All credit goes to Robert Muchamore, who not only invented CHERUB, but invented whatever else he invented.
Yami: Life is sexually transmitted.
Jack: Better mad with the rest of the world than wise alone (Baltasar Gracian)
Zara was absolutely furious. She sat the three CHERUBs down in front of her with Bethany and James standing to the side of her desk. The Chairwoman sighed and raised her hands in frustration.
"It hasn't even been a month. What on earth could have been so important?" Dante opened his mouth to explain but Zara wasn't in the mood. "I've asked these two all about what happened." She pointed at Bethany and James. Lauren's heart sank as Zara carried on ranting. If Bethany had been asked, then there wasn't much hope left.
"You can't keep fighting over stupid things, especially when you're in Russia. You'll both write an apology to Rat and you'll do ditch duty for a fortnight."
"That's not fair!"
"I don't want to hear it Dante! Get out. You can start now." The five Cherubs promptly left the office silently. But the quiet didn't last.
"Why the fuck did we get punished instead of you?" Dante hissed at Rat, who merely shrugged. Lauren was incandescent with rage at this point and lashed out at Dante.
"Because you started fighting!" Dante laughed sarcastically as he said, "So this is my fault."
"Well, I didn't do anything, so yeah. It is Dante." James stepped in between with a deep frown plastered over his forehead. "Look, there's no point in arguing, since the two of you areat fault. I saw you both fighting this" he pointed at Rat, "and that's all I saw." With that the white shirt strode away in the general direction of 17-year-old Kerry's room. When he was out of sight, Bethany spoke up. "It's a shame you know. But I guess that's what happens when you have to work with amateurs."
"Just go to hell!" Lauren spat.
"Oh, you will." With one last death glare Bethany walked past Dante and Lauren, with Rat close behind. "Never knew you could be such a bitch." Lauren bit her lip. She couldn't move. If she did, she'd probably just freak out again. Dante saw her go red and tears form in her grey-blue eyes. He put his arm around her and tried to comfort her, but he had made the mistake of misreading her emotions.
"I'm not fucking upset!" Lauren yelled as she threw a forceful shove at Dante before storming off. It shouldn't have hurt too much, but Lauren had accidentally hit him in the exact same place Rat had when they were fighting. He gripped his arm and cursed under his breath as he promptly made his way to the nurse's office.
It had been more than a week since the argument and things had not gotten any better. Rat and Bethany were starting to look like they were good friends and Lauren still hated the universe and all its inhabitants; not the mention objects. She woke up late and proceeded to produce a string of obscenities directed at her alarm clock that would have made Gordon Ramsey proud. The rest of her morning consisted of her skipping breakfast, failing a Russian test, walking into a door and stubbing her toe. She considered thinking that her day couldn't get any worse, but really that was just tempting fate, and Lauren didn't have the best relationship with luck at the moment.
Dante had made the conscious effort to stay out of Lauren's way after she lashed out at a punching bag and kicked it out of the ceiling. They had been working silently in the ditches from six thirty to ten in the evening, which put a huge strain on Dante's injury meaning that it wasn't healing properly. He had just finished getting into his mud-crusted jeans and stained t-shirt and was jogging across the hall to the other side of the building. He crossed the large playing fields and came to the other side of CHERUB Campus. There were huge concrete walls shadowing the soggy ground where Lauren was already in the meter deep ditch. She carried on shoveling at the filth when Dante jumped in with a sickening squelch.
Silence returned to the pit as the shouts and cheering of the other CHERUBs playing sports echoed through the humid but cold air. Dante looked towards the girl opposite him. They had been ignoring each other for ages over hardly anything, and he was sick of it
"Look, sorry. I was a dick, you know? I didn't mean to drag you into this, I swear." He paused. "Can we stop fighting and start talking again?" Lauren stopped hacking at a stubborn piece of earth like it had personally insulted her and turned to face her scruffy looking friend.
"Sure." She said, beaming.
The two of them worked for another hour and a half before the light drizzle that they had been complaining about turned into a fully-fledged storm. As the first golden streak severed the sinister in two, the Cherubs decided to make a break for it. Lauren was fairly nimble and jumped out of the ditch without too much difficulty. For Dante and his injury, this was a harder process. The already wet ground had turned to the mud equivalent of quicksand as he struggled to pull himself out. Lauren noticed his face scrunch up in pain every time he used his right arm, so she bent down to help him as she asked what was wrong.
"Nothing." Dante yelled over the wind. "There's a shed-thing about 100 meters from here. It should be open. We can't go under one of those." He pointed towards a tall tree as he stood up after finally hauling himself up. They began running across the marshy land towards the shadowy hut in the distance. The groaning sound of thunder shook Lauren as adrenaline jolted through her entire body.
They reached the shed and quickly went inside. The interior was about as glamorous as the ditch. Rusted tools hung beside various size of insect infested rope, which had been secured to the wall with large hooks. The huge steel framed window gave a view of the rainy scenery, obscured by layers of silvery-grey spiders' webs. Water was filtering through the many holes in the ceiling so Lauren and Dante huddled against the wall facing the window. Their hot frantic breath rose in the freezing air as they talked.
"Why were you making that face earlier?"
Dante looked over at Lauren who was fiddling with a broken piece of pottery.
"It's nothing really. Just a sprain or something."
"How did you get it?" Dante paused awkwardly. "Is it my fault?"
Lauren looked towards him guiltily as she carried on explaining. "Because I pushed you out of the way when you and Rat were fighting. He hit you on the arm didn't he?"
Dante nodded. "And when I pushed you outside Zara's office..." 'She remembered that?' Lauren sighed. Lauren leant over and rested her forehead against his right shoulder. "I'm really sorry." 'Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Calm yourself Dante. Fuuuck! Why's she acting so cute? Ignore it. Good. Nothing's happening. She's just your friend. Just my friend.' Dante listened to his heartbeat over the lashing rain and wind. 'Fuck.' He thought. 'I like her.' Dante had his arm resting on the floor next to Lauren and his body turned to lead as he tried to talk himself into putting it around her.
Lauren sat in silence for another couple of minutes with Dante, who was completely rigid at this point. Just as Lauren was about to speak, a huge erratic spark flew across the sky with an immense resonance. Dante seized his opportunity. He leant over, placed his left hand on Lauren's cheek; turning her head, and kissed her. Despite it being a light, cautious kiss, it still rendered Lauren unable to think. Suddenly, she pulled away.
"I have a boyfriend." She said feebly, as though she was trying to convince herself. "Yeah, but he's an arsehole!" "He's my boyfriend." She repeated, staring at the ground. "But..."
"I'm sorry!" Lauren made for the door and ran across the deserted expanse. She passed the ditches, then the recently abandoned playing fields, and finally the sports hall and fountain. Lauren kicked open the double doors in front of her and rammed her back into the lockers. She couldn't think at all. After a few minutes of mental torture, Lauren sat down and wrapped her arms around her shaking body. "I'm just cold." She told herself as tears streaked down her muddy cheeks.
"Just cold. Cold. That's all."
"Lauren?" Bethany stood at the far end of the corridor holding a Russian textbook and looking very confused. She walked over to Lauren and sat down beside her, putting a warm arm around trembling shoulders.
"I know that we've been fighting but I'm still your friend, ok? What's wrong?" After a pause Bethany added, "You can trust me." Lauren nodded then proceeded to pour out every detail of what had happened to her that evening. The ditch, the thunder, the shed, Dante's injury, the lightning, the kiss. Her kiss. She wouldn't ordinarily, but the stress of the last two weeks had got to her.
Bethany rubbed Lauren's back and gave her sympathetic looks before smiling and saying. "Let's get you back to your room. We don't want you getting a cold." The two girls headed towards Lauren's room on the sixth floor and when they got out of the lift, Lauren turned to Bethany and explained that she was fine and could walk to her room on her own. "Are you sure? Do you want me to stay with you? I don't mind, really."
"It's ok Bethany, but thanks."
As Lauren walked away, Bethany pressed the seventh floor button and headed across the hallway. Rat was still up working on his Russian essay when he heard the knock on his door.
"Piss off Bethany. You can't copy my stuff."
"It's not about that." She said with a smirk.
"I don't wanna know."
"Trust me, you'll want to hear this."