199. Nice Try, Max!

Lauren frowned.

She raised an eyebrow, holding her chin high. The angle allowed her to ‘look down’ at Max. It wasn’t easy since she was 161cm (5′3″) while he was 180cm (5′11″). She needed to lean her head back further.

Maybe she should have stood on the podium.

Flipping her long-sleeved dress, she whirled towards the blackboard. The chiffon hem swayed from the motion. She added pressure to her footsteps and created a daunting presence. Her arms folded over her stomach.

“In that case,” she sneered, stepping onto the platform. She twisted in Max’s direction. She displayed his authority to him, changing her voice, “I’ll call in others who can still speak.”

Max snapped his head towards her. He squinted his eyes and pointed a finger to the audience. He matched her tone, “No, sit down.”

Lauren covered her lips with her fingertips. Her mischievous laugh flowed out her nostrils, “What are you going to do?”

When she didn’t move, Max let his arm drop. He approached her, “You won’t budge until I hold a mirror up to you, where you will see what’s deep inside you.”

With each step he took, Lauren moved further away. She reached for the open windows in the room.

“You won’t kill me, will you?” She pressed her arms against them as if cornered by a predator, “Help!”

Max’s face flinched. He glared over her shoulder, “What’s that I heard? A rat?”

He unsheathed the pen from the waist belt of his jeans. He aimed the tip at the windows, “I’ll bet a buck that he’s a dead rat now.”

Raising the pen, he dashed for Lauren. She lunged to the side and avoided the attack. Max stabbed through the window. The pen struck through thin branches of shrubs. The leaves ruffled as the plant swayed.

Lauren gaped in horror, her eyes wide and her eyebrows raised. She retreated away from him. He was no longer the guy she once knew. Her back hit the desk and she fell to the floor. Her limbs scrambled around her, attempting to escape.

Her bottom slithered across the floor, “Oh my gods, what have you done?”

Max pulled his arm back. He turned to one side. He scowled at the floor, “I don’t know.”

He capped the pen and hid it in his pocket. He stalked towards her. As Lauren inched away, he followed. When she reached the other side of the room, he stopped and tilted his head to one side.

“Is it the king?” He questioned, an eyebrow raised.

Lauren concealed her face with her hands. She cried in anguish, “Oh, what a senseless, horrible act!”

“A horrible act…” Max scorned. He pivoted with one heel. He walked back to the windows. He had his hands tucked in his waist belt and his eyes gazed upwards.

He spoke in nonchalance, “Almost as bad, my good mother, as killing a king and marrying his brother.”

Lauren yanked her hands, exposing a pair of appalled blue eyes, “Killing a king?”

Max merely snorted over his shoulder, “That’s what I said, my good woman.”

He placed his elbow on the windowsill and looked outside. He wore a bored expression, staring at the soil, “You low-life, nosy, busybody fool, goodbye.”

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The corner of his lip curled down, “I thought you were somebody more important. I suppose you’ve gotten what you deserve.”

Max puckered his lips and spit at the roots. It hit the base of the stem, “I guess you found out how dangerous it is to be a busybody. Congratulations.”

He shifted his attention to his partner.

“Stop wringing your hands!” He snapped.

Lauren winced. She tapped her hands against the floor. Then, she moved them onto the wall and rose to her feet. She used it as a way to hide her shaking hands.

She carefully turned around.

She hit her back on the wall, her hands tucked over her chest. She pressed against it as if trying to pass through it. Her breath hitched. The ceiling lights vanished from her sight. A shadow hovered over her.

Max had closed the distance between them. He stood a foot away from her and he showed no sign of stopping. When their toes touched, he lowered his back. He supported his weight with one hand on the wall.

His stoic face met her eye level. His violets bore into hers like daggers. Nothing on face showcased mercy.

He pronounced each syllable heavily. It allowed the audience to hear him. Although it was a whisper, the emotion was there, “Let me wring your heart instead.”

Lauren gasped for air.

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Her breaths came in like a broken chain.

Max lifted his other hand, his fingers bent over the palm. The index finger pulled away from the rest. Its knuckle caressed her cheek, making Lauren turn away.

She gulped and gazed at the floor.

“Which I will be able to do…” he continued, finger pausing near her chin, “If it’s still soft enough…, if your evil lifestyle has not toughened it against feeling anything at all.”

Time seemed to stand still. A quiet chill dropped through the atmosphere. The class held their breaths. The scene portrayed the ambiance of fleeting relationship and passion. Because of this, they completely forgot that the conversation was between a mother and her son.

When they did remember, questions popped in their heads. Was this correct? What would Lauren say to this?

As if she heard their thoughts, Lauren grabbed Max’s wrist and pushed it away. She hit his shoulder, hissing, “What have I done that you dare to talk to me so rudely?”

“A deed that destroys modesty” Max answered, finally stepping back. His face remained harsh and sharp, “Turns virtue into hypocrisy, replaces the blossom on the face of true love with a nasty blemish…”

The entrancing moment before had left. He stood before everyone with disdainful eyes. As he spoke, he increased the volume and built momentum, “Makes marriage vows as false as a gambler’s oath—oh, you’ve done a deed that plucks the soul out of marriage! And turns religion into meaningless blather! Heaven is sick at the thought of what you’ve done!”

Lauren pushed herself off the wall. She would have none of Max’s accusations. She shoved him forcefully, saying, “What’s this deed that sounds so awful even before I know what it is?”

“You…!” Max raged. He jabbed a finger in her direction, “You could have been killed! You deliberately disobeyed me. And what’s worse, you put Nala in danger!”

“Max, that is not the correct line!”

“Ha!” He exclaimed with a clap of his hands. He raised his fists and cheered, “You broke out of character. I win!”

Lauren blinked, “What? You broke out of it first!”

Her stance relaxed as she came back down to reality. The scene seemed to take on forever! It probably wasn’t the best choice. Ugh, if they hadn’t that bet and who could memorize more lines, she probably wouldn’t have lasted more than a minute.

Max waved his hand and brushed off her claims. The pair forgot about their audience, “It���s called ‘improvising’. It happens all the time.”

She rolled her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest, “I don’t think using a line from another story is the way to do that.”

“Ad lib comes in many forms” he snorted. He fixed his imaginary eyeglasses and proceeded to lecture the people in the room, “We agreed on who could remember the most dialogues. There were no rules about how it all had to be from Hamlet. You just couldn’t keep up with me.”

After he was done, he laced his fingers and stretched his arms forward. He pushed against the air, cracking his knuckles. He even craned his neck for better effect. Arrogance waved off around him.

The audience watched silently. No one tried to disrupt the conversation.

Lauren scrunched her nose while Max hogged the spotlight. She didn’t crave the attention but she also didn’t appreciate his attitude right now. Someone needed to kick him down a few notches…

… and she’d love to volunteer.

She marched to his side and smacked his chest. She grabbed a fistful of his shirt, yanking him down. She glared into Max’s surprised face. A small smirk stretched her lips. Mischief danced in her eyes.

She seethed at him, “Long… live… the king…”

Then, in one swift motion, she jabbed her knee towards his stomach.

It was fake, of course, but Max didn’t think that. He jerked backwards and lost his balance. He crashed to the floor. Hoots of laughter woke up the class. A few supporters on Lauren’s side clapped. Her display of prowess impressed them greatly. It was very different from the squirmish acting she did earlier.

Ms. Smith walked up to the center and pushed her hands down. She gestured for everyone to calm down as Max stood up. She had to intervene at some point or they’d never finish all the pairings.

Max rubbed his bottom with two hands. Instead of pouting, he gave a thumbs up. Lauren raised her eyebrows. She hadn’t expected it. Although, she didn’t dislike it either. The smirk on her face melted into an amused one.

She shrugged, flipping her hair.

“That was wonderful. I approve. You win” Max remarked, laughing softly. He would never admit it but that side of her always tugged his heartstrings. Hopefully, she wouldn’t need to do it for real. She only needed to look the same as right now.

Smugly happy.

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