Status

Recent Statuses

7 mos ago
A day late but congrats to my small writer family of Edenridge. We hit 200 posts. I’m so proud of you all and I can’t wait to see how far we take our dark, twisted tale. You’re breathtaking.
6 likes
11 mos ago
Horny? Dramatic? It’s me
3 likes
11 mos ago
We here to vibe and have fun. No drama for your mama. No drama for the llama. Drama sucks, bruh.
5 likes
11 mos ago
I lied. I’m back again. Guys I’m just vibin. The guild is for vibin. Find your people, have fun with them, write good shit. That’s what the guild is for.
8 likes
11 mos ago
Fuck. Typo. I am drunk. I’m going back to talking to my friends. Bye. Enjoy attention seeking boo.
6 likes

Bio



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Most Recent Posts


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Chaos surrounded the cul-de-sac of Prairie Court, one of the few streets of the Scott Street community, and a lapse of time changed the lives of many. The leading gossip moms, Felícia Cortez, Eun-Ji Park, and Andriana Joseph all gathered to talk about Caitlin Cleary being David O'Hara's secret lover, poor thing, and when they were notified of a surprise Dawn Patrol episode, they quickly tuned in. Tiziano Belmonte, mildly concerned about the disruption outside, couldn't be bothered as he sat in a chair beside his sleeping wife in their bedroom. He held her hand and told her the story of his night. Even amongst the many that thrived off of unraveling secrets, there were people, such as Taz, who kept to themselves and focused on what really matters, which was their own lives and families.

On the grass of the O’Hara lawn there rested Jamie’s phone, forgotten and left behind. The smartphone lit up with calls and texts from those close to her. Lamb. Aiyana. Lizette. Coach. Unlocked and not in sleep mode, an SMS timer app was left open waiting for the perfect predestined moment to send a message.

At Swerve Arcana, Avery leaned on the counter by the register, reading an old Langley, All My Falling Stars. His first comic book series that he wrote when he was younger, about him and his shining light. His glowing star. His forever love. The author’s only attempt at a strictly romance tale. She thought back to her highschool days and memories that she hoped she would never forget even when her pictures became old photographs and time caused her memory to fade.

Nostalgia washed over her as she listened to Scott Street by Phoebe Bridgers. She was never in a bad place like those on the Southside or those that resided on Scott Street. To her, they were two sides of the same coin — pressure, environment, and circumstance. Kids either let the current take them or fought against it. Avery was simply a middle class girl who ran a comic book shop with her dad and prior to that she did odd jobs with her best friend and acted a fool throughout her high school career.

From yesterday to today, a lot had happened. For better or for worse, she was changed. She could hear Clay ask her if heroes always won. She had told him that it was usually at a great cost. Now that she had time to sit and think about it, Aves decided she didn't like her original response. If she could change what she said to her best friend she would say: That depends. Why do you want to win? You could get lucky and win but you need to work hard and be ready first. True luck, in my humble opinion, didn’t mean you draw the best hand. The luckiest man alive isn't the one with the most victories. The luckiest man alive is the one who knows when to rise and go home. That's a win everyone should strive for. Knowing what battles aren't worth the fight and going home to the people you love who are time in a bottle, untold treasure, absolutely everything to you. Technicolor. The ones that brighten your life and when you close your eyes and think of them, you don't feel lonely. You feel home. You feel love. You feel happy.

What was the Celtics cheer Clay and his friends used to yell during a game?

Oh, that’s right.

NO LUCK BUT WHAT YOU MAKE!


Sighing to herself, Aves felt a vibration. Pulling her phone out, her eyebrows rose as she read a text from her dream girl. Jamie O’Hara. The girl she kissed and who kissed her back. A smile crept on her face.

Whatever happens next; I want us to write that story.
Poppins

After reading the text, Avery was flooded with notifications, one being a news article with footage from the events that transpired on Scott Street. There were mentions of Jamie, Clay, Caitlin, and Kylee. There was a moment where she had to process everything that she had read and watched. Instead of being shaken to her core, Avery made up her mind. She would never win if she waited for luck to come knocking at her door. Life wasn't as simple as a box with two categories that were white and black. Heroes and villains. The past haunts every chance it gets but time keeps moving forward. Slowly but quickly. Time changes people. Time changes stories. Time changes everything. Then again, a story can change every time you say it out loud. A story shifts and moves. We all have the power to change our story until you put pen to paper and it’s finally written. That’s the beauty of stories. That's the beauty of being alive.

It was time Avery Kaine stopped waiting and participated in her story.

It was time for her to own her story and be brave.

It was time to live.



TIMESTAMP: After Scott Street: I Know Him Better Than Anyone
Featuring: Caitlin Cleary, Kylee Grimm, & Mei Ramsey
Small FT: Danny Belmonte & Marco Brady-Castillo;
Rhett Cleary & Ethan Quinn;
Mikhail Zima, Coach John O’Hara & Mary-Anne O’Hara;
Sly James, Clayton Costigan & Jamie Lord;
Deidre & Gary Cleary

@Venus@LovelyComplex@BrutalBx@metanoia



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Phones all across Edenridge got a notification from Kylee Grimm and Mei Ramsey’s socials, both their personal and their podcast socials, eagerly telling people to tune in On The Block 99.1 FM for a surprise Dawn Patrol special. Parked in front of the Brady house, Danny and Marco watched as police vehicles rushed into Scott Street. When Danny felt his phone vibrate and saw the tweets, he was quick to turn his car radio on. At this point, Marco was given all the details about Cece’s secret love affairs.

Marco was understandably speechless after everything Danny enlightened him to what was going on: with Cece, with Mikhail Zima, and with his boyfriend’s best friend. To think of all people, not only were the latest wave of letters that were about David O’Hara, someone Marco barely knew outside of knowing his name and his family, Cece was involved with him. It was a bit overwhelming if he was being honest and he still didn’t quite understand the weight of everything.

Cece had always been friendly with him. She had even entertained him in the past couple of years on Among Us when they’d occasionally play together. It’s been a few months since the last time they played, but as he sat in the car, in front of his house, beside his boyfriend seemingly waiting for the apocalypse to start, he could only think about what was about to happen. “This is intense, Danny. Like really intense. I’m not sure what to expect, but I guess we’re about to, huh?”

When they tuned in, the first thing they heard was the ending of Ky’s theme song and the mayor’s daughter going right into her intro: “Surprise! Kylee here on Eden Angels, On The Block 99.1 FM, with guest host, Mei Midnight, and our star of the hour, Caitlin Cleary! You know how this goes: Edenridge is where our story begins and we’re on Dawn Patrol.” Once she did her usual bit (with some modifications depending on the episode), she wasted no time. “So - to give quick context, there’s letters once again haunting Edenridge and me being the clever girl that I am can assure you all, they have nothing to do with he-who-shall-not-be-named.”

“And by he-who-shall-not-be-named, Kylee means that big greasy haired Edgar Allen Poe wannabe that shot me in the freaking neck. That’s right girls and ghouls, your demon dream girl has risen from her coffin for a very special episode of Dawn Patrol. SO we won’t leave you in suspense. David O’Hara, handsome, charming, dark secrets. And we are gonna lay them all out there and this time, it’s not for judgment, we’re doing it for justice.”

“For great justice!” Kylee cheered after Mei summed up the point of the episode, just in case there were a few souls that couldn’t bother with their mail. “Now, as I said, Caitlin Cleary is here. She has kindly offered her time to bring some hard truths to light. Since this is impromptu and most people should know her, this won’t be how I usually do things. Instead, I’m going to go right into my first question: Caitlin, I understand you know the meaning behind the letters today. Care to share some insight? Why would someone send love letters to the whole town? Love letters that were written with so much feeling and heart to our Dear David?”

“Well…” Cece began to speak, her voice trembling with apprehension. “What everybody got in the mail yesterday was a photocopy of a love letter that was written to David five years ago. His sister Jamie distributed the copies around town hoping it would clear her brother’s name from all the horrible, wrong things people have said about him through the years. Because only the person who wrote the letter knew the truth: that David never did what they accused him of. He wasn’t messing around with a kid-- he was in a secret relationship with someone younger than him… And someone was me. I was the girl who wrote the letter to him. I was the girl he was dating. David and I were seeing each other.”

A customer had requested Rhett Cleary to change the radio station to 99.1 FM, which was an unusual request during this time since Edd Campbell didn’t have his radio running 24/7. Once he heard his sister’s voice, his heart sank. He wasn’t one to show emotion so he kept a blank expression. The only time he put on a half smile was at work and that’s because flirting is what brought the sales up at the Hole. As he poured draft beer from a tap, this one was called Siren Brewery Best Kept Secrets, he gritted his teeth at the reveal of his sister being David’s secret lover. He knew David had a lover. His friend couldn’t hide his goofy grin whenever someone probed him if he had a special someone. The fact that it was his little sister, though? That unsettled him.

Returning to the lone customer, he pushed the glass toward him. The guy, Ethan Quinn, was giving him a curious look. The man was on his ninth beer and it wasn’t even one yet. “What?” Garrett snapped, his anger slipping out through his tone.

“Ohhhh nothing! This is miiiighty interesting. You know what I say when they talk about my family? Fuck ‘em! Fuck ‘em all to HELL! This town really does like stroking their dicks and flicking their pussies to everyone’s dramas. It’s almost like we’re one big orgy of FUCKED!” Ethan smirked at the foundling boy, graciously grabbing his beer, the world moving in the best of ways. “Hey don’t worry son, I’ll keep you company all day and when you want me to fuck off, just call my daughter, Darc. You know the usual.”

“Would you like to remind the town of the horrible things they said about David O’Hara? All the hurt and pain they caused? Please help us help you and everyone else move on. For his beloved family, his lifelong friends, and his ghost. It’s time we wake up, Edenridge. Smell the coffee and lay our dead to rest.” Kylee’s voice resonated on everyone’s radio.

Caitlin cleared her throat. "Criminal. Creep. Monster. Abuser. Rapist. And everyone's personal favorite: Diddler. All of those words and more were used to describe my Davey, but they couldn't be farther from the truth. He was none of those things. He was funny. He was kind. He was sweet. Loyal to a fault. Thoughtful and considerate to the needs of those around him. He loved deeply, selflessly, and with his whole heart. We were so happy, and we had so many plans for our future together. But they were destroyed before we could even start to build them. One misconstrued moment, the rumor mill started going off, and his reputation was in shambles. He was getting crucified for something that he didn't even do, because we were never intimate in the first place. As disappointing as it might sound to those who desperately wanted to justify their disgusting words and actions with the 'he had sex with a minor' argument, David and I never slept together. The only thing the person who caught us would have seen was us kissing. It never went further than that. Ever."

There was a lot that was being said. A lot Mika knew, but not what his mother did and he couldn’t imagine what it might’ve been like for Coach to hear it all. They were in his mother’s apartment and had enjoyed the time spent with each other, but the text Mika received from Cece and then the alert from Kylee, it made the blow of what was happening on the radio hit less, but Mika had known a majority of it all. He was so proud of Cece and how much strength it took for her to do it. If he had his choice in the manner, he would be right there with her, but she knew he was with her. What Mika hadn’t expected, what had immediately caught him completely off-guard, was the rather unexpected bomb that Jamie was behind all of it.

Both Mika and Mary’s eyes fell on John. There was so much to unpack in that alone, not including all of what Cece had said. What could Mika say? What could Mary say? Mary hadn’t been in contact with her family and she’d be surprised if Jaime even remembered her face. Still, one of them had to say something — anything — to John.

As she bit her lip, Mary placed a hand on John’s. Small and a silent gesture, Mary wanted her big brother to know he didn’t have to face this alone. “Johnny…” She muttered in an almost-inaudible voice that only he could hear.

“I need to go home.” John got up to his feet and stood, staring into space for a moment as he tried to compute everything he was hearing. He brought his hand up to his mouth as he listened to Caitlin’s words intently. He needed to find Lizette and Jamie, he needed to have his family together. Bringing his hand down onto Mika’s shoulder, John patted the boy with a comforting smile before reaching over and kissing his younger sister's cheek. “Mary, thanks for breakfast.” Coach quickly tore out of the apartment towards his car.

Dawn Patrol didn’t stop. The show must go on and there was a chapter that needed to come to a close.

“Could you expand on those words that likely cut David extremely deep, especially knowing that he is from a founding family and Coach O’Hara’s son? Was there evidence to prove any romantic relationship or did it explode because that was the big scoop of the week? To some people, they’d ask, why couldn’t he wait until you were eighteen to pursue you. Do you think he should’ve waited?”

"Why should he have? Freshmen dating seniors isn't a new thing anywhere in America. I can list so many examples, from our school alone, of age gap relationships like that happening with them actually going all the way and nobody saying anything about it. You guys know who I'm talking about. When I said those words, a couple of names immediately popped into your mind didn't they? What makes those people any different than David and I?"

“I don’t disagree with you Caitlin.” Mei began. “Hell, I was sleeping with a senior my freshman year. The difference, at least in my eyes, at the time nobody knew that David was with you. There was no information so he fell upon the sword of speculation.” She took a tip from her coffee with just a hint of marshmallow vodka. “For all anyone knew, he might have been with a junior high girl or younger! You and David hid it, a lot of us didn’t. Secrets make you a target. Secrets for an Elite? Makes you public enemy number one.”

"Which, frankly, is the dumbest excuse I've ever heard. Everyone in this town has secrets. From us Foundlings, to the Southies, to the Eastbrook and Westwood residents, down to those gossipy Scott Street women that saunter around pretending they and theirs are perfect and above everyone else. In Edenridge, people are always looking for the next big scandal to discuss over glasses of wine or pints of beer, hoping that if they focus hard enough on the mishaps and misfortunes of someone more prevalent it'll shift the attention away from all the nasty skeletons they have hidden inside their own closets. They throw bricks at neighboring ceilings when their own houses are made out of glass. So how about, instead of concerning ourselves with what other people are doing and igniting forest fires out of rumors and unfounded speculation, we start focusing on our own selves, and on what's going on in our own backyards? Or better yet, why don't we use Dave's story as an example of how words have real-life consequences? I think that would be a good place to start."

In his patrol car, with Jamie in the backseat, Sly frowned at the whole situation. He knew who was the culprit and he was proud of Clay for figuring it out. He hated seeing his partner beaten and bruised, likely having suffered from a concussion. Jamie had softly requested, tears flooding down her face, if he could turn the radio on. Sly wasn’t a monster and he knew Jamie was a special case. She would never hurt Clay, that’s one thing he knew for certain. She had her troubles but her love would never physically harm those that made a home in her heart. Sly had done this rodeo before. Friends falling apart and him having to put the puzzle pieces together to make sense of where they all were hurting. There was no doubt in his mind those bruises were caused by his friend, Russ. Jamie’s husband. It reminded him of a time in 1996. Still, he broke for this girl as he heard Kylee, Mei, and Caitlin on the radio. Jamie reminded him of Penelope and how her world shattered the moment he… Well, you know the story. He hoped for his partner’s sake this chapter could be laid to rest.

Speaking of Clay, he laid in the ambulance parked outside Sinclair Health, waiting for them to free up a bed for him. Parts of his body were purple with bruising and red from blood pooling beneath his skin. With his head on a soft pillow, he listened to the sound of his friends on the radio, discussing the truth that he had fought so desperately for over the last two days. Caitlin was finally speaking out and letting the world know that David was innocent. This was what Jamie wanted all along, justice. Clay’s eyes were filled with tears as he breathed out the pain. “Attagirl, Caitlin.”

“Part of me wonders if that’s all David was going through, you know?” Kylee reflected, thinking back on all the interviews she did the day prior. “Being a foundling must not be an easy thing. I’m the Mayor’s daughter and I can understand the pressure you all go through to some extent. For whatever reason the town turned their back on their golden boy and what for? For him to end up dead in our lake and found on New Year's Day? What was he going through? Even before he was caught with you, I mean.”

"When you grow up under the shadows of pivotal figures to town, there's always this pressure of meeting and exceeding every expectation that's placed on your shoulders-- sometimes even before you're born. If your wishes or desires don't align with what those expectations are, you risk being criticized, judged or disappointing those that are close to you. When you're a Foundling or just someone whose family has lived in town for multiple generations, that pressure is tenfold, because you're expected to live up to or surpass the accomplishments of those members before you. David felt that. As Coach O'Hara's son, everyone envisioned Dave as the obvious successor to the position: the heir to the coveted Celtic coaching throne. But that's not what he wanted. His passion wasn't in basketball or coaching. He only played to not disappoint the people that had hopes in him, and he took the assistant coach position to have an excuse to stay in town and be close to me. I couldn't tell you what he wanted, either, because he was never given a real chance to discover it. His life was cut short, but not before he spent most of it feeling like a failure for not being able to live up to the greatness expected of an O'Hara and a Foundling. He was a simple guy, and the pressure of everything was eating him alive. That's one of the things that we bonded over in the first place: the crushing pressure of expected greatness."

With misty eyes and their arms around each other, the heads of the Cleary household listened to their third daughter reveal secrets and speak truths they had been oblivious to. The knowledge of her relationship with David O'Hara, who had been like a son to them, and the consequences of that entanglement was upsetting to them-- but not in the way one might think. It wasn't the relationship itself what upset them; but the fact that Cece felt like she had to keep that, her suffering at David's passing, and how she felt about being a foundling as secrets in the first place. Their Caitlin had always been the quietest and more reserved one of their children: which were traits that Deidre and Gary appreciated in her. But was that because she was afraid of them? Had their actions in the present or the past somehow given her reason to not trust them? Had they failed as parents for their child to feel like she couldn't be her own person without disappointing them, couldn't share her pain with themzl, or seek comfort in them? Whatever the reason, it would change today. For all of their children's sake, they would try their damn hardest to do better.

Mei did not feel any guilt in regards to her previous behavior and comments. She worked with what she knew and learned long ago not to have regrets about life. She felt awful for CeCe and for David and for everyone involved but the past could not be changed, only the future. “We as a society thrive on gossip. We fight and we fuck, yes I said fuck, try and @ me you big cunts and everyone wants to know about it because it is an escape from our own dreary worlds. The story of David O’Hara was a sensationalized hit piece on a foundling who we all assumed had it all. And guess what? We were right. He did have it all. Good looks. Good humor. A good heart and a good woman who loved him. We attacked him because to see him fall would bring us a sick enjoyment. We, as a race, are selfish and naive. We cannot believe everything we hear and see. We cannot open our hearts to the mistreatment of others. That’s not how we survive. Love is how we survive. Caitlin, I’m sorry it had to go down like this but I can’t change what’s already happened. But you can change where it’s going. What are your final words? What do you want to say to everyone?”

There was a pause, followed by a deep breath. And then came Caitlin's parting words.

"Learn to mind your own fucking business."

In Edenridge 4 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP: Tuesday, July 21st || After Tension @The Godmother
FT: Marco Brady-Castillo, Danilo Belmonte
Small FT: Sofia Belmonte


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Marco was nearing the end of his morning shift at the Godmother and what an interesting one it had been. Between Sofi being forced to work under him and her growing suspicions about him and Danny and Marco vehemently denying every single factual fact she was throwing out (only for him to cop out to it), the arrival of someone who, quite literally, gave him the creeps. It wasn’t so much that he gave off a bad vibe. Marco rarely could tell that about a person. No, it was more about the way his boss acted around the whole thing.

In the few years the Brady-Castillos and Belmontes have been good friends with parties, BBQ’s, and more-than-casual conversations between several members of both families, Marco liked to think he was friendly with Cat in the way only a friend of her younger brother could be. She was closer to his mom’s age, so that’s how he typically viewed her. Like a tia-like figure. And in all that time, while she had always been a fierce person, he couldn’t recall a moment when she was genuinely speechless and not in a good way. Was that the reality of the situation when she saw Dexter Silo? Marco couldn’t say. He wasn’t great at judging situations he wasn’t all that familiar with. Only that it was obvious to him and Sofi that whoever that man was definitely gave off iffy vibes.

For the rest of his shift, Marco had proceeded as if nothing had happened. He filled out orders, worked his ass off during the lunch rush. His shift ended about thirty minutes after it ended, so in that time business had slowed like a flick of a switch. During that time, Marco handed things off to the Young Lad, whose shift was starting as Marco’s ended. At that point, he called Danny. Since it was indeed slow, it didn’t matter if he technically ended his actual shift now.

As the phone rang, it stopped after three rings. “Hey babe, shift’s ending pretty much now. You think you might be able to pick me up? Technically I still got fifteen minutes left, but Young Lad is here, so he’s prepping for the afternoon and prevning rush.” Marco was sitting at one of the tables outside. Literally the same one he had met up with Danny last month after nearly killing himself to catch up to his now-boyfriend (but then-estranged ex-boyfriend). How things change.

“I’m coming down the street,” Danilo was short and straight to the point. Instead of saying goodbye, the phone went dead. On top of none of his family returning last night until early in the morning, besides Sofia who shouldn’t have been in Edenridge anyways, leaving him to take care of his mother, Marco barely texted him. Too preoccupied at Swerve. Danny was annoyed. When his father and Tiff came back from wherever the hell they were, the Italian boy was quick to leave for the gym.

He was overthinking which wasn’t something he had done in years. He hated being in relationships solely because he had no idea what the other person was doing and just look at Marco? Who wouldn’t want him? He was cute as hell. Kind to the core. Absolutely loveable. Someone could steal him right from under his nose. Jealousy aside, he got most of his frustrations out in the gym, took a steamy shower, and right on schedule, Marco was finishing up work, like clockwork. Danny cared about the dude so of course he’d remember his work schedule. It wasn’t like he was worried or anything.

In his dark blue quadrifoglio, he parallel parked in front of the Godmother’s, right where Marco could see him. Might as well get a sandwich before they head out. Once his car was parked and the ignition turned off, Danny in clean activewear came out of the car, tossed his keys in the air, before catching it and pocketing it in his shorts. He strode to his boyfriend. Pulling a chair out at the table Marco was sitting at, the former Captain of the Edenridge Celtics dropped down and leaned back, giving his boyfriend his undivided attention. “You were saying?”

Marco could tell there was something off about Danny. There was no way of knowing exactly what potentially could be on his boyfriend’s mind, but he sure as hell knew what was on his - especially when Danny had abruptly hung up shortly before he parked in front of Godmother and sat down. To save what little sanity he had left, Marco opted to not assume the worst for the time being, but instead turn his attention on the fact that he could spend the last ten minutes or so with his bulky protector.

He took a very quick glance at Danny, spotting his hands were wrapped up. He had seen them when Danny got out of his car, but now that he was closer, he inspected it. “What happened there?” He asked his boyfriend, his right index finger casually pointing to Danny’s wrapped hands.

Danny had almost forgotten. Caitlin had wrapped him up after he and Mika duked it out in her bedroom. Sofi had briefly commented on it when they were playing Mario Kart but other than that? After the gym he gave himself fresh bandages, and from there, it just became part of him. “Oh this?” He casually waved his hands in front of his boyfriend. “It’s nothing. Got to see an old friend and like the good ol’ days, we took to the ring.” Not entirely a lie and not entirely true. He did see an old friend, ex-friend, and back in the day, they used to get in some of the worst exchanges because Mika liked to test him. In addition to that, their egos clashed, both fighting for recognition from Coach. That was how they communicated sometimes, through their fists. Nothing worth worrying about there. “I hope yesterday wasn’t as eventful as it was for me!” His voice boomed as he leaned back and surveyed Marco’s face for any signs of distress.

Marco raised an eyebrow at the mention of Danny’s “old friend”. And then he chuckled, “Not many of your….old friends can do that to you, huh?” He laughed again. It didn’t seem like it was bad, or else he hoped Danny would tell him. In the back of his mind, though, there was still a lot for them to work through. There was still so much they had to rediscover about each other, so maybe Marco would have to earn that part. Plus, there was still the matter of when Danny hung up on him. It still left an unsettled taste in Marco’s mouth.

When Danny asked about yesterday, Marco didn’t know where to even begin. “Funny you should mention that.” Marco hummed nervously. It was a habit of his sometimes. Making noises when he was figuring out what to say and how to say it. “You know I had a scheduled lunch with Kylee and Adam yesterday, right?” Of course, Danny knew. Marco literally told him before he got off yesterday. “Wellll, we had a little party crasher. A girl named Stacy who I literally bumped into. Turns out she was a friend of Adam’s and, boy, things got tense between the four of us quick.” And that was putting it mildly.

“Stacy…” Danny repeated after Marco. There was only one Stacy he knew of but he couldn’t assume it was that Stacy, right? He was positive Mika’s sisters didn’t live in Edenridge. Then again it wasn’t like he kept tabs on Mika’s affairs. They only just started talking again. Maybe they were visiting. It wouldn’t be so far-fetched of a thought if they visited their big brother like they did for his basketball games. “Stacy… got a surname?” Curiosity had gotten the better of him. He knew this wasn’t the point Marco was getting at but— wait, Marco said yesterday Adam was living in Pinehurst. Or lived. He recently moved back to Edenridge. Didn’t the girls live in Pinehurst? There were definitely more Stacys out there but what if… what were the chances? At this point, Danny had pulled out his phone to search through his Instagram for Stacy Čapek. Before Marco knew it, Danny pushed his phone to his boyfriend and inquisitively inquired, “This Stacy?”

Before Marco had the chance to offer the name, Marco saw the intense look in his boyfriend’s eyes. It was one of pure focus and determination. Just moments later, he slid his phone over to Marco and saw a photo of Stacy, posing for a selfie. A natural curiosity took over as he inspected the date and it was just from a week ago. “Yep, that’s her!” Marco confirmed. “Sweet girl. Though, Kylee didn’t seem to think so. I think she actually frightened her,” he commented, remembering how she was left after Adam and Kylee left them at the park. For a minute, he thought about the aftermath of that failed lunch and their awkward trek to Swerve. And then that minute left when Marco’s curiosity came back. “Wait, how did you find her so quick? I didn’t even get the chance to tell you her full name.”

Pulling his phone back and rubbing his neck with his other hand, a blush graced Marco’s boyfriend’s cheeks as he replayed the events from yesterday, he averted his eyes, not proud of his actions. “Let’s just say her family has been in the forefront of my mind since I might’ve…” he uncomfortably cleared his throat and adjusted himself in his seat. Pausing momentarily, he clasped his hands together and like a kid who just got caught stealing he muttered in an almost inaudible manner, “...might’ve beat the crap out of her brother…”

“Ah, right of course.” Marco barely heard what Danny said, but then it clicked for a moment. “Wait, you what!?” He exclaimed, his voice raising an octave and a half. When he realized how loud he spoke, he shook his head briefly, inhaling and exhaling a couple breaths. He took another moment to think about what Danny had said. He ran into an old friend and it was someone who could match him for his strength. The only old friends were those on the basketball team when they were still in high school and of those, Marco could only recall one, maybe two, that were as stocky as his boyfriend was.

But who could it be?

Marco thought about it. He had Stacy’s face in his mind. And Katie, too, since they were sisters. And Danny said Stacy’s family was on his mind lately. “Wait!” Marco had an a-ha moment, slamming his balled right hand in his left. “Of course why didn’t I see it! She looks so much like Mika!” Marco was thinking out loud, astonished by his realization. “Dang, I didn’t know he had sisters.” Marco was having himself a mind blowing moment. This was the last thing he expected when he spent yesterday with the Capek sisters. Or would they be the Zima sisters? Wild stuff Marco was finding out in the last minutes of his work shift.

Good.

Marco was distracted by his revelation rather than the fact that Danny beat up his old basketball mate. Sitting up, Danny tapped his fingers on the table before quickly changing the subject, “So anyways!” It was time to turn the tables and face the heat toward his ‘innocent’ geek. “Aside from your Kylee lunch that turned dramatic, because I mean it’s Kylee, how was your night? At Swerve? Who was there?” Now Danny was in hound mode, aggressively pushing for the answers he sought. Who was Marco with and why didn’t he give him an update this morning? Danny didn’t like policing his boyfriend but this was unlike Marco. Usually a night of games and fun, he’d call or text Danny as soon as possible to eagerly share the events that transpired. Why hadn’t he for this one? What was he hiding?

Crapbaskets.

He tried not to let it show, but almost as soon as Danny had pressed about what happened after his originally-planned lunch date with Adam and Kylee went off the rails for reasons that Marco still didn’t quite understand, he had tensed up. It mostly was in his stomach. Like the feeling of it sinking so low that it caused a noticeable change in his demeanor. Marco was never great at keeping that poker face that his younger siblings seemed to excel at, but especially around the one person who probably knew him better than his own mother did. Marco also had a weakness when he was around Danny, so his below average poker face may as well have been a poker fake as far as he was concerned.

“It was…fine. The usual suspects were there. Avery was there. So was Rosie. Bronagh Miligan showed up too.” Even recalling it for his boyfriend, Marco still was feeling the shock value of just how…forward Bron was. “Lot of people ended up turning up when the storm got pretty bad. Oz ended up giving Stacy and this kid Sal a bit of a scare. Actually…it was a big scare.” Of all the people Marco mentioned, maybe he intentionally omitted Stacy’s sister. He felt a tightness in his throat, feeling an odd sensation of guilt or something close to it by hiding it. So he had to just swallow it. “Stacy’s sister was there, too. So it was kind of a full house for the night. Just a bunch of nerds doing nerdy things, y’know? Nothing too exciting.” If Marco knew that was a bullshit excuse, there was no telling just how quickly his boyfriend would catch onto that one.

“Nothing too exciting…” Danny repeated after his boyfriend. Clasping his hands together he cracked his knuckles in thought. His stomach began to growl which signaled that he needed to eat. He stood up to give Marco some time with his thoughts to do the right thing and tell him what was on his mind. “I’m going to get myself a sandwich. Do you want anything?” With how Marco elongated his words and dragged things on, Danny now knew something did happen last night and what he was going to hear might not make him happy. It was best he ate so his hunger wouldn’t influence his anger.

He knew he fucked up. Big time. Danny didn’t have to say it because Marco knew it. The tense feeling in his body only worsened when he saw that look in Danny’s eyes. If he could read Marco, the same was the case vice versa. It wasn’t that Marco didn’t want to confess what happened. It was, after all, a dare. And it’s not like he could necessarily say no. Peer pressure and everything. But he didn’t know how to even begin without dragging his friends through the mud. “A reuben. Extra crout.” Marco’s voice came off a bit hoarse. And rushed. He didn’t say anything after that. Just remained in his head, torn about how to proceed to the eventual part of this conversation that was eating away at Marco’s mental sanity.

“Got it.”

Danny didn’t give Marco much of a glance when he strode to the glass entrance to his sister’s shop and disappeared in it. When he did reach the counter he saw a face he didn’t expect. Danny knew Sofia was in Edenridge. He spent all night with her playing Mario Kart but what he didn’t expect was Cat bringing her here to work. The Young Lad was slicing cheese on the side when Danny met his niece’s curious gaze. “Reuben with extra crout and I’ll take a caprese sandwich.”

“Coolio. Heyo dude,” Sofia turned to the Young Lad who narrowed his eyes at her. “You heard my uncle. He needs two sandwiches. Stat. I can totally cut the cheese.” The teenage girl playfully grinned at her new trainer, who huffed in response but was far too lazy to counter the child. Danny smirked at how Sofi was behaving. She was always a little troublemaker. He wondered where she got that from; he searched the grocer part of the sandwich shop to find his sister. She was nowhere to be found. When Sofi took over the Lad’s cheesy duties, grabbing half a wheel of Parmiggiano Reggiano, she slowly began slicing it with the contraption that cut meat and cheese and whatever. This cheese was HUGE! “So I see you’re grilling Marco outside,” Sofi nonchalantly brought up. “What did he do?”

“None of your business,” Danny curtly answered. He didn’t have the patience to entertain Sofi’s childlike tendencies. She was such a curious cat, sticking her nose into other people’s affairs. Glancing at his wrist watch, he asked, “How ‘bout you? Your mom beat your ass yet?”

Rolling her eyes, Sofia grimaced, “Ha, ha, very funny.” She did raise an eyebrow at him cursing, not used to hearing her uncle have no filter. For as long as she could remember, Danny wasn't one to use vulgarity to get his point across. It seemed times were changing. He was also so hard to open up, never faltering from his strong, manly persona. Sofi, however, knew how to get under his skin and how to make him lose his cool. It was a gift of her’s. But did she want to be in more heat than she already was? Now that was the question. “Surprisingly, she’s in a much better mood. She actually gave my phone back. Can you believe that shit? I don’t know what happened from now to an hour or so ago when her ex walked in here but man, am I happy.”

“Her ex?” Danny rubbed his chin as he listened to his niece. Did his sister’s ex put her in a better mood? “Cat hasn’t dated in years. I remember Gabe vaguely because he still gets in contact with her from time to time. But by the time I could even remember faces she was already married to Tommy.”

“Gabe?” Sofia stopped slicing cheese and glanced up at her uncle. She was learning a lot about her mother today. Her mom never did talk about her past, especially her teen years, likely because she wanted a fresh start away from the men she once upon a time loved. It sounded like Sofia would need to investigate this more. Her relationship with her dad never really felt right. There was this weird disconnect that she didn’t know how to explain. From today’s chain of events, Sofia was coming to realize that maybe her father wasn’t her father. Maybe her father was one of the many lovers her mother had in highschool.

Ah.

So it wasn’t Gabe.

If it wasn’t Gabriel that Sofia saw then it must’ve been the one that Nina would continuously say ‘we don’t talk about him’ or ‘don’t even say his name’. What the hell was Dexter doing in town and why was he seeing his sister? More importantly though, why was his sister happy because of that? “Darling. Gabriel Darling. One of your mom’s first friends when we moved here. She dated him for a little bit but due to his mother being incredibly rude, he broke things off with Cat. Or she broke things off. I don’t know the specifics. You’d have to talk to Nina or Elisa.”

“Interesting,” Sofia thoughtfully said out loud as she gingerly grabbed the slices of cheese and put them in their designated compartment. She’d have to call Ricky after this was all said and done. They needed to go scavenger hunting. Probably in Papa’s basement. That was a goldmine for her family’s past.



Danny was taking a long time. That’s what Marco had said five minutes ago. He didn’t know if his boyfriend was taking his time intentionally or if there was something else keeping him. He knew Sofi was inside somewhere, so maybe they were talking about her day. Or maybe Marco was trying to avoid the grim truth that something was off. Of course, he knew what and he had a suspicion that Danny knew as well. Probably not the specifics, but nobody read him as well as Danny Belmonte did. And that was, Marco couldn’t keep a brave face knowing that Danny was thinking less of him.

And maybe that’s the reason for why he was taking so long.

God, Marco hated this. It’s not like what happened at Swerve last night was anything bad. Marco refusing to tell Danny was worse than the actual act itself. It was a kiss as part of a dare. What would he have to feel guilty about? Katie Capek actually helped him out. Marco wasn’t going to do anything and she saved him from the almost-embarrassment of not fulfilling his duty as what Bron deemed the law of Truth and Dare. Still, it was eating away at him. It didn’t matter if it didn’t seem bad by normal standards, Marco was convincing himself that what happened was terrible and by it being on his mind, Marco couldn’t shake the feeling it would only get worse.

But then his mind wandered elsewhere. He remembered that Danny avoided something himself. Whether he didn’t want to talk about it or not, there was something there. It was obvious that Mika Zima’s family was involved in both of their nights and/or mornings. Marco getting to know his sisters and Danny’s history and friendship and not-friendship with Mika, there was something there. Marco was not only sure of it, but why didn’t he want to talk about that?

Eventually, Marco heard the bell from the entrance of Godmother go off and Danny was walking out. Before he could say anything, his sandwich was not-so-gently tossed in front of him. He didn’t know what to make of it, so he didn’t say anything about it. He just took the sandwich as he saw Danny take his seat in front of him. It was quiet for a few moments that led into a half of a minute of such a tense silence, even a sharp knife couldn’t cut through it. Danny was mad and instead of speaking, Marco probably should say something. It was just like with his father. Silently judging but not saying anything. Always gotta let the other make the first move.

“So…your hands.” He pointed at his boyfriend’s bandaged hands. His voice was hoarse and rough, so he coughed to clear it up. “You said that Mika’s family was at the forefront of things, right? Clearly he isn’t the only one we’ve had encounters with. Me with his sisters and you with…him? Did something happen between you two? I’m a bit surprised. I thought you two weren’t friends anymore. At least, I haven’t heard you talk about him at all lately. Did things change?”

Chewing his sandwich, not answering immediately, Danny enjoyed it in quiet bliss, making his boyfriend wait — wait until he was ready. He let Marco watch him eat, just how he’s watched him eat many times before. When his sandwich was completely gone, it didn’t take Danny long to eat because he took large bites, the Italian man reached for his water and started chugging it. Once the glass was half empty, he placed it down, making sure the sound of it reaching the table could be heard by his beloved. His Puppy. “Oh, so you care about who I associate with?” He sarcastically asked, as he leaned in his seat. “It’s nothing really. We ran into each other and decided to fight. How does that sound?”

“That’s not what I..” His voice fell silent, looking down as he bit into his sandwich. Marco hated this kind of confrontation, or feeling like he was about to enter that area code. He hated feeling like he did something wrong. He knew he didn’t mean anything by his questions. He just wanted to know about what happened to Danny’s hands. But if Danny didn’t want to talk about it, he wouldn’t press him about it. He already was panicking as it was and just taking a few bites of his sandwich was becoming increasingly difficult for him, given his state of mind. “Forget I said anything, then. Sorry you guys fought.” Marco spoke flatly, almost devoid of most emotion. “I think I might finish this later. You think you can just take me home? Or I can walk if you’d prefer it.” Since you don’t even want to talk to me.

Guilt tripping.

Danny hated when he did this.

Furrowing his eyebrows, Danny mentally debated if he should keep the pettiness going or throw a bone in hopes that Marco would open up to him. This was so annoying. He didn’t want to give in. He didn’t want to be the first one to throw in the towel. Marco had this way of making him feel weak and he hated that feeling. No matter the issue, he would be the one doing all the carrying, he would be the one putting in all the work, and he would be the one that had to build the bridge of understanding. Sometimes Danny wished his boyfriend would yell at him, at least they’d get somewhere with that.

“Don’t do that,” Danny growled, frustrated at Marco’s stubbornness and the game he always wanted to play. “Don’t turn this on me like I’m the bad guy.” He didn’t raise his voice but the man that sat in front of Marco was getting visibly more angry by the second. “I get it you couldn’t text me because of the storm but why are you acting like you shot a guy or something? If you did something, I would much rather you just tell me but no. I’m not allowed to feel, okay, fine.” Standing up on his feet, Danny left his empty plate and glass of water on the table, pushing his chair in. “You want to go, let’s go. I’m not going to make you walk when your leg is fucked.” He bit his cheek when he cursed, hearing his parents giving him grief even if they weren’t around to chastate him.

Great. He’s even angrier than before.

Marco didn’t want to have a fight. He didn’t want to be the reason they broke up again. He didn’t want to do anything wrong, yet without even saying anything, he’s already started to fuck up the best thing in his life by avoiding what he should just…dive head-first into. Maybe it would’ve gone a lot smoother if he had just been honest upfront, but Danny wasn’t being honest with him either. That’s the part that was tearing Marco up the most. While he could acknowledge his wrongdoings, what was Danny hiding that made him not want to talk about his hands and why he and Mika Zima were fighting?

As he wrapped his sandwich up and walked beside his boyfriend, he kept Danny’s feelings in mind. Maybe it wasn’t fair for him to ask Danny about his hands if he didn’t expand on what happened at Swerve more. That was the root of this whole thing. Even before he came to pick him up, Marco hadn’t told him even the slightest thing about what went down last night. The excuse of the storm was behind them. He couldn’t hide behind that. Marco wasn’t the boy from high school who could just expect some outlandish results without giving some first.

They were at his car and as they both got inside, before Danny could start the engine, Marco just started to talk. “I’m not..I mean, it’s not that I did something or anything for that manner. Not what you probably think, that is. Last night was a…packed night at Swerve. There were stories and laughs and wild antics that honesty were a bit uncomfortable at times. Bron adopted this whole dominatrix-Dungeon Master hybrid persona and we did Truth or Dare. A lot of it was silly, some of it was crazy, and the rest was embarrassing.” His throat felt tight and it was understandable, given everything that happened. He gripped his sandwich in his lap, looking at it intensely, but after a few moments, he brought his eyes up and looked towards his boyfriend. “I know I have no right to know what happened to your hands if I don’t tell you what’s been eating at me since last night. Mika and you may have fought, but his sister - not Stacy, but her more forward twin, Katie - was..assertive. We were dared to make out. And I wasn’t sure about it. I froze up. I didn’t want to, but eyes were on us. Katie saw how I was sweating about it, getting lost in my head about it and what to do, so she kind of helped me. Did it convincingly, too. She made sounds that were…sexual. And totally on her end. Did it to the point where it seemed to satisfy DM Bron. But even after the fact, I just…I don’t know, I guess I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you might be mad at me or something.”

When Danny finally got what he wanted, he suddenly and abruptly bursted out laughing. “Wait, hold up…” He covered his face with one hand and laughed louder, trying to speak in between each roar and snicker. “That’s it?” He needed to stop laughing. It was rude but he didn’t expect it to be so innocent. Fucking hell why was Marco so cute? Holding his stomach and trying to calm down, he let his outburst take its course, his eyes tearing up, before making a serious face, “No you’re right, playing party games with friends is soooooooo wrong.” The jock in Danny was showing as he playfully mocked his boyfriend.

After Marco had told him everything he could about last night, he thought he would be mad at him, thought that maybe he’d have something to say about the kiss that still haunted Marco to this very moment, he was speechless when Danny had burst into such a state of laughter that he couldn’t keep it together. And though in a humorous way, this irked Marco, especially when Danny started to mock him. “It’s not funny! This was giving me major anxiety, Danny!” Marco pouted at his boyfriend, trying to get him to see that this was no laughing manner, yet somewhere inside, he was relieved that he wasn’t angry with him in any way.

“Come here,” Danny grinned, pulling Marco’s shirt and with ease bringing his boyfriend to him. When Marco’s lips touched his, Danny held his head close, firmly, and let their lips linger in a dance that was becoming a pleasant routine of theirs, even slipping a little tongue. There was an instance where he forgot they were out on a busy street in his car but with how adorable Marco was being, he couldn’t help himself. It was liberating to know how much Marco cared about him. After all this time, his Puppy still loved him. When he was satisfied, taking his sweetheart’s breath away, he realized where he was, released the boy and scanned the area to make sure there weren't any eyes on them. He was fortunate his windows were tinted but still, you never know who was passing by. There were creeps, freaks and gossip moms out here. “Never change, Pup.” His shoulders eased, relaxed to know his worries were for nought. He started up his car.

Leaving his parking spot, he tapped his fingers on his steering wheel before exasperatedly sighing, “So my hands…” He paused, hesitant to divulge the events of yesterday. Cece’s relationship with David and Mika had been kept secret for years. If he exposed this, would his best friend feel some type of way? He didn’t know. He kept the secret of her lovers so locked tight that up until he saw Mika again yesterday, he forgot it even existed. Regardless of the circumstances, he needed to honor his relationship. He hoped Caitlin would understand. “You have to promise me, whatever is said in this car, stays in this car. Will you do that for me?” Danny took another quick glance at his lover. “Promise me?”


In Edenridge 8 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
TIMESTAMP: After Poppy's Long Walk, Part 3 Lighthorsemen
Penelope James & Forrest Proudstar
Final Part


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In one sensory palette, there were the trees that moved with the gentle breeze, a birdsong, and warmth coming from the beaming sun. Sunshine slipped through the leaves making them glow a bright green. Her steps were quiet, her breathing was light, and her mind was thinking about many things, and nothing at all.

Her mind was thinking of Mitena, Charlie, Mordechai, Jade, and Natalia but it was also not thinking of the dread that was this morning. She thought of the moments. She thought of where she was presently and she thought of the space in between. She didn’t think of her fears and she didn't think of where she went wrong. She simply thought of how she was happy to be alive. Her mind, in this space of nothing, seeing all the faces that meant so much to her. All the faces that told her there was so much more in store for her. So much more life to live. Her story wasn’t over yet, there was still more to be written.

As she walked beside her new friend into town, Penelope let her lungs expand. Breathing in and out. In and out. Just like her mantra when she has an anxiety attack but this time, this was solely for her to embrace the beauty of her surroundings. Momentarily, she could say without an ounce of doubt in her mind that she was at peace. That Blue Hill was exactly what she needed. Unresolved issues aside, Blue Hill was amazing. She wished she knew it existed sooner.

Her pale, porcelain skin shimmered and her eyes, those soulful, intense green eyes, looked tenderly at the trees, and the bees, and the dirt on their path. Her gaze had so much love for such a small girl. That kind of love wasn’t meant to be contained. Her inner energy flowed around her, weaving her soul with the land each step she took. As quiet as they were, she could feel Forrest staring. She didn’t mind the quiet. The quiet was nice when it was shared with a companion. It was as if she knew him all her life even if they had only met yesterday. Did he feel the same? She took a moment to turn to him, catching him lost in thought. Her eyes shone in a way that only those that yearned for happiness could bring and her cheeks were kissed pink when they locked eyes. She really hoped they could be friends. She liked him. There was something there… but no words could explain what she felt so she’d just hope for the best, that he would want her in his life just as much as she wanted him in hers.

When they entered town, the two kindred spirits came across a wishing well and an older woman sitting on the edge of it, telling a few children a tale of Wenebojo and the Wolves; an Ojibwe oral tradition. The woman’s name was Elizabeth Deere and she was the mother of Winona and Tennessee Deere-Echohawk. Tennessee happened to be sitting on the ground with a kid on his lap, as he looked up at his mother doing what she did best. Tell stories. While she was part Ojibwe, their father, the late Bright Star Echohawk, was full Pawnee. That was part of the beauty of Blue Hill. It was a home for many Native American tribes, all united and strong. Together, like a pack of wolves.

Approaching the small group, but staying at a distance, Poppy listened to the woman sew her words, like she was creating a quilt, assembling and embellishing the story into something memorable. Her culture, as were other tribes, were all about living off the land and coexisting in harmony with nature. The Ojibwe respected the animals of the land, especially those that lived for their family, like the wolf. According to this myth, it was Wenebojo’s quest to avenge his wolf brother that led to the creation of the modern world. She noticed Kerry again, from earlier, but this time he was with the woman that tended the longhouse last night. He likely fetched her before coming to get the older woman surrounded by kids. Coming to get her for their walk on a trail.

“I loved someone who told stories,” she spoke to the boy beside her, breaking the silence between them. “Tena’s brother. Your cousin. I loved him with all my heart but what he became, I had no control over it.” She found the tears building in her eyes again, all the while she watched the kids run off and the cowboy help the storyteller up from sitting on the edge of the well.

“I,” she hesitated for a moment, trying to keep the courage and strength she’s built up because of her long walk. “I didn’t expect this morning to go the way it did. Mitena said things I would’ve wished he said to me instead. I couldn’t…” she looked away from the well and toward the ground. “I couldn’t handle it. I thought I could. Why else would I come if I didn’t want to know her truth? I wanted to know but knowing really hurts.” Wiping the trail of tears that went down her cheeks, she turned to face Resi. “Sorry, I just thought you deserved to know, especially after what I put you through yesterday.”

Forrest looked back at the small girl, tightening his grip on the straps of his bag. She was so lost and so broken but the girl that stood before him now was a different one to who he had met the night before. “Put me through? Baby girl, the only thing I went through last night was near destitution because I gave away so much free shit.” He laughed as his gaze turned to Kerry walking away with the Deere-Echohawks. “You were a bonafide pleasure to talk to.” He thought back to their conversation and how sad she seemed. Her meeting with Tena may not have gone as she wanted but it had started the ball rolling, Poppy’s transformation had begun. “We need to take a shortcut to get to my van. Terrain can be a bit treacherous.” He offered out his hand for her to hold. “You like stories? I can tell you a real tearjerker.”

Rather subconsciously and without a second thought, Penelope grabbed onto his hand, letting him lead the way and give her support on their upcoming, rocky journey. She appreciated his kind words dressed in humor. He was cute with how he talked and expressed himself. “I do love stories. I’m a firm believer that the universe is made of stories, not atoms. Like you and me, we’re a story.” She smiled up at him before squeezing his hand, signaling he could share his tale with her, if he wanted to. “Make me cry. It’s not like I haven’t been crying already,” Poppy humored, intrigued if he really did have a tearjerker in store for her.

“As you wish.” Forrest curtsied with her hand in his before leading her into the nearby wood with a firm, reassuring grip. “Our tale begins with three beautiful sisters, Cheryl, Dakota and Leah Silverheel, legend has it that their family were descendants of the original Blue Hill Chief. Cheryl was a strong woman. Powerful. The youngest sister. Dakota was the smartest and Leah was the princess and the oldest. Watch your step.” He said as he guided Poppy over a small creek. Resi placed his free hand on her tiny waist as he guided her over the water and onto a steady rock perch. “Dakota went off to college, got herself a white man’s education and returned home to run the clinic. Then she met a boy, a man with darkness in his veins. Their passion was brief as death claimed the man as his own shortly thereafter.”

Still with a hold on Penelope’s hand, Forrest led her out of the short woods and onto a sloped dirt road. “Dakota was left with a child, a baby girl. Born under a bad sign. It wasn’t long after the birth of her baby that Kota got sick. She fought for ten years but eventually the sickness claimed her and death stole another soul, leaving her baby alone. You know her as Mitena. Her father James Strongbow, your Charlie’s father too.” Resi had no connection to the man who held such meaning to everyone. They may share some blood but beyond that, he was a stranger. “Cheryl was the next one claimed by the infinite. The same sickness that took her younger sister, it stole her away as well. She had a daughter too, Jadyn. When she was twenty one, Jay who had never known her own father, lost her mother and gained custody of Tena. Can you imagine? Twenty one and looking after a child?”

Resi stopped for a minute as a car passed them by. “Leah was the most beautiful of the sisters but always had the worst luck. She got hooked on hard stuff very quickly and fell in with a bad crowd, especially one guy. The tribe called him Craven, do you know what that means?”

“Coward?” Poppy searched Resi’s face as they stood in place; the car passing them by. She didn’t know this part of Charlie’s history. She wondered how much he knew. If she was on the right track with his story, with Dakota being Mitena’s mother, Cheryl being Jaydn’s mother, that would mean Leah was… Forrest’s mother. She understood the struggle of watching someone you loved gain a dependency on drugs just like Decky did, and in time, Charlie. She also understood what it meant to love a man with darkness in his veins. She loved Charlie and Charlie took the lives of many innocent people, some adults, most teens. Quite a few faces she knew and held dear, like Danny Boaz. What did Craven do? She watched Resi with curiosity.

“That’s the proper definition, yeah but here it means something else as well. Come on.” He helped her across the dirt road and up a small winding path through a more sparse set of trees. “When someone is labeled Craven in Blue Hill, they are excommunicated. Their birth name, never said, their family? Persona non grata. They can live here but they might as well be ghosts. Leah fell in love with Craven or at least his connection to heroin. They lived in a little shack in the woods with their two kids until one bad night. Craven thought that the little people, not what you think, were trying to harm him and that they lived inside of Leah. So he took a hammer and beat her to death in front of their kids. The little girl ran into town, covered in blood whilst the little boy held his dad down. The lighthorsemen arrived and they carried Craven away. The kids wound up on the Silverheel farm but despite being children, they were still the kids of Craven and certain members of the tribe refused to even acknowledge that they exist, some still do and with that, the Silverheel sisters are no more.”

He was right. This was a tearjerker. Like Charlie’s dad committing suicide and being rumored to burn a church down with orphans and people in it, Craven too was a man stuck in the dark. One moment set things in stone, put fate on its course, to the inevitable day where Charlie would let the darkness overtake him and shoot up a school. Penelope knew that was only the start but he still had time to save himself. He still had so much potential and light to offer. But then Allison died and he got blamed for it. From that point on, she knew, deep down, her Charlie would never be the same. No matter how badly he pretended to be okay. He wasn’t and he would never.

Forrest understood that isolation. That pain. That fear of succumbing to everything that people saw you becoming. He understood how Charlie felt. Resi was judged and seen as a walking curse because he was the child of a man who murdered his mother. Poppy could feel the pain in her chest condense into a deluge of rain. She stopped in her tracks and held her chest with her free hand. Her grip tightened on his hand.

What could she say?

What could she do?

She didn’t want to repeat things. She didn’t want her foundation with her new friend to be codependency. That was her and that was Charlie. So fiercely codependent on each other. She wanted something different. She wanted to be something positive in Resi’s life. As she cried and tried to gather her thoughts, she didn’t say anything. There were no words left to say because that was his truth and he shared it with her.

Instead Poppy turned him to her and pulled him into a tight and loving embrace. She wanted their souls to meet and for him to see that she saw him. She saw him and he was so strong, and so brave. Her hug told him everything that she was, and everything she wished to be. To feel every ounce of a person. To feel their breath and their warmth. To know that they, he and her, were alive. They were here. Together. And this, this feeling was real. They were real. That’s what mattered. Not their past that chases them and haunts them like ghosts and not the unanswered questions of their future. In this world, a hug was gold, food, and pure rain. A hug made the space around you slow down and showed that you were cherished. A hug connected two people and made you feel— yes, this is what home is.

Forrest was somewhat taken aback by Poppy’s sudden outburst of emotion. He held her close, realizing quickly that in her mind, she was hugging him because of the sad story of his life but the reality of it was that she was hugging him because she needed it. She needed to feel something. Resi let her stay in his embrace for a few moments more, her tiny frame enveloped by his lankiness. When he finally let her go, he took a step back, wrapping his fingers around his bag straps again. “That was…that…thanks.” Forrest had a really bright smile beneath his wild mane of hair. “The point of that story, Poppy? Truth always hurts. It always does but it also heals. More so when it’s massively uncomfortable to hear.”

Forcing the pair to move to the top of the winding path, Resi stopped at the apex with Poppy by his side. Before them sat a small shack-like house with Resi’s food truck parked outside. “This is where my family lived. Illara stays in town now or occasionally up at the Silverheel ranch just up that path.” He pointed to a nearby trek. “Tena lives there with our aunt Jadyn. I stay here so that I can be reminded every day of the truth. To remind myself of who I was, where I came from and what I’m trying to avoid.”

He made his way over to his truck and pulled open the door. Resi took off his bag and began to empty its contents into the truck for him to prepare some delicious treats. “I never met Charlie. To me, he was just a name on the screen. Mitena, she knew him or at least the part of him he would let her know. She never knew her Dad but she knew what he did. She lost her Mom and she lost her brother. She lost her aunties and she lost her home. But she never lost her truth. That’s a truth she wants to share with you. That’s a mighty gift to want to give to someone. She knows it will hurt you, the same way, I imagine, your truth will hurt her. Charlie is what bonds you but you’re not hearing his truth. What’s between you and Tena isn’t his, it’s yours.”

Penelope didn’t know how to respond to that. All she could do was keep silent, wipe her tears, and listen. Forrest was incredibly wise. So delicate with her. Kind, persistent, and thoughtful. He was a survivor. Everyone on the Reservation, she was realizing, knew their identity. She was only starting to find her’s; the person she was before she became Charlie’s Poppy. Poppy was taking baby steps. That’s all she had the strength to do at the moment. Still, baby steps were positive steps where she was moving, moving forward. All she wanted to be, needed to be, was Poppy. Just Poppy. She hoped she would get there. She hoped she would be able to keep going, to keep fighting. She hoped she would love herself just as much as she loved Charlie. She hoped.

Poppy, like the flower, with her own fragrance, her own thorns, and her own shade of petals, was beautiful and uniquely her own. She had her own truth and all she wanted to do, truly and deeply do, was sprout love to those who needed it, just like Maxine would’ve done, and grow a garden in her mind. If her smile could be the sun in someone’s life, she would mark that down as her truth. Her pain was meant to build her up and although she was a small part of the world, she could still do big things. Her truth was found in who she was, not the girl that gave too many pieces of what made her beautiful to a boy she loved. She was more than the girl that loved Charlie. She was a girl and her truth was whatever she wanted it to be.

“Thank you,” Poppy whispered and strolled to the door of the truck. Raising her voice a little but only speaking loud enough for him to hear her, she continued, “I really needed to hear that.” Peering in, she watched him unpack his groceries. Her eyes twinkled in appreciation and her face brightened. Poppy was in the moment and not trapped inside her dark place. She was here with him and she was radiating hope, peace, and joy. “I like you, Resi,” she forwardly admitted. “I hope we can become good friends and that this isn’t just one-sided. You’ve helped me so much in such a short time. I want to return the favor. I want to be there for you.”

“I like you too, Poppy.” Resi could feel his burnt caramel cheeks flushing with heat and not because of the swiftly warming summer sun. It was because he was crushing hard for this strange spirit girl. Her ghostly white features had left a mark on his mind the moment he first saw them illuminating the dark outside the longhouse. “You have my number.” He said as he now began to place his unpackaged ingredients into their rightful homes in his truck. “I come through Eden at least once or twice a week. If you ever wanna hang out or just want some decent grub for you and your friends, hit me up.” Forrest rested his phone on the counter top before washing some of his fresh fruit under a tap. “Speaking of, you want me to speak to Tena? Arrange another talk? I think you might be ready but only you can say for sure.”

He wanted to spend time with her. There was a flash of heat inside her that she didn’t quite understand but she buried it quickly and nodded in agreement. Her cheeks betrayed her, unable to hide the blossoming sensation inside her. She eagerly replied, “I’d like that! To both.” She put her hands behind her, intertwining her fingers together and looked away. “Seeing you again and talking to Tena, I mean. I’d like that.” There was a genuine sweetness to the vulnerability she was displaying that not many people got to see. Honestly, only one person saw this Poppy. And that was Charlie. “I think I’m ready!” She turned back to meet Resi’s gaze, hoping she wasn’t making a fool of herself.

“I’ll message her now.” Resi dried off his hands, not taking his eyes off of the spectral beauty that stood by him and offered her a quiet smile. She really was something special. Picking up his phone, he quickly typed out a message to his younger cousin asking if she was willing to go through everything again with Penelope. “You got this Poppy. I believe in you.” His words were sincere. He could see the change in her stunning green eyes from the night before and could tell she was ready for more. “Now, while we wait, you want something to eat? I can whip you something up real fast.”

“Oh, I was just going to eat what you already made when I got back to Adora’s,” Penelope replied, admittedly feeling bad she didn’t eat anything he labored over. “You really don’t have to. I feel really bad because I kind of…” Her blush turned a different shade, showing that she wasn’t too proud about this. Ashamed of her own personal struggle. “My therapist tells me I need to change my relationship with food. Only recently I’ve started recovering from…” She cleared her throat, looking toward the ground. “… I have a hard time eating.” Not just that. She had a hard time looking at herself in mirrors. There was a lot of self loathing she was still recovering from that only escalated after Charlie died. “I can nibble here and there.” She glanced up, strands of her hair having fallen in front of her pretty face. Her voice shook a little because of how sensitive this topic was to her. “But I still can’t eat a full meal.”

“Hm. Well.” Forrest raised his finger to pause the moment. He pulled his shutter down from his truck so that Poppy could only hear him banging around in his tiny kitchen. After a few brief moments, he emerged from the door with a big grin and his hands behind his back. He took one hand and used it to brush the hair away from her face and then with the other, presented a small plate with half a bagel on it with cream cheese and some chives. “Here you go. Half a meal. Everyone has to start somewhere and it takes as long as it takes.”

When he presented her a bagel, of all things, Poppy stared at it, the feeling of melancholy washing over her. Charlie liked salmon with his bagel and it looked like Resi preferred chives. This might’ve been silly of her to think but part of her felt Charlie’s presence near her. Part of her could hear him tell her that it was okay to feel joy, experience love, and live fully again. She didn’t want to hear the words: let go. She knew she would always love Charlie. But maybe moving on didn’t mean to let go or to forget. Maybe all it meant was to accept what happened, happened, and live.

Up until recently, all she could think about was the bagel with cream cheese and salmon. All she could think about was Charlie, her Charlie, and what he loved, what he was, what he could’ve been, and their time shared together. Today she saw a bagel with cream cheese and chives. A small shift but still the same. Maybe the right word wasn’t to move on or let go. That felt like an unscalable wall between what you knew and what was your new reality. Maybe a better way of looking at this was like Resi carrying his sack all the way to the place he had so many memories at — good and bad. His home, which reminded him of his pain and also told him every single day he was alive. There was so much more in store for him. He had so much life to live, so much love to give. Maybe grief was all about carrying on your love, your life, forward. She will be whole again, in time. Not the same, but she would certainly be whole again. Just like how you can change a bagel. She was used to salmon, now it was time to get used to chives.

Grabbing the small plate from him, she took a bigger bite than usual. She chewed silently while watching him with her appreciative green eyes. After she swallowed, she licked her lips to clean any cream cheese that might’ve gotten on it. Her eyes, her lips, and her soul, all at once smiled at Forrest.

“Thank you.”


In Edenridge 18 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
FT: Poppy James, Aiyana Summerhill, & Cheyenne Summerhill
Introducing: Pavati Huaman (Summerhill) & Fallon Tatanka
Small FT: Forrest Proudstar
@BrutalBx@Aewin@LovelyComplex


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In another place, in any other time, a town would be dead silent but not Blue Hill. Blue Hill was a reservation that rose before the sun itself even lit its first spark to illuminate the land. On its dusty streets, the tribe which made up its inhabitants were already going about their days. Some up early to look after their cattle, others to build and others to commute to a bustling city to earn a fistful of simpoleons that would not see past the next day.

That was mornings on the Blue Hill Reservation.

Despite the footfall, the morning was always quiet, always peaceful. Fallon took a sip from her coffee cup as she sat on the edge of her patrol car, watching weary travelers move in silence and calm to wherever the Creator willed them to be. It was days like this that the beautiful young lighthorsewoman forgot she was deaf.

Iraq in the morning was nowhere near as quiet. Fallon could still remember the sounds, the cocking and loading of guns, the rumble of tanks and the screams of insurgents. She could still remember the entire reservation lined up outside Aponi’s when she got back, led by her father, her brother and her sisters. She could see them clapping, she could see their mouths moving but she couldn’t hear them. All she could hear was that morning silence. Then she saw her fathers tears. He cupped her face and pressed his head to hers and she cried too but there was still no sound. It was at that moment that Fallon realized that she’d need to learn to love the silence. It was going to be with her forever now.

“Hang on.” The black haired woman placed her finger behind her ear and dialed up the volume on her hearing aid. “Sorry, I had to turn it down because Heather was like a charging buffalo when she came home last night. Honestly, how can a girl that beautiful make such ugly sounds? What did you say, Pava?”

If it wasn’t for the breakfast sandwich (almost finished, mind you) in her hand, she’d sign while talking. Instead Pavati made sure her voice was direct and aimed at the ear aid, while giving Fallon a clear view of her lips. She leaned up against the patrol car, wearing shades to protect her eyes from the glaring sun, and embraced the warm morning. Speaking slowly and firmly, Pava finished chewing and repeated, “Boss wants me to take some time off but I don’t know what I’d do with myself. I don’t like doing nothing, you know this. Work makes me feel useful. Productive. And yeah, I heard the girls had one of their best shows last night. Then again, it was Yana who told me. She hypes everything up.”

After placing the coffee cup down on the hood of the car, Fallon tipped her wide brimmed hat up slightly. “Nah they were great but it got wild afterwards you know how they are. Anyway, pause that. Pava you need to take some time off girl and I don’t mean the nights you spend on your laptop curled up on that rich girl’s couch in town. No no.” With every word spoken, she signed with her hands. Pavati was the first person to learn ASL for Fallon and it was something she had never forgotten. “And I know, before you say, I haven’t had a vacation either but I spend my day chasing down horse thieves and Resi. You got more serious shit to deal with.”

Finishing her sandwich and pulling a napkin out of her pocket to quickly clean her fingers, Pava contemplated her friend’s words and exhaled her locked tight grievances. Fallon was one of the few people she’d listen to; deeply take in what the other woman had to say and consider her words. The other figures in her life that could move mountains with her would be her mother, Matoaka Huaman, who was the main nurse on the Res, and her uncle, Chief Coldwind. As for her father? That’s entirely dependent on what he had to say, if he was ever around to say it. After folding her napkin and sticking it back in her pocket, she swallowed what was in her mouth before signing and responding back, “Serious meaning cyber attacks, cases on child pornography, and proving, or disapproving, intellectual property threats? Then I guess you’re right, that is some serious things to deal with, but that’s more of a reason for me to keep working, don’t you think?"

“Well you may be the best at what you do Wolverine but you’re not the only one who does what you do. Don’t make me punch that pretty face and force you to have medical time off.” Fallon stroked her best friend's face tenderly before balling up her fist and throwing a mock punch which booped the computer expert's nose. She stopped midway through her second shot when she noticed some family figures walking towards them in the distance. Fallon narrowed her chestnut eyes to try and make them out through the morning haze and a bright smile swept up across her lips as she realized just who was on their way to them. “A-ho! Your sisters are here…with a very very white girl.”

There was a split second when Pavati grimaced at the sight of Cheyenne and Aiyana, the two that gave her the biggest headaches. When she saw the girl walking beside them, her eyes glistened in curiosity. She looked familiar. She definitely knew that face. The closer the stranger got, the more Pava recognized her. Officer James’ daughter. He had a picture of him, his wife, and his two girls on his desk. Penelope was her name. She worked at the cafe. Though she wasn’t wearing a face mask which was pleasant to see. Pava didn't understand why the young girl covered up such a pretty face.

With a calming, motherly spirit, Pava smiled and called out to her sisters, “So you two are going to see dad after all?" Through process of elimination and common sense, she knew Yana would’ve found her way to the harbor with or without her help. Chey on the other hand… this wasn’t usual for her. She showed disdain for their father more than the rest of them. Was she going to see him because she actually wanted to or did she have a hidden agenda? “Hey, you’re Sly’s daughter, right?" Pavati forwardly asked, as her gaze went from her sisters to the newcomer.

“Yes I am, and you are?" Penelope hesitantly inquired back, unable to recognize the woman who knew her name.

Inserting herself, Aiyana chirped with glee, “That’s our big sister, Pavati!" From there, she proceeded to gesture toward her older sister’s best friend, who was drinking her cup of joe and watching everyone else in silence. “And that’s Fallon. She’s a lighthorseman. Or woman."

“A lighthorseman?" Poppy stared puzzlingly at Fallon, while interlocking her fingers together. She had no clue of anything really about the reservation so she wanted to soak it all in. From her surroundings to the information others cared to share, Poppy knew where she was, in this moment, in the heat of summer, was exactly where she needed to be.

“The lighthorsemen are the equivalent to your police. And Fallon here is the toughest one of the lot, scares the living crap out of anyone brave enough to commit a crime around her." Cheyenne added, giving her signature lazy wave in greeting to Pava and Fallon and making sure that she enunciated enough for Fallon to understand. Chey was still yet to learn ASL, though like Mandarin it was in the pipeline for future Chey to learn.

“Dad will be back soon, and I don't have much to do today so why not pester someone else for once?" Cheyenne added, knowing it was rather surprising for her to be part of the welcoming committee. “Unless you want me to annoy my sweet, exasperating, workaholic oldest sister instead?" She asked, raising her eyebrow playfully. Not that Chey would mind, Pava was often the one that would react in a way that would entertain her the most- and if the stars aligned and Yana joined in, the two were unstoppable at giving Pava a headache.

The joys of being the younger sister.

Seeing the banter between Pava, Yana and Chey, made Fallon somewhat glad that her own siblings very much kept their lives to themselves. They were just as close as the Big Bears little girls but they tried to lead lives away from each other, not wanting to get entangled in ways that could cause harm. Tank did his thing, like he always did. Malia and Kalia were always striving, always grinding for more and Heather….well she was currently lying face down, ass up on the couch but she had a lot going on too. They didn’t always get along but Fallon felt blessed by the Creator for her family.

“Y’all are too much sometimes I swear.” The lighthorsewoman took another sip from her coffee as her soft dark eyes drifted to the pale offcomer that had seemingly begun to interfere herself within the tribe. She remembered seeing her the previous evening at the longhouse. There was no way she could forget someone that looked like that wandering around the Reservation. Pava commented on her being Sly’s daughter. Her best friend had mentioned this man before, a cop, one of the few good ones, back in that pool of evil they called Edenridge. In some ways, Fallon hated whenever Pavati or any of the other tribe members had to go there because she had a feeling, deep in the pit of her gut, that one day they just wouldn’t come back.

“Word of warning, Pale Girl. You stay your pretty little ass away from the girls that live on Summer Hill. Those bitches are crazy.” She playfully squished Chey’s cheek between her finger tips like a child. “You got cop instincts in you, you should know better.”

“That might be the case but I’m also white as heck and that alone comes with its privileges," Penelope smiled at the officer and brought her gaze to the three sisters who seemed extremely close, at least on the surface. “I don’t mind crazy," she muttered to herself as her stare grew distant when she thought back to her friends. “I’ve learned over time, the only people for me are the mad ones."

Once again, Poppy was thinking about the book Charlie loved most of his life, since he could walk and pick up a book. On the Road. That one quote came back to the forefront of her mind as she looked beyond the other girls and toward the lighthorsemen station. She raised an eyebrow at the architecture. Out of most of the other buildings in the reservation, this one seemed to be the most charming, in a ‘last through the ages’ kind of way. “When was this building built?" She unhesitantly spoke the question out loud. “It looks a little different from the rest," she thoughtfully continued.

“Jeez," Aiyana was taken aback with how interested this girl was to her current surroundings, to the reservation, and to their people. She tried to think hard on the question that Poppy had brought up. “I’m pretty sure this is our oldest building. Like after Nathanial Carlisle drove out our people from Edenridge sometime in the late 1600s. It was originally a building of ceremony, I think. Correct me if I’m wrong, Fallon.”

Fallon nodded her head. “You’re not far wrong. Edenridge didn’t become Edenridge until the land was snatched away from our tribe.” Despite centuries of distance, the stealing of Edenridge from the Indigenous was still an incredibly sore place for many on the Reservation. “This building was built in the late 1600s by the family that we would come to know as Strong-Bow, Aponi’s father. Our people used it for birthing and funeral ceremonies. Sacrifice and celebration. With the encroachment of the modern world the majority of the building was torn down and repurposed into the home of the lighthorsemen.” As she explored history with the girls, Fallon signed every word absentmindedly with her fingers. “The oldest building we have is the longhouse.”

Penelope watched Fallon in wonder and awe over the history lecture. She was truly blessed recently with how much knowledge she was being immersed in ever since she touched Blue Hill soil. Thanks to muscle memory, Poppy remembered the sessions of Max studying ASL (she was the student aide in the special ed class) and replied with her hands and voice, “Thank you. I appreciate this information." She wasn’t perfect with her ASL, not like this native woman she had only met moments ago but she was able to sign enough to show respect to the deaf community.

The further Poppy journeyed through the Res the more she realized how foolish she was earlier. Tena didn’t ask for them to come and find her, that was all them, or well, all her. The guilt washed over her as she wondered how she’d get Mitena to forgive her for being overwhelmed and rude. For taking out her frustrations on her. Charlie’s sister or not, Tena had her own pain because of this whole ordeal. Because of Charlie’s actions and her relationship being purely through letters. Poppy wasn’t the only one hurting and she needed to stop acting like she was.

Before the young James could say anymore, Pava grabbed her water bottle off of her friend’s car and stretched her long, slender body, “As much as I’d love to chat about our history, I need to go.”

“Don’t forget us!" Yana pranced to her big sister’s side and hooked herself onto her sister’s arm. “Dad’s getting in and we absolutely have to see him. We also have a whole car ride to talk about setting you up on a blind date.”

“I’ll leave you stranded here if you fucking dare," Pavati snapped. The amount of salt that oozed out of her being whenever romance was brought up was hardly something to joke about. And yet, her anger didn’t faze Aiyana. The Summerhill girls were used to their big sister’s rage and knew that it was all empty when it came to the family. Pava loved her sisters too much to leave them behind. She would never leave them, no matter how much she wanted to at times, which meant Yana could troll all she wanted.

Chey imitated Aiyana by looping her own arm through Pava’s and locking them together. “Would you reaaaally?" Cheyenne questioned in a sing-song tone, her angular face sporting a cheeky shit-eating grin. “Dad would be terribly devastated if Yana wasn't there to welcome him, y’know." Chey said. Everyone (meaning little siblings, mostly) can benefit from a little emotional blackmail amongst siblings, and because Cheyenne is aware of how family-oriented the eldest Summerhill (Huaman officially, but of Summerhill blood anyway) is, everything works out just perfectly in favour for the younger Summerhills.

No matter what crap Cheyenne would give Pava, ultimately it didn't go any farther than a younger sister aggravating their big sister. Typical middle child syndrome, even if Yana and Chey were the same age and held the middle child title. At least it explains why the two would frequently be the first to bug Pava. But at the end of the day, Chey adored her sisters and was always appreciative of Pava's efforts to maintain their family's unity. She is well aware that her oldest sister works to support their family and the reservation, taking on all of their burdens but never actually sharing her own to ease her sisters' concerns. Cheyenne just wishes that would change in the future, but until then, she would settle on pestering Pavati. A (not so) gentle reminder that life isn’t just about work.

Exasperated, Pava sighed, holding both her sisters close. These two were tweedledee and tweedledum and never failed to give her an early morning headache. She didn’t need coffee with sisters like these. “Yeah, yeah, yeah," she grumbled to Chey, before looking over her shoulder to her best friend and the lost soul. Briefly, she unlatched Aiyana’s hold on her to make a visible gesture of her departure. Waving goodbye to her friend and their welcomed visitor, she resounded, “Catch you later Fallon! And Penelope, I do hope you find what you’re looking for here. We might be a small village, but we’re mighty. Lean on us if you need to. Take time to yourself to just be. It was nice to meet you." Once the eldest Summerhill finished her spiel, the girls faded off into the distance to where she parked her car.

“They’re really nice people. You are all so kind," Penelope commented, her eyes turning to the officer who had been mostly silent for that whole sisterly exchange.

Fallon waved as the girls from the Summer Hill faded off into the morning haze and she returned her attention to the pale white stranger that seemed to be vibrating with the magic of the day. “You have to remember when you’re with the people here that we don’t have a lot.” She signed with her fingers though her words were clear. “So much was taken from us that all we ever had was each other and the land. Both are just as important here. Be kind to each other, be kind to the land and you’ll get it all back….or some other fortune cookie shit Chief teaches us.” The lighthorsewoman laughed a little just in time for her to see a very familiar face carrying a heavy looking rucksack. “Not stealing again are you Forrest?!” She called.

Resi turned his head and shook it defiantly. “No ma’am. I am reformed.” He made his way over to Fallon and drifted his almond colored gaze over to the beautiful ghost girl in the pretty summer dress. “Hello again.”

Penelope’s smile beamed and her cheeks tinted pink when she saw a familiar face. She only had a brief interaction with Forrest the previous night but she already felt safe around him, like he was home. A feeling that only Mordechai and Jade emitted right now (and her parents, but that’s different). “Hi, Resi," Poppy gleamed, her mood shifting even more in his presence. After a moment of her staring at him, she surveyed her surroundings and realized that Fallon was likely on the clock. “Oh, I’m sorry for keeping you," Poppy apologized in sign language, politely turning to the lighthorsewoman as she addressed her. “I should let you get back to work… I did enjoy this and I hope I get to meet you again.”

Fallon was deaf, not blind and the instant that Forrest Proudstar entered her field of vision she knew that her new friend had forgotten all about her. The way the girl's bright green eyes lit up in his presence, like a lantern igniting in the dark of night; that was the real magic of Blue Hill Reservation. “Stay out of trouble, you two. This one?” The officer patted Resi on his shoulder and smiled. “He has a habit of finding it.” She ruffled Forrest’s wild mane of hair and turned and walked into the lighthorsemen HQ.

Upon her leaving, a solitary raven dropped down and perched itself on Fallon’s squad car, watching as Penelope and Forrest conversed.

Resi tightened his grip on his backpack, it was heavy but when Poppy looked at him with that big smile it somehow felt lighter. “You wanna walk with me? I’ve gotta drop this stuff off back at the van. I can sweeten the deal with some fresh baked goods?”

There was no way she’d refuse spending time with someone she wanted to know more of. Poppy gracefully strolled to him, looked up into his eyes, and nodded, “I’d like that." She hadn’t noticed the glaringly obvious raven not too far off on the patrol car. Her attention was completely on Forrest. “Lead the way?"

“It’s not far. I’m parked just up by the longhouse.” Forrest swept back some of his hair before he motioned with his head for Poppy to start following up the dirt road. “You look really pretty today.” He wanted to ask whether or not the spirit girl’s mission to meet his cousin was successful but based on the small ringlets around her eyes that betrayed tears; he doubted it was as fruitful as everyone had hoped. He wouldn’t ask, that was Poppy’s story to share and no doubt Mitena would speak to him about it later. “I think this place is bringing something out of you, something you needed.”

As the pair walked off up the path, the raven hung its head for a moment before taking off into the sky once more.


TIMESTAMP: Tuesday morning, at the Grimm Manor
Intro to: Kennedy & Lincoln Grimm
FT: Hailey Grimm, Kylee Grimm
& Adam Callahan

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A bright morning at the Grimm manor, which meant the haunting eerie sounds, the ominous aura, and the lingering emptiness of lost memories were masked by sunlight streaming through the large windows. Since it was a work week her father was already gone, going about his business, preparing for his announcement among other things, like the arrival of her cousins. Celine, her step mom, was likely having breakfast with Mrs. Cortez and the other gossip moms of Scott Street trying too hard to be part of the ruling social group.

Unfortunately for her father’s Babydoll, Celine’s age didn’t meet the prerequisites of being a milf nor did she have children of her own so getting the acknowledgement and respect of Felícia was a losing battle. The mothers did entertain her though. Kylee knew that game all too well. String along, give them a glimpse of hope, a taste of opportunity, manipulate and use them for all their worth and then when you are tired of them, throw them away like the worthless garbage they are.

As much as Kylee wanted to believe she was turning over a new leaf, she knew if she needed to, she would resort to methods that her and her siblings have mastered solely to be in control of their own kingdom. Kylee’s resource was information, and as her father has told her time and time again, information was liberating. Beauty might be dangerous but intelligence was lethal. Kylee was a smart girl, creative too, and her father saw more in her than she ever did which is why his words weighed so heavily on her. She hated disappointing him. She needed his approval.

Tiptoeing into the backdoor of her house, Kylee led Adam to the music room where she’d leave him for a little bit to get changed. Slipping in the Grimm manor without getting noticed was the easy part but knowing who was here and where? Now that was tricky. If she opened the garage to see what vehicles were here that would loudly announce her arrival and she didn't want that. All Kylee wanted was to go in, put some fresh clothes on, and get out.

She wanted Adam to wait at someone else’s house or a block or two away but he was adamant of coming with her, especially now that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. Instead of bringing him to her room, she thought it would be best to leave him in the room that is rarely frequented. The music room. She wouldn’t be caught dead being alone in her bedroom with a boy. Her dad would surely find out and want to interrogate him right then and there!

This was risky business but she knew her family would find out one way or another. This town was small and everyone talked. At least this way her father would know she wasn’t ashamed of Adam, not like she was when she was with Wes. She would properly introduce Adam as her boyfriend which was unlike the others. The only other lover Kylee introduced to her father was Pierce and something in her knew he knew it wouldn’t last. Her father was good at judging people like that but Adam was different. Adam was her forever and she would make sure to fight for him even if it meant going head to head with her father. In time Kylee disappeared down the hall and Adam was left in the grand room with classical instruments that likely cost a fortune.

There have always been stories about Grimm Manor. Adam remembered days gone by where he and his cousin Roddy would look out from a cross Scott Street at the old rustic place, back when it was Carlisle house and wonder what hellish evil lurked within its walls. It was said that it was built from the frame of The Judge Nathaniel Carlisle’s vessel when he decided he was going to stay and “save” Edenridge. Apparently several slaves and natives died in its construction atop of the hill. It was oft said that in the basement, The Judge would hold suspected witches in chains and drain them of as much blood as possible without killing them before sending them to be hanged. The blood would then be used in fertilizer to help crops grow. Nathaniel was the biggest boogeyman that Eden had to offer and it was believed that his body was buried in the grounds of the manor.

Beware the Judge,
For He sees all.
Watching from beneath the dirt,
High upon his hilltop tall.
He watches in your hearth,
He watches in your bed.
Beware the dark takes hold,
Or the Judge will come to take your head.

Adam had heard the nursery rhyme all his life and now he found himself inside Nathaniel’s palace, waiting for his girlfriend. That was still a weird thing to think about; Kylee Grimm was his girlfriend. He hadn’t even considered the idea of when he first came back to town. If anything he didn’t think she’d want to see him again after disappearing like he did but there he was. After a night of passion, of giving themselves to one another completely, it seemed that childhood dreams had come true. Now, standing in the music room of a house built of broken dreams, he wondered if nightmares did too.

Turning on his heels, Adam nearly stumbled into the piano as he took a step backwards. In the doorway, stood two men, identical save for their colored shirts. One in pink and one in navy. Their stances were exactly the same, legs a few inches apart, hands in their pockets and their heads tilted either side. It was like a WASP version of the twins from the Shining. The Callahan knew exactly who the men were but that didn’t stop him from being surprised to see them. “Kennedy. Lincoln.” He greeted with a gulp.

Lincoln was the older of the twins, Mayor Grimm’s oldest child and a psychopath, if rumors were to be believed. He was a genius, nobody could deny it. He was an MIT student, MENSA member, his brain was basically a computer which for many, meant that he did not feel the same way that others did. Adam liked to think that if Link was a computer, then he definitely had a virus. Kennedy was the younger of the two and the most of the Grimm brood like Teddy. He was charming, affable, and cunning. He was also a suspected racist, rapist, manipulator and true advocate of white privilege. Nobody had a bad word to say about Kennedy because if they did try, he’d likely put them so deep in the ground that the worms couldn’t find the body.

“Well,”“Well.”

“What do we have here brother?”

“I smell Irish. Shaggy hair? Buck teeth, we’ve got ourselves a Callahan!”

Coming from the kitchen with a large East of Eden band shirt on and nothing else, her wet blue hair draping down her shoulders, and a bowl of Lucky Charms, Hailey followed the voices of her brothers and grinned when she heard the other boy’s voice. Her sister was silly to think she and her boyfriend would go unnoticed in this house. On top of Hailey’s bedroom having the best view of the backyard, Link bugged the entire premise with cameras. There was no privacy here. That was simply what the Grimms did. Everyone knew everyone’s business, whether they liked it or not. It was the only way they could protect one another, after all.

“Be nice you two,” Hailstorm batted her eyes at her big brothers before slipping in between them to see the newest prey of the collective. Taking a spoonful of cereal in her luscious lips, she took in the Callahan’s handsome features, like his face and his muscles. Adam wasn’t little anymore. Sauntering inside, breaching Adam’s space, closing the distance with little to no care that she was practically wearing nothing, Hailey curiously tilted her head, “Long time no see, Adam. When did you get into town?”

“Erm? Ugh….” Adam kept his green eyes locked upon the twins. Hailey was always a lot and the fact she was basically naked was not lost in him but he had to respect Kylee. He had wanted the youngest Grimm for so long and he wasn’t going to do anything to risk what he finally had. “About a month ago. It’s good to see you Hails.” Hailey had always carried a different energy to her siblings. She was rock and roll when they were classical but she was still a Grimm in the way she behaved, the way she spoke. There was darkness in her, just like the rest of them.

“Twenty seven days to be exact.” Lincoln was on his phone, typing with both thumbs blindly as his gaze never left his sister's “guest”. Hailey would toy with the boy a while but get bored. That’s just how she was. It did nothing to protect the family. “Came in on the greyhound and signed the lease for his apartment on the third of last month. Funnily enough he has not been using a credit or debit card at all, this entire time.” Link finally shifted his look to his two. A clear signal for Kennedy to tag in.

Ken gently brushed the corner of his mouth with his fingertips as he took a step into the room. “Cash only, Adam? I must say that doesn’t seem….savory.” He stopped behind his younger sister for a second and untucked a clump of her blue hair from the back of her shirt before moving beyond the pair and sitting at the piano. “You hiding? You can tell us we’re all family here.” Kennedy was a smooth operator, he always knew exactly how to work a person or a room. “You wanna be with Kylee Rose we come as her baggage. What’s yours?” His voice trailed off slightly, a technique he had learned from watching his father glad hand with voters and businessmen. “What’s your big secret, Callahan? You can tell me…or I can have Link find out.”

“Quite frankly, it’s none of your business,” Kylee was out of breath by the door having changed so quickly she could’ve been part of a triathlon. The fact that she was able to throw together a cute outfit was also quite impressive. She hadn’t dressed this cute in months. Hailey shifted her body to scan her sister up and down before a smirk fell on her face. “Can’t we just do this like a normal family over dinner with daddy?” Kylee pleaded, hating when her siblings cornered her lovers or friends like this. Although Kylee wanted to lean on the rim of the door to gather herself, not one to run unless she absolutely must, she hated running, she stood tall and hid her heavy breathing behind a gentle smile. This place was too damn big.

“Oh! So you’re planning on introducing him to dad, huh? That’s a big step for you, Kylee Rose,” Hailey teased, stepping back, closer to the harp, so Kylee could make her way to her boyfriend. “You know we only tease, we just want…” she paused to think of the right words before putting another spoonful in her mouth, “... you to be happy. Your track record isn’t the best, you know?”

“I’m aware of my track record, thank you very much,” Kylee went beside Adam and latched onto his arm protectively.

“Let’s run through the list shall we.” Kennedy hit one of the piano keys with his finger. “Adam Callahan. Ran away.” He struck another key. “Pierce Mercer. Very gay. Very dead.” The eldest Grimm shot a look to his twin and the two shared the same damned smirk. “Mei Ramsey. Whore. Nowhere near good enough for you.” As Kennedy tapped another sound out of the ivory, he stood up to his full height. “Natalia Belmonte. If I recall you left her for…what was it, Link?”

“Feelings of inadequacy,” Lincoln responded.

“That’s right.” Ken clapped his hands together. “Feelings of inadequacy. Story of your life, right Kylee Rose? Comparing yourself to everybody else.”

Lincoln finally took a stride into the music room. He placed his hands in his sister's bowl and took out a fistful of lucky charms, pushing them into his mouth and disregarding the dripping wet milk now staining the old wooden floors. “Don’t forget Wesley!” He spoke with his mouthful. “Not even cold in the ground that relationship and now she’s with the karate kid here.”

Adam’s posture changed. Standing upright and firm, he clenched his fists and stared at the siblings. “Enough. I’m not scared of any of you. You’re just some sad little rich kids that grew up on haunted hill and whose daddy fucked them up. Newsflash! That’s the same story as anyone else who grew up on this damned street.” He didn’t want to invite a fight into the world but if it boiled down to it, Adam was pretty confident he could take the brothers down.

“Would you look at that?” Kennedy moved himself to the other side of Hailey so the three Grimm’s were standing in a row. “He says he isn’t afraid of us. What do you think, Lincoln?”

“He should be. Oh God he should be.”

As much as Kylee wanted to fight back, her whole demeanor had deflated. All she could think about was Adam not wanting to be with her because of all her exes, especially the one she had broken up with not too long ago. She could feel her lips quivering. Why was she so weak in comparison to them? Why did they have to bring her down? Weren’t they supposed to be a family? Weren’t they supposed to lift each other up?

No.

Kylee Rose Grimm. Don’t you dare cry. Clenching her teeth, her eyes darkening as she met each of their gaze one by one, Kylee released Adam from her grasp and stepped forward, confronting them. “It’s funny, really, how high and mighty you three act when you hardly have your shit together and haven’t impressed dad in years.” Kylee clenched her fists, meeting her siblings’ gazes as she directly spoke to them, “Link, you're too busy being obsessed with your old classmate, a cute native girl that works for the police, to do anything remarkable. She would rather see you dead than alive and boy, that’s got to hurt.” Her eyes went from one brother to the next. “Kennedy, don’t even get me started with you and all the allegations that dad had to cover up, all because you can’t keep your dick in your pants and you think roofing a girl is the easiest way to get them to like you. At least I’m not afraid to ask someone out the right way.”

Lastly, she caught her sister’s undivided attention who seemed finished with her cereal; Hailey’s true emotions hidden behind a cheshire grin. “And Hailey, fuck you,” Kylee spat in annoyance. “You can’t even keep a friend because you’re too busy pushing them to commit suicide or turn to drugs. You're fake. You’re all fucking fake. I know how to make real authentic bonds, what do you guys know how to do besides being total assholes with no heart!”

Before any of the siblings could retort back a man from the hallway cleared his voice. He was an older man in a suit. Ghastly looking and scrawny. Even with his wrinkles, he did carry himself in a rather dashing manner. People forget that this man is always here and came with the grounds, having a small guest house to call his own out back. “Lincoln. Kennedy. Didn’t you promise Mister Grimm you’d pick up Miss Amaranth and Aster Harding? They should be landing soon. It takes an hour to get to the airport.”

“Cyril,” Kennedy glanced back at the short older man. He was part of the furniture in the old manor. When their father bought the place, Cyril came with it, apparently he had worked “for the house” for over sixty years. He was around five foot five with pure white hair and a beard. He dressed in a fine black suit from Osprey’s that Mayor Grimm had gotten him, which he adorned with a red scarf with a crest on it. “We will finish this conversation later.” He hissed towards Kylee and her boyfriend. Ken had always been the leader of the Grimm children, it came with the territory of being the oldest. He had no real power over Lincoln and Hailey but they knew when to listen to their big brother. “Come Lincoln, let’s go get our beloved cousins.” As Kennedy moved beyond Cyril, Lincoln pointed his finger in a gun towards Adam and Ky and silently pulled the trigger before following his twin.

“Hailey?” Cyril looked at the blue haired poison pixie with his hands folded behind his back. “I do believe that you're going to be late for your hair appointment at tresses. I’m already prepping the car.”

“Just a moment, Cyril,” Hailey softened her approach, wearing a warm disposition in the presence of the butler. Glancing over the lovers once more, Hailey chuckled, “Oh Kylee, you should know better than to talk back to us like that. Let's see how long this one lasts… a month? Just like the last one. When did you break up with Wesley anyways? I wonder. It was only a couple days ago you were out getting coffee with him. Oh isn’t this fun? My sister sure loves to find love in all the wrong places. Jumping from one to the next. How sweet.” The more she spoke, the more she patronized her little sister. Turning around and prancing out of the music room, she looked over her shoulder and blew them a kiss, holding her bowl in one hand, “Until next time, Kylee Rose and… Adam.” That awful grin reappeared on her sister’s face before she went off to her bedroom.

Cyril cleared his throat again, covering his mouth as he did. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a napkin to dry off his hands as he looked upon Adam and Kylee. He did not say another word before placing the handkerchief back into his pocket and taking hold of the handles of the old wooden doors and dragging them backwards, closing the door before him and allowing the lovers some privacy.

Adam’s green eyes danced from the door over to Ky. She was obviously shaken and frustrated and downright pissed off at her siblings acting like a pack of hyenas circling him like prey. He placed his hands on either side of her beautiful face and pulled her body close to his. “I didn’t know you had a butler.” He joked with that goofy grin covering his chin. “I don’t know what’s going on in your head right now but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt what is going on in my heart.” He leaned forward and kissed the bridge of Ky’s nose and held his face against hers. “They are not going to scare me away from you, Kylee. You’re my girl.”

“You still want to be with me?” Kylee dumbfoundedly asked, puzzled and doe-eyed. “After all that? You’re not even going to ask about Wes? You’re not going to think you’re a rebound or something? I didn’t know you were coming back. I didn’t know you still thought about me. I didn’t even know if you were still alive,” Kylee pouted, her eyes beginning to water. “I’m sorry for not waiting, I just have a terrible need for validation. My brothers were right… I’m so useless, pathetic, and inadequate. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to be with me.” Her words were coming out faster than her thought process, as she panicked at the fear of losing Adam over this. “I’m sorry I’m not good enough… I’ll do better, I’ll do better I promise.”

Adam pulled Kylee’s face forward and kissed her deeply. He swept her up in his arms and almost picked her up off the ground. When satiated, he placed her back down onto the floor gently and released her from his grip. Taking a step back, still with that grin across his face, he placed his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. “Shut up, Kylee. Don’t ever speak like that in front of me again. You’re worth the world.” He glanced at the door which he believed wholeheartedly, that on the other side of it, the spirits of the Judge and Hell itself were busy at work corrupting the souls of the Grimms. He hoped, no he knew, that he could save Kylee’s. He returned his gaze to his girlfriend and tilted his head. “You look really hot, by the way.”

There was a delicate sweetness in her big, brown eyes as she looked up at Adam with adoration. A raw, deep emotion that reflected in her cheeks, flowering into a vulnerable, rosy-colored blush. “Stahp…” she bashfully responded, her heart fluttering with his every word. Even if there weren’t any eyes on them, she could feel incredibly seen and that was embarrassing for her. “We should get going. Talking to me like that while I’m all emotional is just going to get me horny.” She grabbed the ends of her jean jacket and swayed in place. Antsy and feeling like this was the first time she ever felt this way before, like everyday with Adam was like a first date, or a forever honeymoon, Kylee bit her bottom lip. There was so much spark and chemistry between them and she found herself absolutely captivated by him. Heart, body, soul. Every detail, every moment they shared, she wanted to savor it and make it last. “And maybe the sooner we get this case solved, the sooner we can go back to your place…”

God, he really couldn’t believe his luck. So many people spend their entire lives trying to meet the person they’re supposed to be with. Sometimes, hell most of the time they never actually find them in one lifetime. After his entrapment and escape, Adam felt like he had lived two lives already and the only thing that got him through was the thought of Kylee. Now there she was. His. His dream girl. Taking a hold of the brunette's hand, he kissed her fingers delicately.

“Let’s go solve a mystery then.”


MURDER YOU SAY

TIMESTAMP: Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Morning
After Tension @ The Godmother
FT: Caterina Belmonte, Dexter Silo, & Sofia Belmonte
Small FT: Charlotte & Frankie Silo, both played by @Aewin




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Emerging from the Godmother’s with his hands in his suit pockets, Dexter followed Caterina out into the soaked through world. The sun was now shining high and brightly in a sky once filled with clouds and darkness. Looking around, one would not think that only a few hours ago that the place was engulfed in a tempest that could’ve been sent by the Aegaeon themselves, descended down upon the sleepy New England town with all their rage to punish those they deemed evil. Caterina’s hips still had the same sway they had all those years ago, she still carried herself the same way if not with a touch more force and purpose.

It had been quite some time since Dexter had stepped foot in Edenridge for any prolonged period of time. Once upon another life, he spent much of his time in the town. Whether it was the constant basketball games between his hometown Monarchs and the Celtics or if it was time spent with a certain brunette cheer captain with the most beautiful hazel eyes, Dex had definitely spent more time in Eden than he would care to admit. Since high school and college, the devilishly handsome man had only driven through Edenridge or stopped for a quick coffee. Some might’ve said it was out of fear of repercussions for some of his actions but that was a lie because Dexter had no fear for anything. He wasn’t scared of Andy Callahan or that meathead Bobby Osso coming for him. He wasn’t scared of Caterina’s family connections. It was the one thing those people never understood and he doubted they ever would. Dexter would never be scared because he was too smart.

He was better than them.

The girl behind the counter was intriguing. The look on her face, the spark in her eye, she had to have been Cat’s daughter, it was obvious. Based on her age, she was fifteen or sixteen meaning she would’ve been conceived around the time that Caterina and Dexter were together; the mathematics all added up as he had predicted when he first found out from his brother what Cat was up to. Once the pair of former flames reached one of the drier benches outside the sandwich shop, Dexter offered Cat the first seat. “After you, pretty girl.”

“No, I’m fine, thanks,” Cat curtly declined. She was not going to sit next to the bastard that ripped her heart out, recklessly stomped on it, crushing it with his pretentious Oxfords, and decided on a whim to shoot it in yesterday’s trash like a goddamn basketball. Plus, this was Edenridge. She’d be dumb to give the town ammunition against her like she used to when she was young, stubborn, and naive. They loved to talk and they would immediately assume that her new boyfriend was her ex. That’s if they even remembered how Dexter looked. Yeah, no. Not on her watch.

Instead, she crossed her arms and expectantly surveyed him, not bothering to check him out. That would just get him off and she’d be damned to ever stroke his ego like that ever again. Her deadly glare was on his handsome face, and with fire, she intensely grabbed a hold of his hazel gaze. Once upon a broken promise, she was dumb for this man and it was in those eyes she fell so deeply and madly in lust and in love with him. Why are you here?”

“To get a sandwich, you have good reviews on Yelp,” Dexter mused. He had seen this body language before from her, one too many times. However it didn’t bother him like it did back when they were teenagers. He had grown and so had she, devolving into their adolescent selves would be unbecoming in this scenario. “Don’t read into something that isn’t there Catarina. I’m in town on business and I was hungry. It’s been seventeen years and I don’t think it sets a good example for our children to hold grudges.”

Cat raised an eyebrow at that. Having not considered the life he lived after their senior year. He was married with kids. What a relief. Her shoulders eased up, less on edge like she had been seconds before but not enough to let her guard down. She couldn’t trust he changed all his ways and she wasn’t going to but good for him for having his own family. Good for him for moving on.

The blonde businessman glanced back at the shop where he had briefly met the two youngsters behind the bar and his formulaic mind began to process the numbers as it always did. Dexter loved numbers. They were his passion, his obsession. He had always been a top athlete physically but what always gave him the edge was his ability to add, subtract, divide and conquer in half the time it would take a normal person. For Dex, life was like a game of blackjack and he had already counted all the cards. “I was an ass back in the day and I hurt you really bad, I know that. I’m not asking for forgiveness and I don’t want it, what I do want is to live in hope that we can move forward.”

“What does that entail?” Cat followed his gaze to her shop where her daughter and apprentice were. She knew that look; he was curious about something. His blue eyes sparked with intrigue like he had a question that needed an answer to. Then again, maybe he was right. Maybe she was looking too deeply into his words. Maybe for once he didn’t mean harm. Was she a fool for not wanting to put up the fight with him? To not stay angry? Probably. But still, deep down, she hoped he really did change for the better.

Begrudgingly, she took a seat beside him. One leg over the other and her arms crossed once more, Cat looked down Central Ave and the few people enjoying the town this Tuesday morning. There was a rainbow in the distance and she couldn’t help but wonder if Clay was okay. She couldn’t help but sit in her yearning and worry, wishing he were here with her, enjoying this dewy air and the sights of the town waking up. Shops opening. People going for a stroll. Edenridge was beautiful when it felt still. Edenridge was beautiful when she was waking up. Edenridge was beautiful when she wasn’t hurting. “What does moving forward mean to you?” She glanced back at him, her burning inferno that was her anger simmering down as she gave him his chance to speak, finally willing to listen.

“The reality of the situation is that my current business might keep me in town for a while,” Dexter leaned back against the picnic table with his hands in his pockets as he spoke. “And I know that there are a lot of people here who may still hold a grudge for what I did as a teenager. I can’t make that right but what I can do is show everyone who I am now and what I represent.” He relieved his hand from his slacks and reached into his jacket with it, pulling his wallet from inside a second later. Dexter rifled through the leather money holder until he found a business card. He placed it down on the bench behind them without a word before continuing. “Moving forward to me is me and my family being allowed to be at peace whilst we’re here in this community and for the folks here to leave my past transgressions right there in the past along with my early two thousands hair cuts.”

Out of habit, Cat rolled her eyes and spoke flat out, amused at his words and not fully buying it, “Good luck with that.” If he wanted a clean slate this wasn’t the place to be. The town where history meant everything and secrets were a currency. “You and your family are more than welcome to stay here. No one’s going to stop you but to want peace? In Edenridge? Please, Dexter. You’re smarter than that.”

Before Dexter could say anything more, Sofi came out with a brown bag (that held his sandwich), instead of Marco. Unfortunately for Cat, Marco had to help another customer so that left Sofi open for delivery. The little Belmonte placed the food on the table and was quick to turn around. Ready to go back inside. When her mother firmly grabbed her hand, Sofi knew she was stuck until she was freed, put between a rock and an awkward place. Turning herself around to face her mom and old friend, Sofi gave a half smile, trying to be welcoming but also lowkey wanting to yeet on out.

“Speaking of family,” Cat tried her best to extend the first olive branch, even though she hated every second of it. “This is my eldest, Sofia. Sofi,” Cat gently instructed, without saying anything more than her child’s name.

This was all Sofi needed to hear to know what her mother wanted.

“Yo,” the teenager gave a lazy wave with one hand before hooking her thumbs in her pockets. “You know that’s not a usual name you hear everyday and yet I heard it a couple times already. I could’ve sworn that the reporter guy was talking on the phone with a guy named Dexter. And—”

“Sofia, stop.”

“Sorry, habit,” the young girl scratched the back of her head as she looked around and noticed a nice car with a woman who looked around her mother’s age and girl in it, “That your family over there?”

Cat’s attention was quick to look at where her daughter was pointing at. She couldn’t see the figures inside the car — they were parked a ways away — but she did notice a familiar set of golden locks. She shook her head in a way that said ‘I should’ve guessed’ and let out a subtle chuckle. There was great relief that washed over her, knowing that his family was true, and that they both moved on from their past. Maybe this was a good sign for the both of them. Maybe she could move on and bury the hatchet. Maybe they could forget they ever were a thing.

She had Clay so really, Dexter’s presence, she was coming to realise, didn’t upset her in the way she thought it would. Initially she was shocked and thought he was up to no good but after a few minutes with him she could see that he meant nothing to her anymore. The hold he had over her was nonexistent and it was all thanks to growing up and becoming her own woman. Certain of her wants and needs. She was happy where she was and where she was going. She was happy with her journey, and all the things she used to regret. She was happy that she was smarter than people thought. She was happy. Nothing he could say or do would ruin that for her. She had her kids. She had Clay. And she had a bright future ahead of her, for her and her family.

“Yes that’s my wife Charlotte and my daughter Francesca,” Dexter smiled softly towards the youngster that had joined them. She was so much like Cat, the way she carried herself, the attitude and sass that dripped from every word. One of the things that Sofi did not share with Caterina though was her eyes and the sparkle in them. No, they were not from Cat. Beyond that, looking at Sofia was like looking at the proprietor of the Godmothers seventeen years ago.

Taking the sandwich into hand, Dex inhaled the sweet smell. “Smells delicious, thank you so much Sofia.” He gazed upon the two Belmonte women, looking for any flaw in his perfect equitation. Of course, it just wasn’t there. Maths was always right. “You know, I would love it if we could get together again soon, properly. So we can sit and talk, catch up. Sofia could come too and I’ll bring Frankie, our children should get to know each other while we’re in town. Who knows? They could bond like sisters or hate each other but that’s being a teenager right?”

Cat wasn’t the one to catch the subtle emphasis in the words: our children. It was Sofi. There was a moment she stared at the older man with a stoic expression yet all the curiosity in the world in her gaze. She tilted her head as she replied, “Don’t thank me. This was all my worker’s doing. Marco.”

When Dex wanted to ‘get together’ soon Cat had to hold her grimace back. Felt way too early to… catch up. It didn’t help when Dex said Charlotte’s name out loud she was reminded of all the times she butted heads with the woman because Dex had a way of playing mind games. Maybe she wasn’t completely okay with this after all. Still, she turned to look at her child, who was unburdened by drama like this. Sofi hadn’t even dated yet let alone started fights or anything with anyone. As nosy as she was, she avoided anything too tense. She was a good girl. The only noteworthy thing her daughter was part of was… the shooting, which took away her desire to play soccer and gave her a bad habit of relying on weed.

“I’ll think about it,” Cat spoke honestly. “My other children, Daniella and Franco, they’re with their father but they’ll be back Friday. If we do this, I want all my babies with me.” Did she want to do this? Not really. But maybe her children needed something normal to look forward to. The divorce was taking a toll on them to the point that Sofi was sneaking around and hiding at the Ossos. She knew the other two were taking the divorce worse. Especially Franco who has clung to the idea of a perfect family more so than his sisters. Bringing her attention back to the car, Cat inquired, standing up, feeling their time coming to an end, “Only a sandwich for you? Your girls aren’t hungry?”

“My girls were smart enough to have some breakfast before we left Pinehurst,” Dex responded with a nod. “You know me Caterina, food was the last thing on my mind this morning. I was too busy crunching some numbers for a client.” The simple fact of the matter was when Dex Silo started working on an equation or looking at numbers in a way only he could, nothing else mattered. He always had to be right, whatever the cost.

As the two adults were back to talking, Sofi glanced at the business card on the table to get his full name. Dexter Silo. She made a mental note to look for his daughter, Frankie, on social media when she got her phone back from her mother. It seemed that her mother was in a less grouchy mood so that was good. Silo. That sounded familiar. “Could try to get more tickets for the Horsemen game? That’s like… Sunday. Just an idea.”

“I could…” Cat auto-responded, not liking that her daughter was taking control of the situation but understanding the audacity more than anyone. It was only a scrimmage but she could easily get more tickets from Jonah. Though, she didn’t like the idea of going to a hockey game with her ex and her ex’s family. Even so, she had to be the mature adult here and it seemed like the two people beside her wanted something guaranteed from this interaction. Clearing her throat, she looked up at the now standing Dexter - damn, why was she so short - and tried to bury her petty nature with class, “How does Sunday sound?”

“Sunday, sounds perfect,” Dexter tucked the sandwich under his arm and motioned towards the business card he had left on the table. “My work and cell number is there. Why don’t you contact me with details when you’re ready?” His eyes fell upon Sofi once more and locked with hers. “It was really nice to meet you Sofia, I hope to see you again sometime soon.” He tilted his head to face his former lover and he grinned. “Be seeing you, Catarina,” Dex bowed for the two women before turning away and walking towards his expensive looking car.

Climbing into the driver's seat, Dexter tossed the sandwich that had been lovingly made for him into the back next to his teenage daughter. He turned to look at his wife as he started up the car. “She’s definitely my daughter. We’re going out with them this Sunday, as a family. Am I clear?”

“Crystal, right dear?” Charlotte responded with an easy going smile, looking at the rear view mirror to make eye contact with her daughter. Frankie glanced at the sandwich tossed beside her with an unimpressed scowl before turning back to her Nintendo Switch.

“Sure, crystal clear.”


Timestamp: Present day, Sunrise
FT: Penelope James, & Mordechai Boaz


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Hair floating upward, hand reaching toward the sunlight that got further and further away, and panic, an indescribable amount of fear and panic, that’s what it felt like to drown. Penelope James knew how drowning felt because the summer after her sister died she almost died herself. She wasn’t trying to commit suicide or anything. She just wanted to see if grief felt similar. If losing a piece of you, someone you gave so much of your heart to, felt like drowning. She needed to know.

She remembered that day clearly. Charlie, Mordechai, Jade, little Danny, his friends, like Zion, Topanga, and Conan, all decided to enjoy the sun and lake. It was one of the last good memories she had with her friends, before they let their demons take control of their lives. Everyone had gotten out of the water to make sandwiches and dry in the sun. Everyone except Poppy.

Poppy wasn’t scared of a little water over her head. She could recall pushing her body down deep enough to where she couldn’t hear the music and chatter from the lake-side where everyone else was. Her hair rose like seaweed, upwards, and the silence became a comforting blanket to her. The water at least in this moment was exactly what she wanted. Isolation and the noise, all that noise, no longer bothering her.

Drowning was quiet, movements ever so subtle. Rarely were they like the movies. One minute Poppy’s head was bobbing above the water, the next… she was gone. When she realized she had stayed down too long, knowing everyone else would see she was missing, with the little energy she had, Poppy tried to swim back up. She didn’t have any fight left in her, but she couldn’t let this be her goodbye. She promised Max she’d live a life for the both of them. She promised Max. She promised.

Unfortunately, Poppy waited too long. She could see all the people that meant the world to her, like they were the oxygen she breathed, and this feeling, this feeling was torturous. Overwhelmed with the sensation of this immense despair, this impending doom just around the corner waiting for her, she couldn’t think. Like grief, drowning took over every part of her. Drowning was all that she could feel. Drowning was like losing someone and that someone became the saddest part of her. Drowning was a feeling.

This feeling, how does one describe it? Like a gun to your head, forced to not even let your heartbeat. But of course it would, your heartbeat needed to go on, and just like the heart, your lungs needed air. When she couldn’t hold her breath anymore, the cold water came rushing in, and all the thoughts she once had were taken away by oxygen deprivation. Poppy hoped no one would be sad when she was gone. She hoped they knew how much she loved them. She hoped they saw that she wasn’t going to be alone. Maxine was waiting for her on the other side. Maxine was waiting for her. Maxine was waiting. Maxine.

Before the current could take her any further, a hand grabbed onto her and forcibly pulled her upwards. Breaking the surface, into safety, Poppy profusely coughed. In Decky’s arms, her eyes barely open, he searched her face frantically to make sure she was still breathing. Since he was only a beginner swimmer, having been taught by Maxine before her passing, he struggled to pull Poppy back to the shore. That is until Charlie came to help. After gently grabbing her from his friend, relieving him from the weight, Charlie tightened his hold on his Poppy, partly out of fear and partly out of anger. He wanted to protect her but he was mad at her, all at the same time.

The boys swam back to the rest of the crew. Charlie was quick to swoop Poppy up in a princess carry and with long strides, he brought her to the park bench. Simultaneously, Jade and Danny rushed to Decky who was struggling to catch his breath and helped him out of the water. The rest of the kids surrounded the group with clear concern and worry written on their faces but they didn’t want to get in anyone's way. No matter how badly they wanted to help.

Poppy couldn’t tell if she was fading or waking up but now that she was laying on a park bench she could see Charlie and only him. Slowly she registered reality and found herself locked in his serious gaze. She didn’t know what to say. Should she say sorry? Was she even sorry? She didn’t know what he wanted her to say.

And she didn’t need to because the boy gingerly sat her up, leaning her against him, and scolded her in a tone she wasn’t used to, “Don’t you ever do that to me again. Don’t you dare leave me. My heart doesn’t beat if you‘re not beside me. What were you thinking, Poppy?” He was mad. He was big mad.

In response, Poppy frowned. She didn’t mean to worry him or scare him to death. She didn’t mean to worry him or their friends. She didn’t mean to be so reckless all because she was sad. Her green eyes went from him to everyone else as she could feel her own grief take surface once more, just like how she felt when she was drowning. They were one in the same. A sensation that washed over you, taking over all your senses, until all that you could see was that feeling. The feeling of drowning. When she didn’t respond to him, Charlie caressed her face, leaned his forehead against hers, and whispered, “Are you okay?”
~

Poppy’s eyes opened. She found herself no longer by the lake. She wasn’t wet. She was warm. There was no struggle to grasp for air. She could breathe with ease. There was no music playing but it wasn’t silent. She could hear one thing. A heartbeat. The sun was rising, an iris of fire, radiating gold through a window that wasn’t her’s. Her green eyes welcomed a new day. Poppy was here. Still breathing.

Leaning into the chest of the person beside her, she thought to herself, ‘A dream…’ The dream was more vivid than usual because it was a memory put on replay. She hadn’t thought of that incident in years. So strange for it to reappear all of a sudden. As she started to wake up, Poppy took in the oh-so-familiar scent of smoke, leather, and sandalwood that was her friend, Mordechai. Originally, they had their own room but Poppy struggled sleeping. She usually did when she was in unfamiliar territory. Mordechai being the loveable fool that he was didn’t mind them sleeping together. In all honesty, it helped him just as much as it helped her.

Glancing up at him, her head resting on his chest, she watched his soft breathing. His chest lightly moved her in a gradual up-and-down motion. Carefully, she slid off him and crept off the bed. Tiptoeing to the window, with a big, plain white tee and gray pajama shorts on, she peered through it, the curtain half open, and saw serenity. Transitioning from the world of dreams to day, Poppy longingly observed her new environment, the Reservation, and pondered her dream. She wasn’t happy. She wasn’t sad. She was there. In a moment of time that would be another page to her ever growing story.

How could she spin her memory, her dream, into something tangible? Something she could feel? A wandering soul in search of a wish. For wasn’t dreams just that? A wish. If she had dreamt that memory at any other time, she might’ve woken up crying. Instead of feeling sorry for herself or being stuck in a nightmare, she saw the good in it. She saw her friends. She saw her love for her sister. She saw Charlie.

Poppy found herself smiling. Look how much she's changed, for the better. As much sadness as she did have in her, and still does, she could feel peace. Something she hadn’t felt in a long time. This trip was something else. She didn’t know how to put it in words but all that noise that kept her up at night wasn’t on her mind. The dream washed her anxiety away and made her believe that she was okay.

Poppy felt okay.

Mordechai had awoken once Poppy had removed herself from the bed, having felt the loss of her warmth and slight weight. He took his time in the soft bed, stretching his stiff limbs and cracking his joints as needed before he finally rolled over onto his stomach and opened his eyes. He immediately found his petite friend silhouetted by the light of the rising sun peeking through the large window. The sunlight seemed to emit from her, as if knowing she was the unintentional beacon of hope to their lost little trio.

“Mornin’ Pops,” Mordechai called to her as he got up off the bed, his own white t-shirt hanging off his frame, wrinkled not only from sleep but from his careless packing the morning before. He gave out a loud yawn before continuing. “Risin’ with the sun like a psycho?”

Keeping her gaze toward the sunrise, she lightly chuckled and quoted, “I hope you realize that every day is a fresh start for you. That every sunrise is a new chapter in your life waiting to be written.” She looked over to her friend, the smile still on her gentle face, and added, “Confessions of a Wallflower by Juansen Dizon.”

It was strange.

The more she healed, the more like Charlie she became and she didn’t even realize it. All the things Charlie once loved were now part of her. All the things Charlie hoped for, she held close to her heart with the desire to hope for the both of them now. No matter how much hurt she carried, she saw the best in people and for every life she lost, she continued to remember them openly, tenderly, and oh so fiercely. All does beautiful departed, she felt deeply, like she was the heart of the town, and Edenridge was the body. She valued and saw others for who they were. And still, she still found room to love them. No matter how many tears she had left to cry. She loved them. Turning on her bare heels, she put her hands behind her back and intertwined her fingers. “‘Side for risin’ with the sun like a psycho, did you sleep okay?” she playfully grinned.

Mordechai looked away from the new day dawning through the window to smile softly down at her and nod. “Never sleep better than when I feel safe,” He said honestly. And it was true, when he slept with someone that he trusted it was the only time he truly relaxed in his sleep. The first time he slept well, really slept well, was the first time that he and Danny had passed out with Charlie, Jade, Max and Poppy after a game night at Beau’s. Even with Sonny, the risk of their parents loomed over their heads until they became serpents, and even then some. As a Serpent in the dorms there was always a chance of being woken at the drop of a dime for a job or a fight. But as a kid, just a kid, that had just spent hours playing games with his friends and brother under the protective roof of a community staple, that was when he and Danny both first learned what it meant to sleep in safety.

That was what he had been dreaming about before he woke up, a time of light and warmth that he’s slowly been finding his way back to more and more, even with the people now missing from the picture. Poppy had been a big part in that, so had Badger, Legs and the kids. Now, Jade was back and Mordechai was on the mend in more ways than one.

“How ‘bout you? Ya sleep well?”

“Sorta,” she shrugged, not knowing if she did or not but at least she didn’t feel tired. Leaving her friend’s side, Poppy went to the bed and out of habit, started making it. This was her way of decreeing they were up and they would not go back to the land of dreams. They could get breakfast and enjoy the reservation with no rush, Bask in the fresh air. The sun was awake and so were they. As she removed the blankets and pillows, placing them on a nearby storage bench, she asked out of the blue, “Do you remember the day I drowned?”

“How could I forget,” Mordechai laughed, not as uncomfortable as he thought he’d be remembering that day. “My dumbass tried ta play lifeguard and almost let us both drown. I know ya weren’t tryin’a drown that day but ya still gave us all a hell of a scare. Why?”

“I dreamt about it,” she admitted, walking to the sheets and straightening them on the bed. “I spent the past two years numb. Didn’t do much. Like clockwork. Woke up. Went to work. Came back home. Laid on my floor. Repeat.” Gliding her hand on the sheets, making sure they were limited in the wrinkle department, she continued to reminisce of a chapter long gone, “I remember that day so vividly and I remember at the time I wanted to feel something that wasn’t this… sensation.” She placed her hand on her chest, her way of displaying her grief, her pain, “I wanted to compare it to something real. I wanted to see how drowning felt.”

“Okay,” He replied, head tilted. She was able to tell him the meaning behind that day, which is an answer to a question that up until now he had just gone without, the memory coming back to him occasionally through the years and making him wonder again. Now that he did have a bit of an answer though…well it didn’t sound too different from his reasoning for his first needle. It didn’t leave him worried for his friend as it once might have, because he knew she was simply reminiscing to sort out her thoughts. “I’m the last person you’ll catch judgin’ about tryin’a feel different from your constant mood. Not exactly the way I went about it, but we all do shit differently.”

She simply nodded at his compassion and understanding as she reached for the quilt and waved it over the bed. “I got so numb before the whole Allison thing that I started breaking mirrors to feel. I don’t know if you noticed yet but all the mirrors in my family’s house have been removed. That’s because of me.” It was oddly relieving to tell someone all this that wasn’t her parents or Shannon. She didn’t know if she was weird or not for doing half the shit she did, but what she did know was feeling was good. Feeling meant she was alive. Even if it was drowning. She wanted to feel.

“Before everything that was high school happened, I’ve been so… inward. Selfish. I was too focused on myself to notice that you didn’t hesitate to save me, even if you only just learned how to swim. I didn’t notice how much everyone was freaking, solely because Poppy James decided to do a little experiment. Charlie too…” When she was done putting the blankets on, she paused to look at Mordechai, “I’m quite the lucky girl to be loved by you guys and now, now I finally feel it. Now I see it.”

While not at all surprised by her honesty, Mordechai was slightly taken aback by the actual words. He had never once thought that Poppy had been selfish. Even back when it all first happened all he cared about after catching his own breath had been making sure she was alright. He had swam out to her and pulled her above water while stupidly trying to ask her questions, which in turn had caused him to almost go under with her until Charlie had taken over. At the time the only thoughts he had were for her safety and health, and he never expected any worry for him outside Danny and their friends fretting over him. Thinking of Poppy James as having been selfish, especially after everything she’s done for him since the very first day they met…it just didn’t compute.

“Pops…I left town when Danny died. Immediately, literally less than twenty four hours after the fact. Ya sat in your grief for months and then one day tried somethin’ for a little longer than ya planned,” Mordechai looked into those green eyes filled with thousands of stories waiting to be told, trying to pick out where their’s will go based on where they’ve already been. “I’m not sayin’ any’a this ta discount what you’re tellin’ me, let’s be clear on that. I’m glad you’re seein’ and feelin’ the love you’ve always deserved,” He took her pause in making the bed to put his hands on her shoulders, keeping them grounded together. “But I think ya need ta be a little kinder on yourself, especially your past self. It’s real easy for me ta look back at shit I did and judge it even while knowin’ full well how I was feelin’ at the time, but the truth is I don’t know how much I’d have done differently. ‘Cause Pops, time dulls all the emotion driven moments and thoughts that we had back then. It makes us forget just how much seemed outta our hands and how big and cold the world felt at that age. Ya gotta remember that when you’re lookin’ at things ya did in the past, you’re just judgin’ a kid that was tryin’a figure out life.”

“Maybe you should take your own advice, Mordechai,” Penelope teased, casually reaching up to move some of his hair out of his face. It was getting long. “I get what you’re saying. Believe me, I do. But this isn’t just an age thing, you know?” She rested her hands on his, while he still held her, to show he meant what he said, “Just a month ago all I could think about was me. That’s the thing about drowning. All your thoughts kind of disappear. All you can think about is fear, panic… your grief.”

Poppy removed his hands from her shoulders so that she could hold them, feel them. He was here and she was with him. This wasn’t a dream. He was back and they were changing for the better. “That day I really didn’t give a fuck that Charlie went dark and likely shot the majority of people that were there. All I cared about was: they don’t know the Charlie I know. Selfish because I couldn’t accept the man he became and the mistakes we all made. I couldn’t accept that I took part in my misery because I just stood there and waited. Just how I did when I was drowning. I stood there and waited to be saved. I gave up before I even tried. You get what I’m trying to say?”

“I do,” Mordechai assured, squeezing her hands as they held each other. “I think…I think we’ve all been forced ta do some reflection and introspection this last month or so. Shit, this last night alone,” He laughed lightly and refused to look away from her eyes. “And you’ve definitely seen somethin’ about yourself that ya needed ta in order ta set ya on the path ta heal, so I’m grateful for that, and that you’re sharin’ it with me. You’re realizin’ that ya gotta be the hero in your own story, but just know I’ll always be there as the Robin ta your Batman if ya need it. Savin’ yourself doesn’t mean ya gotta do it all alone, it just means ya gotta take the lead, yeah?”

“Speaking of taking the lead!” Poppy abruptly changed the tone of voice, pulling Decky ever so closer, “You do know Rye’s back in town, right? When you going to talk to him?” Her beautiful green eyes narrowed, expectantly waiting for Decky to do the right thing.

Now, Mordechai averted his eyes for the first time since their conversation started, gently removing his hands from her suddenly vice-like grip, a nervous chuckle finding its way past his lips as he backed up. “I didn’t know he ever left?” he tried, his voice straining for casual. “He probably needs time ta settle back in then.”

“I think he had to take care of his Savta if I remember correctly. I could be wrong since I haven’t seen him in awhile but I’ve kept up with his snap,” Poppy answered, watching his behavior carefully for a moment or two. Sighing to herself, she grabbed the pillows off the storage bench and finished making the bed. “I’m not going to force you to do anything, you’re a grown ass man but you know better than anyone that Rye is blaming himself and beating himself up more than Legs does to you on a daily. That kid’s anxiety is worse than mine and that’s saying something. I just…” she patted the pillows down and then dropped on the nicely made bed, laying on her stomach. “... don’t want you to have any more regrets.” She rolled on her back and fixed her gaze on the ceiling.

“It wasn’t his fault,” Mordechai stated firmly. It was mine. “I’m the one that sat Danny down with him and walked away, I’m the one that told him to look after Danny. I’m the one…I’m the one Charlie was focused on until Danny tried ta run ta me. I don’t wanna do that to him, Pops, I don’t wanna make him relieve that shit again just so I can get some peace’a mind. I’ll talk ta him if we run into each other but I can’t…I can’t barge in on his life like I used ta, I don’t deserve it anymore.”

He finally looked back over to her to see her staring at the ceiling. None of what he said was said with an air of regret, or even defense, he just felt that as the person that caused the most pain in the situation it would be wrong to try and fix things on his schedule, Rye deserved the chance to come to him in his own time, when he was ready to see the face of the man that shared his trauma but left everything, everyone, behind. “When I heard his voice yesterday at Scott Street, it just made me realize I’d be scratching at a wound that never healed in the first place. If he wants ta talk, fine, but I don’t have a right ta demand his time.”

“Time dulls all the emotion driven moments and thoughts that we had back then. We forget just how much seemed out of our hands, how big and cold the world felt. Remember, when you’re looking at things you did in the past, you’re judging a kid that was trying to figure out life. Mordechai Boaz. Today.” Penelope reiterated his own words back at him. She didn’t get them verbatim but she got most of it. Shifting her body to face him, resting her cheek in the palm of her hand, she motioned with her other hand for him to join her. It was too early for them to go in the kitchen. No one else was up. They probably should wait until they hear movement outside before raiding Adora’s fridge. “You do you. Like I said, you’re your own man. I’m just telling you my perspective, don’t assume how he feels. Don’t assume you know what he wants. You don’t. Not until you talk to him. Now come here, I need an arm pillow.”

Mordechai gave out a heavy sigh, properly chastised in the way only Poppy knew how to do. Quoting his own advice from a mere few minutes ago was kind of dirty play, but the fact that it fit so well with this situation as well had him biting his tongue any further on the matter. She was right, he didn’t know how Rye felt about him, or about anything from the last day they truly saw each other until now. The moment he was faced with confronting another part of his past he went right back to assuming. And everyone knows what they say about that.

Trudging over to the bed and collapsing beside Poppy, he rolled onto his back and threw his arm underneath her head when she raised it. A few moments passed in comfortable silence before, vulnerably, he asked, “Really think he won’t hate me? That we can be chill again?”

“I wouldn't have brought it up if I didn’t,” Penelope answered without any hesitation. Snuggling close to her friend, she glanced up at him once more and kissed his cheek, “I think the one that’s not ready is you. Not him.”

“Yeah,” Mordechai sighed, squeezing her close to him as he absorbed her honest words. “I guess you’re right. Thanks for always sayin’ the shit I need ta hear even when I don’t know it, Angel,” He rested his cheek on her head and took a deep breath. “Y’always know how ta keep me from drownin’ in my own thoughts.”

'Same.' Penelope thought to herself.

Like that day by the lake, they were both keeping each other afloat. Sure, they were struggling to break the surface but they did have their head above water and that’s all that mattered.

Neither would die drowning.

Not as long as they had each other.

Timestamp: Flashback, March 2018, After The Love We Deserve
FT: Niles Sinclair, Penelope James, & Gavriel Shomer
Small FT: Natalia Belmonte @Venus


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____________________________________________________________________

Almost four months now since his attempt and he was finally consistently back at school. Within the first week of his return in early February he was rewarded with a broken right arm because he couldn’t shut his mouth when it came to a couple of asswipes talking about David the Diddler. He snarkily dissed them, bruising their egos, and because he was outnumbered, he got the life squeezed out of him. If it wasn’t for his ex best friend’s goth sister, an unnecessarily hot math teacher, coming into the boy’s bathroom, who knows what else could’ve happened to him. His father was pissed, but his father was always pissed at him. Nothing new there.

Now it was March 15th and he was still wearing an itchy, annoying fucking arm cast. He was pretty sure it was Natalia’s niece’s birthday. Sofia. How old was she? Twelve? Eh, it didn’t matter even if he remembered it or not. Not like he could talk to his ex best friend’s family anyway. She hated him. He broke her heart. And honestly? He deserved it. He deserved her cutting ties with him, acting like they were complete strangers. He deserved being hated. In his head he was alone, and she proved that he was better off on his own, a lone wolf, because without him, she was always meant to shine. Without him, she was happy. Something he never would be.

Closing his locker and putting on his headphones with one hand, feeling eyes on him like he was some kind of freak, Niles blasted Time is Running Out by Muse. An arm cast was the most telling thing when it came to someone’s social circle and as of now, Niles only had five signatures and most were people he considered family. Rye, his sisters, his aunty figure (Wednesday Drake-Davies), and Lexie Davies. Something like this should embarrass him but honestly? He could care less what people thought about him. The fact that he had names meant something, right?

Due to the fact that he walked with a dark cloud above his head all the time, with apathy in his eyes and always having something jackassey to say, it was clear that Niles wasn’t looking for friends. Rarely did people try to talk to him and he was going to make sure they had more of a reason not to. He hated people. Though, he hated himself more. No matter what he tried to do, he was married to his doubts, unable to fit the Edenridge mold. He was the Doctor’s son. The legacy of the Sinclair name and fortune. An absolute terror, fuck up, and an ungrateful little shit that took all his resources for granted. Niles Sinclair was rotten to the core and didn’t deserve to be born a Sinclair. He should’ve died instead of his mother. At least no one would miss him.

Throwing his hoodie on over his headphones with his free hand, Niles ambled in the center of the hall, where students deliberately avoided him like the plague. In the distance he caught sight of Natalia without her girlfriends for once-- a bunch of volleyball girls. Hooking his thumb in his pant’s pocket, he let the music drown out his surroundings, in survival mode: cold and indifferent.

When Niles ended his friends with benefits relationship with Natalia after his suicide attempt things got fucked and it was entirely his fault. He did it to protect her and knew the best way to go about it was telling her he could never fall in love with someone like her. In reality, he knew she was too good for him. Time and time again he brought her down. A heavy burden more so than the crown bestowed to her from Miss Supreme, or whatever the fuck it was, Reagan Ramsey.

He had felt empty for a while now and nothing she said or did could fill his soul with a sense of purpose. He hated making her cry. He always made her cry. After his last attempt, he solidified his belief that this world around him was nothing but noise. While everyone else were paper dolls, cut out perfectly to portray a role in this corrupted society, he was a ghost. Running through time and space as waste, he saw all his peers getting lost in the best of their years. While they had a spark, their smiles full of joy, he was reminded of the fact that he stood alone every time he felt the stinging affliction from his raw cuts. His thighs rubbing against his tight jeans.

When he finally strode past his ex best friend, he did take an instant to glance at her. Emotionless was the ice on a fresh wound. The thread that kept them together completely severed. As much as he wanted it to hurt, he couldn’t feel the pain. All he could feel was his inability to connect with someone he once loved so dearly; bond in a way they had done many times before. And yet time still froze around them, the room faded where it was only him and her. Only them. He hated seeing her happy.

Unbeknownst to the internal turmoil of her former best friend, Natalia continued to pack some of belongings from her locker and into her backpack, listening to Billie Eilish singing about how she was the ‘bad guy’ through her airpods. Her schedule after school was pretty packed these days-- and today wasn’t the exception, so she needed to ensure everything was in order before calling it a day. The familiar sensation of a pair of eyes on her back sent a shiver down her spine, and she turned around just in time to lock stares with Niles Sinclair himself.

A look of disdain quickly fell upon the Belmonte girl’s features. After their breakup before midterms at the end of the previous year, Natalia hadn’t so much as glanced at Niles. Her newfound popularity didn’t erase the heartbreak that she’d suffered at his hand, so she tried to avoid him like the plague since his return to school earlier the month before to better forget about things. Her cold gaze moved from his impassive face to the dark bags under his eyes, his slouched posture, the cast on his arm, and she felt herself unwillingly reacting to the alarming sight.

A flicker of something flashed across her face: remnants of the close bond they had once shared manifesting themselves in the shape of worry. Niles clearly wasn’t doing okay. His whole demeanor was begging to be paid attention to. And Tal wanted to-- God, she desperately wanted to check in on his well-being. But what was the point? He didn’t need her. That much was obvious. She had been with him through thick and thin, and all it had earned her back was to be pushed away and replaced with some annoying, flamboyant stranger who'd forcefully inserted himself in their lives and fed Niles bad advice.

Still, against her better judgment, the girl opened her mouth to say something to him when she heard her name being called out across the hall. By the time she had replied to the caller and turned back to Niles, the young man was already stalking away.



Sitting on the stairs of the apartment complex that the Shomer family resided in, having texted his dad a wellness update and that he was indeed not going to be alone for too long, Niles held in his good hand a book that his English partner, and basically cousin (not by blood, but that’s beside the point), Dallas picked out. He had read this book a thousand times but Dal didn’t need to know that. The book they were reading was the one and only Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Not many people knew Niles was smart, loved to read, and could do most of his work in his sleep. He didn’t do well in school because he didn’t care for it, not because he couldn’t understand it. It all felt like a waste of time and he knew every time a teacher assigned something that he was better than this. Better than the work they gave him. Better than any lesson plan they prepared. Better than school. He hated school. Then again, Niles hated most things. Mr. Beau’s class was his exception because that old man was one of the few people that challenged him and forced him to be humble instead of arrogant.

With his headphones still on, lo-fi gently playing in his ear, not too loud so he could hear if Rye was coming up the stairs, Niles traced the growth of Phillip Pirrip, or Pip, going from a boy with shallow dreams to a man with a code and so much depth. Occasionally, he would read a line out loud before struggling to turn to the next page. Having one hand sucked. No matter, he was determined to finish this book tonight because he promised Dal they’d work on it tomorrow. “In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.”

“Charles Dickens. Great Expectations.”

With the sudden voice of someone Niles wasn’t used to hearing he glanced up from his book to see Officer James’ daughter with his Jewish best friend. Penelope. Poppy. What was she doing with Rye? Oh, wait. Was that his book partner? Should he have announced he was coming home? Placing the book on his lap, he pulled down his headphones, the struggle was real with one hand, and clumsily asked, “Shit, fuck. How long have you guys been there?”

Rye was staring at his friend, honestly not at all surprised to see him waiting for either him or his ma to return home. It's been more common since Niles got out of the hospital, but the Shomers had always had an open door policy with the Sinclairs. In fact they were the first to be given such an offer, quickly followed by the Phillips family and the Belmontes, and a year ago was extended to the Boaz brothers as well. It was in their hearts to be caring, healing. It was in their hearts to want to fix people's pains, and his ma always said that that was why it hurt so much when they befriended the broken ones. She also said it was why they were drawn to them. He took some time to glance at the girl by his side and couldn't help but mentally scold himself over picking up another.

"Not too long buddy, we just got back from the library," Rye extended his hand out to his friend in or to help him up from the step, bracing one foot against the step in order to keep his smaller body anchored as Niles steadily rose to his feet. "You know Poppy James, right?"

Niles gave a ‘really?’ look at Rye. The James family were pillars in the community just as much the Sinclairs were. Officer James simply chose to stay on the Southside instead of moving up north past Grove Street. Rather than say something snarky, Niles nodded, “Yeah, I know her. We have a couple classes together.” And since they were the same year, they grew up together, going to the only elementary and middle school in the area. The only thing that kept them apart was she was surrounded by a handful of friends and he only had Natalia. It wasn’t like Niles could entertain a friendship with her. Natalia barely could handle his friendship with Rye. “Good to see you outside of class, Penelope.”

“You as well, Niles,” Poppy serenely smiled before waiting to be let in.

“Uh, I guess we should go inside,” Niles grabbed the book from under his cast arm and turned on his heel. While he didn’t expect Rye to bring home a guest, he didn’t mind. Poppy was a sweetheart and he doubted she’d overwhelm him like some other kids did. “So… good times in the library?” He asked to the air, not caring who answered first.

“Yeah,” Rye answered both to the recommendation of moving inside and Niles’ open question. Sure he felt a little stupid after Niles gave him that look, but he knew that the other boy had a habit of forgetting that Rye wasn’t from here. Growing up Rye was in school with almost six hundred kids in his grade alone, he still wasn’t used to the tight-knit communities where everyone at the very least knew about everyone else. And besides, it’s not like he’s ever seen them hanging out. He didn’t need Niles to know about the events at the library, or that he was still a bit keyed up from them. Taking out his keys he opened the door to his and his ma’s apartment and tossed them into the basket by the door, taking the chance while he had his back to both of them to rub tiredly at his eyes. “C’mon in guys. Poppy, make yourself at home.”

Niles had never needed that said to him since the first and only time it had been offered, so Rye knew he would see it for what it was and not take offense that he wasn’t included. Closing the door behind the two, Rye made his way to the kitchen, switching the lights on as he went. He dumped the cold remnants of his drink out of the thermos and rinsed it out, putting it on the drying rack before washing and drying his hands. As he returned to his two guests, the social middleman took his headphones out of his ears and nodded towards the couch.

“We were gonna watch Perks of Being a Wallflower,” He offered to Niles. “It’s not exactly the happiest and it’s loaded with triggers, so we can watch it some other time. I mean, if that’s okay with you too, Poppy.”

“If that’s what you want,” Penelope beamed as she took off her shoes, placed her backpack in the coat closet, and shuffled to the sofa. She didn’t want to impose if either Rye or Niles weren't in the mood for it. She was curious, but she could wait. She could always wait.

“Wait, I don’t mind sad movies. Like are they bad triggers?” Niles blankly stared at his friend as he made his way to the kitchen after Rye had left it. “I mean we also got time, it isn’t like we have to start the movie now. I’m chill regardless.” While Sinclair was usually at the Shomers, his sisters were usually with a babysitter. Eight out of ten times it was Dallas. She liked doing that shit. He did not. Already making himself at home, he offered, “Want something to drink? To snack on? Could fix up some popcorn.”

“I’ll take a water please,” Penelope observed the boys around her, both sons of doctors. Niles was a lot friendlier than she expected, seeing how he was usually always angry or intimidatingly quiet at school. This was… different for her and out of her usual routine; not a bad different. Actually, it was quite nice. Just different. Made her feel strange. Not often did she hangout with people outside of her usual quartet. “And thank you.”

“Oh shit I forgot, I gotta’ do this with one hand…” For a second, Niles had almost forgotten about his broken arm. The itching had stopped and he was distracted with the people that now kept him company. “Gavriel, come hither.”

“At your command, my liege,” Rye played along, following the taller boy into the kitchen and moving around it like a whirlwind, tearing open the plastic before tossing the popcorn bag into the microwave but leaving the door closing and button pressing to Niles. Without breaking stride on his way back from the cup cabinet, three glasses in his arms, Rye ducked under Niles’ outstretched arm and filled the cups from the water filter attached to the tap, setting them down on the counter beside him one by one.

“As for Perks,” He mentioned, returning them back to their original topic as though they had never left it. The popcorn began to pop behind his head as he turned around leaning against the sink and stared up at Nile’s with his arms crossed. “I definitely wouldn’t want Autie and Carebear watching it without any supervision. The actual list of triggers is longer than my arm but up there is rape, childhood sexual assault, suicide, and suicidal ideation. The movie is a bit more subtle about it than the book is.”

“Gotcha,” Niles responded, as he opened the microwave, grabbed the popcorn bag, opened it with one hand and his teeth, and began pouring it into a bowl Rye had set up.

Honesty always worked best for Niles. He, like most people, hated it when you withheld information in some misguided attempt to protect him. Things always went worse when you weren’t up front with him, especially now when some people thought they should be walking on eggshells. He kept his eyes on Niles’ face and lips for his response as he called out to poppy over on the couch, “You want any ice?”

“Yes please,” Poppy politely responded as she observed the two boys from afar. She felt like she was peering into the private lives of two strangers and it was fascinating to her. Both Niles and Rye had this organic chemistry about them. All they did was move around the kitchen and both were on the same wavelength knowing when to move an arm, or grab something for the other. It was as if Niles knew Rye all his life, even though Poppy was pretty sure Rye hadn’t lived in Edenridge for that long. Couple years? She wasn’t sure, but she knew Rye wasn’t native.

“I’ll be fine,” Niles assured, tossing the popcorn bag away. “If I ain’t feeling it, I’ll let you know, how’s that sound?” Grabbing the bowl, wrapping his good arm (the left one) around it, Niles gave a half-smile at his friend before walking away to entertain their guest, “So Pops, I know this is a bit out of the blue,” he gestured for her to grab the bowl, which she did graciously, and continued, “And we’re not really close, and if you don’t want to talk about it just tell me to shut up —” Wow, he really was rambling. There was no sign of her checking out mentally so he probably should get to the point. Taking a seat, he cleared his throat and asked, “—Are you doing okay? I know your sister’s anniversary wasn’t too long ago. And if you want someone to talk to, I’m one hell of a good listener.”

With the popcorn bowl resting on her lap, Penelope was put in a state of shock when Niles brought up Max. He remembered? Someone that had nothing to do with her remembered her sister? There was a brief moment of silence as she tried to gather her thoughts and find the right words to say, to show how appreciative she was for his concern. He didn’t use any generic phrases either, which made this even more shocking for her. Everything he said to her came straight from the heart and she felt that. His concern and his kind heart. “That’s… really sweet of you, Niles. To worry about me. I—” she placed the bowl on the coffee table before shifting her body toward him on the couch and coyly admitted, “I’m trying to be okay, just, um, taking it day by day, y’know?”

“Yeah, I get that. I’ll tell you right here, right now. It doesn’t get easier. You’ll learn to live with the pain, but it’ll always be there. It fucking sucks. Sometimes you just get so numb, and could go weeks without feeling anything. Then suddenly it hits you like a fucking truck. You’re suffocating, drowning, trying to gasp for air because how the hell are you supposed to live to see tomorrow knowing that person isn’t there?” He ran his good hand through his curls, frustrated at the lack of resources for people struggling with mental health issues. Really, there was only his therapist, Shannon Ramsey. She was only one person and could barely keep up with the unfortunate events of this town. Still, he was open to disclose his inner turmoil to his peer, who he realized was a sweet pea. Why didn’t he get to know her sooner?

Ah, that’s right. Natalia.

“Just know, you’re not alone okay? Lean on your support system when you really need it. And something that helps me, which might help you, is thinking of how loved they are. And maybe, if there is an afterlife, they’re up in the sky, looking down at us, watching over us, and dancing. Dancing in the sky… happy. Far happier than they ever were down here.”

Niles’ words shook Poppy to her core. She was so desperate for a companion that understood her, really understood, and coincidentally, she found him in her English partner’s apartment. Her lips quivered and subtly, her hearts trembled. She never felt this way until Maxine died. A feeling of loss so intense that she thought she could actually die. Her chest always felt so tight, and like he said, it felt like she was gasping for air. Trying to breathe. It wasn’t like Maxine moved to the town over, or was traveling the world, where Max went Poppy couldn’t follow and that feeling, the feeling of being left behind killed her.

This boy, with curly hair, tenderness in his eyes, and a small, awkward smile gave her something without trying and without expecting something in return. He gave her a shoulder to lean on, all because he knew how it felt to lose someone so important that a life without them was terrible. The feelings washed over her so fast that she couldn’t help herself. Abruptly, she pulled Niles into a hug, burying her face in his chest. Niles wasn’t put off by this. Instead he held her gently with his good arm, touching the back of her head with his hand. His cast did force distance between them, but he was still able to bring her close and comfort her. As they shared an embrace, he caught a glimpse of Rye watching this scene unfold with a sad but proud smile and watery eyes, having already placed their waters on the coffee table and saved the popcorn bowl from falling off of Poppy’s lap. He did well, it seemed.

After a leisure moment, she inched away but kept her hold on him as she glanced up to see his face, “I’m sorry… this was… probably sudden, huh?”

“Don’t apologize, you needed it,” he whispered, caught in her pretty green eyes. While Natalia’s eyes were full of sparkle, like the stars in the night sky, this girl… her eyes were a hidden forest. Although there was an uncontainable wildness to her soul, he could see streaks of golden hour shifting through the sage branches of the tall trees. He found himself looking deep into nature, getting a clear understanding of the universe all because her spirit reminded him of the woods. Still and full of power. God, they were gorgeous.

Penelope brightly twinkled, grinning from ear to ear, when he told her it was okay. Her smile was blinding because for sad people like him and her, when they smiled it stood out. It was a sight to see. When they smiled, it made you want to laugh a little louder and live a little better. Poppy James was beautiful. He didn’t know if she knew that but she was. Releasing her finally, he asked, “You good?”

“Yeah! Actually, I feel so much better,” Poppy brought her attention from Niles to Rye before apologizing again, “Sorry Rye! I didn’t —”

“You really do apologize too much,” Niles interrupted, leaning back and looking to his friend to take the lead of whatever they were going to do for the rest of the night.

Rye had already cleaned up his face and gotten control over his features by the time Poppy’s attention had turned back to him. It took everything in him to not just continue standing there, beaming at his friend like an idiot because hey, that was a beautiful moment of empathy and emotional interaction with someone outside of Niles’ social circle and Gavriel was damn proud to see the taller boy take such an initiative. Penelope James was now of the very privileged few that got to see past Niles’ antisocial exterior. Rye sincerely hoped that the girl would respect and appreciate the gem she’d just been given just as Rye appreciates that Poppy felt comfortable enough around him to be this vulnerable.

From everything Decky has said, it’s been more than a rough year for Poppy. From everything Rye’s seen of the southside’s Street Angel so far, Decky has a really bad habit of understating things. When he’d walked into the library this evening the girl had looked like she was teetering on her last thread and just resigned to waiting for it to snap. He’d gotten distracted and let his mind wander during their conversation, and in turn he’d unintentionally hurt her even while knowing in the back of his head about the barebones of many of her problems. He could be a shoulder to cry on, he’s got strong ones perfect for bearing the weight of everyone’s worlds, but in the end the family member he lost didn’t die, he left. His father signed the papers and disappeared from Gavriel and Avigail’s lives like the last streak of dark sky before morning. Gavriel can’t relate to this type of pain, and much as it hurts that Niles can, or that Poppy is suffering it at all, he was glad that he was unintentionally the middleman for this meeting of kindred souls.

“Right, so we are definitely going to watch something short and funny first, I don’t care if it’s stand-up or Vine compilations but dear god do we need some laughs up in here, so,” Rye took charge pacing back and forth behind the coffee table like he was a drill sergeant. That bubble of comfort could only stay what it was if they didn’t linger on it, didn’t draw too much attention to the fact that it happened. Rye knew all about embarrassment and getting reminded you were crying into the shirt of a guy you never hang out with while over the house of a guy that screws around with one of your best friends would definitely be up there on the scale. He grabbed the remote and turned on their tv, and when he was satisfied with his choice he flopped backwards onto the couch, reaching over the back of it to grab the knitted blanket and throw it over all their laps. He leaned forward and grabbed one of the waters and the popcorn bowl off the table, handing both over to Poppy before getting his and Niles’ waters, handing the other boy his to put on the side stand next to the arm of the couch. “Perks is queued up to play next but for now we get to hear about the jukebox at the Salt and Pepper Diner. Feel free to grab the remote and add anything you want before the movie.”

It was almost funny, get Decky here and it would be the Baggy Eyed Bed Head club he’d been joking about with Poppy earlier.

“I’ve never watched, so this should be fun,” Poppy replied before taking a sip of her water and placing it back on the table to focus on the popcorn and the tv. “Oh and before I forget, before I leave can I sign your cast, Niles?”

“Yeah, of course,” The boy smiled into his cup, as he too took a sip and returned the glass to the table. “Feel free to use me as a pillow if you’re comfortable enough to do so. This guy over here does it all the time.”

Grinning at his offer, partly wishing Charlie, Decky, and Jade were here, Poppy smirked, “I’ll keep that in mind. It’s almost as if you’re flirting with me, Sinclair!” The comment caused Rye to choke on his water as he laughed, turning the amused noise into a cough as he tried to get ahold of himself.

“Uh,” Niles didn’t know how to respond to that. Her jokes caught him off guard. Was this what it felt like to have more friends outside of Natalia? People he didn’t know the patterns to, and had so much to learn from. Is this what it felt like to have someone outside of Rye? To open himself up to a stranger and try to navigate the social environment of his teenage dirtbag years? Niles felt incredibly warm and genuinely happy on the inside. Something he hadn’t felt in a long while.

“I’m teasing, I cuddle the shit out of my friends alllll the time. We love cuddle puddles in this house,” Poppy giggled.

“We do love that here,” Rye agreed, smiling at them both from his spot on the couch. Fortunately he hadn’t spilled any water on himself during his laughing fit so he had hunkered down against Poppy’s side with the blankets up to his shoulders and his feet tucked under himself. "And everyone needs some good cuddle time, it helps build trust!”

Cuddle time lasted for so long that the credits for the movie had long since ended, and Rye opened bleary eyes to a darkened room filled only with the sound of the other two’s steady breaths. The ringing was filtering back in as awareness returned to him and the boy rubbed tiredly at one eye, the other side of his face still smushed up against Poppy’s left arm. The girl herself was in the spot Rye typically inhabited under Niles left arm, head rested on the taller boy’s shoulder and chest while Niles’ head was cradled by the back of the couch. Slowly and gently so as not to jar the two who were probably getting their first good rest this year, Rye removed himself from the cuddle pile and placed his part of the blanket further up on Poppy’s shoulder.

Grabbing his headphones from the coffee table, Rye moved over to the recliner and sat back down before pulling out his phone and plugging his headphones in. Once he had the music quietly playing in his ears, he pulled up his messages and sent out a text.

To Deck Me Daddy:
Hey dude
I kno u were just over but can you come by again
Poppy passed out watching a movie
And bro
We gotta talk cuz damn she sad

Two minutes later, he had his reply.

From Deck Me Daddy:
Delivery nearby
C u in 10

Rye sighed and looked over at the two people asleep on his couch, under his care and hospitality, and hoped that his talk with Decky when he arrived would maybe bear fruit and Poppy’s eyes would gain some life back to them. Out of the four of them, if one could lose some of the bag under their eyes, he’d consider it a win. It was a bad habit of his, taking on projects without intending to, but how could you look at those green eyes so devoid of hope but full of potential life and not want to help? Poppy needed people, and he and Niles could be people if she wanted, but he was also going to make sure that those she already had were stepping up to the plate a bit more.

One more weight on his shoulders couldn’t hurt, especially with the outcomes adding it could yield.


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