Time skip: from Friday, June 13th to Monday, June 16th


Angelo was getting used to having a broken leg . . . sort of. It certainly had some advantages. For a start, he got to sleep downstairs with the TV. Lana was walking him to school every single day (he'd protested being coddled initially, but now it was the highlight of the day). Free food. He could certainly get used to this.

"Babe, are you there? We have to go now or we'll be late!" Lana yelled from outside.

"Angelo, your girlfriend is outside waiting for you! And just when I thought I taught you better than to leave a girl waiting!" his father snickered. Angelo rolled his eyes as he put his one shoe on (his other shoe wouldn't fit over his cast) and got his bag. He picked up his crutches and walked to the door. But just as the inventor was about to get it, Mirella rushed over to the door and opened it.

"Hello, Lana!" Mirella smiled. "Angelo, your girlfriend's here to pick you up!"

"Mirella!" Angelo blurted out, blushing as his father lost his mind laughing. "Coming, Lana!"

"Good. Come on," Lana said, yanking him out of the house and carrying the bag for him. "We've got assembly first thing this morning. God knows why."

"Oh, great," Angelo moaned. "I am only fifteen and I am already too old for this shit."

"That is the most accurate thing I've heard all day," Lana replied, as the two got to school and were ushered into seats. At the front of the assembly were two girls, a boy and an old man they didn't recognize, in that exact order. The first girl was rather scrawny, had black hair with red roots and a rather pale complexion, marred by an explosion of acne across her forehead and cheeks. The second girl had bleach blonde hair and was rather rotund, her stomach peeking out of her white polo shirt. The lone male student had brown hair and seemed rather muscular, looking like a typical stereotype of an athlete. All four were wearing the Golden River Academy uniform.

The uniform of Angelo's old school.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour to announce that Golden River Academy will be visiting our school as part of a fortnight-long cultural enrichment program," Mrs Josephson began. Angelo tried to remain stoic and looked at Mrs Josephson as she blathered on and on. It was hard, considering the trio of students had a constant smirk on their faces, and the teacher seemed to be looking down his nose at everyone and everything. But they didn't seem to recognize him, which was good. "Mr Atkinson, would you like to say a few words?"

"Yes, of course," Mr Atkinson replied, smiling a big, fake smile that all rich people seemed to know how to do. "I would just like to say how lucky I feel to be doing such an enlightening cultural enrichment program with the students of this school."

"Oh, how sweet. Everyone, give a round of applause," Mrs Josephson ordered, and the students politely clapped. "One more thing to say: it has been decided that the three exchange students will be in Miss Turrets' registration group. Now assembly is over, you can be released to your classes. The students at the back can go first." As the students made their way to classes, Angelo and Lana looked at each other worriedly.

"I have decided that today officially sucks," Angelo replied.

"Same," Lana groaned. "Wake me when it's over."


The problems didn't even wait until break time to manifest, as the three Golden River Academy students looked at everything with disdain and horror. "Can't you just . . . get rid of these books?" the black-haired girl asked, holding a history textbook between a finger and thumb. "They're so gross and old-looking."

"They're only a little worn, and they're the only ones we have," Miss Hollins remarked. "There's really nothing I can do about it. I'm not in charge of budgeting in this school."

"That's a shame," the bleach blonde girl sighed. Miss Hollins looked like steam was about to come out of her ears. But she forced her rage down and continued to teach.

"I'll make a note of that," Miss Hollins said, as she resumed the lesson. She continued to lecture about historic responses to pandemics when she heard snickering coming from the back of the class. "What's so funny?"

"We were just talking about how . . . different this school is from ours," the lone boy explained.

"One more interruption, and you will be sent out," Miss Hollins warned, as she continued teaching.

"Miss Hollins, what is the French word for the government's attitude to healthcare?" Angelo asked, five minutes later. And that was when Miss Hollins snapped.

"THAT'S IT! GET OUT OF MY CLASSROOM!" Miss Hollins roared.

"What did I do?" Angelo blurted out. "I just wanted to ask you a question." Miss Hollins focused on the boy's face before realizing that this was an innocent boy she had yelled at, not one of the guilty students. They thought her mistake was hilarious.

"Oh, it's you. Sorry. What was your question?" Miss Hollins asked.

"What was the French word for the government's attitude to healthcare?" Angelo asked.

"That would be laissez-faire, or leave to do," Miss Hollins replied. As she finished speaking, the bell chimed for the student's release, and class was adjourned. The three Golden River Academy students made a beeline for the headteacher's office . . . or they would have if they knew where it was. After wandering aimlessly, they went to someone who knew where it would be. But not just anyone. Some random just wouldn't do. They searched for another cool kid, like them. Someone who just had people around them.

Coincidentally, that person was Angelo Riva.

"Hey, cutie," the black-haired girl cooed, laying a manicured hand on his thigh. "We need a guy's help over here!"

"Um, you do?" Angelo asked, as he moved the girl's hand from his body.

"Yeah, where's the principal's office? We wanna report that crazy history teacher," the brown-haired boy bluntly told him.

"Nathan, can't we try asking someone else? He seems a little . . . busy," the blonde girl replied.

So that's the boy's name, Angelo thought.

"Upstairs, to your left," Angelo replied. "Is that all?"

"Yeah, big guy, that's it. Thanks for the help," Nathan replied. Angelo noted, with a slight grin, that he was significantly taller than Nathan, who simply nodded and ran off to the principal's office, the girls in tow. Everyone looked at each other with confusion decorating their faces.

"What was she doing?" Lana asked, fuming. "Putting her hand on you? And in front of me?"

"I don't think she knew who I was," Angelo realized. "If she did, they might have taunted me, but they're sucking up to me instead. They . . . think I'm cool."

"Those snobs think you're cool?" Melissa snapped.

"'Those snobs' are, unfortunately, people from my old school," Angelo admitted. "We . . . weren't exactly friends back when I was going there because I was a loser. But they think I'm cool now."

"That's basically all I need to know about them. Now how do we get rid of them?" Louise asked.

"They'll probably screw things up on their own," Angelo replied.

"How can you be so sure?" Lana asked.

"I used to go there, after all. In total, my old school has been banned from ten hotels, seven holiday resorts and five restaurants for rowdy behaviour. I would also give you the number of schools they've been banned from, but I've lost count at this point," Angelo replied. "They'll mess it up at their own pace, trust me."

"And until then?" Jay asked. "We can't wait for them to mess things up on their own."

"Just try to be friendly," Angelo sighed. "Somehow. I just hope they don't get Miss Hollins fired."

"They can't do that . . . right?" Marcus asked.

"I hope not," Angelo replied. "She's a good teacher having a bad day because of those three douchebags."

"Bet you wish you hadn't given them the directions to the principal's office now, right?" Lana asked. Angelo grinned.

"Actually, I just gave them directions to the urinals. Hope they like the smell of urine," Angelo replied. "If they ask, just tell them that I forgot."

"You are mean," Lana snickered.

"Then they shouldn't have messed with Miss Hollins. She stopped Maxwell from picking on me in my first lesson with her," Angelo remembered. "Most of the teachers I've met don't really care if a kid is being bullied, never mind when it's in front of them. She stopped him."

"It was awesome," Elijah admitted. "Slimy little prick got away with it for far too long. He got away with everything until you came here."

"If Maxwell wanted to get away with everything he ever did, he went to the wrong school," Angelo retorted.

"What do you mean?" Lana asked.

"Maxwell and I should have been to the other one's school. Maxwell should have gone to Golden River Academy and I should have gone here. He could have had the snobs and I could have had you," Angelo explained.

"That would have worked out pretty well, to be honest," Melissa grinned. Before any more musing about what might have been could go on, the bell rang. They had a PE class to get to.

"Today, we'll be doing basketball, boys against girls," Coach Hurley explained. "First, we'll get sick notes out of the way. Other than Angelo, who here cannot participate?"

"I can't!" the blonde exchange student volunteered.

"Where's your sick note?" the seasoned coach asked.

"I don't have one," she explained.

"What's your name, miss?" Coach Hurley asked.

"Sunshine Swindle," the blonde introduced.

"Where's your note, Sunshine?" Coach Hurley asked. "And if you can't participate, why didn't you bring it?"

"I don't have one," Sunshine told him, with no fear. "It's part of the Golden River Academy rules concerning exchange students. They can opt out of the physical education classes of their host school if they don't want to do it." Angelo highly doubted that was true, but kept quiet anyway.

"Is that true?" Coach Hurley stammered. The trio nodded, snickering. "OK. You three can sit out today with Angelo while the rest of us play basketball."

"But sir! This Angelo kid is probably faking! He should be with you!" Nathan snapped.

"I suppose you're right. This broken leg shouldn't stop me from doing PE like everyone else. I'll just start doing laps, shall I?" Angelo asked. Nathan turned red with humiliation and anger. His two female companions were furious with him.

"Don't be so mean to him! Nathan, how could you?" Sunshine huffed.

"You know what, Nathan James? How about you sit on the bench by yourself while we play basketball?" the raven-haired girl asked.

"We?" Sunshine stammered. She hadn't anticipated being roped into this.

"Yes, we," the black-haired girl told her.

"And who are you?" Coach Hurley asked the raven-haired teenage girl.

"Moira Princeton-Chamberlain," she coolly introduced. "Sunshine, let's get changed." The two girls went to change, while Nathan sat next to Angelo on the bench.

"Ladies, right?" Nathan awkwardly muttered to Angelo, who seemed indifferent to the brunette's suffering. "One minute, they're all over you, next minute they're giving you the cold shoulder." Angelo shrugged and focused on the game, ignoring Nathan's sighs of complaint. Angelo tried to figure out which one of them was Nathan's girlfriend, or if they were both competing for him. (God knows why.)

"Eww, why does everything in this crappy school seem like it's about to fall apart?" Sunshine hissed, as they shied away from the action. "I don't even like sports, but this makes me want to buy my own sports stuff so I don't have to use theirs." Kids glared, but there wasn't much they could do about it. Throwing a basketball at their heads seemed too obvious.

"I know? This place is so shabby," the raven-haired girl snarked.

"The next two weeks had better go by fast, Moira, or I just might go nuts," Sunshine griped. Lana, out of pure frustration, decided to do something.

"Sunshine! Catch!" Lana told her, throwing the ball to her. Sunshine squealed and ran away.

"What are you thinking? You could have ruined my nails!" Sunshine huffed. "I spent an hour on them, you hear me? A whole hour!"

"But you were available!" Lana pointed out.

"I don't want anyone passing to me!" Sunshine snapped.

"Then why did you choose to play with us?" Lana asked. That was it. All three of the Golden River Academy students gave her the look of death. If looks could kill, then Lana would have died sixty times over in half a second.

At least sixty times.

"Sir, she threw a basketball at me!" Sunshine wailed.

"It's a game of basketball, and you agreed to play. What did you expect?" Coach Hurley asked. Lana breathed a sigh of relief.

"Did you see that? That ginger girl just threw a basketball at my girlfriends!" Nathan huffed. Angelo gaped at him.

"She didn't know that they didn't want to play," Angelo defended. Then he caught what the other boy had said. "Wait; did you say girlfriends?"

"Yeah, I have two. Why?" Nathan asked.

The raven-haired genius raised a curious eyebrow. "And they're fine with it?" he asked.

"They don't know. I don't even know why I'm telling you, to be honest," Nathan confessed. Angelo suppressed a grin. This was pretty good information to use against him, if he should ever need to.

"Neither do I," Angelo sighed, as the other students filed into the changing rooms. Angelo was ushered into the changing rooms, where Nathan continued to trash talk Lana.

"Who does she think she is? Throwing a ball at a girl who didn't want to play in the first place?" Nathan snapped.

"I thought you all had the chance to opt out of PE. If she really didn't like it, why did she choose it?" Angelo asked.

"He's got a good point there," Jay admitted.

"Are you blaming the victim?" Nathan accused.

Angelo threw his hands up in mock terror. "Nathan, I can't blame the victim. I'm too confused to blame anybody right now."

"He's got another good point there," Jay giggled.

Nathan growled as he stormed out. "I'm getting lunch."

"There's still another lesson before that happens," Angelo pointed out.

Jay was about to say something about that. "And he's got anoth-"

"Shut up, Jay," Marcus ordered. Jay shut up. Angelo sighed and limped over to his next class, chemistry. None of the three would be in his class, much to his relief. Unbeknownst to him, all of them had been assigned special STEM work from their actual school, to 'ease academic pressure'. For that hour, they were going to be fine.


At lunch, Sunshine and Moira did their best to bully Lana while simultaneously flirting with Angelo. "I just can't understand why you would want her around when you could have someone like me in your life," Sunshine cooed. "I'm luxury edition, and she is a third-rate piece of knockoff garbage."

"Thank you for the comparison, but I have a girlfriend," Angelo huffed.

"Could you cheat on her?" Sunshine asked. "I've seen the girls this school has to offer, and it's obvious that, whoever she is, she can't compete with the likes of me. I've seen the girls at this school, and they aren't anything to write home about."

"Of course my girlfriend can't compete with you. The amateurs are separated from the professionals for a reason," Angelo pointed out. Lana giggled.

"Can it, shrimp! As if he'd date you," Moira snubbed. "Boys like to date women they can see without a microscope."

"Hey! That's my girlfriend you're picking on! Leave her alone!" Angelo snapped. The girls gasped, and backed away. They quickly ran out of the canteen, not looking back once.

"Thanks, sweetie," Lana smiled.

"You're OK, right?" Angelo asked.

"Better with you," Lana smiled. Angelo blushed.

"That's . . . actually really sweet," Angelo muttered. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, honeybunch," Lana cooed, as they continued to eat lunch. Lana continued to eat triangle-cut ham sandwiches, and Angelo cut up a baked potato to be shoveled into his mouth bite by bite. "Reckon I'll be in trouble?"

"If you were in trouble, Coach Hurley would have emailed Miss Turrets about it, and he said earlier that you weren't at fault," Angelo sighed. "They can't do anything about it." As the bell rang for the end of registration, Angelo and Lana walked together to registration, where they found the Golden River Academy trio waiting for them, glaring.

Nathan sauntered up to the insolent inventor, trying his hardest to be intimidating. "Heard you picked on a girl today," Nathan said. "What sort of man are you, huh?"

"The type that doesn't let his girlfriend be picked on," Angelo replied. "Kind of how like how you're protecting those girls."

"Course I'm not letting them be walked over! What sort of man do you think I am?" Nathan snapped. Moira practically swooned, and decided to use that moment to sing his praises.

"What a gentleman! That's why he's my boyfriend!" Moira squealed. Sunshine turned to her with fire in her eyes.

"But that's my boyfriend," she growled.

"No, that's my boyfriend, aren't you, sweetie pie?" Moira looked to Nathan for a response, but he said nothing, terrified that he would have to finally pick a side. "Sweetie?"

"He's not saying anything to you because he's my sweetie!" Sunshine snapped, reaching for a lock of Moira's hair. And that was when the fight started.

Moira was scratching at Sunshine's face, while Sunshine attempted to pull Moira's hair out as they fought. Lana wanted to see more, while Angelo wanted to get out of the classroom. Awkwardly, he leaned against a wall as he opened the door, but it later transpired that he wouldn't need to. Miss Turrets and Mr Atkinson walked in to find two of the three exchange students fighting, the students of the host school watching with interest and the third exchange student frozen in place with shock.

"What on earth is going on here?" Mr Atkinson boomed. Everyone stopped and looked at the aging teacher's wrinkled, greying, livid face of doom. "Explain yourselves this instant!"

"She's a cheating bitch! She stole my boyfriend!" Moira screamed.

"Nathan is mine!" Sunshine growled.

"This is ridiculous! Both of you, to my office, now!" Mr Atkinson ordered. Everyone looked at him oddly.

"Sir, this is not your school. You don't have an office," Miss Turrets hissed. He straightened up and coughed awkwardly.

"Then to the headmistress' office!" the old man announced, marching out. The humiliated girls and a shell-shocked Nathan left the room. "And I shall consider this to be strike one of three!" he informed them, once he thought that he was out of earshot. Once they were gone, Miss Turrets started the register.

"Did you hear that?" Angelo whispered. "What he said?"

"Shush!" Lana sighed. "Wait until English, OK?"

"Fine," Angelo huffed, when the bell rang for the next lesson. "Did you hear what he said?" he asked, as they approached an hour of poetry.

"No."

"He said he would consider this to be strike one of three! When Golden River Academy students go places, they get a three-strikes and you're out system. Do three things wrong, and they're sent home," Angelo explained. "That was the first strike. They have two more chances and if they blow that, they're gone."

"So that's what you're trying to do," Lana mused. "Smart work. How can I help?"

"Piss them off discreetly," Angelo instructed. "Like the basketball today. It's the little things that get them going. Now I've made them mad, but that's OK because I know what they're going to do next. And if I know what they're going to do next, I know what I can do next to stop them."

"And what would that be?" Lana asked.

"Well, it involves my bag, my watch and MAIA," Angelo grinned, with a grin last seen on his face around the time of the Invention Convention. This was going to be good.


As the two walked home that day, Angelo decided to test out just how fast his backpack could fly. "MAIA, what's the top speed of my backpack at its current weight?" Angelo asked.

"17 km per hour, sir," MAIA answered. "Would you like to see a demonstration of this, sir?"

"Yes. Yes, I would," Angelo grinned. "To the end of the street and back to me, please. And I'd like it to be timed." The bag whirred into life and flew to the end of the street, flying back to its master afterwards.

"Would you like the time it took to reach the end of the street and back again, sir?" MAIA asked.

"Yes, please," Angelo answered.

"45 seconds, sir," MAIA reported.

"Good. Have the bag set to hover mode and make it fly behind me by two feet," Angelo instructed.

"Yes, sir," MAIA responded, while the bag flew behind Angelo and stayed two feet away from him, just like it was told. Lana gaped openly at him, and it didn't stop until they were safely inside and the bag was on the floor, leaning on the sofa they were now sitting on. The questions hit him like a tonne of bricks.

"How long did it take for you to make a flying backpack?" Lana grilled.

"I had some time on my hands after I got discharged from hospital, so I got my dad's toolbox, a drone I had been gifted as a prize from an old invention convention from about two years ago that I had never opened and my backpack, of course. I strengthened it so it could carry more weight, added in . . . um, stuff I don't remember, and the next thing I know, it can fly!" Angelo babbled. Lana gave him an incredulous look.

"How do you not remember inventing a flying backpack?" Lana blurted out.

"I have no idea," Angelo admitted. "One minute, I have a normal thing in my life, the next minute, my bag is voice controlled and is linked to an artificially intelligent program based inside a watch!" He let out a sigh. "It feels - I feel like - it's like everything changed in the blink of an eye."

Lana took the opportunity to tease him a little. "You know, that sounds a bit like you."

"How do you mean?"

"One minute, you're articulate and you make sense, and the next minute, you're giggling and purring next to me," Lana explained, sidling closer to her now increasingly nervous boyfriend before she decided to just pounce on him, trying to tug the hoodie off him. The scratches made Angelo wince.

"Lana, you really don't have to be so rough with - eep! Ahahahahaha!" Angelo went from being nervous to a giggly wreck, as Lana gave him hickey after hickey, frantic giggles pouring out of his mouth. But he didn't fight back, since he liked this feeling more than what he would admit to. He liked the feeling of Lana taking control, and, cautiously, like a confused puppy, he let a hand wander upwards while another traveled in the opposite direction. "Never mind."

"Good to know," Lana taunted, as she snuggled closer to Angelo and let strong, passionate kisses dot her boyfriend's neck. Angelo was blushing and still giggling. His eyes were screwed shut. It tickled like crazy, but he didn't want to move in case it stopped.

"Damn, you're amazing, you know," Angelo cooed. "I'm so glad my parents moved me here."

"Me too," Lana smiled, as one of her own hands dipped downwards to his ass. "Now let me take your hoodie off properly." She looked at his taut midsection and grinned. "And the shirt, too. I want to see you shirtless. Now." Angelo stiffened and suddenly became meek and submissive, obeying her.

"Yes," Angelo replied, taking off his hoodie and shirt and blushing. Lana gripped him in a tight embrace and gave him more kisses, but on his lips this time.

"You're being so good for me," Lana whispered, after pulling away from the most recent kiss. "I can't wait until I can have more. But until then, I'll have to settle for this." A hand squeezed his rear end, and Angelo fought to keep from squirming. There wasn't much room for squirming where he was.

"I love you," Angelo purred. "You are one hell of a keeper."

"Shh, just enjoy this," Lana cooed. "You are mine, and I am yours. I will try to take care of you as much as I can."

"Thank you." It was quiet, but she heard it.

"You're welcome," Lana sighed, a small smile on her face.


They happily stayed like this, watching TV and raiding the fridge of anything edible. "We should do this more often," Angelo murmured, as Lana stole another mini flapjack from him.

"We should," Lana agreed, as the door unlocked and Angelo's parents came in, but without Mirella. Angelo wanted to ask about it, but he thought it might not be the time.

"Angelo, are you home?" Bonaventura asked. "Lana, good to see you!"

"Good to see you, too!" Lana greeted, flipping through her phone to set off a ringtone so she could get out of there soon. "How are you?"

"Oh, we're fine," Roselle replied. "And you?"

"Great, but really tired. School's been hectic recently," Lana replied.

"What happened?" Bonaventura asked.

"There are exchange students in school. They arrived today," Angelo admitted. "And they'll be here for two weeks." Lana decided that would be a good time to leave, and pressed one of the ringtones. The shrill ringing made them jump.

"Oh, look! My mother's calling me! I'll have to go now, but it's been a pleasure meeting you. Goodbye," Lana explained, as she gathered her things and left.

"Bye, Lana. See you tomorrow," Angelo greeted. Once she was out of the house, Angelo was officially swamped.

"You never told us about this exchange student stuff," Bonaventura replied.

"It just happened today!" Angelo blurted out. "I couldn't have told you any sooner, because I would have been in school at the time, where we can't use our phones!"

"The school sending its students over, which school would that be, out of curiosity?" Bonaventura asked. Angelo looked at the floor, scratching the back of his head.

"Golden River Academy," Angelo muttered. The Italian married couple looked to each other.

"Oh, no," Roselle sighed.

"What? What's going on?" Bonaventura asked. "Why is nobody telling me anything?"

"You don't know?" Roselle asked, incredulous. "That's the private school."

"What private school?" Bonaventura asked. Angelo and Roselle gave him a look that made him uncomfortable.

"I went there for four years," Angelo replied. "How do you not remember the name?"

"In my defence, there were five other private schools with other names that were equally pretentious, and it was hard of me to keep track," Bonaventura explained.

"Seriously?" Roselle blurted out.

"I am not surprised one bit," Angelo sighed. "And where's Mirella? I thought she'd be with you."

"Sleepover at a friend's place," Bonaventura replied. "They'll probably be baking cupcakes and doing other . . . little girl stuff. I don't really know."

"Oh."

"But enough about Mirella. There's something I want to ask you," Angelo's mother pointed out. Angelo felt lightning shoot down his spine.

"Um, yes?" Angelo muttered, fearing the worst.

"How's your leg doing? Feeling any better, sweetie?" the boy's mother asked. The inventor sunk into his seat with relief.

"The cast is itchy sometimes, but it's OK," Angelo admitted. "I'd like to get rid of it."

"Good. Now, you two stay there and watch TV while I make lunch," Roselle smiled. "How does fish and chips sound to you?"

"I'd like that. Thank you, Mamma," Angelo smiled.

"You're welcome, honey," Roselle replied, as she went into the kitchen. Bonaventura waited until his wife was gone before asking his son a question.

"Are they bothering you still?" Bonaventura asked.

"Who?"

"Rosario and your Uncle Valerio. Are they bothering you still? Do you want me to call the police?"

"They're not bothering me, Papa. Their numbers are blocked, remember? You blocked them."

Bonaventura wasn't daunted by his son's coldness. "Anyone else bothering you?"

"I'm worried those exchange students might recognize me," Angelo sighed. "I'm embarrassed by the time I spent there and I don't want them to make fun of me for going to a public school now. They made fun of public school kids a lot."

"I'm sure you'll be fine. These kids like you enough to visit you in hospital, so I'm sure they'll stick up for you," the boy's father sighed.

"I guess so. It's been good talking to you, Papa. Thanks," Angelo sighed, as he gathered his crutches and went upstairs to his room. There, he put in a pair of headphones and started listening to hot girl bummer by blackbear on loop until chips were ready.

"Angelo! Dinner's ready!" Roselle called, but Angelo couldn't hear her. The music was too loud. "Odd. He's usually here by now. Is it the leg? Is he finding it hard to use the stairs?"

"If he wanted help, we'd have heard it," her husband pointed out. "I'll send Pepsi to check on him. Pepsi, go play with Angelo!"

"Arf!" Pepsi barked, prancing upstairs, to Angelo's room. The door was open, so the Golden Labrador just went in and started giving his master doggy kisses.

"Pepsi!" Angelo squeaked, giggling hysterically. In the struggle, Angelo's headphones were pulled out of his ears. "Ahahahahahahahahaha! Get down! Bahahahahad dohohohohog! Nohohohohohohohohoho!"

"I'll check on him," the inventor's father sighed, climbing the wooden hill to his son's room and finding him being tickled senseless by a dog. He walked in front of him and sent Pepsi away. The snubbed dog pouted (or at least seemed to) and padded away. "Your dinner's ready. Don't you want it?"

"Yes . . . I'll go downstairs now," Angelo promised. "Once I get some time to breathe."

"Good kid," Bonaventura sighed, rubbing Angelo's back. "If you're not there in ten seconds, I will eat some of your chips."

"Considering I am on crutches, this is basically impossible," Angelo pointed out.

"I know! There's no way I can possibly lose!" he cheered. "Race you, son!" He bounded down the stairs, snickering. Angelo huffed.

"For the love of all that is good and holy, do you have to act like such a child?" Angelo grumbled, as he grabbed his crutches and tried to get downstairs. But he couldn't. "Um, Dad? Could you . . . um . . . help me?"

"I'm coming, wait there," Angelo's father sighed, getting up from his food to help his son. He really wished that the cast would come off so Angelo could walk alone. "OK, Angelo, just lean on me." Together, father and son slowly walked downstairs to the dining room, where their lunch was getting cold.

"Thanks. And sorry," Angelo muttered, as he took a seat and stabbed a fork into a pile of thick-cut chips, after drowning them in ketchup.

"What are you saying sorry for? You did nothing wrong," Roselle smiled.

"Needing help all the time is embarrassing, and it means I'm a burden," Angelo sighed.

"Embarrassing, but necessary until the cast comes off," the household matriarch corrected. "And you were never a burden."

"You moved across a country because of me!" Angelo babbled. "Sold the house, gave up your jobs to work in another town-"

"And it was worth it," Bonaventura replied, calmly. "We did what we had to do to keep you safe." There was an awkward, pregnant pause, where the only sounds that could be heard were the clinking of cutlery on ceramic plates.

"Thank you," Angelo muttered, blushing.

"Non dirlo, piccolo idiota," Bonaventura smiled.

"Hey!" Angelo blurted out, giggling. The parents joined in, and the trio were giggling hysterically.

"Boys, enough," Roselle ordered, sniggering into her fish fingers. From there, dinner was uneventful, but the father and son duo couldn't look each other in the eye before giggling like little kids all over again. "Honestly, my mother was right. Men never grow up. Now eat your chips."

"Si, Mamma," Angelo grinned, stealing some of his father's chips when he wasn't looking.

"That's it. After lunch, go straight to the sofa," Angelo's dad ordered.

"Don't you mean 'go straight to bed'?" Roselle asked.

"Angelo's sleeping downstairs until his leg is better," Bonaventura insisted. "It's just easier."

"OK. Thanks," Angelo smiled, eating the last few bites of fish fingers and going into the living room, covering himself up in a blanket. Pepsi padded into the dining room and whined, wanting table scraps.

"No. You can't have my leftovers. Doggy food only," Roselle scolded. Pepsi whimpered and turned up the charm.

"You can go play with Angelo in the other room if you want," Bonaventura suggested. Pepsi perked up and ran to the other room, barking happily. Soon, they heard squeals of laughter coming from the living room.

"That was sadistic," Angelo's mother sighed.

"You mispronounced hilarious," her husband pointed out. "All we have to do now is wait for him to be all tired out and then I'll take the remote from him."

"And how long will that be?"

"GAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! PEPSI!" they heard Angelo scream.

"Right about now, what a coincidence," Bonaventura grinned as he got up to separate the dog from the boy. But there was no need. Angelo was still giggling, but now Pepsi was trying to snuggle.

"I can't stay mad at you, you little golden precious," Angelo sleepily babbled, sounding slightly drunk as he cuddled Pepsi, who lay on top of him. "Good night. I'll see you tomorrow." He closed his eyes and, slowly, fell asleep. Bonaventura watched as his son's breathing evened out. Then, and only then, could they go to bed.

"Hey, you forgot to take the remote."

"Never mind."


Translations

Non dirlo, piccolo idiota: Don't mention it, little dork. Italian.

Si, Mamma: Yes, Mum. Italian.