"Nala, where are you?" Asia shouts into her yellow phone as she waits at the convenience store a block away from her mother's modeling studio. "You're going to be late."
"You can just go in without me," Nala answers.
"No way, it's embarrassing."
"You've been there lots of times before," Nala reminds her.
"But that was for my mother. It'll be weird to visit Madison while he's working."
"Everyone there already knows about you two. Your mom introduced him as your boyfriend when he first started working."
"I know, but it's still embarrassing. Can't you come in with me? Then we'll both be in the same boat."
"I haven't even left the apartment yet," Nala admits.
"Get your brother to drive you," Asia suggests.
"Oh, I didn't think about that. I've been relying on him less and less these days. We're like strangers in the same house."
"I'll be waiting for you." Asia hangs up the phone before sighing loudly. It is not as important as she is making it out to be but she would still rather go to the studio with Nala. Today is December twenty-fourth, Christmas Eve. An all night party is being held at her mother's modeling studio for all of the employees who are not predisposed, including Sean and Madison, who have been working there for over a month now. Obviously they have invited their respective girlfriends to join them.
It is not long before Corbin's silver two-door appears in front of the convenience store to drop Nala off. Asia runs out from under the cover of the over hanging roof to greet her friend. "Have fun, you two." Corbin waves as he speeds off, leaving his sister standing in the snow.
"You know, he could have come to," Asia suggests.
"He's busy with Celli," Nala informs her.
"He could have brought her too," Asia offers.
"They have a huge date planned," Nala explains. "Today his Celli's eighteenth birthday and they want to spend it alone together."
"Are you serious?" Asia gasps. "She's an adult now?"
"Apparently," Nala does not seem too interested in the subject. She has never really cared for any of her brother's girlfriends. Celli's recent obsessive behavior has not won her any points either.
"Never mind about them," Asia can tell when to back off. "Let's go. Madison and… and Sean are waiting," she does her best to use his name. Nala pats her shoulder to praise and mock her simultaneously. For this she receives a kick to the side of the leg, as per Asia's normal violent habit. It is not hard enough to bother her though.
The walk through the snow filled streets to the studio is a quick one. The two girls arrive just as the work day is ending. They burst through the tinted glass doors while taking deep breaths of warm air. The lobby is unoccupied except for the receptionist, a young woman named Sasha with bleached hair and acrylic fingernails. "Ah, Miss Kon," she greets Asia. "Ms. Hammer is in the ladies' dressing room."
"Thank you, Sasha. Will you be staying for the party?" Asia makes small talk.
"I'll be here for the start but my boyfriend is taking me out to dinner later," Sasha responds with a smile. "You should consider making your model of a boyfriend treat you to something." Asia and Nala laugh as they recall the last time they planned for something like that. Instead they had scattered to different restaurants at the mall food court and been forced to pay for their own meals, which they barely touched.
Sasha uses a key to open a private door behind her receptionist desk for the two girls, which leads to the ladies' dressing room behind the photo stage. Ms. Hammer has just finished donning her intended party outfit, a silver dress with sparkling sequins along with black stockings and four inch heels. "Oh, girls, over here." She ushers them inside. "I'm so glad you're finally here. Have you decided what to wear?"
"Aren't we just wearing our normal clothes?" Nala asks with a confused expression.
"Don't be silly. You're in the middle of a fashion model studio. Naturally you'll be taking full advantage of our selection."
"Naturally." Asia rolls her eyes. She does not like this overbearing part of her mother's attitude. It makes it extremely hard to refuse her. Ms. Hammer leads her over to a large rack of clothing to select her outfit first. Asia takes her time leafing through before deciding on a black barmaid style dress with red fringes. Nala watches in awe as her friend transforms from a winter doll into a short skirted gothic waitress.
"Ooh, I think Maddie will love it." He mother claps excitedly. Nala is not sure Ms. Hammer should be supporting the idea of dressing to impress boys but she does not argue.
"Okay, now it's your turn." Asia drags her friend over to the clothes rack.
"Is this all you have?" Nala is concerned about the scanty appearance of most of the options.
"All you'll be choosing from." Ms. Hammer winks at her. Asia performs her usual task of picking clothing for Nala. She chooses a thick red felt dress with white cotton fringes, designed to look sort of like Santa Clause's coat. Nala's face is one of sheer embarrassment as Asia forces her into the skimpy outfit.
"Aww, you look so much cuter," Ms. Hammer compliments her, "So much less plain," as much as she is able to. Asia flinches as she refrains from hitting her mother on instinct. Ms. Hammer is the one person she restrains herself around. "Let's go get the boys, shall we," Ms. Hammer sings excitedly.
Asia and Nala follow her out of the dressing room through a different door. This one leads to the photo stage where Sean and Madison are just finishing up their word. There are a mere six people on and around the stage. The director is sitting in a lounge chair below the stage with a fedora covering his face so no one can tell he has fallen asleep.
His personal assistant is sitting on a backless stool next to him. Her eyes are focused on the two boys posing on the stage as she barks orders at the photographer. She is wearing a purple sleeveless sweater and a black knee length skirt, with thick rimmed glasses and her hair done up in a tight bun.
Nala points out to Asia that she is holding at the least four pens; one is tethered to a clipboard in her hands by a beaded chain while another protrudes from her mouth as she has been chewing on the end. One more is sticking out of her hair bun. She is holding the final one properly; posed to write anything necessary on her clipboard. The two girls share a laugh at the high strung woman's appearance.
The photographer's face is hidden behind his camera as he snaps shot after shot of Madison and Sean trying not to appear bored as they are forced to pose according to the assistant director's instructions. The photographer's assistant, a boy at least a year younger than Corbin, is holding a large white board in order to direct light at the two models. He has a mass of longish light tangles for hair that almost covers his eyes completely.
"Is this it?" Asia is disappointed.
"Not many people are free on Christmas Eve," her mother informs her.
"Couldn't we have gone somewhere more lively then?" Asia continues to whine.
Madison falls out of his pose as he notices his girlfriend below the stage. His jaw drops when he realizes what she is wearing. "Hey, get back in position," Ms. Dawson, the assistant director, shouts at him. He snaps his arms to his sides stiffly while trying to remember what he is supposed to be doing. Sean rolls his eyes before leaving his pose to help his friend. "Amateurs; the both of them," Ms. Dawson groans.
"I didn't say they were professionals, I said they looked like professionals," Ms. Hammer defends her decision to higher them.
"I'm not complaining," Ms. Dawson responds calmly. "It's hard enough to come by students capable of working professionally. The skinny one may seem childish but he knows how to listen. The other one looks extremely mature for his age. I like his strong jaw line."
"I know you're photographing them side by side, but are they going to appear together in the magazine?" Ms. Hammer asks.
"That's up to the editor. We had a company debut printed for them where they stood side by side but that's because their bios mention the fact that they are friends."
"Bios, do you give out their personal information?" Asia is suspicious.
"Height, weight, hobbies, taste in music, that sort of thing," Ms. Dawson explains. "We don't give out last names or where they live. It's just to get people interested in them. It may surprise you to learn that a good portion of magazines are purchased because of a familiar face on the cover or within, rather than for desired fashion advice."
"I'd buy a magazine with Madison's face on the front," Asia mutters to herself. Nala is close enough to hear her and laughs, causing her to blush.
"Well, we're pretty much done for the day." Ms. Dawson signals the photographer to stop by clapping. He snaps a final shot of Sean and Madison shaking hands before removing his camera from its tripod and zipping it inside a protective carrying case.
"Good work." Asia claps as Madison and Sean descend the stage. Nala puts two fingers in her mouth and whistles, causing Sean to glance away shyly.
"What's with the getup?" Madison's eyes dance over both girls' outfits.
"Aren't they cute?" Ms. Hammer is beaming proudly.
"Why is your mother so weird?" he whispers to Asia.
"Just go with it," she sighs.
"Well… what do you think?" Nala does a quick curtsy for Sean.
"I don't know." His face is turning red.
"He wants to know what's underneath," Madison laughs.
"I'll show you what's under this," Asia offers while grabbing his hand.
"Ahem," Ms. Dawson clears her throat loudly. "We are about to start the festivities."
"Who, what?" The director sits up in his chair, letting his fedora fall to the floor, showing his face for the first time since Nala and Asia arrived. He is in his thirties with thin light hair and a pencil mustache. His eyes are red from lack of sleep and he looks like he is about to pass out again. "What happened?" He looks to his assistant for an explanation.
"The shoot's over," she informs him. "We have everything we need for the Christmas issue."
"What about the…"
"Got it," she does not even let him ask.
"That too," she is confident their job is complete.
"Then we need to get to the party downtown." He checks his watch.
"Oh, I completely forgot." Ms. Dawson opens her smart phone to check her schedule.
"Downtown? What's downtown?" Ms. Hammer is confused.
"Duane was invited to a party by one of our publishing houses," Ms. Dawson explains. "We need to get going soon or we won't have time to change."
"But aren't you going to stay for a bit and enjoy our end of year party?" Ms. Hammer is dejected. "At least take some of the cake."
"We'll be eating at the publishing house." Ms. Dawson bows apologetically.
"I see." Ms. Hammer sinks into the director's chair. Asia's friends all look at her, silently asking if they should say anything. She simply shakes her head before leading Madison out of the stage room by the hand.
Back in the lobby, Sasha already has the party festivities prepared. In the center of the room is a large table with multiple snack foods and a large bowl of punch. There is a rectangular cake with the name of the studio written in pipe frosting. Above the table, the ceiling is decorated with different colored streamers. The light bulbs in the lamps around the room have been dimmed to change the appearance and mood.
"Hey, Duane, Carla," Sasha greets the director and his assistant as they bustle past.
"Hey, sweetie." Duane kisses Sasha on the cheek while scooping up a piece of cake with his bare hand. Ms. Dawson shakes her head disappointedly as he stuffs the entire piece into his mouth.
"Ew, gross." Sasha cringes.
"Say hi to Daryl for me." Duane waves a frosting covered hand at her as Ms. Dawson drags him out of the building by his neck tie, which is far too loose.
"Daryl?" Ms. Hammer repeats the name as she appears behind the high schoolers in the lobby.
"My boyfriend. I'm meeting him in a little bit," Sasha explains while checking the clock on the wall.
"Not you too," Ms. Hammer groans. "Is everyone going to bail on me today?"
"I'm sorry." Sasha pretends to pout for a moment.
"What's the big deal?" Madison asks Asia. "Shouldn't your mom have plans today to?"
"She broke up with her most recent boyfriend last week," Asia whispers. "She wouldn't normally be here either."
"I suddenly feel less sympathetic," Sean admits.
"Well, see you next year, Mr. Tenaha." The photographer's assistant is the next to leave.
"Wait a second." Ms. Hammer grabs his arm as he walks past her. "What can a college intern like you possibly have to do on Christmas Eve?"
"My fraternity is having this huge kegger. I can't afford to miss it. Say, you guys would kill at this party. Want to come with?" He turns his attention to Sean and Madison.
"Who us?" they are both stunned. "Um, we're in high school."
"Yeah, I know that but half the people there are underage freshmen and such. With you two as my wingmen I'll be sure to get lucky."
"You want us to help you pick up chicks?" Sean raises an eyebrow.
"I'm sure you guys have never known what it's like to be single but I'm hurting here. Can't you just help me get laid tonight?"
"Absolutely not," Ms. Hammer interrupts them. "If you leave there'll be no one left."
"There is no one left," Mr. Tenaha informs her. "If Jake isn't staying then I'm just going to go home and feed my dogs."
"But, but…" Ms. Hammer seems to be in shock.
"Yeah, it's time to meet Daryl." Sasha hands a half empty cup of punch to Ms. Hammer before following Mr. Tenaha out of the studio. "I hope you won't mind cleaning up by yourself," she calls back to Ms. Hammer.
"This is bad. At this rate we'll be left here alone with your mom," Madison whispers.
"My offer still stands," Jake informs them.
"We can bring our girlfriends with us, right?" Sean asks.
"That'll be better for me actually," he agrees, "less competition for the ladies."
"What? Really? You're really going to leave me here by myself?" Ms. Hammer whines.
"See you at home, Mom." Asia waves without even turning to face her. Nala, Sean and Madison all follow her and Jake out of the studio, grabbing their coats from beside the door as they go, leaving the distraught woman all by herself.
"Fine then," she shouts at them. "Who needs kids for a party anyway?" Madison tries to stifle his laughter but ends up getting kicked by Asia anyway. Jake laughs as he quickly assesses their relationship. Sean and Nala link hands. It is starting to get dark outside and it is snowing slightly, but there is no wind, making for a warmer night.
"So, how old did you say you were?" Chrissy, the fifth girl to hit on Sean since his arrival at Jake's frat party, is also the fifth girl to be surprised to learn he is still in high school. "You know what, it doesn't matter. I've been with guys younger than me before."
"Of course it doesn't matter," Sean laughs as he walks away.
"Hey wait, where are you going?" she is not happy.
"So… having fun?" Nala is glaring at him when he returns to the corner she has been secluding herself in.
"It's a party, you're supposed to mingle," Sean is slightly annoyed with her attitude.
"All you're doing is mingling with girls." She blows on a strand of hair that is bothering her vision.
Sean sweeps it behind her ear for her, leaving his hand on her cheek afterward. "You know, you're really cute when you're jealous." He is smiling. Nala continues to glare for a moment before changing her expression to a simple frown. "Great, what did I do wrong now?" Sean sighs.
"It's nothing." She moves his hand from her cheek and laces their fingers. "I was just wondering how you can be so calm all the time."
"Calm? Me? You must be mistaken. Ask Madison. He's the calmer more rational one between us."
"But you hardly reacted when you heard I went to a hotel with Trevor."
"Excuse me, I was ready to find him and kick his ass!" Sean is reminded of his anger.
"I kinda wish you had," she mumbles.
"Did he bother you that much? I thought you two just kissed. What did he do?"
"See, there it is." She smiles slightly. "That's what I was hoping for. Why am I the only one who's ever jealous? Why don't you show this side of yourself more often?"
"Oh," Sean seems to finally understand. "It's not that I'm not worried about you, Nala. It's just…"
"You don't want to appear like you care," she cuts him off.
"That's not it exactly." He rubs the back of his neck.
"Rain said you don't trust girls anymore. Does that include me?"
"It's not a matter of trust; it's a matter of mental preparation." He averts his eyes.
"So you expected me to cheat on you with Trevor," she surmises.
"I'm just saying I couldn't afford to be surprised. I prepared myself for all possibilities."
"Because Nina cheated on you," Nala pries.
"It's nothing so simple." He is shying further and further away from her.
She holds his hand tightly though. "Please tell me," she begs. "I need to know. No, I want to know. I want to know everything about you, Sean. Please let me in."
"Gah, why do you have to be like this? I can't say no to you when you make that face." He pokes her outturned lip. "Fine, I'll tell you, but not here. Let's see if they'll let us use one of the bedrooms. Look for Jake."
Nala spots the cameraman's assistant first. He is in the center of the room with an arm around two different girls. They are asking him questions about Sean, only to have him repeatedly direct their attention back to himself with exaggerated claims of his prestige and Sean's hidden faults. Sean's face is red with anger when he approaches the mouthy frat boy. "Oh hey, Sean," he stutters nervously when he sees him. "How long were you listening?"
"That's him," the two girls squeal excitedly. "Say, do you have a girlfriend? What am I saying; of course you do. Are you two serious? Want to cheat on her? She won't mind, will she? She should know what comes with dating someone like you."
"And what is someone like me?" Sean glares at her.
Nala taps the startled girl on the shoulder from behind. "He doesn't like it when people act like they know him," she whispers in the girl's ear.
"Who are you?" she steps forward while spinning around.
"I'm the girlfriend you were talking about. And yes; we are serious, just so you know."
"What's with that getup?" the other girl notices her red Santa dress. "Are you some kind of tramp?"
"That's just for me." Sean drapes an arm around Nala's shoulder. "Say, Jake, mind pointing us toward a room we could use?"
All three of the college students stare at him in utter shock. Jake's jaw flaps wordlessly as he points to the stairs. "My, my room is at the end of the hall," he finally answers.
"Thanks, buddy," Sean puts sarcasm on the second word, making sure Jake knows they are not friends. Nala covers her face with her hands to hide her embarrassment as her boyfriend leads her up the stairs. The three college students continue to stare with open mouths as they disappear from sight.
"That was so embarrassing," Nala groans as she leans against the door to Jake's bedroom as if to hold it closed.
"What does it matter? They would have thought the same thing even if I didn't say anything," Sean pretends to be indifferent.
"So…" Nala asks slowly.
"So?" Sean repeats.
"So are we really going to do it?" she tries to curb her excitement. Sean quickly presses his hand to her forehead to check if she is sick again. "Hey." She slaps it away. "Am I not allowed to be turned on if I don't have a fever?" she is upset.
"Sorry, I just don't know how to handle you when you're like this." Sean sits down on Jake's bed. "How can you go from being all shy and embarrassed to being hot blooded and excited so quickly?"
"Easy. You turn me on." Nala leaps at him, knocking him onto his back and shoving her tongue into his mouth.
"Nala, wait, seriously think about this." He lifts her by her shoulders. "There's no going back after this."
"Are you saying you want to go back?" she is confused.
"At first, it was the plan, wasn't it?" he reminds her. "We were supposed to make a clean break."
"But you're the one who changed your mind, remember?"
"That was because I really wanted a girlfriend and we'd already started doing things like this."
"So let's continue." She tries to kiss him again.
He continues to hold her on his lap as he sits up, keeping his face out of reach. "But after the whole thing with Mr. Thalmus, I've changed my mind," he informs her. "I'm content to just stay beside you and look after you."
"Well I'm not. Do you think I'm still just searching for a boyfriend? This has nothing to do with how cool or handsome you are. I don't care what a prince combo is. I want to be with you because I like you. You helped me out of a bind with Mr. Thalmus, you walked me home from school, you complimented my hair, you kissed me, you call me cute all the time; are those not reasons to like someone?"
"You really think we're going to stay together throughout high school, don't you?" Sean seems surprised.
"I don't care if we don't. At this moment, I like you. I'm not going to regret it later if I fall for someone else. What is with your overprotective attitude? You don't want to do anything serious just in case it doesn't work out later? Why are you already planning for our breakup when we still like each other? Haven't you even considered the fact that we might stay together even after high school?"
"That's the part that scares me the most!" Sean raises his voice. "What if by doing this we trap ourselves in a relationship that doesn't work? What if we feel so guilty after this that we stay together regardless of our true feelings?"
"These are my true feelings!" she shouts. "If one day you decide you don't like me anymore then I will try to be as understanding as possible and let you go. In turn I ask that you do the same. Isn't that the way normal couples work? Why do you have to act like we're something special?"
"Because you are special!" Sean is shouting now as well. "You're not some one night stand. You're so fragile and pathetic I can't help but be cautious. I can't stand the thought of losing you."
"Then you better take your pants off or you're gonna lose me! You don't have to treat me like I'm made of glass. I'm well aware of how pathetic I am. I know how much I rely on other people just to give myself purpose. I told you before; someone is going to end up owning me one day. Didn't you say you'd rather it be you? You're not protecting me from yourself by holding back; you're driving me towards someone else."
"And what if they're a better option for you?" Sean is running out of excuses.
"I don't think you care about that. The moment you met Trevor you decided you were better for me than him. You can't help but be selfish, can you? The only reason you even care about me right now is because we are dating. I guarantee if we really do break up you're going to hate me for it. You're not going to lose any sleep over the fact that you took my virginity rather than leaving it for the next guy. Be a little selfish, Sean. Take what you want from me."
Sean has nothing more to argue with. He gives in entirely, grabbing Nala and rolling over so she is beneath him. He presses their lips together while lifting up the skirt of her Santa dress. Not surprisingly she is already wearing the red lingerie she bought at the mall.
It is more than enough to get his blood pumping. Without even asking for permission he rips open the front of her dress, sending all three large black buttons flying. He runs his tongue down her neck and over her chest. She flinches when it probes her belly button but he does not stop.
Despite everything he has been saying he has been holding back quite a bit. He could not be gentle even if she begged him and she knows it. She grips the covers of the bed tight enough to turn her knuckles white as she prepares herself, clenching her eyes and opening her legs. She has been waiting over two months for this. Nothing will change her mind now.
"Where did Nala and her boyfriend get off to?" Asia asks in a slurred voice as she finishes off her third drink.
"Don't you think you should slow down?" Madison is concerned. "You're no longer calling Sean by name anymore."
"Who needs that no good thief's name." She waves her empty cup at him drunkenly. Her small stature allows the alcohol to pollute her blood much faster.
"Thief?" Madison does not understand her.
"He's going to take Nala away from me. My first real friend and she's with him." She is now on the verge of crying.
"Seriously?" Madison groans. "You're the kind of drunk who starts doubting everything, aren't you? You're with me, right? Isn't that the same thing as Peters and Sean?"
"Isn't it weird to refer to one of them by their first name and the other by their last name?" Asia asks while blinking the water out of her eyes.
"Peters and I aren't really friends." Madison shrugs.
"Well, you need to be nicer to her if you want to stay with me," Asia tries to threaten him.
"I don't think you're in any position to make demands," he refuses to obey. "You're the one who is lucky to have me."
"Do you want to get laid tonight or not?" she changes her threat.
"Now that's a different question," he admits. "I could ask one of these other girls but I think they're all enamored with Sean. Where did he get off to anyway?"
"Are you jealous of Sean?" Asia is slightly more perceptive than usual.
"Of course not, we're best friends," he brushes her off.
"How did you two become best friends anyway? I get that the handsome and popular kids hang out together but you don't eat lunch with Kurtis or Ross," she refers to Dean and Seamus by their last names.
"They are group friends, not close friends," Madison explains. "I couldn't hold a conversation with either of them one on one."
"Exactly. What makes you so compatible with Baker though?"
"Getting closer to using his name I guess," Madison sighs while rolling his eyes.
"Did you two go to junior high together or something?" Asia gives a guess.
"Nothing so cliché." Madison shakes his head. "Sean and I were among ten freshmen allowed to sit with the second years at lunch and talk. We were part of the in crowd because of our looks."
"Obviously." Asia squeezes his arm affectionately.
"We were all grateful so we played along but not all of us were easy to talk to. Looks didn't mean we were friendly. Eventually we all faded from the scene except for Sean. He was a people pleaser and a chameleon. He got along well, even with the seniors, especially after he started dating Nina."
"Wait, where were you in all of this?" Asia is confused.
"As I said, I couldn't get along with the pompous second years. Sean and I didn't really talk back then so I left him to his own devices. He had a great time being popular but it fell apart over the summer."
"What happened?" Asia's eyes are sparkling with interest.
"That's not for me to tell you. I only recently found out myself."
"I'll do that thing you like tonight if you tell me," Asia tries to bribe him.
"Who are you kidding? Once we get started you'll let me do whatever I want to you," he is again un-tempted.
"I'll hit you afterward though," she assures him.
"I don't care if you push me down a flight of stairs. It's a good bargain."
"You really have no shame." She pretends to pout, only about not getting to hear what happened to Sean though. "So how did you two become friends then?"
"Well, like I said, he lost his in with the second years, now seniors, and was left by himself. He had plenty of freshmen girls trying to talk to him, but he'd lost his trust in them. Now that I know what happened I can see why."
"Argh, just tell me already," Asia growls at him.
"Not happening." He kisses her, only to get his lip bitten in exchange. He is used to his violent girlfriend though. He plans to take out all of his endured pain on her tonight in bed… with interest. For some reason she becomes much more reserved when they are having sex, letting him take the lead. He takes full advantage of it, making her do things that would make any girl blush.
"So?" She taps her foot impatiently as she waits for him to continue his story.
"Well, he needed a friend that wasn't trying to hit on him so he started talking to the fellow freshmen groupies from the year before. He got to know them well enough and made friends with Dean and Seamus through the grapevine but he never really gained their full trust again. Some of them were still spiteful of his popularity, myself included. It wasn't until I heard he had been forced to work in the nurse's office all summer that I actually even gave him a chance."
"Why was that important?" Asia asks. "Do you have a nurse fetish?"
"First of all, if you're offering, you should dress up as a roller derby chick; that's what gets me off. It would go with your brutish personality too." Obviously he receives a punch to the ribs in response. She seems to consider the idea though. "All my predisposed images of Sean dissolved when I heard he'd actually been punished for doing something wrong," Madison groans while rubbing his chest. "I realized he was a normal guy, maybe even a rule breaker to boot."
"So you like breaking the rules," Asia surmises.
"I like anything that's unique; case in point." He touches her chin, making her giggle happily. "Yeah, Sean became more interesting once I thought of him as an actual person. I was only looking at him as an object before, just like all of the freshmen girls. In a way, Peters is lucky. I don't know what her taste in men is and if she would've been one of Sean's fan girls if she'd met him before, but her first meeting with him was as a hero rescuing her from a greasy teacher. He wasn't an object to her, not for one second."
"I can't say I'm innocent of those types of thoughts," Asia admits while fidgeting with her fingers. "I went for the ace of the baseball team because of looks and popularity. Even when I met you my first impression was of how handsome you are."
"Well you're lucky I'm not like Sean. I take flattery much better than he does. I think it might be part of my inferiority complex with him."
"You have nothing to feel inferior about," Asia scolds him while placing her hands on her hips. "You're as handsome as they come. You make up half of the prince combo."
"I hate to break it to you but anyone above average standing next to Sean could have filled that role. Besides, everyone always says I look boyish and pretty, not handsome. That's why I didn't want to do the modeling job at first. I knew exactly what they were going to say."
"What about now?" Asia asks. "Why did you change your mind?"
"Because I get to hang out with Sean and it's a job." He shrugs. "I also get to show off to my girlfriend."
"Well, just so you know, I think you look handsome rather than pretty." She tips forward slightly. It is difficult on her to keep balance.
"Thank you for that," he doesn't seem to believe her.
"I've been saying it with a straight face all night," she reminds him. "I think I really am drunk."
"So you become honest when you're drunk?" Madison surmises. "Have you ever had this much before?"
"Once," she admits. "Davis and I were having trouble in gymnastics because we weren't flexible enough. We heard you could loosen up with alcohol so we stole some from my mom."
"And…? Did it work?" Madison is more interested than he should be.
"It's all a blur after that. I think we got kicked out of practice that day and ended up wandering around the schoolyard. We found some boys playing baseball and they took us to their locker room. I think that's the day Davis and I lost our virginity." Asia tilts her head as she tries to recall. She is still being overly honest, spouting whatever comes into her mind.
"That was a story I didn't want to hear." Madison frowns.
"Oh grow a pair. It wasn't that good even. I think they got Davis's legs to bend above her head though. She was a screamer too. It's kinda weird to watch another girl having sex, isn't it? Eventually they all three wanted to see if they could fit in her at once. She was drooling like crazy with the whites of her eyes visible."
"So you become more flexible when you're drunk?" Madison is formulating a new idea.
"Sort of." Asia nods. "I can't remember what happened to me but Davis was like putty in their hands."
"Here, have another drink." Madison refills the empty cup Asia set down a while ago.
"Um, okay. Why?" she asks as she drains it.
"I just want to see what happens," he assures her while filling it again.
"Aren't you going to have some?" She downs it quickly again.
"No, I'm good. Come on, one more." He fills it a third time.
"This will be twice as much as before," she mumbles. Her speech is already starting to slur again. She really does become inebriated quickly. "Um, where are we going?" she asks as he drags her up the stairs of the frat house by the arm.
"To find an unoccupied room," he answers.
"Why? Can't we just go back to my place?"
"Your mom might be home by now," he reminds her. "Besides, I'm a little impatient right now."
"You want to see if I can twist my legs behind my head like Celia," she is drunk enough to use her former friend's first name now.
"Isn't it intriguing though?" Madison asks excitedly. "Haven't you always wanted to try something like that?"
"I'll admit the look on her face was pretty interesting. I always wondered if she really felt that good." Asia's hand travels down to the hem of her dress as she remembers what Celia looked like with her eyes rolled back and her tongue hanging out.
"Let's see if you'll drool half as much," Madison laughs as he opens the door at the end of the hall.
"That was probably because there were three guys at once. By the way, you won't get me to do that. I refuse to be with more than one guy at a time."
"We'll see if you're electric toothbrush will suffice," he brings up one of the obscene messages he sent to her phone when they did not know each other at all.
Asia opens her mouth to respond but stops as she realizes the room is occupied. She can immediately recognize Nala face down on the bed, biting the covers to keep from screaming as tears stream down her face. Sean is behind her, raising her hips in the air and thrusting rather roughly. "Um…" Asia opens her mouth to say something but Madison covers it while dragging her out of the room. "Did they even notice us?" she asks as soon as he has shut the door again.
"I think they're too busy," Madison surmises.
"Oh my god, I can't believe I just saw that." Asia covers her face. She is still peeking through her fingers though. "I might not be able to face her when school starts next year."
"You? What about me and Sean?" Madison counters. "You've seen Peters naked before."
"Well he's pretty well built, isn't he?" Asia tilts her head as she tries to recall what little she saw of Sean's body.
"Hey, stop that," Madison can tell what she is doing.
"You better work hard tonight or I'm going to be fantasizing about him."
"Don't forget, I'm twisting your legs behind your head tonight," he reminds her.
"Less talking, more twisting." She taps her foot impatiently. He mutters something inaudible as he grabs her hand to lead her into a different room.
Asia starts by unzipping the back of her barmaid dress as soon as the door is closed. Madison is even more impatient though as he yanks the top down below her shoulders and knocks her onto the bed. A few of the things she has said and done throughout the night have been getting to him and it is time for some payback. As he struggles to hoist the skirt of her dress up she arches her back, lifting herself off the mattress to help him. She has already adapted to her submissive role.
His next act is to slide her left leg out of her underwear and lift it as high as it will go. As promised, he forces it to bend all the way behind her head, leaving her completely exposed and defenseless. "Ouch, that really stretches the muscles," she groans. He quickly copies the act with her right leg, making her perfectly symmetrical. "Wow, I feel completely embarrassed." Her face is red and glistening with sweat. "Quit looking at me."
"What's the point if I don't get to look?" again he ignores her request. She is no longer the dominator of their relationship.
"It's really cold between my legs," she whines.
"That's because you're horny," he laughs at her. "Would you like me to do something about it?"
"Y-yes," she mutters while averting her eyes.
"Speak up, Hon. Tell me exactly what you want me to do."
"You're such a jerk," she complains but takes a deep breath anyway, preparing to make her embarrassing request.
"Should we have tried to find Maddie and Asia before we left?" Nala asks as she and Sean approach her neighborhood. With no buttons on her dress, it was impossible for them to stay at the frat party any longer. She feels incredibly cold under her coat.
"We don't even know if they are still there," Sean is unconcerned. "I'll send Maddie a txt so he knows we're gone. How are you doing, by the way? Sorry about your dress. I got a little excited."
"Don't worry about me." She shakes her head. "It was exhilarating. Besides, it was entirely my idea. Oh yeah, weren't we searching for a room to talk about what happened over the summer? I kinda got us sidetracked."
"It's fine. I don't really want to tell you anymore." Sean jams his hands in his pockets while staring at his feet.
Nala pushes her left hand into his right pocket and laces their fingers. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but why the sudden change of heart?"
"I'm not sure you'll accept what you hear. Now even more than before, I don't want to do anything that might make you leave me," he admits.
Nala's mouth hangs open for a moment in awe. "That's both sweet and stupid." She kisses his cheek. "After what we just did I would have thought you'd have more trust in me."
"What we did? You jumped me," he argues.
"And I'll do it again the next chance I get, pretty boy," she assures him.
"Maybe I should tell Corbin what a tramp his little sister is," Sean threatens.
"It's not called that if I only sleep with one guy," she scoffs. By now they have arrived at her apartment. Sean waits patiently, watching his own breath turn to vapor in the cold air, as Nala unlocks the front door. "Brother, we're home," she calls out as they enter the living room.
"Quiet, it's past midnight," Sean hushes her. "What if they are asleep?"
"Trust me, they're not getting any sleep tonigh…" her voice trails off as she spots her brother next to the dining table; down on one knee. Celli is in the chair across from him, staring at him with wide eyes while covering her mouth in shock. "What… the… hell?" Nala shouts at the both of them.
"Oh crap." Corbin quickly stands up. "Nala, you're home early. What happened to the all night party at the studio?"
"We ditched it," she answers instantly. "What is going on here?"
"Hey, sweetie." Celli waves to her. "I'm just as confused as you are so…"
"You shut up," Nala has no sympathy for her. "Brother, explain!" she demands.
"Well, I think it's pretty obvious," he mutters while tossing the small box in his hands back and forth.
"Give me that." Nala swipes it from him and opens it.
Sean gives an impressed whistle immediately. "That's a hell of a stone," he praises Corbin.
"Thanks, man. It took a while to save for it," Corbin is proud of himself. "It's a good thing all our bills are covered by the rent money from the farm."
"So this is what you spend valuable money on instead of saving?" Nala waves it in front of his face.
"Sweetie, if you could just calm down…" Celli tries to interrupt again.
"I'm not your sweetie!" Nala snaps at her. "I'm two years younger than you. We are peers. It is weird enough having you in my home all the time."
"Well actually she's three years older than you now," Corbin reminds her. "She's eighteen. I thought it would be best not to wait…"
"You thought! You thought! It's always what you think, isn't it?" Nala shouts at him. "How about giving me some thought for once?"
"I thought we agreed I'd stay out of your business for a bit, Nala," Corbin's voice is shaking. He seems genuinely afraid of his sister. If he is it is only because she has the potential to tell his parents what he has done. One wrong word and she could crush his intentions entirely.
"How do you suppose staying out of my life is going so far?" Nala asks him smugly. "Do you know where I just was? I was drinking at a college party. I just lost my virginity to that guy." She gestures to Sean as if he is not involved, which he does not seem to be. He is not happy with how she referred to him though.
"You what?" Corbin's eyes pop for a moment before he calms down. "I mean, congratulations, baby sister. I guess you're not so much of a baby anymore."
"Is that the proper reaction you should have?" Nala scolds him.
"Well…" He looks to Sean who shakes his head.
"Hon, even I know that was the wrong thing to say," Celli admits. "You're supposed to be her father figure right now."
"Um, so I punish her?" Corbin is still lost.
"For starters, you kick out her boyfriend and tell him to come back with a ring," Celli exaggerates.
"No, no, no, no, no." Sean shakes his head violently. "You're not dragging me into this little soap opera of yours." He turns to leave.
"Hold it right there, mister!" Corbin finds his voice for a moment. "Um, now what?" He turns back to Celli for further instructions. She slaps her forehead instead of answering.
"Um… do you want to go?" Nala asks Sean in a lower voice while fidgeting with her fingers.
"Well, thanks to you things have gotten awkward." He glances at Corbin. He is not sure if his cool big brother act is real or if he will soon get beat up for defiling his little sister.
Corbin seems aware of Sean's concerns. "Look man, I meant what I said about turning her welfare over to you. Honestly I'm surprised it took you two this long to do it. I know I can't baby my sister forever and I know I've pretty much already failed to raise her right. Right now she's doing a better job of looking out for me."
"It looks like she's just jealous," Sean mutters to himself.
"Will you stop it?" Nala knows what is eating Sean. "I'm not that obsessed with my brother. I'm not going to cry because he is getting married to a girl who's… honestly… only a little bit older than me," she lowers her voice as she starts to compare herself to Celli.
"Great, now she's wondering why she can't marry you," Sean groans.
"I am not!" she raises her voice again.
"Um, what are you two doing?" Celli is confused.
"Oh, Sean thinks Nala has a crush on me," Corbin laughs.
Celli's eyes dart to Nala quickly. Her face is bright red and she is fiddling with a lock of hair, now past shoulder length. "Oh dear," Celli gasps.
"That's absolutely ridiculous, isn't it?" Corbin's laughter starts to fade. "I mean, could you imagine. It's… it's ridiculous… right?" He is now watching Nala too. She glances back and forth between the two adults. Slowly tears start to form in her eyes. "Oh no." Corbin's arms fall at his sides. "Sweetie, I didn't know." He moves toward her but she backs away.
"Don't touch me," she whimpers.
"I thought… I mean… Sean…" Corbin looks around the room stupidly.
Nala hands him back his ring. "Go on, your girlfriend is waiting," she is halfway sobbing by now.
"I couldn't possibly… not right now."
"It's not your fault," she whispers. "I'll be okay. I'm just a little confused right now."
"But…" Corbin tries to argue one last time but Nala practically pushes him toward Celli. He stumbles and falls down onto one knee. After giving a fleeting glance to Nala Celli clasps her hands tightly and waits for Corbin to speak. "Um, will you, Celli Agnew, do me the great honor of becoming my wife?" he asks in a confused voice.
"I will." She nods as tears start to roll down her face.
Sean looks extremely uncomfortable standing behind Nala. He once again turns to leave but she reaches back to grab his hand. "Don't go," she whispers.
"Nala, I'm sorry, I…"
"Please," she begs. "I really will do my best to love you. I'm trying so please don't abandon me."
"I just don't get it," he sighs. "What is really going on between you and your brother?"
"As you can see, absolutely nothing." She smiles at the scene in front of her of Corbin proposing to Celli. "He had no idea before today. In fact, I told you before I told him."
"But what exactly do you feel for him?" Sean pries. "Do I have to be worried?"
"Of course not." She squeezes his hand tight enough to cause him pain, as if punishing him for even thinking about it. "Corbin is my brother; that's what he has always been and always will be. I had feelings for him once and they still plague me at times like this. It's no different than you and Nina."
Sean's expression changes at the mention of his ex-girlfriend. Nala's situation is suddenly a lot more clear to him. He can honestly say that he is not in love with Nina anymore but he would still have trouble seeing her together with another guy. Nala is no different. It is hard on her to watch Corbin with Celli but she is honestly happy for them and she honestly does like Sean. He need not have worried at all. He was simply projecting his own insecurities onto her.
"You still need to do a better job, Brother!" Nala interrupts the happy scene in front of her. "You need to work harder and buy a house so Celli doesn't have to move into this apartment with us."
"Will do." He salutes her jokingly. It is their way of agreeing that despite everything they are still okay.
"And by the way, since you're so eager to let me make my own decisions, Sean will be staying the night," Nala adds suddenly.
"What?" Corbin's smile disappears in shock.
"You're going to be at it all night with Celli, aren't you?" Nala asks slyly. "After giving her a stone like that, you better take full advantage of it."
"Well… I…" Corbin looks extremely guilty.
"Then it's only fair I get to do the same." Nala drags Sean toward her room.
"But I can't condone this," Corbin moans.
"Oh, let them have one night," Celli urges him. "Even if you say no they're just going to go somewhere else and do it." Corbin gives in as he realizes that she is right. He watches the pair of high schoolers disappear into the bedroom with a forced smile on his face. He does not have time to worry though as Celli is quick to drag him to his own room. "Come on, big boy. I want you to call me Mrs. Peters tonight."
"Nala, are you sure about this?" Sean asks as she closes her door behind them.
"Are you still worried? We've already done it, you know."
"I'm worried about doing it when your brother and his girlfriend can hear us," he complains.
"His fiancé," Nala corrects him. "They won't be able to hear anything over the sound of their own moaning."
"I don't know, you scream pretty loudly," Sean informs her.
"Then you'll just have to find something to stuff in my mouth." She winks at him.
"What's gotten into you? You're always like this when you're horny."
"I'm going to prove to you tonight that it is you I like, not Corbin," she assures him. "Are you ready or what?" He has done his allotted amount of objecting. Despite all of his complaints, he is actually looking forward to this quite a bit. Instead of answering her question he simply grabs a handkerchief from her nightstand and stuffs it into her mouth. As he learned back at the frat house, she is quite the screamer.
Nala laughs through the cotton cloth as she removes her coat. Her dress is already open, exposing her front. Sean knocks her over and presses his face to her chest. With the handkerchief in her mouth he won't be able to kiss her. He will have to make up for that in other ways.