Episode 8: friendly

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“I’m… not wearing that.” Eva forced a laugh of uncertainty staring at the denim mini skirt being held in front of her by Frankie.

Frankie’s face was determined, with a raised eyebrow of un-amusement. “Now.” She said in a superior tone, thrusting the skirt towards Eva who had already been backed into a changing room.

“Noooo…! I don’t even look right in these types of skirts. I’m not that comfortable!” Eva pleaded. Frankie was unmoved, holding the skirt even closer. “If I can wear pants underneath then-“

Frankie looked even more un-amused. “Dressing room…NOW!” She ordered, practically throwing the skirt at Eva. Eva sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes, grabbing the plastic clothing hanger that held onto the skirt and made her way into the dressing room. “And don’t wear your pants on underneath it!” Frankie added as Eva closed the changing door with a flourish of distain, just to make it extra clear how against this she was.

Piper, who was a little distance away in the store, chuckled while she continued to browse the clothing rack for any type of sale, glad it was Eva on the brunt of Frankie’s forceful attitude, and not her. She had been wise enough to take some of Frankie’s suggestions of clothing and had at least tried them on without complaint. Frankie, standing by the changing room door smiled at her feeling of accomplishment.

Today was turning into an exceptional day. It had been Frankie’s idea to get the group together to hang out, as a well deserved vacation as Digimon appearances and attacks had been scarce for the last week. Of course, everyone else felt making a point of this would immediately jinx it, but Frankie was unperturbed. 

The only downside to the lack of Digimon appearances was that their own Digimon were restless and had been bored for a few days due to lack of action. So this was a vacation for them too, the humans were enjoying some time with each other, minus their Digimon. And the Digimon were letting out their energies on a more than willing Ms. Lynn who had volunteered to Digimon-sit them while the group was out for the day.

The mall had been their chosen destination. It had everything to keep everyone amused. Everyone had turned up for Frankie’s proposed get-together, even Reyez tagged along for once without complaint. They had been scrounging the huge mall for over an hour, window shopping and talking. When the girls decided they wanted to do some serious shopping, the boys decided it was best to go their separate ways… which happened to be to the nearby arcade.

Currently Frankie, Eva and Piper were in ‘4ever 23’ a popular, trendy fashion store with sales that were stylish, but inexpensive – two of Frankie’s favorite words.  Frankie had been patronizing Eva about her tomboyish image and suggesting that maybe she should try something new, much to Eva’s chagrin.

Frankie, along with Piper, looked amongst the clothes while Eva proceeded to try on some new clothes in the dressing room suggested to her, or in Frankie’s case thrown at her. Periodically the two would hold up shirts, dresses, skirts and jeans for approval and the other who would either agree or disagree with a simple head motion.

As Piper was pulling a dress off the rack, the dressing room door opened and a “Psst…” was heard.

Piper and Frankie raised their heads and looked over, trying to contain their laughter so suddenly.

Eva peeked from behind the door. “I’m not wearing this.” She glared, shaking her head rapidly from side to side. “I’m really not.”

“Well, let us see it first!” Frankie walked over; Eva pulled the door almost closed again. Piper followed, clothes carefully hooked over one arm


“Come on, Eva.” Piper coaxed, trying to be a little gentler than Frankie. “No one is going to laugh.”

Frankie was not so on board with the ‘softly-softly’ approach that Piper was, and grabbed the outer door handle and pulled it. Eva was gripping the other side and would not let it budge. Frankie dropped her hand from the handle. “Oh my god, you’re being a big baby! Let us see it!” Frankie placed her hands on her hips.

Eva peeked her head out again, making a face she said, with a loud sigh. “Fine, fine.”

With a single open swing of the door, Eva stood before them both, posed in a way which best concealed herself.

The outfit Frankie had picked out for Eva to wear involved the mini skirt and a top that showed too much chest for Eva’s taste and too tight for comfort. It was definitely Frankie, and definitely not Eva.

“It’s so… drafty.” Eva commented.

“Move your arms!” Frankie reached out, prying Eva’s arms away from her body.

Piper had moved the armful of clothes up to her mouth, trying to stop herself from laughing. It wasn’t the outfit making her laugh; it was the way Frankie and Eva were bickering that amused her.

“Oh, girl. You’re skinny.” Frankie commented looking Eva over. She pinched some skin peeking through a gap between the skirt and the top. Eva squeaked.

Eva’s demeanor quickly changed as she turned her back to look at the mirror in the dressing room.  “Skinny?” She looked herself over. “Oh my God, I am. I’m like a stick. I’m like that bad kind of skinny!”

Surprised by Eva’s reaction, Frankie paused for a moment and glanced at piper who shrugged, equally as surprised by Eva’s reaction as Frankie was.

“Well… no I’m just saying, your legs in that skirt loo--”

“LIKE JACK SKELLINGTON?” Eva was examining herself in the mirror turning all manner of ways to see herself at all angles. Frankie and Piper were standing either side, apparently watching Eva have a body melt down. “OH MY GOD. I’M ANOREXIC! I KNEW I SHOULDN‘T HAVE DRUNK THAT DIET PESPI… IT TASTED LIKE SHIT ANYWAYS!” Eva grabbed the dressing room door and slammed it shut, locking it. “I’LL NEVER WEAR A MINI SKIRT AGAIN!!!”

“Uh…” Frankie looked to the blonde, “What in the hell, just happened?” She pointed to the dressing room door.

Piper shrugged, “She’s superstitious and has body issues. Great going Franks, you’ve scarred her for life… again.” Piper quickly poked her tongue out at the other girl, before walking into an empty dressing room. 

Frankie blinked.


“OH MY!!” The elderly woman went into hysterical laughter.

Ms. Lynn tried to calm herself from laughing, taking deep breaths but the more she thought about the joke the funnier it became in her mind. She was soon joined by Odocomon and light giggles from Poemon as they both watched a comedy program on the TV.

Ms. Lynn placed her hand on her chest and released a sigh, then another chuckle. She was sitting in the middle of the long couch with Odocomon on her left side, curled up in her usual sitting stance and Poemon snuggled on her right. The Digimon were taking little to no room, as Ailurmon was sleeping beside Poemon; lying on her side with her back facing the TV.

Caesarmon and Irbimon had found themselves playing a safe game of tag around the apartment, with more than enough places to run, hide and leap on the other. And Siberimon tried to his best to catch up on his reading in a large arm chair that dwarfed him, even though Irbimon and Caesarmon would try to coax him into playing with them.

Ms. Lynn enjoyed the company; it was like having a set of well behaved children around and discovered more decent conversation with Odocomon than she had with anyone around her age in a long while. 

“Tag!!” Irbimon pounced on the unsuspecting otter Digimon who yelped in surprise and immediately started chasing the feline. As they rushed by a coffee table, Irbimon lightly knocked into it, causing the table to rock back and forth.

Caesarmon stopped in his tracks and rocked on his hind legs in time with the table, staring at the wooden figurines to catch them as they were swaying as if they would fall any minute. As one began to tip over, Caesarmon released a small cry of, “Uhh no! No! No! Nonono!!”

Irbimon leapt over, falling on top of Caesarmon and caught the figurine before it hit the ground. Caesarmon yelped again. “Getoffame! You weigh a ton!”

The crash of Irbimon falling on Caesarmon caught everyone’s attention, waking the slightly grumpy Ailurmon who fidgeted in her position.

“Oh heavens, is everyone ok?” Ms. Lynn asked, rising up to her feet, she wobbled a little before she could fully grasp her cane. She made a slow pace across the living room, as Irbimon and Caesarmon tried to place the figurine back in its proper place, arguing about its placement in hushed voices.

“-And I do not weigh a ton!” Irbimon was saying as Ms. Lynn reached them.

“We didn’t mean to!” Caesarmon pleaded, turning to her. “See, Irbimon was running too fast and he knocked over the tabl--”

“ME!?” Irbimon shouted out of surprise. “You were beside it when it started falling!”

“That doesn’t mean I did it!!” Caesarmon shouted back, the two continued their bickering while Ms. Lynn picked up the wooden figurine, which was undamaged. She smiled and looked down at the two Digimon.

“This reminds me of a story.” She chuckled.

Ms. Lynn picked up a couple more figurines and made her way back to the couch, getting comfortable. She placed the figurines in her lap. The Digimon gathered around her with Irbimon slightly knocking into the sleeping Ailurmon.

“There once was a beautiful princess that lived in a castle in the middle of a beautiful countryside. Her father was a very respected king and her mother was one of the kindest women anyone could ever meet, but they paid hardly any attention to her. 

“There were only two people she could talk to, her royal guard and her grandmother. One day, the father decided it was time to marry her off to another kingdom but the Princess refused as she had fallen in love with the guard.  The father did not listen to her cries, and went with the proceedings to marry her to a neighboring country anyway.”

“That’s not fair.” Poemon interjected.

“No,” Ms. Lynn agreed before she continued. “‘Your daughter will not listen,’ Said the Grandmother one day to the King. ‘She will run off and never be seen again if you don’t pay attention to her and hear her cries.’ 

“The King insisted on having his daughter do what he said, but as the Grandmother predicted, the Princess ran away with the guard. The King ordered both to be brought back, and if the guard tried to stand in their way, to kill him. 

“They were finally caught and the guard told the Princess ‘I will protect you, no matter what happens. Not because it’s my job, but because I love you.’ 

“The guard fought the Royal army to protect the Princess, powered by his will to be with her forever. But unfortunately, fate did not see it as so. The guard was struck with a mighty blow and as he fell to his knees, the Princess ran and caught him in her arms. 

“‘I couldn’t protect you, like I promised.’ Spoke the guard but the Princess silenced his voice with a kiss. 

“When the guard died in her arms, the Princess was saddened. Her sadness continued until the day of her wedding. Before the wedding, the Prince she was to marry came to her door.”

Irbimon moved on the floor, knocking against Ailurmon who swatted him with her paw. Odocomon nudged Irbimon with her nose to stop him returning it, and returned her attention to the story. Irbimon did the same.

“‘I know I do not own your heart at this moment,’ he spoke softly to her, ‘and I do know I will never replace the brave man that held it so close. But as your husband, I can only hope that one day you will open up to me and allow me the chance to prove myself that I can carry on what he started.’ 

“The Princess was moved by these words, for they didn’t seem like the kind that an arranged Prince would say, when she turned around in a gasp of the moment, she stood face to face with the soul of the guard. 

“The guard said to her, ’I have taught you how to love, but it’s time that you teach it to others.’ He grabbed the Princess’ hand and smiled, ‘I’ve enjoyed holding your heart dear, but it’s time that you give it to someone that can continue to protect it, for I cannot.’ 

“From that moment forth, the Princess entrusted the love she had for the guard to the Prince.”

Ms. Lynn yawned. “The same goes for friendships… I would say.” She laughed. 

“What happened then?” Poemon asked.

“Well, the Princess did as her love asked, and married the Prince, trying to teach him how to love, like she had loved the guard.” Ms. Lynn explained.

Irbimon looked at the wooden figures in Ms. Lynn’s lap, one a carved Princess and the other a carved guard. They were detailed, each hair and fold of clothing perfectly crafted, and their faces so delicate. Like they would come alive any moment. Ms. Lynn yawned again. “Be a dear,” she spoke to Irbimon, rubbing his head, “go and fetch the blanket on the chair there.” She pointed to an armchair and Irbimon nodded, quickly running to it.

Pulling the tartan blanket from the chair, it fell with a flump on top of him. Irbimon shuffled underneath it and came out, facing the chair still. Only… something was different. Like something had changed, or moved. It didn’t seem the same; curious, Irbimon shuffled around the chair. Something caught his eye to the left and he turned.

“Irbimon?” Odocomon was at his side.

“Did you see that?”

Odocomon was puzzled. “See… what?” she asked, looking around the room.

“There’s something in here.” Irbimon said. He was staring at the chair again, where he had seen … something.

“Yes,” Odocomon said sternly, “We’re all here.”

“No, I mean-“

“I think maybe you’ve watched too many films with Eva.” Odocomon sighed. She grabbed up a corner of the blanket with her teeth. “Come along. Ms. Lynn is waiting.”

Irbimon frowned, looking around again. He knew there was something else here. His senses had never directed him wrong before. But somehow… he wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light, or his mind playing tricks. Odocomon tugged the blanket again. “Yeah… okay – I’m coming.” A final look at and around the chair, Irbimon sighed and followed the deer Digimon to Ms. Lynn on the sofa, where she was already dozing.

Behind the arm chair, two inquisitive green eyes peeked out.


The arcade was a mash up of fake gun-shots, games blaring out noise to vie for a person’s attention, people shouting at each other over the noise of the games, tickets streaming out of some of them. Music boomed from the various Guitar Hero and Band Hero games, and from the whole room of Dance Dance Revolution machines. This was the reason Tom loved this arcade above any other one he had been to. To his knowledge, no other arcades had a room completely dedicated to DDR, where tournaments were held yearly, and monthly competitions took place.

Tom probably enjoyed DDR more than he should have. He didn’t really enjoy other forms of exercise because he never found it quite as fun as he did DDR. It didn’t have the up-beat music, the fast steps, and the bright, hypnotic colors. And no other sports he’d been subjected to had the underlying feeling of competition while still being fun. Sure, other sports weren't purely competitive: basketball, baseball, football. They could be played casually but the ultimate aim was to beat the other players.

DDR wasn’t like that. DDR you could play with some stranger just for fun, and that’s all. Of course there was always a little competition, and if you were a serious player like Tom was, you took place in the monthly competitions or challenged people for small amounts of money. Never more than twenty dollars. But that’s what made the game so great – win or lose, everyone had a good time.

Right now though, Tom wasn’t having a great time. He had to watch other people play and enjoy themselves while sulking that his companions wouldn’t play with him. Reyez had no interest in DDR and had gone to play a House of the Dead game. James at least had given it a try but had proven he had no ability with the game what-so-ever so Tom had let him off to go play some Time Crisis shooters that James was scarily good at.

Tom was watching other people play. One person in particular had attracted a crowd and was playing a single player game using the pads for two players, which required moving around a lot more. It was one of the insane levels that had been unlocked on the arcade game by Tom and some other friends a while ago. Tom enjoyed the level as much as the next person, but besides him and maybe three other people he’d never seen anyone actually be able to get all the way through it. This guy though… this guy seemed to have no problems, at least according to the whispers from the crowd that Tom kept over hearing.

“I can’t believe he’s still on his first credit.”

“He hasn’t even broken a sweat!”

“It must help being so tall – long legs and all. They give him an advantage.”

“I think he’s been playing for like, almost an hour. How is he still standing?”

“I know – I play for ten minutes and my legs feel like jelly.”

“It’s kind of unfair though. He’s not letting other people play.”

“Who cares? This guy is amazing.”

“I wanna see someone challenge him – that would be good.”

The level being played stopped and the score started to mount up, ending on a SSS grade – the highest one could get. There was a cheer and round of applause from the crowd, where Tom joined in out of courtesy. Still curious, he wandered through the crowd to get a closer look as the guy was selecting a song to do next while on his winning streak.

He was tall; much taller than Tom was, with dark grey hair and a sharp face. In combats, a green t-shirt with dog tags around his neck, he didn’t look like anything special. Tom leaned on the barrier, eyeing the songs he was looking through. He stopped on one, the tune Tom recognized.

“That’s a good one. It’s tough on expert mode.” Tom stated.

“Oh?” The guy on the machine turned to him. “You play?”

“I unlocked most of the songs available on this machine.” Tom replied, trying to remain disinterested.

“So… you’re good.” The boy stated.

“I guess.” Tom nodded.

The grey haired boy smirked. “Wanna play?” He stepped to one side. “I’m getting bored playing against myself.”

Not one to turn down an offer or a slyly disguised challenge, Tom stepped onto the second player stand on the machine and checked the laces on his shoes were tightly done up. “I’m Tom.” He stuck his hand out.

“Hunter.” They shook hands. “Challenger picks the song.”

Reyez had been engrossed in the House of the Dead game he had started playing. He had almost completed it, though he had gone about fourteen credits to get this far. He didn’t mind so much. He had initially thought he would find the whole hanging out around the mall idea boring, and would wind up leaving early, but finding this game and getting involved in it had kept him around for a lot longer than he had admittedly anticipated.

He was approaching the final boss and had one health pack left. His hands were sweaty on the fake gun, and his heart was pumping against his rib cage. It may have been a game, but he’d never been this close to actually completing the damn thing. James was a short distance away; he had been watching Reyez play for about ten minutes after losing on one of the latter Time Crisis levels.

James had texted Frankie and the others asking about food as it was getting to the mid-afternoon and he had an idea that everyone would be wanting at least something to eat now. Even if it wasn’t much. Frankie had texted back that they’d meet them all at the arcade, so at the moment James had nothing much to do except watch Reyez finish his game and wonder where Tom had wandered off to.

“Reload! Reload, DAMMIT!” Reyez shouted at the screen, shaking the fake gun in frustration. “FUCKIT.” He threw the gun down on the arcade machine and stomped away. James smirked, watching the ‘continue?’ screen count down to zero. He guessed Reyez hadn’t completed it.

“No luck?”

“FUCK!” Reyez shouted ignoring James questions.

“Ah, Rey. I thought I heard your dulcet tones.” Piper poked her head around a crowd of people the two boys were walking past. Reyez made a face at her, continuing to curse the game under his breath. “You boys have fun?”

“Yeah, loads.”

“Until the stupid game fucked up on me.” Reyez grumbled.

“You whine like a girl.” Eva laughed, appearing behind Piper with Frankie, both laden with shopping bags. The trip for clothes hadn’t been a total waste; Frankie had even managed to make Eva buy the mini skirt after making a compromise allowing her to wear cropped leggings underneath it.

“Fuck you.” Reyez snapped.

Frankie wheedled around the girls sidling up to James and slipping her hand in his. “Did you beat him or something?”

“No.” James shook his head. “He lost the game.” James laughed to himself, while Reyez made another face and then smacked him up the back of the head.

“How long have you been wanting to make that joke?”

James shrugged and rubbed the back of his head. “All day.” Frankie, Eva and Piper all exchanged looks.

“Where’s Tom?” Eva asked, noticing the lack of blond in the troupe.

Reyez glanced around. “No idea… he wandered off when I started playing House of the Dead.”

“Oh,” Eva glanced over her shoulder. “Probably the dance machines. Follow me.”

They followed the plum haired girl, weaving through the people towards the separate room of dance machines, which was completely packed out with people. Over the noise of talking, the fast paced music and the stamping of feet on the dance machines could be heard. Eva could see the floppy blond head of Tom moving quickly and rhythmically, competing with a tall grey haired boy.

“You guys are going to be in for a wait.” Eva sighed.

“How come?” asked Piper.

“Uhm… DDR is one of Tom’s big weaknesses. He’s one of the best players in town and looks like this has turned into a challenge.” Eva explained with a weak grin. “Hope you’re not in a hurry to get anywhere!”

“HUNTER!!” A female voice called through the crowd a short distance from Eva and the others. The voice belonged to a petite girl with intelligent green eyes and platinum silver hair; it looked as if it had just been finished in a salon. Dressed in skinny jeans, white heels and a white tank top, she commanded authority as she walked through the people and they parted like the red sea.

“Oh my God.” Frankie breathed. “You guys know who that is, right?!” She was squeezing James hand; her face alighted in a grin.


“No.” Reyez sighed. “But no doubt you’re gonna tell us.”

“Have you been living under a rock?!” Frankie was almost hyperventilating. “That’s the Divine twins! Hunter and Rose!” She looked around the group for any sign of recognition on their faces and saw none. “Oh my GOD! You’re so clueless!! They’re the kids of Bella Divine, the owner of Atlas Corp?!”

“Ohhh….” James nodded, finally understanding.

“And?” Piper prompted.

“And?!” Frankie yelped. “What do you mean ‘and’? They were in GQ last week in the under twenty-five rich list. Rose is meant to be really bright, I mean like a rocket scientist. And Hunter, well he’s just a cutie. And a massive athlete.”

“Well, let’s go say hello.” Eva said.

“What? No!” Frankie snapped, grabbing the other girl’s wrist.


“You can’t just go up to them and say ‘hi’. They’re like… celebrity royalty.” Frankie explained, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Piper sighed. “They can’t be that royal – they’re talking to Tom.” The group looked over and noticed that Tom, while playing, was talking with Hunter and Rose too, who was standing by the game, waiting it seemed for her brother. “Let’s go.” No longer held by Frankie, Piper moved through the throngs of people to the dance machines. Reyez followed her, and then Eva. James coaxed Frankie along, though she was grumbling the whole time.

“Come on, this is so childish. I have things to do.” Rose was saying, scolding her brother. Hunter and Tom were both coating in a thin film of sweat, both out of breath from their dance exertions.

“Then go do them. I’m busy.” Hunter retorted. “You don’t need me around.”

“Are you seriously telling me you want to spend your time playing such a silly game?”

“It’s not silly.” Hunter replied. He and Tom stomped heavily in time with the song, “It’s important. I have money riding on this.”

“Money?” Eva repeated.

Tom, unable to actually look at her for fear of missing a step, replied. “It’s only twenty bucks, don’t get panicky. You have fun shopping?”

“Sorta.” Eva said. “Having fun?”


“Can we go eat?”

“In a minute.” Tom replied, distracted by the screen.

Rose was glaring at her brother who was as distracted as Tom by the arrows flying up the screen that he had to match with his feet movement. She sighed, placing her hands on her hips. “There’s no getting them away from this, I bet.”

“I doubt it.” Eva replied grinning. “Looks like your brother is as bad as my boyfriend when it comes to this game.”

“Only when he has some worthy competition.” Rose said. “Which is rarely.” She sighed again and then decided to at least try and be nice. “Who are the rest of your friends?”

“Oh, I’m Eva. This is Reyez, James, Frankie, Piper – and you’ve obviously sort of met Tom.” She indicated to each person as she introduced them. “We’ve just been having a day out, y’know.”

“Sort of.” Rose murmured, shifting her hair off her shoulder breezily. Eva sensed a minor cold shoulder from her, so retreated to watching Tom play. Frankie took the opportunity to move in on Rose while the others watched the DDR battle.

“You were in GQ last week.” Frankie said quickly.

“Yeah.” Rose nodded. “I was.”

“I mean… you probably get this a lot, but-“

“What’s it like?” Rose finished the sentence for her, and Frankie nodded. “Having money is good. Being a twin is bad. Being a member of the Divine family has its good and bad points.”


“No privacy.” Hunter said quickly.

Rose nodded, agreeing. “Yeah. There’s a distinct lack of privacy. We have to be careful what we do, who we’re seen with, what we say. You know how tabloids like to blow things out of proportion.” She rolled her eyes, and tilted her head. “What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m studying fashion at the local college.” Frankie replied. “And Piper’s studying Veterinary science.”

“What a co-incidence. My brother and I have just been enrolled ther-“

“HUNGRY~!” Reyez yelled from the wall where he had taken up residence for the moment.

James laughed. “Maybe make this the last one?” He suggested to Tom who nodded.

“What do you say, next one the last one. Winner takes all?” He suggested to Hunter who seemed happy with this arrangement. “Cool…”

“Why don’t you guys come with us? We were just going to get something to eat.” Eva suggested.

Rose and Hunter exchanged looks for a moment, before Hunter nodded. “Sounds good. Where were you thinking of going?”

“Block 88.” Piper told them. “Is that alright with the two of you?”

Both Hunter and Rose nodded. Tom called Hunter to attention as he selected their final song.


Dinner took place in an up-and-coming restaurant, Block 88. Already known for its steaks and the different foods on offer, it had been very busy since its opening a few months ago. Reyez had heard about it at Excellent Bean, and made the choice for everyone to go there. He wasn’t willing to sit around while their group of now eight decided where they wanted to eat.

They were seated in a large booth with plush red leather sofas and a round table. Drinks were brought quickly, cocktails for all, and menus were set out. Everyone debated, while still maintaining an easy flow of conversation with their new companions. The menu was vast, with house favorites, steaks, sides of ribs and basically anything to do with meat. There was also a vast variety of other options including pizza, pasta, salad and burgers.

The group was quick to order. Hunter and Tom had both worked up appetites after their competing, though Tom was still baiting Hunter about beating him in their final song and walking away with the twenty dollars that had been bet.

“It was one lousy mistake.” Hunter was grumbling. “My sister’s fault.” Rose ignored his comment, continuing her hushed conversation with Reyez across the other side of the table. Hunter rolled his eyes and leaned back in his seat, stretching his long legs into the walk way, resting his hands on his stomach. “You’re pretty good though… I guess.”

“Thanks.” Tom grinned. “You’re pretty good yourself.”

“Rose said that you two recently enrolled in the local college?” Eva said, moving the subject on. She had heard quite enough about dance machines for one day.


Piper put her drink down. “Why’s that?”

“Just some family drama. You know the deal.” Hunter waved his hand dismissively.

James snorted. “Don’t I just.” He made a face, Frankie patted his hand.

“How’s the house hunt going?”

“Hm.” James muttered and turned to Hunter. “Do me a favor, ask your mother not to knock down my house.”

Hunter rose his hands defensively. “Hey-hey. I don’t get any say in what she does. I’m just her son. We’re not close.” He laughed for a second, taking a gulp of his drink. “Why? What’s the issue?”

James seemed to consider going into detail but stopped. “It’s nothing. Never mind, I don’t wanna bring the mood down.” He managed a small grin, and glanced across the restaurant to see if their food was on its way.

“So, uhm…” Eva paused, moving the subject on. “What are you guys studying at college?”

“Sports Science.” Hunter explained.

“Rose?” Frankie turned to the other girl.

“History of Fine Art and Mathematics.” Rose explained. “And I’m doing a night class on Music as well.”

“My sister the genius.” Hunter said sarcastically.

“My brother, the lay about.” Rose retorted.

“Doing all that… you won’t have time for anything else, will you?” Frankie asked. “Like… fun.”

“Fun? What is this ‘fun’ you speak of?” Hunter asked, feigning ignorance. “Rose doesn’t know the meaning of fun.”

Again, Rose ignored him. “That doesn’t really matter to me. I want to do these courses now while I can. Before mother makes me take a business course so I can run the company when she retires.”

“I … see.” Frankie murmured, pursing her lips. “So… what do you do for fun?”

“Life’s not a party for everyone Frank.” Reyez said from Rose’s other side. “Maybe you could stand to take a lesson from Rose.”

“You’re a fine one to talk.” Frankie replied sharply.

“Oh look – food!” Piper said quickly, almost jumping out of her chair as the waitress approached their table, anything to diffuse the tense situation beginning to seep into their group. The two newcomers seemed to make everyone a little nervous. Or… at least Rose did. Her way of sitting, being, talking… it was all so clipped, perfect. She looked like she had never done a hard day’s work in her life. As if every time someone moved, spoke or even breathed she was judging how they did these things. Piper slid back into her seat when her pasta was placed in front of her.

“Jumpy little thing, aren’t you Blondie?” Hunter smirked at her; he was speaking around a fry.

“My name is Piper.”

“…Blondie suits you better.” Piper shook her head and turned her attention to her meal.

“So what’s the plan for the rest of the day?” Reyez asked the question openly as he started to poke at the ribs set out in front of him. Rose was carefully going through her salad beside him.

“We could see a movie?” Eva suggested. “I think there’s a new horror flick on.”

“Not for me.” Piper shook her head violently from side to side. “Not after Halloween.”

Frankie agreed. “Yeah… besides I don’t want to leave Ms. Lynn alone too long with her … charges.”

“I’m sure she’s fine.” Tom said, waving his hand. “Come on, we never get a day off. We should enjoy it.”

“A day off?” Rose asked.

“Younger siblings. We all have them.” Reyez lied easily. “We managed to shirk them off onto a neighbor of Frankie’s so we could actually have a day to ourselves.”

“I see.” Rose sighed. “Unfortunately after this Hunter and I will have to leave you. What I said before in the arcade is true; we do have things to do today that require us being at the main building.”

Hunter groaned. “Boring. But necessary. We’ll have to grab your numbers before we go.”

“Yeah, and you guys, I don’t wanna leave Ms. Lynn to deal with the six kids for too long either. You know she’s not as spry as she used to be.” Frankie added, trying to be as dainty with her burger as possible and failing as some of the relish dripped out onto her hand. She made a face, wiping it away with a paper napkin.

“Looks like we’ll be heading off when you guys do.” Tom commented. “Though it’s been nice meeting you. We need to have a rematch some time, Hunter.”

“Undoubtedly.” Hunter nodded; he was smirking, toying with his dog tags. “Next time we’ll up the stakes.”

“Oh no, you won’t.” Eva interjected before Tom to rise to the challenge. “Twenty bucks is enough. If you really want to up the stakes then next time the loser pays for the meal.”

“Sounds fair to me.” Tom nodded.

He and Hunter shook hands. “Gentleman’s agreement.” Hunter stated.

Piper smiled, toying with her plate. “Well if we apply that logic to now… then surely Hunter should pay?” She cast him a sly glance. “After all, you wouldn’t want to break a ‘gentleman’s agreement’.”

“Heh… can’t argue with that logic.” Hunter commented. Rose rolled her eyes from across the table, sighing loudly. “You’re not as innocent as you look, Blondie.”

Piper shrugged returning to her meal, and the conversation she had been having with Frankie regarding the Camden Bonnetts. Tom and Eva were quick to finish their meals, as by now everyone else had, and were waiting for them to finish too.

Dessert was ordered and eaten quickly, despite much stealing of other people’s ice cream to try flavors and complaining when some people put flavors they didn’t like back in someone else’s bowl. True to his word, Hunter paid – even though Piper had said she was joking. The bill was sent away, and the others handled tipping the waiting staff as they had been quick and efficient for such a large group.

Outside the restaurant, numbers were swapped, Rose and Reyez kept away from the main group, talking quietly while exchanging their numbers, and Hunter was quick to take everyone’s and call them so they could save his. An announcement that the mall would be closing in fifteen minutes echoed over the PA system, prompting James, Frankie and Eva to drag the others out of the shopping centre and start making their way back to Ms. Lynn. Hunter and Rose walked to the car park.

“That was… enlightening.” Rose commented as they sat in the back of the Mercedes driven by the chauffer. “Perhaps you could have toned down the flirting.”


“Oh please.” Rose tutted. “Blondie? Gentleman’s agreement? And since when do we ever pay for anything?”

Hunter scoffed. “What about you and the tanned guy. Got plans?”

Rose bristled. “That’s none of your business.”

“No,” Hunter nodded, “but if it interferes with her plans you know Mother dearest will be most displeased.”

“What mother doesn’t know, won’t hurt her.” Rose snapped back.

Hunter laughed quietly, rolling his eyes and leaning against the window. Outside he could see the Atlas Corp building close by where they were heading, and the lights on in their mother’s office. “You forget, mother knows everything.”

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