Chapter 58: Evil Friends - Portugal. The Man
Instead of wearing our team t-shirts like all the other team, Ryan has forced us to wear oxford shirts, ties, sweater-vests, and khaki pants. The girls are on our team wore a similar ensemble, replacing pants with skirts.
“We look stupid.” Finn was seated in the living room with his arms crossed.
“Isn’t it against the rules to wear this? I thought we had to wear our shirts.” I loosened my tie.
“It’s not against the rules. I read them illicitly and found many loopholes. One of which is: team names must be displayed on each team member at all times during competitions. What is embroidered on our sweater-vests?”
“Our team name.” I grumbled.
“I think you all look very nice.” Mrs. Davidson praised.
“Can I know why you have forced them to wear that?” Adam was able to dress in normal clothes as a non-participant.
“Nope. “Ryan propped his feet up on the coffee table.
We left our cabin as soon as everyone was dressed. Our outfits were immediately met with excess attention.
“When are you going to tell us why we’re dressed as flight attendants? Everyone’s staring at us.” Finn scowled at each person that did so.
“Wait for it, -”
“YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!” Elle shouted over-dramatically, marching over to us with the rest of the members of her team.
“Go change!” She demanded sternly.
“What’s wrong with what we’re wearing?” Ryan asked her innocently.
“Everything. You all look stupid.” Sami commented from beside Elle with her arms crossed.
“I told you.” Finn agreed.
“An explanation, please.” I looked between Elle and Ry.
“He knows I hate not the best dressed person in a room. Now I’m mentally trying to figure out if I have clothes in my bag that can get me on your level.” She went through the answer rapidly. “Change!” She stamped her foot and glared at him.
As our teammates quarreled, Iz remained silent as she stood at Morgan’s side. She kept her eyes locked on mine and a small smile formed on her face. I felt my face contorting into a similar expression as my heart started to hammer in my chest.
“We just agreed that I couldn’t have a loaded team or cheat. I’m doing neither. I’m completely above board with this move. You’re just upset you didn’t think of it first.”
“On second thought, it’s fine. I’ll get you back soon enough.” She said with a curt smile before leaving with her team in tow.
I was walking with the rest of my team when I heard, “Pssst.”
I looked around in confusion of which direction it came from when an acorn came flying at me.
“Ouch!” I rubbed the back of my head, turning to the direction from which it was thrown.
“I’m sorry! Are you hurt?” Iz quickly emerged from the tree she was hiding behind.
“It’s about a 2. Why are you throwing things at me?”
“To get your attention. Sneaking around is more fun if we do it this way.” She smiled.
“Speak for yourself, I just obtained a head injury.” I rubbed the back of my head.
“I just wanted to say that Sami may think your outfit looks stupid, but I don’t. Would you like me to roll up your sleeves for you?” She knew I had trouble doing it myself.
“Uh - yeah, thanks.” I said softly. I was still taken aback each time she insisted on taking care of me.
“Are you okay? You’re acting funny.” She kept her eyes on her task.
“Yeah, I’m fine - better than fine, actually - I’m great.” I disregarded my thoughts.
“I wish you the best of luck during the scavenger hunt.” She extended her hand to me as soon as she was done with my sleeves.
“I wish you the same.” I shook her hand.
“I have to head back to my team. This is for you.” She slipped me a note before she turned to walk away.
“What is this?” I called after her.
“Read it.” She smiled and blew me a kiss.
I unfolded the piece of white notebook paper and it instantly brought a smile to my face.
I feel like I’m letting my team down. I’m REALLY bad at hating you. They’ve even asked me to stay quiet during the trash talk match before each activity. They had me practice. I failed miserably. I’m a traitor and it’s all your fault, Super Prince Charming Man. What do you have to say for yourself? Have you checked on Fitz? I hope he doesn’t miss us too much. Our empire’s doing fine. We’ve made it big enough to hire runners. We’ll be okay after this as long as you don’t get hurt. Seriously, PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
I love you.
I refolded my note and placed it into my pocket. I jogged to catch up with my team.
“Where have you been?” Ryan asked immediately.
“Bathroom.” I lied swiftly.
“Finn, smell him. Does he smell like Iz?” Ryan requested. Sure enough, Finn started sniffing me.
“I’m picking up a slight hint of her. She might’ve just helped him pack though.” Finn reported.
“She better have, Miles. We are at war!”
“Right.” Our dedication levels differed greatly.
“Get excited.” He pushed me and resumed stretching.
Our teams were neck and neck as we ran across the campgrounds in pursuit of the hidden items. I spotted the last flag needed to complete the course attached to a tree. I looked to my left and was surprised to find Iz running with me.
I begrudgingly followed Ryan’s course of action if Iz and I were in direct competition. I launched myself onto the ground. As expected, she immediately rushed to my side, scared that I had seriously hurt myself.
“Are you okay?” She crouched down in front of me.
“Yep, I’m great.” I looked over her shoulder and I saw that Finn had the flag.
When Iz saw him sprinting in the direction of the finish line, she yelled, “507!!”
Seemingly out of nowhere, Sami popped out of the trees, tackled him to the ground and stole the flag from his hand.
Knowing that people would try to steal it away from her in the manner she had just done with Finn, she stuffed it into the front of her shirt and continued her journey to the finish line.
“You have codes?” I rose to my feet and began to run in that direction.
“Elle’s Thorough. You’re taking fake falls?” She was once again at my side.
“Ryan asked me to put them to use for once.”
“Hm, well, I guess that means I’ll listen to Elle now. You poor thing.”
“What does that mean?” I glanced in her direction.
“My mercy has been revoked.”
“How could we let them win?!” Ryan cried in exasperation as soon as we returned to our cabin.
“We didn’t LET them do anything. They tackled that win out of us.” Finn iced his back.
“Elle beat you at your own game, Ry.” Grace chimed in with a small smile.
“She made you her bitch.” Tabitha announced, which caused us to bust out laughing.
“They are super prepared. They have codes for different things. Iz just yelled ‘507’ to Sami and she popped out of nowhere and buried Finn into the ground.” I told them.
“Well, we’ve just got to make the triathlon count.” He crossed his arms as he stood before the room. “Finn, you good?”
“I’m not biking later if that is what you are asking me.”
“Nick, you’re up.” Ry nodded to him.
“I’m still the alt for the girls, right?” Grace held up her hand.
“Correct. You dance. Dancers are the recommended alts for this, but I need Miles too much to let him sit out.”
“Who do you think the girls have swimming? I –“
“I can’t see Elle allowing Iz to be an alternative for the same reason you’re keeping me in use for all games; we’re athletes. Biking is second nature to Sami. Elle jogs every morning.”
“Great. I’ll take Iz down with ease.” Tabby didn’t pick up on my subtle panic, but the guys did.
“Elle would never have her do something she’s not sure she can handle. If she is the swimmer, I’m sure Elle’s had her practicing for months.” Nick reassured.
I started jiggling my leg and wringing my hands in my lap.
“Shit—“ Ryan sighed and shook his head. “She’s the swimmer. This is the whole point. Elle’s rendered my greatest weapon useless.”
“I’m just going to state the obvious and say you need to lay off of her, Milo. She’ll do what she does and that’s that. Not your job to hold her hand.” Cece examined her nails.
“Hey,” Adam touched his hand to my arm. “She doesn’t know.”
I took a deep breath to calm down.
“I’m smart, Adam. I’ll be able to understand whatever it is you’re whispering about.”
“He protects her because he loves her. That’s not something he can ‘lay off’. Asking him to is a bit insensitive.” He argued on my behalf.
A full-fledged round of bickering ensued and didn’t stop until our teacher told us it was time to get ready for our next event. I did all I could to calm down and focus. I rolled my muscles and tried to loosen up as I made my way to the lake. Iz was already there when I arrived. She was stretching with Morgan.
“You can’t swim.” I went to her instead of my designated area.
“Yes, I can. You taught me.” She continued to stretch.
“The depth is uneven. You shouldn’t be risking your life for a game!”
“You don’t think I can do this?” She finally stopped stretching.
“I’m not willing to risk it. You shouldn’t either. I don’t know why you are being so reckless.”
“You clearly aren’t. God, Iz, do you understand this at all? You’re what matters to me!”
Her face fell. “Milo, I--”
“Let’s go. It’s about to start.” Tabby pulled me a way.
I kept my eyes on Iz, frustrated and pissed off. She got her final stretches in and stripped off her outwear to reveal her swimsuit. Goggles down and ready to jump in, my eyes were still on her. I needed to make sure she at least got a strong start and if she didn’t, I would be able to save her. At the sound of the whistle, Morgan was the one that dove into the water. Izzie remained on the dock in her swimsuit. Flabbergasted, my start was stalled more than I anticipated. I was able to recover enough to get first place, but it wasn’t the giant lead that Ryan had planned. It was visible on his face when I slapped his hand, enabling him to run.
I jumped back into the water and returned to shore. I was there far earlier than all of the other contestants. Iz approached me with a towel.
“I can’t believe you did that.”
“Elle originally asked me to build up my swimming skills and compete, but I refused to push you that far.” She situated it across my shoulders. “You could’ve had a heart attack.”
“I almost did. You –“
“I didn’t dive in for the same reason you didn’t want me to. Relax.” She looked both ways and leaned up to kiss me after ensuring the coast was clear.
“Never again.” I looked down at her with a small smile.
“You faked a fall this morning. I’m fighting now.” She rubbed my towel-clad shoulders as an attempt to warm me up. “Are you cold? I know you get cold easily. I have more towels.”
“I don’t get cold easily.”
“Your body is not used to this climate and you act like it doesn’t bother you to pick with me.”
“I can accept that explanation. The question is why did you pack towels for me? You said you were revoking your mercy.”
“I love you too much.” She took my hand and pulled me along with her back to me.
“You’re still pure evil.”
“Nope. You love me. And you love my eyes and my freckles and my hair and you’re currently expressing your love for my ass by staring at it.”
I immediately removed my eyes from her backside. “Am not.”
“You are and I’m wearing this because of it. Elle’s using me to distract you. I’m sure I’ll be getting a full makeover if your team wins this game.”
“I doubt you should be telling me this.”
She fetched more towels from her bag.
“It’s not going to change the result. You kind of have a thing for me.” She looked up at me with a wicked smirk.
I’m in for a long week.