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MR. FRIDAY HAS ANNOUNCED AN upcoming group project on chain reactions on the note of next week. Principal Kingsley, from the public address system, has reported a public holiday for the rest of the week. Chester has postponed today's practice till evening, saying he has family stuff to address with urgency -- nobody gives a fuck or understands why he had to state a reason.

Kaolin is now ordering his food, throwing ever so frequent glances at the group's table.

And he is still waiting for Leroi to breathe a word to him.

Confusion is hovering his head like flies on cow dung. This is as to why Leroi has been dodging his gazes since lab. It is out of character for Leroi to be so two-faced in mood but this guy can snub even his own shadow.

Kaolin's fingers grip his food tray tighter at the edges and his face hardens upon seeing Leroi ignore his presence yet again. The table has almost the entirety of Phoenix's Pumas chattering in testosteroned cheer, including Nixon of course.

Barely looking at his brother sets him off to an end so terminal that he just wants to Frisbee this metal tray into his head, splitting that tiny skull into two. Pure, unseasoned hate bubbles in the pits of his stomach, sizzling his gastric juice past boiling point.

And that moment Leroi flashes the twat that lovingly sincere smile and ruffles his head in the same manner, a macaroni pops on Kaolin's brain and his dentine shrinks from a sudden daze of ire.

Letting out an exhale, he turns away from the table and finds himself an empty one.

It may seem weird for a school where social hierarchy is prioritized over grades that one of the most popular kids is sitting alone and isolated from his fellows. Kaolin can already hear some whispers. The cycle just never ends.

Kaolin deliberates on dumping the food but thinks it's probably best he force-feeds himself. Last night's Mac and cheese like every other food his brother cooks for him ended up in the sink.

His fork stabs a cucumber slice with disinterest seeping down its teeth. Kaolin has his head bolstered by his hand on the table, his fingers drum his temple like a piano, his mind has gone with the breeze.

It has strayed up to the point he doesn't notice the slurping sound opposite him. Actually, he notices it but shelves it as some of the voices in his head. Why Leroi's cold shoulder can affect him so much is a good question.

"Boy, what are thinking about?"

Kaolin's eyes shift to Seraphina sipping lime yogurt and pinning him down with a quizzical look. He raises a lazy brow and Seraphina furrows hers.

"I guess you and Leroi are having one of those childish arguments again," Seraphina concludes with a sympathetic smile on her lips.

Kaolin takes a bite out of a carrot. "I guess. I don't wanna talk about it."

"You don't get to tell me 'you don't wanna talk about it'. Kaolin Meyers, it's me!"

This only causes the hazel-eyed boy to glare at her loudness.

Seraphina, defeated slumps in her seat. It's well known to her that Kaolin is just as moody as the mineral. But whenever it's about Leroi, his afro is replaced by an even darker stormcloud. A light bulb goes on in her head. "You know about that Jussie Smollett shittery."

"What about it?" he drawls, his interest peeking out of curtains of dysphoria.

"Turns out it cost a dire lot. According to TMZ, 'The Fall of the Melanin Empire pigmented from a false, unholy Unicorn'. And in my words, Empire has been cancelled."

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