My Fake Life

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Fake Make Up

"Nala…" Corbin has only just started to knock on his sister's door when it flies open. She is smiling brightly for the first time in a while. "I thought you'd be sleeping in again," he chuckles.

"I never sleep in," she lies. "You promised to put my hair up today, remember?"

"And you promised to talk to Mrs. Register," he counters.

"I'll do it, I'll do it, just get to my hair already," she is impatient.

He sits her down at the kitchen table so he can tie her hair up properly. To his surprise she starts to eat the cold food he has left out. "What happened to your diet?" he asks.

"To hell with it," she scoffs.

"Nala, language!" he is shocked. "I've never heard you speak like that before."

"I'm trying something new." She shrugs. "Do you like it?"

"Don't talk like that at school; it reflects badly on me as your caretaker."

"Always concerned with yourself," she pretends to be disappointed.

"I really will spank you," he warns her.

"You haven't spanked me since I was twelve," she mocks him.

"I could always break that record." He pretends to reach for her butt, slowly enough for her to move away though.

"I think I'll walk to school today." She runs out the door while laughing.

As soon as Nala arrives at school, she notices one of her classmates staring at her strangely. "Um, is there something I can help you with, Celia?" she recalls the girl's name quickly.

"Peters, right? You look different." Celia closes the space between them in the hall. She is a thin girl with reddish brown hair.

"Do you like them?" Nala touches one of her pony tails.

"Aren't they a little childish?" Celia grabs the other one.

"Ouch, hey." Nala jerks away. "What's with you?"

"I was just checking if it was a wig or extensions. There's no way your hair grew that quickly."

"They're extensions," Nala admits. "I was feeling nostalgic."

"You shouldn't have joined track then." Celia shrugs uninterestedly.

"Have we ever spoken before?" Nala is starting to wonder how she ended up in a conversation with a careless girl like Celia.

"I'm sort of friends with Asia," she explains. "Well, you could call us acquaintances. That girl has some problems."

"Problems? She seems normal to me," Nala is not happy to hear her friend insulted.

"A loner like you would think that way. Did you hear? Her number was up on one of the boys' bathroom stalls."

"How did you know?" Nala's eyes widen.

"One of the guys showed it to his girlfriend and she recognized it. Apparently it's been scribbled over by now but at least ten guys are looking for her now. Seems like they found her." Celia directs Nala's attention down the hall to a group of boys all surrounding a girl with pigtails.

"Asia!" Nala runs to help her friend.

"What's this?" The boys spread out to allow her into the center with her friend.

"I heard this was Baker's girl," they begin to chatter amongst themselves.

"You can assume that's a thing of the past."

"So he won't be mad if we have a little fun. She must be a tramp too if she's friends with this one."

"What's going on?" Nala whispers to Asia.

"They think I'll put out since my number was on the stall," Asia explains. "I thought I was done with this."

"Don't be like that." One of the boys grabs Asia's arm. "You know how to show a guy a good time, don't you?"

"I can bite your dick off if that's what you mean." She bares her teeth at him.

"She's not cute at all." He backs up.

"Hey, that's no good. You're supposed to provide service for customers." Another boy steps forward to take his place.

"Maybe these girls are just teases."

"If that's so we should teach them what happens when they lead people on."

"What's going on here?" A tall figure appears behind the group.

"Sean?" Nala recognizes him immediately.

"It would be you," he groans.

"Hey, Baker. This is your girl, right?" One of the boys places an arm around his shoulder. "Want to get back at her for dumping you?"

"I'm the one that dumped her," he informs them. "All of you, break apart. You're pathetic." He shoves them away from Nala and Asia.

"Hey, we're just having some fun."

"If this is your idea of fun, then go to a brothel." He is glaring angrily now. All of the boys quickly disperse. "Are you alright?" He leans down to examine Nala. "What happened to your hair?"

"Um, nothing…" She backs away.

"Say, yeah. I didn't notice that before." Asia turns around to look at her. "Are you going for a childish look?"

"I was just feeling nostalgic," she gives the same excuse as before. "It's the way I used to wear my hair in the countryside. After I came to the city, my brother only put it up like this on special occasions."

"It suits you," Sean is surprisingly polite. "I like you with long hair."

"I knew that." She averts her eyes.

"No, I mean it. I missed the way your hair looked during the summer tryouts. It was darker and all stringy because you'd been sweating."

"Athletes have that problem, don't they?" Asia quickly checks her own shiny hair.

"Hey, what are you doing, man?" Madison shouts at Sean from across the hall. "Who are you flirting with… oh, it's you." His expression sinks when he recognizes them.

"Hold on, what's with that reaction?" Asia shakes her fist at him. "You could be nicer to a girl you've been txting."

"I don't need to be nice to a girl who tells random strangers about her lace underwear," he responds in a mocking tone.

"I don't wear lace. That was just a joke." She grabs the hem of her skirt defensively.

"Oh really, then show me." He crouches down.

Nala and Sean laugh in unison at the spectacle before them. "Hey, why aren't you worried?" Asia glares at her friend.

"Spandex, remember?" Nala grins back at her. Asia's face turns bright red as she contemplates what to do next. In the end she raises her leg, kicking Madison in the chin and knocking him backward.

"What the hell was that for?" He does a handstand and a back flip to regain his footing. Nala and Sean clap in unison again.

"You deserved that." Asia crosses her arms angrily.

"Come on, Sean." Madison stalks past them.

"Um, right." Sean quickly follows him. "You really do look pretty today, Nala," he calls back down the hall as they disappear around the corner.

"What was his problem?" Asia is still seething.

"I think he likes you," Nala laughs while covering her mouth.

"What about your boyfriend; he's got a lot of nerve hitting on you after he dumped you."

"And yet you still call him my boyfriend," Nala reminds her. "Why do you do that again?"

"I just don't want to use his name. It's weird to talk about a boy you're not familiar with, don't you think?"

"Well I call Madison Maddie so I don't think it's that weird…"

"It is weird." Asia grabs her by the shoulders, startling her. "You act too friendly with him considering you don't even like each other."

"But I think it would be rude to suddenly stop calling him that, don't you think?" Nala whines.

"If you use his real name it should be fine. You only call him Maddie because your boyfriend calls him that, right?"

"Could you at least stop calling him my boyfriend now that we've broken up?" Nala complains.

"So I should call him your ex?" Asia tilts her head in thought.

"I don't know. Why can't you use his name? Why are you so hung up on names?"

"Because names are what you call friends. I don't have any friends anymore."

"Huh? This is the first I'm hearing of it. Explain!" Nala is suddenly interested. "I thought you had tons of friends. I even just talked to Celia about you."

"Yeah, don't do that again," Asia's voice is stern.

"Why? Who is she?"

"Let's just say we used to be friends before this whole Ricky incident," Asia refuses to explain further.

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize." Nala hugs her from behind.

"What's this all of a sudden?" Asia is surprised.

"You're my first official friend since I came to the city," Nala whispers. "I don't want to upset you."

"I think I chose well," Asia laughs while wiping a tear from her eye. "I decided I wasn't going to get involved with people anymore. When I realized how pathetically innocent you were, I thought I could at least talk to you. I didn't really consider you a friend."

"You're so mean," Nala starts to pout.

"I've changed my mind." Asia closes her eyes and leans her head back to rest against Nala's chest. "We look like a couple, don't we?"

"Maybe we should forget about boys and go out with each other instead," Nala suggests jokingly.

"I wish it were that simple," Asia sighs.

"You two, no public displays of affection during school hours," Ms. Register, a tall teacher with half moon glasses and dark hair tied in a bun, scolds them. She is made even taller by her high heels, helping her show off her long legs under a black knee length skirt with black stockings. She is the definition of a strict teacher.

"School hours haven't started yet," Asia whines while puffing out her cheeks and reaching up to touch Nala's face. She is trying to exacerbate the situation.

Ms. Register does not take the bait though. "You are technically correct, Miss Kon, but think about your reputation. It reflects badly on your peers and your guardians when you act out." Her attention turns to Nala as she says this.

"Um, Ms. Register, I need to talk to you about my bro…"

"After classes are over, Miss Peters," she cuts her off. "Come see me at the end of the school day and I may listen to what you have to say. I'm not the type of person to cause trouble needlessly. If you can give me a proper explanation that satisfies me, we may resolve this situation without the need to involve higher authority."

"What was that about?" Asia is completely lost. "Was she talking about you? Did you do something illegal?"

"I can't answer that," Nala informs her.

"No, of course you can't. I'm not stupid. You can't just go gossiping about these things with friends. I just hope you aren't getting arrested or something. Please tell me my new best friend isn't a criminal."

"I think it's safe to say I'm not but I won't reveal anything else," Nala is adamant.

"Fair enough. I think we've been like this long enough." Asia finally lets go of Nala's face and steps away from her. "That was fun, wasn't it?"

"And embarrassing," Nala agrees while blushing.

"That's your own fault. You're the one who wanted a friend. Do you regret it?"

"Not in the slightest." Nala shakes her head.

"Well, make sure I don't regret it either." Asia takes Nala's hand to lead her to their first class of the morning. They are both smiling.

"We're terrible people, aren't we?" Sean whispers guiltily to Madison as they sneak past Nala's classroom. They are trying to avoid talking to Mina or Trina or anyone else who might want a piece of them.

"You're the terrible one," Madison scoffs. "I've just been caught up in your nonsense."

"What about that pigtailed girl?" Sean argues. "That wasn't my fault."

"Your girlfriend is the one that had me scribble out all those phone numbers," he reminds him.

"You didn't have to start txting any of them," Sean spits back. They are not really mad at each other. Arguing is their way of letting off steam.

"We really are stuck, aren't we?" Madison calms down as they reach the roof. The cool fall air is soothing. "Man, how did we get into this mess?"

"It's my fault," Sean answers. "I'm the one who dragged Nala in between us."

"I don't really mind her," Madison assures him. "To be honest, she was kind of refreshing compared to most of the girls that chase after you. I'll admit I'm a little jealous but it's not like I'm not popular in my own way."

"The reason she was different is because she wasn't chasing after me," Sean admits. "She was just some girl I saw getting hit on by a teacher."

"I, I don't understand," Madison is confused.

"We never met before that morning with Mr. Thalmus," Sean continues. "We were never dating. The whole thing was a lie."

"I don't get it," Madison refuses to believe him. "You're joking, right? Please tell me you're joking."

"Why? What's the big deal?" Sean turns away.

"The big deal?" Madison grabs him by the collar and shakes him. "Did you see how fragile that girl was? She couldn't even turn down a teacher's advances. You were just messing with her this whole time?"

"We were in on it together," Sean explains. "We agreed to pretend so we wouldn't be called liars."

"Pretend? Is that what pretend is to you?" Madison raises his voice. "Is pulling on her hair all the time and eating off the same fork pretend? Is dragging her with you and Seamus and telling everyone there how you made out on her doorstep pretend, Sean? You were using her as a substitute for Nina, weren't you? Admit it, Sean."

"So what!" Sean pushes Madison away from him. "She never told me I couldn't. She wanted a boyfriend as much as I wanted a girlfriend. It was mutual."

"Was it? Doesn't that mean you really were dating? Doesn't that mean you two actually do like each other?"

"I, I don't know." Sean averts his eyes again.

"Answer me!" Madison shouts at him. "I've put up with a lot of crap from you, Sean. Just tell me what happened over the summer already. Why did you have to act as the nurse's aid? What did you do that was so bad they punished you for three months?"

"It's none of your business!" Sean tries to leave the roof but Madison blocks his path.

"You're not getting out of it this time. Everyone else involved already graduated. You're the only person left who knows what happened. Tell me!"

"I… I don't want to." Sean sinks to his knees. "It has nothing to do with you."

"If it's not important then why can't you say it?"

"Because I'm afraid," Sean admits. "I did something I'll never forget. I never thought I was capable of something like that."

"Just tell me," Madison begs. "I'm your best friend. You can trust me."

Sean nods slowly while standing up. He makes his way to the bench they always sit at. "It was the day after the seniors graduated," he begins. "Some of them were having a party to celebrate. I was very popular with them so I was invited."

"And?" Madison taps his foot nervously. Whatever Sean's secret is it terrifies him. He is dreading the answer but he has to know.

"Nina was there of course," Sean continues. "She and I were already through but I wanted to talk to her. I tried to convince her to take me back. I didn't realize that some of her other boyfriends were also at the party. They asked me to come to the roof, saying Nina wanted to talk to me there. She was there alright. She was having sex with three of her boyfriends at once, right in the middle of the roof."

"What?" Madison raises an eyebrow.

"She was taunting me." Sean begins to tremble. "They told me I could have a go at her too if I gave them some money. They were laughing at me."

"What did you do?" Madison's eyes widen.

"There." Sean points to a part of the chain link fence. It has obviously been broken and repaired. "I pushed one of them off the roof," he answers solemnly.

"Did he die?" Madison gasps.

"He hit the side of the building and a window ledge on the way down. It was enough to break his fall. He was in the hospital for a month though. The school obviously found out. I spent my entire summer acting as the nurse's aid as punishment. I was lucky the school's insurance covered everything so I didn't have to pay the boy's medical expenses."

"And this is what you've been hiding?" Madison's voice is soft and understanding. "I doubt anyone else in the whole school knows this."

"That's why I don't go out with any of the girls who ask. I can't possibly tell them something like this," Sean starts to mope.

"But then you got involved with Peters," Madison surmises.

"It was different because it wasn't real," Sean explains.

"You thought you could have the benefit of a girlfriend without the baggage," Madison agrees. "How did that go for you?"

"She got in trouble with her track captain because of me. She became a target of girls like Mina. She was made fun of by my own friends. I think you know how it went."

"And yet she stayed with you." Madison is smirking now. "She stuck through it all just to be near you, and how did you repay her?"

"I know," Sean groans. "What should I do?"

"That's up to you. You wanted a new girlfriend and she's already good at playing the part; not to mention you've already screwed up her life. You don't want to go through that again with a new girl, do you? All that's left to decide is if you really like someone so plain."

"She's not plain," Sean spouts suddenly, "she's amazing and interesting and shy, and cute, and helpless, and pathetic, and hot tempered, and annoying, and, and, and…"

"And she's your girlfriend, right?" Madison grins smugly.

"I have to tell her," Sean surmises.

"Good luck with that." Madison waves before leaving the roof. "Let me know how it goes."

As soon as his friend is out of sight, Sean takes out his phone and types a quick message to Nala, asking her to meet him on the roof. Her response is a quick one. "Lunch is almost over. Can it wait until after school?" Reluctantly he sends another message agreeing to her terms, before chasing after Madison.

The wind has picked up by the time school ends, making the roof much more chilly. Sean is not deterred though, making his way to the roof as soon as the final bell rings. He waits for nearly twenty minutes before Nala finally arrives. "Oh, sorry. Were you waiting long?" she quickly realizes that he is shivering.

"Not at all," he lies. "What kept you anyway?"

"I had to tell Asia where I was going and then listen to her opinion on whether or not I even should," she explains.

"Well, I'm glad you actually showed up. I'd have waited all night if I had to."

"That is a stupid thing to do. If I hadn't shown up after an hour you can bet I stood you up," she is blatantly honest.

"I take it you're still mad," he chuckles nervously.

"As perceptive as ever, aren't you?"

"Let me make it up to you," he begs.

"There's nothing you can do," she refuses.

"Are you sure there isn't something that you want?"

"You know what I want," she growls.

"It's yours," he spouts.

"You don't even know what it is." She frowns.

"I can guess." He smiles.

"You're so full of yourself."

"You love that about me."

"I do not. I'm over you." She turns to leave.

"Well that's too bad because apparently I'm not over you."

"What?" She turns around.

"I like you, Nala. I shouldn't have dumped you. I'm sorry."

"Are you serious?" she is in disbelief.

"I wouldn't have called you here if I weren't," he assures her.

"This is right out of our story, you know. First you run away, then you ask me out on the roof."

"Is your answer the same?" he asks hopefully.

"How can I say no to you," she quotes herself.

"Is this really okay?" he is still concerned. "I don't want to disrupt your life anymore. You've had such a hard time at track and in class because of me."

"You know I won't forgive you if you back out now," she warns him. "The longer I'm with you the less I care about any of those things. I don't care if you get another girlfriend or three. I don't care if you cheat on me or treat me as a substitute for Nina. Just tell me we really are dating, Sean."

"We are." He nods.

"Thank goodness," she sighs with relief while collapsing on the roof.

"What's wrong with you?" He rushes to help her up.

"I don't know what I would have done if you said no." She tries to wipe her eyes pointlessly as they overflow with tears.

"Hey now, don't be like this. I said it and I meant it," he tries to comfort her.

"I know, I'm glad." She hugs him. "I didn't even do anything and you came back to me. I don't understand."

"Me neither," he admits. "I liked what we had and I miss it. Can we start over?" She answers him with a kiss on the lips. They stay on the roof for a while, hugging each other to stay warm. Nala's cheeks are red from the cold air biting at her tears.

After a while Nala suddenly jolts away from Sean. "What? What is it?" he is worried.

"I was supposed to go meet Ms. Register after class." She grabs her head. "My brother is gonna kill me."

"It's not too late. Most of the teachers don't leave until five. Let's hurry." He drags her by the arm.

As expected, Ms. Register is still in Nala's homeroom, grading papers. She does not even look up to acknowledge the two students as they arrive out of breath and holding hands. "How shameless," she mutters while stamping a random quiz with a smiley face sticker.

"Us?" Nala asks in confusion.

"You ask to speak to me about your brother's shameless actions and then you keep me waiting for nearly an hour; not to mention arriving in an even more shameless manner."

"Your term is perfect, Ms. Register. We feel no shame." Sean grips Nala's hand tighter.

"If you want to earn sympathy points with me, you'll restrain yourself in my presence," she warns him.

"Why do we need sympathy?" he argues.

"I need sympathy for my brother," Nala informs him while releasing his hand.

"If you have something to say to me then say it," Ms. Register is impatient.

"I don't know the details of my brother's actions but I'm sure he has a reason for whatever he has done," she begins nervously.

"Technically there is nothing I can prove." Ms. Register shakes her head. "Unfortunately proof is not required if the board wants him dismissed, and they will dismiss without prejudice. For that reason I will be making a home visit to view you and your brother's living arrangements before making my decision on whether or not to inform the board of his actions."

"I don't understand. Why is his private life subject to your ridicule," Nala forgets that she is supposed to be polite to Ms. Register.

"I'm sure you understand why such rules as forbidding teacher student relationships exist, Miss Peters. More often than not, the student is not in a position to refuse the advances of the teacher. It is more like a captive relationship. Even if the student claims they are a willing participant, often they are not of age to make that decision. And, just in case you didn't know, it is the adult's responsibility to make sure the other participant in a relationship is of age no matter what."

Nala is reminded of her encounter with Mr. Thalmus, which sends a chill down her spine. "If I remember correctly, Celli is a senior which means she is at least seventeen." Nala tilts her head in thought.

"Which avoids the legal pitfalls of the situation; however, it is still possible she is being forced to accept the relationship by someone in a position of power above her. For that reason relationships between employees in government jobs are often also forbidden from existing."

"So the school can still fire my brother," Nala realizes.

"If you can prove to me that their relationship is mutual, then I will refrain from informing the board. That is your only option," Ms. Register answers sternly.

"Well, that's not so bad," Nala agrees. "I'm sure you'll understand their relationship better if you simply talk to them. I don't understand why you want to come to my house though."

"Right now I'm under the impression that you and your brother live alone. Is that correct?"

"Um, yes. He has been taking care of me since I was twelve."

"Then I'm sure you realize the implications." Ms. Register's eyes narrow.

"I do not," Nala refuses to listen.

"It's very simple. I'm not saying it is true, but in the event your brother has abused his power as a teacher to solicit a student, it is to be expected that he is capable of doing the same to any underage children in his care."

"How dare you?" Nala slams her palms on Ms. Register's desk.

"I'm not the bad guy, Miss Peters. I'm simply doing what I have to, to insure your safety. I do not wish to inform child services and have a public record of this incident created. I will take matters into my own hands for now. In the event that I find your brother innocent of my worst concerns, I shall allow you to continue living as you are. See, I can be reasonable at times." She seems aware of her students' negative opinion of her.

Nala stalks out of the room with her fists clenched, leaving Sean behind. "Thank you for being so understanding." He bows to the teacher before chasing after his girlfriend. "Nala, wait." He grabs her hand as she is about to round the corner of the hall. "Why are you so angry? She's just doing her job."

"I don't like it," she shouts.

"What? What don't you like?"

"I hate it when other people have control of my life. When my brother first wanted to become a teacher, my parents refused to let him go. They were controlling him. I couldn't stand it. That's why I helped him achieve his goal. I left my life in the country behind so he could be happy."

"I never realized…" Sean is taken aback.

"People are always telling my brother what to do. Ms. Register; if she wanted to, she could lie to the board and say she found proof he did something wrong. She holds his whole life in her hands."

"She wouldn't do something like that," Sean disagrees.

"Even so, I don't like it. I hate the fact that she can. I hate the fact that my track captain has the right to make me diet or cut my hair. It's not the same as teachers making us do homework. It's exactly what Ms. Register is afraid my brother is doing to Celli; forcing her to date him."

Sean is reminded of Mr. Thalmus at that moment. He knows exactly why Nala is so upset now. "It's alright." He hugs her tightly. "No one has control over you anymore."

"No, they still do," she raises her voice again while pressing her forehead into his shoulder. "If they wanted to, my parents could change their minds right now and take me away from my brother. They have that power. They are still controlling us both. We have to do everything perfectly or they'll force us back to the farm forever."

"Why do you call Corbin your brother? Why don't you ever use his name?" Sean is sidetracked by a different realization.

"Huh? Why do you ask?"

"It's just been bothering me. Not many high school students refer to their siblings like that."

"Well, it's because he is my sibling," she answers. "If I stop calling him my brother then I might forget that eventually. Despite everything we are still two people living alone together. I have to think of him as my brother or it'll be weird."

"I don't like that explanation." Sean frowns. "It makes it sound as if you've given it a lot of thought."

"I have. When I was younger I adored my brother. I would scare off his girlfriends and tell him I'd be his wife when I was old enough."

"And your parents still let you move in alone with him?" Sean's expression is one of complete annoyance.

"I was ten when I said those things," Nala explains.

"And yet you still think about it, even now," Sean accuses her.

"Of course I do. He is my ideal type of guy. You remind me a lot of him. You're both handsome and popular and…"

"So that's it." Sean pinches her cheeks. "I'm just a replacement for a girl with a crush on her brother."

"Like I said, he is my brother, so you have nothing to worry about," she has trouble talking as he stretches her mouth awkwardly.

"Can I take my rooftop confession back?" Sean asks in a half joking manner.

"Hey." She turns out her lip to pout. "You're the one who's using me as a substitute for Nina."

"You promise I have nothing to worry about?" he calms down slightly.

"You're the one who's acting paranoid. Normal people wouldn't consider siblings a threat," she teases him.

"That's not a straight answer." He pinches her nose this time.

"You don't get a straight answer because this whole conversation is stupid," her voice is high pitched and nasal.

"Maybe I should just dump you again," he threatens her.

"I'll be waiting for you to come crawling back again," she counters.

"What are you two doing?" Ms. Register pokes her head out of her classroom.

"Nothing." Sean releases Nala's nose and hides his hand behind his back.

"I'm warning you; school hours may be over but you're still on campus right now. Do not try anything funny, Mr. Baker," she directs her warning at Sean. She seems to have a distrust of men. "That hairstyle is positively childish, by the way, Miss Peters," she insults Nala one final time.

Nala puffs out her cheeks in annoyance but otherwise remains calm. "Well, that settles that." She prances ahead of Sean.

"Hey, where are you going? Don't you have track practice today?"

"I'm sick of track," she yawns. "I joined because I wanted to be part of something but I never really thought I'd do that well. In the end I got too serious about it and made a lot of choices I didn't want to."

"You're seriously going to quit?" Sean is surprised.

"It's not like anyone is going to miss me. I'm not friends with any of my teammates."

"What about that Trevor kid?" Sean recalls.

"I'm not friends with any of my teammates," Nala repeats with emphasis, warning Sean that the discussion is over.

"Shall we walk home together?" he changes the subject quickly.

"I don't know. Is that what normal couples do?"

"Why are you being so difficult?" Sean is annoyed.

"Because, I have the right to be. If we really are dating, then you have to put up with me, no matter what. I can speak my mind."

"It's not a free pass to be a jerk, but I guess you're right. I do like it better when you are honest with me," Sean admits. As they leave the campus, Nala watches Sean's dangling hand, wondering if she is allowed to hold it like she did when they were pretending. Of course, now it would have a deeper meaning. She can't bring herself to admit she likes him that much.

In the end they do not do anything becoming of a couple the entire way home. Even their conversation lacks any seriousness at all. It is as if everything they have done up until this point has reset. Now that they actually care about each other's feelings, they can't just act however they please anymore.

"So, should we kiss?" Sean asks as they arrive in front of her apartment.

"I really don't know." Her cheeks are still red, either from crying, being pinched, the cold air, embarrassment, or all four combined.

"You kissed me on the rooftop," he reminds her.

"That was pure instinct. I don't know how to initiate it if you ask me first," she defends herself.

"Then should I initiate?" he asks.

"I can't promise I won't move away or even hit you," she warns him.

"Whoa, I seriously have a dangerous girlfriend, don't I," he adopts a joking tone, putting her a little more at ease.

"Thank you." She smiles at him. She knows he is doing it for her benefit. "I promise I'll try harder later. Right now I'm still having trouble believing it. Give me some time."

"Just don't go making out with your brother in the mean time," he mumbles as he turns to leave.

"Will you let that go?" She swings her fist at him. He is too far away to hit though.

"I'll txt you," he promises as he rounds the corner of the street.

Nala is smiling and humming to herself happily as she opens the door to her apartment. Surprisingly, Corbin is already sitting in the living room, wringing his hands nervously. "Did you talk to your teacher?" he practically jumps at her when she enters the room.

"What? Yes." She shields her face instinctively.

"I'm not going to hit you." He pries her arms back down. "What did she say? Am I getting fired?"

"God, you're so hopeless. She's making a home visit to see how we live. She'll make her decision on what to tell the board based on her own opinion."

"Damn that woman; always sticking her nose where it doesn't belong." He crosses his arms as he sits back down. "She has no right to do anything of the sort."

"She has full rights to tell the board what she saw and get you fired," Nala warns him. "Just do as she asks and she'll keep your secret… probably," she adds after a moment.

"Probably?" Corbin is not convinced in the slightest. "What exactly does she plan to find in our home?"

"Um…" Nala averts her eyes.

"What? What is it? Tell me," he whines.

"She wants to know if it's healthy for two people like us to be living together." Nala fiddles with her fingers shyly.

"Well that's not so bad. Why are you worried? Do you have something hidden in your room you don't want her to see?"

"No. What would I have?"

"I don't know. Girls have these gadgets that run on batteries and…"

"Enough," Nala stops him. "I have no such thing in my room. Remove that image from your head right now."

"Too late; I'm already imagining it. Maybe that's why you take such long baths when you get home."

"Shut up. I take a bath when I get home because I don't like to use the showers in the locker room."

"I suppose it's too much to ask a girl who wears spandex instead of panties to shower with all of the other girls." He strokes his chin as he pretends to give the idea a lot of thought.

"Stop it!" she is thoroughly annoyed. "Is this how you plan to act when Ms. Register comes to check on us?"

"Are you embarrassed by your big brother?" He starts to tickle her. She refrains from laughing while struggling to escape. Finally she manages to shut herself in the bathroom. "Are you going to take a bath?" he taunts her.

"Shut up!" she screams at him. Finally he decides to let her be, leaving the living room so she can come out if she chooses. In the end she decides it will be best to actually take a bath, even though she did not attend track today. She carefully removes the extensions from her hair and sets them on the edge of the bathroom sink, planning to return them to Sherry at some point over the weekend.

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