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.”

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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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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.

 

 

Gen 3 Ch 6: Word Spreads Fast

Author’s Note: Just as I promised, I’m publishing a chapter in October! There’s cursing, mention of teen sex, and other stuff. So, if you don’t like that, please don’t read.


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Being grounded was weird. This was pretty much the first time ever that I found myself in that kind of trouble with my folks, and they didn’t really seem to know how to punish me properly. I think they were mostly confused by the whole situation.

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How in the world did they know I was at the club in the first place? Well, as it turned out, Tamsen, the girl who used to babysit me when she younger, was now working as the bartender at the Chill Out. And while I didn’t notice her, with my attention mostly on Morgan, she certainly noticed and recognized me. And she didn’t waste any time calling Mom and informing her I was at the club.

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I don’t know if that was the moment my folks flipped out at me or the moment they arrived at the club to find a furious Rashida heading out. When they stopped her to ask what was going on, she told them exactly what she thought of me and why I warranted such an opinion.

Yeah, I think that later part was what tipped the scales against me. And when Dad stormed in to find me getting cozy with Morgan, he only got angrier.

As it was, I was supposed to come home straight from school and from now on, I couldn’t go to any of my friends’ houses or out with them, and I would have extra chores around the house.

I didn’t get my electronics taken away, though. Which really could’ve been just another part of the punishment.

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My phone rang nonstop with angry texts and calls from my cousins and after the fifth time of getting yelled at by them, I honestly just stopped picking up their calls. The texts kept on coming though and I was considering smashing the little apparatus against the wall.

Apparently, another person I didn’t notice at the club was Rashida’s younger sister Clara, and she also didn’t waste any time calling her older sister over to the “crime scene.” As it was, at the moment Rashida received her call, Tiffani was over at the Sheppard household, since she was both her friend and her older brother Kane’s girlfriend. After our fight at school, Rashida was already in a shitty mood and my cousin and her brother were the ones calming her down. After she received Clara’s phone call, stormed out of the house, and came back in hysterics… well, I was pretty much a complete monster in my cousins’ eyes.

The lack of communication from the guys was an indicator that they were also pissed at me. Usually Sergio would call every once in a while to chat and even the quieter Trevor would text once in a while to see if we were up for getting food at the dinner. Now – no texts or calls.

I was really not looking forward to school on Monday.

I knew I messed up with Rashida. I knew I should’ve ended things with her when our relationship began to bother me. But as she was my friend first, I really didn’t want to call that shot. And now, I’ve just made things so much worse.

I just hoped I’d be able to patch things up with my friends.

Which, didn’t prove to be in the cards, as it turned out.

Morning classes went by without incident. The only person in them who could’ve made trouble was Trevor and he nodded to me when he saw me, so I figured the situation wasn’t as bad as I thought.

But by the time lunch rolled around… I didn’t even make it to the cafeteria before I was met with the stony faces of the rest of our friend group.

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“How could you! How fucking could you, Phoenix?!” Sergio blew up at me. “How could you betray Rashida like this?!”

“Seriously, Phoenix?” Jeanne shook her head. “You of all people should’ve known what your actions would do to Rashi. She was red eyed this morning – she’s still really upset.”

“I just can’t believe you went with Morgan after we’ve warned you about her, man,” Trevor shook his head. “Seriously, that chick is bad news.”

“It doesn’t matter who he went after!” Sergio exploded again. “How could he cheat on Rashida? She’s been into him for so long. Do you know how much she cares about you, Phoenix? Well, do you?”

“Woah, man!” I tried to defend myself. “I know she’s great. I know I’ve messed up. But honestly, our relationship wasn’t going so great lately. In fact, on Friday, we’ve decided to take a break.”

I really had no idea why Sergio of all the people was giving me the hardest time over this. He was there all of those times when Rashida was at her clingiest. Surely, he had to see my side of the story at least a little, right? And why was he so confrontational all of a sudden? This was so unlike him.

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“You’ve decided to take a break? And the first thing you do is party it up with some cheap slut who isn’t worth one hair on Rashida’s head?! She’s freaking perfect man and you’ve hurt her!” he was practically out of breath with all of this shouting.

“Hey, you should cool it before we all get sent to detention for causing a scene,” Jeanine piped in quietly. She’s been silent this whole time, watching the situation with worry written all over her face.

“No I shouldn’t,” Sergio spit back. “He’s an idiot and I don’t want to even be in his company at this moment.”

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“Sounds great! Then why are you still here, yelling at me? Why are you blowing it all out of proportion at this moment?” I threw at him. “I know I’ve made a mess, ok? But if you think Rashida is so perfect, why don’t you date her for a change? Because it sounds like you’re in love with her or something!”

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As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew they were true. Whenever Rashida would come up in conversation, he never had anything but good things and praises to say about her. And he would always get this smile on his face when anyone mentioned her or when he talked to her… Sergio was in love with Rashida. He was just too non-confrontational to say anything, especially since she and I were dating. And I was truly an idiot for never realizing it before.

Even the others were speechless.

“You know what, Phoenix? That’s exactly what I’m going to do,” he announced quietly before walking away from all of us.

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“Damn, this is better than a soap opera,” Trevor whispered under his breath.

“I had no idea,” Jeanine whispered in surprise.

“Neither did I. Although, it does make some sense,” Jeanne admitted. “It still doesn’t make what you did ok, Phoenix. I thought better of you.”

She walked away, dragging Trevor with her.

Jeanine was still here. She didn’t say anything to me during the entire exchange, although I doubted it she thought anything positive about me at this point either. That sucked – she and I used to be good friends before…

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“Hey, I’m not going to say I approve of what happened this weekend, but I do think they are overreacting,” she surprised me.

“You do? You aren’t angry at me too?” I was incredulous.

“I feel like maybe I should be, but not really. We were friends before all of this crap happened,” she smiled. “Don’t worry about them. They’ll cool down soon enough. Well, maybe not Sergio, but it kind of seems like he’s been bottling up his feelings for a while now. He’ll need some time to figure everything out.”

“Thanks. For not going against me as well. It’s good to know I have at least one person on my side,” I smiled. Jeanine and I were good friends since childhood. I wondered why we’ve stopped hanging out lately, but between me and Rashida and Jeanine and her boyfriend, we didn’t have as much time for each other.

“Yeah, well, just take care, ok? I don’t really know Morgan all that well, so I can’t say anything about her. But I hope if you’re serious about her, things go better with her than they did with Rashida. I really have to run now.”

I really hoped she was right. I didn’t want to lose all of my friends because of a failed relationship. Especially not when there was someone who liked my ex more than I did.

But as the days went on, the coolness stayed there. There wasn’t really such obvious hostility between me and them at this point, but I think the others mostly tried to avoid me. And that sucked.

On the plus side, no one was giving me any trouble for spending time with Morgan. Now that I was officially single, there wasn’t any reason for me to avoid her. And since the other’s kept away from me, I was free to be with her as much as I wanted.

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And I did want to be with her. Morgan was intoxicating. Her voice, her personality, her appearance… She had the effect of a drug on me.

This was it. This was what you were supposed to feel for the person you were dating. Despite my best efforts to convince myself that my previous relationship had it, that feeling simply wasn’t there.

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With Morgan, I didn’t care if the teachers caught us in the wrong places, at the wrong times, doing things you weren’t supposed to be doing on school grounds. We were having fun, we were both exhilarated, and rules seemed stupid.

Of course, she and I saw each other off the school grounds as well. As soon as my month of being grounded was up, we began to meet up at local clubs and hangouts, as it seemed that Morgan was never short of places where one could have a fun time.

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Although, really, any outing with her usually turned into heavy make out sessions. As it was, we never finished our dates until late, late at night.

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My parents were kind of confused with my behavior, I think. They kept asking if everything was alright and I could see some sort of concern in their eyes, but really, they had no reason to worry. I was spending my time with a girl I was crazy about but I wasn’t letting my schoolwork lag, so there was no trouble.

Besides, after that first time, I put extra effort into making sure they won’t catch me anywhere I wasn’t supposed to be.

However, there was one thing Morgan and I haven’t done so far – sex. It wasn’t for the lack of wanting to; we just couldn’t figure out a good time and place for it. I had the feeling Mom and Dad wouldn’t be too ecstatic if Morgan stayed the night with us, they barely saw her one or two times. And according to Morgan, her folks were pretty strict, so her house was out of question.

It took over a month for us to get a place arranged. I picked up Morgan from her house and she informed me she had a surprise for us. The surprise? She rented out the lakeside cabin not far from where I lived.

This was perfect. She didn’t have to say anything, but it was obvious why she rented out the place.

We made small talk on the way to the cabin, she flirted with me, I tried to flirt back. In reality, my hands were getting sweaty and I could feel my heartbeat speed up before we even arrived there. I had no idea if I was going to do well or not, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself with Morgan. I knew I wasn’t the first guy she’s dated and I didn’t want to seem like a complete newbie, even though I was…

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“Man, I wish Mom and Dad didn’t polish off that bottle of wine they had in their pantry,” Morgan laughed when we got to the cabin. “It was this really nice Pinot Noir and I’ve had my eye on it for weeks! I was going to bring it with me, but they just had to drink it yesterday.”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I’ve never actually had wine, so I wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s nice or not.”

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“Oh, trust me, most people who do drink usually can’t tell the difference either. It’s just supposed to be fashionable to say you’re a wine connoisseur,” she laughed. “I’ve had it. Snuck it out of my folks’ cellar a few times. It’s pretty good, especially red. I’ll treat you sometime, promise.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Awkward silence. Well, awkward on my end. Morgan just smiled and leaned back on the couch.

“So, what are we doing tonight?” She inquired.

“What would you like to do?” I tried not to blush.

“I thought we could relax, just the two of us,” she shrugged.

“We are all alone here, aren’t we? It’s kind of nice,” I admitted.

“I know right? No chance of random teachers interrupting and yelling at us for making out in the conference room!” She laughed about what happened last week. My parents were not amused when they got a call from the school – I couldn’t believe I wasn’t grounded this time.

Instead of laughing with her, I just smiled quietly. I knew what Morgan was getting at – she certainly didn’t book the cabin for us to just play charades. I was just really nervous. It was silly, right?

No. I wanted this. This meant I had to man up and take the lead. More or less, at least.

“So, you wanna…?” I nodded towards the door to the bedroom.

“Would I even be here if I didn’t? Come on. Do you need condoms?” she offered.

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“Thanks, I already bought some,” I assured her as we moved to the door.

Inside she quickly took of her warm clothes, under which, as it turned out, she was wearing only a bra and panties. Damn, she looked good. I tried to pretend my pulse didn’t quicken at the sight of her like this and moved to undress myself. Really should’ve gone to the gym when Quiang offered to train me. Really.

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The awkwardness disappeared as soon as her lips were on mine. It was only natural when we moved to the bed, with her falling on top of me, her soft hair tickling my chest. We continued to make out for what seemed like an eternity, neither of us in a hurry to move to the next part of the evening. It was going to happen. But for the moment, the two of us simply enjoyed one another.

“Are you sure you haven’t done this before?” she whispered. “You’re good with your hands, Phoenix. Like, really good.”

“Maybe I’m a natural?” I breathed out before her lips were once again on top of mine.

Bang, Bang, Bang!!!

“What the hell?” We both pulled away from one another, with confusion.

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“Wait, you did book the cabin for the entire evening, right?” I tried to think of a reason someone would be knocking on the door at this time.

“Yes, I did. Why else would I have the keys? Wait, I don’t think I locked the door!!!” She moved to stand up, just as two familiar faces burst into the room.

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“Aha! Gotcha!” A familiar-looking guy from my school yelled out. What was his name? Stefan? Dominic?

The other guy was Jeanine’s older brother, Brannon and he looked disgusted.

“Dominic was right, then? You really are stringing us all along, Morgan?” he accused.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” She was furious.

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“I’m just trying to bring the truth to the masses,” the blond explained. “Hey, Phoenix, right? I’ve seen you around before. So, you see, dear Morgan here has a scheme. She is somewhat of a serial dater.”

“Shut up, asshole!” she yelled.

“Pot calling kettle black, no?” Brannon was now yelling at her. “So what, you were going to sleep with him, dump him the way you did with Dominic, and then the repeat the process with me? Who’s the next target?”

“Fuck off, all of you!” Morgan was seriously furious.

In the midst of all this, I found my clothes, and moved towards the door. This was getting weirder by the minute and I didn’t want to be in the center of everything in case the situation came to blows.

“Sorry about your evening, man,” Dominic apologized. “I just really wanted to expose Morgan to both you and Brannon and this was as good a time as any.”

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“Ok, so what are you saying, she just sleeps with and then dumps guys?” I was trying to wrap my head around it.

“Pretty much. She did just that with me and then I found out she did the same with three other guys before me. It turns out she always has a next person of interest on hand. You’re her current guy, Brannon was supposed to be the next one,” he sighed. “She’s not a bad person, really. I don’t think so, at least. She just has some problems that she really needs to get help with. Professional help, that is. ‘Cause that kind of behavior just isn’t healthy.”

“I see.” Well, this night was pretty much ruined. I moved to leave, but Morgan blocked my path before I could exit the cabin.

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“So what, you’re just going to leave me? You believe them over me?” she screamed.

“Actually, yes.” I answered simply.

“Is this some weird male solidarity thing? What makes their word better than mine?” she was furious, but after my breakup with Rashida, I wasn’t going to deal with anymore relationship bullshit.

“So, you didn’t dump Dominic before starting to date me? Or wait, were you still dating him when you got together with me? And are you currently also dating Brannon? Look, I know Brannon and his entire family – he wouldn’t lie to me. Also, if they aren’t telling the truth, then why do you look so freaking guilty right now?”

“Oh, please, like you didn’t come to the club with me while you were still with that clinger of yours!”

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“You know what, yes, I fucked up and I admit it. I should’ve ended things properly with her before seeing anyone else. But first things first, don’t you dare talk bad about Rashida – she has nothing to do with what happened here. And second, we are done here. I’m glad those two showed up when they did. Have a nice life, Morgan.”

With that, I finally stormed out and walked all the way home. In the cold, without a jacket on, since Morgan drove us to the cabin.

This night was a complete disaster and I felt like a major idiot for falling for Morgan’s charms the way I did. What could I say? The girl had charm, no wonder she was able to pull this scheme on several guys. It seemed like she worked hard for the reputation she had…

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When I arrived home, everyone was already asleep, which meant whatever lecture I was bound to receive after tonight was going to be saved for the morning. Which was just fine. I had plenty to think about without getting grilled about my behavior.

For starters, I was going to think about something other than girls for a change. Because, obviously, my luck with them was not the best.

Gen 3 Ch 5: I Just Want to Have Some Fun

I needed to cool down. That was it. Rashida and I both just needed to cool down. Maybe some space would do us good?

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The library was usually empty at this time of day, since most of the school was still in class and those who, like me, had an empty period chose to spend it outside rather than surrounding themselves with more books. So, this seemed like a good place to get some quiet alone time and to think how my day turned out.

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On the one hand, everything that came up in our fight was a valid point. I did have an issue with Rashida requiring constant contact with me, to the point of wanting to permanently shut my phone off at times. I did have a problem with her clinginess. And I knew I had to bring these things up at some point.

Of course, I didn’t know she had jealousy issues too. That certainly put things in perspective. But who knew, maybe this fight would make her see things my way at least a little bit? I could only hope.

Because I didn’t really want to break up. Not like this, at least.

All of this was giving me a headache. I began to wonder if my parents would mind if I decided to just call it a day and go home to take a nap. It would be more productive that staying in school and sulking.

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Before I could make up my mind, the library door opened to let in the last person I wanted to see today: Morgan. And of course, I was sitting just where she could see me and I had no time to hide. Perfect.

“Phoenix?” she seemed surprised to see me. “Hey, what’s up? No offense, but you look like someone just forced you to drink unsweetened lemon juice. Are you ok?”

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“Peachy,” I mumbled. “Just peachy.”

“If you say so,” she shrugged. “Although, if you’re ill, the nurse’s office is just downstairs.”

“Thanks for the concern,” I sighed. “I’m not sick though. Just had a bad day, that’s all.”

“Oh,” she nodded understandingly and sat down next to me. “Well, that happens. Usually, I just eat something sweet to cheer myself up on days like these. I have some candy, would you like it?”

“No, thanks,” I refused. “I was just thinking of going home and taking a nap, actually.”

“That works too,” she laughed. “What happened though? If it’s not a secret, that is.”

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I wasn’t sure if telling her about my relationship problems was such a good idea. After all, I was pretty sure Rashida wouldn’t appreciate me discussing our private issues with another girl. But then again, she also threw a jealousy fit over someone who was practically family… and honestly, I needed to vent.

“My girlfriend and I got into a fight. She and I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye on some things, and we both kind of exploded at one another. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do now. Any advice?” I spilled the beans.

“Well, if you haven’t been agreeing on something for a long time, and all this crap kind of bottled up, it’s no wonder you two had a fight,” she explained as a matter of fact. “Sorry if I sound blunt, but anyone would tell you this.”

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“No, you’re right. My sister told me something similar, actually. I just don’t know how to fix this situation without getting angry again and making everything worse,” I admitted.

“Well, I would suggest not doing anything just yet. If you’re angry, she probably is too. Give it a break, think everything over, and then talk to her. If a guy tried to make up with me immediately after a fight, I’d probably snap at him again,” she admitted.

“Thanks, for the advice,” I nodded. “I think I will go home after all, then. I don’t feel like staying at school at the moment.”

“Wait, don’t leave just yet,” she got a wicked grin on her face. “I know what can cheer you up right now. Come on!”

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She jumped up, leading be down the hall, all the way to one of the teacher lounges. Students were usually not supposed to be here and it felt like we were breaking the law.

“Don’t worry,” she noticed my reticence. “No one’s going to be here until the end of this class, at least. And there is ice cream.”

“But it’s the teachers’ ice cream!” I whispered, looking around for any teacher that might show up.

“Nah, it was supposed to be for the students before Mr. Elms got a stick up his ass and decided to cancel the pre-exam party. There’s plenty of it – they won’t notice a couple of missing cans. And you need the sugar rush.”

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There was no arguing with her on this. And the ice cream was delicious.

“So, do you do this often? Sneak around student lounges and go through their fridges?” I teased. She was right, the ice cream did do me a lot of good – my headache was already almost gone.

“Well, I’m usually assisting at the main office during this time, but everyone there is on some conference, so I basically have a free period too for today,” she laughed. “You wouldn’t believe how much gossip you end up hearing when you spend enough time around faculty.”

“Like what?” I was curious.

“Well, I know for a fact that there are at least two secret teacher couples,” she snorted. “Then, one teacher actually hired a PI to trail his girlfriend who he thinks is cheating on him, and another female teacher is trying to secretly get pregnant from her boyfriend. Also, it’s a good thing that none of these people are spies, since they are all really bad at hiding their secrets. I won’t name anyone though, but you’ll probably figure out  all of them now by yourself.”

“This is better than a soap opera,” I leaned back in my chair. It was nice not thinking about my own problems for a change.

“Sure is,” she agreed, glancing at the clock. “Well, I think class is almost over and if you want to get out of school for today, you should be going now.”

“Thanks for the reminder,” I got up to leave before the halls were full of people. “And thanks for the ice cream.”

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“No problem,” she waved away. “Oh, by the way – if you want to have some fun outside of school tonight – come to the Chill Out around 8 today.”

“The Chill Out? Isn’t that place 18+ only?” I asked stumped. The nightclub was where all the cool college kids went. Certainly they won’t let high-schoolers in.

“It’s supposed to be. But the bouncers are chill, as long as you don’t cause trouble on the dance floor. They’ve let me in plenty of times before,” she admitted.

“Oh,” I was about to say no. It wasn’t a good idea. Just me and her on the dance floor? A recipe for disaster.

“There are going to be others from school. Always are.” she informed me. “Like I said, the bouncer is totally chill.”

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“You know what? I’ll be there,” I agreed. It was a while since I’ve had any fun and school was tiring enough without all of my relationship issues. I needed a break. And I wanted to check out the nightclub – after all, what was the point of all those age restrictions anyways?

“Alright then, 8 pm it is!” she reminded me, already heading out.

My parents were still at work when I came home, so they couldn’t complain about me ditching school. And it wasn’t like I skipped classes often. This was only the second time in my entire school career – they had no reason to worry.

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After sending the babysitter on her way, I ended up spending hours with Felicity. She was always such a cheerful little girl – my baby sister never failed to put a smile on my face. These days, I really regretted being so negative about Mom’s late pregnancy. Who knew, maybe Felicity and I would be just as close as Millie and I always were?

When the time came, I got out my more stylish clothes. From what I’ve heard, the night club had some sort of a dress code and I had no intention of getting turned away at the door.

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My parents didn’t question where I was going – they didn’t need to. Usually, whenever I left the house, I was going either to one of my friends’ house or on a date with Rashida. And no one in my circle ever expressed the wish to go clubbing. This was definitely a new thing for me.

The music in the club was already pumping when I got there. And there was the bouncer at the door. I felt hesitant. Maybe Morgan was wrong and the bouncer wasn’t as chill as she thought? After all, plenty of times, places like these would let in attractive girls to make the male customers have more of an incentive to go in. For all I knew, this lady was going to call the cops on me?

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“There you are!” Morgan appeared behind me, clad in a tight revealing dress that showed off her legs. “Almost thought you’d change your mind!”

“Not a chance,” I shook my head.

“Let’s go, then, don’t worry, there are plenty of others inside already. We won’t even come close to standing out,” she pulled me towards the club door, where, just as she predicted, the bouncer didn’t even bat an eyelash at us.

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Inside, the music was deafeningly loud, with the boomboxes blasting high-energy songs with the beats that were just right and I felt myself wanting to dance, to release all the negativity of the last few months out of me.

And Morgan wasn’t kidding when she said we won’t be the only underage ones here – I was pretty sure I recognized some familiar faces from school. I understood them though — we were all just here to have a good time. So we kept on dancing.

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Some were better at it than others. I like to think I have pretty good moves, but honestly, I had nothing on Morgan. I had no idea if she took dance lessons outside of school or if she just frequented clubs like these often, but she never missed a beat and her moves were always on point. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught several other guys at the club give her wistful glances. I didn’t blame them, I felt the same way.

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Some part of me felt guilty. This was the exact opposite of resolving my relationship issues. Yeah, there were others here, but it was clear Morgan and I were here “together”. Even if it was just a friendly outing, I was still breaking my promise to myself to avoid her company.

“Hey, come on, dance!” she pulled me back to the dance floor, noticing my momentary spacing out. “Aren’t you having fun at all?”

“I am,” I shouted over the music. It was true. Despite the guilty feelings, this was the most fun I’ve had in a long while. “Thanks for inviting me here!”

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“No problem!” she smiled, continuing to dance. I tried to keep up. I wasn’t planning to make going to nightclubs a regular activity, so I decided to take maximum advantage of this outing.

My thoughts drifted to Rashida again. I imagined taking her to a place like these. Instantly, I could picture her getting irked at the other girls looking at me, even if they did so by complete accident. I could see her either trying to compete with everyone else on the dance floor or trying to drag us out of here.

She wasn’t here tonight though, which made me feel a strange sense of… relief? Yes, that was it. Her absence was making me feel lighter than I’ve felt in months…

And right there on that dance floor, with the music still blaring loud, I knew it. My relationship was over. I just didn’t have it in me to fix it, because most of all, that required wanting to stay with the person I was in a relationship with. And the idea of staying with Rashida any longer, of dealing with her possessiveness made me want to scream. It would hurt, yes, but I would have to talk to her and end things for real.

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And really, this was a long time coming.

As the music changed from the fast paced dance tune to a slower number, I also knew I didn’t just want to be friends with Morgan. I was having a good time with her, I was attracted to her, and I knew she didn’t just invite me out here tonight for me to relax – she’s was interested in me. Instinctively, we moved closer to one another until we were slow-dancing with one another.

“Phoenix?” she whispered. “Do you want to sit this one out? Your girlfriend-“

“No, I think I want to dance with you,” I looked her in the eyes.

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“Alright,” she whispered back, grinning.

 

 

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– Clara! What the hell are you doing here? Mom and Dad think you’re studying at your friend’s house!

– You should be glad I’m here tonight. Go in. Take a look at what’s going on in there. 

– What?

– Just go see for yourself. And don’t shoot the messenger afterwards.

 

 

And so we danced together, with my hands on her hips and her arms pulling me closer and closer, to the point of our lips nearly touching, until this bliss was interrupted by the last person I wanted to be here.

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“Phoenix?! Well, asshole, I see you’re making great use of our break,” Rashida screamed at me. It seemed like she came out of nowhere and she looked furious.

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“Rashida? What are you doing here?” I pulled away from Morgan, who was looking on all of this with an uncomfortable expression.

“Me?! I’m not the one making out with someone else! Here I was, thinking you actually wanted to fix our relationship, but it looks like you’ve already moved on with her, you bastard!” she spit out bitterly. “Consider our break permanent.”

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“Ok,” was the only thing I managed to get out before she stormed out of the club. This was not how I wanted to end things, but the chances of her being in this club by pure coincidence tonight were so minimal that she must’ve been trailing me. And that would’ve been the final nail in the coffin of whatever was between us, even if I didn’t decide to break up already.

She could think I was the worst person in the world, but if that meant our relationship was over, then so be it.

“Um, I’m really sorry about this,” Morgan mumbled, looking down at her feet. “I didn’t know your girlfriend would be here. Damn, I didn’t mean for you to get broken up with…”

“Don’t be,” I shrugged. “I was planning to break up with her tomorrow anyways. She just beat me to it.”

“Still,” she bit her lip, “This did not go well.”

“It happened,” I stated. “It’s probably for the best, though. Because there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.”

“What?” Morgan cocked her head to one side.

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“This,” I admitted before pulling her into a passionate kiss. To my delight, she responded just as eagerly.

As we pulled away, she had a huge smile on her face. “I’m so glad I’m not the only one who felt that way,” she purred. “Is this why you’ve been avoiding me lately?”

“Pretty much, yeah. Are you angry?” I asked.

“I’ll forgive you after another kiss,” she smiled.

Before I could deliver, I felt someone’s strong hands grab me from behind and pull me away from Morgan.

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“That’s it, young man, you are grounded for at least a month!” Dad growled as he dragged me out of the club.

All I could do was mouth “I’ll see you in school,” at Morgan before we left the building.

And despite being grounded, I couldn’t help but grin the entire ride home, to the increased discontent of my parents.

Gen 3 Ch 4: How to Deal?

As Mom started showing, my strange feelings about her pregnancy didn’t go away. I knew I should’ve been happy for her and Dad, but something just wasn’t letting me.

This was why I found myself at Millie’s house one day. My sister always got me. If anyone could help me figure things out, it was her.

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“Hey, brother! What brings you here?” Millie asked, letting me in.

“Stuff,” I shrugged.

“Well, come in, come in,” she urged me into her kitchen, where she took stock of everything in the fridge. “Quiang and I are usually busy at work, and between our crazy shifts and taking care of Terrence, we keep forgetting to go grocery shopping.”

“So this is what being married is like, eh?” I tried joking.

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“Pretty much,” Millie laughed. “Well, except you get to come home to see the people you love every day, which is really priceless. Sometimes, I still can’t believe Quiang and I are really married. And then I look at Terrence and wonder how I deserved to be this perfect little boy’s mother. I can’t wait until we are in a good enough place to have another little one. It would have to wait until Terrence is older though. I can’t imagine taking care of two kids under 3 at once.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk about, actually,” I admitted. “I mean, Mom being pregnant? This is so crazy, isn’t it?”

“If you mean her age, then yes, it is quite crazy,” Millie agreed. “But I bet she is so happy right now, isn’t she? That’s how she always sounds when we talk.”

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“So, you’re completely on board with this?” I was incredulous.

“Of course I’m on board, Phoenix. She had my back completely when I was pregnant. Besides, what do you suggest she do? Get rid of the baby? You know there is no way in hell she’d ever do that, right? Even if her health was at stake, which it isn’t,” Millie looked at me sternly.

“The doctors said she’ll have to be on bed rest for the last part of this trimester and the next,” I informed her and she nodded. She knew.

“I still can’t believe she got pregnant again, and so late too,” she mused as we sat down in her living room. “You know, we never thought she’d have you either.”

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“Seriously? Why?” This was the first I was hearing of this.

“Mom had a lot of trouble conceiving. I remember at one point I even thought she and Dad couldn’t have a baby of their own because I was with them,” Millie laughed. “She and Dad had five failed IVF attempts when they were younger. Then there was this big fire – our house was nearly burned down because of this crazy woman who had a vendetta against the family.”

“Mom and Dad mentioned it once or twice. When I asked why there were still those old char marks in the living room,” I remembered being confused when I was younger. “They never mentioned their fertility problems, though.”

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“They don’t really like to talk about that time,” Millie nodded. “Well, anyways, our house had to be completely repaired after the fire, so instead of staying at a hotel, we all went to China because Mom and Dad had to find out something for work.”

“And you met Quiang there…” I realized.

“I did. Who knew how things would turn out?” she smiled happily. “Well, to our surprise, when we came back, Mom was pregnant with you. She still maintains there was something supernatural about that, although I’m not sure I believe that. I mean, there has to be a logical explanation for why her fertility problems went away in China. Although, who knows? There are lots of unexplained things in the world…” she drifted off.

“So, how is she pregnant now?” I asked.

“That is the billion dollar question, isn’t it?” Millie shrugged. “I say, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, the pregnancy is going well, Mom and Dad are happy, and we’ll have a new sibling soon. Let’s be happy about it.”

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“I’ll try, Mills. I guess I’m kind of excited to have another sibling. It’s been kind of empty without you in the house,” I admitted.

“Sorry, little brother. We just really wanted to have our own place. You’ll understand someday. But I miss having you around too,” she smiled. “So, what else is bothering you?”

“Nothing,” I replied, to which she snorted.

“I’m your big sister, I know something’s up.”

“Ok, well, it’s Rashida,” I admitted. I took a deep breath and let it out “I really like her, I think she’s gorgeous, we have so many things in common, and we’ve been great friends since we were little. But sometimes, I feel like dating her is a little too much.”

“Let me guess,” Millie pursed her lips. “She is overly affectionate. I mean, I’ve noticed it when I saw you two together, but I didn’t want to say anything and you weren’t bothered by it. Or maybe it just seemed that way?”

“I don’t know. It didn’t bother me at first. But it kind of does now. I mean, she texts me cute messages at 2 am at night, she constantly tries to be near me… I like her, but this kind of thing is making me want more distance. I don’t want to break up with her, I just…”

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“…need more space? I understand, Phoenix,” Millie nodded. “Perhaps you two need to talk this over with one another? Have you tried bringing it up to her?”

“No! The other day, I didn’t kiss her before class and it looked like she was about to cry,” I explained the problem. “I can’t even imagine how she’ll react if I tell her this.”

“Well, you’re in a tough spot, then. But you do need to address this issue before it wreaks your relationship,” she concluded.

“I know. Well thanks for helping me figure some things out. You’re the best,” I hugged my sister before heading towards the exit, where I ran into my brother-in-kaw.

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“Hey, Phoenix! How’s life?” Quiang waved at me. “Congratulations on your soon-to-arrive new sibling.”

“Thanks. It’s been nice seeing you two. Take care of yourself and of my sister,” I told him, to which he replied, “I always do.”

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I didn’t want to go home just yet. Because of the pregnancy, Mom was constantly feeling too hot, and therefore our thermostat was set to nearly freezing temperatures, making me consider putting on a parka just to be at home.

However, it might have been preferable to the weather we’ve been having lately.

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It was scorching hot. I had no idea why – Hidden Springs was usually supposed to be cooler than this, but this summer was taking its toll on all of us.

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Luckily, there was an ice cream truck in town center when I got there. A refreshing strawberry cone was most welcome.

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After buying my ice cream, I found a spot in the shade of a nearby building. I wondered how to spend my time. It was summer vacation, and having no part-time job, I mostly had nothing to do. Frankly, I was bored, to the point of actually missing school. At least there, I had my friends.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice a familiar face approach me.

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“Phoenix? Hey, long time, no see,” Morgan rounded the corner, smiling when she saw me. “How’s life been treating you?

“It’s good. I have a delicious ice cream, I’m in the shade, and I’m going to be a big brother soon. Life’s good,” I finished the ice cream and, scrunching it up, threw away the paper cone holder into the nearest trash can, scoring a perfect hit.

“Nice shot,” Morgan complimented, joining me on the bench. “You should try the chocolate one next time though, it’s even better.”

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“Would you like one? My treat,” I offered.

“Thanks, but I don’t like to eat before swimming. What about you? Want to go for a swim? The pool’s open right now and we’re here already,” she pointed out the fact that we were sitting right next to the public pool building.

“Seriously? Actually, that sounds great, sure,” I agreed.

Inside, I quickly stripped down to my trunks, regretting not taking Quiang’s offer to help me start working out, and jumped into the pool. The water was refreshing and nice and I quickly felt better. Feeling refreshed, I got out of the pool and took up one of the loungers.

By this time, Morgan finished getting ready for her own swim, and approached the pool, where she did a nearly perfect somersault into the water.

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“Oh goodness, yes!” she exclaimed. “What would we do without the pool? We’ll just prune up.”

“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, unable to keep my eyes off of her. She had a good body and I was glad that my shorts were loose. Otherwise, this situation would’ve been somewhat awkward.

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Finally, she climbed out of the water, the water still dripping from her smooth skin, and made her way to the lounger right next to mine.

“This is fun, we should hang out more often,” she smiled at me, only a meter or so away from me. “You seem like a fun person to spend time with.”

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“Thanks, so are you,” I responded, feeling guilty, so very guilty about being here right now. Perhaps I was an idiot, perhaps it was only hindsight, but I was realizing how awfully stupid and wrong it was for me to be here with Morgan, to be checking her out in that swimsuit, when only a couple of hours ago, I was having a discussion on how to fix the shortcomings of my existing relationship.

Morgan and I chatted about a few more trivial things, with me doing my best not to notice any of her attempts to flirt with me until it began to get dark, at which time I made the excuse that I still needed to buy something at the store, before I took my leave, heading out of the pool center as fast as my legs could carry me.

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I didn’t walk far when my phone beeped with another message from Rashida. This time, it was a cute picture of two fluffy kittens hugging each other, with a caption that said “You+Me=Purrfection.” Alright, even I had to admit, this was pretty adorable.

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Before I could reply back, I nearly walked into someone – my uncle Gerald.

“Oh, hello there, Phoenix, I seriously didn’t realize it was you. Did you grow more?” he greeted.

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“Hi, Uncle Gerald. I think I may have had another growth spurt, yes. How are you?”

“I’m good, I’m good. How’s your mom? How’s her pregnancy going?” he asked with concern.

“Pretty decent, I think, all things considered. Lots of back pain, but the food aversions are over, though,” I let him know.

“At least, it’s more than halfway done,” he nodded in sympathy. “The back pain is always too much, I know. I remember Katie could barely sleep at night when she was expecting the girls. I know Irene is happy though. So, what about you? You’re going to be a junior now, aren’t you? Thinking of schools to apply to? Or perhaps, something more hand-on?” he asked, bringing up something that kind of bothered me lately.

Seriously, everyone kept talking about what they were going to do when they were older. It was interesting at first, but as time went on, it got kind of stressful. I still had no idea about what I was going to do after high school was done and I felt like the black sheep out of my group of friends because of that. After all, I was supposed to have at least an inkling about my future career choice, right?

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“Still haven’t decided, huh?” Uncle Gerald noticed my confusion. “It’s alright, kid. Not many people know right of the bat.”

“You did though, didn’t you?” I referred to his choice to go into investigative journalism from an early age.

“Well, in my case, the circumstances helped me along. But before that, I changed my mind plenty. I even thought of becoming a pro soccer player at one point,” he laughed.

“Seriously? I had no idea!” the idea of my sophisticated uncle running after a ball was quite something.

“Most people are surprised to hear that,” he smiled. “You’ll figure things out, don’t worry. And if you ever need a friendly ear outside of the family, I’m only a phone call away.”

After we parted ways, I felt much lighter. My uncle’s advice was solid, as usual. Not to say that my parents didn’t give good advice, but they were parents and there were some things I wasn’t going to ask them about.

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Coming home, I found Mom in the kitchen, having dinner. I didn’t realize I’ve been out of the house for that long but it was already almost 9 in the evening.

“Hey Mom! How are you feeling?” I felt bad for being so negative over her pregnancy. Millie was right – it was a happy thing.

“I’m pretty good, mostly. Your sister’s been kicking a lot, though. I can already tell she’ll be a feisty one,” Mom smiled.

“How do you know it’s a girl?” I asked. They haven’t been told so by the doctor, yet.

“I just have a feeling. I had a feeling you were going to be a boy and this one feels like a girl,” she smiled. “Would you like some pasta?”

“Thanks, I’m good though,” the ice cream from earlier was pretty filling.

As soon as I thought about the ice cream, I thought about the pool, about Morgan, about Rashida! And I totally forgot to text her back.

“Hey,” I wrote, “What’s up? Cute kittens.”

“Hey!!!” she texted back. “Glad you liked them!”

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“What are you doing?” I hesitated before adding, “Want to come over?”

The fact of the matter was, while she and I certainly kissed and made out plenty of times, we haven’t gone any further. I was somewhat afraid of getting hit with the same luck as Millie in terms of contraception failure. But I knew she wanted to take the next step and tonight, I felt just about ready to do the deed. I knew Mom was going to go to sleep soon, and Dad was always near her these days, so he won’t stray out of the bedroom at night…

“Sorry, can’t 😦 😦 😦 , my folks are on a date and I’m supposed to help Clara with her homework :(” her response came back. Of course she had to help her younger sister first, that was understandable.

“No problem, see you soon <3” I hit send, still frustrated and annoyed at the situation. I guess, there won’t be any sex happening in this household tonight.

At least, cold showers were a very real and effective method for killing the mood.

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Time passed, Mom was in her last trimester. She was officially on bed rest now, and when she wasn’t, she could barely deal with the exhaustion and the back pain.

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Luckily, her due date wasn’t too far away now. I knew she wanted the baby to be born sooner rather than later.

In other news, school started again, which meant I got to see all of my friends all the time again. Well, all except one – I made the conscious decision to avoid Morgan around the school. I couldn’t deny the fact that I was attracted to her and if I wanted my relationship to survive, it was for the best for me not to be around her too much.

Also, I decided that Rashida and I were going to take our relationship a step further, after all. We were going to be responsible about it though, that much was for sure. Of course, finding a good time and place was going to be an issue, but I was sure it won’t be a problem for long.

An opportunity seemingly presented itself one day, when on a weekend, our schedules were empty enough for her to come over to my place, so I invited her over.

“Hey,” she smiled, coming into the house. “It smells good. Is your mom cooking something?”

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“Not Mom,” I smiled. “Me. It’s just a salad though, and I might have gone overboard with the spices.”

“Can I try it?” she asked, excited.

“Eh, it really doesn’t taste that great,” I admitted. My cooking was definitely not worthy of any praise.

“I won’t judge, promise,” she winked.

Before I could respond anything, Mom and Dad came down in a hurry.

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“Rashida, hi sweetie, how are you? Make yourself at home, don’t mind us,” Mom breathed out shakily.

“Mom, are you ok?” she looked really stressed out, which worried me.

“I’m as good as can be, considering that I’m in labor. Looks like your sister wants out and she wants out now!” she explained, on her way to the car, as Dad followed with all the essentials necessary for the hospital.

“Watcher, your Mom is in labor!” Rashida exclaimed.

“Yes, finally!” According to Mom, the baby was overdue, so this was good.

All thoughts of food pretty much went out the window.

“Are you ok?” Rashida asked, hugging me from behind. “You look worried.”

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“I am, sort of. I mean, Mom’s doctor is very good, but I can’t help but wonder if everything will go well,” I admitted. I regretted not coming to the hospital with them, but we all knew I’d be pretty useless there.

“It’s ok,” she reassured me, “She’ll be fine. I mean, look at Jeanine’s family – they have, what, five kids? And their younger brother was born pretty late too, but Mrs. Blakely is doing alright. I’m sure your mom will be fine.”

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“Thanks for being so positive,” I pulled her in for a kiss. I was glad I invested myself into this relationship harder. Really, my attitude was what caused all of my discontent. Rashida, despite being too affectionate, always meant well. “Let’s just chill while we wait for the news, cool?”

So, we ended up in my room, listening to the radio without really paying attention to any of the songs, and chatting.

“So, what’s up with the foreign pictures? You have a bunch in your locker too. They look cool,” she pointed to one of the posters in the room.

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I shrugged, “Foreign things fascinate me. To be honest, I kind of want to travel someday. Imagine going to another country, eating the local food, meeting the locals, leaning their customs and traditions… it’s all so new and real. But it would have to wait until I’m older, I guess.”

“Where would you want to go?” she asked.

“I think I’d like to see China,” I admitted, “According to Millie, I was conceived there…and Mom always says she felt the most tranquility in her life in China. I wonder if I can experience that too.”

“That’s cool,” Rashida sighed wistfully. “I’ve always liked their architecture – it looks so different from everything here.”

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“I suppose it does. Hey, did you know pagoda roofs were often built with the purpose of making ghosts and spirits unable to come in?” I smiled.

“No way!” she laughed. “I suppose it was their built in equivalent of spilling rice or sand on the floor.”

“True. Although, I really have no idea why people think becoming a ghost makes someone terrible at math,” I chuckled. “But who knows, maybe only those who are averse to arithmetic can become ghosts?”

“Ha!” she laughed again, sobering up quickly. “Hey, what about me? Can I come along when you go exploring the world? Or am I going to stay home and wait for you?”

“You should come along,” I offered, pulling her close to me. “Imagine, seeing the world together, making new foreign friends, maybe even staying abroad for a while…”

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“I’d like that,” she nodded. “It can be a great experience. And imagine all the foreign music I can learn. Maybe I can learn to play the lute while we’re there? It isn’t that different from a guitar, after all.”

“I think you’d be good at it,” I agreed. She already played the guitar as well or better than many famous musicians. Of course, she’d do well with a new instrument.

“You think so?” she looked at me softly, her amber eyes bright with excitement.

“Absolutely.”

She leaned in, kissing me, to which I responded with the same fervor. We were home alone, in my room, and I knew Rashida was not averse to taking the next step…

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Our kisses became deeper, and soon she was on top of me, with me making more space for us to both be comfortable as we got closer to the goal. Also, my mind reminded me to use the condoms I had stored in the drawer of my bed.

“Wait,” I gently stopped her. The thought about contraception reminded me of the fact that my mother was currently in the hospital, giving birth to a baby. And there is no way I could actually be having sex with someone at that time, not with a clear conscience. “This is a bad time.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she whispered, also remembering about my Mom. We both got a little too carried away with our foreign fantasies.

“No, I am. We should do it another time though, if you want to,” I offered.

“That… sounds pretty good, yes,” she blushed slightly.

After that, we decided it would be best to spend our time downstairs, in the company of the TV. We didn’t have to wait long – to our surprise my folks opted to come home after the baby’s arrival, foregoing the longer hospital stay.

They were both exhausted when they came home, with Dad looking relieved that this crazy day was over. Mom was really pale, but she had a small smile on her face.

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“Well, kids. Say hi to Felicity. She took her time getting here, but the doctors say she is healthy and weighs a good 7.5 pounds,” Mom announced. “Welcome home, baby girl.”

 

After Felicity’s birth, things moved into a more or less familiar routine. Mom was still not feeling as energetic as before the pregnancy, but the doctors said it was normal – the older you were, the more time it took to completely recover from pregnancy and childbirth.

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Felicity was, surprisingly, ok. I didn’t think I’d be as fond of the little girl as I was, but she was very cute and always smiled when anyone interacted with her. It was early to tell, but I thought she already looked a lot like Mom, which was really sweet. On the downside, she was a very fussy baby and always wanted someone to be near. But no one really minded.

Back at school, things were going smoothly. I took my uncle’s advice in regards to my future – I’d figure out what I wanted eventually. I knew I wanted to travel, yes, but how many jobs would be ok with that? That was the big question.

Things with Rashida were alright. After that evening in my room, we didn’t really get another chance to do the deed, but I was starting to think that, maybe it was for the best. For some reason, when it was just the two of us, things were going great between me and her, but whenever we ended up in a social environment, like the school or an outing with friends, that was when she became super clingy. I wasn’t sure what the deal was. Perhaps I should’ve brought up this conversation when Millie advised me to.

And… as it turned out, I didn’t even need to, in the long run. Life can be funny that way.

Rashida and I were walking to the cafeteria for our free period. She’s been kind of quiet all day, but I assumed she was just tired as her music practice was very intense again at this time of year. Apparently, I was wrong.

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“So,” she finally broke the silence, “you were hanging out with Dianna over the weekend.”

“Oh yeah. She needed to write an essay for this scholarship she wants to apply to and she asked me to make sure it looked ok,” I explained. Dianna was one of Quiang’s younger sisters and she was currently a freshman at our school. “I’m pretty good at literature and creative writing, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked frowning.

“I didn’t think it was very interesting,” I shrugged. “I mean, the essay requirements were kind of asinine, so we had to spend some three hours making sure it didn’t look like crap and we were bored out of our heads by the end of the day – I didn’t think you’d enjoy hearing about it.”

“It sounds more like you didn’t want to tell me you were hanging out with another girl,” her frown deepened.

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I stood still in my tracks. Was she serious? Was she really jealous of me and the little sister of my brother-in-law?!

“Are you kidding?” I snorted. “You do realize she is practically family, right?”

“That’s nothing. You aren’t related by blood, you’re good looking, and she is an impressionable freshman, who knows what’s going through her head?” Rashida justified her thinking.

“This is ridiculous,” I felt my blood boiling, “Well, you know, my older sister and I are only related through one parent and we’re pretty close, maybe you’re jealous of me and her as well?”

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“Now you sound like an idiot,” she flinched. “You make it sound like I’m being completely irrational.”

“Because you are being completely irrational,” I pointed out, my voice rising. “And really, I didn’t realize I was required to give you an hour-by-hour report of my daily activities. You already check in with me 24/7!”

“Is that how you feel?!” she raised her voice right back. “Well, maybe I wish you would ‘check in’ with me at least half as often as I do with you! Honestly, sometimes I feel like you’re only dating me out of some obligation because we were friends as kids!”

“I date you because I like you, Rashida! I wouldn’t have asked you out if I didn’t. You know me, I don’t care if stuff sounds wrong or inappropriate – I still say it. If I didn’t think we had any chemistry, I would’ve told you so right of the bat when I found out you liked me! But for fuck’s sake, when you want us to be together every minute possible, I feel like it’s too much. And now, you’re jealous of me too?”

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“Let it all out, Phoenix, let it all out,” she was yelling now. “You know, I’m glad this is all coming out of you now. I didn’t realize you were so tired of me. But perhaps I should’ve seen it earlier.”

“Why do you make it sound like I’m the only one in the wrong here?” I exploded. “You’re the one who started this conversation by implying I was cheating on you with Dianna. And when I pointed out how ridiculous that was, you’re the one who got offended. Well, you know what, you’re right. I am tired. Tired of constantly having to make sure you’re getting enough attention, of the text messages at night, when I’m trying to sleep… I’m tired of feeling like I’m your property! This is not how healthy relationships work!”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me any of this before today? Why didn’t you tell me those things annoy you?” she blew up right back. “I was just trying to be a good girlfriend!”

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“I wanted to tell you!” I wanted to rip my hair out, by this point. “But I didn’t know how to bring any of it up without you getting upset, the way you are now!”

“I’m a little past upset now,” she whispered, still seething. “I thought we really had something, Phoenix.”

“Rashida, wait,” I turned away, knowing that at least one of us had to deescalate this conversation. “I’m not trying to break up with you. I don’t know how we even ended up fighting like this, fuck it.”

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“Yeah, well, however it happened, it happened,” her voice sounded chocked, like she was about to cry. This really was the opposite of what I wanted. So much for trying to make the relationship work…

“What now?” I whispered.

“I don’t know… but perhaps we should take a break? Neither of us is thinking straight right now,” she proposed.

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“I don’t want to break up,” I admitted. “I do care about you, Rashi.”

“Don’t ‘Rashi’ me right now, please Phoenix,” she whispered. “And I care about you, but clearly we need to think everything through before making any decision regarding ‘us’. Because clearly, the current state of our relationship isn’t working out.”

“Ok,” I nodded, “I understand. So, I guess I’ll see you later? Sort of?”

When there was no response, I turned around to see that she was already gone from the hallway.

What started out as a completely normal day has turned into a total nightmare. And I couldn’t help but feel like it was all my fault.