DISCLAIMER: The situations, locations and events described herein are entirely fictional and any resemblance to any persons, real or imaginary, is entirely coincidental. The character names and likenesses are the exclusive property of Tom Lynch and The-N; I am merely borrowing them. No actual reflection of the cast or future storylines is included herein. The plot and story in itself is my intellectual property and is not to be replicated without my permission. Enjoy.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: What can I say? I LOVE my random pairings. I made Mashley into something serious, got people to think of it as more than just porn, and maybe I could do the same with Myla, or at the very least, convert a few more people beyond being Splash! fanatics. My apologies if it isnít as good as it could have been, as I began writing this when I was sick and, well, havenít done anything in a while. But hey; Iím a prodigy. Donít judge me, love me. The story should have enough to keep you all happy. Iím a people pleaser. I know.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Fucking Rivalry
By Badger

 

Chapter One: Part One

One Girl From The Ghetto and Another Who Just Gets Its

An enveloping undertone of talking and demographically targeted mainstream music seeped into the background like a soft, ambient hum, echoing through the tiled walls unobtrusively. The almost pure treble barely disturbed the gathered dust and lint concealed within the ceiling, behind the tiles that shone like mirrors and painted plaster. There wasn't enough bass to make a Starbucks addict pulling an all-nighter hopped up on speed shake. Far from creating any disturbance, indeed. Near comforting, the sounds had become a staple, regular to the point where their ears had grown too accustomed to the layer of noise to continue acknowledging it.

The centre was still a bustling place, despite the passage of time that gave the people less of a reason to be there. Somewhere further down the hallway, there was a shallow rumble leading to a sudden clash as the shutter came down over the doorway of a store past its regular business hours. A lot of the stores were closing up by that hour of the evening, as darkness slowly spread across the city, the prim sky blushing under the rosy veil of light pollution's courting gestures that glowed in the heavens' twilight, beyond the scope of where most men dared to dream.

Soon all that would be left were a few select retail departments, mainly those which overflowed with sugar that had been painstakingly melted, compacted and moulded into some advertised, recognisable shape and had been passed off as actual food, fake smiles and stupid caps convincing gullible customers and consumers that it was delectable. /"Thank you and enjoy your super triple mega jumbo chocolate-coated deep-fried happy helping extra cheesy more for less served by the best buttered up salty ultimate end-of-the-world full fucking fat meal, and here's your diet coke!"/ Among them were those famed for being open at all hours, like the 7/11 that was nearby, nestled out where the shops continued around beyond the well-lit white painted walls, spreading into most of the surrounding streets, leaving the mall almost trapped within a radius of retail outlets and markets that hadn't succeeded in getting a place inside the main building itself. Damn near a square kilometre of naught but flashy signs, bricks under the feet and metal complexes shrinking or towering within the hulking assembly of identical construction, items for sale longing for someone to notice them through well-lit windows and break their imposing loneliness, maybe even give them a home.

Some might find that concept suffocating. Icy and grey. It often could be, even to those who lived in that city, forever entombed in a pretentious coffin of steel and concrete, the warmth of human contact substituted by the yellow glow of the sun. It could be hard to breathe when the air was so thick with a haze that had nothing to do with low-lingering clouds; hard to survive in this degenerate city where the bright, ambitious youth shared their impassioned messages and their life's wisdom with the world that didn't care to listen by carving it into a bench or painting it on the walls over the top of a forgotten dead child's art, whose last work had been the spatter of his heart's crimson undercoat onto an asphalt canvas and his picture cut out along the white line now littered with old newspapers and carcasses of dead moths. No matter how determined one can be to convince themselves that they are standing out in the open with free space everywhere they turn, the cramped, overdeveloped areas like these never allowed them to relieve the intense feeling of claustrophobia.

At that precise moment, two girls wandering therein had found that the stark opposite to confinement overtook their senses. They felt liberated. Indeed, the last occasion they'd felt so content in their freedom was too distant in the past to use it as a fair comparison, as their memory may have been impaired by the years. It didn't come along often, where they could almost relax. Emphasis on the almost. Achieving such content was unquestionably pushing it.

Strangely enough, and though they wouldn't admit it anytime soon for fear of revealing their initial suspicion and clouded judgement of the other, potentially ruining a good thing, neither had expected this day to turn out as well as it did. Why? They didn't care to know. But, God forbid, they were actually having fun together. What both had initially thought of as being a bullshit ploy had actually worked out for the best. Who would have thought something positive would happen for a change?

Bing! The sound of laughter filled the stagnant night, overbearing the honk of a car's horn somewhere out of sight, the Doppler Effect signalling when it passed them by. Someone was talking, loudly, a little further away, a group of guys calling out in response, but they weren't there to listen to others. A moderately mainstream radio station was blasting out of one of the stores adjacent to their location, but they were too used to a soundtrack underscoring their conversations to pay it any mind, even as the song switched to a mutual favourite of the pair. "No way in hell I'd ever go for that shit, and my reputation says I'd go for plenty." Snickered the Latina, pausing in the doorway to make a definitive 'uh uh' gesture, waving the very thought of that option away into the sunset. "Girl, you are nasty!" she said, adding an extra syllable to make it sound like 'nayasty' because, as they'd discussed earlier, the longer the word, the more gangster the attitude.

Her companion smirked, looking upwards and innocently shrugging her shoulders like she had no idea what she was talking about. "Hush, you. It's not as bad as it sounds." A blush tinted her cheeks, embarrassment giving her the decency to look down at her feet. She hadn't even told Aiden any of this stuff, involving any level of detail, at least – maybe because he was being insensitive and chose to put it on camera like a prick; all her previous experiences with cameras had led to bad places – but, somehow, she felt she could relate to this girl who had been nothing but accommodating to her since she'd arrived. "So anyway, that's the story of how I became Maryland's most wanted."

"Yeah," Madison quirked an eyebrow in her general direction as she stepped off of the platform for the automatic door, trailing past the smaller girl and continuing under her breath, just loud enough to be heard, "And Baltimore's most had, apparently." If she used a call like that, generally it would be a serious insult, but just this once she meant it all in good humour. The expression on her face was priceless nonetheless, knowing for certain her words had been spoken with sufficient clarity when Kyla nearly choked on her milkshake.

"Shut up!" the victim of the unloaded punchline shook her dainty head, going to playfully push her very amused associate away by the shoulder, falling prey to her own somewhat retrogressive characteristic of bashfulness, cracking up in what ranked solely in the league of childish giggles. Anyone who heard or witnessed their gaiety would assume the girls had been close friends for months, at the very least, and to be perfectly honest, they kind of felt as though they already knew each other for a significant stretch of time too. But they didn't; they were strangers, and that was most likely what made this connection possible. Those who knew them were hardly close now.

Automatic doors slid closed in their wake, the veritably empty walk way between buildings resonating with the sounds of their persisting conversation about nothing and yet covering so many different topics, mostly idle, as the situation called for that. Sipping at their drinks as they chatted, a day's worth of aimless, impulsive shopping in hand, Madison and Kyla took up seats around the edge of the fountain, looking out at the closed, packed up market stalls which only an hour or two prior had been utterly swamped with a pulsating mass of bodies passing through there, doing their utmost to avoid both them and the random obligatory people trying to advertise some anonymous cause or charity by handing out pamphlets or pens to everybody entering or leaving the mall. Now it was just the two of them, and that was totally cool.

"So after all that commotion, and my personal mortification, what the fuck did you actually get?" asked Madison, referring to a mini fiasco she had been dragged into earlier when Kyla went damn near mental over an anonymous type of store, buried deep inside the mall, which had been filled with a vast array of scarcely related paraphernalia; crap of all descriptions. On one side of the store, there was all sorts of retro memorabilia like lava lamps and a jukebox with neon lights where it curved at the top, which in itself was fine, but, immediately upon turning her head, she had seen a wall that appeared to be a meteor shower of sexual innuendo from ceiling to floor, with plenty of stuff she never knew existed. She liked it better when she didn't know. According to a later explanation (after she'd gone down the corridor to find something more chic) it was a novelty store, akin to a joke shop, but she'd tried to keep her eyes and face hidden while her new companion went nuts over all the junk, obviously finding it hysterical, while she was in there and hadn't quite appreciated the quality of the inventory.

Snickering, the shorter girl rummaged through her collection of plastic bags, attempting to locate the one from the boutique in question. "To be honest, I have no idea what it is I got." She muttered, her expression vaguely sheepish, suggesting that she might soon be suffering from buyer's remorse. That was a common affliction between the both of them. Perhaps they could attend SA meetings together. "Chances are it won't even matter; I was in an 'I want it' mood. And yes that is an emotion." Tilting her head, she gave her new friend a feigned know-it-all look, triggering a wide smile. Oh yes; they would get along just fine if their thoughts were always so thoroughly shared.

"I agree with you on that one, girl." The cheerleader raised her cup of juice towards the newest addition to the insane, diminutive world she lived in everyday. "I wake up feeling that way day after day after day. And it is a powerful emotion." Dramatically sweeping her hand across her face, she sniffed and put her curled index finger to her lips. Signalling that she felt faint with the back of her hand to her forehead, in the universal gesture for someone about to 'swoon', she sighed. "Hold me!"

Kyla did just that, playing along for the moment, not that it took much effort to catch someone sitting about a foot away from her. Once the drama-club moment was over with, she then allowed Madison to lean on her shoulder while she continued the search for her newly acquired property. "Well, since you can empathise with my pain, then hopefully you'll understand how that feeling isn't exactly conducive to effective purchasing."

Snorting at the understatement of the year, she placed her drink to the side and murmured her experienced and nothing if not valid opinion of agreement. "A-/joder/-men, girl." The grin this elicited travelled through the body her head was resting upon, and she felt it resonate beneath her chin. Now free of burden, her hand brushed against her forehead, floated in the still air towards her stomach, swayed up to flutter over heart and, at the same level, touched her right breast, a well-practiced motion, as fluid as the religion it symbolised. "I am prostrate before the retail goddess; a vestal…anything-but-virgin at her feet." Her hands came together forming the triangle that she'd prayed into for her entire life. "Come, join me in my worship."

Casting a slightly incredulous look to her side, she noted how deceptively pure and calm the young woman appeared, perched upon the edge of the aquatic sculpture's basin. Her back straightened and her knees pressed together, one might actually mistake her for the girl who got the role of Mary in a church nativity play. Knowing better, the descendant of rock and roll royalty gently took hold of her wrists and eased them apart. "Okay, now you're just a little too dedicated to the impulse buying agenda." Sticking out her tongue in response, the cheerleader removed her hands from the other girl's possession, neatly folding them in her lap. "While I respect your opinions and value your interpretation of mall guidelines, I'd prefer not to be seen consorting with extremists, regardless of their commitment to the fashionable and their admiration of the sparkly. But I also get the impression that my particular strain of 'I want it' is a lot worse than anything you've taken home." She shyly admitted, picking out the bag for which she'd been searching from amidst the cluster, limply clutching it between her fingers, refraining from opening it just yet, since she wasn't too sure what was in there anymore and wasn't anxiously anticipating the possibly approaching need to foster an excuse for herself. So, she figured she'd take the safe route and profusely apologise beforehand so as to absolve herself from any responsibility for her actions. "You see, when I start to get hyper, I'm attracted to random novelty crap. Thanks to Lemon, I got more stuff than I have money to spend on! Fuck what their purpose is; it's just pretty funny."

Humming in a manner which suggested a somewhat cautious disbelief was held towards her claims, the Latina tilted her head to the side, lifting her gaze from the store's brightly-coloured name and logo, merged onto white plastic, up to her acquaintance's cute little button nose which belied the sordid nature of her recent history. "Is that what you were thinking staring at the sex section for fifteen straight minutes, or were you just reliving the happy memories?" Madison remarked, prompting her latest acquisition as a friend to utter an incoherent whine and hide her face beneath her arms, still holding the large bag too. Aware that she was evil, and enjoying every second of it, the self-proclaimed mamacita decided that Kyla was far too easy and way too much fun to let slide where clever comments were still innumerable and applicable to the situation as a means of teasing. Besides, she didn't seem to mind her humour as much as she made out either, so it was all good. "Strange child. Maybe I should take this away from you," she began with feigned concern, leaning forward to take hold of the milkshake the new kid had nestled in her lap, "We don't need your shopping productivity being further diminished by anymore sugar."

"Nah!" she pouted, reacting quicker than lightning to yank the treat out of her reach, hugging her drink into her chest, nursing it like she would a child, and turning away from her companion, suckling pointedly on the straw in her mouth. Quite convincingly, she'd mimicked the general appearance of a child who was about to cry. Her bottom lip even quivered delicately, illuminated by the fairy lights that were wrapped around the columns lining the walkway and the lit up windows behind her.

An incredulous stare shot across the popular girl's features, so assuredly befuddled that one could almost see the tangible acronym for 'what the fuck' hovering over her head. Unable to hold her act together when confronted with that reaction, the mask of infantile misery previously manifested deteriorated around her to reveal the true bright grin she'd been hiding all along underneath it. Madison's, however, did not fade in synchronism with her, but she did not fear for a second that it was genuine. "Girl…No…" She shook her head where the words with which to construct a powerful quip had failed her. It succeeded in getting the message across. "Just, just…no."

A radiant grin upon her face, her voice occupied temporarily as she was still torn up amidst much laughter, she rolled her eyes and bowed her head apologetically, also partially to prevent herself tearing up at the sight of her expression yet again. "I know, I know; I'm sorry. I'm lame to the cubed. And that's why I buy this crap and…well, actually, it pretty much explains everything!" turning up her face from the ground, no less bright in spite of her own self-deprecating comments, she shrugged her shoulders in a meek type of dismissal of the whole thing, biting down on her lip to hide the fact she was still chuckling uncontrollably under her breath. She just hoped that she hadn't gotten into a state where literally any mundane word could send her rolling around on the floor like a very, very happy lunatic.

"You ain't wrong on that one." She sighed, placing her thumb and forefinger to her temples, as if a migraine had overtaken her and prompted her into an instantaneous place of dark, unpleasant frustration, but of course, by now she recognised that everything going on between them was done for comedic effect, so she didn't even think to take it any other way than good naturedly. "Girl," the witty Hispanic took one of her dainty little palms between her own, gently keeping it clasped like she thought an emotional breakdown was imminent. "I hate to break this to you, but you are in dire need of some old school ghettofication." Kyla's entire body shook with forcibly silenced waves of chortling and she felt herself becoming not unfavourably flustered at all of this attention and these playful attempts to get her riled up. All they'd accomplished so far was to increase the red flush in her cheeks. "Hey now, there's no need to get upset, amiga!" Of course, she was well aware that her reaction could not possibly have been further from depression, but, if she acknowledged the truth so often, where the hell would she go to get her fun? "Don't worry yourself too much; usually it's skankifying that's the hard part, but you've already got that down by your own self so we can move on and start moving along in the lengthy, arduous procedure you so desperately need performed."

"Okay!" the girl began, yanking her hand away and holding it up to bring a quick stop to the conversation before she got totally lost. The short pause also gave her just enough time to catch her breath and compose herself to the point where she felt pretty secure in the knowledge that she wouldn't burst into chuckles just by attempting to speak normally. "You lost me when you started heading into the E.R. jargon. Now, what the heck are you on about?"

"Aha! See!" A pointed finger suddenly darted in front of her face, reminiscent of a theatrical accusatory movement. "That's exactly what I'm getting at and what I'm here to help you put a stop to!" eyes slightly bugged out with confusion, the bewildered East Coaster timorously reached up to push the fairly intrusive digit out of her face, clearing her throat in a sign of her discomfort. However, and perhaps fortunately – she wasn't sure – this did nothing to interrupt the supposedly important speech of her personal guide to surviving King High. "No more of this 'heck' or 'for the love of God' or 'by jove' shit, you hear me? Maybe you aren't quite feeling me on this but, in retard's terms – no offence, honey – you've got to get yourself a white-ectomy, and quickly! I mean, daaaamn, with your nothing short of brown colouration, you think it would come naturally to you, but the whitey in you is stronger than black in coffee." Folding her arms and hooking one luscious leg over the other, she sat poised as though deep in contemplation. "This could prove to be a challenge, but none of the whack crackers I've dealt with so far have managed to stump the Ghetto Glamour Guru, that would be me, F.Y.I., just yet, so I'll be damned if I'm going to let a chick with too much cream in her caramel be my undoing."

Exclaiming a quick, "Hey!" as the implication of what she was going on about seemed to have caught up to her, the affected party of all this discussion hurriedly pushed herself up, although in all actuality she still wasn't entirely sure that she'd quite gotten the message correctly. After all, it seemed just a tad harsh. "Is all this racial slurring meant to be offending me or something?" instead of a verbal response, her question warranted nothing more than a half-glare aimed directly at her eyes, and that said volumes. She hid the smirk which stretched across her lips at that with an almost painfully apologetic smile and a shrugging of her shoulders. Secretly she thought that getting on the nerves of her unexpected friend – as she indeed might have been, unless this was all an act too, but she doubted that this was entirely a fabrication – was surprisingly good fun, and she kind of enjoyed knowing that lameness was just the right level of annoying for it to stay that way. "It is, huh?" Kyla ventured with a guess that didn't need to be made, modest enough to bow her head when the exasperated expression opposite her only grew more so. Rubbing the back of her neck while she hid her smile from all but her reflection in the rippling water, she chose to keep her blonde statements locked firmly inside her mouth and play along with this scenario, brushing a lock of brunette hair behind her ear. "Yeah, it is. Alright, and the problem with me being whiter than your average girl is…?"

Her dark glare immediately brightened once the interruption was over and done with. She resumed what she had been getting at moments ago. "Girl, I'm not even sure I can express it to you in words. But I think I know how to make you understand. Let me show you the difference between where you are and where, with a little work, you so easily could be. Maybe then it will open your eyes to your own Caucasianicity." Madison stood up from the small cement barrier around the fountain's circular pool, discarding the items she'd picked up over the day where she'd been sitting, keeping her hands and the general area free in order to be certain she could perform at her best. That's what was coming; a performance. "Right now, you're not even here, which is what we would call sad but tolerable." She bounced up and down, giggling and tossing her hair over her shoulder, then she clapped her hands, soon raising one of them above her head as she began singing the theme to The Saddle Club movie for effect. Just as suddenly as she'd started, she came to a stop with a stern look on her face, picking up her lecture where it had trailed off. "No; you aren't even in the acceptable spectrum of whiteness for someone of your age and gender. You're so bad right now, I'd put you somewhere around here." Wide-eyed and seeming uncomfortable as hell, for her next illustration she began an awkward shuffle on the spot, with her arms moving completely out of the rhythm as they went pathetically from side-to-side, her body rigid and stiff. Further adding to her portrayal of the stereotypical white kid who can't dance, she mimicked stumbling over her feet about ten seconds into it, perfectly embodying the Oxford Dictionary definition of a loser.

"Oh come on!" protested the recipient of what she had internally dubbed the 'raceover' as what had been satisfactorily reasonable and even verging on accurate up until that point strayed into outright hyperbole. "I am so not that bad." She advocated in her own defence, and, if she was, then she would be prepared to beat herself up for the fact and despised the people she called friends for not bringing it up to her sooner. But, seriously, she knew she was immeasurably better than that alleged impersonation. "I could totally out-smooth that." For a split second, she considered finishing off with one of the many actions she'd seen the local members of street-gangs around her area use when tempers flared and attitudes went full throttle, but she realised in good time that she'd probably fuck it up or look moronic doing it, to the point where it just wasn't funny, so she protected her dignity with sense.

Raising one arm out at her side for emphasis as to how obvious that assessment was, she gave a 'tssk' and explained her objective behind the entire visual medium of representation. "Sure, maybe on the dance floor you wouldn't move quite this ridiculously, but – duh! – this is an analogy for your psychological state as a honky; your mental processes as a whole, you know?" her words were punctuated by a tracing a circular shape in the air out from her forehead, loosely translating into 'expand your mind' and Kyla raised her hands to indicate that the subject had been dropped. "Where was I? Right. Despite what your darker skin pigmentation tells the world about you, you're coming from this place right here," the cheer captain began to move her feet very quickly, keeping her upper-body perfectly straight, no little or no movement happening above her hips, her demonstration clearly intended to be an imitation of Irish dancing, and a good one at that, halting to point down at the spot she stood in, "And, honestly, I reckon you might still be stuck here. Oh and, by the way…" She finished off with what had been dubbed by trend-setting homosexual men all over the world as the Z-snap.

Insincerely laughing, but unable to hide her ever-present smile, the young woman held up her hands and lamely bowed from the torso. "Fine, I surrender to you, oh great G to the three; I'm Whitey McUptighty." Madison groaned out loud at that in a manner which sounded incredibly similar to the name and title of a particular deity, placing her hands on her hips and turning around, breathing deeply in and out as she counted to ten in order to calm herself down. "Oh, shut up, you meanie! You love me, even if I'm lameness incarnate. Now the real question is what exactly are you going to do about fixing it, beyond rubbing my face in my lack of rhythm?"

"Hold on, girl, I'm about to get to that, but I wasn't quite done shaking it up here yet. If you must know, it's been way too long since I've been able to spend my nights moving to more than just tables and between pissy customers. I'm suffering from a dangerous sass build-up." She informed her student of all things from the hood as she faced the fountain yet again. "See, I can assume that you must have something more ethnic in you than you're showing in your current persona, and your hoe-quotient is through the roof, so I can safely deduce that with a little bit of my /sin/fluence, you might be able to get somewhere more up around here." With a wink, she ruffled her hair, posing in front of the backdrop of neon and fluorescent lighting. "Try and keep up, bitch."

Yet again she abruptly began to move, but on this occasion, confidently, powerfully, but at the same time with nothing short of sheer grace and elegance, purposefully lacking in her other performances thus far, her motions to the beat of the radio blasting hip-hop songs to advertise the brand of CDs for sale in that store, seeming as if a thoroughly and intricately coordinated dance had already been worked out and routinely practices. Was this what the girls did in their afternoons at cheer practice? Because, if so, holy fuck! She'd been hating on the wrong clique; this one was fine from now on. The Latina bobbed and bounced, unrestrained and loving it, her body following one arm to her side, leaning out, then getting the rhythm back into her shoulders. Rotating her entire frame, chest, hips and arms simultaneously, she turned about, shaking her ass. She seemed to be in her own zone, in her safe little universe, where she was utterly at peace and relaxed. This was her medium, her body the glimmering trails of wet paint, creating beauty out of the nothing. As humorous as the occasion that brought it out was, Kyla could see the passion she felt, the freedom in her muscles as she flaunted herself, gallivanting about in the spotlight she called home.

Kicking out with her leg and then sliding down to the floor, she perched herself up on all fours, tossing back her hair with a sultry stare sending the water inside the fountain right up to boiling point, emulating the standard rap videos and trumping them with ease. She crawled on her hands and knees towards the basin's edge and placed her hands either side of Kyla's legs, a smug grin curling upon her sinister face, noticeably proud of the reaction she had visibly caused with her display. Victoriously, she leant forward with the moral of the story upon her lips. "And that's why, regardless of how dirty you may have once been, I'm still the whorethority 'round these parts, 'kay girl? So you don't need to worry about whatever you're too nervous to tell when it comes to me." She smiled, tugging down the front of her friend's woollen skull cap to make sure she was paying attention.

Meaningful though her words were and despite having heard them clearly, she hadn't quite gotten past the overall shock of the whole peep-show she'd just been witness to, and her mind dealt with things one after the other, so the message would have to wait in the queue just a little longer. The thought was important to her, but it got put on hold and had to put up with some cheap elevator music for a minute or two first. "…Daaaamn." She croaked, the whisper getting slightly stuck in her throat. For a moment, she was somewhat concerned she might have pressed the boundaries of what Madison could tolerate, aware that she wasn't about to get a PFLAG bumper sticker anytime soon, but, as with everything else thus far, she took it in good spirits. Lifting the bottom of her hat, she ventured with a further compliment, telling her; "I don't know just what you've got, but damn if you ain't got it going on."

"Aww yeah; I'm down, my soul sister." She bumped her fist against her heart and linked her middle two fingers together to make a 'W' symbol with her right hand. "But seriously," her arms fell folded across the lap of her companion and the glimmer in her eyes softened, no longer masking her authentic self behind a comically fabricated personality, "I hope you understand that all this talk wasn't me being a bitch to you or a sign that I'm trying to make your life miserable." She insisted, a subtle glimpse of worry flashing across her demeanour just long enough for someone incredibly observant to detect. Kyla didn't need to see that split-second of body language extended to the point of becoming imposing there directly in front of her in order to determine her motive; she'd met and been through enough people in her short lifespan to develop the ability to pick up when someone was telling the truth. "Honestly, I have so many other people who are in that spot right now and I don't need anymore." For just an instant, she saw her own meekness reflected in the girl opposite her as she demurely averted her gaze. And she could believe her, even if no one else in that dysfunctional squircle she'd been dumped into the centre of could think of this young woman as a rotund, multi-dimensional human being.

It was pretty sweet of her to show that she cared whether she was okay with this sort of fooling around or not, as she guessed the content could potentially have offended another if she were any less funny. Either way, it wasn't often that people stopped to determine whether their sense of humour was or wasn't compatible with hers, so the thought was certainly appreciated. "Chill, Madison; we're cool." She assured her, leaning back onto her hands. "I didn't get all out punk'd or anything, so don't fret about the massive backtrack every time we mess around at my expense. I'm in on the gag." Shaking her head to dismiss her need to check that everything was okay between them, even wrinkling her nose as if it escalated her level of remaining unaffected, she shrugged and looked directly upwards, a jesting spark gleaming from her iris as they shone with the glow from the streetlights. "Besides, if I ever got on the bad side of you, no doubt I'd get served."

Deviously sniggering under the insulated, fire-retardant blanket of her breath, she raised her evil gaze up to meet that of the girl staring down at her over the adorable miniature bump of her nose. "You've learned your place quickly. That's good; I think you'll do fine here." The girl nodded and, even though she was officially kidding, it was still an unspoken tenet of all her affiliations that she was the one in charge. One way or another, she always confirmed that she would forever be on top. But, for the first occasion in years, she marked her place out without an underlying threat laced across the edges of her subliminal assertion, and that said a lot. "See, you can tell that I like you because I could say all of that to you and it was fine." Getting up from the ground, she continued to defend herself, but it wasn't quite aimed at the only other person who was there to listen. It seemed to echo right back into her head. "If I didn't like you, I'd be talking to you more like this; 'Whore!' and using derogatory terms of that nature."

"And I wouldn't take that as an insult either because you'd be pretty much right on target." She admitted unabashedly, without even flinching or experiencing a single spasm in her skin. In that one moment, referring to a manner of previous experiences that up until that point would have caused her complexion to resemble the hue of a ripened rose, she had shown more confidence and security within herself than she'd been prepared to exert throughout most of the day. How she used to be didn't bother her; it was in the past and she felt no urge to be ashamed of it whilst in the vicinity of someone who had just told her that her former lifestyle would never be a taboo subject. "That's basically what I was." She shrugged, picking up the plastic bag from Lemon yet again as she remembered that she still didn't know what on Earth she was taking back to the Davies' Mansion – which she merely couldn't bring her mind to call home – and, also, her fingers needed something to do.

Madison returned to her former place, sitting next to her and picking up the cup of juice she had scarcely made a dent in since ordering. "Does that mean I get to call you my slut?" she wondered aloud, reserving a coy air of innocence about her. But Kyla wasn't buying it.

Picturing herself being paraded around and introduced to family and associates by the term, she pulled a face that most would describe as 'cringing' at the thought of her own indignity. She was also more than competent to realise that someone like her dear half-sister would never let it die if she ever picked up on that unique frequency she tuned into, which was the key to how she discovered any utterly secret ammo she had locked away in case of an emergency where she could use it and other immensely private details against her. The new comer outright shuddered at the repulsive image of Ashley getting the upper-hand on her. "Please don't."

"Eh, you're no fun." Replied the self-declared guru who had stuck out her tongue like it was issuing a challenge. Kyla accepted neither.

 

Chapter One: Part Two

Sorority

"Heads up!" yelled Aiden before smashing his boot hard into the soccer ball, sending it flying towards the divider splitting the brick wall down the centre. Effeminate squealing came instantaneously afterwards, girls ducking out of the way of his shot. Glen raised his hands, leaning back against the pillar which had been assigned as the goal for this friendly game as he caught the ball and tossed it over to his sister just as quickly as it touched his fingers. Much to the chagrin of his siblings, the injured boy had volunteered for the position of goalie in order to be involved in the game, as it was the only one he could conceivably play, but he appeared to be handling it very well, so they eventually gave up on taking issue with him and got on with the impromptu football. Thus far, there had been a distinct lack of complications, and fun was being had by all.

Spencer, formerly the captain of the girls' regional soccer team back in Ohio, easily circumvented Sean, sneaking the ball around behind her legs and tapping it to the left with her right foot, getting past him without strife and heading straight for the fence on the opposite side. "Woman on!" yelled her team-mate and brother, Clay, as Kyla made an effort to chase and defend by the only useful means she really could due to her lack of experience with this sport; getting in the way and praying she could kick it in the right direction. By the time she got close enough to contest, the blonde had already bounced the small ball against the netted steel wiring, which meant she was now in her attacking court. The pause as it ricocheted back onto her leg was just long enough for the both of them to collide and leave her somewhat trapped after she braced herself against the mesh. This was certainly not the best spot for retaining control.

"Woo! Way to go, babe!" a familiar voice barracked from the sidelines, bringing a smile to her face while she tried to maintain possession, ownership of the court and her balance all at once, holding out in spite of the newcomer's valiant attempts to dig the ball out from her feet, standing impossibly close behind her, all space essentially vanishing in between them as they struggled. The teams were evenly divided between the six players – the goalie playing for both sides so as to be fair – since Ashley had declined to participate in favour of cheering on her girlfriend, a fair cop considering that she didn't do the whole sport thing and was much happier to watch and give her support to what she'd dubbed as 'the awesome team' than she would have been to aimlessly stand around in the commotion, feeling out of place. Besides which, this was as spirited about a freaking game as she was ever going to get, so she resigned herself to the shameful fate of enjoying it. She sat back and watched her friends and those not-so-much scramble around the small area, all intently focused on the action, poised to become involved when it came loose. "You can do it! Knock that bitch down!"

Hoping to speed up the process and get his side off of the defensive, Aiden stepped in to assist his girlfriend, teaming up on their superior opponent, still looking around for an opening. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Chelsea raise her hands, declaring that she was open while the other two boys on field laughed nearby as they competitively tried to mark each other, as amicable as ever before regardless off their opposition. Taking one hand off of the fence to hold the boxer's larger frame just out of her personal space to the point where she could turn her body, she flicked the ball out backwards with the front of her foot, passing to her best friend – and as far as her parents were concerned, future sister-in-law.

Realising what had happened and following the ball with their gazes, the couple from the other team released her from the confined, uncomfortable spot she'd found herself in and hurriedly dropped the pressure as the game resumed. The athletic young man went running out into the paved field immediately, leaving the girls behind and panting for breath, sweat glistening below damp, darkened hairlines. Concerned they might have gone too far, she cast a short, sharp glance to her side at the recovering Spencer, the disciplined, determined expression that she saw there suggesting that she was in a fairly serious game mood and taking this a tad more competitively than the others might have been, although no doubt having fun reliving her favourite pastime in the meanwhile. "Are you okay?" asked Kyla in a soft voice while the proud mathlete tried to steal the ball back from her newfound sweetheart and Glen taunted them both, waving his hands like a matador in front of the goal.

"Yeah, I'm fine." She responded dismissively, smirking as she resolutely followed the game, bent over with her palms resting above her knees. "Good challenge, by the way." The blonde patted her on the shoulder in a show of sportsmanship as she jogged back out into the centre, provoking the brunette to utter a chuckle. For sure, that girl's mind had definitely regressed back to her days as a star forward and her 'in match' attitude had taken over. This was a fact she found rather comical, even if she was the first to realise as much. Just so long as she didn't start slide-tackling the whole lot of them, she reckoned they could all live with it, and she'd be happy to keep joining in the fun.

Clapping emanated from the wooden lunch tables next to their location as the talented striker took the ball out from between the two guys before they had any idea she was coming and, fanning out to the side, she headed directly for the wall. Her first shot at goal was denied by her keeping brother, who knocked it back out into the fray where Clay managed to get a foot underneath it, knocking it up into the air. Both basketball players went to get underneath it, looking straight up and discarding any sense of where the others were around them, a fact which the Carlin daughter was quick to take advantage of. She dashed forward, swerving around the others and pushing down on the dark-haired boy's shoulders, leaping up into the air, using him to gain some extra height, and slamming the ball into the divider with her forehead, clean over Glen's extended hand to score a spectacular goal.

As she landed, stumbling slightly from the impact, Chelsea embraced her from the side and the two began a little victory dance together, bright grins on their faces as they bumped their hips and snapped their fingers in sync. Sean joined in the shuffle as well, despite not being on their team; frankly he didn't care about sides as long as he had a girl on either side of him and he was pimping it out. "Yeah! That's my girl!" Ashley shouted from the bench where everyone had left their stuff, either ignoring or completely unaware of the dark death glare that the curly haired boy shot her way when he heard that. Aiden called for time-off, walking over towards his gym bag and grabbing the bottom of his utterly drenched t-shirt, apparently about to pull it off. "Ahem!" the rock chick cleared her throat purposefully, catching the sweaty fellow's attention mid-clothing-lift as she averted her eyes, hiding them behind the back of her hand. "That stays on and this sprays on." She said, tossing him a can of deodorant she'd grabbed from amongst his gear.

After being initially stunned for a second, he just smirked back at her, catching the tube easily in his cupped palms, dropping the hem of his shirt to do as such. It wasn't often that people complained about him going shirtless, but then again he supposed people had just grown accustomed to it and never thought to make it into an issue anymore. "Alright; what the lady wants, the lady gets. I remember how it works with you." The boy winked at her, tossing the can in the air and taking the cap off when it fell back into his grasp, spraying it under his arms.

She shook her head amidst a wordless scoff and rolled her eyes, unable to prevent the corners of her lips quirking upwards in a sign of the playful nature of this exchange, having missed their special brand of fooling around somewhat since they stopped hanging out as frequently as they used to in the past. Leaning forward, she poked him gently in the arm, all but whispering to him. "You. Insatiable. Flirt." She remarked, pointedly tapping him in time with every word, then turning her wrist over, as if to check the time. "Oooh, it's getting late! Shouldn't you be man-whoring yourself out in the boys' locker room about now?"

Rather pleased with himself for an as yet unknown reason, he merely laughed as he shook the can in his grip. "Nah! As pretty as they can be, I couldn't be with other guys." He replied, concealing the fact that a mischievous idea had come to him moments earlier. "I love making the girls scream too much." He said with a naughty undertone teasing the edges of his words right before he struck. Ashley squealed as he sprayed her with the pungent deodorant and she rolled off of the table to get out of the line of fire, throwing something she hadn't identified in his general direction.

"You are so dead!" she screamed maliciously, taking off her high-heeled boots as fast as she could in order to chase after the fleeing boy, managing to get up in only a few seconds. She swerved around Glen, who was limping towards his bag to self-medicate under the guise of needing a drink, and got close enough to the dark-haired deviant to slap him hard on the ass. Too absorbed in their false conflict to notice much else, they didn't see Kyla leaning against the fence, standing away from everybody else, in the shadows of the building to her left, watching their banter as it escalated into antics of mock wrestling. A bleak expression began darkening her typically sweet and bubbly features, weighing them down with worry. She wouldn't dare admit that she felt jealous, since it seemed completely illogical to be suspicious of what was between her already taken – not to mention /gay/ – sister and her boyfriend, but, overall it seemed as if every girl in this fucking city had a closer bond with him than she did.

Just as her mood was fast heading into an irreparable decline from which no emotional wreckage could be salvaged, a familiar face appeared directly before her, set to enliven and cheer up her glum frame of mind as quickly as it had soured. "Hey, girl." Madison greeted her with a friendly grin. There was a delightfully uplifting demeanour about the sophisticated girl; it seemed to be an ingratiated part of her entity as a whole, and she found it pleasantly infectious.

"Hey, Madison!" Kyla responded in kind, practically jumping on the spot at her perfectly timed arrival and the chance to get out of there precisely when she loathed the idea of hanging around. Realising her undue excitement, she composed herself in the ensuing silence, hoping that her welcome didn't sound too much like 'Oh please, God, rescue me' as was what she had essentially been saying in the various undercurrents of her perhaps overenthusiastic reception. She didn't want to sound especially invested in get the fuck out of there, at least not to the point where one of the others might call her on it later, but she figured that her new best friend was sufficiently well-versed in non-verbal communication to understand that she wanted leave and, hopefully, perceptive enough to make an educated guess as to why.

Fortunately, she figured correctly. Casting a disapproving look over her shoulder at the rabble going on behind her, the cheerleader noticed that the formerly amorous friends were getting into rather compromising positions with one another. That and their activity as a whole seemed to be something overwhelmingly stupid that she personally did not want to get involved in. She had no plans to stick around with the Dysfunctional Brady Bunch and friends for any longer than she could stand to breathe their air regardless.

Returning her gaze to the newcomer, the both of them now absolutely certain that they were on the same page about hastily disappearing, she spoke again. "I hope you aren't too keen on whatever these demented losers are up to, because I am so ready to check out of here right now." She hinted, keeping her voice low and her persona a watery reflection of the sarcastic. "I got myself off of work today and, if I have to waste the day I gave up my weekend for, it's going to be with you and not watching these psychos eye-rape each other." She sneered, apparently repulsed by the simple thought in itself, not even needing to glare at anyone in particular.

With a soft giggle that she hid underneath her fingers, Kyla began to head off back to her stuff, the sharply dressed Latina following her in stride. "You're just jealous because you weren't invited." She quipped, practically singing the words as she teased her. Already her mood had been elevated as if she were on a course of Prozac, and she'd only shown up a few seconds ago, which boded well for how the rest of their afternoon would turn out.

Before she could respond back with an attitude laden 'hardly', a painfully familiar voice had already called out and brought everybody's attention to her – ironically, at the one time in her entire life when she wasn't exclusively lusting for it. "Hey Madison," shouted Glen as he spotted her, his smug, unduly smart-ass tone luring exhaustion into her fingertips like lead weights before he'd even resumed with his pathetic remark, "Care to come and stop by to watch a bit of the man in action?" he asked, a swarthy mix of confidence and delusion oozing from his pores as he held his arms out either side of his body, seeming incredibly sure of himself and convinced of his appeal as a human being. What he failed to realise was that he had none.

Taking a moment to suppress her potent irritation and cover it up with a diabolical fake smile, she turned to face the obnoxious lad, miming the act of searching for someone or something. "What man?" she asked, squinting her eyes as she pretended to look. The popular young woman turned up her hands and shrugged, shaking her head in supposed confusion, playing the part of innocent with the I dotted and the T crossed to within the finest of points. "I can't see a man anywhere. He mustn't have shown up yet." Tilting her head, she looked towards her companion, feigning an emotion somewhere adjacent to helplessness and disappointment. "What a shame. I'm sorry, but I'm in a bit of a hurry and I can't wait around for you boys," her finger lazily trailed through the air from him over to the area occupied by his sister and her girlfriend, both with gazes firmly locked on her, "And wannabe boys to introduce me to this man, so how about you," she once again indicated her despicable ex boyfriend, only this time she held a completely different digit towards him, "Go get fucked?" she suggested with an impossibly wide grin as her hands slid down to rest perched upon her hips, her eyes dropping a few degrees towards a particular part of his anatomy, her brow quirking oddly and most certainly suggestively, her theatrics successful in being noticed by everybody, just like her as a whole. "If, indeed, you can actually get fucked with what's going on down there." She didn't need to hear an audience echoing an 'oooh' around as if passing on a Mexican wave to know that her words had struck a chord that the whole crew was feeling. Somebody whistled quietly at the severity of her jibe, perhaps just to break the silence, although she seemed to garner no discomfort from the awkward quiet. "And I went there and I'm going and buh-bye."

As she waved them goodbye, she and an extremely embarrassed, blush-tinted Kyla went back to their vanishing act, but an interruption cut them off without hesitation. Although she essentially ignored the initial contemptuous scoff, in spite of recognising to whom the sound belonged, she was listening all the while, but held her presence within a plaster cast of nonchalance. "Don't be too surprised." Ashley began, leisurely ambling on over to the two girls in their effort to depart, picking up the soccer ball on the way. "You shouldn't expect her to participate. After all, there's only one thing she likes to do with balls," she said, deliberately tossing the sphere in her grasp as she spoke of that insinuation, "And I don't think this one is going to fit in there."

She froze mid-stride, the words like a physical slap to the back of her head. A cold shiver shuddered outwards from the epicentre at the peak of her spine. "Dayum." Somebody said from the court, the entirety of onlookers completely engrossed in their inevitable conflict. The throwdowns these two beauties got into were always classics and never dull to watch.

Her foot buzzed against the pavement, energetically tapping it against the ground as she tried to hold herself together. She knew it was futile though; she could never walk away from her nemesis, especially not when it meant giving her the last word. Sighing, she opened her eyes and cast an apologetic gaze towards her companion, essentially begging for forgiveness. "I'm just going to be a minute, okay girl? You go and pack up while I take care of a few things." When she didn't immediately cooperate, she all but turned the girl around herself, grabbing her by the shoulders and rotating her before pivoting on the spot and marching back, the face of her antagonist growing nearer and steadily painting a portrait of acrimony. Intimidation was a tactic that envenomed only those whose words could not match their capabilities, so shaken, she was not. And that was evident.

"Oooh! Get your camera phones out," she told everybody with sarcastic elation, spinning the ball around like an avid player, her malice fighting against gravity to set it airborne, "I think she might actually attempt to swallow it. Youtube is going to make you famous for your hobby!" she jeered, almost inviting her to come along and try to reply with some witty verbal gunshot she might be able to outdraw. It was all speed and dodging. Her approach suggested that she had accepted her challenge for a stand-off the likes of which they hadn't shared in around a month, and how sincerely she missed them. These competitive displays of intellect, aggression and moxie; fun was to be had.

Disguising the impact of the blow, if indeed there was any at all, her stride dispersed on the point, recalibrating and emerging from a fine mist as a sophisticated saunter, the game changing irrefutably as each yearned to bring their all to the table in this confrontation. "Wow, you seem pretty comfortable handling that." Madison began, acting impressed, pointing at the object she was idly tossing around, simultaneously commanding the crowd's attention. "And here I thought you'd forgotten what to do with balls other than kick them, as you dykes apparently love to do," She paused for a moment of sadistic sniggering, folding her arms and sighing, "Unless of course you're reminiscing back to the days when you were, you know, human." A whimsical, nostalgic air caressed her tone, a gentle inflection of chicanery all that betrayed her display. "Back in the day, you could never get enough."

"What, like you?" An embittered chuckle left her tightly drawn lips, her head cocking to the side. For a moment, as she witnessed the standoff, Spencer believed she saw the two girls as reflections of one another. She'd never really appreciated how plentiful their similarities were until she observed from a distance instead of being a party involved in the scuffle. It wasn't so hard to see how they had once managed to be friends. Well, it was still preposterously difficult, of course, only just a tad less so. "Sorry babe, but I've never been that pathetic." People around her whom she knew began to disperse or pretend that they weren't looking, whereas the quantity of those who were complete and utter strangers to her increased as if supernaturally detecting that a bitchfest was developing between the experts of light entertainment.

"That's funny," she didn't laugh, neither a bullshit one nor a real one, "But I can think of at least three things wrong with that sentence." Adding imagery to her point, she held up three fingers, quickly reversing her hand so that the palm faced towards her and dropping the ring finger, raising a brow mockingly as Ashley dropped her arms to her sides and bit her lip, taking offence. "Keep trying and you might eventually achieve validity. And if you ever call me babe again, I will cut you." Madison jutted her neck out like a striking snake, snapping her fingers like the sound of breaking bones. "Now, if you're done, then I must bid you 'get the fuck away from me' and please die, you perverted, ignorant emo."

She cut her off before the cheerleader could take so much as a step backwards. Once they got started, there was no mutually painless way to escape this early in the veritable 'whose is bigger' contest. "Oh I am hardly finished with you, my fiendish fellatio virtuoso. But I suppose, if you must go, I can suffer the long wait until Thursday to see you embarrass yourself in PE class rather than watch you trip over your own permanently stiletto-shaped feet today." The edgy, scantily clad girl bounced on the spot, ostensibly perking up at the concept she had envisioned. Looking down at the item in her palm, she hugged it into her chest and began to tenderly – but incredibly suspiciously – trace her knuckles around its curved surface. "Yeah, I won't be mean; I know this game goes far above your superficial little head."

Madison blanched, confusion brutally dragging disgruntlement into her expression by the shorts as the layer of fabrication decayed. "Excuse me?" she held up one hand, resting the other one on her hip as it protruded out at one side, her pose confirming to all – particularly Kyla, who had been all too recently schooled in this manner of things – that the attitude had just kicked up a few notches. "I'm not taking this from a girl who only gets off of her cheeto-covered couch to lick pussy." She crossed the several yards of distance still between them, at long last, getting right up in her face with a glare that could fry the front of the brain in seconds. There was no question that the rock chick's remark was totally unjustified, factually speaking, and a weak attack. Everybody knew who the better athlete was out of the two rivals, as only one of them was ever seen to exert any physical effort in life whatsoever. "Who are you kidding? If you tried to haul ass and rented an ocean liner to help you it would still take five fucking trips, minimum!" A couple of the guys who had gathered around to watch over the course of their collision let out a boisterous 'oh!' like drunken frat boys in a crowd, a few of them applauding the quality of her insult, which they found hilarious.

Tensing her shoulders and wrinkling her nose with an obnoxious, squinted stare, she muttered a magnificently cynical and subtly condescending, "Cute," through her teeth before letting the comment go without affecting her too badly. "But then I guess it'll make it easy – like you – to kick, considering my ass is apparently such a big target." Ashley used a tactic not unlike reverse psychology, suddenly pausing and pouting, encompassed by a worried atmosphere, her eyes widening as a realisation set in. "Unless, of course, this is all talk and you're trying to steam-cook me with all your hot, sperm-scented air." Her delicate jaw dropped open as she crouched down slightly, imitating empathy. "That would be so humiliating for you!"

At the end of her rope, exasperated and so far beyond the point of mere disbelief that it was ridiculous, her hand violently sprang up from her hip and indicated her arch enemy. "Are you…" she began, quickly trailing off, her expression melting like chocolate in the sun, "Oh wait, you are retarded!" she drawled, developing a superior smile in place of the sheer frustration of the previous instant. She tapped her forehead as if everything once so complicated and illogical had become perfectly rational now that she'd figured it out. "My bad. Here I was actually listening to what you said for a second there." Linking her hands together, she leaned in close, nodding and speaking slowly and softly, as if to a fit-prone toddler. "I'll spell this out for you real simple; I'm Hispanic. I can play fucking soccer."

"Well then put up or shut up, the both of y'all!" Sean called out from his location, a few feet shy of the wall, to much adulation from those unnamed faces gathered around the court's perimeter. Everyone wanted to see this go down and, hopefully, escalate into something more than a heated exchange of words. "Don't leave us hanging; you've got to sort your shit out!"

"I'm with him." Ashley nodded, viciously tossing the ball into her Latina adversary's face, although she caught it with pure heightened reflexes. In spite of her gusto in agreeing to the proposal, she didn't actually want to engage in some stupid competition over who could play a dumb sport better. That was not her ideal way of sorting out the victor of this confrontation – cocky physical displays were a method of coping which required far more testosterone than she ever liked in her vicinity. But it wasn't that she gave a damn about soccer or thought she could play it better, because she couldn't; she just wanted an excuse to knock that bitch down in front of a hundred people, and this made for a good distraction. "If you've got something to bring then set it down with all the other piles of crap you try and feed to people." She dared her, hopeful that it would lure her into the web she'd woven in her head.

It didn't. Indeed, the ghetto aficionado appeared repulsed – and she was – by the suggestion. "Did you not comprehend my statement?" she asked rhetorically, each word short and sharp, her unique accent and dialect becoming stronger as she got further up in the other woman's face, pushing her on the collarbone, not hard enough to make her stumble but enough to punk out her enemy and further diss her intellect. "I /can/ play. I just fucking don't play." Madison punctuated her declaration by shoving the ball right back at her, unsettling her stance and hurting her sternum a fair bit more than pride would let her admit. "Good thing too; judging from the line up, it really is pretty queer for a sport, as far as both genders are concerned." One onlooker sounded terribly disappointed that he wasn't going to see a show and started to boo, inventing a quick chant that a few folks joined in with to encourage the girls.

"Queen, please," she waved her hand dismissively, limp-wrist and all, in time with the quip, "You'll feel right at home, judging from all you've said so far." She teased, dropping the ball to the ground, where it rolled against the cheerleader's white sneakers in a taunting manner. Stepping forwards, treading on her foot on purpose as she did so, she spoke at the volume of a whisper into her diamond-esque studded earring. "Just remember, there's no ref in street soccer, so don't go crying for the amaranth card when I stomp your asphalt."

For a split-second, it looked as if she had constructed a verbal response synonymous with utter genius, but if she had, she did not share it. Instead, she lurched forward, bumping their shoulders together, throwing Ashley off balance with the shock of her movement more so than the force of the blow. Spencer was startled, certain that a punch was about to be thrown. Kyla too thought this was the first strike in a fight. But immediately the truth of the meaning behind this action became clear. Her feet still moved, pushing the ball out from in between them, and she went with it, darting around her past her side with the sphere spinning level with her knees. Still stripped of equilibrium, the bare-footed brunette could not turn around in time to see her foe kick the object up into the air, take it into her hands and bounce it off of the back of her head with a loud thump. "Agh!"

The surrounding students let out all sorts of hoots, jeers and hollers, realising that they'd just seen a truly ghetto punk out. "Owned!" yelled Glen, standing amongst some of his buddies, simply glad that the attention had been taken off of him and his personal problems and doing his best to blend in like nothing had happened. Hopefully people would forget. "YEAH!" Madison dusted off her arm victoriously, heading off of the court in her own time, back over to her waiting companion, sensing the defeated, saddened eyes following her progress out of the place. Rather than add to her embarrassment, she kept quiet, holding the spot where she was hit, already beginning to sulk.

"Alright, that was productive." Said the Latina with a dark roll of her eyes upon coming within conversational range of her friend, who appeared unsure of whose side she was meant to be on, thereby playing the neutral card. "Sorry that you have to be related to that bitch. Now let's split before anyone remembers that." She smirked, dragging her off by the hand, only barely giving her enough time to pick up her bag before leaving.


"Here's an easy one, hotshot; 'like a hooker, but smarter'." The cheerleader prompted, quizzing her protégé on some of the guru-approved street slanguage that was on a need-to-know basis – meaning there were a fuckload of words she needed to know – partially to add to her education as a sub-section of the entire ghettofication process, which had become a running thing between the two of them, possibly bordering on being more than a mere gag, but mainly, however, this was a means of making sure they were on the same wavelength when it came to her somewhat obscure brand of communication by expanding her vocabulary to ensure it covered common ground. Friend or otherwise, everyone in her life had to be fluent orators of Madispeak. Her finger lazily circled the small purple bag of beneath her palm, every last one of them at her disposal, as she intently watched the mental process taking place in the mind of the young woman opposite her.

Kyla placed her finger and thumb to her chin, racking her brain for the word which she'd all too recently been told went with that definition. At least, she thought she'd been told; half of the stuff she was asked about in this impromptu mid-term examination was just general terminology she was expected to naturally absorb via conversation or a test of her common sense, perhaps to figure out whether their opinions were compatible. The way she kept staring at her wasn't assisting with the learning process either, by any means.

Hiding this sudden acquisition of ADD without developing the appearance of acting unusual was achieved by focusing on a spot on the far wall, just above and beyond Madison's shoulder, seeing past her instead of looking directly at her. "…Gold-digger?" she ventured when it was all that her internalised search turned up as an answer. It didn't sound too far off, at least. It seemed to fit.

As a matter of fact, it was dead on the proverbial bullseye. Three sharp but mute claps informed her of her accuracy and a relieved smile stretched across the expanse of her lips. As childish as this particular example was, it felt good to be right every now and then. And, as fun as it could be to act more annoying than she ordinarily was, to constantly embody that butt of a mutual joke was nothing short of sad.

"Very good, although you might want to keep it a bit snappier in future." Advised the Latina whilst she dipped her fingers inside the small, plastic pouch, recovering a perfectly spherical, delicious chocolate from within and balancing it upon the very tips. "Open up." She commanded with a nigh devious smirk, leaning over with it held loosely in her fragile grip.

Obediently, the smaller girl parted her lips, accepting the treat into her mouth via a sensuous, succulent bite. In taking the remaining half, still held in the cheerleader's clutches, she used her long, hot tongue to tenderly embrace it from the bottom, drawing the object inside as if she were seduction itself. The sudden taste and texture of skin – hardly unfamiliar – told her that she'd inadvertently licked the hand that fed her. But she wasn't too disturbed by the concept, seeing as she'd done so at least thrice beforehand, and thus was perfectly happy to play dumb to anything having happened, pushing the last remnants of cream and sugar through and onto her flavoursome tastebuds, the two friends leaning back into their seats.

Quietly giggling, she hugged her knee into her chest, resting the heel of her shoe on the chair upon which she was seated. "Not that I'm complaining or anything but…" she cleared her throat and swallowed the last, thick remnants of the food, "Isn't this just…rather infantile for a reward and punishment system? You know, especially seeing as how you're meant to be training me in how to be 'ghetto' and less 'immature' slash lame and all." She tilted her wrists back so as to make quotation marks in the air when they were warranted, letting her arms fall back together, crossed over her shin. "This seems more like slumber party material than booty-queen producing."

"Au contraire," she sultrily smirked, rapping her nails on the polished surface, like a television show judge appraising her performance, "That bite you just took proved to me that you ain't lost none of that skankacity you've told me about. And that's a great sign." Madison encouraged her, sliding her chair around so as to sit next to the girl, touching her on the back with half-joking reassurance for no longer than a second or two. "It may be latent underneath all your lameness, sure, but the whore is locked forever inside of your heart," melodramatic gestures accompanied her speech as she spoke, "And you just need to let it out."

Kyla stared at her out of the corner of her eyes, unconvinced. "Through the mystical restorative powers of chocolate?" she asked with well-natured sarcasm, aware that she was being difficult, but in a cheeky, harmless sort of way.

"No," she waved her fingers to represent the negative, "Through the magic of my foot up your ass if you don't shut the fuck up and get down with this dialect." The young woman threatened with an honest smile, patting her companion on the knee, receiving a nod in concession to show that they were ready to continue. And continue she did. "Alright, now try this one; 'the sexiest, most gorgeous and hottest people on the planet.'" Prompted the guru, keeping her gaze low; she wore a poker face, not giving away any secrets that were meant to be kept.

Idly contemplating the phrase, she believed the answer was somewhat obvious. From each other, they would almost certainly expect the same reply, as they seemed to share a similar taste in dating options, as far as it seemed, at least. "Basketball players." She offered up, letting her neck relax, extending it until she was gazing up at the ceiling.

Suddenly, her head lurched forward as a blow was inflicted on her head, almost knocking her off of the chair, but her feet came down to prevent that. "No! Bad!" Madison chastised her, pinching her accomplice on the arm and eliciting a loud squeal, which attracted the attention of a few people nearby and caused Kyla to duck her head down, trying to hide from invasive gazes, practically curling up on the floor, hoping to turn invisible. "The answer is Puerto Ricans! Puerto Ricans!" the strict mistress corrected her. The playful yelling soon dissolved into a relaxed grin, just as it had every other time she gave the wrong response, and soon they were both in on some joke, chortling quietly. "Alright, that was mean; I'll let you off for that one."

"Oh wow; how kind of you." She murmured sarcastically, deciding which sore spot more so deserved her immediate care, pulling herself up from underneath the table, glancing around for any unwanted stares sent in her direction, and thankfully finding none. "How about you let this whole thing go as well?" suggested the abused party, scratching her ruffled hair, checking for bumps and bruising as she clambered back up onto her seat. "My head is starting to hurt…and I need that to live." She groaned, puffing out her bottom lip in an attempt to win over her sympathy.

Clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth, she sighed as if her heart had been melted by the expression. "How cute." She whispered, fluttering her fingers over her heart and then snatching them back into a fist again. "Fine; no more severe trauma to the head for today," the Hispanic woman hugged her student around the shoulders, "So, how about you tell me what's been on your mind?" she requested, idly, ready to drop the subject if it wound up pushing the limits of applicable topics.

Of course, they both knew what she really meant in that question. Without so much as a fluctuation of pitch or the slightest hint towards his name, the newcomer immediately recognised that she was probing for information on her feelings about Aiden and what had or hadn't happened between them – and Ashley – earlier on, before the timely arrival of the cheerleader. However, she wasn't in the mood to talk of such things; indeed, hers was far too positive. And she wanted to learn more about this enigmatic person who really hadn't said too much about herself since they met. Furthermore, there were a few specific aspects of their lives that required and called for some intrigued questioning.

Feigning ignorance as to her unspoken message, she bent forwards, leaning against the table and resting on her elbows. "Well, there's something that I've been meaning to ask about for a little while." She began hesitantly, cognisant of the need to tread carefully over this issue and be wary of where this was headed. Just like her companion, she would need to be ready to pretend she'd never spoken of this. Taking a shy breath, she lay her head down on the tabletop and looked her in the eyes, her own sparkling in the lights. "What's the whole deal between you and my sister?"

The ensuing silence, though momentary, was thick and the pressure strong enough to shatter glass; Madison appeared not only stunned, but deeply flustered. She hid it, but couldn't stop herself from seeming as taken aback as she really was. Composing herself, she joined her palms and stretched her neck, restraining herself from reacting in an unbecoming manner. "…Deal?" she asked, her calm voice betraying the subliminal threat of rage underlying her tense speech. "There is no deal between the two of us, to my recollection. So please, enlighten me as to your meaning." The Latina damn near growled, giving her plenty of warning that she didn't like the territory into which her implication was straying and essentially telling her to back down.

But now, her reaction reinforced her original belief that her suspicions were justified, and she was prepared to take the risk of finding out what she wanted to know. "I don't know if it's something that used to be, something that is, or something that was meant to be for one of you and never happened, but I know that you have some connection with her," Kyla ventured, gently touching the back of her companion's hand for no longer than a second or two, hardly needing to exacerbate her discomfort, "Beyond your bitch slaps and mutual hatred."

Madison sniffed, developing a tight aching sensation in her forehead, images of Ashley in all her forms rushing through her mind. There was fear too; terror at the idea that somebody might have sensed something she wouldn't even let herself know, what she hated to admit. She would never live with that secret getting out. "We used to be friends," she confessed, letting nothing escape that was too close to her heart, "And now we're not. It's that simple." She pursed her lips, her foot tapping against the floor of the shopping centre. "Are you satisfied?"

For someone who considered herself an expert in non-verbal communication and sub-textual language, she didn't seem to be catching on with any haste. Kyla narrowed her eyes and shook her head, pushing herself upright. "That wasn't what I mea—"

"I know what you meant." She cut her off, looking down, acting as if she were ignoring her, focusing pointedly on her hands. "I don't like what you're implying." The fashion expert made it clear that their conversation was over, and the hesitation stretched into a pause which ran long and became an awkward silence. It didn't take much to figure out that irreparable harm had been done to their previously fun situation. Astonishingly, her cold demeanour began to fray under the wear and strain, streaks across her cheeks disintegrating like so much dried out salt on the beach mid-tempest. Sighing, she stood, having recovered from her prior foul disposition and weaved together a fine shawl of poise. "I should go."

Watching her get up to leave, the East Cost girl realised she had ineptly extracted from her the answer to every level of those questions and discovered that she was far more correct in her earlier assumptions than she might ever have guessed without taking that risk. Denial showed more truth than any tearful admission could possibly have revealed. "No, wait; don't go." The shorter girl said, reaching out and only barely brushing Madison's fingers, which was at least enough to stop her before she'd taken too many steps. She subjected her gaze, timidly becoming submissive of her own volition rather than insatiable embarrassment as she knew she was responsible for bringing up a taboo subject that her friend mustn't have accepted yet herself.

The coloured girl stood there for a few seconds longer, rank with indecision and – dare it be said – insecurity. Then she turned and saw the red tint spread so delicately, such a fine blush covering her tanned cheeks and the naïve shimmer of a watery cloud over her pupils. She knew then she was unable to walk away and resigned herself to that fate.

She sighed, sliding back down onto her chair, her expression still rather bleak, but there was hope for recovery and forgiveness and that was more than most people got from her. "You are so fucking lucky I actually like you right now." She muttered atramentously, although her murky nebula was lifted as she saw Kyla's face explode in a radiant shower of delight, its sparks apparently contagious as she felt her lips turn upwards and a silken laugh escape them. "Okay, so, want to improve your quiz score?"

 

Chapter One: Part Three, Section Un

My Sister; La Moissonneuse…And Lucky Bitch…

Saturday had rolled around with the days in between turning out rather uneventful, at least, by Madison's standards. Last she'd heard, some old friend of Spencer's had shown up from Ohio – she knew this because of a pathetic Glen bragging purposefully about scoring with this girl while she was in earshot – and kept the resident queers busy for the tail end of the week and out of her freshly streaked hair. She and Kyla had kept a little bit of distance between themselves too, intentionally and not, so as to avoid neglecting other aspects of their lives.

The former got busy with work, caught up with her friends from cheerleading and, on a previously free day, got unexpectedly dragged out to do shit with her family when one of her older sisters, who was away in college, showed up unannounced, meaning their prior arrangements to meet that night never happened. Of course, she hadn't wanted to go; she had plenty of other sisters, so it wasn't as if she was missing a whole lot, and none of them gave a fuck about her anyways. The latter had used the time to repair her faith in her all too recently dwindling relationship with Aiden, although the time they had spent together, as he taught her to drive and she taught him to dance, had left her feeling somewhat empty and unfulfilled; he just hadn't swept her off her feet, and it was only as an afterthought that she remembered they were more than just friends. They had bonded, sure, but she just wasn't as into the relationship as she thought she should be. In fact, it completely slipped both their minds to make any sort of intimate physical contact. He had hugged her goodnight instead of giving her so much as an affectionate peck on the lips when they parted.Needless to say, the pair anxiously awaited a rendezvous with one another. In the presence of others, they had missed the interaction only their – dare it be said – new best friend could give them, the comfortable ease with which they bantered, and the satisfaction the encounters always left with them to take home. The few days' break had put into perspective for both girls that, although brand new and still a little tentative on breaching anything too serious or emotional discussion-wise, their connection was presently closer and more meaningful than that with anybody else out there. Via a few phone calls earlier in the day, they had arranged to spend the night hanging out together after the Latina's shift ended, which wasn't too late because she had agreed to take the timeslot earlier in the day in exchange for getting her Tuesday freed up. Cat was only too happy to comply, and when she figured out why she was so keen to fill positions on the weekend, it was too late to slap her head and curse. The place had been packed and bustling with business since the get go, since unbeknownst to the waitress this day was a traditional special event where a mini battle of the bands, of sorts, was held in the club, honouring its humble beginnings as an open jazz lounge, and that meant there were more customers than usual in need of her services.By the time the afternoon rolled around, Madison was exhausted and her feet were killing her and her tongue had grown tired of clucking against the roof of her mouth as she grumbled about being tricked. Fortunately, and to make the time go faster, she had figured out one of the perks to her job about halfway through the day. If she played her cards right around most of the guys in there while she served them, she never had to buy her own drinks.

Before long, between securing a pleasant buzz to cloud her head and practically having to sprint from table to table in order to keep up with the demand for her service, she had completely lost track of the time. Her ears were ringing as the punk and metal band Prophetic Testicles went offstage amidst a roar of loud cheers, the performers shouting their thanks to the audience and raising their middle-fingers in salutation. Honestly, the speakers were cranked up so loud one would think an earthquake had struck, the way the bass pumped through the floor. It had her longing for all the other shitty nights she'd bitterly spent here, where at least she had been confident that she would retain her hearing after the duration of the night. Anyway, amidst the confusing and invasive atmosphere and the deterioration of some of her basic senses, she hadn't noticed that her hours had come to an end a few minutes ago, nor realised that her friend was due to show up soon accordingly. So it came as quite the shock when someone unexpectedly jumped on her from behind."Boo!" the sudden contact and noise startled her quite effectively, almost causing her to drop the empty tray as her body instinctively flinched. Her surprise was temporary, the shock dissipating as she saw and recognised the bright, bubbly face stretched into an impossibly ecstatic grin before her. Kyla was as enthusiastic as ever. However she was a bit lost as to why she had shown up so soon, as she believed it was still rather early. "Hey, what's going on? You're not standing me up, are you?" asked the young woman, jokingly feigning offence as she patted her on the arm and took the sleeve of her outfit between her pinched fingers, looking at it oddly. "Ashley dropped me off, like, twenty minutes ago and you're still in your uniform."The Latina groaned, running her clammy palm over her forehead, exasperated and slightly embarrassed that she had no idea what was happening. "I am so sorry. I've totally spaced out." She apologised, which, for her, was incredibly rare. She couldn't remember whether she'd told her companion the wrong time to show up earlier that day, or maybe the lack of exposure to sunlight, volume and alcohol had thrown her out of kilter. "What time is it?" she muttered, hoping she was allowed to check out and finally get away from this hellhole and have some fun, which was essentially what had kept her going without throwing a huge hissy-fit.

Shrugging and thinking back to the numbers on the car's clock radio, as she didn't have a watch herself, she realised an accurate estimate escaped her, although she figured she mightn't need one. "Not sure, but it's," she was cut off there as the next act started to play, pounding on the A power chord incredibly loudly, forcing her to shout in order to be heard over the drums, "It's way past seven-thirty! I can tell you that!"

She saw the dark brown eyes opposite her flutter shut with displeasure and stress. Regardless of her inexperience at reading lips, Kyla didn't need superhuman intuition to know that she'd growled, "Shit," under her breath as an expression of her frustration. Before the newcomer had enough of a chance to start worrying, her lips had parted and spread horizontally as she began to laugh, somewhere between self-deprecating and muttering 'unbelievable' like a mantra. Optimistic, she hoped this was a sign that her mood would soon improve.

Awkwardly working their way through the crowd of jumping and thrusting bodies, they headed towards the back, where it was at least a tiny bit quieter than standing right in front of the speakers. "You're totally off your head, aren't you?!" the shorter girl asked, leaning in to her ear to make sure she could be understood underneath the shouting, and she was justified in doing so. Madison was tired, hungry, more than a little tipsy, probably more upset than she was letting on, overheated, overstimulated by the sensory assault and sore and she looked it, as well. Her heart drooped with sympathy for the unwilling waitress, aware that she felt totally humiliated by her current employment, but still, she admired her for sticking with it and holding herself with dignity. It might shock others to know that, regardless of her passionate hatred for this job, she had never once outright complained about it – told her it was a crap job and the customers were bitchy, sure, but not in a whiny manner – nor did she demand pity. She respected that. Hell, she had accepted that it was more than respect.

"What?" she sighed in response, not so much because of the noise all around her, but because she was relatively incoherent. But she had heard her, and it just took a few seconds to register. "Oh." She gave an exhausted smile, leaning against the door to the back, and slowly beginning to nod as she became conscious of her own detachment. "Yeah." They headed inside and out of all the commotion, and she almost stumbled against the door as she closed it behind her, causing her to feel just a touch of guilt for impeding on their evening, which was supposed to be perfect and automatically fun, and she was ruining it. She didn't want to ruin it. "I'm sorry I'm so out of it."

"No, don't apologise; it's cool." Kyla dismissed the remorse and concern for her, because she was fine with it. In all truth, she was far more worried about her friend's wellbeing than whether or not they'd be hanging out for the next few hours. "But, seriously, are you sure you're feeling okay? We can call it a night." The sweet kid compassionately rubbed her arms, her eyes wide and caring.But Madison rejected her offer, shaking her head, which was still reeling and pounding from the fast, hard guitars that came in through the walls. "I appreciate the offer, but decline." She took her by the wrists and pushing her hands away, symbolically informing her that she was in no need of assistance. "Trust me; I'll be fine once I get out of here and get some coffee." She practically groaned, starting to change out of her uniform once she'd grabbed her day clothes from where she'd left them, hung over a chair nearby. "And I will feel so much better staying out here with you – and I know you're going to look after me because, otherwise, you're walking home – than if I went back home, where the twins are probably just itching to beat me up, since they haven't all week." The Hispanic girl thought aloud, unbuttoning her top, going to take it off.Transfixed for just a few seconds too long before regaining awareness of her own insatiable modesty, she choked back a squeal as her face exploded into a bright vermillion blush. Her gaze shot down to the floor and she turned around, trying to restrain herself from peeking and hide her own anxiety from the girl getting undressed next to her, acting casual in the most awkward and conspicuous of ways, but too flustered to control her reaction. Chastising herself on the inside, she decided to end the awkward silence before it drove her nuts. "So, uh…twins?" she began, willing her cheeks to return to normal colour and temperature, and failing miserably. "Are they your brothers or something?"

"Sisters." The cheerleader corrected her, oblivious to the new kid's absolutely painful discomfort and too used to changing around other girls to even consider that there was a reason to be shy or overly thoughtful about her state of decency. "All of my siblings are girls, and they're all completely insane." She said with a sarcastically joyful tone, pulling off her top, her hot skin utterly delighted to breathe in the cool air and end the terrible suffocation she had been forced to endure back in the club, the sweat drying and becoming as cold as ice in only moments.

The East Coast girl pulled an expression, empathising with the lack of any familial love towards those who were meant to be closet to her. She'd always felt that way around her extended family, who rejected her mother for getting pregnant as a teen and not being married, and, thanks to her Mom's boyfriends, she was sadly intimate with the circumstances of never wanting to face what waited for her where she lived. "Sounds like you come from a happy home." Kyla felt her shoulders shiver at the memories brought on by the apparent similarities in their situations and, instinctively, she looked back over behind her in an attempt to establish eye-contact and maybe determine if her suspicions were accurate. In doing so, she saw more than she meant to, momentarily having the knowledge of Madison's near-nudity slip her mind and getting a…very pleasant, but abruptly concluded view. "How many sisters do you have?"

"I have six, because my parents are Catholic and want to instil us with a devastating fear of hell by raising us in it." She explained matter-of-factly, already starting to recover from her previous disorientation through the direction and focus the conversation gave her, as well as the general benefit of being away from all the lights, noise and heat of the main club. "It really sucks. I genuinely hate it." She admitted with no hint of exaggeration or anything other than utter, plain, bland truth in her tone, sliding her skirt down her hips until it pooled around her ankles on the floor.

"Are they all like the twins, or do they make your life miserable in other ways?" Keeping her eyes firmly focused on the wall in front of her and trying valiantly not to look in the mirror she'd just noticed out of the corner of her eyes, but that was a temptation she gave into moments later upon seeing her reflection there. Without question, it was an embodiment of the splendid beauty described in epic songs throughout the ages; what artists dreamed of as they toiled over their ultimate masterpiece. As she stood there, watching her, she silently wished she saw this more often when looking into polished surfaces. Now she was far more content to be rather naughty, due to the benefits involved with doing so.

Madison shook her head, smirking with a dark sense of humour at her own unenviable family life. "In every way possible." She mumbled in a manner suggesting that she couldn't comprehend just how much of an understatement everything she'd confessed in this discussion truly was. "My parents are members of the 'kick my ass club' too, so the only one who ever gets in trouble is me." The young woman sneered under the guise of an enduring but humourless chuckle.

It took her a second to remember whether or not she'd heard all of that. Had she been listening? Oh, yes; she had, which helped. /Play it cool; you are not staring at butt./ "The kick your ass club?" she repeated uncertainly, holding herself together as best she could, hypnotised as the figure in the glass bent over at the hips and picked up her clothing. Suddenly, Kyla felt like she was stuck in a cheesy seventies soft-core porn film. The drama club would be impressed with her adherence to the appropriate role thus far. "I don't believe I'm acquainted with that particular organisation."

"Really?" she feigned surprise with a terrific turn of her lips. "They're a prominent part of the community. They have t-shirts, and buttons; I think campaign flyers have been made and distributed to increase external membership beyond your sister this quarter." She joked half-heartedly, maintaining a sort of nonchalance about the entire thing, finding the lead in to a decent analogy after mentioning a key figure in her existence. "Imagine each of Ashley's bad and abusive qualities given their own body." That imagery was more than enough to make the new girl utter a gagging sound and stick out her tongue in disgust. "Scary, isn't it? Now picture having to grow up with each one of them treating you like crap for longer than you can remember, never knowing which one was the favourite but always sure that they all ranked higher up than you in the line for your parents' love." She continued, her smirk faltering half way through her jaded words, her body freezing as she grasped just how deeply she had ventured, only too late to retract her statement.

Externally, her mask had dissipated, not knowing that she could be seen. She seemed a little frail, but somehow she remained strong within the inescapable confines of her fragile frame. And it was a stunning sight to behold. She was exposed, open and oblivious to the reflection of her body being intently studied. In this light, in this other state, she was defenceless; more tragically pure in her perseverance yet seeming so ill held together by the flesh which bound her to the mortal coil that a gentle breeze might just dissolve her into the matter of which she was born.

"Do we have to discuss this now?" She asked, her demeanour ostensibly becoming quiet and more…what was the word? Timid? Afraid? Hurt? Introverted? Self-deprecating? They were all such un-Madison like descriptions. Perhaps that is what uncurled its long fingers and scratched its nails so invasively down her back, or maybe she had just begun to sweat. "My sisters hate me, my Mum hits me and my Dad doesn't give a shit about anything but himself." She summarised, snappily, being rather dismissive and perfectly comfortable with that.Realising that her priorities were way out of sync with her own regular personality, she averted her gaze from the conveniently placed mirror – which she figured must have been there for the performers to apply stage-makeup – and allowed the gorgeous specimen of lust incarnate to change in near-privacy behind her. "Well, I suppose it isn't strictly necessary. But, if you ever need someone to bitch to about your family, you've found the right girl." She said, putting her hands behind her head and locking her fingers together, holding her head still and preventing her gaze from wandering back where it shouldn't go."I'll keep that in mind." Responded the Hispanic woman, stepping into the circle of her short skirt and raising it up over her lean, sleek thighs as she chose to leave that subject where it had landed once it dropped out of the storm clouds and died. "What about you?" she asked, deflecting the disconcerting attention away from herself with a subtle yet effective counter, hoping it would serve as a distraction for both herself and her companion.

"Hmm?" Kyla gave an inclining, questioning tone, wordlessly asking her to elaborate. She nearly turned around, feeling the urge settle first in her arms and travel down to her feet, ricocheting along her spine and raining down through her entire nervous system once it hit her brain. But she resisted.

Madison shrugged, picking up her blouse and putting it on over her tight, glistening shoulders. "You know, girl; what was life like for you back East, in general?" she asked, casting a glance around to where the very tense-looking kid was standing in an almost military stance, causing her to suppress a chuckle that nearly escaped under her breath. Clearly, the newest addition to their demented little squircle wasn't very content to relax in the presence of a half-dressed individual. Perhaps she really was some kind of emotional newborn. It was cute. "Tell me a little bit about you. What was your mother, slash family like? Who or what did you leave behind in MD?"

Beginning to fiddle with the bottom of her shirt, adjusting its edges in an attempt to expel some of her intense energy from her body, she cleared her throat and focused her eyes on herself. "Umm…My Mum is really cool and, considering that she's a single mother with not a lot of income or education, she's done a really great job trying to look after me and take care of me." She said, more than uncertain of the manner of things she was meant to be talking about. Speaking badly of people wasn't often fun, nor did she really have anything specially prepared to make any comment upon about the people she once knew. What was she meant to say? "Before I left, I kind of had a boyfriend, but we never really connected beyond the friendship point, but I think he didn't really get it, so I was actually relieved to be able to leave him behind. Especially because I didn't know how to end it."

Pausing momentarily as a sinister thought shot through her mind, the cheerleader recovered her wits after the opportunity for malicious betrayal presented itself and she inconspicuously continued to button her blouse, filing that little scheme away for later. Depending on how evil or desperate she was feeling in the next little while, Aiden might just be receiving a call from her later on in the week. But she wasn't about to let Kyla know that was a possibility, never mind an idea that she was seriously intending to contemplate. "What about the rest of your family?" she asked, breaking herself out of her less than honourable musings.

"The rest?" she echoed, despite having heard her flawlessly. She was taken aback for a moment, wondering just what she was supposed to say about them, as she didn't know anyone outside of her immediate network too intimately. "Ah, I, errm, don't have any brothers or sisters – aside from the obvious – and, well, I was always kind of treated as the black sheep of the family by my grandparents, my cousins and their parents, so I don't have much experience with them." She muttered, half-rambling to herself in analytical recollection, fidgeting all the while. "It's all just because my Mum was a young, unwed, teenaged single mother, and I think they're scared one of us is going to get into trouble or hooked on drugs or get beaten on by some guy," which had actually happened before, but she didn't particularly want that to get out, "And didn't want us thinking they actually cared enough to let us be a burden on their resources."

"Charming." She remarked cynically, rolling her eyes. "Isn't it just so nice how close and bonded families can still be? And they say those values are dead." The shorter girl, bouncing on the spot in her little corner to the rhythm of the band, let out a dark chuckle to show that she shared the sentiments. Unexpectedly, Madison had crossed the room and placed a hand on her shoulder – making her jump as her skin was very sensitive – having finished changing. "You ready to go?" she checked, perhaps unnecessarily. What else was she doing that was so important?


They'd spent a little time hanging around doing the usual thing, aimlessly messing about in the city before settling down and getting something sugary out to nibble on. Madison had been right when she said that getting out and having fun would clear up her head and bring her back down to earth. The alcohol hadn't completely worn off yet, as it had only been about half an hour, but she felt in control and was adequately coherent, and that was all that mattered. She could handle it better than plenty of others she knew. Some folks had no tolerance whatsoever. She was not one of them.

They were seated on the curb, each with a brightly coloured lollipop in hand as the cheerleader talked about her previous lovers and relationships. "And so then I wound up with this guy named Spencer—" Kyla interrupted her with a laugh, recognising the inside humour in that as an image of the girl who went by that name popped into her head. Madison flashed a grin in her direction, knowingly. "You just wait; it gets better. Anyway, he was older than me and he already had a job, which worked for mini-me, you know, so I was happy to take what I could get. But it didn't last long because it turned out that he was gay." She finished with a minor sneer.

"You're kidding!" exclaimed the newcomer, breaking out amidst an oncoming storm of chuckles and general gaiety. "Oh, that is classic." She subdued herself, shaking her head to prevent her voice from doing anything too embarrassing.

The darker skinned woman inclined her head, showing her brilliant white teeth in a smile. "And the rest is history, I suppose, because the guy after that was Aiden. I thought he might have been gay too for a while, but I was more than spicy enough to keep him satisfied." She raised her brows suggestively, immodest but sweet in her arrogance as she licked the lollipop and slid it into her mouth sultrily.

Still giddy but brought down to earth by the mixture of silliness and sexiness that was their entire friendship, not to mention this situation in particular. Deciding to match her and feeling in the mood for some friendly competition, she slid her own delicious treat into her mouth, making a deliberately sultry expression as she did so, looking pointedly at Madison the whole time. The expression she saw aimed her way in response told her that she'd done something wrong. "What?" she asked, the candy muffling her speech slightly.

Rolling her eyes and leaning over to pull the bright orange lollipop out of her friend's mouth, she had an odd yet comical look on her face. "Do I have to do everything around here?" she asked, waving the lolly around as though she were pointing a chastising finger in her direction. "I'm going to explain this for you plain and simple," she began, pointing towards the item in her grip, "Cock." The cheerleader said, somewhere between a tutorial manner and condescendingly, offering it towards Kyla once more.

Feeling slightly chided already, she refused to play along in accepting it from her, instead taking it by the stick between her fingers. "That's what everything's about with you, isn't it?" She mock-scoffed, pretending to be offended.

"You know it, babe." She winked, pausing for a second as she thought of a correction. "Well, cock and money. That's the entirety of my existence." Remarked the cheerleader quite proudly, seductively licking her lollipop with a well-perfected style and grace. Externally, she was indeed the epitome of feminine sexuality. Not that there was anything wrong with that. Not in the slightest, as a matter of fact; they were both enjoying that very much. But there was still something weighing heavily upon the shorter girl's mind as she began to comprehend just how content she was to sit there staring; something that caused a scene within her mind, disturbing the peace and resisting the attempts of her psychological security to throw it outside. Her face fell, as though caressed by death. "Something on your mind?" the sudden disruption snapped her back into reality, slowly dissolving the hard sugary substance against her tongue as she spoke.

"Huh? Oh, well, yeah; there is." She admitted rather sheepishly, only vague stains of vermillion upon her cheeks as she realised she'd spaced out moments prior. "But I don't think you're going to like it if I tell you."Debating whether or not to pursue the information any further, both arguments perfectly logical and sound, the embodiment of superficiality prepared herself to respond to whatever trivial thought had crossed through her pretty little head in that previous instant in a shamelessly aggressive manner. Her intuition, honed and on target, told her that she was going to be confronted with something the likes of which, if so much as contemplated in her presence by most anyone else, would immediately inhibit their chances of survival thereafter. But, for some reason, this girl was special. At one stage none too distantly in the past, she'd caught herself thinking that perhaps the almost dangerous level of innocence and naivety reminded Madison of how she used to be before /that bitch/ came along. Despite her uncanny lack of faith in humanity as a whole, never mind their morality or intentions, this girl just didn't strike her as being out to get anything more than a friend

...Yet.

"Well, ordinarily I'd tell you to just shut up and not say it if I won't like it," she started, somehow garnering the appearance of being more well-humoured than was actually the case, what with the omnipresent threat of having her flaws picked away at until they became wounds ripe for targeting weighing heavily on her mind at all times, "But you've piqued my interest, so now neither of us has much choice but to know. Spill it." Their recent playful escapades were hanging by a knife's edge above the crevice.

She paused, wondering whether to be honest about the thought in her head, but coming to the conclusion that she had to work all of this out as soon as possible. It certainly helped that Madison was less-than-sober at present. "Alright, now - and I know you're going to hate me for this," Kyla forewarned, speaking slowly and gently as if trying to soothe an untamed animal before administering a necessary treatment that would be sure to set it off, "But throughout that entire spiel, there's someone you didn't mention, even once, and I know there's a lot more there than you're implying." In spite of how carefully she trod, sneaking around the conundrum to save herself the tribulation of being blunt, she saw her friend's muscles tense and her chest expand with a deep inhalation as they both recognised the murky waters into which this conversation was daring to venture. And she didn't like it one bit. But the shorter of the two was not completely intimidated by the way the demonically devious girl was poised, like a snake reared back for the venomous strike. "Look, blow me off if you really want to," she offered, in case a compromise was necessary, "But do you think you could spill on the whole deal between you and Ashley?" she asked at long last, attempting to sound casual.

No matter how she said it, nothing could change the absolute malice and fury that shot across her face at that name, forcing an exclamation from her lips as though it were a nerve impulse or reflex. "God!" the newcomer flinched adjacent to her and out of sight. "What is it about me and your sister that gives you a massive boner?!" growled the dark-skinned devil, throwing her arms down powerfully either side of her body and, like a ripple effect, channelling all that movement through the rest of her form to expel the extra energy that arose in her frustration, though she remained in her spot. For a moment, she physically gave the impression that she was intending to stand up and just walk off to avoid the whole issue and pretend it had never been brought up, but she continued to sit there, swaying and tapping her foot, which was a positive indication about something important, although neither was particularly confident to say what. "Seriously, why the fuck would you even care, anyway?!"

Their eyes met, one mahogany set glaring with the magnitude that could will combustion without a flame, the other remaining blank and giving nothing away, content to feign naivety for their mutual benefit. "I'm sorry. But, you know, I'm just curious about how you went from being gal pals to, like, POOF; mortal enemies. I mean, weren't you like BFF's or something?" she asked, drastically undercutting the depth of what she really wanted to know, but figuring this was an ideal place to start from.For just a split-second too long, the Latina maintained her sinister, guarded stare, calculating whether or not she had probable cause to remain suspicious. Soon enough, she relented, considering that the manner of questioning was not as offensive as she had first assumed, and she cautiously relaxed her tightly drawn lips, facing the city lights, the neon signs and the bustling evening highway traffic once again. "Well, you're not wrong." She revealed mysteriously; a statement which was very open to be twisted and distorted by the ears that heard it. "Your powers of deduction are impressive, Sherlock. Let's just say...as murderous as our hate for each other is now," there was a puzzling sigh here as she surely but silently reflected on her past and its mistakes, "That's how close we used to be, before I figured out that no one, not even me, was exempt from her...fuckin' wrath." She muttered, externally torn between nostalgia for the good times and an insatiable urge for revenge brought on by the immeasurable insult and injury that she had sustained at their end.

Still not getting where she was hoping to wind up by the end of the night, Kyla tried to dig deeper, her disposition adjusting to become akin to the counsellors she went to every couple of weeks as was a condition of her father's will. "But you guys act like the quintessential opposites of one another." She stated her hasty observation with squinted eyes and a tilt of her head. "So - unless you're both the same as ever - how could you have honestly changed so much?"

"How the fuck should I know, girl?" Madison shot back snarkily. "I don't know, nor do I care, what your beloved sister is like now but as far as I know she's thrice as slutty, bitchier than ever before but deluded into thinking that a lack of popularity and a taste for pussy makes her a better person somehow! Idiots like you and The Carlin Club might buy into it but the Ashley I know is a pathetic junkie, a selfish attention whore who makes everybody's lives miserable for her own amusement!" she snapped, a long time of pent up rage, hurt and unspoken truth coming out as she'd never admitted.Watching as the cheerleader turned her infuriated gaze away and popped her lollipop back on top of her waiting tongue, drawing it slowly inside, the newcomer began to grasp the severity and sincerity of the conflict between them. It was obvious that the complications which separated them and prevented them from becoming what could have been - whatever their potential actually encompassed - was more than shallow reluctance due to appearances or homophobia. Ironically, she suspected that this might make her shell a lot easier to crack.

She wanted to open up. Whether or not she realised it, on some level, she desired to confess. And that was clear.

She sniffed, encountering an unforeseen loss for words. It was difficult to reconcile this new information from a peripheral source with the situation as she was assimilated into it now. "Maybe you don't know Ashley as well as you think you did." Kyla tried, not entirely sure why she was vouching for her sister, but doing so in good conscience.

"Don't fucking give me that." The waitress hissed in response, almost as if she were offended by that timid suggestion. "I know Ashley better than anybody does. You know why? Because I fucking became Ashley!" Madison insisted, emphasising those words with a heavy downwards pointing gesture. "Right now, I am essentially the exact same person that Ashley was last year. Don't think I don't know her, because we're the same." The unwitting insult fell wingless to the floor, a bullet hole in its brain.

There was a pause as the drama student cleared her throat and lowered her head, declaring her shame and stupidity in surrender. "Fair enough." She conceded; after all, she didn't really know anything about anyone in this fucked up little scooby gang that she hadn't needed to be told. There was plenty of open space in those personal accounts to be filled by error and bias. Nothing could be viewed undisputedly as fact just yet. "Maybe this is an overwhelmingly simple equation," she began, bravely endeavouring to reinstate their possibly neurotoxic conversation without sounding like a complete dickhead in the process, "And I'm just blind for not seeing it sooner, but it doesn't seem right that two girls who were so recently att-" realising what intended to push its way out of her mouth in speech before it came through, she shut her lips tightly and bit her tongue, preventing herself from saying anything that would not only voice her controversial theories surrounding the antagonistic duo but royally roger her scheme to get her to open up unwittingly, "/Acquainted/ could do such a one-eighty and turn into the antithesis of each other. Unless you guys always had a kind of rivalry going on and it was the same basic deal from the beginning." She suggested. "Like a...self-destructive friendship."

Calming down in an effort to preserve whatever wavering dignity she still had left after her outburst, Madison leant back in synchronisation with a gentle exhale, lying down on the deserted pavement with her hands folded underneath her head as she reflected. "Not at the beginning, but it essentially got warped into that." She thought aloud, although not giving off the impression that she particularly viewed it as a bad thing. "She always sort of had it in for me, I guess, just like I was always ready and willing to give her a little stab in the back every now and again." She punctuated this imagery with a sharp illustration of the action involving her lollipop as opposed to a blade. "But it wasn't serious." Her face began to droop, melting in the soft Spring evening, not deceiving a single soul about the agony of her defeat. "At least, I didn't think it was meant to be; I'm still deluded into thinking she never aspired to hurt me. Can you believe how retarded this all is?" She sneered in a self-loathing hiss, shaking her head and facing away, staring further down the desolate street.

It was like she had failed to maintain her awareness of Kyla's presence there, as though she were simply rambling on to nobody but her own mind, sorting out the issues from a time long past but never quite forgotten. For a second, she wondered if she was pressing the interrogation too much.

The poor girl; she was so beautiful and yet so fragile once the extroverted surface was carefully whittled away until just a fraction of her soft interior was exposed to the harsh forces of nature waiting outside for the moment to strike. Caught up in an internal monologue, the likes of which would make even the most cynical theatre critic begin to moisten below the eyelids, the new girl wondered why she had even brought it up in the first place. What did she want from this many-faced woman and how did this angle of approach help her gain it?

The immediate option that became known to her was by far her moral preference; peace of mind. However, it wasn't like she could set Ashley and Madison up in an off-shore paddleboat and expect everything to untangle itself if she admitted she less-than-hated and more-than-liked her. Was she simply doing this to give herself a more optimistic chance with the veritable rubix cube of a conundrum that was this dark-complexioned girl? Perhaps. No. She refused to think of her motive as being so selfish. She was only trying to help, was all. Certainly. That sounded reasonable. Quite. Indeed. Yes. That was it. Nothing more. Case closed. Period.

Suddenly, it was as if Madison had finally become privy to the fact that she had been the other half in an actual dialogue this entire time and said too much in the process, and thus she shot up, glaring at the newcomer as though slapped. "Wait! Why the fuck am I telling you this?" she muttered, undoubtedly presenting a golden opportunity on a silver plate to her companion which would certainly leave her violated and used. Experiencing a panic and a sudden wave of nervous energy, she stood up and Kyla followed her action almost straight away, touching her on the arm in an effort to spark their previous connection only to have her hand swatted away like an insect. "Step off, cunt!" the Hispanic woman growled ferociously. She wasn't walking away from her issues; she just needed a second to clear her head and, utilising her new found mobility via pacing, diffused some of her anxiety into the ground, however unsteady she was on her feet due to a mix of alcohol and sudden disorientation.Irrespective of this truth, the shorter girl wasn't conscious of any of that and, feeling more than slightly rejected and for good reason, persisted after her friend. "Well excuse me for wanting to freaking know something about my sister and for actually giving a damn about what's happened to you before!" She said, rather hurt herself by the manner in which she had last been addressed - not to mention its implications - and not quite so reluctant as she would have liked to use emotional blackmail, even though she believed her presently distant companion was too smart to fall for that. Slowly, the born-again virgin stepped forward, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders. "Besides, didn't you say you'd give me the low-down on all this insanity?" she reminded her, as, of course, she had promised to do so whenever the need for some guidance arose. "Well, it sounds like you're the best primary resource on this too.""Well what am I supposed to tell you, girl?" asked the cheerleader, rhetorically, calmer than before although her voice betrayed the extraneously hidden sadness which now had her inconsequential emotions overcome. "Ashley used to be exactly like I am now; she's probably just as bad as ever but with a worse taste in music, a car and a high likelihood of never getting married in this country." She explained, her eyes shifty as she unwittingly leant into the shorter girl's gentle embrace, rather than in the direction both had grown to expect from her on this occasion. "The end.""Alright," Kyla started off steadily, facing her faded, translucent reflection in the store window opposite them, getting a third person perspective on their intense discussion and a visceral visual language with the clarity of the likes of which she failed to attain while standing within the closet possible proximity to her, their bodies' heat entangling, intertwining and becoming one as they stood there, "But if it's really that straight up and down and you're sure that you don't care then how come you're crying?"Her breath faltered. Silence. A tear dripped down her cheek and landed on the shorter girl's shoulder with an impact synonymous to a detonation of dynamite; it was so loud in the void. Had her walls really come crashing down so easily? If so, then she knew there was nowhere to hide. Her only conceivable option was running, but she couldn't leave it there; not while there was so much open to interpretation and not enough trust to hand her such a powerful weapon with which attack was assured to occur. While her mind still struggled to cope with the threat she'd left herself exposed to, Madison hurriedly wiped her eyes, some unconscious, naive part of her hoping to destroy the evidence and set back the clock, but her closest companion gently took her by the wrist and stopped her.

The moment was tense between the two of them. At least, it was until those slender arms were quickly shrugged away from the contact they once had with her body, caught between the demeanour of a wounded animal and an aggressive beast cornered but not ready to lay down and die. Her vision blurred somewhat when she moved, although the cause was no longer discernible. "What do you want from me?"Of course, the answer to that question remained only an estimation for the both of them. "It's okay, you know." She reassured her with a tender smile, pretending that there was nothing out of the ordinary in front of her eyes; acting as though there was no image standing a mere foot or so apart from her that she prayed to have preserved in her mind forever so that she could have it engraved upon the retinas of her departing soul when she died. None of that. "Whatever you have to tell me, don't worry about it. It's fine." The new kid, attention still firmly locked on her companion, took up a seat on a nearby bench, spinning the sticky lollipop in between her forefinger and thumb. "I'll just sit here and listen to whatever you feel comfortable spilling today." She proposed, placing the candy between her lips and sucking up the flavour contentedly, though in silence.

At long last, her diabolical plot to provoke her dear Californian friend into opening up about her past friendship was successful. One word at a time, she managed to tell Kyla the stories that re-ignited her hatred every single time it began to diminish over the last few years. By the end of it, she had shared several tales, including: how Ashley essentially tricked her into losing her virginity to a guy she didn't know and called her a whore the next day after the guy paid up to the rock chick for her help in getting laid by the cheerleader; how she would take things from her parents' or her many sisters' rooms when she visited and hide them amongst Madison's stuff, purposely doing all this with the intentions of sparking a conflict that would get the innocent victim beaten up, as she quite frequently was even without such a reason; how that bitch had seduced Aiden and got herself pregnant in spite of the fact her supposed best friend had been vocal about her liking for the aesthetic jock for years and was even a few weeks into practically dating him at the time; and how it had hurt her so deeply that she thought all oxygen had been drained from her vicinity and her lungs were about to explode from a lack of air when she was told face-to-face that Ashley had never liked her and didn't care about her beyond personal gain.

It was all a lie, but fuck if it hadn't meant the world to her at the time. For her, nothing more than heartache had surfaced out of their friendship. Her stories said as much of the treachery that had contaminated her soul, never mind her view of the world and others, as they did about the individual who really meant that overwhelming amount to her; enough that she just couldn't get over it. Indeed, the answer her curiosity had lead her to seek was now obvious, and finally within reach of extraction.

Groaning out the lingering threads of exhaustion, the cheerleader massaged her temples and brushed her hair behind her ears. "Seriously, if you gave me enough time, I could write a book about all the shit she's done to me." She mumbled, near incoherently, her eyes red from all the emotions the memories had excavated from her stony heart. "I'm glad you're not like that; she must get it from her mother's side. It wouldn't shock me, knowing her, either."Kyla took the lollipop out of her mouth, enabling her to speak once more as she had not done since permitting girl at her side to take control of the steering for a while. "You get hurt a lot, don't you?" she asked quietly, wondering how to carefully tread around this last, treacherous step. The Latina nodded wordlessly, as it was the case; everyone who mattered to her used her to get something and abused her because they felt like it. "But no one's ever hurt you quite as much as Ashley, have they?"

Senses and warning signals clicking into place in the back of her head, which she raised here, alerted her to the loaded trigger that was waiting to be fired and was dangerously close to being engaged. She narrowed her eyes in a display of suspicion. Madison prepared herself for all the different, personal questions she might be boldly preparing to ask and lined up an arsenal of clever, witty comments she was likely to require in case a snide, bitchy retort was necessary to dismiss all of these...unsettling insinuations. The last thing she needed was to doubt herself, but that was exactly what she was being made to do here, on this night. "Where are you going with this?" she murmured demurely, collectedly, more like it was a statement than a query, though. This wasn't an implication that she was pleased to be confronted about.

Unsure of how to go about this without utterly destroying any opportunity she still had to make the truth mutually known and keep their friendship in tact, the shorter girl took a deep breath and avoided eye-contact. "Now, do not answer me straight away, okay? I want you to think about this for a little while so that you really get the truth all sorted out and will know the honest to God answer..." she trailed off for a moment, fidgeting in her spot, "Even if you won't tell me. Do you promise that you'll just let this sit with you?" She sounded extremely serious when she spoke and her hastily constructed demeanour and stare fit that description as well, to the point where all Madison could do was nod in agreement, regardless of whether she expected to hold up her end of the bargain or not. This was it. This was the moment of courage and bravery where she tested the limits of everything this poor girl was utterly terrified of accepting. How deeply did her hatred and apparent sheer disgust run? If it wasn't all a show, she was in trouble; that was for sure. "You're attracted to Ashley, aren't you?"

That was it. That was what she was so afraid to hear, but the question had been inevitable, and no clue had lead her to think otherwise. But that wasn't the end of it. There was a terrible dilemma ahead of her now that it was out in the open, and she wasn't sure how to play off of this delivery; any opportunity she had to deal with it had been robbed from her feeble clutches and that left her in a place synonymous with emptiness. Her comfort zone couldn't conceivably have been further away. Indeed, regardless of whether or not this was a warranted exercise, she would be pondering this equation intently for quite a while.

And ponder she did.

What else was there to do? What long-buried secrets would her introspection uncover? Would she hide them away where no eyes could ever touch them?They didn't say a word to each other beyond simple answers from then on. Their playful banter had disintegrated, perishing in the arid maelstroms of dust that tried to blow away the lies she fed herself through an IV tube every second of every minute. Eventually, the silence was broken. However, it wasn't until hours later when they were finishing up, heading back towards the car.

"Yes." Madison whispered, her soft voice quieter than the wind that had stirred up the dust along the sidewalk on the other side of Grey, where the carpark was. A car alarm had been set off around the time of their sombre approach, though, so her already tenuous response was consumed by the night that gorged itself on her misery."I'm sorry, what?" the young east-coast girl said to show her confusion, prompting her to give a little more away. Even if she had heard her, she would have needed more information than that as to what her affirmation was referring.

The darker-skinned woman turned her head to face Kyla, staring her in the eye, a deep sadness and vulnerability radiating from her core to her extremities. She thought she saw her bottom lip quiver, but she couldn't be sure that it wasn't a trick of the flickering street lamps. "You were right." She confessed, not giving away anything more than that and stopping in her tracks on the path, conveying more through her eyes in that single instant than most people said or wrote collectively in their entire lives. And the message got through. She'd made her decision and answered the all-important question truthfully. They both knew.

Realising as much, her slender arms embraced the deceptively strong girl whom she had forced to come to terms with something that...well, it meant everything, in more than an hyperbolic sense. Madison accepted the hug, leaning into it but standing rigidly, uncomfortably, awkwardly. She refused to show anymore weakness when she had already bared her neck to the blood-tipped fangs of betrayal that could so easily break her if they decided to bite, but she was in a completely different game now than the one she was used to playing, so she was in a position where the tactics she normally used were impotent. Pushing her away didn't appear to be an option, which threw the whole fucking toolbox into the works, never mind the spanner. Only one aspect remained constant.

If Kyla shared any detail that she had confessed to her on this night, she would fucking kill her.

 

Chapter One; Part Three, Section Deux

An Essential Evil or I Don't Want To Know (If You Don't Want Me)

The room was impossibly quiet. It was undisturbed like a still frame, wrapped around them like a tapestry woven by Morpheus to lure them into his domain, suspending their disbelief of everything which, in hindsight, would appear ridiculous. Intangibly, a gentle breeze, like a puppeteer, lured the curtains into a wonderful dance where the windows were left ajar, exposing their narcissism as they swirled about and posed ever so delicately, craving admiration. For the two girls who stood in the familiar place, it felt so long since they were last within this distance and safe from the danger outside that they could scarcely believe they weren't still divided by some invisible force. It felt like a first meeting of strangers who dared to take the risk which could mean everything during the night, and nothing when the morning broke.

Of course, it would never mean nothing; Spencer couldn't. And that was a terrifying concept. But fuck if it wasn't the most incredible experience of her short but fast-paced life.

"You have no clue how much I've been looking forward to this day." Ashley said whilst gently caressing the long strands of blonde hair that fell down pale cheeks, brushing them behind her ears to prevent them obscuring the sheer magnificence of her beauty as the curls naturally seemed to do. "Although I really hope you do, because, you know, self-esteem boost." She added, comical as always. "Since the first day I met you, I've wanted this; you and I, alone, without anybody else to get in our way, nothing more to think about except the time we're spending as 'us'."

She sighed, cupping the skin she had unearthed from beneath the golden veil. It was so soft; she feared if her fingers pressed too hard they would sink into the supple flesh, so tender it was, and mar the rosy exterior irreparably; a sin she refused to commit. They trembled there, quivering digits hovering in the atmosphere. In the pause she swallowed, drawing in her hesitance, despaired should it come out wrong. She never spoke like this. It was frightening, and she never felt more vulnerable than when everything seemed perfect; that was a prelude to disaster, if ever there was. She'd reached her final straw of tolerance, sick of having to wait for something else to come along and ruin her happiness. The fact was undeniable; she didn't trust the world to allow content, so she'd fuck up perfection personally if it meant beating the infernal wait for something to go awry. She couldn't be heartbroken if she was the queen of hearts. She couldn't keep falling back on old habits; she was ready to grow out of it.

"Whenever we get close, someone always comes in and fucks it right up and, even when we're simply trying to be, we always have to worry, you know? Something's always happening and someone's always stirring up shit that we don't need. Love is complicated enough." She shook her head, sliding her touch down over soft denim from her lover's shoulders, past her chest, holding onto her waist like she were a delicate flower. "It isn't fair that we have to catch our moments quickly and rush them because they might only last a minute before another issue comes along to tear us apart. Which so isn't going to happen; I don't know why the powers-that-be bother because we are /so/ Xena and Gabrielle. We can't not be together."

Ashley rolled her eyes with that smug but charming scoff, causing Spencer to quirk her lips in a smile, brighter than the ambiguous mask she had been wearing up until that point. Her feelings were an enigma. She wasn't grinning, wasn't frowning, but certainly wasn't blank. Clearly, she was listening, but, in her eyes, she couldn't quite detect any reaction, which was odd. Usually she wore her heart on her sleeve. Now, her thoughts could have been in another dimension. In spite of her curiosity, she kept talking.

Rubbing her porcelain hips with the pinnacle of adoration painted across her face, she spoke. "But none of that is here now, is it?" the heiress smirked, being hugged by her girlfriend loosely, her warm hands slyly lingering beneath her top and stimulating the skin she found. "All I see is you and me. And no, my peripheral vision is not damaged; that's exactly how I've arranged for it to be." Averting her eyes downwards, then once again swerving her glances aside when they landed on a particularly carnal region of the body, she squeezed her just a tad tighter to make sure she had an attentive audience for this key moment. "This is ours; this whole weekend is one of undivided devotion from a certain sexy millionaire girlfriend of yours. Consider me your willing slave. We can do whatever you want; spend it however you please." Timidly removing her grip, she looked up and met her gaze. Getting her message across was the crux of crucial. "Really, I want to make this special for—"

Her promises were muffled and cut off by a passionate kiss. And there was no complaint. Indeed, quite the opposite. She always knew that slavery couldn't be as bad as her history teachers made it sound.

As one, they drew each other into a heated embrace, the contact they had desperately sought for so long finally igniting that mind-numbing rapture which, in its absence, almost drove them into a frenzy. The faces and bodies that they knew so well yet had been forced to study by sight were read like Braille; through touch. So quickly, their hands and lips travelled across vast planes of heaven, or perhaps they were just dazed by the overwhelming thrill of young love, for every microscopic flicker they felt seemed to excite their stimulated skin in every place, no matter how far it lay from the source.

Suddenly, the pale, white palms which had guided Ashley's eagerly roaming hands to rest behind her torso were lifting her up and carrying her over to the bed. As her gorgeous girlfriend mounted her, a husky growl was torn from her lips once those that were ravishing her roamed down past her neck and showered her breasts with fevered kisses through the fabric that enveloped them. Her stomach was swiftly catapulted into the realm of bliss by the gentle caresses of fingers which peeled her tight, sweaty top off of her spectacularly sculpted belly, exposing it to the cool night air and the infinite warmth of her lover. The heady scent of desire enticed her further, filling the atmosphere with the effects of her so very amorous ministrations; arousal fuelled by its own raw sexuality.

Enjoying the reactions she could successfully achieve for the writhing beauty beneath her, Spencer continued to touch and tease with her skilful fingers as her tongue trailed up to a brunette hair-obscured earlobe, luring it into her teeth before she growled out her lustful demand, before descending on her once more. "I want to make love to you; hour, after hour, after hour." She knew exactly how to spend this precious night. And it was only just beginning.


The darkest hours were not yet at a conclusion for the other pair of girls either; the emotionally spent but inexorably bonded duo headed back to the occupied mansion with haste. Kyla had convinced her that staying the night at her un-home, awkward as it was likely to be, couldn't possibly be worse than what she'd face if they crashed at Chez Duarte. Too scared of the consequences of disagreeing (hoping to gauge her trustworthiness and preferable methods of self-preservation and operation while she still had the opportunity too) Madison conceded and drove to a house she once called her personal hotel. Besides, she only had enough energy to make one trip that night. She had worked out the way she wanted to die, and it wasn't behind the wheel; some teenage drink-driving statistic.

The sleek, expensive vehicle – cars, of course, one of the few possessions a person could own that exuded sexuality – rolled into the veritable country road that was the grand dwelling's driveway. In the thick silence, the unmistakable sound of wheels disturbing gravel was as cacophonous as a burst of lightning echoing inside of a canyon. Needless to say, after taking that irreversible plunge into a seemingly necessary truth, neither had been certain about where they could go now that they had already said in excess of too much. But, then again, the poignant tension threatened to ruin them, should they fail to work out how to conquer its hold on them.

What was the greater risk; blindly doing something, or surrendering to inaction? Both were powerful forces that destroyed futures and altered the course of history, quietly toiling behind the scenes and running the sentient universe. Life was 4% luck, 1% talent and 95% doubt. And that was how everything – or nothing – happened.

Even as the car began to slow and found a suitable place to park off of the main strip, the girls continued to do exactly as they had done the entire journey. Madison's concentration was exclusively focused on the task of driving, her eyes firmly locked on the world beyond the windscreen, her demeanour just a little too calm, just a little too quiet, just a little too content about what had been forcefully extracted from her soul, and it left the electricity in the car's atmosphere static but building. Kyla was now accustomed to waging this internal war over whether or not to dare provoking the woman behind the wheel, her mind quietly whimpering that she had bothered her enough and that some recovery time was in order but her heart persisted otherwise, belligerently.

'/Do it!/' the little voice in her head demanded, causing her to open her mouth as she initially was swayed, preparing to say something, though she wasn't sure what, but she resisted, her tongue and teeth together again, adamant to preserve their friendship. '/Talk to her, you jerk!'/ She wasn't convinced she wanted to, audibility all that separated her from sulking aloud with distress. '/Make sure she's okay with all this, then close the deal!/' In the psychiatric community, it is normally considered to be a very bad thing when one doesn't understand the meaning behind one's own thoughts, but she wasn't particularly certain that she'd like it if she knew what that was aimed at, so she enabled that last part to seep out of consciousness. '/Don't you dare ruin this! You cannot let her pull away!/' It was only in situations like this that she remembered how annoying she really was. Fucking conundrums and their fucked up…fuckery.

Luckily for her, because it just wouldn't have happened sans catalyst, she didn't need to build up the courage to start things off. Two deep, analytical eyes had been staring into her petty, nubile, supple soul for about half a minute without her noticing, and she'd figured out as much as she cared to within the first several seconds of glare. "Yes?" she prompted, something caught between cynicism and weariness condensing from her vocal vapour in the dehumidified air, perching her fingers against her gorgeous cheek, her first class poker face in action at the table.

She felt a droplet of cold sweat run down the back of her nervous neck at the sharp interruption of her internalised argument. Now there might indeed be no escape. Had she been caught mid-thought? "What?" she asked in a mutter, veiled within a shell of innocence, rubbing her hands together in her lap and averting her gaze. She was half expecting that her expression had betrayed her own secrets, but she wasn't especially keen to start any conversations before she had come up with any neutral ground on which she could base the mood and hopefully wind up somewhere that she felt comfortable to tread.

A somewhat snide smirk that had become rather complacent in its location settled upon her lush lips where it was happy to stay. "You think I haven't figured out by now the look you get on your face when you're about to invade my privacy?" Placidly, she reached over and touched her on the hand, instigating the desired level of eye contact and unknowingly making Kyla's heart-rate increase by 33.23298% and causing her palms to become slick with sweat against the leather interior. "Well, ask away."

While the Latina was well aware of the accusatory anger that had played dormant as she steadily gauged the danger, no one else, with or without the aid of special equipment in the category of the police polygraph, would have detected anything beyond the vicinity of benevolence. The last time this aspiring actress had something on her mind, it led to the exposure of the most humiliating and ironic fault she possessed. Optimism was no longer an option.

Of course, she didn't actually have anything to say, although by that point Madison was far too suspicious and lulled into the rhythm of the interrogation to believe that. Shrugging lightly and feebly attempting to disappear into the side of the vehicle, and unsurprisingly failing, the now less than courageous young girl stuttered under her breath. "Well, you know, I was just wondering what was on your mind." A shrill silence filled the atmosphere of the car, existing in a continuum of another dimension entirely. "It seems pretty intense whatever it is." The slight pressure of manicured fingernails against her skin did not yet abate so she knew she hadn't quite phrased it correctly, not to her liking at least. Clearly she didn't have the patience to take hints or put up with this soft-stepping, sugar-coating bullshit, too wary of doublespeak luring her into saying something she'd regret, again. "What are you thinking about?"

The contact slowly departed from her pretty skin, sliding across the gearstick and steadily back into the fabric-enshrouded lap where it belonged. Her long hair danced in the wake of her turning head as she shook it in a manner that communicated how she wasn't shocked by anything anymore, and probably couldn't be. "The same thing I'm always thinking about." She sighed, pointedly allowing her longing stare to drift towards that all too familiar building and up to the window where she knew her veritable doppelganger, her opposite, her obsession would be sleeping that night. "What was your guess, genius?" She asked aggressively, sending one of her sub-happy, pre-harsh honesty looks in the other girl's direction at the same time, and her frustration was obvious underneath her mask of contentment; she wasn't even trying to hide it by that stage. "I'll bet it was close considering she's all you ever fucking want to talk to me about."

Her head fell dejectedly at the verbal swipe. Apparently the doubting part of her personality had been right about trying to start anything up, which was a shame as it was the side she had intended to listen to, given the chance. Maybe, just maybe trying to figure out her friend's feelings for her recent acquisition of a sister was a route she should not have journeyed along. Foolishly, she had been overly optimistic about how the hassled party would handle this, even hoping that it might end with them being closer than ever. She knew it was possible, and in theory it had been a sound scheme, but she just didn't know how to capitalise on these circumstances. That and there had been one other tiny flaw in her plan.

It was crap.

"Well, I'm sorry, but I /was/ right." She reminded her, keen to preserve the bare minimum of dignity to allow for peace of mind when she slept. "You can't have forgotten that." Kyla continued over the top of a thick murmur of malcontent which erupted after the memo, but she wasn't about to let herself be on the receiving end of ill-deserved insults. "Don't blame me for the way you feel; all I've done is help. I didn't make you do anything tonight." The button-nosed brunette noticed a physical twinge in her muscles as she spoke, doubting the veracity of those words, but not yet prepared to admit guilt if it would result in victimisation.

For a second, she meant to retort with another insolent comment in the expression of her mindset, but succeeded in not letting her misdirected malice get the better of her. In spite of how hard she had pushed her earlier and how greatly she despised the weaknesses that had been shown because of that, it was not the companion sitting beside her who angered her so much; it was the one who forced her to experience these sensations and emotions that surely were not hers to be feeling. However complicated her attraction to Ashley was, it was nowhere near as strong as her hatred. But acknowledging this was immeasurably simpler than acting accordingly.

Once the momentary battle between anger and anguish had trickled out of her system and exited in the fog of her breath, she was conscious that she could not let someone who knew so much about her, who had swayed so deep inside of her secrets wander unchecked. Her dire vigilance was a necessity. "I know, I know." She ended the disagreement with a wave of her hand. "Don't worry; I'm fine with this." She was lying. Of course she wasn't okay. But she had to pretend until it became real. They had to remain close.

Madison had to trust her and earn hers in return, or else. If so much as a word of this supposed lust found voice, intended for the ears of another, well, the very idea left the hot California air and thick humidity powerless to stop the glacial chill that flew across her shoulders in a morbid shudder. Yes; she was only there out of fear. That was her motive for confession.

Naturally, the short girl barely had to do a double-take to figure out that she was nowhere near as satisfied as she professed. "Really?" she asked, like a bit of a smart-aleck. It was a superfluous question and they both knew it.

It felt as if she'd just been offered a challenge and the wily woman sent a glance in her direction accordingly, but upon meeting her flippant gaze it became clear that her intentions were friendly. She was not the victim of malice, nor had her revelation cost her any love. Was that what had frightened her? Hmm, considering the people she knew, it wasn't an unwarranted phobia. But not everyone was like herself or Ashley, it seemed. "No, not really, but there's not much else I can do about it now than deal, is there?" she admitted, opening the car door and swiftly extricating herself from the vehicle as though swept out by a strong gale.

After a few moments of tracking her movement, which did not extend far from the car, Kyla followed her into the stagnant darkness, her skin yet to adjust to the constant pressure of heavy, sticky, liquid air that encased her body like a cocoon in this city. Mere paces of distance between them, she witnessed in the echoes of light from the porch and windows that she had become visibly stiff. Indeed, it seemed as if something unseen had launched itself at her and startled her, but such was not the case. Her trepidation arose from a potential.

"You're nervous." She observed, her voice resulting in a harsh flinch that exploded in her vertebrae, confirming her statement without the need for a word. Approaching from behind as the cheerleader again tilted her head, casting her vision once more to the high window, its golden glow vanishing into the universe at the fastest speed there is and confirming a presence within, she placed a hand on her shoulder and traced her line of sight with purpose. "Is it because she's here?"

Almost in disbelief, her patented matter-altering glare met its frequent target – who decided that it needed to be christened with a worthy title at some point in future – and her fingers removed the unwanted palm from where it offended her blouse. "Are you, like, practicing for a quiz show or something? Because, I'll tell you now that 'Pissing Madison Off' for two-hundred will not be a subject on the board." She remarked with the manner of tones which subtly called her companion's IQ into question, however insincerely it was meant.

"Shame." She shot back with blatant sarcasm, finding her insufferable attitude and abuse of her patience exponentially more bothersome as it erratically kept reincarnating to slap her in the face whenever she tried to be diplomatic. Just because she had a reason for acting like this didn't mean she had an excuse to treat her like a stress-relief ball. "Are you always this accommodating to anyone who tries to help you? No wonder you're so lonely."

Her instinct was to react to derision obnoxiously, particularly if what she was confronted with was in any way truthful. "Look, I'm sorry if I'm not being as appreciative as you…" she interrupted herself before she could talk their friendship into a ditch. Kyla's growing expression of guilt acted as the channel for sense, conveying that she too was in the realm of speaking on treacherous whims they would later regret. She took a deep breath and let her head hang with tense meditation, in trance, trying to start over, though she would be communicating the same message for the sake of her own sanity but in less pugnacious terms, with any luck. "Well, frankly I'm being a total bitch, but it's no mystery why!" she insisted, treating her acquaintance with a disrespect and petulance inspired by another. "You're here and bringing her up over and over and over again and…I can't stand knowing this or knowing that you know it, and I understand that you had good intentions and all, but they don't mean shit when it comes time to see the results. I have something earth-shifting to come to terms with here!" As per usual, it was all about herself, which was a good sign, as this issue couldn't have harmed her too deeply if her priorities were still intact. "What did you think I'd be feeling right now, girl? Can you bla—"

Her rant came to an abrupt finish once she decided she had gotten everything necessary off of her self-absorbed chest. She'd started to get angry. She didn't like losing control of herself, especially not when she'd already surrendered a lot of her stability in an admission she couldn't retract. But she had promised herself that she wouldn't get too torn up over it; she refused.

Recovering her demeanour as she focused on the ground beneath her feet, avoiding the face screaming of hurt she was sure would meet her sight if she looked up at that moment, she stood there, figuring out what to do and why everything had gone so horribly wrong. It wasn't her friend's fault she was like this, but, while she couldn't discern why, she was not yet prepared to deliver that sentiment to the ears that were worthy of hearing such information. At last, she came to a rational decision. "Know what? This was a bad idea, staying here." She inferred, taking on the role of mediator and attempting to bring an end to their night before they had an all out fight, which she definitely didn't want. Little did she know that, due to the underhanded wisdom of destiny, one would be unavoidable. "We both need time to mentally clear shit out and relax, I think…" A sigh made it clear that she was unable to think of anything further to say. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

Before she'd so much as turned towards her car, the newcomer caught her by the arm and held her back, as she could think of plenty more that needed to be said, and she would make her hear it by any methods necessary. "First of all, no it wasn't; it was a great idea." Kyla maintained, holding a finger up – once she was sure Madison would stay put and was watching – and beginning to count off the list on her digits. "Second of all, you don't need to be alone or on the other side of LA to calm down and sort your head out, so long as you make the effort to /engage/ with me instead of acting like I'm your enemy. Because, if I was, you would so know it by now." Her eyes widened assertively as she made that point, suggesting exactly how stressful this entire hootenanny was for her to handle in a mature and positive way. "I can actually be quite helpful with stuff, you know? Finally, it's a miracle you even managed to drive this fucking far!" With a vigorous swipe of her arm that could have taken off the head of anyone standing in its path, she indicated the car. And it wasn't without merit. The mixture of alcohol and exhaustion had taken its toll on the Latina's neural pathways, and she was still just as off her head as she had been back in Gray. "Don't make me confiscate your keys, because I so will!" Somewhere inside of those infinite, maroon eyes, a flash as bright as lightning illuminated the deep red tint of her passion that too often went unnoticed and repressed. "I'm not going to lose you to your bitterness while you go all broody in your emo moment, so I'll be damned if I'm going to lose you the same way I lost my Dad!"

Stunned by her adamant exclamations, the part-time waitress realised two very simple but profound truths. One: this girl whom she'd initially meant to conquer as a means of making Aiden available genuinely cared about her, apparently more than anyone else in her life ever had, no matter how short their acquaintance. Two: she didn't know how to feel about it. But, for the first time since she could adequately remember, she didn't have that ever-present fury burning inside of her heart. On the contrary to emptiness, she was taken by, well, confusion over what remained to be felt when the aimless contempt went adrift. '/…What the fuck?/'

Although those crimson-tinged eyes were clenched shut in an inane attempt to prevent the flow once she sensed the swelling tide, a tear managed to escape the interlocked jaws of her eyelashes and roll down her brightly lit cheek, and then there was no hope of capture. She couldn't strangle the sob which punched its way out of her chest; the spluttering racks and convulsions commanded her whole body as if she were dangling limply from their wires. It was a sign she was about to fall apart.

It did not go unseen. "Hey…" The simple sound was whispered by the shadow-bound cheerleader, reflexively, practically without meaning, as she saw her begin to lose the fight against her overwhelming physicality of such strong emotional processes. Misery was accelerating towards a head on collision as she mourned the man she never knew, and now would never have the chance to get to know; nothing could be set right. She would never get to meet him…never an opportunity to ask him why he left her behind and didn't come to rescue her in the times when that was her only prayer…

Madison was flung far from her element. She wasn't used to comforting anybody, or even being nice. It wasn't often that she was shown any kindness or sympathy herself on which to base such behaviour. In fact, upon closer inspection, she'd never received any that she hadn't needed to manipulate from someone, apart from that which the height-challenged newcomer gave her earlier on, but she hadn't wanted it then, nor had she been truly disturbed or in need of consolation. Without any previous experiences or examples to draw on, she acted on the impulse which came naturally to her. She reached out to the soul in need and brought her in close for a humane embrace. As awkward as this gesture was for her, she knew she'd done the right thing. That didn't happen very often.

The newcomer's nails latched on to the warm body against her, as she collapsed tearfully into those consoling arms, letting go of any resistance to the onslaught of salty, liquid ammunition. Ever since coming here, to this new life and this new start, it had been like a cyclone of melodrama at its supreme extremes had engulfed her and spun her around to all the diverse, contrasting zephyrs of emotion she could experience. The velocity exceeded the speed with which she could adapt to cope. And perhaps, it had finally caught up to her; surely it must have been taking its toll, steadily eating away at whatever could absorb the impact of another decline. After all, she'd been feeling so happy and so free for quite a while, as if on a sugar high that lasted for days. But what goes up must come down. This was her crash after the elation came to an unprecedented halt and left her system in withdrawal, unprepared to handle the aftershock.

The warm breeze did nothing to shelter Kyla from the cold seizing her within, although she felt it subside as she buried her damp, red cheeks into the crook of her – privately more-than – friend's neck, suppressing her movement as she tried to refrain from sobbing so heavily. But she couldn't help it; the dismay was devastating her senses. Nausea burned in the pit of her stomach, spreading like a disease until she felt it seeded in every cell. Struggling to breathe, and dizzy; she couldn't stay out here. She wasn't sure that her legs would succeed in supporting her weight, or if they would crumble spontaneously. "Can we go inside?" she stuttered quietly, desperate for a seat and the safety of four walls around her, protecting her from the unfamiliar, unpredictable world outside.

"Sure." She responded, although a part of her wondered why she was the one being asked for permission; it wasn't her house. Then again, she'd still probably spent more time there cumulatively than she who currently lived there. With one hand around her waist to guide her as she stumbled blindly, her eyes seeing the environment before her in soft focus at the very best, Madison managed to get her inside and into the front lounge without incident. Reassuringly, she stroked her hair and back with a tender rhythm, up and down along the ripples of her spine, while she continued to weep silently. Even as they sank into the soft, cushioned sofa, her depression did not hastily subside, and her consoling presence was still required, but she didn't feel inconvenienced in the least.

However, once they did sit down, she – Kyla – noticed microscopic improvements in her state, one by one pooling together to have a greater collaborative impact than any singular alleviation on its own. Her face was cooled by the artificial environment of air-conditioning and filtered air, gushing inside by the gallon. By that point, she was no longer consciously grieving for the father she missed out on, merely getting it all out and concentrating on her unstoppable flood of tears instead of what had sparked them. Under her breath, she would occasionally mutter something, cursing without profanity at her own state, or possibly apologising, or maybe just asking why.

Upon her request and out of common sense, with perhaps a sort of underlying selfish motive to get her own head cleared of its dusty lining and become removed from this very uncomfortable – for her unnatural – situation, the top of the popularity pyramid went to get some water for her companion. It was rare that she felt bad for a person who wasn't herself or when it didn't immediately lead to personal gain on her part. How odd. Only moments ago, she had been the centre of attention, having a passionate meltdown and at risk of losing all control, and now that it had gone the opposite way, she'd become something just south of adjacent to numb. When she froze or felt stranded, she typically reacted in one of two ways; humour or anger, or frequently the two alternatives in combination. Nothing was happening. This was…a loss of stability; of the role…

What could she do about it except continue playing the part? At least she was no longer at risk of destroying any hope. Well, not imminently. Furthermore, this perplexing feeling was beyond her tolerance; she always had to be in control. If she wasn't in command of her emotions, then they would be used against her, just like they were earlier that evening. Indeed, her friend and only decent associate had to suffer the consequences of learning such a terrible secret and gaining power over her, whether she was determined to use it against or her not. But that wasn't going to come soon; she was patient and she would wait for the right moment to gain vengeance. There was no rush. Virtue would reward her with opportunity.

Fools made the finest victims, but it was never as much fun unless it had an element of challenge to it.

She knew her way around the Davies' Mansion better than her own abode, and it hadn't changed a bit. She'd done some exploring back when she was struggling with insomnia, so there wasn't much that she hadn't found, so whilst running the tap for some cold water, she liberated a bottle of vodka from the cabinet and mixed herself a very strong – almost pure spirits – drink, refilling the glass bottle with water for the sake of appearance when she was done. She did not want to be numb, unless she made it happen. A few sips to check the taste, disgustingly potent, and she returned to aid Kyla, who was no longer crying but with her eyes red and swollen and her makeup spread, she still looked like a wretched wreck. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah. I'm fine now." She hoarsely replied, accepting the drink for her parched throat and sniffing softly, dismally. It wasn't much of a remedy, but the cool liquid did flow through to every part of her body, carrying with it a sense of rejuvenation, the liquid's spiritual energy settling the ache in her stomach and reducing the feverish tinge in her cheeks. She believed it to be an entity in its own right; as alive and as precious as any person, and she found strength from its healing chi. They were silent for several long, drawn out moments, sitting next to one another and slowly lightening the weight of their glasses as they reflected on their prior outbursts, eventually deciding that it wasn't the right time to care. Nothing had been that important. Not enough to outweigh the value of each other anytime soon. "Thanks." The short girl offered after a vast, horizon-touching while. "Sorry for going all crazy depressed on you."

"It's cool, girl." Madison responded. She moved her eyes a bit uncomfortably above her glass as she took another swig from it, successfully refraining from pulling a sour face at the detestable flavour and the burn of liquor roaring down her throat. What else was she supposed to say? She couldn't stop someone from mourning their father's death. Was she really in the position to be apologised to? Peaceful negotiations and amiable compromises were not a honed characteristic in her arsenal without the added threat of it being camouflage for the old adage of keeping one's friends close and one's enemies closer.

Wiping her whole face with a cleverly brought tissue, where black streaks of mascara stared back at her off the face of the paper, she spluttered and groaned in sheer mortification at her absence of grace. "This is so lame." She laughed it off, trying to pretend that she wasn't ridiculously embarrassed by this bullshit breakdown. "I cry too much."

"Seriously, it's cool." She insisted. Her mind still refused to quiet. A part plotted how to claim victory – as life was about winning and nothing more – from several different people, each option with a new foe and an alternate outcome, some of which surprised her. Another section dwelled over her powerful lust and hatred for /her/, loath to believe it, even though it had already come out. All of her calculating prowess was busy, working double shifts plus overtime in her brain to figure out how she could contain Kyla and everything she knew along with her, ensure a wealthy future, which preferably included Aiden (whilst intelligently alienating him from Ashley) leave enough of a chance for Glen in case he turned out to be a suitable candidate or even a threat of ruining her conquest out of bitterness, suppress Sherri before she struck to steal captaincy, as she knew she had her eye on it, keep Cat in the dark as far as her thievery and still manage to walk out with as many of her bonds intact as she could, provided it didn't sabotage her odds of coming out the winner.

But she didn't want to scheme. Not now. Why did she always have to do this? Madison guzzled the remainder of her beverage, a wave of imbalance and blotches of light, like comet-tails in streaks across the night sky of her vision, hitting her with a hard fist; the world swirling around her once the liquor shot straight to her thoughts. They had to shut up. It would take a few minutes to kick in, though.

"Ugh!" Kyla fumed in exasperation, too self-conscious to recognise the telltale expression on her friend's open slate upon the harsh flavour she'd ingested, clueless to her seeking release. "I mean, it's stupid anyway. I never met him." Once again, her translucent, soulful windows began to glimmer and tremble under the weight of a thousand seas when the moon was at its peak of influence. "God, you must think I'm so pathetic." Of course, she didn't know if anyone considered her pitiful, but why wouldn't they when she reached that conclusion of her own volition?

No one felt happy anymore.

"Actually, I don't;" she replied, a small smile lifting the corners of her lips to validate her answer, "Not at all. And you know it's true because if I did you /so/ would have known it by now." Madison reminded her with a harmless teasing quality about her, the previously shouted phrase earning an honest yet tearful chuckle that proved her wheels were on the right track. No longer as awkward, but continuing to act on the manner of methods witnessed in films and on television, as they were the sole example upon which to draw for this type of scene, she took her by the hand, massaging the dark, dewy skin with her thumb. Unexpectedly, she became cognisant of a connection; a tangible bond. Til then, she'd mocked the notion that it was anything more than substandard poetics or cliché when people spoke of such things. But she could feel it. "You know what's really pathetic?" she started quietly, engaging her with a soft tone and her exceptional skills of rhetoric. "You're the best…fuck it, the only real friend I've ever had."

It was true. Or, they both believed it was. It wasn't a strange revelation. After all, she made every attempt to win the complicated popular girl over and did nothing within the realm of mistreating her, and somehow she doubted that was a formality many people cared to offer in her consideration. But, somehow, that only amplified the importance of their already deep affinity. "Really?" she squeaked, her voice heavily laden by the stress of hard sobs and dehydration. She exhaled a heavy breath as she fought off the threat of crying for a reason unrelated to before. Confirmation was fed back to her in the form of a slightly ashamed stare. She paused, the mood reincarnated anew; given a fresh start. "…Is that supposed to imply that we've moved on and our fight is over?"

Why did she say these things? More importantly, why didn't she feel like slitting her own vocal cords to prevent her from saying too much too many times?! Fortunately, her conflicted thoughts didn't show. "Yeah; feels like it." Intoxication was made obvious to herself when, upon nodding, her vision struggled to keep up with the sudden motion, suffering something akin to a long-distance satellite delay, but she recovered. "I'm glad it was you, you know, who figured it out and knows about my…" she didn't want to say it. That was the perimeter to where her comfort zone extended; it was the purest humiliation to be the proprietor of such a preposterous perversion, and admitting it in plain English was a degradation to which she was not yet prepared to subject herself. "Yeah."

"You're welcome." She said, bearing a bright grin and glowing with pride as she accepted the gratitude for what it was, and her expression was mirrored opposite with gentle laughter. Her heart leapt with joy at the moment she was privileged to share.

Whether it was her raw sexuality or the suggestion of hidden emotions concealed by the dazzling enigma that drew her to Madison, either way, seeing her same-sex crush dissolve into a split-second of shyness similar to her own was the most adorable thing she'd ever seen. Redness spread to her own cheeks, but it didn't stand out amidst the rosy remnants from earlier. And she hadn't ruined anything, in spite of what her nerves believed. Thank God.

Noticing the hour on the DVD/VCR, Kyla swallowed inconspicuously and hoped she came across normally when she asked a daring question. "So, you, uh…want to come up to my room?" She ventured, aware that she might have meant it in other ways, but retaining composure through her anxiety and bashfulness and the childish urge to giggle hysterically.

The smile vanished. Distress, innocence, shades of fear dominated her features, represented predominantly by her eyes going wide and her demeanour appearing to shrivel, cowering within as if struck. Not even she knew if she was being sincere by that point or with that reaction; with alarming frequency over this evening, she encountered circumstances where she could not tell fact from fiction. She thought it was a mixture, this time. Perhaps a slight exaggeration.

Her intense gaze was evidence as to the grave seriousness of her phobia. "…I really don't want to run into her." Not while she was like this at the very least, she added internally. If Ashley found her in such a weak state and attacked her, as she most likely would, it might destroy her. She repressed a violent shudder at the thought of having to confront her so soon after 'discovering' how her hormones – her body, a Judas – had betrayed her to a degree worthy of the lowest level of hell.

"Trust me; you won't." She reassured her with that quirky persona of perpetual optimism, touching her gently on the leg in a manner that allowed her to cop a none-too-dangerous feel. And she wasn't telling her this without good reason; she knew from experience that it was true. "Seriously, we live under the same roof and I haven't seen her in, like, a week, even when I knew we were both here." Despite this, she still didn't look convinced. If it were possible, her tension and apprehension appeared to have increased tenfold to the power of nine. "What's up?"

"Nothing." She lied with a shake of her head, still unsure how much of her act at present was based on reality, but certain she would be surprised if she found the answer, either way. Out of the blue, it clicked that her head had stumbled into silence and the alcohol was beginning to set in, hopefully leaving her in charge. Now if those damn voices would just get out of her face and stop making an ass out of her life consistently, she'd probably be a better human being, if not merely a far purer incarnation of ruthless efficiency. "It's just…" she didn't have to search for a topic before it came hurtling out of her throat, "I'm so damn sick of thinking about her. Hating, loving, teasing, remembering; there's no lone reason, but she's just always fucking /there/!" Madison threw her hands up in frustration, her fingers curled tightly like the jagged claws of a monster spoken of in myth, and it wasn't for the first or last time that she expressed those sentiments.

Sympathising but not surrendering her positive mood to another bout of depression, Kyla shook her head and indicated the ceiling. "Right now, she's there." And, though they had neither seen her nor become aware of her activities, indeed she was located in that direction, as had been confirmed by the movement in the window. "What is she doing to you now?" she asked her in all seriousness. Needless to say, there wasn't a comeback that she was willing to retort with, and that was what such a question intended. Leaning forward, she cautiously permitted her hand to rise, her fingers just out of reach of inappropriate contact, until they settled upon her strong collar. "The only person who has any power over you is yourself. No one else decides what's in your mind." Where she got that from was an utter mystery, but it fit.

Sneering in antagonism to her frivolous oversimplification, she shot back in the only way she knew how to; like a brat. Force of habit. "Well obviously there's something about her that makes me want her." Madison rolled her eyes and bristled as if loathing her repulsive stupidity. But then she realised what she'd said. Her instinct to insult had backfired. Why did she pride herself on being observant about shit only the oblivious would miss? She swallowed. "Oh fuck," her hands flew to her hair as she stared blankly ahead, "I just said I wanted her, didn't I?" the cheerleader muttered in monotone, dreading the outcome. When she received a nod in confirmation, an agonising yet hopeless growl emanated from between her frowning lips, disconsolate and distraught. "This is torture. If I ever run into that vengeful elephant prick called karma, let's just say there'll be more ivory on the black market the next day."

The newcomer chuckled, still persisting in her aim of trying to lighten the atmosphere. She considered the difficulty ahead of her inconsequential compared with whatever positive outcome she might achieve, whether to assuage her guilt or just to hear a thank you later on, should she succeed. "And, ironically, you'd get away with it too." She noted, which she thought was quite clever on her part.

Her optimism did seem an infectious quality as a crack formed in that thick shell in the form of a smile, the sharp edges spreading the shallow shatter across her cheeks. "Well observed, girl." She snickered quietly, appreciating the display of wit and subtlety. "Oh, I love getting away with my sinister and delightfully esoteric undertakings. It does wonders for my mojo." Her hands incessantly turned the large glass around in her hands and soaked up the last droplets in her moment of suppressed anxiety. Too aware of her body, she realised what she was doing and that it was no more than a petty excuse for insubstantial concealment of her trepidation. "Yeah I'm still shit scared."

"Aww. Want me to hold your hand?" she offered, puffing out her bottom lip and pouting to tease her. Kyla felt more than a bit hyper, as though high as she came down from the emotional stress and became susceptible to irrational impulses in her lethargy. As such, sensitivity was not her first priority. It was an attitude not far removed from being a kid, or drawn into a fit of laughter. If all went well, it would do wonders as far as cheering up the poor girl and awakening her from this slump. Should it go awry, then she was officially the biggest jerk in the universe.

Initially, her reaction was a glare, until she decided that she was awful at playing the denial card and needed a lot more work if she was going to employ it as a primary tactic. "Alright, I'm going." Madison resigned herself to conjuring a veil of strength to lift her performance from where it had caved in on itself and the dust was shifting. Her perspective was shot; she soon had to acknowledge that nothing had changed at all except that she was behaving inexcusably. If she continued to handle her issues so incompetently, she wouldn't be able to make a run of it on a cheap pair of stockings, never mind up against her equal; her enemy. "And you're a bitch, girl." She fixed her with a stone-cold glare, near-slamming her glass onto the table. "Stop copying me."

Giggling like the school girl she was as she mimicked her action of standing after just a few seconds, partially because she was a smartarse and pissing her off was loads of fun, she implored her with very theatrical despair. "But I thought you were my guru! Me is need learning." She whimpered, deploying all of the cuteness she could muster, dawdling a step behind as their short trip commenced.

"You is getting popped in yo' mouth if you keep this shit up." Quipped said guru, patting the shorter girl's head and provoking her to squirm dramatically, much to her amusement. "Here endeth the lesson." She teased with an emphatically smug grin. For all her flaws and perversion, she was still so fucking perfect. She loved herself; oh how she loved her awesomeness.

It was a shame that her blood alcohol level was set to contradict those sentiments in only a few minutes' time.

Amidst the subconscious struggle to walk without giving away her inebriation, they headed up the stairs and entered the major part of the mansion. Assuming it would be the one she had been assigned – though, typically, she would stay with her ex-best friend through the night – when she used to visit, she didn't need to be told that Kyla's room was directly below Ashley's and came off the stairs on the correct floor. Immediately, most likely because adrenaline had flooded her system at the possibility of running into her personal demon in her domain, her ears tingled as an indistinguishable noise disturbed the calm. She came to an abrupt halt. "Forget something?" asked the resident when she stopped.

Too busy concentrating on the sounds she had just recognised, Madison did not notice the banter. However, she was perfectly aware of the source of the heavy, breathy gasps and moans she could hear carrying through the air vents and filling the quiet hallway. The knowledge flung her heart forward where it overbalanced and skidded helplessly across the slippery surface. "Holy shit," she panted, lost in the badlands that separated horror from ecstasy as she listened to the unmistakeable symphony of sex, "Am I delusional or is someone upstairs having a really good time?"

Narrowing her eyes in confusion, oblivious to most peripheral information for the temporary pause where the cheerleader's uncharacteristic manner of speech had trailed off. "What are you talking abo—" suddenly she was interrupted by an almost deafening erotic cry, torn from a throat which could not resist the power of the baser instinct, a force of nature in every man, woman and beast, sound waves raining down from above. "Oh crap; you're right." She gulped, constraining her severe mortification to the best of her ability, but, naturally, going as red as a sports' car after crashing into a semi-trailer full of ketchup. Just when she thought the night couldn't get any more excruciating; she was sick of being wrong when things started to go her way. Circumstance had her under a personal jinx. "Uh, looks like Ashley also has company staying the night." Her voice strained, expecting to laugh and cry synchronously, and for all her efforts, she could never hope to pass for casual.

…Not that the only person there to notice such embarrassing things could negotiate past her distraction. "Clearly…Loudly…" Her sanguine eyes, glazed over, were locked staring aimlessly ahead through the air, as if made of glass, the sense of sight surrendered as the echoing reverberations caught within her ears slowly asphyxiated the life out of a piece of her. Although, the function and fatally toxic emotion which stole the spirit of that piece were equally obscure ambiguities that she honestly couldn't care less about without stepping into negative numbers. Their uncontrolled panting and exclamations increased into fevered pace, signalling the approach to a zenith. Licking her barren lips, her jaw lacking the strength to rise again after its declination, she stood disconnected from life and the universe which moved and evolved and progressed around her, until a thought occurred and she remembered the girl a few paces in front of her. "Yeah. I have no idea how to feel right now." The cheerleader's raspy words resembled a sigh due to the husky tone inspired by the implications made visible in her imagination.

Scratching the back of her head, her high temporarily disengaged in favour of shyness, Kyla realised that the only educated guess she could offer was a summary of her own sensations. With an unseen, covetous gaze towards the object of her affection, who was so thoroughly consumed with her sister that she could not see her heart as its most raw, she took heed of the stirring there in her breast. "Aroused, mildly disgusted and leaning towards hurt should pretty much cover it." Explained the newcomer, her estimates not too farfetched, actually verging on accuracy, though their mutual emotions came about for entirely different reasons.

[SIZE=1]/"Spencer…fuck me…"/[/SIZE]

Nodding, either to show she agreed or to hide that she wasn't listening, with dismay plastered over her features for all of the carnality one would expect in this unusual vein of voyeurism. A witness to the sex of her obsession; this hopeless lover was torn. The conflict of being in her position, the agony of whether to let herself feel this or run, was a battle that took a gargantuan toll on her psyche and could not be won, regardless of strategy.

Then, from above, a rapturous wail flew down and struck the centre of the hallway like a bolt of lightning, leaving shivers in its wake as the emptiness, near silence, became an element like fire, water, air. Resonation, more powerful than any of nature's bloodthirsty disasters, ripped through stability, destroyed comfort and slapped their nerves out of suspense. There was no confusion, no doubt as to the source, and Madison's eyes bugged out like a camera lens zooming in when it hit her.

She had just heard Ashley have an orgasm. '/Fuck./'

Kyla was startled, coping here no easier for her, but essential if she was going to be of any assistance to her dear friend – dearer than she knew, what with the passionate amour of youth. Carefully, she touched her on the back to discern her state rather than outright asking if she was okay and being ignored. It did seem to snap her back into reality, but their eyes did not meet. "…I think my head just exploded."

A soft but melancholy smile on her lips at the Latina's omnipresent sense of humour – a resource impossible to deplete – the shorter teen probingly poked her just behind the ear and tenderly stroked her hair, yet again relying on persistent merriment to protect her in bad places. "Nope. It's still there." She assured her with confidence, which she lacked to the fullest degree as far as the momentary quiet continuing for any significant length of time.

"Oh…good…" She said without so much as twitching her dropped jaw, still stunned like a steer in the stockyard that ambled by accident into the electric fence. Sure enough, only a moment passed before – with a heavy breath and the lustful whimpering of a name – the high school sweethearts appeared to start up again, murmuring unintelligible declarations of their purest love and devotion. "Fuck." Reiterating her earlier loss of verbosity, Madison profaned under her breath, shifting uncomfortably on the spot, drawn out of her trance but deep in thought and self-berating nonetheless.

"I'm sorry." Offered the East Coaster sincerely, blaming herself for this situation. "I honestly had no idea that Spencer was going to be over tonight. Then again, Ashley had no idea I was coming back here either or they would've used a gag." Kyla practically babbled, doing her best to talk over the underscoring rhythm of skin on skin, but somehow she managed to tune her out. "…Madison?" Frustrated by the constant of being ignored, she employed a more direct approach. "When I snap my fingers you will awaken!"

And that is precisely what happened. Rude and condescending as it was, the sudden click from a hand stuck right in her face was more than enough to warrant her concentration. "What?" Her head shot up, finding a fairly annoyed glare, an irritated pair of arms folded across her chest and an exasperated sigh waiting for her once she returned. "Shit, sorry, um, I'm kind of distracted by the whole…" in the short instant while she was searching for a description she could bear the repercussions of, there came a choked inhalation that was immediately followed by a plea not to stop, and no extraneous words were necessary; just a skywards gesture. "That."

"Alright, I think you've had enough. Let's get you somewhere quieter and way less creepy." She shuddered, knowing seasons would have to pass before she could look at her sister the same way again. And Spencer…well that just made her feel guilty; she was too cute to think of in a sexual capacity. "Thankfully my room is pretty much out of earshot." Said the new girl, gently taking her friend by the hand to make sure she was focused. "Come on."

With a slight widening of her eyes, Madison wrenched her fingers from the velvet caress, that one action enough to make her more animated than she had been for the past two or three minutes, which seemed to have extended their chronological value tenfold. Awkward was no longer the buzzword. "Hold on; can't I just wait til they finish?" Her lecherous request was denied by a potent expression of disdain, which instantly placed her on the back foot, defensive and yet sheepish enough to enjoy herself. "What?! I thought you wanted me to embrace my lusty infatuation for your–" another moan – clearly from Spencer – cut her off, "Apparently skilled sister." Kyla didn't validate her libido-driven wishes with a response, simply shaking her head. "Aww, you suck."

Dismissing her groan, unsure of the sincerity in her mischievous humour, she blew off her protests with a sneer, but in spite of it, not yet as bitter or jealous as a lesser person might have been. "Pfft, sounds like you'll recover." The shorter girl dragged her down the corridor – literally – without any cooperation from the Latina's legs, and she opened the door with one arm looped around her elbow to prevent her from going anywhere, just in case.

After a pause in which she briefly debated whether or not to be a smartarse, she chose to keep the mood light, making fun where it seemed unattainable, but wasn't everything and everybody? Somehow, that was the greatest aphrodisiac. "Can't I recover later?" Whined the table-waiting teen, as always hiding behind her wit and comedy, but wisely choosing not to turn her lone companion into a victim, which was a bad habit she had to drop.

"You'll be recovering from the impact of my fist if you're not careful." Kyla threatened, with severity wielded like weaponry in her tone. Never one to give up the last remark, the cheerleader opened her mouth to speak, but this commanding version of her comrade would have none of it. "Shh! Use your inside voice." Her reluctant target was flung into the room, and then they were sealed in together. For a few minutes, everything was dangling on the edge of being frighteningly normal as they discussed sleeping arrangements and searched for clothes that could be borrowed for her to wear over the night and next day, but by now they were accustomed to recognising the temporary calm as a foreboding sign of a storm front, so when Madison became tense, seeming to have something severe weighing on her mind, neither was surprised nor silly enough to pretend it wasn't blatantly obvious.

"I fucking hate that I feel this way, you know? Even though I'm trying to make light of this situation, I just… " Hands perched upon her hips with her back turned to the newcomer, who watched intently, sitting cross-legged on the bed, brushing her hair in the meanwhile, she continued to verbalise her predicament, perhaps because the liquor had made her more truthful, or maybe because she craved solace on this lonely planet orbiting a cold, apathetic sun, growing ever distant from the rest of the universe. "You're right about how I feel, but I don't want it. This isn't me." She insisted, beginning to pace, unable to deal with such a multitude of concerns, on top of knowing where Ashley was and what she was doing at that very moment, and the way she, mind and body, reacted to that. "She's been affecting me all this time, but now that I'm not hiding behind delusions that it doesn't mean what I know it does, it's like constantly in my head that 'Oh my god; I want her!' and you can't even begin to imagine just how wrong this is."

"Why?" she prompted a little cynically, putting down her hairbrush on the bedside table. The interruption managed to get the attention she wanted, although her slightly foul temperament remained undetected and its reasons unconsidered. Justifying herself would be a terrible task if she wasn't prepared to admit jealousy, and the reason behind such jealousy. "Because she's a girl, and she might just open up the gates to the rest of the female gender?"

Madison scoffed, believing that her statement was ignorant rather than sarcastic or bitter. "I wish it were that simple." She all but whispered, falling mute and slinking over towards the window, in what the newcomer thought, with some regret, was the end of it. Upsetting the already hurt and sexually confused enchantress was never her goal, especially if it discouraged her from sharing her innermost thoughts or from forming a trusting relationship, which was initially what she'd hoped to achieve, right? Fortunately, the pause was a mere comma; a space for breath, and no serious harm was suffered. "Why is it that of all the girls in the whole fucking world, the one to seduce me is /Ashley/?" the soft, lilted voice wondered aloud, and either the world had stone deaf ears or it just couldn't say. Her question was sent into the universe, but it remained unanswered, travelling in the void eternally, and irreversible. "Anyone else and it wouldn't matter; they have no power over me. I could do whatever I felt like and come out the other side, or sustain doing nothing. No one else is a threat…but she…she's already done shit to me." The wounded nature of her black irises told stories of a tortured soul more articulately than her tongue and teeth; a tale of a lifetime spent permanently below another, a lesser being, a rose judged by its inferior name. "And now, every single time I start to think about her or we start to talk about her – don't apologise yet, girl – I have to stop and wonder 'Am I lusting for her now? Is this it?' and now it's like I can't let myself think anything, to be sure."

Upon this bantam speech, a wealth of minor inconsistencies rolled up together into one mammoth ball of fuck ups appeared in what might otherwise have been an oversight. If Madison was really struggling with her emotions and in such pain, why did she confess? According to her, she was acutely ashamed of her obsession and thought there was something distinctly perverse in what she felt. And yet, once confronted with the possibility of an attraction she supposedly had never suspected in the most off-handed and pressure-free way imaginable, her reluctance to come clean had been temporary and marginal at best. What this could mean, she couldn't say, but she could make a few decent guesses. "So then, you did know. My suggestion was nothing new to you, was it?" she asked quietly, although it sounded closer to a statement. No response came from the window, where the deep and penetrating eyes continued to unleash their potent seduction upon the glass. At this time, Kyla reached a profound conclusion; her companion was at her most honest when she said nothing, and her dialect was of the body. Giving no answer meant she could tell no lies. "You're not as clueless as you want me to think. Were you just admitting it to me in the hopes that it would all go away?"

"Don't ask that like it's stupid." Hissed the mistress of all deceit, whirling about viciously at the underlying inference. She regained a placid demeanour almost instantaneously. "It's nothing to do with you. I've just been in denial for so long that I almost convinced myself that I'd forgotten what I was going through."

With an empathetic nod, the shorter girl thought back to the times in her life where she was going through the very same sort of thing. She could relate. Approving of her story, she moved aside to make room for her on the mattress and patted the empty space, inviting her to take a seat. This was hardly a betrayal, nor did it hint to any scorn between them, and both girls knew it. No argument arose from this miniscule miscommunication; far more worthy causes had come and gone so frequently on many different occasions that jumping on this one would be idiotic and uncalled for.

Defeated, Madison slunk over towards her secret admirer, arms wrapped around her chest as though engulfed by a phantom blizzard. "I can't feel this way about her. She's above us right now, fucking the life out of Spencer and vice versa, and for the first real time it wasn't just a mental, psychological moment of some crazy illusion; my body, physically…" trailing off, too humiliated to say anything else, an unintelligible exclamation of frustration exploded from her lungs as she fell backwards, collapsing onto the bed, Kyla in the corner of her eye, watching and listening for her benefit as she collected her utterly wasted thoughts, although experience helped her pass for sober. "I blame her, you know. I need her to be the one at fault for…for forcing me to lust for all that makes her my enemy. But it's not her, is it?" The naïve, fragile manner in which she asked that question, as though resigning herself to a hopeless fate, triggered an ache deep within the essential core of her heart. "At least, you don't think so, do you? You think it's me."

Her lip quivered as she bit it ever so gently. Why did it always wind up with the one who was all too recently bestowing her with the title of her best and only friend being suspicious of her allegiance and practically calling her an enemy? If only the Californian teen knew how she felt about her; if she could let her find out, then at the very least, any rational reason to doubt whose side she was on would disappear like the leaves on a deciduous tree when autumn returned to ashes. Pining for Ashley the way she'd confirmed she was, surely she couldn't be too appalled. After all, a same-sex attraction was something they had in common, whether it was pursued or not. Maybe her courageous risk would be rewarded by the benevolent yet sly cosmic spirits; the fates.

With a full, deep breath, she committed herself to going through with this while she maintained the perhaps foolhardy will to establish her position of desire, before apprehension enslaved her or cowardice again made her its bitch. "Actually, I think it's all of us." She muttered as if her speech had the smooth texture of a soft satin blanket, referring to the one trait they all shared; Madison, herself, and – most definitely – her half-sister and Spencer.

"Oh, shut up." She rolled her eyes and shoved her in the arm, mistaking her wary attempt at a revelation of epic proportions for a wisecrack. Only mildly disappointed by her failure, she was elevated by her ability to bring a smirk to her resplendent infatuation, even if it was by accident. Furthermore, it enhanced her already present eagerness to come out…err, come clean, although she wasn't too sure why. Having been too absorbed in her musings, it was only then that she noticed that, all the while, the lovelorn princess of popularity had continued to run through the internal dialogue which had been repeating like a scratched record in her head out loud, but she wasn't savvy to the lack of focus she'd received in the last few minutes. "Fuck, I must be insane; I keep doing the same things over and over, and I expect to get different results." The terrifying tranquillity began to tremble and disassemble; hiding that she was despondent, an impossible task. "Why am I so screwed up?"

Deftly, Kyla leant further over the masterpiece of a body lain out before her on top of a plain white canvas of silken sheets, the perfect emptiness of the impulses luring her into one of the most courageous confessions of her life, disputably matched by the occasion of telling her mother that she thought she was going to die. She knew from experience that this would all be over very quickly, and might be none the worse for it afterwards. "You're not screwed up." She assured her, a microscopic hitch catching in her throat. Trailing her fingers onto Madison's thigh, grazing them along the flimsy fabric of her skirt til they reached the delicate expanse of her skin, she let go. "You're beautiful."

Holy shit; she actually went through with it.

As if struck by an electric shock, she withdrew her fingers from the beautiful flesh, immediately overcome by a queasiness and ill ease; her perhaps mistaken method of disclosure could now never be abandoned. She would never get it back. From the way some of the voices in her head reacted, one might get the idea that she'd done a swan dive into the Grand Canyon, and yet she was also inclined to trust them. But, surely they were overstating the severity and, well, suicidal nature of her shy assertion. Her only course of action was to wait for those two decisive utterances to sink in.

But they didn't sink in so much as plummet straight to the bottom like a bullet-shaped barrage of lead – among denser, unstable elements as well. Mute mayhem; a commotion without motion. In the ensuing nihility, she thought she was stricken with either deafness or lunacy. What vile trickery was this? Surely that was a hallucination, or in her drunken state she had heard one thing in the place of something else…unless…

She sat straight up, rising clean from the waist, her actions, as ever, refined and elegant, searching for a pair of brown eyes that seemed to have abdicated the privilege of being in her vicinity. All too easily, she had forgotten how to breathe, and the tension, the suspense in the room was palpable. With her lips closed, she could still taste its pungent flavour. '/Oh my god./' Her first interpretation had been spot on. Some higher entity must have been working overtime that night for its stripes, as her luck persevered in its effort to plunge further into the abyss, and all she could do was laugh as her predicament became exponentially queerer.

"This is un-fucking-believable." She snickered humourlessly, sliding off of the bed, largely just to put some distance between the two of them. Her back burned in the intensity of her presence. By this stage, the twists and turns her life were taking were just so preposterous that she didn't think she could look at this existence as anything more serious than a joke. But, upon casting her gaze back over her shoulder, there was no doubt as to the urgency and significance of these issues concerning their relationship to the bearer of bloody complications she called a friend. Given the right circumstances, she probably wouldn't be so reluctant to think that these effects might not be exclusive. However, her natural disposition was one of perpetual selfishness, so another's feelings came of secondary concern. "Kyla," she began after regaining composure, aware that it was perhaps the first time she had referred to her by her first name, "Look, I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression or something, 'cause, as cool as you…" she paused, her face screwing into a funny expression, "/Have the potential/ to be…I just don't crushiprocate, if you will."

"I'm not asking you to." The shorter girl near-shouted, projecting her high pitch as if protecting herself, raising her hands either side of her head in surrender. However, a sheepish second later, she conceded that she was almost definitely going to wind up in an attempt to drag Madison onto the /fabulous/ side of the isle. What else was she supposed to do after sharing her secret desire? Wasn't that, in essence, the whole point; creating an opening for them to give dating a try? Besides which, why was it that she could head over heels in mad, passionate love-hate – 'lote'? – with her sister and yet not so much as cast a bi-curious once-over in her direction. It was bullshit. "Well, alright, I am now, although that wasn't my plan. But, you know – and not that I'm putting any pressure on you or anything – is it really so far beyond you to consider giving it a try?" she offered with an innocent shrug of her shoulders, slithering to the end of the bed.

"Yes!" she insisted adamantly, the knowledge of the close proximity to her nemesis and the she-Carlin was all that forbade her from screaming, or something equally shrill. A heavy wave of guilt rolled over her shoulders, bearing the burden upon the sight of a forlorn face which had fallen as though just denied her dreams. While physically she did not let a flicker of this consequence escape from the reinforced masquerade, a world-weary component of her soul wondered how it was that everything Kyla felt was so contagious. That girl's cuteness was a fucking weapon; she'd loathe to see it in the hands of someone more like herself. "Regardless of what I feel for the howler monkey upstairs, I am not gay." She argued, as if the very suggestion that one might think so was an insult; a desecration of her value as a living person.

Aware that they were being drawn into a debate that might very well result in the abrupt and untimely implosion of their friendship, and yet not willing to let this go while she still had the chance to make her very worthwhile details of reason known, which she knew would haunt her eternally were they not contended and defended to the best of her ability and logic, she kept going. "Neither am I." She said, honestly, as she did identify as being straight and had a history solely with guys, aside from one or two drug-induced make-out sessions. "That doesn't change the way I feel about you, or how you feel about her." Eventually, she would manage to sift through all the bullshit, whether she ever got a real opportunity to be with her or not. And she could only have faith that would be enough. "But, really, if you were presented with the opportunity to have something with Ashley, are you saying that you would pass it up, even though you know she's going to keep driving you nuts if you don't take her up on it?"

Without even flinching, she snapped her response in a manner that would send shivers into the boots of the intimidated masses, though it ostensibly carried no threat. "I don't have to answer that. Nothing's ever going to happen between us." Her dark tone conveyed the illuminated neon message of anger, although for all the senses could detect she appeared perfectly controlled and unfazed by this uncomfortable entrapment from which she did not dare escape, for she knew the sounds she would hear if she stepped outside. Far more than any queries that could be uttered here, they would expose her like sulphuric acid in universal indicator. It was a vexing equation to master at best; how she could get out of this unscathed. "It's so farfetched I can't even guesstimate my course of action." Madison at last settled on an ambiguous answer, sick of the infiltration of these endless questions and reversing their trajectory. "Either way, this isn't about her; it's about you!" Her finger accused the sweet, little newcomer, her intoxicated and obscured vision catching up with the motion but upsetting her equilibrium in doing so, nearly causing her to develop a telltale slur. "And about you…wanting me to be involved with the…you." The Hispanic chick finished in a style which convincingly fit the bill of flustered, even as she cursed internally for sounding so retarded and scrambled for a way of covering up her error, but she could only redirect. "Aren't you with Aiden, anyway?!"

For longer than she would like to admit, Kyla was confused by the aggressively brandished question and had to apply herself in figuring out what she meant. As despicable as it made her feel, she'd pretty much forgotten about him; their status as a couple had recently slipped her mind. No doubt the explicit melodrama of the evening had taken precedence, along with her general consumption with admiring this other woman as per usual serving as an effective distraction. Still, that was a wake-up call she hadn't ordered in advance. "Yeah, I am," she blushed in personal mortification, "But it isn't so much a case of asking you to be with me as it is me needing to know why you're capable of obsessing over/ her/ to an almost crazy extent but still manage to be totally freaked out by the concept of liking me."

There was no mistaking it; she had demanded to know why.

It was a constant that she was sick of having shoved in her face like a pie in a slapstick gag, and it always wound up with her looking the fool. Ashley got everything in her childhood when she'd been given nothing but the shit on the bottom of the Gucci shoes, and even now all she could get her hands on was what her sister had already used up and thrown away, like tissues in her trash. At first, she'd thought it was just luck, but when it started to become a pattern – that who or what she craved was certain to be in her superior sibling's possession, in some way – then it was no longer so irrelevant to ponder. It was uncanny. What other rational conclusion could she reach? There was something better about the first born and legitimate daughter, and she was desperate to figure out what it was that made her finish last in a race of two every time.

Unfortunately, the problem remained unsolved when her received answer wasn't as profound as she'd anticipated. "It's real simple; you're a girl, girl." Madison told her incredulously, as if that was in excess of what needed to be said in explanation.

Why did Kyla have to do this? What came over her and made her believe that anything positive would arise from trying to inspire fifteen minutes of gay? Perhaps she didn't get it; that what Ashley did to her was a completely separate issue from dating girls, or that lusting for a female enemy and liking a female friend were on opposite ends of the cosmos and encountering one did not lead to experimenting with the other. Not if she had any say in it, at least. Fuck whether statistics said it was compulsory.

"And she isn't?" asked the shorter of the pair with a clueless vehemence, unknowingly confirming her friend's suspicions right when she'd begun to cite them as likelihoods. Hardly enthusiastic about the dwindling prospects of having to handle this whole, fucked up conversation straight away, especially while her mental capacity was diminished by the influence of her chosen substance, the self-proclaimed queen of popularity turned around, moving away and closing her eyes, hoping to rid her system of some of this exasperation but only managing to look avoidant in the process. "Come on; enough of this crap. What's the real reason?"

"I'm telling you the real reason, you retard!" She shot back over her shoulder, facing the angelic irritant with what verged on fury firing out of the barrel of her glare with a bang. "Did you fall headfirst into the school dunce cap and get stuck?!" asked the livid Latina, the insult slipping from her throat before she could exercise restraint over the reflex to be obnoxious when she wasn't satisfied. "Alright, I'm sorry," the girl apologised almost straight after finishing the remark, "But you're just not getting it. It's not the same thing."

Practically fuming as their full-blown fight approached the coda and linked up neatly with the start – Madison's utterly inappropriate excuse for remorse doing little to assuage her momentary ire, and rightly so – she threw her hands down helplessly as the optimism she was renowned for finally slipped out of her tight grasp. "That's the part I don't get!" Kyla was so close to both shrieking at the top of her lungs and breaking down into a torrential tempest of tears then that she had no idea which would happen first, or if she would just dissolve into giggles with no apparent justification. This was so stupid, but, from the way she was acting, people would swear that her life depended on the outcome. "She's my freakin' sister, for crying out loud! We share half of the same DNA, as much as it kills us both to accept! So please," she began, emulating the sarcastic nature of her hateful companion, just because she was as sick with getting hurt by it as she could possibly be without actually retching, "Take me by my retarded little hand and guide me through it really slow just to make sure I get it; what is it about her that seduces you but leaves you repulsed by me? Enlighten me, oh great guru!" She implored, as insincerely as she could, raising her arms and mock bowing once before lying back on the bed and silently seething, although she felt better for having said all that. Suddenly, she wasn't entirely sure she wanted her confession to reap the coveted rewards anymore. '/Women./'

"God, you are so fucking naïve." She groaned under her breath, perching her thumb and forefinger against the bridge of her nose. She was being forced to hurt the only person in this life she thought she might conceivably be able to trust. Regardless of what might happen later with Aiden and whether or not they were capable of surviving in under the strain of external influences, she didn't want to lose her as a friend. Right now, that seemed inevitable. Such was the price of her way of living. "The point is five thousand miles thataway." The cheerleader pointed to the left for emphasis.

Correction – this wasn't merely stupid; it was bonkers to the max. Why the hell were they even fighting about this? Either Madison had mild lesbian tendencies or she didn't and no amount of ferocious rage or debate would change that. But a stubborn part of her personality continued to protest that she'd come too far into this clash to simply forfeit. That wasn't like her, was it?

Feeling rather selfish, and ashamed of such aforementioned selfishness, not to mention silly – chalking her irrational behaviour up to exhaustion – Kyla concluded that she was taking all of this far too personally. Not that she was getting any pleasure out of it but the newcomer didn't quite feel like a nervous breakdown was edging over the horizon like it did all too recently. Negativity was getting her nowhere, and she hadn't been wholly rejected just yet. "If you don't stop being a colossal bitch, I can head upstairs and tell her how you feel." The caramel tinted kid threatened with an ominous smirk, realising she now had a position of power and a flaw to exploit, although her morals would never permit her to follow through with her diabolical promises. But either her crush didn't know that or was growing as tired as she was of this childish game neither could win. "So it's either that or you can be a good little girl and answer my questions." Such went her ultimatum.

"Oh you're a fucking riot." Deadpanned the dark-skinned deviant, who was more than willing to communicate her strife and let it be known that she could justify herself beyond simply saying gays are bad. She was slightly less shallow than people gave her credit for. "Fine!" she relented, ready to vent to the highest of degrees "As much as you say you don't want to pressure me into anything, you know, gay…what would you do if I said I liked you? And I'm not saying that I do!" the mocha-hued cheerleader added in a hurry, clearing her throat so she could resume presenting her important but obvious case slowly, steadily and sensibly, but, as always, with an undercurrent of arrogance. "Seriously; you'd expect us to be together, wouldn't you? You'd ask me out or something. Yes?" she prompted her.

However, the question was met with a chain-linked series of pauses that stretched on into the distance. Believing it to be a rhetorical question, which it wasn't, the presently seated resident did not reply. This only exacerbated the already painful character of the scene. Used to doing everything herself if she wanted it done right, Madison stormed over to the bed and, in either hand, took the back of Kyla's head and her jaw – said girl too confused to offer much in the way of resistance – moving both to make her appear to nod and speak like an absolutely rubbish ventriloquist's dummy.

"'Yes I would, Madison – the sexiest of the Duarte sisters – because I think you're super hot and you're just so amazing!'" She lisped in a higher pitched voice than she was prone to use otherwise in what was a terribly inaccurate impersonation of her now tremendously awkward-looking acquaintance, whom she then yanked into the midst of a horrifyingly insincere hug that just served to make a strange day even weirder. "Aww, thanks, girl! You're so—that's why it's fucking different!" Her previously upbeat manner of speech was sharply interrupted by a sudden peak in volume, causing the inadequately warned target of her yelling to flinch. "I am not going out with a girl."

Freeing her neck from the abrupt stranglehold, Kyla took a brief instant to recover her mental balance, which had been greatly disturbed in the last minute, both by the revelations and the entire near-choking experience. "…I don't lisp." She murmured sadly as the sinking feeling of a depression in the bed told her that she had been joined by another body rather than signalling hurt. But she couldn't feel too insulted; at least the puppeteering incident didn't involve a hand up her arse. "Okay," the newcomer started up again, shaking her head as though hoping such an action would catapult unwanted thoughts or emotions from her skull, "It doesn't take CIA training to figure out that you're pretty…well…an extremist homophobe, but could you just take the gender issue out of the equation for a sec?" she requested with extraordinary cheerfulness, just in case what she'd heard was true and she really was too cute to resist.

Apparently rumours were false and she was not. "No." The Latina declared bluntly in conjunction with an incredulous snicker, which only believed that such a moronic question could be asked because thinking so brought joy and hysteria to an otherwise contemptuous mind.

How could she ignore a person's sex? Wasn't that the golden rule of being homophobic; 'insert rod-support A into slot B' and no alternative was acceptable? The way she looked at it, it wasn't even really her fault that she couldn't give her dear, sweet friend a chance – only to wind up ditching the idea later when she figured she'd shut up about it – because of how she was born; it was society that made it so. She was absolved of responsibility for her concern with aesthetics, gender discrimination and, well, all those countless other components of her personality which were morally bankrupt.

A poignant and miserable pout met her blasé and apathetic stare, giving her conscience a quick stint at the lectern, or, at the very least, provoking her to wonder what disgusting impression of herself she was bound to leave with the one person on earth whom she believed cared about her and her wellbeing to any significant extent. Reconsidering the reckless haste with which she'd responded and had been prepared to give that unique bond up – she knew that must have been the alcohol talking – she also chose to swallow her pride and play along. "…Oh, alright, fine! You're officially being humoured." She informed Kyla matter-of-factly, rigidly folding her arms and flopping back onto the pillows, her facial expression still radiant with dissent and uncooperativeness. "Out of one closet and straight into another." The taller girl hissed under her breath. "But, I guess fighting like this after what's been said tonight is a waste, anyway." She whispered thoughtfully, but furthermore no less inflexible when it came to securing her heterosexuality.

Rolling her eyes at the understatement, which had taken far too long to be judged so, she leant forwards and touched her on the shoulder to manifest some eye-contact between them. "If it were any more of a waste, Greenpeace would be attacking you in canoes." She disclosed, managing to inspire a smile, even if it was deficient in the joy that was meant to result in such an expression. "Alright; here's where we wrap it up." The newcomer began, returning their disagreement, as it had gone on more than long enough for her to tolerate. If they couldn't reach an amiable compromise soon, then there would be far worse problems than this in future, which they'd have no means of resolving. "Let's be real, here. It's just me; not one of your groupies who probably doesn't even like you, so please, be as real as you were a minute ago." Her tan-skinned companion was silent when all this was being said, patiently, if a little hesitantly, waiting for her to be as frank as she'd proposed. Opening up her chest for a deep breath, she began when she'd deemed it safe. "You have undisclosed romantic feelings for girls—"

"/A/ girl." Madison interjected to rectify her insignificant blunder, which did not put much of a dent in the already mood's already precarious structure. "And I wouldn't really call them romantic either." She added later, contemplating simple semantics out loud. Indeed, a term synonymous with sexual might be the most precise, although she wasn't about to let that fact become public knowledge, but the visceral subconscious was glad to wander there and frolic in the meadows of Eros.

"Whatever!" Kyla raised her hand to cut her off – not exactly delighted to hear still more regarding her sister and the lust held for her by practically everything in the universe – before they could become too absorbed with the frivolous diversion of terminology. "No matter how you want to spin it, the point is that we both know you can appreciate the female form, etcetera, as more than a critic." She summarised, this time neglecting to leave enough of a gap in which her associate could claim otherwise, following her statement with earnest. "And I'm trying to be diplomatic here, so work with me, jerk." They exchanged glares, which thankfully were not as destructive as they might have been earlier. "Anyway, we get along, right? I mean, we have a pretty tight bond for such a short amount of time, right?" the East Coast girl asked tenderly, in a hushed tone, hovering over her perturbed friend. She was desperate for a positive reply, frantic should she be informed that their connection was just the famed mirage of a miraculous oasis in a barren and arid landscape.

Sighing, she sent her gaze elsewhere, reflecting for one of the first and only times in her life the guilt that accumulated in her heart from playing the bad guy – which, in truth, she was not as familiar with as many wished; she didn't want to have to hurt her. "Yeah, yeah; you're right. You're amazing." It was a sporadic occurrence when she honestly liked a person, never mind gathered enough bravery to step into the potential jeopardy and the assured future betrayal that would come from hanging out with them. But, far too experienced with crises of this nature, she wasn't prepared to be blackmailed into doing something she neither wanted nor felt comfortable with just for the sake of a friendship and the other party's self-esteem. That was the epitome of weakness; she'd been there, long ago. "Our friendship is so not in jeopardy…provided you don't start trying to get me tanked in an effort to trick me into lezzing out with you. We're fine, girl." For a second, she wondered if that was what this was about. After all, she was hammered, so she couldn't feel too confident that she'd taken this conversation the right way. It would explain a lot if that was the major predicament that had snowballed out of proportion, as it fit the bill, so she ventured to roll with her guess. "I don't care if you have a gay thing, you know; I still want us to hang out, if that's what's worrying you."

"No!" She shook her head furiously, almost crumbling like an ancient cliff into hysterical laughter as she again failed to say what needed to be said, but too distressed to buy into the higher spirits' malicious sense of humour. Without a doubt, this was the most bizarre conversation she had ever had. "I mean, haven't we clicked in a way that," Kyla paused here, valiantly endeavouring to get this message across correctly first go so that they wouldn't keep spinning around in circles, becoming dizzy and nauseous on this maximum velocity ride, "Were I a guy," she settled on, her fingers anxiously twitching in her lap, expectant of a reply prior to the completion of her shy enquiry, "Would make you consider…dating me?"

The question leapt faithfully into the ravine, praying that its deity would catch it and spare its wretched life. Dark eyes shimmered as, behind their flashing screens, projections of the past were echoed in the caverns of her consciousness. "Actually, um, no; not quite." She answered reluctantly. It was true; she didn't go out with people because she thought they were nice or that they clicked with her or even because they inspired her to give a shit about them. Either way, she treated them like garbage. Upon a brief overview of the manner, motivations and men of her conquests, she noticed that it was a constant pattern; she never dated decent, fun or likeable individuals – maybe because they were harder to manipulate, or perhaps they just never had anything worth taking. Hell, even her friends didn't normally fit those criteria. So, quite honestly, she wouldn't have regarded her as an option.

Every fibre of her being – as one – seemed to crumble into the earth, like dismay caused her entire entity to frown and slowly melt away. Suddenly, she appeared smaller, huddled up on the sheets, unable to shelter herself from the stabbing chill of rejection. Madison wasn't sorry, per se, but she didn't want to see her innocent companion so heartbroken. Her initial method of solving this equation was to close her eyes and grit her teeth in silent irritation. Girls were so fucking complicated.

"Look, you're a great friend, but I don't search for that in relationships." She clarified, rather than employing the old classic of 'it's not you, it's me' in an effort to console her, sitting up and sliding over the white linen to her ill-fated friend's side. "What if I'm looking for something a little more…heterosexual?" Madison proposed with an unnecessary level of perkiness, only to be pinned down by a high intensity glare that forced her to improvise. "Or," she tried again, sympathising with disenchanted youths working as clowns at kids' parties with a very tough audience to entertain, "What if I'm more interested in stuff you just don't get like…" unsurprisingly, the first item on her list of critical importance was 'finances' – though whether she really would have said it was questionable, as she was not above repulsing this topic out of existence – but with the unspoken idea, there came attached a memory of a fact she'd come so close to overlooking.

In a timely spark, she became conscious of a possibility that might prove to be very profitable. She remembered herself saying, on that breezy night when a man's ashes were scattered on the infamous boulevard, '/Looks like Ashley has to share the money./' The inheritance. Of course! Kyla was set to receive a fortune from her father's will. Upon those thoughts she felt tempted to echo that same conceited, conniving smirk that had stretched across her lips a little over a month ago.

Fuck her personality; she had exactly what Madison would have wanted in a mate.

Dumbstruck by a dilemma – this opportunity too perfect; too rare to flippantly toss aside without further thought and time to gauge the prospects of what her greed had propositioned – she rapidly retreated into her exceptionally astute brain. Whatever mental processes still functioned within acceptable parameters were working overtime to determine the danger versus the foreseeable benefits and to figure out what her immediate course of action should entail. How much had been left to her again? It had to be a cold twenty-five million at least, which sounded a familiar number, and that didn't even factor in the value of the estate! There was a minimum of eight figures for certain. And, unlike the supposed professional futures of high school athletes, this was a fucking legal certainty…as long as the heiress stayed in LA.

Then there was also the cash set to trickle down from Ashley's mother over time, without any need for documentation or death to trigger the flow. From what she'd heard, she was so set on getting the payoff as described in her ex-husband's will that she was already well into the process of offering bribes in exchange for the bastard's affection. That meant she didn't even have to wait for long to start reaping the benefits of their involvement, to whatever extent it encompassed. She might just need to play the 'all of a sudden I'm poor because my Dad's an asshole and my job isn't paying' card generously over the next little while, which meant it might be a good idea to stop stealing from Cat, if she even needed to keep the job at all…

"Like what?" Kyla unwittingly disrupted the scheming that would dictate how the future of her brittle heart would unfold. The hardly peaceful quiet had stretched beyond the reasonable length, and she was not in the mood to be left hanging when the anticipation of shattering into fragments was what did the real damage.

Startled back into reality, Madison knew she had to think fast and throw a spanner into the narrow opening before it shut her out forever. If her expressions had disclosed the manner of her conspiring or given any clue that what she said next would be a lie, then it must have gone unobserved because, as far as she could tell, the physical world had resumed in the exact spot she had left it, and the universe was none the wiser to her new objective. Good. Her gaze flickered about for an instant as she turned up a mental blank, struggling to commence on digging herself out of this ditch of epic proportions. "This is bullshit." She said at last, her husky hum rivalling the warm California air, her breath, the sepia sunset. "I'm just making up excuses and…" Hanging her head, she acted her part with magnificence and flair, a marvel on the centre stage and soaking up the spotlight. "I'm so pathetic." She was perfect, tossing her hair aside, capturing the very essence of distraught.

Perplexed for a nanosecond, delayed by the time it took to recognise a fragile little girl who wanted so much to be accepted but was too afraid to risk being used and discarded by someone who mattered, the new kid carefully reached out and placed her hand like a soft blanket over the Latina's, her heart forgetting its previous anguish and being reminded of its desire. "No you're not." As much as she'd hated the girl she liked over the last several minutes, she hadn't planned on upsetting her, and seeing her as such instilled no content. Of course, unbeknownst to her, this was all just an incredibly persuasive performance. No one could mess with the maestro of manipulation.

"Yeah I am." Replied the diabolical she-devil, who sniffled masterfully, concealing her eyes behind her hands as they began to drip and shimmer. It was quite a sight to behold as tears germinated beneath the supple lids and came to fruition on her command. Though it was hidden, she felt an evil grin tugging at the edges of her miserable frown; she was far too good at this. "You mean so much to me, and I'm just pushing you away because…I'm scared, okay!" she spluttered amidst the rough, overpowering tide of a feigned sob.

"Hey," Kyla's voice sought to embrace her with its comforting tone, anxiety taking the precaution to avoid too much physical contact, because the last thing she needed was to freak her out any more than she already had, "We don't have to do anything. I mean, we can just drop this right here and never speak of it again, unless you, you know, feel comfortable at some point in future, not that you ever have to, of course." She suggested and retracted consecutively, her nerves palatable, doing her best to be helpful. Sure it would hurt, wondering what could have been, but she'd be able to sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that she'd done the right thing and had put someone else's needs before her own when it was truly essential.

"See!" a theatrical sweep of her free hand brought all attention back towards herself. "You're so sweet and so good. And then there's me, just wasting your time and your affection. I'm such a coward." On the cusp of that final word, she invested so much passion and emotion and emphasis that she nearly spat, but, of course, as always, appearances came first. "I can see myself liking you back." She 'admitted' quietly, rather timidly, all the while scripting her next lines and discarding ones that overestimated her will to do anything overtly lesbian; her body and wits as busy as they'd ever been to keep her running both smoothly and swiftly simultaneously, every facet perfectly coordinated. "But I just don't know how I /do/ feel because I don't know if I'd be okay with it. I can't let myself find out."

A tremor, a stuttering undertone entered into the fray. Here, she waited, drying her eyes and appearing to pull herself together, pretending to be deep in thought, when really she'd worked out exactly what she intended to do a fair while ago and was simply scheduling her motions and behaviour in wisely spaced intervals so as to seem far too realistic and natural to raise doubt. Gradually, she adopted the guise of having calmed down, and, slowly, she picked up where she'd stopped.

"This is huge, and I'm just not ready." Her wistful stare evaporated into a dry mist, in actuality thankful that they were no longer at odds or in conflict, but externally creating a powerful image of a brutal and bloody battle deep within the fields of her soul. "So much of me wants to do…something…but even more of me couldn't even be forced to try." The cheerleader muttered shamefully, which to anyone who knew her well enough would be a dead give away; she was never ashamed of anything she said or did. Bothered perhaps, but never to that level, unless, of course, it was to avoid culpability, or to win favour.

"…Sounds complicated." She commented with a gloomy but enduring smile, not sure how to console her, but somehow getting the impression that the less she said the better. Too much influence would be a mar her character and achieve the opposite of what she felt inclined to. It wasn't up to her to make this choice. Her most becoming option was merely to offer her support and, regardless of whether or not it facilitated her own interests, to remain vigilant and compassionate and selfless and always on the side of the girl whom she yearned to requite her desires, but more so longed to see happy. "Seriously, Madison, whatever you decide that you want, and whenever you decide you want to have it, I'll be totally fine with it." Was the promise she made, pursuing it with a solemn pledge. "I'll still be there."

That was a vow she was more than willing to exploit. If only this cute little kid knew the impulsive rate at which she was digging her own grave. She'd been wrong; good people were very easy to manipulate, and this individual also had plenty of swag for the taking. What else had she been missing out on? From now on, she'd have to diversify her preferences.

"Thank you." She nearly sighed the archetypal expression of gratitude – encouraging the conduct she found satisfying by rewarding the behaviour every time it was perpetrated – casting a shy glance, which under most other circumstances would come across as fairly flirtatious, to the gaze of her unsuspecting victim, swallowing as though unsettled and then moving on. "You have to understand that…I'm just not prepared to be with a girl." The part-time waitress mumbled apologetically, but also clearly; that point an imperative one to communicate prior to anything too significant happening or while she was still drastically less than sober. She intertwined her fingers with Kyla's, as if regretting every word that took flight from her tongue as she spoke. "I can't say that I'd ever be able to think of someone as being my girlfriend." Just as the rhythm of the conversation began to lean in the direction of disappointment, she swung it right around into insurrection. "However, I've really enjoyed what we've had the last couple of weeks," that was probably the most truthful string of syllables she'd tied together throughout the evening as a whole, from beginning to end, without exception, "And I wouldn't sacrifice it for anything," and that was the biggest lie, "So I think it would be best if, for now, we carry on the same way as we have been up until now and then just…see what happens…see how we feel…" Advocated the dark-skinned sinner with a sinister stammer. "After all," the wicked woman whispered with a coy peek out of the corner of her eyes, "If we already, kind of, like each other's company as it stands now, without any complications to ruin it, then what have we lost?"

Elation lit her cheeks like sunlight on the surface of pure, clearest water. It wasn't much, but even the fact that they were able to look at each other now was a relief, as she hadn't taken that for granted. And even the concept of having a chance was more than her mindless optimism could have dreamt, so the fact that Madison had /said/ that she was willing to see whether or not she could grow to like her – though not in such specific terms, the message was clearly there – was a blessing she was not prepared to jettison. "So, we're, like, friends with benefits?" she asked with leashed enthusiasm.

"Yeah…I suppose we are." A gentle nod also agreed on that point, before the double-meaning of that term became apparent, for, now that she was done, she didn't really have anywhere else to direct their discussion, which left her stricken with genuine discomfort. "But, /not too many benefits!/" The cheerleader added the stipulation with damn near panicked haste, an odd and ill-fitting mask adorning her features as she swiftly removed her hand from underneath Kyla's, realising that they'd been touching a lot longer than she could be content with. Both girls turned red, though one did so far more visibly than the other, as she was notorious for doing. One thing they had failed to factor in was how damn awkward the night was going to be after a suitable conclusion was reached, but, with any luck, the devious lass would have too much of a hangover to be haunted by this in the morning. She didn't like the uncertainty and lack of control she was left with now that she'd relinquished the power of running the show, and she wasn't sure what she was supposed to do here.

They didn't have to kiss or anything, did they? She thought she'd done pretty well at keeping physicality out of the question, but she couldn't be too sure. Thank God for that 'Born Again Virgin' bullshit she was sporting. That would probably buy her a lot of space and time, otherwise unattainable. But she couldn't say; a sexless relationship was hardly what she was used to, but maintaining a friendship would come naturally, as well as giving her plenty of time sans-commitment to figure out her priorities and so on, under the guise of figuring herself out.

Even as they descended into an authoritative silence, an overjoyed Kyla did not find it to be a disturbance, nor did it hinder her bliss. Once the haze of resentment from earlier faded away, and she saw that resplendent face shining with all of its splendour, it was so easy to see why she was the object of her adoration. "You know," the timid newcomer started in just that fashion, and, if any description fit her face at that moment, it was beaming, as she quite literally seemed to illuminate the room with self-emitted light, "You really don't think highly enough of yourself as a person. You're so much braver and, all around, a better human being than you give yourself credit for." She said, chuckling softly, her head dancing and prancing off into this beautiful fantasy and infatuation that had become her reality. "There's no one else I'd rather have as my guru."

Madison felt a bead of sweat slide down her forehead, hiding her culpability with a peculiar, sheepish grin and a supposedly modest laugh as she stood up. "Excuse me; I just need to go get changed." And, for all appearances, that was exactly what she seemed to be doing, grabbing her purse and the clothes that she was borrowing for the night and heading towards the door. The second she stepped out into the hallway, she was hit by the uproarious noises of a climb towards ecstasy. Rolling her eyes, no longer moved to speechlessness – just because she was attracted to or aroused by her didn't mean she had to be a slave to it; nothing had changed – she remembered how wholly she hated and felt sickened by Ashley, regardless of whatever else she felt for her. She didn't like anything about her, except perhaps her body. Now, if only there were some way she could make her suffer for how seductive she was.

Apparently, this night had her cunning and complex mind on a roll, because yet again she came up with another exceptional plan, this time with which to extract revenge on her arch enemy. Fumbling around in her bag's front pocket as she hurried quietly towards the stairwell, she retrieved her phone and took it into her grasp with an evil grin that almost extended into a wicked laugh of victory long before she'd even come close to achievement. With one hand on the banister as she reached the floor where an impassioned tryst was taking place, she brought up the menu, then selected media and camera.

She was a shitty person. And she loved it.

To Be Continued

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