For two weeks, Raiki had been out of college. Once Zyla had heard what happened, she had insisted on calling the college Physician. The Physician was a lovely old man by the name of Dr. Chapman. Dr. Chapman wore half moon spectacles and had a predominantly bald head, with only tufts of grey hair at either side. He was the very image of the perfect Granddad with a fixed smile on his face.
Naturally, he had insisted that Raiki take time off college to recover. He had written her off for three weeks despite her protesting.
"Three weeks?! But, what about college work?"
"I'm sure one of your classmates can take notes and bring you up to speed." He Smiled again, "If you were to go back any sooner I'm afraid you'd just relapse."
Eventually Raiki had given up. So for two weeks solid, the only company she kept was either the walls of her bedroom or the drone of daytime television. Zyla brought her up to date with their Art project deadlines and surprisingly, Nikko had offered to bring her notes for Theatre Studies.
She had begun to enjoy the company of Nikko, despite his obvious attempts at charming her, she couldn't help but find his company pleasant.
"So this week, all we had to do was read through the rest of the script." Nikko Smiled at her one Friday afternoon, a day when she hadn't even bothered to get out of bed. "It's been pretty dull actually!"
"Well, that should keep me entertained for about a day!" Raiki rolled her eyes and placed the book on her bedside table. "I think I'm going to go crazy starring at these walls!"
Nikko ruffled her hair slightly, "Well if the doctor said you need rest, then rest you should!" He smiled at her, "And besides, I'm more than happy to come and see you every night."
"Oh knock it off." She blushed despite herself.
"How cruel!" He feigned sadness.
Raiki laughed. For some reason she found Nikko refreshing. He could make her relax and laugh a little. The perfect escape from her torturing reality.
"Anyway," He rose to his feet, "I've got to get going! I promised my house mate I'd cook this evening! Wonder how that's going to turn out..." He laughed a little as he left the room.
Exiting Raiki's bedroom there was a perfect view of the living room. Sat there on the sofa next to an oblivious Zyla, looking at him with a glowering stare was Xsal. Nikko grinned, gave him a five finger wave before seeing himself out of the front door.
Xsal clenched his fists in his lap. That smug little... He had to figure out a way to wipe that smile right off his face. Why did Nikko have to be moseying in on Raiki while he had to feign happiness with someone he didn't really like all that much.
This was precisely what he didn't want to happen. Of course Nikko had found out about Raiki being sick. They took class together which all of a sudden he was so keen on! So far he didn't know that Xsal had been the one to pick her up and take her home with him. He'd like to keep it that way. The Less Nikko knew about them the better!
But why should that bother him? What business of his was it if Nikko had decided to add Raiki to a long list of Notches in his belt? Maybe that'd cool her off a bit!
He resented that last thought. Although he preferred Nikko as a friend than an enemy, he couldn't ever let some of his... "methods" slide. He decided that it was that reason that he frowned.
He briefly turned his attention to Zyla at his right hand side. Despite her best efforts her eyelids were drooping, she was so tired. In just a few minutes she'd be sleeping and he could sneak out the door and avoid that evermore painful "goodbye kiss."
The television blared but he stared through it. Behind that wall was a door, last closed by Nikko. He knew what lay beyond the door and wanted to go through it himself. The reason being that despite him being the gallant rescuer, he had yet to see the damsel since the incident. Someone else was always there. Either Dr. Chapman, Lyga or the ever faithful Nikko.
Another glance over his shoulder revealed Zyla to be sleeping. Carefully he removed himself from the sofa, crept across the room and paused in the door frame. A quick glance back to confirm that Zyla hadn't stirred before closing the door noiselessly behind him.
In the silent hallway he exhaled gratefully. It was tough to be him sometimes.
He leant against the wall, tilted his head back and closed his eyes. His blissful peace was shattered by the mechanical twisting of a doorknob. He flinched. Had Zyla woken up when he closed the door? Snapping his head down he was surprised to see Raiki emerging from her bedroom in her pyjamas.
They stood in silence both as shocked as each other before Raiki straightened herself up and said as calmly as she could,
"Oh, you're still here." She ran her fingers through her hair, "I thought you'd left already."
Something about this meeting seemed inexplicably awkward.
"I was thinking about it." He forced a practised smile.
Raiki looked behind him at the closed door, then back to his face.
"Did you two have a fight?" She asked concerned.
Xsal Laughed, "Haha! No, not at all," He pondered for a moment if Zyla would ever disagree to anything he could say. The thought seemed barbaric. "She just fell asleep that's all." He finally finished.
Raiki smirked, "And you thought you'd sneak out?"
"Something like that." He fumbled. He noticed a strange unfamiliar burning in his cheeks. Was this a feeling of self-consciousness? Surely not!
"Anyway," Raiki broke his thoughts once again, "While I've got you here..." She was struggling to find words. It felt like it'd been too long since the incident to bring it up again. "I wanted to thank you." She finally spat.
"Hmm?" He tilted his head wondering to what she was referring.
"You stopped for me." She explained and fiddled with the bottom of her pyjama top, avoiding his eyes. "If you hadn't, who knows where I'd be."
Xsal smiled. A true fond smile that made Raiki's cheeks burn. If she hadn't have been red with fever already he would have noticed. For once she was grateful she was sick.
"I'm pretty sure you already thanked me at the time." He finally said.
"I know." She spluttered, "But I never saw you afterwards to thank you again. So... now I have."
"Okay then." He placed a hand on her head, "Uh... thanks duly noted?"
She laughed. She couldn't help it. His awkward response to her equally awkward thanks was worthy of a giggle or two. In time he joined her, and they both stood in the hallway chuckling quietly so as not to wake Zyla.
"I suppose I better get going. Doc says you need to rest, right?"
Raiki nodded, "Uh-huh. Though I think he's being a little over cautious if you ask me" She shrugged, "But hey, I'm no Doctor."
"Well, see you squirt." He ruffled her hair a little harder than usual and made a hasty exit before she could catch him.
Raiki stood watching the closed door for a while before diverting her attention to the living room door. She cracked it open slowly and peered through at the sleeping Zyla. Zyla slept with her head back and her mouth partially open a real "Sleeping Beauty". Raiki stifled a giggle before turning back to their shared bedroom.
"It seems a shame to wake her..." She whispered as she slipped Zyla's duvet off her bed and carried it through to the living room. "I'll just make sure she doesn't catch a cold." She placed the duvet carefully over her sleeping house mate and tip toed back into her own bed.
"I wonder why he was sneaking out like that..." She was letting her thoughts drift back to Xsal again, "He could have just said he wanted to leave..." She pulled her bed cover's tighter, "He's a strange one."
With that thought she smiled and let sleep sweep over her.
The next morning Raiki had decided to set her alarm this just in case Zyla was still in the Living Room and didn't wake up of her own accord. She was.
Raiki rubbed the sleep from her eyes and silenced the alarm. As the room came into focus she noticed that the bed next to her was still vacant and missing it's duvet covers. She smiled to herself and hauled her legs out of bed.
When she opened the living room door she was not at all surprised to see Zyla sleeping gratefully on the sofa right where she left her.
"Oh if Xsal could see this..." She thought to herself with a sly smile on her face. "I think Sleeping Beauty needs some coffee!" She wandered into the kitchen and filled the kettle with fresh water. She almost felt like she should be getting ready for college herself, then her head started to spin. She steadied herself on the kitchen sideboard. "Easy Raiki," She patronised herself, "Not too fast."
As the kettle boiled, she quickly finished spreading a thin layer of jam onto some barely cooked Toast (She never understood how Zyla liked it like that. It was essentially just warm bread!) and poured the boiling water into a cup of coffee granules.
At that moment there was a murmur from the living room.
"Well, good morning princess!" Raiki sneered as she re-entered the living room, Toast and coffee in her hands, "Sleep well?"
Zyla held her head, "What happened? Was I out drinking?"
Raiki laughed, "Not that I was aware of. You forget I'm bed ridden!" She handed her the coffee, "Here, I thought you could use this. I made breakfast too."
Zyla smiled at her, "Thanks," She took the coffee and sipped it gently, "What happened about Xsal? Did he stay over?" She almost seemed excited.
"No." Raiki replied flatly, "I caught him escaping around 11, said you'd fallen asleep!"
Zyla looked at her Duvet around her, "Oh! And he must have not wanted to wake me but he was worried about me so he got my duvet for me! Oh he's such a sweetie."
Raiki cocked an eyebrow. "Sure." She stood up, "Well, I'm gonna head back to bed. Doc's coming to see me early this morning so I could do with a shower when you're done." With that she headed back to her room.
"Oh Okay!" Zyla called after her, "I won't be long!"
Xsal dragged himself out of bed and through to his bathroom. He splashed his face with cold water to attempt to wake up.
His reflection slowly came into focus again and he starred at it.
He smiled, though he was not truly looking at his face, he was thinking about that awkward conversation with Raiki in her hallway. Had they finally patched things up? Could they try to get along now? Was she falling for him?
He shook his head at that last thought, he wasn't sure if that was really what he wanted any more.
"Well..." He said to himself as he turned his chin to get a better look at his face, "I suppose there's no harm in having her as a friend..."
"Could you honestly cope with being just friends?" Lyga was leaning against the bathroom door frame glaring at his brother.
Xsal jumped, "Geez Lyga! Why'd you do that all the time?" He regained his composure, "I mean seriously... you're always there... it's kind of creepy." He turned back to his reflection and worked on maintaining his sideburns. "And of course I can cope. She's nothing to me."
Lyga rolled his eyes, "We both know that's not true."
Xsal glared at his brother through the mirror, "That so? And what makes you so sure?"
"I know you." Lyga smirked, "It irks you that she's not fawning all over you. Face it, she's not interested in you so she's become a challenge. You're interested in her because she's like no one you've ever met. For that very reason, she does mean something to you."
Xsal glared unable to think of a response he shifted his gaze back to his own reflection.
"You're going to have to make a decision at some point Xsal." Lyga began to move away from the door, "And either way, someone's going to get hurt."
Xsal slammed the door behind his brother and leant on it. He hated it when Lyga spoke to him like that. Mainly because it was true. He turned back to face the mirror and starred at his glaring face. He tried to force it back into one of his practised smiles, but he wasn't sure that it looked the same any more.
After Art class, Lyga had decided he would pick up some courage and speak to Zyla. He wanted to know how Raiki was doing, but didn't feel like it was a good question to ask his brother, or that it would be a good idea to go and visit her uninvited. He swallowed a large lump in his throat and paced after Zyla.
He knew that at this time of day she was likely to be heading to wherever she thought Xsal was and that she would most likely hate him for his interruption, nevertheless he was determined to do so.
Finally he caught up with her and placed a nervous hand on her shoulder. She turned and surprisingly smiled at him.
"Oh Hey Lyga! What's up?"
That took him by surprise, "uh... Nothing much really, I just..."
She tilted her head confused by his awkwardness, "Well what is it?" She smiled, "You don't have to be scared of me!" She nudged him.
Oh how ironic this was. Acting like they were old friends all of a sudden when in fact she hadn't really spoken to him since the costume ball, just polite niceties because they were in the same room.
"I just, wanted to know if..." His thoughts trailed off. They hadn't held a conversation properly for a long time and now he was going to start it by asking about one of her friends and not her? That seemed like a mistake so he changed his strategy, "...You'd need walking home?" He felt his face redden so he continued to talk quickly, "I know that Xsal has Media studies now and well.. he's going to be finishing later... that and he's with Nikko and I'm pretty sure that they have something planned so I thought rather than have you walk home alone... y'know seeing as how Raiki's still sick... I could come with you? I know I don't offer that much protection... but safety in numbers right? Or at least I'm sure that's-"
Zyla laughed and placed her hands on his, "That's so sweet of you!"
Lyga looked away from her, aware of his blush.
Zyla thought for a moment, "Well, seeing as Xsal's not going to be around I see no harm in it. I'm sure Raiki would be pleased to see you too! You two do seem pretty close." She nudged him again.
Lyga winced a little and forced a laugh, "Heh, yeah she's a good friend."
"Tell you what then," Zyla beamed, "we'll head by the store and get some cocoa and marshmallows! She makes a mean cocoa!"
"But, shouldn't we be looking after her if she's the one who's sick?"
"Ha, Just try to! I swear that girl it so stubborn, even the Doc has to argue with her about resting up! What chance have I got against her?"
Lyga smiled, yep, that sounded about right. Raiki was so much about other people that she too often forgot herself.
Xsal and Nikko walked purposefully to a favoured spot in the grounds, it was fairly sheltered and fangirl free.
"So what's the deal with you and Raiki?" Nikko asked upon their arrival.
"What deal?" Xsal spat, "There's no deal?"
Nikko raised an eyebrow, "Right."
Xsal sighed, "I'm getting pretty fed up of hearing her name is all. Everyone seems to think that just because she doesn't hang in my crowds that I'm gonna give her special treatment." He shrugged.
"And that's not the case?"
"What? No!" Xsal snapped back.
"So you'd have no problems with me working that route?"
"I mean, if you are busy with Zyla, and you have absolutely no interest in Raiki whatsoever..."
"And you do?" Xsal asked slowly, not looking at him.
"Sure. She's hot." He shrugged, "Why would I not want to try that?"
Xsal sighed heavily. What could he do? If Nikko had his sights on her he couldn't really tell him no... but then why was Nikko asking his permission in the first place?
"What makes you think it's my decision to make?" He finally said, "She's got her own mind, if she's got any sense she'll see you for what you really are."
Nikko starred hard as his friend.
"What's happened to you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"The Xsal Adams I know would say something like "All women belong to me" or at least put up a fight if I was trying to steal one of your girls."
"She's not one of my girls."
"And why not?" Nikko folded his arms, "She's not into you and you can't handle it is that it?"
"No that's not it."
"Then what, Xsal?"
"It's not that I can't handle it..." He scratched his neck, "It's more like... I don't care?"
Nikko starred at him and let what Xsal had said sink in.
"You don't care? You don't care that there's one girl in this campus that doesn't have the hots for you? Just one girl?"
"There's probably more than just one-"
"There isn't. Even those that have boyfriends," He mocked the word with two fingers from each hand either side of his head, "Would rather them be you. What's wrong with you?"
"I'm just tired-"
"One girl has shown up and made a chip in everything you've stood for." He grabbed him by the shoulders, "You know what a chip can turn into?"
"Yeah "A slight jolt on the road can turn any chip into a crack" I've seen the windscreen repair adverts ok?"
Nikko shook him slightly, "This isn't a joke. You're already starting to crumble. This is her doing."
"No I'm not."
"Yeah, you are. You're Tired? When are you ever tired?"
"When I don't sleep well."
"Oh yeah, Smart arse? Then answer me this. When was the last time you had anything in your head that would stop you from getting a good night's sleep? When did the great Xsal Adams last have anything to worry him that much?"
Xsal thought hard about that, but he knew the answer before Nikko even said it.
"Because I'm betting that before She showed up, the answer to that would have been a straight Never."
Xsal closed his eyes and sighed. "All right." He sighed again, "All right, you're probably right. It is her fault that I'm a little tired. But honestly, I don't think I can be bothered to pursue her."
He wanted to put Nikko off the idea that she was worth anything to him, he wanted to make sure that she wouldn't be claimed by Nikko. The best way of doing this it seemed was to lie.
"You can't be bothered?"
"Well... why put all the effort into it anyway, it seems like a lost cause."
"Wait... you saying she's gay?" Nikko raised his eyebrows.
"Cause that'd be hot." Nikko's eyes drifted to the top left.
"Nikko!" Xsal Scolded, "She's not Gay all right?"
"Well... there's this name that I've heard her mention..."
"A chick's name?"
"No!" Xsal smacked him over the head, "Mick or something like that..."
"You sure it wasn't Nik?" Nikko nudged him and winked a little.
"No. It was definitely not Nik." Xsal stated flatly.
"But I've heard her mention it more than once. I figure it's a boyfriend back home."
"And since when did that stop you?"
Xsal laughed despite himself, "Well, maybe not me but it should stop you."
"True. But wouldn't it be a shame if dear "Mick" were to break up with her?"
Xsal starred up at the sky, "Wouldn't it just...."
"Ah Here it is!" Zyla exclaimed as they finally arrived in the hot drinks section of the superstore. "You'd think it wouldn't have been this difficult!" She laughed.
"Yeah, especially with that right above us." Lyga pointed to a large sign above their heads that read "Tea, Coffee and hot drinks"
Zyla giggled, "Oops! Couldn't see for looking!"
Lyga smiled at her as she thumbed through the various containers apparently set on a particular brand.
"What are you looking for?"
"Well... Raiki is quite fussy when it comes to her Cocoa! She likes the bubbly one... you know the one?"
Lyga looked towards the top shelf where the "bubbly one" sat in four different flavours.
"Which one? Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Orange or Toffee Chocolate?"
"Where are you looking?"
Lyga pointed to the top shelf.
"Oh well that explains it." She thought for a moment, "I think Chocolate Orange, how about you?"
"Sounds good to me." Lyga smiled.
"Okay, Chocolate Orange it is then." Zyla stood on her tip toes and stretched for the top shelf.
Lyga chuckled, at 6ft 1 he was more than able to reach the top shelf. He did so and handed her the tub.
"Here," He smiled, "You only had to ask you know?"
Zyla felt her face warm a little, "Thank you." At that moment, she thought she could tell that they were twins...
"What else did we need?" Lyga probed, bringing her back from her thoughts.
"You mentioned marshmallows right?"
"Oh, yes! Marshmallows! Now I know those are usually under the "confectionery" sign." She blubbered.
"Well then that's where we'll head." Lyga scouted round, "Over there." he pointed.
They walked in a somewhat awkward silence. Mainly because Zyla didn't know what to say. She'd never noticed the likeness before, and Lyga was such a gentleman it was hard not to feel a little giddy.
Despite what people thought of her, Zyla was not a complete idiot. She knew that Xsal was a far from perfect Boyfriend. But she had waited so long for him to show an ounce of interest in her that she wasn't about to give him up for anyone.
Her grip on the Cocoa tightened so that her knuckles whitened. Lyga Noticed.
"You want me to carry that?" He asked concernedly.
Zyla quickly whipped on a smile and loosened her grip, "Oh no it's fine! I just didn't want to drop it that's all. I mean it's taken us so long to find it."
Lyga's expression softened, "If you're sure."
"Positive!" Looking straight ahead of her she shouted, "Ah! Look! Marshmallows!" and ran towards them.
Lyga stopped walking and starred after her.
"I just want you to be happy..."
After saying "Ahhh" for the third time, Raiki decided to ask some questions.
"So tell me, Doc, When can I go back to college?" She tilted her head, "I feel much better than I did already and I'm getting way behind with my work..."
Dr. Chapman smiled at her, "You know, I'm going to miss you Young Lady."
"What's that mean? I can go back?" She smiled.
"Well, you can if you wish but understand it's not what I'd recommend."
"I'm retiring today." He smiled at sat beside her, "I have a replacement lined up, he's a good lad Fresh out of University with a thirst to learn."
Raiki starred at the floor. For the past few Weeks Dr. Chapman had become a friend to her, one of the only people who visited her in her bedridden state.
"Oh." She replied somewhat sadly.
"Yes, "Oh" seems to sum it up quite well." Dr. Chapman starred off, "But in my time here there's not been many that have had such Urgency to return to classes, usually it's the other way round!" He turned to her and smiled, "You're a refreshing change Miss. Colt!"
With that he stood up from his seat next to her and headed for the door, "You take care of yourself, Raiki."
"I will Dr. Chapman... and thank you."
He nodded and left the cottage, closing the door behind him.