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- You like apples, don't you? Yuri asked. He was looking at the red apple that I had just taken my first bite of.

I had never thought of his question before. Why would he think I liked apples? Didn't he like apples?

We had both been let out of Mr Unjis's classroom and were on our way to my house. Our school could still be seen, if very faintly, in the horizon, obscured by the many trees that were growing wild on either side of the road.

I scuffed my feet against the crumbling asphalt as I thought of how to answer him.

When I swallowed, I said, - I don't like them, but I don't hate them either.

- But-, Yuri squinted at me, - every time I see you in school you're always eating an apple.

The afternoon sun glinted off his head, making the stray strands of hair glow auburn. Yuri was smiling. He had prominent canines which only ever saw the light of day when he smiled widely.

He looked practically feral.

- That's because of our cook, I said, hiding my embarrassment by averting my gaze. - She always packs me apples to school and gets any if I don't eat them.

I had never had a problem with eating the apples Petra packed, but the way I said it insinuated that I did. I thought that it would make me sound cool.

I didn't notice him stepping closer to me. I looked over, and there he was, pressed up against my side. I froze up—questioning. His smile widened. He reached out for the apple. Without resistance, my hand gave way to his will. Before I had the chance to utter so much as a beep of protest, Yuri Karamov raised it to his mouth and took a large bite.

The juice squirted out of the fruit and danced—for a fraction of second—suspended in the sunlight. Yuri munched with a satisfied grin.

- It's good, he mumbled with his mouth full.

He handed me the apple. I was so taken aback that I didn't know what to do with it. Never before had anyone breached so many social cues in such a short span of time. He'd taken a gaping bite of the sweet fruit. Its white flesh glared back at me, uninviting. Yet at the same time, I had the strangest urge to lick the dripping juice from the place he had just bitten.

- Take it, he urged.

I reeled back. - But you...you just took it, it's yours now.

- Is Ru Konstantin afraid of bacilli? He taunted.

I flushed. - M-M-Maybe, if it comes from a bumpkin like you.

Yuri's smile wilted on his lips.

I jabbed him with my elbow, - It's just a joke, I said when I noticed that his eyes had dimmed.

- I'm not a bumpkin, he said gravely. His voice was a complete one-eighty from what it had been moments ago.

A long shadow settled over his features.

- I know. I know, I soothed. - I heard you read today, didn't I? You're not a bumpkin.

- Did you hear it from the Arash?

- I swear those cow tit fuckers, Yuri fumed, - they think they're so much better than us. His free hand fisted the fabric of his trousers.

His eyes burned into mine. - Do you think you're better than me?

- Yuri—

Yuri was tall, and when he came to stand two steps closer to me, he managed—with a leverage of five tiny centimeters—to tower over me. His proximity cloaked the sun.

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