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Chapter 6: "Flames Burn Brighter"

January 15, 2008|By SARA MARTENS / Pulse Correspondent

As the dismissal bell rang and students flooded out of the school, Nicky slammed her locker shut and turned around so quickly she just about ran into Jay.

"Hey! What's the rush?" he joked, but his laughter was quickly silenced by a glare from her. It was obvious she was not in a good mood and he knew exactly why. "Calm down, there's no need to get so worked up about a little chat."

"But it could be a trap, some horrible joke," she started, anxiousness filling her voice as worry clouded her eyes, "or maybe -"

"Or maybe it could be just what the note said, a talk," Jay said softly. "You worry too much. Just calm down, and wait and see what happens." He wrapped his arm around her as they walked. She nodded slightly, still consumed by her worrisome thoughts.

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As they neared the meeting point, he stopped to give her a kiss.

"Everything is going to be fine, OK? I'm going to wait in the car."

"OK," she said weakly. She continued on to the cafeteria by herself and found Melody waiting for her. Melody was a strawberry blonde with bright green eyes and a light sprinkle of freckles across her cheeks.

"Hey," she said softly as Nicky approached her. Melody was new this year and apparently had been adopted by Claire, which explained why Nicky hadn't recognized her.

"Hi." Nicky answered, obviously forcing herself to be polite rather than bombarding the girl with all her questions.

"I know you must be wondering why I needed to talk to you," Melody began hesitantly. "You see, it's Claire"

"Of course, it is. You must be her little messenger," Nicky said, her own bitterness seeping into her voice.

"No. She doesn't know about this. She wouldn't like it at all," Melody said. "I just needed to warn you. You deserve to know. You see no one really likes Claire, but they're afraid of her so they pretend friendship. And Claire is jealous of you. She hates that you're everything she isn't and she hates that you're actually happy."

Nicky said nothing.

"She wants to take that from you," Melody added. "I'm not sure what she's planning. I don't know if she even knows yet. But I do know that what she wants more than anything is to destroy your joy."

"Sounds like Claire alright," Nicky said. "She can try all she likes, she can't hurt me." Nicky sounded confident, but she knew she was disguising her worry.

"Are you sure?" Melody asked softly, the answer in the air although Nicky refused to voice it.

"I won't let her" Nicky said instead, determined to do everything she could to stop or ignore whatever Claire planned.

"Well, I thought you should know," Melody continued as she stood to leave. "It's not fair, what she's doing. But no one will stand up to her. Except you. She knows she's losing status, and she hates you even more for it."

"Melody?" Nicky said softly, causing the girl to turn toward her. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I don't like girl fights. I just want it to end," she answered, her voice just above a whisper. "And you're the only one who can do that."

Melody smiled slightly, then turned and left.

Nurturing a small speck of hope, Nicky went out to the car. Still distracted, she opened her mouth to tell Jay what happened. But as she started to speak, she noticed a red mark on his jaw and a split lip.

"Jay, what happened?" she asked, frantically.

"I got into a fight with Zach." he answered softly, his eyes not meeting hers.

"Why? Jay, why?" she whispered, looking up at him with concern in her eyes. "Come on, tell me the truth."

"He he said something not very nice about you," Jay said. "So I hit him. Unfortunately, he hit back." He tried to smile, but his attempt to be lighthearted fell flat.

"What did he say?" she questioned, knowing it had to be bad to provoke Jay that severely.

"No. I won't repeat it."

"Tell me."

"No."

"Tell me!"

Jay sighed heavily. "He called you a whore."

Nicky knew there was more to it than that, but chose to let it be.

"This has to end," she muttered, looking at Jay's bloody face. "I won't let it keep going like this. I won't."

She had made up her mind. She would end it. Once and for all.

This is Chapter 6 of a holiday-themed romance story. Chapter 7 - the final chapter - will be published next week in Pulse. To read previous chapters, go to HMPulse.com and click on the newspaper on the floor.

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