Narrator: Lucas Cartier
"Evelyn, now's the time to let nature take its course," said CJ.
She turned away, looking sullen, "Nature's shy."
"And? People don't exist for your own entertainment."
"CJ," said Christina, "some people just need a bit of prodding."
"Take my word for it, they don't."
"Hey," said Evelyn, "it's not our fault you wound up with the physically desperate. Don't take it out on us."
Until now, I had given up trying to understand their current conversation. I got the feeling they didn't want it to be understood by anyone but each other, because it was more cryptic than usual. Usually, I could follow. Yet in this instance, things seemed personal... though platonic. And they were toning it down, for Frith's sake.
Evelyn reached behind herself and Christina as Bass passed behind the three of us to take the seat beside me.
"Hands off," said Bass.
I turned my neck, and it looked as if she had rolled up his sleeve. There was a rainbow hand-warmer up his exposed forearm. My thoughts were quickly spinning into an analytical state, Can it be? Is he declaring left-wing values or making a statement about his own orientation? Why now?
Rainbow Bass! Damn them...
"Hello, Jack. Pleasure seeing you here. And who's this?"
"Strai--" began Evelyn. She was interrupted by a smack from CJ's hand.
"My fraternal twin, Bass," he said.
Frith extended a hand towards Bass, and Bass leaned against me to reach for it. I closed my eyes, as I realized my senses were suddenly overwhelmed.
"Frith Gryms, pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Bass... Barlow, is it?" asked Frith.
"Yes, it's Barlow."
"Then I suppose I owe this to your brother," Frith said, rolling up one flared, black long sleeve to expose a bruise just beyond her elbow.
"Gah, he's taking it out on others still..." Bass spoke between his teeth.
"Taking what out?" asked Pavel, from beside Bass.
"'Pho-oh-oh-obia," said Juliet.
"Wha?" said Pavel.
"Nevermind," said Bass, now just a little red in the face as he sat down.
Some perverse corner of my mind was beginning to wonder what else might make him red in the face. Luckily, I was distracted again by my friends.
"Hands above the table, boys," requested Juliet.
CJ, who was already leaning over his binder onto his hands, spoke up, "Evelyn, you too please."
Her face contorted in displeasure.
"Frith," said Bass. "Are you a boy or a girl?"
"The jury's not in yet," came Frith's reply, eliciting a curious look from Bass.
A groan came from Edward, where he was sitting across from Pavel and beside Juliet at the end of the table.
"Get your mind off that high horse, Edward," said Juliet. "You know I can kick like nobody's business."
"Yes, yes," said CJ, "we all know you're a ninja."
"Damn straight! With froglike agility!" she puffed up her chest as much as she could, and posed as if she were a superhero. "Whatcha writin', Junia?"
Christina reached for the note in front of Jankin and handed it to Juliet, "He's replying to this..."
"What is it?"
"Just read," said Christina.
"But I'm lazy, you know that!" whined Juliet.
"It's worth it," said Evelyn in a mysterious tone, no doubt to pique Juliet's interest.
Pavel, meanwhile, was shaking hands with Jack and then Frith. And Jack took the liberty of introducing himself to Edward, who didn't seem interested in meeting either of the Gryms twins.
"A love letter!? You? I mean... umm... I hope this has nothing to do with The Rogue's article."
Evelyn handed me a piece of paper, whispering, "Pass this to Bass, don't read it."
I obliged her request.
"I don't think this is the kind of love letter someone would write to an alleged date rapist," stated CJ.
"Date rapists likely aren't accustomed to fan mail in even the least bit," put in Jankin, in his far too attractive voice.
"Christina, CJ, may I see your story when Evelyn is done with it?" asked Bass.
"Feedback is always welcome," said CJ.
Out of boredom, I took my camera out of my bag. Either I'd use it, or my friends would. It was our only weapon against Evelyn's relentless shooting. Immediately, Pavel reached for the string cord that was dangling at Bastien's elbow.
Edward covered his face with his hands, as Juliet put her arm over his shoulder and leaned in against his.
"I need to go for a walk," said Christina, "outside." She turned to Jankin. "Come with?"
Jack got out of his seat, and followed her towards the doors that led outside.
Perhaps things did change at the party. Just look at Juliet and Edward, almost together. Maybe I should have gone after all. I'd have had a free ride if I asked my cousin if his date wouldn't mind picking us up, I thought. That Porsche. And then realization struck me, "Wait... CJ, this Crystal... is she Crystal Jennings?"
He nodded, "None other."
"Well, that's one way to piss off Henry Barlow," I said. "Bass's brother's been wanting my cousin's girl for quite some time, or so Greg tells me."
Bass grumbled something incomprehensible.
"Greg's your cousin!?" said Evelyn.
"Yeah," I told them. "What happened, why isn't he still with Crystal?"
"Err... umm..." CJ fumbled around for words.
"He's rekindled his relationship with Joshua's brother," said Juliet.
"How did I annoy Henry?" CJ asked, glancing between me and Bass, who was looking away.
"W-wait a second. Brother? Rekindled?" I was shocked at what I was hearing. "But Gregory's as straight as an arrow."
"Well you see, Lucas," began Juliet, "arrows have these frilly, flamboyant colours on their back ends, and -- Ow, don't nudge me, Edward, or I'll nudge you back, ye 'phobe."
"Huh..." I said as I tried to absorb what I had been told.
"Nobody's going to answer my question, are they?" said CJ. "Bass, do you know something about your older brother that you're not telling me?"
He shrugged apathetically.
"He lives across the hall from Crystal," I told him. "He must have noticed your... rendezvous."
"French words make excellent euphemisms," said Frith.
"If you guys are talking about sex, I will leave this table," said Edward.
"Hoh!" exclaimed Juliet. "You didn't... tell me you didn't..."
"The preacher's kid is still a virgin," Frith assured her. "Don't you worry."
"Then what's the euphemism for?"
"Stop asking questions," commanded Edward.
"Look, Edward, you can stop giving me the cold shoulder," said CJ. "She pressured me, and I chose to leave before things progressed too far."
"That doesn't tell us how far you went before leaving," said Juliet.
"Precisely," said Edward in a tone of disgust. "Not that I care to know."
"Let's not flaunt his actions for all to know," said Pavel. "What's personal should remain personal."
"Aye," agreed CJ. "Except The Rogue has made a far more libelous and smutty take on that evening far more public than anything I could ever truthfully admit to at this caf table." By the end of his sentence, CJ was glaring at Bastien.
"I'm s-so sorry," he mumbled. But very nearly nobody heard him.
"Come again?" said CJ.
"He said he's sorry!" I said, finding myself suddenly angry in defence of Bass.
"I t-tried to stop them..." he said in anguish, staring down at the table with his hands on his cheeks. "The edit... was all I could get."
"Tell nobody, all of you, tell nobody!" Evelyn said in an acerbically authoritative voice. "About either of us."
"The Rogues are outed," exclaimed Frith. "Well I'll be... a monkey's uncle... or aunt."
CJ looked at Evelyn in alarm.
"Trust me, CJ, we had nothing to do with this, and couldn't manage to stop it. I'll have it taken offline as soon as I can," said Evelyn.
"Now that we know for certain that this is just petty and vindictive slander," said Bass. "I think we'll have a much easier time getting Byron off the team."
"We can't lose Byron!" protested Evelyn. "If we pass a motion to kick him out, he'll out every one of us. We're just going to have to... keep him on a tight leash."
"I like the sound of that," said Juliet.
"Gimme a break," groaned Edward.