realise what she'd just done and a blush started on her face which went all the way down her neck and across her chest. I stepped up beside her and put my arm around her shoulders – giving her a little squeeze as I did so.
"Further to that," I added in a calm voice. "In behind Margot's vagina is her uterus and her ovaries. Jacob doesn't have any of that because he's a boy. At some stage in her life, Margot can get pregnant and have babies. Jacob can't and won't. Unfortunately he won't be able to father a baby either, and that is a tragedy because he would make a great father – which is more than can be said for some."
I squeezed Margot again and guided her back to her seat. Then I looked back at the moron in the back row.
"Maxwell, is it? I think you need to realise that every time a boy doesn't live up to your twisted standards of masculinity and you decide to insult him by calling him a girl, not only do you insult him, but you also insult every girl in the room. Here's a tip. If you ever want to have any sort of relationship with a girl, you won't get very far if you insult her every time you open your mouth."
The rest of the class started clapping. Then they stood up and clapped some more. They were applauding both Margot and me for what we'd said. Maxwell dropped his head and tried to slump further down into his chair.
I went back to my seat next to Jacob and sat down. I tried to keep a calm look on my face but inside I was tied up in knots. Did I mention I was an introvert? I hate being in confrontations like that. Jacob grabbed my hand and squeezed it. I forced myself to swallow and look around the room. Margot caught my eye. She gave a little half-smile and nodded at me. I think she appreciated that I'd deliberately gotten the attention away from her when she was embarrassed. I nodded back at her.
The teacher got the class back under control and got them sitting down again. She'd let the whole thing run up to this point without interfering at all. Now she wrapped up the discussion and thanked Jacob and me for helping everyone understand about Jacob's injuries.
I went back to my own class and tried to concentrate on my schoolwork. That wasn't easy because I was still worried about Jacob. Not as worried as before because he seemed to be handling it okay so far but still worried. Even Jeremy shyly walking around the room, handing out assignments with all of his bits hanging out wasn't enough to distract me. I didn't mention it before but Jeremy is quite a hunk and even though his bits were currently shrivelled back due to embarrassment, it was pretty clear that he's got nothing to be ashamed about in that department.
The people in my class who had seen Jacob wanted to know what had happened to him so I spent a bit of time answering those sorts of questions. I guess, being older and having been around The Program for longer, these guys were a bit more tolerant and sympathetic, so I didn't get any stupid questions. I abhor this whole Naked in Schools thing, but I have to admit that I've seen my classmates become more considerate of each other over the last few years. I don't know how much of that is due to The Program and how much is due to simply growing up. Your guess is as good as mine.
The morning passed without incident for me, except to say that Jeremy gradually got a bit more comfortable which gave us girls a bit more to look at, if you know what I mean.
I guess it helped that we've been exposed to The Program for several years now so the teachers don't see the point of making a big fuss of Program Participants in the senior classes. As a group, the senior students even voted to ban the whole 'Getting relief at the start of each class, ' thing. It was disrupting our lessons too much and we're all desperate to get good marks at the end of the year. I think the teachers were quietly happy about our decision. Now, if senior students want relief, they get it during breaks or do it quietly in the back of the room so that the rest of us can get on with our work.
What that all means is that Jeremy was having a bit of an easier time of it than Margot and Jacob and the others would be having in the younger classes where the kids are still getting used to The Program and the teachers use the participants as living models and everything.
Don't get the wrong idea, though. Even though we're a bit more focussed on our school work, we're still teenagers and full of hormones. I share most of my classes with Jeremy so I got to see quite a lot of him during the day (double meaning intended). At each break he had lots of volunteers willing to feel him up or jerk him off or whatever. Even during class, there was almost constantly one female hand or another stroking his leg or worming its way into his lap. Not me, of course. I was content to admire him from afar.
I didn't catch up with Jacob until the lunch break. I grabbed my lunch from my locker and went looking for him. He usually sits off by himself in a little corner of the lunch area and that's where I found him. I sat down beside him and asked how he was doing.
<Okay> he signed. <Better than I expected but I still wish I wasn't doing this. >
I nodded at him in understanding and started unwrapping my food.
At that moment, Margot came over and stood next to us.
"Why don't you come and join us at the 'safe' table," said Margot. "If you sit here, you'll never get to eat properly because they'll keep interrupting you with requests."
Jacob shrugged at me and signed: <I haven't had any requests. Nobody wants to touch me. I can't work out why. >
I rolled my eyes at him and turned to Margot. "I think that's a good idea. Can I join you too?"
"Of course," said Margot. "Please do."
I nudged Jacob into motion and rewrapped my lunch. We moved over to the 'safe' table, which was a picnic table with a big sign reserving it for Program Participants and their guests. It was 'safe' because in the first half hour of lunch, students sitting at that table were immune from requests so that they could eat their lunch in peace.
I noticed that Margot was walking directly in front of Jacob displaying her nicely rounded bum to him as she walked. Jacob seemed oblivious of the show – he must have been the only boy within sight of Margot who wasn't watching her. I frowned to myself and wondered what that meant.
All of the others in The Program for the week were already there. They greeted us as we walked up and made space so that Jacob could slide in next to Margot and I could sit at one end.
Alistair leaned forward. "So Jacob, I've missed out on all of the explanations. I'm sorry if you're sick of explaining it, but what happened to you?"
Jacob flipped his synthesiser open and pressed a button, the little electronic voice immediately said, "A mine exploded in front of me. It made a mess." He'd obviously had the question asked often enough so he'd recorded the answer.
"So the explosion blew away your leg and destroyed your dick and balls and it ruined your voice-box and it left you with all of that scarring?" asked Estella.
Jacob lifted up his right hand and used his left hand to point to the wristband he was wearing with the big YES on it.
"Ouch!" said Alistair.
Again Jacob pointed at the YES on his wristband.
"Does it hurt now?" asked Margot, resting her hand on his arm.
This time Jacob pointed at the NO on his left wrist.
"By the way, Jacob," said Alistair. "Sorry for the way we reacted in Mr Macleith's office. You kind of caught us by surprise and I'm ashamed that I reacted the way I did."
The others all muttered their agreement and added their own apologies. Then they started asking more questions about the explosion and about his injuries.
Jacob flicked his fingers at me for a moment. I turned to the others. "Jacob doesn't mind answering your questions but he'd like to eat his lunch now. He thinks you should do the same while you have the chance. You only have a limited time before the immunity from requests expires."
The others muttered in agreement and started eating.
In between eating, I signed to Jacob: <Margot is interested in you. You should pay attention to her. >
He raised his eyebrows at me and signed back: <Really? Are you sure? >
<Yes. I'm positive. >
<But why? I know I look pretty bad. >
<Maybe she's started to get an idea of what you're like on the inside. You're a really nice guy. You're gentle and you're smart. Why shouldn't she like you? >
<What should I do? >
<Do you like her? Do you have the hots for her? >
<I don't know. She's nice, I guess. >
<Is there some other girl you have the hots for? >
<Don't be silly. >
<Or maybe some boy? >
<How about you just be nice to her. Then you can see if anything develops. >
<What if I'm not ready for anything like that? >
<That's okay. If you aren't ready then you aren't ready. But you are ready for a friend. So be nice to her and maybe she'll be a friend. >
Jacob thought about that for a moment. <Okay. >
Other conversations started up and both Jacob and I were content to sit and let the conversations flow around us. Margot made an effort to include both Jacob and me in the conversation, which I appreciated, but I think Jacob would have preferred to be back in his isolated little corner.
Based on the conversation, it sounded like Jacob was having a better time of it than the others. Mostly because the constant touching and fondling on top of the nakedness was keeping them in a high state of arousal that made it hard to concentrate. And because they weren't used to the constant attention, they were being hit with the same emotional impact that everyone feels in the first couple of days of The Program. Because Jacob wasn't getting touched, he wasn't having to deal with all of that so he was in a better emotional state.