World of Radiation

Judging Reactions

Continued from ‘Warring Packs

With the voices gone and the footsteps faded, I step back through the doorway into what I now see is an old conference room. The blankets have been folded and placed in the corners. The office room furniture has been pulled forward and set up with chairs, most of them filled with the girls who were staring at me earlier.

Self-consciously I run my fingers through my hair and rub the tear stains from my cheek. I already look like a mess having been fished from a river. I already look like an idiot for freaking out earlier. I don’t need to look any more like a fool.

Glancing about the room, I notice most of the girls refuse to meet my gaze. Whether from the knowledge of me supposedly being from the theater or my mental break down, I can’t tell. Either way, they seem to not want me here any more than I want to be here. Perhaps that’s for the best.

A hand waves through the air, catching my attention. The amber-eyed girl snags my eyes with her smile. It’s broader than when she saved my life, happier, and more welcoming than anyone else in the room, which is why I make my way over to her and sit down beside her.

“Hey,” she greets.

“Hi,” I offer, my voice quiet. “I never thanked you for saving my life last night.”

“Oh!” She throws her hands up in front of her as if fending off my thanks. “Don’t thank me. I just performed CPR, but I can’t swim to save my life.”

Confusion snags on me. “You didn’t pull me from the river?”

She shakes her head, her black hair bouncing back and forth. “Nope.”

“I did,” the blonde girl explains, as she strides up and stands next to the amber-eyed girl. She places a hand on the girl’s chair.

“Well, thank you,” I offer. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t saved me.”

A dark look fills the girl’s brown eyes to match her dark tone. “Died.”

I swallow hard and drop my gaze as she reminds me of the reality of my situation.

“Lea!” The amber-eyed girl’s voice is full of scolding.

“No, she’s right,” I interject, realizing this girl Lea was the one whispering with Mal just a moment ago. “I would have died if she hadn’t fished me out and you hadn’t-” I cut off, remembering the feel of her lips against my own. My fingers absently touch my lips.

A laugh draws me back to the present, where the amber-eyed girl smiles at me, her eyes scrunched from the intensity of her smile. “First time kissing a girl, huh?”

Embarrassment flushes my cheeks and I duck my head. My hands wring themselves together in my lap.

A hand rests on top of mine and gives them a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry. We won’t tell any of the other girls.” The amber-eyed girl laughs again.

I meet her encouraging, warm gaze. She’s so calm about the whole thing, like saving someone’s life is something she does every day. Is that part of the world we live in now, too?

“Jade,” Lea interjects, her tone holding a warning.

The amber-eyed girl turns away from me to meet the brown eyes of Lea. “What? Are you jealous of all the attention I’m giving the new girl?”

“It’s not like that, Jade,” Lea counters, crossing her arms over her torso in something like a pout. “I think she just needs her space after everything that’s happened to her. Not everyone is as touchy as you are.”

Jade rises from her chair and draws close to the blonde. “I thought you liked me being touchy, Lea,” she whispers, her voice suddenly thick.

Lea turns her head away and looks across the room. “Not now, Jade.”

The dark-haired girl reaches forward, placing one hand on Lea’s waist. She uses it as leverage to close the space between them. Their bodies press together. Yet, Lea keeps her arms up like a wall.

Jade places two fingers on Lea’s cheek and redirects her head so the two are face to face. “You’re always so serious,” she murmurs, leaning forward.

“And you’re not serious enough,” Lea retorts, but she does nothing to move away from Jade’s advance.

The kiss Jade offers is tentative, but Lea returns it.

A sudden sense of intrusion washes over me and I look away. My gaze drops to the table as if it’s the most interesting thing in the world while heat rises in my cheeks once more.

Jade’s laugh tantalizes my ears. “Oh dear. I think we’ve made her uncomfortable,” she teases.

“You live to make people uncomfortable, Jade,” Lea returns, her tone more playful than earlier.

The two take their seats next to me. I glance up at them, holding hands like we were meeting for coffee instead of trying to survive a city falling to pieces.

“What can I say? It’s just so much fun to watch their reactions.” Jade turns to me, a smile in her eyes. “Besides, how someone reacts to others says a lot about them and I think I like this girl. Don’t you, Lea?”

Lea passes me a sideways glance. “She’s not really my type.”

Jade rolls her eyes. “That’s not what I meant, Lea,” the amber-eyed girl groans. “Though…” She hesitates, her eyes dancing over me. “Now that you mention it, she is kind of cute, isn’t she?”

Lea’s hold on Jade’s hand tightens and her eyes narrow on me. A threat glitters there. “I don’t think she plays for our team.”

“How would you know?” Jade quirks a black eyebrow. “Maybe she just hasn’t tried the game yet?” One corner of her lips curls into a smirk, as if offering to teach me how to play this game.

“Alright, ladies!” Mal stands at one end of the room. Her blue eyes cast over the group like she’s weighing them, judging them, learning everything about them with just one look. “Time for daily assignments.”

Next Installment: Man, Woman, Makes No Difference


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