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I turned in my still life. The teacher, Ms.Olivier was impressed by my use of colour, and chuckled over my problematic bananas.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect, Jade,” she said.”This is your interpretation, after all.”

I took my place at my easel, next to Rory, who smiled brightly at me.

This week’s assignment was announced. We would be doing portraits of each other.

“Want to pair up, Jade?” Rory asked.

“Um, s-sure,” I stammered.”I’d love to.”

“Great,” he grinned widely at me. Wow, his teeth were nice. I want the name of his dental hygenist.

It was nice, getting to sit in class for once, as Rory started his portrait of me. I couldn’t help notice how adorable he looked when he was concentrating hard. I smiled.

“You have a really pretty smile, Jade,” Rory said, unexpectedly.

“I do?” I spluttered. A blotchy blush crept over my face. I reached up and felt my cheek.”Oh my God, don’t paint that!”

“Ha ha, why not, I’m supposed to paint what I see, right?” he teased.”Don’t worry, I won’t paint it. You look much nicer without it. Well, maybe just a little colour in your cheeks. You’re so pale without it.”

“My mom is paler,” I shrugged.

“Really?” Rory’s eyebrows shot up, almost to his hairline.”I can’t imagine that.”

He painted in silence for awhile.

“How is your mom? I heard she was sick.”

“Who told you that?”

“Mandy. She told me when I asked where you were, last.”

“Oh,” I said.”Well, she says she’s okay, but I don’t think she is. I’m really worried about her. Dad is too.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Rory said, sounding genuinely unhappy.”Is that why you go home so much?”

“Yeah. I want to see my parents as much as I can, and they worry about me too.”

“They do?” Rory sounded confused behind his canvas.

“Sure, why not? I’m their only child, far away at college,” I teased, then turned serious.”They worry about my…health.”

“Oh, like not getting enough sleep, or stress, or eating junk all the time?”

“Ohhhhhhh, something like that,” I smiled.”I have….something like anemia.”

“So that explains the rumours.”

“Rumours?” I said sharply.

“Uh, yeah. I thought you knew about them.”

“Not all of them. Tell me.”

“Well, uh, Dana’s been telling everyone that you eat…plasma fruits,” Rory answered, looking at me awkwardly and rubbing the back of his head.

Damn her eyes! How’d she find out? Unless she didn’t actually know, and was trying, again, to hurt me. Well, aunt Sophie had provided me with the perfect excuse, in case anyone asked.

“I take these, Rory,” I said, pulling a bottle out of my pocket. I set it down on a table nearby.

“Plasma fruit supplements?”

“For the iron,” I explained.”Plasma fruit is loaded with iron, more than the average pill you get in pharmacies. It’s easier to take in pill form, because the fruit is so messy. Now why on earth would eating the fruit be a bad thing, anyway?”

“Oh, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s just, she makes it sound like it is.”

“Well, good for her,” I said, rolling my eyes as i shoved the bottle back in my pocket.”I couldn’t care less what she thinks.”

“What did you do, anyway, to make her hate you so much?”

“Nothing,” I shrugged.”I just showed up for my first day of classes, and she decides she doesn’t like me. That’s all there is to it, as far as I know.”

“Jade.”

I looked at Rory.

“I have to tell you, I-”

“Class, we’ll continue our portraits tomorrow. Please move along to your next class,” Ms.Olivier called out.

Rory hesitated, then seemed to lose his nerve. He sighed and packed up his supplies. Looks like I wouldn’t be finding out what he had to say til tomorrow.

Damn.

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