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TIMESTAMP: After Scott Street: The Real Dream
Featuring: Clayton Costigan, Caitlin Cleary, Kylee Grimm & Jamie Lord



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Every time Jamie looked in the mirror, she so desperately wished to see David staring back at her. One day he would. One day she would open her eyes and she would see that stupid curly hair framing his goofy grin. He would be laughing and telling her that she needed to decide for certain whether she was going to be a blonde or a brunette because he was sick of her changing it all the time. She would tease him about his choice of music being exactly like their Dads and then Davey would go off to play ball with Rhett and Clay and she could go about her own monotonous life until she was ready to come home to her brother again.

One day that would happen.

Jamie closed her eyes and exhaled deeply, her body slowly moving to the sound of David’s Infinite Spotify Playlist of Dad Rock. Russell’s screams were drowned out by the deafening synth intro of Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. She still had the bloodied knife on her hand as she danced through the hallways of the O’Hara house. Her father was already gone for the day and her mother had headed out to the store. Russ was in the living room, hooting and hollering but what was fine, that didn’t matter. He didn’t matter.

Her darling husband had lost his mind when Jamie had gotten home that morning and told him that she had kissed someone else and liked it. It was so typical of Russell to throw back in her face that he stood by her through everything. Jamie hated him for it. He wasn’t doing it because he loved her, he was doing it to hide himself away from the world; to hide the truth that everyone already knew and didn’t care about. Russell was gay. Everybody knew. Jamie was just his beard. An opportunity he saw when she was at her lowest to cover up his own pain. Their argument was heated and although he had never laid a finger on her, Russ was large and she was not. She hadn’t planned on using the knife until Russ said he had beaten up Clay the night before and left him for dead.

He did what?!

How could he do that? Clay was their friend. He was a good hearted soul who just wanted to help people and Russell attacked him for no reason. He tried to preach that he did it for her, that if Clay found out Jamie was behind the letters that would be the end of everything. How could he hurt Clay? Jamie had always loved that floppy haired idiot. Once upon a time, it was romantic; in fact they were each other's first kiss but time and tide makes fools of us all. They were never meant to be. Instead they were friends, the closest of close until Davey died. Knowing that her husband had tried to silence their friend, that drew down the curtain of red mist and forced Jamie’s hand and the blade between her fingers to slash Russell’s arm.

He was on the couch, having made a tourniquet out of a tea towel and was on the phone to the emergency services. Jamie wandered out of the front door, her eyes bloodshot and teary. She still held the knife as she walked barefoot onto the pristine green grass of her Scott Street ancestral home. The music was blaring through the open front door as she turned her head towards the neighbors home, the Cleary house.

If David wasn’t with Jamie, maybe he was over there?

Exiting the Cleary household, Kylee was a woman on a mission. On the phone with Adam who was still at the Costigans, she gave him an update, “Hey baby, meet me at Absolute Sound. I got a surprise Dawn Patrol special to do.” Scanning at her wrist watch, she noted the time, morning was nearing an end. She shrugged, “Sure Amie might still be live, but she should understand. That girl has a squirrel brain and this is far more important. So, yeah, I’ll see you soon? Mm, yes sir I’ll be careful.” When she listened to the next words, Kylee became a blushing bride and embarrassingly answered, “Stahp. I need to focus…” she could see Clay’s and Cece’s eyes on her, which caused her to look away, “I love you—” her train of thought stopped abruptly when she saw David’s twin in a tragic state. “Jamie…” she whispered. Barefoot, sunken eyes from all the tears she’s cried, and a bloody knife. Instinctively, Kylee put herself in between Caitlin and the distraught, mentally unstable woman making her way toward them. “Adam, I need to go. Clay!” Kylee hung up her phone.

“Calm your tits, I’m moving a bit slow today…” Clay’s ever present humor fell off of a cliff’s edge as he came up behind the two girls and saw his childhood friend moving like a zombie towards them. She did not look like her usual, ethereal, radiant self. This version of Jamie looked manic and half crazed. Clayton swiftly jumped in front of both girls, blocking them with his lanky frame. The adrenaline quickly surged through his veins to mask the pain. He didn’t immediately reach for his gun, instead opting just to reach out his hand to his former lover. “Jamie, babe what’s with the knife?” He scanned it as quickly as he could. There was only a small amount of blood on the blade which meant that whatever she had cut, realistically suffered a surface wound at best. “Jamie, you hear me?…”

Jamie tilted her head slowly, taking short steps forward. “Is he in there?” She asked, breaking into a wide smile. “Is my Davey in there? I have to tell him something important. I know you want to keep him all to yourself Caitykins, but I need him. I need my big brother.” Her words were frantic as she ignored both Clay and Kylee, focusing her attention on the small redhead they were shielding with their bodies. “I need Davey."

The moment Cece's eyes fell on the woman with a knife staggering towards them, fear unlike anything she'd experienced before settled within her heart. The multi-generational bond between the O'Haras and the Clearys meant that the redhead was aware of Jamie's mental health issues, and knew that the reason she'd been sent away for some time was because David's passing exacerbated them. When she and Russ had returned to town a few weeks ago, she seemed better, healthier than she'd ever seen her before. No matter how hard she tried, Cece couldn't think of what had triggered Jamie to such an extent that she would do any of this. What she did know was that staring at the state of the woman she grew up alongside, the one who had treated her like a sister and been the biggest accomplice she and David had during their time together, terrified her and broke her heart in equal parts.

"He's-- he's not here, Jamie," she croaked, her voice trembling as much as her body was. She could tell from the woman's glassy-eyed stare and her inquiry that she wasn't all the way in the present. Her mind was probably stuck in the past, before tragedy had struck them all. Telling her that her brother was no longer with them was bound to escalate things, so Cece opted against being the one to say it. "David's not with me right now.”

Jamie stared vacantly at the trio; their words soaring over her head. She turned her head in time to see the doors of the cul-de-sac open and the residents of Scott Street empty from their loveless castles to view what was happening on the Cleary lawn. The fragile tie turned her O’Hara blue gaze back to Clay, Caitlin and Kylee and narrowed her gaze onto her childhood friend. “Clayton, you must know where Davey is? Is he with Franny? Or did you just get back from your date's house? Should I call Rhett?”

Clay was heartbroken seeing Jamie like this. She was obviously in some form of manic episode. She had suffered through them her entire life. Some were quick, others lasted days. When David passed, the mania was constant and unstoppable until she went and got help. Nobody knew exactly what was wrong with Jamie, the O’Hara’s had kept it quiet but everyone knew that something was wrong. “Jame, he’s gone. You know that, right? David’s been gone for years.” He tried to remember the techniques that they had all been shown to help pull the girl from her delusions. The problem was, Clay’s own mind was foggy from assault by her husband. “Focus on my voice; on my words, where are you right now?”

Jamie tried to open her mouth, to make words come out but instead there was only a whimper as the tears started rolling down her puffy, red face once more. Like a light switch being flipped, the broken monument’s face darkened and she raised her blade. “I had to do it.” She spoke coldly, “They said such horrible things. They all dragged his name through the dirt and why? WHY? Because he was protecting you.” Jamie hissed as she glared at Caitlin. “I love you Caitykins. I really do but you’re not worth what they did to him. It’s not your fault; we love who we love who we love. That’s just the world. But he is mine. David is my world and I am not going to let them spit on his soul any more. They are going to hear the truth.”

The truth in Jamie's words cut Caitlin deeper than any injury the knife in her hand could’ve caused. She was right. She wasn't worth what had happened to David. She wasn’t worth the accusations, the insults, the snide comments or the death threats. Davey had died because of her-- his life wasn't worth that. She had earned every single ounce of hurt that had come her way since the day she decided to kiss him by the lake. Every negative feeling she’d experienced since his passing was warranted. If Jamie wanted to end her life today, then so be it. She should've gone through with it herself years ago. It was exactly what she deserved.

“I’m sorry,” was all the young woman could whimper in between her sobs, the crushing weight of her guilt and her pain bringing her down to her knees, her face buried behind her hands as she fell forward. “I am so, so sorry.”

“Is this how you honor his memory?” Kylee sadly but firmly asked the older woman, having pocketed her phone in her pants. She made herself visible to Jamie, moving beside Clay, knowing he would want to shield her. She met his gaze, seeing how badly his body was hurting, and told him through her eyes she could handle herself. She was a big girl. Her father raised her in a way to at least know how to protect herself from an ongoing attacker on the street just in case she was mugged. She wasn’t too worried. She was more worried for the mental health of all the people around her.

“We love who we love who we love,” she repeated after Jamie. “Look around you, Jamie.” Kylee raised her hand to gesture at Clay, Caitlin, and her general vicinity. “You are not the only one hurting. I can’t say what this town did was right but what I can say is would David want you to remember him for the sadness and the tears? Or would he want you to remember the days you laughed, walking down this street, right here, during Halloween, going to basketball games, dancing by the lake with friends, and hiding out in your secret place? His smile. Doesn’t he have such a nice smile? I always thought your brother’s smile was so pretty and bright,” Kylee never took her eyes away from Jamie. She wanted the woman to hear her; really hear every word she was saying. She had no idea if Jamie would be receptive but she had to try.

Kylee Grimm was the outsider in this situation. That didn’t mean she needed to be a bystander. She knew enough information to break the silence of the town. She might’ve not added fuel to this fire many years ago but she didn’t do anything to put the fire out. More importantly though? She saw her friend and her former classmate in pain. So much pain. That was enough for her to take action. “He never stopped loving you, Jamie. He will never stop loving you. Please don’t be unhappy because you can’t see him. He’s with you, I promise he is. Every morning, every dawn, and every night. He’s with you. Right here.” Kylee placed her hand on her chest, her heart, where she’s made a home for her own loved ones. “He’s with you,” she repeated, like a mantra. “He’s always been with you.”

“But he’s not with me though, is he?” Jamie spoke coldly, the usual warmth of her words was snuffed out by grief. “They took him away from me. Why did they have to take him away?” Her face began to shrink and resolve into sobbing as Kylee’s words found a hole in her wall of pain to seep into. “He didn’t do anything wrong. He just fell in love, he just fell in love. Isn’t that what is supposed to make the world go round?” Jamie’s teary eyes fell upon Caitlin once more, who was now being held by Kylee for support, they were brimming with sadness and despair. “Davey loves you so much. You make him so happy, Caity. I just want to tell him that I found someone, someone who could make me happy too. Is that so wrong?”

Clay always knew that Jamie’s co-dependency on her brother was bad but to be this severe! Her episodes obviously didn’t help the situation and his death only could’ve exacerbated it. Taking a step forward, the former elite reached his hand slowly up and took a hold of the surviving O’Hara’s wrist. She didn’t fight back as he took the knife from her and dropped it onto the floor. He had always known that Russell was a marriage of convenience and Jamie’s words of finding love were not meant for him. He wondered if it could be closer to home than he realized. Avery had messaged him earlier that morning mentioning a kiss. He all but skimmed it because of how groggy he was but now it all made sense. Avery and Jamie had kissed and despite what joy it seemed to bring based on the ballerina’s words, it had also set off her mania, likely the confusion of it all.

She watched Clay take another stride forward, when hooked his arms beneath Jamie and pulled her into his embrace she began to weep uncontrollably. Her knees buckled as she sank down into the grass, clinging onto Clayton’s now bloody shirt as she did. He followed her down to the door and held her tightly. She looked up at Caitlin and reached out her hand, her other still grasping onto her childhood friend. “Caity…”

The redhead's face remained buried between her hands, her whole body shaking with violent sobs. Hearing Jamie speak about David's love for her, the happiness she brought him and how she wasn't to blame for what happened brought a sense of relief and healing to her aching heart. Sure: Jamie was right when she said that protecting Cece wasn't worth what the town did to David-- that was her grief speaking. But it was comforting to know that even in the midst of her distress, Jamie could still remember that the happiest Cece and David had ever been was with each other.

When Cece heard the sound of her name being called out, she looked up at the brunette and noticed the other woman reaching out her hand in her direction. Her eyes were still streaming, and her face was red. But even with the tears blurring her line of sight, the Cleary girl could see her own pain, suffering and grief reflected in the O'Hara daughter's face. Yet at the same time, she saw kindness, empathy, affection… And understanding.

Accepting Jamie's invitation for comfort and seeking some of her own, Cece wrapped her arms around the brunette and pulled her into a tight hug. "I'm sorry, Jamie!" she repeated, her voice cracking as she spoke. She hoped the other woman would be able to sense her compassion for her suffering, her genuine regret about what had transpired, and the immense love she still would always hold for her brother and the O'Hara family as a whole. "I love you, and I am so so sorry about what happened. You know I loved him with my entire existence."

Clay backed away as both Caitlin and Jamie embraced each other, clung to each other for comfort. The two most important women in David’s life had found each other and potentially and understanding. The sad fact of the matter was that as cathartic as it all was, Clayton couldn’t just leave it at this. Jamie and Russell both had committed serious crimes and would need to face the consequences of their actions. This was his greatest fear about becoming a police officer, it was something he and David had joked about many years ago. Clay had to arrest his friends. Taking out his cell phone, he quickly dialed up his commanding officer. “Sir, it’s Costigan. We’re gonna need a squad car and some officers up on Scott Street…..yes sir. We have a domestic dispute.”

Watching Clay, Jamie gripped CeCe tighter. She knew it was all over, that she had failed. There would be no justice for David, no matter what she did. Edenridge was a town of secrets, a town of lies and judgment. Bringing her lips to Caitlin’s ear, Jamie feverishly gripped at the back of the redhead's neck to pull her close. “Don’t ever let them forget what they did, Caity. What they did to him. To you. To me. Force their eyes open, make them watch.”

The redhead nodded in agreement. After the lengths to which Jamie had gone for justice, Cece would make sure her efforts wouldn't go to waste. "I will. I promise."

It was finally time to step out of the shadows and speak her truth-- consequences be damned. She owed it to Jamie, to Coach, to Lizzie, to David and most importantly, to herself.
TIMESTAMP: After Family is Everything
Featuring: Clayton Costigan & Kylee Grimm
Small FT: Adam Callahan



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Clayton Costigan had made this drive a million times in his life; the slow crawl up Hanging Hill towards the side gates of Scott Street. But he had never made it like this. He had never made it with the intention of causing harm.

Edenridge, for all of its many faults, is a town dripping in history. It is a town where the populace still carry the names of their forefathers; Callahan, Cleary, O’Hara and O’Brien. Yet search high and low, one name not found is Scott. So where did they all go? The truth of the matter is very simple, they didn’t go far at all. The Scott family arrived in Eden sometime after the founding but there were a lot of them, so they took up residence in the area that would soon carry their name. Famine, poverty, violence, it claimed many, including the family on the hill until all that remained of the once huge dynasty was a daughter. Eileen Scott soon married a stable boy with hefty dreams and no brain cells, that man was Hosiah Costigan. From there, Hosiah tore down all the homes in the Scott conclave and rebuilt it. With blood and sweat and tears, he built a thriving residence for those that paved the way, the founders. Centuries later, Founders Valley was renamed Scott Street in honour of the family that first called it home.

The twins have heard that story a thousand times from their grandparents and both hated it. Laura couldn’t wait to leave the street, leaving behind the legacy of being both a foundling from their Callahan mother and hearing about how their fathers ancestor built every house on the damned hill. Clay wanted to escape as well but the glimmer and glitz was a little bit harder for him to resist but he got out in the end. Sure it was a shitty little place in PleasantView, but it was enough for him.

Still, driving up the hill brought back too many memories for him to forget. Him, Davey and Fran playing street ball in the driveway, Jamie silently watching while Lamb did her hair. He remembered having to carry his cousin Emerald down the hill to her parents house after she broke her hand. His first kiss in the woods behind the O’Hara house. These visions were no longer painted in gold, instead replaced by darkness and melancholy.

When the car parked up just shy of the cul-de-sac, Clay took a deep breath and placed each of his hands on the shoulders of his saviors: Niles and Lexie. They only promised to get him as far as his mother’s house since they knew that Ellie would force her son to the hospital. He looked out and he could see her dark tresses in the window and off to the side the waiting forms of Kylee Grimm and..Adam? Well that was a story for another time he guessed. “Thanks guys. Thank you for doing this.” He patted Niles on the shoulder before turning to Lexie. “Stay away from strange men and ice cream, little buddy. I know what you’re like.” Inhaling again to block the pain, Clay got out of the car.

“Well well,” The young officer put on his bravest face as he looked at the couple standing in front of his mother’s front door. “Kylee finally bagged herself a Callahan. Not like you’ve been trying for ten years and I’m a little old for you.”

“You’re one to talk,” Kylee snickered, having observed a drastic change between Clayton and the hot milf and best sandwich maker, Caterina Belmonte, over the course of a couple of weeks. The journalistic girl could see a mile away how badly they lusted and desired one another. Not even that though. The way they looked at each other had this incredibly deep connection that made her feel they were definitely more than just friends. This Missus or Miss — Kylee didn’t know if Cat had finalized her divorce yet but all of Scott Street knew her business and that she was having an affair with a mysterious, young lover — was the one person that Clay’s had the hots for throughout many, many seasons. He may be a ladies man, having more romantic relationships than she could count but his eyes always went back to the same person. Time and time again. They always searched and found a hot Italian mama. Mysterious young lover? Clay visits the sandwich shop often. Coincidence? Unlikely.

Maybe Kylee was being a hopeless romantic, or an optimist, and hoping the chemistry she saw actually blossomed into something he could hold, something he could cherish, and something he could call his and only his. There was nothing wrong with believing in love and that it would find you when you were least expecting it. Just look at her and Adam! There was one thing she knew for certain though, Clay wasn’t playing the field anymore. He still had his friends but he was far more focused in juggling his work and his meetings with Wes and herself. Past tense since Wes likely won’t be hosting weekly meetups anymore. Clay always made time for his many lovers but now, it seemed like he was more available for other things. “But yeah, if you have to know, Wes ghosted me so I dumped his ass. Adam came out of nowhere and now we’re together.” There wasn’t a grace period between Wes and Adam which may be something she’ll regret in the future but right now, the heart wants one thing. The heart wants Adam.

Approaching her friend with the great hair, even in this state, Kylee scanned him from head to toe, examined him in concern and harshly asked, “What the fuck happened to you?” She was going to mention that she knew who David’s girl was but there was a more pressing matter at hand. Clay’s condition. “Clay, are you sure you should be… out like this?” She frowned with apparent worry.

“We’ve got work to do.” Clay said bluntly. He usually wasn’t so abrupt, always masking his words with humor or charm but this was a different Clay. This was the man who took an oath to protect and serve; no matter the personal cost. He looked towards his cousin, whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time thanks to a whole drama and he ruffled the signature shaggy hair that nearly all men in their family carried. “Damn AC, you got big. You’ll have to give me workout tips but first…nah who am I kidding I’m never setting foot in a gym. God gifted me this body I’m not messing with it….anyway I digress, Adam...” Clayton pointed to the extremely worried face he could see in the window of his childhood home. “Go in there and distract my Mom. Shouldn’t be too hard, she’s still a space case.”

Same old Clay. Adam fondly remembered Saturdays at the Costigan house. Ellie and Sean would welcome their entire extended family for a sit down meal which Ellie would claim to have made from scratch, probably thinking she did and not realizing Sean switched out all of the food while she did her make up. All the connected families were there. Costigan, Callahan, Milligan and Moore. He remembered sitting with Rachel, Roddy, Bron and Emerald whilst Andy, Fran and the other older kids did cool shit. Except Clay. Clay always took the time to hang out with the younger crew before he headed off on whatever hair brained scheme he had cooked up for that day. He always made sure that they knew that he loved them and that they weren’t less than. Everything always seemed easy for him. Clay was a good guy and it looked like nothing had changed.

“I’ll do my best.” Adam nodded towards the older man before turning to face his girlfriend. “Be careful out there, I’m not losing you again.” He kissed her soft lips and held her tight for a moment before doing his little cousin's duties of distracting the parents. It was just like when Clay and Lamb tried to steal Uncle Sean’s hard liquor.

“Bit dramatic, but we don’t shame in this house.” Clay had to make a comment just to ignore the thousand aching pains in his body. “Alright Grimmy, information pooling time. I know who’s sending the letters and I know who’s writing the letters. You do too. Hit me with your best shot, Pat Benatar.”

Leading the charge, after watching her sexy boyfriend walk away, Kylee strolled down Prairie Court toward the cul-de-sac. “The answer was in the letter, and it was… pretty obvious once I put two and two together. It took time and a few interviews with cheerleaders and such, but once I went back to the basics, I couldn’t unsee it.” Kylee crossed her arms, walking beside her friend, thinking out loud her many thoughts of the matter. “The Elite. You guys were the shining stars. Everyone had their eyes on you, all the time. Some even worshiped you. I imagine if I was involved in your circle as a little sister, I would’ve definitely gained a hard crush on one of you. Probably you because I guess I have a Callahan-Costigan thing,” she teasingly giggled, glancing toward him and playful winking. She was glad she never really saw Clay in that light. “Hell, I thought Rhett was sexy as fuck and even gave him advances but he is an unbreakable force. Unwilling to bend. And, I respect him for that.”

Uncrossing her arms, Kylee put emphasis on her words by using her hands, “The more I thought about it, the more sorry I felt for David. It doesn’t justify his actions by any means, but he was the coach’s son. He was an O’Hara. That pressure adds up. I’m the Mayor’s daughter and I can understand that pressure.” She grimaced at the thought of her father getting angry at her earlier, causing her to take two steps back on her mental health journey. She hated disappointing him. “He turned to the bottle but he also turned to the one girl that was always there but kept to the background, like a little mouse, waiting for him to see her. I have a picture from one of our school’s bakery sales that matches her handwriting verbatim but that’s just me doing the most and wanting physical evidence.” Kylee nodded to herself, a true Sherlock Holmes in the making, if given the proper tools, resources, and validation.

“Most of you have siblings. You, David, Rhett have sisters. Lamb and Jamie were part of the Elite by association and around your age, so that doesn’t leave too much room for scandal. Caitlin, though? The girl who avoided me like the plague because I’m very good at discovering secrets. The girl who had her own secret to protect and wouldn’t want it to get in the hands of her classmate who aired out other’s dirty laundry for the world to see, which of course, I’m not too proud about. She is a hopeless romantic who likes stories like Romeo & Juliet. She shows her love through acts of kindness, like feeding Danny all the cupcakes in the world. Cleary and O’Hara are neighbors, like you and Cat once were.” Kylee hinted at her own theory with Clay and his dynamite dream girl. The girl next door. A trope that seems to exist heavily in the town of Edenridge. Charlie and Poppy. David and Caitlin. Clay and Cat.

When they slowly walked past the O’Hara house, she turned to it and frowned, “It’s sad because not only did he put himself in a situation where the town would ruthlessly tear him apart — yet people don’t blink an eye for someone like my father who married his sugarbaby basically — but he, like Allison, were in their prime in highschool. They were lost after graduation. Their friends all had some general direction while those two? They knew they would be remembered for their school reputation. Kinda like me…” Kylee trailed off, feeling her own inadequacy and lack of direction. Without the town drama, what would she be? Nothing. Secrets were all she really had. “I stopped really trying to find out the answer for who was using the Charlie’s Letter gimmick to their advantage because that answer is pretty obvious too and I think you know who it is, without me having to say the name.” Kylee turned to Clay expectantly, ready to hear his own notions before assuming the culprit of Dear David, a red herring for the case of who has Charlie Decker’s journal.

Clay silently listened to Kylee’s discoveries. Partially to see if their respective theories matched, they did and partially because opening his mouth to talk hurt like a fucking bitch. “I spent the entire day yesterday interviewing the people I cherish more than anything about these damn letters and the answer had been staring me in the face.” Ruffling a hand through his wild dark mane, Clayton looked up at O’Hara house. All the treasured memories of days he recalled being wonderful. Lost to time and lost to trouble. Roddy would say it was a curse. It wasn’t a curse. It was just broken people doing bad things. “You know it’s funny, none of us ever considered ourselves elite. It was just a name, it didn’t mean anything. We knew how people felt, how Caitlin felt, how others felt but we weren’t supposed to do anything about it. It wasn’t right. David….I love him. He was my brother but he crossed the line. I don’t doubt that he loved her. I honestly don’t but if he had just waited. If he had just listened….”

He stopped as he and Kylee stood on the lawn of the Cleary home. Clay had been there so many times. He had watched Caitlin grow up into the beautiful young woman she was. He had shot hoops with Rhett and he had drank beer with Gary while silently drooling over Deidre. “Everything fits together now. Jamie knew. Of course she did. Nobody was closer to David than her. She has a history of chaotic behavior. When police raided the house and found nothing; Jamie was the only one who had the time to get rid of the letters and stash them where no one would think to look. Her and David’s special place in the woods. When I was attacked last night…” He paused, realizing that he had yet to tell Kylee what had happened to him. “…I’ll fill you in later. When I was attacked…” Clay continued. “I know of only one person that big and that strong. Russell. And that big ogre would do anything for Jamie. Anything.” Would Jamie go so far as to have Clayton attacked for what truths he may uncover? He doubted it. What he didn’t doubt was that Russ might take the initiative and try and solve the Clay problem without Jamie’s consent. The tragedy of it all was that he and Russell had been friends for twenty years yet he had never trusted any of them with the secret that Jamie had been guarding, had he done so, maybe things would’ve been different.

“We speak to Caitlin. Get her side and then we go next door.” Clay reached out and out a hand on Kylee’s shoulder as she stood ahead of him at the Cleary front door. “Thanks for going through this with me, Ky. I guess Roddy was right about you all along.” He reached down and checked one last time. His gun was there and it was loaded. He didn’t know what the next few minutes held in store but what he did know was that it all ended now. For David.

“Take the lead, boss.”

There were butterflies in her stomach. Or dread. She didn’t know. Kylee and Caitlin never did interact with one another. They had a mutual friend in Danny but aside from that? They lived in different worlds or chose to at least. There was this deep-seated feeling that Caitlin would not take her arrival to the Cleary family home well. Hopefully Clay being here would ease the girl’s worry but Ky seriously doubted it. How would you feel if your first love’s best friend and the gossip girl of your year showed up at your front door seeking answers? The truth? Not well at all, Kylee imagined.

Here goes nothing.

Pushing her fears to the back burner, Kylee pressed the doorbell and waited patiently for someone to answer. As she waited, she wiped her sweaty hands on her plaid skirt. Either the heat was getting to her or her anxiety. Regardless of what it was, she wasn’t ready for this. She didn’t expect to get this close to solving a case without Roddy. Still, it didn’t matter if she was ready or not. She had to be. She needed to be. For her friend. Clayton deserved closure for this chapter in his life. Clayton deserved to move on. For his sake, she hoped this ended with him being at peace. For his sake, she hoped he could focus on himself and be happy. If that meant sleeping with an Italian milf then good for him. As for herself? She hoped this gave her confidence to aspire and dream again… she hadn’t been this excited in a long while. She loved chasing the truth. She hoped this was a good sign. A positive one. For her future. She hoped she was doing the right thing.

Only time will tell.

She rang the doorbell once more.
In Edenridge 6 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP: After Sweetness & Starry Eyes
Featuring: Mitena Strongbow & Penelope James
Small FT: Forrest Proudstar

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The sun was bearing down now with a great summer intensity and Tena basked silently in its glow. She had been floating in air for a moment after another tryst with her Stargirl but then reality came flooding back when she recorded a message from her cousin Forrest; Poppy was ready to meet and try again.

Despite the uncomfortableness of their first go at it, Mitena was not dreading seeing the pale brunette again, nor was she apprehensive. This was something that she wanted and in all fairness needed. Of all four offcomers that had arrived in Blue Hill the previous day, all of which carried with them a piece of her departed brother, it seemed that Penelope James carried the largest and under most fractured piece. She was a shard of glass with jagged edges, broken away the window that made her whole.

Tena thought back to Charlie’s book, his unfinished magnum opus. To read his words and thoughts and feelings, to see the crosses he chose to bear, was to understand and feel the crushing weight of the world. Yet amongst those clever turns of phrase and strong references to the greatest literary minds of all time, the constant levity and the love was brought by Poppy James. Whenever he mentioned the girl with the green eyes, the obviousness and deepness of his longing and love for her was crushing, like the compressing weight of the vast blue ocean itself. Over the last few days, Mitena had met both girls in the book. She had met Charlie’s true love and the girl he could’ve loved. It wasn’t hard to see why both enticed and enthralled him like they did. Given what she had witnessed and given what she now knew, the simple fact was Charlie was a teenage boy, confused, mentally and emotionally crushed by a world that didn’t want him and too blind to see those that really did.

Creator, she wished she could’ve been there for him.

Leaning back in the grass, Tena watched as Resi’s truck drove up the dirt road towards the Silverheel Ranch; her home. She had dropped Tal back at Adora’s, knowing this was something she needed to do alone. The Firebird was nowhere in sight so Jadyn and her boyfriend were also gone. They would be alone. The gentle breeze carried a strand of hair across her caramel face as the truck pulled up. Tena waved and took a deep breath.

Getting out of Resi’s truck, Penelope stopped at his window to look up at him. She was nervous. She didn’t know how this would fair. Mitena held answers like a knife and everytime she spoke, it felt like getting stabbed repeatedly. Resi’s words echoed in her mind as she intensely gazed up at him. Truth always hurt. It always does but it also heals. More so when it is massively uncomfortable to hear. Poppy hoped he was right and that this would be good for both her and Tena. It didn’t change that she was scared. It didn’t change that she was tired.

Time and time again, Poppy kept getting hurt by the forces of nature. Her father had told her and her sister when they were little that that’s just the way of being a James. The reason why he was given his nickname, Rocky, was because after everything he’s been through, after all the pain and trauma, pain that could easily make a man no longer want to fight, he was still standing. She remembered her father’s smile when he heard the nickname Mordechai gave her. Street Angel. While that nickname could also have negative connotations depending on what lore you base it on, he knew what Decky meant. Penelope was the deadliest girl alive, made for the streets but with the wings of an angel. Someone who was meant to absorb pain and help heal those that gravitate to her light. She was an angel to him, and to all her friends, and even if Decky and Charlie tried to protect her at the time from the beast that was the Southside, she was acknowledged as family. They saw her as one of them. Poppy didn’t understand her father at the time; but now she does. It was never Decky’s intention to shield her. He always considered her family. He always saw her as a badass. But he wanted to protect her heart, protect her angel wings, and protect her light because everyone around her needed her to fly. Everyone needed her to stand and fight because most of them barely had any fight in them.

“Will I see you again soon?” Penelope called out to Forrest, knowing she had his number and that he would be coming to Edenridge in a couple of days. She needed to hear it from his lips though. That he wanted to see her again. She didn’t want to be the only one with this feeling. She wanted to be certain that Forrest enjoyed her company and even looked forward to seeing her again. Counting the days like she was going to. It was silly, really. That she wanted to hear him say it but she wasn’t going to act like his friendship wasn’t the best thing that she’s gained from her visit. It was and she would show him just how much her time with him meant to her.

Resi leaned out of the driver side window of his truck and looked down at the strange spirit girl that had been carried into his life on a summer's breeze. She stood looking at him with those big green eyes and he smiled, the wind lightly blowing his messy black hair around. “Sooner than you think.”

He glanced over at his cousin on the nearby grass. Forrest always knew how to read her face. Tena, as honest and forthright as she was, always knew how to insulate herself, now to protect herself from the pain. Or at least she knew how to mask it but he could see right through it. She was terrified. He and Mitena were raised together, they had done many things together but this, this next part she had to do without him. He wasn’t a part of this particular story. Resi waved towards her as he started up his truck once again before returning his attention to Poppy. “Just remember Poppy, it hurts to heal but it hurts less when we do it together.” He leaned back inside of the truck and began to back away down the dirt driveway, leaving the field to themselves.

Standing there, watching Resi leave, Penelope used that moment to fix her hair, the wind having tousled it around in a natural wave of chaos. She ran her fingers through it and brought it to her side, letting it flow down her shoulder like a waterfall. Her eyes caught sight of her pale arm with a tint of red. Sunburnt. Sadness. Downside of being as white as snow. She should’ve applied sunscreen. She took a sharp breath in and exhaled with force. This was her moment with Mitena. This was their moment together. What brought them together was a common thread of Charlie but that didn’t define this moment. What would define this moment was Tena’s truth and Poppy’s truth, and their shared love for the boy who could’ve lived and been something amazing. A boy who was broken and sadly, and unintentionally, broke the people around him. Turning on her heel, Poppy grabbed onto the side of her dress and scrunched it in her hands, feeling the fabric as a way to comfort her. Trying to amble her way toward the beautiful, native girl, to hide her worry and show she was relaxed and that she totally got this, Penelope gave a shy wave. She stopped at the stairs of the porch and looked at the other girl for guidance who was sitting on a patch of grass. All she could muster up the courage to say was a simple, “Hi there.”

“Hi.” Tena smiled brightly. Confidence Strongbow. “Welcome to Silverheel. It’s nowhere near as big as the Coldwind’s place but what we lack in size we make up for in skill.” A sex joke Tena? Really? Her mother had always liked to think of herself as a comedian despite being in the most unfunny profession in the world. Reaching her hand out, Mitena rubbed the luscious green grass in a circle next to her. “Why don’t you take a seat here with me? Let the roots grow where they may.” It was simple middle school stuff. Roots dig deep and then grow towards sunlight but here in this place it meant more. In this moment it meant more. It meant the conversation they were about to have, the relationship they were about to or perhaps not form. “Thank you for coming back.”

“Thank you for letting me come back,” Poppy returned Mitena’s smile with her own. “Oh, I can tell. Resi is very talented,” the dark haired girl innocently stated before registering the sexual connotations of Tena’s statement. “In cooking, I mean. Skilled in the kitchen,” she nervously chuckled, trying to fix the error of her naïveté. With quiet steps, she made her way beside Tena and took a seat, nestling herself on the grass. Like a little girl, she brought her knees up and hugged it, her flowy dress big enough to cover most of her legs. “He told me about Craven, and the Silverheel sisters. It was tragic, but a very beautiful tale. I’m glad he trusted me enough to share that with me,” Poppy admitted, hopefully displaying enough strength to show Tena she was in a much better headspace than she was in this morning.

Tena smiled. Poppy seemed a lot more comfortable than the earlier part of the morning and her time with Resi seemed to have added some color to her cheeks. She would definitely have to probe her cousin later for the details. It seemed that perhaps Penelope had found a connection here at Blue Hill after all. “Forrest does tend to be a bit dramatic.” Mitena smiled as she brushed the bangs on either side of her face back. “Craven sounds so terrifying doesn’t it? I don’t subscribe to that belief. Resi’s father isn’t craven, he’s Wyatt. The same as my father isn’t craven, he’s James.” Her almond eyes surveyed the pale beauty closely, watching for any hints that she would ruin their second conversation like she did their first. “You know, it’s because of that lack of belief that I’m not Mitena Silverheel? I took my fathers surname when I was sixteen despite never even meeting the man. Charlie did too, if I remember right.” There it was. The first drop in the ocean that could cause a tidal wave.

Charlie.

It always came back to him.

“Mm,” Poppy nodded, revealing this wasn’t a deep secret to her. He wrote Strongbow on his papers. As much as Poppy wanted to ask him about it, they were juniors and that was the worst year of her life, even before the shooting. They didn’t really talk much and when they did, they fought. She remembered both him and Decky coming to her aid in the girls’ bathroom when Poppy was bloodied and bruised. She got in a fight with a girl twice her size because of the things she was saying about Charlie. She never did tell him what it was about. All they saw was their Street Angel was hurt and she might’ve been the cause of it. “James Strongbow. I know as much about him as Mama Rhonda would tell me. Charlie told me bits and pieces but he spoke in riddles. When it came to his dad, that was always a sore spot. If it wasn’t for his dad and the dark deeds people say he did, maybe he wouldn’t have to work all the time to try to pay for his mother’s medical bills, a roof over their head, and food on their table.”

She paused and looked away from Tena, staring ahead and thinking of the memories that felt like it was only yesterday. Memories that made her feel Charlie could pop up anywhere and say gotcha! Like his death and the shooting was one big prank. She really missed him. Both the good and bad. She missed him. “Charlie had a lot of pride and hated when my parents offered to help. Hated when I wanted to help. I noticed he changed his name but not because he told me. At the time, he wanted nothing to do with me but I’m no idiot. I listen and see. Hard to ignore Mr. Beau saying Charlie Strongbow-Decker, you know?”

Tena thought back to the book she had been sent just before Charlie’s death, the book of his life. It was his junior year that prefaced the end of it all, considering the events that occurred the first day of his senior one. Within those pages he describes the degradation of his relationship with Poppy and just how at fault he was. Beneath his written words was a hope to get back to the way things were but that hope was stained with a black mark. A mark of abuse as it seemed by that point her big brother was trapped in the throes of addiction. “We agreed to do it together. Change our names to spite those that looked down on us because of who our father was. It was silly really. Charlie and I only ever met one time and yet there we were, miles apart and changing our names. You know how he convinced me? He quoted some old book, like I knew what the hell it meant but something in the way he wrote it, I dunno it just swayed me.”

Mitena decided to take a chance and moved closer to Poppy. She reached out and laced her fingers with hers, bringing her small white hand into her lap and then covering it with her other free hand for comfort and security. “Poppy, I want you to know that I want to help you. Whatever it is you’re feeling, whatever it is you actually want, I want to give that to you.” She gently caressed the top of Pops knuckle with her thumb tip. “If you’ll let me.”

Poppy’s green eyes glistened under the beaming sun, cased in red and misted over, with more tears to cry. She thought she was running out of water but her heart was flooded by the rain of her soul. She couldn’t stop today. She couldn’t push this sensation aside and numb herself like she had so many times before. Unrestrained, the tidal wave forced her to shake as Mitena held onto her hand. “How do you know what you want, when everything you ever wanted… was in a boy? A boy you loved far too much for your own good. A boy that took a part of your soul with him, the moment he was shot dead in front of you by your father.”

Poppy buried her face in her knees, against her summer dress, and let the fabric soak up her tears. “I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.” She muffled into her legs. “I hate what he’s done to me.” She brought her head up to catch Tena’s sorrowful gaze, “I can’t eat because I associate food with him. I can’t sleep on my bed because we used to spend the nights holding each other, a silent reminder that at the end of an awful day, we’d always have each other. I can’t look at myself in the fucking mirror because I hate myself. My dad removed all the mirrors because I broke my lamp against mine and almost used a shard to stab myself. I can’t look at every fucking person, every fucking street or tree or book, without thinking of him. I can’t breathe half the time and I only just started walking and not crumbling when a person says hello to me. Why the hell did I let him have all this… why did I give him so much of my heart when he never wanted me?”

“Oh baby.” Tena pulled Poppy into her embrace as she choked back her own tears. The disconnect between their two realties was beginning to form a door that they both could step through. Mitena was finally getting a glimpse into Charlie’s world, Poppy’s world. He had really tied this poor little girl into knots and left her like that in the most horrendous of ways. This was not the girl that Charlie wrote about in his book, this was her ghost. This was a spirit left broken and shattered and her pieces embraced by mother death as a daughter.

Holding onto Poppy desperately, their bodies trembling together in shuddered pain, Tena exhaled shakily as tears streamed down her face. “You need this. You need to let all of this go and let it out, scream your pain into the mountains and let it travel with the spirit warriors as a shield, protecting them from evil. Empty yourself into the land so that from it you can grow towards the light like a flower. You are strong and beautiful and you have suffered more than any person ever should.” Mitena gazed out across the fields of Silverheel as the black raven dropped itself down on a log nearby. Charlie was watching the seeds he had sown in both of them, the seeds of their sorrow. “Let the wind carry it away, Poppy.”

Dropping her weight on Charlie’s sister, Penelope closed her eyes and listened to the whistle of the wind, the insects, like the loud cicadas, and the heavy breaths of the person she shared a small space with. She hadn’t even admitted these feelings to Shannon yet. Blue Hill was doing something fierce to her and she had yet to determine if it was good or bad. “That’s not true at all now is it? The reality of my situation is,” she sniffled and calmed her breathing, steadying herself, using the support of Tena to get back to her senses, “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights.”

Gradually, she opened her eyes and her beautiful and bold greens that spoke of nature, sunshine and floral blooms found their way to the raven and she gave a weak yet knowing smile, “Hey ChooChoo,” she exasperatedly whispered. She couldn’t promise the bird she’d heal overnight. This would take however long it takes but she could at least take back her blatant lie. “Miss you.” Her voice quivered, desperately wishing this was indeed Charlie’s spirit watching over her. “Love you.” The stream came rushing out of her, watering her dress, Tena’s arm, and the soil she sat on. “So much,” she finished, choking back tears. So-fucking-much.

Tena rested her chin atop Poppy’s head as the girls watched Charlie’s raven together. Anyone else would say that it was crazy, that a bird couldn’t carry the soul of a boy. Mitena herself only followed some of her tribal traditions but there was something in the dark look that the avian creature was giving them. Something in his black eye that projected a warmth and welcoming feeling. From what she had learned of her brother’s life, it seemed a perfect fit for Charlie to be a raven.

Towards his end, he sought to better the world by ridding it of himself. The raven was inherently a selfish creature. In some indigenous cultures, the raven was the creator of the world but did so out of vanity. He created the moon and the sun and the stars, not to grow life but to make a better one for himself. He was once a brilliant white until he flew through smoke and was burned black for his misdeeds. That was Charlie. Thinking he was doing right but never doing it for the right reasons.

“Bit on the nose, Charlie Jay don’t you think?” Mitena let a small laugh penetrate her tears as the bird watched them. “A Raven really? Is this an Edgar Allen Poe thing or is it because you thought it was cool that a group of them are known as an Unkindness? Honestly he’s such a dork.”

Cracking a smile, Poppy wiped her tears with her free hand, her knees and legs leaning to the side, against Tena. “He is,” she agreed. But he was their dork. Even with all that being said, both she and Tena needed to move forward. As beautiful and meaningful as the raven was to them, as symbolic as the bird could be, she knew it was more of a reminder of what was in the shadows of her own awareness. What she had yet to discover and the impending change that would define her future. Charlie was a guide to something. She didn’t know what that something was yet. She just knew he was pushing her forward to a destination unknown.

“I have a feeling you’re not endangered after all,” Poppy chuckled to herself, thinking back to her conversation with Rhonda. “Mama Rhonda wanted us to meet. Sure she told a little white lie, saying the person who had his journal was threatening your life, but if she didn’t do that… I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have met you and all these beautiful people that make a small yet mighty village. This place is really something else,” Poppy glanced down at Tena’s hand, interlocking their fingers together. “I hope I can give you something back and that this isn’t one sided.” She looked deeply into Tena’s eyes, full of soul, full of hope, and full of wonder. “I don’t know what I can provide. Friendship? Maybe? Could we start with that?”

“I’d really like that Poppy.” Mitena looked down from Pops’ eyes to their interlocked fingers. In that moment they were joined together and maybe they always had been. The longer she spent with these Edenridge kids, the more the raven haired singer believed that something cosmic was happening. It was a sad fact of life that some people didn’t make it out of living alive and it was an even sadder fact that sometimes people were made to suffer so that others could benefit. Tena had once before entertained the thought but was now a little more sure, her big brother, Charlie Jay, had been placed on this Earth by the great Creator for a reason. Charlie was built to endure the greatest of pains, to bend and then break. He would break into a branching path that the people of Edenridge would walk on, guiding them to where they were supposed to be. As a human being, Mitena could not justify the actions that her brother undertook in his final hours but she could be comfortable in the fact that his purpose might have been to bring others together. Without Charlie, she would never have met Poppy James. She wouldn’t have met her Stargirl or Jade and Decky. She glanced at Charlie the Raven once more, and smiled. “Get outta here, shit-ass, can’t you see we’re having a moment?”

He squawked loudly before taking off into the sky, joining an Unkindness over their heads.
In Edenridge 16 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP: Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Morning
SETTING: Main Street Music
FT: Laura "Lamb" Costigan
INTRO: Sadie Campbell


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As knowledgeable and versed she was in metal, punk, and rock, since that was her niche as an international music journalist, having started only at the age of fifteen when her mother somehow got an in with East of Eden, Sadie Campbell didn’t always choose to indulge in Rock & Roll. She had her own guilty pleasures that separated her from the woman that raised her. Johanna Campbell would never take interest in such music; she was a rocker girl, a motherfluffin’ Killer Queen, through and through (even if she tried to cover it up with class). Sadie, to the grief of her mother, was anything but her mother.

She spent years psychoanalyzing why Joni did the things she did, rarely ever explaining herself, and still to this day, Sadie couldn’t understand why her mother was a trainwreck of a woman. Still, she hoped by visiting Edenridge she could change that, taking matters into her own hands, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Sadie Campbell was not a small fry in journalism. For a twenty four year old, her name floated on the web for those that were diehard Rock & Roll fans. At fifteen, she toured with East of Eden and wrote a cover about the band on her blog. Her article got the attention of Rolling Stones who wanted to expand her interview and give exposure to her writing. From there, she and her mother were constantly on the move, her mother vicariously living through her daughter’s success while also helping Sadie navigate through the highs and lows of the music industry. One can say she was kind of a big deal.

Through all the chaos, Sadie found time to go down the rabbit hole of a variety of genres and found that while not considered ‘good music’ by her mother, she loved pop because it was fun. It made her want to dance! Oh if only she had friends to dance with but all her contacts were in an extensive network that she used only for business. She didn’t really have anyone but her mother to call a friend and dancing with her mother was fun at home, but that’s it. Her mother was getting old and had demons lurking over her shoulders. Sadie wanted friends her age and a place to call home. And she wanted to see grandpa more! Sadie was tired of running away with her mother. She didn’t even know what they were running away from.

There was so much she didn’t know about her home… there was so much normalcy she had yet to live because all she did was travel and talk to musicians. Don’t get her wrong, that was freaking cool but her heart hungered for something that her job couldn’t satiate. Her heart needed, desired, yearned for… family. Her family. At Main Street Music, Sadie, in her leather jacket, Rico Nunez t-shirt, tight, ripped black jeans, and heeled combat boots, wore headphones attached to a music player in the CD section (ancient, wow!), and listened to Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5. She didn’t want to make Jericho and Rye’s attractive looking friend uncomfortable after witnessing the whole make out session outside so she drowned her surroundings with music and did a little jiggy. Sadie’s aim today was to kill time until Afterlife was open. She needed to meet someone and though she didn’t know if this someone was going to be working or not, it was a risk she was willing to take. She wasn’t going to wait for a miracle in order to meet those that she should’ve known a long time ago. She wasn’t going to wait on her mother to finally get over herself and face her fears. It was up to her to face her mother’s fears for her and she would do it with a smile.

No more waiting.

The time was now.

A wave of relief had washed over Lamb when her phone lit up with a message from her big brother. All through the night, in the pit of her gut she had a feeling, a bad feeling, something was wrong. When Clay had left the Afterlife that night there was a look in his eye that Laura had seen her entire life. It was a look of chaos. It was a look that her brother had whenever he was about to do something stupid. Clayton had a knack for doing stupid things. Lamby didn’t believe in twin magic; not like Jamie did. Jamie had always compared it to some great mystical quality that resided on the wrong side of the unexplained. Laura humored her, of course she did. They were friends. However there were moments that night where the Hostess couldn’t help but wonder if the pain in her stomach was that twin magic, if it was that supposed enchanted tether that bound her to the boy whom she shared a womb with, a boy she shared a life with. Clay was fine though. He texted that morning and said he was good. No magic, no chaos, probably just some dodgy late night pizza.

Lamb hadn’t even been home yet herself; the joy of her work, she had been awake for about thirty hours. That didn’t matter, she’d grab a quick power nap when she did get to her apartment but first she had some other things to do. The main one being getting her father a welcome home present; a tradition that she began as a little girl. The Captain’s boat would dock back in Edenbridge today and that filled her with joy. Lamb was a grown woman now; she hadn’t lived on Scott Street in over six years and she visited even less sometimes but on the inside, she was still that curly haired little kid waiting at the end of the dry dock for her daddy’s ship to sail in.

Looking at her one wouldn’t believe that Lamb hadn’t slept. As she strutted down Main Street in a white blazer and shorts that barely skimmed the thigh of her long legs. She wore a black loose top and a choker necklace; she looked like a million dollars. She always preferred to look classy, to exude power and dominance. It had long been said that Laura Costigan could not be controlled or tricked or made to do anything she didn’t want to do. Unlike her brother, the younger Costigan was a measured and controlled presence rather than a force of nature. She was known to be a wild woman, a free spirit not tied down by convenience or normalcy. Lamby did what she wanted, when she wanted and she did it with style.

She entered Main Street Music at the stroke of the hour. She stood out like a sore thumb amongst a sea of rock and roll. Lamby glanced over to the corner of the room where she saw an unfamiliar girl dancing with Eddie’s old headphones on. Wow she was really pretty and she was stabbing Rico Nunez with that shirt which was always a positive in Lamb’s book since he was her favorite. She moved gracefully through the record bins and began to flick through the old vinyls.

What would her Daddy like? He loved music more than anything.

Twirling around to scan the area while Maroon 5 still blasted in her ears, Sadie’s champagne eyes immediately fell on someone that she recognized in milliseconds — the sophisticated lady’s face ingrained in her mind. There was a high chance she wouldn’t be recognized because well, her existence wasn’t really a thing in Edenridge. The only remnants of her were in the houses of Eddie Campbell and Robyn Phillips-Shomer. Postcards, trinkets, and pictures from her and her mother’s constant travels.

Her gaze immediately darted to Jericho who was strumming his guitar and talking to his friend, Avery, and his boyfriend, Rye, in the instrument area. Briefly, they locked eyes with one another and in seconds, they had a silent and full conversation through facial expressions. When she was given an expressive smile of encouragement from him, and validation that she wasn’t in over her head, she took the headphones off and placed them down on the counter with the cash register.

What better time than the present?

Relaxing her shoulders and taking deep breaths, Sadie mentally thought of a few scenarios in her head before she was ready to approach the elegant dame that she wanted to meet for most of her life. When she settled on the best scenario to move forward with, Sadie strolled beside Laura and looked at the records beside her, going through them. She glanced over to see the current record Lamb was looking at. Casually, she broke the silence, “That’s a good album. My mom loves it. She said when she listened to it with her friends it was magical, like stardust was coming off of them. The best years of her life. Caroline, Roll Over Lay Down, and Forty-Five Hundred Times are basically Quo’s anthems.”

“You don’t have to tell me, my Dad loves old English rock,” Lamb responded absentmindedly as she continued to flick through the old vinyls. A few records later she realized that she may have come across as rude and raised her head to look at the girl next to her and apologize. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to...” She stopped as she gazed upon the newcomer's pretty face. It was a face that for some reason she felt like she had known her entire life. She was beautiful, no doubt about that, in a weird way she kind of looked like Clay. Same dark eyes. Same angular jaw. Laura and Clayton were not identical twins but they shared many similarities and so, apparently, did this stranger. She glanced down at her top; Rico Nunez. He was hot right now and Lamb was really down bad with his mixture of Latin soft rock and melancholic blues. “Nice shirt. Corazón de León has such a vibe.”

“Heck yes it is, I actually saw him live like a week ago,” Sadie nonchalantly and casually responded, before shrugging, “None taken, my mom listens to Status Quo when she misses him. Your dad, I mean.” She explained, while picking up an East of Eden record, The Poison Apple. This was their first album ever with some of iconic tracks like Embrace the Venom, Speed Demon, and When We Sleep. When she saw that it was their 15 anniversary cut, she gave a childish grin, like a kid at a candy store, and whispered to herself, “Today’s my lucky day.” Claiming it as her own, she held the record close and in an embrace, before her attention was pulled away from her new find and to her cousin in the back with Rye and Avery. Jericho was strumming his guitar to a track off the ghost mixtape, unnamed second album, of the Gallows.

She recognized this song.

“I don’t know if you listened to the recording of this song. I mean there’s only five mixtapes out there… Rusty composed it, James wrote the lyrics, Will enhanced it, and our parents, my mom and our dad, sang the song. Twin Flame. A song where you’re constantly running from your truth, your love. Depends on how you interpret it, I guess. Is it about love? Or about running away from a place or a person that you know is home to you. ‘I found my dreams but the moon took me away, away from her, my soul flame.’ Have you ever seen videos of them? They had such a stage presence together, it was hot. El Capitán — O Captain, my Captain! — And the Killer Queen. I mean it makes sense why they’d be the ones to sing this song…” Her voice trailed when she noticed the other woman intently staring at her.

Lightly, Sadie tapped the record cover against her head, embarrassed at her failure of introducing herself and doing her thing where she goes on and on about music, “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry! I did an oopsies, didn’t I? I should’ve done this first. Let me formally introduce myself.” Bringing the record cover down and back to her side, she excitedly and a tad bit anxiously, beamed a bright smile at the beautiful woman who she had admired the moment her grandpa divulged that she and her were connected, bonded by fate, “I’m Sadie. Sadie Campbell.” Instead of dropping the bomb that she needed to at some point, the stranger-now-acquaintance decided to hold her tongue and see how Laura processed her rambles first.

Lamb narrowed her eyes as the girl calling herself Sadie went off into a thousand different directions with her words. Yet she noted the common theme; our dad. Laura had long held suspicions over whether or not Captain Sean Costigan had more children than just she and the doofus. She didn’t have any doubts over how much he loved their mother; one only had to look into his eyes to see it. But as Sadie had pointed out, before either of them were born he was in a very popular band and likely had sex with lots of groupies and the one female member of the group, Joni Campbell. Now, standing in front of her like a distorted mirror was a girl who looked like her and her brother, she shared their eyes and had the Campbell name. It seemed like Sean’s past was sailing into port alongside him today.

“Laura Costigan,” The brunette replied as she placed her hands on her small waist. “If you really are my sister you'd know that the best song on the ghost mix is the Hereafter of Us Being Together.” Saying that word, sister, it had crossed Lamb’s mind so many times. Clay had joked about it because that’s what he always did, make a joke when he was terrified of the truth but they both knew the reality; there had always been a big chance that their father had another child, a secret child. In her line of work, Lamb had to be prepared for anything to go wrong at a moment's notice and be able to roll with it.

This was one of those moments.

Sadie’s eyebrows raised when Lamb called her sister. She couldn’t recall if she had divulged that tidbit in her spiel but maybe she did and maybe this would pan out in a way that would end well for the both of them. Tears almost built up in her eyes at those words and the fact that she was being acknowledged for the first time as being a Costigan. She gave an innocent yet hopeful gleam, as if she waited for this moment all her life, to be seen by her siblings. “Well, duh, that was the last song they wrote together before…” Rusty died, then shortly after James.

She picked at her nails as she held the East of Eden record. The music journalist could recall the nights her mother drank herself to sleep, drowning in her guilt and sorrows while using booze to forget the pain. “That song to me felt like… a ghost, if a ghost ever did have a sound. A promise for a better tomorrow, that no matter what life threw at you, you’d still be together. You’d still find your way back home. The composition was oh so haunting. Tragic even. It made me feel sort of lonely, like life is so fragile and could easily leave your grasp if you don’t hold onto it tightly.”

Loneliness was something Sadie knew all too well. She didn’t have friends. All she had were business contacts and her mother. She barely had a relationship with her father, only seeing him once in a blue moon. She attended thousands of concerts and music events, surrounded by the most eclectic people, surrounded by noise, and surrounded by strangers. Yet in a crowd of thousands, she felt alone. Maybe that’s why she took the chance, while her mother was knocked out cold from going too hard last night, to visit Edenridge. Sadie needed change and no one was going to hand it to her. It was up to her to reach out and grab it herself.

In an instant, the loneliness flickered in her eyes as she looked at Laura before she buried it behind her music prowess and nerdiness. “The cool thing about the Gallows was they liked to try different sounds but that one song, that one song was really their vibe. It kinda’ was like Elder Tree! Their magnum opus. But the sequel! It really shows they could’ve been big if death didn’t sever their ties.” Sadie scrunched her nose when she realized how grim that last part sounded. “But yeah, sorry… I’m talking too much, aren’t I? I just, emhem,” she searched for words to say as she tapped her fingers on the back cover of Poison Apple. “I didn’t expect to find you this soon. I’ve only been in town for thirty minutes actually… honest,” she anxiously admitted, knowing well enough that she was going to use her cousin JP to help her find her way around town.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been here. Usually grandpa comes to see me.” Wherever her mother decides to park the RV for the night, the old man would make time to travel outside of Eden to be with his granddaughter. It’s just how things were. Johanna Campbell really didn’t want to come back to Edenridge. She hated this place or maybe, it just reminded her too much of good times gone by. “You’re really pretty in person,” she bashfully complimented the elegant woman, who was composed, confident, and calm. A sight to see. Her heart raced at the thought that this girl was someone that could love her unconditionally and be there in the only way a sister could be there for her. Something she so desperately wanted to have, something she so desperately sought out, and something she so desperately yearned for… a family. Her family.

Lamb maintained her calm and composed demeanor as the girl rambled and raved about music. Yet the dark eyes they shared betrayed a sense of longing and loneliness that was unbecoming of a creature so young. Yet it was the Costigan way. Clay, despite his popularity, had never found whatever it was he was searching for. Lamb too, carried loneliness in her heart. Her brother was an elite, she never wanted any part of that but the truth of the matter was that woman never found that one thing that defined her. Laura floated around the social scene, hanging with the elites Mondays, Sabrina and the goths Wednesdays and Sawyer and the weirdos on Fridays. She was a nomad just like her father and as impulsive as her mother. The question was now posed, what sort of Costigan was Sadie?

She was, this was, a lot. Laura had finished work that morning wondering if her big brother was alive and now she had found some long lost sibling who was fifty shades of crazy. This fucking town. “You’re really pretty too.” Was all Lamb could manage to say as she tried to process and plan her next move. She reached out and pushed one of Sadie’s dark tresses behind her ear, revealing more of her bright, beautiful face. There was no hiding it, she looked just like the twins. “You got anywhere to be today? Anywhere to stay?”

“Not yet,” Sadie bashfully admitted. Holding the record like it was a book and she was in highschool, she thoughtfully continued, “Truth be told this was all in the spur of the moment. My mom drank a wee bit too much. I might’ve enabled that and then I seized the moment and came to town. I was thinking maybe grandpa. He doesn’t know I’m in yet but JP did tell me he was sick so that might not be the best idea.” Looking around, thinking of her other options, she mused, “He offered his apartment but he just moved into it so there really isn’t any furniture. Still! I don’t mind sleeping on the floor.” What other options did she have? “Oh! There’s also Robbie’s house! But there’s a lot of teens there as is.” While her cousin Robyn had mostly good kids, well behaved, it still was a very crowded situation, especially since most of them had a tendency to bring friends over. “I’ll figure it out,” She rambled on. This was something Sadie did. She was a rambler. “I guess, worst case scenario, there’s the Rose motel. That would do just fine too.”

“Absolutely fucking not.” Lamb interjected with a raised finger adorned with beautiful rings. “You are not staying in that rat infested crack den.” She rubbed her eyes lightly, a trait she and Clay shared when it came to managing the thoughts in their heads. Why was she even considering this? This was a stranger! Hell, most of the people she called friends didn’t even know where she lived and she liked it that way. Laura, you’re a fucking crazy person just like your Mom. “Listen, I just finished work and I’m about to head home. Why don’t you come stay at mine for a few hours? Get some sleep and we’ll make a plan on what you’re going to do next.”

Sadie was stunned when Laura offered her home to her. Overwhelmed with emotion and bewildered, the music journalist spoke her thoughts out loud, “Really?” This question was more rhetorical than anything. She couldn’t believe her sister was asking her to stay with her when they only met… today. She cleared her throat, debating if she should be greedy or polite. She wanted to go, she really did, but wasn’t she being incredibly imposing already? What would her mom say if she found out? Did she care? “I mean, yeah, sure that’s fine. That’s cool. Super cool.” Adorably and dorkily, she went with the flow, as if Lamb didn’t knock her off her feet with her words just now.

Lamb brushed another hair away from Sadie’s face, this time on the opposite side and smiled, “Well come on then.” She said white sternly. “I’ve got a busy day today and I can’t have you weighing me down.” She handed Sadie the record she had picked out for their father’s welcome home gift and smiled. “Go pay for that would you? You can consider it today’s rent.”

Was she lucky or did she need to take random trips to Edenridge more often?

“Okay!” Sadie agreeably said before calling out to her cousin, “JP, yo! Register.” Like an excitable little kid who just made a dream come true, the legacy to Joni Campbell pranced off to pay for two records, hurriedly. When she finished a quick exchange with Jericho, she sped-walked back to Lamb’s side. “Ready!”

“Don’t make me regret this.” Lamb clutched her bag that contained the remnants of her dress from the night before and span on her heel elegantly. “Come on then, Sadie Campbell, let’s go introduce you to your world.”
TIMESTAMP: After The Five Pieces of Charlie Decker
FT: Poppy James & Chief Coldwind
Introducing: Leotie "Ryan" Coldwind & Kerry Casey


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There she went again. Another panic attack. Was this trip worth all the pain? Why did she think she’d get some clarity from visiting a place that was part of Charlie’s past? Part of who he was? All she did was cause unnecessary distress for her friends and Charlie’s sister. All she did was lose her balance, time and time again, never able to hold herself together. Keep it together. How could she support herself when she felt so unsteady all the time? How could she save Charlie’s sister when she was the one that needed saving?

Back outside with her converse shoelaces untied and just a sundress on, Poppy wrapped her arms around her stomach, closed her eyes, and leaned forward, gasping for air. She could feel it in her throat. Everything was closing in, she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t think, and she couldn’t stop the ache in her chest. If only she could keep herself whole so her friends could watch her thrive instead of rip at the seams but it was moments like these she was so desperate for someone to hold her. To tell her they’d never let her go. To pull her in and erase the insurmountable damage from her mind and make her feel alive again.

You put the pieces together when you read his book. Like how he really just wanted to spend the day with you, Poppy.

Covering her face, sobbing uncontrollably, Penelope choked into her hands, “Why then? Why did he let me go?” If he loved her, really loved her, he wouldn’t have left her the way he did. He wouldn’t have left her with all these unanswered questions. He wouldn’t have left her on a tightrope to walk the line by herself. How could she try? How could she keep fighting? When all she could think about is how he gave up on her, gave up on himself, gave up on all the pieces to the puzzle that made him liberated, happy and boundless; all the people he loved the most. Everything she thought she knew was turning out to be a lie and the Charlie she thought she loved, really loved, was a complete stranger.

Stop it.

STOP IT!

Straightening herself, controlling her breathing to the best of her capabilities, Poppy wiped her tears. She wasn’t weak no matter how many times that voice inside her head told her she was. Still, when she thought she was out, there were always more tears to cry. Like a waterfall, the unbearable hurt kept coming, until her soul couldn’t take the pain anymore, submerging itself in the rushing current. She could feel herself drift away to only God knows where.

All I can answer is that I think you all meant something different and special to him. You were all pieces of him…

Sniffling and grabbing the sides of her dress, Poppy focused on the road ahead of her, the dirt and gravel, as she slowed down her breathing. Calmer than she was seconds ago, she whispered, “Take a walk, Penelope James.” She needed to clear her mind and let the overflowing sadness run its course so when she returned she could apologize to Mitena. A walk with fresh air, nature, and the beauty of the reservation. Just what the doctor ordered.

Taking the first step forward, her red eyes noticed her shoelaces were untied. Swiftly, Poppy kneeled down and tied them both before she took another step and ventured onward to places unexplored (for her, at least). She liked Blue Hill. Simply taking a walk through it could remind her that she was exactly where she needed to be and why. She just needed to keep fighting. She had to keep fighting, keep going, for no one else but herself. She had no choice. This was her decision in the first place and she was sick and tired of wallowing in self pity while living in this constant unhealthy cycle of grief and insecurity. She wanted to do better. No, she needed to do better.

Much of the Blue Hill Reservation was open space. In a tribe and a community such as theirs, everyone was welcomed everywhere. The Coldwind ranch was much smaller in comparison to some of the others that surrounded their land like the Silverheels. They simply bred and took care of a few horses at a time and then sold them off to good homes. The ranch had been in Christian’s family for generations but he knew that he was likely the last Coldwind that would run it. No other member of his kin had any interest in pursuing that kind of excellence.

“Grandpaaaaaaaa,” Ryan sat on the fence of the corral, her bare legs and feet dangling inside the enclosure. She had just woken up after a hard days night and was only dressed in the big Nirvana t-shirt she wore to bed. The grunge girl took a sip from the coffee her step-grandma had so lovingly prepared for the cowboys and ranch hands that morning before pointing at something in the distance. “I think we done got ourselves a stray white girl in our midst.” The bottled blonde put on her best southern accent before tipped the brim of her fake Stetson.

Chris moved to the corral and leaned against the post next to his grandchild and narrowed his dark eyes. He recognised the shuffle coming towards them down the dirt road that led from Adora’s and as the sun fell back behind the trees, his suspicions of the figure being one Penelope James were confirmed. He raised his hand in welcoming as soon as the small girl was in clear view. “Poppy-like-the-flower!” He called out over the noise of the single horse currently galloping around the corral. “What brings you out this way?”

At the sound of the chief's call, the horse stopped galloping and came to a halt. The young man riding it took off his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow as he watched the outsider walk towards them. His face was dirty, and stubbled and in his eyes he carried a tiredness most definitely beyond his youthful years. Jumping off of the pale dotted horse, he patted it several times to keep the old boy calm before bowing his head in welcome.

Oh. People. Poppy didn’t expect to come across a crowd so soon. Even so, she had to be polite. Her parents raised her right. Hiding her grief behind a smile, her eyes rimmed with red, and puffy, she gave a small, shy wave back as she approached the chief, the one she felt the safest around. “Just taking a morning walk. Seeing the area, since I’ve never been,” she coyly replied. It wasn’t like she was lying.

Poppy did want to see the reservation, she wanted to embrace the culture and be part of it because so far it’s only made her feel good and inspired her to want to do better but she wasn’t telling the complete truth either. This walk was more to clear her mind and convince her that she was fine. The beautiful reservation was a plus. “I don’t really know where I’m going, I’m just kind of following the path to wherever…” she admitted, as her green eyes looked from face to face. “I’m Poppy… Penelope,” she formally introduced herself to the chief’s granddaughter and the cowboy stranger.

“Kerry,” The cowboy nodded as he jumped back onto the horse. He soothed him again, stroking his greyish-white mane and whispering into his ear. The man obviously was very good at handling animals. “I’ll take old Jack here back down to the pens, boss. Then I promised Winnie and Ten I’d take their Momma up the Pronghorn Trail, get some fresh air in her lungs and hopefully clear her head you know?”

The Chief offered the ranch hand a thumbs up. “You go do your thing, Ker. Sending the twins my love.” As the horse and cowboy rode off further down the ranch, Christian reached down to the small table set up nearby and picked up a thermos. He poured in some piping hot coffee just in time for when Poppy reached him. “Here, freshly brewed. Should keep you going on your spirit walk.” He offered it to the pale young woman as he glanced up at his granddaughter swinging her legs as she sat on the fence. “You remember my granddaughter Ryan? Who is currently very hungover.”

“Listen.” Ryan held her hands up as if trying to prevent herself from vomiting. “It is not my fault that the bar you own serves minors….” Before she could continue, the Chief fired a glare at the young woman and she backtracked immediately. She likes to joke around but she would never endure to upset her grandfather, she loved him more than anything. “What I meant to say was, it’s not my fault that people kept slipping me drinks when you weren’t looking.”

“It’s nice to actually get a chance to talk to you, Ryan,” Penelope gave a tiny smile as she watched the cowboy walk away. Kerry was his name and he seemed to be in his element. One with the horses. After a moment or two of staring, she graciously accepted the offer of coffee from Christian, holding it close to her face and feeling the warmth radiate from the cup. After taking a leisure sip, she complimented, “You were awesome last night. The whole band, I mean. Red Wolf Road. It was really nice to watch you all pure your hearts out on stage.” Her tired eyes scanned Ryan’s face, falling on the other girl’s drunk grin, before looking up at the Chief who was watching her silently.

“Yeah we fucking rock!” Ryan threw up the Devil’s horns with her free hand and stuck her tongue out in her most bodacious Gene Simmon’s impression yet. Mid scream, she ended up covering her mouth like she was going to throw up. All the booze was finally catching up to the tiny native woman as she could feel it sloshing around in her stomach and rising up into her chest and throat with a very unpleasant burn. The young girl jumped down off of the fence and sprinted with her bare feet towards the house, creating a dust trail like she was the Road Runner behind her speedy frame.

The chief laughed as he placed his hands on his hips and watched his granddaughter disappear behind the old oak door. “My apologies for Leotie…sorry Ryan.” He corrected himself. Chris remembered that she hated using her first name. It reminded her too much of her parents. “She’s in a weird phase of her life. You know actually, she’ll be going to Edenridge High this coming semester. We’re giving her a change of scenery. Maybe you’ll run into her from time to time?”

“I’m sure we will,” Poppy took another sip of the strong coffee, like this bitterness was punching her in the face, kind of strong coffee, and deeply sighed, “It’s really nice here.” Taking in the gentle breeze and the beaming sunlight, the pale James girl breathed in and breathed out, basking in the great outdoors. “This is the longest I’ve been outside in a good while. I don’t go out much, not anymore at least. I lost a lot of myself… over the years, so I’m learning how to walk again,” she genuinely admitted, feeling the warmth and comfort of the man standing beside her. He reminded her so much of Mr. Beau. It made it easy to talk to him honestly and with an open mind and heart. “I’ll try my best to help Ryan navigate the ups and downs of Edenridge but I can’t promise I’ll be able to protect her. My hometown is… well, it’s a mess.”

Christian smiled as he adoringly looked at the small stranger. She was very sweet and kind; she reminded him a lot of Ko. “Well I suppose Miss Poppy-like-the-flower you better keep on going if your walk is to help you heal.” His dark eyes fell upon the vast open plains he called home and he sighed with contentment. There was something magical that drifted through Blue Hill, something that made the world just a little brighter. “You take that path there.” He pointed to a dusty trail leading into some trees. “That’ll take you straight into town, about ten minutes easy.” Sucking on his bottom lip, the leader of the tribe lost himself in thought for a moment before picking up a pen and paper from his morning picnic table and scribbling down his number. He handed it to Poppy with a smile. “If ever you need a stranger, me or my wife or any of the tribe will be here to listen.”

Surprised, Poppy placed the thermo lid on the table and grabbed the paper from Chief. She stared at his handwriting and smiled, “Thank you…” He was so kind. If only Edenrdige welcomed people with open arms like this. She could feel a little water building in her eyes which was her cue to walk. “Thank you,” she repeated, smiling widely. The saddest people usually have the biggest, brightest smiles. “I’ll see you later, Chief. Oh and the coffee was good!” Waving goodbye, Poppy followed his instruction and went down the dirt path that led into town.
TIMESTAMP: Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Morning
FT: Mr. Beau, Jamie Lord, Avery Kaine
Small FT: Jericho Phillips-Shomer


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Jamie was a mess.

The last twenty four hours had been nothing short of absolute chaos in her mind. As lightning flashed and thunder crashed all around her, the younger sister of The Duke, Davey O’Hara, found herself staring out across the town of Edenridge from her childhood bedroom that she once shared with her beautifully departed twin. When she wasn’t crying, Jamie was screaming at the top of her lungs, howling through the window pane at a metropolis and its people that had so swiftly turned their backs on the very family that founded the damn place. Whenever her parents tried to intervene, they were met by boiling hot rage and items launched across the room. For them, all the work Jamie had done to temper her problems over the years had vanished along with the daytime sun.

That Monday had been so full of triggers for the younger O’Hara twin. It all started with that dreaded letter and her meeting with her former boyfriend and Elite compatriot Clay. Even just imagining the pressure that he was under caused Jamie to feel it too; she had always been hyper empathetic which didn’t help her own mental state and keeping it level. Then there was the meeting with the Royal Flush Gang. Yana was always as supportive as she always was but Reagan, God nothing ever changed with her. Even as adults everything was always about superiority and control for the Supreme.

As she walked the town through the humid daylight, Jamie could feel the sting, like a thousand pinpricks across her skin as the glares and judging eyes of the townsfolk fell upon the fragile glass ballerina. She thought she had found the briefest quiet and solace when she walked into Swerve Arcana and into the welcoming embrace of Avery Kaine. God Avery, their fleeting moment had been filling her mind since it had happened. Jamie was married, the ring a golden shackle but the girl in the comic book store had seen her, truly seen her in a way that Russell never did.

There was a golden moment amongst the darkness when Jamie came across Sofi Belmonte amongst the oncoming storm. The young girl reminded the teacher so much of herself, she was a fragile bird trapped in a cage of circumstance. This positive mood was shattered after another row with Russell about their situation which was then swiftly followed by a video sent by Bronagh Milligan. Jamie only knew Bron through Lamb and some Scott Street gatherings so she was slightly taken aback to have been sent something from her. She was even further surprised when she realised the video was of Bron herself kissing Avery. What was this? A dare? A prank? Petty revenge for some reason that Jamie wasn’t aware of? Whatever the reason, it was but another dagger in a heart already filled with them. Why did she even care?

This sent the ethereal educator into a spiral; a spirit which resulted in her kicking Russ out of the house in the midst of a hurricane and locking herself in her bedroom, pouring over childhood musings and the memory of the only person that she knew unequivocally was hers; her big brother, Davey. With the storm over, Jamie tried to return to normal and move forward. As she edged closer towards Cafe Rochambeau, she wondered if Beau, the wisest person she knew, could hold a secret in his textured pages of old that might help her on her path. Calling ahead with her order, when the graceful young woman entered she was greeted by Beau’s warm smile and dulcet tones.

“Good morning, mon cheri,” The former English teacher greeted her with his usual exuberance despite having spent the entire evening at the shop and not going home. He thought better than to risk journeying to his home in a torrential downpour, thinking best just to wait it out with Ricky Osso and his dog Nduja, who had sought shelter. As soon as the rain subsided and the first light of day peeked up from beyond the lake, Beau took the child home and then swiftly returned to the cafe, ready for his first customers of the day. “Just finishing my first bakes and I’ll be right with you.”

Jamie smiled, brushing a single strand of her thick hair behind her ear. She loved Beau. Even though she never got the full experience of him as a teacher before she left Edenridge for private school, she could tell just how much he truly cared about the kids in his charge. He was the reason she wanted to become an educator herself. “No rush.”

The cafe bell rang announcing another presence. With an orange beanie on, a hoodie and jeans, Avery shuffled to the counter. When she noticed the woman waiting to be served, she felt her heart sink. This would be her luck. Jamie Lord would be at the cafe at the same time as her. As much as it pained her to see her forever crush, who rejected her yesterday and got an embarrassing video that may ruin Aves’ chances of even friendship, a Kaine never lets their emotions get the better of them nor do they let the war inside of them burden others.

This had nothing to do with Jamie and everything to do with her thinking Jamie was her perfect fit, her missing puzzle piece. A selfish desire, entirely of her doing. It was made abundantly clear that this was all just a fantasy and that maybe she was just like every person that ever said they loved Jamie. She was no different and Jamie could see that. Jamie was everybody’s dream girl and maybe Avery’s love was just like theirs. Part of the trend. Part of the herd. Nothing special.

Instead of making her pain clear, she covered her self-loathing and sleep deprivation behind a tender smile, even giving a small wave when the other girl looked to see who entered. When the storm lightened up Avery, Oz, and Bron made sure all the kids got to their homes safely. Avery proceeded to give Rosie the next day off. None of them really got sleep and as her manager, it was the right thing to do. Rosie was still a kid after all. Afterwards, she quickly freshened up and was now aiming to get her fix before going back to Swerve. Clay still hadn’t texted her which was worrisome to say the least.

There were many things out of Avery’s hands that she had to let be and hope the worst won’t come from her overthinking. Avery didn’t like worrying, she was good at tempering her mind, but she was also human and yesterday hit her like a train. “Hey Poppins,” Avery leaned up on the counter beside her, her eyes still full of kindness and adoration. Her feelings still hadn’t changed. Even after all this time, she loved this woman.

God, she was such a simp.

Her gaze rested on the soft complexion and demeanour of her former classmate. As she took in the sight, Aves could tell immediately Jamie was going through a rough patch. Whether it was the energy or the red around her eyes from all the crying, Avery could see Jamie, as she always did. She saw her in all her shades and still found so many reasons to adore her. This whole David O’Hara bullshit was hurting all the people Avery loved and that made the comic book store manager annoyed and hurt. Silently and to herself, since Aves wasn’t one to ruin the vibes. Still, Avery hated seeing Clay and Jame relive the past. She hated not being able to help them through this. She hated being useless.

Before furthering any conversation with Jamie, Avery greeted the best English teacher the world had to offer, “Heyo, Beau. Gooooooooood morning. Hope you slept a little? Though I can’t say the same for myself. But that’s whatever. I’m used to it. Smells good. Whatcha serving today?” Avery tried to peer around the counter to see if she could catch sight of the fresh bakes but at last, she would have to jump over it to get a better glance of inside the kitchen. The cafe always smelt the best first thing in the morning.

“I was stuck here with a kid and dog all night, I didn’t get a minute but I’ve been through worse.” Beau’s tone was jovial, as always. He loved to bring people warmth even if sometimes he just wanted to give it all up. That was the role he had chosen, to be the pillar for those that needed holding up. He wanted to bring them a steady foundation to build upon. “Today my beautiful young ladies I have…dramatic drum roll please?”

Jamie glanced over at Avery, of course it was her that had to be there. Why wouldn’t it be? She wasn’t mad about it. In fact she was far from. The best part of Jamie’s precious day had been sharing that charged moment with the comic book girl in her store. For the briefest whisper of a word, she thought that the fog had cleared and she had found clarity. It was Avery that had done that. She smiled sweetly at her fellow customer and began to drum her fingers on the counter, giving the teacher the audience he desired. Simultaneously, she was joined by the bronde haired, quirky geek in the concert of drums, taking part in the fun-loving spirit of their shared morning with Beau.

The jolly cafe proprietor reached into his oven and pulled out a tray of delicious sweet treats. He slid the collected goodness into a dedicated section on his counter before discarding the piping hot tray. “So we got some healthy blueberry soft bake biscuits, the English kind, some Pastel de Nata, straight outta Portugal and we have everybody's favourite..” Beau hurried into the small back room where he kept his deep fried and then returned another with a plate which he rested in front of the girls. “Beignets like my Momma used to make in the French quarter.” He sprinkled some powdered sugar all over the tantalising breakfast bites before his chocolate eyes sprang upwards towards the girls. He had been a teacher for many years, a police officer longer than that. He had seen the sort of thick tension that Jamie and Avery carried with them before. It was as obvious to him as a neon sign on a dark street. “Ain’t no problem, a sweet meal at breakfast time can’t fix.”

Jamie’s tastebuds began to water at the mere idea of some of Beau’s morning bakes. She raised her hand to cover her mouth as her soft eyes drifted to Avery. “Let me get your order, Avery. Anything you want.”

“You sure?” Avery dumbfoundedly blinked at the woman beside her. She didn’t know what Jamie’s motive was nor did she feel right to ask. After the video was sent to the O’Hara girl last night, Avery believed this was the end of any friendship they could’ve had. Certainly Jamie wouldn’t want to be standing this close to her, let alone buy her food. They were being cordial. Professional. Adults. Anything beyond that was likely ruined yesterday. Not only did Avery shoot her shot and get rejected, but she was seen making out with a big boob Milligan. “It’s okay, really, I can pay for myself, Jamie... you don’t owe me anything,” Avery averted her eyes and focused her attention on their former teacher, “Medium coffee, the house blend, one sugar and some oat milk. Please and thank you. And uh, I’ll take some beignets. To go.” The sooner she left the better they both would be. The sooner she left the faster she’d be able to move on. “It looks delicious, by the way, Beau.”

“Of course I’m sure!” Jamie smiled with her puffy eyes and tired face. She wasn’t going to take no for an answer in this instance. Reaching into the back of her jeans, the younger O’Hara twin pulled out a few dollars and placed them on the counter top. Money had never been any problem for Jamie; she was a Foundling. Beyond that, her father was a beloved and successful coach of athletics and her mothers side of the family basically ran youth hockey in New England. It was funny, in her job as a teacher, she probably made less money than the monthly allowance of some other Scott Street babies. “I’ll have my usual Mister Beau, this should cover us both,” She turned to look at Avery and smiled the brightest of smiles, a sheer contradiction to her obviously weathered eyes. “Just gonna head to the bathroom real quick, I’ll be back.” Without pause for response, Jamie hurried off towards the back of the store and out of sight.

Beau cocked an eyebrow at the two young ladies as he began to tamper down the coffee grinds he would use in their morning hit of roasted goodness. He was still getting used to the new routine. Usually Roddy Callahan was his first customer of the day but he had left town, leaving his two current customers as his go to morning money makers. “Well well.” He began, showing Avery a knowing glance. “‘Bout time you made your move Miss Kaine.”

Shrugging at the burly man, Aves mumbled, “Eh,” before absentmindedly tapping her fingers on the counter, her gaze following Jamie as she left. “Not like she’ll reciprocate.” Having not heard from Clay since yesterday with that brief text when she shared the video of Cat dancing didn’t help her spirits. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum balanced each other, especially in regards to emotion. Truth be told, both her and McDungus were great at hiding how they felt behind a smile. That’s why they connected so fast. He would’ve gotten her out of her head in no time but unfortunately, something was up and she didn’t know what. “Even if she did, which she doesn’t,” Avery explained, noticing Beau slide her coffee in front of her, as she continued, “She’s married. And I’m just an ass to interfere with that.” Graciously, she grabbed her coffee and rested it in both of her hands. “Plus, look at her, she has enough going on.” Jamie's eyes were so red, Avery knew she couldn’t have been the only one to notice. And on top of that, Jamie always had a lot going on. Getting a chance to talk to her, like Avery did the past two days, was near impossible for someone like her and it didn’t help that the beautiful O’Hara transferred and her twin died. Jamie was out of her league and had enough to worry about than some nerd. This whole experience just solidified why Avery was stupid for waiting. She lost her opportunity a long time ago, why did she think she’d have another chance?

Beau let out a hearty chuckle, as he often did before doling out his advice. “I have been with my Colleen for thirty years. Thirty years of strife and pain but also joy, pure unbiased joy. I got beautiful babies with that lady and I love them with everything that I am,” The former English teacher began to bag up Avery’s pastry’s in a brown greaseproof bag before continuing. “Now I ain’t no expert on love, nor anything else for that matter might I say but I know people. I know tells and I know flaws. Miss Kaine, the way you two look at each other, now that ain’t something worth giving up on.” Rolling the top of the bag to seal it, Beau held his hand out to pass the food over to the befreckled girl. “Now I ain’t telling you to break up a marriage but what I am saying is that you got cards in this game. You cannot lose if you do not play but you can’t win either. Miss O’Hara, she seems like something worth playing for no?”

“She’s someone worth earning,” Avery earnestly answered as she grabbed the bag of treats with her free hand. “Call me a fool for love but I don’t want to be like everyone else. She can get anyone. Literally anyone. And like, she focuses on everyone else until it drains her. She’s so tender and loving, and I don’t know if she always sees that about herself. I’m not here to win some game. I don’t want her to compromise herself for me. I don’t want or expect anything from her. I just… iunno,” Avery sighed, taking a sip of her coffee and cycling through all her memories of why she couldn’t get over Jamie even if she tried, “I want her to know I’ll never grow tired of her and whatever she wants, whatever she needs, I’ll be for her, but I probably fucked that all up in one day.” Taking another sip of her coffee, Avery grumbled under her breath, “Fuck me, right?”

Jamie listened to the conversation between the former teacher and student for a few moments longer before emerging into the open space of the cafe. She and a thousand million thoughts running through her mind already and Avery’s deep confession only added to them. Wearing her famous smile like a mask, she picked up her own to-go coffee. “Smells delicious as always Mister Beau.”

“I’ll be sure to pray to my mama tonight and let her know that you girls enjoyed her recipe,” Beau’s chestnut coloured eyes fell upon Avery and Jamie. He could feel the tension between them and he may be old but he wasn’t that old. He still remembered the days that he would bring in Miss Kaine’s textbooks and they would be scribbled upon with scenes of two girls together, unicorns for some reason and Avery O’Hara scrawled across the front page. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the girl wasn’t talking about David. “Now y’all go off and have a bright day you hear me? And if you need any sweet Joe black, you know where to find us.”

“Thanks,” Avery met her old professor’s gaze. They looked at each other knowingly. Sometimes you don't need to say anything to get a message across. She was grateful after all these years she still found comfort in his presence. She wasn’t one of the students that needed his words of wisdom much, if anything she bothered him simply to bother him and talk about what she was reading. Simple talk but it’s what opened their friendship to the days she needed to talk to him about her worry for all those that came to Swerve seeking her light. Days where she knew Clay wasn’t being genuine and was hiding the pain of his loneliness behind a mask. Days when she just needed to talk because sometimes the person that everyone goes to needs someone to go to. Beau was that for her. No matter how big or small the topic was, she could always count on him to be there for her. She wondered if Colleen was that for him. His outlet. The town loved him and that must’ve been heavy to carry at times. There were many broken pieces in Edenridge. That’s why it was so important to have pillars, like Beau, to pick them up. Turning on her heel, she waved her right hand that still held her to-go up and said her goodbyes, “See ya same time tomorrow, Beau.”

Jamie too waved at the older man with a bright smile. Even in the darkest of dark times in Edenridge, Beau seemed to possess an inner light that always obliterated that black shroud. He was a positive energy, a pillar, a good man. Those were definitely few and far between in a town like Edenridge. Clutching her coffee in both hands, Jamie walked out of Rochambeau beside Avery, a million and one thoughts buzzing around her head like a hive of bees. Her mind was cloudy, like the port before a misted rain. She could not see the wood for the trees and she could not see clearly beyond the gilded trouble at her door. She looked towards the befreckled midnighter, her face a flush with heat and her heart beating fast. “Do you remember Clay’s thirteenth birthday party?”

“How could I forget?” Avery thought back to a time that felt like yesterday. A time that was simple for her and her class before highschool started to pull them in directions beyond their control. “It was that party that separated our class from the rest. Clay’s birthday falling at the end of September was always the perfect excuse for Allison to do something big to mark a new year. Hell, we were only in Eighth grade and she had highschoolers showing up.” Taking a sip of her coffee and adjusting the brown bag in her other hand, she reminisced, her eyes clouding as she led the way, “It was a perfect storm. Clay’s parents weren’t around, leaving the whole house to him. Mayor Winslow was throwing an adult-only soiree to celebrate his wife’s 50th at the community center so that’s where most of the adults were, especially the parents of Scott Street.”

Stopping at the crosswalk, waiting for the signal to give her the greenlight to walk, Avery continued, all the while smiling, “Leave it to our class to somehow fill Clay’s entire house with soapy foam. I don’t even remember how we did it but I do remember Cat coming in, only immediately having to distract the cops patrolling and when she was able to shoo them away Clay pulled her into the soapy abyss. The boys were rowdy as hell. David and Francis were riding a mattress down the stairs. Russ surprisingly got Rhett to not have a stick up his ass and have fun. They were going up against Viv and Allison in a nerf gun fight. The most vivid thing for me, though?”

Lost in a memory, Avery didn’t notice the signal shift to green. Turning her head, she caught Jamie’s eyes, an ethereal blue that wasn’t of water but hot fire, and admitted, “You.” When they met years ago, small, naive, and at the playground, Aves hadn’t realized that blue could burn until then. She met Jamie O’Hara whose passion transformed the blue in her eyes into something warm and deep. Something that brings the heat to the heart and the soul. Pure, unadulterated, raw energy. Impossible to contain, no matter how much Coach tried to. “I found you twirling at the center of it all, with Lamb not too far off, just in your own world. It was kind of like you were dancing on clouds.” Avery gazed at her, in a way that was a promise of protection. She always looked at Jamie this way. In the way that said: I’ll be here when you need me. I’ll be here waiting. I’ll be your home. Forgetting about her own insecurities, letting her memory drive her, Avery complimented her dream girl, unable to restrain her love and adoration, “You’re so beautiful.” She saw Jamie then, she saw Jamie now. She saw her and that would never change. No matter how hard she tried… she’d always see her.

Jamie remembered that day. David had dragged her along to Clay’s party. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go because she’d always liked and more recently at the time crushed on Clay but she had been feeling so many different things at that time. Whenever she walked the street itself she felt like electricity was buzzing across her skin. Mrs. Ramsey called it a Dependent Personality Disorder with underlying anxiety and schizotypal tendencies. Jamie was in a low way the day of Clay’s thirteenth. When she arrived at the party, the birthday boy was too wrapped up in Sabrina Aviles to notice the freshly baked cookies she had made and the maroon dress she had bought for that special occasion.

David assured her everything would be ok and of course Jamie believed. She always did. Davey would never lie to her. After a while, the O’Hara girl became lost in the party. She swayed and moved to the music and hadn’t even realised that the house had been filled with thick white bubbles. When she opened her eyes for the first time in what felt like hours, the room was filled to the brim with liquid foam, dancing teens and the dulcet tones of Michael Buble singing about not meeting his lover yet. Jamie’s gaze met the sight of Avery Kaine staring back at her. She didn’t know the girl beyond a cordial hello in the hallway but in that moment amongst a sea of bubbles and a crowd of hormones, Little Miss O’Hara realised that she liked girls as well but not just any, she liked Avery.

Jamie didn’t know how to express what she had felt but by the time she had figured it out she had been shipped away from Edenridge to a school for people like her. Crazies. The lingering time she spent in memory shared with Avery, the more the teacher felt a familiar warmth fill her body. She replayed their shared gaze at Clayton’s birthday over and over in her head. She recalled the charged moment between them not twenty four hours ago in the stalls of Swerve Arcana. Images flashed in her brain of Bronagh Milligan, of David and flower petals on prom night, of Clay and Laura and the Royals. Jamie’s heart began to beat faster and faster as the fire took hold of her heart. Throwing her coffee cup to the ground, the girl turned and pinned Avery to the wall of a nearby building. Cupping the girl's befreckled face in her palm, Jamie leaned forward and intoxicated by chaos, pressed her lips to the beautiful strangers with a fervent want.

Waaaaaaah?

Eyes widened, Avery found herself forcibly pushed against the building wall (partly the glass window) of Main Street Music, at the corner of Main and Central. She spent all night and morning thinking Jamie would’ve hated her after the video with Bron but now here she was, the girl Avery had crushed on for years, sensually pressing her chest up against her and reigniting the primal desire that lay dormant for years. Was this a fever dream? A practical joke? A mistake? Jamie was married for fuck’s sake!

With a million and ten thoughts crossing her mind, veiled by a cloudy haze, Avery couldn’t, no wouldn’t, contain herself. This was her first fucking kiss with Jamie O’Hara. Every curve, every inch, every strand of hair… every part of her, Avery loved. Even the timbre of her voice shook the befreckled lesbian to her very core. Soaking in this unreal, frantic caress, feeling her lips — soft like silk, pillowy even — and tasting coffee and blueberries, Avery was on cloud nine. It became ten times worse when Jamie started to react to her touch. Parting the brunette’s lips slightly, Avery allowed her tongue to slip in, before tossing her own coffee to the side and dropping Beau’s delicious treats to the ground. There was no way in hell she’d let food get in between her and this passionate embrace with the hottest girl alive.

Eagerly, Avery grabbed onto her beloved’s waist and with surprising ease, switched their positions where Jamie was up against the window and she, the raging lesbian, was taking the lead. Feeling the thud of their combined heartbeat, fingers carding through Jamie’s hair, Avery intently stared into the other woman’s half closed eyes and embraced her — every curve, every inch, and every strand. God, she embraced her, overcome by ecstasy. Pure ecstasy.

Jamie gave herself to Avery in every way. As the far more confident girl took control of her body, she raised her skirted leg to encompass the comic book girls svelte hip. Her hands and fingers became wrapped in ringlets of soft dirty blonde hair as moans of pleasure and joy, bottled for a decade rose up through her chest and out of her mouth. Jamie had kissed girls before, she had experimented in school and college but what she was feeling now was not an experiment. It was not a flight of fancy or impulsivity that she was known for giving in to. This was her truth. This was who she was and who she wanted.

It wasn’t until Avery looked past Jamie to see Jericho on the other side, inside of MSM, covering his mouth with his right hand in astonishment that she was brought back to reality. She didn’t want to pull away, she didn’t want this to end, she didn’t want Jamie to slip from her grasp… but she needed to. It was the right thing to do. After pulling Jamie’s bottom lip and releasing her tight grip on her, Aves muttered to herself, “Fuck, I…” she was lost for words. She didn’t understand how she got in this predicament but here she was standing in front of Jamie, heated and bewildered.

The breaking of their kiss allowed the fresh air to flow into the O’Hara girl’s chest and wash away the fog of desire that had engulfed them. Jamie’s hands drifted from Avery’s hair to her freckled cheeks and that’s when she saw it. The golden noose wrapped around her second left finger. The reality of her situation was beginning to take a hold of the teacher as she heard the distant sirens of a patrol car. The blue eyes Jamie shared with her beautifully departed brother stung from the breeze. She had cried and cried and cried herself out. She would not cry now, even though she wanted to.

The kiss was everything she had hoped for and more and her soul was screaming at her to pull Avery back into her embrace but Jamie knew better. The day before she had asked to be told a story and Avery had replied about making one together. She wanted that, God did Jamie want that right now. Yet as the distant sirens grew closer and her puffy red eyes drank in the beauty of Clayton’s best friend, the glass ballerina knew this wasn’t how her story was supposed to end. There was still another act to take place.

She placed her hand on Avery’s mouth to pause her from speaking and to stop herself from kissing the girl again. “I…I need,” Jamie’s lips quivered and her voice stumbled. “I need you to…” She searched for the words that could make it all ok. The words she needed to justify what she was doing. “Know…this wasn’t a mistake. You are so beautiful and so brilliant…Avery and I want this. I want this.” Her hand drifted to Avery’s chest and her racing heart. “Please don’t hate me.” Unable to stay without losing control, Jamie pushed past Aves and took off running down Main Street towards Scott Street. She couldn’t look back. If she did, everything would’ve been a waste. Such a waste.

Stunned in place, Avery couldn’t compute, she was beyond the point of malfunctioning. If she were a computer, she’d have the blue screen of death. What just happened? Jamie wanted this. She wanted… her? Leaning up against the wall, covering her beet red face, Aves tried to regain herself. It wasn’t until she heard a male’s voice, startling her, that she could think past the kiss, Jamie’s words, and the possibility that she would finally get what she wanted. She’d finally get Jamie. “Huh?” Avery dropped her hands to her side, turning her head and seeing JP waiting for her. He held the door open to the record store, a temporary oasis for the geek queen.

“I can… clean up for you.” JP surveyed the front of his family’s business at the two dropped coffees and the bag of desserts. Thankfully none of Beau’s beignets had gotten out. “Why don’t you take a seat? I can get you a cup of water, put on some Gallows, yeah… and if you want, we can talk? Or you can just chill. Whatever works!” Anxiously, JP scanned the area to make sure no one witnessed what had happened, afraid his friend would get heat for kissing a married woman. It seemed like the coast was clear. Then again, this was Edenridge, a town that thrived off of secrets. He hoped this wouldn’t be one of them.

“Ah, okay…” the woman stumbled.

Avery Kaine was one of the kindest people in this town. She didn’t deserve the scrutiny that can happen from giving into your deepest desires. He knew she loved Jamie all her life, he and her had connected awhile back since she was one of his loyal customers. They’d trade comics for records, records for comics. It was a sweet deal they had. During their blossoming friendship, he saw Avery get with some of the hottest girls in the area, Antonia Cortez, Sonya Rossi, Han-Na Kang, Bella Joseph, and that’s only listing a few. He and her? They were whores in highschool - it was a silent respect they had for one another. She was two years older than him and he couldn’t help but admire her game. She was a total badass. Unapologetically Avery.

Things changed when her twenty-first birthday came around. He saw it on her face when she stared into the candles of her cake. He knew that look. It was just like him. She didn’t want to live like that anymore. Her heart belonged to one person and one person only. His dream had been right beside him the moment the Shomers moved to town. For Avery, her dream was always out of reach and light years away. A fantasy. Something that seemed unattainable. Her wonderland.

Guess dreams do come true.

Moments like these made him believe magic does exist. His friend. A goofy ass nerd with freckles and the cutest french bob. Finally, she finally got her unicorn.

JP couldn’t be more proud.


____________________________________________________________________


____________________________________________________________________


Mitena Strongbow, Jade Taylor, Mordechai Boaz, Penelope James, Natalia Belmonte


“I don’t even know where to start.”

Tena nervously laughed as she professed her trepidation. Her doe eyes looked around the picnic bench, assorted breakfast snacks such as fry bread, breakfast burritos and clustered granola cakes sat on paper plates having freshly cooked by the one and only Forrest Proudstar. She glanced at the collected group from Edenridge, Massachusetts that had travelled to the rolling fields of the Blue Hill Reservation in order to protect her. Each person sat at that table meant something to a very particular boy that was no longer of this plain and Earth. He was a boy of deep trouble and hard times, broken promises and words. He was an urban poet bequeathed the soul of a wordsmith by a higher power. He was a troubled boy.

Charlie Decker; they were all pieces of the heart of Charlie Decker.

Mitena reached beneath the table for Natalia’s hand. She hadn’t known the Italian girl any longer than a day but the comfort she felt in her presence was soothing; borderline intoxicating, like the rest of her had been during their night together. It was telling of her brother's choice in friends that these kids journeyed all the way to the Rez to try and help a girl they didn’t even know existed. Charlie seemed to choose the people in his life well.

“I guess I should just start from the beginning?” The raven haired singer picked up her iced tea and had a quick sip before continuing. She could feel her heart racing. Why was she so nervous? “I didn’t know Charlie even existed until he sent me a letter when I was….fourteen? Maybe fifteen? Apparently he found me during some class project you guys had about family trees. We share a father, James, but I gather you already know that. Charlie and I only ever met in person once. Everything else was through the letters.”

"I remember that project." Jade found herself saying out loud, almost like it was an impulse or something like that. She could remember that project clearly because she remembered where her head was at during that time. Her uncle had helped her fill in her own tree to make up for the gaps that were left because she refused to add her parents to it.

But as she looked around the table, her gaze went in a circle from Tena and Natalia to the two that sat opposite of her: Key and Poppy. She wondered what was going through their minds. What could they be thinking? Even more importantly, was it right for Jade to be the first one to speak? She didn't feel like she had any. For the last month, she was a ghost to those closest to her and she still felt like a grim cold chill even as she sat nestled between them. Yesterday she felt like she took a lot of the right steps forward, but there was still this underlying feeling deep inside her, like the ripple effect of what she did not just last month, but on that night.

Now that she was face to face with Tena, Charlie’s long lost sister, she couldn’t help but have that one night on her mind. Those thoughts never went away. They were never resolved nor addressed. Jade ran away, sank herself in pills, whiskey, and whatever she could to not feel for a whole month. She knew she couldn’t do that anymore. Her moment with Natalia and again with Key, knowing just how much she truly missed out on (either by her design or the design of her pain), there was a clarity moment she was having right now and it was staring her into the face with the same features Charlie had. “So…in the letters he sent you, did he ever mention a night at a Carlisle house party. December of 2016, did he ever say anything about that night?” As she asked, her blue-green eyes side-glanced at Poppy and Key. She understood what this potentially could bring up but she needed to ask. She needed to know and it was the only way she knew at this moment to even start to address what she tried to leave behind her.

“You mean the night that Allison Davies died? Yeah he mentioned it a lot.” Mitena’s eyes fell upon the packed table of food. Indeed Charlie had talked about that evening as the night that everything went wrong. That was the night that he was labelled a murderer and his descent into the embrace of the withered hands of the craven tribe truly began. “Especially towards the end.” Seeking comfort, the indigenous singer moved the hand of Natalia’s she was holding under the table into her lap. She exhaled, trying to keep her composure. “I think that night created in Charlie a well of guilt. But not just for what happened to Allison, even though he most certainly blamed himself for that. He was sad because he had made promises to all of you and he failed to keep them.”

The faces staring back at her were somewhat terrifying despite their sincere and understanding looks. “Though that’s as much detail as he goes into in his letters. You sort of put more pieces of the puzzle together when you read his book. Like how he really just wanted to spend the day with you, Poppy.” Mitena looked towards the ethereal girl on the edge of the bench before drifting her gaze to Decky. “Or about how he let you down Mordechai because he was taking care of your patch.” The girl turned to face Jade, who had started off the line of questioning. “He especially held a lot of guilt for you and how you were forced to see something you shouldn’t. That one really hurt him-- or at least that’s what I took from his words. I don’t know how true it is.”

While Mitena spoke, it took everything in Jade to not show just how high her emotions were. Tena didn’t know it, but when she mentioned how jade witnessed something she shouldn’t have, that made her heart swell. The whole time she was blaming herself for it. Blaming herself for how this weight lingered on her shoulder because of that night, she never knew how Charlie felt about it. “I…never knew he felt that way about it.” She couldn’t bring herself to mention it specifically. It was too painful to speak about it, but she felt she had some form of closure.

She looked down at the picnic table, looking at the food but not reaching for any of it. “I don’t think you have any reason to not believe it. It seems he trusted you a lot, Tena. And I can see why. To find out you have a sister, maybe he just wanted to know what that felt like.” As she spoke, Jade’s gaze went to Poppy and gave her sister a soft smile before returning it to Tena. “I like to think that he found safety in you in whatever way he could.”

The letters. The book. The broken promises. Penelope James held onto her fork as she stared at her plate of fruit and some biscuits. Untouched, as expected of her. Only a couple hours ago she and Mordechai had talked to one another about being kinder to themselves and keeping each other afloat. They were just kids. They all were just kids. She was grateful Jade took the lead. Without her, this table’s silence would cut like an excruciating sharp knife.

Poppy had thought she was prepared for this, she really convinced herself for a moment that she was ready. After hearing everything, she knew she didn’t want to hear any of this. She didn’t want to hear any of this from Mitena Strongbow. She wanted to hear this from Charlie Strongbow-Decker. It was all infuriating and to add salt to her wounds that she keeps trying to close up, Jade gave her a tender look, emphasising that the people at this table here were family. Their family. Jade, her sister. Mordechai, her brother. Charlie…

The last thing Poppy wanted to do was offend her. Instead, she bit her tongue and kept quiet. Her eyes searched the table only to catch the sight of Tena and Natalia holding hands under the table. It was subtle but Poppy could tell. That was fast. She was starting to think she’d need to up her dosage with her antidepressants and anxiety meds. The sensations were overwhelming her and she could feel a ball in her throat everytime she swallowed. Trying to keep her mind off the raging storm within her, she brought her fork to a cut piece of strawberry and pierced it. She nibbled on it as she sat in silence. It wasn’t her time to talk. This was Jade’s moment.

“I appreciate that.” Mitena said sweetly as Jade mentioned Charlie’s wish to be safe. It dawned on her that she had been her brother's keeper without even realising it. She had been a stranger to carry his secrets so that he didn’t have to burden his friends, at least in his mind she imagined. It was sad to think that the Charlie she knew through their letters could not share parts of himself with the people he was closest to. If she was a betting girl, Tena would say that this inability to communicate, to carry a load and not share it, was her big brother's downfall. “I guess my next question is…well, what do you guys need from me? I wanna help you in any way I can.”

‘What a loaded question,’ Mordechai thought as the conversation came to a gentle pause. What did they need from her? Mordechai didn’t even know she existed until this trip was already set in motion by Poppy. On top of that, finding out that this whole thing wouldn’t have even happened if it weren’t for that fucking project had him stewing in his own emotions. He remembered it of course because of how it made him feel not being able to complete it. He’d spent hours staring at the blank page of the assignment, not even feeling comfortable putting Benjamin and Alana’s names down and graphing his and Danny’s branches back onto the tree that they had fallen out of so willingly and with feverish haste. He'd gone to Mr. Beau with far more attitude than the kind and patient man deserved and asked if the report was some sick joke for those that didn't get to know anything about their roots, and instead of failing him or giving him detention, Beau had just told him to write about his real family. The one he and Danny chose. While it helped for the assignment and his mental well-being at the time, Mordechai had never lost that bitter feeling in his chest when he thinks about the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about his blood relatives, or whether or not they were just like his parents.

And here Charlie had found a sister before he'd taken Danny away. A sister who he'd confided in in a way unlike he had with anyone else. 'With any of us…' he finally shifted his gaze from where it had been looking over Tena's shoulder instead of at her, and took in his two best friends. How were they feeling about what Charlie had told Tena? He'd just wanted Poppy that day, he'd wished Jade never had to see him and ReyRey that night, those were both understandable statements when it came to Charlie, but what Tena seemed to learn about Mordechai sounded more like his own words to Charlie all those years ago. He'd said he was disappointed, and while he never once thought that Charlie had laced the shit Allison took on purpose, it didn't stop him from treating the tall native boy like he had. He never called him a murderer, never said anything to him that he didn't believe, but he literally greeted Charlie physically for the first time in a year and a half with a right hook to his jaw.

He made promises to all of you and he failed to keep them. Mordechai and Danny never made promises, even when asked to. The word was too strong of a contract that was far too easily broken in the world they lived in. Charlie hadn't had such reservations over the term, and more often than not he absolutely followed through on his promises, especially within their little group. But what about all the shit Mordechai did that had him failing at being a good friend? All the punishments at ReyRey's command, not even asking for Charlie's side before going off on him, and all the snarky comments he could have kept to himself. All the things that slowly broke Charlie until he returned the favor tenfold by tearing asunder the lives of those that wronged him, and even those that never did.

And Decky threw the first punch, every time.

Well, they're already here and Tena somehow has the most answers out of all of them, might as well ask the important questions while he still had a will to do so, right?

"Did he hate me?" Mordechai finally asked as his dark eyes dropped to the ground beneath his feet while he hung his head, hands clasping each other tightly and arms resting on his legs. His hair covered the shame on his face as he asked the questions he knew he had to, even when he'd convinced himself of his own answers just so that he could keep moving every day, keep living. "I treated him like shit and nothin' was even his fault, and I knew that. But I always followed ReyRey's orders and punishments, no questions asked. I had ta start his jump out junior year or ReyRey would've withheld my own. Once I'd focused on gettin' me and Danny out it's like nothin' else much mattered at the time, even my friendships," he admitted in a small yet harsh voice, not daring to look beside him at two of the people he loved as he spoke, and all his anger in his tone very clearly directed inwards. "So, did he hate me? Did he ever talk about my little brother Danny? Did I make him hate us both?"

“I don’t think I’m the one to answer that, Decky.” This was a lot more sombre than Tena expected. It seemed her words were doing more harm than good to the people Charlie cherished more than anything. Who was her brother? Really? The words on his pages seemed either to not represent the man at all or the part of him that he offered to these people was so hidden…or even perhaps lost. “All I can answer is that I think you all meant something different and special to him. You were all a piece of him but I don’t really know. I knew Charlie through letters over a brief time. You knew him up until the day he did what he did. You knew him.” Mitena could feel her eyes slightly begin to water. She really thought she had made peace with everything that the beautiful departed was and could’ve been. Yet the more she talked with people, the more she realised she didn’t know him at all. Who was he? “Tell me about him? Who was Charlie Jay to you guys? Who was my brother?”

“A stranger, apparently,” Penelope muttered under her breath as she carried a heavy weight on her shoulders. Dejected and lost, she gazed at her plate with empty eyes. She knew Tena was an innocent party to everything that was Charlie but this whole experience was like being repeatedly stabbed in the heart. Over and over again. She could barely see beyond her pain. She could barely see those around her. She could barely see.

“I don’t understand,” Poppy shook her head in disbelief, not making eye contact with anyone. “I don’t understand why I know so little.” Balling her fists until they turn white, Poppy could feel her teeth jittering, knowing a panic attack was not too far off from happening. She swallowed hard, holding back any tears she felt like shedding. Tired of crying. “Yesterday alone I found out Charlie knew the most popular girl in our grade and he also has a sister. I… I don’t understand why he didn’t trust me enough…” She hated this. Why was she the one forced to save the day? Keep her friends together? To help others heal and be happy? She could barely save herself. Poppy was no hero. She was no one. She was nothing. Everything she ever did, it was all for nought because clearly at the end of the day she could never be enough for him. She was never enough for Charlie. She would never be enough.

“All I’m hearing is,” Penelope glanced up at her friends and the two girls she barely knew, a single tear trailing down her cheek. All her pain hit its peak in her tone, yet it was nothing more than a whisper. “I was a waste of space,” she uttered, her pale fists hitting her lap in frustration, “I’m nothing to him. I never was anything to him. I don’t want to hear this from you. I want to hear this from Charlie. I’m sorry,” Poppy pushed her chair back and stood up, covering her mouth with the back of her wrist, clear signs of her breathing drastically picking up, “I need to take a walk.” Before anyone could stop her, making sure if someone tried to grab her she’d slip out of their reach, Poppy was rushing away, “D-don’t follow me, please.” And in seconds, she was gone.

Natalia had remained a silent spectator for the entirety of the conversation, listening closely and taking in everything that was being said. The conversation began with the night of Allison Davies' death: one of the many events that had negatively impacted their lives in different ways, and the one that marked the beginning of Charlie’s downward spiral. Contrary to her peers, her experience at the party had been a positive one. She'd spent most of that December night messing around and getting to know the new boy at the time, Mika. It was what happened after, though unrelated to Charlie Decker at the time, what led the Queen Bee and the Native gentleman to cross paths for the first time. Looking back on it, Tal never would've imagined that losing her virginity to her former best friend Niles Sinclair that night would snowball into her sitting at this kitchen table at the Blue Hill Reservation, surrounded by Charlie's friends and sister and carrying a secret in danger of being exposed.

By the time she zoned back into the conversation, Mitena was asking the visitors to share who was Charlie to them. As Natalia would have expected, Poppy James was the first to speak up. But instead of elaborating on the many things Tal knew she could say about her forever love, she watched the distraught Penelope crumble to pieces in front of them before storming away from the table in tears.

Immediately, Natalia felt her body tense up, but Mitena's hold on her hand and the presence of Mordechai and Jade meant she was forced to suppress her own rising panic. All of her doubts and fears about coming clean or sharing her secret were confirmed by Penelope with this display of emotions. If the knowledge of Charlie having a secret sister and the fact that he and Tal acknowledged each other’s existence had elicited this gut-wrenching, visceral reaction from Poppy, she couldn’t imagine what would happen if the true nature of their relationship came out. There was no way in hell that she would be opening her mouth anytime soon.

Tena was frozen and in tears. She didn’t want to hurt anyone. These kids came to her looking for something, looking for someone lost to them and all she could offer were words on old yellow pages that probably weren’t even true. She watched with her soft doe eyes as Poppy ran off. It was just like Charlie had said in his book; the girl with the flowered name was as precious as any jewel or great work of art.

She looked up at Natalia for reassurance but could see that she was hurting just as much as the others but in a different way. Poppy’s words rang out in her head. They didn’t know Natalia but Charlie did. She wasn’t part of their world but she was in his. God that must sting. He had hurt them all in so many ways and seeing her, hearing her talk, they probably thought Tena was his ghost come from wherever to torment them further. “I’m really sorry,” She tried to say assuringly but her confidence was an awful mask that wasn’t doing its job. “Maybe I should just leave and let you go back home? The storm should be over now and the roads clear. You can leave the memory of me behind and the pain I’m causing.”

Jade felt almost completely helpless. Not particularly frozen, but her gaze was on her soul sister as her pain was shared with everyone. She wanted to defy her when she left and follow her, but that would only do more harm than not. The month that left a gap in her communication with the two closest to her had more ripples than she thought there’d be. Even if she did go, how much worse would that make things?

As much as it hurt her to stay, there was something else Jade felt she was needed for - maybe even more than part of her hear wanting to get up after Poppy. She looked at Mitena. Throughout all of this, she was the most removed from the effects of Charlie’s life and actions on that day. “You have nothing to apologize for, Mitena.” Jade finally spoke up, focusing her undivided attention on the Native girl. Maybe for the first time, she was seeing the raw pain on her face. “This isn’t easy for any of us. Charlie was our world. I’m sure if you were to ask any of us, we’d have different answers as to what that meant. For me, he was someone I could be myself around. He could be an idiot sometimes, but that’s what I loved about him.” As she thought about Charlie, in that moment, she remembered back to that night of the game. Before everything went to hell, she remembered their conversation and she smiled. “You meant enough to Charlie that maybe he wanted to keep that for himself. Or maybe if things had gone differently, he would have told us about you, or introduced you to us at some point. Whatever the case, that means you’re family. So there’s no way in hell I or anyone at this table wants to forget about you.”

"She's right, we’re not ditchin’ ya," Mordechai spoke lowly while still glaring at the ground, voice gruff with his swirling turmoil. He'd stayed silent and tried to hide his flinch when Tena addressed him so casually by the name his brother had given him. He knew she didn't know anything else, he used to hate his full name and would demand anyone he didn't know well call him Boaz or Boa. He couldn't blame her for not knowing that that name died with Danny. His hands had gone from grasping each other to gripping tightly high on his forearms, fingernails digging into the scarred skin there as he desperately tried to hold himself together. 'Still no answers,' he thought dejectedly as his tears hit the carpet. 'Honestly, the fuck was I expectin'?' He had answers for her, though. He couldn't get his but he could make sure she doesn't leave this conversation without some of her own. Who was Charlie to him?

"When I first started school, the only other person I knew was Sonny, my neighbour and…well aside from Danny, my everythin' at the time. Poppy and Charlie were the first ones ta talk ta me, and me and Jade connected a little later. He…he was like my brother. We were all so aware of reality while also tryin'a escape it. Most'a the good literature I know is thanks ta him, and all the fuckin' quotes," he tried to finish that with a laugh, but it seemed to come out as more of a choked off sob as he shoved the palms of his hands against his eyes to try and stave off the breakdown he knew was on it's way faster than Poppy’s exit from the room. "Fuck man, I liked comics and poems but Charlie opened so many new worlds for me an- and for Danny. He was the strongest and softest guy I knew at the same time. He helped me raise my little bro just like Pops and J and I just fuckin' betrayed him. I put my shit above him time after time and I just-" the sobs finally broke his sentence off and he quickly bit his tongue to make them stop.

With sharp and jerky movements, Mordechai shot to his feet and managed to choke out, "I'm sorry, I can't, I can't," before making a beeline for the stairs and his room. The second he closed the door the tears began burning his face again as a cry like a wounded animal clawed its way out of his torn throat.

"FUCK!"

He turned around and put his fist through the wall right beside the door, leaving it there as he dropped his forehead to the door and let himself truly cry out of the sight of others. When he was done, he'd grab the patch and repair kit that he’d brought to Adora’s one year, half as an apology and half as a gag gift- and honestly, it's seen so much use that it's less of a gag now- and fix the wall like he always did. But for now, for now he was actually going to let it all out. He was going to cry for himself and what he lost, but also for those that can't cry anymore. He cried for Danny, but he also cried for Charlie.

"I'm sorry man, I'm so fuckin' sorry."








“Dearest Ronnie,

I don’t know if this letter will find you before or after…but it is my sincerest hope that whenever it finds you that you are well. The last time we spoke you said your eyes were bothering you a bit? Hopefully that has passed now and those beautiful forests of green are shining with the first rainfall of spring,

Where to begin, where to begin. I guess the trouble started before I was even born. My father Arthur wasn’t a superstitious man; he never really believed in much of our tribal traditions. When the Coldwind brothers Christian and Bear teased him that the Strongow name was cursed from Aponi herself down; he paid it no mind at all. Side note: I hear that they’re making Christian Chief soon, which is amazing! Anyway, that was likely why my dad sought a life outside the reservation: to prove the superstitions wrong. Sometimes I think he was more of a cowboy than a Native.

When I was just a boy he loved to entertain me with tales of my great grandfather, the first of us ever to use the name Strong-Bow. He was an outlaw by all accounts though I’ve never found proof in my own travels which is likely due to his birth name being lost to time. The way my father would tell it, the man spent an entire night and day protecting the tribe from soldiers looking to take the reservation land with only a bow and a handful of arrows. Personally I just think that’s a tall tale of the forgotten West but I’ll never deny that it might be a fact. We all have the potential to do amazing things under duress.

After he left Blue Hill, my Dad made his way across the US, just working on farms, getting himself into some mischief and then moving on until he found himself in New Mexico. I think being around the Apache and Mescalero reservations made him miss home. He met my mother, Susan Winters in Albuquerque, working on a ranch there. She was deeply religious, my Mom, catholic to a fault but something about the exotic stranger throwing around bales of hay just did something to her I guess. They ran away together real fast, they often joked that my grandfather was always chasing them, outlaws until the end. They settled back in Blue Hill about three months before I was born.

That outlaw spirit they held so dear was probably why I picked up that guitar on my twelfth birthday. It was likely why I dropped out of school in Salem and decided to go to Edneridge of all places, even though I was warned to stay away because of our family history. It was that outlaw spirit that led me to join up with the boys in Gallows and play that end of summer gig where I first saw you. You were with the Clovers and they were all in their little outfits but you, you just wore jeans and a leather jacket and I thought you looked so badass, so beautiful. I know that the Gallows gig would keep me away but on those long nights listening to Sean and Rusty argue and Will spouting his philosophical stoner crap, thinking about you helped me get through it.

After Rusty passed and the band was done; finding God was not on my to-do list. Yet there he was, to embrace me in the darkest of times when I’d lost something and someone I held so dear. I gave myself to the church, even adopted my mothers surname so that they wouldn’t look unkindly upon my origin. I was at peace.

I remember that day. Every second of it. I remember popping into Dolly’s before choir practice and you were working. I always thought you looked cute in that little outfit. Shannon was in the corner, pouring over textbooks with baby Reagan in her lap. April had passed out already from day drinking, lord knows where her son was and Sly had popped in for a swift coffee before his shift. You got me a coffee and some Eggs Benedict. Before we could really talk you had to go and serve Edie and John. I waved at them and left. Practice was normal. The choir sang beautifully and the Grimm’s were helping me pack away when we got the first whiff of smoke. I called for Gabby to go get the kids from the rectory whilst Hank and I tried to open the door. It wouldn’t budge. Being smaller, I decided to smash the window and climb out and try from the other side. By the time I got to the front of St Paul’s, the place was an inferno. That was when I noticed my car blocking the door. Someone had done this on purpose. I didn’t have my keys because I had left them at the pulpit. I tried and I tried but I couldn’t move the car. By the time the police and fire departments had arrived, the church and the people inside, the Grimm’s, those kids, were gone.

Craven is a word we use in my culture when someone is blacklisted and forgotten about. It seemed after the fire, both Edenridge and Blue Hill made me craven….but not you. You gave me warmth and gave yourself to me in a perfect moment, breaking my vows with an outlaw spirit. As much as I would have loved to move forward after our time together, I just couldn’t. My world grew darker by the second. I thought going back to the reservation would help. All it did was add silence to the blackness of an encroaching night. There was one person I could talk to, Dakota, a med student. She reminded me of you. She didn’t judge, she only listened.

Which I suppose brings me back to how I started this letter. I said my father was not a superstitious man but now, as I sit here illuminated by only the desk light, looking out across the Southside of Edneridge and towards the Elder Tree from which my ancestor was hung, I wonder. I wonder if he had been, would he have left Blue Hill? Would he have met my mother and had me? Would he have stopped me from moving to Edenridge and causing nothing but death?

I wonder.

I found my great grandfather's gun and note at the family ranch. Remember I said his name was lost to time? According to this, his English name was Charles Jay.

When you read this, do not weep for me and what I’ve done. This is my choice. I don’t know what awaits me beyond what is to come but I go forth and onwards unafraid of the Shepherd that calls me to eternity. Outlaws go out on their own terms and these are mine.

Yours Always
James Strongbow Winters
September 1st 2001”





”Always yours.”

Rhonda had gone over this letter a thousand times when she could see it clearly. It was now completely ingrained into her memory, she could recite it word for word without much provocation. As her eyesight failed her, she continued to read it daily in the hopes of finding something, anything that could help her understand. It had been twenty years since James shot himself, nearly three since her beloved son Charlie’s life had also been snatched away by a bullet. Ronnie had pondered in ifs, buts and maybes.

Both of them had undertaken actions that she did not and would never condone but that didn’t change the fact that Rhonda loved them both so very dearly. Maybe that was shy she sent Poppy and her friends to go look for Mitena, James and Dakota’s daughter. Maybe this girl who shared their blood would be the key to unlocking the secrets that James and Charlie held in their spirit. Then again, maybe inviting another Strongbow into her life was like opening up Pandora’s box.

”Outlaws to the end, huh boys?” Ronnie folded up James' note and placed it into the small box of memories on her nightstand, next to the small photograph of a then five year old Charlie, dressed up like a cowboy. She pushed up from her bed and used the wall to guide herself towards the curtains. She spread them wide to let in the cold light of day. The sudden illumination would burn the retinas of anybody else but Rhonda, well her eyes were dull now to even the most blessed of sights.

As she moved, guided by her hand on the walls, past her sons room, she smiled. ”Good morning, Charlie Jay.” She couldn’t hear the muffled sounds of music coming from his record player, a telltale sign that Charlie was still gone and today so was Poppy. Ronnie had gotten used to the girl's presence. It brought her back to a happier time. Descending down the kitchen staircase, the older woman called out. ”VAL. Play Love, the Hard Way Around by Gallows.” The AI assistant repeated the dark haired woman’s words before playing the soft melancholic country notes of her former belovedes band.

Ronnie moved towards the counter top and turned on the kettle. On a good day, she could see things with a blurred vision, like someone who neglected to put on their glasses. On the bad days, the world was on fire. All she could see was hues of orange and red and sparks of white hot flame. Today had yet decided what sort of day it would be. ”Lonesome dove, I’m just looking for love, the hard way around” She sang along as she poured herself a cup of tea. Before she could bring it to her lips however, the woman was disturbed by a knock at the door.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

Manoeuvring herself with the use of the counter and dining table, Rhonda moved forward towards the front door and unshackled the multiple locks she had in place. She told herself she took such precautions because she was a blind woman living alone on the Southside. The reality was that she didn’t know when someone with a grudge against her Charlie Jay would come looking for revenge. At this point in her life, Ronnie expected it to come one day. She swung open the door and had enough of her vision in the moment to recognise the face beaming back at her.

“Morning Miss Decker! I brought some records!”

Topanga was a sweet girl. She started coming round after what Charlie did. At first Ronnie was weary but she soon came to realise that the young girl was seeking something; what she wasn’t sure and had yet to really figure out. She did really enjoy the young indigenous girls' company though. ”Well get your little butt in here and let’s play ‘em Pang!” As the teen gingerly walked by to take her handful of old vinyls towards the table, Rhonda couldn’t help but become lost in wonder again. This time she wondered about the girl entering her house, she wondered about her life and her friends, her generation of Edenridge.

What was next for them?
TW: Hit & Run
End of Day 1: Timeskip post

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Well the Southside lead had been a bust.

There were really two major issues with the core of this case being David O’Hara.

One was the fact that a lot of people had done to Davey what they eventually did to Charlie Decker; they had erased him. They had cut him from photos, torn out pages from books where his name was written. Anything they could possibly do to make it so that John and Lizette’s oldest child ceases to exist in the hearts and minds of Edenridge, they could and would do it.

The second was that those that did want to remember, those that did want to help, had nothing they could offer. Clay had spent the entire day and night talking to parents, old friends, former girlfriends, he even spoke to some people in Pinehurst and still, nothing substantial that he could use. Even Clayton’s own memory was failing him. He tried and tried to think back, to see if there was another clue he had missed that he might’ve seen or heard. Something, anything that could help him find out what really happened to his best friend. He wasn’t going to give up though, he couldn’t. He had promised Jamie.

David and Jamie had just always been in Clay’s life. He couldn’t remember a time up until the day that David died that they weren’t. He remembered how cute the town thought it was that there were two sets of twins on Scott Street at the same time. He remembered all the old gossiping ladies salivating at the potential that David and Lamb might be a couple and that Clay and Jamie could be too, especially considering how close they were and would become. He remembered Duke’s first basketball game and he relented Jamie’s first breakdown. They were more than friends, they were more than Elite, they were family. He had to do this for them.

It seemed like the storm was at its apex now. The wind was furious, the rain was hitting the ground harder than a punch from Tyson and the thunder and lightning flashes were near constant. Why on Earth was God's favourite idiot still out in it? There was very little chance at this point Clay was going to make it home that night. He tried to think of whether he knew anyone on the Southside where he could stay until the morning. The reality of the situation though was that anyone he could stay with was someone he shouldn’t stay with due to a very specific type of history and he wasn’t going to put Cat through that. Clayton just wanted to be with her but at least he knew she was safe.

He wondered if he could chance a run to the Afterlife? It wasn’t that far from Southie. He was stuck on Terrace Place but he could make a dash through the woods to Lyon and then it was a straight shot to the former St Paul’s Cathedral. He knew Lamby was there considering he had interviewed her not too long ago in the evening. He knew at least then that he had some company to wait out the storm with and well…. he could spend some time with her. This whole situation of dredging up old memories had really gotten under Clay’s skin. Whispered thoughts from faces from his past had gotten him to really think about and take stock of his life and where he was in it. Laura was his twin; they were born two minutes apart. They were raised together and they were raised well; things should be better between them.

“Fuck it,” Clay wiped away some of the rain from his face as he shot off into the woods. The trees were a good shelter for the most part but the ground was soaked right through to the roots. Anyone looking at the scene unfold would think this was the beginning of a douchey Halloween horror movie where the preppy rich boy gets gutted by the psycho clown that was secretly his girlfriend's sister the entire time. Edenridge had too many horror stories and Clayton didn’t want to end up being one of them. Luckily for the police officer, he had grown up in that wood and pretty much knew it like the back of his hand. Clay remembered playing with David and Jamie, camping out and building forts. He had taken so many girls to a certain make out spot that it wasn’t even funny how many of the trees had his initials in them. Clay Costigan; fool for love.

Emerging onto the corner of Lyon and Carlisle, the former basketball star was really starting to struggle to see through the rain. It was eerie how the sun had been shining over Edenridge town when he finished his late shift earlier that day, when he bumped into Jamie and this whole maelstrom of horror began. As if it mirrored his own sanity, the weather transformed as the day went on; the sun replaced by black clouds, followed by a light drizzle that evolved into a hurricane. Amongst it all, standing on the edge of town, Clay with three pieces of a five piece puzzle.

In the distance, a lone car came towards him from down Lyon. ”What’s this prick doing?” He muttered through the drops of rain filling his mouth. Besides interrogating half of his childhood friends, Clay had also spent the day trying to keep people off the roads. The irony that he now stood on the side of one looking like a drowned rat was not lost on him. He was still in his uniform and had his badge so stopping this guy should be a piece of cake. Reaching into his back pocket, Clayton took out his gold shield and began flashing the torch in his shoulder, signaling for the car to pull over. ”PLEASE PULL OVER THE VEHICLE!” He called out through the wind, hoping that the driver would take note.

The car turned on its indicator and drifted off to the side, pulling up just in front of Clay. There was a moment of silence as the young officer tried to peer into the driving seat but could not see anything through tinted windows and rain soaked eyes. He couldn’t see the licence plate but recognised the model. ”I’M GOING TO APPROACH THE DRIVER WINDOW! KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL!" Clay had no intention of arresting this lesson so he didn’t draw his gun. He simply wanted to warn them of washed out roads ahead and that they might need to seek shelter back Pinehurst way. He brushed a hand through his hair to get rid of the hair blocking his vision as he got to the door. He rapped on the window and waited for the driver to bring it down.

Without warning, the door pushed open as Clay leaned forward, hitting him with force square in the head. Stumbling back, he tried to correct himself only to be tackled into the centre of the drowning road. The ferocious downpour of fists completely took him by surprise that he could barely defend himself and the sheer volume prevented him from opening his eyes to get a good look at the person assaulting him. Unable to use his eyes, Clay tore the torch off of his shoulder and used it as a hammer, cracking the assailant in the side of the head. Rolling onto his stomach, blood pouring from beneath his hair and under his left eye, the Foundling glanced to his side to see a very large and tall male. He tried to absorb the details of the man but between the blood, swelling and rain, Clay couldn’t make anything defining out about the attacker.

Before he could react again, the shadow man took another run, leaping to his feet he penalty kicked Clay right in the face: knocking him down to the ground once more. He used his size to pin Clay to the floor and began to throttle him, squeezing his hands around the police officer's throat. In that moment, a thousand things sailed through Clayton’s mind. He thought of Cat, Laura, his parents, David and Jamie. He thought of the life he had led up to that moment and just how much business he hadn’t finished yet. This was everything that everyone had always warned him about. The life of a cop. He wasn’t going out like this, not a chance. With as much might as he could muster, the Scott Street boy flung his knee up, hitting the shadow in the stomach and causing him to let go. He fell upwards to his feet and took off back towards his car.

Clay dragged himself to his feet, coughing and spluttering as the headlights illuminated him. He didn’t even feel it when the car struck him. As if floating in mid air, time slowed down. He knew that if he struck his head then that would be game over. He tucked his chin against his chest as he slid over the roof of the car and off the trunk, hitting the ground spine first whilst the suspect vehicle sped off towards Edenridge.

Face down on the ground, barely conscious with water filling his mouth, Clay tried to pull himself up. His eyes were getting heavy, in the distance a light coming towards him fast and a woman’s voice.

He didn’t want to go yet.

He wasn’t done.

@LovelyComplex@BrutalBx@metanoia
Timestamp: After Go Go Swerve Arcana PT III: Nerdgasm
FT: Sal Montero, Aves Kaine, Rosie Drake, and Anthony "Oz" Osso
Bron Milligan, Stacy Čapek, Marco Brady, Katie Čapek



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Bronagh had created a makeshift throne in the counter of Swerve Arcana. Like a Queen overlooking her subjects, she peered out across the room at the assembled members of the so-called Midnight Society and some stray wanderers like herself who had found their way into the bosom of the comic book store. The blonde sat crossed legged on the high top, with her arms leaned back. At first glance, this was what the Dungeon Master had warned the weary travellers of; a seductive, sensual Druid woman whose siren song lured one into her Woods of Temptation, to play her wicked game of challenges.

“Welcome,” Bron purred, using her best attempt at an old mediaeval accent. If she was going to be stuck with the dweebs all night, she might as well embrace it. “Pray tell, who shall be thy first to play with me?”

Oz nodded his head. It wasn’t a bad performance by any means. In another life, Bronagh Milligan, the once and former Supreme of Edenridge high could’ve been a good midnighter. “We elect The Staff as our first tribute, Mistress Dimitrescu.” The metal Lord pushed Marco forward, forgetting for a moment about his damaged leg.

“Dude really? You’re naming her after the woman from Village?” Salvador interjected.

“Shut up Goober before I kick your ass.”

“Not thicc mommy enough,” Avery muttered under her breath as she sat on one of the beanie bags reading an old volume of Langley’s The Amazing Adventures of El Mariachi. As much as she wanted to completely check out, not a huge fan of games like these, games that had more regrets than not, she kept her eyes and ears peeled so that she could read the room and make sure no one felt like shit at the end of this.

“She’s plenty thicc enough to me,” Rosie absentmindedly added, looking up at her dream mistress. She was smirking but only partially, then she immediately glanced down. She had just realized what she had said and Rosie was redder than her namesake, heart tha-thumping in her chest.

“ENOUGH!” Bron waved her hands to make the silence fall. She climbed off of the counter and softly licked the tips of her fingers. The seductress made her way to Marco and draped her hand across his body as she circled him, her green eyes drinking in his nervousness and fear. “I shall make your first challenge easy sir,” The blonde stopped back in front of the boy and pointed her finger at him. “I dare you, to kiss the person you find the most attractive and I don’t mean a friend kiss. Deep, meaningful, pure.”

“Oh okay…wait what!?” Marco breathed in response. His delayed reaction to the dare given to him had taken only a moment to sink in, but when he did, The Staff’s (a name that he was still confused about) relaxed expression had been immediately wiped off his face and replaced with one of panic and an immense uncertainty.

She wants me to do what now?

Marco looked around the group. He had to kiss one of them, but not just anyone. It had to be someone whom he found the most attractive. If this was a month ago, maybe Marco wouldn’t have had such a difficult time processing, let alone choosing someone to kiss. As much as he knew he could do it if he just swallowed whatever batch of nerves had developed in the last seven seconds, his stomach turned and twisted, stemming from so much guilt that he couldn’t stop but think about Danny. Even though he knew it was a game and maybe Marco knew that his boyfriend would understand if he just explained what happened, but then that meant he had to explain all of his thoughts going into it.

He had to explain to his boyfriend that he had to kiss the person he found the most attractive and give them not just a peck on the cheek, but a kiss that satisfied Mistress Dimitrescu enough for the torment to end.

He couldn’t. Marco just couldn’t.

“I-” Before Marco could stutter-speak the rest out, he felt a gentle nudge against his right shoulder. Katie, who sat next to him, had bumped her shoulder against his and he side-glanced her, seeing how she was…possibly suggesting herself? He didn’t quite understand and then she nudged him again. Still in a subtle way but this time a little harder.

Okay okay, Marco understood now.

“Katie. I choose Katie.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

Katie could play up the role. In all honesty, she felt bad for Marco. She didn’t know what his problem with it, but she couldn’t let him suffer any longer. Bright blue eyes watched Marco awkwardly shake his shoulders. Really? She thought it was cute but was patient as Marco faced her. Smiling at him, she puckered her lips and, as awkwardly as it was, Marco tried his best to put his all into it. Katie could sense something was up, so she played it up a bit. She cupped his face with both hands and leaned forward. She faked certain sounds that might give the impression of something different happening. Katie could act and she had faked kisses (and other things) before, but at least this time it was for a good cause.

After a minute - literally a minute - Katie let Marco go, wiping the peach-colored lipstick off of his lips, looking to the…Mistress. “Satisfied?” Katie smirked at the T&D Mistress.

“It’ll do, for now.” Bronagh’s lips curled into a smile as she felt total dominance over the nerds. It was the same feeling she got when she posted her pictures and videos pan OnlyFans and Tiktok. It was liberating to have control over one’s body and how people see it and being able to Lord over these kids had a similar feeling, mostly because she did not have to try. They were all just as awkward as each other which made them far more interesting playthings than a lot of other people.

She wasn’t going to force the Midnights into doing anything they didn’t want to do. As fun as the game could be, there were boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed and despite appearances, Bron really did care about other people. “Avery.”

“Butterscotch,” Ozzy chimes in with the befreckled comic book worker’s DnD name.

“Whatever,” Bron took a sip from Mr. Kaine’s whiskey before letting her forest greens wander over Avery’s face. She knew that the other girl wasn’t as invested as the kids in the room and she knew this was likely because Avery was in love with Jamie O’Hara and these sorts of games always led to complications in that department. Then again, that was pretty much what truth or dare was designed for. “Seeing as you’re the oldest and wisest in your party, you will be the only one I give a choice; Truth or dare?”

Looking up from her comic, Avery surveyed the room and all eyes were on her. Was she a bad vibe? They were young and having fun, and while she didn’t necessarily agree with this type of fun, she shouldn’t ruin it for everyone else that looked up to her. She wasn’t going to do a dare though. If anything, her saying a truth could get people to be more comfortable in their skin, make Swerve a safe place where whatever is said here, stays here. Sighing like Andy from Wet Hot American Summer, Aves closed her book, locked her blue eyes with the kittenish gaze of Lady D and grumbled, “Truth.” What was the worst that could happen? Avery was an open book. Nothing Bron could say or do could catch her off guard.

“Very well,” Bronagh smoothly danced her way through the group of players until she reached Avery. Earlier she had basically offered herself up on a silver platter and Aves had turned her down. She didn’t have any hard feelings because she knew exactly why and respected the comic book girl for it. Yet that didn’t mean that Bron couldn’t have a little fun with her. “Considering the fact that earlier tonight I offered you my body and you declined, I have to ask, who is your perfect partner? Who can you, Butterscotch give your entire being to?”

She didn’t have to blast that in front of everyone. Rosie was likely going to give her daggers for having a chance with Bron and not telling her. “Let’s see,” Aves leaned back in the beanie bag, looking at everyone in the room as she spoke, “For those who don’t know, I’m gay. So I like people who identify as woman. As for my perfect partner,” The pillar of Swerve Arcana took a moment to think of the best way to describe the person she found as ideal. The woman of her dreams. The one she’d likely wait her entire life for. Placing the comic book down, she smiled when an obvious face came to mind. Ready to embark on her tangent, she passionately painted a picture for her friends, “The woman my heart desires is a dream chaser. She believes in the beauty of her dreams and knows if she doesn’t just go for it, nothing will change. Her heart might feel heavy most days but god, she has the brightest, most ethereal smile.”

Aves was moving her hands as she talked, completely engrossed in her explanation of her dream woman, “She keeps to a routine because if she doesn’t, she’ll feel lost and come undone. Like morning runs. Everyday, at the same time, she has to have her morning run. For her health, but also to clear her mind.” Nodding to herself, in complete agreement with what she was saying so far, Aves thoughtfully leaned forward, resting her chin in the palm of her hand like the Le Penseur statue. That didn’t last long because she was back at listing all the things she wanted in her woman and moving her hands to her words, like Taz Belmonte.

“She has cute habits like brushing her hair behind her ear like this,” Avery mimicked Jamie’s mannerism, her own smile turning into a big grin, gushing at the thought of how adorable the O’Hara girl was, “She doesn’t notice it, but it’s something that‘s so her and so cute. She does it all the time. Oh!” And another one. “Everytime she sees a flower,” Avery excitedly said as she pretended to find a rose bush, cupping the flower with her hand, “She stops and smells it, taking a moment to breathe and appreciate what’s around her. All the time. Doesn’t matter. If she sees it, she needs to smell it. Like clockwork.”

What else? What else could she say about her ideal person? The one she’d give every fiber of her being to? “My dream girl is a hard worker. People might not know she helped orchestrate a community event because she keeps quiet, stays backstage, but she’s there. She’s always been there. People just never noticed. She’d rather have others get credit for her ideas then have her name written all over an event and that makes total sense! Makes her humble, not seeking validation. A woman who takes pride in her ideas. Like, just seeing people happy makes her happy, which brings me to the next one.”

Hopefully her friends didn’t mind her talking their ears off but Bron asked a loaded fucking question. “She cares deeply for everyone and everything. And when she sets her mind on something, no matter how hard it is to attain, she puts all of her into it. Plus Ultra or bust!” Snapping her fingers in thought, finding a million and one reasons why she loved Jamie, Avery continued, “Most girls when you first meet them, analyze the shit out of you and see where you fit in their hierarchy. Not my dream girl. She sees you, like really sees you. Sure maybe not in the way you want her to, but that’s just your own selfishness getting in the way. But like, she’s not perfect and that’s okay! I don’t want perfect. Who the fuck ever wants perfect? My dream girl is like…”

Aves took a moment to really think about this one before musing, “A glass ballerina. Elegant, lovely. Classy as fuck, but oh so delicate. You have to handle her with care or she’ll shatter and that’s okay. Being sensitive is okay. Not being able to carry the weight of the world by yourself is okay. It’s okay not to be okay. Because at the end of it all, she’ll make you feel oh so needed. And wanted. I got two arms, two hands, and ten strong boys,” Aves lightly chuckled and playfully showcased her ten fingers before resting them on her knees. “Always ready to pick her up and carry her home. I don’t want someone that’s always strong or has to play pretend so the world can accept this perfect princess they always expected her to be. My dream girl is real, like a page of a book,” she holds the Langley comic in her hand and turns to the next page, “She makes you close your eyes and want to dream. And every page of her story you read, you never grow tired of it because you find her to be the most courage, outrageous, free spirited person you ever fucking met. You can’t help but get lost in the words on the page. A book you want to read over and over and over again and the moment the next edition is out, you’re quick to grab it because she’s what makes sense. She’s always just… made sense to you. And what she is, and always will be, to you is beautiful.” Finally, Avery caught her breath, realizing how hard she went. She cleared her throat, a little embarrassed, and brought her eyes back to her comic book, avoiding all those that were gawking at her, “I hope that answers your question.”

“Well fuck,” Bron shook her head. “I was just expecting you to say a brunette with thick thighs and big tits.” She placed her hands on her hips as she gave Avery a knowing smile. Despite what people might think, Bronagh was not an airhead. She knew exactly who the girl was that the obviously besotted Aves was describing. She knew even before the girl opened her mouth. Clay had told her because of course he did. They were cousins after all and shared a lot. “So you got it bad for Jamie bad huh? That’s ok, I can work with that.”

After taking her phone from the back pocket of her shorts, the influencer tossed it to Katie. “Film this for me would you hon?” Sashaying directly over to Avery, Bronagh climbed on top of the freckled girl and began to grind her hips in a way that would make any lady of the night jealous. She forced Aves hands into her butt before cupping the queen of the nerds face in her hands and kissing her with a fervent passion. Once she was done, she climbed off and blew Avery a kiss. “Do me a favour Katie.” Bron’s green eyes never left the bewildered Avery. “Go in my contacts and send that video to Jamie Lord.”

“You kidding me? I got you, girl!” By the end of this, Katie could just add director’s assistant to her resume.

Katya was feeling a level of excitement she hadn’t in a few years. The kiss with Marco, no matter how staged it was, had brought something out in her. It was like she had her own storm brewing inside her. It was fire. It was electric. It was dangerous. While the full story of why she and Stacy were meant to stay in Pinehurst remained a mystery to her, the blonde was feeling this natural pull to want to be here more. As she filmed Bron straddle Avery like it was the VIP section of a sketchy cam model website. And she couldn’t lie…

It was HOT! Her palms were sweaty watching it, but Katie kept the camera steady. She heard a few sounds from behind her. Most of them were from Marco and…Rosie (she thought that was the small blonde’s name) in how they didn’t know what to say to it. When it was done, Katie did her duty. She saved, named it Surprise - FYEO, and sent it to whoever the hell Jaime Lord was. “The deed is done!” Katie announced almost too officially. God she loved hanging with these people. No wonder Adam decided to move back here.

With that Bron turned on her heel and returned to her position at the front of the crowd. “Whilst I’m in the mood, might as well keep this going.” She glanced over at Oz and tried to remember the names that he had bestowed upon all of these weirdos. “You’ve been staring at me all night Quill,” Bron darted her stare into Rosie. “I dare you to come and do whatever you want to me for one minute. Hurry baby, mama is waiting.”

Pretending like she didn’t know who the Quill was (of course she knew), Rosalie had looked around. Maybe the new girl that Sal was sweet on was deemed the quill. Yeah totally, that’s obviously her. Rosie talked big and made comments, but when pushed came to shove into Mistress Dimitrescu’s monster thighs, Rosie was a bit of a coward. Impulsive or not (she was), Quill’s hesitation spoke volumes. In her mind, she could justify by making all of the comments that she could think of because it was from a safe bubble. The bubble that she had no problem dipping out of for moments at a time. And it's because people just...expected it from Rosalie Drake. That's just who she was.

But now? Now, she was put on the spot. Her bubble popped and now she was exposed. Dangerous as it was, perhaps there was a certain brand of excitement that came with it. Dreams didn't come true often for her. Only in her fiction was she able to live out some fantasies (and yes she did self-insert in some scenarios), but now she could self-insert herself into a scenario that, like Bron had pointed out, she'd been thinking about all night.

Man up, Rosie! Just ask yourself 'what would Dirty-Era Christina Aguilera do?'

Rosie admired that particular era of CA and she'd be lying if Bron didn't embody that same energy. Seductive. Intoxicating. Unreasonably Hot but didn't brag. Avery talked about how, apparently, Jaime Lord was her dream girl, but Rosie liked commanding women. Femme Fatales that had the right mix of danger and purity and there was a balance of both in those beautiful green eyes staring back into Quill's soul. Piercing it without damaging it. "God was a woman. God was a woman. God was a woman..." She kept muttering to herself, behind closed lips as she approached Bron.

No matter how slow she was, when she was right in front of the blonde bombshell, Rosie felt something consume her. For that minute, Rosie followed where that moment took her. As inexperienced as she was, for the first time in her life, she took control of the many thoughts and feelings that swirled up inside her. She started at the neck, tender lips pressing against Bron's skin. She paid no mind to anyone else but the golden goddess who was hers for a minute. Seconds later and as her confidence grew, so did Rosie's boldness. She was a Drake, after all, but she was also a Hawthorne. Sensual and direct, she had cupped Bron's face, staring into those eyes. What was I doing again? For that moment, Rosie had nearly forgotten, but she snapped back into reality.

And as she leaned forward, brushing against Bron's chest only slightly, Rosie went for it. An inexperienced set of lips met hers. And for those final seconds, Rosie swore she was on an unmatched, untouched high that not even Oz's annoying hollar nor anything that could put this cloud out. By God's grace, she had touched heaven and embraced it for as long as she was able to.

She was a cute kid so Bronagh gave her a few seconds longer than a minute. She let their tongues do a dangerous dance of lust. The OnlyFans mode wrapped her arms around the brazen young woman and embraced her as they kissed, pressing her firm breasts deep into the other girl's chest. Showcasing her dominating spirit, Bron moved with Rosie in her arms towards the bean bag chair and once the timer was up, she dropped the young girl with ease into the seat. “Mmm,” The blonde licked her lips as she drank on the taste of the Quill’s lips. “You got a future kid, keep practising.”

Oz placed both his hands behind his head and tried to process the events that had transpired over the last few minutes. Bronagh Milligan, former Supreme and tried and true popular girl, had found herself in the midst of an outcast harbour and somehow turned it into a softcore porn shoot. This was insane. “Whoever said nerds didn’t know how to party?” The heavy metal man raised his hands in victory as he laughed.

Bron wiped her lips clean before her eyes fell upon the wild haired former leader of the Midnight Society. “Ozzy the Bard,” She began. She would not force Oz to do something like the girls. As much as it would be fun, Bronagh respected the sanctity of marriage which might come as a surprise to some. Oz was married to sweet little Vi and the Milligan girl had no intention of ruining anything. “Your dare; strip off naked and run into the storm…”

“Done!” Oz blurted before the former Supreme could even finish. Tearing off his monkey suit, which he hated wearing anyway, the dungeon master sprinted out through the front door and onto the street. He was completely sans any clothing and was singing at the top of his lungs.

“That leaves you two,” Bronagh playfully pointed at Sal and Stacy. “Oh what will I do with you?” She stroked her chin as she surveyed the young potential maybe future lovers and a sinister smile crossed her face. “How about…Stacy, I dare you to give Sal your phone so he can read your last few texts out to the group?”

After the quite enjoyable, if not captivating games, Stacy didn’t register what Bron had said to both her and Sal until it was played back. Her delayed reaction robbed her of her smile and she frowned, panic in her eyes as she stuttered: “What?” She wanted to die. She wanted to shake her head, deny this dare. She felt that way because she remembered looking at her phone before this game started. The last few texts…they were all from Dylan.

But what could she really say. Say no and that would draw more attention to her than she wanted. Stacy feared a lot but most of all, she didn’t want Katie to know just how bad her relationship with Dylan was. Reading them out loud would expose that very thing.

Swallowing a rather tense breath, her throat in knots, she pulled her phone out of her back jean pocket. She unlocked it by pressing her thumb against the fingerprint scanner. Her phone background wasn’t anything special - a shot of her in the red and white Monarch’s cheer uniform from last semester. Her eyes zoomed in on something that just made her frozen in place.

seven missed calls - Dylan

Her stomach sank so low and her ability to keep on a brave face dwindled, but she persisted. Hopefully they just thought it was a hard ask and they couldn’t read what was on her face. Extending her hand, the brunette handed her phone to Sal, her eyes almost twitching with panic. She forced herself to smile. God oh god! Please, let it not be bad. Truth was, Stacy didn’t read the last message Dylan sent her nor any of the voicemails she knew he left. She knew how he could be. He was mad. She knew that because she willingly ignored his texts because she didn’t feel like…she didn’t want to be sad because she knew she would be if she talked to him when she was having fun with Salvadore. He made her smile, made her feel butterflies in her stomach and she didn’t want that to be ruined by Dylan’s overreactions. But if he read them out loud…

This was all very exciting and Salvador was shocked to find this sort of thing happening in a place like Swerve. Despite his boyish good looks, Sal had been to many parties where games like this were the norm but that was Miami, it was a different world to Edenridge. The Magic City was sun drenched, filled to the brim with Latino people living, loving and dancing. It had its issues, mostly caused by his grandfather and the other cartel bosses. Sal would love to take Stacy to Little Havana, that was always his favourite neighbourhood back home. The nightlife and the street food were to die for.

Taking her phone from her, the youngest Montero smiled when he saw Stacy’s home page in her Monarch gear. God, she looked beautiful. It wasn’t until he saw a very distinct look in her eyes. She didn’t want this. He glanced down at the phone and saw multiple missed messages and calls from some guy named Dylan and based on the previews he could partially read, these were not good messages. The poor girl. The fact she gave him her phone meant that she was worried what people might think of her, what her friends might think of her. Sal was in the same boat, he’d been trying to prove himself to these people all day. Though now he had to ask the question, what mattered more, being a Midnight or making Stacy happy?

“I’m sorry Mistress D,” Salvador passed Stacy back her phone. He looked to the dominatrix-like Bronagh, standing there with her hands on her hips eyeing the two young ones. “I think everyone is entitled to their own privacy. Kissing and streaking and all that is one thing but texts and messages, no that is a line I won’t cross,” He gingerly moved his hand onto the brunette's shoulder. “Raoul de los Fantasmas nunca traiciona a una mujer.”

A brief half smile flashed up across Bron’s lips. Well done Sal. She couldn’t have planned it any better. “‘Kaaaaaay, I don’t know what you just said but that’s fine, I’m getting bored anyway.” The blonde waved her hand towards a store cupboard. “Why don’t you two just go do seven minutes in heaven and we’ll call it a night yeah?”

A wave of relief passed through the brunette’s face, something that was so clearly like a weight lifted off of her shoulders and that hadn’t gone unnoticed by her sister. She was rusty in spanish, with only a couple of semesters under her belt, but she made out the last part - ‘never betrays a woman.” She smiled at Salvadore, almost on the edge of crying but she forced herself to not go that far in how obvious her gratitude was. Deep in her heart, which weighed heavy still by the shadow cast by Dylan, she was more than just grateful for Sal. Bron accepting this change of plans didn’t go unnoticed.

High on a mix of emotions, she nodded. It was about all the girl could muster right now.

Sal let his hand move down Stacy’s arm from her shoulder until it reached her own palm which he took a hold of reassuringly, “Guess we better get going.” He smiled softly. Any other time, the Montero would be ecstatic to be playing such a game with such a gorgeous girl but he knew that her heart was not in it. Hence his plan to simply take her into the store room and let her breathe. He wasn’t going to do anything, she needed time and space because it was obvious that right now, Stacy was massively overwhelmed. He led her by her hand into the cupboard where Bronagh proceeded to close the door behind them and block it with a chair.

“Well I’m hungry, let’s see what snacks we have!”

At this point, Avery’s soul had left her body. She wasn’t even paying attention to the chaos ensuing due to Bron's audacity. After Katie sent the video, the comic girl was not able to process it fast enough before she realized it was sent. Avery, who was usually cool as a cucumber, was stuck in an absolute state of shock. Her life was over. Jamie would watch it and think her confession meant nothing today. When Bron’s attention was on Stacy and Sal, Marco and Katie were looking at Oz’s naked ass running outside, and Rosie was acting like a kid who just got a life supply of candy, Avery knew this was her chance. Her chance to leave. Taking this as her opportunity to disappear, Aves quietly shifted her body on and off the beanie bag chair. Getting up, grabbing the master keys, Avery left the room and locked herself in her father’s office. Dropping on the futon, keys on the floor, face planted in pillow, Avery screamed. Her scream was covered and muffled so no one could hear it from the outside. Not really. Closing her eyes, she tried to think about anything other than the events that transpired tonight. Somebody kill her please. Her chances of even being Jamie’s friend were fucking over. What the fuck was wrong with her? Avery should be happy that she could still share a fire kiss with a hot girl, and it felt good, but she wasn’t. Why couldn’t she just move on?

Fuck me.

Avery was not doing okay and she hated that.
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