"So, come on. Spill!" Chezelle demands coyly.
Faith rolls her eyes, before shrugging innocently, "There's nothing to tell."
"What do you mean there's nothing to tell? Something happened, but whether it was good or bad, I'm not sure."
"What makes you think anything happened?" Faith says exasperatedly as the bell rings and they walk vaguely towards the canteen.
"You are crap at hiding your feelings. Face it already! Just tell me what happened! I swear I won't laugh," she wheedles.
"Ok, fine." They grab a table as Faith relates last night's events. "As I said, nothing really happened. The guy was… ok. I told him straight off that I didn't want a relationship." She grimaces slightly while Chezelle groans.
"Oh, Faith! You did not do that!"
"I did," Faith replies solemnly, enjoying seeing Chezelle embarrassed on her behalf.
"When will you learn?" Chezelle mutters, before asking, "Was he hot?"
"You've seen him already," Faith replies evasively.
"I know I have. I want your opinion."
"Yeah, ok," she replies grudgingly. "He was hot. Big time," she adds with a laugh as Chezelle squeals.
"Describe him to me," Chezelle asks a moment later.
"But you know-"
"I know I've seen him!" she says impatiently, before elaborating, "But as I said, I want your opinion."
Faith decides to humour her. "Ok, he had black hair and green eyes, but they were dark green and he was really fair skinned. Hmm… he also had a great smile," she says with a blush before hurriedly continuing, "but we seriously debated on so many things. It was like we barely agreed on anything."
Chezelle waves a hand in the air. "That's okay. Opposites attract," she says indifferently.
There's a pause, as Faith looks at Chezelle suspiciously.
"You sound just like him…"
"I do?" Chezelle asks with surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Well, he kept flattering me by saying stuff like we're a match made in heaven. You're just as keen on me going out with him."
"Oh, well," Chezelle clears her throat before saying guiltily, "Faith, I have a confession."
She pauses dramatically before saying, "Zeeke is my cousin."
Faith stares at her momentarily speechless. "What?"
Chezelle nods slightly, looking flustered.
"But why didn't you tell me that before?" Faith asks, her expression horrified.
"I don't see how it makes a difference," Chezelle replies nonchalantly, before continuing, "It's not like he's my brother or anything."
Faith waves her off. "It's not that. I wouldn't care if he was your brother, but I…" she trails off remembering the moment when she had declared that her stupid friend had forced her to go on the blind date. And all that time Zeeke must have been insulted on Chezelle's behalf. Or maybe he just didn't care…
"How close are you two anyway?" she asks Chezelle, trying to look indifferent.
"Oh, not that close, even though we are first cousins."
"But I don't get it. I talked about you and he didn't even say that you were cousins…"
"Oh, well," Chezelle looks shifty. "That was because I told him not to. I thought you might not treat him just like any other ordinary guy, if you knew."
Faith glares at her. "Thanks a lot. As the saying goes, who needs enemies when I've got friends like you?"
"It worked though, didn't it?" Chezelle asks, looking rather smug.
"You treated him just like any other ordinary guy, as I had planned, and you've fallen for him too."
"I have not," Faith states indignantly, her cheeks reddening slightly.
"Aww, look at you. You're blushing!"
"Shut up. I'm just feeling a little hot."
"And who wouldn't? With my cousin flattering you, you're bound to feel a little gorgeous," quirks Chezelle.
"Ok, calm down. I'm just teasing you."
Faith rolls her eyes as she takes a bite out of her cheese sandwich and grimaces.
"Well, I'm glad for you," Chezelle says after a moment, in a more serious voice. "You deserve a lot more than what you've been dealt with."
"It's fate. Everyone gets what's planned for them. My life is no different," Faith replies stiffly, knowing Chezelle is referring to Klaas's death.
"Yes, but even so-"
"Drop it Chezelle."
Chezelle obediently goes silent but her eyes have that familiar look of pity and concern for Faith. She hadn't been there when Klaas died, nor had she been Faith's friend at the time. It was only when Faith turned sixteen, that Chezelle had come into her life, and what she knew was what Faith had told her. Nothing more and nothing less.
"I love Klaas and I always will," Faith states, feeling a need to explain, but she senses this line has started to sound repetitive. "And I am not going to go out with any other guy just because Klaas is dead."
"For God's sake Faith, get over yourself!" Chezelle erupts suddenly. "You're not doing this for Klaas. You're doing it for yourself! You think you'll be cheating on him or something by allowing yourself to fall for someone else? How long are you going to keep this up? No, I didn't meet Klaas and I don't know what he was like, but surely he loved you. And if he loved you, he'd want you to be happy."
"I won't be happy if I go out with anyone else Chezelle," Faith replies trying to keep her voice calm, but her eyes are suddenly stinging.
"Exactly!" Chezelle pounces triumphantly. "Did you just hear yourself? You're not doing this for Klaas so don't pretend that you're a martyr or something, because you're not."
"I never said I was a martyr!" Faith says hotly, wiping her eyes as discreetly as possible.
"No, you didn't. But the way you always repeat your mantra of loving Klaas and not going out with other guys and not having a life because of him certainly makes you seem like one," Chezelle says in a gentler voice, after noticing her tears.
Faith doesn't say anything, but continues to stare at the table miserably. They eat in silence and Faith thinks about Chezelle said. She knows her outburst is because she cares for Faith, but even so, is it true? Is she doing all this for herself, and not Klaas? Is she just afraid of what might happen? Is she scared of what the people who loved Klaas too will think? What about his family? What would Mrs. Callum and Mr. Callum say? She had tried to stay in touch with them, because after all, that would be what Klaas would have wanted, but her every effort was frowned upon and disapproved of by Mrs. Callum. At first she was nice and understanding, but she made it clear that she didn't want to see Faith ever again.
"Shall we go?" Chezelle startles her out of her thoughts as the warning bell rings for their next lesson.
Faith nods and follows her out of the canteen, lost in her own world as she remembers her last encounter with Mrs. Callum.
"It's so hard, isn't it? Trying to accept that… that Klaas is dead?" Faith had stated tearfully.
Mrs. Callum nodded, her own dark brown cheeks wet. "I just can't believe that I will never see my son again," she said with a trace of an accent as she blew her nose. Her red-rimmed eyes had dark circles underneath them, yet she looked as pristine and as clean as she always had. Perhaps even more so.
"But it is better this way," she added forcefully a moment later. "He was suffering so much…" she trailed away as the tears came fast and furiously.
Faith was crying too, yet somehow, she found Mrs. Callum's hand and was holding it between her own to try and comfort her.
But as Mrs. Callum's gaze noticed the pale white hands holding hers, she snatched her hand away.
Faith was slightly hurt, but unsuccessfully tried to mask it.
"Listen to me," Mrs. Callum said a moment later, looking determined, her voice deliberately cold, as she roughly wiped her tears. "We appreciate all you did for Klaas. You were there for him when he needed you the most. You both truly loved one another, but that is as far as it ever went. I never lied to you Faith. You knew perfectly well that my husband and I did not ever approve of our sons' choice, yet we respected that he could make his own choices. And I won't lie to you now."
She took a deep breath before saying, "We would prefer it if you would not come here anymore. I know that you need to grieve, as we do, and I know that you need to talk to someone, but this is not the place. We can give you nothing. Please, just leave."
Faith stared at her, appalled at what she was hearing.
"You think I've been coming here for myself?" she shouted with outrage. "I've been coming here for you and for Mr. Callum because I know that's what Klaas would have wanted. I can't believe you," she stated disbelievingly, her blood boiling. "This is just ridiculous! It was never my personality that was a problem, was it? It was because I'm white that you disapproved, and your son was black. I just can't understand why you're keeping up this racist bullshit while your son, and my boyfriend has just died!"
She didn't see the slap coming nor did she register it until a moment later. She put a hand to her stinging cheek, surprised that it was so painful.
"Yes, it's true," hissed withdrawing her hand, but she didn't look the least angry. Instead, she leaned back into the sofa wearily. "In your eyes, I probably look like a racist bitch right now, but is it wrong that I only ever wanted the best for my son? Is that wrong?"
Faith felt her fury drain out of her, as she saw the woman wipe away another tear. She got up to leave, but paused near the door.
"Yes, it's wrong," she stated. "It's completely wrong that you would put your prejudice before your son's happiness. Anyway," she gave a short humourless laugh. "What difference does it make now? Klaas isn't here anymore, and I'll make sure I stay out of your hair from now on."
"Faith!" Chezelle pokes her rib painfully. They're seated at the back of the classroom.
"I'm sorry about what I said earlier," she whispers, keeping her voice low so that the teacher doesn't hear.
Faith smiles at her reassuringly. "It's ok. I know you mean well, even if you're not always tactful."
Chezelle looks relieved before asking, "What were you thinking about anyway? You looked miles away."
"Oh, nothing important," Faith replies, vaguely looking out of the window. "I was just remembering something. Something unpleasant."
A/N: This chapter is dedicated to Fish. (Thanks for letting me borrow your saying by the way. I know you don't mind at all. … Or do you? ;)
Thanks to everyone who's been reading and reviewing this fic! Keep up the great work boosting my ego. :D