A/N: I'm so grateful that you're up for reading this. Thank you. It's a joy to have you here.

As you can tell, scenes from the (non-existent) Underground Memories pentalogy will be a part of this story (as relevant), which means you poor souls are forced to read a story within a story.

Skip if you wish, I don't mind :)

Scheduled for Friday
by Anton M.

2: Ice Queen

Wednesday, January 11 (cont.)

In the first book, The Bog of Fire, Nala and Mathys barely disguised their resentment towards each other, not only because of the hierarchy difference between their respective tribes but because Mathys wanted to fight in the uprising. Instead, a trained warrior bego like Mathys was forced to babysit Nala, a mute healer pife.

As they traveled together, Nala not only began to talk but also learned to test the limits of her powers. She had to become one with one of the elements to use them, but doing so made her lose consciousness. The first time she used her powers (by accident), Mathys had given her barely a two-second warning before he pushed her into the water of the bog to avoid the flying abunyips over them. Nala held her breath until she couldn't, became one with water, and filled the air above them with the audible last words of hundreds of creatures who'd died in the bog. It effectively terrified the abunyips, but more so Mathys, who—had it not been for her pulse—would've been convinced she'd drowned.

Instead, having saved his life, Nala woke up by a bonfire, and the two began a tiptoeing kind-of friendship as they started to bond in spite of their (many) differences.

In the second book, The Haunted Cove, after being chased out of a village, Nala and Mathys began to form a plan to break into a fortress under a reef. In Underground Memories, the world itself protected precious information that could've been used to destroy nature, and a map that could lead Nala and Mathys to the hidden, forsaken city in the forest (where Mathys' ancestors were from) was one such relic. The two had no choice but to attempt to revive the map, but as they entered the caves beneath the reef, Nala felt voices of the dead so strongly she nearly passed out without even becoming one of the elements. The hidden entries of every fortress protecting the relics were always ridden with corpses, but this one felt different.

Humans had interfered. Nala could feel it. The maze ensured that nobody with corrupt intentions could get through, and anyone with good intentions often had their intentions corrupted by the puzzles and creatures in the labyrinth. So, failing to acquire the relic inside, government agents had bugged the place to ensure that anyone with good intentions couldn't get the relic, either.

Nala did not want the map. The map was a means to an end—to win her freedom by doing whatever Mathys' mother, the person who still technically owned her, wanted her to do.

Having been bugged, the underground fortress now hid invisible, lethal pike-wasps to ensure that people like Nala couldn't pass.

After two excruciating days in the maze, Nala and Mathys got the map but were faced with pike-wasps on the way out. Nala could feel their presence. Engineered to linger between life and death, close to immortal, the wasps could sense emotion but were designed to attack only when they detected fear, and so Nala channeled the happy last moments of a dead woman (who reunited with her child moments before getting shot from behind). Unfortunately, she couldn't channel the woman's surreal happiness to Mathys (who had been trained to embrace fear before overcoming it), so Nala's last resort was to surprise Mathys with a kiss.

Surprise him she certainly did. Unaware of her reasons for the kiss or the true danger they were in, Mathys sunk into what for him was a very real show of emotions, and for the first time, Nala changed them both to one of the elements, air, as that was the only thing that would allow them to escape the fortress.

Nala was unconscious for three days after the effort.

I had no clue how our CGI team intended to show the scene, but if the author's description of the kiss was anything to go by, I would be in for a hell of a first kiss if I allowed it to be Mike.

I mean, I could've had my first kiss with him. I knew it was a possibility, but now that I was actually facing it, I desperately wanted at least my first kiss to be with someone else. Anyone else. As much chemistry as we had on screen and as much as I now considered him a friend, I did not like him. Smug and cocky was fine for casual friendship but not my type.

At least, I didn't think it was my type. It's not like I could tell.

My dad and I made it home, the bluest, smallest one-floor, 900 sq foot house on Locust Log Way. It was eleven PM, late at night, but my mom was sitting by her laptop at the kitchen counter, and I hadn't even taken off my jacket before dad almost skipped to the kitchen, leaned over the counter and gave my mom the biggest grin.

"The day has come," dad said, holding mom's jaw in both of his palms in an exaggerated, cutesy squish as he rested his elbows on the counter. He kissed her.

Mom took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, glancing at me. "What day?"

"The day our daughter got a crush," he whispered. "And you know what else?"

Mom arched her eyebrow, already starting to smile. "Yes?"

"Bella has to make her crush kiss her before next Friday or her first kiss will be Mike."

"Ohh this is juicy gossip indeed," mom replied, shutting her laptop. "So who is this lucky boy who gets the smoochie smooch smooch from our daughter?"

My parents made ridiculous air kisses at each other with exaggerated sounds as I dropped my backpack on the floor and climbed on a barstool. Jake, my fluffy one-eared cat, came to rub his face against my ankles, and I lifted him into my lap before I gave mom the stink eye, pressed my forehead against the cold counter, and kissed Jake's head.

"You guys are the worst parents ever."

"I'm not buying it," mom said. "We are excellent parents. We never lie," (yes they did,) "or curse," (like sailors, in multiple languages,) "or tease you," (oh my God all the time please save me,) "or ever do anything that would harm our soon-to-be world famous actress daughter," (well something had to be true, at least.)

"So who is this crush our daughter has been keeping from us?" dad repeated before he straightened, and his smile disappeared. "Wait, are you already dating him—or her, not judging—in secret?"

"No!" I almost shouted. "When the fuck would I find the time, dad? And how would I not have had my first kiss if that was the case?"

My parents shared a glance.

"Well that much is true, at least," mom said. "Sometimes we wonder how you have time to breathe with everything on your plate."

"I have a big plate," I replied, but my words were too real for them to crack a smile.

With Jake in my lap, I got myself a glass of water before I sat down again. I couldn't help my sigh.

"You don't have to tell us," dad said, quietly. He scooted a bar stool next to me and took hold of my upper arms. "We're just so relieved. Our daughter the ice queen has a crush."

"I am not an ice queen."

"Ohh? Remember when what's-his-name—" Dad glanced at mom as she mouthed the name to him. "Rylan wanted to give you his extra marshmallow in kindergarten and you poured sand on his head?"

"I was five, dad."

"And then Sean tried to sit next to you at a picnic on your first day of school and you poured coke on his head?" mom continued.

"He touched my hair without asking."

"He liked you."

"How was I supposed to know that?"

"What about when Sergio, blushing to the roots of his hair, asked you out in sixth grade and you poured your bag of gummy bears on his head?"

"That was—" I paused, remembering the incident but not my reason for doing so.

Maybe I was an ice queen.

"Aww," I whined.

Was this the reason I hadn't had my first kiss yet?

Dad grinned. "I will say that there will be fireworks in our garden if you can have a conversation with your crush without pouring anything on his—or her—head."

I put a cookie on top of dad's hair.

"I hate you."

Dad ate the cookie before he patted my shoulder. "Sure you do, sweetie. Sure you do."

My parents went to get changed and brush their teeth as I took out my laptop to blow up a photo of Skylar's notes on comparative religions. I would've studied in my room but knew I'd probably fall asleep if I did, and by the time my parents arrived in the kitchen to wish me good night, I was starting to get the hang of what Mr. Frye had covered in my absence. (Although taking videos of my cat snoring with his face dangling off the couch definitely helped keep me awake.)

I rolled my bar stool around to face my parents.

Dad, having started balding in his twenties, shaved his head every morning, but probably had more beauty products for his trimmed beard than my mom and I combined (and I had a lot of hair to take care of). Mom, just as tall as my dad at 5'9'', had shoulder-length hair that she'd scandalously dyed grey a few months ago. Alice's parents, both in their fifties, refused to accept that a woman in their early thirties would voluntarily want to look older, but my mom was sick of people commenting on how she couldn't possibly have a teenage daughter. Obviously, the comments were only ever meant as compliments, but they made my mom grumpy.

"I did not go through hell to raise you to be belittled for my age," she'd say.

I inherited her bone structure except for her pointy, straight nose. I didn't get her blue eyes, either. Life was unfair. Nala had light green eyes in the books, so I wore contacts on set, but I wish I'd gotten some awesome, unlikely combination of genes, too.

My parents, both in pajamas, had that wistful, bittersweet look in their eyes, the one that said these-days-are-numbered, and while we had a shit ton to discuss, I didn't want to ruin the mood by telling them that they were totally stalling buying a new house. They didn't have the money to spend on a better house—they were still paying for the mortgage for this one—but they knew this one was much too unsafe to stay in. We'd set aside my money to do it, which was… mind-blowing, and they'd agreed to use my money, but... my parents were proud as fuck.

They were stalling.

"His name is Edward," I admitted, as if my crush was real.

"Edward," dad said, eyes twinkling as he locked eyes with mom.

"What's he like?" mom asked, gently, careful not to tease me for fear that I wouldn't answer.

I don't know. Never met him. Never seen a picture of him. Never spoken to him.

"He's tall and… he has pretty eyes."

"Pretty eyes, she says," dad repeated in a teasing voice.

"And… he has a motorcycle."

"Ohh, our daughter is into dangerous boys." Dad paused, squinting at me. "He wears a helmet, right?"

"Of course," I lied.

Happy that I wasn't hiding this (mostly made-up) guesstimate, my parents hugged me goodnight and left me alone in the kitchen studying for my test tomorrow.

I yawned all the way to school the next day. Dad lingered by the parking lot as he dropped me off in the morning, scanning the place for motorcycles, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't doing the same. I'd searched through Facebook and Instagram, even Twitter, and I think I found the three Edwards Alice had spoken about, but in addition to the two who didn't have a profile picture, I also found three Eds and one Eddie.

Our school was swarming with boys who had Edward-derived names, apparently.

I'd come to a decision, too.

Since I was a sad girl who couldn't even find a guy to have a real crush on (not that I had time to linger at school), I was now neck-deep in my Edward lie. So much so that I wanted to see if I could find him and, if he was single and willing and had a mouth, ask him for a favor. Obviously, I couldn't tell him anything about Michael Newton or filming Underground Memories, but I could tell him that I had a crush on some other guy and wanted to get some practice in. That wasn't too bad, right? Or, I could tell him a white lie about filming a boring indie drama and needing to kiss someone before my first scheduled kiss on Friday next week. Oh, that sounded doable, actually. Very close to the truth.

I could also be the cray-cray sophomore who pushed him against the wall and just kissed him, but that idea was tougher to put into action due to my sad cluelessness about what the hell the guy actually looked like (and my even sadder cluelessness about how kissing worked).

"So which one is he?" dad asked, tilting his head towards the parking lot where at least three bikers had arrived.

"I don't want to say," I lied, not having a clue as to which one could've been him.

"Fair enough." But then, dad unfastened his seat belt and stepped out of the car, yelling, "Edward!"