Written by Audrey Francis-Plante
DEAN & LILY
Malone gives everyone a heavy gun loaded with paint capsules, and asks each Trouper to pick an initiate as a partner. I mutter a curse when Dean steps forward.
“Lily,” he says, and a few people snicker.
“I’d like to team up with literally anyone else,” I say at once.
“Then you should definitely team up with Dean,” Malone says. “The Troupe works as a unit, a family. No time for kitty fights.”
“Fine,” I grumble.
Teams are made.
All hell breaks loose.
Troupers start shooting paint like their lives depend on it.
“Aren’t there rules?” Arlo says near me as he’s splattered with paint balls. “Or … I don’t know, a purpose?”
“Come on,” Dean tells me, dodging a blue spray of paint and grabbing my hand.
“Let me go,” I say, but he drags me toward the Nuclear Lake, where he grabs two rubbish lids and gives me one. “Shields.”
I block the pink ball Sierra shot at me with my new shield. Dean laughs. “Well done, Fisty Lily.”
I grunt. “The nicknames are annoying.”
“That bruise is annoying.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Fake. “I was just trying to accessorize your hair.”
“How thoughtful.” Faker. He lunges toward me to shield me from a paint ball. “Watch it, Water Lily.”
I groan. “Of all the nicknames, this is the one I loathe the most.”
He grins at me. “Funny, it used to make you moan.”
My first paintball lands on his groin. He curses, bending in two, then dabs the fresh yellow paint on his pants to rub it in my face.
“Dean!” I shriek.
“We’re even.” Laughing, he nods at the cement wall behind the Lake. “Come on, these idiots didn’t get the point of this.”
“We’re not supposed to shoot ourselves. We’re a unit, remember?” His eyes dart to my mouth and he flicks the yellow paint on it with a thumb, leaving me breathless. Then he points at the wall. “I think we’re supposed to paint that.”
We run to the wall, shielding ourselves from the paint rain.
Dean and I shoot at it until we’re out of capsules, until everyone else is quiet behind us, and we look up to realize we both painted trees, their branches reaching toward each other but barely touching.
Malone declares us winners.
To be continued