Chapter 1:

That Friend Everyone Has

She Can't Be That Perfect!!

“What on earth are you wearing?”

Ray’s tone has it all: awe that teeters on frustration and a slight hint of derision. He’s known Amy for more than a year now and her antics have never ceased amazing him. Though today takes the cake.

“A maid dress,” she replies matter-of-factly. Her innocence draws an artificial grin on Ray’s lips.

“A costume.”

“If some people heard you call it that, you’d be Bastilled.”

“Is that a French joke I’m too colonised to understand?”

“Head on pike. Now quit lollygagging, I didn’t call you here to gawk.”

But all he does is gawk. He can’t help marvelling at Amy as he follows her out of the school and down the alleys that lead to the sport fields. She’s always been a zealot about wearing her uniform on school grounds.

“Where did you get this?”

“Auditorium. It was in one of those bags they zip up corpses in, the biohazard ones.”

More like fashion hazard. No elegance, no accessories, no personality. But it’s Astella, the frills alone must’ve been north of four digits. The academy spares no expense in the pursuit of greatness, but this isn’t worth its spit. No wonder it was getting thrown out.

“And why did you get this?”

He stiffens up at the sudden slip and thud. Amy’s on the grass, slowly sliding downhill. If that were the white skirt and blazer, those green stains would’ve stuck with her till graduation day.

“Asked and answered,” Ray sighs, then flinches. A loud tear shreds the air as Amy leaps to her feet. Her stockings barely cover her thighs anymore. Normally, a girl would redden like a cherry and despair, but Amy just readjusts her glasses, squeezes her determination tank and continues her half-tumbling descent.

They reach an impenetrable hedge wall, lining the edges of a rectangle. The football pitch. Now that he’s learnt the where, all that’s left to find out are two why’s. The first reveals itself as soon as Amy stops on a bare spot where the grass has recently been flattened.

She paws at the roots and drops to all fours. “You have the camera with you?”

Now Ray meets his everyday struggle. Much as he wants to run away and tell her to fuck off, Amy’s his best friend. Her qualities somehow outweigh her overwhelmingly numerous quirks. Besides, he’s too far invested by now. This is all uncharted Amy territory to him.

“Sure,” he says, producing the camera from his bag. When he looks up again, a large cylinder of foliage lies by Amy’s side with her already swallowed by the bush. Now that is a development.

He slides in through the narrow gap, “It’s cramped.”

“It’s not meant for Brazilian hunks!”

“Was that an insult?”

“Hard to compliment you when your elbow’s stabbing my ribs.”

Or when you don’t care. Her voice isn’t even in focus. She cares more about fiddling with the camera settings, particularly the shutter. He wants to reach out to lend her a hand, when a slew of giggles comes through. Girl giggles.

No… His ears must deceive him. He reaches a hand in front, splitting a slit in the thin curtain of branches. The opaque windows of the locker room are, for some reason, wide open, allowing a clear view of all the sports bras bouncing inside. He barely manages to keep the blood from overflowing his nose, but can’t win the battle anywhere else on his face. Spending so much time with Amy hasn’t overwritten that part of his virgin brain.

“Yeah, no,” Ray whispers.


“Give me the camera, take an ice bath and, non-optionally, drown.”

“Don’t be such a prude. Hey, hey! Stop getting handsy!”

“I’m not gonna let you creep up my gallery!”

“It’s not creepy when you’re a girl.”

Ray reaches deep inside for that fizzy elation that combats murderous rage.

“Wow, most progressive feminist? Amy, you like girls.”


“Right now, you’re between stalking and sexual harassment. Illegal either way.”

“As if! Astella’s the most laissez-faire place ever.”

“For extra-curriculars! Not pervy misdemeanours!”

He pinches his brow, huffing all his anger out. When he looks at her again, she’s pointing the lens out, wearing a weird sense of expectancy, not fazed by his outburst in the slightest. That’s why their relationship has survived for so long. They accept each other in earnest, no matter how weird or caustic they might get.

The locker door opens and Ray rolls his eyes. It’s Mia, the perfect princess herself. Even in gym shorts, she carries herself with that same annoying elegance as she struts towards the window. With that signature smile, she peers straight into the camera lens. Ray can swear she even winked before closing the blinds. Amy’s growl raises his eyebrow. She’s got a weird look on her face, like she’s just missed something that she desperately wanted to see.

Suddenly, the leaves prickle like thorns. Amy and Mia haven’t spoken once during five quarters spent a classroom away. This isn’t what he thinks, right? He narrows his gaze, carefully studying Amy. Lucky for him, she’s someone to wear her heart sewn into her sleeve. It’s only a matter of time before he gets some confirmation.

At five sharp, both locker rooms spill onto the pitch in two messy herds, rounded up by their captains, Mia and Sean. A bit of vomit gets in Ray’s mouth. The two’s families have a combined net worth in the high billions and have led the same privileged life as everyone else of their ilk. When they get together for the coin flip, Ray can barely tell apart. They have the same pathetic condescendence, only differentiated when Sean loses the coin toss. Mia glows slightly smugger.

But, much as he hates the two and the people who treat them like royalty, watching the game makes him concede a bit of respect. It’s not 11 to 11, it’s Mia versus Sean and a bunch of target dummies. Still boring, though, he stifles a yawn, before checking on Amy. A slight frown weighs her brow as her finger aches on the button. She’s not on edge, more like she’s ready to pounce.

A sharp whistle. Amy winces and both her and Ray’s eyes widen. Sean has slid under Mia and she’s ended up on top of him, uninjured. Their faces are an inch apart, devoid of blush and scorn. Just the same wax smile they’ve worn since the freshers ceremony, a year ago. Only that sends Amy into overdrive. She growls, the camera clicking a thousand times, capturing every frame of Sean helping Mia up. The game doesn’t interest her past that. Until the last minute she scrolls through the pictures, focusing on Mia’s face in each of them and oscillating between excitement and dread.

Okay, that’s it, Ray thinks. He extracts himself from the bush, then seizes Amy’s ankles.

“Oi, what the hell!” she whines as her dress catches on every twig.

“What’s – going on?”

“Non-consensual foot grabbing! You – you fiend! You rascal! You –“

Ray flicks her forehead. She always babbles when she’s caught in an uncomfortable lie.

“I’m serious. This is far from your average bullshittery.”

Amy rubs at her sore spot, “Wha – I’m shook! How dare you?”

Ray crouches before her, concern hidden behind a mask of exhaustion. He doesn’t like being played with, but he’s more worried because Amy never hid anything from him. And she knows it too. With a guilty grimace, she hugs her knees to her chest.

“I miiight’ve heard a rumour. That Mia might confess to someone today.”


“So?” she pauses. “I – don’t know! It’s an emotional moment. Call me curious.”

“I’ll call you mad.”

“Little column A, little column B. Point is… I’m interested in her, okay?”

Ray bites his tongue. He would love to drag Mia through the dirt, but he doesn’t for Amy’s sake. The veins on his forehead slowly flatten, but before he can ask anything around the topic, a flash of remembrance crosses Amy’s face. She goes back in the bush, lingers there for a long second, then her entire body goes through a seizure. In the blink of an eye, she’s out of the peephole and dashing around the fence.

Ray rolls his eyes and breaks into a light jog after her. He doesn’t even go a hundred meters before catching up, finding Amy crawling and barely drawing breath. House mouse. With the same sardonic spirit, he trudges along, taunting her with his stamina. But something doesn’t quite sit right with him. No quips, no jokes, no teases. She just soldiers on in silence, sweat falling of her by the bucket.

“Where to?” he asks, trying and failing to sound nonchalant.

“They went… to the park… the grand… maple tree…”

He should just leave. Turn around and let her struggle. Let her know this kind of behaviour triggers him to no end of good. But instead, he bends down before her, hands formed in a saddle behind his back.

“Hop on.”


He cares about her too much to let her do that.

“I want to kill you so badly right now, but I can’t do it if heatstroke claims you first.” 

Pope Evaristus
Kid Komet
Other Slater
Steward McOy
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