2

Clara's skin glistened, drenched in sweat as she ran. She was so agile, that the girl chasing her struggled to even stay close. She was being followed by a large, athletically built, Hispanic girl. The girl was at least 30 pounds heavier than Clara and had the muscle definition in her biceps to prove it. She had tried to push Clara around but so far; she hadn't been successful at it. Clara understood her own strengths too well to let that happen. One of Clara's teammates stepped into the girl's way as she ran past. An even larger, black girl named Bianca. The girl ran into Bianca and it looked like she had run into a wall. She bounced off Bianca and stumbled backward.

The screen gave Clara the freedom she needed. Another teammate, a short, thin girl named Darlene was standing under the hoop. She was being guarded by a girl, who towered over her. She wore the number 11. When Darlene saw Clara pass Bianca, she threw the ball to the spot Clara was heading to. Clara caught the ball and instantly elevated for a jump shot. She stood with three fingers raised as the ball went through the net. The crowd in the school erupted in cheers. The shot had given Clara's school team, The South Valley Cobras, a 1-point lead. The Coach of the opposing team, The Central Hills Cardinals, called for a timeout. The Cardinals, who wore white jerseys that had a green trim, walked over to their bench with their heads down. I looked at the electronic scoreboard hanging above the court and saw that there was only 10 seconds left in the game.

"She's doing so great!" Peg said as she held onto my arm. She was wearing a red shirt that was the same shade as The Cobras jerseys. With a black jacket over it that matched her black jeans. She looked really nice. I was wearing a baby blue hoodie and dark blue jeans. I missed the memo about the dress code. It had been two weeks since I revealed myself to Clara and Peg. I had chosen to look like a black, dark skinned, guy. I was muscular, not bodybuilder muscular, but I was in good shape. I had short black hair. Clara was as friendly as I expected her to be. We only spoke between classes and on the bus before and after school. Peg on the other hand, was overly friendly. Every time she saw me, she hugged me, whether I wanted her to or not. She held my hand on the bus and laid her head on my shoulder for the entirety of our rides. Having never known what human affection felt like, I didn't fight it. It was a weird feeling, but in a pleasant way.

"She really is, she has fifteen points after that shot." I said back to her. It was easier than I thought it would be to blend in with Human teenagers. All I had to do was spend the time I wasn't visible catching up on current trends and whatever was going on at the school. Clara's practices and Peg's unbridled love for me had dominated most of our conversations up to this point.

"Are you coming out to Geno's to celebrate with us if they keep this lead?" She asked me. It was a tradition between her and Clara to go out after each of her games. If her team won, they celebrated at Geno's Pizza. If they lost, they grieved over Ice Cream at Buttercups. They had done this since they were freshmen, I was told.

"I can't tonight" I said. I had already broken my exposure rule too many times just being visible to Clara at school functions. I couldn't start doing extra things with her. If I got attached to her emotionally, I was sure I would be reassigned.

"You know, I'm starting to feel like you're not as invested in this relationship as I am" she said and pouted. She had invited me out for various reasons over the past 2 weeks. I always turned her down, but that never stopped her from asking me again. Something about her face caught my attention but I wasn't sure what it was.

"I'm not" I said flatly. Even though I let her hug me, I never led her on.

"You're so silly, that's what I love about you the most." She said and squeezed harder against my arm. I shook my head as the teams walked back out onto the court.

Clara stood in front of the large, Hispanic girl, number 9, as another Cardinal, wearing number 3 tried to inbound the ball at half court. Darlene stood in front of number 3 with her hands raised trying to stop her from successfully getting the ball inbound. Number 9 darted past Clara and received the ball. The Cobra's began smothering the other team. It was truly an impressive sight to see. None of Cardinals could move a step without bumping into a girl in a red, Cobra jersey. Number 9 tried to dribble past Clara, but it was hopeless. She was locked down; Clara mirrored every movement she made. Finally, with 3 seconds left on the clock, she got desperate. She tried to shoot the ball over Clara. She was standing just below the half court line when she elevated and fired the shot. Clara, with expert timing, jumped at the exact moment she did. The moment she released the ball Clara snatched it out of the air and landed holding it in her arms. The final buzzer sounded as soon as her feet touched the floor again. Peg and I cheered, along with the rest of the crowd, at her game winning block.

"Did you guys see that?" Dylan asked excitedly as he walked over to us. Dylan was the reason I was keeping such a close eye on Clara, but in the time, I had known him, he had done nothing even remotely suspicious. I knew better than to trust his motives, but he didn't seem dangerous. Other than having the Omega knife in his locker, he was an average jock.

"Yes, can you believe she took the ball out of the air like that?" Peg said. She was as excited as he was. She had a huge smile on her face. Looking at her smile I suddenly realized what caught my attention. It was her lips, she had beautiful, full lips. She also had the deepest dimples I had ever seen. Why had I never noticed that before? I wondered.

"What are you staring at" she asked and looked up at me. I felt like a spotlight had hit me. I was caught off guard and didn't know what to say. I stared at her and searched for words. Her lips, why were they amazing all of a sudden?

"Dude, you better be coming with us tonight. We're gonna turn Geno's out after this win" Dylan said and slapped me on the back. I snapped out of it then. He was going to Geno's, So I had to go as well.

"See, you have to go. I'll be the only one there alone if you don't, Peg said and made the pouty face again. I couldn't take it, it made me want to caress her face. I couldn't stop myself from doing it. I pulled my left arm free of her grip and held her face in my hands.

"I'll do it for you" I said while staring into her blue eyes. I had to be there for Clara, that was my job. For the first time since I had met her though, Peg had somehow stolen my focus.

Geno's was only a short walk from the school. After Clara and was done getting dressed and cleaned up, Peg, her, Dylan, and I walked over. It didn't look like much from the outside. It was a typical storefront. Large glass window with a picture of a peperoni pizza on it. There was a green awning over it that said Genos Pizza. Inside there were a dozen red, wooden tables built into the floor. The place was laid out in an L shape. There was a second room full of games, pool tables and some additional tables. We spent our time in that room.

I played air hockey with Peg first. She was really bad at it. I tried to go easy on her so she would enjoy herself. In my experience humans didn't typically like losing games. While We played, I kept an eye trained on Clara. It was easy since the room wasn't that large. My issue was Peg. She had this giggle that pulled all my attention to her. It was so cute. I lost Clara twice, but I didn't panic or make it overly obvious that I was watching her. I found her each time before more than a few seconds had passed. After I beat Peg for the third time we sat and watched Clara and Dylan play a game about shooting aliens. They made a good team, each carrying their own weight and not needing to be saved by the other.

"I know you were going easy on me" Peg said and pulled my right arm around her.

"Prove it" I said and grinned. She rubbed my fingers with her left hand.

"I think it was sweet" she said and smiled. It wasn't the big smile from earlier, but it was just as stunning. I looked away before it ensnared me. Clara hip bumped Dylan, he didn't budge. I saw his shoulders rise and fall as if he was laughing. So far so good I thought to myself.

"They make a good couple" Peg said staring at them again.

"I think so too" I agreed with her. They did look good together, and they got along great. The only issue was the Omega knife. Until I knew what that was all about, I couldn't let them be alone for a second.

"Do you think we look good together" Peg asked, and I felt a shocking sensation in my chest. What was that feeling?

I made the mistake of looking at her and our eyes met. She was looking expectantly at me. I didn't want to answer her. I couldn't answer her, not honestly.

"Why do you always stare at me and not speak? You've been doing it for a few days" She said. Had I been doing this for a few days. That couldn't have been true, I always felt so in control until today.

"That's not true, I never did this before today" I said confidently.

"You did it yesterday when I asked if you liked my lip gloss color. You did it the day before that when I was trying to learn how to whistle" She said.

"Yeah but who can't whistle?" I asked changing the subject. She got this look on her face all of a sudden. Like she had figured out some kind of equation.

"You wanna kiss me, don't you?" She asked with a grin on her face. I opened my mouth to say something, but she was already pulling my face down to hers. I didn't resist it. I wanted to kiss her more than anything else at that moment.

When her lips touched mine a wave of warmth went throughout my body. I put my left hand on her cheek and kept kissing her. This was the best feeling I had ever experienced. Her lips even tasted good. It was the perfect combination for me, and I was powerless against it. When she broke the kiss, I stared at her and had to catch my breath.

"That's the longest I've seen you go without looking at Clara" She said and grinned. All of a sudden there was an explosion inside of me. I had completely forgotten about my assignment. What was wrong with me? I looked around and Didn't see Clara or Dylan anywhere.

"They left" Peg said. She looked hurt. Before I could try to say anything, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I looked at it and saw my worst fear. It was a message from the number I had listed as work. It said come to the office ASAP.