135. The Fifth Wheel
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When Colin received a message from Max, he already had some suspicions. He almost turned off his phone from the many notifications he had. He only stopped when he realized his mother might call him. It wouldn’t be good to worry her. He could only reply in agreement to meet up with the idiot.

What he didn’t expect was how much of a bigger idiot Max turned out to be.

This opportunity should have been about repairing his relationship with Lauren. After the game last Friday, Colin knew it further strained. Max wouldn’t get another opportunity like this so why the idiot drag him here? At first, Colin thought he needed some help. His presumptions had been debunked the second Max stood up from his seat.

Colin planned to march across from Lauren’s house and strangle him.

“So, what brings you here, Colin?” Alex asked, picking up a fry from her plate.

“Max messaged that he had an emergency” he replied, “He didn’t really say what it was until I got here.”

Lauren frowned and swallowed the burger in her mouth, “He didn’t disturb you in the middle of something important, did he?”

She didn’t know whether to scold Max or not. Since he actually came up with an idea for the project, they were done for the day. They needed a laptop if they wanted to continue the project. Maybe even check out some books. With the internet, everyone had the same sources. If another pair picked the same as theirs, they’d need to present something more unique.

Colin shook his head, wiping the sauce off his hands with a tissue, “Not at all. I just got back from walking my dog, Jiyen.”

“You have a dog?” Lauren’s eyes lit up with interest. She gave him her full attention.

“Aw, man, I miss Jiyen” Logan whimpered. He stuck out his bottom lip, “I need to visit your house soon.”

“It’s been very clean.”

“Hey, I don’t always make a mess.”

“I disagree,” Alex cut in. Logan turned to glare at her. She smiled cheekily in return, “Please stop touching things in my house.”

“It was one time!”

“One too many times” Colin replied, “From there, it became a tidal wave of messes.”

He noticed a red spot from the corner of his eyes. Taking a few tissues from the dispenser, he twisted his torso and dabbed them on the corner of Lauren’s lip. The cheerleader visibly froze in her seat. She was about to wipe it off with her finger when Colin beat her to it. She met Alex’s gaze, the contact made her blush faster.

“Th-Thanks, Colin” she stuttered. Then, she took the tissues from him, “I can do it by myself.”

Alex bowed her head, hiding her grin. She had little success. She bit into her bacon cheeseburger to help, staring at it while she chewed. A perfect picture of someone who enjoyed food. At least, she hoped that was what she looked like.

“Hey, Alex.”

“What?” She uttered mid-chew. She turned her towards Logan’s direction. He stared straight ahead, leaning his head to her side of the booth. His lips were pressed together.

“Is there something on my cheek?”

Alex frowned. Brushing her hand together, she stood up slightly to reach for the tissue dispenser. Then, she shoved it on his face, “Wipe it yourself, you moron.”

Logan’s pout only lasted a second. Taking her advice, he grinned, “Always knew you loved violently.”

“Say that one more time and we can test it with a butter knife.”

“Always knew you loved violently.”

In a swift motion, Alex swiped the butter knife with her right hand. She rotated her elbow clockwise until the tip touched Logan’s jaw. She added slight pressure, “Really now?”

From the service counter, a crisp melodic voice said, “I’d like a double decker burger, a side of fries and um… hm… can I have a mix of root beer and sprite for my drink? Would the price still be the same?”

Alex and Logan exchanged a look, the butter knife still hovering near his face. Their heads turned slowly towards the voice. Their eyes beheld a petite girl with her blond hair up in a ponytail. She wore a gray plaid skirt and a royal blue loose-fitting sweater. She had a pair of uggs on her feet and a thin white scarf around her neck.

“Is that…” Logan began to say.

“Emily” Alex finished for him.

As if caught in a magic spell, Emily’s head snapped to her right. Her hands stayed on her open purse. She widened at the four sets of eyes on her. Three she recognized and one she…

… couldn’t wait to find out.

She quickly turned her attention back to the waitress.

“Can I get my order at that table?” She pointed a thumb over her shoulder. The waitress took one peek and nodded her head. Emily paid for her meal with a smile, “Thank you. Keep the change as a tip.”

She slung her purse back on her shoulder and headed for the table. Alex immediately nudged Logan to move. Each bench could sit 3 people and she wasn’t about to let Emily disturb the coup—pair in front of them. Not to mention, they needed to keep the facade of them dating.

“Alex!” Emily squealed. She took a seat next to her cousin, kissing her cheek, “I didn’t think I’d see you here, babe. I thought you had a study group to attend to?”

Alex did her best not to be surprised by her affections, “This is that study group. We finished what we needed for today and decided to eat.”

Emily brushed her hair off her shoulders. Then, she looked around the booth, lifting a finger, “Okay, wait. Lemme check if my memory is good. That’s Logan. This is Lauren and that one is… I’m sorry I don’t think I’ve met you.”

Logan shielded his eyes with one hand, snickering silently. Alex kicked his leg under the table. He shifted his head to glare at her accusingly but her attention was already elsewhere.

“That’s Colin,” Alex informed her. She gestured a hand between the two, “Colin, this is my c—cute girlfriend, Emily.”

“Aha,” Colin gasped, “So that’s why you look familiar. Can’t really forget a pretty face.”

Alex squinted at him, “Keep your flirting to yourself.”

He raised his hands in surrender, “I’ve always preferred darker blue eyes and more golden than platinum hair color.”

All three people at the bench across from him stared at the cheerleader beside him. Lauren avoided their gazes, hoping to hide her face with her hair. She looked at the jukebox while she sipped her vanilla coke, “Do you think they have The Beatles’ records here?”

Emily clicked her tongue, fully aware of her intentions. She crossed her arms and her legs, leaning on the backrest. Then, she turned to Logan, “How about you, Logan? What does your ideal girl look like?”

Logan rubbed his chin. He held his burger in one hand and peeked out the window, “Probably someone like… Emma Watson.”

“Why her?” Emily frowned, a slight edge in her tone.

Logan let go of his chin and shrugged, “I just think she looks good in any hair color—plus any hairstyle, long hair, medium length or pixie cut.”

Alex nodded her head, “Yeah, she is pretty.”

This time another group of three heads watched her eat. Alex took a fry and dipped it into her burger. The sauce tasted different from the ketchup. She wondered how it would go with deep fried potatoes. She popped it into her head and chewed slowly, taking another fry to test again.

“Here’s your order, Miss” a waitress said, placing Emily’s meal order on the table, “Will there be anything else?”

“That’s all. Thank you.”

Curious by her cousin’s actions, Emily mimicked her fry and burger sauce combo. Surprised delight emerged on her face, “Wow, this is good.”

“I know right?” Alex replied, looking up to see her expression. She grabbed a tissue and wiped a stain on her cousin’s cheek, “How can you smear sauce on your face with just a fry?”

“It’s a gift.”

Logan shook his head. His shoulders slumped with defeat. His eyes landed on each person in the booth. A dramatic sad voice came out of his mouth, “Why am I a fifth wheel right now? Where’s Max when I actually want him around?”

Lauren snorted, “He probably went to disturb Jae.”

“This place has really good burgers” Emily moaned, “I need to go back here again on another day.”

“With who?” Alex asked, “I’ll be too busy with assignments to take you out before your aunt kills me for going out after curfew.”

Her cousin rolled her eyes, “I don’t mind eating by myself. I can pop on earphones and eat. Maybe even listen to an audio book. By the way, Colin, how do you know my boyfriend? I almost forgot to ask.”

A crease appeared in between Colin’s eyebrows, “I’ve actually seen him around before. I don’t know if there’s someone who doesn’t know him. If you mean how we began to talk, well, I guess it was when Logan declared Alex as his new best friend.”

“Hey!” Logan protested, “You’re still my best friend too.”

“You have two best friends?” Emily cocked an eyebrow, “Is my boyfriend the other party in this? How could you claim him as your BFF when you already have one?”

“Why do you make it sound like I’m cheating?”

“Because I entrusted him to you. How would I be sure you look out for him when your attention is divided?”

“Colin has his own matters to attend to” Logan explained, “And maybe in the near future someone else would be paying him more attention than I ever could.”

Colin wiped his mouth, his plate already clean. He sneaked a glance at Lauren. She buried her face under her hair again. He tucked the strands that got in his way behind her ear, “Should I tell them that we already started going out?”

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