Martin stood in the shower, the heated water flowing over his slender form while his cheek stung the moment he touched the discolored flesh under his satiny soft fur. Having woken up nearly half an hour before his alarm was set to go off, he checked on his homework, doing what he could before finally walking into the bathroom.
Looking down, his mind replayed everything from the moment he heard his name screamed. The turning of his head as that loud slap reverberated through the hallway, his eyes locking with Jenny as her jaw dropped. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, except the part where he ran after Chani. That seemed to happen at twice the normal speed. He finally remembered walking along the street, his mind still in shock by what happened, until he heard a familiar voice.
He didn’t even need to look up to see Tanya, or her family, and he never even attempted to raise his head to regard any of them. The first bitter words he heard from her mother didn’t even pierce his consciousness at the time, but he heard them now. “Just leave him. He’s probably on something…”
“No, mom. Martin’s not like that.” he then felt the hand grip his wrist, but at the time there was no reaction. “I don’t know why he’s out here all alone, but we have to get him home.”
“Tanya, do you even know where he lives?” he heard the bitterness in that voice, but didn’t care.
“Yes, mom. He lives just up the road from us.”
“I will not have a strange…”
“Then I’ll walk him home alone.”
All he could hear was raised voices in some foreign language, and then he was being pulled into a car. He wasn’t sure how long he was in that car, and yet he found himself warmed by the memory. Tanya had let him out on his street, helped point him in the direction of his home, and allowed him the time to be alone. Leaning against the wall, he slid down until he was sitting on the bottom of the shower, his tail curled around himself as he started to cry.
Fifteen minutes later, he reached up, turning off the water. Standing up he let his fur drip dry for a few minutes before he ever stepped out. Picking up a towel, Martin wrapped it around himself, rubbing at his fur and skin to dry himself off. Walking over to the toilet, he dressed in a clean red t-shirt, a pair of loose black canvas pants over a pair of dark blue boxer briefs.
Heading downstairs, he saw his mother and sisters sitting down at the dining room table. ‘Please don’t ask me about what happened last night.’ he thought to himself. All three looked at him as he walked over and poured himself a bowl of cereal and sat down. For several minutes he just sat there, looking at his cereal, blinking, as if forgetting the next step in the progression.
“Are you alright, honey?” Andais asked, “You seem out of it today.”
“I’m alright. Just a bad dream.” he answered as he poured his milk and started to eat. Yvonne and Yvette looked at each other with questioning glances, before looking at their older brother, concern on their faces. Andais reached out to touch her son’s shoulder, but he shifted away from her reach when her hand was only a few inches from her target.
Dropping her hand, she nodded. “Hopefully your day at school will be better than your dream.” she offered in a hopeful voice.
He just sat there, eating his cereal slowly. ‘I doubt that.’ thought silently to himself. When he was only halfway done with the contents of his bowl, Martin stood up from the table and headed for the kitchen. Dumping the rest of his bowl’s contents down into the garbage disposal. Pouring water into his bowl with the spoon inside, he headed for the door without so much as a backward glance or a single word spoken. Picking up his bag, he opened the door with a sigh as he left the house, and closed the door behind him.
When her son was on the other side of the door, Andais shook her head. “Oh. There you are.” she thought aloud. “I was hoping I had seen the last of you, but I guess not.”
Yvette blinked, looking over her mother, “Mommy,” she said softly, “I don’t like Martin being moody.”
“That makes two of us, honey.” Andais remarked, while Yvonne stayed remarkably silent.
Arriving at the bus stop almost ten minutes later, he sat down with his back to the tree, and pulled his legs up to his chest. While he sat there, Martin tried to concentrate on his failing grade in math, but his mind kept going back to Chani slapping him. More people showed up as he sat there, until he heard a familiar voice. “Oh! Martin!” he heard to his right. Looking up, he saw Tanya standing to his right, her hands holding her backpack in front of her skirt.
“Morning, Tanya.” he said sadly. “How are you?”
“I was about to ask you that question.” Tanya remarked, “Last night you seemed out of it, and today doesn’t look like it’s gotten much better.”
Looking away, he shook his head, “It’s nothing…”
“It’s not nothing, Martin. You’ve been sitting here for nearly half an hour…”
Shaking his head, Martin sighed. “It’s my problem, Tanya. Not yours.”
“Fine. Did you at least manage to get home?” she asked.
“Yes.” was all he could say for a few seconds, “Thank you, by the way. I doubt I would have gotten home without your help.”
“I wasn’t about to let one of my friends wander around Durai City like some sort of zombie.” she remarked. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
Martin shook his head. “I’m fine.” he answered, “Just… had too much on my mind last night.”
“But… you’re alright now. Right?” she asked.
“Yeah. I’m just peachy.”
“Are you sure?” she asked. “You don’t sound 'peachy' to me.”
“Like I said, it’s my problem, so I’ll deal with it, Tanya.” he remarked.
“I just hope you won’t be distracted while we’re all having to give Andrea feedback.” she commented. “Considering that much of the information that you and Chani gathered at the bookstore is what she’s having to memorize, we really do need your help with the information.”
“Whatever…” Martin thought aloud.
She looked at him, “Come on, Martin. We need you to be more present than that.” Tanya remarked.
“I… I’ll try.” he commented.
“That’s all we ask.” Tanya remarked with a smile. Only a few minutes later, their school bus pulled up beside all the students. Standing up, the pair stepped on, and started down the aisle. When the bunny sat down, she reached out pulling him in to sit beside her. Although she started conversations with Martin, the mink was just not interested in talking. Barely ten minutes later, the bus slowed to a stop, disgorging its compliment of teens. Getting off the bus the duo headed toward the double doors that consisted of the front of the school.
Behind their bus, a final one pulled into the lane. It only took a few minutes for the first group of students to step down onto the walk, with Chani being one of them. Blinking, she looked around at the mass of teens flowing toward the school like a river. She was looking for someone in particular, and when she found him, she also noticed the pair of bunny ears beside him. For a brief moment, a pang of jealousy hit her, but she remembered that Martin and Tanya shared the bus from a previous conversation.
Giving a sigh, Chani thought back to her conversation with her father that morning. “I can’t believe I slapped Martin last night.” The memory came back even as she walked toward the school.
“I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing.” AJ commented as he sat at the table. “He may be hurt…”
“But… I didn’t hit him that hard, daddy.” Chani countered.
AJ just looked at her, “I’m not talking about physically, Chani.” He leaned back with a sigh. “Just give him time, and let him come to you rather than pushing the issue.”
“What if he doesn’t?” she asked.
“That is always a possibility.” AJ remarked, “He may not care to pursue a relationship after what happened last night. It all depends on whether or not he can shrug off the incident as a miscommunication between the two of you.”
Chani came out of the memory as she was sitting down at the table, her lavender eyes casually glancing over at the other three members. Part of her hoped to see Martin sitting beside her, but instead he was sitting on the opposite side, with both Andrea and Tanya between them. The porcupine was looking around with confusion going from her face to the mink’s downturned one, and back again while they’re bunny companion just sat between the feline and the porcupine glancing left and right.
She didn’t know what they expected from the pair, but the fact that Martin seemed unable or unwilling to even look at her spoke volumes to Chani. ‘Either he’s embarrassed, or he doesn’t care…’ she thought silently, ‘Please… please be the former…’ Behind him she saw the bitch that had started all of this, the Doberman who was always such a pain in her ass sat with her back to the wall, her face swollen up on one side so completely that one eye couldn’t even open fully. ‘D-Did Jenny do that?’ she thought to herself, noting how the canine seemed to be smiling, if not smirking.
“Okay… what the hell people?” Andrea asked in a gentle voice as Mrs. Shearer walked in with a container.
“What?” Chani asked, looking at her.
Andrea shook her head, “First you two barely talk to each other, then we see you all lovey dovey, and now one of you can’t even look at the other. Again, I ask what the hell?”
Martin didn’t even say anything before Mrs. Shearer started to speak. “Alright everyone, we have come to the day when you each separate and go off to work on your presentations.” she announced as she held up what looked like a large plastic pumpkin. “As all of you know, we normally let the winner of last week pick out their egg first, but because this week we took in a new student, I think it would be best if we let our newest member pick first.”
“What? Me?” Martin asked, blinking as he looked up at the teacher.
“Yes.” she answered, holding the plastic pumpkin. “Just reach in and pull out an egg.”
Reaching in, he did as he was told, his fingers sliding over each one until he found something unusual on one of the eggs. A small bump upraised on the bottom that caught his attention. Pulling it out, he handed the oval to Andrea without so much as a look at the object. She took it, waiting for the teacher to walk through the rest of the classroom until all of the team leaders had their eggs in their hands. “Why did you choose this one?” the porcupine asked.
“Don’t know. I just felt some strange bump on the bottom and I decided to pick it out of all the rest.”
“Today four of the teams will be unsupervised while the last team stays here to work on their presentation in my presence.” Mrs. Shearer announced, “Over the course of the past couple of months, Andrea’s team has been kept here, partially because they had less people in their group, but now they have a chance to go into the library’s A/V rooms for their presentation.”
“Pff, that’s not going to happen.” Martin heard the Doberman scoff behind him.
“Now, everyone, open your egg, and follow the instructions inside.”
Martin listened as everyone popped open their egg, with the team leaders looking at the slips of paper inside. When she opened her slip of paper, Andrea’s eyes lit up, a smile spreading across her face. “A/V room 1.” she read aloud as everyone in her team gathered up their things.
“How did we get ‘Classroom’?!” they heard the Doberman shout behind them as they and three other teams picked up to leave the room. Sixteen students walked through the hallways, heading straight for the library.
All three female members smiled, “Serves her right.” Chani remarked, glancing at Martin who still looked down rather than at her. Blinking, she turned away, giving a sigh. “It’s great that we’re finally being given a fair shake for once.”
“I know.” Andrea smiled, “This is going to be great.” She then looked at the mink, “Oh will you just cheer up already? We got one over on that bitch. Can’t you be happy about that?”
“Sorry, I just really don’t feel like celebrating.” Martin commented as they continued to walk toward the library.
When they arrived, the three girls started working on the information, while Martin sat down with the 3x5 inch cards, and started to scribe the information. In a matter of minutes they were all sitting and listening to Andrea talk about their subject, working on which notes to reference at which point, while getting feedback from Chani and Tanya. At the end of the hour, everyone was felt drained from all the work.
The bell rang indicating the end of class, the group gathering up all of their things and starting for the door. Martin didn’t even hang back, he scooped up what little he brought out of his satchel bag and bolted before Chani or Tanya had reached for their books.
‘He… He doesn’t even care!’ Chani thought to herself as tears misted her eyes.
“Okay. You and I are going to have a conversation at lunch, and you’re going to tell me why you look like someone kicked your puppy, and Martin is actively avoiding the team, or so help me…” Andrea glowered.
“It… It’s personal…” Chani remarked.
Andrea glared at her, “I don’t care if you two fucked and you found out you’re pregnant, I want to know what the hell happened.” Chani blanched, looking at the porcupine completely stunned. “Something happened between you both and it’s seriously screwing up my team.”
Chani lowered her eyes and nodded. She didn’t want to tell anyone about what happened, especially her part in last night’s activities. “Okay. I’ll tell you what happened… at lunch.”
“Everything?” Andrea asked.
Nodding slightly, she gave a sigh. “Everything.”
“Good. Oh, and if I find out that Doberman bitch had anything to do with what’s going on between my team members, then I will personally turn her into the largest whining pin cushion in the world.” Andrea scowled.
That one comment made Chani smile, nodding. “I’ll even help you.” Tanya offered, causing the two other girls to look at her. “What? Martin is my friend too.”
“Yeah. I know.” Chani commented as she gathered up the last of her stuff, and headed for her next class. ‘I’m not even sure if I can call myself a friend of his anymore. He acts like he doesn’t even want to be around me anymore.’