thirteen

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T H I R T E E N

The realization that a few months had passed since Dylan and I began working at Sassy Cupcake sent my head reeling. It had been an interesting time, talking to Dylan's friends - who were slowly becoming mine - while taking orders for customers. Of course, there were many downs to balance out the ups, like not being able to work the Espresso machine and our late hours on school nights, but Dylan did well to make these things more comfortable. He always took café orders from me so that I don't embarrass myself again and after hours, he decided we should work on our homework instead of spending that extra hour where customers didn't come idle.

And that was how he made it easy - simple, with no effort at all.

The only heavy thing about going to work now was the fact that we had to figure out a way to take Issa down. Not only was it scary to think about how we were trying to ruin her life, but how comfortable I was becoming with it. Sometimes I had to stop myself mid-thought before thinking of something horrible to do to her.

I had thought it a million times before, but maybe they had chosen the wrong girl. What I had with Issa was personal and if I were to go on the offensive, then things would get messy. I still saw her as a friend - two months after the ending of our friendship wasn't long enough for me to break habits - and hanging out with her "friends" made it even harder for me to let go. Not to mention how going to the Governor's Ball and that moment where she let me in after so long - even if it was too slight to properly grasp - changed things and I wasn't exactly sure how I could be doing this when there was still hope for us to restore what we had. She was already talking to my friends again, maybe there was a way I could restore our group.

"Venia," I heard Tanya, the manager say as she emerged from her back office. "Can you grab Dylan and come back here? I have something to discuss with you two."

I nodded, setting down the dishcloth in my hand. "Yes, ma'am. I'll get to it."

She smiled and gave me an appreciative wave before dipping back into the room she came from.

When she was gone, I stepped out from behind the marble counter, finding Dylan over by the windows, scraping something off of them. I walked over to him, patting him on the back. "Whatcha scraping off the windows," I asked, trying to sound cooler and more assertive. It didn't seem to work because I was Venia Addams and I don't do assertive, yet he turned around, standing up straight so that he stood over me.

"Someone threw gelato at the window," he said with a chuckle. "Some young couple brought their toddler who apparently had a temper. But whatever, I can clean that up later. What's going on?"

With him standing so close to me, it felt almost dangerous, like I was in danger of falling apart at his feet. After all, I was the one who turned him down for a dance back at the Ball. Who knew when he would come back for it?

"Tanya wanted to meet with the two of us," I said, rather lamely, but I was at a loss for words. But that was okay, maybe he needed to lead the way.

"A tea party," Cameron Coolidge scoffed in disbelief as he paused the game he was playing on his tablet. "That's the last thing I could imagine Dylan being at."

I laughed, the idea of the aforementioned boy pouring tea for an old lady dressed like the queen of England forming in my head and once it was as fully figured out in my head, there was no going back.

Cameron and I had met up in the library mainly because the new semester led to us having another free period together, a few weeks in and we were becoming great friends. I was used to my schedule being aligned with either Becca or Veronica, but having study halls with Cameron definitely lightened up the load. I had to make sure my homework was done beforehand so that I would be able to talk to him the whole period because, contrary to popular belief, he was rather talkative. It likely had to do with how I was pretty much a part of his social group, minus a few technicalities like how I wasn't fully integrated yet because I still needed to get Issa McKenzie out of it to do so.

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