Chapter 81

“Why, hello there, you foxy ladies.”

“Get lost, dirt bag,” Alice snapped at the poor male uttering such a trite line.

“Dirt bag? Really? I think I have more fastidious hygiene than even you, Princess,” Nick shot back, having been the poor line-delivering male in question.

“You drop a sleazy opener, you gotta be prepared for the consequences,” Alice said with a shrug. “What brings you boys out here?”

Nick had approached Alice and Mary with Hershel, Vince, and Alex just a few steps behind. The girls were standing by a large door that opened into the dance room. There were ample people huddling in the same area since it provided an excellent balance. It was outdoors, but the body heat from the physical activity rolled out, creating a pleasant temperature. Plus it allowed one to see the gyrating and be approached while still far enough from the eardrum-shattering music to hold a conversation.

“I thought I might grace one of these lucky gals with the pleasure of my company on the dance floor,” Nick said.

“And I thought we might be needed to tend to the wounds after he gets slapped silly,” Vince joined in.

“One time, one time I got slapped at Halloween and you punks won’t let it go,” Nick said.

“She slapped you with a Bible, man. That’s the sort of thing that sticks in people’s minds,” Alex reminded him.

“Fascinating as you boys are, could you proceed with Nick’s slapfest elsewhere? No men are going to want to approach us if we’re already surrounded by other guys,” Alice said, proving just how little she knew about real world courting and the opposite sex.

“I don’t mind if they hang out,” Mary countered.

“Maybe not, but that hunky guy in the tank top who’s been eyeing you will. Priorities, sweetheart, seriously,” Alice said, taking Mary’s hand and dragging her away from the boys.

“There is no hunky guy in a tank top, is there?” Mary asked as she was pulled.

“Oh no, there is. He’s just making eyes at a trampy blonde in the corner,” Alice explained.

Mary glanced over and noticed the girl.

“She’s dressed like everyone else. What exactly makes her trampy?”

“The fact that the hot guy is looking at her instead of us.”

*          *          *

“And again we have sausage fest,” Nick said with a sigh.

“It’s easy to correct, though; let’s go hit the dance floor and grab us some hotties,” Alex pointed out.

“Not a bad idea-”

“Hey guys! Vince! Alex!” The boys turned their heads to find Thomas jogging over to them from the entrance.

“Hey, what’s going on? Did you get my message?” Vince asked.

“I didn’t know you left one, so no,” Thomas said, shaking his head. “Stella took my and her other friends’ phones after gym. She said we were all going out tonight to have some fun or she’d crush them.”

“That’s certainly... aggressive,” Hershel said after some hasty vocabulary scrambling.

“That’s Stella, she doesn’t take no for an answer. It was well-intentioned, though. If she hadn’t done it we’d have all stayed in and licked our wounds instead of going out,” Thomas said, a slight defensiveness in his voice.

“You keep referencing ‘we’ but you’re the only one here,” Nick said.

“Oh yeah, the girls went to go check their purses at the front counter,” Thomas explained.

“Thank the lord, you brought more women,” Nick said.

“I did, and actually I think they’re coming out now if my vision serves me well.”

Sure enough, Stella’s trademark blonde braids appeared around the same corner Thomas had come from, Violet following close behind, and Camille looking around nervously at the end of the line. They spotted Thomas and the others and began making their way over, with the exception of Camille, who suddenly went stock still and had an intense inner debate before finally following suit.

*          *          *

“Don’t I know you?”

“Aren’t guys the ones who are supposed to use that line?” Alice replied.

“No, I’m serious,” said the speaker, a brunette who had been walking past them. She had shoulder-length hair and an infectious smile. “We had poli-sci together last semester. You were the chick with her hand always in the air."

Alice studied the girl for a moment. She did indeed look familiar, and now that Alice was thinking, there had been a similarly cheery voice echoing through the class from time to time.

“I think you’re right,” Alice admitted. “I’m Alice.”

“I’m Natalie,” Natalie said. “But everyone calls me Bubbles. So, how’ve you been?”

“Um, good, I guess,” Alice said. “You know, passed the class, now on to new ones. You?”

“I’m doing awesome! I managed to squeak by that one and my math class, and I only barely failed Shakespearean literature, so it’s way fewer classes than I thought I’d have to be retaking. Aside from that, I went skiing with my family over break and that was sooooo much fun. Then there was Christmas and I mean, seriously, who doesn’t love Christmas? Plus I’m out tonight with my new roommate and his best friend and just having a crazy good time. The guys are so cute out here, right? So who’s your friend?”

“I’m Mary, and I think I can see why they call you Bubbles. You certainly have a cheerful attitude.”

“Aw, that is so nice, thank you,” Bubbles said. “Yeah, that’s what everyone thinks at first, but no, that’s not why they call me Bubbles. I got my nickname cause I have the cutest ability ever. I can make bubbles appear all over the place. It makes for some awesome foam parties like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, last year my friend Jenny and I went to this kegger and-”

“Wait, I’m sorry to cut you off, but I need clarification,” Alice said. “What do you mean you can make bubbles appear?”

“I can make them appear,” Bubbles replied. She raised open her hand and sure enough, bubbles began glistening into existence a few inches above it. “I can do all sorts of sizes and numbers of them, too. I’m really good at it.”

“So you’re... a Super?” Alice said, more out of disbelief than as a genuine question.

“Yup! You should meet my roommate. His ability is even cooler. He’s a Powered, though, so he can’t really do it on demand, but it’s still super neat. Come on, I’ll introduce you!” Bubbles declared, virtually bouncing off toward a lounge room.

“I don’t think it’s the best idea for us to be seen with Supers who are out in the open with their abilities,” Mary whispered.

“No, it is definitely a bad idea. But I didn’t know there were any Supers here outside of the HCP. And to be honest, I never met another Powered. Cheery McChatter isn’t my first choice for a hanging out companion either, but I’m not sure I can walk away from this without seeing at least a little bit more. Can you?” Alice whispered back.

Mary couldn’t.