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Pepper didn’t hear Tito approaching through the ringing in her ears. Her stomach felt as if it were doing backflips, a heavy lump forming in her throat as nausea overtook her form. The unbearably dry heat did little to alleviate the storm in her stomach, she could practically feel the burn spreading across the nape of her neck. Had she been a little more confident in her appearance, she’d have taken her bulky sweater off and fend off the heat that way, but Pepper was positive that she was already beginning to resemble a lobster and she certainly didn’t need to look like a disgusting whale on top of it.

One sea creature was enough for her.

"Hey there, get up and stop crying please..."

Startled by Tito’s sudden appearance, Pepper scrambled to her feet, instinctually covering her beating heart with her hand, as if to prevent it from popping right out of her chest. A wave of anxiety spread over the timid girl as she tried to coerce words from her mouth, ironically resulting in a small squeak from the otherwise large girl.

She knew of Tito, though just his name and that he was from Italy or some European country. Which, admittedly, wasn’t surprising given that Pepper rarely spoke to anyone that wasn’t Delilah or Holly. In fact, she wasn’t even sure if Tito knew who she was. She doubted it, not many people really paid much attention to her.

Wrapping her arms around herself, Pepper painfully managed to squeak out a response, “I-I’m not crying,” she said, quickly dabbing below her eye to make sure before returning her arms to their safe position.

She noticed he had his bag with him and quickly shot a glance up at hers, which seemed a mile away to the short girl, though she didn’t dare ask him to get it down for her, he’d surely laugh at her for being so incapable.

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I Can Hear the Bells · The Streets
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