Yasmine waved him over with a pointed look, careful to look around before she whispered the question that was painted over her expressive, exotic features. “You have it?” Shiny black hair bobbed with the same excitement as her dancing, tanned feet.
The plastic bag was snatched from his hands as the pre-teen beauty quickly scanned the contents. She smiled in relief, hugging the bag to her chest. “Come quick, if we hurry, we can get to her before lunch is over.”
“Over?” Jared let himself be pulled along the middle-school hallway towards the arts and crafts section. “Yaz, I actually want to eat my lunch during lunch period. Whatever it is, can’t it wait?”
“Nuh-uh!” Her dark, almond-shaped eyes flashed, her grip on his wrist tightening as her step quickened.
“Mmm.” She came to a stop between the woodshop and the home-economics homerooms. Sifting through the bag, she drew out a fat, oversized package of skittles and turned to face him. “I’m doing this for you.” She said, seriously. “Don’t try to stop me and please accept it!”
Jared blinked. “Wha-?”
Yasmine twirled on her heel and gave three quick and quiet knocks on the door.
It slid open, almost noiselessly.
Entering the darkened classroom, Yasmine held out the candy in both hands. “H-hello? I’d like to secure a…contract.”
The door clicked shut.
Yasmine gulped. “For my friend.”
“Yaz…” Jared stepped forward, a protective hand on her shoulder, wearily moving to shield her out of habit.
Almost at once, Yasmine readjusted her position, worry creasing her brow. “I’m fine, Jared. Don’t worry, she can help.” She bit her lip, head bowed. “It’s my fault you’re always getting into…trouble.”
His grip on her shoulder tightened and he shifted with her to hold his position. “No, it’s not. Blame those ignorant idiots.” He growled. “Different eyes, hair, skin, teeth, language—what does it matter?” His free hand clenched into a fist. “People who can’t get that through their heads-”
“Should keep their mouths shut and mind their own business.” A new voice said, wryly. “Welcome.” From behind a stack of chairs in the corner, a slender, dark-haired girl rose to her feet. She grinned, dusting off a pair of well-worn jeans, accented by spiffy white sneakers. “Payment please?”
Yasmine handed over the bag of candy.
The girl held it at arm’s length, eying it for a moment. “What kind of contract?” She turned the package over in her hand, but her eyes searched the duo from head to toe, zeroing on their faces.
“Protection.” Yasmine licked her lips.
The remaining bags were extracted from the plastic sack and carefully handed over.
The girl’s eyebrows danced upwards. “You must really like him.” Gathering the candy in her arms, she cuddled them close with a happy sigh. “Anything else?”
“This very minute.” The girl winked, starting for the classroom door. “Isn’t it lunchtime? Personal escort on me.”
“Jared?” Yasmine linked her arm through his, hurrying to open the door.
Jared followed, slowly. “W-what-?” He sputtered.
A lovely smile slipped onto her face as she pulled him through the door after her. “You get into fights because you always stand up for me.” She ducked her head, shyly. “I wanted to do the same.”
“Mafia?” The word tumbled from his mouth.
“No, silly.” Her chocolate-brown eyes grew wide. “Secret school policy. The school’s student body crowned princess will help you solve any problem as long as you pay with candy.”
“Candy?” Jared nearly choked.
“Mmmhmm.” She beamed up at him, turning to smile at the mysterious girl who now stood, waiting, at the end of the hallway for them.
Jared scowled. “I didn’t ask you to do that, Yaz.” He scoffed. “I can’t just-”
He swallowed. “It’s weird.”
“She’s special.” Yasmine’s smile glowed. “Just like you. Her heart is so big, that no matter what she does, something good always comes out of it. If she talks to people, they listen, they can’t help it. She’s always so…kind.”
“And she hides out in the home-ec room and demands candy bribes to handle her common public?” He scowled again, then winced, one hand reaching up to his bandaged cheek.
“Does it hurt?” Her warm hands closed over his own. “Don’t poke it.”
“Outlandish.” He muttered, shying away from the gentle touch, a blush gracing his cheeks.
“Word of the day.” Jared managed, hurrying forward. “Hurry up, wouldja? There’s enough weirdness…for the day.”
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