Nickie let out a soft laugh at Hunter’s encouragement, blushing as he pecked her on the cheek. “Psht, it was nothing,” she said, flicking her wrist dismissively, trying to act as if she’d done some big, impressive feat by making a gutter ball.
Oh, God…that was so embarrassing.
She lowered her middle finger and shook her head, walking past her boyfriend to sit down at the table. She crossed her legs and propped an elbow up on the table, shifting slightly to try and get the most picturesque look. Like, she was with Hunter, the man of her dreams, and she was still, like, lowkey waiting for the cameras to pop out saying that she’d been “pranked, bro!”, so she tried to pose like she was in one of those teen movie posters or whatever. At least then, she’d look good for her close-up on the candid cam.
She pressed her thumb along the bottom of her lip, trying to make sure that her lipgloss was all in line. Like, most of it had come off when she had kissed Hunter and all of that, but it was still nice to make sure that what was left looked good. She prodded her hair, running her hand through it and pulling it over her shoulder.
She noticed Hunter looking back at her, and she looked over at him with a smile and a nod, as if she had been paying attention to whatever he said. “Go, Hunter!” she called.
He adjusted his position, and Nickie watched him closely, trying to take in his posture and the way that he shifted his body.
Back went his arm, and then forward went the ball.
There were several loud tumbling noises as six pins knocked down.
“Woo!” Nickie cheered. “Go, Hunter!”
The ball came around again, and he threw the ball once more. More pins went down.
“Woo!” she cheered again. She was impressed. Like, he knocked down that many?
But he didn’t seem to think the same.
“Damn, only six pins?” Hunter lamented. “This game’s rigged!”
“You did way better than me,” Nickie laughed encouragingly, standing up and walking over to her boyfriend. “Like, it didn’t take much, but also— like, six every time? Damn. You might as well be a professional.” She gave him an encouraging smile.
She looked down at her ball, which lay on the machine. She hefted it up, grimacing under the weight for a moment as she adjusted her hand on it, and then she smiled at Hunter. “You thought that that was bad?” She shook her head, and then gave a little laugh as she set her eyebrows. “Well, then get ready for my expert move: the Gutter Ball.”
• many gutter balls later •
“Ten points!” Nickie sighed as she sipped from her styrofoam cup. The sodas at Bowling Paradise all seemed to taste flat, as was evidenced by her small sampling adventure before she had settled on a drink.
The games had gone well. Sure, they had gone on a lot longer than she expected— and if she had known how long games lasted, then she probably wouldn’t’ve bought three games— but they had all gone well.
Well…gone well as in they were fun, which was what mattered, right? Like, the game itself wasn’t that fun because she only ever managed to get gutter balls— with the exception of last game, when she had finally scored ten points in total, but she had gotten to spend time with Hunter, and, really, that was all that mattered.
Plus, she had, like…discovered one talent that she didn’t have, which was…a…good…thing?
(She sucked at optimism.)
She tapped at the top of her drink with a sigh. “I mean, it’s more than I thought that I would make, but ten points…” She trailed off, then shook her head with a laugh. “Damn, and here i was hoping that I’d be some kind of…bowling prodigy, bound for the professional, uh, bowling league.”
She looked up at Hunter with a bright smile, and she stared at him for a moment before she spoke, just because she liked looking at him. “You, on the other hand? Oh-em-God, Hunter, you were amazing. I’ve never seen a hotter bowler,” she laughed, and then she realized what she’d said. “Whoops, Freudian slip. Er, I meant, better…and also hotter.”
Gen already knew the answer to her question before Mike had even opened his mouth. Of course he was doing it to keep her on her feet, he never failed to keep her entertained. Even then with the air between them still thick and tense with awkwardness from the day before, Genevieve found herself playing into his energy. Look, she liked him okay? No, not like-like, that would imply that Gen had feelings outside of the temporary lust and playfulness. That mistake had been made once before with Liv and she was bound not to make it again. Mike was a friend that kept her healthily entertained and clearly nothing more.
The inability to anticipate what Mike was going to bring to the table was indeed a beloved trait but this unexpected kindness? This openness? Hell, even the flirtiness? It was all new to Gen and, if she was being honest, it was a bit unsettling.
“Gotta keep you on your toes, babe. A bit of unpredictability never hurt anyone, huh? Keeping people on their toes— it’s what people in our line of work strive to do, huh? Keeps things interesting, you know. Someone of your caliber should really know something as simple as that.” Mike explained as he stood up from his chair. Gen’s back straightened as he reached out to close his journal, the muscles of her jaw flexing as her teeth ground together. “So, respectfully, I’ll keep you guessing, babe.”
Babe? Who the hell was he calling babe?
Gen opened her mouth to speak but shut it as Mike continued, prompting her to ‘ask him nicely’ about why he was being so open. A scoff fell from her glossed lips as she shook her head, turning her attention back to the open computer in front of her.
“When have I ever done anything nicely, Reid?” Gen halfheartedly chuckled as she began scrolling through the photos on the laptop, completely attempting to ignore the fact that Mike was approaching her. “I must’ve forgotten I’m the sweetest little peach on this side of Los Angeles. Thank you for reminding me, I’ll try to put the bitch on the backburner.”
Mike continued talking, throwing his stupid little self-deprecating jokes her way as he pulled out a chair beside her. Placing his journal down, Gen looked over her arm to the drawings and notes scribbled onto the page. Closing her eyes for a moment, Gen’s lower lip caught between her teeth as she made an attempt to think. No, Mike was not flustering her as he likely assumed he was, Genevieve was simply trying to plan her next moves. After all, Gen never makes a mistake twice and she sure as hell wasn’t about to let Michael fucking Reid be her first strike.
“Wouldn’t call what I’m doing being nice or even being professional, babe. I just…well, I like a challenge…” Gen’s eyes fluttered open as she looked over at Mike, their eyes meeting as Gen attempted to look through him. What was his angle? “…and I’d say that this is a challenge.”
Gen dropped her gaze back to the laptop’s illuminated keyboard, her manicured nails tapping the metal shell in a steady rhythm. The project was what they were there for, not whatever flirtatious game Mike was playing. Genevieve was a professional and she wasn’t going to let good studio time go to waste. Flipping back over to the design program, Gen pulled out the digital pad and began creating a colour palette.
“The greater the risk, the greater the reward,” Mike continued as Gen continued working away, though ignoring him was becoming increasingly difficult. “Or, as I like to put it, the greater the chase, the greater the…taste, huh?”
Slamming the laptop shut, Gen abruptly stood up from her seat to walk over to the rack of clothing that sat pristinely against the back wall. Whatever Mike was trying to do, it was getting on her damn nerves. They were here to work, not to fuck around and throw little innuendos to each other. In any other scenario Gen would have simply played along with Mike’s game, acting the role of the flustered girl to his advances. After all, giving her little improvisational act often ended very happily for Gen. But not while she was working, not while she was in a place that she was held to such a high standard.
“There’s nothing quite like drinking in success until you’re drunk, and it’s that whole getting drunk on success that makes me damn near giddy. So, yeah, put it as a date on your calendar. Mark it down. Do a photoset, here and now. Write it down that oh, shit, Mike Reid’s actually fucking excited for something— because Mike Reid’s actually fucking excited for something.”
Gen finally turned around, glaring down at Mike as her arms crossed tightly over her chest. His cocky little smirk was back, though Gen shouldn’t have expected anything less. She’d be lying if his stupid attempts at getting laid weren’t getting to her, the rather schoolboy approach was quite funny to Gen. But nothing was going to happen, not while they were still in the studio.
“You’re surprised about that? You know that I’m just full of surprises. You should’ve expected the unexpected with me.” Mike talked extravagantly, his monologue filled with winks and flamboyant hand motions. Mike had always been quite the showman. “What, did you think I was turning over some kind of new leaf? What kind of ship do you think I’m running here? You think I could drop my asshole façade? Pfft. Never in a million years.” Mike leaned backwards slightly, folding his hands behind his head as he flashed a smirk Gen’s way. “It’s damn near the only thing that makes me appealing, right?”
With a short sigh, Gen reached behind her and flicked on the lights to the studio to full brightness. Walking over to where she had been sitting, she picked up her things and began shoving them back into her bag. Taking Mike’s notebook, she carefully closed it and smacked it to his chest with a shooting glare.
“Get your shit together, we’re leaving.” Gen spat suddenly, yanking the zipper to her bag closed with a harsh tug.
No words were exchanged between the two as Gen carefully stored away the clothing rack in a shallow closet and turned off the equipment. She had barely even looked at Mike as she brushed past him and out the door, her index finger’s knuckle jamming into the elevator button. Gen only purposefully looked for Mike to make sure he was following her as she stepped into the elevator, her hands clutching the strap of her bag with an iron grip. Once in the parking garage, Gen flashed her ID to the doorman once again and made her way over to her car.
“Get in.” Gen spoke plainly, unlocking the car doors.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, Gen twisted the key in the ignition and pulled the belt across her abdomen. She hadn’t even bothered waiting for Mike to put his seatbelt on before she was gunning it out of the garage with a sudden lurch. Pulling out onto the freeway, Gen revved the engine and picked up the speed as she raced past a few cars without much concern. The music that had filled the car earlier was gone, replaced by the quiet purr of the motor and a deafening silence. A few minutes into some rather reckless driving, Gen slowed to match the speed of the traffic and let out a soft growl.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Gen questioned, not expecting an answer of any sort. “Stop with the fucking games, Mike. I brought you there to work, not to play around. What? We screw once and suddenly I’m no longer a professional, someone to respect? Seriously?”
Pulling onto the exit ramp towards the beach, Gen fell silent again. Her eyes scanned the road for somewhere to pull off as her nails scraped the backside of the leather steering wheel. Spotting an empty spot near the edge of the beach, secluded by bushes and signs, Gen whipped into the spot and turned the engine off. Undoing her seatbelt, Gen swivelled in her seat to face Mike as she jabbed a finger into his chest.
“Let me try to get this through your thick fucking skull one more time, shall I? Last night was a fucking mistake, you were a mistake. I don’t make the same mistake twice so whatever that was back there, get it out of your head. I wanted to help you out by getting you access to some of the best design equipment in Los Angeles and you can’t even keep it in your pants? Pathetic.” Gen ranted, dropping her hand from his chest to rest on the centre console.
“Maybe your words would’ve pissed me off a whole lot more if they didn’t say everything you didn’t have the balls to. Rant and rave as much as you want about how I was a horrible lay and that I was just someone to stick your dick in. Talk about how you’re a whore that only fucks people because he’s bored but you forget that I know you, Michael. I know you well enough to know that you don’t go back for seconds no matter how good they were, that you never wade in the same waters twice.” Gen reached across and undid Mike’s seatbelt, her middle fingers hooking into the belt loops of Mike’s pants as she pulled him in, carefully lifting herself over so that she was sitting on his lap as her fingers intertwined with his hair. “No, you don’t do that shit no matter how desperate you are. Yet here you are, underneath me yet again. And don’t bother playing that ‘oh that’s not what I wanted’ angle. We’ve known each other for what, two years now? You’ve never pulled that shit with me. So I must’ve been pretty damn good if you’re coming back yet again.”
Gen’s lips found his as she pulled him in by his neck, breathing in his scent between hungry kisses. After a few minutes, Gen pulled away so that she could tug at the buttons on Mike’s shirt, a smirk playing on her lips.
“I don’t make the same mistake twice, Mike. This time I know exactly what I’m doing. No alcohol, no anger, no stupidity. Just whatever this is.” Gen laughed, brushing her hands through Mike’s hair. “Would you look at that? Your little playboy ‘no going back’ attitude means nothing when it comes to someone of quality. Feel free to stop me at any time if I’m wrong in thinking that you were flirting with me back in the studio but, from the looks of things, I’m fucking spot on.”
Gen reached down and tilted back the seat, her lips finding Mike’s once again as she silently prayed that her tinted windows and the dense shrubbery lining the clearing was enough to hide them from view.
Felix winced at Slater’s words. No, no, no, bud…seriously. Like he’d said, Felix wasn’t good at dealin’ with difficult situations, but one thing that you for sure didn’t do was criticize a guy’s choice in lemonade.
“Powdered lemonade has its rightful place in the usual datin’, uh…at…mos…phere,” Felix said, long pauses between his words as his eyes looked from Kian’s face to Slater’s for some sign that his words did anything aside from add to the ambience of the park, his words growin’ quieter as he went on. Their faces said that, yeah, no, no help, Felix, and Felix’s plastered-on, ever-present grin faded for a second as he brought his free hand into a fist and pressed it to his lips to clear his throat.
An awkward silence settled between the two, and Felix felt himself tense up. He shuddered uneasily. There wasn’t nothin’ that he hated worse than fuckin’ silences. They made him antsy.
Damien finally broke the silence. “There’s a…rave or some shit I’m going to…,” Damien said as Felix let out a thankful breath. “If…either of you wanted to come…”
Felix gave a grin and a slight shake of his head, but Kian answered before he could speak up. “Don’t sound so excited to invite us.” Kian moved out from beneath Felix’s arm, and Felix put his hand into the pocket of his jeans. “But sure. It’s that girl Josie’s party, right? I dunno how you got your lame ass invited, but if the invitation is extended to us, who am I to say no?”
“Uh, yeah, I’m goin’ to just have to pass on that today,” Felix said, stoppin’ and givin’ a wave of his hand. He shook his head. “I, uh…well, ya see…” As much as he would like to hang out with his cl-high-entele… “I just came home last week, and I’m still not moved in. Not to mention, Mikaela— my roommate— hardly even knows me.” He chuckled softly. “I have to go right that wrong, too.” He waved his hand dismissively. “So y’all’ll have to party without me.”
He turned around, feelin’ his pocket to make sure that he had his phone. (Better safe than sorry. He wasn’t the best at keepin’ up with himself.) When he discovered that it was right in place, he glanced back at Kian and Slater. “Have enough fun for me, though, ya hear?” he kidded lightly, and then he gave a wave. “Catch y’all later, buds. See y’all around.”
With that, he began to walk away, takin’ his phone from his pocket and findin’ himself a ride home. Nifty little gadget, right?
• • • • •
Felix wasn’t used to havin’ to knock on his own front door. Gettin’ used to bein’ alone’s what came from bein’ put up in fancy accommodations by the high dollar filmmakers— and, yeah, bein’ an only child of a rich, kind of famous father, ya know. But now? Well, he didn’t want to be rude and just walk in—
‘Cuz he had a roommate, ya know?
Ainsley was the last name. The first name still kinda slipped away from him a lot. Names had the tendency to do that, ya know. Ya didn’t hold on to them, and they just slipped right away when you weren’t lookin’. Of course, askin’ for a second time always made things awkward, so he played like he remembered the name until he actually got it into his head—
Her older brother had filmed with them on that big film, if ya hadn’t heard, even though it was everywhere, so Felix was entrusted with being the “big brother away from brother” or whatever. (That pun was cleverer in his head.) Kiran was a nice bud, and he was glad that he had his trust to watch over his sister.
Only that Felix didn’t know how to do big brother things.
And he also forgot the girl’s name ag—
He knocked once more, just to give a second warnin’, though he had already unlocked the door, and then he called, “I’m comin’ in!”
Pullin’ the keys from the lock, Felix opened the door and stepped inside, breathin’ in the air of the condo that he was yet to grow used to again. “Ah, home sweet home,” he sighed, kickin’ off his shoes as was his habit.
He heard a noise comin’ from the living room, and he felt a little drum of nervousness in his veins as his mind raced for a moment—
Before he realized, oh, right, it’s not a burglar— it’s my roommate.
Easy to forget, y’know.
Felix’s grin came onto his face as he made his way to the living room, and he poked his head in the doorway to see Mikaela on the couch. With a soft chuckle, he stepped into the room, his socked feet paddin’ on the floor. “Well, howdy-do, Ms. Ainsley?” He squinted at the television. “You watchin’ anythin’ interestin’?”
somethin’ casual (you could call if business casual. get it? ‘cuz— ...i’ll see myself out)
He didn’t expect much. He never expected much from Jace. He didn’t mean anything by it, but god damn was it frustrating. People liked to make Jace out to be so different. Strange. Weird. But the truth was, he wasn’t that different. He just went about things in a completely different way. And, usually, Landon was here for it. He was patient. He let Jace process things in his own way and his own time, but this felt...different and selfish.
He just wanted his friend back. His best friend. And getting this awkwardness out of the way was the only way to do it. So...suck it up, Jace, cause he wasn’t leaving until it was resolved one way or the other. They’d been friends too long to let something like this get in the way. He took a deep breath as he watched Jace process.
It looked almost painful. And he felt kind of bad, but Jace needed to learn how to handle these types of situations if he was ever going to make it in the industry. He wasn’t going to be able to mutter and avoid all situations that didn’t involve him playing and/or listening to music. He couldn’t call his mommy in to save him when things got hard.
He had to do it himself. He had to face rejection. Cause that’s what Landon did, right? He rejected him. But it wasn’t like that...he’d just gotten out of a relationship...pffft...if you can even call it that and it was bad timing. And it was Jace.
To most,Jace equated to something disgusting or repugnant. To Landon, it meant something else. He was one of the few people that looked past his arrogance and pride and accepted him for who he was despite those facts. He’d slipped up before and it cost him. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.
"I don't... I-I don't... no, n-no..."
He sighed heavily, trying to cover up his annoyance at how long it was taking for Jace to respond. Hadn’t he learned anything from observing Landon or that loser Dorian in social situations? Or was he oblivious to social interaction at this point and was only thinking about how he can escape.
He was pretty sure it was the latter.
"W-w-won... won... wonderful we-weather we... we are... uh... we're... having..."
Weather? He scooted up more on the edge of the bed and rested his arms on his knees. “Seriously? We aren’t gonna talk about it? I don’t get an explanation for being ignored for months?” He said trying to keep his cool, but it hurt. “Look...I’m sorry, alright? I...I don’t know what else I can say, but freezing me out isn’t fair.”
Okay, so he was being harsh, but what other options did he have?
No Felix for the rave, but Slater couldn't say that he was particularly surprised. Raves didn't really seem up Felix's fucking alley or whatever. Felix seemed more like the kind of fuck that got off on a classy garden party or some shit. You know, the kind with the fancy ass suits where you sat around and sipped out of tea cups with pinkie up and kind of chuckled over the stock markets or some shit.
One Slater driving himself and Kian to the fucking rave later, and they were on their way towards the thing when Kian said some shit about needing to get a drink. Slater rolled his eyes, but came to a hovering stop near the entrance while he waited for Kian. Sure, he could've headed in and started the party right -- which was without the baggage of one shitty friend -- but what could he say? That would be fucking rude, and Slater was a good person.
While he waited for Kian's dumb ass to come back, Slater rummaged around in his pocket to pull out a slightly smashed cigarette box and a lighter. He placed a cigarette between his lips, letting it dangle lazily as he slid the cigarette box back into his pocket before lighting up the cigarette.
For a while, Slater just stood there with his eyes closed, cigarette between his lips. He breathed in the poisonous smoke, holding it in his lungs until he couldn't breathe, and then he'd exhale slowly with the smoke billowing out in front of him.
With each breath, he thought about those dumb fucking programs they'd have to try and convince kids not to take up smoking. The ones that would show tar and shit and say "this is what's in your lungs, this'll kill you" and Slater remembered feeling the same shock value that all of his peers felt. When he was little, he'd said that he'd never start smoking, or drinking, or any of the other shit that he seemed to get himself mixed up in. Little Damien Slater -- believe it or not -- had been bright-eyed with hope for a good future and a want to make something decent of himself.
Or some dumb kid shit like that.
His eyes fluttered open and he stared down at the burning end of his cigarette with a dead look in his dark eyes. He tapped the end of the cigarette with his finger, knocking ash to the ground by his feet. For a long moment, Slater just stared down, and then he brought the cigarette back up to his lips and inhaled deeply. His eyes squeezed shut again and he swore he could almost feel the toxic air melting its way into his lungs.
When Damien was little, his mother used to complain to his dad about smoking -- asking him not to and shit. She'd say dumb fucking stuff like "you don't want to die" and the like. Damien's grandpa had died from lung cancer, presumably from sucking on cigarettes, or some shit like that, and he remembered her mentioning that all the time. His dad's response to her worry every time had been the exact same:
"I'm gonna die, anyway."
Damien hadn't understood that, but Slater got it now.
"So, are these party people actually gonna show up or is this all just a figment of your little imagination?"
Kian's voice pulled Slater out of his reverie. The solemn expression on his face evaporated and his lips curled up into an asshole-ish smirk. He snorted as he took one last drag from the cigarette and then dropped it to the sidewalk. He ground it into the cement with the front of his shoe while his hand pulled his phone from his pocket and switched over to that Twitter app shit.
"Fucking hilarious, Kian, fucking hilarious. But have I ever lied about this kind of shit? No." He started walking towards the rave while he pulled up Josie's profile so he'd have a face to go off of. "See, here's the plan," Slater tossed his free arm around Kian's shoulders but the height difference meant that, well, poor Kian was pulled down to Slater's tiny level. "We're gonna party with some hot bitch for her birthday and her friends, get fucked up, and then using my amazing charm, I'm gonna go home with her, and then no one else at this fucked up school can say I have no game ever again."
A wistful smile spread across Slater's face as he released his grip on Kian and headed into the rave. Wherever the fuck it is, which I am not describing, so poof, bam, ba dum bum, they were suddenly at the fucking thing.
As it turns out, however, trying to find someone you'd never met in a crowd of people that you didn't fucking know was more difficult than Slater had originally planned. Which meant a lot of looking from the profile picture on his phone to gazing around at people and, after several attempts of sliding up to hot brunettes and saying "Josie?", he eventually found the actual fucking Josie and her gang of misfits.
"Hey, happy birthday," Slater said with a grin before he remembered that, you know, it was rude to show up to a birthday party without a gift, so he patted his pockets until he found the little baggie that he'd purchased from Javi. He pulled it from his pocket, sending a silent, sad prayer because god fucking damn it, he'd just bought the shit, and he was about to give it up, but...
One look back at Josie, and he decided that being out this much shit was worth it if it increased his chances of hooking up.
"I got you something," he said and held the baggie out to her while his gaze shifted from her to the others with her.
That one dude who was way too fucking serious. Two girls he didn't recognize, but both girls were hot as fuck, so Slater wasn't complaining, and--
Was that Ronnie?
As in, Ronnie, the little red-headed simping bitch that had tried to get Slater to take her on a date and he'd said that he had to go to a birthday party and Ronnie couldn't come because the birthday girl was super into Slater, so Ronnie couldn't come because she'd make the birthday girl jealous or some shit?
What the fuck?
"Who invited the toddler?" Slater blurted out before he could really think.
She could perhaps count on... one hand the number of times that she'd made decisions, no matter how small. And being tasked with something like this which, like, yeah, was super small and inconsequential -- and in some deep part of her thoughts, Ash knew this -- but that felt so much bigger because like... it was their first date date, and it was their first like--
It was his birthday, so like, if she poorly picked, he'd remember this day with bad memories forever and it would just... She would be a bad girlfriend then, right?
Ash listened as he talked, tossing out random suggestions that she shot down in her head as quickly as he could suggest them. Walmart? Just no. Movies? Super popular date spot, so like, huge chance that they would run into someone they knew. Diner? Well... she just wasn't hungry, and she hated the smell of diners. The smell of food, anyway. It kind of made her sick to her stomach, so there went that suggestion, too.
She brought one of her legs up onto the seat and laid her cheek against her knee. Ash's teeth dug into her bottom lip as she looked down at her phone. For a brief moment, she held her hand out towards Trevor, before it clicked in her head that one, he was driving, and two, why would he hold her hand while he was... well, driving? So instead, she grabbed hold of the armrest and let her fingers tap against it.
"There's nowhere to go," she finally blurted out. Ash lifted her head, turning to look over at Trevor while she spoke. Her gaze studied his side profile, her lips twitching into a smile because, like, look, just glancing at him still made her smile. Shush, she knew it was stupid and cheesy, but it... it just did. "We can't, umm... because, you know..." she turned her face away from him again, her gaze turning back down to her phone.
Ash knew what she was trying to say, but she didn't know how to word it.
How did one say look I know that I didn't want to admit to anyone that I was dating you a week ago, but now I've kind of changed my mind?
Look, the last week of tiptoeing around hadn't been horrible, but the mixture of last night's horrible Halloween disaster of a party with now not being able to come up with an appropriate date spot because she was scared that someone might see them, it was... enough... to make her regret her decision. And, well, she remembered how hard it had been with Dorian and trying to keep that secret, and the times that it had just... sucked.
And how much she'd hurt him by keeping it secret.
"I'm sorry," she started, evidently forgetting their earlier conversation about how she should apologize less, "about ummm... you know, saying that I... didn't want to... tell anyone, because... yeah."
Now, Ash couldn't even fully remember what her reasoning had been, except that she decided it had simply been dumb and childish.
"You were right," Ash began again, picking her words carefully and slowly as she started to speak once again. "I... we shouldn't be secret." She shifted her head again so she could look at Trevor to gauge his reaction, her teeth biting into her bottom lip momentarily. "I mean, it was dumb of me to suggest, and I don't... want to keep it secret from everyone. Obviously I'm bad at that already since, like, I told Eli, and I just..."
She hesitated again, her lips slightly parted, her eyes studying his side profile.
"I want to be able to, like, walk around with you around our friends and like... hold your hand in public and I don't... I don't want to hide."
Ah, yes, her indecisiveness fell back on not just making decisions about where to go, but also decisions such as... this.
For a lack of better words, the three games had rolled down the lane like the balls they used.
And when it was said and done, Hunter had won most of them, which filled him up with an immediate guilt. His original intention was to pretend he sucked at the game so Nickie could be happy that she won. People often became filled with excitement and joy when they won something, but it became apparent that Nickie was so amazing as a person, her genuinity came through as she played off only scoring ten points throughout the collective three games with such an intoxicating laughter and multiple middle fingers to the monitor that had given several womp womp womps.
And Hunter didn’t know if it was possible, but he was becoming increasingly more in love with Nickie Abrams. In turn, he didn’t feel so bad for hiding his actual skills, though he doubted he was some pro that she was hyping him up as.
Hottest bowler? He’ll take that compliment with pride.
“Really babe?” Hunter flexed after her comment abotu him being the hottest bowler. “I’m also the most ripped too.” Another flex and then another. “But listen baby, you’re the hottest too!” Before she could argue, he continued, “I mean, nobody gutters balls as well as you do. Listen, if anyone ever makes a league where the goal is to gutter the most balls, you’ll take home all the trophies. Even the participation trophies, because you’d totally earn all of them!”
Hunter took a quick sip of his Dr. Pepper, the superior of the carbonated sodas right next to Wild Cherry Pepsi. And he looked at Nickie, admiring her beautiful full cheeks, those eyes that dazzled him every time he met them.
“Hm?” Mike asked, raising his eyebrows as he watched Gen shove her belongings into her bag. “Something the matter, babe? Cat got your tongue?”
She approached, and she picked up his notebook, smacking it on his chest. His hands instinctively went to grab the book. He met her eyes for a moment and caught her simmering glare. “Get your shit together, we’re leaving,” she spat.
Mike snickered and rolled his eyes. “Yes, ma’am,” he remarked kiddingly, chuckling softly. He pushed back from the table and gave his chair a good spin before he stood to go over to his backpack. An easy, confident slathered itself across his face as he slipped the notebook back down into his bag.
Damn, she was giving in already? But he was just getting started.
He slung his bag over his shoulder as the lights flicked off. With a soft chuckle, he made his way to the elevator. The air was tense, but he walked unbothered, his smirk tinging into a grin.
Her frustration was palpable as they went down the elevator. He couldn’t help but bask in it. Pride and heat built in his chest.
Fuck, it was hot. The excitement— or, fuck it, giddiness, whatever— from the project had lent itself to playfulness, which had lent itself to his cocky, flirtatious teasing, which had gotten him here, and he could sense how bothered she was by all of it, which felt fucking great. Getting the better of someone always gave him a rush that he couldn’t help but lavish in.
Yeah, yeah, sure. Call it a “power trip” or whatever you wanted to.
When they reached the parking garage, Mike gave a nod and a slight grin to the doorman once more. Pleasure to see you again. It’s been ages.
They arrived at the car, and Gen’s voice commanded him to “get in” as the doors gave a crunchy click signaling that they had unlocked.
“Demanding, are we, babe?” he asked in a teasing, slightly mocking voice, tugging open the door. “Whatever you say, Genevieve.” He dropped himself into the seat with a soft chuckle. He sat his bag in the floorboard again, and he moved to fasten his seatbelt.
The vehicle lurched, and Mike almost slammed his head into the dashboard. “‘ey!” he grunted, looking over at her with lowered brows for a moment as the car settled into a fast speed, and then he shook his head, rolled his eyes, and laughed quietly, settling back into the passenger seat and buckling himself in.
The engine purred in his ears, and the wind whipped at the windshield and windows. Other than that, there was no noise. The air between the two was still thick, and he couldn’t help but feel another swell of pride.
He gave a soft chuckle, leaning his elbow against the side of the luxury vehicle’s door. His hand played with his hair, toying with a curl at the front.
Pssht, Gen was so damn serious, as much as she liked to act like she wasn’t. It was part of what made her so fun to mess with and tease, y’know. She really couldn’t take a joke, and she always seemed to get riled up at the smallest of things, though she feigned that she was unfazed.
Cute, really, and past that, Mike fucking loved short tempers, especially when it came to responses to his flirtation. Sure, easy girls were fun, too, but there was something different about the ones who’d didn’t give in so easily. He loved to rile people up to the point that they were past the point of just frustrated— to the point where they bit their lust back like anger, clenched their jaws and grit their teeth to control themselves.
It was fucking hot as hell.
A smirk played at his lips as the desire and triumph burned in his chest. His eyes were settled forward, but his attention was focused on the girl in his periphery. Her eyes were settled forward and her face was set in stubborn silence. He couldn’t help but let out another soft chuckle.
Here came the part where she came at him with accusatory questions insinuating this and that untrue thing, but, well…they both knew, didn’t they?
Check-and-mate. I won, babe. You caved first.
Better luck next time.
The vehicle slowed, and Mike glanced over at Gen just as she spoke.
“What the fuck are you doing?” she asked.
He snickered softly. What did he say? Ya know, they should really call him Psychic Michic.
“Stop with the fucking games, Mike,” she continued. “I brought you there to work, not to play around. What? We screw once and suddenly I’m no longer a professional, someone to respect? Seriously?”
Mike gave a soft chuckle and twirled his hair.
So, she brought him there to work. He’d intended to do that. Ya know, nothing was stopping them from working. Wasn’t part of professionalism being able to push through the hardships and personal inclinations?
Yet here they were.
He grinned to himself.
Made ya think, didn’t it just?
She pulled off of the road and drove toward…what, a beach? Mike hadn’t intended to go to the beach until…well, tonight, with Woods, to drink. But, hey, looked like today was a day full of surprises, huh?
Gen pulled into a spot near the edge of the beach. She undid her seatbelt and quickly turned to face Mike, jabbing a finger into his chest.
“Let me try to get this through your thick fucking skull one more time, shall I?” she bit. “Last night was a fucking mistake, you were a mistake. I don’t make the same mistake twice so whatever that was back there, get it out of your head. I wanted to help you out by getting you access to some of the best design equipment in Los Angeles and you can’t even keep it in your pants? Pathetic.” Her hand dropped from his chest and moved to the center console.
Mike gave a soft chuckle, a grin coming onto his face. She’d misinterpreted his teasing, let it get to her head. He flirted with her, and suddenly he wanted to derail their whole project and had a disrespect for the opportunity that she had presented? How unprofessional and presumptuous of her to figure that.
“Maybe your words would’ve pissed me off a whole lot more if they didn’t say everything you didn’t have the balls to,” she continued. “Rant and rave as much as you want about how I was a horrible lay and that I was just someone to stick your dick in. Talk about how you’re a whore that only fucks people because he’s bored but you forget that I know you, Michael. I know you well enough to know that you don’t go back for seconds no matter how good they were, that you never wade in the same waters twice.”
Click. Gen’s fingers undid his seatbelt, and he glanced into her eyes as she hooked her fingers on his belt loops.
His grin broadened.
She tugged him in, and she moved to sit in his lap, fingers intertwining with his hair. Heat surged through his body, and his grin grew toothier. “No, you don’t do that shit no matter how desperate you are,” she said. “Yet here you are, underneath me yet again. And don’t bother playing that ‘oh that’s not what I wanted’ angle. We’ve known each other for what, two years now? You’ve never pulled that shit with me. So I must’ve been pretty damn good if you’re coming back yet again.”
She pulled him by the neck, connecting their lips.
For a few minutes, their lips were caught in the other’s rhythm. His breathing grew ragged and heavy as his hands moved about her body, and, when she pulled away, he looked up into her eyes, mirroring the smirk on her face as she tugged at the buttons on his shirt.
“I don’t make the same mistake twice, Mike,” she said. “This time I know exactly what I’m doing. No alcohol, no anger, no stupidity. Just whatever this is.” She laughed, and she brushed her hands through his hair. “Would you look at that? Your little playboy ‘no going back’ attitude means nothing when it comes to someone of quality.”
Mike gave a chuckle, his smirk broadening into a grin.
“Feel free to stop me at any time if I’m wrong in thinking that you were flirting with me back in the studio but, from the looks of things, I’m fucking spot on,” she said.
“When did I ever say that this wasn’t what I wanted?” Mike teased, voice gruff. His eyes scanned her body slowly before meeting her eyes again. “Thought you had more sense than to think that, babe.” He slipped his hand beneath her shirt and chuckled. “And more…resilience than to take my teasing to heart…or to, well…” He glanced at her pants, allowing her to finish the sentence for herself before he looked back into her eyes. “But I suppose not. Guess that that goes to show…you can’t ever really know what to expect from a person.”
His other hand moved to the bottom of her shirt, beginning to lift it up, and he chuckled. “Said you don’t make the same mistake twice, huh? Well, I’m the same way. As you could figure.” He grinned at her. “So let’s just call this…well.” He locked eyes with her. “Why don’t we just call it…you, me, getting to know each other, huh? Because…hm. Well, you say things like you know everything about me.” He leaned up to speak into her ear, lowering his voice to a buzz. “You think you know me?” he purred, and he gave a soft laugh in her ear. “Well, guess again, babe.”
With a chuckle, he pulled back from her slightly, meeting her eyes once again. “I can play along, Genevieve,” he said after a moment. “After all, I do aim to please.”
Gen reached down and tilted the seat back, and her lips melded with his once more.
Hope those bougie ass windows do their job, babe, he thought with his lips pressed against hers. Would hate for you to get caught red-handed with your mistake— or whatever the hell I am.
The music on the radio was a low hum, and Trevor tapped his fingers to the beat on the top of the steering wheel with one hand, the other hand tapping at the door as he waited for Ash to answer. He absently clicked on his turn signal and turned left onto a random road. Most of the driving that Trevor did was aimless, so he knew just the roads to turn down.
(Yes, he drove around Los Angeles, California in a minivan for fun. Yes, it stressed him out more often than not. No, that didn’t stop him from his drives. He never thought that the skill of turning down random roads would come in handy. Then again, the case that he was using it in was a case where he had a girlfriend, which was something that he had told himself that he wouldn’t get until he was in his twenties because he was sworn to the whore life, so the situation was entirely unpredictable.)
"There's nowhere to go," Ash said finally.
“Ehwhat?” Trevor asked in something less than English. He glanced over at her, brows knit in deep confusion for a moment. She’d just given some suggestions, hadn’t she?
"We can't, umm...” She seemed to be searching for the right words. “Because, you know..."
She trailed off, and he chuckled softly. “No...can’t say that I do know.”
There was a short pause, and then Ash started again. "I'm sorry about, ummm... you know, saying that I...didn't want to...tell anyone, because...yeah."
“Huh?” Trevor glanced over at Ash, a slight smile playing at his lips. What was she getting at?
There was another short pause. "You were right," she started again.
“About, uhh...?” He tilted his head at the windshield.
"I...we shouldn't be secret,” Ash said.
His hand slipped from the top of the wheel, and he flipped down the windshield wipers on accident. He cursed beneath his breath, and he reached his other hand up to steer as his other hand quickly tried to flip the switch back up. He triggered the wiper fluid, and the windshield went white with the liquid for the moment. The wipers quickly wiped it away. With a huff, he clicked the wipers off, and he held his hand in the position for a moment, staring at the windshield to make sure that the wipers had turned off before he dropped his hand.
Then, he let out a soft laugh, and he glanced over at Ash. “Come again?”
"I mean, it was dumb of me to suggest,” Ash continued, “and I don't...want to keep it secret from everyone. Obviously I'm bad at that already since, like, I told Eli, and I just..."
Trevor blinked at the road in front of him.
"I want to be able to, like, walk around with you around our friends and like...hold your hand in public and I don't...I don't want to hide,” she said.
He waited for her to finish, and, when she said nothing else for a long moment, he let out a guffaw. “Yeah...right,” he chuckled. “An’ I’m a prince of Nigeria who you should give yer social security and credit card number to so I can send you all of my inheritance.”
He paused, waiting for her to laugh and brush it off...
...but she didn’t.
“Shite...you’re serious,” he whispered. “Oh, shite.”
He felt his brain give a solid throb.
Shite, he was getting a headache.
He laughed softly. “Why the fuck would you want t...?” He had started that slowly, but he trailed off. “How do I...?” he mumbled to himself, and then he sighed. “Shite.”
He turned onto another road, and he drove for a few seconds, saying nothing.
And then he spoke.
Oh, shite, that wasn’t a question.
He cleared his throat and laughed softly. With a shake of his head, he tried again. “No?” He laughed. “Uh, no. I mean...no.” He glanced at Ash, folding his lips in for a second before he gave another soft, awkward laugh. “Being, uh...public...no.”
Yeah, ya said that. Ya said that plenty.
He cleared his throat, bringing one hand to mess with the hair at the nape of his neck, as was his nervous habit. His head gave a throb. “I...” He cleared his throat once more. “Uh, yeaaah, I mean, I want to walk around an’ stuff...but there’s more that comes wit’ it that...”
More as in I’m goin’ ta get my arse beaten, you’re goin’ ta find that you’re bored, an’ you’re goin’ ta find someone better, an’ then I’ll be up shite creek with no paddle.
He gave her a tight smile. “Ha, so...no.”
He paused, trying to dispel the headache from his head, and he let out a soft sigh, setting both hands back on the wheel.
Smiling broader, he decided just to act like that had never happened, and he glanced at Ash, asking, “Now, where are we headin’ to? We’re burnin’ daylight, darlin’.”
• • • • •
Trevor lay face down on his bed, flopping his limbs straight out from himself.
His high had worn off, and his head was pounding.
Had the date gone well? Sure. He got to spend time with his hot girlfriend, and that was what it amounted to. He was fairly easy to please as far as that went.
Did he want to die now that he was home? Yeaaaah.
Because he was alone.
Because the apartment was empty.
Because he was sober.
He rolled over onto his side with a groan, opening his eyes to stare at the blank wall.
Fecking fuck, he needed a joint right now.
And a crispito.
He didn’t want to move.
With a deep sigh, he pushed up to sit. His head spun for a moment, and then he sighed deeply.
“To weed,” he mumbled, standing slowly, “and the gas station.”
The pink on Nickie’s cheeks deepened, and she gave a giggle, hiding her nose with her hand. “The most ripped,” she agreed, smiling at Hunter brightly. She laughed softly. “And no, I’m, like…the average-st, at most.” She shook her head slightly.
Taking a sip from her straw, Nickie rolled her eyes at Hunter’s compliment, letting out a soft laugh. “Oh-em-God, nooo, I’m not even good at gutter-ing. Literally, like, I missed the gutter my first whirl. Like, how did I even do that? Plus, I’m totally going to bruise from that fall that I took in that last game.” She furrowed her brows, pouting and rubbing at her wrist. She probably needed ice for that, but she couldn’t just ask for medical attention on a date. She picked her cup up with the injured hand instead. “I literally suck at all things bowling. Not my strong suit. I wouldn’t even get a participation trophy. The only ting that I would get would be looks of pity.” She giggled, sipping from her drink and swallowing before she gave her boyfriend her prettiest smile. “But thanks. You’re literally the sweetest. And the most amazing. Me? I’m totally not.”
Nickie went quiet for a moment, shifting her position in her seat to cross her legs, and she reached out her hand to take Hunter’s. She stared into his face for a moment, sipping on her drink, and then she gave a soft laugh. “Oh-em-God…,” she mumbled. “You know that, like, I literally do not deserve you? Like, that’s a known thing, right?” She ran her thumb along his knuckles, smiling to herself. “I’ve talked to a lot of boys, and I…like, slept with some, too…and I had given up, you know…” She felt her ears heating up. “On, uhm…” She looked down at their hands. “Ever getting into any relationship or whatever because, like…I’ve been in love. And, like, I’ve been in love a few times, and...like, nothing has ever come of it or anything.”
She looked up into his eyes. “But, like, I love you the most. Like, out of everyone who I’ve ever even loved, I mean. And…like…the fact that you didn’t reject me? It means a lot.” Her smile broadened, and her eyes flitted away shyly. “And…I dunno. I just wanted to tell you that, because I feel like I didn’t say enough last night...or, like...today, either.” She met his eyes. "That I love you. That I'm, like...glad to be with you." She smiled. "That's what I mean."
She still knew, in the back of her head, that there was no way that he loved her. That he was lying to her to spare her feelings.
But, damn it. She wanted to have just one…just one good day.
One day where she didn’t have to think or overthink.
One day where she could just be selfishly and unabashedly happy.
One day where she could act like all of this wasn’t a lie.
Just one good day.
And today seemed to be it.
• • • • •
Nickie dropped her phone beside her on her bed, tears in her eyes. Her entire body was shaking. Her teeth dug deeply into her lower lip as she clutched her pillow to her chest.
Fuck. Of course she couldn’t resist the urge to fuck up a good day.
Her phone buzzed. She choked back a soft sob.
Tea, gossip, drama. It was something that Nickie could never help but get involved in. It was some kind of...instinct. Something. She couldn't ever help herself.
She loved to be the bearer of news, and— damn it.
She hadn’t been thinking.
She hadn't been thinking.
She really, really, really didn't mean anything.
And now Gen definitely hated her.
And probably JJ.
And probably Eli.
And definitely Javi and Lucky.
A sob rocked her body.
What else was she supposed to do?! She couldn’t just stay quiet about the whole thing after she let it slip what she thought the first time, and, like, her reliability was being threatened, and she couldn’t help but—
Goddamn it, goddamn it!
She’d just fucked everything up again. If everyone didn’t hate her before, every definitely did now.
She couldn’t have anything. She ruined everything that she fucking touched.
Why couldn’t she just keep fucking quiet?! Ever?!
“I fucking hate you!” she whispered, more tears escaping her eyes and she squeezed them shut, holding her pillow tighter to her chest.
Annoying, desperate simp!
“No one even fucking cares about you,” she added aloud in a mutter, and then she was wracked by a turbulent of sobs because she knew what she was telling herself was true.
All that she could do was fuck things up and try to be someone that she wasn’t. That was all that she was good for.
Sure, Hunter acted like he loved her…
But she knew that it was all one-sided.
Because he didn’t know her.
How she ruined fucking everything. How she was nothing but a tryhard who fucked up everything and everyone around her and destroyed herself in the process.
How she was nothing but a fucking attention whore. Nothing but a fucking skank. Nothing but a fucking good-for-nothing bitch. Nothing but an fucking annoying, desperate simp.
And no one fucking cared about her except when she hurt them.
She bit her teeth into her pillow to muffle her sobs as another wave overcame her body.
All that she could do now was fucking cry, because there was no fucking fixing it. There was no fucking going back.
Nickie hoped that Simone wouldn’t come in and act like she cared, too.
He absently pressed a hand against his chest, feeling the pressure from his palm pressing into his heart for a moment before he dropped his hand back to his side. His chest hurt -- that didn't make much sense, though. Jace didn't have any kind of illness related to his heart, which his family had figured out after several instances of him crying that his chest hurt, but the doctors were unable to piece anything together.
It was... in his head or something like that.
He coughed. His throat felt dry and sore, like he was suddenly afflicted by some kind of cold that had set on in a fraction of a second. Maybe he'd already been sick, actually -- that would make sense. Jace had clearly been exhibiting early signs of a cold, and it had just really hit him now -- it would explain the sudden sore throat, the inability to form words using his dry tongue, and the slight pain in his chest.
Landon kept speaking, and every word felt like another needle being jabbed into his chest. Jace's back was to Landon now, and that was probably for the best as his face contorted into a series of various grimaces. He didn't...
Jace didn't... want to have this tension between himself and Landon. He wanted everything to go back to the way it was before, but Jace couldn't even remember what before felt like. And he'd kind of been raised in the idea that when things got too tough, you could simply drop them. End them. Look away and pretend something never existed, and move on with your life as if that blip was just that -- a minor blip, a minor bump in the road.
Okay that was a damn lie, because Jace couldn't count the number of times that he'd covered his face with a pillow to drown out the sound of sobs that wracked his body because he wasn't able to perfect something, but he wasn't allowed to quit it. However, those were skills. Relationships and friendships? Now those were something that Jace was skilled with dropping, because the instant their parents said they weren't allowed to hang with someone, they were expected to drop said person immediately. Jace had grown accustomed to it, and he was sure that had led to his difficulties socializing.
“Seriously? We aren’t gonna talk about it? I don’t get an explanation for being ignored for months?” Landon continued, picking at the problem like a vulture tearing apart a carcass. “Look...I’m sorry, alright? I...I don’t know what else I can say, but freezing me out isn’t fair.”
He winced again as his heart gave a pained throb and again, he brought his hand up to press lightly against his chest to try and dispel the pained pressure before his fingers dropped back to the keyboard again and started playing lightly against the keys in a pattern that didn't sound necessarily good, but offered some kind of... some kind of... relief to Jace, to say the least. The sound was enough to start lessening the pressure in his chest, stop the churning of his stomach, and help to wet his dry throat.
"There's nothing... nothing to... talk about," Jace snapped this time, his voice hovering just above a hushed mumble. Now, his words were more sure with barely a hint of his stutter, because Jace tended to lash out when he felt cornered like a wild animal. "You... you... I get... I know how you feel, and I'm... I'm over it..." his finger kept tapping the same key in a repetitive motion, "I don't... there's just... no reason to be so stuck in the past... I don't... I don't know why... why you can't just... you can't just... move on like I did..." he grumbled, his voice faltering before he finally grew silent.
As his words ended, the only sound in the room was him tapping the key.
Her lips had been formed in a kind of hopeful smile when she first mentioned the idea of, well, not hiding their relationship to Trevor. The corners of her lips were upturned slightly as she studied his face for some hint of a reaction, her teeth lightly chewing on her bottom lip. Although it was only seconds that she was waiting for a response from him, it felt like minutes.
Instead of telling her what she wanted to hear, Trevor laughed.
Her smile faltered and she looked away from him to rest her chin on her knee.
“Yeah...right,” he chuckled. “An’ I’m a prince of Nigeria who you should give yer social security and credit card number to so I can send you all of my inheritance.”
Ash turned her head so that she could look back down at her phone screen once more with her cheek pressed against her knee, her blonde hair falling down enough that it mostly covered her face from view. So that, you know, he wouldn't be able to see the reddening of her cheeks in embarrassment, or how her smile faltered and fell, even though there was no reason for her to be hurt by this.
It was her fault this was a discussion, after all.
“Shite...you’re serious,” he whispered. “Oh, shite.”
She risked lifting her head up to glance over at him, but lowered her head back to its position against her knee after a second. Although she was looking at her phone, the screen was still locked and darkened. Her hand loosely held the phone, her thumb making little circles around on the screen to try and distract herself from the awkwardness of the moment that was now at hand.
“Why the fuck would you want t...?”
Because this sucks, and I can't do this again.
Her lips remained tightly pursed together.
“How do I...?” he continued. “Shite.”
For a few seconds, there was nothing but tense silence. Her stomach started churning and her eyebrows furrowed together. Ash squeezed her eyes tightly shut to try and stop the roiling of her stomach, but that didn't exactly help, and she was pretty sure that she was about to vomit or something in Trevor's van. Yeah, that'd probably end with them definitely breaking up. No one messed with his precious van, after all.
Trevor's words stung. She wondered briefly if this was karma for her saying the same type of thing at the festival. Or maybe it was because this was what had happened with Dorian -- except that she'd been the Trevor of the situation. Sitting there and saying no, and now, as the little bit of hope that she'd had was crushed beneath his words, and she felt the falling of her heart into her churning stomach, she wondered if this was how Dorian had felt -- and then a wave of guilt washed over her to intermix with the other tumultuous feelings, and she had to swallow the lump starting to form in the back of her throat.
Yeah, she couldn't really blame him for not wanting to go public.
There wasn't really any benefits.
She wouldn't want to admit to dating her, either.
Not since it was apparently this, like, kind of known fact that oh, Ashton West has horrible taste in guys, so she was pretty sure any guy she dated would instantly be labeled as a shitty person, even if they weren't that bad.
He kept repeating no, and she wished he would just shut up because every reutterance of it just made the reddening of her cheeks deeper and the churning in her stomach hurt all the more. She got it.
Trevor didn't want to be seen with her. He didn't want it to be known that he was dating her.
She got it the first time.
He didn't need to keep pouring salt in the wound.
Although maybe he was because she deserved it for suggesting this in the first place.
(It made sense in her twisted way of thinking.)
In proper Trevor fashion, the subject was then changed to where they were going.
"I guess... just the park," she mumbled, "no one's ever there."
Well, no one that would care.
She lifted her face from her knee, forcing a smile onto her face instead of the rather downtrodden expression that had been there before, and she dropped her knee back to the floorboards. Her fingers went to her phone, and she did her best to try and mask the underlying feeling of disappointment. You know, the whole disappointment of him not wanting to go public with them.
But it was fine -- really.
Her day overall?
Not that bad.
Having a date with Trevor had been... nice. Like, she had legitimately enjoyed herself and sure, there had been a couple rough patches. But for the most part? She'd considered it to be good -- and, like, she hadn't really wanted to say goodbye or go home, so clearly, she was into him. She enjoyed being around him, although words would undoubtedly still fail her if she was asked to piece together why that was.
When she got home, the house was empty -- Cap, Gen, and Eli must've still been out, so she headed up to her room and collapsed into her bed.
For a long moment, she sat on her bed, her legs pulled up to her chest, and her phone held up in front of her. Her teeth chewed against her bottom lip, her gaze focused on the call contact pulled up on her screen.
Finally, she sucked in a deep breath, and pressed the call button.
Her mother was going to chew her out for not calling sooner, sure, but... well, you know, Ash was going to have to call back at some point.
As Josie took a hit from the blunt that she had pulled from Saint’s glovebox, her eyes caught sight of his GPS. Her address was perfectly typed in despite the fact that she hadn’t given it to him when he asked where he was taking her. Of course, it made sense when you thought about how often he’d picked her up and dropped her off in their time dating but all she could think about was that he remembered it.
Yet if he knew the address by heart the why did he need to use the GPS at all? Maybe he didn’t know it and it was just still in history? Or he remembered the numbers better than the roads? Either way, she wasn’t about to ask because she knew it would only lead to an answer she didn’t want. So, instead, she focused on his words as he started to explain the reason behind his newest piece to her.
If you knew Jo well enough then you’d be well aware of just how out there her personality was and how short her attention span could be. Not in a dumb girl way but just…Jo liked to keep busy and not be bored or stuck in one motion for too long. That said, there were few things that could keep her attention for a long period of time and one of them was art.
Yes, Josie, the dancer was more intrigued by art than her own chosen career path half the time but she couldn’t help it. Sure, dancing was something she was good enough at and she did enjoy it but it was less of a passion and more of an out. A way to prove to herself that she could make something of her talents rather than end up like her birth mother...
Art intrigued her though and somehow it made the usually wild girl a little more focused. Her gaze moved to Saint as he spoke, clearly in awe of his depth and the passion that she knew went into his work. It wasn't about their history or any feelings she did or didn't have for him. His art spoke for itself and she would've been just as interested had they been strangers.
It didn't take Saint long to drive her to get some bodypaint and then drop her off. She was honestly surprised about how well their interaction had gone. Were they having an off day? Was it just because of her birthday? It meant nothing, right? They should definitely not try again just because of one decent conversation. It was a moment not a sign...maybe. Shit.
All of those thoughts disappeared whenever she started getting ready to meet her friends, though she was sure they would creep back up when she was no longer sober. They usually did. But right now? Party Jo was coming out in full effect and nothing could bring her down. Let the birthday celebration begin!
Jo had been at the rave for half an hour and was already four shots in when Damien and his friend walked up to greet them. "Hey! You're late! Now you have to play catch up!" she teased him over the music, still lightly swaying in place to the beat. "Oh, hey! Glad you could make it too! Kian? Right?" it was lucky she remembered his name though she wasn't drunk just yet so that was mostly why.
Her eyes flicked back to Damien just as he pulled something out of his pocket. Party favors. A mischievous grin slipped onto her face, her eyes lighting up at the sight. It had been a while since Josie had done anything considered "hardcore". It wasn't that she had some horror story and needed to get clean or she decided to turn her life around. No. Nothing crazy like that.
More like she nearly got kicked out of HA so she just slowed down a little to avoid losing her chance at the school she'd begged to attend. Still, Josie had a bad habit when it came to going with the flow, and right now the flow was drugs. Who was she to say no to a good time? On her birthday? Plus, it was a gift so that would make it extra rude to turn down.
It was almost ironic. She had received a total of two gifts so far, a ring that she'd been eyeing for months from a guy who had broken her heart and party drugs from the guy she was currently hoping to get laid by. Ironic. She couldn't win either way she leaned, not completely anyway. The guy she wanted was a jerk and every guy she slept with or wanted to sleep with after was questionable. Oh well. Ignoring that information was Jo's greatest talent.
"Wooow. You really know how to treat a girl, don't you?" she told him as she took the bag into her hand to examine it further. Before she could offer the drugs to anyone else, Slater's voice rang out again and his gaze was practically locked in on Ronnie. It was a valid question and one Jo couldn't answer.
She didn't remember anyone mentioning it until just now but she was fairly certain that the younger girl had come with Liv? Or maybe...no it had to have been Liv. Either way, she didn't particularly mind. "Ronnie is here to party with us! She wants to hang out with the cool kids!" Jo replied with a smile as turned back and offered the redhead a wink.
Hey! It was a party and the more the merrier, right? "We will start her out light," she added, hanging off a drink she'd been sipping on to Ronnie. "Now, are any of the more experienced partiers up for some real fun?" she said, holding the baggie up briefly for them to see. Happy fucking birthday indeed.
Mornings really were the worst, because she had to wake up.
Whatever sweet dream or respite she had gotten from what little sleep she could get the night before?
Gone right away, like it was never there.
The nights after a round of drinking or drugs were the worst. If the stupid things didn't give her a splitting headache hours after she took them, then they would be perfect.
At least the pain it caused her was bearable, and would eventually go away. At least this pain would leave no scars in its wake.
Mikaela grunted as she got out of bed, pushing off with an awkward limp that had her staring at her blasted left limb. She closed her hand into a fist. If only...fuck it. She needed a drink or a couple of pills, anything that could serve as a distraction.
She grabbed her phone off where it lay on the bedside table. 10:28. So she'd actually managed to sleep in some this time so that was a bonus. Wasn't helping with the damn headache though. Whatever, she'd deal with that once she dealt with the messages that were screaming at her through her phone screen. Save her the trouble of dealing with one headache only to have to deal with another right after. The first message was the typical good morning greeting from her mother, asking her if she'd had a good night, if she was enjoying school, and so on.
Was she enjoying school? She had no idea. She was certainly pretending to. There were a couple of fun moments here and there that she couldn't quite remember, points where the laugh or smile she cracked was genuine, but enjoyment...
"I'm having a good time mom. Thank you for sending me here to study." Her mother just needed to see what she wanted to see. After all that was all that mattered. Not what happened behind the scenes but what showed up on the front page. The only headline she needed to see was that her daughter was happy and moving on. Just like the segments some tabloids and paparazzi published about her enrollment at H.A:
"Late world renowned pianist Dominic Ainsley's daughter moves on to music, following in his footsteps after her figure skating career comes to a crashing halt." Bloody vultures they were, pouncing first on her father's death and then...hers. At least here at H.A. she had distractions and there were plenty of other students for them to pay attention to instead. It made pretending to be fine and blending it so much easier, even if she wasn't. At least not the way her family wanted her to be. Her phone buzzed again as she tried not to limp on her way to the bathroom to wash up and glanced down to see another message, this time from her older brother Kiran.
"Remember to be nice to your roommate and look to him if you ever need help for anything, ok? He's a good guy." That's right. She had a roommate now. Hard to wrap her mind around given that she'd been living alone in this condo since the school year started because the girl...no wait boy, her brother said, him. Anyway, the boy who owned this place had been shooting with Kiran for the past few months for that upcoming film of his, so she still had no idea what he looked like or anything about him really, other than the fact that Kiran obviously liked him and thought he was a good guy, and he was basically supposed to be her babysitter in her siblings place and make sure she was 'fine' and recovering properly from...the accident.
An annoying prospect really but it was better than living with Alisha and her fiancé. Even if work would keep them busy, it would make hiding things more of a pain, sure it was her specialty, but it could still get tiring, not to mention all the media attention that would follow them and the possibility of paparazzi's staking out their place since they were both celebrities. At least with this roommate, those issues would be less of a problem, plus Kiran's judgement of people was usually fifty-fifty in terms of accuracy. Hopefully his assessment of her roommate as a suitable babysitter was incorrect and she wouldn't need to constantly pretend and hide her drug and alcohol abuse while he was around. She'd be able to figure it out once she actually met him. In the meantime, she needed to freshen up, get rid of that bloody ache in her head, and find herself another distraction.
• • • • •
Mikaela flicked through the TV channels lazily as she lounged on the couch in a comfy outfit. Today was turning out to be a bust. She'd used up her last batch of drugs last night or at least she couldn't find where she had put the rest and the alcohol that she did have was just a weak glass of red wine, though it did somewhat match cheeses on the small platter she had prepared. At least she had a meetup arranged with Cami coming soon, whenever it was that she got in to H.A. and was free. It was nice to know that Cami would be attending. One more person who might ask questions and poke around parts she didn't want people to but the pros seemed to outweigh the cons. Perhaps for a while she'd be able to pretend that she was the young girl who could move without a bloody limp that acted up as it pleased. Besides she liked Cami, it was easy to have fun with her childhood friend, get distracted and ignore everything that was happening around her. Ignore the present, ignore the problems, all of it.
A knock sounded on the door and Mikaela stirred slightly from her seat. She hadn't ordered delivery or anything, nor had she made plans to meet anyone today, though she was starting to think she should have. Who could it — the roommate.
What was his name again? She scrolled through the chat with her brother. He really sent her way too many messages these days, and for someone he liked enough to basically 'entrust' her to him and convince mom and Alisha to do the same, he definitely didn't mention his name enough.
The knock came again, this time followed by a call of "I'm comin' in!"
Mikaela flicked further up the chat as she heard the footsteps near the living room. No, no, no, ah ha. There it was. Felix.
As she set her phone back down, a tall young boy walked into the room. Blonde hair, blue eyes with a nice grin, just the type of smile her brother found charming, and neatly dressed to boot.
“Well, howdy-do, Ms. Ainsley?” He greeted before squinting at the television. “You watchin’ anythin’ interestin’?”
Ah, well he certainly had the perfect southern gentleman image nailed. Right down to the accent. No wonder Kiran liked him so much. If you asked her though, the whole thing felt like a gimmick, not to mention that cringeworthy 'howdy-do' and 'Ms Ainsley' that made her eyebrows want to twitch. Not that they did. She had plenty of practice over the years, hiding whatever judgements she made of others and keeping them tucked deep inside her heart, away from her face. She glanced over at the TV where she had been watching reruns of SpongeBob for empty laughs and background noise, then turned back to Felix, a smile plastered on her rise as she slowly rose from her seat.
"Just the famous yellow square dancing around the seabed while I eat him for a snack." She gestured to the plate of cheese on the table as she slowly crossed the floor towards him, willing her limp to not be too pronounced and cooperate.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Felix. Kiran's told me a lot about you." Mikaela flashed him a cordial smile as she held out her hand to shake his.
"I hope you don't mind my brother saddling this whole rooming arrangement on you and me making myself comfortable in your place while you weren't around." She'd nearly forgotten how painful small talk like this could be.
"So," She turned her attention back to the TV that was still going, motioning towards the world's most famous sponge with her head, "are you a fan of him or his edible counterpart?" She was talking about cheese, not sponges of course.
Hanging with Dalton, she would begrudgingly admit, was something that she had missed while he had been away on his shoot. Not that she would ever admit to this aloud, nor had she come to terms with this while he was away. It was one of those things where you didn't realize you'd missed something until you experienced it again -- she missed Dalton now that he was here, but when he was gone?
Well, he hadn't even crossed her mind once.
(That was only a small lie -- he'd crossed her mind maybe once.)
She did appreciate his comments, though. The ones about how Evie clearly didn't know how to throw a punch because there were no signs -- because Adriane knew that there were faint signs. The faint bruising on her face that had never been terrible, but that had held as a blemish on her skin for longer than it should've. Thankfully, the bruises had faded enough that now, just a slight layer of makeup was able to completely conceal them from view. That was good because it shaved time off of her having to stand in the mirror, desperately attempting to wipe any sign of Evelyn punching her from her face.
"I totally saved the video," Adriane started to explain as Dalton stood up from the sofa. She pulled her phone out from her back pocket, scrolling over to pull up the video. Clearly, she meant the video of Charlie knocking out Chas' tooth -- the whole Evie punching her thing hadn't been something she had saved, and she was ready to briskly skip past that and move on to more exciting things.
Like Chas losing a tooth.
Hey, Adriane might've gotten punched, but at least she'd kept all of her teeth where they belonged -- and at least she'd fought back. Chas had just laid there like a sad child crying as Charlie kicked his ass.
It was a good thing Adriane hadn't been there, though. There was no way she would've been able to stand on the sidelines and watch like all of the other pathetic losers at that party -- after all, it had been at Dei and Hunter's apartment. What kind of fake friends were they if they were content to just sit back and watch?
Look, Adriane had a simply ranking system of friends -- and if someone as disgusting and pathetic as Tr... she couldn't even think his name without her gag reflex activating and her nose wrinkling up in disgust.
As Dalton came back over, he offered the ice cream to her, and all she could do was give him an incredulous look. Her eyebrows furrowed together for a moment, her top lip twitching up in disgust, before she shook her head, let out a small sigh, and her expression returned to its flat normalcy. "Absolutely not," she said with a breathless sigh, "if I'm going to waste time eating ice cream, I'm going to eat good ice cream and not the nasty stuff that Chas and JJ decide to spend their money on." Plus, she was more of a frozen yogurt type of person -- I know, she totally didn't scream that at all.
With the video pulled up, she tilted her phone towards Dalton. "Okay, okay, you have to see this. It's so funny," she said, her lips curling back into a slight smile as she pressed the play button on the video of Chas getting absolutely wrecked.
Felix’s grin broadened as the strange girl stood and approached him. She was the spittin’ image of her brother, and it made him chuckle softly. It was kinda uncanny, ya know, like she’d gotten a face transplant from Kiran, but Felix got told the same kinda stuff about how much he looked like his dad, so he figured that he probably shouldn’t hang on that fact for too long.
He noted a slight limp in her step, but his eyes quickly flicked up to her face from her legs. He didn’t want to be rude and look at it too long now that he’d noticed it. He knew the weirdness of having people starin’ at odd parts of ya. People stared at his snaggle tooth— and not even subtly, man.
He shook his head as Mikaela held out her hand for him to shake, grinnin’ right back at her with the same grin that he always wore. He took her hand and gave it a firm shake. “Aw, nah, the pleasure’s all mine, Ms. Ainsley— or Mikaela, right? Which do you prefer?” He gave a soft chuckle, dropping his hand from hers, maintainin’ eye contact, as always. “I hope they were good things he said,” Felix said. “Don’t want my reputation for singin’ in the shower to precede me— oh, wait.” He laughed when he realized what he’d just let slip, then shook his head. “Well...ya know.” He gave a nod. “He told me quite a bit about you, too— good things, good things. You ain’t gotta worry about that.”
At her comment about her brother saddling his living arrangements, Felix chuckled, shakin’ his head and holdin’ his hand up. “Of course not,” he said. He grinned. “I’m glad that I could help. Besides, it gets lonesome here, y’know.” That was kinda a stretch, since he was used to havin’ no company around for his whole life and, y’know, he hadn’t been back in this place in six months, but you got his point. “It’s nice to have ya. Hope you like the accommodations, and if there’s any way I can help ya out, you just gotta let me know.” He chuckled softly. “I have a request box posted outside of my door, and a little bell to ring for service,” he kidded lightly.
He glanced at the television to watch a second of what was happenin’ on it. Sure enough, there was the jolly little sponge man, prancin’ around with a pink, green-shorted starfish, and Felix chuckled. He hadn’t seen that show since he was a little kid, though he never did watch it much back then thanks to his dad’s obsession with “educational television”.
“Heh, I like both,” Felix said. A lot of conversations today had had some kind of cheese element in them, though the last one hadn’t gone exactly pleasantly. “Spongebob and me go, uh, way back,” he chuckled. “And so do cheese and I.”
He casually walked past her and to a recliner, droppin’ himself into it with a contented sigh, poppin’ the back of it backward to recline in it until he was layin’ nearly all the way down.
“I had some neighbors,” he continued, “who used to make fresh cheese. They moved in when I was, uh, eight or som’n’. I thought it was kinda weird that they lived in around where I did, but I guess loaded people can have cows, too— even if the critters smell and are more annoyin’ than the flies that hang around ‘em.” Felix chuckled, givin’ his head a shake. “Anyway, the neighbors gave us cheese. That’s the big sellin’ point. Easiest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, as they say, and I think I have a special cheese gland or som’n’.”
He paused a moment, then grinned over at Mikaela, his blue eyes bright. “Sorry, I blab a lot,” he chuckled. “If my mouth runs away, just tell me to shut up and I’ll get the memo. That’s one thing you’ll learn about me pretty fast— I can go on about anything, everything, and absolutely nothing.” He gave another chuckle. “It’s the politician blood in me,” he kidded lightly. “Least, that’s what I’m told.”
somethin’ casual (you could call if business casual. get it? ‘cuz— ...i’ll see myself out)
Daddy issues -- that's what it more or less boiled down to from what Zeph was understanding, although surmounting it to just daddy issues felt like a rather trashy thing to do, so he quickly tried to disperse that form his mind.
But the issue was that he quite honestly didn't understand. Zeph's relationship with his parents had always been good, even if his relationship with his father had become a little more strained and distant after his mother had gotten sick, and even more so after her passing. But it wasn't like it was bad -- and Zeph had nothing to go off of to try and form some kind of connection to Lin over this, which left his brain scrambling as it struggled to come up with decent responses. A simple there, there clearly wouldn't suffice, but as Lin kicked a at a car and kept ranting, Zeph figured that the best thing he could do was listen.
Yeah, that was still being a supportive friend.
His eyebrows twisted together in a look of concern as Lin kept talking, and at first, Zeph couldn't tell entirely what he was angry about -- his dad moving on from his mom? The idea of a new sibling? Was Lin one of those kids that fostered this small hope that his parents would get back together?
As if answering the silent question that Zeph had spoken, Lin responded.
“He didn’t even fucking think of me.”
Now, he got it. Kind of. It would always confound him how parents could be so selfish or forgetful of their kids, but Zeph did get it. Err... well, he understood what was wrong with Lin, why he was hurting so badly now.
Zeph couldn't begin to imagine what that would be like -- to be so insignificant in your parents' eyes that you don't even cross their mind for such a big moment in their lives and, ultimately, yours.
Unfortunately, he was at a loss for words as Lin pushed away from the car he'd been leaned against and started walking down the road again. Zeph trailed after him like a lost puppy once again while a million different responses slipped through his head -- what could he even say? Sorry? That sucks? Your dad sounds like a prick? None of them felt as if they held the correct weight, so he continued to ponder.
"That's a nice fucking bike," Lin said, which pulled Zeph from his reverie. "Bet they paid a fucking load for that kinda shit. It’s nothing like Dick or anything, but it’s still nice. Bet they’re really proud of it and all of that shit."
"Yeah, yeah, it's a uhh... nice bike." Zeph said slowly, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion about why this was where the topic was changing to -- but he supposed it was as good of a topic change as any.
“That lock looks fucking weak,” he commented. “They’re just asking for something to happen to their bike.”
Zeph let out an uncomfortable, confused chuckle followed by a "huh?"
“You wanna nick it with me?”
Oh fuck no.
Pardon his language, but fuck no. That was a crime and Zeph was no criminal. He was coloring between the lines Zeph. He cried that one time that his markers bled through his paper and onto the desk in second grade because you got in trouble for coloring on desks. Zeph plus bad things just... it just didn't... it didn't... work. He was a good boy. The pride and joy of his parents'. Apple of their eye and all that jazz.
The broken look in Lin's face, the slight tearyness of his eyes...
"I..." Zeph started, his mouth suddenly feeling parched.
His heart started pounding. His palms grew sweaty, and he knew he had to speak before his words completely failed him.
Messages back and forth with Gen didn’t help either, she knew something was up and the guilt was racking her. Not because she had slept with someone— no, apparently Gen had slept with Mike, yes. The exact man she was fuming about because Liv had slept with him the night she left. Truthfully, she didn’t even know how to feel about it. It was a whirlwind of emotions and she just wanted to feel… nothing. No guilt, no conflict, no jealousy.
She had the best distraction of all.
Josie and Liv had decided to celebrate their birthdays together, and Livanna had the excellent idea of going to an underground rave in the middle of the day.
"Now, are any of the more experienced partiers up for some real fun?"
Josie held up the small bag filled with tiny tablets of god knows what substances.
And Liv already knew how tonight was going.
Music was blaring so loudly they could hardly hear each other, there was so many people around them Liv couldn’t tell Slater from Kian anymore, and at this point the only thing that could be focused on was her heart beating along with the music, a sudden change of pace from slow, to fast, to practically pounding against her chest as every sensual movement while she danced with both boys, the strobe lights that’d suddenly turned on had made every glance seem like a flash frame, she was grinding on Slater one minute and Kian the next— Liv wasn’t in the dance department, but with the much practice of many, many, dance floors, she learned her way around them.
A tray of shots was placed onto their table, and round after round Liv was already feeling better. She felt loose, fun, excited.
And she wanted more.
Someone had come out holding a cake, birthday candles and sparklers were on top, all lit, and people merely cheered behind them.
Josie and Liv leaned down to blow out the candles. The few who weren’t distracted had erupted into a crowd of screams and slight applause.
Liv couldn’t help the smile that formed onto her face, and before she knew it, the small brunette had pulled Josie closer and without warning, Liv pressed her lips to her Josie’s. The glowing paint transferred from Josie’s lips to Liv’s as she deepened the kiss, only to feel something brush against her shoulder and Liv pulled away the semi-uninvited redhead.
The incredibly annoying, yet sweet girl who seemed like so much fucking fun tonight.
Liv just couldn’t stop herself.
In between the two girls, Livanna yanked Ronnie closer, crashing their lips together, a camera flash had invaded their personal space but Liv didn’t care all that much.
Ronnie didn’t seem to care either.
Maybe she wasn’t so bad.
The rest of the night was repeated. Shots, drinking, dancing, and making out with whoever Liv had her eyes on.
Smeared in body paint, stumbling slightly against the sidewalk, Liv insisted that she knew the way home. Which was… pretty true. She’s made the walk more than a few times. One way or another she’s gotten home. And believe it or not, she’s been pretty fucked up before. Tonight was practically a pregame.
Red and blue lights had caught her attention, and Livanna turned to see a police car pulling up near her, the street she was walking on could be considered a ghost town. It was late, and she decided to take the ‘backroads.’ Either that, or she must’ve took a wrong turn.
A window rolled down to reveal a man, dressed in uniform, glancing down at her outfit and her state before speaking.
“You doing alright?”
The man couldn’t have been older than forty-two, and his gaze was filled with concern, yet curiosity.
“Awwweeeeeeeeeeegh. You care? That’sh so sweet of you.”
Her words were slightly slurred as she continued to walk down the sidewalk.
“... Do you have anyone to call ma’am? I could give you a ride home, it isn’t safe for you to be out this late, especially a girl of your age.”
He was borderline creepy, at this point.
But a glance at the guy, anyone would be able to tell he was a teddy bear.
Hmmmmmm, maybe anyway.
“I’ll have you know I’m sixte— fuck! Hahah. I’m seveennnnteen now. I always do that everyyearialwaysdothat…” her words trailed off and Liv suddenly forgot everything she was talking about.
“Oh! A ride home. Aweuwannagivemearide home. But the question issss do you wanna come home with me? I love older guys, they’resosexyandsuperresponsible, ithinki’vebeenwithlikeoneolder guy but that’s like, a reallllllyyyyy big secretttt.” Liv lifted a finger to her lips, almost falling over as she stumbled over her own feet.
The older man turned off the ignition, already stepping out of the car.
“Is that a yes? I knew you couldn’t resist alllll—“
Liv had started to lift her shirt and the older man placed a hand on her arm.
“Ma’am, please don’t remove your shirt.”
“Well, that’s the first time a guy has eversaidthattome but okayyyyyyyyy since you asked so nicely, I—“
Suddenly, her arms were placed behind her back and something cold was slapped onto them, with a familiar sound of a click.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh I know where this is going, I didn’t think you were so kinkyyyyy, youdon’t reallyhavethat… look you know?”
A sigh of frustration escaped the older man and Liv was gently placed into the back of a police car, the door slamming with a thud.
Liv sniffled, wiping away a few tears from her face.
At least no one she trusted enough to pick her up, post bail, or whatever was happening right about now. There was only one person that kept coming to Liv’s mind and the only number she knew by heart, but it was a shot in the dark.
At least it felt like it, anyway.
Pink streaks of paint and mascara were smudged all over her face, her lipstick was everywhere, she looked terrible— yet somehow, less disheveled than most of those girls outside of the rave. The cell door opened and the older man mumbled something about someone picking her up, and that’s when he moved to reveal Gen.
The grin on Lin’s face broadened. “Aight, fucking bet,” Lin said, a look of reckless abandon shining in his glassy eyes.
He studied the bike for a second.
The bike was a bright hazard-sign orange. Its metal handlebars gleamed in the mid-morning sun. The seat was a fine, black leather. A bronze-colored plate with the manufacturer emblazoned on it was screwed to the frame just below the seat. Its high-traction tires were what Lin recognized to be hella expensive ones, and they looked brand new, too.
Someone spent some a lot of good money on this thing, and pretty recently. If they came back to it gone, they wouldn’t have any way to get home. They would have to explain why their ride was gone, and they’d blame it on their shitty lock and some desperate delinquent. They’d cry themself to sleep that night and ask themself why they were so damn stupid, and they’d save up for another three years to afford another bougie bike with their low ass wages.
Lin cackled at the thought.
He grinned up at Zeph. “Let’s do this shit, then, luhmao.”
So I can forget all of this shit.
• • • • •
There was another brrrr in Lin’s ear as the other end of the phone rang, and Lin sniffled harshly, rubbing his red, wet eyes with harsh fingers. His elbow bumped the concrete that he was laying on. He grunted softly, kicking the heels of his splayed-out feet on the cold concrete as the phone rang once more.
"Pick up," he muttered. “Fucking pick up.” His lip worked anxiously, and his heart thudded heavy in his ribcage, each pump a rattle of his bones.
"Goddamn it." He held up his fist above his head, shielding the bluish light from above with the shadow of his hand, and he ran a thumb over his knuckles, which were bloodied from being slammed against the concrete. Lin could make out the deep redness of his forefinger knuckle in particular. He clenched his jaw tight, rolling his tongue around his mouth and rubbing his thumb harshly against the scab.
Lin blinked rapidly, dropping his hand and trying to keep a wet film of tears from obstructing his vision again. “Mom?” he answered. His voice was gravely and strained.
“Lindsay!” came his mom’s voice. It had its usual warmth, and a brief smile flicked across Lin's face.
He rubbed his palms over his wet cheeks in an attempt to dry them, as if that would help to mask the garble of his voice and all other signs that he had been crying. He cleared his throat. “Hey, mom." He sniffled deeply, letting out a soft grunt of pain.
“Hey, Lin. What's up?” Lin could pick up now that her voice was strained, weak, and tired. "It's late. Why are you even calling right now? Tomorrow's a school day." Her voice, though exhausted, had the familiar tone of chastisement.
"Nothing is up or anything," Lin said, his voice giving soft chirps. He cleared his throat again. He felt sick to his stomach, and he squeezed his eyes shut. “I just got some stuff to ask you about.”
Holy fuck. The moths in his stomach were different than the kind that he felt usually. They were ripping and tearing and pulling him down. It was hard to breathe, and it was even harder to speak.
Staring at the bright light hanging on the awning above him was burning purple into his corneas. He reached his palm up toward the light as if to catch it, and then he dropped his hand onto his forehead to shield the light from hitting his eyes in its harsh way. “You’re off now?” he asked, squeezing his eyes shut. His vision had a pulsating green circle in the center of it, and he tried to rub the spot out of his vision by kneading his with his knuckles.
“I got off of work a few hours ago, if that's what you're asking. Mal hasn't been working me overtime in the past few weeks, so that's a positive." He heard some movement from the other line, and then a soft sigh. “Why? Did you need me?”
Lin opened his eyes again, squinting at the light. He flopped his arm out on the concrete beside him, breathing in deeply. “Mom, I…”
“Is something wrong?” his mom asked immediately, her voice suddenly serious and concerned.
His mouth felt dry. A wave from the pit in his stomach flowed over him, and he breathed in another deep breath. “It’s Pri—…” He stopped himself short of saying his usual name. “It’s Ricky.” He put his hand back over his eyes. “It’s Dad," he mumbled.
There was a dead silence on the other end for a moment, and then there came a forced laugh. “What about him?” His mother was making an attempt at sounding happy, but Lin could tell from her tone that she was far from happy to hear mention of Worstbastard.
Which meant that she knew. She had to fucking know.
Lin sniffled deeply. “You heard,” he said. Though he had meant it to come out as a question, it sounded just the same as he’d thought it: as a statement.
“Heard?" There were a couple of soft, forced chuckles from his mother. "Heard...?" she repeated.
He ran his thumb along the bloodied knuckles of the fist that he now clenched to his chest.
He hated to— to think about it. Having it cross his mind physically hurt him— it made him fucking sick.
And saying it felt even fucking worse.
His body tensed as he released several pained words through clenched teeth: “The kid. You know, Dad’s having a kid.”
“Oh.” Her voice was more of an echo than anything— a whisper, a shadow. “Oh, that.” Her tone was dry and drained of all of the warmth and happiness that she had tried to force before.
Yeah. She knew about it.
“Yeah,” Lin answered in a tone much like his mother's.
“Yeah,” she repeated.
“Yeah,” he said again.
There was another heavy, dead, unmoving silence.
Lin opened his eyes, pushing himself up into a sitting position. His vision was blurry, and he tried to blink the fucking tears away. “I thought I’d tell you, if you didn’t know,” he murmured, and he scooted over to lean against the side of one of the leaned-back lawn chairs that he had sitting around his pool. He pulled his legs closer, folding them into a criss-cross. “But you know…,” he muttered, and then he trailed off.
He sat for a moment, silently working his jaw.
Why didn't he hear anything from her?
She wasn't trying to comfort him, and, on the other end of things, she wasn't crying with him— or even fucking not with him.
Was she not going to say shit? Was that fucking it?
"So," Lin murmured, "I guess it doesn’t matter to you or anything.”
With a hurt laugh, he stood to his feet, and he tossed himself into the lawn chair. It gave an intense squeak at the sudden weight. Lin pressed his spine hard against the back of the chair, and he curled his free hand's fingers around the armrest and squeezed it with all of his might.
His eyes brimmed with tears again, and he didn’t try to blink them away. A tear pushed over his lid, and he grinned, scoffing a laugh at himself and at his mother.
What the fuck? What the actual fuck?
"Bye, Mom," Lin said, his voice noticeably on the edge of breaking.
“Bye, Lin,” his mom said in a quiet voice.
He pulled the phone from his ear and went to press the red button, but he heard her speak again.
“You’ve been crying, haven’t you?”
His finger quivered over the red button. For a moment, he sat, unmoving, considering just hanging up.
If she really had something to say, then she could…she could fucking spit it out.
He wasn’t going to hang up on his mom, though.
Lin wiped his eyes, rubbing his fingers on his eyes. He pressed his phone to his ear and weakly choked, “No.”
His mom laughed softly, and Lin clenched his jaw and wiped at his eyes. “I know when you’re lying.”
Lin gave a sniffle but said nothing.
There was another soft laugh. “You’re forgetting that I raised you, you know...and that I’ve seen you through it all. There’s no use in lying to me, honey.”
He still had no response.
“I love you,” his mom said. “Don’t forget that, no matter what happens.”
I love you?
Lin’s shoulders raised and lowered slowly and choppily with labored breaths. He dropped his hand from the armrest, and his fingertips dangled over the side of the chair, brushing the concrete. The weight on his chest and the tightness around his heart made it hard to breathe, and he muted his line for a moment as he gasped for air.
This was bullshit.
All she had to say— her only answer, her only reaction to all of that shit— was I love you?
It sounded so regurgitated. So much like a fucking lie.
I love you—
His finger pressed the unmute button. “Who told you?” he asked, voice a croak.
There was a silence on the other end, as if his mother was reluctant to give him the answer. Finally, she gave a soft sigh and conceded, “I found out on the way to work this morning.”
“Radio?” he asked. "Coworker? News?"
“No," his mom answered blandly. "Podcast.”
"Oh." Lin's voice was just an echo.
Fucking this morning.
There was a silence, and then his mom gave another “I love you".
“Yeah, you said.” His voice was cold.
Was that all that she she was going to say? I love you? That bullshit?
He was about to flip his fucking shit.
His mom sighed. “Are you okay?”
He swallowed a lump in his throat and taking a shivery breath, letting out a long breath before he asked the question that was bearing on his mind: “Were you going to tell me?”
There was a stretch of dead air, which told Lin all that he needed to know:
No. The answer was no.
His mother hadn't even thought of him.
Luhmao. Luhmao. He was laughing his motherfucking ass off.
His mom breathed in a quick, deep breath, and then started with a defensive tone. “I couldn’t figure out how—”
“Why the fuck not?” Lin barked. Burning tears bit at his eyes, threatening to spill over his eyelids.
There was a short, stunned pause. “Lin?!” she asked. The fakeness had suddenly evaporated from her voice and was replaced by confusion and startledness.
“Answer my fucking question, Mom," he demanded. His voice cracked on Mom. More tears jumped ship.
There was another stunned pause. “Language,” his mom warned, voice weak where it should have been firm and strong. “Calm down.”
She wasn’t going to tell him and had had no thought or intention of doing so, but she didn’t want to admit it.
He wanted to hear her say it. He wanted to fucking hear it said aloud.
“No, fuck you. You not gonna tell me the fucking answer?” His words were thrashes. “You not going to even try to feed me bullshit or something? You’re not going to give me anything? Seriously?”
There was a pause, and then she said weakly, “Lin, calm down. You know that I love you.”
There it was again.
There was that bullshit.
“No, I’m not going to fucking calm down! That’s not a fucking answer!” Lin snapped, voice cracking on answer. “Did you even fucking think of me, Mom?”
“Of course I—“
“What?!” he interrupted. “Did you even care?!”
“Care?” she repeated. Her voice was hurt. “What makes you think I don’t care?”
“Why didn’t you tell me, then?" he asked.
“Because I couldn’t...,” she started, but she trailed off.
"Bullshit!” he growled. “That's not a fucking answer, Mom!”
She sighed softly. "Stop yelling," she said, voice quivering.
Lin breathed heavily into the receiver. A light breeze came through, and his cheeks, raw from the tears he had cried, stung. “Then…then…then tell me,” he said in a weak voice. He swallowed hard, gritting his jaw and speaking louder. “Just tell me why, Mom.”
His mother let out another soft sigh. "Because I couldn’t figure out how, Lin.”
Lin let out a sharp laugh. His lip curled up into a sneer. “So you were just leaving me to figure out for myself, Mom?” His voice was harsh again.
His mom sighed softly. “Lindsay…”
He was so fucking tired of this—
“What?" he demanded.
“Lin.” His mom's voice told him to stop talking and cursing and yelling, because he had never really done it before, because she didn't want to hear it, but there still wasn't a fucking—
“That isn’t an answer, Mom!”
His mom tried to be firm. “Lin—"
“Mom," Lin started with his own firmness, "my name is in a million mass-produced goddamn fucking gossip magazines. It’s in one fucking line, barely even mentioned— and that one fucking time is more times than my own fucking father even thought of me. My own fucking father!” The volume of his voice increased word by word, and he was shouting by the end of what he was saying. “My—"
"— my dad’s face is plastered everywhere, right next to his pregnant fucking bitch’s, and he’s fucking bragging about that shit! All the headlines are yelling at me that my d-dad’s finally getting— my dad is finally getting what he wants!” He let out a choked noise, the excruciating pain in his chest overwhelming him for a moment. “And-and-and…and in that article— in that article, they put my name just to show ‘oh, he fucked up the first time, couldn’t get rid of that mistake, but second time’s the fucking charm!’ I’m his fucking mistake, and he forgot about me now that he got this fucking replacement kid that he can actually fucking love, that he can actually do the shit that a dad is supposed to do!” His voice was harsh and hurt, something between a choke and a growl. “What the fuck is it, Mom?” he asked, voice pained and forceful. “What the fuck is that?”
There was a silence, and then a weak “Lin…”.
He let out a soft laugh. “Mom, did you fucking hear me? I didn’t hear a peep from the bastard who fathered me. I didn’t hear a goddamn word! A fucking word from him!” His voice cracked every word. “I’m fucking listed when the article’s about my whore of a shit excuse for a—"
"— dad is fucking having another child, but the big difference is that he actually wants this one. But I guess it’s no big deal to you, huh?!” His chest burned with rage, and his throat ripped with fury and pain. “You forgot me, too. You fucking forgot me. I bet you don’t even fucking want me either—"
"— because you only didn’t want to fucking get rid of me because you used me as some fucking last ditch effort to get him to rucking care about you. You only fucking had me because you wanted him to love you— but he didn’t fucking love you, and now you fucking regret keeping me because all I am is a waste of space who can never be anything— because, compared to him, I’m fucking nothing, and I don’t mean shit, and you would rather just fucking forget about me. The only reason why I’m as far as I am is because I’m his goddamn kid. Other than that, I’m fucking worthless. I didn’t give you what you wanted and now you don’t fucking care about me, and I didn’t even cross your mind.”
His voice broke on mind, and he stopped talking for a second, panting. His chest was so tight that he felt like he was being choked by a coarse, flesh-destroying rope.
And she didn’t even try to fucking talk.
He clenched his jaw tighter. “I’m the one he doesn’t fucking want— the one he never fucking wanted, Mom. And he’s acting like I don’t even fucking exist beyond a name drop in a fucking article about the one he’s actually wanting, about the one who he can actually bring himself to fucking care about,” he spat. “He fucking forgot about me, Mom. He fucking forgot about me. I might as well fucking not exist. I might as well be fucking dead. To— to him, I’m—“
“Lindsay Kay,” his mother interrupted, voice wavering but somehow still firm, her voice breaking on his last name.
Lin went silent.
His heart thudded in his chest. His shoulders heaved as he struggled to breathe, and his lungs quivered.
“Nothing you said is true. Okay?" Her voice was stern, but there was still a weakness to it, a wavering quality near the end of her words. "I love you. Okay?" Her voice quaked on the question. "I-I wanted you, and I want you. Okay? And...and I'm hurt over this, but not because...not because of Ricky, okay? None of this is because I’m caught up on him. I’ve just…” There was a pain in her voice, but it all sounded like bullshit to Lin. She seemed to realize how bullshit what she was going to say was, too, and she let out a soft sigh. “Lindsay Morgan, I did not have you to get back at anyone, and I didn't...I don’t…” She seemed to be struggling. “This isn’t…I’m…” She sighed softly. “This hurts me, too. Okay? This hurts me because...” Because she was still hung up on Ricky, because it hurt to see him move on or some cliche rom-com bullshit like that. "Because you're...his...son, and it's hurting you. And…thinking of you hurt…” No. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. I was trying to figure out how to, because I don’t want you hurt. Because I love you.”
She paused, waiting for some kind of response that Lin didn’t give.
“Lindsay, listen to me: I love you,” she said. “You can question a million things in this world, but that’s one thing that you can be damn sure about. I love you with all of my heart.” Her voice quivered. “Listen to me. Listen to me, Lindsay. You…you think that I didn’t want you? You…you seriously think that I had you to stay with Ricky? Lin…your father left when I wouldn’t…when I wanted to keep you. That’s why he left, Lin. I didn’t keep you to try to keep him— I kept you, and he left because I did.”
Lin’s heart dropped, and his ears rang. His mouth went dry again.
His hands shook. He pressed his hand to his eyes and tried to catch his breath. Instead, more tears dripped, and his body gave a shake.
When his mother spoke, her words sounded even weaker than before. “I’m sorry, Lin. I know I never told you that, but…” Her voice quivered. “I love you. Lindsay, I love you. I love you so much that it hurts, and I didn’t tell you that because I didn’t want…I didn’t want you to hurt. That’s the same reason why I didn’t want to tell you about this. And…damn it, Lin. There are a million things that I think back on and wish that I had done differently, and I didn’t want this to be one of those things.” There was a quivering breath. “Your father is part of my past, Lin. And-and I can’t li—“
“You were going keep it a secret from me for God fucking knew how long while you sorted all of this shit out?” Lin interrupted in a mumble. “Because it would make you feel fucking better about yourself?”
She paused a moment. "W-What?"
And then she paused again, obviously expecting him to have an answer to her question.
His heart beat heavy in his chest, as if it were going to break out.
“Do you think that this isn’t hurting me, Lin?” she asked, her voice verging on unbelieving laughter.
“I gotta say it?” Lin choked. “I don’t fucking care if you’re hurt.” His throat burned— because he was saying just what was on his mind. “Your reasons...for being hurt...are bullshit." His voice broke on bullshit, and his body shook.
The air stilled between the two.
Lin's shoulders shook again, and he let out a soft choking noise.
“Okay,” she said. Her voice was weak. “What about them is bullshit?”
“You’re still caught up on him, Mom. You..." His breaths quaked. "You're upset because— because you don't want to see him move on— because you only had me to fucking…to fucking stick it to him or some bullshit, I don’t fucking know— and now he's having a kid that he wants and that he asked for while he left you and me and everything about our lives in the fucking dirt and acted—...fuck. He fucking threw us away, and now he's picked up something else that's a lot hotter and a lot younger and a lot better to everyone else and— and that fucking hurt you because you don't want to fucking see him with anyone else."
There was a long pause, which meant that Lin was right.
His mom started again. “No, Li—”
“Don’t fucking lie,” he interrupted in a mumble. “If I can’t lie, then you can’t.”
And fuck, it hurt. It really fucking hurt.
He was talking to his mom how he would anyone else, in a way that he never would talk to her otherwise, but he was fucking pissed.
Because she couldn't even tell him the goddamn fucking truth.
“Lin,” she said weakly.
He waited for her to talk.
She said nothing else.
“Mom?!” Lin's voice was loud, harsh, and demanding as he barked into the reciever. “You got something to say?”
There was silence.
He gave a soft, pained laugh. He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut, releasing more tears from his eyes. He lifted his fingertips from the concrete to squeeze on his eyelids. “Nothing?” he asked, voice nearly a whisper.
There was silence again.
“I love you,” she said finally, and he rolled his eyes and scoffed. “Don’t talk like that— like I don’t love you. Like I don’t care. You— you know that I love you. I ju—“
“The only reason you’re saying that is that it takes more balls to say that you hate me,” Lin mumbled in a slow, calm voice.
He pulled the phone from his ear and angrily tapped the red hang up button. He clicked off his phone and stared at it for a moment.
For a moment, everything built up and stewed.
All of his mom's bullshit.
All of his dad's bullshit.
His dad who didn’t even fucking want him.
His dad who left his mom because he didn’t even fucking want him.
His dad who fucking denied his existence but took credit for all of the good shit that he did.
His fucking dad.
The fucking bastard.
His jaw clenched, his body tensed.
His muscles tightened, and he threw his phone at the ground.
There was a loud SLAM!, and Lin sat up to look at where his phone lay face down on the ground.
Tears welled in his eyes again.
And then the tears broke over and he clutched his knees to his chest, biting his lower lip to muffle his sobs. He clenched his fist and put his forearm over his eyes.
“Fucking bastard!” Lin hissed through a tightly clenched jaw. “Fuck this shit!”
Gen had no more than pulled up the driveway to her house, keys in hand ready to let her inside for some well deserved relaxation, when her phone chimed out from her gym bag. The call came as rather unexpected, Gen jumping slightly at the sudden music ringing out through the stale night air. It was dark already, long after Gen had dropped Mike off at home and returned to the studio to get work done, and the city had been void of the sunlight for hours.
Somewhere in that city, Gen thought as she pulled up the hill to where the family home sat, was Livanna. Somewhere in that city, Livanna was partying with Jo and her little posse of drug addicts and alcoholics. Somewhere in that city, a promise was being broken.
If she was being honest with herself, Gen would always be one to worry about Livanna. At the end of the day, even despite all the arguments and the harsh words no one meant and the pitiful apologies, Gen still loved her. That in itself, the feeling of unconditional love, scared the everloving shit out of Gen. No matter how hard she tried to repress those feelings, no matter how many times Gen swore that an argument would be the last, Liv was always there. As long as she was there, Gen would love her.
Now, liking her? That was a completely different story.
Gen pulled her phone out of her bag as she twisted open the lock. Of course the damn thing was stuck, leaving Gen to shake and pull at the key in the lock while her phone buzzed idly in her hand. By the time the door swung open the call had been dropped, a message across her screen reading ‘Private Caller’ in green. Another spam call, how lovely.
“Hey Mom, hey Dad.” Gen greeted as she pulled off her shoes and placed them carefully on the rack in the front hall closet. The two people sitting on the white leather sofas looked over the back, grinning widely and waving to their daughter.
“Hello, sweetheart,” Mrs Johannes spoke sweetly, “you were out awful late tonight.”
“I had to get some work done; you know how it is.” Gen laughed softly as she hoisted her gym bag back onto her shoulder.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, Genny.” Her father chimed in, raising his cocktail in the air in an imaginary cheers. Gen forced the smile onto her face, pretending that those words meant anything. The day past had barely been any work at all and mostly car play… Of course, they didn’t need to know that.
“Yeah well I’ll try to take it easy, scout’s honor.” Gen responded, jogging her way up the stairs to avoid the conversation’s continuing. Stopping by Ash’s room, Gen knocked gently on the door and swung it open, peeking her head inside. “Just wanted to say goodnight.” Gen paused, squinting her eyes slightly with an interested smirk. “You look very pretty tonight. Hope someone got to enjoy that.”
With a wink to Ash, she quietly closed the door and made her way to her room. Throwing her bag down on the bed, Gen flopped down beside it and allowed a heavy sigh to fall from her chest. The day’s events replayed in her mind, every mistake and every foolish decision making their way to the forefront of her brain before slipping away. Fuck it. Gen wasn’t about to let herself feel guilty for sleeping with someone she considered a friend, she wasn’t about to let a drunken supposed to be one-night stand intrude on her life. It was a hookup and none of it mattered.
Somewhere in the house, the landline rang. Gen thought little of it as she sat up, peeling off her clothes and tossing them in the hamper by her armoire. Walking to her closet, Gen flipped through the clothes. Pulling a hoodie off of a velvet hanger, Gen pulled it on carefully over her torso and shrugged her shoulders a few times to allow the cloth to fully settle on her skin. Seconds later, the door to Gen’s room swung open and the dreaded words were spoken.
“Gen, it’s Liv.”
And just like that, any feelings of worry turned into crushing feelings of guilt as every imaginable worst case scenario rushed through her head at once. What was it? Did she overdose? Did she get into a car accident? Did someone hurt her? Was she in the hospital?
“Wh-” Gen attempted to speak, her tongue turning to sandpaper against the roof of her mouth.
“The LAPD are on the phone, she’s been arrested.” Gen’s mother spoke, worry creasing her smooth forehead. The guilt turned to worry which turned to relief which turned to anger in milliseconds as she reached over to grab a pair of leggings, jumping slightly as she pulled them onto her legs. “Genevieve, I know what you’re doing and you’re not going.”
“Like fuck I’m not.” Gen snapped, pulling the waistline up onto her hips as she scrambled to find her phone and keys and wallet. “What the fuck did she even do?”
“Public intoxication,” Her father continued, his large body appearing in the doorway behind her mom. “Genevieve, stop it. It is not your responsibility to go out there and save her. This is her mistake, not yours. Besides, I thought she got clean, you told us she got sober.”
Gen shoved her phone in her pocket and grabbed her wallet, shoving past both of her parents downstairs.
“Yeah well turns out we were all fucking lied to,” Gen growled, pulling on her sneakers as she continued to look around for her keys. In the midst of the panic, Gen grabbed an extra coat from the coat tree. “And her mistakes are my mistakes, we’ve been over this. I am not about to let her sit in a fucking holding cell until someone decides they care enough about her to go get her out. It’s not happening.”
Spotting the keys on the hook, Gen reached out to grab them, yanking the hook right out of the wall.
“I’ll be back later.”
The door slammed shut, cutting off the sounds of her parents voices. Gen could have sworn that her feet barely touched the manicured stone path as she jogged down it and to her car, peeling out of the driveway as her tires screeched against the pavement.
Unfortunately, Gen knew the drive to the police department by memory. This wasn’t the first time she had been called to bail someone out and she was certain it wouldn’t be the last. The main highway was relatively empty for a Sunday night allowing Gen to pick up her speed, weaving in between cars as if she was some sort of stunt driver for the Fast and the Furious franchise. Her hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that her fingers began to hurt, knuckles turning a stark white against the black leather interior.
Whipping into a parking spot, Gen fumbled with her wallet to find her card and identification. Pushing her way through the front door, she marched right up to the empty desk and placed her hands on the table, leaning forwards so that her face was near the glass.
“I’m here to pick up Livanna Moore.” Gen spoke plainly, trying to keep her voice from shaking with anger. The woman behind the desk typed in her name, gum sticking loudly between her teeth as she chomped away.
“Sorry hon, she’s got a fine to pay. Unless you can pay that fine, she isn’t going anywhere besides a hearing.” The woman explained, clicking the end of a pen. “Public intoxication of a minor is a misdemeanor, sweetheart.”
“Whatever, I’ll pay the fucking fine.” Gen spoke, taking out her card. “How much?”
“You can pay?” The woman asked as Gen dramatically rolled her eyes. It was for the first time that she looked up to Gen, a wide smile appearing on her face. “Gen Johannes. Wow. I am a big fan of yours.”
“Fuck this isn’t a meet and greet, lady, I’m just here to bail my…” Gen paused, sliding her card underneath the barrier. “Look, I’ll pay the stupid fine. Just get her out of there.”
After the payment was processed, Gen paced impatiently in front of the desk, chips of nailpolish cracking off her nails from the nervous picking. She was pissed, absolutely livid. Minutes passed, though Gen didn’t bother to keep count of how many, and the room sat empty besides her. Clearly no one else was there to pick someone up, no one else was feeling the absolute dread Gen was. The longer she stood there, the worse she felt as the hands ticked away on the clock.
“Miss Johannes?” A voice called out from behind a heavy metal door that had previously been locked tight. “She’s ready to see you. Here’s a bag of her belongings.”
Taking the bag in her hand, Gen looked down at the contents inside. A cell phone, her wallet, keys, a few pieces of makeup… Was that her locket? Reaching into the bag, Gen pulled it out and held it in front of her eyes. Liv had been wearing the locket Gen had bought for her.
Following the guard back behind the door, the two walked down a maze of white hallways until they reached the holding cell. The barred door swung open with a loud clunk and Gen stepped out from behind the officer. Her face immediately fell and her stomach twisted into angry knots. Part of Gen wanted to cry. She never wanted to see Liv in this position, she knew Liv was better than some stupid fuck up that lead her to a holding cell. More than anything, Gen just wanted to hug her and tell her that everything was going to be okay.
But Gen didn’t know if everything was going to be okay. She was infuriated and although she had said it to her parents, Liv’s mistakes were not her own. Grinding her teeth together, Gen took the extra coat off her arm and draped it carefully over Liv’s shoulders, careful not to touch her.
“Let’s go.” Gen managed, her voice frail and cracking.
The two made their way out to Gen’s car in silence, the entire walk filled with heavy sighs and disappointed glances. Gen wasn’t sure what to feel and she sure as hell didn’t know what to say. What can someone say in their situation? As far as she was concerned, Gen was nothing to Liv. Sure they clearly still cared about each other but there was no title, nothing holding them to each other. Gen could hardly even consider them friends, more like distant strangers with a convoluted past.
Getting in the car, Gen said nothing as she pulled back out onto the highway. Her fingers tapped the steering wheel as she tried to figure out where she was going to take Liv. Theoretically, she could take her home. Gen knew her address, she knew how to get there, but she wasn’t entirely certain that it was the best course of action. There was the possibility of taking Liv to her house, though her parents would crucify them both from the anger.
By muscle memory, Gen found herself driving in the complete opposite direction of the downtown core of the city, away from their homes and the school and the police station. Gen didn’t know where she was driving until the car began driving up the empty ramps of a parking garage, her foot not reaching for the break until they were on the top.
Twisting her key in the ignition, the car turned off leaving them in silence. Gen couldn’t bring herself to look at Liv, her eyes instead fixed on the skyscrapers on the horizon. They had come to that very parking garage for one of their first dates. How ironic that they were back there again under such horrible circumstances.
“What the fuck were you thinking, Liv?” Gen muttered under her breath, her defenses shattering as soon as she opened her mouth. “Seriously? Getting drunk and high or whatever you are and then going out in public? Hitting on a cop? What the fuck?”
Gen reached into her glove compartment and pulled out a small bag of makeup wipes, reaching over to attempt to scrub some of the paint off of Liv’s face. She paid little attention to the fact that they were now touching, or the fact that her passenger seat had seen a whole lot of action that day. Instead, she carefully wiped the makeup away, dropping the used wipes back into the bag.
“Stop moving.” Gen snapped as she continued to wipe up Liv’s face, her lower lip trembling. Her movements had become rough and Gen immediately stopped, tears fully streaking down her face as she slammed her hands against the steering wheel. “Fuck Liv, I thought you were fucking hurt. I got that call and I thought you were fucking hurt or fucking dead! What were you even thinking? I thought I lost you. Liv, I thought you were gone, I thought that this was finally it. Why the fuck are you doing this to yourself, why would you do this?”
Gen’s words were jumbled as she spoke quickly, her voice cracking with each choked sob. Leaning her head back against the seat, Gen closed her eyes.
“Every time I think about you, I’m worried. Every time I hear your name being mentioned to me, I’m expecting the worst. I can’t lose you, Liv, but this? I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to see you hurting anymore, I don’t want to fear you not being here in the morning. I just want all of this shit to stop!”
Yeah. That was his motus operandi, but it was true...for the most part. Okay, it was a lie. But no one needed to know that. Remain calm. It was just a rumor. No one had believed it and as long as he kept Javi out of Twitter and didn’t engage, it would all blow over. Some other news would come out eventually. It wasn’t like Lucky actually mattered in this school. People barely knew who he was, but he’d be damned if that was what he was going to be known for.
Gen didn’t understand. She didn’t get it. She had money and prestige and all the things that came with having high status parents. Lucky didn’t have that. Lucky didn’t have support. Lucky didn’t have people. Maybe it was his own fault. Never letting anyone get close enough to really care about him. Never willing to let himself ask for help. But can you really blame him? It’s not like anyone taught him how to interact socially. You didn’t like something, you hit it. His father proved that with him time and time again.
Sad? Drink yourself into oblivion. Stressed? Find someone to fuck. They were probably the most unhealthy ways to deal with emotions, but he knew no other way and it worked. For him at least. Most of the time. Some of the time.
He pulled on the shirt he had decided to wear tonight: the word “Lucky” plastered across the front. Josie had gotten it for him a few months back as a joke. Figured it was the appropriate occasion to wear it. He just had to get through this night. Get through this night and tomorrow would be better. It had to be.
Yeah. He could admit when he was wrong. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it one bit, but he could do it. If he had to. And when Nickie ‘Stubby Hands’ Abrams and Javi ‘Thicc Neck’ Cervantes out you to the entire school, you kind of had to admit to yourself that everything was not fucking fine.
Thankfully his fellow ravers were tanked by the time the news got out. That gave him ample time to avoid, consume and officially wish the end would come. End of what? He wasn’t sure and, to be honest, he didn’t care. End of the night? End of his life? It was all the same in his eyes. No one was going to look at him the same way again. No one was gonna respect him. Care about him. How could they? Why would they?
He stumbled out of the club. The alcohol and drugs doing what they were meant to do. He felt nothing yet he felt everything. It was an experience. He bumped into a few people as he distanced himself as far as he could go. Even with as under the influence he was, he couldn’t shake the feeling that his life was over.
Lucky walked for what seemed like forever. The cool evening breeze and the lights of the city making it a relatively entertaining walk. He felt great...physically anyway. His senses were overloaded and it distracted him from everything else. He was close to home. He really hoped he was close to home.
He heard the slamming of a car door ahead and his attention snapped to the direction of the sound. His eyes narrowed. “HEY!” He said closing the distance between himself and the innocent bystander...if you could call him that. “If it isn’t old Saint Dick.” Lucky’s words were slurred. “It’s Lucky.” He stated and motioned to the word on his shirt. “And I’m gonna kick your ass.” Alright. Not the most threatening, but he was wasted and beating Saint to a bloody mess seemed the most cathartic way to end the night.
Josephine was the same as ever. Saint had no comment as to whether this was to his disappointment or contentment, though, if he had to say something on the matter, he would describe his feelings towards the matter as indifference. She was his ex, and they had broken up. He had an attachment to her neither by any means nor in any sense of the word.
The frown pulling on his face and the prickle flowing through veins as he watched her get out of his vehicle was nothing— it meant nothing.
It smelled like weed and the perfume that Jo had worn last night after she departed. The nub of a joint rested in his glovebox, and he glanced at it as the number on his speedometer climbed.
Saying that Saint needed an escape from the memories that flooded back to him— the memories of his times with Jo— would have been a gross exaggeration. There was no need to “escape” from something that he had no attachment to. If he didn’t care about it, then it didn’t matter that it was there...
In the same breath, though, Saint needed to get that off of his mind.
He needed to get her off of his mind.
He wasn’t hung up on the past. Truly, he didn’t care about it, or her...
He just needed…to get away. That was all.
• • • • •
Saint had not intended to spend all day at the art supply store.
His explanation was that he always found himself far more inspired when he was stoned. That much was a fact; he saw vivid images within his head, certainly, but they came clearer when under the influence of cannabis. Vibrant images of several works that he could create with each of the supplies that he saw flashed before his eyes in instants, and he found himself wracking up so many supplies that he had to grab a cart to hold all of his supplies with.
Of course, he also knew that he couldn’t afford to buy all of these things, and he spent the final hour of his time in the store picking and choosing what one-hundred-fifty dollars could afford him— which, granted, was not very much, but it would do.
Now, he extinguished the object that he was smoking with his thumb. He placed it in the glovebox beside the nub left from earlier, and he stepped out of his vehicle.
He slammed the door, making his way to the back of his vehicle to get the bags of supplies out.
“HEY!” came someone’s loud voice.
Saint blinked, looking around in his expressionless way. He didn’t see anyone for a moment, and then he spotted a figure approached.
Rather, it was a figure stumbling towards him.
He recognized the face of the pretty boy when he came closer, though Saint could not say exactly why he placed him. He was about Saint’s height, and his blue eyes were wild.
“Hello…,” Saint greeted in his slow, stoic voice. “How are you…?”
“If it isn’t old Saint Dick,” said the boy. His words were heavily slurred. From the way he swayed, he was quite intoxicated. “It’s Lucky.” He motioned to a word on his shirt. “And I’m gonna kick your ass.”
Ah…so that was why his shirt said that: he had labeled himself as if he were Hibachi leftovers.
(Saint was craving Hibachi.)
“Lucky...?” Saint repeated, studying the other boy.
It dawned on him why he placed him; it was certainly that Lucky.
“You’re here...to kick my ass…?” he repeated, popping open his car door to grab a bag out of the backseat. “I see…” He slammed the door shut with his hip. “…but I just got home...and you seem drunk...so I doubt that that’s the best...course of action, Lucky. Fighting’s always a waste of time, anyway…and I’ve heard that I’m not fun to punch.”
With a soft sigh, Saint popped open the door to his driver’s side, and he bent inside to grab something. He turned to Lucky. “My proposition…,” Saint said slowly, and he held up a lighter and one of the last remaining joints of his car’s supply. (He would certainly need to remember to restock.) “I personally find it much easier to simply do this means of stress relief.” He clicked down the lighter to flash the flame, and then he held it out to Lucky for him to take, along with the blunt. “Come in...smoke with me,” Saint offered casually. “If we must, we can talk, but...no speaking is necessary.”
With that, Saint began to walk away in his slow, laid-back way, the plastic bags on his arms rustling as he made his way into the building and up to his apartment.
She had begun sobering up just enough to realize where they were going, throughout the minutes they were in the car, Livanna snuck glances over at Genevieve’s face, admiring every inch for merely a few seconds before snapping her gaze away in fear that they’d make eye contact. Memories began to stir up into her head and it felt like an entirely different high altogether, the bittersweet scenes played like a movie in her head.
— “You’ve never had a slushie, before?” Gen asked, twirling the straw in the red concoction.
“I did... like, once. My parents were strict with sugar. They’re super boring little guys.” Liv replied, taking a big sip out of the blue iced goodness.
“Well, what’s the verdict?”
“Myyyyy verdict isssssss… Honestly? I think purple would taste better.”
“Oh? Would it?”
“Hmmmmmm…” Liv leaned over the passenger seat and pressed her lips to Gen’s softly. Tasting the slight layer of cold, cheap, but delicious syrup.
“What the fuck were you thinking, Liv?”
Liv was brought out of whatever daze she was in, snapping her gaze to the floor like she was a scared child, getting scolded by her parents.
“Seriously? Getting drunk and high or whatever you are and then going out in public? Hitting on a cop? What the fuck?”
She didn’t say anything.
It wasn’t like she had a good excuse.
She knew what Gen wanted from her, to hold herself responsible for all the things she did— or done. Or maybe to finally just start making better decisions.
The tall brunette leaned over, taking a pack of makeup wipes, starting to scrub at the mess of Liv’s face as she started to shift uncomfortably.
“Stop moving.” Gen ordered, and Liv averted her gaze from her but obliged as the mascara and unnecessary paint had transferred from Liv’s face to the wipe.
She shouldn’t have called her.
Liv should’ve just sat there and waited until her parents had heard word of it. Or worse, her manager. And despite how horrible her manager was, somehow… whatever this was with Gen felt worse.
Her gaze carefully returned back to Gen, allowing herself to feel a small sense of comfort from her touch, barely even paying attention to the rough movements, and already focusing on the tears that started to swell in her eyes and Liv’s chest like it had started to get tight.
“Fuck Liv, I thought you were fucking hurt. I got that call and I thought you were fucking hurt or fucking dead! What were you even thinking? I thought I lost you. Liv, I thought you were gone, I thought that this was finally it. Why the fuck are you doing this to yourself, why would you do this?”
I don’t know.
“Every time I think about you, I’m worried. Every time I hear your name being mentioned to me, I’m expecting the worst. I can’t lose you, Liv, but this? I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to see you hurting anymore, I don’t want to fear you not being here in the morning. I just want all of this shit to stop!”
Livanna closed her eyes, avoiding Gen’s tears and leaning back into the chair, focusing on anything else while she attempted to blur out her voice, the way her words cracked and trembled had only made her feel worse.
“I didn’t— ... I’m sorry.”
Despite everything, Livanna’s flushed exterior, the slight dark circles under her eyes from the lack of sleep combined with overuse of eyeliner and glitter, and on the inside how her body was practically screaming for help as her heels ached, every part of her body a soreness was already setting in, and her chest constricted— Liv seemed… calm.
Whether it’d be the drugs that were slowly making their way out of her system, or have it be the familiarity of the parking lot.
Or the odd sense of comfort she’s gotten by just being near her.
Everything with Nate and Evie just melted away. She didn’t care about any of it.
Instead of anything, she focused on the radio— the music was ever-so-low, but the tune was easy enough to make out.
Her eyes still closed, a heavy silence sat between them, nothing but the slow-tune in the background playing.
“My parents, before… any record label or whatever had an interest in me, every other weekend there was a night where they’d just… play music, something slow,” Liv swallowed, her throat dry and she took a deep breath before continuing.
“And they’d just dance. I remember watching from the stairs, they thought I was asleep— except when I got caught once, but that’s a different story.”
Another pause sat, and Liv opened her eyes, leaning over and turning the knob, allowing the music to play slightly louder before glancing over at Gen.
The girl studied her for a few moments, carefully taking a hand to her face, wiping whatever tears that fell away.
“Dance with me.”
Gen hesitated, but she agreed.
Livanna’s arms rested on both sides of Gen’s shoulders, and Gen’s arms were wrapped around her waist. They swayed to the music and suddenly, Liv’s gaze had gotten blurry from the tears that started to swell up in her own eyes. It was easy to ignore her own emotions when people were expressing their disappointment in her, arguing with her, yelling at her in some form— Liv could handle that.
It was moments like these that poked and prodded the sensitive girl more than anything. It was the silence that hurt more than the words people would throw at her.
Liv felt as if her own existence was made purely to hurt others. And… maybe, just maybe. She could handle it happening to everyone else.
She didn’t want to keep hurting her.
She didn’t mean to.
But that’s the thing, right?
No one ever means to.
Liv didn’t pull away from her, instead burying herself further into Gen, hiding her tears.
“You never told me why.”
The soft voices played in the background, so easy to ignore, yet— the piano played louder and it had been oh-so-easy to pretend they were in their own, private ballroom and they were free of any worries, any mistakes.
There were no Nates, Evies, Mikes. It was just them.
“Why you left.”
What did I do? Was there something I could’ve done to prevent it?
If the world could just be made up of one person, Liv would choose her. Because there wasn’t even a world— a life, worth living if Gen wasn’t in it.
That’s how it felt.
That’s how Liv felt. It was selfish of her to think that way. To do all these things that contradict everything that she tries to say.
And when she does, her words are drowned out by her actions. But the difference between her actions and her words, is that Liv meant them.
Yeah. That’s right. He was gonna kick. Saint’s. Ass. Not like he didn’t deserve it. He hurt Josie and was just an all around unpleasant guy. Plus, it would make Lucky feel better and at this moment... he wanted to feel better. He wanted to feel anything other than shame.
“You’re here...to kick my ass…?”
Why was this fuck always so calm? It was infuriating. He’d always been that way. Even when he and Josie were dating. You could never tell what he was thinking and Lucky prided himself on being able to read people fairly well. Saint. Was always difficult, because nothing seemed to matter to him. Maybe nothing did. Josie didn’t and she was arguably the best thing that ever happened to Saint.
Yeah...this guy definitely deserved to be punched.
He looked on in confusion as Saint went about grabbing something from this car. Did he not hear him? No...he had to have...he responded to his threat. So, he heard him, but he didn’t think he was serious? Dick. He took a deep breath as his eyes narrowed.
“...but I just got home...and you seem drunk...so I doubt that that's the best...course of action, Lucky. Fighting’s always a waste of time, anyway...and I’ve heard that I’m not fun to punch.”
He rolled his eyes. He did not believe that for a second. No one liked Saint. Except Josie, at one point, (and jas, but she’s drunk). And it wasn’t about entertainment. It was about dealing with issues. It was about making HIM feel better. And right now punch…
Is that a joint?
Lucky’s eyes went to the lighter and joint in Saint’s hand. A bribe? Did he really think that would work? But weed did sound pretty good about now. Could you mix weed and ectasy and cocaine? Who knew. Who cared. If it made him feel good. It was worth it. He held it out for Lucky and he grabbed it hesitantly.
‘Come in...smoke with me.”
“Yeah, okay.” He said as he followed behind Saint. Look, he wasn’t gonna break bread with the guy. He’d smoke his weed and then kick his ass after. Two birds and one stone. What did that even mean? Lucky had no idea, but he thought it and it made perfect sense. “I might kick your ass still after.” He mumbled under his breath as they entered his apartment.
Lucky flopped down on the couch. His body felt heavy and this couch felt amazing. “So about that weed?” he said looking up at Saint. “Oh yeah, I’ve got it.” He chuckled to himself as he placed the joint in his mouth and ignited the flame of the lighter. He inhaled deeply and held the smoke in his lungs as long as he could before he exhaled slowly.
He held the joint up. “Want some?” He offered as if it was his. He could be cordial...for now.
Dalton's ears had perked up at the mention of the video. That was definitely something he wanted to see. What better way to come back to H.A. than to be welcomed by a video of His Chasness getting his ass handed to him?
He helped himself to another spoonful, frowning. Yeah, he was going to need a glass of water, no question. It wasn't sickly sweet, but the mouthfuls added up, reminding him exactly why he typically stayed clear of sweet stuff. Finishing this tub? Completely out of the question. He wasn’t going to finish half of it either. That idea was out the window too. Unlike some of the maniacs at this school, he wasn’t a bloody masochist.
When Adriane responded to his offer like he had just asked her to shovel a spoonful of crap into her mouth, Dalton shrugged his shoulders and set the tub and spoon down. He couldn't blame her for responding that way now that he had eaten a bit more of it.
“Fair point. Clearly I’ve been away too long given that I considered for even a moment that Chas or JJ’s taste might not be completely horrible.” He shook his head as he gave his mouth a good wipe with a tissue, to rid himself of the lingering ice cream before heading to the kitchen to get himself some water to wash away the taste. The comments he'd made were half serious. He could never be away for too long. There was nothing much he would miss here, except for maybe a handful of people and the occasionally entertaining screw ups the students here made. Hawaii had been a paradise for someone who loved the water and privacy as much as he did, and he'd welcome a long trip away from H.A. at any place that was similar. Might not be a half bad idea to return there for spring break or a short weekend getaway. Spend hours at the beach, catch some waves...he definitely had to consider it.
As he gave his mouth a good rinse, Dalton, glanced around the apartment. His old place hadn’t been too shabby, more so because he took good care of it and kept it clean than because of the state of the property itself. Still, it was nice to be moving into nicer digs using the earnings he’d gotten from jobs and shoots. Sure, if he used his old man’s cash, he would have been able to afford himself much fancier accommodations from the start, but he’d rather not touch any of that money at all. After all what good had those dollars done anyways? Nothing.
“Alright, where’s that video?” He asked as he returned to the living room and settled back onto the couch, one arm stretched out over the back of the couch behind Adriane, the other rested on his leg as he leaned in a little towards her to get a good look at His Chasness getting destroyed by H.A.’s resident dwarf.