On the way to our third subject, Margareth and I failed to shut up. But at least, our topic now bordered on more comfortable territory, and more important than that, my brain was now starting to function and my eyes were starting to wake up some.
Though I could use some vending machine coffee for that additional spike in my bloodstream.
"Ah, I miss the girls," Marga whimpered, referring to the cheerleading squad which she was a part of, obviously. "And I miss our killer practices. Ugh, heaven knows how badly I need to get into shape again. Summer had been really good to me." She clutched at her non-existent belly fat. "Way too good."
I slapped at her hand. "Oh, stop. That can't even compare to mine." I took her hand and placed it on my stomach. "Feel that? That's summer. I ate summer. All of it."
She slapped my stomach and I gasped. The bitch! "Puh-lease, Clarey! You know I'm jealous of your body which I'm pretty sure had been genetically-designed to never collect extra pounds no matter how many 'summers' you manage to eat. So don't rub it in! It hurts!"
"Pfft! Drama queen."
"At least, I'm queen that way." She winked, linking arms with me. "I hope we get lots of sign-ups later, though. The squad could use the new faces. I mean, have you seen the Freshmen girls? They're all gorgeous! I can already see them wearing our uniform, cheering for the upcoming games, showing off at competitions, spreading good vibes and positive spirit all over campus..." she trailed off with a contented sigh. "And they have me as cheer captain. Imagine that!"
"Temporary cheer captain, in case you're forgetting."
"But still captain, nonetheless."
"Careful, though," I warned. "Looks can be deceiving. For all you know, the pretty ones are more interested in band. Or the chess club. Or the varsity. Or the school paper. Don't get your hopes too high up, dear. You'll get crushed."
We were now nearing our English room and Marga was about to respond but was cut off when I suddenly jumped. I'd jumped, because a large, warm hand had clamped on my shoulder without warning, and when I turned, I almost wished I didn't.
No, not 'almost'. I absolutely wished I didn't. Because it was France Kinsley, standing a foot away, in all his six-foot-something glory. And from the expression on his face as he gazed down at me, it was clear he was about to say something.
I beat him to it.
"What do you want?" I snapped, my voice coming out way sharper than I intended, but I only slightly felt bad. It had been three, full days now of me doing everything in my power to avoid any encounter with the pompous prick. And I'd been successful. I'd been responsible and mature, taking the high road and steering clear of him at all costs, making sure we never bumped into each other in the halls or in the classroom, or wherever, just so no tempation of biting each other's heads off could cross our paths. I did it for the peace. I did it for the quiet.
And let me just repeat myself. I'd been successful. But now he just had to go ahead and ruin my streak.
The audacious villain!
"Always so defensive, aren't we?" France drawled wryly, but a smile was making its way onto his mouth. "No need for that, though. I just wanted to give you this." One of his hands extended forward, and before I could stop myself, I jumped back, almost hiding myself behind Margareth.
"What the hell?" I yelped, my wide eyes going from his face down to his hand immediately. I half-expected to see him holding a long, stout, silver stick but what I saw instead had me frowning in confusion. A familiar square, pink, non-menacing-looking object was in his hand, and I raised my head to gape at him. "What is that? Where did you get that?"
His face took on an odd expression, and if I wasn't mistaken, I would say my reaction offended him. "Relax, tigress," France said placatingly. "It's just your handkerchief. You dropped it back there," he pointed at the crowded hallway behind him with his thumb, "and I just thought you might want it back so I picked it up and now I'm giving it to you. That's all. No need to act so freaked out. Geez!"
He shook his head as if I was being an unbelievable brat, then he jerked his outstretched hand as if to say 'take it already'. But my attention was still riveted to his face. France might have sounded teasing, but the way his brow furrowed together and the corners of his mouth pinched slightly as he regarded me clearly indicated what he thought—that I was an overreacting weirdo. And he was definitely offended by that mini, unintentional freak-out session of mine.
Now why did that cause my stomach to churn unpleasantly?
"Don't worry," France added when I still hadn't taken the handkerchief, "I didn't step on it or anything. But if you don't want it, I can just dispose this thing—"
"No, I'll take that! It's mine!" I quickly stepped forward and snatched the blasted hanky, careful not to brush his hand with mine as I did, because duh? Talk about diseases! And then, despite how my vocal chords struggled to form the words, I managed to choke out, "T-t-thanks...I guess." I was looking at anywhere but his eyes. I couldn't. I didn't want to see the smugness in them any more than I could feel it oozing out of his damn pores.
"You're welcome. I guess," France replied in a cheeky tone, and just like that, his pinched expression was easily replaced by his signature, I-know-I-look-so-damn-cute-when-I-smirk-like-this smirk. I grimaced. Now there was the France Kinsley I knew. Then, brushing past me, the deuce went ahead and slipped inside the room without a backward glance. But not before he paused beside me and leaned in to whisper in my ear, "See you in class, sweetheart."
Then he was gone.
I was left there to stare after him in shock. Then disbelief. And...something else I couldn't quite pinpoint, but was akin to panic. Or perhaps, discombobulation. Because,
WHAT. THE. HELL. JUST. HAPPENED. RIGHT. NOW.
I was lost. So lost.
Beside me, Margareth let out a low, impressed-sounding whistle. "Da-yum! I think I might have just witnessed a miracle unfolding in front of me!" Then she turned to stare at me with her mouth hanging open, her hands smacking together for three, slow claps. "That wasn't so bad, Clarey-girl. Not bad at all."
I turned on her, my own brows drawn together tightly. "What are you talking about?"
"I mean," she drawled out, "that the two of you, Mary Clare Delamar and France Kinsley, mortal enemies since fifth grade and never got along for the longest time, were actually able to have a normal, human, civil conversation without it turning into a disaster like the usual, or breaking into a manjunk-chopping fight scene like the last time." She gestured her hands around and raised a knee up in the air to emphasize her points. "So, yeah. That was one miraculous occurrence. Hell must have already frozen over or something. Should I try my luck with the lottery later? I have a feeling I'm gonna win the jackpot."
I stared at her wordlessly. Because I was still lost. Lost lost lost. For once, I didn't have any comebacks or sarcastic remarks to counter her with. Because what she said was true.
I said...thank you. And he said, 'you're welcome'. Hell had finally frozen over.
She raised an eyebrow. "What's with that look? Still think he wants to take revenge?" Her expression turned mischievous. "Then I suggest you check that thing in your hand for any suspicious particles, because he could have soaked it in love potion before returning it to you." Her eyebrows wagged villainously. "Wouldn't that be the best revenge yet? Making you fall in love with your most hated enemy?"
I glared at her, stricken. "Like hell!"
"Hey, I'm just saying!" She shrugged then started to back away. "You don't have to take it seriously. Unless you want to. Come on, we'll be late!"
It took me a minute to get my frozen muscles to get a move again. With a huff, I stuffed the fallen handkerchief in my skirt pocket then stomped after her inside the room, carefully keeping my eyes cast downwards in case they landed on a very unappealing sight. Marga and her ridiculous ideas! Now she was making me overthink too much!
But at least, I was now wide awake. Super duper wide awake, in fact, that I sure wouldn't be thinking about my bed and all its wonders for the next few hours or so. Not with my own handkerchief that had been touched by the devil burning a hole inside my pocket.
I didn't need that coffee after all.
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.