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For a long moment, it could go either way, but then he shoves the girl hard enough to knock her off her feet.

This isn’t finished, amigo,” he says as the stairwell door slams behind him.

I help the girl up, give her space once she’s on her feet. She straightens her shirt, but she doesn’t thank me.

You shouldn’t have done that,” she says instead. “Now we’re both dead.”

She’s probably right. The bandas—the local gangs—don’t wear their colours at school, but everybody knows who they are. Except for the new guy. Which would be me. The dude I told off is probably one of them.

Too late to do anything about it now.

My name’s Brandon,” I tell her.

I know. The new kid. I’m Rita.”

What was that guy’s deal, anyway?”

She shrugs. Up close she’s really cute and curvy. Her skin’s a warm coffee brown, hair black, eyes like a deer, soft and dark. She’s dressed in jeans and sneakers with a rose-coloured T under a grey hoodie.

He’s just trying to wind up my brother,” she says.

Why? What did he do?”

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