December tried to make it a habit whenever she could to frequent the arena, and although she only spent about ten minutes each day, it was still a progress from her two-month absence from it. Today was the third day, and for some reason, it felt slow to her. Where some days could pass by like a blink of an eye, today's hours seemed to drag on. By the fifth period, she wanted to curl up on her comforter and call it a day.
With Brooke and Jethro on class duty, Raven tutoring Blake, and Serena and Weston overseeing the damage on some historical books in the library, December seemed to be the only one with too much time on her hands.
And the rest of her friends were nowhere at the academy.
That's odd. Where are they hiding?
She knew it wasn't true, yet it felt as though they were avoiding her. It's like the universe is conspiring against me or something. Using my friends…not cool, universe.
She shook her head from those foolish thoughts and set forth towards the arena.
She wondered if Zach was going to be there, practicing today. His lithe figure, perfect posture and the way he pulled the bow whenever he was about to shoot the arrow; it was beautiful. He made it look so effortless and easy when she knew it was anything but.
It had been challenging, but of course she knew that when joining the club.
Despite talking on the phone when they could, she hadn't seen him around much. For some reason, it worried her.
Was he swamped with too many things? Did he get enough sleep and eat well? Now that prom were nearing, the tasks would be endless. She hoped he wasn't so busy, really.
And then an idea came to mind – there was still the next date. December smiled to herself in satisfaction and anticipation; a date to help him relax and at the same time, one where she could spend more time with him… they would be getting the best of both worlds.
Alright, I'm going to have to start on that soon.
Thinking about him reminded her of when she first joined freshman year. The first time she met him, the friends she made, and how far she had come.
December was nervous. Their club had decided to throw in a friendly competition amongst their members. While the majority of them were seniors and juniors, there were a handful of sophomores and freshmen as well.
She watched from the reserves as a few seniors and juniors took their positions spread out in a line, pointed their bows at the target, stretched, and shot it.
It was like watching a scene from one of those battlefield movies.
"Whoa." She breathed in amazement.
"Impressive, right?" Brooke said from her right. She put both hands on her hips and grinned at her.
December looked up at Brooke, her newly made friend early that year. She smiled and nodded vigorously. Brooke had saved her from a bunch of students bullying her, alongside their other friend, Raven, and she had to admit, things were starting to feel a lot better for her.
Still, sometimes she couldn't help but wonder about their intentions. She hadn't had good encounters with friendship before. December learned from experience that sometimes people aren't who they seemed to be, and while they had been friends for two months, she wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they really do want to be her friend.
December twisted a small lock of her short hair into braids and said, "They're like professionals! Wait, are they one? Because that's wicked and I would believe that."
Brooke laughed and shook her head, her ponytail swishing. "I wouldn't be surprised if they are. I spoke to our grade's representative, and he told me that they have at least competed in the regionals and are already sponsored by some Ivy League big shots. How amazing is that?"
December's eyes widened as she nodded. Amazing, yes, and wickedly so. That was already an achievement that December knew must have taken them years of hard work.
She thought she was ambitious yet this was on another level. December was really just average on this because she had decided that she was going to set a reasonable goal instead of setting up high expectations for herself. Setting unrealistic goals at her level would only invite disappointment if things didn't go well.
Still, she was amazed at her seniors' level of commitment and dedication for the sport.
At the corner of her eyes, she spotted a tall and lanky boy jesting with a group of students with a smile so infectious she found her lips curling.
And then she saw them winking at her; his dimples.
Oh my God.
He's so cute and handsome and…and who was he?
"Ah, I see you've found our club's rep."
At Brooke's voice laced with a hint of amusement, December turned towards her friend, brows knitted in confusion. "You mean –"
"Yep, that's Zachary Wong." Brooke supplied cheerfully.
"If he's our rep, then how have I not seen him before? Shouldn't he be at the meeting last week when they distributed the teams?"
Brooke nodded emphatically. "He's one of the few students who could be excused from the meetings. I think his dad contributed to the school, or something. December, you look like you don't believe me." She laughed.
December immediately schooled her expression into sheepishness. Brooke was right, she didn't believe students actually have that privilege. After all, for a school that emphasizes on discipline and prided itself on their unblemished reputation of having students with excellent grades, allowing them to miss some club activities would surely mar their record, if not slightly, right?
Yet, she mused, perhaps by being a bit lenient to them was the reason why they could maintain those results.
It would be impossible to breathe and cope with such strict rules and abide it without any repercussions, she thought to herself.
Her old school was nothing like this, and she was glad for the umpteenth time that her family decided to move here.
When she looked at Brooke, she wondered how the girl came to know a lot of things about everyone when it hadn't been that long since they joined. Then realization dawned. Brooke probably didn't need to ask because she was just genuinely friendly and had that easy vibe which drew people to her.
"I think I believe you now." December said.
"Uh huh." Brooke grinned before she said, "I still see some doubt. Well, maybe he can clear it up. Hey, Zach!"
"What? Brooke, no!" December said in panic. Why was she calling him over?
Brooke waved her hand offhandedly and said, "Relax. He's not going to bite."
December wanted to face palm herself. Bite? Oh no, she's really just concerned about her conversational skills – especially around boys.
December watched as Zach's attention snapped to them and he excused himself from the group of students he was talking to and walked towards them.
"Hey, Brooke. Did you need something?"
Unbidden, December felt herself blushing. Calm it, December or he's going to think you like him.
"Yeah, there's something we need you to clarify. My friend December seems to be puzzled…"
She couldn't help it. Panicked, she tuned out.
Oh my God, Brooke.
She wanted to scream and hide but willed herself to look composed and not betray how she felt at all. It had only been three months since she knew Brooke but she already figured that the girl was not afraid to speak her mind – even if it meant drawing attention to herself – which was unlike December. While that was one of the reasons why she admire her, she wished Brooke wouldn't drag her into the spotlight.
December blinked and looked at them both, trying to focus on what they were saying - only to realize that they were both looking at her now.
"Sorry, what?" She looked alarmed.
Brooke's grin suddenly seemed all too-knowing, and Zach let out a chuckle. She thought it sounded very nice.
He suddenly thrust his hand forward. "Hi, I don't believe we've met before. My name's Zach. You're December, right?"
She couldn't look away from him when she grasped his hand – soft and big; it was like being hugged.
A hand hug, came a thought which she thought was hilarious, she couldn't even hide it.
December giggled but sobered up immediately. "Hi! Yes, I'm December. December Scarborough." Then she shook her head in embarrassment at herself, which didn't help matters when she caught Brooke trying not to laugh.
She felt a bit disappointed when they broke contact but willed herself to focus on what he was saying now.
"Brooke told me that you have some questions about the club?"
Immediately, her gaze snapped towards Brooke, who winked at her before nodding towards Zach and mouthed, 'just go along'.
She understood then and December didn't know whether she wanted to laugh or sigh in relief.
Brooke didn't ask him about what she actually thought of special passes. She really was a nice girl, after all.
She did a little of both; sighing a little as she let out a small laugh. "Oh, yes!"
She then found herself speechless. What was she supposed to ask?
To his left, Brooke tried to help her but it was too jumbled a sign that she couldn't understand it. She glanced at him again and chuckled nervously – panic starting to engulf her as she tried to wrack her mind for something.
It didn't help that he was looking as patiently as he could standing there in front of her.
Either he was taking pity on her or he didn't realize the awkward situation she had put them in, December didn't know but he said, "If there's something you're unsure about, please don't hesitate to ask. As a freshman, I know it's daunting to be in a room full of people who seem to know their sport. But there's no need to worry because we're all learning here."
December's heart melted a little. He thought she was nervous because of the environment…
How thoughtful…and very kind indeed.
December looked at him, trying not to be too smitten by his earnest gaze and killer dimple.
"I…thank you! That helps and…" She tried. December tried to wrack her brain that chooses to be void of smart thoughts at times like this, but alas, she was absent-minded in that moment, which somehow prompted her to say the first thing her brain thought of. "You know what?" She let out a small laugh in nervousness. "I think I'll have to get back to you on that…because now, I have to use the loo."
There was a pause in that moment, a crack which allow everyone's most common enemy to slip in: awkwardness.
Her face burned in embarrassment but she smiled, a grin too bright. And then she hightailed out of that situation, all the while beating herself for being so, so stupid. Why did she say that? It was a chance to meet and talk with people, and a boy like that…talking to her. It was a one in a million moment and she blew it.
She totally blew it.
First impression be damned, all because she didn't know how to even talk to the opposite sex. If he ever remember her again, she'd probably be embedded as Toilet Girl in his mind.
She didn't even want to go to the loo!
December was out in the hallway when Brooke caught with her.
"December, wait!" Brooke didn't even sound out of breath when she caught a hold of her arm.
At the look on Brooke's face, December scowled.
"Don't say it."
Brooke did. "The lavatory? Really?"
She groaned and covered her face. "It's so stupid. I panicked." Then, she looked over her shoulder in agitation.
"Relax. He's not coming here."
December fell into a squat as she moaned in despair. "I'm such a fool. He must think I'm absolutely ridiculous."
Brooke shook her head and knelt down so she was looking at December. She patted the girl's shoulder gently. "No, absolutely, definitely not. Don't be harsh on yourself, D. I get it, he's handsome and kind but listen, he didn't think that of you at all."
December gave her a look of disbelief. "How do you know that?"
"Because that's just not his character. I've heard people say good things about him and they say he's so kind and thoughtful, that should be his middle name."
December cracked a small smile when Brooke grinned.
"Did he…did he say anything when I left?"
Brooke paused in thought, and then, "Well, I told him you were unwell, and he had this concerned look about him. He said he hoped you'll get better and that if you need to sit out, he'll inform the instructor."
December stared at her friend, gauging whether she was joking or really saying the truth.
Her eyes widened when she realized she was.
"My God, he really is thoughtful."
"And honestly, how is he so cute?"
Brooke laughed. "I know. It should be prohibited."
Three years had passed since then and she was grateful that her friendship with Brooke had strengthened. And Raven, then Serena, Weston, and Jethro. Her circle grew more each year.
They were blessings who came into her life and brightened it when she had no one by her side.
Most of all, she was with the boy whom she strongly believed wouldn't ever talk to her again.
She didn't see it coming, didn't even anticipate or entertain the notion. She fully expected him to disregard her like most people would but he didn't. Instead of sending cordial smiles, he would approach her in the clubroom and even teach her the proper way to hold a bow and straightened her posture when she did it.
December was starting to get used to that idea of being worthy of being by his side and she knew why; he made her feel like his equal in all aspects.
He was the school's golden boy and she, a girl who was just average in everything, how could she ever think of wanting to be by his side?
But she started to see more in her than just a girl with average achievements; she was December Scarborough; flawed, yes, but also compassionate and loyal. And she's strong, stronger than she had been years ago.
Having the urge to call him, she retrieved her phone from her blazer, dialed then waited.
December frowned. The calls went to a voicemail. Maybe he's busy with the council, she mused.
Eventually she sent a text asking if he could meet up with her later, and then to take care of himself and stay hydrated.
Just as soon as she pocketed it, her phone rang. Excited and thinking that he had returned her call, December failed to check the caller ID and answered.
"Hey, that was quick." She laughed a little.
A pause. And then, "Likewise. I didn't think you'd answer me."
Her smile fell.
The owner of the voice immediately registered in her mind. December closed her eyes in frustration, cursing herself for not checking it firsthand. And how did he get her number?
"Michael." She scowled, her voice hardened. "How did you get my number?" She tried to sound pleasant but the effort was straining.
"Mum." He seemed very much in a good mood for someone who loathed her. She was starting to panic, wondering what on earth he wanted from her.
"And…why are you calling me?" She was utterly confused and didn't bother to hide it.
"What, am I not allowed to call my sister?"
There goes the bite in his voice. And no, she wanted to just say it, not when you're a horrible brother.
But she didn't want to start an argument, not when she was here at school. This is my safe haven, and he cannot hurt me.
"Really, Michael. What is it?" She asked, deadpanned. Senses heightened, she waited until he spoke.
"I want you to help me do some errand."
She didn't know what irritated her; his demand or the fact that he sounded so pleasant it feels as though he was smiling.
It didn't make sense – the image of him smiling, and their current situation where he was asking her for help.
A pause. Brows furrowed, she asked. "Why?"
"Why what?" Michael seemed to be taken off guard, and she relished that small bit of unguarded moment from him.
"Why should I help you?"
On the other line, Michael hesitated briefly before he said in an angry edge, "Because I said so. Now make sure to be free this Saturday – "
Her anger flared. The audacity.
"No." Her voice was quiet as her scowl deepened. She couldn't let him boss her around anymore. And she was at school, for goodness sake!
"What did you say?" His voice sent chills up her arms, and though she quivered, she forced herself to stand her ground. No more, she reminded herself with a determined mindset.
With a soft breath, her voice took on a steady note. "I said no. Besides, I am at school and I'm swamped with a lot of things. You should find someone else."
With that, she hung up on him, eyes wide at the rush of adrenaline she felt.
Oh my God.
He wasn't in front of her, but it felt as though she had slammed the door on his face.
It felt good.
The grin came slow but seconds later it bloomed. Suddenly, her mood brightened at the fact that she had just stood for herself against her brother, Michael.
What a wonderful feeling it was.
There was no way she would go back home just to be his errand girl. And what was he still doing here, anyway?
Her phone buzzed again, and to avoid making the same mistake, she checked her phone.
She bit the inside of her cheek in frustration. Why is he so persistent?
A part of her wanted to worry. Michael rarely, if not never, called her and during school hours at that. Despite him being a horrible brother, he seemed to still respect that she was at school. He hadn't even brought up on their conversation of him wanting her to move to London again.
She wondered what he wanted her help on, yet there was another part of her that didn't want to even consider helping him.
He was atrocious, mean-spirited, and all around a thorn in her side. He was a stranger, really, as painful as it was to keep thinking that.
She tried to put him out of her mind, but found it difficult.
Damn it. Once thoughts of the person she most wanted to avoid and ignore bleed in her mind, it'd take some huge distraction to get him out. She found herself feeling frustrated and angry.
He had no right to invade her safe space with his evilness.
Feelings of restlessness grew, and December found herself wanting to direct her ball of energy somewhere no one could see her at her worst at this hour.
She hastened her steps towards the arena, and in her purposeful stride, she halted, quickly noticing that someone was already there.
And it seemed as though they would be seeing her at her worst today.
But not if I do this elsewhere, she thought, turning around to exit the door before stopping herself short.
Wait a minute.
Their silhouette seemed…vaguely familiar. December slowly took a step into the dimly lit space again, eyes squinting as she tried to put a name to the person practicing before her.
The space where her fellow club members did their practices was huge. With a built-in target boards lined against the wall, and equipment stacked in a storage room and against the walls in shelves, it was no wonder why they needed such a space to fit the entire student body for competitions and such.
As she came closer, realization dawned on her.
And with that, came a relieved sigh.
It's just him.
Still, tentatively, she asked, "Pierre?"
To say he was startled wouldn't do his reaction justice.
He was frightened out of his skin, it was simple as that.
And he may have let out a shout – however brief it was, he thanked God for it – because of that, but it didn't really help matters now.
Because December – the girl who always managed to find him everywhere he went – had seen him doing that and it took every nerve in him not to burn a hole in his spot.
December blinked at Pierre, biting her lip while the echo of his shout still rang in the arena.
He rubbed his neck.
She followed his movement with her eyes.
He cleared his throat quietly.
He lost his composure, and embarrassing as it was, Pierre couldn't stop the stutter that came from his mouth, "Wha-what are you doing here?"
She peered at the target board and then at the arrow lying on the floor. December met his startled gaze. "Same reason why you are here."
He coughed and went to retrieve the equipment. "Well, alright. I'll leave you to it."
December furrowed her brows. "What? No, don't leave because of me. You can continue practicing." She nodded vigorously.
Pierre had different ideas.
Because there was no way he could focus on practice when he was aware of others' presence.
He was suddenly shy, yes, and also really self-conscious of his lack of skills at the sport.
He shrugged, trying to appear unaffected. "No, you can use the space. I was about to finish when you showed up."
He say that, but why is he looking everywhere but me? December wondered with a puzzle. And…is that a flush on his face…?
Her eyes widened slowly, and with it a dawning understanding.
She couldn't help it then – Pierre's emotions was rare to her, and she was inwardly thrilled to see it at times like this.
Amused, she quipped, "Are you…afraid to practice with someone?"
He stiffened, but did not betray his expression.
She didn't relent. "Or maybe...you're just shy." She proceeded to nod in understanding, as if she had found an answer for a hard question.
Pierre's jaw flexed – if not just a little. He didn't like guessing, especially when it was at his expense.
"It's not really any of your business, now, is it?" He snapped, but the bite was mild. He raised a brow at her, feeling defensive for having his weakness picked apart.
She widened her eyes, and put her hands up in surrender, chuckling. "Whoa. Okay, mate, I can take a hint. Well," She sighed before gesturing a thumb towards the entrance. "I'm just going to go and practice elsewhere. See you around, Pierre."
Pierre could kick himself when he said that. He didn't really mean it…at least, he didn't want it to feel like he was angry at her. Because he wasn't.
He just didn't like being vulnerable in front of most people, if he could help it.
Pierre wasn't sure why he cared, but somehow he really didn't want December to think he was weak – especially if she was part of the archery committee whose skills he heard ranked sixth in the school.
So, yes. He was afraid, and a bit diffident because she's great at it.
But did he want her to leave? Pierre was surprised at the sudden and vehement answer that came to him: No.
Did he feel bad because she decided to leave? Yes.
Was he going to say something to make her stay?
Pierre hated to admit it, but he really was a coward.
And so he watched her exit the arena. When he was certain no one was lurking in the shadows or trying to surprise him, he tried to focus on the aims again.
Of course she wasn't going to leave just like that.
But he didn't know that now, did he?
As she slowly crept inside again and hid herself against a wall – a narrow path towards a small storage space – December sighed to herself as she peeked.
She had seen him practice before, and each time, he was getting better. He even looked focused – as focused as she could see in the dimly lit room. She didn't think he had any problems practicing in front of others, so why was he adamant to leave?
They could practice together, was what she thought, despite her initial intention to vent by herself.
Unless, she had breached his personal space…which was, okay, something December didn't like either.
She sighed again.
"Best to leave him then." She mumbled.
As soon as she said that, December found herself squinting at him.
He shot the arrow, but missed. On the second try, he managed to hit the target, but it was still out of the point range.
After that, she found herself biting her lip and clenching her grip on the wall with each missed shot she saw.
And each time, she figured out what the issue was.
But the problem now was how to fix it without having him freaking out and possibly going off on her.
She could just leave and pretend that she didn't see his progress. Yet, the other part of her, the archer who wants her fellow team mates to excel better couldn't ignore him.
She waited for five, ten, twenty – seconds – and couldn't hold it any longer.
"It's your posture." She blurted out in haste. It echoed in the empty arena, saved for two mismatched friends.
Pierre let out an expletive and whirled around, the bow forgotten on the floor.
His eyes roved in the dark, searching for a silhouette or just someone – until he saw her coming out from the shadows.
He narrowed his eyes.
She smiled at him sheepishly.
Pierre frowned. "Didn't you say you were leaving?"
She shrugged. "Well…I didn't?"
He was in disbelief, yet he was waiting for more explanation. Pierre's brow rose. "I can see that."
December rolled her eyes. "Oh, okay, I lied. But I was going to leave." She nodded vigorously before adding, "And then I saw your aim, and well, it needs some fixing. If you'll let me help you, you won't be missing the shots." She added as an afterthought. "Much."
She was offering her help to better him. Didn't the idea of wanting to practice alone was because he didn't want anyone commenting on his lack of skills?
She was looking at him earnestly, though. With her shining blue jewe – he shook his head.
December looked disheartened, and he panicked. Whatever she was thinking, he was sure it was a misunderstanding.
"No!" He furrowed his brows. "Wait, yes. Yes, uh, you can…help me." He coughed into his hand.
She looked surprised but pleased, and all he could think of was:
What had he just done to himself?
Ten minutes in, and he was still getting it wrong on how to stand properly.
Another few more minutes and Pierre already regretted letting her guide him – he was hopeless and they both knew it.
"Don't be so harsh on yourself, Pierre." December said before she added, "We're all learning here." As soon as she said that, a pair of blush formed on her cheeks. A brief memory of when she first met Zach flashed through her mind, reminding her that she had borrowed Zach's words.
Bemused at her reaction, he looked at her funnily but didn't say a word. As if remembering herself, December glanced up at him before schooling her expression as she sought to focus on the training.
"Well…yes, we're all learning. Anyway, here, let's do it like this."
December instructed him to stand shoulder width apart as she did the same. "Good. Now, we're going to find a neutral ground. Balance your feet. Are you comfortable?" He nodded. "Okay, make sure your angle is right because if it isn't, it will affect your performance."
When she was satisfied, she instructed him to hold the bow. "Like your position, the way you hold your bow also determines whether or not you'll get a shot. And a consistent one, at that. So, first you'll want to relax your hold on it. Don't grasp it too tight."
He held the bow as she told him. "Like this?"
December angled her head slightly. "Relax it a little bit more."
He was now an eager student. There was something that feels right in the way he stood and held the equipment.
"Yes. Now stretch. I'm going to check on your torso position."
When December suddenly put her hand on his shoulder, he stiffened. And as quickly as it came, he relaxed.
For about two seconds.
Because the next thing he knows, she was touching his body, her hands gliding from the front towards the back.
He was flustered and pointed the bow down.
"What are you doing?"
His alarmed tone snapped her from her focus. Confused, she said, "What do you mean? I'm trying to make you hold yourself upright. Your muscles…didn't I tell you to stretch them?" She said it as one would when trying to jog someone's memory.
His eyes darted on her puzzled and dare he say, hurt, expression before he frowned. He felt extremely foolish.
"Ah. Sorry. I…lost focus."
She looked at him pointedly, almost pursing her lips in irritation before shaking her head. "Well, please focus. Geez, Pierre. What were you thinking?"
Nothing you'd want to know, Pierre gulped inaudibly.
She stared at him, wondering what the matter was with him. Thinking he was too complex in his mysteriousness, she pointedly said, "I was checking to see how the muscles stretched. I doubt others do this, but Brooke was the one who showed me how to feel whether your stretches are in need of fixing. And yours do."
Pierre thought she was offended, after all.
"All right, I said I'm sorry." He said, still feeling guilty.
She waved offhandedly.
He was outrageously disappointed that she kept her hands to herself next, however.
Whatever the hell was wrong with him?
"You don't want to lean too much into the shot or away from it. Just stand straight – don't twist or bend your torso – and make sure your collar bones are parallel to the arrow." He lifted his bow and did as she said. "Yes, like that." She was delighted that Pierre was getting the hang of it.
"So now what?"
She laughed and he couldn't stop the grin on his face. "Patience, mate. Now, pull the string back until it reached your anchor point," She instructed him to pull until his finger reached under his chin, the string touching his nose. "Excellent."
Pierre was secretly pleased to hear her praising him but he tried not to show it too much. She would probably think he wasn't paying any attention.
"Now, you'd want to close one eye, and line your vision on the bow towards the center of the target. Do you have it?"
"Aye." He murmured, closing an eye and bringing the bow to the center of it. He could see the line better, his focus set on the board. His body went taut with anticipation. Let me just get one hit at it, he thought to himself.
"Be still and take a deep breath. Easy, don't rush. And then let it out, but not all of it." He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, eyes focused on the target, following only December's calm, almost therapeutic voice to guide him.
When she told him to let his fingers slip and then exhale the rest of his breath, he did so, holding his position still as he watched the arrow fly towards the target in slow motion.
It was swift.
December grinned at him, pleased that Pierre got a shot in. "You did it!"
Pierre on the other hand, stood still. He was perplexed. Did he really shoot it? It felt as though someone else's hands was on it, instead of his.
He had shot at the innermost ring – almost – but it was still victory to him because his record thus far hadn't been promising; some points and mostly none.
The most he had was 5 points, but this, this one shot which December guided him on, earned him slightly higher than that. He had hoped to get one hit, and he did it, didn't he?
Pierre turned to her, still dazed but as it permeated through the fog in his mind, he let out a laugh in disbelief. "I can't believe it."
"Oh, you better believe it. You hit 8 points, Pierre!"
He didn't know what prompted him to do what he did next, but Pierre swept December up in his arms and hugged her.
For a while, they were both lost in the euphoric victory of getting a shot – almost in the center.
Their gaze met; a clash of hazel green and crystal blue; both surprised at their sudden but close proximity.
But as quickly as it was, and comically enough, both of them stiffened and tore away from one another.
Silence ensued. When the air seemed to thicken, they let out a nervous laugh.
"Sorry." Pierre coughed before rubbing the back of his head. He then added, "It's got to be luck."
December nodded slowly, managing an embarrassed but still proud smile. "With more practice, it'll be more than that."
She ignored the strange sensation in her body at the contact of him, and tried hard not to seem as though it bothered her.
December knew what it was – the electric jolt – she had read about it in books before - but nevertheless found herself feeling odd.
Because this was Pierre – her friend. And she had a boyfriend whom she very much like and adore.
So why did she feel that way? It didn't make sense. With Zach, she felt warm, high as though she was floating all the time, and very much giddy.
But with Pierre and the way he…she shook her head mentally. She shouldn't give too much thought about it, really, because while she liked being friends with Pierre, the one who really made her heart flutter was Zach.
It's just a casual hug that means nothing, she told herself. I would feel the same thing if it was with Jethro, Weston, or Caleb.
December thought to up her game and try to hug Zach. They hadn't done that – could anyone believe it? – and while he already made her feel butterflies, she was sure it would clear all doubts about it if she did that.
"Your stance are improving but sometimes before you shoot, you tend to fall back into the wrong one. Do you know why?" She asked him suddenly.
Pierre was befuddled at the sudden shift in her behaviour, but shook his head, curiosity eating at him.
She bit her lip, furrowed her brow and said, "Awareness. When you think too much about whether or not you're doing it right, that's when it can snap."
Amusement laced his words when he said, "Really? I thought it's the other way around."
December smiled. "Ah, more or less. But that's quite the contrary belief."
Pierre laughed, the same laugh which surprised her that night they truly became friends, and in the cafeteria recently. She didn't know what was so funny, but he sounded so amused, and seemed so carefree.
December couldn't help but let out a small laugh. And just like that, she felt the air slowly becoming lighter.
"So," He started towards the equipment shelves, picking up a cloth to clean the handles lightly. "Who taught you how to shoot?" He glanced and grinned at her.
In her mind, images of Zach flashed. Zach smiling when she first met him, Zach looking concern and patient, Zach laughing at their date…
She was blushing again, she knew, and by the quizzical but still smiling look on Pierre's face, she couldn't help the blooming smile on hers.
Pierre returned the bow and gears, nodding slowly, his smile present but a little dim.
"Zachary. The captain of our archery club."
December nodded. "Yes. He has been our grade's rep since freshman year, and with the help of our upperclassmen, he guided us how to train. For someone who just joined the club back then, getting appointed as a student teacher amongst other well-trained archers, that's amazing, isn't it?" She gushed, looking up at him. Pierre could see the wonderment in her eyes.
He nodded again. It was indeed amazing. Pierre couldn't comprehend how a freshman could get appointed to be an instructor at such an early stage. Well, unless, Zach had been training since he was younger and had many certifications.
Then again, considering his achievements – the guy truly seemed like a god in this school – he probably did, so it was no wonder why he was worshipped by all, including December.
She looked positively glowing.
Which reminded him of another thing that the guys brought up a while back. He didn't know why he even bother mentioning it. Perhaps he just wanted to hear it from her, but he said, "And…he's also your boyfriend?"
If possible, she looked even radiant.
"Yes, he's my boyfriend."
And damn if he didn't detect the pride in her voice.
Pierre's easy going mood was starting to wane, and he couldn't figure out why he was so affected by her reaction towards the lad.
She could react however she wants towards her boyfriend. Pierre didn't give a hoot about it.
But something…something seemed to rub him the wrong way. He noted the same misplaced feeling he felt when he first saw him in front of the infirmary a long while back. But what was it, and why?
The guy had been really nice to him and had even tried to instruct him on the techniques.
Despite that, since he would often float around to help people, he would assign others to tutor him, and Pierre rarely spend time enough to get to know him besides the occasional greetings.
Would he think better of him once he get to know him?
"Pierre, I see the familiar scowl again." She chuckled, tilting her head slightly. "A penny for your thoughts?"
He was brought out of his reverie, glancing at the ocean blue eyes that was looking up at him in clear mirth. He smirked.
"A penny isn't worth these thoughts."
She gasped, eyes wide in surprise. "Oh, look at you. So my penny doesn't cut it? Will a dollar do, then?" She asked in mock sarcasm. When he shrugged, she shook her head. "You're so shrewd."
"It's nothing." He shook his head before retrieving the arrows. She followed suit.
She laughed and tried to imitate his voice; slightly deep with a hint of amusement in it. "It's nothing." She waved a finger around, as if she had a wand. "That's what they all say, although it's usually the opposite. But, I'm not going to push you, because you know, I get the hint." December nodded in earnest before pulling out the arrows.
Pierre looked on in amusement and said, "Oh yeah? Just like you did when you said you were going to leave?"
Sheepish, she said nervously, "Well, I really mean it this time."
When they finished retrieving the arrows out from the board, compiled it into a tube and returned them to the shelves vertically, December piped up, "Hey, you know I think we should hang out more. Because this is nice."
Pierre turned to look at her, crossing his arms as he leaned against the shelf. He wore a smirk on his face, the merriment apparent on his normally impassive expression. It seemed he had been doing that a lot; smiling, laughing, and all because he was amused.
By her wit and charm.
"I don't know how this was never brought up, but there seems to be a problem."
Her brows furrowed. "What is that?"
"I don't have your number." He fished out his phone and held it up.
December was nonplussed. "Huh. That's…really odd. Well, we can change that."
After they exchange numbers, he said with a chuckle, "Your profile picture is a bunny?"
She shrugged and tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. His gaze caught her gesture but he didn't say a word.
"I love bunnies, they're so cute and fluffy and…well, if you're judging, then you really shouldn't seeing as you have…" She peered at her phone before adding, "What is that, a cloth?"
Pierre rolled his eyes heavenward before grumbling, "It's a tartan. Why do everyone say that?"
December smirked before letting out a small laugh. "Probably because they know how much it irritates you people."
Her phone buzzed. After reading the content from Brooke, she excused herself, albeit reluctantly.
"December." Pierre stopped her, and she looked up, expectant.
It took him a while to say the words, but when he did, she had to blink her eyes a few times.
"Thank you. For teaching me today."
It wasn't the gratitude that surprised her, although it still managed to make her feel floored when it happens.
It was the look on his face.
Soft at the edges and…what was with the look in his eyes?
She was probably being over-imaginative but it felt like he was glad to have her around. As though she had saved his life.
She didn't think about what it meant, or if there was a deeper meaning to the way he looked at her.
No, December was stupefied to the point where she could only think of one thing, as his words settled within her.
It feels wonderful to be acknowledged and appreciated.
And so she cast a brilliant smile his way and said, "You're welcome, Pierre."
Pierre looked in the mirror in the boy's lavatory, water dripping down his face.
An hour had passed since he met December at the archery's arena, and during that hour, he was riddled with so many feelings that he couldn't sort.
Pierre touched his hair gingerly, noting that he was slowly growing out of the buzzcut he had before he left his uncle's place.
That was a long while ago.
"I think I'll let it grow for a while." He muttered.
It had been days since he had spoken to Max and Katya about their family affair, and whenever he went to let out the tension at the thought of what his father did, he was at a loss on how to confront the old man.
It wasn't that he couldn't do it, it's a matter of how to approach it with his father. The old man was slick as an eel. If he sensed that Pierre would be steering him into a situation he didn't want, then it would be a decade for another attempt.
No, he thought. He would really have to think this through. Didn't Katya said there would be another family dinner with Parker?
He wondered what it was that Parker would tell him, and if he would figure out the ideal plan to confront Jonathan Lachlan.
Yes, he thought to himself, Parker would know what to do.
But now….he couldn't get the image of December out of his head.
You're welcome, Pierre.
The way she looked when she said that…how could there be so much brightness to a person? She was…like a sunshine.
And the way she was encouraging and praising him, the look on her face; pure and genuine excitement when he scored…she reacted as though she had been the one to score a marvelous point like that, not him.
But that bloody stunt he pulled.
He covered his face with a hand, letting his mind repeat the moments and rush he felt leading to the hug he initiated.
Their close proximity definitely took him off guard.
Her smiling face turned into a look of startle, and then the feel of her body; all warm and soft.
Pierre felt a jolt coursing through him and he felt not quite himself. As though he was briefly taken out of his body before his soul was sucked right back into it.
He was, if anyone asked him in that moment, momentarily disoriented by it.
But most of all, he couldn't ignore how her pink, plump lips looked…dear God…
He shook his head from it. He shouldn't be lusting over someone's girlfriend.
Pierre balked at that reminder, finding himself shifting into that familiar scowl he was accustomed to wear.
She has a boyfriend.
Sighing, he smoothed his features, gripping the marble counter as he pondered on a memory that happened eons ago but hadn't fully faded.
For someone whose former girlfriend had cheated on him with a guy he thought was his friend, he wasn't about to sit at the sidelines and do the same thing.
Being on the receiving end was hard enough, and he didn't want December to get hurt, even though he could tell Zach seemed to be hiding something. Funny how he was starting to care about her, when not long ago, they were butting heads. That never fail to throw him off the loop.
They had broken off the hug too soon, but Pierre reveled in that small moment. In the midst of his surprise, he knew she had returned the hug as well, so didn't that mean that she was alright with it?
"Hmm, what is a guy like you doing in the gent's room blushing like that?"
"Fuck!" He exclaimed in surprise as he whirled around to face the intruder.
"Now, now. I know you weren't doing that in here. Masturbating? Yeah, that seems likely with all the muttering you did."
"Jethro." Pierre growled, and was annoyed at the snicker his friend made.
"Were you expecting someone?" Jethro walked in with a self-satisfying grin on his face. He switched the tap and washed his hands, squeezing some foam from the soap dispenser. When he was done, he glanced at a still disgruntled Pierre.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Jethro raised a brow as he dried his hands.
"You pissed me off." Pierre retorted, although there was no heat in his voice.
Jethro laughed, waving the comment away. "I pissed everyone off. You gotta admit it was funny though. So, what's with the long face?"
Pierre picked up his glasses and wore it, before fixing his tie. His heart sped up a little as his mind brought him to the root of his earlier thoughts. He shrugged and said, "By the way, why do we wear a tie at this hour? It's not morning."
"Smooth diversion." He chuckled before adding, "Graham is substituting the class." When Pierre looked him, dumbfounded, he added, "He's the disciplinary teacher."
Jethro pretended to hold a whip and brought it down in a sweeping gesture. He was also generous in providing the sound effect of a lash.
"I didn't know about a sub." Pierre raised a brow.
Jethro snickered. "That's what she said."
Pierre wasn't amused.
Jethro cleared his throat. "Yeah, well, I overheard people talking. I also heard that he's pretty anal about it," He emphasized and waggled his eyebrows at Pierre.
Pierre's lips twitched. His humour was in tandem with Jethro, and he laughed at both the content and his friend's reaction.
"You're so bloody immature." He shook his head, and washed his hands again. Pierre was in the state of uncertainty; having a vague memory of washing his hands earlier, but also thinking it could be a false memory too. Well, it doesn't hurt to be hygienic.
"Someone's got to balance this duo." He pointed to the both of them before adding with a shrug, "Best not to risk it. You'll never know how ballistic he can get if one thing is not to his liking."
Pierre shook his head. He was already used to Jethro's antics and his innuendos. "I'm surprised Brooke is still talking to you with all these shit you're saying."
"Me too," He laughed out loud before adding, "She acts like she's mad but I know she can't resist this." Jethro gestured to his whole self in a grand gesture.
Pierre bit back a chuckle. He didn't know about that. Whenever he saw them together, Brooke looked seconds away before exploding on him.
Their friendship sure was an enigma.
Despite that, at the mention of a sub, Pierre thought that was still annoying, yet either it's something the teacher couldn't help or find sport in, he didn't know. What he did know was that he was glad Jethro found him in here. And that they have some time before their next class starts.
"We've got time to kill. Do you want to grab some lunch together?"
Jethro gasped and put three fingers to cover his mouth demurely. "Are you asking me on a date?"
Pierre couldn't help it.
Whenever he was out with them, they managed to make him feel at ease. But Jethro had that thing where he could make anyone laugh within seconds by just being his genuine and funny self.
Maybe it was the fact that he was already affected by Jethro's exuberant demeanour. Or maybe because he scored points at the range under December's guidance, or the hug he initiated that got him feeling warm. It could also be that he had taken his and December's friendship a step further.
He had been so indifferent and passive for a long time, that although he wanted to be carefree, the idea was still foreign to him.
But not in that moment.
Pierre decided to be less cautious about his way around people, especially with those he could truly call his close friends.
And so, he did something no one often witness or get involved in.
"What do you mean? Haven't we been on one this whole time? You're the one that I've been waiting for, Jet." He looked at him funnily before sighing quietly.
He told a joke on his own.
Jethro was wide eyed, and for once, flabbergasted before slowly grinning. "Holy shit. Holy – dude, what the hell was that?" He laughed. "Oh, this is priceless alright. They're going to flip because I brought out your other side. But I see your true colours shining through~" Jethro sang off-key from an old song, one hand resting against his chest and the other holding Pierre's shoulder.
Pierre laughed and swat it away, feeling lighthearted at the day's event so far. "It feels…good, actually."
Jethro clapped Pierre's back, before settling his arm on the latter's shoulders as they made their way out of the lavatory.
"That's what humour is. I like you even more now. Anyway, have you heard? The guys and I are planning to…"ns126.96.36.199da2