Chapter Three

I entered the kitchen to find Selene and Leo talking and laughing, eating a pizza. But as soon as she saw me, the look dropped off of her face.

"What do you want?" she snapped.

"What, I can't eat too?" I asked sarcastically. Ugh, after all these years, Alaric was finally starting to rub off on me. Gross.

"Not any of our pizza, you can't."

But Leo just shook his head and laughed, pushing the pizza towards me across the table. "Here, have some."

"Thanks," I smiled, sitting down at the table. I took a piece of pizza.

"So, where's that…friend of yours?" she asked dauntingly. I knew she was referring to what had happened on the bus.

"Reading a book," I stated plainly.

"Really? Wow, he didn't seem the type smart enough to read a book."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "Yeah, and you don't seem the type smart enough to know what a book is," I snapped. "But I guess we were both wrong."

Suddenly, there was a cough from the doorway. I turned to find Alaric, clutching his book. I rolled my eyes. What, was it some sort of teddy bear to him? The thought of someone like tough and muscular like Alaric was having a teddy bear made me smirk. But then the possibility that he had just heard what we said dawned on me. I threw an angry glance at Selene, but she didn't say anything. She was nonchalantly leaning back in her chair, nibbling at her pizza as if she hadn't done anything.

I opened my mouth to say something, but he held up a hand. "Whatever, it's okay," he said, taking the only seat left available. But I knew it wasn't.

I offered him a piece of pizza. He raised an eyebrow at me suspiciously, then took it, laying his book on the table. I glanced at it, and when I saw the title, I felt ten times worse for him. Romeo and Juliet. Was it a totally girl book? Yes. Was it funny that a cynical person like him would read it? Yes. Was it funny right now? No.

It had been Jayda's favorite book.

. . .

I opened the door to the bathroom, letting the cool air rush in past my face and made my way over to our bedroom. I opened it to find… darkness.

"Alaric?" I hissed into the darkness. "Alaric!"

No response. I sighed and started to feel my way across to my bedside table where we kept the only light, which was a small lamp. But, unfortunately for me, the ground was not yet clear of all debris. I ran into a large… box? Sitting on the floor. I yelped and made a large thumping noise as I landed on the ground. The light immediately flickered on to reveal the startled face of Alaric.

"What the hell are you doing, Tier?" he demanded, calling me by my last name when he saw me on the floor.

"Oh, I just decided to have a picnic here on the floor in the dark by myself, Alaric. That's definitely what I'm doing. Did that question really make sense to you?"

"Well, I always knew you were weird. I didn't think you would go this far, but whatever, I'm sure there's someone out there crazy enough to match you."

I rolled my eyes, standing up. "Yeah, and apparently, that's you."

He shook his head, returning his attention to his book. I sighed, kicking his suitcase defiantly, then went and sat on my bed, brushing my hair, using the large window as a mirror. Suddenly, Alaric 's image on the window looked up at me.

"Thank you."

"What?" I asked, turning to him, startled.

"Thank you," he repeated.

"For what?" I asked, surprised at the sincerity in his voice.

"For sticking up for me. Earlier," he muttered, as if every word pained him to pronounce. "…thank you," he spat out awkwardly.

I nodded. "No problem. I may hate you, but I hate her more. But only a little," I said with a smile.

A playful grin tugged at the corner of his mouth, but he turned back to his book before it could turn into anything.

"By the way," I began. "What were you doing in here in the dark?"

He raised an eyebrow at me. "Sleeping, genius."

"Oh," I said lamely, but he didn't reply. I'll give you two guesses as to what he was doing.

I sighed, and went back to brushing my hair, glancing at the clock. It was only ten. Weirdo.

. . .

"Good morning, class, my name is Mr. Morgan," said a man maybe four years older than us, but probably about three hundred times our age.

"Good morning, Mr. Morgan," we all replied in unison.

"Now, today we will be learning the basics of our partnerships. Everyone is seated next to their assigned partner, correct?"

I glanced over at Alaric, then nodded towards Mr. Morgan.

"Good," he continued. "Now, how many of you here are happy about the partner you were assigned to?"

About half the class raised their hands in response. He nodded. "Well, for those of you who aren't thrilled with your partner, you better be soon. Staying away from your partner causes you to age. For every two weeks your away from your partner, you gain one year of age."

I raised my hand. "Yes, Ms. … Tier?" he asked, pausing for a minute to check the names on his seating chart.

"How far away is 'away'?" I asked.

"Out of a two mile radius. Now, continuing. Who here isn't satisfied with their partner?"

The other half of the class that hadn't raised their hands earlier now had their hands raised. Alaric and I were two of them.

"Well, kids, I hate to break it to you, but you'd better get used to it. Unless you would prefer disintegrating into a pile of ash. Now, moving on…"

I felt my jaw swing open as Mr. Morgan continued speaking. So, we had to stay together for the rest of eternity or we would die? This was going to be so much fun…

At lunch, I felt really alone. Not only was I alone, I was alone…with Alaric. I sighed, picking a seat. He just stood there glaring at the spot next to me as if it was infected with some sort of disgusting disease. He finally sat down when one of the aids shot him a look. It was silent as I sat staring at my tray. Until another tray entered my line of sight. I looked up to find Symphony.

"Can we sit here?" she asked softly, a boy with soft brown eyes and blonde hair behind her.

I smiled at her. "Sure go ahead," I replied.

She returned my smile as she sat down. "So, this is Max, my boyfriend," she said as the boy next to her sat down.

"Hi, Max," I said to him, then went back to eating my food. Symphony sat silent, as if she was waiting for me to introduce my… "boyfriend". But the silence was broken when Max said something to Alaric and they started talking.

"So…?" started Symphony.

"So….?" I replied, as if I didn't know what she was waiting for.

"Who's the hottie?" she asked, a flirtatious tone accompanying her voice, pointing at Alaric.

I had to fight back the urge to puke for a second. "Alaric?" I asked. "You think Alaric is hot?" I couldn't believe her. I took a glance at Alaric.

"Uh, yeah. Dark hair, dreamy amber eyes, muscular body. Come on, Niagara, what more do you want?"

"An attractive personality?" I asked.

"He seems alright to me," she stated, shoving a piece of food across her tray.

"Yeah, you don't have to live with him," I muttered.

"Nia!" I heard a shout from behind me that made all four of us turn to see Jayda running towards me. I sighed and stood up, letting her skinny body tackle me. I swear, Jayda's hugs? Those things are lethal.

"I've missed you!" she shouted, her face still buried in my shoulder. Seriously, how did someone like Jayda end up with Alaric?

Then Jack walked up, smiling. Jayda pulled away and took a step back to stand next to him.

Uh oh.

"So, you guys are… good now?" I asked, aware of Alaric's eyes watching us.

She nodded, hugging him, just like she used to hug her boyfriend. Well, her ex boyfriend.

"Oh, great," I said, taking a step back and starting to sit down again. "I'll talk to you guys soon."

"Wait, wait, Nia, can we sit here?" she asked innocently.

"I... I, um… don't think that's a great idea…" I muttered quickly.

"Oh, come on, it'll be fine."

I sighed. "Ok…" I said cautiously. I could feel Alaric tense next to me as she took a seat across the table from us, next to Symphony and Max.

Turns out, agreeing to let her sit there was a terrible idea. She talked about how nice and sweet Jack was the entire time. Halfway through lunch, Alaric got up and walked away.

I sighed. "Excuse me for a second," I said, getting up and following him.

I found him in the lounge, sitting in a window seat, staring out the window as if he wanted to jump out it.

"Hey," I muttered.

He jumped up from the cushion. "Oh, hey," he said, a phony smile on his face.

I raised an eyebrow. "You and I both know that if something wasn't wrong, you wouldn't be smiling. At me of all people."

He sighed, dropping himself back onto the seat. "Why do you care?"

It was then my turn to sigh as I sat down next to him. "Because as much as I hate you, that's something that no human being should ever have to be put through," I said. "It's a good thing you're not a human being," I continued with a smile.

He raised an eyebrow at me.

"Bad timing?" I asked.

"Yeah," he responded drily.

"Sorry." It was silent, when suddenly, a smile crossed his face. "What?" I asked cautiously.

"I've got an idea."

"What?" I repeated, still skeptical.

He took a deep breath, then looked up at me. "You have to pretend to be in love with me," he demanded.

"What?" I asked, jumping up.

"Please, Nia," he pleaded, standing up and taking a step forward. I took a step back.

"Why?" I asked, still startled.

"Because I don't want her to know that…" he trailed off, looking back out the window.

"No, she's my best friend! I would never lie to her!"

"Please, Niagara! I will do anything," he begged, looking back at me.

"No, Alaric."

"Alright, fine. Then I can make your life hell until the day the world ends. Because last I checked, we're stuck together for the rest of our very long lives."

I sighed. I knew he would. I looked up at him. "Fine, but if we're going to do this we have to do it my way," I started.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said.

"Oh, you better mean it-" I started, but I was interrupted when he kissed me.