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Aberrant: 200X - Two Girls [Complete]


z-Alexis Layton

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Lonely Girl, Lovely Girl

Alexis Layton was the most desired girl in her sorority. This was considered a simple fact. She was wealthy, beautiful and a nova. Any guy in the brother fraternity would kill to be with her. All the girls wanted to be her, even as they whispered about what a bitch she was.

Diamante Pacheco was the least desired girl in her sorority. This, again, was a simple fact. She was wealthy, but her father had gotten his money through luck, not heritage. She was not beautiful, unless you like plump Latina women with quick smiles. None of the guys wanted her. None of the girls talked to her, citing her heavy Portuguese accent as the reason why.

Fate must have been laughing when it pushed their lives toward one another.

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Diamond Girl

Diamante watched the other girls, muted by her status and language. Alexis didn’t pay much attention to her; she was there, like the couch was there, or the television was there. But unlike furniture, Diamante appeared to serve no purpose. She took up space, and offered little to the community that lived here.

So when Geneva said, “We need to do something about her,” it took Alexis a long moment to figure out to whom she was referring.

“Who?” Tiffany asked, giggling softly. She giggled a lot, an affectation that drove Alexis crazy.

“Diamante?” Alexis asked, unwittingly mispronouncing it. That wasn’t unexpected, as she had never heard anyone say it. The only reason she knew it was because incoming freshmen had to memorize all senior members’ names during hazing week.

“Yes,” Geneva said, her black eyes glittering as she drew her dyed red hair out of her face. “She needs to be taken down a notch. Did you know her name means, ‘diamond?’ How pretentious.”

“Yes, how pretentious. I mean, it’s almost as bad as being named after a city in Switzerland,” Alexis retorted dryly. Geneva blinked and scowled a little uncertainly, unsure if she’d just been insulted or not. But Alexis was continuing, and Geneva obeyed the status laws, which said that she couldn’t interrupt Alexis. “Really, why bother? She’s not important enough to worry about.”

“She’s not important, but I don’t like her,” Tiffany said, managing to parrot both women at the table.

“It’ll be fun,” Geneva said. “I used to do it girls all the time at my high school.”

“Do what?” Alexis asked, tilting her head.

Geneva smiled cruelly. “Putting them in their place. And I know who will help us.”

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Surprised Girl

“Hey.”

The voice caught Diamante off guard because no one ever talked to her, not here in the sorority house. She glanced up, the words of a return greeting coming to her lips in Portuguese. Choking them back, she answered the guy speaking to her with a simple, “Hey.”

He smiled, his unnaturally white teeth vivid against his tanned skin. Without asking, he sank onto the couch next to her, his knee brushing against her feet. In response, she tucked them in tighter to her body, urgently trying not to offend him. “You’re Diamante, right?”

“Si- Yes,” she said, surprise making it harder to find the English words. “I am.” She hesitated. “You are… Roth?”

He laughed softly, shrugging a little. “Close. Roth is my last name. Theodore Roth.” He offered her a hand. “Call me Theo or Roth – everyone does.”

Theo. It was such a beautiful sound. “Diamante,” she offered, then blushed and caught herself. “You knew that. I… very sorry.”

“No, no, it’s no problem,” Roth said agreeably. “It’s natural to introduce yourself.” There was a moment, then he reached out and lifted the edge of the book cover. “What are you reading?”

“Na Perseguição do Leão Verde,” Diamante said, smiling as her fingers lovingly ran over the raised cover. “In English is In Pursuit of the Green Lion.”

“Sounds exciting. What is it about?” he asked.

In faltering English, Diamante explained the premise of the book. Roth listened attentively, nodding when appropriate. “So, it is basically a story about true love,” she finished.

Roth looked amused, and Diamante had a momentary flare of distrust. “Do you believe in true love?” he asked, his blue eyes flashing.

Diamante was quiet for a moment as she remembered the soft look on her father’s hard face when he looked at her mother, and the way her mother always took that extra step in doing anything for her father. “Yes,” she said simply. “I have seen it.”

Roth looked momentarily taken aback by her answer, but his face quickly smoothed out to the pleasant smile he’d been wearing before. “There is more to you than I thought,” he said, making her blush again. He waited a beat, then asked, “Would you have dinner with me soon?”

Her answer was inevitable.

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Warned Girl

Alexis tried not to be completely different from the other women in her sorority house. She had an image that she more or less protected, deviating from it only for the most dire of reasons. Unlike Davian, who managed to make his own way and not sacrifice his reputation, Alexis was in a more precarious position. But that was normal for women; their position in society was based more on rumor than a man’s.

She deviated today.

“I saw you and Theo Roth having dinner at the cafeteria last night,” Alexis said to Diamante without preamble.

The pudgy girl blinked up at Alexis, a frown coming to her face. “I’m… sorry?”

“Have you ever seen any cruel girl teen movie?” Alexis asked calmly. Her fists balled up betrayed her agitation. “If you haven’t, rent one. Compare yourself to the main victim. I’m sure that the similarities will be apparent.”

“What?” Diamante asked, her lips working a little as tried to follow Alexis’ fast speech. “Are you suggesting that Theo is… mean to me?”

“Well, not right now,” Alexis said. “He’s setting you up to take a fall.” Alexis exhaled noisily as she saw the lack of comprehension on Diamante’s face. “I’ll be simple: he doesn’t like you.”

“You lie!” Diamante snapped, her anger coming from the fear that Alexis was right.

Alexis’ eyes narrowed. “I do not lie. I’ve come here to help you out; whether you believe me or not is up to you.”

“You are jealous,” Diamante insisted.

“You’re right. I’m so jealous of you, because you’re dating a man I’ve turned down several times,” Alexis snapped, crossing her arms angrily. “Wake up, Diamante. One of the more popular boys in this fraternity magically sees through the plump, foreign girl’s less than perfect outer beauty to see the fantastic person within. He bucks convention to start dating her, when he’s going to get censured just for talking to her normally.” Alexis shook her head. “He’s using you, and you’re falling right-”

The sound of the slap was loud in the room. The two women were frozen, both shocked. “Shut up,” Diamante said softly. “You are mean and jealous.”

Alexis pressed a hand to her stinging cheek. “Fine. I tried. You can hang, for all I care.” Alexis left the room, pale and shaking with suppressed rage. The raven-haired beauty might have followed up still, just to see what happened, but three days later, Leslie Miles tried to kill her. Diamante was promptly forgotten.

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Floating Girl

Alexis had never been an early riser, but that concept changed when one only needed a few hours of sleep everyday. So Alexis often found herself awake long after her brothers and sisters were in bed and up long before they had stirred. She often took advantage of this to go flying, enjoying the whisper of wind over her body.

Today was no different. She woke up just before dawn, unable to continue sleeping. Her homework wasn’t done yet, but she didn’t give the papers stacked on her desk another glance. Instead, she bounced to her feet, reaching for a set of sweatpants and a thick shirt. Her movements were as quiet as she could make them, so as not to wake Geneva and Tiffany.

Despite the bother of messing with being quiet, she was grinning broadly by the time she got out the open window. She loved to fly; when she did it, she was as happy as she could be. There was a moment of falling, and then it was the sky above her, with the quantum push against the ground below her. That’s what it felt like: another limb that she pressed down to the ground that pushed her into the sky. She wasn’t sure if it was like that for anyone else.

The campus was quiet, eerily so. But Alexis was used to this by now; her early-morning flights were common. She looped around the building once, smiling when she saw her brother’s light on. She slipped through the air to hover in the early morning air, tapping on the window. Unlike her, Davian had opted for a single room, paying an outrageous sum for the privilege of privacy.

At her quiet tap, her brother turned to the window and waved, a bemused smile on his face. *Rubbing in the flying thing again, I see,* he said silently, sending the though to her with the ease of months of practice.

*You need to grow your own wings,* she giggled. *You are my twin; you might manifest your own powers.*

He just made a face at her that showed he was only pseudo-aggravated by her. *Go. Get out of my hair. Enjoy your morning constitutional.*

Giggling, Alexis turned away from the window. Almost immediately, her face returned to its somber, aloof expression which she often wore in public. Though she was technically alone, she knew that there would be paparazzi waiting. There were always paparazzi waiting for her, once they had figured out that she took early-morning flights.

Below her, a camera flashed, just off of campus property. Alexis made no attempt to avoid them; they would just try all the harder if she didn’t give them something. So she shook her hair out and went into a slow spin, showing off a little.

That spin was why she saw the figure in the Harvard Business School’s belfry, spinning like Alexis, but vertically and with the head sloped at an odd angle. Ignoring the paparazzi, she casually floated closer to the belfry. She already knew what she would find, but she had to be sure, absolutely sure.

When she got close enough, she was not only sure the figure was hanging by its neck, but that it was Diamante.

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Shaking Girl

Alexis lay on her bed in a ball. Tiffany and Geneva had gone out, whispering to themselves and glancing at her discreetly. They’d be spreading rumor about her, she knew, talking in scandalous tones about how upset Alexis had been to find a body.

A slight shudder passed through her frame; every time she closed her eyes, she saw Diamante hanging there. The details were so clear: the red dress that was tight around Diamante’s stomach, her freshman-fifteen adding to the previous forty she had carried, her wind-scoured black hair twisting around the rope and the broken nail caught in the tight noose, torn loose during her thrashing. Worst of all had been her face, purple, swollen and ugly with a protruding tongue and bulging eyes.

That dress is familiar. The thought was a life preserver, something concrete to wrap itself around and hold tight. Sitting up on her bed, Alexis allowed the notion to distract her from the image she saw on her closed eyelids. She pulled her laptop onto her folded legs, starting to go through her pictures.

It took a couple of hours, but she finally found a picture of Tiffany and her date for the Finals Party last December. In the background was Diamante and Theo Roth. She was wearing that same red dress. It had fit her better then, and she was made up – Geneva’s idea of “kindness.” “That was the night he dumped you,” Alexis murmured. She’d avoided it, but Tiffany and Geneva had giggled about it days later. According to them, it had been hilarious that she’d given her virginity to Theo. From what Alexis had heard, Diamante had been devastated.

I’d tried to warn you, Alexis thought bleakly, rubbing her face. I told you what he’d do. It didn’t make her feel better.

I guess that’s it, Alexis sighed to herself. She couldn’t take the embarrassment, and she killed herself. She thought of the last time she’d seen Diamante: Alexis had heard someone being sick in the bathroom. Curious and concerned, she’d checked to see if the girl was ok, and found Diamante heaving into a toilet. The Portuguese woman had cursed at her and Alexis had left her there.

But the nova’s mind still wasn’t satisfied. Something else was important, something that she should remember. Sighing, she flopped back on her bed and threw an arm over her eyes. Davian should be doing this; he was good at stuff like this. Sighing, she eased to her feet, pulling her slippers on. He was in the other wing; no need for outdoor shoes.

She walked through her wing, pushing through the door that blocked off the shared area of APK, where both boys and girls were allowed. As she passed through the TV lounge, her feet slowed, her mind trying to point something out to her.

A conversation she had barely overheard two weeks ago; Theo Roth on his phone, talking to someone. “Yeah, yeah. I know. I’ll convince her to get it somehow. Just don’t tell Grandpa, or anyone. I’ll fix it before they know about it.”

The only reason she’d remembered that was because of the reference to his grandfather. Theo’s grandfather had left vast sums of money in trust to his grandchildren but had placed some severe restrictions on their behavior until they turned twenty-five. According to the rumor mill, Theo had regularly flaunted his disregard for those restrictions, coming close several times to losing it. Every time it came up, Theo had managed to wiggle out.

Alexis paused on the lounge, struggling to recall what she’d heard about the trust fund. The checks on the trust fund had been very moralistic; Alexis had heard Tiffany bitching about the restrictions it had put on partying with Britney, who was dating Theo now. With effort, all Alexis could recall was no public drunkenness or drug use.

An ugly thought was forming, but that’s all it was, a thought. Even if she believed what she’d pulled together, she had no proof. Everything she had was circumstantial at best, and bringing it forward would only earn the ire of the Roths.

But there was something that she could do; it was less certain, in a way, but far more accessible. Her mind made up, Alexis dropped into a chair and reached out for her brother. *Davian?* she asked into the void, and as always, there was an answer.

*Yes?*

*I need some advice…* Silently, she began to explain what she had remembered. Davian would know what to do. He always did.

Continued in "Shades of Gray"

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