38. Night Walks and Neighbors

“I see spring has come.”

Lauren turned out.

“Alex, it’s autumn,” she pointed out.

Alex could only blink and suppress a smile. She wished Colin a silent good luck for his affections, walking around the counter before Ms. Kich could catch her sneaking around.

Both girls left the staff room and exited the school building. Like Ms. Kich had said, daylight had already left. Alex and Lauren walked out of the campus under the veil of night. The main streets barely had any cars but even more so once they entered the nearest subdivision. They made sure they had strolled a good distance away before speaking about their scheme at the staff room.

“Did you find anything?” Lauren whispered to Alex. A light breeze brushed against her legs, making her shiver. Her cheer uniform did little to keep her warm.

Without a second thought, Alex pulled off her hoodie and wrapped it around Lauren’s shoulders, “I checked my school records and only found the fabricated ones. I’m not entirely sure where the real ones are other than maybe the Principal’s Office. That would be harder to sneak into.”

Lauren nodded at her logic, “Yeah, Principal Parker would have raised security when you came to school and would also have chosen to keep your records himself.”

Their failure to come up with answers hovered above their heads like gloomy rain clouds. As much as it was hard to let the incident go, they would have to do just that for the time being.

“Let’s stay put for now. I don’t want to be caught breaking in his office. He’d alert my parents right away. I think even this folder mishap would make them drag me home” Alex admitted dejectedly. She didn’t like to voice it out in fear that it would come true but she didn’t want to avoid it either.

“I understand” Lauren sympathized with her, “Well, I’ll keep a lookout. No need to worry for now. If it had been intentional, the culprit would notice right away that it backfired. Maybe he or she wouldn’t do it again and even if they did, it won’t be any time soon.”

By this time, the two girls had walked 3 blocks and had reached Lauren’s house. Alex found out that Lauren normally went to school by foot so she offered to accompany her home at least—as her form of gratitude for her help.

She also didn’t want Lauren’s safety to be in her conscience.

Alex sighed when they stopped outside the gate, “You’re right. I just hope I get some sleep tonight.”

Lauren chuckled, “Me too. I think I may need therapy for this Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder you gave me.”

“I can get you some sleeping pills so it doesn’t keep you awake.”

Lauren merely laughed and handed back Alex’ hoodie, “Thank you for walking me home. You didn’t have to.”

“You could just say that you wanted to ride with Colin” Alex joked, inserting her arms in the hoodie’s sleeves, “I would have understood.”

Lauren rolled her eyes, “Don’t read into it much. He’s just really nice unlike some guys I know.”

Alex shrugged at her words and said, “I should go. Get inside quickly or you’d freeze. You have really thin skin.”

“Aren’t you cold at all?”

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“Not really.”

“Tch, not fair” Lauren huffed, “Well, you better leave quickly too so you can reach home just as fast. Thanks again.”

Alex dropped her skateboard to the ground and winked at Lauren, “I should be the one thanking you. See you tomorrow!”

Lauren waved, watching Alex roll out of her street.

It really was too bad Alex turned out to be a girl, she thought as she entered the house. The world needed more guys like Alex. Maybe more of Colin too.

Her hand went to her pocket and felt the edge of the paper that stuck out. She almost forgot to send him a message. Instantly, she pulled it out along with her phone.

===

The next day, Lauren had a new bounce in her steps. The sun seemed brighter and the air seemed fresher. Her hands held the straps of her bag as she walked out to the street. She looked forward to the new day and to her new friend. The reveal only made Alex much cooler in her eyes and that thrilled her a lot.

She just passed through the gate when a voice yelled from the other side of the road.

“Good morning, sunshine!”

Lauren’s good mood immediately went down a notch, evident by the sudden frown on her face. She turned her head just to glare at her annoying neighbor.

“Aren’t you up too early—” she began to say but what she saw ended up shocking her instead, “Holy s***!”

She doubled over in laughter, holding her stomach, “Oh my gods!”

“Hey, hey, hey! That is just rude you know!” Max Peyton huffed at her reaction but his words only flew over Lauren’s head. It had come to the point where she could barely breath which became the only reason she stopped laughing.

“What a colorful morning this is” she teased, wiping fake tears off her eyes.

Max snorted, wiggling his eyebrows, “Glad it suits your tastes, my lady.”

“Already on your way to school?” Lauren asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be fashionably late or something?”

“Well, this is fashion” Max spun dramatically to show off his look for the day, “Still working on the late part.”

Lauren shook her head at his craziness, “Then, you should have slept in.”

“And miss seeing your beautiful face first thing in the morning? I think not!”

“I see your flirt battery is on full today.”

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“Around you, sunshine, it uses solar energy so it is always full” Max winked. The sight only caused her to snort but then he added, “Heck, even I function on solar energy.”

Which made Lauren roll her eyes, “Whatever, Max. I’m leaving.”

She waved and continued to walk down the street. Maybe she should have asked what happened. It must have been funny but she considered Max’ nature. He definitely would have made up some story about it instead of giving her a straight answer. Ah well, she’d find out eventually.

Max Peyton ran a hand through his hair. He did like teasing her but the incident made him realize how long it has been since he made her laugh. Although, that was mostly because she had left town for a while so it wasn’t like all he did was annoy her.

He should give her some sort of welcome back gift but what could he do? He pressed his lips together and thought hard. What did Lauren like exactly?

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