December was surprised that Serena actually agreed to it. She had always thought Serena would prefer to do leisurely activities that doesn't require any extreme measure to it. Suddenly, she felt foolish for thinking that, and her thoughts weren't even going anywhere then. This just means she was learning new things about her friends.
After Raven whooped out an excited, 'yes!' and Serena musing that it looked interesting, the three of them were off to their water adventure.
Brooke watched as they approached the person in charge and some words were being exchanged. She turned towards December, saying, "Did today just get anymore weirder or is it just me? I know Raven likes to challenge herself with these things sometimes, but Serena?" She rubbed her temple, as though she was having a hard time solving a very difficult problem.
December shook her head. "It's never too late to branch out into a different interest, I guess. There's definitely something in the air." She reaffirmed herself.
Brooke nodded. "Oh, yes, without a doubt. Still, this is nice. Even Katya is warming up to us! I didn't think that was easy to come by."
December murmured her assent. "I thought it'll be a while for her to get used to us. Maybe we give her less credit than she deserves. In any case, this is a good change."
"Oh, definitely." Brooke grinned.
They laid on the towel, talking amongst themselves as they felt the cool breeze softening the heat on their skin. Brooke drew some attention to herself, with a couple of guys coming over to make a pass at her – one even brought her a drink – but she gracefully yet firmly turned them down. December chuckled lightly.
"Can't get a break from your admirers, huh?"
Brooke pursed her lips. "It can be quite taxing. I swear, it feels like I'm a celebrity or something. But I shouldn't be complaining really. It's not that bad since they're respectful and polite about their admiration." She winked at December.
"Oh, you mean when they asked if you could hang out with them and pretend to be Rose?" She then added almost disbelievingly, "To do that famous Titanic pose? Who does that?"
December sounded strained, as though she was trying not to grimace or laugh at the same time.
Brooke's lips twitched. "Hey, that rhymes," before looking on, unamused. "Okay, yeah, it was only that one guy." Then, at December's look of disbelief, she amended calmly, "Alright, two. I think they were just joking."
December caught Brooke's tone of hesitation and sighed quietly to herself. "I know they were a looker but…well, anyway, I'm glad you turned them away."
Brooke was quiet for a moment, and then, "Do they remind you about what happened with those guys earlier?"
December swallowed. "Yeah, but…well, not really, I think. It was just so uncomfortable." She grimaced before adding, "I'm glad I did it though."
Brooke poked December's cheeks. "So am I. I knew you have that fire in you somewhere."
They giggled at some inside joke and then chatted for a little more until the rest of them wandered back to them.
Out of all three, Raven was the only one who came up looking like a drenched cat.
"Did you see us out there?" Raven laughed, eyes bright at the rush she must have felt.
At December's guilty look, the other girl just shook her head. "I think you should come with us next time."
Katya agreed, flipping her hair over her shoulder. "Yes, you should. Perhaps I should have insisted earlier." There was glint in her eyes that suddenly made December wary.
"I hope you don't plan on insisting now, because I'm not budging." December said calmly but firmly. She didn't know what, but something told her that Katya was determined. Well, she could just as well when she wanted to.
She rolled her eyes. "Now? Of course not. I'm exhausted and my waist is bruised from all that gripping." At this, she turned and looked in astonishment at Serena.
"I'm just doing what I can to hold on." Serena shrugged, laughing softly.
Katya blinked. "I won't even refute that."
They sunbathed under the sun, getting some snacks and talking amongst themselves about anything that interest them. Occasionally, some guys and girls tried to hit on them but Brooke and Katya took it upon themselves to fend their group from any more advances.
December enjoyed this a lot.
While her friends chatted, her attention was caught by the happenings around her. Was it because she hadn't fully tune in into their conversation, or there was just some pull that held her gaze? She didn't ponder too long on it. It seemed like a normal thing, people and other sunbathers going about their day, with a group of young adults just like them seating around, laughing and talking animatedly about something.
Not far from where she sat, she saw people playing volleyball, whooping in victory when they scored a point. She smiled inwardly. It reminded her of Pierre when he scored one. Although, his way of celebrating it had completely taken her off guard and she had felt awkward, right now she saw it as something endearing.
Who would have thought Pierre would even initiate something like that? He was full of surprises, alright.
She listened while Serena engaged Brooke in a discussion about how convenient it would be to get a hot spring or a bath lodge at their dorm, since it would be convenient if their showers malfunction.
Brooke snorted. "As much as that idea is very appealing, I doubt the board or even Principal Lucian is going to agree to this. What's the purpose of it, he'd ask, or is what we have not enough?" She blew air out and gave a thumbs down. "I don't want to answer him and so I'll just keep dreaming, thank you."
December laughed. "Maybe it is possible. I mean, soaking in a big bath in a secluded place at the dorm does sound wonderful. We have a waterfall, a lake, and a river pond at school." She waggled her eyebrows at them.
When they looked at her in puzzlement and awe, December thought she knew what they were thinking, and so she said, "These things do exist, you know? I've seen them and its right behind the school yard. Just a little walk past the shrubs."
"I'm sure there is, D. I just…haven't seen them so I don't know. Maybe we should all go and find it together." Raven mused.
December took Raven's hands and clasped them together, her eyes crinkled warmly. "You would? It's going to be great." Then, she started babbling excitedly. "I've found some so far but I'm sure there's lots more to discover! And guess what? I met Max at the lake, and Pierre at the gardens and –"
"Pierre…was there?" Katya cut in, carefully masking her surprise. She was curious yet a subtle relief was there too. They knew about Max; December told them, and Katya had heard about it from him too when they met up later that day a long while ago.
But they didn't know about Pierre being at the gardens after their one week break.
Pierre was still mysterious to them; like still or clear blue waters but no one knew how deep it ran. He rarely hang around but when he did, they found out that there's more to him than he appeared to be.
While the girls discussed amongst each other and asked December about it, Katya zoned out and into the past, thinking of the times when she found Pierre sitting in her mother's small garden behind the house, looking so preoccupied on something.
"What are you doing?" Eight year old Katya asked, impatience and curiosity in her voice. She was sent to get him for dinner, and had been frustrated that she had to do that. Why couldn't he remember to do it by himself? She had grumbled. But now, having found him sitting on a low gnarly branch under a tree, all of that disappeared. She wanted to know what had his attention.
Pierre looked up and smiled brightly. "Katya!" Then, he laughed as though someone had told a joke. "Come here! Look what I'm drawing. I think this is the best one yet."
Whenever he showed her something, it always turned out to be pretty and nice – butterflies, bunnies, trees, daisies, and so she knew this time would be the same. Eager, she stood beside him, both her hunger and impatience almost at the back of her mind.
He drew a house, perfect with a roof and windows, and the garden surrounding it. Katya squinted at it, then looked back towards her house and then at the drawing again. He was right, this was the best one yet, and for a moment she couldn't say anything. All the children in her class didn't draw like him – they were unstructured, and sometimes uncertain in theirs, but fun. Pierre's was….real.
She knew that her cousin was very talented and ahead of everyone, but it didn't mean she wasn't always surprised by them.
"It looks the same like my house." She marvelled, still eyeing the drawing in the sketchbook.
"That's because it is! I like it here, and someday I'm going to live in a house just like this." Pierre said smugly.
Katya laughed. How silly he was. "You can live here with us. I don't think mum would mind."
Pierre's face drooped a little. "Well…I don't think my papa would let me."
She didn't know what to say to that, except it made her feel resentment. Why couldn't Pierre be allowed to stay at her house? They had so much fun here. Katya never did like her uncle, thinking he always looked angry, like Mr. Scrooge on Christmas.
Her cousins were nothing like him.
She didn't like him being upset – it didn't suit him. Eventually, she said, "Don't look so sad, Pierre. When you live in a house like this, I'll come and visit you."
Does he still draw? Katya couldn't help but wonder if Pierre still dreamed of it.
She turned to the voice. December and the rest of them were looking at her with curiosity in their eyes. She shrugged and thought back to the discussion they had.
"A hot bath lodge would be a wonderful idea, if you don't mind the sanitary problems that comes with it." She said with a raised brow.
Everyone paused in that moment, before Brooke sighed woefully, "And there goes my hope."
"Oh, that…that is a great point right there." Serena said in a grimace, realizing the risks that could come with having that. "With the constant cleaning and disinfection, it wouldn't be cheap, I suppose."
"Yeah… Principal Lucian would never agree to it. I mean, we were just discussing it as a possible thing, but now I know it's never gonna happen." Raven muttered, disappointment etched on her face.
While everyone else looked dejected and Katya nodding in empathy, December was the only one who didn't let it influence her jovial mood. "Maybe it's impossible right now, but I'll hold on to this dream of having a hot spring in my house."
Brooke reached out and clasped December's arm, hope glimmering in her eyes. "When that day comes, you'll let me crash at your place, won't you? I just want to experience it!"
December laughed and patted her hands. "Of course."
They continued their leisure, and when Raven and Brooke had too many snacks and drinks from the concession stands and shops nearby, they watched as the girls made their way to the toilet. Brooke was already complaining at the long distance walk led by Raven. Neither could focus on anything but finding it and they strode purposefully with frustration, which made it easier seeing as people parted ways to avoid being crushed into.
"I hope I'll make it through the day without needing to find a toilet until I get back to the dorm." Serena said, still watching Brooke and Raven paving their own way until their figures grew small.
"Me too." December eyed her half drank water bottle, pretzels, fries, and diced fruits in a cup.
They looked up and saw a woman in her twenties with jet black hair smiling down on them. They shield their eyes from the sun casting rays of beam behind her.
Serena blinked at her before realization dawned. "Milly?"
"Yup, it's me! I can't believe I'm seeing you here. It's been a long time, hasn't it? You were so little then."
Rosy hues coloured Serena's cheeks like blossoms and December gaped at how apparent it was. She hadn't seen her like this since the first time she saw her with Weston.
"Yes, it's been about twelve to thirteen years, I think. How are you doing now?" She said excitedly before remembering her manners. "Oh! Milly, these are my friends, December and Katya." To them, she said, "Milly babysat me when I was younger."
Both December and Katya nodded in understanding; December making a sound of wonder along the lines of 'I see, now this made sense' where Katya looked on in polite interest.
"Hi, Millicent. But Milly for short." She cast a smile at them before saying to Serena, "Oh, I'd love to catch up with you before I leave for Seattle but I don't want to intrude for longer."
December glanced at Serena's face. She was clearly excited to meet an old acquaintance or a family friend and she could also see the pull of wanting to catch up on everything with her. There was no way she would keep her away from meeting up with her friend.
"Actually," December started and Serena turned to look at her. "It's not a problem at all."
Serena was communicating with her eyes; surprised but also asking again if she was really okay with it. "Are you sure?"
'She waved Serena's concern away. "Yeah, it's fine by us, right, Katya?"
When she turned to Katya, the intense gaze that had been locked on her startled December. Katya had been looking at her, and seemingly appraising her. It reminded her of the very first time she saw her – it's been a long while since then and she still managed to make her feel self-conscious.
December furrowed her brow, wondering why she always do that and Katya smiled at the two people looking at them.
"Yes, it's alright." She nodded affirmatively. "We'll be right here."
After casting grateful smiles, Serena followed Milly, getting animated as they started talking about their past.
This might be a good thing that there were just the two of them now, Katya thought. Ever since she agreed to go out with them, she had been bubbling with curiosities. This also gives her a chance to ask some things and get to know the girl whom seemed to play a somewhat significant role in her cousins' lives. Even if December had no idea of it.
"I'm thinking of getting some ice cream. Or shaved ice." Katya blurted suddenly.
December's eyes widened a fraction. "Now? You just had yogurt."
Katya rolled her eyes. "That was half an hour ago. Do you want some or what?"
December just stared at the girl before her; raised brow and a half smile tugged in amusement.
"Always, Katya. I always want them." She grinned, swallowing in anticipation of the mouth-watering dessert.
They walked alongside the shoreline on the side that wasn't populated much by people. December had a pink shaved ice topped with condensed milk and an assortment of jellies and pieces of fruits on it in a cup, whereas Katya got herself an ice cream with crushed cookies.
She fed a spoonful of shaved ice into her mouth, relishing the cold sensation on her palate, and then asked, "So, what do you want to talk about?"
December was secretly pleased that Katya had seek her out to talk. She had been trying to figure out a way to get closer to Katya without putting her on a spotlight. But now…the girl had initiated this herself.
Thinking back to when she first met her and to how they are right now was a huge step of progress and she wondered what interested the girl that made her think she was the person Katya would want to confide in. It excited and flattered her.
As soon as Katya offered to get some cold desserts, Raven and Brooke both ambled back to their spot, looking spent.
"We're getting ice cream. Do you guys…want some?" December was unsure if they would, but she couldn't not offer them.
It turns out the idea of stuffing anything in their mouth in that moment was too great to think about, because Brooke only waved her hand off, her head shaking no. Raven lay sprawled on the towel, her eyes closed. December thought she had already gone to take a nap.
"How far was it?" December asked, too curious to know based on her friend's reactions. It was like the search of it had drained some life out of them.
"Pray…you never find out." Brooke wheezed before she laid back against the chair and exhaled a great yet relieved sigh.
Now, as they were a little over the distance from the crowd, except for some families camping out under the sun while their children built sandcastles and played kites, December suddenly noted the change in their surroundings; the noise. It was less deafening and all at once, she felt her senses heightened. It was like going into a different world, or turning over a page in the book and finding herself in another scene.
She shook her head, not because of her thoughts but because she was getting a brain freeze.
"Agh!" She clasped one hand to her head, closed her eyes tightly, all the while holding the cup.
"Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth. That should help." Katya said breezily. The wind was picking up, making her hair fly in disarray, yet unlike December's, it didn't whip her face.
December blew a few strands of hair out of her mouth, whipping her head around and moved to get her hair out of her face, sounding like an air that a balloon released. Katya couldn't help it.
She let out a small snort of laughter but tried to stop when December gave her an accusatory glare, pouting at the injustice of it all.
"Pfft," was all she managed before composing herself. "That was funny."
"Yeah, sure." December said although her tone indicate it was anything but. Still, it had made Katya laugh. She had made her laugh – somehow, being laughed at for being unkempt because of the wind seemed unimportant.
She smiled to herself before shoveling more shaved ice into her mouth.
"Let's sit there." She pointed to a log of drifted wood.
They sat on it, December; gingerly. It looked sturdy enough but she was still hesitant because of the fear of toppling over. Eventually, she cast that aside and joined Katya.
The view was worth sitting on the uncomfortable log. It was beginning to change colours, from sky blue to the barest stroke of pink.
"What do you think of Pierre?" Katya asked out of the blue. She was never good at building up the atmosphere, but rather going straight to the point.
December was finishing up the last of her dessert when Katya asked her that. Taken by surprise, she choked on the ice that was sliding down her throat.
"Pierre? Wh-wha-what about him?"
Something is up, Katya thought as she raised a brow. December's reaction to that harmless question led Katya to think there was something between Pierre and December. Otherwise, why would she be spluttering? And I haven't really ask anything yet.
Katya hadn't seen much interaction between December and Pierre to even come up with a theory, but she knew something was brewing between them. When she asked around – because who would know better than the students at school? – she found out that when Pierre had enrolled here, they weren't on the best of terms.
But then, people had seen them act on cordial terms not long after. And now, Pierre was acting strange and she knew it was because of December. No other girl had interest him – and she had seen plenty of them flinging themselves at him.
And then there's Karen, she remembered briefly, as the girl whom had invited her to be a cheerleader and also gotten her name wrong. Katya refrained from rolling her eyes. She knew all about girls like her. Although she hadn't seen her around these days, it would only be a matter of time until she made a move.
They always do, and there's no way she would let Karen anywhere near her cousins.
It was too soon to conclude whether or not Pierre stood a chance, considering December had a boyfriend – one which she just learned was on the same beach as them.
She didn't know what he looked like, but she did know that he was somewhat of an elite in the school. It would be great to get a complete idea and size up who Pierre would be up against.
"Did something happen?"
"No, nothing happened." December said, almost defensively. Why was Katya asking her these things?
"Then why are you blushing?" Katya's brows rose. She was puzzled yet amused at December's reaction.
Instantly, her hands flew to her face and December frowned. She didn't understand why her face heated up at the mention of Pierre. Was it because of what happened recently at the arena? That was barely anything. She doesn't understand the way her body work sometimes.
Better yet, was Katya on to something? She thought she had an inkling.
"Hold up." December exclaimed, her hand poised in a 'STOP' sign. "Are you going to give me the 'hurt my cousins, and I'll destroy you' speech? Is that why you're asking me these questions?"
Not close, not really, but impressive. Katya said sarcastically, "Oh gee, you caught on to that so soon," before composing a challenging look. "And so what if I am?"
December gave her a look. "Nothing, other than you're wasting your time. I am not a threat Katya." She shook her head hopelessly. "And certainly not to your cousins. Max is a friend, and so is Pierre. I'm not gonna hurt them or anything."
Katya didn't look like she believe December.
Just then, she could feel her stomach rumbling and December's face paled, twisting in a grimace. "Oh no." She whimpered. "No, I really hope it's not what I think it is."
"Are you faking it just to get out from answering my questions?"
December sighed, thinking on how advance Katya's train of thought was. She had it all figured out, hadn't she? And damn, it reminded her of when she said the same to Pierre too the night they were on a run from the guards.
"That would be a good idea, except I didn't need to fake something to avoid that. If I don't want to answer your question, I would have kept my mouth shut. Ugh." She doubled over, holding her stomach in apparent discomfort. Beads of sweat were starting to form at her temple.
Katya had doubts now. December looked dreadful. Concerned, especially when she saw mist in the girl's eyes, she tentatively asked, "Do you….need to go to the loo?"
"I'm really counting against it, but yeah, yeah, I really do." December eyed her surroundings, trying to find any sign of a toilet.
Could it really be as far as both Raven and Brooke made it out to be?
"Okay, then go." Katya said simply.
December almost choked upon hearing that. She swung her gaze at her, incredulous. "Did you really think I'd go alone? I know you're not that mean. Come on."
And with that, December grabbed a hold of Katya's arm in search for the mysterious toilet.
Katya winced, not because she was seeing a more stern side of December although it did surprised her, but mostly because she had no idea the girl could have a death grip.
I guess she's not all soft and pliant, Katya thought.ns 188.8.131.52da2