04 - Pretenders

1.7K 112 27

"Oh, god," I moaned, holding my head in my hands. We'd gone to sit in the hall as Prof took Rian around the classroom, and I was in the midst of freaking the hell out.

I was not prepared. I was not ready.

Rokim grasped my shoulder. "Don't worry," he said tensely. "It's only for a little while. He doesn't even remember you, so it's okay." His grip on my shoulder tightened. "It's totally fine."

I lifted my head to look at him. "You okay, Rokim?" I asked, half-smiling. "You sound even more worried than me."

He released me abruptly. "Of course I'm worried." He crossed his arms and looked away. "I'm just concerned you'll make a fool of yourself like last time. Second-hand embarrassment is no joke, you know."

I sighed. "I know," I echoed emptily. There was no way I would survive ten minutes with Rian, let alone an entire week. "Maybe if I beg Prof to let someone else mentor him?" I suggested, a note of desperation in my voice.

Rokim groaned. "You can't. He made a big deal out of your return, even before you came back. What would he think if you turned down the first thing he asked you to do?"

I raised my eyebrows. "Really?" I asked surprisedly. "Whenever you guys would Skype me he seemed totally uninterested."

Rokim scoffed. "That's just how Prof is. Who do you think came up with the idea to Skype you in the first place?" He shook his head, a small smile on his lips. "Every week for three years. He even had a schedule."

"Ugh. I can't let him down," I lamented, putting my head in my hands again. "What do I do, Rokim? How am I supposed to deal with this?"

He was silent. After a while, I felt him nudge me. "Just endure it, I guess."

"Endure it?"

"Yeah." His voice sounded strange. "People go through stuff like this all the time. Pretending not to know someone, not to feel anything—what else can you do but endure?"

I frowned and raised my head. "So you're saying I should just go along with it?" I asked, pushing my hair back from my face.

Rokim stared at me, saying nothing. 

I waved a hand in front of his face. "Rokim?"

"Y-yeah," he started, nodding. "Sorry." He seemed to break himself out of whatever trance he was in. "Listen, Han. You need to remove yourself from the equation."

"Huh?" I asked confusedly.

"Right now, you guys are just student and teacher," he insisted, gesticulating to make his point. "You have no prior relationship. It's dumb luck that he happened to show up as the replacement AC, but that doesn't matter. All you have to do is teach him."

I considered for a moment. He'd made no effort to find out who I am, and even if he had forgotten everything, there was still that elevator incident. Maybe it was better if we left things unsaid. 

"Good point," I said finally. "If he doesn't recognize me, then why should I put in all the effort, right?" My lips quirked into a wry grin.

"Exactly," Rokim said, mirroring my smile.

Just then, Lisa poked her head out the door. "Guys," she called. "Prof wants you back inside."

I nodded at her. "I'll be there in a sec." I glanced back at Rokim as we both stood up. "Thanks, Kimmy," I said, genuinely grinning at him. 

"Anytime, Han," he replied. 

Taking a deep breath, I braced myself. I remembered what Rokim said, and decided that would be my mantra for the next couple of weeks. 

Pretend. Pretend and endure. It had a nice ring to it.

With that, I marched inside, Rokim right behind me.

"Hanna," I heard Prof call from my station on other side of the room. I headed over, Rokim taking his place in the station adjacent to mine. Rian was standing nearby, just outside the threshold of my kitchenette.

"I've already gone over all the safety precautions with Rian. He's apparently read up quite a bit on the mechanics of cooking, so I'm sure you'll find him a capable student."

Rian turned to me. "Yes, I've gone over several guides to kitchen mechanics, culinary knives, and the like."

I blinked. "Good for you?"

He surveyed me with a quick once-over and turned back to Prof, dismissing me entirely. I bristled slightly as he continued. "I doubt that this crash course is even necessary. Won't this just be rehashing things I already know?"

Prof raised an eyebrow, and the edge of his lips lifted slightly. "Is that so? And what do you think, Hanna?"

I glanced at Prof, then back at Rian. He was examining the kitchen, barely paying attention to the conversation. He leaned against the counter carelessly, his black hair falling just above his eyes.

He was the very picture of arrogance. 

I felt righteous anger start to well up in my chest. "All due respect, Prof," I said smoothly, "but you can't learn how to cook by reading about it." 

Rian's eyes shot to mine. I looked at him steadfastly, not wavering at the darkness in his gaze. "Real cooking requires experience, not just a few hours with your nose in a book."

I heard Rokim snicker nearby, then quickly cover it up with a cough when Prof looked in his direction. After a moment, Prof turned back and smiled at me. "Well said, Hanna." He stepped out of the kitchenette, gesturing for me to take over. "I'm interested in seeing how Rian improves under your instruction. For now, have him prepare a relatively simple dish. Choose well, because we'll all be sampling some afterward." 

"Yes, sir."

I clasped my hands, forgetting some of my earlier anxiety. I now realized the possibilities of the opportunity I'd been given. A week of bossing Rian around, being in a constant position of power over him? A chance to knock him off his high horse and take his pompous ass down a peg or two?

Oh, this was going to be fun.

Finding ObsidianRead this story for FREE!