Nala is staring off into space, thinking about the fight she just had with Sean when the sound of the automatic pitching machine launching another baseball at her brings her back to her senses. She swings her metal bat as hard as she can, smashing the ball back into the chain net behind the machine and making a loud jingling sound. She has been taking out her frustration on helpless baseballs for the past half hour, after finding a sporting goods store with a batting cage near the food court.
As she prepares to swing again, the sound of someone else's ball hitting their chain net startles her. Apparently she is not the only person practicing her swing at seven o'clock at night. She listens closely to the rattling of the chains, trying to discern the power of their swing. It is apparent that they are using a heavier bat. They are probably male.
Instinctively, Nala's competitive side kicks in. She turns up the speed on the pitching machine and sends the next ball crashing into the chain net with twice the noise. Her opponent is immediately aware of her intentions and also increases the speed of their machine. The sound that follows their next ball hitting the net is enough to make Nala cringe.
"Alright, what's your problem?" She pounds on the wall separating their respective cages.
"You're the one who wanted to compete," a masculine voice responds.
"You think you're better than me just because you're a guy?" she accuses him. "I'll show you." She swaps her bat for a heavier one and promptly hits her next ball hard enough to break the chain net and dent the wall behind it.
"Ooh, now you've done it," her opponent laughs at her. "You're gonna have to pay for that."
"As if." She drops her batting gear and slips out of the cage.
"Where are you going?" the boy pokes his head out of the next cage. "Oh, it's you, Nala."
"Trevor?" she is shocked to see her former track teammate. "What are you doing here?"
"Blowing of steam," he answers with a shrug. "What about you?"
"Same." She rolls her eyes.
"Had another fight with your tall boyfriend?" he snickers.
He expects her to snap at him but instead she just sighs. "Am I that easy to read?"
"I can always tell what's going on with you, Nala," he tries to act smooth. She stifles a laugh, which is more than he expected. "Come with me and we'll talk about it," he offers.
"Thanks. I'd like that." She follows him out of the sporting goods store.
"First time at a mall?" he asks when he notices her sparkling eyes as they pass by each unique store.
"You really do know me well," she laughs again.
"Is it so strange I thought we'd make a good match?" he asks tactfully.
"I never said you were wrong," she informs him. "I just didn't see you that way."
"What about now?" he pries. "You've had a month to wrap your head around the idea."
"To be honest, I've been thinking about it more than I thought I would," she admits. "Someone recently asked me why I'm even with Sean. I could only tell them that I was desperate for a boyfriend. It didn't have to be him."
"It shouldn't have been him," Trevor mutters to himself.
"She said that too," Nala seems to agree. "I don't know why I've been focusing on Sean so much recently. He doesn't even seem to like me at all."
"So leave him," Trevor urges. "You've been sticking with him because you're desperate for companionship, right? Why don't you use me instead? I don't mind being a tool to curb your loneliness."
"I couldn't do that." She shakes her head. "I'd feel terrible."
"Don't. I'd be thrilled just for the opportunity. Why is it that you can use Sean but not me?"
"But it's not the same with Sean." She averts her eyes. She doesn't entirely understand it herself. "When I think about Sean I get all hot and confused." She blushes.
"He turns you on," Trevor simplifies her statement with an annoyed look.
"Basically." She nods. "I think it's because of what we've already done together."
"Then you should try doing things with someone else," Trevor interjects. "If you start feeling the same way about me after we've done it, then that means you never really liked Sean to begin with; it was all hormones."
"After we've done it?" she repeats while hiding her face with her hands.
"What, isn't that what you did with Sean?" he is confused.
"Not even close," she squeals. "We haven't even gone past kissing."
"Oh, thank goodness," Trevor sighs with relief. "So I'll be your first then."
"You'll what?" she is caught off guard.
"Come on, it's for the sake of figuring out your feelings." He drags her out of the mall by the hand.
"Wait, where are we going?" She glances around stupidly.
"I've been working part time at a bakery downtown so I could save some money for this very purpose," Trevor gives a strange response.
"Purpose?" she repeats nervously.
"We'll get a hotel room and spend the night together," he explains.
"What?" She jerks her hand away from his. "That's moving way too fast."
"Weren't you just saying how turned on you felt?" he reminds her. "It'll be fun, and you'll finally know if you even like Sean or not."
"I don't think this is the normal way people go about this sort of thing," she disagrees. "Won't Sean be mad?"
"It's for his good too, so he can't complain. The sooner you figure out your own feelings the sooner you two can be happy together or he can move on. Either way he'll be thankful," Trevor is simply spouting random arguments now.
Nala seems too naïve to realize it though. "If you're sure this will help me and Sean…" she finally agrees.
"Trust me, I'm positive." He grabs her hand again to lead her out of the mall parking lot. She follows him obediently.
As they walk along the street, Trevor and Nala reminisce about their time together in track, which is now over for the winter. Apparently the freshmen were unable to place very high at any of their meets. Trevor seems convinced Nala would have won something for them if she had not quit.
"Here we are." Trevor stops walking when they arrive at a mediocre looking hotel with a giant sign outside.
"This is a bed and breakfast," Nala realizes.
"I said we'd spend the whole night together, didn't I?" he reminds her happily. "This way we can have some fun in the morning too." Nala is slightly bothered by his eagerness. She is not exactly sure she should even be here. "Come on." Trevor drags her inside by the hand. He has already made up his mind.
Nala waits silently, balancing on the balls of her feet, as Trevor pays for a room at the receptionist desk. The woman gives the two obvious high schoolers a disapproving look but says nothing. She has probably seen more than a fair share of teenagers in and out of this hotel for the very same reason they are here. Trevor is bouncing excitedly as he drags Nala down the hall to their room. "You don't know how long I've waited for this."
"Since summer, if I recall," she responds in a low voice while looking up from her feet for the first time in a while. He does not seem bothered by her lack of interest in the slightest, which only serves to reinforce her opinion of him; he doesn't care about her at all, only his own desires. Of course she is not used to speaking her mind when people become overbearing. She retreats into her shell and lets them lead her wherever they want. She will wake up properly when this is all over.
"Isn't this room nice?" Trevor twirls around as he enters so he can see every corner. "I wonder how many times we'll come back here." Nala wants to tell him that he is getting ahead of himself but she chokes on her words. He is starting to remind her of Mr. Thalmus; not in the creepy greasy way but the way he is not even asking for her opinion or permission. "Come on, you get undressed first." Trevor takes her hat from her.
"Hey, I just bought that." She grabs it back.
"It's cute." He finally starts to look at her clothes. "Is that a whole new outfit? It matches you perfectly."
"Asia helped me pick it out." She fidgets with her hands behind her back. It feels nice to be complimented.
"Asia? Is that the tramp you hang out with?"
Nala's smile vanishes quickly. "She's not…"
"She what?" Trevor can barely hear her.
"She's not a tramp," she whispers.
"Speak up, Hon." He cups his ear.
"She's not a tramp!" she shouts at him.
"Hey, keep it down," he hushes her. "We don't want anyone to hear us, do we?"
Nala's face turns red as she recalls what it was like to walk in on Corbin and Celli. In her imagination it is her brother walking in on her and Sean though. Suddenly she jerks her head as she realizes what she was thinking about. It was not Trevor she was fantasizing about having sex with. Why is she here with him when she could be with Sean right now? "I, I think I should go." She reaches for the door.
"Hold on, we haven't even started yet." Trevor pushes her toward the bed while lifting her shawl off over her head.
"Wait," she protests as he unzips her jacket.
"No stopping now," he refuses to listen. "You're hair's grown since you quit the track team. I really like it." He touches the side of her head. It feels cold from the sweat of batting practice followed by walking outside. Instinctively she moves away. "Don't worry, I'll take the lead," he assumes she is simply shy. Before she can protest he has covered her mouth with his. It is a sloppy kiss compared to the much more experienced Sean. Once again she finds her thoughts drifting to her supposed to be boyfriend.
As she continues to fantasize about Sean, she starts to relax, letting Trevor unbutton her shirt and lift her skirt. "Wow, I half expected to see you wearing spandex like usual," he is impressed by her red lingerie.
"Ash-Asia's idea," she sputters quickly. It should not matter but she doesn't want him to think she walks around ready to have sex with random boys.
"I can pretty much assume that girl's responsible for most of the changes you've made recently."
"Not really," she mutters before he starts to kiss her again. This time his tongue enters her mouth. Unlike with Mr. Thalmus she is not disgusted and therefore accepts it. His hands are traveling over her back, underneath her shirt. He undoes the clasp to her bra as soon as he finds it. She squeals into his mouth while moving to cover her exposed chest. She has not shown it to anyone outside of her family before, except for Asia.
"You're really cute when you're shy," he laughs. "I'm sure it's nothing to be ashamed of." He pinches part of her flesh to show her that despite how small her bust is, it still exists.
She is quickly reminded of Asia's earlier complaint about their difference in size. Suddenly the image of Madison and Asia rolling around under the sheets of a bed flashes through her mind. She is doing the exact same thing as her friend right now. It feels unreal. She gasps as Trevor pushes his hand against her crotch. "No fair. Why am I the only one who is naked?" she complains.
He nods in agreement while moving to undo the front of his shirt. She watches intently, trying to muster any feelings she may have for Trevor. Instead she finds herself wondering what Sean's chest looks like. This is not having the intended effect at all. She is missing Sean more and more by the minute. The longer she is here the more she is sure she really does like Sean. No matter her original intentions, she can't simply be with any random boy anymore.
"Ready?" Trevor asks as he drops his pants to the floor.
"Actually I don't think I can do this after all." Nala closes her shirt.
"What? You're joking right? We're just about to start."
"Stop staring at me." She re-dons her jacket and zips it without even bothering to button her shirt underneath. "You're having too much fun. This was supposed to help me figure out if I really like Sean at all."
"And we will find out. Why can't we have fun while we're at it?" he tries to convince her.
"I've already found out what I needed to know. I don't want to have sex with you, Trevor."
"So that's it then; you're just going to run home to your boyfriend and hope he takes you back after this?" Trevor's voice deepens. His sleek dark hair has grown longer since she last saw him. It is enough to cast a dark shadow over his eyes, making him look slightly menacing.
Nala leaps off the bed when he reaches out to her. "Don't come near me," she warns him.
"What is wrong? We were just about to do it; why are you scared of me now?"
She clenches her eyes shut as she tries to ignore the images in her mind. He is reminding her of Mr. Thalmus more and more. "I said leave me alone." She circles around him to reach the door, grabbing her bag as she goes. Luckily she is still wearing her boots and her skirt. The only thing missing is her bra, which is lying on the bed.
"It's not fair." Trevor takes a shaky step towards her. "Things were finally going well. Why are you such a tease?"
"I never promised you anything," she finds enough courage to respond.
"I've been waiting and waiting for this, Nala. I can't just let you go like this." He moves closer.
"Please, just let me leave," she begs. It is a strange request considering the fact that she is the one closer to the door. It is her natural habit to submit authority to others though. She feels like she needs his permission to leave.
"What if I say no?" He glares at her.
"Please," she repeats while reaching into her bag.
He is surprised to see her pull out a black stun gun. "What the hell is that?" he asks as she grips it tightly.
"My brother bought it for me just in case I need to use it against Mr. Thalmus." She touches the trigger, sending out a few sparks between the metal prongs on the end.
"Mr. Thalmus? What does he have to do with anything?" Trevor is completely lost. "Keep that thing away from me." He backs up. "What is your problem? Are you crazy?"
"Just leave me alone, Trevor," she is still acting like he is in control.
"Fine, whatever, just go already. I'm not stopping you." He shoos her away. She sighs with relieve as she finally opens the door. "God, I didn't think she was nuts," he curses loud enough for her to hear as she slams the door. It seems he will not be attempting to flirt with her again any time soon.
As Nala tiptoes down the hall, her mind begins to fill with thoughts of Sean again. This whole experience has not been completely pointless. She is now sure of her feelings for him. Of course, she also feels incredibly guilty about what she almost did. She starts to cry as she realizes how stupid she has just been.
After being left alone at the mall, Sean walks around by himself, shopping for a present to give Nala to cheer her up. He still seems to think she is simply in a bad mood and assumes it will blow over eventually. She does not answer his next three attempts to contact her by phone though.
In the end, he decides to go home by himself, rather than trying to contact Madison and potentially interrupting something important. It has been over a year since the last time his best friend had a steady girlfriend. Despite how shallow and weird Asia seems to be, Sean is still happy for Madison.
After arriving home, Sean spends the next few hours playing video games in front of the television while his sister watches from the couch. It is a common routine of theirs. She is not very good at playing and prefers to observe other people instead.
Finally, after his sister goes to bed for the night, Sean starts on his homework, which he prefers to do on the coffee table in the living room rather than in his own bedroom. It is past ten and no one in his family is still awake to be disturbed by him. He has the entire downstairs area to himself, exactly the way he likes it.
He is almost surprised when the sound of someone knocking at the front door interrupts what little progress he has made on his homework after almost an hour. The pounding continues the entire time he is walking to the door to answer it. "Quiet down, will you?" he hisses as he yanks the door open. "You'll wake the whole house…" his voice trails off when he sees Nala standing before him with a tear stricken face.
"Sha-Sean, can I come in?" she makes a strange gulping sound, as if trying to keep from breaking down and crying on his doorstep.
"Um, of course." He moves to allow her into his house. "Where have you been? You didn't answer any of my calls."
"Oh, you called?" she seems surprised. She reaches into her bag to retrieve her phone quickly. As she pulls it out, she accidentally drops her stun gun, which clatters on the wooden floor loudly.
Sean grabs it before she can. "Why do you have this?" he asks sternly.
"For… for protection," she is still struggling to speak clearly.
"Anyone I don't like," she answers honestly.
"Oh, thank god. I thought someone attacked you again," he sighs with relief.
She quickly shakes her head. "Oh, you did call." She flips open her phone. "I didn't realize."
"Where were you?" he asks again while sweeping her hair out of her eyes. He can tell she has been sweating.
"I went to, to the sports store behind the food court. They have, have a batting cage," she explains as clearly as she can.
"Why are you crying?" he is still concerned.
"I, I did something bad," she actually starts to choke on her tears.
"What? What did you do? It can't be that serious."
"I went to a hotel with Trevor," she sputters.
Sean blinks at her stupidly. He can not comprehend what he just heard. It is beyond his imagination that she would ever do anything of the sort. "I'm sorry, sweetie, I didn't catch that," he laughs nervously.
"I went… with Trevor… to a hotel. We were planning to spend the night…" she stops mid-sentence as he grabs her by the shoulders. "Sean?" she is suddenly scared.
"What are you talking about, Nala. You're making this up, right?" he refuses to believe her.
"I wish I was." She averts her eyes. "I'm really sorry, Sean. I didn't mean to…"
"You didn't mean to?" he cuts her off. "What kind of excuse is that? At least come up with something better. Lie to me. Tell me nothing happened or it'll never happen again."
"But nothing did happen," she tries to explain. "Well, not much."
"Much? Define much," he raises his voice.
"We kissed and he touched one of my breasts, that's all."
"Doesn't sound like nothing to me." Sean's face is turning red with anger.
"I'm sorry," she whines. "I promise, I'll never do it again."
"Why did you do it at all?" he is confused. "Am I a bad boyfriend? Did I drive you to this?"
"No, that's not it at all." She hugs him.
He shoves her away immediately though. "Then explain," he demands. "Give me a reason why the shy and reserved Nala Peters I know would accompany anyone to a hotel."
"I wanted to know what it was like," she spouts.
"Huh? You wanted to try sex? You could have come to me for that," he is furious.
"That's not what I meant… and what do you mean I could have come to you? You won't even touch me," she is distracted by his statement. "You're repulsed by me, aren't you?"
"What? No I'm not. What makes you say that?" his reaction is suspicious.
"You think I did it with Mr. Thalmus and now you don't want me anymore," she starts to cry again.
"No, wait, Nala." This time he is the one to hug her. "That's not true at all. I'm afraid, Nala. I'm scared that you'll run away from me if I hurt you like he did."
"I won't, I promise," she tries to assure him. "I'll never leave you. It's no good if it's not you. That's why I went to the hotel with Trevor. I wanted to see if I really did like you."
"That doesn't make any sense," Sean is confused.
"To hell with Mina," Sean cuts her off.
"Mina said I was just desperate for a boyfriend; that it didn't have to be you," she finishes her sentence regardless. "I wanted to see if it was true."
"You wanted to see if you could feel the same way with Trevor," Sean realizes what she is saying. She nods vigorously. "And you found out you can't?" he asks hopefully.
"Yes." She nods again. "It's only you, Sean. It can't be anyone else."
"I don't know whether to be happy or mad," he sighs. "I should have expected this kind of logic from a girl who's never dated before. I mean, what kind of girl says she doesn't mind if her boyfriend has three other women on the side?" he reminds her of what she said when they reconciled the first time.
"I'm sorry," she mutters quietly.
"What?" He turns his head so his ear is next to her mouth.
"I shouldn't have said that. I take it back," she answers.
"You what?" he still doesn't understand.
"I don't want you to look at other girls; I want you all to myself," her face turns red as she says something embarrassing. Sean can think of nothing to say in response and instead squeezes her tightly.
He has almost completely forgotten his rage from a moment ago. He never expected his dense and pathetic girlfriend to ever start thinking this way. He always assumed they would only be a couple in name while he looked after her as Corbin requested. It seems she has finally started to take their relationship seriously. How can he be mad at her after hearing her say that she wants him all to herself? She is too adorable to be mad at right now.
"What?" she asks in a moping voice when she notices him smiling.
"You, silly." He ruffles her hair. "I can't believe you were thinking about all this on your own. You could have talked to me. I would have made everything clear."
"I tried. You blew me off every time," she reminds him. Sean tilts his head as he tries to understand what she means. He is not used being the person at fault when things happen. Even if he is, he refuses to take responsibility. It is just the way he is. People like Madison let him get away with it so he never learns from his mistakes.
"Are you listening to me?" she is annoyed by the innocent look on his face.
"I suppose it's possible you mentioned feeling neglected," he admits begrudgingly. "How was I supposed to know you'd go out and do something like this?"
"How else am I supposed to get your attention?"
"There are lots of ways you could have done it," he argues.
"Why do you think I bought these clothes?" She tugs on her shawl. "I'm a plain girl, that's what everyone says. The only time you notice me is when I cause a scene like the day we met."
"That's…" Sean tries to disagree but he can't as he knows she is right. He is the one who said she was too amusing to leave alone when he saw her with Mr. Thalmus. It is probably true that he would look at her the same way he looks at Mina if not for that one encounter. "I'm sorry," he finally lets go of some of his pride. "You're right; I shouldn't have made you feel the need to do something like this."
"Wait, you're apologizing?" she is shocked.
"You don't have to make such a big deal about it," he is annoyed by her reaction. She seems to think he is a narcissist.
"I'm just amazed." She wipes the tears from her eyes. "I'm the one who did something wrong and yet you're the one apologizing. Does this mean you're not mad at me?"
"I'm not going to dump you if that's what you mean," he assures her. "I'm going to be mad for quite some time though."
"But…" she is confused by his conflicting statements.
"I wouldn't be mad if I didn't care about you." He hugs her again. "The fact that I'm mad is a good thing. You say you did this to test your feelings; well, my feelings are pretty clear now too. You are grounded, young lady. You are forbidden from talking to any boys other than me and Maddie. If you break that rule I may have to spank you."
"Now you sound just like my brother," she can't help but laugh.
"Please, please, call him Corbin. Just once; I'm begging you."
"Not gonna happen," she refuses.
"Wait, you're brother spanks you?" Sean is drawn back to her previous statement.
"Not since I was twelve." She tilts her head as she tries to recall. "I think I stole a pair of underwear from one of his girlfriends. She had to leave without them on a particularly windy day."
"Are you a devil?" Sean is actually impressed with how spiteful this little sister can be. "What did you do with them?"
"With the underwear," he hisses at her.
"I don't know. It was almost four years ago." She shrugs. "Why do you want to know?"
"I was just curious as to what a twelve year old would even do with adult panties," he admits.
"I don't know but I know what a fifteen year old would do." She lifts her skirt, flashing her red lingerie.
"No, no, no, not a chance." He yanks her hands back down.
"Oh come on. I'm really turned on right now," she whines. "Please, I feel like I'm on fire."
He presses a hand to her forehead to check her temperature, which is significantly higher than his. "You walked all the way here from the mall, didn't you?" he realizes.
"I walked from the mall to the hotel and then here," she corrects him.
"Was your hair wet?" He tugs on her dark stringy locks.
"I did some batting practice first so I was a little sweaty," she informs him.
"I think you're catching a fever," he surmises.
"No way. Not now," she whines.
"Anyway, you need to take a shower and change."
"Are you coming with me?" She tries to drag him toward the downstairs bathroom by his collar.
"No." He slaps her hand away. "What is wrong with you?"
"I just told you." She pushes her face close to his. It is incredibly red by now. Her eyelids are half closed like she is in a daze.
"I think your fever has made you drunk." He pushes her away again.
"So?" she doesn't care.
"You're not in your right state of mind. It would be inappropriate to do anything right now."
"Coward," she resorts to insulting him the same way she would with her brother.
"Fine, call me a coward. I promise not to neglect you anymore but you really are sick," he chooses not to fight.
"I'm not contagious yet. We could still have some fun. I really need it, Sean. You don't know how hard it was to hold back with Trevor. I ran all the way here just thinking about you and your…"
"That's enough!" he finally raises his voice. "I know I said we were good but I need some time. If we do anything right now I'm just going to start thinking about Trevor and get angry."
"You can be angry with me." She kisses him. "You can be as rough as you want."
"You know that's not what I meant," he sighs. "I can't look at you normally right now. I'm still a little depressed about this. Please, just go take a shower by yourself."
Her expression changes as the seriousness of his words finally sinks in. "I don't have any clothes," she mutters.
"What?" he is too preoccupied to understand what she means.
"I don't have any clothes here. I've never spent the night before. Can I borrow something of yours?"
"As cute as that would be, I can't let you stay here. In fact, put your hat back on, we're going out."
"But I'm sick," she pretends to cough. "You can't kick me out in the snow."
"Snow? What snow?" He opens the door to reveal a blanket of white coating everything from his lawn to the street. "It's snowing." His jaw drops.
"It was just starting when I arrived," she informs him. "To have collected this much in less than an hour, it must be really coming down. We shouldn't go out in it."
"I'm sorry, I really am, but my sister is upstairs sleeping. My mom is next door with the neighbors. She's going to be home any minute. You can't stay here. I'm taking you home."
"No." She grabs his arm so he can't put his coat on. "I can't go home like this. I'm too messed up. My brother will know something happened."
"He'll know something happened if you don't come home at all," Sean counters.
"No. Sometimes I stay at Asia's house."
"Then let's go there." He finally manages to don his denim coat.
"No, we can't bother Asia. She and Maddie are…"
"Damn it," Sean curses as he remembers what was happening the last time he saw his best friend. "I'm sure they are home by now," he tries to convince himself.
"And if they aren't?" Nala frowns at him.
"Then they should get home soon before they are snowed in." He pulls out his phone. He sends a quick message to Madison asking his location.
A moment later he receives a response saying that Madison is watching TV at Asia's house since her parents are not home. Sean warns him that he and Nala will be stopping by before shutting his front door and starting the long walk to Asia's house on the newly whitened sidewalk. Nala grabs the back of his coat and lets him guide her as she stares at her feet. She is starting to become dizzy.
"Hello," Madison answers the door to Asia's condominium in nothing but his boxer shorts.
Nala bursts into laughter but Sean is less impressed. "It's snowing outside. Put a shirt on," he orders while covering his girlfriend's eyes.
"So what brings you here?" Madison asks casually as he retreats into the living room to retrieve his discarded clothes.
"We were wondering how things went between you two," Nala answers first.
"Wrong, Nala needs a place to stay the night," Sean corrects her.
"Well those are both equally troubling statements aren't they," Madison pretends to be perplexed. "The fact that I am here in my underwear should answer your first question. As for your request, you'll have to talk to the lady in charge when she gets out of the shower."
"Why is she in the shower?" Nala asks. "Didn't you tell her we were coming?"
"Exactly. She didn't want you to see her that way," he explains.
"What way?" Nala is curious.
"Let's not go into detail on that," Sean interrupts.
"He's right. A man should never kiss and tell," Madison agrees.
"You were bouncing to tell us that you kissed yesterday," Nala whines. "I'm just curious."
"Poor innocent Nala." Asia clicks her tongue as she enters the room, wearing an open bathrobe. Her hair is dark with water from her shower but the waves from her braids are still noticeable. "What brings you here?" She sits down on the couch next to Madison before pulling Nala into her lap. "Whoa, you're burning up. Are you sure you should be out in this weather?"
"It's because she went out in this weather," Sean informs her. "She's got a fever but she refuses to go home. Can she spend the night here? She'll need a shower and a change of clothes."
"Well…" Asia stares at Madison longingly.
"We were hoping for round two later tonight," he says what she won't. She swats him on his leg to convey annoyance but does not deny it.
"I take it things are going well for you two." Nala smiles up at her friend while remaining with her head in her lap.
"I always close the deal," Madison responds pompously.
"Will you shut up?" Asia hits him harder, to which Sean winces sympathetically.
"What about you?" Madison turns his attention to his friend. "Did you and little miss track runner get it on?"
"She got it on," Sean grumbles.
"Don't tell them that." Nala sits up quickly, barely avoiding bumping Asia's chin.
"What's all this? Did you cheat on him?" Asia is immediately interested.
"I wouldn't call it that." She fiddles with her fingers guiltily.
"Everything but," Sean admits it outright.
"Sean!" Nala hisses at him.
"Ooh, don't try to scold him, honey." Asia shakes her head at her. "If you did something, you have to own up to it. Who's the lucky guy?"
"Her stalker from track," Sean answers.
"Ouch." Asia winces. "I feel bad for you."
"What, why?" Sean does not want her sympathy.
"You're pretty hot," she is honest. "Losing to a guy like that is pathetic, especially when your girlfriend is a lump like her."
"Hey, what is that supposed to mean?" Nala frowns.
"Easy, babe." Asia pushes her back down into her lap. "Rest your eyes. The grownups are talking here." Nala is not happy to be referred to as a child but she doesn't argue.
"So you think he's hot?" Madison smirks at Asia.
"What's it to you?" she does not even try to deny what she said.
"You think it's impossible for girls to downgrade from hot guys to losers like Trent."
"His name is Trevor," Nala moans from her helpless position on her back.
"Are you worried I might leave you for a loser?" Asia asks smugly.
"I was wondering if I was the loser you left someone for," he admits.
"Luckily I don't have to answer that. You're hot enough as it is. I can claim I left a loser to be with you." She kisses his cheek.
"Nice flattery." Sean gives her an exaggerated thumbs-up.
"It is nice," Madison agrees. "You've successfully appeased my concerns," he tries to sound intelligent. "Am I able to assume we are a thing now?"
"You can assume all you want. I'm not going to say yes or no," Asia remains stubborn.
"Why not?" Madison's voice becomes slightly serious for once. "I'll say this now; I don't normally go for the long term relationships. I went with you because you're cute and I'll stick with you if you want because you know Peters and I'd rather not make her hate me, but you've got to give me an answer or I'll think this was a one time thing."
"Mad-Maddie-Madison," Asia stutters.
"You still can't even say my name," he complains.
"Don't yell at her." Nala sits up again. "Do you know how hard it is for her to use people's names? You should be glad she's even trying."
"Huh?" Madison is taken aback. "Wait, you can't say people's names? I didn't realize. Come to think of it Paula was pretty annoyed by that the other day. What's the deal?"
"I don't know." Asia turns away.
"She can't trust people," Nala answers for her. "She doesn't want to get hurt again."
"Ah, this has something to do with her phone number and the bathroom stall," Madison realizes. "When we first talked properly you apologized for acting friendly with me. I forgot about it until now. You really don't trust anyone, do you?"
"I trust Nala." She grabs her friend's head tightly. Nala lies back down once more so Asia will let go.
"I see," Madison's annoyance has faded. "Thank you for using my name. I realize how hard it must be. I'll rephrase my previous statement for you. I don't normally date girls long term but I want to make an exception because you are friends with Peters. Can I assume that we are exclusive for the time being?" Asia nods shyly. Verbally answering is still beyond her at this point.
"Well, that's that then." Sean slaps his knees as he stands up. "Come along, Maddie."
"What, where?" he is confused.
"We're leaving. These two need to get ready to sleep."
"No, no, no, no. This little cutie and I have a date with her mattress. She promised to show me how far her legs can bend." For this statement he receives another punch to the thigh. By now he seems almost immune to her random attacks. Perhaps she is not actually putting much power behind them. Either that or he knows he deserves it.
"I don't care how far Kon's legs can bend; she needs to take care of Nala."
"Fine, I'll sleep on the couch." Madison crosses his arms.
"Um, don't we get a say in this?" Asia raises her hand.
"You can't stay here," Sean complains, ignoring Asia entirely.
"Why not? I already told my folks I was staying at your place. I can't come home now."
"Then come stay at my place." Sean drags him to his feet.
"Man, it's snowing outside. I don't want to walk in that."
"I'm gonna walk in it," Sean reminds him.
"That's your choice." Madison turns his nose up.
"I will not have you staying here while my girlfriend is in the next room," Sean is adamant.
"I'm not gonna do anything to her. Are you afraid we'll get into a threesome or something?"
"After the whole thing with Trevor, I wouldn't put it past either of you," Sean admits.
"I'm not interested in your girlfriend, dude… not that there's anything wrong with Peters, I just… I…" Madison is regretting saying anything now.
"Sweetie, just go." Asia kisses his cheek again before shooing him off the couch.
"Sweetie?" he is pleasantly surprised. "How can I argue with that," he sighs happily. Like Sean he has just been shown an adorable side of his, sort of, girlfriend. "I really was looking forward to seeing how far your legs can bend though," he pretends to sulk.
She rolls her eyes before raising her right leg up above her head, forming an almost straight line from the floor toward the ceiling. "There, happy now?" Luckily her bathrobe is long enough to hide anything important.
"Boy the things I could do with that," he mutters to himself.
"That's it!" Sean has had enough of watching them flirt. He drags Madison out of the condo by the sleeve of his jacket, which he has only just donned. "I'll see you soon, Nala." He waves to his girlfriend.
"Bye, Sean… I love you," she decides to try something new. His eyes widen as he turns around to respond but Madison slams the door between them. Sean starts to shake visibly as he clenches his fists.
"What?" Madison pretends to be clueless. Sean doesn't answer as he stalks off into the snow, which has accumulated quite a bit in the short time since he arrived. It is now at least an inch high. "What's the matter?" Madison calls after him, despite knowing the answer full well. "Did I interrupt your lovey-dovey time with your girlfriend? Boy; that must suck. You would never do that to me, would you?" he is having fun taunting him.
Back inside the condo, Asia has started to undress Nala. "You really are sick, aren't you?"
"I'm sorry for dropping by like this. I know you wanted to show off your gymnastic prowess to Maddie."
"Can we put that aside for now?" Asia is blushing as red as Nala's fever flushed face.
"You and Celia were on the gymnastic team together in junior high, right?" Nala seems not to have heard her as she continues the conversation anyway.
"That tramp can bend her legs behind her head," Asia mutters to herself. Nala blinks at her with an intrigued expression. "What's with you?"
"I'm horny," she answers honestly.
"Oh great." Asia removes her hands from her friend's body.
"I wanted to stay at Sean's place tonight," Nala quickly elaborates, putting Asia's mind at ease. "He refused though."
"Yeah, I can assume as much." Asia nods.
"He won't touch me. He really does think I'm plain, doesn't he?"
"I've said it a dozen times before; when he looks at you, he can't see anything but the girl of his dreams right now. Looks have nothing to do with how he feels right now. The only reason he's holding back is because of that stupid teacher."
"His name is Mr. Thalmus…"
"I know what his goddamn name is," Asia snaps. As much as she dislikes names, Mr. Thalmus's is on the top of the list. She has spent the past month keeping a close eye on Nala during geography class to make sure she does not have any flashbacks. "Your boyfriend is very sensitive. He can't touch you without worrying. He doesn't want you to hate him the way you hate… that guy," she still can't say Mr. Thalmus's name.
Nala nods to show that she understands before heading toward the bathroom. Asia quickly follows after her, discarding her bathrobe on the floor. "What are you doing? Nala is confused.
"We can shower together," Asia explains.
"But didn't you just shower?"
"That was a quick run down to get Madison's um… stuff out of my hair." She is blushing again.
Nala is also red; mostly from her fever though. She seems extremely interested every time Asia talks about sex. She was not lying when she said she was libidinous. "What is it like?" she asks in a dreamy voice. "I can't stop thinking about Sean that way. I want him to make a move already. I've been waiting ever since we first went to the karaoke parlor with Seamus and Rain."
"You really are eager," Asia can't help but smile. "Be patient, sweetie. Right now, you need to get better. I'll help you wash so just relax."
"Okay," Nala yawns sleepily. After dizzily walking in the snow to reach Asia's condo, she was able to maintain herself rather well by keeping still. Now that she is moving again her vision is starting to blur. She feels like she might pass out any second.
Asia takes good care of her though, leading her to the bathroom, making sure she doesn't trip or stumble. Even though Nala has never been this sick before, Asia is already used to caring for her like this. It is part of their relationship. Nala is the type of person who needs someone to look out for her almost constantly. It does not bother Asia in the slightest though. Nala is her precious first real friend. She will do anything for her.