He was having trouble because of the pressure of Mercedes next to him, not because of any other reason -- at least, that's what he was trying to convince himself of as they drove towards the police station. Drake's dark eyes had turned so that he was looking out the window, one of his knees bouncing up and down as his hands remained clasped in his hands.
There was talking, but he wasn't really listening.
When those red lights had started flashing, Drake had kind of started remembering stuff.
Bleary gaze, staring at a ceiling where those same crimson lights had danced on the ceiling. At the time, he'd thought they were kinda pretty.
Then he'd taken to convulsing and puking, and blacking out, and he didn't come to until later.
Sirens in his ears and all that shit, cross-eyed gaze opening to see people swarming around him.
He squeezed his eyes shut, his heart pounding so hard it felt like it was in his throat, and his head turned down. His hands clasped tighter together, fingernails starting to dig into the space between his knuckles, digging into flesh.
Jan and Mer were equally upset, probably more upset, and he felt some amount of guilt and heartache knowing that he'd been the one to cause that. After all, he'd been the one to bring along the fireworks, and he was the reason they got caught, and... wow, only a week outta rehab, and he was already fuckin' up everyone's life, huh?
Mer had somehow talked them outta calling parents, instead agreeing to call just... some guardian.
Mason was gonna kill him.
"No one's answering."
"Can you just try again?"
"Please," Drake begged. There was a little bit of an uncomfortable laugh, his uneasy lips pressing up into a forced smile. "Please. Just... just try again, okay? He always answers. Every time I call him, trust me. He's probably just... just..." he couldn't come up with an excuse, so there was a shake of his head. "I dunno, but he's gonna pick up, promise. Just try again? Please?"
The begging wasn't working.
"Kid, we've tried your brother three times. He's not answering," the cop explained, this time speaking slowly since Drake had done nothing but argue with him about it every other time he'd pointed it out. "Don't you got parents we can call? A mom?"
Well, yeah, but he didn't know her number, or where the fuck she was anymore.
He'd gone back to see her at the apartment after he'd been released from rehab, when he found out from Mason that they were living in the tiny little studio apartment, but when he'd gotten there... some dude answered the door and was annoyed that Drake was asking for someone named Maria. Claimed he had no idea who that was, and that there was no bitch by that name there, and then the door had been slammed in his face.
Drake had thought he'd gotten the apartment number wrong, but trying several other variations of what he remembered granted him similar experiences.
The lack of an answer was clearly enough.
Drake just shrugged helplessly.
"Fucking... who the fuck is in charge of you?" The cop snapped.
"Mason -- the guy whose number I gave you," he explained, which just caused an annoyed grunt from the police officer.
"Just take him back to the cell," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand to the cop standing by Drake. "We'll wait and see if this number calls back."
Mercedes was bitching again, and Drake was only paying partial attention. Throwing out more shitty I told you so's, which he was prepared to respond to, when one of the cops came over to their cell. Drake perked up, fully expecting this to be them telling him just how right he was, and that Mason had answered, or he was here, and Drake was about to be bailed out from here.
"Your sister's here, come on," the cop said, eyes locked onto Jan.
He deflated, shoulders slouching down as he watched her walk out of the cell.
After they'd left, he just let out an annoyed snort of laughter.
"Whatever, Mer," he snapped as he rose to his feet, not bothering to glance over at her. He started to pace, his hands rubbing against his shorts nervously before he came to a stop against one of the walls, leaning back against it with his head banging against the cement wall.
"It's just as much your fault that we're fuckin' here."
It wasn't, but his mood was crashing, and he didn't know what to do.
Star woke up late on July 4th. Like late late. But he had jetlag to blame, having just flown in from Pennsylvania the day before.
After spending a groggy afternoon talking to his parents about his academic suspension from Villanova, he really needed a goddamn drink. Or twenty. With some uppers and some downers and some sidewaysers. Just...all of it.
He was worried about a lot of things...his suspension, for one, especially now that his parents had lectured him forever; but more importantly, all the things that came with showing back up in Newcastle after fleeing and ghosting everyone.
His parents told him about the Fourth of July party that the town was hosting, and it sounded lame to him, but he knew there would be plenty of people up to no good--he just had to find them. But Star had a pretty good eye for who could have a good time and who could not.
Star did not know if he would see Antares or Ivy, nor did he know if he wanted to. He had really missed both of them this past year, but he had also had all sorts of visions of how they might have publicly humiliated him in his absence.
He spent a while choosing an outfit--trying on one thing after another--he just had to look good for his first appearance. He finally settled for a blue-and-white-checked shirt and blue swim trunks. He still was not satisfied but he figured he had to stop obsessing sometime.
Star checked to make sure his parents weren't nearby before taking a bottle of tequila out of his closet, opening it, and taking several quick swigs. Liquid courage.
As Star walked from his family's home to the beach, he repeatedly buttoned and unbuttoned his shirt, indecisive yet again. He finally decided on unbuttoned--yeah, it's a bit cocky, but 'Nova basketball had put him in the best shape of his life and he couldn't help but show it off. Plus it was hot, so he could pretend he was just doing it to cool off.
As he arrived at the party, the tequila seemed to suddenly hit him and he flashed a big smile and said hello to people nearby. He floated through the crowd a bit, able to see over most people's heads, looking for his old friends. But he didn't really even recognize anybody. Were they still hanging out under the pier?
Some of the adults at the party knew who he was, the big basketball star who went on to play in one of the best college teams in the country, and they asked him questions about Villanova and basketball and March Madness. Star obliged and kindly answered, but he grew tired of it. And the tequila was beginning to wear off, leaving his courage waning and his fears and guilt rising. He started to walk back off the beach to go home when--
"Damn!" Star yelled as collided with someone in the crowd. But then he turned to see a familiar face, and he was so relieved.
RJ introduced himself and someone named Dante, and Star was confused for a moment.
"RJ! Man, aren't you a sight for sore eyes." He looked at RJ's bloodshot eyes and realized the likely cause of his momentary memory lapse. "It's Star de la Cruz, you don't remember me?"
He politely introduced himself to Dante and shook his hand.
When RJ offered him the Hennessy, Star was almost shocked...but not. "RJ, don't let anybody ever tell you you don't got balls, man. Drinking and toking right in front of everyone? You didn't notice the cops that are hanging around for no damn reason?"
Star grinned widely and put his hand toward the delicious amber-colored cognac. "You know I'm never gonna pass up a shot!"
"RJ, god...We used to get some raucous parties going, right? Have you still been hanging out under the pier?"
"And...you got anything stronger than this henny?"
Antonio spent some time with his bud oh and his buddy too. After explaining the whole situation tho much to his dismay he got turned down. Understandable really, but he had to try. Oh well off to plan B. Twitter will come in handy for that. It always does.
In the mean time he figured it was time to go explore a bit while he was still in such a good mood. He already knew once he started coming down it would be time to head home. While they walked in together inevitably he lost the guy in the crowd. It wasn't that big of a deal since Toni didn't mind roaming solo. Well at least in places he knew. This would be very different if he didn't know the town well.
Last years 4th of July kinda really sucked for him, so he wanted to make a new better memory for the holiday. How? He had no idea. He was sure something would find him. It usually did. The universe had a funny way of doing that.
He hear a faint familiar voice, but he wasn't too sure until the girl presented herself right in front of him, "O-Oh Hola Ivy! Yah you're right. Long time no see." He grinned scratching the back of his head with a lopsided grin. See what I mean? Thanks universe.
"Yah I know, and I'm good. Same as usual would be more accurate I guess. What about you? Anything new?" He asked curiously. He really had done a shit job at keeping up with his friends since high school outside of who he lived with and well Elena briefly. Maybe that'd be what he worked on this year. Kinda late for a new years resolution but that's fine.
There was something so… unsettling about a jail cell.
Well, a holding cell or whatever but this was the farthest she’s ever gotten to anything like this. It was scary. Being just… behind bars and knowing you’re just…
It was like time-out when she was three, you knew you did something wrong, so there was this little sinking feeling in your gut because you were afraid of getting yelled at again.
She’s never felt more in touch with her three-year-old self than right now.
Mercedes could’ve sworn her heart fell to her stomach when the cop rounded the corner, waiting for the words;
“Your brother’s here.”
But that didn’t come.
Not yet, anyway.
The officer had whisked Jan away to the inevitable doom that was her older sibling. That sinking feeling began to burrow deeper and deeper into her stomach the longer she waited.
Another I told you so escaped her lips and Drake was quick to retaliate this time around.
"Whatever, Mer, It's just as much your fault that we're fuckin' here."
She scoffed, crossing her arms and leaning backwards, her back hitting the cool, stone-brick wall.
It was a welcome feeling despite the almost-nauseous feeling settling in her stomach and the worse scenarios that’d no doubt come to fruition once they’d gotten out of here on repeat.
It was like psychological warfare on herself or whatever, it was freaking torture.
“My fault?!” She repeated, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear in clear frustration.
“You know what? You’re right, Drake. I shouldn’t of warned you about the dumb bag, I shouldn’t of even gone looking for you in the first place.”
It’s true, she shouldn’t of— because if she hadn’t she wouldn’t be in a holding cell.
Though, knowing herself, she would’ve made the choice to track him down again and again. Parties were never fun without him.
“I should’ve left you to your demise with Janet. I don’t even get why you kept the stupid fireworks a secret anyway?! They’re freaking fireworks, Drake. Was it some kind of like— like, dumb, stupid, ‘Mer kept her boyfriend from me, so I’m gonna keep this secret’ kind of thing?”
Justin wasn’t a secret!
Well, he was, but to CK and her parents only.
It wasn’t like Mer could’ve reached out to Drake in rehab!
She probably could’ve sent letters. She probably should’ve sent letters.
But she was so focused on— She was sixteen now! She landed a boyfriend, had her first kiss, he had… really good abs.
Mer had her own life to live!
She couldn’t just update him on every little thing ever! He was so far away and… writing for anything but her own diary was literally exhausting.
Call her selfish, but…
If he hadn’t gotten into such hard drugs, maybe they wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place!
They would’ve just been them, minus some blonde, bitchy-maybe-kinda-sorta nice girl who apologized and she kind of felt bad for yelling at now—
Mer & Drake. That’s it. Like it always used to be!
Everything got complicated. Before the drugs, before the boys, before everything that kept threatening their friendship.
Maybe Mer didn’t see it at first how… deep she started to see their relationship, or how afraid she was that they were losing it.
“Because if so? That’s really fucking shitty of you— like, even shitter than you spilling Val’s secret that I mistakenly told you in confidence kind of shitty.”
Yeah, so, Drake had got it out of Mer that Val— her girl best friend, had like, some sort of interest in some stupid chick and had Mer stalk her.
Drake told the ENTIRE timeline that Valerie was a stalker, and now Val hated her.
Mer also kind of hated Val because she maybe pissed her off a bunch. But when does Val not piss anyone off?
Aw shit Ima have to give Dante the party tools and fight this guy. Even after Ryan kindly introduced himself to the guy, he looked confused. Definitely signs he wants problems, but damn dude got the wingspan of a hockey stick.
Wait, he knows my name?
Ryan blanked out for a moment trying to process what the fuck was going on. Completely befuddled by the bumps he took with Dante earlier was starting to hit him all at once. Earlier his gums were numb, but now it was nonexistent.
Thankfully he wasn’t the only one loaded, but Dante didn’t even act like he was on anything. He was talking to people in the crowd, exchanging numbers, or smoothly selling off some weed he kept in his backpack. The two of them are completely oblivious of the law enforcement being so close by.
The sound of fireworks constantly going off had the sky looking like America participating in their first purge. Dusty as hell. Not to mention all the chatter going on Ryan was turning his head glancing at each girl walking by. Completely oblivious from what was going on in front of him for a moment. Taking a deep breath he brought himself back to earth realizing it was Star. He even mentioned his name!
Thank god, I couldn’t even put it on the top of my tongue. I was going to say stanley…
When was the last time he saw a star? Honestly it didn’t even matter he’ll figure out the rest as he goes. Taking his puff bar out of his pocket, hitting it a few times, while watching Star and Dante introduce themselves.
Alright cool, phase one completed.
“Bro don’t start calling me god or I’ll start thinking I am,” He chuckled. “Wait for real? Nah honestly me and Dante just kinda slithered our way through the crowd. Fuck them though we aren’t doing anything.” He shrugged.
Taking a look around his surroundings tilting his glasses down his nose to see better.
“Yes sir!! Happy mf Fourth of July Star!”
Shouting out as he watched Star drink the brown liquid we call hennessy. Honestly the first shot usually goes down the throat harsh, but after that it’s water. Ryan took the Hennessy back tilting his head back taking a shot to match Star.
Passing it over to Dante he turned back to face Star.
Oh right! The last time he saw Star they were both lost in the sauce in the bathroom talking for hours. It was entertaining when someone discovered they’re hiding spot asking to join in.
“Do I still hang out under the pier? Of course my boy, there ain't no better spot in this city! I got a little thing we call Miley Cyrus.” He winked at Star, Ryan had at least an eight ball left. Which was enough to last through a party night and have some extra in the morning.
“No way this is real right now! I missed you man, long time no see, seriously! What’ve you been up to? Didn’t you move to Vinolla or some shit?” Taking another hit out of his puff. Letting the smoke escape his mouth in the shape of O’s blowing towards Star’s face.
“How fucked up do I look?” He said tilting his glasses down again for Star to see his eyes. Honestly Ryan was blind as fuck with his shades on, but for some reason he kept them on; even though it’s night?
His mind completely rewinding back to what they were talking about before.
“Speaking of the Pier I was actually heading over there before I bumped into you, trying to go together? Maybe everyone is over there waiting on us or some shit.”
Turning around to face Dante, “We’re going to the pier, you sliding with?”
Only once did Dex look back while he darted through the crowd with his sister's baby. His sweet, long lashes fluttered to focus on Logan's face, daring her to lunge forward and join in his game. Try as she might, but that coy smile of hers shone through the resignation that had made its home in her hollow eyes. Somehow, the foolish boy had to wipe every last smudge of it off of her face. And while he had no plan, he really, really believed in her.
Was that clear? He had thought it fairly obvious as he leaned against the wooden counter of the bar, shades up like all worries drifting in the wind. He was already sipping on a piña colada, which was grossly the same color as the spit dribbling out of Axel's mouth. Up and down he bounced in Dex's muscular arm, radiating a tranquility unprecedented from the finicky little thing.
"I don't know if I can drink," Logan announced hesitantly, her words accented with heavy, labored breaths after her arrival.
Dex lowered his shades, quirking a brow. "What? You don't mean..." It took a special kind of idiot to leap that far over logic and still reach the answer first, but that really should have come as no surprise.
She spoke again, completing the thought for the two of them. "Like... because... isn't it... would the baby get drunk?"
"Hmm... yeah, probably." Setting his drink to the side, Dex turned and called out to the bartender, "One orange juice, please! Extra-extra virgin." For the extra-extra-not-virgin. He gave a sly wink, like either of the two were reading his mind.
Once the juice made it their way, the so-very-tall high schooler slid it toward his way shorter older sister. "Drink. So baby doesn't get scurvy, arrrgh!" He giggled, tickling the kid's nose. The juice was cradled in a deep whiskey glass, sloshing at its sides thanks to being passed without very much grace. Orange splashed on the counter and, in that same moment, Axel let out a hiccup.
About a minute passed. "All done?" Dex asked, tapping his fingers on the bar counter. He hadn't stopped leaning on his side, his legs outstretched away from the bar like he had somewhere to be. One more minute passed and, in that time, the boy had managed to down a beer and recite a quarter of his ABC's backwards. Axel lost 0-6, even with a head start. What are they teaching these kids in school?
"Okay, we're gonna go now," he said, standing up straight. He smiled at the bartender, innocent as ever, then nodded to Logan. One arm was holding the baby and the other was deep down his pants... in his pocket. A crumpled-up twenty found its way on the counter as fast as a big hand found its place wrapped around the girl's wrist.
The siblings' eyes met. Time and space faded away, but only for a split moment. "Ready?"
Confirmation wasn't needed, anyway. Logan was just going to stammer some bewildered protest and dig her heels into the sand, so Dex yanked her away before she could gain proper footing. Hopefully that glass wasn't still in her hand.
It took a lot of twists and turns until they went from a stumble to a regular run, but the hurry was worth it for the rush it gave. A noisy round of laughter jumped out the curly-haired boy's mouth, joining in harmony with the scent of beer wafting off his tongue. Axel was still latched onto him like a koala, dubiously taking in the next turn of events.
"Go, go, go!" Dex's voice was jolly and lively; he was one of those people who always sounded like they were smiling which, in this scenario, he actually was. "You can't drag your heels, or else you're gonna—!"
A sharp grunt sliced his words in two, followed by a sudden decrease in momentum. The path ahead had been enough of a blur that the three had nearly come barreling into an aloha shirt-clad man, whose neck snapped in the direction of the force flying at him. Their eyes met and, in an instant, Dex's hand slipped away from Logan's, leaving her to fight physics solo. Sand kicked up at their feet, splashing like a miniature wave on the man's pristine, white tennis shoes.
Once the dust settled, tears finally began to fall from Axel's poor, confused eyes. Dex wanted to cry too, but for different reasons. He glanced at his sister guiltily, the adrenaline leaking from his chest and pooling in his numb hands and feet. The middle-aged man in front of them turned from his conversation with two contracted brows and a "What's the meaning of all this?" frown.
Dex laughed nervously, catching the breath that had been robbed from him. Fireworks were going off behind them, but he didn't dare look. "Hey, Dad."
Honestly for his first function in Newcastle it wasn’t so bad so far. He was making a few connections, and new customers. Only thing that he was missing now was a girl he could spend the rest of the night with or at least talk with. The ones that came up to him so far hadn’t peaked his interest enough for him to chase. Dante turned around to shake hands with the guy who said his name was Star.
“Yo, call me Pluto, nice to meet you bro. If you cool with Rj you cool with me. You smoke?”
He offered the blunt he was smoking on by himself, this was the fourth blunt he had rolled up in the amount of the time they had been here; which hasn’t really been much time.
Dante took a swig of the hennessy before stuffing the bottle of cognac in his backpack. Out of sight from any law enforcement that was around the area. He was already ahead of RJ when it came to noticing the police. Thankfully for Dante he wasn’t a lightweight to shit. He’s done almost everything once to know the feeling. Letting Rj and Star catch up, Dante continued looking around and conversing.
The mention of moving locations didn’t really bother Dante too much, since he didn’t know exactly where to go in this new city. Dante followed behind Rj and Star through the crowd of people while glancing at the beautiful firework show.
So far I like Newcastle.
Taking a trip through the crowd until they were met with the pier. There were more people drinking over here since it was further away from police. Perfect for Dante to make a couple of easy over priced sells. Since people wouldn’t second guess a $100 bill for a $20 after a couple of shots in, he might as well take full advantage of it.
After conversing with multiple different people Dante’s social meter was starting to reach his limit. Until there he saw someone that got a double take from Dante. She was beautiful with long black hair. Out of everyone in the crowd that he’s seen so far hadn’t truly made him take a second glance.
“Aye Rj, Ima meetup with y’all in a second I gotta check up on something important that just came up.” He motioned himself walking away from the two making a great escape to this mysterious woman; that he couldn’t get his eye off of.
Of course he picked up a few side pieces through his struggles in the night, but if he could find one possibly that was a Gease in a pond of ducks, his night would be satisfied. It was like he was knocking his checklist off throughout the night.
Shifting his way through the crowd once again until he met face to face with her. He didn’t want to approach her looking goofy, Dante wiped his face once with his hand; attempting to get anything on his face off of it. Taking a quick breath check as well and smell check. Dante wore Diorsa’vage cologne on his body, the smell had a good mix with his weed smell giving off an exotic scent.
“Excuse me,” He slid past a group of girls that attempted to talk to him.
“You look a little lost, me too, maybe we can find our way together?” He asked, smoothly approaching Emery. “Beautiful night out, especially with all the fireworks huh? Dante by the way, or you can call me Pluto. What yo name is?”
Listen, anyone that kind of knew Ava Sanders knew that she was really good at commitment. You know, if that commitment had to do with videogames. She was also a strong creature of habit, and Saturdays were her days to fucking destroy and make sure that she stayed at the top of her game. You'd think that at some point, she'd grow tired of video games -- especially when that's what she was going to school for, to learn how to make said video games, except that Ava didn't grow bored of them like... ever.
It was a total, like, one of those oh do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your lives fucking thing or whatever.
When Petra had first asked her to stop, Ava hadn't really been listening. She'd fucking died for dumbass reasons, and it wasn't like she was gonna let the others win. There was a muttered curse under her breath as she clicked the rematch button, but right as it was starting to load, a pillow came at her head, knocking against her face. She quickly paused the game, turning an irritated look towards Petra.
"Hey!" Ava started with an irritated lilt to her voice, except that when she saw Petra's puppy dog eyes as she asked if they could do something else, well... there was a little bit of a melting in her heart. What could she say? She was--
Okay, listen, maybe Ava kind of had a crush on Petra. It was... new and weird, because Ava hadn't really like... ever had a crush on a girl, except that girl that she'd crushed on when she was growing up. But moving across the country to Newcastle to attend school had, more or less, killed that crush. And then she hadn't really expected to find someone else that would catch her eye, but--
"Fine," she said with a huff. Which if you knew Ava, was a big deal. Her giving her gaming time up for you? Oh, she was for sure fucking smitten.
"What'd you wanna do?" Ava asked as she tossed the controller onto the coffee table where her feet was resting. There was another huff as her arms crossed over her chest. "Since you're too scared to play cool games and shit."
It was a tease, but the manner of her voice probably made it come off a little meaner than intended.
There weren't many things that could actually bother or get under Jared's skin. Growing up in a household like his, with a sister like Magnolia it just wasn't acceptable and he prided himself on being exceptionally more then just acceptable. It why he kept very few people close to him. He had a certain standard he liked to uphold not just of himself but of those around him. That being said...right now was probably the closest to nervous Jared has been in years.
He'd been looking forward to and planning this evening for months. Even though the invitation was extended casually as if it was just another average date night. Jared liked to spoil his girl on the regular, but tonight had to be beyond anything he'd managed in the past which is why he was slightly uneasy. Valarie was someone who's taste and level of maintenance rivaled his own so that made the bar exceedingly high to top over and over again. As someone who could do so much of this for herself if she wanted, he was kept on his toes. Good thing Jared loved a challenge.
She was the sole reason for this foreign feeling, then again she usually was. He naturally didn't have a wide range of emotions that he expressed. Such childish things had been 'nurtured' out of him. The only time he failed to keep up such appearances was when his family was concerned...and well now when Val was in the equation. So obviously this seemed to be the most logical next course of action once he came to that conclusion.
So to that end he planed everything meticulously as he did when he was prepping for a trial making sure to have every tee crossed and I dotted. He rented out her favorite Italian restaurant for ambiance, but had the rooftop set up hibachi style so that certain parts of their meal would be cooked right in front of them. Can't go wrong with dinner and a show right? Speaking of show he hired a live musician she followed to be playing softly as they would eat. He flew out one of the best Italian chef's in California tonight to cook her favorite dish. She could order anything to her hearts content. The area was decorated with golden flakes, tiny tiffany blue diamonds, and hanging soft lights. No expense was spared tonight because she deserved nothing less...and would probably expect nothing less. And while he'll never admit it he hated not living up to others expectations of him when they held him in high regard.
But all of that would be a surprise. For now he pulled up to her place and walked up to the door giving it a few knocks. He'd told her to be ready by 6pm because he needed to get her to the restaurant and seated in time for them to have a good view of the sunset. He let a rare smile curl onto his lips as he held onto a single red rose as to make it seem like all was normal. He very well couldn't put all that work into this and spoil the surprise this late in the game now could he? "Are you ready to go babe?"
So the 4th was kind of a bust for Magnolia. Sure she had some fun, but it wasn't as crazy as she'd have liked it to be. Most of her entertainment came from twitter which was kinda sad.
Twitter was always a drama mine, but she'd have liked to actually DO something other then hear about her ex getting laid, his little brother possibly getting arrested, and her friend getting stupid drunk. Drinking was always fun, but even that wasn't like it usually was.
Was she loosing her edge? Nah couldn't be. She just...would have to make up for that. Yah that's the spirit. So what if that night wasn't that great, she'd have a fucking blast this weekend before buckling down a smidge to get these lyrics ready and prepped for school. Talking about touring lit a fire in her, and she wanted to capitalize on it while she could. Was this a sign she was just maturing? Probably not.
After all she had every intention of not remembering the rest of this weekend once the sun set tonight.
Until then she had made plans with her friend Spencer. Now to anyone who knew the two of them at a glance, they probably looked like an unlikely pair. That's sort of what Maggie loves about them, it was unexpected to say the least. They wound up bonding in unlikely ways because fate seemed to just keep having them cross paths until bam! Here they are before she even realized it she found it easy to be around him and confide in him. Odd, but satisfying.
Sure they had some things in common like their passion for music even if hers was in the form of singing and his in dance. She'd actually managed to convince him to come hang out with her for the day at a amusement park. Just some casual wholesome adrenaline rushes. She tended to not be as wild and crazy around him. Not because she couldn't, but because it was easy to have just as much fun with him without all that.
Plus her liver was probably begging for these breaks.
She stood outside the ticket booth waiting for him to arrive as he sent him a quick text letting him know she was here already and bought their tickets. What she was excited and a bit impatient.
In classic Damien fashion he'd forgotten their conversation on the 4th about them hanging out this weekend...again.
Not that she'd admit it to him or anyone else for that matter, but it stung. Amy place such a high regard for her friends, especially ones like Damien whom she'd known for so long. She couldn't help but feel like he didn't care about hanging out with her anymore. That maybe he'd outgrown her which was weird because they were the same age still. They'd never been exactly the same, but they'd always made it work in the past.
All he seemed to care about now a days was who he was sleeping with next or getting high. While that was fine with her because she wasn't the type of person to judge people for the things they liked. She loved her friends for who they were, no matter what that was.
Now maybe that was a bit controversial apparently from time to time. Val had made it clear that apparently standing by people made her not a nice person somehow? Not that she was a good person herself, so Amy knew she should take the comment with a grain of salt. It's just...things like that tended to get under her skin more then it should. She wasn't thick skinned like some of her friends. Her heart was still dangerously soft.
Which is why things like this also hurt. She just wished that it felt like there was still room for her in his world without feeling guilty. She didn't want to say he made her feel guilty, but he certainly didn't help. Coupled with the comments that made her feel like she was lame and boring for not enjoying that stuff as much as him...it was a recipe for a downward mental spiral the past couple days that lead to her almost not even wanting to come over. She fought through it because he was a cherished friend... it just sucked that lately it didn't feel like the feeling was 100% mutual.
She couldn't think like that. What if those thoughts slipped out and hurt his feelings? She shook the spiraling negative thoughts from her head. No, that was just her mind playing cruel tricks on her again. Damien cared about her, he was her friend...of course he wanted to see her! He was just...busy. It happens. Plus he'd still re-invited her over right? That had to mean that it just slipped his mind. Exactly, they were fine. Friends had rough patches, and times they didn't always hang out. It was natural, she was just being silly and childish.
She made her way over to his place and knocked on the door. She kinda really hoped he'd be the one to answer. Sure the others in the house knew her, but it still always awkward to see them. She didn't think she'd ever feel comfortable knowing how he felt about everyone. Maybe she should've texted him saying she was here instead to make sure?
Instead of an alcohol placed into her hand, Logan was instead given a freaking orange juice -- which she chugged at the encouragement of her brother. Once the beverage was finished, she smashed it down onto the counter, breathing heavily at the burning feeling or citrus in the back of her throat. Coughing, she brought her hand up to cover her mouth.
A few seconds later, and then they were taking off through the sand, and everything tonight just felt like she was back to being a child again. As opposed to you know, being the really shitty mother that she currently was.
But as they were racing across the sandy beach, Dex came to a sudden stop, and Logan was able to catch up to him. She was laughing as she did so, calling; "What? Get tired or something? Totally knew I was..." her voice trailed off as she looked away from her brother to see who he was suddenly facing, and her smile instantly faltered and fell away when she saw their freaking father standing in front of them.
Her heart was pounding in her chest.
"Hey, dad," she said, breathlessly, as she instinctively reached for the baby laying in Dex's arms. Although she doubted he'd actually do anything, there was some deep-rooted fear inside of her for her baby's safety, and she wasn't going to relax until the kid was safely back in her custody.
"Long time, no see," she added, her words lined with venom.
Birdsong park was going to be bulldozed for a parking lot. That was the news Cassie and Stella had received a few days before, courtesy of a shared friend on the Board of Directors in town. And they were pissed. Beyond pissed, actually. The public park, established circa 1916 when Newcastle was still young and hopeful, had long been a place for family outings, day trips and skipping class, and now it would be…erased. Gone.
Upon receiving the day off from Ken, Cassie and Stella made a plan. They were going to do everything in their power to be such a menace to everyone involved in the demolition that they’d have to reconsider. It had to work.
The pair were sitting on the floor of Stella’s RV, art supplies and finished and drying signs scattered between them. Cassie was currently putting the finishing touches on hers, bold green lettering curved around her version of the white oak that stood in the center of the park, proclaiming “SAVE BIRDSONG PARK.”
Pushing back a stray piece of curly brown hair, Cassie turned her neck to see how Stella’s was coming along, only to watch as the girl’s marker slipped, creating a solid black line directly though the center.
Stella held the sign up to give Cassie a better view of the damage, and the image paired with the expression of horror on her friend’s face was enough to make her burst out in laughter, and not the quiet, tame kind either. Unsophisticated cackling was Cassie’s specialty, she’d make a killing in the haunted house industry as a witch or something.
When she had calmed down enough to answer Stella’s question, she said “Nah, I think it’s going to be peachy.” She winked at her friend, grinning. “It’ll draw the eye to it. And besides, with all these other signs and us there, no one’s gonna notice one little line anyways,” she continued cheerfully, shoving a piece of the popcorn that sat in a bowl besides them into her mouth.
Snacks were of course necessary for a time like this.
An idea coming to mind, Cassie snatched Stella’s marker from where she had set it down and haphazardly slashed it across her sign, the brown and green of the tree interrupted by a bold line of black now.
“There. Now we both look like we let a toddler help us.”
TLR: Blake thinks everyone is way too obsessed with Jade for their own good, and is a lowkey simp for our boy Mason..
What a weird feeling
To be honest, Blake had heard enough about Jade to last a lifetime, but she sat there quietly while Mason spoke. She could feel her jaw tightening in annoyance, and so she took the proffered bottle and tipped her head back to take another swig.
It’s always Jade this and Jade that.
She could tell it upset him, though, and so she did her best to school her features and paste a bland smile onto her face. Mason, seemingly as through with the conversation as she was, mirrored her expression.
Blake took a moment to consider what to say next, tapping a manicured hand on her leg. It was an odd feeling, not knowing what to say. Blake Prince always knew what to say and how to act and yet, somehow, this scruffy, flannel wearing, attitude filled boy was able to reduce her to silence.
“Listen, Mason, it’s not your job to be captain save-a-hoe,” she said, the words slipping from her as the alcohol began relaxing her mind and body. Not at all what she had intended to say, but it was too late to stop now. “And not just with Jade, either. You have to take care of you before you run to everyone else’s rescue,” she tried to amend, ducking her head. A silky strand of black hair brushed against her cheek, and as she looked up she offered him the bottle again.
Nails clacking could be heard from down the hall, as her dog, Sawyer, came to sat by their feet, bushy tail swishing. The Burmese mountain dog had been a gift to her last year on her 17th birthday, and she lived him more than life itself. Reaching her hand out to rest on his head, she looked back towards Mason.
“You should smile more, by the way,” Blake said, with a smile of her own lighting up her face, this time real. “Makes you look less like a brooding lumberjack and more like…” she trailed off, wracking her brain for a suitable comparison. “Well I don’t know what you look like but…I like it when you smile.”
The Fourth of July party held at the Pier every year without fail was a tradition that Emery was ashamed to admit she took part in. Her 4.0 GPA, pre-nursing internship at the local hospital and tame attitude wouldn’t prelude to making an appearance at these sort of events, but she enjoyed them nonetheless. Mostly for the fireworks, which she had been fascinated by since she was a kid, but seeing her peers and having a few drinks as the sun sets wasn’t too bad of a deal, either.
The previously aforementioned mentioned setting sun was slowly but surely slinking down under the cover of the horizon, the sky shifting between vibrant pinks and reds and oranges and blues. The light reflected off of the surface of the Pacific Ocean, painting a picture that Emery was beyond glad she got to see everyday. She pitied the people who’d never see it.
She’d taken her sandals off upon arriving at the beach, and they now dangled from the tips of her fingers as she surveyed the crowd around her, searching for a familiar face. She must’ve looked lost, because a few minutes later someone swaggered up to her, stopping a few inches from her.
”…little lost, me too, maybe we can find our way together?”
Oh. Emery blinked as she got over her surprise enough to realize that he’d been talking, and then quickly turned red as she in turn understood what he had been saying.
““Beautiful night out, especially with all the fireworks huh? Dante by the way, or you can call me Pluto. What yo name is?”
Emery blinked again, swallowing. “I…uhh…hi,” she began, wincing at her awkwardness. “I’m Emery.”
Determined not to make a fool of herself, Emery squared her shoulders and met his eyes, smiling. “Dante, right? And yeah, the fireworks are always really beautiful,” she said, glancing back towards the sky for a moment.
Nudging the sand with a bare foot, Emery shrugged. “I come out here for the fireworks every year. I thought I was going to miss them this year, I just got out of my shift at the hospital.”
So far for Dante this night was going really well, but he knew all good things would end quickly. So he had one last mission implanted in his head, and it was to score this girl’s number. She was a 10 in a lot full of 7s and 8s, but thankfully Dante had one thing that most men didn’t. Confidence, he wasn’t afraid to express himself nor shy from his attempts. Though this one right here….
Dante sized Emery up from the top to bottom, peeping her outfit out. He liked the style, it matched his; casual. She wore a black top with jean shorts and slides, which was a pretty generic fit for the beach. Something simple yet still looking nice.
Dante noticed that Emery’s face was looking a bit red, which meant good; hopefully. His approach alone had made her a bit nervous, but she wasn’t alone; he was too just an expert at hiding it. When her lips finally started moving and Dante got a peak of her voice his skin jumped a bit, her tone was soft and slightly innocent. This was different from whatever Dante was used to. He had to be careful to play his cards right and not fuck this up.
“Emery huh? Damn girl you exootic, that's a fire ass name ain’t nobody got that one for real.” He chuckled slightly playing in his dreads. When Emery had decided to lock eyes with Dante she would notice his sight slightly drifting. Her smile was elegant and gentle, yet carried positivity. A trait you couldn’t find in most people since they acted too good for their own good.
“Yup that's me, the handsome knight in shiny armor for real.” He chuckled, Dante took a quick glance at the sky before tracing his eyes back on Emery. “Yeah no seriously, where I’m from people have battles on who got the loudest and biggest fireworks.”
“Word? So I’m guessing you from out here? Today’s my first day in Newcastle.” Giving her a slight smirk while playing with his dreads, “You got perfect timing, the show just started up.” He paused, “No way? Daaaamn shawty get to her bag. I like that, how long have you been doing hospital work for?”
Dante’s phone was going off buzzing, but thankfully he silenced it before approaching her. It waa due to all his new customers texting him, letting him know who they were. He had a miss call from his mother that he’d have to return after tonight, but for now Emery was taking Dante’s full attention effortlessly. Her smile alone was enough to trap him in her grasp, even if she didn’t view him in that light. Yet.
Dante started digging in his right pocket for his phone, pulling it out. “Like I mentioned before I just moved out here, maybe you could show me around?” Unlocking his phone, pulling up the keypad for her to type her phone number in his phone. This was him shooting completely from half court, hopefully it’s a success.
“Or you know, probably catch some coffee or something together.”
Gripping the side of the porcelain bathtub and shakily managing to pull himself up from the bathroom floor enough to grab the sink’s marble countertop, the pasty Chelsea Kader Freud lifted his head to peer at his ghostly reflection with his hollow eyes. Strewn across the bathroom tiles were various articles of clothing, save for one sock and a pair of red plaid boxers, which were the lone articles of clothing that remained on CK’s shaking body; an empty glass lay on its side beside the toilet. Slowly, Chelsea lifted the back of his hand to his mouth and gave his cracked, chapped lips a disgusted wipe.
Fucking stomach bug, he thought angrily, finally able to form ideas now that the nausea had finally somewhat cleared.
After downing a few shots of water in a Dixie cup between furious glares, Chelsea lumbered out of the bathroom for the first time since four am this morning. Draped over his arms were his various discarded garments. His body quivered with chills, but his mounting anger as he finally caught a few moments to try and search for the origins of this stomach virus kept him from dwelling on it for too long.
Today was Saturday, and until Friday afternoon, he and his sister, along with his parents, had been at his aunt’s house for a week-long stay before the 4th, when there was supposed to be a big family reunion of sorts (which he was unable to attend thanks to Mer’s begging to be home for Newcastle’s town 4th of July celebration and his parent’s lack of trust in Mer driving such a distance by herself and thus need for her to have a chaperone on the way home). If the incubation period of the virus was somewhere between one and three days, that meant that Chelsea had definitely caught this shit from one of the fucking grubby kids of his aunt’s.
It was probably fucking Oliver or some shit. That kid was the fucking worst. All he did the whole time was eat his boogers, cry, shit his pants, and cry some more — and that bastard was fucking four years old. Or, fuck it, it was probably Laurie. That fucking toddler always had some kind of shit smeared all over herself, and then she would try and hug him or get all fucking weird and touchy and then cry when he didn’t want to deal with her. Or maybe it was Wren, or Danny, or Henry, or Tate, or Grant, or Jackson, or —
It could’ve been any of them. They were all fucking disgusting, just cesspools of all things revolting.
Chelsea shoved his hand into a box of Kleenex and yanked out a wad of tissues as he made his way around the corner and into the den. Aggressively blowing his nose, he flopped backward onto the couch. He breathed out a long sigh, dropping his arm, and he sat there for a few moments, defeatedly looking at the ceiling, a thrum of fury within him toward whatever speck of unswallowed sperm had caused this suffering and an achy weakness within his muscles. He slowly turned his head to look longingly at the fluffy blanket to his left. Several moments passed where he was unable to will himself to lift his arm and grab the blanket, but finally, the shivering got the best of him, and he dropped his Kleenexes, tugged the blanket tightly around himself, and leaned back against the couch.
He didn’t remember falling asleep, but he must have, because the incessant vibration of the cellphone he’d left charging on the coffee table last night rudely roused him from his sleep.
His head ached as he lifted it up from the couch, and, groaning, he lifted his hand to his head and rubbed his temple. “Jesus, fuck,” he muttered, squinting his eyes just enough to find where his phone lay before closing them again and reaching for the vibrating object. He pinched the bridge of his nose, breathing out a long sigh. “Chelsea Freud,” he answered groggily; words echoed in his head with a painful ringing, and he grimaced.
“Mr. Freud?” said a stern-sounding voice.
“Yes?” Chelsea could already feel himself growing angry. If this is a fucking telemarketer —
“Hi, yes, this is Deputy Walter Mandy with Newcastle city jail.”
• • • • •
Chelsea pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth and curled his toes, trying to will the nausea to remain under control as he looked stoically down at the secretary. “Look, he said that he’d let her off free, okay?” he said in his usual monotone, though it took far more effort to keep his voice from showing emotion. “Now where is my sister?”
The secretary looked unamusedly up at Chelsea as she thumbed through a stack of papers. For a moment, the two locked eyes in a fierce, silent battle.
The wrinkled woman slowly stood, and without another word, she disappeared into the back.
Chelsea, reeling, nauseated, pissed, concerned, sweating, internally swearing, had the sudden urge to lean forward and shove everything off of the woman’s desk and go and break his sister out of the fucking bars himself. The only thing that kept him back from doing such a thing was the fucking weakness in his body and the knowledge that he was already fucking dead from Mer being here in the first place — and doing property damage to a Sheriff’s secretary’s desk was a good way to find out whether or not there was a such thing as a second death.
Unceremoniously, a cop with cold eyes came out of a doorway, and, stepping aside, revealed Mercedes Camus.
Chelsea stared at her silently, completely still, his eyes stone; there was nothing else that he really knew to do.
The cop gave a nod toward Mer, and then a nod toward CK. “I assume that Deputy Mandy explained the —“
“He explained the whole thing, yes,” Chelsea interrupted cooly.
The cop looked down at Mer. “And I assume that —“
“Mercedes,” Chelsea cut in once more, “won’t be doing anything like this again.” He locked eyes with the cop. “You have my word.”
A look of irritation crossed the cop’s face. After a moment, the man seemed to decide better of having a reaction and instead sighed and placed his hand behind Mer’s shoulder to usher her forward. “Well then, you have a nice day. We’ll be in contact with your parents.”
“Yes,” Chelsea said, “you too.”
Silently demanding Mer follow without sparing her even a single glance, Chelsea turned around and pushed out of the door and into the parking lot.
He didn’t even know what to fucking say, and so he said nothing, instead tensely waiting to hear whatever words his little sister dare fucking utter.
“You cannot fully commit to your community,” the spacey superintendent had said, “without first dedicating yourself to serve them.”
Teaching at a high school was already one step above indentured servitude, as far as Mitchell was concerned. He was underpaid, overworked, and dealing with the scum of the earth in the making and trying desperately to keep them from becoming teen deadbeat dads and teen trailer trash moms, day in and day out. The superintendent “humbly asking” for more service through volunteer work — free of pay — was disrespectful, annoying, and ate up more time that Mitch did not have.
Yet here the twenty-eight-year-old was, following the outdated GPS on his dashboard, dangling his arm out of his car window and flicking the ash from the end of his cigarette as he waited for the stoplight to turn green. He was here and not at home in his bed; he was here and not at a coffee shop working on his manuscript. He’d forced himself past all of his bitching, yet he wasn’t sure why, exactly. He’d had no real compulsion to come and, in fact, had had a vast repulsion to the very idea of volunteer work. The most he would get from “volunteer work” was back pain, more calluses on his hands, and some “good favor” bullshit — or whatever the hell doing something he was not contractually obligated to do, free of charge, would get him — from his boss. Yet here he was, with no good reason to be here at all.
This was how things went nowadays; Mitchell did things he didn’t want to do for no good reason, with no real end. Maybe it was some undiscovered, deep down masochism, or maybe it was the fact that everything had lost long ago its weight.
“You have arrived at your destination,” said the robotic voice of his dashboard GPS.
For a moment, Mitchell’s hand wavered over his stick shift, his stoic face flatly looking between the screen of his GPS and the scene outside of his windshield. This couldn’t be the place that he was volunteering today. His boss had no doubt intended to send him the address to a fire department or a food pantry or a soup kitchen and pressed the wrong button — yes, that must have been it, Mitch concluded, shifting into park and tossing his cigarette butt out of the window.
Mitchell crossed his arms over his chest, peering out of his windshield for a few more moments, reading the banner that hung on the park archway over again:
POP-UP PUPPY ADOPTION AT THE PARK!
Sponsored by the Newcastle Committee for Animal Rights
He breathed out a long sigh. He’d committed himself to coming out of his house and going to this goddamn “volunteer thing”, whatever it was, and now here he was, with no idea of where to go or even what the hell he was supposed to do.
Can’t even send me the right address, after I’ve fully dedicated myself to this damn draining job for three goddamn years, Mitchell thought gruffly, reaching for the stick shift and gritting his teeth, and yet you beg me for my help. He shifted into reverse, and, looking over his shoulder, pulled out of the parking spot. I’m fucking done.
As if someone above heard his internal lamentation, just as he shifted into drive, he spotted someone beneath the arch, waving at him. He hesitated a moment, looking around to see if there was anyone else who she could have been waving at; the answer was unfortunately no. “Goddamn it,” he muttered beneath his breath, reluctantly pulling back into the parking spot.
He stepped out of his car and looked at the woman who had waved to him. She held a puppy, he could tell, and he suppressed a scowl; there were few things he disliked more than pets, and if someone saw him here — one of his drinking buddies, or one of the parents of one of his students — he would never live this down.
Tensely, he approached the woman, trying to find her name in his mind. He recalled both of the times they’d introduced themselves to one another — but her name was somehow missing from both memories.
It was probably better that way; it kept the greeting less personal.
“Hello,” he said, coming to a stop. “You seem to be doing…” He gave her an unamused once-over before his eyes came to her face again. (She was a pretty young woman, but she never quite looked "put-together".) “...well.” His voice was as cold and unwelcoming as ever, even as he tried on a smile that quickly fell from his face.
He shoved his hands in his pockets, breathing out a soft sigh. “I was sent the wrong address,” he said, cutting straight to the point. “The place where the staff has been asked to serve today…would you happen to know where that is?”
the gas station/restaurant place that he works, obvi
(tw: mike’s a real mess)
Mike Reid had eight fucking dollars in his emergency stash.
Draped over the gaudy, threadbare loveseat in his shitty shared apartment, his button-up, grease-stained uniform unbuttoned to reveal his unkempt chest hair and a relatively fresh tattoo, Michael, smelling strongly and foully of booze, cigarettes, and body odor, held his pitiful wad of one-dollar bills with as steady of hands as he could manage. He took another swig from the beer bottle in his left hand, his eyes scanning the various crumpled variations of George Washington’s likeness in his right, and he prayed — prayed for the first time in weeks — that he’d just miscounted, that somewhere along the line, he’d missed a fifty or a hundred or a thousand or some shit. Just give me a fucking miracle, he begged, squeezing his eyes shut tightly and wiping a drop of sweat from his brow. Just one fucking — just one fucking miracle.
Setting his beer down on the stained carpet beside him, Mike slowly began to take the bills, one by one, from his hand to count them. “One.” He placed the first dollar down beside his beer. “Two.” The second went to the same place. “Three.” And the third. “Four.”
Mike could feel his throat running dry, a panic setting in his veins. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, fuck, fuck, fuck. This was supposed to be his backup fund — he needed this shit. Without it, if any single fucking thing went wrong, he had no fucking car to drive, and then fucking what, huh? He’d have to fucking walk to work?
“Five. Six…” His fingers trembled as he reached the last two dollars. “Seven…”
The last dollar bill in his hand, ripped at the edges, crumpled as all hell, peered up at him smugly, mockingly. He slowly held it up to the early morning light that streamed in through the window, and he stared at it for a few moments.
“Eight,” he muttered, and, dropping it, he let it flutter to the ground.
He folded his hands over his eyes exhaustedly. “Fuck,” he muttered. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Each cursed gained in intensity, and by the end, he was hissing furiously through clenched teeth.
Where did that fucking money go, Michael, huh?
He had no fucking idea. One second, it was in there, and now this morning, it wasn’t, and there were several long nights missing from his memory that definitely fucking had something to do with it. What, was it liquor? Booze? Scratchoffs? Drugs? Whores? What the fuck was it?
Now his fucking car needed repairs and was one wrong move away from fucking breaking down, and the apartment’s bathroom was missing a fucking door somehow, and he could fucking forget ever going to community college or any shit like that — fucking bullshit.
Why the fuck did he have to look? Why couldn’t he just have ignored it, not had all of these fucking questions and no fucking time to solve them, huh?
See, Logan? This piece of shit seriously doesn’t have any fucking money, he thought furiously. Deal with that cumdrop yourself and stop fucking begging me for money I don’t have.
He slowly sat up, holding his head, and he breathed out a long sigh. He leaned down and picked up his dollar bills slowly, and then grabbed his beer bottle and downed the rest of its contents, grimacing as the foul liquid slid down his throat.
Last week, he paid his portion of the rent. Now, he had eight dollars in this emergency stash, seventy in his bank account, and twenty in his pocket.
Fucking bullshit, he thought, throwing the beer bottle down and heading to the bathroom to shower.
• • • • •
Look, the morning was shitty, alright? But that was the morning, and one thing you had to know about Mike Reid was that when life started trying to kick his ass, he kicked life’s ass right back, so that was fucking behind him, okay? No one needed to know his fucking “struggles” or whatever the fuck — there were no fucking “struggles” to speak of. Life was just fucking peachy.
Rapping his knuckles on the counter and breathing out a soft sigh, Mike watched the clock on the wall intently as he waited for the minute hand to finally hit the 6. Thirty seconds…twenty seconds… Look, he had a rendezvous with Woods in the “restaurant” this shithole was connected to for his lunch break, okay? He couldn’t help but be rearing to go.
Plus, he really needed a fucking smoke right now.
As soon as the hand touched the tick above the 6, a grin spread across Mike’s face. “Heeeeell yeah,” he chuckled beneath his breath, rounding the corner to get around his desk and walking across the floor toward the entrance to the restaurant portion of the gas station. “‘ey, Shelly!” he yelled, cupping a hand to his mouth as he continued to walk. “’s my break time! Take up my slack, will ya?”
“Yeah, yeah, hurry up,” said the elderly woman as she continued to mop at the same spot that she’d been for the past thirty minutes.
Wearing a proud grin, Mike walked beneath the sign that labeled the start of the restaurant. Immediately, he spotted the broad-shouldered man seated at one of the booths. Chuckling, Mike opened the cigarette box in his pocket, grabbed out a cigarette, and began to poise the cigarette in his mouth.
A teenage girl in a uniform looked up from her place behind the register. “Hey, you can’t smoke in here.”
Mike placed his thumb behind one corner of his name tag to give it a flash as he grabbed his lighter. “I’m staff, babe.”
Lighting his cigarette, he chuckled and approached Nate. He let out a puff and turned his eyes to his friend. “Wait up for me long, ba…?”
He trailed off as he came closer. His feet came to a stop behind the empty bench facing Woods, frowning slightly as he studied the splay of food in front of his roommate. “Hey, woah…” He looked at Woods with a sympathetic grin. “C’mon, Woods.” He picked up a chicken leg from in front of Woods, taking the cigarette out of his mouth to hold it. “You haven’t even touched your bucket, babro.” He bit off a hunk from the chicken leg, shaking his head. “You’re really gonna disrespect the deal like that?”
He leaned over the back of the bench, one hand holding his bitten chicken leg, the other holding his cigarette. He shook his head shamefully. “You’ve been down and out since fuckin’…” He took a puff from his cigarette, then frowned slightly. (A thought occurred to Mike: These fucking fire alarms must be shit.) “Since the 4th, Woods.” He bit off another piece of chicken. “Hurts my heart, man. Tell me what’s going on, huh? I’ll lend an ear.” He walked to stand to the side of the booth and placed the cigarette between his lips again to free up a hand. He pulled out a half-gone pack of cigarettes and held it out for Woods. “And a cig, too. The nicotine pairs real nicely with the flavorful taste of the fry cook’s self-loathing, if ya ask me. Better combo than wine and cheese.”
Glistening water stretched out seemingly endlessly before the two boys. Some hundreds of yards behind them was the harbor and the beach, where at least twenty other boats and forty other people loitered about. Boats dotted the glittering horizon, bobbing slightly on the fairly calm, still waters as their passengers walked or danced about their decks. There was a soft breeze that blew wind into the canvases of the sailboats and tossled the shorter boy’s hair slightly.
Being out here, on the ocean’s waves in his best friend’s boat on a cloudless day beside said best friend, put one thought in Syd’s mind:
The ocean is effing terrifying, bro.
But for these moments — for these days — Syd was willing to, ya know, give a little, willing to play along. Like one of the many disposable, throwaway, copycat total b-words girlfriends that Brody brought on this same boat, Syd could act like he lived for the water and loved the waves and had no other purpose in life but to be one with the ocean, for the very same reason those girls acted that way: for Brody’s sake.
Syd wished that he was good at writing. This would be a good moment for cinema or something. Ya know, two bros, chilling on a boat, except that one kinda sorta not really but really has a thing for the other and is in the same position that Brody’s countless one-week girlfriends were but can’t say anything.
But not, like, in a tragic way.
But in a kind of tragic way.
Look, Syd was fine with it, really, and wouldn’t do anything to change how it was right now. So it wasn’t tragic.
Or, well, maybe it kind of —
Look, okay, anyway, you got his point. You know, that this would be a good moment for a movie, right? If he was good at writing?
And, uh, well, also, y'know, if Brody was into guys. And if Syd didn’t have a broken face right now.
Yeah, these injuries were what Syd got for trying to be cool on his bicycle, he knew. He should really have just stuck to wheelies, at most.
(But would he do the same thing again? The answer is yes.)
Syd adjusted his plastic Dawson Orthodontics sunglasses with one hand as he reached into his shorts for his pocket-sized pouch of Kleenexes with the other. “Thanks for taking me out today, man.” He smiled appreciatively. “Y’know. On the boat.” Cautiously, he pulled the Kleenex he’d stuffed up one of his nostrils out, shoved it in his pocket, and replaced it with a fresh Kleenex. There hadn’t been any blood since the night that he’d sustained the injuries, but he was particularly paranoid today about getting a bloodied nose; he couldn’t get blood on his nice Hawaiian shirt. “Really helps to cheer a guy up, y’know,” he said, shoving the pack of Kleenexes back in his pocket. “Nothing like a day out on the water with your best friend, y’know?” He grinned over at Brody for his approval. “Keeps your mind offa things like, uh, your broken nose, y’know. And your broken pinky. And your chipped bottom tooth.” He paused, looking up, and gave a fake overplayed sniffle. “And the memory of your dead hamster.” He kissed his fingers and held them up to the sky. “RIP, Count Chester the Third, 2010. Gone, but never forgotten.”
With a soft sigh, he dropped his hand, and he leaned back against the side of the boat. The boat gave a small rock, and he felt his heart drop, and for a couple of moments, as he tried to keep his expression steady, he was wracked by a panic and ran through who he would leave his belongings to if he died. Of course, he realized after a moment that he wasn’t dying, so he sighed again.
For a few moments, in silence, he stared out at the water and then, at a memory, he chuckled and cracked a little grin. “Man,” he started, “you remember that one time?” He looked over at Brody, and his grin spread wider. “Halloween night, sophomore year, man…you remember that?”
It wasn’t a surprise to most that Havana Lombardi was on the volunteer committee. She was a girl with too much time on her hands from failed hobbies and interests.
It didn't start out that way, of course.
She ended up getting in some trouble sneaking into school one night and community service was a good enough punishment– although after her many required hours, Havana had actually come to enjoy the time spent helping out.
Joan, Gary and Hank couldn’t do all the work themselves. They were among the very few people who were happy to welcome her back home.
With her parents gone on their mid-life-crisis of a road trip, Zach was always irritated or busy with his job– Havana was only a month back home with no friends to catch up with, no brother to annoy, and no parents to tell the horrid truth that was; ‘I’m moving back home indefinitely.’
She had time.
Not a lot– but Havana had time.
She just had to get her brother comfortable with the idea of her staying a little longer than necessary, figure out how to explain to her parents that she wasn’t going to return to college in the fall and get her masters– just to end up at some incredibly boring and meaningless accountant firm.
But nevermind all that.
There were clearly more important tasks at hand.
The puppy licked at her face which caused Hav to reel back with laughter, while incredibly adorable, his breath smelled horrible enough for the brunette not to want him in such a close proximity.
holding the pug in one hand, lifting the dog to look at him eye-to-eye. “What are they feeding you?” She asked, waiting a beat as if the little thing was about to reply when she noticed a car pull up.
Small towns were really small towns.
Havana waved at him with her free-hand, wondering if he was here to volunteer or a 'fur-ever' friend as so adorably stated on the banner.
He wasn’t very talkative, but she had a good time at the fourth of July party– even though they barely spoke over a hot dog. She wound up getting mustard on her outfit and he excused himself in quick, introvertive fashion while Havana's company was one-too-many tequlia sunrises and an empty dance floor.
Hav knew that some people preferred to be alone and grumpy, but this guy had to crack a smile sometime, right?
Sometime came sooner than expected when he approached. “Hello, you seem to be doing…” He gave her a once over and Hav shrugged, a smile of her own appearing while she petted the small pug in her hands. “...well.”
His own forced smile made Havana believe that Mitch didn’t have enough experience smiling in the first place. Some people just needed a real incentive. What was a better incentive than adorable company?
“On the contrary, I’m doing verywell. Look at this little guy.” She pouted, glancing at the puppy while his paws made subtle scratches on her wrist. Probably for an escape but Hav wasn’t taking the hint.
“I was sent the wrong address,”
“Oh?” She said, adjusting Mr. Pug to sit comfortably in her arms before giving him her full attention.
“The place where the staff has been asked to serve today…would you happen to know where that is?”
That’s where Havana got a bit confused. Her brows furrowed and she stared at him for a few seconds. “Staff? You mean like…” Havana looked around, landing on two other volunteers, each wearing the blue and yellow vest and interacting with some who seemed to be interested in other dogs.
“You’re a volunteer?” She asked, her eyebrows raising in clear surprise, barely attempting to suppress the smile that appeared. Oh, now this was just perfect. The stoic guy forced to work with dogs all day? It was like something straight out of a hallmark movie. Not– a romance one.
Think coming-of-age. He was the main character.
“You’ve definitely got the right address, take a look around, staff serves just about anywhere here-- well, mainly around these little guys..." Havana didn’t wait for him to reply or protest, placing the puppy in his arms and holding up a singular finger, disappearing from his view altogether as she roamed around the park until she found Joan.
The woman in charge– of course.
“I’m gonna need another super stylish vest and one of these bad boys.” Her index finger tapped the clipboard Joan was holding, earning a smile from the older woman as she rummaged through a container on a nearby outdoor table.
“I heard a rumor…” Joan started, Havana was getting lost in a box of squeaky dog toys, searching for something that seemed gentle enough for a small puppy.
(Yeah, gentle. Zach was the animal know-it-all here– not Hav.)
“I thought gossip wasn’t your thing, hmm?” Sixteen year old Havana had learned that the hard way and back then, she was almost positive that Joan had it out for her.
It was pretty simple to believe the entire world was against you when you’re a struggling sixteen year old artist.
Or... a struggling twenty-one year old artist, but... she's grown far more optimistic after adolescence.
The world was her oyster.
“As you know… we reached out to the high school for extra volunteers…”
A toy squeaked when Havana gently placed the toy back where she found it, avoiding Joan’s gaze altogether. “Mhm…” She knew where this was going.
“The superintendent and I were equally surprised when your name was brought up,”
“Why was my name brought up? That’s…”
Joan suddenly appeared into view, holding a vest and a clipboard, the disapproving look on her face was already saying the things that Havana was desperately trying to avoid.
“Okay, okay, okay– listen…” She started, waiting a second for Joan to say anything to be spared from giving an explanation.
But that moment didn’t come.
“I wasn’t keeping it a secret! It’s not a secret!”
Joan crossed her arms, pursing her lips.
“Okay so it’s a secret! I haven’t told my family yet– the whole college, job– firm thing– I’m gonna do it– I will! I swear, but you know what I’m gonna do first?”
“What’s that?” Joan finally spoke in what felt like ions, Havana took the clipboard and vest with a forced wide smile, taking a few steps backwards away from Joan and the terrible sense of reality that was already beginning to set in.
“I’m gonna get these pups some forever homes.”
“Can’t hear you! All these little guys are waiting to be adopted– huh? What was that?" She cupped a hand around her ear as if someone was calling out for her.
Joan wasn't convinced.
"Oh! On my way.” After exchanging some very meaningful conversation, Havana returned to Mitch with a vest in hand, handing it out to him.
“Normally we’re supposed to have name tags, but I’m not really sure where they are and I don’t feel like going back over there? So…” She glanced back at Joan who was writing away on her own clipboard.
Havana swayed on the heels of her feet, returning her gaze back to Mitch and the dog.
“How’s it going over here? Are you more of a cat-person? You seem more like a cat-person. It’s the…” A hand waved around him as if she was tracing an aura.
The young woman’s brows furrowed, and she stared at him for a few seconds. “Staff?” she said. “You mean like…” She looked around, and Mitch followed her line of sight to a couple of other people who wore the same vest as the girl. “You’re a volunteer?”
Mitch’s eyes darted back to Hav. “A volunteer?” he asked the girl as a smile crept onto her face.
“You’ve definitely got the right address,” she said cheerfully. “Take a look around, staff serves just about anywhere here — well, mainly around these little guys…”
Mitch’s brows set themselves low above his eyes, furrowing. “You’re —“
Without further explanation, she reached forward and dropped the puppy in his arms.
“I will —“ The deformed creature gave a squirm, and Mitchell couldn’t suppress a grimace as he disgustedly looked down at the thing, then back up toward her. “You aren’t —“
He cut himself off when he realized that she had already walked away from him.
As he stood, watching the young woman walk over to the woman who was surely the manager of the place based on her demeanor, it dawned on him, all at once: This is where I’m working today.
“Shit,” he muttered, his eyes trailing down to the smush-faced dog in his arms.
It was for reasons like this — for reasons like getting stuck with puppies all day — that Mitch “didn’t go out much”; a disgruntled pit settled in his stomach.
I’m stuck here, goddamn it.
He clenched his jaw as the dog’s nails scratched at his arm. Awkwardly, he tried to adjust his grip on what was practically a breathing loaf of fur. “Goddamn it,” he muttered, holding it up to look it in its eyes.
Mitchell glared at the dog, trying to communicate wordlessly with it; the dog stared blankly back at him.
This went on for perhaps a full minute.
Stare; the dog opened up its mouth to pant, and its countless wrinkles pulled back to reveal a gaping mouth.
“God, you’re ugly,” Mitchell muttered.
The dog stared back at him, panting.
He gave a soft scoff of disgust.
At the sound of footsteps in the grass, Mitchell reluctantly moved the dog back into his arm.
The young woman held out a vest for him, and he reached out with his free hand and took it. With his other hand, he awkwardly nudged the dog arm toward her, though he didn’t physically nudge her.
“Normally we’re supposed to have name tags,” she said, “but I’m not really sure where they are and I don’t feel like going back over there? So…”
Mitch put his head through the hole in the vest, then flattened the sides out. She still hadn’t taken the dog, so he gave it another subtle shove toward her. “I don’t need a name tag,” Mitch said, his voice as cold as ever. (He gave a quick glance to her name tag; Havana, it read.)
He followed her gaze back to the woman who was obviously in charge, who stood scribbling away at her clipboard. Looks like a total tight-ass. “I imagine she’s…fun to work with,” he said, his sarcasm lost in his lack of inflection and expression. His eyes snagged back on the dog in his arms as he looked back to Hav, and he suppressed another disgusted scoff.
“How’s it going over here?” she asked.
“Have the dog back,” he said stoically, not giving her an answer and instead passing the dog to her.
“Are you more of a cat-person?” she said. “You seem more like a cat-person. It’s the…” She waved a hand at him. “All that.”
He blinked at her, his lips pressing into a flat line. “Cats are the spawn of hell,” Mitch said flatly. It was kind of a joke, but nothing about his inflection or expression gave any hint to that.
He looked at the scene around him, breathing out a sigh. People with big, happy smiles on their faces wore the same vest as he now did and swarmed short playpens that had been set up on the ground. Several of them hold puppies that lapped at their faces, and they seemed to be laughing, saying things such as, It’s so cute!
Obnoxious. This place was obnoxious.
“What,” he said, looking back at Hav, “are we doing today, exactly?”
The air stood at a standstill, the ocean wind's chilly whip melting in its place like heavy mist. Dex glanced at his side, gaining momentary strength from his sister's near presence. Breathing quietly, nervously, he allowed himself to be relieved of his infant nephew. His full lips were pursed with shame, his chestnut eyes fixed on the ground. It was suddenly so cold; goosebumps lined the brawny teenager's exposed flesh.
Even surpassing his own father by two inches in height, Dex always felt small in front of him. He played his part well, clad in a floral button-up and khakis. Khakis. The most harmless article of clothing known to man. It was all a very clever facade, even one his idiot son could sniff out well. Off the clock, he was a charming single father with a penchant for pale ale and golf. In his office, he was a cruel, calculating man with a voracious ambition. It shone through his eyes, which looked the two up and down with clear condescension.
"Hey, Dad," Logan said without a hint of the affection a daughter is known for, "Long time, no see."
"Yeah, it has been a long time!" Dex echoed, laughing awkwardly. He wrapped an arm around his much shorter sister and shook her, sending a warm smile toward their father. See? They were a normal, happy family.
Silence followed. Mr. Julian Cruz, Newcastle's local District Attorney, never held his tongue without reason. Whether good or bad, he would harshly deliver his truth, no hesitation. Oftentimes, his truth deviated from the objective truth, but nonetheless he was a very vocal man.
And right now, he was quiet. Appraising, perhaps, the situation that lay before him. He had not expected to see Logan for a long time; his daughter, though a tirelessly hard worker, never had the guts to do anything beyond sacrificing her time and reputation. No, never did he expect her to show her face like this. Breathless, presumably inebriated out of her mind, covered in baby filth. Dealing with infants was always Julian's least favorite part of fathering. Holding babies is only worthwhile in front of a camera, he would often say. Dex didn't take that one to heart.
He turned to the men he was speaking with, flashing his pearly whites with a gruff chuckle. "This is my son, Dexter. Always on his feet, chasing something." He gave the broad-shouldered high schooler a firm pat on the shoulder, then turned back to the men without a single glance at his daughter. "He's got a big sports scholarship just like his dad at his age. A real winner."
The men seemed to like that, nodding approvingly while downing their drinks. Dex's cheeks flushed red and his eyes darted around sheepishly, searching for a moment's respite from the spotlight. It felt good to be prided upon, but it was also really scary. For that brief moment, all eyes were on Dex and he had no clue what to do with himself. So he said nothing and stood tall like a trophy in its case.
Julian's smile was ingratiating, sickeningly perfect like those of a sold-out movie star. "Now if you'll excuse us."
After a quick goodbye, the middle-aged men sauntered off further down the beach, leaving merely Logan, Dex, and their father. He parted his lips, readying to speak. Dex tensed, agonizing over the unreadable features of his father's face. "I see you've been taking your time away very seriously," he finally observed, not a wrinkle to be found on his stoic countenance. Nothing could shatter an exterior so hardened, so acutely refined to withstand the petty trifles of family drama, no less the wayward offspring of a nameless mistress.
"Did you think parading around like a drunk, disheveled streetwalker and accosting my son would be a suitable way to get back at me?" he hissed, every ounce of warmth having seeped out of his voice now that they were alone, "After every opportunity I've given you, you still insist upon being a liability to this family." That baby was poison. Come reelections, there would already be blemish after blemish to blot out of the press' agenda. Image is a fragile thing; Logan had a destructive power that required extreme erasing and she knew it. He raised her that way.
"Dad!" Dex protested, pouting. There were awful things his father was saying, but the details were lost on the slow-witted boy. He had the power to interject, surprise the two witu a rare opinion. He owed his sister that much, but he couldn't even begin to form the words either of them needed to hear. He was helpless, drowning in a whirlpool of anguish and embittered love.
There was a checkbook somewhere on Julian's person, which he patted his pants for frustratedly. He kept his head up, smiling at the many passerby he seemed to recognize from his rounds of schmoozing and boozing. "Is it money? How much do you want?" He could pay her off easily. Dollar store whores had cheaper prices than his daughter but it was the same principle.
Dex turned to Logan, speechless. He could never step in when it mattered, not even now. Could she at least feel she had his support? Was that enough?
"Sorry," he squeaked, knowing all too well how much he'd disappointed his father tonight. There wasn't really much he could say to change that. It was clear as day and he couldn't take the anger directed at him. Not with these stakes, conditional love hanging by twine over his head. The reality Logan lived in, it was far too cold, not something a person could ever understand from the outside. Especially not someone like Dex.
Tenser than it already was but before Drake had the opportunity to say much of anything, the police officer arrived.
“Camus, your brother’s here.”
Mercedes honestly wished she could stay behind bars and argue with her best friend till she lost her breath because being in jail—
(Okay fine, a holding cell)
Was a better experience than dealing with her older brother.
The officer stood there expectantly and Mer threw a last glance towards Drake.
“He’ll be taken care of, don’t worry.”
If the saying don’t worry was supposed to make anyone feel better, like, the English dictionary really needed to be updated. Mercedes felt anything but better and leaving him on a sour note wasn’t something she wanted to do.
But the officer cleared his throat and that made Mercedes stand up, following him out as he opened and closed the cell door on Drake.
Her steps through the hallway were slow and shaky, coming to a stop when a plastic bag was given to her. Her phone, lip gloss and the zippo lighter that she assumed she lost on the beach which her gaze lingered on just to find the police officer staring at her.
“So you had the lighter but said you didn’t light any?”
“Lucky for you, my only job is releasing you.” He gestured towards the exit and stepped aside, revealing a very… irritated-looking CK.
“I assume that Deputy Mandy explained the —“
“He explained the whole thing, yes,” Chelsea interrupted and she felt the cop’s eyes on her, focusing her gaze on the floor to avoid the death stare of her brother once-more.
“And I assume that —“
“Mercedes, won’t be doing anything like this again. You have my word.”
She pursed her lips but stood quiet– not wanting to bother with whatever deal her parents or CK had made to get her released. That was a common thing. Well, not Mer getting arrested… her parents had enough connections with enough people to make things a little less difficult than they needed to be.
Donna wouldn’t say the same.
She gripped the plastic bag tighter, relieving some tension that stood in her shoulders as a silence fell between them, following CK out of the police station as they walked in silence to the car.
He wouldn’t believe her if she said it wasn’t her fault.
Or worse, if he did…
He’d blame Drake.
All the more reason for her family to make Mer cut ties with him. “...” She waited for him to unlock the door to the passenger seat, biting the inner corner of her lip, dried lip-gloss and dead skin peeling off with it.
Her gaze was still trained on the ground, climbing into the car and placing the plastic bag on her lap. She didn’t put her seatbelt on, because hey, if death wanted to come around– Mercedes wouldn’t say no right now.
There was no way in hell that her parents wouldn’t find out.
They were planning on letting them know– which meant as soon as they went over to their aunts, she was going to be sat down and calmly explained how what happened shouldn't have– like normal parents.
But when they got home? There was going to be a forty-five minute yelling match and another something was going to be ripped away from her for a punishment.
Her eyes brimmed with tears and Mercedes turned her body, looking at the window as CK began to drive.
No matter what she said here...
Mercedes was fucked either way and was going to probably be grounded for the next six months. The only thing she was capable of doing was changing the subject. “... Are you… uhm… feeling better?” The girl had quickly wiped away a few tears from her face, daring to glance over at Chelsea and away.
Her question was genuine, but Chelsea probably thought she was trying to get on his good side by her sudden concerned behavior. Odds are, CK was going to tell her something about him feeling worse that he had to pick her up from the police station out of all places.
"I know, okay? I know you're angry, I know you're pissed and pretending like you hate my guts right now, whatever. But we both know that mom and dad are gonna say a lot worse than you can, so could we please just..."
Saying sorry wouldn’t do much.
There were only so many times Mercedes could apologize for her wrongdoings just to be yelled at in return. She laid her forearm on the window seal and allowed her chin to rest on top of it-- the cold sensation a welcome feeling to her warm tears that continued to fall.
You know who wouldn't yell at her?
"I miss Donna." She muttered, her voice quiet and hoarse.
Turns out that no amount of weed could make the dude's stomach grumble. Nate hadn't really eaten a ton since July 4th, his thoughts and just... everything in his head was so wrapped up in one thing and one thing only, and that was what had happened that night. You know, after he'd gotten over the initial shock of running into Evie, and after his girlfriend had--
Ex-girlfriend. Sorry, after his ex-girlfriend had gotten all of the anger out of her system, and then--
He'd have forgotten about it, except that Liv kept reminding him at what felt like every single waking moment. But it was fine. He was fine, and he'd... well, he hadn't forgotten about shit. No matter how hard he tried, it was kind of just... burned in his head.
Even more so when Mike showed up, asking why he wasn't eating.
He glanced up at his friend, staring for a moment. There was kind of a moment as he stared over at Mike -- he'd heard Mike's words, but they'd hardly even registered with him as he stared at his friend.
Finally, he spoke.
"I slept with Evie at that Fourth of July party," he started, voice monotone as he spoke. "She's leaving. For some... stupid job offer."