Monday after Hell Night, Year 10 of the Addergoole School.
“You know what you have to do.”
“Damaris, this is ridiculous. And why are you so angry at me?”
“…you know, forget it. I’ll get over being angry soon enough. Look. You know what you’ve got to do.”
“It’s still ridiculous.” They’d gone around that loop enough times that it ought to be the chorus of a song. You know what you have to do/but it’s ridiculous and I don’t want to./You’re acting like a fool/ But wasn’t I yours, your fool?
Damaris huffed. “For once, just listen to me, would you?”
“I’m trying.” He could tell her breath was uneven and her pulse was racing. She was clearly upset and getting more so. Shang tried for a more placating tone. “Damaris, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll go along with it.”
“Even the collar?”
“Even the collar. I think it’s…” He stopped himself. “Because I said something to keep Curry and Basalt off of her?”
“Because you walked into Curry and Basalt’s trap. Or walked her into it, whatever. Yes. It’s how the school works, Shang.”
I liked the part where the school worked me in your arms. Not this part where I have to move a stranger in with me. “All right.” Because it made her happy.
“Don’t touch those, geez, stop it.”
“But I need…” Leithe lifted her hands off the stack of CDs as if they’d burned her.
“Shut up, okay?” Shang glowered. He’d liked Leithe. She was normal, easy to talk to, the sort of girl he would have been interested in, before Addergoole. She was generally just a nice person.
And he was being a heel to her. Because she persisted on trying to cuddle up to him, and to act like she was his girlfriend.
She wasn’t his girlfriend. Damaris was his girlfriend. Even if she’d “released him from his promise.” Even if she’d taken the collar off. Even if she barely spoke to Shang anymore.
“I’m just trying to pick up. You told me I could pick up.”
Had he? He thought he’d said something like that. “Don’t. There’s CDs everywhere.”
“I could organize them.”
“No! God, no, they’re already organized!” He glared at her. “Why do you keep on doing that?”
“I’m just trying to make you happy.”
“Don’t! Don’t try to make me happy, don’t try to please me, don’t guess what you think I want. Just… go jump in a pond or something. Give me some space.”
She fled the room, already sobbing. Shang put his face in his hands. He was being an asshole. He hated being a jerk. But everything had gone wrong the minute he’d said she was his, and he just didn’t know how to make things right.
He tidied the room. He reorganized the stacks of CDs so she could actually get into the dresser where her clothes were stored. He washed the dishes, and sorted his clothes so she had more room. He was just beginning to wonder if he was supposed to go after her when someone pounded on his door.
Not Agra, please, not Damaris. He opened the door.
His Mentor was holding a soaking-wet Leithe, holding her so she couldn’t run away, and she was definitely trying to. “You and I,” Luke’s voice was a snarl, “need to have a talk about orders.”
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