Considering what this was, a meal with another family, Lisa didn't expect to be surprised by anything. She did this with her own family every Sunday so it didn't strike her as the kind of thing that would be a break from her norm; other than sitting to a meal with Nicole of all people. In fact she was quite wrong. In opposition to her own frame of knowledge... it startled her how nice and warm Nicole's parents were.
Despite her break up with Ryan, Nicole tried to put a brave face on for everyone and it worked (as well as it could have, at least). She introduced Lisa to her father, Simon, who was as Nicole said, a paraplegic. But despite his being bound to a wheelchair he wasn't the slightest bit remote or embittered. He was a cheerful man who took Lisa's hand and shook accordingly, welcoming her to the household. Lisa was startled but not ignorant. She didn't stare but she didn't dismiss, either. It was only shortly after that that Nicole compelled Lisa to follow her up to her room. There was no way the blonde girl would have refused that. Nicole's bedroom was pretty much like any other belonging to a girl in high school. There were numerous posters up on the walls (which had been painted in a very faint green) of her sporting idols and most liked movies. Those posters presided over a fairly standard set-up of a single bed and nightstand, a pinewood desk which held her PC, printer and scanner, a television on a blank painted TV unit, a stack of CDs piled up next to that, and a chest of drawers and wardrobe that Nicole's clothes were stored in. There was also a small bookcase on one side of the room that contained at least twenty text books or so. It alone was proof that Nicole was as studious as she said she was. However the room was unkempt and messy. The books and CDs were in disarray, quite a few clothes were strewn about over the carpeting, including a pair of Nicole's panties (Lisa noted that with a very heavy blush) which were hanging off a spoon lodged in a now cold and half-drunk cup of coffee. It was all very charming though, even as Nicole made her apologies for the mess and started to clear up. Lisa herself didn't mind it at all. She couldn't deny the feeling of pride she had when she was there. It was Nicole's private space (well... at least the external one) and Lisa was probably the first person in L.A. to have seen it. That made her feel proud; to know that there were dimensions of Nicole that only she had seen.
The girls spent less than and hour up there together before Simon called them downstairs for dinner. By that time Daryl had gotten home. When Lisa came down and saw her, she realized that that was font from which Nicole's beautiful looks came from. Daryl was much like a older and more mature version of her daughter, though her own hair was slightly longer and slightly darker, and straight, as opposed to the waves Nicole's hair had.
By contrast Nicole looked less like her father but definitely got his personality.
After Daryl and Lisa were introduced (and Daryl got changed out of the suit she had worn to her new job) and after Lisa had helped Nicole set the table, they all sat down to the meal Simon had cooked. It was beef stroganoff for Nicole and Simon and a well-tossed garden salad with roasted potatoes and thousand island dressing for Lisa and Daryl (who was apparently a vegetarian). It was a very relaxing and eye-opening experience for Lisa to see the Milligan household in its time of commune. Their meals were so very unlike the ones she shared with her parents. Simon and Daryl asked Nicole about her day, how she was settling in, if she'd still be trying out for the Alderson High's female soccer team, etc. On the contrary; Lisa's parents barely asked her to pass the salt. Simon and Daryl were also very friendly, asking similar questions of Lisa, inviting her for dinner again some other night too. It was nice. It was the first time she had ever sat down to a family meal and hadn't felt awkward. And by the time it was over Lisa was left with lasting impression of Nicole's family -- a sanguine one, one of true esteem.
Come two and a half hours later, Daryl and Simon were curled up on the couch of the lounge together watching CNN (an act which conveyed more intimacy than Richard and Daphne had shown each other in years) while their daughter showed Lisa to the door. The two stood in the hallway of the Milligan household with mutual smiles. But Lisa wasn't stupid. She knew that Nicole was still hurting over Ryan. It was a shame really. Here Nicole had truly had her heartbroken, and Lisa felt powerless to stop it.
"Are you okay?" Lisa asked in earnest. "I know that it must be... really hard for you, with Ryan and all..."
Nicole pulled a tiny and crestfallen half-smile. "...I don't want you to worry about it, Lisa. Ryan and I just wanted a few different things is all. I've had sometime to think since this afternoon and... I'm actually starting to believe that it was for the best. We couldn't have kept up a long distance relationship anyway; he was such a horny bastard."
They both giggled a little.
"..Nah. You know what? I'm gonna be okay." Nicole's smile then became quite real, made `full'. "Thanks for coming over tonight. I really needed someone to talk to and you were there for me. I'm always gonna be grateful for that."
Lisa blushed lightly again. She was never, and would never, be one for compliments. But to hear Nicole say such sweet things to her (especially when Lisa was so used to being treated like a nerd by her student peers, an invisible girl by her parents and a vibrator by Dani) made all the difference. It made her forget all the jealousies she felt against Ryan and all the inadequacies she felt as a human being. That was how much Nicole meant to her. So Lisa softly pulled the bangs out of her eyes and offered Nicole her gentle and appreciative smile.
"That's okay..." Was all she said.
Nicole sociably squeezed her shoulder. Lisa quivered with delight at the oblivious touch.
"Want me to walk you home?"
Lisa shook her head. "I'll be fine."
"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow morning then, yeah?"
"Yes." Lisa then opened the door, not breaking eye contact with Nicole for a second, before turning outside and walking down the driveway. Nicole gave her a parting wave before closing the door. Lisa stopped and took a brief moment to breathe and reflect. These past few days of knowing Nicole had been a wonder for her. Meeting her lovely parents had been just as nice. And here she was, afraid she'd make a lousy impression. The knowledge of all this made Lisa feel light and giddy like never before. Nicole was feeling better too... in time maybe she would forget about Ryan and move on. Those thoughts too added to Lisa's joy. But when she opened her brightened blue eyes to cross the road, that wave of elation inside her crashed into the jagged rocks of realism and dispersed. Across the street she could see Dani's ride parked up in her parent's driveway.
She was sitting on its bonnet and was staring somewhat angrily in her direction.
The tide of warmth that Lisa felt dissolved faster than she would have expected. What was worse was that she was becoming very clear on one thing. Whenever she saw or heard from Dani her mood went sour. Lisa quickly looked back to make sure Nicole wasn't standing by her doorway (she wasn't) then she crossed the street hurriedly and came up to Dani. But before Lisa even opened her mouth she smelt an overpowering waft of something on Dani... and that something was alcohol.
There was an actual recoil. "...Have you been drinking?"
The angry smile on her face said as much. "What d'you think?"
Immediately Dani reached out and dragged Lisa to her. The blonde girl gasped as Dani literally smothered her lips in a kiss while one of her strong hands groped Lisa's tiny excuse for an ass -- IN PUBLIC. And her eyes shot wide open at the striking taste of diluted vodka on Dani's lips. Lisa was incredulous. Her whimpers of discomfort were muffled by Dani's kiss until she pushed herself free and said uncharacteristically; "What the hell are you doing?!"
"Nothing I haven't done before..." Dani slurred. "What're YOU doing...?"
"...We're in public!" She seethed. Lisa glared frantically from side to side to try and see if someone was coming or if someone had seen Dani accost her like that. Apparently no one had. Of course that didn't stop her from being worried that someone would if it happened again, especially considering the inability Dani seemed to have at keeping her voice down. She wasn't drunk but she certainly wasn't being careful either. And this was one hell of a quiet suburb. A pin could drop and ten of your neighbours would hear it. Dani didn't seem to care much about that though. She ambled forward and grabbed both of Lisa's enflamed cheeks. She brought the girl close to her again.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Lisa...?" She asked.
Lisa squirmed as Dani's hands left her cheeks and went roaming around her body again. This time she didn't pull away... but only because her thoughts started running away from her again. Dani paid no attention to that, to the expression on Lisa's face, the one that indicated that gears and cogs were turning in her mind.
"How long has it been?" Her pearly white teeth bit down on Lisa's left earlobe before uttering, "...Come on..."
Her hand grabbed Lisa's ass again... but tighter and more possessively. That was enough to break Lisa out of her own thoughts once again and compel her to pull away. This time she put some real distance between herself and the half-drunk girl in front of her.
"...I don't want this." She declared.
Dani's callow sneer turned into an angered one. But she turned her attentions to the Milligan household across the street. Lisa followed her stare and then looked back at Dani. Apparently she had seen the two of them together at the door saying goodbye. Part of Lisa felt defeated at that thought. Though she hadn't really considered the fact up until now... she wanted to keep Dani and Nicole as far away from each other as possible. At once she knew why. For one thing she couldn't stand the idea of Dani potentially ruining the only serious friendship she had ever had... but most of all Lisa didn't want someone as sweet and as decent as Nicole to know the kind of things she had let Dani do to her. It was all a result of her own personal weakness. For those reasons; the knowledge that Dani now knew of Nicole really bit her on the ass. Lisa would have done anything to kept this element of her life a secret from Nicole.
Dani stared at the Milligan house. "...Is this because of that bitch over there?"
At THAT Lisa balked quite completely. The comment stung, like it had been said to HER, like she had been slugged in the stomach. Through all the sex and the power the blonde girl had forgotten how boorish Dani could really be.
"Don't call her that...!" Remarked Lisa.
Dani stared evenly at her before quipping, "...Are you hot for her?"
That second comment stung too... but for a very different reason. Lisa tried to protest but found herself stunned into silence. All she could do was glance away. That silence was more than an answer for both of them -- it resolved the question with a calm earnest and frankness that words couldn't possibly have mustered. But then something peculiar happened. When Lisa looked up sheepishly, taking her eyes off her feet, she saw something in Dani's caramel eyes that she had never seen before.
Dani took in quick breaths, eyes darting rapidly, while one of her shaking hands absently plucked at her bangs. At first she tried to laugh it off, dismiss the idea of Lisa having feelings for someone else, as though it didn't matter or that it just wasn`t possible; but that was false and both of them knew it. Lisa suddenly felt a pang of guilt... even more so when she saw Dani's lip quiver. The frailty Lisa had seen in Dani before was back but this time it was so much worse. This time it was truly emotional. "You... like her?"
Lisa bit her own lip and tore herself from Dani's frustrated gaze. "...I'm sorry..."
Dani's left leg started trembling.
"I'm really sorry, Dani..."
The Italian girl swallowed the uncomfortable lump in her throat. "...What about me?"
It was long overdue. She had to say it now while the chance was here. "...Dani... I... I mean... it... wasn't going anywhere, was it...? Maybe... I'm sure... that there's... someone better out there for you. Someone else."
"...I don't want someone else! I want you...!"
"...I'm... sorry..." It was all she could possibly say. Then she turned to her door. "...I think you should go now..."
Before she even made it to the step Dani desperately grabbed her wrist to stop her from going. She span Lisa around on her heels and grabbed her by the shoulders, declaring desperately, "Lisa, please...!"
She couldn't think of a single thing to say other than `I'm sorry'. And Lisa had apologized more times than she could count for things she couldn't control. But this was something she could control and she was finally (albeit through the friendship she shared with Nicole) beginning to see that for herself. So Lisa shrugged Dani's grasp off of her and jogged up to the front door. She quickly unlocked it, went inside, and then slammed it shut -- only to hear Dani bang her fists against it from the other side.
"Lisa! ...Lisa!" She yelled aloud. "Lisa, open the door! Open this door! Lisa!"
That was bound to be heard by the neighbours. Lisa didn't dwell on that this time however. She ignored all the banging and shouting and ran upstairs to her room. She slammed the door behind her and collapsed on top of her bed in sobs. Below she could still hear her now ex-lover slamming her fists into wood and yelling for her to come back out. So Lisa grabbed the pillow of her bed and wrapped it around her head, covering her ears until Dani gave up. Moments after that Lisa heard two sounds; first of a car door opening and then closing, then of tyres screeching erratically against asphalt. She knew that to be Dani driving away, and she remembered with some bitterness that Dani had been drinking vodka. But there was nothing she could do. It had to be done. What they had wasn't a relationship but whatever it was, it was wrong, and it had to end. The young blonde woman curled up into a ball. While lying down she roughly wiped the tears out of eyes and sobbed to herself, "...I'm so sorry..."
Not even the tender nudge of her pet kitten could break her out of that malady.
When Lisa awoke the following morning things proceeded as they always did. It was the same tried mantra; wake up, feed Koenig, take a bath, get dressed, check e-mail, go downstairs and finally drink a quick coffee alongside her disagreeable father. Lisa did most of that with a chip on her shoulder. She didn't express anger very well however; so to Daphne and Richard it was like it always was with her. It was per usual. There were times when Lisa really believed that should she even catch fire they wouldn't notice her.
It was all quite meaningless though. Her mind, as normal, had vacated from her usual routine and settled on her newly burgeoning love-life. Throughout the process of getting ready for school the only thing she thought about was what happened with Dani. Part of her really felt guilty. Normally Danielle Cooper was such a strong person to her, this Goddess of determination and strength that Lisa felt powerless to deny. But lately she had been seeing a new side to Dani, one that proved wholesale she wasn't nearly as strong as Lisa had thought her to be. There was an understated but palpable fragility nestled inside Dani's heart -- Lisa had seen it twice thus far, the first time being after all her facial injuries and the second being yesterday. The blonde didn't think she'd ever forget that heartbroken look in Dani's eyes. It was plaguing her even now. But she kept telling herself, over and over and over and over again, that this was for the best. They would probably just cause each other more pain if things continued as they had thus far. This didn't need to be another modern reincarnation of the hedgehog's dilemma. They could get through this; of that Lisa was becoming quite certain. So by the time she went downstairs there was little in her head that accentuated regret. There was maybe a little guilt for Dani's reaction to the whole thing, but no regret.
This time Lisa made quick goodbye's to her parents (so quick in fact that Daphne could not stop and cajole her into eating something she didn't want or sitting around a table with a father who barely knew her) and left the house abruptly. Lisa noted with some relief that for once Dani's car was not parked up in her parent's driveway. Less than four minutes later Nicole emerged from her own home. Lisa smiled fully. She looked great as always. This morning she had forsaken her brown satchel for a rucksack though. It was open slightly, and inside she could see one of the heels of a pair of studded shoes. >From that Lisa recalled that Nicole would be trying out for the girl's soccer team today.
"Hey Lisa." Nicole said, somewhat more chirpy than yesterday. "Ready to go?"
She nodded. "Of course. But how are you? Are you... okay? You know, after the whole Ryan thing?"
Nicole's smile faded but it wasn't replaced by a frown. Rather it was replaced by a thoughtful and distant glance in the distance. She seemed to be in deep thought for a moment, perhaps even losing sight of her surroundings, then shook herself out of the reverie to answer. "...You know what? In a really weird way... I think I'm already over it."
That had Lisa confused. "...Really...? But... I mean... he was your-"
"I know. He was my boyfriend and he was a great one. But I put my head down last night and I just had a good chance to think things through. I think that part of the reason I got so upset was because Ryan was like... the last piece of 'home' I had left. That's no fair on him and it's not fair on me. I think its best to move on."
Lisa couldn't have been happier to hear that. "I'm pleased for you. I hated seeing you so upset."
"And that's why you're my friend...!" Nicole nudged her playfully as they started walking to the bus stop. "So what plans do you have for the weekend?"
Lisa blinked. "...Plans?"
"Yeah, you know, plans? What'cha got planned? You gonna hit the town? Get hammered? Sacrifice a goat?"
"...No, nothing like that..." The blonde giggled a little. "I don't really... do much on the weekends, except... well... studying and stuff."
Nicole stared at her. "...That's all? Studying?"
"Uh huh. No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no. That's boring. That's school. You won't be burying your ass in books... at least not this weekend," Declared the brunette. "No, my friend, this weekend you'll be taking me out for a movie. Yeah, that sounds about right. And there'll be no arguments either."
Lisa smiled privately. "I wasn't going to make any."
That smile widened when Nicole hooked her arm around her more petite shoulders. Nicole brought her close with a chuckle. "Yeah I didn't think so. We'll have a blast."
The two of them walked off down the street toward the bus stop. If it didn't sink in by now it had to be said - Lisa wasn't stupid. She knew that Nicole was overcompensating. She was still cut up about Ryan, but being the sweet girl that she was, Nicole didn't let that intentionally affect the way she treated her friends. The two girls from then on discussed where they would go and what they would do that weekend on the way to school. Half an hour later they were disembarking their transport and walking up to Alderson High's open gates. This first period they didn't share together, so when they got their books from their lockers they said goodbye to each other. Lisa watched her disappear into the numerous crowds of students gathering in the corridor of that wing. As soon as Nicole was gone however, someone bumped into her shoulder. Lisa scowled when droplets of coffee doused the lapel of her shirt. When she looked up the culprit waved an apology to her and sped off down the hall, her coffee cup splashing every which way. Apparently she was in a hurry. Lisa sighed and headed for the toilets before class.
As soon as she walked into one of them she clammed up. There were two cheerleaders (they weren't dressed in their leotards or anything but Lisa knew the two of them to be cheerleaders) standing in front of the mirrors hanging over the wash basins. They made themselves prim and proper, re-applying make-up and lipstick, whilst gushing at the cuteness of one particular boy and laughing at the ugliness of another. Lisa took the basin that was three basins down and tried not to draw attention to herself as she dampened a wash towel and wiped at the coffee stain. By the time it became clear that the stain wouldn't come out this way, the two cheerleaders had finished picking at themselves in the mirror. When one passed Lisa by she remarked,
"Hey flat-ass! Work out much?"
Lisa lowered her head as the pair cackled like hyenas on their way out. It distracted her. So much so that she did not notice someone stepping out of one of the stalls behind her. That person paused a moment, then the next thing Lisa knew, she was being dragged, with a gasp, into that same stall. That person thrust her against its wall and swiftly locked its door. Lisa stared wide-eyed. That `person' was Dani.
"...W-what on earth are you doing?" Lisa questioned her.
Dani held her by the shoulders. "I just need to talk to you."
Despite the way she went about this Lisa was somewhat relieved to see that Dani hadn't gotten herself killed in some kind of road accident. She hadn't forgotten how the Italian girl had been semi-inebriated when she drove off last night. That thought rushed back to her when she saw the older girl again. But that didn't change the fact that she didn't want to see (or better yet sleep with) Danielle Cooper anymore.
"I think we said... everything that needed to be said... last night." Lisa put forth.
Dani scowled. "No, you said everything you needed to say last night. You didn't even give me a chance."
"When have you ever given me a chance?" Lisa shot back, defying her own infirmness, startling Dani, "How many times have I said... that I didn't want to do things we did together...? But you forced me... told me things... about how I'd like it.... in the end..."
"But you did-"
"It doesn't matter!" She shouted defiantly. "No means no!"
There was silence. That comment had both of them stunned. Dani especially. Because not once, not one single time, had she ever heard Lisa yell. Not ONCE. And of all people, she never expected herself to be the one she finally did it too. It then dawned on her that Lisa was changing. She didn't know why or how, but this was not the same Lisa Whitfield she'd been fucking privately. Butterflies danced in Dani's stomach -- but they weren't the good kind, the kind you got when you saw the love of your life for the first time. These were the kind of butterflies you got when you knew you were about to lose something very precious. The thought that Lisa was growing and thus growing apart from her made her squirm. Dani was even shaking again and didn't know it.
"Look," Dani tried to rationalize all this. "I know I might have done a few things wrong here, I don't... I mean I'm not... look, what I'm trying to say is... that I'm sorry. Maybe I haven't been treating you as good as I could have and maybe I am a little selfish sometimes... but I REALLY want this. Me and you."
Lisa turned her head to one side.
But she didn't move.
"Come on, Baby..." Dani's long black tresses fell with her as she leaned down over an inert Lisa. Her smooth lips descended slowly upon the terse but tender muscles of the blonde's neck. Dani brought soft butterfly kisses down it, teasing its supple flesh. Lisa shuddered but remained immobile.
Lisa's eyes shook. "...Don't..."
While soft kisses were planted along her neck, Dani's commanding hands seized her wrists and pressed them firm into the wall. Lisa felt her fingernails scratching its plastic. All the while Dani pushed herself closer to her; flattening their breasts together. The blonde girl tightened up and bit her lip while a tense frustration built within her.
"...Stop it..." She whispered.
Dani didn't even pause, let alone stop. Rather her kisses over Lisa's neck became more intense and more hungry. They became bites. Lisa winced when Dani bit down hard to the left side of her neck. It wasn't hard enough to make her bleed but it would definitely leave a hickey. That was the last straw. It caused Lisa to scowl angrily and once more yell;
"I said stop it!"
Once more she shouted and once more it stopped Dani in her tracks. And then she realized what she was doing. The raven-haired temptress pulled back and looked at Lisa. She actually looked at her. The upper half of her shirt, coffee stain and all, was now a mess. The part of Lisa's neck that she'd bitten was already turning an enflamed red. Trails of saliva ran across it. Meanwhile she held the girl down by the wrists. And she came face to face with the quivering in Lisa's big blue eyes. Dani knew that look... or at least knew what it signified.
Lisa was scared.
Dani's heart sank. "...Are you afraid of me?"
The shorter woman shrugged her hands free from an astounded Dani's grip. "...You don't listen to me."
Point in fact -- no one did. Except Nicole. And that was what this was about. Another quiet stillness surrounded the pair of them. Dani stepped back, startled as she had never been before. She had never ever meant to force herself on Lisa. But because Lisa was so damn frigid and insipid... she kept thinking that the girl needed a nudge to make her push through, a little bit of motivation to make her see that this was what she really wanted. That was Dani's train of thought. It never occurred to her, not a single time, that she might be frightening Lisa. That was the last thing she wanted.
Dani reached out to touch her cheek. "I... I'm sorry. Lisa, I don't mean to..."
"Don't...!" She recoiled. "...Don't touch me! Dani... I can't do this anymore. I don't... I don't want to see you... or be with you... or anything else. So please just... leave me alone."
Lisa hurriedly unlocked the stall door and ran out; leaving a fairly perturbed Dani behind her.
The last class before lunch break was one that Lisa shared with Nicole. When they met up with each other for History Nicole seemed to pick up quick that something wasn't quite so right with Lisa. The blonde dodged the few questions that Nicole levelled at her because of that though. What happened with Dani in the toilets earlier had shaken her, but it hadn't weakened her resolve to keep secret Dani's existence from her friend. If anything the whole thing hardened her resolve to do that.
Because of that Lisa spent most of the class focusing on her studies. She didn't want to daydream anymore after a big fight. It distracted her and drew attention to her; what's worse was that Lisa knew Nicole might question her about it if she wafted off on one of her daydreams in front of her. If that were to happen then Nicole would know something was wrong and, considering what kind of person she was, wouldn't let up until she found out what the problem was. If that happened Lisa would be forced to lie to her and she didn't want that. So Lisa tried and was somewhat successful in keeping down her sentiments and anxieties about Dani.
While the crotchety Mrs. Swirlin gassed on continually about the consequences of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on the US, Lisa felt a little like her old studious self again.
An hour later Lisa and Nicole (as well as the other twenty or so students) sighed with relief at the ringing of the bell. They packed up and retreated from her room to the corridors. The two girls then went off to get lunch. It was the same as it always was; a loud marking ground for high school sub-culture that Lisa took as more of a chore than a relief. And like usual she and Nicole were forced to wait around on the tail end of a lengthy line of fellow students before being served. When they finally were seen to, Lisa got herself a wholemeal tuna sandwich, a carton of milk, and a red apple. Nicole (ever the avid fan of junk food) had a cheeseburger, a side of potato wedges, a pudding cup and a can of Coca-Cola. However when they left the line and turned to the doors that allowed them outside they saw budding droplets of water pattering against their glass. Those droplets soon became a downpour. It was raining outside.
"Crap," Swore Nicole, holding up her tray. "I guess we'll have to eat in here today. Is that cool?"
Lisa bit her lip nervously. It wasn't cool but it wasn't like they had much choice either. She nodded. Nicole nodded back and scanned the tables for a free one. There was a borderline empty table to the centre right (it's only occupant was a nerdish boy with an unsightly retainer, sitting alone -- neither of the girls knew him) so they headed for that one. Nicole and Lisa sat down around the other side of the table from the boy, who looked up from his plate of pasta salad only once before returning to it, and they started eating. Lisa was somewhat more nervous about it than usual but she tried hard not to let it show.
It didn't seem to be working. Before long Nicole asked her; "Are you okay?"
"You seem stressed out."
Lisa fobbed it off. "No. I... I'm fine."
Nicole was understandably unconvinced. Yet before she opened her lips to question her further, she blinked when she saw someone approach their table and lean over Lisa. Lisa realized it only when she heard this girl press both her palms down on the table (the silver rings she was wearing made a kind of clacking sound). When she looked up her eyes went wide as saucers.
It was Dani... again.
"I really need to talk to you again," Dani spoke urgently. "I have to explain."
Lisa went rigid. The strength she found yesterday to break up with Dani disappeared even faster than it came. The only thing her mind registered was Dani standing between herself and Nicole. The ONE thing she had wanted to maintain was distance between the two and now they were right here in front of her. Lisa's blue eyes swung in Nicole's direction. The brunette stared oddly at Dani, clearly wondering who she was. Lisa then cast her gaze back at Dani herself -- who was waiting for a reply.
"Well?" Chipped Dani. "Are you coming?"
Lisa was so stunned she was speechless. Her throat actually felt dry, so dry in fact that when she tried to say something she found that she couldn't. The previous infirmness came back down on her like a weight in her stomach and she was rendered unable to say or do a thing. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) Nicole was.
"...Can we help you...?" She said with probing confusion.
"...Heh. `Can we help you?'..." Dani's hands balled while her lips pulled an angry grin the very second Nicole spoke to her. Thus a new dimension of tenseness opened up as Dani turned from Lisa to Nicole. "Do I look like I need your help?"
Nicole gave a half-chuckle. "...Um... kinda..."
"...You think you're so fucking perfect, don't you?"
"Did I stutter?" Retorted Dani.
"What the hell is your problem?"
"You wanna know what my problem is?" Chipped Dani. "My problem is stuck-up, more-money-than-brains bitches like you who can't mind their fucking own. That's what my goddamned problem is."
The half-eaten cheeseburger Nicole had been holding hit her tray. Both Lisa and the boy with the retainer looked on (Lisa was terrified but the boy was just understandably curious) as Nicole rose from her chair with a sneer and angrily faced off with Dani.
Nicole didn't show the slightest instance of fear about Dani's having an inch over her. "You've got a big mouth, you know that? Now I don't know what your issue is and to be honest I couldn't give damn. But Lisa's my friend and you're bothering her. So just buzz off, alright?"
Dani smirked angrily at her before giving her a shove. "You wanna make me?"
Lisa was petrified but still unable to say or do anything, even as Nicole staggered back, startled but not baited. But the Milligan girl's left hand balled into a restraining fist. She suppressed her anger, willing it not to consume her, and she replied tersely, "I'm not gonna fight you."
"Yeah, I guessed not." Dani bit acidly. "You might break a nail or mess up your hair or something. You might even end up in a wheelchair; like that crippled Dad of yours."
Even with the calmest of souls, the most pacifistic of priests, there was always something, just one thing, that when said, provoked them in ways they themselves probably wouldn't have imagined. Nicole's trigger was her Dad. And Lisa's apprehension burst into overpowering horror when she and about twenty other people from surrounding tables overheard the auburn-haired girl scream "You bitch!" right before she literally bolted over the table and threw herself at Dani.
There was a clattering of chairs and scraping of table legs against floors, as well as screaming and shouting, the moment Nicole and Dani tumbled to the floor and started fighting. The sound dampened all the chatter and laughter of the kids around it and soon everyone in the cafeteria, more than 170 people, started to dash and gather around the pair. A huge crowd developed around them, the younger of the group shouting "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!" amid a chorus of teenage roars and cheers that swept across the cafeteria in waves. Lisa, who by now was out of her chair, struggled to make her way to the front of the pack. It was too tight to move through them and was held back two lines behind the fight itself. But between the heads of two jeering jocks she saw Dani and Nicole rolling over the floor, surrounded by discarded food and overturned tables.
Lisa's heart was in her throat. By now Nicole was on her back, kicking and thrashing, while Dani rolled over and mounted her from above. The taller girl drew back her fist and smacked Nicole across the face with it. Lisa winced -- at both at the impact and Nicole`s hurt cry. But as soon as Dani pulled back her other fist her face jerked to one side when Nicole slapped her across it. She reeled, enough for Nicole to grab her by the neck and push Dani off of her. Then Nicole immediately rolled on top of Dani, shrieking angrily, clutching bundles of her jet black hair and yanking viciously at them. Dani tried to smother the younger girl's face with her hands, yelling, "get the fuck off me!" or something to that effect -- at least as far as Lisa heard.
Lisa remained mute but her heart screamed internally. Her inner voice shouted, begged and pleaded for them to stop fighting, but it wasn't nearly enough. What bubbled up inside her was a both stark realization and a cold personal admission... that this was all her fault. If not for her none of this would be happening. Lisa shut her eyes and tried desperately to block out the giddy jeering of her student peers. She could feel her tears encroaching on her. In seconds she knew that if they didn't stop she'd burst into tears.
But that was before someone else got involved. A louder and more sophisticated voice shouted heavily over everyone else. Someone was yelling at Dani and Nicole to stop. Lisa opened her eyes and saw Mr. Stephens, the black Cultural Studies teacher, push his way through the throng and immediately foisted himself between Dani and Nicole as they tore into each other. With some difficulty he grabbed hold of Dani and pulled her off of Nicole -- who still had bundles of Dani's hair in her hands. Once she was up Mr. Stephens kept her at one side then pulled Nicole pulled off the floor. As soon as they were up they lunged at each other again. But Mr. Stephens was between them and extended both arms to keep them at distance from each other. They were both breathless and their clothes and hair were in disarray. Lisa silently thanked whoever needed to be thanked for his presence.
The multitude of kids around them started to calm down (with some of them groaning at Mr. Stephens for stopping the fight and others already debating which one of them had `won' the scrap). Because of that Lisa could now hear what was being said between them.
"Bitch!" Nicole yelled, irrespective of her teacher. "You ever talk about my Dad again, I'll kill you!"
"Yeah? I'd like to see you fucking try!" Retorted Dani, loudly.
"That's enough!" Mr. Stephens' powerful baritone voice overwhelmed them both. "I don't know who started this but its going to stop! Period! Understand? The pair of you, in my office, now!"
He released them. Dani and Nicole threw deathly glances at each other but did as they were told, and made their way out of the cafeteria. Both were so angry and breathless that neither one of them searched for Lisa in the crowd. And as for the crowds; Mr, Stephens' shook his head with a sigh and proclaimed to them, "Alright, alright. There's nothing to see here. All you kids go back to your tables. Now."
Everyone began to slowly disperse in the midst of collective clusters of laughs and chatter. Mr. Stephens then followed Dani and Nicole to his office. And while the high school flock had been satiated with yet another demi-gladiatorial fight, the girl at the centre of it all was left reeling and dazed. By the time one of the lunch ladies came up with a broom to sweep up the all food that had been thrown on the floor as a result of the fight, Lisa was the last one left still standing there. Her thoughts were running a mile a minute. But the one thing she thought without contest was the one thing that hurt her the most. It was the only thing marching through her brain, true or not.
This was all her fault.