The truck that pulled up in front of Max's house sent a bloody chill down his spine.
It looked like it had been mauled by a moose. He had no other way to describe it. Just… had someone attacked it with a bat? Could a bat even inflict this much damage?
Lemon stepping out of the dented chunk of metal, cheerful as ever, somehow made the situation feel so surreal that Max instinctively pinched his arm as if to break himself out of a dream.
So this is what she meant when she said she'd have to explain the truck?
Max, not wanting to be rude, gave her the same friendly wave he always did, though his face betrayed his nerves.
"Your dad's?" Max knew Lemon knew those 2 words, at least, but he feared the answer. What kind of driver was her dad? This looked like a getaway car that had fled one too many bank heists.
Part of Max worried that her dad was a drunk driver or something. He couldn't just ask that outright, though, so he swallowed the anxiety and smiled, which didn't make him look any less nervous.
Lemon seemed the opposite of nervous, though. She was just as happy and excited to be finally seeing these movies as she'd seemed online. Max told himself to take this as a good sign, in spite of the lingering fear, and watched her as she tried her best to ask him what they were watching first.
That got a more genuine smile out of him.
He couldn't express how much he appreciated that she was learning. For all their little arguments, Lemon was a good friend. A better friend, perhaps, than Max could ever hope to be.
"Film?" Max slowly, clearly went through the simple word. "Oh. Definitely Nightmare on Elm Street." Spelling out the title took long enough, in trying to make sure that she saw every letter clearly, that he hoped he hadn't lost her by the end of it. He shrugged sheepishly and his hand stalled, trying to phrase and structure his next sentence as simply as possible. He had the notepad to fall back on, but really wanted Lemon to have the practice. "People… talk about it a lot." He didn't know if she'd catch the pronoun or not. He supposed it didn't matter, though.
"Uh-- anyway, come on in." He opened the door for her, walking side-by-side with her into the clean and spacious living room. Family pictures lined the mantelpiece of the fireplace, the coffee table was adorned with an oddly elegant wooden duck sculpture, and other than that it looked very quiet and unassuming. Not ostentatious, but clearly affluent. Despite this, Max seemed to show a twinge of embarrassment. Having new people in the house always felt like being judged, somehow, He'd always felt that way, even if Lemon was probably the least judgmental person he knew. Another irrational anxiety, but constant nonetheless.
His next sentence had him fumbling through his notepad, scratching out large, slightly lopsided letters: "you can leave your shoes on if you want. My room is upstairs." He passed it over, again with a somewhat apologetic look.
Despite the nerves, though, he really was happy she was here. Since they got put into different high schools, they didn't get to hang out as much as before. And more than anything, he missed having her around often. Besides, what could be more fun than watching all these movies with her? She had a lot of cinematic catching-up to do, and Max was beyond excited to be her viewing partner.
Lemon could see the shock written all over Max’s face as he looked at the beaten down truck. She didn’t quite know how to explain that she was the cause for the dents. It wasn’t as if she didn’t try to be careful when she was driving but as luck would have it she was just kind of oblivious to some aspects. Originally her dad had fixed all the dents on the truck, but eventually the man had given up hope on his truck never being dented. With the way his daughter drove, it would never be in the same condition again. So, he opted for letting his reckless daughter drive the old truck instead of the newer car. Lemon had shrugged at Max’s question, “Yes, my dad’s truck.” She followed behind him into the house and it was beautiful.
Lemon had lived by the rule of taking her shoes off when she entered a house that she did the same at Max’s place. What if she had something on her shoe she didn’t know about? She didn’t want to track anything into the cleanest house she had been in. Her house wasn’t dirty, but this was a different level to her.
She could see all of the family pictures, but they all looked more staged than her family photos. It was different. She tugged at Max,“Are all your photos professional?”she didn’t care she had never seen so many of them at once. Her dad had always told her it was too expensive to do stuff like that all the time. But at least Max and his family looked happy. It was more than she could say for some of her other friends.
The house was so different to hers as she followed up the stairs to his room, and his room wasn’t anything like the living room downstairs. He had plants everywhere. She stopped and took in all of the plants“Wow,” was all she could sign as she stared at each and every plant. She didn’t know almost any names of the plants besides what she thought was a cactus and maybe a succulent. But, for now she wanted to look closer at the plants. She could see the love Max had built into his plant empire and she couldn’t help but smile, “So beautiful.”
Lemon looked at his bed, “Are we watching the movies there?”It was new for her to be in a boy’s room and even though this was Max, it didn’t mean she wasn’t a little nervous. Her hands began to fidget with the sleeves of Hayden’s hoodie that she had chosen to wear. It wasn’t that she was even remotely uncomfortable with Max, she was just nervous about new things. She hadn’t fully processed the idea that she was going to be in Max’s room and on his bed and his parents didn’t seem to mind that which for her was a little bizarre, but then again, he probably didn’t have the same problems as her.
She tried to keep the smile on her face as she made her way over to his bed and dumped all of the random contents from her bag, “Fun stuff.”She smiled at him. The movies would be fun and then apple fest. All she had to do was enjoy the present and not worry about anything else. It was a time for her to have fun with her friend and nothing else.
Tatum had enjoyed spending time with her boyfriend and even though he had burnt the grilled cheese she didn’t care. Hell, she had even enjoyed watching the banter between the two siblings and Tatum really did enjoy Rose. Sure, she never spent quality time with the younger girl, but she enjoyed her. She had enjoyed watching movies with her and Zach and laughing at all the stupid scenes that Zach would comment on. It was a small bond, but it was there, and she appreciated her, even when she came into the kitchen and interrupted a moment for her and Zach. But it didn’t matter. She got to spend time with a family that at least seemed to act like a family and even for small moments they let her be a part of their family. Something she craved but never really said to either of them out loud. Eventually, when Zach had made good sandwiches they ate, the two siblings still bantered, and Tatum couldn’t help but giggle at them. And the rest of that day had gone mostly uneventful besides what her and Zach did in his room. Having a day for her and Zach made her feel as if maybe they could work things out. That they would be okay, and she was being paranoid for nothing. It had been one of their best weekends in a long time and they didn’t even have to leave Parish this time.
As the rest of the week rolled along Tatum had thought her and Zach were back on their rhythm and she felt at least happy. Granted, she had been dealing with Isa and Maxine and their fallout. She had come home to her room being a disaster and forcing her friend to clean up the mess. Tatum didn’t care about the objects that were broken, but she cared that Isa made her room look like a tornado blew through and left nothing but the chaos behind. So, for most of the week Tatum was dealing with Isa feeling broken and still trying to maintain her classes. She hadn’t skipped this week, which was a shock to everyone including her teachers.
It was also during the week that she found out her dad would be home sometime during October, which meant she’d get to see him soon. However, right now all she could do was get ready for the apple festival. Isa had disappeared once again, which left Tatum to figure out the solutions without stressing the rest of the group. Her head hurt from all the chaos, but Max had plans with his friend Lemon, and he would get way too worked up and well everyone else was busy with their own lives. That left Tatum herself to put out the fires of chaos.
It didn’t hurt to arrive to the festival a little early, she was supposed to meet Zach, but that boy couldn’t keep track of time if his life depended on it. He moved on Zach time, so she left and made her way to the festival. It was still pretty calm as not everyone had arrived yet, but there in the small crowd she saw the brunette she was looking, “Well, if it isn’t Maxine.” She smiled dropping her arm over the brunette’s shoulders, “Now who said you could come here looking like that. Takes away the fun of my imagination.” She teased a bit. She liked Maxine and for the most part she got along with the younger girl. She was rebellious and liked to have fun something Tatum could respect.
"Professional?" Max paused on the word, again to make sure Lemon took it in. "Yeah, I guess they are." He'd never really thought about that before, in no small part due to the fact that he rarely looked at these. If it wasn't for relatives doing the old "look how short you were back when--" spiel every time they came to visit, he'd probably forget the pictures existed.
He had noticed, over the years, that just about everyone had a different philosophy regarding family pictures. For example: in Sawyer's house, there was a proudly displayed ultrasound image of Sawyer's abdomen after she swallowed a Lego piece. With his family, as it is for a lot of people, family pictures were primarily a way to semi-annually remind distant friends and relatives that none of them had died. Max's father liked to keep them around for sentimentality, his mother actively petitioned for a couple of them to be burned, and Max himself couldn't care less.
Photographs weren't his first choice of decoration, anyhow. After a few moments, Lemon looked back at the stairs and Max visibly sighed in relief and led her up to the second floor.
His room, when it wasn't a desolate wreck, had a quiet and oddly peaceful energy to it. The soft green curtains that draped over the window were translucent, to give more light to the plants, and cast a faint leafy hue through the space. The bookshelves, desk. and dresser all seemed to be carved of the same smooth dark wood as if they'd come from a matching set. An old faded carpet lay across the hardwood floor. His bed, which was tucked into the corner and drowned in an eclectic arrangement of pillows, quickly became host to the contents of Lemon's bag. She'd been kind enough to bring snacks (and supplies... supplies for what? Max didn't ask.)
Lemon seemed to take in the odd little room with fascination, her hand forming a tentative "wow" that read all the more clearly across her face. Watching her eyes move from one potted plant to the next, Max beamed with a look of pride he hadn't shown in far too long. "The plants? Thank you!! I really love these." For once, Max didn't try to deflect or shy away from the compliment. These really were his pride and joy; probably the only thing that he never accidentally neglected. Homework, responsibilities, and his own mortal form be damned-- the plants would get the highest level of care a frantic 16-year-old could deliver.
The immediate need to give Lemon the details of each and every one of them seemed to tear him at the seams, but it had occurred to him that it would be a whole bunch of words she didn't know yet, and at Lemon-Speed it would probably take an hour. He absolutely would, though, if it weren't that they had to get through a whole list of movies, and with that in mind, he didn't want to eat into the time with his plant thesis.
"Yes. Here." He quickly pulled a pair of bean bag chairs from under the bed (another thing he'd forgotten he owned after finally cleaning up his room.) "I hope it's okay." He had a page of his notepad torn out and set aside, listing each of Lemon's movies and where he'd found them available to stream. Luckily, there weren't any that he had to pirate, though it wasn't as if he wouldn't have done it for the sake of Lemon's first time seeing these. "Anything else you want to do first, or...?"
“I’ll be there.” She laughed in a caprice just like the weather changing. Her beauty was magnificently grotesque, and in a galeful turn, her faint dimples were fleshy and desperate. Her aqualine eyes, under the formation of her sun hat, were not serene but a part of neither water or nature.
They were words of no latitude or longitude of meaning. There was only the hung memory of his mother tucking his smooth hands under comforters. In the rapidly growing black of the sky, she had swept herself away by the most torturous form of delusion: love.
She had abandoned her only hopeless son, Lee, under the trinkling crescents of a moon above his bed. “Dream your dreams,” she had once told him, “Some might come true.”
He contradicted this idea however, for till this day he dreamt that someday she’d come back. Someday she’d knock full-pledge on the door, weepingly throw herself around him, ask for forgiveness, and cherish him. Every night, he gave one longing look to the door knob, waiting for it to twist, waiting for a knock that would be familiar to the ears even before knowing who was behind it.
But that day never came. From ten, he went to fourteen. From sixteen, he climbed to eighteen.
“Don’t you miss me?” Her voice was anomalous, and she was approaching him quickly. He wanted to repeat the question, flurry the question on his tongue which had amounted itself out of the passion from tracing any index of a vowel or consonant. The volitation of his mother had no weight; she was coming towards him, but with violent energy. She had grown winesap red nails, a hue that could be the reason why the most brillant apples had been reduced to spines; her hands molded like rumpled branches of a wilting apple tree. She was not a pink lady, or rather honey crisp or gala; she was rotten.
And, she was back.
Every damn time when he was happy.
A bead of sweat subsided down his face, and in a nanosecond he was bent over his bed, his body disobediently shaking.
Only so, a couple hours could Zachary Lee sleep every day of this week. Because every moment Zachary Lee felt joy, she’d present herself in the most torturous way of vieling expressions. In a feat of difficulty, he fumbled with the metal handles of the sink. Splashing cold water on his face, it lathered over his exhaustion and shot up his senses. Glancing up towards his mirror, he sharply inhaled.
Then, he fell in love with his own reflection.
What the hell. It had to be a crime to look that good even after a nightmare.
Pensive that Tatum and him were to meet up, the slung his way to the shower.
His tires chawed as he pulled in at the festival. The key turned.
The town could be blessed by Zachary Lee’s exclusive aurora and his majestic face and his personable-
Zachary Lee stepped out into the open field with a god complex; his styled hair was medallion and his eyes were wanderlust turquoise. His Corinthian shoulders were drawn back and his lean goliath stomach was covered with a white hoodie. Autumn was no longer scarcely here; it was evermore in the affairs of the atmosphere. It came in blazes of reds and mottled oranges, and he joined into the event, set apart only because he was all the rage when it came to crowds.
His feet moved along looking for his girlfriend originally, but to his humor, a familiar girl dotted in the sides of his eyes. She was in line at the caramel apple booth, capably composed and standing there worthily affixed to the line moving up.
“Hey, heartbreaker,” he said with some brio of wit, his face wearing a grin as he noticed that there was no other company in her spatial distance, “Say...are you, by any chance, lonely?”
Brashly, he walked over to her side, his mouth facilely moving, “It has to be that. I mean...where are your friends that you had dumplings with?” A glint of mockery whirred and polished over his tongue, and a poor containment of his self indulgence had him sighing,“You really should’ve invited me. Lucky for you, and free of charge, I am the best person to have around. I did save you from that house, didn’t I?”
He was smirking graphically wide, as his fingers tucked into his pockets.
His judgement softened as he watched the glow of the sun saturate over her features, “So, what if I didn’t make it to our project session?” He optimistically added, “You’ll forgive me, right?”
I'll sit and wonder of every love that could've been
if I'd only thought of something charming to say
It was that time of year again. Time for the people of Parish Point to enjoy their beloved Apple Festival, signaling fall was officially underway. Dustin attended this festival every single year for as long as he could remember, but this year was very different. Instead of strolling through the endless game booths and candy apple stands with his family, he had Ashley by his side. Not only that, but the festival was also the venue for a date later that day -- yes, a date. Dustin Thackery had a date with a real, live girl.
And not just any girl. Winona Matthews, a ridiculously beautiful and nice girl, a girl that could get any guy she wanted, yet she inexplicably chose to spend time with Dustin, to his own shock and amazement. They'd hung out nearly every day that week since he ran into her at Spooning, and Dustin kept waiting for Nona to get sick of him, to be met with some excuse why she couldn't keep seeing him. But she never did; in fact, she seemed to enjoy his company as much as he did hers, and oddly didn't seem to mind his incessant dorkiness and apparent lack of game or dating experience.
Things were going great, and Dustin should have been enjoying himself, but was instead a giant ball of nerves on this would-be day of carefree festival fun. Ashley, of course noticing her friend was unusually quiet and edgy, tried to pry it out of him. But Dustin deflected each time, hesitant to admit he'd already hit a bit of a snag in his relationship with Nona, and had no clue how to proceed.
Dustin knew if the tables were turned and Ashley started going off on the perils of dating and possibly kissing someone she was interested in, that he might not be able to keep his feelings under wraps, and would probably end up storming off in an angry huff or something. But Ashley didn't reciprocate those feelings; she'd spelled that out for him plenty of times in her actions, not to mention that time she literally spelled it out for him in written words. And truly, she'd been nothing but supportive of his budding relationship with Winona. So where was the harm in sharing his worries with his best friend?
"I just...things are going really well with Nona. She's awesome..." Dustin could feel his face heat slightly as he gushed about his new love interest. "And there was a moment the other day where I felt like we could maybe kiss or something? I mean...I could be wrong but it seemed like she might not have decked me if I tried?" He let out a dry, nervous chuckle at his own stupid joke. "But I kinda chickened out," Dustin lowered his voice with the confession, shamefully looking down at his sneakered feet shuffling along beside Ashley's.
"Now I'm kinda nervous to see her again. What if the same kinda thing happens? I really wanna kiss her but I have no idea..like...what to do." The boy was still frowning at his black Converse, scratching at his shaggy mop of dark blonde curls thoughtfully until he finally lifted his gaze to meet Ashley's, pleading for...guidance? Advice? A female perspective? Probably all of those things, yet woefully failing to appreciate what a tall order that was asking from his little freshman buddy.
But Ashley always seemed so confident and sure of herself, and seemed to know a lot about dating...wait, had Ashley dated someone before? Kissed someone before? Dustin's brow furrowed at the thought of not knowing this about his best friend. Granted, he never would have asked such a thing, for fear of hearing about some other lucky bastard kissing his dreamgirl, and this knowledge would have assuredly sent him down the usual Ashley anger/depression spiral. Even now it was a possibility, but if it helped him kiss Nona, Dustin reckoned the pain was worth it.
"Have you ever...ya know...kissed someone before?" Dustin looked away with a shameful grimace, his way of admitting his own kiss virginity without having to actually utter the words, as if it wasn't painfully obvious already.
I've been thinking about you. Wondering if I'm caught up in your head at night.
It was that time of year again. Fall was around and Ashley could once again enjoy the vast array of pumpkin and apple flavored products at the Apple Festival. But this time a major change was in the air. A guy she liked actually bothered to show up and hang out with her there. Sure this was before he went on a date with another girl, and after she friendzoned his ass on twitter but still! Better than spending it crying into a caramel apple cause Luke Boseman sent her a cruel text mocking the possibility that somebody would seriously wanna date her.
Considering she'd called that she wouldn't be Dustin's target forever, she was weirdly bothered by the whole ordeal. And for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why. Winona Matthews was a gorgeous girl, and she seemed really sweet too. She knew that the odds were they broke up, but there was still that pesky little ''What if?'' that plagued her when she considered completely cutting Dusty off. She hated the What If. It had put her through hell by making her befriend Dustin, before using her common sense to cut off any false hope, and it was putting her through hell by forcing her to imagine a future where Winona and Dusty just fucking stayed together. Just found love. Just disproved everything that Ashley ever talked about and proved that maybe it wasn't that love didn't exist. It just avoided targeting Ashley like the plague because of some worthiness system.
Ugh. Now she was going down that negativity rabbithole. Noticing that Dusty looked as glum as she felt, her attention shifted to him. ''You okay buddy?'' she questioned, desperate to remove her focus from her own misery to Dustin's.
For a while she kept on pushing. He refused, and she pushed more and more. Annoying people into admitting things was a skill set she really wished she had the opportunity to hone more. And when he relented, she flashed the most obnoxious/adorable depending on how you look at it, smile in his direction.
"Well that's good. I feel a but coming though," Ashley repressed a snicker as Dustin blathered on about Winona. "And you almost kissed her? Dusty that's awesome!" She grinned, before he revealed the catch "Oh," Ashley lowered her voice in response to Dustin's obvious desire to be on the dl about this whole ordeal.
"You wanna kiss her but you have no idea what to do....." Ashley scrunched her eyebrows together, determined not to let Dusty down in his hour of need. ''Has she kissed anyone before?'' She questioned with a tilted head, stalling time before she had to suggest her solution to his kissing anxieties.
Ok, so she was a kiss virgin, but that didn't mean she couldn't help. Since Dustin was clearly over her, perhaps they could get through it with no fuss and mess at all. He hadn't outright said it, but it was painfully obvious he was even less experienced than she was, and that had to be remedied before he began playing tonsil hockey with some other girl without knowing what he was doing. Sooooooo why shouldn't she suggest this no strings attached solution?
"Yes I have. Don't remember his name though." Ashley's tone of confidence never wavered during her outright lie. She needed him to believe that she knew what she was doing so he would agree to the arrangement. ''Dusty. I have an idea. What if you kiss me? Just for practice's sake. You figure out how to do it with me, and then maybe you'll feel less nervous trying to do it with Nona.'' Though it wasn't apparent, on the inside Ashley was nervous as hell for what he was gonna say. ''But if it's too weird then forget I said anything-''
--------don't type anything after this comment--------
Little hi little low little hey little ho
Dragged out of the water, Stu was blue in the face and coughing out bucketloads of fish on the deck of the dinghy. The rescue had been just as dramatic as the drowning. Now sapped of energy, he flopped on his seat and shivered there like a disoriented, wet puppy.
‘Well, that went swimmingly well, didn’t it?
Who knew the sea could be so dangerous? Ollie had warned him of monsters of the deep, the crabs and the lobsters. Ivy had made him wear his shirt inside out, for fear of Toothrot. But no one ever warned him about THE WATER itself! How ironic would it have been if he had died from THE WATER?
Stu was just beginning to calm now from his breathless ordeal. On the other side of the dinghy, Oliver had either fainted or died. This left Meera and Stu in a strangely peaceful silence. The beautiful sky above them, the sun just drooping below the pinnacle. The water splashing quietly under Toothrot’s oars.
He smiled a little smile while Meera shared her jacket with him.
‘I’m glad you didn’t drown,’ he said. ‘I thought maybe I could swim but—’ He scratched his wet scalp guiltily. ‘—turns out I can’t!’
Now the clouds moved again and the sun spread light over one side of his face.
‘But that was pretty funny, wasn’t it?’ He chuckled. ‘I looked so stupid drowning. I did, didn’t I? Be honest!’
What? Stu was talking to a girl? Without stammering?
So he came out of the water and the fear of girls was behind him. Suppose this was how other superheroes got their powers, and now he had gotten his.
On the morning of the Apple Festival Stu missed both alarms, and he got ready and gathered up all his five bags of KitKats and bolted out the door. As he headed out on foot, he thought about what flavour ice cream he was going to get. He loved chocolate, of course, but Ollie was saying how you couldn’t go wrong with vanilla and Lemon was suggesting cookie dough, so the possibilities were endless.
He’d texted up Ollie and Isa saying he was on his way. When he got to the apple festival, he marvelled at the reds and greens and the banner that was flown over his head. Like every other year, the town had heaped a lot of effort into their favourite festival, hoping to put itself on the map and maybe trick a few tourists into stopping by on this otherwise featureless stretch of coast. It was too early to tell if their work had borne fruit, no pun intended.
He was now headed straight for the ice cream place, but since Ollie didn’t miss his two alarms and would have gotten there first, it only made sense that he described what the shop looked like.
TL;DR wondering why she even bothered to show up to the apple festival
she wears darkness, like some wear the little black dress
Maxine was taken aback suddenly by the feeling of weight on her shoulder. She had been stuck in her own world thoughts of what the festival used to be to her, and what it was now. Thoughts about how one of her best friends who was actually a stranger to her. How could she have not known; how could Isa have kept this from her. Maxine wanted to understand, but she couldn’t, her anger kept her from that. Isa wasn’t listening either though, kept spouting on that Maxine wanted Isa to leave. But Isa told her that it was the only option, the only way to get Isa away from whatever drug boss she reported to.
“Tatum.” Maxine lacked emotion in her voice, she liked Tatum, or at least never had a problem with her. Though, Maxine knew why she was there. She was there to ask for forgiveness for Isa’s sake. Even with the friendly tone in her voice, Maxine knew what it was hiding. She was able to escape it while at school, even though her and Tatum had been partnered in Science.
“Well Tate.” Maxine rolled her head against Tatum’s arm to look at her. “What do I owe the pleasure?” Maxine’s eyes felt dead, as much as she wanted to pretend like she was okay she couldn’t. It was written all over her face. “I guess your imagination keeps me pretty covered up then.” Maxine looked down at the clothes, it was her baggiest pair of pants and a heavy sweatshirt.
Maxine shrugged Tatum’s arm back off of her shoulder, walking out from under her. “You better be here to talk about homework or something, because I am not talking about anything else.” Maxine shrugged as she closed her eyes lightly. They were tired, bags clearly defined under her eyes.
“Shouldn’t you be on the Ferris wheel with Ramen head? Making out or doing other lovey dovie stuff.” Maxine stood up off the bench “Why waste your time with me?” Maxine crossed her arms, maybe she wanted to look intimidating. Maybe she did, but what she really wanted to do, was hide. Bulling herself into a deep hug, she hid her hands under her arms and popped a knee.
when you wear a mask for so long, you forget who is behind it.
Harper’s mouth watered as she anticipated the sweet sticky taste of the caramel melting on her tongue. And of course, she couldn’t forget the rainbow sprinkles. That was her mom’s favorite, next to the apple crisps of course. Harper remembered the way her mother would dance across the field in the center of town, like no one was watching. Her eyes sparkled, as her arms reached up to the sky. Harper wished that she had some of that in her, some of that devil may care.
But that wasn’t Harper, she couldn’t let go of that fear, fear of judgment, fear that she would mess up gravely. Fear that people wouldn’t ever stop talking.
Harper had just finished paying for her long-awaited caramel apple, a gloating and familiar voice spoke to her. Though the indirect moniker wouldn’t get anyone’s attention without knowledge. Knowledge of Zachary Lee’s gigantic ego. Harper exchanged cash for her rainbow covered treat. “Thank you.” She smiled softly as she took the apple in her hand. Boxed safely within a plastic container to keep her hands clean, till she bit into the confection.
“Unlike you.” She smirked as the golden boy sauntered over to her side. “Being alone isn’t scary for me.” She shook her head. “I actually like it sometimes.” She swayed back and forth, tapping her fingers on the plastic container. Harper wondered why Zach even bothered to approach her, didn’t he have other friends? Why her, she wasn’t interesting, they didn’t have anything in common.
“If only I could have gotten stuck with literally anyone else.” She rolled her eyes as a small laugh escaped her lips. “You’re never going to let me forget that are you?” She raised her eyebrows, placing the caramel apple into her messenger bag.
She shook her head, she couldn’t understand why he was so upset that he hadn’t been invited for dumplings. “Forgive me for not knowing you were such a dumpling fan.” She crossed her arms, wrapping flannel tightly around her torso as the wind blew her hair backwards. A fall chill had finally started to settle into little old Parish Point. Harper should have expected it, or at least looked at the weather report. She breathed deep filling her chest with air.
Harper sucked in her bottom lip, clicking her tongue against it. “Yeah, I guess I can forgive you.” She shook her head slightly. “It was my fault anyways, I now know that I have to lock you down at school where there are no distractions.” Everything was finally feeling normal again. Though she never pictured that she would be comfortably joking with Zach, willingly.
Though she didn’t get it, why was he so interested in talking to her. She knew they had gone through something tough, but that didn’t mean they now had to be best friends. Her arms fell back to her sides as she gripped the side of her messenger bag close to her. “Don’t you have anything better to do? Other friends to bother?”
TL;DR Oliver and Stu join up with Isa to go get ice cream
How lonely it is, to be drowning in a place where everyone can swim
After the boating incident, not much had been seen of Oliver. He was around, sure, but… he was quieter, and not as easy to find. He’d made a habit of sticking close by his small cluster of friends at all times during the day, but after school ended he’d run off home and not be seen or heard from until the next morning. Typically, he’d stay in the school library until it closed, then spend the rest of the day with Stu or wandering the town. These past few days, he left straight away and without a word to anyone.
His persistent speech impediment had also taken a significant turn for the worse. The stutter had become nearly incomprehensible at times, words getting muddled and jumbled around more often than they usually did.
It was like Oliver to be a bit distract and neurotic, though, so perhaps it wasn’t necessarily indicative of a crisis.
By the morning of the Apple Festival, the month of September had drawn to a close. In the scuffed and derelict southeast side of Parish Point, the bitter late-night chill bled through the walls of the old brick buildings. Within one of these was a cheap one-bedroom flat that had been gutted and refurbished to somehow just barely accommodate a family of five. Though drab and claustrophobic, the interior a sterile and purposeful atmosphere. Everything was cleaned, straightened, and pushed into its own little corner.
The repurposed closet that was now Oliver Dreyfuss’s room was no different. Though it contained nothing but a mattress, a floor lamp, a small desk, and an empty bookshelf in which all his clothes were stacked, it too seemed as though it were meticulously cleaned and looked after.
Its occupant, though, was already gone before the sun came up.
If Oliver wanted to get out of his house on the weekends, he had to do it before anyone else had a chance to wake up. He’d face the consequences of it later.
Earlier, Stu had invited Oliver out for ice cream, along with one Isa Edison-Rose: a stranger to both and evidently someone of questionable regard throughout the town. Stu didn't seem to notice or mind, though, so Oliver followed suit. Besides, it wasn't often that Oliver got to have ice cream. He'd done some research into the most popular flavor internationally (vanilla) and locally in Massachusetts (cherry), so he could make an educated decision on the matter. Stu was a little less studious in his approach.
The plucky little KitKat aficionado wasn’t there yet when Oliver arrived at the small ice cream stand that had been set up near the entrance to the festival grounds. It wasn’t that hard to locate, he thought… pretty conspicuous, actually. Still, he made extra sure to give Stu an accurate pace count and several landmarks so there was absolutely no chance his friend would get lost on the way. He would’ve given geographic coordinates if he thought that it would help Stu out at all. Oliver trusted Stu, but after he almost drowned the other week, Oliver had taken care not to overestimate Stu’s safety.
But sure enough, Stu arrived promptly and in one piece to their location. Oliver flinched and covered his face in his hands, suddenly forgetting what to do with himself before regaining a little physical awareness and giving a nervous but cheery wave. He looked to be in good spirits, if a little overwhelmed: up on his toes slightly with his feet turned in, his head turning and eyes quickly darting back and forth to take inventory of the hundreds of things happening around him. He said nothing at first and didn’t look at anyone directly, but was keenly aware of Stu’s presence and seemed a bit calmer for it.
Visible on Oliver’s neck and wrists were a smattering of bruises, evidencing varying ages and severities. Dull hues of grey, blue and purple mottled his chalky complexion. The layers of dark clothing he wore did only so much to conceal these, despite him constantly tugging at his sleeves and collar to hide as much of himself as possible. He never seemed to settle into any particular position, always shifting and fidgeting and readjusting his balance. That was typical Oliver, though: he was only still when he was fainted dead out.
He seemed to start to say something, stammering a few consonants under his breath before giving a weak cough and starting over with a little more air. “You’re h… you... Stu, you-- you did, uh, you made it.” He seemed almost proud of himself for finishing the sentence, hugging his shoulders and bouncing on his heels. “Isa. She… I d-- she’s not here yet.” Oliver spoke with strange prosody, inflecting each word with a halting cadence to mitigate the stutter; his tone not indicative of any particular expression. It didn’t take a close eye, though, to know that he was in his usual anxious but curious state. “...She’s late.” His eyes flicked to the side as he finished the thought, shoulders tensing as if he half-expected Isa to ambush him from behind. Oliver didn’t know Isa. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her before, though he might be wrong about that. Her name wasn’t one he recognized, at least.
Normally he would never agree to meet up with a stranger out in an open field. With Stu’s assurance that it was alright, though, Oliver could face any obstacle of uncertainty. Stu made the bizarre and frightening turbulence of life just a little easier to take in stride.
This is, after all, why he’d become Oliver’s first and best friend.
Isa looked at Maxine walked away from her. She wanted to scream out and tell her that she wanted to watch her grow up, to see her find herself and happiness. That she wanted to choose her, every day and be there for her like someone should have been there for her. Yea, she had Tums, Max, and her mom but they all came after she had to grow up fast and be an adult. She went through the horrors of growing up with no one. Not even Lucky could be there for her, he was dealing with his own trauma. He couldn't deal with hers also. She had to, on her own. This is why she was so protective of Maxine, she knew that growing up without someone there to be there was hard. She didn't want her to end up like Isa. Someone who was too broken to even sleep. If there was a choice between her and the drugs, Maxine would win every time. Every time. She didn't want to leave town but...Maxine didn't want her here. So maybe she should.
Isa doesn't remember much after walking away from that alley. She barely remembers making it to Tums's home. All she remembers is finding the secret stash of alcohol, taking one or two pills, and getting drunk out of her mind. It wasn't until Tatum got home that she saw the damage she did with unclouded eyes. The mirror was smashed, and there was a mess everywhere. Isa was told or more like forced to clean up. She didn't speak the whole time, and just did what she was told. Throughout the rest of the week, Isa showed up for classes once, and once seeing Maxine in the halls. She decided that she wasn't gonna show up again. She stayed at Tums for the most part. Laying in her bed, and staring at the wall. Or drinking her problems away and smoking weed/taking pills. Tatum didn't like her like this, but Isa was past the point of caring as she just felt broken. After her last binge, she left Tums house and just walked around. Sleeping where she could, and getting drunk where she could.
It was the day of the apple fest or whatever. The only reason she knew that was because there were apples everywhere, she was completely hammered last night. She woke up in this field and just hasn't moved from it yet. Luckily when she checked her phone, it was at 50% so it wasn't too terrible. She also had half case of beer near her, so it was double not terrible. She slowly got up, wincing from the headache and the sun shining too bright. She grabbed a beer and opened it. Taking a sip, she looked around. Well, this wasn't where she planned to be. She had been camping out at Lucky when she felt like it or where ever she could find somewhere safe to pass out in a drunken haze. Her liver is probably fucked by now. It was mainly drinking last night, but she thinks she did smoke some weed as well. She really couldn't remember at this point. Isa looked on Twitter, checking her message. She cursed as she sees a message from Stu and Ollie. She forgot that she promised those kids to get them ice cream at the fest. She groans as she realized that she couldn't cancel because she would feel bad not that she's any good at feeling anything right now. She quickly texted back, telling them that she was on her way before she got up taking the case of beer with her.
After walking for 10 minutes or so, she managed to get to Lucky's place. Once she walked in, she checked to see if he was there but he wasn't. Isa quickly changes her clothes, taking her wallet as well. She brushed her teeth and made sure that she wasn't smelling like a full-on liquor store. She looked around for sunglasses and managed to find a pair that she had stolen from Tums, putting them on. She headed out. Keeping her head down as she walked through the streets of town. She didn't want to run into anyone she knew. She wanted to stay hidden. She was only here to buy the boys ice cream and talk to them before she leaves back to her beers and drugs. Forgetting everything she's dealing with. She just wants to forget and just drink until she does. Once she gets to the apple fest, she walks over to the booth that had the ice cream and waited. She was a bit late, she knew but she also knew that they were a bit late as well.
Isa looks at her phone, texting them and letting them know that she was there.
--------don't type anything after this comment--------
Little hi little low little hey little ho
‘Oh, yeah. Isa--I think she’s coming!’ said Stu. He didn’t sound very certain as he said this. Leave it to Stu to agree to come for ice cream with a total stranger, and also invite his panicky friend Sir Oliver Faint-A-Lot along. They didn’t even know what Isa looked like! This sounded like the perfect premise to one of those horror stories where some gullible kids get recruited off the streets into a gang or have their organs harvested, but since Oliver was armed with a blade, their prospects of survival were good. They just had to stick together like they always did and nothing bad would happen. That was the first rule of the nerd squad.
Free ice cream made it all worth the risk, and Stu never said no to ice cream. He was so excited for today, in fact, that he actually missed the shop the first time he walked this way, and had to circle back round the whole festival grounds to find Oliver waiting in front. He gave his friend a little pat on the back, then dragged him over to the counter so they could gawk at the ice cream in their colourful tubs. If he hadn’t been so excited, he might have noticed the dark patches on Oliver’s neck and wrists. But all Stu could see was rocky road and butter pecan and fudge ripple chocolate. Oh yes, the chocolate!!!!
Stu licked his lips as he poked the glass with his thumb. ‘I’m definitely getting that one,’ he announced. ‘Maybe Isa will let us have two each. Maybe I’ll get that one too! Maybe I’ll get butter pecan. No wait! I should get the cookie dough. That’s what Lemon said I should try!’
Was he drooling? Quite possibly.
‘What are you getting Ollie? I think you should get the cone. I’m getting the cone. Oh wow, they’ve got CHOCOLATE CONES TOO!’
Now where was Isa, anyway? If she didn’t show up soon all the ice cream in the tubs might melt! Or they might be sold out! In the meantime Stu got a mini KitKat out of his bag, and gave it to Ollie, then another one to the vendor, since there was no better way to pass the time than to share his love of KitKats with the world.
TL;DR Oliver and Stu join up with Isa to go get ice cream
How lonely it is, to be drowning in a place where everyone can swim
Oliver looked down at the miniature KitKat that Stu placed in his palm, smiling and stammering out a half-whispered “thank you,” as Stu continued his enthusiastic rambling over the flavor selection they had in front of them.
‘What are you getting Ollie? I think you should get the cone. I’m getting the cone. Oh wow, they’ve got CHOCOLATE CONES TOO!’
“Right!” That reminded him of the hours of needlessly intensive ice cream research he’d stayed up doing last night, refreshing his conclusion in his head. “Chocolate is the s-s-second most pop-- most po….” Oliver lost his momentum and veered off into a series of weird faces and nonverbal muttering, eventually abandoning the sentence. It probably didn’t matter much to Stu that chocolate was the second most popular ice cream flavor internationally, anyway.
Incidentally, vanilla was the most popular, but Tatum from Twitter said vanilla was basic. She must have had a point, as popular things tended to be damned as basic. Oliver wasn’t entirely clear on what it meant to be basic, but he was afraid enough of public shaming that he thought it was best to opt for the next one down the list. So chocolate it was. When dealing with new situations, Oliver preferred to come in with a plan. One might assume that buying ice cream was one of the least stressful kinds of new experiences, but to Oliver, it was daunting enough to require extra preparation.
He didn’t know what drew his attention to the tall girl standing on the opposite side of the stand, a few moments later.
It was probably the fact that she looked exhausted; practically dead on her feet. Her glassy brown eyes looked as though they’d fall closed at any second. There was a tinge of red over her cheeks, her lips parted and jaw slightly slack.
Oliver knew that look. He knew that look all too well.
On an unconscious instinct, he stiffened and drew back like a startled deer.
Then it occurred to him that this was probably Isa.
Oliver knew very little about her, mostly consisting of out-of-context Tweets and conversations he’d overheard in passing. But this girl seemed to fit the rough image he’d constructed of her in his head.
Oliver quickly reached out and waved for Stu’s attention, silently pointing him towards the girl he assumed was their third party member. He’d gone pale and quiet enough to pass as a ghost-- a small and very fidgety ghost, perhaps. He kept his eyes on Isa, studying her as if he were some kind of Sherlock-style fictional detective: taking in her face, hair, clothing, stature, the way she moved.
He really hadn’t been expecting her to show up drunk.
Red and blue lights blurred his vision; he could barely hear the muffled screams of people who surrounded him. Every part of his body tensed, his face was hot, sweat dripping down the bridge of his nose. The repetitive pull back of his fists stopped suddenly. A dull feeling of hands on his shoulders became present. He became light, his feet were no longer touching the ground. He fought back. His voice was rough and dry as he screamed. “If you ever—“.
Reid shot straight up in his bed, sweat droplets covered his bare chest. Hair soaked from another restless night. Reid leaned forward placing his head in his hands. Rubbing his blood shot eyes with he palms of his hands. His heart felt like it was fighting to get out of the cavity of his ribs.
He pulled his knees into his chest, running a hand through his dark hair. Slowly his breath slowed and soon followed his heart. The move hadn’t changed anything, Reid’s nightmares, or rather memories were in full force. Reid scared himself that night, the uncontrolled rage that ran through him. He never thought it was something he was capable of.
Jennifer had hoped that this move would give Reid a fresh start. Though, Reid was sure that the move was more for her own sake than his. They had to get away from Dalton, Jennifer just used the target on Reid’s back as her reason to leave her husband. Reid didn’t care, he could have lived with the whole town hating him for the rest of his life. He would have gone back and done it again, even when given a second chance to change it all. He wouldn’t have.
As far as Reid was concerned. Johnathan Little had gotten what he deserved.
Reid let the cold water run down his spine as he washed a layer of sweat off his skin. The taste of salt rolling off his tongue as the water dripped from his hair. It was one of his rougher nights, probably caused from all the stress of moving. He had been told, by the principal of Parish Bay, that they had come at the best time. The celebration of the Apple crazed town, that they plainly named the Apple Festival. How could a town create such a celebration over the harvest of apples. Reid of course made a great impression with the principal, rolling his eyes as the principal went on and on about the festivities of the Apple Fest.
Jennifer scolded him when they got out to the car, asking him if he wanted to be an outcast here as well. Telling him that she made this huge move for him, nothing else. Reid only brushed off his mother’s concerns. He didn’t care what happened here, he had already made his choices. Where was he supposed to go from here? He was lucky that Parish Bay even took him in, despite spending six months in juvenile detention. Reid believed that he had no chance, that colleges would just throw out his application after they saw that stain.
Either way, him and Orlando had made plans to experience the true Parish Pointian, and head out to the festival themselves. Though, he figured that they would be caught people watching and probably causing a bit of mischief like old times. Maybe even rolling a blunt or two, how else were they supposed to enjoy the Apple Festival after all. There was no way anyone actually went to this event sober.
Roughly he dried his hair with a towel as he stepped out of the shower. He gripped the edge of the counter as he looked at himself in the mirror, he found his eyes were no longer red from his nightmare. The cool water had brought color back to his skin, he almost looked average. Though he knew better than that, exchanging the daggering looks that he got back home for those of confusion. Someone new coming into their territory. Someone that was already known for being unkind to the small Pierce girl when he was young. Everyone’s favorite blonde.
Reid took it with a smile, he wasn’t about to think that all would be forgiven just because Reid had grown up a bit. Dynamics weren’t about to change, Reid wasn’t stupid after all, so if that was what Lemon wanted, a villain. That was what he would be.
It only ever took Reid a moment to get dressed, it was always the same, a white V-neck-tee a pair of jeans with his white sneakers that he bought when they moved to Massachusetts. Throwing on his old leather jacket before leaving his room.
“Bye mom!” He called as he reached the front door, taking his keys off the hook beside it. Spinning them around his ring finger before he opened the front door stepping outside to find his light blue mustang convertible sitting in the driveway.
This car, well to say the least it meant a lot to Reid… When he turned 15 and obtained his learner’s permit, it was a gift from his grandfather. The damn engine wouldn’t even turn over when he put the key in the ignition. All his grandfather did was stand there laughing a deep belly laugh at Reid. ‘What? Did you think it would be that easy?’ The old man chuckled.
Reid loved his grandfather, he had always been there for him. He taught him how to drive and then helped him put this car back together. Piece by piece, they searched junkyards and bought new transmissions, batteries, till one day the little old mustang purred like she was brand new once again.
Reid ducked his head as he sat down in the drivers seat, listening to the engine of little blue rumble with life. He reached over the passenger’s seat and looked back down the driveway. Taking off to the town center. It was easier than home, home it would take thirty to forty-five minutes to reach the center, depending on where you were coming from. And if you got lost, it wasn’t so easy to find your way back. Cell signal was a bitch in the most populated of places. It just meant that Reid would always have a good sense of direction.
The crisp fall air was new to him, his car was not made for the cold and he wondered how it would hold up come winter. Reid parked his car, off in a far corner in hopes that no dumbass driver would hit it in the process, leaving unfixable damage to his beloved car.
Breathing in the cold air, Reid gently closed the door to his convertible, before following the smell of apple pie and cinnamon. Being reminded of the rhubarb pie Lemon made on his first night in town, causing a shiver to run down his spine.
He would never admit to being impressed, but the sight of this little town, and all the effort that they put into a festival for apples, well he might have looked like he was mildly intrigued.
As Lemon followed Max’s hands carefully to make sure she fully understood him, and the bean bag chairs were a nice touch. The fact the chairs existed had calmed her nerves more than she could even express. She let out a sigh and it was moments like these that she was somewhat glad Max couldn’t hear her. She didn’t want to make him feel bad for her own anxieties and problems. It wasn’t his fault that she was uncomfortable being in a boy’s room, or even the thought of sitting on his bed. None of that was Max’s fault and she didn’t want that burden on him, so him not being able to hear her sigh of relief was nice.
As she got herself situated in the chair, she looked at Max, “I’m ready.”Or so she hoped. She hadn’t seen this movie before, but it would be fine. Max was with her and she trusted him far more than she trusted a lot of other people. He had been her friend since fifth grade and they just understood each other even with all the disagreements that plagued them over the years. She understood Max, and how he typed, what his body language sometimes meant, but most importantly she knew exactly what his judgements meant. He never underplayed anything, and he hadn’t made a huge deal about the movie. So how bad could Nightmare on Elm Street be?
That answer had come far earlier than she expected, and Lemon was completely horrified by the film. She couldn’t even sign to Max to turn it off because she was too busy covering her eyes hoping it was over. Every time she had peeked through her fingers, she would cover them back up. She couldn’t believe he had agreed to her watching this movie because she was filled with terror. Lemon was a cowardly lion; she wasn’t brave, and she thought this movie was something that everyone watched. For her, well she was going to stay in the dark. It was for the best. Eventually, Max had turned it off and Lemon could see the regret in his eyes, “Why?”was all Lemon could sign but she may have made it a bit more dramatic than needed.
The relief by the fact that the sun was still out was the only reason Lemon wasn’t completely losing her mind because there was no way she was going to be able to sleep after that movie. It wasn’t as if Max was trying to upset her but here, she was terrified, eyes darting around the room. Sure, she had to be asleep for him to get her, but what if. What if something went wrong and what if something happened to her or Max?
After a back and forth through Twitter it was decided that Harry Potter was the next film, and though a bit reluctant Lemon agreed. Maybe, just maybe they should’ve started off with a less scary film. This one seemed better and way less scary. As it began playing Lemon was enthralled with it. It was so much better than the last movie. She paused it for a moment, “Max?”her head tilted as she signed his name, “Face mask?”she wasn’t quite sure the sign was right or if it made sense, but she tried. She grabbed the container and signed once more and then opened it. Showing her friend, the contents. He owed her after the last movie and why not take a break from this one to help clean out some pores?
Max had seen Nightmare On Elm Street exactly one time before. He was just 12 then, and Sawyer had taken a fondness to late-night horror movie hangouts. Harper had decided by then that she wouldn't put up with any more horror flicks, so it was just him and Sawyer and Tatum. And Zach.
Max cringed back in his seat just at that one old memory of Zach. He felt his skin crawling, heat creeping down his neck. Zach. Fucking Zachary Lee, and his teasing, and the stupid comments, and what he did three weeks ago, and his stupid fucking jacket that was still just 10 feet away in Max's closet, like it was staring at him...
How could Zach claw at him like this when he wasn't even here?
Max wasn't sure if Lemon had noticed. But before he could turn and apologize yet again for being weird, he saw out of the corner of his eye that Lemon was shivering and practically hiding behind her hands. Oh. Oh, no.
Lemon was the one who picked the film out, so Max had carelessly assumed she was prepared for some disturbing imagery.
It hadn't even occurred to him, in that moment, that this was Lemon's first ever horror movie.
Max had never hit pause so fast in his life. "I'm so sorry!" He almost looked a little frantic, pushing his computer back and raking his opposite hand through his hair, eyebrows tensed like he was trying to physically shrink his brain down. "I… hang on." Max looked around for his notepad only to realize he'd left it downstairs. Blushing furiously and clenching his teeth, he improvised another solution and clumsily tugged his phone out of his pocket to message his question over Twitter.
A little while later they'd settled into Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and everything had mellowed out. Max leaned back a bit, resting his head on the bedpost and watching the film roll by without glancing too often at the captions. He knew half the lines by heart. Before Max ever had friends of his own, Harry Potter had been sort of a comfort. For the first 10 years of his life, the adventures of some imaginary wizards filled the void that loneliness dug into him. He'd come such a long way since being that alone, and yet the feeling clung to him like cobwebs.
The thought of being cast aside and isolated like that again never really left him. It was always somewhere nagging at his brain.
But right now he had Lemon, and an old favorite movie, and that was good enough to let himself forget just for a moment.
They had their differences, sure, but Lemon and Max had stayed friends through it all for nearly six years now. Even with the language barrier, going to different high schools, and the sporadic bickering-- somehow the bond they'd formed was stronger than all of that.
Further into the movie, Lemon all of a sudden hit pause and caught Max's attention with his name. She signed 'face', but the rest of the phrase was a pantomime that he didn't quite understand. "Face...?" Max awkwardly ran his fingers down the side of his cheek, as if to check for something stuck to his skin. Evidently that wasn't what Lemon meant. Before Max could pull out his notepad and ask for clarification, Lemon reached back up onto the bed and pulled out a small jar of face mask. "...Oh." Max stalled, his face showing an awkward grimace as he felt his gaze track slowly away to the floor. "I don't really--" Lemon really wanted to do this with him? Max wasn't really used to this kind of thing. He figured it couldn't hurt, but something about it felt weirdly embarrassing in a way he couldn't quite explain. He laughed a little under his breath, mostly to ease his nerves. "Okay." He agreed, nervous and a little reluctant. This was bound to be a little weird, but hey, he'd brought Lemon over so she could try something new. It was only fair if she got to ask the same. Besides, he owed an apology after subjecting her to Elm Street...
Winnie hadn’t been sleeping and it was getting worse. It had gotten to the point where her intake had risen to five cups a coffee a day. She hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, because if she had, she’d then have to explain why she couldn’t sleep and that would then push her to mention her nightmares. Nightmares of the accident. Nightmares of seeing her dad’s dead body. Nightmares of her mom constantly blaming her for her dad’s death.
She of course was able to hide how she’d been feeling (Chance didn’t even know), instead deciding to find comfort in the distractions that were provided for her. Drawing something in her sketchbook under her desk light; working on her new contemporary piece; and most of all…Dustin.
The curly-haired dork had consumed her attention and Winona was not complaining. Since their outing at Spooning, the two of them had found multiple occurrences to hang out with one another. When she had first met him, she thought he was cute, but never would she had thought the two to them would get romantically involved. Guess she misread his relationship with Ashley. And despite Dustin and Winnie hanging out every day, she was mega nervous about the date, (Outing? Get together? Hang out?) that they were having today. She was sure that she was exuding obvious interest and she thought that the copious amounts of times that the two of them were together would be a sign that she liked him, but he didn’t kiss her the other day. And Winnie knew that that was a perfect time to kiss.
And boys are dumb, or was she being dumb? Maybe they were just hanging out as friends and flirting as friends and just existing as friends. It has been almost a year since she was in a relationship and avoiding her ex was doing some good, but maybe she lost her game since. Her thoughts were as frantic as her room, there were clothes all over her floor, makeup scattered on her vanity table top, and . When it was appropriate to start getting ready of the day, she’d torn her closet apart looking for a good outfit. The dancer had already changed seven times before settling on a flowery dress and black cardigan. It’d have to do, if she kept looking for any longer, Winnie’s room floor wasn’t going to exist.
Her event wasn’t until later anyways. She had planned to hang with Harper, say hi to Stu and Oliver, hide from Chance, and they were all in an attempt to calm her nerves before she found Dustin. She’s gonna be fine, just fine.
A knock on her door, accompanied by her brother’s complaining, draws her out of her thoughts. We’re running late No. And I know you have a date with that boy. At that she whips the door open and glares at her brother.
That boy is Dustin, and you need to leave him alone. Winnie knew her brother was bothering Dustin and she had tried to stop her twin by telling him how great Dustin was and how great he was treating her. She had even tried to reassure her date that Chance was harmless, but there was no denying that Chance could be an intimidating person. Winnie picks up her bag from the chair beside the door and then pulls the room door closed behind her. And not that it is any of your business, but I like him, so it would mean a lot to me if you stopped with the questions. Her right pointer finger jabs into the chest of her taller brother. When she turns around to make her exit, their youngest brother, Isaiah, walks down the hall with their mom by his side. The Matthews family rarely found themselves standing in the same room. Winnie avoided her mother like the plague, because after coming out last year, things between the two of them only got worse. Before Regina could say anything to her daughter, Winnie greets her little brother with a kiss on the head and walks down the stairs and out the front door.
If her car had been back, she would’ve bolted but she had to wait for Chance. Her brother had a better relationship with their mother because he wasn’t the one that prompted their father to leave the house late at night and pick her up from a sleepover. He wasn’t the gay one. He wasn’t the one that defied her every spoken word. Winnie’s thoughts begin to claw at her alongside with her nervousness surrounding the upcoming date. She honks Chance’s car horn a few times, hoping that he’d promptly make his way out. Now who’s making us late.
When it came to his family, Chance cared. That’s why he was pestering his sister’s boy person; it’s why he as always taking care of Isaiah (not that Winnie didn’t); it’s why he tried to diffuse situations between his mother and twin; and it’s why he apologized to Lemon. He was a good person, but about half of his actions were influenced by his family. Chance could tell that Dustin was a good guy and liked his sister, but he knew there was something between Dustin and Ashley. But his sister asked her to stop, so he was going to stop for her.
And just like always he was ready to diffuse any problem that could possibly arise from Winnie’s abrupt exit. His mother looks at him with a sort of hopeless look in her eyes. She’s got somewhere to be, she’s running late. He shrugs his shoulders, hoping that his mother would take it. Honking from outside helps strengthen his answer. He gives his mom as soft grin and kisses her on the cheek, ruffles Isaiah’s hair, and walks past the two of them. Stay safe…both of you.
We will. Chance answers his mom and then slams the house door behind him.
Winnie sits in the passenger seat, obvious anxiety on her face. When he is sitting in the driver's seat, he puts a comforting hand on her shoulder. Don't worry, I'm sure your date will be great. The way the words leave his mouth were not really reassuring and he knew that. Like yes, he believed that she would have a good time but he also wanted to her to be a little wary.
He starts the car and reverses out of the driveway, deciding to play no music so that his sister can open up if she needed to. The ride remains quiet and Chance feels useless. This was his best friend, his twin sister, she usually spoke about the things that bothered her and it looked like things were bothering her.
When they arrive to the festival grounds, it looks busy already. God, I hope today goes alright. Winnie mutters, smoothing down some loose hairs that have escaped her ponytail. It will go fine Winry, you guys have spent days together, what's so different from today? So what if he won't kiss you. One, he doesn't know how, and two, he's spending time with you today. No need to worry.
His accidental confession brings a shocked look to Winona. You're unbelievable Chance. She unbuckles, ready to leave but Chance stops her. I'm just saying Win, there's no need to worry. He likes you. His sister settles back into the seat and nods. He's just a good guy and I don't want to to screw it up, not like last time.
He nudges his sister playfully and decides to further his role as supportive twin brother. You won't. Just relax and go enjoy your day. With that Winnie leaves the car and heads towards the festival. He could be supportive for his sister especially if Dustin meant that much to her so fast. And although he promised to stop bugging the two lovebirds, there was no way that he was letting her go on this date alone. He quickly leaves his car and jogs up to Winnie, ready to be that protective brother if need be. Winnie wasn't going to like this.
Tatum could see the bags in Maxine’s eyes, girl had been looking a little worse for wear and she wasn’t even giving Tatum the banter she was hoping for. She knew the whole Isa ordeal had probably taken a toll on the younger girl, but Tatum was a solver of problems. Not her own problems, but still a solver of problems, nonetheless. A small pout formed on her lips, “Aww, Max. You wound me. You aren’t going to give me attention? And here I thought a cute girl would give me attention.” It was easier to try and get Maxine to give her attention than it was to try and force the whole Isa situation on her. Problems took time and unfortunately for Tatum, Maxine was smarter than the average bear. That didn’t mean she wouldn’t at least try to get some of the spunky girl to come out.
She moved to standing in front of Maxine, “Now, Max, you think everything I do is for Isa? And my boyfriend? He’s somewhere around here, but he has to find me. I don’t go looking for my guy. I have to keep something fun for me. A little game of can he find me is fun. Usually he cant. But why don’t you walk with me? I need a distraction because I’m here sober. A pretty face can help.” She gave a small wink. It seemed as if her tactics weren’t working all that well on the brunette. A failure for Tatum wasn’t something she could let happen.
As she pulled the girl to walk with her, “Maxine!!!!” she whined just a little, “Please? Have fun with me? I’ll buy junk food.” Tatum pulled out a crisp twenty-dollar bill in hopes that maybe shitty fried food, or a really heavy caramel filled apple would bring Maxine out of her funk. Usually any kind of sugar brought Tatum more than a little joy and the was apple fest. Where some of the best desserts came to be consumed. A little money and a little bribery maybe Tatum could get words out of Maxine. Isa was a failing story, but Tatum could only handle one fire at a time and Isa fires always caused Tatum more stress than she wanted to handle. She couldn’t let herself go grey or have wrinkles before she turned twenty. That meant picking her battles wisely and planning out her moves to keep her friends happy.
One week, it had been one week in this stupid apple loving town and Orlando was hating every minute of it. From his uncle having to enroll him in school, to his aunt being on his case about picking up after himself. It wasn’t as if he wanted to even be in this town, he definitely didn’t want to be around his cousin, but no matter how much he had fought with his parents, he had lost. Now, he was chilling on his bed staring at the ceiling and hating everything. Lemon had already disappeared for the day to go have some date to watch some stupid movies.
It wasn’t as if he was supposed to get ready before Reid appeared, the only bright spot in this less than appealing town. Instead, he decided he would wait until the very last second before he would get his ass up and pull together some outfit.
He could hear his Aunt Blanche moving around in the kitchen and he could hear her grumble about how Lemon forgot to wash something, a normal complaint in the house, but the smell of baked goods was something he really did enjoy. There hadn’t been a day where some dessert or bread hadn’t been made. It made him tolerate his prison a bit more. He could only guess his aunt was making some apple treat to celebrate apple fest like the rest of the town. Along with the noises of the kitchen, the dull sound of the television playing one of the games meant his Uncle Ambrose was out in the living room. His aunt and uncle were that couple that loved to be around one another even if they were doing separate activities, it was kind of sweet but mostly gross. His parents weren’t anything like this, the difference between his mom and his aunt were staggering even though the shared DNA.
Finally, he heard the front door open and that meant Reid had arrived. Time for him to get his lazy ass off from the bed and actually get ready. He opened up his dresser pulling out a black shirt and a clean pair of jeans, he really didn’t have much energy to come up with any other outfit. He passed Reid on his way to the bathroom, “Give me a few. Uncle Ambrose is watching the game. Or you can go in the kitchen with Aunt Blanche.” He shrugged. He enjoyed Reid but sometimes things were tense with them, “My dresser has the fun shit, if you want to grab it.” If Reid didn’t, he would. So overall not a big deal to him.
Lemon was almost entirely full of glee as soon as Max agreed to the face mask. She hadn’t been able to see anyone in a while so face masks had become a solo thing for her after she finished baking, so having Max do a mask with her was the most exciting part of her day. She wished she could convey her excitement to him because the squeal of joy she released was loud. But of course, Max would never hear it. She quickly unscrewed the cap and showed the contents to Max and grabbed the pen and paper because she didn’t know all of the signs, “ So this is supposed to clear out your pores, it has a mint fragrance so it might tingle the skin a little. But it’s really nice and we leave it on for about fifteen minutes. But if it burns then let me know because that means you might be allergic. I’m really excited.”
Max was the fourth guy to even let her put a face mask on them. Orlando and Reid had done it once with her, and after a really bad day at school Lemon had convinced her dad to do one with her. It was probably one of her favorite memories with her dad because as tough as he was, he did a lot of activities with her that normally AJ would do, but when AJ got busy or in trouble her dad would take on the roles of best friend for her so she didn’t have to do everything alone.
She motioned back to Max, “Eyes. Close.” Her signs though limited always conveyed her message well enough and she soon began to put the mask on his face.
Usually, during this time Lemon would talk about her day, but Max wouldn’t hear her so instead she chose to talk with his plants. She had heard talking to plants could help them so that was how she would do something nice for Max, “Okay, Max’s plants. I’m Lemon like the fruit so I share a name with you plant cousin. Anyways, I know Max is having a hard time and he loves all of you, and I don’t know if plants can also give off love like oxygen but if you could do that, I think he would like it.” She carried on her conversation for another minute with the plants before she tapped on Max’s shoulder, “Done. Now wait.”
She quickly applied her own mask, knowing that if Max tried on her it would end up not only on her face but probably in her hair. She pulled out her camera to look at their faces and she couldn’t help but laugh at them. This was definitely one of her favorite moments with Max and something she really needed. With Reid back and Orlando around, Lemon had really needed something good and Max had really made her happy in this moment. She could feel herself wanting to cry because of her happiness, but if she cried, she knew she would ruin the mask on her face. She took Max’s hand in hers and gave it a soft squeeze before letting go, something she always did with her friends and family to let them know she was really happy when she couldn’t get the words out.
Max wasn't even sure Lemon could read his hasty chicken-scratch handwriting: "Sure, okay! I hope this doesn't burn. Oy." He ended the response with an awkward little smiley face doodle and handed the paper back.
It was understandably a little nerve-wracking for Max to sit still with his eyes closed, but Lemon looked so excited to be doing this with him that he didn’t think twice about agreeing. Still, he couldn’t help but wince as the first stroke of mask ran over his forehead. He would absolutely never have volunteered to have mint-scented paste stuck on his face if anyone other than Lemon had asked him.
But, all things considered, after it was done it was kind of nice.
Weird, but nice.
Maybe he should have thought of doing something like this before. Were his pores really that bad? He kept his face pretty clean, but clean by teenage boy standards. Little self-care rituals like this were a foreign science to him. Lemon’s way of doing things, expectedly, was much more careful and kind.
Lemon tapped his shoulder and he opened his eyes, fighting every human instinct not to pick at the flecks of mask that got stuck to his eyelashes. Lemon was applying her own by herself, and Max found himself watching in quiet awe of her perfect hand-eye coordination. Max could never blindly apply things to his own face. He’d stab his eye out. But really-- he couldn't even button his jackets half of the time, which was ironic in light of the fact that he used his hands and fingers so often. Max always felt a little cheated that he was still this clumsy.
“Okay. Okay, okay. Okay.” He repeated, unable to stop himself from cracking up into a fit of nervous laughter. Even Lemon started laughing at the two of them reflected in her phone camera. “This is so weird.” Lemon might not know the word he used, but his face said it for him. Setting a timer for 15 minutes, he refreshed his laptop screen and turned the movie back on, hoping they were still at the same spot because he regretfully couldn’t remember where they left off if they’d left it running by mistake. Perhaps he wasn't the best at conducting the films, but at least Lemon seemed to be enjoying Harry Potter more than she did Nightmare on Elm Street. He mentally promised himself never to make her watch a horror movie again... until Sawyer forced all of them to watch Jennifer's Body again (Harper included-- god only knows how Sawyer managed that.)
Once they'd settled back down and everything was still, Lemon reached back out to Max and took his hand with a gentle squeeze. Max, without even thinking about it, smiled and squeezed back. “Thanks, Lemon.” Though he was still stifling laughs from the strange sensation of the slowly drying face mask, Max had a sort of gratefulness under his lopsided smile. “This is actually really fun.”
He happened to hate the setting in October, loathed the heraldic jack o’ lanterns that would soon appear made of knife chipped emotion more freely than his. He hated the ingly smell of harvest, the paper leaves that shred and tore off branches with dead weight.
“Don’t you have anything better to do? Other friends to bother?”
On opinions, orange was his favorite color. It stayed put in October; there was no doubt about it. Foraged were his remembrances, which were not decades old either. He could remember it. His first Halloween party, the first of many anniversaries. The bare minimum to stay alive. Moment by moment, the circling of drugs on the line came for his turn faster, the mincing music had cheated him out of giving a damn, and he could blink. He could blink on and on as long as he could stand, and nobody needed to look any further. He was framed with ecstasy from what came in an external world where the only favor you needed to do was have one hand pawning the neck of a drink. A neck that was his very own too.
That night, he felt like he gave up his family. It was not that he wanted to. It was the way they looked at him.
But, this mood. This was also October.
Someone who found him so dislikingly that he reckoned that it was actually what he wanted, so he could learn why it was wrong to give up on others.
All of the brittle leaves hadn’t fallen yet, and the effects of September were still reluctantly around. The apple festival had such a tantalizing nature of keeping the last stretches of summer alive; children around made fraternal croaks like lounging frogs on the riverside. Ripe apples soused within reach, so fresh that it reminded him of citrus rain showers and the park was without isolation.
“Who cares?” Zach returned with incurable indifference, shrugging his jaunty shoulders, “I’m here with you right now.”
He wasn’t deeply annoyed for himself, which confused him, so he passed, “Anderson, you should know that because you’re such a terrible driver, wicked credit card stealer, a really awful ceiling faller, and an all over a greatly atrocious person…”
His cove blue eyes gleamed grinningly below his windswept rime blond hair, “You are alone worth anyone’s time.”
He averted his eyes quickly, before saying, “A very brutal driver. What were you trying to make us? Roadkill,” Scoffing, his mouth lifted with a smirk, “How many personalities are you? Book nerd. NASCAR. Harley Quinn but make her without the nice therapist because you’re a mean one. And now, apples with sprinkles eater? Someone might get the idea you are a maniac.”
The spangled clouds were puffing by, and it pulled at her combed brown hair, vining tresses out to her face. He minimally kept glancing as they walked, but there was a distinguishable usher of her hands closing more tightly inwards towards herself.
He let his elbows spill off his hoodie. The white fabric slantly pulled off of his athletic torso clad in a light blue undershirt. Franchising her with a smirk, his arm flexed out so quickly, it barred her from taking another step.
“Are you cold?” he wittedly teased.
He revised, “You actually don’t need to tell me, Harper Anderson. I already know. So, take it.”
He dangled the hoodie in front of her, and laughed, “It seems to me that I’m always going to be giving clothes away. Wouldn’t even be a shock if it came to my birthday suit. What can I say, I’m a gentleman.”
If you asked Lemon when she first met Max, if they would watch movies and do face masks together she probably would have told you know and if you would have asked only a couple years ago her answer would have been no, not because of Max, but during that time a lot had been going on and Lemon had been less social. Really, she had just started coming back into herself and she was still trying to navigate being more social again. This was a huge mile marker for Lemon, being with a friend, laughing, having fun. Things she had been lacking when she had made a choice to keep to herself. But she had missed moments like these with everyone and sure, it was maybe dumb but sometimes the best moments in life are the small moments. The big moments may be great, but the small moments are what always reminds Lemon that she has always had people even when she felt like was alone.
As the movie finished, the timer went off at roughly the same time and Lemon was excited, “Face. Clean. S-I-N-K.”So Lemon was terrible at carrying a conversation with Max by signing but she was trying her hardest to not use the notepad. She had gotten better over the course of knowing him, but she had been rusty in using it. Max had gotten busy with his friends and Lemon didn’t see much of Max once he became friends with Harper and her group. Now, she was working on getting better at learning how to make a conversation and sometimes she could but a lot of the times she used words but didn’t quite know if it made sense.
As she pulled Max to wherever the bathroom was, she turned on the sink and made sure the water was warm before showing him that he needed to clean his face. The face cleaning was a pretty quick process and Lemon was back to his room grabbing her bag of stuff, and ready to drag her friend to the apple fest. It was something she was more than a little excited for and her excitement was hard to contain. Her energy to go was there but she had to wait for Max. Afterall she didn’t want to rush him, but she wanted to rush him to move faster, and as soon as she could tell he was ready she pulled out of the house and to her truck.
Now, Lemon’s truck wasn’t exactly dirty, but she had a lot of her schoolwork on the passenger seat and she quickly moved it. She had forgotten about the weird letters she had gotten at school, each letter cut out from a magazine and she had stuffed it into her books. Unfortunately, she didn’t know who they came from or what they meant. They all had ominous words on them, and she shoved them in her book and acted as if they meant nothing. As long as Max didn’t seem them or know then she didn’t have to worry about him losing his mind. But once her books were moved, she hopped over to the driver’s side door, turned on the ignition, and the truck rumbled to life ready to take them to their destination.
Lemon and Max head out for the apple festival. Max is only slightly regretting his decision right now.
Once they’d cleaned the mask from their faces, Max turned back to Lemon with a bright smile and a “that was so weird!” It had been far, far too long since he and Lemon had a chance to hang out together, just the two of them, but even then they’d never been comfortable enough with themselves or with each other to do so many new things in one morning.
Maybe they should call it a day pretty soon... Lemon’s dad probably wouldn’t want her staying too long at a boy’s house, anyway-- as weird and unreasonable as Max thought that rule was, it really wasn’t his place to comment on it. He’d just have to respect its existence, even if it was likely part of the reason he didn’t get to spend as much time with Lemon as his other friends. “Just a sec--” he held up a finger and pulled his phone out again, quickly tapping out a message to Lemon to see what she wanted to do.
Lemon wanted to head out and go check out the apple festival.
Max cringed and began wracking his brain for a reason he couldn’t go: work, school assignments, family emergency, sudden illness. But Max knew he had nothing. He was a terrible liar. And besides that, he couldn’t bear the thought of making her go alone.
Or leaving himself alone to his own thoughts.
So he gave a weak nod and shrugged his shoulders in defeated agreement as Lemon pulled him back into his room.
He could already feel his heart racing.
It wasn’t because Max hated the apple festival or anything; he’d been a couple of times and it was actually pretty fun.
This year, though, he would’ve given anything to just stay inside with Lemon and forget the whole thing.
Just about everyone Max knew was going to be there.
Zach, who Max was desperately trying to avoid. He didn’t know when or if he’d be able to open up about how he felt about… all those things that had happened. He’d probably never work up the nerve to just go up and ask. He couldn’t even bring himself to return Zach’s stupid jacket. It just hurt. It hurt, and Max didn’t even really know why it hurt.
There was too much emotion bottled up about that to open without spilling.
And Isa was also going to be there at the apple festival, which was somehow almost worse.
Isa was a close friend of Max’s; something more like an honorary older sister. They’d been that way for years, Isa taking him under a protective wing and Max trying his hardest to do the same. She had problems, though, that she seemed to embrace rather than combat.
Last he saw from her, she was throwing out self-destructive threats and spiraling back into abusing substances. Anything Max had tried to say had fallen flat. Isa would lash out at anyone who protested her behavior. He just kept on getting himself snapped at until someone forced him to give up.
The thought of seeing her now made Max’s stomach turn.
But regardless of who was there and how much Max dreaded having to face them, saying no to Lemon right now just wasn’t an option.
Just getting into Lemon’s dad’s truck was enough to make him a little nauseous. The truck was in a terrifying state of disrepair; covered in dents and scrapes as if it had crashed straight through a brick wall.
Lemon cleared a few books off of the passenger seat and Max climbed in, fumbling with the seatbelt buckle and already looking anxiously out the door window. Lemon had promised she was a good driver, and the trip wasn’t all that long, but Max didn’t do so well in moving vehicles. If he was the one driving it was fine, but cars and boats and planes and busses all made him sick.
Thinking about it made it worse, so he turned his attention back to Lemon, knowing that they couldn’t talk once she started driving. “So…” his hands were shaking a bit. “Apple festival. What do you want to do?” Really, he wasn’t asking to know the answer as much as he was pleading for a distraction, but he hoped in vain that she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
TL;DR wondering why she even bothered to show up to the apple festival
she wears darkness, like some wear the little black dress
Maxine didn’t have much to give, normally she would take any attention, especially from Tatum of all people. Queen of Hartfield, loved by all. That was how she presented herself at least. Maxine had learned to not judge a book by their cover, she was being reminded of that more than ever lately. “Sorry.” Maxine grumbled, she wanted to give into Tatum’s banter, she wanted to joke with her and smile. She wanted to feel… alright… “I just…” Maxine didn’t bother to finish her sentence. She had no one.
No one to talk to, no one that cared enough. She only shrugged as they began walking, Maxine still believed Tatum was here to apologize for Isa. “Might not be everything….” She trailed off for a moment, processing what she would say next. Her voice was quiet, her throat dry as her words cracked. “But..” what was her but? Did she have anything she could even add?
No… not really…
Tatum’s boyfriend on the other hand, him and Maxine unfortunately agreed on many topics… Usually it was something to do with Tatum and her looks. Otherwise, Maxine didn’t really like or trust him, he had done a lot to Tatum, and Isa had told Maxine stories that she didn’t really agree with. This was why she stayed single. This was why she refused any sort of relationship. They didn’t work, people lied, they only want what is best for themselves. Feelings… They just made everything too complicated. Loving someone was never a promise, everyone eventually leaves you. “Are you sure he’s looking.” Maxine mumbled under her breath almost inaudibly.
Her eyes went wide at realization of what she had said, pressing her lips together tightly she hoped that Tatum hadn’t heard her. Tatum didn’t deserve her retort, she was being kind to someone who truly didn’t deserve it.
When Tatum moved on to talking about food, Maxine sighed with relief. ‘she didn’t hear me.’ She thought to herself. “Fineeee..” A small smile cracked at Maxine’s lips, she was hungry after all. Though she didn’t like to rely on others… Maybe this would make her hate the apple festival just a little less. Maxine let Tatum drag her across town center, to the many many booths, with many many options for them to try.
Her mouth watered as she looked at the menu, so many options. With all sorts of smells hitting her nose at once, she could only say she was overwhelmed. Fresh baked apple crisps, cotton candy being spun, fried chicken, fried dough, fried Oreos. Maxine was overwhelmed by the options; she didn’t know where to turn. Her stomach growled viciously as she spun in circle.
Lemon had looked back over Max, letting the truck idle while she thought about what she wanted to. There was so much she wanted to do at the festival from eating fried food all the way to making pretty flower crowns. The thought of all of that set her to think about everything they could do. She hoped he didn’t get to overwhelmed because she knew him, and Isa were having issues and she wished she could help more. Afterall, Isa was looking to spend time with Reid which meant nothing, but trouble could follow, so unfortunately that meant Lemon couldn’t offer comfort to Max in these more than difficult times. She didn’t let herself linger on the thought of Isa and Max because she didn’t want to feel bad or have Max think she felt pity for him. Pity was the last thing she felt she just wanted her friend happy, but she couldn’t make him happy this time. Or really ever.
As she thought more, she finally came up with her response, “I’m excited for food, flower crowns, and friend…” she paused for a moment what was the sign for bonding? She could see the confusion of Max’s fact, “time.” She decided to switch her word rather than try and figure out a sign she obviously didn’t know.
As soon as she reversed the truck, she felt the back tire pop up on a curb. It was fine. She put the car in the drive and the truck lurched forward. It would be fine. Lemon had got her license just like everyone else, she worked for it. When she turned, she could see out of her peripheral Max followed in the same direction at the turn, as she took it too sharp and when it came to the stop sign the truck jolted forward. The right turn she took another curb was hit and the truck landed with a hard thud when it came back to the road. As she drove the truck hugged close to the curb of the road and she felt her tire scrape along the side. She moved it away from the curb, letting her one hand move to turn the radio on, the truck didn’t stay straight, and Lemon quickly corrected the truck, “Oops” she could see the horror in Max’s face. The tight grip he had on the door as she drove. They started going through the small construction section of Parish and the first thing Lemon heard was a thump, her eyes looked in her rearview and saw a large orange cone on the ground, not the first one she had knocked over. While her attention was on the rearview, she felt the truck hit another one, but the small cone and it was completely destroyed by the truck.
Maybe she shouldn’t have driven them to the apple fest because Max looked like he really was going to lose whatever he had eaten that day. Once out of the construction they were in the home stretch towards the apple fest. It wasn’t as if there was anything else, she could hit on the road this time. She turned sharply into the parking lot of the apple fest and found a spot to park, not next to another car, because she had once hit a parked car while trying to park and her dad lectured her for hours, so she always parked away from others. “Here!” Lemon smiled at Max, who looked as white as a ghost.
Lemon and Max head out for the apple festival. Max is only slightly regretting his decision right now.
Max was admittedly a little nervous about being a passenger with someone else already, but he had absolutely no way of knowing the horrible mistake he’d actually made.
He didn’t know how badly he’d fucked up agreeing to ride with Lemon.
And before he could ever realize what he’d done, it was too late to back out.
Not even four seconds had passed before the back tires jolted up over the curb. Max felt his throat clench and clamped a hand over his mouth. Before he even had time to reassure himself that everything was fine, Lemon swung around 90 degrees off of the side street so fast he almost knocked his head on the window. He tried to look at her in disbelief, ask her what the fuck that was about, but the truck swerved out into the middle of the road and took up speed, veering to the sides and running so close past the curb that Max could’ve sworn he felt the tires melting away. The truck bumped and lurched over several large objects… traffic cones? Deer? People!? He couldn’t look. He couldn’t even tell what he was seeing anymore. If the truck had turned upside down, he wouldn’t have even been able to tell. Movement itself had become an unintelligible sensation. How fast were they going? Were they even still moving? Which way did they just turn? What the fuck part of town were they even in at this point?
If Max still had a heartbeat, he couldn’t feel it.
This wasn’t how he wanted to die.
What had he even done with his life by this point? It was really like all his friends said, wasn’t it? He was inexperienced and naïve and never got to do any of the things everyone else did.
So he had to die while he was still like this?
Every jolt and turn the car took felt like it was going to be the last. Seconds went by in snapshots, desperately trying to pinpoint the last thing he’d ever see, remember what his last words were, remind himself what it felt like to breathe while he still could.
Begging God for one more day wasn’t something Max had ever thought he’d catch himself doing.
Max had always thought he’d die with a sense of acceptance; or something like that. He thought about death a lot, and for whatever reason, he always thought he’d know. He thought it would be on his own terms, maybe, but the truth was that most teenage deaths are the result of careless accidents.
Like this one that he felt he was hurtling towards at breakneck speed.
Frantically typing out clumsy goodbyes to his friends…
He didn’t have enough time to apologize for everything, to admit to everything he’d been holding onto for all this time. He had no time to say much more than a handful of desperate, typo-ridden word clusters that he didn’t think he’d live to read back on.
He told Harper he wasn’t okay.
Why would he do that!?
Even in a moment where he felt like death was bearing down on him, he regretted that the instant he hit Send.
That wasn’t what he wanted his last words to be. That wasn't how he wanted to leave things. The last thing anyone would ever know about him was that he'd been lying about being fine all this time.
It didn't occur to Max at this moment that everyone already knew that.
The truck suddenly spun over a sharp turn and breached over the sidewalk again, and Max was thrown back against the headrest and dropped his phone to the floor of the car. A jolt of pain shot down the side of his neck and for a split second he thought he broke it. That would be it, wouldn’t it? That would be when he died. He would already be dead by the time the truck crashed and burst into flames, or sped over a cliff and sank to the bottom of the ocean. By the time he realized he hadn’t actually broken his neck, the truck had started to slow down, still veering across the road with sickening turns that left Max feeling unsure if death had already occurred or if it was still looming over his head.
The truck rolled to a halt in the parking lot and Max had gone totally white, leaning on the dashboard with his head in his hands and gasping for air. For several seconds, he didn’t even seem to notice they’d stopped, but once he risked lifting his head he didn’t know if they’d really survived or if this was just his brain’s last attempt at a conscious thought before it expired.
Lemon looked calm.
Too calm. Still smiling and excited to be here at the Apple Festival. Max barely remembered that was where they were headed. That was the last thing on his mind right now. Much more important was that he was somehow still alive and he felt like he couldn’t recognize his own body.
It took him a while to get himself out of the car. He forgot how seatbelts worked and pulled weakly at it before eventually remembering it had to be clicked open, then found his arms too weak and cold to pull him from his seat. He tumbled out, barely standing and still hyperventilating. Almost immediately he doubled over and clutched at his sides with both arms, trying to take a full breath only to gag and start wheezing again.
For a moment, Max managed to look up and shot Lemon a scathing glare before he made a retching sound and ducked over to the edge of the sidewalk