Julie awkwardly sat between the two boys, Roman on her left and Simon on her right, while feeling her hands turn sweaty even though she had been feeling cold a few minutes ago. The eight of them sat in a circle with gaps between them so that they could see each other well.
“I forgot to tell another thing here. You are not supposed to break the stick while biting it to the finish line. That would earn you a dare. The person who meets the middle of the stick second, he or she will be asked questions,” stated Simon.
“Is it too late to back out from the game?” asked Melanie.
“If you want to be on the receiving end of our wrath, then sure,” said Simon with a peaceful look on his face, “I am joking,” he added at the end of his sentence. But as someone said, every joke had a piece of truth in it, thought Julie to herself.
While they were seated, Julie sat right opposite the girl named Victoria, and she noticed the girl’s eyes subtly narrow at her. She wondered what her problem was.
Looking away, Julie wiped the palms of her hand off her skirt and heard Roman ask, “Scared?”
She turned her head to meet Roman’s eyes, “Why would I be scared? It is just a game.”
“You never know when a simple game can turn dangerous,” said Roman in a calm tone, while his eyes lazily took in her face. “It isn’t too late to step back. I doubt a good girl like you can handle it.”
“Just because I look like a good girl doesn’t mean I am one,” retorted Julie, her eyebrows knitted in a slight frown.
A slow grin appeared on Roman’s face, “I cannot wait to see it.” His eyes shifted to look at Maximus, who had opened the box of choco sticks that would be used in the game.
Some of the nearby students stopped what they were doing to take a look at what they were doing. Some with envy and some in the curiosity of why the three students they hadn’t bothered to look at before had been invited into the elite group.
“Let us start with Olivia and Conner,” announced Maximus, and if Julie needed any more clarification on what they were playing, this was it.
One choco stick passed to the pair, and they both moved closer to hold it between their teeth.
“Your time starts now!” said Maximus, and in less than five seconds, both Conner and Olivia met in the middle of the stick too close, which ended up in a tie. “That’s a good start there. Not bad, Conner, your next opponent, is Victoria, who I might say is bad in the game,” during Maximus’ commentary, the girl glared at him, but that barely fazed him.
Another stick was passed to Conner and Victoria, and this time Conner looked a little nervous compared to the time with Olivia because Victoria was glaring daggers. But the stick was weak, and it broke from Conner’s end, making some of them in the group clap. Even Julie smiled and saw Conner looked awkward, and he cleared his throat.
“Alright, your dare,” started Olivia with a thoughtful look and said, “I would like you to go near the bonfire and dance. Make three rounds before you come and sit back.”
Julie saw Conner stand up and make his way towards the bonfire before he started to flail his hands up in the air, making people laugh and some who looked at him as if he had lost his mind.
“I don’t even know why we are playing such childish games. We aren’t ten to eat like this,” Victoria complained while rolling her eyes.
“Don’t be a spoilsport, dear,” murmured Maximus while picking up one of the sweetened sticks. “Else you will be agreeing that you are a bore,” and he leaned forward while bringing the stick between them. When Victoria placed her teeth and Simon said ‘start’, like a beaver, Maximus was quick to eat his side of the stick and more. The girl moved back while continuing to glare at him.
“This is a dumb game,” Victoria cursed under her breath.
“Don’t be such a sore loser, Tori,” Maximus grinned and then said, “As you were late, someone here will ask-”
“What is wrong with your mood?” Julie heard the question being shot by Simon. If looks could kill, Simon would have died by now, thought Julie to herself. But then they were friends for a long time which was why Simon seemed unaffected while waiting for her to answer. “Making the question much simpler, who here has upset your mood?”
Victoria’s eyes fell on Julie, an unpleasant look in her eyes, “I don’t know from when we have started to invite outsiders to join us,” she said without blinking her eyes while continuing to look in Julie’s direction.
Silence fell over the girl’s words, and Julie, who had been smiling until now, her smile lowered down as she became the person to be disliked by one of the group members. It wasn’t just Julie, but even Melanie and Conner had joined them this evening, but Victoria particularly didn’t seem fond of her.
“Since the last forty-two minutes,” said Roman, who sat next to Julie. “Is there a problem, Victoria?” he asked, his expression serious with his eyes coolly looking at her and Victoria’s eyes hardened at his words.
The other group members didn’t seem to intervene, and Victoria finally exhaled, looking away from Julie and Roman.
“It is mine and Melanie’s turn,” announced Maximus while trying to get everyone’s attention back to the game.
When Melanie and Maximus got ready to hold the choco stick with their teeth, Julie’s hands clutched onto the sides of her skirt that was resting on the ground. She had never expected to be hated by someone this soon when she hadn’t done anything.
Julie tried not to look at Victoria and concentrated on watching Melanie, who ate very carefully while trying not to break the stick so that she could avoid a dare, but she lost against Maximus.
Maximus questioned Melanie, “What is your opinion about the group you are sitting with right now, minus your friends?”
Melanie’s eyes went wide, “That it is good?”
“More detailed,” Simon took part in the question, “I am sure like many other students, you must have placed each of us in the category of the good, bad, and evil. What are your thoughts?”
Julie could tell that Melanie wished she had stayed back in the dorm today. “That is a curious question,” agreed Olivia, her eyes on Melanie.
From what Julie noticed so far, only Conner, Melanie, and Victoria had lost the game. Victoria because she wasn’t in the mood to play. The way it looked, the chances of Julie losing on her turn seemed to be ninety-four percent. She hadn’t seen either Simon or Roman play yet.
“Tick tock tick tock. Don’t worry, we will try not to use it against you,” Maximus urged her to answer.
Even Conner, who had been smiling earlier, now looked at Melanie with a little concern in his eyes. Melanie carefully looked at everyone. “So far, I think everyone seems alright since we started to play,” said Melanie, hoping she would be let off the hook. “Good, bad, bad, hard to tell, evil,” she whispered as quickly as possible.
“And from which side does it start?” asked Maximus, and Melanie raised her hand like a child towards Olivia. “It must be your attire that is confusing, Simon,” he nudged his chin at his friend, and Simon smiled.
After Melanie and Simon finished their turn, Simon turned to Julie with the chocolate stick in his hand.
“Guess it is time for us to share the treat now,” Simon flirted, and Julie, who was not used to any boy’s advances, turned red.
“You can eat all of it if you want,” said Julie while turning to face him because she knew she would have to go through it. The game was much more fun when someone else played, she thought in her mind. But, like her friend, Julie didn’t want a dare. The last thing she wanted to do was dance like a cavewoman around the fire.
“Start!” said Olivia.
Julie tried to eat as slowly as she could so that she wouldn’t accidentally break the stick or touch Simon’s lips by getting too close. She had given up the game before it had even started, and Simon was the one to win the round.
“So you have picked death,” said Simon in humour, “What shall your question be?”
“I have one,” said Roman and Julie felt a slight dread fill her. “From the university rules, how many of them have you broken?” he asked her, his face serious, but his eyes held a hint of mischief in there.
Julie was slowly convinced that this person on her left was the reincarnation of the Devil.
She blinked at him before starting to count. She then answered, “Three.”
“My my, that’s a lot for a new joiner,” murmured Olivia while some of them wondered which rules Julie broke. Julie sheepishly smiled, it wasn’t something she was aiming for, but it happened…
When the next choco stick was passed, Roman took hold of it. Julie turned to face him, and he said, “That was such a poor performance. Even an ant would have eaten faster,” as if he knew what she had done. “You should have backed out,” he taunted her.
“I didn’t know you were an ant expert in an ant’s habits,” muttered Julie.
“Oh, you would be surprised,” replied Roman and kept the sweetened chocolate stick in between his teeth. Having done this with Simon, she should have felt less daunting the second time, but instead, she felt worse.
It was because Julie noticed a mix of glare and the taunting in his stare. Melanie had advised her to run away in the other direction if Roman Moltenore appeared in front of her. His expression held a hint of arrogance and confidence that only made him look that much of a bad boy.
Seeing him wait, Julie moved in closer while holding the stick carefully between her teeth, to not let it break right away.
When Julie held the other end of the stick, she prepared to gobble it and move back. But when Simon said, “Ready? Start-”
Roman was too fast to open his mouth like a shark and took a big bite from the stick that left only a small piece at Julie’s end. His face had come too close to her face with just one breath away, and her heart stopped for a moment before he pulled back and munched on what he had bitten.
“Is that allowed?” Conner asked Olivia in a low voice.
“Well,” drawled Maximus with a thoughtful look on his face, “Julianne is still holding on to her end and the stick didn’t break. So I guess yes…”
“Rome, you scared her,” Simon chuckled on seeing Julie frozen.
“She is a scaredy cat,” commented Roman, and Julie snapped at his words.
That was not fair! She didn’t know he would eat like that!
“I request for a rematch. I wasn’t aware of these tricks,” said Julie. She was no scaredy-cat! And the more he said it, the more it irked her!
“The game finished right when it started,” said Melanie.
“Let’s have another one. You can take my turn, Julie,” said Olivia, offering her choco stick to Julie.
“This time if you lose, you don’t get truth but a dare and you will need to do whatever I say,” Roman dared her, and Julie nodded her head.
Both Julie and Roman held the opposite ends of the stick with their teeth before they started to bite one after another. Julie could feel the increase in her heartbeat, and she tried to get to the finish line as fast as she could. Coming near the middle point of the stick, Roman took the last bite with a crunch.
“That was a tie!” announced Maximus and Julie, who had turned beet red, turned away and got back to her place.
“Good one both of you,” praised Conner.
To Julie’s relief, they dropped the game after that. When it was time to leave, Roman leaned near her and said, “Cannot wait to see you break all of them before the end of the year,” with a small smirk on his lips. Then, he stood up from his place and walked away from there with his friends.