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Balancing Act

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Afternoon, Photography Classroom

It was very close to the end of the school day, made all the more obvious by the collective desire to escape that radiated from the students trapped within the room. Maxine Caulfield looked up from her notebook, watching her classmates. Some were already asleep - Hayden being the prime example, although his dozy expression may have been due to his constant state of drug induced highness. Others, such as Stella, were actually paying attention and taking meaningful notes, although she was in the vast minority.

Guess at least someone wants to learn. Good for Stella. And Hayden needs to chill on the weed. He could probably get a world record for 'the longest consecutive high state'. Hands down. Rachel could probably give him a good run for his money, though.

Speaking of Blackwell's very own celebrity, Rachel Amber… she was expertly carving graffiti into her desk, looking at her phone every now and then, smiling. She wasn't the only one. Near the window at the back, Kate Marsh – her blonde-violet ombre hair shimmering in the sunlight – was doodling in her notebook, checking her phone at regular intervals.

Bet I know who those two are texting. It's kinda cute, actually. I'll keep that thought to myself, though. Don't want to get punched by a certain someone… for damaging her punk street cred.

They were no doubt in a group conversation with another blue-haired individual, as always. Those three were inseparable. Neither girl was paying much attention to the lecture, they rarely did, but somehow they managed to maintain their near perfect GPAs.

Life is… so not fair sometimes.

In the back left hand corner of the room was the Vortex Club table: Taylor Christensen, Victoria Chase and Maxine herself, the latter paying the least attention. With her curiosity sated, she returned to her drawing, the open page full of doodles and very few notes. In all honesty, she didn't need to take notes; she'd get a copy of Victoria's later. The lecture was not useful to her at all. It was simply a stage for their teacher, Mark Jefferson, to feed his ever-increasing ego, to show he was still relevant and hip.

He's trying way too hard to be 'down with the kids'. As much as I appreciate his work, his personality doesn't match up. Disappointing, but what did I expect? Role models never live up to expectation.

As he droned on, loving the sound of his own voice, Maxine lightly nudged Victoria's leg under the table; the blonde pausing in her note taking to catch her eye. The brunette crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue, making the other girl shake her head with a smile and return the nudge.

Mr. Jefferson cleared his throat loudly, drawing her attention away from Victoria and back to the lecture. He offered her a strained smile, a flicker of irritation present. "Now Maxine, since you've captured our interest and clearly want to join the conversation, can you please tell us the name of the process that gave birth to the first self-portraits?"

Ugh, is it pick on Maxine day today? Well, more fool you, asshole, I know the answer to this.

"Louis Daguerre was a French painter who created 'daguerreotypes' a process that gave portraits a sharp reflective style, like a mirror," Maxine recited boredly, inspecting her nails. Victoria had done a good job on them, not that she expected anything different.

He paused for a moment, clearly not expecting her to be able to answer. "Yes, very good, Maxine. If it isn't too much trouble, I would appreciate if you could focus on the remainder of the lecture instead of Ms. Chase."

Oh, my god, his face was priceless . I bet he didn't think I'd know the answer, trying to catch me out so he could rant.

She gave Victoria and Taylor a smug smirk as Mr. Jefferson turned back to continue the lecture. Taylor nodded in approval, while Victoria sighed and went back to her work. Maxine caught Rachel's eye, who gave her a wink, and Kate's, who simply rolled her eyes with a smile before getting back to her phone.

Glad to see those two enjoying the display. I'm sure they are texting Chloe about it now knowing them. Nothing like seeing a teacher's metaphorical ass getting kicked.

Not wanting to push her luck, she pretended to write notes, every now and then nudging the tall blonde with her foot. All she wanted to do was book it on out of here and back to Victoria's room, or her room. Didn't matter which. Now she really couldn't focus on the lecture.

Maybe I should just do what I want to right in front of the whole class… that would give Mr. Jefferson something to think about. Bet he'd be creepily into it, heard some strange rumors about him. Wouldn't surprise me. And Blackwell doesn't need more to gossip about.

Finally, the bell went to signal the end of class. Immediately, everyone began packing up and shuffling, chair scraping along the floor. Mr. Jefferson continued talking, oblivious to the fact that nobody cared.

Gotta hand it to him, he's thick skinned. Around here, you have to be. Blackwell's a savage fight to the death some days…

Happy for it to be over, Maxine too gathered her things together. She had to get out before she got called out by…

"Maxine, can I have a word?" Jefferson called out to her, not so much a question as a demand. She was not getting out of this one.

Busted… so much for my escape plan.

"Of course," she replied politely, turning to Victoria. "Wait for me?"

Victoria stopped packing up, giving her a smile. "Always."

On her way over, Maxine got a better look at the graffiti Rachel had been working on. Rachel Amber 4eva alongside some pretty anatomically correct body parts – no prizes for guessing what kind – and other visual manifestations of her mind.

Original… guess a school desk ain't complete without etched in genitals or boobs. Or gum under the table. I bet Rachel's mind is a terrifyingly wonderful compilation of all the best – or maybe worst depending on your perspective – porn. Oh, and a healthy dose of weed and booze. Gotta give it an edge.

Unable to prolong her fate, Maxine trudged over to the front of the class towards an expectant Mr. Jefferson, his arms crossed and face edged with sternness. "Maxine, you need to pay more attention in class. As distracting as you may find Ms. Chase, you have plenty of time outside of class for… that."

Not liking his tone, finding it accusatory and a little – no make that a lot – patronizing, Maxine leveled him with a stare. "I'm answering the questions correctly, aren't I?"

Try protesting that point. Damn, wish I could just rip into him… but I don't want to risk my scholarship.

He nodded, unable to refute that claim. "Yes, but I would appreciate attention as well. Providing text book answers will only get you so far in life."

Taking a deep breath, she replied, "With all due respect, sir, I would rather show my passion through my work, not the enthusiasm of my theory responses."

His expression softened, an attempt at understanding that seemed a little forced. "And I do agree with that, but you never know what you might miss if you don't pay attention. I just want you to get the most out of your education. John Lennon once said: 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans'. So, live that life in the here and now. You don't want it to pass you by; take advantage of your opportunities."

This asshole just wants a captive audience to brag about how oh so amazing, pretentious and successful he is. And that quote…

"Of course, sir, I understand," Maxine replied, giving him the line he wanted to hear, not how she truly felt.

Pick and choose your battles.

"I know it can be difficult finding your way in the world of photography – trust me, I've been there," he mentioned sympathetically. "We all find our way eventually, an effective way to channel our passions. Go on now, don't let me keep you."

Not needing to be told twice, she left the classroom. Victoria was there waiting, smiling when she noticed her. "Ooooh, look at the naughty school girl getting called up after class."

Sighing, Maxine stuck close to her side as they walked towards the campus grounds hand in hand. "Ugh… I don't know what his problem is. Like, what does it matter how I answer so long as I do?"

Victoria gave her hand a light squeeze. "Mr. Jefferson just wants you to do well, Maxine. He clearly sees your potential. He'd have to be blind not to, having said that."

If only that were the only reason he gave a shit. Victoria gives him too much credit sometimes.

Maxine scoffed. "Yeah, so he can brag about his influence on me if I ever hit the big time." Doing her best Mark Jefferson impression – a self-important expression and a deeper voice filled with condescending pretention – she continued, "Oh yes, many years ago I had a fateful deep and meaningful conversation with the young prodigy, Maxine Caulfield. I could see she was struggling to focus her creative outlet; she had the talent, but lacked motivation. Her frustration was painfully clear to me, and only me because I'm very perceptive to the internal dilemmas of budding artists. I was one myself about a hundred years ago. I single-handedly helped her channel and direct her gift into the masterpieces she captures to this day."

Victoria snickered. "Maxine, you're too much."

"Oh, you think?" the brunette asked with a slight smile.

"Sometimes…" Victoria leaned in as they walked, pace slowing as she whispered, "other times, I can't get enough."

Well, well, guess I know what kinda mood Victoria's in… same as me, same as always. Better get a move on before I cave. Not taking the phrase 'au naturel' too literally this time. The poor squirrels…

Now even more desperate to get back to one of their rooms, Maxine offered up a flirtatious smirk. "Would now be one of those times, by any chance?"

"It might be," the blonde replied vaguely, leaning in to give her a kiss.

"Yo, Maximo," a loud, impatient voice called from behind them, interrupting the moment, "quit making kissy faces and take time for your friends, man."

Both girls stopped and glanced over their shoulders, seeing three girls approach. The closest was tall with chin-length blue hair, wearing an off-white sleeveless skull t-shirt exposing her colorful sleeve tattoo. A tri-bullet necklace hung down, the sunlight glinting off it. Next in line was a shorter girl, pretty with long blonde hair. She wore a blue flannel shirt and ripped black jeans; a solitary blue feather earring swayed gently in the wind as she strutted towards them.

The final girl was also blonde, the shortest of the three. Her red and black checked skirt swished as she walked, ripped black tights leading down to dark cherry red lace up combat boots. Her shirt was black, with a punk 'Alice in Wonderland' vibe – the words 'We're All Mad Here' in white, accompanied underneath by a large disembodied Cheshire Cat grin. A short fitted biker jacket sat on top. She had well-blended, deep violet eyeshadow and lipstick, her hair a dirty blonde-soft violet ombre, tied up in a messy bun for now. Several bracelets sat on her wrist, alongside rings on her fingers. Additionally, she had a nose piercing – a small stud – on the left side.

Ah, great timing… can't we have a minute to ourselves?

"Ah, Chloe, I was wondering when you'd show up," Maxine greeted. "With your entourage no less."

"Some of us nerds had serious science to do… and girfriends to pick up." She motioned back to the other two, who had finally joined the group.

"You sure did," Kate confirmed with a grin, snaking her arm around Chloe's.

"And we ain't nobody's entourage," Rachel corrected, pouting slightly as she hugged them from behind, her arms barely managing to encircle them. She rested her head on Kate's shoulder – the only one she could actually reach – before giving a meaningful glance to Victoria. "Unlike a certain someone is for you."

"I'm quite happy to be in that category, groupies get all the fun," Victoria replied with a grin.

Chloe took hold of one of Rachel's hands with hers, cocking her head to the side. "So, you coming to the concert tomorrow? Firewalk's in town – a nice little illegal gig in the abandoned lumbermill. Anyone who's anyone will be there."

Maxine grinned, totally down for it. "You bet. Any chance to get wasted."

Rachel returned the smile with her own million dollar one. "I like your thinking, Caulfield."

"Is that all you think about? Getting high and wasted?" the blonde-violet haired girl asked with a flicker of amusement.

"Pfft, and you don't?" Chloe shot back, giving her a firm squeeze.

"Hey, it's not all I think about," Rachel protested. "There are… other things."

"I wonder what…" Kate rolled her eyes playfully, trying to suppress her smile.

The blonde allowed a flirtatious smirk to creep onto her face, voice low and husky. "I can show you… later."

Getting the gist, hard not to, Chloe too smiled. "Oooh, I want in."

"That's a given, Price," Rachel added, giving the bluenette a brief kiss on the cheek, and one for Kate for good measure.

Chloe, Rachel and Kate are so in sync, it's scary. They could almost be the same person… or different parts of the same person, with Rachel at one end of the spectrum and Kate the other. They make a good… hmm, couple's not the right word… trio?

Seeing an opportunity to make a swift exit – she really, really wanted to get Victoria alone, especially since the blonde had teasingly slid her hand into the brunette's back pocket – Maxine took it. "Well, I guess we should leave you guys to it."

"So eager…" Rachel smirked, a knowing glint in her mischievous hazel eyes, "you must have something similar in mind."

Victoria's eye met Maxine's, hopeful. "She'd better."

Oh, I sure do.

On that note, they parted ways – Chloe, Rachel and Kate deciding to hang around with the skaters for a while; Maxine and Victoria hurriedly making their way back to the Prescott Dorm building. Both their rooms were near the end of the corridor, a real pain sometimes. They both very briefly considered ducking into the shower room, but from experience that wasn't the best place for what they had in mind; not very clean or private.

Victoria's room was just that little bit closer. The second they stepped inside, Maxine pressed the taller girl against the door, kissing her passionately and desperately, hands already impatiently tugging at clothing. Something about Victoria drove her wild. She didn't know what; all she knew was that the blonde had a spell on her.

You've got it bad, Caulfield… whatever this is.

With just as much force, Victoria returned her affections, getting all hot and bothered. There had always been a spark between her and the other girl now demanding her full exposure. Ever since their first hook up a couple months back now – at a Vortex Club party no less – they had been taking full advantage of each other's company.

Hmm… someone's keen today. Not that Victoria isn't usually. I'm not going to complain, far from it.

Somehow, the pair managed to stumble back to the bed in time, a whirlwind trail of clothes dropped along the way. Victoria broke their passionate embrace, laying back down on the bed and enticing her girlfriend with her finger. Maxine didn't take much coaxing, crawling up from the bottom to meet her until their faces were mere inches apart. Eyes met in silent understanding, both knowing what came next; it was what always came next.

Warm breath collided for a moment, Maxine's lips then beginning to explore all too familiar territory. Her adventures earned her a few soft moans of approval and pleasure. Fingernails ran down her back, leaving light marks, fingers tangling in hair as her lips travelled further down Victoria's body, gently kissing, licking, biting and sucking pale skin. She knew all the sensitive spots, and how to exploit them. Shallow breathing, heart rates increasing, blood boiling, sweat coating flushed skin, tingling and coiling sensations… unbearable pressure.

"Ma- ah…" Victoria's voice cut out, lost to a moan.

And now… for the cli-max.

She was close now, and Maxine knew it. They had done this enough for her to pick up on the tell-tale signs. It was always so tempting to bring her girlfriend to the brink and leave her there, hanging. She wasn't that cruel… most of the time, but she couldn't deny the appeal. If she could freeze this moment in time, watch Victoria's slow descent into limbo, she would. The best she could do for now was to capture the raw emotion in a picture, and she had taken many of those.

It would never match up to the real experience, though. Never capture the beautiful sounds, pleading for release. If Maxine had a way to distil it, she would without question.

Maybe I should take a vid next time…

A few seconds later it was all over, Victoria's body collapsing back onto the mattress once the mounting pressure inside had released. She was always most beautiful like this. After getting clean up, Maxine laid down beside her, arms wrapping around her thin frame holding her close. Her lips continued to wander along skin, much calmer and restrained than before. She felt Victoria relax into her, catching her breath.

As much as I enjoy the whole sex part, this ain't so bad either. Aftercare's important… and a chance to assess the damage. Let's see what we have this time.

Her fingers began tracing over the newly made marks, following from her inner thigh to her stomach, over her breasts and neck. All the while, Victoria shivered involuntarily at her touch, nerve endings on fire, so very sensitive now. They ended up by her chin, gently turning the blonde's head to give her a tender kiss.

Don't think this will ever grow old.