Chapter 2:

Talia and Aaron

Game of Life

 Talia Minora and Aaron Carpenter walked through the jungle, their footsteps quiet, and senses alert, on the lookout for any possible dangers.

Well, at least they had wished they were. Instead, the two juniors were walking home in the sweltering summer heat from their school, the ice pops they held in their right hands dripping down their exposed arms and eventually making the drop of fate, from their elbows to the hot, unforgiving ground.

If they had been in the jungle, at least the heat would have been bearable, and long forgotten by the thrill of adventure. But screw school, screw homework, and screw reality.

“Hey Talia, you wanna go to the pool after this? It’s probably open by now.” The cheery redhead asked his friend. Her bronze eyes snapped over to her friend, wide open and out of their heat daze.

“Too crowded” She mumbled, going in for a lick of her strawberry popsicle.

“What about the ocean?” The teen looked longingly at the ocean in the distance, the waving beckoning him, to their sweet, cold, paradise.

Talia slowly turned her head toward the ocean, her eyes glazing over. The sound of waves pounding against her head falling into play.

Aaron continued to ramble. “Well, the ocean can never get too crowded, but I heard in some places there’s barely any room to walk.” His grew more excited and childish with every sentence. “Do you think the water’s going to be filled with yachts again? That’s a pain. Do you think the dolphins will be out?”

Talia let out a small gasp, her hands dropping the red popsicle. That gained the attention of her happy-go-lucky friend. The sound and sensation of the waves hitting against her head, the pull of the current, pulling her down underneath the waves, the happy, mocking chitter of the dolphins.

“Talia? Talia!” The boy called, shaking her out of her daze. Her eyes regained their bronze color. Realizing what he had done, he looked down in shame “I’m sorry. I forgot”

“No, I’m sorry.” She replied. “I have to get over this stupid fear someday”

“No! Your thalassophobia and delfiniphobia are not just some stupid fear if you go back to how you got them!” He panicked, looking around for something to calm her.

“Aaron, be quiet. You’re really loud” She deadpanned, smacking his head.

“Sorry” Within a second, all conversation was lost, and they were back to wasting their lives away. At one time, going to the jungle was as easy as pressing a button. In fact, going anywhere was as easy as pressing a button. But now, that was a button that no one dared to press.

They walked towards Talia’s humble beachfront abode which she shared with her twin brother, Troy, and older sister, Kristen. As they arrived, a group of girls bumped into them. Talia cursed as she went down.

“Oh, I am so sorry, Talia!” The leader had exclaimed, a look of worry on her face, as she looked down on the raven-haired girl

“It’s okay, Jenna! How are you?" She stood up and gave a smile before continuing "Are you holding up well? I heard your dog died” Talia said with fake sympathy. The girl, a pink haired girl, Jenna, burst out in tears, which Aaron could only describe as unneeded and fake.

“Pinky was so young and so cute! She was such a nice dog!” A nice dog, right. Aaron could remember very well, just last week, a couple days before her death, Pinky had chased him through half the city, growling and yipping in her high pitched, little dog voice. And when she had managed to catch up to him, it was hell. He still had scabs on his arm and back side. “How could someone do such a thing?!”

“Pinky’s death was tragic, getting hit by a car” Talia sympathized, and Aaron could almost see her roll her eyes. She had conveniently left out the fact that it was Troy’s car that had run the dachshund over, both of the teens had also been in the car with him, and it was completely on purpose. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to attend the funeral, I was having some family problems”

By family problems, she meant a game night with Talia and her siblings, Aaron, and his sister, Mei. At the end of it, there was a fake sword lodged through Talia’s wall, a real sword hanging from the Turkish ceiling lamps, and Aaron safely hiding from the enraged older sisters, who just happened to be best friends. All he had done was asked why both were still single and they lashed out.

“It’s okay, thank you. Bye!” Jenna said.

“See you later!” She gave them a bright smile and proceeded to walk away with Aaron in tow and the same bored look in her eye once more.

“Way to go, Miss Popular” The boy congratulated as the stepped into the air-conditioned heaven of her home. “Who would have thought that you could’ve been so popular and such a faker back in first grade?”

“Who would’ve thought I’d enter the right state of mind after first grade?”

“You and me both, sister.” Aaron said, walking towards the kitchen, to which she followed. She found him standing in front of the open freezer, with the cold air blasting on his face, and tongue lolling out.

“You look like a dog” A female voice from behind them stated, as Troy’s girlfriend, Genevieve, walked in grabbing a bottle of sparkling water.

“And you smell like one, but you don’t see me complaining” Talia shrugged, joining Aaron in front of the freezer. He shifted over, and grabbed a popsicle from the freezer, and casually started eating.

“Don't you have some poor soul to curse or something? Even if you don’t, can you let us waste perfectly good resources, and leave us alone?” Aaron politely asked, making the brunette go red.

“Fine!” She proceeded to turn around when Talia stopped her.

“Wait, why are you here?”

“Because I can be?”

“Nevermind” She groaned. “Who let you in any way? Last I checked, Troy’s away for some photoshoot and there is no way he got home earlier than this, and Kristen’s away on business”

“Oh!” A bright smile came on Genevieve’s face, as she brought out a key. “Troy gave me a spare! Isn’t he so nice and trustworthy? I can’t believe that he trusts me enough to give me a key to his home! I wonder if he’ll agree to move in with me in my apartment”

Talia deadpanned, grabbing Aaron’s half-eaten popsicle “Not a chance” She took a bite, completely disregarding his distraught face. “Oh grow up, just get another one!”

Seeing her chance to escape Talia’s hard unforgiving personality, Genevieve tried to take her chance, but defeat was undeniable. After all, how could a lone level 1 player defeat a boss that it takes hours to defeat with a team of level 200+ players?

“Oh no. Key” She held her hand out in front of the brunette, as she begrudgingly handed the key over to the lady of the house. Just like a slave submitting to their queen. Instead of resisting, she instead gave the black haired girl a threat.

“Troy will hear about this!”

“Yeah, yeah” Talia dismissed, joining Aaron back at the freezer. “Tell me when I care”

Frustrated, Genevieve left, tears streaming down her perfect face. “I still wonder, what was she doing here, without anyone being here? I mean she’s gotta have a reason” Aaron pondered out loud.

“Probably the same reason you’re here all day, every day, despite living right next to us”

“You mean to leech off of Kristen, despite being completely able to provide for me, and Mei providing for me?”

“Probably” They stayed in front of the freezer for another moment or so until they realized that they were melting all the ice cream and the poor popsicles. “We should probably close the door”