While she was busy revisiting the memory lane, December should have anticipated something different altogether would happen. She didn't understand how that notion could escape her really, especially since she's going out now with one of the elite, role models of the academy. If she had known it would happen, she would have prepared herself for the first onslaught of attack.
December had just gotten her score on History, and though it wasn't the best of scores, admittedly she was improving. She went to stack them in the lockers, and started to close it when someone beat her to it. Startled, she looked up just to see some of Karen's cronies standing in front of her, posing in a way they thought to be menacing. Strangely, the main enemy wasn't there.
"You." Says Harriet, her eyes narrowing into slits. "Is it true?"
December was lost and she blinked owlishly. "I'm sorry, what?"
The other girl beside Harriet, Miranda scoffed and cocked a hand on her hips. "Is it true that you're going out with Zach?"
By now, they had attracted a small crowd who had either walked slowly to catch the scene or stopped and watched them.
December felt uncomfortable being the attention of the student body, especially since they were about to find out, or already found out about her relationship with the president of the Student Council. Why didn't I think that this would happen?
She cleared her throat. There was no point denying it, even though she knew things wouldn't be easy on her now that she's facing her adversary's posse. Before she could utter something, one of the girls with thick ringlets suddenly laughed.
"Of course not! I mean, look at you," She gestured to December in a way that suggested she was an embarrassment and December bit her tongue to rein in her shock and anger. "Why would he go for some loser when he could have had anyone of us?"
And completely unnecessary.
Suddenly finding herself irritated beyond belief with everything these girls said to her, December retorted calmly. "Okay, you know what? Why don't you fawn all over yourselves to people who actually cares?" She walked past them, and hit one of the girl's shoulders with hers, although she hadn't meant to do that on purpose.
Sensing that there wasn't going to be a fight, most of them dispersed, but only a few remained at the hallway, especially when the girl gasped then hissed, "You bitch! You're going to pay for that."
Before December could brace herself for the onslaught of sharp nails and hair pulling, someone else beat her to it.
Swiftly grasping the girl's raising arm away from December, Max turned to them, his eyes a cool blue as he spoke softly, "I would not do that if I were you." As if they were all in a trance, they just stared at him in both fascination and confusion.
It took Max a few seconds to realise he was speaking in Russian. Shrugging, he simply said in English, "I just saw the principal coming this way."
And just like that, the girls' eyes simultaneously widened before they faltered a step back. The girl whose arm Max dropped rubbed the spot absentmindedly before flashing a glare at December.
Once they were gone, December blinked and looked to the guy who may have just saved her from getting pummelled by a group of angry cheerleaders. She glanced at the direction where the cheerleaders disappeared to. December wondered briefly if what Max said was true, or just a farce to shoo them away.
And indeed, he was. The principal of the academy was making his rounds when he appeared in the hallway, making his way toward them, but only to stop and enter a classroom, no doubt to reprimand some students by the sudden frown on his face.
"Did you just help them get away?" She asked, tone almost incredulous.
Max chuckled, his amusement apparent as he spoke in that soft voice of his. "Well, I would like to think that I just helped you get away from them."
She raised a brow, unsure if he had a different meaning to that. "Are you implying that I couldn't hold a fight on my own?" She couldn't help but feel offended if he had thought that.
Max paused before realising that she thought he was insulting her, and he shook his head. "Nyet. That is not what I mean at all. I'm sure you could but it is too early. At least you can wait until after lunch, da?"
December stared at Max, her lips twitching before she smiled smugly. "That is an excellent point." before bursting into giggles. "Thanks, Max." They started towards the cafeteria.
"You like speaking more Russian than English, huh?" She grinned at him. "We've known each other for a while now, but I'm only noticing this. How silly of me."
Max shifted his body a little bit, eyebrow raised and he said, "I'm sure you are not, but what makes you think that?"
December rolled her eyes good-naturedly and made a 'psh' sound. "Well, maybe because you tend to slip them in when you're talking. Like what happened just now. What did you first say to them?" She asked, curious.
Max relaxed and grinned, "I try not to, but you are right, it's just a habit of mine. And I told them to be careful. Wouldn't want them to hurt their pretty faces."
December's nose crinkled a little as she grinned at him. "Ohh yeah, because like we agreed, I could totally take them on. But how sweet of you to care about them, even though they were about to claw me." She squinted her eyes at him, a jester's smile tugging at her lips.
Max shrugged but he shot December a smile that made him seemed more than just a pretty boy with a soft voice. It caught her off guard for just a brief second. "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? Kill them with kindness? Maybe that's why I did it."
December paused, and stared at him, her mouth almost agape. She was looking at him as though he had just solved the world's greatest problem.
"Whoa," She breathed out, still grinning. "Remind me not to get on your bad side." She joked.
Max only laughed as they reached another hallway leading towards their class.
"Also hey, at least I think I know now what nyeet and da means! Maybe you should speak Russian all the time around me, so that way I could learn some new words."
He laughed softly again and December found herself drawing herself further into a good mood.
"You're butchering the word, December. It's not nyeet, but nyet. It is like the word yet…yes?" When she nodded, he continued. "So you put the other word like your…knee! Da, knee…yet." He pointed to his knee and snapping his thumb and middle finger to say the word yet. "Knee-yet. Try it. Nyet."
December tried the word on her tongue and when she seemed to get it right, Max told her to say it quick, like a snap of a finger.
"Nyet!" December whooped. "Well, that was relatively easy to say. Thanks, Max." She beamed at him.
"You're welcome. If you want, I could –"
They were cut off by a harsh sounding sentence in Russian. Both of them looked up and saw Katya looking at her menacingly. She was spewing some words that was certainly foreign to December's ears, and so knew the girl was referring to Max.
Her counterpart only replied the angry girl calmly, and the only words she recognised from them are the ones she had just learned.
"Um," December started, feeling uncomfortable with standing there while the two cousins bicker – although it was mostly Katya. "Hey, Katya." She started again and took a small step back when the beautiful girl glowered at her.
"What?" She said sharply, nose flaring slightly.
December shook her head. "Okay, first, please calm down. Second, I'm getting hungry now, and I'd appreciate it if you could step aside."
December was being polite. Somehow, talking to Max had an immediate calming effect on her, and even though she was uncomfortable being in the center of possibly a family affair, she was surprisingly feeling pleasant – even towards the Russian girl, who for some reason she still didn't know, hates her guts.
She had heard this sentence many times from the movies, and even seen them in books, but she truly knew that if looks could kill, she would be dead on the spot. But December held her ground this time.
"Count me in, too." Max spoke after a pause, and when December looked at him, he sported a smug expression.
The black-haired girl only narrowed her eyes at December, ignoring her smug cousin and moved aside, but not before saying vehemently to Max, "The conversation isn't over yet." before walking ahead of them into the cafeteria.
Once the girl walked in, December raise her gaze towards a satisfied looking Max, wondering what that was all about.
"I would ask what, but after how she said whatever she said, I don't think I'd want to know." December pretended to shudder.
Max grinned, a playful glint in his eyes, and he widened them a little to emphasise his point. "Believe me, you don't."
December shuddered again and Max laughed.
Since it was Monday, and the only day where all of her friends could have lunch together was the day after, December was grateful to have at least Raven and Max, as well as Katya to sit with her. They each took their lunch trays with them and sat down, enjoying their meal quietly with mostly December and Raven making small talk, when suddenly, Raven nudged her foot under the table.
"Oh lookie, it's your lover boy, Zach." Raven whispered quietly to her ear, and December didn't need to turn to know that Raven was smiling cheekily.
As if on cue, December flushed – and it caught both of the Russian cousins' attention – although her attention was solely on the boy who was now making his way towards her table.
When someone hollered in the cafeteria, Zach turned and waved at them – his friends – before leaving them to chuckle and even a couple of them to whoop loudly.
December, along with her lunch mates, and the rest of the cafeteria, saw that – and it only made her cheeks burn even hotter.
The atmosphere of the cafeteria suddenly dropped, and if earlier the place was filled with loud chattering, now it was a buzzing of soft murmurs.
He's coming over here?!
Be still, my beating heart, December prayed silently.
Zach approached them with his charming smile, and December swallowed inaudibly – missing the look both Raven and Katya was giving her; Raven, trying her best to stop herself from grinning widely, while Katya looking highly curious but amused.
Only Max seemed to fix his gaze elsewhere.
"Zach," she said, still surprised even though she had moments to compose herself.
"Hey, December," Zach started with a smile. "Do you mind if I sit here with you?"
She was about to make some space from the edge of her seat for him, when suddenly the newly empty seat was taken by a new figure.
Every one stared at the person. Raven was startled, Max and Katya both raised their eyebrows in sudden surprise that bordered incredulous but also wary, Zach just looked confused, and December looking offended but also silently plotting various ways to have her revenge.
"Pierre." She said, her earlier look of daggers melt into surprise, confusion, and frustration all in one tone.
Pierre, the figure who was the reason why Max was looking at the end corner of the cafeteria, and who also just stole a seat meant for Zach looked at them all. Behaving as though he didn't just interpret what could be another step of happiness to December's newly love life.
"Yes?" He pulled his tray closer to him and, as if he just realised Zach's presence, looked up and said, "Oh, hey Zachary."
Zach composed himself like he usually did, smiling at him as if nothing happened, and nodded in acknowledgement. "Pierre." He switched to his amicable, Captain mode then. 'How's your progress, by the way? I heard you've been getting better at shooting arrows. Maybe we could play a game sometime."
Pierre grinned, baring his pearly white teeth, which suddenly seemed so dangerous to December. She had no clue why, but it was a sudden thought that crossed her mind.
It reminded her of how she felt about Max's smile earlier too. She frowned, trying to make sense of herself while also paying attention to the conversation before her.
"That sounds great. I'll be looking forward to that." Pierre said, elbows to his chest as he rest them on the table, and a hand poised in a gesture that made him reached for his food, pausing as he looked at Zach, as if saying, 'Do you mind?'
December may not comprehend fully what was happening, but she knew insolence when she saw one, and at that moment, she thought Pierre Lachlan had gone bonkers.
Why is he being rude? And so suddenly?
Her crush-slash-boyfriend only chuckled and nodded at him, glancing at the seat Pierre claimed briefly before telling her, "Next time then." before suddenly surprising her by kissing her cheek.
If that wasn't enough to make her swoon, his gaze met hers and they held them for a little while longer before he said to her, loud enough for them and a table near them to hear, "I'd love to take you out sometime this week. Anywhere you want to go. Just let me know."
She couldn't look away even if she want to. And she didn't want to. "Okay," she breathed softly and nodded.
They watched Zach retreat back to his friend's table with the rest of the student body frozen in their seats. One student must have dropped a tray because the clanking sound reverberated loudly in the cafeteria, leaving an echo that started to itch at December.
She ignored the girls' unanimous decision to glare and hissed lowly at her, and turned to the rest of her friends. The temperature had warm considerately although she could still feel their glares.
I'm really getting sick of their attitude, December thought irritably, trying to get a grasp at what just happened and focus on it, instead of on their anger and her own.
She turned towards Pierre, ignoring the other occupants at the moment. "What on earth was that?"
He raised an eyebrow, as if not comprehending what she said.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh, don't give me that! That seat was for Zach. And you – you just came out of nowhere! On top of that, you were very rude to him." She spluttered, incredulous at the whole thing.
Pierre shrugged, picking at his food and said, "I think I'm being my usual self. And I thought I'd have lunch with you today. Besides, I didn't notice he was there," before mindlessly picking a fry and stuffed it in his mouth.
December was torn between narrowing her eyes at him or widening them in astonishment; the result was a mixed of both. It would have looked comical to her, had she seen her expression on someone else but she had no time to ponder on any of it.
Pierre rarely hung out with her – them – in fact, when she thought about it, she realised that he hadn't hung out with them at all. Of course, she had seen him around Caleb, Sid, Isaac, Felix, and even with the other guys, including Oliver, which she remembered him as his roommate.
So what changed?
It wasn't like she didn't want him to hang with her, in fact, she'd welcome that since they were friends, but why…now? And the seat!
It just seemed like a too well-timed moment.
Immediately, she shook that thought off. She shouldn't be suspicious of one thing because there were a lot of possibilities that could have intervened that moment. It could also be a coincidence that Pierre was there.
Eventually, the narrowing of her eyes won the battle, "You didn't notice? Oh whatever. You know, it would be great if you told me earlier you were going to seat with us." Then, she grumbled, "That seat was for Zach."
Pierre smirked. "Don't let me get you down. Like he said, there'll be next time." Then, as if he knew he sounded like an arse, he toned it down. "If it helps, I'm…sorry I took his seat?"
Too stunned by the fact that Pierre said the word 'sorry' for possibly the second time in their interaction, she failed to notice the slight questioning at the end of his sentence, but one which didn't go by the rest of the occupants.
Raven quirked an eyebrow, lips curled in a confused yet amused smile; she was intrigued at his response.
Katya had an expression that people rarely saw on her; a hint of what would be a genuine grin and an unconcealed amused glint in her eyes.
Max stared at him hard, curiosity flickering in his eyes; he was interested at this sudden change of Pierre's behaviour, yet he was wary of the guy as well.
"Yeah, yeah," she muttered before raising her eyebrow at him. "Don't get me wrong on this, but why did you suddenly decided to join us for lunch? I mean, you've always hung out with Oliver and the other guys."
December and Pierre were both shocked into surprise when Raven, Max, and Katya all said in unison, "That's exactly what I was thinking as well."
The table was quiet for a few seconds before they broke out into a laughter, albeit a little uncomfortably.
He muttered to December, "Let's just say I've realised that we haven't had lunch or hang out together, ever since we became friends. Hm?" then popped two pieces of fries in his mouth.
"Hm." December hummed in acknowledgement before she smiled and joked, "Yeah, I'm glad you've seen your error now."
"This is fun. We should do this more often. Don't you think so, Max?" Raven said, smiling.
Max didn't seem to hear Raven as he looked at Pierre. They hardened when their eyes met.
"Why would you want to do that, especially when we're often here with her, and you hate us?" Max wondered in his mother tongue as he tilted his head a little.
It was as if the other occupants at the table didn't exist, except for Pierre and Max, as well as Katya because the air changed from being amicable to dangerously cautious. Rather than avoiding each other, it seemed as though they were now trying to face the problem, treading the waters of their past carefully.
December and Raven didn't know what was suddenly going on, but they knew not to interject the conversation. It had seemed like something privy only to these two guys, and the girl with the solemn look on her face.
Pierre didn't need to ask to know whom he meant by us – Max and Katya – and he paused a moment before uttering the words he never thought he'd say to them, and actually meant it.
"I never said that. And I never hated you." Pierre replied in the same language.
"And we're the royals of Russia." Max switched in English, half-laughing and half-sneering as he rolled his eyes.
Seeing the things that unravelled before her eyes, December thought she began to realise that there were so much that she didn't know about these three enigmatic people. Max suddenly seemed like a different person than the one she met and knew by the lake, and she never thought Katya could look more human with that soft look on her face. But most importantly, she never could have expected Pierre looking so vulnerable with the way he looked at them.
Just what was it between these three people that made them so vulnerable yet invincible?
Also, she had to agree with Max's statement, even though the guy meant it sarcastically. He and Katya did looked like they belong to the royals…but what did she know?
"Maksimilian, I think he is speaking the truth," Katya said in Russian. She didn't want any of their conversation to leak to the two girls, even though she considered them somewhat friends.
Max flashed his gaze at Katya, seemingly oblivious to December and Raven, as well as showing them the other side of him.
Raven couldn't stop gawking at him, even if she wanted to – and she didn't.
"You believe him after one night of dinner? Is your loyalty to me so fickle, Katya?" He replied in their language.
He couldn't help the hurt in his voice. Pierre noticed it, and a strong sense of bitterness and anger bubbled inside him.
It had taken him three days to turn the information he learned over and over. To find any loopholes and contradictions which he knew was futile. Denial, anger, frustration, and the acceptance of the betrayal had eluded him. He felt empty then but also a flicker of understanding.
From what he had learned, his perceptions had changed immensely. He hadn't expected that to happened, but yet again he didn't know what to expect that night. But what he knew now not only shocked him, but angered him as well. It also made him re-evaluate the things and feelings he suppressed and felt for them – they were both victims in this case and it wasn't their fault.
It never was.
Pierre Lachlan didn't think of himself as someone who was an easy believer but the evidence was there and it made absolute sense from what he had been through. Everything had only just begun, and he intended to get to the bottom of it, from the perpetrator himself.
But first, he needed to set this right if he wanted things to be like they used to be – or better.
"We've been through so much for you to even question that." Her tone was hard and she looked hurt that Max would say that. "You know where it lies, just as I know where yours do." Katya softened before adding, "But I think it's time we let him in. It's why we came here in the first place."
While all of this was happening, December and Raven were both hanging on to their words even though they hadn't had a clue to what they were saying. To December, it felt like watching one of her foreign movies or drama, but without subtitles and it was both engaging yet highly frustrating.
"Um," she finally started. December had to say it a couple more times and when she glanced to Raven for some help – but noting the girl was still in a trance at…Max, she shook her head – and cleared her throat louder.
That got their attention and they consecutively blinked as though they didn't realise she was there and they were still in the cafeteria. Thankfully, it seemed as though only twenty minutes had passed and the rest of the students were still busy chattering to themselves to notice what went on with theirs.
"I didn't want to interrupt but I'm afraid I've been really lost and curious with what's going on. Is there…is there something going on with you guys?" December asked, despite being a little hesitant.
Katya glowered and spoke in Russian, "None of your business, you pest."
December chuckled and made a sound of relieved. "Oh, how I've missed your glare! And judging by the look on Max's face, I don't think I want to know what you just said…or maybe I do." She growled at the last bit.
With a scowl on her face, she said, "I've actually had enough with you and your…Russian-ness! If we're going to fight, then at least say them in English dammit."
December left everyone at the table feeling surprised and shocked with her outburst, but it was Pierre who broke the tense air with his laughter.
His lips stretched, showing his pearly teeth, and his eyes crinkled warmly. It was a picture of joy, and it brightens the usually sour and disinterested look he wore daily, making him looked…almost unfamiliar to them, but charming nonetheless. The sound attracted several onlookers but he didn't care enough to tone it down or be self-conscious as he normally would.
December recognised that look, and she felt warm. She stared at him, mouth agape. He's laughing! For the second time since I met him…and in public.
December suddenly couldn't think of anything else, and neither did Max and Katya. As a matter of fact, they were sporting the same look December had.
He had shocked them all.
But Raven had finally broken out of the frozen spell she was in when she was staring at Max, and she was now aware of what was happening, especially when Pierre surprised them all with his laugh. It was a nice laugh, she thought, but she also thought there were a more pressing matter to think about.
So, with curiosity laced in her tone, and one that December would have asked had she thought about it if she wasn't distracted, Raven tread carefully, "I hope I'm not being rude.… because the thing is, I've been meaning to ask really, what is the relationship between you guys?"
Raven looked back and forth at both Pierre and Max, eyes scrutinising.
To a reserved and protective person like Katya, she thought Raven was indeed being rude.
Max was surprised that Raven had asked that at all, especially since he thought she wouldn't be interested in his affairs and would have come to some assumption and leave it at that; he was wrong on both accounts.
A week ago, if someone had asked him that, Pierre would have glared at the person until they left him alone but a week ago, he was an ignorant and stubborn idiot. He was still stubborn but admittedly, less ignorant and he didn't feel like scaring someone off. In fact, he didn't feel much like his old self.
With a long deliberate look, shared by Max who still looked dubious but extremely wary, and Katya who was looking at Pierre with a hard, but curious glint in them, he could almost see the questions and doubts swimming in them. They were not certain what he would do because despite what was said and done, they hadn't trusted him.
Not completely, not even a bit. Not Max.
Pierre knew what he should have done, what he could have known if he had accepted to meet with them several nights ago instead of avoiding them. With one sentence, he decided to end those thoughts and hoped that it would be the first leap forward to gain their trust back. With this sentence, he hoped it would mean something to them.
"He's my brother. Fraternal twin, to be exact."
December felt as though she was just coming out of a dream.
He's my brother.
Fraternal twin, to be exact.
My brother, fraternal twin.
Uh, wait WHAT?
1. Ulichnyye panki - Street punks
2. Dostatochno - That's enough
3. Pozhaluysta - Please
4. Ty nevezhestvenen - You ignorant
5. Nyet - No
6. Da - Yes
Scottish Gaelic Terminology:
1. Bràthair beag - Little brother
2. Athair - Fatherns 220.127.116.11da2