Rose was moving books from her book back into her locker, lost in thought, when Sangria walked up behind her and cleared her throat. Rose whirled around, seeing Pomegranate and Clear with Sangria. "Oh...hey guys..."
"How'd the 'family bonding' go last night?" Sangria asked, a smirk on her face.
"Oh..." Rose shrugged. "It was okay."
Sangria raised an eyebrow. "You know..." She paused. "It's odd..."
Rose looked up at Sangria suspiciously. "What?"
"I called your house last night...and your mom said you hadn't been home after school for weeks..." Sangria's smirk grew wider. "Now why would you lie to us, Rose?"
"I wasn't lying..." Rose said defensively.
"Your mother also mentioned that you've been seeing a lot of Malaysian Cherry recently...which is strange since you told me months ago that you stopped hanging out with her..." She looked straight at Rose, a mock hurt expression on her face. "That makes me sad, Rose. And I started thinking. The only reason I could think that you would lie about seeing Cherry is if you were trying to hide something..." The hurt expression changed into a nasty smile. "Is there something you want to tell us, Rose? Something about your orientation?"
Rose shook her head. "No, no, it's nothing like that...She needed some help with her --"
"Rose, Rose," Sangria interrupted. "Give it up." She motioned to Clear.
Clear stepped forward. "I...I saw you guys holding hands in the student parking lot last week..." she said, her voice soft.
"See?" Sangria said smugly. "We have eyewitnesses."
"Eyewitnesses?!" Rose shouted. "Has this turned into a trial?"
Sangria raised her eyebrow again. "Just...interested parties." She paused, looking down for a second, then looking back up at Rose, her expression cool. "But what it boils down to is...you're out, Rose. You're out of the group, and, well," She smiled coolly. "You're pretty much out in general. I know it, they..." She gestured to Clear and Pomegranate. "Know it, and by this afternoon, everyone else will know it."
Rose fell back against her locker, looking up at Sangria desperately. "Why are you doing this?" she asked in a cracked voice. "You've been my best friend for five years!"
Sangria laughed. "Rose, sweetie, we're popular! Popular people don't have real friends..."
Rose blinked back tears and straightened angrily. "What about all the parties! The times you spent the night! Our trip to Canada --"
"You were probably checking me out the entire time, you freak." Sangria pointed an accusatory finger at Rose. "You are so finished. If I were you, I'd transfer, because no one who matters is ever going to talk to you anymore."
"Oh, and Rose?" Clear looked at Rose, her eyes large and serious. "You should probably start looking for a new biology partner."
Pomegranate just smirked, keeping her eyes on Rose as the three girls walked away.
Rose held her breath until they were out of the line of sight, then swore loudly, slamming her locker shut. The door bounced back, the lock refusing to catch, and her books toppled to the floor.
Ruby walked into the apartment, frowning at the small light blinking on the answering machine. She set down her grocery bags, and stabbed the button, her frown deepening into a scowl when she heard who it was.
"Hey, Copper, this is Ember...don't forget about our date today. And wear that dress...you know the one I mean..." The voice chuckled huskily. "Oh, and I almost forgot...don't forget to delete this before you-know-who gets it...you know how delightfully careless you can be...Bye!"
"'You-know-who'..." Ruby muttered angrily. "Fuck you!" She slammed her finger down on the delete button, pushing down hard enough to push the machine off the table and onto the floor.
Spice knocked on the door, frowning. Her frown deepened as she heard the locks slowly being undone. When the door opened, she sighed. "Oh Cola...you look awful...what happened?"
Cola motioned Spice inside, then closed the door, leaning against it tiredly. "Yeah...well...um...I haven't slept." He took a deep breath. "Gothic and I...we...uh..." He took another breath. "We broke up."
Spice blinked. "Oh..." She paused. "Uh..." She paused again. "That's a...surprise..."
Cola narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What's with the pauses?" He stared at the fidgeting Spice for a few seconds, then frowned. "You knew, didn't you?"
Spice took a deep breath. "Only for a few days," she said quickly. She paused for a second. "I wanted him to tell you..."
"Oh, he told me all right. He told me everything. Right after we..." His voice trailed off as he spun around, grabbing a large box.
Spice winced. "So what are you doing now?" She gestured to the boxes.
"Putting his stuff in boxes and throwing it out the window."
Spice nodded. "That sounds...pretty satisfying..."
Cola nodded, and threw the box out of the window, clothing trailing slowly down as the box landed.
Spice opened her mouth, then closed it again, then opened it. "Are you...um..." She trailed off. "Are you going to..." She trailed off again. "Um...you know..." She sighed. "And Rum..."
Cola paused, staring down at a box. "Oh God..." he said quietly. "I didn't even think about that..." He rubbed his eyes, and shuddered. "I've been indirectly sleeping with my brother! Sick! Ew!"
Spice rolled her eyes. "It's good to know you absorbed the 'you're not just sleeping with your partner' lesson, but I think you're freaking out a bit much here..." She came over and hugged her best friend. "I'll get you an appointment at the Student Health Center, Cola...I'll even hold your hand while they do it."
"They take alumni?" Cola asked softly. At Spice's nod, he looked down at a box at his feet. "You know, I was gonna spare this...but, now..." He picked it up and tossed it out of the window. The satisfying sound of breaking photographic equipment rose from the sidewalk below. "He can buy more stuff with his fucking trust fund."
Spice smiled softly. "I hate to do this, but I'm late for class, hon...are you going to be okay?"
Before Cola could answer, the phone rang. Cola grabbed the phone, and motioned to Spice to stay. "Hello?" he said. "Oh, Mom, hi." He paused. "'How's Gothic?' Ma..."
As Cola launched into a stream of angry Chinese, Spice smiled and let herself out.
Rose approached the usual table, her lunch tray clenched in slightly trembling hands. Sangria looked up, her eyebrows slightly raised at Rose's approach, then gestured to a few people at the edge of the table.
They nodded, and moved on the bench, making it impossible for Rose to sit down. For a second, she stood there, looking at the smiling faces, then turned, finally sitting down at one of the empty tables in the middle of the lunchroom. She slowly began to eat, her shoulders slumping in defeat.
"Wow...That was cold..." Mango said, shaking her head.
"Yeah, it was like...Arctic cold," Poppy replied.
Mango nodded. "Uh-huh. You know," she said pointedly. "If something that cold happened to me, I'd want my girlfriend to come and comfort me..." She looked at Cherry, her eyes slightly nodded.
Cherry sighed, looking away. "I'm not her girlfriend anymore," she said softly.
Mango frowned. "You broke up?!"
Cherry glared at Mango. "Weren't you telling me last week that I should because she wasn't out?"
"Uh...Cherry?" Poppy said quietly. "She is out now..." She looked over at Rose. "Painfully so...and you should be there for her."
Cherry stood up from the table, slamming her tray against the table. "Look, she made it very plain that I wasn't good enough for her to date publicly. Even if I wanted to, I'm pretty damn certain I'm the last person she wants to talk to now." With one last glance at Rose's slumped shoulders, she headed out of the cafeteria.
Gothic walked to his door and opened it, sighing when he saw Spice there. "Hey," he said, sounding tired.
"Hey," she replied, her arms crossed in front of her. "Turn around."
Gothic frowned. "What?"
"Just turn around."
Gothic shrugged, and did as he was told. Spice paused for a moment, then kicked him. Hard. Right on the ass.
Gothic jumped slightly, then whirled around, glaring at her. "What was that?" he asked angrily.
"That was me kicking your ass, you moron!" Spice walked into the apartment, a dark-haired girl following her. Spice gestured at the girl. "This is my roommate, Licorice. She drove me here, and wanted to see the ass-kicking."
"Which I was sorely disappointed in, by the way..." Licorice drawled as she sat on Gothic's leather couch. Spice shot her a look.
Gothic swallowed. "Is this the still-beating-heart girl?"
"Yep," Licorice said, smiling wolfishly.
"Anyway," Spice said, standing in front of Gothic. "What were you thinking? Could you have picked a possibly worse time to tell him? Maybe running over his cat and then telling him? How about spitting on his mother and then telling him?"
"I just wanted him to be in a good mood!" Gothic protested.
Spice snorted in derision. "Let's do some role-playing here, okay, Gothic?" Spice shared a look with Licorice, and smiled. "I'll play Cola, and you can play something that doesn't talk 'cause I don't want to hear it."
Gothic scowled and sat down on his matching loveseat, avoiding Licorice's gaze.
"Okay, so I'm Cola..." Spice put her hands together. "I'm lying here thinking, 'Oh, that was so great. I love Gothic and we're so close right now... And -- Oh! What's this? He has to tell me something?'" She put a hand to her heart with a melodramatic flourish. "'Is he...'" She gasped dramatically. "'Is he going to say those three little words that I've been longing to hear for so long? What?'" Her face fell into an exaggerated frown. "'Sleeping with...all these months...while we've been... That bastard! He must die!'"
Gothic shook his head. "Okay, okay, I get the point." He looked at Spice sadly. "I fucked up." His expression changed slightly, and, in a soft voice, he said, "Cola loves me?"
Spice sighed and sat next to him. "It's painfully obvious, Gothic. You'd have to be dense not to see it...which, I guess, you proved by what you did last night..."
"He never said it..."
Spice looked at him seriously. "He was waiting for you to say it first. Cola doesn't feel secure about saying things like that first, you know? He's been gaga over you from the word go..."
Gothic rubbed his hands over his face, sighing heavily. "So what do I do know?"
Spice patted his shoulder. "We stick to the plan. Point three is fucked beyond all repair, but points one and two can still be salvaged."
"I have an appointment tomorrow at the clinic."
Spice nodded. "Good, good. Cola has one too. I had to pull some strings at the student health center, but I figured it'd be better. We'll have to keep thinking about the Misty angle, though. I've got some ideas, but I need a better ally."
Gothic nodded. "What should I do?" he asked.
Spice smiled tiredly. "Go pick your stuff up from the sidewalk, for starters. Let Cola know how sorry you are, then give him some space." She paused, thinking. "Don't mention the 'L' word. It'll just piss him off if you say it now..."
Miss Ember looked across her desk, her gaze never wavering from Auburn's face. "You missed your shoot yesterday."
Auburn blushed. "I...I must've forgotten..."
"You mean you were too high to remember."
"No!" Auburn looked up. "I don't..." She swallowed. "I don't do drugs," she said in an almost-resolved voice as she brushed a strand of hair back distractedly.
Miss Ember shook her head. "Look at yourself. Your hair is limp, you have giant circles under your eyes...and is that a track mark?" Auburn quickly covered her inner elbow with her hand, and Miss Ember sighed. "People are starting to talk about you, Auburn," she said, her voice a bit softer. "This is it -- shape up or ship out. You miss another shoot, and I'm going to have to drop you from the agency."
She cut Auburn off. "I've made my decision," she said firmly. Her expression softened again. "Look, Auburn, I've been there. I had a lot of the same problems when I was modeling. Here..." She scribbled a number on a piece of paper. "This is the number of a good clinic."
"I'm not..." Auburn blinked back tears. "I don't..." She sniffled slightly. "I'm not on..." She looked down at her lap. "Okay," she said in a small voice. She took the slip of paper from Miss Ember and escaped from the room.
Down in the lobby, Camel was waiting for her. "So what'd Boss Lady have to say?" he asked as he led her towards his car.
Auburn began sobbing. "She wants...she wants to kick me out of the...out of the agency if...if I miss another shoot!" She leaned on his chest, crying into his jacket.
"That bitch..." He reached down and pushed her away from his jacket, brushing her tears away gently as he kept her away from his clothing. "Shh, baby, don't cry..." He reached into his jacket. "Here...I was going to save this for a surprise, but now..." He pulled a small bag of white powder from his pocket and held it up in front of her.
"Oh Camel..." she said, smiling at him. "You're so good to me..." With only the slightest hesitation, she reached for the bag, dropping the slip of paper on the ground.
Rose closed the door behind her, looked around, and sighed in relief at the empty living room. She dropped her bag on the floor, went over to the couch, and reached for the remote.
"Cable's out," Ruby said as she came out of the bedroom. "And how'd you get in here?"
"Key," Rose snapped back.
"Don't you live somewhere else?" Ruby said snarkily as she sat down on the other side of the couch.
Rose glared. "Copper said I could come over here any time I wanted."
Ruby grumbled, then changed the subject. "So where's Cherry? Aren't you two usually joined at the hip?" She looked away from Rose and said, in a teasing voice, "You know, if you keep doing that, people are going to start talking..." She turned back to Rose, and trailed off.
Rose sat there, tears running down her face. She took a deep breath, then began crying in earnest.
"Shit!" Ruby looked at her in surprise. "Don't cry! I didn't mean it! Shit, I can't handle it when the Shimmer women start crying...c'mon..."
At that moment, the sound of a key turning in the lock echoed through the living room as the door slowly opened. Copper walked in, carrying a large bag, which was dropped the moment she saw what was going on. She rushed over to Rose's side. "What's wrong, Rosie? Honey?"
Rose just shook her head and cried harder.
Copper stroked her hair, then turned and glared at Ruby. "Ruby!"
"What did you do to her?" Copper said, her voice growing loud.
"Nothing!" Ruby frowned. "Why would you even think that?"
"Because she's crying and you're here and...Oh Ruby, you always say something to her!"
Ruby stood up, angry. "At least I'm not flittering off having an affair!"
Copper blinked a few times. "What?" She shook her head. "What are you talking about? I'm not having an affair!"
Rose sat there, looking at Ruby disbelievingly through her tears. Copper had stopped stroking her hair a few minutes ago, and was now looking up at Ruby with wide eyes.
Ruby pointed at the answering machine. "There's been message after message saying otherwise, Copper."
Copper was still looking at Ruby with disbelief. "Messages?"
"Messages!" Ruby shouted. "Stop playing dumb, Copper, you know they were from Ember..."
Copper blinked again. "Ember?"
"Red-headed bitch who likes to steal girlfriends? Wanted you to wear that dress today -- 'you know the one I'm talking about'?"
Copper looked down at her cream-colored dress with a frown, then looked back up at Ruby. "I don't even know an Ember..." she said quietly. "Wait...wasn't she...um...wasn't she a professor or something?"
Ruby stared at her girlfriend in shock, then shook her head. "No... Don't even fucking try..." She started walking towards the door.
"Ruby! What are you doing?" Copper pleaded.
"I'm leaving," Ruby said tersely, grabbing her keys from the table.
The door slammed loudly.
Copper sat there, stunned, as the sisters heard the car pulling out of the driveway.