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“You.” I point to the curvy girl seated at a trestle table outside the drama hall. “You know much about the people around here?”

She glances left and right as though any of these isolated fuckers around here will save her and then adjusts her pale-pink rimmed glasses. “Why?”

I take a moment to admire her deep red bob and vintage dress. “I have questions and they need answers.”

“Administration is for that.” Her lips purse, and she ducks her head back to organizing some kind of sign-up form on a single clipboard. 

“Administration and I aren’t on the kind of terms that would have them share information about other students with me.” I lean my palms on the front edge of her desk.

She stares pointedly at my hands and then traces my arms until she meets my gaze. “How about you put your big girl panties on and directly ask the person concerned, then?”

I like this one. “Would. Did. He’s rather guarded.”

“A guy.” She rolls her strikingly blue eyes and sighs. “Of course, it is.”

“You know the people here, or not?”

“Depends on what you want to know.” She leans back on her fold-out chair and crosses fair-skinned arms over an ample cleavage. “You want their social calendar? I’m not your girl. But if you want to know how they fit in around here, I can deal with that.”

“Good.” I drag her clipboard toward me. Winter showcase sign-ups. “Tell me about the Ambrose family.”

The wooden board disappears from beneath my fingertips, her chair scraping on the floor. “You’re new, so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

“And that,” I sing-song, “is why I ask.”

“What do I get out of it?” She coddles the clipboard to her chest.

“Help with that.” I point to her paltry sheet with a mere five names on it. “I can be very convincing.”

“I don’t need people who don’t want to do it.” She moves from behind the table, situating the chair neatly beneath it. “Drag someone reluctantly into the theatre, and they give a lackluster performance. I’m not giving up my time for a show that could be outdone by kindergarteners.”

“Who said they’d be reluctant?”

A huff escapes her. “I don’t need your help with a cast. I think between the two of us, I’d be better placed to know where to find suitable thespians.”

“Then I’ll paint the set, or some shit.”

“Why don’t you ask someone else?” She screws up her face and tilts her head. 

I glance to the floor, then the ceiling. “I did.” Scuff my boot. “And the first two people flat out ignored me.”

She smirks. 

“The last guy I asked said he looked forward to my funeral.”

She giggles. “Walk with me.”

I hesitantly fall into step with her. The girl has speed. 

“Marion.” She extends a hand toward me.

I shake it as we walk. “Gina.”

“I know.” 

I ignore the icky horror-flick chill that admission gives me.

“Why do you want to know about the Ambrose family?” Marion glances across as she asks the question.

I shrug. “They were the first ones to make themselves known to me when I started here yesterday, and so far, they’ve gone out of their way to let me know how much that annoys them.”

“Them?” She arches an eyebrow. “Or him.”

“You do know the people here.” I smile, impressed with her already. 

“Tristan is the only one who makes it his life purpose to be a jackass. Leo follows in his footsteps, and Amy wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“Why?” I let a student coming toward us walk between our pairing. “Because he’s the oldest?”

“He’s not.” She holds a door open for me. “What class do you have next?”

“I’ve got a free period.”

Marion frowns. “Why were you in the arts annex?”

“Got lost looking for the library to hide in.”

She half-smiles. “Their older sister left here a few years ago.” My new-found friend snorts. “If you think Tristan is a jerk, he’s an angel compared to her.” Marion seemingly chokes on the last word, coughing as she smacks her chest. 

“You okay?”

“Yeah.” Her voice croaks. “Got a weird tickle in my throat just then.”

“So, he’s like this with everyone?” I steer the conversation back on topic, unsure how long I have with her before she ducks into a lecture. 

“If he’s spoken directly to you,” she sasses, “then count yourself one of the blessed few.” She laughs to herself before continuing. “Girls want him, but they don’t want the complications of him.”

“Typical bad boy bullshit, right?”

“Eh.” She shrugs one shoulder. “Yes and no. Tristan’s exes have a habit of developing issues after they’ve been with him.”

“Like what?” I slow, hoping she will too.

Marion powers on. “Addictions, eating disorders, mental health problems mostly.”

“And… he does this?”

“I never said that.” She stops walking abruptly and then winks. “Nice chat. Let’s never do this again.” Marion takes a step backward and pushes through a lecture hall door.

I shake my head, casting my gaze over the emptying halls. My smile fades when a flash of black slips around a corner of the hall.

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