Fake Home Visit
The first thing Nala sees when walking into the kitchen on the morning of the first day of school in the new year is Celli cooking breakfast while wearing one of Corbin's shirts. "Oh god, can you put some pant on?" Nala complains immediately.
"Isn't it just so much fun to wear your boyfriend's clothing in the morning?" Celli twirls around happily, not even slightly concerned with her angered host.
"You don't live here, you know!" Nala continues to scold her. "Can you at least try to act scrupulous?"
"Hon, I just spent the night in your brother's bed. You know exactly what's going on between us. There is no need to sugar coat it or hide it. You're a big girl, Nala. You can afford to act like it." Celli finally decides to talk back.
So far she has been extremely polite about her invasion of Nala's life but the truth is this would not be a problem if Corbin lived alone. Unlike Corbin who is grateful for his sister's support, she believes that Nala is an unnecessary burden on him. At the very least she should be a little more understanding about her brother's happiness.
Nala stomps back to her room without another word. She can slightly understand how Celli feels as she would be more than happy to share Sean's bed every night. However, unlike Celli, who uniquely can stay over indefinitely due to the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Peters, Nala is quite considerate of the Bakers. Not even once has she suggested visiting Sean's house after normal curfew.
"Nala, don't be late on the first day of school." Corbin enters her room while yawning. He is only wearing his pajama bottoms.
"I'm already up," Nala growls at him. "Can you please tell your girlfriend to put on some pants?"
"What about you?" Corbin gestures to the fact that she is only in her nightshirt.
"I was just about to change!" she snaps at him.
"Just don't be late." He exits her room instead of arguing. He has become used to her short temper as of recent. Like Celli he believes she is simply being spiteful and that it is not worth listening to her. He also refuses to scold her though as he still feels responsible for her current emotional state. Nala slams her door in his face as soon as he is out of her room.
As usual, Sean walks Nala to school. Madison and Asia are already waiting for them at the front gate to the school. "Happy new year," Asia shouts while hugging Nala.
"It's been the new year for a while now," Nala reminds her.
"Well, I didn't get to see you until now." Asia rubs her cheek against Nala's. She seems excessively affectionate for some reason.
"Why are you so happy?" Nala asks while letting her own bad mood show.
"I'm no longer in trouble," Asia answers happily. "Ricky woke up and is recovering perfectly. The police are refusing to charge me and his parents are backing down."
"Wow, I didn't think they'd let you off scot-free like that," Nala is less enthusiastic than she should be.
"What's wrong with you?" Asia can tell that her friend is in a bad mood.
"Don't tell me you're still mad about Corbin," Sean sighs. "When are you going to let it go?"
"Let what go? What's going on?" Asia is impatient.
"Her brother got engaged at the end of last year," Sean explains.
"Hey dude, is that really any of our business?" Madison is concerned.
"It's not like they're trying to hide it." Nala shrugs.
"What's bothering you about it then?" Asia asks. "Isn't it something to celebrate?"
"You've never met Celli Agnew, have you?" Nala's eyes narrow.
Madison tilts his head in thought while Asia shakes hers. "Wait, now I got it!" Madison shouts. "She was that Chase guy's girl, wasn't she?"
"Yeah, that's the one." Sean nods.
"Why would she be engaged to your brother?" Madison is confused.
"Is it that hard to believe?" Asia is completely out of the loop.
"It's hard to believe that Chase would ever let her go," Sean answers. "Chase is one of those possessive guys. You know, the type that txts their girlfriend constantly to make sure she's not with another guy. He would freak out every time his girlfriend said she was staying over at a friend's house, even though he knew it was a girl."
"Wait, you all know this Celli girl?" Asia tries to keep up.
All three of her friends shake their heads. "We know Dean and he knew Chase," Madison explains. "Every once in a while we'd end up hanging out with him and he was a real downer. He got angry at the smallest things. He would call his girlfriend just to yell at her. It's not like she had anything to do with his lost wallet or why he missed the bus or anything."
"She sounds really pitiful," Asia feels sympathetic. "Why are you all acting like she did something wrong?"
"Babe, there's something to be said about a girl who stays with a guy like that willingly," Madison answers with a frown. "She had several opportunities to move on and didn't. After a while you stop looking at her like a victim and more as an accomplice."
"That's so mean," Asia whines. "You guys are mean."
"We really aren't trying to be…" Sean argues.
"It's just that she's with my brother now," Nala interrupts.
"I don't understand. She's finally away from that Chase guy, right?" Asia is still being optimistic.
"He'll never really be out of her head," Nala answers. "There's always a chance she will leave my brother to be with him again. She is weak to his advances. She's been brainwashed to think that his treatment is normal and that she needs it."
"But she left him," Asia tries to argue. "She willingly left him because she didn't like the way he treated her."
"It's expected that a weak willed girl like her will swoon towards any guy even slightly better," Sean takes over explaining. "She is taking a break from everything and pretending to be happy with someone else. It's like a vacation."
"But now that he's proposed, she's going to stay, right?" Asia is practically pleading them to tell her what she wants to hear. Even though the situation has nothing to do with her she still wants everything to turn out for the best. She has had enough bad experiences to make a skeptic out of herself. Seeing others find happiness helps her believe that she may be wrong about the way the world works. It is her bad habit, forcing herself to see good where it is not. Luckily it seems to have worked well with Madison though; maybe because he is equally as adaptable.
"Proposing could have been the worst thing Corbin could do," Sean knocks down her hopes instantly. "She may have said yes at the moment but now she's going to think about it. She's going to compare everything about Corbin to Chase and try to think of reasons she should actually go through with it."
Asia looks back and forth between her friends as they wait for her to object again. It is becoming a routine. "Mr. Peters is obviously better than Chase… right?" she is no longer optimistic.
"Not every waking moment with Chase was bad, sweetie," Madison is the one to disagree this time. "She wouldn't have stayed with him in the first place if it were. Now here's the part where vacationing from him works against Corbin. She has forgotten a lot of things Chase did in the time they've been apart. Anything he did wrong has been played down, making him look like a good guy. Without even intending to hurt Corbin, she'll simply start to drift back to Chase."
"And find out he's just as bad as before," Asia shouts, thinking she has finally proven her point. It is easier to argue with her boyfriend than with Sean.
"It might take a while," Madison informs her. "If Chase is smart he'll hide his bad habits until it is too late for Agnew to simply run crying back to Corbin and try apologizing. Even if he does take her back she has proven untrustworthy and their relationship will never be the same."
"Thank you, Maddie." Asia frowns at him. "Thank you for destroying my innocence." She keeps a straight face but her statement is not entirely serious. Humor is a good way to cope with disappointment.
"I think I did that on Christmas," Madison reminds her of their night at the frat party. Asia's face turns red as she once again punches him in the ribs. Nala laughs for a moment until she remembers that Sean and she were pretty much doing the exact same thing. They avert their eyes while sliding apart shyly. Despite their bashful attitudes, Christmas was by no means their last encounter. Since that night Nala has been doing her best to get back at her brother and Celli by inviting Sean over as much as possible.
"Do you see why I worry about my brother?" Nala returns her attention to Asia. "It's not that I don't like Celli, I just can't trust her."
Asia nods slowly. "I don't think it's good to judge a person by her previous actions but I understand. It's not as simple as dating. You have Mr. Peters's future in mind, don't you?"
"It's really weird to hear you call him that considering my name is Peters," Nala reminds her.
"You're Nala, he's Peters," Asia spouts confidently.
"But to me, she's Peters," Madison interrupts.
"Then learn her name already." Asia punches him again. Sean rolls his eyes at all three of them. It seems he is the only person amongst his friends without some predisposed issue about people's names. Then again he did convince Trina to start going by her long name just so she would not sound similar to Nina. Perhaps all four of them have some issues to deal with.
"What are you all standing around for?" Ms. Register appears behind them, holding a large red folder, stuffed to the brim with semester grades. "Aren't you cold? Get inside before you get sick and blame the school."
"Yes, ma'am," Asia and Nala are used to obeying their homeroom teacher. Sean and Madison are less inclined to listen, sauntering toward the school building as slowly as possible simply to annoy the strict teacher.
She glares at them for a moment before stalking past. "Aren't you the one who is cold?" Madison asks when he notices her stockings and high heels. Asia quickly runs back to punch him in the arm. She does not need him causing trouble for her with her homeroom teacher.
"I just came from my car," Ms. Register answers. "I assume you walked here."
"How do you drive with shoes like that?" Madison continues his line of questioning. This time Asia hits him much harder.
"You are technically on school grounds right now, Miss Kon. I would refrain from acting too friendly with your partner."
"Friendly?" Madison groans. "How is this friendly?"
Ms. Register simply frowns at him. She knows the nature of his relationship with Asia. As strict as she acts she is very polite about it. She will not involve herself in other people's business needlessly. However she also asks that they not force her to involve herself.
"S-sorry, Ms. Register," Asia apologizes quickly. "I will be more careful."
"Well I should hope so…" Ms. Register's response is partially drowned out by the sound of a car door slamming. Nala looks up in time to see her brother waving to her as he drives off, leaving Celli at the gate of the school in her expensive looking snow coat. Nala is forced to wonder if Corbin was the one who paid for it.
"Arriving in style as always, Miss Agnew." Ms. Register frowns at her.
"Good day to you, Janice," Celli greets her by her first name.
Ms. Register's face turns bright red with anger. "Was that Mr. Peters I just saw?" she asks with a sly smile. "I was under the impression that your relationship had ended when he transferred schools."
"Why would you think that?" Celli asks with a blank expression. Nala slaps herself in the forehead.
"The whole reason he quit was to avoid a scandal," Ms. Register continues.
"It's only a scandal if he's caught dating one of his own students," Celli counters.
"It's also a scandal if she is under age," Ms. Register argues. "Seventeen may be legal but it will still jeopardize his career."
"Oh, didn't sweet Nala tell you?"
"Please don't bring me into this," Nala groans.
"I turned eighteen on Christmas Eve. Corbin and I are engaged." Celli lifts her left hand and wiggles her fingers tauntingly.
Whether it is true or not it is rumored that Ms. Register has trouble finding men willing to date her, let alone marry her. Once again her face is burning red. "I see, I see." She nods quickly as she contemplates a response. "Run along now, Miss Agnew; or should I say, Mrs. Peters. I have something to discus with, sweet Nala," she uses Celli's own words.
"Oh great." Nala winces. Asia watches as Celli disappears into the school. She is now painfully aware of why Nala dislikes her. Whether she is actually trying to or not, she is causing a lot of problems for Nala. "Please, Ms. Register, I've already tried to convince my brother not to go through with this," Nala whines.
"I'm not going to ask something so petty of you, Miss Peters," Ms. Register assures her. "I will, however, be scheduling my home visit for this afternoon though."
"What? I thought that was canceled!" Nala spouts. "Besides, what do my living conditions have to do with my brother's engagement?"
"I believe we discussed this before; your brother has been making several rash decisions that are unbecoming of a proper guardian."
"You can't do this. This would not even be an issue if it were my dad or mom."
"I assure you that if your father were living alone with you and dating a student at your school I would be greatly concerned."
"What is wrong with you?" Nala loses her temper. "Why do you assume the worst in everyone?"
"Because the worst is what she has seen," Asia answers for her.
"Huh?" Nala glances between her friend and teacher in confusion.
"I'm not about to put my personal life on display here but for now you may assume Miss Kon is correct," Ms. Register admits. "When I first started teaching I was naïve. I came across several situations which I could not believe could actually take place under the school board's nose. I did everything I could to prove to myself that it was a misunderstanding on my part. In the end several people got hurt and I have yet to forgive myself. So, no matter how minute the possibility is, I can not, for any reason, leave my concerns unchecked, understood?"
"Understood," Nala grumbles quietly. She is still annoyed with her teacher's need to intrude on her life but she is feeling far too guilty to argue now. Up until now she has not even considered the reason why Ms. Register was even involving herself this way. She could have simply gone straight to the board and been done with it. In truth Ms. Register has already gone out of her way to avoid ruining Corbin's career.
Asia takes Nala's hand and leads her back toward the school. Madison and Sean follow quickly behind. They have not said anything this entire time. It is not their place to. Sean is annoyed at how much trouble Corbin and Celli are causing Nala though. Even Ms. Register must realize how much stress they are putting on a fifteen year old girl.
Nala spends the entire morning mumbling to herself about all of the things she will have to fix or hide before Ms. Register visits her home. She does not want to hate the teacher for simply doing her job but it is hard not to. Ms. Register seems more than aware of her students' opinion of her. She chooses to play this role; she chooses to be hated. Nala is giving her nothing she hasn't asked for.
"Psst, Nala," Asia whispers to her friend just as the lunch bell rings. "Where is your food?"
"My what?" Nala looks around dumbly.
"You always bring food for you and Sean to share, remember?"
"Damn, I completely forgot." Nala plants her face into her desk. "Celli was naked in my kitchen this morning and I just wanted to get out of there."
"It must be really hard on you." Asia pats her shoulder. "If you like I can share my food with you," she offers.
"Then what will you eat?" Nala moans.
"I brought enough for two this time."
"Wait, did you actually do it?" Nala sits up properly. "I thought you refused when Maddie asked why you didn't make him lunch like I do for Sean."
"Well, I didn't want to get his hopes up. I live alone with my mom and she's never cooked for me even once. I'm self taught and I'm not sure I'm any good at it. I might only make food that I think taste good. Can you be my guinea pig?"
"Well I was going to refuse but now I feel less bad about it." Nala frowns at her. She is not actually upset about being used as a test subject. It is a sign that Asia trusts her opinion. Asia quickly opens her lunch box, which is an insulated one unlike the two plastic containers Nala usually brings. Nala takes a bite of something unidentifiable and chews it slowly.
After a moment of exaggerated deep thought she finally gives her response. "Well, I see what you mean when you said you make food to your taste. It seems you just threw stuff you liked into a pot and stirred it."
"That's what I always do. I like cabbage and meat and cheese so I thought they'd taste better together. No good?"
"I wouldn't say it's no good but Madison can be a real jerk sometimes," Nala warns her.
"I know. I'm prepared." Asia clenches her fist. Nala knows what she plans to do if he insults her cooking. It gives her a smile for the first time since her talk with Ms. Register that morning.
Sean and Madison arrive a moment later. Madison has brought his own lunch from the school store as usual. He has not even considered the possibility that Asia has complied with his request. Sean is immediately aware of the absence of Nala's normal plastic containers. "Um, sweetie?"
"I know, I know. I'm sorry, baby, I just forgot," she admits. "It was the start of the new year. I haven't made anything all winter break. I'm sorry."
"It's fine. I've been needing an excuse to actually eat the school food again," he is more than understanding. "To be honest I get cravings for those little gelatin cups. I'll need to hurry before they run out though. I'll buy you something as well. Want some gelatin?"
"Ew, no." She sticks out her tongue. She does not like things that she can't identify. She refuses to eat anything that has been processed from its original form beyond recognition. She has no qualms about her boyfriend's eating habits though.
"Well then, I guess I'll go with Sean…" Madison tries to follow his friend but Asia pinches his arm. "Owe, what is it goddamn it?" She doesn't answer and instead simply shoves her lunch box toward him. "Um, what is this?" He tries to identify the mush inside. "Did you make extra today?"
"What of it?" She crosses her arms pompously.
"Can't you just act like a normal girl for once?" he sighs. "I'd be more than happy to try some of your cooking, sweetie. Just tell me what it is?"
"Cabbage, meat and cheese," Nala informs him smugly.
"Oh good; I was afraid it was mustard covered leaves." His response is not well received by Asia, who of course pinches him again. "God, okay, okay, woman. Settle down. I'll give it a try but I already bought my food so I reserve the right not to finish it."
"Just eat." Asia shoves a spoonful into his mouth. He winces as he chews and makes a loud gulping sound as if he simply decided to swallow it to avoid the taste. "Well?" Asia bats her eyelashes at him sweetly, causing him to cringe. It is unnerving how normal it is for her to be nice following being violent.
"All of this stuff would taste fine on its own. Why did you have to mix it?" Madison asks an honest question.
"It takes less time to wash the dishes if I cook everything at once," Asia's response is even more honest.
"Oh." Madison pinches the bridge of his nose, trying not to say anything that will earn himself more pain. "I like fried cabbage, I really do. This meat, which I honestly can't tell whether it came from a cow or a pig, is dry and overdone. The fat that leaked out while you were cooking it has not been drained. It has mixed with the cheese to make an unhealthy sludge I refuse to eat. Honestly, I'm surprised you are as skinny as you are."
"Yeah, I've always had trouble gaining weight. I was a month and a half premature," Asia's response is surprisingly calm. "I knew it wouldn't be good. I'll eat it all myself."
"No!" Madison snatches it away from her. "For now, share some of my food. I don't want you eating this anymore. Even if you aren't gaining weight from it, it's not good for your intestines or your heart. I'll teach you how to drain the fat off of meat tonight so just stop eating this crap, okay?"
"Okay." Asia's expression sinks. Nala can understand how she wanted to impress Madison but there was no way she was going to succeed with what she brought. It seems Asia can be just as Naïve as Nala sometimes, if not more so.
"Ew, what is that?" the voice of Mina emanates from behind Madison.
"Oh hey, girls." Asia waves to both Mina and Trina with her normal fake smile. "Did you have a fun winter break?"
"I got to third base with my boyfriend," Trina spouts happily.
"Shush, don't go advertising that," Mina scolds her.
"But I'm so happy," Trina pretends to pout.
"And you said I was innocent, Asia." Nala can't help but laugh.
"Where's your lunch?" Mina asks smugly. "Don't you always force feed Sean your terrible cooking?"
"It must be better than yours," Asia counters. "He keeps eating it after all."
"But then you went ahead and forgot; on the first day of school no less," Mina continues mocking her. "Imagine forgetting to bring your husband food on his first day of work. You're a horrible girlfriend."
"I'm not Sean's wife. He can get food for himself. I just like doing it for him," Nala tries to argue.
"Face it, cooking is the only thing you're good for. Sean has probably saved himself a good amount of money not having to buy food for himself recently."
"Wow, you fail to insult her cooking so then you try to turn it around by saying she is only good at cooking," Asia laughs at her. Nala is immensely grateful to have a witty friend who will defend her. "Do you know where Sean is right now?" Asia asks with a smile. "He's at the school store buying lunch for the both of them. That's right he's treating Nala today. I bet you'd love that. Oh, by the way, cooking is not all she's good for. Apparently she can show a guy a good time in bed too."
"Asia!" Nala is shocked.
"What?" Mina's jaw drops.
"Ooh." Trina winces sympathetically.
"Don't act like this doesn't concern you," Mina shouts at her.
"Actually, I think I really like my boyfriend. I'm going to give up on Sean for now at least." Trina leaves the conversation and returns to her seat. Her friends are waiting to congratulate her.
Mina clenches her fists though. "You're lying," she hisses at Asia through gritted teeth.
"Why don't you ask him yourself?" Asia directs her attention to the doorway where Sean has just entered.
"Sorry it took so long." He is panting for breath. Apparently he hurried to make sure they would not run out of food. "I didn't know what to get you exactly so I picked up a bit much."
"It's fine, we can share with Asia." Nala smiles happily.
"Wait… what about my question?" Mina interrupts them.
"What question?" Sean stares at her with cold eyes. "Why are you here? Go back to your own desk."
"But, but, but," she starts to stutter.
"Didn't you hear me? You're an eyesore," he shoos her away.
"I, I am…" She stumbles away with a look of disbelief.
"That was mean," Nala scolds Sean.
"So what? I've told you before how much I hate those girls."
"What if I was one of those girls?" she asks.
"The good thing about that question is that I don't have to answer it," he responds smugly. "You were not and never will be one of those girls and any answer I give you pertaining to the idea will either hurt your feelings or be a lie."
"Rudely honest, aren't we?" She frowns at him.
"I'm an honest guy." He smiles happily. She can't see any reason to keep arguing and decides to start eating. She leafs through the bag he has brought, searching for things that have not been processed beyond recognition. Every time she finds something she will not eat she hands it to Asia. "Say, why is Kon eating this?" Sean asks finally. "Doesn't she always bring that horrible looking stuff?"
Asia's knuckles turn white as she grips the edge of her desk. She dips her head so her bangs are casting a shadow over her eyes, making it impossible to tell if she is upset or not, which she probably is. "Don't ask," Madison warns his friend. "Just don't ask." Sean takes his advice and returns to sorting out his food. When he finds something he is sure Nala will like he uses a spoon to feed her some. She is laughing too much to eat properly and ends up spilling on her desk though.
Madison looks at his still pouting girlfriend, silently asking if she would like to try feeding each other as well. She nods slowly but does not lift her head. He tries several times to put a spoon her mouth before finally resorting to pinching her nose and forcing her to eat. "What the hell!" she shouts as soon as she has managed to swallow.
"Ah, good, you're back." He smiles at her. "Cheer up already, would ya?"
"I'll cheer up alright!" she shouts while grabbing some of his food and trying to push it into his mouth. He is prepared though and moves out of her reach easily.
After a moment of tangling her arms with Nala's and Sean's as they continue their meal, she stands up and circles around their group of desks to reach Madison on her own. He stands up as well, letting his chair clatter to the floor as he flees. Soon she is chasing him around the room. They receive cheers and laughter from the other students as they enjoy the spectacle. By now they are all used to Madison's and Asia's comedy routine.
Nala does not think about her impending visit from Ms. Register for the rest of the day. She is only reminded of it at the end of lessons when Ms. Register waves to her. She rushes out of her homeroom as fast as she can, hoping to get home before her teacher is able to finish grading papers and follow her. She is not looking where she is going and bumps right into a girl standing in the middle of the hall.
"Argh, sorry, Candice," she mutters as she stands back up, rubbing her nose. "What are you doing…?" she trails off as she realizes who her classmate is talking to.
"Why hello there, Nala," Mr. Thalmus greets her with his normal forced smile. "We haven't had the chance to talk in a while, have we?"
"St-stay away." Nala backs up quickly. "Ma-Ms. Register is right inside." She points at her homeroom again.
"Oh, there's no need to be frightened." Mr. Thalmus grabs each of the two girls by the hand and drags them down the hall. "I just want to talk."
"What about?" Candice asks in a meek voice. She is in the same grade as Nala but from a different homeroom. They have never actually spoken before. She tried out for track over the summer like Nala but did not make the team. Her hair is just as dark and slightly longer. She is much weaker looking though with paler skin and almost no muscle at all.
"I was hoping to hear a proper explanation for your recent drop in academics… both of you."
Nala quickly remembers that her scores in geography have been dropping as she is too nervous to pay attention in class. "Wha-what do you mean?" Candice is confused though. "My grades are just fine."
"Going from an A to a B is rather strange, don't you think? I wonder what I'm going to have to tell your parents at the next conference."
"Corbin," Nala mutters inaudibly.
"Sorry?" Mr. Thalmus cups his ear.
"Corbin will be at the next conference," Nala raises her voice ever so slightly. "My parents won't be coming."
"Ah, that's right; you live with your brother. How fortunate for you. It's got to be strange around there now, isn't it?" Mr. Thalmus seems to be enjoying himself, even if he can't show the proper emotion with his face. Nala's expression remains fearful though. "Your brother's getting married, isn't he?" Mr. Thalmus explains his previous statement. "Isn't it strange to be living with Miss Agnew?"
"It's not," Nala answers unconvincingly. "Why are you talking to me? Ms. Register told you…"
"Oh, what can Janice do?" he scoffs. "She's probably got her hands full. Little Miss Agnew has been telling anyone who will listen about her engagement. Guess no one told her it would be best to put a lid on it."
"What does that have to do with me?" Nala asks weakly.
"It means that Corbin is still in trouble and my threat still stands. I can have him reported and he will lose his license to teach. Is that what you want?"
"What's going on?" Candice glances back and forth between her classmate and the teacher in utter confusion.
"He, he wants to blackmail us into doing stuff for him," Nala explains. "He'll lie to your parents about your grades if you sleep with him."
"That's horrible," Candice gasps. "How can a teacher do such a thing? I'm going to tell Mrs. Melon right now."
"I wouldn't." Mr. Thalmus grips her arm tighter so she can't escape. Nala drags her feet as he pulls both girls into the geography room. "I was just planning on having some fun with little Candice Drew here but then you happened by," he snickers at Nala. "When I heard about your brother's engagement I knew I couldn't pass up this chance."
"I don't get it. Nothing's changed. Corbin will not get in trouble. Celli is eighteen now and he works at a different school," Nala tries to convince him while tugging on her arm.
"It'll still be bad if his new board of superiors finds out when his relationship with Miss Agnew began, right?" Mr. Thalmus surmises. "They can still fire him."
"Are you willing to risk your career on it?" Nala tries to threaten him. "If I tell Ms. Register she will believe me. She will help me press charges this time."
"Fine then, you can go." Mr. Thalmus finally releases her arm. "I'll just have fun with Miss Drew instead." He tugs on the smaller girl's skirt, exposing her waist and thighs.
"N-no," Nala whispers.
"What is with you? Can you ever speak up?" Mr. Thalmus shouts at her.
"I said no!" Nala screams while pulling her stun gun from her bag. Mr. Thalmus has no time to react before she has pressed it to his stomach and pulled the trigger. Instinctively he releases Candice as the electricity courses through him. His teeth chatter as foam drips from his mouth and his head rocks violently. Eventually he falls to the floor, writhing in pain. His screams are loud enough to permeate the walls of the room.
It is a mere moment before the door flies open, revealing Ms. Register and an array of students. "Dear god!" she gasps when she spots her fellow teacher lying of the floor with his mouth agape. The whites of his eyes are visible and he is drooling profusely. "What happened?"
"Ta-ta-teacher attacked us!" Candice screams while cowering behind Nala. "Pe-Peters zapped him."
"I'm sorry. I didn't know what else to do," Nala apologizes quickly.
"No, I'm sorry, Miss Peters. I should have never let this happen. I knew he would do it again and I did nothing. I am ashamed of myself. I am calling the police right now."
"Wait, what about my brother?" Nala pleads. "You won't say anything, will you?"
"He did not break any laws. I will not mention anything needlessly but I will still be making a home visit after all this is over. I will need you both to give a testimony to the police when they arrive. Can you do that for me, girls?" she is practically begging them.
Nala and Candice both stare at each other for support before nodding in tandem. "Good." Ms. Register claps her hands once as if congratulating herself on convincing them. "I want you both to go and wait in the nurse's office. There is no need for you two to be here when he regains consciousness."
Both of them nod again before fleeing the room. They are holding hands for some reason; perhaps as a source of solace after experiencing the same fearful event. Ms. Register starts to dial the police station on her cell phone as soon as they are out of the room.
Ms. Register drives Nala and Candice home after the police are done talking to them. They are promised nothing in the terms of prosecution, mainly due to the fact that Nala used her stun gun on him before he could do anything. Ms. Register however has assured them that the board will be hearing about everything and he will definitely not be allowed on campus ever again.
As Ms. Register still plans to visit Nala's home, she drops off Candice first. Nala sends a quick message to her brother's phone, warning him but he does not respond. By the time they arrive in the driveway, Nala is visibly shaking. "Calm down. Why are you so tense? Is there something you do not wish me to see?" Ms. Register is suspicious.
"No! Why would there be?" Nala is defensive. She practically leaps out of the car as soon as her teacher shifts it into park. She finds the door to the apartment unlocked, despite the fact that her brother's car is absent. Her only conclusion is that Celli must already be inside. "Celli, where are you?" she shouts. "Celli, come out now!"
"I'm in the bedroom," the older girl calls to her. "What's your deal?"
"You better be wearing clothes in there!" Nala warns her as she marches toward her brother's room.
"And what if I'm not?" Celli responds smugly.
"Then we have a problem," Ms. Register answers while entering the apartment. Nala quickly shuts herself in her brother's room with Celli.
"Who was that?" The older girl is lying on Corbin's bed wearing nothing but lingerie and a confused expression.
"It doesn't matter, just get some clothes on!" Nala orders her.
"Why?" Celli refuses to listen.
"I said do it!" Nala grabs something from the closet and tosses it at her. "I'll be right outside when you're ready. Come out and…"
"Miss Peters, come out of there right now." Ms. Register knocks at the bedroom door. "What are you hiding in there?"
"I'm not really hiding anything." Nala opens the door just enough to respond.
"Who is in there with you?" Ms. Register tries to peek through the crack.
"No one, someone, anyone," Nala sputters as she slips out of the room and closes the door behind her. "Now, where would you like to start the tour?"
"Here seems like a good place." Ms. Register places her hands on her hips sternly.
"Well, here is no good. You can't just barge in on a girl changing."
"Oh, Miss Agnew is changing in there. Well why didn't you just say so?" Ms. Register calms down. "You don't have to be so uptight. I'm not unreasonable… Wait a second, why is she changing in your room?"
"Well, this isn't my room; it's…"
"There are only two rooms." Ms. Register glances around. "So this must be your brother's room then. Miss Agnew already has a drawer here I presume."
"Well, now that she is eighteen…" Nala tries to laugh.
"I'm sure you will attest to the fact that she did not stay over until she was eighteen, correct?" Ms. Register's eyes narrow.
"Well, what would be so bad if she did?" Nala shrugs.
"Despite the fact that it is not illegal for a seventeen year old to have an illicit relationship with an adult, it falls under the category of custodial interference if she stayed the night here."
"Surely you're not going to nitpick at things like this," Nala tries to guilt her. "Celli was already almost eighteen when they started dating."
"Unfortunately, almost eighteen and actually eighteen are two entirely different things. If your brother had began his relationship with her the day before she turned seventeen, it would still be considered illegal, understood?"
"Yes, Ms. Register," Nala grumbles. She feels like she is still in class.
"Now, while Miss Agnew prepares herself, I would like to see your room."
"Oh, my room?" Nala gulps. "Why my room?"
"Various reasons." Ms. Register steps past her rather than waiting for permission.
"Hey, you're still a guest," Nala reminds her. "You can't just barge in…"
"If you do not allow me to conduct my investigation, I will be forced to take this up with the board," Ms. Register warns her. "Is that what you want?"
"You're a real bully," Nala mutters to herself. Despite her best intentions, Ms. Register is essentially blackmailing her. It is not clear if the teacher heard her complaint. If she did, she pretends not to notice. "Um, this is my room." Nala opens her door while snatching a sign off of it; a warning for Corbin and Celli that neither one is allowed to enter without the nicest of phrasing. Ms. Register wrinkles her nose but says nothing.
She takes her time examining the rather hollow room from top to bottom. There are several empty shelves meant to hold sports trophies that have yet to be filled, a dresser with a rotation mirror on top, a desk and chair for doing homework, a closet filled with boxes of clothes she has outgrown, and an untidy bed with a stuffed rabbit next to two un-fluffed pillows. "Not what I'd expect from a young girl," Ms. Register seems disappointed.
"I don't really have my own identity according to my brother," Nala admits.
"Well, it'll take time," her teacher tries to console her. "Everything here seems to be in order." She smiles as she opens and closes each drawer on the dresser. Nala holds her breath as she watches her teacher cross the room to her nightstand. She turns on and off the lamp a few times before opening the drawer below it. Nala winces as she remembers what is inside. Ms. Register is shaking her head disappointedly as she turns around to face Nala with a length of condoms in her hand. "Please explain," she orders calmly.
"What do you want me to say?" Nala's face is turning red.
"Tell me they are not your brother's."
"Why would they be his? They're in my room." Nala crosses her arms angrily.
"I've said this before; I am worried about the relationship you and your brother have," Ms. Register reminds her.
"You're sick. Those are for me and Sean," Nala admits while trying to hide her embarrassment.
"That's a good thing, believe me, but it raises another question; when exactly do you have time to invite your boyfriend over?"
"Well, we walk home together." Nala shrugs. "My brother doesn't arrive back until half an hour after he finishes his work."
"Which gives you the perfect opportunity to sneak your boyfriend over without his knowledge." Ms. Register nods to show she believes Nala.
"Hey, even if I lived with my parents I'd still find a way to be with Sean," Nala spouts. "It's not his fault he doesn't notice."
"That's not what worries me. I'm concerned he has noticed and has done nothing," Ms. Register explains.
"Is that really so bad?" Nala asks.
"It is not the normal thing a parent would do." Ms. Register shrugs. "Perhaps the fact that his girlfriend is about the same age as you has gained you sympathy."
"That's not a bad thing and it's certainly not illegal," Nala argues.
"It's certainly not a good thing. He is neglecting his duties as a guardian."
"So you think I shouldn't be allowed to see Sean?" Nala glares at her.
"It's not my business what your relationship with Mr. Baker is. If I hadn't come here I would be unaware of it and I prefer it that way."
"Then let it go," Nala urges her.
"But it is your brother's business," she argues, "and he's not doing anything about it."
"What he does about it is not your business!" Nala shouts at her. "As you said, if you hadn't even come here, you wouldn't know whether or not he was doing anything about it. Just go home and pretend you didn't see anything like you promised."
"I came here to make sure you were being cared for properly," Ms. Register raises her voice.
"No, you came here to make sure my brother wasn't screwing me like Mr. Thalmus keeps trying to. You've got your answer now so get out!"
"How, how dare you?" Ms. Register is shocked. "I am your teacher."
"Not right now. Right now you are a guest in my home who bullied her way in. You are blackmailing me just like Mr. Thalmus. Do you feel good about yourself? My brother had to change schools because of you."
"That was his own fault," Ms. Register disagrees. "If he had simply ended his relationship with Miss Agnew…"
"Why should he?" Celli interrupts them. She is wearing jeans and a loose top over her lingerie now. "I'm eighteen and we are getting married. He isn't even a teacher at my school anymore. There should be no more problems."
"But Miss Peters's well being…"
"Is just fine," Celli raises her voice. "In fact, she's doing a wonderful job of handling herself, wouldn't you think? Corbin just called me. Apparently he was contacted by the police about an incident at school. This Mr. Thalmus you did nothing about attacked her again. It seems to me you've been looking in the wrong direction."
"Now see here, Miss Agnew. You have no idea what you are talking about. I am duty bound to investigate every incident to the fullest. I can not give special treatment to any individual, including Mr. Peters."
"Why is it always like this?" Celli growls. "You had full proof of this Mr. Thalmus person and you did nothing. He's the one receiving special treatment. Do you know what kind of home I grew up in? Why didn't you call child services on my mom and dad? You were too busy trying to get innocent people like Corbin in trouble. It's always easier to attack the person you know did nothing. The guilty ones fight back."
"I…" Ms. Register is stumped for a moment. "I'll admit that I am slightly more cautious when dealing with Mr. Thalmus than with Mr. Peters."
"You're afraid of him!" Nala accuses her. "You didn't know how to act, did you?"
"He's so large and scary." Ms. Register starts to tremble.
"I know. He shoved his bulbous fingers in my mouth," Nala screams. "You were willing to let me and Candice suffer just because you were afraid of him. You talk about your responsibility but you're still doing nothing."
"I know, I know," Ms. Register is on the verge of tears. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for what happened to you. I know it was my mistake. I really don't know how to make it up to you."
"You can start by leaving my brother alone. He's more than proven the lengths he's willing to go to just to make things right with Celli. If you think he would do this for just any girl you're wrong. He worked hard for his career and he would not risk it like this if it weren't extremely important to him. He loves Celli and he's willing to marry her to prove it. Are you going to come to the ceremony to see for yourself? Are you going to camp outside the delivery room to quiz them after their first child is born? Please, just let it go."
"Nala, is that how you really feel?" Celli is in shock after her outburst. "I thought you hated me."
"There's no possible way I can let go of my concern for my brother. I'll always be worried that he'll get hurt but it's not just you. I would be this way no matter who he wanted to marry. It's just the way I am. If you really want to be with him, then you have to accept his meddling younger sister as well. Corbin and I are a team. We are best friends."
"I understand now," Ms. Register mutters. "I finally understand. I'm sorry for bothering you all this time. I think I'm going to practice my testimony for the police. They'll want my input on whether or not to take Andrew to trial. I hope they do."
"Me too," Nala agrees.
"Goodbye, Miss Peters. I'll see you in homeroom tomorrow. I really am sorry for what you have gone through and what I put you through."
As soon as Ms. Register has left the apartment, Celli bounds across the room and hugs Nala. "Oh, I can't wait until you are my little sister. I'm going to spoil you so bad."
"Get off of me. What's with you?"
"Oh, you don't have to act like that. I know you're hiding your true feelings under that harsh exterior. I can't believe all this time I was worried you were going to make Corbin dump me or something. I really underestimated you, Nala."
"Okay, okay, I get it. You're happy I'm not out to get rid of you like I did to Corbin's other girlfriends."
"You what?" Celli drops Nala and takes a step back. "You really are a devil."
"Hey, aren't you glad? If I hadn't you might never have ended up together," Nala reminds her.
"I'm torn between being grateful and concerned." Celli eyes her suspiciously. "You could turn around and get rid of me if you changed your mind."
"You know it's too late for that. My brother is head over heels this time. Knowing how much he cares about you almost makes scaring away all his other girlfriends worth it."
"How exactly did you manage that?" Celli is curious.
"Most of the time telling them he was cheating with a straight face worked," Nala thinks back.
"Devil," Celli's opinion of her is set.
"It didn't work with that one lady who had a daughter though. I had to convince her he was a pedophile."
"You what?" Celli gasps.
"Yeah, I told her that Corbin touched me every night and made me sleep in the same bed; scared the hell out of her."
"It's your fault!" Celli shouts while trying to grab Nala. "You're the reason everyone thinks Corbin is a criminal!"
"What did I do?" Nala ducks under her arms and slips out of the room.
"You devil, monster, creep, twerp, manipulator!" Celli continues to shout as she chases Nala through the apartment.
She finally catches her in the living room and pushes her onto the couch just as Corbin enters the kitchen. "What's going on?" he asks when he hears his sister screaming as Celli tickles her mercilessly.
"Corbin, help," Nala begs.
"You've never called me by my name before," he is impressed.
"Now is not the time to be surprised, just help me!" she demands.
"What did she do?" he asks Celli. It is obvious to him that his sister must have done something to deserve it.
"She's a bloody liar!" Celli shouts.
"I am not," Nala whines. "She's the liar. I didn't do anything."
"Really?" Corbin doesn't believe her.
"Tell him." Celli twists her arm.
"No," she refuses. "You'll have to kill me."
"It's that serious, is it?" Corbin strokes his chin.
"She's been scaring off your girlfriends for ages," Celli finally gives up and tells him.
"Oh that? That's old news." He waves his hand uninterestedly. "You can let her go. I've already forgiven her for that."
"You have?" Celli stares at him blankly as she climbs off of Nala.
"You're heavy," Nala insults her as she stands up.
"Come here you little…" Celli lunges at her again but is easily dodged. Corbin sits down on the couch next to her and pulls her into his lap to calm her down. "So you already knew about everything she did?" Celli asks.
"I'm grateful actually. If she hadn't then I'd never have met you." He pokes her nose, making her giggle.
"But still, you're fine with that one woman thinking you're a pedophile?"
"What now?" Corbin is completely lost.
"You already said you forgive me. No take backs," Nala shouts.
"Who thinks I'm a pedophile and why?" Corbin raises his voice.
"Remember Mrs. Lang?" Nala asks shyly.
"Yeah, you were good friends with her daughter Cho… Until they up and moved one day."
"She told Mrs. Lang that you molested her," Celli spouts.
"You what?" Corbin stands up, letting Celli fall off his lap and onto the floor. "No wonder she said she'd call the police if I ever came near her or Cho again. You little…" He lunges at Nala.
"Hey, I was ten," Nala tries to make an excuse.
"I'm gonna spank you 'til you bleed!" Corbin leaps over the coffee table. Nala ducks underneath it, and scampers across the floor until she reaches her room. She slams and locks the door before Corbin can follow her.
"Let her go." Celli grabs his hand and pulls him back down onto the couch. "Listen to this. You'll never guess what she said about you to that teacher of hers."
"Damn, I forgot about that lady," Corbin groans. "She's supposed to visit today."
"Been and gone," Celli informs him. "Nala scared her away. You should have heard her bragging about how much her big brother must be in love with his fiancé."
"I didn't use any of those words!" Nala shouts from her bedroom.
"It's pretty much the same thing," Celli shouts back.
"Fine, tell him whatever you want," Nala gives up quickly. She does not feel like sustaining an argument through her locked door, nor is she willing to come out until Corbin calms down. Celli's story should help him along the way.
Instead of listening at her door, Nala crawls into her bed on the opposite side of the room. Despite what she said she is still not entirely happy about her brother's engagement. It will take a while before she is willing to accept Celli completely.