"Don't be mad, alright? I met them downtown when I bought all these pizza," Ramona whispered to an irritated Lily.
"Really, all of them?"
Ramona rolled her eyes heavenward. "Oh c'mon, what was I supposed to do?"
"Leave them alone?" She said in a 'duh' tone before adding, "This was supposed to be an all-girls night out."
"Well, I didn't know." The black haired grumbled. "It's not like you specifically said it was going to be all girls. Besides, they said they have nothing better to do."
Lily looked at her friend in exasperation. "You just can't leave people alone, can't you? Especially guys."
Ramona only gave her friend a sheepish look. "They go here too, you know. I was trying to be friendly. The more the merrier, right?"
Lily and Ramona had been unpacking the boxes of pizza at a table in the corner so their conversation couldn't be heard – although it would have been possible considering the group had been quiet since they got up to the balcony.
"I hope we're not intruding on your night." Isaac started, glancing at his friends and then to the girls.
"Oh! No, no. You're not bothering us at all." Marsha said to him before looking at her friends with a beaming smile on her face. "Right?"
Jasmine, Piper and December glanced at one another. They had been surprised to see the guys standing below with Ramona then.
December was taken aback at one of the faces she saw down from the balcony and her heart had skipped a beat.
No one had told them there would be guys joining them tonight, and though they were sort of intruding…did it really matter now?
Maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing having them here, was what they thought.
And how could they say no to Marsha's earnest and beaming face, despite only knowing her for a short moment? The girl was like a soft and delicate being that no one wants to upset.
December shook her head and murmured with a smile, "No, you're not."
Isaac looked relieved, Marsha seemed happy and the slightly heavy atmosphere that surrounded them since the guys came lightened up a little.
"Well, I think we should introduce ourselves." said Marsha, the ever perky but superstitious girl. "I'm Marsha. Lily over there," she glanced behind and pointed a finger at a direction, "is my roommate."
Jasmine looked at them with a small smile and said next, "Jasmine. I just moved in yesterday."
Isaac introduced himself before a slightly buffed up guy sitting beside him spoke. He flashed a grin that had a small gap in between and said, "I'm Felix. We're both on the football team."
December swallowed the piece of chip she was munching and drank her soda to wash away the taste and crumbs in her mouth before saying, "I'm December." She could feel someone's gaze on her but forced herself from looking up to meet their gaze. She did, however, managed a smile for Isaac in greeting when their eyes met.
A hooded figure with grey eyes nodded at them lazily with a bored expression. "Oliver."
Marsha edged closer to Piper and whispered softly, "Do you think he's alright? He looked unfocused."
Piper bit down on her lip to stop herself from laughing but the corners of her mouth lifted. It made her looked as though she was trying not to smirk. She whispered back in the same way, but eyes kept steady on Oliver with a curious expression. "Maybe he's stoned or something."
Oliver had heard that remark because his lips formed into a small grin as he turned to look at Piper with interest. "What's your name?"
Her eyebrows rose to one of sudden surprise before her expression turned to slight wariness. "Piper."
He nodded at her, the smile still on his face. She frowned then looked away from him, taking a sip from her drink in her hand.
The last person to introduce himself was a bespectacled guy named Pierre. He almost wanted to laugh when he saw December trying so hard not to meet his gaze. Despite finding a mild amusement in that, Pierre had no idea he would be seeing her here tonight. He had thought she went back for the break like all of her friends did.
As if a thought had been weighing on his mind for quite some time, he suddenly spoke with curiosity laced in his words, "Why did we have to go through the balcony to come up here?"
Lily and Ramona chose to approach them at that moment.
Having heard the question just in time, the petite blonde was delighted to answer him, despite not feeling agreeable earlier that her girls-night-out was intruded by a bunch of guys. "We're trying to avoid the guards and monitors. Apparently the school's frozen the activation system so we can't use our ID to get access. Either way, try not to make too many noise."
"Are you sure there isn't any camera monitoring us out here in the balcony?" Felix suddenly asked, his gaze looking around in apprehension.
Lily took a sip of her soda and answered, "Yeah. I checked it earlier before the break and we're safe here. Gotta do some research and take measures, you know." She grinned. Then, she paused in thought before saying, "I don't know why they didn't install them out here, but that's a good thing, isn't it?"
Not entirely convinced but resigned, Felix nodded slowly to himself as he shared worried glances with his friends.
Ramona rolled her eyes and jokingly said, "Geez, why so serious?" before passing out plates of pizza around. "C'mon, help yourself with these pizza before they get cold."
That had undoubtedly broke the tiny bit of tense spell surrounding them. Everyone reached for the pizza distributed by Lily and Ramona.
December figured she should say something to start a conversation. "So how do you guys know each other, apart from studying here?" She took a bite of her pizza.
"Isaac and I met on the field but these two right here…" Felix had a befuddled look on his face as he tried to think of something.
Pierre took pity on his plight and answered, "Detention."
"What did you do?" Ramona grinned, her eyes lit up in interest. December tried not to look interested but knew she was failing.
Oliver gave a short laugh before providing the answer. "Some teach got it in his head that I was cheating in Calc and Pierre told him off right on spot."
Pierre raised his eyebrow in amusement and said, "You made it sound like I saved your life." Then, he shrugged. "I never did like the old lecturer."
December rolled her eyes and scoffed a little. "Just because you dislike someone, it doesn't mean you have the right to tell them off."
Pierre settled his gaze at her and smirked. "I do, actually. My education is being paid for a good knowledge with an attitude that goes with it, which I think is mentioned somewhere in the school's guidance book." Then he added as an afterthought, "And I told him off because he was accusing Oliver of cheating. The fact that I didn't like the teacher was just bonus."
They stared at each other long, her gaze ice blue and his a challenging hazel green. Then, she rolled her eyes at him. "Whatever."
Everyone had been holding their breath when December and Pierre argued. They couldn't pinpoint something on the situation but it felt like a heavy sensation whenever the two spoke and they were almost on edge wondering if a fight might break out.
After the situation seemed to be in control, Ramona looked back and forth at them, her gaze curious before saying, "Okay…that was interesting. I think we should play some game now. How about Spin the Bottle?"
Lily groaned. "Remy, what are we in, middle school?"
Ramona pouted. "What? The boys are here so it's gonna be fun."
Felix raised an eyebrow in mild amusement as he said, "Oh, so is that why you invited us to this little hang out?"
She laughed and made guns from her hands; the thumb and index pointing at him. "You got me! Come on, it'd be fun, right?" Ramona looked at the boys and girls with an expectant smile.
Piper and Marsha looked at each other in a nervous and unsure manner whereas Jasmine just looked at her hands in an attempt to ward off the awkwardness she's feeling. December kept munching on her pizza as she looked at anywhere but Pierre.
Playing Spin the Bottle which also meant Truth or Dare could be the worst decision or the best one, depending on the types of questions and dare chosen. They didn't know Ramona too well but could already tell that she was the wild one between her and Lily. The eagerness in her tone didn't escape them, either.
Oliver interjected with a shrug before anyone had a chance to say anything. "I don't really mind as long as it'll pass some time."
The tree leaves rustled as the wind became breezy, and there was a faint but earthy smell in the air that promised a heavy rain later that night.
December sat beside Jasmine whereas Piper sat beside Marsha along with Lily and Ramona. On the guys' side, Felix took his place beside Ramona followed by Isaac, Oliver and Pierre. Since they were in a circle, Pierre had to sit beside December. They kept their distance, however, with December frowning to herself and Pierre looking as unaffected as he could. Their behaviour almost didn't go unnoticed by them.
Ramona positioned an empty glass bottle of soda in the middle and spin it. They watched in trepidation as the bottle started to slow down and came to a stop on Isaac.
She asked with unconcealed glee. "Truth or dare?"
Isaac replied with a firm nod. "Truth."
She pouted and some chuckled when she said to him, "Chicken." Then, she said, "Tell us why you stayed back."
His voice was in monotone as he sighed and said, "Parents went on a cruise and there's no one back home so I decided to be lonely here."
This time, everyone laughed.
Ramona chuckled. "Okay, I could relate to that. Spin the bottle, Isaac."
The next round landed on Jasmine. When he asked the classic question, she looked at them all and took a deep breath before choosing, "Dare." which made them all go 'whoa' with laughter and grins. The excitement for the game was starting to build up.
"Didn't take you as a daring person, Jasmine." December grinned.
The girl shrugged and flashed a smile at her. "I do have my moments."
"Alright, alright," Isaac said as they quietened down their antics to hear what the dare was. "Jasmine, I dare you to…have a thumb war with me."
A chorus of 'boo' were thrown around. Nevertheless, they watched as Jasmine and Isaac hooked their thumbs together and moved them side to side while they chant a tune and counted to ten. The key was to not let their thumb get stomp by the other's – which begins as soon as they stopped counting.
It was not a challenge at all because Jasmine won the game as soon as the count stopped.
The game went on and the bottle claimed Marsha, Felix and Lily as the dare victims. In the midst of spinning another bottle, Marsha suddenly spoke in panic. "Wait. Guys, what time is it?"
Isaac checked his watch and said, "A minute until 9. Why?"
No one bothered to explain as the girls switched off the many small torch lights. At the guys' confused and curious expressions, Lily only held up a finger to her lips and whispered, "Don't make a sound and then you'll know why."
They sat in silence and waited.
The surroundings were so quiet and pitch dark that they could only make out their shadows. Though the balustrades were made of wood, they were thankful that it wasn't low and have holes as designs but only plain horizontal ones that hid them from being seen. In the cloudy night sky, several streaks of lightning flashed and then they heard it.
Two conversation were being carried out below them. Pierre raised an eyebrow at December when their eyes met. She knew what he was asking and so she just simply whispered, "Guards."
"That was weird. I thought I heard some noise when I was on my way here." The first guard with nasal voice said.
The second guard then replied, "Maybe it's the wind. It is getting windy tonight."
"No. It sounds like someone was talking and laughing. I'm pretty sure I heard it."
The guards below went still as the gears turned in their minds. Then their eyes widened as the second one blurted out in a whisper, "Don't fuck with me, you heard that…in this dark place? If there is any students staying back, they'll be in their dorm and not here. The access to this building has been shut down…"
The first guard realized what that could have meant and had already broken into sweats as he stuttered, "Y-you're right. I-I mean…I could be mistaken. Maybe it is the wind." He then gave a nervous laugh.
Up in the balcony, Marsha was struggling to keep her fit of giggles at bay. Piper's elbow kept poking at the sides of her rib and she clamped her mouth from making a sound. When she couldn't take it anymore, she whispered in a strained voice, "Piper, stop."
Confused, the red-haired girl swung her head sharply to Marsha. "Huh?"
The moment Piper turned her gaze towards Marsha, her elbow had inadvertently jabbed into the girl's sides sharply and that broke her restraint. It started as a titter, her giggles were girlish….
The guards stood still at the sound they heard. The first one nudged his friend and whispered, "Hey…you heard that too, right?"
His friend nodded and gulped, before shining the torchlight around and croaked, "Who's there?"
…before it turned into a full out laughter. A loud, banshee-like sound. The slight breeze became a strong wind, as if a storm was about to hit and her laughter echoed from every direction around them.
Except for the one making the sound, everyone crept closer to each other and away from Marsha. Lily went to clap her hands around the girl's mouth.
"Marsha! You're going to give us away!" Lily whispered urgently, her eyes wide in alarm.
Ramona had crept closer to Felix and hugged his arm in alarm. She muttered, "I've never seen her laugh like that before." Felix nodded mindlessly and brought his hand around Ramona's shoulders, rubbing her arm in a soothing motion. He wasn't aware of his actions and she was too distracted to notice.
They were fortunate, however, because the guards below were already on their way to their post, screaming and running as though their lives depend on it.
Still on the balcony, they watched in silent wariness and fascination as Marsha's cheeks turned red tomato.
"I'm sorry," came her meek response. "I'm just really ticklish." Then she added in a sideways glance at Piper and said softly, "I did tell you to stop, Piper."
Piper blushed and muttered, "Sorry, I didn't realize it."
"That was really creepy." Isaac laughed nervously, all the while rubbing away the goosebumps appearing on his skin.
Jasmine cleared her throat and smiled. "Well, at least you chased them away, Marsha. For now, I think."
December glanced at her. "After that stunt? I say they won't come here for the rest of the night."
"I doubt two screaming guys will stop the others from patrolling." Oliver said before adding, "And maybe this time they'll come up here and check the whole building. We'll be found out then."
Felix shrugged before voicing out his opinion, "It won't matter for another hour, now will it? We'll chill here before going somewhere."
"What, like the dorm?" Ramona quirked an eyebrow. Her eyes, however, told a different story as they looked hopeful.
Felix didn't notice that as he shook his head and said, "No, not the dorms. There has to be some other building that doesn't need the access card. A key locked building."
Lily sighed. "That would be pointless. All of them integrates the access card."
Pierre's brow furrowed before he smoothed his expression and said, "What about the second building? Isn't it chained?"
Isaac nodded mindlessly before glancing at them all and said, "It'll be worth the try."
They continued playing the game for half an hour. December was dared by Oliver to stare into the eyes of the person sitting beside her for ten seconds.
She narrowed her eyes at him. He knew Pierre was sitting beside her. Did he do that because of the spat she had with Pierre? Luckily for her, she had Jasmine sitting next to her as well. There was no way she was going to choose Pierre when she have the safer option, she thought to herself. December did as was dared and the game went on.
Pierre chose truth when his round came but both Piper and Oliver got dared by each other. One of them didn't choose it out of their own will, however.
Piper had been on edge whenever Oliver looked at her like he knows something she didn't. She wasn't sure if she had met him before but she was starting to lose her patience with staying quiet. It didn't matter if his eyes were pretty or if his eye lashes were thick and long. Why did he have to smile every time their eyes met? What was there to smile, anyway? Was there something on her face? She really shouldn't have said something about him being stoned when Marsha asked her that.
Who knew the guy had a pretty sharp hearing?
Oliver had been dared by Piper to go home and he only nodded and said, "Is tomorrow soon enough?" It wasn't exactly a dare to him because he had to leave campus the following day, anyway.
Piper kept the frustration and annoyance out of her voice when she said, "I guess."
The dare was peculiar and out of the blue, especially since no one thought they knew each other well. They kept their mouth shut, figuring if they kept silent then maybe they'd know what it was.
Ramona was grinning widely like she was watching a hot drama. The only thing missing was the popcorn, though she did grab a slice of pizza from the box in front of her.
When she spin the bottle, they could have sworn the tension heightened, especially when it landed on Oliver.
"The bottle must be rigged." Piper muttered to herself in disbelief.
"Is it just me or there's too much tension going on tonight?" Marsha whispered softly to Lily.
Like the rest of them, Lily had been watching and noting the things that happened. Leaning backwards to Marsha, where they were out of hearing, she replied in the same way, "It's not just you. I feel the same too."
"Truth or Dare, Piper?" Oliver's challenging voice rang out.
Smiling smugly to herself because there was no way she'd choose dare, she opened her mouth, just when something brushed the back of her spine. Surprised, she immediately squeaked out, "Dare."
Oliver's indifferent gaze had turned into one of surprise before he looked relieved. She became suspicious then.
She bit her lip before blurting out, "No, wait. Can I change it? I meant to say Truth, actually."
Ramona grinned. "You know that's not how it works, Piper. You ended up saying Dare."
Piper was now looking almost frantic. "Yeah but I was going to say Truth! Shouldn't that count…for something?"
Both Oliver and Ramona shook their heads. Then, he said nonchalantly, "You said Dare so only that matters now."
Piper narrowed her eyes at him. Then, she said, "Ugh, fine."
Several seconds passed before he looked her in the eye and said, "Piper…I dare you to go out with me."
No one made a sound. Even the trees stilled.
Oliver looked a bit solemn, his eyes bright and sharp. For once, he didn't smile or looked mischievous.
Piper was jaw-slacked and her cheeks were beginning to flush. She couldn't believe this was happening.
Her mouth opened and closed as she struggled to find the words. When she did, all she said was, "We've just met." before adding almost hesitantly as she emphasized, "And I don't like you."
"Ouch." Felix murmured to himself and Isaac nudged him in the ribs, though his eyes were solely fixed on the two of them.
Oliver only shrugged. "We could go on a date. Let's get to know each other then."
She was about to say something when Ramona quickly interjected quietly, her eyes apologetic. "Just a reminder, if you say no to a dare, there's a punishment."
Piper looked at Ramona incredulously before shifting her gaze to Oliver. He was looking at her with a calm expression, though it belied the erratic beating of his heart.
December and the rest held their breath. How was Piper going to answer him? Will things turn out to be good…or bad for them?
It felt like they were watching some telenovela and they just want to get to the bottom of the episode.
"Piper, say something." Marsha whispered to her not so quietly. Piper's gaze hardened as she contemplated her thoughts.
The minutes seemed to drag and just when they thought she would never give an answer, she narrowed her eyes at him and said, "I'll give you a day."
Oliver's eyes widened a little before he composed himself. He had begun to think that she was going to say no to him. As much as he was relieved and glad, he tried to negotiate. "A month."
She shook her head. "Three days, then."
He paused. Then, he shook his and said in a hopeful tone. "Two weeks…?"
She gritted her teeth and shook her head but just as she was about to say something, Ramona interjected with a hopeful suggestion.
"How about forever?"
December, Jasmine and Lily along with Marsha, Felix and Isaac lost their patience as they exclaimed, "Ramona!"
Even Pierre raised his eyebrow with an impatient look on his face.
The girl held her hands up in defense, making her empty paper plate fall onto her lap, before saying, "Okay, okay! Sorry." Then, she added quietly, "Do continue."
Piper bit her lip as she thought of her answer. As she glanced at him, she said, "We'll go on a date for two weeks, and that's it. If I like you, then I'll go out with you."
They let out a breath of relief. A slow grin spread across Oliver's face as he said, "Thank you."
Piper wasn't done, however, as she warned him grumpily, "Don't look so happy and push your luck because I really don't like you."
He nodded but the smile stayed. "Okay."
She still wasn't done. "I only said yes because I hate punishments. No matter what it is."
He tried to look solemn. "Alright."
They whooped and patted Piper's shoulders and Oliver's back as though they just got married.
Marsha leaned towards Lily and whispered, "Is it just me or the tension's getting, well, a little less tensioned tonight?"
Lily looked around and pondered for a moment, settling her gaze on them. She shook her head, smiling. "Not quite…but no, you're not the only one."
"Hey! What are you two whispering about?" Isaac asked with a grin. They were now annoying both Oliver and Piper with teasing remarks.
Lily shared a look with Marsha before she chuckled and said to him, "Just having some girl talk."
They stuck to their plan. Twenty minutes before the clock struck ten, they had already cleared the empty boxes and leftovers away. The couches were stationed back to where they belong and the rug was cleaned from any crumbs and dust.
Since the guys had the duty of throwing away the garbage, they got down from the balcony first. If they were afraid of going down, none showed it. They took care of the trash, then stood away from the bright lamp post, careful not to alert anyone walking by as they wait for the girls.
"Fuck, I need to take a piss." Felix hissed before hurrying into the woods.
Isaac shook his head and laughed quietly at his friend before his phone vibrated in his pocket. He went away to take the call. Pierre and Oliver stood against the wall beside each other, silently keeping an eye out for any guards.
"So, you and Piper, huh?" Pierre started, smiling at Oliver who suddenly looked like a shy middle schooler whose crush had invited him to hang out.
Oliver tried to play it cool by controlling his expression but his smile kept on tugging at his lips. "I swear, I didn't think she'd actually say yes."
Pierre raised his eyebrow. "I don't know how you got the balls to do that when you barely know her. She must have been surprised. Fuck, we all were."
"I know her." He mumbled.
He cleared his throat and shrugged. "In sophomore year. We shared some class together and spoke a few times, but I guess she doesn't remember me." Then, his eyes softened when he spoke, "She's funny, smart and kind…and I just wanted to get to know her more, but I was so scared I didn't have the guts then."
Pierre grinned. "Yeah? What do you call that thing when you asked what her name was? Since you know her and all."
Oliver muttered, "A lame idea of small talk."
Pierre shook his head, chuckling as he patted Oliver's shoulder. "You need to brush up on your skills."
Oliver rolled his eyed and shoved Pierre lightly, grumbling as he said, "Piss off."
At the sound of someone muttering loudly, they turned and saw a disgruntled Felix making his way towards them. "Damn bugs."
"A bug scared you?" Pierre asked. He tried to keep his tone light but couldn't keep the smirk out of his face.
As embarrassed as Felix was, he glared to a chuckling Pierre and said, "Yeah, you can laugh now. Wait till you see that thing…it's huge as hell!"
Curious, Oliver asked, "What is it?"
Felix looked at them both, scrunching his face as if the mere thought of the insect made him feel it crawling all over him. "Spiders."
Pierre and Oliver stared at him. Then, the latter nodded and said, "Yeah, they're nasty, alright."
December looked around her one more time, noting the neat and clean place compared to its earlier state when snacks and pillows were scattered about as they ate pizza and hung around. She almost didn't want to leave the balcony and miss the feel of being there.
"What on earth are they laughing about down there?" Ramona muttered before saying, "They could draw the guards."
Piper sighed. "Guys…they're such weird creatures."
Jasmine piped in and teased her grinningly. "Says the one who got asked out by one of them."
Piper blushed and sputtered. "You can't use that against me! I really hate punishments…and it's just for two weeks, anyway." She finished quite lamely.
December chuckled at them. Though they had just met today, it felt like they had been friends for a while. Ramona had a strong personality and it reminded her of Brooke, whereas Jasmine and Piper reminded her of Serena and Raven. Though Lily and Marsha were an odd combination but she thought they were lovely people as well. How had she never met and talked to them before when they live in the same building? She saw them at school occasionally but somehow she'd never gotten up the courage to just talk to them.
Regardless, she was glad they were hanging out tonight. 'It doesn't hurt to have more friends,' she smiled to herself. At the thought of her friends, she wondered now what they were doing.
"Are we ready?" She asked them, after they had double-checked everything. When they nodded, she walked to the balcony and looked down at the waiting guys. "Hey, we're coming down now."
Ramona decided to go down first, with Marsha next and then Lily followed by Jasmine and Piper. They had a smooth climb down the ladder that such trivial thing suddenly made December doubt herself.
What if I fall?
Glancing down, she saw Isaac and Felix holding the ladder firmly in its place so it wouldn't wobble. They were all looking at her expectantly.
December took a deep breath before putting her foot out and onto the step, holding the balustrade in a tight grip for balance. Her gaze caught the difference of height from the balcony to the solid ground and she felt her stomach lurched. She shook her head then, muttering to herself, "No, don't think about it." She needed to keep her fear at bay if she wanted a smooth landing.
Still, knowing that it was quite a way down from the ground, she wondered how she even managed to come up earlier. The realization that she was practically on air and relying on a sole ladder to get down was scary enough that her knees started to shake. That action made the ladder shook.
"Whoa!" said Isaac. He hold it firmly and called out, "Be careful, December. And don't look down if it scares you."
"It's too late for that now," she tried to joke.
Each step she took felt heavy and slow, as though she was walking in the water. She was halfway on the ladder now, but was still quite far from where they stood. Regardless, she felt herself becoming braver with each encouragement.
They were all standing in the dark, since they stood away from the lamp post. Marsha took out her phone and tried to shine the light up so she could see December clearly and not her shadowy figure, but that was when she took notice of the time on her phone.
Her voice was hesitant but urgent when she said, "Uh, December, you're doing great, and I really don't wanna rush you but….we only have five more minutes before it's ten."
"What?" December exclaimed. Fear and anxiety started to engulf her then and she almost missed a step but quickly regained her balance. "Uh oh. Damn, damn, damn," she muttered to herself.
She was hidden by the big tree, but from her point of view she spotted three guards this time walking side by side. They shone their torch lights around. Her eyes widened with paralyzed fear as she noticed a bigger threat than the time.
"Shit. Guys, the guards are coming!" She whispered loudly and quickly hastened her steps. Screw the time, screw the ladder and screw the damn guards!
In her haste to get down quickly with their urgent whisperings telling her to hurry up, she lost her footing on one step and felt herself falling. On an instinct, she closed her eyes tightly and open her mouth to scream.
"Oomph!" She felt herself hit something hard.
Everything around her stilled, except for the spinning in her mind.
As she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was someone's chest. Frowning slightly, her gaze then slowly trailed to their throat, firm lips, straight nose…and then they widened a little when she came to meet with a pair of bespectacled though stunned hazel green eyes. She gulped inaudibly.
"Pierre?" It came out as a whisper. She realized then that her hands were wounded around his neck….and that he was holding her in a bridal style. She blinked once, trying to sort her chaotic thoughts when the realization sank deeply. She struggled in his grip until he grunted and put her on her feet. December thanked her lucky stars that she didn't fall down to the ground.
But she did fall into Pierre's arms and knowing that made her cheeks grew hot with mortification.
She coughed and mumbled a thank you.
He nodded wordlessly in reply and rubbed the back of his neck.
Everyone saw it, but they were still trying to comprehend what happened. One moment she was frantic and losing her footing, the next she was already in Pierre's arms.
Marsha's urgent voice protruded through the haze of their mind. "You guys, the guards are coming!"
"Oh, right we gotta hide. Quick, in the bushes!" Lily exclaimed in a whisper. Everyone scrambled around to get to their spots.
"Wait, hide the ladder first!" Oliver said before attempting to bring it down. They came to his aid when he struggled and dragged the steel steps onto the ground behind a bush.
They waited in tense silence as they kept an eye on three guards walking up their trail.
"This place gives me the creeps." muttered Carl, a thin and blond man that was taller than his two companions.
Jeff, a beefy and slightly short man in his mid-twenties nodded. "Remind me again why did I take this job?"
"Because the pay is pretty damn good. But, I guess I can see why those two rookies ran away screaming. It does give you the chills, doesn't it?" Wayne said, chuckling lowly.
Felix, Oliver and Isaac crouched behind a thick bush, their breathing shallow as they tried not to make any sound. Jasmine and Piper hid behind them, careful to keep their heads low while Ramona tried to make herself invisible behind a thick trunk.
The wind whistled eerily, as if agreeing what they said.
The guards stopped in their tracks before Carl mumbled, "Yeah, I'm gonna find another job after this." Then he started to walk away as he said, "Let's go. There's nothing over here." Dried leaves crunched under their feet.
"What about the dorms? We have to cover that area too." Jeff panted after catching up to his friend.
"Let the rest do it later. I don't like it here."
Wayne snorted. "Don't be a wuss. If the big boss finds out, we'll be sacked." When they just looked at him blankly, he said defensively, "What? I don't wanna get fired."
Carl turned towards the dormitory. It wasn't that far away and the surroundings were a little brighter than the dark one they stood at. Still, that didn't stop the goosebumps from appearing on his skin.
Marsha and Lily laid side by side as they flattened themselves on the ground. The bush they were hiding was a short one and if they sat up, there was little to act as cover.
Marsha felt her body itch and she rubbed her back against the ground.
"Marsha, stop moving." whispered Lily.
She muttered, "I can't. My back's itchy."
Lily moved further a bit and turned to Marsha, sighing quietly. "Turn around then. I'll scratch."
Happy to oblige, she did as was told. Lily realized a little too late that as her roommate, she should have remembered that Marsha had another sensitive spot other than the side of her rib. Had she kept that in mind, she wouldn't volunteered then.
Marsha couldn't help the first giggle that escaped her lips before her eyes grew wide in panic and clamped her mouth.
"Damn it, Marsh!" Lily whispered in frustration.
The now apologetic girl could only mouth off the words that she was sorry.
Everyone within the radius turned to look at Marsha and Lily, a muted but horrified expression on their faces. They were only a few steps away from where the guys at. Ramona put a finger on her lips to keep them from making another sound.
Carl and his friends were walking past them and towards the dormitories when he heard the sound. He stopped and turned towards them. "Did you guys hear that?" He asked quietly.
The one who chuckled earlier nodded with a curious look on his face. "Yeah…it sounded like someone giggled."
The shorter of them cleared his throat twice before saying, "I think Carl's right. We should just go now. This place is creeping me out."
"That's ridiculous, Jeff. It sounds like it came from behind the bushes."
"We just heard a giggle from behind a creepy bush, Wayne. No one does that! I think those rookies are right."
Wayne ignored his friend and backtracked his steps towards where the now panicked students hide.
They held their breath just as the guard stood a couple of steps away from the bush.
Before Wayne took another step towards them, the sky grumbled with thunder and a light drizzle of rain started to fall.
"Damn rain. I ain't getting sick here." Wayne muttered to himself. He shone the torchlight mindlessly at the trees, unaware of some students hiding below before turning away. He said to his companions loudly, "There's nothing here! We'll head back."
They didn't exhale any breath of relief until after they saw all the three guards jogged towards their post.
They sat there in the rain for a minute, their clothes slowly soaking as they waited until they were sure no one was around. They had to shout over the thundering rain to communicate. Felix yelled over, "Man…that was so close! I really thought we're done for."
Oliver pushed his wet black hair back and puffed out a sigh. "I agree. We better get the hell out of here."
Walking briskly towards the Common Hall, they decided to seek a temporary shelter under the roof, careful in avoiding the monitors.
Ramona leaned against a wall and settled an accusing gaze at Marsha. "You almost gave away our hide! I really thought I'd stopped breathing then."
Marsha's cheeks were red as she muttered, "Sorry…my back got an itch."
She sighed loudly and threw her hands up in the air. "Well! You couldn't have found an unfortunate timing more than that."
"Chill, Remy. She didn't mean to do it, okay?" Lily interjected, her tone defensive.
While Felix tried to stop them from possibly creating a fight, Isaac studied them, noting their faces in his mind when he suddenly frowned.
"Hey, have you guys seen December and Pierre?"
The moment Marsha urged them to find a hide, Pierre had suddenly taken hold of December's hand and pulled her along, dragging her through the trees behind the Common Hall. Caught off guard, all thoughts ceased to exist as she pumped her legs to wherever he was leading them. Her heart was beating erratically and she tried to gulp as much air to keep herself going.
"Wait, Pierre," she panted as she tried to keep with his long legged pace. "Slow down, will you?"
He didn't glance at her but slowed his pace.
They came to a stop in front of a chained building, the same one where their club meeting had been held. Though it looked empty, the three story white walled structure was so different during the day that they had trouble adjusting it in their mind. Unwelcome and out of place, it reminded them of an old but not quite ruined building. The modern and round lit incandescent bulbs embedded in the ceiling only served to cast an eerie orange glow from afar.
They stood in front of the entrance, her hand in his. She was suddenly aware of the big and firm grip he had on her and tried to keep her breathing in control to calm her nerves. Are we holding hands now? My God, he's holding my hand. The frenemy is holding my hand!
She could feel her heart pounding in her ears and her body flushed. Clearing her throat a few times, she whispered in a strained voice, "Um…my hand. L-let go, please."
As soon as she said that, Pierre's grip lessened instantaneously and he stepped away from her as if she was a burning flame. He stood a width apart, glancing briefly at her before looking away and coughed into his hand. "Uh, sorry."
The next few minutes were spent in the quiet night, with the exception of crickets stridulating as they collect their thoughts. It was a peaceful silence but that could only stretch for so long until they were forced to be aware of each other's presence again.
Lightning flashed in the sky followed by the occasional grumble of thunder. Within seconds, the sky opened up into a heavy downpour.
Running for cover at the first pelt of rain towards the entrance, Pierre rest himself against a wall and December leaned across from him. Slightly drenched, they stood under the roof, both starting to shiver.
After a few seconds in the midst of the unbearable silence, she asked, "Do you think there's some monitors around here? I really don't want to take any chances now." She looked around, trying to blend herself into the wall as if she could be invisible from any monitors she didn't see.
Pierre cussed quietly, mentally kicking himself for forgetting to check first hand if there were any security monitors around. He planned to do that while he was calculating the next move as he ran but somehow that thought skipped him the moment the building came into view. He glanced about subtly, trying to locate the device. Satisfied with his search, he shook his head then said, "I don't think so. But we should be careful just in case."
Seconds passed before December spoke again. "So, why were we running through the woods?" before her gaze turned skeptical. "And how did you know the way, anyway?"
Pierre slid down the wall, crouching down before giving her a brief glance. "That was a shortcut. The main building is a ten minute walk from our dorms, no matter which way you came from and this one is right behind the first. And as for how I came to know this, the trees in the woods aren't tall enough to cover the buildings. You could practically see it from here." He nodded towards a direction. December followed his gaze and saw some view of the dorms and Common Hall not far away in the distance. She felt foolish then for not realizing that.
He had no idea why he even asked this question but he did. Raising an eyebrow at her, he asked, "Why do you care?"
She replied a bit too quickly, "I didn't say that." before chastising herself mentally for answering too fast. With an indifferent composure, she merely shrugged at him then, looking away as she said, "You could get lost and that, in return, would burden me greatly."
Curious and a little amused, he asked dryly, "Would it? And why is that?"
December hesitated for a bit before she suddenly became sheepish. "Because, I've been told that I suck at directions." Then, she added in an afterthought, nodding to herself. "Sometimes."
Pierre stared at her. A full minute of silence passed before he suddenly burst into laughter, taking December by complete surprise. It started as a choked laugh before he covered his mouth to stop it. It didn't do him any good because Pierre just couldn't seem to stop the laughter coming out from his mouth.
It sounded rich and boyish to December that she had a hard time remembering that this was Pierre, the guy who scowls a lot and rarely spoke without having that angry edge to it. The sound of his laugh warmed her heart and gut and she was having conflicting feelings about it. Not knowing how to react because of that, December just stared at him like a deer in headlights instead.
As if he just realized that he did something he shouldn't, Pierre ceased laughing. Unsure of what to say in the suddenly still atmosphere, he frowned, trying to think of something.
"Ah, that's more like it." December blurted out, her mind kicking back into functioning.
At his questionable look, she cleared her throat and said, "I mean, I've just never seen you laugh before. Usually, you'd either frown, scowl or smirk. It just…surprised me, that's all." Her explanation felt awkward to her. She turned away from him, not wanting to see his expression at the moment. He'd probably smirk at her, she thought with a slight roll of her eyes.
He did neither. A dawning realization washed over his features and he nodded slowly, processing what she said. Pierre murmured quietly to himself, "Yeah, it surprised me too."
As she stared out into the rain, her nerves started to vibrate in that calm but buzzing way that almost made her want to take a nap. Like a magnetic pull, she spread an arm out in the pouring rain, letting her hand feel the water splash onto her palm. She had always liked the rain and the smell of the wet but earthy soil permeating in the air.
December had half the mind to stand in the pouring rain and let it wash over her, but she had a feeling that wouldn't be a wise thing to do then. She let herself drift away instead with watching the stormy yet calming weather.
"Did you say something?" she murmured softly, thinking she'd heard him speak but unable to bring herself to look at him.
Pierre had been watching her move her arm in that wavy motion slowly, letting the droplets touch her hand. He thought there was something hypnotic about watching the rain falling down and hearing it hit the roof like bullets. Pierre watched as December closed her eyes, a soft smile on her face as she brought both hands up in front of her and towards the sky, as if she was thankful for something or waiting for a gift to be placed onto her hand. She seemed to be welcoming the water that made small splashes on her face. Her seemingly unaware and effortless pose made her looked like one of those ancient female statues or goddesses he'd seen in the museum, when he went on a trip to Rome during his previous school trip. It baffled him, how her profile seemed to be so soft at that moment and how her face showed fascination and…and he needed to stop with those descriptions!
What is wrong with me? Pierre thought sharply. He sounded like a lovesick poet describing his love to some girl. He wasn't a poet, never had been even when he had a girlfriend back in Scotland…
Clearing his throat loudly, he said, "Nothing." before raising an eyebrow with an arrogant grin plastered on his face. "Just don't get used to it."
She snapped out of her trance and frowned a little at him, her pert nose scrunching slightly. It took seconds for her to recall what they were talking about and then she nodded, simply saying with a look of indifference, "I don't plan to."
And just like that, they were back to being acquaintances…or somewhere in between.
Pierre decided to change the topic as he said, "We only took five minutes or less through the woods when we came here." Then, he flashed her his signature smirk. "Did you know that?"
Tch, this cocky idiot. She restrained the urge to roll her eyes but pressed her lips together. December didn't want to admit it to herself but she hadn't known there was a shortcut around the corner at all, one which led to where they are. Funny how she could find places that was probably not in the school guidance book but didn't realize there was a shortcut to the school campus. She had been wasting her time going through the long way of the guard post and along the entrance pathway…
And to think that she studied here for three years compared to him! He, who came here a few months ago.
She wept for herself mentally but grumbled quietly, "I didn't, actually."
If possible, his smirk grew wider.
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, shut up."
"Do you think they know we're here? We did after all ditched them for the woods." Her tone was so nonchalant but Pierre thought he detected some blame directed at him. He raised his eyebrow at her.
"They'll figure it out. If all goes well, they'll come around in a few minutes."
"Hm." She hummed noncommittally. As if a switch suddenly turned on, she made a small sound before asking him, "Hold up, you still haven't answer me." December said, her tone a little accusing.
"Answer what?" He looked at her blankly, his tone a little gruff.
December held her patience as she answered, "Why we were running."
Pierre scoffed, looking at her like she came from a different planet. "Are you an idiot? The guards were on their way and I had to think fast. The woods seemed like a better option than the bushes."
She narrowed her eyes at him in irritation when he called her an idiot. As she was thinking through something, she paused in hesitation before saying, "So you just pulled me along with you?"
He looked ahead of him, at the bushes in the woods or the small and faraway building of the Common Hall, she wasn't sure.
Pierre didn't know how to answer it, if he were to be honest. He couldn't explain why he suddenly wanted to grab her hands and pull her along with him, but he did. And now, as she stood there with a look of confusion and curiosity in her eyes, he was loss for words.
It felt like a lifetime before he decided to say something. "Yeah, I didn't realize I did that, actually."
She had been a little nervous as she waited to hear what he'd say. She didn't know why she cared whether his answer may disappoint her, but she did. And it actually stung knowing that…
Well, what did she expect anyway?
December mentally chastised herself for even thinking such things.
As she looked at his smug face, she had the urge to send some scathing remark, but that would only give him winning points in riling her up. Opting a nonchalant look, she only shrug and said, "Oh, I see." before making a complete 360 degree turn and changed the topic, saying, "It's getting chilly here and I really want to get inside." To emphasize it, she rubbed her arms in an attempt to ward off the cold.
"Do you even know how to get in?"
December gave him a look before saying, "If I knew how to get in, do you think I'd be here? Under the roof in this cold and rainy weather…with you?"
She expected him to feel affronted but he only shrugged at her, as if saying that she would probably do just that.
She gritted her teeth and turned away. The pouring rain didn't look like it would stop anytime soon and her shivers were becoming more violent. She cast a brief glance at Pierre, appraising the way his black jeans hugged his long legs, and how the navy blue button up shirt looked good on him. 'Not that I'd tell anyone this…but for an impossible guy, he did dressed up nice.'
"Like what you see?" came his arrogant voice. He had been watching the small building of the Common Hall, trying to see if the rest of them were making their way towards them when he felt the prickly feeling like someone was watching him.
And sure enough when he shifted his body a little to her side, he caught her looking – more like staring – at him. Pierre just couldn't resist saying something to her about it.
December scoffed and rolled her eyes, mentally telling herself not to flush in embarrassment. "Don't flatter yourself. I happened to look at you but I was thinking about something else." Her sentences were smooth with nonchalance and she patted herself mentally. 'Nice save, December,' she thought with a victorious grin.
"Oh, you mean me?" What the hell? Where the fuck did that come from? Pierre thought incredulously. He looked away sharply and coughed a little into his hand.
December didn't notice his blunder of discomfort because she was too busy trying to come up with a comeback. It wasn't until the words registered in her mind and she repeated it over mentally that she paused and looked at him.
'Is he flirting with me?' December thought in astonishment as her heart beat furiously. She scrutinized his features, looking at his now indifferent but insufferable smirk on his face as he raised an eyebrow like he was challenging her.
December shook her head at herself. There was no way he would be flirting let alone say such things to her. Why would he? They were two different people that don't get along with one another, even though they had had some civil conversations.
Her heart slowed down to a normal rate then.
If it was anyone else, she might have had suspicions but she believed in that moment that Pierre Lachlan would be the last person whom would even think of such possibility of becoming more than what they are now. And they were only acquaintances, which says something about their status as strangers to becoming remotely friends.
She stared at Pierre before a grin graced her lips and she laughed. "Ever thought of becoming a comedian? 'Cause you're funny."
Pierre had been beating himself up for the stupid things he said and barely composed an unaffected look when she looked at him with narrowing eyes, as if searching for something.
His heart actually skipped a beat.
And then she laughed, as if she'd just thought of something amusing and his heart beat sped up. Their eyes met and he was fascinated at the way hers sparkled under the incandescent light; a reflection of fire shown in those striking blue orbs of hers.
In that moment, something moved within him, and his mind were void of thoughts then, except for one: Damn.
Pierre wasn't fully aware what just transpired in his heart but he had a feeling that whatever it was, it was going to be inevitable.
And truthfully, he didn't know how to deal with that realization.
The rain were pouring all night and they had been standing at the old building's entrance for ten minutes now.
"Maybe something's holding them back. Should we check?" December's worried voice broke through Pierre's thoughts.
He glanced at her and shook his head slowly, his face a little pensive. "They could be on their way here. Maybe they took the long way instead of the one we got through."
'He does have a point,' December thought, nodding to herself.
Unable to take the cold weather seeping in her bones through her wet t-shirt and bare legs, she rubbed her hands repeatedly to create heat and blew into them, hoping the breath could warm her more. She didn't know how to pick a lock, but that didn't mean she couldn't try.
"I don't know about you, but I'm not going to stand here in this cold weather." Her teeth started to chatter and she bit her lip, rubbing her arms furiously now. She looked at her choice of clothes and cussed herself for not wearing something better; her sweatpants, that is.
"What do you plan to do?" He asked, arms crossed as he leaned against a wall. Pierre raised an eyebrow at her determined expression, despite her shivering appearance.
Pierre tried not to look before but as she stood beside him in those wet clothes, it was hard not to notice that she was almost freezing. He suddenly felt guilty then but he told himself they just had to wait a little bit more for their friends…
Taking a deep breath, she huffed out a cold air and glanced at Pierre. "I'm going to break in."
December scowled. "If you're not going to offer any help, move aside." With a haughty look, she simply said, "I'll show you what a girl can do." Without waiting, she pushed him aside, but her adversary was six foot tall despite not having an overly athletic physique. December never really stood a chance against him; he barely budged.
"Brute." She muttered to herself.
December studied the thick chains with multiple locks on it. Why does the school need to ensure the second building tightly with only two locks? And why didn't they just fixed it up with the activation system like most buildings were? So many questions raced through December's mind but she was nowhere to figuring out why. The whole thing made it seemed as though the board was keeping some secret or treasure within these walls.
'Yeah, definitely not suspicious and flashy at all,' she thought with a roll of her eyes.
Discarding those thoughts at the moment, she focused on how to unlock the chains; following the knot it made and to the type of locks around it.
Thinking how the whole thing looked more confusing than her Math homework, she sighed but decided to get on with it. She took a bobby pin out of her hair and tried to unlock the first one, twisting and turning the pin around. She continued it for several times but patience was never her virtue when it came to this kind of situation. Frustrated, she jammed the already bent pin into the padlock furiously. The hairpin broke within the first couple jabs.
"Ugh!" she groaned in frustration. Failing to unlock it, December settled on glaring at it instead.
He could give her some credit for the determination but shook his head at her impatience. He had been watching her picking the lock and glancing around in case the rest of the group approach them but there were no one in sight.
Figuring they'd both freeze to death at this rate, Pierre decided they had waited long enough for any of their friends to reach them. Besides, he didn't want to continue risking being seen by the patrolling guards.
With a sigh, he took the broken pins and gently pushed her aside.
"I could have done it." came December's quiet but sulky mutter beside him.
He hid a smile. Shrugging, he pretended to be irritated. "You probably could but I don't want to be stuck out here any longer."
Raising an eyebrow, December watched with narrowing to widening eyes as he stood in front of the damning shackles and worked on it within seconds. The padlocks yielded to Pierre's magic touch and the chains clanked as it came undone.
She gritted her teeth in anger. 'He knew how to pick a lock all this time?' she screamed internally. It was that simple…and they could have entered the bloody building in the first place?
"You…" she seethed quietly, her eyes narrowing into slits.
"I what?" he asked with feigning innocence, pulling at the doors. The heavy entrance doors opened reluctantly, its rusty hinges made a creaking sound that reverberated through the empty hallway like hollow echoes. Pierre winced at the harsh noise before attempting to open it slowly, hoping the guards wouldn't be alerted by the loud sound.
He turned to look at her, ignoring her frown and said, "Let's go in."
She gave him a blank look and asked sarcastically, "Oh, so now we're going in?"
He raised his eyebrow and asked, "What, are you angry?"
Her tone was flat when she replied, "Wrong question."
Pierre rolled his eyes and sighed. "I thought we should wait for them before we go in. We've waited long enough."
She sputtered and tried to say something but her mind was too frantic for her to form any words.
December settled on glaring at him instead.
He wasn't fazed. "I don't know about you," he started, quoting her words earlier, "but I'm not going to stand here in this cold weather anymore," With that, he stepped into the warm and musty building, leaving December to fume.
As angry as she was, the warm gust of air from inside the building coaxed her into following suit. With a disgruntled sigh, December flashed the light from her phone around and trailed behind when she saw Pierre walking not far from where she was.
They walked through the empty hallway, and Pierre had a sense of that familiar feeling when he was lost in the building earlier. If the place was quiet and a bit eerie during the day, that only increased tenfold at night. Pierre didn't think of himself as someone who was afraid of the dark but being in the building made him reevaluate that as they walked through the dark hall. He glanced at December walking silently beside him, both of them were holding their phones to light their way. Sometimes, their arms would brushed slightly but neither said anything.
He would have welcome the times whenever she kept her mouth shut, but being in an unfamiliar and creepy territory, with someone who was a chatterbox but now a selective mute was a bit unnerving to him. He'd almost wanted December to say something so he wouldn't actually feel alone in this place despite having her as company…
"Why are you quiet all of a sudden?" He muttered.
"I don't like this." was her quiet reply. He could hear the fear in her voice despite her indifference.
He paused in his step. Pierre could have sworn he heard something.
December noticed the change in his expression, with what little she could see from the glow of her phone's light. She immediately put her guard up.
"What?" she whispered in panic, eyes focused on Pierre. Because of Pierre's reaction and her overactive imagination, she felt goosebumps appearing on her skin.
"Pierre, did you see something?" She asked again when he didn't answer, her voice soft but urgent.
Pierre squinted into the dark and she held her breath. And then he shook his head and she exhaled in relief.
"I thought I heard something." He said, voice low.
Well, that didn't make me feel any better now. She raised an eyebrow at him before shaking her head. "I don't know why we're even doing this. Maybe we should just call-" December gasped and Pierre turned to her sharply.
"What is it?"
He saw different expressions on her face; from surprised to sudden realization and then annoyance.
Turning to him, she said, "We could have just called them! Why didn't we think of that?"
He raised his eyebrow. "We could have expose them to the guards then. Besides, we don't know where they are yet."
"You've thought of everything now, haven't you?" She looked skeptic and her tone was dry. Still, she was amazed at how calm he was despite the situation they're in. Does the guy even have weakness?
He shrugged and smirked lazily. "Someone's got to."
'Oh right, it was his arrogance,' December scoffed mentally.
"Do you have their cellphone numbers?" He asked her.
She opened her mouth to answer when she realized that she did not, in fact, have any of their numbers saved. Shaking her head at herself, she answered with a sigh, "No."
He nodded while mulling on something. "I doubt they're at the same place now. I'll call Oliver."
He dialed the number and hold the phone to his ear, waiting. As soon as he heard that familiar voice of the operator for the second time, Pierre had already hung up. "Can't get through him."
"What about Felix, or Isaac?" Her tone was hopeful.
He shook his head. "I don't really know them. They were already with Ramona when we met them downtown."
December nodded slowly. "I see. Well, I guess…"
She trailed off when Pierre suddenly turned his head to a dark corner.
"Did you hear that?" He asked her quietly.
She didn't hear anything. Thinking he was trying to mess with her, she said, "Pierre, I hope you're not pulling anything right now or I'll-"
Though he didn't look at her, she heard the annoyance in his words. "I'm not pulling anything."
The echo of a loud bang were heard down the hallway and both of them stilled in their place.
"What is that sound?" December whispered in panic, stepping closer to Pierre. Not realizing that she had clung tightly to his shirt, all she could think of right now was to bolt if she'd hear it again.
Pierre flashed the light towards where they heard the sound, mentally braving up and ignoring the fear trying to take control of him. What was going to come out from the dark corner in front of them? What would it be like? His mind played tricks on him then, conjuring up visuals from when he played some horror video game…
Pierre's fight or flight mode response were slower to comprehend and he found himself cussing out. Of all times to stay catatonic! He was usually very in tune with his senses.
They heard the noise again, this time a continuous banging sound. He thought it might be some doors slamming but then he felt the linoleum floor vibrating under his shoes. The sounds seemed louder and he thought that whatever it was, were heading towards them.
Not knowing what it was mixed with an overactive imagination, her heightened fear had reduced December to a screaming hen and she took off towards the door behind them. In her haste to escape the place, she had forgotten that she had a grip on Pierre's shirt and therefore, were pulling him with her.
Her shrill scream snapped him into reality and he realized there was a pull on his shirt. Realizing that December had a grip on him and they were both running away, he barely calculated the next move when he heard her cry of distress.
"Dammit! Where's the door?"
He frowned. They had been walking straight ahead without turning in any corner so they must have been closer towards the entrance they came in, shouldn't they? He spotted an opening of a corner then. Not wanting to waste any more time in finding the exit, he grabbed hold of her arm and turned towards it, their wet shoes sliding on the floor before they caught their balance and kept on running.
Pierre didn't know where they were heading but he didn't want to stop and think about where to go next. His plan was to run ahead and go through any obstacles thrown in his way. He didn't even care if there was any guards patrolling around now. If they did, he'd deal with them.
The same couldn't be said for December. She said a silent prayer that they wouldn't be chased by whatever it was they heard in the hallway. She was also hoping they'd find some safe place soon and not bump into any guards. Being chased by something was already enough and she didn't want to deal with the guards as well.
Flashing the light to see the way, Pierre eventually reached a door. He didn't think too much about it – if the door was locked, he'd pick it anyway. As was expected, the knob was locked but he worked on it just in time. Opening it, he pushed December in before locking them both from inside.
When he shoved her in, she barely had time before her arms made impact with a wall. Wincing, she tried to catch her breath while rubbing her aching arm. December flashed the phone light to where he was and scowled at him.
"You really are a brute. You know, you'd made an excellent quarterback." Her biting tone didn't escape him.
He managed a small smirk while sounding breathless. "I'll bet. Unfortunately, the club's full."
She scoffed and gave him a mocking look. "With that strength, you could have knocked some guy out and take his place."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "I'm not a bully."
She already had a comeback ready but paused when he said that. Though she wanted to say something else, December only muttered, "Could have fooled me."
Pierre sighed and ignored that. "At least we're safe. For now." He closed his eyes and leaned against the door, trying to even his breathing properly and figure out what to do next.
December took in their surroundings, or what was little of it. Apparently they had rushed into a closet; it seemed to be a janitor's closet with the mops, ladders and water buckets placed around them. The door had some horizontal lines that had gaps on it, making them able to catch some air despite the crowded space they were in. She hoped whoever the janitor was didn't mind them seeking a temporary refuge in his shed. She searched for the light in the closet and found a switch beside Pierre's head.
"Could you please switch on the light? It's beside you."
He did as was told and the room brightened a little with one light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
Neither of them said anything for a moment, the only sound heard was their shallow breathing. Each were preoccupied with their own thoughts.
Then, December spoke.
"I hope whoever that was won't find us here." She shuddered a little thinking about the loud sounds in the hallway and how they barely escaped from the place. "I don't think I've ever run so fast like that."
Pierre nodded but stopped after her first sentence and smirked at the last. He said nothing, however.
Feeling awkward and obliged to say something to dispel the quiet atmosphere, she asked, "Where did you learn how to pick locks?"
He glanced at her and chuckled a little, saying, "YouTube."
December's interest had pique and she arched her eyebrows in surprise. "Why would you need to watch a video about lock picking?" Then, her eyes narrowed into suspicion. "You're not one of those guys that breaks in, are you?"
Pierre raised his eyebrow, this time instead of looking a little amused or arrogant, he looked offended. "No."
She didn't relent on narrowing her eyes as she scrutinized him before nodding slowly and said, "Sorry. So, what's the real purpose of it?"
He shrugged but rubbed his neck a little. December never really noticed it before but after spending some time with him, she noticed he had been doing that quite a lot tonight. "I got locked out of my house before. That's what happens when you didn't bring your own key when you go out."
She pressed her lips together to prevent her from laughing but her lips were twitching.
"You can laugh. It's not really a big deal, anymore." He said lightly.
So she did, and Pierre felt his insides warmed at the sound of her laughter.
After a while, she said, "Wow…and I guess that happened a few times?"
He nodded. "Regrettably. I kept forgetting the key until I had to make duplicates. It came in handy, didn't it?"
She nodded, "Mhm." before giving him a sidewise glance. "You know, you have a knack on working things fast." And he did, thinking to the time when he finished the quiz they were paired with ahead of her.
Then, she shrugged. "I was really mad at you."
He quirked an eyebrow. "For being fast?"
December rolled her eyes. "No, for not opening the door earlier. We could have just waited for them inside."
'Like now,' crossed the thought in their minds simultaneously.
As they took in their surroundings again and thought back to how the night begin, they fell back into their thoughts.
Though the closet was cramped, it wasn't entirely small and closed off that they didn't have any space to move about slightly. They stood across one another, not knowing what to say next, despite their casual conversation seconds ago. How did they managed to be in this situation? Months ago, they were strangers and if it weren't for that slight incident, they probably would have still be strangers…or maybe things would have taken a different turn.
December thought she could actually be good friends with him. He wasn't a bad person and despite his cockiness, he was a pretty decent and cool guy.
Pierre was having conflicting feelings about her. He knew he didn't blame her anymore for whatever happened months ago, but there was some emotion that she had unwittingly evoked within him, and unable to decipher that feeling, he was left feeling confused and frustrated on how to deal with it.
He didn't think he'd ever felt this way before. What was surprising, was that he didn't recognize whatever was bubbling inside of him to be anything he felt when he was with his girlfriend.
But as he got to know her a little bit, he found that he wanted to know her more. If he were to think that months ago, he would probably scoff and punched himself in the face.
The silence had stretched for too long and it was as if they were teetering on the edge; both wondering who should start talking first. Taking a leap, they opened their mouth, not knowing both were going to start at the same time:
"I'm sorry." came Pierre's quiet voice.
December blinked and turned her gaze at him. "For what?" She wasn't sure what he was apologizing for.
He looked at her and cleared his throat, his voice a little raspy as he said, "For uh, shoving you hard. I didn't mean it at all. I just wanted to get us in before we're found."
She stared at him for a bit before letting loose a few chuckles. "Apology accepted."
As a thought came across her mind, she then said with a smile, "Are you sorry for the things you said months ago as well?"
He grinned a little and nodded. "Yes, that too. I was in the wrong, alright. No excuses for that."
She smiled. Could this be the closure they both needed for that time? She thought it might be so.
"Does it still hurt?" He looked concerned when he gestured slightly to her arm.
Looking at it, she rubbed the spot mindlessly but said, "Not anymore…but it might bruise later." She chuckled weakly.
Pierre groaned a little. At her curious look, he sighed heavily. "Okay, I'll let you get one hit."
Her eyebrows shot up. "Seriously? It's not a big deal."
"Yes, it is." He muttered. As tough and stubborn he looked, he couldn't just let it slide away the fact that she was hurt, and he caused it. He felt downright responsible for that now.
She was highly skeptical. "You want me to punch you? I have never had anyone asking me to punch them willingly."
"Guess I'm the first. It was my fault so just do it, alright?"
"Pierre," she started and he swore his heart fluttered a little at the way she said his name. He almost wanted to scowl at himself; it wasn't the first time she'd said it so why was he having some weird feelings about it? 'Damn it, at this rate I'll probably have some heart issues,' he thought dryly.
He told himself to get a grip before intercepting her with a challenging smirk. "It's just a punch. What, too scared to do it?"
She narrowed her eyes at him and took the bait. "Fine. You asked for it."
He told himself it would be a small punch, one that probably wouldn't hurt too much.
But he had made a mistake – aye, he had underestimated this five foot six girl for December could certainly pack a punch.
Nevertheless, it had been quite worth it.
"That's going to leave some bruise." He muttered and winced when he rubbed his right arm.
A little guilty for feeling satisfied, she hesitantly though gingerly touched the spot where she hit him.
She looked at him in concern but grumbled, "I didn't think I hit you that hard."
"You'd be surprised to know." He grinned, his eyes lit up in amusement.
She smiled weakly. "Sorry."
Biting her lip in hesitation, she mulled over what she was going to say next before blurting out, "Let's be friends."
Pierre met her gaze and held it there. A moment passed, and a wide smile graced his features - a genuine smile that she had never really seen before on him light up his face. She could barely think of him as Pierre, he-who-scowls-a-lot now.
It was like she just had a glimpse of a different part of him and she was momentarily unsure what to do. She felt pleased, however, for she was seeing a new side of him.
He nodded and grinned. "We're friends now."
She was starting to feel tired standing up, so she decided to move the things around her a little bit to leave some space for her to sit. Not noticing the roll of wires tangling on the floor, she tripped when her foot got caught in the tangle and lost her footing.
He didn't anticipate the fall but caught her just in time when she made a sound of distress and fell forward. Pierre held her at an arm's length until she found her balance, letting her go then.
He sighed softly. "You really are clumsy."
"Shut up." came her embarrassed but muttered reply. December was glad they were in a slightly darkened place, lest her flush cheeks would be visible to see.
He chuckled quietly to himself and they fell back into a comfortable silence.
They were thinking through some things when thoughts about their current situation took a different turn. Their mind went from unlikely to likely possibilities of being ditched and they found themselves growing impatient then. Shouldn't one of their friends called them already? Or have they simply forgotten about them and moved on?
Should they just leave the room now?
December checked her phone and saw that there was no line. She sighed to herself; it was almost eleven at night. How long had they been in the building?
"Maybe we should get out. They couldn't possibly know we're in here, anyway…"
She trailed off when the door suddenly creaked open slowly. Taken by complete surprise mixed with the possibility that whatever chasing them earlier had found them, December screamed in fear - a high pitched one that could be dubbed as the classic Halloween scream. She hadn't even realized she'd grabbed hold of Pierre's arm and practically mold herself to him, her eyes clenched tight.
He did not anticipate her screaming. One moment he was listening to her talking and the next she was hugging him and screaming her lungs off. He had stiffened and winced then. 'She sure do have a pair of strong lungs.'
"Geez, calm down December!"
She felt herself being shaken and then someone closed her mouth. Opening her eyes, she closed them tightly again when the flashing light blinded her vision. When she felt the light being shifted elsewhere, she opened her eyes slowly and adjusted her vision.
"Lily? Guys?" She croaked. Then, December let out a breath of relief. Finally!
She saw all of them standing beside one another then, their faces painted with curiosity and…why were they looking at her weirdly?
"What?" she couldn't help but asked defensively. Because of her aching and dry throat, what came out was a bare whisper. Is there something on me?
"Uh….are we disturbing you two from having a good time?" Ramona asked, her tone bordering on awkward, though her smile was sly as she looked from December to Pierre suggestively.
'Having a good time?' she thought before looking at herself.
She gasped. It was then that December realized she was clinging to Pierre like a monkey; her arms were around his neck and her legs were cuddling his thigh as she molded herself to him.
Unsure of what expression he was wearing, she slowly though resignedly forced herself to look at him and blanched: Pierre was practically frozen like a statue as he met her horrified gaze blankly.
She couldn't believe she had jumped on him.
Had her dignity deserted her? She sorely wanted to scream again.
At the moment, December thought she might just die of mortification then.ns 220.127.116.11da2