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Grade Ten (1 year before the present day)

It was midnight and Adriana who usually found herself tired at 11 p.m., could not sleep. She was the kind of person who would try and stay up on the weekend and accidentally fall asleep at 10. She had missed the last New Year’s fireworks because she was so tired. So really, this was quite unusual.

Maybe it wasn’t as unusual considering she was invited to a party. Not the kind with alcohol and lots of people; instead it’s her 3 other friends and they’re planning to be loud and play video games. Adriana had full permission to sleep over, after explaining (lying) that they had “so much to study, and it’s due soon.”

Here she was at her friend’s house, a backpack full of clothes and one notebook.

“Addi, do you wanna join us?” Lora asked.

“What’re we doing?” Adriana glanced at the TV, watching the Minecraft title screen move. “Also do you still have extra popcorn?”

“Of course I still have extra popcorn,” Lora said, faking a look of betrayal. “It’s on the kitchen counter, I’ll connect your controller until then.”

“Thanks,” Adriana said, before standing, hiking the treacherous path to the kitchen, and grabbing the bowl of buttery popcorn.

Adriana walked back to the living room and picked up her controller. The game had already begun, so while everyone else was being productive, her character was standing in one spot, staring at a tree.

“Hey Cassie, do you want my stone pickaxe? I made an iron one.” Alyce asked.

“No, I already have one,” Cassie answered. “I have a present for you.”

In-game Cassie threw in-game Alyce a blue flower.

Being around those two meant voluntarily third-wheeling; they had been dating since winter of grade nine. It came so simply to them.

Alyce was in Adriana’s science class and, after pairing up for a project, they exchanged social media. It was Lora who actually invited Alyce to eat lunch with them since they had a class together and were already becoming friends.

Alyce had accepted and they had all gone out to get pizza. It wasn’t a surprise when, months later, Alyce had just become a part of their group.

Lora was also the one who invited Cassie to have lunch with them. Only a week after Alyce and her became friends, Lora met Cassie in the school library. The three of them had gone in to spend the rest of their break looking around since they were still somewhat new. Lora had wandered into the shelves upon shelves of books and come out with a short, pink-haired girl named Cassie.

Ever since then, the four of them were inseparable. Everyone, aside from Adriana, had other friends. Occasionally, they would spend a lunch break with other people (and sometimes Alyce and Cassie alone, receiving knowing yet understanding comments from the other two), but they knew they always had each other to rely on.

Lora, the extrovert friend that had adopted Adriana right at the start of high school, was also friends with Mayrium. This would’ve been a problem if Lora had known they were practically enemies, but she didn’t at first. Adriana hadn’t found any reason to tell her until that faithful day,

Adriana couldn’t blame Lora, she and Maryium were similar and vibed well together. Adriana can’t lie though, it was a real surprise when she had gone her typical route to the cafeteria and found her best friend talking with her sworn rival.

Maryium had only briefly acknowledged Adriana and continued conversing with Lora. Adriana sat down, shared greetings with Lora, and pretended she wanted to be in the same vicinity as Maryium.

It got worse when Maryium’s entire friend group also started eating lunch with Adriana’s. Jamie and Alex were both nice and Adriana had fun discussing their shared interest in books, but all she could think about was Maryium sitting slightly across from her; her voice, her charisma, and how much better at everything Maryium was.

Maryium would not escape her mind. Every moment of the day, she was thinking, Maryium would be better at me than this. I would have more fun doing this if Maryium was here to compete with.

So maybe Adriana had unintentionally manifested it because of course, she couldn’t manifest something useful like finding diamonds in her video game; here she was with barely any armour, three iron ingots, and eight zombies chasing her.

Adriana’s accidental manifest was the only thing she could logically blame when she heard a knock, followed by Lora standing and opening the front door.

“Don’t steal my iron, I swear Adriana I will dump lava on you,” Lora threatened. Adriana was not about to do that. At all. She closed Lora’s iron chest.

“I won’t. I have like, a billion zombies chasing me. Alyce, help.” Alyce didn’t help. Instead, she paused the game, turned around, and passed another controller to the one and only, Maryium.

“Finally! May, you’re late,” Cassie said. “You have to be here when Addi dies.”

“I’m not going to die,” Adriana protested, not noticing her last remaining heart disappear. “Fuck.”

“Maybe I’m bad luck,” Maryium laughed, before taking the controller and sitting down right next to Adriana, to her dismay.

“Is that why you’re sitting right next to me? Because you want me to fail?” Adriana shifted to give her room anyway. “I’m onto you, Mayrium.”

“Well, I’m not gonna sit on the same sofa as Alyce and Cassie, am I?” Maryium laughed, putting her legs up on the couch and punching an in-game tree. “I don’t want to third-wheel more than I already have to.”

It was three in the morning when the five girls finally went to sleep. Lora set out mattresses for each of them, joked about having Adriana and Maryium share one, and received two annoyed looks in response.

Everyone was asleep, or at the very least, pretending to be. Everyone except Lora and Adriana, that is. Adriana volunteered to assist Lora in cleaning up because Lora needed it and Adriana was too restless to sleep.

They were stood in the kitchen, washing dishes, and having deep conversations, as one does.

“Why do you hate Maryium so much?” Lora asked. She spoke in a soft tone as to not wake the others.

“I guess it doesn’t make sense any other way. We’ve always been like that, you know?”

“That doesn’t mean things can’t change, Addi.” Lora was wise despite being the youngest in the group. Maybe it was a Virgo thing.

“I don’t want them to,” Adriana confessed, a voice slightly above a whisper. Sensing Lora’s next inquiry, Adriana added, “I’ve discovered I don’t deal with change well. Maryium and I have this vibe that I can’t get with anyone else.”

“You say all that but also insist you hate her.”

“You don’t actually hate me, do you, Ade?” Maryium asked, sneaking up behind Adriana and startling her. “I’m hurt! How could you say such a thing.”

“I-.” Adriana was having a difficult time forming words; her mouth was not co-operating with her brain.

“You don’t have to say it, I know you don’t,” Marium reassured.

“Hate is a strong word anyway,” Lora added.

“Yeah, I don’t hate you. I’d rather just not be around you is all,” Adriana explained.

“I can work with that,” Mayrium murmured.

“Do you guys wanna continue bonding while I finally get some sleep?” Lora didn’t wait for a response. She was out of the kitchen and into her blanket in the span of a minute.

“Want some leftover popcorn?” Adriana offered. “It’s plain though, be warned.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Maryium reached over to the counter and took a handful. Her hand lightly brushed Adriana’s, who for a second, could not breathe.

Adriana wondered what it meant. She wondered especially hard when she noticed the shine of the moonlight on Mayrium’s olive skin; the highlights cast on her chestnut hair; how her eyes looked particularly dark, darker than they normally were.

Adriana hadn’t realized, but Maryium was studying her the same as she had Mayrium. So maybe it wasn’t much of a surprise when Mayrium leaned forward slightly. Adriana pretended not to notice, but she had, in fact, noticed.

“I’ve always wondered,” Maryium began, voice soft, face relaxed, “Why don’t you call me May like all our friends do?”

“I’m special,” Adriana joked. “Besides, you don’t call me Addi.”

“I already have a nickname for you, Ade. It’s much cooler,” Marium laughed softly. “You should make me a nickname.”

“I can’t just make a nickname for you,” Adriana protested. “They have to come naturally.”

“Is this your way of saying only friends have nicknames for each other, and you don’t consider us friends?”

“Your words, not mine,” Adriana joked, not noticing the slight look of hurt on Maryium’s face. It was gone as quickly as it arrived.

“I really want a nickname from you,” Maryium said, her voice dropping in pitch. “Which means we have to be friends. Or more.”

“One day,” Adriana said.

“Why not today?”

“You could be fucking with me, I wouldn’t know,” Adriana said.

“I wouldn’t.”

“Prove it,” Adriana smirked, knowing full well she couldn’t. What she had not realized was the distance between her and Maryium was quite small. She was merely inches away; one slight movement would result in their lips connecting.

Adriana spared a glance at Maryium’s red, full lips, before putting much-needed distance between them.

“Go to bed,” Maryium said, brushing her hand on Adriana’s for the briefest second, before turning away. She left Adriana at a loss for words, butterflies screaming in her stomach.

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