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ONE WEEK AFTER LAST STORY.....
“Slow down!” Cassandra Warren shouted, clutching her purse tightly.
“Can’t be late,” responded her best friend, Valerie Chang, speeding in and out of traffic on the coastal highway.
“We’re going to be very late if you get us killed! OMG VAL! You’re doing over eighty-five!” Cassie shrieked, wishing she hadn’t leaned over and glanced at the speedometer.
Her friend responded by pushing her sandaled foot down on the accelerator, pushing the car past ninety.
“This highways crawling with cops!” Cass pleaded, since the self-preservation angle didn’t seen to be working.
“Well, if we get pulled over, just show the cop some leg.” Val winked at her friend in her sky blue sundress. Val herself was wearing a yellow top and a pair of tight white jeans.
“Hey, keep your eyes on the road! OMG! We are so gonna die!”
“So, let’s talk about this Erik,” Val suggested.
“Oh no, here you go again!” Cass wailed, instantly forgetting her friend’s Indy-style driving. “Can’t you see I like Erik?”
“But you just met this guy Cass” Val shot back, zipping between lanes and darting in front of a slow moving SUV. “You said he was sort of starving for cash…so why is he driving a Mercedes?”
“Oh Val” the brown haired Cassie replied. “The journalist in you is showing again…can’t I be happy?”
“Yes, of course, but I mean, have you asked him?”
“He…doesn’t like it when I ask questions,” Cass answered quietly.
“And you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that? Listen, I just don’t want you to get hurt, that’s all.”
“I’m a big girl Val.”
The uncomfortable silence that followed was soon drowned out by the drone of landing aircraft.
“So, what’s the deal again?” Cassie asked, prompted by their arrival (ALIVE, THANK GOD!) at the airport.
“We host this high school senior for a week, you know, show her around campus and stuff and the university pays half our tuition this semester.”
“Sweet,” Cass replied, totally relaxed now that the car had come to a complete stop, Val having found a spot in visitor parking. “So, what’s her name again?”
Val told her.
“What is?” Val replied curiously.
“I mean, remember your ordeal with Professor Gerald?”
“How could I forget that?”
“Remember what you said after you kicked that scumbag Jack where the sun don't shine?”
Valerie then started to grin.
“Yeah, that’s right!”
“Weird coincidence roomie.”
“I just hope this week goes fast…I mean my work at the Journal…”
“At least you’re getting your credits properly now Val, especially after that Sleazy Madam incident.”
Valerie looked at her roommate and smiled. They were lucky to be alive after that ordeal with the white slavers.
The girls trotted down the main terminal, making a turn onto the concourse, taking them to the hub of the particular carrier that their host-ee was arriving on.
“From Cincinnati, on time” Cass crowed as they checked the arrival/departures board. “And with twenty minutes to spare.”
“Oh, now you’re glad! What happened to ‘Val, we’re so gonna die?’”
“Ha, ha,” Cass uttered sarcastically. The pair were now in a long line waiting to pass security.
"So," Val piped up. "Where are you and Erik going tonight if I may ask?"
"A party on campus" Cassie responded, getting a feeling that Val was butting in again.
"Maybe I'll take our little high schooler there, that way we can show her around the fun things on campus."
"You can bring Ron as well Val," Cassie added in reference to Valerie's mentor, Ronald Henry "More the merrier."
Cassie and Valerie just waited in line and hardly spoke. Obviously, the duo was uncomfortable with the subject. By the time they got through security, their twenty minute lead had expired. Sprinting to the gate, they arrived just as the last passengers were disembarking.
"Shoot!” Val jabbed her hand in the air.
“Maybe she hasn’t gotten off yet,” Cass said hopefully.
They scanned the passengers based on the description that Val had gotten of the girl’s appearance. Finally, their gaze was returned.
“Are you sure they said “high school” senior?” Cass asked dubiously.
Val and Cass were frozen in disbelief as their gaze was met by a rail-thin, tottering, eighty-five year old. He had hair were he wasn’t supposed to and no hair where he should. But that wasn’t what had the girls bugging their eyes out. It was the Sailor Moon T-shirt he was wearing, along with a pair of short shorts.
Then, he looked straight at them…and gave them a big, toothless leer!
“OMG! Val, I’m afraid, very afraid,” Cass stammered.
The geriatric fanboy now began to totter their way! All Val and Cass could do was clutch one another, trembling.
Then, at the last minute, a middle aged couple and their kids intercepted the geezer menace and the group headed off in another direction.
Val and Cass sighed in relief…
…when Val felt a tap on her shoulder.
The college coed spun around.
“Are you Valerie?”
The voice belonged to a young, short-haired brunette, wearing a white top and black jeans and carrying a black leather backpack. Val could have sworn there was the briefest hint of mischief in her hazel eyes although the smile was warm and friendly.
“Are you Laura?”
“I’d have to think on it,” said Laura Silverman.
“Huh?” said Val.
“Just kidding, sorry,” the girl laughed. “My mouth has a mind all its own. Yes, I’m Laura,” she clarified, extending her hand and smiling even more.
“Hi!” Val responded, shaking the offered hand enthusiastically. “And don’t worry about the kidding. I’m used to it!” Val jabbed a thumb at Cassie.
“Hey, don’t listen to her. She’s just some crazy Asian chick!” Cass took a playful swat at Val before shaking Laura’s hand.
"Wow, I like you guys already!" Laura said "So do all the guys look like this around here...?" she added as she spotted some nice looking men walking by. Laura had a boyfriend, Dean, back in River Hills. “No harm in taking in the sights, though,” Laura thought as she eyed one cute guy’s even cuter butt.
"Hey, Cass, she’s just as man crazy as you, Valerie said. “I think you two are going to get along great!”
"Why couldn't I get one of those guys to sit next to me on the flight?" Laura added, "I mean I get some old perv trying to hit on me instead." Laura made a waving motion with her hand.
“Was he wearing a Sailor Moon T-shirt?” Val and Cass asked in unison.
“Yeah! Told me I looked like Sailor Mercury. How did you…”but was cut off by their laughter. The college coeds let her in on the joke and soon the high school senior was laughing too.
"So you guys got boyfriends?" Laura asked as she sat in the front seat of the car while Cassie rode in the back.
"I do!" Cassie yelled as she stuck her head over the front seat "But Val doesn't like him."
"Cassie come on," Valerie responded "Not in front of our guest"
"Ooooh Boyfriend drama!" Laura perked "I wanna hear this!"
"Valerie doesn't like Erik, Laura…she says there’s something about him, doesn’t trust him."
“Is he hot?” Laura asked almost giggling.
“Extremely!” Cassie shot back, beaming “We’re meeting up tonight at a party.”
“A party huh?” Laura added, “I’ve been to a few of these college parties.”
“Well, Erik knows these people that throw these parties…it gets pretty wild.”
“Sounds like fun” Laura responded as she looked at Valerie driving, hardly saying a word “So Val, any boyfriend?”
“No, too busy for that right now.”
“I heard you’re a reporter with the school paper?”
“Yes. The Target. You’ll have to meet Ron, my editor.”
“Ron huh? If you’re trying to set me up, remember, I got a boyfriend back home.”
Cassie then started laughing at her statement.
“What’s so funny?” Laura asked “Did I say something wrong?”
“No” Cassie responded, whispering in Laura’s ear.
“Oh really?” Laura said.
“Okay you two” Val interceded. “I know you’re trying to hook me and Ron up. I told you Cassandra that we’re just friends, nothing more.”
Cassie then giggled as Laura took out a picture from her wallet.
“This is Dean, my boyfriend back home.”
“Nice, Silverman!” Cassie crowed, looking at the athletic boy “Usually I would be fighting you over him, but since Erik’s come into my life…”
Cassie then sat back and sighed. Val just shook her head. Laura started to notice the tension between the two friends as they made the short trip back to Wellsville and the campus…
"You'll pay for this!"