As Lemon smiled over to Levi, she couldn’t help but think of all the people in the world to be her best friend she got him. She felt so lucky. It was hard to describe exactly what made them so close, but they were, even when he was dating Harper their friendship never really changed. The only time it changed was last summer and really, she didn’t know how to talk to him about what went wrong. She knew he worried and probably wanted to know why she had avoided him and basically everyone. Hell, if she were in his shoes, she would be feeling the same way. For Lemon the thing was she was in her shoes and in her life and trying to explain this to him felt impossible. She searched his face for lingering questions, but all she saw was her friend wanting her to be happy.
She stayed silent for a moment, “Levi.” She paused for a moment; how did she want to start things off? Her brain struggled to even know where to begin, but this was Levi. Max had been pushing so hard that she was scared of any reactions from anyone, “I know I wasn’t around much, and I know I’ve been acting weird, and even worse with Reid around.” She paused, “A lot happened last summer. Reid…he didn’t do anything. It’s hard to explain. I even liked him at one point, but friendships changed. I changed, he changed, and he’s probably the only person that knows most of what happened last summer, and.” She paused. She didn’t know what to say because to say she hated that he knew was part of what bother. She hated that he had been around, and she hated how much he wouldn’t let her ignore it.
It had hurt her to lose him as a friend, but now, now it was better for the both of them, “and I would like to keep it with no one else knowing what happened last summer. I really didn’t want him to know either.” That was probably the best way she could say anything.
Trusting her friends wasn’t the issue, feeling and remembering the past was the issue. She wanted to move forward, wanted to leave the past in the past. Pretend nothing bad had ever happened, pretend that everything was all a nightmare and that if she blinked hard enough everything bad would disappear. “You know I even liked him when I was thirteen. Like you know the big crush and everything. Was a weird year for me. But that was the past and now, I don’t really know if I can let myself ever like anyone. Not because of a crush when I was thirteen. I even had a crush on you at one point. Don’t worry I don’t anymore. But I just don’t know if I can actually feel that way for anyone anymore.” Lemon knew she wasn’t okay, but she couldn’t let herself think about her past mistakes, her past problems. She had to stay in the present.
there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy....
Astraea didn’t know how to react when Carson abruptly stopped her mid-sentence. She was taken aback, which really, she wasn’t too sure as to why. Carson was abrupt, most of the time, she was more brass than Astraea, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. She just always grew up so much softer, no need to grow a shell to protect herself. It was a rather big shock when she did move out of her parent’s home. She had been so excited to experience college and parties and having her own schedule that she completely went off the walls.
Willingly she listen to Carson telling her all the reasons that Astraea herself was a good person. She pinched her lips together listening to Carson tell her that everyone looked at her, but Carson scared them off. Reminding her of how they became friends… Granted Astraea didn’t realize that Carson hadn’t wanted her company, she didn’t really take well to social cues… She now knew it was called resting bitch face, not just constantly sad face. She had wanted to make her day better… not be a bother to her.
Though Astraea learned that a few months after they had become friends, after constant bothering.
“You’re a good person too Carson.” Astraea reached forward placing her hand on top of Carson’s. “And we’re friends now, that’s all that matters. Right?”
“I’ll always be here for you; I won’t let you be alone.” She pulled her hand back shrugging her shoulders. “You’ll find your person, I know it.”
Astraea nodded her head forward, letting her sunglasses fall to the bridge of her nose. “Now.” She laid back against the towel on the warm sand. “let’s have a great day at the beach.” She smirked turning her head to her brunette friend.
As Carson spent her time with Astraea at the beach, she knew she was lucky to have her as a friend. It was nice that she had someone who understood her and let her be herself. Someone who got her and her R.B.F., that understood that Carson wasn’t a bad person her face just sometimes looked angry. As she relaxed with her friend she ended up getting an offer that she couldn’t say no to, and it gave her a reason to not go back to Thad, instead she was given an offer to go to one of the nicest hotels in AB with one of the newer arrivals to the town, Yohan.
She had updated Astraea on the two-day hookup and as much as she knew her friend didn’t approve; she had agreed to ending their beach day so Carson could get ready. As she gave her goodbyes to her friend, she made her way back home and checked in on Ms. Mildred to see if she needed any help before Carson packed a small bag of the necessities to keep up her stamina for two days. If Yohan wanted two days, then she was going to make sure she could keep up with him.
Once she helped out Ms. Mildred and got herself packed, Carson drove over to the hotel hoping Yohan wouldn’t bail, but even If he did, she was going to get a nice hotel out of the whole thing so no matter what she at least won in this scenario. It was actually getting the keys to the room where Carson had the biggest struggle because she wasn’t Yohan and really she knew nothing about him, but she had to explain to the person at the front desk what was happening, in not so many details before she finally got the key cards.
Now, Carson had never really lived in luxury so the second she opened the door she was amazed by the beauty of the room. The bed was huge, and she dropped her bag letting herself jump right on the bed, letting out a small laugh of joy. Maybe Yohan wouldn’t be so bad to keep around if he could at any point in time afford a room like this. The doors to the outside balcony were huge and the views were amazing. If anything, this place would definitely set the mood for her. Once the initial shock wore off, she slipped into the outfit that made her feel most confident and waited on the bed for Yohan. She knew she would hear the door before he entered, and she wanted to make sure he liked what he saw.
Artemis, in his current state, didn't pick up at all on the way that Hassim spoke about being mad at himself; nor did he pick up on the way that Hassim was looking at him or the way he complimented him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a part of him was yelling at him as Hassim reminded him of what he'd been like on public twitter, but the voice was almost completely drowned out by thoughts of... nothing, really. Artemis' mind felt fuzzy, blurry. Static.
He opened his eyes when Hassim mentioned sleep. The idea appealed to him considerably, although he felt very unmotivated to move from his spot on the ground and against the couch. Still, he looked at Hassim's hand for a few moments, and then he finally reached out and placed his palm in Hassim's. He let Hassim pull him up, but Artemis had no sense of balance or center of gravity, and so he pretty much collapsed against Hassim's chest.
He wrapped his arms around Hassim's neck and sighed. "Carry me?" He muttered, eye closing again. Had he been more sober, he might have realised how insensitive of a request that was, since Hassim had practically carried him all the way to this apartment, but he was nowhere near sober, and all he could think about was how good Hassim smelt and looked and felt.
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TL;DR no time like the present
i look a little bit older, i look a little bit colder
Levi smiled over at Lemon when she said his name, but his smile fell at the expression on Lemon's face. He stood up a little straighter, figuring that splashing around in the water like a five-year-old wasn't really appropriate for the situation. His heart ached at the mention of last year. It had been hard for him, to feel like Lemon was drifting away. But he'd never known what to say, whether he should ask or comment. So he just tried to make it clear that he was there for her, that they'd still be friends if she wanted, that he'd be there when she came out of whatever she was going through.
He stayed silent as Lemon spoke, because he felt like it was wrong to interrupt, even if he was responding to something. So he waited until he was certain she was done, before moving a little closer to her, wincing at the way that the sound of the water moving seemed inappropriately loud. He stopped just in front of her and smiled in a - he hoped - reassuring way. "Firstly, you don't have to tell me anything," he assured her. "It's your business, and only your business. I don't even care if you told a bunch of other people except for me. It's your right to keep whatever happened from whoever you want it to keep it from."
He cleared his throat and looked around, a little awkwardly. "And, uh... whatever happened with Reid... I'm sorry," he said, genuinely. "I don't know him, and if you don't want to make a judgement on him, then I won't either, but, yeah. And I'm sorry you feel like you won't be able to feel, uh, romantically towards anyone. I mean, unless you're okay with that." Reading up on various sexualities in an effort to define his own, he'd heard of asexuality and aromantics. "Um, whatever it is. Whatever you feel, I support you." He gave her a smile, and then looked down at the water, feeling suddenly very brave and not wanting the moment to pass him by. "Actually, I... I wanted to tell you something. About me."
Life is so hard to figure out especially when you’re only seventeen and everything feels like a huge problem. Lemon knew she had said a lot and Levi had been so kind with her and she felt her heart fill with joy at his words, she had forgotten what it felt like to be listened to and to be heard after so many people had stopped listening and stopped understanding. But Levi, he never made it difficult for her, never made her feel as if she was doing something wrong, as if every choice she was making was the wrong choice. Instead he was there for her, there so she could talk when she needed to say something, and there even when she couldn’t muster up the strength to tell him everything even when it was eating at her. But to admit her past and say it out loud well that would make it true, put it out there and she couldn’t act like it didn’t happen if she actually said anything, but Levi didn’t make her. He didn’t lecture her, tell her she was being dangerous, tell her she was masking her problems, that she couldn’t pretend, that she was anything but fine. Lemon knew this she did, but she couldn’t let herself feel that way. She couldn’t let any of it be real.
Her attention stayed on Levi as he said there was something, he wanted to tell her, “I’m here. My attention is all yours.” She could only begin to wonder what exactly her friend wanted to tell her. Was he moving? How would she survive this town if he was moving? Was he dying? No. No he couldn’t be. Was he dating someone? Lemon knew Levi was very quiet about his love life, and she had always been supportive when he was dating Harper and when he didn’t want to date her. She knew they were still close friends, so maybe they got back together. Lemon was mostly grasping at nothing for her theories, but she was impatient, and her brain was running with all sorts of scenarios that Levi would tell her.
She propped herself up on a rock at the edge of the water so she could better hear her friend, she was going to try and be as good of a friend as him. He deserved that and she was going to try hard. Even though her brain was still feeling the effects of the alcohol. She could push it down and listen because Levi meant the world to her, he was part of why she was still so grounded, and why she hadn’t done anything too drastic. She loved him just not romantically and he wanted to tell her something, which meant she was important to him. All she had to do was listen and not say something stupid.
Over the past few months, Winona could say that Dustin had made her smile a little more. He was a caring and sweet guy that she felt she didn't deserve. Now Winnie had a big heart, and as seen before Winnie sometimes fell fast and hard, it could be a mistake, but she didn't think so with Dustin. The two of them were going good, she didn't expect for anything to go wrong now.
Holding Dustin's hand had made Winona feel safe. His presence, his kisses, his jokes, his smile had given her some sort of reprieve. The two of them seemed like an unlikely pair, but after getting together it seemed that they just clicked. However, Winnie wasn't 100% ready to open up to Dustin and she didn't know if that was because she was scared of running him off or if she was too scared to let everything about herself be out in the open. She could barely handle her own problems and feelings, she didn't want to burden anyone with them, even her boyfriend.
Yeah, I'm okay... She trails off unsure on how to reassure him. The girl couldn't tell him about her therapy sessions as no one knew she was in them , she couldn't tell him about Noah's pestering, or about the dynamic between her mother and herself. But he wouldn't have asked how she was doing if he didn't notice something was wrong. I'm kind of okay. Just worried about Chance and now about Faith. Seems like they're going through some things.
Bringing up her best friend reminds Winona about al that they have been through since Faith returned to Anchor Bay. And honestly it tired Winnie. She had to deal with the Gomez parents not liking her already and now she has to deal with Elle, a bitch that seemed suspicious and a little controlling. Frankie had said something to Win but Faith had told her to stop asking questions...it pissed Winnie off a little bit. But Faith was her best friend since they were young, since before expectations were put on them, before Faith got engaged, before Daniel died, basically before everything that made them who they were today happened. But it seemed like the universe was trying to push them more and more apart, outside forces seem to decide the the two of them shouldn't be friends, but that wasn't going to stop Winnie. She was going to fight for her best friend.
And I know she bullies you, but Faith's my best friend and you're my boyfriend, I want the two of you to get along. She wraps her arm around Dustin's and places her cheek on his shoulder, wanting to enjoy their closeness. Soon the two of them arrive to the parking lot and Winnie sees Faith car. Then she sees Faith hunched over in her car, her shoulders shaking . Winnie lets go of her boyfriend and walks a little faster, leaving him behind just slightly. She doesn't even bother to knock on the car door and instead, pulls it open. Winnie grabs Faith's hand and squats down beside her. Hey, what's going on? Winnie softly smiles at her friend, hoping that her presence will help.
TL;DR He thinks Artemis looks cute cuddling with Mack like that
in the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself
The request to being carried made Hassim smile and besides he'd rather carry him then try to drag him to his bedroom down the hall. Yes Artie I'll carry you. The nickname slips through his lips and it takes him a moment to realize so he hopes that Artemis doesn't notice. He remembered from a Twitter interaction tht Artemis didn't like to be called anything but his name.
But still Hassim apologizes and fixes himself. Sorry Artemis, but yeah, I'll carry you. The two of them happened to be the same height, but Hassim's physique guaranteed that he could carry the tall, skinny man to bed. He wraps an arm across Artie's back and squats to hook them around his legs. The movement is quick and soon the lifeguard is carrying Artemis bridal style, Artie's head laying softly on Hassim's shoulder. This reminded the Egyptian of his father and all the times he tried to carry the older, drunk man to bed after he created a commotion in their small two bedroom house. Whenever he did it then he was angry, but right now all carrying Artemis did was distill Hassim's worrying. Hopefully, when Artemis was sober, he would want to talk about what has gotten him to drink so much.
Hassim makes his way down the hallway and Mack follows, the pittering of her paws on the wood floor echoing around them. Hassim's room was mostly empty, the mattress was sitting on a simple bed frame and dawned deep blue sheets and a large black comforter. His clothes still sat folded in laundry baskets and suitcases, boxes containing books and other personal items were still taped shut and pushed against the wall. Mack hops on to the bed, circling her spot a few times before laying down. Hassim puts Artemis down softly, letting his head lay on the pillow that was already pressed in with his own.
There ya go. Hassim places himself on the bed in the small space next to Artemis, fixes a few curly strands of Artemis's hair out of his face and pulls the blanket around his body since the room was a little cold. I'll put more water beside the bed and then when you're feeling better we can maybe talk.
“Why do you do it when everything’s as good as it gets?” asks the one who sits everyday on their porch chair when he was on parole from hospital work.
“Because, Doctor feelgood,” his lower lip had pulled to the beginnings of a smirk, rolling his neck with his mariner eyes confronting the lawn, “Like any other person, I’m scared of things too.”
As Zachary Lee saw it, you couldn’t remember the great days. Let the dead bury the dead, but how could he let the fine points go—like how watermelon tasted when the four of them sat on the sanded towel with Rose fussing on his mother’s lap, like the excitement in his dad’s eyes as he watched his wife open something she had window-shopped at the seaside shop, like how rubbing alcohol burned a little less on his scraped knee when it was bandaged by love. Something about forgetting those sunrises to sunsets gave, and it gave till he angrily searched within his own mirror for recovery because the one thing he held fast to was that if he’s full of himself then there’s no room to blame himself for not remembering.
Separating his dad from his best friend, convincingly, was because it was better than reoccuringly seeing Max’s face. But, it was also because Zachary Lee obtained the idea that when the days were too normal and favorable, his sins crept up on him like a flash flood on an otherwise perfectly ordinary day.
Without encumbrance, he hiked after the two, the children slipshaping and following behind his back. In the seams of a pathway made through a madly-thriving forest and running to deep ruins lake, it was no wonder that his own adrenaline was taking over like invasive weeds. Difference was that there was no difference at all. His tongue sat on the brink of a test with a game of dare on dare, and in his rail of feeling double-crossed, he was quietly reading.
When it cornered him like this, he often looked ahead. More to the left of Max. Back turned—Harper Anderson was irreplaceable. It freed him for a moment because his first crush was becoming more abstract and more unnerving than his anger after he accepted it for himself. His inner eye, like a cupid’s bow strung back, found the small pictorial details like her brunette hair half drawn forward, her sylphlike body flexing out long steps, the dipping and lifting of her track shoes all so much more evident than ever before.
“Hey Max!” he says on his messenger lips which buoy on more to come.
It’s not cold in June—but when his attention arcs back to Max—he felt that way. A gentle convlulsion undulated under his arctic skin, and with reasoning, he sabered out his water bottle and let it fly. It was true that they’ve known each other for a lifetime, and maybe it was for this reason that he didn’t seek to do more even after sending out multifarious and creative death threats. The more than half-empty bottle has an elasticity for it rebounds off of the bright-eyed brunette’s head and rolls onto the side of the tall grass.
In the same synonymous seconds, he began his way to step up besides Harper.
“I hate tattlers like you,” he briefly explained the faintest of smirks distended on his face as they brushed shoulders, his grimness hiding. It was now that he could see Max Berkowitz’s face closer.
In full swing, the edges of his mouth still flawfully curved, he cunningly said, “I could do the same back. Wouldn’t that actually do you some good? Oh, and pick that up if you want. I know how much of an advocate you are for littering.”
Getting above by one step, his hand firmly slipped in Harper’s. Pressing on the back of Harper’s palm, he turned on his heel towards her, his smile slightly touched with more genunity.
“I thought I should hold your hand,” he tracted away from Max, “The track gets muddy and slippery closer to water.”
Max would very much like to shrivel up and disappear right about now.
We accept the love we think we deserve.
Max followed his counselor teammates up the trail, staggering a little bit behind. Though Harper suggested he show the campers some of the local plants, maybe at least teach them what poison ivy looked like, tell them about some of the trees, he could barely bring himself to do it. When Harper looked to him to see if he had anything to add to her tour guide, he felt his hands shaking as he looked back at their group of restless kids.
They really didn't want to know what he had to say, did they?
Harper wasn't a paid interpreter, she was just his friend, doing a lot of work to keep him from being left out. She really didn't have to, did she? Did she feel like she had to? Maybe it would be a relief to her if...
He just felt inconvenient.
"So, uh..." He cautiously raised a hand to give Harper a heads-up, then turned back to their group. "This, over here." Once he was sure he had everyone's attention, he stopped by the side of the trail to run his hand along the rough bark of a tall conifer, looking up at the needled branches with just a trace of confidence. "This is a Northern White Cedar." He spelled out the name of the tree twice, more slowly the second time. "This time of year, they attract a lot of deer, who eat the needles..." Noticing small shelves of smooth white fungi growing up the base of the tree, he was quick to point them out. "If I'm not mistaken, these are oyster mushrooms. These are actually edible, but it's important that you never eat a wild mushroom unless you're absolutely sure you know what it is. Fungi can look alike, and some are really poisonous." As he cast a nervous glance over his small audience to see if they were bored by his mushroom talk, he caught Zach turn to him out of the corner of his eye. Of course he had no way of knowing that Zach had called his name, so he turned just a few seconds too late to catch what his vengeful friend was about to do--
Max barely had time to flinch before the plastic bottle knocked the side of his head. He yelped and grabbed the side of his head as if not sure he understood what had happened, raking his white fingers through his brown hair and wincing back as if he were in pain.
It was just a water bottle. It didn't hurt that much, and yet...
It wasn't the impact that hurt. It was the way Zach stepped forward, brushing past Harper to meet him eye-to-eye. Max stiffened, raising his head and almost having to crane his neck to meet Zach's taller height. Zach was only a mere four inches taller in reality, but in this moment, Max felt dwarfed. Totally overshadowed, left only to watch Zach's still-smirking lips run from phrase to phrase faster than Max could keep up. "you..."
"...do you some good?"
Max wasn't confident on that last bit, and it wasn't until Zach's head nodded towards the bottle that rolled to the edge of the trail that Max knew he had actually said 'littering.'
So he was just going to leave the bottle there until Max picked it up? Really? And, feeling the eyes of Zach and Harper and the children all stinging his skin, he had nothing in him to tell Zach to pick up after his own damn self. He was going to have to do what Zach's gesture commanded, dignity be damned.
As if bowing to an enemy king, Max knelt onto one knee to pick up the stupid blue Dasani bottle. Zach's water. He was probably the only one who swore by the brand, and Max only associated it with his blonde, tall-built, smirking devil of a friend. The one he'd grown up with all these years and still didn't even understand.
When he straightened back up, holding the bottle in a cold, tight grip, he saw Zach catch his gaze on last time with an almost sadistic glint in his eyes, before his hand reached out to clasp Harper's, pressing his palm into hers as he turned the two of them to head up the trail, leaving Max with only Zach's half-full, moss-dusted, discarded plastic bottle.
Max gripped onto the weak plastic cylinder hard enough for it to give a sickening crack that he couldn't hear, feeling his cheeks burn and his eyes start to sting as his shoulders locked and a knot formed in his throat...
No, no no. Not now. Not in front of Harper, in front of all these kids.
Harper ripped her hand out of Zach's hold, snapping something at him, but the ground still seemed to crumble beneath Max, threatening to sink him under. His eyes flashed from Harper back to the campers, who were now watching and chattering and laughing amongst themselves, leaving Max imagining that they were probably laughing at him-- was that such an unreasonable assumption? He was stuck there all alone and awkwardly standing away from where Zach had pulled Harper aside, unable to keep himself from glancing between the groups and wondering which of them was more disappointed and bored with his presence. Why are you here?
Why did you think this was a good idea?
You should never have showed up.
You should've just stayed with Isa and forgotten about this whole thing.
Zach doesn't want you here. Harper doesn't want you here. These kids don't want you here--
Max quickly lowered his head, forcing his eyes closed and biting hard into his lip.
This whole trip was a mistake.
He should've just stayed home.
Feeling a mortifying trickle of saltwater slide down his cheek, Max immediately turned back on his heel and ran off the trail, not thinking for a second about where he was going. Back to camp? Back to his car? Just out into the middle of nowhere?
It didn't matter to him at this point where his empty, aching brain decided to lead him.
TL;DR Being tortured by 8 yearolds as she waits for Max and Zach
when you wear a mask for so long, you forget who is behind it.
Harper turned as she caught sight of Max waving her over. She was really excited to have Max teach the kids about the plants. Harper herself, knew very little about them. But Max, she knew he was knowledgeable in the subject. She watched as his eyes blue eyes lit up as he began to talk about the tree in front of them. Harper was Max’s voice, she spoke as he signed the words towards the group. Her fingers resigning the words for her own practice, showing the kids how to shape the words themselves.
Chloe spoke up again, asking for help as she shaped the letter E. Harper had to pry her fist apart as she had her entire hand practically closed around her thumb. She got a bit behind as Max continued to talk about the types of mushrooms, missing which kinds were actually edible… It was probably for the best they didn’t tell the kids that they could eat some of the wild mushrooms.
“You never want to eat wild mushrooms.” Harper repeated, nodding nervously. The smiles on the kids faces had to make Max so proud. Harper was sure of it. “Miss Harper!!!!” Chloe screamed, right into Harpers ear.
“Well that didn’t last long” Harper muttered under her breath, a scowl forming on her face. “I was wondering why that boy over their keeps staring at you?” Harper looked over her shoulder to see Zach who happened to be. Harper eyebrows furrowed, Zach was just sulking at the back of the group, like he always would when the attention wasn’t directly on him.
“He’s not starring at me, he’s just watching the group Chloe.” Harper stood up from her squatting position, her knees tickled as the began blood circulate throughout her legs once again. “He wants to know how you guys are so smart. He’s known Max for years, and you kids.” Harper raised her eyebrow, smirking devilishly. “Already know more sign than him.” She whispered loud enough for all the kids to hear.
“Why is he talking to Max if Max can’t hear?” She questioned again with a tilt of her head.
“What?” Harper looked over just in time to see Zach’s water bottle sailing through the air.
It was all going well, so smoothly. What could have gone wrong?
Zach and Max had gone wrong, that was what.
Harper had been distracted, talking to Chloe she hadn’t even noticed that Zach had a target on his mind. That Zach couldn’t just be an adult for two whole minutes. Putting any faith into the ramen headed boy that willingly took on the monchar Malibu Ken was a waste of energy.
“Zach!” Harper yelled out at him, swiftly he moved to Harper’s side. Harper was in shock as she just stared at him. Harper was completely speechless as she stared at him for acting like a complete child. Only bringing her back to the moment when she felt the warmth of his palm against hers. His fingers interlacing in between the empty spaces of hers.
Harper pulled her hand away from him, out of his grasp. Only to slap him in the chest. “What the hel-heck was that??” Harper looked over to see Max’s facial expression, he looked upset. Hurt. Broken. So many other words to describe the look on his face. But she only caught a glimpse of it before he turned around and booked it back down the hill.
“It hasn’t rained for a week. The trail is dry.” She starred into his blue eyes, which somehow. Seemed to be harder to accomplish now than last week. Harper grabbed the sleave of his shirt, dragging Zach off to the side of the trail.
“What the actual FUCK is wrong with you two?” Harper glared, whispering quietly so the kids wouldn’t hear. “I’m supposed to be watching the kids, not worrying about you two. You’re supposed to be the adults.”
Harper put her head in her hands rubbing her forehead. “Zachary Lee,” She looked back up into his eyes. “I know you brought your stash with you, and I swear to god if you do not roll me a blunt when we get off here. I might just stroke out from dealing with you two today.” Harper paused for a moment. “And Chloe.”
Harper was more than pissed when she got off from work that night, everything that had happened was more than she ever expected. Chloe asking questions about kinks, Max and Zach going at it once again. Hell, she was more upset that Max couldn’t deal with Zach’s childish behavior and left her alone with him to watch 15 kids. More like 16 if you counted Zach.
Harper had only smoked once before, it was back when her mom died. She had a lot of trouble dealing with the stress of planning the funeral, and the wake, and the repast. Helping her grandparents, her brother, and dad deal with the loss.
It was Will’s idea, she really didn’t want to say yes. But he promised it would help and Harper didn’t know what else she could do anymore. She was fighting for air and she didn’t feel like she could get enough of it.
It did help. It helped enough.
She just wanted to feel lighter. It did that, it kept the emotions from drowning her right where she stood. The waves settled.
Harper and Zach went back to the lake that evening, under the cover of dark. Harper didn’t want to talk to Max, hell she didn’t really even want to talk to Zach.
Bags hung under her eyes, she was exhausted as she climbed up onto the large grey rock that sat next to the river and listed to the peepers peep.
Zach, more gracefully. Climbed up onto the rock sitting beside her, handing her one of the blunts that he had rolled passing her the lighter.
Harper almost wanted to second guess herself, not do it. She could get over this with out weed, right? But they were here, and she really did not want to go back to her cabin. Plus, the crap she was sure to receive from Zach if she backed out now, would likely drive her to heavily drink instead.
Making this, the safer option.
Harper clicked the lighter a few times failing to get the lighter to ignite. She could only tip her head back and sigh. “This has to be a sign.”
Zach only chuckled taking the lighter back from Harper, clicking it once with ease. Harper held out the joint so that Zach could light hers and then his own. “You know Harper Anderson, we should do this more often.”
“The leading the kids up a trail? Or stressing me out to the point I’m smoking?” Harper took a slow drag of her joint, her shoulders slouched forward into her lap. Looking up at Zach with exhausted doe eyes.
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TL;DR no time like the present
i look a little bit older, i look a little bit colder
Levi cleared his throat and stared down at the water, splashing around a bit as if distractedly. “Yeah, um.” He hesitated for a long few moments. It wasn’t that he thought Lemon wouldn’t react well, or that she’d somehow be homophobic or something like that. But once he spoke, once he said the words out loud, it was real. No take-backs.
He’d never come out to anyone before. Except for Reid, but that didn’t count, because he kind of didn’t care if Reid knew. And he didn’t care if Lemon knew, not in a bad way, but then she’d *know*. And then it would be a word that she associated with him. And he was okay with that, he wasn’t ashamed of himself, but it was life-changing. Even though he’d tell Lemon not to tell anyone, it would change his life.
“I’m, um. Shit,” he laughed nervously and tan a wet hand through his hair. “Fuck. Sorry. Uh. I’m… I’ve been thinking a lot, recently. Well, not recently. I’m talking, like, the last few years. Like, teenage years. Anyway. Uh.” He screwed his eyes shut and decided to just bite the bullet, because this was his best friend, and if he couldn’t come out to her, he’d never be able to come out to anyone. “I’m-I’m gay.”
If Artemis picked up on Hassim calling him Artie, he didn’t comment. Artemis did generally hate that nickname for him - he hated all nicknames, but part of him wondered if he’d like it if Hassim had a nickname for him; something that only Hassim could use. He closed his eyes as Hassim picked him up, and allowed his body and head to go limp so that he was resting his head on Hassim’s shoulder.
He actually was pretty sure that he’d fallen asleep for a few seconds while Hassim carried him, only waking up when he was being placed on the bed. Opening his eyes, he gripped Hassim’s collar tightly as the other man laid him down, hesitant to let go. Even when he was finally fully in the bed, he held on to Hassim’s shirt for a little longer before finally freeing him. He watched Hassim as he sat down in the small space next to him, bringing their bodies closer together. He continued to stare at the other man as he fiddled with Artemis’ curls, with the blankets.
Artemis wasn’t sure what prompted his movements. Maybe it was because it had been such a long time since someone cared for him like this without judging him first. Maybe because Hassim was possibly the most attractive man he’d ever seen, while simultaneously being the nicest person he’d ever met. Whatever the case, Artemis sat up suddenly. He stared at Hassim for another few seconds and then, without a word, leaned forward and pressed their lips together gently, a little hesitantly.
TL;DR Ivy is very very excited to fuck up her brain a little bit.
Don't threaten me with a good time.
Though she was barely 2 months past her 14th birthday, when Ivy caught word of a wild Independence Day party she knew she had to go.
Any excuse to spend a night in a dizzy blur was good enough for her, but it could be lonely. Popping a pill and zoning out in her room felt depressing. Getting trashed with a crowd of wild teens, dancing with strangers... now that was a good time.
Maybe some people would argue that a girl who wouldn't even start high school until the fall shouldn't be frying her neurotransmitters and overworking her liver like this. They might insist that a girl her age was too young to be relying on artificial chemical boosts to feel alive for a weekend.
Ivy disrespectfully disagreed.
Her guardians ignored her. Her friends enabled her.
Positive life changes were hard. Highs were easy.
Ivy threw an oversized denim jacket over her bright and eccentric party clothes, filling the pockets with tiny bottles of flavored liquor and the small plastic tic-tac box that she kept her off-prescription assortment of pills and tablets in. She also had a container filled with the actual mints, in case anyone got suspicious.
Digging through her sock drawer, she made sure she had enough shots to give a few to Lemon Pierce. Her newest Twitter friend was someone she misjudged at first-- Lemon hung out with some of the most insufferable dweebs in Anchor Bay: Dustin the dorky manwhore, Max the panicky social justice kid, Turtle Boy...
But apparently Lemon herself had a more exciting sour side. She was less of a lemonade and more of a fruit punch. Challenging each other to musical theatre karaoke, Lemon asking Ivy to share something to numb her down for the night... apparently Lemon had some shit going on with that Pirate Reid guy. Ivy couldn't give less of a crap about Lemon's boy troubles, but she was always happy to share her goods.
Her favorite dealer and friend Isa taught her that sharing is caring. Besides, as she'd said before, getting wasted by herself felt like giving up on life. Sharing the intoxication with other people felt like living.
The state-sponsored foster system youth home that Ivy was imprisoned in was on the outskirts of the town, kind of a hike from this fancy seaside property that was hosting the party. Normally Ivy was in the habit of roller-skating to every long walk out to the edges of town, but since she knew she'd be leaving this party barely standing, that seemed like a really stupid idea. Shiloh, a friend who seemed to want to fill in as Ivy's parent despite being just 15 themself, had volunteered to be a designated driver and offered a place to crash for kids who didn't want to go back to their houses all fucked up. Ivy was definitely taking Shy up on their offer. Not that the staff really gave a damn about the kids showing up high late at night (even though they technically weren't supposed to let the girls free-roam the town at all.) Ivy just would rather stay the night with a friend then have to go back to her cold, dirty little room that she shared with another burnt-out teenage girl.
Her dark eyes lit up like fireworks as soon as she saw the Moore House, right on the rocks by the sea with the sunset glinting off the water.
What a perfect place to let her mind melt into soup.
This was going to be so, so, fun... on her way up the steps, she couldn't help but squeak her platform sneakers across the smooth slate in a happy little rhythm.
Though she was early, she threw open the door and made a dramatic, sauntering entrance as if she were fashionably late. "Happy 4th, Bitches!!" She shouted at the top of her lungs. For such a small girl, Ivy's voice carried a wide distance-- all those years of theatre kid nonsense gifted her great breath support and projection . "What better American tradition than Go Crazy Go Stupid?? Patriotic as fuck of us. Honestly." bouncing on her toes, fingers itching to dive into her pockets for her first round of delirium, she used her last few minutes of sobriety to scan the crowd.
Step one was find Lemon.
Step two was find Claire or Ashley or some other hoe.
Step three was have a blast and then forget it all tomorrow.
It had been a hard week. A long, devastating crawl from one painful day to the next.
Max could hardly look back on it without wanting to curl up and disappear. Wasn't camping supposed to be fun? That was something he always used to look forward to...
Maybe this 4th of July party would take his mind off of things.
The anxious anticipation of it had him too nauseous to eat anything all day, pacing back and forth in his room as if awaiting trial.
But Lemon had really wanted to go, and at this point he'd do anything just to know she felt happy and had something to look forward to.
Lemon desperately needed things to look forward to, reasons to keep looking ahead from day to day instead of letting the past crush her or the present convince her nothing would ever change. Max knew that.
She wouldn't let him help her. She didn't even want him to say anything about it.
Like him, all she wanted to do was say over and over that she was fine even after no one believed her anymore.
Lemon and Max seemed like such different kids: Lemon was bubbly and outgoing and loved a good challenge; Max was standoffish and over-concerned and safety conscious. But deep down, underneath all the personas they projected, they were birds of a feather.
That was probably why Max could never be much help to Lemon when she was feeling this low.
She was going to drink at the party; he knew that much. Drinking had become Lemon's way of trying to make her problems disappear from her head. Max and Levi would watch out for her, make sure she didn't make herself sick or get hurt. That was all either of them could do for her right now.
Besides, Max didn't know a damn thing about parties. He never got invited to any. What did people even wear to parties? He tugged at the collar of his short-sleeved white shirt, pretty sure he looked too nerdy and conservative for something like this.
He looked too much like himself.
Max Berkowitz didn't do parties. There was no way he was going to fit in, so why fake it?
Better to just stay as he was: simple and boring, with his jeans neatly cuffed and his pointless rich-boy wristwatch as his only accessory. This was the same kind of outfit he'd wear to work at the bookstore.
With a heavy sigh and a disapproving look at his reflection in his bedroom mirror, he quickly brushed his hair back from his forehead with his hand and stepped out into the hallway.
His parents were out. They always were at this hour, which meant Max didn't have to stop and explain where he was going right now.
They'd be worried sick later. Max left his mother a sticky note on the fridge, letting her know he was out with friends and would be home in the morning. He'd answer any texts he got, just to ease their fears.
He knew why they were so hypervigilant over him. It made sense, but it still annoyed him. At least their busy work schedules gave him enough breaks from the constant supervision.
The Moore's house wasn't a long drive from his own: all the neat, affluent seaside neighborhoods lined the same shores, after all. It took him only a few minutes to find a place to leave his car for a few hours, quickly shooting his friends a message to let them know he'd made it over before quietly pacing his way up the front lawn.
Lemon and Levi weren't hard to find. Max would've recognized the tall football player and the tiny blonde anywhere. By them was Jenny, polished and pretty as ever with her red curls over her shoulders. Max sometimes wondered if she always dressed up this well to go out, like she was forever ready to be photographed.
He gave Lemon a gentle smile and a wave before doing the same for Levi and Jenelle, already feeling a little awkward and out-of-place in the open room filled with people he didn't know. "Hey guys!" He tried his best to keep up the friendly, excited composure. For Lemon's sake, he had to try and have fun here. "Are you having fun yet? Cool place..." Noticing that yet again he was talking with nothing to say, he grimaced and trailed off the end of the sentence. Suddenly he was scared he was already killing the mood. Was he always this much of a downer? "Sorry, you'll have to show me around, Lemon. I've never done this before. It's all new to me." So this is what everyone was saying about him needing to loosen up. Everyone else around him looked like they didn't have a single care in the world, like there was nothing else they'd rather be doing than mixing from group to group under the colored lights, passing bottles back and forth, some kind of music vibrating off the walls and making the room feel even more surreal.
He felt like the only one who was nervous. That, in and of itself, felt like a failure on his part. He wasn't making this fun. All Lemon wanted was for them all to have fun, as a group...
Trying desperately to seem casual, he leaned back into the wall and folded his arms, glancing side-to-side and trying to read the crowd and find out if he still looked weird. All he could do was try to follow everyone else's lead.
Because apparently, they already thought he was too uptight and standoffish to be any fun at parties.
in the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself
When Artemis abruptly sat up in front of Hassim, it made him jump a little and he was ready to ask if he was okay but then, Hassim felt pressure on his lips. It took a second to realize that Artemis was kissing him, however it's less than a second that Hassim reacts. He kisses Artemis back, his hand settling on the pale boy's freckled cheek as his lips move against his.
It's Mack's ruffling on the bed that has Hassim pulling away from Artemis. He admires the features of Artemis, to the the delicate arch of his nose, to the brown dots decorating his face, to the way his pink lips curved. Sitting so close to him now, practically nose to nose, Hassim could feel his heart rate start to bea a little faster and his breathing become uneven. Uh...I guess. I guess I'll let you go to bed. Hassim unravels himself rom Artemis and begins to make his way out the room. Mack's gonna stay with you, but if you need anything I'll be...out here. He breathes the last two words out quickly, turns the room light off to leave the lamp on the desk light the only source of light.
The lifeguard leaves the room with one soft look back at Artemis. He tries to distract himself by putting the food away, fixing up his living room, cleaning the kitchen...basically anything to make him not think about that kiss. But he just can't, the thought was consuming him and honestly, he wanted to run back into his bedroom and kiss Artemis again.
Hassim understood why he had gotten so nervous. Growing up he was never the one to grab anyone's attention, until he started working out and grew more into himself. He didn't think that Artemis could really like him in that way, the man was drunk, maybe it was a mistake. The thoughts kind of hurt Hassim as this interaction had changed his stance on getting involved with anyone, but he had to see how Artemis was in the morning. Maybe this was an instance where a drunk mind does speak sober thoughts.
But when Hassim woke up the next morning, Artemis had left, his empty space in the bed now occupied by Mack.
Lemon couldn’t believe the words she heard from Levi, and the second they came out, she rushed to him. She wrapped hi in a hug, “That’s wonderful. I’m so happy you felt comfortable enough to tell me.” She had come out to him at one point but she felt more than a little happy that he had entrusted her with something so big. To be open and honest was a scary thing and this was no exception. She made sure to enjoy the rest of their time together while at camp before she up and disappeared for a few days to Vancouver. Though she wanted to back out. She was scared and didn’t really feel comfortable going but she had already said yes. So, she was stuck with her decision and she prayed that it would be a fun time.
Those few days had passed by and for the most part Lemon had been overwhelmed with Isa and Liv even If she hadn’t wanted to admit it. She was happy to be home, in bed with her cat. Now, all she had to was get ready for the party. Get dressed and make her statement. She was going to make sure this year was better than last. Better than having him around forcing himself into her life. Of course, she remembered the fake picture she posted last year to make it seem like she was having a good time. To make sure she kept her family happy, but this year was for her. She did one last look in the mirror and was proud of how she looked, she felt confident in it, until she walked out of her room. There stood her dad and he did not approve of her look. Now the details of what were said were less than important and, in the end,, Lemon got to leave the house in her outfit, with only a few tears shed.
She had to make sure she still looked put together when she arrived to the Moore’s house. It didn’t take her long to spot her friends and then for Max to find her. She smiled at her friend and quickly pulled him off, “I’m borrowing Max for a while guys. Love you!” and she was dragging him behind her. Grabbing a bottle of liquor on her way through the house and a couple shot glasses. She was ready to have fun “Have fun with me.” She quickly signed as she handed him a glass and poured the ever so poisonous liquid into his glass.
It didn’t take her long to take her first couple shots and even get Max in on the fun. As the minutes ticked by she felt her body relax, her mind get a little more fuzzy and let herself laugh and lean into Max. She really did love him, even though they had their fair share of issues she loved him and right now she was having so much fun with him. “Max, play truth with me. Drink and be merry.” Her signs were a little sloppy but she had gotten the gist of the words down. She wanted to forget Alabama, Johnathan, and Reid. She wanted to forget everything for the night and just have fun with Max. They needed a good moment and they needed to have quality time together after her year long hiatus.
How were you supposed to feel after someone who was once your best friend pushes you far away? For just trying to help them. Reid felt like he had no reason to be feeling the way he was, everything that had happened in the past year… Well, it was easy to see why they weren’t close anymore. He had messed up and Lemon had made it clear, there wasn’t any fixing it.
He couldn’t stop himself from looking out for her. She never wanted to drink before this, he could see how much she was hurting…
And he hated himself because he couldn’t fix it. He tried to be there for her, he wanted to be, but everything was just awkward and too far gone for it to be fixed. And it seemed like no matter what he said or did, it was wrong. Lemon would come at him for something, and he would fight back.
Their stupid fight about the Grease tape of all things. Should have never happened. He didn’t know why Lemon kept wanting to bring up the old times when she seemed to be trying so hard to forget it.
After his stint in juvenile detention, Reid didn’t think that he would come home to find that the entire town had decided to shun him for his actions. When he walked back into school in March, it was like he had become the town pariah. Walking through the halls of school, he could feel glares and eyes boring into the back of his skull.
He heard the whispers at lunch, as he sat by himself.
Teachers wouldn’t call on him, treating him like he didn’t exist. He felt alone then, but he could deal with it. He didn’t regret what he did. Jonathan deserved it. And if he got a do over, he would do it all over again.
And even though he was alone then, he never felt lonelier than he did right now. He complained about moving of course, but some part of him hoped.
Hoped that things would be more normal.
He shouldn’t have hoped though, everything was too far gone. Lemon didn’t even know what had happened after the Pierces left the state so quickly.
Reid didn’t have much to do before the evening, he had excluded himself from his new friends. After Isa tried to act like she understood Lemon better than anyone else, better than him. He didn’t want to be seen with her or any of her friends.
How could he blame them though, he didn’t tell them their history. They didn’t know him. Everyone just knew him as some kid that Lemon grew up with, that tormented Lemon.
Reid got dressed that morning, with no plans of returning till late. He knew that Lemon was slowly going further down the drain, and he didn’t know how to stop it. He messaged Max as he headed towards the door of his house, he shouldn’t have cared, but he needed to know where Lemon would be tonight. Especially after some goblin had offered her drugs.
As he got into the car he heard from Max, the Moore’s. Not like he knew where that was, but since it seemed like that was where everyone would be. He didn’t think it would be too hard to find.
He drove down the coast of Anchor Bay, the saltwater air filling his lungs.
Once he felt like he was far enough down the main beach that he was sure he’d be alone. He got out of his car, gently closing the door behind him. Leaning against the hood of his car, he rustled through his front pocket for his lighter and baggy holding his joints.
He could only stare at it. Maybe Lemon was right, could he really be trying to stop her when he himself was trying to escape.
Reid wasn’t sure how long he was there staring at the horizon, but soon the sun began to set. He sat back in his car, making his way back towards the docks and the center of town. Following the crowds of people parked up and down the street at what he could only assume was the Moore’s residence.
in the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself
It was a week after everything with Artemis happened. Hassim finding his bed empty the next morning and then Artemis avoiding him for a week made the lifeguard believe that everything was a mistake to the bookkeeper. Especially that kiss. He had tried to invite Artemis over, with Carson and Astraea, but the two girls would should up and he wouldn't.
The girls had helped him finally fix up his apartment, settle it so that it was now his home. Hassim had cooked for them every night they had been able to come and they had finally been able to meet Mack, though she was a little possessive when Carson got close. Speaking of Carson, Hassim was getting used to her flirting almost flirting back. If this was going to be his home for now, Hassim might as well get comfortable with the locals as well. Artemis wasn't interested; Carson was interested and Hassim couldn't deny that the barista was pretty. Maybe he'd give it a shot.
Despite all the distractions that were provided to him, including work and volunteering, Hassim couldn't stop thinking of Artemis. And not only about the kiss, but about the words he said about hating himself, he also wanted to know why Artemis was drinking so much. From what he had thought he knew, Artemis didn't drink. More reason to worry about him, he had only hoped that the rest of the world couldn't see that he was worried. Artemis was going to be okay, he had Astrea and Carson; he didn't need Hassim too.
Hassim only agreed to go to the Fourth of July party at the Moore's to appease his new friends, they seemed to want to drag him out more and want him to get to know the citizens of Anchor Bay more. He left his apartment a little too early than planned, with a bottle of wine for the hosts and his outfit that took him days to plan ready. He didn't know who he was going to run into might as well look his best.
The grandeur of the Moore's house surprised Hassim and he felt as if he didn't belong in the scene. However, as he walks in he doesn't find Carson or Astraea (he wasn't expecting to see Artemis), but instead he sees Dex and Dani, two parents of one of his students in the guppy swim class he taught. He approaches them, smile on his face ready to force his way through this celebration. Hi you two, didn't know you guys would be here!
when you wear a mask for so long, you forget who is behind it.
It had been almost two years since Harper’s Mom had passed away. This was the Angela’s second birthday that Harper had celebrated without her. The second birthday that Harper had celebrated all alone. Hayden couldn’t handle it, he would much rather party and ignore the pain, try to forget about Angela all together.
And well, Luka… He was another story. Harper knew that he was hurting, just trying to cope in his own way… She just wished that he could be there for Hayden, that he could be there for her. For them.
Harper had changed into a pair of soft shorts and one of her mom’s old tee-shirts. Harper had a plan for the night, it was the same thing she had done last three years. She slid the window behind her bed open, grabbing one of the blankets off of her bed as she lightly tossed it out the open window. Climbing through, she followed after it.
Harper sat cross legged upon the plush fluffy blanket that sat between her and the roof as she stared up at the stars above. Leaning backwards on the palm of her hands. This was what her and her mom did when Harper was afraid of the dark. Her mom showed her that night was nothing to be afraid of, and there was so much beauty to see in the evening hours.
The last time Harper came out here with her mom was the fourth of July before she passed away that following fall. Her mom was too weak to go to the fireworks that night, so they leaned on the window sill of Harper’s bed room.
The truth was, they could barely see anything from Harper's room. Just over the tops of the trees they could see some color coming up from the wharf. But even so her mom made sure to tell Harper that it was the best firework show ever.
So, the following year, when her mom was gone Harper refused to leave the house to watch the fireworks. She laid out on the roof, watching whatever she could see come up and over the treetops. Mostly staring up at the stars above. That roof top was a piece of her, a piece of her mom and many memories that they shared there together.
Harper smiled as she found Orion’s belt, and the big and small dipper. She used to stare up at the stars for hours, hoping to catch a shooting star. Her mom used to tell her she could make a wish on them, and it was bound to come true. But, Harper knew now she only said that because they were so rare. The story made her happy and had her staring at the stars during long car rides. She was always afraid that even if she looked away for a second, they would be gone.
Max succumbs to peer pressure. We're three shots down. Oh boy.
We accept the love we think we deserve.
Barely giving him enough time to say hi to everyone, Lemon grabbed Max by the wrist and ran out into the hall, dragging him behind her as he stumbled trying to match her pace. It was useless to try to say no, or convince her to just stay with Levi and Jenelle for a bit.
But really, though, what else was Max even going to do? Stand there, pressed against the wall, anxiously flicking his phone screen off and on and praying for a text from Harper?
For the last few minutes, he kept going back to the last message he sent her, painstakingly scrutinizing the words for a reason why they might have been wrong.
I'm always here for you. Always.
You mean so much to me.
...Harper left his last message on read an hour ago, unanswered.
His heart felt sick, sinking further down in his chest. Why would you say something like that? Every few minutes he'd try her number again. She wasn't saying anything to him anymore. You fucked up again. That wasn't what she needed from you.
Before they even got to where they were going, Max knew Lemon was pulling him away to do. By the time they stumbled to their spot further into the house, away from the crowded room, Lemon was already cradling a full bottle of clear liquor and two small glasses. A flash of worry crossed Max's face, as he took a small step back and fidgeted mindlessly with his watch.
He had agreed to watch out for her while she drank, to make sure she didn't get hurt, but he knew that at some point or another she was going to try to pull him in with her.
He expected this, but now all at once he didn't know what to say.
He had to find a way to say no without hurting her feelings, but somehow that seemed unfeasibly difficult. Anything he said that could kill her fun wasn't worth the risk.
"Have fun with me!"
The way Lemon's fingers playfully flicked off the tip of her nose, the sparkle in her eyes...
It had been a long time since Max had seen her this happy. He didn't even realize how long it had been until the sight of her smile turned his breath to ice.
That whole time he thought she was just avoiding him. Selfish.
Why did he think it was about him? Why did he always think everything was about him?
If he had only reached out sooner, maybe things wouldn't have gotten this bad. Maybe Lemon wouldn't have turned to drinking to cope, if one of her friends had just known something had happened. If someone had been there for her, instead of just pushing at her and begging for answers.
Lemon seemed to beam with excitement as she poured their glasses and held one out to him, giving him that doe-eyed look that could've made a mountain bend to her will. No one could say no to Lemon. She had always bragged that, but in a way it was true. She always seemed to know how to get someone to put down their boundaries and join her.
She wasn't going to let him get away with turning down the shot.
With a weary smile that didn't at all mask the overwhelming discomfort he was in, Max nodded and reached forward to take the drink with a hesitant hand, stopping only for a second to swirl the clear liquid around the inside to watch it catch the light and sparkle. Like the ocean. If it weren't for the sharp, sterile smell that it gave off, he could have seen why people found this soothing.
But it smelled like a hospital...
Not giving himself the chance to think it over any longer, he brought it to his lips and swallowed it down as fast as he could, nearly choking on it as he felt it burn down his throat and back up his nose, sending a wave of heat all the way down his ribcage. "What the fuck was that!?" He pointed the empty shot glass at her, to use it as a gesturing tool to complain about whatever he'd just done to himself with a glass of liquid pain, but Lemon seized the opportunity to take the cup from him and fill him another.
And who was Max to tell her no?
It had only been two shots and ten minutes, and Max was already pretty certain that he was just immune to alcohol inebriation. He just felt dizzy and nauseous, and he just attributed that to anxiety. Max was used to feeling lightheaded and unsteady-- this wasn't new. Lemon, next to him, was elated and giggly, already pleading with him to take another shot. She was enjoying this. He just felt a little sick, and knew in the back of his head that he probably shouldn't try to drive too soon. He wasn't having fun with this yet.
He didn’t know that Lemon had already had a few before he arrived. And, inexperienced as he was, he had no idea what he was supposed to be feeling.
And he didn’t know that on an empty stomach, with a low tolerance, drinking for the first time in his whole life, he was already in for a very interesting night.
A few more minutes passed and Lemon was still begging him to take a third, and while Max was still adamantly insisting that he was done, he hadn't even noticed that he too had stopped caring so much and started joking around with it. This had to be the first time in years he wasn't shaking with nerves. "Noooooo!" Max dragged out the word with the whole of his left arm, unable to keep the amusement off his face. "I'm done. Really. I've had enough. I have to like... drive... and stuff..." Maybe he was letting this be a little fun. Was that so wrong? Lemon wanted this so badly, to just have a good time as friends. She wanted him to have fun.
Max himself wanted to let himself have fun, too. For once, at least.
Max lived with an overcrowded mind, riddled with aching reminders of everything he couldn't fix:
Isa and her constant crises,
Failing the expectations of school and sliding farther behind while his friends kept reminding him over and over how smart he was supposed to be,
All the things he was never going to be able to say to Harper, the fear that she'd find out anyway and the closest friendship he ever had would fall apart, and Zach exploiting that fear to use Max for information in order to make his own move, that Max shouldn't even care about because--
He'd never admit how much it hurt to carry all that with him all the time.
If these past 15 or 20 minutes was the longest he'd gone since childhood without his brain being so ruthlessly hateful, he didn't want to think too hard about it and send himself back. He could just live in the moment right now. Like Lemon always said to. Like everyone said. Loosen up, stop being so tense, have fun for once, don't be such a killjoy...
Max considered the theory that perhaps he really was just insufferably boring all the time. If there was a chance that drinking would make people like him more, or make him someone who they wanted around, if for a while he could just feel wanted, then drinking couldn't be so bad.
Still trying to coax her friend into another round, Lemon suddenly put her glass down for a minute to try a new tactic on Max.
She'd exchange one honest answer to any question if he downed another shot.
That was an offer that Max just couldn't refuse. If she would tell him something about what happened to her, maybe he could help. Maybe he could actually do some good for someone for a change. If the cost of that was another drink that he didn't think would even cloud his mind like it was supposed to, he'd already poured his glass and coughed down another painful swallow.
Now three shots down, he dropped his empty glass down onto the windowsill, flashing a confident smirk that came over him instinctively... and just doing that, feeling the corner of his mouth tilt slyly towards his cheekbone, all at once he felt like Zach. Fucking Zach. How was it that Zach couldn't leave Max alone even when he wasn't actually there?
Max shivered a bit as he pushed the thought aside and dug through his brain for what he wanted to ask Lemon.
"So my question is..." Max had to take a minute to collect himself, rubbing his fist against his eye and clearing his throat, feeling the residual taste of liquor on the roof of his mouth. His fingers seemed a little slow to him, like his joints had been swapped around and no longer fit right. He still thought nothing of it, though: there was no way that reticent worrywort Max Berkowitz was a little drunk. He was fine. "...Why are we doing this? What happened that made you want to drink?"
Maybe this time, she'd tell him.
Maybe this time she'd let him help.
As Lemon dragged Max along, she was elated for the time being, even taking a shot as they moved through the crowd of people. After all, today was a day for them to all let loose and just enjoy themselves. A day to forget problems and be as joyful and happy as they could be. It was in the moment of her convincing Max to drink with her that brought her the most joy as he took the glass from her hand and down it went. She couldn’t help but laugh in pure joy. He was going to have fun with her, she was going to have fun with him. His first question caused her to stop what she was doing and turn the bottle to face him. She had grabbed a bottle of white rum and it did burn going down. It was fine though, eventually he’d stop feeling the burn and just enjoy the drinks, and enjoy her company.
She even thought about a question for him, “Do you know Jenny like really likes you as more than a friend?” Lemons shot went down like water as she stared at her friend. She really didn’t worry too much about the answer but she hoped for Jenny’s sake that Max eventually learned. It wasn’t hard to see that Jenny liked him because Lemon knew the looks, the quick glances, she knew all too well. Crushes were hard to deal with and even harder to suppress. Lemon had spent so much of her energy pretending she never had crushes, she even spent so much energy pretending she was happy with someone when she wasn’t. Lemon understood feelings and she was dealing with her own aftermath of not being able to fully handle the crushing weight that came with them.
After what seemed like much begging Lemon had convinced Max to drink more with her and all she had to do was answer some questions which really wasn’t all that difficult. Or at least it shouldn’t be. As she watched him sign his questions, she looked at him confused. His second question. Why did he care? Her heart began to race and she pulled him to outside of the house. Maybe she was just too warm from all the bodies. She kind of shrugged at his first question, “To have fun on Independence Day.” Why else would they drink on a holiday? Why would Lemon ask Max to drink with her if not to have fun? His question really didn’t make sense. But the second question had cleared her mind a bit, “It’s nothing to worry about. My problems are in the past.” Did she break the rules of the game? A little; but Max had asked a personal question that she didn’t want to answer.
Why did everyone want the past brought up? Why couldn’t things be left to how they were. She was fine, she was absolutely fine. Of course, her phone kept buzzing from messages and she was struggling with the letters but it wasn’t a big issue. She could still walk, talk, and mostly stand up. “Can you not ask about my past?”Lemon signed, before taking a drink, because she asked a question which meant she had to take a drink. Her shot count was well over five at this point and she was beginning to feel it. Beginning to the feel the loss of control of her body and her thoughts. All she had to do was steer Max away from the question.
Winnie could say that she was happy today. She had gotten to sleep for more than three hours, she finished a piece of art last night, her relationship was going good, and she and her mother had been working on their relationship. Maybe one day Regina would be willing to accept her daughter for who she was. However, she and Chance still weren't on speaking terms, but there wasn't much animosity. She had wished him luck on his date and he had given her advice on how to maintain her afro. They'd be okay, eventually.
She wasn't going to let that upset her though, but she couldn’t deny that going to the Moore’s house party made her a little nervous. She’s avoided parties basically ever since she and Noah broke up. There was a year and a half where Winnie wasn't the Winnie that all her friends knew now. It ashamed her a little bit as she wasn't ready to accept that that was a part of her and it happened, and she's completely changed now.
Today was going to be a good day. She was going to hang out with her boyfriend and his friends and have fun.
When she arrived to the Moore's house, Winona was lost. Her eyes peer over the crowd looking for anyone; Dustin, Faith, Ashley, hell even Ivy. Winnie did not want to be alone today, because she was happy and she didn't need her dark thoughts ruining that. She stood at the entrance, soft smile on her face, clad in a little white dress, and hands meddling with each other as she braced herself for the night.
Someone take the bottle from Max before he dies, please.
We accept the love we think we deserve.
Lemon's turn in their little game threw Max completely off-guard. Jenelle?
Lemon really thought that beautiful, talented, sophisticated Jenelle had fallen for awkward, scatterbrained Max. No. That was impossible. And Lemon wasn't dumb, which meant she didn't actually believe that, which meant she was lying, which was totally against their drinking game's rules. "What? No she doesn't. No way. Nope. No way." Max seemed to move before he thought, suddenly on edge. A stroke of very familiar anxiety ran down his back, and for a couple of seconds he looked very much like his usual self again. It was a sensitive topic, though-- Max always seemed pained and upset talking about these things. Any mention of his sexuality or feelings for others made him defensive and flustered. Even the sedative fog that all the alcohol had blanketed over his senses could never entirely drown that out.
How many shots was it going to take for him to forget that he had all these feelings that people like him shouldn't have?
When it was Lemon's turn to answer his question, his anticipation of an answer was jolted aside by Lemon once again grabbing him by the arm and dragging him behind her on another staggering run through the hall, this time steering them out onto the back porch. Lemon sat down on the steps, and Max went to join her, noticing his steps kept veering off-kilter and threatening to throw him off his balance. But that was fine, and definitely didn't mean anything. Max was always clumsy. He couldn't walk in a straight line, or run without falling over himself or knocking into a wall, and that was when he was totally sober. This didn't feel all that different. He wasn't drunk at all.
After a few moments of sitting still and speechless, staring up at the early night sky, Lemon lightly elbowed his side and answered his question in an odd mismatched word order that Max had to take a moment to sort out in his head.
"It's nothing to worry about. My problems are in the past."
And that was it. That was all she said. Max kept staring at her in disbelief, wondering if he missed something. His cloudy ice-colored eyes kept wordlessly asking where the rest of her answer was, his fingers tapping away impatiently at his sides, but nothing came. She just completely brushed his question off. That wasn't fair. That wasn't what she promised when she challenged him to her little drinking game.
"Lem--" He nearly poked himself in the eye trying to sign her name and flinched, hissing under his breath. "Lemon. Lemon. Lemon." Again and again, each time with a more disapproving look over his face, he repeated the short word. "Lemon... You broke the rules, Lemon. Whyyy? Why would you do that?" But Max no longer looked hurt. Or even disappointed. After three shots, he was unable to put a finger on what exactly he was feeling. And even if he was upset, if he could just pretend it was nothing, then for all he knew it really would just fade back into nothing. No one would be the wiser. You can make it all go away. It's fine. Actually fine. Really, truly fine...
The control he felt he had over his emotions was far more intoxicating than the alcohol.
Max looking quietly confident, at ease, leaning back slightly on the railing the steps with a nonchalant half-smile... it was almost uncanny.
But he still needed an answer. He needed her to tell him what happened. That was the only was he could help. "You have to answer the question, not just answer the question, but answer the question like..." his face failed to properly distinguish the two slightly different concepts he was trying to get at. "You lied to me. Hang on, now I have to start all over..."
Max reached for the bottle again and took a swig straight from it, not even reaching around to find out where his shot glass went. His fourth drink in less than an hour, and it didn't even burn that badly any more. He felt great. He could do this all night. Why didn't you think of this before? You did it, Max. You finally found something you're good at.
This time, he felt bold enough to ask his question point-blank. "Alabama. Last year. What happened?" There. Now she just had to give him the answer he needed from her. And then he'd understand, and know just what to do, to save his friend from herself...
He had it all planned out in his head. He'd get the answer to this one question, and then everything could just go back to normal.
In less than an hour, Max's fretful catastrophizing thought process had turned completely inside-out.
It had been a while since they started already. Max kept nervously shifting positions, waiting for Lemon to answer his question so she'd let him go back inside for a few minutes to relocate the bathroom. After that he'd come right back. Definitely. Why wouldn't he come back? He still had to look out for Lemon. He wasn't drunk, she was drunk. Lemon was swaying drowsily back and forth on the steps, looking like she was laughing to herself as she answered the questions with vague, babbling responses. Max was still just... well, mostly confused at this point, still a little dizzy and lightheaded, his brain felt like thawing ice, and now he had to pee all of a sudden. But clearly, he was the more sober of the two. Or at least that was what he thought, with his totally rational and not at all impaired judgment.
Lemon couldn’t help but let her eyes roll so far back she could have seen her brain from Max denying Jenny liking him. Of course, he didn’t believe she liked him because he could only keep his eyes on the girl who didn’t like him back. Lemon could see the way he acted around Harper, the way he talked about her and Lemon really wanted Max happy, but Harper was so dense. Lemon didn’t have much more thought on that as she didn’t really know Harper all that well even though they had been in the same grade up until Lemon failed her ninth-grade year and then they were no longer in the same grade. But she had liked Harper even if they weren’t close. She had been nice to Levi, but she wondered if Levi had told her and that’s why they broke up. It would make sense because they were both still so friendly even after a break-up. Lemon couldn’t say the same when she thought about her one and only “relationship” so Levi and Harper were both lucky. But Max needed someone nice and caring like Jenny, someone who wanted him, he just needed to get his googly eyes to go away and see the girl that wanted him.
However, the reaction Max gave to Lemon avoiding the question bothered her. He should have let it go. Levi had let it go he didn’t even force her to talk about what happened but Max got upset with her. He acted as if he had a right to know her past, her problems, like she wasn’t allowed to have her own secrets that she didn’t want to speak on. It was when he said she lied that she felt her feelings get hurt. She tried to keep herself together to not let a tear slip. She hadn’t lied, she avoided a question that made her uncomfortable and he didn’t even care. It was about him.
She shook her head directed his eyes to her, “I didn’t lie. Why are you being selfish?” she was hurt by his reaction and she thought they were better friends than that but now she was worried that maybe he didn’t feel the same way in their friendship if he was calling her a liar. She deserved to have her own problems and not feel like she was just another problem for Max to solve. She wanted him to be her friend and not some savior for her. She could take care of herself she just needed her friends to be there for her. Of course, when she called him out all he did was ignore her via Twitter and she had finally got fed up.
It took all but two seconds and she smacked him to get his attention. She didn’t care if it hurt him he shouldn’t have ignored her.