Ronnie blushed upon hearing Kelli's compliments. She didn't consider herself the coy type by any stretch of the imagination, but it was hard not to feel a little flustered in the presence of someone who seemed to regard her so highly. Always chasing some jerkish guy, Ronnie was always the one pelting compliments left and right, so it was refreshing to have Kelli there in all her Kelli-ness and glory. As close as the girls had become in such a short time, Ronnie had come to the realization that she had to find a way to show her roommate some solid appreciation—STAT.
"If I were a janitor ghost, I'd totally drop my responsibilities and just break stuff, or maybe flood the bathroom like Moaning Myrtle." She smirked, playfully winking and elbowing Kelli. "Or, like, fall into a forbidden love with a mortal boy." It was hard not to go on and on about the genres of horror and romance, Ronnie's personal favorites by far. However, she most often didn't prefer the two intertwined in a story considering the grave fate that always awaited the lovey-dovey couples. As deadly as it is, Ronnie hoped to reach that level of affection someday with her quarterback boyfriend.
"Don't say that!" she cried, laughing along, "Scary movies almost never work logically! If the easy target always went down first, that'd be, like, too easy." The redhead tapped her chin, studying Kelli, "I think you have the potential to be the final girl, or at least make it far enough to get character development. That is, unless the monster is a giant shrimp or something." Kelli didn't have to know her knowledge mostly came from Wattpad. Where else would she get it, a book?
Moving on to the shirts, Ronnie internally weighed the two shirts' given personalities. The way Kelli described it, she totally would have been best friends with the first shirt, but to each their own. Sometimes plain and simple was the best fit, and she was glad to have helped her friend reach a conclusion. Just remind Ronnie not to go out for coffee with a white shirt.
"Awesome!" she cheered, squeezing Kelli hard until the very last moment of their hug. After engaging in a much-deserved high-five, Ronnie nodded and smiled as Kelli went to get changed. In the meantime, she checked her texts, absentmindedly scrolling through her contacts. Hmm... I wonder who I'm gonna see today? Maybe if I run into Liv, we can throw a rave in the gym or something! I bet Kelli would like that too. And Hunter...
Kelli's melodic voice brought Ronnie back to her senses, and she instinctively sent the girl a warm smile. For a moment, all she could do was simply admire her friend, but she cut it short so as to not make her self-conscious. "I think you made the right choice!" she declared, giving a solid thumbs up. She returned the hug in full, then backed away and softly grabbed Kelli by the shoulders. "Rock it like you're on the red carpet, bestie. You don't even need to wear heels—this'll be a breeze!"
And now, it was time to roll out. A hop and a skip later, there the two girls were at Hollywood Arts: After Hours Edition. The giant architectural masterpiece would have been an eerie sight at night if it wasn't for the obvious swath of teenagers making their way inside. It really did feel like a slumber party, and the best part was that everyone was invited!
Waving a goodbye to Kelli, Ronnie parted ways with her roommate at the first turn in the hall. All alone and further down in, it started to feel increasingly more like a haunted house. The sound of her own footsteps echoing amid a suffocating miasma of deep darkness only penetrated by moonlight screamed to get the hell out, and fast.
Ronnie's slasher-themed train of thought was harshly interrupted by the sound of another down the hall, and suddenly her nighttime stroll became less of a wander and more of the beginnings of a social marathon. And what better way to start it than with the most awkward encounter of the night!? Directly ahead was the gentle giant Zephyr Evermore, awaiting his unrequited love.
"Heeeeyyy, Zeph!" Ronnie called to her classmate, pulling him in for a nice, casual, platonic hug. Start strong, start strong. You see, Ronnie had some explaining to do regarding the whole indirect stalker accusation thing (which she didn't entirely mean, by the way!) and, um, that night after the Homecoming game. One drunken kiss and misunderstanding after another, it was a mystery how much had gone unaddressed between the two for so long.
The best course of action would be to play it cool, of course. Minimize the weirdness. Put on a brave smile. After all, they'd sorta sorted it out over text, but like, not really. Their friendship at least warranted a conversation, one of which they hadn't had a chance to have in a while. It was also sort of weird that Zeph was apparently taken now, which selfishly bothered Ronnie in the sense that she always wanted hoes, but for the sake of Zeph's happiness, she'd be happy for him too.
"It's been a bit since we've gotten to talk like this, yeah!?" she remarked enthusiastically, practically beaming, "I just wanted to say sorry for being a bad friend to you recently. I really like you a lot and I hope we're still, like, totally cool! Also, nice girlfriend! I love Stella. You guys rock, dude." She playfully shoved her fist at Zeph's shoulder, which was nearly like a foot above her own. Ignore the weird, ignore the weird, ignore the weird.
"Things have been so crazy lately, but things are all smoothed over with me and Mike now, so that's good. We went to the fair together, you know. It was super sweet of him." She smiled thoughtfully, nearly losing herself in her imaginary fantasy of something beyond a pity date. "I think I've pretty much mastered not drinking too much at parties," she added with a giggle, "Halloween was super great. I drank out of a champagne glass. What about you? Spent time with the booooothaaaang? Wink wink."
Well, she had to give it to the little boy in front of her -- Adriane had expected him to take off, running and crying the instant she wove her insults. But the fact that he stayed in front of her, trying to defend himself and apologize (even if he appeared to be on the verge of tears the whole time), was mildly impressive.
Well, he could continue stammering all he wanted. That was fine. Adriane could just crank up her own harsh words. Perhaps she was growing softer than Evelyn Sinclaire, and that was why her words hadn't carried the same venomous weight they once had. Except that... she never grew soft, and the longer he stood here in front of her, the worse chance there was of her reputation taking a serious hit.
The last Adriane wanted was to be seen conversing with an underclass-freak.
He started stuttering away about how it was just a quick sketch, about how he could he fix it.
"Oh, so... I'm good enough to try and draw, but I'm not good enough for you to actually put the time and effort in? Is this just what you do, you little freak? Half-assed sketches of girls to try and get in their pants? You're pathetic and despicable." The metaphorical gloves were off -- Adriane was ready to just go full force and if she didn't see Angel cry by the end of this conversation?
Well, it would simply mean she had lost her touch and was growing soft.
She had to take a step to the side as the unbalanced boy nearly rammed into her. Stupid little boy.
"I don't think you're ugly!" he yelped, vigorously shaking his head "no", "I'm so sorry! You're the prettiest girl I've ever seen!"
Maybe she felt an ounce of guilt for her words, for putting this boy in the stammering predicament that he currently found himself drowning in, but at the same time... well, she didn't want to mess with him. And in her experience, accepting a compliment, saying thank you, just opened the floor to repeated encounters. Adriane didn't want repeated counters with this crooked-jawed little boy.
"Photographers take candid photos all the time, I just thought..." He continued. "I don't know what I thought. I'm sorry."
"Yeah," she snapped, her words edged with ice. "They do take photos, but they do this thing called 'ask for permission' first. Also, I get paid for those. I'm not here to be your little charity case. And the whole puppy dog eyes and stuttering act might work to get your way with other girls, but I'm not falling for it. You're a pathetic little boy, and I can't believe you'd try to manipulate me into thinking that you meant no harm."
She had to hand it to him -- he really did have quite the resolve.
It would make it all the more fun to watch him run away in tears.
And then, off to stuttering he went once more.
"Um, do you maybe wanna get dinner tomorrow night? And then I can draw you with your permission, uh, more accurately."
Was he seriously kidding right now? Like eww, as if she'd ever be caught dead at a table with him, but also like... seriously? What? What about her words hadn't made her feelings on the dumb little boy in front of her clear?
"I think you'd make a beautiful model. I-I just get, like, lost in your eyes," -- Adriane rolled her eyes at this remark -- "and you have this m-mysterious allure, and you have really good skin, and..."
Creepy. Only serial killers that wanted to wear your skin would compliment that, which just served as evidence to further support what she thought of the boy in front of her. Pathetic, disgusting, and on his way to being a full-fledged creep, probably by time he was thirty with receding hairline and everything.
She kept that to herself. See, she wasn't completely heartless.
He mumbled some more stuff, but she wasn't totally listening until he introduced himself.
"I'm, uh, Angel." He reached an arm out for a weak handshake. "Cervantes. By the way."
Oh. Oh this was rich.
Naturally, Adriane didn't accept his hand. Instead, her cold blue eyes glared down at his hand, her lip curling back in disgust, and then she looked back up towards Angel's face to meet his eyes. Yeah, the last thing she was going to do was touch the boy in front of her. He was one of those creeps that would probably walk away and refuse to wash his hand because omg, she touched me.
Hell, she was probably the first girl -- or person -- willing to touch him.
Eww. She was not going that low.
Adriane sucked in a deep, breathy sigh.
"Cervantes?" she echoed, a small laugh escaping her lips. "I already fucked the other Cervantes, and I'm not interested in wasting my time on another meathead that finishes in a minute. Especially when that other meathead is..." she looked him up and down once, her nose wrinkling up in disgust, "well, you. Your jaw is crooked. Kind of looks like you got hit by something. Too bad that something didn't take off your whole head, hmm?"
Ugh, that was weak. She really was getting soft.
"Look, kid, there's no way you'd make it with me, okay?" Adriane said, the disgust washing away from her face to be replaced by a smug look. Surely, he wouldn't have the strength to stay here in front of her after this. He'd probably run off sobbing, and then Adriane could relax in the knowledge that she did still have the same bite. "You're too soft, too weird, too... you. I wouldn't be caught dead dragging you around behind me like an ugly lost puppy, okay? So why don't you just... run along and find some other girl that might be into the whole 'poor, sad boy' act?"
The few moments of silence that stretched out between them was enough to answer Ash's question. Hunter, clearly, hadn't planned anything for the festival yet and was intending to just, like, totally wing it. She couldn't help but roll her eyes with a grin as he finally answered her question with his words, and just stated exactly what she'd already figured out. He was procrastinating.
Ash scoffed, jaw dropping slightly as he returned the teasing as if she was procrastinating. She shook her head. "No, no, no... we might only have, like, a month to figure this whole thing out, but Lucky and I are totally going to rock it." She figured that the more she said that, the more she'd perhaps believe it.
Because, well, as was customary to Ash, there was always that little hint of doubt snuggled deep down in the pit of her stomach. But it was going to be good, it was going to be perfect, it was going to be amazing -- it had to be all of the above, because Ash knew that her mother would be watching her every move and listening to every word that left her lips for any miniscule mistakes. And, like, her mother was already pissed at her and thought she was horrible or whatever (yeah, the talk with her mother last weekend had gone swimmingly), and she just... like... really wanted to prove her mother wrong.
"No way," she restated with a little shake of his head. "Lucky and I are going to be amazing."
We have to be.
She glanced away from Hunter as she finished speaking, smile still on her face, until her gaze snagged on a familiar, wispy corpse of a human and his companion which... she unfortunately recognized as her brother, Jace. Ash hesitated for a moment, her heart giving a solid couple pounds in her chest, as she debated on what to do -- because yeah, she wanted to apologize, but...
Callum hated her.
Going over there was... surely... a horrible idea, but she felt a tugging in her stomach that demanded she actually, like... confront... something... for once instead of just looking in the other direction and hoping that it would eventually blow over.
"I, umm..." she looked back up at Hunter, keeping a smile on her face even though it was a little harder and felt a little more forced now. "I gotta... I gotta go, actually, but I uhh... we should..." Ash's words started to trip and stumble together, and she gestured between herself and Hunter with a hand, "you know... hang out... sometime... okay? Text me, or... whatever. I'll see you later."
With one last smile, she stepped past Hunter and started towards Callum and Jace although, as she started to grow closer, her steps started to falter. They started to become less sure, slower, smaller.
She couldn't do this.
Facing her problems spot on had never been her strongest attribute, and like... she'd tried over text -- but that hadn't worked. So, like, what was even her plan? Hope that an in person apology would somehow make everything alright and suddenly Callum would forgive her? It was... it would... it wouldn't... she...
Her hands twisted together in front of her, her thumb lightly rubbing across a small scar on the inside of her other hand.
Deep breaths, she told herself, and her lungs shook as she tried to take in a deep, wobbling breath of air. Oh. Ash felt light-headed with nerves already, and she hadn't even approached them yet. She could still turn, she could still walk far away and just, like, avoid Callum for the rest of the school year. And the rest of next school year. And the rest of her life, if that's what it took.
She could sweep everything that had happened under the rug, and she could pretend it had never happened.
God Ash felt like she was going to be sick. Her stomach twisted and pulled, and she let her head drop, her eyes squeezing shut, as she tried to swallow the lump growing in the back of her throat.
It would be fine.
That was her mantra, anyway -- fine.
Everything would be alright. Everything would be fine.
It wasn't like he was going to hit her or something.
So, sucking in another deep breath, she lifted her head back up and continued her trek across the hall to Jace and Callum -- before she lost her nerve again, and before she got physically ill from the stress of should she, shouldn't she?
"H-hey..." Ash started as she came to a stop beside them. She could feel Jace's gaze burning into her skin, but she didn't look at her brother or so much as acknowledge him. Instead, she kept her gaze glued to Callum. "I, uhh..." her voice faltered and wavered, her words sounding smaller and smaller the more she tried to make sense of what was in her head so that she could communicate it.
"I wanted to uhh... to... say that I'm, I'm..." god, this display of torn apart vernacular put Jace's stuttering to shame, and she had to take in another deep, shuddering breath to try and right herself enough to attempt to get through this apology.
"I'm... I'm... sorry, Callum," she managed to say, and then she turned her gaze downwards, her teeth gnawing at her bottom lip, before she continued -- expression still trained on the tile at her feet. "You're... right and I'm... I'm sorry. I should've... should've umm... believed you and, like... everything. I'm just, like... I'm just... like... really sorry for... everything that's happened..."
She trailed off at the end of her feeble apology, and she risked lifting her head back up to peer at Callum and wait for a reply.
He politely listened while his new bestie bitched away about just... everything regarding the misadventures of last weekend. Jace started to nod his head vigorously in blind agreement with Callum's words, but then he started to wonder if he looked too enthusiastic about all of it, so he stopped nodding his head quite so vigorously and settled for a
more subtle rhythm.
... But of course that then raised the red flag worry that maybe he wasn't being enthusiastic enough, and Jace was left with his head making no movements to agree or disagree because he wasn't sure how he should react.
Callum started laying into his little sister again, and Jace felt a... strange mixture of feelings. It was no secret that he wasn't his sister's biggest fan -- they were living apart this year because he didn't get along with her -- but... at the same time, Ash was still his little sister. Most brothers would, what, defend their sisters to the grave? Even if they'd had a falling out or didn't get along or talk a lot, right? Like, shouldn't he be blindly defending her against someone that was tearing her down, even if it wasn't like she would ever hear or be affected by the things Callum was saying?
Suddenly, Jace found himself stuck in a bit of a conundrum. A touch sticky situation. He was being torn between agreeing with his new friend, or defending his little sister that had been by his side for years.
That was a bit of a lie. It wasn't like the siblings had ever had each other's backs -- again, Jace still clearly remembered the day that one of her friends back in New York had slammed him into a goddamn wall and threatened him, and she'd done nothing but look in the other direction. Or, you know, the many times that their parents had given her praise while ignoring Jace and trying to pretend he didn't exist.
And then, Callum even said how he'd pick Jace's music over Ash's, and the scrawny boy was sold. He would go to war for Callum. He would die for Callum. No one had... well, people had, but he... he just... it wasn't... often that he would that he was better than Ash. So for a moment, he just blinked in Callum's direction, a slightly stunned expression on his face as he rolled it over and over in his head.
He was a better singer.
(Or, at least, Callum thought he was and that's all Jace really needed.)
Jace didn't even care that Callum had said he'd never listen to Jace's stuff normally. He still thought Jace was a better singer than Ash, and if Jace wasn't doing his best to be as cool as... something... cool, he'd have jumped up and down in glee and clapped his hands together giggling.
Thanks to his silent freaking out about what Callum had said, Jace hadn't been paying too much attention to Callum's next words.
Until Callum called him a dick.
His head jerked up, his lips trembling. He hadn't realized that Callum was joking -- or maybe he had, but a little part of him really was worried that he'd managed to offend Callum and he started to panic just a bit. Anxiety squeezed at his heart.
"I-I-I," he started to stutter out, "N-no, I mean... I-I mean, I'm-I'm--"
Before he could finish his stuttered apology, the bitch of the hour (ohmygodhewassorryforthinkingthat) decided to make her appearance. Jace's eyebrows furrowed together, his lips peeling back into a faint look of disgust as his sister approached. She didn't even bother looking towards him or acknowledging him in any way, and Jace wondered if he should start waving his arms about to remind her that he did exist.
That as much as everyone might want to pretend she was the only West at this school, that she wasn't.
She tripped and stumbled over her own words, almost putting Jace to shame, but still... she spoke better than he did. And then she stole Jace's apology right out from underneath him, and Jace's upper lip curled back in anger.
He was going to apologize to Callum for saying no one liked me but of course, she must've had some kind of sixth sense, so she'd come by to take that opportunity from him. Snatch it right away, steal his thunder, and do it ten times better than Jace ever would've.
Jace let out an unamused snort of laughter when Ash finally seemed to be done with her meek apology, and she took a moment to acknowledge him by shooting him a look before turning her attention back to Callum.
Or maybe it was his imagination -- who really knew with Jace?
"Th-th... that's such... such bullshit," Jace spat.
“Well, I’m new, so I haven’t really made any friends,” Slater said. “But I got a couple— Felix and Kian. Kian’s kind of a whiny little ass a lot, though, and I really only talk to Felix ‘cause he’s my dealer. And that Javi guy—“
Nickie flinched at Javi’s name.
“— guess we’re…maybe not friends, but we know each other.”
Shit, shit, shit.
“He’s kind of fucking dumb, though.”
Nickie paused a moment, tensing up slightly, expecting Slater to go into some kind of tangent where he finally let his true motives for talking to her show. Ya know, the part where the curtain is pulled back and the wizard is revealed, except the wizard in this case was a hot boy calling Nickie a whore and a bitch for what she did.
When it didn’t come, Nickie relaxed the tension apprehensively. “Yeah…he is kinda dumb…,” Nickie said slowly.
It registered with her what he said before, and a quick expression of disgust passed over her face before she dismissed it. “Dealer?” she asked. “Like, as in…uhm, like…drugs?”
Was she seriously talking to another Tittypecs? He was, like, waaaaay too hot to be a druggie, honestly. Like, she could see maybe the sunken eyes, but weren’t those guys supposed to look…she didn’t know…dead?
At least this one wasn’t Evie’s bitch, she guessed, so she could, like…let it slide.
Plus, he was a hot one.
Nickie shook her head, dismissing that line of thought, and she sat her head back against the wall.
"So your boyfriend left you to just be by yourself at the fucking lock-in?” Slater asked. “Kinda shitty if you ask me."
She looked over at him, blinking. Her eyes had lost that glassiness now that she had a distraction. Her heart skipped a beat at his…fucking audacity.
Insulting her boyfriend when she was, like…pouring her heart out? Like, she would be offended, but the confidence of it…?
Oh my God, Slater was honestly…like…so hot. No Hunter, but still hot.
But…shit. Once she got past that, the words that he said registered in her head, and she felt the tightness in her chest return.
So your boyfriend just left you to just be by yourself at the fucking lock-in?
Pretty much…but he couldn’t help it, right?
“Yeah…well, like…he can’t drive yet or anything,” Nickie started, “and I don’t even…like, I dunno who he’s coming with or if he’s coming with anyone or literally anything.” She let out a soft sigh. “Like, he hasn’t texted me or anything, so I kinda doubt that he’s even here yet, but, like…I dunno.” She shook her head slightly. “I mean, it’s not his fault that he’s not here, I guess…?” She paused, folding her lips in, then continued. “I wouldn’t say that he’s shitty or anything…but he could, like, at least text me or something…?”
She looked down at her lap. “I dunno. I love him…like…love him, but, like…he isn’t here right now.” She looked over at Slater, her brows knit as she searched his face for understanding. “He’s not here with me…? I guess that, like…might be shitty if you, like, cock your head at it or whatever. I dunno…I just…” She shook her head, looking down again. “Dunno. I’m, uhm…well, not exactly someone I would want to hang around, either, so it’s hardly shitty even if he is avoiding me or whatever or just doesn’t want to be around me right now, I mean.”
She lifted her head to look at Slater once more, meeting his eyes with her blue eyes that were growing glassier the longer she spoke. “Like, I whine…? A…lot…? And…uh, cry? A lot…too…?” She lowered her head again. “And…uh…puke a lot…yeah. It’s…like…a problem or whatever. They call me unstable…uh…yeah. So…that’s that, I guess…but I don’t…I dunno.”
She tucked her lips in again, closing her eyes for a second and trying to breathe.
Shit. Saying all of that aloud was…shit.
She drew in a long, slow breath.
She turned her gaze to Slater again, and she cocked her head slightly. “So…like…” She met his eyes. “Whyyyy the fuck are you talking to me…?”
Oh, wait, that sounded bitchy.
She looked away. “I meant, like…why? Are you talking to me? Like…I don’t mean that in…like, I mean that not in a rude way.” She looked up at him, shaking her head. “Like…you’re great. I’m just…like…” She slowly cocked her head again. “Why, though? Like, why are you talking to me…? And, like…still, even? Shouldn’t you, like…be talking to someone, like…hotter? Or…like…who isn’t annoying as hell? Like…it kinda doesn’t make any sense."
Oates, Ash, Gen, Eli INT: Winona
Callum's crooked smile was a wry mockery of Jace's social awkwardness; he looked down on his cherished friend, but there was a fractional element of affection that lingered for the closest person in the school to truly understanding him. He was all kinds of loyal to Oates, but his naïve, downright childish compassion could never compare to Jace's embittered understanding of the life he lead. To put it plainly, sympathy just made Callum want to shut himself off, as well as the sympathy-giver's mouth. Empathy, on the other hand, was a delight to witness another partaking in. Amid all the nothingness and overwhelming somethingness Callum flip-flopped between, it was only natural to want to share that exact feeling with another. Jace understood that. He was also a social pariah with vindictive tendencies. On that level, he felt a true connection.
The willowy teenager's smile hardened into a stern leer as Ash approached, and he glanced over to gauge Jace's reaction. She couldn't even walk at a consistent pace. What a fucking mess. What made her so special? This was the girl who had befriended a staggering number of their peers? And after two years of friendship and shared secrets, it was mind-boggling just how the unfaithful girl had managed to have so many male admirers. Couldn't anyone see how much of a snake she was? His icy, dispassionate glare seized hold of Ash, entrapping the visibly anxious girl in a sea of blue intensity. He replied to her greeting with a curt nod, raising an eyebrow as though to speed up the rate at which she was getting to the point. "Just tell me what you're here for," he spat coldly, crossing his arms. He just couldn't be left alone. Someone always had to come and fuck up his night, or go shit on him over the internet over the smallest things. God, Callum was sick of people, and Ash's attempt at striking up conversation or whatever the hell she was doing only added to it. The girl had known him since her freshman year and couldn't even get a clue. If she had an ounce of sense in her, she'd have gotten fucking lost and left Callum in peace, which he was beginning to think no one would ever allow him for the rest of his life. "I'm... I'm sorry, Callum." Really? She expected him to buy this weak ass apology? Ash continued on to elaborate but not really on why she was apologizing, and honestly, Callum was just sick of it. Yes, he deserved a gigantic apology, but he didn't care anymore. None of this bullshit mattered. Much to his surprise, Jace spoke up, warranting a wide-eyed turn of the head from Callum. He was absolutely right. This was bullshit. "That's it?" he echoed, curling his lip in disgust, "That's all you have to say to me?" A newfound fire melted through his frigid gaze, complimenting his ferociously clenched teeth. He was grinding his teeth, and he hadn't even noticed it until the shock of his apparently tightly-wound fists hit him. "You cannot be fucking serious," he scoffed, shaking his head with a roll of the eyes, "You are not pulling this right now." He pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers, feeling the beginnings of a massive headache setting in. "I'm so sick of this, Ash. I'm done." Callum let out a deep sigh, releasing his balled-up fists. "It's hardly an apology when you don't even know what the fuck it is you did wrong." He narrowed his eyes, a storm of hurt and disbelief raging within. "Look at me," he demanded with a flick of his head, "Look me in the eye or turn around and leave, because you need to hear this shit one more time."
Without hesitation, he continued, making sure never to let Ash escape eye contact. "You're a shit person. And you apologize, but it's all superficial. I don't want your bullshit 'You're right' and 'I'm sorry' because it means nothing." He leaned in close, pinching his thumb and index finger closer to portray a small quantity. "Nothing."
"Fuck you shitty apologies. And fuck you. Is it so much to ask for you to just recognize for one second the extent to which you made me feel like shit? The way you put me second every time something else came up?" Yeah, they weren't absolute best friends, so he was understanding when she'd go spend all her time with Eli or Gen or, well... whoever the fuck. Callum didn't have a roster of Ash's entire friend group. He wasn't so much of a psychotic asshole as to demand her attention at the drop of a hat every day; that would have been hell for the both of them.
He was understanding. Patient. Reasonable. Not once until recently had he complained at all about it, barring a passive-aggressive remark here and there, but hey, it's Callum. "At the very least, I expected a little bit of compassion when my boyfriend of two years broke up with me out of the blue. It took you an entire weekend just to reply to a single fucking text." He clutched his nose again; fuck, his head was throbbing. "You know I had virtually no one else to turn to. You're the one person I thought I could turn to, God forbid I have a problem after all the times you came crying to me about your relationship issues."
His rage was boiling over, seething like a cloud of steam burning his head. The headache wouldn't just fucking stop and no one seemed to understand a word Callum was saying, and oh my fucking GOD could Ash stop looking at him like that? "And I know I don't mean shit to you, because you not only doubted my word about the Halloween party, but went so far as to lie and then accuse me of it? And then you couldn't even admit you were wrong about that, so you blamed it on Gen being scary or whatever the fuck? What the hell is your problem?" Callum was seeing red; he was out for blood. He was at his limit, and Ash was completely to blame for knowingly pushing him this far.
"I don't fucking like you. I'm fucking FINISHED with you!" he declared with a raised voice he hadn't used in ages. It almost felt forbidden for Callum to speak in any volume louder than a librarian. "No one is ever going to trust you like I did, you 'sorry' piece of shit. Get out of my face and never speak to me again."
Apparently, the brain waves that Zeph had been sending out to try and telepathically communicate to Lin where he was had failed. Somehow, his little brainwaves had gotten all mixed up in his brain and had actually sent out one to try and summon a small, redheaded simp that Zeph would've been happy never having to see in his life again. And yet here she was. In the flesh and blood. Right in front of him.
Oh no oh no oh no oh no.
Once the object of his affection, Ronnie had been reduced to nothing more than a painfully sore reminder of bathroom sinks. Getting involved with her in any kind of way -- kissing her that night, for example -- had easily been the worst mistake of his young life. Sure, it was something that Zeph had wanted to do for a really long time but, well, he'd expected some kind of better response from her in regards to it.
Not her falling head over heels in love with him or anything, but he hadn't expected her to then run right back into the arms of the very guy that had left her a sobbing, gross mess on the night of Homecoming.
Seriously, what did she see in that Mike guy? He was an ass.
Ronnie didn't seem to pick up on Zeph's apprehension about her speaking to him. After all, he was very happy with his new girlfriend. Stella was amazing in every sense of the word and to think that Ronnie could even begin to hold a candle to Stella's brilliance was simply asking for the impossible. Zeph was happy and he'd moved on, and the last thing he really needed was little Ronnie Simpington messing that up for him.
After all, it was weird to be in a relationship with a girl that had once listened to you lament about the very girl that now stood in front of him.
She threw her arms around Zeph in a hug -- which once upon a time would've, well... never actually happened. Ronnie had more or less avoided him before Homecoming, so he was a touch confused about this sudden show of platonic affection.
His heart threw itself against the front of his chest and he felt a faint red blush gather on his cheeks.
Naturally, he returned the hug because it would've been rude to not.
He was a polite gentleman, after all.
Ronnie started chattering away about his new girlfriend, and then she mentioned Mike and Zeph wanted to snap, but he bit his tongue for now. She glossed right over it, anyway, moving on to Halloween and then right back to asking about Stella.
Who said wink wink instead of just winking?
For a moment, Zeph was silent. He wasn't sure what to say to the tiny girl in front of him as a million different responses swarmed through his brain, each one linked to a different combination of the confusing emotions that sweltered inside of him, banging against the sides of his head, and just leaving him further confused. He wasn't... sure... how he should feel in this moment, but he knew how he would've felt before.
Things were different now.
"Stella... Stella's... great," he said, a smile curling onto his face. Well that much was true, at least. And then feeling a little petty, and still a touch hurt about Ronnie literally choosing Mike over him, Zeph decided to elaborate. Maybe rub that in her face a little bit. "Yeah, I'm really glad that you went back to that asshole Mike. So glad things are looking up for the two of you. Gone on any more dates, or...?"
He trailed off, because he knew what the answer was. Ronnie was under Mike's spell for who in heck knows why, just like Zeph had once been under hers for who the fuck knows why. He still cringed looking back on it.
Imagine simping for the simp.
"Anyway, I'm glad, because Stella is... amazing." His smile widened while he thought about her. "Yeah, she's just... she's funny, she knows what she wants, she's so strong. It's just..." he gave a small shake of his head with a chuckle. "I can't believe I really liked you when she was standing right there in front of me, you know? I think she's about as perfect as you can get and she's just... we're great."
Mike had a three-step process for making tonight a fucking banger— an amazing sendoff to the week, ya know.
Of course, that didn’t mean that he couldn’t deviate from it slightly in order to enhance the experience. Being able to be flexible and improvise were positive traits, ya know.
As he leaned his head against the side of the lockers with a light, contented grin on his face, he spotted an approaching figure that prompted him to really exhibit his ability to utilize those traits.
Stella Bailey came to a stop at what was presumably her locker. Honestly, the little bitch looked cute tonight, save for that miserably loneliness— and Mike knew just what to do with people with that look on their face.
“Well, well,” he muttered to himself. “Look what the cat dragged in, would you?”
Grin on his face, Mike screwed on the cap to his canteen and pushed up from the bench. His footsteps were slow and swaggery as he made his way over to Bailey’s locker.
“What’s the sink-kissing simp's simp doing just hanging by herself?” Mike started, grinning widely. He propped himself up on the locker beside her with his elbow. “You look so lonely, babe.” He knit his brows in mock sympathy. “I mean, especially for a girl in such a loving, dedicated relationship.” He frowned. “I’m worried, babe, really. I mean, don’t you have Evermore's ass to kiss?”
He put a hand over his eyes, squinting and looking around like he was searching. “You should really be looking for him,” he said casually. “If Ronnie was desperate enough to make out with him that first time, nothing’s stopping her from doing it again, and it would be such an embarrassment to have your...” He held up his hands to do quotation marks. “... ‘man’...” He crossed his arms with a chuckle. “...stolen by a girl who stole her personality from a Wattpad fanfiction.” His eyebrows flicked up, and he grinned. “Though I doubt Evermore would feel the same— about it being a shame. Pretty sure that’s his wet dream. Imagine fantasizing about a carrot-headed child and not your own girlfriend.” He chuckled. “I mean, honestly, I’d just off myself.”
Casually, Mike shifted to sit his back against the locker beside Bailey, crossing his arms. “Kidding. Exaggerating,” he said, dismissively, and he chuckled softly. “Though I can’t say I really lied.”
He shook his head slightly, chuckling. “So how’s it going, Bailey? Have a nice week? Nice day, all of that?” he asked, as though he hadn’t said what he’d said.
Yeah, his slight deviation from his plans was being a total cock to a random girl. No matter how much of a bitch she was, she probably didn’t deserve it or whatever. Blah, blah, blah, Mike was an ass, he got it.
But hey, look. Mike was determined to have the best fucking night— to send it his week out with a bang— and there was nothing he lavished more than getting under people’s skin.
Slater was growing more and more irritated by the minute as the girl beside him kept rattling on and on about how much she loved her boyfriend and blah, blah, blah. Dumb fucking shit is what it all fucking was. Stupid... fucking... dumb. Newsflash, dumb bitch: guys didn't want to hear about your fucking great ass fucking relationship. All Slater wanted to hear about was shit like.
"Oh we broke up."
"Oh things suck."
"Oh wanna get out of here and go back to my place?"
And Nickie wasn't saying any of this shit. Nope, instead she was rattling on about a relationship that was guaranteed to fucking fail because guess what? Fucking high school relationships never lasted. Nope, what she'd end up with if she stayed on this dumb fucking "omg we're so in love" train was graduating with two kids and having to take weekly trips down to the jail to visit him.
She'd probably spend the rest of her life making dumb fucking excuses to her kids about why their dad was never around, and the kids would believe it until they grew old enough to wake up, and then they'd be pissed.
What? No, Damien wasn't speaking from personal experience at all. Go fuck yourself.
He was growing more and more irritated as she rattled dryly on and his eyes started to hurt from all of the rolling around they were doing. Alright, well... he'd epically wasted a good amount of his fucking time tonight. Just fucking great. Wasted it on a bitch so fucking up her boyfriend's ass that she'd never give Slater the time of day, and really, he was just kicking himself.
Fucking idiot is what he was.
“Whyyyy the fuck are you talking to me…?”
He glanced over, and his eyes locked onto hers as she asked the question. Why... was he... talking to her? Oh fucking-- because he wanted to fuck. Was she really dumb enough to not be able to put two and two together?
Of course, he couldn't say that.
She started stammering away again and broke eye contact, but Slater kept his gaze locked on her. “I meant, like…why? Are you talking to me? Like…I don’t mean that in…like, I mean that not in a rude way.” She looked up at him, shaking her head. “Like…you’re great. I’m just…like…” She slowly cocked her head again. “Why, though? Like, why are you talking to me…? And, like…still, even? Shouldn’t you, like…be talking to someone, like…hotter? Or…like…who isn’t annoying as hell? Like…it kinda doesn’t make any sense."
It didn't make sense, she was fucking right. He did deserve hotter.
But he also liked desperate. Easy pickings and all that.
Unfortunately, his desperate meter was clearly off.
Slater chuckled, looking away from her as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. Now, there were a couple ways he could play this shit out -- he could be fucking honest and ruin any chances of getting with her, he could be a dick and again ruin any future chances of getting with her, or he could keep up the act of giving a shit and potentially secure a future hookup.
He elected for the last option. Maybe he could be a rebound or something.
(Also, he didn't exactly have the heart to tell this sad girl off, but that was a thought that was nestled so far in the back of his mind that Damien wasn't even able to register it as, well, actually existing. He was convinced he was still of one mind and one goal: sex.)
"You're not annoying as hell and you are really hot," Damien explained with a chuckle. His voice was softer than it had been before and he gave a little shake of his head. "You gotta stop tearing yourself down like that. Confidence makes you a lot hotter. Even if you don't feel it, just kind of... fake it out. Fake it 'till you make it and shit. You start acting like it, you'll start actually believing it."
At least, that's what he'd always told himself.
Damien pressed the palms of his hands against his knees and pushed himself up off the bench. He looked back down at Nickie, a soft half-hearted grin on his face. "I'll catch ya around, alright, Nickie?" Although it was a question, he did mean it as a promise. She... wasn't... too bad. "Hope you have a good night, but I gotta go. Got shit to do, places to see, people to fuck with. Going to be busy."
He gave one last little dip of his head towards Nickie followed by a small wave, and with that, he started walking off.
For the most part, Damien was sizing up the rest of his classmates. He was -- as much as this might come as a surprise -- a bit of a... he liked to observe from afar before making moves, and that's exactly what he was doing now. He was still trying to understand the dynamics of this school, still trying to make sure that he could place a name to every face that he passed, so he could...
He didn't really know.
Eventually, though, his eyes fell on a familiar person.
"Fefe," he called, speeding up momentarily until he came to a stop beside his friend and tossed an arm around his slightly taller best bud. "What're you doing, man? Just chilling on the sidelines here? Not out making moves on chicks or uhh... peddling some good shit or anything?"
She hadn't expected him to forgive her -- why would she? At the end of the day, everything that had happened between the two of them over the last few weeks had been her fault. It fell back on her being a bad friend, a bad person, and it was... it had been dumb of her to come here expecting any kind of forgiveness. But at the same time, like... she had... friends...
So she had hoped that he'd at least hear her out, maybe consider her apology. Ash didn't... she didn't handle this whole... she didn't... she didn't want to lose him. As dumb as that may have sounded to others, she did still care about Callum and her friendship with him -- and Ash didn't want that to just be gone because she was a selfish bitch. She didn't want their falling apart to be all her fault.
It was always her fault. Every time something like this happened, and she just... wanted... it to stop. She wanted the relationships she held dear to stop crumbling into dust between her fingers.
"You cannot be fucking serious," he scoffed, "You are not pulling this right now. I'm so sick of this, Ash. I'm done."
She flinched, looking away from him and towards the ground at his words. Her lips parted to try and speak -- to try and utter another apology -- but Ash couldn't muster up the words to say, the words that would fix this. Fuck, she wasn't even sure if anything could fix this aside from Ash, like, falling to her knees and begging his forgiveness. And Callum would probably just kick her while she was down.
"It's hardly an apology when you don't even know what the fuck it is you did wrong."
Her stomach hurt. Her heart lurched and then beat faster. She pressed a hand over her stomach to try and stop the aching. Ash... he was... Cal was wrong. She knew, she knew, she knew what she had done wrong, and that's why she was here to apologize. Ash was here to apologize because she was a fuck up and she had fucked up and she was... she was trying to take accountability for her fuckup.
God she was going to be sick.
"Look at me," he demanded, "Look me in the eye or turn around and leave, because you need to hear this shit one more time."
She was pretty sure that her legs had forgotten how to work, so Ash reluctantly lifted her head up to peer at Callum's face. Her arms crossed over her stomach, her fingers gripping the cloth of her jacket. In that moment, she felt like a small child waiting to be chastised -- frozen in place, unable to move, unable to avoid what was about to come, and only able to face it head on.
Fuck, just last weekend, when she'd finally video chatted her parents, her mother had said the same thing -- "Look at me" -- and that was making this all the worse to hear from Callum.
She wanted to sink into the ground.
She wanted to fade away from existence.
In that moment, Ash wanted to cease to exist. To cease to breathe.
"You're a shit person. And you apologize, but it's all superficial. I don't want your bullshit 'You're right' and 'I'm sorry' because it means nothing." He leaned in close, pinching his thumb and index finger closer to portray a small quantity. "Nothing."
She leaned back as he leaned in, her bottom lip trembling as she momentarily broke eye contact with Callum to look at his fingers, and then met his icy cold glare once more. She wasn't... she couldn't...
Ash was going to be sick.
Ash couldn't think.
"Fuck you shitty apologies. And fuck you. Is it so much to ask for you to just recognize for one second the extent to which you made me feel like shit? The way you put me second every time something else came up?"
She wanted to say something, to try and defend herself, or try and... and... validate what Callum was saying, because he was right. He was right, he was right, he was right. She was wrong, she was wrong, she was wrong.
She was a shit person. Scum of the earth. Bottom of the barrel. Fuck her. He was right.
But she couldn't, she couldn't, she couldn't say that because he'd just toss it back in her face. She knew people like Callum, she knew how this worked -- even if she agreed, it would just make him come back even more venomous than he was the first time. It would be her playing, playing, playing a martyr, a victim, something like that, and then she'd been torn down ten times again.
Ash had experienced this enough to know that the best thing to do was just shut down, listen, and take it.
Nothing she said would change anything.
Nothing she said would change his opinion.
Nothing she said would make her any less of a shitty person.
"At the very least, I expected a little bit of compassion when my boyfriend of two years broke up with me out of the blue. It took you an entire weekend just to reply to a single fucking text."
Guilt pierced her heart for a moment and she winced. Yeah, yeah, yeah, she had really... really... really fucked up that night. Ash had been drunk enough that she hadn't gotten the text or if she had, she didn't remember getting it. She was too busy being stuck in her own thoughts, in whatever the fuck was going on between her and Trevor, because she was selfish and she couldn't even be there for her friend.
She was selfish. She sucked. She got it.
She knew this.
By now, this little... whatever it was had started to garner the unwanted attention of their fellow peers. So coupled with Callum's glare that she felt might pulverize her, she could also feel the stares of everyone else boring into her, and Ash just... she just, she just.... she just wanted to disappear and just stop existing. Ash didn't want to be here, she didn't want to be in this school, she didn't want to be in this town.
"You know I had virtually no one else to turn to. You're the one person I thought I could turn to, God forbid I have a problem after all the times you came crying to me about your relationship issues."
He was right. He was right. He was right.
Ash's own relationship had been nothing compared to whatever had gone on between Callum and Oates, and she'd brushed Callum's whole breakup off as if it was nothing and hadn't... she hadn't...
Her eyes squeezed shut for a moment, her lungs sucking in a deep, shuddering breath. Calm, calm, calm. Crying wouldn't, wouldn't... it wouldn't help right now.
After a second, her eyes opened back up and met right back with Callum's burning glare.
"And I know I don't mean shit to you, because you not only doubted my word about the Halloween party, but went so far as to lie and then accuse me of it? And then you couldn't even admit you were wrong about that, so you blamed it on Gen being scary or whatever the fuck? What the hell is your problem?"
No, that wasn't...
That wasn't what she had done, that wasn't--
That wasn't what she had intended to do.
Fuck fuck fuck.
"I don't fucking like you. I'm fucking FINISHED with you! No one is ever going to trust you like I did, you 'sorry' piece of shit. Get out of my face and never speak to me again."
He was done, and her breath rushed out of her lungs like she'd been punched in the stomach.
"I..." she started, but her voice was small and meek, and the single word died on her tongue. Her lips stayed parted for a moment, as if she was going to keep trying to speak, but nothing came out of it. His last words, the ones that had been screamed at her, had managed to catch the attention of everyone else in their near vicinity, and his harsh words coupled with the scathing glares of her classmates...
God she was going to be sick.
So Ash turned on her heel, and she walked away as quickly as she could. She kept her face turned down, her expression trained on the tile just in front of her as she tried to get out of there as quickly as she could, her arms tightening around her aching stomach.
Every harsh word kept nagging at her, tearing into her, and bringing her down until Ash couldn't stop herself. Tears sprang into her eyes, and she bit into her bottom lip hard enough that she started to taste blood, but that didn't stop her.
Help, help, help.
She wanted to go home. But not home to the twins' place, because they probably hated her for letting Javi stay the night, or for talking with Lucky after that whole predicament, or any other number of shitty, terrible things that she had done.
No, no, no, she wanted... she wanted... she wanted...
She didn't even know what she wanted. She just, she just, she just... she wanted to stop existing. Right here, right now, she wanted to oxygen to be ripped from her lungs and never returned.
Angrily, she brought one hand up to try and rub at the tears that wouldn't stop pouring from her eyes, but it was a losing battle.
She looked good. She always looked good. Appearance was everything after all. If she learned anything from her parents-- that was it. Do you expect anything less when you're the daughter of two high-powered gays? The correct answer was no. You don’t. She adjusted the mirror in her car so she could make sure her make up still looked presentable. It had been a long week. Lock-In was the last thing she wanted to do. She’d much rather be at home soaking in a hot bath, but, when opportunity knocks, you must seize your moment.
The opportunity you ask? A chance to wander the halls of Hollywood Arts uninterrupted by teachers and staff. She couldn’t ask for more. They wanted perfection. They demanded it. Freshman year, Jenny Albright got knocked up and was thrown out the minute it got out to the public. They didn’t like scandals. Anything that would make their precious school look bad. It’s why her job as junior editor was so difficult.
Yes, there was an endless supply of puff pieces. Stories about HA’s successes. But was that really what was important? Did it matter that the Clairmont triplets enrolled? No. It didn’t. Careers weren’t made on puff pieces. They were made by hard-hitting reporting. That is what Lydia Grace Fox cared about. Christiane Amapour. Anna Erelle. Ann Curry. These women risked their lives to expose the truth.
Don’t get her wrong. She didn’t want to lay in the trenches and have bullets flying over her head. She was concerned way too much with self-preservation than to risk her own life. But she was a fan of the truth. Despite running ThirsTea, she had a level of integrity that was unmatched by anyone at HA. And even though it was “dirty reporting”, gossip always had its place throughout history. It stirred things up. Kept people on edge and 95% of it was true in some capacity.
And what better way to get the truth than from the open and available files at Hollywood Arts. It was the perfect excuse. It was tradition, after all. No one would bat an eye if she was caught in the Dean’s office...especially if Dalton was with her. They’d just assume they caught two horny teenages unable to control themselves. It was pathetic really. How easily swayed the students were with the chance to get laid. She didn’t get it. Sex was great. Could be amazing if done right, but letting it define your entire high school existence? Shameful.
“Thanks for the ride, Lydia.”
She smiled as Angel hopped out of the car. Too fast to respond. Or tell him to behave. She worried about Angel. He was innocent. Uncorrupted by today’s world It was one of the many reasons she befriended him. She didn’t have to be “ON” all the time when he was around. He didn’t care about status. He didn’t care about power. And it was...refreshing. Confusing, but a nice change of pace with everyone else at Hollywood Arts.
She stepped out of the car and made her way towards the building and stepped inside. She’d been coming to Lock-In ever since Freshman year. Ever since she joined the Chronicle. It was essential. How she found out about Mrs. Labota’s DUI sophomore year and that Mr. Finley was a porn star before joining the faculty. If every indiscretion and aspect of their lives were being recorded to determine if they “deserve” to make it, then the same should be said about the staff that is currently teaching their impressionable young minds.
They were afraid of her. Even moreso, they were afraid of her dads. They helped run Hollywood in more ways than one. Though Lydia wanted to find success outside of her parents’ shadows, she knew that the Fox name held a lot of clout and came with a lot of power. Sometimes too much power. The pressure to keep it up was often too much for her to take, but she’d never let on.
She checked her phone. Still nothing from Dalton. Either he wasn’t here yet, or he had been distracted. Knowing, Kirby, it was the latter. But the night was still young and she could do some digging of her own.
A quiet scream escaped her lips at the sound of a door slamming behind her. She turned and took a deep breath. Her eyes narrowed as she quietly made her way towards the door. Thankfully it didn’t fully close as she peered in. Her eyes rolled immediately. Lindsay Kay. HA’s self-proclaimed class clown. He definitely was a clown, but no one elected him.
He was agitated. You didn’t see Lin agitated very often. Too busy trying to be the life of the party than to have a genuine human emotion. She leaned in trying to capture the one-side phone call. Very few people got under Lindsay’s skin and her journalistic curiosity wanted so badly to find out. “Nothing.” Lin said, chest tight. “Nothing...happened with Lydia.”
Her ears perked up at the sound of her own name. She and Lin were...ancient history. As if they even had a history worth mentioning. Just a minor blip of the timeline that was her life. If she was being brought up, there was only one person on the other end of that phone call.
Ricky. There weren’t many people that cared for Ricky. Even her dads, who made an effort with most high profile celebrities couldn’t stand the guy. They didn’t call him Dicky Ricky for now reason. Having been...close with Lin for some time...she’d gotten to know Lin’s dad as well as anyone could. And she understood. The pressure. The high standards. For her, it was self-inflicted. Her way of ensuring her dads continue to treasure her instead regret adopting her. For Lin...it was just tragic. She’d feel bad if Lin wasn’t such a monumental jerk.
Startled, she jolted slightly as Lin punched his fist through the wall dropping her back to the floor in the process. She knelt down, her cover blown as the door slid further open. She gathered her belongings and stood up looking directly at Lin with a stoic, bitch-don't-care glare. "Trouble in paradise, Lindsay?" She said a small smirk forming on her lips.
He didn't know what to say or what to do after the harsh words left his lips.
Callum seemed to take that as an invitation to go off on his little sister and in the beginning of Callum's little rant, Jace kept his eyes glued to his sister. He tried to keep the same fire, but eventually, he couldn't and the floor was met with his gaze. He traced the grout between the tiles with his eyes, his lips moving to form the words to the song that still played faintly in his right ear, but he wasn't speaking.
It probably came as no surprise that Jace didn't exactly handle yelling well. He tended to take the shut down approach and even though the yelling wasn't directed at him, he still hated the sound. Callum wasn't even loud, but it was the words that he was saying. It was the tone that he was inflicting. It was the look of panic in his little sister's eyes that caused Jace to try and just tune the entire thing out.
With the toe of his shoe, he started to trace the grout lines on the ground.
Callum kept going.
Jace brought a finger up to press against the earbud and make sure it was still in place. He wanted to turn it up to try and completely drown at this moment, but he couldn't. He wanted to... he needed to... be... somewhat aware, in case Callum asked him for back up. Then, Jace could perk up. He could sneer. He could say something with a slight harsh edge to it, all in a feeble attempt to impress his friend.
That never came and eventually, Callum's words fell off. At this point, Jace forced himself to glance up. All he caught was the end of the situation, as Ash turned and walked away and for a moment, his gaze stayed trained on his little sister. But then he looked away from her, he forced his gaze onto Callum, and he tried to swallow and squash any stupid feelings of guilt that he might be feeling.
He had absolutely no reason to feel guilty. This wasn't even about him. He was merely a bystander to the entirety of this little spat, nothing more than a... than a... a... yeah, that. A bystander whose opinion didn't matter one way or another. Of course, he was still on Callum's side in this entire little predicament. Ash was absolutely in the wrong. Callum had every right to go off on her.
Jace didn't... feel... anything about that. He... he totally believed that. He totally believed that it was all Ash's fault, that Callum was totally in the right.
He... definitely... did.
His chest felt uncomfortable, like there was a slight pressure.
"I, uhh..." Jace started to speak, and then he found himself clearing his throat. He wasn't sure why he had started to speak, and he wasn't sure what he should even say after that. He could feel eyes still on them, but people were starting to look away. This was a simple blip in the night's events, and it would be forgotten within the hour. Forgotten, swept under the rug, and Callum and Jace could go about their night.
Granted, Jace wasn't even sure what the two boys were planning to do for the night.
"G-good job," he said weakly, "t-that was... you really... told her... off..." he mumbled. Was this talking Callum off? Jace absolutely couldn't tell, and he felt as if he was struggling to piece together how to act.
"Did-- did you..." he trailed off once more, and he looked down towards the ground as he again realized he had no idea what he wanted to say. "Do... you... feel better...?" That felt like a dumb question, but what the heck was he supposed to say?
He lifted his gaze from the ground, again looking towards Callum's face.
Angel's hand slowly lowered upon the realization that Adriane had no intention of letting him off the hook. If she was trying to make things even more unbearably awkward for him, then she was doing a bang-up job. However, Angel was on the road to recovery, so to speak; he'd managed to muster enough courage to ask Adriane out. Even though "asking out" had suggestive, hopelessly awkward connotations, it wasn't at all what he was trying to do. Sure, he'd have loved to have gone on a date date with the gorgeous girl in front of him, but this dinner was merely a proposal for the sake of art. Anything more was a pipe dream.
Every so often, life offers you a reset button. When it does, you need to press it as hard as you can. Angel had read that in a book once. He initially thought it insightful, a mantra worth repeating. Only recently had he come to realize that "every so often" was a downright lie and there was no use in expecting salvation in this cruel world. Life has a cheeky habit of kicking good people while they're down; reset buttons are only reserved for the ultra-lucky and ultra-deserving. Angel, unfortunately, was neither. He was merely a plain boy trying to talk up a girl out of his league. If he expected anything but misfortune to ensue, that was completely on him. If all of Adriane's previous remarks were rubbing salt on his wounds, her next revelation was pouring sulfuric acid on his crotch. The short artist's jaw dropped to the floor. She slept with Javier? Seriously? He'd only been at Hollywood Arts like... a month! "Why would you tell me that!?" he yelped, his eyes clouded with shock and disgust. Even more, he was scared shitless. What more could this callous beauty do to destroy him? One light tap and Angel surely would have buckled onto the floor. Burn his eyes. Burn his ears. Burn the essence of his very existence. Javier slept with the magical mystery woman—and according to her testimony, he was really bad. That wasn't Angel's business, so he tried not to dwell on it, but it was hard not to when he was literally being compared to his deeply-troubled older brother. The two boys hadn't been compared like that in years, not since they'd moved on to different schools and practically different lives altogether. Two brothers who were once thick as thieves ultimately ended up different like night and day. In a way, seeing it all come full circle was cathartic, but... in this context? Angel was reeling, struggling to process the onslaught of jeers pointed directly at him. He instinctively cupped a hand on his chin, knowing full-well his jaw would inevitably be insulted. If the model wanted to go all-out, there was no missing the physical characteristic he'd been teased about mercilessly for years. He'd thought himself past all that insecurity, but the girl had a hopelessly substantial effect on him. He couldn't help caring what she thought... a lot. Learning that love at first sight isn't always two-sided was one rude awakening for the poor boy. "Uh, sorry..." he mumbled, as though he owed Adriane an apology for having an intact skull. He rubbed the back of his head; thank god it was still there. After some thinking, Angel really did prefer this life over that of the lonely Headless Horseman. "I'm not Javi. Whatever you two um, do, is none of my business. And I don't know why you're so interested in my head, or the meat in it, or my jaw, I, uh, I just..."
He had no idea where he was going with this. It was hard to say anything at all when he could feel himself getting choked up, the tiny lump in his throat sticking out like a sore reminder of how much of a pathetic baby he was. Is this what Lin saw in him? Was he that much of an insufferable screwup? If the "poor, sad boy" thing was an act, Angel would have loved to have stopped. There was no denying how much his sensitivity and eccentricity seemed to get on people's nerves. What was he thinking drawing some stranger like a stalker anyway? And then inviting her out?
"Hahaha..." he laughed weakly, sniffling quietly, "I understand. Sorry for wasting your time. I hope you, um, hope you, I hope, um..." He cleared his throat, finding it increasingly more difficult to speak clearly without his voice cracking. "Have a nice night," he squeaked, forcing a quivering, courteous smile.
He looked down at the sketchbook, then swiftly shut it, obscuring his artwork from sight. "You were absolutely right. Not just anyone could hope to capture natural radiance on paper in a few minutes. That's honestly..." Angel smiled, his glassy eyes just barely holding it together. "...really insightful advice." He offered a small wave, then turned on his heel and left the area. With nowhere to be, he merely sauntered down the hallway, wiping his teary eyes. He could hardly see anything with his eyes squeezed shut, but as long as he stopped himself from really sobbing, he was set.
All that remained was a downtrodden boy heading down the school hallway at a sloth's pace, clutching his bag with one hand and wiping his eyes with the other. He emitted a few shaky sniffles, lamenting the fact that he'd completely neglected to bring some sort of tissue or napkin along with him. With luck, one of the bathrooms wouldn't be out of paper towels for once. It was the one win Angel could use.
If only... somehow... some way... he could see where he was going.
Kelli blushed lightly and turned her head away at Ronnie’s stare of admiration. She flattened her hands out across her black skirt, her smile shyly growing wider.
“I think you made the right choice!” Ronnie said, and Kelli looked up at Ronnie just as the girl gave her a hug. She giggled softly when Ronnie grabbed her by the shoulders. “Rock it like you’re on the red carpet, bestie. You don’t even need to wear heels— this’ll be a breeze!”
Kelli’s smile brightened, and she let out a happy laugh. “I’ll do my best— call me, uhhh…Kelline Dion…?” She cocked her head as she said the name.
Oh, wait, that was a singer, not a model.
Baaaah, Celine Dion was hot, so…close enough!
Kelli laughed softly, giving a sure nod of her head. “Sure!”
As they got their belongings and left the dorms’ premises, Kelli couldn’t help but smile to herself.
Bestie! Ronnie had called her bestie!
Wow! Wowie wow wow!
Kelli hadn’t had a friend like that since…er, well, ever. Or, er, well, she’d never really had one that called her their best friend…so that was so dope! Ronnie was dope! This whole school was dope!
Entering a nearly-empty school after hours without adult supervision made her feel super badass, too, like some kinda spy or something. KP didn’t stand for Kellian Phelan anymore, no— it was Kim Possible up in here! Sure, she hadn't had any part in breaking in or anything, but just coming in here in general made her feel like...someone dope, ya know?
It was spooky, though. The lights were all kinda dim and— was she making it up, or were they flickering, too? Ronnie’s promises of Kelli not dying first in a horror movie repeated in her head, but she kinda doubted that logic, no offense to Ronnie. In a real-life horror movie situations, the vulnerable ones would be taken first, like the wounded antelopes getting picked off by African wild dogs in those nature documentaries. Kelli was pretty similar to a wounded antelope, kinda. She didn't have horns or any injury, but...still! She was definitely going to be the first one to get picked off, and then her brother would have to find her body, and it would be one of those big, dramatic moments where the music swelled and he held her body and screamed "WHY?!" into the void or something like that.
Ooooooor maybe she was just paranoid and her imagination was getting the best of her, and she did have good survival skills and she had nothing to fear. After all...she was swift! And agile! And…kinda small and weak, but hey! Her knock-knock jokes and puppy gifs could strike fear into the heart of whatever scary guy with a knife was here to take her out! Yeaaah!
Or maybe she'd become his bro and they could play Uno in the floor or something. She always kept a deck in her purse, ya know. Although...she wouldn't want to win against him. She figured that a guy like that would be a sore loser.
Kelli gave Ronnie her goodbye, and she stood for a moment, unsure of what to do now that her friend was gone. She still hadn’t really gotten any solid answer on “what to do at a lock-in”, so…welp, she didn’t know what to do. She did, however, know a couple of things not to do: stand awkwardly or sit awkwardly. At least that, right?
She heard a bit of bustling behind the gym doors, and she stared at them for a moment.
Could she just…go in? What if they were having a rave inside or something and she just interrupted that? From what Ronnie said, raves were fun and people made out, but…drugs, too? Oof, and if it was happening here, couldn’t they get…arrested for that? Big no-no. If she got a criminal record…no, no, no.
Upon closer inspection, though, Kelli realized that the lights were on inside, and there was nnts nnts nnts kinda music bumping, so it looked like she wouldn’t be interrupting that kinda thing.
Cautiously, she put her hands on the gym doors, and then she threw them open with a smile on her face.
No rave! She was right with that one!
She started to walk inside.
Someone pointed at her, and she looked at them. “Ayo,” said the boy, “could you prop those open again?”
“Huh? Oh. Oh, yeah! Sure!” Kelli said, and she kicked down the door props before walking off.
Boom! She’d been helpful! It looked like the gym crowd had already accepted her.
She made her way further inside, looking for any familiar faces, and— right on! There was one, right there!
“Yooo!” Kelli called excitedly. Waving her friend down, she came to a stop in front of her.
A bright smile on her face, she opened her arms to give Bella a hug, if she would accept it, then took a step back. “Hey!" she greeted. "Dope to catch you here! What is shaking, Bella Bacon?”
Just standin’ did wonders for the psyche, really. Ya know, drug peddlin’ could be really taxin’, and sometimes, one needed a break from makin’ bank by pleasin' the downtrodden crowd to just…stand.
Now, some people liked to call this kinda standin’ “awkward”. What made standin’ awkward, though? Ya know, what was the philosophy behind awkward standin’? What were the qualifications? Because, personally, Felix didn’t feel awkward in the slightest. In fact, he was just chillin’, man. He’d give a nod as people walked past and a “howdy”s if they stared for too long, and he gave all of them that grin that he was known for. Nothin’ awkward about that, was there?
Okay, yeah, he felt fairly awkward right now, but not enough to actually call it awkward, ya know? He rarely considered anything seriously awkward unless it reached the level of discomfort that he felt the time that his dad had gotten a call and had made it Felix’s job to tell a girl that he was datin’ that her dad had just gone to jail. Now that was awkward. Not to mention the fact that that made her break up with him. Damn, ya know? That hurt.
He also considered that thing with, uh…Kian and that Oatey guy awkward. He nearly cringed at the memory of it. Poor Kian, man. Poor guy.
Point was…Felix just stood and pretended not to feel awkward, ya know? And that was really all that he did, because he didn’t really know what to do.
That was, until…
“Fefe,” came the voice of an old bud, and Felix turned his head just as Slater tossed his arm around him.
Felix gave Slater a broad grin. “Slatemate,” he greeted, using his old nickname for Slater in return.
“What’re you doing, man? Just chilling on the sidelines here?” Slater asked. “Not making moves on chicks or, uhh…peddling some good shit or anything?”
Felix chuckled slightly. “Honestly, I’m just standin’, bud. Seriously don’t know what I’m doin’.” He gave a shake of his head and another chuckle. “Chillin’ on the sidelines is an accurate assessment, to be honest. I’ve just been standin’ here for the past, uh…” He glanced at the clock on the wall and tried to do the math quickly, but he gave up. “…bit,” he said. “And, nahhh…tonight’s not the kinda night to be peddlin’, and makin’ moves on the chicks while you’re around is kinda pointless, ain’t it?” (He had to stroke his bud’s ego, ya know.) “I mean, no one would go for me if you’re nearby.” He moved out from underneath Slater’s arm to shift off his jacket and tie it around his waist. “Ain’t got nearly enough of a crowd here for us both to have our, uh…picks, huh?” He cocked his head at Slater with a light chuckle.
Hey, that worked as an excuse as for why he wasn’t goin’ up to girls and hittin’ on them, right? Better than “I feel like a creep hittin’ on ‘em right off”? He wasn’t opposed to flirtation. In fact, he tended to be pretty flirtatious in all manner of conversation. Part of the good ol' Southern charm...but outright goin’ up to girls (or guys, ya know) and hittin’ on them first thing was neither his strong suit or something that he really wanted to be known for.
Although…maybe it wasn’t the best excuse. Felix was known for having an “odd” type, and that probably wasn't really what good ol' Slatemate went for.
“But what’re you doin’, bud?” he asked, askin’ Slater his own question. “Anything interestin’ planned for tonight?”
Nickie’s eyes flicked away from the curly-haired boy as he looked away.
Oh, damn it. She shouldn’t’ve asked that. She was probably going to get some kind of answer that she didn’t want— an honest answer.
I’m talking to you because…
She couldn’t even think of any reason that he would be talking to her, though. She legitimately couldn’t think of anything.
She just…damn it. She simultaneously wanted to know and really didn’t want to fucking know.
“You’re not annoying as hell, and you are really hot.” His voice was softer than before.
She looked over at him, cocking her head, waiting for his answer to her questions.
“You gotta stop tearing yourself down like that,” he said. “Confidence makes you a lot hotter. Even if you don’t feel it, just kind of…fake it out. Fake it ’til you make it and shit. You start acting like it, you’ll start actually believing it.”
After he finished speaking, Nickie stared at him, processing his words.
He hadn’t answered her questions, no, but also…what the fuck was this? He was giving her advice? Last she checked, she hadn’t paid for a therapist, and she hadn’t asked for his opinion on how to fix herself or make herself hotter.
Was it even tearing herself down if it was the truth? All that she was saying was what everyone was thinking— and saying— and that was hardly tearing herself down.
For a moment, her lips curled up in offense and disgust.
And then she realized, once again, that he was trying to help, and her face relaxed, her brows upturning for a moment as she swallowed hard.
Her first reaction to mostly any kind of help was just to— to be offended. Why the hell was that?
This hot stranger, out of some kind of benevolent, altruistic spirit or something like that came here to cheer her up, help her out, help to lift her back up from whatever the fuck her shitty mental state was, and she was going to get offended by that? What the fuck?
Fake it ’til you make it and shit. You start acting like it, you’ll start actually believing it.
She folded her lips in, turning his advice over and over in her head.
He stood up, and her eyes followed him. He looked down at her, a soft grin on her face. “I’ll catch ya around, alright, Nickie?”
Even though she had a boyfriend, her heart couldn’t help but skip a beat at the way he— everything, and she gave him a small, shaky smile. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, see you around, Slater.”
"Hope you have a good night,” he said, “but I gotta go. Got shit to do, places to see, people to fuck with. Going to be busy."
Nickie gave a small nod. “Oh, uhm…yeah. And, uh…thank you.” She gave him a small smile. “For keeping me company for a sec.”
He gave her a wave, and she waved back.
When she lost sight of him, she placed her hand on her thigh again, and she sat for a moment.
Slater…Slater. She’d have to remember that name.
She really owed him now, didn’t she? For…for…whatever. For his time or some shit. Whatever.
Thank you. For keeping me company for a sec.
And for…distracting me.
For…caring? For a second?
You don’t know me…but thanks.
She felt the drum in the back of her head— the kind that would reach out and tug at her sinuses and her tear ducts. A nervous quiver settled into her veins once more, and she did everything in her power to remember to…to what, exactly?
Damn it, damn it. She’d forgotten it.
She looked up. Distraction. Distraction, distraction. She needed one.
She gnawed at her lower lip, holding back tears.
She spotted a girl down the hall, and a small, shaky smile came onto Nickie's face.
Ash. Ash— she knew her. Yeah.
“Ash,” Nickie whispered softly, trying to psyche herself up enough to go and talk to the girl— before just saying fuck it and approaching her anyway. She didn’t need confidence or sureness to talk to Ash— she just…look, Nickie needed a fucking distraction, that was all.
All recollection that Ash fucking hated her was out the window.
“Ash!” she said a bit louder, and she waved her down, reaching her side. “Ash, hey. How’s...?”
Nickie noticed the hand covering Ash's eyes, and her brows knit in concern. She reached out to touch Ash's shoulder gently, her first instinct to comfort the girl. "Are you okay?" she asked.
There was a thud outside of the door, and Lin slowly pulled his fist from the hole in the wall and turned his head in the direction of the noise.
He stood, frozen for a moment. Panic rushed through his veins. The wounds on his knuckles seemed to have busted open again, and bright red blood formed thick droplets atop them.
He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak for a moment. He was a deer in the headlights, a boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar of vulnerability, and there, standing in the doorway, was a girl who he would rather forget ever existed, who he had been acting like didn’t exist for the past…
Fuck, how long had it been since all of that shit went down…? It was right after his license got…five months? Four months? Six months? Somewhere around there.
The girl who he’d never committed to, and the girl who his dad obviously wanted him to be with. The bitch who let her parents tell her who she was and what to do without any kind of fight back, without any kind of “but I care about him”, without any of that shit.
He’d told her that he never wanted to see her again, never wanted to hear her fucking voice.
What was she doing? Listening into his conversation?
Luhmao, she could never keep her fucking nose out of anyone’s business.
He turned to her, a grin spreading across his face. His hands were shaking with that panic rush. He dropped his phone into his pocket, and then he cupped his left hand over his right’s knuckles to cover up the blood.
With one of his loud cackles, he walked a few steps toward the door. The look on the girl’s face was uncaring in such a cocky way, luhmao. Really showed the fucking wannabe hard bitch in her.
Red, angry flames burned inside of him, and they rose even higher the closer he got to her.
There was something about her fucking face that he couldn’t stand. It was like his dad’s, or Angel’s. It just fucking pissed him off.
He looked over his shoulders slowly, to his left then to his right, and then he looked back at Lydia, making his best confused face. “You talking to me?” he asked. He looked around again, and then he gave a soft, dismissive laugh. “Think you got the wrong guy, luhmao. Can’t be me, since…pfft, luhmao.” An angry, venomous, toothy grin spread across Lin’s face. “You wouldn’t really go against your dads’ wishes like that, would ya? After everything you’ve gone through to obey ‘em?” Lin gave a shrug. “Luhmao, ‘less Chlamlydia’s a rebel now or some shit, luhmaooo— but if that’s what you’re going for, ya gotta drop that look from your face, luhmao.” He cackled. “You look more constipated than bitchy, luhmaooo. Unless the new look is ‘spokesperson for a stool softener’. Which would make sense, eye-gee, since you’re so full of shit, anyway, luhmao.”
He walked closer to her, propping his hand up on the doorframe. All of his limbs were shaking now, and so was his voice. “Listen,” he said. His voice had the quality of hardly-restrained fury. “Dunno if ‘go make out with your dads’ asses and keep the hell away from me— I never want to see your face again, you fucking bitch’ rings a bell, but if it doesn’t...” The grin dropped from his face. His blue eyes met hers, and the next words he said were forceful, hissed through his teeth. “Go make out with your dads’ asses, Lydia. Keep the hell away from me.” His lip curled up in disgust. “I never want to see your face again, you fucking pathetic. Wannabe. Bitch.”
He shoved past her with his shoulder, his grin dropping from his face. He rolled his eyes and clenched his jaw. He stopped in the alcove, and he turned to her again. “Oh, and that?” he said, voice much quieter than before. He cupped his hand over his busted knuckled. “Never fucking happened."
Somewhere in there was a please, don't tell anyone.
For a moment, he said nothing, just stared back at her with burning fury in his eyes and his heart.
And with that burning fire was burning hurt, both from his dad and from seeing Lydia again.
He turned away, and he grinned angrily. He raised his middle finger at her, showing her its back as he walked away from her “Guh-bye, luhmao,” he said, waving his middle finger like a queen waved at her subjects. “Never gonna see you again, luhmao, so write down those words and use them as toilet paper or whatever the fuck kinda shit you do to sleep at night, and then go and jump off a cliff with that Angel bitch of yours and make it a great fuckin' night by doing us all a favor, luhmao.”
He turned around and began to run down the hallway, jaw clenched tightly.
Tonight wasn’t going to be shit, even if his father was determined it was going to be— fuck, even if Lydia wanted it to be. Neither of them were anything to him except for blips not he radar, blots on his past, and pieces of shit that he could forget the existence of if he tried.
Hell, that might even stop existing if he just didn’t think about them.
A grin spread across his face.
Yeah, luhmao. He was leaving all of that shit back there, and tonight— tonight? Tonight was gonna be hella fucking siiiiick, and no one’s efforts could stop it, luhmao!
Fucking no one.
Not even the fucking no ones.
He barked a final laugh, kicking at the wall, and he dashed around the corner and disappeared into the florescent flickering of the hallway lights.
Leaving would have just been easier. Turning around and walking right back into the school would have saved Charlie from the struggle of trying to discern honest feelings from confessions born of guilt. Charlie always did have a difficult time reading Trevor, his thoughts and feelings somehow always shrouded in blankets of falsehood. Naturally, this situation was no different. There they were, standing in awkward silence as they watched groups of teenagers trickle into the school, Charlie ranting and raving uncontrollably as Trevor simply smoked his joint and tried to block out the world. That was always how serious conversations went.
But, in a rather strange turn of events, Trevor snuffed the end of the joint out between his fingers and placed it back into his pocket. Trevor had to truly be feeling bad about what happened and whatever words he was clearly trying to muster up the courage to say were going to be legitimate and honest if he wasn’t smoking through it.
So yes, while it may have been easier to just leave, Charlie was going to hear him out.
Look, apologies were hard. If anyone knew that, it was Charlie. Figuring out what to say and the right way to say it was a difficult, if not sometimes impossible, task to accomplish. One wrong phrase, one wrong action and the whole apology would mean nothing. Perhaps what was more difficult was being on the receiving end of the apology. Usually, Charlie was the one begging people for forgiveness after a stupid mistake. Rarely was she ever the one who anyone thought deserved an apology, no matter how wrong a situation was, so accepting them wasn’t exactly something Charlie was used to… especially from Trevor.
Although she never looked his way, Charlie listened to every word that fell from his lips. Her facial expression never once changed, no response echoed back to him as he spoke even though Charlie had things to say. Some parts were difficult to listen to, hearing someone she loved bashing themselves was hardly something she wanted to hear, but Charlie remained silent through it all. It felt nice to be apologized to but hearing Trevor continue on talking, searching for words that Charlie was convinced he rarely (if ever) used, made her realize how shitty she herself had been to him.
Charlie faced the constant battle of doing too much or doing too little. She had laughed when a friend had called her a helicopter parent but in all actuality, Charlie knew they were right. The people that Charlie kept close in her life meant the world to her and she would do anything, quite literally, to make them happy. She had lost count of how many nights went without sleep to comfort friends through breakups or how many rehearsals had been abandoned for impromptu ice cream dates after a bad day. Hell, when shit hit the fan it was commonly blamed on her even if she had nothing to do with the whole thing. In those scenarios, she was trying too hard.
There is only so much someone can try and be insulted for giving a shit that a person can take before they just stop trying. Charlie had reached that point within the last week. Cheering up friends, trying to stay in everyone’s good graces, being that happy-go-lucky girl so many people had come to rely on was simply not something Charlie could bring herself to do. She had become a recluse, talking to no one unless they ran after her, doing the bare minimum to scrape by day by day. Normally, Charlie would have felt guilty for not dedicating all of her time to her loved ones. This time, though? Charlie felt zero remorse.
Maybe if she had cared more, Trevor wouldn’t be standing there confessing how disappointed he was in himself. Maybe if she had gone into his room that morning after Halloween and actually wished him a happy birthday like a decent friend, he wouldn’t feel like no one cared about him. Maybe if Charlie had just tried a little harder, things would have been different.
Trevor wasn’t blaming her which confused her more than anything else he had said. Hollywood Arts was home of the blame game and although Charlie would be the first to admit that she made some major mistakes, there were just so many things that happened that she felt she did not deserve the blame for. People had bad days and took it out on her because she wouldn’t say anything. People had great days and didn’t bother to share their happiness with her because they only knew Charlie as the emotional punching bag of every friend group. Mistakes were made and they were blamed on Charlie, that’s how it was. Yet Trevor refused to blame anything about the situation on her. For the first time that year, something that really wasn’t her fault wasn’t being pinned on her.
By the time Trevor stopped talking, Charlie’s mind had gone blank. She wasn’t angry anymore, nor was she sad. In fact, Charlie felt guilty about some of the things Trevor had said. He had that reputation of being the sort of dumb friend of the group, the token emotionless stoner that no one really cared about. Charlie wouldn’t say that Trev had never done something that pissed her off because that would be a blatant lie, but she also wouldn’t say that he got the credit he deserved as a friend. That was on her.
“It’s not true.” Charlie eventually managed, eyes still trained on the rolling black clouds in the distance. “What you said about you being selfish and a shitty person: it isn’t true. I hate that you feel that way about yourself because it just is not true. You’re a good person, Trev, and I don’t think you get told that enough. We all have flaws but the fact that you only see yourself as some sort of burden to us is not at all reflective of how you actually are as a friend.”
Charlie fell silent as she loosened her grip on the railing, the rumbling thunder of the storm on the horizon cutting through the stale air between them. Fuck it, if he was going to be honest than she would be too.
“Look, I know this whole thing was just another entry into the long list of things I’ve fucked up this year. I overstep, I barge in, I can’t keep my fucking mouth shut. None of this would’ve happened if I had just stopped being that stupid overbearing friend who wants to have everything under control. If I just stopped…” Charlie’s voice trailed off as she took a deep breath in a weak attempt to steady the shake in her voice. “It isn’t your fault that I can’t just let things be. Time and time again I fuck up and end up hurting the people I love. I’m selfish. I think I’m trying to help people when really I’m just trying to help myself. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s enough words to apologize for everything I’ve screwed up.”
A sudden song began playing as Charlie’s phone buzzed away in the pocket of her jacket causing the small framed girl to jump as she whipped out the device and silenced the call. A photo of her mom’s face stared back at her while the call was dropped, the picture fading away to another missed call.
“I, uh, I missed my call with my mom on Monday.” Charlie spoke calmly, forcing herself to look away from the screen as she tucked her phone back in her pocket. “Told her I was sick so that she wouldn’t keep asking questions as to why I went M.I.A. I just don’t have the heart to tell her that I fucked up again. I’m sure she’ll hear about it in time, everyone just loves to point out how shitty of a person I am. I just… She doesn’t need to know right now. Let her pretend that she’s got that dream daughter she wanted for a little while longer.”
Charlie crossed her arms over her chest, a slight shiver shaking her shoulders as a gust of wind blew her hair back from her face. The storm was getting closer by the minute, a few stray drops of rain turning the light grey pavement of the parking lot below them dark and silky. Her phone dinged once again, alerting her to a new voicemail that would be left unchecked for the night.
“I’m trying, Trev, I really am. I just don’t know how to make this okay. I don’t know how to stop hurting my friends. I don’t know how to be this person that everyone expects to be happy and helpful but evil and cruel all at the same time. If I’m nice, I’m trying too hard and being overbearing. If I keep to myself, I’m a selfish bitch. If I keep my mouth shut, I’m passive and a pushover. If I speak up, I’m a saint and some sort of mighty being who clearly is no better than the shit on the bottom of peoples’ shoes.” Charlie continued, the ache in her chest rising with each word. “You guys don’t deserve to be mixed up with all of that, not at all. Fuck, I don’t even know if I deserve to have half the shit I do because all I do is fuck up and hurt people. I’m tired of hurting people, tired of being the selfish bitch no one wants around. I’m tired of trying to protect my friends only to be the person that hurts them in the end. I’m just so fucking tired all the time. I have to apologize for that, not you.”
Taking a deep breath, Charlie pushed herself off the railing and looked over to Trevor, tears gently brimming her eyes. She had promised herself that she was done crying over the situation. Clearly, once again, she had lied.
“That’s why it hurt so much, you know? That’s why what happened last weekend hurt so bad. Because I think I’ve known that what I just said is true my whole life. But hearing it from you? From Jo? From Amy? Guess it gave me the confirmation I didn’t want to hear.” Charlie chuckled softly, dropping her gaze to her shoes as she kicked a stray stone with the toe. “I wanted to just carry on and put the blame of the situation on you because it was easier and you didn’t deserve that. That was your birthday, your celebration. I had no right to just go off and pretend like what I was doing was right. You had every right to be upset with me because you didn’t say anything that wasn’t true and I guess that’s why it hurt so much. But at least you told me the truth. Maybe I needed to hear it.”
As one might expect from a person such as one Ava Sanders, she wasn't a fan of the social interactions that a lock-in implied. And yet, here she was, at the lock-in for... who really knew? Ava wasn't even sure why she'd bothered showing the fuck up, except that she was here now. She was here, and the least she could was try and make the most of her time while being stuck at the school.
That sounded way too fucking optimistic for the redhead...
Optimism kind of tasted like poison to her. Except it was like, poison to her thoughts, you know? False hope or whatever the fuck it was that optimism kind of brought about, so she shoved away any goody-goody, positive "omg make the best of tonight~" thoughts from her head, instead reminding herself that it was quite simple what tonight would actually bring. Nothing but shitty memories and a deep regret for being in the same building as her peers.
Ava wasn't a pessimist, she was a realist.
Anyway, she was wandering about rather aimlessly at the school. She'd yet to run into anyone that she legitimately knew -- and sure, she'd caught sight of a couple people she kind of knew, but decided that she really didn't want to fuck with them. So Ava had turned on her heel and walked in the opposite direction, and then the antisocial girl had ran into a couple other people she would've rather avoided, and...
Well, soon her many turns to avoid talking to people had led her on a zigzagging maze throughout the school's labyrinthine halls. She wasn't lost, of course, because how could one really get lost in a fucking school? Or, at least, a school that they'd been attending for a few years?
But, with her steps kind of being a bit meandering, and half of her attention focused on her phone (the other half was focused on her surroundings, or so she had presumed it was to try and detect any incoming people), she...
Okay, she was really bad at being aware of her surroundings.
And eventually, taking a sharp turn at a hallway almost brought her slamming right into some weepy boy. She recoiled, her eyebrows drawing together in an immediate look of annoyance, and her lips had started to part so she could presumably snap at said boy for not watching where he was going (even though this would've made her quite the hypocrite), but then she noticed the teary look in his eyes and...
There was an inner rolling of her eyes.
Ava was heartless. Ava was a bitch. Ava didn't give a fuck about anyone (except JJ).
... At least that's what she liked to tell herself.
She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest, her phone dangling from one of her hands still. "Why are you crying?" She asked, her eyebrows drawing closer together.
Well, it didn't really matter what she wanted, did it?
She felt like hell, and Ash was sure that she looked like hell, too. Her lungs felt as if they'd shrunk to half their size, so her breathing started to grow shallower and shallower until she was practically gasping for air. She was trying to breathe, she was trying to quietly recite a mantra that she was alright, because technically she was. It wasn't... she wasn't hurt, and it wasn't like Callum had been... that... mean.
He'd been truthful.
What was so wrong with her that a few truthful remarks left her crying?
She was pretty sure that she was either going to puke, or she was going to pass out where she stood. Her head felt light-headed. Her stomach was aching, and she now kept one arm pressed across it while she used her other hand to try and stop the flow of tears, but it was useless. Ash didn't even feel like she was sobbing -- she wasn't, like, actively sobbing, it was just... it was just happening. Her eyes were watering and she couldn't figure out why (well she could, but she quite simply wanted to pretend that she couldn't), and she couldn't figure out how to stop it, and--
And, and, and--
Help, help, help.
She wanted help, but it wasn't like Ash was about to ask for it. Fuck, who would she even turn to? What was she even supposed to say? "Hey, hi, I'm crying because Callum called me out for being a shitty person."
There wasn't anyone that she wanted to see her like this, and she sure as hell didn't want to burden anyone. This was supposed to be a fun night and like... like... Ash was determined to make sure that it was fun. That it would be fun for everyone else, at the very least. She just... she would... go... somewhere, hide out until she had a better control of her emotions, and then she could try and sidle her way back into the fray.
Ash was an expert at painting on a fake smile. She just needed a few minutes to, like, gather herself. Clean herself up. Wash away the tears streaking down her face, and get her breathing to actually right itself so it didn't look like she was having a panic attack or something.
She was wrongfully upset. That was it.
Maybe, she figured, if she kept repeating that to herself, she would calm down.
(It wasn't working -- her chest was constricting tighter by the second, like there was a snake wrapped around that was squeezing her so tight she couldn't breathe.)
"Ash!" someone's voice called, and Ash's pace slowed.
At first, through the hazy film of her pan-- sorry, not panic, through the hazy film of her totally unreasonable... upset... episode, she didn't recognize the voice. Her sure-footed steps now faltered and she came to a bit of a halt, looking up seeing as how her eyes had been glued to the floor up until this moment. Her eyebrows knit together, she sniffled (super fucking attractive), and then she saw who it was.
"Ash, hey. How's...?"
At one point, Ash would've considered the two of them to be friends. Or, like, kind of friends? Acquaintances? Party acquaintances. But that was before the whole thing she had pulled with Rome and even after that, Ash had been more than willing to look past it and keep things civil with Nickie... and then the thing with Javi and Lucky had happened and, like, yeah, sure, she didn't really know either of the boys all that well yet.
Didn't mean she wasn't pissed as hell.
What Nickie had done was wrong, and she couldn't believe the sappy brunette was risking showing her face at something like this.
Ash turned her gaze back down, her hand rubbing aggressively at her eyes before falling to hang loosely at her side. She felt Nickie's fingers graze her shoulder, and she involuntarily winced and flinched away like the touch had burnt her.
(And no, that wasn't because it was Nickie in particular -- she would've had the same reaction to anyone at this moment.)
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yeah... yeah, yeah, I'm fine." She sniffled again, her gaze reaching up from the floor to meet Nickie's for a fraction of a second before darting away.
Like, technically she was okay. She wasn't dying. She wasn't physically hurt. Those were, like, the only prerequisites to being not okay. At least, that's what their mother used to insist when she was little and would cry over mindless nonsense -- "well, are you hurt? No? Then stop."
Ash wasn't physically hurt so by that, she was fine.
"Why... what do you want?" She asked, her voice wavering a bit as she spoke. Ash managed to finally actually look at Nickie, and she was doing her best to be civil. But she also felt a bit like a cornered animal, and she wanted to leave. But leaving would be rude, so she remained anchored to the spot, even as the pattering in her chest intensified, and her stomach slammed itself about, demanding she leave now.
"I mean, Hunter's back there if you want him," she said, giving a little nod of her head in the direction that she'd just come from.
She felt as if she should keep speaking, but the only other dialogue options currently presenting themselves in her head were... meaner than she wanted, so she pressed her lips closed, her teeth digging into her sore bottom lip once more.
Nickie’s eyes were still glassy, no matter how hard she tried to blink it back. Even now that she was talking to Ash— or, talking at Ash, since Ash was yet to answer— she struggled to suppress them.
Ash looked like she was on the cusp of crying, too, though.
Nickie felt some kind of…
Fuck, it was gross— really gross.
But she felt some kind of contentedness that she wasn’t the only one.
She wasn’t the only one going through shit, ya know.
Nickie, for a moment, told herself that she was distracting herself with a hapless case who desperately needed attention, and that worked to temporarily push back the wetness biting at her eyes.
“Yeah…yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” Ash sniffled.
Nickie tucked her lower lip in to suck on it, her brows knitting tighter as Ash gave her the answer.
Or not answer.
Nickie had been through cheer practice after cheer practice with that girl. She’d partied hard with her more times than she could count on one hand. Like, she didn’t really know her— but she knew her. She was bonded with her, like…ya know. So maybe it was that that set her senses off.
Or maybe it was just because she was already on alert, already on edge, and “no, I’m fine, don’t talk to me” wasn’t going to work to turn her away.
Look, Nickie had been having a shit night already. Like, Slater helped that, but she still was having a shit night, because every day of the past week had been shit. She knew what not fine looked like— and she’d told the “I’m fine” lie herself countless times. That routine wasn’t going to work on Nickie.
Plus, she was, like…worried, okay? She didn’t like to see anyone upset, no matter how much it seemed like she did. It hurt her herself.
And Ash…Ash was a case who needed more help than herself at the moment.
A distraction, sure. Whatever Nickie wanted to call it.
But also…Nickie cared. She could play hard, bad bitch, but she cared. She didn't like to see people hurt. She didn't like to see people hurting.
This girl? She was hurting. Like, regardless of anything, regardless of who she was, regardless of how she felt about Nickie, this girl was hurting, and…and Nickie could help her.
That sounded like Nickie had a savior complex. She didn’t. She just…
She just wanted to help.
Ash’s eyes met Nickie’s for a moment, and she noticed how watery her eyes were in that brief second of connection.
So Ash’d had a shit night, too. So Ash was having a problem like Nickie was.
So Nickie wasn't alone.
"Why...what do you want?" Ash asked, her voice quivering. Ash was looking at her again, and Nickie drew in a deep breath, putting on a small smile, though her gaze and brows still read concern. “I mean, Hunter’s back there, if you want him.” She gave a nod towards where she had come from.
Nickie blinked, her brows unravelling and her face relaxing for a moment. “Hunter’s back th…?” she started to repeat, but she trailed off in thought.
She could do the shit thing— say “bye-bye, Ash, see you later”, hold up peace signs, walk away, go to her boyfriend, leave Ash crying— or Nickie could…what was it they said…pay it forward?
Like, the ultimate distraction was right in front of Nickie's eyes— or, like…a hallway or two over. It was what she had been waiting for all night.
But here Ash was in front of her in front of her, about to cry, lying that she was alright, and Nickie couldn’t help but think that that was probably what she looked like to Slater— who didn’t even know her, who was a total stranger, but who came to help her out regardless— and he had still, for literally no reason, stayed and helped, even though, like…it didn’t feel right, and it didn't seem natural, and it didn't seem like anything anyone would normally do— especially not Nickie, who wasn't exactly known for her benevolence.
And also, more than paying it forward...like…Ash was her friend. Or, like…even if she wasn’t her friend and was a just party friend, or was just a cheerleading teammate, or was just an acquaintance, or was just an enemy, or was just...or was just…just whatever the hell she was, Nickie knew Ash, or at least knew more about her than most people, just because of all of the time that she had cumulatively spent around her, and she…Ash was a nice person, and...she...
Nickie wanted to help. Nickie didn’t need a fucking reason to want to help.
She just wanted to help now.
She shook her head, dismissing the thought of running off to her boyfriend, because what was in front of her was more important right now.
“I’m…,” Nickie started, and then her brows knit together again. “You look…sick. Like, no way that that is fine.”
In spite of how she felt, her words came out sounding judgmental and scornful.
Shit, that wasn’t what she meant.
Damn it, she probably looked the same. That wasn’t how she meant it to sound at all.
She shook her head. “Are…are you alright?” she asked. “Did something happen? Did someone do something to you?” She frowned deeply. “Do you, uh…like, do you need a bucket?”
Throughout his life, Trevor Callaghan had been known to exhibit intense symptoms of a certain, common, chronic condition entitled “the inability to shut the fuck up”. Even from when he was a senior infant (a kindergartener, he thought it was called over here), he got constant reports sent home from school that repeated two basic sentiments: “he needs to get the stick out of his arse and communicate with other children” and “holy mother of Jesus Christ the fecking child needs to stop communicating he’s giving us all an ear-splitting headache and I want to knock this six-year-old’s lights out please teach him how to shut the fuck up or I’m going to forcibly jab two sharpened pencils into each of my earholes thanks much”.
This condition persisted to now, with much the same attitude as that latter comment held towards his possession of this trait by his peers— though these peers weren’t really afraid to take action against him for having said condition.
See: Nico putting him in the hospital last year.
See: the broken arm he toted all the way back to Ireland.
See: his grandmother telling him that he had it coming.
See: him agreeing.
Even so, there were rare times that Trevor did actually shut up when he should— though it was very rare. The reason that he shut up when he did wasn’t that he realized that there would be consequences to his words, because that never stopped him from saying anything. The reason wasn’t that his words were just going to make the situation worse— that never stopped him either. The reason wasn’t that he didn’t have anything to say, because he was really good at talking without any aim, about anything and everything and nothing at all.
The reason was simply that he realized that the other person deserved the respect of him listening. The reason was simply that he cared about hearing what the other person had to say— and because he felt like he owed it to them to listen.
So now, Trevor listened, and he said nothing. He listened, though it pained him, through Charlie telling her thoughts about herself— telling all the lies that she had told herself, all of the disgusting shite that the people around her made her think that she just absorbed, accepted, and contorted to be the truth to her, telling everythign that he, personally, had assisted in making her think. Though he wanted to speak out, interrupt her, insist that it wasn’t true, he didn’t.
His heart ached, too, with every word that she said, because he knew that he had a hand in making her think that way.
Fuck you, Sean Trevor Callaghan.
Fuck you for having your head so far up your own arse that you couldn’t even see how much your actions hurt one of the only people in this fecking world who has the pain tolerance to put up with your miserable excuse for a self, you pathetic piece of shite.
The storm on the horizon rumbled again.
Trevor felt himself grow pallid. His mouth grew dry, and a rise came at his throat as Charlie continued.
That isn’t true, that isn’t true, that isn’t true.
None of that is true. None of what you're saying is true. Please, stop.
Guilt and frustration drummed in his chest.
Stopstopstopstopstopstopstopstop, he begged internally, but he knew, at the same time, hearing her admit this shite aloud and the pain that it brought him was what he deserved. Hearing her say everything that he had made her think...it was what he deserved.
After all, it was all his fault, even if Charlie wanted to call him a good guy and wanted to say that it was all her fault. It was his fault— his fault— that she thought these things. It was his fault that...he'd done what he'd done.
And if he couldn’t deal with the fecking consequences his actions, then he should’ve actually fecking thought and not fucking done them in the first place.
He— everything he’d done, everything he hadn’t done, all the things he said and didn’t say Saturday? It had all caused so much fucking damage. Every. Single. Thing.
And he’d had the audacity to let it sit. He’d had the fecking ‘nads to act like nothing had happened.
Charlie pushed herself off of the railing and looked over to Trevor.
He could see the tears in her eyes.
A pang shot through his chest, but he forced himself to look into her eyes— to look at the ruins that his night of selfish, unthinking destruction had left.
“That’s why it hurt so much, you know?” she said. “That’s why what happened last weekend hurt so bad. Because I think I’ve known that what I just said is true my whole life. But hearing it from you? From Jo? From Amy? Guess it gave me the confirmation I didn’t want to hear.” She gave a soft chuckle, and she dropped her eyes from him and kicked at a stone.
He watched her move.
You did this, Trevor.
“I wanted to just carry on and put the blame of the situation on you because it was easier and you didn’t deserve that,” Charlie said. “That was your birthday, your celebration. I had no right to just go off and pretend like what I was doing was right. You had every right to be upset with me because you didn’t say anything that wasn’t true and I guess that’s why it hurt so much. But at least you told me the truth. Maybe I needed to hear it.”
That was what did it— what made the wetness prod at his own eyes, what made him feel the utter revolt to his core.
What kind of sorry excuse for a fucking human being was he?
He looked down at the pavement, at the students trickling in, and a thick drop of rain landed on a hand that gripped the railing.
It was going to start raining soon. The storm was approaching faster and faster.
He really didn’t fucking know what to say. He didn’t know what to say— and he knew, no matter what he said, he couldn’t fix it.
So he wasn’t going to try and fix it. He was just…going…to talk.
Talk, from his heart, honestly— because that was what Charlie had done for him.
With a weak, half-hearted smile, he looked over to Charlie again. “You keep a list of things you’ve fucked up this year, too?” he kidded weakly, and he gave a small shake of his head. “Charlie…if we’re apologizin’ for everythin’ we’ve ever done an’ everythin’ we could get better at an’ everythin’ that everyone else says or thinks about us, we’d be here until 2040 an’ still only halfway through that list.” He closed his eyes, breathing in a quivering breath. “Mistakes happen, an’ they will happen, an’ they won’t stop happenin’, an’ they’ll keep happenin’ until we die. It’s part of human nature. It’s part of…it’s part of bein’ a person. The people who point out the mistakes you make are ones who’ve made seven million mistakes themselves. They don’t have anythin’ to talk about. And…you’re right, you’re not perfect. I’m not perfect either. You make mistakes. You make…a lot of mistakes. So do I. But…” He opened his eyes. “But you carin’ about people?” he muttered. “That’s not a mistake. You don’t have that to apologize for. All you’ve done is care, Charlie. I…you’re not at fault for that. As much as you can say you’ve done wrong, there’re countless other things than that that you’ve done right.”
He gave another small shake of his head, reclining his head to look at the endless night sky. The angry clouds above reflected the light from below. “I, bein’ the everlastin’ly self-absorbed pessimist that I am…don’t tend to see that, an’ I tend even less to tell you that I appreciate what you do for me— an’, more than that, I appreciate who you are as a person,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry. I…it must fuckin’ suck to work tirelessly— to care tirelessly— an’ to hear nothin’ an’…get nothin’ in return.”
He paused another moment to take a deep, shaky breath. He made no effort to control the film around his eyes, and it was really thickening. “Tryin’ doesn’t mean that everythin’ goes right, an’ everythin’ not goin’ right doesn’t mean that you didn’t try,” he said. “An’…an’ carin’ about other people doesn’t mean that they will care about you or appreciate you as they should— though they definitely should.” He turned his eyes to her. “But that doesn’t mean that your tryin’ or your carin’ is pointless. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. All that it means is that people have their heads so far up their arses that they can’t recognize what you’re doin’ for them. I can say that from experience— that’s what I did to you Saturday.”
For a moment after he said those words, he stood with a blank expression on his face.
It just dawned on him how fucking hypocritical he was— telling her that when he needed to hear it for himself.
He let out a soft chuckle. “I sound like Nanna wit’ all of this preachin’,” he said. “Regurgitatin’ the words that she’s said to me…but now that I’m sayin’ them to you, I realize…how…true they are. ‘Cuz…fuck, this is all shite I do, too. I’m tellin’ you that jus’ as much as I’m tellin’ myself it. I’m tellin’ you not to say that you fuck everythin’ up when I think the same of myself, but I know…I know that’s not the truth, at least for you. An’…hell, it might also not be the truth for me, come to think of it. You’re too hard on yourself, an’…maybe I am, too.” He shook his head slightly. “Neither you nor I do what they say we do. Neither you nor I am the person who other people think we are, or who the dark part of ourselves think we are.”
He breathed out a long breath. “You don’t deserve this kind of treatment from people or yourself, an’ jus’ because you get it doesn’t mean that…it doesn’t mean that you have to become what they want you to. People live to tear people down— especially the people who care about other people. Especially in Hollywood, everythin’ that has two moral feet to stand on gets swept off…but that doesn’t mean it’s your fault.”
He closed his eyes again, folding his hands and leaning on the railing. “You don’t have to know how to fix everythin’, an’ it’s not your job to fix everythin’. You like to make other people happy, but Charlie…you need to take care of yourself, too. As much as you call yourself selfish, you’re the opposite of it. You need to let yourself feel shite without…without sayin’ that you’re selfish. You’re allowed to feel however you want to.” The anger at others rose in his throat and in his voice as he spoke, and the control over the wavering in his voice was being lost. “People can get butthurt about it, but it’s a personal problem fer them. If they’re so concerned care about you havin’ feelin’s that they don’t, then they have a lot of introspection ta do.”
He cleared his throat, trying to regain his composure, and he inhaled deeply through his nose. “It’s easy to say ignore them, but it’s a lot harder to do it…I know that. I…I get told the same thin’, too, ta jus’ ignpre ‘em. I can’t do a single thin’ without gettin’ attacked either. I can’t say a word or make a move or sit still or keel over an’ die without someone feelin’ the need to assert their opinions about me. But…it’s somethin’ I’m workin’ on— jus’ sayin’ fuck ‘em, actin’ like they’re not there, an’…” He glanced at Charlie. “it’s somethin’ you should do, too.” He looked down at the dots below again. “Charlie, you…don’t have to make any apologies for anythin’, especially not to me. You…do too much for me. For us. For everyone around you. You care about other people an’ their opinions, an’…an’ jus’ because you don’t get that same appreciation back doesn’t mean that you’ve done somethin’ wrong.”
He swallowed hard. “I didn’t say…” He cleared his throat. “Halloween. I mean…” He shook his head. “Charlie. I’m…”
Fuck. He was thinking again, trying to figure out some way to talk himself out of this— but that wasn’t going to work.
Just stop it, Trevor. Just fucking tell her.
He shook his head. “Halloween was one big mistake for me. I told you that I had a shite night— no excuse. I was drunk as hell— no excuse. I didn’t tell you to fuck off outright, sure, but I basically did. But none of it— listen, I am sayin’ this straight from my heart. None of it— none of it— was because I hate you. None of it was because you deserved what I was doin’. I didn’t mean for any of it to be me sayin’ that what you were doin’ was dumb an’ that you carin’ about me was dumb in any way— but that’s what happened, and I didn’t…I didn’t mean for it to be taken that way.”
He turned around, dropping his arms from the railing, and he looked at Charlie. For a moment, he didn’t say anything, just pressed his lips into a line and tried not to let his eyes drip like the sky above was doing. “I love you, Charlie,” he said. “I’ve known you for three years and feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I feel like you’re my blood, a sibling I never had. And…I love you, an’ I appreciate you, an’…I don’t say that, damn it. I don’t say that, because I get so…self-absorbed, self-concerned, an’ block everyone an’ everythin’ out, an’ I jus’…I don’t show that I love or care about you, an’ instead, I basically tell you to fuck off and die in a hole jus’ so I can be alone and mope around my room all day. An’…none of that was what I meant. I wanted to be alone because I…deal with my problems by shuttin’ off an’ throwin’ things off of my desk an’ writin’ for twenty hours straight, not because I hate you. I wanted to be alone because I…jus’ wasn’t thinkin’. I jus’ wasn’t thinking about you. I wasn’t thinkin’ about all of the trouble you went through to make my day special. That wasn’t what you deserved. That wasn’t justified. I discounted you, I acted like what you did was nothin’. I acted like I…I seriously feckin’ acted like you were the one who owed me that. I treated you like a piece of shite.” A drop escaped his eye, and he covered his eyes with his hand, pressing his fingers into his eyelids to dry it before it fell and try to press away the other tears that were on the horizon.
He dropped his hand, and he spoke again. “Charlie, that wasn’t what you deserved— that’s the opposite of what you deserved.” His voice was somewhat strained. “Just because it’s my birthday doesn’t mean that I am allowed to tell you that you’re wrong for carin’, either in the words I said or in the words that I didn’t say.”
He shook his head, turning back to the balcony.
For a long moment, he didn’t say anything, just mulled over everything that he had just said. All of the words of advice that he’d given to Charlie— all of the advice that he himself needed to take.
He gave a soft chuckle. “I like to set myself up with holes that I can weasel out of,” he mumbled. “I like to say thin’s without sayin’ ‘em an’ then use that as an excuse for why I shouldn’t have to apologize. I like to leave myself enough rope, ya know…” He lifted his eyes to the sky. “An’ then I go an’ hang myself with it.”
He did that.
“I pulled that shite Saturday, an’ I expected you to jus’ take it,” Trevor said. “I expected you to jus’ take my 'that’s not what I said, that’s not what I meant' as it came to ya…an’ I thought that would fix everythin’.”
He did that.
He laughed softly in disgust, and his lips curled into a scowl. “I can’t believe it. I…I thought I was better than that. I…” His scowl fell, leaving his face with a pained expression. “Fuck.” It was all dawning on him again, and he repeated the words he should have said from the moment that he said those things to Charlie Saturday: “I’m so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I...me sayin' sorry can't fix it, but I just want to tell you. I'm so sorry.”
He turned to her once more. “Charlie, none of what I did was justified. I didn’t tell you the truth— I didn’t tell you anythin’ except ‘fuck off, leave me to wallow in my own self-pity’, an’ that’s…revoltin'. Revolting. That is disgustin’ behavior. I treated you— who I consider to be pretty much my own flesh an’ blood— like you were no better than some…rat. An’…I can’t apologize enough for that, because, in the end, the more you talked, the more I realized— I’ve done…so much damage by doin’ that one selfish thin’ of…jus’ askin’ you to throw away all of that hard work an’ effort that you did. An’…shite. I don’t know how I can fix it, but…I want to. An’…I’ll do what you ask me to in order to make it better. Anythin’. But somethin’ that I won’t do is accept your apology in my place. I won’t accept you blamin’ yourself for my selfish actions. I won’t take that. I’m not lettin’ you take accountability for my…shite, Charlie. I’m not letting you say you’re responsible for any of it, because none of it is your fault— none of it”
He approached her. “You…should talk to your mom,” he said. “If she’s is disappointed in who you are, I’ll have a chat with her myself.” He mustered a small smile, and he looked down at her. “Charlie, you’re someone special, an’ anyone who has anythin’ to do with you is lucky as hell. Fuck ‘dream Charlie’ or ‘perfect Charlie’. I wouldn’t want that Charlie around— because she wouldn’t be you.”
He put the pebble that she had kicked beneath his own foot, and he drew in a deep breath. When he spoke, his voice was sure. “Listen to me. You’re not some selfish bitch. You’re not hurtin’ people. You’re nothin’ that everyone says you are— you’re nothin’ you say you are.” The tears in his eyes were thickening again. “You are a lovin’ person who cares about everyone around you, even if you really shouldn’t. You’re compassionate, an’ trustworthy, an’ you go out of your way to make everyone around you feel comfortable, safe, an’ happy.” A tear dripped from his eyes, and he wiped it away with his wrist. “An’…an’ in return, you get treated like shite. By everyone. By me. By...by the person who swears that they love you. That’s not your fault— it’s nothin’ that you’re doin’ that brings that out. Don’t blame yourself for it. I know, it’s easier said than done…but please. Please, Charlie, don’t let it get to you. You’re…you’re too good for that. You’re…it hurts to hear you…even…think that.”
He tried to breathe in a breath, but it ended up much more unsure and shallow than he’d anticipated. Another couple of tears escaped his eyes. “I’m on your side. I know it doesn’t mean much— havin’ me, of all people, by your side…but I’m here. I’ll love you unconditionally.” He paused, and then he chuckled softly. “Sure, you get on my nerves sometimes,” he joked lightly, “but…I get on yours more to make up for it, right?”
He went quiet for a moment, working his jaw, and then he kicked the pebble away and spoke to Charlie again. “We might be ‘messes’ to them, or, hell, even to us. In the eyes of everyone else and even in our own eyes, we might be ‘fuck-up’s who fuck everythin’ up around us or what have you. But, Charlie…” He gave her another small smile. “I’m here for you. You're my best friend. I'd go through hell to take everythin' back that I did, an'...an' if that's what I have to do, then it's what I will do. I...don't want to act like Saturday never happened, because if we do that, then it'll happen again. I...want to get better." He gave a soft chuckle, wiping his eyes. "An'...an' I’m here. I'm here to make what I did better. An' I'm here to be a fuck-up with you…if you’ll have me back as your friend.”
@If.U.Seek.Amy has set their location to: School (Music rooms)
@If.U.Seek.Amy has mentioned: Charlie, Trevor, Nate, Evie
@If.U.Seek.Amy has interacted with: Lucky (gh0stwriter
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So the roommate drama hadn't subsided any in the past week like she'd hoped, but she knew she couldn't interfere or push anything more. It was a chore, but she had to actively remind herself to step back and do nothing, because it wasn't her place or responsibility to fix this for them. They'd all been friends long enough that it was about time they all learned how to deal with this kinda stuff. If they were really gonna say they were all going to be friends for life and be there for each other through whatever...this counted as through whatever. They had to learn how to communicate in a healthy way even if they were upset.
She wouldn't always be their to be their mediator. They were juniors, and next year would be their last year being around each other constantly. That didn't mean she thought they'd drop off, but if each continue building and growing in their own professions they might see each other a lot less. Doing things like going on tours, or Trevor possibly shooting films in other locations around the country or world could separate them for months at a time. They just had to work things out and get used to these uncomfortable talks.
So as much as it pained her to see two people she loved and adored more then anything in pain and suffering...she had to zip her lip and just be there as moral support to them and let them have whatever space they needed.
In giving them their space, she found the time to work on her own shit especially for the Festival. She had a few tweaks to be made for her songs dropping on Monday, but she still needed to work on some beats for the festival piece she was singing. She felt she had her lyrics down, and even though her whole heart didn't feel in it...that was mostly because her heart didn't feel like it was in anything. Once the rage subsided now that her other songs releasing all that was over, and after the conversation at the fall festival and Halloween... she didn't know how to feel other then empty.
She wasn't sure if it was because she couldn't or she was afraid still. She was afraid of not being ok again, of seeing him and falling all over again some stupid way, of forgiving him too easily, of feeling like she can't ever trust herself or her judge of peoples character, of realizing maybe their is something missing in her.
Nope feeling nothing slowly became easier especially with her distance from her friends. It just made making music harder. She wanted to believe that time could heal all wounds like it did with Nate, but was she really healed from that or just tired of feeling like shit and let it go?
She was nervous about her new music because up till this point she'd for the most part stayed out of public media when it came to conversation about what happened between her and Dei...but these two songs would leave nothing to the imagination about her feelings, or the rage that'd been burning inside her. Wile she was careful not to name any names or drop any hints...she did hope that Evie wouldn't receive any heat for it. Sure she still disliked the girl, but it's one thing to have your classmates on your case because it's high school and shit will pass...the world? That's different, and that's something that can follow her for a while. Also some people are crazy and send death threats and shit. She didn't hate Evie that much. The only people she hoped would figure it out would be the people who already knew and she was fine with that.
She just wanted her thoughts and feelings to finally be heard and understood.
However there was nothing more to be done about that. Now her focus was on the winter arts festival. She showed up early to the lock in to snag a studio room. She hoped working at the school rather then her labels recording rooms would make her feel something more. Being in the place that was usually the reason for anything going on in her life for better or for worse. She hoped to feel a connection with something. Escape tension, connect, and enjoy the lock-in...that was her to-do list for the night.
On her way to finding an empty room she heard music leaking from one of them. They were usually sound proof so her curiosity drew her into to the melody. It wasn't her usual style, but she liked it. Something about it just felt...comforting? No. It felt raw, unfiltered. Something she desperately was searching for inside of herself. It spoke to something deep inside her that needed it. What that it was? She had no clue. The door hadn't been properly fully closed, probably by accident.
She wasn't surprised that she wasn't the only one who had the idea to come and work, but she was curious as to who, and the music was the spell that dissipated her common sense that this person probably didn't want to be bothered. She walked up and listened outside of the door for a brief moment until it suddenly came to a stop. It was so good why'd they stop!? Against her better judgment she wrapped her fingers around the knob and gently knocked on the door before peeking in to see who had been singing.
"I'm so sorry, I just. I heard you cause the door wasn't fully closed, and just...You sound amazing!" She chimed sheepishly. Getting a good look finally at the person in the room she was surprised to see it was Lucky. She'd never heard his voice before. Which wasn't too out of the ordinary if she was honest. There were only select artists around here she really listened to.
She rarely got to speak to Lucky due to his continuous beef with her roommates it seemed. She didn't really view him in a bad light, but they couldn't stand him for some reason. She was never around when the actual arguments happened so it was hard to pin point what the actual problem always was. "I really hope that's for the festival because I can't wait to hear the whole thing!" She chimed probably a bit too cheerily for someone invading his personal private space while he was working.
"O-oh I'm sorry I should go."she added in quickly realizing finally how rude this really was. She just couldn't ever help herself around good music. That and perhaps a touch of loneliness from not being able to really talk to her friends the whole past week.
Ugh how could she stay upset with a face like that looking back at her? He was just so excited! To do what? Who knows with it involves Lin, but hey he was happy, and that's what counted right? So despite any internal feelings of disappointment she had, she shoved them down, put on her best poker face and a smile for him, so he could go have fun with a clear conscious. Thank goodness she was a good actress.
Watching him walk away keeping his eyes on her and his little wave made her genuinely giggle and wave back. He really was a sweetheart, and she felt happy to be with him. Which wasn't anything new, she always had felt this way, and rather lucky honestly with all the jack asses around this place landing an awesome and kind bestfriend AND boyfriend like it's a miracle.
She took out her phone as she made her way to her locker to see if there was anything exciting happening tonight anywhere as she found her skates. Sadly there wasn't much, but she supposed that would change as the night progressed. Speaking of feeling lucky she supposed the universe decided that her lucky was too unbalanced. Why else would she be doomed to have none other then Mike near her locker. For what little attractive features the guy might have it's washed away due to his absolutely terrible personality and attitude.
She prayed in her head he would go about his business like a decent human being, but of course this jerk didn't have a decent bone in his body. Why the fuck was he walking up to her right now? What did she do to deserve this? Was it because for the first time on twitter she wasn't making jabs at him? Did he take that as an invitation to speak to her? Did he think she didn't still hate his guts? She'd never forgive him for hurting Zeph, and she wished Zeph would've let her do something about it. Mike was lucky that he was a better person then her. That he was kind because she would've been a raging bitch.
From the words already falling for his lips it was very clear that he he didn't tread carefully he'd find out first hand just how different she is from Zeph, and put some of that good ole martial arts training to good use. She rolled her eyes at his first comment as she put in her combination, but didn't bother looking at him as she spoke, "I'm lonely? But you're the one so desperate for conversation you're talking to someone who could care less about the dribble that comes from your barely functioning brain? Hmpf" She shrugged keeping a pretty neutral expression the whole time.
Why wouldn't she? Was that supposed to hurt her feelings? Was any of that supposed to matter to her, coming from him of all people? He didn't know her, or Zeph, or really even Ronnie so he was literally just talking out his ass from rumors, and he said she said. She was more professional then to let something like that get under her skin especially from someone who to her was basically a nobody. His status came from the fact he was older then her and hung out with powerful people even though he had none of his own. That's not impressive to her and fades quickly.
She opened her locker and grabbed her skates out of it because unlike him she wasn't lonely. Sure she'd wanted to hang out with Zeph, but that didn't mean she had zero people she could hang out with. This was just a momentary pit stop, to grab her things because she thinks ahead unlike the vast majority of the student body here, him included.
She'd been prepared to just walk away honestly. Then however he of course had to bring up even more about Ronnie. Like what was his obsession with her? He was having a whole conversation by himself about two sophomores? Like how sad does your life have to be for that to be what get's you this riled up as a senior? Sure she didn't fucking like Ronnie, but she had a reason, and they were actually in the same arena, while he was supposed to be above all this. Clearly age doesn't bring any bit of maturity. Such a shame.
"Coming from the pathetic 'senior' who went to Simp city himself taking her on a whole ass date? What's your obsession with talking about her? You jealous he's gonna take your number one fan? Or rather should I say only fan, cause really? Who actually thinks you matter in the grand scheme of things?" She couldn't help the giggle that left her lips as she placed her skates on the ground tilting her head to look at him. "This is the highlight of your life and you're spending it trying to fuck around with Sophomore girls? But have the audacity to call anyone else out?" Her giggled bubbled into actual laughter at the thought, "Truly delusional."
She cleared her thought a moment and began taking her shoes off as he once again kept going on and on about nothing, "Is this supposed to hurt my feelings? Do you think any of that matters to me? Look Mike if you wanna off yourself you don't have to talk about hypothetical excuses, just do it." She shrugged. She wasn't Ronnie, she was Stella fucking Bailey. She wasn't going to get her feelings hurt and cry about 'oh boo hoo Mike hobbit Reid said some mean words to me'. It was sad and the more he talked the more pathetic he sounded. She almost felt bad for him. Like this was the only semblance of joy he seemed to be able to find in life.
"Unlike you my world doesn't revolve around who I fuck because I've got a successful career and an actual future ahead of me. If you think I've got any doubt in my boyfriend you're wrong, and your lil winny bitch fest didn't change that." She placed her shoes in the locker and spun the nozzle a few times for good measure before finally fully facing Mike and leaning against the lockers,
"In case you need a reminder. Even if me and Zeph broke up guess who still will be on primetime and highly streamed television show because she still is a nicely paid actress? Who still will have auditions? Who will still be able to fly to Paris on the drop of a dime because I want to off MY own money I've earned cause I've been relevant since I was 12 years old, but you don't even know what that feeling feels like huh?" She tilted her head slightly with a smirk as she spoke, "What do you have other then a limp dick? Not exaggerating or lying. So if you've got nothing that actually matters to say, I'd suggest saving your breath for someone who cares or at least is willing to act like they do."
He tried to change the subject like he hadn't spouted all that nonsense and that just made her giggle some more as she bent down to put her skates on, "Well I certainly at least got a laugh outta it, so maybe being a comedian is your actual calling. Jack asses are really in right now. Maybe even get a Netflix special, I hear they are dishing those out to just about anyone now even if it's still pretty cheap." She hummed.
She stood back up once she was done, "Well I'm done wasting my time chit chatting with you since I've done what I came here to do. I'm afraid you aren't worth any more then what little I've already given you. Run along back to your actually talented friends coat-tails that you'll be riding on all the way to graduation. I'm sure they miss their comic relief. I've got things to do. bye now" She replied simply with a wave of her hand to dismiss him before turning and pulling out her phone to text Maddie or someone asking where they were. Because let's fact it she didn't wanna roll around the whole school looking for them.
Mike didn't get to know how irritating and frustrating he was. He didn't get to have the satisfaction of seeing a rise in her over this petty bull shit. People like him were beneath her, and she wouldn't sink to that level. If he wanted to get her actually actively angry he'd have to try a lot harder then that. But that's not a road he wanted to go down with her weather he was smart enough to realize it or not. Though it might be a funny story to tell Landon.
Mike thought he was a fairly likable guy, if you could look past all of his jackassery. To be honest, he didn’t want you to like him if you couldn’t take his words with a grain of salt and understand that most of what he was saying was said with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. People with sticks up their asses were seriously no fun to talk to or be around.
So this sophomore girl— the one who was dating the guy whose face he had slammed into a sink counter— thinking that he somehow wanted her approval or cared about her opinion even though all she did was respond to his questions and jaunting in a way so boring that it rivaled even the responses of that bitch Adriane Holloway (minus the bite) was…eh, rich would be giving it too much credit. It was more just scoff-worthy. Like, ya know…c’mon…you seriously can’t just be giving me that to work with. Go on, girl, give us nothing, as they said.
But, eh, she was young. She’d get better in time, learn how to give enough of a push back to keep things engaging. In the meantime, her floundering, boring attempt at being some kind of hard bitch was entertaining, he guessed. Like a kid playing dress up and testing out her acting abilities.
But, seriously, she needed more original material if she wanted to make any kind of impact or keep the conversation engaging in any sort of way. Seriously, did no one have any more content besides “haha you’re poor”, “haha you’re short”, “haha you’re a slutbag”, or “haha you’re a talentless hack”? Everyone needed to get more material. All of those were true except the last one were true, but c’mon. You could only make so many hobo, midget, and whore jokes before you started reusing even your own material, ya know.
Bailey had opted for the last one, though— the whole “you’ve got no talent, you’re wasting your capacity, blah blah blah”-type angle to things. People also went for that a lot, but no one seemed to really get it through their thick skulls that just because he didn’t flex his career constantly or assert all of his accomplishments into every conversation that he had didn’t mean that he wasn’t successful— it just meant that he didn’t rely on all of the shit that he had done to get his peers’ respect or attention. Sounded really wannabe-ish to him, the kinda flexing that she was doing, ya know. Then again, she was a sophomore. It was a universal fact that kids like that always thought they were hot shit.
Regardless of the abysmal attempts at “firing back” (if they were attempts? He didn’t really know), Bailey was occupying his time for a moment, which was really all that he’d hoped to gain from this in the end— being a dick and spending up some of his time.
If all of his being a dick efforts went the same as this one, though, tonight was going to be a total fucking drag. If tonight continued giving him opportunities like this one, then it looked like his conversations were going to be dryer than the fucking Sahara.
“Heh,” Mike chuckled, “cute, babe.”
He pushed off of the locker, putting his hands up behind his head. “Hey, but you taught me something new. Would you look at that, huh? I didn’t know striking a conversation up with a lonely, downtrodden girl was desperation nowadays, but hey, I’ll just…”
He dropped his arms, and he mimed that he was grabbing a book from his back pocket. He brought the invisible book up and held it open in two hands, and then grabbed an invisible pencil from behind his ear and pushed up his invisible glasses with a middle finger. He pretended to scribble something on the pages, moving his lips as if he were muttering to himself whilst writing.
He grinned down at the girl cheekily. “Enlighten me some more, won’t ya? I’m all ears.”
He dropped his arms, chuckling as he readjusted his hands behind his head. “But eh, nah. That ‘date’ with Ronnie was just a pity date. Heh, don’t really want to spend more than five seconds around the brat— she’s annoying as hell. Wouldn’t really call my aversion an obsession, and wouldn’t call that ‘date’ evidence of my infatuation with the redheaded simp. Plus, the date worked. She hasn’t really been bothering me. That’s a win in my book.” He gave another soft chuckle. “Also wouldn’t call fucking around with sophomore girls the highlight of my life or anything. It might be the highlight of my night, if you had an ounce of anything interesting to you, or any kind of umpf.”
He came back over to lean against the locker beside her for a moment, dropping his arms and crossing them. “You do realize I’m just here to piss ya off, right?” he asked with a chuckle. “That’s the only reason I’m talking to you. Now, if you had fired back or something, you might’ve been keeping me around for a little bit longer, but as of now, I’ve really got no reason to keep talking to you. If that was you trying to fire back, you need to work on it, babe.” He grinned over at her. “I’ll root you on.”
With another chuckle, Mike pushed off the locker again, walking back over to his backpack. “Ehh, but really, you’re really no fun,” he said. He threw his strap over his shoulder and turned to her holdings his hands in front of himself and making circles with his wrists, as if trying to usher her on. “Ya know, give me something to work with here. Put some passion behind those words.” He chuckled, brushing one hand through his hair as his other one put on his other backpack strap. “If you’re just going to say the same things that everyone else does, then at least make it interesting. Add some kind of inflection or something.” He chuckled, and then he walked back up to her.
He cocked a final grin at her. “Be glad you get those lines and shit to rehearse, babe— at least you can have a personality for a few hours then, huh?”
With another chuckle, he turned around, doing a two-finger salute as he walked off. “Have a good night,” he said, flicking his fingers away from his forehead. “Enjoy…whatever the hell you’re doing in those skates.”
With that, he was off to find another place to loiter and, perhaps, a more interesting person to be an ass to.
Despite that letdown of a conversation, tonight was still on its way to being pretty damn good.