“Just look at you, Alexus!” Pauline smiled at the girl next to her affectionately. “You look fantastic! How are you feeling?”
“Definitely not used to the whole no disguise thing yet,” Alexus laughed. “But everybody’s been so great about it so far… Couldn’t have done this without you, though.”
The journey towards leaving her disguise behind had been a slow one for Alexus; even after revealing her true identity, she would only be comfortable in her true form around Aslan at first. Over the years, she gradually stopped wearing her disguise at home and around other friends, until she finally abandoned it altogether. Pauline had been somewhat of a mentor to the girl throughout the transition, supporting her every step of the way.
“Well you’ve got nothing to hide,” Pauline nodded with an approving grin.
“I know. It’s just hard to remember sometimes, when you were told you have to hide who you are so many times growing up… though of course, you know all about that.” Alexus stopped herself.
Pauline smiled softly. “Like I said, never let the past dictate your future. Aliens will always be welcome in Newcrest, even when I’m not around one day.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that!” The girl interrupted her.
“I can’t be here forever,” Pauline shrugged. “But I do have a few years in me yet! And when the new generation takes over… well, I’m quite sure Aslan shares my views on aliens, especially some of them.” She added with a wink.
Alexus giggled. “Can’t say I foresee Aslan banishing me from Newcrest any time soon.”
“That boy…” Pauline joined in on the laughter. “He is a good one, deep down. I hope you know that.” She grew more serious.
The girl’s cheeks flushed briefly. “I do…” Her gaze turned to the ground. “Aslan is my best friend, after all.”
Aslan perked up at the sound of his name. He couldn’t quite make out what the two of them were talking about, but they were smiling, so hopefully it was a good thing…
He stared at Alexus longingly. She did have the most gorgeous smile. Well, her smile, and everything else. A deep sigh escaped his lips.
“Oh come on, will you grow a pair already?” His cousin’s irritated voice tore Aslan out of his dream world.
“Huh?” Involuntarily, he turned his head away from Alexus. His reaction seemed to have only increased Hope’s frustration, though.
“Quit giving me that look like you don’t know what I’m talking about!” She gave him a cross glare. “I’m so fed up with that puppy dog stare you do whenever Alexus is around!”
“Hey, I’ve told you a million times, she’s not-“
“She’s not my girlfriend, she’s not my girlfriend…” Hope mimicked his voice in a high pitched tone. “Well if she’s really not, it’s about plumming time you ask her!”
“It’s totally not like that!” Aslan protested weakly.
Hope let out an uncoherent grunt, kicking into the water below them. “Ugh! Why do I waste my time on you!?”
She dove into the pool with a huge splash, swimming away without giving her cousin another look.
“…the plum!? What is with you… Hope?”
The girl continued to ignore him. Aslan shook his head. Ever since aunt Sera’s wedding, Hope seemed a lot easier to set off than usual.
Aslan watched his cousin disappear under the water surface. He shrugged. Something was obviously bugging her, but he suspected it had little to do with him.
Then again, maybe she did have a point. But Alexus… Aslan’s eyes shot straight back the blue-skinned girl, as if by reflex. He jumped up quickly, realising she was already standing.
“Thanks again, Pauline!” Alexus gave the old woman another smile. “For everything…”
“No need to thank me.” Pauline assured her. “And don’t forget you’re always welcome here.”
“I won’t, believe me!” The girl laughed. “I’ll see you soon!”
She gave her a small wave and headed for the garden gate.
Aslan raised straight after her, before she even made her way out of the garden.
“Lexi, wait!” He called out, dashing towards the gate.
Alexus let out a small chuckle, stopping in her tracks. “What’s up?”
“You leaving already?” Aslan cursed himself. His voice sounded way more eager than he anticipated.
“Yeah, I’ve got a ton of homework… seemed like a good idea to leave it all till Sunday afternoon.” She smirked.
“But you haven’t even said goodbye!” The boy exclaimed. He’d given up on trying to keep his cool altogether.
“Well, you and Hope seemed to be in the middle of, um, something…” She gave him an awkward smile. “I didn’t want to intrude.”
“Forget Hope!” Aslan said quickly. “I’ll walk you home, at least!”
Alexus looked him up and down. “In your swimming trunks?”
“I’ll grab my clothes real quick!” he shouted over his shoulder, already running towards the front door.
“Aslan! You don’t have to rush so much! I’m not in that big of a hurry!” She called out after him.
In vain. He disappeared behind the corner already. Alexus laughed to herself, shaking her head. Aslan could be such a goof sometimes…
Aslan could feel the back of his top getting damp. He probably should have dried himself after swimming before throwing his clothes on, but he didn’t want to keep Alexus waiting.
He could barely take his eyes off the girl beside him. There had always been something about Alexus, even way back, before he knew her secret… And now everybody knew, but it only made her more attractive.
Begrudgingly, Aslan had to admit that Hope may have been right… to a degree, at least. He looked around uncertainly. Now was as good a time as any.
“You stopped. Is something wrong?” Alexus looked at him quizzically.
“No, not at all!” He said abruptly. “I just wanted to… can I talk to you for a sec, Lexi?”
She tilted her head to the side, looking partially amused, partially worried. “We were talking the whole way, Aslan.”
“Yeah. Cause we get on so well… we always have…”
“Riiight?”Alexus definitely looked like she found the situation entertaining now.
“So… I really like you as a friend.” Aslan continued in his not-so-graceful effort. “I mean, you’re my best friend, duh. But I also kind of… like you in a whole other way too. A lot.” He spewed the words out.
Alexus took a little moment before she replied. “I know.” She told him finally. “I’ve known for a while.”
“What?” Aslan was taken aback. “You do? But how… Wait! Did you use your powers? Read my mind or something?”
“No!” She hissed, immediately annoyed. “How can you even say that? I’m not rude, I don’t just break into people’s heads! The thing is, it doesn’t exactly take any special powers to read you…”
“Sorry. I’m being stupid. I guess you do know me better than anyone, powers or not.” Aslan offered her an olive branch. “So… how did you figure it out?”
The girl’s laugh echoed around. “Well, remember when your mom got married, and started thinking about maybe having more kids?”
“Oh…” A faint memory started to creep its way into Aslan’s head. “She was gonna adopt you…”
Alexus nodded. “Yeah. I can still see it so clearly in my head… when she sat us both down, and said she thinks it would make sense, because we’re such good friends and spend all the time together anyway… And then you begged her not to do it.”
“Yeah.” Aslan felt embarrassed. “I thought you would be really mad at me. But you weren’t.”
“I wasn’t.” Alexus confirmed. “Cause I realised why you did it.”
It was Aslan’s turn to grow a little irritated. “Wait… so you’ve known all this time, and you haven’t said anything? It’s been years!”
“Well, you didn’t say anything either!” Alexus pointed out.
“Because I didn’t know you felt!” Aslan protested in return. “But you knew!”
Alexus frowned. “So now it’s my fault that you didn’t say something sooner!?” She raised her voice. “I wanted you to say it! I didn’t think it would take you years to stop being a chicken, of course.”
A wave of anger washed over Aslan. He’d show her…
He pulled her in, pressing his lips onto hers. And she kissed him back. Ok, this was great, Aslan relaxed a little. She was kissing him! He was growing more and more confident by the minute, his hand sliding lower and lower…
And then she pushed him away. What was going on now? Girls made no sense, he decided.
“What?” To his surprise, his voice croaked. He cleared his throat. “What now? Do I kiss like a chicken too?”
Alexus chuckled. “No… not at all.” She seemed flustered. “But Aslan… just because it took you years to finally admit you like me, it doesn’t mean we need to catch up on everything right now.”
“Right… sorry… again. Plum, I’m such a tool.” Aslan laughed uncomfortably.
“You’re not as bad as you think.” She gave him an encouraging smile. “I like you, at least.”
Aslan’s heart skipped a beat. “So… do you wanna… be my girlfriend or something?”
She nodded. A soft pink glow surrounded her.
“Hey! You’re doing that thing again.” Aslan pointed out. “When you glow all weird.”
“Yeah…” She didn’t elaborate.
“You never did tell me what the pink means.” The boy continued. “I know that when you’re really happy, it’s green, and blue when you’re sad, and when you think something’s interesting it’s like this turquoise-y colour… I never figured out pink.”
Alexus looked right into his eyes. “What do you think it means?”
A grin spread across Aslan’s face.
“I think it means I can kiss you again.”