Rex Cassidy put his arm around the waist of Vanessa Dante as they awaited their turn to be seated at the Candy Hearts Restaurant. He adored the feeling of her soft, shapely body close to him. Holding her always sent a warm tingling sensation through him and he could quite happily remain cuddled up with her all day long. In fact they spent a lot of time like that, particularly at school when a boring lesson was in progress. What better way to kill time than to nestle up close to his own personal goddess, to gaze into her mesmerising, sapphire blue eyes, to kiss her full sensuous lips and run his hands down her…
‘Oh, my God, oh my God!’ A waiter stepped up to greet them. Rex and Vanessa had come to know him well over the last six months as they loved coming to the restaurant, one of the most upmarket and romantic dining establishments in the city of New Plymouth. ‘Darling, Vanessa you look absolutely radiant as usual.’ He spoke in a very effeminate voice, but it was hard for Rex not to like the guy. He was always so enthusiastic and pleased to see them.
‘Hi Fabian. Nice to see you again,’ Vanessa said, in her characteristic velvety voice.
‘I just can’t get over it, every time I see you, you get more and more beautiful. Is that possible? I guess it must be. And Rex… my my, you look like such a hunk in that outfit. If only you weren’t taken and if only you weren’t only sixteen years old.’
Rex cringed at his comments, but smiled anyway. ‘And if only I wasn’t straight. How’s things, Fabian?’
‘Marvellous, marvellous, especially after seeing my favourite two customers in all the world! The two of you just light up the entire restaurant with your presence and make my job here that so much more enjoyable. Please, do follow me and I’ll take you to your table.’
He led them to a table in the corner of the restaurant that looked out into the gardens at the side of the restaurant. He pulled out their seats for them and they both sat down. ‘Is it a special occasion today?’
‘Vanessa just filmed her first TV commercial.’
‘Wonderful, oh, I can’t wait to see it. What’s it for?’
‘A new brand of soft drink. Spangle.’
‘I’ll be keeping my eye open for that. I’ll be able to tell people, see that girl? She comes into my restaurant all the time!’ He stood back. ‘Ahhhh, you two make such a lovely couple, always so affectionate with one another. I love to see you up there on the dance floor, holding each other close. Makes me want to just jump right into the middle of you.’
Rex cringed again. ‘That would kind of ruin the experience for me.’
‘And me.’ Vanessa laughed.
‘So sad.’ Fabian sighed. ‘I would lose my job anyway.’ He laughed. ‘Oh well. That’s life I suppose. I’m happy for you both, I really am and I hope I will always see you two coming here together, loving each other as you do now.’
‘Yeah huh!’ Vanessa said.
‘You can count on it,’ Rex added.
‘Well take a look at the menu. I recommend the filet mignon. It will melt in your mouth.’
‘Yummers,’ Vanessa said.
They placed a drinks order and Fabian left them.
‘So,’ Rex reached across the table and took Vanessa’s hand in his. ‘Here we are again.’ He peered around. ‘People intrigued by us as usual. A couple as young as us coming to an expensive restaurant like this.’
‘I bet you have more money than all of them.’
She laughed and squeezed his hand. ‘I’m so lucky having you. I’m getting way too used to this lavish lifestyle though… being chauffeured around by you in a Lamborghini Estoque, getting expensive presents and dining in fine restaurants. Way too used to it. One of the male models at the commercial shoot today asked me out to lunch at Burger King. My first thought was “Burger King? You have got to be kidding me! You’re gonna have to do better than that, pal”.’ She laughed. ‘Am I becoming a snob?’
‘You? No way. Perhaps you’re just beginning to realise your true worth. So what did you say to this mere mortal who dared ask a goddess out for lunch to a fast food establishment?’
‘I said, “Sorry mate, but I don’t do junk food.” Then he said, “Well how about a cafe then?” and I said, “I appreciate it, but no thank you.” To which he replied, “Well will you go out with me some other time?” and I said, “Sorry, I don’t do guys either”. For a few seconds he just stared at me. Then he said, “Are you gay?” and I said, “99.99999%.” It worked out really well though, because another one of the female models overheard and she asked me out and I went with her to lunch instead. And we’re going to the movies next Saturday night too.’
‘Good for you.’
‘It seems I’m going to be busy with a lot of work too. I’m getting all these offers coming in. They want me for a swimsuit catalogue and for a skin care commercial. They even want me to show off my legs to advertise a lady electric shaver, even though I have a butterfly tattoo on my ankle. That’s all just the start of it. Anne Summers is saying that they’re having to turn down requests for me due to my limited schedule. She even says she’s going to allow me to pick and choose which jobs I want to do. Isn’t that great?’
‘Excellent. I just hope that I’ll still get to spend some time with you out of school.’
‘Of course!’ Vanessa squeezed his hand again. ‘Remember, my contract is only for a few hours of work each month. I don’t want to work too much, not right now, not with school and I still want to spend every spare moment I have with you.’
Rex gazed into her eyes. He could stare into them forever and listen to her angelic voice. Some girls could be annoying, wanting to talk, talk, talk. Vanessa was happy just to be with him, saying nothing, but if she had been a talker, Rex was sure that he wouldn’t have minded. ‘Hopefully you’ll be able to go full time once you leave school.’
‘I hope so too and the beauty will be I can still work part time yet rake in a stack of money.’
‘Soon you’ll be the one driving the Lamborghinis.’
‘A pink one.’
‘A pink one?’ Rex laughed.
‘Yeah huh. With a Playboy bunny on the windscreen.’
Fabian arrived with their drinks. ‘Here you are darlings. A glass of grape juice for you, Vanessa and a lemon lime and bitters for you, Rex. Would you like to place your orders yet?’
‘Oh, sorry, we haven’t even looked at the menu,’ Rex said. ‘Give us a few more minutes.’
‘Please, take your time, take your time. You are both so beautiful and pleasing to the eye, I can fully understand why you just want to hold each other’s hands and gaze at each other. Ahhhhhh…’
Rex winced. ‘Does that guy have any concept of social awkwardness?’
‘I don’t think so.’ Vanessa laughed. ‘At least he’s a sweetie.’
‘If you say so.’
Not long after that, they placed their orders and then went to the dance floor while their food was cooked. There was a band on stage, playing slow music so the two cuddled up together with Vanessa resting her head on his upper chest. He loved the feeling of her soft body pressed up against him. They didn’t even have to move their feet, they just swayed their bodies to the music. If Heaven didn’t include this, he didn’t want to know about it.
Vanessa ran her hands up Rex’s back and rested her head into his chest. She allowed the music to take her away to another world and for a moment they weren’t there in the restaurant, but alone in some kind of paradise together. She pulled him tighter, feeling his tight muscular body against her and she sighed with pleasure. She could quite happily stay there all night with him, just cuddling him on the dance floor. Perhaps they would.
She had never felt happier. Her confidence in their relationship grew day by day and it seemed nothing could shake the bond they had. Nothing would pull them apart, because their love for one another was so strong. Not even her mother’s warning voice, telling her that perfection doesn’t exist, couldn’t sway her from her belief that what Rex and she had was indeed perfect.
‘My darlings, I so, so hate to interrupt, but your meals are served.’ Fabian touched Vanessa’s shoulder, a soft touch, but one that rudely ripped her from her utopia. Suddenly the paradise she had travelled to become the interior of the Candy Hearts Restaurant once again.
The two returned to the table where their fine meals awaited them.
‘So, Ness,’ Rex said after swallowing some lamb cutlet. ‘Now that Chelsea has left Te Arawa, do you think we might see Mav and Holly patching things up?’
Vanessa pictured their two friends in her head. ‘I don’t know. I kind of think that maybe they won’t.’
‘Why do you think that?’
Vanessa paused from her filet mignon. ‘I think Holly has her mind on someone else instead. I think it may stop her from ever getting back with Mav.’
Rex peered across the table at her for a moment and then sighed. ‘Is she obsessing over me again?’
‘Yes. She doesn’t want to admit it though, but I see the look in her eyes when she gazes at you. And with the history you two have… I know myself, just how damn impossible it is to shake you from under my skin. I couldn’t do it. She probably can’t either.’
Rex gazed down at his food and picked at it with his fork. Immediately Vanessa could sense what he was thinking. ‘No, Dollbaby, don’t you dare blame yourself for that. It’s not your fault.’
‘I should have been stronger. I should never have given in the way I did at my fifteenth birthday party, when Holly was upset.’
‘Rex…’ Vanessa reached across the table and clutched his hand. ‘It was a natural thing. You gave her the comfort she needed.’
‘And virtually destroyed the relationship she had with Mav.’
‘Nuh uh, you didn’t. They got through that.’
‘Did they really?’ Rex lifted his eyes to meet hers. ‘I’m not so sure about that. I think I did irreparable damage.’
‘If any irreparable damage was done, Holly was equally responsible.’
Rex sadly shook his head. ‘No, I broke down her willpower to resist.’
‘Not intentionally. You can’t help it that girls crave you and melt just at your touch. None of this is your fault. You can’t do anything about the way someone feels about you. If Holly’s feelings have been stronger for you than for Mav, you can’t be blamed for that and you can’t help it that you are all in the same circle of friends and that you are always around each other.’
‘Maybe not. But I still wonder if there was something I could have done to change the way things went.’
‘You were powerless to do anything, Dollbaby. Mav and Holly had to sort out things for themselves. And it’s definitely not your fault that Mav and Chelsea had an affair.’ She squeezed his hand, fixing her eyes on his. It bothered her that Rex put so much of the blame on the couple’s failed relationship on himself. ‘You can’t be everybody’s hero, Rexy.’
Rex sighed. ‘You’re right. But there must be something we can do to get them back together.’
‘Should we even try though? Why not just let them move on? Help them move on?’
‘Perhaps, but if Holly is obsessing over me, that’s gonna be kind of difficult.’
‘We need to set her up with a new love.’
Rex rubbed his chin thoughtfully. ‘Any candidates?’
‘I don’t know. Can you think of any guy she would be compatible with?’
‘Not off hand. Holly is very particular and out of all the guys I know at Te Arawa College, I can’t see any of them getting her attention, let alone having a successful relationship with her. Mav is one of a kind.’
‘Can’t argue with you there.’
‘But I think it might be worth a try. There must be someone. Maybe I’ll talk to her and maybe try to get an impression on who she might like and then we can work at bringing them together. What do you reckon?’
Vanessa couldn’t help but feel pleased with the idea. ‘Could be worth trying. So I guess that means we’re going to play cupid, huh?’
‘We can sure as hell give it a go.’
‘Hey, we can call ourselves the… I know, Candy Heart Matchmakers.’
Rex laughed. ‘Why not?’
After more dancing, or more realistically, cuddling, and then finishing off with a beautiful dessert, the two decided to head to the gardens outside the restaurant for a little before returning back to Te Arawa in Rex’s Lamborghini.
They ambled their way along the path, Rex’s arm around her shoulder and hers around his waist.
‘I’m looking forward to the school camp next week,’ Vanessa said. ‘But after all this fine dining, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to handle camp food.’ She delivered him a cheeky smile.
‘Well even if the food’s bad, we’re gonna have a great time. I’m looking forward to it.’
‘Same here. I just hope Mr Harris hasn’t devised too many torturous activities for us like he’s been threatening.’
Rex suddenly came to a halt and stared into the distance, his eyes wide.
‘What is it?’ Vanessa asked.
He paused for a moment and his eyes squinted. Vanessa couldn’t see what had caught his eye. ‘Can’t be,’ he said. He pulled away from her and grabbed her hand. ‘Come on!’
He hurried forward and she quickened her pace to stay with him. ‘What’s wrong?’
They reached a tall area of rose bushes and circled them to the other side. Rex came to a halt and peered into the distance.
‘Rex!’ Vanessa became worried. ‘You’re freaking me out.’
Rex continued to scan the park. ‘I saw someone. A woman. Long golden hair. Like real strands of gold. But… no, it can’t be her.’
The description of the golden hair was enough to make Vanessa realise who he was talking about. His former girlfriend Daryl Chambers. ‘You think it was Daryl?’
Rex sighed. ‘Nah, can’t have been her. She’s in Australia. But still, that hair. I’ve never seen hair like that ever except on Daryl and her mother, but I guess there must be others like her. I’m just gonna take a quick check over there. You wait here, I’ll be right back.’
Vanessa didn’t argue. Rex let go of her hand and ran across the park. She didn’t know what to think. Rex and Daryl had become very close when she had been at Te Arawa College. It had been a romance that never quite got the chance to blossom the way it could have, because Daryl had to leave the country with her mother. Rex rarely ever talked about her, so Vanessa had always believed he had gotten over her. With his reaction just then, perhaps he hadn’t at all?
Seeing Rex had not yet made his return, she decided to sit on a bench near a fountain. However she froze when a figure loomed out from behind a nearby tree. She nearly screamed because it was a familiar face and not one she cared ever to see again. The man in front of him was Rod Williams, a man who both she and Rex had crossed in the path. The look on his face was one of fierce indignation and he scowled. ‘Hello, Vanessa.’
Vanessa shuddered. ‘What are you doing here? I thought they locked you up?’
‘I’m out on bail. My trial is yet to come.’ He had been busted for drug dealing and assault. Both Rex’s and Vanessa’s testimonies had helped with that.
‘What do you want? Leave me alone.’
Rod lunged forward and grabbed her by the arm. She squealed and tried to pull free, but he was too strong. She turned sideways to deliver a stomp to his knee caps, but he pushed her over onto the ground before she could. ‘I’m gonna teach you for ruining my life!’
He stepped towards her, his eyes blazing, but then suddenly Rex charged in with a wild shout and collided with Rod, sending him crashing back into the tree. ‘Don’t you dare touch her!’ Rex’s face was full of venom. Vanessa had seen it before; other times when people had tried to man handle her. This time however his rage seemed to be even more furious and he laid into Rod with furious punches to the head. Rod had no answer and all he could do was try to remain on his feet. He went down.
Rex hauled him to his feet and delivered more solid jabs to his body and head, violent blows that even scared Vanessa. Rod went down again and Rex hauled his limp body back up.
‘Nobody touches her!’ Rex snarled and delivered yet another body blow.
Vanessa climbed to her feet. ‘Rex, no!’
Rex delivered several more devastating blows to the gut.
She reached him and grabbed his arm. ‘Stop, you’ll kill him!’
Rex turned his head seemingly ready to yank his arm free from her, but on seeing her face stopped. The rage left his eyes and he breathed easy.
‘Dollbaby…’ Vanessa said, wanting to be sure he had calmed down.
‘I’m ok, Dollbaby. You’ve got to calm down.’
Rex breathed some more. He peered down at the battered and bloodied body of Rod who lay out cold on the grass.
Vanessa noticed Rex’s knuckles. They were bleeding. ‘You’re hurt.’
‘No… let me see.’ She touched his hand and he winced suddenly.
‘Oh my God. You’ve hurt yourself. We need to get you to a doctor.’
Someone else appeared. It was Fabian the waiter. ‘Oh my God! I saw it all from up on the balcony of the restaurant. Are you alright?’
‘I think he’s broken his hand,’ Vanessa said.
‘Did he attack you two? Is he a mugger?’
‘He attacked me. Rex was gone for just a minute and came back just as he did.’
‘Oh my… I’ve called the police. They’ll be here soon.’ He stooped down to examine the body of Rod. ‘Dirty piece of work! Touching the lovely and precious Vanessa. How could he do such a thing?’
A few seconds later he rose to his feet. ‘But… but I worry that Rex, you might have gone too far.’ The waiter turned his eyes to them, concern on his face. ‘He is in a real bad way. He is bleeding from the mouth. Possibly internal bleeding. He needs urgent medical attention or he may die.’
Tucker Pyles was totally brassed off. It was Queen’s Birthday Weekend. Three days. His entire long weekend had been spent working in New Plymouth, thanks to his mother setting him up with work at varying different places. Horrible jobs too that mainly revolved around cleaning. The only small blessing was that he was to have most of his week evenings free due to the problem of finding work in Te Arawa. But how long that would be, Tucker had no idea as his mother was working on that issue. If she had her way, he’d be working every spare moment he wasn’t at school.
At least the school camp was coming up that weekend. He’d be free of his mother and her ridiculous demands, although the early morning rises and strenuous activities would take their toll. Not only that, but there would be plenty of tough activities if Mr Harris was in charge. He shuddered to think about the food too. Would there be enough to feed him? Would he get to have seconds, thirds or even fourths? He prayed he would.
The only thing that really kept him going was daydreaming about the goddess. He paused from his job to gaze at a photograph he had stolen of Vanessa. It was very worn from having been carried around in his pocket and being handled on a regular basis. She was so gorgeous. How he longed to gaze into her eyes for real and have her gaze back.
He tucked the photograph into his pocket and wandered across the kitchen of the Candy Heart’s restaurant. He peered out from one of the windows separating himself from the dining area, where couples, chatted, ate or danced. The goddess was there, smiling across the table at her date, while she nibbled on a spoonful of decadent looking chocolate dessert. He didn’t even try to work out what the dessert was because the face of the goddess demanded his attention. She had to be the only girl in the world that could draw his attention away from food. She truly was divine.
He scowled momentarily as he cast his eye towards her date, Rex Cassidy, his most despised enemy. It should have been Tucker sitting there with the goddess, not the evil one.
‘Tucker, now many times have I told you, stop staring at the diners!’ A female voice echoed in his ear. He leapt and spun around to face his supervisor, Sue. She was actually very cute, only around 22 years old. ‘You’re supposed to be over there wiping down the benches. Who are you spying on out there?’
Sue peered out to try and figure out who it was. ‘This window is not for you to stand around staring. It’s for the kitchen staff to be able to check on the diners.’
‘I’m kitchen staff.’
‘No, you’re a cleaner, so get on with it!’
Tucker trundled back over to his post, wishing desperately to continue to gaze on the unearthly beauty of Vanessa. Seeing her in some of his classes just wasn’t enough. To see her all dolled up in a different setting was such a treat. It was quite a pleasant surprise to find her there that night.
Fabian, the waiter, entered. He winked at Tucker and continued on with his work. Tucker squirmed. Why did it have to be a gay male waiter who had his eye on him? Why couldn’t it have been Sexy Sue instead?
While Tucker wiped down the benches, Fabian suddenly appeared from behind him. ‘Darling, you look so inviting leaning over that bench like that.’ Tucker spun around to face him. Fabian had a huge smile on his face. ‘You know, I like a man with a bit of padding… or in your case a looooot of padding.’ He looked Tucker up and down. ‘I do like you indeed.’
‘I’m straight!’ Tucker barked. ‘I’m into girls.’
‘Oh, what a pity.’ Fabian’s face dropped, but then lit up again. ‘Never mind, darling, I shall just enjoy admiring you from a distance. How about that?’
‘Ah… yeah… sure.’ Tucker just wanted him gone. It made him feel creeped out just having him standing so close to him.’
‘I will indeed be watching, you darling.’ Fabian winked and walked away.
‘Bugger this,’ Tucker said under his breath. ‘Not only do I have to do humiliating work, but I have to put up with some gay guy perving at me.’ A thought came to mind. What would happen if he did such a bad job that the restaurant let him go? Sure, no doubt his mother would be furious, but he could handle that. What if no matter what job she sent him out on, he messed up big time? Sooner or later his mother would have to give up on making him work. Sooner or later, no one would want to employ him at all. Then he could go back to living his life like he used to, before his mother made him go out and work for her living.
Tucker peered around the room, wondering what he could do to rile up the management. He gazed at the benches he was washing. He could dump rubbish all over them. Yes, that would be the thing and then he could go about making a mess of everything else in the restaurant too.
But no, there had to be something better he could do. Something that could score him some extra benefits. From a distance he peered out the window to the dance floor and the band that played. Now that was something he would rather be doing. Entertaining the crowds. What if he could somehow get out there and sing for the audience? Not only would he likely get himself fired, but perhaps there might be a talent scout in there, someone who might offer him a permanent job as a lounge singer. Then there was the thought of the goddess sitting at her table with the evil one. What if he sung her a love song and dedicated it to her?
‘I love it!’ He said to himself. But what would the song be?
One came to mind. He took one last look at the bench, threw his cloth on it, turned and marched out into the restaurant. He kept his eyes trained on the stage, bowled right up onto it, grabbed the microphone which sat on the piano and much to the band’s shock made his demand. ‘Cut the music!’
The band stopped playing. Those on the dance floor stared up with blank looks. Others in nearby tables cast their gaze towards him. Tucker was pleased with the response. It was exactly what he wanted.
‘Now it’s time to show you New Plymouth City Sweat Hogs what a real sexy man looks like!’ He got that line from an old pro-wrestler he used to watch on his Dad’s DVD collection. He turned towards the diners and strained his eyes to see Rex and Vanessa’s table, but it was around behind a partition. ‘This song here is dedicated to the beautiful goddess of Te Arawa College. Her name is Vanessa Dante and she is the most stunning creature ever to walk the face of the planet.’
He began to sing. He thought he sounded good, but those watching pulled faces or stared in horror. ‘You are so beautifuuuuuuul, to meeeeeeee, can’t you seeeeee? You’re everything, I hoped forrrrrrrr, you’re everything I neeeeeeeeed.’ He continued to strain his eyes expecting Vanessa to appear from around the partition, but she didn’t.
‘You are so….’
Suddenly a hand swooped over and snatched the microphone from Tucker’s hand. The wild face of the restaurant manager glared at him. ‘What the hell are you doing?’ he hissed.
‘Just entertaining the diners.’
‘You are not employed to entertain the bloody diners! Get out back now! NOW!’
The manager switched on the microphone. ‘I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen. I’ll hand you back to our band now.’
He placed the microphone back on the piano, grabbed Tucker by the arm and marched him back out into the kitchen. Once out back, he blurted, ‘What the hell was all that about? Who the hell do you think you are? Are you some kind of moron?’
‘I just wanted to sing a song to the god… Vanessa!’
‘You’re an idiot! I knew it was a mistake letting you work here. You went too far. You can get the hell out of here, because I’m not having you in here again. Not in this restaurant. Now scram.’
Tucker felt like rejoicing. ‘I’m fired?’
‘Yes! Now get the hell out of here!’
Tucker tried not to smile. He went to grab his bag and leave the restaurant but was intercepted by Fabian before he could. ‘Tucker, what were you thinking? Singing a song for the lovely and esteemed Vanessa?’
‘Yeah,’ Tucker said. ‘I love her.’
‘She is so very lovable; there are no doubts about that, but you made a silly ass of yourself.’
‘At least Vanessa will know I did it for her.’
‘Sorry, Tucker darling, but she won’t. She and her debonair and handsome darling left five minutes before you got up there on that stage.’
‘What?’ Tucker stared incredulously.
Tucker’s heart sunk. So it was all for nothing. Well no, it wasn’t, because at least he was still fired. Now he could wander around town for a bit before his Dad came to pick him up.
Still feeling bumbed out about Vanessa not hearing him sing, he headed out the back entrance into the flower gardens. He sat down on a park bench and relaxed for a little, in no hurry to go anywhere in particular. It was then that he spotted the goddess Vanessa standing there alone. She didn’t see him, because he was partly obscured by plants, but he could see her quite clearly. Where was Rex? Why was he not with her? He dared hope they might have had a falling out.
Then along came a dark shadowy figure. Tucker could just make out who it was. Rod Williams. At first he was alarmed, worried about what Rod might do. He rose to his feet when the thug grabbed Vanessa roughly by the arm. He couldn’t just stand by as he man handled her, he had to do something, but he knew he was no match for Rod. Fortunately, Rex arrived on the scene and Tucker couldn’t help but stare horrified as Rex laid into Rod with furious punches. He stood where he was, not wishing to be noticed. Rex’s onslaught was so great that Vanessa had to lunge in to stop him from doing too much damage. Rex finally stopped, but then Fabian turned up. Tucker continued to watch from his vantage point and shortly after sirens sounded. The police arrived, then an ambulance. Minutes later Rod was being carried off in a stretcher and Rex and Vanessa were being escorted away by the police.
Tucker had to know what happened so he ran after Fabian who headed towards the restaurant.
The waiter turned and when he saw Tucker, he smiled. ‘Well, well, this must be my lucky day. Fancy running into you again. Could this be destiny?’
‘I saw what happened. Why were the cops taking Vanessa away?’
‘They had to go to the police station to make a statement. I need to as well, but I will have to go in after work.’
‘Is that guy dead?’
‘No. But he was unconscious and they couldn’t revive him. I fear that Rex may have gone overboard with his act of justice. I worry.’
‘Did they arrest him?’
‘No, not yet. I hope they won’t, but if that man should die, he will be up on manslaughter charges.’
‘Whoa!’ Tucker stared. The ramifications dawned on him, but they weren’t all bad. If Rex did get arrested, if he did get put away somewhere, that would mean he would no longer be around to monopolise the affections of Vanessa. That would mean, he, Tucker, would finally have a chance with her.
Fabian continued on to the restaurant while the possibilities ran through Tucker’s head. What if Rod didn’t die? What then? Was there some way that Tucker could ensure Rex got in serious trouble over this? He scratched his chin as a devious thought came to mind. He was about to move away, when a female voice called to him.
‘Tucker Pyles? Is that you?’ It was a beautiful voice and the possessor of the voice was even more beautiful again. The girl he now faced was someone he had not seen for almost a year. Someone he had thought was absolutely gorgeous and she looked even better than ever. She still had that wonderful golden hair, with strands like gold. She was a picture of beauty, almost up to the standards of the goddess herself.
‘Hey!’ Tucker stared. ‘Daryl!’
‘How’s things, Tucker?’
‘Not bad, not bad. What are you doing here?’
‘Just waiting for my mother. She should be here soon.’
‘I thought you’d gone back to Australia?’
‘We did. But we’re back again.’
‘Cool. On holiday?’
‘No. To live.’
‘I’m coming back to Te Arawa College.’
‘Cool!’ He wasn’t sure what else to say. He knew she had never really liked him, but at least she hadn’t been a bitch to him like a lot of the other girls.
‘Is…’ Daryl paused for a moment. Her eyes seemed distant. ‘Is Rex still there?’
Tucker felt like giving an irritated groan but didn’t. He was sick and tired of girls going on about Rex. That’s all they ever talked about, however, he knew it was different with Daryl, because before she left Te Arawa her and Rex had become very close. In fact she had become something special to Rex. Perhaps even as special as Vanessa was now.
‘I don’t know,’ he finally said.
‘What do you mean, you don’t know?’ Daryl asked. ‘You still go there don’t you?’
‘Well is he still there or not?’
‘How come you don’t know? I thought you would have kept in contact with him.’
‘No.’ She shook her head. ‘We thought it would be too hard, so we decided to move on. The distance was just too great.’
‘So you never wrote to him or emailed him or anything?’
‘So you’ll be looking for a new boyfriend then.’
‘NO! Hell, Tucker, is he still there or not?’
Tucker sighed. ‘Yes.’
A smile broke out on her face, but then she quickly turned serious again. ‘Why didn’t you just say so? Tucker if you think I’m remotely interested in you, then you’re living in a fantasy world. Last year you were a complete and utter jerk to everyone, so as if!’
‘I’m a changed man now. I’m popular with the other students now.’
‘I’ll believe that when I see it!.’
‘And once you’ve seen I’m for real?’
‘I’d still never be remotely interested in you.’
‘Oh…’ Tucker dropped his head.
‘So… is Rex seeing anyone? Like, anything serious?’
Tucker paused for a moment, picturing Vanessa in his mind, but then some thoughts entered his head, ways to perhaps make life for Rex difficult and at the same time perhaps give himself a chance at getting closer to the goddess. ‘No. He’s completely available.’
A wonderful smile crossed Daryl’s face again. ‘I’m so glad to hear it. He’s never like… got involved with anyone seriously since I was at Te Arawa?’
‘No. But there is this girl…’
Daryl’s smile disappeared. ‘What girl?’
‘Her name’s Vanessa.’
‘Wait, did you say, Vanessa?’
‘Oh my God, not the Vanessa?’
‘The one he used to be in love with a couple of years before coming to Te Arawa.’
Tucker was surprised by that revelation. ‘Did you know about her? He never told anyone.’
‘He told me. Made me promised not to tell anyone else. He told me all about her.’
‘And did he tell you she’s gay and that she tried to commit suicide a couple of times?’
‘Yes. He told me I was the only one he’d ever talked to about her. So what are you saying? Are you saying she’s in his life again?’
‘Oh, God…’ Daryl’s eyes saddened. ‘Then he’s involved with her again. But you said…’
‘No, they’re not involved. I mean they hang out and all that, but Rex refused to get serious with her. He doesn’t want her doing stupid stuff again. So even though they’re always together, he still sees other girls. They’re not serious, even though they might look it.’
Daryl frowned. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Oh yeah. You’ll see. Rex still gets it on with the other girls. Vanessa doesn’t care. I mean she’s a lesbian. She’s into girls herself. She realises that its women she wants to get serious with, not men, so that’s another reason why they won’t get serious.’ Tucker was very pleased with himself and his deception. Some of what he said was most definitely true, but it would hopefully be the untruths that would spur Daryl into trying to reconnect with Rex. If that happened, then Rex might just be lured back to her, which would then leave Vanessa heartbroken and single again. It was a beautiful scheme; one that Tucker was sure would bear fruit. He could tell just by talking with Daryl that she still loved and wanted Rex. ‘Are you going to try and get him back?’
‘I’d like too. I miss him like crazy.’
‘Great!’ Tucker smiled. ‘I hope you manage to get back with him.’
‘So do I.’ She turned her eyes towards the road. ‘Oh. Mum’s here. I better go. Thanks for filling me in, Tucker. See you at school in a couple of days. Oh and don’t tell Rex or anyone you saw me. I want it to be a surprise.’
Daryl smiled and hurried away to the car.
Tucker grinned to himself. ‘Oh yes. Rex is going to be in for a surprise alright. His life is about to take a turn for the worst.’
Clarke Hanson stepped onto the grounds of Te Arawa College feeling quite nervous. It was his first day. After arrival at the office he was introduced to a very attractive office lady named Miss Branigan. In fact Clarke had trouble keeping his eyes off her shapely figure.
‘I’ll take you to where your first class is and you can wait around for the bell to ring. Mr Sanders is expecting you.’
She led him along a path. Other students passed by giving him strange looks. A tall and muscular senior boy halted in front of Miss Branigan. His left hand was in a plaster cast. ‘Hey, Miss B. You’re looking really hot today.’
‘Thank you, Rex.’ Miss Branigan’s eyes sparkled. ‘I missed you at gym this morning.’
Rex held up his plastered hand. ‘This is why.’
‘Oh my gosh, how did that happen?’
‘It’s a long story.’
Miss Branigan took his arm and stroked it with her hand. ‘I guess I won’t be seeing you at the gym for a while. That’s too bad.’
Clarke couldn’t believe the way Miss Branigan gazed at Rex. There was no doubt Rex was a good looking guy, but it seemed rather strange that a woman like Miss Branigan would be so obvious about her attraction to one of the students.
Rex cast a glance at Clarke. ‘New guy, huh?’
‘This is Clarke. He’ll be in your biology class this morning.’
Rex extended his good hand. ‘Welcome to Te Arawa College. You need anything, just let me know.’
Clarke blinked twice, not expecting such hospitality from a guy of Rex’s calibre. He expected him to be stuck up or cautious. ‘Thanks.’ He shook the guy’s hand.
‘Gotta go. Catch you later, Miss B.’
She watched him walk away and sighed very softly. Her eyes flicked over to Clarke and she blushed. ‘That’s Rex. The nicest and… Well let’s just say he’s very high profile at this school and very popular, especially with us la… with the ladies.’
‘OK.’ Clarke didn’t know what to think about that.
‘Here we are.’ They arrived at one of the classroom blocks. ‘This is D Block and your classroom is in here.’ She pointed to one of the science labs. ‘I’m sure you’ll be ok if I leave you here.’
‘Yeah, I’ll be ok.’
Miss Branigan smiled and returned the way she came.
Clarke watched as people passed by, most of them barely taking any notice at all. His eyes caught side of three visions of loveliness coming his way, books in hand. All three of them were quite stunning. One was ginger haired, busty and beautiful. The second was a lot shorter, but with huge brown eyes and even easier on the eye. The third however, was like no girl Clarke had ever seen in his life. She was more than drop dead gorgeous; she was surely a goddess, with her long dark glistening hair, voluptuous figure and long legs. Every feature on her face was perfect and her skin unblemished. He even loved her diamond nose stud on the left side of her very cute nose. He could hardly shake his gaze.
‘Well hello,’ the goddess said in a friendly tone. ‘I don’t believe we’ve seen you before.’
‘Hi. I’m waiting for class to start.’
‘Sad,’ she said in a sympathetic tone, her sapphire blue eyes twinkling. ‘Classes are not normally something we wait for around here, but things that rudely interrupt our fun.’
‘You have fun here?’ Clarke smiled cheekily. ‘I didn’t think it was possible to have fun at school.’
‘Yeah huh. You obvious hang out with the wrong crowd.’
‘What sort of fun do you have here?’
The goddess smiled a smile so radiant that Clarke felt weak at the knees. She then put one arm around each of her two friends. ‘Oh, we make our own fun. Don’t we, my honeys. Ooh la la!’ She nuzzled her face into the side of the ginger haired girl’s cheek.
‘Yes, we do,’ Ginger smiled and closed her eyes for a few seconds.
Clarke’s heart sunk. It seemed tragic to him that such stunningly beautiful girls could be that way inclined. Such a waste.
‘So ah… you’re into each other, huh?’
‘Yeah huh!’ the goddess said. ‘Very much so. Wouldn’t you be?’
‘Of course!’ he admitted. His eyes turned to the shortest of the three whose big brown eyes sparkled and she smiled for the first time. She put her arm around Vanessa’s waist.
A burly guy with long hair stepped up. ‘Ah crap, will you girls quit it? You know there’s a perfectly good guy right here who you can do all that shit to.’ He tapped his chest.
The goddess, Vanessa replied, ‘Wal, you really must do something about those delusions you’re under. It’s not healthy.’
‘How did that commercial shoot go, Vanessa?’
‘It went really well. I even scored the telephone number of another really hot female model.’
‘Perhaps I need to look after that phone number for you? Just in case you misplace it.’
‘You are definitely not her type.’
‘Is he anyone’s type?’ the short girl asked.
‘Hook me up with some of your model girlfriends, Nessa and you’ll see,’ Wal said.
‘I would never put them through such psychological trauma,’ Vanessa said pleasantly.
‘When are you doing the swim suit catalogue?’
‘Need someone there for moral support?’
Ginger spoke up. ‘Geeze, Wal, if you want to see Vanessa in a swimsuit just log into her FaceLink profile on the Internet. You’ve got access to her private gallery.’
‘I’d rather see the real thing.’
‘Well wait until next time we go to the aquatic centre,’ the short girl sneered. ‘Then you can drool all you like.’
‘Can I drool over you too?’
‘That’s all you’ll ever get to do.’
‘At least I have your permission.’
‘You have my permission to drop dead, that’s all.’
‘I love it when you play hard to get.’
‘Actually, Wal,’ Vanessa said. ‘What you are doing there is actually misreading the situation quite horrendously. We’re not talking just hard to get, we’re talking about God’s eternal barbeque and the snowball’s chance in it.’
Clarke decided to join the girls in a dig at the burly Wal. ‘Looks like the ice isn’t gonna be cut.’
Wal spun his head around and for the first time seemed to realize he was there. ‘Who the hell are you?’
Clark reeled a little. The fierce expression on Wal’s face send a chill down his spine. ‘I’m new. The name’s Clarke.’
‘Who asked for your opinion, Clarke?’
‘Just having a laugh, man.’
His eyes bugged. ‘You don’t wanna be poking fun at me, pal!’
‘Ah, can it, Wal!’ snapped the short girl. ‘Quit with the macho bullshit.’
Wal continued to glare at him, making him feel uncomfortable, but said nothing more.
‘Don’t worry about him,’ Vanessa said. ‘He’s really a teddy bear, aren’t you, Wal?’
‘Only for you, Ness, only for you.’
‘Like I’ve said before, Wal, I’m not into soft and furry. I’m into soft and smooth. Right girls?’
‘Right,’ said Ginger.
‘By the way,’ Vanessa turned back to Clarke. ‘I’m Vanessa. My ginger headed, bootilicious girlfriend here is Maggie. My other hot friend is Holly. Oh yeah and this loud mouth buffoon here is Will. But everyone calls him Wal.’
‘Because he’s such a Wally,’ said Holly.
‘Are you coming to the school camp, Clarke?’ Maggie asked.
‘Yes. They said it will be good for me to get a chance to get to know everyone in a more casual setting.’
‘Casual?’ Wal snorted. ‘HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! You may have just signed your death warrant. That camp is gonna be hell. Mr Harris, is organising it and his plan is to make everyone’s life a misery and he especially likes to make the lives of new kids tough. Ha! You’re gonna wish you never came to this school.’
‘Give it a rest, Wal!’ Holly ordered.
Clarke didn’t know what to make of Wal or whether to believe him, but none of the girls argued against anything he said. He hoped desperately that Wal was simply trying to scare him. Perhaps he enjoyed intimidating the new guys.
The bell rang.
‘Damn,’ said Vanessa. ‘It’s time for another one of those irritating interruptions. Worst of all, it comes with Reverend Flanders.’
‘Who?’ asked Clarke.
‘You’ll find out soon enough.’
Clarke went to join the girls and Wal along the back bench of the science lab and attempted to sit at the stool between Vanessa and Holly.
‘Sorry,’ Vanessa said. ‘But this one’s saved. It’s always saved.’
‘Oh… ok.’ It disappointed him that he would not get to sit with the dark haired goddess, but he figured there was probably some equally as hot babe that would be joining her before too much longer.
He sat in the row in front of them instead and couldn’t help but feel bummed out with the fact that Vanessa was gay. In fact glancing at all three of them, he felt gutted. Holly met his gaze and she smiled. For a moment Clarke didn’t know how to react, but then smiled back. He might not have a chance romantically with her, but at least he could be her friend.
The class started, but no one joined Vanessa at the stool next to her. He began to think that maybe she just didn’t want him near her.
Mr Sanders, their middle-aged biology teacher greeted him cordially, ‘So you’re Clarke Hanson? Welcome to the class. I’ll tell you what I tell all my students when I first have them for biology… that being that much of the content we cover in this course I personally disagree with. It goes against what I know to be true about the creation of this universe by God almighty.’
So that was why Vanessa had referred to him as Reverend Flanders. He liked to preach. He could just imagine this man, with his bushy moustache and slicked back hair, standing in the pulpit in a church, talking about God.
Clarke nearly didn’t reply to the English teacher, but wanted to impress his new classmates, especially Vanessa. ‘Sorry, Mr Sanders, but I have trouble believing in any God, let alone the possibility that he might have created an entire universe just at his spoken word.’
‘Well that’s where you need to think about the dangers of rejecting God. One should choose to believe, not choose to disbelieve.’
Clarke didn’t know what to say about that, but he didn’t have to as Vanessa spoke up. ‘Mr Sanders, how do you choose to believe in something? I mean, I’d like to choose to believe that I can fly, but I don’t think I could muster up enough belief to bring myself to leap off a tall building.’
Clarke gazed over at her. She had a gleam in her gorgeous sapphire blue eyes.
‘Ummmmm,’ Mr Sanders paused, a vacant look in his eyes. ‘Well… It’s about having faith isn’t it? And we must have faith. When you choose to deny the creator of the universe, you risk his wrath.’
‘Ummm, I still don’t get it,’ Vanessa said. ‘How is anyone supposed to choose to believe in something they don’t actually believe in to begin with? I mean would it make sense to say that I choose to believe there are fairies in my garden?’
‘There is no such thing as fairies,’ Sanders said. ‘They are made up creatures.’
‘Right,’ Vanessa said. ‘So it’s impossible to believe in them, right? Some people also believe that God is a made up creature too. How do you convince them to believe in something they think is imaginary? Can they simply choose to believe God exists?’
‘Of course they can.’
‘Ok, then, why don’t you choose to believe that fairies inhabit your garden them? Come on Mr Sanders. If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you try? Try to believe in something you believe is imaginary. Go on!’
Mr Sanders fumed and glared at Vanessa with bulging eyes. Clarke couldn’t help but chuckle under his breath. The more he saw of Vanessa, the more he liked her. She was sharp and funny.
‘This is ridiculous!’ Mr Sanders growled. ‘I have no desire to believe in fairies.’
‘Great!’ She beamed. ‘And I have no desire to believe in your God.’
‘You see?’ Sanders snapped. ‘What you are doing there is choosing to disbelieve in God!’
‘Actually that would be a big Nuh uh. I disbelieve in God because I find it impossible to believe in him. It’s like I also find it impossible to believe in fairies. Do you choose to disbelieve in fairies, Mr Sanders or did you come to the conclusion they don’t exist based on lack of evidence, logic and rational thought?’
Mr Sanders continued to glare. ‘Enough of this! You are just trying to wind me up, young lady. If I were you, I’d give the matter some very serious thought. The more you continue to deny God, the more you anger him. It would be highly advisable to get right with God.’
A voice came from the doorway. ‘And what God would that be, Reverend Flanders?’
Clarke spun his head around, unable to believe that someone had just referred to their teacher by his nickname. It was none other than Rex and he leaned against the door to the classroom. He had his other arm around a very attractive blonde girl, who cuddled into his side, rubbing her cheek against his neck.
All eyes were on Rex. Clarke couldn’t help but notice the lovesick gazes coming from the female students. Vanessa fixed her eyes on him too and had a huge adoring smile on her face.
Mr Sanders stared over at the couple for a moment before speaking again. ‘Why, the one-true God of course.’
Rex took his weight off the side of the wall, released the blonde and walked into the class. The blonde made a beeline for a vacant stool while he stepped up to face Mr Sanders. ‘The one true God? What, is that the one-true God of the Muslim? The one-true God of the Jews? Maybe the one-true God of some other religion? Damn, Mr S, there are just way too many one-true Gods to choose from. What if I get the wrong one-true God? I mean if I chose your one-true God, the Christian God, then I might really be riling up Allah. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather face your God’s judgment than Allah’s.’
‘Allah is a false God!’
‘Or right, so you keep saying.’ Rex said and made his way around the back to the vacant stool next to Vanessa. He turned to face their teacher. ‘Funny you should be so willing to put down one man’s sacredly held deity. I even heard you putting down fairies a minute ago. I happen to highly revere the fairies in my parent’s garden.’
‘What?’ Sanders stared in disbelief.
Clarke couldn’t help but laugh feeling sure Rex was only yanking their teacher’s chain.
‘Of course they are completely annoying pests,’ Rex said. ‘I mean they plant weeds all through the gardens, leave droppings on the furniture, don’t lift a finger to clean up the yard and even pull leaves off trees during autumn, but you gotta love them.’
‘Fairies don’t do that. There are other more natural reasons for those things.’
‘Oh, so you’re denying the supernatural powers of the fairies now?’
‘They do not have powers!’
‘But how else do you explain those weeds shooting up so quickly? Obviously they use magic fairy dust to get them to grow.’
‘That’s just weeds! They grow fast!’
‘I find your lack of faith in the fairies very disturbing.’ Rex said down on the stool and put his arm around Vanessa. She snuggled into him. So it was he who she was saving the stool for. It made Clarke envious not to mention a little confused. She was gay wasn’t she? Not only that, but Rex had just been cuddling up to a different girl a few minutes ago. Didn’t it bother her?
‘My faith is in the one-true God, Jesus Christ,’ declared Sanders. ‘I know he exists. I know your fairies do not!’
Rex’s jerked back and stared. ‘How can you deny them? The evidence of their existence is all around us. How do you explain the fairy droppings all over the garden furniture?’
‘Birds!’ Sanders snapped. ‘What else?’
‘How can you be so sure? Can you prove it was birds?’
‘It’s just common sense! We have evidence of birds. We have no evidence of fairies.’
‘Oh, so the blatant evidence that fairies exist is not good enough for you?’
‘No! And it’s not evidence!’
‘Funny that you require evidence to believe in my fairy pals, yet you expect us to believe in your God without any evidence at all. When it comes to fairies you try to rationalize everything away so as to avoid believing they exist, but when it comes to your own God, you’re willing to see proof in every silly little thing. Nice one, Mr Flanders. You have just employed double standards in your reasoning.’
‘There’s evidence all around us! You just need to look.’
‘Obviously what you and I see as evidence are two entirely different things. Isn’t it great that we all see things from differing perspectives? I would think that any God, if he is real, would understand those who cannot possibly believe in him, no matter how hard they try.’
‘God’s wrath is on those who don’t believe in him!’
‘Sad that his ego is so delicate. Imagine if humans smote every person who refused to have belief in them? Just as well that belief isn’t about choice, I guess. Otherwise I would have to fool myself into believing in such a frightening, wrathful deity. I think I’ll settle for believing in my fairies, thanks. Oh and I’ll continue to worship this wonderful goddess here who proves her divinity to me every day.’
He turned and planted a long drawn out kiss on Vanessa’s lips. Clarke could only stare at his brazenness. Vanessa took it all in too and seemed to love it. Oh how Clarke wished that was himself kissing her.
‘Enough of that!’ Mr Sanders snapped. ‘This is not the time or the place!’
Rex paused to say one thing. ‘Just doing the will of the goddess, Reverend.’ He continued to kiss her.
After class, the students filed out for Interval. Clarke followed Vanessa, Rex and some of their other friends, hoping to have a chance to get to know Vanessa some more, even though she and Rex seemed to have something going. They arrived outside E Block. He hovered around off to the side a little, hoping that one of the girls he met earlier might notice him. Instead it was the burly Wal who noticed him first and eyed him with an evil glare.
Despite the glare, Clarke decided to head over there, realizing that if he wanted to get near Vanessa he would have to be proactive rather than standing around hoping she might come over and talk to him. ‘Hi, Vanessa.’
‘Oh, Hi, Clarke, right?’
‘Yeah, that’s me.’
‘Hey guys, meet Clarke.’
Rex turned his head and grinned. ‘We’ve already met. How’s things so far, buddy?’
‘Not bad. I liked how you handled that teacher.’
‘Yeah, old Flanders. He’s pretty easy. Just get him talking about religion, then you can lead him around in circles and get him all confused. He’s high on faith, but low on reason and common sense.’
‘So I saw.’
Clarke found it difficult to get Vanessa on her own, but after about five minutes he found an opening when Rex and a few of the others left to pick up gear for their next class.
‘Hey, Vanessa,’ Clarke stepped up to her.
‘Rex seems like a pretty cool dude.’
‘Oh, you don’t know the half of it.’ She smiled.
‘I thought you were telling me you were… you know…’
‘Yeah huh, I am, but is there any rule that says I can’t get it on with a really hot guy who turns me on?’
‘Well no, but I just thought lesbians weren’t into any guys.’
‘Well I’m not into any guy, just him.’
‘But who was that other girl he was with? The one he came to class with.’
‘Oh that was Emily Clarkson. Just one of our casual acquaintances.’
Clarke wanted to scoff at what seemed like such an under exaggeration, but didn’t dare contradict her. ‘I thought they must have been a couple or something.’
Vanessa laughed. ‘No!’
‘Strange for casual acquaintances to be so affectionate to one another.’
‘Welcome to Te Arawa College.’
‘What, is it like that with all the girls around here?’
‘You wish. Nuh uh. It’s just like that with Rex.’
‘Are you two, like… together?’
Vanessa paused for a moment, a sparkle in her eye. ‘As much as we can.’
‘I’ m confused.’
She laughed. ‘We have a… unique kind of relationship. Don’t try to understand it.’
‘Do you like… get affectionate with other people too?’
Vanessa continued to smile. ‘Yeah huh, all the time.’
She winked. ‘Anyway, gotta get my gear for the next class. What you got?’
Clarke reeled at the wink and dared believe that there might be a possibility that maybe he was in with a chance to be affectionate with her. It made him stumble with his reply, making him feel like a complete dork. ‘I… ah… um…’ He fumbled for his time table, butterflies in his stomach and struggled to break his gaze from the entrancing Vanessa. ‘Oh, can’t find it.’
‘Is that it there in between your books and pencil case?’
‘Oh, yeah!’ Clarke cringed when he saw it sticking out. He opened it up, but nearly dropped his books in the process. ‘I’ve got English with… Ms Cann.’
‘Ms Cantankerous. Same here. See you there.’ With that she joined up with Holly, Maggie and a couple of other girls and trotted away.
Clarke remained there feeling goose bumps all over him. His heart rate had gone up so high he had to allow himself to catch his breath. He couldn’t get over how incredible Vanessa was and to think that maybe she liked him and saw him as someone she might like to get affectionate with.
A huge figure stepped up beside him. At first he thought it was Wal, but it wasn’t. ‘You better not think about trying to go after her, Ubbhead!’
Clarke shuddered when he saw the hugely obese figure of Tucker standing there. Behind him were two even more intimidating guys, an athletic looking Maori with a piercing glare and a burly guy with large arms and chest.
‘I… I was just being friendly.’
‘Not with her you don’t!’
‘Because I said so, Ubbhead! She’s my girl.’
‘But… but I thought she and Rex were…’
‘Don’t you dare mention that name around me, Ubbhead! He’s just a pretender. I’m the one the goddess really loves.’
‘The goddess?’ It seemed that everyone saw her in that way. She sure was something.
Clarke wanted to ask, if he and Vanessa were a couple then why wasn’t he hanging out with her at interval, but he dared not. ‘I was just talking.’
‘No talking either. If I catch you talking to her again you’ll have me to deal with, you hear?’
‘Ok.’ Clarke backed down.
‘Good!’ Tucker snarled. ‘You better remember that for your own good.’ With that, he and his two pals marched away.
Clarke breathed easy. Despite being intimidated he had no intention of leaving the goddess alone. A girl like that was worth the risk of chasing. Of that, he was certain.
It was the following morning and Holly Robinson sat with her friends in Ms Cann’s English class still awaiting their teacher’s arrival.
‘Look at her,’ her good friend Jacqui Donaldson grumbled. She peered through narrow eyes across the class room. ‘She’s all over him, all the time.’
Holly leaned back in her chair and gazed across a few desks to where Vanessa and Rex sat, cuddled up to each other. She envied Vanessa, she really did. The worst thought was that maybe, if she had been fast enough, she may have had her chance to be where Vanessa was, long before Vanessa even came onto the scene.
‘Imagine what she’ll be like at camp next week,’ Jacqui continued. ‘It’s gonna be sickening, I can tell you. They’ll be doing more than just that too, I can see it a mile away.’ She flicked long dark hair back over her shoulders. ‘Anyway, Vanessa said she had no intention of stealing him away from us. Isn’t that what she said?’
Holly sighed. ‘Love can really mess you up. It changes everything. You can say one thing one day, but then further along the track the feelings become so powerful it can… you know… make you do something completely different… compromise your principles.’
‘You’d know all about that.’
Holly eyed her with contempt, but didn’t bite back. ‘She doesn’t keep him to herself. Not all the time.’
‘Well they’re together more and more. He always sits with her now, never anyone else. He always makes out with her. I haven’t had any alone time with him since February.’
‘Is that’s what it’s called now, huh? Alone time? He’s been spending time with Chelsea lately.’
‘Only because she’s leaving. I say she’s taking the easy way out… changing schools just so she doesn’t have to face you and Mav anymore after splitting the two of you up.’
Holly didn’t reply. It was too painful to even think about her beloved boyfriend, Rick Maverick and Chelsea Brown, who had evolved into her best friend over the last year, betraying her.
Jacqui snorted. ‘I always knew she was a loser.’
Holly did not think she was a loser, but was not about to defend her former friend’s name, especially after what had happened.
‘She doesn’t deserve Rex’s time,’ Jacqui continued. ‘After what she did.’
Maggie Matthews leaned forward over her desk behind them. ‘So Jacqui, what about that time you tried to move in on Mav? Rex is still your friend, isn’t he?’
Jacqui spun her head around and glared at Maggie. The ginger haired beauty opened her green eyes wide, a picture of innocence. She wasn’t the type to taunt someone, so Holly could only assume it was a genuine inquiry. Holly doubted Jacqui would see it that way though. ‘What are you insinuating?’
Maggie shrank back. ‘Nothing. It just seems to me that if Rex can still be friends with you after what happened, why shouldn’t he be friends with Chelsea? It’s not like Chelsea betrayed him.’
‘Oh, shut up Maggie, you don’t know what you’re talking about! You weren’t even at Te Arawa when that happened.’
Maggie’s brow furrowed. ‘Rex hangs out with people he likes.’
‘What, are you saying that he doesn’t like me?’
‘No… I just think that maybe he doesn’t want to be with you like that, because you’re not nice to people.’
‘How would you know what he wants?’
‘Because I hang out with him and Vanessa quite a bit after school and during the weekends.’
Jacqui’s face turned red and Holly could see the fury building up in her eyes. It had been a mistake on Maggie’s part to mention that fact, because Holly knew how irritated Jacqui could become when revelations such as that were made. ‘Huh! I should have known. You and Vanessa are like two peas in a pod, aren’t you? Of course Vanessa is going to want you to hang out with her. She goes for friends with absolutely no class whatsoever.’
Holly could no longer remain silent. ‘Jacqui! Vanessa is my friend too and I like hanging out with her. She’s lots of fun.’
Jacqui’s eyes nearly popped from her head. ‘Are you for real?’
‘I’ve started to… you know… get to know her over the last couple of months. She really is cool and no don’t even think about it, I am not doing anything kinky with her. She’s just a friend.’
Jacqui shook her head and breathed a deep sigh. ‘It’s sickening. She’s supposed to be a lesbian. She should be chasing after girls, not Rex.’
‘Who says she doesn’t?’
Jacqui scowled. ‘As long as it’s not me!’
Holly snickered. ‘I don’t think you have any fear of that!’
The new boy Clarke sat down at the desk next to Holly. He turned and smiled. ‘Hello again.’
‘Hi.’ Holly thought he was actually quite cute. If it wasn’t for the fact that she had only just split from Mav and was still hung up on Rex, she might actually be keen, but right now chasing guys was not something she intended to do.
‘You’re Holly right?’
‘You remembered?’ Holly couldn’t help but feel a little flattered.
‘How could I not?’ He turned his gaze over to Vanessa and Rex, watching them kiss and cuddle.
‘They’re something, huh?’ Holly asked.
‘But what though?’ Clarke asked. ‘I’m still trying to make them out, especially Vanessa.’
‘Don’t try.’ Holly giggled. ‘I’m still trying and have failed miserably. They’re an enigma.’
‘Do you get jealous of Rex?’
‘Huh?’ Holly shot him a bewildered look.
‘I mean, she’s one of your girlfriends, right? Does it bother you that he’s doing that with him?’
‘Well, kinda. I envy her sometimes. Actually quite a bit.’ She didn’t want to say all the time, which was the real truth.
‘Huh? I meant do you wish you were Rex?’
‘Why would I want to be R…?’ Suddenly it dawned on him why the conversation had become so confusing. She remembered Vanessa’s teasing earlier that morning and how she had made out that she, Holly and Maggie were into each other.
‘I thought you were… you know… gay.’
Holly burst into a fit of giggles. ‘No, silly! Vanessa and Maggie were just… you know… pulling your leg. I’m not! Sure, Vanessa is and I suspect Maggie is that way inclined too, the way she and Vanessa flirt all the time. But I’m not. I’m totally straight.’
‘Of course!’ Holly rolled her eyes. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get used to Vanessa’s sense of humour after a while.’
Clarke continued to stare in Vanessa’s direction. ‘Is she really gay?’
Holly felt like giving a sigh, but refrained. Here she was talking to a cute guy and all he could think about was Vanessa. It wouldn’t have bothered her normally, but it would have been nice if he had focused his attention on her instead of Vanessa.
She was about to tell him “yes”, but then decided just to evade the question all together. If he wanted to drool over Vanessa, she’d let him. If he wanted to make an idiot of himself trying to chase her, then why should Holly stop him? He’d soon find out he was wasting his time and maybe then he might be willing to look at someone else instead. If that someone else ended up being Holly, that was fine. If not, she didn’t care. ‘Vanessa is very hot property in this school. If you decide to… you know… go chasing after her, you’ll have a lot of competition and be aware that Rex is very very protective towards her. He just beat some guy to a bloody pulp last night in town for trying to manhandle her and right now he’s in a hospital in critical condition.’
‘What?’ He stared at her. ‘Now you’re just shitting me.’
‘I’m not! Why do you think his hand is in a cast? He broke a couple of knuckles when he pounded on that scumbag’s face. He could be up on assault charges and the police are still… you know… investigating the case.’
‘So take care, Clarke. Be careful how you go.’
For a few seconds he remained silent and stared again at the two of them making out. ‘Do you think a guy like me might have a chance?’
Holly let loose a sigh this time. ‘Who knows? You can only try, right?’
Holly didn’t bother trying to make conversation anymore; besides, Ms Cann had entered the room.
Ms Cann automatically directed her attention the Vanessa and Rex. ‘Can you two stop that now, please?’
They paused from their activity to look up at her.
‘Please? I’m asking really nicely.’
The two turned to each other and smiled. Rex turned back to her. ‘For you, Ms Cann, we’ll stop for ten minutes. How about that?’
‘I’ll hold you to that now.’
Holly couldn’t help but laugh. A couple of months earlier, she would have been on their case, but a lot had changed since then and she had started to accept them both, even though she clearly disapproved of their conduct at times. Despite that though, she was still cantankerous when it came to anyone else in the class.
Holly continued to watch Rex like a hawk. Now that she and Mav weren’t together anymore she didn’t have to feel guilty about it and he was so nice to look at too… so gorgeous… so hot.
At lunch time some of her friends played cricket. Holly wasn’t into it, but when she saw Rex helping out some of the other girls with their technique, she couldn’t resist getting involved.
He tossed her the cricket ball. ‘Holly. Great to see you on the field. Here, have a few bowls.’
‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m a really useless bowler.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you.’
‘Sweet!’ That was exactly what she wanted to hear. Any attention she could get from him would be most welcome.
‘Wal, how about moving into slips?’ Rex asked.
Wal replied, ‘Yo Rex, but won’t our wicket keeper, Mandy get a bit excited knowing that I’m right behind her?’
‘Rack off Adler!’ Mandy Evans scowled and tried not to smile.
Rex chuckled. ‘On second thoughts, better take silly point.’
‘That’s more appropriate.’ Mandy laughed.
‘Maybe we should rename it Adler Point,’ Mav joked.
‘All set, Holl?’ Rex asked.
‘Sweet, but I’m warning you, I’m bad. Really bad.’ She glanced at Mav and their eyes met. It was funny to be playing sports with him, but it didn’t feel so bad anymore. The hurt wasn’t there and he even smiled at her.
‘Don’t worry,’ Mav said. ‘Old Sheep won’t mind taking a few hits to the head.’
The blonde Rog Shepherd, or Sheep as everyone called him, grinned. ‘It’s all very well for you, mate, you’re not the one facing the ball. Come on Holly, give us your best shot.’
Under encouragement from the other players, she ran in and bowled an absolutely horrendous pitch that didn’t go anywhere near the batsman.
‘What do you call that?’ Sheep snorted.
Rex shook his head. ‘What were you doing Sheep? That was the feeblest display of batting I’ve ever seen. You didn’t even make an effort!’
‘How could I hit that?’
‘Any half decent batsman would have. You need to get yourself some skills, mate.’ He glanced back at Holly with a playful look in his eye. ‘Not bad for a warm up bowl.’ He had the ball in his hand and walked up to her. ‘Let’s try that again, but this time, hold the ball like this.’ He took her hand and got her to grasp the ball with a particular grip, placing her fingers into the right position with his own. He stood very close to her, making the other girls drool with envy. He then instructed her on how to swing her arm, guiding it in slow motion in the appropriate direction.
Holly once again glanced in Mav’s direction. He seemed amused. That was good. At least he wasn’t jealous. It meant that she could very much enjoy having Rex so close and not feel bad. This time, her throw wasn’t too bad. In fact it was quite a good one and landed just outside off stump. Sheep was able to clip it away for an easy single however.
‘Not bad, Holl, you restricted Sheep to one run.’ Rex gave her some further pointers and the next ball she bowled to the second batsman was a dot ball. No runs were scored. She continued her over without conceding any boundaries at all.
‘You’re a natural.’ Rex smiled.
My turn to bowl!’ Jacqui ran in and collected the ball. ‘Rex, can you show me how to hold the ball?’
‘Didn’t I show you last week?’
‘OK,’ Rex obliged, stepped up to her and gave her the same courtesy he had Holly.
Jacqui glanced over at Holly with a smirk on her face. Afterwards, she smiled sweetly at him. ‘Thank you.’
‘Go for it, Jacqs.’
It wasn’t a good first ball, but the batsman was able to hit it and score a couple of runs.
‘Rex, can you show me how to hold the ball again?’ Jacqui asked. ‘I just haven’t quite got the hang of it.’
‘You did pretty well. Don’t worry, just keep practicing.’
Holly couldn’t help but deliver her friend a smug smile.
The first wicket fell a few minutes later. Rex, even though he had his good hand plastered, took a brilliant catch with his other, dismissing Sheep. He invited Holly to bat.
Wal had the ball in his hand, coming up for his turn at bowling.
‘Take it easy on her, Wal. Nice slow bowls.’
Holly felt warm. It seemed that Rex was focusing the majority of his attention on her, although Vanessa wasn’t there, so perhaps it might have been different if she was.
A wild look appeared on Wal’s face. ‘There’s no such thing as slow bowls! I don’t go easy on anybody…!’ He wound up his arm as if about to hurl a baseball, but then he broke into a smile. ‘Just jokin’, Holly.’
He pitched a nice easy delivery that Holly missed completely. Luckily it missed the stumps by a country mile.
‘Here, let me help you out.’ Rex strode up to her. Holly was very happy to allow Rex to slip up behind her, reach around her from behind and guide her hands to the right positions on the bat. ‘Like this.’
Her body tingled at his touch. She felt weak for a moment and had to fight the urge to turn around and cuddle him. She no doubt could have and chances are he would have reacted positively, but she just didn’t have the guts, especially not in front of her friends and definitely not in front of Mav.
Rex remained there with her as Wal came in to bowl. He charged in like a rhino, but at the last moment lobbed the ball softly onto the pitch. With a lot of assistance from Rex, Holly was able to drive the ball through the covers.
Run!’ Rex ordered her as a fielder charged in from the boundary to get the ball. He released her and she ran as quickly as she could. The fielder was fast though and had a very good arm. He hurled the ball in the direction that Holly ran. If it wasn’t for the timely intervention of Rex, she would have been run out.
Rex intercepted the ball in mid air. It was an incredible piece of fielding, a piece that Holly only caught a glimpse of as she ran, but the results spoke for themselves. Once she reached the wicket, she found that Rex had diverted the ball to the other end and it was the other batsman who got ran out.
‘Why didn’t you go for the other end?’ Rex’s victim complained. ‘That was closer.’
‘Sorry. Must be because my left hand is out of action. Things have kind of got skewered around for me.’
A few of the players snickered. It was a cool excuse though and Rex’s victim seemed to buy it. Rex once again chose a female student to go in instead of him. Holly felt some satisfaction to see that it wasn’t Jacqui.
‘So Holly,’ Rex said to her a little later on the field. ‘What do you think of the new guy, Clarke?’
‘Oh. He’s quite nice.’
‘Quite nice? I noticed the way you were talking to him in class.’
‘Really? You seemed very busy with Vanessa.’
‘Oh, I cast a glance over occasionally. You like him?’
‘Well he is… you know… cute.’
‘Seem like your type?’
‘I’m not sure. Why?’ Then she couldn’t help adding, ‘You know who my type is.’ She delivered him a sexy smile. She couldn’t believe how brazen she was being, nevertheless, she felt she had to let him know in some way that she still had feelings for him. She had to let him know that she was now available if ever he wanted to spend time with her, like he did some of the others.
Rex studied her expression for a bit, a sparkle in his eyes. ‘Problem is you’re the type who needs a stable relationship.’
Holly paused for a moment. He was right, but still, she felt she was willing to make a few sacrifices to be with the man of her dreams. ‘Stable’s sweet, but… you know… I’m young and I’ve just broken up with Mav, so I’m not worried about stable relationships at the moment.’
She continued to gaze into his eyes, longingly, hoping he would see the desire there. She wasn’t the type to be too forward so for now that would have to do. ‘It’s just nice to be out there, single again.’
‘Yeah, I can understand that…’
‘Holy shit, is that Ben Tamati?’ Sheep asked.
All eyes diverted across the field where Sheep pointed, to a short stocky Maori who walked along the grass at the edge of the playing fields.
‘It is,’ Wal said. ‘What the hell is that dickhead doing back? I thought he was expelled.’
‘Obviously he was only suspended.’ Holly frowned. As far as she was concerned the school was better off without the likes of him. After having been an accomplice to drug dealing, they had all thought that would be the last they ever saw of him. She glanced at Rex’s face to see his reaction, as it was his investigative work that helped bring down the P dealing ring at the school. He showed no signs of surprise.
‘That’s all we need,’ Jacqui grumbled. ‘Why the hell would they let that creep back into school, Rex?’
Rex shrugged. ‘I guess they’re giving him a second chance.’
‘How many chances does a guy like him get?’
‘I don’t know. Let’s just hope he’s changed.’
‘Yeah, right. That’ll be the day.’
Rex just couldn’t resist flirting with Holly at lunch time. She was just so cute and deep down he longed to take advantage of the fact that she was now single and no longer involved with Mav. If it had been any other girl, he may have, but out of respect for Mav and because of the fact Rex knew Holly was so hooked on him, he knew he had to control himself. “Here we go again,’ he told himself, remembering having made a similar pact with himself the year before, a pact that he ultimately ended up breaking.
The appearance of Ben had definitely intrigued him though. Perhaps the school had decided that he wasn’t directly responsible for the spread of drugs, but more of an accomplice than anything. Rex wasn’t going to make an issue out of it though. There was nothing he could do and frankly he wasn’t really all that concerned and as long as Ben didn’t go back to his old ways, then Rex’s philosophy was “live and let live”.
As he headed to the final class of the day, he walked along with Vanessa, his arm around her shoulder. ‘I think I may have found the ideal candidate for our Candy Heart’s client.’
‘Oh, you mean the client who isn’t actually aware she’s our client and who wants to hook up with the co-owner of the company?’
‘The very one.’
‘You’re thinking of the new guy, Clarke, right?’
‘You got it.’
‘Yeah, I have to admit he seems like a likely candidate. Holly seems to like him, but there’s one little problem.’
‘Mmmmm,’ Rex said as they walked along the path together. ‘I think I can guess. He has his eye on you, right?’
‘Surprise, surprise. And I guess he might be one of these types of guys with tunnel vision too, right?’
‘I’m suspecting that.’
‘Well we need to set them up on some kind of a date.’
‘I was thinking the same thing, Dollbaby. Maybe we can invite them somewhere and then kind of leave them alone.’
‘I like your train of thought.’
‘I’m sure we can come up with something. Ok, here’s my turn off. Catch you next class.’
The two parted ways and Rex continued on to his next class. He stopped for a few minutes to chat with a hot senior girl next to the office block and next thing he knew there were no more students about. He checked his watch. He was five minutes late. About to move along, a female voice called from the entrance to the office block, causing him to halt and turn his head.
The voice sent a warm feeling of pleasant familiarity through him, one he had not felt in a long time and as soon as he saw the caller, he understood why. ‘Daryl!’ All he could do was stare at her in amazement. Surely he had to be seeing things? It just couldn’t be her, but there was no doubt about it; the golden hair, the big blue eyes, the clear skin and beautiful smile. ‘My God, is it really you?’
Daryl beamed. She then lunged forward, leapt upon him and clamped her arms around him. ‘I’ve missed you so much!’
She held him in her grip. All Rex could do was put his arms around her and hold her there, his eyes wide. ‘You know, I was in New Plymouth last night and I saw someone who looked a lot like you. Just for a second. I don’t believe in signs, but maybe it was one.’
She eased back and he let her drop back to the ground.
‘That was no sign. I was there in New Plymouth last night around Devon Street doing some shopping with Mum. Maybe you really did see me?’
Rex shook his head in amazement. ‘Wow, but, Daryl, what are you doing back here?’
‘I’m back, Rex. Back for good!’
Rex couldn’t help but feel a ripple of delight at the thought of that and at first he couldn’t help but smile broadly, thrilled by the news. Then reality set in and Vanessa came to mind. This was going to be complicated. Very complicated indeed. ‘Daryl, this is fantastic…’ He couldn’t think what else to say. He really didn’t want her to notice the mixed emotions he was having, so smiled some more and hugged her again, longer this time. It gave him a few seconds just to pull himself together. He drew back and spoke again, ‘You look fantastic, Darr. Even better than I last saw you.’
‘And you look so good too.’ She gazed. ‘I knew that when my mother said we were moving back to New Zealand that I just had to get her to come back here. She’s even got her old job back.’
‘Awesome.’ Rex stared into her eyes, loving the fact she was standing there in front of him, but his mind struggling with how he was going to deal with his ex-girlfriends reappearance. As much as he would have loved to have continued from where they left off, he knew that wasn’t possible, not with Vanessa in the picture. Nevertheless, this wasn’t just one of the girls, this was a girl who he had extremely strong feelings for and even though he had not seen her in many months, those feelings still remained. ‘I’m so happy to see you. So glad to see you back.’
‘I’m glad. I was worried I might freak you out.’
‘You freak me out? Not a chance!’
‘I’m amazed that Tucker Pyles didn’t tell you I was in town.’
‘Yes and I told him to keep it secret. I wanted to surprise you.’
‘Well you certainly did that!’
‘I…’ Daryl paused. ‘We have a lot of catching up to do and a lot of things I need to talk to you about.’
‘Of course. We can go somewhere now if you like.’
‘I can’t. Not now. I have Mrs Groucher waiting for me, but I’m coming to class once that’s done. I figured seeing as I was here now I’d hang around and catch up with a few old friends.’
‘What class is that?’
That probably meant she would be in Vanessa’s class. He really wanted to talk to Vanessa before she had a chance to meet Daryl, but it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.
‘Perhaps we can talk later. After school?’ Daryl asked.
Daryl hesitated. ‘It’s ok, right?’
‘Me turning up out of the blue like this, not giving you any warning. Not even writing.’
‘It’s fine,’ Rex said. ‘Besides, we haven’t been in contact. It’s not like you should have.’
‘True.’ She stared into his eyes. ‘I really have missed you Rex.’
Rex could see by the look in her eyes she really did and it worried him. If she really wanted him back, what could he do? The last thing he wanted to do was break her heart and the thought of being back with her was actually very appealing. ‘I’ve missed you too, Daryl. I really have.’ Rex had a funny feeling that things were going to become very complicated for him.
Vanessa sat in the chemistry lab as the teacher; Mrs Stanton waffled on about inert gases. About ten minutes in, the door to the classroom opened and the senior mistress, Mrs Toucher, or Mrs Groucher as most of them referred to her as, entered with a golden haired beauty at the rear.
Gasps came from all around the classroom and it took Vanessa a few seconds to realize why. The golden haired beauty was none other than Daryl Chambers, Rex’s old girlfriend. Vanessa had seen photographs of her and she had to admit she was far more beautiful in person. But what was she doing here?
‘Mrs Stanton,’ said Mrs Toucher. ‘We have a former student returning to us today. Most of the students here already know her. Daryl Chambers.’
From the bench next to Vanessa, Holly whispered loudly, ‘Ohhhh my Gohhhhd! You have got to be kidding me! What the heck is she doing back here?’
Mandy Evans sat on the other side of Vanessa. ‘Did McDreamy know she was coming back? Surely he must have known. Why didn’t he tell us?’
‘Rex never said anything to me…’ Vanessa stared.
‘Maybe he didn’t know.’ Holly gazed across the room at Daryl. All eyes were on her now and all the faces who knew her looked astounded.
Clarke, who sat in the row in front, turned his head. ‘What’s the big deal?’ he asked softly.
‘That there…’ Holly said. ‘Is the only girl apart from Vanessa who ever managed to tame Rex. Oh hell… Nessa, this has got to bother you big time!’
Vanessa didn’t know what to think. The fact was a horrible churning had started inside her gut and for the first time she really felt threatened. Vanessa knew exactly where she stood when it came to every other girl in the school, even in the region, but she had no idea where she stood when it came to Daryl. Rex had told her they were very close and how much he had come to love her when they were together. What would this mean now that Daryl was back? Would this change things between herself and Rex completely?
‘Nessa?’ Mandy touched her arm.
Vanessa came to her senses. ‘I’m ok… I know where I stand with Rex. This is no biggie. They ended their relationship.’ She tried to sound confident, but deep down she was far from confident. In fact the dread was starting to build up.
‘Well,’ Mrs Stanton said. ‘I guess there are many of you here who would love to catch up with Daryl. I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you all a ten minute break, but only just this once.
Holly leapt up from her bench. Mandy did the same. Vanessa followed, not knowing how she was going to react to Daryl. She knew one thing and that’s that she couldn’t let anyone know about her true feelings. She had to pretend that everything was fine.
Holly managed to get to Daryl before anyone else. ‘Daryl, I can’t believe you’re back!’
‘Neither can I.’ Daryl beamed.
‘Does Rex know?’
‘He does now. I just ran into him before class.’
‘Was he shocked?’ Mandy joined them.
‘Yep. I’ve never seen him looked so surprised.’ Daryl laughed.
Maggie stepped up. ‘Are you going to get back together?’
Tension cut the air. Everything went quiet. Holly stared at her horrified. Vanessa felt the horrible churning get worse. She dreaded to hear what Daryl had to say.
‘Who are you?’ Daryl asked.
‘I’m Maggie. I came here shortly after you left, but I’ve heard all about you. You and Rex used to be a couple right? You two were really hot for each other.’
Vanessa wished she could pull Maggie aside to shut her up. Holly seemed to be thinking the same thing. ‘Maggie, give the girl a break. She’s just got back here. Don’t ask such personal questions.’ She glared at her.
‘It’s ok,’ Daryl said. ‘I…’ Her eyes stopped when she noticed Vanessa there. Her eyes widened. ‘You’re Vanessa, right?’
‘Yes. You know who I am?’
‘Rex told me a lot about you. He also showed me photographs.’
Mandy snickered. ‘Seems you were the only one. Vanessa was a complete mystery to us when she turned up out of the blue at the beginning of the year.’
‘I heard you were here,’ Daryl continued. ‘Tucker Pyles told me.’
Vanessa felt her heart sink. ‘Not Rex?’
‘No,’ Daryl said. ‘But then he didn’t get the chance. We’re going to meet up after school to talk. I guess he will say something then.’
Vanessa tried to tell herself that was ok. They needed to talk, there was no doubts about that, but it worried her just what that talk might involve.
‘You’re ok with that, right?’ Daryl stared at Vanessa.
‘Of course.’ Vanessa smiled. ‘Shouldn’t I be?’
‘Well you two were pretty close once.’
‘We still are…’ She paused to see the faces of the girls around her and remembered the times she had told them that she had no intentions of keeping Rex to herself. She still had to stand by those words and all though she didn’t want to say it in front of Daryl, she felt the others around her might be expecting her to endorse that policy. She had to show them that she was not threatened by Daryl and that she still had complete faith in her relationship with Rex. ‘But Rex can see anyone he likes. It isn’t and never has been my intention to keep him to myself.’ She forced a smile.
‘Really? Well I guess what Tucker told me was true. Go figure.’
Vanessa felt like questioning her some more on what Tucker had told her, but once again wanted to avoid looking like a suspicious girlfriend.
The other girls bombarded Daryl with more questions, wanting to know what she had been doing and how long she would be staying. Vanessa remained there quietly, taking it all in. Daryl was indeed incredibly gorgeous, her type too, but she didn’t really feel like making friends with her. In fact she wished this was all some kind of joke and that Daryl was only visiting and just pretending to be back permanently. That, she could handle. But having Daryl around Rex every day? She didn’t know whether she could handle that.
When the next class came, Rex did not show. Daryl was not in class either, so it made Vanessa wonder whether the two had gone away together somewhere. It bugged her all through class and she just couldn’t concentrate.
The end of the day came and she headed home alone. She considered trying to ring Rex on her cell phone but figured it best that she wait for him to ring her. The last thing she wanted was to have Rex think she was checking up on him. She headed down a quiet side street, on the stretch for home, but was intercepted by someone who stepped out from a hedgerow.
‘Hello, Vanessa!’ The voice of the girl in front of her was caustic and a scowl was on her face. Vanessa came to a halt and gasped. The girl was none other than her bitter and twisted half sister, Nadia, who she had met for the first time only a month earlier
‘Nadia! What are you doing here?’
‘I’ve come to see you.’
‘Look, I can see you’re still pissed. I’m happy to talk to you, but only if you’re going to be civil.’
‘Civil? Why should I be civil to you after what you did to me?’
‘I didn’t do anything to you. What you did, you did to yourself.’
‘You ruined my life!’ Nadia snapped. ‘You realize I’m having to see a shrink? My God, you made me just like you, a screwed up head case who needs psychiatric treatment! You’re the one who’s messed up, not me!’
‘I never went around trying to accuse people of rape!’
Nadia’s blue eyes narrowed. ‘He deserved it! Rex damn well deserved it.’
‘Why? Because he saw you for what you are, a conniving, manipulative bitch?’
Nadia lunged out at Vanessa, but Nessa side stepped, grabbed her arm, yanked her around and shoved her away. It was a self defence move Rex had taught her. ‘Give it up, Nadia! What you got, you deserved. None of that was Rex’s fault and none of it was mine. I accepted you as my sister and I even let you spend time with Rex, but that wasn’t good enough for you, was it? You wanted him all to yourself.’
‘You don’t deserve him. You never have!’
‘Because he’s not right for you!’
‘Why, because I’m gay?’
Nadia glared at her.
‘Oh, that’s it, isn’t it? You think that because I’m gay I have no right to a guy like Rex. Well nuh ah, sorry, Nadia, him and I were destined to be together.’
‘Whatever! That’s just wishful thinking.’
‘No it isn’t. We met each other as small kids. Even then, we clicked. Then we moved to separate towns. Ten years later we met each other again. You think that was coincidence?’
‘Of course it was bloody coincidence! You’re living in a fantasy world, Vanessa!’
‘Give it a rest. Anyway, what the hell do you want? Do you just want to have a go at me? You shouldn’t even be here. You’re just making things worse for yourself. I’m going bye.’ She began to walk.
‘Don’t just walk away from me!’ Nadia stormed after her and attempted to grab her arm. Once again, Vanessa grabbed her, spun her around and shoved her away. This time her sister stumbled and fell to the ground. Vanessa continued to walk, but cast a glance back to see Nadia in tears. She came to a halt and turned. Nadia stared back at her, tears streaming from her eyes.
Vanessa’s heart softened. She knew Nadia had not had the best of lives. She had never known their father till recently and it seemed her mother didn’t care too much about her. She never had the things that Vanessa had. Most of all, she didn’t have the guy Vanessa had. That alone was enough reason to take pity on anyone. Vanessa had everything so good.
She trotted back to where Nadia still sat and crouched down.
Nadia continued to stare at her, tears still rolling down her face. ‘You got everything, Vanessa. A loving mother, opportunities, intelligence, a wonderful boyfriend… Look at me. I got nothing and now my life is screw up… a total abortion.’
‘No, Nadia, it’s not. It’s just a setback, that’s all. You’ll get through this.’
‘What? Like you got through your problems?’ She sniffed.
Vanessa continued to stare at her. She did have a point. Vanessa had never gotten over Rex after he’d gone from her life a few years earlier. And if she ever lost him again, she’d probably never get over him then either. ‘But you are smart, Nadia. You’re beautiful too and you’ll find a great guy. Opportunities will come your way, you just need to be patient. Don’t let this bring you down. You’re getting the help you need and you’ll get through it. Be positive.’
‘It’s easy for you. You exude positivity. Everyone loves you and thinks you’re wonderful.’
‘Come on, you know I have my flaws.’
‘But it doesn’t matter, does it? Because your strengths more than make up for them.’
‘Nadia, you can’t keep comparing yourself to me. For a start, we both have different mothers.’
‘I wish I had your mother.’
‘I’m sorry, but that can’t be.’
‘It could be. If you let me be your sister again. Your mother could be my mother. We could be a family.’
‘That wouldn’t work.’
Nadia’s eyes narrowed again. ‘Why? Because you think I might try to steal your precious boyfriend again?’
Vanessa rose to her feet realising that there was nothing she could do for her bitter half-sister. ‘I’m going…’
‘No, please! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.’
Vanessa hesitated, but then crouched back down again. ‘I’m sorry that things have been tough for you. But the things you did… what you tried to do… I’m not just going to forget about that. Please, Nadia. Go back home… you can get home, right?’
Nadia didn’t reply.
‘I’m going to assume you can. That you have transportation. Or that you can ring someone. But please, don’t come around her again.’ She rose again to her feet, took one last glance at Nadia and walked away and this time she did not look back.
Tucker stepped outside of the New Plymouth police station, feeling very smug indeed. ‘If Rex isn’t arrested now, then there’s something seriously wrong with the justice system in New Zealand,’ he muttered to himself and laughed.
‘Tucker! Hurry up will you? What took you so long? Always mucking around, that’s your trouble! You’re too fond of mucking around!’
Tucker glanced over to see his mother sticking her head out of the car window where she sat parked just outside the station.
‘Come on then! I haven’t got all evening, I’ve got stuff on TV I want to watch!’
Tucker smirked and in his mind said, ‘Yeah, all the kids TV shows.’
His grossly overweight mother growled at him again as he climbed into the front passenger seat, ‘What did you need to go in there for anyway? I hope you weren’t reporting your lunch being stolen again.’
‘I haven’t done that since I was ten, Mum.’
‘The police have better things to do then go hunting for your stolen lunches. You’re getting too fond of wasting police time, besides I doubt your lunch would ever get stolen. You guard it like it’s the crown jewels and you’d eat it before anyone had the chance to.’
Tucker didn’t want to tell her the real reason he had been there, so he decided to make something up. ‘I was just checking on my application to join the Vice Squad.’
‘What?’ His mother’s eyes protruded from her head.
‘Well, I figured instead of going and doing some boring cleaning job, I could help fight crime. Like Batman or someone like that. What do you think?’
‘I think you’re a delusional, idiot, that’s what I think!’ her mother snapped and gunned the car engine. ‘As if the police would want a brain-dead moron like you working for them. You’d be about as useful as a glob of spit in a fire fight. The only superhero you could ever be is, Fatman, but the last thing anyone would want to see is you running around the streets in a pair of tights.’
Tucker didn’t say anymore about it. He just hoped she wouldn’t probe for more details.
His mother drove the car out onto the road and cut off another car in the process. ‘Besides, you’d most likely be on the job a week and then get the boot! I don’t know what the matter is with you, you just can’t hold down a job. You were only at that darn restaurant for three nights and you got the sack. I’m running out of places I can send you to work.’
He held back a groan. He’d already had to endure a long winded ear bashing the night before and had received several lashings from a leather belt across his legs and backside. The last thing he needed was further aggravation. ‘Well, you don’t have to send me to work.’
‘Of course I darn well have to send you to work! This family needs to supplement its income. What would you expect? That I should have to work?’
Tucker really wanted to remind her that she was his mother and that it was her and his dad’s job to ensure their children’s needs were met, but he didn’t dare. Not if he didn’t want a head-ringing clout to the ear and several more lashings with a leather belt once he got home.
‘You’re just too darn lazy, that’s your problem. You’re too fond of being lazy! I don’t know, I got you a good job at a great restaurant and you blew that. I just hope you won’t screw things up at Pizza King, although I should think that with your desire to dress up in dorky costumes and wander the streets, it should be right up your alley.’
Tucker cringed. The thought of the job his mother had lined up to him now, was just too much to bear. As if he hadn’t suffered enough humiliation in recent times. ‘I don’t want to do it, Mum.’
‘Well you will if you know what’s good for you! You’ll do this damn job and you’ll enjoy it. You’ll be darn well grateful that you’ve got it, you hear? Your problem is you’re not grateful enough. You’re getting too darn fond of being ungrateful.’
‘What if someone I know recognizes me?’
‘Tough! It will serve you right for getting fired at the restaurant. You could do with some humiliation once and a while. Obviously you don’t get enough of it. You’re too darn big for your boots you are, thinking that somehow you’ve got what it takes to be on the Vice Squad and go around driving bat mobiles.’
He dreaded the thought of his school friends seeing him dressed up as a mascot, carrying around a billboard advertising pizza. It would greatly damage the reputation he had around school as a tough guy. He paled even more at the thought of someone like the goddess seeing him. ‘But what if… what if…?’
‘What if what? Some girl you’re lusting after see’s you? Like the one you have photographs of all over you walls in the bedroom? What’s her name again?’
‘Yes, Vanessa. As if she’d ever take any notice of a fat gormless halfwit like you. A girl of her calibre is going to go after someone with a bit of class. Someone who’s smart, good looking and athletic like that Rex Cassidy boy you worship!’
‘I don’t worship that ubbhead!’
‘I’m always telling you, you should be more like him.’
Tucker felt anger build up inside him. He hated it when his mother said things like that. It was the worst possible insult he could ever receive, but he bit his lip, knowing she would unleash her wrath even more if he retaliated.
‘Now that would be a pairing made in Heaven,’ she continued. ‘Vanessa and Rex. I could see them making a great couple.’
‘No, way!’ Tucker growled, almost at bursting point. ‘He doesn’t deserve her!’
‘Oh and I suppose you do, do you? You really think she’s gonna want a one-ton loser who can’t hold down a job? Think again, sunshine.’
‘Rex doesn’t work. He’s a freeloading bum.’
‘Yeah, much like you were before I sent you to work! In fact going by the little money you bring into the house, you still are a freeloading bum.’
‘If it wasn’t for his rich parents, he’d be a loser.’
‘Oh, you’re just jealous. Jealous that you don’t have wealthy parents like him, although if it wasn’t for all the food you scoff down, we might actually be wealthy. Huh! I’ve seen that boy and I know how talented and smart he is. You can bet that when he eventually leaves home he’ll make his own money. I guarantee it. Unlike you, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to. You’ll eat away your fortune, if you ever did make one!’
Tucker clenched his fists. ‘I’ll be rich, you just wait and see, but I’m not gonna get rich dressing up as a chicken and going around advertising ubbing pizza!’
His mother shot him a glare. ‘Hey, you better watch your mouth, Tucker! You better not get cheeky with me. You’re getting too fond of being cheeky and don’t think I won’t stop this car right now and give you a thrashing, because I will! If you want to make it big in this world, you have to start from the bottom and you have to prove yourself.’
‘Yeah, yeah,’ Tucker said softly. He figured one couldn’t get any lower than dressing up as a chicken and dancing around the streets.
The only thoughts that stopped Tucker from being completely miserable that afternoon was knowing that soon Rex would be locked up away from civilized society. He couldn’t wait to get to school in the morning and have the whole school under his thumb again. No more Rex meant he would be the top dog again. Then the girls would soon be his; both the goddess and the Golden Haired Fox. He really looked forward to the school camp now. It would be the golden opportunity to really impress the girls.
His mother took him into Pizza King where he met his new boss. He wouldn’t be Tucker’s boss for long, of that Tucker was certain. Once Tucker did a terrible job at being the company mascot, he’d be out on his ear and his mother would have to find him a new job. Perhaps this time, she might just give up. He hoped so anyway.
He climbed into a huge chicken costume, one that his boss Cedrick claimed he was the perfect size to fit into. Cedrick then put a sandwich board over his costume with that evenings prices of Pizza, including a special deal on their hot and spicy Chicken Supreme Pizza.
‘Perfect,’ Cedrick said in a slightly effeminate voice. ‘You look wonderful.’
‘Oh, God,’ Tucker thought to himself. Thoughts of Fabian from the Candy Hearts Restaurant came to mind. Was he destined to have to deal with people like this everywhere he went?
‘Get out there, Tucker. Bring in the customers. I’ll be checking on you. Make sure you do the little chicken dance I taught you. I want to see some poultry in motion!’
Tucker cringed from underneath his chicken head. What a stupid little dance it was. A little swagger to the left, a shake of the booty and a wiggle of the arms, then a swagger to the right and the same thing again. Then a little nodding of the head, as if pecking at bird seed. Oh the humiliation. At least he was inside a suit.
Once outside he glanced back at the restaurant to see Cedrick watching him. His boss motioned with his arms as if to tell him to dance, so he began to do the “poultry in motion” chicken dance. Cars drove by, with smiley and laughing faces peering out the windows. Tucker only intended on doing it while Cedrick was looking. After that he intended on having a little fun.
Once he saw that Cedrick had gone back inside, he began to do the finger at cars as they drove past. He bent over at some others as they came, sticking his butt out at them.
‘Hey, look! It’s a funny chicken!’ A little girl walking with her mother pointed to him.
‘Sod off, ubbhead!’ snarled Tucker.
The girl shrunk back, while the mother stared at him in horror.
‘Yeah, get over it, I’m an angry chicken. What do you expect? They’re killing my family members in there and serving them up on bloody pizza!’
The woman and her child quickened their pace and hurried away.
Tucker chuckled to himself. He walked along the path and came across a rubbish bin. He rummaged through it, looking for some paper he could write on.
A young man walking by, stopped and paused to look at him with an amused look on his face. ‘Is that where people dump their pizza once they realize how bad it is?’
Tucker peered up at the man. ‘No, it’s where we get our ingredients for our pizza.’
‘Ah, ok.’ The man chuckled and walked on.
He found some cardboard and wrote something on it with a marker pen he had brought with him. He also had some cellotape and taped it to the front of his sandwich board. He wandered over to the glass window of a building labelled, “Tanner’s Modelling Agency” and could see his reflection in the window. He smiled. On the front of his board, it read:
Our Pizza is total crap.
He chuckled to himself and turned back to the road. He was just in time to see a Mitsubishi Lancer pull into a parking spot. The doors opened and two women stepped out. Tucker nearly died. It was Vanessa and her mother.
Of all the days they had to be in the city, it had to be the day Tucker was out dressed in a ridiculous chicken suit. Then again, he should have expected she might turn up there as he had learnt she was working for Tanners. At least she wouldn’t be able to recognize him, especially if he disguised his voice.
‘Hmmmm,’ Vanessa said as she studied Tucker in his suit and the sign taped to his front. ‘I guess it’s a good thing, I don’t eat junk food.’
At first Tucker wasn’t quite sure what to say. Nevertheless, he had to say something. He couldn’t just let the goddess walk on. He deepened his voice. ‘Hey, Babe, do you work for the agency?’
‘Ah… I’m sorry,’ she said in her pleasant tone. ‘But I don’t respond to the name “Babe”, not when it comes to guys and definitely not when it comes to giant chickens. But yes, I do work at the agency.’
‘I’m thinking of applying there myself for some work.’
‘Mmmmm, well you might not have much luck. I don’t believe they hire giant chickens. A chicken in a swimsuit just doesn’t cut it really and their skin tends to have a little too many… feathers on them.’
Vanessa’s mother laughed, but said nothing and just stood there with an amused smile on her face.
‘Well, I don’t normally wear this chicken costume. In fact I’m really quite studly underneath this suit.’
‘I’d have to say that anyone who would refer to themselves as “studly” and sometimes wears a chicken suit probably would be more suited to a job at Disney Land than at a modelling agency. Wouldn’t you say, Mum?’
‘I’d have to agree with you on that one, darling.’
‘In fact the use of the word “studly” leads me to believe that you are more likely to be a big huge fat guy who’s afraid to show his face in public.’
‘Hey, it’s not fat, it’s muscle!’ Tucker declared.
‘Would that be the hard rippling type of muscle or the flabby soft type?’
‘The flab… I mean the hard rippling type!
Vanessa smiled. ‘Oh, well I can see why you’ve taken on the job of dancing chicken for Pizza King then. Of course they’re gonna employ a muscular stud like yourself for such a job.’
‘They wouldn’t bother employing some out of shape, idiot who can’t get a job anywhere else, would they?’
‘You’re talents are truly wasted in that chicken suit. Why don’t you march back into that restaurant right now and tell your boss you quit? Go on, you can do it!’
‘Yeah! Yeah, you’re right, I can!’ Tucker could feel a surge of adrenalin pump through his body. ‘I’ll tell that ubbhead where to shove his job!’
‘Yeah, that’s the spirit.’ Vanessa laughed. Her face turned serious. ‘Tucker, is that you in that suit?’
Tucker flinched. ‘No. Who the hell is Tucker?’
‘Oh please, Tucker, it’s quite obvious it’s you.
‘UuBBAA! How did you know?’ Tucker spoke in his normal voice again. How she had worked out it was him, he had no idea. He thought he’d put on a really good act. He was just glad she couldn’t see his face, because he couldn’t look her in the eye and was sure it was a red as a beetroot.
‘Well, when you say things like “ubbhead” and “it’s not fat, it’s muscle”, it kind of gives away the game. I thought you were working at the Te Arawa Tavern?’
‘I got fired. That was weeks ago.’
‘Your fall from grace is horrendous!’
‘Tell me about it!’
‘And I didn’t think you could fall much further. Oh well, I’d wish you good luck with this job, but if this is your idea of good advertising, I don’t think you’re gonna last long in it.’
‘Please yourself.’ She turned and headed towards the modelling agency doors.
Tucker considered going and telling Cedrick to shove his job, just as the goddess had suggested, but knew that wouldn’t cut it with his mother.
No sooner had Vanessa and her mother disappeared through the doors to Tanners, than another familiar voice made him jump.
‘That was Vanessa Dante, wasn’t it?’
Tucker swung around and faced a man who stood on the path behind him. It was Mr Sanders.
‘Ah… um… yeah.’
‘She works for that place?’ Mr Sanders peered towards the doorway of the agency.
‘Yeah. She’s a model.’
‘Of course she is. How could she not be? A girl like her.’ He continued to gaze.
‘She’s doing a swimsuit photo shoot.’ Tucker had no idea whether that was true or not, but he wanted to sound as though he was good friends with her.
Sanders eyebrows rose for a few seconds and he continued to stare at the agency. Then his face broke into a frown and he shook his head. ‘How inappropriate. A 16 year old girl.’
‘Sixteen, Seventeen. What difference does that make? I think it’s appalling that her mother would allow her to do something like that at her age.’
‘She looks fantastic in a swimsuit.’
‘That’s beside the point. It’s immoral. God would not be pleased.’
Tucker felt like saying, “You mean, you’re not pleased and because you’re not pleased, that means you think God’s not pleased”. But he didn’t. He was far too unpopular with the teachers at school so he didn’t want to make yet another one dislike him. ‘Yeah… it’s wrong. Girls should stay covered up, not go around wearing sexy clothes and swimsuits.’ He snickered quietly to himself.
‘That’s right!’ Sanders’ eyes turned back to Tucker. ‘I must say, it’s good to know that some of our youth have decent morals.’
‘Oh, I have really strong morals,’ Tucker bragged. ‘Nudity is sinful. I don’t even take my clothes off when I have a shower.’
Sanders mouth curled up at the side. ‘Really?’
‘Yes. I don’t know, kids at school are all a bunch of Philistines. Te Arawa College desperately needs God.’
‘That’s for sure… hey, wait, you go to Te Arawa College?’
Tucker flinched. He hadn’t intended to give away his identity, but once again it seemed he had slipped up. ‘Ummm… yeah…’ He decided he might as well come clean. ‘I’m Tucker Pyles.’
‘Tucker? What, you believe in God?’
‘I’m a good Christian boy.’
‘Wow, I never took you for a Christian. I thought you were always getting into trouble.’
‘That’s because I’m always trying to tell people about Jesus. They don’t like that there, especially the teachers, so they always put me on detention, but they make up lies, like saying I bully other kids.’
Sanders scowled. ‘That would be typical of those Satan loving heathens. I’m appalled at the godlessness of many of the teachers there, especially that brute, Dave Harris.’
‘Uuuurrrrrbbarrrrrr!’ Tucker pictured his PE teacher in his head. ‘He’s nothing but an ubbhead. He tries to make my life a misery.’
‘I think he enjoys making people’s lives a misery. He has no respect for me or God. The blasphemy that comes out of his mouth sometimes… Mark my words, young Tucker, his day will come. One day he’ll be standing before the lord almighty to give an account of his life. God will tell him he never knew him and have him cast into the pits of Hell for all eternity!’ A smile broke out on Mr Sander’s face. ‘I’ll look forward to being there, looking down and saying “I told you so.”’
The thought of Mr Harris writhing in agony in never ending flames did have some appeal to Tucker, but he also couldn’t help but wonder what sort of a Christian Mr Sanders must be to get pleasure out of another man being tortured for all eternity. Tucker however continued to play along with his charade. ‘Everybody should be listening to what you tell them, Mr Flanders… I mean Sanders. If they did, then Te Arawa College would be a much better place.’
‘Of course it would be!’ Sanders paused and then smiled. ‘I like the cut of your jib, Tucker. It’s nice to know that there’s at least one student in that God forsaken school who has respect for God and his teachers. You know, Tucker you and I might be able to make some positive changes if we work together. All it takes is for one of two people to get the ball rolling and positive changes can be brought about.’
Tucker didn’t like the idea of working for a teacher, but if there was to be some benefit in it for him, maybe it would be worthwhile. Even with Rex out of the picture there would still be a lot of people against him, stopping him from regaining the power he so rightfully deserved. A teacher as an ally might aid in that process. ‘Hey, you and me could lead everyone to Christ!’
‘That’s right! I need someone like yourself who can identify with the teenagers of today, someone who can influence them and what we need to do is clean up this school… set people on the right path. I think one way we can do that is deal with any sin we come across.’
‘What, by punching a few heads in?’
Sanders laughed. ‘Well maybe if that’s what God wants and he often utilises the more violent approach when dealing with humans, but no, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. What we need to do is stamp out all negative behaviour, but that’s difficult for me, because when I’m around they are more likely to behave. I need someone who can blend in and report any immoral and ungodly behaviour that might be going on. I need eyes and ears in the school. Do you think you could be my… and God’s… eyes and ears?’
Tucker paused for a few seconds. He wasn’t beyond reporting people to get them into trouble and there were definitely many schoolmates who deserved it. It was a great chance to get revenge for all the humiliation that had been thrust upon him over the last year and a half. ‘Yeah! I can do that.’
‘Great!’ Sanders smiled. ‘It seems that we will be able to work together on this. We will do God’s work in Te Arawa College. What do you think?’
‘I think we have a ministry!’
Rex didn’t get to see Daryl again until after dinner that evening. She called him about half an hour after he got home from school and asked him to come around to her place. Rex arrived there expecting that her mother would be around, but she wasn’t.
‘Come in,’ Daryl said softly, her eyes wide. It reminded him of the first time he’d set foot inside her house. It had been the night of the Te Arawa Bachelor Auction. Daryl had bid a huge amount of money to get to go with Rex to the formal dinner afterwards. Her mother had gone out for the night and Daryl had been afraid to be at home on her own, so Rex had stayed with her. Back then there were valid reasons for her anxiety, but this time, he figured she should have been completely relaxed with him. They had been alone together many times since that first night.
Seconds later they sat on the couch and for a few moments it seemed exactly like that time a year earlier. They were completely alone with no adults around keeping an eye on them. The anticipation of the unknown had been alive and once again Rex felt it. What did Daryl have to say to him? What would she want from him? Could he even give her what she wanted? That was the main difference last time. There had been nothing tying him down and he had been free to do whatever he wanted. Not this time, though. This time he had Vanessa to consider.
Daryl spoke, her voice a little shaky. ‘You know, Rex. Ever since I left Te Arawa, there hasn’t been a day gone by where I haven’t thought about you…’
Rex stared into her wide blue eyes. What did he say to that? For weeks after she left he had not been able to shake her from his mind. It took a while before he had been able to move on and let her slip from his mind, not that he had ever forgotten about her. There were still times when he wondered how she was, but he’d come to accept she was no longer in his life and didn’t spend any time wondering how different things would have been if she had stayed around. He was not one for living in the past.
He decided to say nothing, but let her continue talking. ‘When Mum said we were moving back to New Zealand, I just knew we had to return here, but you know, I was terrified. Still am. Scared that maybe you wouldn’t feel the same way about me anymore. That you had someone new or that you wouldn’t want to even see me again. You can be brutally honest with me, Rex. Was it a mistake me coming back like this?’
Rex paused for a few seconds, wondering what he could say. ‘It’s not a mistake…’ he finally said. ‘You’ve got to follow your heart, right? I understand about that, believe me I do.’ He thought about Vanessa and how if she hadn’t followed her heart, she would not be back in his life. ‘It’s fantastic to see you again, Darr. It really is…’
‘But?’ Daryl said. ‘I know there’s a “but” coming, I can feel it. I’ve made things complicated for you, haven’t I?’
Rex smiled. ‘Kind of, but in a good way.’
‘It’s Vanessa, isn’t it?’
‘You met her?’
‘Yes. Only briefly. She seems lovely. I guess when I found out she was here, it threw me. I guess I hoped we could continue from where we left off, although it was probably more of a fantasy than anything. The chances of you not being snapped up by someone in the last year seemed pretty remote, but I had to try. Is it serious between you and Vanessa?’
Rex wasn’t sure how to answer that one. His immediate thought was “yes”, it was, but just how seriously could anyone take that when he openly shared his affections so liberally amongst his other female friends. His words would seem dishonest. ‘We have a… unique… relationship.’
‘So I gathered… from what she said, anyway. What does that really mean though? You can see other girls, right? It’s an open relationship?’
‘Yes. You could say that.’
‘So it’s ok then, you and me being here together like this?’
Rex nodded. Vanessa expected such a meeting. In fact when he had finally caught up with her earlier that afternoon, he had told her he would be meeting Daryl that night. He still had his reservations though, about just how appropriate it was, especially considering the feelings he still felt for Daryl.
Daryl studied him for a few seconds before speaking again, ‘You don’t seem so sure. Are you sure you want to be here right now?’
‘I do want to be here, no doubts about that. You’re right here in front of me and I still can hardly believe it and those old feelings are starting to return.’
She smiled. ‘I was hoping to hear that.’
Rex still struggled trying to sort out his mind. A huge tug of war raged inside. Part of him wanted to continue from where they left off, but the other part demanded loyalty towards Vanessa.
‘So…’ Daryl shuffled a little closer to him on the couch. She placed her hand on his. ‘It’s been way too long. I really want to be with you again… like before…’ She moved her mouth closer to his.
The allure was just so strong. It couldn’t hurt to give her what she wanted right now. After all, if it had been anyone else, he wouldn’t have hesitated. Their lips met and they began to kiss. Rex could feel his willpower evaporate…
After school, Holly went over to Jacqui’s place and spent a couple of hours on the farm. Jacqui’s father dropped her back off in town and she headed home on foot. It was close to dinner time and starting to get dark. A brown-skinned individual crossed the road and walked in her direction. She recognized him immediately as Ben Tamati.
The last thing she wanted to do was have anything to do with him, so attempted to cross the road before they intercepted. Ben called to her before she could. ‘Hey, Holly!’
Her first instinct was to quicken her pace and get as far from him as possible, but she didn’t want him to think she was scared of him.
‘What do you want?’ she asked in a firm voice, delivering him a frown.
‘Maaaan, why so hostile? Just wanted to say hi.’
‘Mess with me, Ben and you’ll have Rex to deal with!’
‘Oh yeah, Mr Hero, Rex Cassidy. That’s everyone’s answer to everything isn’t it? Bring in Rex to deal with your problems.’
‘So you admit, you are a problem then?’ She said it seriously, but as soon as she did, she realized it could be taken as a humorous comment.
‘I just want people to give me a break, that’s all. I’m not some kind of criminal, you know.’
‘Oh sure. That’s why the police didn’t arrest you and that’s why you weren’t suspended from school for a month.’
‘I never sold any drugs myself. I never did.’
‘You might as well have.’
‘Anyway, that’s over now. I don’t do that sort of stuff anymore. I’m a changed man.’
‘Can’t a guy get a second chance?’
‘You’ve had so many chances, even a Las Vegas casino wouldn’t want you around. Nobody trusts you, Ben. I sure don’t and I don’t want to talk to you either. Goodbye.’
She stepped around Ben and continued to walk.
‘Ah, come on, Holly!’ Ben appealed.
She ignored him. She turned her head only briefly to see him stare down the street at her. At least he wasn’t trying to harass her further. At the end of the street, she turned one last time. Ben was still in the same place, but talking to someone. She strained her eyes and could see that the man Ben was speaking to was a large individual in gang colours. A Wild Dog.
She snickered to herself. ‘So much for being a changed man.’
Before the trouble Ben had gotten into, he was a member of the gang too. From what Holly understood, part of his probationary period was to stay well away from the Wild Dogs, so she couldn’t help but be curious about what they were discussing.
Deciding that she had to listen in, she slipped around behind a doctor’s surgery and along the back of some other places of business until she got within a few meters of the two. She could just hear what they were saying.
‘Man, I can’t do that stuff no more,’ she heard Ben say. ‘I’m on probation, bro.’
The gang member muttered something that Holly couldn’t quite make out.
‘Yeah, I’m still down with the Dogs, bro, of course I am, I just have to keep my nose clean, that’s all.’
The gangster spoke again and Ben replied. ‘Yeah, ok, bro, I’ll do it, but I’ve gotta be careful… Yeah, you can call me there… Sure.’ Ben nodded at the gang member and then strode off down the street. The gang member strolled across the road to a parked car.
‘What the hell are you looking at?’
A male voice made Holly leap and she nearly uttered a scream. Spinning around she saw another Wild Dog, a tall skinny, greasy looking guy with dreadlocks.
‘N… nothing!’ she gasped.
‘You were listening in on those guys.’
‘No… I…’ She desperately sought an excuse. ‘I was just hiding from them. They freaked me out.’ She backed out from her hiding place and stared at the gang member.
The Dog’s eyes narrowed. ‘You sure about that?’
‘Yes!’ A thought came to her mind, a way to hopefully scare the guy away. ‘Rex Cassidy is my friend! You do anything to me and you’ll have him to deal with!’ She knew the reputation Rex had with the Wild Dogs. Not only had Rex beaten up their leader, Hone, he had also formed a truce with him and Hone had agreed that none of his men would cause Rex anymore trouble.
The Dog’s eyes returned to normal and his entire demeanour turned from frosty to cool. ‘Hey… alright. I believe you.’ He backed away himself.
Holly hurried out onto the footpath and trotted as quickly as she could back down the road. She turned back regularly to see whether she was being followed. She noticed the gang member walk over to the car, where the guy who had spoken to Ben awaited him. Feeling relieved, Holly continued on home.
On arrival she went to her room to relax for a little, still feeling a little shaken by what she had experienced. She needed to talk to someone about what she had heard. She also wondered whether there was reason to be concerned about the conversation she had overheard. What was Ben up to? Was he still helping out drug dealers?
Rex was the one to speak to. He would know what to do. He always did. It would also give her an excuse to talk to him. She picked up the cell phone, but paused. No, a phone call wasn’t enough. She wanted to see him face to face, spend some time with him alone and even be held by him. What if she was to go to him, all shaken up and scared, he’d surely comfort her. It wouldn’t be an act either, because she really did feel like some comforting. What if the gang member spoke to the other gang member about her? What if they spoke to Ben? She shuddered at the thought. Yes, she definitely needed to speak to Rex face to face. He would surely understand her wanting to see him. If things went from there to something more intimate, then it would be truly worthwhile.
Before she got a chance to make the call her mother called her in for dinner. It wasn’t until an hour later that she got back to her room. She picked up her cell phone, but paused. What if he was with someone now? Vanessa was out on a modelling shoot, but there was still Daryl and they might now even be together catching up. An even more horrible thought came to mind and that was just how far would they go when it came to catching up? Holly didn’t want to think about it.
A little voice spoke inside her head. ‘You’ll just be a pain if you ring him. He doesn’t want to be with you. He wants to be with one of them.’
‘No,’ she said aloud. ‘He cares about me. He thinks I’m hot. He’d love to be alone with me.’
The little voice replied. ‘It’s Daryl, Holly. You can’t possibly compete with Daryl. Even Vanessa may have trouble competing with Daryl. You don’t stand a chance and you’re nothing compared to those two. Besides, he won’t do anything with you, not as long as he and Mav are friends. You’re Mav’s ex, remember?’
In her mind she tried to justify herself. ‘I’ll just go see him to tell him about, Ben.’
The little voice stopped arguing.
She dialled the phone.
‘Hey, Holl, how’s it going?’
His voice made her heart leap. It often did when she hadn’t heard it for a few hours. ‘I’m a little freaked out actually.’
‘I had a brush with a Wild Dog.’
‘Drokk, are you alright?’
‘I’m ok. Just really freaked. Ben Tamati was there too and I think he’s back in the gang or at least… you know… involved with them.’
‘Wow. We better talk. I want to make sure you’re ok, but I can’t right at this moment. I’ll come over there in about two hours.’
‘Can I… can I come to your place? I… I just don’t want to talk with my parents around and they won’t be happy if you’re up in my bedroom.’ It was a valid excuse, but also one that would get her alone with Rex without interruptions. She knew his parents and how liberal they were. They would never disturb him when he had a guest in his bedroom.’
‘If Wild Dogs are around I don’t know if you should be walking over to my place at night.’
‘It’s not far. I’ll be ok.’
‘I can come and pick you up.’
‘Ok, Holl. I’ll be there around 8:30 pm, ok?’
She breathed easy as she hung up. She closed her eyes and leaned back on her bed. Butterflies went wild in her stomach. The thought of being alone with Rex in his bedroom was something she had only ever dreamed about over the last year. The last time she had been there was at his fifteenth birthday party. If it could be as good as it had been then, she would be very happy indeed.
She had to do some fast-talking to be allowed out to Rex’s. Her parents had always been resistant to her friendship with him due to the fact she had fallen pregnant to him as a result of the incident at the party. Holly assured him that Rex’s parents were there at home and that she was just going over there to hang out for a bit. She also lied, saying that Vanessa would be there too. ‘We’re doing a group assignment for Biology. I promise I won’t be there too late.’
Rex arrived just when he said her would and drove up in his Lamborghini Estoque. She loved it so much and it was great to finally get to be in the car with him alone.
‘If you like, we can drive somewhere quiet,’ Rex suggested.
‘No!’ That was the last thing she wanted. Making out in a car like his was appealing, but she wanted a more comfortable environment. ‘My parents are expecting me to be at your place working on a Biology assignment with you and Vanessa. If I go out driving and they find out I’ll be dead meat.’ It disappointed her a little that Rex suggested going for a drive. It indicated that he was not interested in getting her alone in his room. It made her even more nervous about being in his room with him. What if she made an idiot of herself and he rejected her?
‘Have you spoken to Daryl?’ she asked as they drove around the block to his place.
‘I’ve just been at her place.’
Holly’s heart sank. She couldn’t help but feel that she had dragged him away from a place he wanted to be and that she was causing him an inconvenience. ‘I’m sorry. I guess I… you know… interrupted something.’
Rex smiled. ‘We spent some good time together. I couldn’t stay there too long anyway. What’s more important is to know that you’re ok.’ He drove the car into the driveway of the huge Cassidy house. It warmed Holly’s heart to hear him say those words. ‘You are ok, right?’
‘Yes. I’m fine. I’ll tell you what happened once we get inside.’
Five minutes later they sat in the lounge suite of his huge bedroom. Just where she wanted to be. She moved in close to him, but not too close. She didn’t want to appear too forward. She thought about her encounter with Ben and the Wild Dogs and shivered. She’d wanted the shiver to come and it came easily when she thought about the face of the gang member who had confronted her. The shiver had the desired affect and Rex put his arm around her. ‘What happened, Holl?’
She briefly told him of her meeting with Ben and then spying on him afterwards.
‘He freaked me out, that guy,’ she told him. ‘I thought he was going to hit me.’ She snuggled into him even more and shivered again. In some ways she felt so fake, like she was playing him, but her emotions were genuine too. She needed him to hold her, to comfort her.
Rex drew her closer and his eyes gazed into hers. ‘It’s ok, Holl. If that guy was worried you heard anything important he wouldn’t have let you just walk away.’
‘I mentioned you that’s why. They’re scared of you.’
‘More like they’re scared of Hone, their gang leader. Hone’s a reasonable guy and he doesn’t like drugs. It could be that Ben may be falling back into old habits.’
‘I’m going to have to look into it.’
She gazed into his eyes, longingly. She wanted him to know she wanted him and that she wanted him right then and there, but how did she do so without throwing herself at him?
Rex spoke softly. ‘Perhaps I should take you home.’
‘No. I don’t want to go home.’
Rex didn’t reply. His eyes remained locked on hers.
She continued, ‘I get a funny feeling that between Daryl and Vanessa you may not have time for anyone else. You know what I’m saying?’
Rex nodded. ‘I know what you’re saying, Holl, but I don’t know. I keep thinking about you and Mav.’
Holly looked him right in the eyes. ‘Rex, it’s over between me and Mav, you know that.’
Rex sighed. ‘I know. But what about this Clarke guy. You like him, right?’
‘I don’t even know the guy. Anyway, he’s not the guy I want.’ She paused for a moment, not breaking her gaze. ‘This may be my only chance. Can we go back in time just for a bit? To your fifteenth birthday party?’ She moved her lips closer to his and pushed her body into him.
Their lips met. Rex’s grip tightened on her and they began to kiss each other slowly. Gradually the kisses became more passionate. Rex’s hands ran up and down her back and one hand slipped down to her side and around to her breasts.
A loud knock came at the door.
Holly flinched. Just when the magic moment was about to arrive, it was to be cut short.
A knock came again. Rex’s mother’s voice could just be heard. ‘Rex! You need to come downstairs please.’
Rex groaned. He called out, ‘Can’t it wait?’
‘No, Rex. You’re needed downstairs right away. It’s very important!’
Rex sighed and peered sadly at Holly. ‘Sorry, hun. I guess it must be important.’
Holly’s heart sunk and she had to force herself to let go of him as he rose to his feet. He walked over to the door and opened it.
‘It’s the police.’ His mother said from the door, her face pale and eyes troubled. ‘They’re here for you. They’re saying they have a warrant for your arrest.’
Clarke arrived at the Tanner’s Modelling Agency along with his older sister, Monica and their mother. He had been excited about checking out the place after having heard a week earlier that Monica had gained a modelling contract with them. He hoped that he might meet some hot models around his age as apparently there would be a few there tonight, shooting a commercial for a department store fashion catalogue.
He was shocked and delighted when he saw Vanessa standing there talking to a group of guys. In fact it seemed too good to be true and if he was a believer in God, he might even have seen it as a divine encounter.
Vanessa didn’t notice him there as there were a lot of people around. She looked stunning as usual and he just couldn’t shake his gaze from her. He moved in closer, to find out what she was saying.
‘Really?’ Vanessa said in an unimpressed tone. ‘Very impressive.’
‘Yeah,’ one of the male models said. ’50 Grand for just a couple of hours work. And they want me back for some more next week.’
‘That’s nothing,’ said one of the other’s. ‘I’ve been asked to fly to London, where I’ll be on a job that’s gonna get me close to a one hundred K.’ He grinned at Vanessa.
‘Wow,’ said Vanessa cheerfully. ‘I guess you must be at the top of your game, huh? You’re the guy that all the woman love and all the gay men lust after.’
‘Ah yeah…’ the model said, hesitantly.
‘Good for you. So which one of these guys is your boyfriend?’
‘I don’t have a boyfriend!’
‘Really? Oh sorry about that, my mistake.’
Clarke snickered, but the model didn’t seem to realize he was being heckled. ‘In fact, I’m single and available. How about you and I go out on Friday night? I know this really cool restaurant down the end of Barton Street. A classy chick like you would just love it.’
‘You must be talking about Candy Hearts.’
‘That’s the one. A really classy venue.’
‘Yeah, I know, I go there all the time.’
‘ Cool. Hey, I can pick you up in my ?? ??. Every been for a drive in one of them?’
‘No,’ Vanessa said pleasantly, ‘I prefer my boyfriend’s Lamborghini.’
A few of the other guys whistled. Clarke tried not to laugh at the shocked look on the guy’s face. ‘A Lamborghini?’
‘Yeah huh,’ Vanessa said casually. ‘I should show you some photographs he took of me and one my girlfriends making out on the bonnet.’
Clarke could almost see the green on the guys faces around Vanessa. He couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she handled them.
‘Damn, you have a boyfriend,’ said one of them.
‘Should have known, said another. ‘But hey, you’re a model, right? You can have any guy you like. You can dump the rich boy and go for a real man.’
‘A real man? Mmmmm. I tell you what. You guys know the gang called the Wild Dogs?’
‘Whoa, don’t tell me he’s in that gang!’
Vanessa laughed. ‘No, not at all. But I’ll make you a deal. If any of you can go take on the leader of that gang, Hone, in a fistfight, then I’ll agree that you are a real man and go out with you. How about it?’
The others murmured in agreement and snickered.
‘Oh…’ Vanessa said in a disappointed voice. ‘Well I guess I can’t blame you, after all, it would be suicide. I’ll guess I’ll stick with my really rich and hot boyfriend, the one who actually kicked Hone’s butt in a fistfight. What do you say?’
The guys immediately went quiet. Clarke chuckled at the wide-eyed looks from the guys. Even though he laughed, he had to wonder whether Vanessa was playing them. Could Rex really have beaten up a gang leader? No doubt he was very athletic, but somehow he doubted it was true.
Vanessa turned her head and noticed Clarke. ‘Excuse me guys. Someone I know over there.’
She walked over and sighed. ‘Finally an excuse to get away from those jerks. Now I know you’re not gonna hit on me. At least I hope not!’
‘I won’t,’ Clarke grinned. Although in a way he was disappointed, because he was hoping she might like it if he hit on her.
‘Great. I’m sooo sick of guys who think they’re God’s gift and want to get me into the sack. I guess that’s one of the negative things about working with male models. At least the ones who are straight, which is actually the minority of them, it seems. Anyway, what are you doing here?’
‘My sister’s one of the models.’
‘Ooh la la! I’ll have to meet her.’
‘Yeah, you can soon, but she’s straight.’
Clarke grinned. ‘So is it true? Did Rex really beat up that gang leader?’
‘Yeah huh! At his sixteenth birthday party earlier in the year. The Wild Dogs gate crashed it.’
‘Wow! Was anyone… apart from the gang leader, hurt?’
‘Well I capped one of them.’
‘A little self defence move Rex taught me. Pretty much crippled the guy. From what I hear he now has a permanent limp.’
‘Niiiiice. I would have loved to have seen that.’
‘Actually it was all pretty scary.’
‘I can imagine. Hey, I like the way you handled those guys. You sure put them in their place and were so sweet in the process. You never once said anything mean.’
‘Best not to make enemies. I already have enough of those.’
‘Really? I thought everyone loved you?’
She laughed. ‘Nuh uh. Far from it. There are a lot of girls at school who don’t like me at all.’
‘They see me as a threat.’
‘A threat? What kind of threat? You’re so nice.’
‘Thanks, but when Rex is around, I tend to get a lot of his attention and that can bring a lot of bitterness my way.’
‘But you’ve got plenty of friends.’
‘Yeah huh, but some are more like uneasy alliances.’
‘Hey, seeing as you’re here now, I want to know something. You know my friend, Holly?’
‘The short one?’
‘What do you think of her?’
‘Well, she’s pretty hot.’
‘Ah nothing. Just wondered that’s all. Oh oh, time to go. Work.’
Throughout the evening, Clarke watched from the sides, mesmerised by Vanessa. There were other gorgeous girls there as well, including his sister, but none of them compared to the goddess. Even the director seemed to think she had something special because he always put her in the front of every shot. It was almost as if the other girls and guys were simply background scenery.
‘Man, she is such a babe…’ He sighed. ‘Please, God, tell me I have a chance with her.’
He had to remain positive. If she could fall in love with one guy, then chances are she could fall in love with another. So far, she seemed to like him and even preferred to talk to him over the hunky models she worked with, so that had to count for something.
He stayed around to talk to Vanessa some more after the shoot and introduced her sister to her, but it wasn’t for long, because both mothers wanted to get home. At least he would see her at school tomorrow and then after that came the school camp. He was really looking forward to that.
The following day on his way to school Clarke stopped by the supermarket and picked up a single rose wrapped in fancy paper. Even as he bought it, his stomach churned and he didn’t think he’d have the guts to give it to Vanessa, but he knew he had to.
As he carried the rose through the school gates, he got some funny looks. Tucker Pyles strode up to him as he entered and he flinched. He had already heard about Tucker and what he was like and hoped desperately he wouldn’t give him flack about the rose.
‘Who the hell is that for?’ Tucker growled.
Clarke dared not tell him the truth after the warning he had received from him the day before. ‘Ah… for one of the teachers.’
‘Ummmm, Ms Bailey.’
Tucker paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. ‘Yeah, she is kind of ubbery.’
‘Ubbery! Are you deaf? Anyway, what are you doing wasting my time? Ubb off!’
Clarke hurried away and breathed a sigh of relief.
He arrived at the E Block locker blocks and saw Vanessa sitting with some of her friends outside under the trees. She looked troubled. Clarke wondered what could be the problem and debated putting the rose aside for later, however he really wanted to give it to her while Rex was not around and he worried that if he didn’t get it over and done with, he might not have the guts to later. Besides, if something was wrong, a red rose would hopefully be just the thing she needed to cheer her up.
His legs felt weak and his chest tight, but he made his way across the compound towards her. He nearly turned and walked back when he saw Wal arrive on the scene. The guy scared the bejesus out of him, however it was too late to go back as Wal spotted him, as did a couple of the girls with Vanessa.
Clarke greeted them all with a shaky voice. ‘H… hi!’
‘What do you want?’ Wal scowled.
Vanessa’s eyes were red. So she had been crying. But why? She was so happy and full of life the previous evening. He wanted to ask why, but all eyes were on the rose in his hand.
He extended the rose out to her. ‘I… I wanted to give you this, Vanessa.’
All eyes widened, except for Vanessa who blinked a few times, her eyes transfixed on the rose. A few uncomfortable seconds ticked by and she blinked again and reached out to take it. ‘Thank you, Clarke. That’s so sweet.’ She delivered him a weak smile. It disappointed him slightly because he had hoped for a bigger smile than that.
‘Is everything ok?’ he asked.
‘Everything’s fine!’ Wal snapped. ‘Why don’t you just leave her alone?’
‘Wal, it’s ok,’ Vanessa said. She peered down. ‘Rex was arrested last night.’
Clarke reeled. ‘Why?’
‘For assaulting the guy who attacked me. He’s been locked up overnight. Mr and Mrs Cassidy are posting bail. He’s in serious trouble.’
‘The guy regained consciousness last night. He made claims that he was just walking in the park and Rex saw him, recognised him and attacked him. What’s worse is that apparently someone else witnessed the fight. Whoever it is completely lied about what happened and backed up his story. They say Rex deliberately went out of his way to assault him, but that’s not true. The guy attacked me and he was just coming to my rescue.’
‘Oh God. But surely you put them straight, right?’
‘Yes, I did. But they think I may be trying to protect Rex.’
‘Was there any other witnesses?’
‘Only a guy from the restaurant, but he didn’t see it from the beginning. Only while Rex was fighting the guy.’
Vanessa rose to her feet. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t be here while he’s still locked up. I’m gonna go.’
‘I’ll walk you home,’ one of the girls said.
‘It’s ok. I’m gonna go to the police station.’
She strode off towards the locker block.
‘Wow,’ one of the girls said. ‘Poor old Rex. All he did was try to protect her.’
Another replied, ‘Problem is, when it comes to Vanessa, he tends to go overboard.’
The girls rose to their feet and walked away too, leaving Clarke standing there with Wal who delivered him a cold stare. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing, giving Vanessa a rose?’
‘I like her, that’s all.’
‘She’s got a boyfriend and he happens to be my friend!’
‘But… but he’s sees other girls.’
Wal’s evil glare sent a shiver down his spine. ‘It doesn’t matter! Nobody makes the moves on Vanessa.’
‘I didn’t do any harm.’
‘Harm?’ Wal snickered. ‘You want to know about harm? Do you know what Rex does, even if another guy looks at Vanessa funny?’
Clarke froze. ‘No.’
Wal laughed haughtily. ‘You complete and utter dork. Do you know how over protective he is of her? You heard what they were talking about before. You heard what Rex did to that creep that attacked Vanessa.’
‘Yeah, but he attacked her. I’m not attacking her, I just gave her a rose, that’s all!’
‘You don’t seem to get it, do you? Rex is gonna eat you alive when he finds out about this. If I were you, I’d better pray that he doesn’t. Actually, no, even prayer isn’t going to work, because I’m gonna tell him about this and you can bet the other girls will too. AND Vanessa, because she tells him everything.’
Clarke shuddered. ‘You’re pulling my leg, right?’
‘I don’t pull legs, I tear them off! You’re dead meat, pal, that’s all there is to it. Start praying he might spare you and that you too won’t end up in a coma like that guy in the hospital!’
On arrival at the police station Vanessa found that Rex had just been granted bail and was about to go home with his parents. She leapt into his arms and hugged him fiercely. ‘I can’t believe what’s happened! I only just found out when I got to school this morning and received a call from your mother. How can they arrest you when you were only protecting me?’
‘Well according to some anonymous tip off, I attacked him first.’
‘Who would lie like that?’
‘I don’t know. But it’s put me into a real shit of a mood. Although, now that you’re here…’ His eyes softened as he gazed into her eyes.
‘Is it possible it might have been Nadia?’
‘I thought she was back in Auckland.’
‘She was here in Te Arawa yesterday afternoon. I ran into her on the street. She is truly messed up. What if she’s started stalking us and actually saw what happened outside the restaurant?’
‘I guess it’s possible.’
Vanessa sighed deeply. ‘Why are there always people trying to make things difficult for us?’
‘I don’t know. Nothing can ever be simple.’
‘What happens now?’
‘The police continue with investigations. We wait.’
‘Do you get to go back to school?’
‘What about the camp?’
‘That, I have to negotiate still. A lot will depend on the school itself and what they say. There are teachers there who will be looking for any excuse they can to stop me from going.’
‘Well, they have to let you go. Your parents are subsidising that camp.’
‘Hopefully Mr Luxton will see it that way. He’s a reasonable man.’
‘Are you going back to school today?’
‘Can I come home with you for a bit?’
‘Of course. I want you to.’ He smiled.
Back at the Cassidy house they went up to Rex’s room and sat down together on his couch. She cuddled up to him, still feeling great pain over what had happened. She wondered whether Nadia was involved, but tried not to think about that.
‘How did the shoot go?’ Rex asked.
‘It went fine. Clarke was there. His sister is a model and boy, she is hot.’
‘You’ll have to introduce me.’ Rex smiled cheekily.
‘We’ll see.’ She smiled back in a similar manner. ‘He also gave me a rose at school this morning.’
Rex’s eyebrow rose. ‘He did?’
‘Poor guy. I think he’s really sweet on me.’
‘He’s in for a real let down if he continues on that route. When will guys realise, that no one can possibly live up to your standards.’ She ran her hand over his cheek and gazed into his magnetic blue eyes. She leant forward and kissed him gently on the lips, then pulled back and smiled at him.
‘He’s not harassing you, is he?’
‘No, not at all, he’s very sweet. He’s just living in a dream world that’s all. He’ll realise soon enough he’s wasting his time.’
‘Well you just let me know if he gets too pushy.’
‘It’s ok, Dollbaby, I can handle him, besides, I don’t want you getting into any more trouble than you already are. Anyway, speaking of admirers, did you catch up with Daryl?’ She was dreading asking that question, but the curiosity was just too much for her.
‘Yes, I went over to her place and we talked. Well we did a little more than talk…’
‘It’s ok, you don’t need to elaborate.’
‘You don’t want all the details?’
Vanessa forced a smile. She hoped it didn’t look forced. On this occasion she didn’t really want to know just how far things went. ‘There’s only one thing I need to know… and that’s if things between us are going to change.’
‘Why would you think anything would change?’
‘Well… I know you two had a thing going last year. You told me how serious it was.’
Rex ran his hand through her hair gently. ‘That was in the past. I’m with you now.’
‘Does she realise that?’
‘Sure she does.’
Vanessa tried desperately not to sound insecure, but it was difficult on this occasion. ‘So why would she stay around then? She wants you back, that much is obvious. Is she willing to share you?’
‘Nessa. I know this is difficult for you and it’s not easy for me either. I have to tread carefully here. I can’t just tell her to get lost, not after what we had, but at the same time I am well aware how difficult this must be for you too. I just need a little time, that’s all. Time to think how I’m going to deal with this.’
Vanessa didn’t know how to take that. Did it mean that her and Rex’s relationship was in jeopardy? She didn’t want to probe any further though. The last thing she wanted to do was put pressure on him and make him choose. There was probably nothing to worry about anyway. She knew where she stood with Rex. She knew how solid they were… didn’t she?
She forced another smile and stared into his eyes, fighting back the niggling doubts. ‘I know we’re fine. We always are. We’re made for each other, right?’
‘Of course,’ Rex said softly. ‘You know we are…’
The two of them made out for a bit and then spent some time playing a video game together, but a short while later a knock came at the door.
‘Yep?’ Rex called out.
‘Another visitor, Rex. It’s Daryl.’
Vanessa tensed up. She wanted to ask what Daryl was doing here, but realised that she must have heard the news and had come along to find out whether Rex was ok. She felt some annoyance at the thought that Daryl felt it was her role to play the concerned girlfriend.
‘Come on in,’ called out Rex.
As the door to the room opened Vanessa closed her eyes just for a few seconds to regain her composure. She couldn’t let on that Daryl’s appearance bothered her.
‘Oh, Hi!’ Daryl stared at Vanessa who still sat there with a game control in her hand. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.’
‘It’s ok.’ Vanessa smiled. ‘We were just hanging out.’ She couldn’t help but add something though. ‘But if you’d come half an hour later, well then, that would have been embarrassing.’ She winked at Rex.
‘Oh!’ Daryl’s eyes widened.
‘Take a seat,’ Rex invited her to sit on the other side of him.
‘I was shocked to hear the news,’ Daryl said. ‘And to think I was there shortly before that whole incident occurred.’ She gazed sadly at him.
‘Well, we’ll sort it out. The person who spoke to the police was lying through their teeth.’
‘But how will you prove that your side of the story is true?’
‘I guess we just have to trust the police in this case.’
Vanessa felt uncomfortable with Daryl sitting there. She noticed just how close she sat beside Rex, her leg right up against his. The last thing she wanted to appear was jealous, but it was difficult not to exhibit the signals. ‘Don’t worry about it Daryl. We’ve dealt with situations like this before.’
‘Yeah huh. There’s always someone trying to screw Rex over. I’m not gonna let that happen.’
Daryl smiled. ‘Rex is lucky to have someone who cares so much about him.’
‘I care about him very much.’ She spoke gently, not wanting to sound like she was being protective of him. ‘He’s everything to me.’
Daryl didn’t reply. She simply gazed at Vanessa, thoughtfully. Vanessa would have loved to have known what was going on in her head. Did she believe they were so serious? Perhaps not. Perhaps she was devising a plan to get Vanessa out of the picture.
No. She had to stop thinking like that. Daryl was a sweet girl. She was not that sort of a person. At least from what Rex had told her about Daryl, she wasn’t, but then again, Rex had only known her for a few months.
Another knock came at the door. Rex sighed. ‘Yes?’ he called out.
‘You have another guest downstairs.’
‘Lilla Williams, Rod’s sister. You should come down.’
‘Lilla?’ Rex said. ‘Didn’t expect her to show up. I better go down and talk to her. I’ll leave you two up here, ok? Give you a chance to talk without me around.’ He smiled and left the room.
For a few minutes neither girls said a word. It was a really awkward silence. Finally though, Vanessa managed to muster some words. ‘Daryl… what are your intentions with Rex?’
Daryl sat there silently for a few seconds and then finally spoke. ‘I want him back, Vanessa.’
Vanessa expected to hear something like that, so it wasn’t a shock. ‘He’s with me now.’
‘You and everyone else,’ Daryl said. ‘Isn’t that true?’
‘I share him, yes, but he’s my guy, Daryl, everyone knows that.’
‘It’s meant to be. Me and him.’
‘I believed the same thing last year and then things changed, but fortunately things have changed again so now I can believe that again.’
Vanessa did her best to hide her frustration. She wanted to lash out and let Daryl have it, but the last thing she wanted was a cat fight, especially not in Rex’s bedroom. It would also show a weakness on her part, telling him that she didn’t trust him when it came to Daryl. ‘You’re gonna try and steal him from me?’
Daryl sighed. ‘I’m not trying to steal him from anyone. I’m just trying to continue from where we left off. We never wanted to break up. Circumstances split us up.’
‘That was the same with me and Rex four years ago. Circumstances.’
‘Those were quite extreme circumstances. I know about them, Vanessa and I know what you put Rex through. You should never have come back into his life. All you’re going to do is cause him pain.’
‘No. I will never do anything to hurt him. Never again.’
‘I never did anything to hurt him at all,’ Daryl said. ‘There’s no chance of me having a mental breakdown. No way at all.’
‘Nice to have such reassurance of your own future.’ Vanessa’s blood began to boil. It was becoming increasingly difficult to withhold her emotions.
‘I’m sorry, Vanessa. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but I know what’s right for me and what’s right for me is having Rex in my life and I don’t share. I couldn’t do that. I don’t know how you can, but it tells me that you don’t love him as much as you should.’
Vanessa’s words became strained now. ‘Why would you say that?’
‘Come on! Even you want to see other people. Granted, you want to see other girls, but that speaks volumes. You don’t want to give everyone else up for him and likewise, he doesn’t want to give everyone else up for you. I would give up everyone else for him and he’d do the same for me, just like he did when we were together last year.’
‘Rex would give other girls up in an instance if I wanted him to! And no one else matters to me but him. You just don’t understand the situation. I want him to have that freedom, because I love him so much. If you love someone, you can’t keep them a prisoner.’
‘So you’re saying that if Rex was to be with you and only you, it would be like being in a prison?’
‘No!’ Vanessa snapped. ‘That’s not it at all!’
‘Geeeee, calm down! Seems like you really do have some issues when it comes to your emotions.’
Vanessa glared at her through narrow eyes. It seemed as if she might be deliberately trying to rile her up and get her so angry that she snapped and make it look to Rex as though she had instigated a fight.
‘I’m sorry,’ Daryl said. ‘I know this is hard for you, but I have to do what’s right for me and what’s right for me is Rex and I’m not willing to share him with you. I guess we’ll just leave it up to him to see who he wants more.’
‘Yeah huh. We will. I know Rex well. I’ve known him way longer than you and I know what he wants.’
‘Oh really? Well perhaps it might not be what you think?’
‘I doubt that.’ Although she felt no confidence in her words. When she looked at the gorgeous face of Daryl, she couldn’t help but feel worried. Daryl was perhaps the most beautiful, desirable girl Vanessa had ever come across. Would Rex feel the same way?
The door to the room opened and Rex re-entered. Daryl broke into a smile. ‘We missed you, Rexy.’
‘I was only gone a few minutes.’ He grinned.
‘A few minutes is way too long,’ Vanessa added, with a huge smile of her own. ‘So what did Lilla have to say?’
‘She’s worried about me. She knows her brother and the sort of games he likes to play. She wants to help in any way she can.’
‘Has she been to see Rod in hospital?’ Daryl asked.
‘No. She won’t have anything to do with him. Refused to have anything to do with him after he got into trouble. She won’t even visit him in the hospital.’
‘Good for her.’
‘Anyway, seeing as you’re both here, how about we head out and get some lunch.’
‘Cool, we get to go in the Lamborghini?’ Daryl asked.
‘Of course. Let’s drive into New Plymouth.’
‘I’m for that,’ Vanessa said. Although she didn’t know how she would control her emotions with Daryl coming along for the ride. She didn’t think she could handle seeing her flirt with him, or worse sharing in his affections. Vanessa had a funny feeling it was going to be a difficult afternoon.
It took Vanessa a huge amount of willpower to continue to remain her sweet and accommodating self throughout the afternoon, even more difficult than it had been with Nadia only a few weeks earlier. The three of them visited a few locations, including a walk along one of their favourite beaches. Both girls cuddled up with him whenever they had the opportunity. What annoyed Vanessa most was that Daryl seemed to be only too happy to share Rex with her. She never once gave her an evil glare or tried to take Rex off on her own. If she had, then it would have looked like the situation with Nadia. It seemed to Vanessa that Daryl’s tactics were going to be a lot less obvious, but no doubt just as insidious.
At school the following day, Vanessa and her friends had to deal with swarms of students bombarding Rex with questions. Vanessa took the opportunity to head to the lockers with Holly and get their gear for the first class of the day. They ran into Clarke in the locker block whose face lit up when he saw them.
‘Hi, you two. Hey, Vanessa, did you put that rose in water?’
‘What rose?’ Holly asked.
‘The one I gave her.’
‘The rose is fine,’ Vanessa said, noticing the glazed look on Holly’s face. She decided to take the opportunity to try to push Clarke’s attention onto her. ‘Thanks again, but you know who really loves roses is Holly here. She just melts when a guy gives her roses, right, Holl?’
‘Well, that all depends on who gives it to me.’ Holly laughed. ‘If it was someone like Rex or Ginge, then hell yeah, sweet, but if it was someone like Ben Tamati or Tucker Pyles, then I’ll give it a wide berth thanks.’
‘What about Clarke here. Would you mind if he gave you a rose?’
Holly glanced at him. ‘I’d probably wonder what he was up to!’ She laughed.
Just then Ben Tamati arrived on the scene and his eyes immediately turned to Holly. ‘Hey, Holly!’ He made his way over to her.
Holly’s eyes widened.
‘What were you doing spying on me last night?’
‘I wasn’t spying.’
‘Yes you were, my buddy caught you. You were spying!’
‘I was just wondering what you were up to that’s all.’
‘Hey!’ Vanessa interceded. ‘What’s this all about? Were you up to something, Ben?’
‘Then what’s the problem? Unless you were up to something illegal, then what’s the big deal?’
‘I don’t like being spied on,’ snarled Ben.
‘Well then.’ She smiled. ‘Stop acting suspicious then.’
Ben glared at her. ‘Why don’t you just stay out of this, bitch?’
‘Hey!’ Clarke stepped forward. ‘Don’t you dare call her that!’
‘What’s it to you, punk?’ Ben grabbed him and delivered a stiff blow to his gut, sending him doubling over with a grunt and crashing back onto the floor.
‘Stop it Ben!’ Vanessa grabbed his arm. Ben swung around knocking her shoulder with his arm and sent her stumbling back into the lockers. Suddenly from the entrance to the locker block charged Rex. He reached Ben and sent a furious blow to his face. In a rage he leapt forward and sent a bevy of powerful punches to Ben’s body, sending him staggering back and crashing into the wall. He even used his plastered hand, seemingly oblivious to the fact it was injured. Rex grabbed him and pinned him to the wall, his eyes ablaze.
‘Nobody touches Vanessa!’ He snarled and went to strike him one more time, but Vanessa interceded yet again and grabbed his arm.
‘No, Rex, no! It’s ok, it’s ok!’
For a moment Rex’s plastered fist remained poised, fury still in his eyes. Ben panted and stared at him, his eyes wide with horror. Rex turned his eyes to Vanessa.
Vanessa spoke in her most soothing voice, ‘You’ll injure him. You don’t want a repeat of what happened with Rod.’
Rex’s eyes softened. He blinked, turned back to Ben and then released him. He turned back to Vanessa. ‘I’m sorry. It’s just that he hit you. I saw it.’
‘I know, but I really don’t think he meant to hit me like that. It was a reflex action.’
Ben stumbled out of the locker block and in seconds was gone. Clarke still sat on the floor of the locker block, his face pale and his eyes transfixed on Rex.
Rex completely ignored him. He touched the side of Vanessa’s face, a concerned expression on his own. ‘Are you sure he didn’t hurt you?’
‘It’s ok, Dollbaby. It really is. No harm done’
The bell rang and seemed to kick Rex to his senses. ‘Ok. Well we better get to class.’ He winced suddenly and held his plastered hand.
‘Oh no,’ Vanessa took his arm. ‘You’ve aggravated the injury.’
Rex smiled painfully. ‘I’ll be ok.’
‘Are you sure.’
‘Yeah. No problems. I’ll see you second period, ok?’
‘Yeah huh.’ Despite her concerns for his well being, she delivered him a huge smile. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too.’
He departed, leaving her standing there beside Clarke who finally climbed to his feet. ‘Wow…’ he said. ‘He certainly has a temper, does Rex.’
‘No! No, he doesn’t. He’s the most gentlest, kindest guy. He rarely ever gets angry ever. But he just snaps when….’ She sighed.
‘When you’re threatened?’
‘He must really care about you.’
Someone stepped up from behind her and came to a halt. It was Daryl. She must have come from the entrance at the opposite end. ‘Doesn’t that worry you, Vanessa?’ she asked. ‘Him going off like that? I’ve never seen him that enraged.’
Vanessa didn’t reply. She’d always loved seeing Rex’s shows of brute strength against creeps like Ben and Rod, but now that he was in trouble with the police it worried her.
‘You see, Vanessa. That’s why you and he together is a problem. As long as you’re with him, this is gonna happen, isn’t it?’
Vanessa peered at her and realised that on this occasion, Daryl did have a point, but Vanessa wasn’t going to let on that she did. ‘What are you suggesting? That I just let him go? Let you have him?’
‘It’s just something to think about, isn’t it? Maybe you and he aren’t such a good match as you like to think?’
With that, she departed.
Rex felt like all the troubles in the world had come down upon him at the same time. He could understand Rod trying to bale himself out of trouble by lying about Rex, but when someone else was behind the scenes trying to work against him, it frustrated him no end. But who could it be? The only obvious answer in Rex’s mind was it was one of Rod’s Wild Dog friends. Either that or it was indeed Nadia as Vanessa had suggested.
Then of course he had to deal with the return of Daryl. He had to admit, his feelings for her were strong and he couldn’t just turn her away. He needed more time to figure out what he wanted to do there. For now it seemed Daryl and Vanessa were able to co-exist, but he knew it was unfair on both of them to leave them hanging. He knew he had to sort that issue out soon.
He sat quietly in his first class of the day – Computer Studies. Tomorrow was camp day, which meant he would be unable to do nothing to clear his name for an entire week, if he actually did get to go to camp. If he was going to do some investigating, he needed to do it now. If he were to just walk out of school though, it would do no good as far as the school and the authorities were concerned. Still, he couldn’t just sit around doing nothing.
Daryl moved her chair closer to him. ‘You ok?’
‘Not really. I need to get out of here.’
‘Then let’s go. I’ll come with you.’
Rex sighed. ‘Maybe, but I need to talk to Vanessa first.’
‘She’ll be fine. She trusts you right?’
‘Yeah, but it’s where I need to go that is the problem. It’s a place I can’t just walk into and know that I’m gonna walk out of in one piece.’
Daryl’s eyes widened. ‘You’re kidding right? What are you planning?’
‘I want to visit the Wild Dog’s gang headquarters.
Daryl’s face paled. ‘No way, that would be suicide!’
‘I need to talk to their leader, Hone.’
‘No, that’s stupid. You can’t go in there. Not on your own, especially not with your injured hand. Why don’t you just leave it for the police to deal with?’
Rex shook his head. ‘I’m not one for just leaving things up to the police. I learnt not to rely on them when I had to rescue you from your father that time.’ He thought back to how Daryl’s father had come hunting her down, wanting to take her from her mother. How he had abducted her and taken her into the bushes. Rex had relied on the police that time and it had resulted in Daryl’s father escaping, along with his prisoner. The second time Rex had gone after him he didn’t make that same mistake and as a result was able to rescue her.
Daryl frowned. ‘There is another person who might have witnessed the fight.’
Rex stared at her. ‘Who?’
‘He was there that evening.’
Rex widened his eyes. ‘Drokk, why didn’t you say so?’
‘I just never thought even he would stoop that low.’
‘He would! But… but there’s only one problem. His word is not exactly considered the most reliable by the police. He’s tried similar stuff to this before and has been exposed as a fraud. I find it hard to believe they’d take him seriously at all.’
‘Then talk to Tucker.’
‘No. I have a better idea. I have a friend who works for the New Plymouth CID. He won’t tell me who the informant is, but he may tell me who it isn’t. Let’s go.’
The teacher was busy giving one-on-one tutoring to another student, so the two of them slipped out the door of the classroom. They made a beeline for the back of the classroom block where Rex whipped out his cell phone from his jacket pocket. In seconds he had his friend, Detective Sergeant Don Gilford on the phone.
‘Hey Gil, its Rex Cassidy here.’
‘Rex, no, no, no, I can’t talk to you about your case. You know I can’t.’
‘I just need to know one thing, Gil.’
‘I can’t tell you anything. I’ll lose my job.’
‘I have to know, did Tucker Pyles make accusations about me? Was he the informant?’
A pause came from the other end before Gil spoke again. ‘Why would you say him?’
‘He was there around the time the fight happened.’
Gil sighed. ‘Look, Rex. I didn’t tell you this, ok? But yes, Tucker did report the fight, but none of what he said was taken seriously. His ridiculous account was pretty much cast aside as soon as he handed the darn thing in.’
‘Yes.’ Gil laughed. ‘He was going on about how you tried to run down the guy in your Lambohini and how you pulled a gun on him and threatened to blast his brains out. Then apparently you decided that shooting him was too easy and wanted to beat him to death instead. So apparently you starting doing all these fancy wrestling moves, including pile driving his head onto the concrete footpath.’
‘Ahha.’ Rex couldn’t help but smile, drawing a look of surprise from Daryl’s face. ‘That sounds like something Tucker would come up with. Ok, thanks Gil. That’s all I really wanted to know.’
‘Now, don’t you dare go taking out your frustrations on that kid. If you do that, then it’s gonna be obvious that someone told you he reported you.’
‘Don’t worry. I’m not interested in Tucker.’
‘Rex, you need to be careful. This is a matter for the police. If you go doing something stupid, you’ll just get yourself in even more trouble.’
‘Yeah, I know. Thanks, Gil.’
Rex hung up and turned to Daryl. ‘Tucker’s not the informant. It’s somebody else.’
‘Oh no…’ Daryl said. ‘I guess that means we’re driving to New Plymouth to see the Wild Dogs?’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘But it might have been Nadia, right? She was around harassing Vanessa. Why don’t you track her down and talk to her?’
‘I somehow doubt she would admit anything to me.’
‘But you might be able to manipulate some facts out of her, surely?’
‘Maybe, but I don’t even know how to get in contact with her. Even Vanessa doesn’t. Hell, I’d talk to Rod Williams if I could, but then I can forget about that. Nobody’s gonna let me into his hospital room.’
Daryl touched his arm. ‘I’m scared, Rex. I don’t want you going into that gang’s headquarters. It’s way too dangerous, especially after all the grief you’ve caused them.’
‘No, his boys have been the ones who have caused him grief, not me.’
‘I’ll come with you.’
‘I’ll wait in the car for you and if you don’t come out, I’ll call the cops.’
Rex paused to consider. It made sense to take an ally, but the last thing he wanted was to put Daryl in harm’s way. ‘I should still tell Vanessa.’
‘No, she’ll want to come too. You surely don’t want both of us there?’
Rex sighed. ‘Of course not. Damn, I’ll talk to Wal. He’ll come instead.’
‘No, I want to come. We don’t need Wal and knowing him he’ll insist on playing the hero and cause even more trouble. I’ll just wait in the car and if there’s any trouble at all, I’ll drive away and ring the cops. I’ll be fine.’
‘Are you sure?’ Rex knew that Daryl tended to freak out a bit when under stress, especially when there was any form of violence taking place around her. He wondered if she’d be able to keep a level head if under a similar situation.
‘I’m fine, Rex. I’m a lot stronger now. I’ll be quite safe.’
‘You’re gonna have to promise me you won’t take any risks. Even the slightest sign of trouble, get out of there.’
‘I will. I promise.’
‘Then let’s get going.’
They said very little as they drove to New Plymouth. Rex could tell Daryl was nervous, as her eyes were wide and her face a little pale. He began to wonder whether she really would be able to handle the pressure if it came. He resolved to be in and out as quickly as he could. All he wanted to do was try to find out whether Hone knew anything about the informant. Even if Hone denied knowing anything, he hoped he might be able to pick up on any signs he was lying or telling the truth.
They arrived at a large area of buildings surrounded by high corrugated iron fences. He parked the car a few meters down the road and turned to face Daryl. ‘Are you sure you can handle this?’
‘I’ll be ok, but please, Rex, be careful. If you’re not back in fifteen minutes, I’m calling the cops.’
Rex left the car and advanced towards the main gates of the Wild Dog headquarters. A large iron gate blocked off entry and he had to press a button to get the attention of those inside. Seconds later a metal grill slid aside, revealing a gap just wide enough for a pair of eyes to peer through.
‘Who are you?’ came the gruff voice from inside.
Rex spoke in an assertive tone. ‘My name’s Rex Cassidy. I’m here to see Hone.’
‘Yes. Hurry up. I haven’t got all day. I need to see Hone urgently.’
The eyes of the man behind the gate narrowed. ‘What if he doesn’t want to see you?’
‘If he doesn’t want a whole heap of shit pouring down on him, he will!’
A grating sound occurred and the gate slowly opened. Rex stepped through into a loose metal driveway. Cars parked around the area and a few gang members loitered about drinking beer and smoking. All eyes peered in his direction. The gangster closed the gate behind him.
‘Follow me,’ the gatekeeper instructed.
Those watching either rose to their feet or continued to peer at him from where they stood. Rex remained staunch, did not allow himself to be intimidated and marched behind the gatekeeper. The only people he made eye contact with were standing around the main entrance to the main building in the compound of a large, colonial style house. They glared at him. Rex kept a poker face and met them eye to eye, showing that he was not scared of them. They let him pass, but a couple moved in behind him.
He remained totally alert just in case someone tried something, but no one did. Rex followed the leader down a hallway, walking past open doors to rooms, some which had gang members in, others which didn’t. They arrived at a lounge where Hone, the leader of the gang sat with a girl either side of him and a couple of henchmen as well. They sat in front of a television set.
When Hone saw Rex, he rose to his feet, a grim look on his face. ‘What the hell are you doing here?’
His henchmen immediately stepped around to face Rex, alert and ready. Rex continued with the poker face. ‘Just here to ask a few questions, that’s all.’
The huge tattoo-faced Maori’s face darkened. ‘Who the hell do you think you are, waltzing into Wild Dog headquarters? I could have my boys take care of you right now and you wouldn’t have a hope of getting out of here alive!’
‘Yeah, you could. I’m sure you could,’ Rex said casually. ‘I mean, look at my hand.’ He held up his plaster hand. ‘I’m not gonna be able to put up a lot of defence, but then that’s not your style, Hone. You’re a man who has some principles and wouldn’t be so cowardly as to have his boys gang up on one guy who’s got a buggered right hand. Besides if you wanted me beaten up, you’d do it yourself, am I right?’
Hone’s face softened a little. ‘Yeah, alright, bro. Sit down, but make it quick, because I’m watching TV.’ He motioned to an easy chair opposite where he sat. ‘Just don’t expect me to offer you a bloody beer.’
‘Can’t stay long anyway. I’ll make it quick.’ Rex sat down. The two Maori women on either side of Hone had to be in their late teens like him. They were quite cute and Rex noticed the sparkles in their eyes as they gazed at him. ‘I need some information. It’s to do with Rod Williams.’
‘Williams? He’s not one of us. He never was.’
‘So you haven’t seen him around?’
‘No, if he showed up here I’d beat the crap out of him, cuz. He caused me and my boys a lot of shit.’
‘Well… I kind of beat the shit out of him for you and he’s in hospital now and in a really bad way.’
‘Is that right?’ Hone peered at him. There was no shock or surprise, but then he seemed quite relaxed, as if it was still news to him.
‘Absolutely. That’s why I’ve got this.’ Rex held up his injured hand.
A half smile twisted its way onto Hone’s tattooed face. ‘Nice to know someone got to him. None of my boys have been able to track that mother down.’
Rex could see no signs that Hone was putting on an act. He began to think that maybe he had wasted his time coming there. ‘Well, someone saw the fight and has tried to tell the cops I instigated it. That I deliberately set out to attack him.’
‘No, I was just protecting a friend.’
‘So what? You’re in trouble with the cops?’
Hone cracked up laughing. So did his henchmen and one of the girls. The other looked on with sympathy in her eyes. ‘What?’ Hone asked. ‘So you’ve come here in the hope that I might help bail you out of the shit? You’re kidding, right?’
‘I was hoping one of your guys might still be connected with Rod and is trying to get the guy out of trouble. What would you rather happen, Hone? Me go down for beating the crap out of that douchebag, or that said douchebag getting into even more shit?’
Hone was silent for a few seconds, before speaking again. ‘All right. I’ll tell you what. I’ll have some guys ask around. Check to make sure none of my boys are doing anything for that mother. But that’s all I’m gonna do. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t really give a shit whether you get done for something you didn’t do. As far as I’m concerned I’ll just have a good laugh about that.’
His men laughed again.
‘I’m sure you would.’ Rex allowed a wry smile to cross his lips. ‘If there’s a chance you might be able to lead me in the right direction about who’s trying to set me up, it would be much appreciated.’
‘Then you’ll owe me one, bro.’
‘Yeah, sure. If you can give me something I can work with.’
‘Ok. I’ll see what I can find out. Now, if I were you, I’d get the hell out of here while you’ve still got one good hand left.’
Rex rose to his feet. He handed Hone a piece of paper. ‘You got it. You can reach a friend of mine on that number. Oh… and there is one more thing.’
‘You might want to check on another former friend of yours, Ben Tamati. I have good word that he has been seen hanging around with some of your boys.’
‘What? You better be shitting me, bro.’
‘No. I’m not. Seems maybe you need to keep a tighter rein on your boys.’ Rex motioned goodbye with his plastered hand and left the room.
Tucker was in high spirits. Not only did he believe that he had completely screwed over Rex Cassidy by reporting his premeditated beating of Rod Williams, but he had also freed himself of yet another humiliating job by being fired on his first night working for Pizza King. A passerby had reported his sign to Cedrick and when Cedrick saw it, he blew his stack and fired Tucker on the spot.
It had been a harrowing affair on his arrival home, later that night, but it was worth it. Now his mother was tearing her hair out trying to find another job for him.
On arrival home from school that afternoon, he felt like his chances of scoring the attention of the goddess had increased a hundredfold. Sure, Rex was still at school, but he was confident he wouldn’t be allowed to go to the camp, which would leave the doors open for Tucker to move in on Vanessa. It would also only be a matter of time before Rex was locked up and the key thrown away.
‘That’ll teach you for assaulting an innocent victim, even if that innocent victim was a complete ubbhead,’ he muttered to himself as he walked through the door.
‘Tucker!’ his mother greeted him. ‘It’s about time you got home! I don’t know what takes you so long to get back from school. You love mucking around taking your fat time, that’s your problem. You’re too fond of mucking around and taking your time. Anyway, I’ve got some good news for you.’
‘Cool! Have we got something nice for tea?’
‘We always have something nice for tea, you gormless idiot. No, it’s not that anyway, it’s just that I’ve got a job for you.’
Tucker groaned, ‘UUuuuu…’ but quickly turned it to a cry of delight instead, just to avoid his mother’s wrath. ‘…UUUUBBAAAAAAAA! A new job? Cool!’
‘It’s for a week. Full time.’
‘Starting tomorrow night.’
‘But…!’ Horror filled his body. ‘But the camp!’
‘Do you think I’m stupid or something? Your job is AT the camp!’
‘You’re going to be on the kitchen staff.’
‘But… but I’m supposed to be a camper.’
‘Oh you’ll get time for camping too, don’t worry about that. Mr Harris has said he has lots of great activities that he knows you’d be devastated to miss out on, so you don’t have to worry. You’ll just be working when there are no activities.’
‘But… but… You mean, when everyone else is relaxing and having fun?’
Dread filled his body now. This had to be some kind of sick joke. The relaxing times were the parts he was looking forward to. Mr Harris’s activities were going to be the horrific acts of torture he was hoping to avoid. ‘But, Muuuum! I want to be relaxing and having fun too.’
‘Well you should have thought about that before you got yourself fired from Pizza King.’
‘So will I be doing cooking?’
‘As if! The last thing we want is for all the kids to come down with a dose of food poisoning. You’ll be a kitchen hand, that’s all.’
He let out a long groan and trundled to his bedroom feeling brassed off. He had to tell himself that it didn’t matter. He would find time to woo the goddess. Even if it meant having to skive off from his kitchen duties to do it.
The following day arrived – the day of the camp. Tucker was delighted to see that Rex was nowhere to be seen as the seniors arrived at the school gates, one by one, with their gear.
‘Is Rex coming?’ Tucker asked Vanessa who stood there beside her gear looking troubled.
‘I hope so. Last I heard he was still negotiating to go. Mr Luxton has been saying that because of his arrest, he shouldn’t be there.’
‘Where did he disappear to yesterday afternoon?’
Vanessa didn’t reply. It didn’t matter, because Daryl turned up and answered the question for her. ‘He and I skipped out. We drove into New Plymouth.’
Tucker couldn’t help but notice the dirty look on the goddess’s face.
‘What for?’ Tucker asked.
‘Rex wanted to go see the Wild Dogs. Find out from the gang leader whether he knows who lied about him.’
‘Oh!’ Tucker smirked. ‘Poor old Rex.’
Both Vanessa and Daryl glared at him.
‘You know, Tucker,’ Daryl said. ‘What were you doing at that park that night anyway?’
‘I was working! Well was working. At the restaurant.’
‘And you never saw that fight?’ Vanessa asked.
‘Not at all.’
The two girls continued to peer at him in an unfriendly manner. Tucker decided it best to move away. He had obviously hit a raw nerve by smirking about Rex’s misfortune. He took one glance back at the two as he departed. They both had their eyes fixed on each other now. Vanessa’s eyes were narrow. Daryl simply smiled in return.
By the time the bus and cars were loaded, Rex had still not arrived. Tucker noticed Vanessa on her cell phone, a worried expression on her face. In the end she sighed and placed the phone back in her luggage.
It was an hour drive to get to the camp site up in the mountains. The campsite was situated on a plateau just below a steep bank of trees. There were trees on all sides in fact and the road couldn’t be seen from inside the grounds. There was a boy’s and girl’s dormitory, Tane inscribed on the boys and Wahine inscribed on the other. There was another larger building, which Tucker figured were the dining and congregation room. There were small cabins, no doubt private sleeping quarters for the teachers and helpers and a large grass courtyard in the middle of the buildings. A large metal bell hung from a wooden frame at one side of the compound. A path wound between the dormitories through an area of trees and shrubs. He couldn’t see what was beyond.
The rest of the morning was spent settling into the dormitories and then it was lunch in the dining hall. One end had the tables set up, the other end contained stacks of chairs and even an old tinny piano. Half way through lunch, Mr Harris, the PE teacher and man in charge of the camp, quietened everyone to make some announcements.
‘Now, I suppose you’re all wondering what horrible, torturous, punishing activities we have for you all at camp this week? Well, I have thought of plenty. Each morning, you will all be rising bright and early and starting the day off with a morning run around one of the bush tracks…’
Tucker flinched. What a hellacious way to start off any morning. ‘Typical bloody, Harris,’ he thought to himself. ‘Kill us all in the morning so that we haven’t got the energy to do anything else during the day. Oh yeah, that’s really bright, Ubbhead. They can forget about me doing any kitchen duties if I’m gonna be half dead!’
‘This afternoon, fortunately for you is going to be a free afternoon, just to enjoy the camp facilities and settle in. Tonight, after dinner we will have a dance. Most evenings we shall have one of these. A chance to snuggle up to a member of the opposite sex…’
There were whistles and applause from most of the campers.
‘But I’m going to say this only once… there will be no excursions in the middle of the night to go off with someone on your own. After lights out everyone and I mean EVERYONE will remain in their dorms. Furthermore no one shall go off alone in the bushes even during the day. Do I make myself clear?’
There were murmurs amongst the campers.
‘Do I make myself clear?’
‘Yes sir!’ they all chimed in.
‘Anyone breaking the rules shall be sincerely dealt with and you all know me and that my punishments aren’t pleasant. This won’t be Boot Camp, but it’ll be pretty darn close. Anyway, tomorrow morning after breakfast, our first activity will be a nature study. Yes, I know, it’s a pretty namby-pamby, limp-wristed activity, but unfortunately this camp has to have some educational value. However, I can guarantee you one thing, it won’t be all poncing around, oh no. This nature study will take us up into the mountains, through dense bush and through crocodile infested swamps. Well ok, no crocodiles, but they will be boggy. I can assure you that it won’t be easy. Fun eh?’
There were murmurs of disagreement. Tucker scowled and whispered to his two pals Ash and Hew who sat with him. ‘Typical Harris. Has to turn everything into an ubbing ordeal.’
Harris smirked at the faces that stared incredulously at him. ‘Thought you’d be excited. After lunch tomorrow, we’ll be heading over to a lake not far away for a dip.’
That news was a lot more welcome, despite the fact that it was the middle of winter. ‘There you will all be expected to swim the entire length of the lake and back.’
There were groans from the students.
‘I just know you’ll all have a great time.’ He delivered a devious smile. ‘Won’t we have fun everybody?’
‘No!’ chimed in a majority of the diners.
‘That’s what I like to hear. Anyway, that’s tomorrow. Just wait until you hear what we have planned for the rest of the week.
He started to talk about more of the camp rules. At that point, Tucker switched off, more interested in eating as much lunch as he could before they had to clear everything away. He was itching to get a look around the camp grounds and to stamp his dominance on the other campers. Even the year-thirteen students would have to submit to his authority, especially considering he had Ash and Hew there at camp with him.
Tucker jumped at stared up at Mr Harris who glared homicidally at him.
‘Were you listening to me, Pyles?’
‘Ah, yes sir!’
‘Then you’ll know that after this, you will be required to report to the kitchen for special duties, as per instructions from your mother.’
Tucker flinched. ‘Ohhhhh, do I have to?’
‘Yes! You have been specifically employed in that role.’ He smirked. ‘I’m sure you’ll be less of a pain slogging your guts out in the kitchen then pissing everybody off out on the camp grounds.’
The other campers chuckled and murmured in agreement.
Angry thoughts raced through Tucker’s mind. They’d keep. When he had the opportunity he’d be out there making his demands. Without Rex here, there was no one stopping him.
Out in the kitchen, Tucker was forced to perform frustrating and boring duties, such as vegetable preparation. He was able to look out the window and see all his classmates enjoying themselves outside. How he longed to be out there with them.
Mr Sanders stepped up beside Tucker. ‘You’re doing a good job there, Tucker.’
‘Thanks.’ He tried to hide how pissed off he was and smiled.
‘You’re a good lad. If only the other students were as conscientious as you are, but I guess you must be itching to get out there and have fun.’
‘Oh, yeah…’ Tucker said. ‘But doing God’s work is what I love to do the most. Every little task I do, no matter how monotonous and boring, I figure I’m doing it for God.’
‘A great attitude there, Tucker, a great attitude. I’m sure God will bless you greatly because of it, but we must not forget that we also have more important work to do for God, right?’
‘Right.’ It dawned on Tucker what he was talking about.
‘As soon as you get out of here, I want you to police the campers for me. Make sure that none of them are breaking the rules. I particularly want you to make sure none of them go sneaking away and getting up to sordid and immoral activities.’
‘I’ll see to it that you get some time. I’ll speak to Mr Harris myself.’
‘Thanks Mr Sanders!’
‘You’re quite welcome.’
Sanders was as good as his word. Tucker was allowed to leave the kitchen an hour earlier than scheduled and went to join his pals, Ash and Hew out back by the shallow rocky river that ran through the grounds. It was only waist high at its deepest point and some of the students had walked down a dirt track etched into the rocky bank to get to it. A concreted footpath ended at the bank and a swing bridge stretched out across the river. Some of the guys were already fooling around on it, bouncing up and down on it.
There was a play area there amongst the trees with mainly obstacle course type equipment including old car tyres to walk across, beams and things to climb. It still provided some interest, but it was mainly there for younger kids.
‘Look at that ubbhead Pete Cook.’ Tucker snarled. Pete was one of Rex’s good friends and he was up on the swing bridge trying to get it rocking as hard as he could. ‘I hope he falls off.’ He scanned the area hoping to see the goddess and the Golden Haired Fox there somewhere. He was surprised to see Vanessa on her own further up the river sitting on a rock, hurling stones into the river. She was normally surrounded by people. ‘What’s she doing over there?’
The burly, Hew peered across. ‘Ah, she’s pining because Rex ain’t here.’
‘He’ll be in prison. Locked up where he belongs.’
‘Ah come on, Tucker, you don’t really believe he deliberately attacked that guy for no good reason do you?’
‘He hates the ubbhead.’
‘Yeah,’ his athletic Maori friend, Ash said. ‘But Rex only goes into a rage if someone tries to hurt Vanessa. Everyone knows that. Every other time he stays cool.’
‘Way too cool,’ added Hew. ‘That’s normally what makes him so scary.’
‘Well I happen to know for a fact that he deliberately attacked that guy for no good reason.’
‘How would you know, you egg?’ Ash asked.
‘Because I was working at that restaurant, remember? I saw it all happen.’
The two stared at him.
‘What?’ Hew scoffed. ‘You never told us that!’
‘I don’t tell you guys everything, you know, just like I didn’t tell you that I met up with the Fox there afterwards and we made out in the gardens there.’
‘Whatever!’ Ash snarled.
‘No redundancy pay for you,’ Hew snorted. ‘Man, Tucker, you should know by now that we don’t believe your bullshit. Leave your silly stories for some gullible junior.’
‘Right! And Vanessa has the least sexy butt in the entire school.’
‘Hey!’ Tucker sat up straight. ‘What the hell is that ubbhead Clarke Hanson doing down there with my darling?’
Clarke had just appeared and sat down on a rock beside Vanessa, but then a minute later, he rose to his feet again and meandered back along the river bank. Tucker intercepted him as he drew closer. ‘Hey, Ubbhead! I thought I told you to leave the goddess alone!’
Ash and Hew stepped up behind him, staunch expressions on their face.
‘I was just worried about her,’ Clarke said. ‘She’s down because Rex hasn’t arrived and she hasn’t been able to contact him.’
‘Well then she should be happy then!’ Tucker growled. ‘But I don’t make idle threats, ubbhead. I told you, Vanessa is mine and I don’t appreciate idiots like you trying to make the moves on her.’
‘I wasn’t making any moves on her, honestly!’
Tucker grabbed him by the shirt and glared at him. ‘This is your last warning, ubbhead. You stay away from her. I don’t want to see you talking to her again, you hear?’
Tucker sent his fist ploughing into Clarke’s stomach and caused him to double up with a painful grunt. ‘Owwwwww, bloody hell… arggggghhhh!’
‘Now ubb off!’
For Holly, the afternoon flew by very quickly. She hung out with her friends having laughs and generally enjoying herself. The only thing that bothered her was the absence of Rex and relating to that, the fact that Vanessa chose to be on her own, rather than join in the fun. Even Daryl had joined them and was laughing and enjoying herself.
‘Don’t worry about Vanessa,’ Daryl said. ‘She’s like that right? She pines over Rex waaaay too much. She is just soooo needy it’s not funny. Rex will be fine. He’ll probably turn up later.’
‘You think so?’ Holly asked.
‘Sure he will. I mean what could be wrong? They wouldn’t have locked him up again, right?’
‘But what if… you know… Mr Luxton refused to allow him to come to camp?’
‘Well then he’s fine then. I know it sucks. I really wanted him here too, but there’s no need to get all worried like Vanessa is.’
Dinner time came and went and there was a camp dance. Holly and her friends were in great demand, especially Daryl. She hardly ever got sit out a dance.
Vanessa refused to dance at all. She sat with them, hardly saying anything. Whenever someone asked her, she simply shook her head without a word.
‘Vanessa, lighten up!’ Daryl said at one point. ‘He’ll be ok. Don’t let his absence ruin this for you. This is supposed to be fun.’
‘Aren’t you worried?’ Vanessa asked.
‘A bit, but I’m not gonna let it ruin my evening.’
Vanessa eyed her strangely. ‘Do you know something we don’t? Like why he’s not here?’
Daryl frowned. ‘Why would you say that? Look, I miss him as much as anyone, it’s just that I’m not that needy that I need to have him around 24 hours a day! Look, I really want him here too, but he’s not right now. Maybe he’ll turn up tomorrow.’
‘Yeah,’ Holly said. ‘Maybe he will. Come on, Ness, cheer up, huh?’
Vanessa didn’t reply.
It was getting quite hot in the dining room, so Holly decided to go outside for some crisp night air. It was chilly out there, but at the same time, pleasant. It allowed her to cool off from all the dancing.
Another camper stepped up beside her and when she saw who it was, she froze. He had a black eye and a split lip and his brown face eyed her with contempt.
‘I want to know what you overheard the other night.’
She tried to sound assertive, but inside her heart beat fast. ‘Oh, don’t start that again. Just because Rex isn’t here doesn’t mean you can… you know… start trying to throw your weight around.’
‘Listen up!’ Ben hissed. ‘I know you heard something and I’m here to warn you. You dare repeat anything I told you and you’re dead, you hear me?’
Holly tensed up big time. Her heart beat fast and she widened her eyes. ‘Are you threatening me?’
‘I’m telling you!’ Ben snarled. ‘You mention a word to anyone and you won’t just have me to deal with, but my buddies and you don’t want my buddies involved. You may think that Cassidy is some big shot who can beat up gang members, but let’s see how he copes when a whole lot of them swamp him. You know he can’t take us all on.’
Holly fought back her fear and scowled. ‘Yeah, but he can certainly put one or two of you in hospital!’
‘Yeah, but he’ll be in a hospital too. Or worse! I mean it, bitch, I’m not kidding around!’ He grabbed her by the top and cast her an evil glare.
Holly’s staunch façade suddenly evaporated. She shuddered and whimpered, ‘Let me go.’
Ben smirked. ‘That’s more like it.’ His mouth turned to a deep scowl again. ‘Now you know that I don’t make idle threats. Now, I want to know who you’ve told about what you heard.’
‘No one, because I heard nothing.’
‘Don’t give me that shit! You would have at least told Rex.’
‘You’re gonna go back to anyone you told and you’re gonna change the story. You’re gonna say that you made it up or were exaggerating, or found out something different. You hear me, bitch?’
Ben released her. ‘Don’t you dare try to screw me over! You’ll regret it!’ With that he returned to the dining hall.
Holly stood there for a few minutes, shaken. She knew that Ben was not one to issue idle threats. She flinched at the thought of what might happen if she dared go against his wishes. One thing was for sure, Rex wouldn’t always be around to protect her.
She attempted to pull herself together. If she just went along with Ben’s wishes, there would be no trouble, however she had told her friends about what she had seen. Would that come back to bite her in the butt? Rex especially might be a problem, because he would not be the type of guy to do nothing while the potential threat of drugs once again raised its ugly head at Te Arawa College.
She decided the best thing was to return to the hall. For now she had to forget she had ever heard the conversation between Ben and the gang member.
It came time to retire to the dorms. Beds lined the walls and each one had a bedside chest of draws beside them. Vanessa sat on her bed, in her nightie, with her cell phone in her hand. Holly went up and sat beside her. ‘Still nothing?’
‘I can’t pick up anything. No service.’
‘Even way up here?’
‘Don’t worry about it, Ness. He’ll be fine.’
Most of the girls were settling into their beds when a knock came at the door. A male voice called from outside, a voice that made everyone sit up wide eyed, Vanessa in particular.
‘Is it safe to come in?’
Vanessa leapt to her feet. ‘Rex!’
‘Sweet!’ Holly said.
‘Hey, Rex,’ one of the year thirteen girls called out. ‘Don’t worry about whether it’s safe to come in. You, you can just come in any time you like!’
Vanessa reached the door, swung it open and grabbed Rex in her arms. Holly couldn’t help but smile. She was pleased to see him too, but it was great to see a smile on Vanessa’s face again. ‘Finally! You’re here! What took you so long?’
‘I had to take care of some business.’ Rex stepped into the girl’s dormitory, the only boy so far to have done so, but none of the girls complained. A few even stood around still partially undressed in no hurry to hide themselves from Rex. If Holly had been in a similar state, she wouldn’t have hurried either, after all, it wasn’t just any guy, it was the hottest guy in school. ‘Didn’t Daryl tell you of my plans?’
‘No, She didn’t!’ Vanessa turned to face Daryl who wore only underwear, and stood a few feet from them.
‘Sorry,’ Daryl said. ‘But I figured it wasn’t my place to say anything.’ She stepped up to Rex and hugged him to. She planted a kiss on his lips.
Holly examined Vanessa’s expression, but it was impossible to tell whether it bothered her. She simply turned back to Rex, grabbed his arm and looped hers through it. ‘At least you came to say goodnight to us before you went back to the boys dorms. Glad you came to give us good night kisses.’
‘Hey, where’s ours?’ one of the year thirteen girls asked.
‘You better hurry,’ said another. ‘The rules are that no boys are allowed in the girls dorms and vice versa. If Mrs Whiterow catches you in here, you’ll be in big trouble.’
‘I had to come in and say good night to you all. At least before I found out what the camp rules were. For the moment, I can claim ignorance.’ He winked.
‘So you’re actually intending on obeying the rules this time round?’ Daryl asked.
‘We’ll see, but probably not. Someone has to give the goodnight kisses, don’t they?’
Samantha Drysdale, the head girl of Te Arawa College, spoke in a serious voice. ‘As the one in charge of this dormitory, I have this to say. As far as I’m concerned…’ A smile spread across her face. ‘…you can pop by any time you like.
‘You’re going to get me into trouble with an offer like that!’
Rex did the rounds, dealing out bed time kisses to some of the girls. Holly made sure she got a big long one when it was her turn.
‘Geeze, Holly,’ said one of the girls. ‘This is gonna take all night if we go at that rate.’
‘You can wait your turn!’ Holly laughed.
She cast Vanessa a glance who simply smiled. Her eyes twinkled. On this occasion it seemed she didn’t mind, however when Daryl grabbed Rex for some additional kisses at the door before he left, Holly could see the sparkle disappear.
Once Rex was gone, Vanessa turned to Daryl. ‘Why didn’t you tell me? You just let me stew. Why would you do that?’
‘To prove a point to you, Vanessa,’ Daryl said. ‘Look at how miserable and needy you were, obsessing over him. ALL afternoon and all evening. That’s not healthy. Come on, surely you have to realize that?’
All the girls in the dormitory remained silent, staring at the two. Holly flinched. She could sense trouble brewing for the first time. It seemed before that Vanessa had perhaps accepted Daryl’s reappearance. Now, as Vanessa’s eyes narrowed only briefly, it seemed that it wasn’t the case. ‘If you had told me what he was planning like he wanted you to, I wouldn’t have been obsessing!’
‘That’s beside the point. The fact was there was nothing to worry about at all. There’s absolutely no point in thinking up worst-case scenarios. People get held up some times. There’s no need to be concerned that they’re injured or anything like that.’
Vanessa stared at Daryl with piercing eyes. Holly really expected her to blow her stack this time, but once again she remained calm. In fact her words came out in her usual cheerful manner this time. ‘I guess it’s wrong to worry about someone you care about deeply. Perhaps one day you will care about someone that much too. Well, I guess we can’t all have what we want.’ She smiled and returned to her bed.
It’s was Daryl’s turn to stand there, with a cold expression on her face. When she noticed everyone looking at her though, she laughed and returned to her bed too.
Clarke awoke suddenly due to an ear-piercing furore of metal against metal. Mr Harris stood in the room with a pot lid and a metal spoon, crashing them together. ‘Come on lads up you get! Hop to it, hop to it! We’ve got a big day ahead of us!’
There were groans all around. It was still dark and when Clarke checked his watch, he found it was 5:30am.
‘Rex, great to see you here,’ Harris said. ‘I was worried you wouldn’t make it.’
Through sleepy eyes, Clarke could see that Rex already sat up on his bed. It had been a nerve-racking experience the night before when Rex arrived at the dorm just before “lights out”. Fortunately, though his bed was at the other side of the room and Clarke was able to remain inconspicuous. He didn’t know how he was going to be able to keep out of Rex’s way for the entire week. If Wal’s warnings were to be taken seriously, and he had no real reason to believe they couldn’t be, he had to remain low until the gift to Vanessa was forgotten about.
‘Great to be here, Mr H,’ Rex said cheerfully. ‘Is it time for some exercise?’
‘You bet it is. Especially considering you got no exercise last night, right? No girls allowed in the boy’s dormitory. I know how difficult that must be for you, my boy.’ Harris winked and laughed.
‘It’s a killer, Mr H, a killer, especially after seeing all those babes last night in their nightwear… or lack thereof.’
‘I bet it is.’ He banged his pot lids again. ‘Come on now. Time for a morning sprint! I want you all out in the compound in five minutes and I’m warning you, I have my Uzi with me, MOVE IT, MOVE IT, MOVE IT!’
Immediately boys spilled out of their beds, although Clarke had no intentions of rushing himself at that time of the morning. He knew Mr Harris was tough from the one PE period he had to endure earlier in the week, but he couldn’t believe he’d be that tough here.
Pete Cook hauled on his clothes and turned to Rex as he did. ‘What, Rex? You were in the girls dorm last night?’
‘Of course,’ Rex said. ‘What, you think I’d rather have been in here with you guys, watching you get dressed into your PJs instead?’
Pete chuckled. ‘I wish I could get away with something like that, but I would have caused the entire dormitory to scream bloody murder and then got booted out of camp.’
‘You get way too many privileges, Rex,’ Wal said. ‘But hey, you da man! Did you happen to have your cell phone filming when you went in there?’
‘Nope,’ Rex said. ‘I can get a repeat performance just by returning there again tonight.’
Clarke couldn’t help but marvel at how one guy could get away with so much. Rex was certainly an enigma.
‘Come on, Hanson!’ Paul Reinhold, the boy in charge of the dorm snarled when he saw Clarke still in his bed. ‘You don’t wanna still be in there when Harris returns. I’m telling ya!’
Clarke groaned and hauled himself out of bed. He couldn’t believe Rex who was already dressed and doing stretching exercises. It was as if he was looking forward to an early morning run.
Clarke was one of the last to get dressed, but he noticed Tucker still trying to haul on his tracksuit pants.
‘Come on Tucker!’ Paul said sharply. ‘You don’t want to keep Mr Harris waiting.’
‘Move your butt, you fat wimp!’ Wal growled on his way out of the dormitory.
‘Come on lads, move it, move it, move it!’ Harris called out as Clarke exited the dormitory.
Harris glanced back over at the girl’s dormitory, but not one girl had emerged. ‘What’s taking them so long? Bet they’re busy putting on their make up.’
Even Tucker was out in the compound by the time the first girl came out. Miss Patterson, the girl’s PE teacher was doing her best to get them all out as quickly as possible.
‘What’s the hold up over there, Patterson?’
‘Please, Mr Harris I’m doing my best! Even I’m half asleep still.
‘Wow…’ Pete said as he stood next to Clarke. ‘This is a treat, seeing the girls first thing in the morning. Oh wow, look at Holly, she looks just as gorgeous as she always does.’
‘Daryl too!’ Wal spoke up. ‘Wooooorrr!’
‘But get a load of Vanessa!’
Clarke couldn’t help but gaze. Was it possible for her to ever look bad? She wore a pink tracksuit and her hair looked as good as ever as if it had just been brushed. Maybe it had, but it seemed unlikely, especially not at 5:30 in the morning and with all the other girls, still looking scruffy.
Jacqui Donaldson didn’t look too hot. Her face seemed tired and she desperately tried to straighten her hair. ‘I don’t believe this! I’ve never been up this early in my life, not even on the farm! It’s bad enough having to get up at 7.30 for school, but this is completely uncivilized. What sort of a barbarian is he?’ She glared over at Mr Harris.
‘Stop whining over there!’ Mr Harris snapped. ‘If it’s good enough for the boys it’s good enough for you. In fact it will do you a lot of good.’
‘This is ridiculous! Why do we have to get up this early for?’
‘Because you have a half hour run ahead of you.’
‘Half an hour?’
There were angry murmurs from all around.
‘You have got to be joking!’ another of the girls complained.
‘There is no way I am going on a half hour long run!’ Jacqui said.
You’ll be doing an hour run if you don’t shut up! You girls get it too soft, I keep telling Miss Patterson to toughen you up a little, but she doesn’t listen. Well let me tell you this, I’m in charge of physical activities here at this camp and you won’t be getting it any easier than the boys. If you ask me, you should be working twice as hard. You haven’t had the benefit of experiencing my tough fitness plan like they have. Now listen up everybody I’m only going to tell you this once… and you girls whispering to each other over there better listen too, because if you get lost, you’ll be doing the whole run all over again, you hear me?’
There was an immediate hush.
‘Now on the east side of the camp there is a track. This track runs North East along the mountains and comes out by the road. Once you reach the road, you head back in the direction of the camp, South East. The road will wind its way around until you get back here. This should take the majority of you about thirty minutes. It will probably take Rex ten, but more than likely he’ll be mucking about chatting up you girls. It will take Tucker Pyles an hour. Anyone coming in after Tucker will run the whole course again this evening. Have I made myself clear?’
There were murmurs from all around.
‘I said, did I make myself CLEAR?’
This time the response was louder.
‘Good. Now get going. ALL OF YOU, MOVE IT, MOVE IT, MOVE IT!’
It was an absolutely horrendous run. When Clarke arrived back at the campsite, he was absolutely knackered. About half of the boys had arrived back already. Rex had already showered and sat near the dining room chatting with Mr Harris. Clarke collapsed on the grass not far from where the two of them sat. He didn’t want to go too close, because he was still afraid of going anywhere near Rex.
Pete Cook ran in and plonked himself down beside Rex. He panted profusely.
‘Nice track,’ Rex said, ‘Some nice scenery along the way.’
Pete delivered a groan that sounded a lot like a swear word. Clarke knew exactly how he felt. The run had been too gruelling for him to have taken any notice of the scenery. How anyone could actually enjoy a bush track when inflicting such suffering on oneself was beyond him.
You’re a pathetic excuse for a human being, Cook, you know that?’ Mr Harris scowled. ‘Can’t even handle one little recreational run. You’d think you’d just run a marathon or something.’
‘Pain’s a good thing, Cook. It means you’ve given yourself a good work out. You could do with a bit more if you ask me.’
After a shower and a change of clothes, Clarke walked to the dining room for breakfast. Rex stood out the front with a group of campers. Vanessa was amongst the group and Clarke longed to talk to her, but with Rex nearby he decided it best to stay well clear.
‘Clarke. A word if I may.’ Mr Sanders strode across the compound towards him. ‘Over here please.’
Clarke was not alarmed at first, but what Mr Sanders said next changed that. ‘I have heard serious allegations made about you. That you have been harassing Vanessa Dante.’
‘Are these true?’
‘No, of course not!’
‘I have it on good authority that you were pestering her and making sexual advances on her yesterday afternoon down by the river.’
‘No, I wasn’t! I was just talking to her.’
‘Not from what I have been told.’
‘Who told you that? Vanessa?’
‘No, not Vanessa, just a concerned classmate.’
‘I very much doubt that. I am confident that the word of this particular person can be trusted.’
Clarke stared at Mr Sanders in horror. ‘Speak to her… go on! She’ll tell you I didn’t do anything like that.’
‘Are you trying to tell me you have never made any sexual advances on her?’
‘No! The only thing I’ve ever done is talk to her… oh and I gave her a rose once.’
Mr Sander’s eyes widened. ‘A rose? That to me suggests inappropriate behaviour.’
‘A teenage boy only gives a girl a rose because he’s after one thing.’
‘No! That’s not it. I gave it to her because I think she’s really wonderful and cool. That’s all. I really like her.’
‘Well your actions, which you admit, make it quite clear that my sources are most likely very accurate.’
‘Like I said…’ Clarke glared. ‘Talk to Vanessa, she will tell you the truth.’
‘Very well,’ said Sanders. ‘Come!’
He began to walk in the direction of Vanessa and Rex, motioning Clarke to follow him. Clarke stood paralyzed for a moment, terrified of what might be said in front of the couple. What if Vanessa did say he had been harassing her? How would Rex then react?
‘Wait!’ he called out.
Sanders turned and strolled back over to him. ‘Yes, Clarke?’
‘I… I’m sorry, if I’ve done anything that might be considered harassment. It wasn’t my intention.’
‘Perhaps someone took things the wrong way.’
‘Do you realize that your behaviour towards this girl is immoral?’
‘Trying to push yourself onto a woman who quite clearly doesn’t desire your advances shows questionable morals.’
‘But I wasn’t…’
‘You clearly need some counselling on this matter, some good biblical guidance.’
Clarke flinched. The last thing he wanted was to have some religious nut forcing religion down his throat, especially not someone like Reverend Flanders.
‘Yes,’ Sanders nodded. ‘I think that’s exactly what you need and I’m willing to offer that to you, rather than taking it higher to the likes of Mr Harris or the school principal. What do you say to that?’
Clarke definitely didn’t want to face the wrath of Mr Harris and if it came to Mr Luxton, the principal, it would no doubt get very out of hand. Maybe if he just went along with Mr Sander’s wishes, he could drop the whole subject.
‘I… I guess so.’
‘Good.’ Mr Sanders smiled. ‘There may be hope for you yet. However, there must be justice served too. I want you to serve on kitchen, helping Tucker Pyles today.’
‘Huh? What? But I’m going to have your counselling!’
‘Consider that a blessing and let’s not forget that serving on kitchen for a few hours is nothing compared to having your immortal soul burn in hell for all eternity.’
Tucker wasn’t in the best of moods. He was sick and tired of working in the kitchen and wanted to be out having fun with the other campers. Some relief did arrive when Mr Sanders brought in Clarke to help. It gave Tucker a chance to sit around, issue orders and munch on snacks. Unfortunately his snack bag was almost empty already and he still had the whole week ahead of him.
Dinner was a real disappointment. He was only given small portions and only managed to get seconds. Fancy only being allowed seconds at dinnertime? If he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn that the camp was in the middle of Ethiopia somewhere and they were sharing a few meagre pieces of food scraps supplied by the natives.
The evening’s dance was a total flop as far as Tucker was concerned. Not one girl danced with him the entire evening, just as none had danced with him the evening before. Even Pete had a girl to dance with. Rex, he had about a dozen girls to dance with. It was no wonder there were none left to dance with Tucker. Rex was hogging them all.
‘Inconsiderate ubbhead!’ he grumbled to himself. It made him sick how he had every second dance with either the Golden Haired Fox or the goddess. Nevertheless, they both looked so lovely. It was nice just to admire them, even from a distance.
He looked forward to the next day. They would all be tramping out into the bushes and having an overnight camp in tents. It would be uncomfortable sleeping on a camp mattress on the hard ground, but at least he wouldn’t have to be working in the kitchen.
After the dance, he arrived back at the dormitory, tired and ready for bed. Rex sat on his bed examining one of the other guy’s torches. Something had gone wrong with it and he was trying to fix it. Tucker snickered. He was so useless, he’d probably be sitting there all night trying. At least that would keep him out of Tucker’s hair.
‘There… Fixed,’ Rex said. ‘Just a loose connection. No big deal.’
The owner of the torch switched it off and on a couple of times. ‘Cheers, Rex.’
‘No worries, mate.’ Rex climbed to his feet and walked towards the doors of the dormitory.
‘Hey Rex, where are you going?’ challenged Paul
‘Just popping over to say goodnight to the girls.’
‘You get caught sneaking around out there and you’ll be in deep strife, especially if they catch you over there. There will be a teacher patrolling the grounds too. You’d better stay here.’
‘And disappoint them? Relax, Reinhold. I won’t get caught.’
‘If you get caught, I’ll be in trouble too, you know.’
‘Chill out, I won’t get caught.’
Paul said nothing else. Tucker couldn’t believe that he was just going to let Rex waltz out of there. What sort of a dormitory Captain was he? Why should Rex be allowed to break the rules?
‘I hope you’re going to tell Mr Harris,’ Tucker said once Rex had left.
‘Mind your own business, Pyles.’
‘What if I decide to go and say goodnight to the girls?’
‘Dream on, Pyles! You’re not going anywhere.’
‘UuBBAAA! How come Rex gets to go?’
‘Just shut up and get in bed!’
The following morning, after another gruelling run and an unsatisfying breakfast, Tucker prepared for their two-hour tramp into the bush.
‘They’d better have enough food for us.’ Tucker grumbled as he and his friends filled their packs with the items Mr Harris had advised they would need.
‘Can they ever have enough food for you, Tucker?’ Ash smirked.
‘Well if they’re taking baked beans, I want four cans. Four big cans!’
‘And ten kilograms of sausages?’ Hew asked.
‘No redundancy pay for you, mate.’
It was indeed a long, arduous tramp. Tucker was already aching enough from that morning’s run. Mr Harris was a monster and had no right to have anything to do with school kids.
There was a break for lunch and some stops at some historical places of interest. The trek finally ended along the banks of a river. Tucker wondered what horrors there were. There had to be something, otherwise why would Mr Harris have brought them there? The river was probably teaming with blood sucking leeches and piranha. Maybe there was even a Taniwha haunting it?
They first had to set up some tents. They had been taught how to do it. Well the other’s had as Tucker had been busy in the kitchen. The next main task was to collect firewood for the campfires. There would be a main bonfire for that evening’s activities and smaller fires for cooking meals on. They were all advised to pair up and search for firewood amongst the trees.
‘Pairs, not groups,’ Mr Roberts said, as girls flocked around Rex.
Tucker watched Rex to see who he would pick. It was either Daryl or Vanessa. With a bit of luck, he’d choose Daryl and then Tucker could rush over and offer to be Vanessa’s partner.
Mr Roberts walked away to deal with some other students. Rex grabbed both Daryl and Vanessa’s hands. ‘To hell with pairs. Come on; let’s go before he gets on our case.’
Tucker scowled as the trio disappeared into the trees. Mr Sanders would hear of this. He had no doubt that two girls on one boy would be considered far more immoral to the Reverend than just one boy and one girl.
‘Hey, Ash, Hew. Us three!’ Tucker said.
‘Mr Roberts said pairs,’ Hew said. ‘Sorry Tucks, but you’ll have to find another partner.’
‘Urrrrrbbarrrrrr! What kind of friends are you?’
Ash smirked. ‘Friends who don’t want you getting into trouble with Mr Roberts.’
Tucker scowled and followed them along anyway. As if he was going to team up with some other ubbhead.
Hew and Ash didn’t seem too concerned about Tucker being with them and started to pick up bits of wood. Tucker had no intention of collecting any. ‘Don’t worry about it guys. We’ll get some later.’
Ash peered at Tucker. ‘If we get into the shit, you’ll have me to deal with!’
‘Relax! Let’s just have some fun for a change.’
He sat down on a fallen log and groaned, glad to rest his weary legs. Ash and Hew joined him.
Tucker snickered. ‘I got that new guy Clarke Hanson into trouble.’
‘What?’ Hew asked. ‘Why?’
‘Because he was talking to the goddess. I reported him to Reverend Flanders. Told him, he had been harassing her.’
Both Ash and Hew delivered Tucker dirty looks.
‘What a jerk,’ Hew growled.
Tucker nodded. ‘Yeah, he is!’
‘Not him, you!’
‘You’re calling me a jerk?’
‘Yeah, all he was doing was talking to her.’
‘I told him, he wasn’t allowed to talk to her.’
Ash scoffed, ‘Oh and you’re the big shot who gets to make the rules about who or who can’t talk to the goddess? Whatever Tucker.’
‘And I’m gonna tell Sanders about Rex, Daryl and Vanessa going off as a threesome.’
‘That would be hypocritical, wouldn’t it?’ Hew asked.
‘They’re disobeying the rules!’
‘What about you?’
‘Hey, us three aren’t going off to bonk each other silly, are we? I bet they are.’
‘Good for them, I say,’ Ash said.
Tucker gave him the dirtiest look he could muster.
Another duo made their way through the trees and on seeing Tucker and his two pals turned to go another way.
‘Hey, Spencer… Jones!’ Tucker hauled himself to his feet. ‘Over here, Ubbheads!’
The two slowly turned and trudged over to him.
‘I see you’ve got some firewood there for us.’
‘It’s ours!’ Spencer scowled.
‘Err, NUH, I don’t think so, ubbhead. What do you think Hew?’
‘I’d say that was our firewood they were carrying, Tucks.’
‘That’s what I thought! I knew I’d seen that firewood somewhere before. Nice of you boys to return it to us.’
Hew stepped forward and once he stepped forward there was no arguing. Reluctantly both boys unloaded their wood onto the ground in front of him.
‘Good girls,’ Tucker said. ‘Now what the hell are you two doing around here? Aren’t you supposed to be collecting firewood? Go on, get moving, you ubbheads, move it, move it move it!’
Tucker and Hew chuckled as the two boys traipsed away, heads hung low.
‘Well,’ Hew said. ‘Looks like we’ve collected our firewood.’
‘Might as well sit down and have a break.’
They sat there for about ten more minutes before another group came their way. This time it was Rex, Daryl and Vanessa.
‘Ah Fats!’ Rex reached them. ‘Looks as though you’ve been busy. ’ He eyed the firewood. None of the three had any wood of their own. Too busy getting it on. Or so Tucker assumed.
‘We figured we deserved a rest,’ Tucker said his heart beating fast. The last thing he wanted was to have Rex making him squirm. ‘We’ve collected quite a bit, eh Hew?’
‘Yep,’ said Hew.
‘Really?’ Rex stepped up and surveyed their efforts. ‘That looks like a heavy load Tucker. I’ll tell you what, the girls and I will do you a favour. How about we carry the wood back to camp for you?’
At first Tucker was elated. He couldn’t believe that Rex was actually offering to do something for him, but his elation was short lived when it occurred to him that if they took his wood, he, Ash and Hew would turn up at the campsite with nothing. ‘Nah, we can handle it, eh guys?’
‘No worries,’ Ash said.
‘No, we insist, don’t we girls?’ Rex said pleasantly.
‘That’s right,’ Vanessa said. ‘I just know that Tucker has over exerted himself this morning with all this strenuous exercise. We couldn’t possibly let him put any more pressure on his heart.’
‘We’d be only too happy to carry in the wood for you,’ Daryl said.
In front of Tucker’s eyes the three began to collect up the wood in their arms. Hew and Ash sat right where they were. Tucker knew they weren’t going to risk a run in with Rex, even though he only had one good hand. With his other hand and his two legs, he could inflict a lot of punishment and even if they did take him down, when his hand healed, they would have to pay later.
The three were about to leave the scene with the wood, when Rex turned his head at the last moment. ‘Hey Fats!’
‘What the squark are you doing sitting around? You’re supposed to be collecting wood!’
‘Talk about lazy,’ Daryl said.
‘Come on hop to it, you’ve only got five minutes. Move it, move it, move it!’
Tucker was really beginning to hate this camp. It seemed that everybody was against him. Everybody had some kind of vendetta to make his life a living hell. ‘Come on guys! We need to get some wood!’
‘Yeah, that’s right, Tucker. WE need to get some wood. Ash and I. You can get your own damn wood.’
‘Yeah!’ Hew snarled. ‘You made us waste all that time sitting around doing nothing. You’re on your own.’
‘UUuBBAA! What type of friends are you?’
‘Friends who are getting fed up with taking your stick.’
‘Or in this case…’ Ash said. ‘…fed up with getting sticks for you.’
The two strode away leaving Tucker there in despair. He swore to himself and scanned the area, urgently looking for dry firewood, but there wasn’t a lot of it around. It seemed that most of the good stuff had been collected already. Tucker was forced to pick up branches and twigs that were still green.
‘Hey, Tucker!’ a voice hissed from the trees.
He spun around, expecting to receive more aggravation, but reeled when he saw the face of a girl peering at him from behind a tree. It wasn’t just any girl though; it was Nadia, Vanessa’s half sister.
‘What the hell?’
‘Shhh! Come here. I need to talk to you!’
Curiosity got the better of him, so he advanced slowly over to where Nadia hid. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I need your help.’
‘I know how much you really like Vanessa, right?’
‘Well I need you to guard her for me.’
‘What do you mean? Is she with you?’
‘No. Not yet. But she will be.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I need you to lure her out here so that I can take care of her.’
Tucker tensed up. ‘What are you going to do to her?’
‘Don’t worry. I won’t hurt her. I just need her out of the way for a while.’
‘It doesn’t matter. I need you to lure her out here. I’ll then take her prisoner and lock her up in a cabin not far from here.’
‘No way, you can’t do that to the god… to Vanessa!’
‘Wouldn’t you like to have her alone in a cabin, all to yourself?’
Tucker paused for a moment. The idea was indeed very appealing.
‘You could get her in there and imagine the fun you could have.’
Tucker frowned. ‘Hey, I’m not a rapist!’
‘Well you don’t have to do anything like that. You can do whatever you like. Heck, if you want to you can just keep her there and talk to her and try to get her to fall in love with you if you like. She’ll be forced to sit there and talk to you. You won’t have anyone interrupting you.’
He had to admit, there was some merit in that idea.
‘Imagine it Tucker… your lips against hers… feeling her body pressed against you. Isn’t that what you always wanted?’
‘But what are you going to do?’
‘It’s Rex that I want. Would you like to have Rex out of the way, never to have to compete for Vanessa’s affections ever again?’
Tucker couldn’t help but widen his eyes. ‘Hell yeah!’
‘Well then, help me out. Bring Vanessa out here. Alone.’
‘You’ll think of something. Bring her right here and I’ll take care of the rest, but you can’t tell anybody, not even your pals. Is it a deal?’
Tucker took a deep breath. ‘Ok… it’s a deal.’
Rex could just feel the tension between Daryl and Vanessa as they wandered through the bushes together. They both seemed very keen to make out with him, even with the other there, but Rex sensed something was up, particularly when it came to Vanessa. He could guess what it was, because it didn’t take a genius to figure it out. He knew that he had to make a decision about Daryl, but it was one he was dreading. No matter what he did, a girl he loved was going to be heartbroken.
They sat down amongst the trees, their piles of sticks on the ground before them and he had a girl either side of him, nuzzling into him, kissing the side of his face and the kisses were becoming more passionate by the second.
‘Stop,’ he said. ‘This isn’t going to work. Not like this.’
Both girls halted immediately and locked their gazes onto him. He turned his eyes from one to the other, feeling rather helpless. ‘We should stop, at least until I can get my thoughts straight in my head.’
Daryl smiled. ‘I guess even Rex Cassidy can’t be Mr-All-Together all the time, huh?’
‘Yeah… that’s right.’
‘It’s ok. You don’t have to think about it right now.’
‘True,’ Vanessa said. ‘Let’s just have some fun. To hell with getting back to camp. They can wait for their firewood.’
‘Hey, I appreciate what you girls are trying to do.’ He rose to his feet, letting their hands and arms slip from him. ‘But neither of you want it to be like this, I know.’ The two rose to their feet too. ‘I guess, my mind is a mess at the moment. With this business involving Rod Williams. It’s making it difficult to think straight when it comes to what really matters.’
‘Totally understandable,’ Daryl said. ‘But we’re patient girls, right, Vanessa?’
‘Yeah huh. Give yourself some more time if you need it. We can handle it.’
‘Can you?’ Rex glanced from one girl to the next. ‘Really?’ He didn’t believe it. Both girls he knew could be very emotional, particularly Daryl. It seemed hard to believe that she was coping with Vanessa being there. As for Vanessa, he really began to worry about her now. There was something in her manner that he was certain she was deliberately trying to hide from him and it began to worry him greatly. It was something he hadn’t seen since around the time they were separated from each other two to three years earlier and it disturbed him greatly. He didn’t like seeing her this way and knew he had to talk to her alone as soon as possible; however, right now he wasn’t sure when he’d get that opportunity. For now he’d just have to play it by ear. ‘What’s got me beat is that Hone assured me the other night on the phone that none of his boys had anything to do with the report to the police that I instigated the attack on Rod. He’s adamant. I guess that doesn’t mean anything, really, because Hone can’t possibly know what all his boys are up to, but it makes me wonder whether maybe we’re on the wrong track. Somehow I need to get in and see Rod.’
‘You’ll be arrested if you do,’ Vanessa said. ‘What about Nadia? Is it possible that maybe she’s involved? You haven’t ruled that out, right?’
‘No, but you’d think that if it had been her, the police would be aware that she has a record of deception, especially after she lied to them about me raping her. They would guess she is just trying the same thing again.’
‘True. So if it’s not Nadia, not a Wild Dog and not Tucker. Who could it be? Fabian?’
‘Nah, not Fabian. He’s too nice a guy. It must be someone else. Someone aligned with Rod.’ He sighed. ‘There’s something else you need to know, too, Ness.’
‘I had to go back to the police station the other night and they told me that some further allegations have been made. I told them it was ridiculous and that someone was feeding them a lot of bull, but they’re taking it seriously.’ He sighed again. ‘I managed to get them to hold out taking it further until after the camp, just so that it wouldn’t be ruined for you, Vanessa. But I can’t keep this a secret from you. You’d be asking me why I never told you when I knew.’
Vanessa gripped his arm. ‘Come on, Rex, stop beating about the bush. What are the new allegations?’
‘Rod is claiming that you and he are a couple.’
Vanessa’s jaw dropped and she stared at Rex. ‘You have got to be joking! That has to be some kind of sick joke. Surely the police can’t be taking him seriously?’
‘They have to take it seriously. At least seriously enough to conduct further investigation.’
‘My God!’ Vanessa stared. ‘So what’s he claiming? That you were just being the jealous boyfriend or something?’
‘Yeah, Rod’s saying I attacked him out of a jealous rage.’
‘Oh my God!’ Vanessa flinched. ‘That is just too screwed up for words.’
Rex put his arm around her. ‘Don’t worry. The truth is gonna come out. The police are gonna realize it’s all a load of bull.’
‘I hope so!’
‘Come on. We better head back to camp for now. Best to take our minds off things.’
Vanessa longed for some time with Rex alone. It seemed wherever she turned now, Daryl was there too. She still felt irritated that Daryl had not told her why Rex was away all day Friday. Now with the claims made by Rod about her and him being a couple, it just frustrated her even more, but she did her best to hide her emotions.
Back at camp, the fire was already lit and wood was being piled beside it. She attempted to lighten up the atmosphere with jokes and smiles. She was pleased when Rex responded with his own smiles and jokes too.
‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ Vanessa asked. ‘If anyone says sausages and baked beans, I’m going to a different restaurant.’
‘Hey, Nessa, if you like, I’ll put my cooking skills to the test,’ Pete Cook said. ‘I’m a bit of a whizz in the kitchen, you realize.’
‘Ahhhh, Pete, you are so sweet.’ She tweaked his cheek. ‘But I think I’ll pass. Throwing baked beans and sausages into a kitchen whizz doesn’t sound like my idea of fine dining.’
‘Yeah,’ Rex added. ‘I think we should just skip the middle man and just go straight to the throwing up bit.’
They cooked their meals on their own smaller group fires. Vanessa had to settle for sausages, baked beans and coleslaw, but she didn’t complain. In fact, she thought it was cool, camping out under the stars sitting around a camp fire and loved doing that with her darling, Rex. It was just a pity they weren’t in a romantic location alone right now. ‘I must say, I’m not particularly happy with the service at this dining establishment I wonder if we could employ Fabian from Candy Hearts to come over and serve us.’
‘Err, I don’t think so,’ Rex replied. ‘He’d have to sleep somewhere and he’s definitely not sharing my tent.’
‘Speaking of Candy Hearts.’ Vanessa lowered her voice. ‘We need to try and set something up between Holly and Clarke soon. Clarke has been gazing in my direction ever since we got back from collecting wood and Holly, she looks troubled.’
‘Yeah, I noticed that. It’s like she’s not really interested in socializing.’
‘Well tomorrow we lure them both out of camp to a nice private spot and leave them there on their own. Yeah huh?’
‘Yeah huh. Tomorrow morning after breakfast.’
Vanessa turned her head, towards Daryl. No smile came from the golden haired hottie’s lips, which made Vanessa feel good. She wasn’t going to let her bring her down. She was going to have a good time, despite the fact that she was there and was going to do her best not to let on to Rex that she was feeling very insecure about everything.
They all had a great time around the fire, singing camp songs, joking and generally fooling around. Even Mr Harris joined in the fun, telling funny stories about his days in the army and life in England.
When it came to retire, Vanessa wished she could join Rex in his tent. However, it wouldn’t be very cosy in there, knowing that Pete and Wal were also there, so she went to her own tent where Holly and Mandy were already bedding down. She paused before entering and cast her eye towards Daryl’s tent. Daryl still stood there and their eyes met. Vanessa worried that she might try to lure Rex out of his tent in the middle of the night for some alone time. Would she be that insensitive? She considered doing that very thing herself, but she knew she had to let Rex have some time just to relax and think.
Despite not being in the comfortable bed she was used to, she was so tired after the strenuous activity of the day, that she easily fell asleep. She did not wake until 8am the next morning, when activity outside the tents stirred her.
Mandy was already gone, but Holly was still there and sat up in her sleeping bag. ‘Oooh, I need more sleep.’
‘Well you’re beautiful enough,’ Vanessa said. ‘So you don’t need more beauty sleep.’
Holly smiled. ‘Is it safe for me to get dressed in here? You won’t try to… you know… ravish me while I do?’
‘I’ll do my best to keep myself under control.’
‘Good. I hope so!’ Holly laughed.
‘Glad to see you smiling. Is everything ok?’
‘I guess. I’ve just got some things on my mind, that’s all.’
‘Want to share?’
‘Thanks. But not right now. Don’t worry. I’m fine.’
Vanessa didn’t push the issue.
After a hearty breakfast of breakfast cereal, eggs and bacon, they were allowed some free time. They expected snow, but so far, none had fallen. There was kayaking on the river, as well as some abseiling and eeling. Mr Roberts had promised them a scavenger hunt after lunch, which sounded like fun to Vanessa.
Rex met up with her after breakfast. ‘All set?’
‘Yep. I’ll go get Holly. You get Clarke.’
Holly had disappeared from the campfire, so she went back to the tent to see if she was there. She was, rummaging through her pack.
‘Hey, Holl do you want to come out for a walk into the bushes?’
‘Huh?’ Holly glanced up. ‘Why?’
‘Just for fun. I want to show you this lovely place Rex, Daryl and I found last night.’
Vanessa led Holly into the trees, making for the area she and Rex had agreed to meet. They strolled along the river and it was so peaceful there. She stopped though when she heard some crunching noises behind them.
‘Is someone following us?’ Holly asked.
The two turned. They noticed a large figure duck behind a tree.
‘Hey, eejit, come out of there!’ Vanessa called out.
Tucker’s tubby face appeared.
‘Why are you following us, Tucker?’
‘I… I…’ He stepped out into the open. ‘I thought you two might be going to make out.’
‘Oh, so you wanted to watch?’
‘I’m straight!’ Holly snapped. ‘And if you don’t quit following us, I’ll come over there and slap your flabby face silly. Piss off!’
Tucker hurried away.
‘Now that’s telling him.’ Vanessa laughed.
They walked for a few more minutes and arrived at the spot Vanessa wanted. She sat down on the bank.
‘This is it?’ Holly asked.
‘Yeah huh. It’s so peaceful here.’
‘I guess.’ Holly sat down next to her. For a few minutes they just sat there in silence. Vanessa peered back into the trees expecting Rex and Clarke to arrive at any moment, but there was no sign of them.
Holly peered into the trees too. ‘What’s up? Is Tucker still there?’
Holly frowned. ‘What’s going on, Vanessa? Surely you didn’t just bring me here to look at a river… Oh gosh, don’t tell me you’re trying to lure me here so you can try to make out with me?’
Vanessa felt a little hurt by the suggestion. ‘Of course not, Holly, do you really think I would do that?’
‘No… I guess not.’
‘No! But I was expecting Rex to show.’
Holly’s face lit up. ‘Really?’
‘He should have been here five minutes ago.’
‘Oh, do you think Daryl’s got him held up somewhere?’
That thought hadn’t occurred to Vanessa and suddenly she became concerned. ‘That’s a good question.’ It was unlike Rex to be unreliable, but who knows what sway Daryl had over him. She could put herself in Rex’s shoes. If a girl like Daryl wanted her time, Vanessa’d probably want to give it to her, especially if she had strong feelings for her. ‘Maybe I should go and see what’s holding him up.’
‘You’ve got me bewildered now, Ness. What had you and Rex got planned?’
Vanessa sighed. ‘It’s meant to be a surprise. Look, will you wait here for a while? I’ll go and see if I can find out what’s taking him so long.’
Vanessa jogged back through the trees, scanning the area, hoping that Rex and Clarke might appear, but they didn’t. A few minutes later she arrived back at camp and peered about for some sign of them. She found some of the guys sitting around the camp fire.
‘Guys, have you seen Rex or Clarke?’
One of the boys pointed to the other end of camp. ‘I saw Rex and Daryl heading off down there. That was about fifteen minutes ago.’
Vanessa suddenly felt sick. It seemed Holly was right. Why would Rex allow himself to be lured away by Daryl, when he was supposed to be meeting up with her and Holly? What excuse had Daryl used to steal him away and what were they doing right now?
Vanessa hated to think. Despair filled her mind and for the first time she began to consider that Rex really did prefer Daryl to her. She was losing him and there was nothing she could do about it.
A voice called out softly from one of the nearby tents. ‘Vanessa!’
She turned and saw Clarke’s head sticking out the flaps of one of the tents.
‘Clarke!’ She had to push her dread to the back of her mind. She couldn’t break down, especially not in front of Clarke. ‘There you are. Did Rex find you?’
‘No, thank God. When I found he was looking for me, I did a runner. Then I came back here and hid.’
‘What? Why would you do that?’
‘I know he wants to kill me.’
Vanessa would have laughed if her mind wasn’t in such turmoil. ‘Are you crazy? Why would you think that?’
‘He’s after me for giving you that rose.’
‘You think he’d want to kill you for that?’
‘Yeah. I would if it was some guy giving my girl a rose.’
Vanessa sighed. ‘You really are a silly ass, you know that? He knows about the rose and it doesn’t bother him.’
‘It doesn’t?’ Clarke’s eye widened.
‘Of course! You don’t think I’d tell him about something like that? Anyway, why would you think he’d be jealous? Do you really think he’d be threatened by that? Rex? Come on!’
‘Wal kept telling me that Rex would be angry.’
‘And you listened to him? Wal was only yanking your chain and trying to freak you out a bit. He loves to do that to newbies. Rex wasn’t looking for you to pound the stuffing out of you. He just wanted you to come out to the river.’
‘Why? What’s out there?’
Vanessa didn’t feel much like matchmaking now, but still had Holly to consider. If Rex was now with Daryl, goodness knows where, it would mean he was probably not going to turn up at the river. ‘Why don’t you come with me and find out.’
Vanessa grabbed his hand and hauled him towards the bushes. He quickened his pace to keep up, his eyes wide with anticipation. Once in the trees, Vanessa let go of his hand and walked quickly along the track. ‘Come on. We don’t have all morning.’
Minutes later they arrived at the river bank where she had left Holly, however, she was no longer there.
‘Is this the spot?’ Clarke asked.
‘Yeah huh.’ Vanessa peered around, but could see no sign of anyone.
‘What’s up?’ Clarke stepped up beside her.
‘Ummm…’ She turned to face him and nearly fell backwards when Clarke leaned forward and planted his lips on her’s.
She shrieked and pulled back. ‘What the hell are you doing?’
Clarke’s face turned red. ‘I… I thought that’s what you wanted.’
‘Isn’t that why you lured me out here?’
‘What the hell gave you that idea?’
‘I just thought… I kind of thought you might be into me and you wanted to get me out here alone.’
Vanessa took a long breath out. ‘Clarke, if you could have misread me any worse, you would be getting treatment for dyslexia. You’re a nice guy, Clarke, but I thought I’d made it obvious that guys aren’t my thing. You realize that, don’t you?’
Clarke lowered his head. ‘Yeah, but I thought, because you were into Rex, maybe there might be a chance that you might be into another guy too and perhaps that other guy could be me.’
‘Nuh uh, Clarke, I can quite confidently tell you that there is no other guy I’m into.’
‘You liked the rose I gave you right?’
‘Well yeah, it was sweet, but look at it this way, Clarke. If some guy came up to you and gave you a rose, what would your reaction be?’
‘I don’t know. I… I guess I’d feel a little grossed out or maybe a little uncomfortable or something like that. Embarrassed?’
‘Do you think it might possibly make you want to hook up with that guy?’
‘Well then you see, now you have some idea of how I might feel about receiving a rose from a guy.’
‘I guess… I suppose you’d get more of a thrill if it came from a hot chick huh?’
‘Now you’re getting the idea.’
‘Ah shit. I feel like such an ass.’
‘Well you are,’ she said pleasantly. ‘But there are a lot worse things than being an ass and being an ass is usually only temporary… at least for most people.’
‘So… so why did you bring me out here for?’
‘Well, to be honest, Rex and I were trying to get you and Holly together.’
‘We thought that you two might get along pretty well if you gave each other a chance. Holly was here, but I don’t know where she went. You do like Holly don’t you?’
‘You think she’s hot?’
‘Alright, I want you to stay here for a few minutes, ok? I’m gonna try and find out where Holly is. You won’t move, will you?’
‘Good. I’ll be back in about five minutes.
She’d had a gutsful of the whole scenario now, but she had to finish what she’d started. She peered around the bushes, found an alternate route and hurried through the trees keeping her eye out for both Rex and Holly. She figured Holly might have got sick of waiting and headed back to camp, so Vanessa would veer around back in that direction. Maybe she might even run into Rex and possibly Daryl. She just hoped she wouldn’t run into them making out.
She hadn’t gone far when someone else appeared on the path in front of her. It was the last person in the world she expected to see and she came to a grinding halt, horror welling up inside her.
Nadia stepped up to her. ‘Hello, Vanessa.’
‘Nadia! What are you doing here?’
‘Well. You’re going to find out very soon.’ She pulled a sharp knife from her jacket and pointed it straight at Vanessa’s face. ‘You, Sis… are going to come with me!’
It had been ten minutes since Vanessa had left Holly sitting on the bank. Holly couldn’t help but wonder what on Earth she was up to, but her curiosity was too great to just get up and walk away. She didn’t have to wait long before someone showed and to her delight it was Rex.
‘Where’s Vanessa?’ he asked her.
‘She went looking for you.’
‘Darn, I thought that might happen. I got held up.’
‘Why, what’s going on?’
‘Ah… I was looking for Clarke, but it seems he’s trying to avoid me for some unknown reason.’
‘What’s Clarke got to do with anything?’
‘Well, we were trying to get him here.’
Rex grinned. ‘I guess I should come clean, huh? Vanessa and I just figured you and Clarke would make a good couple, so we kind of wanted to set you up.’
Holly stared at him, unable to believe what she was hearing. ‘You’re joking, right?’
‘No joke.’ Rex sat down beside her. He turned his eyes to her. ‘We just felt that both of you were focusing your attentions on the wrong people.’
Holly felt her heart sink. ‘Wrong people?’
She gazed longingly into his eyes. ‘I don’t think you’re the wrong person, Rex.’
Rex sighed and placed his hand on her arm. ‘Come on, Holl. You know I care about you a lot. A hell of a lot, but you can’t keep obsessing over me, because I can’t offer you what you really want. At least not as long as Vanessa… or Daryl are around. You realize that right?’
‘I know…’ Holly could feel emotions welling up inside of her. ‘But it doesn’t stop me from… you know… wanting what I can have. You know, it seems whenever you and I get a moment when it’s just the two of us, there’s always… you know… some drama going on or something that stops it from going any further. Like the other night when the police turned up on your doorstep.’
Rex nodded. ‘It seems that way, doesn’t it?’
‘And now here we are, alone in the bushes but any moment now Vanessa is going to come back. It seems I can’t win. And to make matters worse, now I find that you and Vanessa want me to hook up with a guy who’s more interested in another girl. That seems to be the story of my life.’ She rose to her feet, trying to fight back tears. ‘I need to go.’ She hurried deeper into the trees walking for nearly five minutes and not looking back. She found a spot amongst some thick brush and sat down burying her head in her hands. She leapt suddenly when a gentle hand touched her shoulder. She jerked her head up to see Rex lower himself down beside her. She didn’t try to get up again and leave. In some ways she was glad that he was there with her, even though it had been him she had ran away from to begin with.
She peered up into his magnetic deep blue eyes, wishing that she really could have him to herself and wishing that Vanessa and Daryl were both out of the picture, even though she really liked them both. She leant forward and pressed her lips against his. He didn’t resist. In fact he wrapped his arms around her and began to kiss her back. Seconds later Holly lay back on the ground, allowing him to lower himself down over top of her. The warmth and firmness of his muscular body felt so good. Anything she could have, she would gladly take. She hoped this time, they would not be interrupted.
Clarke sat on the river bank, awaiting Vanessa’s return. He felt humiliated and foolish. If only he hadn’t tried to come onto Vanessa like that. Now she would think he was just like those jerks who tried to hit on her at the modelling agency and he had tried so hard to be a gentleman. He dreaded the thought of what might happen once Rex found out. Vanessa would be sure to tell him, as she’d told him about the rose. A rose was one thing, but to try to kiss her? That was something completely different. He tried to tell himself that Rex only ever became angry if someone tried to hurt her physically. Still, he couldn’t help but worry.
Ten minutes ticked by and he became frustrated. He wanted to stay there, because he wasn’t about to throw away the chance to get to know Holly better. It would be embarrassing and nerve racking, but if Holly was willing to stay and talk, then it told him that she liked him. She was certainly no Vanessa, but was definitely a prize catch.
He rose to his feet. He’d go for a walk and check around the area, but be sure to return back in a few minutes time. Perhaps Rex and Holly had gone to the wrong place? There was always that chance.
Strolling through the trees, he came to a halt when he heard a strange noise. It sounded like a female moaning, as if perhaps in pain. Suddenly the moan became louder, but it didn’t sound like pain at all, in fact it sounded like pleasure.
He peered around the trees, trying to make out where the noises were coming from. The moaning came again, definitely one of pleasure. There was a couple in the bushes and as he drew closer he could just see through and make out the top halves of a couple, the male on top of the female. He recognized their faces immediately and he stepped back, his eyes wide. It was Rex and Holly.
Clarke flinched. He turned and hurried back in the opposite direction. ‘So much for her! I can’t believe that! They wanted to set me up with her and now she’s with him? My God, how many girls does that guy need?’
He arrived back at the river and dropped himself down on the bank, his head full of frustrations. ‘Obviously she’s not interested in me,’ he muttered. ‘She wants him, just like all the other damn girls in the school! Who is Vanessa kidding? Holly and me? No way!’
He groaned and buried his head in his hands in anguish. ‘Great, just great. It seems I just can’t win. I can’t get Vanessa and I can forget about Holly too, I guess.’
A female voice came from behind. ‘Did someone say my name?’
Clarke lifted his head and spun around. Standing there was a girl he’d never seen before, but one who’s beauty hit him like a brick wall. ‘Who are you?’
‘Who do you think?’ the girl asked. ‘I’m Vanessa of course. Vanessa Dante.’
‘Tucker, I demand you let me go, right now!’
Tucker felt shaken. He sat on a chair in a cabin in the middle of the bush, staring across at Vanessa who sat tied to a chair. It all seemed surreal to him, Vanessa being there completely at his mercy. It also felt scary, because he had never been involved in anything like this before.
‘This is kidnapping, Tucker!’ Vanessa snarled. ‘You are going to be thrown away and put in prison, but that’s nothing compared to what Rex is going to do to you when he gets a hold of you!’
Tucker shuddered at the thought, but he wasn’t about to let her go, especially not after Nadia had gone to so much trouble to bring her to the cabin for him to mind. The opportunity to talk to the goddess and get to know her one-on-one was something that he was not just going to waste. ‘I didn’t kidnap you, Nadia did.’
‘Oh, and what are you going to tell the police when they haul your ass off to jail? “Oh, Mr Police Man, I was only an innocent bystander during all this. I just thought I’d hang around and make sure the victim was safe.” Whatever, Tucker!’
It actually seemed like a good excuse to him and he considered using it if the situation called for it, but Nadia had assured him they were only keeping her there for a short while. At least until Nadia had finished her next step of the plan, whatever that plan was. Tucker had not asked. ‘It’s ok, Vanessa. You won’t be here for long.’
‘I shouldn’t be here at all! You can bet Rex will be wondering where I am right now and will come looking for me!’
‘I doubt it. I saw him and Daryl sitting together alone in the bushes. He was cuddling her.’
For a moment Vanessa faltered, but then her eyes narrowed. ‘So what the hell is Nadia doing? What does she want?’
‘I don’t know,’ admitted Tucker. ‘But she seems to want Rex.’
Vanessa’s eyes widened again. ‘Why? Does she want to hurt him?’
‘I don’t know, I guess.’
‘Damn it, Tucker, you have to let me go!’ Vanessa wriggled around fiercely, but her ropes were too tight and she couldn’t budge. ‘If anything happens to Rex, I’m gonna kill you!’
Tucker decided to be bold. ‘Forget about Rex. If Nadia doesn’t kill him, then he’s gonna be locked up for good after what he did to Rod Williams.’
‘You lousy piece of crap! What do you know about all that? Who the hell is trying to set Rex up?’
Tucker flinched at Vanessa’s harsh words to him, but tried to tell himself that she had a right to be angry. He just needed to give her time to calm down.
‘Damn it, I know you told the cops some cock n bull story. We all know you did!’
Tucker lurched back in his chair. ‘How did you know?’
‘Oh come on, do you think we’re dumb? Daryl talked to you that night. You were there. You saw the fight and then made up some story to the cops. Admit it.’
‘I… I… I just told them the truth.’
‘Bull! You told them a lot of lies. Who else was in with you on that? Who?’
‘Yeah, whatever. Like I’d ever believe anything you told me.’
‘Hey, give me a break,’ Tucker said. ‘I don’t want this to be bad for you. I want to make things as comfortable as possible for you.’
‘Then untie me. Let me go.’
‘No, you have to stay.’
‘Why, because Nadia said so? Why do you want to listen to her? She’s screwed up, Tucker, she’s messed up in the head.’
Tucker didn’t reply. There had definitely been something not right with Nadia, but he had overlooked that just to get the opportunity to mind Vanessa.
‘Tucker…’ Vanessa’s voice calmed and her eyes looked pained. ‘If you let me go now, I’ll promise to make sure Rex doesn’t kill you, ok? I’ll tell him you helped me escape from Nadia.’
Tucker pondered the offer for a few seconds, but realized he would be right back to square one again. Not only that, but Vanessa would hate him forever. No, he had to keep her there and at least try to get her on his side. ‘I can’t let you go. I want to talk to you for a bit.’
‘Well I don’t want to talk to you!’
‘Oh come on, be reasonable. We might as well talk. You’ll just be sitting there bored if we don’t.’
‘I’d rather have my finger nails ripped off one by one than talk to you.’
‘Fine. But I’m not letting you go.’
For half an hour nothing more was said. Tucker got up and walked around every now and then, peering out the window, wondering how long it would be before Nadia returned. Most of the time he watched Vanessa and despite the discomfort he felt, it was kind of nice to have her there to admire, even though she refused to talk or even look at him.
Finally though, she spoke again. ‘Tucker’
‘Yes?’ His heart leapt at hearing her say his name so sweetly.
‘You know, I would be a lot more comfortable if I could move around a bit. If you could untie me, I’ll stay here, I promise. I won’t try to run away.’
For a moment, Tucker considered the idea. Anything to make the goddess more comfortable would increase the chances of her being willing to talk to him. She was the honest type. If she said she wouldn’t run away, she wouldn’t. However, after a few more moments thought, Tucker realized that it was too much of a risk. Nadia had also told him not to untie her under any circumstances. ‘Sorry. I can’t untie you.’
‘Come on, Tucker. You may be a lowlife bully and you may be a lying sack of shit, but you aren’t a criminal.’
‘What happens when I need to go to the toilet?’
‘I’ve got a plastic container here.’
‘Oh right. And you expect me to go in front of you? Forget that. I’ll just sit here and piss myself and you’ll have to put up with the smell.’
‘I can’t let you go. You’ll run away and then you’ll hate me forever.’
‘What and keeping me here is going to make me like you?’
‘Maybe… if you talk to me and get to know me.’
‘What? Is that what this is about? You getting a chance to chat me up and then hoping I might have sex with you?’
Tucker didn’t reply.
‘You are well and truly deluded. You make me sick!’
Tucker felt small. Nevertheless, there was no way he was going to let her go. She would stay there and she would talk to him. It would only be a matter of time before the goddess fell in love with him. Of that, he was certain.
Rex and Holly arrived back at camp.
‘Vanessa’s probably worried wondering where I disappeared to.’ Rex peered around camp, anxiously, looking for either Vanessa or Clarke.
‘Are you going to tell her about what we did?’
‘You know I will.’
‘Ooooh. She’s going to hate me.’
‘Of course she won’t. She’ll be fine with it. In fact if I know her, she’ll probably be pleased for you.’
‘Wow, that’s just really screwed up.’
Rex chuckled. ‘Just be thankful it is.’
It was good to see her smile again. In fact she had perked up considerably and was talkative all the way back to camp.
‘Rex Cassidy, I want a word with you!’ Mr Sanders stormed up to him. ‘Where have you been? Where are Daryl Chambers and Vanessa Dante? Weren’t they with you? What the hell is this? A third girl now? I’m not putting up with this kind of depravity at this camp!’
‘Depravity?’ Rex scoffed. ‘You want to clarify just what you are insinuating by that?’
‘Don’t play games with me, Rex. I know the things you got up to last night and the things you’ve been doing this morning. I have reliable sources.’
‘Then please, do enlighten me because I’ve done absolutely nothing depraved or corrupt that I can think of, unless you’re getting confused between depravity and natural human urges. Perhaps your God didn’t realise that when you create a being and give him urges, that being is going to act on them.’
‘So you admit it then? You admit that you have been involved in immoralities?’
‘Well for one thing, you and I might have a different idea about what’s immoral and what’s not. Secondly, last I heard there was no law against any of the so-called immoral acts that I’ve indulged in.’
‘There are rules! Camp rules! Boys and girls are not permitted to fraternize in that manner!’
Holly spoke up. ‘Oh come on, Mr Sanders.’ She glanced at Rex with a twinkle in her eye. ‘What really does it matter if a couple of us sneak away and get up to hanky-panky in the bushes?’
Mr Sander’s eyes widened. ‘So you’re admitting it?’
‘Of course!’ Holly smiled. ‘In fact if you like, I’ll announce it to the entire camp. Rex and I had sex in the bushes and it was great!’
His face turned red. ‘You are incriminating yourself. I can have you kicked out of camp for this!’
‘No, you can’t,’ Holly said. ‘Because you can’t prove it.’
‘You admitted it!’
‘Makes no difference,’ Rex said. ‘In a court of law it still has to be proven. An admission of guilt is not enough.’
‘This is ridiculous!’ Sanders snorted. ‘You are trying to make a fool out of me.’
‘We don’t have to try,’ Holly said. ‘You already have foolishness down to a fine art.’
‘How dare you speak to me like that?’
Rex took over, ‘Mr Sanders, let’s just clarify something, shall we? I did nothing last night that violated any of the camp rules, so if you’ve got a source get that source out here now to make accusations to my face.’
‘What, so you can intimidate him like you love to do?’
Rex smirked. ‘I can guess who your source is. I’ve seen you talking to him an awful lot lately. If you want to believe that Tucker Pyles is reliable, just go speak to some of the other teachers. You’ll soon find you’ll be the laughing stock for believing the words of such an assclown. If your sources are not Tucker Pyles, but someone else, then take it up with Mr Harris. If he thinks something should be done, then I’ll respect it. In the mean time, you can go jump.’
Rex put his arm around Holly and they commenced walking.
Sanders did not call them back.
‘Rex!’ Clarke ran up to him and Holly. ‘You’ve gotta come over here. This is really messed up man. Really messed up.’
‘There’s this girl just arrived at camp. She’s claiming to be Vanessa.’
‘What?’ Rex scoffed. ‘Are you sure you’re not getting your facts screwed up.’
‘I’m not kidding. I met her in the bushes. She claims to be her and she’s just walked into camp.’
‘Where’s Vanessa. Have you seen her?’
‘Not for some time.’ Clarke’s eyes moved to Holly, but then quickly turned back to Rex, as if he didn’t want to look too long at her. ‘She does look similar to Vanessa in some ways, but nowhere near as…’ His words trailed off and his cheeks flushed. He quickly looked away.
‘Hot?’ Rex asked.
‘Yeah.’ His eyes didn’t meet Rex’s.
Rex turned to face Holly as the horrible possibility dawned on him. ‘Could it be…?’
She shook her head. ‘Surely it can’t be? Not way out here. It must be some kind of joke.’
‘Where is she, Clarke?’
‘This way!’ Clarke motioned.
Rex hurried along after Clarke, with Holly right beside him. A large group of campers had surrounded someone and as they drew closer Rex was able to make out a disturbingly familiar face in the middle of the scene.
‘It is! It’s Nadia.’
‘Who’s Nadia?’ Clarke asked.
‘Vanessa’s half-sister,’ Holly replied.
Rex didn’t push his way through the crowd. He slipped in behind it to try to get an idea of what was going on.
‘You’re crazy,’ said Mandy. ‘You’re not Vanessa. You’re Nadia, her demented half-sister. What the hell are you playing at, Nadia?’
Nadia smiled sweetly. ‘You’ve got it all wrong. That girl was Nadia. I’m Vanessa.’
Rex delivered a stunned expression to Holly who looked equally as bamboozled. He still remained where he was though.
‘So are you saying you somehow got switched at birth or something?’ Maggie asked. ‘And she ended up as you and you as her?’
‘Don’t be stupid,’ Jacqui said. ‘They’re not twins. They were born at completely different times.’
‘Something happened to me out in those bushes,’ Nadia said. ‘Something I can’t explain and I changed, physically and spiritually.’
‘Oh,’ Jacqui said. ‘So you just underwent some radical, supernatural metamorphous?’
Nadia smiled. ‘I know it’s gonna take a little getting used to my new look, but you can be assured that I haven’t changed on the inside. I’m still the fun-loving, adorable and sweet girl you’ve all come to know and love.’
‘So you’re still a lesbo then?’ asked one of the guys.
‘Nuh uh, that was one of the changes. I am totally straight now. Isn’t that wonderful?’
‘You can’t just change who you are!’ Maggie snapped.
‘Yeah huh. Don’t underestimate the power of the supernatural, Maggie.’
‘Where is Vanessa, anyway?’ Pete asked. ‘I haven’t seen her around in a while. Nor Rex for that matter.’
‘The old Vanessa is gone,’ Nadia said. ‘She’s never coming back.’
The crowds became silent. Rex had heard enough. He pushed his way through. ‘What’s all this about Nadia? Where’s Vanessa?’
Nadia’s face lit up when she saw Rex. ‘Dollbaby! I’m so glad you’re back!’
‘Quit it, Nadia. Nobody’s buying your game.’
‘This is no game, Rexy. This is for real.’ She stepped forward and reached out to him.
Rex pushed her hand away. ‘Where is Vanessa?’
‘She’s gone, Rex. Gone forever.’
Horror began to well up inside him as the worst thought imaginable came into his mind. Had Nadia done something to her? Had she harmed her… or worse?
Rex stepped forward, rage beginning to well up inside him. Suddenly Holly stepped forward and placed her hand on his chest. ‘Rex, easy… easy… don’t get worked up. Stay calm.’
Rex could feel himself trembling as he glared at Nadia, but he managed to cool his emotions enough to talk. ‘Nadia… you better stop this right now and tell me where Vanessa is. Did you do something to her?’
‘Rex…’ Nadia said. ‘Look at me. It’s me, baby, it’s your Nessie. Can’t you see that?’
Rex turned to the other campers. ‘I need everyone to look for Vanessa now. Go!’
Immediately the crowds dispersed. Only a few remained including Rex’s closest friends and Clarke.
‘Listen up Nadia…’ Rex sent her a piercing glare. ‘I’m not playing games with you. You ought to know that if it comes to the safety of Vanessa I can go to extreme measures to protect her. I don’t want to threaten you, but I’m gonna tell you. Quit the charade now and tell me where Vanessa is.’
Nadia’s eyes saddened. ‘Why Rex? Why are you treating me like this? It’s me… Vanessa.’
‘You’re not Vanessa and you never will be! You can pretend to be her all you like, but you can’t have her life. Most of all you can’t have me. I’ll never accept you as a substitute for her.’
‘Don’t say that, Rex. You can learn to love me like you once did.’
‘You can never be her, never!’
Nadia’s face darkened. ‘You would reject me, your one true love? The one you’re destined to be with?’
‘You are a sick twisted bitch. I could never love you.’
‘You will!’ Nadia screamed and pulled a knife out from her jacket. She thrust it towards Rex, slashing his arm, causing him to stagger back. She screamed again and lunged at him, but he ducked down and sent her to the ground with a takeover. He grabbed her hand and wrenched the knife from it. Fury built up inside him again, but he pushed it back. The last thing he could ever do was strike a woman, even one as messed up as Nadia.
‘Where is she Nadia?’
‘She’s gone. You’ll never see her again!’
Holly sat down on a log by the fire, worried about Vanessa. Right now, Rex, Mr Harris and some of the teachers were in the teacher’s tent, talking to Nadia, trying to find out where Vanessa was.
Mr Roberts had commanded everyone to be rounded up so they could do a head count and then mount a search for Vanessa.
Clarke, who sat next to Holly spoke, ‘This is so totally messed up, man.’
‘Tell me about it.’
‘This whole school is messed up and everyone in it.’
Holly turned to face him. ‘Why do you say that?’
‘Come on! Gee, you should know how messed up it is. Well maybe, you don’t, because you’re so used to all this shit.’
‘Used to people pretending to be someone else?’
‘Not just that. All of it! Man, lesbians who love one guy and let him see whoever he wants. A guy who gets to screw just about every hot chick in the entire school… Girls who don’t seem to care that they’re one of the hundreds of girls he messes around with.’ With the last sentence, his eyes met hers.
Holly froze. ‘Why are you looking at me like that?’
‘I don’t get it, Holl. I thought you were different, but you’re just like the Jacquis and the Mandys and all the others… ready to jump into the sack with Rex as soon as they have the opportunity.’
Holly’s chest tightened. ‘Why do you say that?’
‘Oh come on. I saw the two of you in the bushes.’
‘Oh my gosh, you did?’
‘Yeah, only briefly though. I didn’t stay and watch.’
‘Oh gosh, I thought we were completely alone.’
‘You made a lot of noise.’
‘Oh…’ Holly turned her head. It was too hard to look him in the eye after what he had just revealed.
‘Are you like all those other girls, Holly?’
Holly gazed over at the trees. ‘What? A girl with needs? A girl with desires? One who struggles to fight against her lusts and her fantasies? One who acts on her heart? I guess if that makes me just like all the other girls, then I am.’ She turned her eyes back to Clarke.
He turned his head away. ‘I guess you have a point.’
‘Clarke.’ She touched his arm. ‘Rex is like no other guy in the entire school… heck New Zealand… possibly the whole world. The allure for us girls is just so strong. It’s so hard to explain. It’s even hard when you have a boyfriend.’
Clarke turned his eyes to face her. ‘What do you mean?’
She sighed. ‘Mav and I were a couple and I kind of screwed things up very early on because of my desires for Rex. I don’t think Mav ever recovered after that. Not really.’
‘So you can’t be trusted then?’
Holly felt a stab in her heart, but nevertheless, maybe it was true. ‘I don’t know… maybe not.’
‘So any guy that hooked up with you would have to accept that you love Rex, right? Even though you may never be able to have him as your guy, you love him and if the opportunity ever came up, you’d jump into bed with him and betray the guy you were with.’
Holly turned her head away. She couldn’t meet his gaze any longer.
‘That’s what I thought.’ Clarke sighed. ‘I guess that’s that then. Looks like Rex and Vanessa were wrong about us being compatible. I could never hook up with someone who was always yearning for some other guy.’ He rose to his feet. ‘But, if that’s the way things are, that’s the way things are, right?’
Holly turned her head to face him, delivered him a sad look then lowered her gaze back to the ground.
Mr Harris emerged from the tent. Rex and the teachers came out too. Mr Harris blew his whistle, a signal for all the campers to assemble at the camp fire. There were already crowds there and Holly could see most of the people she knew. Even Daryl was there, standing near the back, not talking to anyone.
The teachers did a role call and everyone acknowledged their name, except for one person; Tucker.
‘Does anyone know where Tucker is?’
‘Joe, Colin. When was the last time you saw Tucker?’
Colin spoke up, a worried tone in his voice. ‘We haven’t seen him since breakfast.’
‘That’s all we need!’ snarled Harris. ‘Knowing that fat buffoon he’s probably gone and got himself lost in the bushes. Let’s just hope he hasn’t injured himself.’
Holly overheard Pete whisper a comment to Mav. ‘I don’t think he really means that.’ He snickered.
Mr Harris announced that they were going to organize a search of the area for Vanessa. ‘And we might as well look for Tucker at the same time.’ He and the teachers proceeded to put everyone into groups of three or four. Holly found herself in a group with Jacqui, Clarke and one of the year thirteen girls. They were given instructions on which area they would be searching, but before the search could start, a startled announcement game from the teacher’s tent. Mrs Whiterow stood there. ‘Nadia! She’s gone! She’s not in the tent!’
A minor panic went around the camp, but Mr Harris calmed things down. ‘Ok, all it means is that we must get searching, but be very careful, that girl is not in her right mind. If you see her, you stay well clear of her, come back and let a teacher know where she is. Do I make myself clear?’
‘YES SIR!’ chimed in the campers.
Holly peered around at the groups and noticed that one person in particular was missing. Rex. She said nothing though as her group headed out to search their area. As soon as they entered the bushes she turned and headed in another direction.
‘Holly where are you going?’ Jacqui called out.
‘Don’t worry!’ Holly shouted back. ‘I’ll be fine!’ She quickened her pace and ran on along one of the tracks, heading back to the direction of the river where Vanessa had left her that morning.
She didn’t know whether she was on the right track, but she suspected that Rex had gone off in search of Vanessa on his own. It would most likely mean he’d come by this way as this was the area Vanessa had last been seen. If anyone was going to find Vanessa, it would be Rex and Holly wanted to be part of the rescue effort, whatever that might entail. She just hoped desperately that it wasn’t too late.
She marched in the direction she and Rex had made love and paused for a moment to take in the atmosphere. It was a smell she would never forget… the dampness of the leaves, the trees, the plants and the smell of Rex’s aftershave and deodorant. It made her smile, just for a second and then she came to her senses, remembering her mission.
It began to snow. Flakes drifted down in between the canopy of trees and she stopped again, just to admire the snowflakes. It was what they had all been hoping for, but right now the time was probably not good. Not while Vanessa was out there somewhere, maybe even lying somewhere tied up, injured or even worse. Holly shuddered to think about that and hurried on, keeping her eyes open for anything unusual.
She heard footsteps from behind.
She turned, expecting to maybe see Jacqui, but instead she tensed up when Ben Tamati came to a thumping halt in front of her.
He spoke sharply, ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I’m looking for Vanessa.’
‘On your own?’
‘Yes!’ Holly shuddered. She scanned the trees hoping to see some of the other campers, but found they were alone. It made her feel very uneasy.
‘I warned you!’ Ben scowled.
‘Hey! I never said anything to anybody. I kept my mouth shut.’
‘No you didn’t! You told Rex, now he’s been breathing down my neck!’
‘Look, I told him the other day, but I haven’t said anything to him since.’
‘Then why was he hassling me at breakfast this morning?’
‘Yes! Wanting to know why I was meeting up with Wild Dogs again. He said he was going to be watching me like a hawk and if I put one foot wrong, he’d be there to nail it down! You told him!’
Holly flinched. ‘Honestly, I didn’t.’
‘You did. And now that I’ve got you here, I’m going to teach you a lesson.’
‘You can’t! I’ll tell Rex!’
‘He’ll be in prison soon.’ Ben laughed. ‘He can’t do anything while he’s in prison. Besides, he won’t track me down, I’ll make sure of that.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘Mmmmm. That’s a good question.’
‘You’ll be put in prison!’
‘What, for doing this?’ He grabbed her and pinned her to a tree and laid a long kiss on her lips. Holly squealed and bit down on his lip. He screamed, grabbed her and hurled her to the ground. ‘You nasty little cow! Ooooh, I’m gonna teach you the lesson of your life and there’s no one here to save your cute little ass!’
‘Oh no you won’t!’ From out of nowhere Clarke charged. He rammed right into Ben and sent him hurtling across the ground and into a patch of gorse. Ben screamed out and leapt to his feet, brushing thorns from his backside. Clarke came at him again, but Ben was way too fast. Holly had seen it time and time again, someone bigger than Ben getting the worst of a confrontation. Ben ducked out of the way, grabbed Clarke and sent him face first into the trunk of one of the trees. He then delivered powerful blows right to Clarke’s kidneys causing him to cry out in pain and drop to the ground.
‘Leave him alone!’ Holly grabbed Ben’s arm, but she swung his hand back, striking her, sending her crashing to the ground. He hauled Clarke to his feet and swung him around.
‘Ok yeah… you are at the wrong place at the wrong time, dickhead. You are going to find out what sort of pain a real man can inflict on you…’
Rex’s plan had worked just as he’d hoped. Mr Harris, as per his instructions, had tied Nadia’s hand to one of the tent poles and deliberately tied it in a way that would be easily loosened. Rex waited at the trees while Mr Harris organized the search and just as expected, Nadia made a break. She slipped under the back of the tent and into the bushes.
Rex kicked into action and followed her along, making sure he remained well hidden. At first Nadia walked briskly, but then she slowed down. She stopped and peered around as if to get her bearings. It seemed to Rex that she was a little lost. As worrying as that was, it also gave him hope. It meant she had a destination in mind, hopefully wherever Vanessa was. That would also mean that she was alive, perhaps tied up somewhere or imprisoned in a building. Rex kept his eyes peeled for any buildings.
He shadowed her for ten minutes and she stopped regularly. Suddenly she just vanished amongst the trees and Rex had to pause for a moment. Did he rush on ahead in the direction he had seen her go, or did he advance more cautiously in case she had noticed she was being followed and had hidden.
He opted for the cautious approach. The last thing he wanted to do was go out into the open and be seen by her, thus blowing his cover. He had to let her think she was safe. Perhaps it was too late for that, but he had to hope it wasn’t.
Crouched down low, he made his way through the undergrowth to where she had disappeared. Once there he paused and scanned the area, opening his ears for any unusual sound. For nearly two minutes he remained still. During this time snow began to fall.
‘Damn it,’ he hissed. It seemed that he had made the wrong call by laying low. Now she was gone, probably hundreds of meters ahead of him. If she was lost she might change her course drastically, which would mean she’d be impossible to track.
He hurried on, the snow falling down through the gaps in the trees. He got lucky when he noticed shoe prints in the snow ahead of him. Nadia’s. She was nearby.
He remained ever vigilant and came to a halt when up ahead he saw an old wooden cabin. The tracks continued in the direction of the cabin. This was it. It had to be.
It was then that he heard some shouts coming from off to the left. A female voice. Could it have been Vanessa or maybe even Nadia? He hurried over to investigate and got quite a surprise when he saw Ben wrestling with Clarke. Holly was on her feet and shouting. ‘I said leave him alone!’
Ben nailed Clarke in the stomach with a devastating blow, sending Clarke doubling over and staggering back.
Rex swung his head back to the cabin. He couldn’t afford to waste any more time. If Vanessa was in that cabin and if Nadia was too, she could be in great danger.
Rex turned his head back to the Ben, who now had Clarke and was choking him out. Holly tried to stop him, but Ben shoved her back to the ground. Rex couldn’t stand by and watch. He lunged in at Ben grabbed him and drove his head down on his knee. There was a crack as Ben’s jaw hit his knee and Ben grunted and slipped to the ground where he remained, out cold.
Clarke choked, but stared up at Rex with grateful eyes.
‘I’ve got to get to Vanessa!’ Rex said. ‘There’s a cabin over here. Stay back here!’
He hurried back to the cabin, leaving Holly to take care of the injured Clarke. He heard shouting coming from the cabin this time. Angry shouts.
‘You stupid fat tird! Why the hell did you let her go?’
‘It was getting late,’ replied Tucker’s voice. ‘I was hungry and it wasn’t right. She didn’t deserve to be tied up like that.’
‘You’ve gone and ruined everything!’
Rex rushed through the trees just in time to see Nadia and Tucker on the doorstep of the cabin. Nadia took one look at Rex, gasped in horror, turned and sprinted towards the trees. Rex’s first instinct was to pursue her, but if Tucker had helped Vanessa escape, maybe he knew which way she went. Vanessa was his chief concern.
‘Tucker! Where’s Vanessa?’
‘It’s ok… She’s safe. In here.’
‘In the cabin?’
‘Yes. Come on.’
Tucker led Rex inside. A chair sat in the room, with some old bailing twine lying loose on the floor. Tucker walked over to a closet and opened the door. Vanessa stepped out. On seeing Rex, she shrieked in delight and dived into his arms.
‘Vanessa!’ Rex gasped. ‘I’m so glad you’re safe.’
They exited the cabin. Holly and Clarke were there to greet them. Tucker stood timidly off to the side, looking cold and frightened.
‘Tucker, what the hell is going on?’ Rex asked.
‘Nadia. She wanted me to guard Vanessa.’
‘You mean keep her prisoner?’
‘She said she would be back, but then when she did she was cursing and yelling as she came up to the cabin. She was saying, “Prepare to die, you bitch! If I can’t be you, then neither can you!” What the hell did she mean?’
‘Never mind. So what happened then?’
‘I wouldn’t let her in, because I was afraid she’d hurt Vanessa. So I untied her. And we tricked Nadia by making her think Vanessa had escaped, but she was hiding in the closet all along.’
‘Nice thinking. But this doesn’t excuse the fact that you were involved in this, Tucker! What the hell were you playing at?’
Tucker whimpered. ‘I’m so sorry! I just wanted to talk to her, that’s all. Have here there alone. I didn’t mean to do anything bad.’
Rex spun his head to Vanessa, his heart still thumping. ‘Did he touch you?’
‘No. He never did anything to me. He’s a stupid fat moron, but in the end he did the right thing.’
Rex sighed deeply, relief sweeping over him. ‘I’m just glad you’re ok. Come on, we need to get back to camp. The snow is coming down quite heavily now.’
They made their way back in the direction of the campsite. They passed by a steep bank and paused to get their bearings.
‘Nadia wandered all over the place and now it’s not so easy to figure out the way back.’
‘That way I think.’ Holly pointed. ‘My path was pretty much straight.’
Suddenly from out of the bushes charged Nadia. She went straight for Vanessa and clutched at her throat with both hands. Clarke intercepted, swiped her hands away and dragged Vanessa back towards him by the arm. She stepped on a rock and suddenly her leg slipped. She let out a cry and toppled over the bank with an ear piercing scream. Clarke lost his grip on her arm and she tumbled down, head over heels until she came to a stop at the foot of the bank. She didn’t move.
‘Hold her!’ Rex yelled to Holly and Clarke. All he cared about now was Vanessa. His entire body tensed up and the sight of Vanessa lying in a heap at the foot of the bank filled him with dread.
Clarke and Holly grabbed Nadia between them. She thrashed and struggled, but was unable to break free.
‘Ha!’ screamed Nadia. ‘There! There! I can be you now!’
Rex didn’t care about his own safety. He scrambled down the side of the bank and nearly slipping himself a few times. He reached Vanessa’s inert body and dropped down beside her in anguish. ‘Vanessa! Oh God, Vanessa!’
Clarke sat with Holly outside the operating theatre at the New Plymouth Hospital. A group of campers were there; worried about Vanessa who was still unconscious from the fall she had received. He felt sick, knowing that if it wasn’t for his miscalculations when he pulled Vanessa away from Nadia, she wouldn’t be in the hospital right now.
Holly spoke soothingly, ‘It’s not your fault, Clarke. You were just trying to help her.’
‘What was I thinking, pulling her towards the bank like that? I’m an idiot. I need my head examined!’
‘It was a reflex. Don’t blame yourself.’
‘Rex is gonna blame me. When he comes out of there, he’s gonna be looking for justice. I put his girl in hospital. That’s the worse anyone’s ever done to her!’
Holly placed her hand on Clarke’s arm. ‘Vanessa has undergone more traumatic events than that. Earlier this year she had a creep take her away at knife point. From what I understand the same happened here with Nadia. This was simply just an accident.’
‘Rex is gonna annihilate me.’
‘Don’t be silly. Rex isn’t like that. He’ll know it wasn’t your fault.’
‘Will he? He can get pretty darn crazy when it comes to Vanessa’s safety. He can go mental. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. That’s why that guy is in the hospital. The only reason Rex didn’t take his wrath out on me before is that he was too upset about Vanessa.’
Holly didn’t reply.
Clarke flinched. He debated whether it was wise even being there. Rex would probably come out to see them soon and revenge would be on his mind. Clarke’s only hope was that because they were in a public place, he would be safe.
He tensed up immediately when Rex stepped out of the operating theatre. Seconds later, Vanessa’s body was wheeled out and away. Rex’s face appeared grim when he saw them. Clarke braced himself for the tempest he expected to come.
Rex stepped up to them. ‘She’s ok. She’s conscious now, but asleep.’
‘Did she say anything?’ Holly asked.
‘No, she was too drugged up. They’re taking her to the wards now.’
Clarke rose to his feet, his knees weak. ‘I’m sorry, Rex. I really am. I didn’t mean to pull her so close to the bank. I wasn’t thinking straight. I just wanted to get her away from that girl.’
Rex smiled. ‘Don’t beat yourself up over it.’
‘What?’ Clarke reeled. ‘You’re not angry with me?’
‘Why should I be? Like you said, you were trying to get her away from Nadia. That was quick reflexes on your part. You just misjudged things, that’s all.’
A wave of relief swept over Clarke. ‘Oh man… I thought you were going to have my guts for garters.’
‘Relax. I don’t hold any of that against you. In fact, I’m grateful that you tried to help.’
‘And you’re not angry that I gave her a rose?’
Rex chuckled. ‘Why would I be angry at someone making an eejit of himself?’
‘And… and that I kissed her?’
Rex’s jaw dropped. ‘What?’
Holly spun her head around and stared at him.
‘You didn’t know? Oh… oh wait.’ Clarke cringed. ‘That was just before her sister kidnapped her. But… but, she knocked me back big time. Freaked out and nearly belted me one. I’m so sorry man. I am such a dick. I should never have tried it on. I’ll understand if you want to smash my head in. Really.’ He flinched, expecting the worst.
Amazingly, Rex continued to remain calm. ‘You’re an eejit, Hanson, you know that?’ A wry smile appeared on his face. ‘I’m gonna let this one slide because I know you’re a decent guy and that you were ignorant of a few facts, being a newbie. Not only that, but I understand… really understand just how alluring Vanessa is. Any other guy wouldn’t be so lucky. Consider this your “Get out of jail free” card, but don’t go thinking that I’m gonna go so easy on you if it ever happens again. You got it?’
‘I got it, man, I got it!’ Clarke breathed a sigh of relief. ‘I can absolutely assure you it will never happen again. I got the message from Vanessa loud and clear that she’s not interested and that she only has eyes for you.’
‘Good. Anyway, let’s go down to the wards. Hopefully Vanessa might wake up before too much longer.’
Clarke and Holly followed him along, not saying anything, until they got to the waiting area. There they sat down, while Rex went to check on Vanessa.
For a few moments they remained silent.
Clarke finally spoke. ‘I’ve made such an ass of myself this last week.’
‘Yeah, you have. I can’t believe you tried to kiss Vanessa. You knew she was gay. You knew she was dedicated to Rex. What were you thinking?’
‘I don’t know. I guess I got the wrong impression.’
‘I don’t know how Vanessa can be any more obvious about who she’s into.’
‘I guess anyone trying to score her affections is wasting their time, huh?’
‘Well I don’t know about that. If I kissed her, I think she’d… you know… be really into that.’ Holly laughed.
‘Wow,’ Clarke said. ‘You know that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Hell, it doesn’t do much for a guy’s ego to know that when it came to trying to seduce Vanessa, he’d lose out to a girl rather than another guy.’
‘Well, perhaps it might do your ego good to know that there is at least one girl who you’d have a chance with, especially after the way you tried to take on Ben Tamati, even though you got your ass kicked.’
Clarke’s eyes widened and he stared at Holly. ‘Really? Who? Laura? Mandy?’ He deliberately put excitement into his voice. ‘Maggie maybe? Or Wendy or Jacqui…’
Holly delivered him a dirty look.
‘Just kidding!’ Clarke burst out laughing. ‘You know, if that girl were you, I’d be really happy. It would make my day.’
‘Well…’ A smile broke out on Holly’s face. ‘Consider your day made.’
Rex felt so much better now that Vanessa was in one of the wards sleeping peacefully. He sat by her bed for some time, but felt he needed to get out for a few minutes, stretch his legs and have a coffee.
Instead of joining his friends in the waiting room, he decided to go for a stroll down to another part of the hospital. HHe came across a men’s ward and it occurred to him suddenly, that he couldn’t be too far away from where Rod Williams was residing.
He wandered into the ward, not really sure what his intentions were. Maybe something would come up when he got there. At the reception desk, sat a highly attractive blonde nurse, possibly in her late teens or early twenties. It occurred to him that he might be able to charm her into giving him some information. ‘Hi.’
The nurse glanced up and her eyes lit up immediately. ‘Hello!’
Rex noticed the name tag on her top. ‘Nurse Vicki. You know, I kind of got the impression that most nurses in hospitals were either fat or old, but I think my impressions are way off mark on this occasion.’
Vicki smiled and her cheeks flushed. ‘Charming as well as cute. Can I help you?’
‘Well, I was here to catch up with my old pal Rod Williams, but you know I think I’ll pass. I think I’d rather talk to you instead.’
Vicki glanced up and down the hallway then returned her eyes to him. ‘Well feel free to hang around and talk to me. At least until the head nurse turns up.’
A little small talk was the order of the day, but Rex moved it quickly back on to Rod himself. ‘So how is Rod doing anyway? Is he on the mend?’
‘He’s doing fine. Whoever beat him up really did a number on him.’
‘Well, the problem with Rod is that he tends to rub people up the wrong way.’
‘He’s claiming he was assaulted simply because he was seeing the attacker’s girlfriend behind his back. But I don’t know… I mean I don’t want to put your friend down or anything, but he doesn’t seem like the reliable type to me.’
‘You’d be right. Even I have to wonder whether he’s telling the truth. I know what he’s like and when he gets a bee in his bonnet about something, he tends to go too far and do stupid things. Has he had many visitors?’
‘None of his gang member buddies, then?’
‘No!’ Vicki stared at him. ‘He’s in a gang?’
‘Well he has had links to the Wild Dogs.’
‘Oh my, God. No wonder they have extra security on the ward.
‘So no gang members then?’
‘No, only his parents. Oh and his sister has been in a couple of times.’
Rex reeled. ‘Sister?’
Rex thought back to his meeting with Lilla Williams. Lilla had said she had never been to see Rod and that she no longer wanted anything to do with him. Could she have changed her mind? ‘Strange. His sister isn’t talking to him. You sure it was his sister?’
‘Oh yes, I remember her well. She stood out quite dramatically with her gorgeous golden hair. A real beauty.’
Rex reeled. ‘Golden hair?’
‘Yes. Like strands of gold. Amazing.’
Rex stood their stunned and stared at the nurse in disbelief. There could be no doubt who this mysterious so-called sister of Rod’s was. It was none other than Daryl!
Vanessa awoke. Her head hurt. She felt drowsy and everything was a blur, but she was warm and lying on something soft. As her head cleared, she focussed her eyes upwards to see Rex’s handsome face gaze down at her. ‘Dollbaby…’ she muttered and smiled.
‘Nessa. Finally. You’re awake.’
‘Where am I?’ She could make out a hospital bed across from her. Everything was white and sterile. ‘Oh my God.’ She peered down at her own bed. Her leg was in a cast and lifted up on a pulley. ‘Ohhhhh.’
Rex squeezed her hand and it felt so good. ‘You’re gonna be fine.’
‘I remember Nadia attacking me and then Clarke pulling me away, but he pulled me in the wrong direction and I fell.’
‘Yeah, and he’s been blaming himself for it.’
‘Is he? Oh… he is so silly.’ She paused for a little and gazed at Rex some more. She was so pleased that he was there at her bedside and gripped his hand. ‘So what happened after?’
‘Nadia got handed over to the cops and we got you here as soon as we could. You were unconscious for six hours and asleep for the last five.’
‘Oh no. What about the camp?’
‘It’s still going. They went back to the main camp.’
‘I’m so sorry. I messed everything up.’
‘No, you didn’t.’
‘You should go back. Have fun.’
‘No way. I’d rather be here with you.’
‘Daryl. She’ll need you.’
Rex smiled. ‘Who needs me more?’
Vanessa grinned. ‘Me.’
‘Rex… you know, if it’s her you want, I’ll never stop you. I’ll accept it.’
Rex gazed into her eyes and for a few moments said nothing. Finally he spoke. ‘You know, Ness. Last night, when I lay in that double sleeping bag with no one to cuddle up to, there was only one person I wanted in there with me. Only one.’
‘Really?’ Vanessa tried to read his eyes, but her head hurt when she tried.
‘It got me thinking. It was unfair of me to leave the other one hanging, wondering, hoping. It was almost like I was leading her on. It was wrong of me to keep putting things off. I guess I just hate having to break someone’s heart. Hate it.’
Vanessa heart felt heavy. ‘It’s over isn’t it?’
‘It was over about a year ago.’
‘Huh?’ Vanessa’s head was so groggy, probably from pain killers that she wasn’t able to make sense of his words.
‘This morning, when you were rounding up Holly and I was trying to round up Clarke, Daryl tried to lure me away. It was then that I decided I needed to sit down with her and put things straight. She needed to know. So I told her. I said, ‘Daryl… we had something really special last year, but that ended and now I have Vanessa and as much as I’d love to have you remain in my life, it can’t be like it was. You can only be a friend, because Vanessa is the only girl for me. She’s the one I love more than anything else in the world and I’ll never give her up for anybody.’
Vanessa stared at Rex and a warm feeling of delight flooded through her body. All the stress and the strain just evaporated and she couldn’t help but smile. ‘You chose me?’
‘What do you mean, chose you?’ Rex laughed. ‘There was never ever a choice involved. Us being together was a given, a fact, a foregone conclusion that became clear to me months ago. No choice was ever involved, not even back then. The only choice I had to make was how I was going to let Daryl down without totally crushing her heart.’ He sighed. ‘In the end, I did crush her heart, but I realized that it was something I just had to get over and done with. Putting it off was doing no one any good, not Daryl and most of all not you. Ness, you never really ever thought I would dump you for her, did you?’
Vanessa felt so good, despite the pain in her head. How stupid she felt now. Why didn’t she just continue to have faith in their relationship? She had always said they were made for each other, that they were meant to be. Hell, faith wasn’t even necessary. All she needed was the knowledge that she was the woman for Rex that nothing in the world could separate them except death. As Rex said… it was a given, a foregone conclusion. ‘No.’ She laughed. ‘I could never doubt you. Never.’ In her mind she never would again. ‘I guess it’s just the drugs playing with my head. Oooh, it hurts.’
‘You suffered a concussion, not to mention a broken ankle.’
‘Oh well… Gotta be better than a broken heart, right?’
Vanessa’s eyes soften. ‘I wonder how Daryl is going to cope now, being at school, not able to have you. It will be torture for her.’
Rex lowered his eyes. ‘I wouldn’t feel sorry for her, Ness.’
‘It was her that went to the police with the false allegations involving Rod.’
‘W…what?’ Vanessa opened and closed her eyes, trying to make sense of what Rex had just said. She began to think she might have misunderstood.
‘Daryl went into see Rod after he regained consciousness. Told him to make up the story.’
‘But why? She loves you. Why would she want you in trouble?’
‘It’s not that she wanted me in trouble. It was kind of a two step plan. Ultimately it was about getting you out of my life. Trying to make me think that you couldn’t be trusted, that you were mentally unstable and that you really were seeing Rod behind my back.’
‘That’s insane! How could that work?’
‘She seemed to think it would. She seemed to think that she could turn us against each other through this and that she could be there to support me and ultimately clear my name.’
‘How do you know this? Did you speak to her?’
‘Yes. About two hours ago. She came clean and admitted it all to the police. She’s all upset and apologetic about it. I think she is genuinely sorry, but she’s proven she can’t be trusted.’
‘So what does that mean? Are you in the clear now?’
‘Yes. The cops have dropped all charges.’
Vanessa let out a sigh of relief. Suddenly her head no longer hurt and she felt good. ‘So it’s over then. We can leave this horrible incident behind?’
‘We sure can.’
‘I’m so glad.’ She feigned continued pain. ‘Ohhhhh, my head. I need you to kiss and cuddle me and make me feel better.’
‘Oh, I can do that alright. In fact it would be my honour.’
At the end of the week, Tucker arrived home from camp, tired, worn out, hungry and aching. He never wanted to endure one of Mr Harris’s torturous camps ever again.
‘You better get an early night tonight,’ his mother said as soon as he walked through the door. ‘You have a job tomorrow.’
Tucker groaned. ‘You’ve got to be joking! It’s Saturday. Can’t I sleep in?’
‘You’re kidding, right? You’ve got to earn your keep. One of your friends rang yesterday to tell me about the job. You’re going to be serving drinks all day in town.’
Tucker widened his eyes. ‘You mean I’m going to be a bartender?’
‘But who rang?’
‘Oh, that boy who all the girls love… the one you idolize… Rex Cassidy.’
Horror welled up inside Tucker. ‘Rex?’ If Rex had anything to do with this, it wasn’t going to be pretty. After keeping Vanessa tied to a chair for several hours, Tucker had no doubts that retribution was well on its way, but how would serving at a bar be a bad thing? Perhaps Rex wasn’t angry at all and was grateful that he had let Vanessa go before Nadia could get to her.
The next day his mother dropped him off at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth where already stalls and booths were being set up. There was a stage and food carts. Tucker had no idea what was going on, but it looked as though it might be fun.
‘We’re supposed to be meeting one of the organizers over there by the office caravan,’ his mother said. ‘His name is…’
‘Helloooooo darlings!’ A man came prancing up towards them and when Tucker saw who it was, he flinched. ‘Oh, Tucker, it is so great to see you again. You are looking so healthy. That camp must have done you a world of good!’
‘Hi Fabian.’ Tucker groaned.
‘Rex told me that you were really excited to help out and recommended you. Oh, we are going to have so much fun, you and I today.’
‘You are going to be serving drinks!’
‘Beer? Cocktails?’ Tucker said hopefully.
‘Oh no, no, no, you are too young to be serving alcohol. You’ll be on the non-alcoholic section serving coffees, teas and soft drinks.’
‘Well,’ Tucker’s mother said. ‘I’ll leave you to it. Work hard, Tucker.’ She departed.
‘Come, come,’ Fabian motioned him towards the caravan.’
What is all this for?’ Tucker asked as he followed him.
Fabian swung around, ‘Oh, you didn’t know? It’s Gay Day! There will be gays and lesbians from all over the area coming here today to listen to music, enjoy good food and each other’s company.’
‘We’re having a Drag Dueen contest and lots of other exciting activities. The lovely and adorable Vanessa has already signed you up to be a participant in that particular competition. Oh we’re all going to have so much fun.’
‘Rex and Vanessa told me how eager you are about being involved.’
‘But I’m straight!’
‘Oh, what a pity, but maybe we can change that.’
‘Oh no, I’m out of here. I’m not hanging around for this!’
‘Tucker, Tucker, Rex and Vanessa said that you might have that attitude. They also told me to tell you that if you didn’t give this your best effort, they would reveal the truth about some of the things you did at camp. Mmmmm sounds kind of kinky. Was another boy involved?’
‘NO! Of course not!’ Tucker buried his head in his hands. He had thought he was in luck when nobody fingered him as an accomplice to Vanessa’s kidnapping. The police never took him away with Nadia and even more miraculously, Mr Harris never took him aside to inflict further torture on him. It had all seemed too good to be true, but now it seemed justice was about to prevail after all.
Now please come into the tent over here. We have some costumes for you to choose from.’
‘Oh yes. I’m sure you will love them. The lovely and adorable Vanessa will even be around later to film you as you serve drinks. I hear she’s dragging Sexy Rexy along with her too, even though she says he’s not too keen… pity. In fact I understand quite a crowd will be there from your school to give you moral support, especially at the Drag Queen competition.’
He opened the flap of the tent and allowed Tucker to enter before him. Inside Tucker’s jaw dropped and further horror and disgust welled up inside him. There were racks of gaudy dresses and other kinky looking effeminate outfits.
‘Take your pick. I’m sure you will find one that will fit you.’
‘No way! No way! I am not dressing up in any of those things.’
‘Oh… I think you will, darling. I’m sure you will, if you don’t want trouble with Rex and Vanessa. All our help are to wear drag and you will be no different.’
‘Oh my God…’ Tucker muttered. ‘I’m never gonna live this down!’
‘Oh you’ll love it, I’m sure you will. Have fun darling. I’m sure you will attract a lot of admirers once you’re all fitted up.’
Tucker cringed. ‘That’s what I’m afraid of!’
Tucker Pyles has had enough of having to work for his mother, so declares that he is going to get himself fired from every job she sets him up with. Now that Holly Robinson is single again, she has her heart set on Rex Cassidy, but she just kidding herself? Rex and Vanessa Dante decide that Holly needs a new boyfriend. Perhaps new guy, Clarke Hanson will be just the ticket? Rex finds himself in serious trouble with the police, when, protecting Vanessa, he puts a guy in hospital. When Daryl Chambers, Rex's former girlfriend, returns to Te Arawa, Vanessa finds that herself and Rex's relationship might not be as solid as she believed. Meanwhile, Nadia, Vanessa's jealous and mentally disturbed half sister is plotting something that will result in big trouble at the school camp.