Himari left with her flavour of the week; a cute redhead with sexy lip piercings.

Shed snorted when I mentioned I thought he was cute.

”Darling, it is not about the face. Pretty boys can be quite… effeminate. If he performs satisfactorily tonight and doesn have a problem with my no-strings-attached policy, I might consider keeping him. ”

She popped her gum and pierced me with a look.

”Just so you know, I think you are being stupid. I know curiosity is one of your vices, but seriously? Your arch enemy asks you to meet him secretly and you say yes. Girl, what? ”

I opposed her word choice but lost the argument.

Don do anything I wouldn do! Okay, thats impossible, I would do literally anything. Don do anything I would wiggle my brows at! were her parting words before she hooted all the way out of school in the redheads car.

I cross the Grade 12 threshold and spot Aaron leaning on the wall outside the nurses office.

I amble towards him and drink in his appearance.

If only he were anyone but himself.

His brown ringlets glow molten gold under the sunlight, his jaw might well have been chiseled from granite, but holds plump lips that soften its edge.

His black wifebeater is snug enough to show the outline of his abdominal muscles when he moves.

He grunts and runs a hand through his locks, lips pinched.

Our eyes meet and he relaxes.

Impatient much.

Like the glint of an elusive gem, the imperceptible shape of his nipples wink at me.

How did I not see this before? Although, it explains why he was on the lips of every girl on the block today.

Aaron is a sex bomb but when he teases every ovary on sight like this, he is dangerous.

Something else winks at me. Something less interesting than his paps but no less important- my basketball bracelets.

Since I hate trinkets and we are forced to wear our team bracelets to show team spirit, I found a solution.

Attach my bracelets to the bag that carries my sport gears. That way, I cannot be accused of not wearing them everywhere.

Go team, go me!

That begs the question, why is Aaron with my bag?

My pink bag would look ridiculous on anyone else but he manages to pull the look off; enough to make it look cool.

Aarons eyes are bluer than Georgettes and have always reminded me of the deep.

When I was eight, I followed my dad on a business trip to a beautiful island and was enraptured by the blue of its water.

I remember scooping some and getting disappointed it was not blue in my palms.

Daddy had chuckled at my expression and placed a protective hand on my shoulders when I leaned forward again.

He had an irrational fear I would fall off the boat.

He said, The water is blue in the sea where it belongs. It loses its colour in your hands because it does not belong there.

I told Aaron his eyes were just as blue and though I have forgotten the islands name, I would never forget its water.

Aarons eyes are electrifying and bewitched by them, I count their speckle.

”Aaron, why do you have my school bag? ”

His shoulders barely rise in a shrug but my eyes latch unto the muscles shifting under his top.

”Titus was waiting at the doors to give it to you but he was in a hurry so I took it off him. How could you forget your school bag in the basketball court anyway? Didn you have classes after practice? ”

I imitate his shrug as I wear the bag.

Does he find my chest as interesting as I find his?

”It doesn hold my books: I have my locker for that. I only keep my basketball gear in it. ”

He nods in understanding while appraising me.

Each drawn out glance is a feathery brush on my skin and I manage not to react only by clenching my teeth.

”You look beautiful, Tequila. ” I blink at the breathy nature of his words rather than the words themselves.

Aaron is always honest and never holds back on compliments.

”Thanks, I have been told sweaty Jersey brings out my aura. Now tell me why we are having this meeting. ”

Nervousness replaces his amusement as he draws in a ragged breath and straightens.

”Come to dinner with me. John invited the Sylvesters over since they just returned from their travels and I don think I can sit through it without you. Please Rapunzel, I need you tonight. ”

”I would be needing Tylenol today then. ” My immediate response surprises us both.

I could have easily said no and gone home to peace and quiet but those words dropped without warning as my treacherous head bobbed like a lizards.

I grit my teeth until I can bear the pain no longer. Serves my mouth right for spitting rubbish without my permission.

”Wow, Tequila, I thought youd say no. ” You and I, Aaron. You and I.

”Thank you. Itll be just like old times: you and I against the world. ”

”Its okay. ” Aaron is only good for me in trace amount. ”Text me the gate code and time. I have to go. ”

”First, I will come pick you so you don need the gate code. Second, I don have your number. I changed mine and there is no way I still remember yours. ”

Rolling my eyes at his sheepish smile, I sigh.

”Hand me your phone. ” I type in my number and crosscheck to be sure I made no mistakes. I always mix up the last two digits. ”There, Rapunzel. No funny business now. ”

His fingers brush against mine as he retrieves his phone and types on it.

”Do you want to see it? ”

”Like I have a choice. ” I grumble, getting more irritated standing out here in my sweaty Jersey.

I didn get the chance to change back to my normal clothes when practice was over since I had to be in English class before the bell.

Rapunzel; booty call 1.

Juvenile but not as bad as I expected.

”Ill let you have this one, Fletcher. ”

”Hey, I would offer you a ride but I don want your germs on my Cassie. ” I glance at a loose thread on his jeans as he fishes his keys out from a pocket, my fingers itching to tug.

”I didn expect you to offer anyway. Ill take the bus. ” I turn around and begin to walk away.

I wouldn even be in this situation if I hadn let mum talk me into giving my ride to some guy from her workplace.

What was his name again? Blob? Probably not, although he did look like one. And had a foul attitude.

Sometimes I am too nice for my own good.

I don hear any barb so I turn to find him frowning.

”What? ”

”I was joking, you know? I wouldn leave you without a ride when Im the reason you
e still here and when Id be driving by your house on my way home. You really think Id do that? ”

I raise a brow at him. Why is he suddenly acting strange? Like he wouldve taken me home if I asked anyway.

”Yes Aaron. I really think youd do that. ” His crestfallen face does not falter. ”I don know whats wrong with you but I haven got the energy to begin caring so if you are offering, do take me home now. ”

Mummy was baking a blueberry cake this morning and I am itching to get my hands on it. He can act weird all he wants but I would rather search for stars in the daytime than worry about Aaron Fletcher again.

We move to Cassie, his year-old Honda Goldwing and he hands me the spare helmet he always keeps on her despite never having ridden with anyone since he got her.

”Ill pick you up by seven. Be ready by then because I won wait around for anything. Ill drag you as you are. ”

I glare at the back of his head once my helmet is secure and throw my leg over the bike.

”Sweet. Im sure Dianne would appreciate you showing up with a naked girl as your date. ”

I make out something like she can suck my balls but since Aaron adores his mother and would never say that, I go with the feasible alternative- You can suck my balls.

”Get me home before I butcher you and blend your pieces! ” I threaten as I relax into the bike and our normal routine of barbs.

~•●•~

”Well, you look dressed up. Who is the unfortunate being you have roped into a date? ”

Ignoring Lolita has never worked as she knows all the right buttons to push.

One could always try though, so I busy myself with my eyeliner. A blatant disregard.

”Or are you trying to steal Jonah back? We both know it won work. He chose Avery over you. ”

Looking at the black smudge on my eyelid, I clench my jaws.

The contact between the eyeliner and my vanity is soundless.

The breeze rustles the curtains and I take in a calming breath as it weaves through my hair.

”I won be home for dinner. You can give my share to the sleazy layabout you are hosting. ”

Her blue eyes sharpen as she glares at me and I can almost feel the razor cuts.

Lolita has dangerous eyes.

Warm as a cold day spent under a blanket one moment and icy as glaciers the next.

”You psycho! See? This is the reason your friends left you. A slut like you shouldn even breathe the same air I do. ”

My face is impassive but my eyes light up with glee. I revel in the fact that I am the reason her perfect facade cracked.

I love it, like a drug addict loves their fix.

Seeing her snarl like a crazed dog. Watching her eyes show the hatred in her soul.

In a way, it assures me I still have a feeling sister, not just one of the robot Daddy produces.

Calling her present boy toy those names might have been rude but very well-deserved.

He tried to make out with me once and hasn tried again only because I kneed him hard enough to damage something.

Not like there was anything noteworthy there to begin with.

It doesn hurt that her boyfriend aggressively tried to have his way with me, it hurts that she knows and has chosen to ignore it.

”Then why are you in my room letting me pollute your air? Kingsley should be horny right about now. We both know he gets antsy when hes horny. ”

I begin to redo my eyelash as she gasps and slams my door shut.

I listen to her monstrous stomping and wish, not for the first time, that the house would collapse on her.

Hey, booty call. Im almost there, come out.

-Unknown

I immediately save the number before moving on to my next eyelash.

My lip gloss is the last step in my two-step makeup regime.

My green clutch is soft to the touch and reminds me of the reason I bought it.

It was the first thing I got when I made my own money for the first time.

It gives me a confidence boost; something I need if I want to leave the Fletchers without a scratch, but just in case, I toss in my pocket knife.

The girl looking back at me is ferociously beautiful. She does not look broken because the cracks are on her soul and not her face.

Come out now! You would not like what Ill do to you if you stand me up.

-Pukeface

I suddenly become self-conscious when I hear the muted sound of my heels. The carpet helps reduce their clang but they would be more audible on the tiled floors of the Fletcher Mansion.

Making a split decision to go back to my room and change into my white flats, I turn around just as the floorboard behind me creaks. Suddenly, I am face to face with a snarling creature of the night.

”Hi Kingsley, bye Kingsley. ” I hightail it out of the house before the sleep leaves his eyes and he recognizes me.

Clicky heels it is then.

”What the ** took you so long? Do you think this dinner is a joke? ”

And I meet another creature.

This one has a beautiful black car so Im willing to forgive it.

”Lolita was being a bitch and her boyfriend held me back a bit. ”

Sure, Lolita was a bitch to me and might have taken a few seconds of my time but Kingsley did nothing to slow me down, instead giving me a speed boost.

I ran a bit late because even though I had showered early and dressed in record-breaking time, I did something else in the bathroom that had me grunting like a pig and sweating out every pore on my skin.

I almost feel bad for whoever goes into that bathroom after me although I hope it would be Lolita so shell actually breathe in air polluted by me.

”Oh. Isn she supposed to be in school though? Whats she doing back? ” He says, changing gears.

Taking advantage of his distraction, I reach for the stereo.

”She and her boyfriend decided to play hooky until dad gets back from Toluca. Mum is usually never home until very late at night so she just hides the sleazebag in her room. ”

”Wow. I hope hes not giving you any problems though. ” He gives me a look full of concern I immediately judge fake.

”I just stay away. She has shitty taste in men. ”

”If he tries anything, tell me. ”

”Okay. Now get your hand off mine; its sweaty and annoying. Stop being weird. I get it Georgettes return is opening old wounds but you won get over your pain by getting all touchy-feely with me. ”

”It wouldn hurt to try. ” He mumbles as he removes his hand and places it back where it belongs; the steering wheel.

My glare shuts him up for the rest of the ride.

~•●•~

The magnificence of the Fletcher mansion has never failed to take my breath away, even when surrounded by equally beautiful houses.

This neighbourhood, Eleanor County, is home to people of money- old and new, and is the neighbourhood of choice for the elites.

Eleanor County is ruled by money. Only the rich and heartless live here.

Daddy was going to buy a home here before the scandal. With the blab I have heard of these streets, I am thankful he did not.

The Mansions gates open once we are close enough and shuts soundlessly behind us.

The tarred road leading to the building gives the feel of gliding on air.

Air.

Ah, they even breathe a different kind of air.

Fresh and rejuvenating air fills my lungs as I stick my head out my window.

Aaron drives round the fountain that serves as a roundabout and I sigh.

A kneeling woman holds her wailing child in her hands and while the baby produces little jets of water as tears, rivulets leak from the womans back where three arrows are lodged.

It doesn look like water though because her back is painted red and the water there looks deep red before it pours out into the round pond.

I was intrigued by the artistry the first time I saw the sculpture and still am.

I used to sketch the bleeding mother. I christened her Mona.

After walking the flight to the door, I run my hands on the golden pillar to my right out of habit.

Incredible how it feels so familiar and yet so strange.

”Don look so surprised. Its not your first time here. ” Aaron tries to shut my gaping mouth as I take in the Parlours grandeur.

”Its been two years. Its beautiful. ”

”A year. ”

”No, two. We stopped being friends two years ago. ” I let him lead me to the noisy dining hall.

A hush falls on the company as we arrive and I curse my heels for alerting them to our presence.

”Tequi dear! Its been so long. How have you been? ” A pink projectile says, enveloping me in a hug.

”Ive been good Mrs Fletcher. ” She releases me with the suddenness of someone who has been stung, her pink dress flapping despite the absence of a fan.

”Wow. You stopped calling me Mrs Fletcher since you turned thirteen. ” She chuckles nervously.

Aarons mother has the face of an angel and knowing that I made it look so broken does not sit well with me.

I drop my eyes and bite my lips. She even called me Tequi. Why did I ruin it?

”Im sorry, Dianne. Its been a while. Im really sorry. ”

She gives me one of her tender hugs and whispers. ”Don be sorry dear, it has. I don know what happened between you and Aaron but Im glad you are here tonight. I missed you and I was so surprised when he announced that youll be coming as his date. ”

She pauses and breaches my least favourite topic.

”For all its worth, I don believe José did it. ”

She squeezes me a bit more before releasing me and I smile at the familiar feeling.

I know she doesn . She bawled her eyes out at the news and refused to testify against him.

”Cute reunion. Hasn your mother taught you any manners though? When you see adults you are expected to greet them. ”

Glaring at Mrs Sylvester is as reflex an action as smiling at Mrs Fletcher.

”Hi. ” I deadpan and face the men. ”Good evening Mr Fletcher, Mr Sylvester. Thank you for having me tonight. My parents send their greetings. ”

A lie.

My parents don know where I am.

”Evening Tequila. ” Mr Fletcher manages a small smile before resuming his conversation with Mr Sylvester, who contents himself with giving me a condescending look.

We all sit down to eat when the chef declares dinner ready and I find the sitting arrangement almost comical.

The men are sat on opposite sides followed by the mothers, then Aaron and Georgette. I thank my stars I was placed next to Aaron and not Georgette.

It was probably done so everyone could talk in pairs. The silence of the house overcomes the problem of having to shout to be heard across the huge table.

”So, Aaron, how was Paris? I heard you spent your summer there. Did you pick up any French? ” Monique starts.

”Paris was enlightening. I learnt endurance since I had to meet people like you daily. The sex was really fun though. French girls sound exotic when they moan. I finally understand why Mr Sylvester married you. Great incentive to marry a French gobshite. ”

That was a load.

Somewhere in this ethereal house, I hear a cricket sing a sonnet to its beloved.

Mrs Sylvesters fork falls and I look at her plate in awe, brave ceramic didn even crack, before glaring at her. Of course she would break that melodious silence.

I can help the snicker that escapes when I look over and see Dianne trying to hold in a laugh despite the look Mr Fletcher shoots her.

”I see. ” I feel goosebumps on my skin at the ice in her voice.

You angry ice queen, you.

”When will you come to work at the company, son? ” Mr Sylvester begins with a smile as fake as his wifes boobs.

”Never- ”

”Soon. Hell intern right after graduating school. ” Mr Fletcher interrupts his son.

”No. You said I would work in Nirvana if I want you to pay my university tuition and I don . Ill go to university on scholarship. Mr Sly, youll never see me in the company. ”

”Listen here brat- ”

”He has a name, John! ” Dianne rarely gets angry but she hates Mr Fletchers attitude towards Aaron.

”Ill acknowledge that fact when he does what I want. I want whats best for you boy, so forget your silly dreams and open your eyes to reality. Without me, you are no one, just a rich kid with anger issues. But we will talk about this at an appropriate time. We have guests. ”

”Oh no. We are family now. Hes dating our daughter anyway and he obviously doesn have any qualms speaking trash to us. ”

Mrs Sylvesters blonde hair catches the chandeliers light and temporarily blinds me.

She is a dish with her delicate frame clad in an exquisite red gown, pale face and soft features.

Her doe eyes are accentuated by her mascara and her red lipstick calls the eyes to her full lips.

The sneer she wears however only serves to make her look like Jessica Rabbits evil and malnourished twin sister.

”You are not even guests, you are imposing on family dinner. He meant Tequila. We all know I broke up with your cheating daughter ages back. ” Aaron is quick to fire.

Before Mr Fletcher can rebuff him, Monique attacks.

”Of course, John would invite a stinking Beaner to dinner. As if. ” Turns out I am on the receiving end of her ire now.

”Monique! ” My eyes are not on Mr Fletcher. He can chastise her all day for all I care.

No, they are focused on the only male here who seems to be having fun.

”Something funny, Sylvester? ” I drawl, barely concealing my anger.

”Don use that tone with me, young lady. And its Mr Sylvester to you. ” His tone is stern but his eyes still glint with glee.

”I want an apology. Your wife just called me a Beaner. ”

His effrontery to shrug grates on my nerves.

”Take it up with her. Shes the one who upset you. ”

”Alright, tea is over! Everyone to the parlour where well talk like civilized people. Ill get dessert in the meantime. ” Diannes voice rises over whatever potential words we were about to throw at each other.

She looks cute in her pink frilly gown, her black hair tied up in a messy bun and face flushed from anger as she kicks us out before huffing all the way to the kitchen.

I glance at Georgette, surprised she hasn said a word since we arrived.

She looks up and catches my gaze before going back to her phone, her face carefully expressionless. Like it is whenever she decides showing any feeling would not favor her.

Aaron excuses himself to go to the bathroom seconds before she hightails it out of the toxic gathering.

I curse when all eyes turn to me as the only young person who has not fled yet. The person who wouldve been my moral support is in the kitchen helping her staff make dessert.

”So, Tequila, how have you been since my daughter got tired of throwing you the pity pie? Miserable oui? ” Mrs Sylvester would look good with her aquiline nose stuck up her arse.

”I feel great. Now I don have to deal with a little girl with Daddy issues. ” She glares at me for that little word and turns away with a huff.

So you can dish it but can take it.

I stand to find Aaron and drag him back. How long will he stay up there?

”Monique, behave. ” Mr Sylvester says, eyes lighting up as he appraises me.

This is nothing like Aarons appraisal. My skin crawls. ”Josés daughter, how is your father? Not fondling anymore little girls, is he? ”

”You sicken me. Do the world a favour and die; I want to take a shit on your grave. ”

I make my way to Aarons room, the layout of the house imprinted in my brain from years of playing hide and seek here.

Years of practically living here. It is a bittersweet feeling.

I remember how much I used to love the soundproof walls. They came in handy whenever Aaron and I were hatching up our super secret evil plans.

I realize as I swing his door open, that they could also make it impossible to hear when someone is at the door.

The duo on the bed realize this fact too as they spring apart at the sound of my gasp.

Shouldve locked the door.

”Oh, its just you. ” Georgette drawls as she gets up from Aarons lap.

She makes a show of adjusting her skirt once she reaches me.

”You always did have impeccable timing. ”

I don pay her a glance. I am too busy boring a hole through Aaron to wonder what she might mean.

He sits on the edge of his bed, blue eyes looking back at me as he catches his breath from their makeout session.

”I want to go home. This was a bad idea. ”

”Yeah, okay. ” He gets up and fumbles for the keys in his pocket.

I hate the look on his face.

Trance-like.

”Tell Rohan to take me home. ”

His eyes snap to mine.

Clear. Better.

”Why? ”

”Georgette might be gone when you get back, you know how Monique is. If your chauffeur takes me home, youd have enough time together before she leaves. ”

He is shaking his head before I even finish.

”Ill take you home. I don want to be anywhere near Georgette. ”

I raise my brows at his statement.

Thats not what it looked like when you had your tongue down her throat.

Nodding, I turn to leave.

”Okay. Ill go tell Dianne goodbye. ”

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