This edited and revised chapter was uploaded on February 2, 2021


Chapter 13: A Weekend Off - Saturday

The next day, Saturday, came and there was still no word of Alfie. The residents of Anubis House were anxious for an update, but knew not to press the issue with Victor. Alfie was in the hospital, which meant he was in good hands. They would take care of him there.

Between Alfie being transported to the hospital, Mara's behavior and her tiff with Mick, and Nina quitting Sibuna, everyone in Anubis House was more than a little stressed. And because of that, it was late morning before Anubis House began to stir with activity. And even then, it was a slow start to the day.

Trudy, bless her, was doing her best to accommodate them all. She was obviously going out of her mind with worry for Alfie, and the worry bled into her behavior. She made everyone's favorites for them at meals, doted on them, fussed over their clothing and homework and whether their pillows were fluffy enough. And if anyone so much as sneezed too loud or breathed funny, she was at their side ready to ring another ambulance.

Cameron, normally an early riser, didn't wake up until nine that morning. And it was the first time she had woken up feeling refreshed and well-rested. Between everything with Sibuna, Alfie, Mara and Mick, she'd been so exhausted that she hadn't realized until she'd actually gotten a good night's rest. The room was quiet, and Nina and Amber's beds were empty. Cameron blinked blearily against the sunlight streaming from the window, but sat up. She rolled her shoulders back and cracked her neck. With a wide yawn, Cameron started getting ready for the day.

She was spending today with Kate. They would traverse the town together. Cameron, aside from going to Ade's antique shop, hadn't much explored the town, she was really looking forward to this. Plus, she was looking forward to maybe meeting Kate's mysterious inn owner, Pete.

After splashing some water in her face, brushing her hair back into a ponytail, and getting dressed in leggings, a long sweater, and warm socks, Cameron went downstairs. Not everyone seemed to be up and about. Nina, Fabian, Mara, Amber, and Mick were milling about in the kitchen and living room. Mick and Mara were decidedly ignoring each other, and Cameron unconsciously relaxed. But then she noticed the tension between Nina and Fabian, who were struggling to find something to talk about that didn't have to do with Sibuna.

"Morning," Cameron greeted nonchalantly.

Nina and Fabian were more relieved than Cameron expected.

"Morning, Cam," Nina said. "You look like you slept well."

Cameron smiled a little. "I did. It's nice to have a weekend where Mrs. Andrews hasn't drowned us in work."

Both Nina and Fabian giggled.

"Right?" Nina agreed. "I think she's trying to make us fluent in French in record time."

Fabian snorted. "Or make us read Shakespeare's entire collection this year."

Cameron laughed a little as well, and the tension seemed to disappear between her friends as they started discussing Mr. Winkler's ancient history project.

That's right — they were working together.

"Any plans for the day?" Fabian soon asked Cameron.

She perked up. "Yeah, Kate's taking me into town. I think we're going to do some retail therapy."

Nina groaned. "Careful — Amber might hear you."

Cameron playfully winced. "Right, sorry."

Fabian's lips had twitched into a smile. "But that sounds like fun. You and Kate really seem close."

Cameron's smile was achingly genuine. "We are." Despite the sixteen-year age difference, Cameron truly couldn't imagine her life without Kate. She was one of her best friends, and Cameron trusted her more than anyone. And no one, not even her brother, had been more supportive of Cameron after Jill died. "I honestly don't know what I'd do without her." Cameron cleared her throat. "My, uh… my dad is an Anesthesiologist, and my mom is an attorney. Their jobs are both serious, practical, and extremely high paying. They both saw my writing as a waste of time — or they thought I should look into journalism rather than just creative writing. And if they had their way, I'd be studying to become a doctor, or something else along that vein. My parents never thought my writing would amount to anything, thought it was just a waste of time, said writing never did anything to save anyone. I mean, look at them — my mom helps put psychos and creeps in jail. My dad is a doctor who helps save lives. And my brother wants to join the Marine Corps. And what do I want to do? Write."

Nina and Fabian were surprised, and for many reasons. Cameron had never really spoken about her family before — her brother, sure. Her sister… when she had to. Her parents? Never. But from what they'd previously heard, they'd both gotten the impression Cameron's parents weren't the most likeable people around. Honestly, everyone had assumed that Cameron grew up in a snobby, rich, uptight home. That was true, but now Nina and Fabian knew it was worse than that. To hear that her parents looked down on her career aspirations as silly and useless, it was hard to swallow. Nina's gran, all her life, had been nothing but loving and supportive, encouraging Nina no matter what she wanted to do, even when she had declared that she wanted to become a pony princess when she was five. Fabian's own parents were nothing but kind and wanted the best education for their son so he could have the opportunity to pursue whatever he wanted. But hearing about Cameron's parents…

Back when Cameron had first arrived at the school, Patricia had made a cruel joke about her parents not wanting her. And while it was an unfortunately common situation for boarding school students, Nina and Fabian both began to wonder if Cameron had gone to boarding school just to get away from home.

If so, they didn't blame her.

The doorbell rang.

Kate was there to greet Cameron.

"Ready to go?" she asked, smiling bright and wide.

Cameron's own smile grew. "Just let me get my bag."

Cameron hopped up the stairs two at a time, antsy and ready to leave the house. However, just as Cameron went to open the door to the hallway, it flew open.

"Whoa!"

"Oh, sorry, Caramel."

Cameron frowned, her eyes narrowing. What was Jerome doing upstairs?

He was dressed casually in jeans, a white V-neck, and sneakers. His light brown hair was in its usual tousled mess and his blue eyes glittered mischievously.

"What are you doing?" she demanded.

"What do you mean?" he asked innocently. As if Jerome had been innocent a day in his life.

"What are you doing up here?"

"Oh, I wanted to see if you were up or not," he said. Despite her suspicion, Cameron's heart sped up a little at that. She blinked, feeling her cheeks warm.

"Oh. Well, yeah, I — I'm up."

"I see that."

An awkward silence descended.

"Um, are you doing anything today?"

Cameron's lips twitched at Jerome's question. It was a testament to how flustered he was because she'd told him yesterday that she was spending the day with Kate.

"I'm going into town with Kate, remember?"

Jerome blinked, then his cheeks went pink and he cursed under his breath. Cameron giggled.

"Right, sorry, forgot."

She slipped past him into the upstairs hallway. Then she tossed over her shoulder, "I'll be back before dinner."

Jerome slipped downstairs, smiling.

Less than two minutes later, Cameron rejoined Kate in the entry, her bag over her shoulder. She beamed. "Ready!"

The women slipped into the waiting cab and it drove off.

~)8(~

"Okay, spill."

Cameron and Kate were at a little cafe for lunch, coffee in front of them and shopping bags by their feet. Since they were in a less urban part of Liverpool, there were tons of privately owned little shops in town with a lot of cute things. Cameron had gotten herself some new clothes — a pair of cardigans, a new dress, a pair of new wedge boots, and a new ring. Kate had also gotten herself some things, but then had splurged and gotten Cameron a new messenger bag and another pair of cute purple flats as a gift.

"What do you mean?" Kate asked Cameron, taking a sip of her cappuccino. It was a wonderful day - warm, with the slightest breeze, and the women basked in the rare sunlight.

"I mean, what's with you and this Pete guy?" Cameron elaborated, her eyes eager and fixed on Kate.

To Cameron's immense surprise, Kate blushed. She actually blushed.

"I, um…"

Cameron's smile widened as Kate tripped over her words, unsure where to begin. But she had something up her sleeve that made Cameron curse in her mind.

"How about I tell you about Pete if you tell me about Jerome?"

Cameron looked unimpressed, but nodded her acceptance. Kate grinned and launched into her rave.

For fifteen minutes, Kate gushed about Pete — about how his smile was as bright as the sun, about how his eyes matched the blue skies on the nicest days, about how his hair matched the darkest of chocolates and looked soft as velvet. About his scruff and his jawline and his full lips and the beanies he wore. Cameron smiled and hummed at all the right moments, getting drawn in the more Kate spoke. Cameron had never heard Kate talk about a guy like this. She must've really liked him.

"I might have to plagiarize you and use all these descriptions in a story," Cameron joked. "Might make a nice romance out of it."

Kate's cheeks burned and she flicked her napkin at Cameron. Then to distract herself, she shoved some pie in her mouth.

"And what about you and Jerome, huh? The gazes exchanged between you two could write a romance saga by themselves."

Cameron was finding that her own medicine tasted awful, but she felt warm and tingly as she thought of the recent change in hers and Jerome's relationship. As awful as the circumstances had been, the past couple days had really pushed them together. It was unspoken, unofficial, informal, but the change was obvious to anyone who looked.

For a while now, the entire school had observed the relationship between Cameron and Jerome and known instinctively that Cameron was off-limits, lest they earn the ire of the school's biggest prankster. But now, it was more than that. Jerome was equally as off-limits as Cameron, the girl clearly returning his feelings. It was undeniable, even to Jerome and Cameron, that there was something between them, something that almost seemed inevitable. Something that resembled a relationship but wasn't quite there yet.

Not that their feelings didn't resemble that. Some guys had joked that Cameron practically had Jerome leashed and didn't even realize it. And it was kind of true — Jerome's pranks were far less cruel now that he had Cameron's disapproving gaze hovering over him. Not that he wasn't still a prat sometimes, but he was definitely less of one. And no one could deny that Cameron's original ice queen demeanor had cracked with her friends, but melted with Jerome.

The school had been watching the chemistry between them for months now, but Kate had caught it in seconds. And she wanted to hear all about it from Cameron.

"I think you two would be cute together," Kate admitted.

Cameron averted her gaze, her cheeks going pink. She played with her salad, looking bashful, but she slowly smiled.

"I really like him, Kate," she quietly admitted. "He's just… He's cute, and funny, and no matter how hard he tries to hide it, he can be so kind and caring. He was the first one I told about Jill, and he not once made me feel pitied or weak. He has an ego, but with a little nudging he's willing to own up to his mistakes and apologize. He doesn't push me to reveal more than I'm ready to, even though I know he's curious. And when we're alone, he… He makes me feel like I have all his attention, like there's nothing else he'd rather do than spend time with me. I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but he makes me feel really special, Kate. I have not once doubted that he likes me, even early on. Behind all the nicknames and teasing and such, I never doubted that he likes me. Somehow, I always just… knew. And it feels good. It feels real. Nina and Amber and Mara are always talking about how they're not sure if Fabian or Mick likes them, and how uncertain they are, and maybe they need to flirt to get their attention again, but I've never felt that way with Jerome."

Kate sat, shocked at all that Cameron was revealing. The girl had always kept her emotions well-hidden, and rarely revealed so much, preferring to keep things simple. To hear her gush and reveal so much was truly telling of just how much Cameron had grown.

And how much she liked Jerome.

Cameron was smiling down at her plate, but her eyes were faraway, and Kate knew she was thinking of Jerome. "I don't know, we just… fit." Cameron lifted her gaze, her eyes sparkling. "And he gives the most amazing hugs, Kate."

Kate burst out laughing.

"No, seriously!" Cameron said, giggling. "He doesn't shy away from hugging me or touching me, or being seen as affectionate, like some other teenage guys would. He doesn't shy away from his feelings for me, just when he knows he screwed up with a prank or something. And that makes me feel so special. I…" Cameron bit her lip, but she was smiling. "I really like him. He makes me so happy." She suddenly laughed, ducking her head down. "Listen to me. We're not even really dating."

"Not yet," Kate trilled. She gave a wicked smirk. "Has he kissed you yet?"

"Define 'kissed.'"

"So, no then."

Cameron gave a shrug. "I don't exactly need him to kiss me to know how he feels. That'll come when we're ready."

Kate studied Cameron a little. The way she talked about Jerome, the way he never shied away from his feelings for her, the way they didn't rush themselves into a relationship, the way Jerome respected her secrets, the way he looked at her. It was so much more… mature, than she had expected.

Jerome and Cameron were only sixteen years old. And most teenagers were messy, awkward, overemotional, stubborn, and just trying to figure things out. Teenage relationships could be the same way — messy, awkward, overemotional, stubborn, rocky. Kate remembered her teenage crush — David Carson — total tool, but she'd liked him. And even though they'd been dating, Kate had questioned the entire time whether he actually liked her or not, or if she had to flirt more to get his attention, or whether they were spending enough time together. Their relationship had stumbled along, not at all stable, until Kate had finally called it quits, exhausted by the effort of trying to get to know him without feeling like she was actually getting to know him.

But none of that seemed to exist with Cameron and Jerome.

Sure, they were teenagers. They were going to screw up. All relationships had their struggles, but Kate could already tell that both of them were willing to try and learn and grow. They weren't rushing into things, but they weren't shying away from things either. And though Kate had no idea what Jerome was normally like, that was something big with Cameron. She always ran away when things got too emotional or intense for her. She even ran all the way to England this most recent time. But Cameron wasn't running. And it really spoke to just how strongly she felt for Jerome, just how much she wanted to build something with him.

Gosh, listen to her. "Build something" — they were teenagers! Neither Cameron nor Jerome had probably had that sort of thought.

But the way they behaved with each other, the way they felt, the way they were progressing… They were building something.

Even if they didn't realize it.

"Oh, for god's sake…"

Cameron was looking at her phone, somewhere between a huff and a smile. Kate's thoughts dispelled as she asked what was wrong.

Cameron wordlessly showed Kate her lock screen.

Where once Cameron's background had been a photograph of her and Matt, it now read a riddle.

Hey Caramel ;) I've got a riddle for you. The answer is your new password.

You ready for this?

What am I?

"So that's what he was doing upstairs this morning," Cameron muttered, amused. "Ass."

"Who?"

"Jerome." It was said with nothing but fondness. "Prank war, you know?"

Kate frowned with something akin to amusement. "That's the best he could come up with?"

"Alfie's got all the good ideas," Cameron said with a wicked smirk. "Jerome's own ideas pale in comparison."

"He's going to have to do better if he wants to beat you, then," Kate said with a snort.

"No kidding."

Cameron chewed her cheek a little in thought as she mused on the riddle. Jerome wouldn't be arrogant enough to formulate a riddle about himself, would he? Who was Cameron kidding? Of course, he would. But then again… With a little hesitation, she typed an answer.

A question.

The phone clicked open.

Cameron's victory smirk fell a little, then she shook her head.

"Should've known better, but again, he's got to try harder."

Cameron showed Kate her phone again. Jerome had changed the language as well — Russian.

Unfortunately for him, he didn't know that Russian was one of the languages Cameron was fluent in.

A valiant effort, though.

Kate paid for lunch while Cameron fixed all her phone settings, putting it back in English (she may have written in other languages, but she kept her phone in English in case someone needed to borrow it, plus she was too lazy) and replacing her wallpaper. She scanned through her other settings a little, searching for something else Jerome had messed with, but she came up empty. Even her alarms hadn't been touched.

A semi-valiant effort.

"Ready?" Kate said. Cameron slid her phone back in her bag and nodded. The women stood and left the cafe, bags in hand. It was about one in the afternoon now, and the women found themselves walking towards the inn — Kate suggested dropping their things off so they didn't have to lug them around for the rest of the afternoon.

The inn Kate was staying at was small, but quaint. It reminded Cameron of a little bed and breakfast you might find in New England. The downstairs was a restaurant and bar, and a beautiful wooden staircase ascended to where the bedrooms were. The front desk was well-lit and obvious, and a man stood behind it reading a cooking magazine.

Cameron recognized Pete on sight — Kate's description had done him justice.

"Kate, you're back!" he suddenly said. He beamed and threw down the magazine, nearly vaulting himself over the desk to greet Kate.

Cameron raised an amused brow.

Kate herself was blushing and beaming.

Pete suddenly stopped, catching sight of Cameron. He flushed dark red and awkwardly cleared his throat.

"Hi," Cameron said, managing not to laugh. "You must be Pete. I'm Cameron."

His cheeks lost some of their color, but they remained firmly pink as he shook her hand.

"It's nice to meet you, Cameron. Kate's told me about you."

Cameron smirked. "Likewise."

He went red again.

"That's enough out of you," Kate huffed, her own cheeks flushed.

Cameron managed to keep a straight face. "What? What've I done? I'm just telling the truth."

Kate's face was embarrassed. "Yeah — well —"

"Though you left out that he was Irish."

Pete grinned so suddenly that the demeanor change was a little throwing.

"Good ear, Cameron. You're as perceptive as Kate said."

"And you're as attractive and kind."

Kate was the one who turned red this time, and Pete's own smile went smug. Though, it softened as he looked at Kate.

Cameron instantly realized that he liked Kate more than Cameron had realized.

It made her heart melt.

"I'll take the bags up," Cameron offered, taking Kate's bags and room key before she could argue. With a little wink, Cameron disappeared upstairs.

"Meddling little troublemaker."

"I heard that!"

"You were meant to!"

Cameron laughed her way up the stairs.

Cameron lingered in Kate's room a little, giving her friend and Pete some time alone together. After about five minutes, she meandered back down the hall towards the stairs. She peeked around the corner and bit her lip against a squeal.

Kate and Pete were holding hands, standing so close they were nearly kissing.

Cameron gave them a couple more minutes, but when it became apparent that she wouldn't be walking in on kissing, Cameron popped her head out.

"Do I need to go bleach my eyes or can I come down?"

Kate and Pete separated, and Kate scowled.

"You annoying little bitch."

Cameron grinned, unbothered. "I'm a teenager. I'm allowed to be annoying."

Kate's lip twitched. "Oh, really, you got permission?"

Cameron nodded, completely serious. "Matt taught me everything he knew and set me loose."

Kate grinned. "Of course, he did."

Cameron smiled, then turned to Pete. "I'm sorry to take her off your hands, but Kate promised me her company for the rest of the afternoon."

Pete smiled. "It's fine. I'm glad you guys get to spend time together."

Cameron's smile widened — she really liked Pete. "Maybe next time I'll stop by for dinner, try some of the cooking Kate's been raving about for myself."

Pete smiled. "Any time you want," he said, entirely genuine. Cameron blinked, and her smile got warmer.

"I'll give you some suggestions," Kate said. "I've already tried nearly everything."

Cameron grimaced, but there was something sly in her eyes. "Yeah, thanks, but I don't take food suggestions from someone who eats pickles with Nutella."

Pete looked horrified.

"One time. One time, Cameron."

~)8(~

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon when Cameron got back to Anubis House. She took her shopping bags and quickly paid the cabbie. She made to enter the front door, but there was something in her way.

Cameron paled.

It was a package. And according to the return label, it was the books. Her books. The ones she'd signed and the ones Amber had won.

They were here.

Cameron grimaced lightly. There was no getting around this. Might as well get it over with.

Cameron ignored the package and toed open the front door, kicking it shut behind her. She lugged her bags up the stairs and went into her bedroom, dropping them on the bed.

"Oooh, you went shopping? Why didn't you tell me?"

Amber leapt off her bed, abandoning her fashion magazine, and dug into Cameron's bags with gusto.

Nothing Cameron had bought was exactly to Amber's taste, but that didn't seem to matter. Amber practically forced Cameron to model her finds, which Cameron did with slight embarrassment. When she was finally able to get back into her normal clothes, Cameron forced herself to speak.

"Oh, by the way, there was a package for you."

Amber gasped and darted out, saying something about a new pair of heels.

But the resounding squeal of surprise brought everyone in Anubis House to the entry.

"What? Amber, what is it?" Nina gasped.

Amber was beaming. "The books! The books! They're here!"

No one had ever seen Amber so excited about books before, but her words soon caught up with everyone, and they gathered around the package like a swarm.

"What?"

"Really?"

"So soon!"

"I thought they weren't due for another two months!"

Amber sliced open the box, practically screaming with delight. Inside the box were ten, gleaming copies of The Dream.

"Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!"

"Let us see!" Cameron said, pretending to be excited. It was easier than she expected. She found she really was excited.

The cover artwork had turned out better than she'd even imagined, and the books were beautiful. She'd made those. They were hers! Cameron felt something between pride and excitement bubble inside of her, and she bit her lip, feeling surprisingly giddy.

They were her books. Her books. And seeing people so excited for them made Cameron excited too.

"Wow," Amber breathed. She reached in and grabbed a copy, marveling at it. Amber opened the cover and frowned.

"Here, Mara, this copy's for you," she said. Mara took the book and looked inside.

"They're autographed!" she cried excitedly. Without another word, everyone scrambled to find their copy. When they did, and when Alfie and Jason's copies had been set aside, the eight teenagers filed into the living room. Nina and Fabian took the two armchairs while Patricia, Mara, and Amber took one couch. Cameron sat between Jerome and Mick on the other.

"Are all of ours personally autographed?" Nina asked. It seemed everyone had forgotten about that little detail. When the other teens muttered their confirmation, Amber suggested they read them aloud to each other and without waiting for an answer, began to read hers.

"Dear, Amber: Congratulations on winning the contest! I hope the books reach you in good condition and hope you enjoy the story. I hear you've made some good friends this term. Keep them close. Friends that special don't come around every day. I also hear you're quite the fashionista. Maybe you could give me some tips — a good friend of mine is always complaining that my wardrobe needs work. Well, anyway, keep strong, Amber. Whenever things are looking down, I always look up. Whatever I see in the sky usually distracts me from my problems enough to bring a smile to my face. Congratulations again! Mack Renacoz."

Everyone smiled at the kind note and the humor shining through it. "Nina, you next!" At Amber's enthusiastic outburst, Nina had no choice but to read the note the author had written her.

"YES! An American! You automatically win all the prizes! Anyway, I hope you're adjusting well to your new life and have found some friends. I know all too well that change, no matter how full of opportunity it may be, is hard. Don't let the strange currency and jacked up vocabulary" - All the Brits in the room released indignant cries — "keep you down. And don't let anything or anyone keep you from making a home for yourself in England. There's many things to discover over there and I'm sure it'll help you grow into an amazing young woman. Mack Renacoz."

This letter was a little more heartfelt than Amber's and everyone else began wondering what kind of letter they would get. Now, it was Fabian's turn.

"Dear, Fabian: Everyone loves a good musician ;)" The boy in question blushed. "I hear you're also incredibly intelligent, as well kind. You're quite perfect, aren't you?" Fabian flushed even darker. "Someone needs to snatch you up or I might just come do it myself ;) Just kidding. Anyway, Fabian, I'm sure this year is going to be great for you. You just need to remember to give that extra push every once in a while, to help yourself and those close to you. Good luck with everything, Fabian! Mack Renacoz."

Now, it was Patricia's turn.

"Dear, Patricia: I really hope things have been going well for you recently. When I heard that your friend had moved away this year, I felt sad. It's never easy to lose someone you're attached to the hip with. But remember, you're not alone. It seems like you've got a whole house full of good people with you. Now, for more important things… Have you got any good insults? I'm running out. Mack Renacoz."

Everyone either laughed or groaned.

"Oh, I've got loads," Patricia said, her smile dark and promising. Everyone laughed again, agreeing with her. Patricia was well-known for her sharp tongue.

"Dear, Mara," Mara said, beginning to read her note, "You're smart, nice, and pretty? God, can I be you?" Everyone laughed again, though considering Mara's recent behavior, it was a bit forced. "You sound like an amazing person, Mara. Someone anyone would be lucky to be friends with. I can tell that you work hard in everything you do, and honestly, that is such an admirable trait. Never change, Mara. You are strong enough to do and be anything you like, but there is nothing stronger and more honest than being yourself. I wish you the best of luck with everything, Mara. Mack Renacoz."

There was an uncomfortable silence, but Mara's eyes held a soft glow in them, reminiscent of her normal self. It seemed what the author had told her really touched her.

Cameron hoped the words would get through to Mara.

Mick went next.

"Oh, I remember when I was an athlete. Fond memories. Now look at me. I'm practically burrowed under a cocoon of blankets every night, stroking my laptop and muttering, "Precious," like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings." Everyone laughed at that mental image. "Remember, everyone has different strengths. God knows I wasn't the best student either when I was younger. But that's okay. Because you need to do whatever you want. Not what someone else wants for you. If you want to become a professional athlete or trainer, do it. I will personally mow down anyone standing in your way with my current Gollum-esque appearance. Good luck with everything, Mick. Mack Renacoz."

Mick couldn't stop smiling at the letter and everyone felt a little more sympathetic towards him. Especially Nina and Fabian. After hearing about Cameron's home life and dismal relationship with her parents, it was hard not to feel for Mick. Mack Renacoz was right. You had to do what you wanted to do, not what everyone else wanted you to do. The same went for Mick and Cameron and everyone else.

And that was that.

"Dear, Cameron," the girl started, "We need more aspiring young writers in the world. And you're American, too, so bonus points for you! Much like I told Nina, don't let the Brits keep you from reaching your full potential. And don't let those bozos back in New York hinder you either." Nina and Fabian exchanged a surprised look. The author was referring to Cameron's parents. "And hey, I know several languages as well! English, French, Italian, Latin, Hebrew, Russian, and Japanese. I can read Egyptian hieroglyphs as well! What a coincidence! Anyway, good luck in England, and I hope to see you soon in the world of writing. Mack Renacoz."

Jerome was looking at Cameron in surprise. He knew she was fluent in several languages, but she had failed that she knew how to read Egyptian hieroglyphs. But that was just like Cameron. She didn't like to talk herself up. She just wasn't like that.

Cameron caught his look, and with an innocent look, took her phone from her pocket.

"You're not…" Jerome said, but stomach sinking.

She smiled innocently. "You're going to have to try harder."

He scowled.

"It's your turn."

Jerome turned to his book with something almost like a pout, and Cameron resisted the urge to giggle and lean into him.

Neither of them noticed the looks that Fabian was sending her. He had been the only one to make the connection that Cameron and Mack Renacoz were fluent in the exact same languages.

"Dear, Jerome: A prankster, huh? Soda pop filled water balloons never fail to liven up a party." Everyone groaned and Jerome laughed with triumph. "Although, you might want to refrain from tossing them inside, lest you invoke the rage of your caretaker and housemother. It sounds like you've got good friends, Jerome. Not many friends will put up with being pranked on the regular. Cherish them, and never take them for granted. But on a lighter note, I hope you enjoy this story, and I hope you're having a good term. I wish you the best of luck in life, Jerome, whatever you decide to do with it. Mack Renacoz."

With everyone having read their notes from the author, silence filled the room.

"Wasn't…" Patricia started. "Wasn't there supposed to be clues to discover Mack Renacoz's real identity for the meet-and-greet?"

"Maybe they're concealed in our notes?" Fabian suggested.

"Or maybe they're in a letter tucked into my book." Everyone looked at Cameron as she pulled a white envelope from her book. On the front, in big block letters, read "CLUES." Cameron tore open the envelope and pulled out a single piece of paper.

And now the time has come for the truth,

And I know just what to do,

Hidden in this letter here,

Are the three clues promised to you.

First, though you may not be aware,

I am younger than I seem.

Around your age, to be exact.

It comes as a surprise from what I've seen.

Second, though I am not the Dark Lord Voldemort,

My name, Mack Renacoz, is not.

Rearrange the letters of the anagram,

And my true name you're sure to spot.

Last, and most revealing of all…

Seriously, are you prepared for this little exposé?

Brace yourselves for a shock, my friends.

I go to school with you, in the wonderful UK.

Bring your questions, guesses, and answers to the

Owlwood Inn

11:00am

next Saturday.

I can't wait to meet you all!

There was a deafening silence in the room after Cameron finished reading. She looked around at everyone in turn. Most looked clueless and completely shocked. But she could see the wheels turning in Fabian's head. Even Jerome looked like he was working it out.

Shit.

She wasn't prepared for two of them to figure it out right away.

"She goes to school with us?" Mara breathed.

"She's our age?" Nina said.

"And Mack Renacoz is an anagram for her real name?" Fabian asked.

"Just one question," Mick started.

"What on Earth is an anagram?" Jerome finished.

Cameron almost sagged with relief. She was safe from Jerome for a little while longer. Fabian as another story. He was already scribbling in his notebook.

"It's a word or sentence that can be rearranged to form something else," Cameron explained. "You know, like Voldemort from Harry Potter. But who cares about that? I've been waiting a year for this book and I'm not wasting any more time trying to figure out who wrote it. That can come later."

To Cameron's surprise, several of her housemates agreed with her. It took a bit of convincing, but Fabian eventually put his notebook away and began to read as well.

Cameron took a deep breath and cracked open the book. Chapter 1…

~)8(~

Trudy stared, shocked silent, at the Anubis House residents. It was currently dinnertime, and yet, every single one of them still had their noses buried in the books they'd received that afternoon. Of course, all of them were eating, but they were infinitely more focused on the book than their food. Never before had Trudy seen such a sight. She was about to continue on with her work when suddenly, Mara cried out.

"NO!" As if right on cue, Jerome felt Cameron go rigid beside him and she dropped her fork with a clatter. Everyone looked between the girls and noticed that they were on the last page of the book.

"Oh, no," Amber whispered. Again, as if on cue, there were two more gasps coming from Nina and Fabian. Jerome hesitantly looked at his book. He was only two pages behind them. This was not good. Jerome immediately began to read again and soon, he, along with Patricia and Mick, knew what was wrong.

The book had ended on a terrible cliffhanger.

In the previous book, The Lullaby, the main character, Bethany, had been hired to come along on an archaeological hunt to find a mythical pool called the Pool of Abundance. Legends said the pool was located inside a vast mountain, protected from all that came looking for it. The Pool of Abundance had magical powers and was said to grant the wishes of anyone who tossed a coin and wished into the pool. Touching the water showed visions of the past and future. To drink the water was to be healed. And no one knew what happened if you swam or bathed in the pool. Bethany had come along as an expert on legends and mythology. On the expedition, she'd met the archaeologist's protégé, Jack. The Lullaby had ended with Jack, Bethany, and the archaeologist finding their way out of the mountain, having discovered the Pool of Abundance. The Dream was the aftermath of their adventure. Finally, Jack and Bethany had gotten together, but the cliffhanger had completely taken that away. The Dream had ended with Bethany waking up inside the mountain beside the Pool of Abundance, the entirety of the events of The Dream being just that: a dream. Apparently, the mountain gave off noise and music too high or low for a human to hear, but got stronger and more intense the deeper inside the mountain you went. In fact, it was so strong that it made people fall into a deep sleep they never woke up from. And the Lullaby of the Mountain had gotten to Bethany. And when she had broken free of it and awoken, Jack had been nowhere to be found.

"She can't do that," Mick said, upset. "Can she?"

"I don't know…" Nina whispered.

"I'm going to bed," Cameron said, sounding just as distressed as the rest of them. No one said anything as Cameron silently left the dining room. Fabian, however, watched her go with a suspicious glance. Cameron was good. He would give her that. But as he got up to follow Cameron upstairs, he was certain she wasn't quite as shocked as she had acted. Fabian gently knocked on Cameron's door and when she opened it, she looked genuinely surprised to see him. However, she caught sight of the notebook in his hand and did something surprising: Cameron smirked.

"So you figured it out," she said, waving him into the bedroom. Cameron closed the door behind him and leaned back against it, crossing her arms and looking a little smug.

"You're Mack Renacoz!" Fabian cried. Cameron winced.

"I don't think the people in Antarctica heard you. Could you say it again?" Fabian also winced a little and apologized sheepishly.

"Why didn't you tell us?" he asked.

"How crazy would that sound? 'Hello, my name is Cameron Zack, but I'm also the world-famous author Mack Renacoz. Nice to meet you!' No! Besides…" Cameron trailed off, looking at her feet.

"What?" Fabian asked.

"I'm still not comfortable with the — the fame, I guess. Whenever people praise my stories and books, I still get so embarrassed that I want to dig myself a hole and never emerge."

Cameron's cheeks had gone pink just saying it and Fabian smiled slightly. It was a little endearing, almost, how humble Cameron was. But Fabian could tell there was something else she was thinking about.

"You were worried we would want to be friends with you because of your fame, weren't you?"

Cameron's cheeks darkened, but she nodded.

"Cam." She looked up to find Fabian in front of her, a small smile on his face. "Yes, you're an incredible writer, but you're an even better person. And I wouldn't do that to you. Neither would Nina, or Amber, or Patricia, or Mick, or Mara, or Alfie, or Jerome."

"Well, I know that now," Cameron said, laughing a little. "But when I first moved here…" Fabian nodded in understanding. He probably would've felt the same way as her.

Still, shame curdled in Cameron's stomach. She should've told them.

But Fabian didn't seem to be angry, just surprised. She hoped the others would react the same.

"Hey, can I have your autograph?" Fabian asked. Cameron frowned. "Your real autograph?"

Cameron blinked, then melted. She hadn't expected that, and there was no way for her to describe how… touched, she was. And Cameron was reminded of how many great friends she had. She felt so incredibly lucky.

There was nothing for her to do other than smile and nod.

Cameron signed Fabian's book with her real name in her normal handwriting, and it felt good. Fabian beamed at it.

"Bragging rights," he sang under his breath.

Cameron laughed outright.

He smirked. "Gonna try to snatch me up?"

Cameron laughed louder, remembering the note she'd written for Fabian. "Alas, dear friend, I'm afraid both our hearts are taken."

Fabian laughed as well. "Shame. We could've made a good couple."

"Oh, no question."

"The best."

"Ballad material, for sure."

"Oh, most definitely."

Fabian and Cameron burst out laughing. It felt good for him to know her secret, and it felt better for them to joke around and talk about something other than Sibuna.

After a few more minutes, Fabian turned to leave. Cameron stopped him, suddenly worried.

"Fabian, would it be too much to ask that you keep my secret until the meet-and-greet?"

Fabian looked surprised, then smiled. "Of course not." He laughed at the way Cameron nearly sagged with relief. "Not ready to face the music?"

"Not in the least."

Fabian laughed more.

"Don't worry. Like all our other secrets, it's safe with me."

Cameron could only smile. "Thank you, Fabian."

"Of course." He seemed surprised that she was thanking him. "That's what friends are for."

Cameron smiled to herself as he left. Yes, it was.

~)8(~

Two hours later, Cameron was typing away on her laptop. She had gotten into her pajamas and was ready to settle down for the night. But she had some last emails to send before she passed out. Cameron was composing an email to Kate and the publishing company detailing how happy everyone was and how they were fuming at the cliffhanger. It gave Cameron a strange sort of pleasure to see her fans squirming. As a bit of a fangirl herself, Cameron knew how devastating and frustrating cliffhangers could be, but from a writer's perspective, there was something immensely satisfying about them. At least she was keeping her fans on their toes.

Cameron had just sent off the email when she heard pounding footsteps just outside the door. She slammed her laptop shut in a knee-jerk reaction and a second later, the door flew open and Jerome came barging in.

"Come on in, Jerome," Cameron quipped. He shut the door and paced in front of her bed. Cameron set her laptop aside, concern bubbling in her. "What's wrong?"

"That cliffhanger was brutal."

Cameron blinked, more confused than concerned now. "You want to talk about the cliffhanger?"

"No, I want to talk about the fact that you're the one who wrote it."

"Oh." Cameron's lips twitched with the urge to laugh. "That."

"Yeah. That. You're Mack Renacoz. That's your little hobby. You're an author."

"You're a lot calmer than Fabian was when he confronted me."

"Not sure if that's a compliment or not."

"It is," Cameron said with a laugh. "He was nearly screaming at first."

Jerome's lip quirked.

"Should've figured it out sooner," he said. "Now that I think about, Matt practically told me what it was right from the beginning."

Cameron giggled. "He does like to tease it."

"Stop being cute, I'm angry with you."

"Sorry. Would you prefer I sit here and pout because you figured out my secret?" Cameron stuck out her lip and blew her eyes wide.

Jerome fought hard not to smile. "That cliffhanger was not nice."

"It wasn't supposed to be."

"That doesn't make me feel better."

"It wasn't supposed to."

"Stop smiling!"

Cameron's smile only widened, and she openly laughed. "Come on, Jerome. Only a year until the last book of the trilogy comes out."

"You could just tell me now," Jerome suggested.

Cameron snorted. "Yeah, as if."

"But Caramel!"

"No."

"Not even if I kiss you?"

Cameron's heart began to pound.

"No."

"I could just tickle you into submission."

"Do it and I'll cancel our outing tomorrow."

"Fine. I've got a year to bother you. I'll worm it out of you eventually, mark my words."

"Consider them marked." Cameron didn't sound terribly concerned.

Jerome didn't respond, instead just staring at her with a gentle smile. Cameron flushed.

"Stop looking at me like that."

"No."

"Yes."

"You're incredible," he said. Cameron's cheeks flared, and she curled her shoulders in embarrassment. Jerome chuckled. "Look at you — international straight-A student, school play writer, incredible runner, secret passageway finder, and world-famous novelist — all at sixteen. You are incredible." He grinned deviously and knelt in front of her. "And after tomorrow, I'll get to call you mine."

Cameron scoffed, but let Jerome scoot closer, her legs on either side of his torso. "After tomorrow? Are you expecting something?"

Jerome leaned even closer, a hand finding hers and his lips ghosting along her jaw. Cameron's breath hitched. He smirked against her skin.

"More like planning something."

"Oh?"

"Mmm." He planted the softest kiss below her ear. Cameron bit her lip, swallowing the noise that threatened to escape her. Jerome smirked wider. He knew that was her sensitive spot.

"Aren't you going to tell me anything else?" Cameron forced out, the hand not encased in Jerome's coming to cradle the back of his neck.

"Mmm, no, I don't think so."

"What?" Cameron let an indigent whine.

"Cold, isn't it?"

"You play dirty." Cameron's fingers slid into Jerome's hair, and she felt a shiver run through him.

"You only have to wait until tomorrow. You're making me wait an entire year. I think I'm being generous."

Cameron sighed dramatically. "I suppose you're right."

"I know I am."

"Don't push it."

Jerome's lips connected with her jaw, much firmer this time. Cameron's fingers tightened in his hair.

"You know, a good girlfriend would repay her boyfriend's kindness."

"I guess it's a good thing I don't have a boyfriend."

"Cruelty, thy name is Cameron."

She giggled, pressing her own kiss to his cheek.

Eventually, Jerome pulled back, smiling up at her. He brought his other hand to her cheek, stroking it lightly.

"Think you can be ready by 2 o'clock?" Cameron asked.

"Sure," Jerome said easily. "Planning tea, are we?"

Cameron nodded, and Jerome seemed surprised.

"There's someone I'd like you to meet," she said. "She loves Sunday afternoon tea. We can go for dinner in town if you'd like, too. And we can… talk."

Jerome raised his eyebrows. "Talk?"

Cameron nodded. "Talk."

"So, who are we meeting?"

Cameron smiled softly. "Her name is Sarah."


Hey all! This chapter took a lot longer than I anticipated, but it's here! :D
Let me know what you all think of the chapter! There was a lot of good stuff in it! What do you all think of Kate and Cameron's friendship? Or of Cameron's parents? Or of Pete? What do you think of the Jerome/Cameron (Jameron?) moments? Let me know! I love to hear your thoughts :)
Next chapter will take a while to get up, because it will be 100% original - so I've actually got to write it (ugh), but I hope to get it up soon and I hope you all will enjoy it :)

Reviews

MarieBarnes: I'm so glad you like the story! It really means a lot to me. I hope you enjoy this chapter :)
Chibi Zhel: Oh, being a fantasy, mythology, adventure-loving dork is part of my identity lol. But I'm so glad you like this story! Your review was so sweet and it truly brought a smile to my face :) I'm rooting for Cameron, too, and I'm the author xD I remember even as a young teenager watching this series and thinking "Wow, they're all smart but they have no common sense." So I decided that Sibuna needed someone with some sense, thus, Cameron was born. Yes, I'm also excited to get to Season 2, and though I liked Mara/Jerome more than Mara/Mick, I can say that it will not be happening in my story. There will be no teenage, three-way, triangle romance nonsense here. I just don't see Cameron putting up with that, and I can't see Jerome actually doing that to Cameron. So never fear - Cameron and Jerome are safe, though there will be plenty of non-Mara related drama in Season 2 ;) I hope you're happy and staying safe!
Tempestae Night: There were defo some #couplesgoals in this chapter xD Thank you so much for your kind words :) I hope you enjoyed the new chapter and I hope you are staying safe and healthy!
heydaredevil: I want you to understand just how much your review touched me. I truly felt so warm and humble and happy with your words. They truly mean a lot to me and I want you to know that. I'm also so glad you're enjoying this rewrite. My writing style has changed a lot since I originally published this story, and since Cameron was one of the very first OCs I ever created, I thought it was high time I do her proper justice. This rewrite has been a bit of a slog (cause who likes editing, ew), but seeing it published and seeing your words truly mean so much to me. I'm so glad that you like Cameron's character. She has really developed more than I ever imagined, and this story does so along with her. There were some good Jerome/Cameron moments here, as well as some focus on Cameron's relationships with other characters (Kate, Fabian). There will be a lot of that next chapter as well. I hope you enjoyed the update and I hope you're safe and healthy :)
Maricate: I love Mick and Cameron's friendship so much, it's actually my favorite to write. I think they are just such unlikely friends, so I love their relationship. I also think the show did Mick dirty by having him be some dumb jerk jock when he clearly isn't. Both he and Amber and he and Mara have their problems, and I think Mick deserves someone who will like him for him, not just because he's the hottest guy in school. I'm not sure I would say Cameron and Jerome are dating yet, but it's soooo close. Just sit tight ;) And yeah, I never saw season 3. I think I'm going to force my way through it when I get there because there might be certain aspects I want to include, but I think for the most part, mine will be almost entirely AU - Nina will stay, Eddie will be there, as will Mick, and maybe some new OCs ;) I hope you enjoyed the update :)
cameron: Aren't Cameron and Mick just great? They are seriously my favorite platonic friendship to write! And yeah, Mara's a brat. But I think part of the reason she's that way was because she never had someone to tell her that her behavior was not okay. I don't want Mara to stay a brat the entire time tbh, because I think her character has incredible potential. I just haven't quite decided what I'll do with her yet. And no, Jerome/Cameron will not take nearly as long as Percabeth lol ;) I'm so glad you enjoyed the chapter, and I hope you enjoy this update as well :)
CrossoverFreak0628: I'm glad you're liking the story! I hope you enjoy the new chapter and are staying safe and healthy :)
AsyaValdez: Yeah, I didn't watch the third season after I found out that Nina had left, but I've been rewatching the show as I've been updating this story. Honestly, it's cheesy but I love it so much still xD I hope you enjoy the update :)
FallenArcana: I'm so glad you liked Cameron's little Mara's-crush-is-unhealthy spiel. I never liked Mara very much, even from the beginning, which is a shame because I feel her character had incredible potential. But I feel that Mara defines herself on whether she's in a relationship or not. Like how in the show she was desperate to date Mick, and then when Mick left for Australia, she instantly gravitated to the next available boy: Jerome. Then there was her and Fabian in S3 and ew. I can promise, there will be no Fabian/Mara, or more importantly, Jerome/Mara. Not in this story, no siree. I feel that Mick never had someone to tell him that Mara's behavior was toxic, and I'm glad Cameron has become that person for him. Mick, I've felt, has always deserved better than Mara, and his relationship with Amber wasn't exactly great either. I can't say where I'm going to take it yet (not because I don't know, I just don't want to spoil it ;) but it will not be the canon route. So stay tuned! I'm so glad you love Jerome and Cameron's relationship. It's very different from the normal angst-ridden teenage relationships, but I think it's very fitting for them. Cameron is incredibly mature, and I think Jerome recognized that and consciously decided to follow that. Besides, more than anyone on the show, I actually believe that Jerome is more romantically and intimately open with his partners. He is incredibly affectionate, more so than any other character, and I live for it, because Cameron needs someone she'll never doubt likes her and cherishes her. Oh, Rufus' return... Yes, we shall have to see, huh ;) I'm so thankful for you support on this story, and I hope you enjoyed the new chapter :)
Child-of-Strength: I think Cameron is a natural leader who is also like, chill. She's not going to automatically take charge, but she will if she needs to. She's an incredibly adaptable girl, always reading the situation and deciphering what is needed at the time. And right now, a leader is needed in Nina's absence. But for now, everyone is getting a much-needed weekend off. Yeah, Mara was always one of my least favorite characters on the show. She never really matured, despite all her past behavior, and she's never had to answer for her actions. That might change here (idk, I'm still deciding tbh). I'm glad you're liking Jerome and Cameron's relationship. I've worked really hard to make it natural and flowing, because their dynamic is so unique compared to the other Anubis House couples. I truly believe that these two don't have the patience to sit and dance around each other. They like each other, they've acknowledged that, and they're going at their own pace. That's all there is to it. The key, yes. Well, you'll just have to wait and see how it plays into the story ;) I hope you're staying safe and healthy :)
QueenAnubis: Here's the update, darling! I hope you enjoy :)
RYJAN: Hey there! I'm glad you like this story and House of Anubis! To be honest, I don't have a set actress for Cameron, but I imagine her looking somewhere between Elizabeth Olsen and a younger Josephine Skriver. You can look them up and decide which one you like best :)

Sammiemoosam