Gen 3 Ch 15: Meet the Alfarsis

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The flight to their destination went smoothly and only a couple of hours after landing, the uncle and nephew duo were safely checked into their hotel. The weather was much hotter than either one had expected, which was reflective of the region, but both of them were fine with this. Gerald never minded the heat and after the rainy periods on campus, Phoenix was glad to get some sun.

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The very next day, ready and prepared, the two of them joined a number of others gathered at the city’s library, the management of which had graciously agreed to allow the conference to take place within its walls.

For once, Phoenix felt out of place. For starters, most of the attendees were noticeably older than him, with a pronounced air of being experts in their fields. Phoenix wondered if they thought he was only here because his uncle brought him along, which technically was true. He wouldn’t even have heard about the event if not for Uncle Gerald. While he knew he always put great effort into his articles, which were frequently complimented by readers, he didn’t feel like his achievements could compare to people who have spent years in the media, marketing, and business industries, the way most of those gathered did.

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Despite that, he paid attention to the things discussed at the conference. He was hearing interesting and useful things, even if he didn’t necessarily agree with all of them.

Like the points the current speaker was making, for one.

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The man, who was introduced as one of the leading textile exporters and manufacturers, made several points about how the implementation of social media in every aspect of business was hurting many businesses ran by older owners. He lamented the fact that it was so necessary to keep up an online presence to truly stay in the business.

Phoenix heard his point and understood why someone would be unhappy about the technological integration in everything – technology could be complex to understand at times. But at the same time, what did he want to do about it? Technology had been integrating into the world steadily for many years now and the reason for that was that technology, overall, made running a business easier, not harder. While Phoenix understood that it was often difficult to learn new skills as one got older, knowing them was well worth the effort in the long run.

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“Of course, the argument many make is that to fully implement new skills into the business world, we should hire more from the younger generation of professionals. However, my experience with many such ‘professionals’ has been less than wonderful, as many of them tend to have much fewer skills than their initial presentation would have you think and their work ethic is, in many ways, lacking,” Aharon Alfarsi, the speaker, concluded.screenshot-14screenshot-16

“Is this guy for real?” Phoenix whispered to his uncle, who quietly chuckled.

“As real as you and I, my boy. He’s not the only one with such an attitude towards younger professionals, I’m afraid – in our home country, as well.”

“The majority of the young people I know have an amazing work ethic. Look at Millie, look at Jeanne,” Phoenix whispered back.

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“I apologize,” a young man next to them smiled sadly. “My father is rather set in his ways and doesn’t always realize his words can rub people the wrong way.”

“He’s your father?” Phoenix gave a closer look to the man, who didn’t look much older than him, now that he thought of it. “I’m sorry you had to hear us speak poorly of him.”

The young man chuckled quietly, trying not to attract his father’s attention, “It’s quite alright – it’s hardly the first time. I’m Amon by the way.”

The two of them also introduced themselves. Around this time, Aharon, who didn’t notice the exchange between his son and the foreigners, finished his speech, after making a few more conservatively-minded statements.

“Thank you, dear listeners. Allow me to pass the mic on to Consuelo, who I know is eager to give her speech on modern communications.”

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Phoenix tried hard not to let his cringing show to the other attendees, even as he noticed the man’s own son looking just as uncomfortable. What Aharon did went against everything they taught him in his communications classes. This was not how you welcomed a new speaker to the podium – the right protocol was to step back and stand towards the back as the new speaker took “the stage.” But Aharon practically barreled past the woman as he got off the podium. The second, and worse, offense was referring to her by her first name, without even mentioning her proper titles. Consuelo de Constanzas was one of the leading experts in the field of modern communication and Phoenix was a little star-struck when he saw her among the attendees. To simply call her “Consuelo” during a professional meeting was nothing short of an affront.

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Luckily, the woman truly was a master of communication (and obviously, diplomacy), because she only smiled sweetly and took the mic, warmly greeting the crowd. The crowd, Phoenix noticed, had much more excitement to see Mrs. De Constanzas and to hear what she had to say than what they did for Mr. Alfarsi.

De Constanzas went into detail about the improvements that have been achieved through the use of various communication programs, especially the ability to host virtual classes for kids who normally lived too far away from conventional schools. This led to an increase in literacy around the world, as well as an increase in access to information on medicine and other much-needed services for people who were previously at mercy of circumstances.

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The crowd was highly interested to hear about subsidies that a recent fund had created for providing internet reach to remote villages, which further increased success of the programs. Overall, the rest of the confidence went in a swimming manner.

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As the conference ended, the attendees left the conference breaking off into groups, further discussing the matters they found more interesting.

Phoenix wasn’t sure if he was expected to talk to anyone, but he found Uncle Gerald already deeply involved in conversation with Amon, who was highly interested to hear about Hidden Springs and the media in their country. Before he could join them, he found himself pulled into a conversation with Aharon himself.

“Quite the turnout, wasn’t it?” the man asked. “So many people, I’m kind of surprised they all showed up.”

“Why? Look at them, they’re still talking about everything from the conference,” Phoenix pointed at the other attendees. “I guess professionals enjoy the company of other professionals, even if they have to fly out to another country to enjoy it.”

“That is quite true, young man. And it’s a good change from them loitering in the markets, leaving junk everywhere. I don’t understand, is it so difficult to throw away cans into the nearest trashcan?”

Well, Phoenix thought. It looked like he and Aharon had something in common, at least – they both hated littering.

“It’s not difficult,” he agreed. “They just don’t have the common sense to do it. And because of that behavior, even the nice tourists get bad rep across the world.”

“You are right!” Aharon exclaimed. “So what do you do? There aren’t too many young people at this conference.”

“I write for Uncle Gerald’s newspaper,” Phoenix answered truthfully. “Not as seriously and professionally as some of those present, but one day…”

“That’s a good way of thinking. One must always set personal goals for reaching,” Aharon nodded in approval. “I’m hoping Amon over there would develop some of that mindset, but he’s still getting there.”

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Around this time, Uncle Gerald and the young man in question finished their conversation and joined them.

“We were just talking about how, despite this being a multi-national conference, we can all communicate in the same language,” Amon explained.

“Yes, the same foreign language,” Aharon lamented. “But I must admit English does make communication with my overseas partners easier.”

“And you know more than one language, which is lovely,” Gerald complimented. “I tried to learn a bit of Arabic once, but I failed miserably. And you – why there’s barely any detectable Moroccan accent when you speak it.”

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“Well, I wouldn’t have a Moroccan accent,” Aharon chuckled. “Egyptian, maybe – that’s where we’re from, you see.”

“We moved here about five years ago,” Amon explained. “Dad was expanding the business and it was better done here.”

“Oh, Egypt!” Gerald smiled. “Lovely country. My wife and I have been thinking about visiting. She just loves Egyptian food, especially falafel. But she says she can never get the consistency right when she cooks it.”

“Our food is quite delicious. You should visit my home and try some,” Aharon invited.

This was a fairly normal thing for an Egyptian person to say to someone, Phoenix knew. This didn’t actually mean they were invited anywhere.

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“Oh, I’m sorry, but we can’t really,” Gerald smiled, also knowing local customs. “But thank you for the offer.”

“No, no, I insist,” Aharon reaffirmed. “You two seem like very focused and interesting individuals and I’d love to continue chatting in a more comfortable environment. If you aren’t too busy, how does 5 in the evening sound?”

Phoenix and Gerald exchanged a look. They knew the invitation was real if it was repeated.

“Alright, Mr. Alfarsi. We will be there,” Uncle Gerald accepted.

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As the father and son departed, Phoenix and his uncle walked to the park across the street from the library. It had a lovely pool with fountains and must’ve been popular with the tourists. Luckily, there weren’t too many here today.

“So…” Phoenix started.

“So, we’re going to be visiting the man and his family,” Gerald stated.

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“I just feel like our acquaintance with him did a total 180. First we’re saying that his statements are wrong, then we’re all buddy-buddy with him? And he just invited us home, after barely meeting us!”

“He’s Egyptian,” Gerald shrugged. “It is fairly common to invite friends home over there, especially foreign friends. A good way to show hospitality, show off their home and family… But you already know all this.”

“I do, it’s just fairly wild to be experiencing it all,” Phoenix explained. “I hope his wife won’t be upset about unexpected visitors.”

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“Not unexpected. He’ll tell her we’re coming,” Gerald chuckled. “Don’t worry.”

“Sorry, I just have this weird feeling about this visit,” Phoenix explained. “But also, I’m kind of excited. We’re going to meet a real Egyptian family, in Morocco. I have so many questions about their life both here and there.”

“I know, dear. Well, we should stop by the market and buy some nice pastries to take there with us. It’s the polite thing to do.”


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The arrival of the evening found the two of them at the door of the Alfarsi household, a modest abode which Phoenix didn’t quite expect from someone who had a profitable textile business. Then again, some people didn’t like to overspend, even if they could afford to. This was something Phoenix could agree with.

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Inside, they were greeted by Aharon and his family: his wife Chione, son Amon, who they’ve met earlier, and his daughter Layla. The family was delighted with the big box of artisan chocolates Gerald had chosen as a housewarming gift and invited both of them to the table.

While Phoenix had tried some Eastern foods before, the foods prepared by Chione Alfarsi were absolutely exquisite and Phoenix knew he’d be craving them once he got home. He made sure to compliment her cooking, which Chione accepted with a knowing smile.

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During the dinner, Aharon continued the conversation with them. Topics of travel and education came up.

“Education is important,” Aharon nodded. “I can agree with that statement. I just wish young people wouldn’t let education be the only thing in their heads.”

“It’s hard, though,” Phoenix pointed out. “I just finished my freshman year, but let me tell you, if you don’t keep your head in the game 24/7, there’s a good chance of not passing some of the classes.” He almost mentioned failing his first semester, but figured a person like Aharon would judge him poorly for it. “And many of my classmates, myself included, feel like the subjects have increased in difficulty.”

“That very well may be,” Gerald agreed. “Time passes, people learn more things, and pass on more and more of them to the next generation. As a result, you guys have to learn a lot!”

“And as it goes, the learning takes up the time that could be spent on other things that are no less important. Why, if I had my head in a book 24/7, I probably would never have noticed Chione and wouldn’t have had the family I have now!” Aharon laughed.

His wife smiled and teased him, “Oh, I think you would’ve noticed me anyways, dear. I remember how you were in those days.”

“I was, oh, I was!” Aharon chuckled. “It’s true, I did have a bit of a wild eye in my younger days. Speaking of the young, nice of you to finally join us, Anippe.”

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The youngest member of the family, his other daughter, just smiled and nodded, quietly sitting down by her father and getting some food of her own.

“Sorry,” she explained. “I had to turn off the computer and you know how long it takes these days.”

Phoenix thought she had a very pleasant voice, but also that she sounded tired. From the look of her, she was about his age. If she was a student, he understood why she was tired all too well.

“You and that computer,” Aharon shook his head in annoyance, but quickly changed the subject. “How’s the food? Please, have some more. There’s some dessert, too. You know, it was nice to meet you two. I was afraid everyone at that conference will be boring and stuffy, but you aren’t in the slightest. What’s life like in your home country? We see plenty on TV, sure, but we all know movies aren’t always true to reality.”

The rest of the dinner passed with them talking about popular misconceptions about both of their countries. To his surprise, Phoenix found himself warming up to Aharon. Yes, he was old fashioned and set in his ways, but just because he found family and traditions more important that some other things didn’t make him any worse than any of his professors. The guy sure knew how to have a good time.

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At the end, Phoenix wanted to help with the dishes, but Chione quickly calmed him down and refused his offer. She and Anippe quickly cleared the table and he was about to head out to where Uncle Gerald was talking with Aharon and Amon, when Layla all but ran into him.

“My apologies, I hope I didn’t step on you,” he quickly apologized.

“None needed. I don’t mind being close to you,” she informed him in a low voice. The way she looked at him left no doubts as to whether she was flirting with him or just being nice. She was definitely flirting.

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Somehow, Phoenix got a feeling he wasn’t the first nor the last person to receive attention from her.

“Oh, totally. Well, thanks again for the dinner. It was delicious. I didn’t expect to meet such a welcoming family on my first day here!” he chuckled, making sure to put some distance between them. If there was anyone Layla reminded him of, it was Morgan from high school, and he was hardly eager to repeat that experience, especially in a foreign country.

“I like you too. I could show you and your uncle around town sometime, if you’d like,” she offered, holding eye contact. “Or maybe just you, if he’d rather rest at the hotel.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I doubt we’ll have much time,” he excused himself as politely as possible, almost stumbling out of the dining room and into the kitchen.

Was that his imagination, or did Layla totally try to grab his butt when they bumped into one another? No, definitely not his imagination.

He was wondering how to get to his uncle without bumping into her again when he heard quiet snickering behind him. Turning around, he saw Anippe doing her best to stifle laughter.

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“I’m sorry to intrude here like this,” he quickly apologized. From his impression, Anippe didn’t seem like the most sociable person around and he didn’t want to impose.

“It’s alright,” she laughed. “I see you’ve met our Layla.”

“Umm…”

“I’m sorry if she made you uncomfortable,” the young woman apologized on her sister’s behalf. “Poor Adam never had a chance when she turned her wiles on him.”

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“Adam?”

“Her husband. Not that she much cares she has one,” Anippe explained. “I think she likes having him around for the status of being married. Which is all too bad – he’s really quite a nice guy.”

“What about you?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m not married. I just finished school,” she explained. “And no, I don’t think schooling is a waste of time, unlike some people.”

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And there it was. Clearly, father and daughter disagreed on this matter.

“What about you?” she asked him. “You’re in college, aren’t you? This is so cool.”

“It’s not bad. Lots of work, but I like it, for the most part. And my friends are there with me.”

“It sounds fun. And you get to learn all this really amazing stuff.” Her tone was wistfulscreenshot-71

Once more, Phoenix found himself admiring the sound of her voice. It sounded like honey to his ears. And something about her eyes was so enchanting…

“Phoenix! Where are you?” Uncle Gerald was calling him from the hallway. Looking at the clock, Phoenix realized the hour was late.

“I guess you should go. Jet lag can be awful for someone your uncle’s age. And you must be tired as well,” she told him. “It was nice meeting you.”

“I can say the same.”

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After taking leave of the Alfarsis, the two of them hailed the first cab that would take them back to the hotel. Anippe wasn’t joking about the jet lag. Phoenix found his eyes growing heavy the moment he got into bed, and sleep came to him in moments.

As he fell asleep, all he could think of was the nice young woman with a honey-like voice.

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Gen 3 Ch 14: An Exciting Opportunity

Note: Pretty short chapter, I know, but I wanted to split it up.


Surprisingly, after calling it quits, Phoenix and Jeanine noticed a marked improvement in their relationship with one another. They didn’t exactly have problems before, but the tension that existed between them for this past semester has disappeared.

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Of course, the sleeping situation was rather uncomfortable and, as there were only a couple of weeks left for them to stay at the house, Phoenix temporarily moved in with Millie in her room. She didn’t mind. If anything, they had more fun rooming together, chatting and helping each other with assignments and schoolwork.

While Phoenix was slightly consternated about the fact that Jeanine started dating Eddie as soon as the two of them broke up, he had to admit – whenever she was with the guy, she looked positively in love. And she didn’t really look that way when they were dating. Loathe as he was to admit it, while the two of them did have great chemistry, it seemed that they truly did mistake their longtime friendship for real romantic feelings.

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Finally, this crazy school year dragged to a close.

Millie, having taken most of the classes she needed back in Hidden Springs, was able to graduate, with all straight A’s, landing herself the valedictorian title and earning herself great acclaim from professors and classmates alike. Even though she was happy with her success, she was most happy to be heading home to her husband and son, for good.

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The rest of the housemates weren’t doing any worse. Phoenix and Trev both pulled their grades up and made the Dean’s List. Phoenix, because he was now set on doing well and Trev, because he knew that, even though he was going to change his major, he still needed a good grade standing to stay at the school.

Back in Hidden Springs, life went on as usual. While David and Irene were now feeling the effects of age, having had both children later in life, they weren’t letting it slow them down in the slightest.

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Even after the long years spent together, they always took the time out to be romantic and do something special for each other.

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And they were extremely happy to have their son back home! Between taking care of Felicity and keeping the house, they both made sure to spend hours talking to Phoenix, asking him about everything, from schoolwork to new friends.

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As they ate Irene’s always amazing pancakes, his parents mentioned the romantic situation that arose back on campus.

“I’m so sorry you and Jeanine broke up,” Irene admitted. “She’s such a lovely girl and Tia and I have been friends for ages. Are you sure it’s all over between you?”

“Yeah, Mom, it is. But honestly, it’s for the best. You just need to see her and Eddie together to understand that – she practically glows when she’s with him,” he explained.screenshot-288

“Oh, I’ve seen him. He was at the Blakely house the other day. Did you know she invited him home with her?” Irene continued. “Tia called me the other day – she was so confused. One day she’s dating you and today she’s introducing the parents to a new person…”

“Yes, of course I know, Mom. I was kind of the person who suggested she invite him to Hidden Springs,” Phoenix chuckled. “To make him consider moving here after college.”

“You? Really?” David nodded, approvingly. “So, you’re really ok with them being together.”

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“I am. I’ll always love Jeanine. But as a friend. And she sees me the same way. Really, guys, you don’t need to worry about me. Anyways, you should have your date tonight. I can use the time to chill out with my baby sis. How has Felicity been doing? No more ear pain?”

“She’s pretty well, although, we’re still having trouble with her not sleeping through the night well,” David admitted. “It seems she’s taken after me with bad nerves.”

“I can calm her down with my tales from around the world,” Phoenix offered. “I know she loves foreign fairy tales.”

“That she does,” Irene chuckled. “Oh, that reminds me! Gerald wanted to talk to you about something. He mentioned a travel opportunity you might like.”

“Really?” Phoenix always did want to see more of the world.

“Yes, he said it’s something to do with your work at the newspaper. He was in a rush when he told me, though. Jeanne and Trev wanted to take him fishing and they were hurrying him out the door,” Irene explained. “But he’ll be here sometime today or tomorrow and talk to you in person.”

“I’ll stay home, then. I haven’t had much time to chat with Uncle Gerald, except for feedback on articles,” Phoenix admitted. “It would be nice to catch up.”

“I know, dear. And once again, we are both so proud of you improving your grades the way you did. It’s impressive.”

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Just as he promised them, Phoenix stayed home, keeping one eye on Felicity and the other on the article he had open on his laptop, about current events in China and how they were both caused and affected older traditions.

This was nice. He didn’t get much time to just sit down and write the way he used to in high school, with university putting a big strain on his time. And now, with some free time, he was catching up on one of his favorite activities.

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He was just about done reading an interesting piece on the country by a popular travel writer when the doorbell rang. Approaching, he could tell it was his uncle.screenshot-296

“Phoenix, my boy! It’s good to see you. My, you’ve gotten taller, haven’t you? Time away will do that to you,” Gerald laughed. “I’m not going to ask how university went, I’ve already heard all and more from Jeanne and Trev. But how are you?”

“I’m good, Uncle Gerald. Better, now that I’m not failing anything,” Phoenix admitted ruefully. “Last semester was quite embarrassing – definitely would not want a repeat.”

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“I can understand, but I’m glad you took the failure in stride and improved. That is the true mark of growth, dear,” Gerald gave him an approving nod. “I’m sure your mother told you about this, but I have an interesting travel opportunity and I thought you might like to join me?”

“She mentioned a bit. I’m all ears.”

“In a couple of weeks from now, there will be a media conference happening in Al Medina, Morocco and I thought, as someone interested in both media and foreign cultures, you would like to go with me? Room and board are paid for by the newspaper and we will have enough time to see some of the local sights while we’re there.”

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“Morocco? For real? That’s amazing! Of course I’d love to go,” Phoenix lit up at the idea. He always had a fondness for Eastern countries and the opportunity to see one of them in person? Well, it was a good opportunity.

“Wonderful! Now, I’m sure Irene wouldn’t want you spending your vacation time away from her, but it’s only for two weeks. And the conference is a really good experience for someone in your field of studies.”

“I agree, Uncle Gerald. And thank you for the invitation.”

“Consider it a reward for that academic 180 of yours,” Gerald chuckled. “Well, take care. Jeanne was planning on a restaurant outing for the whole family. Would you like to come?”

“Thanks, but I promised Mom and Dad and I’ll keep a watch over Felicity. Besides, the writing juices have been flowing well today.”

“Oh! Of course. Well, enjoy your writing and home stay, Phoenix. We’re going to be jet-set soon enough,” he understood.

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After his uncle left, Phoenix finished his article, but his mind was only half-there. Now, thoughts of Morocco and his upcoming trip preoccupied his head.

That night, long after everyone has gone to bed, he was still up, looking up information about the country and the city of Al Medina. It was an ancient city, with many historical spots still present and visible to the naked eye. Despite that, now there were plenty of hotspots and businesses that truly blended with modernity. The culture was still very traditional, which often caused clashes with this wildly changing world and its new ideals.

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Without a doubt, Phoenix knew he wanted to see this place. Finally, his dream of foreign travel was coming true!

Gen 3 Ch 13: Love Troubles

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Following the events of the party and the nearly campus-wide poisoning, things significantly changed at the household. Just as Jeanine promised both herself and others, she made a conscious attempt to keep up a healthy work-life balance to prevent further hits to her immune system. That included spending more time outside, visiting student establishments and events, as well as participating in them, and spending more time with her friends.

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The rest of them were pretty happy because of the change. Jeanne, constantly busy in the lab, was glad to have her bestie available for chatting and hanging out, while Phoenix was just glad his girlfriend was back to her normal self.

While he still felt terribly guilty over his drunken infidelity, he ultimately decided that he couldn’t jeopardize everything by admitting the truth. Nikki was right – they were so very wasted that night and it wasn’t like there was any emotional significance to their one time hookup.

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No, he wasn’t going to tell. Especially not when things were going so well for them now. They were finally spending time together and in the bedroom? Well, things were very, very good in the bedroom.

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Aside from their newfound happiness, the other change in Phoenix’s life was his approach to college life.

He took the doctor’s advice to heart: no more alcohol and partying for him. Getting poisoned with low-quality booze and thinking he was roofied was enough of a wakeup call for him to change his lifestyle. To the extent of his knowledge, Nikki did the same, although he couldn’t really say – even though they were friends before, after what happened between them, things were awkward and they only really saw each other occasionally, between classes.

And the biggest change of all? This semester, he took his classes seriously. Now, the time he used to spend partying was filled with studying, studying, and more studying.

And it was paying off. He rather enjoyed seeing As and Bs on his homework and test results, as opposed to their previous counterparts.

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“You know, I’m really proud of you,” Millie told him one evening as they were studying together. Or rather, he studied and she is relaxed with an old hobby of drawing. “You’ve done a total 180 with your academic performance in less than a semester. Good job.”

“Thanks, Mils. I felt terrible after I saw my grades last finals week. I mean, Mom and Dad are paying for this school and I was pretty much throwing it all down the drain. And when you think about people who can’t even afford school…”

“I know what you mean. Well, once again, I’m proud.”

Of course, she suspected there was more to his abrupt change in behavior and lifestyle. The brother she grew up with had a tendency to do as he liked no matter the consequences, as his previous high school experience indicated.

Also, she had noticed that sometimes, when Jeanine wasn’t looking, he looked at the girl with such a guilty expression… but things were really good between the two of them, weren’t they?

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As her brother walked inside to grab some food, she called after him.

“Say, you and Jeanine have both been doing really well this semester. But when was the last time you two have had a proper date?”

“What do you mean?” he looked at her baffled. “We’re dating all the time.”

“No, no! I mean, a nice evening just for the two of you. No interruptions from schoolwork, none of us getting in your way…”

“Oh, sis! You don’t interrupt us!” he laughed, waving away her concerns.

“Oh, please. If Quiang showed up here, I’m not even joking, either I’d kick you all out or we’d go to the nearest motel and get busy,” she admitted. She really missed her husband and son, and the nightly phone calls just weren’t enough.

“Alright, TMI! But yeah, I get what you mean. But we’re good. Although, a date night does sound like a cool idea. I’ll ask her when we can have one.”


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Jeanine and Jeanne had plans for visiting an upcoming student art show, but at the very last moment, Jeanne had to cancel.

“Sorry, I know I agreed to go in advance, but I have an experiment at the lab that’s going to be completely wrecked if I don’t get there in the next half hour. Rain check?”

Jeanine chuckled. Jeanne was even more of a workaholic than her and Phoenix was going to be in class all day. She didn’t really feel like going alone, though. “It’s cool. I recall Eddie wanted to see the exhibit, too. Maybe he’d like a buddy?”

“Go for it,” Jeanne smiled, glad that her friend wasn’t going to miss out on her plan all due to bad timing on her part. “Maybe next time, I’ll plan ahead better.”

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When she called Eddie, he turned out to be more than happy to see the art show with her.

Meeting outside The Grotto, where many student art shows were held, they found common ground in the fact that none of their respective friends could come out with them. Again. This wasn’t the first time they end up as event buddies.

The first time was the skateboard show, where the more extreme-minded students showcased their insane board skills. The second time, they ended up at a poetry reading, after which the two decided that maybe, just maybe, these student poets needed to sharpen up their skills just a little more.

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Inside, the exhibit was fairly empty, and it didn’t take a genius to understand why.

“You know, I kind of expected more from my fellow students’ art work,” Jeanine admitted with disappointment. The few murals looked pretty uninspired and uninspiring.

“That’s what happens when artists need to preapprove all of their exhibits with the university. I tell you, these officials are the stuffiest bunch,” Eddie chuckled, also disappointed by the lack of quality.

Suddenly, he recalled something that might pique her interest. “Wait, follow me. Maybe we’re still lucky!”

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“Where are we going?” she followed, curious.

“To the rooftop!” he explained. “Just because the university wants all the artwork to be preapproved, doesn’t mean that it’s the only kind that gets made.”

Coming up to the top of the building, they found what they were looking for.

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“Watcher! It’s beautiful!” Jeanine exclaimed, absolutely charmed. And it was. The low walls of the area were covered in graffiti, and every single piece looked better than what they saw downstairs. “Why is it up here and not inside the exhibit?”

Eddie shrugged. “Like I said, the university officials aren’t fans of such expressive pieces.”

“That’s just stupid!” she exclaimed. “So much for encouraging talent. So, what happens when it rains?”

“Well, the artists cover their creations in waterproof sealant, but even then, if it rains continuously and too hard, stuff gets washed away,” he explained.

“But then, all this wonderful work goes, literally, down the drain,” she gasped. “It’s so unfair…”

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“Such is the way of life, I suppose,” he agreed. “But when that happens, the artists just create something new, sometimes worse, sometimes better, but always something. These walls are almost never bare.”

“It’s really so charming,” she agreed. “The art is constantly reborn, despite forces trying to destroy it.”

“And that’s why I love this place so much,” Eddie smiled. “Well, that and the view.”

“It really is beautiful up here,” she agreed, observing everything.

The golden trees, the setting sun, the people walking past that one could observe… it all contributed to giving this place a fairytale-like quality.

As she took in the beauty around them, from the corner of her eye, Jeanine caught Eddie looking at her, instead. Suddenly, she became very aware of the fact that they were up here all alone, in an atmosphere that could only be described as romantic. Trying to diffuse the situation, she tried to change the subject.

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“So, how are your guitar lessons? Any more people wanting to learn the instrument?”

“Oh, yes, plenty,” he replied, distracted. “Although, I think most of them just try to learn because they think it’ll make them seem cool, not because they actually want to learn the instrument. But, hey, I get paid, so I can’t complain. ”

“It’s life…” she bit her lip. No, she wasn’t imagining it. Their interactions did turn awkward in less than a minute.

“Yeah… life. It can be unfair, though. It’s all about chances. Chance events, chance meetings…” he mumbled. “And sometimes, they come too late.”

Catching her eye, he admitted. “You know, I wish I’d met you before you and Phoenix got together.”

“Eddie…” she frowned.

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“I’m sorry.” Before she could foresee what he was about to do next, he kissed her and even though her mind knew it was wrong, she found herself responding. For a heady minute, they remained lip-locked, before she pushed him away.

“No! Ok, stop! We can’t.”

“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have,” he quickly apologized, looking away.

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“No, you shouldn’t have. I have to go, bye. And maybe, we shouldn’t see each other anymore.”

Watching her run downstairs, he slumped against the wall, angry. He just had to kiss her and ruin everything, didn’t he?

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Meanwhile, the moment she found herself downstairs, Jeanine felt the tears coming. She thought they were friends! And he just had to go and do this?

And he knew Phoenix, too, he knew she has a serious boyfriend!

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And now her emotions were in total disarray! What was she going to do when she got home and they asked how her day went?

She broke into a run to make herself forget the fact that the real reason she felt angry weren’t Eddie’s behavior and admission, but that it took all of her willpower to break up the kiss and walk away from him.

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When she arrived back at the house, the others were in the middle of dinner.

“Hey, how was the art exhibit?” Phoenix asked cheerfully, seeing her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t go with you. Next time?”

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“Yeah, next time. It was pretty alright, nothing special, though,” she quickly lied, hoping she wasn’t still blushing.

“Are you alright?” he asked with concern.

“Just a bit tired. I wanted to get home before it got too dark, so I ran.”

“Well, we can have dinner together. I haven’t had mine yet,” he offered.

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As they are ate Millie’s waffles together, he asked if she’d like to see a movie with him later this week. There’s a new romance playing at the cinema and her favorite actress was in it.

“That sounds, great,” she agreed. “Maybe we can bowl a bit before, too?”

“It’s a plan.”


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“Well, that went differently from what I imagined,” Jeanine admitted after their movie. They went bowling before, grabbing a quick dinner at a nearby cafe in time to catch the film. From the advertisement and trailer, the two of them assumed it to be a light-hearted chick flick, but the movie delivered in a much more serious way than either one expected.

“I know, right? He’s on his way to his actual wedding and he meets the woman he is destined to fall for? Talk about poor timing!” Phoenix exclaimed.

“Well, I suppose it’s better than if he’d met her after he said ‘I do’, isn’t it?” Jeanine mused.

“You’re right, it’s just… he’s supposed to get married by the end of the day, there are all those people coming to the wedding, he and his fiancée are so excited for the big day, and then it all just goes kaplunk because fate decided otherwise? I just don’t understand, why he couldn’t have met her before he was engaged. It would’ve been easier for both him and his love, as well as less unfair for the fiancée. Poor girl just happened to fall for the wrong guy.”

“Yeah, but then that wouldn’t make for a very interesting movie, would it?” Jeanine chuckled. “Some people got downright emotional. That lady behind us was weeping when they reunited at the bridge.”

“Maybe she could relate to a character? I wonder to which one?” Phoenix smiled, recalling the woman behind them.

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This was easy. The two of them hanging out, talking, discussing things. This past semester did drive quite a nail into their normal routine and come to think of it, they haven’t done things like that since high school. Millie was right to suggest he take Jeanine out on a date.

Despite truly enjoying the film, the entire time inside, Jeanine couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t a coincidence that she was seeing it now. She did come in expecting a comedy, but the plot of the film hit just a little too close to home. The weeping lady behind them wasn’t the only one who found herself relating to a character.

“You want to go home? Or maybe we should stop by the diner to grab a proper dinner?” Phoenix’s question brought her out of her reverie.

“That sounds good. Perhaps we can take something to go and eat in?”

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That night, she woke up from a crazy dream. In it, she was the one driving a car towards a bridge, in a hurry to meet someone waiting for her there. Only, when she got there, it wasn’t Phoenix waiting for her, but another person.

“What am I going to do now?” she thought, biting her nails. “I love Phoenix, don’t I?”

Of course, loving someone and being in love with them wasn’t the same thing. But Phoenix is so caring and he’s been her friend since childhood. It felt so right when they got together before coming to the university…

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Phoenix was also having strange thoughts after the film. The main character’s cheating on his fiancée was understandable, but his guilt felt all too familiar.

“How in the world did I mistake Nikki for Jeanine that night? I get it that I was drunk, but seriously? They don’t even look alike!”

Maybe something in his subconscious wanted him to cheat? He remembered how Rashida’s clinginess was one of the reasons he found Morgan so attractive, to begin with. Even if he and Rashida didn’t go on break, he probably would’ve pursued the later, if he was to be honest with himself. Jeanine wa nothing like either one of them, but she was someone he could picture himself in a long-term relationship with and things were fairly serious between them. And despite loving her, he knew he still had concerns about marriage and big commitment. And there was Nikki, carefree, a party animal, and not too eager on serious dating herself.

He was pretty sure he wouldn’t have done anything with Nikki if he hadn’t been drunk. He wasn’t even interested in the girl that way. But maybe a part of him wanted whatever she represented?

After all, plenty of people get drunk without hooking up with anyone…

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An encounter the next day made him realize that he had to tell the truth. He was just finishing up his essay for one of his classes and polishing up an article for Uncle Gerald’s paper. The coffee shop was busy, but not overly so.

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In walked in the last person he ever wanted to see: Ashley. Lucky him, he hasn’t spotted her except for a rare peripheral glance this whole semester and that’s more than fine with him. Sure, she turned out not to be a date rapist after all, but she was still a royal bitch and every encounter with her ended poorly.

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Unfortunately, she spotted him almost immediately after coming in, breaking into the hugest grin ever and laughing at something, like she was just told a joke.

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Closing his laptop, he decided to just deal with whatever next bullshit was about to happen.

“Well, if it isn’t Mr. I’m So High and Mighty!” Ashley called him out. “Except, I guess, you’re really not, are you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, annoyed. “What do you want from me?”

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“Nothing, truly nothing. I just enjoy knowing I was right about something, that’s all,” she gloated.

A cold feeling came over him. When they confronted Ashley at the medical center…

“Think about it, genius. Two people, still in their party clothes, show up completely wasted and ask whether you’ve put a date rape drug into their drink. You’re too sick to process it, besides, of course you haven’t, why would they ask that? And then, when you feel better, you realize that the only reason they would need to ask that is if the two of them slept together and can’t remember it!” she laughed. “Oh, it’s too perfect, really!”

She looked at him like she has just won the lottery. “So much for you being such a wonderful boyfriend, huh? She still doesn’t know, does she? Since you two are still together.”

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“You’re going to tell her, aren’t you?” Phoenix asked, defeated. He and Nikki pretty much gave themselves away.

“Why would I do that?” Ashley chuckled. “I could’ve told her as soon as I realized what happened. But your darling and I are hardly friends, and she did leave the team in a lurch when she quit. So, whatever. Your soap opera of a relationship is your problem, not mine. Enjoy each other’s company.”

With that, she flounced of, humming something and Phoenix flew out of that coffee shop like he was on fire.

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Ashley was right to gloat! He behaved like a moron. He did cheat and pretend that nothing happened. And Jeanine really deserved to know the truth. Otherwise, the guilt would eat him right up, the way it’s been doing for the whole past semester.

If she forgave him, maybe they’ll be able to move on. If not? Well, he’ll just have to deal with that, then.

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Around the same time, Jeanne came home from her lab practice to what she thought was an empty house, only to hear quiet sobs coming from upstairs. Approaching her best friend’s room, she found Jeanine crumpled on the floor, crying.

“Hey, what’s going on? Did something happen?” she asked, taking in the scene.

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Jeanine shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Right, right, because people regularly cry over nothing,” Jeanne noded. Noticing that the light is on in their bathroom, she quickly walked in, to find the offending object in full view.

“You’re taking a pregnancy test? Is there a reason for it?” she called back into the room.

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“…..maybe? I’ve been feeling nauseated and really uncomfortable for the past couple of weeks,” her friend admitted. With a small voice, she asked her “Can you maybe take a look at the result and tell me? I’m scared to look myself.”

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“I see.” Taking a look at the little stick, Jeanne announced, “One line. Negative. You’re not pregnant.”

Hearing this, Jeanine visibly relaxed, the tension leavings her body. “Ok. Ok.”

“Of cause, sometimes stress makes people exhibit the same symptoms you’ve described,” Jeanne explained. “Do you want to talk about it?”

In reply, Jeanine broke down into tears.

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“Hey, now, hey. There’s no need to get so upset,” Jeanne joined her on the floor. “I’m here. Whatever it is, we can figure out.”

“But you’re his cousin!” Jeanine just started crying harder.

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“Did Phoenix do something dumb?” Jeanne frowned.

“That’s just the thing! He didn’t! He’s been great…” she wiped away a tear before explaining, “I just don’t think I can keep on dating him anymore.”

“Ah…” Jeanne smiled knowingly. “Does this have anything to do with Eddie?”

“How did you know?” Jeanine stared at her, shocked.

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“Honey, we practically grew up together. Remember when they use to call us The Jeannies?”

“Yeah… those were the good days,” Jeanine smiled through the tears. “Everything was so much easier.”

“It was. But it still doesn’t have to be so complicated. I knew something happened between the two of you when you were such good friends for a period of time and then stopped seeing each other entirely. First, I thought he did something bad towards you, so I asked Trev to snoop around a bit, but he didn’t find out anything of the sort about him. He did say that whenever he mentioned you, Eddie got kind of weird and quiet, though. And then, I noticed that one time, at the café, when we came in as he was leaving. You both turned red and looked away from one another…”

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Jeanine looked down embarrassed. “Yeah, that must’ve been a dead giveaway.”

“Do you have feelings for him?”

Jeanine quietly nodded. “I’m afraid so. I tried to stop thinking about him, but it’s not working too well.”

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“Then why are you still with Phoenix? You know, the next time you’re in this position, you might end up with a positive test.”

Jeanine sighed, shrugging. “I don’t want to hurt him and mess everything up. And I do care about him.”

This is exactly what Jeanne was afraid of when her bestie and cousin got together. She had a suspicion that their feelings won’t last. Of course, she was expecting Phoenix to move on first, breaking Jeanine’s heart in the process. Of course, it went quite the other way. Still…

“So, you’re just going to stay with him, even though it’s messing you up? Don’t you think you both deserve better?”

Jeanine didn’t know how to respond to this, but she didn’t have to – at that moment, the door opened and Phoenix himself came in.

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“Hey…”

“Phoenix? What are you doing here?” Jeanne gasped in surprise, but he chuckled sadly.

“Well, it is my room. I’ve been home for a few minutes now.” He paused, biting his lip and after a sad glance at Jeanine, asked. “Jeanne, can you give the two of us a moment? We really need to talk.”

“Alright,” Jeanne got up, unconvinced. “I’m right here, in case you two need me. Just next door.”

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As he sat down next to her, Jeanine wondered how much of the conversation he managed to hear.

“So…”

“So…”

“How long have you felt way?” Phoenix finally asked.

“You did hear everything, then?” she sighed. “Oh, Phoenix, I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“Hey, none of us ever do. That’s life,” he shrugged. “Look, there’s something I need to admit and you won’t be happy when you hear it. Most likely, you’ll be angry.”

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He took a deep breath, letting the words out. “That night, at The Foundry, when I was so wasted, I hooked up with Nikki. She was really drunk too, so she isn’t too blame here. I wasn’t thinking straight and I didn’t mean to, but it happened. I’m sorry.”

“Oh…and you’ve been keeping it from me this whole semester?” Jeanine asked, both shocked and understanding. He did act really strange after that night, come to think of it. A different person would have been suspicious in her shoes, but she didn’t think about it at all.

“Yes. Once again, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I wouldn’t have done it if I’d been sober,” he affirmed.

“I know. Well, you did stop drinking after that and you’re doing great in your classes now, so that’s nice. Something good came of it,” she ventured. “I’m not angry at you.”

And this was how she knew it was over between them.

After all, she should have been angry at his infidelity, furious even. Instead, she just felt relief.

He knew it too. And it probably should have hurt more, but at the moment, not holding on to that secret was a relief in itself.

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“So this is it for us, isn’t it?” he asked.

Jeanine nodded, adding, “We should probably thank Jeanne for not saying ‘I told you so’ right now.”

“I guess we should. And Jeanine? Can we maybe try to stay friends?” Because I really do care about you,” he asked, caressing her face.

“Oh, Phoenix, you’ve been my friend for so much longer than you’ve been my boyfriend! If you think this is going to make me forget all about our friendship, you are sorely mistaken. And I do love you too, so very much. But probably not the way a girlfriend should,” she added sadly

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“Hey, everything ok in there?” they heard Jeanne call from outside the room.

“We’re good!” Jeanine responded. “We’re not fighting. All is well.”

“But you just broke up,” she peaked in, concerned.

“Yes. But all things considered, it’s probably for the best,” Phoenix admitted.

“Well…” his cousin looked genuinely surprised, but impressed at their mature behavior. “That’s good. You two want to come downstairs now? I’ll make you some coffee and French toast. I think we could all use something nice and sweet.”


That evening, Jeanne joined him on the couch, as he was reviewing for his next test.

“You know, I should be pissed at you about the cheating, but I’m just impressed at how understanding you’ve been with everything,” she admitted. “Are you really ok with all of this?”

“I think so,” he admitted. He wasn’t happy that their relationship ended, but he was glad that they could be honest with one another. And ultimately, he really didn’t want to be with Jeanine if she had feelings for another and only forced herself to be with him – he wanted her to really be happy.

After the last few months, he wasn’t too sure he could be the person to make that happen.

“You’ll meet your special person, Phoenix. I promise you, it’ll happen,” Jeanne smiled.

Neither of them mentioned the fact that Jeanine left the house immediately after finishing her toast and hasn’t returned yet, although Phoenix had a strange realization: the knowledge that she was most likely with Eddie bothered him less than it should have.


Jeanine wasn’t sure what she hoped to accomplish when she set out of the house. She just knew that she needed some air, and when it started raining, a reasonable person should have headed home. Instead, she kept on walking further into the campus.

Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Eddie out on the quad, already drenched, looking lost as he tried to rescue some notebook from the water.

“Eddie!” she called out to him. “Wait!”

Running towards him, before he can ignore her like she had previously asked him to, she yelled, “Are you insane? Out here, so under-dressed in this downpour?”

“So are you,” he responded, pointing to her light shirt and jeans. “I thought we were supposed to ignore each other?”

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“We broke up. Just now,” she admitted. “I care about Phoenix very deeply, but I’m not in love with him.”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because of you. Because I’m in love with you,” she started crying again. “Although, it’s probably too late. I understand if you’ve moved on.”

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“You are? You’re really in love with me?” a smile broke out on his face. “You know, I should probably say I’m sorry you broke up. But that would be a lie.”

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Pulling her into another heady kiss, he steals her breath away. Breaking apart, he wipes her tears away.

“If you think I move on this quickly, you are in for a surprise. There’s no way I’m letting you slip away again.”

“For real?” she smiled.

“Oh yes! Will you be my girlfriend?”

“Absolutely.”

Gen 3 Ch 12: After a Party

I know my last update for this story was over a year ago, but what can I say? I’m bad at being steady at something and writing is one of those things. With that said…

Note: TW: Roofie and TW: Poisoning


Head still pounding, after drinking three more coconut waters, Phoenix headed out in the direction of the nightclub. He needed to figure out what happened the night before. And more importantly – who he cheated on Jeanine with. Because that was what he did, no matter how much he hated to admit it.

On the way there, he tried desperately to recall what happened in more detail. He was dancing with the rest of the students, beginning to get tired. He headed in the direction of the bar and Nikki, nearby, asked if he could grab her something to drink while he was there. He said yes, after which he heard the commotion between Jeanine and Ashley.

He remembered approaching Ashley and yelling at her. And her disgusting behavior – yeah, he remembered that too well, ugh.

Ok, next, what did he do next? He remembered grabbing one of the drinks Trev ordered, and he knew he drank it. After that, his memory was mostly hazy. His best guess was that he had a few more drinks after the first one.

His head was beginning to pound more, overloaded with his attempts to pull up a clear timeline of the previous night.

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Yikes. This was the first time he has ever felt this hungover. If that was normal for people, Phoenix thought he understood why many chose not to drink at all. Luckily, he wasn’t prone to hangovers.

The throbbing in his temples reminded him otherwise.

“Ahh…” he tried to make it go away, unsuccessfully. How much did he drink? He could empty the drink supply at almost any party with minimal help and not feel like this and he always remembered what he did while under the influence. So what happened this time?

He needed to get something to help this headache. The grocery store carried some seltzer water, so that became his immediate destination.

Barely coherent, he made his way through the few aisles to the one with his desired item, grabbing several bottles and trudging towards the exit. The lady at the checkout gave him a knowing look when he barely managed to slide his card through the reader, all the while muttering “another one, eh? Must’ve been quite a rager last night…” He opted not to respond and instead consumed the seltzer water as soon as he was checked out.

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He needed a place to crash. Yeah… that bench outside the market was nice and comfy… and occupied.

“Hey, watch it!” a familiar but grumpy and groggy voice complained when he almost sat on her.

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“Nikki? Hey, what’s up?” She was still in her dress from the party and it looked like she spent the night sleeping here? “Why are you sleeping on a bench? Did you stay here all night?”

“Quiet, please…” she grimaced, rubbing her own head. From the looks of it, Nikki was feeling pretty similar to him. He could sympathize.

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“Seltzer water?” he offered her one of his and she drank like her life depended on it.

“Damn,” the girl muttered, “it feels like there’s a train running on broken rails inside of my head.”

“Same,” he leaned back. “So, how come you’re here? You don’t live here.”

“No. I think told the cabbie to stop here,” she glanced around. “I don’t remember why, though… oh, that’s why.” She noticed an open candy pack she was partially sitting on. “I guess it was after we dropped you off.”

“You dropped me off?!” he almost yelled, making them both wince.

“Yeah, we left the club together, I remember that much…” she frowned. “Not much more than that, though. Wait, why don’t I remember things? I always remember things.”

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“Join the club,” he muttered. “I don’t even remember who I fucked last night…”

He felt her stare on him. “What?”

“You don’t remember? You honestly don’t remember?” she was shocked, to say the least.

“What do you mean?” he frowned, not understanding.

“You really don’t remember me talking to you? And you flirting with me like the house was on fire? Phoenix, please tell me you remember being in the bathroom with me. Because I know I drank a lot last night, but I remember that part,” she was still looking at him, expecting something.

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“Wait…”

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Nikki, it was Nikki! He hooked up with Nikki, now he knew. Hazily, the events of the previous night began to materialize in his head. Yeah, he remembered what he and Nikki did in the bathroom. If he wasn’t so hungover, he would’ve been embarrassed. He still felt terrible about cheating on Jeanine, but at least…

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“I’m so glad it was you and not Ashley.”

“Umm, ok? I guess? How can you not remember anything, though? When did you manage to drink that much?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I know I had those drinks at the bar.”

“The ones Trev ordered, right? They were pretty delicious,” she smiled.

“You tried some?”

“One more for the road,” she smiled and immediately frowned. “Wait. If you only had those cocktails and can’t remember anything afterwards and we…” she clasped a hand over her mouth. “Phoenix, did anyone really watch those after your friends ordered them?”

“I’m not sure. I know Trev went to DJ, and then Jeanine and Jeanne were in that yelling match with Ashley, and I was mostly on the dance floor.”

“So, no one was watching them,” she nodded. “Well, at least we hooked up with each other and we know for sure we used protection. You do realize we drank something we shouldn’t have, right?”

Slowly, he nodded. It made sense. While he and Nikki hung out a lot, there was never even a slight flirtation between them, even when they were super intoxicated. And for them to have an encounter in a club’s bathroom – it was not like them at all.

“Wait, so I came on to you?” he asked.

“Bro!” she chuckled. “You went all out with it. I recall approaching you to ask if I could hitch a ride with you to the beach over the break, since I’ve heard your friends talking about it earlier. But you had other ideas. Sorry,” she sobered up. “I, um, should’ve realized something was wrong for you to be propositioning me, but I was pretty intoxicated myself, by that time. I usually don’t hook up with people who have girlfriends.”

“I should be the one sorry,” he shrugged.

“You were drugged, man,” she shook her head. “I was too, by whatever was in that cocktail. Because I remember what happened before I had it, but afterwards, everything is foggy. I wonder who messed with them.”

“Could’ve been anyone,” Phoenix supposed. “There were those guys playing darts, the bartender herself, that chick who wasn’t happy with her fries, Ashley, even that DJ who could’ve been angry at Trev…”

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“Wait, which Ashley are you talking about?” she asked. “I know at least three just in my department.”

“Ashley Corono, the royal bitch,” Phoenix explained. “She’s been making Jeanine’s life hell for the past semester and I guess, things have finally boiled over. They had some a yelling match, then I yelled at her some more. She’s a creep, I tell you.”

“Yes, she is Phoenix,” Nikki was now looking at him with alarm in her eyes. “Are you telling me Ashley has some sort of a rivalry with your girlfriend?”

He nodded.

“Did she ever make a move on you?” she asked.

“Uh, yeah, why? She’s weird. But how did you know?”

“Phoenix…” Nikki sighed deeply. “Ok, it must’ve been her. She must’ve drugged those drinks. I don’t even have a shred of doubt. I’m guessing, you were her target.”

“Why are you so certain about this?” He had little love for Ashley, but to think that she would purposely drug someone?

“You’re not the only person she’s done this with,” Nikki explained. “I have a friend in the art department. His ex-girlfriend was on the athletics student council and if I remember correctly, she and Ashley weren’t getting along. And then, one day, this guy just wakes up in Ashley’s bed. She’s acting like they spent a great night together, so he just goes with it. I mean, this guy, he had a girlfriend, but he’s one of those guys who usually don’t have much luck with girls and he was all like ‘hey, I scored with a hottie!’ Except, as time passes he really can’t remember any of it. Eventually, he figured out what happened, but you know how guys are, you guys usually don’t talk about these things. But he did talk to someone who knew someone else that a similar thing happened to – I don’t know many details, but it seems like Ms. Corono has a thing for boys who are with the girls she hates.”

“So, you’re telling me, this girl has a pattern of drugging and sleeping with the men on this campus and no one does anything?” Phoenix was incredulous. “How come?”

“Like I said, men are less likely to report this kind of thing. Many don’t even realize something wrong happened, at least not until a lot of time passes. And if they do report it, what’s the school going to do?” she shrugged with annoyance. “You know, her dad is one of this university’s biggest donors, right?”

“Really?” This was news to Phoenix.

“Yeah. So, really, I have a feeling this school is more than happy to look the other way on Ashley’s indiscretions,” Nikki finished.

“That’s messed up. And really, not even legal,” his drug-induced hangover was coming to an end, leaving him feeling highly annoyed. “I wish there was some sort of evidence we could find against her that was so solid they couldn’t ignore it any more. Wait! Come on!”

“Where to?”

“The student health center. They can test us for whatever’s in our bloodstream,” he explained.

She seemed hesitant, but after understanding his line of logic, she agreed to come along.


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Entering the student health center, they were met with the sight of more than a dozen students slumped in their chairs or on the floor, looking like death warmed over. A couple of guys were slowly breathing in and out while staring at the floor. A group of girls were altogether half-passed out.

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“We got two more!” Phoenix heard a nurse yell out to someone further in the building.

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“What’s going on here?” Nikki asked in confusion. “Wait, is that Ashley over there? Oh shit, she looks even worse than the rest of them.”

Before they could approach her, the nurse intercepted them.

“Headache? Nausea? Can barely remember the previous night? Aching all over?”

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“Yes, how did you know?” Nikki asked.

The nurse sighs deeply. “Look around. All of them came in with the same symptoms. Were you drinking at The Foundry?”

Silently they nod.

“Well, take a seat, someone will be right with you in a bit. But in case you’re curious, whatever you had at that fine establishment contained fake alcohol. And now you’re all experiencing the aftereffects.”

“Wait, so we weren’t roofied?” Phoenix asked, incredulously.

“Maybe? For all I know, they added that into whatever you’ve been drinking, too. We can test you for that, sure. But it is far more likely you’re just really poisoned right now. These cheap alcohol-makers aren’t too discerning about what they’ve been mixing into their crap.”

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As she left to get the doctor, the two of them approached Ashley, trying to get to the bottom of everything.

“Hey! Ashley,” Phoenix called. “Did you do something to our drinks?”

Barely raising her head, the blonde squinted at him. “Are you for real? Are you saying I’m responsible for mass-poisoning everyone here? And then myself as well, for good measure? Fuck off!”

She slumps on the student hospital’s couch again, which makes Nikki shake her head.

“I don’t think she did it, Phoenix? But then, what about Bob? He said she…”

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Before Nikki can finish, Ashley raises her head again. “Are you talking about Bob Parker? Yeah, FYI, that loser’s ‘nice guy’ act managed to let him weasel into the pants of multiple women on this campus alone, without that idiot girlfriend of his noticing anything. And when she finally caught him in my bed, he lied his teeth off to make himself look all nice and innocent. Of course, believe whatever you want. But if you think I need to roofie a guy to get him into bed with me, then you really aren’t worth my time. Now please move away from me. I’m ill enough already. Stupid bitch got me a second time, can you believe it?”

“Wait, who?” Phoenix asked.

“That bartender who served us last night,” Ashley sighed. “I didn’t realize it was her back then, but I know it was her. She used to work at a bar in the downtown area and a couple of friends and I got pretty ill after visiting them some time ago. Last I’ve heard, the bar got closed down because of a similar thing.” She waved at the other students. “Cheap fake alcohol. Now please, go away.”

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Speechless, they were ushered into the doctor’s office after Ashley finished her speech, where they were further warned to stay away from alcohol for the time being, given the appropriate medication, and advised to drink lots of liquids until their symptoms passed.

Leaving the hospital, they were quiet. Both he and Nikki still felt awful after the events of last night, as did most of their fellow club-goers, but these two also had another thing on their mind.

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“So…” Nikki finally muttered. “She didn’t roofie us.”

“No.” Which meant that he had much less of an excuse for his cheating.

“We were still affected, though,” she reminded him. “Damn, alcohol poisoning? That’s even worse.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He wasn’t that convinced. What was he supposed to say to Jeanine?


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Meanwhile, Jeanine stopped by a coffee shop after her trip to the store. Even though she thought a good night of sleep would make her feel better, she still felt terrible. She had colds before as a child, but this was one of the worst.

At least, the shop had some ginger tea, which always seemed to help.

A text ring caught her attention. It was a message from Eddie.

“Hey, what’s up? Is everything alright?”

She smiled. It was almost like this guy had a psychic ability. She typed out her reply.

“Yeah, I’m fine, just a little sick. I had to go home early last night because of that.”

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New message. “I wondered if something was wrong. Please take care of yourself. I’ll stop by in a while and bring some chicken soup, if that’s ok with you.”

This made her smile grow even bigger. “Mmm, chicken soup. Haven’t had one in a while. Mom always cooked it for us when we got sick.”

New message. “That settles it. I’m bringing it over. See you!”

Still smiling, Jeanine left the shop and headed home in a much better mood.

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Just as he promised, in a few hours, Eddie really showed up with a bowl of freshly cooked soup.

“Hey, I had to wait for my roommates to finish using the kitchen. I hope I got it right. My soup-making skills are a bit rusty.”

“Are you kidding? It’s delicious! You should go into culinary arts,” she complimented as she practically inhaled the wonderful hot broth.

“Thank you, the compliment is fondly accepted. So, how has your day been? Mine was kind of weird,” Eddie mentioned. “A bunch of my classmates were walking around holding on to their heads and clutching their stomachs.”

“I saw a few, too,” she nodded. A couple of girls came into the coffee shop while she was there, ordered a coffee, and couldn’t even finish it because they were feeling ill. If she remembered right, she also saw them at The Foundry, dancing on the floor. She wondered if they overpartied.

“Yeah, wild,” Eddie agreed. “I’m glad I didn’t drink anything.”

“Yeah, me too. A hangover and a cold seem like a bad mix.”

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“Hey, are you two having chicken soup? It smells yummy,” Millicent joined them, coming back from the lab. “Can I have some?”

Eddie waved for her to join them. “Please, do.”

“Thanks. Have you guys seen Phoenix? He looked awful this morning. I hope he wasn’t one of the victims.”

“Victims?” Jeanine looked at her, shocked.

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“Yeah, turns out a bunch of people got alcohol poisoning last night at The Foundry. Cheap alcohol. It’s scary. Did you know they put all sorts of unsafe chemicals into that stuff? Quiang’s department worked on a case about it recently.”

“That would explain a lot,” Eddie mused.

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“Evening,” Phoenix finally stumbled into the house looking.

“Phoenix! How are you?” Jeanine immediately asked.

“Sick. There’s been an-”

“Outbreak, we know. Oh no, they got you?” Jeanine frowned.

“Yeah, me, Nikki, Ashley, a bunch of others,” he was glad so many people were concerned about the outbreak because he could look as upset as he wanted without giving away the real reason. “It’s cool, the doctor told us what to do.”

“Have some soup, please,” Eddie invited him. “It’ll make you feel better.”

“Well, it is a source of hydration,” Phoenix nodded. “Thank you.”

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While he and Millie ate, Jeanine and Eddie caught the last part of a news report about the recent events on campus and in the city.

“Wow, it’s a good time to be staying sober,” she realized. “And I should probably thank this cold – I wouldn’t have left early otherwise!”

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“And perhaps it can ease you into taking things easy. You really left the soccer team?” Eddie asked. “I bet Ashley and the others aren’t gonna have it easy now. Especially since she and several others are now sick too.”

Jeanine smiled. “Not really my problem anymore, is it? She made her bed.”

He laughed at that. “Indeed! Well, if you need any help filling your time with things not-related to sport, let me know. There are a lot of things happening on campus that aren’t too well advertised.”

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“That would be cool, yeah!” she agreed. “I’d like to check out more things here.”

“Deal.”

Gen 3 Ch 11: Expensive Mistakes

Warning: Lots of swearing, alcohol, discussion of bullying, drugs, and other problematic matters. Read at your own discretion. Also, the nightclub is made by the wonderful Caterpillarsims and you can download it here. And the chapter title is definitely based on the Fallout Boy song.


After Kaz’s party, they ended up getting invited to other parties as well. Some took the invitations, others didn’t.

Phoenix never passed up a party invite, usually dragging Trev along with him. He loved the atmosphere, the friendly people, the fun, the drinks… This was his element. As it turned out, he always managed to become the center of attention at such gatherings.

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“Dude! Come on! You’ve already beat my record!” Nikki yelled, shortly before her arms gave out and she dropped him from his position over the keg. “Are you a cyborg or something? Or do you spit it out instead of drinking, or what?”

“Ouch. If I was a cyborg, this wouldn’t hurt. I’ve got bones, you know…” Phoenix crawled up complaining.

No, he wasn’t cheating. As it turned out, while his mother had a weak alcohol tolerance and his father barely drank any, he made up for both of them – it took quite a while for him to get intoxicated.

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“I’m pretty sure most of your internal organs are already replaced by whatever’s in this keg, bro. I can’t believe you’re drinking this much before finals week,” she mused.

“So are you, though,” he pointed at Nikki’s own empty cups.

“Yeah, but in the art department, our final is a final project and we’re all done with it already,” she admitted. “Most of the people here today are from my department.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got this. It’s communication. I’m great at communication, yo…” he turned away just in time not to barf all over her shoes. Nikki was easy-going and loved to party, yet he was certain she would’ve ripped him a new one if he had ruined her shoes.

“Sure… Hey Trev, do you two live far? Can you get him home safely or should I call you guys a cab? He doesn’t look too good,” she waved his friend over.

“We’re good, thanks Nikki,” Trev lent him his shoulder to lean on as he helped him get upright and leave Nikki’s and her roommates’ place. “Phoenix, this is the third party we’ve been to within the last two weeks. I know I said we needed to let loose once in a while, but I think you took me far too seriously.”

“What? We’re doing fine, though. It’s not like we’re neglecting out studies,” Phoenix tried to argue, but his words came out slurred.

“See, that’s what I mean,” Trev shook his head. “Come on buddy. Let’s get you home and sobered up.”

Back home, Phoenix actually did make some attempts to study. Which is to say, he opened up his laptop and spent the next hour giggling over every mildly inappropriate-sounding term in his school readings.

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“What’s with him?” asked Jeanine when she came home and found her boyfriend practically doubled over, all because he thought the term “groupthink” meant something much more different and risqué than what it actually means.

“Too much booze,” Trev explained. “He outdrank Nikki.”

“What?! Phoenix, are you out of your mind? Your exam is in two days!” she was appalled that he could be so cavalier about his grades.

“Relax, babe, I told you, I’ve got this exam in the bag. But look, I’m studying,” he broke out into a new set of giggles, due to misreading “public opinion” without the “l” in the first word.

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“Yeah, you are. Maybe you should save the studying for tomorrow? Some sleep will do you much more good right now,” she shook her head and headed upstairs to shower.

She worried about him, lately. Phoenix has always enjoyed being among people, but his party habits were becoming a problem. At the same time, he wasn’t really messing up, so she wasn’t sure how to get him to slow down.

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Once she showered and came to bed, he was already heavily sleeping. At least, they had no class tomorrow, so he had some time to catch up on whatever else he needed to review for the exam. She hoped he did study. He wasn’t careless enough not to, right?

 

The next day, she was once again studying, this time at a weekend pre-exam practice session. Their professor was nice enough to take the time out of his weekend and give them another chance to go over everything, and everyone who cared about their grades took the opportunity.

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Between the studying, the soccer practice, and worrying about her roommates and boyfriend, she felt exhausted. She couldn’t wait for the short break after the exams – she needed rest.

Achoo! And on top of everything, it looked like she was coming down with a cold. Great, just great.

After the study session, she decided to study outside and take advantage of the natural sunlight. And the live music from Trev and Eddy made studying somewhat easier.

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Meanwhile at home, Phoenix was also studying, or at least, attempting to. Once he sobered up and really took a look at his notes, he knew one thing for sure – he fucked up. He remembered nothing of this. But how? He did pay attention in class! How could he not remember all this stuff? He was good, even great, at communication!

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So, cursing everything, he was trying to cram as much information as possible into his head at the last moment – the exam was tomorrow.

By the time evening fell, everyone finished up their study sessions, with varying results.

Jeanine could finally play some ball, now that the green was empty of people. (Most college students did not enjoy getting hit in the head by a flyaway soccer ball.) And she enjoyed these times, when it was just her and the sport.

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She was trying out some maneuver she saw a popular player do during the last aired game – it was tricky but she knew she’ll get it eventually.

“Almost there, yes!” As soon as she got it right, a wave of dizziness came over her and she almost lost footing. “Woah…”

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“Hey! Are you alright?” I was Eddy, who came out of the building just in time to see her almost faint.

“Yeah, I’m fine, thanks,” she waved him away.

“Are you sure? You don’t look to be so solid on your feet at the moment,” he prodded.

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“Seriously, I’m fine. See?” she attempted to kick the ball again, which proved to be a mistake – a new wave of dizziness hit her stronger than the previous one and she nearly fell once more.

“Yeah, you’re totally fine. Come on, lean on me,” Eddy caught her despite protests. “Can you walk?”

“Yes, I think so. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Wait, where are we going?” she perked up. “My home is that way.”

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“And the café is this way. I don’t know what you’ve been learning in those anatomy classes of yours, but clearly you haven’t been paying much attention,” he grumbled, leading her in the direction of the café.

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, irritated.

“When was the last time you’ve eaten? Or gotten a decent amount of rest?” he raised his eyebrows knowingly.

“I ate!” she protested, sheepishly adding, “Eight hours ago.”

“See? And you think that’s healthy?”

She had no response to this. The truth was, she forgot to grab lunch due to being so focused on the upcoming exams and other things.

Half an hour later, they were sitting inside the coffee shop and Eddy was overseeing her eat a loaded bagel.

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“You really need to take better care of yourself,” he informed her. “You weren’t doing anything too dangerous back on the green, but imagine if you had gotten dizzy while driving? You could’ve gotten injured, or worse.”

“I do care for myself,” she tried to argue.

“By overworking and barely eating?” he inquired.

“How do you even know anything about my eating habits?!” she asked, even though she already knew the answer. “Trev had no call to discuss my personal matters with people outside the house.”

“Probably not. But your friends are worried about you. As they should be,” he paused before continuing. “Look, I don’t know you well enough to be telling you what to do, but from an outsider’s perspective, you are not on a good path right now.”

“Yeah, well…” She wasn’t sure why she wanted to disagree with Eddy so badly – perhaps because she knew he was right?

“Do you want to talk about it?” he offered. “We’ve got time. All the practice sessions are done for today.”

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“What is there to talk about it?” she asked. “I’m not anorexic, if that’s what people think. I know I haven’t been eating well lately, to be honest. And I’m not quite sure how I ended up in this situation.”

She leaned back and tried to relax. If Eddy hadn’t been there, on the green, there was a good chance that she would’ve been passed out all alone out there, she realized. This was kind of scary. How did she let it all get so bad?

“It’s ok,” he smiled. “These things happen, sometimes. And it’s a good thing to take a pause and collect yourself, when they do.”

“You sound like a wise old man passing down his life experience to the youngsters, you know,” she chuckled.

“I’m hardly wise. I’ve just seen too many people lose their way, when they should’ve reached out for help,” he admitted sadly.

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“Sounds like you have things you want to talk about too,” she smiled, understanding.

“Don’t we all? Well, my best friend from high school is currently in rehab for drugs, my other friend is stuck in a shitty relationship to a woman who could win any “Witch of the Year” award, my little sister is going to therapy for an eating disorder, and mom is trying to keep it all together without going crazy. And I’m just trying to get my degree and earn money with music, which many tell me is completely bonkers,” he finished. “So, what about you?”

“Wow, that sucks,” she agreed. “I’m sorry about your sister and friends. I hope their situations resolve for the better. You’ll be fine, though. I’ve heard you play – you’re good. Really good.”

“Thanks. I hope so.”

“My parents are scientists. They graduated at the top of their class, that kind of thing. And dad is also really good with computers, so he’s, like, this crazy hacker persona in the flesh. So, I guess I’ve always felt like I had to be really good at something, too. All of my siblings have ‘their’ thing, so I felt like I had to, as well. Well, that something for me is sports, soccer to be exact. It used to be stealing. I would steal everything I could get my little hands on, as a kid. They even took me to therapy for it, would you believe it? Well, anyways, I got past that. And I am great on the field, I know that. They wouldn’t have given me a full ride scholarship is I wasn’t.”

She ran out of breath after shooting everything off at super speed.

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“But? I sense a “but” coming,” Eddy prodded.

“But I absolutely hate being on the team here, ok? These people are the most arrogant, idiotic, half-assed bunch of morons I have ever had the displeasure to meet!” she blew up. “They’re like a clique, except they don’t spend all their time discussing fashion, they spend their time on the field. And then there’s the team captain, Ashley. You know, I usually hate stereotypes, but she is the stupid, spoiled, and bratty rich girl come to life. And it really eats me up that she is the team captain, ok? Because, even among the idiots on the team, there are people who play way better than her. And they could hold the team together better, too. But somehow, she is the captain. And I hate being this kind of person, but every time she makes some idiotic remark towards me, about my weight, about my social status, about anything, I just want to be the very best on the field and rub it in her face, just to make her realize how mediocre she actually is. I know it’s stupid that these things upset me so much,” she finished.

“It’s not. It’s always unfair when mediocrity is given the green light to success, due to messed-up social structures. But unfortunately, these people exist, and you can’t let them get to you to the extent that they make you physically ill. Because, your wish to outdo your teammates has been driving you to neglect your own health, and these people aren’t worth it.”

“I know. It’s just, I hate it that they’re making me hate something I used to love so much. Soccer used to be fun. Now, it’s irritating,” she sighed.

“Why not quit, then?” he asked.

“The scholarship. I can’t lose it.”

“Fuck the scholarship. You’re great at sports – you could always get a job as a trainer at the gym and you would enjoy it much more, too.”

“I guess I could do that,” she supposed. “It just sucks that, for some of us, paying for an education is an issue, while others have their parents footing the bill and they party through everything.”

“That’s life, it’s unfair. But don’t let that get you down. There’s plenty of good stuff in it too. And I bet your teammates are so moronic because they don’t have any decent friends, like you do,” Eddy pointed out. “It must suck when people only spend time with you because you have money.”

“That is most likely true,” she agreed. The clock hit 10, which made her realize how long they spent talking. “Shoot, I’ve got to get home. My exams are early tomorrow!”

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“Are you going to be ok? Let me walk you,” he offered.

“Thanks, I’m good now, though,” she smiled. “And thanks for taking the time to make sure I was ok.”

“It was the least I could do. You know what? Here’s my number. If anything comes up, feel free to text or call. We all need a friendly ear, sometimes,” he wrote down his number on a napkin. “Take care.”

“You too. And good luck on your exams,” she parted with Eddy in a much better mood. It was nice to get all these things out with someone who seemed to understand. No wonder Trev was such good friends with Eddy – the guy was a great listener. And he gave good advice. She walked home, seriously considering quitting the team. After all, no scholarship was worth all these nerves.

The next day went as expected – the girls, who worked their butts off to prepare, all aced their tests. The boys both failed. In Trevor’s case, it was because his mind checked out of the science department even before he arrived on campus; in Phoenix’s case, it was simply because one day was not enough time to cram all of the information into his brain, especially after a night of getting intoxicated.

“Hi Dad. How are you and Mom? How’s Felicity? Yeah, I’m fine. Mostly. I flunked my tests, though. I’m sorry,” Phoenix waited for his father to yell at him, to chastise him in some way, but all he heard was a long sigh on the other end of the line. He knew his father was disappointed.

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Yes, he knew why it happened. He knew he had officially overpartied. All that talk about keeping a balance during the school year has gone out of his brain as soon as he got a taste of the party scene. He would need to try so much harder next semester. And he would need to cut back on the partying, he realized. Nikki and Jeanine were right – he did not behave responsibly.

After the conversation with his father, during which David expressed concern over his son’s study habits, which used to be so great during high school, Phoenix headed to the coffee shop, where most of the students were either celebrating good grades or moping over poor ones, like him. He didn’t quite expect to be in the later group, but that was the reality.

Yes, he needed to make some changes. No more partying on weeknights. No more drinking ‘till he blacked out. No more leaving all studying until the last minute. He was going to make positive changes to his college experience.

As soon as the break was over, of course. Tonight, most of the students were getting together at The Foundry, a nightclub a couple of miles away from the campus, to celebrate the end of their exams.

That night, the club was full of people happy to relieve the stress of the exams in the easiest ways possible. They were going to drink, dance, hook up, and do all the things responsible students didn’t do during the school weeks.

“Hey, don’t be upset, you’ll do better next time,” Jeanine was reassuring Phoenix.

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“I better. Dad was super disappointed when I told him about the F,” he grumbled.

“Your Dad?” she raised an eyebrow. “I mean, it’s obvious, but this is your education. You should be the one focused on it, not him.”

“I know. Don’t even say it, I know I behaved irresponsibly,” he grimaced. “I think I’m going to need to plan my time better, during the next courses.”

“Well, admitting the problem is part of the solution. You’ll get there. And we’ll help you,” she agreed, smiling at someone who came into the club. “Hey, what’s up?”

“All’s good. How were the tests?” Eddy waved at them.

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Jeanine’s and Phoenix’s faces told him everything. “Well, congratulations, and better luck next time, respectively. What’s with the music here? This DJ sucks.”

“He’s right,” Trev concluded. “Even I could do a better job on the turntables.”

“Why don’t you?” Jeanne nudged him. “I believe you two aren’t the only ones dissatisfied with the music content.”

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“I’ll go see what I can do!” Trev smiled and pranced towards the dancefloor and the DJ’s station, where he easily convinced the guy playing to let him run the music entertainment for the evening.

“Alright! Let’s get this party started!”

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As soon as Trev got his hands on the turntables, the night took a turn for the better and the dance floor quickly filled up with young people happy to dance off the negativity and exhaustion of the course.

While Phoenix joined the dancing people, Jeanne was grilling Jeanine about her upbeat mood.

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“You look like you’re planning something. And you’ve been making sure to get a balanced meal today, which is really great! I’m just curious, what got through to you? And how?” Jeanne wanted to know.

Jeanine shrugged. “I guess I hit rock bottom.” She filled her friend in on what happened the previous night – nearly fainting, Eddy helping her out, their conversation, and her realizations. “It was a good wake up call. I was literally destroying my health because of the people who have no idea what it’s like to actually earn something based on merit. I’m done.”

“Wow, I’ll have to buy Eddy a drink just for being able to get that conversation started with you. So, you’re going to actually take care of yourself now?” she asked, with hope in her voice.

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“Yes. The realization that I could’ve passed out on the green, all by myself – that was scary enough and I’m not in the mood for a repeat,” Jeanine admitted.

“Good,” Jeanne nodded firmly. “And if any of your teammates try to give you trouble over anything, please, do let us know. I’d love to have a go at them myself. Especially at Ashley.”

“No need. The only reason I was willing to put up with all of her bullshit was because I was still holding on to the belief that I depend on the scholarship money. But fuck the money – Ashley and the rest of her morons managed to make soccer bad, can you believe that? I’m just about done with all of them,” Jeanine shrugged. “If she starts any trouble, I’ll tell her whatever I think about her, in the full.”

‘Well, you might just have your chance right now,” Jeanne frowned. “Here comes trouble.”

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A couple of seconds later, Ashley was next to the girls, having made a beeline for Jeanine as soon as she saw her from the other end of the club, completely ignoring the fact that the later was already involved in a conversation.

“Good evening, Jeanine. How were finals?” she asked with a perfect fake smile.

“Great, actually. I aced them,” Jeanine smiled. “How were yours?”

“Oh, they were good, mostly,” Ashley fiddled with the hem of her dress. “So, you’re celebrating now? I guess this is a good day as any to make a cheat day, huh?”

Jeanne couldn’t hide her disgust at the blonde’s behavior, but Jeanine wasn’t fazed in the least.

“Oh yes, it’s perfect actually,” Jeanine smiled openly. “I worked hard, I got my desired results, and now I’m entitled to a reward, don’t you think?”

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“Yeah, sure. Just don’t let yourself go, hon,” she smirked.

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t. Not that it’s any of your concern, really, is it, Ashley? After all, you’re better off working on your own skills and shape, considering that you can barely catch a ball when someone passes it directly to you,” Jeanine delivered sweetly.

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Ashley huffed up, trying to look intimidating, but combined with her heavy makeup and red dress, it mostly made her look like a prized rooster.

“It means you’re a shit player, Ashley,” Jeanine explained, patiently. “But it’s ok. Practice makes perfect, right? You just need lots of it.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you know who I am? Do you know who my father is?” Ashley yelled at her.

“Yes, you are a pompous idiot with only a mediocre level of skill, at best. And your daddy is, really, the only reason you were made the team’s captain. Although, sooner or later, the university will still realize that having a bad player in that position is bad publicity, and they’ll probably either kick you out or make trouble for the team. Luckily, it won’t be my problem by then,” Jeanine finished calmly.

“And why is that?” Ashley yelled. “You are on this team, and you will be, if you want the university to continue footing your education bill.”

“I don’t,” Jeanine stated. “As a matter of fact, before I left the campus today, I dropped off an official letter, stating that I’m quitting the team, at the financial aid office – further bills go directly to me. And you know what? I feel great. It means I don’t have to see your stupid face everywhere anymore.”

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“You quit the team?! What? You can’t quit the team. Take the letter back, you bitch!” Ashley started yelling at her at the top of her lungs. “Do it!”

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“Why would I do that?” Jeanine asked, incredulously. “I just told you, I’m done with this team. Now, fuck off, and let me enjoy the end of my evening in peace.”

“You…you idiot!” Ashley tried to argue again, but Jeanine waved her away.

“Just go away, you sound like a broken record.”

Ashley would have argued more, but the thing was, Jeanine has been feeling really under the weather all day, and she ended up sneezing right at this moment, straight at Ashley, who figured that, maybe, she should put some distance between someone who can potentially get her sick and herself. After all, now that Jeanine was really quitting, she was going to be in over her head, as the girl was definitely the most skilled player they had.

Meanwhile, hearing the commotion all the way on the dancefloor, Phoenix noticed Jeanine and Ashley in a heated argument and, realizing that the blonde was once again causing trouble for his girl, he angrily made his way towards her.

“Hey you! What’s your problem again? Didn’t I tell you to stop bothering her?” he started yelling at Ashley.

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“Yeah, so what? You’re not the boss of me. Besides, it’s not my fault your girlfriend is an idiot who doesn’t know what’s good for her!” Ashley yelled right back. “What the fuck do you even see in her? You could totally do better.”

“What the hell? Are you on something?” he snorted. “She knows exactly what’s good for her. And if she finally told you where you can shove your opinion, then I’m completely on board with it.”

“Oh yeah, a perfect little boyfriend, coming to his girl’s defense, aren’t you? Like you haven’t gotten blackout drunk at practically every party hosted on or near campus? But sure, your life is great,” she huffed.

“What is your deal, seriously? And how do you know which parties I was at? Have you been stalking me as well? You’re a psycho, you know that, right?” Phoenix was disgusted.

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“Like you’re one to talk. I just like to keep tabs on people who are of interest to me, that’s all,” Ashley smiled, which made her look even more insane.

“Yes, and the proper term for that is usually ‘psycho’, like I’ve told you already,” he grimaced. “Now stop stalking me and my friends, or I swear to every deity in existence, I will make sure the proper authorities handle you.”

“Whatever. Have it your way. But just so you know, whatever she can do for you, I can do it better,” she made one last pass at him before walking away.

Yikes, he thought. This girl was a piece of work. He wasn’t sure what Jeanine said to her to piss her off so much, but he hoped it was good. Now, where was Jeanine? He wanted to make sure everything was ok, and that she wasn’t upset.

He was upset. Now he had not only his poor grades to deal with, but also, apparently a psycho stalker? Great, just great.

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He made his way to the cocktails still fresh at the bar. He wasn’t going to get blackout drunk tonight, but after this encounter with Ashley, he needed something to wash away the disgust.

 

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He woke up on the couch with a raging headache. The sun was behind him, but even the faint light was making his eyes ache and his head pound so much worse.

So much for not getting blackout drunk, he thought. This was the worst hangover he has ever experienced. Barely moving, he managed to slid off the couch and to the floor, where he thought he could dull the headache by pressing his head firmly against the side of the couch.

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Millie found him like this when she came down.

“Phoenix? Goodness gracious, are you even alive?”

“Please, be quiet, Mils. Please.”

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“You’re a complete mess today, aren’t you? I’ll get you some coconut water. Take all the time you need, bro.”

As promised, she brought the coconut water to him and laid it on the table nearby.

Getting to the juice was a journey in itself.

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How did he even get home? He didn’t recall taking a cab, but he must have taken one?

Oh, and Jeanine… yeah, that was nice. The memory was fuzzy, but they had sex in one of the bathrooms and it was good, really good… He wondered if she rode in the cab home with him. He hoped she got home safe. And the rest of their crew.

After drinking the juice he felt slightly better and managed to crawl to the kitchen, where he slumped down on the table. He really needed to rest this hangover off.

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“Hey, how are you? Achoo! Sorry, did you get home safe last night? Trev said he couldn’t find you at the club, when he was done with the music,” Jeanine came to the kitchen, still in her sleepwear and visibly sick.

“Huh?” he could barely raise his head off the table. “Didn’t we get home together?”

“No, sorry. I ended up arguing with Ashley, and then I stayed at the club for maybe fifteen more minutes – I felt really feverish, so Jeanne ended up taking me home. I think I have the flu,” she explained.

“Oh,” he managed to get out.

“You don’t look so good either. I’m heading to the library to drop off my books, and then I’ll pick up some cold meds at the store. Need anything? Never mind, I’ll get you an Alka Seltzer.”

She left and he was left wondering how he could have gotten drunk enough to imagine having sex with someone who wasn’t even there. He really needed to stop drinking, he realized. This was getting out of hand.

His hand fell into his pocket, where it encountered something crinkly. Taking it out, he realized he had an empty condom wrapper in his pocket. It was his go-to brand.

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Instantly, the last vestiges of his hangover seemed to evaporate and he jumped up, thoroughly shocked.

What did he do last night?

Gen 3 Ch 10: At the Party

On the evening of the party, everyone gathered at Kaz’s place. He and three of his buddies were renting a house several blocks away from the campus, and they had a reputation both for being very chill, and for throwing good parties. Naturally, this made the rest of their classmates happy to be their friends.

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Phoenix didn’t know any of the home’s residents himself, but Trev did, and according to him, Kaz was a cool guy. And this was fine with Phoenix. He was always happy to meet new people.

There were already a few people coming and going from the house when he and the rest arrived.

“Yo! Make yourselves comfortable! There’s beer behind the house, and we’re going to get a bonfire going soon. Should be some snacks by the kegs, too. Have fun!” Yep, Kaz was as nice as everyone said he was.

While everyone was filing in, Trev spotted someone across the yard.

“Yo, Eddy! What’s up, man?” He eagerly made way towards the unfamiliar man.

“Heya, Trev. All’s good. It’s about time you party a bit. What’s the point of college if you don’t? Wanna jam later on?” Eddy invited.

“I don’t know if I sound good enough yet. But I’m in, if you’re in,” Trev agreed.

“Sure thing. Let’s get this party started!”

“Oh, by the way, this is my girlfriend, Jeanne. Jeanne, this is Eddy, my guitar teacher.”

“Ah, so that’s who he’s been ditching me for!” Jeanne joked, prompting a chuckle from Eddy.

“Yes, and let me tell you, this guy’s got talent. He’s learning the instrument much faster than most of my other students. And I’m not just saying that because he’s paying me to teach him. Really, keep up the great work, Trev. I’ll go help Kaz set up the bonfire.”

Eddy went towards the pit where the rest of the partiers were setting up the kindling and wood for the fire and Jeanne looked at her boyfriend in a new light.

“Well, well, well, young guitar prodigy, when were you going to tell me about your success?”

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“Oh, I’m not that good, really. But thanks. One day, I’ll serenade you, promise.”

Meanwhile, Phoenix and Jeanine were helping out with the bonfire as well. Or rather, Jeanine was. Despite Phoenix’s futile attempts to help carry the heavier logs, she did her best to get to carry most of them, trying to exercise even here. The other partiers didn’t notice, but he did. Now, as they were warming their hands over the burning flames, he decided it was as good a time as any to broach the subject.Screenshot-80.jpg

“Jeanie, you really need to take it easy once in a while. We’re at a party, you can relax for once, you know. Look, even Millie is having a beer, and she’s literally only here for a degree.”

“I am taking it easy, though. After the weight room at the gym, these logs are practically pillows,” she rationalized.

“Maybe, but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re constantly wearing yourself out. We’re all worried.”

“I know you are,” she retorted in annoyance. “You think I didn’t have enough trouble circumventing Jeanne’s talks and health facts? I’m not stupid, Phoenix. And I’m not wearing myself out. I know I spend too much time at the gym, and I’m sorry it’s been biting into my time with all of you. But I’ve wished I had access to equipment like these my whole youth. Of course, I’m spending a lot of time there. And I am eating, despite what your cousin’s telling you. Just rarely at home. But I’m definitely not starving myself – I know better than that, especially as Jeanne and I share many classes together and I’m learning all those important facts about the human body.”

He nodded, still not completely satisfied. At least, she understood why they were concerned and she wasn’t being careless.

He did think she was spending too much time at the gym. She was his girlfriend, but sometimes he felt that she was having an emotional affair with that fancy modern gym, since that place saw her more often than he did, on some days. But he understood what a selfish line of thought this was.

“As long as you’re being careful and don’t overexert yourself, I’m cool with you spending long hours at the gym. We just care about you, that’s all.”

“I know. And I appreciate it.” She threw another stick into the flames. “Anyways, what’s with the beer? Like, your sister is having some, but is she going to complain if we do?”

“Nah, not Millie. Let me get you a drink.”

He headed towards the keg to pour her a cup, but once he came back, she wasn’t by the fire. Kaz seemed to notice Phoenix’s confusion and nodded towards the front of the house.

“If you’re looking for Jeanine, she’s talking to that blond chick by the front door. Do you know who it is? She seems like a real bitch.”

“I do not. Let me go check.”

Jeanine was indeed talking to some unfamiliar blond woman, whose body language was telling Phoenix all he needed to know about her – bad news.

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“So, Jeanine, I didn’t realize you went to parties.”

“Doesn’t everyone? It’s college. Are you joining us?” Jeanine shrugged towards the bonfire.

“No, I was just going back to the sorority house. I thought you were planning to work out tonight?”

“I don’t live at the gym, Ashley. You do know that, right?” Jeanine chuckled.

“Oh. I just thought you were committed to the team. Maybe I was wrong.”

Well, Phoenix thought, Ashley was quickly making her way to the top of his “Least Favorite People Ever” list. What the hell was this?!

“Ashley, I think it’s enough that I have to put up with your oh so lovely personality during practice, am I also supposed to “enjoy” your company during my time away from the team?” Jeanine didn’t miss a beat.Screenshot-90.jpg

His girl was awesome!

“I just thought that some of us could always use more effort to stay in top notch condition,” Ashley tried to sound polite, but hopelessly failed.

“And I thought assholes weren’t supposed to harass people during their personal time, but maybe I was wrong,” Phoenix approached the two of them, inserting himself into the conversation. “How did you even know Jeanine was here, whatever your name is?”

“He’s right, how did you know?” Jeanine frowned.

“I… well, I was passing by and…” Ashley found herself caught.

“And Jeanine was behind the house, so there was no way you could have accidentally seen her,” he continued. “Hey, babe, Jeanne was looking for you and said she needed some help – she wouldn’t tell me anything about it. ‘Girl stuff’ or something like it. Can you help her out, pretty please?”

“Yeah, of course,” Jeanine went to look for her friend and Phoenix turned to the annoyed-looking Ashley.

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“Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but Jeanine’s been working her ass off both in the gym and elsewhere since before you could walk, and she is in great shape already, so whatever the hell your problem is, why don’t you take it and shove it where the sun don’t shine, ok?”

“Excuse me?!” Ashley feigned shock. In reality, she was giving him a look he might’ve found complimentary had it come from someone other than this girl. It was the same look Morgan used to give him, a hungry look, which kind of reminded him of some wild predator.

“You’ve heard me clearly, Ashley. I don’t know what you were trying to accomplish by showing up here and trying to make Jeanine feel guilty about not spending every waking moment of her life exercising, but you better drop this before I and the rest of our friends report you to the university police for inappropriate behavior. Got it?”

“I see. I was just trying to be helpful. After all, Jeanine is on a scholarship, so losing it could hurt her.”

“And why the hell would she lose her scholarship?” Phoenix gave her a look that he hoped conveyed his best impression of a mobster. It must have worked, since she got the hint and left.

Good. She’s been giving him that predatory look ever since she heard him call Jeanine “Babe”, and it was beyond annoying.

“Darn it, I’ll have to mention this to the others. Kaz called it right – what a bitch?”

Back with the rest of the partygoers, Jeanine was enjoying herself. She quickly realized her friend didn’t actually need to talk to her about any “girl stuff” when she saw her and Trev enjoying themselves with a couple of beers nearby. So, she gratefully took Phoenix’s “rescue” and, for once, let someone else deal with her maddening teammate.

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Yes, she and Ashley were on the same team. No, it didn’t mean she had to like the woman. Especially when she was so irritating.

She eyed the flames sadly. She loved soccer, but had to admit, people like her teammate certainly made practice much less pleasant than it should’ve been. What was her problem, anyway? Jeanine knew she had much more skill on the field than Ashley. Ok, so maybe she herself had an issue with this. Why did she have to prove herself over and over again just to be accepted as a valid player, when the less-skilled person got the same accolades? Was it because she was skinnier? Or because she was richer?

She didn’t want to think about this any longer. No, she was here to enjoy the party.

“Cheer up, the party’s just getting started!” someone smiled at her. It was Eddy, Trev’s new friend. “As soon as we’re getting the bonfire stable, we’re going to play some tunes. It’ll be a blast.”

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“Sounds wonderful,” she smiled back, for real. The guy couldn’t really know what she had on her mind, but he was genuinely friendly and she appreciated that.

Soon, Phoenix came back, high-fived her, and announced that she had nothing to worry about and all the offending individuals were off the premises. They had a few more hot-dogs, a few more beers, and a whole lot of fun throwing random junk into the flames. (One of the hosts threw in his old notes from his least favorite class – he called that better than therapy. Someone else threw in an old hairband from a cheating girlfriend.)

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As promised, Trev and Eddy provided entertainment for all the partiers by covering popular guitar numbers, such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “More Than Words,” which made the atmosphere so much warmer and merrier.

By the time they came home, everyone was in a great mood, but tired. Except for Jeanine, who still felt hungry. It was strange, she thought – she actually had a good appetite tonight! Usually, she was too tired to even think about food.

Maybe she should party more.

Jeanne joined her for a midnight snack of her own.

“So, what’s the deal with your crazy teammate? Is she harassing you?” Her friend always jumped straight to the point.

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“Phoenix already told you? Yeah, that’s Ashley for you. That girl has some issues that neither of us is qualified to help her with, trust me,” she rolled her eyes.

“No kidding. Finding you off-campus while you’re at someone’s party? That doesn’t sound like “issues,” that sounds like she’s a creep!” Jeanne was indignant. “I’d report her to the campus cops, if I were you.”

“For what? For being at a party and talking to me? And Ashley is annoying, but she’s all talk. I think she’s just pissed that having money in the bank makes her less the center of attention that she wants to be, so she’s taking it out on whoever is close.”

“I still don’t like this,” Jeanne sighed. “I know you like minimizing problems, but please tell me if anything’s weird. Anything at all. I don’t want you to get hurt. Again.”

“You don’t need to be so protective of me, Jeanne. I’m not a kid,” Jeanine laughed.

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“No, but you are my closest friend. And I still feel like shit over how things went in high school. I don’t want you to go through something bad by yourself again,” the girl admitted.

“I know. And I won’t. Promise. Now, let’s go to sleep. It’s past 1 am.”

Phoenix was awake when she got to their bedroom. While they had a lot of fun in the bedroom at the beginning of the semester, as their schedules filled up, they had less and less time and energy for sex, which was kind of a bummer for both. But they were free and available right now. She quickly stripped down to her nightwear and jumped into bed.

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“Hey… what’cha thinking about?”

“I’m thinking that it’s really hot when you tell people off. Especially when they deserve it,” he pulled her into a kiss. “Did I ever tell you how kick-ass you are?”

“Hmm, really? Wanna show me?”

“That’s a rhetorical question, babe.”

Despite their level of lust, the couple only got through a sleepy makeout session before the long hours caught up with them and both fell asleep. Lovemaking would have to wait for another night.

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OC Interview Tag – Phoenix Collier

I was nominated for this Original Character Tag by loladiamond01 and she has kindly requested that I fill out the questionnaire for Phoenix! I’m only too happy to oblige!

The original questionnaire is by xfroggiii over at Deviantart. I filled out a few of them over at Tumblr, but didn’t have an excuse to bring up one for dear old Phoenix. Here we go.

Going to pass the baton to:

Legendofsim with A Graying World

Dandyion240 with Not So Ordinary Life

Raymondsanti with Set Apart

Mada-Didi with Ostracizing Humanity

The rules:

  1. Pick a character you’ve created.
  2. Fill in the questions/statements as if you were that character.
  3. Tag at least four people to do this meme.

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1. What is your name?
Phoenix Collier.

2. Do you know why you were named that?
Because I was born after some less than wonderful times for my family and they felt that a bird that is reborn from the flames would make for an appropriate name.

3.Single or taken?
Taken!😁😁😁
4.Have any abilities or powers?
You mean, like supernatural ones? None that I know of, unfortunately. Unless you count good social skills and the ability to chat up anyone. People tell me I’m addicted to socialization, but I don’t know if that’s a superpower, lol.

5. Stop being a Mary Sue!
Why, thank you for the compliment! I’m always happy to get those. In all seriousness though, I wish I was unnaturally good at everything, like the term implies. Eh, wishful thinking.

6.What’s your eye color?
It’s green-blue, same as Jeanne’s. According to Mom, we get it from Grandma Celeste, who I, unfortunately, never got to meet. Too bad, I’m told she was really cool.

7.How about hair color?
Black, like my Dad’s

8.Have you any family members?
My parents, my half-sister Millie, my baby sister Felicity, then my uncle’s family and you’ve already met my cousins Jeanne and Tiffani. I know my grandma on my father’s side might still be alive, but the family hasn’t been in touch with her since before I was born.

9.Oh, how about pets?
Eh, we sort of had a dog, but then my sister moved out and took him with her. But mostly, he’s always been her dog… Not at the moment, I don’t.

10. That’s cool, I guess. Now tell me something you don’t like.
Cliques, drama, lying and scheming behind people’s backs. You know, the works.

11. Do you have any activities/hobbies that you like to do?
I love writing, seriously. And it seems I’m good at it, so that’s a plus. I have been working out a bit, mostly because my girlfriend is super athletic and I feel like I should try to be at least a bit sporty too. I don’t mind working out, but I still prefer writing.

Also, I’d love to travel sometime, but I’m not sure if that counts as a hobby.

12. Have you ever hurt anyone in any way before?
Unfortunately, yes. My ex, Rashida. I think I should’ve called it quits, or at least had a serious talk with her much earlier, before our relationship went to shit, but you know… no use crying over spilled milk.

And things could’ve gone better with my friend Sergio. But to be fair, I had no idea he was crushing on Rashida.

13.Ever … killed anyone before?
No… I’m quite certain I haven’t.

14.What kind of animal are you?
Probably a butterfly. Everyone calls me a social butterfly, anyways.

15.Name your worst weaknesses.

Ouch, relationships. I’m a bit surprised things are going as well as they are with Jeanine. Maybe I’m past the love turbulences already? Hopefully, anyways.

16.Do you look up to anyone at all?
My parents, Millie, Jeanine… Plenty more people. Everyone who overcomes something trying in their life deserves some admiration.

17.Are you straight, gay or bisexual?
Pretty sure I’m straight.

18. Do you go to school?
Yes, and it’s kicking my butt. But it’s going to be totally worth it when I lay hands on my diploma!

19.Ever want to marry and have kids one day?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I know my ex was really set on that, but I feel pretty neutral about it. Marriage seems to be a bit overrated. It works for some, I suppose. Kids are cool, though.
I wonder what Jeanine thinks about all this. We haven’t really talked about the topic.

20.Do you have fangirls/fanboys?
Plenty of people read my column at the newspaper, but I don’t know if they count as fans. Maybe?

21.What are you most afraid of?

That’s deep, yo. I’m not sure if I’m terrified of it, but I would definitely hate to be isolated from everyone I care about, for good. You know how the saying goes, “no man is an island.” We’re social animals, some of us more so than others. Like, I can’t imagine ending up completely alone at any point.

22.What do you usually wear?

I generally dress casually. But I do try to look put together. Showing up places, looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed – that’s not a way to impress people.

23.What’s one food that tempts you?

All food? Seriously, I eat everything. Mac’n’cheese? Bring it. Sweet potatoes? Bring it! I totally want to try some foreign food, actually. I’m going to run this idea past the uni committee – maybe we can have an international cookout.

24.Am I annoying you?

Nope, I love to talk.

25.Well, its not over!

Sounds good to me!

26.What class are you (low class, middle class, high class)?

Well, my parents own a successful pharmaceutical company. Yes, the Collier Enterprises. And no, we are no longer involved in any scandals. Seriously, my parents worked their asses off to rebuild the company’s reputation. They deserve some payoff.
So, yes, we are pretty well-off.

27.How many friends do you have?

Plenty. And I always make new ones. Befriending people has never been difficult for me.

28.  What are your thoughts on pie?

As long as it’s cooked by someone other than me, because in that case it wouldn’t be called “pie”, but “charcoal” instead.

29.Favorite drink?

Coffee’s nice. Especially Cappuccino, when it’s well-made.

30. What’s your favorite place?

Is it weird to say “my room”? Because I really miss my room right now. I mean, the one at home. Sharing a space with Jeanine is really sweet, but I’m still getting hit with that homesickness. Never thought it would happen, but it’s happening.

31.Are you interested in anyone?~

Jeanine. But we’re already together, so ☺️

32.That was a stupid question. …

Not at all. We’re all curious about these things.

33. Would you rather swim in a lake or the ocean?

The ocean. The surf is super relaxing, besides you can have a party at the beach.

34.What’s your type?

I’m not sure if I have a type. I suppose, all three girls I’ve dated so far do have dark hair, so that could be it. But really, it’s all about personality and about how I feel when I’m with this person. If I keep craving her company like a well-made cappuccino on a rainy day – then she is my type.

35.Any fetishes?

None so far. But I haven’t even had sex until very recently, so I’m kind of new to all that. But sex is nice. Very nice.

36.Seme or Uke?

I don’t know. Jeanine and I don’t really pay attention to that stuff.

37.Camping or indoors?

Camping is nice. My parents and I went a few times when I was younger and Millie wasn’t married. I remember we had a lot of fun. I mean, s’mores straight from the campfire, falling asleep surrounded by the woods, seeing the stars – those are amazing memories.

Gen 3 Ch 9: College Days, Full of So Many Things

Author’s Note: I have discussed this over at Tumblr, but I’ve been considering switching this story into third person POV. And while I thought of doing that after this generation is over, I’ve realized that the story I want to tell is easier told through third person. So, this chapter is written that way. 

Also, this one is NSFW.


Arriving at the university was the easy part. Their car ride was smooth, the rest stops – uneventful, and the house the five of them rented out both looked exactly as described in the catalog and had as many rooms as it advertised.

The contents of the rooms caused a bit more uproar, but only for Jeanne.

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“Hey, you didn’t even check out the kitchen – there’s a working microwave and the dishwasher just needs to be set up. Isn’t that great? We’ll be living like kings here. Certainly beats a musty old dorm,” her boyfriend Trevor enthused.

“Uh-uh, I’ll come down to look at things in a bit…” Jeanne mumbled, distracted by the flirting couple on the porch.

“Jeanne, leave them be,” Trev urged her. “Come on, you can’t possibly begrudge the fact that Jeanine and Phoenix got together. Your cousin and your best friend, two good people; besides, they’ve known each other since childhood. Seriously, they’ve known each other longer than I’ve known you, and we’ve been together for years now.”

“He and Rashida have been friends since childhood as well. And Jeanine had a crush on that loser Taylor since middle school. Did those relationships work out too?” Jeanne parred. “This is a disaster just waiting to happen.”

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“No it’s not,” Trev argued. “Phoenix and Jeanine aren’t raging assholes, like their exes.”

“Nope. They’re just rebounds who now decided to share a bed together,” Jeanne concluded. “Not like that’s a rash idea or anything.”

“Come now, baby,” he pulled her close. “They’re not stupid. Besides, forget about them and focus on us. They’re not the only ones who’re going to be sharing a bed.”

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Trev winked and Jeanne couldn’t help but giggle. He was right – no more sneaking behind their parents’ backs for a quickie. They were adults now and this was going to be their first time cohabitating for real. She was excited, even if concern for her friends was weighing on her. In the end, though, she realized that Trevor was right – they were adults and had their own life choices to be responsible for. And she and Trev had theirs.

“Yes, honey, why were you so excited by the dishwasher when there are much more comfortable surfaces to test out?” she winked at her boyfriend, pulling him close.

“Now, that’s what I’m talking about.”

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On the porch, Jeanine and Phoenix were busy in their own little world. The decision to share a bed was not completely planned, if they were to be honest. When they asked the homeowner to furnish the house, and the man asked who for, they honestly told him it was for one married person continuing education and for two couples. So, he furnished the bedrooms for one person who was going to be sleeping alone (away from their spouse), and for two couples, who he understood were to be sleeping together.

It was a bit late to be changing anything, and while one of them could’ve easily taken the couch (Phoenix volunteered), they eventually came to the decision that, perhaps, this was fate giving them the green light to take their relationship to the next level.

“So, what do you want to do?” Phoenix asked his girlfriend. The two of them had Big Plans for their first night here, but it was only 2 in the afternoon and they had the entire campus to check out.

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“No, what do you want to do?” she asked in response. “Honestly, anyplace around here sounds good. Can you believe we’re finally in college?!! All that training and studying has finally paid off!”

“It sure did! And you have a full scholarship, babe. See? And you were worried you won’t get in,” he reminded her, proud of her achievements.

“Yeah, now I just have to make sure I stay on the team and play well. Oh yeah, and that my grades are up to par,” she frowned a little.

“You’ll do just fine, I know you,” he stated.

“I better. So, where should we start?” she asked, rubbing her hands.

“I guess we could check out the student center. I heard Trev say they were giving out free snacks and stuff,” Phoenix remembered.

“That reminds me, we should probably stock up on the groceries before the semester gets crazy,” Jeanine noted. “I remember Mom and Dad saying they barely had time to shop when the midterms were in full swing.”

“Agreed. And I just have to say, I appreciate the fact that we have a full kitchen here. And that Millie is here. I admit, much as I’d love to plan nice romantic dinners at home, my food just hits the “edible” minimum,” he admitted, making her laugh.

“Same, same. My waffles taste more like cardboard. But hey, at least we’re not culinary majors.”

“That’s right. Communication and Physical Education all the way. Well, let’s go. Before they run out of food at the student center.”

“And let’s see if we can meet some cool study buddies along the way. And we should definitely check out the gym – I heard theirs is really great,” Jeanine suggested.

“It better be, considering how much this place costs.”

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The rest of the day was full of new experiences, meetings, and getting acquainted with the campus. The place was big and boasted a rich academic history – the new students wanted to make sure their studies were going to be up to par. And also that they won’t burn out halfway through the year…

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“If anything goes awry, we should talk about it,” Phoenix mentioned at the coffee shop, while they were catching a quick dinner break from their first day. “Remember how things went for my Dad?”

“I do. But he had family matters pressing on him and then that tragedy. I understand him. Had something happened to my siblings, I would’ve been a mess too,” Jeanine nodded. “But I get what you’re saying. It’s all about balance. We’re all going to look out for each other, though.”

“I know I will. We should also have this talk with Millie and Jeanne,” Phoenix realized. They were the ones more likely to bite off more than they could chew academically and then to suffer from stress.

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“Science and medicine are seriously demanding. I still can’t believe Millie is taking all these courses at once,” she referred to his sister’s full schedule for the year.

“Millie’s a hard-ass that way. But I understand her – she just wants to be done with this and to go back to her family sooner. It’s a shame the lab got on her case about that lack of a four-year degree.”

“Tell me about it! And speaking of degrees, I can’t believe Trev settled on biology,” Jeanine referred to their friend’s last minute choice.

“I guess he gave in to his parents’ wishes – and this way he can have many classes with Jeanne.” Phoenix was also surprised by his friend’s major choice, but the guy seemed to have his mind made up.

“Well, I hope it all works out for them,” Jeanine concluded.

They finished their food and headed back to their last welcome meeting.

 

That night, awkwardness was at an all-time high. Phoenix heard his sister talk to her family, getting ready for bed. Jeanne and Trev also headed off to their own bedroom, no doubt enjoying both the privacy and each other’s company.

It was kind of strange for Phoenix to realize that he and Jeanine were the only ones in the house who still haven’t done the deed. Well, if all was to go well, this was the night.

“Hey, may I come in?” he carefully nodded on the door.

“Yeah, totally. I’m here…” Jeanine’s voice was just as small as his.

They were both super nervous.

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She was sitting on the edge of the bed, already dressed in a sleeping robe. Did she, perhaps, change her mind?

“So…”

“This is kind of awkward,” he admitted. They’ve made out plenty of times. Even Trev has previously told them to get a room, and he was the chillest person in their friend group.

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“Yeah, I know. Let’s take it slow, then?” she offered. “This is a first for both of us, no pressure.”

And then she undid her hair and took of that robe.

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“I thought today would be a good night to try this piece out,” she admitted, with a tiny smile. “What do you think?”

“Oh, wow,” Phoenix stammered out. The lingerie looked good on her – that much his body told him. She had to have known that. “You know, I like anything you wear, but this is certainly going to be a favorite of mine.”

“Oh, good. That was the plan,” she flirted right back.

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Once they started kissing, things progressed steadily from there. The chemistry they felt during that first kiss was back again, and it wanted more, they wanted more. Her hands exploring his body made him relax, while her closeness and the scent of her freshly shampooed hair were making him hornier that ever. She, in turn wanted to feel him even closer – it wasn’t that often that she’s seen him without a shirt on and she liked what she was seeing.

Finally, the two of them fell into bed, with him checking one more time that the condom was on, before giving in to what they’ve been intending to do for the duration of this crazy day.

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“Are you ok?” he whispered, just to be sure. He heard that first times could be painful.

“Yes, just great, don’t stop!” she pulled him closer. So, he didn’t.

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He wasn’t sure how long he was supposed to last, but he knew he was enjoying this. So was she, by the happy sounds she was making.

It was good to see that their chemistry went this far.

After reaching climax twice, the two fell back, both spent.

He caressed her arm, “This was amazing.”

“I know. We should’ve done it ages ago!” she agreed.

“So, did I do well?” he asked tentatively.

“I’d say so, yes,” she smiled at him, moving closer, before they both fell asleep.

 

In the neighboring room, Jeanne was still sleepless, and by default, so was Trevor.

“Come on, leave them be. We have to be up early tomorrow,” he urged her.

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“I know. I just can’t believe they’re going at it,” she nodded towards the sounds coming from her cousin’s room.

“They are, and by the sounds of it, they’re having lots of fun. And they probably don’t know how thin the walls are. Want to show them?” he winked.

“You know what? That sounds like a great plan.”

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As the semester hit the group with full force, things fell into a more or less familiar pattern. School, food, sleep, studying, more school, more studying, some fun every once in a while. Of course, not all students were as serious about their schooling as some of their classmates.

Were you to ask Phoenix, he’d say he had developed a balanced schedule for himself. He had his classes, which to his pleasant surprise were very well-rounded – the crash course in broadcasting was going to come in extra handy someday, he just knew it! And of course, it made it easy to meet classmates outside of class.

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Like today, for example, he ended up interviewing an art student who was so happy about her upcoming art show that she gave him a huge interview on her future plans of being a top fashion designer. (He knew it was a cutthroat business, but he wasn’t going to dissuade someone so cheerful. Besides, he loved to chat with people.)

Of course, he still wrote whenever he could. Technically, he never quit his position at Uncle Gerald’s paper, so they still expected articles from him.

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But he took plenty of brakes and knew well enough not to overwork himself. His parents’ pre-college discussion with him left an impression. He just wished he could say the same about his housemates.

Jeanne and Millie barely left the science department. He had no idea when the girls found the time to eat – they always seemed to be studying something.

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Jeanine – she didn’t constantly have her nose in a book, but her time was usually filled up as well. Unfortunately, once she saw the campus gym, it was love at first sight. Phoenix understood it though – she was on the soccer team as a part of her full ride scholarship and she had to be in great shape for the games. He thought she was already in great shape, but he was no athlete, so of course, there were things he wouldn’t know much about.

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The only one who didn’t seem to be doing so hot was Trevor. Phoenix knew his decision to pursue a science degree was a last moment one, and something told him his friend’s heart was not into it. But Trev had to figure out for himself whether he wanted to continue with a major he wasn’t passionate about.

 

“So, where were you all of yesterday?” Jeanne asked her boyfriend. She was helping Trev complete him chemistry project, since he has procrastinated on it until the very last moment. Again. This wasn’t the first time he has blown off his studies and it was irritating her. Why couldn’t he be more serious about school?

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“I’m sorry. Prof asked me to help him carry his stuff to the other side of campus and I ran into a friend on the way back, we started talking, I kind of got carried away…” Trev mumbled sheepishly. “Thanks for helping me finish this.”

He finished setting up the last sample, before writing down the results and cleaning up the station. “See you, babe, gotta run.”

“Where are you going? Aren’t you going to the tutoring session with me?” Jeanne huffed.

“Wait, that’s today?” he scratched his head. “Shit, I forgot. Look, I promise I’ll come to the next one, ok? I really have to run now.”

He practically ran out of the science building.

Well, this was weird, thought Jeanne. She would’ve suspected him of cheating, but he was ever as loving with her as ever. It was just science he didn’t seem to love.

She found out the answer to the mystery when she came home early the next day. As she approached their house, she heard faint but definite sounds of guitar coming from the back porch, and there was her boyfriend, happily strumming along. He sounded like a beginner, but not in a bad way.

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“Let me guess. This is what you’ve been running off to – music lessons,” she announced her presence.

He quickly looked up, but his fingers, she noticed, did not miss the beat and he continued to carry the tune.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve told you earlier. I was hanging out by the music building and there was an advertisement for guitar lessons. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play. So, this guy’s been teaching me, but he’s a student too, and we had to set up the lessons when he isn’t in class,” Trev explained.

“Why didn’t you tell me? I wouldn’t have been mad,” Jeanne pouted.

“I don’t know. I guess I wanted to tell you by playing something well, once I got better,” he moved to put the guitar away, but she stopped him.

“No, play. It sounds good. Have you really only been learning for these past two months?”

He nodded. It was impressive, she had to admit.

“Keep practicing. I’ll go cook us all something to eat.”

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Jeanne came home early with the purpose of cooking a hearty meal. Her main worry? Jeanine. Ever since school started, her friend lost a lot of weight, more than was healthy. As a future doctor, Jeanne was acutely aware of the dangerous line her friend was walking, but every time she tried to bring up the conversation with her, Jeanine would deflect her worries and change the subject.

It wasn’t healthy. So, the best she could do was to make sure everyone ate enough where she could see them.

“What’s the deal, Jeanne?” Phoenix found her in the kitchen as she was cleaning up after supper.

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“Can’t you see? You’re her boyfriend,” Jeanne was pissed. He should’ve been barraging Jeanine along with her.

“You mean the weight loss, right? Yeah, I’ve noticed,” he shrugged. “But it’s only to be expected with all the time she spends at the gym, isn’t it?”

“Phoenix, yes, it’s expected, but the thing is, as an athlete, she needs more food to make up for all the energy she’s using up there. And from what I see, she isn’t eating well. I’m just scared, that’s all. If she continues the same lifestyle as now, things will get ugly.”

“I’m going to try and bring it up to her, nicely,” he promised. “It’s just, she seems happy at the gym. But maybe, if both of us voice our concern, she’ll listen.”

“Thanks, cuz. In all fairness, we all need to relax a bit, I think. When was the last time Millie left her room?” Jeanne smiled.

“Yo, guys!” Trev yelled from the other room. “Don’t fill up tomorrow evening. Caz invited us all to a bonfire at his place!”

“Does that sound like a start?” Phoenix grinned. This was the first party they’ve gotten invited to since starting school. He hoped it would be a good one.

The rest of his housemates voiced agreement, even Millie.

College was going great so far!

Gen 3 Ch 8: Prom Fiasco

Warning: Cursing.


The night of prom seemed to have arrived at lightning speed. It probably felt like it because I did not want to attend. But as I had promised Jeanine to go, I couldn’t back out of it now.

Of course, the two of us weren’t going as a couple, or even really together, but we were both planning to be the other’s support during the event if things went south.

As it happened, Jeanine was right about some things. With Tiffani out of high school, Jeanne and Trevor were actually talking to us again. Things were still somewhat awkward after the events of last year, but the four of us were trying to patch things up. If anything, they felt kind of weird about acting the way they did with the two of us, and confused about my older cousin’s icy behavior. She always did have an ambitious streak, but actively trying to exclude people out of the group seemed out of character.

But even though some of our friends were back to normal and we were doing our best to patch up whatever happened, prom was another conversation altogether. While the four of us got along, things were still pretty rough between Rashida, Sergio and I. It was kind of sad, actually. His bottled up feelings for her have turned into the strongest kind of resentment towards me. And we were the best of friends before all this happened.

Rashida was still angry at me over how things went down. Even though she and Sergio were constantly together now, she would still go out of her way to throw scowls my way or to accidentally spill my food at lunch. I guess I sort of deserved it though – I really should’ve talked things through with her before everything got so out of hand. But things were what they were.

As for Jeanine, as far as I knew, her ex quieted down in his attempt to ruin her name. For now, at least. The worst part about what he did was that she did have some kleptomaniac tendencies – and she worked her ass off to get them in check before she even started high school. So his lies really added insult to injury.

But I could say with certainty that Jeanine was truly a bigger person for not trying to get back at him.

As this was prom, he was certainly going to be here. I just had to admire Jeanine’s drive to come here and be in the same room with him. She sure was a tough one.

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Of course, the whole night started off with awkwardness: Jeanine and I arrived to the school literally at the same time as Sergio and Rashida.

If looks could kill, the two of us would’ve been dead. But as we weren’t going to start any trouble, they couldn’t either. Once inside the school gym, where the dance was held, they just began dancing/making out, moving their collective attention away from us.

Booya! Conflict averted!

I glanced around the gym. The school’s prom planning committee didn’t spend too much time on decorations, instead opting for some funky strobe lights and a fully-operating bar.

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“Funny how they keep telling us underage drinking is bad, but then bring in a faux bar to the prom, huh?” Jeanine chuckled. “I guess that’s their attempt to make sure the drinks don’t get spiked? Since the bartender is keeping an eye on them?”

“Could be. Sounds like a pretty ineffective way to make a point about underage drinking, though,” I admitted. I mean, come on! A bar at a school prom?

“So…” She glanced around the room. Most couples were slow-dancing, the majority of them interpreting the term “dancing” as “makeout time.”

“This is kind of awkward, I guess.” We definitely weren’t going to do that. But we could dance. “Hey, it’s that song you like. Let’s dance.”

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“Alright,” she agreed, but not before glancing towards the entrance with concern. Following her gaze, I recognized the familiar blonde head of her younger sister. Huh, I didn’t realize freshmen were going to be at senior prom and I didn’t think she had a boyfriend. But perhaps, a friend invited her?

Shaking her head, Jeanine took my hand and we headed to the dance floor. Despite the romantic mood of Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero”, this didn’t feel awkward. In fact, the two of us were having a lot of fun.

“Told you, coming to prom would rock!” she smiled gleefully.

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“You were right! This is going pretty great!” I agreed.

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We continued dancing and for nearly an hour, had a really good time. That was, until Jeanine happened to look to a different part of the room. At this point, her face darkened. Looking in the same direction, I understood why: her sister was here with none other than Jeanine’s ex, Taylor. And they were really… dancing.

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“I can’t believe it,” she gritted though her teeth. “Why the hell is she here with him?”

“Did she, um, have a crush on him before?” I asked carefully.

“None that I knew of!” Jeanine huffed. “Well, they’ve just about killed my dancing mood. I’m heading to the bar. Do you want anything?”

“No, I’m good.”

After she walked of, I spotted Dominic dancing with Quiang’s youngest sister, Lin. It looked like he moved on after the Morgan fiasco. Good for him – I knew Lin was cool and very unlikely to cause any trouble in a relationship.

Morgan was here too earlier. I saw her chatting up some guy who had a major player reputation himself – it was a match, sort of.

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“Hey, man. All good?” Dominic waved at me.

“Yeah, you?”

“Same. New girlfriend?” he asked nodding in Jeanine’s direction.

“Just a friend. I’m on a break from relationships for now.”

“Sounds like a solid plan,” he nodded.

It was around this time that Sonja and Taylor decided to take their makeout session to an extreme. Even some of the couples gave them a look.

Jeanine was having another drink at the bar, but she saw it. Everyone saw it.

Something must’ve gone off in her head at that moment and she moved towards the couple.

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“So, Taylor. Care to explain what you’re doing with your tongue stuck down my sister’s throat, asshole?” she demanded.

“Why do you care? I’m not your boyfriend anymore, get over it,” he smirked.

“Oh, I don’t give one flying fuck about you or any other braindead wannabe who might fall for you, but this is my sister we’re talking about. My younger sister. And if you think you’re going to mess around with her, you’ve got another thing coming!”

She was now yelling at him and the rest of the students of the dance floor noticed. They steadily began to pile out of the gym – probably out of their strong sense of self-preservation and the desire to avoid a potential fight. Hell, even I was concerned. It made sense for Jeanine to be angry at Taylor, but this kind of behavior wasn’t too much like her.

I wasn’t going to leave, though. If she was going to start a fight, someone had to keep a clear head and intervene.

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“I’m so sorry,” Sonja whispered sheepishly, looking between her sister and her date.

“You should be,” I turned to her. “Why did you come here with him? Isn’t there some sort of a rule about dating your sister’s ex?”

“I’m not dating him,” she wrinkled her face in disgust, quietly adding, “I hate his guts.”

What, now?

“Explain?”

The younger girl looked around the room and, seeing as it was empty except for the four of us, admitted “He blackmailed me, ok? I cheated on my math exam and he found out. He told me he’ll inform the principal if I didn’t come here as his date. I didn’t want to, but I can’t fail another class, Phoenix…”

She was practically on the verge of tears now.

And Jeanine noticed. Despite her yelling match with Taylor, she heard her sisters words, clearer than if they had been played over the intercom.

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“You pathetic swine! How could you fucking do this with my sister?!” she railed into Taylor once more.

I wanted to do the same, frankly. Yeah, cheating on schoolwork was wrong, but blackmail was worse, in my mind. Especially with someone younger.

“What was I supposed to do?” Taylor had the gall to look offended. “You thought you were so high and mighty to break up with me? Who do you think you are? I did you a favor by dating you and you just ended things? Do I look like someone you can just end things with? I could date anyone of these people – they’d treat me like a fucking king. And I dated you, even though you weigh more than my family car, bitch.”

The slap that met his face was loud and well-expected by anyone who knew Jeanine well. She has always been touchy about her weight – it was one of the reasons she turned to sports when we were younger. She didn’t really weigh a lot these days… But she was still touchy about this topic.

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I fully expected her to fight him, after his actions towards her sister.

But she didn’t. She just looked at her hand like she was seeing it for the first time in her life and stormed out of the gym.

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The three of us breathed a sigh of relief. Even Taylor seemed to understand how much he crossed a line.

“I didn’t-“

“Shut it, you ass,” Sonja spat at him. “This is all your fault. And mine…” She turned to me, pleading. “Please go after her. I would, but I don’t think she wants to see me right now. I’ll talk to her when we’re home. But someone should check on her.”

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She didn’t need to ask me twice.

I didn’t have to look hard for Jeanine; she was just outside of the building, by the soccer field.

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“Hey, I thought you could use some company right now,” I approached her carefully.

“Sonja too chicken to come with you?” Jeanine sniffed.

“She thought you’d rather not see her right now,” I admitted.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anything, really. I don’t know why everything thinks I’m smart. I know I’m good on the field. I know I can solve a calculus problem like it’s a kids’ riddle. But I don’t know shit about life.” She sniffed again.

“Hey, don’t cry. This whole situation is just stupid and not worth you hurting over it.” I tried to be comforting, but something told me there was more to her hurt than only what happened inside.

“You know, I had the biggest crush on him. Since junior high, whenever Taylor was in one of my classes, I’d just stare at him. It was kind of ridiculous, now that I think about it. I think he totally knew,” she wiped away the new tears, before continuing. “I was flattered when he asked me out. I can’t even deny it. Fuck, I was in seventh heaven when he was by my side. It was probably an ego thing, but it felt good to know that one of the more desirable guys in school was my boyfriend. I guess I deserve this whole fiasco for not trusting my gut.”

She laughed bitterly.

“You had no idea he was like that,” I tried to reason with her.

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“I didn’t know he was that shitty, true. I had a feeling he wasn’t really into me, though – he was dating me as one of the best athletes in the school, not me as a girl he liked. I just didn’t care enough, until the situation with the earrings. That was a good wake up call. I just wish the rest of my family didn’t have to get involved in my mess.”

I wasn’t sure how to address that. Her situation wasn’t all that different from what happened with me and Morgan, really. The big difference was, Morgan and I weren’t together as long as Jeanine was with Taylor – Jeanine was more emotionally invested and therefore, more hurt from the fallout.

I did the only thing I could and hugged her.

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“It’s ok. No offense, but Sonja made her choice when she agreed to come with him. If not her, he would’ve found some other way to cause trouble. And he’s the messed up one, if he decided to set this whole thing up, in the first place. Seriously, you are so much better off without him.”

“I know,” she chuckled. “I just wish I could forget I ever knew him, you know.” She sighed and admitted “Makes me wonder if I’ll ever meet someone decent.”

“You will. Not everyone is like him.  Also, you’re not fat. I’m just saying it, so that you don’t let this crap get to your head.”

“Thanks, Phoenix. You know, you’re a great friend, right?” she smiled for real, for the first time.

“I just hate to see my friends hurt. I know I’ve caused enough trouble myself,” I admitted.

“It wasn’t your fault. We just both got together with the wrong people, I guess.”

We began to pull away from one another, but then she tripped, I caught her, and the next moment, our lips met in a kiss.

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It was a good kiss. I was surprised – Jeanine and I were always just friends, but this kiss… It was better than I imagined it would be. She was just as surprised, it seemed.

“Phoenix!” she looked me in the eyes. “I’m… I don’t know what I’m doing. What we’re doing. But I feel kind of weird and fuzzy. And you’re a little blurry right now.”

“Blurry?”

“Yeah, and my head feels weird.”

“The drinks… Someone managed to spike them, after all. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-“

“No, we both did. Look, can we sit down for a bit?” she asked.

“Of course.”

I helped her get to the bench. “Are you feeling ok? You aren’t sick, are you?”

“No! Man! I knew something tasted different about those mock-tails. I shouldn’t have had the second one. How long do you think this takes to wear off? I can’t show up at home drunk!”

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“I’m not sure, but I hear it goes away faster when you eat something. Let’s hit the 24-hour diner. Some comfort food should hit the spot.”

“Ok, yeah…” She paused for a moment. “And when I’m more sober, we should probably talk, huh?”

“We should.”

Whatever just happened, our kiss had enough chemistry for an entire science classroom, and this wasn’t something to ignore.


After the events of that prom, things seemed to have fallen back into place. Sonja ended up going to the principal herself and confessing to cheating (for being honest, she wasn’t expelled and the teacher agreed to tutor her and help her understand the material better). After news of Taylor’s blackmail went public, his social status suffered and many people sided with Jeanine for dumping the jerk.

The four of us (Jeanine, Jeanne, Trevor, and I) got into the same school, and we were preparing to room together and rent a house to stay in during our years at uni. We were pretty happy about the way things turned out – it was nice to know we weren’t going to be alone in an unfamiliar place. Besides, this way, no one had to break up.

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After what happened at the prom, Jeanine and I did have a talk. We’ve both agreed that we’ve felt certain chemistry and we were curious to see where things would go. Besides, we’ve gotten so much closer in the past few months – dating wasn’t such a big step up.

A few weeks before graduation, the two of us came home to find Millie there, madly typing away at her laptop, with Mom arranging papers for her.

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“Hey, sis. What’s the fire?”

“The fire is at the lab, bro,” she sighed. “It’s finally biting me in the ass that I didn’t go to a four year school. The upper management has hinted one time too many that I wasn’t up to par.”

“What? That’s ridiculous! You’re their best worker!”

“Not on paper, I’m not. Mom’s helping me apply to the university faster, so that I don’t miss out on the deadline.”

“When is the deadline?” Jeanine chimed in. “Didn’t it pass already?”

“For you guys, yes. For people like me, who are continuing education, the deadline is tomorrow,” she continued to type.

“Tomorrow! That’s insane! Is there even enough time?” I was appalled.

“Well,” Millie clicked one last button, “I’ve literally just sent in the last of the supplemental applications. So, if all goes well, I’ll see you around campus.”

“Wait,” Jeanine nudged me. “If you’re going to be in the same university, come live with us!”

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“For reals?” Millie raised her head up from her screen.

“Yeah, totally. It’s cheaper and the more, the merrier, right? We should all stick together.”

“I agree. I miss living with you, sis,” I nodded.

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“Me too, little brother. I am going to be missing Chiang and Terrence like crazy when we’re away, but they are on board with the idea of me going to school. At least, there are video chat apps, right? Having you guys there will make it all much better.”

And so, it was decided, that Millie was going to room with the four of us during school. She got in without any trouble and soon, it was time to face higher learning head on.

Gen 3 Ch 7: High School and Petty Drama

Irene’s POV

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“Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, all’s good, Mom.”

My son was going through something, that much I could tell, but he was loathe to tell me. And I couldn’t help but feel like I was failing him in some way.

The fact of the matter was, for weeks now, Phoenix was withdrawn and upset. While he was normally always with someone, talking and making plans (something David and I marveled at), now he was constantly staying alone in his room. And it was summer vacation – normally, he would’ve been out of the house all of the time. This was unlike him and we were worried.

After asking Millie if she knew anything, I still had no results. And with a small child on my hands, I didn’t have the ability to start snooping around properly.

This was how I found myself at Gerald’s house. He was a father of two teenagers himself and he was usually level-headed enough to figure his way through such problems.

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“So, how have you been, sis? Is Felicity letting you and David sleep through the night?” Gerald smiled.

“Felicity is fine. At least I think she is, even though sometimes she is really fussy. So far, her biggest concerns are sleeping, eating, and having a clean diaper on. I wish it were that easy with Phoenix,” I sighed.

“Ah, the terrible teenage years! It wasn’t so long ago that we were thinking about prom, dates and bringing down Collier Enterprises. Funny how things turned out, isn’t it?” Gerald chuckled. “But I do know what you mean. Our kind of drama was much different from that of our children. Who knew good old Phoenix was going to be the cause of such passions, huh?”

“His breakup was messy, I admit. He always seemed so mature as a kid– I never thought he’d screw up like this in a relationship!”

“From what I gather, his girlfriend caught him red-handed with someone of a questionable reputation,” Gerald informed me.

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“That Morgan girl?” I frowned upon remembering her. I’ve only seen her a couple of times, but she did not make a stellar impression on me. Something was just off – I couldn’t really explain it. But Phoenix seemed smitten, so there must’ve been something good about her.

“The very same. According to Tiff, Rashida was absolutely heart-broken to find them making out at that nightclub.”

“Tell me about it! I was there. David and I arrived at the nightclub just as she was leaving. I was rather shocked to hear some of those expletives coming out of her mouth. Rashida has always seemed like a very pleasant person. Although, I must admit, I do wonder …” I was still going over the situation, wondering where my son went wrong.

“If Phoenix was not as much in the wrong as she made it sound?” Gerald finished my sentence. “I agree. From what I gathered from overhearing my daughters, it seems like both of them were at fault. Phoenix absolutely should not have gone out with someone else the day they decided to take a break-“

“Wait, they were on a break? Then how is it cheating!” I didn’t know that part.

“You didn’t know, did you? Figures. But of course that girl spun everything to make the boyfriend the bad guy. She’s one of those girls,” Gerald declared.

“She isn’t…. I had my doubts about her when my son started dating my ex’s daughter, but she’s a good kid,” I defended the girl. I’ve been in her shoes, sort of.

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“I’m not saying she isn’t. But I’ve seen her and Phoenix together a few times and she seemed to me to be a little clingy. You know, Katie and I had a similar problem at one point. It was before we even decided to marry. She was constantly messaging me, concerned about me… mind you, it was still in the days we were chasing after Lionel, so I was busy a lot of the time.”

“Really? You’ve never told me.” I couldn’t believe my brother’s relationship has ever been anything less than perfect.

“There was nothing to tell! We’ve worked things out. Katie and I actually dedicated an entire date night to this. We stayed up super late talking about everything, I promised I’d try to keep in touch more, she admitted she was pushing things a bit too far with her overprotectiveness, we’ve set some boundaries – things went much smoother after that and we’ve never fought about this again. Perhaps Phoenix and Rashida could’ve benefited from the same kind of a conversation,” Gerald offered, wise as usual.

“I can’t believe he didn’t try to,” I frowned. My son wasn’t the kind of person to have communication problems.

“Are you talking about Phoenix?” Tiffani huffed, coming back home with Jeanne. “He screwed up, end of the story.”

“I don’t know, Tiff,” Jeanne shook her head. “Maybe we’ve been too quick to take Rashida’s side. After all, he is our cousin. I kind of feel bad about yelling at him.”

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“But he still cheated,” Tiffani tried to argue, but Jeanne quickly shook her head.

“No he didn’t. He may have moved on super-fast, but he didn’t cheat. Rashida even admitted they were on break. She did make the situation seem worse than it was.”

“So, you’re saying we should start talking to him again?” Tiffani made a face.

“Probably. I mean, we were kind of harsh on him. I know I was,” Jeanne shrugged. “Besides, the last few times I’ve seen him, he wasn’t with Morgan. I think she’s with some other guy now, so it’s not like we have to be in her company.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. It sounded like Phoenix’s social situation has been messed up for a while now. Did he and Morgan break up too? That would explain why I didn’t see her with him at all these days…

All of this made me even sadder. I was his mother – didn’t he feel comfortable enough to share things with me?

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As of reading my mind, Gerald hurried to reassure me, “It’s not you, Irene. Boys, especially at that age, wouldn’t share these things with their mothers. He wouldn’t want you to judge him.”

“I wouldn’t judge. But it sounds like he’s had another breakup and I couldn’t even comfort him. I just wish I could help him somehow.”

“You know, maybe we can. What helped you when you and Micah broke up?”

“I pushed myself into work and finding more intel on Collier Enterprises,” I remembered.

“In other words, you got busy. Which is exactly what he needs to do. I have the perfect idea. Didn’t you say Phoenix is a really good writer?” Gerald asked, an excited gleam in his eyes.

“His English teacher did. And from what I’ve read of his essays, it’s true.”

Gerald leaned back with a smile. “Good. You see, our newspaper is starting a rubric for young writers. Perhaps, we can get Phoenix interested? I know for a fact that having published work will look good on his college application. You know what? I will talk to him after your birthday.”

“Will you? Thanks. I will really appreciate it.” If I couldn’t help my son at the moment, then perhaps, his uncle could.

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Phoenix’s POV

After my parent’s birthdays passed, I got a call from Uncle Gerald, inviting me over to his place after school. Much as I liked Uncle Gerald, I had to admit, I was a bit scared to show up at his place. Who knew what my cousins would do? They weren’t my biggest fans these days…

Nevertheless, here I was. Luckily, Uncle Gerald was home and I didn’t have to wait for him.

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“Phoenix! Come in, come in. How’s life? How’s school? Have you been working on university applications yet?” he barraged me with questions.

“Uh, not really. I tried researching schools and majors but nothing seems quite right, you know,” I shrugged. I knew my parents wanted me to go to a university, but I didn’t want to go and just waste tuition money.

“Well, you’ve still got time, don’t worry about it. Come upstairs, I have a business proposition for you,” he urged.

Confused, I followed. As soon as he changed into comfortable clothes, Uncle Gerald started up his computer.

“Our newspaper is starting up a rubric for young writers. Now, it’s going to take some time to find enough people to really get it going, but all of us at the office are looking for people who can write well. And I instantly thought about you.”

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“Me? I’m not that good, really,” I protested. I wrote when I had an assignment, sure. My English teachers always gave me praise, but I strongly believed anyone could write those essays well, provided they didn’t half-ass the assignment. Most people just didn’t care enough about the grade to put much effort into their writing.

“Phoenix, I appreciate your modesty, but I’ve read your essays. Hidden Springs Daily could really benefit from someone like you writing for us. And you can write about any topic of your choice. We want to keep things interesting.”

“Alright… When would I have to start?” I was willing to give it a try. It wasn’t like I had anything better to do.

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“No better time than now! Seriously, that’s why I’m having you use my computer. You can take as long as you want. Write down even a few paragraphs – I want to send them to the head editor when you’re done. If they like what they read, you can consider yourself writer for the Hidden Springs Daily.”

“Uh, it sounds a little like nepotism, Uncle Gerald. Wouldn’t they certainly publish whatever I write because I’m your nephew?” I voiced my concern.

“Is this what worries you? In that case, I can keep your name off the writing until it is approved for publishing and just tell them it’s from an anonymous source. Would you like that?” he proposed.

That did sound like a plan. After all, I was sure Hidden Springs daily wouldn’t really want my writing.

“Just a few paragraphs,” he reminded me before leaving the room.

“Alright, here we go. Just a few paragraphs…” What could I write about?

An hour later I found myself looking at nearly five pages examining the culture and traditions of Egypt from an outsider’s perspective. It was way more than a few paragraphs, but what could I say? Foreign traditions always fascinated me.

Saving the document to my uncle’s desktop, I headed downstairs to look for him. Instead I found Tiffani, who was busy making hot dogs.

I haven’t seen her since she graduated high school, but before, whenever we saw each other at school, things were icy between us.

My attempt to quietly leave failed.

“Phoenix? You’re here? Hey…” she didn’t look pleased to see me.

“I was just leaving. Is Uncle Gerald not here anymore?”

“He left to buy some groceries; he’ll be back soon enough.” She paused before adding, “You should stay and eat, you’re probably hungry now.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea-“

“I insist. Seriously, I’m not going to poison you or something. You are my younger cousin, after all.”

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Dinner with Tiffani was awkward, to say the least. Until she finally asked:

“What was the fight about?”

“Huh?”

“Between you and Rashida. I know you had a fight before you broke up. I’m just curious about what brought it on,” she explained.

“A bit of everything, really. She got jealous over me helping Quiang’s sister with her essay and I got angry over her constant need to keep tabs on me. We both kind of said some explosive things and she said we should take a break. I wanted to talk to her, but you know how things went….” I found myself spilling everything.

“Is that so…” Tiffani drifted off, a peculiar expression on her face. At that time Jeanne and a classmate of ours, Julia, came in.

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“Well, look at you two, getting along! Told you, he wasn’t completely at fault,” Jeanne stated.

“Yeah, it seems good old Rashi really did blow some things out of proportion,” Tiffani admitted. “I still don’t like what you did, Phoenix, but I think I see what happened, sort of.”

“I should’ve listened to your side of the story as well before making assumptions about this whole situation,” Jeanne added. “But there was just a lot of weirdness with everything.”

“Yeah, like Sergio and Rashida getting together?” Julia mentioned, joining the conversation.

“Yeah, that.” My cousins both nodded in agreement.

“They did get together?” I asked incredulously.

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“Oh, you don’t know yet?” Tiff chuckled. “They’ve been sucking face all over the school. It’s kind of over the top, really. But then again, you’ve been busy too, huh? Morgan?”

“Yeah, that’s no longer a thing,” I admitted.

“Wanna talk about it?” Tiffani offered.

“Honestly, not really. Perhaps, another time. I should go now.”

“Take care, cuz. We’ll see you around.”

I left their house feeling lighter than I had in the last two months. Perhaps, breaking up with Rashida was the best decision I’ve made. I probably should’ve made it sooner – maybe both of us could’ve ended things on better terms. As for Morgan, she was a good lesson: just because someone sweet-talks you, they don’t necessarily mean well.


When fall came, I was officially one of Hidden Springs Daily’s new youth correspondents. Uncle Gerald submitted my work anonymously at first (I believed him, he wasn’t the type to lie) and the editors loved it. In fact, they wanted more, much more. So, on top of my already impressive schoolwork, I now had to do extra research for newspaper topics.

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But that was completely fine with me – the thrill of seeing my articles in the daily paper was well worth the extra work!

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As a result, I now spent much more time at the city library, looking up facts, combing through archives, finding new information to write about. After the first article, I enjoyed the positive outpour of views and comments on the paper’s website. It was really something – I was educating others about something! I wanted to make sure all of my subsequent articles were just as good or better.

Leaving the library one evening, I spotted a familiar face out in the square – Jeanine. Trust her to study outdoors when it is already almost too dark to see.

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“Hey, long time no see!” I called.

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“Phoenix? Hey!!!” She closed up her book and placed it in the pile behind her, rubbing her eyes. “What’s up?”

“Just researching stuff at the library,” I explained.

“Of course! You’re the big correspondent now! Congrats, I’ve always thought you’d make a good writer. How do you even know all that international stuff?” She marveled.

“It’s a hobby, I guess. What about you? All these books?” I gestured to the piles.

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She sighed. “Stupid schools with their stupid regulations. Like, it’s not enough that I’m on the soccer team, no, I also need to have a high GPA. And my GPA is already high, but they want to make sure I’m not just getting in due to athletics… They’re idiots is what I’m saying. So, now I’m studying like crazy to make sure I don’t mess up on any of the upcoming class tests, which could potentially lower my scores…”

That sounded like Jeanine, alright. Although, she was already smart, she didn’t need to prove anything. I wondered if there was something else going on.

“So, how have you been? I’m sorry I kind of fell of the face of the earth again. It’s just been like this,” she pointed to the books again. “I’ve been an awful friend to many, lately.”

“Hey, you’re not a bad friend! I haven’t really been around much either, to be honest. Sorry about that…” I admitted.

“It’s alright, between your girlfriend and the new job, you’ve had your hands full. I don’t know how you manage it, really. I don’t even have work but I already feel swamped,” she lamented.

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“Well, just work, now. Morgan and I have been over for a couple of months now,” I let her know. It was kind of strange – with how information traveled around our school, I thought she already knew.

“Oh, no! What happened?” she looked legitimately surprised.

I found myself spilling everything that happened, how I ended up dating Morgan, how the guys exposed her, how my cousins were still kind of cool with me for some reason, even though they knew I wasn’t really at fault.

She smiled sadly. “Sorry about Morgan. I had no idea she was like that. And wow, she was stringing my brother along too? Yikes. As for your cousins…” she bit her lip.

“What is it?” Were they angry at her too for some reason? Why? What could Jeanine have done?

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“Well, you know how Jeanne and I have always been super tight? Well, she’s been kind of distant with me lately. And honestly, I think Tiffani is responsible. She’s always been the ring-leader of the group, so to say. Well, she and you. But after everyone got angry at you over Rashida, it’s just been her. She’s is a bit of a queen bee. I think she was mostly calling the shots around the school, before she graduated. Her and …” she drifted off again.

“Ok, what happened between you and my cousins? You were good friends before.” None of this made sense.

“Taylor and I broke up and they took his side. There,” she let out.

“Wait, why? Why would they take his side?” this made even less sense.

“Not all of them. Just Tiffani and Rashida did. I think Jeanne and Trevor are sort of the voices of reason for them, but they’re outnumbered,” Jeanine explained patiently.

“What did he tell them?” I was becoming more and more disappointed with my family.

“More like, he didn’t correct his story. His mom couldn’t find her expensive diamond earrings and he accused me of stealing them.”

“Diamond earrings? I’m pretty sure I saw his sister wear them, the flower shaped ones, right?”

“The very same. It all came out eventually; Julia even admitted she took them. So Taylor came to apologize to me, but let’s just say, he didn’t sound sincere enough – I told him to take a hike. He was really pissed. Anyways, I guess he stuck to his original story with the rest of the school- that I stole from his family.”

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“Ok, ok, your relationship fiasco definitely takes the cake,” I sympathized. Yikes. And I thought I dated the wrong people.

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“It’s alright, I’m glad I know what kind of a person he is now. How could I even like him, right?” she laughed.

“Well, he has nice hair, I suppose,” I chuckled.

“That’s kind of a shitty reason to keep dating someone who doesn’t even trust you, though,” she stated. “You know, I have to admit, I owe you an apology.”

“What for?” Her words surprised me.

“I kind of thought Rashida’s behavior for the last couple of years wasn’t very good towards you, the clinginess, the possessiveness, the rest. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to make the situation worse, you know. Have you noticed we didn’t hang out much while the two of you dated?”

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“I suppose. But you were with Taylor and we were all busy.”

“True. But I’ve noticed she didn’t like you hanging out with any females not related to you. That included me. I guess she thought I could try to seduce you away from her, imagine that?” she laughed. “But also, I felt bad because Jeanne and I kind of created this whole situation when we told you she had a crush on you. So, we were kind of responsible. I know Jeanne feels the same way.”

“This is ridiculous,” I chuckled. “You told me, yes, but eventually, she and I would’ve coupled up without your help too. We did like each other a lot. Besides, you’re not responsible for her behavior. We’re still friends.”

“That’s good to know,” she smiled. “So, Rashida and Sergio, huh? Who would’ve thought…?”

“Not me, that’s for sure.” Seeing them making out at a local diner the other day was weird enough.”

“Well, this year is going to go better, anyways. Tiffani is out of school now, Rashida is always with Sergio, and Jeanne and Trevor have common sense, so they’ll figure out we were never in the wrong to begin with! And there will be senior prom and we’ll all be able to relax for once.”

“Ugh, I’m not going,” I shuddered. The atmosphere at school, even without my older cousin there, was still going to be weird.

“Um, yes you are! You can’t just not go, Phoenix, you’ll regret it. Besides, if you don’t go, the assholes win,” she stated.

“I take it you’re going?”

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“Of course! I already bought an expensive dress, I’m not wasting it just because some idiots decided to mess with my reputation,” she challenged.

“Alright, then. I’ll go to. At least, I know I won’t be alone in enemy territory.”

“That’s the spirit. And before we know it, senior year is done and we’re off to uni, hopefully leaving all the bullshit in the past,” Jeanine smiled.

She was right. We weren’t going to let the idiots win.

“Well, I really have to go home now, I promised I’ll help Sonja with her school work,” Jeanine got up and started gathering her books.

“Schoolwork? School hasn’t started yet.”

“She wasn’t doing too well in her previous year and she has to retake her math class in summer school. She still doesn’t really get the material though, so it’s time for her big sister to come to the rescue!” she explained.

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“I guess this will be my job when Felicity is older,” I realized.

“Oh, absolutely. So, you better study up for your future job as big brother/teacher/hero!” she laughed. “Well, take care. I’ll text you soon, promise.”

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After she left, I pondered the situation with our schoolmates. It was kind of sad that our classmates and friends had such a petty side. But then, who didn’t?

At least I had one friend who had her head on properly. Unfortunately, she was dealing with something she totally didn’t deserve.

And now I’ve basically promised to go to prom. I just hoped it will go off without any weirdness, although I had a feeling this was wishful thinking.