5

“I shouldn’t have gone to the stupid party!” Ivanka shouted, tears streaming down her face. 

She was finally home; she’d hunted Hugo down and got home as soon as possible. She felt uncomfortably cold, even after having taken a warm bath and wearing warm clothes. Hurt and anger stirred in her chest and she felt awful. Humiliation filled her as she remembered the raucous laughter of the jocks who'd been in the pool when she fell. The water and loose dress combined with the mascara on her face had made her look like a total idiot. Ivanka squeezed her eyes shut, willing the embarrassing images to go away. What was it it about her that was so disastrous? How did she always land in such situations and wind up embarrassing herself? Why had she gone to the stupid party in the first place?!

“It was your decision. I didn’t force you to come,” Hugo bit back. "In fact, you persuaded me to take you along with you,"

“I thought I would be fine because I was with you! They're friends of yours! Why can’t you just tell them to back off?!”

Hugo sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“It's not like that. You don’t underst–”

“Oh of course, silly me. I don’t understand. After all, I’m just a low level outcast. How would I understand the workings of the upper echelons of popularity. I, a mere commoner, wouldn’t understand how hard it is to have a lame wimp as a sister! I, a loser, wouldn’t understand how humiliating–”

“Ivanka stop.”

“No! No, Hugo, I won’t stop! You– you’re the one who doesn’t understand!” she yelled and ran out of his room sobbing. She made sure to slam the door so hard it rattled. 

Hugo sighed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. His eyes fell on the framed photo of the two of them when they were little. They looked so happy. They had always been together, joined at the hip like siamese twins. But then, they’d started high school and everything had changed. He joined the football team and things escalated pretty quickly for him. Meanwhile, his introverted sister focused on studies and made few friends. Hugo still loved his sister dearly but they’d grown apart. She hated him for being popular, like it was something he had control over. She hated his friends and his status. He, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t even try to get along with his friends. Sure, some of the girls picked on her, but it was because she kept giving them reasons to! Hanging out with the lamest, quietest people at school… what did she expect? 

Hugo sighed in annoyance and grabbed his phone. There were a bunch of missed calls and text messages asking where he'd disappeared to. He switched it off and threw it on his bed, running a hand down his tired face. He hated it when Ivanka did this, couldn't she see how annoying it was? Not only was it embarassing, but it also killed his mood a d ruined his good times. It was like she wanted to rain on his parade, all the time. He knew taking her to Shay's party hadn't exactly been the best of ideas, but she'd insisted and she usually never went to parties so he'd agreed. Hugo shook his head. Never again. 

Knowing that her mother would realize if something was up and would be disappointed in him if she found out the truth, Hugo went to check on Ivanka. Her door was ajar and the room was empty. He went downstairs and saw his stepmother working at the computer.

“Hey, have you seen Ivanka?”

“She stormed out a few minutes ago. What happened?”

He shrugged and went back upstairs. Whatever. If she wanted to be a whiny baby and act up, that was fine by him. He was done looking out for her. 

“And I don’t think Anonymous is wrong,” Zehra was saying. “I feel like maybe there’s more to it. Sure, Trump is a vile swine but maybe he’s just a puppet to dark underground faces that we have no idea about, you know? He might be the face to keep us distracted from the real danger,” 

She was sitting with Nora on her window-sofa, relaxing in the cool night breeze. The night was calm and quiet, and the gentle breeze made up for the lack of moonlight. A bowl of Doritos and two mugs of hot chocolate sat between them. Zehra's long hair was in a messy bun and the sleeves of her sweatshirt reached her fingertips. She hugged her knees to her chest and took a sip of hot chocolate. 

“Interesting theory,” said Nora. “So you spend your free time studying this stuff?” 

“Yeah. I’ve only just begun, but I plan to research more intensively on this.”

“Oh. What sparked your interest in this?” 

Zehra shrugged. “Dan Brown books and Anonymous, I guess. So, what’s your take on all of this?”

“I suppose there is some truth in this but I can’t say for sure because I haven’t done any studies on it. But I bid you to be careful. You can trust me, but if anyone else gets to know you’re doing research on such a shady subject, you could be in trouble, especially if they realize you’re not some amateur and you’re serious about it. I’m sure there are powers out there to silence those who stumble across such information.” 

“I don't know... plenty of people do this," 

"Yeah, for like, two days and then they quit because some other new trend caught their attention. But you're not like that, you're dedicated to it and like you said, being a Muslim puts a higher risk on it. If I were you, I wouldn't tell many people about this," 

"It's okay, I won't. I'll be careful," 

Neither of them noticed as Star One sat outside, below the open window, and recorded the crystal clear conversation. 

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