XIV. The Effects

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Time passed, and it was now the evening of November 20. Three months had gone by since the bonfire party, however not much had changed.
The faculty never found out about the party, or what happened, but it did have its effects on those involved.

Lena, Dai, and Aria were walking back to the New Haven campus from the forest, following the dirt road.
"Who would've thought that there's so much you didn't know about water, Lena?" Aria was saying.
"Well, my parents forbade me from using water as a kid, since they were both ice they didn't really know anything about it," Lena explained, "I suppose that scared them."
"They don't sound like the greatest people," Dai commented, "No offense."
"None taken," Lena said, her face darkening slightly.
Despite this, she found herself starting to feel more comfortable around her new friends, slowly but surely. Though, she decided she wasn't ready to talk to them about her parents. They were a touchy subject for her.

Suddenly, Aria spoke up.
"Say," she said, "Has anyone seen that boy you danced with, since the party?"
Lena looked at the ground uncomfortably.
"I've seen him around," Dai said, "Poor guy has looked miserable."
"Has Kai tried reaching out to him?" Aria asked.
"I think so, but Jace seemed to be avoiding him," Dai continued, pondering, "I wonder what kind of 'talk' his girlfriend gave him that night."
"Well, it's been three freaking months!" Aria exclaimed, "We should do something!"
"No," Lena said.
Aria and Dai looked at her.
"No?" Aria asked.
"It's not our business," Lena said, not looking up, "He danced with me when he had a girlfriend. That's not exactly a good deed on his part."
Dai and Aria blinked.
"But... but it doesn't sound like he's spoken to anyone since then!" Aria pressed, looking to Dai for confirmation, "It's not right!"
"I don't know if he hasn't spoken to anyone," Dai said, "But it seems like he is certainly avoiding us, Kai says."

He then looked to Lena, seeing a glint in her eyes.
"Lena, let me put it to you like this," Dai said, "With the way she handled the situation after seeing you two, is it a surprise he wanted to dance with you?"
Lena paused, considering.
She then remembered what they said to each other and blushed.
She wouldn't admit it but, she missed it.
"Not really," she said, "He also wanted to apologize for the mess he got me into."
"Oh, yeah, that whole fight," Aria reminded, and her face soured a moment later, "I get the feeling that was Hunter's idea. Remember what Kai told us the day of the party?"
"About that talk he and Jace had? Yeah," Dai nodded, and he paused, "Has anyone seen Hunter?"
"I've seen him," Aria said, "He looks terrible ever since that Melany girl dumped him in front of everyone."
Lena didn't say anything, but she did smile slightly. She remembered the look on Hunter's face well.

"Melany has been much more friendly with us too," Dai added, "She is a nice girl."
"Oh, Dai," Aria teased, "You like her?"
Dai's expression immediately darkened.
"No," he said firmly.
Aria noticed this change of face, and a hint of nervousness filled her gut.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, backing off, "Did I offend you?"
Dai glared at her slightly, then sighed, "No. I'm sorry, it's just... I hate when people do that."
"She was just teasing you," Lena said, "Doesn't seem like much to get bent out of shape about."
"You don't know what I have been through," Dai retorted angrily, "Just like I don't know what you have been through."
Lena locked eyes with him, standing her ground.
Dai looked away, frustrated.

An awkward silence fell.
"Guys," Aria said, "I know there's stuff we aren't comfortable talking about, and I know a while ago we had a troubling experience, but in the three months that passed we've done so much together. We hang out more, us three started training together, Kai has his music club thing going, I go on runs with Luke in the morning... there's so much we have to be happy about. Let's not become angry over something as trivial as a joke. I'm sorry I overstepped my boundaries, Dai."
Dai and Lena both sighed.
"You're right," Dai said, "We have plenty to be thankful for."
"Yes," Lena agreed.
Aria smiled, and wrapped her arms around the necks of both her friends.
"Yay!" she grinned.

The three chuckled as they approached the campus, not seeing Hunter, who was leaning against the wall of the theater building, eyeing them.

🌊

Jace was most depressed. That night during the party, Janice forbade him from speaking with anyone else other than herself, Hunter, and a select few friends of hers.

However, he hadn't spoken to Hunter since the party, and Melany broke up with him, so he felt that right now, all he really had was Janice, much to his dismay.

He was walking outside towards his dorm building, when he saw Luke and Kai exiting it, talking and laughing.
He froze, although he hoped they would see him.
Lucky enough, Kai noticed him and gave a small wave.
Jace looked at him and Luke, and after a moment of heavy hesitation, he ran over to them.

Kai was surprised, and was about to say 'hey', when Jace practically flung himself onto him, holding him in a hug.
He buried his face in the taller boy's shoulder, and began to sob quietly.
Kai and Luke were both taken by surprise.
"I missed you," Jace managed to say.
Kai hugged him back gently, "If you missed me so much, why didn't you come sooner?"
"Because... she told me I couldn't talk to you guys anymore..." he whimpered.
Kai's expression fell into a sympathetic frown.
He looked at Luke, who watched the situation with interest.

The blond then came over and pulled Jace off of Kai, and held him by the shoulders, looking him dead in the eyes.
"Listen to me very carefully, dude," he said, "You. Deserve. Better."
Jace wiped his eyes, "What...?"
"I think what he means is," Kai interjected, "That that girlfriend of yours? Isn't worth it."
Jace looked at him now.
"She's telling you who you can and can't interact with," Kai continued, a defiance rising in his tone, "Forget her, dude. You don't have to take that! You don't have to listen to her, or Hunter, or anyone who tries to just tell you what to do or how to be or who to talk to. No wonder you avoided us and looked so sad since the party. You're letting these people stomp all over you!"
Jace just looked at both boys.
"We were gonna go grab something to eat," Luke added, "Would you wanna come?"
"No," Kai interjected again, and turned to Jace, "We want you to come."
Jace just felt the tears welling in his eyes again, and he smiled and nodded.
"Alright then," Kai grinned, "We'll take you to Lena too, 'cause I get a feeling she'd like to see you again too."
Jace just smiled as the two boys guided him to the food court, as Janice watched them from her dorm window two stories above them, seething.

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