Odessa had driven to her “secret hiding place,” which was by a pond near Llanview hospital. After that embarrassing scene at the auto shop, she needed to collect herself. However, it was proving to be difficult task; no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t forget the enchanting eyes of the young man. “Oh gosh, I am such a jerk!” she moaned to herself. “I can’t believe that guy put a spell on me like that! Thank goodness no one else saw that.”

About half-an-hour later Odessa returned home only to be greeted by laughter from her one of her best friends and cousin, Skyler McBain. “Hey Uncle John, FiFi’s home!” Skyler taunted.

Just at that point, Odessa’s other best friend, Yuriko “Kiko” Buchanan, emerged from the hallway and doing her version of a Japanese sensei, she bowed to Odessa. “Ah, ‘Sneezing One,’ you have returned to us,” she said in mocking and doubled over with laughter.

“For crying out loud, Dad! You just couldn’t wait to start yapping, could ya?” Odessa whined to her father, who was sitting on the couch next to Evangeline. The girls were still laughing and she was shooting them looks of daggers.

John chuckled lightly. “I’m sorry, Fi, but your mother was asking me where you were, and the girls got here before I came home. I didn’t know what to say, so I explained to everyone what I saw.”

“I just can’t believe you actually started the sneezing again!” teased Kiko, as Odessa went into the kitchen to fix herself a glass of milk and grab some cookies.

“And top of that, running out of there like a little punk! Wait, why are you eating those? Weren’t the chocolate bars satisfying enough?” added Skyler.

“Dad, you are so going to pay for this!” Odessa warned her father.

“Alright, you two, leave poor ‘Dessi alone,” Evangeline said. “I think she’s had enough embarrassment for the afternoon. I may not have been there, but from what I hear I think it all sounds so cute.”

That statement caused Kiko and Skyler to burst out laughing again. Odessa sighed and gulped down the last of her milk. “Alright, enough of this. You two yokels can keep on laughing, but I’m going up to my room now,” and she started towards the stairs. In actuality, Odessa couldn’t really blame them for clowning. She could understand how people would find the situation to be hilarious.

A couple minutes later Kiko and Skyler joined Odessa in her room, who was sitting at her desk. “Get lost, the both of you,” Odessa pretended to demand.

“Aw, Ode, cheer up. Besides, you know fully well that if it were one of us, you’d be having a field day with it, too. If anything you should be thankful that it was only your pops that was there, and not one of us,” Kiko responded, and Odessa just rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay. I’m finished now,” Kiko protested. “Let’s talk about something more depressing… tomorrow’s the first day of school. Are you guys ready?”

“Ohhhh, why’d you have to bring that up!? I was doing alright until now. And you two are so lucky you’re going to be Seniors. I don’t know if I can go through two more years at that hell-hole. What in the world am I gonna do without you two when you leave?” moaned Skyler.

Odessa chuckled. “Dag, Cuz, we haven’t even started school yet! Worry about that when the time comes.”

“Anyway, I think it’s really about you not wanting to see Alec go after this year, but there’s always his sister to hang out with.” Kiko said.

“Ugh, please don’t mention that jerk’s name. You’ll make me break into hives,” said a disgusted Skyler. She and Alec Brennan, a rising Senior, had been dating on and off for two years, and were currently in the “off” phase. They were one of those couples that constantly bicker, break-up, but could never stay long without rekindling again. His younger sister Tamzin and Skyler were in the same grade.

“Whatever. You two kids will be back together in no time, although it has been a few weeks, and I’m starting to get a bit worried. I’ve got money riding on you two,” Kiko joked. “I’ll bet two can’t even remember what you were bickering about in the first place. In fact I saw the way you were looking at him this morning. You heard it here first, by the end of the first week of school, ‘SkyLec’ will be back together.”

“This morning? What was going on this morning?” asked Odessa.

“That’s not impor–“ started Skyler, but was cut in by Kiko.

“This morning, we both went to go pick up some school supplies when we saw Alec talking to some guy on a motorcycle. His back was turned to us at the other end of the building so he didn’t see us, but Skyler here practically ‘slowed her roll’ in case he’d turn around.”

“Um, whatever. The dude on the bike looked like he could he could be hot, and I wanted to get a better look.”

“HA! Then why did you say ‘Oh my gawd, there’s Alec! how do I look?’ Besides you could barely see the guy’s face because his helmet was on, and was practically leaving. Girl, who are you trying to fool?” Kiko questioned.

Skyler was pensive for a moment but shrugged it off. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh-huh, sure. You practically yanked me into the store, when I wanted to say ‘Hi’ to him. Can you believe that, ‘Dessi? This silly girl here wouldn’t even let me greet my freaking cousin!” exclaimed Kiko. Skyler responded by throwing a pillow at her.

Odessa was at her desk and looking at her computer, whilst listening to her cousin and friend. She chuckled, “I don’t know about you two sometimes.”

“What are you looking at, O? “ Kiko asked, calling Odessa one of her other various nicknames.

“Oh, I’m just checking to see the shipping status of a camera I ordered.”

“Another camera, what for? You’ve already got two cameras.”

“Yeah, I know but they’re both digital and I want to get a photo film camera, one with a high 4-range zoom where I can go into a darkroom and develop my own photos. As crazy at it sounds but I think non-digital photography has more of a natural beauty to it. Suddenly, her mind drifted to the auto shop boy, but she quickly snapped out of it. She didn’t want to relive her embarrassing sneeze attack. “Anyway, I signed up for the Advanced Photography & Technique class and I wanted my own equipment.

“Darkrooms?? Do those still exist?” joked Skyler.

“Yes, but who wants to visit Pine Valley and Port Charles?” said Kiko.

“Hehe, damn Kiko. Aren’t you from Pine Valley?” Odessa reminded.

“Shhhhhhhhh!!! Never make mention of that again.”

“So Odessa, have you made your vow yet to stop being late for every single one of your classes every day?” Skyler joshed. Because she wasn’t a very organised person, Odessa had a notorious reputation for being tardy for classes and other functions ever since she was a little girl. One time, when she was eight, she’d misplaced her white gloves and veil 10 minutes to the time she was supposed to be at the church for her Holy Communion. Eventually, after looking all over the house, her mother found them in her treehouse – of all places – and they sped off to the church; Odessa had been an embarrassing 30 minutes late. As for school, she has been through her fair share of after-school detention time. Even the school’s guidance counselor had called for Odessa’s parents to come in for a conference, urging them to her sign-up for a remote time-management course during the summer. She’d taken the course and improved significantly, but it was a question of whether or not her learned skills would last.

“Um, I’ll have you know that it was never all of my classes that I’m late for, every day. Besides, I think I’ve gotten better with keeping up with time because of my summer course ” she proudly boasted.

“Hmm, we shall see then. Your problem is you’re always rushing somewhere and disorganised. That’s not a very good combination,” said Skyler.

“Oh, my bad! I didn’t realise I had a ‘Let’s have a go at Odessa today’ sign on my back, good grief!” Odessa exclaimed.

“Awww, c’mon cuz. You know I wuuuuuuv you!” Skyler teased.

“Yea, well keep it up and you won’t make it to tomorrow!”

“Oh please do. You’d be doing me the favour! “

After about half an hour, Skyler and Kiko went home. Vangie offered them to stay for dinner, but they declined. Still thinking about the first day of school, Skyler joked, “I’m just gonna go home and cry in a dark corner somewhere.”

John laughed. “Yeah, I remember those days…”

Later on that evening at dinner, the McBain’s wrapping up a brief discussion about an upcoming robbery case Vangie was going to preside over. Odessa had been noticeably quiet, however. “Fiona, are you alright? If you’re still upset about the teasing from earlier, I apologise about that,” said her father.

“Hehe, no Dad. I’m fine. I guess I’m just thinking about the first day of school tomorrow.”

“Why? Are you nervous or something, baby?” asked her mother.

“No, not really. I guess it’s just that now that it’s my final year, I’m hoping things get more interesting .”

“What do you mean by that? I don’t like the sound of that,” John worried.

Odessa chuckled. “Dad, don’t be silly. I just meant that…that… Oh, I don’t know what I meant.”

“Dessi-baby,” started Vangie. “I think I know what you mean. I remember feeling that high school can be so boring and tedious at times. It’s only natural to want some excitement every now and then. Maybe you could join more clubs, or go out on some dates.”

“Easy now!” John chimed in. “Fiona doesn’t need to depend on dating for ‘excitement’ in her life. She should focus on her education and getting into a good college, as well as being on time for classes,” he stressed, giving Odessa a stern look. “And besides, she has her hobbies to keep her busy outside of that school.”

“Now John, ‘Dessi is growing up. She needs to have a good balance of her educational and social life, friends notwithstanding.”

Odessa sighed, but laughed in spite of herself. She wasn’t about to go through another discussion about boys and dating with her parents again, but she had to add into the debate. “Don’t worry, the boys at school are morons anyway,” she said.

“Ah, don’t say that, sweetie! Things could be different this year,” Evangeline said.

“Well, let’s hope it’s not,” John muttered under his breath.

“I heard that!” Odessa and her mother exclaimed simultaneously, and they both laughed at John’s put-on “innocent” look.