Claire Malkovich's arm draped over Ivy's narrow shoulders, and the tiny impish freshman responded with a playful elbow to Claire's ribs. "Who're you calling bitch, bitch?" Ivy feigned deep offense. "Bitch, noun: Claire Malkovich. You type bitch into Google and it's like 'did you mean: Claire Malkovich.' You open the encyclopedia to 'Bitch' and it's just your bitch face, bitch." Once she'd repeated the term so many times that it the feel of it rolling off her tongue was completely weird and no longer felt like a word, she smiled, tossed her hair, and patted Claire's elbow. "Hi, bitch."
As far as Ivy was concerned, this was as close to a perfect Saturday morning as it could get. Sunny and cool, an open field with just her and her miniskirt-clad cohorts.
And that curly dork kid sitting on the bleachers, but he didn't count and Ivy was kind of amused by the attention they garnered from the boys lowest down on the pecking order.
But there was one thing that made today especially tantalizing, and Claire finally came to the realization of the missing piece of their little puzzle. The one that boosted Ivy right to the top of their literal and metaphorical pyramid.
"Kat," Ivy mused in a slow, pleased sort of drawl, "will not be joining us today. She's Spooning a fruit." She blinked and then suddenly cleared her throat as if she misspoke, tapping her chest with her fist. "AHEM-- sorry. Excuse me. Kat is with Lemon, Spooning." She could no longer contain her grin and she erupted into a fit of giggles.
Ivy had heard through the grapevine of Twitter that Kat had taken a leave from squad drills to give Lemon a... private tutoring session. At Spooning.
Unfortunately for Ivy's crass humor, no part of this was a euphemism. Kat really was tutoring Lemon in Physics, and Spooning was simply an ice cream parlor.
By the time she finally stopped laughing at the thought of Kat lovingly caressing Lemon's flaxen tresses, she quickly resumed composure, spun to face Claire head-on, and widened her stance to an authoritative power pose. "And you'll never guess who Kat ascended to the throne." Her hand lifted to the top of her head and slowly gestured down her body to her knee. Her toothy grin widened to a maniacal expression of glee. "I am the captain now."
She was quickly overcome with the need to gloat this news to every member of the squad before she led them in their ritual stretch. The first to catch her eye was the small and doe-eyed Ashley Park, sweetheart of the nerds. Surely Dustin was here to gawk at her especially. Ashley attracted nerds like moths to raging bonfire.
That gave Ivy an idea.
An awful idea.
a wonderful, terrible, awful idea.
Strutting, practically skipping across the field with her flashing brown eyes locked on the back of Ashley's head of braided hair, she caught her fellow freshman by the waist and spun her gently to her view. "Soooo, who does it better?" She raised her brow and tilted her neck to meet the best impression of Kat that she could conjure. "You're all mine for the morning. The captain expects excellence." Her eyelids lowered just a bit, her eyes kept in view by the angle of her chin. "I trust you've already limbered up, but we got a few secs before I have to crack down on the squad. So what's good, Ash? Had a fun Friday?"
Her eyes slowly turned to Dustin and her smile became a shifty smirk.
This practice was going to be fucking fun.
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just read it
Little hi little low little hey little ho
Stu tried to keep up with the two, and though he was physically there and feigned comprehension, nothing made sense to his little mouse brain. Flip flops? Pinkie promise? . . .What’s going on?
The girl was quick, hopping from point to point, mesmerising to follow. But he nodded along interestedly, because the thrill of pursuit made him feel a little smarter, and being around a girl actually made him feel normal and more like the other boys. It was an irrational fear really. Kind of like how Oliver was with crabs. But girls were people too, so why did every contact with them have to play out like a close encounter of the third kind?
He’d much rather be afraid of crabs than of girls. And how come Oliver could talk to girls? He talked to Ashley, even Genieve talked to him. Maybe girls liked him because he was smart. Stu didn’t know anywhere near as many sea turtle facts as Oliver did, and he didn’t know how to spell as many big words.
The volleyball struck his side and made him leap a salmon out of a summer stream.
He chuckled nervously and went after the ball that was rolling toward the beach. Running back he tripped over the sand, and only saved himself from falling by clinging to Oliver.
“I think. . . I really like your name,” he stammered out of breath. Not because he was tired from running but because he was talking to a girl. “I. . . I don’t know anyone else called. . . called Meera.”
Cue the awkward silence. He threw back the volleyball but was afraid of hitting her so it ended up in the sand between them. “Woops, sorry!”
She called him her best friend, which was really nice. But how could they be best friends when he didn’t know the first thing about her, and she didn’t even know his name?
“O. . . oh, I’m Stu. Short. . . short for Stuart, that’s me. And he’s—” Stu turned to Oliver, in case he wanted to introduce himself. “I think. . . I’ve seen you in class,” he said. “I’m Stu there, too. But sometimes people call me Neck Tie.”
Suddenly he lifted his eyes and froze completely to come face to face with the one and only.
The man, the fish, the legend. . . He who must not be named.
He tried his best not to freak out in front of Meera. That would leave a terrible impression, kind of like peeing in front of Genieve and he hadn’t really recovered from that. No wait that never happened. It was just a big fat lie!
“W. . . we were just—” Stu made an attempt at a sentence, but he was worse talking to Toothrot than he was with girls. “--leaving.”
Gradually edging towards Oliver he whispered in his best friend’s ear. “What’s. . . what’s he saying?” As far as Stu was concerned Toothrot wasn’t even speaking English but some underworld tongue that he wasn’t to understand.
A feeling of dread settled in his stomach. Toothrot knew his last name. How. . . Why did Toothrot know his last name? Then it struck him that everything Ivy said was true. Toothrot had marked him for death. Oh no, oh God no. He was too young to die. . .
While all this was happening Stu very sneakily stepped behind Oliver, hiding himself from Meera. And even more sneakily he slipped out of his jacket and inexplicably took off his shirt, turning it inside out. And he put his jacket back on and zipped it all the way up, praying no one noticed.
TL;DR A close encounter with Parish Bay's cryptid janitor.
How lonely it is, to be drowning in a place where everyone can swim
What was Meera talking about?
Oliver remembered very little of the minutes leading up to getting pulverized by a crazy person at a beach party, and of the few days after that. What little he retained was mismatched and foggy: just snippets of memory without context.
Oliver didn't remember the flip-flop, but as soon as Meera said it, he remembered her. On the beach, with the boy and the crab and Tatum yelling and… all of that.
So she threw a flip-flop? At him, or…? Why would she do that?
Much like his memory of the beach party, Oliver registered and understood only fragments of the conversation happening around him. Stu, looking as anxious as Oliver felt, gave Meera his name and seemed to pause for Oliver to join the introduction.
He didn't. Oliver's words caught in his throat and his teeth were clamped over the knuckles of his right hand, red marks and small bruises marring his skin from his fingers all the way down to the base of his palm.
So Stu clumsily carried on the conversation by himself, valiantly facing his girl phobia while Oliver simply tried to hang on to what was happening around him.
Stu was an intrepid one. From his beach-going escapades to his brush with death at the Hawking House, it was clear that Stu's bravery was shaken only by pretty girls and murderous fish men. Oliver's list of fears was more extensive, but right now he actually felt a lot better than he looked. Some might take his anxious hand-biting and inability to bring himself to speak as a sign of unbridled terror, but those who were familiar with him knew that was just Oliver being Oliver. He was just... like this. Most of the time, anyway.
Meera and Stu continued meandering across the beach, and Oliver followed after at a stilted and unsteady pace, up on the front of his feet which further crippled his balance. The volleyball kept bouncing back and forth between the other two, but Oliver seemed unable to pay it much mind. His eyes twitched and closed, only opening for split moments to instinctively stay guided. As they climbed up onto the docks and walked towards the edge, Oliver's startled dark eyes opened one more time and found themselves staring down at a saltwater-encrusted boot. A voice overhead, the deep tones of an unknown world.
Oliver's whole skeleton froze and locked into place. He was still half-stepped forward, leaning over his foot and overbalancing to the right, his hands raw and bleeding at his sides, one by his pocket and subconsciously ready to grab for his blade.
The ancient moldmancer and hallway wizard seemed to be in strangely high spirits. Friendly in the way that a rural mailman would be, not at all the demeanor expected of an ocean-dwelling lord of despair.
In one moment, before Oliver could stop it, grey eyes locked on brown and a comment came directly his way. "Still on the mend, are ye?"
Oliver felt his heart drop into his stomach and he coughed out a wordless stuttering husk of a phrase. Toothrot seemed to understand the response, nodding sagely and continuing along.
Stu was overcome with terror and dashed behind Oliver, leaving the shivering knife-carrying boy at the front of the pack. Cast alone in the gaunt and towering shadow of the eldritch janitor, Oliver turned white as a sheet and his eyes fogged up and twitched side to side, suddenly feeling his legs start to give out and his knees lock. A burning sensation clawed through his throat as if he were about to be sick, but nothing came and the wave nausea just stuck in his chest. The ground seemed to start to tilt under him.
Oh no, oh no.
Oh no no no, oh no. No. No.
Thinking fast, Oliver swallowed his breath and quickly curled in on himself at the waist, scrambling his mind for a way to keep his heart steady enough to support blood flow to his brain.
Think of something.
Loggerheads. Caretta Caretta. Largest hard-shelled turtle; larger than the green sea turtle and Galapagos tortoise. Low reproductive rate: only about 4 clutches every few years. Easily identified by large skull size with maxillae that meet at the midline of the palate, wide eye sockets, large space behind the eyes.
State reptile of South Carolina…
Oliver had straightened up again, shifting one foot back to steady his stance and slowly moving his hand bit by bit away from his knife pocket, breathing in slow-drawn gasps. Around him, everything seemed to have defied reason: Meera totally unafraid and happily eyeing Toothrot's small wooden ship, the man himself seeming all the more bright and amicable, and Stu… taking his clothes off behind Oliver's back.
Suddenly Oliver was too confused to be afraid, crossing his arms and bouncing on his heels in an agitated but not-panicked repetition. He, too, found himself turning his eyes to the boat.
Late September was not the time for sea turtles to be roaming the north Atlantic. They'd all traveled off to warmer waters, but… Oliver had never been out on the ocean before. Ever. There was way too much going on, and every thought that came through his head seemed more and more unsure.
But really, the way the tide swayed and caught the sunlight was absolutely fascinating to an aspiring marine researcher. Calming, in a weird way. Oliver almost forgot about the hordes of crabs lurking in the shallows...
It was weird to think about her dad crying. Of course, it wasn’t like he was one of those stone-cold emotionless guys who tried to act like having feelings was girly or something, he had feelings and he showed them very often just not in a tearful way. In fact, Sawyer would even say that Oliver was even a little more emotional than she was. All children probably go through a little trauma the first time they see their parents cry because, up until that point, most kids probably saw their parents as some sort of big strong superhero and superheroes didn’t cry...at least not on screen. But that was when they were children, sitting there as a whole teenager and watching your dad cry for the first time, because of her no less, was a whole other world. But Harper was right, it had been hard and Sawyer wasn’t only just realizing it. Sawyer had been thinking about it for far too long. She’d been letting that guilt chew away at her and really needed it to stop before she fell apart at the seams. Harper’s words halted her spiraling train of thought and set it on different tracks.
Save the world, huh? Sawyer grinned and sat up from the sand, suddenly feeling a whole lot better. Oliver had always told her that her mother had been too stubborn for her own good. Maybe Sawyer really was a carbon copy of her mother, except for the whole sexuality thing of course. Sawyer sometimes wondered what everything would be like if her mother had still been alive. They might never have left West Virginia. It was weird to think that if Eliza was still alive Sawyer might still be living in the house down the street from her mother’s parents that she’d spent the first year of her life in. Sawyer didn’t remember much of anything about her birth place so it was hard to imagine at all. Sure, she’d seen baby pictures of her in the house or at her grandparents, but other than that there wasn’t much to remember. Anyway, if she still lived in West Virginia, she wouldn’t be on the beach right now and she never would’ve met her friends. Besides, it made no sense to Sawyer to get all sad over her mother, after all, Sawyer had never even known the woman. There was nothing to miss if she didn’t remember anything about her in the first place and there was no grieving to go through. She’d seen Harper go through losing her mother and Sawyer didn’t think she could have ever recovered from something like that.
“You’re right, I am quite the hero.” Sawyer jumped up from the sand and Apollo followed after her, once again matching her energy and resuming his running around. She brushed the sand off of her shirt and everywhere else it had managed to stick to, “ I did, walk across a dangerous floor and break down a door to save you and Zach’s dumb ass.” Another grin permeated her face and she walked over to wrap her arm around Harper’s shoulder. The other girl turned to Max for a brief moment, signing something that she was pretty sure meant what’s wrong followed by something else that she most definitely knew what it meant. Food.
“Yes. Duh. I always wanna get food.” Sawyer turned to find her dog, “Apollo! Come on! Stop trying to attack the ocean!” Apollo looked up from where he’d been barking at waves lapping the sand in front of him and ran back over to the three of them, settling himself right next to Sawyer’s feet.
“Where do you guys wanna go?” Sawyer signed and spoke at the same time, for Max’s sake the best she could.
Lemon had entirely too many questions. Katherine found herself taking a deep breath before continuing or answering any of them, merely blinking her way and taking a moment to process everything that transpired in the few seconds that passed. While she understood Lemon needed some help— she didn’t expect that she’d needed it this bad. Not that Katherine is judging, Physics just didn’t click for most people. At least she was being honest about the things she didn’t know, the fact that Lemon truly didn’t get most of this didn’t sit too well with Kat, she wasn’t sure why, but she wasn’t exactly expecting to teach her much of anything.
She hardly knew Lemon, for all she knew it was just a ploy to get to know her, but while Lemon was oh-so-curious about Kat and vice versa, she genuinely needed the help to pass the class. Whether or not Katherine was attracted to her, she couldn’t of just given up.
The brunette is a lot of things, but she doesn’t go back on her word.
She said she’d help.
And so, she did.
“The reason why there’s a zero law, is because they had already established the first three laws when they realized that they needed another, they didn’t want to cause confusion because the laws were already so well known— they couldn’t possibly name it the fourth law because it was the most fundamental law, it’d come after the first three, and that just wouldn’t be logically correct.” To be fair, there were moments when everything about everything felt logically incorrect sometimes. Everyone had that moment where it just was, ‘well, why didn’t they do this instead?’ It’d save time, be easier to explain and understand in the long run.
But alas, nothing was easy.
The whole point would be gone if it was easy.
The point, you ask?
‘To figure out the inner intricacies about everything, only to fail to teach the next— but succeed the second.’
Katherine furrowed her brows for a moment in thought, and decided to get up from her seat and take the one next to Lemon, picking up her own pencil and opening up a page in the notebook that sat in front of her. “I used to do that too.” Kat said, explaining that she’d forget to convert the temperatures as well— when she was thirteen, of course, but she wasn’t about to admit that.
“It was some work, but...” Katherine trailed off, ignoring the close proximity with Lemon as she wrote in the corner of the paper, something small enough to notice, she hesitated for a moment and decided to draw a heart— in her defense, she never used to actually doodle that, but Lemon simply seemed like that type of girl.
It was just a symbol, don’t make it something more than it is. “I’d mark most of my paper as a reminder.” The girl held the pencil out back to her, not bothering to shift away and allowing their personal space to be nonexistent for the most part.
“... So, heat and work. They’re related, but they don’t exactly work in the way you think, while work can be completely converted to heat, you can’t do vice versa. Heat can’t— as a whole, be transformed into work energy. We have different forces for different things, Contact forces— is… tension, friction, air resistance, spring. At a distance, there’s gravitational pull, electrical, magnetic, all of this can’t be applied to just one force because they all have different reactions, you know?”
Personal space was completely thrown away at this point, as great as it’d be to notice how close they were, Katherine was completely focused at the task at hand. Clearly too interested in explaining to even notice.
Katherine had many pros, one of them— was her intelligence. It was the only thing she prided herself off of when she was younger, although it wasn’t like many people praised her for it.
When certain moments like these came to light, a fraction of the girl she used to be was practically splayed for everyone to see.
Kat wasn’t sure if Lemon was even understanding most of what she was saying, but she hoped so. She wasn’t exactly the greatest tutor. Granted, Katherine didn’t tutor people, period.
“As for gravity, is— well, alright. ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.’ It isn’t the greatest explanation as to why, but think how the sun revolves around us, the Earth attracts the sun with the same exact force… thinking smaller though, the Earth attracts you and you attract the earth with forces that are equal in magnitude and direction, but of opposite sense. Of course, that same force will have a much greater effect on you than on the Earth, the same applies to the sun’s combination to the Earth. That’s your equal and opposite force. Get it?” At this point, Katherine isn’t sure what more there is to get. Learning this had been much simpler than teaching— and this is only a few minutes in.
Maybe she’ll get the questions right?
After all, her phone was on the line. And god forbid a sixteen year old girl like Lemon Pierce would go a whole hour without her phone.
The last hour that passed had only proved Katherine’s point. Motivation was a funny thing. Whenever you were convinced you’d get rewarded, suddenly the brain cells would start flowing. Lemon had gotten more than a few questions right and thankfully, Katherine had explained most of what she was confused about— whoever was teaching at PB had barely given her the chance to do decent. See, Katherine never understood that. A teacher’s job is to actually teach, not to throw a test on you and expect for you to know all of these things already when they don’t give the time of day to answer the questions that should be asked, but instead they merely expect you to find things out of your own accord.
And that alone was completely outrageous.
Lemon had wandered off into the bathroom a bit ago, and Katherine found herself staring at the candy that was now drowning in the pink liquid that was once ice cream. Nails tapped impatiently onto the table and a sigh escaped her while a squealing child ran past the table, bumping into the chair beside her and Lemon’s bag fell to the floor.
“Oh! I’m so sorry.”
The father’s apologies was met with a glare, a glare that he was too busy to pay attention to before running after his toddler who was too busy screaming her head off for another scoop of ice cream.
Katherine rubbed at the temples of her head to fight off an oncoming headache from the scents and sounds that were coming from the shop.
The brunette leaned down to pick up the bag and the contents that fell out. A pack of gum, chapstick, the deodorant was a bit of a surprise, and that horrifyingly adorable ‘lemon’ wallet she owned, the novel that Katherine suggested and she let out a huff of breath, clearly amused as she placed the things back into g.
A book that found it’s way under the table caught her attention, it looked like something a twelve year old would’ve decorated, and curiosity had gotten the best of heropening it only to be met with a diary entry.
An eyebrow raised as she skimmed the first line of words, and Katherine shook her head, closing the book. As tempted as she was, it wasn’t right.
Even if there might’ve been an entry with her name involved— it wasn’t her place.
If anyone knew how important privacy was...
It was Katherine.
She hesitated for a mere moment before placing it back into the bag, right as Lemon walked out of the bathroom.
“I... you need not to worry, I didn’t read your deepest, darkest fantasies about me.” Katherine dusted herself off and lifted the bag off the floor, handing it out to Lemon, furrowing her brows in confusion and a grin appeared onto Kat’s face not long after,noticing the glasses.
“Oh? Did we become a scholar in the ten minutes you were gone?” Katherine asked, packing up her own contents into her bag before glancing back at Lemon.
She knew they couldn’t be prescriptions, Katherine had her own social media obsession for a week or so, and Lemon was the star of that.
“I’d say it fits you, even if glasses aren’t a personal preference of mine.”
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Let's go get food
Your face can't show what you're hiding in your hands.
Max flinched and turned red like he'd been caught committing a crime.
Of course she noticed he was being fucking weird.
He had to answer her question. No way around it, no matter how much he wished it had never been asked, or how much he wished that he could turn back time and figure out what he could've done to seem more... chill.
He never meant to worry Harper. Or Sawyer. Or anyone, ever, but especially not Harper. The last thing Max ever wanted to do to her was waste her time and attention with his own problems. Everyone expended too much energy on him-- he wore his heart on his sleeve and kept drawing concern that he didn't want or deserve.
Harper's question went unanswered for a short pause.
In two seconds, fifty different emotions crossed Max's face. He caught his breath, appearing to think for a second before giving his answer to the question: an almost humorous, open-handed "Nothing at all."
He had nothing more to say after that.
From his perspective, he had no reason to say anything else. Harper didn't actually want to know, did she? Whatever he had going on, she didn't need that dropped on her right now. Neither did Sawyer. This was a nice normal Saturday, not fucking therapy.
Thankfully, at least for now, Harper shifted gears to another topic. He knew, though, that his lies were paper-thin and he'd likely have to face that later.
He just really, really didn't want to deal with that kind of attention right now.
"Do you guys want to get food?"
Max nodded along, seeing Sawyer's enthusiasm and knowing Harper had wanted to earlier. Besides, he knew he was going to regret it if he didn't eat at some point. Not that he hadn't been eating today. He had… well, technically.
Tea and a fistful of tortilla chips was not a meal.
Even when he could be bothered to eat, Max wasn't really feeling up to food prep these days. The thought of actually getting things organized and going through the steps of making something seemed tiring.
Sawyer asked where to go. Max shrugged and looked to Harper in a you take this one sort of way. He was past the point of having preferences, and Harper really deserved to pick her favorite after everything she went through these past few weeks. If he'd had it rough, Harper had been hit one after the other with everything that hurt her the most.
And yet somehow, she looked fine. Max knew better... she was just much better at lying about being fine. Harper hid her pain behind smiles and platitudes. Max just clumsily shoved his to the side and prayed people would at least pretend not to notice. Yet again, something Harper did with skill and experience.
Harper learned, and she changed. That was the widest distance between the two of them.
Max had returned to watching Sawyer and Apollo, both brimming with the same energy and excitement. Sometimes it seemed like not a thing in the world could bring Sawyer down. Just watching her made Max feel practically dead by comparison. Sawyer was made of titanium. Her tall, strongly built frame fit her brash and fearless personality to a T. Even her dog seemed to match her liveliness. Out of all the living people Max knew, Sawyer was probably the most alive of them all. Almost everyone in Parish Point had faded a little along the way, like ink under blazing sunlight. Sawyer seemed impervious to the effect, but it occurred to Max that this impression may be little more than a facet of the distance between him and everyone else. He never really knew how people felt, did he?
Everyone saw right through him, and he was left guessing. It felt deeply unfair.
Life wasn't fair, he knew.
But it always seemed to disproportionately smack him upside the head every opportunity it got. Max attracted Murphy's Law like a magnet, and he carried with him lingering concerns that his poor luck bled off on other people. But yet again, he had no way of knowing.
“Teetering-” Zach interposed, taking Tatum’s face in his hands and finding the loveliness in how invaluable the expression that was presently on her face was.
He didn’t really listen when others laughed. Only related to Tatum Browne did he himself feel a reaction—what he would do to hear her laugh all the time. The later part scared him. Exempting those thoughts only replayed her valentine lips, “I love you.”
She didn’t realize how much those words had been written into his mind. Definitely not in the shifting movements of her fingers breaking apart her candy wrapper or through the oblivious leaning into the shelf of his marble chest. Or, rather, she too, kept it in her thoughts. Somewhere.
Zachary Lee, who was already bottomless and facedown going nowhere good, wanted to take her with him. Who would even want to come down with him? With a partial view to her, under the limited excellence of a roof of flung blankets, his mouth smiled wistfully. For no particular reason, it was becoming more clear to him.
He didn’t previously return those words because he feared. But, quietly true, it was also because he did love her. I don’t want you to come down with me, Tatum Browne. I don’t want you where I am.
Even if he'd have to forever drift, hiding behind the smile that had strained on with the grasp of that understanding, he’d go on for her. Separately, eventually. He had to be killing her by not returning those words. So, maybe he’d go back to drinking out his guts to make up for it, and waking up staring at that empty ceiling grey in the face. The same life of repetition.
He did have an extraordinary sense of self, still. He’d enjoy it all for how many days there were left.
“How about now?” His defensive, yet strangely soft comment resonated, his eyes open as he leaned in for a kiss, “You still think I’m a bad architect?”
His long lashes fell over his smooth olive skin and his straw-haired, messy locks brung a strong daytime of early amber over his forehead. It was just like the first time they had kissed, a bahamian swelter of flirtation and humor acting on their lips. And, like the first time they had kissed, it didn’t happen right away. There were those innumerable seconds, a chaste share of mischief, madness, and mercy between their unevenly growing smiles. There was an automotive mingle of wild berry. Less than minutes old of candy stayed behind as his lips locked onto her cool lips. Bloodless velvet on velvet, he kissed her like he missed her. His arms comfortingly pulled her closer.
Evilly, he repeated as he leaned down on her again, “And, now?--”
Their lips almost touched again.
That’s when the ceiling came down for the second time that month.
Hayden shrugged, he couldn’t stand the feeling of his feet freezing against the cold sand, but he realized he was alone in that thought. The thought of his feet going numb against the cold grains of sand, well that just made him shiver. Usually whenever Hayden spent time early at the beach, he would just sit up on boardwalk. He wouldn’t walk down on the beach in the early morning unless it was above 70* degrees.
Hayden returned Michael’s sarcastic look with his own. “That’s what a good sleep will do to you, you should try it sometime.” Okay maybe Hayden hadn’t slept well, granted it had been a long time since Hayden had slept peacefully in his own bed. He always got up early for conditioning on Saturdays after most likely a night of being walking around aimlessly till he got too tired to stand. With Harper’s injury, he stayed home more, staring up at the ceiling watching his fan turn around, and around, and around.
“Yea, the ‘revolutionary’ or Max Berko-IwontadmitIminlovewithHarper-wizt.” Hayden let a chuckle out from deep in his throat. Max and Hayden happened to be in the same grade, but Hayden always felt like he was so much younger. Max was always overreacting to everything that was said, trying to protect Harper with his life, when there was nothing to protect her over.
Hayden nodded in agreement. “I think Harper is more effected than me…” Hayden could have gone on to why, but he stopped himself, he could tell that Michael didn’t really want to go into why hospitals were the worst and all the emotional trauma that they had experienced at the location. Hayden felt stone cold for being able to ‘handle’ hospital visits still. But, when his sister was there, he felt like he was reliving his mother’s illness all over again. But, Harper wasn’t sick, she just needed stitches, and the doctors only wanted to watch her for a few days because of risk of infection. He didn’t need to worry, he just had to keep moving forward.
Hayden pressed his lips together thinly. What had they been talking about… “Oh… I honestly forget.” Hospitals had taken over every thought on his mind and he figured they also took over Michael’s. They hadn’t even noticed that the line had moved forward a good couple of feet. Hayden quickly took a large step back to meet up with the rest of the line. Hayden thought about something distracting that could change the topic entirely. Something happier. “Can you believe someone put a bowling ball through this place?”
when you wear a mask for so long, you forget who is behind it.
Harper had been hoping that she would have received a real response from Max, but she saw he took the chance at a change of topic. She didn’t turn away from him, watching his expression for a moment. She wondered what must have been bugging him, she knew him well enough to know there must have been something. But—
Maybe she didn’t know Max as well as she thought she did. Maybe he was fine, and handling everything better than she realized.
Harper turned to watch both Sawyer and Apollo jumping around in excitement at the prospect of getting food. Harper felt her stomach rumble, maybe skipping breakfast hadn’t been her best idea. Surviving on coffee alone only covered the feeling of hunger and not for long. But, getting out of the house this morning, after being stuck her redundant repeating schedule, between school and the dark space she called a home.
It was hard to walk quietly around with a limp. Though she was grateful for the microwave Hayden brought up to her room for the time being. Keeping her from having to do too much walking through the house, she could easily stay on the second floor without having to go further than the bathroom. Though, eating Kraft Microwavable Mac and Cheese got old fast.
Which had Harper craving sushi and dumplings, that was what she had been craving for the time she was held up in the house. “Dojo Sushi anyone?” She wiggled her eyebrows with a big smile on her face.
Harper walked through the doors to one of her favorite restaurants, she walked up to the hostess desk asking for a table for three. Harper sighed as she looked down at Apollo, who Sawyer refused to leave in the car. “And one service dog.” Once the hostess turned back around Harper gave Sawyer a look for her stubbornness. When it came down to it, at least Apollo was a good dog he would just lay under the table and likely beg for scraps. Even if ESAs didn’t have the same accommodations as Service Dogs, at least he acted like one.
The hostess led them to a corner table with half a booth and two chairs on the other side. Harper slipped her way into the seat by the wall, unfolding her napkin to place it on her lap. “I already know what I’m getting.” Harper smiled and did a little dance as she thought about her sweet potato maki and the vegetarian dumplings.
“I missed this place.” Harper felt like she had been stuck in her house for an eternity, finally having escaped a tower of isolation to be reunited with her best friends. “Do you guys want to share a few things or get your own? I’m thinking Sweat Potato Maki and Veggie dumplings.”
As Lemon listened to Kat, she slowly began to understand a bit more of what was actually happening in physics but to be fair she was still confused. Afterall, Lemon wasn’t the smartest person, she wasn’t dumb, but she had her struggles and Kat. Well Kat was really smart which was intimidating for Lemon, but she needed the help and at least she was understanding more now than she had ever understood in class. As Kat explained, Lemon took notes alongside to make sure when she forgot she would have the notes to explain everything she had learned for the day. For her it was a goal to at least pass the next exam, all she wanted was a passing grade. Getting an A would be far from her reach but a C, well that was more of a plausibility. She let her eyes catch the glances of Kat, but she couldn’t get distracted. She had to focus. Do well, pass the test, keep your phone. Lemon had to constantly remind herself of these things and to not stare at Kat from the corner of her eyes, but that was far easier said than done.
When she finally got to have a break from the tutoring Lemon quickly made her way to the bathroom, she sent her dad a quick text, letting him know she was still at the ice cream shop with Kat, before she quickly snapped a selfie of herself with her glasses. She had them mostly for reading, but they weren’t prescription. She wondered if they were too much, turning her head in all directions, looking at every angle. Afterall she wanted to feel and look smart, but confidence was hard. Lemon had made enough dumb mistakes that if she could convince herself she was smart then she would feel it. As she finished messing with her glasses, she took one last glance in the mirror and made her way back to Kat.
It was the sight of Kat holding her diary that struck fear in her heart, she was quiet as she tucked the book back in her bag. She was more worried about the contents of it becoming known. It didn’t have all her past memories due to the fact that it was newer, but she didn’t need anyone reading anything. Her mind could barely comprehend Kat’s comment about the glasses, but she snapped out of her fear and gave Kat a bright and cheery smile, “You think so?” she couldn’t help but let out a small laugh, “I have to look the part.”
Her eyes glanced at the pink pool the gummy bears were in, “What a shame. Those gummy bears went from a pink wonderland to a pink disaster. Why don’t you like glasses?” her head tilted just a little as she finally sat back down across from Kat, carefully holding her bag in her lap. She couldn’t risk her diary falling out again. It wasn’t that Lemon didn’t know she should leave her diary at home, but she couldn’t leave it. She had always brought one with her, but she had always been so careful. She made sure it was protected and watched, but now she was ever more vigilant about where it was in respect to her.
Tatum couldn’t help but giggle at her boyfriend’s offense to the word teetering. She wasn’t lying to him and she really loved the effort he had put in for her. Sure, he didn’t quite get her favorite candy, but he was close and to her that meant more than anything. After the past couple of weeks, they had she was thrilled to see an effort and to feel like he actually wanted to be with her. She needed it more than she could ever fully express to him or to anyone. To have candy and a “private” place that was all for her and Zach, well she couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend. As he moved in closer his lips mere centimeters from hers teasing her she couldn’t help but smile. She had forgotten what these moments were like. The ones that seemed so far away when really the magic from the beginning had been pushed aside by being at different schools and making different friends. The magic was still there though in these moments. These small precious moments. She waited until his warm lips were off of hers, “You’re a cute architect.” She let her hand play with the small strand of hair that had fallen in front of his face. As he came back down, she didn’t even have time to react.
It was only seconds, but they were covered in blankets and Zach was laughing harder than he had in a long time. She couldn’t help but laugh at the same time. They were no longer in a fort but they were now one with all the blankets. He was still close to her, “You’re still a bad architect.” She could only imagine the mess that lie beneath the blankets as she pulled him back to her, “But I never did like good architects. To pretentious.” She let herself enjoy this moment of romance, this moment where she knew she loved him and though she was dying from not hearing them back, he just needed time. Like Hayden had said before.
She let herself think back to a year ago when things were simple and this was that moment, “Zach, thank you.” She placed her lips to his cheek, “This, terribly built fort is fun, and I don’t mind staying in the blanket avalanche as long as I’m with you.” Zach meant everything to her and no matter what everyone else thought her relationship was good.
She couldn’t help but giggle at each kiss exchanged between them, she knew nothing more would happen due to his sister still being in the house, but this was all she needed from him. All she had wanted from him, the moment where she didn’t need to think of home, but instead think about the warmth of being wrapped up in him, smiling, laughing, and the movie was all but forgotten to her. She didn’t need it she was content; she was blissful and nothing could ruin her moment of joy. Well, Mr. Lee coming home could or even Rose, but they weren’t doing anything wrong. The blankets probably didn’t make it seem that way though.
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Things are awkward but it's cool and it's lunchtime and no one is having a crisis
Your face can't show what you're hiding in your hands.
The group plus Apollo pulled into the parking lot beside the restaurant. Max found himself having to stop and lean back against the hood of the car for a moment while the others climbed out, waiting for his stomach to stop twisting up.
This was another thing that was really unfair for Max: Supposedly, at least according to one 1800s account, deaf people don't experience motion sickness as often. While this claim is largely pseudoscientific, Max still wound up thinking that even the little things he was supposed to have in his favor had turned against him. His luck really was that terrible, wasn't it? He could find a way to break his arm while making toast. He could accidentally burn a village down with a birthday candle. He'd be the one kid who died during the SAT so everyone else would pass.
...In retrospect, motion sickness was okay. At least this kind of thing cleared up after a few moments.
And hey, maybe Max was being a bit hyperbolic, but one had to admit it had been a rough September. Everything he'd done had gone so spectacularly wrong that he could be excused for thinking he was cursed.
Once he was sure he was done with his bout of car nausea, he quietly followed the group into the restaurant.
Dojo Sushi was situated in a quieter part of town, not too far off from the beach. Max had been here before, maybe once or twice. His family didn't really eat out much-- in no small part due to his parents working wildly different hours and leaving Max home alone more often than not. So really, it was kind of a nice change of pace for him. A different environment seemed to lift some of the fog from his head; letting him see and feel things without fighting a constant need to apologize for the space he was taking up in the world.
Max noticed Sawyer had brought her dog in with her and, immediately suspicious, he curtly prodded her arm for her attention. He lowered his brows, gesturing to Apollo trotting along beside them as they followed the hostess. He hadn't gotten the memo that they were pretending Apollo was a service dog so he wouldn't get left behind. "Why? You can't do that." He wasn't sure if Sawyer would understand the sentence, but she should be damn well sure what he was on about.
But it seemed the hostess couldn't understand either, which fortunately killed any possibility that Max could have blown their cover. The tired boy rolled his eyes, arms folding over his chest.
More often than not, he was the only one who cared about rules. As much as he ran afoul of them, he actually very much valued lawfulness. It just so happened that it was usually the authority that broke the rules the most. That was where Max got into trouble. He wanted fairness, even if that meant pushing against people with more power and influence than he could ever have. And he always took the fall for it. None of his protesting, letter writing, or attempts to budge the system had gotten him any more than shame and mockery from both his peers and the adults.
Once they'd been led to their table, Max took the seat across from Harper, knowing she'd likely still have to be his go-between for most of the afternoon. Harper seemed to be in high spirits, but genuinely this time. She had still been through hell. They all had, and he knew none of them were as 'over it' as they'd ever let on. Oy, he certainly wasn't. But if any of them could take comfort in something like this, he was happy to see Harper happy.
That was all he ever really wanted.
If the people close to him were safe and content, that was all he could ask for. He would do anything for that.
His thumb flipped the laminated pages of his menu, but he was watching Harper more than he was reading it. Her smile, her excited little dance, the shade of her long wine-colored cardigan in the warm lighting. She was here a lot, wasn't she? The beach, her favorite restaurant... it was probably nice for her to be visiting her favorite places after everything that had happened. She had been stuck at home most of the time since, he was sure. Well, he had been too, but of his own choosing. He wasn't even grounded after that night (thanks Zach), he'd just been too numb and fatigued to do more than the essential motions of daily life. Since he'd moved into Parish Point, his was the longest he'd ever gone without seeing his friends.
It wasn't as though Max was new to being lonely. He never had friends before Parish Point, and even after that, he spent most of his day at Hartfield Academy by himself. Tatum was his only friend in his grade, and she couldn't exactly have every class with him. He hadn't seen Tatum either since 10 days ago. She was dating Zach, and Zach had...
Zach had done a lot. Max didn't even know how much, or why, or what that guy was even trying to do when he stranded Max at the Hawking House, told Max's parents he was having an intimate encounter with himself and with Harper, made him swap clothes for no reason, and... all of that.
Max's hand had drifted back to the collar of Zach's jacket. It had started pinching at his neck; as if the jacket itself had a mind of its own and was nagging at him the way Zach would have if he was here.
Once again, it was Harper's hand that pulled Max out of his thoughts.
“Do you guys want to share a few things or get your own? I’m thinking Sweet Potato Maki and Veggie dumplings.”
Max, with his head stuck in the clouds, had completely neglected to look at his own menu. He coughed, still fidgeting with Zach's collar and struggling to maintain a semblance of eye contact. "I'm good either way." He started indecisively, then realized he was being passive again and that was probably annoying by now, and quickly forced himself to decide. His hand spun back for a moment before continuing at a fast and awkward pace. "I... yeah, that's good with me if you wanted to share. I haven't been here in a while. I don't really know what's good, but... I can probably eat most of this stuff, and I'm not picky, so..." he trailed off, giving an apologetic side-wave of his hand... something that had become habitual. "...Sawyer?" He turned back to the tall blonde and her dog, shifting uneasily in his seat and wondering if the restaurant staff was ever going to catch on that Apollo wasn't exactly allowed to be there. "Do you know what you want?" He phrased his question carefully, trying to slow himself down and make sure Sawyer was understanding. Without Harper, this would be unbearably nerve-wracking and he'd probably have wanted to stay home.
He relied on Harper too much, didn't he?
Max hid his hands in Zach's jacket and leaned back from the table slightly, the color slowly fading from his face. Then he managed a faint smile, turning his eyes back to Harper. She was enjoying herself, wasn't she? That was all that mattered at this moment in time.
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TL;DR Panicky Gay Boy #1 picks up Panicky Gay Boy #2 for a weekend hangout in the woods.
Raedwulf Adair Nilsen
We're off to the Seer, The Wonderful Seer of the Woods, We hear she's a seer is a seer of a seer, If ever a seer there was, If ever, Oh ever a seer there was
Darla coasted through the ever so slightly rolling hills of the nice little subdivision, Nils was actively on the lookout for kids playing in the street and people taking their dogs for an evening walk because he didn’t really trust Darla’s braking power or his flighty reactionary times. How he had managed to not crash into something was unknown to him, maybe the luck of the gods was keeping him safe, but he was pretty sure Odin would slap the shit out him and tell him to get his fucking brakes checked out. “Soon.” The word came out in a breathy sigh, his lips came together as he fidgeted with the gold ring in his nose.
This weekend was gonna be fun, lots of fun, it was always fun when he was able to drag Peter out to their little farmstead-cottage and romp around the whole weekend like heathens with no adult supervision. Peter was also gonna get the privilege of meeting the fantastic little Miss Opal as well, since she had only just come to their home from his mom’s wildlife rehab friend. Nils probably talked up the biggest game about her to be fair, she had taken most to him since her arrival by clinging to him every moment while he fed her all the blueberries she could ever ask for. “Whoop, almost missed that turn, every time..” He swung the car in a wide left turn and rolled down the narrow street, his car rumbled with the drums of his Nordic playlist with his body bouncing ever so slightly to every thump of the speakers. Nils was weird, but everyone who knew him just loved him and that’s all he could ever ask for.
The Elliot household was always perfectly manicured, down to flowers in the bed that weren’t too garish and lines in the lawn that had the precision straightness of a professional, it really spoke loudly to the personality of the family that lived within. Nils had gotten used to that though, he knew how to play the part so that he wouldn’t embarrass Peter and find himself barred from their home. He silenced the radio and pulled up in the driveway, turning Darla off before he unfolded his lanky body from behind the steering wheel. “This will never end, cause I want more… Gimme more, gimme more, gimme more.” He hummed the words to himself as he bounced up the steps, he was really digging this song by Fever Ray and refused to let it leave his brain ever for a second. Nils was totally gonna make Peter listen to it till he was sick of it, the thought made him smile as he brought a hand up to lightly knock on the door a few times before he took a step back and shoved his hands into his pocket. His nose scrunched and he realized with horror that the nose ring was still in his face, “Shit, shit, shit.” His panicked whispers matched his fingers as they quickly went to work getting the piece of nose jewelry out of his nose and into his pocket. “That was almost a slip up.”
Peter gets to leave home for the first weekend ever and it's super super exciting
No one to tell us no, or where to go
Nils' knock at the door had been timed and expected by the family within. Everything was already set and positioned just inside, springing into motion as soon as the light tap on the wooden frame was heard.
Maribeth Elliott's blonde head peered through the glass panel of the door, raising and lowering her eyelids until she confirmed who was waiting on the steps. Her red-tinted lips pressed into a thin but welcoming smile as she opened up the house to Nils. Even to an outsider, it was crystal clear where Peter's own affected social mannerisms came from. "Nils! Peter's all ready to go. I can't tell you how excited he's been. Oh, no need to step in, he's just over here. One second!" She paused not for a moment in her greeting, giving a polite nod of her head to underline that she intended a swift return. Her glossy high heels clacked away on the hardwood floor as she made her way to the arching open entrance to the dining room and ducked her head in, lightly clearing her throat for Peter's attention, though she already had it by then. Her teenaged son had already jumped out of his chair and skipped up to the front of the room, stopping only to listen to a speech he already knew and expected. "Your bags are already in the den, sweetie. Can you carry them to the car by yourself, or should I--"
Peter eagerly jumped on the pause, careful not to seem like he was cutting off. "I got it, it's okay! Thank you, love you, I'll call tonight at 10, okaythanksbye!!" His well-elocuted but frantic voice speedran through his socially mandatory script as he hurriedly across the room, giving his mother a one-armed hug goodbye, and came out of the next room five seconds later with a large black suitcase in each hand. A sing-song toned "You boys have a good time!" Rang out from just inside before the door closed.
As soon as the blue-painted glass-paneled front door closed with a click, Peter's routinely perfect posture immediately relaxed, the lowering of his neck and shoulders making him seem an inch shorter but a mile more comfortable. He even ran a hand over his meticulously styled golden-brown curls to tousle them into something less picturesque. He smiled-- there was something undeniably rehearsed about all his smiles. Never too wide or too small or too toothy or too forced, always the same crease under the eyelids to highlight a genuine air.
"Oh my god," he breathed, seeming so much different now that he was speaking without already knowing what to say. "Wow, thank you so much for getting all this to work out! I mean… yeah, just thank you. I'm all set. I have everything, and like-- probably some stuff I don't really need, but that's okay. I had a whole packing list made for me." His trademark awkward laugh broke his smile into a truthful grin. He tilted his head up to meet Nils' eyes more closely. "So, you're ready, right?" He realized before he even finished the sentence that it was a dumb thing to ask, and his voice cracked and tripped over the last two syllables as he hastily redirected the question to the less painfully obvious "I mean… where should I sit? I can keep my bags with me or put them in the trunk, I don't mind either way, it's just, like, wherever there's more space, right? Right." Free conversation seemed to thrill and confuse Peter far more than it should any high school sophomore. Still, he approached it with tenacious curiosity rather than fear. Well, maybe a little fear… not fear so much as nerves, but that was how new things always were. And this was probably the newest venture he'd yet to attempt. Outside of school and school-organized events, Peter hardly ever found himself with family-free time on his hands. His parents weren't cruel or even particularly harsh, just… nitpicking and overbearing. Clicking their tongues and folding their arms in displeasure every time he poked a toe over the lines they'd drawn. And Peter, curious but not openly rebellious, never thought to brazenly defy expectations.
For the next day ahead, the world was his oyster. Peter had never understood that particular idiom, but nevertheless he used it. The point being that he had free reign to try and experience whatever came his way, with his wise and admirable (and unfairly beautiful) tour guide at his side. One of the things Peter liked about Nils is how he wasn't at all overbearing. It wasn't like he was going from one hand-over-hand lead to the next, always following dutifully along in someone's footsteps. Nils' company didn't just change his lens, it widened the periphery and gave him a bigger span of experience.
Parish Point dock was exactly what its name is- a dock, but it was no ordinary dock. Acquainted with both the upside and downside of the town, the port was a gateway between the towns. It was usually popular with a scene on summer days. When the sky was cloudless and the sun was a facet of sweating heat, it would be a parentage of fast living where boats rowed the water with perceptible sails and European flushes on starboards. In autumn, however, the sand folded over in a cream crepe texture emptily, adorning the sides of the water bank. A thick bricket of woodwork made a pathway to the boats. And even then, there was much space that made the air in the vicinity far cleaner and saltier. While being a dock, it looked more like another rag of the beach. A few yards before the water, a thinish man turned around. Besides him, a spot was taken up by one large and v-shaped boat, which was structured much like a canoe rather than a regular steam and electric boat. With one single level of story, polished wooden edges, it hardly looked like it belonged in the mass of blue.
But, it did.
“Woah! You guys already know each other?” Meera surprisingly inquired with a float of words that was child-like.
In fact, the owner had a significant amount of admiration towards it, so much so that it caught Meera Desai’s enthusiasm. Wriggling on her feet, she casually said, “I think your boat is beautiful, Mr. Toothrot!”
“Don’t you guys agree?” She remarked, elbowing her two new friends. Listening daringly with a deepended interest, she stared at the boat, then at the old man. He had a delphic face with creases of wrinkles that dipped at the lids. His voice had been produced like he was always addressing the drag of the day. Parish Point port, even if a total of only four people were there, was feeling like a good Saturday. This was the perfect location for this boat.
“We would love to come with you, sir!?” Meera eagerly asked and declared, “I’d like to come if you will have me! Teach us the ways to the ocean!” She rested one her light sun-soaked elbows on the shoulder of the blond, “We will behave. And, try-”
The volleyball cradling her other arm slipped through. Luck sided with her as it confidentially only yielded downwards into the boat.
“Ah- sorry,” She appologized, persistently.
Sauntering over to the boat, she bent over to the boat pooled on shore. Tumbling into the boat, she gave a soft yelp when the water sloshed up at the sides. It had been her first time on a boat. When she stilled, the water smoothened out to ripples. Her painted face raised up to meet the three. The hues of glowering yellow advanced onto her pupils.
“Will you two take that as a sign?” she optimistically smiled at the two boys.
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TL;DR A ragtag group of kids become the crew of an impromptu sea voyage
Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.
The mop master took no offense whatsoever to the moniker Mr. Toothrot. He chuckled in amusement as Meera rambled in excitement, pledging herself and her nervous companions to the voyage before abruptly tumbling herself and her volleyball into the skiff. "Aight down there?" He bent back over the edge of the dock to inspect for damage. Seeing none, he nodded calmly and gave just the faintest hint of an all-knowing shrug. Evidently, Meera was just as dyspraxic and spatially challenged as Stu and Oliver. Were all the young rabble in Parish Point this gawkish and clumsy? One had to imagine it was so, since there were hardly any counterexamples to be found at Parish Bay High.
The three of them really did make a perfect team of sailors, though. If they could hardly stay upright on land, they'd move with the waves just fine. That was definitely how that worked.
"I haven't got life jackets fir ye, so we'll be doing it like the old days and just promising not to lean in over the edge. Get it? Got it. Good." The time-worn sea traveler gave a hand gesture that was half a thumbs up and half a finger-gun. An incredibly odd thing to see a man who was simultaneously 50 and 170 do. "A shame it would be to have to fish you like cod out of the water." another quiet and bewildering laugh. He seemed confident, though, that there would be no untimely deaths out on the salty harbor. Two of the three looked less assured.
The timid boys, though, didn't take too much coaxing to climb into the boat. Once Meera situated herself all ready to set sail, Oliver followed, still chalk white and stammering, knees quivering as he curled up on the long, thin bench. Stu stepped aboard soon after, and once the crew was assembled, the mythic janitor took to the bow and readied the expedition. He took to this with all the calm nonchalance of a suburban dad on a golf cart. Just a normal Saturday for him, the journey of a lifetime for the oddball pack of teens.
"A right good day it is, too." Herman loosed the rope binding the skiff to the dock, and the small wooden boat creaked and tilted free, bobbing left and right on the slow waves. "Look how still it is, aye? Been choppy since the storm." In but a moment, their little ship had slowly drifted away from the docks out towards were the sun sat high over the rocky edges of the beach, stretching out into the vast and open ocean. The kind of breathtaking visual moment that called for a dramatic crescendo in the background orchestral. Cinematic. "A bit farther out's where I did spot a pod of pilot whales early in the month. They'd best not come that far up to the shore, I have thought--"
Somewhere beneath the wavering surface of the water, a bitter and vengeful hermit crab scuttled over the sandy ocean floor, eclipsed by the shadow of the boat. Its feelers twitched as though somehow through the briny waves it could smell the blood of a mortal foe.
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2 flattened kitkats remain in his pocket
Little hi little low little hey little ho
“We would love to come with you sir!”
There must be a word in the English language that expressed the breakneck levels of disagreement that was coursing through his veins as Meera proposed a boat trip with the fish-monster-janitor.
Maybe it was a diversion. A clever one at that! Obviously Meera was luring Toothrot into a false sense of acquaintance while they prepped their legs to make the dash for their lives. Meera was a clever girl with an IQ in the triple digits, and that’s probably why she was Oliver’s friend.
While Meera talked, and Oliver stood dumbly, Stu pondered their escape route. The inside-out shirt had given him a modicum of defence against the master of the dark arts. It had bought them time to escape Toothrot’s clutches of evil and make for the safety of those higher rocks, and— Oh, Meera was getting in the boat.
His face paled to a shade close to white. His jaw dropped widely and his open mouth diverted the flightpath of a beach-fly.
A desperate hand clutched the back of Oliver’s shirt, pulling warily. No way in hell they were getting on that boat! No way!
Oh... they were getting on the boat.
Stu wasn’t sure why he was climbing over the gunwale of that sad little dinghy. It might have been a fault in the wiring upstairs that made him seek certain death. More likely, he did not want a girl to think he was afraid of the sea! And since she had already gotten on the boat so carefreely (that she tripped), to make a scene now would bring a whole lot of humiliating attention to himself.
Plus, he couldn’t let any danger come to Meera. She didn’t know how dangerous Toothrot was. Was she not there when Ivy gave her all-important PowerPoint presentation?
It was safer that they all went, and as the three were on the boat, he was thinking that he had lived a pretty decent life. He had enjoyed many KitKats and fed many ants in his locker. If he died today it wouldn’t have been all for nothing.
He was full of reluctance as Toothrot began to loosen the rope and push the boat out toward the sea. He scrutinised the man without a bink, forever expectant of that shapeshifting moment. When he got bored of looking at Toothrot’s dishevelled face, he turned instead to look at the water. And the warmish breeze and the bright ripples of the sea put an unwitting smile on his face.
It wasn’t so bad on the water. Of course he wasn’t to know about the army of crabs lurking on the seafloor. There wasn’t enough space on the little dinghy for an Oliver freak-out.
Now and again he was turning to look at Meera, too, briefly glimpsing the features of her face though he quickly shied away and pinned on the waves.
They were far enough now from the shore that the water was deep enough to take on bluer hues. He looked at it all with wonder, a boy who had never been exposed to such seafaring adventures. The thrill was in his eyes as leant over the edge and touched the water, wondering if they would see his friend Willy all the way out here.
TL;DR Oh my god oh my god the ocean is so cool you guys.
See the line where the sky meets the sea?
Stu and Oliver were silent, but Meera was chatting away at hummingbird speed, as though this were the best day of her entire life. Oliver, spared from passing out only by the broken-record turtle monologue looping around his mind, was shaking like a leaf; breathing in shallowly through his nose and out through his gritted teeth. And yet, his deep brown eyes no longer held the wild terror of a spooked horse. He watched the sun glisten on the slight sway of the water, thoroughly entranced by the grey-blue Atlantic. A small school of tiny silver fish swam under the surface, scattering as they dove under the boat. Oliver softened, hands ungripping from his sides and tapping lightly at his cheekbones.
It was no surprise at all that Oliver was fascinated by the ocean: a vast and unknown world, two miles deep on the average point, almost 5,500 miles across the Atlantic. Most of that depth and distance was unexplored; untouched by humanity. If anyone made it down to the bottom of the ocean, they’d be totally alone. Swallowed by the total darkness and the immeasurable pressure of the water, floating forever in the cold silence with creatures humans may never meet. One could never return from the bottom of the ocean: the decompression would cause the nitrogen in the blood to suffocate the person from the inside out. But more interesting than that was that the sea was home to the love of Oliver’s life, the majestic marine turtles. All seven species, beautiful and solitary and devastatingly rare.
The ocean was also chock full of arthropods.
It really was wonderful and horrifying in equal measure, then.
Oliver’s weird thought tunnel about being sucked down to the bottome of the ocean was cut short when Meera’s volleyball bounced away over the edge of the dock, followed by its owner when Meera tottered over and fell into the boat with a splunk as the water splashed up the sides. Oliver flinched, the rapid resurfacing of his consciousness stunning him into a confused trance. Every time a thought started, another interrupted it and sent it flying out his left ear, over and over and over…
Stu had the back of his shirt, trying to tug him back away from the water and the janitor and the boat, but Oliver didn’t feel it. His gaze had gone vacant, eyes drifting back and forth without focusing for a moment, then--
Meera wanted them to join her in Toothrot’s boat, didn’t she?
Oh no no.
That was a terrible idea, but Oliver wasn’t able to fight off whatever delirious state forced him to agree. He didn’t even realize he had climbed over the edge of the dock until his feet stumbled to the floor of the boat. His muscles had just decided to do that for him, without prior consent from his brain. But once he’d tipped onto the wooden bench, there was no going back up. Clutching his knees until his bitten knuckles turned white and rocking himself lightly back and forth, Oliver felt Stu plunk down to his right and reality flooded back in.
They really were going out to sea. The three of them and Herman the diabolical fish man janitor. The little skiff was loosed from its mooring, and tipping about on the water, they drifted away from the dock, off from the shallows out into the deeper harbor where the sandy ocean floor was swallowed up by the water’s own shadow. Stu leaned out over the side and skidded his hand over the surface, Meera seemed to be soaking in the thrill, and Oliver couldn’t help but pull himself out of his huddled crouch, sitting up with one of his knees on the bench to get a better look out at the deep blue line that traced the curve of the planet. Something so geometrically perfect about it all… this impossibly wide open ocean was the world that sea turtles navigated with compass-like accuracy, following the currents and magnetic pull of the earth itself.
There was so much unbridled perfection out here on the ocean that Oliver had entirely forgotten that he was actually trapped on a small ship with a suspected evil fish person. Hey, how evil could an ocean monster even be? They came from a world so thrilling and undefined that the laws of morality didn’t apply out here.
This must be how pirates felt. Good and evil just blew aside in the wind off the sides of the ship. No need for trust, or paranoia, just living in the moment and doing whatever strikes interest. Oliver had brought himself up as a little criminal, maybe, but who gave a damn.
He caught himself giddily hugging his arms in, rocking back and stifling an overexcited laugh.
He knew how to laugh after all.
I've been thinking about you. Wondering if I'm caught up in your head at night.
Ashley strode onto the field with a giant grin on her face. It had been a couple weeks since she'd started, and already she was having the time of her life. Sure everybody here could be nicer, but then again so could she. They weren't referred to as ''Cheer Bitches'' for being especially nice people were they? But the benefits definitely outweighed the nastiness of some of the cheerleaders. Besides cheerleading was perfect for her. It had been forever since Ashley had done dance, and it still felt like she'd only quit yesterday. Plus there was the added bonus of the outfits they got to wear. If she could capture attention for just one moment, without any strings attached, then she would gladly wear anything.
Cheer was the perfect way to obtain temporal attention. Plus she'd already been working towards a spot as Kat's favorite member. She'd heard so much one time, and it took all her strength not to squeal and throw her phone across the room. She was the favorite. And unlike her relationship with Dustin, she knew exactly how to keep herself in the good graces of Kat. Do whatever she says, and don't say anything embarrassing. Kat was symbiotic like that.
Joining the other cheerleaders for the usual morning stretch, she was pleasantly surprised at the sight of Dustin sitting on the bleachers. "Hey Dusty!'' She dashed over to jump him. To what she was sure was his surprise, she climbed up on the bleacher herself to glomp him into a hug though she had to sort of position herself to sit on his lap so she could do it.
It had been around two weeks since she'd last hugged him. That day he gave her the stupid pin she still kept on her backpack. She prayed that he didn't notice how obvious it was that she missed doing it. How she was hugging him for just a few seconds to long than a purely platonic friend would. Coughing awkwardly, she scampered off of the bleachers though she still kept conversing with her friend.
Her eyes widened, as from behind her she felt an arm slither around her. She began seething when she realized who it was. "Claire!" She exclaimed, with an ever so slight scowl on her face as she proceeded to flirt with her-well not her man. Just Dustin, who sadly would never be hers. ''A. He's not my boyfriend and B. If he were my boyfriend then he wouldn't be able to even think of you.'' She snarked at Claire, though she knew she it wasn't fair of her.
As she prepared to do her stretching, she was interrupted by another cheerleader. Much to her surprise, she was dragged around by her waist by the much more enjoyable Ivy. ''It's hard to say.'' She attempted to keep her voice steady as if she weren't cackling like a hyena on the inside. ''Let me try.'' With the clear height difference between the two girls, it was easy to do her impersonation. She tilted her head upwards, turning on a bitch face that greatly differed from her usual perky demeanour. ''As captain of the illustrious Parish Bay Pirates I have only this to say, Tardiness. Will. Not. Be. Tolerated. Unless of course you want to try to get into the pants of a citrus.'' she repeated, imitating the harsh voice of their captain through her ridiculous statement. ''How fun could my friday be without you to liven things up?'' she joked, in response to her query.
TL;DR the gang goes to Dojo and eats dumplings bro
I'm Georgia Peachy, believe me.
Sawyer knew the waitress that greeted them when they entered Dojo and she knew that that waitress knew that Apollo definitely was not a service animal. She watched the girl eye Sawyer over Harper’s shoulder, one blocky eyebrow raised in a questioning arch. Sawyer didn’t know how Harper didn’t recognize Mckenna Atwood, Harper had been to literally almost all of Sawyer’s basketball games and Mckenna was literally her starting shooting guard. The dark haired girl must have seen the desperation in Sawyer’s eyes because she seemed to accept Harper’s explanation without a word. Sawyer’s shoulders sagged visibly and she watched Max sign his question to her as they followed after Mckenna to their table. She frowned at him and pointed outside, rubbing her arms up and down and shivering. It was, in fact, not cold and that was a complete lie and they both knew it. Sawyer sighed and shrugged her shoulders, deciding to try a different tactic.
“He has separation….” Her fingers paused, she didn’t know the sign for anxiety, shit. Sawyer pulled out her phone and just typed the word anxiety in the notes app and showed it to Max just as they arrived at their table. Satisfied, she gave him a beaming smile and slid into the booth next to Harper. She picked up the menu Mckenna had laid in front of her and kicked up her feet into the chair across from her so that her legs were laying across the gap under the table and sticking out the other side. Her eyes skimmed the menu momentarily and she hummed a little diddy under her breath but the pictures didn’t keep her attention for long. Brown eyes flicked up over the top of the shiny pages and caught a glimpse of Max who was most assuredly not looking at his menu. Sawyer smirked and slid down further in the booth, pulling the menu up over her face to cover her giggling. It wasn’t but a few moments later that Harper had decided she was ready and was asking them if they wanted to share and was saying something about vegetables and sweet potatoes. Sawyer almost gagged. She sat up in her seat as Max signed back to her totally confidently, because he had definitely been looking at the menu that whole time, and then shoved his hands right back into...that was Zach’s jacket. Oh, she was so making fun of him for that.
“No, ma’am.” Sawyer signed, and spoke aggressively, “I want meat. I’m ordering pork Xiao Long Bao so Max can’t eat it.” She chuckled, “ And, uh, probably Baked California.” She turned back to Max and grinned at him.
“So, are you and Zach boyfriends now? Sharing clothes is a big step.” Never. Letting. This. Go.
mood: angry and tired + location: at this moment running for her life + outfit: xxx + tags: Elf_Ruler
Isa woke up in a bad mood, maybe because she was up half the night with a very strong headache due to a nightmare. The nightmare, was on the more normal side that she had every so often, it began with her running. She hears someone screaming her name angrily and she knows that if she gets caught then she's gonna get her ass kicked. So she runs but she never runs fast enough and they always get her, hurting her until she admits that no one would love a fuck up like her, and that she was worthless. She wakes up with sweats or a scream. Noah, her closest friend and fellow drug dealer always seems to be there when she does. He gave her some tea, and told her that she should go back to sleep but he knew that she wouldn't. She never goes to sleep after a nightmare, and he knew that she was going to break down. Noah knew that she never wanted anyone to see her do so, so he left back to his room and listened as Isa finally cries.
Isa broke down in tears, and cried. After what seemed to be forever, she got up and dressed and left. Not even bothering to take her phone. She didn't want anyone to find her. She wanted to be left alone. So she left. She spent the early morning walking around town, watching the sunrise. She went to her favorite hiding place which was a hill by the edge of town. Isa sat down and just watched the sky as morning came and went. It had been several hours before she decided to get up again, and walk back into town. On the way to who knows where as she was just letting her feet lead her to whatever. Kids were playing with a soccer ball, and kicked it to far towards her. She looked at them and then back to the ball, she was about to kick it towards them when she spotted someone that she wanted to hit in the face with a ball. So she aimed for him, and kicked hard. Only that it wasn't heading towards him, it was heading straight for a cop car and crashed into the window loudly. Two cops who saw the entire thing, started to chase her. She curses under breath as she runs. Bumping into everything and everyone, she kept running. Once she hid in an alley, she looked for someone to borrow a phone off of, and quickly logged into twitter. She asked if there was an house she could hide in, and luckily Tums answered and her house was empty. She hands the phone back to the stranger then the cops spotted her again.
Isa runs off again, heading off towards Tatum house. Trying to lose the cops that were gaining speed. Today was a bad day for Isa.
when you wear a mask for so long, you forget who is behind it.
Harper looked over to Sawyer who had herself buried behind the menu. She just smirked and shook her head as Sawyer said she was getting herself anything that she did not have to share. “You’re.” Harper picked up her own menu, turning it over in her hand. “A jerk.” She looked up at Sawyer from the corner of her eye, the sarcasm dripped off her tongue as she placed her menu back down.
“Well, Max.” She turned her attention to him, speaking as she signed across the table. “I guess we can share if you want.” She nodded as he agreed once again to the idea. “You should pick something out that you like too.” Harper tapped her finger on the menu sitting in front of Max.
It took them a few minutes to gather everything they planned to order; small talk occupied the trio while they waited on their waiter to greet them. Soon an older man came over to the table, placing three waters down in front of Max, Sawyer, and Harper. The man introduced himself and asked who would like to order first, pen and paper in hand.
His eyes fixed to Max first who was still playing with the Menu. “Did you need more time.” Harper leaned forward in some sot of automatic dive in protection for Max.
“Yes, we’re going to have vegetarian dumplings, and a double order of sweet potato maki.” Harper gestured between Max and herself. “Also, are the spring rolls fried in a vegetarian oil? Or is there contamination.”
The waiter rolled his eyes, Harper hadn’t seen him here before. She was used to her regular waiter Sean. But— he must have only worked in the evenings. She rarely came to Dojo Sushi for lunch, and if she did, she got her food to go. “I’ll have to check.” He chewed on the side of his cheek.
“Oh- never mind then.” Harper picked up her menu and Max’s tapping it on the table anxiously before handing it back to the server. “We’ll just get the maki and dumplings.”
Sawyer took her turn ordering before he asked about drinks once again. “I am all set with water.” She caught Max’s eye as he signed ‘me too.’
As the sever who never bothered to name himself turned around walking towards his POS system and hopefully input their food correctly. Though Harper wasn’t too convinced he would get it write, or on time.
“Too bad Mckenna isn’t a server yet, she so much nicer.” Harper sighed, resting her chin on her hand as she turned to Sawyer who began making comments about Max wearing Zach’s jacket. Harper giggled, lightly slapping Sawyer on the shoulder with the back of her hand. “I said the same thing!”
Harper threw her head back, laughing a bit harder as she tried to recall what she had said to Max earlier. “I thought that he was more upset about the threesome because I was included.”
Harper nudged Sawyer with her shoulder. “He would of preferred if it had just been him and Zach.”
“But— it fits Max well? Doesn’t it?” Harper raised her eyebrows as she interlaced her hands together, stretching her arms forward. She brought her shoulders up to her ears as she laughed lightly. “I’m sorry Max. It’s just so hard not to.”
Sawyer forgot the word and dropped the sentence, but Max put the pieces together. Separation anxiety.
Don't all dogs kind of have separation anxiety? Max had never had a dog of his own, but it sure seemed like that sometimes.
Anyway, what a bullshit excuse for violating the rules. Max gave an indignant roll of his eyes but ultimately gave up trying to push the issue. What was he going to do, write a note and tattle to the manager? He wasn’t that kind of a jerk. Uptight, maybe, but not a snitch.
Besides, Sawyer was a force of her own. She did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. It would have been aspirational if her antics hadn't almost gotten them all killed last week.
Max wasn't over that. Maybe he’d never totally let it slide, but he felt it was better to pretend like that whole thing never happened. Right now everyone seemed mostly themselves, and that was more than he could ever ask for. They were all still here, still okay… things were alright. No need to drag up anything that would overturn the peace.
Harper reached out and tapped Max’s untouched menu.
“You should pick something out that you like too.”
Max nodded hesitantly, hands tensing as he went back to the pages.
He really didn’t have any preferences or want anything in particular.
Food didn’t interest him like it used to, but he wasn’t about to admit that openly… they might get the wrong idea. Wrong idea about what? He didn’t know. Just the wrong idea.
Anyway, it couldn’t be that hard to just pick something he could eat and continue the afternoon like normal, but he quickly found himself drowning in the list.
Just pick something. Anything.
Come on, it doesn’t matter. Just something. You’re being so fucking weird.
It felt like barely five seconds had passed before their waiter arrived.
Harper asked if he needed more time, Max quietly nodded yes and proceeded to ignore the whole exchange. By the time he looked back up, Harper looked a little put out. Rude waiter? He had to assume, but she said nothing and he didn’t ask, instead giving a wince and a shrug that turned into a very small “Sorry.” It was just an expression of sympathy, but something about his face made it almost look like a personal apology. As if somehow he had something to do with whatever just happened.
Sawyer was quick to lighten the mood, though. Well, lighten in that characteristic Sawyer fashion where she just completely short-circuited his whole brain. The tall blonde really had a talent for that. She didn’t even need to finish signing the word ‘boyfriend’ before Max’s eyes flashed with half fury and half panic and he swiped his hand to cut her off. "NOT MY BOYFRIEND!"
This was very clearly more than a playful ‘stop it’, though. He was serious.
Harper had quipped along, probably before she saw that he was taking this much harder than intended. She’d never poke at a sore spot… that just wasn’t who she was. It wasn't who Sawyer was either. She definitely didn't mean it like that.
"Stop. Enough. None of that!! NO!!" He thrust his hands to the side violently enough to almost tip him straight out of his chair. "Harper, not you too! You know!! You were there!! I didn't want to swap clothes with Zach!! I didn't even know that was what we were doing!!!" The joke seemed to have struck several nerves. No one had any reason to know the extent to which the threesome rumor affected him, but Max was genuinely shaken by the allegation that he was in an intimate relationship with Harper and Zach. Not just because his family actually believed it, but…
There were a couple of reasons, none of which he was entirely secure in. It just hurt. “Not funny. Knock it off. Both of you.”
Looking around, he saw he'd attracted some odd looks from the other patrons of the restaurant. He cringed back, suddenly flustered and helplessly grasping for a different approach. "I just-- Zach's jacket. I'm just keeping it around because I have to return it. He won't drop by, so I just have it if I run into him… also, it's cold. I mean not really, but-- never mind. I haven't had time to do my laundry, so this was the only clean thing…"
He trailed off with no intention of finishing the thought.
It really did look like he was trying to make excuses to cover something else.
...in a way, he kind of was. Max had more than enough time to wash his own jackets over the last week. All he had was school and work, and the rest of that time he'd just been lying on his bed staring at the ceiling and wishing he was tired enough to just sleep until his next necessary task.
He hadn't even forgotten. Max had a problem with forgetting things, but that wasn't the problem he'd been having lately.
He hadn't had the energy; the basic motivation to do the bare minimum.
And besides that, Zach's jacket was... more than that, right now. Another thing he didn’t think he could ever fully put into words.
“But— it fits Max well? Doesn’t it?”
Max’s heart just about stopped. He turned a deep shade of red, raised his hand only to grasp wordlessly and drop it limply back onto the table. He slid back in his seat and half hid his face in his hands. His light blue eyes turned glassy as if he were about to start tearing up, but eventually he just started laughing. He felt certain he'd just invented a whole new emotion and he wasn't sure if he liked it or wanted to drop dead on the restaurant floor.
He had no reason to be this flustered over something so harmless. “I... it doesn't fit that well-- I mean... whatever. It’s fine.”
He really needed to stop saying that. It was getting really old.
As Lemon stared at the line for the ice cream a small frown had formed on her face, she had wanted more. Not that she needed it, but she had study and earned herself a second scoop. But her heart felt low because the lone was so long and she didn’t want to wait, she knew her dad had wanted her home at a certain time to help with the whole moving process of Orlando. Not that she really wanted to help her cousin, but family duties were a priority. As she messaged on Twitter Hayden had offered to let her stand with him, and though it would upset others he was being nice, and she could buy his scoop or scoops? Would he want more than one? But she could buy their scoops. Her eyes looked to Kat, “I’m going to get another scoop. I’ll be back.” She gave a smile before she looked through the line for the brunette boy.
When her eyes landed on him, she smiled and walked up to him, giving him a small tap, “Hey, umm mind if I join you? Ice cream is on me?” she held up her lemon covered wallet. Hayden was nice to her and she really liked his attitude, plus he had wanted to hang out and she had a free moment for him. No studying, no physics, and ice cream. It was a great way to become better friends. Well she at least hoped he considered her a friend because she considered him one.
Sure, she hadn’t hung out with him much, but she really couldn’t not without raising suspicion of her father. Or without feeling obligated to tell her family that she was making friends with a boy. She hated the questions; she hated the concern in their eyes. It was something she didn’t want to see; she wanted her parents to trust her. She knew the rules. Her eyes kept on Hayden as she stood with him. He was so easy to talk with, and to also practice flirting and all those things that most teens did years prior. So Lemon was glad that Hayden, even though unknowingly made her feel like she wasn’t a social outcast when it came to flirting. Or even just talking with someone who was cute. He didn’t hold the intimidation that Kat seemed to have, well at least in the eyes of Lemon.
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TL;DR Adventures abound when two weird boys get put together with no adult supervision
Raedwulf Adair Nilsen
Your smiles makes me stupid sometimes
Nils was smitten by that grin on Peter’s face, if they had been in some old Tom & Jerry type cartoon then his eyes would big bright red hearts that thumping with excitement, his own smile was just as stupid and radiant when he was around him. “You talk a mile a minute Petey, you get one bag and I’ll get the other then we’ll toss them in the trunk okay? Then we can get this show on the road back to the house.” Nils reached down to scoop up the duffel bag, surprised by the heaviness of it, “Jesus, are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse Pete.” He grabbed the handle with both of his hands and heaved it across his back before jogging down the sidewalk, worried he would topple himself over from the unexpected weight that was balanced across his back. “The trunk please, before your bag breaks my back. You gotta pay me a tip or something, what did your mother make you pack dude?” He glanced over at him with his eyebrow crooked curiously, his grassy green eyes shimmered in the setting rays of the sun as he looked over at Peter before closing the trunk with a soft slam.
“Lets goooooo!!!” Nils folded his lanky body into the driver’s seat and started the engine with a purring roar, despite her age Darla’s engine was still young as he whipped the vehicle back out of the driveway and onto the suburb roads so they could get out of the cookie cutter houses and back to the woods Nils loved so dearly. “How was school? How’s your boyfriend Graham?” His voice was taunting and poking at Peter, the grin on his face was mischievous with a glimmer of fun in his eyes that nearly glowed as the sun began to bed down for the night. The golden bull’s ring he had frantically yanked out of his nostrils made it’s return back to it’s home, his lips went to play with it to get it adjusted right on his face.
Peter gets to leave home for the first weekend ever and it's super super exciting
I'm being pulled in a new direction
Peter froze up with a pained "ooh..." As Nils buckled under the weight of his duffel bag. Really, he should've expected that. The bag probably weighed as much as the boy himself did. "Sorry about that." He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
“Jesus, are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse Pete.”
Nils' comment got a nervous giggle out of Peter as the smaller of the two hurried over to pop open the trunk. "Right? I mean... I'm only gonna be gone two days. I probably didn't need my computer, my homework, and like... basically all of my clothes." He smiled the same pressed smile his mother had as the second bag went in and the trunk slammed shut. "Mothers, right? I don't know if she thinks I'm doing a photoshoot or if she thinks I'm going to pee my pants every single day of this trip." His laugh faded into a sigh and he propped an elbow on the door. "They really love me."
Once inside the car, though, he seemed to perk right back up. This really was probably the most exciting thing he'd ever done-- here he was on the precipice of being marginally independent for a whole 48-ish hours. This was monumental.
Well, monumental to a sheltered suburban teen. He had a very low bar for thrills.
Peter had mentally steeled himself for the onslaught of flirtatiously-angled ribbing Nils bestowed on him every chance he got, but absolutely no man nor god could have prepared him for the latest accosting.
“How was school? How’s your boyfriend Graham?”
In the silence that followed, one could have heard a pin drop or a blood vessel burst.
A long and painfully awkward moment went by as Peter stared thoughtlessly into the invisible abyss.
"My friend Graham is doing great!" The emphasis on the word 'friend' was as painstaking and precise as if he were trying to teach a foreign language. He grinned, but it did nothing to conceal the fact that he was shaking like a chihuahua, leg bouncing at the speed of sound. "School is pretty okay! I mean it's great! The moss project got an 89, which i mean, like, that's a pretty good grade! We did good. Real good. Super good." His hand cycled through just about every gesture of approval in his cultural zeitgeist.
Nils was something akin to a defibrillator. The shocks he delivered were viscerally agonizing, and yet gave an undeniable burst of life. A weird analogy that Peter thought of but was way too apprehensive to put out into the world.
He instead scrambled his social chessboard and tried to change the subject.
"What's up with you? I mean, the Apple Festival is coming up-- like, do you usually go to that? I mean... uh... who doesn't like apples? Apples are pretty great." He didn't know what language he was speaking anymore. "I like the kettle corn." He almost said kill me now. Kettle corn was the closest appropriate approximation of those syllables that his brain would sputter out.