Shitdisturber

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Chapter 4

“Oh, they’re back!” called Abby when Nick and Elo finally walked through the sliding glass doors. The curtains billowed from the outside breeze, which helped them shut the door without getting anything caught in it. Elo gave what she hoped was a convincing smile as she approached the table. The hubbub from before only grew a bit louder. Brooke was laughing at Shane even harder, and upon seeing her enter, Shane stood up to pull her chair out.

Elo, stunned, thanked him, blushing from head to toe, and let him guide her into it. Nick just walked back to his seat, and reveled in the attention Brooke gave him, of recounting all the ridiculous things that Shane said.

“I have to jump in the pool if he’s right,” she said through her laughter. Elo didn’t catch what the bet was about, but Abby gasped and pointed to the kitchens, where the waiters stood, holding the plates of food. It was savory, salty, full of spice, but she couldn’t tell what it was.

“If that’s red curry, you’re going for a swim,” Shane said, pointing to Brooke. She actually seemed a little nervous as the waiters placed their plates in front of them.

“You’re wearing white!” gasped Trish. “Let her change first, at least!”

“We didn’t specify when she has to jump in the pool,” Shane said, waving at the laughter at the table as if he directed a symphony. “I mean, there’s a hot tub. I figure we could all move there after dinner anyway. Brooke just has to cannon ball her way in.”

“That sounds good. Is it cold out?” Trish looked to Elo, who shrugged as she glanced at her plate.

“It’s a nice night,” Nick answered.

“So--is this red curry, then? I’ve never had it.”

“That’s red curry. Eggplant. Tofu.” Shane grabbed his fork and began to search the meal. “I assume they didn’t use heavy cream for yours?” He looked to Devi, who took the first bite. She closed her eyes, sighing at the taste.

“Oh, it’s wonderful. No heavy cream for me. Lightens it a bit.”

“Oooh, is that bell pepper?” Shane stabbed at something at his plate; Elo nearly forgot that she was supposed to be eating, and took his hint to grab for her fork. She’d never had red curry, but the minute the hunk of flavored tofu touched her tongue, she completely understood why Devi felt the need to close her eyes.

“Oh, damn,” Elo muttered with her mouth full. The table gave her courteous chuckles. Ehan seemed pleased by the dish, but not nearly as much as everyone else.

“My auntie is the best cook in the world. This is close, but nothing compares to her red curry.”

“I mean this sincerely, Ehan,” Shane started, gesturing to him, “When this competition is over, please invite me over to try it. I would consider paying you a consolation prize when I win.”

“When you win?” And, as expected when slight competition was uttered in front of a group of competitive people, everything turned a lot more playful, a bit more bitey and aggressive.

“I prepped for this thing for three months!” bragged Ehan. Elo caught Brooke’s gaze and rolled her eyes. The girls shared a silent laugh, and opted to let the boys stroke their own egos while they ate. Ehan may have prepared for three months, but Elo knew she was going to be on this show for a year. Heidi was relentless in her efforts to help: Morning Tai Chi for centeredness, light weight lifting to the nightly episodes of Jeopardy in the background, yoga before bed, and dense nonfiction audiobooks to fall asleep to.

It was, perhaps, overkill, because Elo didn’t have to get points from the tasks, themselves, but after about three months of that really strange routine, she did, admittedly, feel prepared, strong. Plus, she was almost back to the weight she was in college, and the strongest she had ever been, so maybe Heidi had an excellent point in her rigorous preparations. It wasn’t just about getting healthy, but confident. And while Elo wasn’t, in any way, a confident person, being this prepared did help her feel less insecure.

More wine and champagne poured throughout the entree, laughter grew louder, and the competitiveness amongst the contestants increased all around, not just with the guys.

“I have a few tricks up my sleeve!” Abby insisted to Quin.

“Will we ever get to see them?” he asked playfully. Laughter and liquor continued to fill the room as the sun disappeared behind the hills; the solar lights of the back yard turned on, twinkling and bright.

Dessert was some sort of fruit tart--rhubarb, Elo figured. Shane had lots to say about it, but kept getting distracted by other conversations that flowed across the table. When the plates for the main course were cleared, the waiter closest to Elo slipped something under her dessert plate. She pretended not to notice until the dessert plates were also taken away, when she palmed the note into her lap.

While Devi leaned forward to grab another glass of wine, Elo glanced down to her hand, to the note.

Sabotage: All

Keep them awake as long as possible.

Elo sighed to herself, but put on a fake smile to answer Brooke’s joke about whatever it was she said. She grabbed for her napkin and tucked the paper inside, using it to pat the sides of her mouth, careful to avoid her lipstick.

“So shall we move to the pool soon?” Shane asked with a wide grin. Elo chuckled. With the gorgeous women that surrounded him, she had no doubt that he would be excited about it. Even after a bad breakup, being surrounded by people that could very well be put on the front page of a magazine must have been a good distraction. Plus, it wasn’t like the guys were bad-looking either, if he was into them. He didn’t shy away from anyone, was friendly to everyone equally, but--well, he didn’t go out of his way to pull out Nick’s chair. Was that his way of flirting, or was he that...fancy and awkward?

“How about a signature cocktail from our very own chef?” Elo suggested with her hand on the table to secure Shane’s attention. He seemed all too happy to oblige, and very slowly, the incredibly well-fed group made their way back to the bar on the other side of the room.

“Any allergies I should know about?” Shane asked as he hopped behind the counter again.

“None for liquor,” Abby answered as she sat on a bar stool. Ehan, Trish, Brooke, and Devi all gathered to the final stools, leaving Nick, Quin, and Elo to stand between them to watch the master twirl the tumblers and stir things with a flurry.

“So my signature cocktail,” Shane began as he grabbed for various bottles, “I call the Shane Island.” Elo watched, keeping her distance. She didn’t intend to get drunk, but if she got everyone else liquored up, that would make it easier to keep them awake. She could stuff herself with bread from the table, maybe dump some of what she drank out in the plants while the rest of them were distracted. Maybe after a few drinks, she could get them all to spill their secrets, too. That would be a double-whammy. Would the producers tell her any secrets the contestants didn’t spill? Or would they leave that up to her?

“Really, you’re putting Malibu in with that?” Quin piped up from beside her. Elo glanced over to him, watchful. He didn’t say much; he was a quiet sort of guy. But he opened up to Shane a bit more--and Abby. Other than that, he didn’t seem to want to speak to anyone. But his cheeks were a little rosier, his eyes brighter. He was loosening up. Maybe he was just shy.

“It’s good. Trust me. Do you think there’s pineapple in the kitchen?”

“I guess I’ll go look for that,” said Nick with an exaggerated shrug. “Cut up?”

“Nah, just roll it really hard on the floor.” He continued clinking glass bottles together, mixing the pinkish concoction.

“I could do without the sarcasm.” Nick smiled, a good sport about it, until Shane stopped and looked up.

“No, really. I wasn’t being sarcastic. Just roll it on the floor a lot, bang it up a bit. Get it juicy, like you do with a lemon before cutting it.” At this, Nick stopped walking and fully showed his confusion.

“Are you...huh?”

“Trust me. You don’t even need to bring a knife.” He waved his hand dismissively, leaving Nick to fetch the pineapple from the kitchen with an even more puzzled expression.

“What?” Quin prompted. “Is that some sort of prank?”

Shane laughed, pleased with the attention. “It’s really cool. You’ll see. I’m almost done here, and your mind will be blown.” Though no one really believed him; Nick returned with the pineapple, holding it as if something was wrong with it.

“So just...roll it on the floor?”

“Yeah, bang it around, get it loose.” Nick rolled his eyes, but after a moment of hesitation, he glanced over to Elo, as if asking for her permission. She shrugged, and he put it on the floor to start rolling it with his hands. “Little harder than that. Like a lemon, but--”

“I never did this to a lemon. I just put it in the microwave.”

“Hm. I don’t know if this trick would work with a pineapple in a microwave.”

Devi leaned onto the bar counter, watching with disinterest. “Are you just trying to get it juicier? There might be pineapple juice, we could just use that.”

“Nope. It’s a garnish. Alright, Nick, that should be good. Ready for your mind to be blown?” Nick handed off the pineapple with a laugh, then returned to crossing his arms over his chest to watch with absolute skepticism. “Watch.” Shane grabbed one of the dried flowers of the hard exterior, and looked up to everyone with a wide smile. Then, without much effort, he plucked it out, with a perfect triangle of pineapple attached to the square, as if it had been cut along the seams.

The group let out various sounds of impressed surprise; Elo actually stepped forward to look a little more carefully.

“Wanna try, Ellie?” Shane asked, smirking. She took the pineapple from him, and, just as he had done, was able to pluck out a triangle of pineapple without much effort. Her jaw dropped.

“What the hell, this is so cool!” she said with a laugh. “Guys, do it.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Nick as he stepped forward to take it from her. “What is this witchcraft? Just from rolling it around?”

“Look at the fibers.” Shane gestured loosely, then returned to the counter to grab a couple glasses to hand them off. He must have been referring to how the pineapple’s fibers naturally followed the pattern they just exploited. “Alright, take a piece, and your drink. Take a drink, then a bite.” The group passed along the pineapple and accepted their various glasses from Shane, giddy from the experiment and previous glasses of wine and champagne.

After a minute, a rather ravaged pineapple sat on the bar, and everyone held a chunk and a glass.

“To a wild ride!” Shane toasted, raising his glass. The group laughed, then took part in their cocktail as instructed. Elo scrunched her face at the harsh liquors; she, personally, hated rum, but the sweetness from the grenadine balanced it out. And, when she bit into the pineapple, the flavor spread throughout her tongue, emphasizing the bite with its tartness. It made her mouth tingle in a pleasant way, spreading warmth throughout her face.

“Wow,” Elo sounded when she finished her first bite. “That’s incredible.” She’d never experienced quite a….

“That’s a mouth journey!” Quin announced, coughing into his arm. Well, that was a good way to say it.

“Thank you!” Shane beamed.

“Should we get ready for the hot tub?” Elo suggested, looking to the groups. She could dump this in one of the plants in her room while changing, if they left now. Not that it wasn’t good, but if it felt like she stood in front of a heater just from one sip, it was probably better to opt out of this one. The next one, maybe, she could dump in the plants outside. “Or--” She laughed. “Some of us get the hot tub, that is.”

“I’m absolutely climbing in after my cannon ball,” Brooke announced, rising from the bar stool.

“I don’t know if there’s space for all of us,” Trish said with a hint of skepticism. Elo decided to leave the group with a friendly giggle, tossing the rind of the pineapple chunk in the open trash on her way to the stairs.

She climbed the stairs, followed by the various laughs and jokes of the contestants. When she got to her room, she shut the door behind herself, and quickly dumped her drink in the ceramic pot of the frond in the corner by the door.

Elo took a moment to center herself, to breathe. She was really full; that food was absolutely delicious, and she did have two glasses of wine with dinner. She intended to only have one, but Shane refilled her glass as if it was habit. She almost felt bad, now. He was such a nice guy, obviously healing from some breakup, and now she was about to absolutely ruin his chances at doing well for the next challenge.

Well, everyone’s chances. Including her own. As Elo grabbed for her vintage two-piece swimsuit to change into it, she tried to think of what they would throw at them that would require her to make them tired…. The challenge was obviously early. She could get more points if she not only made people tired, but hungover.

Elo grabbed for the finishing spray for her makeup and misted a healthy, extra layer over her makeup. Everything was waterproof, and she didn’t intend on dunking her head under the water, but as everyone got rowdier, she had to be prepared. She pressed her fingers into her skin, pushing her makeup further into her pores to try and set everything in a little more, then grabbed her empty glass and headed out.

Topher, a cameraman from earlier, waited by the spare bedroom while everyone changed. Elo waved at him, and in an instant, he hoisted the camera onto his shoulder, ready to record.

She approached, glancing behind herself.

“Got my first assignment,” she whispered to the camera. “I’ve got to try and keep everyone awake as long as possible. Shouldn’t be too hard.” She gave a wink to the lens, then twisted around to grab a towel from the bathroom and head down to the backyard.

She wasn’t the first to finish getting changed. Nick already sat on the edge of the hot tub, clad in blue swim trunks, kicking his feet. He looked up at her as she approached, and for a brief moment, she couldn’t help but feel as if she stepped into work three years ago.

Every morning at Hackler, she’d walk into the lobby to swipe her badge and gain access to the elevators. Nick stood at the front desk, standing straight and in his security officer uniform. She’d take too much time to sign in; caught up with him and joked too often. Over the year she worked there, she got in trouble for being late sixteen times, even though she always arrived at the parking garage at the exact same time every morning.

When she finally learned her lesson from loitering with Nick in the lobby in the morning, she switched to hanging out with him after signing out, waiting for him to get off a half hour later, distracting him from his job, until they’d walk to the parking garage together. A couple times, when her girlfriend was busy, they joined each other for a casual dinner. It was a blurry, slippery line...but they were friends, she insisted.

Bernadette was understanding at first; Elo said she would stay at work late, but then after a while, they started to argue about it.

“I thought you got off work at five?” she challenged one day. “You haven’t been home in time since Christmas.”

“It just takes me a while to wrap up,” Elo said dismissively. But when Bernadette “surprised” Elo at work one day and found her just sitting in the lobby, chatting it up with Nick, things got a little heated, and didn’t exactly calm down after that.

It wasn’t too long after that fight, after Elo insisted that the day Bernadette visited was an outlier and that she really did work that late, that she got laid off from Hackler and got her current job opportunity an hour away from their apartment. Bernadette didn’t want to move, and after a week straight of arguing, they parted ways, bitter, agreeing only that they were not right for each other anymore.

Elo shivered from the breeze of the night air, abandoning her memories, and stared at Nick. He smirked at her, and gestured for her to sit beside him.

“I should have invited you to a pool after work all those times, not a pub,” he said, laughing. Her nerves shot through her goosebumps as she sat beside him, laughing all the while.

“Wouldn’t be worth the trouble,” she said instead, only slightly ignoring his comment. The stone beneath her thighs bit her, cold and unwelcoming, but the hot tub water bubbled and stung when she dipped her feet in. “Oh, that’s nice….” Nick kept his comments to himself as the other contestants started to come out of the sliding doors.

It was a little awkward at first. Trish was obviously a little tipsy as she giggled her way to the hot tub, modest in her navy one piece and sash. Well, modest compared to Abby’s micro-bikini. But if anyone should wear one of those, Abby had the right. And from the expression on most everyone’s face, no one minded the extra peek at her skin.

Shane had a striped tank top on with his light green swim trunks, and settled right next to Elo with a refill of his signature cocktail. Brooke was last, as expected, and everyone couldn’t help but stare at her when she opened the sliding doors.

“Okay, here I go!” she announced. She burst into a full run, screeching all the way, and ran directly into the pool. Her performance fueled at least an hour and a half of laughter and jokes, and plenty of arguments over who got to sit fully in the hot tub versus just got to dip their feet in. Somehow, Elo convinced everyone to join her in polishing off a couple more bottles of champagne, though she mostly shared hers with the palm tree by the pool bathroom and, guiltily, with the hot tub a couple times when no one was looking.

Elo was careful to watch the clock the times she went to the restroom, or back inside to grab more champagne or snacks. It was approaching midnight, and people were thoroughly drunk or at the very least, tipsy. The group spread out a little more, some opting to lay in the chairs and cuddle under their towels, some swimming, others on the edge of the pool, eating and drinking. The minute Elo started shivering when she sat on the lounge chair, Shane offered to get up and move one of the outdoor heaters closer. The girls accepted his offer, and eventually, the whole group made their way to the chairs and huddled around the outdoor heater or kept inside the hot tub.

Shane sat onto the same lounge chair Elo did, leaning, swaying, blushing. Well, it was easy to see that he was hitting on her. Maybe she could get him to talk about that key…. The attention, his attention, was nice. But if he just got out of a bad relationship and she found his key in a bed, she had a distinct feeling what it would be about, and that wasn’t exactly the type of person she was interested in getting involved with--at least, not for any serious reason. Besides, he could have also noticed that she just naturally got along with him; he could be using that to his advantage, try to knock her off her own game by flirting with her and getting her sympathy.

“Do you wannanotha glass?” Shane asked, gesturing to her champagne flute. Elo laughed too hard on purpose, and shook her head.

“Oh, I can’t. Definitely hit my limit. Don’t want to go past that.” And, based on the way Brooke fell over laughing at some joke Nick said right across from them, maybe everyone else was at their limit, too. She didn’t want them passing out…. Maybe she should find some carby snacks, maybe a game to make everyone play together.

“I hear ya there,” Shane muttered as he set his empty glass on the ground. “I should’a learn my lesson.” He sighed and stretched, seemingly sleepy. Before he could say anything, Elo decided to bring it up.

“This about that key?” she asked. She nudged his thigh playfully, hating herself as she did so. Shane covered his face with his hand.

“Yeeaah--yeah. Y’know how when you drink, uh...your hibi...inhi...habitants….”

“Inhibitions?”

“Yeah, those. Y’know those...go away.”

Elo only offered him an “Mhm.”

“Yeah, I really messed up.”

“Did you cheat?” she asked lowly. She nudged him again, hoping to keep the air light.

“Player,” muttered Quin from the hot tub. Wasn’t hard to notice how no matter where Shane was, Quin was nearby. He certainly imprinted.

“I wish,” Shane said. “No….”

“What happened? Girlfriend walk in on you?” Or with that sour tone, perhaps Quin was getting attached in other ways.

“Something like that….”

“What do you mean, something like that?”

“I mean, like...it was, like, worse.”

“How is it worse than getting caught by your girlfriend?” Quin scrunched his face. “What, did you sleep with her sister, or something?”

“Her brother.”

The group let out various sounds of surprise. Quin fully laughed, unashamed of his shock. This was the most animated Elo had seen him, to the point that he actually stood up from the hot tub.

“I didn’t know you liked guys!” he said, wide-eyed.

“I didn’t know I liked guys, either,” answered Shane, still holding his face.

Elo couldn’t help herself. She wasn’t as far gone as anyone else, but she had enough to be a little less careful. Plus, after getting up so early this morning, she could probably fall asleep sitting up right there. In a way not dissimilar to Shane, her walls were dropping, making her feel careless.

Without thinking, Elo blurted, “Happy to hear that, huh, Quin?” She raised her brows at him, and then watched him shrink, blushing furiously, back into the hot tub. “Oh my God, I was just guessing!” A very educated guess, but still.

“Shut up--”

“Yay, I’m not alone!” Devi announced, swaying as she leaned forward to shove Quin in the shoulder.

“I’m--”

“Oh my God,” Brooke realized, suddenly sitting up from the ground, now that she healed from Nick’s joke. “Your key was in a closet--are you still in the closet, Quin?” Oh, shit. Whoops. Elo grimaced, watching Quin carefully.

“Not to everyone. Not to anyone that would watch this show.” Maybe that’s why he didn’t explode like a super closeted guy might. “My parents hardly speak English, so at least I’m safe there.”

“I hear you,” Devi said, nodding too much. “If my mom knew I liked girls, BAM! I’d be out of the family.” Her drink spilled when she gestured, tainting the hot tub with more champagne.

Brooke gasped. “You’re not afraid of her seeing the show?”

Devi scoffed. “Nah. She doesn’t have time for this sort of thing. She doesn’t even know I’m here. She’s visiting my grandma in India for the summer, so I feel safe!”

“On a competition show?”

For a moment, the group all turned to each other, before immediately bursting into nervous, intoxicated laughter. Elo’s heart couldn’t slow down, though. She was lucky Shane and Quin were so cool about their secrets getting spilled like that. She had no idea if anyone else would be….

Trish knocked back her final gulp of champagne, then addressed the group as she set it down with a loud clink. “Anyone else feel like sharing their deep, dark key?” She giggled. “Secret key?”

“Nope,” Brooke answered for everyone else. They laughed again. “I don’t think some of our secrets are….”

“Legal?” Nick finished, shrugging. Brooke nodded, gesturing to him. “You, really?”

“I just said I’m not sharing!”

Elo decided not to push the issue, and instead let Nick shamelessly flirt with Brooke right in front of everyone. He nudged her with his foot, teasing, laughing.

“Someone like you, a bad girl, really?” he asked with a weighted tone. “What, is it forgetting to pay your parking ticket or something?” True to his style of flirting, he ignored Ehan’s guess that it could be murder, ignored everyone but Brooke. Elo tried not to think about it, but it made her stomach flop.

“I’m not sharing,” Brooke said with a huge smile. She went to swat at Nick on the thigh, the loud smack ringing through the night air. Elo opted to ignore them, turning away to watch the other contestants.

“I’m so tired,” said Abby through a wide yawn.

“Yeah, I think we should probably think about heading to bed,” Ehan agreed. He stood from the hot tub, illuminated by the colored lights and bubbles, and stretched his arms over his head. Trish was not subtle in her ogling, and shamelessly let out a quiet “oooh!” Wasn’t she the only other taken contestant on this show? That spelled disaster. Elo was careful to tuck that little note into the back of her mind for later.

Quin nodded in agreement, though he didn’t look as tired, probably due to the close call of being humiliated. He stood, too, from the hot tub and reached over to the little box off to the side that held the settings, and began to turn the dials to turn off the bubbles, lights, and heat.

“What time is it?” asked Elo. She looked to Ehan, who had his watch on still.

“Oh, God. It’s two thirty in the morning. I haven’t stayed up that late in years!” He let out a loud laugh, and a few of the contestants either agreed or scoffed.

“Aw, come on!” Elo said, laughing, “you want to stop the party?” Her bed sounded really nice. But that’s not what her task said she was allowed to do. Oh, but those pillows looked so fluffy….

“Maybe we should turn...into bed,” Abby slurred. “It’s been a long day for everyone. I dunno how far you guys had to go--hic--travel to get here or anything, but it was a long drive for me.”

“I flew,” said Ehan. Somehow that wasn’t surprising to anyone.

Trish yawned. “Okay, let’s turn in.” Oh, with everyone yawning, it was so hard to stop herself from doing it, too. And under the warmth of the outdoor heater, beside the steam of the hot tub. She could sleep right here.

“I don’t know,” Elo said, attempting to sound suspicious and energized, “with what Isaiah said earlier, I worry this is the last time we get to actually enjoy ourselves.” Quin ignored her, though, and climbed out of the hot tub with Abby and Ehan.

Devi rose, too, hesitant and careful. “It was a great party, but I’m drunk and tired.”

“It’s going to be hard enough to sleep in a new place,” Brooke said finally. She picked herself up off the floor, empty glass and chip bag in hand. “I never sleep well with booze.”

Elo laughed, leaning back. “You guys don’t want to play one more game?” She glanced over to Shane, hopeful, but he, too, held a yawn back in his hand.

“Maybe tomorrow. We probably have some more time to settle in before the competition.” Okay, she officially lost trying to keep them up on purpose. Well….

“Well, let’s clean up a little,” she said instead, grabbing her glass. “We left a mess and even though there’s a cleaning service….”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Trish muttered from her fluffy, white towel. “It’ll get all gross if it sits out all night.”

“And we should definitely shower before bed,” Elo suggested as everyone slowly reached to grab their glasses. “We smell so bad.” They didn’t. But maybe they’d feel insecure enough to believe her.

Shane rose next to her, scrunching his nose. “Oh, how many showers are there?” There were two. And hopefully that would keep people up a bit longer while she figured out what else she could do, other than chug a cup of coffee for herself.

Delaying everyone that way worked only for a half hour. Ehan and Shane nearly didn’t follow suit and tried to turn in before their showers, but eventually listened to Elo when she told them their hair would fall out and their skin would dry and crack from the chlorine. Thankfully, no one else heard her spew all that bullshit, so they took her word for it and fell in line.

It was maybe three thirty in the morning when Elo stood in the hallway, and every other door was shut tight. Everyone wore pajamas and tucked themselves into bed, comfortable, peaceful, snuggled into the down comforters and blankets. And Elo stood there, swaying from exhaustion, glancing to the security cameras in the corner of the hallway, before she descended downstairs to the kitchen.

Elo paused at the counter with a glass of water, and took a small swig from it as she stared into the camera wired into one of the cabinets. It blinked at her, indicating that it was recording. Below it, in the utility drawer, was a set of matches. She grabbed the little box, showed it to the camera, then took her water upstairs.

She made a quick pit-stop to the bathroom once she got there and popped a couple aspirin, well aware that the next few hours were going to absolutely suck, all because of her. Well. Maybe she would only have to do it once, if people got nervous enough.

Armed with three matches and a glass of water at her feet, Elo stared at the smoke detector directly above, and sighed. After an ugly shhht of the matches scraping against the rough phosphorus texture, she let the flames live for just a few moments, smoke rising to the blinking red light, before she blew them out and let the smoke billow. She held the matches directly under the detector, grimacing, recoiling, waiting.

Even though she expected it, the high-pitched beep made her jump. The lights flashed, the beep went once before setting off all the other alarms, screeching that fire was near. Elo worked quickly: dropped the matches into the glass of water, then dashed into her room to hide the glass and box under her bed and to pretend like she just woke up.

Now to do this every hour for the entire night.

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