Lemon could barely walk straight as she pushed through the crowd of people, as she felt her shoulder connect hard with another and she kept pushing past. She didn’t even care to try and apologize they needed to move, and she needed escape. She needed to get away from Max, people, herself, her thoughts. She needed to escape, and she couldn’t. She couldn’t escape the thoughts, the memories, the words, nothing and it brought her back to when things went wrong. All she had to do was be the perfect Lemon, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, and the perfect student and nothing would be going wrong. She had screwed up again. She was always the screw up, the one who made mistakes, everything was her fault. Added to that her hand was throbbing in pain from punching Max, why couldn’t things go better? Why couldn’t she be good at anything for anyone? The wrong words always came out, she didn’t deserve her friends, she didn’t deserve anything but the anger that so many seemed to have directed at her.
She didn’t even realize who had caught up with her, when her face looked into his eyes. No words could be said as tears kept rolling down her cheeks. She couldn’t even protest as he directed her towards his car. All she could do was constantly wipe away tears as they fell try and keep the snot from falling from her nose. She felt like a mess and probably looked like one too. Why was Reid even helping? He wanted her out of his life and now here he was taking her to his car. She looked over to him and his jaw was tight. Of course, he was still angry with her, she shouldn’t have expected anything less.
As she climbed into the passenger seat, she turned her body away from the driver’s side. She continued to let the tears fall even as Reid entered the car. The lump still stuck in her throat as she tried to tell him what happened. He would probably agree. Each breath she took to calm herself only seemed to make her feel worse, “He called me a slut.” She finally got out; the last word higher than all the others before more tears came out. All she felt was shame about her words she said to Reid years back, the threats, the lies, everything, she could feel herself spiraling more and more. Her body still not facing Reid as she slowly tried to move her fingers, the movement painful but not impossible. Never had Lemon thought she’d punch someone put now her hand hurt, probably less than her heart and she couldn’t bear to even look at Reid.
The hatred that she knew would be in his eyes for her was too much to handle. They had been friends and to know that it was entirely her fault that he wanted her completely out of his life, looking at him would just make it worse. Instead she rested her head, still wiping and sniffling as he drove her to wherever. She didn’t even care at this point. Anywhere was better than Hartfield.
It was out of line to smile right now. It took a different type of evil to get it’s run from secretly following a fight close-grained away from him. He knew it seemed all so bad to have the spoils of a smile that came to him rashly as a match picking up flame in a warm afternoon, cheap too, for it was to throw and discard. But, at that juncture of a couple seconds, with the trunk of the soles of his shoes creating a cadence down to Max showed him that he hadn’t changed. He was the Zachary Lee of the past: he had a free and easy mouth which acted less bona fide than his eyes which were unduly quiet to the ocean which he studied so uproariously.
“Max Berkowitz, you big-game player,” the tenor of his voice had a lilting accentuation, though he knew the other boy couldn’t hear. His flat hand swept from his side and fanned out onto one of his shoulders, “What kind of touchdown did you make tonight?”
“Incomplete, was it?” he went on ruthlessly, intently dredging the vowels out so Max could make many of them off his lips, “Were those tears on her face? Are you going to cry?”
He had this absolute paradisiacal grin with his darling set of teeth wonderfully grandstanding on his face that it could almost be forgotten how roughly insincere it could be towards the blonde that he had seen cryingly walk away a shift of time back. Facing half-upwards to the glare of the stadium lights, he was a spitting image of freedom that bypasses all mercy given by law. In charge of his thoughts, he was sure it was because he hated her, that he didn’t feel her pain. Everywhere else, in his heart and softly breathing lungs, something had the gall to upset.
It was because he did things like this to Tatum Browne all the time.
He didn’t betray himself as he sported a look to Max whose brown eyes reminded him of the marshes on which were thin of water and where unlucky fish were baited: vexed and confused.
“Forget her,” he said with a double-meaning towards himself as he glinted his palm off his shoulder to the game, “Let me make an interception.” His eyes flashed trickily.
Outwardly, the people nearby contributed to a cheer as Parish Point made a point.
“Afterall, now that you’re a playboy that can play with others' feelings, you should get a proper coach.”
From the minute by minute distractions, he looked up, “You acknowledge that much right?”
Orland attempts to induce a paranoid breakdown score a perfect 10/10
"It's Not Fine."
Time seemed to grind to a halt, and neither of them said anything.
...he had nothing to say after that.
No, there was nothing left to do but watch tears well up in Lemon’s eyes.
Why was she hurting? She never liked him. He wasn’t her friend. She just wanted him to think that so people would write her down as a good person and never question what she might do.
Before he could see what she intended to do, Lemon shattered the stillness. In an instant, her fist reeled back and snapped forward, catching him sharply in the left eye.
At first, it didn’t even hurt. He hadn’t yet processed what had happened. Then all of a sudden a flash of heat erupted over his eye socket. His head was wrenched to the side by the impact, which threw him a bit off balance and he barely avoided stumbling back. It wasn’t a hard hit, but… even after everything he’d been told, no one would ever suspect that Lemon was capable of that.
Her hand tilted his face back towards her, though he could barely see her tear-streaked face well enough to make out “Fuck you, Max Berkowitz.”
And then she was gone.
The football field had blurred into nauseous spirals of green and red and blue. As if the whole world had sunken in on itself, everything seemed to collapse in on him and force him back into a space even smaller than himself, not enough room to move or breathe.
He had to imagine this was what it felt like to be buried alive.
He just wanted it to be over.
Everything. All of it.
If he could just close his eyes, and forget he was here, pretend nothing existed--
But no, instead he stayed staring off into the farthest corner of the field, leaning against the metal scaffolding on the side of the bleachers, stuck in the feeling that he’d hit a point so low he would never be able to crawl back out of the grave he’d dug. Without thinking, one of his hands strayed to his wrist and felt for a hot, racing pulse.
And, as though just to prove things could always get worse, the sunlight glinted off a head of blonde waves and Max found himself face-to-face with the roguish surfer himself.
Zach was the worst kind of salt in the wound.
Max turned away from Zach, hand still pressed over his eye, but Zach had no intention of leaving Max alone. With a toothy and comical grin, the heat of Zach’s hand warmed his cold shoulder and held him in place.
Theoretically, Max could have easily shoved past Zach and ran back out to the parking lot.
But he didn’t. He stayed.
Why? Who the fuck knows.
Zach, his deep blue eyes glinting with mischievous joy, was his usual cocky self. He chatted away, as always as if he expected Max to be hearing him. Annoying.
There was always something amicably sadistic about the smirk Zach carried, Max thought.
The younger of the two had grown accustomed, over the years, to being Zach’s favorite source of schadenfreude. They really had never gotten along, though the ire seemed to be one-sided on Max’s part. Zach was enjoying himself.
Whatever he was saying, Max couldn’t help but watch closely for whatever words he could catch.
Why did he care what Zach was saying?
He didn’t want to know.
It was just something stupid and belittling and mean.
...But Max didn’t know how much Zach had seen. If he’d seen Lemon, if he’d talked to her, or…
Complete, tears, you, cry.
That was all Max caught from Zach’s first few minutes of smug monologuing. Max hadn’t even noticed the taste of salt at the back of his throat, cold liquid caught in his eyelashes, but turning his head in an attempt to hide this from Zach only handed the blonde proof that he was right.
Every time Max had something to hide, he always managed to broadcast it to everyone without even saying anything.
Zach’s devilish grin seemed to beg for an angry reaction from Max as he leaned in just a little further into Max’s personal space and slowed his words to a pace that could be read easily.
Oh. Oh no. No.
Not this again. Not the insufferable Zach Talk. Last time it was the insane and cryptic Checkers analogy. Before that, it was something else.
Zach did this all the time.
Max hated having to use his voice, but Zach left him no other options. “What the fuck does that mean!?” He had no way of knowing if his speaking voice carried any weight, but he knew he wasn’t getting an answer.
...And, though he was loathe to admit it, he knew what Zach meant when he said these kinds of things.
Why was Zach so entertained by this?
Max knew he was unloveable. He didn’t need Zach to spell it out.
It wasn’t funny. It was aggravating and it hurt.
Winnie's brain was running left and right and she tried to focus on what was going on around her. But she had no idea what was going on. Oliver seemed to be missing. Harper was late instead of Sawyer (something obviously was going on there). Chance had pulled some rare play out of his ass and despite her being quite the distance away from them, she could basically feel the tension seeping out of Hayden as the two football players conversed at the side of the field. Max was still gone. And apparently Lemon blew up on Max on Twitter. Dustin still hadn't made an appearance. And Winnie, for just a second, felt alone.
He's leaving? Winnie asked, a little surprised at the sudden turn of events, that she was not a part of. Something gnaws at her insides as she feels a little left out of what is going on, like she always felt. She still wasn't going to sign back into Twitter and she wasn't going to message Max. Winnie always felt that Max never wanted her help, he never talked to her when she offered and he never opened up when Winnie could obviously see that her friend needed help. Did he not think of her as that type of friend?
Winnie was going to have to stop trying eventually, but of course she could never bring herself For now, she'd listen to Harper and give Max some time, but that didn't mean that Winnie wasn't angry. He ditched her. After making a big deal about driving, he left her. She met him halfway on a compromise and he couldn't even be bothered to fulfill the deal. That bothered Winnie. But she couldn't bare to deal with it now.
Chance is the quarterback, he doesn't usually run the ball. But I feel like Chance wouldn't have run unless he needed to. Winnie was lying, she wasn't sure what Chance would have done. Smile and move on, no matter how much was going on. Falling behind in the inner workings of her friends scared Winnie, was she so tired that she was so out of loop?
Reid was lost, Lemon was crying, he had nothing to say. He didn’t know what had happened, but he knew it took a lot to get her to breakdown in public. Reid wasn’t sure that he had every seen Lemon cry, now that he thought about it.
He had just climbed into the car after her. Watching her entire demeanor was shut down, her whole body was closed off. Turned away from him. She wouldn’t want to talk to him. She hated him; he was surprised she hadn’t put up a fight when he offered her a ride. But then she did.
He faced Lemon who only continued to stare out the window. “Who.” It wasn’t a question. it didn’t matter who.
Either way, Reid was going to kill him.
Lemon didn’t reply, it didn’t matter to Reid. He was sure that Lemon didn’t want to tell him any more than she already had. What had happened was her business.
Reid watched Lemon’s eyes move to her hand as she strained to move it. He hadn’t even noticed that she was hurt, he could finally see the fresh red marking on her hand from illumination of the streetlights.
He thought about reaching out, looking at her hand.
He thought about getting out of the car and finding whoever hurt her.
But he didn’t.
He wouldn’t leave her, he couldn’t leave her while she was feeling like this. Even if she didn’t want him there, he knew he was only a ride to her.
He turned to face the road, rocking the shift into first gear. Slowly he pulled out Hartfield’s parking lot, taking a left away from the school.
There was no destination in mind, he figured Lemon wanted to be alone. And going home for her only meant more questions, and he didn’t think that Lemon could handle that right now.
So, he drove, and he drove. Driving past all the small shops of Parish Point.
However, Reid quickly realized that if he kept driving, he was sure to get the two of them lost. This wasn’t Alabama, and even though it was small, Reid barely could find his way home most days without getting lost.
And he didn’t want to accidentally take the two of them to Boston, and no way was he letting Lemon drive if they got lost. His car was too precious to him.
Finally, Reid found an empty parking lot of a very quiet Dairy Queen. He pulled into the parking lot, parking in the furthest corner he could, away from any prying eyes. Though it seemed that most of the town had made the trip out to the stupid high school game.
Some poor sucker, leaned forward in the window scrolling through their phone.
He turned ignition to his car off, throwing his head back against the headrest of his car. Lemon was still sniffling and staring out the window. Reid spoke softly, as if she were a deer and if he spoke too loudly, she would spook and run off. “Hey.” He rolled his head to the side to face the blonde, it was all he could say. He didn’t have words for how he felt seeing her this upset. Every muscle of his strained against his instincts to wrap her up and promise that he would never allow anyone to hurt her like that again.
But she didn’t want that. She didn’t need that from him.
Chance loved to run. He never did much of it while quarterback, always throwing the football off to another one of his teammate. And Chance was okay with that, it was no problem to him because he trusted his team. But Chance noticed things at times, things that pushed for a last minute decision.
Chance felt frustrated at Hayden's comment. Chance wouldn't have run the ball if it wasn't needed. There was a guy to your right and Clark was occupied. Running the ball was the right call.
The last minute decision to reroute from the original play was what got them the point. For most of the game, the Pirates and the Pioneers were neck and neck. If Chance hadn't done what he did, they would've lost the ball and Hartfield would use their downs to get ahead. Why couldn't Hayden understand that?
Anger bubbles in him slightly and stains on his eyebrow, you could see the emotion painted on his face. He rips off his helmet as the defense team runs onto the field. Clark is among the eleven of the Pirates as Hayden stays behind, obviously wanting to continue his talk with Chance.
The quarterback is not having it though, half time was getting closer and they had to put a huge gap between the two team's scores or it wasn't going to be easy to win the next half. Chance avoids his team captain a little more by grabbing his teal water bottle to take a drank and peering out to the crowd.
He sees his sister and she has that look, that look where it seems as if she wants to explode. He saw it on her when he brought up Dustin and Ashley last week; he saw it when she punched that girl for Kat in middle school; he saw it when dance practice was getting too much for her. She was overwhelmed. Chance couldn't do anything about it now as he was obviously on the field and they weren't talking. He didn't mean to undermine her relationship with Dustin, but he didn't want her hurt or in his business. He couldn't do anything about it now though, and both twins know that as they meet eye contact.
The start of the down gains Chance's attention and pulls him closer to the side line so that he could access an analytic gaze. Hayden sidles up to him again and Chance wants to walk away, but he's the quarterback and in the middle of a game, he couldn't do that. The seconds on the scoreboard are running closer to 0 as the the second quarter gets closer to its end. Maybe a 30 minute break would cause for Hayden to see that Chance did a good job. The marching band and cheer squads should be a good enough distraction from whatever was boiling between the two football players. Chance was just hoping for this game to be over already; there was no need to be here if his talents weren't appreciated.
Living with Isa certainly had it's challenges, but Liz would take any excuse she could to not focus on her own problems. That wasn't to say that she didn't genuinely care about and hope the best for Isa; it was just conveniently timed. That 'Lucky' guy had warned Liz that Isa had night terrors and instructed her how to help when that happened. The first few nights were fine but afterwards it felt like a nightly routine. The youngest Bishop would make some tea and sit with Isa until dismissed. The instances hardly ever woke Liz up; she was barely sleeping these days. She had taken it upon herself to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders and refused to allow anyone to help.
Liz saw a lot of both herself and Riley in Isa so it almost felt natural to have her around the house. It was almost like she was just another sister. Their living situation was bringing them closer together and Liz could see herself calling Isa one of her closest friends eventually. So long as she didn't break the 'no drugs' rule. That was non negotiable. Hell if Isa really, really, fought against it Liz would probably even let her go without breakfast.
That was something that likely came as a shock to the new roommate in the Bishop household. The first morning Liz woke up Isa and practically dragged her out of bed to come eat breakfast. Riley could only offer her an apologetic grin once she joined the table. "She's super uptight about meals, especially breakfast. The upside is Lizabelle is a good cook, so you'll be fed well."
In the time between the Apple Festival and the homecoming game Scott Bishop had been making regular visits to the family establishment. Every time Liz had to walk away to another room or even leave the restaurant entirely. She could barely stomach to be in the same room as him and was trying to not punch him like Josie advised. If it weren't for the people depending on her she'd let the bastard have it. These stressful visits combined with visiting her mother and the sleepless nights with Isa had left Liz worn to the bone. No amount of makeup, not that she really bothered anyway, could conceal the dark circles under her tired eyes. Her movements were becoming sluggish and dragging. Energy drinks were struggling to effect her. She had planned on sleeping through the homecoming game to try and catch her tired mind up on some much needed rest, but multiple people requested her entirely unnecessary presence, so here she was dragging herself to stupid Hartfield to watch a game she honestly didn't really care about.
Liz stood off to the side of the bleachers, leaning into them to keep herself up. A beanie covered the mess that her hair assuredly was and her hands were stuffed into the pockets of her oversized hoodie. While she could have gone and socialized with someone she really didn't want to be in close proximity to people right now. She didn't look well and knew people would ask her about it. The Bishop girl was not about to admit that she was struggling to balance everything in her life. Plus she felt like if she sat down somewhere she'd definitely fall asleep.
Brown eyes scanned over the sea of faces, content with being just another blur in the crowd. For a brief moment Liz caught Hayden's gaze, at least she thought she did, it was hard to tell at that distance. She flashed a smile even so. Hopefully he had seen her, she didn't want the people she had promised to think that she had flaked on them. It didn't really matter if she couldn't really follow along with what was happening as long as she was there to support. As Liz searched for Winnie, the other person she had told she'd be there for, she felt her phone buzz in her pocket. Seeing Meg's name sent her heart racing. Last time this happened she was given the news about her mother.
"He can't do that! Can he?....This is bullshit!...."
Liz's jaw clenched as she hung up the phone. Her hands shook with rage but her lips trembled with fear and helplessness. She started to feel claustrophobic and struggled to gain control over her emotions; the stinging in the back of her eyes warning her of the tears that were going to come. She needed to get out of here. With her eyes fixed on the ground so as to not let anyone see her face she turned away from the game and headed out, pushing past people as she did. As she made it to her car she could feel the first tear streak down her cheek.
Several moments were taken just sitting in her car processing the phone call and trying to not break down by staring into space. Eventually, as if her body could no longer physically support the weight of the world, she crumpled forward and rested her head on the steering wheel. She had been unconsciously biting her cheeks and tongue to the point that her mouth was full of blood. Her fist hit the dashboard once, twice, then flung backwards to strike the headrest of her seat. She let out a primal yell and turned the key. Liz didn't really have a destination but she needed to clear her head and go somewhere so she started driving.
As if falling back into an old habit Liz found herself parked in an abandoned parking lot that she used to frequent when she was more prone to getting in trouble. She dug around in her trunk and found an old can of spray paint. After a short walk she found the bridge where she learned how to graffiti. She still wasn't really good at it but she found some enjoyment doing it. At this point she would take anything that would allow her to think about anything else. This part of town wasn't as well maintained as the rest and under this bridge was the likely the clearest bit of evidence to that. There was usually something happening under there that most people would look away from, today was eerily quiet however. A cold wind rushed under the bridge which probably explained the lack of use. Liz tried to huddle into herself to keep warm but it wasn't much help against the piercing wind. Her tired brown eyes moved slowly around as she shook the can of spray paint. Memories flooded back to her with each rattle. Everything was starting to feel meaningless in her life so why not become a delinquent again?
Mentions: k o r o lDazzle
Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I love you.
Clark had always liked football. It was one of the few things he did that he'd actually gotten to choose. When he was little his dad had never really been interested in putting Clark in any little league sports but Clark could remember watching college ball or the occasional NFL gane on the tv and wanting so badly to play. After profusely begging his dad, the man had eventually relented and let Clark sign up for one of the Pop Warner teams that were in their town. From that point on, he played. From junior high all the way up to highschool, he never stopped. So now here he was standing on Harfields field, doing warm-up stretches. He stood up from the quad stretch he was doing and started to scan the bleachers. His parents were sitting somewhere near the bottom with his little sister squirming restlessly in his mother's lap. Grannie climbed up the steps a few seconds later, a packet of sour straws for his sister in hand. Clark smiled and offered them a wave, which Claire returned with a fist full of candied straws waving through the air.
With the assurance that his family was there, Clark began scanning again even as he moved between yard markers doing lunges and high knees and a number of other things. Astraea had assured him that Josie was going to make an appearance so that's who he was looking for. Josie had been avoiding him for reasons that were unknown to Clark. She'd disappeared from the Apple Festival soon after that weird moment with Claire where Clark had literally had to move the woman bodily away from him. After that whole fiasco, he'd gone immediately to find Josie to tell her the ridiculous thing that had just happened to him in her absence but she was nowhere to be found. Josie was ignoring his calls, text messages, Twitter dms, he'd even tried going to her house and been turned away by her father. Auntie's had been the only place he'd seen her but Beatrice had blocked the boy from going back to see her with her angry old lady scowl. If Josie came to the game, that would give him a real opportunity to actually be able to figure out what he'd done to draw her ire. But his blonde headed best friend was not in the bleachers and a frown quickly marred his expression.
With gaze turned away from the bleachers, he was now looking squarely at the opposing Pioneers on the other side of the field. Clark's frown quickly dropped away with a shake of his head. This was a rival game that was almost as important as a playoff game to their fans and his other teammates. He needed to focus, they had a game to win. With his stretches done, Clark jogged over to the side of the field where his pads and jersey were laying. With the final piece of his gear slipped over his head, he joined the rest of his team with all thoughts of Josie gone from his mind.
The two teams were neck and neck nearing the half. The tension between Chance and Hayden was palpable as Clark got into position on Chance's right side. This was a shotgun play, easy to run, but also easy for defense to figure out if they were paying attention. Chance was supposed to just toss the ball off to Hayden and the other boy was on a route that would lead him through the center of the defense through a hole the O-Line was supposed to create for him. Unfortunately, the play fell apart as soon as it started. The second the ball was put into Chance's hands and the down began, a defender broke through the offensive line and was barreling straight toward Chance. Clark rerouted from his outside route he was supposed to be running to pick up the slack. He slammed into the loose defender, knocking him back a few feet and keeping him off of Chance in the pocket. Clark was only one man though and the offensive line was quickly falling away. The hole that was supposed to be made for Hayden would not be there and Chance opted not to hand it off to him as Hayden ran by. Instead he took off from the pocket, breaching the line of scrimmage, the 1st down marker and soon the goal line. Clark pumped his fist in the air in excitement.
"Way to go, Chance!" Clark clapped him on the back as they jogged off the field to allow the special teams to kick the extra point and then kick it off to the other team for Hartfields offensive run. Clark could still literally see the tension and aggression rolling off of both Hayden and Chance as they stood next to each other on the side lines. Clark stayed rooted on his spot on the bench behind the two of them, trying desperately to figure out a way to get them to calm down.
"Hey, Hayden." Clark stood from the bench, and walked up to the two of them, putting himself squarely in between them, "Do you wanna try to run a Hook and Ladder? I think the defense is reading our plays pretty well so we might be able to fake them out if we did that? Chance is fast enough to catch up with one of the wide receivers for the first toss back and then he can toss it back to me or maybe Doyle and then you can be the last hook maybe? They wouldn't have a clue what was going on. I've always wanted to try to do a Hook and Ladder."
Give me what I want, I'll ask politely. Give me what I want.
Stu seemed to think that he was a Parish Bay student. Zeke considered lying for a moment like perhaps thinking that he was a fellow dirt dweller would make Stu more comfortable. He really did not feel like having a panicking kid on his hands the whole drive to Hawking House. Zeke's jaw twitched and his smile faltered momentarily into a scowl. If Ryan made him sit there and watch the kid piss himself while Ryan just messed around with him, he'd throw up. Ryan had a habit of playing with his food. He took too damn long trying to talk himself up, make himself somehow more intimidating with words. Zeke had no time for messing around. He'd much rather have the kid beat around a little and get the hell out of there in time to catch the second half of the game. But, knowing Ryan, they'd probably be there fucking around for half an hour before anything actually happened. The scowl that had been on his face was only there for a split second before it was replaced by a faux amused grin.
"No, I'm a Hartfield kid. Name's Zeke. I know you, you're friends with Oliver right? That kid that stabbed Ryan?" Zeke found himself unable to lie about his school affiliation because even the thought of public school made him gag, "That was pretty sick. Ryan needed to be taken down a peg, he's kind of an ass." This statement was only partly true and said with a sparkling grin. Ryan did need to be taken down a peg, but not because he was an ass because Zeke really needed everyone to question his machoness. If it were up to Zeke, he would've given Oliver a high five and thanked him for fucking Ryan up. But it wasn't up to Zeke and Ryan was on a revenge mission. So, he'd gladly kidnap a Freshman to get him to step down. This was fun anyway.
Zeke's smile was genuine as they turned down the road that would take them to Hawking House. This kid was either supremely stupid, or was trying to reassure himself. He was acting like they were still going in the direction of Hartfield even though they'd turned off paved roads a while ago. The stupid ones were easy, simple. But maybe he did want to mess with the blonde kid a little before they got there. Just for kicks, you know?
"Oh, yeah, it is pretty far but we're not going to Hartfield right now. I've gotta make a quick stop before heading that way." Zeke turned and passed through the rusted iron entrance of Hawking House's land. The trees lining the dirt road flew by and soon they were in front of the crumbling remains. There were a few other cars outside too, one belonging to Ryan himself. They were already here, good. Zeke watched Stu carefully for a moment, still smiling a smile that turned more wicked by the second.
"Hope you don't mind. Come on, I don't wanna leave you outside here by yourself." Zeke climbed out of the car and waited patiently for Stu to follow. He let Stu go in front of him as he held open the still functioning front door. It was dark inside, most things clouded in dust and hardly visible. Zeke closed the door behind him, sealing away the outside and any light that came with it. The only thing that shone in the room now was Zeke's still smiling teeth, which seemed to contort into the darkness into something almost inhuman. Then there were the other boys coming out of the shadows with flashlights in hand. In the middle of them stood Ryan, a wall of anger rolling toward Stu. Zeke chuckled.
"Oh, shit, forgot Ryan was here. Whoops." He spoke, all semblance of friendliness gone from his tone and replaced by twisted bemusement.
"You don't pick very good friends, blondie. Maybe you'll learn today." Ryan wasn't smiling, he didn't have that same foul amusement with this whole thing as Zeke. He just looked very, very angry. Where he was a angry wolf, Zeke was a quick witted snake and he'd snuck up on Stu and ran him right into the wolf's lair.
TL;DR If anyone needed the reminder, Oliver's living situation isn't great.
How lonely it is, to be drowning in a place where everyone can swim
(Fair warning for liberal use of abusive rhetoric. Skip this post if you're not comfortable reading about physical abuse and abusive dynamics from that perspective. Thanks.)
Eileen Dreyfuss was all of 5 foot 7, a slim woman who didn't at all look like she was capable of the things she did.
She wore 3-inch heels and simple business-casual blazers and skirts. She kept a weary but polite smile at all times, speaking in a soft and steady tone. Like her apartment, her look and her outward demeanor were trimmed and precise to mask the gloom of poverty.
She was seldom seen around Parish Point, but those who knew her thought of her as nothing out if the ordinary. She worked as an office receptionist in the next town over, but spent much of her time at home with her four children.
Her two oldest daughters were recently out of high school, attending the local community college. The youngest would be finishing middle school in the summertime. Quiet girls, all three of them; wide-eyed and wary and small. Never strayed a toe out of line.
Eileen also had a son.
That was another matter entirely.
Her son spoke even less than his sisters, but when he did it was in stuttered and rambling sentences and recitations. He had odd twitchy mannerisms, unable to hold still, pulling at his hair or biting his hands. He was obsessed with turtles. More often than not that was all he would talk about. Eileen often said it was difficult to keep him safe and indoors, that he didn't know better enough to not run off and hurt himself. She would sometimes quietly let her neighbors know to keep tabs on his whereabouts. Oliver had autism, though Eileen rarely used the word in public. It went without saying that her son needed additional support that a struggling single mother could hardly manage on her own.
She was exhausted. So, so, exhausted. Ever since her husband left because of the difficulties their son came with, Eileen was left to hold her family together on her own. She was managing, one day at a time. It took patience, some self-medicating, but she had to do so much on her own and she was still doing so well staying strong.
There were bad nights, though, when her 15-year-old son was acting up and all she could do was lock him in his room or pin him down on the floor to keep him from hurting himself, or hurting others in the family. For his own good. He could be unpredictable. She wasn't hurting him. He gave himself those bruises.
She just couldn’t leave a kid like him unattended. Eventually he'd quiet down, even if it took some force, and she'd let him out to go to school the next morning.
And Eileen losing her temper was perfectly justified. Spending every day of her life working 10 hours a day, running on 2 hours of sleep and bath salts, dealing with 4 children and one with a difficult condition, she couldn't be expected to be perfect every moment.
She was only human.
Oliver could get up when he was done being difficult. You just can't reason with kids like that.
--------don't type anything after this comment--------
Little hi little low little hey little ho
warning: certain crime against kitkat boy
The mention of Ollie made Stu glance at his phone. Still no vital signs of his missing best friend. Quietly frustrated, he spammed even more fist bump emojis into Turtle Boy’s inbox and then blurted an answer to Zeke’s question.
“Oh, yeah. Ollie. I’m friends with Ollie, mm-hm!”
Stu would very much like to forget about that party on the beach. Bad enough that he had to deal with Genieveve’s perverse imagination and FAKE NEWS about him peeing on some petunias... Now why would she come up with a disgusting lie like that? Obviously she was the one peeing on the beach and trying to deflect blame on him. Now try unseeing that!! Ewww...
So, the less said about the party the better. Stu might have been one dumb kid, but he still knew that it was wrong and Ollie could end up in prison for stabbing Ryan. Even if Ryan deserved it. Stu was never a big fan of violence; most of the time he was on the receiving end of it. His answer to violence was always to throw KitKats at it, since his personal philosophy was that no evil in the world couldn’t be defeated by chocolate. He never liked seeing anyone get hurt, and he didn’t like hurting anybody. ...Well, except maybe Genieveve.
He rethought his silence, the urge to fix the rumour and defend his best friend’s honour impossible to ignore.
“But Ryan attacked him first. So… so it was self defence! And an accident! Ryan’s always mean to him, and to me too.”
The worst thing about prison? No Minecraft. So if Ollie went to prison Stu would be left with 100 sea turtles to care for all by himself!!!
They had long come off the paved road. Stu was somehow still untroubled, his smile hiding no anxiety or doubt. All this time he thought Zeke was just taking a shortcut through the woods. The sooner they got to Hartfield the better. Kat and the other cheers were waiting for him and probably already wondering where he was. He’d have to make up some good excuses or risk the wrath of Kat, something Max was used to experiencing over on Twitter.
The woods grew denser by the minute. When they pulled up in front of Hockey House, the blonde boy’s face was first a picture of muted incomprehension, then a belated excitement.
“Hey, I’ve been here before!” he said, gawking up the dilapidated front of the half-collapsed house. “It’s Hockey House!”
Zeke was already out of the car. Stu flew after the older boy with expressive skips over puddles of mud, excited to tell him all about the things that happened when he last came here with the Scooby Gang.
“The ceiling came down when we were inside. Like Wheewew and then CRASHHHH. Just like that. I nearly died too. Nearly got tetanus! Then we all got separated and it was so dark inside and Max and I we went in the basement—”
Before them was the darkness. And in that darkness stood Ryan. There in his towering and terrifying form. The smile fell off Stu’s face right away and he looked pale as if Max had been wrong and the ghosts of Hockey House really did exist.
The boy known as Neck Tie looked dumber and stupider than he had ever looked. His eyes were two uncomprehending stones that he was desperately twisting and screwing into his skull with his knuckles, trying to break the mirage that was Ryan.
Ryan could not be rubbed or blinked away. He was real and there in the flesh grinning with vengeance. Him and all his crooked friends formed the circle of terror and the youngest boy was in the middle of it.
Now Stu acted on the instinct of a cornered baby fawn. He naively backed into Zeke for protection — only to meet the firm grip on the nape of his neck of another boy that pushed him forward. The tight squeeze of bone made him cry “OWWww!”
“What’s the matter?” came the voice. “Look like you've seen a ghost, kid. Not happy to see me?”
Ryan beckoned them into the adjacent room. Their lights swayed and darkness pressed. They shoved the small boy along in a procession and the rotten wood of that ancient house screeched under their shifting weights.
"See, you're all buddy buddy with the bitch that stabbed me, you know? So to really get back at him, I'm gonna hafta hurt someone close to him. And you know who that just so happens to be?"
Another door was slammed and Stu crumpled to the floor with the slightest shove. The thud of his fall made a cloud of dust that he choked in. He crawled desperately over the blind floor and gave himself tetanus many times over.
The glare from the flashlights screamed in his eyes and he squinted and blinked tears.
“You're confused, so lemme explain to your stupid crying ass face how this is gonna go down.” Ryan knelt down and ruffled that blonde head into a tangled mess. Stu tried to shield himself from contact but Ryan made a firm grip of his arm and resistance was futile. “See, your little bitch boyfriend thought he could mess with me. Now I'm gonna have to prove to everyone just how wrong he was.”
Now standing up to crack his knuckles and roll his neck theatrically.
“It's nothing personal, kid. Your buddy buddy hurt me so now I'm just gonna have to hurt you. Simple as that.” Then turning to his band of snickering friends. “...Ya’ll want a show I’ll give y’all a show.”
Give me what I want, I'll ask politely. Give me what I want.
Trigger warning: Physical violence and mentions of blood
Of course Ryan had to do his whole spiel before actually doing anything to Stu. Zeke couldn't help but picture him kind of like a cartoon villain, stalking back and forth in front of the hero telling him his entire evil plan of action. Ridiculous. It was all like an over dramatic circus act he was putting on for the boys surrounding them. Ryan was just a monkey swinging around and jumping through hoops of fire unknowingly about to catch himself aflame. So Zeke stayed off to the side, lounging kind of languidly on the remains of an old couch. The rest of the boys circled around Stu in unison as if they were a pack of hungry hyenas just about to go in for the kill. They were, in fact, just like animals. Their movements and cheers of goading as Ryan moved in on Stu had no grace. This glorified cat fight lacked a certain kind of torture that only a human being could bring to it.
Ryan's fists were hard and slow. He swung like he was swinging through molasses. They connected with places that would only serve to give Stu a bloody nose and maybe a few bruises on his abdomen area. The others had become monkey's too, excited and jumping about yelling like they'd just snorted something. Ryan only hit him in the face once. It had been a sickeningly weak blow straight to the kid's cheek, the only sound being the quiet smack of knuckles against flesh. Ryan's expression was hard and angry, he was snarling now like a rabid animal, but his punches lacked sustenance. It was like he wanted so badly to beat the kid to a pulp but now that he had the opportunity...he couldn't do it. This was beginning to get on Zeke's nerves because he knew that if Ryan didn't get what he wanted now, they would never see the end of this ridiculous revenge mission. Someone had to do something.
"You talked too much, Ryan." Zeke stood up from the couch, swinging his head around until his neck made a satisfying pop noise, "You spent all this time telling him what you were going to do that you lost all the umph." He moved through the others and out into the open circle that Ryan and Stu were in the middle of. Ryan was glaring at him but Zeke just waved him off.
"My turn." Zeke turned on Stu, that all too pleasant grin returning to his face. Except now, it was much too wide and so off putting that it might send anyone running. His tongue ran over the top row as he crouched down to Stu's level, his hand grasping the blonde boy's face and turning it every which way as if he was examining him.
"You'll have to forgive me, Stu. I've never been very good at resisting….urges." Zeke patted him on the cheek and stood up again and wasted no time letting his foot come back and connect squarely with Stu's stomach. The coughing noise that came from Stu drew a laugh from somewhere deep in Zeke's throat. Speaking of throats. Zeke picked the kid up by the throat until he was on feet again.
"Stand up. Stand up like a man." A pat on the back was followed by a quick fist to the back of the head and hands catching Stu before he fell, "Whoops, almost fell over there." And then he let him fall. There were three kicks, one to the stomach, another to the chest that made a hollow thumping noise that Zeke liked so he did it again.
"Get up, come on." Zeke pulled Stu up again, still smiling. He continued on smiling as he fists flew one after the other after the other into the other boy's face and now his hands were bloody. A last fist was accompanied by a sickening crunch sound that sent shivers through Zeke. The kid's nose was broken. Those bloody hands clasped around Stu's throat once again and he backed him up through a hole made by now silent monkeys. Zeke tossed the kid on the couch he'd been on a few minutes before like a broken doll.
"Take a nap. Maybe you'll feel better, goodnight, sweet dreams." Zeke went so far as to plant a kiss on Stu's forehead before walking away from him. He cleared his throat and straightened out his clothes. The back of his hand wiped away blood from his mouth and he wiped the rest of the blood on his hands on some boy's shirt.
"I think we're done here." And then he was gone, slinking out with his wolfish grin into the night. The rest soon followed, still stunned silent as they shuffled after Zeke. Ryan was the last left in the room and he looked over at Stu once before shaking his head.
"You tell Oliver that we'll do the same to him if I ever see his pussy face again." But his words were void of the anger he'd held once and he walked out of the house looking an awful lot like a kicked puppy.
Parvati Like clockwork, I was up and dressed immaculately. Making sure everything was perfect. I had to wait for Luca to be ready as mother ran through what the itinerary was for the day (mostly for Lucas benefit). Once it was confirmed again she wished us both a good day and father told us both to put our best foot forward.
Getting into my Silver Porsche 911, I waited for Luca to get in his own car and off we went. Leading the way into the student parking, I parked flawlessly of course, before getting out. My heels crunching slightly on the gravel as I lock my car and carry some books in a book bag on my back as I make my way into the main registrar’s office.
I stand there waiting with a smile, though it was slightly strained as the woman behind the desk seemed to be taking her time getting my papers sorted out. Luca was fiddling on his phone of course, I loved my brother but these kinds of things were best left to me.
The woman then mentioned that we would have an escort so we would know where the facilities were. Finally, maybe this new girl would have herself more together than this office jockey. While waiting I decided to check my own phone, Father had gifted me with some stocks for my 17th birthday so I might as well check on those I suppose.
I wake up with a sigh, New school time. Shaking my head I get out of bed and hit the shower. I could hear Parvati down stairs. She was already good to go. Once I was showered and dressed, I come down and grab an apple and croissant as Mum goes through what to do at the school including the trip she signed us up for….great. Dad tells us to put our best foot forward. As Parvati heads to her car I give Mum and Dad a hug and she tells me to try and enjoy the day.
Getting into my Mitsubishi Eclipse, I pull out of the drive and follow Parvati to the school parking lot. Pulling in next to her, I was acutely aware of the students staring at the new kids. While I tried to ignore it, Parvati seemed to revel in it. Heading into the office, I hung back as she more or less ordered the woman behind the desk to handle our paper work.
She went through our timetables and explained the study periods. I looked and saw my music and art electives had been slotted in. Dad had certainly swung it to happen. Letting out a breath I had not known I was holding, the woman explained that we were to wait for our student guide to come in and show us around including an escort to our classes. I was checking some up and coming artists instagram while Parvati was clearly checking her stocks, I could tell she was doing well based on the gleam of victory in her eyes.
Jace's first semester at Hartfield had been remarkably unremarkable. Surprisingly to both himself and his parents he had actually been quite focused on his schoolwork. Turns out breathing elite air can be good motivation for a boy to live up to that standard. He'd brought his A-game to the new school, diving into his classes with an interest in seeing top marks on his report card. A sight he rarely witnessed beyond his PE grade. While this lead to his first ever 4.0 grade, (something he's very proud of), it also meant nothing really interesting happened outside his classes. Sure he loved history class and, in his free time, made good progress in several games; but he could tell he was missing out on something. He'd caught glimpses of it on Twitter. Every now and then he'd check his phone to see something happening. He'd watch for a little while, offer his own little interjections, then put the phone down when he lost interest. It was like standing in the center of a hurricane. No drama, no trouble, no girlfriend; all remaining at arm's length from the boy without the interest to meaningfully pursue them.
The alarm went off nice and early, piercing the dark of Jace's dorm room. The response was almost immediate. A groggy teenage boy rolled out of bed, propelling himself by the momentum of his long legs, and swiftly grabbed his phone from the bedside table. Practiced thumbs disabled the irritating sound while icy blue eyes squinted against the electric-blue light of the screen.
It was Jace's first week back in Parish Point after he'd flown off back home for the holidays. In all honesty, he hadn't missed it. He'd enjoyed himself last semester, dazzled by the high class atmosphere of a posh boarding school, but he was less enthusiastic about coming back to it. A new game had caught his attention over Christmas and he wasn't keen on shifting gears back to focusing on schoolwork. Still, there wasn't much he could do about it, and he was equally reluctant to relinquish the intelligent impression he'd made last semester.
So the boy forced himself to get ready for the new semester's first day, picking out the corresponding supplies for his classes even while he daydreamed of tactics to try in that game. About thirty minutes later he was putting the finishing touches on his outfit for the day, buttoning up a collared shirt before throwing on a blazer of complementing color. Since it was his first day back, he'd decided to lean a little more on the formal-ish side. Jeans and tennis shoes notwithstanding. He lingered in front of the mirror for a minute or two, tousling his still slightly damp hair until he thought it looked good, before finally departing from his room. Book bag slung over his shoulder, of course.
Jace's first destination was the cafeteria. It was still a bit before classes were due to start, and the boy wanted himself some coffee. In typical high class, Hartfield fashion, an impressive array of foods was laid out to choose from. The lovely smells of early morning bacon were enough to lure his wandering mind back down to Earth as his piercing blue gaze wandered over the business class style buffet. If there was one thing he had missed about Hartfield, it was this. Although he'd come for the coffee, Jace took a bit of detour, eagerly raiding the breakfast line on his way. Only once his plate was filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns did he move on to the coffee machine. It was a beautiful marvel of human engineering. A French design, as expensive as it was refined. Only his parents' espresso machine back home could surpass it, and even then it was a close competition. It poured the dark, scalding liquid into his cup with all the grace of a gourmet chef, mixing it with just the right amount of milk soon after. The result was a lovely caramel elixir that revitalized the boy by sheer proximity.
With breakfast and holy caffeine medium in hand Jace finally wandered off to find himself a table. He picked an empty one by the window, sitting down such that he had an equally good view both within the cafeteria and out onto the campus. His book bag was set next to him on the floor and his laptop promptly extracted from it. After reintroducing the computer's power cable to a well placed outlet nearby, Jace set the device up so he'd have something to do while he ate. In this case that just meant watching a video, or rather part of a stream, of another game he'd taken an interest in.
All in all, although he really didn't want to go back to class, Jace was liking his first morning back in Hartfield.