Before she knew it, Saturday had come.
December hadn't received any calls from Zach, saved for a text which said he was sorry he couldn't meet with her because of his work. She was dejected. She thought to call him afterwards but decided otherwise. The only text she sent him after he replied was for him to stay hydrated (always), and not forgetting to get enough sleep and food.
Zach only replied with a muscle and a blushing face emoji.
"Hey, come on. Wipe that sad look off your face." Raven patted her back.
It was eight in the morning and as far as everyone was concerned, they were the only ones who would be up early on a Saturday. They were getting ready in Brooke and Serena's room because Brooke wanted to play dress up which she claimed there would be a theme, and she was still showering. Raven was already dressed in blue jeans and a blouse, but it was only a matter of time until Brooke insisted on another outfit.
Why she was so adamant on following a certain dress code? Brooke only told them this:
"Because today is special! We have to be in the right mood for it."
There was something insistent in her tone that eventually made them acquiesced to Brooke's whims. December could also agree on at least one thing with her friend: there was something brewing in the air that Saturday morning; light and airy, and if she could name the feeling she felt in taste buds, then she would name it sweet.
It was an out of place feeling, but somehow it gave a promise that nothing would dampen her spirit.
Special…yes, she could go with that.
"I know. I'm just…worried. We'd text often and…I guess I'm just at that stage where I can't be apart from him. Ugh, that sounds annoying." December groaned at the last, messing her still damp hair with her hands.
Serena was at the dressing table, curling her locks when she heard that. Chuckling lightly, she turned and said, "I know how that feels. But you know, it's understandable that you just can't help it. Being over the moon with someone you really like, wanting to know what they're up to, and getting antsy when they don't reply you…" She sighed in a bliss of remembrance, adding, "It's all part of the attraction. It may seem annoying but December, what you feel for him is still significant."
Raven turned to Serena. "So that's what it feels like between you and Weston?"
"Pretty much." Serena nodded before adding, "And I'm sure he really wants to talk to you but is too busy."
Raven nodding in agreement before poking her shoulder. "Yes, D. So just…think about our girls' day out today. No boys, no problems, just us having fun." She smiled at December.
December was quiet for a moment. They made sense, as always. She couldn't keep thinking about Zach and moaned about how he wasn't paying attention to her. There were a lot of things she could do and focus instead of moping around.
December mustered a smile, feeling herself slowly perking up before saying, "You're right, thanks guys." She then added, "I am excited for today actually."
"No problem." Raven smiled. "I don't wear dresses that much but I'd be damned if I don't make this year one of the best."
Serena chimed in. "Count me in too. Shopping for prom? I've been waiting for three years! I hope we can find our dresses today."
December hummed in assent. "We've scoured the types that we want and there's about seven stores in town. I don't know what I'll do if I can't find it."
The door to the bathroom opened then closed, and they turned to Brooke who was chuckling.
"Ladies, no need to worry. If we can't find it, then we'll just have it custom made."
Raven bit her lip in hesitation. "Uhh…well hopefully not because I cannot afford a custom made."
"Same." December nodded nervously. Her allowances that was left couldn't cover the expense of a custom made.
"It's…fine with me, but it'll take months." Serena supplied apologetically.
"Which we still have. Prom is months away from now." Brooke put her hands on her waist and gave her friends a look. "Besides, I can pay –"
All three of them raised their brows in unison.
" – but clearly you don't want that." Brooke quipped in an elongated tone. She then demanded, "Why not? You're my very close friends and is it wrong of me to lavish you with all of the riches?" She swept her hands in a grand gesture, opting a dramatic tone.
December was touched that Brooke would even offer to pay for their dresses, but they knew it was not happening. Brooke was a giving person to a fault, but sometimes she struggled with holding them back.
"Brooke, we know you're very generous but as much as it's yours, this is also our prom so let us just figure it out, okay? Hopefully it won't get to that…" December smiled, holding her friend's shoulders firmly. "But buying it ourselves and getting them bought by not ourselves are two different things. It just doesn't feel the same."
"I agree. If anything…I don't mind just sewing it…" Brooke, Serena, and December looked at her in amusement. "…or ask someone else to do it since I sucked at it. Okay, drop it." Raven chuckled.
Brooke turned to them all, exhaling a long sigh. "Fine. You do what you want," before adding cheerfully. "Now, let's make magic. Today's theme is about showing off your beautiful legs."
Immediately, Raven groaned in disapproval.
An hour later, and with the help of Serena, the four of them managed to come out looking like Brooke's vision for the day.
"Perfect!" Brooke clapped her hands in delight.
Brooke herself was dressed in a white but small floral printed midi dress which she paired with her strap heels.
Raven looked on with a slightly grumpy expression at the gleeful look on Brooke's face. After a moment of tug-of-war, Brooke acquiesced to Raven's peach-coloured blouse – to everyone's delightful surprise – but with Brooke's white above knee length skirt and Raven's slip ons.
"This is about the only white thing you'll ever see me wear." Raven grumbled, shaking her head in disapproval.
"I doubt that but that's okay." Brooke sang cheerfully before pulling out other items from her closet.
December wondered what had Brooke to be so exuberant. Of course, her friend was always bright and bubbly, yet it seemed as though she was shining twice as usual.
She was excited for their day out – which everyone shared the sentiment – but December thought there was something that she might not have told them yet. She held her question however, since Brooke would tell them eventually.
When it was her turn, Brooke had her dressed in one of her navy blue patterned with cherry skater dress with spaghetti straps, but since the bust area was so revealing – Brooke always chose the revealing ones – Serena persuaded Brooke to at least pick December's choosing of top.
From Brooke's collections, nonetheless.
"D, your tops are all cute but none of them goes with the theme we have today. So, choose one from mine."
There weren't much option to choose from, since Brooke presented her with three white t-shirts; all short sleeves.
"They're all the same." December said in disbelief.
"No, they're not. Two is egg white, and one is pristine." Brooke laughed.
The girl was having so much fun today.
It didn't take long for her to decide.
"Well, alright. Pristine it is." December sighed.
She insisted on wearing her maroon sneakers, however, which thanks to both Serena and Raven, was a success.
Their hair was styled simply so it wouldn't be a mess when they tried on the clothes; a case of ponytail, simple braid, messy bun, and letting it down.
Serena was dressed in a yellow V-neck sundress patterned with flowers. It ended at her knee and pairing it with her favourite sandals, she looked ready for a sunny day at the beach.
In fact, they all do.
Which begs a question that couldn't wait to be answered.
"Alright, this is a beach theme, isn't it?" December asked.
"Yes. Took you a while to realize that, D, but yes," Brooke answered proudly before adding, "I thought we could go down to the beach and enjoy the sunset. How long ago has it been since we've seen it together?"
"None." Raven answered with an easy laugh.
"Can't think of one." Serena shook her head.
"This would be the first actually." December supplied helpfully.
Brooke snapped her fingers. "Exactly! Which is why this is an important and special outing. Besides the dress. And if you're going to ask why we can't just wear casual clothes and then hit the beach, well, Raven, that would defeat the purpose of looking glamorous for our special occasion." Brooke grinned at her knowingly.
Raven had parted her mouth to say something but when Brooke continued, she closed it.
"I hate that you know me too well."
"Um, a problem." December's brows furrowed. "Do we need to get in our swimsuits and stuff? Because I can't swim." She raised her hand up like one would in class and looked at her friends, wondering if they would side with her.
Brooke laughed, rolling her eyes good-naturedly. "December, my adorable English muffin. Me neither. Besides," She then added, "we're not there to swim, because you know, the waters are not merciful. But as stated in the codes, when at the beach, one must dressed or undressed like one."
They all stared at her.
Serena shrugged delicately, before adding, "You've got a point there."
"Any excuse to not wear this white skirt for longer is good than none," Raven shrugged before she grinned. "I'll go and pack some."
They all looked at her in eager expectation, having presented a proposal that just needed a chairman's approval.
December shook her head at them, knowing that she would follow them anyway.
"You've already made up your mind," She mumbled before saying with a sigh, shrugging. "No one specifically said I should wear a bikini anyway."
Brooke paused in thought before lifting a finger. "Actually, why not –"
"No, Brooke. I'm not going to wear a bikini." December laughed at her ridiculous friend.
"I'm just saying." Brooke sighed, despondent. "You'd have all the guys drooling all over you. Now that will show Zach not to leave you hanging."
Two hours and three shops later, they hadn't found their dress but still remained hopeful.
"Four more stores and we can do this before hitting the beach! Thank God we've narrowed our choices, though." Brooke says, sipping her mango smoothie at a secluded and shaded outdoor café.
The weather was extremely unforgiving that day, but it wasn't so bad that they would feel dehydrated. Still, they were exhausted by their search.
"Who knew two of them were closed? I think…even if we can't find something today, there's always next time. I don't know if I can take trying ten more dresses that looks better than the photos but didn't fit. And it has only been one store." December said before slicing up a piece of grilled fish on her plate.
"I'll look up for more. Who knows? Maybe we'll find one that caters to exactly what we need." Serena said, already scrolling through her phone.
Raven's phone pinged with a notification. December watched with amusement as she checked it with nonchalance, before her eyes grew wide a fraction and her a smile tugged at her lips. She texted vigorously, sitting unaware in her own little bubble.
A glance at her other two friends showed that she was not alone in her observation. They remained quiet however, until their excitement couldn't be contained.
December asked in a calm and composed manner first. "Raven, who are you texting with?"
"Uh…huh?" Startled, she looked up and around. "Oh, it's just…" Raven's eyes darted nervously to her friends, wondering whether she could tell them or hold the information back. She bit her lip in thought but her sudden trail made them even more curious.
"Raven, I think you should really tell us." Serena gave her a look, but it belied the grin she displayed.
Brooke was the first who lost her compose, as she shrieked in excitement and drawing some attention.
"Raven Addison, either you tell us who you're texting, or I'll go there and see it for myself."
They watched in fascination as her cheeks go pink, but she still hadn't said anything. Everyone sat still; it was a time set in motion before the prey zeroed in on its target, and went for the kill.
Brooke moved swiftly, getting up from her seat to make a move as though she was reaching for Raven's phone. But Raven proved to be more than just a docile lamb with her foresight to shield it away.
Alas, she also gave them the information they needed.
"Okay, it's Max!" Raven blurted out. Her cheeks were red now, and December was the first to break the silence after a moment's pause.
"Whoa, Max? Max as in, Pierre's brother?" December exclaimed. She had no idea Raven and Max were communicating. Not that it was any of her business…yet, how long had it been? Whenever they hung out, they didn't seemed to know each other well.
"Twin brother." Brooke said. She still couldn't get over this fact whenever she thought of it.
"I didn't know you were close friends. When did this happened?" Serena asked.
"Exactly my question." Both December and Brooke said in deadpan unison.
Raven slumped down in her seat, but she couldn't stop herself from smiling.
"A few days after we first met them, actually." She said sheepishly.
"What?" December choked but Brooke was a little more vocal than that.
"WHAT?" Brooke shook her head before putting a palm against her temple, as though one was dealing with a problematic teenager.
Serena only whistled lowly. "I'm impressed you managed to keep this from us for this long."
Why would Raven keep this from them? Max was their friend too. But wait…she did mentioned about her fears…did that meant?
Raven had her tells; nervous glances, eager ears but discreet avoidance when anything crush related was directed to her…and her escalating blush.
December could have hit herself for not seeing it sooner.
So she plunged in. "Raven, it's him, right? Max is the one you have a crush on?"
Raven almost spluttered to deny but at the knowing yet stern look December gave her, she found herself speechless.
And then, "Yes."
Brooke smacked her lips. "Hmm, not going to lie, I didn't see that coming at all. Maybe because he's always been…" She trailed off, pensive.
"Soft-spoken?" Raven tried, biting her lip as she wondered if that was Brooke was looking for.
"Quiet?" Serena supplied, her hands poised under her chin.
"Humble." December nodded, a finger pointing at Brooke in excitement, as though this was a quiz at a bar.
Brooke clucked her tongue. "Not….as outstanding as Pierre. They're like ocean and earth, two different beings that seems like the opposite of each other. Pierre's a bit harsh on the edges but Max is gentle. Kinda…fragile?" She then added, "In a good way, I think?"
"But see, those elements are all in one place. Ocean complements the earth." Raven explained, her eyes shining in excitement and pleasure – this was one of the sides to her that they often get to see, but others rarely do.
"Oh, that's deep." Brooke quipped with a sudden realization.
"Which works both ways actually. So, they seem different but I don't think there's a huge gap on how they are." December mused to herself before adding, "I guess you're quite similar to him too." When Raven looked at her in question, she continued, "You're both gentle and a good listener, for one."
"Aw," Raven cooed in appreciation, her face flushed again. "Thanks, D."
"So, what are you talking about with him? I thought we're having a field day without boys which I happened to recall is something you said earlier. Well?" Serena gave her an amused but expectant look.
Raven was cornered and she knew it.
"Ah…Well, we don't talk as much as December here do with Zach." She glanced at December and chuckled before grinning. "Just…music and stuff. Halsey, The Neighbourhood…oh and he also likes the same band we both do, D."
When December raised her brow in surprise because she couldn't imagine which one, Raven nodded and said, "Yeah. Pale Waves."
"Oh, now that's surprising. He didn't strike me as someone who would be into them." December wondered if that time when she met him at the store, he was also browsing these artists then. Then again, I haven't seen him since the cafeteria and catching up on other things too.
December felt embarrassed at the guilt she felt. "He does like a little bit of Tchaikovsky, though."
"Huh. That didn't come up in our conversation. I'm mentally storing that now."
Brooke sighed before dramatically putting a hand against her forehead, a tone of woe in her voice. "Oh, how you have grown, Raven! To think that you were always fending off the guys who tried to woo you, this one finally did it, huh?" Then, she said, "Jokes aside, I'm really happy for you. He's cute too."
Raven beamed shyly.
December was watching this exchange with content. It shone in her eyes. The day was special for them, indeed. They were having a fun day out, and now knowing that Raven finally told them who her crush was – who was also their friend, who would have known – it was filled with news and things to look forward to.
When she was done with her food and then took a long sip of her drink, she glanced at her friends with a smile so bright, they knew this one meant she was up to something.
December then said, "Why don't we have him join us? And Katya too." There was a steel glint in her eyes when she said, "I'm determined to make her my friend, actually and I will win her over."
"Oooh, such confidence!" Brooke nudged December's shoulder with a grin before whooping out, "I love it. I'm on board one hundred percent!"
Serena nodded and said, "Then let's do it. Raven, text him."
Raven felt as though her friends were punishing her for not telling them about Max earlier. And while a part of her did want Max to come along, the other part of her held back. She was nervous even thinking that Max would be joining them.
And they would certainly tease her in his presence – which really would make Max think something was up.
She didn't want him to know how she felt yet, and so this idea that her friends proposed?
Raven thought it was a bad idea.
"Uh, you sure? I mean," She quickly amended, "We're supposed to be having a girl's day out –"
"Which nullifies that statement the moment you started texting him." December laughed. "I'm not texting Zach even though I really want to send another text and hope for a reply this time."
"And I really hope she wouldn't, so." Brooke's lips thinned in expectation at Raven, her eyes glinting in obvious pleasure.
"Despite the fact that we seemed joined at the hips, Weston actually told me to block him for today in case he miss me and started blowing up my phone."
"Aww." December said, before adding as an afterthought. "Wait, did he really?"
"No, I just made that up to make a point, December." Serena chortled.
"Raven, come on. Do it for Katya at least. I don't know what she's doing but from how I see it, the way to your man's heart is to get through his cousin. You know, infiltrate the fortress?" Brooke grinned.
A moment's pause. Brooke didn't mean it like that, but they can't help the thought anyway, which Brooke saw through.
She sighed. "Not like that. It's from one of the games Jethro played. Anyway, you know what I mean."
"I do." December said before adding, "Max really value his cousin and I think it'll be great if you could get closer. Find a common ground, you know."
Raven sounded meek. "She intimidates me."
"Hah!" Brooke said but when they stared at her for an explanation, she didn't elaborate on it.
Chuckling at Brooke, December turned to Raven again. "And me as well, but I sense she has a good heart. Nothing like Karen, I hope." December shuddered at the thought.
She believed Katya wasn't anything like Karen, despite her outward demeanour towards people.
December thought if Katya was like her nemesis, she would have taken that invitation to be one of Karen's cliques when she first arrived, and treated December worse. But Katya only tolerated her at best, and sometimes when no one was looking, she thought she caught a glimpse of true smile from her.
That was the reason why she hadn't given up on Katya at all.
"God forbid." Serena whispered softly, a feeling of ire sparked within her even more since she found out what Karen did to December.
"You can say that again." Brooke rolled her eyes in disgust before looking at Raven with a challenging smirk, "Raven, you know what you need to do."
They made Raven text him – watching over her shoulder to make sure she was really inviting him.
Raven's nervousness mixed with her eagerness to see him eventually made her a jumble mess of nerves.
"Hey, don't sweat about it. I'll make sure we won't tease you or him too much." December tried to ease her concern.
Raven groaned. "How did this end up like this?"
The reply was instant. He greeted them all first before explaining that he couldn't accept the invite because Pierre needed his help at the beach – December perked at that information because she couldn't imagine what he would do there and with his brother at that; Raven wanted to mentally cheer but she ended up exclaiming a quiet yes – which drew unamused looks from her friends; Brooke exclaimed yes, we're definitely going to the beach later!; Serena's cheeks hurt from grinning too much.
The rest of the text said:
Thank you for inviting us. Katya should be available today but I don't know where she is. Perhaps you could call her?
He provided her number as well.
"Wow, he's so…business-like. He's really polite and proper even in texting, isn't he?" Brooke tried to whistle but it ended up sounding like a soft 'fuu'.
December's eyes crinkled as she laughed soundlessly at Brooke's ridiculousness. "Fuu?"
"Don't judge." She whined.
Serena grinned. "Better than your chaotic texts, at least."
"Hey! That's just mean." She pouted which at least looked just like that.
"Okay, who wants to call his cousin?" Raven asked, hopeful eyes that pleads someone else but her to do it.
"I'll do it." December exclaimed in eagerness. It was cheeky, but she wanted to hear the brief surprise in Katya's voice when she realized the last person she expected actually called her.
"You're up to something again, but let's hear it." Serena said.
Katya didn't answer on the second call, but when December was going to cut off on the third, she picked up.
"Hello?" her British accent was even more apparent when she heard her voice. December had to admit, that hearing her voice now made her miss the girl which was odd because they weren't even quite friends…yet.
"Hey, Katya." December started with a smile in her voice.
"Winter girl?" Katya blurted her surprise in her mother tongue which made December smile. She didn't know what she said but hearing the surprise was enough. The girl always seemed so composed and aloof that it was a nice change from her cold exterior.
Katya switched and amended her words so quickly that one would have to catch it fast. "I mean, December." She sounded a bit surly. "How did you get my number?"
Put her on speaker, Raven mouthed and December nodded.
"Max gave it. Hey, I've put you on speaker." She heard a mutter in the language she didn't know and ignored it. They all greeted her and surprisingly, she greeted them back. "I'm with my friends right now and we were wondering if you'd want to come with us to go shopping? Prom is on the way and oh, later we'll be going to the beach too so –"
December almost spluttered, stricken that she had crossed the line. "I'm sorry?"
Katya was quiet for a moment, and then said, polite but cool, "I… think I am about to be busy, so no, I don't think so."
December shared a look with her friends, who was communicating with one another with their expressions; Brooke gasped soundlessly, her mouth forming an 'O'; Raven looked uncomfortable by the minute, and Serena biting her lip, her brow furrowed. She was in deep thought over the conversation.
Although December couldn't mask her disappointment, she still respected Katya's decision. "Oh, okay then. Well, the offer still stands. I don't think we've spend some time with you and we would just really like to get to know you so… that's…"
Oh God, she could feel herself getting awkward now.
Don't start now, December. You're doing fine so far, her mind encouraged her. Go on.
Katya had other ideas, however, and when she spoke, they were once again surprised.
"But," she started and their ears perked up, breaths baited, until she continued with a soft sigh, "just let me know where you'll be and if I'm done, then I may be able to join. We'll see."
December was the first to let out a relieved laugh. "That's great! We'll let you know soon."
"Yeah, it's going to be so fun." Brooke said with apparent delight.
When their call ended, Raven piped up, "I don't know why I was so nervous but she had me at the edge of my sit."
"She sounded hesitant. Do you think she was worried if we might play a prank on her?" Serena asked.
"Why would she think that?"
She shook her head. "Just a thought."
"Either way, she might join us so that's a good thing." Brooke said before adding, "I need to pee right now. Anyone coming?"
December and Serena shook their heads but Raven raised her hand, before getting up to follow Brooke back into the mall.
After that, they both sat in comfortable silence as Serena ate her food and December pondering on what Max said.
So, he's helping Pierre at the beach?
What would they both be doing there? Although, she told herself, it was nice knowing that Pierre and Max seemed to be on cordial terms rather than the cold treatment she used to see from them.
Ah, I have his number, December thought before she proceeded to send a quick text to Pierre.
She didn't know why she expected people to reply in the next minute, but after a few minutes she decided to put her phone in her bag. There was the entire day ahead of her, and besides, no one owed her anything.
But what is with guys and not texting back? She mused to herself in slight disappointment. Maybe they're really just busy.
Zach, she thought. I hope he doesn't overtire himself.
"Uh oh. Are you thinking about Zach again?" Serena asked gently.
December nodded. "Just hope he's fine. I wish he'd just text me once today and tell me how his day is." She shrugged, before a thought occurred. "Hey, did Weston ever do the same thing?"
Serena wiped her hands with a sanitizer wipe before she nodded with a smile. "Yes, at times. At some point, it happened quite often that I thought he was avoiding me, and so we had an argument about it. But turns out he had to follow his father and brother on some business trip. He barely had time for himself."
December nodded. "I didn't think you guys would argue. I mean, you both are quite literally the happiest couple I've ever known. Besides my parents." She added as an afterthought.
Serena's smile seemed to dim a little, just a smidge. "Yes, we do seem that way, and we are for the most part. But everyone has their own shadows. No one is truly happy, you know. We just try to be."
A small group of guys arrived and sat across from them, making a ruckus which grated on people's nerves. It penetrated December's bubble to the point where she knew they were there, but not so much where she felt extremely vexed.
December took a moment to let Serena's words sink in. It was something deep, and of course. It just…escaped her sometimes. She supposed that by seeing a really happy couple, in her naivety, she thought they were one of the lucky ones to be blessed to live in a rose-coloured world.
And it might mean that she also had hope to be as happy as them.
Nothing is something without effort, a thought echoed in her mind.
She smiled. "Thanks, Serena. Sometimes I just need reminding, I guess."
A sound, a cross between a whistle and smooch filled the air. At first, she tried not to let it bother her and ignored it. It sounded like a bunch of rude guys calling over a waiter, not knowing that this was a self-service café. Caleb did that once and after he received a lashing from Brooke, none of them saw him doing it again.
But it happened again, louder this time.
Annoyed because she didn't know anyone who would do that in public, December threw an irritated side glance at the group of guys. Her eyes widened in surprise.
My God. They were directing it at her.
"Hey, babe. My boys and I were wondering how long it'll get you to look our way. Who's your friend, by the way?" A young man who looked like he just came out from the 80s with his pinstriped pants and equally pinstriped t-shirt cast a grin he thought was charming.
The style seemed to be in fashion these days, a trend especially made popular by youths. Some people could pull the look well, but he wasn't one of them.
Disturbed and thoroughly disgusted, December found herself to be frozen and tongue tied in that moment. Serena stiffened the moment they addressed them.
This was something that she had never experienced before, and she hoped to never happen again. What should she do? Ignore and hopefully they'd lose interest?
These guys seemed like they would wait until they get what they want, and that scared her. If Brooke was here, she would unleash her wrath on them.
"What's your name?" Another guy looked at her, his eyes roving her entire physique. December wanted to run.
They may look like they were looking for some harmless fun – she didn't know and didn't care – because unwanted advances are still unwanted.
"We're from Grove High. Which school do you go to, pretty girl?" The third guy from the group called out. He then nudged his friend with an elbow, as though proud of his line, told a lie, or he was mocking her. Maybe all three.
She couldn't always depend on others to save her. Serena looked highly uncomfortable and she seemed to be assessing something, her eyes appraising the place before looking dejected.
She knew what it was; there weren't anyone near them who would really see what's going on.
They just had to sit where fewer people would join them in the back too. A couple of people from the front end glanced their way but no one seemed to really pay attention.
"I can't believe this chick. Hey blondie, I'm asking you what your name is. Come on, don't ignore me." The first one said, sounding aggravated that his advance are being ignored by Serena. She seemed too composed, too unaffected that December knew she was almost breaking her self-control.
How she even manage a poised expression was beyond her understanding, but a part of her admired Serena for that.
Still, she must have been subjected to this before…and that thought didn't settle well with December.
December, you can do it.
She took a breath and looked them in the eye. It's just like chasing away annoying guys at school.
Using the 'boyfriend' excuse probably wouldn't cut it, because they didn't have their boyfriends with them then and saying that they were…no.
She couldn't use them, because December couldn't lie to see it through – people could see her tells.
With each sentence spewing from their mouth, December grew panic with apprehension.
She was tired of being the victim of harassment, of people thinking they could just do whatever they want as though it was acceptable. As though they weren't another human being that deserves respect.
A rushed of adrenaline coursed through her due to her anxiety and uncomfortable situation. Perhaps it wasn't a swell idea at the moment, and perhaps she should have thought a little more.
But when all possible solutions seemed like a trap or a dead end, and she felt too frenzied to calm down, December felt her nerves frayed. She was also getting angry.
"Where do you get off?" She asked, managing to sound like she was interested. She was not and in fact, was very, very pissed.
"What?" They were caught off guard, but chuckling to themselves because they finally had her attention.
Even Serena looked at her in surprise, the first crack in her façade.
"I said," she continued, getting louder with each sentences. "Where do you get off? You know, thinking that you own the world and every living being that has legs and a vagina? This is harassment. Can't you tell that we were highly uncomfortable and disgusted by your advances? We still are, actually." She emphasized the words like they were poison. Her expression grew livid, however, blue eyes spitting fire.
This time, and for once, they were rendered speechless. Even the people sitting a few tables in front of them were now focused on what's going on.
One of them recovered quickly from her barbs and he was ready to gear some insult. He got out from his seat. "What the fuck did you say, bitch?"
"I am not done yet." Nose flared, she got out from her seat so suddenly that not only startled them, but Serena as well. December stood, not close to them, but enough to send a message that she meant serious business. "Since you were so polite in asking what my name is, then how about this?" She grinned too sharply.
Now, they were getting some attention and looks from the passerby across the then scarce street. People who exited from the shops glancing twice so they could see what the ruckus was about. Even the employees in the café peeked out to see what was going on.
December hadn't realized that she was shouting.
"My name is…" She rattled off the police's emergency number and then said, "What do you think about that?"
She could see the gears turning in their minds as they processed that. Two of them glanced at each other in worry, but the main one who had started it and even called her a bitch met her glare with one of his. December wanted to cower because she hated being in situations like this, but she forced herself to remain upright. If there was anything she learned from dealing with Michael, it was to not let him see a flicker of weakness for his exploitation.
It wasn't easy because he always managed to find a way to see through her bravado, but this wasn't Michael.
Even if he was, she was just exhausted of being the punching bag of those who bullied her.
Be fierce, be unforgiving, and they might just think twice before messing with you, she told herself.
He must have seen something he didn't like, because his jaw tightened in a way that showed his displeasure, before he seemed to be even more aware of his surroundings.
A waiter dressed in black and white shirt approached them, a phone in his hand. "Is there a problem here?" The waiter looked back and forth between them, shooting a look of dagger at the guys.
They were quiet; December not breaking eye contact and he, starting to look uncomfortable. She knew how it felt but she could hardly feel sorry for the guy who started it. Let them experience how it felt like to her.
Finally, he said, "No. No problem here." He grinned – December recognized an embarrassed smile when she saw one – before slowly backing away. "You're fucking late with the service, man." He said to the employee.
"We're a self-service business."
"Didn't know that." He spat, as though it was the café's fault for not advertising it.
December felt a bit of relief, but somehow she wasn't feeling good. She knew why, of course.
"One more thing." December said, and this time the waiter raised his brow.
The man turned and gave her an arrogant look, asking rudely, "What?"
It was the only thing she needed. For her and Serena, and everyone else they might have offended.
"Please apologize. All of you. You disrespected us, and that is really not okay." She still had the stern tone.
Brows raised, he parted his lips in surprise before closing it. She had, again, taken him off guard. He shared a look of incredulity with his friends.
The waiter looked equally taken aback by December's request. Was it hard to believe? She didn't think so.
Yet, people and their pride – she was playing with fire here too.
But in the end, they did apologize, albeit half-heartedly before leaving the vicinity.
The waiter turned to them. "Are you both alright? We're so sorry about this. This never happened before."
People started minding their business even though some kept looking back towards them and the direction where they guys disappeared to.
December didn't know what else to say, now that she used her energy to stand up for herself. So she just nodded with a tired smile.
"That was brave of you. Not many would do what you did." He said with an admiring smile before leaving to go inside.
Brave? Perhaps. Or foolish too, she wasn't sure. She was slowly coming down from the rush of being spontaneous as well as processing what she just did. It was surreal but felt very good to stand up for herself, to say what's on her mind, and to help change, if not a little, the way how society viewed them, or think this was an acceptable way to treat people as they please.
December turned around, and was met with a hug from Serena.
The embrace was tight, and though she was stunned by the sudden gesture, December let her hold her for a moment, putting her arms around Serena as well.
"You crazy girl. I can't believe you did that." She whispered. It took her a second to realize that Serena was shaking.
"Serena? You're trembling."
"How can I not? That was so dangerous! Dealing with those guys." And then she sighed, almost contentedly. "But it's also amazing how you stood up against them."
She disentangled herself from December and turned away, but she caught Serena's sniffle.
"Are you…crying? Oh my God, did they scare you so bad?"
"Did they not scare you?" She looked at December, incredulous.
The girl who just fought for them both nodded without a pause, letting out a shaky breath, eyes wide in disbelief. "They did. I was so, so scared actually."
Serena let out a laugh, though it trembled. "I'm tearing up because of you. Geez, D. We could have just ignored them. It always work."
"Maybe, but how long do we have to do that? And I just…panicked! I have a feeling that if I didn't do that, they wouldn't stop anyway. I couldn't let it slide, Serena." The situation was really pressing in on her, the realization of what she did. December felt herself shudder. "Gosh, that was so scary."
"Yes, it was." Serena half laughed, as if saying now, you just realize that?
She squeezed December's hand to show that she appreciated what she did for them, and December nodded back with a smile.
They saw Brooke and Raven immediately, both who had been standing there watching what happened since they came back five minutes ago.
"Brooke!" December said. Relief showed in her voice when she said, "I wondered what happened to you both."
"The queue was long. But more importantly, what did I just witness?"
"How much did you see?" She asked, almost grimacing.
"From the moment you stood up and rattled off the police's number." Raven blurted. She was also shaken up.
Although rare, they knew December could be fierce and unapologetic, but mostly, she was a pacifist who doesn't thrive in confrontations.
But what happened then was on a whole level. Her unwavering stare, the way she locked gazes with the guy, and how she didn't falter in her words…she had been unbending.
"I can't believe that happened while we're gone. D, that was very dangerous." Brooke gave December a stern look. "They could have hurt you!"
December found herself loss for words. Still, she managed, "Yeah…I…just snapped."
"Thank God nothing happened to you two." Raven was still going on, and she added on the dangers if they crossed paths with her again, or if they were watching…
December get the gist and she was now starting to feel scared again. She really, really hope they wouldn't come back for revenge. If they did come back…she shook her head in apprehension, desperately hoping against it, I'll call everyone. Mum, dad, the police, the principal, the police again. Heck, I'll…I'll even call that demon brother of mine!
"Okay, yes. Still, you stood up for Serena and yourself. I'm…so, so proud of you. Damn, I wish I was here earlier so I could kick their ass too!"
"Brooke!" Raven exclaimed in worry. Raven could also be a mother hen, yet they understood her concerns were valid and made sense too.
"I hope to God they won't try anything. Because I swear I – "
December didn't listen to what Brooke was swearing on, because her attention was snagged by the one person she didn't plan to see at all.
He was standing on the pavement under a shaded tree, a convenience store to his right where a car was parked by the curb. A slow smile – devilish as it was to her – stretched his lips.
She found herself shaking, her knees almost buckling, and her mind a whirring mess.
But most importantly, while her friend was still talking about what happened earlier, December felt a spark of ire within her at the sight of him.
How had I not seen him there?
She managed one word that had been so familiar to her since his return, mustering the anger, frustration, and hate into it.