Hidden 4 mos ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia

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TIMESTAMP — Three days after apologizing to Cece



A Zima Family Reunion


Very rarely did Mika ever find himself driving to Pinehurst. It wasn’t that he had anything against the neighboring town and Edenridge’s rival. Actually, the times he did venture across the bridge (so to speak), Mika had never complained about it. It was the antithesis to Edenridge. It’s north and south side were like a greater version of Eden’s northside and just slightly better. It had always been clear to Mika that the neighboring town was the wealthier city, yet something about it always had that stink of “too perfect”. Like something dark was hidden within it.

How long had it been? Two months? Three? Yeah, it’s been closer to three months since he drove across the way, taking the backroads. They weren’t well kept, but compared to the infrastructure that the majority of the southside had (or lack thereof), Mika welcomed it. Then again, his Toyota Tacoma was meant for rough terrains, so roads that haven’t been maintained over the years were more or less ideal. Almost like it was the perfect truck for Mikhial Zima. It represented the roads he left behind and how he bulldozed his way through a lot, yet always could go back if he wanted to.

Maybe that’s why he hadn’t taken this trip in a while. Dangers of his life made it next to impossible to go to Pinehurst. He had to be careful. He didn’t know when the life he lived, those dangers from New York and of Edenridge, would come around and put those he loved most in danger. In the back of his mind, he wasn’t sure if now was the right time. He could be putting his sisters in danger. He could be exposing them to a world that neither Katia nor Anastasia knew about. Yet, if he didn’t do this for himself, especially with everything going on from Hyde being back and those letters, Mika felt like he had to. He needed a few hours just for himself. Or a day.

He took a turn off the highway, making his way through the vastly different, yet somehow eerily similar town of Pinehurst. Looking at it, Mika could have sworn he was driving through a version of Edenridge that was not plagued by the demons and ghosts it had in the time he lived there. It was better looking in terms of presentation and the appearance, but if there was one thing Mika observed was that not everything was how it seemed on the outside. He wouldn’t doubt there were skeletons in Pinehurst’s closet, begging to come out.

But that’s not what he was here for.

Making his way into a suburban neighborhood, Mika made a note of the houses. They towered over those on Scott Street, where the “royals” of Edenridge’s Northside resided. He knew where he was specifically.

Knox Hill.

It was one of many neighborhoods that Mika knew of in this sister town, but not where their royals lived. But Mika didn’t care to know about that. Knox Hill, that gated community, it was where he needed to be. At the center of the gated community, there was a park. It was a nice park by all accounts. Too green grass for Mika’s taste. He was used to Edenridge’s Southside lack thereof greenery. Or at least the mild-green shade Lyon Park had. But this park was of a totally different calibur. It was the photogenic kind of well-kept grass. The park itself had a few ponds spread throughout, paths leading from all corners of the surrounding neighborhood, trees for shade, benches spread throughout where parents sat as their dogs ran through the grass and their kids that played at the jungle gym setup with old favorites that probably filled them with fond memories.

When Mika pulled into the parking lot, in his mind, he couldn’t help but think about how this was the ideal life. It was perfect. A nice slice of americana. That picture perfect suburbia that was featured in movies. It wasn’t that he was jealous because now he’s secure in where he lived for the past six years and wouldn’t change it for a damn thing. It was just a feeling of what if for him. Would he had thrived in Pinehurst? Maybe, but that was neither here nor there. That wasn’t why he came all the way out here.

As he hopped out his truck and slammed the door shut, the alarm went off (force of habit) and Mika pocketed his keys. He walked down a concrete path, observing those he passed behind a pair of aviators, soaking in all exits he could fine in his casual surveying of the land. Maybe it was his bad habits or just a genuine curiosity to rediscover this area. It’s been way too long for his own comfort since he was last here and if things had been any better, he would have came sooner. But that was neither here nor there (again).

About fifteen minutes of walking, Mika was on the opposite end of the park. He knew it was the opposite end because, though he still saw the parking lot from the hill part of the park he was now at, he couldn’t make out his truck. He laughed, almost a chortle, realizing how far he walked.

“Mikhail, you made it. Finally,” the voice of an older man said as Mika turned around.

So few people could get away with calling him Mikhail. His mother, Reynoldo Gonzalez, his second father, and his father’s brother. “Uncle Gus!” With a smile, admittedly wider than Mika realized, he approached the older Russian-Hungarian man, bringing him into a reasonable embrace. Gustav Capek (born Vladimirov Zima) was shorter than Mika and due to his age, frailer than the young Zima man was. But he was indeed a Zima. Mika could tell by the way he hugged back. The Zima men had a certain pride in holding those closest to them in an under armed embrace. One arm under the others and patting the middle of the back three times.

“You have been working out, yes? I can tell. Your back feels firmer than last time we were in front of each other.” Gustav Capek stated with a gruff laugh, releasing his nephew from the embrace. He has lived in Pinehurst for many years, but because the majority of his life was spent alternating between Russia and Boston, his accent remained.

“You noticed that, huh?” Mika had a hint of red in his cheeks. Even in the sun, no doubt his observant uncle could tell there was embarrassment on his face. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. You always did notice the little things.”

“This is true, nephew. But I notice big things too. You seem…less troubled. Last time you had the face of a man being crushed by his demons, but now…Now, you smile wide. And smile like you mean it.”

Damn it, old man. Mika laughed because his uncle was right. Since having that meet with Cece, it was safe to say his mind was in a better place. Hyde’s presence in his life was still a shadow hanging over him, but coming mostly clean to Caitlin took some of the weight off. “I’m trying, Uncle Gus.”

Gustav nodded. “It is all any of us can do.” He cleared his throat. “But anyway, shall we get to why you’re really here?” As he whistled, Gustav’s wife and Mika’s Aunt Ester came from behind a tree.

“Mika!” Ester gave her nephew a smile as the two people who Mika had been dying to see above all else were at her side. To the right was Katie, his opinionated younger sister. The splitting image of their father with none of the qualities that made him a bastard. To the left was Katie’s twin, Stacy, his less-opinionated younger sister who was the heart of their family and always gave Mika reasons to smile

“It’s great to see you two--” Before he could get that thought out, Stacy rushed Mika into an embrace that caught him off-guard. Her arms wrapped tightly around him and he could already hear her start to cry into Mika’s shirt. “Damn sis, miss me that much?” He chuckled as he held Stacy tight for a few moments before she willingly let go and he was able to look at her. Aside from her now-puffy eyes, she had an expression of pure joy and unadulterated happiness on her face.

Katie just watched and glanced over to Gustav and Ester. “So maybe ya should leave us be? Sorry but this isn’t a regular thing and you know the deal--”

“Katie, be nice!” Mika interjected and he could see the sass come from her but she sighed.

“It’s quite alright, Mikhail,” Gus said, “we know how important this time is for you three. We will give it to you as we always have. We’ll be back in a couple hours to pick them up.”

Mika nodded and then glanced at Katie. “Satisfied?”

“Totally!” She wasn’t being sarcastic or a smartass. Katie meant it and before Gustav and Ester left, she gave them both a hug.

When the Capek’s took their leave, Mika had to take a moment for this moment. He couldn't say what it was, whether it was actually being here despite everything happening in Edenridge right now (from Hyde to Cece to the weeks that passed since finding Boa passed out in the cemetery), he needed to a moment of silence.

For which Katya put to a rest.

“Helloooo! Earth to Mikhail!” The blonde snapped, waved, and moved her arms in very obvious ways until she sighed, looking at her twin. “Think we lost him, Stace.”

The brunette giggled. “Well that’s a bummer,” she admitted, turning her head to face her twin, “guess that means he won’t be hearing about my new boyfriend--”

“I’m still here!”

It wasn’t the boyfriend part that snapped Mika out (though his curiosity was poked hard enough). It was knowing full well that he never needed a moment of silence to gather himself when he was with these two. It didn’t matter how much time passed in-between visits: three weeks or three months, there was something undeniable when he was with them. Like part of his light he had to keep buried when he was in Edenridge because of the ever-growing darkness of that town came out. It brought him back to old times. Those old times when there was still that shadow of his brother and father looming over him, but his sisters and mother always being what made him smile.

“Good to know, Mikhail. You were giving Stace some stress!” Katie teased her twin.

“He was not! He just looked like some kind of Walker or whatever those things on that show you watch are called.”

Katie shrugged. “I don’t know which ones you mean. There’s the Walkers from Walking Dead and the ones from Game of Thrones! You’re gonna have to be just a little more specific sis.” Katie had her usual teasing grin, which always happened whenever she and Stacy got into it (always with Katie giving her twin hell about how she knew very little about nerdom).

As Stacy sighed, Mika found himself smile. “So you still like things like that? You were always a nerd, Katie..” He smiled more and found himself chuckling, remember how embarrassed she was about her nerdy interests. “I remember you never spoke so…proudly about them. Now you’re fearless about it.” Mika was proud of his sister.

Both Katie and Stacy fell silent, looking at their older brother. Three months went by since they lost saw him, but even they probably knew something in Mika had changed. Stacy made a subtle turn to Katie, their twin-leptathy taking over as they had a silent conversation about what was up with Mika. They sensed it in how distant he was, but both of them were in mutual agreement that there was something else.

“Mikhail, you seem…off? Ya okay?” Katie asked.

“Yeah sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you. Truth be told, I guess I’m just happy to see you come into your own. And you too, Stacy. Both of you are so grown now. I know things haven’t been easy, ya know with us and how we don’t see each other as often as we’d like.”

They were old enough to understand the truth. They may not know everything Mika was going through nor everything that was happening in his life, but now that they were older and the reasons they were told about them being in Massachusetts was no longer what they knew to be the truth. It was around the shooting when they found out. When they found out that Ivan was a gangster. That their mother kept it from them. That the reason they had to be separated was so his enemies didn’t find them. They never did, of course, which often kept Mika up at night, but that didn’t change anything.

“Mika…” Stacy looked at him for a few moments. Mika looked back and wondered what was on her mind. His gentle, quiet sister. What could she be thinking? “You know I was never bothered by that, right? I mean, we both never cared about how long went between visits. What matters most is that you always try to make it happen.”

“To follow up, you need to really stop blaming yourself or saying all this shit about ‘why’ this and ‘why that’. You’re our brother and both…Anastasia and I--” She realized it was dangerous for them to use their names, but fuck it. Nobody but them was within earshot, “--No, not just us but we are all our father’s children, right? Like come on, Mikhail! At the very least, let’s stop pretending like we don’t know him. Uncle Gus told us everything.”

Wait, what did she say?

“What do you mean?”

As Stacy looked down, Katie wasn’t afraid to look her brother in his eyes.. She had the fire that burned in Mika and, if he was being honest, that also burned in Hyde, Anya, and Viktor in all different ways, but she had it. “It was two years ago. Three years on the dot that we were sent to live with him. He felt like we had a right to know. Yeah, it was due to me being tired of not being told the whole truth. Only ‘it was for our protection’ and ‘you’ll know when you’re ready’. That kind of BS pissed me off in ways you can’t even understand. You live in Edenridge and I know that’s a whole different life you’ve had to live. Uncle Gus wasn’t very specific, but he told us that our father’s enemies tried to assassinate him. That’s what that explosion that one night was, right?”

Somewhere deep down, Mika knew this day would come. The day that not only would his sisters no longer be kids who were shielded from the darkness of his father’s world and his work, but from the pain that came from knowing that. For the longest time, they were protected because their mother felt it absolutely necessary that they never found out about it. The problem was the two Zima twins were children. They weren’t children but young women who were about to start their final year of high school. As much as he hates that their uncle decided to tell them, he couldn’t change that. All he could do was be proud of the women they were becoming.

“Yes, it’s true. And it’s why we couldn’t live under the same roof. I--father was adamant about that.” He may have felt the way he felt about Ivan and how he would never call him father to anyone, but to his sisters, even though they knew he wasn’t a good man by any means, they still had the memory of him as a loving father. “Did Uncle Gus explain why you needed the name change?”

“He might’ve mentioned it. To be honest, I miss being able to use my full name. Katie is so…boring!” She complained with an exaggerated groan.

“I don’t know! I kinda like being called Stacy--”

“You mean you like when he calls you Stacy--”

Mika interjected, “Okay enough of this! You two have been mentioning her boyfriend enough times. As your older brother, I need the damn scoop! Who is this boyfriend you have, Anastasia?” Mika demanded to know!

They both looked at him. Stacy damn near gasped when Mika used her full first name , but he certainly didn’t care. Well, he did but at the same time, those protective older brother instincts were dominating everything else. “It’s not like I was trying to hide it or anything. I certainly wasn’t trying to disrespect you or anything. It’s just…” Stacy looked down, fiddling her thumbs together in a nervous manner.

“This is your first love and you don’t know how to tell your older brother?” Mika laughed, almost nodding comically at how he knew he was right. “Listen, I get it, Stace. I’m not mad--”

Katie cut him off mid sentence. “No, you idiot! When did you ever take her to be afraid? And clearly she’s not worried about that. He’s just--”

“Katie, I can tell him!” Both the twins seemed to be in an interrupting mood. She coughed, cleared her throat, and looked Mika straight in the eyes. “He’s just older, Mika.”

The part of him that didn’t want to overreact knew that if he did, he’d come across as a bit of a hypocrite because, while he wasn’t necessarily the type to hook up with older women, in the world he lived in, Mika knew plenty who dated up and down their age range. Yet the part of him that was an older brother (and one who had a tendency to overreact in some situations), he was about to lose it. But Stacy was smart. She had a good head on her shoulders.

“Just older..” His voice trailed off and he inhaled deeply. Exhaling, he said, “well how much older?”

“Not much…” Stacy said, biting her lip. A clear habit of hers when she was nervous about anything at all. “Like five years, maybe a lil more.”

Lord help me…

“Is he good to you?” When he asked that, Mika saw a stark shift in Stacy’s mood. Her eyes lit up with a delightful shock. “Why are you surprised? Did you expect me to overreact or something?”

"Yes!" The twins said in unison.

“First of all, ouch! That hurt. Second of all, I do not overreact that often.” Yes he did.

“Sixth grade. You sucker punched a boy who I actually liked because he didn’t get on his knees and simp me,” Katie reminded Mika and he scowled.

“Not my fault he wasn’t good enough--”

“I was in Sixth! Grade!” Katie stepped forward, glaring at Mika. “And you had no business doing what I was about to do anyway!”

Stacy felt her anxiety rising with every passing second. “Guys…--”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Guess I didn’t know because I’m not a fucking mind reader like that Magneto guy you always go on about!”

“Magneto doesn’t read minds, you dumbass! He moves metal objects. Professor X is the mind reader. And you wouldn’t have to read my mind if you wouldn’t let your anger guide you!” Katie raised her voice, hints of her typical anger breaking through

“Mika, Katie..”

Katie and Mika stepped close, their tempers flaring such a fiery red that one could see the auras of their respective egos surround them, causing static to clash from their foreheads. Katie was shorter than Mika by almost six inches. She was 5’5” and Mika was an inch shy of six feet tall but that never stood in the way of her standing firm on stubborn ground with her brother. “Remind me, Mikhail, who was it that nearly got expelled because you couldn’t handle a mama joke?”

“Oh forgive me for fighting for our mother’s honor.”

Katie rolled her eyes. “Typical schoolyard justification. It’s reasons like that why Daddy--”

“ENOUGH!” Stacy shouted, shoving herself between Katie and Mika, both of her arms separating her temperamental siblings. Both of them looked at her, shocked by the sudden explosion of the usually mild-mannered brunette. Katie was impressed while Mika was more shocked than anything else. “You two always do this and I hate it! We never spend this much time with each other and I literally am up to here with it!” She raised her arm up above her head, leveling her palm in a horizontal angle. “Just stop it and can we get some ice cream or something?”

It was amazing. Somewhere between the last time he saw Stacy and now, she had grown up leagues beyond what he remembered. She was never the type to display loud outbursts nor a total wallflower. She was the softest of the four of them: him, Viktor, and Katie were the loud ones, but maybe it was just a matter of time. Everyone had their limits and Stacy clearly found hers. It was funny, though. In that short moment when she had the same fire in her eyes that Mika saw in himself, as well as their mother. If he didn’t know any better, maybe she was the most like Mary-Anne than any of them were.

Mika took a moment to look at Stacy, realizing that maybe what he always thought was harmless bickering with Katie (something that has been pretty commonplace for a while now) wasn’t all that harmless after all. “I’m sorry, Stacy. I didn’t think…” Mika paused and stopped himself. There were no excuses. This was the first time in three months that the three of them had been able to be with each other and there were absolutely no excuses for making Stacy stressed.

As his eyes fell on his blonde sister, he offered an apologetic smile. “Sorry I overreacted to your…claim about me overreacting.”

“Yeah, you should be--” As Katie felt the ground beneath her be slightly vibrated from a firm stomp from Stacy, she sighed. “--Fine, I’m sorry I mocked you for still being a man-baby who can’t take jokes.” In her own way, Katie was apologizing and as she and Stacy shared a tense glaredown at each other, this was as good as it was gonna get with the blonde.

With a sigh, Mikhail decided to take the road he didn’t travel often and ignore that last, sneaky dig she made at him. He was the older brother, after all and he wanted to make the most out of the time they spent with each other. There was no telling how much time was wasted when he allowed his temper get the better of him and he wanted to use every bit of it with his sisters. Plus, ice cream sounded great right about now.

“Lets get that ice cream you mentioned, Stacy,” Mika said after a few long moments of silence on his part.

And immediately, her blue eyes lit up and she had jumped up and down in place. “Yay! Ice cream!”

Ah there was the Stacy he remembered.

As she led both Katie and Mika down the hill, tugging at both of their arms, the three Zima siblings were off. They climbed inside Mika’s truck and before he drove out of the park, Mika turned around, looking at Stacy who was in the back seat. “Oh by the way--”

“Yeah?” Her blue eyes met Mika’s with a curious gleam in them.

“You never did tell me your boyfriend’s name.”

He could see it in Stacy’s eyes: she had forgotten and wished Mika did as well, but now that the dust had settled, he needed to know. “Dylan! His name is Dylan Doyle. Uh, here’s a picture of him!” Stacy reached into her pocket, pulled out her cell phone. She spent a few seconds scrolling through her gallery until she stumbled on a photo. “This is him!”

Mika made a noise that was an extension of a few thoughts he had. “Nice enough guy. Maybe next time you can bring him. I’d love to meet him, Stace.”

“Yeah! Maybe next time!” She gleefully smiled at Mika.

He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something about the way Stacy was acting about it seemed off. Was it his tendency to overthing certaint hings? Maybe. Was it him looking too much into something that was probably nothing? Again, a possibility. He wasn’t going to worry about it right now. There was only so much time left until their time together would come to an end and at the most, they were going to enjoy some ice cream together.

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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by LovelyComplex
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LovelyComplex

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Early Monday morning (current day of IC)
@LovelyComplex & @BrutalBx

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Adjusting the levels and receivers while Pierce's little sister prepared to go live, Kylee focused on her job and not her conversation with her father that happened almost two hours ago. Kylee had plotted to raid his office right before Dawn Patrol because more often than not he was out of the house by 5 AM. Why her father got up that early she didn’t know but it worked for him and she would never comment on his poor sleeping habits. She got it from someone, right?

Kylee was grateful she didn’t have too much time to sit in her thoughts. After her father dropped the bomb that Wes was from Pinehurst, something her boyfriend didn’t care to tell her, that made her feel some type of way. She went from sadness to anger to sadness again. Regardless of how she was feeling, this was a big day for her. Her new segment ‘Almost Famous’ was premiering and with none other than someone that was a little sister to her.

Kylee couldn’t do this alone so during Midnight Frequency the night prior, she had reached out to Mei to co-host with her today. If it wasn’t for Mei, Kylee wouldn’t have gotten this far. If anything, Kylee owed Dawn Patrol to Mei. She had a happy and positive outlet thanks to her friend.

It’s been awhile since they had alone time together. Both of them got into relationships and both got caught up with their own lives. This would be the first time they’ve seen each other since the Allison incident at that gym (since Kylee bailed before the truth was revealed at Carlisle). Kylee did text her congratulations when Mei finally told her about her and Jill dating but other than that? Scooby Doo shenanigans and spending many mornings, days, and nights thinking about Wes and being with Wes and loving Wes took all her time.

This would be the first time she didn’t text him good morning. The first time she would be leaving him on read. The first time he got 0 attention from her. He pissed off a Grimm. You don’t just piss off the mayor’s daughter! She was petty!

When the requested song Sur del Cielo by Rico Núñez was coming to an end, Kylee looked up from the broadcasting equipment, gestured for Lorelei to put the headphones on, and adjusted the mic in front of the young girl. Her hands went from her face to her chest (in a breathing motion) and back up again to show Lorelei it was going to be okay and to stay calm. Peace. Tranquility. Serenity. Absolute zen.

Lorelei was going to rock it. Kylee just knew it and she had the support of Mei Midnight too, who her darling Duckling always admired. Mei had attributes that Lala wished she had, especially the fact that she was innately bold (having no care in the world) and sported her aesthetic with certainty.

Lala nodded to her Sister, as she played her song in her head, running the lyrics over and over again. She wasn't Lorelei Mercer anymore. No. In the next moments she would transform into Seraphina and show people her voice, on a more public outlet. Confidant. Bold. Tantalizing. Desirable. A fortress of a woman. An angel of music who could sing to just about any genre but today, she would do a song of her own that Jericho helped pop it up. Usually, Kylee was her go to for music producing but Lala wanted to surprise her friend with a song she’s never heard.

When Rico’s guitar faded out, Kylee smirked at Mei, burying all her sadness to keep her attention on the light in her life. Pierce’s little sister. The last person she had left to make her a better human being and not feel haunted in the barren halls of her father’s gothic mansion. The last person to balance all her negativity and show her that there was more to life than getting even. The last person to love her without hesitation with no desire for anything besides Kylee’s company.

Having spent her morning assessing her friendships, Kylee adored Clay and was starting to consider him one of her best friends, but it still wasn’t exactly what she needed. His unspoken role was to give her advice from time to time and look out for her like a big brother would. As for Wes, there was far too much doubt to know if he was a saving grace or not. Then again, Kylee wasn’t a damsel.

Still, she wanted to know that he cared. That what they had wasn’t just a fling. That he actually wanted a future with her. Was that too much to ask for? Was it too much to ask him to be light at the end of the dark tunnel? A flashlight in a haunted mansion? He clearly didn’t trust her so why would she think he’d be anything more than just a man that likes to fuck her?

There was Jill and Mei, sure, but even they didn’t provide Kylee with what she needed. They were great for girl time and both enabled the shit out of her, but they still weren’t flashlights to her. Not like Roddy was. What Lala offered was the feeling of being needed and the feeling of not letting Pierce down by taking care of his Duckling.

Lala was so sweet and so positive, even though Kylee knew how much she suffered. A small girl that kept it all bottled up, covering up her scars and bruises with baggy clothes. Kylee wanted to help her but it was complicated. Pierce had told her that if she got involved with the Mercers, it would bring unwanted attention to her father, which she didn't need. Even so, Lala didn’t deserve whatever happened to her behind closed doors. Why couldn’t Kylee be her flashlight instead?

“Anddd we’re back. As you all know, today is a big day for us! We’re taking our story to great heights and that starts with finding people that want to be heard. Whether it’s comedy, philosophy, or music, I’m here to provide that platform on Eden Angels. Once again, I want to thank Mei Midnight for coming in today to help bring the hype.”

“That’s right it’s your demon dream girl, Mei Midnight alive and kicking out of my coffin on a Monday morning, here to entertain you, my ghouls and goyles with the hottest new acts in the New England territory and looking sexy as all hell. Beware, you’re in for a scare because our first act will melt your faces with how good she is.”

Mei’s painted black lips danced around the microphone she spoke into like she was made for it. She let her dark eyes fall upon her dear friend Kylee who seemed to be going through something. For the Wiccan to get a call before her show had been finished meant something was up. With the cracking sound bite of the Dawn Patrol intro, it meant that she had been awake for over twenty eight hours. Jill understood, she loved Ky just as much so knowing their fellow lip gloss bitch needed someone, she was ok with Mei staying at the studio.

“That’s exactly right, Mei-Day. Now I know you’re all excited so I’m not going to drag this out any longer than it needs to be. It brings me so much joy that she was able to make it this morning. Instead of introducing her, I'll have her say hi herself.”

While Kylee said her final bit, Lorelei had taken a couple breaths in and out before all anxiety went out the door. With her sophisticated, feathery accent and saccharine voice, Lala stepped into the spotlight and gleamed, “Kylee, Mei, it’s so great to be here. Good morning, Edenridge,” She enunciated her words and they were as smooth as caramel, with the perfect pacing and pauses. “There’s not much to say about me since I prefer to let my songs tell my story.” Clasping her hands together, resting them on her lap very lady-like, she focused on the blinking red ‘On Air’ sign as she took a dramatic pause. “Please, call me Seraphina,” She introduced herself before explaining, “And the song I will be singing today is something I wrote not too long ago. It’s called The Audacity and I hope you like it.”

Slipping on her own headphones, only covering one ear, impressed at her Duckling and the self assurance she was emitting from her soul, Kylee couldn’t help but tear up with how proud she was. Did all it take was a mask to bring out this side in Lala? If only Kylee knew she would’ve started this series months ago.

Without further ado, Kylee switched her and Mei’s mic off and started the instrumental version of Lala’s new song, the Audacity. The moment the song came on and eased into Kylee’s ear, she was taken aback. This hit harder than she thought Lala would come in for her debut song. In addition to that, Ky was surprised she had never heard it before. This was Lala’s way of taking a risk and hoping for the best, surprising not only her but all those listening in.

“You should buy a mic, start a podcast
Think your opinions should be broadcast
Even though no one's subscribing, listening or liking
But by all means, keep whining
Must be tough if life's so rough
You should buy a mic, start a podcast
Even though, wait, nobody asked (nobody asked)”

Kylee went from Lala to Mei, her eyes widened in wonder and awe. This was a banger. Did JP help her make this? After the first verse and entering the pre-chorus, the raven haired beauty held her left earpiece with one hand and the other hand motioned with the lyrics. To say Kylee was surprised was an understatement. Her little Duckling was an intense force to be reckoned with. This song slapped and she kind of loved the choice because it only made her think of how mad she was at her boyfriend.

“Cause I was crying, every night and you just stood there gaslighting
Nothing's working so I've been searching”

Mei was herself taken aback by the young beauty’s vocals. She placed a hand on her pentagram adorned chest as if her heart was ready to burst from her chest due to the power of the beat. “Fuck my ass with the Elder Tree!” She looked at Kylee flabbergasted. “She’s amazing, Ky.”

By the chorus, Kylee was jamming with Mei. Grabbing her phone, she took a short video of Lorelei (for herself and not social media) while her tiny friend was caught up in the heat of her song. Most people would think this song was about ex lovers (which can be seen as that) but in Lala’s case it’s a dramatized version of her opinion on her abusive father and her struggle with her daddy issues (seeing her father in every boy she meets).

“Where do all these men find the audacity? (yeah)
No actually, because I think I'm at c-c-capacity
Maybe I missed it, maybe I'm behind
No, really! Tell me where they find the audacity
No, actually so stunned by your stupidity
Cuz I've been looking, but I've yet to see
Where do all these men find the audacity?”

When she stopped recording, Kylee caught sight of text messages from Wes. Rolling her eyes, she placed her phone face down on the table. Not today, Satan. Reaching for matcha tea, she took a deep sip as she embraced the moment of Lala’s emotions. Was this series going to find those meant for the limelight? God, she hoped so. Because of her and Mei, they could change the game for many Edenridgers. They could help kickstart people’s careers. They could be the reason why stars were born here. They could make a difference. Wouldn’t that be something?

Mei furiously scribbled upon her notepad, sketching a rough image of Seraphina, adopting a more haunting aesthetic. Not only would it be a sick tattoo when she was done but maybe potential cover art for an album. At the very least it was going onto the dark priestesses wall of fame. Jillybean would love this. She hoped that somewhere out there her flame haired Irish temptress was listening to the show and was in just as much awe as she was.

“I've been on my own for a long time
Thought I could confront all the dumb guys
And teach them a lesson bout' grace and discretion
But they just looked dead in the eyes”

The last verse came and went and then Lala tied the song up with the pre-chorus, the chorus, the bridge, the chorus, and then the outro. It amazed Kylee how talented yet shy this girl was. Her voice was incredibly powerful and her songs were relatable. How many people would listen to this song and think of their own frustrations with the men in their lives?

Incredibly, really.

Seraphina was incredible.

Once the song ended and the girls said goodbye to Seraphina, in hopes that she would return (Lala wasn’t actually leaving the room), Mei played a few more songs before the end of today’s Dawn Patrol episode. With her mic off, Kylee tossed her now empty matcha tea cup into the garbage bin and leaned back, “Where did all that attitude come from? That was the most vibrant I’ve ever seen you sing, Duckling.”

No longer wearing her Seraphina mask and having taken off her audio gear, Lala twiddled her fingers and blushed, “I don’t know… I just pretended to be someone I want to be. I didn’t want to think about anything else besides the music. Did you really like it?”

“Girl, seriously,” Mei flipped a switch to play an advert for the Callahan butchers shop before spinning in her chair to face the young singer. “I am moist.” She leaned back and placed both of her hands on the back of her neck. “Your voice is so strong, it hits like a brick to the face. Fucking cunts. You’re tremendous.”

“Also-- I’m curious. What made you want to do a pop song? You don’t usually go that route. You’re more of a play some keys and sing kind of girl. I was expecting something hella’ softer,” Kylee reached over and grabbed Lala’s hand squeezing it, comforting her.

“Well it’s kinda’ like a tv show. Don’t want the starter to put you to sleep. Catchy melody, easy to sing lyrics, a chorus that’s repeated several times, it’s all an algorithm to draw people in. Maybe down the road I’ll throw in my songs with a bit more sentimental value and less reverb.” Lala returned the squeeze to her friend, before turning towards Mei and complimenting, “Song choice aside, I listen to you every night. I’m a Midnight kind of girl and love your personality. I hope one day I can carry myself just like you.”

“Damn, Mei, already stealing my baby from me,” Kylee teasingly pouted.

"Listen Linda, I can’t help it that the Goddess herself gifted me with a tight ass, a flexible body and come and fuck me or I’ll fuck you up eyes.” Mei crossed her long, fishnet covered legs and winked towards her old flame. She returned her attention to the young artist that had just performed wonders for them. "Don't try and carry yourself like me, carry yourself like you.”

Unfortunately, Lorelei didn’t know what that meant. She still had a lot of soul searching to do. She still had no idea who she was as a person. All she knew was that she loved to sing and she hoped she could get over her fear of the limelight, so that people could put a face behind the name Seraphina.

Before she could respond, grateful that she was saved by an interruption, Lala observed JP come strolling in. A man on a mission. Going straight to his girls, he dropped an envelope in front of them, “It’s starting again. The letters.”

Kylee’s eyes widened. She was quick to take the contents out, she placed it in front of her and Mei so they could read it together. JP let the two of them take in the words of some sad soul who was in love with David as he shuffled toward the futon and slouched on it, letting his body melt on the couch. He didn’t sleep well last night. At least Rye did.

What? How could this be happening? Mei was there! She was there when ReyRey Gonzalez admitted to the true facts about the death of Allison. How was this shit happening again? How the fuck was Decker involved in another death? Why David O’Hara? At least people loved Allison. David was a pedophile, a child molester. He deserves what he got….yet Mei also knew him as a kind, thoughtful and easy to like sort of guy. Why was the past being dredged up again? Why couldn’t whoever was sending these damn letters just move on?

”Hi diddly ho, here we fucking go again. Cumdumpster!”

“We should get going, Mei-Day,” Kylee had gotten up near immediately and started gathering her things, “I need to see if Clay is okay. This was his best friend, I can only imagine… Lala, you ready?”

Lorelei nervously nodded and followed suit. Before she followed the woman on a rampage, Lala rushed to Mei and handed her digits (that was written on a piece of gum wrapper) to the Goth Goddess, “I hope we can be friends…” she whispered.

Mei offered the young girl a genuine smile; a rarity from the usually stoic and dark woman. "Of course we can fancy pants.” She placed the gum wrapper into her bra and shot her eyes over to Ky. "Give me two seconds to wrap up this shit!” The Wiccan span in her chair again so she could face the equipment once more. She lifted the headset from around her neck and back onto her head as the On Air light flashed into life. ”Well it’s that time again my dearest freaks, your mistress of the night must go rest until the twilight hours but don’t fret, I will return, evil always does. For Kylee Grimm, the gorgeous Seraphina this is Mei Midnight signing off with Radiohead's Let Down. Stay spooky Eden and remember, the best things happen in the dark.”

Dawn Patrol was over and the three girls had left Absolute Sound. Jericho glanced up at the ceiling wondering why this town was so cursed. So haunted. So messed up. Why couldn’t the beautiful departed stay in their graves at peace? Why did someone have to bring their names up and put gasoline on a town that was already on fire?

Whoever was behind these letters needed to be dealt with.

It was only a recipe for more heartbreak and misery.

These letters sucked.

Picking his phone up, he texted Gavriel, tired and just wanting the day to be over already: Do you think you need to get checked? For those nightmares… I mean.


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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by LovelyComplex
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LovelyComplex

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Right before ‘Keep My Head Above Water’
and after ‘Dawn Patrol: Seraphina’
Monday Morning
@LovelyComplex & @BrutalBx


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Kylee had kissed her girls goodbye, distracted and on a mission. Jericho had revealed a new letter, after a whole month of nothing, and now Kylee couldn’t stop thinking about the contents and about her friend. To be honest, the letter didn’t seem like it was written by Charlie Decker. If anything, the letter showcased a girl head over heels for one of Edenridge’s star basketball players. A young one who was hopelessly devoted to the deceased David O’Hara.

Mei offered to drop Lorelei home at the Mercer residence and Kylee gratefully accepted because she needed to focus. She needed to call her friend. Riding her bicycle to Cafe Rochambeau, with her laptop bag hanging from her body, Kylee with her earpiece on told Siri to call Clay C.

He might be driving around and unable to pick up but she could do her part as his friend. She wanted to know if he was aware of the letter and how it talked about his friend, which means any future letters would undoubtedly focus on him and his friend group. The Scooby Doo Crew needed to pick up on their investigation. Who knows what the next set would be about? What if someone found out about her father’s skeletons before she did?

When she went straight to voicemail, Kylee accepted the outcome, even though her stomach was twisting and turning in anxiety. “Hey, Clay. Call me? I have a feeling you already know what this is about… just call me. Please.”

Worried, Kylee was worried about Clay and no opinions she had over the controversy during her sophomore year with the ‘pedophile’ matter. What mattered was how he was holding up and how his friends were. There’s his story, her story, and then there’s a truth. No one knew the truth, not really, and she knew all too well that stories could easily get overdramatized, embellished, and changed entirely for the benefit of someone. Edenridgers would eat that shit up. People loved drama.

The whole incident that year didn’t sit well with Kylee. It didn’t sit well then and it didn’t sit well now. The Mayor’s daughter decided that was one shitshow she wouldn’t make worse. One issue she would avoid. The Elite were sacred and one had fallen from grace. Thankfully, at the time, Roddy pulled her away from all the drama and kept her focused on keeping him company and supporting him through his plights. He was a much needed distraction.

Kylee’s mind was blown away, baffled and dumbfounded, with how everyone seemed to forget how good of a guy David was. She recounted memories with him where he gave her some sound advice, especially during that one time he found her crying on the bleachers when no one else was in the gym. Crying about something revolving around her father. He understood all too well the high expectations of a man with influence. His father, Coach, her father, the Mayor. That talk made her see him in a light she didn’t have for many people. She respected David.

Unfortunately, all the good things he ever did was thrown out the door once they found out he was fucking someone underage. Don’t get her wrong, if it was indeed true, it was morally wrong but she could only imagine how the girl felt because Kylee completely understood when you want to be with someone, age meant nothing. If only they had waited until the girl turned eighteen. If only David didn’t die.

Once she got to the cafe, she secured her bike on the rack and sped into the cafe. She didn’t usually come back to the cafe but she needed a place to think, without the distraction of her house. Part of her hoped Wes wouldn’t come to the cafe… she didn’t necessarily want to see him nor did she want to go to his place like she usually did after Dawn Patrol.

The morning rush had been and gone, Colleen had gone out back for a cigarette and Poppy wasn’t working that day because finally the young flower had decided to push forward with life. All of which meant that Beau was by himself behind the counter when Kylee Grimm came sweeping in for the second time that day.

“Mon Cheri,” The former English teacher greeted with his usual jovial grin but the grimace on her pretty young face told a tale and unfortunately, Beau knew exactly which one. “Something to take the edge off Miss Grimm?”

“It’s a bit too early to drink, but I will have one of your yummy donuts,” Kylee beamed at her old English professor, hoping she wasn’t too easy to read with how she was feeling. “Chocolate frosting, rainbow sprinkles…. and mocha iced coffee. Let’s change up my usual.”

Beau was shocked to see her face again but he was sweet and never turned a customer, regardless if they may or may not have a pastry problem. Besides, this was one of his kids, how could he say no? “Coming right up.” He took a gorgeously decorated obsidian glass with intricate fleur de lis patterns from a nearby rack and began to mix up her Grimm heiress’s coffee order.

While Beau made her drink, she asked him if he had the letter on him - if anyone already knew what was going on, it would be Beau. “Can I please borrow it for a few? I’ll give it back before I leave. I don’t really want to trek home just to see if it’s in my mailbox.” Her work as Velma was never over and she needed to analyze the new lead.

The letter had been the first thing that Beau had read that morning. It was at the top of the pile of mail when he entered the cafe several hours ago. He recognised the stamp and his heart sank. It was happening again. The beautiful departed being dragged from the graves to inflict pain upon the living.

Beau knew every student that ever graced his English classroom inside and out. He knew how they thought, how they felt and what made them tick. He knew when he was fighting a losing battle and trying to get Kylee Grimm to drop a mystery was like asking a one legged man if he could win an ass kicking contest, it was pointless. “Soft eyes, Kylee. Don’t stare, don’t squint. Read it, absorb it, feel it.” He handed the letter over the counter along with the young girl's drink. “I’m here if you need me.”

Tapping her finger uneasily on the letter, Kylee stopped Beau in his tracks by clearing her throat, “Mr. Beau, I… I don’t usually go to you for things but,” Glancing around her, the Mayor’s little girl sighed in relief when she saw the only other customers leave the building. “What… no, how would you confront your wife if you found out she hasn’t been telling you the whole truth? What do you do… to show you’re trustworthy?”

Beau cocked an eyebrow, it was unusual for Kylee to ask him for advice. There were always certain students who needed his guidance all the time, some occasionally and a few not at all. Kylee fell into the latter. He poured himself a cup of coffee and leaned over the counter, just a little closer to his young charge.

“Well, as you know, I used to be homicide back in New Orleans. Back then, I saw a lot of things, lot of bad voodoo and whenever I came home, the first thing I did after I kissed my Colleen was tell her everything that had happened to me, every gory detail.” He took a sip from his cup of Java and his lips curled a little, damn the big man made some great tasting coffee. “On the rare occasions I didn’t tell her something, whatever the reason, it wasn’t good enough. If she thought I was lying, she would sit me down, put her hand on mine, look into my baby browns and say Sugar, everything now, all at once, I need to know. Honesty is the best policy. Even when we lie for the right reasons, it’s still wrong.”

“Is it a lie if he just didn’t tell me?” Kylee was in disbelief. What Beau had with Colleen, it was so genuine and pure. She was starting to realize maybe she took her infatuation with Wes too far. He wasn’t really into her. They drank. They had a good time. But he wasn’t into her. If he did, he would be honest with her. “I don’t know what my boyfriend is afraid of, maybe it’s because I’m a Grimm. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” Frowning, Kylee pulled her coffee to her lips and took a sip. This conversation only meant one thing. She probably should break up with him.

“It ain’t you honey,” Beau began. “Whatever hang ups or problems this boy has are his own. He’ll have a reason for not telling you something, whether it’s good or bad I don’t know and I can’t judge because that is not my place. It’s yours. Only you can decide what is worthy for you.” The elder man took another mouthful from his Americano before standing back up to his full height. “Speak to this boy, Miss Grimm. Ask him what you need to ask him, then make your call. You know your worth, he needs to know it too. All the pieces matter, baby girl.”

With an appreciative smile and a heavy heart, Kylee nodded at Beau’s good advice. “Okay, I won’t run away…” Another customer came in, causing her professor to bring his attention elsewhere. Before he walked off Kylee thanked him, wholeheartedly. She wasn’t one that needed therapy, or perhaps she was too stubborn to notice when she needed help, but this conversation was exactly what she needed to face her problem head on.

After her heart to heart with Mr. Beau, Kylee took a pen out and started dissecting the letter, annotating it, and listing names of people that surrounded David’s friend and family group in her notebook. She continued to write notes and make another list of the people she thought of when she looked at the handwriting. It looked so familiar. There weren't many people with this type of delicate, angular, and gracefully fluent penship.

Staring at some of the words, hovering over the paper as it sat on the bar, tapping her pen repeatedly on the counter, Kylee couldn’t help but think about the monthly deadline day where her class sent their written essays forward to pass down the line and land in Beau’s hands. Was the writer of this letter someone in her class? Her mind was running a million miles per hour when her phone buzzed and she rushed to grab it, seeing Clay’s name on her caller ID.

“Clay! Sorry for calling you during work, you free to talk?”

“I’m literally just finishing up,” Clay sat parked in his car outside of the O’Hara house. He had made his report and sent it to Chief Broadus and sent a quick text to Sly too to give him the heads up on the shit storm that was about to head their way. “I’m assuming this is about what was in today’s mail?”

“Yes. I read the letter during my show,” Kylee placed the pen down and stared at her donut. Not touching it or eating it, all she did was stare at it. She didn’t know if they were at this level of friendship yet, but the mayor’s daughter was starting to care about Clay like she cared about Roddy. Well, maybe not to that extent, but close enough. Enough for her to want to check on him and let him know he has someone in his corner, if he needs it. That he wasn’t alone. “... you okay?” She didn’t know how else to phrase it. Her worry was simple. She just wanted to be there for him. While she would never understand his pain from her sophomore year, Kylee was still a good person and could show compassion when she wanted to.

“I’m okay,” Clay responded. “Does it fucking suck worse than Pinehurst first five line up? Hell yeah but that won’t stop me from getting this motherfucker.” He kept the phone to his ear as he brushed his other hand through his famous hair. “What I can tell you is that this letter isn’t about David.” He picked up Jamie’s letter from the passenger seat and stared at it for a few moments in silence. “This letter is about the girl, the one they never named. David’s name is already mud. Whoever this is, they want to drag the girl down too.”

“The handwriting looks really familiar…” Kylee whispered in response, before shaking the random theories out of her mind. Grabbing the donut, she finally took a bite of it, calmly and quietly chewing, “I don’t think it’s that black and white, Clay. The letters target not just the people involved. The whole Allison show didn’t just hurt the cheerleaders and Vivia and whoever else was in her circle. All of Charlie’s friends? They were crying. Did you see the video that was posted online? That was such a hard watch.”

Her eyes grew distant as she stared into her drink, chewing her donut, “This is a public statement. Whoever sent this is angry. Why else would they expose something so close to the heart, a love letter, for the whole town to see and judge? They’re mad and I think it has everything to do with David.”

“Either way I’m gonna get this guy. This is my family.” Clay, the most easy going, chilled, most lackadaisical person walking God’s Green was pissed, he was angry. “Do whatever you can Kylee. We need to get them before someone gets seriously hurt. Give me a call if you figure out anything.” He hung up the line and threw his phone down. This fucking sucked.

“Oh… okay,” Kylee didn’t get a chance to say goodbye but at least she was able to check on him. He wasn’t doing okay. No matter what he said she knew he wasn’t doing okay. It was obvious though that he needed space. “Bye then.” She’d do her part and look into the letter and go around town to find more bread crumbs.

She was thinking of starting off on the northside, bothering a few girls who may have the same penship as the one in this letter…

Consuming all her donut, she wiped her fingers on the napkin and grabbed her phone. She opened the text thread she had with her boyfriend. After scanning through the text messages, she typed: We need to talk.

And sent.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia

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Early Monday morning between 5-6AM
(before the new batch of letters was sent out)
@metanoia & @BrutalBx



________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________


There were some nights where Mikhail Zima could sleep through the night without fail. These nights were almost always including some type of company in his bed or if he had South Park playing in the background. He had a rather weird fascination with South Park and it always made him feel relaxed. Maybe it was the childhood nostalgia. Maybe it was the crude humor, or maybe it was Kenny always dying. That was his favorite running gag.

But that wasn’t on this night. He had stayed awake. He kept dreaming about the same thing on and off for the past month. It was the day of the shooting. Not so much the shooting itself. That day, Mika had fortunately walked away with nothing but trauma. Trauma because he basically lost two brothers that day: Danny Boaz and Boa, who left on that day. But it wasn’t about the heartbreak from that day that persisted in his dreams, but rather what happened shortly after the immediate threat of Charlie Decker was laid to rest and the aftermath of it was felt. It was when his mother came back to her hometown that Mika’s entire world came crashing down.

It was the moment that John O’Hara found out that Mika was his nephew and not just some kid who had the coincidence of reminding him of David. It was those sequence of events playing themselves on an infinite loop that kept him up all night. Occasionally he would get a few winks, but not today. The sun was barely out and he just couldn’t fall asleep.

It had been nearly two years since he spoke to his Uncle John. Two years of avoiding him.

Not anymore.”

Before he mentally clicked the decision he just made, Mika’s body moved. His legs moved him past the bowl where he kept his keys, out of his apartment, into his Toyota Tacoma, and he was driving down Carlisle Ave., over the tracks into the Northside, and driving to a place he absolutely knew where he had to go.

There was something almost hilarious about how his brain was working. He hasn’t been anywhere close to his old stomping grounds except for that one time last month he passed the school. The night that Boa returned. The night that he, instead of being part of that group of people who heard what happened to Charlie Decker, he disturbed Cece and Niles on their date, yet as he parked near the gym, Mika wasn’t going to avoid it this time around.

And yet he sat in his truck. It had shut off, so no light shined on him except the subtle rays that came from the almost-risen sun. In the back of his mind, he pondered about whether or not this was the right thing to do. Or maybe if he could even go through with it. He could turn back, drive to the diner down the road, and nobody had to know he was even here. But how much of a man would that make him? Running away from his past? Running away from something that deep in his heart, the heart he felt was closed to certain people he felt he had betrayed, that he knew he needed to do this.

As he met his reflection in the mirror, he looked at himself. Bags under his eyes, the signs of sleep deprivation in those blue eyes of his, and what seemed like his own soul telling him what he needed to do, he sighed at himself. “Sometimes, I really hate you. You know that, right?”

With that decided, he exited his truck and walked into the gym. Not to his surprise, it wasn’t locked. That’s because he knew a certain someone was here. And as he entered, he heard the echoes of a basketball reverberate through the empty building. He saw a man run up and down the court. Mika hesitated going further. He hadn’t noticed him, but he came this far. No point in giving up now. “I knew I’d find you here, Uncle John.” Those last two words, he hadn’t spoken them to John O’Hara since before senior year and them having the same meaning as it did right now.

John stopped mid dribble and bounced the ball back up into his ready guarded hands. The sweat was glistening on his slowly withering skin and his breathing was heavy. He had been up for several hours already, not unusual for the Coach. He hadn’t slept properly since that humid hot summer of 1974. Every time he closed his eyes, there was always a flash, or a whisper, some kind of memory that as he had grown older he had managed to force away before it affected him too much. Yet when he was asleep, that was when he couldn’t control his mind, that was when he could feel the Hangman’s noose tightening around his neck, the ground beneath his feet giving away as he was dragged back into the woods, staring at the light from the camp mess hall and trying to scream for help. Sleep was a portal to the past and John did not want to go back in time.

Then there was a more recent past that also haunted him, more so in his waking hours that he had tried to forget. It was right there in that gym, on the home side of the court where he did what he could to temper the rage of a lost soul, only to be met by a shotgun blast to his stomach. That wasn’t the worst of it. Not by far. John’s worst memory of that day was watching the Callahan boy be shot before his eyes and feeling the child’s wait crash on top of him. Roddy was trying to help him and it cost him dearly. The one blessing if any was that Jamie and David were not there. David…

The boy that now stood to his right reminded him so much of his first born son. The way he carried himself, the mannerisms, he really should’ve seen the signs sooner. Shame on him. John had tried religion; it didn’t work for him but he did believe in a higher power, he did believe that they worked in mysterious ways. Still, sometimes he wondered. He had so many questions. One of which was Mikail Zima. This boy, now a man, he was an O’Hara. Mary’s boy. Yet he didn’t know. They didn’t tell him. There was frustration when he first found out, of course there was. Secrets and lies were a currency in Edenridge that John wanted no part of.

“Mika, you’re out and about early. It’s a family trait” Coach corrected his posture and turned to face his nephew. “What can I do for you, son?”

He stood firm at the center of the court, eyes meeting his uncle's. In the back of his mind, there still was that part of Mika that told him being here was a bad idea. There was no way John would hear him out. It could be two more years or five and he still wouldn't forgive you. The shame you brought to him was too much. The heartbreak of your secret was too much.

And yet, ever the stubborn son his mother raised, for better or worse, Mika didn't move an inch. He wasn't advancing but he wasn't retreating. "Couldn't sleep. Tried for hours and still nothing, so I thought I might come back to the place where I shined my brightest. Back to the place where you pushed me to my absolute limit… Coach…" His voice trailed off into silence as the two O'Hara men met each other in a locked gaze. He felt a subtle increase in that funny feeling that he hadn’t felt in a few years. That air of warmth that Coach O’Hara always managed to instill in him in his times of need.

“You were a hell of a player” Coach bounced the basketball off of the hardwood several times. He looked at Mika with a sense of empathy. He had spent so much time worrying about the past. Life had been hard for him. Between nearly dying multiple times, the loss of his son, the issues with his sister and his daughter’s own anguish. The one constant in John’s life has always been the game and Mika really was one hell of a player. He could tell the boy was here for more than a sleep deprived reminisce; he was reaching out for something, someone to hold on to.

John had held on to a grudge from years gone by and he had let young Mikhail suffer for it. Mary was his little sister, he loved her and he always would but she chose her path. It took the Coach a very long time to come to terms with that and then to be blindsided with the bombshell that one of his stars, one of his beloved Celtics, was actually her son; it was a lot to deal with at a very bad time in his life. “Let me ask you something, when you played for me, do you think had I known who you were, it would’ve been any different?”

He let the silence linger as he pondered on Coach’s question. Would things between them be different if Mika was honest with him in the beginning? He didn’t know how to answer that because he didn’t know. He kept that secret from him because Mika thought he had to or else those he loved would get caught in the crossfire. Keeping secrets was Ivan’s favorite habit and he had made sure Mika carried on that specific family legacy. But he was also afraid of the rejection. Maybe the real reason wasn’t so complicated. He didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to be treated any different. He wanted to be accepted by Coach for nothing but his hard work that he put into the team.

As he stepped forward, even going as far as to tighten the distance between them, Mika never lost the gaze with his uncle. “I’m not sure how to answer that, Coach..” He bit the inside of his cheek, feeling the pressure and the gravity of the question itself. “For those two years, you were one of two people who felt like a real father to me. You made me want to believe in myself for more than just the short-term fame and glory winning the game could give me. I..wasn’t given the benefit of having a father who believed in me like you believed in me and the other guys.” That subtle feeling from before had deepend and Mika felt like he had to say what he was feeling now or he wouldn’t ever get it out. “I don’t know if things would be different. If you knew, I don’t know if that would’ve changed things. What I do know, Uncle John, is that not telling you on my terms is one of the things I most regret about that year. You deserved so much more than that from me.” For the first time since arriving, Mika’s gaze left Coach’s and he was looking down at the court. Shame piled high on him.

“I remember when you first asked to join the team. You were a little shorter than the other guys but you had this fire, you had the heart and you had the arrogance. You reminded me so much of someone I used to know…your mother” Coach looked towards the bleachers and in memory he could see his little sister, sitting with their parents cheering him on when he was a player. A vision in gold. ”I should’ve seen it then but I didn’t. I don’t blame you, Mika. I’m not even mad at you. You’re just a kid in a strange situation and you handled it in whatever way you could” John bounced the ball again before tossing it to Mika.

“What’s past is past. You and me, we can build a bridge kiddo but it might take some time. Some effort. You want to put in the work? Then I will too” The Coach moved off of centre court and stood off to the sidelines where he always did when he was in charge of a game. “We do work in this gym. We go hard and we go better than anybody else. You know that. I want you to meet me here, every morning and we will go through this together. But before we do, we’re gonna do a little test”

Hearing Coach make the comparison between Mika and his mother was…unexpected, but welcomed. He cracked his first smile since coming here (albeit small). When Coach tossed the ball to him, Mika caught it. His time under the lights as an Edenridge Celtic may have been long past him, but Mika never stopped playing the game. Southside ball was different, but he still ruled the court. But all he could think about as he stared down at the ball.

And then he looked up when Coach said the words he never thought he’d say: build a bridge. His eyes were, for the first time (especially when he thought about his uncle), clear. Of course he would put the work in. There was no question about it. Mika never wanted anything more than to just…be someone that John O’Hara could be proud of again. “Yes, Coach.”

Cracking a wider smile, almost grin-line, Mika bounced the ball a few times on the hardwood floor. “When have you ever known me to turn down a challenge?” He bounced it once more and held it in both hands. “What’cha got on your mind?”

John placed his hands on his hips and assumed his Coach position. It was game time at Edenridge High. “Clear eyes. Full Hearts. No luck but what we make. That ain’t just a catchy slogan so the soccer Mom’s can sell some mugs on Etsy whatever the hell that is. Those are words your grandpappy lived by. He was a hard man. A decent man. A man you want to aspire to be. Those words mean everything to me. They are what it means to be an O’Hara”

John glanced up at a wall, the framed jerseys of retired numbers staring back at him. His number was up there, Francis, Clay, Garrett, Russell, all of them. Save one. Save 23. Save David.

“You want to be an O’Hara kiddo, this is how you do it. You make this first shot, you sink three points, then we will set up a meeting between me and your mother and we will try and sort our issues out.You miss? Then it’ll just be me and you, understand? Earn your name, Mika”

That old slogan was etched into Mika’s memory even though there was a part of him that tried to push it back and out of his life since that day. No luck but what you make. It defined Mika’s sophomore and junior year. It defined those two blissful years of being under Coach’s watchful eye. Being one of the star players under Danny Belmonte’s lead. Being a Celtic until tragedy brought too much shame to face anyone. In those two years, regardless of what was happening, whatever happened inside the Edenridge High Gymnasium and the locker room and any time Coach gave his speeches, that one line was something that carried Mika through everything.

And now, as he held the ball in both hands, looking at Coach O’Hara -- his uncle, his mother’s older brother -- stand in front of him in the same way he always did back in better days, he couldn’t help but feel like whatever was (and is) happening outside these walls, it didn’t matter. In his heart, in his soul, Mikhail Zima had a familiar feeling that stemmed from the desire that he always had.

To be an O’Hara.

He walked up to the 3-point goal line, bouncing the ball a few times right on the line. His gaze was focused and stern. His back was straight. Posture was straight and his arms bent slightly as he had the ball in his hand. Mika held it up close to his face, looking down at it once more. “One shot is all it will take.” He whispered, gazing at Coach O’Hara. The man hadn’t budged an inch in the minute he laid out his challenge.

In that moment, he couldn’t help but think of his mother, Mary-Anne. Her sadness and even grief about her family. Sometimes he would catch her in a moment and he'd ask and she would tell him about her brother and his son. Nothing in great detail, but thinking back, it was an intense grief and regret. He understood what she was lamenting about when was younger -- around 12, 13 years old. He understood because Mika himself was experiencing similar feelings. Like mother, like son, after all.

Here I go. With a deep breath, Mika took the position: legs bent, the ball positioned in his dominant, left hand and his right one on the side. He eyed the net, knowing if he made this there was hope for both him and his mother to finally have that peace of mind that he longed for and what he suspected she longed for.

And he took the shot, the ball flying through the air.

All of his hopes of being an O’Hara was on this one shot.

No luck but what you make it.


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Monday morning, right around 6 AM
@LovelyComplex & @metanoia

____________________________________________________________________

That dream came up again.

Danny was on the court shooting back to back to back at the free throw line. He’d toss the ball in, another ball would bounce to him from the surrounding darkness and he’d repeat. It was him, the ball, and the net. He wore his uniform, number 27, and he focused in so those watching were impressed.

There was no one watching.

There was only darkness.

His basketball shoes hugged his soles, his shoelaces were tied tightly out of fear of them loosening and him tripping, his uniform was pressed and unwrinkled. He was clean, untouched, and full of life. Danny was young. Danny was dumb. Danny was happy.

No luck but what we make. He repeated in his head as he continued to shoot consecutively into the hoop not missing once. He was on fire and he knew he’d make it to the big leagues. Danilo Belmonte was born great and was destined for great things. He just had to keep his head in the game.

That is until the mantra turned into a voice, all around him, and his ball bounced off the rim. The voice he heard was his father’s: “Some day you’re going to look back at this and want it all back again. Don’t ruin what you have, son. You have a good thing. We Belmontes, we don’t fail. We can’t afford to.”

Another ball bounced back to him. Every time it hit the court floor it resounded and echoed, taking over his heightened senses. Danny caught it and took a moment to wipe the sweat off his forehead. He was tired. He couldn’t breathe.

“Do it again. Shoot twenty five more times. Make all of them. If you miss, start all over again. Do it until you can’t feel your arms anymore, you hear? What is it I tell you, son?”

“Don’t get bitter, get better,” Danny exasperatedly breathed as his shoelaces tightened around him, strangling his feet, forcing him to stay rooted to the gym floor. This was all on him and he couldn’t let his old man down.

Listening to Taz give him constant criticism caused Danny to shrink into his child self. Exhausted but desperate to make his father proud, Danny refused to stop. There was no way he’d stop. Not when he’s made it this far. Not when the net was this close and if he made the shot, he’d win at life. He’d win and be exactly who he was supposed to be.

Little Danny tossed the ball once more but instead of it going to the rim, Coach O’Hara grabbed it, “What are you doing 27? You’re supposed to be running laps with the rest of them!” Fervently and nervously nodding, Danny rushed forward past John and saw the Elite marching like toy soldiers. Tailing behind them, he matched their movements as they went around the gym, going in circles. The darkness faded and the blaring lights came on. They were surrounded by the crowd and the cheerleaders were loudly chanting and crying for them.

Come on boys
Dont let us down
Remember the core leaves
and bring home the crown.

A dash of dedication
A bit of determination
Throw in some motivation
And a pinch of luck!

Lets kick some (shuush)
And score, score, score!
We are the Lucky Clovers
And we want some more.

No luck but what we make!
Say it again!
No luck but what we make!

The Elite broke off and jogged to people in the crowd, playing the part the town gave them. The shiny bright Stars in the night sky that everyone put so much faith and hope in. That was the Elite.

Aside from Russell and himself, the rest wore patches on their jacket sleeves to show they were not just stars, they were history. They were part of the founding families. Highly respectable, with so much to carry. The weight of the world, the burdens of this town, and the expectations from their families. They truly were toy soldiers.

The only weight on Danny’s shoulders was the shadow that followed him that resembled that of his father. The shadow that never seemed to leave him alone and was constantly watching his every move. The shadow of the man he knew he could never embrace and be. The shadow of his past.

Francis grabbed onto Allison, kissing her deeply, all the while glancing at Russ with lust in his eyes. Rhett was talking to his family and David. Rhett, who was a barricade of a man, made sure there was space in between David and Caitlin. He made sure that no one could get near his sister. He made sure David knew his place. He made sure Cece stayed safe, at his side, away from the male gaze. He made sure to be seen. Clay, on the other hand, was flirting with all the cheerleaders, like he usually did. He seemed happy and in absolute delight at being in the middle of all the beautiful creatures. He seemed happy.

The buzzer went off and everything flashed in front of Danny’s eyes. Allison was convulsing on the floor, Vivia holding onto her crying, Francis was making out with Russel, Clay was sitting on the bleachers by himself, and David…

Alert, Caitlin ran to Danny crying and the whole team looked toward the direction she was pointing at. The gym doors burst open and water came rushing in and as the gym overflowed with water, David’s dead corpse slid in front of the Elite, Cece, and Danny. His weeping best friend buried her face into his chest.

The water reached his knees.

“Don’t do this… Not now, Danny.” Cece, the Elite and David’s corpse vanished and now, Danny was holding onto Marco. He was in the tux he wore from junior prom. They both were. This was the night he broke up with him. Lifting Marco’s chin up, dejected and depressed, Danny tried to convince himself to kiss him but suddenly his shoulder was whipped around and there his father was again.

Screaming.

“You were benched?! What’s gotten into you? This is supposed to be YOUR year, Danilo. No longer will you be in the shadow of those boys they called the Elite. You're the captain now. Start acting like one.”

Instead of clapping back, Danny turned away from his dad and frantically looked for Marco.

Where was he?


When his dad tried to grab him again, to prevent his son from running around to find his lover, that is when Danny’s eyes snapped open and he woke up. His body was sweating. He anxiously searched his bed and when he felt the tousled hair beside him, Danny sighed in relief. Turning his body, he pulled Marco close to him and kissed the back of his boyfriend’s head. He was okay. He wasn’t hurt. He was here in his bed beside his boyfriend. Glancing past Marco’s head and to the clock, Danny noticed it was ten minutes before 6 AM, which means soon they would need to roll out of bed and go for their jog. Rather than aggressively wake Marco up, Danny started to trail his lips on his boyfriend’s body from his head to his neck to his bare shoulders. The sweetest of alarm clocks.

Marco groaned. He was deep in sleep and had muttered something about top, mid, bot. Words that may have sounded like “nexus” left his lips moments after the sensation of soft lips trailed against his skin. He kept muttering things relating to what was a dream on his end about winning and almost listing a series of matches in League of Legends. But the lips went from neck to shoulder and Marco groaned again, one of his eyes partially opening. He was still in a state where he hadn’t realized what was actually happening until he felt those same lips go further down to his right shoulder blade, a part of his body he was particularly ticklish.

“Mm…” Marco made a sound, this time both eyes were open and his awareness of what was happening started to become clearer. Danny was kissing him and he smiled (albeit lazily). “Well good morning…” He said huskily, his hand slowly coming up on the side and cupping his boyfriend’s face. “Best thing to wake up to.”

“Hate to ruin your beauty sleep, pup, but it’s almost time for our jog.” Even after all these years, Danny was dedicated to his workout regime. He wasn’t in basketball anymore and he didn’t do much with himself aside from work at Palermo and enjoying the town from time to time. His morning workout was the one thing that he had that was consistent and predictable. Nothing else in his life was either of those things. His family was chaotic. His relationship with Marco was fresh, even if they dated in the past. And at least once a year, something historical happens in this town which is more often than not followed by a death (or several). See? Unpredictable and inconsistent.

Contrary to the words he just said about getting up and getting ready, Danny pulled Marco close, burying his face into his lover’s back. Closing his eyes, the once-upon-a-jock replayed the dream, the images jumping between father yelling at him, Cece’s crying face, and David’s pale, rigid corpse. “You don’t hate me right? You still like me even though I’m not some huge basketball star?”

"What?" Alerted by what his boyfriend just said, Marco turned his head to face Danny, holding his lover’s face. "No! Of course not. You are one of the only people in this world I could never and would never hate. Nothing in the whole entire universe would make that even a slight possibility.” He kissed Danny on the lips. “Who I fell for wasn’t the athlete but, you, the person who broke every single stereotype one could imagine, not the huge basketball star.”

Staring intently into Marco’s eyes, Danny gave a half smile. His boyfriend’s words were sweet and kind. They always were. Still, that dream haunted him for a good two weeks now. He didn’t know how to react to Marco’s optimism. He didn’t know how to be - how to officially come out. Part of him died on that court and the other part of him was lost and afraid. “I have nothing going for me, Marco. I don’t know where I’ll be in the next five years. I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life… all I know for certain is I need you. Without you, what am I doing?”

It damn near broke Marco’s heart to hear Danny speak the way he did. Maybe because he was hearing similar words he said to himself six months ago. Before he and Danny rekindled any kind of relationship. Before he followed his then-ex on the jog, Marco was a husk of his former self - he still was, but he was getting better. He and Danny had been exercising together again. Like actual exercise and not what happened when the door closed and lights were dimmed, but he had a long way to go, so he knew the mindset that Danny was in, regardless how much it broke him to hear his boyfriend say that about himself.

Smiling gently, he kept Danny’s face in his hand. “You don’t need to know what you want to do. Listen, I have gotten so much clarity in my life in the past month than I have in the past year. I thought I wouldn’t find happiness and love again, but now I do and it’s because of you!” Marco’s eyes looked as though he was about to tear up just thinking about it all. “Don’t worry about the what ifs, Danny. You don’t have to think about any of that because I promise you, as long as I can control it, I’m not going anywhere.” He kissed his boyfriend again.

Once Marco pulled away, Danny turned on his back, resting his hand behind his back, staring at the ceiling. “I’ve been having this dream for the past week or so… it’s the same thing. Same visuals. Nothing changes. It makes me realize if we didn’t meet freshman year, I probably wouldn’t be the same person I am today.” He glanced over at Marco and gestured with his head for his boyfriend to place his head in the nook of his shoulder.

Today would be a later start than usual, but that’s okay, he wanted to spend some time talking with his lover. “My pride and ego… it’s something I was constantly told to protect. That would get me places. Not my heart. Don’t get bitter, get better, dad would say. Having been in the shadow of the Elite, all I could see were burning stars that I wanted to be. I look back and I realize, that whole time for us? That was like… the best time of our lives. A speckle in our past that doesn’t hold any importance to anyone that wasn’t us.” Danny’s brown eyes focused on the ceiling, as he continued to formulate the thoughts coursing through his mind, “Allison died. David died. The Elite… they went and lived their lives. And I stood there, waiting. I don’t know for what, maybe to grow up, maybe for another tragedy to hit, I don’t know. I’ve just been waiting to win at life like I did back then.”

Wrapping his arm around Marco, more open than he’s ever been with him since they’ve known each other, Danny admitted, “None of it matters. The winning. The game. The hardship. We just wanted to be young, dumb, and free. You taught me it’s okay to be sensitive, it’s okay to show some emotional intelligence, it’s okay to… love and not be ashamed about it. All that other stuff? The last game I had with the Elite? My father’s disappointment? That’s all confetti.” Who was it that taught him that? That love and enjoying yourself was the single, strongest most important factor in life? That the relationships were important, not the add-on celebration, the background noise, the icing on the cake?

He couldn’t remember.

Life is full of excitement that often comes to an end of a bigger journey. The last game of freshman year. Graduating Edenridge High. Finding out his mother has a terminal illness that was one hundred percent guaranteed to kill her. Good and bad, there’s always some kind of celebration to end the chapter. What mattered during that time was he got to play ball with people he loved. He got to spend most of the night trying to get home with the boy next to him. He got to dream peacefully before finding out the next morning Allison died. What mattered was he lived and took in the moment, like how forgiveness feels like standing in the rain, living life was kind of like a party. People came, people stayed, some left early, and some showed up late. In the end, after all the fun, games, and everything else in between, the people remaining there, help clean up the mess. They’re here to help sweep the confetti away, even if they didn’t make it.

Hm.

Danny had a lot on his mind.

All Marco did was listen to everything Danny said. He gave his boyfriend his undivided attention as he listened to the details of the dream. To all the things Danny admitted from who he would be if they never met to the many tragedies that Edenridge had to endure. Through it all, Marco couldn’t help but almost feel sad because he didn’t know that Danny had all of these thoughts in his head or that he thought about it. But then that sadness that he almost felt was reverse uno’d.

When Danny said that Marco was the reason he could love without shame, there was such a wide smile on his face that Marco didn’t even realize it until he met his gaze. “I’m sorry you had such a terrible dream, Danny…But thank you for telling me. Thank you for letting me know about it. We both have such horrific memories that haunt us, but..” He just stared at Danny for a few more seconds. He wasn’t just thinking about what he wanted to say but he took in the moment of his boyfriend. “..but it’s not something that should or would define us. We are better men than we were two, three, four years ago. And if I haven’t said it before, I’m just…so proud of you!”

“And I’m proud of you, Marco. For all I’ve put you through… for all the traumatic things you’ve been through. I’m proud of you.” Danny’s eyes, lips, and his spirit all shined at once, begging to come out and spend a day in the light, “You’re still here…” Danny leaned forward and pressed his lips against Marco’s forehead, “And I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

Marco had to let that sit for a long moment as he stared into Danny's eyes. It was almost ludicrous to think about everything that they went through and to not only be in a positive state in their relationship but that Marco wouldn't change any of it. Sure, one could make the argument that it was a lot of pain for both of them to go through and maybe it could have been avoided, but at some point pain is a hell of a teacher. Marco understood that more than anyone.

“I wouldn't either. We went through that so we could make our way back to each other and be here,” he said with an almost-grin.

That’s right.

They went through too much to let any of this go.

As much as Danny’s dream did suck and did spook him a little, he was feeling better. A lot of it was thanks to his boyfriend. What would he have done if he didn’t have Marco to lean on? That was a good question. Glancing over at the time, Danny acknowledged the fact that they indeed needed to rise and shine. They both had a day to conquer.

“Okay,” Danny graced Marco’s face with more love through tender pecks, something he couldn’t help doing since they got back together. “This is what’s going to happen. We’re going to get up, get our steps in, and then I’d like for you to come with me to see my mother.” Danny took a moment to observe Marco’s reaction, hoping it was only positive, before asking for confirmation, “Okay?”

Danny always had this superpower of leaving Marco speechless. Usually it was for something he said or did when the door was closed and locked and it was just them, but right now it was for a whole different reason altogether. Mrs. Belmonte (Marco felt weird even thinking about calling her Silvia) had always liked Marco, or at least he hoped she did. His own mother raised him the right way to always be respectful and his father doubled down on that. But even that aside, he always held Danny’s mother in high regard. She was amazing in every sense of the word, but there was also the fact that Marco only found out about her being sick when the two of them had become official, so there was that part of his mind that was entertaining a thought that this was a big deal.

And if that didn’t make Marco just love his boyfriend even more. “Sounds like a plan!” He smiled, sitting upright. “And Danny..” Marco kept his eyes on his boyfriend, holding his hand and squeezing it tightly. “I love you.” It was much more than a casual showing of his feelings. In his eyes, Marco conveyed that he deeply appreciated Danny wanting to go see his mother. Together. He couldn’t find the words how much that meant to him.

Whenever they exchanged those three words, Danny became ever more devoted, ever more certain, and ever more madly in love. One day, he was going to marry this boy. He just had to convince his father beforehand.

“I love you too.”


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Stopped at a red light for what felt like the millionth time today, Clay gripped onto the steering wheel as tightly as he possibly could. It didn’t really matter if he was late for work, Sly would cover for him; the frustration had absolutely nothing to do with that. No, the man they call McDungus was pissed off because the lunatic that had been tormenting his beloved home all summer was back and this time they were deep diving into the lives of some of his dearest friends. On top of that he had gone through an argument with Cat, their first ever. He wasn’t a big fan of that, not by a long shot.

Pulling off to the side of the road, Clayton parked up outside of the station. Part of him didn’t even want to walk in. Part of him just wanted to go back to his apartment, bury his head in a pillow and listen to Boys II Men. David would mock him for that course of action, no doubt. Duke always said if it wasn’t classic rock then it wasn’t real music. Hell, Clay remembered the first time that Davey came to school having found Coach’s stash of vinyl records in the attic and he was a changed man. Lamb loved it. She always wanted to be around David. Sometimes, Clayton thought that she preferred Davey to him. Then again, a lot of people did.

There was just something about Davey.





”Criminal Justice, Clay huh?” David threw the mini basketball into the air and caught it between words. His curly hair was flopped back against the edge of the couch and his eyes gazed up at the ceiling of his family basement; the safe haven of the Elite. ”Can’t believe my bestest friend in all the world is gonna become a cop and arrest me”

”Well don’t do any stupid shit and I won’t will I?” Clayton was devouring his third sandwich from the Godmother. ”Besides, I only just got my acceptance letter to Lowell. I got a few years before I’m lifting people off the streets, Duke”

It was the summer after graduation and everyone was moving on with their lives, to college, to work, to whatever the future held for them. Clay was off to Lowell; Russ had already enlisted in the army and shipped off to basic training. Rhett had begun working with his family all the time now, he was pretty much a non factor in their lives now and Francis had already left for New York. Allison had been gone for so long now that their group had all but fractured. Down in the O'Hara basement we’re the remnants of the Elite; Clay and David and their respective twins.

”You’re disgusting” Lamb grimaced watching her older brother drop meat all over himself as he slovenly destroyed his meal in such a way that one would think he had never eaten before. ”How are we even related? You are a goddamn animal”

Lamb loved her brother, she really did but she also deftly struggled to actually like him. Even when they were children, the big of heart and only slightly dumb of ass Clayton and her just couldn’t find that thing that connected them beyond blood. They were twins for goodness sake yet the pair of them just didn’t fit together. Not like David and Jamie, one only had to look at them and you could not only see but you could feel that they were twins, two halves of the same person, split to give the world an equal load of happiness and joy. When the Costigan’s were split into their respective halves. something was missing in the process, something that made them, them.

”The fuck did I do?”

Jamie brushed her long hair out of her face as she watched the assorted friends before her. Her brother was on the couch that he had claimed ten years ago when he and Clayton found it by the side of the road in Eastbrook. Lamby sat on a nearby chair, her face distorted as she watched her twin who himself was sat by the table stuffing his face. She knew it was all going to come to an end, it had to. High school was over and the world around them was about to change forever. Most of their friends had already begun to make their moves towards their futures, Jamie herself was leaving within the next week for Brown. The nerves were real though, she couldn’t help but be worried that wouldn’t know what to do with someone with issues like hers.

”Are you going to see that friend of yours before you leave, Clay? The one from the comic store?”

“Oh yeah, Ava or something? We had Beau’s lit with her. Total fox. There’s no way you’re not hitting that sixteen. You legit fuck anything with two legs” David sat up from the couch and tossed the ball he had at Clay, missing him purposely but giving his best friend a startle.

“Davey” Jamie lamented.

“What? It’s the truth!”

Lamb began to giggle as they poked fun at her elder sibling. “They’re not wrong brother, you’re a bit of a whore” She couldn’t even count the amount of times she had heard Clayton sneaking some girl into his bedroom through his window and then sneaking them out again. She couldn’t count how many times she had heard that stupid line he always said about breakfast. God, he was a fucking idiot.

“Whoa whoa whoa” Clay threw down his sandwich. ”First off, her name is Avery. Two, no I am not fucking her, we’re friends. I can have friends outside of you guys, you know? Three, just shut up” He didn’t particularly enjoy David ridiculing his friendships but he knew there was never meant to be any offence. Davey wasn’t malicious, sometimes he just lacked tact.

“Great comeback, Costigan”

“Stop! Carry on and your ass is grass you hear me, Duke. I’m not the one with the secret girlfriend”

David laughed it off. He had an infectious laugh. Jamie and Lamb soon followed, with Clay finally joining them. He was going to miss this, the teasing and the laughing. They were all leaving him. They were all going to be something and get out of this damn town. He wasn’t but that was ok because he had her. She was there and as long she was there, so too would David be. ”And on that note” The Duke got up to his feet and bowed to his gathered court ”I gotta make like a tree and get out of here”

“Fuck me, you two are as bad as each other” Laura turned to look at Jamie with a soft smile on her face. “Are we sure they’re not the twins? Cos Jamie baby we can’t be related to them”

“Sadly, we’re stuck with them Lamby but there are worse options”





How could he have missed all the signs? He knew. They knew. They all knew. They joked about it. They didn’t think it was anything serious but it was, deathly so.

Fuck.

How could David be so careless? Clay knew that his best friend wasn’t a bad person. He wasn't an evil person and he definitely didn’t think he was a child predator. He made a mistake and he had paid for it. His family, his friends, they all paid for it. Then why the fuck were they going through it again?!

The tears began to well up in his dark eyes as his hold on the steering wheel grew tighter with every passing thought. He sniffled to try and stem the tears but it didn’t work. He was ok. He was always ok. Clay was always as cool as a cucumber. Nothing ever bothered him. He could just shrug it off and go find a warm body to lie down with. Everyone knew that Clay was fine. He was absolutely fine.

Was he fuck.

With an almighty roar, Clayton screamed out his frustrations. He began to pound down onto the steering wheel with balled up fists. He stamped down on the door of the car, like a child having a tantrum. He flung his head down, butting the wheel as he sobbed.

Why?
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____________________________________________________________________
Flashback: Same day as "Kids in America" flashback.
@BrutalBx & @LovelyComplex

Violet Hawthorne, soon to be junior of Edenridge High, walked beside Francesca Belmonte (six years old), Nina’s little girl, who was in full girl scout wear, pulling a red wagon of cookies. The sweet summer child, a Scout Daisy, had a cold when the other scouts were in front of the Godmothers selling cookies, so she had to meet her quota with her Scoutmaster. They had already gone through Scott Street and now it was time to take on the business owners.

Cesca was determined! She wanted to hit this whole town by the end of the day, with the exception of the southside. Mommy wouldn’t like her going there. Too dangerous. There was a tiny grassy green portable kids radio in the wagon beside the cookies, blasting kid songs. Right now Why Should I Worry from Oliver & Company was playing in the background.

“... whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whooooo. I’m street smart, I’ve got New York City heart,” Cesca happily sang as they marched down the sidewalk. She was a girl on a mission but she was also a girl just having a fun day with one of the people she looked up to and strived to be. Violet had such a smart brain and pretty face. And she was friendly! She also had all the badges ever in the world and a heart made of gold. Mommy loved Scoutmaster Violet, so did Cesca.

The two girls walked down the sidewalk, greeting those walking past them with smiles and waves as they made their way to their destination. Swerve Arcana. As they approached the building, Violet timidly sang with her little one the chorus of the Disney song, “Why should I worry? Why should I care? I may not have a dime. But I got street savoire faire.”

“Why should I worry? Why should I care? It’s just a bebopulation. And I’ve got street savoire faire!”

Nina knew how to raise them, that’s for sure. She kept her children cultured. Most of the shows and movies Francesca knew were things Violet group on, like DuckTales. Cesca loved DuckTales. Cesca also loved the Mighty Ducks and the Swan Princess. A true geek in the making that had a thing for birds, it seemed. When they arrived in front of the comic book store, Cesca was quick to turn off her radio and straighten her vest.

Squeezing her shoulder, Violet whispered, “You ready?”

“I got this!” Giving her Scoutmaster the wagon handle, Cesca led the way, with Violet close by, and went straight to the tall counter. Standing on her tiptoes, she tried to reach for the bell. Alas, she was too tiny and could not reach. DOOM! Violet let go of the wagon handle, picked up the little Belmonte, and helped her ring the bell herself.

Coming out of the backroom, having stuffed her face with a glorious chili dog, Avery Kaine with mustard on her face saw at a distance one of her best friends and a little one. “Just a minute!” In a matter of seconds, the proud lesbian who was unapolgetically herself (a fool, a geek, and a weirdo) wiped her face, chugged down her cherry coke, and loudly belched. Okay, she was good. Making her way to the counter, she leaned over to see the grinning face of Francesca with a cute green beret on. “Well hey little girl, how can I help you?”

Violet took a step back to let Francesca practice her social skills and take charge of her sale. As she let the conversation unfold, she placed her hands in her jean jacket pocket and grabbed a hold of two bracelets she made.

“Hi! Hello! Yes!” Cesca nervously giggled, before introducing herself, “My name is Francesca!” The little Belmonte excitedly cheered, wanting to beat her fellow girl scouts in sales. She was going to be the bestest, she just needed to tell the world these cookies were delicious and they had to have it. She was going to sell the most! “And I’m here today to support the girl scouts, by selling cookies, uh…” She blanked for a moment before remembering, “Four dollars a box! Do you want some?”

“Sounds dope.”

“Really?!”

“Cookies are fan-fu--” Just when she was about to curse, Avery changed her course of words because Violet gave her a death glare, “--dging-tastic. Fan-fudging-tastic, yeah! What you got?”

Clapping to herself, happy this business deal was going smoother than her other ones went, Cesca speedily went to her wagon to showcase the flavors, “We got creamy mint treasures, English butter toffee, chocolate, banana, caramel, s’mores, pecan, samoas, PEANUT BUTTER! We got so much!”

Nonchalantly, Avery dug into her pants pocket, took out her wallet, and grabbed a fifty, “I’ll take five of each.”

Eyes widened and her jaw dropping, Francesca was stunned one person was buying so many! She turned to Violet to see if it was a good sale. Violet smiled and nodded and Cesca was quick to run back to the counter and reach for the money, “Thank you, thank you so much! You won’t regret it. I promise.”

“Girl scout cookies are my weakness, you came to the right place.”

Once the transaction was completed, Violet put all the cookies on the counter, which unintentionally hid Avery’s face, and laughed, “Your dad is going to kill you.”

“What? Nah. He’ll eat most of these before I even get the chance.” Both Avery and Violet’s attention went to the entrance when they heard a loud ruckus.

Stumbling into the large life size cut out of Spider-Man, no doubt Mr Kaine’s idea to help promote the new Homecoming film with new Spiderguy….Tom something…Clay tried to catch it before it hit the floor. He failed. And this was a high school athlete. As he picked up the friendly neighbourhood super hero, he realised that he had now bent it.

“Oops.”

Throwing the red and blue spider dude into the manga section, Clay dusted his hands off and swaggered over to the counter; jumping up and taking a seat onto it when he got there. He reached into one of the boxes of cookies that were randomly there and started munching down.

“Ahoy ladies!” He said with his mouthful.

Violet chuckled as she looked up at Clay. He was a goofball. Turning to the six year old, she pulled out a twenty, “Hey, why don’t you get yourself a comic? It’s a gift for all your hard work! That was a BIG sale.” Francesca was giddy, exchanging her earned money for the collective and taking her reward.

“Thank you, Scoutmaster!” The little girl was quick to disappear in the maze that was Swerve Arcana. A fantasy land for kids.

Exiting the register area, Avery went beside Clay and leaned against the counter, “Look who decided to show up, McDungus.”

“Ahoy!” With proper posture, Violet took one of her hands out of her jacket pocket and shyly waved at her only guy friend (Violet not only had two best friends that were two years older than her but she spent most of her days as a part time babysitter and a full time scout ambassador). As seemingly sad as it seemed, she had more kid friends than actual friends her own age. Even so, she was okay with that. Avery and Clay were extremely important to her. More than they’d ever know.

The dynamic goofy duo adopted her one day in the library. Avery had dragged Clay with her so they could work on their research papers. The first thing Clay did was try to flirt with her, but of course it was rewarded with Avery slapping his head and the two of them finding out that Violet was the VP’s daughter. That same day they found out that she was teased by people in her year for being a ‘school pet’ and her peers thought the only reason she got good grades was because of her mother’s authority. Not actually because she was a good girl and a smart one too.

From there, Clay and Avery taught Violet how to navigate through the school drama and politics, even taking her to her first party. Tha party was a lot of Clay shielding Violet from sexual harrassment and Avery getting high off her goddamn mind. Regardless, Violet balanced them and even if she didn’t realize how important she was to the now graduated seniors, she was. She centered them and made them feel loved, in her own cute way. Tweedledee and Tweedledum liked having a morally sound friend with them. Lord knows the rest of their friends were not this innocent. It gave them someone worth protecting, and it felt good to have her in their lives.

Upon finishing an entire box of cookies, Clay tossed the rubbish into a nearby trash bin and dusted the crumbs off of his shirt. “What’s going down in groove town? What’s with all the cookies?”

“I wanted them,” Avery clicked her tongue as she reached for the Samoas, “I’m being a good samaritan and supporting our local scout girls and whatever charity cause they’re donating to. I’m practically Jesus. The Lord and Savior of cookies.”

“Well, actually, you’re just helping us fund the program. We can only use the money earned through these activities for purposes of giving these girls the resources and tools they need. Like a camping trip, for example. This fifty dollars could go to that. It’s actually against policy to solicit money for other organizations. And immoral. Why abuse little girls to earn money for charity? This is their hard earned money, you know?”

There Violet went… over explaining.

“Got it, got it. These cookies are fucking good regardless of where the money goes. The money could go in a stripper’s ass and I’d be okay with it,” Avery shoved another cookie in her mouth.

“Avery!”

“I know, I know. Language. There’s a child somewhere in here. Blah, blah, blah,” with a full mouth of cookies, Avery glanced up at Clay and apathetically asked, “How are you, dude? Ready to pop a cap in psychos and pedos? Pew, pew.”

“Why do people keep saying this? I’m not a cop yet. I have to go through like four more years of school.” Clay looked at Violet, the smartest of the three and sighed. He loved Avery but sometimes she was the real McDungus, a name she had bequeathed upon him their very first month of friendship. “I’m all packed to head to Lowell if that’s what you mean. It’s a good job I’m not far away I don’t think you’d last five minutes without me.”

With all the grace of a trucker, Clayton did a sudden back roll off of and behind the counter. When he popped back up into view, he was now holding a Monster that his darling Avery had so many spares of in her secret mini-fridge. He cracked open the can and took a big gulp. With a satisfied sigh, he looked at the two girls starting holes through him. “Listen, I was partying with Sawyer last night and then I had to deal with my sister, Duke and Jamie all day. I need the pick me up.”

“Partying hard and then out you go, leaving us behind. Classic Clay,” Avery teased, placing her cookie box down and clearing her throat, “...and how’s Jamie doing?” Of course she was going to use this opportunity to know the whereabouts of her fantasy unicorn babe. Jamie never noticed her when she did attend Edenridge High, so it wasn’t like she stood a chance. Even so, Jamie O'Hara's face was engraved in her mind and as long as she was happy, Avery was happy.

As Avery probed to know about her crush, Violet anxiously moved back and forth on her heel and toes. She kept a smile on and didn’t say a word as her friends talked about their future adult adventures. Part of her hated that they were two years older than her. The rational side in her told her Avery wasn’t going anywhere. She’d be here, in this comic book store, but the irrational side of her said it wouldn’t be the same. Clay was going away and they wouldn’t be walking the halls of Edenridge High anymore. They wouldn’t joke around in the library and then get hushed by the librarian. They wouldn’t exchange snacks in the cafeteria. And she wouldn’t have two older kids to throw cartoon bandaids on when they were being dumb. She was sad at the thought that this was ending but she hid it behind a bright, beautiful smile.

“I can put in a good word for you, Avery,” Clay might have been God’s favourite idiot but in the language of love, he was a certified genius and he knew that his darling nerd friend had been in love with his amazing popular friend forever. “I have known Jamie O’Hara, literally, from diapers.” He took a sip from his drink before continuing. “I can probably convince her to give you a date. I’m good like that, like one of those little baby’s with wings that shoots arrows.”

As if on cue, Clay was struck by a balled up piece of paper. He turned to see his attacker and punched him square in the mouth but before he did, he recognised the face and the hair and that horrible taste in fashion that stood before him in the doorway. It was fucking Oz, flanked by one Quinton Woods.

“You mean a Cupid, you moron.” The long haired metal lord made his way into Swerve Arcana and patted his young charge on the top of his goriest Afro. “I submit for the approval of the Midnight Society, the tale of the infinite mullet.” He flashed the devil horns with a Gene Simmons like tongue wave before grinning. “Go get the game set up, Q, in the back room over there. The rest of the Society will be here soon.” As the boy followed his gamemaster's orders, he darted a dirty look at Clay which was understandable since the man they call ‘The Hair’ had slept with his sister not too long ago and not called her back.

Anthony Osso or to everyone else other than his father, Oz. With his long hair, denim jacket and leather pants, one would assume that he was a Serpent. Yet the actual truth of the matter was that Oz and his family came from Westbrook. He was metal, man. He didn’t have to play the games that those assholes on Carlisle and Scott Street played. No, he was the dungeon master in charge of a small group of high IQ’d and misunderstood teens like himself that he called the Midnight Society. They were the misfits, the outlaws, the ones that the great storybook called ‘Americana forgot about’ when all was said and done.

Oz had almost found his way into this other band of misfits by accident. He had decided to crash Francis Callahan’s seventeenth birthday party as a freshman. He didn’t much care for the Elite and what they stood for. Armed with paint guns and a Sabbath soundtrack, he invaded the O’Hara McMansion only to be swept off his feet by a mousy girl who had definitely had too much to drink.

He made his way over to the group of older kids by the counter and wrapped his arms around Violet's chest from behind. In a stark comparison to his appearance he gently laid a kiss to her cheek. “Hey idiots, what’s going on?” Oz greeted.

With the sudden appearance of her boyfriend, Violet’s gentle soul, modest nature, and delicate sweetness took surface in her face. Her cheeks peeked the pinkest of champagnes as she took her hands out of her jacket pockets and held onto his arms. It was still surreal that she had a boyfriend. A boy with a complicated attitude, trouble as most would put it, but who saw her through their large class of beautiful people. He was in her class too, which meant she wasn’t losing everyone. Her anxiety eased in his hold. She leaned back and looked up at him, before bringing her eyes back to Clay and Avery. People had their opinions on Anthony, but to her, he made her feel important. Wanted. Loved.

Dangerous, hot thing was what Violet thought when he directed her away from the drinking games that she could barely keep up with and led her to a quiet area in the backyard with a glass of water in hand. That night she found out they had English Literature, Physical Education, and Spanish together. For once, she could talk about anything and everything with someone her age and he didn’t judge her for it. This was honestly the best feeling ever and the night ended with her smiling, telling him she would tell her mom about him. And now, here they were, about to enter their junior year, going almost a year strong (she was shy and didn’t immediately jump the gun to date him).

“Well first off: Clay, you’re full of shit. The moment Jamie gives me the time of day is the moment you find yourself alone in a bedroom with Cat.” Avery teased before grabbing a new box of girl scout cookies.

Clay lifted his index finger to pause his friend. “Don’t bring my Kitty into this, Avery.” Using his unrequited love for the owner of the Godmother’s was a low blow.

“You’ll be aiiiight,” Avery smirked, as her eyes went from one friend to the next. “Secondly, gross you two. Save some love for the rest of us. Stop being so goddamn cute.” She proceeded to shake the box in front of the metal lord’s face, “Want some, Ozzy? I bought a shit ton and to answer your question, we just vibin’ here.”

“O-M-G!” Francesca hugged The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury book as she looked at her Scoutmaster in an intimate embrace like her mommy and daddy do. “Are you two in loveeeeeeeee?”

Amused, Avery grinned and pointed to the youngster with her thumb, “I like this kid.”

Violet’s heart rushed at Cesca’s bold question and her blush was no longer only concentrated on her cheeks. Her whole face was beaming red as she said in a hushed, embarrassed tone, “I, um…” Was it silly of her to say this right here, right now? Her honest to god’s opinions, even if they were still young, was yes, but was that being too forward? “...do.” She could only speak for herself. That’s all she could do.

Suddenly, feeling a desperate need to change the subject, scared to hear his response, Violet dug into her pockets once more and pulled out four bracelets. Handmade and woven with love, by her. Green for Clay. Yellow for Avery. Purple for herself. Blue for Oz. “I wanted to show you guys how thankful I am for everything you’ve done for me…”

“Oh neato! Scoutmaster Violet, can you teach me how to make those?” Cesca was no longer looking at the cuddly boy with wide eyes. Now she was hyper focused on the woven friendship bracelets. The little girl’s gaze sparkled in excitement.

“Of course, sweetheart.”

“Well shiiiiii--” Child, there is a child right there, Aves. “--iiiiiitake mushrooms. We’re not going to be that far, Vi,” Avery’s gay heart was touched and with her free hand, the one not holding the cookie box, she grabbed her bracelet. So fucking sweet. What did she do to deserve a friend like Violet? Such a good natured, humble, and delightful girl. Definitely was way too good for them.

With one arm still wrapped around Violet, Oz slipped his wrist into the bracelet that his girlfriend had made. It wasn’t really his style as it wasn’t made from leather, denim or have studs that could kill a man attached to it but Vi had poured her heart into it so then that would mean the world to him. “Fits nicely next to my cuff, thanks little pet.” Ozzy knew the anxiety that Vi was feeling. Through conversations they’d talked about how very lonely she was before the Tweedles found her. Now they were growing up and leaving her.

Clay held up his bracelet to his eyes and narrowed them. He was confused. Not by the bracelet, green was one of his colors but by the entire events of the day. From a weird goodbye with Sawyer, to his time with the Elite and now this. Everyone he had encountered was acting like he was dying. He was going to be two hours away in Lowell. It wasn’t like he was moving across the universe. He tied the bracelet around his wrist and smiled at the demure girl who had fired them. “Thanks Violet, this is very sweet of you.”

“Ok ok ok ok okay,” Oz clapped his hands together to disrupt, a classic move. “Too much loving going on here, now I gotta go take these young kids through a campaign of terror and horror the likes of which no mere mortal has ever seen. That is if I can get Q to stop talking about this goth Asian chick in his class. Like we get it, dude. It’s a fetish.” He dropped a kiss to the top of his girlfriend's head. “I’ll see you tonight.” He looked at the Tweedles. “Catch you later, dweebs,” Ozzy turned and jumped over a plume of comics before making his way through a door into a game area.

“Avery, kid, if we ever get divorced you can have the kids.”

“I’m upset my son didn’t want any cookies. He’s missing out.” Avery placed the box down, the one she had offered to Oz moments ago before Cesca started gushing over the love fest. Lifting her arm in the air to look at her bracelet, she smiled, “You really didn’t have to do this, Vi, but thank you.”

“I know, but I wanted to,” Glancing at her wrist watch, with her own bracelet beside it, Violet sighed, knowing her time with her friends was coming to an end. “I need to go… we have a few more stops to make before I have to bring her to her mom.” At this point, Francesca was sitting on the floor by her wagon, reading her book she had yet to purchase because her Scoutmaster was having a moment with her friends.

“Hey,” Avery shuffled her way to her unassuming friend and pulled her into a hug with one arm, “Don’t worry about a thing, okay? We’re a phone call away. We’re not going anywhere.” From playful with no class to soothing and calm, Avery did what she did best and calmed Violet’s storm, “I know you care. I know you care a lot, Dimples, but things aren’t going to change for the worse. You really think we aren’t going to make time for you? You’re the best of us, Vi, there’s no way in hell we’re going to let that go. I’ll make sure of it,” Resting her chin on Violet’s head, she side-glanced to the future cop-in-the-making and coolly asked, “Right, Clay?”

“Yeah sure,” At that point Clay had already tuned out of the conversation as a pretty brunette was perusing the DC section of the store. He polished off his Monster, tossed a stick of gum in his mouth and like a gazelle in heat, leapt over the counter and slid to the side of the would-be customer. He brushed a hand through his hair of legend and smiled charmingly.

“Hey there, anything I can help you with? I’m Clay.”


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Venus

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A few days before the delivery of the Dear David letters



A @BrutalBx & @Venus Collab
Featuring ReyRey Gonzalez & Alexandria Davies



It was a decent place that ReyRey had managed to swing for her; only the best for Allison’s little sister. It was on the border between the two sides of town; out of the way enough not to draw too many eyes. It would give Lexie the privacy she needed for the job she came here to do; take care of the Serpents when any of their many enemies would attack. It was far too dangerous for a Serpent to go to any kind of mainstream hospital. They had an In at the Sinclair Clinic but that resource was drying up very quickly. When ReyRey found out that Ally’s baby sister was a nursing student, that sparked an idea in the self proclaimed entrepreneur. He DM’ed her and got to talking. A lot of talking. Talking that moved beyond business, that’s for sure. She had so much of her sister in her, it was stupendously addicting.

R2 carried the last of the large boxes into the apartment as the hot summer sun seared his caramel coloured skin. He had to strip himself of his signature jacket and down to his wife beater due to all the heavy lifting. Had it been anybody else, he would’ve sent one of his cronies like Sunshine or Jokes to look after Lex; maybe Creed, but he had another, more important job at present. This was the King Snake’s gig.

With the sweat clinging to his toned, tattooed arms, ReyRey placed the box down with a pile of others before he reached for a nearby ice cold beer to wet his parched throat.

Six years previously, Alexandria Davies’ life as she knew it had been flipped upside down. Her older sister, her parents’ pride and joy and her closest confidant, had passed away in the most tragic of circumstances. A secret drug addiction had taken Allison’s life much too soon at a house party, leaving behind an inconsolable family that sometimes still struggled with the empty space Ally had left behind. In the midst of their grief, Alistair and Renee had turned their efforts into ensuring their surviving daughter did not meet the same fate as her sister. Even though she had been unwillingly thrust into this spotlight, Lexie had tried to meet their unreasonably high expectations as much as she could to no avail. It wasn’t long before she realized she would never live up to her sister’s legacy, and allowed her dejected self to find solace in marijuana, self harm, bad company and the occasional truancy. Eventually, everything came to a head between parents and daughter, and Lex was forcefully sent away from town. Back then, Alexandria had resented it. Looking back on it now, it was the best thing that ever happened to her.

It was outside of Edenridge that Lexie had faced her demons, fought them until she was healed, and blossomed into the confident, tenacious young woman of today. Boston had provided her with the invaluable opportunity to stretch out her wings and fly solo, reaching every goal she set for herself along the way. In Boston, she wasn’t the baby sister of the town’s dead golden daughter. Nobody felt sorry for her, nobody took pity on her, nobody compared her to Allison or brought her up in conversation all the time. Alexandria was free to be her own person, with her own reputation and without ties to someone else’s. The freedom to be herself was exhilarating.

If you would have told her in the past that she’d be packing her belongings in her 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe and moving from the city back to her hometown, she would’ve laughed in your face and called you delusional. Returning to Edenridge had never been part of the plan. She was quite content in her small college apartment, living it up with her friends, with aspirations of getting her BSN and making bank by becoming a travel nurse. But Reynaldo Gonzalez Jr.’s opportunity had been too good to pass up. Free board, a large salary and a position at the town’s cutting-edge medical facility-- all in exchange for providing her services to the Southside Serpents. To somebody else, the mere suggestion of such a dangerous job would be preposterous. But it was the hands-on knowledge and financial gain to be had that really solidified the deal for Lexie. She could always pack up her things and leave again if she wanted to, with the added benefit of a juicer bank account. And, quite honestly, she would be lying if she said that the conversations she’d had with ReyRey Gonzalez outside the scope of business hadn’t piqued her interest about what new things her small town had to offer.

“Thank you so much for everything, ReyRey,” Alexandria thanked the man in earnest as she plopped down on the surprisingly plush mattress of her new bedroom, crossing her left leg over her right. She had just finished helping ReyRey unload the last of her belongings into the cute, cozy, fully furnished, two bed two bath home he had procured for her in the border between the North and South side of town. The physical work, along with the drive, had her energies nearly spent. "The house, the furniture, the appliances-- I couldn't have asked for anything better. It’s all perfect." How he had managed to get everything ready for her in such short notice was beyond her. But she was sure that being the leader of the town’s leading criminal organization meant that he had certain influence in making sure tasks got completed on whatever deadline he demanded.

“Ain’t no thing, mami.”

The King Serpent had kept tabs on Alexandria ever since she was shipped out of Eden. He felt a desire to protect her-- maybe out of some form of guilt? He wasn’t really sure. When he had noted that Lex was going to be a medical professional? Well, that was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. She owed him and he needed fresh blood to help take care of his guys. A few flirty messages and phone calls later and Lex Davies was now here, in a house he owned, doing what he wanted.

She was his.

ReyRey walked into the bedroom, leaned against the doorway and folded his arms. His dark eyes danced around the young woman’s amazing body. In some ways, she was so much like Allison: right down to her mannerisms and the confident way she carried herself. From behind, it would be easy to confuse the Davies sisters. Yet up close it was far easier. Lex had more curves than her sister, and represented their father's Hispanic heritage a lot clearer. The brunette had some sweet tattoos and kittenish eyes to die for. She sat looking at him in some denim short-shorts and a black tank top that showed a lot of skin. Fuck, she was sexy. Just like her sister-- just like Ally.

“Anything else you need?”

Given the eight-year age difference and life circumstances between the two, Lexie never really had much interactions with or paid much attention to the King of the Serpents growing up. She had heard stories about who he was and what he did for a living, and plenty of warnings from adults and her peers to not get mixed up with him or his crew members. When girls in her class had found him attractive back in high school, Lex had scoffed in disgust and voiced her disapproval. Fast-forward to seven years later, and she was seeing the tantalizing appeal of the forbidden fruit right here in her bedroom, in the flesh.

Alexandria turned her full attention back to Reynaldo, who had perched himself by the bedroom door frame, and allowed her hazel eyes to carefully examine his figure for the first time. His black hair was styled to perfection, spiked up in one of those fashionable styles. His broad shoulders and muscled arms were on full display, adorned with tattoos that flaunted both his heritage and his Serpent affiliation. A hint of trimmed chest hair could be seen peeking through the deep collar of his undershirt, which she knew neatly trailed down south and well past the waistband of his boxer briefs. His blue jeans clung nicely to the curves of his lower body, to finish off the effortlessly casual look. But it was the full beard, and that gold chain hanging around his neck, what really sent the brunette down the rabbit hole of possibilities of what could happen between the two inside the privacy of her new home. And by the way his dark eyes were greedily taking in the sight of her own body, Lex knew their minds were both circling back to the heated media files they’d exchanged with one another throughout the last two weeks.

What elsedid she need, ReyRey asked?

That was easy.

She needed him.

Plain and simple.

The days of being an apprehensive, hesitant girl unsure of what she would do or was capable of were long gone. She was a woman now-- with all the needs and demands that came along with it. And the thrill of being dominated by one of the most dangerous, well-respected men in town made her blood boil in ways it never had before.

Alexandria’s verbal response, however, was a more playful one.“A cold shower,” she answered him with a titter, her eyes sparkling with that playful flirtation he would soon get to know well. Her words, although innocent enough, were meant to be interpreted in a more suggestive manner. Yet if there was any lingering doubt about her true intentions, they would be dissipated by what she said next.. “It seems like you could use one too. I’m sure there’s room for the both of us,” she added, a teasing smirk on her lips as she greedily looked over his body once again.

There it was.

There was the difference between Allison and Alexandria. He could tell in Lexie’s eyes: she knew what she wanted, what she needed. Ally never knew. Whenever ReyRey held the brunette in his embrace, whenever the lightning struck him and the fire burned inside, he would look into her chocolate eyes and see the uncertainty, the guilt-- it was a look that haunted him. In some ways, the Davies sisters were mirror opposites of one another. In others, they were so similar, right down to the way they walked. It was hard to get his head around it. He saw Lexie, by God did he see her, but all he wanted to see was Allison.

R2’s tongue swept across his lower lip as he pondered just what was going to happen next. Could he do this? To her? She was there for a reason. Maybe Allison had sent her? Was it her way of being with him in some capacity? The leader of the Serpents took a step into the room and closer to the girl on the bed. He towered over her. He reached out, his fingertips dancing across her warm, silky cheek before tracing down her neck, teasing her arm and breast before reaching down to her hand. Rey grasped it and roughly pulled Alexandria up off of the bed and into his arms. He grabbed the back of her head and moved his face to hers. “You’re mine now.”

There was no hiding the smug smile that lit up Alexandria’s features as she stared at her predator straight in the eyes. She could tell that ReyRey, as the one with the age and physical advantage over her, thought he was in complete charge of the steamy situation unfolding. What the man didn't know was that every action, as subtle as it might have been, had been carefully chosen by Lex in hopes of eliciting the exact response she was getting right now. From the choice in outfit, the strategic answers to his questions, and down to the non-verbal queues, it was all a ploy to lure the King Snake right into bed with her. He might be the one manhandling her and soon doing with her as he pleased, but it was she who was tightly holding onto the reins of the show.

"For now, at least,” came the woman’s daring answer, paired with eyebrows raised in a challenging manner and the biting of her lower lip. Her response, as blunt as it was, held nothing but truth. Although Lex temporarily surrendered herself to the lovers she tangled herself with, the only person she ever belonged to was her own damn self. No person would change that.

She was playing games. He didn’t hate that.

When Rey was with Lex’s sister, Allison did very little in the way of subterfuge or deception. Ally was honest…or at least she pretended to be. Lexie was something else entirely, another beast unlike her departed kin. The problem for poor ReyRey was that every time he looked at the young woman in his arms, all he could see in her eyes was her sister. Every time his dark gaze fell upon Lex, all he wanted was for her to be Allison. He knew she was gone and she wasn’t coming back. But her sister, her baby little sister… Well, she was close enough.

ReyRey’s lips danced over hers; lingering as they shared heated breath. He could feel her heartbeat pounding hard against her chest, causing her whole body to vibrate with anticipation. With a handful of her soft, wavy tresses, R2 pulled Lex to him and kissed her hard. With his other hand he grasped at her throat, spinning them around together until they were against the wall. His actions were met with no protest from the young woman, who was quick to voice her approval in the form of a moan that was stifled by his own mouth. As their tongues danced a wicked game, with the shorter girl’s figure tightly pressed against his while her fingers dug into his broad back, R2 couldn’t help but think that she tasted just like her.

Allison.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by metanoia
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Early Monday after Paint the Silence...
@metanoia & @LovelyComplex

Ever since Friday, Jade hasn’t been the same. Ever since her interaction with The Devil, something about the days and nights that have passed since (save for the one time early Sunday morning she got to shut off her mind and freely enjoy herself), something in her felt off. It was both the feeling she had before she had a visitor that night and what she was left feeling after. Like her mind was being pulled in seven different directions, giving her so many alternate scenarios, so many alternate ways to look at it.

And honestly, Jade was feeling overwhelmed by it. Maybe that’s why she wasn’t bothered by the new batch of letters. She couldn’t even focus on it. Someone was still trying to get under their skin, but she wasn’t in the headspace to give it the attention that it probably deserved. In the back of her mind, she was still playing back the way Hyde exploded on her, his cold hands on her throat, almost pressing on it enough to not put her life in any danger but still control of the situation. His cold eyes.

Damn, they will haunt her for the immediate future.

And you could forget about sleep. Jade had difficulty sleeping as it was, but ever since Friday, she’s only managed to get five hours in total. Between the empty bottles of whiskey that laid around her couch and lines of coke on her coffee table (not to mention a few joints spread across), Jade was doing anything she could to keep those thoughts at bay.

Amidst all of this, her mind often drifted into a place that brought her some comfort. Jade reflected on the past month and how she’s really been distant from those who have always served as her anchor. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, she’s isolated herself to a point. Since the night at Carlisle, she hasn’t been in the right place mentally and now with what happened Friday night, Jade felt like she was one step away from the edge.

She had to get out of it.

So next thing she knew, she had her phone in her hand and dialed a number. She pressed it against the left side of her cheek and it started to ring. About three and a half rings in, it was answered. “Thank God you answered,” she said almost a little too desperately, “you busy, Pops?”

“No, well yes. Actually this is perfect!” Penelope enthusiastically exclaimed as she stopped Charlie’s record player and made her way to the window to peer into her own bedroom, like her forever love had done many times over. “I was going to pick you up. First Mordechai, since he’s like… a minute away…” Lifting the window up, she surveyed the distance from one window to the other. Seemed easy enough. Yeah, she could totally do it. “I need you,” she admitted, turning around and leaning on the window sill, surveying Charlie’s room while talking to her soul sister, “But before I explain why, how are you? It’s been… awhile. You didn’t answer many of my texts. Usually I’m the one holed up and depressed. You okay?”

Jade could only smile as she looked down. Her legs were propped up, feet on the edge of her couch and knees close to her face. “Yeah..I’m okay. Well, okay maybe not. I don’t know…” This was foreign for Jade. Poppy was right this was more a her thing to go so long and yet Jade didn’t have a good excuse for why she was avoiding everyone and everything. Certainly she could have done more, but it was…difficult. And especially with things happening at an alarming rate. “I’m sorry, Pops…I didn’t mean to worry you…Or anyone. After Carlisle, I needed to figure some shit out. I had to make sure I had my head screwed on right before I faced you guys. Not even sure it is even now…”

“J,” Penelope firmly voiced, putting a strand of her hair behind her ear. “It’s okay,” she reassured. The dark haired beauty let her words sit in the air for a moment, wanting to add weight to everything that left her lips. The moment came and the moment went. Poppy continued, with fire in her tone, “First off, don’t say sorry. You have no reason to be fucking sorry for hurting.”

Poppy understood better than anyone that the monsters in one’s head can overwhelm all the senses. The monsters pushed their prey in the corner, forcing them to build walls or run away. Both which were not solutions. The reason they kept quiet was because of the feeling of being a burden. The weight was so heavy to carry alone and yet that’s exactly what they did because saying ‘I’m not okay’ was so hard to do. It was easier to act like you got everything under control and try to minimize your emotions then ask for help. With so much to say, but no bruises or scars to show the battle on the inside, Penelope could vividly imagine exactly what Jade was going through.

“A little piece of advice,” Poppy responded, finding herself back on Charlie’s bed as she focused in on her conversation with her best friend, “If you’re mentally fucked, don’t carry that shit by yourself. I’m here for a reason. Don’t sink without me. You’re never going to screw that mess on - right or tight or however you imagine it should be - alone.”

Look at Charlie.

His mental health took a turn for the worse when he thought he was utterly alone. Where did that lead him? Six feet under. “Who cares if you don’t have it all together. I sure as hell don’t. Fuck, I’m still a hot mess. Growth doesn’t happen when we want it to, Jade. It doesn’t happen overnight. It may not happen in a week. It could take a month or two, but it also could take forever. Growth happens when it wants. And I promise you, when it does happen, you'll know. You’ll know.”

As much as Jade wanted to believe her soul sister (and she really did), there were things she didn’t know. Things that she wished she could tell her, but even right now as she sat on her couch, looking, really nowhere in particular, she still could feel the extreme discomfort when she felt his breath on her. She so desperately wanted to tell Pops about that, but if she felt like this after an encounter that was supposed to be a good thing for her (it sure as hell didn’t feel like it), then what would that do to Pops? What would he do to Pops? Jade couldn’t think about that right now.

Shaking her head, she prioritized what needed to be prioritized. “Thank you, P,” she said with every fiber in her being. Smiling and now no longer thinking about The Devil, Jade said, “Before my sad clown pity party, you mentioned you were gonna come get me? What’s up? Is everything okay?” Jade asked, realizing that before they took that detour she never did ask.

Penelope knew Jade all her life and as much as Jade wanted to pretend she had nothing more to say, Poppy knew otherwise. Her intuition told her that Jade was hiding something from her - that her sister was scared of something or someone. Observant through and through, especially when it came to those she loved. Instead of probing, the James girl decided to shelve her concern for another time and focus on being a distraction for her dear friend. “Did you know that Charlie has a sister?” Poppy bluntly inquired.

What did she say? A sister?

Jade’s jaw was dropped to the floor as she tried to process what Poppy just said. Charlie -- their Charlie -- had a sister!? Of the whole time that Jade spent with Charlie, he never once mentioned having a sister, let alone knowing about having one. Sure, she lost close contact with him in those last couple years of high school before…that happened, but she still couldn’t believe what she just heard. “I..” Jade was struggling to find the words. “No, I most certainly did not know Charlie had a sister. For a while there, I thought I was the closest thing he had to a sister,” Jade lamented while still processing it. “Wait! How on Hell do you know if I don’t?”

“I know because his mom told me,” Pops said matter-of-factly. “Turns out he had an ongoing correspondence with her and told absolutely no one!” There was a bit of salt in that explanation. She couldn’t help but feel annoyed at this big reveal; it only made her feel more insignificant in Charlie’s life. It’s okay, though. One thing Poppy was learning as of late was that Charlie had a lot of secrets. Secrets not meant for her ears, which only made her realize more each day she really wasn’t the girl he loved. “Her life might be endangered. Rhonda has received ominous letters unrelated to the rest that are strictly directed to Mitena - that’s his sister’s name. So I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to Blue Hill? I don’t think I can do this alone, Jade.”

Jade leaned forward, feet down off her coffee table (if you could call it that). She didn’t know how to process any of this. Charlie had a sister and he had been in contact with her even before…everything and never told them? Why didn’t he tell them? Were they not important enough to know? Was there something else he never shared with them? No…Jade had no right to question why Charlie never told her. At the end of the day, she was the one who distanced herself from him, so of course he never told her. But from the sounds of it, he never told Poppy, either. And now she was in danger? Mitena (that’s what Poppy said her name was) was in danger.

“Why is she getting letters? She’s not even involved…” Jade was getting angry for reasons she couldn’t explain. She was innocent in all of this. Whatever anger some might have, Mitena didn’t deserve it. “Of course I’m coming! There’s no way in hell we are going to let her become the target of some maniac because she happened to share the same DNA with Charlie.”

Jade was justifiably angry, but something in her woke up. Ever since her encounter with Hyde and even some time before that, she felt numb--no, it was long before that. Ever since the night at the Carlisle house, Jade has felt an unwavering sense of despair that drowned her in self-pity and an absurd amount of guilt for something that she has tried to not let paralyze her. Anya has certainly helped, but Hyde undid most of that, but now she was feeling…something that opened a latch on the cage she felt she was locked inside of. This new purpose. She couldn’t help Charlie when he needed her most, but maybe she could do right by his sister.

“How soon do you need me ready by? Or should I come to you to make it easier?” Jade asked Poppy.

“I need to wake up Mordechai. Who knows if he’s up or not.” She could gladly say her friend has been sober for about three weeks now. A new record. If anything, he either got no sleep or he was sleeping in. The likelihood of him being out though was unlikely because she could see his Serpent jacket through Charlie’s window and her old window. “I want us all together for this,” Poppy admitted, truly believing this was a family affair and shouldn’t be on just her shoulders to carry. “Come by my place and we’ll head to Scott Street first,” Oh that’s right. Penelope needed to share that too. “I’ll tell you why when you get here. For now, get your ass up and get here.” Penelope not so subtly demanded. One secret was enough for this call. She could tell both Mordechai and Jade together about Natalia being Charlie’s supposed friend when they were both in her family’s home. One step at a time. “And Jade?”

Scott Street? The hell they need to be in the Northside for? As far as Jade knew, they were going on a mission for Charlie. Maybe to stack up on some sandwiches for the road? Blue Hill was a bit of ways out from town, so maybe it was fuel for the road. Yeah, that must be it. “Yeah, Pops?”

“I love you, you hear? Don’t fucking forget that.” And on that note, Poppy hung up.


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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by LovelyComplex
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Shortly after Keep My Head Above Water - Monday Afternoon
A Collab with the Heartbreakers, Nina Belmonte, Avery Kaine, and Rosie Hawthorne-Drake @metanoia



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Sitting in the parking lot of Palermo, Caterina leaned back in her seat, replaying her last moments with Clay. Closing her eyes, her heart aching at her stupidity, she tried to gather herself, settle her emotions, and focus on the now before seeing her sister. Ninetta had this scary intuition and was the only person who could see past Cat’s mask. That is what the eldest Belmonte child did not want.

It was Monday afternoon at Palermo. There might be a customer or two but Mondays were rarely busy. If it was busier than normal, it usually was because it was a holiday. Struggling to put his face out of her mind, seeing how quick he threw on that token, dumb grin of his before leaving the apartment, her heart broke at the realization that Clayton Costigan was so much like her. She was terrified at how raw everything felt with him and how much she so desperately wanted to be with him. In such a short span of time too.

All this time, she thought he was happy. His lifestyle was so carefree, so jovial, so… simple. This past week, though? Broke down her idea of him. She didn’t see him anymore as the boy next door who liked to joke and flirt. No, she saw Clay as a lonely soul who so desperately, like her, wanted to feel loved and needed.

In reality, he wasn’t the only one that built a fantasy around the other. Cat somehow convinced herself that no matter how old Clay got, no matter how many times he made advances, no matter how much time he spent being there for her, even if it was small moments at her sandwich shop, somehow she convinced herself he was not a man. It made it easier to deal with the attraction.

This feeling, the spark, the chemistry, the overwhelming adoration, she wanted to avoid because it scared her. It scared her to no end. In this moment, as she sat here thinking about him and only him, she realized she might’ve always felt something between them. Everytime she found out he slept with one of her friends, she got jealous. Even way back when, when he was an Elite and he slept with that Pinehurst girl, she had some kind of sensation that she needed to bury because she was married and ten years older than him.

When the crowd went wild and she was sitting on the bleachers for his last game, she saw him alone and she gravitated to him, instantly. There was a natural pull, like magnetic attraction. Cat hated seeing him alone and deep down part of her always knew he wasn’t being completely honest with himself. Someone who should be happy… she caught sight of the exact opposite. She saw her own reflection through Clay and she found herself running into him, over and over again throughout the years. Did it really take a night at the Afterlife to realize how attracted she was to him?

This was why she needed to slow things down and think twice. This is why she needed to search for the reasons it wouldn’t work and avoid the hurt completely. It was selfish of her to take advantage of his kindness. It was selfish of her to lean on him so much and be a burden. It was selfish of her for wanting him. He could be happy with anyone else. He certainly looks good with just about anyone he’s ever dated…

But he chose her.

He loved her.

Why?

Coming back from the depths of her mind, Caterina patted her cheeks and put her game face on. In a matter of minutes, she was out of her car and carrying a brown bag with italian cheese, ricotta cheese, porcini mushrooms, and anchovies inside of it. Making her way inside of Palermo, she grinned when she saw her darling sister behind the bar checking inventory, making sure it was well stocked and clean. Surveying the general
area, Cat only noticed two girls eating pasta in one of the booths. Other than that, it was a quiet Monday. “Hey you, I got the goods.”

“You’re a lifesaver,” Nina excitedly waved at her sister, before gesturing with her rag toward the kitchen, “You know where to put it, then come back so I can fix you a drink.”

“Oh, day drinking?” Placing her free hand on her chest, in honest shock and awe, Cat curiously inquired, “Since when did you condone that behavior?” Making her way inside the kitchen, Cat’s eyebrows rose, wondering if her vanilla sister caught a fever. Was Nina enabling her problem? Or could she already tell that her older sister was severely depressed and no smile could hide that from her? So much for trying to play pretend.

Damn empath.

Nina shrugged as she put the rag away, washed her hands, and started fixing her sister a classic Aperol Spritz, “We haven’t seen much of each other since my trip to Cape Cod with our babies. I thought we could celebrate!”

From the kitchen, Cat started putting some of the ingredients away and loudly replied back, “Celebrate what?” While not one to deny a drink, Cat found it hard to believe that her sister wasn’t up to something.

What was Nina up to?

“A new era, of course!” Nina called back.

Returning to the bar, the eldest Belmonte grabbed the gorgeous golden-orange drink and took a ginger sip. Bubbly, refreshing, and slightly bitter. Instead of saying anything, she watched her sister she was closest to lean against the bar, observing her with gentle, yet contemplative eyes. Taking another sip of her drink, Cat expressed her feelings through her face: what?

Puzzled and a little nervous that Nina had a good read already of her emotional turmoil, Cat guzzled down her drink. Stop looking at me like that.

“You know, you don’t have to down every drink that gets handed to you like that. It’s okay to savor it.”

Hey, you gave me this. It’s your fault.”

Cat wasn’t wrong about that.

“That’s true, but I wanted to see something,” Nina admitted, her agenda steadily coming to the surface. “How are you feeling? Since the fight.”

There it was. The worry. “Like shit, but it only gets better from here. We haven’t seen each other since I dropped the kids off, but even then it was brief.” Pushing her glass to her sister, expressing with her eyes for another, Cat watched as Nina took the glass and rolled her eyes. She did make her another drink and this sparked a question that Cat thought she’d never ask Nina specifically. This was more of a Brooke and Harpy thing to do. “Are you trying to get me drunk?”

“Just helping you ease a bit because I know you and I know the news you heard about mom last week is killing you, on top of plenty of other things.” In three minutes, another Aperol Spritz was made and pushed toward her sister. “I don’t usually condone this but you’ve been… scattered lately. Your store hours have been sporadic, you don’t visit me as much, and I can tell you’ve just had a lot on your mind. The test is soon too, are you nervous?”

This is what Cat gets for telling her sister almost everything. Nina knew too much. Well, one thing she didn’t know was the reason behind her shop not opening at a consistent time the past week. It was hard to leave her boyfriend’s side when she didn’t have the kids around and she could cuddle with him until he had to go to work. Cat wanted to spend as much time as she could with Clay which was kind of embarrassing now that she thought back on it. He made her feel like a blushing bride. He loved her tenderly but also fucked her senseless. The best of both worlds. “I’m not nervous about the test. I’m more worried about—”

“—how dad would react?”

“Yeah. But I don’t really want to think about that right now. Or about mom’s time running out,” A lot sooner than expected. Silvia only had at most two weeks left and only her, Nina, and dad knew. Guzzling down her second drink, Cat was not only thinking about how things ended with her boyfriend but also now her parents.

“You know what you need?”

“More booze?”

Ha. Funny.

Cat did a funny.

“No. You need to dance,” Exiting the bar, Nina went to the TouchTunes Virtuo Smart Jukebox and swiped through the songs, “That’s something I haven’t seen you do in awhile. It’s part of who you are, sissy, so you should definitely make time for it.”

From the booth over, Avery Kaine, daughter of the owner of Swerve Arcana, silently chewed a mouthful of lasagna as she read the new Langley. Across from her was Rosalie Hawthorne-Drake, her fellow coworker, daughter of the Vice Principal of Edenridge High, and partner in crime when it came to them being bored out of their fucking mind. Glancing up from her book, Avery’s baby blues gravitated to Clayton’s dream woman’s ass and her attention was no longer on the next adventure of the Paper Warriors. With little regard to their privacy, Avery eavesdropped on the conversation between the two hot Italian sisters.

Rosie Hawthorne-Drake sat with legs crossed under the table, dividing her not-so-fixated gaze on both the issue of the latest Psylocke issue and the gathering of mature hotties that she noticed Avery just couldn’t stop drooling over. Giggling almost at the sight, Rosie tried to keep her nose out of it but Avery always managed to poke at her curiosity even if she didn’t mean to. So naturally, the blonde was also lending her ear to a conversation that they weren’t intended for.

Before Nina pressed on the song she decided on, she turned to Cat, who was already done with her second drink, and reminisced over the times when they were young, with no adult responsibilities, “You had a big test? Instead of spending the whole night studying, you spent two hours practicing a new routine. You wanted number 7 to notice you? You spent the whole weekend practicing new moves just so you could impress him at a party. If there’s one thing you need, it’s to stop your brain for a little and just dance, like you’re in the club everyday. Ain’t got time to cry in it.”

“Okay, NayNay, I get it. You’re worried about me, but I promise you I’m okay. I swear,” Furrowed eyebrows, frustrated and a little peeved, Cat crossed her arms to face her sister by the jukebox. What was she on about?

“How did your 2004 mix for the Shining Star tournament start? Oh yeah, that’s right,” While not a cheerleader, nor a dancer, Nina was the main sibling that helped her sister with her routines and gave her positive motivation when she struggled to learn new moves. Bringing the past back, she pretended to hold a mic (mind you, Nina was completely sober) and began to announce, “Ladies & Gents, it’s time to get lucky!” Unbeknownst to Cat, Brooke crept from behind her, hiding within the bar and made her way to the two girls eating.

“Hey babes, can you record us?” The sexy goddess whispered.

“Prepare for the next chapter of the Edenridge Clovers.” Nina went on.

Confused but distracted by the woman’s sex appeal and smooth, flawless skin, Avery grabbed Brooke’s phone and agreed dumbfoundedly. Whatever was going to happen, it was going to be gold. The comic nerd hoped it was what she was thinking. She prayed to something, anything, anyone that this would be one of her wet dreams come true.

This would be a live lesbian porno.

Only time could tell.

“Whoa, now that was unexpected.” Rosie’s interest doubled, a pair of blue eyes solely on Avery, though they diverted to the gathering of Edenridge’s hottest milf or would-be milfs that totally didn’t serve as the immediate inspiration for the next arc in her graphic novel series.

Beside her sister now, Nina dramatically posed and pointed to the ceiling, like she was Michael Jackson. “This is it, Sisters of Green, back to give you the best.”

Oh yeah. This was going to be good. Once she wiped her lips and fingers with her napkin, Avery started recording. First the video focused on Brooke’s mischievous smirk as she crouched in front of the young girls, waiting for her cue.

Rosie immediately pulled out her phone, though she hid it between the Langley latest that Avery brought and the Psylocke one that Rosie brought. She had to capture this for…research and there was no way in the unforgiveable summer Boston hell that she was going to let not only the objects of Avery’s wet dreams, but now hers, call her out for being a perv. Of course, they’d be right, but Rosie could be a sneak. So as the recording started, Rosie just started to rapidfire the shots. Good thing her camera on her iPhone was the best.

“The legendary Clovers—”

Quietly, Brooke took off her leather jacket to reveal her tight black tank. Unable to take her eyes off her, Avery thought to herself, ‘Gods, this woman is so fucking hot’ and was wondering if she was caught in some fever dream. Little did she know what was yet to come.

Brooke’s gaze went from Avery then to Rosie, all while a video was being recorded. “You two are about to experience a once in a lifetime thing. The Clover Heartbreakers, back at it again. Watch your hearts because we’re about to break it,” She said their cheesy slogan and even gave the camera a wink.

“—Let’s make the Monarchs kiss our…” Nina put her finger on her lips and gave a dramatic, loud, and expressive “Shuush.”

Cat was stunned.

Perking up, Brooke finally got her cue and baby was she ready. It was time for her to shine and cut in. Sauntering her way to her alluring mama friend, Brooke cheered, “We bleed Green: We’re stronger now!”

Cat was caught off guard as Brooke latched onto her and forced her into a tight embrace. “We got you, bitch. We’re always here for you, you know that.”

Then from out of the kitchen, Cat heard Vanessa. “We bleed Green: Can’t take our crown!” Her sister from another mister who too was unhappily married. Wait, did Cat miss her? Not too long ago she was in the kitchen. Was she in the kitchen this whole time?

“Nessi?” She questioned, almost in disbelief. No longer with her arms crossed, the eldest Belmonte covered her mouth in heartfelt shock.

What was going on?

“We live it, we breathe it, you better believe it!” Harper in her cute, tiny black dress poked up from behind the piano. HARPY WAS HERE?! The blonde of the crew jumped in excitement, her boobs bouncing with every hop. Harper pranced with her heels to the growing group and crashed into her friends, giving them a big bear hug and kissing Cat all over.

They were almost complete.

In unison, like the sisterhood that they were, Brooke, Vanessa, and Harper shouted, Lucky Clovers!

And finally, from the second floor dining area, Lydia with her fierce bitchface exclaimed, in the best attempt at a cheery she could do, “This is our NOW!” The moment her best friend, who worked an awful lot, came into the picture, Cat couldn’t contain her joy any longer. She started crying tears of joy, flooded with happiness. Like a wrecking ball, she ran to Lydia, who rushed downstairs and picked her tiny friend up and spun her around.

Cat did enjoy getting picked up… it was something Lyds learned in middle school. Once Lydia kissed her best friend on the cheek, she whispered something in her ear that no one else could hear. “What are you all doing here?!”

”We were sent an SOS,” Harper shrugged, adjusting her dress that was slipping down.

Vanessa tied her hair up, preparing for the next surprise, “Lyds texted us all so we all took some time off.”

“WE’RE GETTING FUCKED UP TODAYYYY!” Brooke shouted, pouring herself a quick shot of whiskey. Ready to get turnt.

“I can’t take all the credit, Nina caught me up so we wanted to do something for you. But that’s enough with being sappy. Let’s dance. I’m only doing this right now so make use of it. I’m too old for this shit.” Lydia explained.

The moment was interrupted when Nina started one of the songs that was on their cheer mix. She played Destiny Child’s Lose my Breath and without hesitation, Cat’s friends got into position in front of the bar and broke into the start of an old routine that was ingrained in their minds.

With the bar as their backdrop, Caterina took center, with Vanessa and Brooke to her left and Lydia and Harper to her right. The dance therapy was exactly what Cat needed. Her deep emotions as well as her overwhelming amount of sensuality, with no restraints, flowed out of her. Flowed out of all of them, honestly. And at least for this moment, Cat was smiling and enjoying herself.

For close friends, the Heartbreakers had undeniable sexual chemistry and together, when they danced, they were aphrodisiac, bootylicious, and dirty. Keeping the camera on these ladies as they danced, Avery looked at Rosie and mouthed, “What the fuck?” This was no joke. A dream of hers was coming true. The Clovers were known for their sex appeal but these five ladies, the Heartbreakers? They brought it up to another level. They broke the goddamn scale of sexy. Why wasn’t Avery born in their year? She would’ve killed to see more of their performances because now watching all this, she was hot and bothered. She was thirsty. Clay was going to want to see this, she just knew!

If she had one word to describe what both she and Avery just witnessed, it might just be a damn miracle. On their damn break, not only were they going to eat some damn good food that not even her father’s world famous Drake Dogs could top, but to be given the show of a lifetime. Avery was salivating, there was no doubt about that. She knew her bestie and if she wasn’t showing it, then it was happening elsewhere that even Rosie didn’t need to know about. Meanwhile, the blonde was getting so many ideas. How to articulate sexuality in a fun, unpredictable way. And those pictures? Yep, they’re going on her private blog as soon as she had a moment to…appreciate the photos intimately.

“All I can say is…wow.” Rosie, thy name is in awe.

Before the two observers realized, one song became another, but the next one was not in the Clover books and completely improvised (Cat and her friends choreographed this on their own). Something the Heartbreakers performed at the talent show (their senior year) and it was to Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty (watch the first dance set with the five girls). At this point, both Avery and Rosie were standing up and moving closer to the show. This was their own personal and metaphorical lap dance and they were living.

Clayton was going to be so jealous.


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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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@BrutalBx & @LovelyComplex
A little bit after Jamie's conversation with Clay - Monday afternoon

To say she was intrigued would be an understatement.

Reagan Ramsey had long forgotten her time in Edenridge and she had done so purposely. Growing up, it was always about the founding families, about the popular crowd that dominated the town like it was the kingdom of Avalon. Reagan, with an IQ as high as hers, knew that to survive, she had to become one of them. So when she turned fourteen and began attending Edenridge High, she did just that, she became one of them. She followed Allison like everybody else because that’s what she was supposed to do. Reagan laughed at every joke, she went to every party, she even dated some stupid jock types. A good little soldier.

Then Allison got herself dead and there was an opening for a new Queen.

In stark contrast to the late Miss Davies, Reagan’s regime at the top of the mountain was tougher. She was not warm and kind like her predecessor. No, the eldest Ramsey daughter was cold and logical. She mapped out every performance down to the absolute millisecond. Failure was not an option. She aced every test with an A+ average and carried herself with such a powerful presence. She was undeniable and unattainable. She was the Supreme.

Once she had graduated, Reagan didn’t look back. She moved out of Eden with the goal of making something of herself. First was college, which she of course perfected. Why? Well because she was perfect. Then came med school. That was a little tougher but luckily for her, she had some friends in high places and got herself a good placement in Cape Cod and a lovely little beach house.

Then why return to Edenridge at all with such a comfortable life? Her sister. Mei was everything Reagan was not. She was wild, emotional, a powder keg of unrestricted energy. They were opposites, true but when her sister called her and told her about the mysterious letters that everyone was receiving, she just had to come back. Not out of care for her sibling but out of sheer curiosity. There was a new player in town, someone with an eye for control. Something that Reagan had longed for her entire life.

After netting herself a cushty little summer gig at the Sinclair Clinic, the ice bitch made it a point to get in contact with old friends, the Royal Flush Gang some called them. Aiyana, Shriya, and Jamie; all three girls were different, vastly so. They came from all four corners of Eden to create they’re little gang.

Their story started in middle school in PE during a pool session when headstrong and whip-smart Shriya, or Riri as her friends have grown to call her, embarrassed a fool of a boy who couldn’t take no for an answer. He was cornering Vivia Belmonte, the best friend of Allison Davies, who seemed to have enough on her mind and didn’t need a sleazy boy trying to touch her. The Belmonte girl was a flirt, she’d give her that, but there were clear signs that Brayden was not her type and was overstepping his boundaries. Reagan had front row seats to this ruthless humiliation and decided that this girl was worth investing in.

While they complimented each other in sharp wit and independence, the two girls shared different values and interests. Riri made decisions for her family while Reagan lived for herself. Riri preferred history and language, while Reagan was and still is a science girl. Riri likes going to food truck festivals and supporting local vendors and Reagan has a palette for fine dining and high fashion. Different and yet, they understood each other like no other. They balanced one another and were each other’s ride or dies. As different as they seemed, they sure as hell looked hot standing next to each other and their presence, especially together? Something fierce.

Along the way, before they entered highschool, the shrewd, proud, and nonconforming duo stumbled upon Jamie O’Hara sitting with the boys that were swiftly gaining the rep as ‘the Elite’. The girls had coincidentally gone to Lyon Park around the same time Jamie was there with the boys and there they approached her, when she finally wasn’t hiding behind her twin brother, simply enjoying the rays. They saw her while she did watercolours at a picnic table and they talked to her. Not for her brother, but for her. They wanted to know more behind the beautiful, whimsical wallflower that was always surrounded by a bunch of boys. They discovered fast it was exceedingly hard to hate anything about Jamie, so from there they decided to take her in as their own.

Beautiful people had to stick together. For Jamie’s status, as a child from a founding family, this was a risk Reagan was willing to take. It helped that Jamie has good bone structure, a symmetrical face, and an in with the popular kids. Was their original intentions not as sugary sweet as Jamie probably thought? Absolutely, but overtime, she found a way in their hearts and someone, at least in Riri’s case, worth protecting.

The last piece to the puzzle of a group that gossip girls called the “Royal Flush Gang”, comparing each one of their personalities to a suit in a card deck, was when Jamie found a girl, not from Edenridge, with exotic, gorgeous features, and a worldly perspective. She hung out with the token metal head, Anthony “Oz” Ossos, two years younger than them at the Godmothers, more often than not. The following week, in November, they discovered that this girl was a transfer and in their year. Reagan and Shriya could not let this beautiful thing go to waste and commit social suicide. During lunch, they gently nudged Jamie to fetch her as the new girl sat all by her lonesome self, reading a book, The Odyssey by Homer.

From there, they discovered that her name was Aiyana Summerhill, they’d call her Yana, and she came all the way from Blue Hill Reservations. She was staying with the Ossos family to attend Edenridge High and get her highschool diploma. Admirable, really. Yana had a mind full of curiosities, ideas, and so many questions. It intrigued the girls. Her whole upbringing interested them, especially when she shared tales of Blue Hill and talked about her absent father, Big Bear. She was a remarkable addition to the Royals and together, they’d take control over the school by being brilliant, beautiful, and a little bit bitchy. That was the goal. However, it was short lived when Jamie left at the end of freshman year. As tragic as that was to lose such a dear friend over mysterious circumstances, they still had three. Both Reagan and Riri would put their claws deep into Yana so that she turns out exactly how she’s supposed to be.

One of them.

And that’s how the Royal Flush came to be and whenever they are seen together, it’s like a blast from the past.

The Supreme couldn’t help but call this little get together of her girls on this fine day. A storm was coming, that much was clear by the black clouds slowly creeping closer to them from across the distant sky. Yet another one was also brewing closer to home. When Reagan had awoken that morning to find one of the letters she had been so excited to read, there was the hint of a glow of elation in the usually stoic woman. Only this letter was nothing like what her imoto had described. This had nothing to do with the Queenly predecessor. No this one was all about another of the so-called Elite; David the Duke. Her sweet little Jamie’s big brother. Maybe interesting things did happen in this town after all?

Reagan sat in the private outside area that she had reserved for her court, her long, gorgeous legs crossed and shining under the morning sunlight. She was dressed in a short white dress, white being her signature colour in the same way black was her sisters. When the high gate opened, she was there, cigarette between her red painted lips, ready to greet her first guest.

“Hello darling.”

Habitually, the first one to arrive, responding to Reagan’s call the fastest, was Shriya. Riri was a fashion icon and a trendsetter. She always had a knack for style and absolutely adored the wedding scene. Contrary to popular belief, she did not pursue a degree in medicine like her parents wanted her to and like her whole hometown assumed she would (she’s a brilliant woman, after all).

Instead after graduation she moved to Pinehurst, assisted her aunt with her clothing shop, Banyan Tree Boutique & Apothecary, and worked on starting her own business. Over the years, with limited assistance from her family, Riri became an up-and-coming wedding planner. Her business plan highlighted diversity and expert knowledge on Indian and South Asian Weddings, with the goal to embrace all couples and work with them to create a memorable and meaningful experience. Regardless of sexuality or beliefs, she wanted to make something beautiful.

A day to remember.

Her business, Shriya & Company, is all about incorporating traditional elements while making the festivities feel modern and personalised. She and her team love to serve a diversity of couples, finding ways to blend each partner’s preferences, style, culture together into a perfect, harmonious mix. Coming in, looking like a sexy tigress, Riri greeted her best friend with a smile, gave a firm, formal and respectful bow, and took a seat beside her. If there was something Reagan learned a long time ago Shriya rarely made physical contact with others in public.

The two women were in the backyard of the Secret Garden sitting in one of the few bistro tables available. The Bolans, with their business partner, Lily-Rose Darling, had bought the house behind their’s, demolished it, and expanded their backyard in order to have the most square footage in comparison to other residents in Eastbrook. Eastbrook certainly wasn’t Scott Street but the Bolans made due with what was offered and now they have the most appealing outdoor situation. A scenic wonder, full of peace, serenity, and love.

Having already eaten before she got here, like the night before since she was fasting, Riri didn’t bother grabbing a menu and ordering something. She was content. Being in the sun with her friends would be more than enough nourishment for her. “Hello my beloved.” Clasping her hands together, resting them on her lap, the alluring woman with a wheat complexion and a gold undertone inquired with her strong, yet euphonic voice, “How well do you think she’s handling this?” She could only mean Jamie, seeing how Riri understood Reagan the best and had a feeling this meeting was called because of the letters.

Reagan tapped the length of her cigarette to allow the flickering ember to alight a little more as the ashes dropped away into the bowl. “Knowing our little Jamie, she’s probably a mess,” the Supreme Ice Queen mused. “She’s likely spent the morning hiding in her fathers den, crying in her Daddy’s arms whilst that idiot Russell scours the town trying to find the postman to beat him up. Neanderthal.”

Some would say that Reagan always wanted to be above her station, that she was desperate to be an Elite which was why she surrounded herself with the powerful women that she did. The truth of the matter was that she never wanted to be one of the Elite, she wanted to overthrow them. Reagan came from an amazing family, her father Will, a tremendous man who bequeathed in her the same warrior spirit that he himself had, Bushido. Shannon, her mother, was shrewd, intelligent, someone who rose above others through sheer intellect and drive alone. Then there was her baby sister, the demon dream girl her fans called her. They didn’t see eye to eye but Mei inspired her all the same. She was unashamedly her, whoever that was and to Reagan, that was a special trait to have.

Riri, Yana and especially Jamie, their friendship was a tactical manoeuvre for Reagan. The world around her was playing checkers whilst she played chess. She brushed a crease out of her dress just as a waitress arrived. “Four Mojitos please, sweetie and tell them to go hard on the rum.” Reagan ordered quickly as she sent the waitress on her way. She wasn’t messing around today, there were too many things to discuss. “You look amazing, by the way. I love that dress.”

With Reagan ordering drinks, it was 5 O’Clock somewhere, Riri knew this was when her fasting would end. One does not simply refuse a drink from the Supreme. Perhaps she should get something small. Too bad they were at a place that only served small dishes like hand sandwiches. She could use some delicious curry made by her brother in Westwood. Before the waitress walked away, Shriya cleared her throat, “Side of fruit too. You know what, just give us the afternoon tea special. I’m sure our girls would love some scones.” The cute waitress with pigtails and a beaming smile nodded before prancing off. Turning back to the ice queen, Riri gave a radiant beam, “Thank you. You look amazing too. You always do.”

Inside Hummingbird Creations, Aiyana Summerhill held onto Jamie O’Hara’s arm, having picked her up and driven them here, and looked around at all the plants. This place was a trap for her. Stopping for a moment, Yana found herself grabbing a heart-shaped leaf of a Pothos plant. Such a healthy baby. With the right space, light, and care, it would surely grow to be such a pretty little thing.

Nope, do not give into temptation. She might be making good money at the reservation working at the casino but she wasn’t making gold and a lot of her money went back to her community. She couldn’t buy yet another plant. She already had three of these! “Take me away, Jamie. I’m about to spend my entire fortune in this godforsaken place.” The two ladies had already had their initial conversation of ‘how are yous’ and ‘do you need anything’ in the car. Now their focus needed to be to get to Reagan. Neither needed to upset their friend by being late. They knew better than that.

It had taken a few hours for Jamie to stop trembling. After initially screaming at Clay about why the letters were still going, why they were now focusing on her brother and why he had mustard stains on his uniform, she fell into his arms crying. He always had a knack for comfort. She then found Russ and he took care of her like he always did. He was a puppy. A big stupid puppy. When her father returned from his morning workout, it fell on Jamie to tell him what was happening. Needless to say, the Coach did not take it well.

She was happy that Yana had made the trip down from Blue Hill to pick her up. Jamie didn’t really want to walk through town and see all the prying eyes staring at her. They always had, ever since she was a little girl. Back then it was somewhat innocent. The daughter of one of the most beloved members of the town populace, the Coach. A little blonde beauty with a big smile and dimples. She was a Foundling: she was royalty. Then those adoring eyes turned curious when Jamie was pulled out of school. Nobody ever really knew why and they were even more shocked when she returned for her freshman year in high school. David was her security blanket and his star shone bright very quickly, the warmth of which helped her a lot. Then it all fell apart again after the “incident”. Jamie left again and this time it was for good but the curious always found a way and those glares became sour when David died. To them, it was like Jamie knew what he did. Like she was protecting him. But she knew. She always knew that he was innocent. It was all wrong, they had it all wrong.

Her eyes were red and puffy from all the crying as Jamie held on to Yana’a arm tightly. She had tried to gussy herself up and make herself look presentable since she knew the Ice Bitch would comment in it. Appearance was everything to Reagan and it didn’t matter how Jamie was feeling, if the Royal Flush Gang were meeting, she had to look amazing. Those were the rules set by the Supreme and one did not go against the ladyship.

“Are things good on the Reservation? I’ve been meaning to come by….”

“I have no complaints. Dad—” By father, she meant the Chief and not her biological one. “—is good at keeping the family tight as ever. Odina did a hula dancing workshop for everyone. That was fun. And business is booming at Blue Suns.” Even with how positive Yana’s experience was at Blue Hill, her tone said otherwise, as if she was getting bored with her usual routine. She loved her home, she really did, but aside from the events they hosted from time to time to keep the community close knitted, it was the same-o, same-o. One thing she missed was living in Edenridge at the Ossos house. At least in Edenridge, there was always something going on.

Not exiting the flower shop just yet, Yana stopped in her tracks to ask, “How’s married life? Russ is treating you well?” The Cherokee woman had always worried about her friend. Russ was good, their wedding was beautiful and prepared by Riri, but… they never seemed like the ideal fit. To be honest, Yana always thought Jamie settled because she was too scared to be alone.

“Russ is Russ,” Jamie lamented. “I love him, he looks after me. Still hasn’t got two brain cells to rub together. It’s a good job he can point a gun and shoot for the army otherwise I don’t know who would have him,” the demure O’Hara twin let out a soft little chuckle before her bright smile fell back to its current default morose state. “He didn’t want to talk about the letter other than to see how I am. He’s not really good with that sort of thing.”

Russell had always been in Jamie’s life. The tall, blonde haired baboon who was essentially the Elite’s muscle meathead. He wasn’t cool like David, clever like Francis, hardworking like Rhett or charming like Clay. No Russ was just a big lug who wouldn’t hurt a fly but definitely had the potential too, like Lenny from Of Mice and Men. He had a good heart. After David passed it was Russell who reached out and made Jamie feel safe. That was probably why she ended up married to him. It was convenient for them both really. Russ served overseas most of the time anyway. They were married in name only really. They loved each other no doubt but in what kind of way Jamie wasn’t really sure.

“Let’s go say hi to her highness then, shall we?”

“We shall.” It was a good thing Aiyana would go out of her way for Jamie. She adored her. She would move mountains for her best friend. Where Russ lacked, Yana was determined to fill. At least in terms of platonic love. Yana knew there was only things a lover could do and as much as Yana found her friend beautiful, they both were extremely heterosexual. They were lovers of each other’s souls but beyond that, they both were searching for more to feel complete. Making their way to the table the other two Royals were sitting at, Yana grinned, “Hey pretty ladies! Long time no see.”

At this point in time, the table had both drinks and food.

“Wow wow wow, what’s the occasion? Riri finally going to be a bride instead of a bridesmaid?” Yana humorously joked before releasing Jamie and taking a seat beside Reagan and across from Riri.

“Ha. Ha. Very funny,” Shriya rolled her eyes, taking a sip of her mojito.

“I’m just saying, all your exes are dumb. You’re killing it, Riri, and one day, one day someone is going to love all of you.”

Jamie shrank into her chair, locking her fingers like a little girl with her head tucked, hiding away inside of herself so as to not draw the attention of those around her but she knew, she knew exactly why this meeting was called and she was just waiting for the words.

“Ladies,” Reagan clapped her hands together to call her court to attention. “We’ll have time to discuss fashion and fun in a moment.” Her dark eyes fell upon the woman opposite, the one that didn’t want to be seen but the Supreme saw everything. “Jamie, darling. Let’s not hide ourselves from our friends. Chin up.” Like a den mother, she called the shots, she always did. “We all know why we are here. This morning we received letters that pertain to our little Jamie’s brother. A tragedy, of course but nevertheless it is our duty as friends to take care of each other and help where we can. Jamie, what do you know?”

Jamie did her best to quiet the voices in her head. She breathed in and exhaled in short moments to find her peace. She looked for David’s smile in her memory, his curly hair and that stupid music that he listened to. He was her happy place. Looking up from her lap, Jamie placed her hands gently onto the table before her. “Not a lot. I don’t know where the letters came from. I’ve never seen them. David never mentioned them to me. You knew my brother, not exactly a wordsmith. Wherever he had these love letters stashed, it obviously wasn’t that good of a hiding place.”

“Do you think there’s more?” Reagan asked. “You said letters. Not letter. So you think there’s more than one?”

Jamie looked towards Riri and Yana for support. She hated feeling like she was being interrogated but the Supreme was the Supreme. “I don’t know. Probably.”

“There has to be,” Yana started grabbing pastries and putting them on her plate. “The date looks awfully familiar.”

“It’s the day after Allison died,” Riri noted, taking another deep sip of her drink. Placing it down, she tapped her long nails on the table, “Perhaps the rumours were right.” David had died under the influence of alcohol and there was talk that he committed suicide. The next day, there was talk about him being romantically involved with a minor but that was quickly brushed away. “Oh and Jamie, please let us know if this becomes too much. I know this must suck. The worst period of your life coming back to haunt you. Whoever is behind this is simply pure evil.”

Aiyana frowned at the whole situation. David was painted out to be a pedophile and if the rumours were true, that would break Jamie’s heart, “Yeah, just let us know if it becomes too much. We’re here for you,” In hopes to ease Jamie’s anxiety, Yana reached for her drink, aiming for the four of them to do a little toast before getting into such a heavy topic. Lifting up her glass with one hand and squeezing Jamie’s hand with the other, Yana asserted, “We’re sisters after all.”

“I…” Jamie gripped onto Yana’s hand as tightly as she could. “I don’t think they’re evil. Whoever is doing this. I don’t…I just…this is a lot.” Her breathing began to get heavy as she fought through the anguish and the stress. She took hold of her glass and raised it with Aiyana’s. “Sisters.”

Reagan clicked her tongue as she joined her friends with their toast. This whole thing was very interesting. Her computer-like brain was running the numbers, the mathematical equation as to why all this was happening. The people, the dates, the wording, it was all there to be analysed and if the police were hiring idiots like Clay fucking Costigan, there was no wonder that they had failed to crack the case when the contents of the letters were about her predecessor Allison Davies.

“It all stems back to that party. That’s where it all changed.”

Reagan had missed that particular evening. Most of the squad had gone down with a sickness. Reagan on the other hand, faked said sickness so that she could purposely miss the Shining Star. Instead she was out on the town in Boston. Without her, Allison’s routine was supposed to fail. The town would lose faith and the Queen would abdicate her throne for someone more deserving. Turns out she ended up dying instead. Strange days indeed.

“Collect yourself, Jamie. We’ll get through this.”

“Of course we will,” Yana reaffirmed Reagan’s words just so Jamie can see she was not alone. After the sentimental part was done, the girls took a sip of their mojitos before going back to the gritty stuff. Today was going to be a long day, that’s for sure.
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Timestamp: a memory and in the present, after homecoming collab

Sitting in a pew beside her mother, Vivia Belmonte boredly turned the pages of a bible. Her sunlit waves were in a lovely lace braid and she wore a black collar dress that hid her blossoming womanly figure. Fourteen at the time with no attachment to the beautiful departed, the distracted, young Belmonte looked around the sanctuary of the soul, over the heads of her siblings and father sitting in the same pew as her. She brought her eyes filled with passion in ice to the architecture, ambience, and atmosphere. It didn’t take long before Vivia realized how dimly lit this church was. How gloomy it felt. Spacious, yet depressingly impersonal. Lonely.

They had lived in Edenridge for ten years now so returning to the Big Apple always felt weird. The world expanded outside of Edenridge. She found herself not liking the city much. She preferred the quaint, small, and charming feeling her home gave and by home she meant Edenridge. She was four when they moved so she didn’t much remember her time here anyways. Truthfully, she barely remembered half of her cousins’ names.

Running her pointer finger on one of the verses, Vivia mouthed to herself, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4.” Closing the book, she shook her head, not understanding how people desperately sought out such basic words.

These words were to comfort the soul during these trying times but to rely so heavily on this imaginary being and thinking He would give the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord baffled the teenage girl. Faith in the unknown was so not her style. How did her parents expect her to trust that all her sins would be absolved and that she would be ready to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, with no fear? That’s the thing. They didn’t. All they could say was they had faith.

Viv hadn’t paid much attention to the liturgy of the mass. She did get up for communion and now they were waiting for the priest to put the sacrament in the tabernacle. Feeling her phone vibrate beside her, Viv glanced at her kneeling mother who was praying with her eyes closed. Quietly, she grabbed her phone and smiled when she got a text from Allison checking up on her. They were going to start highschool soon and Viv knew, she just knew her friend would shine bright like a diamond.

“I need you to be right here with me. Right here, right now—” The hoarse and brittle voice of her mother caused her to jump in surprise. “—Can you do that for me, babygirl?” Vivia laid eyes on Silvia's pain-stricken face, her heart sinking at how shattered her mother looked. Quietly observing her get up from her kneeling position, the middle child of the Belmonte 7 watched her mother take a seat beside her and bring up the kneeler. On the other side of her, Mira (7) and the twins (10) in between, her father had his hand out waiting for his teenage girl to give him the distraction.

Sighing to herself, Vivia dropped her phone in her father’s hand. He had reached over her siblings, capturing his daughter’s gaze with his harsh and stern expression. The person in the coffin was her grandmother on her mother’s side who she barely knew because she could’ve sworn that her mother had stopped talking to most of the family on her side. She had told her that family wasn’t always blood.

We may not be able to choose our relatives but we certainly can choose our family.

Families were people that wanted you and you wanted them too. Those that would do anything to see you smile and who would love you no matter what. The woman who was going to be six feet under by the end of the hour was her mother’s aunt, Rosa Caparelli. A woman who her mom had said was more of a mother than her own.

Vivia knew very little about this woman that rested in the coffin. Regardless of how she felt, part of her unfazed, she didn’t assume the stranger’s story. She didn’t get in contact with people she shouldn’t be talking to, solely for the purpose of digging up her family’s history. It was none of her business and it was clear as day her mom was hurting. Seeing her softhearted mother almost cry, or hold back the tears, royally sucked. Funerals, wakes, and good people dying royally sucked. This whole mass was dreadfully long and royally sucked.

The young minded teen leaned back in the pew and sighed in exhaustion and thought. She could at least try to be present for her mother, not thinking of the past or the future. Just be here, right now. That’s all her mother wants.

Leaning her head against her mother, Vivia softly and tightly questioned, “Why does this happen, mom? Why do people die?”

“That’s a very good question, baby,” Silvia placed her hand on top of her daughter’s as she watched mass come to an end. All things do. Soon they would watch the coffin leave the building and have to follow the hearse to the burial site. “Sometimes it’s okay to just look at the world and not understand. Sometimes it’s okay to find your own answers, but I know you and I know that answer isn’t good enough.”

The matriarch of the Belmonte family stood up, along with the rest, bringing Viv in a standing position too. As the procession began. there was a somber Christian song playing in the background. Silvia continued, trying her best to answer in a way where her daughter would be satisfied yet still curious. “I believe when we die, we turn into stories. It is more than just life after death. We are saved because Jesus died for our sins and our last breath becomes the birthday of our eternity. To me eternity is the stories our loved ones share that keep our memory alive. Really why we died doesn’t matter, Vivia.”

Silvia squeezed her daughter’s hand in comfort, “What matters is I love you completely and you love me. And if you feel like you don’t have love, that you’re all alone and you just want to disappear, just remember you are His princess. He is your protector, your truth, the one that holds your hand when I can’t. You aren’t ever alone and He, our God, will always love you. Death needs no reason, life does.”

The image of her mother faded and Vivia Belmonte, no longer a teenager, held onto a paintbrush. Her eyes fixed on her art piece that sat on an easel. Her painting was the back of Allison staring at the sky in a field of sunflowers. Gone but not forgotten.

Time was no longer something Viv was able to keep track of.

Ever since she moved in with ReyRey she found herself going through the motions. Doing errands for him when he asked, refraining from making contact with her family, trying to keep her distance for her own mental health, and just enjoying the solitude and peace she found herself in (more often than not). Something she rarely had when she lived under her father’s roof.

Placing her paintbrush down on the table beside her, she grabbed the rag resting beside her palette, her paints, her brushes, and a photo album of her and her friends throughout the years. There was a goldmine of pictures of Allison in there. Habitually, she and R2 would look through them together and reminisce. They loved her so deeply. What matters is I loved you completely and you loved me all the same, Baby. Vivia thought to herself as she cleaned the paint off her hands with the dirty rag.

Her gaze locked on her hands and the brown paint shifted to red, like blood on her hands. She was seeing things again. Fervently and frantically, she roughly rubbed the rag against her left hand, trying to clean Allison’s blood off. It wasn’t her fault her best friend died.

No, no. Death didn’t need a reason. It just happened.

Death ripped her best friend away and Vivia had to accept it. Despite that, she kept thinking of Allison everyday, replaying her mother’s words, and trying to convince herself that she could heal from this. God was going to make her strong. That’s what her church preaches. God makes you strong. He was her protector. Her purpose. Her truth. God was supposed to help her. Then why? Why did this hurt so much? Why was she so fucking weak? Why did it feel like His presence was nowhere to be found? Why?

She hadn’t felt the same since her best friend died. She loves to honor her memory through stories but all those memories haunt her head. Now that she didn’t have her family to distract her, Vivia could only think about the one fucking person that saw potential in her, not damage. She took Allison for granted and she couldn’t get her back. She was dead. Allison was dead. And all she could think about was the blood on her hands.

ReyRey sat in his parked Firebird outside of his home. He had bought the house with his first big money deal; a weed connect that had paid dividends. He had decided on the small conclave between the Southside and Westwood as it still meant he was close enough to his turf to make the waves that he needed but it also meant that the quality of living increased significantly. His home was modest, not flashy and for the longest time it was empty but now he had a guest, Viv.

He wanted his place to be a safety net for her, to keep her close. R2 had claimed the Belmonte girl years ago as his own. He had claimed her best friend, Allison, as well but now she was gone and it stuck in his heart like a jagged knife. Earlier that day, he had taken Allison’s young sister and made her his as well. Everything about Alexandria struck Rey hard and reminded him so much of Ally. Her chocolate eyes, her voice calling out his name when they were embracing each other’s bodies, the feel of her skin. But that’s all it was, reminders of that which was no longer here.

Lex wasn’t Ally and she never would be.

He reached over to the cup holder and picked up a bottle of water. He needed to wash her taste out of his mouth. ReyRey swilled the liquid around in his mouth before spitting it out of the open window. He climbed out of the car and made his way up the stairs to enter the house. Making his way into the living area, the King Snake dropped his keys on the coffee table before walking over to the house sitting at the easel. He dropped a light kiss onto her head.

“Mi Corazon.”

Snapping out of her trance from cleaning her hands, realizing it was only paint not blood, Vivia clutched onto the rag and looked up to her man, forcing a half hearted smile on her face. She was relieved he was here. She didn’t do isolation well. From staring into his brown eyes to going back to her painting, Viv absentmindedly placed the rag back on the table. Her tired blue eyes rested on the brown hair in her painting. She missed Allison so much, it hurt. Her memory was constantly on her mind and days like these, it became hard to breathe. “Did you get what you needed done?” The blonde Belmonte softly asked.

“Some of it, it’s gonna be a long day.” He wouldn’t say where he had been. Vivia was not a fool, she knew that ReyRey had other girls but to tell her that he had spent the morning with the departed’s little sister, that would be a lot for the fragile Viv to take right now. R2 rested his hands on the blonde’s soft cheek as he looked at what she had been painting. Allison, a field of sunflowers, her favourite. Everywhere he went he couldn’t escape her. The Queen of Clovers had penetrated every aspect of his life, every aspect of his being and had done the same to Vivia. They both loved her and they were both utterly haunted by her. “It’s beautiful, mami.”

“We were so excited to start highschool,” Vivia gave a half smile. “Before you and me, before Allison and Francis, before she fell apart, we were innocent and happy. I had returned from New York the day before our lives were going to change forever.” She brought her hand up to grab his — never looking away from her painting, “Before the boys, before the thought of our futures, before the distance of her leading the Clovers and me focusing on making my dad proud… I’d like to think that summer was the happiest for us because we were still kids. I remember her begging me to become a cheerleader but I was so determined to not end up in the shadow of my older sister. Cat was the cheerleader and while dad was extremely hard on her, I just know without her, dad would be lost. I wanted to be good enough. I wanted my dad to see me. But because of that, I didn’t see how sad she was,” Vivia frowned. Her grief was hard to bury when she had all this time to think. “I didn’t see her hurting.”

“We never know what’s happening behind closed doors,” Rey looked down at the painting again and the deathly feeling it gave him in the pit of his stomach. “Nobody saw her hurting. She hid it well.” Moving away from his lover and her canvas of pain, ReyRey made his way to the nearby couch and dropped himself down. He understood Viv’s hurt, the difference being that he was probably the cause of the pain in Allison being exasperated by supplying her with the chemicals and the drugs that would eventually take her life. It was his fault. “I’m going to be heading out of town tonight, I probably won’t be home until tomorrow.”

“Busy boy,” Vivia acknowledged, before following suit. Getting up from the stool, she let the painting sit there and take in the somber air. In feathery steps, she walked towards him and sat on his right side. Leaning her head on his shoulder, she closed her eyes, desperately wanting sleep but unable to give in to the weight in her chest, fog in her brain, and tug in her eyes, “You’ll be safe, won’t you? I don’t know what I’d do if you became a story.”

She hated him. She loved him. She couldn’t live without him. Vivia knew that what kept them together was a wish. A wish to bring Allison back. She knew she wasn’t his soulmate. She knew he wasn’t her’s. She also knew with absolute certainty that in their relationship she needed him as much as he needed her. At the end of one’s tether, she prayed for this feeling to stay a little longer. They were each other’s rock and they both were stuck in this endless storm. Without him she knew she’d be slipping, more so than she already was. She was lost and all she needed was to be found. She needed him.

“It’s just routine stuff, mami,” R2 leaned his head down atop Viv’s for a brief second, his way of acknowledging her feeling; a rarity usually but since that night on Carlisle, he had felt his heart softening somewhat to the girl's plight. “Just heading to Blue Hill, pick up the gear and then I’ll be back. No drama. Falls on a good day too since the Monteros are in town and I’d rather avoid them.” He reached out for his phone and dropped a message to Jalyn so she would know what time to expect him. It was coded for eyes only of course, so Viv would have no idea he was going not just for weed. “It’ll be ok.” He placed an arm around the Italian woman and gently caressed the point just below her ear. It was something he did with Allison as well, all his lovers, a tender spot he knew made them feel safe. “I miss her too.”

“Can we just sit here until you leave?” Vivia didn’t want to talk anymore. Talking took a lot out of her. The more she talked the more she realized how empty she felt. “I need you to be right here with me,” No talk about business. No talk about their pain. No talk about anything. Just him and her, holding onto each other. “Right here, right now. Can you do that for me, ReyRey?” She needed a break from the past and she had no idea where her future would lead her to. Maybe dead, right next to Allison. That would be a dream.

For now, she wanted to be present with the one comfort keeping her together. The one person that reminded her it was okay to feel what she felt and that there’s nothing worse that could happen to them because they’ve already gone through their nightmare. They already lost the person they loved so, so dearly. So, so deeply. They were already broken beyond repair and she’d rather sit in this pain than talk about it. She needed him.

ReyRey didn’t say anything back, he just squeezed her closer to him. Wherever he was, he was surrounded by pain, guilt and hurt. He felt like Caesar, succumbing to a thousand stab wounds albeit slowly. His strength, his fire, it was leaking out of him slowly like blood from a bullet to the head. His father was an old broken man. His sister, the first to ever name him ReyRey, was tormented by the devil himself. Vivia, the one that should have his heart but whom he is unable to give it to because it was buried six feet underground in the hands of Allison Davies; she was barely human anymore. She was a husk. Nothing like she once was.

They say only God forgives, in Rey’s mind, God only forsakes.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

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@BrutalBx & @LovelyComplex
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Muttering curses in Russian to herself, Anya trekked from one side of town to the other. Examining her wrists and the tight red marks around each, signs of being restrained, she spat on the sidewalk and kept moving forward to her next destination. All in a day's work. Around her neck rested royal blue, noise-canceling bluetooth headphones and blasting out of them was sudno (Boris Ryzhy) by Molchat DOMA.

First, she grabbed her headphones and put them on her ears, eliminating one of her senses to her surroundings, which allowed her to focus on her biggest strength. Her eye sight. Pulling her jacket sleeves down to cover her recent job, she stood at the corner waiting for the light to turn red. With a harsh, cold, and distant look, she bobbed her head to the music. A complete contrast to her bitchface.

When the street light transitioned, Anya stuffed her hands in her pockets. Her contemplative gaze scanned the liveliness of Main Street before she took a step forward. Casually, she smiled and nodded at those that walked past her. They barely made eye contact with her, caught up with their day. As per usual, nothing changed in Edenridge. Briefly, she looked over her shoulder to survey behind her. When the close was clear, she turned into an alleyway and disappeared.

Hyde emerged from the taxi and stepped out onto Main Street, leaving it parked by Absolute Sound. Having this new set of wheels thanks to that mouthy little prick did have its advantages. Now he didn’t have to walk everywhere being the main one.

He blew the fire from his lungs before tossing the cigarette he was smoking down into a nearby storm drain as he gazed out upon the hustle and bustle of central Edenridge. He really fucking hated this Norman Rockewell painted bullshit. All these faces, all these places, empty souls the lot. Plastic mannequins painted to look like people. Stardust floating in infinite space whilst angels danced upon a pinhead…or maybe it was just a town of cunts.

Either or.

Placing his bloodied hands into his pockets, the Devil took one step forward before noting a whisp of blonde hair that he recognised instantly. “Well well,” Hyde’s little wolf of a sister roaming amongst the sheep. He had been watching her for days, like a good big brother should, making sure she stayed in her lane. Anya had her own life, Hyde wasn’t about to interfere unless he had to but damn was he curious.

She has been spending a lot of time with Jade which was fine, everybody needed a distraction now and again. Every Sunday, in the diner his mother once worked, she would be there, socialising with the suicide blonde, acclimating to the human condition and becoming more and more like one of them. At first, Hyde had followed purely due to his deal with Taylor but then it became much more. It became a primal instinct that he could not ignore. He was interested to see what the young child of Zima was up to on this fine morning. Hyde knew she had worked the previous evening, that was something he didn’t have to get involved in but what she was doing now? Well he took a few steps forward and began to follow his sibling,

It was a big brother's job to protect after all.

Climbing out of the dumpster with a duffel in hand, Anya dropped it on the floor, then followed suit. Wiping the garbage off her, she grumbled to herself. She hated this part. Once she was cleaned, she grabbed onto the bag and picked up her pace, checking her pocket watch. She needed to get going or else the bitch would whine to her caretaker about her ‘slacking’. Returning books a minute late was intolerable at the library.

Taking a quick right, the Basilisk found her destination in sight. The place she frequented and unbeknownst to most, slept at. The public library. Stopping in her tracks, she looked up at the sky, feeling eyes on her. The same eyes that had been watching her for days, weeks even. She was surely going to hear a mouthful from the Librarian for leading the Devil into deep waters.

Oh well.

Anya was a puppet in the grand scheme of things and if that meant she had the Devil beside her constantly, well, that didn’t seem like a ‘her’ problem. Spitting once again to the side (she was chewing tobacco), Anya strutted forward, seeing the mayor’s daughter at a distance entering the library. Such a regular, that girl. The Librarian adored the youngest Grimm baby. Instead of entering the library through the front entrance, she slipped through the gardens, sought out the cellar door, unlocked it and disappeared once more.

What were the sordid details hidden in the pages of the thousand and four books at Edenridge Public Library? And what was it that kept driving Anya back there? Hyde knew of his proclivities, he knew what she did and when she did it but he never knew the why or the who? Her reasons were her own or she was working for someone. He had his theories, of course he did but at the end of the day it didn’t really matter. A girl’s gotta eat.

Hyde climbed the steps and entered the old building. He hadn’t actually been there in years, physically inside of the building. In Mrs. McLaren’s class in middle school, he and Jonesy tried to set fire to the history section as a prelude to the Burning Boat Festival. Jonesy was immediately caught by a librarian and reprimanded and of course, blames Hyde for the entire thing. That was fine, he was going to get a beating when he got home one way or another. It just meant that it would be the studded belt rather than the simple leather one.

This building just felt old. He didn’t believe in the ghost stories of this town but if he did, he would certainly believe that this library was haunted by all manner of the macabre. Hyde wandered the shelves, his cold blue eyes drifting around the stacks, looking for any sign of Anya.

Tossing the duffel bag on her cot, Anya scanned the muted wall with photos of many faces of Edenridge and all the threads that connected them together. Cracking her neck, her eyes resting on the photo of the Mayor’s daughter — a sign of curiosity and interest that didn’t belong to her. Swiftly, she cleaned herself with a sink and changed into fresh clothes that didn’t smell like garbage. Grabbing the cup on her sink, she pulled out the tobacco between her cheek and lower lip, and dropped it. Disgusting habit of her’s. She hated it.

After checking her pocket watch once more, the Basilisk sighed and made her way upstairs, leaving the duffel behind. Time to show her face and pretend to feel fulfilled. All in a day’s work. Walking out of the basement door, she went through the murder mystery section and entered a small sitting area where Kylee Grimm was on her laptop. The girl looked sad.

Instead of invading the Mayor’s baby girl’s privacy, Anya glanced at the Librarian who was helping someone check out books. It looked like a romance fanatic. Not even a good romance series of books either. It was a trash romance: Fifty Shades of Grey. Gag. She never read it but she was told of all types of books here, seeing how she was seen as the Librarian’s assistant and needed to know how to direct people to their interested genres. Make suggestions. Just bullshit her way through this place, acting like she knew books like that Decker kid did. The women locked eyes with one another -- a sign of acknowledgement. Once the older woman gave a subtle gesture to go away, the blonde disappeared once more into the labyrinth of books.

Now he was getting annoyed. Hyde rhythmically tapped his fingers together to try and steal the growing fever in his blood. This place was a fucking maze and somewhere in there was Anya. Why couldn’t she just go sit on a wall ledge like all the other fucking bitches? No she had to come into this dustier than a nun’s cunt place and play hide and seek. Fuck, if she wasn’t family he would throttle her in her sleep.

Taking a deep breath, the Devil listened out into the silence for footsteps. It was early, there really couldn’t be that many people in the library. He could hear the shuffling of feet a few stacks down. Turning on his heel, he made his way back from where he came from until he reached a new section and sure enough, the familiar golden hair stood at the far end of the shelves.

“I understand the need for a cover but this is a bit much isn’t it? Unless your hiding bodies in the cookery book section.”

“Hello brother,” Anya grabbed a book off the shelf and absentmindedly opened it. After a brief moment of silence, she showed him the cover, “You like poetry?” The book was Paradise Lost by John Milton. “This book speaks ‘you’. I don’t know how to read but I was told how it go. ‘Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven’,” The quote sounded like a parrot mimicking someone else’s words, in decent English but still slightly broken.

“The fuck does that even mean?” Hyde shook his head. “And how can you be an assistant in a damn library if you can’t even read? You know what? Not important.” The more Hyde found out about his sister the more confused he got, she just didn’t make any kind of sense. Anya was certainly not as simple as she made herself out to be. Grabbing a nearby chair, the dark passenger dragged it out from a table and took a seat. “Sit down,” his tone shifted quickly. The slight jovial voice he held before was now replaced by something much more serious.

Closing the book, loudly, so that it echoed in their area, the Basilisk dully blinked at her brother. He was silly to think that tone worked on her. It might have worked on all his past lovers and Ley and whoever else thirsted for him before he choked them out, but she was a different creature entirely. Strolling to the table, she dropped the book in front of him and clicked her tongue, “Is this so you tell me why you follow me here or why you come to diner Sundays watching me?”

He should’ve known that Anya would’ve clocked him. She was much better at that stealth shit than he was. Problem was she had gotten sloppy and if Hyde could follow her anybody could. “You? Oh dear sweet precious simple fucking Anya.” With a slap of his palm on the table, Hyde stood up to his full height. “I’m not there for you, I’m there for that pretty little girlfriend of yours.”

Crossing her arms, watching him, a decent difference in height, Anya was unfazed at the mention of Jade. This was how her brother liked to play ball. He liked getting a rise out of others. Press all their buttons until he attacks, attacks, attacks, striking fear in them. He did love seeing all those girls squirm. “Great. So why you here then?”

“I’m here because you are losing your touch,” Hyde grabbed a hold of his sister's wrists and held them aloft between them. “Tied up were you? You let someone get to you. I followed you and I’m a fucking moron. You think nobody else could track you here? Sloppy behavior, Anya.” As the siblings spoke, another body turned into their stack and Hyde pointed a single finger at them. “Walk away now or I will tear your fucking nose off.” As swiftly as they had arrived they left, “And we need to talk about Mika.”

As her brother held onto her and Hyde was making a scene, Anya’s eyes immediately went to the camera. Shaking her head, warning her brother to stop, she gestured for him to grab her hand so she could lead them somewhere more private. It was his to take but she wasn’t going to say or move until he willingly agreed.

The fuck was this? He watched his sister’s eyes climb over his shoulder and he glanced back ever so slightly. In the corner of his peripheral he could see something and with his trained eye he could tell it was a camera. She was clever. Hyde normally wouldn’t be too worried about being seen but judging by the look on Anya's face maybe this time he should be? He took a hold of the blonde's hand and let her take the lead.

Sliding, creeping, and maneuvering around the library, avoiding all areas where she knew there were cameras, only getting caught on the ones that seemed to lead to the bathroom, Anya took out a large set of master keys and brought Hyde to the restricted and first edition book room. This room was temperature controlled, keeping these ancient books that likely cost a fortune and that were delicately repaired in mint condition. Slithering in like the mythical snake she was, she pulled her brother in and closed the door behind them, “You no come here no more. We can talk. You have my number. Whenever. I don’t care. Just not here.”

“Not here? Not here?” Hyde chuckled slightly. Anya and her secrets. “Anya I will burn this fucking place to the ground,” He hissed before taking a step back. He had to keep reminding himself that the woman standing before him was his little sister. That she was family. She was riling him up. “You don’t ever, tell me what I can and can’t do. Nobody does. Remember who you’re talking to.” He placed his hands on his hips and sighed. “I need you to do better, for this family.”

“Or what? You hurt me? Strangle me? Kill me? Please.” Anya rolled her eyes at her brother who knew very little about her. He never even saw her fight. In addition to all that, he was so, so, so very stupid. Burn this place down, make a whole new set of problems in this hellhole they called home. Enough. This might work on girlfriends but I am not them.” Leaning against the wall, eyeing Hyde, she waited not so patiently, “What about Mika?” He was wasting her time and now she had to see if she had more work on her plate in terms of keeping an eye on their naive little brother.

He had to stay calm. He had to maintain his composure lest something terrible was going to happen. “I don’t trust our darling baby brother,” Hyde spat his simmering rage into the floor in a MM unhygienic glob. “Since I got out, something is different. He’s not himself, he’s gone soft. They’re going to eat him alive, assimilate him into one of those white picket fence, holier than thou, pieces of wank. We are not going to let that happen.” Running a hand through his red hair, Hyde gazed upon his sister as she glared at him. “Big brother is home now and it’s time for a change.”

Walking towards the bookshelf that housed tomes of days gone past, of stories of a generation, one of a kind books, Hyde reached out and claimed one into his embrace. “You need to tighten up your shit, Anya, and we need to bring Mika back to his real family.” Reaching into his pocket, the Devil pulled a lighter and flickered its flame into life. He held it against the ancient text before it caught fire and he tossed it into a nearby trash bin. “We’re gonna burn anyone that gets in our way. Anyone.”

“Including Gonzalez?” Anya raised an eyebrow, not understanding what was wrong with the fantasy of perfect suburbia. If anyone out of the three of them could live a trauma free life and just exist, that was Mikhail. “Family with your son?” Hyde should know that there were many players in this town that changed how Mika saw things. His second family, away from Ivan. The Southies. The O’Haras. That cute little redhead, Caitlin Cleary, he carelessly took around in his truck.

“Oh!” The Basilisk had just remembered. Pulling out her phone, she started spamming her brother with pictures. “You asked, there you go.”

Hyde looked upon the face of his child and he was lost for words. What a beautiful boy. He was innocent and pure, such a bright smile and he didn’t even know that his father existed. He had watched from afar as Ley took the child hand in hand through life. It was killing him. He shared the same eyes as them all, the Zima eyes, cold, frosty but his had a subtle warmth, like the warm water of a hot spring. Part of him wanted to let this lie, let his boy be raised to join the hive but then again, Rafael was a part of him. He belonged with him, he was his son. “You heard me,” He stated. “We’ll burn anyone.”

“And… the plan? Mika has life here. Something you, me, don’t.” A month ago, Anya would be in full agreement with her brother, believing Mika was going soft. What brought them together was their hardships and their hate for their father. But then she met Jade and Jade treated her not like a weapon, not like this tool, and not like a means to an end. She treated her like a human.

Maybe deep down, Anya did have a heart and actually hated her circumstances. Maybe deep down, she was losing her touch because she was sick of it. She didn’t want this life anymore. Whether it was doing the bidding for one group or another, her caretaker or her psycho brother, Anya never felt like her own person. She was here to get a job done. Nothing more, nothing less. Still, she held back telling Hyde everything she knew. The Basilisk was sure the man knew about Mika’s family, his sisters, and all his friends on the Southside, like Mordechai and Penelope, but she also knew he had no idea about the object of all Mika’s desires. The bane of their brother’s existence. His weakness. The woman that made him want to do better. A privileged, mousey girl that was born and raised on Scott Street. “What.. you want me to do?”

Hyde looked over at the burning trash fire that he started and lost himself in the flames. “I want you to do what you do best. See everything. Know everything. Then when the time is right we’re going to destroy the source of this family's problems. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” While taking in the fire with her brother, Anya grabbed her pocket watch for the thrice time. The sound of time was comforting to her. Like life, it kept going; each second counting, and one day, she knew her clock would stop and there she believed she’d be at peace. Dropping it at her side, her gaze glanced to her older brother as she subtly dismissed, “I’ll text you.”

Hyde nodded his head. This wasn’t where he thought this conversation would go but that’s where it was. He looked at his sister once more before pointing to the growing blaze beside them. “You might want to put that out, love you,” And he truly did he thought to himself as he departed the library.

It was a shame he was probably going to have to kill her one day.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by metanoia
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metanoia

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TIME STAMP: A couple hours after "Make Your Own Luck"
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When Mika returned to his Lost Souls Apartment from his time spent at the Edenridge High School gymnasium, he didn’t even bother changing out of his doubtless sweaty and dirty clothes. He found a spot on his shitty couch. He tossed his phone onto the coffee table, ignoring the fact that he left his tv on and the 7 O’Clock news was on. He muted it, deciding that he didn’t have the energy to spare to pay attention to whatever they were talking about. Instead, he just laid there, stomach first, arm under a pillow he forgot he left on the couch, and started to feel himself drift off.

And for a while, it was actually working. His eyelids were heavy, but he kept hearing something. As he faded in and out for about fifteen minutes, Mika finally opened one of his eyes up. He heard his phone go off. He groaned, rolling his eyes. “Can’t a guy just get some sleep?” He complained, feeling every bit of the temperamental guy he could be on one of three occasions: when he’s about to punch someone out that deserved it, when he’s so hungry he’ll fight anyone that looks at him the wrong way, and when he’s just trying to fucking sleep.

He forgot to look at the caller ID and answered. “Whoever the fuck this is, hang up now--”

“Mikhail…I wasn’t certain you would answer.”

He didn’t register the voice until a few seconds after that chilling tone rested in his mind. His eyes widened to the point that he had a surge of new-found energy that propelled him upright. He groaned again, of course as his stiff joints cracked, but he was alert and focused. He just wished he wasn’t alert and focused on him.

“Ivan. Why are you calling?”

“So it’s Ivan now. No longer ‘old bastard’ or ‘sperm donor’? I suppose I should call that an improvement, And apologies if it’s too early--”

“Don’t try and get me sidetracked, Ivan!” Mika roared. He was not only audibly angry, but visibly agitated. “Why the fuck are you calling me at any time? Didn’t Big Rey tell you? I want nothing to do with you anymore! And mom doesn’t either!”

“I..I’m aware. I’m sorry, son. I hope Mary is holding up well. Last I heard, she’s being well taken care of. Reynoldo informed me that she is taking up residence in the Lost Souls apartment complex. Third floor if I remember properly.”

Of course, he would know. Mika cursed under gritted teeth but tried to keep the cold storm of his rage under wraps for the time being. “That’s right. She’s in hiding. She can’t be with her family because of the dangers you put on us.”

There was silence until Ivan’s coughing was heard. “But she is doing well? Have you seen her recently? What about your sisters, son?”

Mika rolled his eyes, realizing he was just too damn fucking exhausting to keep this up. “Yeah, mother is good. She is making the most of it. And you’ll be happy to know that Uncle Gustav is doing what you couldn’t--” Or wouldn’t. He let out a sigh. “But why are you really calling, Ivan? You only give me three calls every year. It’s not my birthday and it’s not Christmas or Thanksgiving. So what is it?”

“I..” Ivan seemed to hesitate, clearing his throat (Mika had to assume). “I..just wanted to check in. It’s…I hope you’re well, Mikhail. I hope you aren’t letting life slip through your fingers. My mistakes…they aren’t yours to shoulder. I know you’re still quite angry at me, but don’t forget to love and live.”

Only half of what Ivan said really clicked. Mika heard his father’s words, but he also didn’t. He didn’t care to listen -- to really listen -- to what that monster had to say. “Yeah, I’ll do that just after I go take a fucking dump.” Mika stood up, realizing his joints were stiffer than he they felt like. “Talk to you in five months, Ivan.. Or not. Whatever you feel is most convenient.”

Mika hung up before Ivan could get another word in. And when he did, he tossed his phone on his couch and grunted in the annoyed way that seemed to be the default setting whenever Mika was forced to entertain calls from his good-for-nothing father. Ivan always had to do it, didn’t he? Make things worse for both of them. It was bad enough that Mika had to suffer through those calls when he knew they were coming, but to receive one from him without warning. What was he even thinking? Why did he even want to call him? Mika didn’t understand and maybe he never would. After everything that asshole did to him, Mika couldn’t care less what Ivan wanted.

“Don’t forget to love and live?” He repeated those last words as he sat on the toilet of his bathroom. He spent a good ten minutes thinking and pushing a big one out.

Shaking his head and wiping, Mika flushed and made his way to his kitchen, grabbing a can Rockstar Roasted, the coffee energy drink. He bought a few cans of them last night and thankfully his asshole brother didn’t come by unannounced and help himself to them. Now that he was thinking about it, Mika hasn’t seen nor heard from Cameron in quite some time. Not that he was complaining. His mental health and general mood haven’t been any better in the time that’s gone between their last unfortunate encounter.

Mika groaned and drank about half of the can, trying to push the thought of the Devil out of his mind like he did on his toilet when he was thinking about his father. He had to focus on things that actually mattered. Eventful morning with the Coach aside, Mika had to figure out what he was going to do today. Was he going to just have a lazy day in his apartment or maybe go see his mother before he went and hung out at Edge? That didn’t sound like a bad idea, in all honesty.

Actually yeah, that’s what he was going to do.

In a matter of just thirty minutes, Mika took a quick shower. Feeling refreshed, he changed into a simple outfit consisting of one of his hoodies (today’s was white), a dark-colored shirt (black), and navy blue jeans that were so dark that they could be confused with black. When Mika decided that he would do something, he always followed through and today he would spent a few minutes with his darling mother, the light of his life, and the ever-reliable moral compass that set things right for him whenever he was feeling lost and then he would spend at least a few hours at Edge. Some of the serpents were bound to be hanging around this time of day and Mika didn’t have any other plans for the day, so why not, right?

As he started to head out, Mika grabbed his keys, another can of the good stuff for the road, and a donut he bought yesterday. Next day donuts were better, anyway. Just as he was about to head out. Literally had his hand on the knob, Mika stepped on something that had went overlooked. A single envelope was on the floor. He bent down to pick it up and examined the exterior of the white envelope. It was addressed to him but had no return address. Part of him wanted to ignore it. Actually, he was going to, but for some reason he couldn’t really explain, he stopped himself in his tracks. He took a seat at his crappy ass table, set his donut and can of rockstar caffeine on the table and opened the envelope.

There was a letter.

And his stomach sank.

“Shit, is this another one?” Mika cursed a few more times.

He remembered telling Hyde how he didn’t care much about the letters. The last batch were about Allison Davies. He didn’t have anyone exceptionally close to him that centered around her, but Charlie, even if Mika wasn’t close to the late Charlie Decker, he was close with Boa and Poppy. And they were as close to someone as you could get without marrying them. So his mind went to them first. If it was another Charlie letter, then what would it be centered around this time? Who among his close friends would be a target this time?

Mika unfolded the letter and started to read. Just in the first paragraph alone, something felt different. The language from the letters past wasn’t present. In the letters from before, there was a certain way the words were phrased. Almost in a poetic sense. In this one, while it still felt loving in some way, it was different, yet as he read it, it felt…familiar.

“O’Hara 23..” Mika echoed the part of the letter he read. O’Hara 23 - that was David’s number, right?

As he went down the letter, reading it once to take it in (regardless how much it hurt to do so), he read it a few more times. Mika analyzed the language used. He allowed himself to become immersed in this letter -- no, the singular part of a love story that felt not like a stranger reading something for the first time but memories of the past (fond ones at that) trying to come back but nothing was clicking yet.

From the unique perspective this letter had, Mika could surmise that this was definitely someone who was, at a time, romantically linked to his late cousin. The language, the personal way this person’s words were phrased -- that much he knew was obvious. It was obvious and yet why did Mika feel like he knew this way of speaking? This way of conveying emotions and the thoughts that went through the mind?

God it was too early for this, but it was killing him. God, it was killing Mika so much.

Wait.

Close family ties? Family…

“Living outside of family’s shadows…”

And there it was. Like a neon sign shielding by the back of a big rig, it was right there in front of him and it smelled of sweet aromas on a day that Mika couldn’t believe he didn’t think of first. “It all comes back to that one day” was the last thing Mika said before plans changed. He was out the door of his apartment at Lost Souls and was driving into the Northside. There was only one place he knew he had to be right now.
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A @metanoia & @Venus Collab
Featuring Mikhail Zima & Caitlin Cleary’s First Interaction

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M A R C H 2 0 1 8 | S P R I N G T I M E


Clear, blue skies with rays of warm sunshine balancing out the chilly breeze were gracing the small town of Edenridge during this lovely March afternoon-- and Caitlin Cleary was taking full advantage of the favorable conditions to indulge in a little outdoor reading. Wearing a pair of white leather combat boots, black leggings, a charcoal gray sweatshirt tunic and the denim jacket with the fur-lined neck that had matched David's, and her slim legs tucked underneath the plaid sherpa blanket she and David used to share, Cece was more than ready to enjoy her time in solitude. She sat under the shade of a tall oak tree near David's grave, her back resting against its thick trunk while all of the girl's attention was captivated by the pages of, of all books, Romeo and Juliet.

Ever since the passing of her boyfriend David O’ Hara in the winter of 2017 on New Year’s Day, Caitlin’s afternoons had undergone a major change in routine. What was once time spent at cheerleading practice in the Edenridge High’s gymnasium and football fields was now occupied by near daily visits to the cemetery in which her boyfriend’s body had been laid to rest. Cece would make sure that his gravestone was clean, his flowers watered, and that any weeds starting to grow around the area were removed from the soil by her own hands. She’d spend hours sitting in front of the young man’s grave dealing with her grief in her own strange, therapeutic sort of way. Sometimes, it was by speaking out loud to catch David up in what was going in her life or through her mind at the time. Other times, like today, it was just sitting in peaceful silence, taking advantage of the soothing solitude to do things like study for a test, complete her homework, or simply to admire whatever nice weather the town had on that particular day.

Could Cece partake in these activities somewhere else besides the town’s dreary cemetery? Of course she could. But no other place, or person, would provide her with the same level of comfort, safety and protection as David did, even after his passing. The solace of the moments spent at his graveside served to ease the pain of knowing that this was the closest she would ever be to her beloved again.

Unbeknownst to her, there was another in the cemetery and he was approaching closer to the very tombstone the redhead was sitting in the vicinity of. Mikhail Zima had decided to come on this day because, well, it was about time. For a while now, he has been getting to know his mother’s family. Slowly but surely, he was earning their trust and maybe even enjoying the feeling of not being judged. To them, he was just a rising star on the basketball team. He wasn’t the shooting guard or the captain, but he put in so much effort for the team and whenever he could, he’d grow closer to his family (even though they didn’t know he was part of it). It was a dangerous game, but in his head, it was worth it.

David O’Hara.

He only knew the little that his mother told him. Over the years, she would hear things about him and the only person who she would ever tell was Mika. Maybe that’s why he was finally here. But as he approached it, he noticed someone else was here and it wasn’t some stranger either.

“Cece?” Mika walked up to the oak tree she was sitting under. “Sure as hell didn’t expect you to be in a place like this.” Mika laughed somewhat, hands in his jacket pocket.

As engrossed as she was between the pages of the tragic story of two lovers separated by death that was Romeo and Juliet, Caitlin failed to notice the newcomer’s arrival. It was only after she heard her nickname being called out that she looked up suddenly, eyes wide with panic and her heart racing at the thought of being caught where she was and having to explain herself in any way. But when her brain registered the identity of the person approaching her, Cece’s fight or flight responses were ushered back into their cages.

“Hey Mika,” came the girl’s feeble response as she folded the corner of the page she’d been reading and placed the closed book in her lap. She was afraid to say anything else in case Natalia Belmonte suddenly appeared from the shadows and tried to strangle her for purposely carrying on a conversation with her new best friend.

So much for conversation, huh? Mika couldn’t remember if Cece was normally this quiet. He didn’t have it in his mind that she was ever a chatterbox like some of the other girls at Edenridge High were, but she seemed unusually mute - even for her. “So what’s going on? I didn’t take you for someone who liked to spend their afternoons at a cemetery. You aiming to join a cult or something?” Mika chuckled. He was hoping his bad jokes might lighten her lack of engagement to at least give him more than a simple greeting.

His terrible joke managed to turn the corners of her mouth upward, and motivated her enough to reply with one of her own. "I'm actually trying to be the cult leader. One of the requirements is learning how to summon dead bodies in case of emergency, so I thought this was the best place to study the subject."

“Is that right?” He kept chuckling as he leaned on the side of the oak tree, looking down at Cece, trying his best to not accidentally look down her shirt. From the angle he could if he wanted to, but he didn’t, so he wouldn’t. “What’s the name of your cult?”

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you," she replied, in a feigned sinister tone before letting out a little chuckle and offering him her first soft smile. "What about you? What brings you over here?"

Earning his first smile was actually kind of satisfying in its own way, but all good things must come to an end. And when he thought about why he really was here, Mika didn’t have an answer that made any sense. “To tell you the truth, I have no fucking idea” which wasn’t the total truth.

In recent weeks, he’d been really trying to process all of the thoughts in his head. Maybe ever since he and Natalia stopped fooling around, Mika had been attempting to process everything and especially when it came to the O’Hara’s. “I guess to see if being in front of this tombstone would give me a better answer.”

Mika's answer raised alarm bells in Caitlin’s mind, and she felt her body tense up. Shortly before his death, David had been incorrectly branded an abuser of minors. After his passing, there had been a wave of vandals defining his grave with awful slurs, insults and messages, which Cece had scrubbed clean each time. If she discovered that Mika had been one of these awful people, the redhead wasn't opposed to engaging in confrontation-- him being a Serpent and over half a foot taller than her be damned.

Before she jumped to conclusions, however, Cece decided to get more information about what could possibly have brought the young man to the gravesite of the son of one of Eden's founding families. "What do you mean?" the girl inquired, a frown settling between her ginger eyebrows. "I'm sorry for prying, but very few people that come to visit this specific tombstone do so with good intentions."

Mika half-chuckle and smirked, looking forward at the tombstone that read David O’Hara. It wasn’t that Mika didn’t know David, but he didn’t have enough time to know him better. “Nah, you’re not prying…” Mika muttered. He thought about what his mother told him, though limited, versus the supposed rumors about him. Something didn’t add up. She told him about her family and how good they were. She lamented that hindsight allowed her to see that, but since he moved to Edenridge in the past couple of years, he saw that and the rumors about David in the past few months didn’t align with that.

“I don’t doubt that some come here with disrespect on her mind. There are some pretty nasty rumors about him, aren't there?” Mika never once believed them, but he also didn’t know David well enough. He wished he did. He only had a few months when David was the assistant coach and even then, he didn’t ever feel like he was in a position to ask all of the questions he wanted to ask David and John.

The mention of the disgusting, incorrect rumors that had been a factor in David meeting his premature demise brought a wave of hot, burning tears to the young woman’s blue eyes. Everytime she thought she was moving on, something happened to remind her the pain was still as present as ever-- like sprinkling salt on the freshest of wounds.

“Typical Edenridge behavior: people running their mouths and tongues about things they don’t know,” Cece stated in an unusually blunt manner, the hurt and bitterness dripping from her voice evident with each word she had uttered. The redhead turned her face away from Mika just long enough to wipe the tears from her cheeks with the cuff of her sweater before shifting her attention back to him. “It’s all crap, you know? I knew David like I know the back of my hand. He’s nothing like what they say he is.”

He couldn’t help but look at Cece as she went on her mini-rant. He didn’t disagree with any of it -- at least, from the place that people who ran their mouths didn’t know who they were talking about. It was how Mika got into a majority of the scrapes he did. At least, in his case, if he heard someone was running their mouth about him, he had the choice of finding them. Maybe that was what Mika didn’t like. David was dead, so he couldn’t speak for himself. Whether it was true or not, it was pretty shitty to run his name through the mud when he was already six feet deep.

“So, I take it you and David were pretty close, then?” Mika asked. Her anger about the rumors seemed to point at that.

Caitlin nodded, wiping more tears away from her face. “Our ancestors came to this country together, hoping to escape the famine that was tearing Ireland apart. Our families founded this town; with us Clearys and the O'Haras remaining tightly-knit to this very day. David and his sister Jamie basically grew up with my siblings and I.” Of course, there was another BIG reason for her closeness to David, but she wasn’t in a place where she could disclose it yet-- much less to someone she didn’t know well.

“Wow..” When she told him the history of her family and the O’Haras, which was his family technically-speaking, Mika didn’t know how to process it. All he knew or remembered was they were important to his mother’s hometown, but knowing the exact importance was something Mika needed time to process. But that wasn’t now. “So your family and his are pretty much Edenridge royalty, huh? Are there others?” Mika asked her. His curiosity came from a genuine place. “I mean, I’m from the Southside, so nobody has ever bothered to tell me shit about…what did you call yourselves? Founding Families? Did I get that right?”

The young woman nodded, but couldn't help but smile a little as she remembered something her former boyfriend used to say. “David used to call us Foundlings,” she admitted with a small giggle, rolling her eyes at the absurdity of the nickname. “Meaning us children of the four Founding Families: the Clearys, the O’Haras, the Callahans and the O’Briens. But there are a few more family names that have become pretty relevant to the town in the last few decades: the Sinclairs, the Belmontes and the Grimms. As grateful as I am for my family and their accomplishments, I can’t wait for the day these new families become the ‘royalty’ of the town. Living your entire life under a microscope can be exhausting and hard.”

Mika listened to all of what she had to say, but it was her last comment that stood out because he could relate to that more than she would ever know. It hit hard, mostly because of his father and his brother, Viktor, too, but mostly from Ivan himself. To be the son that he was constantly reminded he didn’t want (or that’s how it seemed to Mika, anyway), that feeling of being judged for every little thing you did took its toll. He didn’t know if it was the same in this town for those who lived here all their lives, but for him, it just made him have more anger he knew what to do with.

But that was almost three years ago and he’s been able to control it a lot more. “It’s hard to meet people’s expectations of you when they never tell you how high they are. It’s like climbing Mount Everest with no clear view of the top and having shitty fucking equipment.” Mika’s tone took a rather sharp, almost angry turn. His hands were in his pockets still but he was tightening his fists to not appear so full of ire.

“I’d say it’s just hard to meet people’s expectations regardless of whether you know what they are or not, because they’re ultimately not your own,” Caitlin mused, thinking back to how the situation Mika was describing and her own were both rooted in the same concept: people expecting things from them with no care or importance given to what it was they really wanted. “You can’t grow and blossom into your own person or the person you want to be if you’re constantly being stifled by those around you. I think that’s a concept a lot people misconstrue-- be it with the assumption that they have your best interests at heart, or because they desperately want to live through your experiences.”

Mika chuckled at her last comment. “Isn’t that the truth?” And that was a truth that Mika never quite accepted, even in the short time he’s been able to truly live outside of the shadows of people who tried to form him into the man that they wanted him to be. For dreadful or worse, he was starting to finally feel like he could be someone other than the evil blood that runs through his veins. “It’s not always easy for everyone to get out from under the thumb of those kinds of people. And, sometimes, life creates circumstances that allow imperfect seeds to flourish in a different soil-- like some twisted flower that is actually kind of attractive in some lights.” Again, Mika laughed more because he wasn’t sure if he just insulted himself or not.

Mika’s metaphors struck a chord with Caitlin. Before the start of her relationship with David, her biggest goal was to leave the sheltered cocoon that was Edenrige to build a life on her terms. Becoming David’s girlfriend had shifted her mindset, of course, as her new dream soon morphed into becoming his wife and dedicating her life to cultivating their relationship and raising their future children. But now that Dave was gone, there was nothing tying her to the town anymore. Her parents were healthy, well and financially stable. Her structured brother would take care of the business. Her determined, go-getter sisters would be successful in anything they set off to do. All that was left for Cece was a world to discover beyond the borders of her hometown.

“Maybe that’s what I need to do for myself someday: create the circumstances I need so I can leave Edenridge and become that ‘twisted flower that's actually kind of attractive in some lights’.” Caitlin teased lightly with a small laugh before getting serious again. “It’s not an easy thing to do to stand up for oneself in order to grow, but when being utterly unhappy with your life is the other option, I’d rather take my chances and at least give it a try.”

“Do or do not, there is no try--” Mika muttered, hearing himself a half-second later after Caitlin’s giggle. Damn Katie and her one guilty pleasure of Star Wars. “Sorry, just a little something that came to mind. But it fits, doesn’t it?” He glanced at Cece with a smile. “I mean, if you want it bad enough, no amount of a safety net of the small town where you literally have decades of family history will stop you from going off on your own.” Somewhere in him, Mika wished he wasn’t born into the circumstances that created him, but it was kind of too late for him.

The redhead grimaced at his words. She knew Mika meant well, but she hadn't thought about it in that way before. The words he used made her goal of starting over somewhere new sound so daunting. "It sounds so scary when you put it like that…" she admitted earnestly. "I always get so caught up in the fantasy of how it would be that I forget about what I'm leaving behind."

"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that." Having realized he may have messed up or said the wrong thing (a habit Mika had down to an artform at this point), he tried to go back a bit. To her, even in the hypothetical scenario of going her own way, it was painfully obvious to Mika that leaving was something she wasn't sure about (or why else would she do all but panic about what he said?)

"Maybe don't think about that then. The people in this town will still be here. If you wanna go to fuck-knows-where for a while, then do it!" That was much better. "That's what I was trying to say."

Caitlin nodded with a smile. Mika was absolutely right. When the time came, her sole focus should be solely on herself.

Before silence could settle between the two, Cece’s phone rang. “I’m sorry. Let me just check this real quick--” she excused herself, pulling the device out of the bag next to her and glancing at the screen. It was her alarm, signaling that it was time to return to school before her ride got there. “That’s my queue to leave,” she informed the young man, placing her book and blanket inside of her messenger bag before standing up and sliding the bag’s strap onto her shoulder. “You know, it was really nice talking to you, Mika,” the redhead said softly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she gave him a genuine smile. “I never would’ve guessed that you and I could have something in common. Just goes to show how you can’t judge a book by its cover, huh?”

He had to admit that he felt the same way. For as long as he had been in Edenridge and had been at EHS, he never thought that Caitlin Cleary was someone who also identified the same way he did with his own family. The reason he came here might’ve been selfish. Mika wanted to know if he could feel closer to the cousin he never got the chance to meet would make him feel better about some of the things he was going through, but he ended up having a solid time with the person he least expected to. Caitlin wasn’t anything like he saw at school. “Yeah, guess you’re right about that.” He found himself smiling, watching her pack up her stuff into her bag. “I’ll linger around for a bit. Kinda just want to spend some time alone. Maybe...”

Mika bit the inside of his lip and looked forward to David's grave. He looked at it for what probably seemed way longer than he should have. He searched for…something at it. Maybe some silent guidance from one O’Hara man to another. Or maybe it was just to take it in one last time, but Mika took a deep breath. “Maybe we can do this again?” He looked at Cece, half-smiling. The right side of his lips were curved up and the muscles twitched out of a new-found nervousness he was experiencing. “I mean, maybe not here, but somewhere else. Just to talk or hang or whatever.”

The young woman’s smile widened, and she nodded in agreement. “Sounds like a plan,” she conceded shyly. Sure, Natalia might kill her if she found out about this potential friendship. But hopefully volleyball and her newfound popularity would keep her occupied enough to not notice.

“Cool!” He said without even thinking. Internally, part of Mika was punishing himself for actually saying that, but externally, he just smiled. “Well, guess I’ll be seeing you…friend.”

Now beaming, Caitlin gave Mika a parting wave and went off on her way. “See you around school!” she called out to the young man over her shoulder, that warm smile still in place.

A new friend… Maybe this was what David thought she needed right now.
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Mornings in the Cleary household were usually a quiet, peaceful affair. Gary Cleary would be the first to rise from his slumber, wiping the dregs of sleep from his eyes and heading straight to the bathroom to start off his day. Deidre, the matron of the family, would follow suit, trudging to the kitchen to start the coffee pot and prepare whatever breakfast sounded the most appealing. While Deidre occupied herself with the meal, Gary would make the trek down the driveway to the mailbox to retrieve the family’s correspondence, maybe wave at a neighbor, and return to the kitchen just in time to watch his plate and mug be placed in front of his seat at the dining room table. Eventually, the Cleary children would file in and serve themselves portions of whatever items they favored at the time before taking their own seats by the table. Snippets of small talk and conversation would be exchanged before all family members finished their meal and set off on their respective endeavors. Rhett, having dropped by to enjoy his mother’s breakfast and company, and Gary would leave to start preparations at The Hole. Rowan, when not at soccer camp like she was, would leave a few hours later to hang out with her friends. And Cece, depending on the day, would either return to her bedroom to read a book or leave the house to hang out with Danny or whoever she was seeing at the time.

The morning of July 19th was different. Rather than the scent of coffee and bacon, it was the sound of agitated voices that nudged Caitin Cleary awake. With how deep she had been sleeping, it took her a second to decipher whether the voices she was hearing were coming from her dream or real life. But once she established they were very much real, the alarmed young woman tossed the covers off herself, slid her feet onto her slippers and carefully stepped down the stairs. The sound of the voices led her to the living room, where Cece was met with a distressing sight. Her father stood tall in the corner of the room, a concerned look on his face as he watched the scene currently unfolding in his home. Sitting on the couch was her mother, with her arms wrapped around an inconsolable strawberry blonde woman that the girl had known all her life.

"What's going on?" Cece heard herself asking with worry, taking turns to study the expressions of her mom, her dad, and their guest. The last time Lizzie O’Hara had been over at their place looking this distraught was to inform them about David’s passing. Whatever this was, it wasn't good news. Cece didn’t have to wait long for Lizzie’s reply.

“The psychopath sending the Decker letters is gunning after Davey now!” she wailed in between sobs, wiping the mascara-stained tears off her face. Although she had remained a timeless beauty throughout the years, her suffering wilted her youth away anytime she was forced to relive the pain of her son’s death. “The phones have been ringing my ear off all morning. Everyone’s been calling and texting John, Jamie and I about it: talking about how they got this goddamn letter in the mail today, asking whether we’d seen it yet, telling me that people are speculating that it was from the girl he got accused over…” she trailed off, taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm down while her friend and neighbor rubbed her back.

“We got the letter too, Caitlin,” Deidre informed Cece, shifting her gaze from the woman in her lap to meet that of her daughter’s. “It was with the mail your dad picked up from the box this morning.”

Something about this wasn’t quite right.

The Cleary matron’s facial expression filled Cece with a sudden sense of unease. The way her mother was looking at her was the same way she used to whenever she told a lie or broke a rule and got caught when she was little. Her father’s was as impassive as ever; but the way he refused to meet her eyes, like whenever he was forced to be the bearer of bad news, spoke volumes. It was he who, without a word, handed his daughter the Cleary’s copy of the letter in discussion.

As soon as her gaze landed on the piece of paper, Caitlin’s blue-green eyes widened, and she felt her blood turn to ice. The words of her fourteen year-old self were staring right back at her: in red ink, perfect cursive and impeccable penmanship. The date at the top right of the photocopied letter read December 4th, 2016: the night Allison had died and the night David and her had shared their first kiss at the clearing. While the party attendees and those closest to Allison were dealing with the first waves of shock and grief, the Cleary girl (blissfully unaware of the news) had been restless with excitement. In the sanctuary of the clearing, David and Caitlin had shared a few more kisses after the first one, engaged in additional conversation, and snuggled as close as they could until the cold became so unbearable they were forced to call it a night. No sooner had she arrived at her house, the redhead had rushed up the stairs straight to her bedroom, locked the door behind her and settled herself behind her desk to write both the letter currently in her hand and a lengthy diary entry with all the details from her outing. She had poured her heart and feelings into every word, every phrase, every sentence, every punctuation mark. Her late arrival, although unaddressed that night, had gotten her in some trouble the next day, and she’d been forced to lie and say she’d been at Jill’s house to avoid suspicion. Of course, she would have done it all over again if she had to. It had all been worth it.

The original letter came to be in David’s possession the Friday after the championship game. During study hall, Caitlin had exited the library with the age-old bathroom excuse, and snuck around just long enough to slide the letter into David’s locker. When they met again that afternoon, he was quick to voice his appreciation, and reward her in the form of plenty of kisses. He’d promised her that he’d keep the letter safe, in a place where he could read it whenever he pleased while at the same time be hidden from prying eyes.

In all honesty, the redhead had never considered what had happened to the letter until today-- but that wasn’t the scary part. If someone had found David’s hiding place, what else had they found? Or, worse yet, what else did they know?

It was Lizzie’s raised voice what tore Cece away from her own panicked thoughts. "I know my son was a heartbreaker-- I will never deny that part. But I know my son, and David was not a pervert like they say he was! John and I raised him better than that!" she cried, turning her attention to the young woman who had grown up alongside her children. “You knew him, Cece! You knew him all your life! You know Davey would never do anything like that!”

Caitlin nodded, trying to swallow the huge lump stuck in her throat that made it so hard to speak. “You’re right. He would never do something like that,” was all she could croak to Lizzie without her voice breaking and exposing the fear rising inside her. Although her blue eyes remained stuck to the ground, she knew Lizzie was crying, and that pit in the middle of her stomach doubled in size. It was hard to look the heartbroken woman in the eyes and try to offer her words of comfort when the guilt of knowing she was the reason behind her son’s death was threatening to consume her whole.

Thankfully, Deidre had decided that it was time to wrap up the subject so she could tend to her friend. “Come on, Lizzie. Let me make you a chamomile and lavender tea cup. I’ve heard it really helps soothe and calm down,” she murmured softly, helping Lizzie up from the couch and guiding her to the kitchen.

With long strides, Garrett closed the distance between himself and Cece, wiping his face with a heavy hand. “Christ… This is a damn nightmare,” he muttered to his daughter as soon as the women were out of earshot. “This town doesn’t need that mess to be brought up again. I loved David like I love my own son. I watched that boy grow up. I helped raise him. I know he wouldn’t hurt anyone like that. They didn’t find anything then, so why would they find anything now? I stood for him then, and I’ll stand for him until I die: everyone else in this town be damned. And spreading out these letters like that-- for what? I’m sure the poor girl who wrote them is already tormented enough. She doesn’t need to be reminded about what happened.”

When she heard the way her father spoke about David and ‘the girl in the letters’, Caitlin couldn’t hold back the silent tears that began to stream down her cheeks. Her father was absolutely right: the girl in the letters was tormented by her past every single day of her existence. So many people had loved the O’Hara boy, looked up to him with high hopes for his future, cherished him fondly… But he was gone, and it was all her fault.

Realizing his daughter was crying, Gary’s expression softened into one of compassion. With how close they had been to David and the rest of the O’Hara family, it made sense that Cece would be distraught about this whole thing. He was a stern man, but he wasn’t heartless or indifferent to his children’s feelings. Right now, his third-born needed him. So without warning, he wrapped his arms around Caitlin and held her close, affectionately kissing the top of her head for good measure.

Ever grateful, Cece welcomed the sympathy Gary was offering. She wrapped her own slender arms around her father’s taller figure, and dug her face into his broad chest. As much as she wanted to cry and wail and scream, her age-old habit of suppressing emotions in order to avoid worrying her loved ones went into full effect. She didn’t want her father to see just how shaken the news had left her, so she only allowed herself to be held for a few moments before slowly pulling away.

“You gonna be okay, Cait?” Gary asked her once released from their embrace, resting his hands on her shoulders.

The blue-eyed girl nodded. “I think I just need a moment,” Cece sniffed, wiping her face. “Thank you, Dad.”

Garrett shrugged his shoulders. “That’s what I’m here for, sweetie,” he said with a soft smile, ruffling the girl’s red hair until his eyes fell on the living room clock. “Shit… I gotta get to work, C-- but call me if you need anything, okay?”

“I will.” Cece said with another nod, forcing herself to offer her father a closed-lipped smile.

“Love you, Cece.”

“Love you, Dad,” the young woman called out to him, giving her father one last parting wave before he walked out the door.

With the parents now gone, Cece turned on her heel and rushed up the stairs to her bedroom, locking the door behind her. Once she was inside, the young woman dashed to her closet, flinging its door open and diving into the narrow space. A small dresser rested inconspicuously against the left side of the far end of the room, which she moved away to reveal a vent on the wall. She removed the metal grille in one sweeping motion and, holding her breath in anticipation, quickly took a look inside the newly exposed space. Her David memory box sat exactly where she’d left it hidden inside the duct, the light layer of dust on its lid confirming it had remained untouched since the last time she’d seeked its comfort. It was a small relief to know that her belongings of that time remained undisturbed. But it was not enough reassurance to calm the storm of feelings raging through her.

With her back against the right wall of the closet, Cece let her drained body slump down to the floor and began to sob, releasing the overflow of emotions as she held the “23” tattoo on her left wrist against her chest over her aching heart.
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A @metanoia & @LovelyComplex collaboration
TIMESTAMP || After “Because of You

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The sight of his mother isn’t what Danny feared. It was watching her hide all her pain behind her beautiful smile. Unbeknownst to Danilo, in the past week, his mother’s health took a dramatic turn for the worse and she was now in hospice. No one told him, not his dad and not Cat — he had no idea that she was only given two weeks to live. If only his family were better at handling fragile things like this. If only he knew.

There was a feeling deep inside him, in his gut, that told him to keep visiting her. Everyday. No matter how much it hurts to at least give her a kiss on the forehead. Today he decided it was the day he would show his boyfriend off to the best person in his life. The person who gave him a strong foundation to move forward without fear. The person who taught him how to live and be happy. The person who loved him more than anyone else in this world would. He knew, he just knew no one could replace the love she has for him and his sisters.

This was his chance to show her all the empathy she’s given him, to show her how much he’s grown, both body and soul, and to show her that he found his person. As he deeply stared at the door, beside his boyfriend, showered and dressed for his day, he thought to himself about her destination after this.

What was heaven?

To have faith means when you’re in complete darkness, the worst you’ve ever experienced, with no light in sight, you see hope within yourself. You sing. But what was heaven to him? Heaven could mean so many things to different people. Heaven could mean nothing. He could believe that at the end of the day, once you're dead, you’re dead and your body returns to the soil. He could believe there was nothing more to that. He could believe in many things. Yet his belief in what happens after was simple.

Danny wasn’t one for complexities. In his honest opinion, to him, if you were loved and you weren’t alone, that was heaven. So many people say there’s a heaven after we die, waiting for us. How could God allow such a faithful woman to become this sick? To put her in so much pain? Why did good people have to die? Danny wasn’t one for complexities but if he could come to terms with his own crisis of faith, he’d reckon that the afterlife had nothing glorious beyond the gates.

No party. No fluffy clouds. No angel wings.

Life was a wish and he wished that heaven was simple. Heaven was painless. Heaven was like an endless happy dream. Heaven was love. God was love. Heaven was the place that cured people from a worse illness than cancer. Heaven was a place where you never felt lonely. Heaven was home.

He just wanted to know that everything was going to be okay. That he loved her, he would always love her, and that he was so grateful that she loved her with every fiber of her being. That she saw the universe in him and gave him such a positive outlook in life. She taught him love. She taught him how to live. She taught him faith.

His chest clenched and Danny heavily heaved in and out. This part was always the worst. Knocking and entering to see if she was still there. To see if she was still fighting, too afraid to leave them behind. Was he being selfish for bringing Marco with him? What if his boyfriend couldn’t handle it?

His mother had stage 4 lung cancer. She coughed a lot, with blood nowadays, her chest hurt, shortening her breaths, she barely ate, she lost so much weight, she was always tired, she grew dizzy and numb, and there were a couple times Cat had to rush her to the hospital after she had a seizure.

His mom was beautiful in his eyes. She always would be. That doesn’t change that her skin wasn’t as vibrant as he remembered. Her cancer was spreading to her liver… her skin was turning yellow… Cat told him it was called jaundice. He didn’t understand anything that was happening inside his mother’s frail body but he could see it. He could see the hurt. His mother was in so much pain.

Pain in her back and her hip, she got fevers, she got chills, piercing agony coursing through all her bones. She was hurting so fucking much…. seeing his mom wasn’t for the faint of heart. And he was scared. He was scared to show Marco an image of his mother that would stay ingrained in his mind forever. He wanted his boyfriend to remember the Silvia from highschool who went to every game. The woman who embraced him and kissed him tenderly all over his face. The woman that said time and time again: I’m so proud of you.

That’s the woman Danny wanted Marco to remember.

Not the one that only had days left.

“You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to…” Danny breathed. His feet were grounded on the floor, unable to move forward. He was scared.

Marco couldn’t even begin to understand what Danny must be going through, at least not in the literal sense. He could only understand that it was incredibly painful and difficult for his boyfriend. He knew that if anything were to ever happen to his own mother, he wouldn’t be able to handle it. There’s something uniquely special about the bond that mother and son share. Words never do it justice. So that’s how he knew he couldn’t, nor would he, leave Danny’s side, especially not when his boyfriend needed him more than ever.

Marco quickly shook his head, running his supportive hand along Danny’s back and that same hand came to hold Danny’s. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Subtly, Danny’s teeth trembled. Right. That decided it then. Gently, Danny knocked on the door with his knuckles before grabbing the doorknob and twisting it. When the door opened, the hospital bed was revealed. The one that replaced the master bed which was now in storage. Silvia was skin and bones, and pale, very pale, like a ghost. She was on oxygen and she stared at the ceiling, unable to make an expression. It looked like his dad had recently changed her piss pad so that was good. That part was always hard for him because he hated manhandling her as his sisters told him what to do, when to do it.

The tumor grew and spread quickly, consuming the organs that helped her live. For those who weren’t used to this sight, it was hard to swallow. Noticing the blood trailing from her lips, likely from her coughing, Danny left Marco’s side, grabbed a hand cloth and wiped her mouth like she was a baby. “Hey mom, good morning,” Danny calmly greeted and proceeded to compliment, “You look beautiful. Tiff did a wonderful job with your makeup. You’re wearing your favorite color… you look just like the ocean mom. Pretty blues. Pretty woman.”

There were small mumbles of acknowledgement from Silvia but nothing more and nothing less. “I, um, I brought someone… This person means the world to me and I wanted you to see him and know… I’m okay. I have someone to take care of me and me, him.”

First, Danny grabbed his mother’s hand. She tried to tighten her grip, tried to squeeze him, but barely had the strength to do so. He knew she was listening. He just knew, even if she couldn’t show it. With his other hand, he reached for his lover to grab, “Mom… you’ve met him before… but I wanted to introduce him as… ehem, well, my boyfriend. This is Marco. Marlena’s eldest boy. You know the one that helped you make gelato from scratch a few years back? Yeah, him. He is…” Danny paused trying to gather the right words. Instead he shook his head and looked at his boyfriend while talking to Silvia, “I love him, mama. I really love him.”

Marco couldn’t remember how long it had been since he saw Mrs. Belmonte. It had been a while. At least three years, give or take. Not since he was with Danny (albeit in secret) last. Back then, she was so full of life. Marco didn’t spend a lot of time, but the times she was, he remembered that much about her. Now, as he stood in her bedroom, watching Danny talk to her, she looked like a literal ghost, yet somewhere in there, as Marco tried to not let his surprise show too much, he could still see it: that life. Not so much in her face or the way her skin looked, but he could at least see part of it in her eyes.

That eased Marco and as soon as his boyfriend reached for his hand, Marco received it in full, squeezing Danny’s hand and smiled at him. His heart was beating in a different, fast pace than it normally did whenever Danny looked at him like that. He squeezed his boyfriend’s hand when he seemed to struggle for his words. “You have an amazing son, Mrs. Belmonte,” Marco said. His own mother wouldn’t forgive him nor could he bring himself to say her name. He was too respectful. “He makes me so happy. You know he has been helping me with my diet? We run every morning. I couldn’t do it without him.” Marco maintained eye contact with Danny, widening his smile some more as his eyes became much more watery than before. “I love him so much and I will continue to do so for as long as I am able to.”

His mother’s hand twitched in his hand and in silence, Danny looked at her face, noticing a tear trailing down her cheek. Subsequently, the Italian boy lifted his boyfriend’s hand and kissed it before gesturing with his eyes for Marco to kindly retrieve the bible off her dresser by the french door window. After releasing his lover’s hand, Danny leaned forward cautiously and gently adjusted her pillow. When he was close to her face, he whispered into her ear, “God’s got you.”

He wondered how long this would last. How long would his mom suffer? Seeing her like this broke his heart. Danny wanted her to see that he, his sisters, and his dad would be okay. They might be a little messy. Tragically disastrous some days. They were the Belmontes after all and everything they did was dramatic as hell, but they were going to be okay. She raised them right and gave them strong faith and an eternal love like no other. Not just the religious faith and the love from God.

No.

Silvia knew not all her children would continue the pursuit of Catholicism. She taught them to trust the process. She showed them a love that could not be matched by anyone else. A mother’s love. Faith was unseen but felt, it was strength when we felt like there was none, it was hope when all was lost. Her love had no law, no pity. It endures through all, even times like these where God’s presence seemed missing. Her love was completely pure and to him, she was his world. She was everything.

The past month Danny gained the courage to talk to her about all his ongoing issues like the pressure he felt with his father. He was reaching a point of acceptance. Deep down, he knew she didn’t have much longer but she was a fighter, fighting to stay with them. Just a little bit longer.

Kissing her forehead once more, Danny repeated, “God’s got you, mama.”

As Marco went over to the dresser, in his mind he knew he had to grab the bible, but he found himself being distracted by some of the things on the dresser. Little things like what looked like jewelry and pictures. He slightly smiled, seeing the bible at the center of everything. Seeing it, it was like any normal black bible, but then he noticed something about it that piqued his interest. There were all sorts of tags along the edge of the pages. It wasn’t just condensed on one part of it, either. As Marco held the good book with the spine down, he realized the tags were spread throughout the entirety. It reminded him of his great aunt Maeve, the one that lived in Ireland and whom Marco came to grow fond of when his family lived there for a time. She had one just like this with just as many tags. No surprise there considering just like his Great Aunt, Mrs. Belmonte was just as religious (or at least he assumed given the amount of tags).

Snapping out of that momentary flashback, Marco made his way back to the bedside, handing Danny the bible, making sure to treat it with care. “And here it is, babe!”

Grabbing the bible, Danny sat beside her on the edge of the bed and turned the pages, trying to find a reading. There were many he could choose but he didn’t want to choose something depressing. He wanted to comfort her soul. A knock on the door brought his gaze from the bible to the door, he replied loud enough for the other person to hear but quiet enough to not stir his mother, “I’m in here, but you can join me.”

The door creaked open to reveal Mirabella and her two guy best friends, Carter Jenkins and Asher Mitchell. Asher held a carbon fiber black cello while Carter held an acoustic white guitar. In Mira’s hand she held a cylinder sand shaker. She didn’t want her violin to take away from her vocals. Carter was actually a drummer for the marching band, but he could do slow songs on the guitar. Plus, you can use a guitar as a drum too. Asher was in the local orchestra. And all three of them were in the Lucky Charm A Capella troupe. They were juniors. “We can come back… I promised mom I’d sing her a song.”

“No, you guys can set up. There’s more room over there. By the closet.” Danny directed her best friends to the open space in the master bedroom. A little reading area for his mother when she saw better days. “I haven’t heard you sing since the vigil… I’d like to listen if you don’t mind, Millie,” The older sibling gave her reserved sister a soft smile before going back to the bible.

Marco had a short flashback to the vigil as soon as Danny mentioned it. He wasn’t able to attend it because, well, he had just been shot and was recovering from the emergency surgery on his ACL. But he watched it via Kylee’s Livestream. It was at the center of town. It was at night time but all of the candles spread throughout gave enough light to show the pictures of the victims and of those who were shot. Marco remembered Mirabella sang beautifully. She always had an angelic voice. “I’d like to listen too, if that’s okay!”

“Yeah, sure,” Mira looked between Marco and Danny, tilting her head at the sight. She wasn’t a brain surgeon but it seemed to her they were back together. Danny never told her. Not after that barbecue they disappeared that one time, not during junior year, and certainly not now, but she wasn’t dumb. She knew gay when she saw it. She was gay. Of course her brother was gay or bi, or whatever. He just gave off a vibe. “Matthew chapter 11, verses 28 to 30. That’s a good one,” The youngest Belmonte child advised before following her friends into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Nodding, Danny flipped through the bible until he found the spot, “Thanks, sis,” Shifting his body to face Silvia in the bed, Danny read with a firm tone, enunciating each pause, each word, and each break. His voice reverberated throughout the room of six people, including him. Once Asher sat on Silvia’s luxury tan accent sofa, with his cello between his knees and the upper bout against his upper chest, and Carter beside him with his guitar strapped on him, the two boys looked down in respect as Mira’s older brother did his reading.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Danny paused, hearing his voice choke up. This never got easier. No matter how many times he tried to be strong. Still, he needed to do this reading and not stutter. Not stumble. He needed to make his mother proud. Sunday school didn’t go to waste. He could understand the Lord’s word. Inhaling, exhaling, Danny glanced up from the bible to his mother’s face, and continued, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Marco watched (and listened) proudly as Danny recited the verse with an equal clarity and emotion. He could see that his boyfriend struggled midway. He had no doubt that it must’ve been difficult for him and if it wasn’t for the fact that Mira and her friends were in the room, he would’ve comforted him but he just had to stand there and be the safety net that wouldn’t let him hit the ground.

“That was beautifully recited, Danny!” Marco stepped closer to his Italian boyfriend, giving him a loving glance.

“Thanks, yeah,” A little embarrassed, Danny stood up and closed the bible, “That was me… I’ll just, you can have the floor, Mils,” If it wasn’t for the two other boys, Danny would’ve kissed his mom again and told her he loved her. Instead, he walked to the dresser and placed her bible back, exactly how it was. He didn’t want to feel ashamed to be with Marco and to show him off, but he wasn’t ready to shout out to kids he didn’t know that this was the love of his life. Was that wrong? He should’ve gotten over this.

Quick to catch her brother coiling in his panic of showing emotional vulnerability, Mira with her monotone voice (think Aubrey Plaza), she shooed Danny’s boyfriend away from the hospital bed. Inches away from Marco, she smirked and muttered, “Give him time. He’s making a lot of strides. I imagine that’s thanks to you.”

Marco's smile widened by a small dose at Mira's words. Was it true? Did he really have anything to do with what Mira perceived as Danny making strides? He wasn't certain if he should be given sole credit for that one. He didn't bother asking how Mira knew. It wasn't the place, but it was obvious she did know. "Whether it was a lot or a little, all I've tried to do is be there for him," he admitted, looking from Mira to his boyfriend with a loving gaze. "He deserves any and all happiness in life and I just want to make sure he gets that and then some."

“You do too,” Mira said matter-of-factly. “Don’t lose yourself in him. You both need each other,” Half smiling at her brother’s lover, Mira went to her mother and delicately brushed Silvia’s hair to the side, “Just like I promised. Elisa’s wedding song, from the movie you really liked,” Her mom watched A Walk to Remember more times than Mira could count, which is why she knew Only Hope was the best song to perform for her.

Without a cue, Carter started strumming the guitar, gradually bringing in the cadence, which directed Asher to start with his cello. Sitting by her mother, Mirabella swayed to the string instruments, gracefully bobbing her head to the music. A love song, a good one at that, to make her mom think about their father. And God. Whatever she felt she needed more right now.

It felt right.

“There’s a song that’s inside of my soul,” She looked at her mother and then met her brother’s gaze, “It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again.” She closed her eyes, letting the music take over the room, “I’m awake in the infinite cold, but You sing to me over and over again.”

The boys joined in on the chorus as they played their instruments, So I lay my head back down, and I lift my hands, and pray to be only Yours. I pray to be only Yours. I know now Youre my only hope.

Shaking the sand cylinder, Mira looked at Asher, who calmly took over the next verse, “Sing to me all the songs of the stars, of Your galaxy dancing and laughing, and laughing again. When it feels like my dreams are so far, sing to me of the plans that You have for me over again.”

The chorus came and went and it was Carter’s turn with the bridge, “I give You my apathy. I’m giving You all of me. I want Your symphony. Singing in all that I am at the top of my lungs I’m giving it back.”

And for the last chorus, Danny joined in, “And I lay my head back down and I lift my hands and pray to be only Yours. I pray to be only Yours. I pray to be only Yours. I know now You’re my only hope.” All but Danny sang as if they were in an empty room. They were pros at performing. Their souls became tangible through their song, while Danny did it more as a form of healing. He wasn’t virtuous like Mirabella but he wasn’t all that bad of a singer either. He had a good voice; needed a bit of tuning but the potential was there. He sang at this moment for catharsis and also to make his mother happy. She loved it when she joined in at church.

Singing gave words to the emotions they couldn’t express. He knew exactly why Mira loved it so much. She could communicate how she felt through her voice and today, he would share this with her. They both hurt. They both were watching their mother die. They both needed support. Neither pain mattered more. If anything, this song showed even within all the chaos, the Belmonte family had a strong love.

Thanks to Silvia.

They were strong.




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@LovelyComplex & @Aces Away

TIMESTAMP || After “I Need You" with Jade/Poppy (Monday Morning)
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Immediately after her phone call with Jade, Penelope grabbed one of Charlie’s books for the trip, On the Road by Kerouac, a slingshot with ammunition, and a prepared zip lock bag of snacks from Rhonda. Slipping it into her backpack, she returned to the window. While poking her head out to re-evaluate the distance, she glanced at her wrist watch. It was approaching 10:30 AM and the summer heat invited cold drinks, air conditioning, and music.

Maybe this trip wouldn’t be dangerous and the reservation would have all three. Part of her was debating grabbing her father’s gun but she decided against it. For all she knew, this was a red herring. For all she knew, Mitena was safe and unaware of someone threatening her life. For all she knew, this was all a practical joke and Charlie did not have a secret sister.

Plus!

Mordechai was coming with her, whether he liked it or not. He could be the muscle and she could shoot rocks at those that dared to start anything violent. Right in their fucking eye. Yeah. She could do that. She didn’t need a gun. She was one hell of a shot.

Briefly closing her eyes, Penelope soaked in the sunlight, bringing joy to her skin. This was the moment of truth. How hard was this actually? She watched Charlie do this everyday when he still cared about her. It couldn’t possibly be that hard. Thankfully, Allegra left the window cracked open, so all Pops had to do was… reach… for… it… and…

Partly inside Charlie’s room, partly on the outside, she leaned her arms forward to try and grab the window. Barely reaching it, she found herself in an awkward lean and if she slipped, she’d go timber. Pushing herself back up, realizing she would have to bring the window up a smidge more, the James girl huffed in mild frustration.

Take 2.

With her bag now tightened on her back, she climbed out the narrow window, looked at the ground - woah - and realized she was actually pretty high up. She needed to stop overthinking though. Poppy feared nothing. Not even death itself. She got this. How hard could this possibly be?

Not overthinking her next steps, Poppy took a daring leap and grabbed onto the stool, ramming right into her family’s house. Ouchhhhh. That fucking hurt. Still, no pain, no gain. If Charlie could do this, so could she.

Now lift.

Lift, Poppy, lift.

She needed to push the window up a bit. Using her arm strength and her feet to hold herself up, as if she was climbing the monkey bars, she utilized her right hand to push the lower sash of the window.

Fuck. This was a workout.

Sweating now, realizing Charlie’s jacket might be too heavy for this weather, Penelope saw Allegra from the otherside, shocked and amused with a curious Viva in her arms. “Hey, you’re dressed,” A callback for all the times that Charlie pointed out how Pops didn’t care how she looked through her window and how some pervert would throw her in the back of their van, “No creeps gonna’ snatch youuuuu.” Her arms were feeling the burn and her stomach ached. “Okay. Focus, Pops. You’re almost there.”

Pushing her way through the window, she stopped in her tracks when the window wouldn’t let her any further because of her backpack. “Fuckkkkkkk.”

Take 3.

While hanging, Pops took her backpack off and tossed it in the bedroom. Now she should fit. Officially, finally, and thankfully, Penelope plunged into the bedroom through the small window, not so gracefully went over the ledge, and found herself crumpled on the floor, face first, ass up in the air. Thank goodness she was wearing shorts under her dress.

With all the energy she could muster, she did a forward roll that would make all the Clovers ostracize her. Also good thing she was not a cheerleader. “Holy hell, he did that all the goddamn time. What the shit.”

"I'll give ya a ten outta ten for effort, but the execution needs a little work," Allegra spoke up in a fond and teasing tone. "That little scorpion dive at the end had ta hurt a bit."

“I’m okay…” Penelope struggled to get up, burying the pain from the fall.

"From experience, havin' tried ta follow him through that window before, it's a pain in the ass," Mordechai joined in from the opening of the bathroom, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth as he spoke. Sober but still plagued by nightmares and guilt, Mordechai was leaning against the doorframe as he brushed his teeth. While his muscle mass and weight had improved, his mental state had only really met him halfway, and dark bags under tired eyes betrayed that fact as he stared at one of his best friends trying to get herself up off the ground. "Y'know this is becomin' a habit, why don't I just build a bridge between the windows for ya?" He offered, only half joking. He could definitely use the distraction between being sober and almost being something of a family man. Somehow.

The Ex-Serpent had been woken up at five in the morning when Chai had started crying, startling his father out of another spiraling nightmare and prompting him to stay awake until the infant had fallen into his own blissful slumber, safe in his father's hold. The lucky little fuck. Mordechai hoped his son would be dreaming of nothing but rainbows and sunshine for as long as possible. He hoped the kid never touched anything stronger than some weed, never got the taste for anything that kills you as much as it makes you finally feel alive. He never went back to sleep, holding his son and staring at the face of innocence the same way he had as a child holding his sleeping baby brother. They looked almost the same, except Chai had a more olive complexion as opposed to Danny's pale and gray tone. Chai also shared the same deep brown irises as his parents, whereas Danny had always had the same pale, piercing gaze as Benjamin Boaz. But everything else was there, and every early morning Mordechai spent alone with his son had him desperate to do more. To not fail him like he'd failed Danny.

He'd been thinking about his Serpents lately, and about how with everything he did wrong for Danny, giving him that family wasn't it. Every Serpent that came across Danny Boaz had practically adopted the boy on sight, and Mordechai's crew took special care with the boy to make sure he felt safe and included of course, but also happy and carefree. Something that the two Boaz boys hadn't had any chance of being before. And while he knew it made sense to stay away and get his head a little straighter while he got sober…well, he was sober now, and he really missed his brothers and sisters in the Serpents. Loathe as he is to admit it after his breakdown over a month ago, he misses ReyRey too. As fucked up as everyone was, they were still Family to him, damned how ReyRey felt back. If that meant sucking up his feelings a bit then so be it. He just knew he needed all of them in his life too.

Realizing he'd fallen into his own thoughts, Mordechai shook his head and brought himself back to the present, moving forward and holding a hand out to Poppy in case she needed a little extra help. Just in case she’d said something, he threw in a, "Sorry, I zoned out, didn't catch anythin' ya just said."

Not refusing the assistance, Poppy grabbed onto her best friend’s hand and was pulled up into a standing position, sweat trailing down her forehead. “Thanks,” She grinned at Mordechai before looking over at Allegra, “I’ll fucking take that score. Like shit. That’s not easy,” She wanted to say never again but knowing her dumbass she would indeed try again.

Letting go of Mordechai’s hand, Poppy grabbed her bag and took a seat on her old bed. “I didn’t say much, yet.” Intensely, Penelope gave her friend a look that warned him that what she had to say may not be something he wanted to hear, but she needed him and she hoped he’d stay and listen. Instead of going into her explanation, the James girl looked up and stared at her glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. She thought about how she’d go about telling him, how blunt she should be, “Just… finish up, and I’ll tell you why I’m here.”

Mordechai nodded and went back to the bathroom, finishing brushing his teeth and rinsing it all out with mouthwash before returning to the room with a guarded air, having caught on to Poppy's serious undertones. He crossed over to the bed and grabbed his worn out Docs, shoving his feet into them before focusing on tying his laces instead of looking Poppy in the eye.

"So where're we goin'," He asked without any more hesitation, tying the first boot off and reaching for the other's laces. He'd seen her backpack, and contrary to popular belief he was far from stupid. Allegra sat next to him and set Viva down between them, eyes clocking Chai in his crib before settling on Poppy over the man’s back so she wasn't just staring and talking to the top of Mordechai's head. "And what for?"

Drumming her fingers on her thighs, Poppy absentmindedly motorboarded her lips. When she was finished procrastinating, she looked at Allegra, who met her gaze briefly, and then at Mordechai who was putting on his shoes, “Blue Hill Reservation… someone’s in trouble.” And by someone, she meant Charlie’s sister that no one knew existed but baby steps. She could ease into it before dropping that bomb.

Mordechai sighed and looked up to his side at that, gaze curious and assessing as it caught on to Poppy's form. She was definitely holding things back, easing him into the information like she feared it would harm him in some way, but still determined to get him to be a part of it. How silly. Regardless of how he felt, if Poppy needed him then he would be there for her. Throwing a hand through his hair to push it out of his face, Mordechai dropped his elbows on his knees and clapped his hands together in front of himself, turning to fully face her and matching Poppy's gaze to show her he was ready for what she had to say. Or at least, he couldn't be more ready than he currently was. He didn't need to waste his words with Poppy, the two of them meeting each other's gazes- when they could meet people's eyes at all- could usually get a large portion of the message through. Sometimes no words were needed, and he couldn't help but love that connection.

Biting her bottom lip, looking away from him, the sadness creeping up like it did when she talked to Jade, Penelope focused her attention on her shoes. “Charlie has a sister…” Everytime she said it outloud the more it hurt. Gritting her teeth, she glanced back at Mordechai, the pain written all over her face, “I don’t care if he never told me but now these fucking letters are threatening her life. She has nothing to do with this town, Mordechai. Why drag someone into all this bullshit? I… I don’t want to have another regret.”

Lips shaking, Poppy brought her attention back to the floor, “And maybe, maybe part of me feels like I need to meet her. For closure. It’s selfish, really, but maybe Charlie…” Her right leg bounced as she talked, “Maybe Charlie told her something…”

"So we're testin' my sobriety that early," Mordechai said humorlessly as he processed Poppy's words, knowing it wouldn't really get any laughs. "Jesus we should have a club for the living half of dead siblin-" a slap across the back of his head stopped the dark thought from finishing as Mordechai threw an irritable glare at Allegra. The younger woman didn't look up from her intense gaze on her phone, and if Mordechai didn't know her incredible ability to multitask he could almost believe she'd fully checked out of the conversation. Viva giggled between the two and stood up on the bed, throwing herself over Mordechai's back and shoulder.

"Y'know mama don' like you all cloudy-"

"Gloomy, baby girl, not cloudy," her mother cut in, eyes still glued to her screen. "Daddy Mordechai needs to learn that some thoughts need to stay in your head. Otherwise, he could really hurt someone's feelings for no reason."

"Thank ya both," Mordechai responded, voice dry as a desert. He leaned forward until Viva tumbled over his shoulder and he caught her as she fell, shrieking in delight at the playful action from her usually tired and sore father. He deposited her back on her spot between her parents. "I was just sayin'-"

"Nothin' morbid," Allegra cut in again, laying back across the bed and tapping away at her keyboard. She allowed a narrow eyed glare to slide across Mordechai's profile as he rolled his eyes before returning to her task. "Continue."

"Right. Pops, ya know ya got me already. I'm sick of these fuckin' letters and I'm sick of all the goddamn secrets in the town, but it looks like we're all destined ta play in a mystery game until this sick fuck is taken care of. If playin' along means keepin' you and others that need it safe, then I guess there are worse roles ta follow, ok?" Mordechai grit out, clenching and unclenching his fists as he spoke. Of course they would keep getting roped back in, of course this sick fuck hadn't had enough heartache and trauma. What a coward's move, bringing in someone who has no presence in Edenridge, exposing her to the town's toxic miasma of corruption that eventually replaces the oxygen in your lungs and marks you as its own until you can't stay away.

Of course he would be one of the ones to bring it out of town to her first. Just like a good dealer.

Allegra shoved at his arm blindly and pointed to Poppy's distressed state, command clear despite the quick movement.

Comfort her, dumbass.

Mordechai straightened up with a sigh and shifted towards Poppy, pulling her into his chest and wrapping his arms around her, settling his chin on her head the way he only ever did with her and Danny. He held her tight against the world trying to tear her apart heartbreak by heartbreak, and he took deep breaths so that she could hear a steady heartbeat through his chest.

"When do we leave," he asked softly, "and who do we know that has a car ta lend? Blue Hill ain't the closest."

Leaning into his hold, Penelope deeply sighed and sat there in his blanket of warmth. When he asked the question, she laughed. “Natalia Belmonte, I imagine.” There it was. Another secret revealed. Charlie knew the Queen Bee of their year. Wrapping her arms around his thin frame, she tightly held onto him and buried her face into his chest, “Turns out we got ourselves another stop. Once Jade gets here, we’re going to Scott Street.”

Mordechai's face screwed up in confusion at that proclamation, not a clue in his mind on why the hell Natalia Belmonte would be a part of the crew. Not pulling away at all, and trying not to think about just how much this was calming his nerve-tight muscles, he spoke up with a wary, "I mean I can probably ask Mika for his truck, I dunno why we've gotta go ta Puff for this…though I guess I haven't seen her since her, Creed and Jokes broke up and then the night at the school and Carlisle," he mumbled into her hair. "Or is this another somethin' I don't know?"

"There's a lot of that with you, ain't there?" Allegra threw in cheekily from her spot across the bed, Viva laying across her stomach. Mordechai rolled his eyes heavenward and studiously ignored her lightening of the mood in favor of Poppy's reply.

“Puff?” Penelope pulled away from Mordechai. The disbelief washed over her before she stood up, putting space in between her and her friend. “It all makes sense now.” She walked to the window and looked into Charlie’s room. “That’s how Charlie knows her, huh?” The sinking feeling sat in her gut and her throat felt like it was closing up. She would never be good enough for the serpents. Everyone knew everyone and now come to find out, they trusted a Belmonte before they trusted her.

No matter!

Penelope wasn’t going to let this get her down. It didn’t matter if both her and her sister struggled to fit in. Both seeking validation and acceptance in different areas of the town. No, that didn’t matter. What mattered was that Charlie’s sister was in trouble. “Rhonda asked us to take her. Turns out she was friends with Charlie. You too, I guess.” She kept her green gaze toward the outside, forcing herself to bury her emotions at yet another shock. “If Natalia was close to Charlie, then I’m sure she wouldn't have a problem driving us. So. We’re going to Scott Street first.”

"Close? I mean she's been around since I got outta Juvie because'a Mika and then the guys but Hard Times and I barely talked ta her outside of Serpent parties and drug transactions," Mordechai assured, realizing he had done something to upset Poppy but unable to pinpoint what it was. It was one of the reasons he had barely reacted to Natalia's presence that night in front of Francis Callahan's locker. They knew each other, but they were barely on the edges of each other's circles, Decky always caught up with Sonny, or one of the hang around girls that littered the Serpent's hangouts. Puff likewise had always been with one of her own three snakes and didn't ever seem to find much need to branch out to the rest of the crew outside of the occasional quick banter. He turned to Allegra for help, face desperate as he watched her take in the scene with her keen insight. The older woman in the room sighed and removed her daughter from her stomach before standing up and moving to Poppy at the window. She draped her arms around Poppy's shoulders from behind, clasping her hands together in front of the other woman's chest as she hugged her from behind, lips right by her ear as she whispered to her.

"He doesn't understand how left out ya feel, Angel. I remember askin' him why you were never in his Serpent stories and he just went quiet like his fuckin' brain broke," she chuckled quietly, the vibration against Poppy's back a grounding sensation. "It won't be like this for much longer sweetie, I promise." She knocked the side of her head against the fairer woman's, half a step ahead of Mordechai's thought process whether he knew it or not. She'd seen him staring longingly at his pictures of his old crew, a raw want on his face that made his future intentions clear whether he had figured them out yet or not. And Allegra would be damned if she let Poppy go forward without as much of the Southies at her back as possible. She was determined to bulldoze her way through the dynamic and forge a new one that included the Street Angel of the Southside.

“It seems no one understood me,” Poppy’s voice broke in response. “Not even Charlie.” She didn't know if she should be happy that Allegra wanted to help or sad that it’s gotten this far that none of her best friends saw her desperately wanting a family like they had. It sucked living in a town where the person that understood you better than most, better than your own parents, was the English teacher. Nothing against her ma and dad either. Her dad was always working and her mom had never been the same since Max died. But for those closest to her, Charlie, Mordechai, and Jade… they really sucked at looking beyond themselves. “Thanks, Legs. I’m glad you’re here.”

Once again, Penelope buried the sadness, let her embrace with Allegra last a moment longer, and proceeded to demand with an annoyed undertone, “Did I stutter, Mordechai?” No longer in Allegra’s grasp, she grabbed her backpack and threw it over her shoulder, “Rhonda said they were close. Looks like she saw more than us and she’s fucking blind.” Poppy’s stare was sharp after she said that. She needed to have answers. The questions kept piling up and quite frankly, it was pissing her off. After giving the two little ones hugs and kisses, Pops dismissed herself, “I’ll send you updates throughout the day, Legs. I’m heading down, Jade should be here soon,” and from there Poppy had left her old bedroom for the platonic lovers and parents to talk.

Mordechai stared after Poppy, gut twisting at the hurt and edge that had coated her voice when she responded to him. He stumbled a bit when Legs shoved him towards the closet and high shelves where he kept most of his weapons out of the children's reach and sight. He turned to the affectionately violent woman, flinching as he caught the disappointed glare she was leveling him with.

"What did I do?" He asked his fellow streetwalker desperately. He had managed to really upset Poppy in his attempt to comfort her, and had gotten a taste of the girl's venom for the first time since she brought him back to himself at the gym that night.

"Ya really are a bovo, Ken," Allegra sighed with a shake of her head, crossing to the bed to grab Viva and set her down next to her now awake little brother in his crib."How many Serpents does Poppy know?"

"What? All of 'em. My crew, at least…" he stumbled out, brow creasing as his confusion continued. "Most of us did visitation together in Juvie, and Sonny was with Danny an' I since before I even met Pops, Jade, and Hard Times-"

"I'm not askin' how many she's met," Allegra cut him off with another aggravated sigh before muttering quietly to herself, "Estoy así de cerca…" she walked up to Mordechai and grabbed his face in her hands, forcing him to look down into her eyes as she told him seriously. "She didn't become friends with them just because they were your friends already. Based on your stories and everythin' I've seen of Poppy since gettin' here, that girl has been sidelined in damn near every part of her life, includin' bein' left outta anythin' Serpent, and you and her other two best friends were the worst culprits of it. Those Serpents are your family, yeah? Why couldn't they be hers too?"

Mordechai tried to keep Allegra's gaze, but found himself glancing off to the side in shame, unable to move from her grasp. Had it really been like that? He and Charlie had agreed before the other boy had even joined the Serpents that Poppy be kept away from it, hoping to keep her away from the type of circumstances that usually create more serpents and drag the unwilling into the endless pit. Danny had been different, right? The safest place for him was by the Serpents' sides because going home to their parents was never an option. But…even after he and Danny moved Northside with Beau and then the Lancasters before Mordechai found them a small apartment; even after he and Charlie found her after that fight in highschool, disheveled and bloody faced but triumphant; even after people like Natalia Belmonte and Gavriel Shomer- a Northie and an Outsider- started spending their days in Serpent territory…Poppy was still being closeted away by her three closest friends.

"We were tryin'-"

"If you say 'to protect her', Mordechai Oren Boaz, I swear ta god I'll smother that stupid thought outta you in your sleep," Allegra's nails dug into the sides of his face as she pulled him down closer and forced him to meet her gaze once again. "Her dad used ta be a Serpent! She grew up with all of ya! She lives in the Southside and is smarter than almost all'a you fucks, with a wild streak a mile wide if ya stoked her fire a bit. Instead all you idiots were doin' was stiflin' her, and now she's findin' out your reasons behind leavin' her out were bullshit because a random friend or fuckbuddy from the Northside can apparently waltz their way into a snake den without any issue! Ya showed me the video, remember? Even ReyRey acknowledged her roots, but y'all were too busy tryin'a keep her innocent when she wasn't ta begin with!"

Mordechai pulled away roughly and began packing his weapons onto different parts of his person, not letting Allegra see the angry tears in his eyes. His arms were itching like crazy, and despite knowing it was all in his head Mordechai couldn't help but scratch and rub at his forearm to ground himself, fingers running along the raised scarring of his track marks. He took a deep breath as he started into the back of the closet, closing his eyes and trying to find his verbal footing. Allegra waited patiently behind him while Viva distracted her baby brother in the crib.

"We were all just kids playin' at adults, Legs," he said brokenly. "None of us knew what we were doin', none of us were ready for any of it. And honestly? I never wanted to risk Pops bein' around to see any punishments Charlie and I received," he thought back to the morning after getting out of Juvie, staying on his hands and knees while glaring intently at the bloody and cracked concrete beneath him while his crew was forced to land lash after lash on his back. He had thought at the time it was because of the bad Vouch in general, but now he knew ReyRey was being personally vindictive about it. He remembered refusing to see Poppy that day, and not seeing either her or Jade until he could move just fine on his own. Until he could be strong enough to protect them again. He gripped the knife Sonny had given him all those years ago tightly in his fist before pocketing it. "We were tryin'a be shields, not chains."

Allegra stared at Mordechai's back, his slumped stance, and she heard the defeat in his tone that told her she'd gotten through to him, that she could back off on the rage because he was receptive, truly receptive, now.

"Well," She said softly, walking up to hug him from behind and put her forehead between his shoulder blades while he shook silently. "You're all adults now, and it's time ya fix some'a the things ya broke as children. There's no changin' the past but we can all learn from it to fix up the present a bit, yeah?"

"Yeah," Mordechai whispered, turning his head to stare at his beautiful children's smiling faces. "Yeah, I guess we can."

Poppy wasn't going to be left out of anything anymore, even if it made him weak in front of her. If she got hurt he'd just have to rain unholy hell upon whoever did it and comfort her after, because if he was bringing her in it was going to be no holds barred; he couldn't half-ass secrets anymore.


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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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Blue Hills Reservation
10 Miles Outside Edenridge
Lunchtime



It had been a warm, humid type of day on the Blue Hill Reservation. A storm was brewing in the East and could be seen from miles away. No doubt they were due for some heavy rain coming their way come nightfall. It was her sincerest hope that the horrid weather would pass by before or after Mitena Strongbow and her band played their set at the longhouse.

Tena had pretty much spent the morning trying to wire the acoustics right at Aponi’s Heart and had also spent most of the morning feeling like she was fighting a losing battle. The place was old and the Chief didn’t really have a lot of money to fix it up but it was home. The longhouse had been on the reservation for as long as the Rez itself had existed. It was as the name suggested, a king building with high old beams and plentiful decorations representing the tribe's history, even down to its name; Aponi’s Heart. It was a name that held much meaning to the Blue Hill people. Aponi was the poor girl who fell victim to the white man’s fear and rage. She was the girl whose death forced their ancestors to leave their land and settle elsewhere. Chief named it as a reminder to his people to not forget where they came from and what happened to them.

The dark haired beauty stood at the microphone on the short two foot stage, guitar in hand, testing out our vocals with a song from Jimmy Eat World, 23. She looked out at the empty dance floor where the crowd would be later. Johnny the Janitor was sweeping up the place ready for the evening’s festivities. Looking at him with her soft brown eyes Tena smiled; he looked like her brother; Charlie.



Tena still had the CD (remember those?) that Charlie had sent her from his home in Edenridge the summer before he…. It was a beautiful mix of sad songs and deep melancholy mixed with rage, so much rage. It was truly a glimpse into his mind and soul before the end of his life. When word had gotten to Blue Hills about the massacre her brother had undertaken, Mitena’s heart sank. She was lucky in that only a handful of people on the reservation even knew of her connection to the boy and those that knew were wonderful to her.

She wondered, she truly did, if he had been with his people on the Reservation if Charlie would’ve been ok? In the letters they all too briefly shared, her big brother spoke of people he loved. Friends and a girl specifically. Penelope. The way he spoke of her, his words were resonant and passionate.

”Whatever the pain I feel, no matter the hurt, I look through my window into hers and I see her. I see her and I know my life has meaning. She is the air I breathe. William Henley once said I am the Captain of my soul. She is the Captain of mine”

The young indigenous woman remembered his words as clear as the day was long. He obviously had people he cared for, people that meant everything to him but Charlie’s words were not always pleasant. Tena’s brother had so much pain, so much darkness. She wondered if they had been raised together as siblings should be, then maybe just maybe, life would change and the beautiful departed would no longer be that. Maybe people would have been saved? Ifs, buts and maybes were not Tena’s style however. Charlie did what he did and that was that. She couldn’t change that, she was just a humble native girl with a great ass and a talent for that thing called music, so that’s where her energy and her time would go, not dwelling on what could have been.

Mitena glanced down at her fingers as they plucked at her guitar strings and more specifically, the thick leather brace on her left wrist. It was his. Apparently her brother liked his Hot Topic bling. Luckily the brown leather worked well with her wardrobe. It was the last gift he sent her, along with the copy of his unfinished book. It took a little while but once Tena opened it up, she just couldn’t stop reading.

“Sound check sounds good, Tena” A warm but strong and authoritative voice called from behind the bar.

Raising her eyes upwards, she matched a gaze with the elder gentleman who stood there holding his towel over his shoulder like a proper bartender, which Chief Coldwind certainly wasn’t. He had been the leader of the tribe for over twenty years now. It was a title he inherited from his father and his father before him. Chief had just turned sixty yet he still carried himself with a jovial attitude, young at heart some might say. He was also still a total DILF. Ryan would go ballistic hearing those kinds of thoughts but she was also aware that the entire female and some male inhabitants of Blue Hills wanted to climb her grandfather like a tree. ”Oh hey, thanks Chief” She sweetly smiled as she climbed down from the stage, resting her guitar against the mic stand. ”I hear you’re gonna sell out tonight. We got enough beer?”

“As a matter of fact…” The Chief reached below the bar and pulled out a small ice cold bottle from the fridge. He popped the cap off and slid it across the bar to the gorgeous girl. “Spoke to a guy I know a few towns over, Cleary. Nice guy. Kind enough to send us some samples of his new brew. So I got a few crates. We should be good. I also spoke to Fallon, she’s gonna keep the lighthorseman away from Aponi’s tonight, give you girls a little chance to raise some hell” The older man placed both his palms flat in the bar and leaned forward slightly, always the authority. “Not too much hell though or the Great Spirit will have my ass ok?”

“I can’t promise that, I hear Big Bear is in town” She rested her hand on his for a brief moment and smiled before taking a step back. ”Thanks Chief, means a lot” Tena picked up the bottle and examined the label. Huh? It came from Edenridge: what a coincidence. Then again, New England was a small place. She took a swig from the bottle and her eyebrow cocked highly. ”That is some good shit”

“Language”

“It’s called English, get with the times Grandpa” A voice called back as three beautiful women entered the bar. Ryan, the source of the voice was a pint sized poison pixie. She was followed by Heather carrying herself like a queen and Odina, the youngest of them, rambling to herself. The rest of Tena’s band, Red Wolf Road, had arrived at Aponi’s Heart.

Chief Coldwind looked upon his granddaughter with a grin as she climbed onto the small stage and sat down next to her bass. She was a lot like her late grandmother. No shits given in this life. ”I’m afraid that ship has sailed. I’m an old man now”

As the other girls got onto the stage following Ryan and began to set up their own instruments for practice, Tena considered her life on the Reservation. It was comfortable, it was safe. She was surrounded by people that loved her like her girls on the stage or the Chief. Her auntie Jadyn had been a godsend and Resi and everyone. They say “It takes a village” and for Mitena that really was the truth. With no father to speak on and after her mothers passing, the entire tribe took to raising her. From the minute she picked up a guitar, from the day she admitted to liking girls as well as guys and the day she found out her brother was a murderer, the Blue Hills tribe supported her and di rignr by her. They were “Sidanelv”…that meant family. All of them.

Taking her beer up on stage with her, Tena placed it down by her stool as she picked up her guitar again. [color=BB986B“So the first set goes like this; we open with Kickstart my Heart. Then we do Your Love and Back on the Chain Gang before we switch up to the acoustics. Gonna open that with Paint the Silence, Constant Knot and then round out the hour with 23. Plan?”[/color] The other three girls muttered amongst themselves for a moment before nodding their heads in agreement. ”Alrighty then, count us in Odina”

3, 2, 1, let’s jam.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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TIMESTAMP: Flashback, Sophomore Year
FT.
Penelope James, Charlie Decker & Rhonda Decker


____________________________________________________________________





____________________________________________________________________

Charlie and his books.

In typical Hard Times fashion, the lanky teen had decided to raid the Edenridge Public Library for the tomes of the ancients to unlock the secrets of the great and mythical past; a phrase which here means he grabbed a load of books pertaining to Eden history and family trees for a class assignment.

Beau had been feeling especially Beau-ish in their literature class and had assigned the students the task of finding their own story to present to the class, one pertaining to their own kin somewhere amongst the annals of Edenridge lore and folk tale. This would not be a difficult task for some, Edenridge had its fair share of ghost stories and a third of the class was descended from the men and women that founded their sleepy hamlet. One quick Google and that’s a passing grade for some people. Not for Charlie and Poppy though, if they were going to it, they were going to do it right.

Charlie himself was a story. The events of the previous winter and his poisoning of Allison Davies meant that he would go down in infamy the same way that his father had; murderer. Edenridge locals had done well to make sure that he and even his poor mother would never forget that fact. Charlie Decker, killer of innocence. James Strongbow, the preacher who burned down his own church with parrishers and choir boys inside. Charlie wasn’t going to give those people that looked down on him the satisfaction of talking about his own history. He would go further back and find a story that would honour his name rather than spit on it and he was most certainly going to avoid bringing her into this.

That wound was still very fresh, Mitena or Tena as she preferred was the sister Charlie never knew that he had. Around the time of Allison’s death, they had been assigned a genealogy task and he was shocked to find that his father had borne a daughter back home on the Blue Hill Reservation. He had only discovered her existence when the town was rocked by Ally’s death and Charlie was blamed. He didn’t really know what to do, so he held it secret, even from Poppy. She was his everything but a lot was happening and Charlie the wordsmith just didn’t know how to articulate himself. Finally, after an age, he wrote the girl a letter and to his surprise, Tena responded. After a short while, they decided to meet up in Boston with Ronnie and the tribal Chief Christian Coldwind as chaperones. For all intents and purposes the meeting went well and the newly discovered siblings held a lot in common. However Charlie was cautious about exploring more, he was already a target on multiple fronts and he really didn’t want to drag this poor innocent young girl into his dark world. Thus he kept her at a distance, still writing her letters but keeping her safe.

And was where he found himself on this fine day, writing his sister a letter whilst Poppy James sat on his bed, her head buried in the books that Charlie brought her so that she could research her family history.

“That little blonde girl was in the library again,” Charlie didn’t look up from his writings as he spoke. “That girl gives me the creeps. Very pretty but very creepy. Eyes like a snake just watching you as you move around the stacks. Shudder.”

“Jane?” Penelope glanced in her binder where she printed out articles about those in her family, on both sides of her family. James and Mooney. She was finding out quickly why her parents were no longer on talking terms with any of their living relatives. They both were crime infested but to different extents. “That’s what her name tag says. She doesn’t look like a Jane. She’s pretty sweet, heavy accent though.”

The past week Penelope focused on her James side. She found out her father has a dead brother, a living brother still at the trailer park not too far off from the orphanage, and a brother on death row. From what she gathered, they were patriotic and all served the military at one point in time, her father was an exception and chose to become a police officer instead. Sadly, their service was drowned out by all their bad deeds.

Before and after their service they all had an extensive history of legal problems and multiple arrests. She didn’t have access to the police database but based on the articles she found, she was sure there was detailed information there about each James man, including her father. All she had was new articles about each James boy, a couple instances revolving around all of them (theft). It was becoming clearer and clearer why her father leaned on the serpents. Hell, the brother on death row committed murder and the people that were killed were her grandparents.

This brought to light why her father talked so highly about the good times and the memory of his three friends: Reaper, Rusty, and Rooster. It started to feel like he filled a void with the SSS because his own family was beyond saving. His family thought they were cursed and played the white trash role given to them by the town. Beyond that? The James family were a poor family that had always been around but following the breadcrumbs past her father’s immediate family was near impossible. Hard to track the history of a family that never mattered.

The books she had opened were the yearbooks between the years of 1950 and 1954 and a book written in 1964 by Cadence Robinson called Sinking Soul, a ‘based on a true story’ romance-horror novel. A fantastical account on the murder of Karen Nowinski and an analysis of the mind of Gregory Mooney. Turns out Cadence was Karen’s best friend and was haunted by her best friend’s ghost. Without her consent, Cadence’s mother published the story which was originally a homework assignment. While it didn’t go beyond New England, it was a cherished cult classic in Massachusetts. “Did you find anything interesting, Charlie? I might need a goddamn shot after all this. I want to find one good thing! Not some psycho killer bullshit or money laundering scandal.” There was that too. Her mom’s parents laundered money for the cartel. Was she doomed like the rest of her family?

Lifting his head up from his private letter, Charlie leaned back in his chair. “Well,” He began. “I apparently had a great great grand uncle on my Mom’s side that may or may not have been on the Titanic, no one really knows actually. Wonder if he was Leo or Billy Zayne?” He put down his pencil just after finishing the final sentence She is the Captain of mine and slipped the note into his bag. “Oh and turns out I’ve got some family on my dad’s side on a reservation somewhere. Doubt they know I exist though, I imagine he was made Craven by the tribe for what he did.”

It was a cold fact that even if James Winters hadn’t started the fire that killed six people at St Paul’s he was still at fault. He couldn’t save them and he took his own life. It was dishonourable and it was cowardly and it was not becoming of a member of the tribe. It was never made clear to Charlie whether James knew that Rhonda was pregnant with him when he put that gun to his head. He had broached the subject a few times but his mother always had the same response: had he known, he wouldn’t have done it. Charlie, of course, had his doubts.

Ronnie poked her head around the slightly ajar door with a plate of steaming cookies and a big grin on her face. “Hey guys, I got some peanut butter cookies. Freshly maaade,” She sang. “Your favourite baby.” The beautiful older woman placed them on the desk next to her son as she glanced over at Poppy with her big green eyes. “And make sure to take some in a bag for your Mom, Poppy. Oh and take some for Mordechai too, that boy is skinnier every time I see him. Get it? See him cos I’m going blind? You get it,” She laughed to herself at her own joke as she watched her baby boy roll his dark eyes. “Ok I’ll go, keep hard at work Charlie Jay. Love you both.” She waved before departing again, making sure to leave the door as she found it, so she could listen in.

Penelope was quick to grab a cookie and stuff her face. She grabbed another one and placed it in her mouth when her eyes caught something in the 1954 yearbook. She would’ve responded to Charlie but his mom entered and she brought a yummy, yummy treat she couldn’t ignore. So, her mouth was preoccupied. With the cookie in mouth, she muttered, “No way…” In the sophomore year, there was a boy named Jonathan Carlisle-Mooney. Flipping through the pages fast, scanning it, she found a picture of Jonathan and Gregory together on the basketball court.

In this moment, her history got ten times worse. Frantically, the cookie dropping on her lap, Poppy grabbed her phone and looked up the name to find out any information she could on Jonathan. You gotta’ be shitting me. She found his obituary copied from a news article and posted on a website. Year 1986. He was the cousin of Gregory and his father was the FOUNDER of Edenridge National Laboratory. He died two years after his dad, Nikolas Carlisle, at the age of 48, and was a forensic scientist for the Edenridge Police.

Instead of taking a break, Penelope went into a full panic mode grabbing different books and flipping through all the pages catching onto the Carlisle name. It was because of her family… The Hangman… Last Night in Paradise... Nathaniel and Esther Carlisle… Aponi… that Charlie’s people… it was her family’s fault that…

Watching his love flick through page after page wasn’t really the turn on that some might expect to be for bookworm Charlie. He got up off of his seat and made his way over to the bed where Poppy sat, bringing his mothers cookies. He sat back down next to her, placing one supportive hand on the back of her neck and the other rested gently on her thigh. “You ok, what was that?” He glanced down at the pages that had swept Pop’s up into whatever wave of emotion she was currently feeling.

Carlisle.

It was a name held both aloft and buried six feet deep in Edenridge. A plaque long since degraded and downtrodden sat towards the centre of Main Street which had that name etched onto it, along with that of Callahan, Cleary, O’Brien and O’Hara. It was a name carried on buildings and indeed on the very street which the two teens grew up and were currently sitting on. Carlisle. Named for the Judge. The man who systematically eliminated sin in the embryonic town’s early years, including his own daughter if legend and folklore was to be believed. The man who almost single-handedly drove the Indigenous population of this land away from their ancestral home because he didn’t like the color of their skin. Carlisle. The source of the so-called curse of Edenridge.

Was Poppy a Carlisle? If that was the case, not only did that mean she was, quite literally, a part of the town but it also meant that if the stories were true, their ancestors were in love and that it was her family that stole everything from his. Of course that would be the case, it was Charlie and it was Poppy. Good shit never happened to them. Seemed like their progenitors suffered the same way. “Well shit, Pops. You’re a Foundling.”

“No, don’t say that,” Penelope closed one of the books and grabbed the deserted cookie she had abandoned on her lap before this discovery. “I really don’t need to stand out more than I already do by being Rocky’s daughter.” Taking small nibbles of the cookie, she leaned back on the bed frame, her body taking Charlie with her. Impassive and empty, she stared at the yearbook that connected it all. “How am I supposed to write about this? I don’t want people to know that I’m related to the fucking Hangman and Roman Carlisle who owned a sex trafficking operation and the infamous Clover killer Gregory. And worse! Nathaniel Carlisle. Literally the one that started it all.”

Finishing up her cookie, her dull eyes began to glint with color and life, saddening the more she realized how awful this was, “That’s all of the known history.” She glanced over to Charlie, her Charlie, and frowned. Were they doomed from the start? Love doesn’t fare well between a native and a Carlisle. “What kind of fucked up misfortune is that? Sorry but my ancestors killed your people and drove them out of town.” If people knew that, how would their opinions change? Being a foundling was one thing, but being a Carlisle held so much more weight than that. To her, that name was an evil omen. “Sorry but every other generation my ancestors find a way to nurture the goddamn land by watering it with someone else’s blood. Sorry I’m literally the legacy of evil.” It was clear as day that Penelope knew her Edenridge history. A little too well. And she truly believed Nathaniel Carlisle was the reason this town was cursed. Call her superstitious or whatever but not too long ago her sister was murdered, which felt like payback for some sort of wrongdoing. They say she committed suicide but that’s fucking bullshit. Maxine would never do that. Truly, her family was paying for their father’s sin and they would continue to do so for as long as they had Carlisle in their blood. With an absent mind, Penelope fiddled with her teardrop necklace. As Joseph Stalin said, a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

“I mean…” Charlie wrapped his arm around the small young woman and let out a little half laugh. “I’d go and see a band called Legacy of Evil.” He used his free hand to grab one of his mothers cookies and bring it towards his mouth. “I know a thing or two about shitty legacies, trust me but here’s the secret; you might have some Carlisle blood in you and you might have some weird redneck James blood too but you’re also the daughter of a hero cop and a charity worker, sister to a badass and the light that stops me, Decky, Jade and a lot of other reprobates from turning full heel. You’re not your family Pops, you’re a good person…the best person.”

In true Charlie fashion, the teen demolished his cookie like a starved hyena, dropping crumbs all over his bed. Only this one was actually done for comic effect rather than the usual instance of him just being disgusting. “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. Shannon Alder.” The Serpent boy spoke, still with biscuit in his mouth. “It doesn’t matter that you’re a Carlisle, it matters that you’re Poppy.”

“And you’re a pig,” Penelope smiled, having watched him make a mess out of himself, as he devoured the cookie. She gestured around her own lips, to convey he had crumbs on his face which was kind of distracting. He couldn’t have eaten that cookie anymore gracelessly. Of course, she was used to it but now there was a trail of crumbs circling around his lips. Things had slowed down from their research, she could be in his presence and just stare. She was a fool for him and it could be read all over her expression. She adored him. She loved him. She needed him. Carlisle or not, Charlie was her everything.

Her green eyes went from his mouth to his eyes before chuckling, “Okay, okay. I’ll look at it more positively but I still don’t want to write about it.”

It was her, it was him, and they were alone on his bed. A normal thing in their routine and yet the older she got, the more she thought about the what if. What if she leaned forward and kissed him? What if.

Kiss her you idiot!

The words had rattled through Charlie’s brain so many times at this point that he had all but become numb to them. Why couldn’t he just open up and tell her? Tell her how she was the most important thing in his life. Tell her that she was his reason for getting up in the morning and going through all the shit that he did. Tell her that he had been in love with her since they were five and that she was everything he always wanted. Why couldn’t he just say the words instead of writing them on a page? Why?

“Well then we’ll just find something else,” He broke their shared gaze and returned his attention to the books string across the bed. “You know what you could do…tell them a story about Max. She was the best and kindest kind of person. I’m sure there’s something about her you could say. Something that would tug at the ol’ heartstrings.”

“Mm, I certainly could try,” Penelope rested her hand on the teardrop against her chest and brought her attention to the tomes laying before her. “It’s still kind of… fresh. One week I feel okay, the next I have her voice replaying in my head. I just try to imagine how it all happened and I can’t help but feel sad because she was supposed to have a future. I could see her become the next Beau. They’re both selfless people that want to help others through their love of literature.” Penelope grabbed her phone and went to her photo album, going to an old picture of Maxine with her, Charlie, Decky, Danny, and Jade. “She deserved to live. She was such a good fucking person. Better than me, that’s for sure.”

There would be no wedding bells for Max, no children, no chance to see beyond Edenridge if she ever entertained moving out. Truth be told, Penelope believed if Max was still alive, like their father, she would commit to her purpose and stay here, trying to help this town heal, even if it slowly killed her. Instead, she had none of that to look forward to and her death was quick, and hopefully painless.

“I loved your sister too,” Charlie lamented. “I remember sharing books with her and maybe stealing a few from her as well but she always knew. She always knew it was me and never said a word, I…” Before he could continue, he was interrupted by the sound of his phone vibrating on the bedside counter. He moved his dark eyes to the screen and noted a slew of messages incoming, all from the same number. “It’s ReyRey,” Charlie sighed. “I’m supposed to be working tonight, we must’ve lost track of time.”

Pulling himself off of the bed, he stuffed his phone into his back pocket and started to gather things from around the room. Finishing his ensemble with his signature leather jacket, Charlie made his way towards the open window that forever linked him and Poppy. “Feel free to stay, do your research. Mom would love the company…oh shit.” Making his way quickly back to the bed, the native boy grabbed a load of cookies and lined his pockets with them. “She said grab some for Decky. She’d kill me if I didn’t.” He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Poppy’s forehead. “You’re Poppy James. Not Poppy Carlisle. You’re a badass.”

Another thing she was used to. Charlie having to leave during random times of the day. No matter, tonight was a good night and she got to spend time with him. “And you’re my Charlie... Stay safe out there and come back home,” to me.


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