Chapter 8

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The Sunday afternoon after the Junior Mathematics Tournament, I spent my time terrorizing people at the local mall.

Well, if you want to get technical, it was Amelia doing the terrorizing while Louisa and I hung around her (but not too close). If you want to get even more technical, Amelia was doing it as part of research for her English presentation. She had to stop every interracial couple in sight and ask them a few questions about their…well, their interracial-ness.

Louisa and I grabbed two frappes from a Starbucks booth and decided to get out of the way and sit in the benches by a water fountain. It seemed Louisa was conducting an experiment of her own, too. I think she called it How Far I Can Bother Nancy Before I Get Myself Mauled.

“You should really get a body piercing,” Louisa nagged me for the umpteenth time that day. “I think it would look cute on you. You’d look like a rebellious nerd.”

“Nerdy nerd suits me just fine, thanks.”

“You’re such a prude, Nancy,” Louisa sighed.

“What did your parents say about the piercing, anyway?”

“My parents?” Louisa’s eyebrows arched and her eyes flickered away moodily, toward the cascade of water coming down the fountain behind where we were sitting. “They didn’t say anything. I don’t think they even noticed.”

“They didn’t notice that you have a giant, ugly hole in the middle of your face?” I said incredulously.

Louisa shot me a dirty look. “It’s not giant or ugly.”

“Not to the person who doesn’t have to stare at it all day. Look, can we just go home now or what? I have a ton of homework to get through.”

Louisa rolled her eyes but her mouth crept into a grin. “No, you have to stay. You won’t believe which two people are going to show up right by the water fountain in about…oh…three minutes,” she said excitedly.

I sipped my drink in disinterest. “Uh…Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson?”

“Nancy. No. Think slightly more believable.”

“I’m terrible with guessing games. Just spit it out already.”

“You’re no fun,” she pouted.

“Not true. I play a mean hand on Bingo night.”

“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” Louisa said flatly. Then her face changed as she peered into the shimmering wall of water behind us. “Is that…Alexander Lin?”

I choked on the mouthful of latte I’d just sipped. “What?”

“Hey, it is! What’s he doing over there?”

Wiping the back of my hand over my mouth, I followed Louisa’s gaze to find her staring directly at a blurry but familiar-looking back. It was, unmistakably, Alexander Lin. I’d seen him every single day of the week now.

“Is this kid stalking me or something?” I blurted out.

“Stalking you?” Louisa huffed. “Getting a little ahead of ourselves, are we? I thought you said you two didn’t even like each other.”

“We don’t. At least, I don’t like him. I think. It’s confusing. I actually have no clue what I’m even saying right n—”

“It doesn’t matter,” Louisa hissed, shooting me a look that made me clam right up. That girl carried death itself within her pupils. Her eyes went wide. “My whole English project might get blown if that idiot doesn’t clear the area right now!”

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