It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon and the Mortensen Manor was beginning to bustle with life. The day had started a bit slow for everyone, but picked up pace quite fast as soon as little Evelyn had woken up from her peaceful slumber. Grandma Leila hauled herself out of bed and went to assist Hope in hushing her daughter while while Aunt Meaghan rushed downstairs to warm a bottle of milk for her granddaughter. Once Evelyn’s tummy was full, Hope pulled her out of the crib and settled her down on the floor among her colourful toys. The little bundle of joy wobbled around grabbing whatever caught her eye and giggling in delight. The adults moved downstairs for their breakfast after that and gathered around the kitchen table to discuss their week. Like always, Titanic knew it was the weekend and he hovered near Hope with his collar and leash close by.
“Want to go for a walk, do you?” the brunette cooed, putting her plate in the sink.
The black dog yipped excitedly as Hope collected her phone and house keys. Outside, she fitted Titanic with his collar and tied him to a leash before setting off for a nearby park.
The walk started nice and breezy with both Hope and Titanic having lots of energy. Red and orange leaves crunched under the black mutt’s paws as he led their path away from the family home.
“Slow down buddy,” Hope laughed, keeping a firm grip on the leash that connected her to her furry friend.
They reached the park and Titanic had a good time playing around in the dirt with his leash off for a short while. By the time they had finished playing at the park, night had descended on the pair and an evening chill swept across in the air. Hope’s phone rang loudly in the silence, startling both her and the black mutt by her side.
“Hello?” she asked, pulling the device to her ear.
“Hey, it’s Wayne,” said a smooth familiar voice, “I’m coming over tomorrow. Keep the door open.”
Wayne John was Hope’s best friend and only ray of sunshine in the new suburb of Twinbrook which she had learned to call home. He was also little Evelyn’s favourite person. At first, Wayne used to drop by the Mortensen Manor to help out Leila and Meaghan by doing some outdoor work like raking the leaves during autumn. He didn’t ask for much pay, and enjoyed doing his bit for the older neighbours out of good will.
When Hope moved in straight after University, they didn’t see each other much or make any introductions. It was when Hope returned with a newborn baby that Wayne began increasing his workload at the Manor from working outdoors to befriending Hope and helping out with the baby indoors.
The call ended as soon as it had come and the brunette shook her head, looking at the device in her hand with amusement. When Titanic and Hope returned home, she ushered him to the bathroom for a quick bath to wash off the mud on his thick coat. Slowly, her thoughts drifted to tomorrow and the excitable hunk she called her best friend.
Monday morning was wet and gloomy. The weather had changed drastically from the day before and left Lily scrambling out of bed in a confused mess. Rain pelted down in steady beats lulling the blonde to sleep along with cool drafts of wind which snaked in through open windows and swirled around the sleeping beauty. Luckily, human inventions didn’t get affected by breezy air like humans themselves did. As the clock struck eight, Lily’s alarm rang out in a frantic clash of disruptive sounds. Pushing her hands out ahead of her, the blonde hit the clock on her bedside table and forced her eye herself awake.
“It’s eight already?” she slurred with drowsiness.
By the time she was up and ready, her carpool was honking noisily outside in irritation. “Sorry, sorry! I’m coming!” she called out, grabbing her essentials and stuffing it in the pockets of her white blazer.
The icy droplets of water rained down on her as she then raced from her carpool to the entrance of her science building in the industrial part of town.
“Running from the rain again?” asked a close colleague of hers when she entered through the front doors.
Lily accepted the box of tissues extended towards her and patted her face dry.
“Life has become too hectic these past few years. When I left Uni, I had a dream and a plan. But the reality has turned out quite different,” the blonde sighed, walking towards the lab.
“Get a dog or something to spruce up your life. Taking care of it will give you an excuse for leisure time as well,” suggested Emery.
Lily pondered the thought for a moment, then replied, “I’ve thought about it but nothing’s caught my eye. And you can never be too sure of temperaments mutts at the pound have.”
“Well I guess it’s your lucky day. I had a purebred poodle shipped over from France last week, but because of family issues I can’t keep her. She’s prim, proper and as neat as they come. I was going to put her up for adoption, but if you want it I can drop her over next week.”
And just like that, an ordinary day led to another exciting adventure for Lily. In a week’s time on a rainy day just like the Monday before, Emery pulled up in front of Lily’s manor after work with her grey poodle in tow. The blonde observed the little dog strut down the driveway straight into the house as if she somehow knew this was going to be her new home. Well, it looked more like she was entering a hotel for dogs.
“Her name’s Marina. You’ll love her,” Emery winked as she handed over the pedigree papers and medical history.
“Thanks…” Lily trailed, her eyes still on the little diva she had accepted into her home.
The day before, Lily had gone out to the pet store to buy the necessary pet essentials for her new canine companion and a nice dog house to put out the back. Rosie was a bit surprised by the news but didn’t oppose the decision.
“I’m not the one looking after it,” teased her cousin, “And I hope you know what you’re doing.”
The unexpected appearance of Conrad Carmona here in her home, at this hour of the night, caught Lily off guard, even as she was forced to admit that he had been in her thoughts for some time. The handsome raven-haired hunk paused in his tracks, his leather shoes coming to rest on the tiled floor of the Thorn Manor entryway and looked at the petite blonde before him. Much had changed in these five years including Lily’s increased inclination towards a more feminine style. The new influence could be attributed to her fiancé, Conrad, who was a new and upcoming stylist ready to take the town by storm after Leila’s time was up.
“Babe, what are you doing here?” Lily asked the love of her life.
He smirked to himself then produced a bouquet of white flowers from behind him.
“These are the freshest and most expensive flowers in season. I thought of you as soon as I saw them so I bought them for you.”
He left as swift as he came with Lily staring after him from the doorway, her hand clutching the beautifully scented flowers to her chest. He was like that. Conrad loved doing impromptu things and whisking Lily away on last minute adventures. He was everything she had ever wanted and he missed no opportunity to spice up her life. He returned the next morning to take his blonde sweetheart to a nearby park. The morning light was dimmed due to clouds overhead when Lily emerged at the park from Rosie’s fancy pink car, borrowed quickly for the short trip. Conrad waited with the passenger door held open as the petite girl made her way out.
“I don’t come here as often as I should,” whispered Lily looking past the park at the beach down below.
The raven man followed her to the set of stairs leading to the sands and looped his fingers through hers. Sighing in contentment, Lily turned around and planted a soft kiss on her fiancé’s cheek.
“Thank you,” she smiled.
The two had a picnic breakfast which Conrad prepared especially for Lily with her favourite fried peanut butter and banana sandwich packed in clean, sophisticated slices.
“Pretty perfect for a guy,” Lily teased, but Conrad waved it away with a smirk.
He had clients booked for the rest of the day so he dropped the blonde home and parked Rosie’s car before arranging for a taxi and heading off to the salon. Lily collected the car keys and walked up to the pretty pink manor she had been living in for the past five years. She remembered the very first time she had arrived here with her ugly trunks in hand. The lavish abode reminded her of her own home and was a much welcomed sight. Even now, she lit up every time she walked through the creamy pink doors.
“So you’re back with my car,” Rosie commented irritably, swiping the keys from her younger cousin’s hands.
Lily scrunched her eyebrows in concern. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
Lily followed Rosie to the third floor where her older cousin seated herself in front of the home computer. She clenched and unclenched her fists in an effort to calm down as she looked at the open window on her screen.
“What are you looking at?” Lily tried again.
This time Rosie obliged, saying, “Work submissions for our newest paper. How am I supposed to keep my job if my subordinates can’t produce any decent material?”
The younger cousin hurried over to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water to cool Rosie down. She waited for her companion to take a few gulps before falling into an intense discussion.
“Who is it this time? Why don’t you just dismiss them?”
Rosie scoffed before replying. “Who do you think? The same as always: Meaghan Mortensen. Trust me, I’ve tried many times. But she always seems to get away by the scrape of her skin.”
Not far down the street, Hope walked in on her aunt seated in the kitchen with her fingers furiously typing away on the laptop.
“What are you up to Aunt?” the younger brunette asked the only mother and sister figure in her life for the past five years.
Meaghan’s eyes were unmoving from the laptop screen as she replied. There was a sly smile on her lips as she did so.
“I’ve just sent some garbage submissions over to my supervisor, but I’m typing up my actual submission for Rosie’s supervisor. I can’t wait to see her face this time!”
Hope sighed and shook her head at her aunt.
“You shouldn’t stress her out like that. How do you get away with two different copies, anyways?”
“The better one’s always the ‘edited version’ so she can’t say I’m messing with her.”
Before Hope could give a proper response to her aunt, her grandma’s holler sounded down the hallway, breaking their conversation and the temporary peace of the house.
“Hope, you better tell Titanic to get down from my sofa! I am not going to tolerate this dog slobbering all over my furniture!”
The young brunette put down the breakfast in her hands and shot through the house to the living room where her black mutt, Titanic, was napping soundly on her grandma’s precious cream sofas. The black dog shook himself awake at the intrusion and whined at the accusations aimed at him.
“He doesn’t slob, Grandma,” Hope chuckled, clicking her fingers and directing the furry companion outside.
Titanic jumped around in excitement as his favourite person hovered around him, earning a cuddle in return.
“Don’t forget to check up on Evelyn, darling. Toys don’t entertain your daughter for too long.”
“I never do, Grandma,” Hope replied, making her way towards the only remnant of Ivan she had left.
When Hope returned to University four and a half years ago, her friendship with Ivan had blossomed into something so much more special. She thought she had finally found her other half, her soulmate. And the best part was he felt the same. They had even decided to get married as soon as they graduated. Unfortunately when they got closer to finishing their degree, Ivan’s family didn’t agree. He was from an aristocratic background and his parents wanted Ivan to help establish ties with other aristocratic families. Everything could have been perfect even if Ivan’s choice was Lily, but it wasn’t. In the end, the pressure of Ivan’s family beat his affection for Hope. After a year and a half of being in love, the two broke off their relationship with each other. The first few months were hard and then one day, Hope discovered she was pregnant. It was the scariest thing that had happened to her and there was no one she could go to. Ivan found out and tried to come back but his family forbade it, even dismissing the fact that the child was his. When a daughter was finally born, Hope was afraid she would disappoint her parents so she returned to the only two people she felt comfortable with: her Grandma Leila and her Aunt Meaghan. And it was the best decision ever.
Finals went by as quick as it came yet this time it was more swift and calm than the time before. Everyone was prepared and relieved with big smiles for the end of their first semester in University. However, the smooth end to the term was trifled by romantic entanglements for Lily, which she didn’t know how to get out of. It passed her mind at one point to discuss her troubles with Hope, but the thought had receded into her soon after. With the blonde struggling on one side, her brunette friend had troubling considerations of her own. After her run in with Zane, Hope had been stuck in a very difficult spot. On one hand was the privacy of her best friend and the trust that came with that. On another hand was the help Zane had asked and the potential to fix a relationship that could make Lily very happy. Finally Hope decided that whether or not she was any help, Lily had to face where she stood with Zane. If their ignorance of each other went on any longer then the consequences could be emotionally destructive for both of them. Unfortunately, before the brunette could approach her best friend on the topic, Lily learnt from other sources a more spiced version of the conversation Hope had with Zane which included an unreciprocated confession.
Not long after the two had finished their breakfast and put away their dishes, the hot-headed blonde strode towards Hope with an angry snarl and accusing finger. It took less than a minute for the room to blow out into a full force confrontation.
“As expected,” Lily spat.
“I have no clue what you are talking about,” the brunette defended herself.
She waited for a reply from her blonde friend but the latter didn’t reply. Hope didn’t know if it was because her question was stupid or because Lily didn’t see it important enough to reply to, so she tried again.
“What are you angry about? Tell me the problem so we can work this out,” she pleaded.
“You are the problem, you two-faced backstabber!” the blonde girl erupted.
“Are talking about Zane? So you know he came looking for me.”
“Ah, I see,” Lily began, “You think you’re going to pull off such a despicable thing and blame it all on Zane. I know it was you who went to him while I was busy back here! Even if we say he went to you, what about the confession you made to him? You thought you could steal him away while there were issues in our relationship, but you didn’t expect to get rejected did you? Well guess what, Hope? Nobody in their right mind would choose a nerd like you over someone like me so don’t even try!”
Hope gazed at Lily for a moment before nodding. “Very well, if this is how you want to do this then I’m ready too! I did nothing to betray you, but since you don’t consider me as your friend anymore you no longer have the right to question me about anything. And I don’t have to explain anything to you for any reason at all!”
There were hot angry tears falling from the eyes of both girls as they turned from each other and their friendship for good.
There were a couple of days left before the semester ended so the two girls spent the remainder of the time in close proximity avoiding each other. Whilst Hope found comfort in Violet, Lily realised that her happiness did not lie with either of the men in her life. She was still angry at Hope’s betrayal but through it she had come to know her own feelings on the things she had been confused about. Zane was a great guy, but he wasn’t the one for Lily. Neither did she feel comfortable with her friend throwing herself at him. As for Damon, he was a leader and a friend that Lily respected but could not come to see in a deeply romantic light. In the free time she had, the blonde went around arranging meetings with both guys and apologising for the bumps in their relationship and her feelings for them in the end. They both took it hard but they understood her desire not to hurt them and accepted the truth for what it was. Safe to say, Lily parted with both men on good terms once university was over. The only time between then and their departure that she had to interact with Hope was when the two got together to sell off their furniture and split the money between them. There were no goodbyes and good lucks after that, except for the memories they had both made together their very first time in the Twinbrook University dorm building on Henry Street.
Rain had stopped early the following morning with the snow falls of approaching winter already brimming the streets and snowflakes blowing in the cold wind. Everyone assembled outside the dorm huddled in their coats with their ugly, sticker-marked trunks in hand and the moisture of their icy breaths passing through the thin autumn gloves clad over their mouths.
“Even now?” Hope enquired, coming up beside the blonde. “When we’re leaving?”
“If you ever want to visit the rebel girl from university, then you’re always welcome home. But never try to find a friend in me,” Lily said, with no hesitance in her speech or twitch in her fingers or concern in her eyes.
“But never mind that. If forgiveness and apology is not in order then I wish you all the best for the future. With this I spend all the goodwill in our relationship,” Hope replied cryptically, and then waved the thought away as their taxis began approaching the dorm.
Together as girls they had come and as separate women they set off to write their futures.
However, fate had a very different plan for them than what they had imagined. Back in the lower suburbs of Twinbrook, Hope moved into the eccentric two-story manor of her fashionista Grandma Leila and journalist Aunt Meaghan. Her parents had invited her back home but Hope wanted to carry on her journey of self-discovery. So she declined the offer and struck up a deal with her closest relatives to get a bedroom in their home. As compensation she decided to pay the bills as her rent which suited her grandma and aunt just fine. Leila was a well-renowned stylist all across town who had yet to go into retirement and preferred to drop by the local salon to give the vying customers a makeover. Her old age didn’t pose as a hindrance to her excitement for life and only grew her fondness of her daughter. After Hope’s father had moved out and grandfather had died, Meaghan was all Leila had left. Although she was greatly pleased at having her daughter by her side, there was a worry clinging to her aging eyes. Meaghan was a successful journalist with a sly personality for the latest scoops and scams but without a ring on her finger or a man to come home to. Leila knew her daughter didn’t need a man to centre her life but when she thought ahead to the days when she wouldn’t be around anymore, her heart became unsettled.
A street away was the three-story manor of Rosie Thorn, Lily’s wildly troublesome older cousin and the Mortensen mother and daughter’s biggest enemy. The Thorn family’s tradition of naming their children after flowers was repeated with this freedom-fighter-for-nothing-wiser girl. She was lucky in all areas except for love. No doubt she had been through many boyfriends but none had managed to capture her heart. Ever since she had become a big name in the journalism industry she had broken all attachments with her family but when Lily’s parents refused to take her back, Rosie jumped in to her younger cousin’s rescue. Who needed parents anyway? Being an only child was fun but she finally wanted some company other than the men that frequented her bedroom. She was looking for a little sister to share life lessons with and launch out into the real world. Speaking of her long line of male friends, Rosie’s rocky relationship with Meaghan may have sprung from an accidental adventure with the latter’s love interest. However, when Rosie looked back at the incident she didn’t see why Meaghan seemed so heartbroken over the loss. If her lover was obliging enough to share himself with Rosie then it was obvious that he wasn’t very serious or sincere towards Meaghan anyways. Whatever the case, Lily was not about to see the last of Hope just yet.
After hearing Lily’s soft murmurings last night and Damon’s name, Hope was a bit worried for her best friend. She wondered whether her blonde companion was sick or anything. When she told Lily in the morning, she quickly went about trying to explain why that might have been so.
“Kaz said that the science department were looking for test subjects for a lot of money so I went there yesterday and got injected with some stuff. Damon was there too and he was instructing me on what was happening. I don’t know if he was aware that bad dreams are a side effect of this. Maybe that’s why I called out his name last night,” Lily pondered.
Hope was still a bit concerned so she got out a thermometer to check her friend’s temperature. After being reassured that everything was normal, the two took off and began preparing for the day. The brunette had classes early in the morning which she felt fresh and pumped for. As the finals got closer, her grip on the course was getting tighter.
The days were beginning to get colder as autumn approached winter. Chilly hints of air nipped at any skin left open to the elements so the students were forced to wear extra layers or rearrange their styles for the coming cold months. Hope had gone for a black turtle neck and jeans with a thin layer of gloves to protect her hands. Black was her favourite colour so she stuck to it. Plus, it was also the warmer of clothing shades. Lily went with a plum coloured coat, boots and gloves which looked quite neat with the platinum blonde of her hair.
For the Lily, the warmth was more so needed because on that morning she had an anatomy practical outside the Science Building with her assigned skeleton. After making some observations and testing her skeletal structure, she exchanged her results with other students and had a summarising class discussion.
“I need to head inside afterwards so Damon can extract the cells needed for study and I can collect my money,” she reminded herself.
When Hope’s class was over she headed over to the University Quad to kick back and relax for an hour or two at a picnic bench. Students were filing out of the Conners Building in large numbers and a good number were grouping around park benches or taking out a soccer ball for a few kicks. Laying down her backpack, Hope pulled out a comic book she had bought the day before. It took a few pages to get into the storyline but once she was in, the world around her blurred into nothingness and her attention was focused solely on the adventure in her hand. It took a soccer ball to the head for her to realise where she was.
“Sorry,” said a coloured girl, grabbing the ball and checking to see if Hope was okay.
Hope remembered seeing the girl elsewhere and suddenly her name popped into the brunette’s mind: Manisha Kapoor! The two recognised each other from the Meet and Greet, and quickly caught up on a few things before parting ways. As Manisha walked back to her group of friends, Hope suddenly thought of an idea. Her comic book was still open and clutched in her hand.
“I should start blogging my days! It’ll be a fun past time and make good memories for the future!”
Not far from Hope, Lily was emerging from the Science Building with Damon in tow.
“So about that study date, I say now is a good time,” he whistled behind the blonde girl.
Lily observed his tone silently. It was as if he had another motive hidden in his offer and which he was very tense about. She gathered that he was worried she had noticed. Lily stared at the rebel leader for a long, searching moment, wondering if there was something else beneath Damon’s words, an entire layer of meaning she had overlooked until now.
“Is that a yes?” he probed.
“If the rebel leader says so,” Lily said gently.
The two arrived at the blonde’s dorm and she ushered him upstairs into her room. Damon was very intrigued by the space she lived in and inquired about almost everything there. Finally after sating his curiosity he took out his books and lent them to Lily while he played games on his phone.
“Are you done?” Damon asked several minutes later, his eyes shifting from his game.
The explosion of colours and sounds glowed and resounded distractingly beside Lily. However, the rebel leader’s attention seemed to be less on his phone and more on something else. His mind was somewhere else as his fingers ran aimlessly over his phone screen. An alert sounded on his phone but the noise didn’t seem to reach his ears.
“It’ll take well over an hour for me to finish copying all these down.”
Damon’s wandering thoughts returned to reality at the sound of Lily’s voice. He shook his head, trying to rid the tension brewing in his mind. It took exactly as long as the blonde had said and once the hour had passed she returned the books over to her companion with a smile. The rebel leader paused with an outstretched hand, meeting Lily’s gaze. Finally accepting the books, he walked down the staircase with the girl in tow. Before he could walk out the door something in him clicked and he spun around to grab Lily in a kiss. Outside, the cold of mid-autumn frosted over the windows.
The next day rain fell upon the university grounds like an angry storm. Student’s rushed about to their classes, ducking in and out of buildings under the heavy weather’s gaze. Hope was in the same position as everyone else. Unfortunately, she was one of the few who had forgotten their umbrellas. As a class ended, Hope attempted to skip the rain across the park to the bike racks but she could not avoid the drops of water pelting on her back. However, before she was fully drenched in what would eventually become a terrible cold an umbrella appeared over her head. Hope spun around to see who had provided her with the shelter. She was somewhat surprised to see Zane hovering behind her.
“Zane? What are you doing here?” the brunette asked.
The blonde gave a small smile then said, “I had a class just then and I saw you in the rain.”
Then his expression turned to one of worry and frustration, and he asked, “Have you seen Lily? She’s never at the dorm when I show up and I feel like she’s avoiding me. I don’t know what I did wrong.”
As the days approaching finals ticked by, Hope had to work harder and harder to keep herself on the Dean’s List. Her minimalistic social life had been cut down even more and on the days when her classes started late she isolated herself in her room with her textbooks and a studious mind. The new setup of the room helped with easing her into a comfortable environment where she could focus. After classes, her afternoons were busy spent at the Science Proving Ground under the instruction of Ivan, who Hope had become friends with. The raven haired man had taught her all the basics of the site and it wasn’t long before she became confident enough to go up on the cranes. In the time she had spent on the project, she had noticed the other students come and go with the smallest regard for any result and their attention instead on wasting as little time as possible on the project. Hope had come to know that this science project was for extra credit and no one was really passionate about a thrumming machine that gave no outcome to any tinkering. It was Ivan alone who arrived first and left last. Sometimes he and Hope ended up finishing late at night where their conversations had turned from science to the beginnings of a friendship.
Ever since mid-terms Lily had made sure to follow the study plan she had made with Hope and she could definitely see the results. She remembered more content and even her professors had complimented her for her application in class. If there was anything bugging her then it was trying to find odd day jobs to scrape together some money before the term was over. The dorms would close down and they’d have to return home with close to no money. Whilst pondering this, Lily walked out in the rain to the job board outside the dorm building. Kaz was hurrying out the dorm under his umbrella when he noticed the concerned look on Lily’s face. From her gaze on the board he could already guess her problem.
“You’re looking for work?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m short on money,” the blonde girl sighed, then with some struggle managed a smile.
“The science department is looking for test subjects. Dangerous, but lots of cash,” he offered.
Lily nodded enthusiastically and made sure to thank Kaz before he left for wherever he was headed. Seeing she was free now, she got out her bike and rode over to the Science Building. Some students seemed to have stayed back from class and were helping the professors make concoctions and test mixtures on small organisms. Nobody said anything as Lily walked in, probably assuming she was here to help since she was a Science and Medicine student herself. Amidst the white lab coats Lily noticed a bit of auburn spikes from behind a microscope.
“So this is what you were doing when you rejected my study date?” the blonde girl teased as she approached Damon.
The rebel leader straightened in surprise and looked toward his companion. He paused for a second then replied.
“Lily? Why are you here?” he asked, then continued, “We not exactly short on time or anything. We’ll have an opportunity some other day for the study date.”
Not far from the Science Building, Hope finished up her course for the day and took her bike out for returning to the dorm. However before she left, Violet caught up with her and engaged her in some light conversation. It’s not that Hope had other things to do, but she wasn’t exactly up for sticking around near the School of Business.
“You seem really stressed about the finals. You should take some time to go to Keith’s Komics. Normally the nerdier crowd hangs around there but I think you’d enjoy it,” Violet smiled, before grabbing her own bike and setting off.
The brunette contemplated her friend’s advice for a few quick minutes before making up her mind to head over and check out the comic store. It didn’t take long and soon enough she was stepping through the doors to what she could only describe as happiness. The place definitely looked more lively and adventurous than the library which Hope had made various trips too throughout the term.
“Where have you been all my life?” she whispered dreamily.
An array of bright colours erupted around her on dark shelves and stands in the form of action figures, pictures and comic books. There was a counter on the far right and seats in the middle of the store where an elderly couple sat reading the material. Hope spent some time walking around the store and interacting with some of the people there. She came to know many interesting things about Keith’s Komics and its owners. The elderly couple she had seen earlier were Hunter and Adrienne Lemons. They were university students here back in their day and once they graduated with a business degree they decided to open up a store. It took many ventures and failures in various cities before they ended up back on university grounds and Keith’s Komics was born. It had been two years since the opening of the comic store and the old couple were going strong. The modern university population were enraptured with the comics and that laid the foundations for its success. When Hope was done having a look she approached the counter with some titles which had caught her eye. Even though finals were approaching soon, she was sure she could take out some time to enjoy them. As expected she had to wait behind a long line before she could pay for her pick and head back to the dorm.
Lily handed herself over to the science professor and students as they led her away to a lab and settled her into a metal chair. Damon approached with a pack of equipment including needles and small clear bottles of solution.
“Just lay down. These are concoctions which will create variances in your cells, but don’t worry they’ll be miniscule and won’t affect you as a whole. Your body will probably discard it after a certain amount of time. It’ll take a day or two to come into effect so you’re going to have to come back tomorrow for us to extract the changed cells for studies,” the rebel leader stated, wiping the injection area with some cotton.
When all was done, Lily returned to the dorms with thoughts of the extra cash running through her head. The blonde girl did some light study then went over to bed for the night. In the following morning Lily woke up with a concerned Hope hovering over her.
“Are you okay? You were calling out Damon’s name in your sleep,” the brunette said.
The days following the party were quite tense with frequent meetings within the rebel group occurring over the issue involving Ann and Jacob. Lily was restless for an end to come to the matter but the rebels were split on how to deal with Ann. On the other hand, Hope kept Ivan’s acquaintance with the jock leader in the dark from Lily as well as her pastime at the Science Proving Ground. She knew of Lily’s strong prejudice against the jocks and she was also afraid of her best friend’s reaction to Hope spending time with a member of Jacob’s circle.
Away from the social dramas of university, the two girls decided that they wanted a change in their dorm room. So for the rest of the week they got about remodelling their living space. The carpets were removed and new darker ones put in, the varnish on the woods was reapplied in a grey shade and the bright wallpapers were replaced with a stronger purple colour. New lights were also added and the window frames repainted. Once the basics of the dorm room had been done, it took a whole other week for them to set the room up. During this time they had temporary beds in Violet’s room which made space tight to say the least, not that Violet minded.
Two double Murphy beds were placed on either side of their remodelled room with a computer desk in between. A theme of purple and light wood was used throughout the space which both friends had agreed on. Lily’s bed was on the right, straight in front of the door with movie and celebrity posters lining the wall next to their combined dresser. Hope’s bed was on the left near the bookshelves and sitting space which sectioned off a part of the room for relaxation and study. When the next weekend rolled over, Lily and Hope were ready to move back in to their own sweet space.
“This looks amazing!” gasped Lily.
Hope approached from behind with a huge smile which slowly diminished into concern.
“You realise we’ve spent all our money remodelling this room, right?”
Lily cocked her head to one side in confusion, “But we sold everything that was in here before.”
“We have more in this room now than we did before and everything we bought is more expensive than the stuff we sold!” Hope argued, throwing her hands up in the air.
The brunette paced around the room as her friend delved deep into thought and their conversation trailed into silence. Although she had taken on the science project to make some money on the side, she couldn’t tell Lily that. And Hope wasn’t sure she could maintain another side job and her studies at the same time. But her issues would mean little to Lily, especially if she knew nothing about them. Hope didn’t feel that she had any right in asking Lily to try making some money either. Finally settling on her bed, she gazed at her best friend and she pondered on their financial problem.
It was a long time before Lily moved again, stepping away from the place where she’d been standing and going to seat herself in front of their new computer. For a few minutes Hope could only hear the tap of fingers on keys and a constant clicking of the mouse. Once Lily had sated her storm on the computer she jumped in front of Hope and enveloped her in a huge hug.
“We’re ok! I can mooch off some friends, go dumpster diving and get some small jobs around uni!”
The next morning was the start of a busy day for Lily. By 8AM she was in class struggling against their complicated and substitute professor of the day. Remembering the number of times she had ended up next to Patty Hong at the front, Lily instead took an empty seat next to Damon at the back. If Zane was jealous, then he wasn’t awake to react because he was too busy dozing off in class. Sometimes Lily wondered how he passed his exams. At least with Damon, she could see him putting in the effort. Next to her, he had already flipped through five pages of making notes and it had only been fifteen minutes. The blonde girl had attempted to engage with the lesson through questions instead but had been left hanging by the professor who seemed to prefer the studious kind like Damon rather than the interruptive type, as he’d described it.
“This professor is an absolute egg,” raged Lily, silently.
The rebel leader’s blue orbs twinkled in amusement as he looked down at his paper.
“If you’re falling behind you can copy some of my notes. I know you’re trying and our sub is being a little bit difficult,” he offered under his breath.
Over at the University Quad, Hope was getting into her announcements for her practical task. When menial topics began running out, the brunette thought of her first-hand account of the recent rift between Lily and Ann. She considered broadcasting it for a brief moment as the students around her hovered closer and closer to the topic itself in their own announcements. If Hope used the juicy piece of news then her performance for the practical would supersede that of her peers. However, a sense of guilt settled over her. She juggled the thoughts of being the first to release the news or respecting Lily’s privacy. In the end she decided to give priority to the task at hand. I’ll make the announcement, but I don’t have to include Lily in it. To be completely honest, the entire rebel group is at odds with Ann. Plus, I was there. I could probably give the truest account of what actually happened. If someone else gets to it before I do, then they’ll probably twist the tale with gossip.
“First-hand account of the rift between Ann and the rebels right here! Find out about Jacob Salaman’s secret love tryst with a member if the rebel group!” Hope began before setting off into the whole tale.
Slowly, the crowd began drifting from her peers and growing around her set up.
Back at the classroom, Lily made plans to catch up with Damon some other time to write down his notes. Once the sub had finished with the day’s lecture and the students were dismissed, the blonde girl hurried over to the grocery store to complete a delivery. Last night, she had picked up a one day job as coffee bean runner for the professors. The teacher body in the Science Building had run out of coffee beans but they had already put an order in at the local store. Lily’s job was to make the pickup and drop it over at the science staffroom.
The man behind the counter looked at Lily inscrutably when she entered the store, eyes following her like a security camera. Lily half wondered whether she had criminal written on her forehead. It wasn’t like she was going to steal anything.
“I’m here for an order of coffee beans placed by the science department,” she said, smiling as pleasantly as she could.
With the beans collected, she headed over to the Science Building and was rewarded generously for her assistance. These people have too much money to spend, she wondered counting her cash.
The first week after mid-terms was quite productive for both Lily and Hope, with Lily getting noticed for her efforts by her professors and Hope making it into the Dean’s List for elite minds. When the weekend approached, Lily had the brilliant idea of throwing her first party. Her plan was to recreate the very first bonfire party she had gone to in university except make it more successful. Pulling up her phone, she made a few quick calls to send out invites before proceeding with the rest of her morning. The morning was spent with Lily catching up with her rebel group and Hope cleaning up around the dorm. Along the way, Lily caught wind of murals and wall art done by some members of her crew to annoy the professors or to express their talents. With quite a while to go before Lily planned to start the party, she borrowed a few spray cans from Kaz and snuck around to the back of the dorm building. It took a few minutes to set up the area with tape but the process afterwards was quite fun. Clouds of pastel multi-coloured pigment erupted from the head of the can in her hand and hit the dry grey pavement beneath her feet. A smile broke through the concentration on Lily’s face.
“Hope’s the artsy one, but I think I could learn a thing or two for this,” she smirked to herself.
When the first can was finished, Lily pulled out the blue, white and red cans to create the end piece she did. Autumn leaves which had begun piling yards across the university since the season’s change now blew over the mixture of arrows and symbols Lily had produced on the ground. The blonde girl’s head snapped up at the sound of footsteps and she held up one hand at the intruder.
“That’s close enough,” she said, looking protectively at her mural.
It was Hope across from her who looked at her best friend inquisitively. “Did you make that?”
“You know that’s against the rules,” Hope continued when she received no reply, “You’re going to have to clean that up sooner or later. Anyways, I just came out here to make sure you had time to prepare for the party.”
Lily couldn’t think of an appropriate reply to Hope’s comment and so she gave none. She didn’t necessarily feel the need to explain herself either.
When night time rolled around, Lily had the bonfire set up at the back and the dorm doors open for the party comers. Damon and Zane were the first to show up and once in they headed straight for the bonfire where Lily and Hope were prodding the flames with long sticks. The leader of the rebels grabbed a chair behind Lily and settled down comfortably in wait for his crew. The blonde girl noticed Zane wanting to approach her but he seemed wary of Damon and hesitant to go near her while he was around. Scoffing, she dismissed him and turned to speak with the rebel leader.
“Blondie’s looking at you,” the spike-haired boy whistled close to Lily’s ear.
From the angle of his head, Lily could tell he was talking about Zane but she was unsure if he was observing him or intimidating him. It was hard to judge the reason for his close proximity to her. Lily didn’t answer him straight away but simply looked in Zane’s direction.
“Is there something going on between you two?” Damon pondered.
Spinning, Lily gazed straight into his dark blue orbs. “None of your business,” she whispered.
A few paces away, Hope withdrew from the fire and found herself face to face with a recently regular acquaintance. She wasn’t aware that Lily had invited Ivan to the party and she wasn’t sure how her friend knew him either.
“Hope,” he said, tilting his head curiously.
Hope took a step back, creating a comfortable distance between them and waiting for him to continue past her name. Is he going to say something?
“You know Lily?” she asked him.
He looked past her at the blonde girl near the rebel leader then smirked, “Who doesn’t? But I’m crashing this party with Jacob.”
Before Hope could react to the news, Lily had moved away from her intense conversation with Damon and was looking angrily behind Ivan.
“Jacob Salaman! What the hell are you doing at my party?” Lily growled.
The blonde girl stomped inside the dorm building and confronted the jock leader at the front entrance. Lily had intended to release the full force of her anger, but in the moments approaching her enemy her gut told her to stop; because the irritation in his eyes did not seem befitting of someone who had deliberately walked into their enemy’s lair. There could be no mistaking her observation. Who else could he be here for? The jocks in our dorm…
“I’m here for my girlfriend,” Jacob seethed.
“Girlfriend?” Lily repeated in confusion.
She was largely familiar with everyone in her dorm and with whom they were involved with. No one went past her mind that could possibly be in a relationship with Jacob. Just as Lily began forming a solid response to Jacob’s lies in her mind their confrontation was interrupted by someone Lily would have never guessed.
“I’m his girlfriend,” said Ann, walking down the staircase in her powder blue pyjamas and straight into Jacob’s arms.
From there, everything became clear as to the relationship between who Lily knew to be her friend and her worst enemy. The walls of the dorm seemed to tremble around her as the realisation set in, the bitterness of the truth thrashing inside her and her brewing anger dissipated into confusion. However, until Ann approached any explanation herself Lily remained hesitant to question. Stepping back, Lily left the couple and returned to the party goers outside. Zane paced towards her but the blonde girl was too caught up in her internal storm to notice him. Instead she went to the one person who she knew made sense at the moment: Damon Strangelove.
The rebel leader narrowed his eyes at Ann through the window that separated them and held his hand out to a fast approaching Lily.
“Don’t worry,” he reassured her, “Ann will get a response for involving herself with him of all people.”