Playing Favorites – Chapter 2


Christopher

I had done a mostly good job putting that whole IOU thing out of my mind until the next physics class. As much as I want to sit far away from Jacinda, she has chosen a desk near the window this time. There is no way I’m going to let go of my favorite places to sit because of her, so I choose the desk behind her. This turns out to not be such a good idea.

“Hey, move your tail out of the way,” I whisper to her. “I can’t see the board.”

She glares at me above her shoulder.

“Care to slap a “please” on that?”

“Please,” I mutter.

With a huff, she lowers her tail.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she says, matching my sarcastic tone.

“All right, everyone,” Mr Carmichael says as he storms in a couple minutes late. “Sorry it took me so long to grade your papers. They’re on the application now. Overall, it’s pretty good. Class average is 81%.”

A few exclamations of satisfaction rise through the class as everyone logs in on their laptops to see the results. Everyone including me. I do a fist-pump when I see my grade. Yeah! 96%. I’m a little frustrated that I missed the A+ by a single percent, but it’s still very good. The teacher’s note is nice too: “Very good work. You really applied yourself. A few inadvertent mistakes, however: make sure to proofread.” Ah, yeah… There were still some typos, and I made a confusion between two technical terms.

I lean over my desk, towards Jacinda, trying to look over her shoulder to see her grade. Her tail almost immediately blocks my view. Damnit. She must have seen my reflection on her screen. Fine. I’ll find out sooner or later. Not that it matters anyway, since I’ve decided to forget about the favor she owes me. Plus, I still can’t think of what favor I could possibly ask. So, there.

Next class is History. All through middle school and high school, that has been one of my most favorite subjects. Not to brag, but I can name every Roman emperor from Caesar Augustus to Julius Nepos (although I tend to invert a few who ruled during the Dominate). This all changed this year because, you probably guessed it, I share this class with Jacinda.

The teacher is Mrs Swindlehurst. She’s a very old, very British lady, with the kind of voice you’d picture narrating a historical documentary. Kinda like a sweet old grandma, except that she’s a bit of a hardass, and very rule-minded, though she doesn’t even remotely rise to the level of Mrs Augh!. Also, she drinks coffee, not tea.

“To conclude this unit,” she says with her trademark slow and elaborate tone, “I will have you do a group project.”

A few of my classmates groan. Internally, I do too. My last group project did not go so well. I was partnered up with two lazy idiots who had to be coaxed and coerced into putting in any work, and I ended up doing most of the project myself. They managed to get a good grade almost entirely thanks to my efforts, something I’m still a bit salty about.

“Each group will count three people, picked at random,” Mrs Swindlehurst continues. “Before anybody asks, no, there will not be any redraws. First group will be Jacobs, Nejem, and Abbott. Second group…”

While she goes through the whole class register, I browse the course application to find the list of examples of themes for the project. There are quite a few that could be very interesting: “serfdom in Western Europe in the Middle Ages”, “Schism of 1054”, “birth of the Ottoman Empire”… Not to toot my own horn, but this could be the way to an easy A+.

“Fifth group will be Burnham, Abercromby, and Baldini. Sixth group…”

Wait, what? I jerk my head up, my veins turning to ice, because I did not hear this right. Apparently, I did, because the listing is now displayed on the application, and confirms that I’m to partner up with someone named Abercromby. Well, okay, but maybe there’s someone else in this class with that name. That last hope is dashed when I hear Jacinda growl under her breath:

“Damnit!”

Her hand shoots up.

“Mrs Swindlehurt, I was wondering if-”

“I already said no redraws, Ms Abercromby,” the teacher says.

“But-”

No, Ms Abercromby.”

Guess I shouldn’t even bother raising my hand. Oh, fuck, it’s happening, isn’t it? I’m doing a group project with Jacinda Hissy Fits Abercromby. Sigh. I try to reassure myself that it’s only going to be a few weeks, and only a few hours every week. Well, a bit more than a few hours, because I want to do this right. Hopefully, so does she. Actually, she probably does. Jacinda is many things, but she’s not a slacker. Not that we’re in competition for the highest grades in our classes, but if we were, she’d be a close second; we might even be tied up for first, maybe.

Who’s the third member of our group, by the way? I barely know a handful of my classmates, and the name Burnham doesn’t ring any bells. Speaking of bells, the class ends just as I glance around trying to figure out that is. The students leave their seats, but most of them stay in the room in order to meet their partners -they who may decide whether they get a passing grade or not.

“Hi, I’m Hayley!”

I look up. Standing to my right is a girl, just about five feet four, with tanned skin, and long, straight, dark blonde hair. A large smile stretches across her face, underlined by dark pink lipstick. From her features -her thin silhouette, her slightly pointed ears-, I’m guessing she’s got some elven heritage.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hayley Burnham,” she explains, sensing the hesitation in my voice. “We’re going to be partners.”

“Oh, right. I’m Christopher Baldini.”

“I know.” She smiles. “Pretty sure half the class knows your name already. You’re always the one who answers the teacher’s questions.”

“Well, not always…” Jacinda mumbles, just loud enough to be heard.

Hayley reports her attention to her.

“Hi! You’re Jacinda, right? Jacinda Abercromby? We were both running the half-marathon last year.”

“Oh… Sorry, I didn’t recognize you, then.”

“That’s okay, I get it. There were hundreds of runners. Plus, you were totally into your thing back then. I saw you. You were so impressive!”

Jacinda plays it cool, but I see her tail wagging.

“Anyway!” Hayley says. “Should we meet somewhere to discuss our project?”

“Sure,” Jacinda says. “How about the library? I finished my courses for the day.”

“The library works for me,” I say, anxious to just get on with this. The sooner we get started, the sooner it’ll be over.

“Great! I’ll meet you there. Just gotta do a quick stop first.”

Jacinda and I don’t say a word to each other as we exit the classroom. Even though we’re going to the same place, we split up almost immediately and take different paths. Pretty much pointless, since five minutes later we’re in close proximity again, but I guess that’s just how we are. I get here first, and pick a table in the history section, in a corner near a window. Jacinda remains completely silent when she takes her place -one seat away from me-, holding a book she apparently picked up on the way. I resist the impulse to look at the cover for the title.

Hayley shows up about twenty minutes later, carrying three cups of coffee in a tray, and holding a paper bag from the local bakery.

“Sorry, there was a line! I didn’t know how you like your coffee, so I got you some with both sugar and cream! And I got bagels, too.”

“Thanks,” I say.

I take mine with cream, no sugar, but both is fine.

“I don’t really drink coffee,” Jacinda says.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

“S’okay.” She shrugs.

“Help yourself to some bagels, though! I got a bunch of them.”

“Shall we get started?” I say.

They both nod in agreement.

“Okay, so for the subject of our project, I was thinking something about the consequences of the fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe.”

“The Roman Empire?” Jacinda says, rolling her eyes. “C’mon, that subject’s been done to death. I bet half the other groups will pick something like it.”

“So? Nothing wrong with that.”

“Guess not, if you’re only angling for a passing grade.”

I tap my knuckles on the table, trying not to be incensed by that cheap shot.

“Fine. Then what’s your suggestion?”

“How about the Fourth Crusade?”

“The one against the Eastern Roman Empire, you mean?” I retort, mustering all the sarcasm in me.

“Give me a break,” she huffs. “The two are different and you know it. Plus, the Fourth Crusade is a rich subject; perfect for this assignment.”

“That does sound interesting,” Hayley says. “To be honest, I’m kinda fed up with the Roman Empire. I had to do a group project about it in high school. Sorry, Chris.”

Jacinda jerks her head towards her, as if to say: “see?”.

“How about the Ottoman Empire?” I suggest. “It’s rich too, and it’s not overdone.”

“That could be fun too,” Hayley says. “But what part of the Ottoman Empire?”

“I was thinking the Interregnum, right after the Mongol invasion.”

“Ermm…” she says, cocking her head. “I guess? I don’t know much about that.”

“How about Belisarius?” Jacinda says.

It’s my turn to roll my eyes. Belisarius! And she said my idea was overdone.

“What?” she says, defensively. “I like military history. So sue me.”

That figures, given how much she likes to pick a fight.

“Well, I don’t really want to do a piece on Belisarius,” I say.

“One: this isn’t a piece, it’s a group project.”

If I keep rolling my eyes, they might pop out of my head.

“Two: really? “I don’t wanna”? That’s your argument?”

“Like you said: it’s a group project. I’m part of it, so my opinion matters.”

“Yeah? Well, your opinion is noted,” she snarked. Turning to Hayley, she added: “What about you, Hayley? What would you like to do?”

“Err… Well…”

Our third partner is clearly starting to feel like a third wheel. Worse: like Poland between Germany and Russia; whatever side she chooses will be the wrong one.

“How about we compromise on a subject we all want?” she timidly says.

I sigh. Why should I compromise? Jacinda’s the one who owes me. Not that I intend to waste that favor on something so trivial. In fact, I don’t intend to use it at all. Like I said, the whole thing is best forgotten.

“You mentioned the Mongol invasion,” Jacinda says. “How about that?”

“The invasion of Europe?” I say.

She nods. I click my tongue.

“Maybe.”

“It works for me,” Hayley says. Pretty sure she’d agree to anything if it meant keeping the peace and moving on. I don’t blame her.

“Fine,” I say. “It works for me too. Jacinda, I’m guessing you want to do the part about the Mongol Empire itself?”

“Sure. With a section dedicated to Subutai.”

“Okay, then I’ll do the European part.”

“Oh, could I help with that?” Hayley asks. “I admit I don’t know much about the Mongols.”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

“Great, let’s get started then!” she says, clapping her hands.

We begin our first study session. It’s actually pretty quiet, compared to before. Essentially, we briefly make a list of the subjects we’ll include in our paper, get our documentation, and start writing said paper on our computers. I like it. I don’t have to talk to Jacinda that much, and when I do, I can do so through Hayley. I don’t even need to look at her.

That’s right, I don’t. I don’t need to look at her hair, and notice that she arranged them in a looser ponytail today. I don’t need to look at her curves, and the way they sway when she stands up to go look for another document; I especially don’t need to watch how her breasts jiggle when she stands on her tiptoes to grab a book on the highest shelf. What’s more, I don’t need to look at her eyes when I’m sure she’s not loo- crap, she’s looking at me.

I fully expect another hissy fit about how I should stare elsewhere if I know what’s good for me, but instead she almost immediately goes back to her paper. Surprising, but not as much as the fact that I’m pretty sure she’s looking at me again when I turn my attention to my laptop. Of course, this leads me to look back at her. At which point, she once again dodges my gaze. Rinse, repeat. What follows is basically a weird game of green light, red light. What the hell is going on?

“Oh, I’m going to be late for work,” Hayley suddenly says. “Let me give you my number, before I leave.”

She sends us a group text, and both I and Jacinda add her as a contact on our phones. Then, with an energetic “bye!”, she leaves.

Aaaand now it’s just me and Jacinda. Awesome. I clear my throat, then decide to break the tense silence:

“By the way, did you get your grade on that physics assignment?”

She stares straight into my eyes for a nanosecond.

“Yeah.”

Her tone is curt.

“Might I ask how much you got?”

She stays silent. I’m about to ask the question again, but then she finally says:

“95%,” she says.

I try not to draw too much pride from the fact that I’ve gotten a higher grade.

The mood goes from relatively silent to graveyard silent. I try to keep working on my section of the project, but the game of look-no-look with Jacinda gets to the point where I can no longer focus. On top of that, Jacinda has started sucking on her fangs, and the noise is getting on my nerves. Is she trying to annoy me? Still, I do my best to ignore her. Which is not easy, because it’s like the silence is getting more tense with every second.

“Come on!” she suddenly snaps. “Out with it!”

“What?” I say, startled by what I first think is anger in her tone. But, after consideration, I decide it sounds more like anxiety.

“That favor I owe you. Just tell me what you want. Let’s get it over with.”

Seriously? Is that what got her panties in a knot?

“I don’t want anything,” I shrug.

“Oh, please! You even said you would call it.”

“I changed my mind.”

For a second, I was hoping this would put the matter to rest. I keep forgetting Jacinda doesn’t operate on the same logic as everyone. Instead of calming down, she doubles down, and jumps out of her seat. It takes a superhuman effort out of me not to stare at her breasts, which are now right at eye level. Wait, did she take off her sweatshirt? I guess it is pretty warm in here.

“Like hell you have!” she says, almost shouting. A little cowed that she raised her voice in a library, she looks around to make sure nobody heard, then goes on: “Just come out and say it.”

“I said: I don’t want anything.”

“If you think I’m just gonna let you lord it over my head…”

Lord it over her head?! I jump out of my chair too.

“Seriously, what kind of guy do you think I am?”

“The kind that likes to piss me off.”

I snort. 

Damn, is it getting warmer? Did the librarians crank up the heat? I lick my lips, my gaze still on Jacinda, but unsure whether to look her in the eyes or… In the eyes, definitely in the eyes.

“Say it,” Jacinda says. “Name your favor. Let’s get this over with.”

Fine, I guess I’ll indulge, just so she can get past whatever it is that’s bothering her. I just have to think of something I want from her. Anything. Make her type my part of the project? No, I have more pride than that. Get her to buy me another coffee? Lame. Come on, Chris, think. Argh! And stop looking at her tits. That’s not helping! Ah, come on, find something.

“Just say it,” she says again, leaning over the table, her generous curves moving softly as she does. “There has to be something you want.”

I want to see your boobs.

Wait, what? That thought just popped out of nowhere.

“What?!” Jacinda blurts.

Oh God, please, please tell me I didn’t say that out loud.

“What did you just say?”

Guess I did. Welp, this was a good life.

Jacinda’s stare pierces right through my skull, just like how I’m pretty sure she wants to pierce through my chest and rip my heart out. I want to speak up. To say this was just a joke. But my lips refuse to move. In fact, my whole body is no longer responding. Seconds pass horribly slowly. It’s now so quiet I can hear my heartbeat.

When she moves again, I cower. She goes around the table, and grabs me by the arm, her claws digging into my skin. I’m too terrified to react, or even to struggle. Jacinda drags me forcefully between two big bookshelves. What is she planning to do to me? Beat me up? Scream at me? I can’t read the expression in her gorgeous eyes. It’s not anger; at least I don’t think it is.

I prepare myself for the beating of a lifetime. But then, she does the last thing I expect. She grabs the hem of her T-shirt.

“I’ll give you one minute,” she says between clenched teeth.

No. Fucking. Way.

Before I can pinch myself, Jacinda takes a deep breath and starts pulling her shirt up. The cloth slowly, ever so slowly, moves along her skin. I see her toned and surprisingly furless stomach, her abs, and her navel. She arrives at her white sports bra, which she -Holy mother of God- grabs as well.

And here they appear, dropping heavily.

They bounce. God almighty, they fucking bounce.

They are… perfect. Massive, round, well-shaped, and just as dark in color as the rest of her body. C, D, E-cups? I don’t know. I don’t care. Jacinda’s boobs just wrecked the whole alphabet along with my upper brain functions. They move up and down along with her breath, in a captivating dance that -ironically- has rendered me breathless. And since we’re on the subject, Jacinda seems to be breathing faster, and louder. My dick pretty much punches me in the guts when I notice that her nipples, blacker in color than the breasts, are erect. I see goose bumps appear on the areolas around them. Begging to be touched, a voice whispers in my mind, accompanied by an angelic chorus. A thousand dreams birth in my mind, depicting the numerous things I wish to do to those beauties.

Out of nowhere, I feel a sharp pain on the back of my hand. I suddenly realize that I have raised it towards Jacinda’s chest, who slapped it off before it could come into contact. As I come out of my trance, I also take notice of the fact that my mouth is hanging open and feels pretty dry, and that I haven’t blinked in a while.

“I said you could watch,” she says, her voice strangely hoarse. I do a double take when I see her face. Luminous lines seem to have appeared on her cheeks, going from her eyes to halfway to her neck. I would have been creeped out… if they weren’t so beautiful. “I didn’t say anything about touching.”

She’s still breathing hard, like she just swam laps in an Olympic pool. To my great dismay, she’s also put her shirt and bra back on.

“You also said I had a minute,” I say, snappish because I feel stupid.

“And you had three,” she retorts.

I did? I look at my phone. Crap, she’s right.

Ahem. I brush my hair, trying to come up with something to say that will dispel the awkwardness. What do you say to a girl who’s just showed you the most beautiful breasts you’ve ever seen? Thank you, I guess? Ah, whatever, just say something.

“Erm, Jacinda…”

“You tell anyone and I’ll kill you.”

“No, of course not, I…”

She dashes off, grabbing her bag and her laptop before disappearing through an exit door. I lean back against a bookshelf, trying to get my bearings back. Then, moving like a robot, I get my things and leave too. I’m not going straight home, though; I have to make a detour by the bathroom. It’s an imperative. There’s no way I’ll walk around campus with my… problem downstairs.

After locking the door and lowering my pants, I sit down on the toilet. I only need to close my eyes to see them again. Pretty sure they’re burned into my brain, now. I focus on them, picturing them in all their bouncy glory. And this time, I’m not content with just looking. I pick one of the many dreams that came to my mind earlier, and pursue it to its conclusion. It only takes me less than a minute to finish what I’m doing. Well, unlike the rest of this day, that was to be expected.

I wash my hands in the sink. My mind is still struggling to make sense of this. Seriously, what the fuck just happened?

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