37. The Staff Room

“Hi…” Lauren giggled shyly, “Um, I know I just came by earlier—”

“Where are the portfolios you borrowed?” The female staff member asked.

The main staffroom had one giant counter out front. Behind it, there were cabinets that covered two walls and cubicles that made up the middle space. One wall was converted into windows that were to be used only for their purposes. Outside of them were a wide spade and waiting chairs in case of a long queue.

The counter was only meant for other reasons that rarely had many visitors. It was made of solid wood and was painted a creamy white shade. It had a gold plaque stuck to the front that said, “Front Desk.”

To Lauren, the desk itself didn’t offer any intimidation. That would be the person working behind it.

Ms. Kich belonged in the younger half of the staff but she took her job diligently. Every transaction that ever occured on that counter, she recorded. If something had past its due, she would have the person called using the PA system. For most students, that one scared them more than a call from the principal.

Lauren pressed her lips together, trying to keep her cool, “I’m still looking through them. I just wanted to ask if that is all the portfolios the school has? Can I look for more?”

“Are you questioning our filing system?” Ms. Kich stopped typing on her keyboard to look up at Lauren. Her dark grey eyes looked up from her dark frame glasses. The expression made Lauren stiffen.

“No. No, not all” Lauren shook her head quickly, “I’m just wondering if there are more. They are quite interesting and I feel a bit underwhelmed. Do all clubs make portfolios?”

“Yes” Ms. Kich answered snappily, “What exactly are you looking for in a club?”

“Oh” Lauren giggled, “It’s a bit embarrassing but I can tell you like a girl to girl secret.”

Ms. Kich’s expression didn’t change. Lauren started to think the frown on her face was permanent.

She leaned over and cupped a hand next to her mouth as if she would whisper confidential information, “I actually wanna be in the same club as my crush.”

“That’s it?” Ms. Kich snorted and went back to her computer, “Why don’t you just ask him?”

“I would, Ms. Kich” Lauren whined, “But I just get so shy! Alex Carter isn’t exactly the most sociable person.”

“Alex Carter?” Ms. Kich looked at her again, bewildered by what she just heard.

Lauren nodded enthusiastically and giggled, “Yes!”

Ms. Kich shook her head and sighed, “May the heavens help you, girl.”

“Aw, thank you!”

“Trust me. You need it” Ms. Kich stood up and took the papers that came out of the printer, “Remember to return those portfolios.”

Lauren slumped over the counter as Ms. Kich walked away. She felt like she had been holding her breath the whole time. Ms. Kich probably thought she was crazy for admitting that she had a crush on Alex.

Deng, she cursed in her mind, how bad could that have been if she actually said that out loud before?

“Lauren?” A voice called from behind her.

Lauren jumped up and turned her head. From the staff room entrance, one of Logan and Jae’s friends walked up to the counter. Lauren remembered him as the one who sat next to her at the library. He had short brown cropped hair, gelled at the front to make them stand up in one direction and warm brown eyes with a gold rim in the middle.

“Hey!” She perked up, noticing he was taller by a head and neck when he stood next to her, “You’re Logan and Jae’s friend, right?”

He chuckled and placed the portfolios she had borrowed earlier on the countertop, “If you ask Logan, he’d say I’m his best friend.”

“Oh!” Lauren immediately connected the dots, “You’re Colin! Nice to finally meet you! Heard so much about you from the twins.”

Colin questioned if he still had his heart because the moment he heard his name from her lips, it seemed to have disappeared. He blamed the smile she had on her lips when she said it. It radiated electric shocks and hit him in the chest.

“Yes, that would be me” He nodded, avoiding her stare. He cleared his throat, “And you’re Lauren, right?”

“Wow, they told you about me?” She gasped, “Were they bad things?”

Colin rested his arms on the countertop and looked up the ceiling with pursed lips, “Yes, all bad things. You have a terrible reputation.”

Lauren laughed heartily, “It’s what makes me so interesting.”

Colin switched his gaze towards her. She had a teasing expression on her face and he couldn’t help but find it endearing.

“Well, I’m not really one who relies on secondhand information. I’d rather observe for myself and make my own conclusions.”

Lauren nodded approvingly, “Nice. Then, I must do a good job to not disappoint.”

Colin smiled, “You’re on.”

“Are you still here, dear?” Ms. Kich interrupted them. She had hoped that the blonde cheerleader gave up and left when she filed some of her papers.

Before Lauren could answer her, Ms. Kich noticed the newcomer in the room.

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“Oh, Colin! How are you? You look tanner” she said and gave a wide smile.

The sudden change left Lauren astonished.

Colin chuckled, “I’m good, Ms. Kich. Just helping Lauren out with these portfolios.”

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“Such a gentleman” she complimented him, taking the portfolios off the countertop, “Why are you still single again?”

“Ah, Ms. Kich. You’re not about to sell me off the internet, are you?”

Ms. Kich laughed, “I’m sure you’d sell at a good price. I’d think a lot of girls would do what it takes to be with their crush.”

Lauren gave Ms. Kich a look but the staff member didn’t seem to notice. Was she indirectly making double meanings at her?

“Doesn’t mean they’d do the same with me” Colin replied, keeping up with her antics.

“Well, they’d have to be blind not to like you.” Ms. Kich teased, “I’ll put these away now. You two should go. Since it’s late, I think you should take her home, Colin.”

At this, Lauren seemed to have found her voice, “Oh, that isn’t necess—”

“No, buts, young lady” Ms. Kich glared at her, “I wouldn’t have it in my conscience if anything happened to you.”

“It’s not a big deal, Lauren. I don’t mind” Colin added, “Besides, I’d be worried too if my younger sisters were out this late.”

Lauren sighed, unable to counterattack when it was two against one. Not to mention, she’d rather not be anywhere near Ms. Kich’s conscience.

“A true gentleman” Ms. Kich cooed at Colin, “Take care now!”

“You too, Ms. Kich!” The students said in chorus as the staff member disappeared again to the other side of the room that was hidden by a wall.

Lauren turned to Colin, saying, “I really don’t think this is necessary. I’m waiting for a friend.”

Colin scrunched his eyebrows, testing her story, “Does your friend have a car?”

She shook her head, “I don’t think so.”

“Then, I can wait for your friend too.”

“No!” Lauren almost shouted, “It’s really not necessary. I wouldn’t want to keep you here when you probably have better things to do.”

Colin could argue that he’d be more than willing to stay but the way Lauren fidgeted made him rethink that she needed for him to leave. To be honest, it hurt him to see that come from her but he shouldn’t push his luck for now.

“Alright but!” He held up a finger then, he grabbed a sticky paper and a pen, writing something, “If it’s way too dark out, don’t hesitate to give this number a call and when you reach your house, don’t forget to text me about it. That way I’d know you made it home safe.”

Colin handed her the sticky note. Lauren took it and read his name and number on it.

Ms. Kich wasn’t kidding when she said he was a gentleman, Lauren thought. She’s right. Why was he single?

She felt bad for turning him down but she needed to stay a bit more. All she could offer him was an apologetic yet grateful smile, “Thank you, Colin. I’ll be sure to remember those.”

Colin nodded, satisfied by her answer, “Alright. See you around.”

“You too” Lauren held up the paper as if to wave at him. Colin waved back and headed for the door. He inserted his hands on his jean pockets, crossing his fingers and hoping she does use his number tonight.

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